Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Home from Bulgaria

We have been home from our first visit for over a week now.  I have been so busy, I haven't even had a chance to post.  Our flights home went smoothly (although very long).  We had two long layovers - first in Munich and then in Chicago.  We were able to upgrade from Economy to Economy Plus for the long trip to Chicago.  The additional cost of $60 each was well worth it.  There is much more leg room in Economy Plus.  I think we will apply our frequent flyer miles for the upgrade for our trip home with the twins. 

When we arrived home, my Mom had our house all cleaned and the laundry done.  My sister made us dinner for Sunday and family and friends joined us to view pictures and video of the twins.  Thanks Susie and Kristi! 

We have a conference call with our Education Coordinator from AGCI today.  We will discuss all of our observations of the twins with her.  As instructed, we documented our observations each night after our daily visits with the twins.  This will definitely be a benefit for our conference call.  I will post more on specifics about the twins later.

We just received an email yesterday from our agency that our I800 approval is now at the US Embassy.  We filed the I800 application before leaving for Bulgaria.  The Bulgaria Court normally will issue the Article 5 letter within 4 to 6 weeks from receiving the I800 approval.  This means that we should be traveling to pick up the kids in about 8 weeks or so.  So things are moving along as expected so far! 

I have been focusing on all necessary December tasks - Christmas shopping, Tree decorating, Birthday Party and Gifts for the girls (they both have December Birthdays), Christmas gifts to ship to Blake and Emery.  I still need to begin (and complete) Christmas cards and wrapping.  After the holidays, I will focus on everything that needs to be done before we travel to pick up the twins.  This is a long list.  I also want to help Nicole do some marketing for her book.  My sister gave me some great marketing ideas.  In between, I am creating a spreadsheet for playing time for basketball (I am coaching Ashley's 6th grade team with my friend).  We have 11 girls on the team and it is difficult to keep on track with fair playing times.  I am hoping the spreadsheet will make it easier! 

I am feeling much better and more confident about life with our twins.  It really helps to read other adoption blogs.  I am always inspired by so many people.  My husband feels good about everything and always says just the right things to boost my confidence and spirit.  Thinking about the twins makes me feel sad that they are not yet with us.  But, I know they are in good hands.  They are so loved by their caregivers.  I will be forever grateful to these wonderful people for taking such good care of my kids.  I cannot wait for the twins to be legally ours so I can post pictures.  They are such cuties!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Day 5 in Bulgaria

Sorry I have not been able to give earlier updates.  It is Thursday evening and we are in Sofia, Bulgaria.  We spent the last 4 days in Kyustendil meeting and visiting our twins.  I cannot believe our visiting is already over.  It went by so very fast.  The twins are exactly what they appeared to be in all of the videos we received through AGCI.  Blake is very outgoing and extremely talkative!  He asks a million and 1 questions in 5 minutes!  He is very active and appears to be a happy 6 year old boy.  Emery is definitely more quiet and shy.  She is so beautiful.  She has fallen in love with Bruce.  On our last morning at the orphanage, she came in the room to greet us and ran directly into Bruce's arms.  I told Bruce he may end up having to take her to work with him after she is home!  The children are well taken care of at the orphanage.  They eat normal foods and are well loved by the staff.  They are very fortunate to be in a small orphanage where the ratio of caregivers to children is good.  The orphanage staff treated us so good - I took many pictures of the kids with the caregivers.  The twins have been with these people for most of their lives.  I know the pictures will be important to them as they grow up.  We were able to take the kids to the zoo one morning and to a wonderful park another morning.  They seemed to have warmed up to us easily.  But, I know the staff prepared them well for our visit.  By Wednesday, Blake was introducing us to everyone as his mama and daddy.  The staff told us that over the past year he as been questioning why he and his sister have not yet been adopted.  They finally were able to tell him that he has a family. 

I must say that even while driving to the orphanage the 1st day, it still seemed surreal to me.  After meeting the twins, reality definitely set in.  I started feeling very nervous about the challenges and changes that they would bring to our lives.  I know I have well prepared myself for their special needs and for the normal challenges of institutionalized children.  But, with all my preparation, I feel somewhat inadequate and overwhelmed.  I am praying for peace in my mind and heart in the coming months before traveling to pick up these precious children.  I trust that my prayers will be answered.

Bruce and I have enjoyed being in Bulgaria.  The food is wonderful.  Our coordinator/translator provided by AGCI has been beyond helpful.  We could not have asked for better guidance.  Tonight is our first night in Sofia.  It is a very big and busy city and it is so exciting to be here.  I will always cherish our experience in our childrens' birth country.  We plan on doing souvenir shopping tomorrow after applying for the VISA's.  Our flight for Grand Rapids leaves at 7 am Saturday morning.  We will be home by 10:00 pm that night.  I really miss the girls - we have talked to them a few times on the phone.  They are in good hands with my mom - thanks Susie!

It is getting late here, so I will sign off for now. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Leaving for Bulgaria tomorrow....

All set to go!  Accomplished a lot over last weekend and the beginning of the week.  Spent a couple days relaxing at the cottage with family.  Enjoyed a great Thanksgiving dinner.  Up at 4:30 am on Friday to spend about 10 hours shopping with my Mom and Friends.  Finished up laundry and packing.  Ready to leave tomorrow morning at 10:30 for the airport.  On Monday we will meet our twins for the first time.  It will be almost 3 years since I first saw their picture.  It has been a long time and I know I will have to fight back tears when I finally see them in person.  I am going to try to blog while in Bulgaria.  I have to leave my computer home for the girls to do homework.  But I plan on using Bruce's computer periodically.  Surprisingly, I do not feel nervous at all.  Maybe God is helping me to be calm - or it could be the glass of pinot noir I am drinking! 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Almost Time

It is hard to believe in less than two weeks we will be meeting our twins for the first time.  I am actually more excited and happy than nervous!  Our plane tickets have been purchased.  I sent out our I800 and I864w to NBC today.  Our paperwork to take to Bulgaria is complete.  I have started packing.  So far, things are moving along smoothly.  According to our caseworker at AGCI, it still can take 3 to 4 months after our visit until we can go pick the twins up.  This seems like such a long time.  I am sure it is going to seem like forever after spending time with them.  All I can do is pray for them to be safe and to know that we will be bringing them home soon. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Great Book for Pre-Teens

My 7th grade daughter, Nicole, has published her first book!  She has always had a great love and talent for writing.  She saved allowance and birthday money to pay for the cost of publishing.  The book is a wonderful story written from the point of view of a 9 year old girl.  I couldn't put the book down.  It truly is a great story.  You can view a synopsis of her book at here:

Saturday, November 12, 2011

We Have Our Travel Dates !!!!!

We will be leaving on Nov. 26th and returning Dec. 3rd.  Yes, Nov. 26th is only 2 weeks away!  I need to get organized for the trip.  Fortunately,  I have already purchased toys for the kids and most items we need to travel.  I also have my packing list completed and many items stashed and waiting to be packed.  I definitely need to work on learning my Bulgarian CD.  Not an easy task.  We have to complete all necessary travel paperwork and have phone conferences with our adoption agency.  I started writing up Nicole and Ashley's schedules for my Mom.  She is blessed with staying at our house with them while we are gone and being their chauffeur!  Poor Susie, she does not know what she has gotten herself into!  This week we have been swamped with volleyball every night.  I coach Nicole's 7th grade team and we have had tournament games or practice all week.  Today we are playing in the final championship game - Go Wildcats.  Volleyball will be finished and I will be focusing on getting prepared for the trip.  Well, in between coaching Ashley's 6th grade basketball team (practices begin Monday), attending a coach clinic, piano lessons, musical practice.... This is why I am praying for my Mom!  We normally decorate our house for Christmas the weekend we will be leaving for Bulgaria.  So, we have decided to decorate a week early this year!Which means next weekend.  Thanksgiving falls in the next two weeks as well.  Fortunately, my brother always hosts Thanksgiving - so I have little work to do for that - nobody wants me to cook anyway!  I always (for many years) have gone shopping on Black Friday with my Mom, sister and close friends.  I still intend to do this - even though our flight leaves at 1:00 pm the next day.  I just need to have everything completed before 5 am on Black Friday - wish me luck!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Still no travel dates....

So we were supposed to receive our travel dates last Monday.  Monday came and went - no dates.  Our caseworker said next Monday for sure.  Well, here we are and no dates!  Our caseworker just emailed me and now we should receive our travel dates "hopefully sometime this week".  That would be nice.  These kids have been in the orphanage since they were about 3 months old.  They are almost 7.  It's about time for them to come home! 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Room is Almost Ready!

We still need curtains and blankets.  We are using under the bed storage for their clothes.  There is no room for a dresser!  Eventually they will have their own room, so there will be plenty of space.  For now, keeping them together will probably be more comforting.  Ashley wants to buy letters to spell their names and hang them above their beds.  We are going to do this after we find out if they want to use their Bulgarian names or their new American names.  Ashley already has picked out curtains.  We are ordering one pink and brown striped panel for Emery's side and one blue and brown striped panel for Blake's side.  Great idea - I think it will look cute!  Now that the room is almost finished, I need to focus on buying what we need for our first trip!

Friday, October 14, 2011

I800 Approved!!!!!

Our caseworker called this morning to tell us our I800 has been approved!  We should receive our letter by next Wednesday.  Once we have the letter notarized and apostilled, it will be sent to our adoption agency and then on to Bulgaria.  This is our last document needed to complete our dossier.  Our caseworker said we should have our travel dates in 3 to 4 weeks!  I was at Target shopping for toys to take on our trip when I got the call.  We will meet our kids for the first time in 5 or 6 weeks - so exciting!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Getting there....

Cleaning out the spare bedroom is a big project - especially for Ashley!  This bedroom has been used as a scrapbook/homework room for several years.  Keep in mind that Nicole and I already moved our stuff out.  This is all Ashley's stuff!  Can we say Pack Rat?  The new scrapbook room will be located in a spare room in the basement.  This room will be for the twins.  I am so excited to get it all ready.  But first, we have to wait for Ashley.....

Friday, September 23, 2011

NBC Glitch

So are I800 Application was supposed to be approved yesterday.  Rather than getting a call from our caseworker with good news, we got a call with some not-so-good news.  The NBC officer wants two more documents notorized and wants our social worker to make a visit to our cottage.  The documents were not a big deal - we did that immediately.  A bit frustrating, since they were not required to be notorized to begin with - but it's done and I just have to fed ex them today.  The cottage visit is very frustrating.  We own 50 percent of the cottage and only use it in the summer months.  Our social worker said this is the first time ever that she has been requested to visit a second home.  Lucky us!  Anyway, she was able to schedule the visit for next Tuesday and she is going to process the paperwork immediately.  So, overall, maybe only a one week delay.  What really concerns me is that we have had delays due to our government and we haven't even began dealing with the Bulgarian government yet.  Red tape.......!  I am praying for you Emery and Blake - we will be there soon.

Friday, September 16, 2011


We finally had our finger prints taken for our I800 (third attempt - long story).  Our caseworker said they should reach the correct govt dept in 48 hours.  Hopefully, processing will be expedited.  Can't wait to receive the last document required to be sent to Bulgaria!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Finger Print Appointments!

On Thursday, we received our letters from homeland security with our scheduled finger print appointments.  They are in 3 weeks.  Seems like a long time to wait, but the letters came much sooner than expected.  So we are at least moving forward.  We are getting closer and closer to meeting our Blake and Emery!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Next Step - I800A

We received our Home Study Approval Letter from our agency.  Our social worker sent out our copies of the home study yesterday.  As soon as we receive the home study, I can file the I800A package!  I have it all ready to go.  We are finally moving in the right direction again.  As soon as we receive our NBC approval letter, I can send out the balance of our dossier package.  I have this already to go as well.  A few items will need to be apostilled.  I am glad we live 20 minutes from a Secretary of State office that will apostille paperwork.  I have been there twice so far and it has only taken 10 minutes!  Normally it can take up to 14 weeks to receive the NBC approval letter.  However, since we are adopting waiting children, it is possible to expedite this process.  We are hoping to cut the time at least by half.  Unfortunately, we probably will not have the kids home by the end of the year.  Maybe shortly thereafter - hopefully!

Monday, July 25, 2011


Introducing......Blake and Emery Vandermeulen.  We finally decided on the twins names about a month or so ago.  I am tired of writing 'boy' and 'girl' in my posts:)  They will keep their Bulgarian name as their middle name.  Deciding on the names was a very long process.  I read many articles about changing a child's name.  There are a host of opinions that go both ways on this issue.  We always knew we would keep their names either as middle or first .   After deciding to keep them as middle, we ran into another issue.  The girls wanted a vote on the names.  Four people trying to agree on names was crazy.  We agreed on Blake right away.  The only other contender was Zach.  Agreeing on Emery took forever.  Bruce and I had a hard time agreeing on names for both of our girls.  So I expected this to be a long process.  Throw in the girls opinions, and it was even more difficult.  We all had it narrowed down to Ella, Rachel, Alyson, and Emery.  We all agreed that any of these names looked like they would fit her, based on her pictures.  Bruce and I finally decided that we would choose from the four.  I told him I liked all of the names, so he could choose.  He had been leaning toward Rachel all along.  But in the end, he chose Emery.  What a process!  I think we are all happy with the names.  Of course, their middle names cannot be posted until they are officially ours. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Great News - FBI Clearance Letter Received

Yes, my fingerprints have been processed and I have my clearance letter.  It took a long time, but now we can finally proceed.  Of course, they arrived on Friday - the same day Bruce was heading up to the cottage for a week long vacation.  So, I will be leaving the cottage on Monday and driving back to Grand Rapids to have the remainder of our dossier paperwork apostilled.  Our social worker can now officially issue our home study and I can begin the NBC process.  It feels great to be moving forward.  Please pray for our NBC approval to go smoothly with no unexpected delays.  Hopefully, we will be meeting our twins for the first time in the Fall.  Just saying that makes me smile. 

We also received our review from our international adoption doctor regarding the updated medical records for the kids.  Nothing in the review we did not already know about.  The kids seem to be doing well despite being in an orphanage.  They are very small - less than the 3rd percentile for both height and weight.  Hopefully that will change after being home for awhile, with proper nutrition and plenty of love. 

We have so much to be thankful for - cannot wait to share that with our twins.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Medical Updates - Finally

Yes, we finally have updated medical reports on the kids.  The reports we received with our referral were over 2 years old.  The kids appear to be doing great.  I forwarded the reports to our international adoption doctor - so we will know more after her review.  Both kids are 3 feet 4 inches tall and weight 28 lbs (girl) and 31 lbs (boy).  Ashley is so excited to be able to figure out the size of clothing they wear.  She wanted to go shopping immediately.  Unfortunately, we are at our cottage for the month of July and there are not many places to shop in Howard City.  We may take a trip in to Big Rapids so Ashley can pick out an outfit for the twins.  She also is excited to begin preparing their bedroom.  That will be a fun project.  We have a lot to do.  I am in the process of creating outline style summaries of the adoption books that I have read.  It is a great review of the books and the summary will be helpful after we have the kids home.

As far as the adoption process, we are basically at a stand still.  I am still waiting on my finger prints / clearance letter from the FBI.  I lost count of how long it has been since they received the prints the second time around.  About 7 weeks, I think.  It was supposed to take 4 weeks.  Other than this, our home study is complete.  Our dossier paper work is complete with the exception of the NBC approval, which is contingent upon the FBI clearance letter.  Patience is difficult when thinking about our kids.  I am still holding out hope that we will have them home by the end of the year.  For now I am keeping busy with preparations and viewing their adorable new pictures and videos.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

We Have Updates!!!

We received updated photos and videos of the twins yesterday.  The girls and I were so excited to view them.  I immediately forwarded them to Bruce as well as to our International Adoption Doctor.  The kids have definitely changed in two years!  No surprise there.  Their faces are more full.  They both look more like a little boy and little girl as opposed to preschoolers.  Kind of sad to know we missed out on so much with them.   They look like happy kids.  The little boy definitely appears to love to talk!  The little girl seemed a bit more camera shy, but was buzzing around and appeared to be having fun.  They are absolutely adorable.  We are waiting on the updated medical reports to be translated  We should have them by the end of the week.  What a great day it was to be able to see our kids! 

I have still not received my FBI clearance letter.  This is making me somewhat anxious because our home study is completed and in the review stage.  We need the clearance letter to move forward as soon as the home study is finalized.  I am praying this finger print set back does not delay our progress.  I really want my babies home as soon as possible!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Delay in Updated Referral Information

Our agency's contact in Bulgaria keeps rescheduling their visit to the twins orphanage.  Our referral information is two years old.  We asked for updated information at least two months ago.  The agency in Bulgaria scheduled a visit for the 3rd week in April.  Then it was rescheduled to the 1st week of June.  Now, I just received a message that the visit has been rescheduled to June 27th.  Apparently the summer season is already beginning over there, so staff is limited.  On a positive note, we completed our 2nd of 3 home study visits last night.  Our agency also requested that we have all of our completed dossier paperwork apostilled this week and forwarded for translation.  I found out that there is an office only 20 minutes away where I can walk in and have the paperwork apostilled immediately.  This is much better that mailing back and forth.  That alone will save us about 2 weeks time.  Still no word from the FBI on my prints.  I keep hoping to find my clearance letter in the mailbox.  My concern is that they still will not be able to get a sufficient print to run the criminal checks.  I do not want to start from scratch again.  Hopefully, I will not have to!

Thursday, May 26, 2011


I really feel like we are moving forward.  This week we completed our first of 3 home study visits, all of our training, and all home study paperwork.  Our social worker told us it is quite possible we will be making our first trip in August (maybe September due to the slow down during August in Europe) and our second trip to bring the kids home in December.  I really would like to have them home a few weeks before the holidays to let them get settled a bit.  But we will manage, no matter what the timing. 

Monday, May 23, 2011


One and 1/2 hours at the police station on Friday attempting to get good quality fingerprints.  4 Sets of prints sent off to the FBI on Saturday.  I hope these work.  My pinky finger is still sore from all of the pressing!!!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Bulgaria Facts

Bulgarian Orthodox Christian
Bulgarian - Slavic origin
Turkish - Central Asian origin
Roma - Indo European origin
Bulgaria is a country located in South Eastern Europe
It is a little larger than the state of Tennessee
Bulgaria borders 5 European countries and the Black Sea:
Romania is North of Bulgaria
Greece is South of Bulgaria
Serbia is on Bulgaria's West side
The Black Sea is on Bulgaria's East side
Turkey is Southeast of Bulgaria
Macedonia is Southwest of Bulgaria
Sofia - located at the foot of the Balkan & Vitosha Mountains
Parliamentary Democracy
Common Holidays:
New Year's Day
Good Friday
Easter Sunday
Christmas Eve
Christmas Day
Other Holidays:
National Day of the Republic of Bulgaria
March 3rd
Labour Day
May 1st & 2nd
Day of the Armed Forces
May 6th
Day of Education, Culture, and Alphabet
May 24th
Unification Day
Sept 6th
Sept 22nd