Day 9, the long journey home.

I could not believe it was already 4 AM when Ron woke me up this morning. My body was screaming “NO” while my brain understood that if I wanted to get home, I was going to have to drag myself up. I gave myself an additional 15 minutes to allow brain and body to come to an understanding.

Cara was even less enthusiastic than I was about getting up! She did everything she could to roll away from me while I tried to dress her, and somehow, some way, I managed to get her clothes and shoes on. The bellman knocked on the door to take our luggage down, and we managed to get Cara to understand this was the day we were going on the big airplane, and we had to go.

We took a cab to the airport. The drive was uneventful that early in the morning with little to no traffic. Cara sat quietly between Ron and I, never saying a word. When we arrived, the driver was nice enough to get us a push cart for the overabundance of luggage we had with us.After getting our luggage checked in and our boarding passes, we had to go through customs and security. Cara was fine through the whole process, never questioning why she had to remove her shoes, or put baby in a bin to go through the scanner.  But halfway to the gate, she started crying, and then screaming that she wanted to return to the hotel room. I was pulling the roller bag containing my computer, so I wasn’t able to pick her up. When she felt me pulling her along, she sat down in the middle of the floor and howled.  I got her up on one hip, managed to find a place to sit, and she continued to howl, asking to go back to the room. I walked her to the window to show her the planes, and she stopped, suddenly very excited about the airplanes. Miglena had explained to her that we would be flying on 3 airplanes (it was actually 4), and she finally understood where we were and that we were going to get on the plane. She started howling again when we went to board, but the gate attendant spoke to her and explained what was happening and that we were finally going to get on the airplane and fly up in the air. She also told her she could not cry on the plane! J I was incredibly nervous about the flight, praying she would settle in, and not scream all the way to Vienna! I needn’t have worried! She was absolutely fine all the way there. We had to go through security again in Vienna, and while in line, she had to go to the bathroom. When I tried to explain we had to wait, she melted down again! By the time it was our turn, I explained she had to use the bathroom, and of course, the buckles on my boots set off the alarm. The poor agent was trying her best to get me through quickly so I could get Cara to the bathroom, and I finally took my boots off, walked through the arch again, and the agent pointed out the bathroom. Poor Ron was stuck with all the carry on, both jackets, and my boots while he waited for us to come out. Thankfully, Cara had quit crying, and was happy to watch the planes taking off while we waited for our next flight to Dulles airport in Washington, DC. I wasn’t sure how this trip would go as it was 10 hours in the air. I located the nearest bathroom while looking for our seats, and got Cara buckled into her seat, all the while praying she would not need the bathroom until the “fasten your seat belt”  sign went off! I was truly amazed at how well things went. The flight attendants were very efficient, getting food and drinks to us right away, and gave all the kids on board a bag of things to play with. We had packed puzzles, her whiteboard and markers, My Little Ponies, and the barrel of Monkeys. She never needed any of it. She was so fascinated with the individual TV’s and the remote that came with it, that she played with that, slept, drew a little bit with her whiteboard, and generally enjoyed the whole thing. Our guardian angels were with us the entire trip!

Because Dulles was our port of entry, we had to go through customs. This is where we were to give the customs agent the sealed manila envelope with all of Cara’s immigration papers, allowing her into the country, and her immediate status of US Citizen. While waiting in line, Cara told me she had to go to the bathroom again. I told her we had to wait, she started to howl! The line ahead of us parted like the red sea allowing us free passage to the front of the line. The customs agent was very nice, told me to give him the paperwork and after comparing  Cara’s passport picture with her howling face, told me where the bathroom was, and pointed me in the right direction. He said he would give Ron everything we needed.

As we hurried to the bathroom we passed two customs security agents with dogs. I quickly pulled Cara up into my arms, but wasn’t quick enough. She saw the dogs and blood curdling screams ensued. She was tired, and deathly frightened by the dogs. None of them even came near her, but she screamed until we got to the bathroom, where the screams turned into huge air gulping sobs. I did my best to soothe her, but she was so frightened she was shaking. We have 3 dogs at home. Three.Barking.Psycho.dogs. You can imagine what was going through my head about then!

When we left the bathroom, I located the dogs, and made a wide berth. I finally found Ron, and took one of the carry on from him, and had Cara walking beside me. Unfortunately, we had to walk right between both dogs. Up on my hip she went, but the dogs were sniffing each piece of carry- on luggage, and there was nothing I could do. Of course she let loose with those blood curdling screams again, and I finally walked away from the luggage while the dog sniffed it. We were finally free of the dogs, and the screams died down.

If you have  never been through customs, once you get through the first check point where your passport is looked at, you then have to go pick up all of your luggage and go through security all over again, because you are transferring from the international terminal to the domestic terminal. They don’t seem to care that you have already been through three security checkpoints already.  Shoes off, coats off, belts off, computer out of the bag and in a separate bin. Thankfully, without the threat of dogs, Cara went through security with me without a hitch. We had to transfer to the domestic flight terminal, and then wait just a few minutes before boarding our flight to Denver and our last flight change.

Cara and I slept all the way to Denver. We were both exhausted, and just could not stay awake any longer. It was a four hour flight so we got a decent nap, if you can call sleeping while sitting up, decent. And we finally had a long enough layover in Denver that we were able to get something to eat. It had been several hours since we’d eaten, and I knew Cara was hungry. The closest place to get food was a Pizza Hut/Hagen-Daz place, and Cara indicated she wanted pizza. I bought her water and an individual cheese pizza, which she completely devoured, as well as part of mine. She seems to be digesting her food better with the enzymes I brought, and has not had to go to the bathroom quite as much. This has been a blessing on the airplane. This was the only airport Cara did not have a meltdown. She handled the tiredness, hunger, and waiting, with grace and when it was time to board our last flight home, she walked onto the airplane like a pro, settled into her seat and buckled her seat belt. She and I slept most of the 90 minute flight, waking when the pilot announced our approach. Because we were just four seats from the back of the plane, we were the last ones off. I wish I had video of Cara’s face when she saw Daniel and Alexandra waiting for us at the bottom of the ramp. She started yelling their names, and when we got down the ramp, she reached immediately for Alexandra, finding her newest best friend!

Alexandra sat with her in the back of the car, and Cara talked to her non-stop all the way home! She was so excited to finally see her! When we got home, we took her to her room, and once again she was over the top excited. She had her picture book full of photos of her room and the house during the four months we waited to bring her home, and seeing her room in person was huge for her. She sat down and immediately started serving tea to all of us. Sleep was the furthest thing from her mind, and the only thing Ron and I wanted! However, trying to convince her that it was time for “spish” (sleep) was fruitless at this point. I finally started unpacking, she finally wore out, and I was able to get her into her pajamas, and up on the bed. Before long, she was rocking herself and was sound asleep. Unfortunately, I was wide awake by this time, and unable to sleep. I finished unpacking, started the first of many, many loads of laundry we’d brought home with us, and finally fell asleep around 5 AM, knowing I was not going to be ready to wake up when Cara did!

Thursday, Day 8. Last day in country

We ate breakfast early this morning in order to make a 10 AM appointment with Miglena from our in country adoption agency. We had to have some paperwork notarized authorizing a second attorney to continue fighting our case for Emma, go to the bank to payment for our interpreter, and at 11 AM meet with the attorney who is going to court for us for Emma.

We had an early breakfast so we didn’t have to rush Cara, who likes a large variety of foods, and as I said before, eats like a truck driver. This morning was no different. Once again she was greeted by her staff who are now calling her Princess Cara! They wait on her hand and foot, making sure she has a booster seat, a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice, a glass of warm water (they think ice water is too cold for her to drink) and tuck her napkin inside her shirt  so she does not to mess up her beautiful clothes! Usually, I can go get her a plate of food and bring it back to her, but her highness insisted in choosing her own foods today. J I have to hold her in one arm, and lift all the lids off the serving dishes so she can look inside. If she wants something from that dish, she will point and say “Dah”. If she doesn’t want anything, she says “Ne”. There are two breakfast bars, one with the hot food, one with the cold. And it goes around both sides. That’s a lot of lifting of serving lids, and a lot of NE’s going with it. She finally picked scrambled eggs, a couple of potato patties, and a croissant. She had her usual fruit too, and she wanted another Activia yogurt. She ate most of her breakfast, giving me back the croissant. She loves the croissants so I was quite surprised.

After breakfast, we took a cab to the courthouse where we met Miglena and began our trek to the notary and bank. We had to get the authorization papers notarized giving the attorney fighting Emma’s case for us permission to represent us in court. We also had to convert some dollars into Euro so we could pay him, and then to the office to meet with him. Cara was good with everything until we got to the bank, and she had a melt down over something. I was waiting in line, when she started howling, and Ron took her outside. The man who was next in line, let us go ahead of him so we could get her moving quicker, which we were all very grateful for.

When we arrived at Miglena’s office, I was thrilled to see Sveti, and Yoana! I had Cara show them she could count to 14 in English with no help, and they were excited to see her doing so well. Yoana was particularly surprised as she was the one who went with us to pick her up and experienced first hand what a train wreck she was.

We were escorted into the private office where the attorney was waiting to meet with us. I could not tell you his name if you offered me a million dollars, but he was young and very nice. He explained each detail to us, what to expect with the next court date in March, and that he was glad we had a woman judge this time. He said if they were mothers, they tended to be far more sympathetic to cases involving children. Nadia, one of the foundation attorneys interjected here and there, but the bottom line was, none of them really think we are going to win. It’s a shame that there is no faith in this country. For more than 20 years there has been no belief in God. They don’t understand my faith, and my honest belief that God told me this was my child, and that I do not believe He would bring me this far to say “no.” They were all very grateful I was willing to fight this case because we are setting precedent and opening doors that were not open in this country in the past. I have no problem with that, but made sure they all knew that the child I was advocating for was Emma, and I wanted them to do their best to win this case. Setting precedent is fine, but without a win, it’s fairly pointless. The Ministry isn’t going to pay much attention to this if they win. I was grateful to meet with the attorney. He is now able to put faces to this case, we are not just a name on a piece of paper. He knows how passionate I am about getting this child home, and opening doors for other older parents that have many years of life left and want to give a child a family.

We walked back to the hotel, and Cara was very excited to be back out in the fresh air. She window shopped all the way down the boulevard, pointing out shoes, and clothes, sweets, and anything else she found interesting. She chattered at us pointing at this and that. The jack hammer didn’t throw her, and she walked calmly through the noise. When we got the long pedestrian bridge going over the street below to the hotel, she dropped daddy’s hand and marched ahead in confidence. She was so cute, holding her baby, walking ahead of us, then turning to look at us occasionally to see if we were still coming.

When we got back to the room, we all napped, as we knew we would be out late at dinner. Cara rocked herself to sleep, sucking her thumb. I look forward to the day she feels safe enough to know she can snuggle with me for comfort instead of rocking herself like that.

Tonight we are having dinner with Barry and JoAnn Wester, who are also in country this week picking up their daughter Anna. Anna is 5 years old and blind, but loves music, and anything that makes noise. They came to our hotel to meet us, and we walked to the restaurant.  Before we left, I bent down by Anna in her stroller to say hello and hold her hand for a moment. She smiled when she felt my hand, and heard my voice. She has an incredible smile, and is a beautiful little girl! We had dinner at a traditional folk restaurant with singing and dancing. We arrived early so we could eat before the show started. When we got to the restaurant, we were told that the table they had reserved for us had been in another location, but since there were two children, they thought it might be easier for us if they put us at the entrance, in a huge hollow barrel! We were almost completely enclosed, and I truly suspect they were afraid the two little girls were going to be disruptive. J We settled around the barrel, and Cara immediately started to cry. I pulled her up into my lap, and that is where she stayed.

I finally found a place with traditional meat balls! Last October, when we had been to visit Cara, I discovered meat balls! They are about the size of sliders, with a mixture of ground beef and pork, minced onion, thyme, parsley, salt and garlic. Each restaurant we ate at had a little different way of seasoning them, and they were wonderful no matter we had them. I think that was about the only thing I ate the week we were there. I hadn’t found any place that served them on this trip, so I was beyond happy when I saw them on the menu. I ordered two for me, two for Cara, and Ron ordered two also. What a surprise we got when our order arrived and we were served these HUGE meat balls!  Cara didn’t eat much of hers, I ate half of one, and Ron ate one. I wasn’t able to get much down Cara with her head resting on my shoulder, but I did manage to interest her in a few bites. It is no easy feeding a child when you can’t see their mouth!

We all enjoyed the singing and dancing, but I think Anna enjoyed it the most! After each song, she clapped her hands, and yelled “BRAVO!” And then she would let out this very deep belly laugh! She is such an enchanting little girl! Cara watched without moving, but she enjoyed it also. Unfortunately, Ron didn’t see much because of the angle of the barrel, but what he saw he enjoyed. It is definitely a place I would eat at again!

It was 11 PM before we got back to our room, and we had to be up by 4:30 AM in order to get to the airport in time for our 8:02 AM flight home. I had packed before we left for dinner, so we were all able to crawl into bed. Cara was asleep before her head hit the pillow, and I wasn’t far behind. All I could think of was home. We are finally going home!

Day 7

Day 7, Wednesday February 13

Cara woke up feeling much better this morning. I gave her children’s Advil through the night and she woke up without a fever. She was in a much better mood too. I was happy to see this as we had our final embassy appointment this afternoon, and we were going to have to take her out in the cold. She ate a good breakfast, was charming and pleasant to the ever indulgent staff, and happily carried her two bananas back upstairs with us as we finished.

We didn’t have a lot of time to spend in the room before leaving for our appointment, but she wanted to do some puzzles, and make every attempt she could to mess with the radio, phone, lights, and anything else she could get into.  The puzzles and games weren’t half as fascinating as opening drawers, turning lights off and on, getting a reaction for picking up the phone, or turning the radio up as loud as it would go. Suddenly, my calm little girl became a mini octopus with hands grabbing everything!

We left at 12:20 PM for the US Embassy. We were to meet Miglena outside the front entrance at 12:40, but we got there early. We were stopped by a guard in the front asking what we wanted. I explained we had an appointment for Cara’s final adoption interview and we were waiting for an employee of our foundation to meet us. I asked if we could get Cara out of the wind, and he took us to the front window where there was another layer of security to get through before going inside. This man took our passports and then asked for Cara’s, which I had to explain we wouldn’t get until after the embassy interview. It took at least 10 minutes of waiting and phone calls to get this poor kid out of the wind and inside where it was warm.

I waited for Miglena to arrive, and when she did, she got the two of us inside much quicker. We had to go through the same security as you do at the airport, taking off our shoes and belts and leaving all electronics behind. I noticed Cara’s baby doll sitting in a bin, having been confiscated because it was battery operated. My heart squeezed a bit, knowing how attached she is and the security it holds for her, and hoped she didn’t get upset over having to leave it.

We walked through another courtyard to a back building where the embassy staff offices were. Miglena has to talk with one of the people hidden behind what I assume was bullet proof glass, not being allowed to walk forward to the window until invited. She spent a long time talking with the woman there, and then told us we would be called by another woman who would ask us questions, and then tell us what the final procedure would be.

We were called in and met by a young American woman who was very friendly and nice. She asked us which foundation we were working with here, how we’d been treated, did we like them, what Cara’s orphanage was like, and what did we think of the medical facility Cara was taken to for her final medical appointment. She said she was asking because she’d heard they were not very good. We agreed, but told her we were very impressed with the foundation we were working with, loved everything they’d done for us, and were just anxious to go home. She then explained that we did not have to wait for any further documentation when we got home, nor did we have to readopt because Cara would be a US citizen as soon as she touched ground at Dulles Airport in Washington DC. We could apply for her SS card immediately, and would not need her American citizenship certificate. We’ve heard several different stories regarding this, so I guess we’ll find out when we get home. The final embassy papers will be ready on Thursday, including Cara’s visa, and her Bulgarian Passport, which Miglena will pick up at 4 PM tomorrow afternoon and bring to us at the hotel. We also have a stack of papers we are to carry with us at all times until we get her home in order to prove we are legally her parents, and are not walking off with some random Bulgarian child! We will be given a sealed manila envelope that is to remain sealed until we arrive in the US, and give those papers to customs. They are the legal papers immigration papers we need to get Cara into the US. I think they get sent to USCIS from there, and her citizenship certificate is issued. I’m not sure of this, just things I have gathered from the information others have spoken of. I’ll know more when it arrives, and where it came from.

Our evening was uneventful, although we celebrated with a dinner of ice cream and cheese cake! Enjoy, little one! This is not the typical dinner you will enjoy when we get home.

Day 6

Day 6, Tuesday February 11

Cara did not want to get out of bed this morning. I could tell she wasn’t feeling well, and she felt warm. Without a thermometer, it was difficult to determine if she had much of a fever, but I suspected she did. We went down to the restaurant for breakfast and I proceeded to fill her plate with the usual fare, as well as getting her yogurt and fruit. She pushed everything away, wanting only to hold the yogurt. Vergie, the hostess that helped to explain to Cara that we were eating in the restaurant, and then returning to the room, came to speak to her to see if she was feeling ok. Cara started to cry and told her she felt sick. She did not have pain, but just felt sick. Ron and I gulped down our breakfast and while he took her back upstairs to the room, I asked the front desk for a thermometer. They sent one to the room immediately. Of course it was in centigrade, and of course I had my computer to do the conversion!

When I got back to the room, Cara and Ron were lying in bed. She was half asleep, and miserable. I took her temperature, which was 101. I don’t know what possessed me to bring children’s Advil with us, but I was sure grateful I did. I gave her a dose, and she slept for 4 hours. She woke up very warm, so I put her in the tub to help bring the fever back down until I could give her another dose of Advil 2 hours later. The poor thing was so HOT and listless. Normally, a fever like this wouldn’t worry me, but when you are in a foreign country whose medical care is circa 1980’s, it is a little worrisome. She lied in bed with me, until it was time for the next dose, rocking herself side to side, and sucking her thumb. Again when I tried to comfort her she would push me away. I will patiently wait for the day when she will allow me to comfort her, instead of engaging in the self-soothing behaviors of a neglected child. L

She started feeling better about an hour after her second dose of Advil. She asked for a banana and a yogurt. She ate both and perked up a bit. We ordered room service for dinner, and she was not at all happy with the chicken soup I ordered for her. I also had chicken soup for dinner and it was very good! She let me dip her bread into the broth and ate that, but would allow no soup to enter her mouth by spoon. She is incredibly stubborn. Did I mention that already? J

After dinner we turned the lights off and told her it was bedtime. She lied down next to me and started rocking again. I let her rock, talking softly to her, telling her how much I loved her and would always keep her safe. I know she doesn’t understand now, but someday she will. She has no idea what an incredible blessing she is to me.

Day 6, Tuesday February 11

Cara did not want to get out of bed this morning. I could tell she wasn’t feeling well, and she felt warm. Without a thermometer, it was difficult to determine if she had much of a fever, but I suspected she did. We went down to the restaurant for breakfast and I proceeded to fill her plate with the usual fare, as well as getting her yogurt and fruit. She pushed everything away, wanting only to hold the yogurt. Vergie, the hostess that helped to explain to Cara that we were eating in the restaurant, and then returning to the room, came to speak to her to see if she was feeling ok. Cara started to cry and told her she felt sick. She did not have pain, but just felt sick. Ron and I gulped down our breakfast and while he took her back upstairs to the room, I asked the front desk for a thermometer. They sent one to the room immediately. Of course it was in centigrade, and of course I had my computer to do the conversion!

When I got back to the room, Cara and Ron were lying in bed. She was half asleep, and miserable. I took her temperature, which was 101. I don’t know what possessed me to bring children’s Advil with us, but I was sure grateful I did. I gave her a dose, and she slept for 4 hours. She woke up very warm, so I put her in the tub to help bring the fever back down until I could give her another dose of Advil 2 hours later. The poor thing was so HOT and listless. Normally, a fever like this wouldn’t worry me, but when you are in a foreign country whose medical care is circa 1980’s, it is a little worrisome. She lied in bed with me, until it was time for the next dose, rocking herself side to side, and sucking her thumb. Again when I tried to comfort her she would push me away. I will patiently wait for the day when she will allow me to comfort her, instead of engaging in the self-soothing behaviors of a neglected child. L

She started feeling better about an hour after her second dose of Advil. She asked for a banana and a yogurt. She ate both and perked up a bit. We ordered room service for dinner, and she was not at all happy with the chicken soup I ordered for her. I also had chicken soup for dinner and it was very good! She let me dip her bread into the broth and ate that, but would allow no soup to enter her mouth by spoon. She is incredibly stubborn. Did I mention that already? J

After dinner we turned the lights off and told her it was bedtime. She lied down next to me and started rocking again. I let her rock, talking softly to her, telling her how much I loved her and would always keep her safe. I know she doesn’t understand now, but someday she will. She has no idea what an incredible blessing she is to me.

Day 5! February 11th

Day 5, Monday, February 11

Cara woke this morning with a bit of a cough, and was a little hoarse. I suspect she is coming down with a cold. She’s suddenly been exposed to a million different germs she never came in contact with while in the orphanage. Hopefully, it is just a little one, and won’t last long.

Last night she exhibited the first of what we call “orphanage behaviors.” She started sucking her thumb and rocking herself side to side while she was going to sleep. She hadn’t done this until now, and I can only suspect it was because she was too emotionally drained. As she begins to feel safer and more comfortable with us, these behaviors will emerge. It is sad to see your child do these self-soothing behaviors as it means that when they needed comfort in the past, no one was there to offer it. I tried to comfort her last night, but she pushed me away and continued to rock. I just spoke to her soothingly as she rocked and she finally fell asleep. There were several times during the night that she woke me by rocking, and I just spoke softly to her again until she calmed. I know in time this will go away, it is just sad to watch.

She ate like a champ at breakfast again today and seemed to be in good spirits in spite of the oncoming cold. She was very social with the staff as they once again catered to “Princess Cara!” She ate her standard eggs, sausage, fruit, yogurt, potatoes and croissant. We had to take 2 bananas with us back to the room. Thankfully, the staff is quite indulgent and allows us to take whatever we want from the buffet to keep her happy.

After leaving the bananas in the room, we headed up over the big bridge to the huge shopping square close to the hotel. I forgot Cara’s hat, and it was a bit windy, so the first thing we did was find her a hat. She wasn’t real impressed with it, but we managed to keep it on her head most of the time. I found a pair of leather Italian ankle (maybe a little higher) boots on clearance for 48 Leva, which is about $33. Score one for Mom!

We continued to walk through the square, not venturing into too many stores as we discovered we had a baby octopus on our hands when we were in the shoe store buying my shoes. I swear I put a child to bed last night with only two hands, but she woke with at least 8 this morning. She has been pushing every button she can push, turning the lights off and on, pushing the buttons on the radio, and doing her best to talk on the hotel phone! We tell her NE (No) and she laughs delightedly at us both! The more playful she becomes, the more she gets into! Suddenly life is a game of engaging our attention every waking moment. It is a good thing Ron came with me so we can tag team this busy girl.

We stopped for lunch at a little restaurant in the square. I wanted meat balls in the worst way! Unfortunately, this little place did not serve meat balls, so we all ordered a tuna sandwich. Cara ate a banana and an entire tuna sandwich on a whole grain roll, while I ate half of mine, and Ron ate his and the rest of mine. I would weigh 500 lbs. if I ate the amount of food this child can put away! I am always amazed when I watch her eat.

Daddy has still been the preferred parent, so he is the one who must hold her hand as we walk. I was in charge of taking pictures.  As we headed back towards the hotel, we walked through an area where there was a huge jackhammer digging in the middle of the street. I happened to look back to see if they were close behind me and could see that she was crying and frightened. I scooped her up in my arms and hurried through the area to get away from the noise. We take so much for granted, and don’t realize how little these children have been exposed to until they get frightened or amazed by something new. It breaks my heart for all the children that are still waiting for their forever family to come and find them.

We made it back to the park, which is close to the hotel. Ron walks with Cara and I go off to take some photos of a couple of monuments that are in the park. The huge opera house, and something else that is obviously a monument, but because I cannot read the language I have no idea what it says. J While snapping photos, I hear Cara scream in terror, “Mama! Mama! Mama!”  and see Ron carrying her under the arms, feel dangling, heading right for me. She is screaming “Mama” all the way to me. I took her from him and found a bench to sit on with her in my lap, looking to see if she was hurt. Ron then explained that a woman with a little white dog walked past them and the dog jumped up at her, scaring her half to death. The woman felt terrible and tried to explain that the dog wouldn’t hurt her, but she was having none of it. I was able to comfort her, but as we continued our walk back to the hotel I had to carry her when there was a dog close by. Not feeling really good right now about having 3 dogs waiting for us at home! Two little white ones and a big chocolate lab that will lick your face off if you let her! Fun times ahead… I did like it that she called for me for comfort though. That was a good indication that she is starting to connect and knows I’m here to comfort her.

Back in the room, Ron and I tried desperately to get her to take a nap. Both of us are still suffering from Jet lag, and a nap sounded delightful for us. Cara, however, was having none of it. Dad napped, mom played my little pony, baby, and chase through the hotel room for about an hour. I did finally get her to sit with me on the bed to look at pictures on the computer. She loves seeing herself in pictures and especially loves watching herself on video. She gets very excited when she sees pictures of Alexandra and Daniel, and since she has already skyped with Alexandra, she keeps asking about Daniel. Hopefully, we can catch him online at least once before we head home.

We went back to the Mall and the food court for dinner and made a quick stop at the grocery store again for bananas. Of course Cara found a few things she wanted, mainly Kinder Eggs. She loves the chocolate, but especially loves the little toys inside.  Dinner was more chicken nuggets and fries at McDonalds, and she wasn’t disappointed to be there. She definitely has a love affair with French fries.

She had a difficult time accepting that it was bedtime again tonight, but we turned off the lights and ignored her for the most part. When she figured out we were serious, she settled down and went to sleep.

I could lay here for hours just looking at her and watching her sleep. The reality that she is truly my daughter, and will be coming home with us still amazes me and seems surreal. I love hearing her laugh, love her spunk, and love every bit of who she is! And she will be flying home with us on Friday, to grow up outside of an orphanage, surrounded by a family that loves and cherishes her! What a blessing she is to all of us.

Day 4! February 10, 2013

Day 4, Sunday, February 10

Another cold morning here, but the snow is melting, and it looks as if we may get out for a walk today. Cara woke up smiling and happy again, ready for her day. It is so nice to see the smile on her face first thing in the morning. She is starting to trust us to at least feed her every morning. And she loves going to the restaurant for breakfast. She is quite the celebrity there, with everyone hovering around her, asking her what she wants, catering to her every need. They are thrilled to see the little girl who arrived crying the first day, now happy and social. They all come to attention when Princess Cara arrives!

After breakfast we came back to the room just in time for Barry and JoAnn Wester to call. We didn’t get to the phone in time, so I went to the lobby to invite them up. I didn’t want to take Cara back down as she is still wary of leaving the room for anything other than eating.  When they came up, Cara sat in my lap at the writing table, and within minutes of us beginning to talk, she started to cry. I turned her towards me, and she buried her head in my chest, sobbing. I’m not sure what she was thinking, but the last time strangers came to see her they took her away, so I suppose that’s what she was afraid of.  She finally stopped crying, but refused to look at either Barry or JoAnn. At one point she turned her face towards them, but covered her eyes with her hands. About the time the Wester’s were ready to leave, she would finally peek at them and then quickly cover her eyes again. When they did get up to leave she was willing to get down and say good-bye. They gave her Super Nina, which she took, and said good-bye.  They headed off on the long drive to Targovishte to pick up their precious daughter, Anna, tomorrow morning.

Barry and JoAnn, it was wonderful meeting you both! Ron and I are as excited for your pick up trip as we were for us. We both pray it goes better than ours did, and Anna has been better prepared for your arrival. After spending the last three days with our angel, we know how blessed your family will be by the precious child you have rescued! My God bless your family, and especially the newest member with joy and peace!

A bit of explanation regarding Super Nina. Joleigh Little, another adoptive mom of the precious Clara, purchased one of the Incredibles mom dolls, Helen, dubbed her Super Nina, and took her with her to pick up Clara in May 2012. Since that time, Super Nina has been to Bulgaria more times than I can count, being shipped from family to family, so she can continue the adventure and be there when they pick up their children. Most of the kids love Super Nina, but Cara felt we were trying our best to replace her baby, so after the first 10 minutes, she put her down on the bed and wants nothing more to do with her.

We took Cara out for a walk after our visit, heading down through the tunnels under the street and over to the park. I took Super Nina with us, because Cara had no interest. Cara had told the restaurant staff at breakfast that she wanted Pizza for breakfast, so we thought we’d see if we could find it for her for lunch. We had been through the tunnels last October on our first visit, and were both surprised at how many of the shops had gone out of business. Most of the shops were closed because it was Sunday, so we did a little window shopping until we came out the other side. There was a Pizza/Gyro fast food place right at the top of the stairs, so we made a mental note of that, and continued our walk. Super Nina, always on the job, found a telephone and made us wait while she made some calls! Does she ever rest! NO! NEVER!!!  Cara wasn’t all that interested in the walk, and before too long indicated she wanted to return to the hotel. We stopped at the pizza place to get her lunch, and sat down while we waited for the pizza to cook. I tried to engage her in some play with Super Nina, or at least let me get pictures of the two of them, but when I sat Super Nina on the table by her, she pushed her away. Super Nina was not concerned and moved to the other end of the table. Super Nina understands the trauma children experience during pick up week, and was more than willing to give Cara her space. She kept watch, but didn’t push.

Lunch came, and Cara refused to eat! She kept pointing to the big menu above the cash register to the French fries! She was not going to eat anything at all except the fries. I thought I could wait her out, but by the look on her face she was going to be incredibly stubborn about it. I caved and got her some fries, but didn’t give her too many. I tried to get her to eat some pizza along with the fries, but she had none of it. I threw most of the cold fries in the trash and we headed back to the room.

We played games, and lots of puzzles for the remainder of the day. She wants to count the monkeys, over and over again. I love hearing her say them as much as she likes doing it. She is definitely daddy’s girl right now, and though she is attaching to me, she definitely prefers him.

Cara was not happy when it came time for bed. She was very wound up, and bouncing off the walls. She has not been on any kind of schedule since we picked her up last Thursday, and I’m sure she is still very confused. I also suspect she is wondering when we are taking her home. I gave her a warm bath hoping that would help calm her, but that was just dreaming on my part.  I could not communicate with her that it was bed time, although, I think it was more of an “I don’t want to understand.” I went down to the desk to have one of the staff members write out the phrase, “It is time for sleep.” Vreme e da spish.” When I got back upstairs and put my pajamas on I climbed into bed, telling her “Vreme e da spish.” She was standing on the bed, looking at me like she had no clue what I was saying. I repeated it again, and got the same response. I finally had to lay her down, repeat it again, and turn out the lights. And that’s when the tears started. I pulled her close, but she pushed me away, getting as far away from me as she could. She was angry, and when she is angry, she has no problem letting you know! J I told her I loved her, and at some point we both fell asleep.

Today’s photos:


Super Nina arrives and is thrilled to see we have caffeine in the room!


Riding the elevator down to the lobby to go for a walk.



Does she ever stop working????? NO! She is constantly “On the job” saving orphans, one child at a time!


This is the one and only photo I could get of Super Nina and Cara. After this was taken, Cara pushed her away and grabbed her baby.  She will accept no replacements for the coveted “bebe!”


You can see she was happier once Super Nina moved to the end of the table!

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I mean REALLY? Super Nina??? In the ban yan?


Making sure Cara is safe in the tub!


Super Nina does not like this magnified mirror any more than I do!!!




Cara fresh and clean from her bath and ready for bed.




Super Nina on night watch. 🙂



Saturday, February 9th, Day 3

Cara woke up this morning with a big smile on her face. She was animated and full of giggles as we got her dressed for breakfast. I was a little nervous, especially after our experience yesterday. She willingly got dressed, and when I said “Let’s go eat,” she put her jacket on and seemed excited to go. Dad was still the preferred parent, and she would only hold his hand. I could see how pleased he was, and I was pleased for him.

Yesterday, I showed Cara how to push the buttons to get the elevator, and she went right to the button and pushed the right one! I’m sure that was pure luck, but she was quite proud of herself. Once inside we showed her which button we needed to push to get to the lobby, and she grinned as the light came on around the button and the elevator started to move. When we got to the lobby, she knew which way to go from the elevator to the restaurant, and marched in there with daddy, like she was a pro!

We got settled around a table and she and I went to the buffet. She is too short to see anything, so I had to lift her up to see the choices and fill her plate. I cannot believe the amount of food this child can eat. She can put a truck driver to shame!  I filled her plate with eggs, sausages, hash browns, and a croissant. She also had a bowl with pears and pineapple, an Activia yogurt, and had 2 bananas sitting next to her.  She ate everything but the two bananas, which we took with us back to the room.  I had a small spoon full of scrambled eggs, a couple of pieces of bacon, half a croissant, and 2 cups of coffee… and I didn’t eat everything on my plate! I did however, drink ALL the coffee!

We had decided to treat her to a trip to the giant toy store here after breakfast. We had heard that Jumbo is bigger than Toys R Us, and is on two levels. We were hoping we could find a replacement doll for the one we gave her last October. She is very, very attached to this doll, but is unhappy that both the dolls eyes are broken, and the inside her mouth is really gross. I can’t tell if it is crayon, or the liquid from the magic milk bottle that came with the doll, but there is also something black mixed in with the yellow, and I can’t tell if it’s mold. She took that doll everywhere with her from the minute she got it, and has carried it with her for the past 4 months. If we leave the room for any reason, baby comes with us. In its current state, the doll looks like something out of a horror movie!

Getting into the cab outside the hotel, Cara got a little upset and started saying something. The hotel staff member that had gotten the cab for us said she wanted to be sure daddy sat next to her in the cab! Now we know why she was so upset yesterday in the cab ride home from her medical appointments. Ron set her in the cab next to me, and climbed into the front seat!! She was very angry over that, and felt somehow I was to blame. It’s always good when you finally understand what is going on with a child you can’t understand!

As promised, Jumbo was a huge toy store. Bigger than Toys R Us, but there were not as many toys. Toys R Us is ALL toys, and Jumbo also carried household items, a full baby store, and clothing. After walking into the store and making a quick left turn we were in the doll department. Cara was beyond excited. There were many interactive baby dolls, and she went from doll to doll, squeezing  hands, feet, and tummies. We probably spent a good 45 minutes as she went over each doll in awe! She chattered excitedly, which unfortunately I could not understand, and just went from doll to doll to doll and then back again. There were 3 dolls she liked the most and we put their boxes together on the floor and indicated to her to choose one. She stood by Ron looking at me but not moving. The smile was gone from her face and she didn’t move.  Slowly I picked up each doll and went to put it in the cart. I asked, “Da?” and she said “NE” to each one. When I asked her yes or no to the last doll, she said “Ne!” very firmly and grabbed her baby. It was obvious that as excited as she was to see all the new babies, she didn’t want to bring any of them home. She has a baby, and she has no desire to replace her.Hopefully, I can find someone to repair the baby’s eyes when we get home.

We bought her some bathtub toys while we were there, hoping to make bath time less frightening. She had never had a bath where she sat in water before; she’d only been hosed down. Sitting in the bath the first night was a very frightening experience for her. I tried to show her how to splash and relax a bit, but her little body was rigid, and her eyes wide. I hurried to get her hair washed and a once over with a wash cloth so I could get her in her pj’s. Once she was dressed, had her hair combed, and teeth brushed, she flashed me the big smile. I was hoping with some toys in there with her, she might lose that “deer caught in the headlights” look and enjoy the warm water a bit. I must say, there were not a lot of options even at “Jumbo!” I ended up buying her sorting cups and a couple of floating fish. She spotted the puzzles and was very excited! We had purchased a jigsaw puzzle to do with her last October, and she’d never seen or done one before. It looked hard, and she backed away. Ron pulled her up on his lap and started to show her how to put the pieces together and by the end of our visit she was beginning to get the hang of it, and seemed to enjoy it. She put ever princess puzzle she saw into the cart. Some with up to 500 pieces! She put them in, I took them out and put them back. I directed her to a few I thought were easier and more on her level, and she finally chose 3 we were able to bring home. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find bubbles, or a step stool for her to use in the bathroom. She is so tiny her eyes just come up above the counter. We had hoped to give her a little more independence with a step stool, but we never found one. She also picked out another “My Little Pony” with long hair and clips to put in the pony’s hair, and we were done shopping.

We found a cab right outside the door, and told him we wanted to go to the Hilton, the only Hilton in this area! He nodded, and took off. We drove right past the Hilton, and down towards the airport. Ron and I were looking at each other thinking he might now a different route to hotel, but Ron finally said to him, Hilton? Our driver nodded saying “Yes, very expensive!” and kept going. Somehow, Ron was able to communicate to him that we wanted to GO to the Hilton, not discuss expensiveness, and the poor man was so apologetic! He kept apologizing, and we kept telling him it was ok! He then told Ron he was 70 years old, and Ron said, “Me… 73!” The driver laughed and said, “big brother!”  When we finally got to the hotel, it took him quite a few minutes to give us the fare as he was trying to take off the amount for our unnecessary ride to the other side of town. Cab fare here is so inexpensive; I gave him a decent tip, thanked him and got out.

Cara marched right to the elevator, pushed the button and flashed me a huge grin of absolute pride! Once inside, we again showed her which button to push to get to the right floor. This time however, she pushed the button we showed her, as well as four more! She was very pleased with herself. We stopped at 3 additional floors before reaching ours, which confused her as that had never happened before. Getting off the elevator, I immediately challenged her to a race to the room. It took her a minute to figure out what I was doing but then she finally ran with me to the room. She’d given me too much of a head start though, so I threw my hands up in the air when I reached the door, yelling “I win!!!” I know she didn’t understand, but she laughed and laughed and said to Ron while pointing to me “mama!”

As soon as we got inside, she wanted to look at all her new things. She and Ron got the puzzles out and put a couple together. It is fun to watch her find pieces that match. When she gets two together she calls out “Mama!” and holds them up for me to see. She played with her new pony for a while too, and then discovered the Barrel of Monkeys I brought for her. Ron got them out and showed her how to link them together, and then counted them as she linked them up. Before long she started counting in English with him.  I got the biggest kick out of hearing her cute little voice counting, One, two, flea, fo, five… She loved this and it was something they did for hours! By the end of the day she had one, two, flea, fo, seven!

While daddy took a nap, something I had hoped we’d all do (didn’t happen), she and I played with her new stacking cups. She was fascinated with them. We stacked them into a tower, then in colors, and then put them all inside one another. We started repeating colors with me, but I wasn’t pushing it. It was just a relaxing time.

I got to experience her sense of humor for the first time today! We showed her how to turn the lights off and on in the hotel with the two main switches, and also how to turn the bathroom light off and on. Like all children, she loves doing things by herself.  We have learned we have to be careful that we don’t treat her like a much younger child because of her size. She is so tiny it is easy to forget she is 6 years old.  While I was in the bathroom, she came and turned the light off on me, leaving me in the dark. I could hear her running over to the bed, giggling!  Now every time I am in the bathroom, doing my hair, brushing my teeth, or washing my hands, she comes and turns the light off and runs into the main room. I pretend to chase her and then when I catch her, I have to tickle her! It is a great game, just for the two of us. She never does this to Ron.

We had to eat in the hotel restaurant tonight because she really does not like to leave the hotel when it is dark. I’m not sure what that is all about, but she will willingly go for a walk or get into a cab during the day, but she is uncomfortable doing so at night. I suspect she didn’t go anywhere in the dark when she was at the orphanage, and this is uncomfortable for her. I ordered her a grilled ham and cheese sandwich that she loved, but she was incredibly impressed with the French fries. To say she loved the French fries is a huge understatement. She ate 3/4ths of her sandwich, polished off her fries, and had 2 scoops of ice cream for dessert. I ordered the same sandwich for me, and ate half, and maybe 10 fries. I asked the waitress to box the remainder of mine up, and when she brought the clear box to the table, Cara pushed her ice cream away and wanted the box. I pushed the box out of reach, and pushed her ice cream back. She ate almost all of it and then pointed to the box. I opened it up for her, and she handed me the rest of my sandwich and dove into the fries! She didn’t leave one behind!

We returned to the room, gave her a bath and got ready for bed. She enjoyed her bath much more because she had some toys to play with. I filled the tub up with more water for her too, so she didn’t get as cold. This is only her second bath, and I was pleased that she wasn’t as frightened as the first time.

Cara has been sleeping in the big bed with me, and Ron has graciously taken the twin bed they brought in for us. When I told her it was bedtime, she rolled over on her right side, sliding back so her fanny was touching me, and fell asleep. I was trying to catch up with the blog posts, but had to stop for a while and just listen to her breathe as she slept.



Yes, this is a pretty good sandwich!



But the fries are definitely better!


Making sure no one else eats her fries!

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Ice cream isn’t bad…


I ate almost all of it.

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But if there are fries available, they win over ice cream any day of the week!


I ate every single on in the box!



Yes, I did just push the elevator button and make it move!




Mama won the race to the room!!!

Day 2, Friday February 8th

Friday, February 8th

Cara slept well, and all night, but she didn’t move or make a sound when she woke up. I think she was afraid to tell me she had to go to the bathroom, so she laid there and wet the bed. :/  I didn’t make a big deal of it, just got her up, wiped her down and got her dressed for the day. She was still pretty subdued and not interacting with us at all. Now and again we could get a strained smile out of her, but that was about it.

Included in our stay at the Hilton is complementary breakfast. Not continental breakfast, but a beautiful buffet of eggs, bacon, salads, vegetables, desserts, breads, juice, coffee and yogurt. We felt Cara would love this as she is a big eater. When we got out coats on to go out the door, she was nervous, and unsure. She rode down the elevator, but when we entered the restaurant, she started crying and saying something we didn’t understand. I asked the hostess if she would please explain to her that we were going to eat, and I asked her what Cara was saying to us. The hostess told us she was saying she wanted to go back to our room. The woman tried to explain to her that we were going to eat, and then go back to the room. Cara was having none of it, telling her that we had bananas in the room, and just cried that much harder. And then the hostess started crying right along with her. She was so upset for our little girl! When I saw the hostess crying, tears started running down my cheeks! I was so touched by her compassion for our child! The restaurant manager Minko noticed the tear fest at the entrance and came over to help. He started talking to Cara in a soothing voice, and then motioned for me to follow him. He took us over to the buffet and pointed out all the good things to eat to Cara. I knew she had to be hungry as she had refused food the night before, and I was right. Once she saw the food, she stopped crying and took a keen interest in what Minko was saying. Soon he was asking her what she wanted and she started pointing to the food she wanted, which was a little of everything! He filled her plate with all kinds of good things to eat, making sure she only had little bits of the sweet things, and filled her plate with eggs, sausages and fruit. By the time we got to the table she was more than ready to sit down to her veritable feast! She tasted everything he gave her, and went back to what she liked best. Her favorite was Nutella and croissants!

After breakfast, we came back to the room as we had promised. A lesson in building trust! As I took care of some necessary business on the computer, Cara got out the small white board and markers we’d brought with is. We found one teaching how to write numbers, and another for the alphabet. She got out the one with numbers and proceeded to show us how well she can write 4’s!

We had three appointments with Cara scheduled by our foundation, and we were waiting for a call from Sveti,  another employee of the foundation. She would be attending the two appointments  with us so that they could proceed with Cara’s exit visa and passport. We had appointments at the passport office, another photo place to take her medical report photo, and then her exit medical exam which is required to be sure we are not taking a sick child into the US. I was nervous about having to take her out again, because of the reaction at breakfast, but it was unavoidable.

Sveti called at 12:45 and told us she was in the lobby waiting for us. Cara was very nervous as we got her jacket and boots on, but didn’t start to cry until we got to the lobby and Sveti introduced herself to us. As soon as she explained to Cara what we were going to do, the howling began. Once again she told us she wanted to go back up to the room. Over and over, and no matter what Sveti told her, she was unconvinced. She clung to me like a baby possum clings to its mother, arms and legs wrapped around me as tightly as she could. I held her in my lap in the taxi, her head nestled in the hollow of my shoulder, as she sobbed. I rubbed her back as I tried to quietly reassure her that we would come back, and I would never, ever leave her! Eventually the sobs stopped. I was amazed and encouraged that she stopped that quickly!

We got out of the car at the passport office and waited while Sveti filled out the necessary paperwork and then again while waiting for our turn for her photo. When it was time for us to go inside, I sat her on a revolving stool in front of the camera and spun her around a few times. She enjoyed that and was grinning and even giggled a bit before her picture was taken. She would not smile, but after 3 attempts, the passport office was finally satisfied with her picture to let us go. We walked around the corner to the next building where we again waited for them to take the photo for her medical reports. Cara finally relaxed enough to sit on my lap looking away from me instead of needing to bury her head in my shoulder.

Another taxi ride and we were dropped off at the “hospital” where she would see the pediatrician and get her medical clearance. Sveti explained to a very nice woman doctor that Cara suffers from digestive cystic fibrosis, and takes digestive enzymes to help her digest her food. The doctor asked me several questions, and then examined Cara. At one point she was pushing on her belly, and explained to me that she was “curious” about her disease. Most doctors never see a child with any type of chronic disease because these children do not go home with their parents and are hidden away in orphanages. She had never examined a child with Cara’s disease, so poked and prodded far more than usual. Cara was a real trooper, even opening her mouth as soon as she saw the tongue depressor coming at her. They weighed and measured her with her snow boots on, so nothing was very accurate, but she passed her through, explaining she would have her final report completed next week for Sveti to pick up. She gave Cara the tongue depressor and a sticker as we left. Cara clung to my hand going back down the stairs, and then I had Ron hold on to her while I paid the doctor’s fee. Sveti and I walked outside as Sveti explained the next steps to me, and Ron and Cara trailed behind. Sveti called a taxi for us to return to the hotel, and said she’d see us again on Wednesday.

Instead of returning to the hotel, we had the driver take us to the mall next to the hotel to pick up a few things we needed. I didn’t want to take Cara back to the room and then have to leave again with her, upsetting her again that day. I climbed into the back seat of the cab, Ron put Cara in back with me, and got in front with the driver. I put the seat belt around Cara and draped my arm around her shoulders as the cab drove off. I noticed Cara was agitated, but had no idea why. Suddenly, she threw the tongue depressor down on the floor of the cab and pushed my arm off her shoulders. And then the sticker followed the tongue depressor. I could see she was no angry, and suddenly she started kicking her feet, and saying something I could not understand. But the fact that she was angry was evident. She tried then to unbuckle her seat belt, and when I told her no, she flipped out. I pulled her on my lap and she started screaming “Daddy!!!” over and over, all the way to the mall, trying to fight her way off my lap. When we arrived at the mall, she pushed me away and scrambled out the door to Ron. I was persona non grata from that point on. She glared at me sideways, refused to hold my hand at all, and wouldn’t even look at me. I was out, dad was in! J Girl drama from a six year old that doesn’t even speak English! But let me tell you, she got her point across very well!  We found the things we needed very quickly and returned to the hotel where she glared at me for the next few hours.  I said to Ron, “Remind me again why we are adopting girls!”

We bought the few things we needed at the mall, including a new pair of boots for our princess, and then treated her to her first ever McDonalds Happy Meal. She enjoyed the nuggets, but LOVED the fries! I have to say she has good taste, because I think McD’s has the best fries!

She did allow me to get her ready for bed and brush her teeth, but not much else. When I finally put her in bed, she rolled over away from me, hanging on to her baby, and I thought she was falling asleep. I logged onto the computer hoping to catch Daniel or Alexandra online at home, and was lucky enough that Alexandra signed on shortly after I did. Unfortunately, the sound wasn’t working so we had to converse through text. Alexandra asked me if we had Cara with us yet, so I turned the camera so she could see the little brown head next to me in bed. I noticed Cara was still awake, and told her to come and see. I wish I could adequately explain how excited she was to see Alexandra on the computer! She started saying her name and just went wild! Alexandra waved to her, and Cara waved and blew her a kiss! It was incredible! Then Cara started mentioning her toys, and would fly off the bed to grab one to bring to the computer to show Alexandra. It was amazing to watch, and so incredible to realize that she knew her sister, just from the photos in the photo album we’d left for her in October! Cara even went and got her photo album flipping right to the page where Alexandra’s picture was to show Alexandra! It was a couple of hours before she got to sleep after that, just too excited at seeing her sister! Eventually, she fell asleep, and she slept well and all night. It was the happiest I’d seen her since we’d taken her from the orphanage on Thursday morning.

Some pictures from Day 2:

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One less…

For those of you who don’t know, Ron and I are in country with Cara, making preparations to bring her home. We arrived Wednesday, February 6th, around 1:30 in the afternoon. The hotel shuttle was waiting for us and we had an uneventful ride to the hotel, and a bed! We left Coeur d’Alene at 3:15 AM Tuesday morning for a 6 AM flight and we landed in a time zone 10 hours ahead of home. You do the math!

We were met at 8 AM Thursday morning for the long drive to the orphanage. Yoana, the attendant from our foundation in country, met us with the driver, Coatshe. I know I didn’t spell his name right, but the pronunciation is coat-shea. He was the same driver who picked us up after our visit with Cara last October. Yoana is in her mid 20’s, and such a lovely young woman. Friendly, outgoing, very talkative, and has a huge heart for these kids. I really enjoyed chatting with her all the way to Cara. She pointed out many of the historic locations and monuments for us along the way, and told us all about this lovely little town that claims fame to the castle of the last king.

Yoana also explained what had been going on in Cara’s orphanage since we’d left. There was now a new director, an older woman who seemed very nice on the phone. She told Yoana that Cara had been to the dentist recently for a toothache, unfortunately, an abscess.  They did not pull the tooth, but she was taking antibiotics that needed to be finished.  Other than that, Cara seemed excited and ready for us to arrive. They had been talking to her about it, reading her my letters, and going over and over the photo book we’d left with her.

We arrived at the orphanage between 12 and 12:30 PM. The first thing I noticed was the yard. The weeds had all been cut, and there seemed to be some grass growing. Their winter has been mild and we saw lots of green spaces on our way. The playground equipment seemed to be in better repair too. It looked “happier” if that makes sense.

We met with the director first, handing her the gifts we’d brought for her and the staff, and also the individual gifts we had brought for each of the children. When we had visited Cara in October of last year, she was one of 12 children remaining in this orphanage. The goal was to shut it down and move all these children to foster homes. Of those 12 children, only 9 remain now that Cara is “one less.”

Once the formalities were over, one of the staff members brought Cara in. She was also accompanied by another child, Yordanka. I remembered Yordanka from our previous visit. She is now being adopted by the director and her husband! We were truly amazed and so excited that Yordanka found her own family, and was no longer an orphan. She comes to work with mom every morning, and goes home with her every night. She sees her friends during the day, but has family at night. She was smiling, and happy, and went to her mother and stroked her cheek in absolute love and adoration! It was obvious this child was meant to be the director’s daughter!

Cara was very shy when she came into the director’s office. She produced a very weak smile, and her eyes were darting around, watching us all. You could see the fear building and in no time she was crying uncontrollably. Big gulping, heartbreaking sobs! The director and nurse took the clothing I had brought for her, and led her from the room to change her clothes. And I promptly burst into tears! It was so painful to see her fear, and know we were about to turn this little girls world inside out and upside down. Yes, she will eventually accept this, yes, it is definitely better that she come with us instead of living in an orphanage the rest of her life, and no, I could never turn around and leave her there! But, knowing you are the cause of the fear and pain your child is experiencing at that moment is heart breaking, and my tears were for her, in complete understanding that her fear was valid, I understood!

We waited quite some time before Cara was brought back into the room next to the director’s. They shut the door so we could not see her, but we could hear what the director was telling her. As she and Yordanka played with her, the director spun this huge fabricated tale about how Cara would come back to the orphanage to visit and the director would drive her car to America and visit her. They would stay in touch and Cara would be back! Yoana was translating all of this for us as it was happening! I was absolutely horrified! I told Yoana we would have to do damage control if we ever got her in the car.

I believe it took about 2 hours to finally get Cara strapped in her car seat and ready to go. She walked to the car with the Director and Yordana, and didn’t start crying hysterically until she was strapped into her car seat. She started screaming for Yordanka, with huge tears rolling down her cheeks. There was no consoling her, or talking to her. After about 30 minutes of non-stop, “YORDANKA, YORDANKA, YORDANKA” and the hysterical crying, the driver turned back and wagged his finger at her, calmly but firmly telling her that it was time to stop and if she did not stop, he would put her in their version of a time out! I watched in amazement as she sucked it up, doing her best to stop, and her poor little face contorting a million ways as she did. And suddenly the car was quiet. Much as I appreciated Coatshe’s intervention, I felt so bad for her. I knew she needed to cry, and that there will be many more tears, but was grateful for the quiet.

Yoana talked to her as we drove, showing her things outside, explaining that we were stopping in the next town to see the castle and have something to eat. Cara promptly spit out that she did not want to see the castle and she did not want anything to eat! She wanted to go back to “the home.” Yoana told her we wanted to see the castle and needed to eat so we would stop. Cara was silent all the way to the next town. We did see the castle, and we did stop to eat. And an interesting thing happened… Coatshe became her new best friend! She sat with him, and walked around the restaurant with him. If he asked her a question, she would answer. She would not speak to any of the rest of us. I had to wonder if she’d figured out since he was the one driving away from the orphanage; he was the only one that could take her back. At one point she told him she wanted to come with us, but wanted to go back to “the home” to sleep. She was grasping at anything she could to make this ok in her little world.

About the only thing she could control was whether or not she was going to eat and drink, and she refused both. She’d had lunch with the kids at the orphanage before we got there, but that had been quite some time before. Coatshe offered her bites of his, and when she refused, he said, “That is fine. That means all the more for me.” Cara never gave in. If she was hungry, she wasn’t letting us know.

The weather turned nasty the last hour and a half of our drive. First the rain, then sleet, then snow. Yoana, explained all of this to Cara as we sped along the highway, telling her about the different weather changes, adding that she and Coatshe were taking us to the hotel and then they would be leaving. She also let her know that in the morning we had to go have her picture taken so she could go home with us. She did not respond in any way to any of this news.

It was 7:30 by the time we got to the room with her. We were all exhausted, and I knew she was hungry. We’d bought yogurt, bananas and apple juice the day before to have on hand for her, but she only wanted the bananas. She ate two, drank a little water, and sat with dad to put together the puzzle they’d done many times together on our first visit

last October. She was quiet and non-communicative, and periodically a tear or two would roll down her cheek. Every now and again she would whisper the words that she had to use the bathroom. The antibiotics she was on were wreaking havoc with her digestive tract. She would not allow either of us to comfort her, but she sat quietly in Ron’s lap while I got myself ready for bed, and then brought out her pajamas. She allowed me to dress her for bed and grabbed her baby to lay down by me. Thankfully, she fell asleep easily and seemed to have a restful night.

Some pictures of “Gotcha Day”

Cara and YordankaCara with her new sunglassesThe director, Yordanka's mommyTime to goOne last photoThe CastleCara did not want to get out of the car!DSC_0037 DSC_0046 DSC_0048DSC_0050 DSC_0051 DSC_0056 DSC_0059

The one and only smile we’d gotten all day was when she was bathed and dressed for bed. It was an emotionally exhausting day for us all.