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!"

Saturday, March 04, 2023

Still here?

 I’m debating about taking up blogging again. Who is still here to read it? Please raise your hand in the comments! SO MUCH happening in our lives I want to tell you about! 

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

What comes next?

 Adell and I struggle to communicate, but we manage to somehow get our point across. Here is how we do it. She has been waiting and waiting for airplane day, and it’s finally just two sleeps away!

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Learning to Parent, Learning to be a child.


Adopting teens from hard places is hard. So far I have seen nothing that surprises me or that was unexpected. That does not make it less hard. It means, thankfully, I have to tools in my toolkit to address what is presented to me. It is still mentally exhausting. 

When a child is bounced from one foster home to the next, sometimes it happens the child becomes very ….indulged. The foster families know it is a temporary placement, and don’t want to use their energy in the constant battle, when the child is just going to leave days or weeks later only to start all over again. This creates a child who knows how to get their way. It also means as the newly adoptive parent, you need to decide how and when you’re going to address the behaviors that an overly indulged child with display when they don’t get what they want. 

Especially in public places. 

Because the other part of kids who have gone through some of these experiences is extreme attention-seeking behaviors. These can come in many forms, from indiscriminate affection, to overt property destruction, running away, etc. Also, playing up the tears for new people or in public spaces.  

On my first trip here it was evident on the first day I would need to be addressing some behaviors related to over indulgence. Demanding things in stores, never being told “no”, getting upset when one does not get what they want because instead of saying no the adults just attempted to ignore, demanding certain foods when there is no such food available, etc. I saw it many times. I was prepared. 

But every adoption is different, and one can only be so prepared. I forgot to prepare myself for the feelings that come up when an overly indulged child, who is an attention seeker, doesn’t get her way in a very public space…like a crowded park. And how it feels to have all eyes turned toward you, the English speaking American, when the now FAKE sobbing child is screaming in Bulgarian, looking to make sure people see her, while you try to propel her away from the very crowded space. Or how it feels to be followed by people who don’t speak your language but want to make sure the screaming teenager is safe, and they’re not sure what to do or  how to make sure she is. Then, as we reach our quiet neighborhood, and the waterworks are switched off and the overly indulged child is now laughing at you and mimicking your made face, while now demanding to stop for Pizza at the corner shop. And as frustrated as you are with the child, you have to remind yourself this is not her fault. That while she is definitely choosing to push buttons, and there are absolutely consequences involved to teach what is/is not acceptable, it does not erase the fact she was taught to behave this way. 

I forget to prepare myself for that. 

Two more sleeps. Two more sleeps. Two more sleeps. 

Two Sleeps

 Our time in Bulgaria is coming to an end. 

Our sweet girl will be saying goodbye to her country of birth. Her home. Her language. Her everything. It is a bittersweet time, for sure. Like we did and continue to do with our Serbian and Ukrainian born kids, we will do our best to keep her culture part of her life. Personally I’m thankful many of the major holidays in the two countries are very similar, if not the same. 

Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, is a beautiful city in the foothills of Vitosha Mountain, with the Cherni Vrah  (which means “Black Peak”) visible from most of the city. This is the National Palace of Culture with Vitosha Mountain in the background. The apartment I rented is just out of the frame to the left. We arrived here with the spring season. When I got here everything was still dark and dingy. In a few days the trees blossomed and leaves exploded. The park at the National Palace of Culture is teaming with people when the weather is nice! Here your can rent little battery operated cars for the kids, or bikes and scooters. It is a busy place as everyone embraces the outdoors! (Credit google images)

At the end of the Palace of Culture is Vitosha Boulevard. At 1.7 miles long, it is a pedestrian shopping area, and the worlds 22nd most expensive trade street. There is everything under the sun to be purchased here, lots of food to eat, and entertainment as well. It is VERY busy on nice days, and my little fashionista loves to window shop! Because it is so close, we usually walk there to find lunch or dinner. It is one of my favorite places because it’s so easy. You can rent a beautiful AirBnB right on the boulevard for $50 usd a night. 

One cannot visit Sofia without visiting the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. Here is a picture of it at night, lifted (credit Google images)

Tomorrow we will get our Covid PCR test, the come back and clean the apartment and pack. Adell will be SO excited that airplane day has finally arrived! Friday morning we’ll be picked up at 4:30 am for our 7:00 am flight to Amsterdam, then on to Minneapolis. Girl, your life is about to change even more. Hang in there, Mamo and Tate will be by your side for all of it. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Two weeks in Bulgaria

 So, how does a parent spend two weeks in Bulgaria with their newly adopted child, especially when the child is a teenager who is VERY active and really needs to keep moving all day. We have averaged 6-8 miles of walking every day, that’s how! On rainy days we’re stuck in the apartment doing creative activities. 

First, we work together on understanding one another’s language. I brushed up on some of my survival words, plus learned many others. Adell learned some of the names of items along with the ASL sign for them. We. Have found sign to be a very good bridge between being able to say the English words, and Bulgarian. Some of the spoken sounds do not cross from one language to the other, and her Bulgarian speech is difficult for Bulgarian speakers to understand. 

I use several different speech therapy apps, along with writing apps to help the kids learn the English words, as well as written letters. Adell is used to Cyrillic, but in that she was only able to write her name, and copy a few words. Someone taught her how to write her new name in English capital letters, so we’re relearning a little bit, but she is doing great! She loves to write her new name, and often takes pen and paper and writes it hundreds of times. 

We have gone to the Sofia zoo.

We’ve done lots of cutting with scissors!

We have been to famous places.

We’ve shared many meals together learning, learning a few basic manners that have never been demonstrated before.

We have done Barbie’s hair 16,026 times. 

We went to a trampoline park. She did not care for the trampolines but loved the climbing walls!

We have tried some of Mom’s cooking! French Toast for the win! 

Peanut butter and Banana sandwiches. When I first put it on the table she was very unsure. Once she tried a couple of bites she gobbled it up. Another day she had apple sauce for the first time. Again, very unsure about trying it but once she did she asked for more. 

 Messed around with some silly apps.

Went to beautiful parks where all the trees are in full bloom! 

 Took walks that were only supposed to be a mile or so, but ended up being MUCH longer! Thankfully Adell is used to walking everywhere. She is a very busy young lady so I tried to keep us moving every day.


Watched Signing Time videos. 

This girl loves to clean!! We have 2 1/2 sleeps left here (I say half because we’re getting picked up at 4:30 am for our 7:00 am flight.) 

While it may look like this was like a vacation, I can assure it it was not! Adell is a child who has suffered multiple traumas in her lifetime, and has well-developed survival skills in her tool belt because of that. These are displayed by very controlling behavior, some sneakiness, and a few other things, all mixed up with LOTS of stress and additional trauma, teenage hormones and attitude, with some cognitive and developmental impairments mixed in. 

I made the mistake one day of putting some things we don’t need into a suitcase. Adell got very excited and started packing everything, repeating “airplane, airplane!”. She was so confused. She was SURE it was finally airplane day!!! I downloaded a kids calendar app that allowed me to put pictures on it, and we can check off the days. She seems to understand now that airplane day is coming, but not soon enough for her! 

Monday, April 11, 2022

Pick Up Trip

 On February 18, 2022, in a court room in Sofia, Bulgaria, Adell Nesil became our daughter! The most difficult wait in our entire Bulgarian process started on that day as well. That’s when we started waiting for an invite to travel.

Our wait for an invite to travel was extended a bit due to our new daughter’s age and the US requirement that she receive the full Covid vaccine series. Being “fully vaccinated” for Covid means two weeks following the second shot. 

Finally, I was invited to arrive in Bulgaria on April 2nd. So exciting! We had three weeks notice, so I spent that time getting her new room completed. Most of the things I had purchased over the previous year, and now it was finally time to put it all together! 

Counting all those sleeps was so hard, but I knew it was even more difficult for our daughter.  For the past few months we had been having video visits on a regular basis, and every visit she wanted to know when is airplane day. Airplane Mommo! Airplane! We were so excited to tell her there was finally a date! 

After an uneventful travel day, I arrived in Sofia on April 2nd. The next day my NGO representative and I made the 5 1/2 hour drive to the city of Shumen where our daughter lived with her foster family. Shumen is a beautiful old city, and I was glad to be back. We checked into our hotel and had dinner. We then made plans to meet for breakfast then pick up our daughter! Oh the excitement! I didn’t sleep even a minute that night. 

The next morning was a blur. We were just a few blocks from the Center for Social Care. We walked into the familiar building I had visited so many times back in November. I quickly connected with Dean on FaceTime . He was so happy to see and  hear her screams of delight when she saw me come up the stairs. It was such a great moment! The only picture I have is a screen shot. This is Adell, saying, “Tati!!! Tati Mommo!!!”

My returning to Bulgaria for Adell is likely one of the few, if not the first, times someone has kept a promise to her. I cannot tell her whole story, but I can tell you the system did her wrong. She should not have waited until 14 1/2 years old to be adopted. But guess what! This time I was able to show her Mom keeps her promises! Mom came back just like I said I would! 

We took a quick round of pictures with the important people in her life: foster family and social worker. The only tears shed that day were mine. My tears were for all the things she was leaving behind: Her past, her language, everything familiar to her, and knowing how difficult the next few months (years) will be for her. My tears were also because this was too easy for her. She was all excitement, with no hesitation. This is no surprise, as Adell had no attachments to them, nor they to her. While she was very excited to see me, she was more excited about that whole airplane prospect. She was more excited to see what gifts I had brought. She was more excited to climb into a car with total strangers and drive away. Because in her lifetime she had driven away with lots of strangers, so this was no different except the woman everyone was calling “mom” didn’t know how to talk, and was speaking gibberish. 

The drive back to Sofia seemed to take forever. I am very glad I thought to bring an iPad and headphones along. Adell spent most of the drive making videos and playing children’s games. Unfortunately staring at an ipad while we drove some windy mountain roads wasn’t the best idea. 

We took several rest breaks, but missed my favorite road-side food stand. Once back in Sofia we stopped and got Adell’s passport taken care of, then were dropped back at the apartment I had rented. When we walked in, Adell looked around, and found the second bedroom. Then she looked at me completely confused. “Mommo!” She said, pointing to the bed, then to my phone. She managed to tell me to open my pictures. She found the picture of her new room waiting at home.  THIS was NOT the room in the picture! Oh sweet one. I had no way to tell her we would get there. We had two full weeks to wait, but we would eventually get on that plane and fly away. 

Two full weeks to get to know one another without any of the other kids. 1:1 time as new mother and daughter. Time to start the learning process of what makes each other tick, where are our vulnerabilities, and our limits. Time to really get to know who we’re going to spend the rest of our lives with. Now to start counting sleeps again until we go home. 

Thursday, April 07, 2022

The Waiting Game

 During the process to adopt from Bulgaria there are lots of steps that require waiting. It feels like you’re always waiting for something! 

1) Homestudy. This can take anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months. Ours was estimated to be 6 months but Bulgarian gives a time limit once you’ve made a request. So, since we had not yet started our homestudy we needed to pay a fee to expedite the process. This increases the cost of the homestudy significantly. My suggestion is to have your homestudy mostly done before making a request for a specific child. 

2) i800a: This must be applied for once the homestudy is completed. It is an application to the USCIS (US Immigration) to be approved to adopt a child from a Hague convention Country. This usually takes about a month, but I have seen it take three months. What you hope is you don’t get a dreaded pink slip called an RFE (Request for Evidence) In our case, we received one, for something they already had in their possession. This is quite common. Still, our process took about 4 weeks so not too bad. 

3) Ship your dossier! This is a big step! You have just spent the last 6-9 months gathering MANY  documents, getting each of them notarized (state) and apostilled (that is a federal notary to certify the first state notary is actually an actual authorized state notary) Sending off your dossier is a little scary! Those documents cost a lot of money to gather and authenticate, and you just put them in an envelope to make their way to Bulgaria! In our case we send the to our agency who sends them on to Bulgaria. 

4) Get an approval and invitation to travel!! That is trip one and scheduled just a few weeks out at this point. That’s the post you read prior to this. 

5) i800: This form is to determine the chosen child’s eligibility for classification as an adoptee according to The Hague convention. In other words, the child is legally available for adoption.  Some families submit this prior to traveling on their first trip, while others submit it after the trip. Our agency has us submit after the first trip. This process takes about a month. It approval comes with a magic number that is then submitted to the Bulgarian authorities verifying all steps have been completed. Lots of cross checking going on here!

6) Submit to the Ministry of Justic (MOJ) in Bulgaria and wait for them to review your case, give final approval, and allow a court date to be issued. This can take one week or six. Nobody really knows. 

7) Get assigned a court date! Some families find out one day prior that court is happening in Bulgaria. Personally we had a one week notice. 

8) Court!!!!! The court date to finalize the adoption happens while you are home. Our court date was February 18, 2022. Our daughter legally became ours that day! Her name is now Adell! Her Bulgarian name was kept as her middle name, and she has my last name. 

9) One week wait: The court has a one week waiting period before the adoption decree is signed and issued. Once that is done a new birth certificate can be issued and everything starts to move pretty fast. Except for us!

10) Receive a travel date. This usually happens a week or so after court. In our case, due to Adell’s age of 14 she was required to have a two-shot Covid vaccine series. It took a bit, for this to happen. While other families are able to travel 2-3 weeks after court, we had to wait until three weeks after she’d had her first shot and was read any for her second. 

11) Pick up trip!!! TIME TO GO GET YOUR KID!!!! 

Next post: Pick up trip!!!! 

 November 2021: Trip 1

Adopting from Bulgaria is a long process, made longer when the potential adoptive parent drags their feet getting things done. That was me. During pre-pandemic times, Bulgaria was a two-trip process, requiring one parent to travel to Bulgaria twice. The first trip is to meet the child, spend a week getting to know them, and determine if you will accept or refuse the referral. Due to the pandemic many families were required have a virtual first trip. However, families adopting older children could choose to do in-person, and parents adopting teens were often required to do first trip, as teens have the ability to say yes or no to the adoption. In our case, because our potential daughter has cognitive delays we opted to do an in-person trip. We wanted to make sure our new girl would fit into our family and there were no red flags that would put our other kids at risk. 

Upon receiving our official referral, we had sent a book I made that told a bit about our family in a way she could understand. Pictures of our kids living at home, our pets, the bedroom she would have, pictures of our school, etc. 

In November 2021 I traveled to Bulgaria to meet our daughter. My good friend Brigitte came along to keep my company. (Also, we laugh a lot, which is a good way to relieve stress!!) 

We first flew into Sofia, Bulgaria. The next day we made the 5 hour drive to the city of Shumen where our potential daughter was in foster care. We checked into a hotel for the week, and the next morning I would meet her for the first time! I didn’t sleep even one minute that night, so excited for our meeting!!! I had so many questions running through my mind, wondering about her needs, her potential behaviors, does she actually WANT a mother? (Because she is old enough to say no.)  Stuff like that. 

That first night in the hotel I didn’t not sleep even one minute! Pretty sure I kept Brigitte up all night with my tossing and turning. FINALLY it was time to get UP, eat breakfast and go! 

We walked just a couple blocks down the street, into a building, up a flight of steps and…THERE SHE WAS!!! 

She recognized me from the book we had sent, and she threw her arms around me. “MOMMO!!!!! She yelled! This is the first picture of us together. 

Now, if you are unfamiliar with adoptions, you will think, “Oh wow! So sweet she was excited to see you!”. Yeah, no. My first thought was, “Ok then! Indiscriminate affection? Check! Zero attachment to foster family? Check! Then ask she dragged me around the room and bossed around the other adults, “Must be in control of the situation at all times? Check!”

You see, these are all the survival skills of a child who has been abandoned multiple times, has never felt safe developing attachments (and likely will struggle with this through her adult life.) and who is looking for the next caregiver in what has been a line of many who have walked out of her life. 

And we said yes. To all of it. Because in the end I saw nothing surprising, nothing that we haven’t already dealt with, and nothing that raised red flags that would put our other kids at risk. 

Developmentally she is around 5 years old. As an English speaker who does not understand Bulgarian she sounds like she is chattering away.  I had to rely on our translator/NGO rep to let me know what she was actually saying in actual words. I learned most people in Bulgaria cannot understand her, or understand only very little of what she is saying. She only has approximately 30 words and many of those are difficult to understand. 

Over the course of the week we had some fun adventures getting to know one another. One day we walked to the top of Founders of the Bulgarian State Monument, which was built in 1981 to commemorate 1300 years of Bulgaria, and is 1300 steps up to the top of Ilchov Bair Hill in Shumen Plateau Nature Park. Let me tell you, that is A LOT of steps up a VERY steep hill!!! Our girl trotted all the way up while we adults just tried to keep breathing in and out. Pictures of me were taken by our girl. 

 then it was time to go home. One of my tasks during the week was deciding if she would have a new name or keep her own. Dean and I had discussed names a lot, the pros and cons of giving her another “A” name to fit with our other kids, or just keeping her Bulgarian name. We had decided to wait and see where she was at cognitively, and if she understood what it meant to get a new name. On my very first visit she turned and asked her social worker a question. It took them a bit to decipher what she was asking, but it came down to, “What will my new name be?”  This was Monday, and I had until Weds to decide. 

On Tuesday evening I was kind of a mess about the name thing. By this time Dean and I were down to one name chosen by us, and her Bulgarian name. My friend Brigitte and I were walking, and talking, discussing all the options as I had with Dean. I just didn’t know what was right. All of a sudden I looked up, and we were standing beneath a Bulgarian jewelry store. The name of the store was a name Dean and I had chosen, with a slightly different spelling. I called Dean and we agreed this was exactly what her first  name would be. (We later found out this is a family middle name on Dean’s side.)

The next day I had to sign the forms to accept her referral, to proceed with the adoption, and to apply for her new birth certificate once the adoption was final. Together she and I made several pieces of jewelry with her full name on them (first, middle, last) which she was very proud of. She showed them off to everyone. The next morning (Thursday) she was practicing saying her name and introducing herself to people with her new name. I asked her social worker who assured me, she was genuinely excited about her new name. 

Next up….the waiting game!