Blogging about life in Minnesota, raising our six kids with Down syndrome while battling Breast Cancer.

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor in the morning the devil says, "Oh shit! She's up!"

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Con-Artist

This morning as Angela and I were walking out the door to drop her off at school, she asked, "Today's Thursday, right?"

"Yep. It's Thursday."

"Bruegers Bagels today. We're walking there."

"You are? I thought  you did that a few weeks ago. Hmm..Maybe not. Maybe I just remember signing the permission slip."

Half way to school, "I need money. For Bagels. I need money for BRUEGGERS Bagels."

As we pulled up in front of school I reached into my purse and found some cash, which she quickly stuck into her jacket pocket. She gave me a kiss goodbye and reached for the door handle.

"Hang on a sec. Let me just check with your teacher." I started to get out of the car and realized that today I was THAT MOM. The mom who drives to school in her pajamas. Now I have seen a mom or two inside school wearing what look an awful lot like pajamas. Only theirs matched. Not only did mine not match, but they had holes in them, some of those holes in really bad places!

I grabbed my cell phone and called her teacher quick. Angela only heard my end of the conversation, so the only thing she got was, "Oh, they're not walking to Brueggers Bagels?"  I got off the phone and held out my hand. Angela pulled the money out of her pocket and placed it in my hand. "Sorry mom." She said.

That little stinker! She knew exactly what she was doing and was just hoping she'd get away with it. Such a typical teenager.

Because I know you need a laugh!

You MUST watch the entire thing,
because it only gets funnier and 
funnier!!!!!!! OMG I haven't laughed 
so hard in AGES!
My darling princess!

Or Not

Most days Angela gets up on her own around 7:30-8:00, but yesterday I had to d.r.a.g. her tired little butt out of bed at 8:30, but wasn't successful in getting her into an upright position until 8:45. Ummm...I drop her off at school at 9:00! And she still needed to get dressed. And eat. And get in the car!

So last light I set her alarm clock for 8:15 which gives us plenty of time, because once she's awake she's pretty easy in the morning. This has not always been the case, and I have to credit the expertise of her behavior specialists and the several thousand dollars spent on behavioral services to get to this point!!! And, the fact that I'm now driving her to school, which is an entirely different post I'm sure you'll be begging me to write about, right? 

We are backward folk around here, and tend to use the alarm clock more on the weekends; not to get up, but to STAY in bed. I learned this trick when my boys were little, and like all little kids have this thing about waking up with the sun. Angela's brother Bryon was probably the worst. I swear the kid never slept, and when he did it was lightly so he didn't miss a thing in the house. He was one of those hyper aware kind of kids. Anyway, long after the other kids had started sleeping a little later in the mornings (like second grade or so) Bryon was still getting up incredibly early. Usually because we had a rule that on weekends and during the summer, the t.v. got turned off at 10:00 a.m. and didn't get turned back on until after dinner. (which was quite late in the summer months because of my ability to put off cooking as long as possible.) And you know the world might end if he was shortchanged in the t.v. watching department!

Although the boys were of an age to be up and about the house without direct supervision for bit while mom and dad pretended to get a few more minutes sleep, the fact is we were out numbered. It wouldn't take more than a few minutes before the plotting and scheming started and before we knew it mayhem would ensue, requiring a parent (usually me) to get out of bed and break up some evil plan to take over the universe or cook their own breakfast. 

Bryon was always the culprit. He would get up really early, and the other boys, knowing he always had the best ideas, would follow shortly thereafter. (although, thinking back, I'm pretty sure he was very quickly bored watching cartoons alone so he went and woke them up!) I started setting an alarm for him. 8:00 seemed to be a reasonable time. Not too early, but not too late so as to torture the poor kid. "You're not allowed to go downstairs until the alarm goes off. You can read a book or go back to sleep, whatever, but if you wake up anyone else I'm going to set it for 9:00 next time." I was mean like that. 

Bryon shared a room with Tyler who was a great sleeper and slept through a tornado or two. But Tyler was also super smart, and quickly got annoyed with Bryon laying in bed wide awake at 6:00 a.m. waiting for that stupid alarm to go off, blowing out long, very loud sighs in an attempt to wake Tyler up for company without actually being guilty of waking him up. So Tyler took it upon himself to change the clock to a new time so Bryon would go away. Yeah, that's about the time we split up the bedrooms so Bryon could have a room all to himself. 

Thats how we use the alarm clock for Angela on the weekends. For some reason, while she sleeps decent during the week, on the weekends she's usually up around 6:00. So out comes the alarm. "Sweetie, (notice I talk to her far different than I did the boys.) Tomorow is Saturday. That means we don't have to to get up in the morning. You get to sleep as long as you want. In fact, we're going to set this here alarm clock, and you don't even have to get up until it goes off. How cool is that!" There have been many early weekend mornings when I've heard her awake in her room, talking to all the invisible people she shares her world with, explaining to them it's too early to get up, and before long she talks herself back to sleep. I will admit to occasionally sneaking into her room at 7:50 and turn off the alarm, then play dumb later. "Hmm...I'm not sure why the alarm didn't go off. I must have pushed the wrong button last night."

So yesterday was not one of our better mornings, and since she's been staying up later in the evening to enjoy the longer days (and to torture me) I set her alarm for 8:15 this morning so as to not have a repeat performance. 

She came into my room at 7:30 this morning, looking like the wild woman she does when she sleeps hard.

"Angela. How come you're up already? Remember you didn't have to get up until 8:00"

She looked at me like I was speaking Chinese, staring at me blankly for several seconds. 

"Or not." she said, and went to turn on the T.V.

I need to rethink my strategy. It's not working the way it did with the boys. Thank goodness she doesn't have anyone here to plot and scheme with. Wait.. now I'm screwing up THAT system too! It is a never ending battle, this parenting thing. It's us against them. Survival of whoever can outsmart the other. Angela won this morning. And now we're adding a partner to plot and scheme with. I can't wait to listen to them plotting together!!! I'm excited to be woken up by two young ladies having fun together. (don't even think about raining on my pretend parade and saying they might bicker like the boys did. This is my blog, and THAT's not happening with my girls!) 

Keeping it Real

I haven't gotten "real" for quite awhile. I think it's about time, don't you? I mean, I live this life every day, then come here and talk about everything but what you really want to hear about. Because really, I know you only come here to read about Angela. Don't say you don't. And even if you don't, be kind enough to lie about it.

Angela has the best imagination of any child I have ever met. I raised her brothers, and they didn't recreate the things Angela does. They didn't even come close. Sorry boys, but all your piles of match box cars all over the middle of the bedroom that you told me were "junk yards"? Yeah, I'm not so dumb! So you found a creative way to not clean up your cars and I let you THINK you had me fooled. Still, that can't hold a candle to your sister.

Angela doesn't watch t.v.

Angela DOES t.v.

Angela makes all of her favorite shows 100% interactive. She'll watch a few minutes, then start chasing around the house reenacting what she just watched. But, don't think she's done with the t.v. and that since she left the room you can now change the channel! You can't because she's not DONE, and while it APPEARS that she is in her own little world at the moment, the kid with the severe hearing loss is listening to her imaginary cast with one ear... and talking back to them...three rooms away...while the other ear monitors the TV status! If you so much as walk within 2 feet of the t.v. you're going to hear about it.

I bet you didn't know that on New Year's Eve, there was a marathon of "Dog the Bounty Hunter" on t.v., did you? Yeah, I didn't either. We were having family movie night with Tyler and Angela, when she decided what we were watching was boring, and she'd rather watch a scheduled movie on the Disney Channel on the basement t.v.

We have a rule about the basement t.v, that when you're done watching it you turn the channel back to the Disney channel, because the electronic set up down there takes the same level of skill to operate as a fighter jet. When this rule is followed, Angela is able to turn the TV on and watch what she wants. Not too difficult since she refuses to watch any channel that doesn't have the Disney logo in the corner. Unless it's Modern Family or The Middle, but I digress. When this rule ISN'T followed, and should Angela get up early on Saturday morning after someone has messed with the channels, she's going to drag ME out of bed to come fix it, which I do because it means one more hour of sleep. And she NEVER asks Dean to do it because 1) He won't. and 2) He doesn't know how to work the flight controls.

Apparently Tyler either didn't know, or possibly forgot (maybe chose not to remember?) that rule.

So Angela headed for the basement to watch the movie she'd been telling me for 10 days was going to be on "New Year's Eve, Eight-Nine Central!"

Three hours later, after a movie, popcorn, and the start of our second movie, it occurred to one of us...who shall remain nameless because it was me... that Angela was still in the basement. (No, I did NOT forget about my kid down there. I was just slightly distracted by Johnny Depp for a few minutes. Is that so wrong?) Since she wasn't running around the house acting out her movie, I figured she must have fallen asleep down there, or maybe (gasp) she was playing in her room!

I went downstairs and was met by the closed basement door. As I opened it, it was pushed back at me and slammed shut. "Who's there!" demanded her voice from the other side.

"It's me, Santa Clause." I said, in my best North Pole voice. (you have to think on your feet with Angela! I'm way better at this than Dean is, by the way. Just say'in...)

"Go away Santa! I'm on a mission!"

What? She's...."On a mission"? 

"But I have presents and reindeer. Wanna feed them a carrot?"

"Enter at your own risk!" she hollered, and I heard the thump, thump, thump of her running away.

Santa was shaking in her boots.

I opened the door very carefully in case she was right behind it. (I have experience with this, can you tell?) and entered the basement.

It was about that time I was tackled from behind, thrown to the ground, and told, "Hands ahine your back! You're under arrested!" as she sat on my back trying to tie my hands up with something...I'm very lucky she doesn't know how to tie, because I'm pretty sure we were going to have a hostage situation on our hands. 

"Hey! I was just bringing presents you ungrateful little girl! What gives? What did I do to deserve this?"

"You were smoke'in cigarettes and drink'in wine!" she growled as she continued her desperate attempts to tie my hands.

Satisfied that I was successfully tied up with her invisible rope, she crawled off my back and army crawled across the room, but stopped 1/2 way to look at something on the T.V.

There they were. Dog the Bounty Hunter and his wife, Beth Chapman. OH NO!!!! We have had to put a strict "NO JAIL/NO HOSPITAL" rule in place when it comes to role playing. Angela has some pretty serious control issues and these two games feed right into that. It's fun for one round, but after that? Yeah, not so much.

I told Angela it was time to start getting ready for bed, then I turned off the t.v. and high-tailed it for upstairs. We were just starting to get into the next movie when I heard the squack of a walkee talkee coming from the front entry. "Yeah, I see 'em.... Over...10-4..... A-B-C-D-E-F-G."

Suddenly I thought she'd passed out or something, the way she dropped the the floor, but I knew she was fine when she army crawled all the way through the livingroom, dining room, and into the kitchen. She spent the next HALF HOUR army crawling around the house. Finally we'd had enough. You see, Angela didn't realize that most people who are army crawling around do it QUIETLY, so as not to interrupt their parents' movie. I redirected her toward bed. Thankfully she was tired and went to bed easily, and it wasn't long after the rest of us headed to bed as well.

3:00 a.m. there was a crash in the bathroom. Dean, being the man, didn't even flinch. Me, being the mom, I sleep with Mommy ears and hear every little sound the house makes. I opened my eyes and listened. That's when I heard Angela talking. Only she was whispering. (rare for her, since she has two volume levels: "LOUD" and "sleeping". ) She was in the bathroom that adjoins our bedroom. I got out of bed and peeked around the corner, tried not to laugh out loud, then scrambled to get my camera... I know, it's pathetic... This is what I saw:

It's kind of hard to tell, but if you click on the picture you'll see she's wearing her leather motorcycle jacket and is putting on lip gloss. She HATES lip gloss!..."Angela, what are you doing? It's 3:00 in the morning, get back to bed."

"I'm not Angela. I'm Beth Chapman. I'm going on a mission. With Daryl. You're not invited."

Do you know who Beth Chapman is? You don't? Oh, well this is her. This is who my darling daughter is aspiring to be. And I'm pretty sure that she's had some more...ummm..."work" done since this picture was taken!

Suddnely "Beth Chapman" threw the gloss in the drawer, and pulled a set of these out of her pocket, which have since been added to the "banned toy" list...

then stomped her way to the kitchen. She wouldn't talk to me after that. She would only talk to "Dog" and "Daryl", saying things like, "You go 'round back, I'll get the door." Then the army crawling again, and lots of talking to Dog. Do you know Dog? I do NOW!

Finally I came to my senses. I mean, it was 3:00 a.m. after all, so my quick thinking parts weren't yet awake. "Hey! Yo! Dog. I mean DAAAAWG. It's bedtime dude. Middle of the night and stuff. Time to head back to headquarters and chill for a bit. In your bed. Quiet and stuff, all the bad guys are trying to sleep upstairs."

As I crawled back into bed, and pondered the last 15 minutes, I realized where the night had gone wrong. Angela had OD'd on "Dog the Bounty Hunter". I didn't know it was possible to do that, but clearly she was HIGH from that show. It was like SPEED for her!!!! No, it was like CRACK speed, because she was so hooked that for the next few days there was no "Angela" living in our house, only the above mentioned cop wanna-bees. 

On about day 6 of this, I made the mistake of taking a shower. I do that sometimes; take a shower. I came up the stairs to find Angela at the measuring wall. (you know, the wall everyone has in their house where you measure your kid, and sometimes put the line a little higher than it needs to go just to make your kid feel good because they're fake growing?) She was talking to the air, "Alright Daryl...stand still. There. Done. Dog, you're next. Don't move." 

My measuring wall now looks like this:

Do you see all the lines in permanent marker? Yep, that's exactly how tall Dog and all his cohorts are! 

That was it. We had to put a stop to Dog, adding him and his friends to the list of "Not allowed" invisible people in our house! Please tell me you have a list like this!!! A few days later, Angela was missing. I found her here...SOBBING:

Good Lord she cut a finger off or something. "What's wrong Angela? Are you ok?"

"I miss Beth Chapman.....sniff...and Dog....sniff sniff...AND DARYL!!!!!"

Seriously? I had just discovered what teenage hormones do to girls. I could get paid for this discovery, I'm pretty sure.

They're just on vacation for awhile honey, until they can remember all the rules of the house. Not to worry."

Ok, now don't tell this part, cuz it's a secret! Remember the week before I left for Serbia and Bulgaria, and I was desperately trying to get some math homework done? I found several 17 minute episodes of Zach and Cody on demand, but they just weren't letting me get anything done. I mean...17 minutes, ya know? I looked at the ON DEMAND list again, and that's when I found that "Dog the Bounty Hunter" is ON DEMAND on our t.v. line up!!! SCORE! And they were 50 minute episodes! I weighed all my options, and looked from the TV to Angela, as she anxiously waited for me to turn something ON already. I did it. I let her watch all of the "Dog" episodes available on demand. And a few days later I left town, leaving Dean to deal with the effects of the overdose.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Our newest daughter

So, in an attempt to not bore you with the details of our adoption, AND to keep a a written and photographic record of our journey, I've created a new blog. Besides, I've always wanted an adoption blog like all my friends, so now I have one. And, when you get there, you'll find out her name. ;-)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A must watch

We almost have a name

I think we almost have a name for "M". When I get the o.k. to start a blog, I'll post it. How's that for a teaser?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Almost refreshed

Last night I fell asleep shortly after 6:00, and woke up at 4:00 this morning to see Dean off to work, then sat down to upload my camera, do some blogging, and just poke around the house a little bit. Dean called a little while after he left saying, "It's so nice to be able to just call you!"

Yesterday we had to make the drive out to Kimball, so we had lots of time to discuss the adoption of "M", and all the things that come with it. The doubts that everyone has as they go through the process, the stresses that come into play, the effects on Angela, and of course, the money involved. I'm not *too* worried about the money...yet. Only because with all the adoption blogs I read, the money seems to come from somewhere when God decides it should! I'm sure somewhere along the way I'll need to be reminded of that! Our immediate need is to come up with the money to get the homestudy started, which will be $2500, and we will need another chunk of cash to formally commit to the adoption.

Well, lets back up the train a bit. "M" has been listed on Reece's Rainbow for awhile, but when we were visiting her, we were told she was no longer in the adoption registry. (meaning she is no longer available for adoption.) That's because her caseworker didn't feel she was adoptable, so she was removed. I told our contact there that I knew we could find a family for "M". We actually discussed lots of different children, and I stated several times that we can't find families if the families don't know the child exists. If the children aren't registered (the only way we're allowed to post their pictures and information) they will NEVER find families. Hopefully we'll get more children registered so they can be spared a horrible fate.

Dean and I are trying agree on "M's" new name. I have one in mind, but Dean isn't so sure about it. Once we have a name, and we're given the O.K, I'll start a separate adoption blog so all of that information will be there.

The little girl

When we were in the airport in Seoul, Korea, Kullen and I were sitting on a low ledge at the windows so he would watch the airplanes and I could watch the people. So along comes this little Korean girl about 2 1/2 - 3 years old. She plopped herself down on the ledge between Kullen and I, and gradually made her way closer to me. I had to stop her from actually crawling INTO my lap, for fear I'd have a very angry Korean mother to deal with! I looked around and finally realized she was with "the mom" we were annoyed with. The one who also had an 18 month old with squeaker shoes running all over over place. She never looked to see where her older child was, so she didn't see that her daughter wanted to come home with me. LOL

I told Shelley I was going to sneak pictures of her, because she was flat out adorable. She had these little cards in her hand, and she would lay them out on the ledge, then tap my shoulder and point to them, making sure that I actually LOOKED at them, and when I did turn away she put her little hand on my cheek to turn my head back.

When I opened my computer, she got behind me and like she was going to climb on my back, leaning way over my shoulder to see what I was doing on the computer. Then came her sneaky little fingers to try pushing the keys. LOL I took out my camera and she got very excited, only she didn't want to get in FRONT of it. She wanted to be behind it to push the button. I know, because she kept trying to move my fingers out of the way so SHE could push it. Finally she got busy playing with Kullen so I could snap a couple of quick pics. Is she adorable or what? I'm sure she wanted to come home with me. Oh, and she spoke English too! She started with counting her cards, all the way up to 10, then Kullen did something funny and she let out an, "Oh my God!"

Sunday, April 25, 2010


I arrived home at around 11:00 last night. That was a total of 23 hours of flight time, and the rest is various airports around the world, with a grand total of 51 hours of travel time! It was heavenly to see Dean and Angela again, and i only cried a tiny bit.

Last night i got to bed about midnight, but I didn't sleep well at all. I kept waking up disoriented, trying to figure out where I was; I really didn't know! Finally I'd come to just enough to remember I was in my own bedroom, and go back to sleep. Dean said I finally started snoring around 4:30 this morning so he knew I was finally sleeping. We were up and out the door by 8:00a, and I felt pretty good.

But the rest of today I'm in bed. i'm not actually DOING anything here, like sleeping or anything, I'm just HERE! Dean and I had to run a several-hour errand this morning, and Angela is spending the day with her dad, so when we got home I decided to go curl up in my own bed.My internal clock says it's around 1:00 pm, so I was a little shocked a minute ago to see the clock says 6:00 pm. I had to confirm with Dean that my bedside clock has not been tampered with, and it is, indeed, 6;00 p.m.

No, I'm not taking phone calls today. There is really too much to tell and I just don't have the energy for those conversations right now. Later this week I'll blog more about it, but for now, I'm ready to call it a night.

Good night everyone!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

What's this thing?

Question for Korean travelers: What are the "etiquette bells" located in the women's bathroom stalls? HUH? HUH??? What will happen if I push it? I...really... wanna push it. Shelley says she needs some entertainment and is daring me to push it.

Also, anyone have a private jet? Shelley and Kullen are probably going to miss their connecting flight!


Our flight from Seoul to Chicago is delayed. UGH! If it leaves when they're promising, I should have just enough time to catch my connecting flight to Minneapolis. Oh man, I'm so exhausted!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Half Way Home!

We're currently sitting at the airport in Seoul, Korea, and will be here for the next several hours. It's 11:38 a.m. on Saturday the 24th here, but 9:30 pm Friday the 23rd at home. We'll fly out tonight at 6:30 local time, stop in Chicago, then arrive home in Minneapolis at 9:45 tonight!!! Our What will be nearly 24 hours of travel time will be less than 3 hours on the clock. LOL By the time I get home, I will have been flying or sitting in airports for 48 hours.

So, what would you like to hear about today? Would you like to hear how, when we got to the airport in Sofia, the boards were listing all kinds of flights cancelled? All of them in the Germany and London areas. We're SO GLAD we chose to go East instead!

Maybe you would like to hear about how we sat on the runway in Sofia for 45 minutes?

How about Moscow? I pray I *never* have to fly through Moscow again! Ok, so we get off the plane and have to catch a connecting flight, but we have a couple hours so we're all good. We're told to go to the "transfer station" right as we get get off the jetway. We stand in line as passports and tickets are checked because we need new boarding passes. After standing in line for 20 minutes we're next up when Kullen announces he has to go to the bathroom, and it's obvious NOW would be when he needs to go. Shelley disappears with him and I hand my documents over. "Please wait over there for the next agent." indicating a place along the wall. Just as Shelley comes back, we're told to go see the woman in the white blouse, but as we moved to her counter another zillion people came from a flight that has just arrived.

Have I mentioned that the people of Korea have NO CONCEPT of what "get in line" means? I've seen this problem played out several times today! After another 15 minutes in line we finally got new boarding passes, but they have not gate listed. She told us to go through "this door", and ask at the NEXT "transfer station."

We ventured through this maze of panels and doors to find ourselves at a security checkpoint. Are you serious? We just got off a plane, and have been nowhere but that counter they told us to stand at twice (which was almost part of the jetway.) and here. The woman told me to put my shoes in the blue tub, and then said something else in her strong Russian accent.

Me: "Can you say that again?"
Agent: "yes"
me: "Yes what? I can you say it again. I don't know what you said."
Agent: Yes, fine.
me: Nothing is fine if I don't know what you're saying.
Agent: Yes. That is fine.

By the time we got through that checkpoint, I was ready to pull what little hair I have left right out of my head!

Next came lunch. Or maybe it was dinner? I don't know, my internal clock is so messed up. So ordered 2 hamburgers.

We asked if they come with fries, and the waitress asked, "Fries? You want fries?"
Shelley: Yes, 2 hamburgers, 3 orders of fries. (pointing to each of us.)

We waited patiently for our food ...brb

Sorry, I had to take a quick intermission to address the Jehovah's Witness who just offered me a free subscription to "The Watchtower". HA! I'm a little bit chocked that this just happened in the airport of Seoul, Korea! I know I shouldn't be, but it caught me off guard!

Anyway, we waited for our food, but only the two burgers came, with fries on the plate. We were almost done eating and asked where Kullen's fries were. She came back with three HUGE orders of fries. LOL All we could do was laugh. That was, until the bill came! $60 US Dollars for this meal! And, I didn't even EAT the burger because it had mystery chunks in it! I will NEVER plan to stay in Russia for ANYTHING!

The next flight was on Korea Air. WOW!!! Let me tell you, this is the best airline I have ever flown with! First of all, the plane was immaculate and appeared to be brand new. It was a Boeing 777, and I think they are the newest airbus. The seats were leather. The first class seats had some kind of sleeper platform thingy, and there in the regular seats there was far more leg room than any other airline, and there were touch screen TV's. The food was a bit too ethnic for me, but that's just me. The flight crew was amazing, and really bent over backward for everyone.

Here's the best part of this airline. When we arrived here in Seoul, we had to go through customs and all that stuff so we can check in with brand new tickets under a different airline. We wandered around, visited restrooms and all that jazz, and had been here about 90 minutes when we found a place to park ourselves for our long wait. Kullen LOVES my Itouch, (I've put LOTS of apps on it for him over the last 2 weeks, though is favorite thing to do is listen to Christmas music on it! LOL) so we decided to let him mess with that while we blog. That's when I realized I'd left my Itouch on the plane!!!! It had gotten stuck in the pocket in front of my seat, and I had forgotten to clean that out when we got off the plane. NO!!!!

I looked at the clock. Oh man, they turn flights around so fast. I ran to an information desk to ask where I could find a lost and found. I explained the problem, gave her the flight information (including my seat number) and she got on the phone. Several phone calls later she said the plane was still here, and they were going to look for it. Come back in a few minutes.

When I went back she said an agent was on her way down with my Itouch! Apparently the plane had been moved to the hangar, and a cleaning person checked the pocket and found it right where I said it would be, and they ran it all the way across the airport, and to me at the information desk. See what I mean about this airline? They're great!

Ok, we're going to attempt to check in for our next flight so we can get rid of all these bags! Next post should be from Chicago!!!!!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Almost Done

When Shelley and I came on this trip, you may recall we were carrying A LOT of luggage. We'd each shipped two boxes of supplies a week ahead of us, plus two 50 pound suitcases each, which were full of additional therapy supplies and developmental toys for the families we're supporting here. The only clothes we packed were what could fit in a carry-on bag! In the picture below, the small, light green bag on the right is my carry-on, and the small dark green one on the left is Shelley's. The black backpack was my "purse" which held my camera, computer, important documents-and my math homework. LOL All the rest of the bags are full of stuff for the families and one orphanage in Sofia! Oh, and the big light green bags? They come up past my waist.

So, for three weeks, we've been living in those clothes. A couple of times we've hand washed things in a hotel bathtub and hung them to dry, but I'm pretty sure my washing skills are not well developed.

Tomorrow is our last full day here. In honor of that, I'm going to put on make up! FOR REAL! And, since we were able to do laundry today I will also be wearing clean clothes. What a day it will be!

Back from the Embassy

Several people are emailing us about various flights, etc. We're done choosing flights. Actually, when we got to the Embassy they had *just* received an email about a flight leaving in 2 hours for London, then on to Boston. For about 3 seconds we were tempted to jump on it, but not really any longer than that! While it would be good to get out of dodge today, and there was some savings in price, the airspace around London and the West Coast of Europe is too unstable. Should the volcano spew again we'd be stuck...yet again. We decided to stick with our plan to head East, and enter the US on the West coast. And, Shelley and I will be traveling together all the way to Chicago, so only one very short flight where we don't have company. We would also still have had to find flights out of Boston with only a couple hours notice, which would have gotten very expensive! Besides all of that, to say that we are a little gun-shy right now would be an understatement!

We sent the Embassy counselor away with my credit cards, as Shelley and I have been shuffling money around to various accounts to get everything covered. The counselor came back with three tickets, but only two had been paid for-Shelley and Kullen's. My other card wouldn't go through. Although I was in contact with my bank yesterday to have them lift the limit on my card, and was assured it was all taken care of so I could purchase tickets today, it wouldn't go through. I tried not to loose my cool, as my fuse feels very short right now! And I didn't really have anyone to loose my cool WITH, since I can't call my bank in the middle of the Minnesota night! LOL The Embassy is holding my card until my bank opens in the states and I can find out what the problem is. As soon as I get the all clear I can call the Embassy so they can run my card again. I'm sure the kink will get worked out, it's just one more little frustration to test just where my limits are.


Last night we slept in beds of the private home of the Assistant Defense Attache Randy Glover. What a wonderful family he has.
Apparently Shelley and I really needed the rest, because we slept 10 hours!

This morning we'll make another trip to the embassy to pay for the tickets from Sofia to Seoul they've arranged for us. Once that's done we will feel even better! Then all that's left is payment for the tickets from Seoul to home.

I'm sure I'll be exhausted once I get home. It will be 48 hours of travel-all the way around the world-yet I'll arrive in Minneapolis just a couple hours later on the very same day.

I haven't been in a war zone, or suffering the after affects of an earthquake. I've had food, shelter, a hot shower and beds. This experience has given me a whole different perspective on things. Yet, even under the good conditions I was in, the uncertainly that comes with with not knowing what tomorrow brings, , has been enough to make my hair fall out. Literally. I cannot wait to see my family again.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Seats are on hold!

Our seats are on hold! As soon as I have my seats paid for, I will leave Sofia, Bulgaria at 12:30 pm on the 23rd, travel east and arrive in Seoul at 9:30 a.m. on the 24th, and arrive in Minneapolis at 9:53 pm on the same day. When we arrive home, Shelley and I will have truly flown all the way around the world on this trip. Amazing.

Thanks to your donations, my flights to Seoul are now paid for, now I'm just working on getting from Soul to home in Minneapolis covered.

Shelley and I feel like new people tonight. (albeit very tired people!) We no longer have the possibility of an indefinite stay in Bulgaria hanging over our heads. I'm sure Kullen feels the relief of stress too. Tonight we are sleeping in beds, in a private home, with a wonderful family from the U.S. Embassy. I'll post more on that tomorrow, after some sleep so I can be clear headed!


We have flights reserved for Friday from Sofia to Moscow, Moscow to Soul, then we have to find flights from Soul to home.

To put it bluntly, I need an additional $3,000 from what I already have in the bank. (which is quickly running out.) and I need it within the next 24 hrs to reserve my seats.

This took a congressional notification of the Embassy this morning. We were notified to come to the embassy at 2:00, where we were greeted by the Assistant Defense Attache. We met with several different people from the embassy staff, and it took awhile to get things sorted out.

For tonight and until we leave, we'll be staying at the home of the Asst. Defense Attache and his family. He was very gracious to offer this, and really, many people from the Embassy made similar offers. For this we are truly grateful. Going back and forth to the airport every day, the additional hotel and food is costing around $200/day, not to mention Dean has now taken time off work so he's losing his pay, and I've lost mine as well. Staying with someone will greatly decrease our expenses here, and leave us more money to get home.

Thank you everyone for your support. You're all amazing. Later I'll fill you in on our VERY interesting visit at the Embassy (a once in a lifetime type of visit. Lots of those this trip!) for now I have to go pack, so we can move house again.

Up to $8000

The price gouging going on here is insane! The US Embassy is working on getting us to Italy, and the Embassy travel agent to get us from Italy to the US. We will have to pay for the flights out of Italy, which are currently running anywhere from $3,000-$8,000.

The Asst. to the the Defense Attache says there will be emergency military funds to get Shelley and Kullen from Italy to home. Because I'm not military, those funds are not accessible to me. I will be stuck.

I cannot even tell you the emotions I am feeling right now. Yes I can. I am angry, frustrated, exhausted, homesick, and...well angry is mostly where I'm at at this very second, which comes in between the tears of frustration and thoughts of "How will I ever get home?"

The airlines need to be held accountable for this. This is financial rape, and nothing less.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Clarification and an update

Ok, to answer a lot of questions from everyone: Yes, we are adopting. No, I cannot tell you "M's" name at this point, and really not until we're very nearly done with the process. Really, I can't say anything more about the adoption than that, because we can't legally commit to her until I can get home and we can get paperwork moving. There are a LOT of steps involved!

This morning was Shelley's turn to go to the airport. (Kullen and I stayed at the hotel so he could sleep.) The airline was of absolutely not one ounce of use to us! Lufthansa said the entire airport of Sofia has nothing going east, but on the way out the door Shelley saw a brochure, and stopped at another counter. (Austrian Air I think?) Who said they had a flight leaving at 10:00 for Turkey, sold out of course.

Oh, and on the way back to the hotel she had the same scam artist cab driver! (that's another blog post all drivers.) It costs us about $40 per day all this stupid running back and forth to the airport. Not to mention the hotel. We checked into a hotel closer to the airport but they're even more expensive.

We do have UNCONFIRMED flights for tomorrow. Shelley at 6:30 a.m. and me later in the day, but if Lufthansa isn't flying (and right now they're saying they won't be.) that does us not one bit of good. Our travel agency isn't able to access up to date information, mostly because it seems even the people right here working in the mess don't know what's going on! We'll be calling the Embassy again in a few hours, but going to TRY to get to sleep.

Reporting from Bulgaria, one sleep deprived mom running on less than fumes. Needing to get home. Missing my family, and hoping Dean can get back to work soon without too many transitions for Angela. Check back later for my segment on the Sofia taxi industry.

Recap in 200 words or less

Recap of the last 3 days in 62 words or less:

Giant Pizza
Volcano eruption
Decisions to "worry later"
Wake up to CNN and worry NOW
Flights canceled
Internet down
Embassy closed
Then open
then closed
Guinea pigs
No water
No HOT water
Embassy open
Embassy help...maybe?
Dunkin Donuts
knocked in the head
No internet
lots of shedding
New hotel
Do it all again tomorrow.

Umm Clarification please?

Just to ease my mind, can someone verify for me that this part of Europe doesn't have Earthquakes? You know, peace of mind and all.

We're still here!

Did you really think I'd have any exciting news to share? No, we're here. Sitting in a hotel room, counting our blessings. We *could* be trapped in an airport. We *could* be without internet (shudder!) We could be in a lot worse situation than we are. But, even though things are good at the moment, they can change quickly. Most people traveling for humanitarian purposes don't budget for a lot of extra money "just in case". Besides, who prays that no volcanos will erupt while on a trip?

We'll be on the news tonight. Shelley was interviewed by phone by CNN a little while ago, and it will air on CNN international. I was interviewed via Skype by KSTP Channel 5 in Minneapolis, and it will air on the 6:00 news.

To all our friends and family, I'm sorry that you'll be hearing news for the first time...on the news...about a decision Dean and I have made. We love you, we just had planned on talking about this more when I got home. But here I am in Bulgaria, and "M's" time is running out. So, there ya go! Between getting stuck here in Bulgaria, and funding the adoption of M, things will be financially interesting. But we'll get her home. If you're new to the blog, you can find out more about "M" here. (scroll down once you get there, you'll find what I'm talking about.) She's amazing, and she needs to get out of Serbia SOON! Also, please visit the CTR blog to find out why I'm here in the first place!

It was suggested to put a donation button up on the blog. I'll will be having to purchase new tickets from Germany...eventually...hopefully sooner than later! If you're interested in helping me get home, the button is on the right sidebar. I feel really weird mentioning that, but I guess I'll have to get over it. Thank you so very much for helping me get home.

Some progress made

We are just back from the U.S. embassy (who, by the way, says we are the only Americans here in Bulgaria in this situation. GO FIGURE!) Anyway we found a very helpful counselor who is not happy with what we were told this morning.

What is in the works now: She is contacting the defense liason person, to see about getting us to Germany to the large military instillation. Thankfully I'm with Shelley who is a military wife! From there they will get us home.

Just a few minutes ago we saw a military plane. We're waiting for a phone call. If we can't get on some type of flight or ground transport, they will give us humanitarian priority on a train to Germany.

We STILL need publicity to get us across the atlantic, and all the way to our homes. (Shelley in AL, and me in MN.) There is a chance we will need to pay for new flights from Germany, if so, they are incredibly expensive and neither of us are prepared to pay that kind of money. It will be around $5K for Shelley and Kullen, and around $2500 for me.

That's where we stand right now. Internet at our hotel is still down so we've walked a few blocks away to another hotel to use theirs.


PLEASE someone call CNN or someone for us. The US Embassy is of NO HELP to us at all! In fact, they're downright ugly! Meanwhile, the news is showing forgeingers trapped in the US getting all kinds of help!!! Mayday Mayday! Tell news contacts we are staying at the Hotel Budapest in Sofia.

The internet at hour hotel has been hacked, so they've made arrangements for us to walk to another hotel (the Princess) and use their wifi, which is where we are, but only for the next hour. We have a disabled child with a heart condition who is very ill. We need to get OUT of here!

PLEASE someone call CNN or someone for us. The US Embassy is of NO HELP to us at all! In fact, they're downright ugly! Meanwhile, the news is showing forgeingers trapped in the US getting all kinds of help!!! Mayday Mayday! Tell news contacts we are staying at the Hotel Budapest in Sofia.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Guinea pigs

Last night our internet was down, forcing Shelley and I to get some sleep before venturing to the airport at 4:00 this morning with one very tired little boy.

Sometime during the night I sat up in bed, "Shelley! Wake up!!! Where are the guinea pigs? Where did we put them? They have to be starving if they aren't already dead from suffocating in the luggage!"

Really, I did that.

Poor Shelley. I'm claiming stress-induced nightmares.

Just in case you need to know:

Some things you will need to know while living in a Bulgarian hotel:

The bottle opener can be found on top of the fridge, next to the condoms. (not purhased by us, I might add, but provided as convenience for all guests, along with the full liqueur cabinet and billed to you should you decide to use it.)

We're wondering if the gum is for before or after the condoms are used?

A "structured enviroment" for a newly adopted, and very bored child includes two wacky American women speaking a different language who lay on the beds starting at computer screens a lot. They cry at random times, but laugh at you when you're being exceptionally cute. Even wearing Leah's glasses upside down.

The same newly adopted child's first sponatneous American words are going to be, "Cheerleading" and "snowmobile" thanks to my Ipod touch and ABA application downloads. His favorite place to be is behind the curtain-overlooking the city- listenening to those or Christmas music apps.

Three day old leftover Pizza smells, because it's 3 times the size of the refrigerator.

"Same day service" for laundry in Bulgaria does not have the same meaning it does in the U.S.

If there is a hole in the sidewalk, the people here will fill it with trash. (they're very big holes.)

We don't understand why parking is so expensive in the U.S. Here you just park wherever you want.

Missing socks is a universal problem. We have lost a lot of socks in our hotel room! This could be due to a little boy who's favorite pass time in the institution was flushing them down the toilet. We're planning on playing dumb if this becomes a plumbing issue with the hotel.

We now know why people here walk looking at the ground. They're not being rude, or inapproachable. They watching for piles of dog crap from one of the the million plus stray dogs here!

Kullen showed us that he was taught to spit at pidgeons.

Putting chap stick on Kullen causes him to spontaneously break out his whistler. We didn't know he could whistle!

Looks can be deceiving!

When under stress, eat chocolate cereal. Well, at least that my and Dean's motto. So I found this at the little market across the street. The cereal says "Nestle", the milk says some version of 2%. (the coke in the background just happened to be there, I didn't eat it all together.)

Well, being the math wiz that I am, I have put 2 & 2 together, and discovered why europeans are not fat, and Americans are. They don't sweeten ANYTHING! The cereal is whole grain, and there is a very slightly sweet coating on the pieces, that quickly disappears to leave you with bland, unsweetened chocolate. If you've ever had Cocoa malto meal without sugar, it is exactly the same taste.

As for the milk, I'm pretty sure it's soy. At least this particular kind.

Yesterday I had my first cappuccino. I don't drink coffee but I really needed a good shot of caffeine. I put sugar in it, except the only table sugar they have here is raw sugar. I had no idea that stuff doesn't dissolve in anything with milk, cappuccino included!

We've tried several different types of chocolate here, and all of it is either NOT, or only slightly sweetened. Nothing like our creamy milk chocolate back in the states. No wonder people here aren't fat. Who wants to eat unsweetened chocolate? I would think this would be a good diet plan. You know, just move to Bulgaria for a few weeks, right? Well, there is a lot of bread here! I'm trying to stick to salads and stuff like that during the day, but will admit my defeat.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A reason for everything

We are *trying* to keep in mind there is a reason for everything, and a reason for us to be stuck here. That is hard to remember when you're exhausted, frustrated, homesick, and financially strapped.

I know there is a reason. I can't see it right now, but surely there is a reason. I also don't want to be one of the first flights in the air once they open the airspace, and be the one flight to discover there is still too much residue in the atmosphere!

And so we sit on our extended vacation.

We are here indefinetly

I cannot even explain to you how we are feeling right now. We are stuck here in Bulgaria indefinitely. We have very few options that are safe to do with a child. The news here is advising everyone wanting to get to the U.S. to reroute via Isreal or Asia. Umm...yeah...anyone have the $5,000 needed to do that?

Speaking of money, the hotel is not cheap. But is one of the few places to stay in Bulgaria where they at least speak some English, and are very friendly and helpful. We have been advised to stay put, and register with the US embassy in the morning.

We are currently booked on new flights for Weds, however, those flights will eventually be cancelled. The ash cloud is growing, and moving west towards the ocean we need to fly over, and south toward Sofia where we are. Sofia sits in a valley, and the news said the cloud will sit here "for quite some time". Oh, and the air quality will drop so we'll be stuck INSIDE the hotel.

Have I mentioned we have a small child with us? A newly adopted orphan who is beginning to get comfortable with the two strange women he's living with (and as far as he knows, this is where he will live out the rest of his life! We have no way to tell him otherwise!) and as tension in the room rises, so do his behaviors.

Please pray for us. For our finances. For our patience. For the volcano stop all it's activity. For our husbands who are stuck at home with our children and having to juggle everything. For Dean this means he cannot go to work, or has to drastically adjust his schedule to acommodate having Angela there, and his employer is running out of patience. In the meantime, Angela cannot handle getting bounced around back and forth between her dads and Dean and school. Oh, and of course I'm missing ALL my final exams, and will have to take incompletes until I can get back and get this mess sorted out.

The EARLIEST I will make it home is next week on Friday, and that is a "best case scenario", assuming the volcano stops all activity.

As I mentioned above, tension is running high here. Shelley wants to get home with her son (who is sick, by the way!) and I have my own things. None more important than the other, just two very separate sets of needs.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The plan

Ok, so we don't *really* have a plan, but we have a schedule. Is that the same thing? I dunno!

We're going to try to check into our Sunday morning flight online tomorrow morning. (which is really just a few hours away for us!) and see what happens. If we're going to get stuck somewhere, we'd rather it's in Frankfurt because then it's on the airline's tab, not ours!

Then, later in the morning, we're being picked up by.....ok I forgot the guy's name, but I promise he's very nice! Anyway, he's going to take us around the city so I can get some pictures of a few things I've needed to get some pictures of. It won't be for very long though, because we need to get back here and load up these suitcases again!

Yes, that's right, load up the suitcases. All this stuff needs to be brought to the church where we'll be meeting with the families tomorrow afternoon.

We're very excited about the meeting, and we're also anxious to get home. It's been a long, exhausting couple of weeks, and we're ready for our own beds, and our families. Shelley is ready to get Kullen home so he doesn't think that living in a hotel is what he'll be doing for the rest of his life, and I'm ready to get home to my family and all that life has in store for us over the next few months. That, and my final exams.


Shelley and I are going to drive to Italy, where we can catch a flight from Milan to Rome, then to Atlanta.

Oh yeah, we can't read the road signs to get out of Sophia! Have you SEEN the streets of Sophia!

Oh, and you have to pass a TEST to drive in Europe.

Ok, so it was a good idea with a few flaws.

I never paid attention in high school

Where they heck was I in high school? Why didn't I ever pay attention in Science or geography?

Shelley and I are taking a crash course in Geography. How far can we go by land until we hit water? We can take a train to Spain, but not France because they are having a TRAIN STRIKE! Do you HEAR THAT PEOPLE? A train strike.

We could fly to Africa, which would take us into one of those MIDDLE Eastern countries, and we're pretty sure IRAQ has flights coming and going on a regular basis. Yeah, that sounds like a GREAT PLAN!

If we could go East, through China or Japan, then we could fly into the US via California. I could then honestly say I'd been AROUND THE WORLD!

Can we just start over?

It is 12:00 p.m. here. After spending 4 hours online trying to figure out our "stuck in Bulgaria" crisis, I decided to take a shower. I stink. And we're going out to lunch today.

We have no water. We will have no water until 5:00 at the earliest, and "Don't use it for the first 2 hours because it will be very dirty."



We are requesting a Do-Over.


Ok, we're frantically looking at our flight options, while our travel agent sleeps in the U.S. This is kind of along the lines of self-diagnosing a medical condition on your way to the doctor's office.

We're looking at Japan. Many flights are being rerouted there. Then we'd fly into the US via California. In other words, we would be flying ALL THE WAY AROUND THE WORLD!!!! Not that we care, I'm just say'in.....

So we're looking at articles on various news sites that read, basically, "Depending upon which way the wind blows, flights to Asia will be affected as well."


Or, since Shelley is a military wife, we could find a way to get to some other country and catch a military flight. I say this as we look at a room full of items to be distributed to families, that we need to pack up and get ready to distribute in a way that Shelley and I don't necessarily need to participate in case we can get on a flight earlier than expected.


Shelley and I are scheduled to fly out of Sofia and into Frankfurt on Sunday. However, thanks to the volcano in Iceland, all flights into/out of Frankfurt have been canceled through Saturday. Although Shelley is very anxious to get home with Kullen, there isn't anything pressing on her schedule to put her into panic.

I, on the other hand, am in a different situation. Along with all the other things I do, I'm also a full-time student, and I have finals beginning Monday morning. I would hope that my professors would cut me some slack since Mother Nature is at fault, but I REALLY needed that time on Monday with the math tutors!!! Please say a prayer that our flights can be rerouted or something without delaying me!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Lost in Translation

This is what happens when I'm in charge of going to the lobby and ordering pizza.

First of all, its obvious people don't order pizza here very often. They said (in Bulgarian) that they had a menu- somewhere. After digging for a few minutes they produced the menu, and proceeded to tell me what it said. There was a choice between "XL 12 pieces" and "Baby 6 pieces".


I asked how big the pieces were, but they didn't understand me. When I said we wanted the XL, they gave me that "she just grew 2 more heads!" look. Then one waiter was able to tell me we could do a 1/2 and 1/2 pizza with two different kinds, so I pointed out what we wanted, then they said they'd call when it was ready.

A few minutes later the phone rang, "The pizza place is sending a complimentary bottle of coke. On the house."

I told Shelley, "Either this pizza is really big, or they just don't get pizza orders very often."

It wasn't long before the pizza arrived.'s big! This is on a TWIN BED!

See Shelley's hand at the top of the picture?

Ok, the cost of this pizza, plus complimentary 2 liter bottle of coke, AND the tip, was the equivalent of $20 U.S.!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

We interrupt this program

I haven't gotten the chance to update you all on how Angela is doing lately.

Angela is doing fantastic! While we still have plenty of moments where we scratch our head and wonder where some out of the blue behavior has come from, for the most part, she has made great strides in this area! She is better about expressing her wants and needs in order to avoid a blow up (this is a HUGE step!). Her behavior is far from perfect, but it's definitely improving.

We've been thinking hard, and talking to school staff about future plans. Next year, eighth grade, is Angela's "transition year", when we start planning for what she'll be doing when she gets out of high school. It's good timing, since she's due for her 3 year assessments next year.

So let me backtrack a bit. When Angela was in 1st grade, she missed a lot of stuff due to poor decisions on the part of her special ed teacher at that time. I put her in a different school the following year and had her repeat 1st grade. This turned out to be one of the best decisions I'd ever made for her. She got reinforcement in the basic skills (early reading, math, etc.) and size wise she was still the smallest in the class so that didn't matter.

What holding your child DOES do is cause them to loose a year of transition at the END of their school years. Transition is the time from when the graduate until they turn 21 or 22 (depends upon where their birthday falls.) This is where they really focus on job and life skills for independent living. With Angela's birthday, had she never repeated a grade, she would have two full years of transition training. Some kids are lucky and get almost 3. But, because she repeated a year of school, she will only have ONE year of transition time, which is really NOT enough! My friend's son is just finishing his transition training this spring, and he is NOT ready to move on, because he only got one year.

After talking with several parents who've gone before us, along with school staff, we have made some decisions.

Next year as an 8th grader she'll have her assessments done, then when the year is finished she'll move up to the high school just like she's supposed to. Only she'll be skipping ahead to 10th grade. This won't change one single thing for her as far as her education goes, because she is taught to her level, not the level of her typical peers. It will change which grade level she is connected to ON PAPER, but not which classes she attends, since in high school the classes have students from all different grades anyway. (Does that make sense?) What it DOES do, is have her graduating when she originally should have been, and getting back that year of transition training.

This took us awhile to decide. We had originally talked about doing it THIS year, but she really is not ready to move up to the high school yet. So, skipping grades when she's ready to move up anyway won't put her in a position she's not ready for.

When Angela was little, I never realized how important that transition time from graduation to release from school services was. It seemed so far away, and what's one year anyway? Now that she's older, and we have a good idea where she'll in her ability level, I see how quickly that time passed, AND how crucial those last two years can be for many kids. Some districts will not allow you to move the student back up to where they're supposed to be (which is dumb, considering they're supposed to be taught to their level and it should not affect what they're taught.) We're lucky enough to be in a district we can do stuff like this.

An interesting morning

This morning we met with the Ministry of Justice. Not the department, but THE Minister of Justice and her staff. Her staff are the ones who do all the paperwork for international adoptions in Bulgaria. Any file of child who has been adopted out of Bulgaria has passed through their hands, and the Minister is the one who signs off on them, making the adoption final.

It was interesting to see where they worked, and the conditions in which they work. There are about eight of them, crammed into TINY offices, and out in the hallway are stacks and stacks of files. Each one representing a child somewhere in the international adoption process. While it looks unorganized, I can assure you they know EXACTLY where every file is. It was also interesting to hear their perspective of the process. They got to meet Shelley's new son Kullen, and put a face to the name on the file they'd handled. Kullen worked the crowd well, of course!

Tonight is a CTR night; we'll be having dinner with Tanja who runs the parent support group here. Today her husband is picking up the packages we shipped here, and we'll be bringing them back to the hotel with us to sort for the families we'll be meeting with on Saturday.

Stay tuned for pictures!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Just cuz

I am not a Twilight reader. In fact, I really want nothing to do with the series, but I thought it was cool to see this billboard (taken through a car window while going 90 mph down a Bulgarian interstate!)

just stuff

Last week while we were in Serbia, one of our objectives was to spend some money on behalf of the orphanage we were working with. They really need ear thermometers, so we were off to find a pharmacy that carried them.

In a typical Serbian city like Belgrade, there are "pharmacies" about every 100 yards. Like most shops, they're very small, about 10x15 feet, and they only have a few of each item, but man do they have a lot of stuff crammed into those shops! We were told the thermometers are very expensive and difficult to find, and perhaps we should wait until or friend Jasmina could go along with us to translate, but Shelley and I are determined (and very independent) so we went on a hunt ourselves. Somewhere in there I decided I needed tweezers too. Hmmmmmm

At the first pharmacy we visited, the staff just shook their heads at us, we assume because they couldn't understand our made-up sign language for "ear thermometer" and "tweezers". The second pharmacy was much the same.

Inside the 3rd pharmacy we found several staff, one of which was a young man who spoke a little English. He told the others what we were looking for, and they excitedly scrambled to get the one thermometer they had off a very high shelf. Based on the amount of dust on the box, they don't sell very many of these! Next we tried the tweezers. A staff person came with 3 or 4 pairs in cases, laid out on the palm of her hand. "Perfect!" I said, pointing to them IN GENERAL. I didn't look at the prices, since..well...tweezers would only be a couple of dollars, right?

The woman looked at her co-worker, held up one pair and repeated, "Perfect", and they gave each other a look of "this woman is nuts!" and I knew right away something was up! We managed to fumble through paying for our items and got outside. I took my tweezers out of the bag to check them out.

So yeah, here are my $8.00 gold plated tweezers.

Today we went walking around in search of touristy souvenirs. You know, the kind only tourists buy, like tacky t-shirts with writing you can't understand. Along the way we saw this monestry, which is the largest in the entire Bulcan region. Here's a picture of the outside. As you can see they're in the middle of renovating the building, just like the Basilica in Minneapolis was renovated a few years ago. The inside is MAGNIFICENT, but no photography is allowed in there. Really, my pictures wouldn't have done it justice anyway.

A few blocks away, I noticed this very pretty-and very old-fence, and decided it would be a good chance to play around with my camera bit. As I was taking this picture...

DeeDee, our guide for the day, called my name in a desperate tone of voice. I looked up to see her gesturing kind of insistently to put my camera away. I did, and when I caught up to her she told me this was the Italian embassy, and you're not allowed to photograph embassies, and if you're caught they will confiscate your camera and destroy it!

I put my new toy away.

Here's what I had for dessert tonight

Kullen had one too! We think it's the first he's had ice cream. He seemed to recognize the Bulgarian word for ice cream, (spoken by the waiter who seemed to get a kick out of the fact we couldn't understand, nor talk to, the kid traveling with us!) but when it came down to it, he ate only a few bites of the fruit, and feed the ice cream to his new mama. LOL

And here's my favorite photo from the entire trip so far.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Gotcha day

Yesterday I had to the honor of playing photographer for one of the best births ever! The birth of a child who was once an orphan into his forever family. Go read Shelley's blog for your daily dose of God. (and to see the grin that woke me up at 2:00 a.m.! LOL)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Wide awake: 2:00 a.m.

Tonight (this morning?) I'm wide awake. I'm sure the caffeine I had at 11:00 p.m didn't help much. Since I've been up until 2-3:00 a.m every night, I'm kind of hoping it won't be too difficult to get back on U.S. time when I get home, especially considering I have finals the following day! Speaking of which, if you could please say a prayer for me, I'm really struggling with math right now. I'm having to teach myself the last 2 chapters, and that's what my final exam will be on when I return. My professor volunteered to send me the answer key for those two chapters, yet after emailing him 3 times over the last week I still haven't received anything. That means I can't work backward to figure out what I'm doing wrong. I know he's busy, and he it's not his fault I'm missing 2 weeks of class. I'll just have to figure it out for myself.

Ok...done whining....

The other reason I'm awake is because of the things I wasn't allowed to take pictures of, yet the images are burned in my mind forever. It's like a scar that will never heal, no matter what I do to try healing it. I guess that's what God does when he wants you to do something. He starts a fire to scar your heart so that you'll pay attention to it, never forget it, and keep working to care for it. I'm sure those who are working in Haiti understand what I'm trying to explain, and those who've seen inside the orphanages here in Eastern Europe understand it too.

It is impossible to come to a place like this, and leave the same person you were before. I've known for a long time I needed to come here and see for myself, because I didn't feel I could adequately advocate for these children and families without doing so. Now I have seen, and now I have to do something. There are children who will be dead in a matter of months. There are others who will be subjected to far worse horrors than they've already experienced if they're not adopted soon. How can I walk away knowing that? How can I hold a child in my arms, feel him sink into me, his spirit soaking up the love from my heart like a dry sponge dropped into a sink full of water. It was all I could do to put him down, when what I really wanted to do was run with him, knowing that he's going to die very soon because nobody will save him. It's not because he's sick, it's because nobody wants him. How can that be? How can ANYONE live with that knowledge and not DO something? How can I hold a child, watch her desperate attempts to prove she is worthy of being loved, then just turn my back and pretend I'd never seen her, only to wake up every morning knowing today could be the day she is moved to hell itself?

This is too much knowledge for me. This is more than I wanted to know. Why couldn't I stand back for once, and let someone else get involved? Let someone else fix the problems in a country 1/2 way around the world? Because, God CHOSE me. HE put me here. He put!!! Do you know ME? Those who do are wondering what in the world *I* am doing here. HE took a branding iron that is his call, and pressed it against my heart, searing it...scarring it...making it permanent. The very part of me that makes me who I heart...has been branded by the call of God to do THIS.

Wow...that's a lot to think about. I wonder if I am worthy of this job?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

St. Slavas

This is the church that was our land mark while in Serbia. It's really very beautiful, and the inside, even though it's going through renovations right now, is breathtaking. This is a huge part of their history and culture. And yes, I took this with my FANTASTIC new camera that I am absolutely in love with! In fact all the pictures I've posted from the trip, even those posted on the CTR site, were taken with this camera unless I'm in the picture.

While I'm away

While I'm away, Dean has been in charge of the house. Ok, Dean is always in charge of the house, but-well you know what I mean!

The other day he helped Angela get ready for school, and for the first time ever he put a pony tail in someone's hair. Then tonight on skype (which was yesterday morning for him) he did it again so I could see! Today he took Angela to her swim meet. She was so excited to have her "big guy Dean" taking her. I can't wait to hear how she did. I just wanted to point out that while I'm away Dean has been the best dad EVER, and Angela is thrilled to have him there. We do love our Dean!

He has skyped with me every night, shared some tears with me, and listened to me pour my heart out about some of the things I've experienced in the past week. How it happened that God blessed me with this man, I'll never know, but a blessing he is!

Imagine a different life (repost)

I originally wrote this post a couple of years ago, but feel it's very timely to repost it again, since I'm now sitting in a hotel room in Bulgaria.

Last week I experienced something most never hope to witness in their entire lives-the inside of an orphanage in Eastern Europe. Tomorrow I'll be at another in Bulgaria. The institutions I am visiting are considered "good ones", but still, there are plenty of images I wish were not etched into my memory. Of children bound to their cribs, force feedings, severe isolation. I'd hoped I could come here and tell you the reports I'd read were wild exaggerations, and that Ann Curry's report was sensationalized reporting meant to draw an audience.

I was wrong. They are right. If you haven't read this post before, please do. If you've already read it, please pass it along, then be sure to read my other posts from this week. Please don't turn away because you don't want your heart to hurt. The only way to stop this madness is for more hearts to know the truth.


Imagine you're a newborn baby. Born in a land far different than where you are now. A place where the value of human life is much different than it is in developed countries. Now imagine that you were born with something like Down Syndrome, or something as minor as a hand deformity.

Your parents will be told to send you away, that there is no care for you, and you're going to die anyway. So your parents follow the advice of doctors and bring you to an orphanage. But remember, this is an orphanage in a 3rd world country. You spend your days, weeks, months and years cold, hungry, and without medical care. If you're lucky, there will be one caregiver who takes a liking to you and tries to give you some extra attention each day.

But there's something looming over you. Something that most children in the world celebrate...your 4th birthday. Only for you, this birthday brings a death sentence, because in many of these countries, if you turn 4 and have not been adopted you'll be moved to a mental institution where you are no longer available for adoption. For all intense purposes, to the rest of the world you are dead.

There you well spend your days like this
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You will be straight jacketed in sheets. Why? Because of the intense boredom and lack of human physical contact you will resort to desperate measures, even if it means gouging your own eyes out. The only contact you will get with people is if you're lucky, someone will notice that your sheets are full of urine and feces and decide to change them. You will never see sunshine. You will never smell fresh air, only the overpowering odor of urine and feces from several hundred children just like you crammed into the same building getting the same lack of care. You will likely die within the first couple of years from some terrible illness, severe dehydration, or hypothermia from lack of heat in the decrepit building.

Or perhaps you would be like this little girl. Bound by her wrists for years already, left alone in a state of severe dehydration. TIED TO HER BED!!!!!
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If you don't die within the first couple of years, your body might continue to grow. But don't think it will get you a bigger bed. Instead you'll be forced to spend more years in the same crib, just like these TEENAGERS have been crammed in.
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But it doesn't have to be this way! It doesn't! While governments and organizations like Mental Disability Rights International will have to deal with the indidual countries, there are ways to save these children! Reece's Rainbow is an adoption organization dedicated to rescuing children with Down Syndrome from certain death in these countries. There are many children who are approaching their 4th birthday. While not everyone is in a position to adopt a child, Reece's Rainbow has established a fund for each child to help with the adoption expenses so that nobody can say, "I would do it if I had the money."

Even if you can't adopt a child, can you spare $5, $10 or more so that someone else can? Please...this makes me sick to know these children are dying. Read through the child profiles. You'll find children that have nothing wrong with them other than an eye that needs surery, or a hand that has a mild deformity, yet they have been thrown away. But we can save them!!!!

Satisfying needs

I don't want to sugar coat the images from my trip, but I also want to speak respectfully of those who were gracious enough to allow us to see the reality behind the doors of the institution we visited. If families who have to potential to adopt don't know the reality, they will continue to look the other direction. It's easy to choose to NOT see the truth. Can YOU read this post without looking away? Without turning it off and leaving it for the next person to worry about? This is my challenge to you, to read the entire post, which includes watching the video.

Please watch this interview, then read the rest of the blog.

"M", who I talked about in a previous post, came from this very institution visited by Ann Curry. In fact, "M" spent he first eight years there! But the director of the orphanage saw the news story and was determined to save some of the kids, so she requested some of them be transferred to her care. "M" was lucky enough to be one of those children.

Usually this orphanage can't have children over the age of 7. By that time they're transferred to the mental institutions (similar to where M had just come from). But since many of the children came into her care, they now have several that are nearing 10 years old. That's the age limit...10 years old. "M" is 10 years old.

So what happens next? "M" will be transferred to an institution for "older" children, those considered un-adoptable. Because she is unable to speak, and she is the size of a 4 or 5 year old, she will be incredibly vulnerable to all the horrible things you can possibly imagine a little girl in her position could be subjected to. It won't be long before her spirit dies, and eventually she will loose the will to live. How can can you...sit back and know this will happen? I can't, can you?