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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

We Are Home!


Hello Everyone!

Thank you for continuing to follow along on our journey to a family. This is the post we've been waiting many years to write - OUR KIDS ARE HOME! We are thrilled to finally be under one roof as the DeArmond 5.

We've been meaning to write this post for about 5 weeks now, so thanks for still being interested enough to read, ha! It's a long one, folks.

It was a whirlwind getting ready for the trip to pick the boys up as we had about 10 days notice (similar to when we went in the summer to meet them). As prepared as we felt, there were a lot of little things to get done and finalize once we had their homecoming date on the calendar. We got all of our stuff, the boys' stuff, and some things that the adoption agency asked us to take, into 4 suitcases and a carry on - ACCOMPLISHMENT! It was overwhelming to pack not only clothes and essentials, but things to do for 3 active boys on a 10 day trip! We packed as many little activities as we could and said a prayer for nice weather so we could get outside. Mom and Dad Eckert picked us up on December 13th in a snow storm and off we went to the Indianapolis airport. Thankfully, we had uneventful flights there - smooth skies and no delays. Praise!


It was about 18 hours of travel time, plus they're 7 hours ahead of Indiana, so we arrived in Bulgaria on December 14th. We got off the plane only to be greeted with "Hi! Welcome back! We've got some bad news." Our hearts sank. Our adoption agency had been notified by William's foster mom that he'd been diagnosed with the chicken pox just a day or two before our arrival. They were primarily concerned with whether or not we had had the chicken pox before - both of us had so there were no issues there. Our biggest concern, though, was whether or not they would allow us to travel home on December 23rd. We were so excited to have them home for Christmas, that we were devastated at the thought of being delayed. But, we said we'd take it as it comes and if we were delayed, so be it! We said we'd take it one day at a time and adjust the return schedules if needed. Chicken pox wasn't going to get us down - we were one day from having them with us forever! From the airport we headed to our apartment for the week, which was the same one we stayed in for a couple of days over the summer. We unpacked (3/4 bags made it there - the 4th came a few days later) then went out and enjoyed our last meal out that didn't include childcare plans :).

We were picked up bright and early on December 15th to make the trip to the boys' home town, which was about 3 hours from the capital city of Sofia. We made it there at exactly the same time as the boys... we were reunited on the street right in front of the social services office. We will never forget that moment - we turned the corner and saw them climbing out of their car. We jumped out as quickly as we could and heard "MOMMY! DADDY!" and they came running to us.

Finally... together forever. 

Colin Bozhidar DeArmond, 03/05/2008
William Mincho DeArmond, 05/01/2010
Benjamin Atanas DeArmond, 03/05/2012




These two women will always be a part of our family


We all went into the social services office, the DeArmond 5, our agency rep, and the boys' foster moms. We had time there just waiting around for paperwork - we were in awe of the fact that we were finally together again. The boys hugged and loved on us from the first moments, they sang some songs with their foster moms, and we were able to give their foster moms a gift. These moments were so precious to us not only because we were finally all together, but because we were able to personally thank their caregivers for providing such loving and nurturing care for them over the past several years. These women have sacrificed so much and cared for our boys so well... we love them and pray blessings over them for the truly selfless and incredible work they've done. We'll never be able to thank them enough for standing in the gap between their beginnings and the present. 

Once we signed the paperwork and shook hands with the social service Director, we said our tearful goodbyes to their foster moms. The boys did wonderfully and Mary and the foster moms were the most emotional of anyone! It's tradition in Bulgaria to throw water on the ground to walk or drive through for big occasions. It symbolizes health and blessings on the next adventure. We were so touched when Colin and William's foster mom threw water on the ground in front of our car and prayed blessings over our new lives together. We waved goodbyes and off we went, back to Sofia. 



We went directly to the passport office to have their photos taken, then finally back to the apartment. Our first meal as a family was Domino's Pizza... pretty fancy, huh? What a day! The first night went well all together - we moved all of our beds into one room and all slept soundly together. 

We woke up on Friday, wondering if the day before had actually happened! We heard "Hi Mommy! Hi Daddy!" and tears fell for me (Mary), as I made breakfast and watched our sons sit around a table and enjoy breakfast together. Praise God for these gifts and for entrusting them to us. 

We were also kind of at a loss for what to do. The way our trip fell, we picked the boys up on Thursday and had no more appointments until Monday - so we had three full days with no plans. It was also very cold and snowy, so running around at a park wasn't ideal. We filled the day with a couple of meals out and the few activities we did have (most of their toys were in the missing suitcase). Thankfully, the adoption agency kept quite a few toys at the apartment for new families to use, so the boys busied themselves with that. Behavior-wise, quite a bit of testing began on Friday. The boys were clearly wondering what their new boundaries and structure would be and we learned how to manage their behavior and needs while cooped up in a small apartment with little to do. With everyone needing winter gear, us not being able to speak the language, and all still learning each other, going out was quite the trip! But we survived our first full day together and, quite honestly, were all looking forward to Grandma DeArmond's arrival the next day so we would have some man-to-man defense bonding time :). 

Scott's Mom arrived on Saturday and we were all so excited for Grandma to be there! The boys had been reviewing their photo books that we gave them over the summer introducing the families, so they knew who Grandma was and couldn't wait to have her there! Once Mom arrived we all went out to dinner and to show Grandma the strip of shops and restaurants that we were close to. Grandma hadn't slept in almost 2 days due to the flight and was fighting a migraine, so we headed back to the apartment fairly early after dinner. Well, we tried to. When we tried to unlock the apartment, we found out the lock was broken and had to call our agency late on Saturday night to come and have it repaired. Unfortunately it took about 3 hours so we got to know the strip really well!! The boys did great, though, and we made the best of a bummer situation (that may or may not have been caused by one of the boys sticking coins into the lock. Oopsies!) 


Bored, but at least Grandma's here!
The rest of the trip was filled with figuring things out to do and tending to several appointments including the Dr. two times and the US Embassy for VISAs. Great news came when the Dr. said nothing about the chicken pox, meaning our trip home would go on as scheduled! 

Our biggest struggle was keeping the boys occupied and quiet in the apartment (we had people above and below us) and beginning the process of understanding behavior expectations and attachment. There were hard times on this trip, as we all struggled to understand each other, deal with the trauma of leaving the foster moms, and work through the highs and lows of the emotional journey we were all on. All while battling major sleep deprivation and sickness. The trip was wonderful in that we were all together! But we would be lying if we didn't say it was difficult and exhausting, too. It's hard to be in another country, not speak the common language, and be navigating how to parent three little boys all at the same time. There were tearful times both from great joy and great difficulty; all part of this amazing journey. 

Here are some pictures of the activities from the rest of the trip!
Coloring and sticker books

So, we intended to save their new tablets for the flight home. I believe this photo was taken on day 2. Don't judge. 

We went to the zoo and had the whole place to ourselves! (yes, it was as creepy as you'd imagine)

Snow piles were more interesting than the zoo
The zoo had a playground!

Checking out the strip

Walking to an indoor playground!


Batman!

Daddy/William bonding


Playing a game Great Aunt Diane sent!

Found a creepy mechanical Santa

Snuggled with Grandma!

Doctor! (one of my favorite things is watching the older two help Ben)

Made mean mug faces when our kid demanded we rub his feet and take about 3 hours to fall asleep :)

Another playground!

On our last night there, we met with our agency for a final time to go over all of our official paperwork and discuss the boys' entrance into the United States. Once that was all squared away, we put the boys to bed and spent the evening packing up 6 people from a 10 day trip. We were set to be picked up at 4:30 am, so none of the adults slept much at all - partly due to being up packing and partly because of the anticipation of travelling with the boys and finally being home.

We left on December 23rd! The day started very early - the boys got up around 3 am and just watched as we got everything ready. We made it to the airport and check in went well. We boarded the first flight from Bulgaria to Amsterdam and the boys did great. This was about a 3 hour flight and they enjoyed it. We, thankfully, didn't have a long layover in Amsterdam so we hustled through that airport and boarded the long flight from Amsterdam to Detroit. This was about a 9 hour flight. We were split into three separate rows, so each adult sat with one kid and kept them occupied for the long trip. The flight went well! Ben slept for about an hour total, but the other two rallied on with no sleep. We certainly had antsy moments but overall the trip was better than we could have even hoped for. When we landed in Detroit, we breathed a HUGE sigh of relief. Being on US soil meant the boys were officially US citizens and we didn't have to worry as much about something happening during travel. We made it through customs and immigration without any issues and anxiously awaited the quick flight home to Indianapolis.


Getting ready to head home to America!

Checking in at the Sofia airport
Life is tough when you're Benjamin DeArmond. 



Delta airlines gained a few Hot Wheels that day as they rolled down the aisle
   
It was a quick 30 minute flight from Detroit to Indianapolis. We can't quite explain the feeling we had when landing in Indianapolis. Finally home. What a journey. The years of fertility heartbreak, the years of longing, the ups and downs of the adoption process... we were finally home. We had a homecoming at the airport that we will never forget! Our family and friends were there with signs and open arms to welcome all of us home. It was such an awesome feeling to round that corner off the plane and see so many members of our "village" there... ready and waiting. We've had such an incredible amount of support through this entire journey and the boys' first moments in the United States were no exception. 

Ready as we rounded the corner!

12.23.16 - Home. Together forever!

Here is a link to a video of our homecoming, if interested!

This is already a long post, so we will wrap it up. But in the 6.5 weeks since we've been home, we've had a lot of fun and hit many major milestones! Colin and Benjamin did end up getting the chicken pox as well, so that altered our holiday plans a bit, but definitely gave us a little more time to combat jet lag! We had Christmas as family, celebrated with the Eckerts and the DeArmonds, hit the Children's Museum, Indy Zoo, had our first days of school, everyone has had at least one round of respiratory "stuff," had two ear infections, a black eye, several trips to multiple doctors for baselines, celebrated Grandpa Eckert's birthday, celebrated cousin Henry's birthday, went to another friend's birthday party, had visits with our aunts/uncles and cousins, went to Church, etc. It's been busy, to say the least! The first couple of weeks home were really hard as the boys weren't combating just a little bit of jet lag, they were permanently changing their internal clocks back by 7 hours! It didn't take long, though, and most of us were sleeping normal hours. 

The boys have done wonderfully with the transition to school and all look forward to it every day. We are making strides day by day with language development, attachment, behavior, and finding a new normal. We cannot begin to understand everything the boys are experiencing - the feelings of loss and grief, the new tastes, sounds, smells of home, learning how to be a forever family, learning what a Mommy and Daddy are, etc. We are continually amazed at how brave they are, how resilient they are, and how well they're transitioning. When the moments are tough, we are reminded of the journey they've had and thankful for grace. Grace for ourselves as we learn to be a Mom and Dad. Grace for the boys as they learn to be sons. 

If you read nothing else in this blog, please read this: Thank you. We cannot begin to tell you all what your support has meant to us over the past 2 years as we've been on this journey of adoption. The prayers, notes, messages, financial contributions, bracelet sales, t-shirt sales, trivia night donations, garage sale donations, clothing/toy donations, showers, and love have meant more to us and our family than we could ever tell you. We have been humbled over and over again by your support, encouragement, and love and we are so grateful. We'll never be able to adequately describe how much it has meant to us. 

And we'd also like to say thank you to our families, who have not only walked this entire journey with us, but have been there to encourage us through these first weeks as parents. They've known just when to call, pop over, send a note of encouragement, etc. as we've been working to settle in. We couldn't have gotten through it without you. 

We're going to keep this blog going as the boys continue to transition, so feel free to pop back in periodically! 

Lots of love, 

The DeArmond 5