Friday, December 16, 2011


I am not a blogger, let's get that straight right now. I don't have time to do this, nor do I think my everyday life is of much interest to anyone but us.

But the addition of another child to our family is a big deal - no it's a huge deal and I can't keep this to myself any longer. I'm adding a 15th child to my family (actually it's 17th if you count my grown kids, and I do, but it will make 15 at home.)

Kolina is 9 years old TODAY. She is in the same country as Maria, but in a different town and a different orphanage. And you can take different to the biggest extreme you can imagine. Because where she is, no child should be. Maria's orpanage is poor, but she is loved and fed. Kolina is not loved, nor fed.

Kolina is wasting away. She is 9 years old and weighs 19 lbs. When the Bible tells us to do unto the least of these Kolina and other children on the 3rd floor of this place are what I believe God was talking about. This orphanage looks good from the outside and on the main floors, but what it looks like to me is that the kids with disabilities, the ones that have been deemed "worthless" are moved upstairs and ignored. That's where my Kolina is.

So when I read about her, I knew I couldn't let my approval from the USCIS for that second child go unfilled. So here's a picture of my sweet Kolina! Happy Birthday Kolina. I'm coming to get you!

Merry Christmas!

Top Row: Leslie 16, Adam 13, Jon 17, Lucas 7, Julia 17
Second Row: Beth 2, Katie 15, Myia 8, Santa, Mariana 7, Linda, Molly 4
Bottom Row: Jacob 11, Jesse 9, Veronica 11

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Home now and back to waiting

I really left the blog hanging...stopped writing after day one with Maria #2 (Mimi).
The second day Mimi couldn't hold it together anymore and gave me a glimpse of behaviors that wouldn't fit with my family. Would that make her ineligible for any family? Absolutely not! But, sadly it does mean that she can't become a Duncan.
I came home several days early and did my I 800 and sent that off.
Now I'm back to waiting. I'm estimating that I will return to bring Maria home in February or March. Why is it that when holidays happen and you have a child half way around the world there's just a spark of joy missing on that holiday? I thought of her today when the kids were putting on their costumes and playing party games. I wanted her to be here learning about this tradition and being part of the fun. I know her absence is going to shadow Thanksgiving and Christmas this year too.
And so we wait....be well, Maria. Be well and happy. Someone is trying to get to you.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Below is a link of a poem that was set to music when I was a teenager. For years I had the words of this poem on my wall in my room, and when I moved into my first apartment it was hung on the wall there. At some point, like most things in my younger years, I put it away. I hope when I get home from Bulgaria I will find it among my momentos.
Thankfully with the internet these days almost everything is retrievable and I was able to find the exact version of the recording that was popular in the 1960's.
I want each of my 17 children, 18 children including Maria, Sofia and Coleen to listen to it and engrave it in their hearts. It's what I wish for each of you and it embraceses many of my beliefs. I love you, Mom


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Toni and her baby

Happy Birthday Leslie!

My daughter Leslie turns 16 today! Happy Birthday dear Leslie! I love you and I'm so proud to be your mom. It is such a sacrifice you make and you never once complained when we had to have your party early because I was travelling. Just like Julia when I went to Latvia and we had to do the same for her. I know you understand because you were once without a family too and these girls need to have the same chance to be surrounded by so many of us who will love them!
I love you precious girl!
This morning I went for a long walk in Sofia. I started out thinking I would make it to the Lion's Bridge, but went right instead of left when the road split so I just had a different walk than I intended.
Tomorrow I will turn left!
I had the honor of having lunch with Toni and her mom today! What a family this is! I know each of us keep saying that during and after our trips, but until you are here and see how this whole family works to help these kids you really have no idea how it consumes everything they do. All of their time is spent getting these children homes.
The Budapest is just as nice as everyone says. I do agree that at night it is cold here. I have the heat turned up all the way and it is not warm - not cold, but to warn you that you might want to think extra blanket when you are packing. There were enough blankets that I slept well, but sitting in the room toward the window it is chilly.
The free breakfast was great....hint for those following me: The restaurant is downstairs and the buffet is around the corner in another room from where the tables are. There is a waiter there who keeps the buffet stocked but when I came in he was no where to be seen and I didn't see the food and just sat down in the first table. Then he came and pointed to the little room and there was the food. It was a good buffet and good coffee.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Chow, Maria

So today I had to say goodbye to my Maria. How can 5 days go so quickly? What happens tomorrow she wakes up and the lady with the green bag of interseting things doesn't come back? And not only me but the nose lady? That would be Toni. With the weather turning cold Toni's nose started to run, making it necessary to blow it quite often. After one day when Maria would see Toni she would put her hand to her own little nose and make the blowing sound! Several times this week she would turn to Toni and make that gesture!

So now that she's had this one on one attention all week, will she think the person we all asked her to call "Mama" will ever come back?

All my children have an adoption song..and so perfectly here is Maria's:

MARIA by Stephen Curtis Chapman

Maria -she's too young to understand, but old enough to feel the pain

Of living where no love can grow, with no hope for change

Maria - her world is an angry place but she makes sure the scars don't show

And with every hurt her tender heart is growing cold (but)

CHORUS: Who? who's gonna love Maria?

Who's gonna touch her with the tenderness she longs for

Like a desert longs for rain

She's got a hunger deep inside and with every tear she cries

She wonders if there's someone out there somewhere

Who's gonna love Maria? (Maria)

She looks in the mirror now and the little girl is gone

But still the search for someone's love goes on and on for Maria

But does anybody care or even notice her at all?

Is anyone listening close enough to hear her call? (and who)

CHORUS: Who? who's gonna love Maria?

Who, who's gonna touch her with the tenderness she longs for

Like a desert longs for rain

She's got a hunger deep inside and with every tear she cries

She wonders if there's someone out there

BRIDGE: Maria if you can hear me, please know that you're not forgotten

Somebody's trying to get to you

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Last Day with Maria

Today will be a day of transition. Saying goodbye to Maria, leaving her town, going back to Sofia to a different hotel. But although I dread saying goodbye to her this means that I'm on my way to meet Sofia. What a bittersweet feeling to have to leave one daughter behind in order to meet the other.
Yesterday's visits were wonderful. We were able to be outside again although towards the end the wind really picked up and started to sprinkle. More smiles, more vocalizing, more hugs, more kisses.
Maria was all about the lotion yesterday. She had gotten comfortable enought to dig through the bag I used to bring toys for her to play with. She found the lotion bottle and gestured for me to open it. The marathon began of me putting some on her hands helping her rubbing it in and then she would take a tissue and wipe it all off and then we started over again.
I guess I have to edit that she was all about the lotion - I should have said all about the lotion and all about "patty-cake" Oh my gosh - maybe a half an hour of repeating it and going through the motions! She even started chanting along with me. Not the words, but vocalizing right in time with the words.
We were lucky enough to see Mary's son Marty yesterday! While we were outside the Physical therapist came walking by with young Marin in tow! He looked great. He even wandered off a short ways while the PT was talking with Toni.
Mary was able to see Maria in July when she was there visiting Martin. I know how much that means for someone to see your child.
I will post some pictures from yesterday tonight when I get settled in the new hotel.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Copy Cat

Wednesday morning pictures

Wednesday Monring -first visit

Today we got to take her out of the orphanage for a trip to the photographer for her Visa picture. The caretaker, who it turns out to be her "teacher" came with us. She is the woman who was doing exercises with Maria in the lobby yesterday. She's very good with her, but knows no English. I would have loved to have a long conversation with her. Toni did ask some questions and gave me great information,but still it's not like communicating in the same language.
Maria absolutely loved the car ride. Just like in the visit room she sat still, didn't fight the seat belt, and didn't try to stand up.
We walked quite a distance (for her) from where we parked to the photographer. Maria walked the whole way holding onto the teacher's hand and mine. When she got into the shop and the teacher sat her on the stool she sat like a little statue, but she could not hold her gaze at the camera. Her eyes were darting every which way, just taking in everything in the store. But she never moved - never tried to get down, never a fuss. Finally he got the "mug shot" that the regulations require. Amazing little girl!
When we got back to the orphanage we finally got to spend some time outside. It has been rainy and windy the first two days. Today was sunny and warmer - although we still needed jackets. They are working on the road to the orphanage and she wasn't fascinated with the trucks and tractors like your little Martin, Mary, but instead the noise was distressing to her. She didn't cry, but the jack hammer breaking up concrete was definately worrying her. I showed her the sign for loud and tried to reassure her, but everytime it started up her face clouded over.
Toni took some video of her walking so I can show it to the Physical Therapist at school. She has one foot -her right foot, turns out quite a bit when she walks and still at 8 she is not steady on her feet. (although I've not seen her fall).
She kissed me! Once when she first came in with her teacher. Walked over to me asked with her arms to be picked up and within a few minutes, kissed me!
Then towards the end of the visit I was standing holding her and rocking and she kissed me again! Oh my gosh! I love this child! I can't even begin to think of Friday and saying "chow" to her for the last time. This is going to be so hard. But I'm going to focus on NOW and stop worrying about the future. I see her again in just 3 1/2 hours.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

More video second day

Second Day-Afternoon visit

I need to add something that I forgot about this morning's visit. Marty and I were waiting in the lobby for them to bring Maria down and there she was with a different caretaker. She saw me and came over with a hug and then immediately started to sign "shoe" and chanted "shoe, shoe, shoe." The caretaker didn't understand but thought it was soemthing they apparently do with the kids so she started in doing some exercises with her. touching her toes and then stretching to the right and then the left. The whole time the woman was chanting something and Maria was keeping pace with the motions and chanting in time with the woman (although not with words). Just another example of how smart this little girls is...and her refrral says she is "severely lagging behind in her mental ability." Nowhere near severe!
Julia, the Bulgaria womens soccer team is staying in our hotel! They are in the restaurant each meal with us too! Very cool red sweats that say Bulgaria across the back.
So this afternoon the caregiver brought her down to the visit room and sure enough little Miss Routine got in the stroller and started in with the "tap the shoe and knee" game! We then moved into the flash cards and each time she is attempting approximations with the English color words. Then I moved her out of the stroller and distracted her from the stroller with marking pens and paper. She sat for the longest time carefully taking out each marker and taking the lid off, trying to color with these dried up pens and then carefully replacing the cap and putting each one back in the bag.

Each visit she is more sure of herself and more vocal. She is also smiling and laughing more. What a joy to watch this little person unfold!
For my next magic trick I will attempt to post some video! This shouldn't be tried at home. :-)

Second Day -first visit

This is one smart girl! She got right back up into the stroller and started our "Tap the shoe and knee" game. Then we went through the flash cards again and she really started trying to say the names of the colors. And when we got to the cards that had a picture of Donald Duck on it she said "duck".
And the director allowed us to see Mary's little boy Martin. They brought him in and he went straight to Toni and wanted up! Mary had made a very cool book for him out of the pictures from their visit with him and he sat and looked at the pictures on Toni's lap. It was a short visit, but I'm sure it's reassuring for Mary that we got to have our eyes on him and see that he's healthy and happy. We weren't allowed to take pictures of him.
I finally convinced Maria to get out of the stroller and she went over to the little table that had a bag of colored markers on it. She took all of them out of the bag and tried to write with them. They were mostly dried up and she wasn't successful but she didn't get frustrated. She just started taking off the caps and putting them back on. Hey Leslie, you aren't the only leftie anymore. Maria is definately prefering her left hand!
While she was looking at those I got out my measuring tape to see if she would let me measure her and she took the tape from me and immediately wrapped it around her waist and then her head! She knew exactly what the tape measure was for! She let me measure her and then I took her shoe off to trace her foot. She held still and after she got her shoe back on, she took her other shoe off and put it on the paper! She wanted both feet on that paper. What a doll. She's 40" tall. I think that's what Molly is. Jessica can you measure her and e-mail me? Thanks.
And Mom- she had on a pair of size 8 tennis shoes and they were too big- check out Beth's shoes, I think the new ones are bigger than that! (Beth is two years old)
And before we left today, Toni got her to say "Mama". It doesn't get much better than this!

Monday, October 10, 2011


I just lost the whole post from the afternoon visit. Don't know where to find the saved copy and too tired to reccreate - just know that this afternoon was at least as wonderful as the morning!

Meanwhile Back at the Orphanage

Lunch eaten, battery charged, back to the orphanage!

Kids, meet your new sister, Maria Christine!

You are going to have so much fun with her!

We walked back into the visit room and she immediately went straight to the stroller and got in and just as quickly grabbed my hand to play a quick game of "Pat my shoe and knee". I did a round or two of pats, but when I stopped, she grabbed my hand and pulled it to her knee to start the game again. I waited. I had showed her earlier today to put her hand gently on my arm and that would signify that she wanted to play again. Stubborn! She has met her match! She wouldn't meet my eyes, but she just kept tugging at my arm to get me to start it again. She would glance sideways at me, but not turn her head. I waited. Finally I moved her hand up to my arm and showed her what to do and she snatched her hand away and went back to tugging on my hand. And still I waited. Finally with a big sigh, she rubbed my arm very quickly and just as quickly pulled it away as if to say "Ok you win this time, but I don't like it!"

Tracy, then we played with your "Touched By Adoption" Bracelot. She found it on my arm and I took it off and put it on her arm. Then she took it off hers and put it back on mine. Then I put it on her shoe and she giggled!

Then I saw what seals that she is a true Duncan....I took out a little cardboard book and handed it to her. She studied that book and the turned the pages for about 20 minutes. Looking over and over at the pictures. It was an Elmo "Humptey Dumptey" book and luckily I knew the poem by heart and I started reciting it while she turned the pages and she would go through the whole book and then go back to the front. Then she started babbling like she was telling the story! No words, but lots of wonderful babbling.

Then I took out a set of flashcards with Disney Characters and colored shapes on them and started handing them to her one by one. With each one I would tell her the color. And she would look carefully at it and then set it down, then next one and set it down carefully on top of the other one. When one would not sit quite right on the stack she would fix the card until it was right. (maybe she'll keep her room straight?) We went through 34 cards twice and a few times she tried to immitate the word I was saying.

This child has amazing focus and concentration. She sat in the stroller virtually for two whole visits and focused on what we were doing longer than I would have ever guessed. I did take her out for the last few minutes and she wanted to get back in. Tomorrow I'm going to try to put the stroller out in the hall so she'll have to choose something else to do.

She let me carry her up to the where the caretaker was and she wanted to stay with me. This time I think it was wanting to stay with me and not disappointment about not going outside. The hard part is going to be Friday knowing that after she's had this fun week she won't have that again for 4-5 months. That is heartbreaking. Ok - going to try to add some more pictures.

I found it! This post was lost and so there will be duplicate pictures, but I'm so grateful to my RR /Dream Bulgaria friends who helped me find it again! So this was yesterday (Monday)afternoons visit.


Today I met Maria! Let's sign those papers and take her home! I'm ready - she's all I thought she'd be and more. To say I am smitten with this little girl is an understatement.

She walked into the lobby holding a caretaker's hand and I would have recognized her if I met her on the street. Same haunting dark brown eyes and pixie cut hair. What surprised me is how small she is. I will take measurements but she is not as big as Lucas maybe a little taller than Molly, but she is built most like Beth. (She is 8 years old - a few months older than Myia, but more delayed than Molly is now who is 4)
She is very long and lean (skinny but not like a starving child). She was wearing a pink coat and orange pants and she was chewing on a carrot stick. It was a surpirse that she was eating such coarse food. I expected her diet to be all pureed food. She nibbled on that carrot most of the way through the visit until she accidently dropped it on the floor.
Maria...it's so hard to believe I'm here and already writing about her. Now that I'm back in the hotel for the lunch break, it's back to feeling surreal. (The whole plane ride here felt like a dream) But during the visit was very real. Now I almost feel like I dreamt that hour and a half.
Her little personality- within 5 minutes she was smiling! That was a big surprise as all her pictures were of that sad little face. But she flashed a guarded smile within 5 minutes.

The caregiver walked her to the visiting room and sat her in a stroller that was in the room and she sat there for more than 30 minutes. Didn't even try to get out. I started playing little tapping games on her shoes (dying to pick her up and hold her, but knowing I'd better move slowly with getting to close.) I would tap her shoes with my fingers and then click her shoes together 3 times and then I would pause and then repeat it. Within a few minutes she was moving her foot over to me to do it again. After several minutes of that I started chanting "shoes, shoes, shoes" and then pause for her to move her foot over. Then I didn't start up again when she moved her foot over. I took her hand and put it on my arm and said "More mama". Within one repeat she had learned to put her hand on my arm to get the game started again. All the while that guarded little smile and a giggle that warmed my heart.
Then came the big surprise.... after I chanted "shoes, shoes shoes" while taping her foot, she said "shoe" both Toni and I heard it and we thought it was amazing but probably a fluke....but within minutes of hearing her say it the first time she would chant "shoe, shoe shoe" when I stopped saying it. Soon we were taking turns I would chant it, and then she would chant it while I tapped her shoes. Then we moved to tapping my shoe and when I crossed my leg so she could see my shoe, she crossed her leg to match what I was doing! It was so amazing. We never played with a toy in the room or my bag the whole visit. She played the shoe game for most of the hour and a half visit! I think I tired of it before she did - but then she remembered she was sitting in the stroller with her coat on and she wanted to go outside.
When you were here, Mary, I understand that it was 80 degrees and sunny - today is gray, windy, a little sprinkle and about 60 degrees! (Toni is freezing and I feel right at home in this weather) It was just too cold to go outside so to distract her we started snapping and unsnapping the stroller seat belt. She tried with such good concentration and couldn't do it, but with her gesturing asked me for help. I did take her out of the stroller for a bit, but she wanted right back in because she wanted to go outside.
Why aren't there pictures? Well, (my children will laugh about this one...)I pulled out my camera snapped one picture and the battery was dead...go ahead Duncan children laugh at your Mama! Luckily I have my back up battery and the charger with me so this afternoon's visit I will have a charged battery and will attempt to post some pictures tonight.
When the visit was over I carried her upstairs to give her back to the caregiver and when she put her arms out to take Maria, she turned back and hugged onto my neck. It felt good, but I know the reason that happened. She thought we were going outside, not back to her orphanage floor. But once she realized she was not going outside she went into the caretakers arms and the woman gave Maria a kiss on the cheek. I liked seeing that affection from the caretaker. It's obvious that she is well cared for and they like her. (what's not to like!)

Also another good sign from that same caretaker. When she walked into the room with Maria at first she told Maria (in Bulgarian) "Look, this is your mama!" I thought that was a very good sign that they are supportive of the adoption.

And for all my Dream Bulgaria friends...I don't even have to tell you how amaizng Toni and Martin and her family is. Everything all of you blog about them is true. What a blessing they are to these children. The really do love each one of them and are just as excited to see them during the visit.

The hotel is great - the restaurant is in the hotel and they charge the meals to the room so I can just pay the whole thing with my credit card at the end. The food is good and relatively inexpensive. And mom-they don't serve beets! At first I didn't see that the menu was also in English, so I asked Toni to order for me, but just no beets. and she said - "No beets here!" That was good news!
The plane ride was so-o long. We left on time, 1:30pm (Pacific) and landed in Amsterdam at 10:40pm (Pacific) and I was in Sofia at 4:30 am Sunday morning (Pacific) - of course it was really 2:30pm Bulgaria time. I didn't sleep on the plane. It was too early on the long flight to go to sleep (I know,kids, I'm usually asleep by 10:40pm - but I knew I would have to get off the plane around that time so I didn't want to go to sleep. Then I had almost a 3 hour layover in Amsterdam, and then I tried to sleep on the plane to Sofia, but it was only going to be a 3 hour flight - I didn't fall asleep. But once I saw Toni and Martin at the airport I got a second wind and finally went to bed around 8:30 pm Bulgaria time.
On the first plane ride I sat next to a man my age who was travelling on to Uganda to build water wells! He lives on Bainbridge Island and the Rotary Club has put in 120 wells there and built a school and some other buildings. He was very passionate about what they've accomplished there.
On the second plane I sat next to a young man from Holland who is a fire fighter and he and his boss were traveling to different European Cities to learn how they do emergency preparedness. So a lot of good conversation and a lot of sandwiches on the planes (Sandy, come and walk with me!)
I miss my kids, home, family and friends, but I'm so glad and grateful that God has allowed me to come here to see my Maria. She has so much potential and she will fit into our family just perfectly!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Two more daughters

I haven't told many people this time about my upcoming adoption. People already shake their heads and wonder why the crazy lady is adding to what has been termed "a mega family".
The why isn't important. What is important is the who.
The who is Maria. The who is Sofia. These are two little girls, half way around the world, who have lived in institutions for their whole lives. No family, no visitors, no party dresses, no Sunday school, no hope. Maria is now 8 years old and Sofia almost 10.
Maybe the why is hope. Maybe that's what I can offer to them, besides being part of a mega family. I can offer them hope. Maybe that is what is driving me....and it's not just hope for them. This is a rotten time to be traveling. spending money, bringing home extra mouths to feed. But by defying the world economy and forecasts of doom, adding to my family now is a sign of hope that life goes on. An act of faith that I am doing the Father's work.
What I've learned over the past 19 years of taking in orphans, is that being part of a mega family has many advantages. Always someone to play with, always interesting things going on.
Big family dinners are not just for Sundays or holidays. Big family dinners are everynight at our house.
People also ask about the future. What if something happens to me and here is this house full of children without a mother? Yes, that's an unpleansant thought, but are they no better off than if they hadn't joined this mega family? They were orphans without a family. They will have each other and my extended family and friends that have become their extended family and friends. And anyway, who says I'm on the way out? I have a plan just in case, but I'm not planning on leaving this earth until my work is done. Just read through my previous postings to see that this mega famly has been brewing since I was a little girl. I didn't just realize my dream and then plan on checking out! Things are just starting to get interesting!
The only down side of this current journey is that I will have to leave these kids behind for two weeks. That breaks my heart. But if I reframe it for all of us, it will be a learning experience. We will all grow from the mom being gone for two weeks. I'm not real sure on that one, am I?
My dossier is in the girls country right now getting translated. Once that is completed it will be submitted to the government and I will be given permission to come to meet my daughters. I'm hoping to go in mid to late September, after school begins, but not too close to the holidays. I'm hoping to not be gone during anyone's birthday, but with this many kids, it's always a possiblity no matter when I go.