Just a couple of days before Christmas, we received an email from our case worker. "The Bulgaria staff was able to make it out to Ivelina's area before the holidays. Attached are updated pictures and video of Ivelina. Merry Christmas!" Merry Christmas indeed it was! Jeremy was finishing up the lunch dishes, so I nonchalantly walked into the kitchen and announced to him that there was an email that we needed to look at together. He asked what is was about, and I calmly said "oh, just some new pics and video of our daughter." WHAT!
We settled down on the couch with gmail open and tissues in hand, and I was literally SO nervous. I kept telling Jeremy I was afraid to open the attachments for some reason. I was afraid she would look so different or so much older or I don't know! I was just full of butterflies! Since we chose our girl, we have only had one photo. I have memorized every inch of that photo. The pink shirt, pants, and puffy vest. The big smile with all the healthy-looking baby teeth. Her short, thick, black hair fixed into a cute bouncy ponytail right on top of her head.
Once the first photo loaded, I just melted. The first thing we both noticed is that she had lost her teeth! And of course she looked totally adorable! Who can resist a snaggle-toothed little seven year old anyway? She is still wearing pink and purple from head to toe, sitting in a beanbag, smiling for the camera, but those front teeth are gone! Her hair is still short but in need of a trim. No pony tail this time, but little pink hair claws are keeping her thick black hair out of her eyes. She definitely looks older. The missing teeth are a telling sign of aging.
I cried at first, grieving the fact that we weren't there for her first loose tooth and also just so happy to being seeing her again. Then, curiosity moved us forward to look at the 25 other photos we received. Then, it was onto the three new videos. She's jumping and dancing and singing and talking galore. Then, of course we poured back over the photos several times, looking for any signs that would give us some new information about her development and her environment. What a surprise Christmas blessing for us!
** Sorry, we are not sharing the photos or videos of Ivelina on social media. We are keeping these private for just our close friends and family to enjoy. Don't worry though, in not too many more weeks and months I'm sure I'll be flooding Facebook and Blogger with photos of our daughter.
As you know, if you follow our blog, our proposed travel dates in January are quickly approaching! We have not purchased plane tickets yet because we were holding out in hope that we would receive a grant we applied for back in the summer. It has been a very long approval process, but finally on Christmas Eve we were notified that we had received a grant for $3,500 from Gift of Adoption! This is such a tremendous blessing for us, and it will enable us to travel on the dates we expected.
To sum everything up, our past, present, and future adoption fees are basically funded. We only lack about $4,000 for trip #1 travel expenses and about $5,000 for trip #2 travel expenses (later in the Spring). We have been working and saving like crazy even through the holiday season because we know that on trip #1, we have to travel with about $2,000 in cash. For those of you who are new to adoption, the cash we take with us has to be from our own savings. It cannot be provided by a grant because grant agencies do not just write us a check that we can cash and spend on whatever we like. They only distribute money to adoption agencies, lawyers, or travel agencies. We plan on having our latest grant monies dispersed to our travel agency to pay for our airfare. The cash we take with us is to pay for our travel in country, our hotel stays, our food, and our translator.
That being said, if all works out, this grant will cover 100% of the airfare costs for the first trip and it will cover about two thirds of the airfare costs for the second trip. Huge surprise Christmas blessing!! We are still working on getting our $2,000 in cash ready for the trip, but we are very close to having what we need. Some extra work hours in December, several generous friends, and some Christmas money from our families have helped a lot with that. =)
We are a little bit stressed because of the time crunch we are under. For the next several days, we are working with a travel agent to secure the best flight plan for us. Then, we will be taking the required steps (paperwork) to get the grant money dispersed correctly to our travel agency. It does take a period of time for grant money to be processed, so we are a little worried about the timing of it all. We certainly are praying that all the details fall into place at just the right time. God has ordained the timing of every detail of this adoption so far. Sometimes I feel His timing has not been quick enough for my taste, but then I soon see in hindsight that it really was best after all.
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These Christmas surprises made for a great holiday week celebrating Christ's birth with our families. We missed having our girl here with us, and I could not help but wonder and imagine what her Christmas was like with her caretakers and friends at her orphanage in Bulgaria, but we look forward to 2014 with the hope of experiencing the holiday season next year as a family of three!