the hardest part

Friday, March 27, 2015

We are home. Reunited with Archie and Daddy. Our trip back was unfortunately NOT uneventful. It was filled with a lost stroller (thanks to airline). Which meant lugging giant baby and heavy bags through the airport. Not realizing the gate for our connection was a thirty minute walk. Radko fell asleep on that walk turned run (because we were almost late). So 28 pounds of dead weight plus heavy bags. Ace dragging one. I felt like I was a Biggest Loser contestant on the first day. Any time we passed one of those people driving the carts I would moan audibly and say things like, "oh my gosh I'm dying..." in the hopes that they would offer a ride. They didn't. Radko decided he wouldn't sleep but for forty five minutes on our combined twelve hours of flying. So that was awesome. Finally a customs guy told me in a very mean voice that I had "wasted enough time already" when I fumbled to get our passports out. Jerk.
But we made it.

So, about Gus:

We arrived in his tiny town of Stamboliysky last Sunday. And met him Monday morning. He was moved to a group home in this town, from he and Archie's old orphanage, about six months ago.
Seeing him in real life, holding him and kissing him was surreal.

A lot can happen to an orphan in four years. So much damage can be done. I prayed and prayed that he had been spared and protected over these years. But it was clear from the moment I saw him that he had suffered a great deal. 

Day one was good. He was quiet and reserved.

Day two he started trying to explore us a little more. There were some moments that brought cause for concern. But I brushed them off.

Before we committed to adopt him, I asked as many people as I thought might have an answer for me if he had any aggressive behaviors. Having a baby in our family, that would have been a deal breaker for us. I got very little feedback, so we had to trust what we knew from when Joey met him almost four years ago, and what was indicated in his file.

On our first day at his group home, before they brought him in, the director and some other workers in his home met with me. They asked if I had any questions, and again, that was my one question. Is he aggressive, specifically to other children.  They assured me that he was not. Then sort of backed up and said things like "he prefers to be with older children and adults" and talked about how he would sometimes push in frustration. One of them said that I would need to "always guard the baby". Needless to say, those things had me worried.

And on day three, my biggest fears were confirmed. I witnessed him be very rough with another little girl in his home. And anytime Radko came near him he shoved him down. And eventually made it his mission to "get to" Radko to push him down or kick him when I restrained his arms. I won't go into details here, but it was scary and I ultimately had to spend my time protecting Radko. And even Ace. I choked back tears that entire last visit. This was the reality. And it wasn't good.

I left that day convincing myself that we would figure it out. We would make it work. We absolutely could not give up on him.

But the thoughts of what could happen in a split second to Radko (Or Ace, or Archie for that matter) kept running through my head.

After consulting with a doctor who specializes in international adoption, tough conversations with many adoptive mom friends who get it, and many tears and prayers, Joey and I have decided that we cannot be his family.

This has been gut wrenching. We are beyond heartbroken.

It is not his fault. And those behaviors are not who he is. It is just a harsh reality of what having to grow up literally fighting for your life can do.

He and I bonded a great deal. Which makes this even harder. He is a sweet and precious soul. He would climb up in my lap and just wrap himself up in me. He always wanted to be cheek to cheek. Loved when I kissed his face. I knew that he felt safe with me.

Thinking about those moments makes me want to say, "we will just make it work... He needs us."
But I know that it isn't right. I can't put my children at risk. I can't force them to live in fear. It isn't fair to them. And isn't fair to Gus either.

I am angry, confused, and just hurting. The only thing I can think as to why this has all turned out the way it has, is Sevy. If not for Gus, we would have never found her. If someone had told me he had become aggressive, especially towards smaller children, we would have never moved forward. I would have never laid eyes on her.

And I will stop at nothing to find him the right family. So maybe this is just the way it all had to happen.

I am grieving so many different things all at once. It is heavy and it hurts. Letting him go will be one of the hardest things that we ever have to do. I'm afraid of the days when I wake up drowning in guilt and regret. But Joey and I know that this is the right decision for our family. No matter how hard it is.  

That's all I've got. 

{Mean people with not nice things to say please go away. I have no time for you. We knew the risks going into this, we know the reality of life as a nine year old orphan in Bulgaria. In spite of how smoothly Archie's adoption went and how well he did right away in our family, we did not have some fairy tale or romanticized idea of how things would be. We could have and would have been willing to take on all the behaviors and damage that came with Gus. This is the one thing we simply just cannot}

{To my friends who have been here, and get it, and who have been my rocks throughout know who you are...Thank you. So much}

Lots of Love!

hotdogs and heartache

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Yesterday sucked. There's just no other way to put it. Our final visit with Sevy was cut short due to circumstances beyond my control . So we only had about an hour with her. It felt rushed, and the whole thing was just not how I imagined or would have wanted. We gave her a quick hug and were shuffled out the door. No one took the time to explain things to her. She probably expected us to be back today. But we weren't. I knew that she couldn't understand me when I turned back to shout, "we love you and we will be back as soon as we can." She smiled and blew us kisses as we walked away and screamed, "ciao, kaka!" A Bulgarian word that means big sister. That's what she had been calling Ace all week. (I had to continually remind myself that she was not speaking Spanish). 

Ace was teary and still questioned why we had to leave her. Why she couldn't come home with us now. And those are questions that I just really can't answer. I mean logistically and technically, I know the answers. But telling a six year old, "well some more paperwork has to be done, and court has to happen..." does not even come close to sufficing for her little heart. 

So I distracted her with talks about our fun summer plans and all the things we would do to prepare for Gus and Sevy's homecoming. (For those who have asked, the second trip to come pick them up and bring them home should be July or August). We smiled and laughed thinking about all the fun ahead. But we still both hurt. 

Then we got back to the hotel to relax and cuddle and I find out that my dog died. Seriously? My sweet Jessie who I can't even remember life without. Joey and I got her in high school. She really was our first baby. I knew that she was getting old and that her time left with us was limited. But I can't really imagine a worse time for her to go. 

As soon as Joey said the words I lost it. Like ugliest of all the ugly cries. Thank goodness Ace had her headphones on and was in her Minecraft zone cause there is no way I can tell her about Jessie while we are gone. Literally minutes before I found out, we were coming up the elevator in our hotel and Ace said, "it smells like Jessie in here. And I love it. Cause I miss Jessie." (There was a terribly funky smell in the elevator and Jessie had gotten quite stinky in her old age. Ace was right. It did smell like Jessie)

I went to bed last night so discouraged. So sad. So homesick. I counted the days we had left here and tried to figure out all of the ways to make it seem shorter. "Well it's practically already tomorrow and we leave extremely early Thursday morning. So really we only have four days left." Then I felt guilty for wanting to leave so quickly. I am leaving two of our children behind. That completely breaks me, and the in between months will come with many lows. But at the same time, this is just hard.

This morning I woke up wanting to do absolutely nothing except for mope and watch the clock go by. So that's what I did for a while. Until I noticed Ace across the room playing with and talking to some imaginary friends. And Radko who rarely does what she wants him to do. She much prefers the compliance of the imaginary friends to Radko's antics.

And I realized I was being a total fool. Wasting the one free day we have here, cooped up in a hotel room. We should be exploring, adventuring, laughing. So I got my sad butt up and we headed to the zoo! After a couple of miserable, wet and cold snow days, the weather was absolutely perfect. And the zoo was amazing. It's the oldest and largest zoo in Eastern Europe. Opened in 1888. It was beautiful. The animals were amazing and just right there. Sometimes the only thing between us and them some "not thick enough looking to me" chain link. Ace was completely in her element. The zoo was enormous and we did a lot of walking. Radko was awesome. He "talked" to every single animal we saw. And always waved goodbye.

We got hungry towards the end and I told Ace we could eat whatever she wanted. I didn't want to let her see my lack of confidence in the hot dog stand she chose. So I smiled and ordered us two hot dogs. As he was cooking them I noticed french fries on the sign and ordered some for Radko. I guess we got lost in translation and he put the fries on each of our hotdogs. I told Ace that's just how they do it here. I also told her, as I cringed and "mmmmm'd" as I 
took my first bite, that they eat their hotdogs cold in Bulgaria. 

When we left I realized it wasn't going to be as easy as I thought to find a taxi to take us back to the hotel. So we bought a plastic lion from a man standing outside the zoo selling toys, in the hopes that he might help. I asked him, "taxi?" He said, "da, da" and immediately got on his phone. But apparently he couldn't get through to them and after about ten awkward minutes he gave up and we "merci'd" him and walked away. Not really sure where we were walking. We were far from our hotel and there wasn't a taxi in sight. I started to get a little freaked out. I'm a wuss in general. And being in a place where I can't sufficiently communicate with anyone and feeling literally lost was really scary. Ace noticed the word "hotel" up in the sky. She assumed it was ours. It was obviously not. But it seemed like it was close enough to walk to. It. Was. Not. Close. But we trekked on and finally made it there and the nice lady at the front desk called a taxi for us. Before we knew it we were safely back at or hotel.

Yesterday was hard. Yesterday was awful. But today- in spite of some twists and turns- today was magical.

Also, thanks to these two love monkeys for pressuring me into a talk that I was fully unprepared to have with Ace. I'm sure all the Sex Ed teachers in the world would have died hearing me try to answer her question: "why was that one monkey bumping the other one's butt?" The thirty people standing around watching and laughing (awkward) didn't help either.

Good times.
Lots of Love!

Sevy makes seven

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

I will never forget the moment that her face popped up on my phone screen. It was early one morning and I was lying in bed casually scrolling through my Facebook feed. It was rare for me to wake up before the sound of my giant baby alarm. So I was just soaking up the quiet.

I can't really put words to the feeling. I see tons of faces of children waiting for families every day. Children in horrible places and situations with very little hope. And while my heart hurts for each and every one of them, I don't always stop and think, "hey, that kid belongs with us." But her face made me think that. It was the exact same feeling that I felt when I saw Archie's chubby little face in his referral picture. Something about her made my heart skip a beat. 

I fought the feeling hard. Like no, no, no. We were already committed to Gus and we were NOT bringing home two. Just no. 

Except for that I couldn't get her face out of my head. Or her story. 

Sevy's birth mother was a victim of sex trafficking. When she was born, her mom took her to live in a home run by a priest, for women and children in trouble. They lived there together until Sevy was three and a half. At that point, for reasons I don't know, her mother decided that she could not raise her, and Sevy was sent to an orphanage. 

I cannot imagine that day. It is beyond heartbreaking to think about a mother who obviously loved and fought for her little girl for over three years, feel so hopeless that she had to let her go.

I was still feeling uncertain, so I begged God to give me something that made it obvious that she was supposed to be ours. I kept asking myself, "seven? SEVEN?!" She would make us a family of seven, and that seemed crazy. I didn't know her real name yet, I knew her as "Annalynn", the alias given to her to be posted publicly. 

I emailed our agency and requested her file. And when I got it, I also got the sign I had been asking for. Her name: Sevjdan. I messaged my friend and agency worker right away and asked how to pronounce her name and she wrote back: "I think it would be Sev-yan....Sev like 'seven' and yan with a short A." And all I could do was smile. 

I hadn't even mentioned her to Joey yet, because that would have made it really real. And when I finally did, he felt the same as I did initially- no way, no can do. 

But he agreed to take some time and really think about it. I left him alone, as I knew this was a huge decision. And when we talked again a few days later we were on the same page. We COULD. 

And yesterday, I finally got to kiss that little face. And Ace's dream of a having sister came to life. The night before, she danced around our hotel room chanting, "I'm meeting my sister tomorrow!" 

And the joy was overwhelming. Sevy is amazing. She is hysterical, smart, sassy. She is pretty much the girl version of Archie. When she does certain things, Ace will look at me and say, "that's so Archie." She is tiny. She turned eleven in December but is much smaller than Ace. She is about the size of a four or five year old. 

We have only two more days of visiting with her. About five more hours. Friday will be a really hard day. Ace has already been crying about having to leave her on Friday and doesn't understand why we can't bring her home now. I wish there was anything I could do to make it better. There's just not. 

Ace has requested to add some thoughts of her own to this post:
"I am having so much fun with Sevy in Bulgaria. I wish I could stay with her longer. She is the best sister ever. She is so funny and she really loves me. As soon as she wakes up in the morning, she's kind and playful. Every day. I love her so much and I am so happy that she's my sister. And I can't wait for Archie to meet her. Oh and Daddy. Oh, I just realized, now Daddy has two princesses. Okay now put 'From Ace'". 

Also, this kid. What a trooper. That is all. 

Lots of Love!

{I wish that I could share pictures from our visits, but I'm not allowed to share any pictures that I take until after they are legally ours}

waking up in Holland

Monday, March 16, 2015

It’s been almost four years since Joey, Ace, and I traveled to Bulgaria to meet Archie. That trip turned my world upside down. It changed me. It shook me.

I could never unsee. I could never unhear. I would never be the same. Joey and I met our son. Ace met her brother. Her best friend. And while it was beautiful and glorious and amazing. The reality was devastating.

We bonded with our son and we bonded with his friends. And then we left them.

When Joey went back to pick Archie up, he met another little boy. A little boy who had just been moved to Archie’s orphanage. He took tons of pictures of him and told me all about him. He was precious. Exactly one year younger than Archie, but just a tiny little thing. Joey loved on him. And fell in love with him. 

Once Archie was home and we finally fell into our new normal, I started looking through all of the pictures Joey had taken on that trip. It was very surreal. And every time I came upon a picture of Little Guy, my heart sank. Somebody needed to go and get him. I knew it couldn’t be us, so I sent out some emails in an attempt to find out more about him and his situation so that I could advocate for him. I found out that he was not listed as available for adoption within the registry.

I wrote a couple more emails, and nothing was seeming to ever come of it. He was stuck. But my life kept moving. I didn’t forget about him, but I felt helpless. I thought about him every single day.

So this past summer when I got a message from one of my best adoptive mama friends that just said, “I think your boy is finally listed,” my heart sank into my stomach. I knew exactly what that meant. Mandy had also met Little Guy and knew how in love with him we were.

I won’t bore you with the nitty gritty of the conversation Joey and I had upon hearing this news. I will just skip to the end…the good part. The part where we said, “well, let’s go get him!”

So the paper chase began.

I could not believe we were back in the process. We had decided that it would be several years before we even thought about adding another one to our crew. But there I was, back to the days of spending most of my time with my notary and staring at the email icon on my phone waiting for the red circle to pop up. {Whether I was expecting anything or not}

I reconnected with some other adoptive moms and joined my old Bulgaria Adoption Facebook group. Which is where I saw the face of a little girl waiting for a family. She was perfect and beautiful. And if I didn't know any better I would have actually believed she was Archie’s long lost twin. She couldn’t become one of the forgotten ones. Left behind forever. She needed a family fast. And I tried to come up with reasons as to why that family couldn't be ours, but I came up with nothing. So yada, yada, yada, another long conversation with Joey, which this time ended with him asking me, “are we crazy?” And me confidently answering, “absolutely.”

It has been a complicated road. There were days when we did not think it was going to work out. But all in a time that was not our own, things fell into place. And we suddenly found ourselves needing to be in Bulgaria very quickly.

So Ace, Radko, and I boarded a plane yesterday. And this morning we woke up in Holland. Not the metaphorical Holland that my fellow special needs moms know. Actual Holland. What a perfect place for a little stop on this journey.

The kids were both total rockstars on that nine hour flight. And the second flight to Sofia was a breeze. And now we are here. Back at the same hotel we stayed in almost four years ago. Tomorrow morning we will wake up and head to meet our sweet girl. I wish I could bottle up Ace’s energy and excitement. It's just awesome.

I will leave it at that for now. Between crazy jet lag, a rambunctious six year old, and the most destructive, giant baby there has ever been, I am running on straight fumes. 

Oh, and I will leave you with some pictures of our newest loves.

Here is Archie with our Gus on the day Joey picked Archie up from the orphanage

And some pictures a friend sent to us of Gus from after Archie was home:

And finally our sweet Sevy

Okay, well here we go!

Lots of Love!