Eyes barely open, 7-year-old Anelia “Nellie” Schildbach stood at the piano the other day, listening intently as her fingers explored the keyboard. She rocked her head back and forth as her hands moved fluidly across the flat white and protruding black keys: middle C, F sharp and B flat, E and A. Notes played together and alone. Chord combinations both minor and major. Her choices appeared random, and yet somehow blended together. Occasionally, she hummed along while her mother, Kimberly Schildbach, watched.
After a while, Kim put her arms around Anelia, who is blind, and gently led her to the toy kitchen a few feet away. But as soon as she let go, Anelia crawled across the floor, back to the piano, stood up at it once more, and continued to pound the keys.
“She would play all day if we let her,” Kim said, smiling. “She’s a piano-crazy girl.”
Anelia, who is also developmentally delayed, came to the six-member Schildbach family a year ago from an orphanage in Sophia, Bulgaria. Non verbal and withdrawn, she was unable to even walk up or down stairs when she joined Kim and Nathanael and their four biological children: Lucas, 19, Gaelan, 16, Jericho, 8, and Olive Ann, 3.
Today, she has become part of the family, and with her love of music and the attention of four siblings, she has begun to emerge from her shell.
Kim noted that her love for her biological children was much stronger than her feelings for her adopted daughter at first, but that has changed. “Now it’s more even,” she said. “It took about a year.”
But it hasn’t been easy, even for a couple who say they love parenting and have wanted to adopt for years.
Anelia arrived in the Schildbach home with another Bulgarian orphan, Marin, now 10.
When people heard of their plans to adopt two special needs children from Bulgaria, according to Kim, they said the couple was nuts.
“We are nuts,” Nate said. “That’s why we did it.”