Sitting Tight

Adoption is full of bumps in the road, delays, and confusion.  I knew when we got our referral last week, that there was a good chance that it wouldn’t be “smooth sailing” to get to our little guy.

For those of you who don’t know what goes into accepting a referral for Bulgaria, let me quickly share what it looks like.

The “referral” consists of a file of any known  medical, developmental, psychological, and family history.  This amount of information varies from child to child.  It also usually comes with photos and videos.  You must have all this information, and present it to an International Pediatrician for their evaluation.  They go over all their concerns with you, and sometimes come up with a list of questions they want answered so that you can have the best information possible.

We had our consultation with our international pediatrician last week, but we knew that because our referral only came with one photo of him, that we would have to wait to get new photos and videos to “officially” accept the referral.  The appointment went well; she used words like he’s “beautiful,” “remarkable,” “doing better than he should be.”  Concerning most of his medical issues, she said things like “manageable,” and “not an issue.”  She did have one concern,  which we may or may not understand fully until he comes home, but something that (either way) we feel don’t hinder us from being his mom and dad.

So she submitted her list of questions for us to pass on to our agency.  We originally heard that our team in Bulgaria would be travelling to his village this past Wednesday or Thursday to get the new information, and that by today or Monday we could accept his referral and get travel dates.  But…….as I said before…….delays are a given.  We found out yesterday that in fact, the team won’t be able to travel now until next Wednesday, so we will have to sit tight for an extra week.

One week–7 days– isn’t going to change the course of history, but when you are this close (THIS close!!) to meeting your son for the first time, every minute counts.  We have waited nearly 2 and a half years for this moment, so we will pray for patience to last a little longer.  We should still be stepping onto Bulgarian soil in September! 1380179077

Random sweetness:  Snippets of my Favorite Prayers this Week

Addy Rose:  “Jesus, PLEASE let us get our travel dates SOON!”

Abe:  “Thank you for our team in Bulgaria.”

Cora: “Thank you for my little bwother.”

PRAYER REQUESTS

  • For the Vesta team to get the information needed next Wednesday, and get it to us in a timely fashion.
  • For our little boy–that he is happy, healthy, and cared for during this time, and that God would prepare him for great changes in his little life.
  • For his foster family–that they would love him well, and that they would be blessed for caring for him this last year.
  • For me– for clarity of thought in the coming weeks, and for any looming fears to be covered in peace.
  • For Andy–to accomplish what he needs to at work before we travel.
  • For our kiddos here– that God would prepare and sustain them while we are gone to Bulgaria, and through the changes in the next few months.

Thanks!

We Got THE Call!!

This week we got the most important phone call we will ever receive.  The phone call that changes our family forever.  The phone call we have waited 2 years and 4 months to receive. Let me tell you the LONG version of this beautiful story.

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Monday we had just finished doing our morning set of school.  I cleared off the lunch table and went outside to read for a few minutes while the kids played.  I picked up Mary Beth Chapman’s I Choose to See book at the library, and read the chapter where they flew to China and held their little girl in their arms for the first time.  I  wiped tears from my face as I finished the chapter, and then went back into the house wondering what that moment would be like for us.  I had just finished setting the book down on my dresser when Addy brought me my phone.  “Mom, you just missed a call.  Who is A-G-C-I?”  I knew that this was our adoption agency and my mind quickly began scrolling through past emails to try and remember if our caseworker had mentioned it being time for quarterly calls.  I knew she hadn’t, but refused to believe she wanted anything other than questions about paperwork.  This didn’t keep my heart from beating a little faster, however.  As I tried to convince myself it probably wasn’t anything, and tried to decide what number to call her back on, the phone rang again.  My heart skipped a beat and I quickly answered.  We chit-chatted for a while, before she said, “I love all the pictures you’ve been posting of your kids on Facebook lately!”  “Oh, thank you,” I replied.  Then these words changed everything…….

I just hope you have room for one more, because I am holding the picture of a beautiful little boy!

(Insert falling to the floor, followed by non- stop screaming, and crying.)

The kids came running  into the room to check on me (knowing I was talking with our caseworker).  I looked at Addy and shook my head yes and they went squealing out of the room.

When I finally calmed down enough to listen, she asked if I was okay, and then proceeded to tell me about this precious little 20-month Bulgarian prince who would join our family.   I heard nothing after that–only knew I needed to call Andy.  She told me a few things about his file, and asked if I had any questions.  I told her I couldn’t form words at the moment, and she promised to email me his photo and file as soon as we got off the phone.  I hung up and called Andy–praying that he would answer–and on the last ring he did.  I told him to sit down, and shared that we had received THE call.  He laughed with delight!  I forwarded him the email before I opened it, and we opened it together.  I lost my breath as the screen slowly unfolded the picture of the most darling boy.  I instantly knew he belonged in our family.  He shares Addy, Abe, and Cora’s round little faces, button noses, and Cora’s dark eyes.  He had the tiniest upturned lips, just barely a grin.  My heart melted, and at the same moment, I became more overwhelmed and shocked than I have ever been in my entire life!

I got off the phone with him and called my parents, who had just landed in Ireland on vacation.  I had no idea if their phones would be on, but my dad quickly answered.  He began telling me about Ireland and their flights, and dried peas (ha), and I finally interuppted him to tell him that at that exact moment, he was closer to my new son than I was!  I quickly and frantically told him the few details I knew.  He asked me when we would travel, and (since I hadn’t listened to a word our caseworker said) I told him probably 2-3 months for our first trip.

I gathered my thoughts and decided to call our caseworker back to A) apologize for busting her eardrums and B) get more information.  Quickly into our conversation, she said we would “definitely” travel in September.  I freaked out again, and forgot every other question I had for her.  September is 2 weeks away!

 

So, from Monday to Thursday, I pretty much lived on the cusp of a panic attack.  Shaky hands, racing heart, NO sleep, nausea, no coherent thoughts….just overwhelmed.  Just days before, we told friends that the soonest we expected to hear anything was next summer  or even 2 more years.  I mean, we REALLY had guarded hearts.  I could not have expected a referral any less than I did on Monday, August 17th at 12:30.  I thought of the one million things that I wanted to do/ needed to do/ should be planning/ should be working on/ ect.  Andy had no anxiety; he was just ready to hop on a plane.

Then Friday came, and a calm washed over me.  My dearest friend text me and told me I was “made for this moment.”  I started to get past how surreal it all seemed, and settle into the joy of gathering into our arms an orphan-son.  I have been feeling less overwhelmed, and more elated that this is really happening to us.  God has revealed to us the child we have prayed for, and He is preparing to unite our hearts forever, in a way only He can.

While there are many “important” things to do (like paperwork), I have busied myself with buying books, bedding, balls, stuffed animals, and little boy clothes.  My kids have loved helping pick out things for their new little brother.

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Stay tuned…….it’s going to be an amazing journey.

 

 

 

Back to School!

Today, I officially have a second grader, a Kindergartner, and a preschooler!  It’s Back-to-School for our family today.  A lot of learning is going to take place under our roof this year, and we can’t wait!

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For my homeschooling friends, this is the curriculum we have decided on for this year:

Second Grade

My Father’s World – Adventures in U.S. History Curriculum  (This also encompasses her Science Curriculum, Bible Curriculum, Art and Music, and Book List.)

Abeka Language 2- SeatWork

Abeka Letters and Sounds 2 (Phonics)

Abeka Writing with Phonics (Cursive)

Abeka Spelling and Poetry 2

Saxon Math 2

Kindergarten

My Father’s World Kindergarten– God’s Creation from A to Z (Everything we need for Kindergarten!)

Preschool

Play-doh, Coloring Books, Songs, Puzzles, Read Alouds, and Fun……we believe in childhood!

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The first day of school is beautiful for so many reasons, but one of them is a clean school room…..this never lasts long!!

Happy School Year!

 

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I Come to the Garden….

There is a beautiful hymn that says, “I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses. …….And He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me I am His own.  And the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.”

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I understand the context of this song, but you see, I don’t come to the garden alone very often.  And that is why it is so precious to me.  Our garden is a pretty special place to our family…..and not necessarily because of the food it provides (although that is an added benefit.)

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Andy and I have had a garden every year since we got married.  And, thank goodness, we’ve gotten a little better at it every summer.  As we added kids, we just added little hands to play in the dirt, then learn to dig a hole and plant a seed, and then to harvest and help cook the bounty, and store it for the coming fall and winter.  It is one of our favorite summer traditions.

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It may seem silly, but our kids have gained so much from this experience.  Aside from the obvious work ethic they are learning, they will gladly eat anything they grow in the garden–tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, okra, radishes, anything that comes from their garden.

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I have also seen them learn generosity from having a garden.  There isn’t a person who visits our house in the summer that doesn’t go home with a sack full of garden goodies that Abe runs out to gather.  He LOVES picking things for people to take home.

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They also take such pride and enjoyment in helping me cook and can things from our garden.  While it doesn’t ever make the job easier having them alongside me, it is a beautiful way to spend time together.

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The hymn rings true when it says, “The joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.”

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“Raising children is like growing a garden.  

The more love you place into it, the more it grows.”

Sarmi…It’s What’s for Supper

Bulgaria has been in my every thought this week.  I’ve been reflecting on all the blessings this sweet country has already brought to my life.  It was the background for the shaping of my faith as an impressionable 18 year old.  It was the setting  where God revealed great things to me about Himself.  It was where I met many life-long friends–Bulgarian, British, and American.  Without these friendships, I would be lost.  It has also brought friends through adoption–I’ve met dozens of other mamas waiting for their children from Bulgaria, and they are my support and encouragement–true family–as I travel this journey.

And, of course, I await an even greater blessing.  A son or daughter.  Bulgaria is synonymous in my life with love.

This time of year is when I crave Bulgarian food.  I have eggplant, cabbage, cucumbers, zuchinni and tomatoes pouring out of my garden–staples for any Bulgarian dish.  And, I always keep a good amount of feta cheese close by too!  Yesterday, I decided (without proper planning) that I would throw together something with what I had on hand.  A self-declared Bulgarian feast.

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Now, this blog post isn’t going to be to show you my cooking skills (or lack thereof).  It is simply for all my fellow Bulgarian-adopting mamas who are looking for some yummy recipes to try out before bringing our sweet children home….or to try after they are home!

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Shopska Salad:  Cucumbers/ Tomatoes/ Feta

This recipe is what I think of first when I think of Bulgarian cuisine.  It was served to me for every single meal, every single day that I was in Bulgaria until I was sick of it and thought I never wanted to see cucumbers again.  But, what was the first thing I craved when stepping off the plane in the states?  You guessed it.  Although mine can NEVER be as good as the traditional because there is no comparison to Bulgarian feta, we love it and eat it throughout the summer.

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Sarmi:  Stuffed Cabbage Leaves

I think there may be a million variations of this dish, but we used what we had on hand, and it was really good.  I need to work on my cabbage rolling skills (and add more water) to perfect it though!

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Tickvichki Mousaka: Zuchinni and Egg Dish

This one surprised my family the most.  I wasn’t sure how keen we would be on an egg side dish for supper.  But, man, we woofed it down.  Everyone loved it.  This was our favorite by far, and Andy asked me to put it on “the rotation” of zuchinni dishes!

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Garash Torte:  Walnut Torte

Again, probably a lot of variations of this dish.  It turned out beautifully, but I think there is room for improvement on taste.  Without having the real thing to compare it to, I think I underbaked it quite a bit.  It was more of a cheesecake consistency than cake, and was very greasy.  I think 10 more minutes in the oven and it would have tasted as good as it looked.  My family still swore they loved the flavors, but I’m convinced I didn’t do it justice!

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THE END RESULT:

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A house without children is like a dish without spices.

-Bulgarian proverb

Summer and Adoption

I keep thinking I’ll sit down and write about all the random things spinning around in my head these last few weeks, but it is after all, summer.  My kids rightfully remind me that it is a time for swimming and running barefoot through the yard, for picking flowers and working in the garden.  It is a time for hammocks and rope-swings, bicycles and boats.  But , of course, the path God has brought us to also means it is always the time for adoption and advocacy.  So, I’ve found a few quiet moments this morning to share some moments of our summer as a waiting family.

Lemonade for the Least of These

Our agency has had a beautiful vision for what lemonade stands can represent in the lives of orphans.  The last two summers they have encouraged kids to get involved in orphan care through lemonade stands.  I love this idea, because often as adults we forget that we aren’t the only ones “waiting.”  These children of ours are also waiting for a brother or a sister, and this is such an awesome way to let them be a part of adoption and advocacy.

Last year Addy wanted to do a lemonade stand, so with little planning and a lot of passion, she set up shop in my dad’s front yard on the highway.  She squeezed lemons all morning, and by the end of the day, she had raised over $100.

This summer, my dear friend Courtney (who always comes up with the best of ideas) asked if we would go together with them and do a lemonade stand at a car dealership her husband owns.  We were all in, and began our preparations.  We saw God’s hand over every aspect of it.  She went to place an ad in the paper, and they asked if they could run it as a cover story instead.  As we set up it began to rain, and we stopped, held our children’s hands and prayed that God would be glorified–rain or shine–and the sun came blazing out over our little lemonade stand.  We later heard that the radio station had encouraged people to come out.  And so many people walked up with a $100 bill and a hug of encouragement.

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The kids had a blast working for something so exciting.  They had made signs, and they each had “a job” at the lemonade stand.  They won’t ever grasp how much $1,600 is, but their efforts will provide many needs in the lives of orphans this year, and for that we are so grateful!

Holidays

You show me an adopting family, and I will show you a family who wonders during every-single-holiday if it will be their last one without their child.

(“I hope this is the last Christmas as a family of 5…..I wonder if our child will be home by next Thanksgiving……Maybe next Mother’s Day, I will have one more in my arms….ect”)

Fourth of July is no different.  As I enjoyed the day with my family, and as we snuggled and squished into NewNaw’s pontoon to watch fireworks over the lake, I wondered, “Will we have our little one home in time to watch these fireworks with us next summer?  Will they cling to me in awe and wonder, mixed with a little bit of fear?”  I hope.

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We don’t wish away this time, or want to fast forward through Addy and Abe and Cora’s lives, but there is always a longing for the one(s) that aren’t with us yet.

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Paperwork

We received bittersweet mail last week.  As we headed off to the lake for a few days, I had Andy grab the mail on the way down the driveway.  There was an unexpected “surprise” awaiting us:  A packet of homestudy update papers.  Can it already be that time AGAIN?!

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This will be our 2nd update (3 times including the original).  There are 2 ways of looking at this:

1) Another year has passed, and still no referral.

2) Another year closer to a referral…..maybe THIS will be the last update.

I feel a bit of both.  It seems that as soon as you finish a round of paperwork, get it sent off to the state, apostilled, approved, sent  to Immigration, approved, and mailed to Bulgaria—it’s time to update again.

The positive side to all of this is that we are starting to see movement again in Bulgaria.  It has been a good month of referrals so far for our agency, and there are even people who were registered around and after us that are starting to get referrals, so maybe….MAYBE…..it could be sooner than we expect.

But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.
Romans 8:25

No News Is….

No news is good news?  In adoption…..not exactly.  No news is, well, just no news.  In case you have wondered why I haven’t flooded the blog with adoption updates lately, it is because there is nothing to update.

Bulgaria has had some major hiccups lately from the Ministry of Justice being ill and out of the office for a few weeks in March (meaning NO adoption papers were signed and passed on), to the entire country nearly halting adoptions for a re-accredidation they were required to do for during April and May.   That sprinkled with a few holidays AND the upcoming (and dreaded) August SHUT-DOWN  (the one month governement vacation where everything stops and slowly starts again in the fall) has made for little progress.  That said, all of these events are out of our control, so there is no point in getting worked up about them, but it would certainly bring more peace if our agency (and all the others) had referrals flooding in!

Sometimes it feels like the longer we are in the process, the less real it is.  Almost like when people ask us how it is going, we are lying  about ever bringing another child home.  It is a very bizarre situation to be in.  On one hand, I have felt like we were missing a child for 2 years now….in public when I do the child head-count, I am subconsciously always frantic when I can’t find number 4.  Holidays and vacations and the announcements of friends’ pregnancies and births seems to trigger a deep sadness, that we are missing a beautiful and special person in our family.  And yet, because we have no name, no face, no story, no timeline, it is nearly impossible to imagine that it will happen.  And, I find it so difficult to pray for that child specifically because so much is still unknown.

As I said, we started the process 2 years and 2 months ago, and have been officially “waiting” a year and a half. The new trend in Bulgaria (while it was once expected to be an 18-36 month wait for a referral) seems to be more along the lines of 2 and half  to 5 years now for a referral.  This  becomes overwhelming at times, but I trust that God will teach me patience, and the time when we are matched will be so very sweet, that just like with labor and delivery of my other children, the pain will be a distant memory when I hold them in my arms.

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And, it’s not ALL bad news.  TODAY is the day that some of my dear adoption friends officially become the parents to their darling 2-year-old Bulgarian boy.  They will pass court and plan to travel and bring him HOME in just a few weeks.  I am also prayerfully waiting with other adoption friends as we hope they will be matched with their sweet Bulgarian baby this month.  I am rejoicing with them, as I know they will rejoice with me one sweet day.

So, for now, no news is no news…..but when it is good news (and someday it will be!) , you’ll be sure to know!

May Days

School’s out for the summer!

(I’ll let you in on a little secret:  We’ve actually been done a few weeks, just don’t tell any of my dear teacher friends!)

We had a really fun school year.   Addy learned so much, so quickly this past school year that it still takes me by surprise when I find her reading chapter books in her room or catch a glimpse of her reading to Abe or Cora.  She is sure to tell me the time ALL the time now, and in the grocery store she adds things up in her head to see if she can convince me to buy it because “she has enough money.”  It is a blessing and an honor to watch them meet these leaning milestones and to stand beside them as things suddenly click.  We still love homeschooling, and the kids still seem to love it too!

Here were some of the things we loved about our 2014-2015 School Year:

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Our School Room….It is still a place where we love learning!

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Fall Field Trips with our Homeschool Group: Apple Orchard!!!

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Everyday Learning and Reading

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Arts and Crafts

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Science Experiments

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Rock Wall Day

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St. Patrick’s Day Party: Learning how to dance a jig.

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Valentine’s Day Boxes for our Party

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Nope, I’m afraid we didn’t take Martin Luther King Jr. Day off…..but we did learn about him!

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Post Office Trip: We learned how our mail gets from one place to the next.

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On our last day of school, we planned an End-of-the-Year Celebration. Each of the kids went through cookbooks and cooking magazines to choose one item to make themselves (mostly). Cora choose butter biscuits, and Abe decided on a honeydew/cucumber/feta salad which, surprisingly, we all loved! Addy choose mini meatloaves (because nothing says “party” like a loaf of meat). I made them their favorite dessert–angel food cake, and then Addy finished the details by decorating our table. It was a delicious celebration…and may have to become a new tradition!

 

It was a beautiful year.  I’m already looking forward to having Abe start Kindergarten next year….he is going to love it!  And, as for Addy, well she took one week off and then wanted to start learning to write in cursive!

Happy Summer!!!

Stories No Longer Told

About a month ago, we were on a family walk, and the kids insisted that they had enough energy and motivation to walk the four country miles to their Granny’s house.  We placed one foot in front of the the other for two miles (except for the smallest child who took turns riding on shoulders).  At the two mile mark, there is a little country church…every bit of the church you’d imagine in an old movie.  Nothing else visibly surrounds it but trees, open fields, the sound of pumping oil rigs, and an old cemetery.   We stopped and rested on a log  before cutting across the cemetery to resume our journey.  We walked slowly and read the markers.  So many of them were covered in moss, their names and memories rubbed smooth.  So much history beneath our feet.

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We walked past a few more gravestones , reading the words and the names and the years….so many years and so many stories that are no longer told.  I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed at the stories these men could tell, the things they saw, the battles they fought, the lives that they lived…..here, 2 miles from my house.

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This one in particular has floated around my thought the past few weeks…..fought under General Jackson…..lover of the Constitution of the United States……1799-1874. Breathless……history books can’t draw intrigue like this.

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My Grandpa was recently moved to an Alzheimer’s unit.  He served in the Korean War.  His roommate worked on fighter planes during World War II before becoming a pilot.  They no longer tell their stories.  I wonder how many more of the 60+ Alzheimers residents have unspoken stories of battlefields and grief and victory and hope and despair as they fought for our country.

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I pray you have a wonderful Memorial Day today, and that you remember for every story shared, a thousand more have grown silent……but they still join together to write the story of our freedom.

On Love and 11 Years

About this time 14 years ago, I told Andy I didn’t want to date him because he was like a brother to me.  (Ouch!)  2 weeks later I was driving with my mom to church and informed her that I knew I would marry him.  God works in mysterious ways, and even as I told him I didn’t want to date,  I already knew I could never live a day apart from him.  He was my best friend, the one who made me laugh, and wiped my tears, and treated me more sweetly than I knew possible.

We quickly got engaged and waited 2 (long) years to marry…May 15, 2004.  Today we celebrate 11 years married together, and God has continued to grow our love and faith through one another.  Our journey has taken us near and far, and the memories are too numerous to recount.  But, here are some of my favorites:

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Our first summer as youth leaders–we took about 6 middle-schoolers to Agape music festival. We had only been dating a few months. 2001

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Engagement Pictures– October 2002

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Our beautiful wedding day– May 15, 2004

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Honeymoon at St. John USVI–lovely to be married!

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Graduation Day for both of us….and our one year anniversary! May 2005

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Our first fur-baby (or whatever crazy animal people call them). 2005

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One of many beautiful hikes we have taken together– Multnomah Falls, Oregon 2006

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Ah, Paris….great memories lounging at the Eiffel Tower, especially when a torrential downpour left us like drowned rats and lost in the middle of the city!

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We heart England! –2007

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+ Baby #1 2008

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+Baby #2 2009

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+ Baby #3 2012

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Pursuing Baby #4…Starting the adoption process 2013

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10 Year Anniversary at Grand Canyon 2014

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<3 I love living life with this guy. He’s my favorite. <3