Monday, January 26, 2015

Updates

Thank you all for your prayers.  We had our first meeting with a doctor today, and he and we will be developing a path forward for Ana.  We were very thankful for the time and evident care he had for Ana, and the nurses were wonderful, as well.  Our marching orders were to keep Ana going on good food and drink (though not aggressively, letting her pace it and keeping an eye on her throughput) and to apply for our state's long-term disability coverage and begin that process.

Having once been rather Libertarian (and now, I hope, a better Christian than that), this was (and may continue to be) hard to swallow.  But, help comes where God gives it, and if the state is going to offer such services, we will investigate them. 

Our church family has been very kind in providing some meals, and we had an excellent Sunday morning - Ana made it through Sunday school (with Papa, teaching the high-school kids) and service (with Papa, mostly in the cry room or walking around outside the doors so Papa could hear most of the sermon).  We will not be attending evening service for some time, to ease the stress on her (and us), especially since our church is a 50-mile round trip from our house.  This makes me sad, since our evening service is poorly attended, and I love to open and close the Lord's day in the Lord's house, but I think it would be driving the kids too hard.

Papa is back at work some, though officially on leave. There are things that do not wait for families - and I am developing a distaste for them...  but I am thankful that God uses my job to provide for my family at this time.  I am also thankful for the kindness that I occasionally find in the whitewashed tomb of academia, from students who ask after Ana to a co-worker who seemed nearly to cry when I told her we were home and well.  God is good, and His common grace is poured out all around us - this, I think, is the rightful burden of Hopkins' As Kingfishers Catch Fire:

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came.

I say móre: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is —
Chríst — for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men's faces. 
 

Will you please pray that God will speedily accomplish the sale of our condo?  We had a buyer lead us along for perhaps six weeks, just before the pickup trip, and then walk away while Papa was in Bulgaria getting Ana.  We had been counting on that to settle some adoption expenses, like the trip, and now we will wait and see what God will do.  There are many things that I could gripe about, but instead I should give thanks to the God who accomplishes all things well, large and small; and we know that being stretched is how you grow.  And I am thankful to you all, our larger family in Christ's holy and catholic church, for your support in prayer.

It is a good reminder, may God let all our goings graces be, as Christ, reflecting God the One in Three.

In Christ,
Papa

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

What's it like to be "mama na Ana"?

That's what I always say; "Ana, I am your mama! Mama na Ana (Ana's mama)!"

So, three sleeps in, here we are! 
Ana is doing incredibly. She LOVES snuggling on my lap, sometimes for as long as half an hour at a time! She just really likes to be near me, which is awesome, even if it prevents me from doing anything else. We just had a big cuddle session with singing and shoulder rubs and now she is a little tired, I think. Intense one on one interaction wears her out, but in a good way. After crowds, she acts very stressed, and after snuggling she just acts sleepy.

Having an Ana is a lot like having a newborn. She loves to be close to me, she cries at night, she can't roll off the couch (yet). I talk to her just like I talked to my other babies; telling her silly things, singing, asking her questions. She responds in a very rewarding fashion, with smiles and snuggles.

In some ways, Ana is unlike my other newborns. She has way more hair than my babies (curse that Northern European blood :-), and giggles more than any newborn. I can't nurse her, and I can't wear her in a baby carrier. I have to keep track of her long skinny legs more than I did with my other babies. 

I will do my best to update now and then, but for now I am just going to live a little.
Thanks for your prayers!

Love,
Mama


Saturday, January 17, 2015

America...

I thought about comparing Denver airport to Jersey, but it has always happened that I meet at least a few nice people in Jersey... But I suppose the Saturday night shift is the short straw, and they, too, would rather be home. And we may actually get to our home first.

We are thankful to report that Ana is a US person! Hooray! She still has a maroon passport, but we should get stuff from USCIS before too long.

Papa and Ana are both showing some wear after going full-steam for a full 24 hours now. But God is faithful and we met some God-fearing Guatemalans in the special customs room who blessed Ana and (using language with which I am much more careful) declared that God had sent our family an angel. This conversation ensued because I had spoken to Ana in a mixture of English, Bulgarian, and Spanish.

Time to turn off der handi.

In Christ on our way home,
Papa and Ana

North of the terminator

Over Greenland, where it is twilight, we can see a sunrise parked on the horizon for the winter. The plane tangos with the terminator when you fly a great circle starting at daybreak. It's beautiful.

Ana has been burning down the diapers. We are down to four, with about twelve hours to home. Maybe we can buy some in Denver. I packed enough and to spare for regular-gut Ana, betting that travel-gut Ana would get slowed down (my reaction), but she seems to experience the converse.

POSTSCRIPT: In a delightful twist, Ana was having loose stools in preparation for dealing with some serious constipation. This would explain her discomfort last night and why she has been off-and-on fussy while sitting up in seats all day. So now she is happy and smiling again, we're down to three diapers, and I am hoping she can sleep some. We are currently in polar night, and given our 0400 wakeup call and that it is 1920 in that time zone, she may.

En route

Waiting for the 747 to prep, and Frankfurt has free wifi (tut-tut, Istanbul).

Thank you for your prayers!
Papa and Ana

Open your mouth wide and I will fill it

We are in the air en route to Frankfurt via Lufthansa. The Germans are so kind yet officious.

Ana has eaten a bit of baby food (2/3 of a jar, 80kcal) and some fruit goop and Humana Folgemilch (probaby 30-40kcal). We have been up since 4am after a late night of two big diapers and what I thinl was attention-seeking crying.

But I am thinking about how Ana eats. She makes hungry tooth and tongue noises to tell you (she is still making them after our recent snack - sorry girl, there are some realities of air travel to contend with - only one Squish Delish pouch on a short haul). And she loves to eat. She has affectionate smiles for Papa and Mama, but she has this great big dopamine-dump smile while eating. She likes to let food sit in her mouth and on her lips. I believe she would be thrilled to wallow in a tub of sweet goopy food.  There are reasons for this, to be sure. Being deliberately kept near starvation for ten years and then for two more years just fed orphanage food on the orphanage schedule (in July I was told I was "spoiling her" by taking so much time over lunch - forty minutes, perhaps?) is bound to warp your view of food. And as a grown man who is mostly functional (check with Mama to be sure) it is easy to look at that simple food idolatry and be somewhat repulsed. I mean, eww. It's baby food smeared all over, girl, nothing to bliss out over.

But then I thought of that verse: "Open your mouth wide and I will fill it". God delights in giving simple blessings to his children, presenting the very image of a father feeding his small children and telling them to "open up!" (or as Ana knows, zoom-zoom-zoom-knock-knock).

And then what are we to do? What pleases our Father?

We swallow. We thank God for his blessings and then use them as he wants us to use them. If we bliss out over the blessings, if we focus on them and not the God who gives them to be used, we make an idol. And God will frown and wipe that idol out and encourage us again to take what he gives the way he gives it and be thankful.

And how gross must I look when I smear job or house or hobbies or even family and church work all over my face and grin. Let us use the gift and thank the Giver.

In Christ from 10km up,
Papa and Ana

Friday, January 16, 2015

Back so soon

Well, a very healthy late-night diaper has done in a pair of jammies for now. So Ana is dressed for travel, all set to go because Papa did not care to unpack and repack the suitcase at 11:30pm. The spare clothes in my valise remain at the ready.

But the encouraging thing that is worth sharing is how thrilled Ana was to have me change her in the middle of the night.  Makes me wonder how many times in her life that has happened.

Lights out,
Papa and Ana

The Sights

I will miss Ana's country. The first photo is a tetraevangelion, I forget the date, but at least 800years old.  We went and saw a church that grew out of a Roman-era site (the site goes back to the early Roman occupation, the church is Constantine-era). It is small, the nave is maybe 3 or 4m wide, the apse is circular, perhaps 12m diameter, and the narthex is partially enclosed, of a later date, and is rectangular. It is now surrounded by a government building housing (among other things) the ministry of science and education and a casino (which is not, to my knowledge, a government ministry).

The museum of archaeology is fascinating. The collection spans neolithic artifacts on down, with much space given to the Thracian culture, the Romans, Byzantines, and the local kings, some of whom were highly cultured and, at times, very powerful. Ana liked going bump-bump up and down the stairs, and some of the artifacts might have interested her, it is hard to say.

I was thinking about the pagan minds that made the art and cult objects, many of which are extremely beautiful and well-done. Mostly they focus on the gods; whether those be employed as objects of worship or ornament is a separate question. But you have Herakles, (demi-)god of strength, Apollo in war, Heros in hunting (god or man, not sure), Athena for wisdom, Eros and Aphrodite for love, Adonis for beauty, Zeus for command and power, and the list goes on. There is a simplicity of a sort here - strength is this strong god guy, you want strength, you pray to him. Same deal for love, wisdom, victory, what-have-you. And then the pagan culture is swallowed whole as though the earth opened up beneath it, and these pagan art and cult objects are replaced wholesale by Christian art and cult objects. There is even a scholarly argument that St. George and the dragon was a Christianization of Heros (or the Thracian horseman, if those are differentiable), and the likeness there is striking (this comment based on personal inspection of the artifacts today).

But the gods are gone.

In their place is this absurd figure who is claimed by these Christians to actually BE strength, wisdom, power, and even love and beauty. Where the pagans simply made an image of what they thought godlike strength was (and Herakles, while strong-looking, could also be called tubby), Christians pointed to this dying God and claimed that yes, here are all these things most truly found, and here alone.

The earth did open. Paganism is swallowed by death because this Jesus has himself swallowed death. No Orpheus negotiating his bride's release he, no, he who spoke the world out of nothing, who was born humbly of a virgin, who died on the cross, who walked out of a tomb afterwards to ascend to his Father's right hand - this Jesus who is called Christ - he commands the grave to give up his bride and leads her triumphantly from darkness into light. He may look at her. She may, nay must, gaze on him, for he is no Cupid to leave her - besides, she has broken many of his kind commands, but he forgives her in her repentance.

Paganism couldn't handle this.

We had such a nice walk that we were out for about two hours. When we got back we talked to Mama and Co., then Ana ate and Papa ate. Dinner was about 170kcal, putting us at about 480kcal today, which is satisfactory. Diaper output is pretty regular, with smaller #2 being directly correlated to the composition of her food (the potato+spinach food was noticeable, the banana+mango not so much).

We said goodbye to our American friends at the hotel, had a washcloth bath for Ana (which she really liked), a shower and shave for Papa (always makes security people happier if you smell nice), and are settling in for a short sleep. Up at 0400 and back to the USofA by 2100! Not bad until you add in the nine hours of time lag. Still, o ly thirty hours of travel to go between eastern Europe and the western US is pretty amazing, by any standard that considers human history.

Thank you again for your prayers! You may not hear from us for a little while, as there will be lots to do back home, but check back - when we have time, we will be delighted to give praise for God's continued work in Ana and in our family.

In Christ, who is our victory,
Papa and Ana

Calm

Thank you all for your prayers, we need them much over the next 48 hours. Ana had a pretty good breakfast (120kcal or so), eaten in our room so she did not get upset by the breakfast rush in the restaurant. Then we went down so Papa could eat, because a hungry Papa and an impish Ana made for a somewhat more frustrated Papa than he should have been.  After Papa's moderate-to-enormous breakfast in a dead-empty dining room, we were joined by the other American family at Hotel B-. We talked about church, selling houses (and not selling them), and laughed that we both knew the not-joke: "How do you make God laugh? Tell Him your plans."

This family just finished their embassy visit, so please pray for speedy visa issuance for them (and us!).

Papa has been packing things up (and almost certainly overthinking the whole thing). Diapers? Eight o' dem (and Ana uses 4-6 per day so far, and seems to have a pretty functional GI, praise God! ). Food? Something like 500kcal of ready-to-go stuff, with additional dry food (and the reasonable expectation of juice available on the planes, at least trans-Atlantic). Wipes? Wet and dry. Plastic bags? Mhm. Spare clothes? Yep. Water bottles (refillable after security)? Da. Bible, notebook, CS Lewis and Josef Pieper? Check and mate. And probably some of Papa's toiletries or whatever, I don't expect I will be the limiting factor. But we will go buy some cashews, nonetheless.

I don't think I have posted about Ana's teeth. She had the usual awful-institutional mouth. Out of curiosity, I used my spare Turkish Airlines toothbrush and water to very gently swipe her teeth, gum-towards-tooth, mostly on the fronts. She loved it. She has so little of her body free for her to enjoy, but her mouth works (which also means she revels in food - more on that another time). So we went to DM and bought a super-soft small-head pink toothbrush, and I have been doing warm water and a gentle brush after meals. Did I mention that she loves it? I say "scrub-a-dub-dub" and she smiles and opens her mouth and I get a few swipes here and there. Poco a poco her teeth have improved. The orange crud is almost all gone. There is much less visible plaque. Her breath is not daisy-sweet yet, but progress is being made.  So I am very thankful.

Lunch today was a healthy 200ish kcal, and I am learning (slowly) how to help sidestep silly behavior without discouraging her from eating.  But we should take our afternoon walk now, to see the last sights of S- and enjoy the fresh air and very comfortable weather before the visa is dropped off to us between 4-5pm. And we should get the cashews.

Thank you for praying us home! God is amazing, He is a shield about us, our glory, and the lifter of our heads.

In Christ,
Papa and Ana

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Various praises

All went very smoothly, praise God. TB check took about thirty seconds, embassy visit was longer, but most of that was security. Another family was at the embassy also, and they live approximately eight miles away from us. It's a small world. We swapped contact info, and hope to get to know them once we are back home. Their little girl was also from an orphanage, but it seemed like she was from a better orphanage than P-, so praise God for that.

The airport people were quick, and the carseat is now in hand, praise God.  We said good-bye to our translator and driver, D-, and took a walk down to the store for a bit more food. Thus provisioned for the flights home, we are settled into the hotel for the night. Mama, Took, and Porgies seemed well when we spoke, and we are praying that folks are healthy for when Ana and Papa return. We are also praying that the embassy processes everything smoothly so Ana can get her visa on her passport, and get everything back to us by the end of tomorrow so we can make our flight at 0700 on Saturday.

Thanks be to our God and Savior Jesus Christ, who leads us in triumphal procession.  I was thinking about that comment of Paul's, and the Roman triumph is the image in view, where the victor paraded at the head of a column of captives, often with the opposing king/chieftain degraded and mocked somewhere in the van. (Avoiding this, by the way, is why Mithridates killed himself/asked death [depending on whose history you read] rather than be taken captive by the Romans.)  So Christ parades as his own those former captives of Satan, now brought to his city under his dominion. But praise God that he has abased Satan and lifted up our heads!

Thank you for your prayers,
Papa and Ana

Consulate day!

Ana had about 160kcal for breakfast, comprising a jar of baby food and a pouch of juice+water+fruit puree. She is interested in eating, can suck food off of the spoon without full spoon insertion into her mouth (this is newly observed today), and is extremely conscious of signals (don't wipe with a napkin - that signals mealtime is over, and she gets upset if she is still hungry).  Keeping the food in sight makes her less worried. She signals satiety with an increasing grin density and decreasing eating rate. 

I'm trying to do substantial-ish food first, then a mostly-liquid-and-fruit thing for hydration. She made the first thing I would call a stool last night/early this morning, so that is excellent (and probably a result of the baby food). She had a good wet diaper an hour after breakfast, and her saliva seems to be normal.  (I have never been more observant of bodily functions, and never more thankful when I change diapers; if you are wondering why they are so much written about, it is because they are immediate answers to prayer and matters of thanksgiving.)

Today we go to: clinic, consulate, and airport. Ana's TB prick looks normal to me (judging by WebMD), so we pray that will be a speedy and easy visit. A US dignitary is visiting S- today, so please pray that does not affect business at the consulate. I hope the airport lost-and-found is easy to deal with, but I do have my claim check, so I hope it's quick.  This all happens over Ana's lunchtime, so please pray that we would either be able to find time to eat while out, or that she would tough it through to the return to our hotel. My valise is loaded with food, diapers, spare clothes, and documents, so I trust we will be ready for any exigencies.

Thank you all for your prayers. We are one day closer to coming home, Lord willing!

Also, for any of the families who have been in a similar situation, did your child receive the vaccine Nimenrix? If so, were there immediate negative consequences to appetite or of nausea? I am so thankful that Ana seems to have ridden that through, but I can't help wondering about Brandi (or even Katie, though her starting point was much worse).

In Christ,
Papa and Ana

PS- Rev.21:1-7 in Ana's language still brings me to thankful tears, and remains my favorite passage.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A few updates

Ana had a 400-500kcal day, for which I am very thankful. Praise God that she has been eating until she gets full, and I am learning to read her signals better (sneezing food at you with a big silly grin means she is full).

We visited the Sveta N- church, which is a rich and gorgeous building, much more ornate than the (larger and much older) Sveta S-, to say nothing of the (possibly older, and certainly tiny and humble) Sveta P-.  But the priests were out for a smoke break, which I took as a healthy, human, humble sort of thing (too, Orthodox priests marry, another tick in their column).  With mittens, Ana did not have little icicle hands when we returned (it was maybe 1-2°C). So it was a nice afternoon.

She makes happy noises much more than she has, and seemed to be kissing her zaek back when we played hop-hop-hop-kiss (and her zaek is just like the bunnies that her brothers have - very thankful that the bag of toys we brought her did not get misplaced at the orphanage).  She makes the same sort of kiss noise (a tongue and tooth click) after I kiss her on the cheek, and not generally otherwise.  She was jealous when I talked to Maika (Mama) on the phone, and squeaked at me to come back and pay attention to her. I think this is good - she is starting to bond with me - but it will pose a hurdle when Maika becomes principal caregiver.  I return to teaching the Tuesday after we get back, so for at least a few hours in the afternoons, she will miss her Tatko. I guess we will just spend Sunday and Monday very deliberately sharing care of Ana to demonstrate our equal standing as objects of filial affection (is there another word than 'filial' for girls? Seems like there ought to be - fisial, perhaps?).  It was encouraging that we got several kind offers of help as we ascended/descended what passes for wheelchair-accessible ramps in this country (see below and try not to think of a cog railway).

All in all, it has been a very good day, and I am thankful to God, and to you all for your prayers. We go to the clinic (TB), consulate (passport), and airport (reclaim carseat from lost and found) tomorrow, so please pray that Ana does well with the outing, and that we stay healthy (and that Mama and the boys do, too; seems they may have a bug going round).

In Christ,
Papa and Ana

Ana

2pm Tuesday: out for a walk. Ana likes the stroller (especially bumps), we tour downtown and pray in an old church (since we pray everywhere, why not there, too?).

3:15pm Tuesday : rest in hotel, Ana plays with O-ball, Tatko (Papa) works on some Sunday school planning.

6pm Tuesday: Ana eats half a jar of baby food (~3oz, woot!) and some thickened apricot nectar with water. Praise God for demonstrated appetite! We also Skype with Mama and the boys - it's their first time seeing Ana (Porgies calls her "nana").

7:30pm Tuesday: Ana keeps Papa company at his dinner.

8:45pm: Bedtime, though Papa stays up and works until about...

Midnight: diaper and back to bed.

8am: wake up and prepare for the day with diaper (decent #1, hooray!), warm washcloth wipe (which Ana loves, and helps slough off the accumulated dead skin from the orphanage), fresh clothes, make up food, and down to breakfast.

9:15am: breakfast for Ana and Papa. Ana consumes a mixture of Pediasure and apple/strawberry Fruit-me-up, about 150kcal, by my estimate (~6oz of thickened liquid). This is awesome. Papa continues to have super powers of eating many eggs in various forms. Ana's upset stomach and poor eating Monday/Tuesday may be attributed to Novogrip, the meningitis vaccine, which has a 10%+ chance of nausea and loss of appetite, irritability, headache, etc.  Comparing today with Monday/Tuesday, that fits the bill. We also meet the other American family over breakfast, with their 15-year-old adopted daughter, and enjoy our conversation.

11am: go to the store for more flavors of juice and food for Papa.

11:30am: play with zaek, O-ball, look at fotos, Papa writes blog post.

12:30pm: Papa finishes his writing as Ana blows raspberries at him. Lunchtime.

Thank you for your prayers!
Papa and a hungry and impatient Ana

1:30pm Update : Ana ate about 2oz of baby food and maybe an ounce of thickened cherry juice. She may have been oversalivating for the juice, it's a bit tart. So, a lighter lunch than I hoped, but breakfast was not long ago, and she is probably up to ~200kcal. Please pray that she is hungry for dinner! <\p>

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Waiting and Learning

Ana and Papa are at the hotel, getting to know each other and waiting for TB post-check and consulate visit on Thursday.  Working back in time from now:

Ana likes the O-ball, and will move it around to the best of her ability, which is fun. Sometimes that means Papa fetches it back.

She did pretty well with a Pediasure+water+apricot nectar+Thick-it concoction.  She was NOT interested in the Andros Fruit-me-up strawberry apple goop today, though she liked it ok yesterday. There did seem to be a gag problem with it today that wasn't yesterday. She already has more saliva, so I wonder if she's getting saliva production with the fruit stuff that causes the gag (but I suspect saliva=hydration=good). The photo of stuff will be familiar, I suppose, to anyone who has spent time in dysphagia-town. I dig the Squish-Delish pouches - very easy to mix up thickened stuff.  The oral syringe, however...

was used to help clean her mouth out early this morning after she vomited a small amount.  It had been ~10hrs since her last feeding, she had a pretty good diaper in the middle of the night, and I am wondering if it wasn't the saliva - that's my working hypothesis, since she seems generally fine, alert, and happy.

Yesterday the poor dear got the TB prick (no veins big enough to allow blood draw), and meningitis and influenza vaccines, so we appreciate prayers for no adverse reactions. None observed so far, praise God.

She did well in the car ride, though it was a long day, and she was parched by the time we got to the hotel. Poor thing's lips are a good indicator of her general well-being, and they were dry and chapped by the time we got through the clinic and back to the hotel for some food. I may have overdone the apple goop, and I did shake out a probiotic into her spoonfuls of food, so there are some other possible culprits for her tummy upset.

And I think the nurse who sent her off from P- was about to cry when she kissed Ana goodbye. I am thankful to see that she was, in some measure, loved. Our God makes the sun rise in every place, and I am thankful.

And now it's a cold sunny day, and we will read some and perhaps sing and generally take it easy. Papa has been trying to eat adequately, and Ana did very well in her stroller at breakfast. Thankfully, it was not too busy today - she dislikes cacaphony very much. So Papa got to eat a big breakfast, pursuant to his general philosophy that one should eat lots of good food anytime one has the chance, for we know not the wends of the way, nor when we may have time to eat again.

Thank you for your prayers! My mom expressed the wish that she could do more for us (she is in Arizona). Please know, all of you dear friends, that there is no more or better you can do for us than to ask our heavenly Father's care for us, through the intercession of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. We ask no less and want no more than this.

In Christ,
Papa and Ana

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Papa made it

Tater and I just talked to Papa a couple of hours ago; he had finally made it to the capital city of Ana's country after some flight cancellations and shenanigans:-)

We are thankful that he is doing well!
The car seat got lost in transit; please pray that either they find it or Papa can find a suitable replacement.

Thanks!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Six days until gotcha...

Papa leaves Friday for Ana's country and gotcha day is Monday...
I am so excited to finally meet my oldest daughter. The little boys and I will be eagerly awaiting Papa's return. 
Every morning Tater says, "papa, you should go to B**** and get Ana now!"
We appreciate your prayers!