Monday, April 30, 2012


Things are going well.  Will post more soon.  In the meantime, here are some pictures.

          Emery at the apartment.  She was fascinated with the washer.
              Emery on the plane on the way to Chicago
                                  Sound asleep at home
                              Getting ready to leave the orphanage
       Cool Dude - on the way to Sofia from the orphanage
            Blake loves back rubs!

              Emery falls asleep sitting up
             Very focused playing on the Ipad
         Blake and Emery all cozy with mom
        The Vandermeulen Family at the Sofia Airport

Friday, April 27, 2012

Our Last Day in Bulgaria

I did not have nearly enough time to keep up on posting. This is a combination of the twins keeping me busy and everyone wanting to use Mom's iPad. Some of you have asked for pictures. I will get them up soon after we are home (I hope). I wanted to write about the inevitable meltdowns during this week. Both kids had many meltdowns. I lost track of the amount days ago. Emery's appear to truly be associated with grieving. She has a hard time in the mornings. She is most likely processing dreams from the night before (according to our social worker from AGCI). Her meltdowns mainly consist of rocking very hard in a chair, coach, or against a wall. If you try to move her during one of these episodes due to safety or because you are finished at the embassy and you need to leave to make room for the other gazillion people there, she has a major loud nasty screaming kicking biting (herself) meltdown. Always fun to carry a child during one of these meltdowns through crowds of people and high security to get out of the building. Believe it or not Blake is far far worse. His meltdowns are not a typical meltdown that you might see in a grocery store in the states. His are all out anger filled punching kicking biting screaming louder than you could ever possibly imagine head banging destroying meltdowns. Most of the harm done is to himself or any object in his path of destruction. He has hit me a few times, but nothing very hard. He did smack Bruce hard once, tried to bite him once, and knocked him a good one with his crutch (aka deadly weapon). The majority of Blake's meltdowns (almost is too nice of a word to describe them) stem from being told no. This kid is use to getting his way and is fairly confident this is going to ll continue. Now, in all fairness, I believe he gets very angry when he doesn't get his way, and the initial meltdown escalates because he is grieving. Nonetheless, very hard to deal with. On the plus side, he is starting to let me comfort him and rock him as he is calming down and the episodes are getting shorter in length. The passengers on the plane tomorrow are just going to love us! In between all of his raging episodes today, he would say "America tomorrow" and get all excited. Little does he know he will also be going to mama's boot camp to change some of his behaviors! It's a goog thing for him that mama feels much better about the day after a few beers! Sometimes love is hard. On a positive note, miss emery is making more and more eye contact with me and holding the eye contact for longer periods of time. She also will let me kiss her, tickle her, and rub her legs. Far more than how she was at the beginning of the week. Whew, been a tough week. Will be nice to finally be home. I am certain the meltdowns will be much more fun at home!!!

Thursday, April 26, 2012


Now for a post about Emery. She is a little princess. She normally always listens to "no". She loves loves loves to be tossed onto the couch. She has the most precious giggle ever. And her smile will melt your heart. She also has many typical orphanage behaviors. She rocks frequently. She pats her chin, squeezes her cheeks, and will not accept any affection. She will play with us, hold our hand and does not mind being held or carried if it is on her own terms. She babbles all the time. She is basically like a 2 or 3 year old I would say. Except her motor skills. She can run, jump, climb stairs, climb anything(extremely well) like a typical 7 year old. She adores her daddy. Tolerates her mama but likes her if daddy is not around. She is just a very sweet little girl. She understands everything that is said to her in Bulgarian and is learning to follow some English instructions. She is very patient and accepting of her very bossy brother (we are working on this issue gently). Her brother corrects her, takes things away from her and tells her what to do. Late the first night, she shocked us all when her brother said something to her and she ran up super fast and pushed him right down. I looked at her and she had the biggest smile on her face. Pure satisfaction. Of course we told her no, but secretly I was kind of glad to know she does have a limit of how much she is going to take from her brother! Emery is doing ok with eye contact but this will definitely be something we will have to work on. Our little girl is very delayed in most every area. But I have a feeling she will be learn and be ok. Either way, she is our special princess.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Kids

Twins were both asleep by 9:30 tonight!!! We should have them on a normal schedule just in time to fly to a different time zone! I have been wanting to post my observations of the twins, their orphanage, and such. So here it goes, both good and not so good. I will start with Blake. Blake seems much like a 7 year old boy. He is obviously delayed when it comes to education, since kindergarten doesn't begin until between the ages of 6 and 7 in Bulgaria. In addition, in Bulgaria, the schools do not begin teaching the m alphabet until 1sr grade. Basically, in kindergarten in Bulgaria kids are taught what American kids learn in preschool. In most every other way, he appears to be fairly age appropriate. We were told by the Bulgarian adoption agency that Blake was very spoiled by the orphanage staff. This could not be more true. I am certain that he was very seldom told "no". He absolutely hates being told no. At first it was difficult to distinguish between grieving behaviors and plain old naughty behaviors. We now can recognize a meltdown stemming from grief and intentional disobedience. We had to come up with a method to discourage him from disobeying just for safety reasons (and sanity preservation). He loves Ashley's IPod and thinks it is a phone. He takes it with him everywhere and "talks" on it frequently. After one time of warning him and subsequently taking it away from him, his behavior now immediately changes just at the mention of the phone being taken away. Hopefully this continues to work. The poor child not only has to adjust to a completely different life, he also has to adjust to not being "the boss". He can completely dress and undress himself. He has a great imagination. He actually likes to play pretend. He will sit and watch a tv program for close to a half an hour (as long as he gets to choose the show). Loves to play on my iPad (unfortunate for me). He can dance and I mean really dance. I am certain they let him watch music videos at the orphanage. Either that or his caregivers have side jobs that I don't even want to think about. He has a great sense of humor. He copies everything I do and makes the most funniest faces ever. He has a contagious laugh. He loves to talk and will talk to anyone whether they want to listen or not. He is bossy. He loves to sneak into his sisters room to wake them up in the morning. This kid has absolutely no eye contact issues whatsoever. He looks at you at all times during a conversation. He also will look you directly in the eyes and shake his finger at you while lecturing you in Bulgarian. (Lord knows whatnhemis saying). He loves to cuddle and snuggle and have mama sing to him and rub his back while he falls asleep. His disability dies not slow him down or stop him from doing anything. He can climb anything, kick a soccer ball farther and harder than me, and he moves with the speed and agility of a seasoned athlete. He is always way ahead of us. We have to assign Nicole or Ashley to keep track of him on all outings. Our apartment is on the 3rd florr and therefore lots of steps. He is either always ahead of us all or squeezes his way through to get around us. I know he is wondering why all of us slowpokes don't own a pair of crutches. It was very easy to fall in love with this little dude. Ashley "absolutely needs" the iPad, so I will continue later with a post about Emery. I think we will need a 2nd iPad soon.


The first night both kids were trying very hard to not fall asleep. I think they were scared. Blake would lay down next to me but Emery would sit on the bed and just rock back and forth. At one point, Emery got the saddest look on her face and then the tears came. It was heartbreaking. The poor little girl cried for about 15 minutes and did not want any comfort at all. She was missing the only home she has ever known. Shortly after Emery began shedding tears, Blake did too. I think Blake was scared for his sister. He was kind of whimpering but Emery was crying so very hard. Bruce and I decided to just have them cozy up on the coach with us and maybe fall asleep on their own. They were so tired but they just did not want to let themselves fall asleep. Eventually we went back to the bed and Blake crawled in right away. He wanted me to sing and touch his face softly. After about a half hour of this he was out. Emery eventually crawled up in bed and hummed herself to sleep. They both slept until morning and woke up happy and bubbly! It is so hard to see them hurting from such a tremendous loss. Poor little tykes just wanted to be in their own bed in their own surroundings.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Gotcha Day continued

Ugh - I wrote an entire long post and I just noticed it was not there. Sometimes blogger really frustrates me. So here it goes again. I hope I'm not repeating myself! So yesterday we went to dinner at a restaurant that had outside dining. The twins ate really good - they totally filled their bellies. Blake had a 5 minute conversation with two ladies at another table. Lord knows what he was saying. The only thing we caught was him introducing all of us. "daddy, mama, saestra Nicole, saestra Ashley and saestra Trayanka". We ordered water for the twins at dinner. Emery cannot get enough water. She drinks and drinks. When the water was gone, she wanted some of Ashley's sprite. She liked the way it fizzed when it was poured. So Ashley gave her some and oh the expression on her face. It was a look of absolute disgust with a major crunched up face. Emery decided sprite was not for her. After dinner we walked back home. Blake likes to wave at all the cars passing by. If he is walking, he uses his crutch to wave. This is very cute unless you are the unsuspecting person walking next to him. That crutch can be a weapon. The kids played for awhile after dinner and kept taking off their clothes. They do this all the time. Blake likes taking his off and then putting them back on. Emery just prefers not to have clothes on. I have know idea why they do this or what it means. We did the entire bedtime routine, showers, Jammie's, snacks, singing songs. But neither wanted to sleep. Bedtime did not go well, but it was expected. They were both finally asleep by midnight. Bedtime is a post in and of itself. Stay tuned.....

Gotcha Day

We left or apartment at 7am Monday to drive to the orphanage. It was about an hour and a half drive. I think both kids remembered us. Emery went directly to Daddy! Blake was excited to see us all and loved being introduced to his sisters. We were at the orphanage for almost an hour. Some of the caregivers were already crying when we walked in. When it was time to leave, all of the caregivers were in tears. I had all I could do to not cry, and I do not cry easily. I felt so bad for their caregivers. What a hard thing to know the twins deserve a family and have to say goodbye while their hearts are breaking. We took a great picture of the twins with about 20 or so caregivers in front of the orphanage. As we drove away, all were waving and blowing kisses. Blake immediately began switching the van light on and off and then Emery had to do it too. They rode well back to Sofia and nobody got sick! We had to go to the police station for some paper work and pictures. I wasn't aware of this stop. When our driver had us stand with all four kids in an extremely tiny area surrounded by many people and told us he had about 30 minutes of paperwork to do, I about died. Are you kidding me! No, he wasn't kidding. After trying to contain two 7 year olds in a 5 x 5 area for about 10 minutes, we decided to go outside to the side walk. There wasn't a huge area but it was much better. Emery did fine. Blake is quite the escape artist and kept Nicole on her toes! It was nice to finally get to the apartment. I thought I would walk the twins around and show them all of the rooms. They beat me too this and had completely made themselves at home within 10 minutes. Lots more to write about but need to tend to my speedy little twins right now. More later...

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Day 2 in Sofia

Feel so much better today after a good night's sleep. Had a good day today. The best part was receiving our luggage at noon today!!! I am so glad we did not have to go buy clothes for everyone. Spent the afternoon walking and shopping at City Center in Sofia. What a great place to shop! Had one of Bulgaria's awesome salads for lunch. Yum! Went to Pizza Roma for dinner. It was just as good as other adoption families have said. Checked out the park after dinner. Cannot wait to take the twins there. Our driver is picking us up at 7am tomorrow to go to the orphanage and pick up the kids. Ashley layed out their outfits. She also bought a very pretty barrette for Emery today. I think Ashley is going to love being a big sister. I am praying everything goes well tomorrow. It will be our first day as a family of 6!!!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

In Sofia

We are all settled in our apartment. Our first flight out of Grand Rapids was delayed. We missed our connection in Chicago. Airline got us on another flight quickly. Made it to Frankfurt in time to make our connection to Sofia. Arrived in Sofia on time. Our luggage, however, did not arrive. Airport is trying to locate it and we are hoping to have it tomorrow! We walked a short distance from our apartment and bought a few food items. Will do some sightseeing with the girls tomorrow and hopefully receive our luggage. We are scheduled to leave at 7 am Monday to drive to the orphanage in Kyustendil to get the kids. It is only about an hour to hour and a half to their orphanage, so by Monday at lunch time we should be back in Sofia with our twins. Praying all goes well (and we get our luggage)!

Friday, April 20, 2012

At the airport

Waiting for our first flight. Wrote a post earlier but just now noticed it is not there! We are all excited to be on our way to Bulgaria. We had a change in our itinerary while in Sofia. Rather than driving directly to the orphanage upon arrival in Sofia, we will be picking up our twins on Monday morning. I think this will be much better. We will all have a chance to rest and be refreshed after being up for over 24 hours. The girls are super happy to be finally meeting their little brother and sister. More so than I expected! I am actually feeling fairly good right now. At the beginning of the week, I felt myself becoming very nervous. Mainly about the changes are family is going to be going through and how well we will all handle it. I kept praying my fears would be calmed by today and I am actually quite calm! Our caseworker told us that the twins are excited that we are coming and their caregivers have prepared them well for their departure. I hope all goes well. I will try to post updates daily. Stay tuned.....

Leaving for Bulgaria Today

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Travel Dates!!!

15 Months after starting our adoption process, we finally have our travel dates. We will be leaving on Friday, April 20th. We will arrive in Sofia on Saturday, April 21st and go directly to the orphanage to pick up our twins. After 7 years, Blake and Emery will walk out of their orphanage for the very last time and into the waiting arms of their family. I am praying that God has prepared their hearts for their new life. I pray we are prepared to love them through their loss and their transition. Our journey is just beginning....

The past few days have been a bit crazy. On Friday, we were told that our April 22nd date had still not been confirmed but we should know by Monday. Over the weekend there were very few decent flights at a reasonable price. On Monday, we received our call and were told to arrive on the 21st rather than the 22nd. We were to arrive by Noon and go directly to the orphanage to pick up the twins. We would be picking them up on Saturday instead of Monday. So I spent the rest of Monday and most of today trying desperately to find flights that did not require overnight layovers and were somewhat affordable. Well, we finally booked a flight that has short layovers and gets us to Sofia by 1:00pm. Noon just would not work and our caseworker said 1:00 would be fine. Price wise, we were not as lucky. We ended up paying $3000 more than what we could have booked last Friday. But, at this point, we just want to bring our kids home. We most likely will not all be able to sit together on the flights, but there were very few options. We are thankful just to be going! I can't wait to start packing!

Friday, April 6, 2012

No Travel Confirmation Date Yet

We still do not have a travel confirmation date. Our caseworker at AGCI told us that we still have a tentative travel date for the 22nd, but it will not be confirmed until next Monday. We are getting worried about finding a flight where we can all sit together! Hopefully, it will all work out. Hopefully, ticket prices will not be too high! 

The girls were on Spring Break this week. They were extremely helpful in completing some of the final preparations for the twins. Ashley cleaned and reorganized the entire toy area in the basement. She had some help from cousins Conner and Avery. All of the toys are already for Blake and Emery! Ashley also helped me with some yard clean up and other household chores. Nicole helped create a video clip of the twins. She did all of the editing and correcting of my errors! I will share it in this post. We also had some fun this week. The girls and I went to the mall to finish up some Spring clothes shopping. We also had a nice lunch at Panera. They had their friends from next door spend the night on Wednesday. Five 12 and 13 year old girls - needless to say, it was a very giggly night! We are very fortunate to have lived right next door for over 10 years to a family with a daughter the same age as Ashley and twin daughters the same age as Nicole. The five girls basically grew up together and they are all great friends. Their mom is a great friend to me as well. Couldn't ask for more perfect neighbors! My sister took Nicole for a make-up lesson at a salon this week while Ashley and I went scrapbook shopping. Very fun for both girls! We colored Easter Eggs this morning with Conner and Avery. The girls are now with their cousins at a water park! I am sure this will be a big hit for all four of them. Thanks to my sister for taking them! It is very hard waiting to travel when we are so close! I am anxious to get the twins home. Especially since we thought we would have them home by the end of February. With Bruce being so busy during tax season, getting them home by the end of April probably is best. This way Bruce can take some time off to be with all of us during the first week or so home. Working 14 hour days is not very conducive to transitioning new kids into a family! So, all in all, God's timing is the best timing! 

Here is the video clip of Blake and Emery.   Happy Easter Everyone!