Monday, May 30, 2011


I'm not sure if this actually counts as a babymoon since it was only one night, but it was really great to get away last night. One of the perks of Jon's job is that he gets special rates at certain hotels... The Hyatt Regency being one of them :) We got a $300 room for 50% off! It was so nice and the most comfortable hotel bed I have ever slept on. We have never really done much for the two of us in terms of getting away, besides camping, so it felt like such luxury.

We started our date off with test driving a car we were seriously considering buying. Our Echo has served us well for almost 10 years but with almost 300,000km it was time to move on. We thought we might need a little more room in the family car with Sofie coming home. We weren't planning on buying a car that day but made an offer and we accepted their counter offer. At 0% down, 0% interest we are now the proud owners of a Hyundai Elantra! What a fun way to start off our date! We got to drive it off the lot and took it downtown for our date :)

*On a bit of a side note... the car decision has being so difficult because we don't know how long we'll be able to manage with one car and not sure if we can afford to be a two car family. With Jon's office now being in Chilliwack we think it will be easier to stay with one car a lot longer than we were originally thinking. When we do need the second car we will probably be going with a used minivan :) As a bonus with getting a new car our insurance payments are $50 less than with the Echo!*

Back to our date... We checked in to the Hyatt and went for some window shopping down Robson. I used to LOVE going to Robson and shopping in every store. I think I have just grown up a bit and don't get caught up with all the name brands like I used too. We did share a tiger butter caramel apple which is one of my favorite things and I did enjoy going to the huge Chapter's kids book section. I bought Livi a book! A mom's life... enjoying shopping for the kids more than herself! I don't mind :) 

We drove down to The Fish House in Stanley Park for a relaxing, late, delicious dinner and even more delicious creme brule dessert before heading back to the hotel for the night. We got to sleep late but got to sleep in without a 2 year old to wake us up! After check out, and Starbucks, we had crepes for breakfast at the Market on Granville Island. There was a Children's Festival going on at Granville, so I felt a little guilty with out Livi. It was fun to look at all the toys and art though! 

We got home just in time to put Livi down for her nap and get a little more sleep in our selves. It was such a nice, relaxing date night and felt really good for our marriage. We've been doing really well but it is always nice to take some time to devote to each other for good conversation and loving :) We are celebrating our 7th wedding anniversary this summer and I don't feel any itch...yet  ;)

Thank-you so much for arranging all this, Jon and for everything you do for us! I love you more than you know.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Little Girl

After my last post, and yet another frustrating day for me, I thought I should take some time to reflect and share about my baby girl. Livi is such a delight. It is easy being her mom. She is a joy, creative, smart, happy, empathetic, fearless, carefree, confident, etc... I know I'm biased :)

Livi knows how to make me smile and laugh and has learned how to use that to her advantage. She is very dramatic and I confess her over dramatization of things makes me laugh more often then it should. I will pay for that, I'm sure. She has taken up making "faces" which is me saying "pose" and her changing her funny face...

She is so smart. Her understanding of how things work astounds me sometimes. She looked at an analogue clock and read the time correctly! Granted, it happened to be 1 o'clock, her nap time, which I point out frequently. She hasn't shown much interest in writing her name lately but did do it today and her skill has improved. The letters were smaller and more legible.

Livi has become very observant. Interestingly though, she doesn't notice "down syndrome" unless it is someone on TV or in a book. She will point out people with DS on TV are "like Alicia May" (a girl with DS in a book we read her). When we ask if people she knows, like Maggy, some of Mom's clients, or Sofie, is "like Alicia May" she says "no". I kind of love that she doesn't notice it. People are people! She notices every bug, ant and beetle on the ground though, and waits for them to move out of her way when she is on her bike. Cute but annoying when you have somewhere to be! She rode her run-bike all the way to Jon's office! It's about a 15-20min walk if I'm pushing the stroller. It took her 50 min on the bike :) I was so proud of her though! She wanted to do it all by herself and she did! I love her perseverance. We took the car home :)

She is noticing a lot of other things too, like my facial blemishes....
Livi: "What's that on your cheek?"
Me: "A zit. Thanks for noticing."
Livi leans in for a closer look: "It's like.... UP!...On a hill!"

She has become quite obsessed with "boobies" too. She is very aware that she has little boobies and Mommy has "biiiiig boobies". Again... thanks for pointing that out Livi. She has also taken up breast feeding her dolls, animals and even her hand once, despite only having two friends that she has ever seen breast feeding. Maybe she misses it :) She's also become fond of "Daddy's show." As it is playoff season Livi and daddy have been cuddling and watching hockey. When there is a commercial for hockey she gets really excited and wants to watch "Daddy's show" with him. Most games are during her night time routine so she has been drinking some milk and relaxing with Daddy before bed. Precious moments :)

Livi has always been pretty fearless. I'm shocked we haven't been to emergency for stitches or broken bones yet. At Birchwood Dairy, last week, she had know problem joining the big kids on the big slide, climbing up and down the tractors and touching the cows!

The cow licking her... ewww.

She found a pretty little Ladybug to admire too :)

At the end we of course had to have some ice cream! 

Livi is growing up so fast. She has lost the baby look to her "little" body. She is a real little girl now! Have I mentioned her skin?! She doesn't burn, she just gets a beautiful tan and keeps it! I'm so jealous with my pale, freckled skin that burns in 5 min. Between her eye lashes, curly hair and skin this kid is very blessed :)  Her personality is continuing to grow... along with her stubbornness. We knew she'd have an extra dose of that with us as parents! For the most part she is pretty respectful though. As long as she understands why or what is going on, she is fed and rested it is smooth sailing. 

Pretty angel.
A few little issues we are facing in our parenting journey is that Livi will hold her stool for her pull-ups at night or nap time. Just these past two weeks or so she has begun having accidents in her pants again too! I'm not really sure how to help her figure this out. She was doing so good and now it seems like she has regressed. 

We are also beginning to see the end of naps. I'm still holding on but she is fighting going to sleep and is fine is she does miss them. I know I shouldn't complain because she generally sleeps 11-12 hours a night but I LOVE nap time! Quiet time doesn't cut it for me. 


Tuesday, May 24, 2011


It's been a while since I posted... I actually did write one but decided I probably shouldn't publish it :) I had been drinking at the time I wrote it, so you understand. There has been a whole lot of frustration going on since my last post. Nothing terrible... just so frustrating!

Still no word on a court date. We were told we should hear by mid month. When that came and went I sent another email to our agency asking what's up. I'm sure they are getting very annoyed with me. They gave me a detailed response basically saying that it is a paper intensive process and we should hear when court is any day now but not to expect the date to be before mid June! FUCK! We were really hoping to have her in our arms in June. After court there could still be a 6-8 week wait before we can go get her. This whole process is very discouraging. Don't they know how important it is to get Sofie out of there?! Don't they know how gravely malnourished, neglected and skinny she is? I have tons of love and protein just waiting to fatten her up over here! Give her to me! I'm sure every mom who is adopting feels this way. I knew going in to this it would be a difficult, uncertain path but that doesn't make it any easier to handle right now.

We are also needing to get a new car. Our Echo has served us well but we are nearing 300,000 kms on it and since it is over 10 years old our gas bills seem to be increasing... more than the normal increase we have been having. Buying a new car is such a difficult decision right now. We'd like to be a one car family for as long as possible but don't know if we can manage that with Jon needing it a lot for work and me possibly needing it to take Sofie to different therapies or doctor appointments. We have a very limited budget and are already using borrowed money to pay for the adoption so trying to decide how much money to spend on a replacement family car that will eventually solely be Jon's work car, while not knowing when we will need a second car seems like an impossible task. I hate being a grown up some times.

Then there is some family stuff that has been irking me too. I used to think that only families with rough back grounds had "stuff" but being a part of Jon's life, who was raised as a pastor's kid with both parents still together, my eyes have been widely opened :) I now know each family has their share of issues. I'm just so tired of it all. Is there no hope of moving past the destructive structures our family's set out for us? Are my children doomed to have to deal with the same generational crap their parents, aunts and uncles, grand parents and great grandparents have had to deal with.

Believe me, I am trying my damnedest to shield my kids from the things that I have had to endure and break any of the cycles that still persist, but Livi has already been exposed to some of it. She has seen her aunt and her uncle cut themselves off from the family for some periods of time, just as our aunts and uncles did to each other (on Jim's side of the family... Jim is my father and I use the term loosely). She has felt the tension that it stirs up in me and witnessed all my siblings and I being reactionary as only a true (insert my maiden name here) can be. Don't get me wrong. Livi has not even come close to witnessing the horrors I did or been victim to anything. It just seems so inevitable sometimes. My siblings and I, who have had minimal contact with Jim's side of the family, have repeated many of the exact same behaviors and made similar choices in certain situations. It is like it is in our DNA or brain patterns.

Most people know, for very good reasons, that I have no contact with Jim. My aunt, his sister, also knows this. When I first said yes to adding her on facebook and telling her my last name there were some very clear boundaries set out. The primary boundary of the utmost importance was that she not relay any information about us to Jim. My mom advocated for her because she was the only one from that family to have gone to counseling and worked on her own family issues, as well as the only one who ever acknowledged what Jim did to us.

Last week I received a joint email to Jim, a lot of his siblings, and a few of his nieces and nephews. It was calling for everyone to forgive, forget and reconnect in honor of her mother, my grandmother, who's dying wish was that everyone get along... even though she was a lot of the problem in that family. In the emails address bar I could see Jim's name and email address. I assumed he could see mine. Does he now know my last name? I didn't freak out. I knew having contact with her posed some element of a risk and it was probably an accident, since I've had her on my facebook for a few years now and never had an issue. I emailed her back with a pointed reminder of the importance of separation from Jim. After a few exchanges of pleasant emailing back and forth, sharing some of my history and learning a bit of hers she wrote that Jim seemed to know a lot about me, but specifically said it was not her who was telling him. In the next email she confessed to telling him about Sofie! Not just telling him that we were adopting, but where she was from, her age, and about her having DS! Really?!

This may sound trivial since I have a blog that used to be public, but he didn't know my name so it didn't seem to be a big worry. (The aunt and anyone on that side of the family doesn't have access to this blog now that it is private.) Although fear does play a role in why my boundaries with regards to Jim are so set, it does not govern my life. I know what he is capable of and I know what I have to do to protect myself and my children from him. I'm not sure how this new family drama is going to play out or how it is going to affect my life (I think Jim is flagged at the border, so unless he jumps into Canada illegally we have nothing to worry about) but this is how it usually goes when you are dealing with a blood relative of Jim's. Argh!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

All About Bulgaria

About Bulgaria

by Evgenia Angelova

The Madara Rider
The Madara Rider (710 AD), Photo by Nikola Gruev
Bulgaria is situated in the middle of the Balkan Peninsula in Southeast Europe. The population of the country is about 7.6 million people, but a considerable number of Bulgarians also live abroad. The country ranks sixteenth-largest in Europe.  On a major crossroads between Europe, Asia, and Africa, Bulgaria has five of the ten Trans-European corridors running through its territory.
Politically, Bulgaria functions as a constitutional republic with a parliamentary democracy.  The country is a member of the European Union, the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, and NATO.  Since the political changes in 1989, Bulgaria has developed a free-market economy.
Nevsky Orthodox Cathedral
Alexander Nevsky Orthodox Cathedral, Sofia, photo by Alexander Varbenov
The capital of Bulgaria and its biggest city isSofia. It is among the three capitals in Europe that has existed from antiquity until the present day.  It is Bulgaria’s major political, economic, and cultural hub but also a vibrant city with a unique flavor. The second biggest city in the country is Plovdiv. As modern and eclectic as it is today, Plovdiv is the third-oldest city in Europe (6000 BC), and its continuous inhabitation since 4000 BC to the present makes it the sixth oldest settlement in the world.
The primary religion in Bulgaria is Eastern Orthodox Christianity, accepted in the 9thcentury AD. Independent since the 10thcentury, the Bulgarian Orthodox Churchbecame the earliest Slavic Orthodox Church in the world. Along with Orthodoxy, the Constitution guarantees free exercise of religious practice for all other groups in the country.
The official language is Bulgarian. It is transcribed through the Cyrillic alphabet, which was created in the 9th century AD in the First Bulgarian Empire, and it is still used in most Slavic as well as some non-Slavic languages.
 Bulgarian Alphabet
Geographically, the landscape of Bulgaria ranges from high-peaked mountains and hilly plateaus to fertile plains, then to the Danube River and the 235 miles of Black Sea coast. Bulgaria also hosts the highest peak on the Balkans – Musala (9,596 ft.) 


by Evgenia Angelova

Due to its favorable geographic location and temperate climate, Bulgaria has been home to civilizations since the 6th millennia B.C.E. The modern Bulgarian state came into being in 681 AD with a union between the three major ancestral groups of modern Bulgarians – Thracians, Slavs and Bulgars, and with a peace treaty with Byzantium.
During the First Bulgarian Empire (681-1018), the country established itself as a major military, political, economic and cultural power in Europe. During the 9th and 10th centuries, Bulgaria accepted Eastern Orthodox Christianity and gained independence for the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. It also saw the creation of the Cyrillic alphabet, developed literary schools and fostered written works in the Old Bulgarian (Church Slavonic) language becoming the intellectual center of the Eastern European Christian Slavonic culture. In the 10th century, Bulgaria saw its biggest territorial expansion between the Aegean, the Adriatic and the Black Seas and became one of the three most powerful empires in Europe.
At the beginning of the 11th century, Bulgaria fell under Byzantine rule for 167 years. In 1185 after a major uprising, the Bulgarian state was reestablished. The revival of the Bulgarian royal tradition once again transformed Bulgaria into a powerful European empire. During the Second Bulgarian Empire, the country experienced another territorial expansion along with marked economic and cultural growth. During this time, signs of the Renaissance appeared in the works of Bulgarian artists. In 1396, the Second Bulgarian Empire succumbed to the powerful Ottoman Empire for the next five centuries.
By the late 19th century the tides began to turn. In the Liberation War (1877-78) the Russian Army, supported by Bulgarian volunteer forces, defeated the Ottoman Empire and reestablished Bulgaria as an autonomous principality. The other great European powers saw such a large Balkan country as a threat to their interests and so forced another treaty, effectively establishing a much smaller Bulgarian state.  Torn into several territorial pieces—some still under foreign rule—Bulgarians steadfastly pursued their centuries-old dream for a free and unified nation. In 1885 Bulgaria reunited the once separate Northern and Southern halves. After this unification, the country experienced another period of military, economic and cultural progress culminating in a proclamation of independence in 1908.
During the First and Second Balkan Wars (1912-1913) and the First World War, Bulgarians fought hard, yet fought on the losing side with significant human, economic and territorial losses. During World War II, Bulgaria was a member of the Axis and fought on the losing side again. This resulted in even more economic and territorial losses. Although allied with Germany during that period, Bulgaria never declared war on Russia and remained the only Axis country to save its Jewish population from deportation to the concentration camps.
With the Communist uprising in 1944 following the end of WWII, Bulgaria fell under the sphere of Soviet influence and the economic organization of the Eastern Bloc (COMECON) establishing itself as a single-party republic with a planned economy. Amid the wave of late-1980’s political changes in Eastern Europe, Bulgaria transitioned to their modern parliamentary democracy and free-market capitalist economy.


by Evgenia Angelova

Fresco “Sebastokrator Kaloyan and His Wife Desislava” in the Boyana Church. Photo courtesy of Kandi.
Traditional Bulgarian culture is an eclectic mixture of Thracian, Slavic and Bulgar heritage with Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Persian and Ottoman influences over the centuries. This mixture of influence can be seen in the ancient art found in Bulgaria. The oldest treasure of worked gold in the world, dating back to 5000 BC, was found at the site of the Varna Necropolis. Numerous Thracian artifacts dating back to the 3rd and 4th centuries B.C.E. have been found in the burial tombs all across the country. After the creation of the Cyrillic alphabet in the 10th century, both the First (c. 681-1018) and the Second (c. 1185-1422) Bulgarian Empires functioned as a cultural center for the medieval Slavic community in Eastern Europe. During these periods, Orthodox Christian murals, icons and fresco paintings emerged and helped to shape the Western art world.
During the centuries of Ottoman rule (1299-1878), folklore in the form of legends, traditions, songs, rituals, music and dance as well as the applied crafts of wood carving, ceramics, jewelry making and weaving played a crucial role in the preservation of the Bulgarian identity. Today, the Bulgarian cultural scene boasts a rich palette of contemporary literature, art, music, dance, theater and applied arts and crafts. Among the accomplishments of contemporary Bulgarian artists include Grammy awards to Milcho Leviev(1980), The Mystery of Bulgarian Voices Choir (1990) and Formation Studio Balkanton pop-band (1990), the Nobel prize for literature to Elias Canetti (1981) and fifth place in the 2007 Eurovision song contest to Elitsa Todorova and Stoyan Yankulov.
On May 24th each year, Bulgarians all over the world celebrate their culture during one of the most sacred and beloved holidays – The Day of the Bulgarian Alphabet, Education and Culture, and Slavonic Literature

Holidays and Traditions

by Evgenia Angelova

All tribes and ethnic groups of the Balkan Peninsula have left their mark on Bulgarian traditions. Ancient rituals and beliefs have blended with the Orthodox Christian culture and Bulgarian folklore to create a unique set of customs. The traditional Bulgarian calendar of celebrations is positioned toward two seasons—the spring, symbolizing origin and birth and the winter, symbolizing the end and death (leading the way to a new beginning). Some of the rituals and customs that demonstrate this cycle include koleduvane and lazaruvane, baba Marta (granny Marta), kukeri, and nestinarstvo.
Koleduvane is a winter ritual performed on Christmas Eve by young unmarried men (the “koledari”) dressed in ritual costumes. They walk from house to house in their neighborhood with a richly decorated oak stick, singing carols and reciting wishes for health and prosperity in the new year. In return for the good wishes, the owners of the house gift the koledari with food. Similar to Koleduvane,Lazaruvane is a spring welcoming ritual performed the Saturday before Flowers Day (Palm Sunday) by young unmarried women. They wear distinctively colored costumes with lots of flowers and walk from house to house, dancing and singing special songs. With these songs, the women impart wishes of health, prosperity and fertility on all family members and on the livestock. Both Koleduvane and Lauaruvane symbolize the initiation of young boys and girls into maturity and readiness to create their own homes and families. The ritual acts performed by boys show their ability to win over the evil powers of winter and cold, and those of young girls show how they have acquired the skills to take care of their own home and children.
Martenitsa, courtesy of StockphotoPro.
On March 1st Bulgarians welcome Baba Marta(granny March). Tidings of health and happiness are brought to family and friends in the form of a martenitsa, a small, wearable ornament made of white and red threads woven together. The colors of the martenitsa symbolize the snow and the sun, purity and blood, innocence and passion, male and female, and on a deeper level – the balance between life and death. The martenitsa is worn until the first coming of a stork or swallow or the first blossoming of a tree. Wearers then remove the martenitsa and tie it to a tree or place it under a stone.
Koukeri is a ritual in which the earth is awakened after the long winter so that it may
Koukeri from the village of Turia. Photo by Daniela Nyberg.
welcome spring with renewed strength. Only men participate in the ritual because Bulgarians believe only male energy can awaken the female Mother Earth. The purpose of Koukeri is to scare off the evil and cold from the land, favor the fertile energy of nature during the agricultural season and prove the man’s ability to continue the family line. The men who participate jump up and down wearing big masks and an abundance of bells and perform various comical scenes representing everyday life.  The masks are extremely ugly so that evil will be chased away. The festival is connected with sexual and orgiastic activities and has strong ties with the ancient rituals of Dionysus, god of wine, fertility, and the emergence of spring.
Nestinarstvo is the most mystical of all Bulgarian rituals. It takes place in the Strandzha Mountains region on May 21, the day of Sts. Constantine and Helen. On the village square surrounded by all the people in the village, the nestinari dancer, acting as a mediator between the sky and earth and under the spiritual protection of St. Constantine dances on smoldering embers barefoot in a trance. The act of dancing on live coals with icons in arms symbolizes sacrifice and death as a progression toward the purification of the community and the acquisition of new life and prosperity.


by Evgenia Angelova

Bulgaria has a long folkloric tradition. An abundance of regions with unique songs and dances form a rich variety of costume colors, sounds, rhythms and movements. The distinctive sounds of the world-famous Bulgarian women’s choirs come partly from the unique quality of the voices and partly by the melody, harmony and polyphony. The most famous of these choirs– Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares, was honored with a Grammy Award in 1990. In 1977 the popular Rhodope song “Izlel E Delyu Haydutin”, performed by Valya Balkanska, was included in the gold record collection sent into outer space by the Voyager space shuttle.
The large variety of Bulgarian music contains even metered as well as asymmetrical rhythms. Bulgarian folk dances (horo) are done in a circle holding hands and moving in a counter-clockwise direction. Some of the most popular dances are: pravo hororachenitsapaidushko horoeleno momekrivo/Gankino horo (kopanitsa) and buchimish. The musical instruments used to accompany these dances are kaval (wooden flute), gadulka (rebeck), gajda (bagpipe) and tapan (kettle-drum). More information can be found here: or here:
Children dancing a horo
Children dancing a horo at the Koprivshtitsa 2010 Folklore Festival, Bulgaria. Photo by Evgenia Angelova


by Evgenia Angelova

Bulgaria offers numerous tourist opportunities for all seasons. From pristine beaches and world-class resorts along the Black Sea coast to well-developed ski resorts in the mountains, there is something for everyone in the diverse Bulgarian landscape. Additionally, there are numerous archeological sites, churches and monasteries to see and some rural tourist destinations offer well-preserved cultural and ethnographic attractions. Fourteen nature parks and seventeen biosphere reserves exist on Bulgaria’s territory today. It is estimated that on average the landscape of Bulgaria changes every 20 miles, presenting an enormous diversity of flora and fauna. In 2011, Lonely Planet placed Bulgaria fifth on its top 10 list of travel destinations.
Currently Bulgaria has 9 UNESCO World Heritage Sites: The Madara Rider, The Thracian tombs in Kazanluk and Sveshtari, the Rila Monastery, the Boyana Church, the Rock-hewn Churches of Ivanovo, Pirin National Park, Sreburna Nature Reserve, and the ancient city of Nessebar. Fourteen additional Bulgarian properties are listed on the Committee’s Tentative List.


by Evgenia Angelova

Bulgarians take tremendous pride in their cuisine. Famous for its rich salads required at every meal, Bulgarian cuisine is also noted for the quality of dairy products and the variety of Bulgarian wines and alcoholic beverages. Bulgarian cuisine also features a diversity of breads and pastries, as well as hot and cold soups. The recipes use a rich assortment of local herbs and spices that give the dishes their distinctive aroma and delicious taste. Some of the most popular foods are: kiselo mliako (yogurt), sirene (white-brined feta cheese), lutenitsa (thick, pureed tomato and pepper spread), banitsa (oven-baked pastry of filo-dough sheets and different mixtures tucked in between), kiufte or kebabche (balls or rolls of grilled minced meat with spices), and Shopska salad, the recipe for which is included below.
Shopska Salad

Shopska salad (recipe courtesy of Tanya Anguelova)

Mix together the following:
  • 4 tomatoes, diced
    1 long cucumber, diced
    1-2 fresh or roasted green peppers, cored, seeded and diced
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
    2 tablespoons chopped parsley
    2 tablespoons olive oil or more to taste
    Salt to taste
Sprinkle on top:
Bulgarian white brine cheese or feta cheese