Monday, September 1, 2014

Introducing the Littlest Bailey

 

Our baby Leo Michael was born peacefully at home as the sun rose last Sunday morning, August 24th.  Praise be to God!  I labored overnight as our other kids slept, and they woke up in the morning just in time to welcome their new baby brother.  The timing couldn't have been any better!  As magical as it is to welcome your first child, there is something just as magical in being able to share the joy and excitement of welcoming a new baby with the baby's older siblings.  Our eldest, Joey, was able to announce the baby's gender, and our next eldest, Rosemary, helped weigh Leo and announce his birth weight.  The little boys, Paul and Felix, helped Mommy eat her snacks and kiss the baby.  Our midwives were wonderful, feeding us a bacon and egg breakfast, keeping the kids happy, doing the laundry, and even involving the kids in the newborn exam.  We've really been soaking up this 9 pound, 22.5 inch long bundle of love!


Leo will be 9 days old when we drop Sean off at the airport tomorrow.  It has been one amazing week!  And to think this Friday, as in 4 days from today, Sean will be springing Alexander out of the orphanage once and for all.  It feels so surreal.

Felix turned 2 the day after Leo's birth and celebrated with his siblings
by splashing around in the birth-pool-turned-kiddie-pool. 

Daddy will have your new big brother home before you know it, Leo! 

Also, if you take a look at our adoption savings thermometer on the side bar, you'll see that we have reached the fully funded mark!  What a blessing!  Saving for this adoption felt like David versus Goliath, but thanks to the generosity of friends and strangers, and God's providence in the form of bonuses at work, low living expenses, and Etsy sales to name a few, we're able to bring Alexander home without going into debt. We are so grateful to everyone who offered emotional, financial, and/or prayer support to us in this journey!


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Ready to Grow!

Our homegrown baby will most likely be joining us within the next week or two!  We can't wait to find out who this little person is.  We don't know if we're having a boy or a girl, and we don't even really have names picked out.  There are a few names that we like, but nothing definite at this point.  We didn't have names picked out prior to the births of our last two babies, but when we met them we were inspired.  Hope it's the same with this baby!

This is a birthday-heavy time of the year for our family, and it's only getting heavier.  It all starts with Sean's birthday in July...


Then Paul, whose 5th birthday we celebrated this past weekend...


Baby will be born sometime soon...


And Felix will turn 2 at the end of this month!


And then on September 5, Sean will be springing Alexander out of his orphanage once and for all!  Their plane tickets are booked, and Sean leaves in 26 days.  This has been such a long journey--almost 16 months from when we first inquired about him to when he will be arriving home.  That is almost like two biological pregnancies!  It feels very surreal that our little one has less than a month of orphanage life ahead of him, and that his siblings and I will be meeting him in a little over a month. 



How blessed we are!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

He is Ours!

On the 4th of July a Bulgarian judge declared "Abraham" legally to be our son, Alexander Jude Bailey!  And tomorrow concludes the 7 day waiting period, finalizing the adoption.  Next, the judge will sign the court decree (hopefully some time next week), and then Alexander's new birth certificate with his new name can be obtained while the court decree is translated.  And then, we will find out when Sean will be going back to Bulgaria to pick him up and bring him home FOREVER!


Last week we were blessed and amazed to learn that we were awarded a $2500 grant from the Gift of Adoption Fund.  This will cover the vast majority of the cost of the plane tickets for Sean and Alexander!  Awesome!  Now we are only $800 away from being able to cover all remaining expenses.

To help raise the remaining $800, I'm trying to sell the remaining stock from our Etsy store, Stitching Our Family Together.  Everything in stock has been marked down significantly.  So this is a great time to help us reach the funding finish line while stocking up on gifts for Christmas or other occasions (or for yourself) at a great price.  Please take a look!  I have dish cloths/doilies, Bible covers, boys' and girls' ponchos, ruffle scarves, and baby/toddler blankets.

"God Bless America" crocheted plaid Bible cover

And our KEVA Structures building blocks and American Express gift card giveaway is still ongoing (winners will be drawn when our Reece's Rainbow FSP account hits $1000).  So far only a handful of people have entered.  If you have donated any money to our FSP in the last month or two, please let us know so we can enter you accordingly!  One entry to win one of the prizes for each $1 donated.

Three brothers and a sister happy that their newest brother
is coming home soon!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Preparing

Abraham's favorite color is yellow, according to the orphanage.
Guess where he will be sleeping when he comes home?
Today is Sean's 2nd Fathers' Day with Abraham in his heart.  What a Fathers' Day (and Mothers' Day) it will be for us next year when our whole family is under one roof!

We recently celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary with a trip to IKEA in Charlotte to buy Abraham's bed.  His approaching arrival seems that much more real now that we actually have his bed.  He can come now!  We're ready!  And within a week of purchasing the bed, a local adoptive family donated two mattresses in fantastic condition that were used for their daughters when they came home from China.  So special, and we feel so blessed!

While we were at IKEA, we stopped for lunch in their cafeteria.  I sat at a table with the little boys while Sean and the two bigger kids went to fetch the food.  A couple sat down at the other end of our table, not realizing there were more people to our party than just me and the two little ones.  Before I could think, I told them, "Hi, my family of eight is sitting here."  They were very nice about it and left to find other seats.  But only after they left I realized that only six seats would be taken up by our family that day, what with Abraham still in Bulgaria and the baby still gestating for a few more months.  It felt so natural to identify our family as a family of eight, though.  These two new little ones are very much present in our family life already!


We also got popsicle molds from IKEA, and the kids wasted no time once we got home in making popsicles all on their own while the eyes of Mom and Dad were elsewhere.  Do these look delicious?  The kids tell us they were, although their facial expressions say otherwise (but they did polish off the whole batch in one day, so...).  They made the popsicles from pickle juice, and it was all we could do to convince them NOT to share with Mom and Dad.  I think their popsicle recipes need some tweaking.  The next day over dinner, the conversation turned to the popsicle molds again, and the kids suggested that we chop up tomatoes and other veggies for the next batch.  We have to give them points for creativity and thinking outside the box! 


In other news, Rosemary received her First Holy Communion!  We are so proud of her and thankful for her great love of Jesus!  She has been counting down the years to being able to receive the Eucharist since she was 4 years old.  We are so blessed to have her and her five siblings in our family!  At the church reception afterward, she was excited to get a chocolate cupcake and was very careful not to get any on her dress.  Hard to believe we have two little communicants in the family now.

Friday, May 2, 2014

7 Quick Takes: May Edition

~1~

Today marks 4 weeks since Sean and Abraham had to say goodbye.  Our adoption process is moving right along.  We received final approval for the adoption from USCIS (also known as I-800 approval).  USCIS forwarded our info to the National Visa Center, who in turn forwarded it to the US Embassy in Sofia.  We have our Article 5 interview scheduled for May 9th, during which our Bulgarian agency will represent us and get official final approval from the US side of things to proceed with the adoption.  Then our dossier will be submitted for final approval on the Bulgarian side of things before eventually going to court to make Abraham a Bailey!

~2~

We had our big mid-pregnancy ultrasound the week after Sean got back from visiting Abraham.  Baby is growing well and everything looked great!  We decided to wait for birth to find out if we're welcoming a boy or a girl.  We already know so much about the other baby we're welcoming to our family this year and wanted to leave a little bit of mystery with this one.

Please keep praying for our adoption timing to work out well with birth timing.  Ideally we'd love to have Abraham home before the birth.  I'm not looking forward to having Sean gone while I give birth or shortly after (especially since our current youngest, Felix, still needs a fair amount of night-time parenting and isn't exactly sleeping through the night with any kind of regularity).  But I also know it will be close to miraculous to have him home so soon.  God is in control, and I am trusting that He has all these details worked out and it will be OK!

~3~

At the beginning of the year, we found out about a very special little boy in Bulgaria, "Samson", who needs a family desperately.  For a time we thought we might be his family, and we seriously looked into the possibility of adding him to our adoption.  After much prayer, research, and discussion, we realized we just aren't in a position to bring him home right now and be able to take care of his needs as well as the needs of our other six children.  But he will always have our prayers and a special place in our hearts.

His condition is deteriorating, due to a lack of medical care in his orphanage.  You can see in this picture how he went from a cute, chubby baby to a pale, suffering and contorted toddler.  Life in a crib.

With a family who can provide for his medical needs, he will make great progress.... IF they rescue him in time.  If not, he will die alone, in his crib, like he has spent his whole life.  He is hanging on for his family, but we don't know how much longer he can hold on.

Samson has a $2,000 matching grant, and once it is met, he will have a total grant of about $4,500 toward the cost of his adoption!  Our family and others who love Samson are working to remove the financial obstacle from his future family being able to step forward and adopt him!  Please consider giving even a few dollars to help him reach his matching grant here: http://reecesrainbow.org/70652/samson-438

~4~

Sean took his 9th actuary exam on Tuesday.  He won't find out if he passed until the exams are all graded and the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) figures out what the passing score will be, among various other things.  These upper level actuary exams are insane, costing over $600 just to take the test and requiring at least 400 hours of study to be adequately prepared, with only about 40% of the people passing.  We're expecting exam results in about 6 weeks or so.  But he feels very good about it.  And this exam covered material that he finds interesting, which made the studying a little easier.

There are 9 actuary exams, but Sean took a few out of order, so he'll be taking the 8th exam in the fall.  That will be the last exam he needs to be ALL DONE with actuary exams!  He's been working on these beastly exams for about 10 years, so we are already celebrating seeing the light at the end of the tunnel!

~5~

It's our family tradition to go out and have a little adventure after Sean takes one of these big, 4-hour-long actuary exams.  This time we went to explore the Musgrove Mill State Historic Site and hike the British Camp Trail there.  Since we went on a weekday afternoon, we pretty much had the whole place to ourselves.  The big kids enjoyed running ahead on the trails, and we all enjoyed the beautiful surroundings.  So glad we discovered this beautiful place!



~6~

There are a few new items in our Etsy store this week!  We have two love-themed knitted dishcloths in Abraham's favorite color, YELLOWHere and here.

And although the weather is warming up here in the South girls, and one for boys.  Never too early to start thinking about Christmas shopping and cozier times, right?
h, there are a couple of new kids' ponchos too.  One for


~7~

We're also still struggling on with our latest giveaway fundraiser.  We'll be releasing a video of Abraham playing with Sean and drawing winners for a $25 American Express gift card and a 400 piece set of KEVA Structures building planks once our Reece's Rainbow grant reaches $1,000.  Each $1 donation to our grant is an entry, and so is sharing our giveaway.  See here for more details: http://blagodarya.blogspot.com/2014/04/keva-structures-and-american-express.html

For more Quick Takes, head over to Conversion Diary!  And have a fantastic weekend!

Monday, April 21, 2014

KEVA Structures and American Express Gift Card Giveaway


Three weeks ago Sean got to meet our little Abraham for the first time.  The trip went so well, and we thank you all who have kept us in your prayers during this process.

Now that the first trip is complete, we need to raise $4,000 to be fully funded for this adoption!  I remember seeing that number in the quintuple-digits not too long ago, and it’s truly amazing and even miraculous that it’s been chipped away at the way it has.  What a privilege to witness first-hand this multiplication of our "loaves and fishes"!

This house can be built with 126 planks--imagine what 400 can build!
Our next fundraiser is a giveaway of a set of 400 KEVA Structures Building Planks and a $25 American Express Gift Card.  
The set of KEVA Structures building planks retails for about $100 and includes a zippered storage bag.  These planks are excellent for open-ended play and creativity for children and adults.  They are made out of natural wood and cut in precise dimensions so that five widths are equal to one length of a plank.  


How To Participate: We are giving our donors one entry/chance at winning this set of Structures Planks and the $25 American Express gift card for every $1 donated to our tax-deductible Reece’s Rainbow Family Sponsorship Grant (FSP): http://reecesrainbow.org/63138/sponsorbailey-2

Just e-mail (b a i l e y a k @ b e l l s o u t h . n e t) or send a message or comment below letting me know how much you donated so that you can be entered accordingly.  Please also let me know if you share this giveaway, because that will earn you one free entry per person.

Once our FSP account reaches $1,000 we will draw a winner!  And to add a fun little incentive to this giveaway, once we reach our goal, we will release a completely adorable video of Abraham that was taken during Sean's trip.

Thank you so much for your support, and even if you can’t afford to donate monetarily, your prayers for success for our adoption and this fundraiser are priceless!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Heading Home!

Pre-Scriptim – I wrote most of this this on the day it happened, but I got distracted before finishing, what with being out of the office for over a week and having all manner of things to catch up with at work.  So, lets go back to April 5, 2014:

“Ring-ring-ring”

“Hello?”

“Your wake up call”

“Yeah thanks,”  I laid there for a couple of minutes but I knew that I had better get going.  The time was about 3:45ish (more like 3:50 because I laid there for a little bit).  All I had to do was get my clothes together and go.  So I did.

When I came down to the reception desk, a dude greeted me at the front desk, ready for me to check out.  I handed in the agency cell phone and paid for the night.  A little care package was ready for me to take along since breakfast wouldn’t open at the hotel for another 3 hours.

Just a quick aside – breakfast at the BudaPest (oh yeah – that is how it is capitalized) is the best breakfast that I have had on continental Europe.  Now my memory is a little fuzzy about my prior visit to Europe in my teens, but that one breakfast last Sunday was so magical that I cannot believe that anything else could compare.  They were so nice to give me some of that magical goodness to go.

I got packed in the taxi and was off to the airport at a little after 4:00.  For some reason, I felt that the taxi driver went out of his way to find the bumpiest roads in Sofia.  Well, actually almost all of the roads in Sofia are bumpy, so I think that it may have been my perception as I was waking up.  I’m glad that it was dark.

I ended up safely at the airport ready for my day of jetsetting to get back home.  First surprise was that the airline that I was flying, Lufthansa, was not open yet.  They opened at 5:00.  It was 4:25.  The only thing I could do was stand and wait.  I busted out my (rosary) beads and prayed.

Once the Lufthansa line opened, with me playing caboose, it slowly whittled down.  Once I got to the front, the following occurred:

“Oh here’s my flight thingy…oh wait..it's…” I stammered.

“Oh, I can just scan your passport,” says Mr. Lufthansa.

“Ok.”

“So, you going to Frankfurt?”

“Uh, no.  No I’m not.  I’m headed to Munich.”

“Oh that one’s been cancelled.”  

CANCELLED!  I thought that the little strike was going to end on Friday?  This was Saturday morning!  So now what?  I think that I kept the stuff out of the quotes in my head….who knows, 'cause it was around 5:00 am.

Well, for all of the inconvenience that Lufthansa caused by cancelling my stupid flight, they actually made up for it in booking me on alternate flights.  Furthermore, no charge – makes me think that maybe it was a cheaper route.  Well anyway, instead of Munich, I was rerouted through Rome.  From Rome, I would go to Charlotte, my proxy for home.  I would fly Bulgaria Air on the way to Rome and then sail the unionized skies (wait, they are unionized right?) with US airways.  What fun!

Ice crystals forming on my window on the way into Rome
Cool thing was that for my flight to Rome I was seated in the emergency exit aisle.  Seriously, SCORE!  Not only was I getting to go to the Eternal City, but I got extra leg room.  I napped on and off on the way over.  They served a nice mystery meat and cheese roll with a very nice Bulgarian chocolate.  Sure beats the little biscottis in the US.

The Rome airport feels very much what you would expect an Italian airport to feel like.  The security lines were pretty much a free-for-all.  It was a crowd of people slowly parsing themselves into the lines for the metal detector machines.  But once I got through security it was a non-issue.

I was at my gate in plenty of time, so I did what I did best – get lost.  Well, more like meander aimlessly.  I was thinking since I was here that I might as well pick up a few Roman souvenirs.  I found a store, “Discover Rome”, that looked promising.

I would say about half of the stuff was stuff about Rome (Coliseum/Ancient Rome stuff), the other half was about popes, in large representation was Papa Francesco, Pope Francis.  It made me smile thinking that I was in the home town of the Vicar of Christ and couldn’t help but to buy a few little things.

Other than that, it looks like most other airports.  We’ll see what happens in the next flight (yeah, I’m staying up to date on this).  I think that I’m going to try to find an ATM and get some Euro money.  I think that it would be cool….I have some leva that I’ll set aside for the next trip.

OK this part is written over two weeks later, so details are a bit fuzzy, but I’ll hit the high points.
The first thing was a security issue.  Really!  I had my boarding pass that was printed in Bulgaria with me all ready to board the flight.  When I gave it to the lady by the gate for boarding, it caused a small kerfuffle.  Apparently, I must not have gone through the “proper” security before heading back to the US.  I got siphoned off from the rest of the crowd boarding the plane and was presented to Italian security personnel who briefly interviewed me as to where I had gone and what I was doing.  Once I said that I was on a trip for an adoption, he softened up and we were finished up pretty quick-like.

The flight was hell.  For 10 hours I alternated between studying, praying, napping all in the wonderful sensation of gastric discomfort, but not the kind that a turlet would help with.  I found the US Airways/American Airlines attendants less attendant than those on the other airlines.  Not terrible, but it wasn’t as friendly.  The whole thing was purgatory and a blur at this point.

I have to admit that I am most concerned about the long plane flight on the way back for Abraham.  I don’t know how others have done it so, I’m going to be researching vicariously through Sammy’s Facebook reconnaissance.
There's no place like home!
Anywho, we landed in Charlotte, and boy did it feel good to be back in the US.  I mean some parts of Bulgaria I miss (like the food), but there is something to be said about being back home.  I was quite surprised to see that my luggage made it back in mostly one piece.  After a quick run through customs, I was out of the airport to find my ride.  Within five minutes, Sam and kids found me!

I know that it is going to be a long four to six months before I can head back to Bulgaria, but I know more than ever that Abraham is my son.  It is tough to wait knowing that he has to stay in the orphanage during this time, not knowing his family in the US.  I do wonder if he knew that I would have to leave.  For all I know he thinks that I came to play for a week and then I was gone.  It is tough to think about it at times, but then again, in four to six months, he will be home, forever. 

Praise God for looking after me, and guiding us to our son.  May God bless us all as we begin this Easter season.

God bless,
Sean