Serbia Trip - Recap part one!

OK, so we did a horrible job keeping up the blog while on our trip, between illness, bad internet and the desire to spend a lot of time enjoying our new daughter we just didn't get around to it much. We did take a bunch of photos of Sara and Serbia and I hope to post some more while I cover some of the high points of the trip. So jumping from the last post to this post the cat is out of the bag, our new daughters name is Saramina Ivana Green or just Sara for short. You will figure out the meaning behind the name soon.

We had our meeting to get the process going on Monday the 4th of November and then made arrangements to travel to meet her the next day. Zoran drove us to Topola the town her foster family lives in. He got us settled into our first hotel and then we made the drive out to the home she lived in. It was a very cute farm area and and Sara lived in an adorable house with chickens, cats, dogs and I believe a cow out back in the barn area. This is one of those post card areas where you can see the hills for miles around and it has these cute little houses all over the place. An incredibly nice community for our little carrot to grow up in.

Ivana was Sara's foster mother and did a fantastic job in the year and a half that they had Sara. She obviously was very well taken care of and loved, not only by Ivana, but her husband Sasha, Ivana's mother and many others throughout the village who would visit her from time to time. We could not have asked for a better family to have taken care of Sara. Ivana explained that when she came from the institute she could not walk or talk and was very weak with extremely low muscle tone. She tended to sleep in a frog like position and wasn't strong enough to even manage to get a cell phone to her head. The little girl we met was bright and very active, a far cry from the institutionalized girl we were envisioning. Ivana was able to get Sara's strength up, managed to get her to sleep in a less damaging position and walking and talking. In-fact Sara is a bit of a chatter bug when you get her going and she has the most adorable little voice.

We spent three days visiting Sara at her foster home, over those days we spent time playing with her in an effort to get her comfortable with us. She immediately took to Sheila but wasn't very excited to play with daddy much, my streak of having 3 daddy's girls looked like it was coming to an end. We also got to spend a fair amount of time talking with Ivana and getting fed by her, she is an incredible cook and although we were very active on this trip, I felt like I was gaining weight. We had never experienced getting a child from a foster family and didn't know what to expect, it was actually a little sad knowing how much they cared for her, we felt a little guilty that we were taking her from them. We are going to make sure they get to see her growing up via Facebook, our blog, and Skype and I hope in a few years time we can return to visit them in Serbia.

 We had to make a change in accommodations after the first night of being in really dingy rundown hotel that wreaked of smoke and mildew. The staff was very friendly and helpful, but it was a hotel that time forgot. I cannot tell you how glad we were to find the the hotel Trio, it was more centrally located in town and was much more appropriate for a small child. We brought her to stay with us on Friday 11/8 and were a little nervous, Ivana had said she was not sleeping well and seemed to have some anxiety over everything. Luckily for Sara, Sheila and I are kind of goofballs, this is our 5th child and 3rd adoption. Every kid is different, but we felt like we knew how to get her out of her shell and make her feel at ease. We spent part of our first night with her walking around town and I discovered that between recovering from a bad cold and the hilliness of the town we really needed a stroller. It just happened there was a kids store right in the middle of town so we made the wise purchase of a nice stroller that we will leave at Mary's place for other families to use.

Cruising around town in her new stroller seemed to make Sara pretty happy, she watched everything that was going on. Although the town seemed big when we first got there after a few days we realized how small it was, it didn't take us long to go from one end to the other, but did get a good workout from all the hills. Feeding Sara was our biggest challenge so far, she can't chew at all which is very common for Serbian children who spent time in a institution. They seem to feed the children using a large nippled bottle like you would feed a farm animal with, both for their convenience and because they don't seem to think the children can learn to chew. Ivana wasn't able to make much progress on the feeding issue and we will have to continue to work on that. So even though she is five, we essentially have to feed her like a baby using mashed up foods and cereals.

After getting Sara to eat on her first night with us, it was onto bathing. The hotel did not have a bathtub or a large sink, so it was a shower for her. She looked a little curious about what was going on until we got her skinny little body in the shower, this girl is a little peanut and smaller than either of our adopted children were, the first thing you notice is the big scar on her chest from her heart surgery, she does take medications for the condition and all records indicate the surgery did what it was supposed to do, but we cannot wait to get her checked out stateside. In the shower she immediately began to sob, so we made haste and got everything done as quick as we could, she was shivering afterward so I turned on the hair dryer which also made her nervous and cry a bit. Into warm pajamas she went and then time for snuggling which calmed her down really fast. The little girl had a long week and now a long day with these strangers. We made a spot on the couch/bed for her and I laid down next to her and put my hand on her tummy. She didn't make any effort to move it and seemed to be comforted by it a bit. Two minutes later she was snoring softly and proceeded to sleep almost twelve hours.

We had to stay in Topola until the following Tuesday so the social center could keep an eye on us and we would be near Ivana should something happen. Luckily Sara really seemed to take to us and we got to walk around town everyday and establish a little bit of a routine. During the hours of playing, walking and relaxing we also started feeding some stray dogs around town. I bought a big bag of dog food and carried it with us, more than being hungry these dogs would crave attention. Sometimes I would leave a pile of food for them and they would leave it and follow us around. I'm sure the locals would laugh seeing these Americans pushing a stroller up a big hill followed by a pack of dogs. If I could I would have brought some of these doggy's home with us. Next stop back to Belgrade!

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