So sorry it's taken awhile to post this. I've gotten a lot of emails and calls asking about the trip so I figured it would be easier to write about it.
So we took the first trip February 15-22.
We left Saturday the 15th from Dulles and flew direct to Munich. We had a short layover in Munich then flew on to Sofia. We left DC around 5:30 Saturday night and got into Sofia around noon the next day. We did not sleep at all on the flight, nerves and excitement won out over Benadryl and wine.
We flew United and boy, I thought Delta was bad. The food was awful (inedible) and the service terrible (they don't do you any favors). We both agreed it's almost worth it to pay more to fly KLM or Lufthansa. They know how to treat people! We know because of my own experience with international KLM flights and then we flew Lufthansa from Munich to Sofia (and vice-versa). They provided the best chocolate croissants as the snack on an hour-long flight. United gave us peanuts. Literally and figuratively.
So, enough complaining about cheap American airlines. We got to Sofia and had no trouble retrieving our bags. We had to get some BGN lev at the airport so we went to one of the expensive kiosks and exchanged about $100. Then we requested a yellow cab. They immediately took us to our hotel, the Hilton Sofia. The cab ride was about 13 lev. ($9) The Hilton Sofia was very modern and nice. Not particularly different than the States. We had Hilton Honors points so we were able to save some dough by staying there. Plus, everyone speaks English. The restaurant was good but very expensive. We found an awesome Sushi place up the road about 15 minute walk called Happy Sushi. It's near the US Embassy so it's in the nice part of town.
We ate and went to sleep around 4:00 pm Sunday afternoon. We slept all night and got up, packed and ate the awesome breakfast. Best breakfast ever. Our wonderful translator picked us up at the hotel at 7:30 and we were off to Silistra. We stopped for lunch but made it to Silistra around 4. We went straight to the orphanage.
The orphanage is very clean, and well-organized. They led us into a playroom where they promptly brought "Sam" in to meet us. He is beautiful. We were both struck by how well he walks for an 18 month old. He has dark brown hair, massive dark brown eyes, and lips any OC housewife would pay thousands for. He has very cute, large ears. (My husband pointed this out) He weighs around 25 pounds. He is happy and healthy. He has an amazing smile with one dimple. His laugh is more a silly chuckle.
He immediately picked up a ball and began playing with it. G caught the ball and started to toss it around him. Sam loved this. He seemed to be fascinated by G. He is a man after all. They played ball for awhile. I sat on the floor to observe but not push my desire to get my hands on him. About 15 minute into the visit, Sam came to me and gave me the ball. From then on it was a game for 3. The translator was talking to one of the caregivers, "D" that has taken charge of him since he was brought to the orphanage at only a few days old. She seemed very happy that we were actively playing with him and that he was returning the initiative. She wanted to hear about his sisters and DC. She wasn't pushy at all, just curious.
Within the first 30 minutes he came and sat in my lap. Of course I melted. Something about a boy. G and I spent most of our first visit struggling to hold back tears. Especially when D said we were a beautiful family and she couldn't ask for more for him. (Sniff, sniff) We brought a set of stacking cups for him and he loved them! He has great coordination and fine motor skills. It took all of five minutes for him to understand stacking the cups in order of size. G played a "stick a cup on your head" game that Sam thought was hilarious. The two-words to describe Sam: All-Boy and spoiled.
He likes to be flipped, tossed, do roll-overs, etc. G and I were exhausted after our play date. Momma's gonna have to work out more to stay up with him.
The nurses and caregivers all adore him! They call him "Go-goo," "Go-she," "Prince Lalev" and "Little Prince." They chat easily to him in BG and he responds with a smile. He likes to get his way. He threw several fits while we were there because he wasn't allowed to go somewhere or do something. G handled him easily.
It's amazing how different a boy is. With my girls I am the disciplinarian. They bat their eyes at G and he gives in to them. With Sam, G is not phased at all, and I find myself giving into his fluttering eyes. We told this to D and she laughed. She said she was sure he would be even more spoiled by 2 older sisters once he was home. I know this to be true.
The caregivers were all very concerned and anxious to see if we would accept the referral. We set their hearts at ease quickly and said we would send the papers that night (which we did)
We hated to leave him. We we able to see where he eats and sleeps before we left. He was a tired little boy and ready for bed.
We then headed to check in to our hotel. The one hotel in Silistra. We tried to eat at the restaurant in the hotel but after 1 hour and 45 minutes of waiting on our food decided to go to bed hungry. Long story. Breakfast the next morning was simple. Needless to say, my momma always said, "If you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all."
The second day we were given a rare treat. We were given a tour of the facility by the director. She showed us all the therapy rooms, playrooms, the therapy pool, etc. We met in her office to discuss Sam and she was very kind and open regarding his family history and his background. His mother was labelled as mildly mentally retarded. He is not. His pediatrician, child psychiatrist, and his caregivers all agree he is on track for a child his age. We were able to send videos and photos to our pediatrician friend back home (thanks Dr. M. Snider) who said he saw nothing troubling or out of the ordinary. The director gave us a wonderful compliment: She said that Sam had 2 separate BG families that wanted to adopt him, but that the director and the caregivers did not like them. She said she and the caregivers like us and trusted us with him. She said our love was apparent.
We were able to play with him Tuesday and Wednesday morning from 9:30-noon, and then again from 4:30-7. We were able to feed him every meal while we were there. We were also allowed to put him to bed. (That didn't work; He screamed) He can use a spoon and drink from a cup. He is also potty-trained. Before you say anything: We are prepared for him to regress when he comes home. We will be taking pull-ups on the second trip and sippy cups.
He gradually began to expect us each day. D said he would wait by the door at the approximate time he knew we would come. He also began discriminating between us and the nurses. We were very surprised by this because we were told that he would not discriminate but go to anyone who would take him. He would chose us over the nurses for feeding, holding, etc.
On Wednesday morning we took him to get his passport/visa photo taken. D went with us. He sat curiously on my lap until the car started moving then he moved across the backseat from D to me to G. He enjoyed being outside and seeing all the colors and people. He walked along the street between D and myself while G and the translator took care of the photos. The driver and D took us to see the river after we were done.
Thursday morning was our last morning with him. He started babbling "ma ma ma ma ma" to me. Truth: we have it on video. He would play with my hair as he said it. The caregivers started calling us Momma and Daddy the first day. The only referred to us as such. He did say "da da da da" but he already said that for D so we couldn't tell who he was referring to.
We fed him lunch and then got him dressed for naptime. He was tired and fussy when we left. I cried like a sissy. (I'm not a cryer) G cried later because he said he knew if he cried it would make me cry even more. The caregivers, including D, hugged us and held us. They said BG blessings in our ears and promised to take good care of him until our return.
We ate lunch before leaving for Sofia. I slept most of the drive home while G and the translator talked. While I slept, we drove through the town where he was born.
We got back to Sofia around 7 that night. Garry and I ate and went to bed. The next morning we slept in before meeting with the BG adoption agency at 11:30. We had to go to the notary's office to sign papers, then we were done. We ate lunch at the sushi place I mentioned near the hotel, then swam and worked out to relax. We ate a quick bite at McDonald's that night. Yes the one and the same. We wanted to see if it was different and it was. The big mac and the fries were the only things on the menu we recognized. We also learned we would be in trouble if our youngest daughter was with us because they charge for each ketchup packet.
So, the next morning we left for the airport around 5. The hotel grabbed us a yellow cab. Only about $7 this time. We flew back to Munich (on Lufthansa, had a Pain au Chocolate this time) and had a 3 hour layover. We ate lunch and then flew back on the cursed United. (Attendants act like they are doing you a favor if you ask for water) Took awhile to go through customs once we were back but made it home finally around 5 pm. (Thanks Natalie)
My aunt watched the girls while we were gone so a big thanks to her for taking on THAT challenge for a week.
We hope to be back by July.
We miss him. The days are hard. We just try to keep ourselves busy and pass the time. Imagine leaving your child in a foreign country for 5 months. Yep, it sucks.
USCIS has our petition to adopt paperwork so we are just waiting on that to go through right now.
I will update later with paperwork info.