Monday, April 15, 2013


Early this morning we left Sofia in the pouring rain and drove 2 1/2 hours to Pleven.
As soon as I sat down in the back seat tears pooled in my eyes.
For 10 months we have anticipated this day and to have it finally here was almost too much for me!

It was surreal, pulling up in front of this orphanage that I had seen many times in pictures.
It's a very "harsh" looking building, all grey brick and angles, and comes up suddenly out of nowhere.

Our driver/translator, Demiter, had told us that we would be meeting the pediatrician this morning and would not see the children until this afternoon.
As soon as we walked in a social worker met us and took us upstairs.  
Twice, someone walked by with a small child in their arms and I couldn't help but check to see if it was someone I "knew".  I didn't recognize either one.

We were ushered into a tiny room and I recognized it immediately!  
This was the room where the video of Ethan was taken so many months ago.
In my imagination, from all the voices I heard, I thought it was a large room.
I can see now why he wanted out!  
It must have been terribly crowded and overwhelming for him.

The next thing we know, Demiter is telling us that they are bringing the children from their 'classroom' to meet us!
The door opens and...

there they are...

Elaina runs to me for a hug!

Then, she runs to Dan for a hug!

Then, she runs to Demiter for a hug!

Bless his heart, he told her "No" 
and sent her back to us.

She was almost in a frenzy of excitement, her tiny body shaking as she tried to take everything in and make sense of it.  
The social worker kept telling her- "Mama"... "Daddy"... and she would repeat it but was just as likely to call Demiter by one of the names.

She wanted Dan to stand up and hold her, to carry her around.
Again, Demiter stepped in and said "This is when you begin to set the boundaries.  These are behaviors of her orphanage life.  You will begin to teach her about family life."

Ethan was obviously overwhelmed.
He is not yet walking independently nor is he talking.
He would shout out sounds and, occasionally, hit himself around the face with the heel of his hand.
We went very slowly with him, allowing him to reach out to us.  
He sent very clear signals when we had overstepped our bounds.
At one point I sat beside him and rubbed his back.  
He was okay for a moment then pulled away and gave me a definite stink-eye!

By the end of this short visit we had ALL settled down a bit.
Ethan was more relaxed and Elaina was less frantic.
All in all, it was okay
A good start.  

At 3:30 we got another chance and a different location.
This time we were in an indoor play area complete with ball pit and slides.
Once again, Elaina was beyond excited to be there and Ethan, while calmer and more interested, was still aloof.
The orphanage psychologist was there to answer any questions we had.
I've seen these children for less than one hour and I have one hour now, to get to know them.  
I didn't really know what to ask and I really wanted to play with my kids!

I managed to come up with a couple of questions and 
he really did seem to have some insight into what makes them 'tick'.

He told us that, while Ethan has no typical expressive language at this time, he does show them that he understands what is being said to him which was encouraging (and believable, based on our observations).  They also said it appears he has made up a rudimentary language of his own with yelps, clicks, trills and gestures.  By the end of the visit I was beginning to see a little more of this as he attempted to get our attention and let us know that he was ready to play.

He advised us not to push him to respond but to keep the door open to him and he would join.
This also proved true.

The second visit was just plain fun!

Elaina started out wanting everything done for her. 
She wanted to be carried up the ladder to the slide.
She wanted to sit on a lap to go down the slide.
She wanted to choose who would hold the ball, where we would sit, etc., etc.

By the end of our visit she was climbing the ladder independently and going down the slide for us to catch her.  
She was also calling herself "Big girl!" in english!
This little miss repeats everything and remembers how to use it appropriately!

When we blew bubbles, she started out wanting them all for herself.
With only two prompts, she would let us blow a batch for Ethan and let him have them all to himself and wait patiently for us to blow a batch for her.

Dan looked through the family photo album with her and she repeated everyones name.
At the end of the visit Demiter showed her the pictures of Bella and Heidi 
and asked her what they were.
"Cats" she told him.
"How many cats?" he asked.
Smart girl!

And Ethan...
Sweet boy!
He was much more relaxed in this setting.
He still yelled out and he still stimmed by hitting himself with the heel of his hand 
he smiled!  
A lot!
He reached out for us, walked with us, rolled cars, played with bubbles and actually got into the ball pit for a bit.
The psychologist feels that he will talk and that his first language will be english.

The visit ended rather abruptly but the caregiver who came to get them was friendly and smiling.
They both blew us lots of kisses and then...

they were gone.

As I write this the rain has stopped and the sun is out.

It was a good first day!

Our view from the Rostov in Pleven.

Oh, wait!
You wanted to see the kids....
silly me!

Ethan and Mom

Elaina and Dad

New family members!


  1. This brought tears to my eyes. Actually, they quietly continue to fall as I comment. Dan and Sharon, you are such wonderful people. These children are very blessed to have you. I feel blessed to follow your journey. They are Beautiful!!!

  2. I love the pictures! They are so sweet! Thanks for sharing so many details of your first visit together :)

  3. Demiter sounds like an amazing man! How wonderful that he is so tuned in to the needs of the children and is able to redirect them as well as giving you helpful information about how to approach behaviors. What a blessing to have him as your translator. Can't wait to see more pictures and some videos. I want to hear that girl speakin' some English and repeating names of her family members!

  4. Wow, sounds like an incredible day! You will sleep well tonight...but I bet you can't wait for tomorrow! I'm curious how much the kids understand about what "mom" and "dad" and family mean? Do you have any idea what they know? Having never had a family, I think it would be hard to explain that to them.

  5. Great post. Thank you so much for sharing. Amazing to see the growth on just the first day. Can't wait to hear how the rest of your visits go - and pictures of course.

  6. AH HA, the phsycologist came to our visit way too early for us too! :) Elaina is SO SMART!! I am so happy for you guys, I can't wait to hear more about Ethan, as I have never met him! He looks so sweet and small. I hope you will get to see what the kids eat!! Ask TONS of questions! This is your fact finding mission!!!
    Love you, praying for you!
    You should visit my favorite resturante for dinner sometime. Go out of your hotel and take a right...walk until you are across from the park, walk to the end of the park, cross the street and you should be right in front of it, it is a pinkish pastel building. It has outdoor seating but was closed when I was there.

  7. I'm so happy to see her face again. Your little girl came up to me and was tugging on my shirt saying something. People kept pushing her away from me and shhing her. When we left the orphanage the one worker told me she was asking me for a hug. Irish they had told me. I would have hugged her. I did however put my hand on her head and prayed over her. I'm so happy to see her with a mama. Hug her for me please. Thank you. Be blessed