Monday, October 17, 2011

Our First Month Home

Okay, okay…we are SO behind!  At the request of many we are not going to wait to catch up on everything (since these catch up entries take forever and are super long) so we will be switching from past events to current blurbs about the kids progress (after this one!).  Here’s a past one (obviously)!

Wow – that first month!  It seems like an eternity ago, yet it really has not been so long.  That first month held some big challenges but also some of the greatest joys we've ever felt.  We all know that learning how to be a family is challenging, we ‘knew’ this too…but did not REALLY 'know' it. Nor did we anticipate what this new family would look like when two scared, unsure two year olds were brought thousands of miles to a new home (something they had never imagined) where only English was spoken and with parents (also a new concept) who had never parented before! Twins is an absolute blessing and we think it's great for them to have each other...but it also keeps you on your toes! 

The first couple days home were a lot of fun watching the kids discover all the new fun toys (real toys and objects that became toys) in our house and start to learn about their new home.  Jonathon can’t seem to resist luggage and both kids love their little kitchen…here they are looking at each other through the microwave window.  Good friends from Oregon sent us a ton of wonderful clothes that actually fit the kids now (so many of the clothes we had for them were way too big).  As you can see Madison liked the box they came in (it helped that Joe dragged her around the house in this box).

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The first couple weeks were riddled with many tantrums, mostly from Madison.  Myra swore one night that the cops were sure to show up at our door as Madison screamed like a banshee for hours in the middle of the night and the neighbors blocks away were certain to have heard.  We were at a loss some nights and just tried lots of holding (when they would let us) and tried to just talk to them.  We knew they were grieving immensely, were confused and felt out of control, however we still found our patience running thin and questioned if we were up for this!  It was tough and thank God for his strength and understanding friends and families who listened with care.

Sleeping was one of the hardest things, often consisting of an hour and a half (at least) of crying and screaming before we could get them to sleep.  We quickly gave up the ‘ideal’ family bed for portable cribs next to our bed as no one was getting any sleep this first way!  Jonathon took to his immediately, seeming relieved to have his own space.  Madison cried and screamed the first night like we were abandoning her, it was heart-breaking.  But, she also quickly seemed to really like her ‘own’ bed.    Madison is very against rocking and at nap or bed time and immediately wants to be let down into the crib.  Joe is able to rock Jonathon to sleep and he seems to really need this to calm down and allow himself to go to sleep.  However, toward the end of this first month Madison wouldn’t go to sleep unless Myra was rubbing her back – progress! We settled on what our routine would be before bed (and for the whole day really) and kept things very very structured. We saw such a change in the kids (less fear) when they knew what to expect each day. For this first month, we really stuck to the same activities with very little deviation.

We quickly discovered that Madison really liked to ‘help’.  Myra was carrying out laundry one day with Madison in tow (Madison likes to follow either of us when we leave the room).  Myra turned around and Madison had disappeared, she then immediately came running with some clean clothes she found so she could carry some too.  Those clothes were extra clean that day.  She also likes to imitate us with sweeping or wiping the table:

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As mentioned, both kids were scared to death of the bath tub.  After a couple weeks home and one very messy day of playing with the water table outside (and Joe dumping water over his head...then letting the kids do it to him), Madison decided the tub wasn’t so bad and started to cry when it was time to get OUT!  Jonathon was still very scared of it, but we could see him watching Madison closely and had high hopes.  We tried some playtime in the bath tub with clothes on, but he still wasn’t buying it with water!

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Another VERY exciting event this first month was Jonathon started to walk on his own after being home about a 1.5 weeks!  With lots and lots of encouragement he went from only taking 3 or 4 steps then crawling to walking all around the house on his own he became pretty steady in just a few days – it was so wonderful to see!  Once he started, there was no stopping him!  Being able to walk also opened up so many more opportunities for development and we saw such a huge change in him in this area as well.

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The days seemed to really fly this first month and we probably would not have eaten if it wasn’t for great friends who provided us with 2-3 meals every week!  We are SO SO SO thankful for all the fabulous food we were given, we had never eaten so well!  At the beginning of the month the kids still (understandingly) had food issues were they would scream and cry for it as soon as they saw any, but towards the end they were becoming much more selective…starting that typical two-year old behavior.  Now they are almost TOO picky :) ! They do have some favorites that are ALWAYS a hit:  yogurt, fruit, chicken tenders (for Jonathon) and hot dogs/sausage (for Madison).  They also really enjoyed their first chocolate pudding:

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It was quite hard being cooped up and not being able to have visitors for more than a few minutes, although we really knew it was necessary and for the best (we can really see how important that was looking back now as well).  Still, we tried to escape for a couple short trips in the car to get the kids use to it and we really enjoyed our backyard.  Both Jonathon and Madison were so excited when they saw the big wheels, once on they were off – staying on the curving path quite well!  They also really like being pulled around in the wagon. 

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Our cat has been one of the big sources of conflict in the house.  Anyone who knows her understands this well.  It doesn’t seem like anyone is backing down – who will win?


Despite the challenges, there has been so much joy as well. It is so fun to watch the kids discover new things and just be kids…we are really starting to see their personalities emerge and they are fun and full of life!  The kids are really staying near us throughout the day and there is even a little cuddling….no real eye contact yet or affection initiated, but it is way too soon to expect that!  Here are some fun pictures (links to a few more):

Just because you haven’t seen enough, here are a couple favorite pictures (can you tell we are proud new parents?).

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Believe it or not, that’s just a snapshot of our first month!  It’s still just so amazing to think that less than a year ago we never imagined that our family would look like this! Stay tuned for some bullets of what month 2 had in store! Even more awesome changes!

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see           (Hebrews 11:1)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Home at Last: LATE on August 6th, 2011

When we FINALLY arrived in Tampa after about 24 hours of travelling, both kids were soundly asleep.  A couple friends met us at the airport - they brought us our car so we didn’t need to park for so long, try to drag the kids and all the luggage to the car and/or drive home after all that traveling!  Thank goodness!  Here are some pictures they took of our first minutes on the ground in our home state:

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We visited for a few minutes at home while the kids took it all in (thankfully they slept the car ride home, we were worried about the car seats being scary to them because of strapping them in).  They left us with some food in our fridge (on top of a full fridge thanks to a couple of Myra’s friends at work!), we were thankful we didn’t need to think about that!  Then off to bed we all went to try and find some sleep….

Friday, October 14, 2011

That Fateful Plane Ride Home (AKA “Are we there yet????!!!”)

We will apologize up front as this is not a very exciting post and sounds a bit negative, it is really mostly for our memories….we are in catch up mode so fun pictures to arrive soon!!

~~~~~August 6th, 2011: Time to go home!

After very little sleep, 4:30am arrived, we had all the suitcases by the door and really just needed to get ourselves ready, make coffee that we didn’t drink and then change the kids. A confused Jonathon and Madison snuggled into their ergobabies and we were able to get all the suitcases downstairs and into the car with little hassle. We rode with a woman and her teenage daughter, also from America that were on their first trip to meet siblings, 3 and 6. Our Vesta agent helped us get all check in.

The flight from Sofia to Munich was pretty uneventful and fairly calm. Then we had a 3 hour layover in Munich where Madison would whine to get down, then up and down and up and down….. We were able to entertain her for a solid 10 minutes chasing her up and down in a less crowded portion of the airport. We tried food as a distraction...fruit and a parfait…the GROSSEST ever…so sad….We also allowed them to climb on the airport ‘golf cart’ (picture below) with only a few dirty looks from passer-bys (all without any kids probably!) – don’t judge us for wanting 10 more minutes of happiness before an 8 hour plane ride!


Next we had to wait in a rather long line for the United agents to ask a whole slew of detailed questions of each passenger. The kids did okay at first, but when it was our turn they squirmed and cried and did not want to stay put during the questioning that probably lasted 5 minutes, but felt like 30! Right before boarding Madison fell asleep in the Ergobaby. We were in the middle row of 5 seats, taking the two end seats in the hope that no one would sit in the middle….but, alas there was someone who had that seat (they gladly took the aisle and let us all sit together). There really is no sugar coating it – this was not a pleasant flight. Madison made it about ½ hour after take off, and never slept again. About an eternity into the flight with crying, screams, distracting with different toys, distracting with food and walking, we realized we only made it 2 hours!! We both looked at each and said ‘I don’t think I can make it!’. The flight attendants were surprising unfriendly about the kids (just attitudes is all we can describe). Thankfully, a few of the passengers were very kind and sympathetic….one lady said “oh, don’t you worry, what comes around goes around…I use to travel like this by myself with 3 kids and you know people shuddered when they saw me coming’!” Jonathon eventually did fall asleep (after many attempts by Joe to sit down with him, only to have him wake up! Eventually Joe was able to sit down, but the way Jonathon was laying on him put his arm to sleep, however Joe said “I would rather lose my arm than wake this child!” Madison refused sleep…Myra even had her laying across 3 seats (Myra was on the floor) to try and get her as comfortable as possible…hours later and no luck. The kids would not eat hardly any of the air plane food (do you blame them?), but thankfully we packed crackers and half a loaf of bread….their favorite – talk about carb overload! Ten minutes before we landed, Madison fell fast asleep…..

Next up – customs in DC!

After landing and waiting in the customs line and showing them the envelope for the kids we were directed to get our bags, recheck and go to the customs office. What a nightmare baggage claim was! They had TWO baggage carousels with about 12 international flights…talk about over stimulating and overwhelming for the kids! There were so so many people everywhere, a bit mob like at times…thankfully we had them tight against us in the carriers – otherwise we aren’t sure what would have happened! After quite a long wait (not surprising) for the baggage we were able to squeeze into the line to recheck our baggage. Next up we headed to the customs and immigration office, there was a large sign to leave our baggage outside the door (which we did reluctantly) and then we handed our paperwork to the agent. This had to seriously be the rudest agent and we were very embarrassed that he was who welcomed people to our country. There was a lady ahead of us in a wheelchair (at least in her 80s, maybe 90s) that he was trying to get fingerprints and he was SCREAMING at her because she wasn’t relaxing her hand enough or something…afterwards he muffled sarcastically “welcome to the United States…good luck”. Then a father and son came into the room (pulling a piece of luggage) and he yelled at them “Can’t you see the sign?!? you see anyone else with baggage in here?!?!!....that means LEAVE IT OUTSIDE”…wow. He was okay with us, abeit mumbling under his breath about the first customs agent messing up or something. But, it was over soon enough and we were able to leave that unhappy place…hoping that he actually routed our paperwork correctly! Our kids were now US Citizens!!!

Of course looking back, we’ve forgotten the pain and we think ‘it wasn’t so bad’….our advice for those who have yet to travel (which was given to us) is just don’t worry about what the other passengers think – you will never see any of them again!