Saturday, November 17, 2012

Back from Bulgaria

Well... I got to travel to Bulgaria to see my daughter on October 26th.  It was short notice.  Basically I had 5 days to book my trip (normally you have about 3 weeks to do this),  get ready to leave Jason in charge of the three boys for a week (scary), pack, and somehow get over my fear of flying. 

I did everything except the last thing.  I'm still scared of flying, even after flying halfway across the globe - twice.  Turbulence isn't nice... but landings terrify me.  It didn't help that we skidded on the runway while trying to land in Frankfurt.  (Icy runway and LOTS of wind)   It also didn't help that the turbulence was so bad on my flight into Sofia that almost EVERY row I passed (I sat near the back) on my way off of the plane contained at least one used "sick bag".  Ick.  That plane smelled awful by the time we landed!

But I made it and it was worth it!  Christiana is amazing.  She's so beautiful, smart, and just all around perfect. 
This is what happened when we met.  She came right to me and lifted her arms up so I could pick her up.  Her foster mother says she loves to be held and cuddled (she does). 
That's the other big news... she's in a professional foster family!  It's to help her learn to live outside of an orphanage... in a family home before she comes home with us.  The hope is that this will make the transition easier for her.  Before you worry... let me set your minds at ease.  She's in a professional foster family.  They've been trained to work with children who have been institutionalized and to NOT promote bonding to themselves.  They know that she's being adopted and are glad.  I got to meet them mother, father, and sister. (not the son, though)  They're truly amazing people.  You can tell from her appearance and attitude  (smiles, laughs, and hugs) that she's well cared for. 
I got to spend a few hours with her foster mother, and although we had to use a translator to communicate, we learned quite a lot about each other.  The main thing that I learned is that she truly cares about the children that she fosters.  She had lots of things to tell me about our girl before I even had time to ask her all of the questions I wanted to ask.  In the end... I forgot to ask a lot of them.  But it didn't matter.  Most of my questions were answered by just spending time with Crista and playing with her. 
I learned that she's smart.  Her file indicates significant mental delays, but if you show Crista something ONCE... she's got it.  She may have to practice it a little, but she will remember how to do it. 
She's still very tiny as you can see from the photo above.  Although she's grown (weight and height) since leaving her first orphanage, she's still a tiny little bird... wearing 18month and 24 month clothing sizes.  Her little foot is only a size 7... 3 sizes smaller than Jasper's even though she's over 2 years older than him!   
My tiny 5 year old!

Mad because we wouldn't let her leave the terrace.  She's pouting.

Little miss "I can do it!" trying to blow up the beach ball on her own after watching me start to blow it up.  She finally gave up and gave it to me to finish.

Playing with my phone.  She didn't like taking pictures, but she loved pushing buttons and exploring!
Another thing I found out... her nicknames are Crissy and Crista.  She seems to like Crista better, so that's what I called her during our time together.  Jason and I will announce her full name once her adoption is final, but she will be keeping her first name.  I know that some people feel very strongly about changing a child's name when they're adopted, but we feel that her name is her own and she should keep it.  Since she doesn't have a middle name, we'll choose one for her. In the future if she decides to change her first name, we'll support that. 
I know that all of this sounds "hunky dory", but that's just because I'm excited and happy.  For all her beautiful qualities, Crista does have significant physical and mental delays.  In my inexpert assessment (I'm not a therapist, but I've had two children with physical, mental, and speech delays) she's functioning at a 16-18 month old level both physically and emotionally.  Although she's very smart... emotionally she's still very much a baby.  This could be caused by a number of things, but the biggest one is her environment from birth though five years old.  She's still being treated for anemia caused by malnutrition.  Malnutrition and neglect can stunt a child's mental, physical, and emotional growth. 
She also has some "institutional behaviors"... at least one that her foster mother told me about.  There may be more.  I know that some caregivers make light of or hide these things because they're afraid the adoptive parent will change his/her mind about the child if they find out about behaviors like self-harming, rocking, banging, etc.  But I'm prepared for these things as much as anyone can be.  I'm studying books on the subject, have made friends with other parents whose children have similar backgrounds/issues, and have already begun working with our developmental pediatrician to form a plan of care for her. 
Right now we're preparing our home for her by finishing the other bedroom, gathering clothes and  all the lovely little things that girls need, and working with our boys to be ready to have a new person in our home and family.  We're also still fundraising to finish raising the funds we'll need to finalize our adoption and bring her home. 
I was recently criticized on another blog for this.  The people there seem to think it's idiotic to start an adoption unless you already have every cent you need to pay for fees and travel. 
Well... maybe so.  Maybe fundraising as we go isn't the most perfect plan.  But it's what we're doing.  The alternative would be letting her sit in an orphanage until we were funded... where she wouldn't have a chance to live in a family home and she would have to wait through another year without a family, love, care.... all the things that we want to give her.
So maybe we're not doing it the way that some people think we should, but we ARE doing it.  We're putting ourselves in God's hands and reaching out to a little girl who desperately needs a home and family. 
The day she walks into our home will be one of the proudest days of my life.  It will be right up there with the births of my sons.   I can't wait for that day.   I pray that it will be soon. 
I miss her so much.



  1. What a beautiful story. I hope you can return soon. She looks precious.

  2. Love it!!! The Strathmans are so excited for you!!!

  3. Don't let others get you down. I feel like every adoption blog I have read no one is fully funded before the process and they are just trusting that God will provide. If you waited she would have had to wait longer and she has already waited five years!

  4. She reminds me of my Kristina, from Russia. My Kristina has FAS. She was super tiny. There is SO much that you will be able to do in order to help her brain develop once you get her home. We have done so much with Kristina, and it's working. I love hearing people, who don't know her whole story, say comments such as, "She's so smart," "She doesn't have special needs; her only special need is that she's gifted', and "You are so lucky that you didn't get a kid with problems when you adopted from Russia."

    Kristina came to the USA when she was chronologically 3.5, but developmentally only 15-18 months. My advice is to forget her chronological age, and parent her like she is still a toddler. Snuggle her with baby bottles at bedtime.

    We adopted Kristina after she had been in the USA for 6 months, because her first adoption did not work out. Her family wasn't prepared for a child with significant special needs. If you would like to know all the things we did to help her learn, please contact me. Kristina has been home with us for three years now. At 7, she can read, write numbers and some letters, add simple math problems, and spell 3 or 4 letter words. She has an amazing memory, and has memorized James chapter 1! She is the best swimmer I have ever met at her age! She has imaginary friends. She loves "Thomas the Tank Engine." She still has some orphanage behaviors when she is tired or stressed. She twirls small dangly things in front of her nose, while she twirls her hair by her ear. She seems like a typical 5 year old, and is still smaller than her 5 year old friends. We homeschool, but when I have to put her in groups of kids, I put her with the 5 year olds. That's where she is most comfortable.

  5. She is beautiful. I am so excited for her to come home and live with her family!

  6. Don't listen to naysayers.
    God tells us to care for orphans...He doesn't tell us the way to do you just do it how you see fit.
    I am happy for this little girl that she HAS a momma who loves her and her family is preparing her home for her to come to... She IS yours, and you ARE hers!

  7. Lisa, she is SO beautiful, and I am amazed all over again to see how perfectly God has matched child and family. Praying right now that your second stage goes quickly!

  8. Hi there! I found your blog off of No Greater Joy Mom's blog...and I just wanted to say your daughter is beautiful! I know I recognize her gorgeous face, but I can't figure out where I saw her! I also just wanted to encourage you about the fundraising! When we started our adoption process we had about $5000 saved towards it...that's not too much in the adoption world. Our adoption took 10 months from start to finish...pretty fast and especially tough when you need to come up with all the money to complete it! BUT, GOD PROVIDED!!! We paid as we went! And it is only by God's provision that all fees were paid for! Sometimes we would get unexpected gifts from people, one time it was a very unexpected bonus my hubby got! Lots came out of our savings and checking acct! But, we finished our adoption without any DEBT! ZERO! God is perfectly capable to provide! Don't even listen to those who don't feel you are doing it the right way! Like you said...atleast you are doing SOMETHING! Very excited for your family and your little blessing waiting!

  9. She is adorable. It's great to hear how well she's doing and that she's in a better place. I know how hard it is after you meet your child...I know how much you miss her. I pray all will go well and you'll be back for her soon!