Saturday, November 16, 2013

17 weeks of Together

Wow, 17 weeks together!  That is more than a quarter of a year!  Yay!

We finished up a majority of our previously scheduled medical appointments in September and have spent October and the beginning of November mostly enjoying a breather and bonding.  Everyday life feels good with the occasional days that seem like setbacks, but God continues to return on His promise to sustain and bless us.

And this post is going to be a lot like the last.  A little long-winded indeed.


M had her G-tube placed in September.  The surgery went well and we are loving the simplification that the G-tube has brought to our lives.  After dealing with ng tube for 2 months, we were overdo for a break!  M can now get anything in her tube with little concern in clogging it.  Since it requires less fluid we are able to supply more calorie rich blends for the same amount of volume.

 As far as eating by mouth, we continue to work at it. There are several different approaches that have been suggested to us for increasing her willingness to eat.  The first, keep working on tastes and developing her palate.  The second, increase her tolerance of textures.  The third, work on having her touch her food and moving to having her feed herself.  It can be discouraging because any of these can overwhelm her and lead to a very unsuccessful feeding episode.  The foods that she will sometimes tolerate are plums, yogurt, and bananas.  All are pureed and we work to add in new flavors by blending.  Any texture is very upsetting for her.   We are working to have her use a sippy cup.  I try to remember that we have a G-tube, and therefore, we have lots of time to work towards eating, but darn it, sometimes I just want my child that used to eat enough to sustain herself, to want to eat with us and love it!


While M was under anesthesia for her G-tube placement, the anesthesiologist noticed M's teeth.  She actually stepped away for a moment to have me paged back to the surgical center.  When I got on the phone with her, she asked if I had "any idea how bad her teeth were?" She clarified that she specialized in dental anesthesia during college and said that they are horrendous and appeared that they would be the cause for the eating problems we were experiencing.  I told her we suspected that they were bad, we had seen the dental clinic at the hospital, and were scheduled for dental surgery about four weeks later.  She was glad we were on it, but again, reiterated that her eating problems were going to lessened after the dental work.

 M ended up having three abscessed teeth all in the front that were pulled, one cavity filled, one cap placed, and sealant over all the teeth.  Those three abscessed teeth must have been tremendously painful and would explain her reactions after every single bite.  Her adult teeth are all set to come in (one is now visible after one of her baby teeth became loose and mama "helped" her pull it out) and appear to be well-formed.  Another Yay!


 M was assessed at being developmentally at a nine month level.   She can sit up, although still prefers to lay on her back or side.  She can crawl much farther now than when she came home.  She can sit at a toy in high kneeling with or without steadying herself with her hands.  She is making consonant and vowel sounds, but is not combining them.  Her eye contact has greatly improved and she smiles more frequently. 

M has been diagnosed as hypoactive; her response to stimuli is often to shutdown, becoming less responsive.  Most families seem to be dealing with hyperactive responses to stimuli, requiring a method for calming their institutionalized child down.  Either way requires work to achieve appropriate responses.  One effect of her institutionalization is tactile defensiveness.  Touch on her hands and feet are especially upsetting to her and will cause her to withdrawl.  As an example, she would crawl with her hands in loose fists to prevent her finger tips from touching the floor for the first 2 months she was home, and now only on unfamiliar surfaces.  Progressing beyond a nine month level will require touching cause and effect toys, using her hands to pull herself to stand, feeding herself, etc.

So to that end, we chose to begin Occupational Therapy first.  In October we had our first weekly appointment.  We are learning techniques to condition her hands and feet to normal use, and other elements of sensory input to increase body awareness (proprioceptive sense).  If M is crawling and is trying to fit between a narrow space she may catch her knee on something and not know why she can't crawl any further, when all she would need is to move her knee inwards by an inch or two and she would be able to continue.  This is what I mean by body awareness. 

In December we will begin physical therapy.  And speech therapy is on the horizon at some point.
Halloween 2013
"Back to the Future" with Marty, Doc Brown, & Jennifer


Well, all improvements in this area have been subtle.  About five weeks ago, M laid her head down on my shoulder for the first time!  She actually was relaxed and snuggling.   I hadn't even noticed that it had never happened before, until it happened!  She has started allowing her hand to rest on my arm or hand while I'm carrying her.  During therapy sessions and hospital visits, she looks to me to "rescue" her.  We've been cosleeping for bonding since the beginning, and she is now trying to occasionally lay close.

Our instinct with M is to hold and cuddle her as much as possible to form a connection.  While she is gesturing to be picked up more frequently, she definitely doesn't want held for long. Maybe she is bored or she doesn't like the touch or pressure of being held; whatever, it is hard to breakthrough her exterior and get to the little girl. Gotta work for those smiles, giggles, and snuggles!


M had her MRI performed. It came back completely normal! The malnutrition has not affected her brain in a physical sense.  Unfortunately, her seizure activity has continued increasing since coming home.  The first 4 weeks we were home, we didn't see any seizures.  Then we were witnessing at least one a week.   The neurologist responded by adding another medication to her regime.  M is now taking Depakote and Lamictal.  We have only been giving this to her for about 3 weeks, but now we have witnessed at least three seizures a week on this new medication.  We met with the neurologist this past week and sought a completely new plan.  In addition to seeming to increase the frequency of seizure activity, the medication has side effects including balding, bruising, and tiredness.  It is hard to learn new things and participate in living if you are tired all the time... So we are stepping down off of the Depakote, while waiting for the Lamictal to be slowly increased to documented therapeutic levels.  We'll see!

Surgical Inpatient


After the biogeneticist didn't see any outward appearances of a particular syndrome, the neurologist felt that we should seek a snip array genetics test for clues about the seizures.  The test looks for extra or deleted pieces of her chromosomes.  This test came back completely normal!  Yay!


When M first arrived home, she was hypoglycemia.  This caused the endocrine doctors to suspect a pituitary gland problem.  We had a long blood test done and in fact, M's pituitary gland isn't fully functioning, or maybe not at all.  The doctors suggested we start growth hormone injections.  Like most of her other diagnoses, we felt that this had to be a byproduct of her history of neglect and malnutrition and didn't really desire to start hormones. Upon asking others who have adopted from M's orphanage they suggested that M might have psychosocial short stature or psychosocial dwarfism.  Essentially it is medical term for what we suspected; if a child isn't loved and nurtured the body shuts down growing and works on surviving.  Most of the kids from M's orphanage probably have this, but M's is symptomatic with the hypoglycemia.  That sealed the deal for us. I don't know why the endocrinologist didn't consider this, but we will be holding off for at least six months to see if her pituitary gland starts functioning again with less stress and better nutrition.

Till Next Time

After a long day of hospital appointments, too tired to play
The last nine weeks have been much better than the first eight.  Our family is achieving a routine.  Through routine we get extra time for extracurricular activities.  Paul and I are able to step away from the family, individually usually, to work out or visit with friends, de-stress.  Our kids have started their activities and we've started participating in our homeschool coop again.  We are meal planning again (it is such a good thing when it gets done) and getting to chores that we have put off for months.

Some days are a struggle and gloomy.  On those days I tend to develop the mindset of "This is it."  This is where we live from here on out: bonding, therapy, feeding, bonding, hospital visits, setback, therapy, feeding...nothing is ever going to be different than it is right now.  Why isn't this work working?

prayer cards

 But then something will change.  Something small.  But something, and then we can see rewards from the hard work and we rejoice!  For God is faithful. He hasn't left us and He loves her more than we ever could. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

8 Weeks Together

We have had a very full eight weeks.  Fair warning: This post is going to be long.  We have been in all directions.   I don't pretend to think that everyone is going to find this completely interesting and will read the whole post, but families out there looking for other families on this journey might gain some detail that will help. Likewise, if you are a family reading this and says "hey, we were there and this is what worked...."  I would love to hear about it in the comment section!


Our main medical struggle has centered around nutrition.  M has had a ng tube now for 7 weeks.  We quickly decided that the commerical ng tube formulas are "no good."

Here is the ingredient list of very popular brand of ng tube formula:
Water, Corn Maltodextrin, Milk Protein Concentrate, Sugar, High Oleic Safflower Oil, Soy Oil, Medium-Chain Triglycerides. Less than 0.5% of the Following: Potassium Citrate, Natural & Artificial Flavor, Magnesium Phosphate, Cellulose Gel, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Calcium Phosphate, Potassium Phosphate, Choline Chloride, Soy Lecithin, Monoglycerides, Carrageenan, Ascorbic Acid, Cellulose Gum, m-Inositol, Taurine, Potassium Hydroxide, Ferrous Sulfate, dl-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate, L-Carnitine, Zinc Sulfate, Calcium Pantothenate, Niacinamide, Manganese Sulfate, Thiamine Chloride Hydrochloride, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Cupric Sulfate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Folic Acid, Chromium Chloride, Biotin, Potassium Iodide, Sodium Selenate, Sodium Molybdate, Phylloquinone, Vitamin D3, and Cyanocobalamin.  

Does anyone else eat this day in and day out?

Here is the more "real" food based alternative:
(Unflavored) Water, Corn Syrup, Green Pea and Green Bean Puree (Water, Dehydrated Peas and Green Beans), Chicken Puree (Water, Dried Chicken), Peach Puree (Water, Peach Puree Concentrate), Sodium Caseinate (from Milk), Cranberry Juice (Water, Cranberry Juice Concentrate) and less than 2% of Canola Oil, Medium Chain Triglycerides (from Coconut and/or Palm Kernel Oil), Partially Hydrolyzed Guar Gum♦, Calcium Phosphate, Potassium Citrate, Hydroxylated Soy Lecithin, Choline Chloride, Maltodextrin, Salt, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Ascorbate(Vitamin C), Magnesium Oxide, Carrageenan, Potassium Hydroxide, Taurine, Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), M-Inositol, Ferrous Sulfate (Iron), Zinc Sulfate, L-Carnitine, Natural Flavor, Calcium Pantothenate, Niacinamide, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin K1 (Phytonadione), Vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol), Manganese Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride(Vitamin B6), Riboflavin, Citric Acid, Copper Sulfate, Beta Carotene, Folic Acid, Biotin, Potassium Iodide, Chromium Chloride, Sodium Molybdate, Sodium Selenate, Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamin). 
So maybe a little better, but the second ingredient is still corn syrup.  After our insurance declined to pay for any formula, even though it is designed and prescribed for a ng tube, that made the decision easy for us.  We started making our own formula, with the help of a nutritionist, that would give her real foods, balanced, and thin enough for a ng tube. 

Our recipe:
2 cups soy milk
1/4 cup cooked brown rice
1/4 cup cooked oatmeal
1/2 banana
1/2 cup peaches
1/2 cup cooked greens
1/2 cup steamed carrots
1 oz of cooked beef, pork, or chicken (we have been alternating with beef liver for iron)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
10oz of water

M also gets a liquid multivitamin, Floradix with iron, and fish oil.  The above recipe provides 600 calories and is enough for one day.  We had to buy a Blendtec (like a Vitamix) blender for this recipe to go through her tube.   (Side note: We actually love the Blendtec and use it throughout the day to make ourselves smoothies full of veggies and fruits.  We wouldn't have spent the money on this if it wasn't for M's food, but has turned into the most used small appliance.)  The recipe takes time to make, the ng tube is very narrow and, therefore, very difficult to get food through, and is a nuisance to have hanging from her face all the time.  But the better nutrition is paying off.  M's skin is supple, her color is improving, and she is rounding out in a healthy way.  Interestingly, although she is small, she is proportional, so the nutritionist doesn't want her to so much put on weight as to just GROW.

We have been in feeding therapy for about 5 weeks now.  Initially, M had taken some small amounts of food and water by syringe in Bulgaria.  Then she completely stopped eating and drinking.   The feeding therapist got her taking bites again, but then we started working on her stimming behavior: she sucks on her tongue with her hand against her mouth after every bite.  This action causes the food to dribble back out of her mouth, but it does help her to swallow what is at the back of her mouth.  The therapist had us working on keeping her hand away from her mouth and then cueing her with the word 'swallow' to get her to swallow.  This started working.  The foods were still completely pureed foods with no texture.  So we started adding some texture.  And then a sippy cup of liquid.  M started actually making progress; we were very thrilled. The therapist was pleased that she was actually making some chewing motions.  Unfortunately, M added teeth grinding after every bite, and the therapist would rather she sucked on her tongue than have her damaging her teeth.  So we started working on a gentle 'no' to the teeth grinding as well as rubbing her cheek for tactile stimulation.  But yesterday she shut down again.  Refusing all foods and drinks by mouth.  We'll see if she works back to where she was.

 'M' taking bites from her big sister, before we started messing too much with the form of her eating, and this is what she would revert to, if given the chance.

Picking up cheerios, dropping them, giggling, but not daring to put them in her mouth ;)

GI issues

M's referral listed GI issues.  The diagnosis changed with every update we got from Bulgaria.  From 'neuro-intestinal dysplasia' to 'celiac' to 'gastritis.'  But whatever it was, her stomach was terribly distended and she cried and fussed frequently with sharp pain. Now at home, we saw the GI doc.  The doctor quickly came up with 'she is full of gas.'  She suggested a few diet changes and gas drops.  I wasn't completely satisfied with this response as the diet was so radically different from the orphanage diet, it couldn't be food choices since her tummy was distended there and at home.  The doctor was confident that it wasn't an  anatomical problem.  We got an xray to confirm that it wasn't remnants of the constipation and went about our business.

Two days later we were scheduled to get a sedated MRI.  The anesthesiologist listened to M's lungs before starting.  Her right lung sounded wet.  So we got a quick xray to rule out pneumonia.  Turns out her right lung was being compressed by her diaphragm which was being lifted by her abdomen being full of air. The doctor was hearing bowel sounds where her lung should be!  This wasn't on the xray two days previous. The MRI was canceled for that day.  The GI doc called me at home to say that M is swallowing air as a habit to wanting to feel full when she was not getting enough food at the orphanage.  You would think that we would recognize this behavior, but, seriously, we didn't.  It doesn't looking like gulping and swallowing.  I remembered reading months ago about another little one from Pleven that coped in this manner, HasyaNow we are satisfied with this diagnosis.  It makes sense.  We can see that there isn't anything medically wrong with her gut.  She has just been starving for 6 years. We are venting her regularly through her NG tube by pulling air out of stomach using a large (2oz) syringe, sometimes up to 5 syringes full at time.  She deflates right before our eyes!

Remedy for Nutrition and GI issues

M will be getting a G tube surgically placed on September 12th.  This will make feedings sooooo much easier, will give us more time to let her set the pace with solid foods by mouth, and will allow us to vent her stomach and remove the swallowed air as she gets distended.  Hopefully, as she gets used to being a "healthy full" and trusts that she will eat again, she will let go of the air swallowing.


M got glasses!


 M has been diagnosed with epilepsy.  She has had five seizures in our presence.  They appear to be tonic-clonic seizures.  We are scheduled to get an MRI done along with her G tube placement on September 12th.  The neurologist is tweaking her medicines to try to stop the seizures altogether.  We have been given emergency escape meds should her seizures last longer than three minutes.  Her caregivers in Bulgaria said that she had only ever had one seizure and then they got her the medicine and there was no more.  This is highly improbable.  The neurologist believes that the medication levels that she was being given were not high enough for a child of her size.  More likely, the caregivers weren't paying attention as she lay in her crib seizing.  She is almost silent while they are happening, and then whimpers for about 1/2 hour afterwards.   Afterwards, she is very drowsy and is exhausted for most of the day.  It will be interesting to see what the MRI reveals and would like prayers that her brain hasn't been terribly damaged by the neglect and malnutrition. 

M had also been diagnosed with cerebral palsy in Bulgaria.  The neurologist at Seattle said "She doesn't have cerebral palsy. She is just developmentally delayed due to neglect."  I don't have anything else to say about that.

'M' can pull to her knees!


The last test run in Bulgaria was a metabolic test.  The test came back abnormal and indicated an underlying disorder. All the specialists here have been telling us "Let's see what the geneticist thinks.  She will probably have an underlying syndrome or mitochondrial abnormality.  Because she looks so unusual."  I think they wanted a smoking gun to explain her delays and her size.   We, rather I, was nervous about this appointment.   Guess what?  The geneticist examined her and doesn't see any of the typical  features of any particular syndrome.   The bloodwork that would point to a metabolic problem are all normal except for the ones that point to being extremely malnourished for a long time.  He expects those will normalize and we will recheck them.  We will probably be getting another blood test that examines her DNA at a high level in an attempt to assign an all inclusive diagnosis for M.

The Next Steps

On the horizon we have audiologist, endocrine, rehab, OT, and PT appointments, and a sedated dental cleaning.  We are excited about the rehab, OT, and PT appointments.  These will be such an empowering portion of the healing process.  Currently we feel a little conflicted on the best ways to help M through her sensory dysfunctions, her lack of mobility, and her ability to communication with us.  The G tube placement requiring two days in the hospital and her MRI are on the 12th.   We will be continuing the feeding therapy.

Summary/Random Babbling

So I think that covers it.  We have had a lot of appointments.  Nothing earth-shattering from any of them.  Just a little girl that hasn't been fed, touched, talked to, loved, or free for the past 6 years.  It is hard to believe that everything, except maybe for the epilepsy, is coming down to nutrition and neglect.  On the one hand, it is good.  She doesn't have anything medically holding her back.  On the other hand, it didn't have to be this way.  This had a cure years ago.  Someone just needed to be a parent or a caregiver and give care, real care.   The absolutely hardest thing for us, as her family, is that M isn't happy here a lot of the time.  Everything is overwhelming for her.  It is our pray daily, that she will get better at understanding that this place is better than that other place, and we are not here to harm with the medical appointments, the therapies, or our touch. 

I ran into a friend at the grocery store and she sent me this passage afterwards in an email.  I greatly appreciate the reminder.

Proverbs 3:5-7

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.


We have been blessed with family and friends that check in frequently, and ask for ways that they can help.  Forgive us when we don't know what to say.  We don't really know what we can turn over to someone else right now. We are still trying to commit to the six month adoption cocoon for bonding (we are too tired to go out and about anyway. ;) )  We are just holding each other a little tighter, here in the trenches.  We recognize each other's exhaustion and smile with a knowing look.  A gaze that says 'together, we are here together.'

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Home and Healing

This post is showing as published by Paul.  It isn't. This is Maria writing. :)

I know that there have been friends and extended family wondering...'what's happening out there?', 'Is she home?', 'Are they ok?'   Yes, we are home.  We have her!! We are ok and are in a period of great transitions.

While in Bulgaria, 'Gemma' had a seizure in the hotel room.  This is significant because she supposedly hadn't had one in 4 years.  We contacted our pediatrician in Seattle and got some advice for any other seizures, and then continued with our week.  'Gemma' was eating well, but not drinking well at all.  She wouldn't drink from a cup although we were told that she is able to.  So we took to giving her about two teaspoons at a time through a syringe.  We worked up to a cup a day by Friday, but obviously this isn't enough fluid.

We made it home on Sunday July 14, and proceeded to keep pushing the pedialyte and juices.  Starting Monday she slowed down eating and by our doctor's appointment on Wednesday wasn't eating or drinking really at all.
the whole family at the airport

Due to the complexity of her health history, and her refusing to drink and eat, we were admitted to Seattle Children's Hospital.  They placed a ng-tube and started extensive labwork.  Her labs were coming back within range, except her glucose levels.  They are dipping very low and rebounding.  After monitoring her for four days and having been visited by all the different specialties pertaining to her health concerns, we were released.

our two daughters, both are six years old

Now at home, we are monitoring and recording her glucose level before every feed and once at night.  This notetaking will help the doctors ascertain if the dips in her glucose levels indicate an underlying condition or if they are a temporary byproduct of her poor nutrition.  It is possible that the seizure activity she has had in the past are related, not to epilepsy, but to hypoglycemia or diabetes.  Also, 'Gemma' is receiving nearly all her nutrition through her ng tube.  The feeding specialists believe that her refusal to eat is a reaction to the stress of coming home and should resolve after therapy and some time.  But for the foreseeable future, we are providing 5 meals a day through the ng tube.  
little brother sharing a hospital bed for naptime, both are wearing a 3T size

Starting in August we will be working our way through outpatient clinics at the Children's hospital.  She is currently scheduled for Endocrine, Neurology, Nutrition, Gastroenterology, Neuro-development, Rehabilitation, and Biochemical Genetics.  We will be starting feeding therapy at home on Monday with a speech therapist and will have weekly to biweekly appointments with the her pediatrician that specializes in international adoption cases.
first night home

So life is very full at the moment.  It would be dishonest to say that it has all been joyful.   It has been exhausting, stressful, frustrating, and worrisome, as we have tried to reach stable ground again with her health. I have struggled with anger towards those who damaged her health and development. We have been impatient with each other while trying to get our footing again.  But not all is lost.

We are allowed to stumble.  Having moments of failure doesn't mean we have failed.  Good days are when we remain focused on fostering long term bonding and workable family dynamics, and rely on our faith that the One who lead us to this little love is walking with us now.  He offers His grace to us daily; we just have to remember to breath and accept it.

PS.  We will now be referring to 'Gemma' as 'M.'  This is the first letter of her new name and for privacy concerns we won't be sharing her new name on this public blog.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


She's ours!  We are hers!  Officially a family!

This morning our lawyer represented us in a court hearing in which 'Gemma' was declared to be our daughter!  At the last minute, our case was almost postponed because the Social Services department had a paperwork problem, but our lawyer begged for us, and the prosecutor and judge were compassionate.  We are beholden to our lawyer for her efforts on our behalf.  Also, we are grateful for the other parties that had to make a decision to hear our case this morning.  Praise God for his goodness!

Glorious and majestic are his deeds, and his righteousness endures forever.  Psalm 111:3

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Got That Elusive Signature!

We got the signature from the Minister of Justice of Bulgaria on our second stage dossier, seven weeks after the US Embassy approved our Article 5.

 This is was a very hard wait for different reasons.  It was an unknown wait; some have waited for 8 weeks in the past, some have only waited 2 weeks.  When we saw the overturn of their parliament in February, we tried to rush our dossier to the hands of the outgoing Minister.  We weren't successful.  So we held our breath to see what kind of person would be appointed to the Minister's position.  Would he be supportive of adoption, would he 'like' Americans, would he have the time to sign while settling in to a new role? The recent adoption ban in Russia was rolling around in our minds, although the two countries are unrelated.  Dragomir Yordanov was appointed caretaker Minister of Justice on March 12th.  It was comforting to us that his resume included studying at University of Kentucky, at Williamsburg, Virginia, at The National Judicial College of the USA, Reno, Nevada, and the Judicial Education Center in Arizona.  There was even a rumor circulating that he was an adoptive father.  So our concerns for many of the questions were quelled by receiving a picture of his background.  Prayers began for his schedule and workload to offer the time for him to sign.  We were assured by our social worker and Bulgarian attorney that everything was normal, and to remain patient.  Our wait was long, but not unheard of, and we are grateful for Mr. Yordanov and his staff for the signature that keeps our adoption moving.  With the upcoming early election on May 12th for a new parliament, it is unclear if Mr. Yordanov will remain in his position as Minister of Justice.

So, we now are waiting to receive a court date for legalizing our adoption.  Our attorney will represent us and we will not need to travel for court.  If all goes well with court, we will have an immediate decision and 'Gemma' will become legally our second daughter.  Within 4-6 weeks of our court date, we will travel to pick her up and bring her home!

Saturday, May 4, 2013


"When you say YES to adoption, you are saying YES to enter the suffering of the orphan, and that suffering includes WAITING FOR YOU TO GET TO THEM. I promise you, their suffering is worse than yours. We say YES to the tears, YES to the longing, YES to the maddening process, YES to the money, YES to hope, YES to the screaming frustration of it all, YES to going the distance through every unforeseen discouragement and delay. Do not imagine that something outside of "your perfect plan" means you heard God wrong. There is NO perfect adoption. EVERY adoption has snags. We Americans invented the "show me a sign" or "this is a sign" or "this must mean God is closing a door" or "God must not be in this because it is hard," but all that is garbage. You know what's hard? Being an orphan. They need us to be champions and heroes for them, fighting like hell to get them home. So we will. We may cry and rage and scream and wail in the process, but get them home we will."

~Jen Hatmaker

Monday, April 22, 2013

Let Us Not Grow Weary!

I'm back with another handsome face that needs a place to call home!  'Joseph' will be turning 16 on April 25th and will be out on the streets if his family doesn't find him!  We have 3 days to find an in-process/homestudy-ready family.  His special needs are abnormal development of cardiac system, recurrent infections of ENT organs and respiratory tract, and a humpback. 


Yes, there will always be more children that need homes,and yes, we just did 'this' and advocated for a young man that needed a home before his 16th.  But we are not to grow weary doing good (Galatians 6:9), so please pray and advocate for 'Joseph.'

Another opportunity to be a part of a child's life without adopting, is hosting.   New Horizons for Children is still taking applications for the Summer 2013 hosting program.  Their promotion video for this summer is below.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Plea, Accounting, and News

UPDATE 4/17/2013: 'Sebastian' has a family coming for him! He will be coming home with 'Ianto,' another young man that was at risk of aging out. They will be brothers! 


First off, take a moment to read to about 'Sebastian'  on Reece's Rainbow and at


'Sebastian' is 16 years old in 8 days.  He needs to have a family with a current homestudy pursue him before he turns 16.  At 16, he will be given the equivalent of $30 and shown the door.  A life on the streets awaits him, if a family doesn't step forward.  His only special need is a slight stutter!!!  He has asked pleaded for a family. Please read about him and share through your favorite social media outlet. 

What is life on the streets?  According to UNICEF study..

  1. Every 2.2 seconds another orphan ages out with no family to belong to and no place to call home
  2. Studies have shown that 10% – 15% of these children commit suicide before they reach age eighteen
  3. These studies also show that 60% of the girls become prostitutes and 70% of the boys become hardened criminals

"Sebastian's" Country Requirements

  • Married couples only
  • Parents must be a minimum of 15 years older than the child they’d like to adopt
  • As of late 2011, there’s no longer an upper age limit for parents
  • No stated family size restrictions
  • Total with travel approx $25k
  • Both parents for 2 1/2 weeks to attend court
  • Both parents return home for 10 day wait
  • Only one must return to complete the adoption for approx 14 days
  • No history of mental health conditions or infectious diseases
  • No criminal history
  • May adopt multiple unrelated children
  • This is a very fast program! Start to finish is an average of 7 months. Families committing to children in this program, especially the children at risk of the institution, should be in a financial position to complete the adoption quickly. It is a blessing to be able to adopt so quickly, but leaves little time for major fundraising efforts.


Thank you to all who supported us in the Forty to Forever campaign.  Including the campaign and funds that have been handed to me in person, we raised $924.83 since our first trip!

Our second stage dossier still has not received the Bulgarian Minister of Justice's signature.  Other families in different stages of the process have received signatures, so we are hopeful that this interim Minister will sign.  Interim elections will be held May 12th at which point a permanent MOJ will come into office.  We would really not like to wait that long. :)  After receiving the signature, a court date will be assigned.


I mentioned some time back that the neglectful and abusive former director in Gemma's orphanage has taken her claims of wrongful termination to court to be reinstated as the director.  The lower court voted to reinstate her; read older post here.  Well, other officials are now appealing the lower court's decision.  The closed door hearing will take place April 18.

excerpt from The Blessing Of Verity:

From one of our Bulgarian friends~
“The orphanage appealed the court decree re-instituting her before the High Court (last instance). The hearing is closed (not public) and it is on the 18th.
It is for the Court to decide if there are enough causes for them to hear the case in an open hearing, later. It will technically mean automatic re-institution or a whole new court procedure at the highest court instance in Bulgaria.
Please have everyone storm the gates of heaven with prayers. Even if they re-institute her, I truly can’t see her back knowing the howls it will cause in the media.  I am ready to fight…and to lose my last drop of life and blood but not allow that monster back there.”

Pray with all your might that the director who presided over this orphanage from before the fall of Communism in 1989 will not be re-instated.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Why Does Adoption Cost So Much?

One of the common questions we have been asked is "What is your adoption costing?"  I've never broken it down in the nitty-gritty detail.  But lets.

  • Homestudy $1500.00
  • Case Management Services to Placement Agency  $9500.00
  • Services of Foreign Country Agency $4000.00
  • US Customs and Immigration Service $890.00
  • Airline tickets for Trip #1 $2104.00
  • Postage for documents domestic and international $422.78
  • Notary and Apostille for Documents $155.00
  • US Doctor's Review of Referral Documents $550.00
  • Lodging and Food Trip #1 $1039.21
Total: $20160.99

***This total is before Trip #2, but lets guess that Trip #2 will cost as much as Trip #1.  Therefore, the estimate for the final total is $23304.20.

Are you surprised?  Too high?  Too low?

Well, the second question occasionally asked is..."Why does adoption cost so much?" 

Well, it is a legal process that we hope will be safe for us and our child.  During the process, we, or our agency operating on our behalf, work with many different entities: our county government, our state government, the US State department, US immigration, the Bulgarian government, notaries, medical personnel, social workers, lawyers, etc.   We have been engaged in the process for over a year and in that year many people have spent time preparing what is essentially a legal proceeding.  The last thing that we would want to be involved with is human trafficking, or to have our adoption be determined to be null and void.  So everyone involved has a part to play to be sure that our child is indeed an orphan, eligible to be adopted, and that we are safe people to become her parents.  As a society we really shouldn't want it any other way.

And the third question..."How are you affording it?"

(I don't consider this to be a nosy question.  I hope when it is asked it is because the wheels are turning on how someone else can adopt.)

Fortunately, no one asked us for one big check for $25,000.00.  Instead, the money is paid in smaller amounts over the course of the process, which for us has been over a year now.  We had $10,000.00 in savings that we used first.  For the second $10,000 we decided to open a personal line of credit in December.   We will make payments on that until it is paid back and the interest rate is lower than credit cards.  And then we just have a little bit left to cover;  through some fundraising, and then maybe over a credit card billing cycle or two and we will be done! 

And the final question, usually more pointed..."Oh, my, debt?!"

Yeah, so we are in debt.  But lets reflect for a moment.  I've been in debt before.  for college.  for cars.  for house renovations. for the house itself.  Sure mortgages are common, the cars were used, education is worthwhile, and renovations sometimes have to happen, but yikes, debt sounds bad.  Not something you just want to have laying around, I agree.  
'And for something like an adoption.'  'If fertility isn't an issue, why spend that much money?' 'That seems like too much...too frivolous...too radical.'  
Well, you can see our reasons  and then perhaps reach the same conclusion we did...of all the things we could go into debt for, this is the most worthiest of reasons.

My friends, adoption is redemption. It’s costly, exhausting, expensive, and outrageous. Buying back lives costs so much. When God set out to redeem us, it killed Him.  ~adoptive father, Derek Loux

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Forty To Forever

In addition to the Amazon Associates program, we are partnering with 'Forty Days to Forever' to wrap up our fundraising efforts. 

Forty to Forever was born out of a desire to help Lina, a special needs orphan grow her adoption grant and more importantly, help her find her forever family. God moved the hearts of two wonderful ladies and now they are doing more than just fundraise for Lina… they (along with other advocates and families) will be fundraising for 40 orphans, growing adoption grants and advocating for waiting children to find families and help the families in process to bring home a special needs child.  And our family is one of those families.  We are hoping to raise $400.00 for Gemma's adoption through this fundraiser. 

This fundraising effort is centered around the period of Lent. (For a short explanation of what is Lent, see here.) During this 40 days of Lent, everyday will feature a different child with a fundraising goal, a daily Lent devotion and discussion.  Gemma's special day is Tuesday March 19th.  Any donations made to Gemma's fund THAT  DAY will earn the donor entries into the giveaways.

Give $2………………………………………… 1 entry
Give $3………………………………………… 2 entries
Give $4………………………………………… 3 entries
Give $5………………………………………… 5 entries
Give $10………………………………………. 12 entries
Give $25………………………………………. 40 entries
Give $50………………………………………. 100 entries

You can check out the amazing giveaways they have here.

Each of the 40 children will have their special day of fundraising where donations earn entries. Read about the children/families who would benefit.  And get ready...Forty to Forever starts on Feb 13th, 2012, Wednesday.

Why NOT them?!

Well, we are back to the routine after my first trip to meet Gemma.  I have my little ones at home (ages 6 and 2 1/2) keeping me busy.  We are solidly after Christmas now for homeschooling and extracurricular activities to be starting again.  I am happy to be home and engaging in it all again.  But in the quiet moments my mind drifts to Gemma.  I wish I could say I wondered what she was doing.  I feel like I have a pretty good idea what she is doing day in and day out.  :(  Not much.  Mostly, my mind drifts to what life will be like with her home.  Our family gets more anxious as the days go by.  More often sentences start with, "When Gemma is here..."

I have told my trip details to many people in the past 2 weeks.  Their eyes usually get big, when I tell of the conditions of the children.  They get misty, when I tell of the bonding Gemma and I experienced.  And many eyes get inquisitive and ask about the adoption process.  I am hopeful of each of these responses.  May many seeds be sowed.

There are two children that I would like to plead for today.

UPDATE:  Emmitt has a family after 15 years of waiting!! You can follow his family's journey of adoptions at
First we have Emmitt.  Emmitt only has 11 months before he is sentence to a mental institution for the remainder of his life!!!  His only need is that he can't walk.  He has spina bifida.

"Emmitt is a sweet boy.  He is living in one of the mental institutions, and has been for many years, yet he remains sweet, intelligent, and kind.  Two of our adopting families met him while they were there, and are pleading for a family to save him.
From one of our adoptive families:  ” Emmitt has a severe deformity of his legs.  He cannot walk at all.  He is very friendly, funny, and talkative. He desperately seeks out attention.  He was talking to my husband, and holding Zack’s hand, which he then put on top of his head for Zack to rub his hair.  He is extremely intelligent, and just precious!  I brought him paper and crayons, and he drew me a flower :)
We hope someone out there will see this sweet young man and know his kind and loving spirit.
Update 2012 from someone who knows him:   He is clever. He keeps some books and toys in his bed, and talks about his life to volunteers. I think he desperately needs parents and better life, if it is any hope for him."

A smart, promising, loving boy and no one has come for him because he is older and he can't walk! This just can't be the end for him!

Lovely Iris, is 12 year old girl.   She is living with HIV.  I first read about Iris on Amy's blog Tiny Green Elephants.  There are many additional pictures of Iris on Amy's blog, many of Iris playing with her dolls!  So precious.  She is a caring young girl that often is found tending to the younger children in her orphanage.  There is a missionary that has been visiting Iris's orphanage and she created the following video of Iris.

"Iris is a lovely young lady; she is described as curious and enthusiastic.
From someone who met Iris in 2012:  Iris is a sweet girl who loves attention and physical affection. She loves to be hugged and will play with your hair and sit in your lap. She is a big helper within her group, and is a good friend (more like a big sister) to many of the other kids in her group. She is very affectionate with those kids, and will play with them and try to pick them up. She has great play skills, and loves dolls. She also enjoys playing with balloons (hitting them back and forth to other people), and coloring with markers. I have been told she was not burnt, but that she has a birthmark. She is taking medication for her hiv. Her cognitive abilities and social awareness are not what you would expect from a child of her age, and I am not sure how much of this is due to orphanage delays."

Both of these children are living in an Eastern European country.  More info on the adoption process can be found at  But highlights of the program...
  • Married couples only
  • No parental age restrictions
  • No stated family size restrictions
  • Total with travel approx $25k
  • Both parents for 2 1/2 weeks to attend court
  • Both parents return home for 10 day wait
  • Only one must return to complete the adoption for approx 14 days
  • No history of mental health conditions or infectious diseases
  • No criminal history
  • May adopt multiple unrelated children
  • This is a very fast program! Start to finish is an average of 7 months. Families committing to children in this program, especially the children at risk of the institution, should be in a financial position to complete the adoption quickly. It is a blessing to be able to adopt so quickly, but leaves little time for major fundraising efforts.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Final Day with Gemma

We only had a morning visit on the last day. It was an emotional morning. I was obviously sad and worried to be leaving, but knowing that the only way to come back and get her was to go and finish the long months of paperwork and waiting, I was anxious to go and get the process started.  It was a wonderful trip; many of my worries about bonding were wiped away, and I feel like she knows me and will remember me.   

May the days fly by until we can return for her!

Uncle David, Mommy, and "Gemma"

3rd and 4th Days with Gemma

On the 3rd and 4th days, we spent the mornings in the visitation room and then the afternoons in the "playroom.".We also met Gemma's baba. She had a baba starting back last year but that baba left and she got a new baba last month. So the relationship wasn't really strong, but the baba was able to give little snippets of info about her daily care and routine.

The shots of Pleven are sunrise from our hotel window.

On the 4th day, we were to get the Gemma's visa pictures. I didn't know that we could take clothes for our kids to keep and get their pictures in.  (So if you are an adoptive family, consider taking clothes for the visa picture for your child.) Another mom I was traveling with, actually surprised me with Gemma's outfit, which she bought at a consignment shop in Pleven.  Red suits Gemma, I think. :)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

2nd Day with Gemma

We enjoyed our second day together and get some lovely shots to prove it.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

We got our Travel Dates!

I will be traveling at the end of the month to go meet Gemma.  We are getting excited!

The toys I am taking with me.  

I just finished making the swaddle baby doll last night. I am pleased with how sweet she turned out.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Russian Adoption Ban

Recent legislation has been passed by Russian President Putin banning Americans from adopting Russian children.  "Of a total of more than 600,000 children classified as being 'without parental care' (most of them live with other relatives and fosters), as many as one-third reside in institutions."[58] 

 Kate Brooks began working as a freelance photojournalist in Russia at the age of 20 while still a Russian studies student. Her photographs documenting child abuse in state orphanages were published worldwide through Human Rights Watch and used to campaign for orphans’ rights.  

The overview she offers on her website: In Russia orphans with mental and physical disabilities or learning disorders are classified into one of three categories: debil, imbecile or idiot. Those labelled as imbeciles and idiots are permanently institutionalized while still toddlers.

Slideshow of Russian Orphans by Kate Brooks

The slideshow reveals that being life as an orphan in Russia is not the same as life as an orphan in the United States.  Please pray for the children and families ban will affect.