Monday, July 24, 2017
Today is rainy, which is lovely, but things are a bit more stir-crazy than usual.
Also, if you wonder where MamaV went, her iPhone stopped supporting Blogger, and she doesn't really care to (or have time to) spend much screen time on the laptop (which is also kept up and away all the time). For the record, I'm currently listening in on my first work meeting back from 3 weeks of almost-blackout, which is really hard to do in aerospace.
We're trying to figure out how to care well for the family and me still have any time for work. We have a little more runway, my team is very kind and understanding, but there will need to be a resolution pretty soon. On the plus side, school starts for Ana in about two weeks, so that will be some load off during the days. The boys are troopers, but it's wearing on them. Choupinette has both loved the best and been the saddest - Stefi requires very similar attention to what she needs, and there has been a lot of competition over Mama. Ana is a patient sweetheart, and we try to make sure to spend some snuggle time with her. We are thankful for church and friends and family.
Christ is in our midst!
He is and ever shall be!
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Friday, July 14, 2017
Wednesday, July 12, 2017
We are so thankful for every new day. Stefan seems to be making connections, and finding some level of "fit". Interestingly, he and Choupinette seem to be pairing off (in a sense). They're the closest cognitively, and both seem to need the same kind of attention and can engage in similar play. It's so sad that Stefi has never learned to play. However, he was able to drive a Hot Wheels back and forth with me for maybe a dozen or more rounds. That was news (he ignored the cars completely in the hotel). He likes water play (and the kiddie pool arrives today, hurrah). The photo below is Mama supervising this on the back porch (taken through the kitchen window, sorry about the poor zoom).
Monday, July 10, 2017
Thanks to you all for your prayers and your help. We have been blessed by many friends with meals, and we're thankful for surviving so far. Somehow he's going on 6 hours of sleep (up at 5am) in the last 48, so I'm hoping for better things tonight... neither of us slept on the planes. But, after a reroute in Amsterdam, we ended up going home via Seattle, none the worse for wear.
Swinging is good. But the heat is pretty bad. The boys and Choupinette are have very full hearts (Ana may, too, for all I know - she got held less today).
Notes from Monday:
Good night's sleep praise God. I was up with the sun, which was nice for prayers and chores. Stefi got up around 7am, which was fine. He's very interested in cookery, and hovered around the skillet until he burned his hand (very mildly, but a few times). He has added "Hi" to his words, doubling his vocabulary. At dinner, I asked if he wanted more chicken and his response was "Da!" (his other word), which was pretty great. Meals are hard, though Stefan is doing great - we're doing hand-over-hand with the fork, and I help keep his other hand from shoveling food (he's used to using his left to hold food in an overstuffed mouth). But he's making progress even already. The hardest part is the strain on the other kids. But kind aunts helped out today, and things were ameliorated. It's always hard not to project the present into the future...
Please keep praying, I am jotting this down while Mama has the bunch of heat-tolerant ones out on a walk, and Ana and I get to clean up the house (done, so I had a moment). Please forgive us if you don't hear from us often - our hands are full.
Christ is born!
Christ is risen!
Indeed, he is risen!
Christ is ascended!
From earth to heaven!
Christ is in our midst!
He is, and ever shall be!
Friday, July 7, 2017
I was not really joking when I said to Toni that the only visible difference between adoption and kidnapping is the paperwork... And now I can begin insurance paperwork for the US.
Today we will meet with the lawyer who should have all the documents assembled. We left Stefi's passport at the embassy to get the visa stamp affixed (a step that always makes me nervous - he is without ID for a little while, though I'm sure in a pinch enough of the supporting sheaf of documents would add up to ID).
I have not been able to reach the lawyer by phone yet, and she didn't give a time, so we are bored in the hotel room. We'd probably be fine for a walk, but I'm conservative. We'll just go to the store soon, get some more cheese (the only remaining effective pill-vehicle), but NOT more bread - it became something of an idea fixee yesterday, and I had to hide it before he would go to sleep. Not that he wanted to eat it, mind you, just to have the bag (ignoring the several pieces that were already out for him, and of which I kept offering chunks). This post-institutional food security thing... but then, I'm reminded of a (perhaps apocryphal) internal memo from Vanguard, the financial company, that indicated the highest-performing clients were those who a) were dead, or b) had forgotten they had the account. Again, lessons for Papa from Stefan. It's very plain when it's bread, but we adults like to gussy up our insecurities with fancy names like retirement or career.
Baths have been the new ecstasy since Wednesday evening, but like anything, he's getting bored with plain-vanilla, and looking for a new high. He scored yesterday with the hand shower, but that papa would insist on helping hold it and not giving him free rein. Now I'm not sure what he's up to, but he's learning to get in and out of the tub himself, which is good, but also a little nerve-wracking to see him teeter on the edge. However, he refuses help, and I am not sure what he expects me to do - he may be telling me to take a bath, too. Yes, much communication is nonverbal anyway, but imperatives can be tricky to convey - and this applies in both directions.
Tomorrow early we're off to the airport, then back to the US via Amsterdam. The flight from Amsterdam to Minnie-StPaul leaves at 10:30am and arrives at 12:30pm - so short!
Thank you for your prayers, I'm looking forward to the rest of my family and my home. But I will miss Sofia, if not the hotel room.
I am grateful to the kind lady at the church who took time to comfort Stefan (who didn't know why we were going out again, but who was also going bonkers in the hotel). On the way back from the walk, Stefi pulled me back into the church and wanted to walk around inside. God is good.
But I am sorry to say that Stefan is pretty much ready to be American - he loves junk food and cars. The junk food is a fine tool, but he makes no distinction between moving or parked, sidewalk or street. So he is frustrated when we are around cars, since I try very hard to keep him away from them.
So the fenced churchyard was a welcome relief. It strikes me that you probably couldn't just walk around most churches in America, since they are (both legally and culturally) private property. In Bulgaria, I don't know what the legal balance of ownership is, but culturally, churches are public. Generally speaking, you can just walk in, and they are open most of the day, every day. Yes, churches had to be underground shortly after the resurrection and Pentecost, but the apostles were public in the beginning, Paul was open for business in the hall of Tyrannus. It's something to think about, as we seek to hold out the gospel to the world.
Thursday, July 6, 2017
For none of us lives to himself.
Praise God for a speedy and successful visa interview at the embassy.
Praise God for puffed corn snacks ("Kroki") and chocolate snack bars, a parting gift from the staff.
Praise God for a baba at the orphanage who loves Stefi, and packed him a lovely bag of mementos.
Adoption can feel very lonely, at many stages before, during, and after the pickup. Praise God that we have never been alone in loving Stefan, that Jesus has always been guarding him (for he welcomes the little children, as his mother welcomed a uniquely fatherless child), and the Triune God has put people around him to love him in the orphanage.
Thanks for your prayers, out for a walk now.
Wednesday, July 5, 2017
Though the Costco gummy snack bags have been a relative flop. But bananas are like cocaine. He just had one, and is banana-seeking already.
We just got back from a walk, too early for vespers, but he was going nuts in the room after this morning and the clinic visit (no tuburcules, thankfully). Tomorrow is doctor appointment in the morning, embassy in the afternoon, so it'll be a full day. He got a new cup (plastic) to reduce our use of breakable glasses (one down, one left).
Thanks for your prayers, we need them.
Tuesday, July 4, 2017
Not the state of a full balloon, but the delicious processes of my blowing it up, and most especially, letting it whiz around while deflating. This is a hysterical joy to Stefi. I will need more balloons, as they are also a reminder of the brevity and frailty of life, no matter how exciting it may seem.
Monday, July 3, 2017
Sometime after 1am he finally fell asleep. My mattress was by the door, after a few (possibly coy) attempted exits. I am thankful to have had some sleep. However, breakfast went about 200% better than I expected. I am pleased to report that my son also likes the big Bulgarian breakfasts. He had eggs, bacon, yogurt, tomato, cheese, and some cucumber. And it wasn't even a huge mess.
I have few goals today. 1) ensure Stefi's survival to the best of my ability, 2) survive (in support of 1), 3) maybe go to the store for diapers and wipes? 4) if that goes well, visit a church?
3 & 4 are bonus objectives, obviously.
Thanks for your prayers, it's a pretty odd situation for him, and overall, he's doing well.
It's raining here, Stefan has been to the clinic, we ate dinner, got water all over the room until water play was limited to the sink, and now I am just running the clock on bedtime. I expect to sleep across the doorway... there's no privacy latch to help me keep Stefan in one place and in one piece. He kept pulling towards the street on our very short walk to the corner store...
Sunday, July 2, 2017
I will preface that this post is somewhat theological, and has no cute pictures. I'll start to have those tomorrow. Caveat emptor.
For some reason, I have long been a Slavophile. This started sometime in high school, reading Russian novels (some of which contain the most potent and penetrating views of mankind ever written outside Scripture). In grad school, I took a 20th century Russian history course (with young John W- and V-), which was a lot of fun. Then, eventually, all this Bulgaria stuff comes along (and incidentally, I learn that each and every Slavic culture is the epitome of culture and alone preserved it pure through the centuries...).
For my first visit with Ana in June/July 2014 (the one where I met Stefan, exactly three years ago), I went and bought a random smattering of Bulgarian books: The Truth that Killed by Markov, about 20th century communist Bulgaria, Under the Yoke by Ivan Vazov, which I still haven't read, Bulgaria: A History Retold in Brief by Fol et al., a competent, if secularized history of Bulgaria, subject to some pet theories. (As a long aside, I brought on this trip my Bible, a Bulgarian dictionary, my Bulgarian prayer book, and Dostoevsky's Idiot, Notes from the Underground, and The Brothers K-, two new reads, one old friend; but I think Notes explains the entirety of D-'s mature corpus, which is consumed with the salvation & preservation of Man, specifically a recognition of Christ as the Man, in the face of a dehumanizingly humanist 19th century modernity - that's another article). Thus, I learn about Bulgaria, the seat of Slavic language and culture - a claim which rests on some facts, mostly about the timeline of Ss. Cyril & Methodius and their disciples, who created the Slavic language and liturgy.
This brings up my next thought. Cyril & Methodius translated the Byzantine liturgy and associated texts ca. 866AD, ultimately creating the Cyrillic language family and alphabet. After some discussion with Popes Adrian II and later John VIII, their efforts to translate into the vernacular were blessed (twice, once by each pope). Later clergy would translate the Western (Roman) rite into Slavonic, with some of the southern Slavs even retaining the more ancient Glagolitic alphabet (Croats, up into the 20th century), which was eventually overtaken by the Latin alphabet. Thus, there is very strong and comparable historical footing for the Polish, Hungarian, and Croatian Western rite (Roman Catholics) and the Serbian, Bulgarian, Romanian, and Russian Eastern rite (Orthodox). As St. John Maximovich of Shanghai and San Francisco cheerfully pointed out: "The west was fully Orthodox for a thousand years, and her venerable liturgy is far older than any of her heresies.”
But perhaps you wonder what all this means, and why 1200-year-old liturgical questions matter to anyone in this day and age. And you're right, of course - a liturgy that was only 1200 years old would be rather young. The fundamental liturgy is that of St. James, brother of the Lord, first bishop of Jerusalem (see Acts 15:13-19, 21:17-25). This was disseminated throughout Christendom, though it is also said that St. Peter wrote the liturgy for the Roman church, planting the seed of the Western Rite. St. Basil the Great (d.379) collected and codified the liturgy for Constantinople, and his work was furthered by St. John Chrysostom (d.407). Today, I was blessed to celebrate the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom with my Bulgarian adelphoi and fellow-citizens of the Kingdom of God.
It felt like home.
No, I couldn't follow the homily. I had to look up the reading later (though I knew it was from Matthew, it turned out to be 8:5-13, the faith of the centurion). But I knew the liturgy. This was new to me, as we have not been Orthodox for very long, and this was the first foreign-language liturgy I have attended as a communicant. I knew the prayers - the Great and Little litanies, and the Lord's Prayer. I didn't follow the Beatitudes (they are a little less rigidly set than the litanies, so it's harder to follow the form). The celebration of the Eucharist was all familiar (though it is always strange and wonderful). The body and blood of Christ effected in the power of the Holy Spirit know no language or border.
And until Vatican II, any Roman Church would have served an Orthodox liturgy, too (and many still do - though I distinguish between the form, which is ancient and Orthodox, and the theology behind it, some - even perhaps much - of which has deviated from the apostolic teaching). And in America, there are actually a good number of Western Rite Orthodox churches (many of which were convert congregations from Anglicanism, but not all). Unity of worship is not the same as strict uniformity.
While Mama and I are indeed Slavophiles, and love the Eastern liturgy and worship, I am so thankful that Orthodoxy is emphatically not constrained by culture. Some Orthodox people choose to be culturally-constrained, and that is sad. But from Rome before the schism, we have a beautiful Western liturgy - more simple, spare, even minimalist in some ways. And from Antioch and Constantinople, a rich and very Eastern liturgy. But there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, and one Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father, who together with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets. And it is this Spirit who is invoked in the opening prayer, referenced in the title:
O Heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, who art everywhere present and fillest all things, Treasury of Blessing, and Giver of Life, come and abide in us, and cleanse us from every impurity, and save our souls, O Good One.
It is this same Spirit at work in all who say "Jesus is Lord" (1 Cor. 12:13), and though I rejoice to be at home in the Orthodox church, and long for all to return to the apostolic faith once and for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3), I remain thankful and indebted to my own Protestant background and for all the grace that is shown in and to and through all those who call on the name of the Lord. I hope all Christians who travel can experience a measure of the joy and interconnectedness of God's people as I did today.
An admittedly dark aside, to lead to a bright conclusion. It is my goal to love God and my neighbor. This must be the goal of every Christian, for Christ said so. There is much, much, much darkness in the world, especially (it seems) here in the Balkans and Near East. If you don't remember the details of the fourth crusade, you might look it up. If you do not know that Greece, Serbia, and Bulgaria fought a bloody intra-Orthodox war in 1913, I understand. If you are ignorant of the Armenian, Greek, and Assyrian Genocides, I am sorry. If you do not know the name Jasenovac, file it the same place in your head as Auschwitz. If you do not know Srebrenica, Lord have mercy. In the Balkans, Orthodox have massacred Muslims & Catholics, Catholics have massacred Orthodox and Muslims, and Muslims have massacred Orthodox and Catholics (and this just in the Balkan war of 1992-1995, to say nothing of the WW2 era, which saw deplorable collusion between the Roman Catholics and the Ustashe, or the WW1 era which saw the beginning of modern religious-ethnic genocide). What to make of the nations of the world, even those we love?
In the world you will have tribulation; but take heart, for I have overcome the world. (Jn. 16:33)
For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1Jn. 5:4-5)
The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. And I will give him the morning star. (Rev. 2:26-28)
Saturday, July 1, 2017
To bed, it's midnight local time, and I hope to make it to liturgy tomorrow.