Sunday, November 29, 2015

Those first few months...

If you were to ask Jeremy and I what the first few weeks with Mimi were like, I'm not sure we could answer.  I don't remember all that much and neither does he.  Everything was a bit of a fog.

According to my notes...

 Mimi slept until 5am her first morning home. I consider that quite the victory since she only slept about an hour in a 24-hour period. . The kids meeting was very laid back and lack luster. I don't mean that in a negative way, just in an honest way.  AJ looked at her oddly, as if to say, "Wait! You belong in my iPad!" 

AJ went to school the two days following Mimi's arrival, which left the kids seeing each other very briefly both days. That was a smart move. It only took one day for her to achieve comfort with the dogs. She was exploring them Thursday morning and by Thursday night she was feeding them treats and giggling. 

She did so well its hard to grasp. Truly. Our first weekend has offered ample opportunity for the kids to get to know one another. It was so fun and joyful to watch. And, very interesting. Seeing them together makes me cry tears of sweet joy. Every time. By the end of the weekend Mimi was following AJ everywhere.  

Breakfast is her biggest meal of the day, which is throwing me for a loop because AJ's is dinner. She alternates between her booster and the regular chair...she wants to be like all of us and sit on the regular chair. Her eating overall has tapered off and she's not so hyper about water, food dropping, or moving food away. Thank you Jesus.

I was going to write so much more, but my brain is fog and mush and all things I can't remember.
We are still fighting sickness, if you would pray, please. As of last night Mimi is on our timezone, but we are still completely exhausted trying to mind these two crazies.

What I remember from that period of time is binge-watching the entire Duck Dynasty series, people bringing delicious meals, some terrible post-flight vertigo (which I've never had before), and Jeremy and I rotating sleeping. During those first two weeks Mimi had a lot of trouble going back to sleep when she woke during the middle of the night.

Christmas was amazing for many, many reasons. A secret Santa blessed our family with gifts.  I will never forget that feeling of love and such generosity. It wasn't about the gifts, it was about the thought and love that poured into our hearts.  

I remember sitting on the couch on New Year's Eve reflecting on such an incredible year.  An incredible journey. I also remember feeling intense emotions ranging from sadness, joy, guilt, worry, relief,and disbelief.

We didn't go into details about how AJ really did while we were gone.  The answer?  HORR.I.BLE.
There was a brief honeymoon period when we arrived home, but it didn't last long. The first night home he crawled into bed with me, got as close to me as possible, and passed out.  He has never done that in the seven years he's been home.  He didn't move all night.  He had missed us so terribly and was physically in terrible shape with all of that stress. While we were gone he did not eat, barely slept, and did not attend school.  All he wanted to do was lay in a bed and roll. Either that or he was lashing out at my poor mother-in-law (Bless her). While we were in country I had the hardest time Skyping, seeing him suffer in our absence was unbearable.  Do I sound over dramatic?  Probably.  But was I?  No.  This was real and raw and I was literally 5,000 miles away. He had done SO well during our visit trip, this was completely unexpected. 

When Mimi came home we knew we'd have some sibling issues.  AJ had been the only child for a very long time. But we didn't expect what was happening.  I had regular contact with our home study agency social worker very regularly.  First, bringing home a toddler. Bringing home a toddler is NO.JOKE. AJ came home at 13 months, but was basically a newborn.  This was two totally different worlds. Not only in age, but in so.many.other.ways. Mimi can HEAR.  In fact, her hearing is her strongest sense. No more vacuuming or using the blender at night. Mimi can TALK.  Oh this one was really hard to get used to.  You just don't even know. While her appetite, panic over dropping food and food moving away from her decreased initially, it lasted for over two months. She hated being held for long periods of time and refused to let me rock her. She hated the word NO and screamed bloody murder uncontrollably for a long, long time. She was a favorite at the orphanage.  And while there are SOOOO many blessings to that, it also comes with some hefty challenges.  She had no boundaries and hated the word no. This, paired with her strong fighter spirit was...challenging.

AJ began to go after Mimi.  It was borderline violent. I hate that word, but we were scared. This was not normal, and we knew it.  No matter how we were dumbed-down and assured this was a phase, it was not.  It was suggested that we keep AJ and Mimi apart.  If they were together we were to monitor them with close supervision.  AJ was struggling in school, his behaviors were out of control and he wasn't sleeping.  All of this was happening as we were trying to adjust to being a new family of four.  It was too much. I wrote about AJ's 2014 here 

Whiplash from sweet to sour was happening daily. 

All of this hardship was paired with some intensely sweet moments. We never expected to attend church so soon with our girl.  We never expected Christmas to go so smoothly.  We never expected to be exploring another diagnosis for our son in such expectation. Balancing two children with very different, but very intense needs was beyond me. I felt ill-equipped, exhausted, and guilty.

Mimi liked to be busy and play, play, play.  Watching her discover things was an amazing privilege...and still is. In her first few months home we gained a basic knowledge of her eyesight and saw her blossom into beautiful little girl.  It wasn't until our first post-placement report (we have to send four reports to Bulgaria on her progress now that she's home) that I noticed something.  She really didn't smile the first month or so we brought her home.  I mean, at all.  She still had that blank orphan stare.  That, "I don't trust you and what is happening to me, I'm skeptical of everything right now" look. Oh how things changed....

Pictures remind me of moments, places, and events that happened during those foggy months. I can't say much more other than I'm so thankful we are where we are today.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Coming Home...Day 10-Traveling Home {A Reflection}

{Day 10-Traveling Home-December 10, 2014}

The day that went on forever!

Mimi must have sensed we were leaving because she woke rather quickly after hearing us awake and quietly milling around. We left the hotel at 4:30am. Our hotel was so sweet they packed "to-go breakfasts" for us.

When we checked in at the airport there was a small snafu-it seems only Mimi was listed as flying through to Milwaukee while Jeremy and I were listed through Minneapolis only. Wait, what? They fixed it and we moved on to security, where we both found ourselves sweating. 

The first flight was horrible. HOR.RI.BLE. The end. No really. I had terrible anxiety and didn't feel well at all. Mimi screamed the moment we put her seat belt on and didn't stop except for about 10 minutes of the flight.  She was TERRIFIED. We were strangers, she was in a strange place, a strange space, and was confined.  

10 minutes of sleep on the first flight

We had a six and a half hour layover in Amsterdam. Ufta. We did everything we could to keep her entertained.  We both took turns wheeling her around and the other resting. We made a lot of trips to the bathroom for diaper changes. 

The long flight was pretty much a dream. Other than being lonnnnng, she really did an incredible job. We liked Delta A LOT. We were seated toward the back of the plane where it narrows, so the back middle only had 3 seats for the last few rows. It was fantastic. She really did an INCREDIBLE job on that flight. She only slept for 20 minutes a crack twice, as it was hard for her to get comfortable and the second time another baby woke her up with his crying. We all had crying kiddos that took turns. At least they took turns.

smile emoticon The flight attendants on that flight were the NICEST and most experienced. She had one meltdown, because she was tired, and the flight attendant asked if I'd like a cool rag. Cool rags are AWESOME. It settled her right now and she eventally tipped over onto the pillow we had strategically placed on daddy's arm smile emoticon She usually tips rightsmile emoticon

 Let's Go!
 Nap #1
 Mimi with the hippo Daddy bought her at the airport in Bulgaria

Minneapolis was a dream as well. We were the last ones through immigration and customs and made our flight with ease with 10 minutes to spare. When we boarded for Milwaukee, Mimi was asleep 3 seconds after she sat down in her middle seat. And she slept the whole flight! We didn't know what to do! 

She woke when we landed, even though she didn't want to. We had a a few peeps greet us at the airport and help us load everything in the car. We arrived home last night to balloons and streamers, and margaritas. Rock ON.

Mimi did really well when we got home until the dogs came inside. She was a bit freaked out, and rightfully so. I know she had loud dogs across the orphanage, but I doubt she's ever seen or touched a real dog. 
We introduced her to her room, specifically to her rocking chair and bed, to which she gravitated toward the rocking chair. She rocked for a while, then asked for pjs and climbed into bed. 

 First time in a carseat!
 Walking into her new home!
 Three generations!
 Finally in her room!
 Discovering her rocking chair!


By the time I folded and sat on the floor, which took 1.5 seconds, she was asleep. We couldn't have asked for more. She was one tired cookie. We are SO glad to be home...thank you for all of your prayers and well wishes!!!

Coming Home...Day 9 {A Reflection}

I know. It's another picture of her sleeping. I can't help myself.

She had a hard time going down for a nap today despite being completely exhausted. I'm not sure why. She has this cry that is so, so desperate. Desperate even though I am right next to her. It hurts my mama heart. 
But it's not about me, it's about her.

She did let me rock her for about a minute and snuggled into my shoulder-which is the first time she's ever come in instead of keeping a safe distance or pushing out while being held. Progress.
She'll wake up, well go down for lunch and all will be right with the world. For a little bit at least....
Yesterday we were informed of a little snafu regarding Mimi's visa.  Jeremy had to take a taxi alone to the US Embassy and pick up the visa himself.  This was not in the plan.  I kept Mimi busy while we played by the windows in our room (her favorite spot) and watched impatiently for the cab # to approach the hotel.  I never saw it.  What ensued was a full on panic attack from me wondering what in the world we were going to do.  My mind was on fast-forward. If Jeremy didn't pick up her visa we wouldn't be able to fly home....After a slew of messages flying back and forth, our guide assured me Jeremy was in the cab and on the way to the Embassy.  He had just talked to the cab driver.  Mimi wasn't sure what I was doing with all my sobbing. I was just so ready to get home and scared this was going to deter us from doing so.  I turned on some music in attempt to distract my emotions and listened to "King of My Heart" by Love & Outcome.
"You.are. bigger than any battle I'm facing...You.are.You.are..."

Skyping with her Big Bro AJ

Jeremy arrived about an hour later with Mimi's visa. I burst into tears the moment I saw him.
Last Sleep in Her Home Country

We are ready to come home.

Coming Home...Day 8 {A Reflection}

{Day 8}

Today was yet another rainy, cold day. We stayed in until our US Embassy appointment this afternoon. I have never been so excited to see those words--Unites States. Woooo. 
Mimster in Red
Ready for her US Embassy appointment

The interview was quick and painless and there were only three other families there today. It was a breath of fresh air to see other families-one we had met our first day with our children at the passport office. We were expecting chaos at the Embassy so we were relieved when it was rather laid back. Mimi did remarkably well.
Something happens when former orphans are together-they all begin to play off one another. She let out a shriek, and two other kiddos copied her and vice versa. She watches other adults and children very closely, especially children.
She was minorly stressed on the car-ride home, partly because she was tired and hungry. She started whining at me instead of asking for more of her snack. Its the little things I see in her. When we are in unfamiliar places, she reverts to her fight skills. We're making quite an impression ,as they have certainly decreased, but the Momma in me still is saddened when I see her in that mode. Keeping things consistent for her have helped. For example, she insists on having her shoes on all the time unless its bedtime or she's bathing. She freaked when we got ready to go to the Embassy today because her coat was on but not yet zippered. We make sure her morning snack is always cake/bread like it was at the orphanage.
Familiar paired with love and consistency is a beautiful combination. 

Today she climbed in bed with us for her nap. heart emoticon
"Addiba" is still around, although she calls both of us that, so we think its morphed into more of a generic reference for who is taking care of her. Still, we do the chant and she's good to go.
Yesterday we Skyped and Facetimed a lot and it did our hearts SUCH good. Mimi is quite the riot and loves Skyping. Its a trip to watch her run from wherever when she hears the Skype "beeping" during a call being made.  

We are over.the.MOON excited that tomorrow is our last day here. Both Mimi and I are feeling better. Thank you SO much for your prayers. And praise Jesus for finding cough drops in the candy section at the store...
We pick up Mimi's VISA tomorrow and then just twelve hours later we'll be bustin' outta here! Can you believe it? 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Coming Home...Day 7 {A Reflection}

{Day 7}

Tonight's post won't be a long one, but it is certainly full of many, many emotions. It's been 18 months since that day the call came about "two-year-old Maria". Tonight she is sleeping inches from us. Tonight she got out if bed several times and came to us to make sure we were here.
We had absolutely no idea how we would get from that point to this point. But WE DID. WE. Mimi's army of love. You all have made this possible and we will always, always be grateful. The miracles that have happened during this process? Unmistakable.
I cannot get enough photos of her sleeping. She's really here. We're really here. Together. 

Coming Home...Day 6 {A Reflection}

{Day 6}

Day 6
Very much a day of
Day 6? Already?
Only Day 6? Really?
We are utterly exhausted.
She woke up this morning and was very skeptical-until she saw her stocking from St. Nick. She was really excited about that.

After breakfast this morning Mimi had a rough time. This is not surprising as she's fighting a slight stuffy nose and isn't quite herself. We all napped until 2.

 Miss Independent

It rained all day here. We played and played by our suite window. It made me feel like we were outside. With both she and I under the weather, we were not going out. I did see a slice of blue sky for a bit this afternoon.

In good/sombering news we've found Addiba.
I received an email back from Mimi's orphanage stating that they were stumped too until she called Mimi's teacher and asked. The kids call her Ali and add in the -ba as it is a way to greet someone here. Mimi's d and l sounds are's Aliba, not Addiba.
She's calling for her teacher.
It's usually during routine things, dressing, bathing, etc. she's calling our for her like she's in the next room.
Now that we know, I chatted with our social worker in WI to brainstorm how we can handle this. We do our chant (Mama ok, Daddy ok, Mimi ok) and when she calls out I remind her in Bulgarian that we said "ciao ciao" to Aliba.
She's not stressed about it so far which is a blessing. Being under the weather I'm sure she wanted her more today.
I am so thankful for then translation apps on my phone. Every day I'm looking for new words and feel like a champion when I nail it and she responds.
We are very ready to come home. Both she and I are slightly better today, so hooray for that. Hoping some sleep will help us feel even better. Nighty night everyone...

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