Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Basement project

No, the boys are not in their new room yet. Krassimir has been upgraded from his spot behind the living room couch to his own bed set up in the basement playroom amidst bags and boxes of his and Owen's stuff. Owen continues to sleep wherever he lands each night - sometimes up in Grandma's front room recliner, sometimes on the couch in the living room, and then there are nights like tonight when he's sleeping in the "beaver lodge" that he built with Rinnah and Evania this afternoon.

But we ARE making progress.

In an effort to get the carpet squares down, Matt decided the most effective way to move the piles of painted wood was to build the shelves they were intended for. In the blue corner is the access to the well pump up high near the ceiling. Because one of our number one design rules is make every decision intentional, and make things look like you meant for them to look that way, instead of just having a soffit at the ceiling with an access panel, we instead built a bump that goes all the way to the floor and holds a built-in bookshelf. The upper shelf will be removable so if we ever do need to get in and service the pump, a few screws will take care of it. At all the other times, it's just a great place for Owen to put something on display.

 And in Owen's bed cubby, the space under the stairs was a little wider than necessary for his mattress, so we furred out the back wall a little more than we needed to in order to make room between the stud spaces to put some shelves for bedtime reading material and an alarm clock (or five, with the way this boy [doesn't] wakes up in the morning). The wood back of these shelves is the original wood planks that separated the front half of the basement from the back half. Matt sanded it and gave it a fresh coat of clear coat, and it looks even better in real life than the photo shows.
In the above photo, Matt's got knife in hand just getting started cutting the first few carpet squares (you can see the first one installed right by his left elbow.) The room is probably 90% carpeted (the closet 0%) by now, but I don't have a photo.

Once we get all the carpet laid in the bedroom, we can move the boys' bunk bed into the room. That will get Krassimir into his bedroom, and Owen could choose to sleep on the top bunk until we get the base cut for his bed platform.

I'm starting to get itchy for starting the bathroom remodel/addition that's on the agenda for this summer. Someday we've got to get to the end of the major home projects, but it doesn't seem like that's coming any time soon! We know that our garage is slowly sinking, and will eventually need to be torn down and replaced...but one step at a time. This summer a basement bedroom and a handicap accessible entrance and bathroom will be sufficient, I believe!!


I got down and took some photos of the carpet earlier today:

Just a few bits around the perimeter that still need to be installed.
A closer shot of the finished shelf and the hole it will fill. These two are backed with leftover cherry flooring from Grandma's upstairs room in the west addition.
The window is trimmed out, but the window sill still needs to be installed.
Oh look - a cute baby sitting on the carpet! 😛


Bulgarians have a story or a proverb for pretty much everything. One thing I have appreciated about spending time with our translators when we're in Bulgaria is the little bits of Bulgaria they are able to communicate to us through these stories - they are very effective carriers of the intense national pride and serious determination that the Bulgarian people carry.

A creation story (retold from memory in my own words):
In the beginning, when God created the earth, he gave each country something unique, a defining characteristic that was their own special feature to be proud of. Egypt has the Nile, Switzerland has the Alps, etc. Well, at the end of the day, God was just wrapping up when the Bulgarian people spoke up, "Hey! What about us? What do *we* get?" Turns out he'd forgotten about them, but had a great solution. "Tell you what - I'll just take a little bit of the best of all of the other countries and give it to you, and that will be your country." So that's what they got - a great river in the Danube, mountains, in the form of both ranges and solitary specimens, fertile plains, incredibly beautiful landscapes, coast on the Black Sea - some of the best of everything.  It is truly a beautiful country.

And this last time, I heard one about Bulgaria's women, too:
At the beginning of time, God was distributing a few especially beautiful women to each country of the world. Drop a few here, a few there - nobody is left out...except (guess who) - at the end of the day, somebody noticed that they hadn't dropped any women off in Bulgaria. "Why?" they asked him. And the response? "Well, where did you think we're getting them all from??"

I hear stories like this, and feel like it gives me a tiny window into who my oldest daughter is. Unlike Krassimir and Tsvetomira who were marginalized to the extreme - even "marginalized" seems too generous - it suggests that they were still on the "inside" of society, even if pushed to the very edges of it. I can't even give them that; they were impacted by Bulgarian culture, but not a part of it.

Part of my developing mental picture of the people of Bulgaria is that they feel somewhat forgotten (we met a man in September during our layover in Paris who almost proudly shared how when he told people he had met on his trip that he was from Bulgaria they asked him if that was somewhere in South America!) but have a hard-core stubbornness and determination to just hunker down and hold on that is something to be admired. (For those of you who have read for a while, you'll know that we call Krassimir our "Determined Bulgarian" very early on in getting to know him!)

Bogomila, although definitely marginalized because of her disability, is very Bulgarian. She fills her days, much like any teenager, with her music. Dyado (Grandpa) helped her get all of the music she had collected on the iPad during our week in Sofia onto an mp3 player that is always with her. One of her first purchases with the money she brought from Bulgaria was a pair of headphones, though she will also often play her music with the speakers that come with the player. We all know her favorite songs, though in Bulgarian, so we don't have any idea what they mean! 😏

There are a few that she and I listen to almost every night when I am helping her in and out of the bathtub. With some of these she has tried giving me a sense of the translation, and asked me the other night to actually look up the lyrics to get the full song translated. At her request, I am sharing them here.

Avi Benedi, Boge Pazi
We have not learned to be better.
Sell ​​their souls for money!
And she-earth groans under our feet.
Can not take away our sins ..
And no one can put an end to it.
And this greedy game continues.
The rich destroys whatever God has given them.
The poor pay under heaps of mud.

God Save! Do not suffer our children, keep!
Unfair to pay with their lives for the mistakes of the greedy.
God Save! Only you, you, you left us.
Give us faith, come back! God Save the children of Bulgaria!
God Save!
He died the hope of an entire nation.
Lost faith in a stream.
And the poor will pay for the mistakes again.
While the guilty have sweet, sweet sleep.
And no one can put an end to it.
And this greedy game continues.
The rich destroys whatever God has given them.
The poor pay under heaps of mud.
God Save! Do not suffer our children, keep!
Unfair to pay it with their lives for the mistakes of the greedy.
God Save! Only you, you, you left us.
Give us faith, come back! God Save the children of Bulgaria!
God save us! Our children God Save!

She has told us that she prefers sad songs. There is a definite hopelessness and despair in this song that I believe resonates with her.

And then there's this one. On many levels (including the woman in the video who is dancing in the snow - see the above creation story! - that doesn't really seem to have any connection to the lyrics), this song captures the intense Bulgarian loyalty that Bogomila holds very tightly.

Fiki, Bulgaria
Nobody chooses the country
where to breathe its air first -
someone is born in a poor, another - in rich,
one sails raised and on the road
chasing your life dreams
second home looking elsewhere ...
But my heart chest
second homeland nowhere!

Without choosing it myself right here I was born,
I choose to stay, to stay in Bulgaria!
In good times and bad, to be here for life -
all a million reasons for this are named "Love"
Have another more beautiful
and happier place on earth -
It has no place a favorite,
my blood is not water!

The sentiments in these songs are not lost on us. This oldest daughter of ours is clinging fiercely to her Bulgaria. It is so terrifying to her to let go of her past that it is often hard for her to reach out and embrace her future here. At the same time, as much as we long for her to grab a hold of her life here with both hands and push forward, we recognize that her past is who she is . She needs time here to learn how to blend the two, how to figure out who she is NOW, and that she can do that without turning her back on her past.

But figuring out who you really are is a tough job for any teenager, even when you've grown up your entire life with supportive parents, and don't have to deal with a language barrier, an international move, and a turning upside down of everything you've ever known. Bogomila is having to weather that road without any of those benefits, and she's got a tough road ahead of her. She DOES now have parents who love her very much, but it's going to take more than a few weeks for her to be able to really trust that.

In the meantime, though, I hope you take a read and a listen to these sounds of Bulgaria for the sake of our oldest daughter who requested that I share this music with all of you figuring you've never had the opportunity to listen to the quality of music that is produced in Bulgaria.

***As with most of the longer posts that I may (or may not!) get up in the upcoming weeks, this post has been a good week or two in the writing, and since these two she has shared lyrics to a song or two almost every night, giving me further opportunities to learn a little bit more about her and understand her moods.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


No time to post anything detailed - I look and I have as many drafts as I have real things that I've been able to get to the point of being ready to publish! But since I've shared a bit a few minutes ago about Bogomila, I figured it's only fair to give you something on Mira, too.
So here you go - Mira practicing being upright, but much more importantly, just spending some time in the afternoon snuggling up against her Daddy's chest. And both napping!


Guess who helped me make supper tonight!
Bogomila's been finding Bulgarian recipes for me on the internet, and this is one that we've made a number of times - it's one of her favorite foods.

I told her yesterday that I was going to have her help me - I cut the pepper into strips, and then she finished cutting the strips into smaller chunks, and adding them to the large bowl. She also did all of the stirring by herself. I'm hoping over time that this is a recipe she could learn to prepare all by herself!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The crew

Daddy works from home, so most days the older kids (Evania and up) have the option to choose to stay at home and go about their day when I'm off running their siblings to appointments, but more often than not, I've got company of some sort with me. These times become our own special ways to connect - listening to favorite music in the van, getting to hold hands in the parking lot, or just talking without as many interruptions.

Last week's appointment for Mira to get evaluated for a bath chair involved three sisters joining us!

Rinnah sat in the back to keep Mira company.
The question of transporting Mira was one of our biggest practical unknowns as we prepared for her home coming. The solution they came up with at Gillette is simple and just perfect for her - it's a harness that straps around her chest, over her shoulders and between her legs, and a separate strap that goes around her knees. The regular seat belts are then slipped through certain points in the harness, and buckled in. Easy-peasy, and she can be positioned reclining on an incline just the way she's comfortable. The only downside is that she takes up two seats to do it! (But since Big Blue isn't big enough for all of us anymore, it's not really that big of a deal!)
Getting in and out of the van takes a while once we reach our destination. Evania's taking advantage of being unbuckled to scope out some interesting bird poop on our window. Funny how exciting the little things in life can be.
The three girls brought along a bag of things to do (coloring books, math assignment for Rinnah, and a few Duplos), and played happily on a mat while Mira and I talked with the occupational therapist.

Getting Mira back into her harness is also a time-consuming task, so Gloria and Evania checked out the fun toys in the lobby.
That Gloria is such a ham.
Then, back across the skyway to the elevators. Rinnah asked to push Mira's chair, and actually did a decent job considering how wonky the wheels are after the chair was dropped on our flight back to the US. (This same trio accompanied me and the chair minus Mira about two weeks ago to the medical supply company who the airline contracted with to repair the chair...45 minutes across the Cities...only to find that the one piece that we knew needed to be replaced was only the worst damaged piece, but that there were other parts that would also need replacing to make the chair truly safe to use again. So we're still waiting on those parts to arrive. Even though this won't be Mira's primary chair, it's still a useful enough piece of equipment to have.)
And so ends another girls day out. Mission accomplished. And the bath chair should be arriving in a month or two.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Bragging a bit

Even though Bogomila doesn't think so if you ask her, she has amazed us with how much English she has been absorbing over the seven weeks since we picked her up. Every single day we are hearing her use a word (or more!) that we haven't heard out of her before, and she's putting more and more combinations of words together.

We are also enjoying how much Bulgarian we are learning to understand, and, at least a little bit, to speak. Bogomila is a tough teacher. 😊 She will not stand for anything other that perfect pronunciation. Daddy and I are less than perfect. There's a <u> sound that we just can't make! Rinnah, however, nails it every time. 😋 Oh, to have young ears!

But here's what I want to brag about. Over the weekend someone at church mentioned Rosetta Stone, and another similar (but free!) program. Well, turns out the free one doesn't have English for Bulgarian learners, but the Rosetta Stone program looked like it could be just right. I purchased a six-month subscription this morning, and she's already put in nearly three hours! I'm not sure if the momentum will continue, but my goal for her (which I did not tell her) was to start with one hour a day, hopefully moving up to two hours. *Her* goal for herself is two hours in the morning and two in the afternoon!

She's shown great determination, and I've been really proud of the way she doesn't let getting one (or more) wrong stop her from pushing forward. The first time through the first lesson she got 70%. Decent, in my opinion. A passing grade. I praised her for her work, and told her she had the option of trying the second lesson or going back over the first to see if she could improve her score. She chose to go back, and raised it to 74%!

Then she wanted to attempt lesson 2, which ended up including words she'd had some exposure to with us, and got an 84% on the first round, and 87% on the second! When she got to lesson 3, she told me she was going for 97%. She didn't make it, but still landed in the 80s. It is absolutely delightful to see her applying herself so diligently to one of the most important things on her agenda for the upcoming months. She is one smart girl!

I haven't told her I'm posting about this, but I figure when she knows her English well enough to come back and read the blog, she hopefully won't mind too much that I took a few minutes to share with all of you how very proud I am of her!


Back in September, our translator commented (with some surprise, I think), about her realization that although on paper Tsvetomira seemed like by far the more challenging child of the two, in reality, Bogomila was going to be more of a challenge. Just as we had anticipated, this has been the case. First of all, Tsvetomira has been SO much easier to care for than many of the scenarios we had played out in our heads. The routines they established at Gillette have done wonderful things for her physical well being, and she is thriving in many ways. Although I will not go into the challenges involved in bringing Bogomila into our family, they are there. She is much harder to parent than Tsvetomira - she takes more time, more energy, more brain power - but it's the same thing I tell my kids - the hard things are 1) not bad and 2) often the most worth while.

Bogomila has already brought so much joy to our household, and is without a doubt worth the work that it takes to be her parents!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

New wheels

Mira had her evaluation for her new chair this afternoon!
This isn't exactly what Mira's chair will be like, but it is the color that her sisters voted on!

The chair that we picked up on Craigslist, and modified in Sofia with foam and positioners, is actually the very chair they want to get for Mira, though in a smaller size, and with a custom molded, removable seat.

With our goal of having her able to sit upright, her daily "work" of being vertical that we are doing with her is now even more important. We started with just simply a few seconds upright as we rolled her in between sides during her diaper changes, and gradually increased the amount of time she spent vertical, until now for the last week or so we've been able to do her bedtime nebs with her sitting upright on someone's lap!
We still have a long way to go before she's ready to be in a chair for any period of time, but it's exciting to know that what we've been doing with her so far is going to be of real value for her. We have 2-3 months at least before her chair is ready, so we've got some time to keep working with her.

I had also asked if we could get a weight on her in the clinic today, since it's been 3.5 weeks since she was last weighed, and it will be another 3.5 or so before she's in again. Amazingly, she is now weighing 13.6 kg! That is 30 pounds exactly, for our little girl who was around 25 pounds with no change for the last two years. Good job growing, little one!