Arrival Blog – By Brian

Monday May 14th, 2017

Here we are in ________ again. I find myself repeating asking myself, “What are we doing here?” It seems so unreal. Not so much that we are adopting again, but rather that we are traveling around the world, while sick, with Anna. It’s not even surprising that Dale called tell us the septic is backed up. With all the difficulties of this trip, actually adding a kid to our family sounds like the easy part.

It’s hard to believe it’s been 6 years since we were here to see Jordan. I see ___________ again and am reminded of all the things I love and hate about this country. The beautiful rolling hills, the cultivated fields with dikes and ditches between them, wild grapes and roses, the dark leafy forests I feel I could just disappear into and never come out. The terse, almost angry way everyone talks with stony faces. Conversations that seem to always sound like arguments. Buildings and infrastructure that looks like the whole place is slowly falling down. The pervasive scent of cigarettes. Fresh tomatoes. The deep sense of history, that this is a people and place with roots.

Jordan and Daniel’s hometown is a beautiful city. I wonder if somewhere deep in Jordan’s soul he knows he was born by the sea. When I think of taking him to the coast, I can see him playing in the warm, and gentle waves of the ________ Sea. Too bad the ocean in the northwest is so cold.

I find myself missing Tiko and Nina. They showed us such hospitality and friendliness. I find myself missing mom a lot. I’d like to see Nina hold mom again and pray over us. Many times I’ve seen mom in my mind. She was so excited to travel overseas, to see everything new and different. To meet Jordan. I wanted to show her the new color of the hotel. We ate in the same restaurant, visited the same grocery.

I haven’t thought a lot about meeting Daniel. There is an undercurrent of fear in my mind that we will meet him and he will be like Jordan was on our first trip, lethargic, unresponsive, sedated. How I hope for better for him.

There is a sense of unreality to what we are doing. Traveling around the world, spending enormous sums of money to adopt a child from another culture. Why would anyone do something like that? Aren’t there children in need in the US? But there is a connection we have to this city that was forged by God. It is a strange mission that He has sent us on, to care for orphans from across the world. But this is what He is about, connecting people, caring for the least. We are not here because we are more compassionate or morally better than anybody. We are not here because we are great rescuers of children. I actually feel more like a bumbling idiot knocking about the world. But we are here because God sent us to Daniel. To speak with our lives God’s message: that all people, whether from the US, or Bulgaria, Bulgar, Roma, handicapped, or fit, Christian, Muslim, Jew, atheist, democrat, or republican, all people are the same inside. We are desperately in need of God’s love. We need it shown to us in concrete terms, we need it to wash over us and knock us over like the waves of the sea. We need to be loved without condition or reservation. The love comes from God, but we feel it from other people. The more of it in the world the better off we’ll all be.

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Adoption Trip One – Friday/Saturday/Sunday

About 27 hours after we left home for the Portland airport, we stepped into a hotel on the other side of the world. Literally.

I was sick overnight before we left and too sick to my stomach to sit up or turn my head hours before we left, but improved rapidly throughout the morning. I was able to keep down fluids and slowly became hungry over the course of our travel, though my stomach was never completely settled. Brian became ill as we waited for our trans-Atlantic flight in the San francisco airport. Anna’s tummy gave her trouble during the flight. Neither was terribly ill, but it was not a fun flight.

Somewhere around 5am, a passenger from business class had a mental health meltdown and began to shout at everybody to get out of his house. Those who were still asleep and unaware were quickly caught up as one flight attendant had us open the windows to the bright sunshine at the same time as half a dozen or more other passengers and crew tackled the angry man. Fear turned to pity as he yelled weakly and with fear as they zip-tied his hands and legs and found some doctors to help them supposedly administer sedative.

Did I say out travel was uneventful? It wasn’t. Between our stomach bug and the poor man who lost his wits and delayed flights, I am still near tears with relief and surprise every time I realize that we are here and our final flight landed just 20 minutes late. Our bag was left in Istanbul, but y’know, that’s nothing. 🙂

We had the luxury of hot showers and a truly lavish breakfast in our hotel. The hotel’s website advertised a lavish breakfast, but I truly didn’t expect what we were offered this morning buffet style. Bread in many forms, 4 kinds of jelly, hazelnut spread, a big bowl of honey, scrambled eggs, grilled tomatoes, bacon, hot dogs?, mushrooms, fried bread, cold cereal, coffee, fresh veggies, salami, cold ham… I don’t even remember. It was delicious. We all were able to eat a little and drink some juice and we’re feeling good despite being tired and the 10 hour time difference.

Today we drive about 6 hours to get to the east side of this country in Eastern Europe. We had the option to fly, but it cost a little more, we are sick of airplanes, and it will be nice to spend the day with our translator and seeing the countryside. Tomorrow morning we will meet our son. The enormity of that leaves me breathless.

It’s very, very good to be here with Brian and Anna. After the fear of our party being separated due to the illness on the day we left, I am treasuring and holding close my travel companions. What a privilege to spend this trip with my husband and firstborn.

Thank you, everybody, for praying for us. It’s sobering to have so many people caring for us. <3

I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

Arrived and so happy to see beds and pillows.

Morning!

Out one of our hotel windows.

Cocoa puffs for this girl this morning. look at all the honey in the bowl! And the jam. MMmmmmm

We couldn’t eat much, but we are all eating again!

Part of our lavish breakfast!

Brian and Anna practiced reading the cyrillic letters through the hotel window while I typed the blog.

The wiring on the outsides of the buildings raises my eyebrows!

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Daniel Adoption Update – May

Little brother…. we’re on our way!

Hello!

Well, we started this adoption process on Christmas day, 2016. It’s been 4 1/2 months and we have completed enough of the process to be granted permission to meet him in person and accept his referral! (His country of birth requires in-person visits before accepting his referral) I am really excited and nervous about this development. And we are making great time! Trip one will be May 12-21 (that includes all the many hours of flying) and Brian, Anna and I are going. That both Brian and I get to go is a testament to the support from my parents and the willingness of a college helper, Madison. It means a lot to us. Thank you.

So there will still be three kids, Madison and my parents holding down the fort while we’re gone. The travel takes roughly 24 hours until we are on the ground. We’ll stay overnight and then go on a six hour, cross-country drive to get to Daniel’s city of birth. We will visit him 1-2 times a day for several hours Monday-Friday and then fly home on Saturday. The trip will be grueling physically and emotionally. It will be beautiful and terrible too. It is unnatural and difficult to have a son, to hold him and meet him and then to let him go.

After we accept his referral, the adoption process has a few last steps to go through before he is legally ours. 3-6 months from now, Daniel should be in our home!

Over the last month, I’ve spoken with a number of mothers who have adopted children from this same orphanage. Until Daniel’s adoption is complete, I will not be sharing any negative details publicly. Certainly, we all know that institutional care has its weaknesses. And we know that those are compounded when special needs are present. All I will say here is that our suppositions of Jordan’s early life experiences were confirmed in these conversations and that Daniel needs prayer every day until we adopt him and then prayer for some time afterwards.

On this trip, I have several main goals:
– To get to know Daniel – his level of understanding, his speech, his physical needs, his size, and just as much as possible as I possibly can to help us when it’s time to make him ours.
– To support my oldest daughter as her world gets bigger.
– To experience Bulgarian culture and country.

I don’t know if I have any greater or more spiritual goals, but these seem to me to be a mouthful already. 🙂 Thank you for praying for us!

Leaving on trip one in 2011 to meet Jordan.

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Review of 2016/2017 Curriculum

This year was 4th grade, 1st grade and preschool. Here’s my feedback on the curriculum we used:

4th Grade

    1. Reading & workbook
    Christian Light Education Level 4 : 5/week : 4/week
    I liked the workbook material and I liked the reading material even better! They are endearing, old-fashioned stories with a lesson in morality that is just right for the age group. The workbook was good practice in reading comprehension, a little grammar, and thinking up answers (they weren’t all multiple choice). Anna finished this early, so I don’t remember it in detail, but it was a perfect level of work for Anna and she didn’t drag her feet to work on it, which is always a boost. We did it 4 days a week and were done early. I think 3 days/week is what it was designed for.

    2. Math
    Teaching Textbooks Level 5 : 5/week : 4/week
    Teaching textbooks is about a year behind the average, so Anna did level 5 this year. Actually, she’s still doing it and will probably be working on it into the early summer. 4 times a week just barely gets you finished in a year and we had a fair number of missed days. 4-5 is what it’s geared towards. We are still liking the computer-based math program. It has a lecture, complete with worked-through examples… which means I don’t have to teach the lessons one at a time myself. It gives the opportunity to try a problem twice before marking it wrong, which has helped my daughter’s perfectionist tendencies to relax a little. She can view the problem worked out, step by step also. If she’s truly struggling, I encourage her to have me come and work through it with her. Math is her achilles heel, in terms of emotional stress, so that we’re making it through the year at all tells me that this is a good fit.
    3. Science
    Christian Light Education Level 4 : 5/week : 3/week
    I really like these workbooks! Each workbook has a subject – weather, energy, physics, the universe, etc. We haven’t kept up with this, so are only halfway through, but I like them. Sometimes it’s hard to do an accompanying project if Brian isn’t here, because… well, projects aren’t my strength. Also, because I’m not working closely with her on this, the material is not being completely understood. There is a lot of information and vocabulary. It’s the appropriate level, but there is a lot of it. Science seems like it would be more fun and successful in a classroom. But I’m satisfied with this to get us along for now.
    4. Social Studies & workbook
    Christian Light Education Level 4 : 5/week : 2/week
    I love this material! But, Anna doesn’t. ha! She liked it at first, but it is a little harder work than her other schoolwork – requiring reading in a large textbook and then using that information to answer questions in her workbook. She’s only going to get 20% through by the end of the year,
    but I still don’t feel like it’s a waste. I may have her finish this next year.

    5. Spelling
    Sequential Spelling Level 1 (continued from this year) : 3/week : 2/week
    This wasn’t a terrible fit for Anna, but spelling is not a natural skill for her. We did spelling regularly until about halfway through and petered out quickly from there. We were both burnt out with trying it. I am undecided on how to move forward with spelling practice next year. Same curriculum? Different? Give it a rest while other supporting skills catch up?
    6. Grammar
    Growing with Grammar Level 4 : 3/week : 2/week
    I like this program, but we decided to cut it this year.
    7. Writing
    Just Write Level 1 : not sure : 2/week
    These are good little books. She went through all of the the first one and part of the second one so far.
    8. Bible
    Christian Light Education Level 4 : 2-3/week : 2/week
    These were very easy for Anna. Partially because she has grown up in a world saturated with Bible stories, but partially because it’s all multiple choice. However, it is not a waste as the stories are worked through at a decently in-depth level and she was learning new information.
    9. History
    Story of the World Middle Ages on CD with activity book : 1/week : 1/week
    We enjoyed listening to the story of history while coloring chapter-specific coloring pages. We didn’t “study” or do the “study questions.” I plan to go through all four disc sets at a quick, enjoyable level. Then we’ll go through the whole thing again more slowly in a few years.
    10. Art
    Local classroom OR Christian Light Education Level 2 : 1/week : 1/week
    I was pleasantly surprised with these! They take simple projects and introduce concepts and skills that are useful for the long term. The kids liked the projects too!

Maggie 1st/2nd Grade

    1. Reading & Workbooks
    Christian Light Education Learning to Read (starting with Primer 7) : 5/week : 4/week
    I didn’t like the Learning to Read program… it requires figuring out a teacher’s guide that works together with the kid’s book and it really was just more complicated than I wanted. Maggie’s reading had really improved over the summer, so after a few weeks (months?) we switched to the more advanced first grade reader and they were wonderful! Perfect level for Maggie. I love that every other lesson she read the story out loud to me. It was a pleasure!
    2. Writing
    Just Write (Write About Me and Write About My World) : not sure : 4/week
    These went well. Lots of pictures to go along with the writing. Nothing in depth and maybe not super great at preparing for harder stuff, but it kept her going and thinking.
    3. Math
    Teaching Textbooks Level 3 : 5/week : 4/week
    Maggie is doing really well with this. She loves the little pictures that progress every time you complete a problem.
    4. Science
    Christian Light Education Level 1 : 5/week : 3/week
    These were easy and simple… and surprisingly well accepted by Maggie! Lots of concepts were presented in levels that seemed too easy, something like “rain falls on the ground and makes the ground wet. Plants use the water to grow.” But maybe I would be doing Maggie a disservice by not starting there… because she liked these books a lot!
    5. Typing
    Dance Mat Typing – not sure – 2/week
    Oops – forgot about this.
    6. Art
    Local classroom OR Christian Light Education Level 1 – 1/week – 1/week
    These were good for Maggie as well as Anna.
    7. Music
    She would like me to teach her piano : 5/week : 4/week (one lesson plus practice)
    DIdn’t do this.
    8. History w/ coloring pages
    Story of the World Middle Ages on CD with activity book : 1/week : 1/week
    Maggie did this with Anna

Carolyn Preschool

1. Reading
Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons – often- 4/week
She loves doing this with me, but when I lost momentum around lesson 50, we stopped. She is still in preschool next year, so I didn’t feel the need to push myself, though she certainly wanted me to!
2. Learning to follow directions and make letter shapes
Generic Pre-K or Kindergarten workbook
She loves these. She likes the cut and paste ones even better.
3. Art
Some kind of self-led art… maybe one of those cut and paste books?
I got her one of the Christian Light Publication books and she worked on those projects, though many were too difficult for her.

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Adoption Update!

Yesterday, our dossier (adoption paperwork) was presented at the IAC (International Adoption Committee) in the Eastern European country we’re adopting from. It was approved for us to move forward. As soon as the MOJ (Minister of Justice) signs this paper, we can make our trip one! And the interim government has been signing quickly, so it is likely that we will have that paper signed next week!

AHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I get to meet my son SOON. The first long wait of this adoption process is finishing.

I have tears in my eyes and hope blooming all over the place.

Preparing to travel…..

Little brother…. we’re on our way!

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