Help outfit Michael, Sarah, and John

Sunday, February 04, 2018

One year ago

A year ago, we were traveling home from Bulgaria. A lot has changed in our lives in the past year. Adding three new children to our family has kept me plenty busy. It's been a while since I updated my blog. Here we go.

We had an enjoyable Thanksgiving. The most challenging part of December was that Tyler went TDY for work for one week and that Sarah was admitted to an inpatient unit for suicidal ideation. Sarah was there for 10 days, which meant that she missed her first Christmas home with us. It just didn't feel as jolly without her home with us.

Tyler is taking another Chinese language class twice a week, to keep up his Chinese skills. He is working with the young men (ages 12-13) at church. In the evenings, he works hard to prepare for his upcoming PHD program in Math.

I have been steadily losing weight since last May. I have now lost 64 pounds and I am thrilled with this success. It is the most weight that I have ever lost. I am eating high protein and low carb, which seems to be the only thing that works for me. I have already purchased some clothes that are one size smaller and that feels amazing, too.

Anna turned 16 as we brought in the new year. She is eager to drive AND date now! We had a sweet sixteen-themed party, which included an ice cream bar with 16 different types of candy. We surely do love our girl.

Michael began taking boxing lessons. The boxing instructor said that he shows promise and he would like to see him come in more often for training. Michael has wanted to box for a long time, so this is like a dream come true. Michael had his first surgery ever - to cauterize a large blood vessel in his nose that has been causing nosebleeds for some time. Michael's English is getting better. He seems to have a talent with language.

Sarah is back in the inpatient unit for the second time. She has been there for over 3 weeks now. She was diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder. We always knew that adopting a child with RAD was a possibility, but now it is our reality. Your prayers are appreciated. Because Sarah has been at the hospital with only English-speaking staff and children, her English has greatly improved, which is nice.

John is adjusting better to our family and now prefers being here to Bulgaria. He is quite an introvert and is nervous to speak English outside our family. John is the hardest-working child we have in our family. If he is given a task or a chore, you can bet that it will be done very well and that it will take him a long time to complete. He is slow and steady! John is making progress with behavioral therapy once a week. He is working on understanding trauma from his past.

Keith is doing well in school. He loves to pass the sacrament each week. He enjoys going to scouts. He is the sunshine in our family, always smiling and brightening our day. He loves his special needs dance class that he attends with Iryna.

Iryna has been suspended from school twice in the last month. Her suspensions are due to Sarah being in the hospital. Iryna doesn't handle change well and her mind just doesn't comprehend why Sarah is gone or what suicide is. She has meltdowns almost daily and it is challenging to help her calm down. She looks forward to her special needs dance class each week. It is a bright spot in her life. 

Calvin turned 11 last month. He is now an eleven-year-old scout. Calvin loves to learn new things. He loves mind games. For his birthday, he received 3 different rubik cubes! He enjoys playing monopoly with Anna.

Silas just started occupational therapy again. He had OT previously a few years ago, but his 8 year old wellness appointment with his PCM showed that he needed to begin it again. Silas is thrilled to be able to attend scouts. His infectious enthusiasm endears him to many people around him.

Barkley and Maggie (our dogs) are still around. Barkley gets the lovin' of his life with our older boys, Michael and John. He sleeps with one of them every night. Maggie is still a turkey, but she can be sweet - when she wants to be.

We are less than six months away from moving away from the DC area. It's strange to think that we will have been here for 4 years by the time we leave. God has blessed us in so many ways, that we cannot count them all.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Young Women in Excellence

The girls had their Young Women in excellence this month. Anna made lemon bars and s’mores cookies. Sarah and Iryna sang in a musical number. I love seeing my girls participate in church activities. 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

A post about John

My son, John, is a special boy. It’s amazing to see how much he has changed since we first met in January. My first impression when I met him was that he was taller than I expected, and very handsome! He also has a high-pitched squeal when something amuses him - which is SO fun to hear. My second thought was: ADHD. Seriously, this boy’s mind does NOT stop working. He is constantly trying to figure out how things work, which brings me to a possible career for him: engineer.

John was in the worst orphanage of the three kids. His food was horrid, the children were unkind, the workers would wake him up in the middle of the night and make him clean. To this day, he doesn’t sleep well at night. He is afraid that something will go wrong while he is sleeping, so he wakes up repeatedly.

When we picked up John in June, he was ready to go. In fact, he had packed his bag the night before and didn’t sleep a wink that night. He wanted to be ready to go as soon as possible. It was hard for Tyler and I to not go visit him the night before, as we were staying in Razliv that night. We were eager to go pick him up as early as possible. He was outside waiting for us when we arrived and when we left, he didn’t look back. He was committed to our family and doesn’t take any pleasure in thinking of the orphanage in Razliv - except for a couple of boys that were his friends.

With John, we have experienced so many of his “firsts,” despite him being 14 years old. He has such a desire to learn. He also enjoys cleaning and is very good at it. If I want a job well done, I ask John to do it. He has a can-do personality and is eager to please. He doesn’t like to smile, but he will to make me happy. John is a peacemaker. He wants for everyone to get along. He gets along beautifully with Michael, however he is annoyed by Sarah’s behaviors and negativity. But, despite this, he will let her vent to him anytime she wants.

John wants to grow up and join the military. He says he wants to earn a lot of money so he can take care of Tyler and me. He has a genuine heart. John doesn’t have a sense of ownership, which is common when you never really own anything. He frequently “borrows” things from anyone else in the family and if when he breaks it, he doesn’t say anything about it to anyone. We’re working on this with him.

Math is his favorite subject, along with technology. He loves all things electronic-based. I hope he will be able to learn English quickly so that he can communicate with those around him. He is so eager to communicate. John is a sweet boy and he is learning to accept my affection. I’m so glad to have him in our family. He’s a blessing to us all.

A post about Sarah

I meant to post about Sarah and John right after I posted about John, but life has been so busy! I am glad I have a few minutes to write today about my Bulgarian Princess, Sarah.

Sarah is the girl who brought our family to Bulgaria. Her file is the first file that we saw and we committed to her shortly afterwards. Once we were able to do so, we began writing her letters and getting to know her via email and photos. I must have watched her videos dozens of times. She has such a sweet smile!

When we traveled to Bulgaria, we went to Lesichovo to meet Sarah. I will never forget seeing her for the first time - she was SO SHORT! Her hair was all done up in a bun and she was so beautiful. Upon my entering the room, she began to cry because she was so nervous for that moment. I was ushered to another room and waited for her to collect her thoughts. After a minute or two, she rushed into the room and gave me a huge hug. I lifted her off the ground as I hugged her tightly. It was an unforgettable moment.

After three days of spending time with Sarah, it was so hard to leave her. Our last morning together, we sat on the couch and cried as we parted ways. For the rest of our time in Bulgaria, I was eager to Sarah on the phone and hear her sweet voice. I cried for the first few days after I left Lesichovo - my connection with Sarah was so strong.

Fast forward to June: when we picked up Sarah from the orphanage, she was very sad to leave her home and her friends. She cried in the car as we drove to Sofia, snuggling up with our fabulous facilitator, Maggie. The next two weeks were very hard for me, emotionally. I was so excited to reconnect with Sarah the way that I had with her in January - but that didn't happen. She began to put up all the walls around her and was very angry with me. Maggie had many talks with Sarah and concluded that she was blaming me for the pain her biological mother had given her for so many years. It was so heart-wrenching that I had several good, long cries during my time in-country.

After coming home, Sarah came around to me quickly - as I was the only female she knew who could speak Bulgarian. She wanted me to be with her often. Initially, I was still trying to sort through my emotions from the time in Bulgaria and her sudden need for a connection was confusing, but also wonderful. I am an affectionate mama, so it was nice to be able to return her affection once she allowed it.

It's been four months since we brought home the triplets. My relationship with Sarah is the hardest of the three Bulgarians, as she exhibits some FASD behaviors. Overall, I would say that things are improving as she begins to trust me more and more. She is stubborn, lazy, and selfish - however, she is also affectionate, empathetic, and kind. She is a beautiful girl with stunning green eyes. I look forward to developing our relationship and reassuring her that I'm not going anywhere - she doesn't need to worry about being rejected, as her 1st mom did repeatedly. I am so thankful for the opportunity to love my Bulgarian princess. She's a gem!

Friday, October 20, 2017

A post about Michael

10 months ago, we met our oldest son in Bulgaria. On the first day that we spent with him, it was clear from his body language that he wasn't certain about us at all. I have later learned that he was irritated to spend a day with us, as he had already made plans elsewhere. He was wanting to wear a red sweatsuit and spend the day with a girl. I am thankful that he relented to spend some time with us.

It has been almost 4 months to the day since we picked up our son, Michael, from the orphanage in Dobrich, Bulgaria. I remember everything about walking into his orphanage, eager to see his face again. I had a bag full of clothing for him to wear and it seemed like it took him forever to come down to the director's office to greet us. I later learned that he was cleaning his room and sweeping the floor. I would soon see how hard he works in our household chores.

The next day, we went to pick up John from his orphanage. I had several fidget spinners to pass out to the children and Michael was only too happy to participate. From the beginning, he showed his desire to serve others - especially his new family.

Fast forward to today: I cannot imagine life with my oldest son. Michael is a hard-working, dedicated, spiritual, service-oriented, compassionate, intelligent, affectionate, clever boy. He is my shadow - following me from room-to-room when he is at home. In fact, being home is his favorite place to be. When he gets off the school bus, he races home because he loves being here. During dinner we will each share our high and low from the day. Michael's high is often "being home."

Last weekend, I posted this on Facebook:

Tonight is a scout campout. Michael is such a mama’s boy. He just sent me a text on Tyler’s phone (Tyler, John, and Keith are also on the campout) and Michael said he misses me and he is sad that I am not there to tell him goodnight. I always kiss my boys goodnight and tell them that I love them. After fourteen years of not having that, I think he is missing it tonight. #lovebeingamama 

Two nights ago, I was sitting with Michael and I was running my hand through his hair for about ten minutes. Realizing that he might not want it, I asked him if he liked what I was doing. He emphatically reassured me that he loved it and wanted me to continue. Again, after so many years without physical affection, he loves to receive it from me - and I am only too happy to provide that for him. 

Micheal likes to talk. We have daily conversations and he will often say, "Mama, I want to talk with you later today." He has an understanding heart and enjoys talking about all sorts of topics. He greatly enjoys learning about the gospel of Jesus Christ. We talk about Bulgaria, our family, his future, anything. 

Michael is such a big kid, but he has a tender heart. He has been my easiest and quickest attachment from our Bulgarian adoption, which is so interesting considering how wary he was of us when we first met him. I am thankful that God pricked my heart when I saw his picture so many months ago. He is attentive to me and has learned my daily habits. Adoption can be such a beautiful thing and it has certainly been so with Michael. Not only is he easy to love, but our personalities mesh together beautifully. I am so thrilled to call him my son. Thanks be to my Father in Heaven for sending him to me. 

Friday, October 13, 2017

Family Beach Day

We took a drive to Virginia Beach this past weekend. Sean and Roxy drove down with us and we had a wonderful time. Anna decided she didn’t want to go so she went over to a friends house. We absolutely love the beach, but it’s getting too cold, so this will likely be our last time this year. We look forward to returning next spring.

Sarah + Георги (a boy she likes in Bulgaria)

This handsome man is so happy at the beach! He caught a few waves, too!

Sean and Roxy - their first time at VB!

Poor Michael couldn’t get in the water, due to his cast, but he had a happy outlook and enjoyed spending time with Barkley and talking with me. I want to note that Michael is very attentive to me when I walk down to the beach and back to the van. It is rather steep and the sand is soft and moves easily. He won’t let me walk down or up without him. I am so thankful for his devotion and kindness. 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Family Photos 2017