Backpack for N.

[I prepared by composing this blog post a few weeks ago. I wish I were on top of things well enough to say I had plenty of time to take photos and write a post tonight. In reality, we had to make a last-second trip to Kohl's. We found the beginnings of a tear in my 10+ year old luggage yesterday. We were afraid it would get worse and our belongings would be lost somewhere over the ocean. So, the Newinghams decided to run to Springfield tonight and mathematically calculate the cubic inches of EVERY piece of luggage Kohl's had to offer. We walked out with a mid-priced (on sale plus coupon) bag that contained over 8,000 cubic inches. Be impressed. Most of the 29' bags only had 7,000 cubic inches of space. Booyah. Now on to the more exciting portion of this post...] As we prepare to head to Bulgaria to visit N. soon, we have been busy collecting toys, games, and activities to give him and to play with as we spend time in the orphanage.

Collecting these toys has actually been a bit more difficult than one might think. Let me explain:

1. The toys ALL had to fit into a child-sized bookbag that can be flown halfway across the world to Bulgaria.

2. They had to cross a language barrier - N. does not speak any English. I know a total of three Bulgarian words.

3. Many of the toys had to be things we could do together. We are working to build a relationship with this little guy, so we want to play with him, color with him, and blow bubbles with him!

4. We wanted there to be enough toys that we could bring a few new things each morning that we visit him, and maybe after his naptimes as well.

5. The toys could not be specific to our culture. N. has possibly never heard of Batman or Buzz Lightyear (I'm sure some of you wish that about your children!) There was no point in bringing a Lightening McQueen-anything because N. might not know who that is.

6. The toys must all contain some sort of educational piece (ask any child who has received a birthday present from me, it's a qualification overall - not just with N.'s toys! It's the nature of my job, I suppose...)

7. The toys had to be relatively inexpensive. We plan to leave the backpack containing the toys with N., but it is uncertain if we will ever see these items again. He seems to be in a decent orphanage, but it's not like he has his own room in which to keep the toys safe.

This bookbag idea, actually came from a blog of a couple who adopted a Bulgarian boy similar in age to our N. I loved the idea and took scrupulous notes while reading their blog. You can read about what they did on their first visit to Bulgaria by clicking here. The seven next "newer blog posts" are also from that trip. Their detailed accounts and their experience in parenting (this is their fifth child!) is encouraging us and also preparing us. Their little guy has been home for several months, and they still seem to maintain a little sanity (I mean, afterall, they did make the conscious decision to have five children!!!). That is also encouraging!

After reading the blog, talking with family, and relying on personal experiences, here are the items Chance and I decided upon for N.'s bookbag:

the backpack:

the contents of the backpack - and, yes, it all fits (barely!):

these are dolls my mom knit that look just like our little family:

puzzles (from a yard sale):

clothes - which may or may not fit him:


a velcro catch game:

an interactive board book (from a yard sale):

a photo album to decorate and fill with pictures from our week in Bulgaria:

sticker book:

seek-and-find book - with corresponding pictures, rather than just text (from a yard sale):


color and trace book (photo 1):

color and trace book (photo 2):

the updated/less messy version of the paint-with-water books:

felt coloring sheets:

silly putty:

plastic safari animals:

matchbox cars (from a yard sale):


plastic dinosaurs:

memory/matching game (from a yard sale):

markers, crayons, and a notepad:

alphabet flashcards (from a yard sale):

lacing cards (from a yard sale):


This should keep us all busy! When we get home, we'll review what worked and what didn't. This is one spoiled little boy, and we haven't even brought him home yet!

We are here!

Picture of N.