Sunday, May 27, 2012

"Better late than never." First trip pix and video links

I apologize to everyone, particularly to those who are following my blog (and whose interest I do greatly appreciate), for my delay in posting pix and video links. Finally you'll find lots of pix after the text of each one of my latest posts (the three that are about Trip No. One for Maximilian and Philip).

The videos are unlisted, and the links are as follows:

  1. Fourth day visit (this is very nice, yet very long one--so you may want to skip and go to the latest ones)
  2. Philip with photo book. Greeting new family members through video.
  3. Family photo books. Learning the names of family members.
  4. Last visit, May 11, 2012
  5. First video of last visit, when Maximilian was told that I'd need to go back to U.S.
  6. Last moment of last visit (everybody crying).

I know that time is limited for everyone---but those videos are really worth seeing!!! Get some tissues ready for the two last ones.

From all the Godone-Maresca family, thank you all for your prayers for I-800 approval.

God bless,


Friday, May 11, 2012

After my Last Visit with Maximilian and Philip

The good-bye was a very emotional one. They were crying, and so was I. It may sound cruel to say that you like when children cry--but must admit that, amidst my own tears, deep inside me I was so happy to see that they were crying for me. They wanted me, they needed me, they didn't want their mommy to have to go away--even if they know I will be back and it'll be forever. Maximilian started crying first--from the moment the social worker began explaining to him that we were on my last visit, and that I'd be going back home so as to do all the necessary paperwork that was still missing. Initially, instead of crying Philip would concentrate his energy in comforting Maximilian first, and then me. He would hug us to try to make us feel better. I promised Maximilian it'd be much sooner than it had been since I had last seen him when picking up Stephen until I was able to be back this time. I'm not very sure what Pavletta told him, but for a moment there were a couple of smiles in his lips and in his eyes--those heartfelt smiles of him that can conquer anyone's heart. But when the time of the final good-bye approached, he started crying again, and this time Philip joined in, to hug me also--and we cried all three together. At one point, Philip started pushing Maximilian's wheelchair towards the door, as if trying to protect his new brother from the pain of the good-bye. I could hear their sobbing as they went along the hallway, and I kept for a moment sobbing inside the room, while picking up my belongings and making sure I was not leaving anything behind--but, even though I was carrying with me everything tangible I needed to take, I was certainly leaving there something that could not be packed in a bag o suitcase. I was leaving a piece of my heart behind--and not only of my heart, but also of the hearts of all of us. Actually, since back in August of 2009, when for the first time I had seen the picture of that little boy who would become our Stephen, bleeding shards of the hearts of my Mother, my daughter, my twin sons, and mine have constantly been in Luvokit, crying and rejoicing, rejoicing and crying with the emotional roller coaster of two adoption processes for three little ones, the first one now successfuly completed since December 2010 for one of them. I was leaving behind love and hope for those two adorable little boys who are already my sons, who are members of our family already, even if the papers don't say so yet. I was also leaving behind the anxiety and the pain from which I cannot protect them because I cannot fight the rules. They have seen that I love them, they have seen from the photo books how extremely loving their Grandma and their sister and brothers look--and yet they cannot be sure I'll be back. Yes, children tend to trust what they are told--but on the other hand, from a child's perspective, a few months are an eternity--and between a long wait and never the difference is not that big. We'll keep in contact, though, and they will be told every time one step further in the process gets done. They will be read every e-mail and will be shown every picture.

Pavletta told me that one of the staff members who deals with the children had expressed how much Maximilian had changed over these last few days. She had said that now he smiles more and is a much happier child. And I'm so much in love with that smile of his that comes straight from the soul. I'll go back for a moment to my first day in Lukovit in order to write about something that I omitted in that post. At the very beginning, when I had given him a staffed dog and Vesko had asked him how he wanted to name his new dog, maxmilian's answer had been, "Lili." I asked whether he knew that my name is Lillian. It is possible that he may have asked because he's interested in names (and ages, but I didn't answer how old I am)--yet nobody remembers having told him. He goes over the names of all his new siblings, remembers them even without looking at the pictures, and his pronounciation is perfect. If you have a moment, please join a prayer to ours for a smooth and fast I-800 approval.

The application is going out on Monday by express mail. This Sunday it's Mother's Day--and ours will be a highly emotional one, loaded with the joy of the reunion mixed togetehr with the pain around my Mom's heart problems and the distance that there is between, on one hand, eight of us on one side of the ocean and two on the other--because even though we considered family members already from the very moment when that initial commitment letter was filed, now we know that the feelings are reciprocal and that we do mean to them family, love, and home.

These are fourth-day pix (Thursday, 05/10/12). No words are needed.

Mommy keeps on getting more and more kisses.

They look so thin and so tiny. Why couldn't I smuggle them in my carry-on luggage?

I don't look so nice in this picture--but the moment was one I did want to preserve.
The fifth and last day started with some nice smiles. . .

When we started telling Mximilian that after that visit I'd have to go back so as to work on the second stage papers and return for him and Philip.

We cried and creid together. I was not much comfort because I was crying as well.

And we kept on crying, and crying, and crying. . .

I'm not sure what Kolinka told him, but for some time that wonderful, heartfelt smile of his was back on his face.

We took some pix with all the staff members who are close to our boys.

Pavletta, she other social worker, is wiping some more tears.

More group pix. Maximilian is really close to Domka, the lady in white standing right behnd him--to the ppint that in one of my early visits he had asked whether Domka could come to U.S. with us as well.

And that awesome smile is back on his face. . .

. . . until the moment of the final good-bye arrived.

Why couldn't I just bring them home?

As the final moment was approaching, Philip ran up to me, hugged me, and burst into tears as well.

Philip decided that his brother and his mom shouldn't cry any more. Still in tears, he started pushing Maximilian's chair towards the door. As staff members accompanied them along the corridor, I could still hear them sobbing. Please watch the videos.

In front of Easter Orthodox Cathedral downtown Sofia

Monument to the Unknown Soldier, downstown Sofia as well.

Lion sculpture by the Monument to the Unknown Soldier. It was not a time to smile for pictures, was it?

Dinner at the Budapest Hotel with Toni, Connie, with her husband and their adorable Ethan, and two other families

In this picture you can see Ethan and the other little boy. The fourth family was on Trip No. One as well.

I couldn't leave Bulgaria without getting a new picture with Toni.

Photo of the University of Sofia, taken from the taxicab on my way to the airport, Saturday, 05/12/12

As the plane was taking off and I could get a last glimpse of the Bulgarian soil, tears were running down my cheeks. Not only a piece of my heart remained there, but bleeding pieces of the hearts of all of us. Maximilian and Philip, if only you could really know that we all love the two of you so, so, so very much!!!

Our Father Who art in Heaven, please protect them, and help us be able to bring them home, where they belong--not only because of our desperate wishes, not only because of their own wishes, but because that's Your divine will.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

After my Sixth Visit with Maximilian and Philip

After my Sixth Visit It really seems that Maximilian and Philip have been with us all the time, and I feel like all my family is here, sharing these wonderful days all together. It does not look like Friday is quickly approaching and then we'll have to say good-bye. It'll be hard. All Lukovit will be flooded. The videos from my fourth visit were wonderful, and I must credit Vesko, Toni's new assistant, for them. Actually, besides helping Toni, he's a professional in the video production industry, and a very pleasant person. This morning they met us at a store across the street from the Diplomat Hotel where they take photos, and Maximilian and Philip got their photos taken for their Bulgarian passports and U.S. visas. We cannot wait until those photos are made part of the documents for which they are intended. Having the kids go for their pictures to be taken means that nobody expects that there can be any problem any longer. That is greatly reassuring--but still we'll feel much better after having I-800 approval!!!

 Something that speaks very highly about those two little boys is that as soon as a mother with a baby entered the photo place, both of them got very interested in the infant. Philip ran to the stroller, and was very eager to reach out and touch the baby, but obeyed the social worker and kept his hand near the small one, without actual contact. As he saw the baby, Maximilian's face lit up. I pushed his chair closer to the stroller, and he also stretched his hand, although the frames of both his wheelchair and the stroller didn't prevent any actual contact at all. It's really uplifting to see how a boy who has some very bright replies and yet faces such great physical limitations can be so very loving---and so much in need of love. You can see that he has absolutely no envy or jealousy at all in his heart. He would like to walk, but without any resentment of any kind enjoys seeing others walking, running, and moving around. At one point during the course of my third or fourth visit, he asked the social worker whether when he comes home we could teach him how to walk. I said that we'd take him to doctors who would see what could be done. Even if it never happens (and seeing how difficult it is for him to hold his back straight without support I very much doubt it will ever do), I strongly believe that the worst thing you can do to a child is to take away all hope. He keeps on looking at me, and squeezing me against him. At one point yesterday he asked to go down on the floor with me and play, as we had done in my prior visit. I love to have him sitting on me so as to provide support for his back. After being like that for a long time, without moving, somewhat lost in time and space, my legs were almost numb, and I was wondering how I was going to manage to get up--but the experience was wonderful, and the bonding is really strong.

 Philip moves around all the time, and even though his gait is uneven and he doesn't look steady, he manages to run.It looks like he's going to end up flat on the floor every time, but he keeps on going. He seems to have that same strong determination Nicholas has and always had. Even when he was still in Haiti, he defied doctors' prognosis that he would never walk on his own--and out of his own very strong will he did learn how to do it. It was a matter of trying, falling down, getting up, and keeping on trying-- again and again. Going back to Philip, although he has something to do all the time, he also enjoys hugs and kisses--and finds time for those as well.

At one point Illiyan (let's go back to his present name for a moment) asked what his new name would be--and he frowned at the name "Maximilian." He was in his chair and I was behind him at that moment, but Vesko says he did make a face at the name. He said it was too long. I had told the person temporarily in charge due to the director's absence and the social worker the story of St. Maximilian Kolbe. I don't know how much in detail they told that story to Illiyan, but what I do know is his answer--which was quite remarkable, "If there was a good man who gave up his life to save someone else, then I like the name."

For anyone who may not know St. Maximilian Kolbe's story, I'd like to summarize it here. Together with numberless saints who lived and died for the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized, the sick, the disabled, the needy, by offering to die in order to save the life of a Jewish man with children, Father Kolbe, also known as the Hero of Auschwitz or the Saint of Auschwitz, embodies what the Catholic Church is all about. He was a Polish priest who had been taken to that abominable concentration camp because of publicly denouncing the evil of the nazi regime. Apparently one man had managed to escape or had tried to escape. In retaliation, the nazis announced that ten would be killed, and started randomly picking the ten ill-fated ones, including a young Jewish man who shouted out, "Please, don't--I have children!!!" To the nazis, that was actually one additional reason to kill him sooner--but for Father Kolbe it was a reason for that man to live. He surprised the Third Reich officer by addressing him and telling him he was a Catholic priest and wanted to die in the place of that man. It is reported that even such heartless, inhuman killer was taken aback by Father Kolbe's request and by the firmness in the priest's voice as he was offering the ultimate sacrifice of his own life to save someone else. The courageous priest even gave the nazis a hard time dying. He lasted for one full week, throughout which while agonizing and despite his own suffering, he kept on praying for the end of that wicked, abominable regime. Father Kolbe's sacrifice was not in vain. The young man whose life he had saved was able to survive and reunite with his children, voluntarily embraced Catholicism, and years later attended the canonization by John Paul the Great of the man thanks to whom he was alive.

 At one point Maximilian (yes, he did agree to his new name) aimed one of the two plastic guns I had brought for them in my direction. I asked him if he was trying to shoot me. His answer was polite, appropriate, and smart, "No, I was trying to shoot at that box," meaning the box for a puzzle I had bought across the street from the hotel after seeing with my own eyes how very much Philip loves puzzles and how very good he is at them.

 I love to hear Maximilian's voice calling me "Momma." He likes to say it. He likes the thought that now he has a mom. He holds on to it. He wants to come home. Why can't the remaining documents be processed in just a few days? It could be possible if those with decision-making power at both ends understood how extremely, enormously, extraordinarily important those papers are--both for the child or children and the family involved. When it comes to us, we're all even more paranoid than usual. It is a process to be anxious, crazy, paranoid about--and at home we do take that to the extreme.

Maximilian is mastering our names--and his pronounciation is excellent!!! Philip has a lot of work ahead with his articulation--but let's hope and pray that Kristin Benjamin, the speech pathologist who worked, and is working, wonders with Nicholas will have similar success with Philip. The sounds are there--and, most importantly, the comprehension is fully there as well. To crown it all, the same as with Nicholas, Philip's very strong determination will be a key factor in getting each goal reached.

Before closing I'd like to comment on how favorably impressed I was by the cleanliness of the place, the caring disposition of the staff, the attention to each child's needs, and the different amenities they have. The world got shocked at the horrors that, unbeknownst to most, were going on at an orphanage in Pleven That had to become public so that those crimes against humanity could be finally stopped. Precisely for that reason it is particularly important, and only fair, to let the world also know that there is a difference between day and night (actually, I should say between night and day) if we compare Pleven and Lukovit.

Look how extremely curte Philip is--and how very happy he looks!!!


Maximilian loves hugging me--and I love hugging him!

Look at that smile that comes from the soul!

Putting puzzles together is a serious thing-and he's so fast and so good at it!

We spent long time like that. . .

. . . long, long time that cannot be remembered without tears. These are sweet pictures that pierce the hearts of all of us like shards of broken glass and make them bleed. . .

. . . until those papers get finallly done, signed, and sealed. If only we already had I-800 approval at least!!! After that the remaining of the waiting time won't be that hard.

Looking at a family photo book

They were really interested in learning about everyone and everything.
No words needed.

This picture speaks by itself.

Look at philip's eyes!!! And he was very proud of his new 60-piece puzzle, whioch he had put together for the first time in no time at all.

Well done, Philip!!!

In the meantime, Maximilian on his own was getting to know his new family better and better.

It's photo book time for Philip now. They do share and take turns very generously, with no problem at all.

Their interest is not in just the photo books--it's in their new family!!!

That smile is just priceless.

Kolinka, one of the social workers, is showing one of the photo books to Maximilian.

Some priceless pix with the hand puppets. . .

They share their toys--and their mom!

That look carries a huge promise for the future.

I'm really their mom in the full sense of the word already. Philip is even tickling me with the froggie!

Why couldn't I bring them home right then?
On Wednesday morning, 05/09/12 (5th visit) they got their passport photos done. Kolinka and Pavletta took them to meet with the interpreter hirred by Toni and me at the shop. How very much I want to have those photos back---pasted on their passports, and on the visas on their passports!!!





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