Saturday, December 31, 2011


We celebrated New Year on Bulgaria Time---- so everyone is now off to bed (I'm following shortly!)

Thanks for the happy thoughts and prayers--- I had my first full night of sleep in 4 weeks last night (thanks Jacob!!)

It was another good day today--- Martin got to take a couple of car rides (he was a bit disappointed that there was not more traffic on the road---especially big trucks (his fave)). Deyan got a haircut----nothing too drastic, but be no longer looks like the Biebster or a Beatle.

Shaslik for dinner--- (in honor of our Eastern European New Year) Wheel and Jeopardy and BED!

Here are some pics that Emily has snapped over the past few days--- We will take more tomorrow and get them uploaded asap!

Happy New Year and thanks for reading!


Friday, December 30, 2011

Past my Bedtime!

It is 8:30 and it is bedtime!

The new guys are doing GREAT-- an unexpected treat is Jake is also at the top of his game--- he loves playing with Deyan and Martin and has been as good as he has ever been--- Good Job Baby Bear!

I have been on Jake Duty since our return--- he gets up during the night--- Rarely do I get more than 4 hours of sleep straight --- I never thought I could do this, but I am making it--- thanks to God for the strength to go without a good night sleep--- That has ALWAYS been my biggest weakness--- and be it age and wisdom--- or age and body changes--- or God's will -- It has gone okay!

Even with all the difficulty this may well have been the best 2 weeks of my life! Watching Deyan smile in his swing---martin give "high fives" and bust out laughing every time or watching the boys fight over who gets papa this time--- Wow Am I lucky!

I'm in love with the new guys and with all of my wonderful family!

So Blessed

Please if you feel a calling to adopt or know someone who does---- Help to bring the babies home!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Week Update

We had a bit of a scare (okay a really BIG scare) on Christmas Day--- Deyan was very lethargic and appeared to have a seizure of some sort--- very rigid and non responsive.

To the ER right away with concerns about refeeding syndrome.

Good news--- all the labs were fine so no worry about pushing too much food--- bad news: it does seem as though he had some sort of neurological event. He is totally fine now--- We will follow up with our doc and keep an eye out for any strangeness..

Aside from that---

Deyan and Martin are doing GREAT! We are pretty good at keeping them on schedule---they are really good about keeping US on schedule.

Food has been a bit interesting-- Deyan ALWAYS wants to eat whatever we give him. Martin is picky-- one day he only wants yogurt (spiked with pediasure and fiber ) Today, he would only eat some home made beef veggie soup with bread-- Both boys are growing--- each has put on a pound in a week!

Interesting that my lap has become ground central for turf wars between Martin, Deyan and Jake--- I am honored that everyone wants a turn with papa! Especially Jake and Martin who generally do not like to be held. They are pretty good about turns and I have been quite pleased that Jake has been trying extra hard to have "nice hands" with the babies.

Not much else to talk about---- we are spending a lot of time just getting to know each other-- Lazy days over the Christmas break--- great times!

OH! Some blood work came back today--we were "shocked" (not)  to see that both Martin and Deyan have Down Syndrome--- Deyan is quite anemic--- Martin is healthy as a moose.

More when I can--- until then some random pics from over Christmas--- pardon the fuzzies and oddities-- no time to edit and make pretty!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

Behold a virgin shall be with child, and bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us--

and this Blessed Christmas indeed God is with us---

We grieve for baby Jordan that he cannot be in our arms, but praise God that we have been given the chance to hold his brothers Deyan Emmanuel and Christopher Martin--- 

Thank you God-- We are Blessed

Friday, December 23, 2011

Home Almost a Week!

We continue to settle in with the boys-- They have both been great!

Jake continues his struggles with a lot of pain and SIB, but both new fellas are pretty much settled in!

It is interesting to see more of "the real them" as they get more comfortable with us..

We did have a bit of drama this evening as 15 carolers appeared at the door as we a each had a kid in a different stage of sleep---- I am ashamed to admit that for a fleeting moment I thought--- how terrible these people were to come here while we try to settle the boys----whoa Scrooge- settle down- Only one other time in my life had actual carolers come to the  door--- Thank you kind neighbors! Your song was sweet!  Merry Christmas!!!

Deyan (Heavy D) continues to rule the "sweet and cuddly" world (though he does think it is great fun to bite unsuspecting adults to get a reaction from them). Deyan is now officially a climber. He prefers to be up on the chair or couch--- though he is not yet adept in getting himself down. He is eating from a large syringe and his intake is great and with less air than spoon feeding, his tummy is smaller. He loves to play the clapping game and he loves to give random and unsolicited kissed (on the lips) and hugs.

Martin (Marty Moose) is a shy, timid, and very scared little boy--- he loves to be carried and to play caboose. He loves tickles and for you to babel back to him. He is quick to laugh, but also very hand-shy-- He loves to watch anyone work --- He loves to fold laundry and help to pick up toys. He travels the room picking things up and placing them atop window sills and counters so they are not on the floor. His food intake has really slowed. We have tried to make his food similar to the orphanage, but he is unconvinced. He still loves "Puddis"== Pudding in a container and sometime Frutties (yogurt) . His favorite food today was a couple of hard rolls made mushy in milk...

Thus far we could not have asked for nor expected such an easy transition... Huge thanks to Emily and Marie and to the little guys (James, Joey and Matt)..

Each day we learn. Each day we get more comfortable with one another. Each day we try to shower all the kids with love.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Home for the Holidays

Stand by for a few pics from Sunday...

I promise to get more up as soon as I can.

Both boys have been GREAT since being home. Martin is a bit plugged up on the hind side and a wee bit grumpy but pretty good. Deyan just sits, smiles, and snuggles--awwww

The "home boys" have really taken to Deyan and Martin, especially Joey who has claimed Martin for himself (they are inseparable). Even Matt has really enjoyed the newbies. I'm thrilled with how well it has gone so far.

We are still working on settling into a routine. Everyone (me included) has been to bed before 8 each  night. The new guys woke up in the middle of the night one night, but other than that have been sleeping really well. No bedtime fits for Martin. Mary lays down with him and he is out in less than 5 minutes--- no SIB (YAY!!)

Actually, Martin's face is almost completely healed. He will try to bop himself from time to time, but without much resolve and he is easily redirected.

We are trying to do little or no TV--- not easy with Jake--- just quiet family time with all of us together---

The only exception for family time is doctor time---- My insurance changes to an HSA Jan 1 and we are trying to get all the initial screening stuff done before then--- So far, both boys seem to be healthy.-- Mary has them at GI and Cardiology right now (hence I have time to post)-- More medical updates as we get them.

I have had a lot of folks ask "So how was that flight?"

Actually, the boys did better than the airline workers!

Check-in was easy despite the really snotty lady at the counter for Bulgarian Air. They whisked us to the front of the security and immigration lines-- Immigration did not even ask for the adoption papaerwork.

We had time to feed them before getting on our flight to Rome--

Ahhh the flight to Rome--- Marie had Deyan---- I had Martin--- Deyan was GREAT! Martin? NOPE--
He was scared, angry about his seat-belt and confused by what was happening. He YELLED--- SCREAMED-- BLOODY MURDER for about an hour. Poor guy. My comforting phrases in Bulgarian just made him even madder.  (sorry seatmates). About halfway into the flight he calmed down.

We landed in Rome 45minutes late and headed to our next flight--- Going through security and again pulled to the front of the line-- they ask for my boarding documents for the next flight--- I do not have them. In Sofia they said I would have to get them in Rome--- In Rome, they said I have to get them in Sofia--- GUESS WHAT?!?!? I'm already in ROME! Finally after pleading for a couple of minutes they decide to let us go--- (FYI if you connect in ROME-- make sure you get your boarding pass before you arrive at the transfer security.---ALSO Rome is a SUPER easy connection--- Despite our problems, this is a MUCH better place to connect that Paris or Amsterdam--- you can get from plane to plane in 15 minutes---easy-- one escalator, one short tram ride and you are at the G gates (where all US bound flights depart)

The delay from Sofia meant that our Atlanta flight left with out us---thanks to really nice Delta folks we got on an Alitalia flight to Newark.

Martin and Deyan were both AWESOME on the long flight. Martin watched "Toy Story" 4 times and sat still loving every second of the flight!

But bad news--that flight was also late (2 hours late) and again no boarding docs because of the flight change---worse yet, we are on a paper ticket--- still worse--- They did not complete the paper ticket properly in Rome.. We met up with a "friendly" Delta agent in Newark---- actually the Delta desk people in Newark were the rudest, meanest, most uncaring people I have ever encountered in any customer service capacity--EVER -- there are a lot of great people looking for work---- really Delta-- FIRE these miserable people or we will fire you.

After dealing with over 40 minutes of "customer no service", we finally convinced them to fix our ticket--- The lady was going to refuse to ticket us because of the error that Delta made in Rome-- she said we would have to go back there and get it fixed---WHAT?!?!?

To the gate--- another delay-- the boys are getting grumpy now (20 hours into their day)- We finally board. Marie and Deyan--- James, Martin and me--- both little guys sleep the entire flight (yay)--- VERY tight connection in Atlanta--- Marie, James and Deyan run ahead--- my airport running days are over----Martin and I do what we can. ahhh Made it--- last people on the plane-- Martin is just about asleep when we hit some nasty bad air--- he is scared and starts into his "Martin fit" again--- after 5 minutes or so he calms.

Thanks to the SUPER nice flight attendant--- the blanket, bottle of water and kind words really meant a lot after the day we have had!

11:15pm and Touchdown! We are the last people out of the airport. Mary is waiting (the rest of the kids were bummed, but too late for them) It is so good to see her---- both boys seem to remember Mama---- Lots of hugs and finally we are a family!!!

Again--- More pics are on the way and I will post updates over the next couple of weeks

Thanks for following this amazing journey!


Sunday, December 18, 2011

We Made it HOME!

Ahhh it is so good to have the little guys home!

it was quite an ordeal getting here--- late aircraft, missed connections and lots of grumpy airline workers--- getting settled in with the boys right now--- if they decide to nap today, I will post all the fun details!

Thanks for following along!


Friday, December 16, 2011

A final farewell from Bulgaria

Ahhh. All the boys (james included) are asleep. They are all breathing in unison aside from an occasional snort. It took Martin about 30 minutes to totally calm himself but went right to sleep after that.

Then the fun.  The first try to get him in the crib and I had a bad back spasm.  Had to twist as not to drop him...... Awake. Happy, but awake. Try #2 a mishap with the room lighting.   Oops repeat   third try seems good.  It is so sweet. He won't let go of my hands when I lay him in the crib.  Hopefully a bit of trust is forming. 

We will wake in 7 hours and travel for 22 more to get home.  Hopefully a quick post Saturday night and the full scoop with a ton of pics and video on Sunday.

Wish us luck!


Our Last Day in Bulgaria--- Home Here we COME!

Greetings from the Restaurant at Hotel Budapest-- Eating in shifts worked great yesterday--- so I'm first then I order the boys' dinner. Marie and I feed them while James eats--- then Marie comes down while I get them to bed--- Too bad it took most of the week to get it nailed!

It was a great day today-- and we actually did almost everything we wanted!

Martin woke up just before 6 and Deyan followed right behind.

Down to make their breakfast and get a quick cup of tea--- Martin was SOOOO happy to have his breakfast mash. Deyan---- well not so much.

Bath time! Martin on the steps time. Car watching time.

At 11:30 we started to the traditional place for lunch. A nice but cold walk and we enter the cute little place-- Deyan was cool with it- Martin wanted out NOW! I left some cash and Marie, James and Deyan Stayed for lunch-- I started back with Martin... Man it got cold and windy in the past 20 minutes--- some drops of rain too.

Poor little Martin. He stopped at every parked car wanting to get in.-- We just had some fruities for lunch and walked the steps.

WE decided the best use of our time and remaining Leva was to do a tour. The Hotel arranged for a GREAT Driver (If you are touring ask for Dmitry the cabbie--- good English, immaculate cab and Cars 2 on the DVD for the kids (well for James).

I'm so glad we did the tour. My impression of Sofia was that it was dirty and run down--- Nope--- the city center is great-- just the used car parts section of town where we are (and between here and the center) is dirty..

Marie got her Starbucks, we got to see all the major sights for 80 Leva for a 2 1/2 hour tour. Martin LOVED it--- Deyan took a bit of a nap.and did okay.

One last run to the Billa for wipes and more fruities for the plane--plus "real" fanta and some milka for the guys at home-- ad 2 2 liters of Shumensko--- still makes me laugh

Thanks to the folks here at the "Pest" for lovely gifts for the kids and a nice treat for us! We leave tomorrow at 5:30am--- 10:30pm home time. A long day for the little guys.

Please keep us in your prayers for a calm and uneventful flight!

Well-- one last Shopska salad and one last Shumensko----

We have a TON of Pics-- just have not been able to get them up---Check back over the weekend--- I promise I'll get them up!

Next stop HOME!---well Rome-- then Atlanta-- then home!



Did They Sleep?

Yes...yes they did. Martin woke about 5:50. The commotion woke Deyan around 6.  Wow a full night sleep. Yay

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Quick Thursday Night Update

Both boys went to sleep great at about 7:30.  Too good to be true? Tune in tomorrow to see. 

Nighty night (i hope)


Long Time No Post!

Who ever would have thoughts that 2 little boys can run 2 1/2 adults ragged!

Actually One Martin!!! Deyan is a super easy little guy!

Main issue with Martin is his SIB-- When he is tired, bored or angry he pops himself-- When we picked him up he had a huge gash on one side of his face--- a smaller one on the other side-- plus one scabbed over bite mark on his arm. Everything looks so much better in just these few days-- But he needs to be in arms reach all the time to keep him safe. It is especially bad around bed time. He cannot be put into bed and left. He must be held until sleep comes--- then I can put him down in his crib.

The great news is he is starting to really like being held and rocked. The first night he was so scared. He raged for nearly 3 hours. Night 2 about an hour--- last night he was unhappy with being held but it was angry screaming from time to time-- He calmed down after about 10 minutes and fell asleep---- unfortunately our bed time timing was bad and when Deyan came in from his bath Martin woke.

We sat and talked and sang-- with an occasional "request"  from him to get down-- until 2am. We both fell asleep in the chair. I put him into bed around 3.

He really is such a sweet boy when he is firing on all cylinders-- He loves to give hugs and sit with you-- Hopefully when things settle down the SIB will depart!

The boys slept in until about 7:50 (YAY) except that we need to be up and out to the medical appoints. Marie ran down to get their food--- diapers changed and ready with 10 minutes to spare!!! Go "Team"!!

Doc appointment was easy and it would have been quick without the long line. Not to get political, but this was a private clinic but very similar to government sponsored care in England. Has anyone factored in lost productivity time of government sponsored health care. An appointment that would have taken less than an hour at home was well over 2--

Marie played with Deyan while Martin and I walked up and down the steps in the stifling hot building--

Once we got into the docs office it was great--nice older fellow who was good with the boys. Another 20 minutes for paperwork--- pay and OUT! Just enough time to get the boys lunch in the room before our embassy appointment.

It is always so nice to get back onto American Soil. To see 110 current plugs. Everyone at the Consulate is TOP NOTCH. What nice and efficient folks. We had a bit of a wait, but the interview process was a snap. It was much quicker and easier that Serbia or Ukraine (and what a nice new building!)

Cab ride back to the "Pest" for a quiet evening--

Side note--- Martin LOVES car rides. WOW...he sits with his hands in his lap and watches the world go by---- He now tried to get into any taxi with an open door!

Many thanks tor Marie and James--- I am now at the restaurant eating my first meal since breakfast 2 days ago!-- Shopska Salad, pork wrapped in pork and Shumensko-- We will eat in shifts tonight just like we do for breakfast

That is pretty much it for today-- we hotel bound Tues and Weds and discovered the fun things to do here at the "Pest"

Let Papa hold you up to the window in the room and watch traffic as papa describes the different vehicle types--- his fave is the "spider trucks" that haul away illegally parked cars.
Go outside the lobby and get a street level view of the same game
Walk up and down the stairs (actually he prefers to walk down and take the elevator up)
Do "pretend" laundry--- fold and unfold shirts and towels
Eat Puddi (brand of Pudding)
Eat Fruti (brand of yogurt)
Make fun of Papa when he coughs

bath time
Bath Time
Dance the Robot while chewing on Marie's Ipod cover
Cuddle and squirm on the bed
bath time
Lotion Time
Play with his spikey Ball!

Sorry for no pictures--- I will try tonight IF Martin decides to sleep!


Actually Marie wants Starbucks, I'd like to try to take them to the traditional Bulgaria place up the street for lunch (Gotta try sometime) and maybe try to go back to the Christmas Market---

Little or none of that is likely--- but it's a plan!

Again, sorry for the delay is posting--- it has been very crazy-- plus this dang cold and cough that won't go away!

Waaa poor me :-)

Love Papa!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What a day.

Just a quick update from my phone. Quite a day yesterday. Big people and little people are all sick.  Cough cold yuckiness.  Martin still has lots of trouble settling down   almost 3 hours of drama. Deyan was up til midnight too. 

Hoping for a better today with some time for a real post and some photos.

A weary papa

Monday, December 12, 2011

First Day with Both Boys

first--- gotcha pics from Martin today!


It was super to see Toni and Martin today as they whisked us form Sofia to Blagoevgrad to get little Martin. We arrived just after 9 and after some papers were signed they brought Martin down to me--- I was on my knees and he RAN right up to me--- Does he remember or am I just someone new to pick him up---either way,  I'll take it. Just as I suspected, Marting LOVED the car ride--- Carseat---sure-- as long as he gets to watch trucks, busses and cars zoom along. 

We met Marie, Didi and Toni's mom at the passport office and there is where we experienced the first of (I'm sure) MANY "Martin Moments"--- I am nearly deaf in my left ear but not only could I hear his screach--- most of the long dead in Bulgaria had to cover their ears--- WOW was he pissed off! (I do not use that term lightly) --- Maybe we should really call him Screech!!

I took him back to the car while the rest of the guys got Didi's pic done.

upon our return the boys get to officially meet!

We romped, sang, played and danced in the room then I headed out to the Kauffland for :little dude" supplies--- A bit of cab drama (as in, I could not find one--- thanks for helping Toni) and back to the hotel with chicken breasts stuffed with a variety of things (pickles, cheese, ham, dill...) and baby food--

Frolic Time

Bath Time! and lots of food--- Martin does not want to eat---Deyan wants to eat for 2 (after not being hungry yesterday and this AM)

Then things got ugly

Martin missed his nap---does not like our food and I probably picked the wrong time to work on airplane skills--- at about 5:30-- he totally lost it--- screaming, beating the snot out of himself (but a welcome change no aggression to me)

so he raged---and raged  and raged--- Thanks to great advice form home, at about 7 I got the lights out and held him a big chair in the corner of the room--- Sang to him in Bulgarian "Dobre Martin, Dobre Martin Lecka Nosht Lecka Nosht"------ screams (but no more hitting) and a "short:" 2 and a half hours later he was calm and drifting---drifting-- drifting--- BAM--asleep

Through all of it Deyan continued to be his sweet little self---what an amazing calm and gentle soul! He actually fell asleep during Martin's fit---

They tell us that Martin wakes at 4am---just after 10 here now so it is bed time--

I will try to post a couple times a day this week--- but it will depend on the cooperation on Mr Martin!



Gotcha Christopher Martin

Poor little dude is all gashed up again.  He did run right up to me when he stepped off the elevator. We are making the 2 hour drive to Sofia. Will post more from the hotel.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Evening Update Just Me and Deyan!

sorry for the ramble--- this post was written over the past hour working on getting the little one to bed!

Deyan's normal bedtime is 8, but he started asking to go to bed at 6---- it is now almost 7 and he is still having trouble getting to sleep. He is exhausted--- all the excitement and no nap for the second day in a row--

I game him a melatonin and a jar of peaches--- we'll see... I'd rather he stay up for awhile, but I fear the 'point of no return" where tired turns to manic.

His current state is dancing "the robot" in his pak n play!

Thanks to Indian TV stream SAMMI for streaming ESPN2-- for some reason my local radio station (an all talk station) does not premit you to listen to their stream outside the US---- Music stations? I understand the rights issues--- but spoken word? Way to think globally--NOT!

While Marie sat with Deyan trying to get him to nap, James and I went exploring the neighborhood looking for shaving supplies and Doeners for lunch -- not as good as Germany but pretty darn close. We found a tiny shop where the Turkish owner makes his own bread and turns his spit by hand--

It is so quiet here--- I HATE IT QUIET-- you would think it would be a blessing to have some nice downtime-- but all I want to do is scoop up Deyan and play with him--- he NEEDS to sleep-- we can play tomorrow.

Marie and James went to La Boheme at the Bulgarian Opera tonight. Marie was excited--- James--- not so much- Tickets up front are about 10 USD-- try that back home! They will grab diner at the second happiest place on earth "Happy Grill"

Tomorrow plans:

Church--- 11 in English at the Catholic Chapel or 12 in Latin at the main Cathedral

We wanted to go to the Zoo (mixed reviews, but the latest info is that the updates required to come up to EU standards have really made a difference--- We will see--- today was supposed to be nice, but it was cold and misty most of the day--- If the weather is nice we might give it a try.

There is also a Christmas Market next to the Catholic Chapel--- maybe!

Side notes for other families staying at the BudaPest-- 

Do NOT plan on laundry here--- The cheapest thing to wash is 4 leva  for socks and undies-- I did not spend 4 leva to BUY my underwear--- I will  rinse in the sink or Bulgaria will deal with a little stink-- either is fine by me--- it would have been close to 100 USD to wash all our stuff (pants and shirts are over 10 USD each)

also-- the hotel restaurant prices seem to have gone way up from 6 months ago-- a salad and an entree will cost you over 20 Leva--- The Billa at the train station has cheap prepared foods you can get a roasted chicken, sides and a salad-- you could feed 2 for a few days on what one meal costs here at the "Pest"-- OR for 3 leva you can get a doener as big as your head at a great little shop half a block on the way to the boulevard. Enjoy the owner-- he is a HOOT! ---1 doener is plenty for 2 to share!-- there is also a pastry shop next to the doener place-- good traditional Bulgarian meat and cheese filled goodness!

Deyan's First 24 Hours With Us

What a cool little kid--

First--- I have added more photos to yesterday's post if you would like to check them out!

Deyan finally fell asleep last night LATE--- and slept this morning LATE--- I finally talked him into getting up at about 9:15---

We all went down for breakfast. He had coffee cake with milk to make mush--- 2 packs of instant oatmeal and  close to half a cup of yogurt with honey.

The kids want to do the Sofia Walking tour but we were running late. We asked a fellow with a British accent for the time. We got to chatting--- SMALL World--- His wife was from Cincinnati. He is here teaching at American University in Blagoevgrad (where Martin is). He is in Sofia for the Opera tonight... We chatted for a bit and asked him to give our regards to Markus and Sabina--- WOW-- indeed a small world.

Back to the room for a bath---pics are coming at the end of  the post-

Nice and clean and dry we head to the Billa to get baby food and snacks. He was a bit freaked by all of the activity. Marie held his hand while I pushed him in the stroller. Back into the familiar setting of the grocery cart he was in a great mood---dancing to every upbeat song that came on the MUZAK.

Marie carried him back to the hotel--- only about a 10 minute walk.

Lunch for Deyan:

  • Jar of Pumpkin/Potato/tomato food
  • Baby Yogurt supplement
  • 1 whole banana lightly mashed
  • a jar of peaches--

He is in the crib, but not looking too tired-- we see about that nap thing.

Still to go today--- Heading out with James to get Doener for lunch- Marie will hang with Deyan.

Marie and James are going on the walking tour tonight at 6 while Deyan and I watch the Crosstown Shootout!

More later


Here are bath-time pics

Friday, December 9, 2011

GOTCHA DAY for Deyan Emmanuel!


We got him. The first impression is what great care they have taken of him- He has gotten sooooo big!
more in a sec---but first the PICS:

Not sure why the picks look a bit funky---I'll try to play with them later---

Sooo We were up for breakfast at 8 and off to pick Deyan up! We waited in the director's office for what seemed like forever---then there he was--- my goodness. He has gotten taller and really plumped up. So stinkin cute! Thanks to Orphanage "Faith, Hope and Love" for an amazing job keeping our little guy alive and well!

Lots of tears and about 45 minutes later we were on our way. He was not (still is not) sure what to think of the car seat. We stopped at the sea for some pics and to put his hand in the water then started the looooong drive back. 

A stop at the Billa for diapers, wipes and baby food and a change and feeding and back on the road. He blasted right through nap time.

We stopped for some grownup food at a truckstop roadside kiosk---Deyan mooched and decided it was work-out time. He grabbed my thumb and took off running. We got back to the hotel about 5:30 our time and went down for dinner. Deyan had baby-gert and a big jar of salmon and veggie baby food- Loved it!

back to the room for some Skype time then bedtime---HA RIIIIGHT.... he had lots of trouble getting to sleep. Wanted to play the clapping game and be picked up and give kisses. 

Melatonin time --20 minutes later he is zonked.

We have a bunch more pics to upload, but they are on ipods and such-- need to get them uploaded and I will embed them here

LONG but AWESOME day--

Off to bed


Got Deyan

More coming soon.  Here is s pic from the Billa

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Wonderful Day Today!

ahhhhh we are settled in the room for the evening----

the scoop

Up at the Budapest (I never can sleep past 4am on a first night in Europe--- except today got up at 5----back to sleep til 8---crazy!)

One of the best breakfasts in Europe and off for the 6 hour car ride to Burgas.

We arrived in town a bit before 4pm. Into the Hotel Aqua and to the the market for some supplies. Then we were back to the lobby to eat fruit, drink fanta and surf the web-   We got a taxi to church for the Feast of The Immaculate Conception---Side note---Kudos to fellow Cincinnatian Secretary Sebelius  for taking the first step to outlaw the abortion pill that was a "right" under Obama Care on this sacred day---we take a win where we can get one.  Now please stop spending our money to kill ANY babies---

A kind lady gave us candy after mass as we were lighting a candle for our lost little baby Jordon- Hvala!

We were going to walk a bit after mass and spotted some Christmas lights.. hummmm--- ahhh a Christmas Market. I have photos-- but can't load them from here. It was very beautiful! We stopped at Happy Grill/Sushi for snacks and the WC and spent some more time at the market.

A quick cab ride back to the Aqua---we actually almost walked all the way--- and to our free "dinner".  On the menu tonight: chicken thighs in sauce, rice and hot dogs in beans.... Yummmm I'm glad we had snacks at Happy Sushi!

James and I swam for about 45 minutes (nice --but COLD indoor pool) while Marie got caught up on the computer--- back for a nightcap and back in the room for bed.

Tomorrow we meet the team for breakfast at 8 and head to get Deyan. We hope for a brief stop at the Black Sea and a photo at the Burgas sign-- then "home" to Sofia for the weekend!

I will try to post a quick photo from the Orphanage (they have wifi) but will update when we get back and settled in Sofia at the Budapest!



Well hopefully better late than never—

I am  writing from my tiny netbook in the car enroute to Burgas sorry for typos.

Wow I zonked out last night. I don’t remember being that exhausted in a very long time. I guess it is understandable after a long wild day.

We landed in Rome an hour ahead of schedule---6:30am wheels down. Wandered a bit in search of an ATM that was not creepy looking. A quick stop for some water and fanta and oops. No Euros yet and the credit card machine is down—no biggie except Marie took a giant swig of her water—crud--- jail time to stealing water?? Young James to the rescue. He brought along a 2 Euro coin from home. Just enough to make the grumpy Kiosk worker happy (well not happy, but no longer wanting to call Police)

Creepy ATM here we come!

Euros in hand and we are off to grab the express train to Roma! We get off at Termini and drop our bags in a locker. It is now peak rush hour on the Metro. We had to wait for the second train--- first was full. 2 stops to the coliseum. Ahhh Roma! I’ve not been in the Coliseum in years. Marie and James have never been in so we spring for the 12 euro tickets to get in there and the Forum. Good call. Amazing visit--- thanks to Marie there are Pics (Picture boy forgot batteries!)

We ate at a wonderful little trattoria. We got a little of everything and shared--- it was WONDERFUL!

To the train station to get our bags and catch the express back to the airport—Ya know that you can’t use credit cards to buys tickets for the airport express? I didn’t. Did you know the machines that take credit cards do not sell tickets for the airport express? I didn’t. After discovering these small details. I went in search of an ATM—I only got a little $$ the first time as I did not want to effect our daily limit to get Leva later in the day.

We planned extra time to get back in case of drama—whew. We will make it back in time even though it took an extra 45 minutes to locate a way to get tix.

FYI—if you plan on taking the Leonardo Express from FCO to Rome expect a very long walk from the platform to Termini Metro stop--- almost 20 minutes with my gimp foot.

We arrive at the airport with 90 minutes or so until the flight. Check the gate information and head for the long chaotic yet surprisingly speedy security line. Then off to our gate at G2. Wait did I say “G2”. Well that is what our tickets said. That is what the first monitor said. We arrive at G, double check the gate and now it goes from H. Argh.

off to the gates—down the escalator, in the tram, up the escalator and find another security checkpoint—with a huge line. 25 minutes til departure. 

This won’t work. 
 Back story—I am possibly the least pushy/nervy person in the world. What to do? The only thing To do…hey, It’s Italy. The line is optional everywhere else. I grabbed the kids and the bag and we walked in front of the first person in line. Said a quiet mi scuzie (sp) and walked through—so grumbles from folks but no yelling or hitting—YAY!

We ran to the gate—but no need. Several other folks also had bad gate info—so we had about 10 min to spare
Onto the plane hot, sweaty and I’m sure pretty ripe from  our airport workout, a day in the city, and the long plane flight prior Settled in for the quick 90 minute flight, I really wanted to sleep—but the sights were incredible. We took off to the west over the Mediterranean-- doubled back and flew over Vesuvius. It seems only a few minutes later we were over the Adriatic with its dramatic coastline and rugged islands everywhere. After landfall, I did manage to sleep. A great smooth flight after a crazy day!
Customs and Immigration in Sofia are a snap and the airport is new, shiny, open and easy to navigate!

The best news of the day? Our bags made it!!! YAY!

Our team was waiting for us and after a bit of fun in Sofia rush hour traffic we arrived at the hotel. Chek in---Check! Plop down luggage? Check!! Call a cab for Happy Grill? Check! We ate a great dinner—sharing a shopska salad, fries with cheese and various grilled meats. (my fave ---I admit it is so wrong—chicken  stuffed with red peppers and cream cheese wrapped in bacon and grilled---oh yea—it’s on a stick.

We walked back to the hotel trying to keep our energy up to skype with the boys. They won’t be home til 10:40 our time.

Trying, trying, trying to stay a…wa………SNORE!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Made It

Sorry this is so short. We are pooped!

A quite eventful stopover in Rome--- Details tomorrow.--- And we finally are settled in the room. 

We leave to go to Burgas tomorrow at 10am.  We pick up Deyan Friday morning. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Hello from Atlanta!

Thanks to Catie for the ride to the "dad-port". It was an uneventful flight from CVG to ATL. We were all scattered around the plane on a very full flight.

We have a 3 hour layover here then off to Roma (6 1/2 hours there) and into Sofia tomorrow afternoon.

I decided to spring for Delta Sky Club for a nice place to chill with the boys if we have any flight problems and free food and beverages is not bad either.--- It has not been that long since my last Sky Club stay, but I was bummed to find out there is no more hot food offered.--- stinkers-- Cheese and Crackers and "baby cut" carrots will not work for brunch ---so off to Krystals in Terminal "A" in a bit.-- Chili Cheese Pups here we come!

Any suggestions for 6 hours in Rome? We could take the express train to the center--- about 20 bucks each way-- we would have at least a couple of hours to explore a bit. We could spend a euro and take the city bus to the Lido or tour Ostia Antica --- would love any and all ideas!

Camera boy has no pictures to share yet---

more soon!


Monday, December 5, 2011

quick update

young James (14) is on the road with us----

His mission (besides helping with stinky loads from the boys) Is to take lots of pictures---he is armed with a cruddy 5 year old digital camera and a great attitude---get ready--- here he comes!

pics uploaded daily!


Love --- Papa

Tomorrow we FLY!


tomorrow we fly!

Mary and I spent the weekend in DC looking for some ideas for Jake and his pintching Serbska paws--- we got some good suggestions--- I hope they work--- really

I think we are all packed. --- to remember-- Passports, Credit Cards and ---ummmmm that's it-- the rest they have there. So we are good

The electronics list for this trip is lighter as I will not be working from the road--- so a netbook, ipad, and various personal mp3/ipod touch/android thingies... Kindle--- MAYBE--- but other than the flight over and the car ride to Burgas there will not be a lot of reading time --- so Kindle---- HOME (maybe)

I'm a bit unhappy about the large suitcase that has been thrust upon me--- yes I know it has the goodies the boys "need", but they have lived with so much less for the past 6 years--- why now??? Cuz we can?? Oh Well

next update from the road! (maybe on the mobile version of Blogger so please forgive the typos)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Flights Are Booked!

We are all set with flights--

We leave midday on December 6th and fly from here to Atlanta to Rome to Sofia- the return is early the morning of the 17th with the same connections. We should be home by 9pm--YAY!

I always like to book stuff myself, but I could not get us all on the same return-- We had a travel agent work on the fare and came up with an INCREDIBLE deal on Lufthansa-United (with a connect in my favorite --Munich)-- but we chose to do SkyTeam-- I'm a mile pig and for the extra dough I will actually get enough miles for a free international trip PLUS we have membership in the airport lounge with them--- (might come in handy during a 3 hour layover)--

I am really surprised (and thrilled) that we are leaving earlier than expected. The kids will still be in school the week we are gone and that will make things much easier back here on the home front.

Not much to add right now. So much to get done in so little time---- And that thrills me!

More as we get closer to leaving---

Only 10 more days! We are coming fellas!



Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

It was a rough night for Jake--up at 3-- Mary had him til 5--- usually he will cuddle with me for an hour or so, but not this AM--- he wanted to start his day --NOW!!

We came down and got settled in--checked email on my phone and YAY!!!! Travel Dates!

We leave for Bulgaria on Tuesday December 6--- return on the 17th! SWEET news.

Mary will stay behind with Matt, Joey and Jake--- I will travel with my daughter Marie and son James. I tried to book airfare today, but did not feel good about locking in our round trips and booking the boys after---what if the flights sell out before I can get them booked? Or if fares go crazy because we just got the 3 remaining seats in that fare class.

Nope--- I want a human to help with this one--- Delta was too busy today with the holiday noise. I put out feelers to a couple of travel agents-- hoping someone was actually working the holiday.. wrong!

One way or the other I will get it nailed down tomorrow---

Soooooooo here is how it looks--

Leave Tuesday 12/6
Arrive Sofia Weds 12/7 late afternoon
Sleep at Budapest
Up early on 12/8 and drive to Burgas for Deyan---arrive late afternoon (too late to get him)
Overnight at the AQUA in Burgas on 12/8
Friday 12/9 up early and snatch Deyan (YAY!!!) Drive back to Sofia-- arrive early evening
Settle in to Hotel Budapest for the next week
Chill over the weekend with Me, Marie, James and Deyan-- Play, chat, stroll if the wx is good)
Church on Sunday (found a Catholic Church with Latin and English Masses)
Monday 12/12-- Marie and James Stay with Deyan in Sofia. I get up and out early to get Martin in Blagoevgrad. They take a taxi and meet us at the passport office back in Sofia early afternoon--

The rest of the week is medicals, embassy interview and getting to know each other.

So excited to go--- yet bummed that Mary won't be with...

We should arrive home early evening on Saturday 12/17

Very Thankful--- indeed



Wednesday, November 23, 2011

No Word Today

Today is the 8th day since court---- hopefully no snags, just time zone communication issues.


Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Hopefully we will include a speedy travel date to our "Thankful" list!

Happy Thanksgiving to you!


Monday, November 21, 2011

Still Waiting on Travel Date

We have locked in an apartment--- very nice-- 2 Bedrooms, tub, shower right in the center for about $60 USD/night..

Now we just wait for word regarding when we travel----- Hopefully within 48hours we "know it all"!

We are almost there fellas!



PS -- we have been working quite hard on our Bulgarian-- I found some nice folks that put together a good CD crash course for adoptive parents---- check it out at:

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Boys Are Ours!

Wooo Hooo!

The news got to us at 6:19am our time. Court went fine and the adoptions are final!

Introducing Deyan Emmanuel Stolz


Christopher Martin Stolz

We will find out our travel dates by next Wednesday-- (there is a mandatory 7 day wait). We are really hoping that it might be possible to leave December 7--- We will keep updating

Monday, November 14, 2011

5 hours--- and counting until court

Court is a few short hours away----

Jesus in heaven with my dear beloved baby Jordan-- please intercede to bring our little boys home as soon as possible


Love Papa

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Life Goes On

What a great day today--- Up early to Church (thanks to my wonderful wife for letting me get an extra couple of hours of sleep after being up with Jake for 2 hours during the night)-- The ritual Mickey D breakfast on the way home. Clean for our football party, a bit of work-work, and to the store for a couple of things.

My Bengals lost, but played a good game and continue to perform above expectations for the season

Yummy Schweinebraten and roasted veggies for dinner with marie, sean and duece the dog-- Now making some homemade ice cream for the kids for a Sunday Treat!

My thoughts continue to race back to Deyan and Martin. Gosh I miss you guys.....

Praying for a good outcome and speedy paperwork from Tuesday's court appearance!



Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Are We There Yet?

I'm sorry it has been so long since the last update--

The answer is that we ARE almost there!

Our court date is less than a week away. So.... When will we travel to get the boys? Our CRAZY happy thought is that we can travel on November 30. I know that is almost impossible. We are praying that the need to get Deyan home might just nudge the system to move quickly.

A reasonable optimistic guess might be the following week 12/7--- More and more --- I am thinking we will travel on December 14--- God's Will be done, but if we travel that  week will we will likely  spend Christmas in Europe--- Travel out of BG to the US is just about sold out on Christmas Eve---

I can get us to Paris, Rome, or Amsterdam-- but the leg to the US is either sold out or crazy expensive--

Not to jump the gun, but we are looking to see if Christmas Eve is better in Roma, Paris or Holland--- I'm picking Paris.

Have any of you spent the holidays in any of our cities? We need easy--- but if we are "stuck" for Christmas Eve we would like to create a memorable event. Any thoughts?



Saturday, October 29, 2011

Getting Excited To Get Our Boys Home!!

Okay---so it is not as soon as we had hoped, but the good news is we got a "good judge" and we have a bit of extra time to continue to practice our Bulgarian, pack and prepare to get the boys. All along I have been guessing the second week in December--- that looks pretty realistic now---- praying that it is the week before--- get the fellas sooner and airfare is WAAAAY less that week.

As of today-- the plan is that I will travel with my daughter Marie and son James. Mary will stay home to tend to Jake, Matt and Joey..I wish there was a way that we could go together,  but it just won't work....

Our team usually has families stay at a nice hotel on the outskirts of Sofia. I would prefer an apartment in the center--- both kids are on mashed foods and it will be way easier to cook our own food and hit it with the stick blender. Plus a decent 2 bedroom flat right off the pedestrian zone is a great value at about 400 euro a week-- no eating out and a comfy roomy place next to the huge park--- YES!!

James is learning Cyrillic and we are both deep into our 'Bulgarian Language for tots" studies.


Friday, October 28, 2011

Good News--- Bad News

Well okay---mostly good news--- We have court on November 15th. Considering Deyan's needs, I was really expecting that they would get us in sooner--- but we will take what we are given.  So if court is on the 15th we are hoping that we will travel either the first or second week of December...

Good news fellows--- you will be home for your first Christmas!

I can't wait to give you a big hug!

Love papa

Friday, October 21, 2011


Well Kinda--

Thanks to "Team Bulgaria" for letting us know that this past Monday we needed only one last signature on our paperwork and it would be off to court. The expectation was that we would get that much needed signature before the end of the week (today) and it would be sent off to court for judicial assignment.

The other good news-- the court backlog seems to be cleared out (since there is no court in August, the first few months back suffers from "need to get "caught up" on the case load").

What does this mean?

It means that there is a CHANCE that we could be off to get the boys sooner than we expected. I always felt that we would travel in late November/early December--- Now it looks like that MIGHT be moved up a couple of weeks.

Please pray that we did indeed get the final signature this week and that our papers got to court today... Also we need to get a "good judge" and hopefully their schedule allows them to get to the boys in the next week. Please pray for this expedited timeline. We have no worries about Martin, but Deyan runs out of the supplemental feedings we left for him in early November-- we are trying to get a couple more weeks of feedings to him, but it sure would be great if we could give them in person!

Thanks also to Team Bulgaria for the update on Martin-- He is bigger, steadier and with no SIB. He has been moved to a higher functioning group and is now feeding himself! YAY!

Hang on guys--- it looks like we are coming soon!!!

Love Papa

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Screech Sighting

Thanks to another family adopting from Martin's orphanage for filling us in that he is doing great.

We sent over a picture book of our visits with him and a small musical toy. He got his presents and got to spend a few minutes with an American. (THANKS!!)

The report is that he is bigger, steadier on his feet, and feeding himself--- plus all his dents and dings are healed.

GREAT NEWS all around!

Now we continue to wait---and wait--and wait.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

We're Watching and Waiting

A brief respite for Jake's favorite show and our current holding pattern--

All of our documents are with the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice. We are at their mercy to obtain 2 required signatures, then we wait for a court date.

I think the "best case" scenario would be we travel over Thanksgiving weekend. I do not want to consider "worst case"

It seems a rather typical timeline is:

Submit to MOJ--that was 9/29
+ 20 days COURT

That said, we and our precious little boys are at the mercy of the government of Bulgaria at this point. Please pray that God may work a miracle and get the boys through the process as smoothly and quickly as possible.

We respect the laws, rules, norms, and customs of the Republic of Bulgaria and we know that they are working hard to get these kids placed as soon as possible. 

Deyan and Martin-- we are hurrying as best we can to bring you home!




Monday, September 19, 2011

YAY!!! Visa Appointment Went Well

Our visa appointment went off with (almost) no drama today! Thanks to Toni for letting us know right away!

There was a bit of a concern because of some wrong medical info in Screech's file. Our team had the supporting documentation that the file was in error (and he does NOT have 2 additional syndromes which are incompatible with life) So all is well!

We should get our Article 5 Letter tomorrow! Then off for translation, authentication, and a couple of signatures--- then we wait for a court date!

Getting closer-- one step at a time.

Hang on guys--- we're coming--

Love, Papa

Friday, September 16, 2011

Bulgaria 101 for adoptive families!

Soooo sorry for the delay in writing this:

Bulgaria has really blossomed with its entry into the EU. You will see signs everywhere that another construction project has been funded by the European Union. Fear not fellow adoption traveler--- Bulgaria is indeed a part of Western Europe. You will want for very little (other than maybe a non-squatter toilet in the train station). Tap water is fine to drink (actually tastes good) Grocery stores are well stocked and will have many familiar brands. Streets are safe and the people are friendly.


You will land in a wonderful new terminal in Sofia—Immigration and customs are a snap. All signs are in English as well as Bulgarian. No Visa required! No drama, No pain!

Except for us====

Our bags got lost--- There are 2 companies that handle lost luggage. One seems to actually work for Lufthansa. They are very nice and attentive. The other company works for everyone else (including Air France and Delta if you are Skyteam like us). This company STINKS. The EU air compact is just an annoyance to them and they will totally ignore your legal passenger rights. Here’s hoping that your luggage makes it with you (or you fly Lufthansa)!

We were picked up by Toni and Marti and they drove us to our hotel. (Hotel Budapest near downtown in a land of used auto part stores). It is a quick drive. We arrived on a Saturday evening and the airport and the roads on the drive were all pretty much empty.

If you need to take a cab---- cabbies in Bulgaria were once among the worst in Europe. AOL keywords--dirty, nasty, smelly, and thieves.  Times have changed. From what we saw firsthand and what we have read--- the government has done a great job cleaning up the cabbie racket! When you get in a cab, make sure it is metered. Before you close the door make sure the meter is at zero. The cabbie will punch in the minimum fare and from there you have no worries--- round up to the nearest Lev--- or more if you like.

Every cab experience we had in Bulgaria was top notch!


It is really hard to judge the city right now. They are building a new subway line and everything is torn up.  We saw the major sites and they are neat, but with all the chaos and construction, Sofia did not seem to have the charm of Kyiv or Belgrade. I’m sure once the work is done things will be different.

You can easily travel the central district on foot- We stayed at Hotel Budapest which is a ½ mile walk to the shopping zone. We still were able to haul our old tired selves around town.  Like much of Eastern Europe, there is a cool dichotomy between the pre Soviet romantic days and the grand monolithic statist architecture.

Sofia Dining notes:
We only spent 2 half days in Sofia so I’m sure this is incomplete—but---

You will find:
·         2 Starbucks (But do not ask for black ice tea “it is not possible”) (free Wifi)
·         McDonalds every few blocks (free Wifi)
·         KFC/Dunkin Donuts
·         Gyro (actually Doener) places on every corner
·         Subway (free wifi)
·         Happy Grill (My choice as best “local” food without drama) Free Wifi and lots of grilled meats

If you are a beer drinker, we tried several--- My fave was Shumensko—it’s an InBev beer but nice, light and cheap!

We did not take any public transportation while in Sofia—there is a tram right in front of the hotel, but the construction detour does not really go where we wanted.

Again we were in Sofia for such a short time.. we made sure we saw the old Roman church, Mosque, and the large park--- The Soviet  Tsum and performing arts center as well as St Sofia and several other church sites. Again, the key sights did not impress like Kyiv, Belgrade, or other sites in Western Europe, but they did have their own unique charm.


The Lev or Leva (plural) is your friend.

As of this writing 1 lev = about 70 cents USD

I find it easiest to just assume that a Lev= a dollar and just consider that things are a bit pricey!

Prices in Bulgaria are a bit cheaper than Western Europe, but not as affordable as Ukraine.  A Big Mac meal will set you back about 5 USD, but a beer is only about 75 cents for a pint draft.

I would suggest just getting your Lev out of an ATM—there is no need to change at a bank—do NOT change at any of the street vendors or at the airport. You WILL be ripped off—if someone approaches you to make a change on the street prepare to run and call for the police.

We never felt unsafe while anywhere in Bulgaria. It was a little spooky walking to and fro from the hotel in the “used car parts district” of Sofia but never felt threatened –even walking by a street “beer party” between the hotel and the city the locals were respectful and actually pretty nice.

Wanna Drive?

I did and Mary talked me out of it. That was a mistake.  Driving is way more western than Ukraine. If you can drive in a big city in the US you, can drive in Bulgaria. Be defensive and be prepared for aggressive drivers (especially young men). Rental cars are plentiful; gas stations are easy and very western. You can’t beat the freedom that a car gives. If I had to do it again I probably would have wanted to rent a car.

Car VS Mass Transit

Our Bulgarian team was not crazy about us wanting to take the train on our own to Shumen to visit Jordan’s grave. We insisted and they helped us get tickets. It was a snap--  Seats were assigned. Second class has no AC, but was fine. No food (even on the long haul from Shumen to Sofia) and the potty was with no paper and merely a hole in the car dumping the goods onto the track—but in all  it was a very relaxing way to travel.  We were in a compartment with a grandma and her granddaughter. When they realized that we were not going to be able to chat with them they scurried off and found another compartment with a kid and some people that spoke Bulgarian. So we had the 6 berth to ourselves. It is a good chance to nap and read and see the sights—DO remember to take supplies—Snacks, Water, pop (if you like) and TP.

Bus travel is also quite popular. We were considering flying into Turkey rather than Sofia. We would take a 3 hour bus ride to get us to Burgas (Deyan’s town) for less than 20 bucks PP. Buses are modern, have chemical potties and many actually have wifi! They are reported to be quicker and more reliable than trains between major destinations, but between our love for trains and our team’s fear based on numerous recent bus accidents we decided to take the train!

Sofia and Beyond:

We were in Burgas on the Black Sea and Blagoevgrad in the mountains south of Sofia. Each town was a bit different, but really more the same when it comes to smaller city life in Bulgaria. More on that in a bit.

What to expect?
We found very few confident English Speakers. If you are patient and kind, many folks will finally break down and try to talk with you, but they are very shy and most have never seen a “Real American”. Do not be afraid to point, grunt,  and make funny gestures to get your point across--- make it entertaining for you and your new friends will like it too!


In Bulgaria head bobs and nods are BACKWARDS from here in the states—back and forth means YES--- up and down means NO--- better to say DA (yes) and Nee (no)--- keep your head still!

Neighborhood stores are small and pretty well stocked to cover your day to day needs-they look a bit scary on the outside but are fine—do pay attention to “use by” dates on meat and dairy.

Several major European chains are now in Bulgaria—Kauffmann, Lidl and Metro are all as good and as HUGE as any megamart in the US. Prices are way better than the little stores—remember you need to plop a coin in to get the shopping cart to come loose.

They have several western style drug stores, but remember--- prescriptions and other pills and remedies are at the APOTEK (usually a little hole in the wall) NOT at the thing that looks like a Walgreens!

Street Food

We ate everything we saw and loved everything we ate (except for the doener in Sofia with mayo, a pickle and fries on it). No need to fear. Street Hot Dogs are good! Crepes? Yum.  Pizza? Yep. Ice Cream-- delish! Don’t be afraid--- enjoy! Bottled water is everywhere. Unlike Western Europe you do not have to worry much about getting fizzy water--- most is No Gas!

Non Fast Food Places.
We covered MC and other zippy dines earlier----  The big surprise for us was that  hotel food was not only very  good, but affordable! Some of our favorite dishes:

Most salad comes sans dressing---there is vinegar and oil on the table for you
Shopska Salad---  Tomato, Cucumber, onion (maybe red or green pepper) and yummy Bulgarian White Cheese (shredded fine—flavor a bit like feta)
Sheppard Salad. Like Shopska… add diced ham and eggs
Salad Olivia or Russian Salad--- Pretty much like egg salad with sausage
Caprese   -- Tomato Mozzarella and onion
Carrot and cabbage salad--- shredded veggies--- that is all

We were there in summer and never once saw soup on a table nor on a menu

Cold Appetizers-
It is very Mediterranean. Any combination of olives, cheese, nuts and meats you might find in Greece or Italy.

Hot appetizers—
CHEESE! Breaded and Fried, Stuffed into a pepper and fried, Sautéed with eggs then fried.

Main Dishes-
In the summer pretty much grilled meat ruled the day---except at the beach where it was grilled fish.

Expect lots of pork and chicken—beef (or veal—terms seem to be interchangeable there) is very expensive and from our team not at all recommended (since it is pricy it tends to sit longer and you run a greater risk of spoilage)

There are traditional dishes that are similar to our stews—they are cooked in individual crocks and very yummy.

Stuffed cabbage, grape leaves, and peppers are popular, but not in the summer

Veggies are wonderful and fresh during the summer. They are often grilled.

Potatoes are everywhere—boiled, fried --plain or with onions-- and French Fries with the yummy sirene cheese (a must eat!!)

Try Mishmash--- Peppers, onions, eggs and GOOD!!

Sausages. We LOVE sausages, but the spices in Bulgarian Sausage were not to our taste. Hot Dogs were wonderful, but a fresh sausage that looks a lot like a German Bratwurst does NOT taste like a German Bratwurst—Not bad at all—just not what we expected.

Lunch fare—

We ate in the room most lunches—packed from the Kauffmann. Fresh bread, ham or salami, cheese, fruit, chips and maybe a sweet torte. Go to the deli case and point.  Write down “100 grams”--- a good size portion for 2 people.  We only got stuff from the “cured” or “ready-to-eat” case.

You can find western chips—Lays, Doritos and such. We buy local and have a taste treat (Bacon flavor chips are really good).

Soda is everywhere. Pepsi and Coke, Coke Light, Coke Zero and European Fanta. Plus bottled water (we like Devin which is the biggest local brand).

OHHHH Breakfast
It was included in all of our hotel stays.. A much bigger and nicer spread than is customary in Western Europe. Included are:
Eggs—hard boiled, scrambled and usually ”hemneggs”
“Hemneggs” Well it is—um-- Ham and Eggs.  A thin layer of Ham topped with fried eggs—YUM!
Hot Meats- Ham (see above) usually a smoked sausage (like polish sausage)
Cold Meats- Ham and other cold cuts
Breads—western style toast, hard rolls and local sweet pastries
Cheese- Deli sliced cold cheeses—Swiss, Bulgarian White and usually a yellow cheese of some sort
Yogurt—fresh and a bit more pungent than in the US
Fruits (fresh, canned, and dried)
Cold Cereal (usually corn flakes and muesli)
Tea, Coffee, water, milk, and some dreadful orange-like drink that should be avoided at all costs

I GUESS you COULD snag enough for lunch too if your pockets are large enough??

Flying home:

Get to the airport at LEAST 2 hours early. It is quite funny. They have this awesome terminal, yet continue to do things in Eastern European style to get you home. Expect to wait in very long and slow lines then get your boarding pass and wait in more lines to get to the escalator and still more lines to get to security and immigration. As easy as it was to get in to Bulgaria—is is that hard to get out!

Airport food and drinks are CRAZY expensive (and not very tasty)--- try to avoid if you can.

Other cities we visited:

Burgas or Bourgas
 A gem of a city by the Black Sea. Did we love it because of the location? The great hotel? Or that it held one of the nicest, best run orphanages we have ever seen. All of the above!  

Burgas ROCKS!

Okay. We were there in the summer at the peak of tourist season. We enjoyed dinner every night on the beach. A midday dip in the Black Sea was the rule and most every night we enjoyed a stroll through the peaceful yet balmy promenade.

We stayed at the Aqua Hotel. A decent 3 star place about a 20 minute walk from the sea-park, and a 20 minute walk from the huge and modern Burgas Mall. Breakfast was great. The room was comfy--- beware of mini bar scams--- ask them to take out all the stuff when you arrive so they do not try to rip you off

Each night we ate at a little place right on the Beach--- shame on me I do not recall the name. Prices were good (especially considering high season) and the food was great. Our hosts ate huge plates full of small whole fishes every night. I finally got up the nerve to try one the last night--- not bad at all! I do not think we ever paid more than $15 USD for a meal with several adult beverages included.

We spent our time here with Deyan and at the beach—not much else to report. There is a decent shopping area filled with kiosks—it is a short 5 minute walk from the hotel—but it closes quite early--- maybe 9pm.


Jordan’s home city and while the reason for coming here was tragic, despite it all, we had a nice time in this small Bulgarian town with a rich history.

Shumen was an early seat of Bulgarian power. We toured the fortress that dates back to the first Bulgarian Empire and was occupied through Roman times. Very cool. On the next bluff was the Monument to “ 1300 years of Bulgaria”. A neat cubist Soviet eara monument that really helped us to understand a basic cultural difference between us and Eastern Europe. Our favorite is a statue of (crud I do not remember his name) with his arms out showing 2 points. The description in English was that “from here to here al is legal and permitted—outside these bounds is illegal and punishable” . How odd for an American. For us—as long as it is not expressly forbidden it is okay—but in the EE unless a thing is expressly permitted it is illegal. A HUGE cultural shock!

Aside from the sights, Shumen is a wonderful livable little town. They have a nice pedestrian zone with Corn-on-the-cob street food and strolling families. Shumen is also home base for my  favorite Bulgarian Beer--- Shumensko!


I think it is fair to say this has been our favorite city in Bulgaria. I don’t know why. Perhaps the mountain climate…Or the “friendlier than most” people. Dunno, but both Mary and I love it here.

Blago is home to the American University of Bulgaria and we must give thanks to Sabina and Markus for showing us around.  There is a great old Soviet era town square and an even lovelier pedestrian zone. It is a vibrant college town, yet seems very traditional and comfortable at the same time. 

Our Hotel Ezerets was awesome—great beds, fast internet and an awesome restaurant.  The main site is the Rila Monastery just outside of town—sad to say that time did not allow us to visit—hopefully upon our return.

So there you have it--- a brief rundown of our experience from a couple of weeks Bulgaria. Needless to say your mileage may vary. Enjoy your stay. Explore where and when you can. You will have great stories to share with you adopted kids for years to come!