Friday, October 25, 2013

In Honor of My Mother's Birthday

It is my mother's birthday today and it seems fitting that I am running around Bulgaria loving up these children - I am the youngest of six children and after these adoptions we will have six children.  When people look at me crazy for having so many kids I say, "Ah, I was the youngest of six children...."  So thanks to my mom for raising all of us and giving me confidence to do this.

One of the most fitting things that happened at the END of today was when I arrived at the Budapest Hotel in Sofia after my first visit to Nellie (Anelia) and found that the elevator buttons were detailed in Braille.

I don't think I'd seen Braille in Bulgaria, so this had special significance to me after spending time with my blind daughter-to-be.

Anyway, after arriving in Sofia, I went straight from the bus terminal to the house where Nellie is staying.  Again, the director was not there (she oversees another house in Sofia and had to leave to deal with a situation there) but my attendant and I went into the house, stored our luggage in one of the children's bedrooms, and as she went to the kitchen to speak with the woman who was working, I noticed in the adjoining living room a certain young girl sitting in her chair that I knew well from photos of this place.  It was Nellie.

I went over to her and she reached out and took my hand and placed it on her head.  Now, shortly thereafter I realized that she put it there because she thought I was the woman working, but still, it seemed like a good sign.  We decided to move Nellie to another room so that it would be quieter and we could be away from the other residents who were in the living room.  Nellie did not like this.  While she did like walking down the stairs (I had just learned yesterday that she could do this) she needed to be carried the rest of the time, and when the person working there left me and the attendant and Nellie alone in the room, she cried and cried and I took her on my lap and she would have none of it.  She wasn't interested in the musical toys I'd brought her (although she did hold an egg-shaped shaker like grim death) and shortly thereafter we returned to the living room and she to her chair where she at least stopped crying.  And for a child that small, she is quite sturdy and strong.

She was still pretty non-plussed with me whileI held her hand and handed her different instruments and then I remembered that I had brought her a little elephant shaped kids xylophone that you play like a piano.  I knew she liked this because in the videos we had been sent she played with one.  

Elephant Piano with Nellie Edited Out
It instantly transformed her. She became calm and quiet, and just as in the video, she very deliberately began to explore it with her hands and play it.  I played what I could of "Ode to Joy" for her and "Jingle Bells" and she was hooked.  She was a different child.

So I started to scratch her head and she enjoyed that too.  Then I realized that she keeps her body tense.  I noticed how her legs tense up when she walks.  And so I started rubbing her calves and her feet and she relaxed and sat up and even let loose with short giggles.  The transformation was incredible.  She especially liked getting her feet rubbed, which is funny because so do Kim and Jericho and Olive.

Now, when we saw here video originally, Kimberly and I both thought that Nellie was hiding away behind some behaviors she learned in the institution where she spent the first years of her life ; it just seemed that there was more to her than her rocking and other behaviors.  When she played the piano in the video, just as she did today, there was an intensity in her face.  She was focused and calm.  And when I rubbed her feet today, she became different, and she clearly wanted more attention and love and someone to connect with her.  Someone to help her make sense of this world that she cannot see and that she finds scary.
I got this icon of St. Nicholas -  patron
saint of  (among other things) children -
 in Veliko Tarnovo

She ate and then we had to leave for the night, but as I left I thought, 'This is why I came.  This is why we raised this money and why so many of you helped to fund this - Nellie (and Marin too) have so much within them that just isn't understood as well as it could be".  I don't know where Nellie will end up with her ability to interact with her world, I don't know how far her communication skills will grow (one of the social workers who assessed her said that she felt her behaviors were based on her institutionalization, not anything organic) but I do know that I, along with Kimberly and the rest of our family want to be a part of getting to know her and understand her, and seeing just how far she can go.

I get to see her again at 9am tomorrow and I cannot wait.  Thank you again everybody for your support - it has all been definitely worth it.


  1. This brought the tears. Thank You, God, for sending this family to this child.

  2. All incredibly moving, forgot how beautifully you write. Ma's been asking for daily updates on her new cousins. It's the first thing she asked about when she got in from school the past two days.

    1. What a sweet girl!! Tell her that her cousins can't wait to meet her!!