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Thursday, April 11, 2013

T-Minus 24 Hours!

We leave to FINALLY pick up our daughter in just 24 hours, it has been four excrutiatingly long, stressfull, and emotional months since trip one, and a year since we first started the process, but here we are at the finish line!!  We fly direct from Portland to Amsterdam and then Amsterdam to Sofia.  Our total travel time will be about 16 hours, with the longest stretch being over 10 hours.  It is long and tiring but soooo worth it knowing our sweet girl waits on the other end!  We will have just one night in Sofia to rest and then travel Sunday morning to Haskovo to pick up Penka and experience what I am sure is going to be a very emotional Gotcha Day. 

Interesting side note, we found out we will be traveling on the same flights as another family from our agency also from Oregon heading to Bulgaria for thier first visit with thier children.  It is a small world indeed! 

For now all that is left is last minute packing and errands, and another clean sweep of the house so it looks lovely for Penka when she arrives home. 

The next few days are bound to be very emotional, especially for Penka as she says goodbye to all she has known for the last fourteen years including friends, staff, language, customs, culture, and her country.  However, I know she is as excited as we are to be reunited as a family and begin this next chapter of our lives together, a family of FOUR!! 

Please say a prayer for our safe travels and smooth transition time for our family.

I will try to post pics from our trip, stay tuned!!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Updated Timeline and Travel!

Below is an updated adoption timeline.  The most important thing on it is the last...our travel date for Gotcha Trip!!  We are very thankful to be finally see the finish line of this process and to once and for all have our daughter home and family complete.  It is amazing to look at the dates below and see that from first inquiry to pick-up is almost exactly one year to the day.  It has felt excruciatingly slow at times but in retrospect has gone very fast, especially for an international adoption.  A lot of that is due to Penka's age but I owe a lasting debt of gratitude to our adoption agency in the US, About A Child, and in Bulgaria, Family National Association (FNA) who have done an amazing job pushing our case along even during a complete government resignation right at the time we were waiting on final Article 5 approval.

Time has been a bit easier to bear as well because since our court date we have been granted permission to communicate directly with Penka via Facebook and Skype.  This has been amazing (and a bit surreal) to see her and hear her and experience how well she is communicating with us in English.  We hired a private English tutor for her during trip one and she has had lessons three times a week for the last three months.  She is in no way fluent but it has helped tremendously and her openness to learning the language and her dedication to it have impressed me and touched my heart.  I don't know if I would have been so willing and hard working when I was her age.  In fact I almost flunked high school French, granted I did not have the incentive to communicate with my new family but still....

Penka is amazing.  She is not only beautiful she is a delight and a perfect fit for our family.  She is funny, witty, smart, feisty, expressive, affectionate, loving, emotional, and dramatic.  Best of all she is the best big sister I could have dreamed of for Jamie.  Her face lights up when he enters the room and I can already tell she will be fiercely protective of him.  I can relate to her on so many levels and knew from the first moment I laid eyes on her she was 100% my daughter.  I love chatting with her and Skyping.  As I stare at her on the computer screen I marvel that in less than a month I will get to wake up in the morning and see her in person in our home every day.  I can already feel her in my arms as I hug her again and kiss the top of her head.  I am overwhelmed that I have been blessed to be the mother to these two amazing children.  I don't know what I did to deserve it but I am eternally grateful.  There will be bumps along the road as we transition home and adjust to a new family life together but there are bumps in the road of all family journeys.  This one is just extra special and for that even more rewarding.  Eric and I are the proudest parents on the planet and vibrating with anticipation for our departure date on April 12th.  Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers and stay tuned for new family photos in April from Sofia and Paris on the way home!!



One of my favorite pictures of all time, Penka outside court after she gave her consent to adoption!




Adoption Timeline
April 24, 2012 – Rainbowkids.com contact referral form submitted to all Bulgarian agencies
April 25, 2012 –About a Child sends info regarding Penka to us
May 12, 2012 – First blog post
May 17, 2012 – Sent Signed Service Agreement and sent $$ to AAC to get matched with Penka
May 21, 2012 – Hired “Hearts Afire” to conduct our Home Study
May 31, 2012 – Preliminary match approved for Penka by Bulgarian NGO
June 7-8th, 12 - Eric and Beth have Doctor’s exams
June 18, 201 – Home Study
July 1, 2012 – Penka’s Birthday
July 9, 2012 – FBI Prints authenticated
July 16, 2012 – Care package shipped to Penka
August 7, 2012 – I800A application logged in by USCIS
August 22, 2012 - $$ sent to AAC for adoption fees
August 27th – USCIS Biometrics
August 30, 2012 – USCUS Pink Slip issue resolved!
September 14 – USCIS Approval
September 21 – Apostille’s done and Dossier sent to Bulgaria
September 26th – Dossier in process for translation and authentication
October 5, 2012 – First video of Penka and updated pictures received from FNA!
October 22, 2012 – Facebook post announcing adoption & asking for donations for orphanage
October 23, 2012 – Final payment made to AAC for remaining adoption fees
December 3, 2012 Official referral received, travel dates given for trip 1
December 14, 2012 Travel day for trip 1
December 17, 2012 First visit with Penka
December 21, 2012 Last day with Penka trip 1, official documents notarized and new legal name chosen
December 26, I800 mailed to USCIS

December 31, 2012 USCIS confirms receipt of I800
January 4, 2013 Updated medicals apostilled and sent to AAC
January 10, 2013 I800 approval date
January 14, 2013 received notice of 1800 approval
January 22, 2013 FNA successfully completes Visa interview on our behalf
February 20, 2013 Bulgarian Prime Minister resigns along with his cabinet including Minister of Justice
February 22, 2013 MOJ Consent Given for adoption – moving to courts
February 27, 2013 Given court date of March 8th!
March 8, 2013 Penka gives her consent in court and judge approves adoption!!!!
March 11, 2013 First Facebook contact with Penka
March 18, 2013 Received travel dates for April 14-20!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Adoption Timeline To-Date

Time is funny.  It can both creep along like a snail and fly by like a rocket.  I have never felt this more intensely than during this adoption process.  In fact often I loose complete perspective on time, it is a blur and I need reference points to reorient myself.  Especially since returning from trip 1.  Each day has been difficult, painful even at times and some seemed to last forever.  But now when I look back at the calendar I realize we have survived a full month away from our daughter and are now one month closer to be reunited.  It doesn't remove the pain of missing her but it gives me hope that we will get through this and one day look back at this time as a mere blip in our long lives together as a family.

To help remind myself that time is indeed moving along, pretty swiftly for an international adoption too, I started a timeline months ago.  Below is our current timeline.  We are now waiting for the Article 5 to be signed by both the US Embassy and the Ministry of Justice in Bulgaria.  Once that happens it will trigger  the court date when we will legally and FINALLY become our daughters parents.  Best estimates are that signature should happen within the month and then the court date a week or two afterwards and travel up to a month after that.  My not so secret hopes, dreams, and prayers are that we are traveling sometime in March.  Stay tuned!


Adoption Timeline
April 24, 2012 – Rainbowkids.com contact referral form submitted to all Bulgarian agencies
April 25, 2012 –About a Child sends info regarding Penka to us
May 12, 2012 – First blog post
May 17, 2012 – Sent Signed Service Agreement and sent $$ to AAC to get matched with Penka
May 21, 2012 – Hired “Hearts Afire” to conduct our Home Study
May 31, 2012 – Preliminary match approved for Penka by Bulgarian NGO
June 7-8th, 12 - Eric and Beth have Doctor’s exams
June 18, 201 – Home Study
July 1, 2012 – Penka’s Birthday
July 9, 2012 – FBI Prints authenticated
July 16, 2012 – Care package shipped to Penka
August 7, 2012 – I800A application logged in by USCIS
August 22, 2012 - $$ sent to AAC for adoption fees
August 27th – USCIS Biometrics
August 30, 2012 – USCIS Pink Slip issue resolved!
September 14 – USCIS Approval
September 21 – Apostille’s done and Dossier sent to Bulgaria
September 26th – Dossier in process for translation and authentication
October 5, 2012 – First video of Penka and updated pictures received from FNA!
October 22, 2012 – Facebook post announcing adoption & asking for donations for orphanage
October 23, 2012 – Final payment made to AAC for remaining adoption fees
December 3, 2012 Official referral received, travel dates given for trip 1
December 14, 2012 Travel day for trip 1
December 17, 2012 First visit with Penka
December 21, 2012 Last day with Penka trip 1, official documents notarized and new legal name chosen
December 26, I800 mailed to USCIS

December 31, 2012 USCIS confirms receipt of I800
January 4, 2013 Updated medicals apostilled and sent to AAC
January 10, 2013 I800 approval date
January 14, 2013 received notice of 1800 approval
January 22, 2013 FNA successfully completes Visa interview on our behalf


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Memories of Snowy Haskovo...

Photos from Trip 1 to Haskovo, Bulgaria to meet our daughter Penka.  December 17-21, 2012.  Until the adoption is finalized we will not be posting any pics of Penka except for a few below that are from a distance to protect her identity in accordance with Hague Convention adoption regulations.  
Haskovo is famous for having the world's largest statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Tower next to the monument of Mary

Shot of the city of Haskovo

Taken from the steps of the monument








Traditional Bulgarian costume outside a restaurant

Taken from our hotel room at the Diamond Plaza



Church next to the orphanage



Older kids orphanage












Diamond Plaza Hotel





Sunday, December 16, 2012

Much has happened in a very short time but the amazing thing is we are right now in Haskovo, Bulgaria and will meet our daughter tomorrow!  I will post more when I don't have to type on the iPad but so far it has been an amazing adventure!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Amazing Day!

Today we got an email from our agency that included seven new pictures of Penka as well as a video of her sending us a brief message. It was amazing and the best way to start my day!  If was great to see her, she has grown even more beautiful, but to hear her voice for the first time was an incredibly emotional experience.  She appears sweet and embarrased but smiling and excited as well.  She sent us this message which the agency translated for us: 

"Hello, I’m Penka. I’m 14 years old. I am happy that I will have a family like you. I hope that everything will go well between us and I am looking forward to seeing you.
Thank you very much for the presents. I like your photos very much. The album is great!
See you soon!"
 
Getting this video is  like having an ultrasound when you are pregnant.  You can't believe all that you have been experiencing is really tied to another human being and that your lives are never going to be the same, in a very good way. Having experienced both avenues to motherhood now I can say they are equally emotional, rewarding, stressful, scary, and amazing. Sometimes children grow in our bodies but they ALWAYS grow in our hearts.
 
We also got answers to my many questions on various things like what her favorite color is...black, favorite foods...moussaka, french fries and chocolate, and her favorite activities...taking walks and playing basketball. 
 
I can't believe we are so close to meeting this amazing young girl and embracing her into our family.  I am finally feeling we are close enough to traveling that I can justify buying her some presents and have plans to hit Kohl's this weekend now that I have her favortie color and size!
 
What a great way to kick off the weekend, can't wait for more good news to arrive in the next weeks.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Tik Tok....

Our dossier was sent off to Bulgaria Sept 21, 2012.  Our agency case worker sent us confirmation that it had been received and was in process for translation and authentication on Sept 26th.  Since then the Bulgaria adoption groups on Facebook have been buzzing with news of written referrals and travel dates.  Most sharing that they are only being given about 10 days advance notice for travel and that the travel dates had come about 6 weeks after submission.  If that timeline holds true for us that would put us traveling sometime in early November I expect. 

Currently we are only at week 1 so all I can do is sit and wait.  This is the time we have been warned about that will be most difficult since we are so close yet still so far.  I can't imagine what it is like for families adopting healthy younger children who are told they will have two year waiting periords at this stage.  It must be excrutiating.  6 weeks seems like too much but with that perspective it is but a moment in time. 

For now we must be content to prep mentality and financially to be ready to travel at the drop of a hat to a foriegn country to meet our daughter to be who does not speak any English.  I have more than enough school work for my masters program to keep me busy after work and weekends not to mention just normal family life and Jamie's activities but it is hard to stay focused and not day dream about what is about the major change coming into our lives so very soon.