Monday, June 27, 2011

Last full day in Bulgaria and then time to pack

Friday was our last full day in Bulgaria so we tried to get up and out of the apartment early to wander the streets of Sofia one more time. After breakfast and baths for the kids (Yuli still hates having his hair washed), we headed down the street to a quaint art shop near our apartment that we had been passing daily on our walks. There were several pieces of beautiful pottery in the window and some other items that had caught our eye. However, we did not stay long in the store as the prices were extremely high. We decided to try and hit the underground shopping area near the subway later if we could because the prices on the pottery there were much better.

After leaving the art shop, we headed down Vitosha Boulevard again. Vitosha is a great place to do window shopping because there are so many stores and so many interesting places to see. On a previous day, we had seen a really interesting children's store, but we could not go in that day because they were closing. Now, they were open. We went in and found lots of cute clothes and fun toys for the kids, but I resisted the temptation. Well, almost. They had Ben 10 crocs in Yuli size, and the sandals I had bought at Target were just a little too big on him. How could I not get him a pair? Julia also found a most precious stuffed baby snow leopard. It only seemed appropriate to buy it for her since we had been watching Animal Planet at bedtime all week (It was one of only two English channels on our TV).

We also had lunch while we were out. Julia had to have McDonalds again because she wanted another Kung Fu Panda toy, and Yuli seems to really enjoy the french fries. After lunch, we all decided to head back to the apartment and to put Yuli down for a nap. It was also in the 90s that day with no wind. I know all of you Southerners are saying well it probably felt like home. Yes, it did which is why we wanted the air conditioning in the apartment and a nice cold glass of mineral water that had been chilling in the fridge.

While Yuli was down for his nap, I started packing for our flight home on Saturday. Rob and I also decided to try and wash a couple of loads of clothes. This is an adventure within itself. The apartment has what is called a combo washer and dryer, which is basically a washer and dryer that is one unit. It is about the size of a washing machine that you would find in a stackable washer and dryer here in the states or maybe smaller. All, I know is that it only holds about 4 towels and is supposed to dry the clothes after the wash cycle using heated condensation rather than hot air as in the dryers in the U.S. This combo washer and dryer is usually found in the kitchen in many European apartments, and it takes up the space next to the sink where we would normally put a dishwasher. And, just in case you are wondering, there was no dishwasher in the apartment unless you count me. We also did not have a stove...only a microwave that had a grill feature. This made cooking a frozen vegetarian pizza one night very interesting. At any rate, we got the washing machine going, but we could never figure out the dryer feature so we just used a drying rack and put it out on the little terrace outside the kitchen.

While we were continuing to pack, our translator and driver Petkco called to say that he was about to come by the apartment to bring Yuli's passport, visa and other documents, including the court decree and the Yuli's new birth certificate. After he arrived, he went over each of the documents in our packet. Something interesting that Rob and I found out that day was that Yuli's original birth certificate was destroyed when Bulgaria issued the new birth certificate with mine and Rob's name on it. For some reason, this made me a little sad. Rob and I owe his birth mother so much. She gave us a precious gift, and I did not want her memory to be erased. I also thought about Yuli. Some day, he might want to find her or his sibling, and with the birth certificate being destroyed, this would be difficult.

Petko also gave us a packet of documents that we were to take with us to the United States and which were to remain unopened until they were given to an immigration official at the airport in Newark when we landed. Petko must have told us three times to not let any of the documents out of our sight, especially the immigration packet. He also told us to have the court decree ready when we got to Passport Control at the Sofia Airport because the agent would probably ask for it in addition to Yuli's passport. Rob and I assured him that we understood and then he left after telling us he would be by in the morning to take us to the airport.

By that time, Yuli was up from his nap and hungry as usual. We decided to head down to Pizza Roma for one last hurrah. Rob and I again decided to try something different. Rob got the chicken shaslik, which was large pieces of grilled chicken and vegetables grilled on a skewer. I chose a dish that translated into English was a vegetable satche

After dinner, we said farewell to our two wonderful servers who had been so nice to us all week and then headed back down Vitosha to exchange our Bulgarian Lev back to USD. Most of the exchange places stay open all night, but all of the shops close up at 8:00 p.m. So, after we exchanged our money, we headed back to the apartment to finish packing and get a certain little four year old in the bed. We were all going to have a big day on Saturday, especially Yuli.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Two very busy days

Wednesday and Thursday have gone by rather quickly and have been very busy for me and Rob as we are now the parents of two. We have quickly gotten into sort of a schedule here in Bulgaria, which works out rather nicely for everyone. Meals times are rather consistent as is nap time and bed time. Yuli is responding very well to the routine and seems more than willing to go with the flow if need be.

Yuli also continues to amaze us as each day he shows us that he is understanding more of what we are saying and as he shows us how much he truly can do. After finishing each meal, he wipes his mouth and hands me his spoon and bowl without me having to ask him. His big sister could learn a thing or two here. He is also able to put on his own clothes with little or no help from me or Rob (he actually prefers to do it himself) and will put his pajamas away in the drawer each morning without me asking. In orphanage terms, he has very good self-care skills. In mommy terms, he could be the perfect toddler :)

He is getting better with baths as of today and has stopped crying almost completely at bathtime. He really only fusses when Rob rinses the shampoo out of his hair. He does not like the water running over his head and onto his face or in his eyes, but what four year old does? He is also getting good at brushing his teeth with a little help from Daddy. Big sister also lends a hand as she brushes her teeth next to him as he stands in a chair at the sink. She wants to be a good example for her little brother. That's my girl!

Last night, Rob, Julia, Yuli and myself left the apartment to have dinner and explore the other end of Vitosha Boulevard. It's amazing how many different shops from clothing to shoes to jewelry are crammed on this long stretch of road. There are also tons of interesting restaurants, including sushi bars, cafes, and several pastry shops and gelato stands. Apparently, the whole family was in need of a sweet treat after dinner so we went to a pastry shop where I picked up some delicious looking fruit-filled cookies then Rob and Julia got gelato from a nearby stand. They made sure to get three spoons because we knew a certain little guy would want a taste. Julia got strawberry flavored,and Rob got some type of melon flavored gelato, which Yuli absolutely loved. He would have eaten all of Julia's gelato and Daddy's as well if I would have let him.

After our treat, we picked up some donuts at Dunkin Donuts for breakfast in the morning and then we decided to call it a night as the kids were getting tired. We also knew that today was going to be a big day as we had our interview scheduled at the U.S. Embassy.

Our driver came and picked us up for our Embassy interview around 1:15 today, and this time, Yuli was not afraid of the car. He tried to get into the car himself without my help. On the way to the interview, he sat in my lap smiling as Rob and I chatted with our friends who also had their Embassy interview scheduled today.

Security is very tight at the Embassy, and we were told to leave all of our cell phones and cameras in the car. Apparently, we were not supposed to bring any liquids in either. Our friends had a sippy cup full of water for their daughter in their backpack and were asked to remove the sippy cup and drink the water. Yuli had a small sippy cup in the backpack that Rob was carrying, but security did not stop Rob. We are not sure why the inconsistency with the security. We also had a bottle full of bubbles in the backpack, which we had forgotten about but somehow it too made it through security without a problem.

Once inside the Embassy, we sat in a large waiting area until our name was called. We had to present our passports and then answer a few questions. Actually, we only answered one question. "Are you about ready for this process to be over with?" Our answer, "Yes!" Rob signed another document and then as quickly as the interview started it was finished. Our driver took us back to our apartment and informed us that he would pick up Yuli's passport and visa tomorrow at the Embassy and then bring it to us late tomorrow afternoon.

We then put Yuli down for a nap and spent the next few hours relaxing ourselves on the computer and then watching a little Animal Planet on the TV. It's one of the few channels that we get in English. Yuli woke up about 6:00 p.m., and we decided to head out to dinner at a restaurant recommended by a friend. Unfortunately, we left the directions to the restaurant at home in the states and the Internet was not much help. Rob thought it was only a few blocks over (that's what our translator had said), but we never found it. Since we were starving, we headed back to Pizza Roma, which is only a block from the apartment.

At Pizza Roma, Julia had pizza again while Rob and I ventured out a little more on the food choices. Rob tried a ham, mushroom and cheese omelet that is baked in the oven, and I had a yummy salad and pork shaslik, which is pork and grilled vegetables on a large metal skewer with fresh lemons to squeeze on top for more flavor. It was delicious!

Now, we are back at the apartment. Yuli has had his bath and has gone to bed with his stuffed puppy that plays lullabies. The rest of us are relaxing in the family room. Tomorrow is our last day in Bulgaria so we are going to bed early tonight in order to get up early and enjoy the experience. We are hoping to get some souvenir shopping and some more sight seeing in tomorrow. And, we are also hoping that our little boy wakes up again with a smile on his face and a hug for mommy and daddy like when we put him to bed tonight.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What happened to that sad little boy?

What happened to the sad little boy from Monday? He turned into the kid with all smiles and lots of laughter on Tuesday. In less than 24 hours, Rob and I had a different child. I went into his room on Tuesday morning to get him up, and he just smiled at me. I then led him into the kitchen while I made oatmeal for everyone. Yuli ate all of his oatmeal and part of Rob's. Our little guy was starving.

After breakfast and a little play time in the apartment, we decided to meet our friends at the mall in Sofia for a little shopping, some lunch, and a trip to the grocery in the mall. The mall is about a 20-25 minute walk from our apartment, but it felt a little longer as our little guy is not a speed walker and has very tiny legs. I was beginning to wish that I had brought an umbrella stroller for the trip.

When we finally arrived at the mall, everyone was hungry so we decided to head to the food court on one of the upper floors of the mall. We came up to an escalator, which I imagined that Yuli would be frightened of but he stepped right on. However, we weren't so lucky on the next level. He was scared so Rob held him the rest of the way up. Julia was very frightened of escalators when she was smaller so this was nothing new.

Speaking of Julia, she saw the McDonald's sign and immediately informed us of where she wanted to eat. We hardly ever go there while we are home, but it was something familiar and sometimes that is what you need when you are in a foreign country.  Actually, anything at that moment sounded good to me since I had Amy's instant organic mac n' cheese for dinner the night before so Rob ordered a cheeseburger and fries for me as well. I then discovered that Yuli likes french fries with ketchup. He ate half of my order and drank some orange juice.

We then looked around the mall for a bit. At first, Yuli was afraid to go in any of the stores, but that dissipated after a while as he followed Rob into an electronics store. Yes, we are thousands of miles from home, but Rob managed to find the Bulgarian version of Best Buy.

After the electronics store, we went to the bottom floor of the mall to the grocery store. I stocked up on produce and food for Yuli such as apple sauce. It can be challenging deciding what to give him to eat since his palate is not repaired. I also chose some yogurt mixed with fruit. While we were in the grocery store, Yuli had his first ride in a grocery cart. I think that he really enjoyed it. The only problem with buying so much yummy stuff at the grocery is that we had to lug it back with us to the apartment, and we were almost a half an hour away.

Once we got back to the apartment, we tried to get Yuli down for a nap. He laid down with Rob, but he never fell asleep. However, Daddy did! After Rob got up from his nap, we all played for a while in the family room. Yuli likes to bounce balloons around the apartment. He also likes to color. We just had to make sure that he colored only on the paper. The coutch got a new tint of blue once when we weren't looking so thank goodness for washable crayons.

We then met up with our friends again at Pizza Roma, and I realized that Yuli truly would eat anything that I gave him. He loved the Bulgarian feta on my Greek salad, and he even ate one of my black olives after I cut it into small pieces. Previous to this meal, I was having to feed him, but he decided after watching our friend's daughter use a spoon to show me and Rob that he did know how to feed himself afterall. I praised him for his efforts so hopefully he will begin to show me more of his self-care skills that the orphanage taught him.

We then headed down Vitosha Boulevard in search of a pastry shop for dessert. Apparently, we had gone in the wrong direction, but by this time the kids were getting tired so we decided to call it a night. We headed home, gave Yuli a bath (which he still does not like) and put him to bed. Rob, Julia and I then decided to stay up and watch a movie. I paid for that decision this morning when a little four year old came into my room about 8:00 a.m. to wake me up. And again, he was smiling.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Gotcha Day

We left Sofia around 8:00 this morning and headed to Pleven to the orphanage to get Yuli (Aleksandar). Our friends from our first trip to Pleven in December were with us again and headed to another orphanage to get their daughter. We arrived in Pleven a little over two hours later (usually a three hour drive) and went to Yuli's orphanage first.

Our translator, Petko, took us to the second floor where we met the director and went over some paper work that we needed to sign before they brought Yuli in to the room. A few minutes later, he appeared and was smiling. I do think that he remembered us, especially when Rob got down on the floor and began playing with a little nerf ball that we had brought for him. Julia quickly joined in on the fun.

We were able to ask the director a few questions regarding his care and then it was time to go. The director and Rob led Yuli down the stairs and toward the door. The smile quickly turned to a frown as our little guy realized that we were leaving and he did not want to go. Tears quickly followed as his main caregiver ran out to kiss him and tell him goodbye. He really became upset after that and finally I just took him from the director and carried him to the car. He became calm for a few minutes and then began crying again as soon as the car started to leave the parking lot. On the way to the other orphanage, he would cry periodically, but he finally settled down as we neared the building.

While our friends were in getting their daughter, we took Yuli for a walk around the building. The orphanage where our friend's daughter was at was also the same orphanage that Yuli spent the first three years of his life. We wondered if he would remember it or not. We soon got an answer to that question when we met two women on the sidewalk who were walking two children back to the orphange stopped and asked us if this was Yuli. I said "yes" and the women were very excited. A few minutes later, Yuli pulled my hand trying to get me to take him up to the stairs into the orphanage. I think he might have thought that we were bringing him back there.

A few minutes later our friends came out with their daughter and then we were on our way back to Sofia. Yuli was very quiet as he sat in my lap, but a few silent tears fell as he lay his head against my chest. He later fell asleep for part of the drive. When he woke up he seemed a little agitated, and I quickly learned why. He needed to go potty, but he did not know how to tell me so we had our first accident in the car. Luckily, I had brought some pull-ups, so our driver pulled over and I changed Yuli clothes and put the pull-ups on. He is supposedly potty trained, but I don't know if we will put in big boy underwear for the rest of the week since we are not sure when he needs to go.

When we arrived in Sofia, our first stop was the police station where Yuli had his picture made for his passport. After that we went to see a pediatrician who gave Yuli a checkup. He did very well at both of these appointments considering that we had to wait a lot at both places. He is truly a very calm little boy for the most part. As we waited for our driver to return, we took Yuli downstairs and got him some juice at a little store in the medical building. He did not want to drink from the straw out of the juicebox so we asked for a cup. He drank the whole cup! It takes a while for him to drink because of his palate issues, but I am hoping that will be repaired soon after we get back to the states.

After this, our driver took us back to our apartment where Yuli ate some Gerber yogurt snacks. He really loves the strawberry ones. Then he went down for a nap. We are hoping he sleeps throught the night since he did not get to nap until almost 6:00 p.m.

Rob, Julia and I then had some macaroni and cheese that I had brought from the states. We are all exhausted so I think we are going to turn in for the night as well.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

We are here!

We arrived in Sofia today around 1:00 p.m. Our translator met us at the airport and then drove us to our apartment which is in the city center. We have a really nice apartment this time with two bedrooms, an American style bath complete with a tub, and a roomy kitchen that has a small terrace overlooking the street. There is a grocery in the downstairs of the building next door, which is very convenient, and Pizza Roma, a favorite destination, from our first trip to Bulgaria is right down the street.

We had dinner at Pizza Roma tonight, and we are going to be early as our driver is picking us up around 8:00 a.m to drive to Pleven to get Yuli (Aleksandar). It is shaping up to be a long day. The drive to Pleven is about three hours. After we get Yuli at the orphanage, we will drive back to Sofia and then we will go to Yuli's passport appointment and finally his medical appointment.

We are praying tonight that God had prepared our son for his new family and that this transition will go well.

Hopefully, I will get some time to post some pictures of our apartment and the area tomorrow, and of course, our newest family member!