Friday, August 17, 2012

Trip One - Day Five

Today was our last visit with Gracie...for this trip. As soon as we left the orphanage I started writing in my journal. I will share that with you so you will know what I was really thinking at that moment rather than me trying to remember.

We are in the van driving away from our last visit with Gracie. The next time we see her we will be her legal parents. The next time we drive away from the orphanage she will be leaving with us and will no longer be an orphan.

I did it. I stayed strong. I walked away with my head held high and with no tears knowing that we will be back. Of course I am sad, but I had to be strong today. If I start to cry I fear I will not stop. 

We have so many people praying for us today. I absolutely feel covered in blessings. I feel covered in prayer and love. Thank you for that. I was told to soak it all in and I have done just that. I have enjoyed every moment. I have cherished the trip, the time with my husband, the food, the city and, most of all, our time with Gracie.

Once in the van, I opened the window to breathe in the air and reflect. The wind is blowing across my face and through my hair. The sun shining on and warming my skin and my spirit. I can feel His Holy presence. As the wind blows on my face I remember my husband blowing on Gracie's face and neck this week to keep her cool. I feel my Heavenly Father comforting me in the same way. I know that I am honoring Him and He is pleased. 

The tears are flowing gently now. Tears of happiness, peace and love. Writing that, I realize the shirt I wore today. It says faith, hope, love in English and Bulgarian. We have come, met her and gone...
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13
We returned on the long drive to the city where our attorney and the airport are. It is a much more fast paced city and we love it as well. We walked for miles. I want to share pictures with you of where we ended our day. It was very special.

This cathedral is the amazingly beautiful as you can see. The inside is even more amazing.

When we walked in Jimmy said he wanted to light a candle for Gracie. He purchased a candle and I captured the special moment as he light the candle for her.

I can see this photo being blown up to hang on our wall.

The sun was shining behind us as we walked up to the church. We noticed our shadows and decided to taking a kissing shadow picture for a fun memory.

Excuse the wild hair. It is a really breezy day. I loved these gates in front of the entrance.

With all my heart, thank you again for blessing us with your prayers. They got us through this day and soon we will be on our way home.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Trip One - Day Four

We did not get much sleep last night since we have a little one who is sick at home. I would have been awake taking care of him at home, but I ended up awake here worrying about him and his caretakers. Just a mommy worry...I know that I know he is in good hands. We were very tired this morning and decided to skip breakfast in exchange for a little extra sleep.

Today was wonderful. Gracie was as happy as ever. After our morning visit she was loaded into a car with two orphanage workers...and no car seat! We followed the car to a photo place to get her VISA photos taken. The people drive crazy around here and I held my breath and prayed that there would be no accident. I imagined that if something were to happen I would completely lose it and run to their car to take care of her and comfort her. Then I really saw how much I just love her to pieces and how much I feel like her mommy!

We got to the photo store safe and sound. The social worker held Gracie and was very standoffish. She would not let me touch her! Seriously, I think she was afraid I would grab her and run! Gracie was amazing. She sat in the chair like such a big girl, let them take her picture and made no fuss. When we came out of the store our driver said he has never been in and out from taking a photo so fast. He said most of the time the children fuss and fidget. Well not our girl.

We went to have lunch to wait for the photos and the social worker took Gracie back. After lunch we picked up her super cute VISA photos and went to see a notary to sign legal documents stating we wish for our attorney to continue the legal adoption process. We were just all smiles in this little, hot notary office in a run down building as American Rock n' Roll music played on the radio.

About an hour later we met up to head back to the orphanage. Gracie was super happy today. Just smiles and giggles. Today I sat back and watched her love on her daddy. They are so cute. Earlier in the week he noticed that she likes to run her hand over his whiskers so he decided he will not shave until we leave. He wanted her to be able to do that all week if that is what she likes. Then today I noticed her rubbing the hair on his leg. Just the little things that are so cute. All week he has been blowing on her face and neck to keep her cool and checking every little scratch or rash on her body. He bounces her and tickles her and she just loves it and has the sweetest laugh.

When our visit was over she immediately started whining. As we walked the halls toward the entrance she whined the entire way and just kept looking at us. She knew we were leaving and it was so sad.

Tomorrow is our last visit. I don't know if I will even have it in me to write tomorrow. If I do, you will probably need tissue and you will probably hear some real emotion from me. My husband has told me that I can't cry because then he will cry. So, I'm expecting we will both be crying.

After our visit in the morning we have a 3 1/2 hour drive back to meet with our attorney, sign more papers and spend the night before our trip home. It will be a busy day so if you don't see an update you will know that we are busy and I'm probably crying anyway.

This journey has been amazing and Gracie is so worth it. The others are too. My husband stands at the window and looks at the other children. Today he asked me "what about those children?" "Are they adoptable?" Then he said, "There is a little boy who is so cute. He keeps looking up here and waving."

That is not a hint that we are bringing home another child. I know that my husband would want them all. Please know this though...there are millions of Gracie's all over the world. If you have ever had the slightest thought or tug at your heart to adopt then make a move. It takes time, work and money. Yes. But the reward is so great. It is so worth it. Gracie was worth it. They all are.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Trip One - Day Three

This morning was the first time I cried since being here. You would think I would have cried the first time we saw Gracie, but I was just happy! You would think I would have cried when she reached out for me as we left the first day, but I knew we'd be back. Well, my eyes did get full of tears but I did not cry.

Today, we walked through the orphanage hallways and heard the sounds of children playing outside below the room we were in. Jimmy and I looked out the window and watched them. Suddenly, two little girls saw us looking. They stared back and started smiling. They were precious and sweet. We smiled and began to wave at them. They loved it. They were giggly and sweet and loving the attention. Attention that was given from the second story of the building above them, through closed solid glass. They could not hear us, touch us or smell us but they could see us and they craved our attention.

I walked into the playroom and cried.

A few minutes later Gracie came in and was just as sweet as ever. When the caretaker came in she told our translator that when she was bringing Gracie down the hall she was smiling and bouncing because she knew where she was going. She knew she was coming to us.

The past two days we have only been able to get her to smile by tickling her. Today, she smiled on her own will. When I held her she smiled. Not because she was being tickled but because she was happy.

We just returned from our afternoon visit. It was a good visit. She like to chew on her clothes. When she does this we tell her no and redirect her attention to something else. She laughs and lets the clothes go. When we were leaving the nurse saw her chewing her shirt and I could tell from her face she did not like it. When I walked closer she pinched Gracie's nose and held it to try to make her let go of the shirt. I was boiling. As we were leaving she told the translator that she has seen a change in Gracie. She said she is responding positively to our visits and is acting different.

I cried silently on the entire car ride back. Then as I got to the hallway of our hotel room I bawled. I got in the bed and bawled. I can hardly breathe. We only have three visits left.

I wasn't going to do this. My husband said "you can't cry because then I'll cry." Well sorry honey. We'll just have to cry together.

I am going to get out of here and get some fresh air.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Trip One - Day Two

We slept very well last night. Much needed rest. Today was an "adventure" of a day. We had breakfast with our guide and headed to the orphanage.

The pediatrician met with us this morning. She basically read us Gracie's medical file which was information we have already read. She was very positive and nice and said that Gracie has only ever been sick twice of respiratory illness. "Other than the condition of Down syndrome she is very healthy" the doctor said. Well...ok. She did say her hearing was shown to be deficient and she discussed that she has a thyroid problem. She said Gracie was not well and not progressing until they began the thyroid treatment. Well I did hear what she had to say, but it was difficult to listen since Gracie had just been put into my arms. I just wanted to visit with her. Our visit went well. She was less vocal this morning than yesterday. I have a feeling she is more of an afternoon person. She seems happier after her nap and meal. Aren't we all?

After the visit we were walking toward the van and noticed our driver was patting his pockets and searching his bag. We knew what was about to happen. We got to the van and he looked into the window and said "Oh no. How did I do that?" The keys were in the ignition and all doors were locked. I kept thinking about the memories we were making and wondering if they even have locksmiths here. The driver and my handy husband pried and scraped at a window latch until they broke it off and they were able to open a window on the van. Very handy guys they are. I was impressed.

When we got back to the hotel I checked in with the babysitter. This is what had just happened at home...

The babysitter locked my keys in my car!!! Hmm...interesting how things happen. She had to call one of my "emergency contacts" who then called for help. The situation was resolved easily. I just don't know what to think of that happening to us here and to our family at home just within a couple of hours of each other. Just crazy!

I came back to the room and had a nap. Yes, I slept 10 hours last night and then needed a nap after lunch! Plus it makes the time between visits go by faster.

Our second visit today was wonderful. We played and laughed and she was more vocal again. She is ticklish and has a sweet laugh. When she laughs she laughs loud and hard and it is the only time we see her smile. Yesterday I noticed an enormous amount of wax and dried crud in her ears. You know the crease parts above the opening to the ear canal. I can tell you this. She is 3 and I'm sure there was 3 years worth of crud in her ear. Now maybe we have figured out why she can't hear well. So today, I brought Q-tips with me. When I saw the opportunity I got them out and started cleaning. You really would not believe the amount of stuff that I was able to clean out. She really did not seem to mind. She moved her head a little but did not complain or make it difficult at all. Some of the things we do for our kids at home we just do. We take them for granted. We do not see joy in cleaning our children's ears. It is just something we do. This was different. This made me feel like her mother. Like for the first time someone was showing her love simply by cleaning her ears. I will never forget it. Every time I clean any of my children's ears I will remember this day.

After our second visit we went for dinner and took a walk. There is an amazing center square here that has many shops and outdoor places to eat. The weather is beautiful and the streets are full of people. It has a huge awesome park with play structures for the children. We saw the most amazing tree house (photo below). We found an awesome farmer's market. I've never seen one as big as this. We walked through and just enjoyed looking and smelling the fruits and vegetables. I tell you, I would love to have a "center" and farmer's market area like this at home. I would take my kids there and enjoy our days so often. Well, that is if we could have this dreamy weather as well.

There are many areas that are not so nice. They are old run down buildings and homes and even a gypsy village that our guide showed us. This "center" around our hotel is just amazing though. There is a huge park with several playgrounds and it is just full of people and children. While just a couple of miles away on the top of a hill is an orphanage full of children who have never been outside of the gates.

We bought some souvenirs today. Some things so that we could always remember this city. Some things to display in our home and some things to give to Gracie when she is older. We love the things we purchased. We got postcards, oils, religious plaques, a little doll, magnets, a coffee mug, wooden carved jewelry boxes and a wooden carved plate.

Things are so inexpensive here. The first night we ate at the hotel and spent $22 (local money) on dinner which is about $15 US. Then we found many places to eat around the center area. We have been eating lunch and dinner for about $8-12 (local) which is about $5-$9 US. That is for both of us. We would spend $40 plus for a lunch back home. 

So now we are back in our hotel room and guess what? The air conditioning at the hotel is out. We decided we would tell someone so my husband went to tell our guide. The next thing I know Jimmy knocks on the door and our guide follows him into our room...wearing ONLY a towel!!! I am not even kidding. Then he stands on a stool to feel the A/C vent. I went into the bathroom fearing what would happen if the towel fell off.

Like I was an adventure!!!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Trip One - Day One

Our trip here was so super long. I thought I would be able to sleep on the flight, but had no luck. Once we arrived I thought we were going straight to a hotel close to the airport. Again, I was wrong. Our guide met us at the exit and told us we would be driving to the orphanage city right away and it was a 3 1/2 hour drive. We had just completed an 18 hour combination of three flights. We loaded up in a van with no a/c and headed out. My stomach was in knots.

I hardly remember arriving at the hotel.  There was one detail etched in my memory though. At the turn to our hotel there was a road sign. You know those signs that say "Children Playing" or "Slow. We love our children." It was one of those signs only it was in the local language with English translated at the bottom. The translation said this..."Save The Child"

I don't really think I need to explain much more about that sign.

We got settled into our room, went down for dinner and enjoyed it very much. We love the local food. I was nervous about not being able to eat, but the food is awesome!

After dinner we went for a stroll to explore the city around our hotel, came back to the room, showered and went to bed. Only, I did not sleep. I did not sleep on the plane. I did not sleep in the car. I did not sleep in the hotel room bed. I was wide awake and as nervous as ever. Oh, by the way, my husband slept on the plane, slept in the car and slept in the hotel room bed. At 7am this morning I fell asleep. At 8am this morning the alarm went off. We got ready, had breakfast, went for a walk around town and came back to our room for a few minutes before leaving. During those moments I wrote in my journal and prayed. I wrote about the fact that in just a few minutes I was sure I would be a different person than I had ever been before. After writing I noticed scripture in the margin of the page that says this, "The Lord is my strength and my shield; My heart trusted in Him." Psalm 28:7. I found this so fitting. I prayed on this as we made our way to the orphanage. I cannot explain the way I felt in the car. There is no such description.

When we got out of the car we saw a worker carrying a baby into what looked to be an emergency vehicle. I got even more nervous. When we stood in front of the massive building I could not believe it. This place is huge. There were many plants. Very well cared for plants. That's all I'll say on that. Then there were many steps leading up to the building. These were grand steps as if we were going into some fancy governmental building. Suddenly I realized I could not breathe. I immediately started to pray for the strength and ability to breathe. I prayed for the Lord to be my strength. I could not really figure out what I was doing in this place. It was definitely one of those moments that you feel like you are not inside your own body but you are watching the event like a fly on the wall.

Our guide spoke to several people as we stood in the hall not understanding any of it. We were asked to be seated in the director's office and I was so nervous about what he was going to say to us. Then, suddenly, we were escorted out of the office, out of the wing, down stairs, up stairs and into a room full of toys in which we were told "the child" would be brought. We waited for about 15 minutes that seemed much longer.

The door opened and a woman in a white nurse dress brought her in. Whoa! Here she is. A real, living, breathing, very little person. No longer a picture. She was scared and making lots of sounds, but not crying. She did not want to come to me. The guide said that is a good sign. I agreed. We slowly began to play with her. She does not know how to play. We were in awe over her. She is so different from the picture in real life. It is her, but she is smaller and just different. She is beautiful. I love her hair. Her eyes, oh, her eyes. I had no idea how blue and beautiful they are. We made eye contact and held each others eyes for a lengthy amount of time. This was a moment that nearly brought me to tears. A moment of our souls touching.

She puts her toys and everything in her mouth. She kept chewing on her shoes and we kept re-directing her. She didn't like it but she caught on. We visited for about an hour and a half and it was wonderful. The caretaker came back for her and they left just like that. We left the building and were told we would return in four hours.

Nothing in between those hours matters. We went to eat and just chatted about her and how amazed we are. We then walked around the town some more. We came across a pharmacy type store and went in. We found a baby chew toy/rattle and bought it for her. We rested for a bit and it was time to go back.

When she was brought in this time she was different. She was in a different outfit. She was happier and we could tell her belly was fuller. She was happy to see us and we started playing right away. We gave her the toy we had purchased and she loved it. We noticed that she had nearly chewed holes in her little shoes. It was a wonderful visit and she was not happy that it ended. Neither were we. She reached out her arms for me and it broke my heart. The caretaker smiled and told our guide that "she has attached to me in just two visits." I know this could be a good thing/bad thing, but it happened in a good way.

We have had dinner, talked to family and friends, showered and are now completely exhausted. I wanted to share this day with you before I go to bed. We cannot wait to see her again tomorrow. Thank you to all of my friends and family. For everything. Good night.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

On Our Way!

In seven hours we will be on our way. I've tried to prepare myself in every way. Our bags are packed with everything we could imagine we might need. Though, I still don't feel prepared. Emotionally prepared. I'm trying to prepare myself for great joy and heartbreak to collide. I know this feeling.

The only other time in my life that I have experienced joy and heartbreak at the same time was when we got Logan's diagnosis when he was just eight days old. Joyful. Heartbroken.

But the joy shines brighter now and the heartbreak of those days disappeared. Gone, but not forgotten.

I love the song that says, "Lord, break my heart for what breaks yours." My heart has been broken for the orphans with Down syndrome that I have read about, seen pictures of and many who have not been able to be rescued from the hell they live in. Many have been moved to institutions. Many have died.

My heart has been broken...for what breaks His.

It is hard to prepare myself to experience the joyful-heartbreak again. Only, this time I know the heartbreak will be even more heartbreaking than before. I know I will see things I wish I'd never seen. I will be glad to have seen them though. Only glad because His heart breaks and we must act. I also know that the Lord will be there. He will help me see the joy and He will sustain me until we can go back to take our daughter out of there forever.

But there are others. So many others that will still be there. My heart will always be broken for them.

We can't save them all, but we can all do something. Adopt. Advocate. Pray. Help an adopting family. If you feel the desire to do any of these things do not ignore it. In fact, you should do these things even if you don't feel the desire. We are commanded to do so.

James 1:27

27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Don't let the world pollute you. I have had people (even friends and family) tell me not to do this. Not to follow what God wants us to do. I have had to tell Satan he can not have her. She belongs to us. She belongs to Jesus.

Please care for the orphans. Do something.

I plan to update my blog daily while we are visiting. Please understand that there will be no pictures.

Thank you for praying for our family. God Bless you.