Bulgaria

Sofia

FSP

Monday, June 25, 2012

More Maria and Sisters
























Some more pictures from the other day. Glad to catch her on film smiling...and the one where their hands are up in the air, we're singing, "The Itsy, bitsy, Spider" When she wants us to sing it she makes the spider motion and says "spider".






Saturday, June 23, 2012

Home for one week!

So hard to beleive it's already been a week at home. It's like she's always lived with us!


Seriously, no bumps in the road with her at all. The only change I made was putting her in the crib. I had planned on putting her in the bunk bed in Mariana and Myia's room, but she made it clear the first night that she was not going to sleep in that bed. Not that she had a fit, but the minute I walked out of the room she got out of bed and sat in the little chair in the bedroom with her arms folded across her chest. With obvious resolve her body language said, I'm not sleeping in THAT bed.


So I took her across the hall to Molly and Beth's room and put her into the crib that I have ready for Kolina and she settled right in. OK, little one! I'm fine with that! She has been there since.


She eats evrything that is put in front of her. No food battles, no hesitation with anything (well, there is the quiet insistence that she doesn't eat grapes - she rolls them across the table to Beth, who loves grapes) She is eating not only one helping, but asking for more of everything. More milk, more, sandwich , more, more, more. Yes, I know it's very typical out-of-the-orphanage behavior, but it's thrilling as a mom to have NO FOOD ISSUES!


She is signing about 15 signs and SHE IS TALKING!!!


She had no Bulgarian words that anyone could recognize, but she is consistently saying "More", "Up", "Mama", "Bye bye" "Stop", "no", "spider", "dog", "cat"....very clearly, no guessing if she's really saying any of those words.


Although she is 9 years old, it's obvious her peer group is Molly, 5, DS and Beth 2, Larson Syndrome. And that's perfect too, since it makes regressing her for bonding that much easier.


So now to some pictures!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Day Four - Out of the Orphanage

I can't believe I skipped yesterday's post! I heard once that if you miss writing in your journal, it's because you are too busy having fun to stop and write. I think that's true for me. Being with this little munchkin is totally captivating.
So yesterday - Day Three out of the orphanage. We walked through the capital city, much like we did the day before, only I took a different street once we walked to down town. We came to something I've only ever seen on tv - that is a public water park. Not the kind we Americans think of, with slides and rapids and inner tubes. This is a place where the locals bring their big water jugs, and in open faucets they fill up their containers for their daily water. There are tile sinks with spigots just every few feet - maybe 20 of them and people were lined up at each one waiting their turn. How many times at home do we automatically turn on the faucet and get hot and cold running water - drinkable water, and not even think about it. We are so blessed, and we don't even realize it - in so many ways.
Every morning there are people wearing yellow vests sweeping the sidewalks and streets. Hand sweeping, kids, like you sweep the kitchen floor after dinner. Same kind of broom. Sweeping - every morning. Many of these sweepers are older people - like Grandma and Grandpa's age. One toothless old lady came up to me to look at my watch to see what time it was. I was guessing she was hot and tired and was wanting to go home.
We concluded the morning back at the same park near the government buildings. Maria demonstrated learning another sign. Dog. She patted her leg and said "woof". So now she knows eat, drink, water, mama, more, out, shoes, and she says "Mama" and "more" in addition to signing them! She also points at the hotel door and tells me "Chow" when she wants to leave.
That's something else that's interesting. They say "Chow' which is Italian for goodbye, and "merci" for thank you, which is French. And when they answer the phone they say, "Hallo" (almost English LOL) and they said Dobre - which means "OK" but they also say, "OK"
Maria still is having a love affair with her stroller. She has now learned how to strap herself in and does it over and over. And always with her shoes on, even if she's in her pajamas...like maybe that Mama person will take me outside if I have my shoes and I'm strapped into the stroller.
Each night I continue to try to get her to take a bath, but she still only stands in the tub, hanging onto the wall. And locks her knees if I try to sit her down. She won't have anything to do with sitting in water. I figure when we get home a time or two in the tub with a sister and she'll trust that it's an ok thing to do.
She's using the toilet! She walks to the bathroom door, pulls down her pants and sticks her hand out to me. She can't get up onto the toilet, and if I didn't hold on, she'd fall in, a situation she's very aware of and hangs on to the point of leaving marks on me, but we're having very few accidents during the day.
This morning, Day Four out of the orphanage, after Skyping with the kids at home we went down to the resturant for breakfast. Tammy and her family were there also at shortly after seven because this was the day for the Doctor visit and Embassy interview.
Our facilitators drove us to the appointments. I wasn't prepared for this medical exam. The first stop was a shock because the doctor only looked in her ears and we were done....literally - done with that doctor. Then we went to a different floor and the next doctor only looked at her eyes....literally - no ophthalmascope - no split lamp exam. The doctor bent over, looked at her eyes and said, "Thank you"...done with the Ophthalmologist. Then the pediatrician was the next stop. This one did paperwork and listened to her heart, pressed on her abdomen and was done! $64, please. Ok, glad I have the best pediatrician on the planet at home! I guess she's fit to travel and enter the US!
Next stop was the United States Embassy. I have to say, that there's somethig about seeing the words THE UNITED STATES EMBASSY and see the beautiful red white and blue flag flying that brings tears to my eyes. It made me proud and homesick at the same time. Tammy's husband kissed the grass on the inside of the gate - much to the startle of the senty! He poked his head out of the guardhouse when he heard us all laughing and saw Mark on his hands and knees kissing the ground. He probably thought we were some American hooligans!
We went through a security post like at the airport, only difference is they let me keep my water bottle, but they made me take a drink out of it before they'd let me take it in with us. I guess they wanted to see if I would blow myself up.
The Embassy interview really wasn't an interview. The consular just told me what to do with the documents when I go through immigration with Maria. Done, "Have a nice flight." Wow - that was easy.
So, by 1:30 we were back at the hotel. Now there is nothing official to do until tomorrow evening when we meet Toni for dinner and she gives us the passports and documents from the Embassy.
Then Saturday we fly home! It will be nice to get home to the other kids and introduce them in person to their sister. And the urgency is now greater to start the second stage documents so I can come back and get Kolina. It will be hard flying out of here without her. The sooner I get those papers done, the sooner I'll be back to bring her home.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Day Two -Out of the Orphanage

The day started early for us, since I Skype with my kids at home at 5am - that makes it 7pm at home, just before the little kids go to bed. They got their first glimpse of their sister. She had slept through the night but woke up before me. When the alarm went off I opened my eyes not knowing immediately where I was and there was Maria with her head in her hand staring just inches from my face. Big brown eyes!
The first things she did when she got up was to get into the stroller in her pj's! So funny and so cute. So we skyped with my kids at home, then we skyped with Jesse at my grown son's house. Then it was time for a bath....she would have nothing to do with the big bathtub. And I do mean big. You have to climb up and over the side and it's deep. Even if you don't fill it with water you are sitting way down inside it. Imagine what that must look like when you are only 40" tall! Maybe like being down in a well!
So after I pried her off me, I just took her small orange bowl to the bed with some warm soapy water and washed her down on the bed. There's so much time for all the new stuff, that terrorizing her now with a bath, is not on my priority list.
I was going to just walk her downstairs to the breakfast buffet, but she insisted on the stroller so we took that. I sat her down in the closest booth to the food and went to get her a plate. For those who haven't travelled yet, the Budapest breakfast buffet is great! She had two pieces of french toast, two helpings of scrambled eggs, a big glass of milk, and topped it all off with watermelon, honey dew melon and peaches. This orphan ate like she had never eaten before. She puts her head right into the plate and she shovels it in as though she's afraid I'm going to take it away. Another thing on the to do list - slow down her eating- but again, in the big scheme of things that can wait. I'm just grateful she's eating -and she's definately not going to be a picky eater.
So many things she missed as an orphan with Down Syndrome. For example, a little feeding therapy to phase out the tongue thrusting when eating and the ever present food remaining behind after each swallow. She just hasn't learned to use her tongue and cheeks to move the food around to get it all out of her mouth. Same thing with drinking. She is drinking from an open cup, but she places her tongue inside the cup when she drinks. That's another thing on the to do list! Schedule a few visit with our old feeding therapist for a refresher course for mom! LOL
After breakfast we went back to the room to try to get her to use the toilet. Nope! She just doesn't like this big one. No big deal. When you have 3 in diapers and 5 in Good Nights, one more is not a problem.
At 8 am sharp, happily strapped back in the stroller, (Thanks again Aunt Mary!) we took off to explore. When I was here in October I had gone down to the main drag and turned right. There wasn't much there as far as hisotric sites, but it had been a nice walk. This time turning left was the jack pot. Beautiful old buildings, statues, churches, government buildings and an archeological dig!! I've always been fascinated with digs and watch every tv documentary I can find. This one is happening right downtown. See below for pictures. - or maybe it's above-I can't figure out what I did wrong with yesterday's post! LOL
On the way back I stopped at the same store that we were at yesterday across from the police station. We picked up a package of diapers for night time as the pull ups didn't quite do it for her last night.
She was facinated the entire morning just being in the stroller and watching people. There was a man playing the violin that we stopped and watched. And farther down the street there was a man playing the accordian and a blind man singing. She was captivated.
Back to the hotel around 11:30 and we had jelly sandwiches and apple juice. I decided to not put her down for a nap today just to see if she gets cranky. So far, I've not seen any crankiness or aggressiveness. She did slap me once on the arm, but I think it was just harder than she intended to get my attention.
This afternoon we stayed in the room, looked at books, played with coins - in the coin purse and dump them out, then back in the coin purse and dump them out. I think she's left handed. She using both hands, but her pincer grasp is more developed on the left side. I had brought those plastic rings that you can use to hang things on the crib with for the babies at Pleven and the orphans at the hospital, but didn't use them all. She spent a lot of time trying to hook one to the other to make a chain. Really good focus. By far her favorite activity was bubbles. She was pretty quick to learn how to blow. However, there was a Kodak moment that I missed the first time I blew them for her and a stream of bubbles came out! She was startled! We used up a whole bottle.
The only thing that I'm concerned about is she is chewing on her lower lip and it's looking pretty nasty. I keep trying to get her to stop, but it seems like it's a pretty ingrained habit. It looks so sore, but she keeps at it.
Then I got adventurous and took her down to the resturant at around 5pm. Dido met me at the elevator and said he was sorry but the resturant was closed tonight because they were remodeling the breakfast buffet room. He said we could have room service, but then he said, "or if you want to sit at the table nearest the kitchen you could eat there if you don't mind the noise of the workers. I chose to stay, thinking this would be a good opportunity to have her sit and wait for food. Not a good plan. That concept was foreign to her. So glad we were alone in the resturant. After trying to get her interested in the colored pencils and book (thank you Amanda!) we both gave up and she pointed to the stroller, waved and said, "chow". Ah-h no, we're not leaving, but I let her get down and she got into the stroller. (Have I said thank you, Aunt Mary???) She was content to just sit there until dinner came.
Ok, this girl has an appetite. I ordered the omlet for her and when it came it could have fed both of us. It was at least a 4 egg omlet and fried potatoes - she probably ate 3 of the 4 eggs and all the ham and cheese. Good grief where does she put it all?
When we got back to the room she walked straight to the bathroom, pulled down her pants, took off the diaper and pointed to the toilet. I held her on the seat and she went!!!!
Then we skyped with Grandpa and Grandma, and Adam, Jessica, Beth and Molly. What an amazing invention this Skype thing. What will they think of next? She's lying on the bed right now. It's 8:30pm and she's wide awake. Hopefully, it's not a bad omen!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Gotcha Day!













































































































The pictures tell the story, but somehow they loaded upside down, so start at the one just above me and work to the top. I warned you, I'm not a blogger!!! LOL



Maria Christine Duncan is no longer an orphan! Today we left at 6am to make the two hour drive to her orphanage and within minutes we were taken up stairs to her area. The pictures will explain it all. The workers really loved her and many were in tears as we left.


Then we drove back to town and went to the police station with Tammy and her family with her three new kids to get passport pictures taken and to get the process started to have a passport by Friday.


The "Will the Orphan Eat and Drink Out of the orphanage food issue" is a non issue for this one! I had bought some baby food, just in case and she let me feed her the whole jar. Then I ordered room service of a sandwich and soup and she ate 1/2 the sandwich and the whole bowl of soup! Already she's signing "more"!


Then when I unpacked our room and she saw the stroller she wanted to get in it. So I set it up and she climbed in. She insisted on the seat belt being fastened and she just settled in watching me unpack. I handed her toys and she turned them around in her hands, but didn't really play with them. She did look carefully at the books, Studying each page all the way through. She was meant to be a Duncan!


Everytime I would unbucle the stroller belt, she would gesture that she wanted it back on. When she finally started yawning I got her out and underessed her and laid her down on the bed for a nap. I was tired too and I wasn't sure she would stay in bed, so I laid down on the other side. She slid over so that her face was right next to mine and she put her hand on my arm. She spent about twenty minutes making sounds that made me she's listing things for me. So I repeated each sound and she thought that was pretty funny. Always she goes back to signing and chanting "Shoe, shoe, shoe". I think it will always be our love song.


She stayed on the bed for two hours and I watched CNN there with her. We played peek a boo with the blanket, and studied each other's faces. When she got up she went right back to the stroller and wanted to be buckled in, but first she moved the stroller right over here to the desk where I was sitting and got in it. And her hand is resting on my arm while I'm typing.







































Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Count Down For Maria

Dear Friends,
Before I write, I want to thank those who have left encouraging comments for me. It means so much to have your support and for your oooo's and ahhhh's about Kolina's progress. There is progress and changes, and so much more to be done.
As you can tell I had no words to share on Friday. Saying goodbye was like a log in my throat. I'm so glad she didn't really understand that it was goodbye, not for a night like the past 4 days, but for probably 6 months.
She is such a precious little soul and it really seemed like we had always known each other. I don't understand why her Creator put my daughter on the farthest side of the world from me, but I praise Him for the ability to get to her. This week will always be special to me. Chow Chow, Kolina.
And now the first of the two days wait to go get Maria. This was a beautiful sunny day and Toni arranged for me to visit the orphans at the Tokuda Hospital. There were four tiny orphans there this week, but by Saturday, all but one was heading back to the orphanage. So I went to visit little "E". She is 7 months old and the most beautiful child! She had black curly hair, dark brown eyes and olive skin. She is in there for an orthopedic condition. Her hips are out of line and they are trying a conservative method of correcting this with a brace rather than surgery. She will need to wear the brace for three months. She was all smiles and amazing eye contact throughout my visit. I had brought a few toys that I was allowed to hang on her crib side. One of them was a musical toy that was activated by pulling a ring.
One of the things they were trying to do was to get her to roll over with the cast on so she could get tummy time. Without the cast she can do it. but has been unwilling and unable to do it yet. When I hung the toy, I scooted her over near it and put the ring in her hand and then I pulled her hand back to activate the music. She was very excited. I moved her a little farther back and she tried and tried to reach it and as you have figured out she had to roll to that side to reach it. She never did totally roll over, but she was getting close. It was an enjoyable afternoon and the orphanage worker who was there knows my Kolina (and Plamenka and Vessilina, and Veronika/Katie) and it turns out that she was there at the hospital when Kolina was there. I called Toni and she translated some information the woman gave us about Kolina at that time. It turns out that little "E" was in the very bed that my Kolina was in! A very sweet coincidence.
And now as I write this it just turned midnight so I can officially say that Maria has only one more day in the orphanage! After one more day there will be one less orphan living in an institution. Coleen, it's all because of you, my inspiration. You gave your life to save these 15 orphans. How many people can say that because of them some crazy old woman built a family of 15 orphans. Who are you inspiring? I'm coming Maria....just one more day.

Thursday, June 7, 2012































Day Four

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Nikolina Day Three

So, this morning's visit was amazing. A very different little girl. She was more interactive and wanted to be held most of the three hours. I would put her down every once in awhile when she would get squirmy because I thought she might need a break from being touched and seemed like she was tired of being held, but as soon as I would sit her in a chair she would put her arms up to be picked up.
She made more eye contact this morning too. At one point she lay down on my lap with her head on my knees and her legs up on my shoulder and she had the best eye contact. Several seconds where she was really looking at me before she would shift her eyes away. Then she would look back for another several seconds and look as though she was studying my face. At one point I looked straight at her then looked away so she wouldn't look away first and I could see out of the corner of my eye that she was studying my face. Very nice progress of connecting.
And then the best progress of all is when I took her back to her room for the lunch break she started crying and hanging on so I couldn't put her in the crib. When I gave her a last hug and sat her in the bed she cried and hung onto my arm, trying to pull herself up. It was sad, but a great sign that she is connecting.
This afternoon we are going with the other American family and their translator to the photo shop to get the girls visa pictures taken. Then tonight after the visit we will all have dinner together. A very nice couple adopting their first child. Alexandra is two and "typically developing". A very beautiful little girl with black curly hair and big brown eyes.
But my heart belongs to this little girl.

video

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Pleven Day Two







Today was an amazing day in many ways. The new director gave me permission to visit other children! So I was able to see many of the kids who have been committed to in our group. It is so nice to be able to repay those moms who were here before me and they were able to get me pictures of Kolina but even more important, the knowledge that someone in our "family" has seen my child! Someone has laid eyes on my child and they are ok.

Is this a place I would want to see any child? No- but having laid eyes on them and knowing they are alive and ok is so valuable.

Then it was another 3 hours with my Kolina. I was able to talk with the Psychologist who agreed with me that Kolina is probably autistic. He was relieved to know that I knew it and that I was experienced with a child with DS and Autism. He spoke good English and it was nice to talk with someone here who "gets it". He and I even discussed how this country is much like the US was forty years ago, with regards to general philosophy of how to deal with children with disabilites. He says he has hope that with all of us coming to adopt these children that the Baba's and the staff and the country in general will understand that each child is worthy of a family and education.

Kolina seemed very tired today. I am not sure if it was overstimulation from yesterday or if she is coming down with a bug. She did seem to remember me and put her arms up for me to pick her up. This morning was in the second floor playroom with 4-5 kids with their Babas. Elizabeth's son Valentine was there with his Baba, so I got to spend three hours with both of them! Elizabeth, he is a doll and very interactive. Smiles and laughter!

Kolina loves flashing lights (Just like Lucas!) There is a muscial toy that is like a piano and it plays music and the lights flash, She like to put her face right down on the light and watch it flash. When the music stops she slap the table and cried and the Baba would push the button to make more music and make the lights flash. I showed kolina, by placing her hand on the button that she could make it start herself. She didn't understand it for a few times, but then she would start slapping her hand at the button instead of on the frame of the toy. She still can't make it start unless I aim her hand perfectly on the button, but I think she understands the concept now.

In a few minutes I can go back and see her for the afternoon session. Tomorrow we will go get her photo taken for the Embassy. I will be interested to see how she does in the car.


video

Monday, June 4, 2012

Kolina Second Visit Day One




Back to the orphanage in the afternoon. We were invited to take her downstairs to the play room. Kolina doesn't play. She didn't enjoy the ball pit, she doesn't have any idea what to do with any of the toys I brought. She just sits. But as you will see from the video I did find her funny bone! Sadly the video is quite washed out. I'm sure my son Charlie can help me fix that, but for now it's just washed out. But I think you can see and hear enough that you will see that this little girl is opening up.



video



When they sent us off with her down to the play room I was also handed her bowl of baby cereal for her 4th of 6 feedings for today. She is taking it from the spoon but has a powerful tongue thrust and very immature movement of the food in her mouth. She also doesn't have good closure around the spoon. Another thing to add to the "To Do List" Get feeding therapy lined up!And then the spitting up starts. This poor baby. It's no wonder her teeth are essentially gone. All that stomach acid up into her mouth so many times a day for 9 years.Mom, that onesie she is wearing is a 12 month size. So all the 24 month clothes we have for her will fit! And she has funny toes similar to Beths! I can't wait to see the two of them together!


Veronica, did you see that I put the bracelot you made for me on her? She left it on the whole time!


She is everything I hoped she'd be and more. She looks so good compared to the picture of her when I first saw her. That picture was from last August. Her Baba said she was 12 lbs last August.


I can hardly wait for tomorrow to get back to her!













Kolina Day one!



I was worrying for nothing! Kolina looks great! She has not slid backwards with her weight or her strength.

We went for the first visit this morning and she looks healthy. I'm posting a picture of her with her Baba (Foster Grandmother) These Baba's come in and work with the kids on a certain schedule. Kolina recognizes her Baba and is putting her arms up for Baba to pick her up! She does appear to have autistic symptoms, but it's way to early in getting to know her to decide anything like that.



Kolina's eating 6 times a day. She is eating pureed food and she is taking it from a spoon! Before she was only getting food through a bottle while lying down. She has a big reflux problem. She spits up constantly. Not a big volune comes up, just a little but it's every few minutes after she eats. They are putting her upright for a half hour after she eats, which is good, but I noticed her bed is not elevated.

She loves her walker. She is fast in it too. The PT's in the states would have a fit if they saw how she's getting herself around. It needs to be a taller walker.

She appears to be about the same size as Beth. Her hands are so tiny and delicate. She is going to need extensive dental work. She is a beautiful baby - and I have to remind myself she is 9 1/2 years old. She is older than Myia, Molly, Lucas, Mariana, and Beth. Yet she is an infant.

I leave in 20 minutes for the afternoon session with her. I'll post more then.