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I love this quote by Henri Matisse. Specifically, I love art, not necessarily his art, although I love the Fauvism's movement's use of color. Personally, I am more of an Impressionism girl. Regardless, I love how art transports me. How it moves me. How it creates pictures out of my unspoken words. How it heals a broken spirit and completes an unfinished thought. That being said, I apologize ahead to real artists who may be offended by my slightly dramatic interpretation of a mass produced floor covering sold on Amazon and at Walmart.com, but that's just how it goes sometimes...

Sooo, we bought a new rug for our living room.

I saw it online a long time ago. I've had it pinned on my Pinterest board and I've read all the reviews. I looked for the best deal and when we moved it was one of the first things I begged Kev to purchase for our living room.

Let's get something straight first. I'm not a khaki kind of girl. I like mixing patterns, colors, vintage pieces and diy projects. Second, I'm not formal...at all, especially in relationships and decor. I listen to my feelings first, particularly how I feel when I walk into a room. I don't want to live in a model home, although I appreciate how nice they always look. Side note, I get so curious in some people's homes, where do they put their random stuff...mail, bills, coupons, that random water bottle that gets used day-to-day, random tiny bottles of lotion? Toys! Where the heck do they put the toys? I know it's all there, but where???

I'm so over beige/tan for a wall color. I truly appreciate grey for becoming the new neutral, just because it's different. I'm sure I'll grow to hate it as well, haha. For years I've been trying to make our living room look less bland and more me. We have some amazing couches that were given to us almost 20 years ago now, when our couches were broken by one of our students showing off his "strength" early on in our ministry career (it's a fun story, just ask me, he has not lived this event down). They are tan and the most comfy couches in the world, but for years I've been trying to add some color and never quite getting it right...until this amazing rug.

It's pretty awesome.
I've stared at this rug since the day we bought, it's been on our floor in our family room. I keep trying to express to Kev why I love it so much and it's not just because it's got a boho vibe. It captures me, like a work of art. But, like art, it's not always the actual details of the piece as it is the whole that moves you. Parts of it are clear, parts of it are distressed, some parts are almost blotted out, some of the colors are bold and others fade into the background, it has a pattern to it, but not one that is overtly consistent. There are what looks like arrows down the middle and it's like a path to follow. The entire rug is divided into sections, but some of the colors from one section sometimes bleeds into another section or more and this is when I had my "ah-ha" moment--Yep, this rug represents our life! At this point in the conversation, Kev said, "you're losing it."

That may be up for debate based on how long and hard I stared at this rug and thought about it, but I think I have a point.

Our story has been colorful. Full of adventure, some of it good, some not so good.

There are parts of our life I truly wouldn't mind blotting out. We've experienced pain, humiliation, suffering and betrayal. But, just like our memories and the parts we try to blot out or put behind us, there are specks of color that resisted the distressing. In our life and in this rug, those blots with tiny specks are part of the beauty when you see the whole.

There are dark parts that stand out, all different colors. There are sections which I see fairly literally as different seasons of our life. Amazing times where God did crazy things at specific times in our lives and the lives of those around us. Huge movements of God, He allowed us to be a part of! Some of those bold colors bleed from one section into another. These are our people. People that have spanned all or some seasons, friends, family, fake aunts and fake uncles to the girls and now, Bozi. People that have stuck by us through crazy experiences, supported us, loved us, trusted us and the path God had for us. So many, have maintained relationships with us over many years, locations and situations. You guys are beautiful treasures in our hearts.

Arrows go down the middle of the rug. Our family is centered around following God's direction, sometimes those arrows are clear and sometimes they aren't, but they have always moved us where he told us to go. We have pursued God wherever and whenever He has told us to takes a step. We have committed to following God and abandoning all tradition, plans or personal life goals. This has been the hardest part, pursuing God has made us look a little crazy, but years ago we gave our life to God. We gave creative control over to an amazing God that knew we don't do "khaki" lives. So, I guess if we have to look crazy, it might as well be for God.

There is an inconsistent pattern in this rug, those two words contradict themselves, but they best describe this rug and our life thus far. Similar experiences happen to us, in different places with different people, with different time frames. This has been exceptionally frustrating. The best part though is because this is a rug, it has a beginning and an end. I don't think this rug is our entire life, but I think it is a healing reflection of our past.

21 years and counting!
We have both spent time over the years being angry at God because of different seasons and the pain,

frustration and hurt that have come out of different experiences, people, and places. I still struggle with this. It's not easy to understand how or why God allows painful things, especially when the source of our pain at times has been other pastors or believers. But, we have grown more through those seasons than we ever could have any other way. We have experienced the freedom found in God's sovereignty in the good and in the bad. We have fought and wrestled with God when His plan didn't match ours or even make sense to us. We've tried to regain creative control just to realize our creativity is limited and sad compared to the Creator of the Universe.
In this rug, I see details that make the whole. Now, I see its beauty.
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May is a big month for us.

It's not because of graduation, recitals or end of school performances, although that time will come. May will always be special because it's the month we first met our son.

One year ago, we were flying to Bulgaria for our first of two trips as part of our adoption of Bozi. We received Bozi's referral in April and this photo was our first look at him. This trip was intended to help us bond with our child and confirm our referral.

One year ago, we were anxiously sitting--correction, terrified and paralyzed in an orphanage. We were in the only colorful room in the entire building. It's the show room. We even had to wear hospital booties over our shoes. It's room they take pictures of orphans in for prospective parents. The room with piles of toys that seem to be barely played with. The room where they bring the children to meet their adoptive moms and/or dads. The room that looks like so much fun and comforts you as a prospective parent, until you realize the facts. The kids are never or rarely in there. The orphanage is understaffed, the children are left in their cribs, their muscles either under-developed or atrophying from lack of activity. Children don't know how to play because they don't have the chance to learn. They are fed pureed foods until they age out (at the age of four) and worst of all, it's sooo quiet. A building full of children, ages 0-4, some as old as 7 if their special needs are severe and the loudest sound you hear through the open windows is the shuffle of feet, clanking of dishes in the room they eat in and muffled Bulgarian spoken amongst the few adults. Even in the building, there's no screaming, no crying, no babbling, nothing.

Visiting Bozi May 2018!
One year ago, the caregiver brought Bozi in to meet us. I remember watching him struggle to walk with her support. He was so solemn and we were frozen solid in our seats. I felt like I was watching a movie, but I wasn't a character in it. We wouldn't have moved without prompting and once we did move we were cautious. We didn't want to scare him. We didn't know him. He didn't know us. I didn't know how to act. I'm not shy, I don't really meet a stranger, but I didn't even attempt to hold him until the second day. I look back now and see my fear. I remember my questions. Is he really ours? Is this going to work out? Is this the tiny boy God planned for us? What about his potential medical issues? He looks so fragile. Will I break him? Will he ever really walk? Does that even matter now? Does anything really matter other than getting this tiny little boy out of here?

One year ago, I saw first glimpses of his personality. His stubbornness, playfulness, coy smirks and after a few days of visiting, his sweet smile. I remember the first time I heard him cry. He was the only child crying in the entire building. He didn't want us to leave and they had to pull him away from us. To this day, that moment--his cries echoing through the silent building--shatters me into a thousand pieces.

Bozi's 2nd Birthday at the orphanage, 2018!
One year ago, our first trip was scheduled the week of his second birthday. So we were able to celebrate with him last year at the orphanage. Two of his little friends joined us, they were both about a year older than Bozi. One of those friends has since been adopted and we have had the ability to video chat with him and the family via Facebook. I remember Bozi's little party, all three children sat so still in their seats. They didn't move except to reach for their food and they never attempted to get up. Do you know any 2 or 3 year olds that don't try to get out of their seats for over an hour? They never said a word. They didn't smile or giggle. They were either staring off into space or mesmerized by the snacks and juice. Looking back, I can't believe I missed those details. I was pretty wrapped up in Bozi, but watching my videos and looking at pictures of that day he was the same way. I didn't see it, I didn't see his uncertainty and fear, I just saw my own. I'm pretty sure I didn't want to see it. I wanted to see the good. He was going to be in that place at least four more months and I would be so far away. I wanted to see an orphanage that seemed to care. A place that wasn't "too bad." But, looking back, even with the good intentions of a decent orphanage (comparatively speaking) and sweet staff, it's still an orphanage. It's not a family. They can't do it all, they aren't their parents. It doesn't change the fact that children are not intended to be ignored, forgotten or left alone. Children need and deserve more.

Bozi's dedication May 2019!
A year ago, we were trying to determine the severity of his medical condition in a hospital in Sofia, Bulgaria. One year ago, we left our son behind. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done.

Here we are a year later from our first of two trips and now Bozi has been home with us seven months. Seven months of being in a real family. Seven months of recognizing the trauma our little boy has experienced. Trauma of losing his birth mom, trauma of losing his caregiver and the only home he knew for his first 2.5 years, trauma of adjusting to us in Bulgaria for our ten day pick-up trip, adjusting to us in Wilmington following a crazy hurricane and now adjusting to a new life in Newnan. What part of adoption isn't traumatic, especially when you add in an additional relocation? It rocks a child's world to his or her very core. We have watched his desperation and fear. We have experienced his loss through his actions. We've been hit, scratched, bitten and been rejected emotionally and physically. We've watched him hit his head on the floor and walls, hit himself and bite himself. He still rocks himself to sleep and rocks when he gets bored, fortunately that has become less frequent. He just started getting out of bed on his own, instead of silently sitting and waiting for us to know he's awake. We have watched human depravity at its finest. The inability to do good apart from God in us. The fight for control and security.

Storybots cupcakes!
Last Sunday we dedicated our precious Bozi boo to God. We gave him back to the One who gave him to us. I looked around and was overcome. I saw my wiggly little boy, my precious girls and cutie husband, our pastor and his family who supported us for so many years through this process. I saw another cute little Bulgarian boy sitting in the front row who I prayed for alongside his precious mommy. We walked this path together and that has been irreplaceable. I saw our church family who is just getting to know us, but has been so welcoming and committed to join us in raising our child in the Christian faith. At that point, for just a second, I couldn't breathe.

God has brought us all full circle, through pain, suffering, and lack of control of the many circumstances around us. Without the pain, we wouldn't have experienced the joy that followed. In our suffering, we didn't just learn lessons, we internalized God's truths. And in God's own clever way, He showed me once again my perception of "lacking control" has more to do with my lack of trust and me trying to take back what I have already given Him... my life.

Bubble Birthday Party!
Sunday morning, we made a life commitment and Sunday night we celebrated our Bozi boo's life with a Storybots / Elmo birthday party, his favorites. Although, Elmo's appearance was basically some napkins! :) The party was complete with family, a few friends and our neighbors. This time that tiny boy was not only eating his food, but shoving a cupcake in his mouth and snacking on anything and everything. He wasn't scared to leave his seat, he was smiling and running around, he laughed when we lit the roman candle, he was squeezed and hugged by friends and family, but my favorite was watching him squealing, dancing and clapping in the bubbles. Sheer joy and beautiful sounds replaced his solemn face and the silence of the year before.

I thank God for my squishy-cheeked baby boy, my girls who truly cannot get enough of him and his daddy who had to wait months to truly be accepted and loved by his son. Friends, my husband is an example of true love and amazing parenting... loving and giving to a child with no guarantees that he will ever reciprocate what you offer. To me that sounds a lot like what God does for us!

What a difference a family makes.
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Best Cousins and Best Bros, Bozi and Joseph!
The first two years of a child's life is huge. They learn to attach to other humans, their brain alone grows dramatically, children learn words, most are walking, following simple instructions and hopefully how to take turns.

You learn their favorite foods, what they like to play with and who their favorite people are. I love watching my child's personality develop. I love observing their likes and dislikes. Watching how they grow and how they change.

I remember my baby Chlo, she was very passionate about everything. She felt things...deeply. Happy and sad doesn't quite describe it, more like euhporic or elated versus heartbroken or mournful. Annnd then there was angry...that was it's own category, more like rage and she was ONLY 6 months old! Literally, if you gave her the wrong toy it was like she just found out you killed her puppy and refused to give her candy for the rest of her life. She was a wee bit high maintenance in all areas and had serious opinions. As I've said often, we have affectionately labeled this as the beginnings of her "leadership skills."

Then there was my sweet baby V. Anyone who knew her as a baby knew how easy she was. She would just go with the flow, always happy and loved cuddles. She was toooo easy and it made me a little nervous. I was almost worried she wouldn't have much of a personality. Then she turned two and her personality really started coming out. Anyone who knows Violet now, KNOWS how wrong I was to worry. That girl has more personality than about ten people combined. We call this "creative," and she really is!

It's a little different with Bozi because we didn't have the privilege of seeing the first two-ish years. The orphanage told us he was a fat baby. :) They said he liked construction vehicles. They warned us he sucked his fingers. They were able to give us a couple of pictures when he was younger, but that's all we really got.

When we met him on our first trip we learned a few more things. He played hard to get, but once he warmed up he was playful. He had opinions as well and the workers told us he was pretty stubborn. The words he knew were the Bulgarian words for cat, dog, car and fall down. He loooooved cars. His favorite time of the day was definitely anytime they brought him food of any type--he basically would hyperventilate and power surge. He liked to swing. Annnd, he seemed to like the color red.

After six months hanging with our sweet boy we've learned even more.

Bozi's Favs

Red and orange are probably his favorite colors. He likes to wear them too. I definitely need to find more bright clothes!

Poppy scored brownie points early on!
Cars are a BIG deal. He still stops everything to watch a car drive by and while we are in the car he
watches them intently as we drive. He doesn't freak out anymore when we get in one, but he is likely to be found hanging from the door handle of our van or another vehicle. Also, if you let him just sit in your car, he'll be your best friend. I'm not lying, that's basically ALL he really wants...to sit. I guess he's absorbing the experience? I don't know.

Dogs and cats? Yes, please! For the past month he has been asking for a dog. It goes like this. "Mommy. Can a Doggy. Pease? Mommy. A Bow bow. Pease." "Bow bow" is another way they refer to dogs in Bulgaria. When we are out he begs to pet them, then gets scared and backs up. So far he's all talk, but we'll see. Also, I would like to give a shout out to turtles or Bozi calls them "toodleloos." Since we started walking around our neighborhood past the lake, he begs to go see the "toodleloos" regularly.

Singing. He loves it. His favorite songs are Old McDonald, Twinkle, Twinkle and the ABC song. He sings them all. Well, as far as Old McDonald he usually just says "e-i-e-i-o." Our prayer at meals is a song called "God our Father" and he sings it loud and proud. He is slowly adding the words rather than sounds, but that's a work in progress. Good thing we are a music-loving, singing type of family.

Fluffy dinosaur blankets are crucial. He pretends he doesn't need or want it, but asks for it when he's tired and I've found it clutched in his little hand while he is asleep many times.

He loves to count. I'm not sure how this started, but he does it all the time for the last couple of weeks or so. He starts from 4 and goes to 10, I can't get him to say 1-3 at all and he usually skips 6...we will work on that.

His favorite word is "yes!" Interesting twist for a two-ish year old when most scream "NO," but a fact none the less. The best part is he will say "yes" to ANYTHING. Bozi are you cute? Yes. Bozi are you crazy? Yes. Bozi am I your favorite? Yes. If you know my husband you can imagine the random questions he asks Bozi and Bozi always answers with a confident assertive, Yes!

He's a reader. He loves to be read to and he loves to read to us. His favorite books are Brown Bear, Brown Bear; The Bear Snores On; Momma Will You; Going To Sleep on the Farm; Little Blue Truck; Good Night, Construction Site; and anything Llama, Llama, he's not a fan of the tv show though.
Watching the Toodleloos!

His favorite TV shows are Storybots aka "bots", Octonauts and Sesame Street aka "Elmo." He wasn't really interested in TV until he was home for about 4 months. So, this is pretty recent and he watches only half of a show or one show a day at most. I'm not complaining.

Fav toys! His favorite toys seem to be his nesting blocks, his Squidzs, the little musical toy my mom sent him on our first trip and drawing on this little magnadoodle we have.

He loves being outside. He asks constantly to go outside. He even figured out how to work our lock and door, scary! We fixed that. He loves swinging outside on the front porch at the park. Once we get to the swings at the park, it's all over, good luck getting him back on the playground equipment again.

Bozi loves storytime. We go most Thursdays. Mr. Max is the best and it's really great having a male librarian for Bozi. His favorite thing at storytime are the movement songs or rhymes, playing instruments and the fact it ends with BUBBLES! Everytime I pull him out of the car and he sees he's at the library he yells "bubbles, bubbles!"

He prays. He says, "God, Mommy, Daddy, Coee, Pilot and Bozi. Amen." Every couple of days he throws in other family, but when that happens usually it's Joseph who gets prayed for.

Favorite foods!!! He loves eggs, tomatoes, cheese, hummus, pasta, yogurt, apple sauce, rice, green beans, bread, tacos, pizza, oatmeal and tacos!

He has two BFFs. He loves his cousin, Joseph and talks to him on Facetime for a few minutes almost
Best bros Brady Boo and Bozi Boo!
every day. He asks to call him most mornings. It's really sweet. He loves his friend Brady and gets excited whenever we get together with him and his family.
  
Bozi is the friendliest kid I know. That's saying a lot if you know my girls. He stands in our yard and waves at every single car riding by like his life depends on it. He yells "Hi" usually too late, after most people walk by and then continues to yell "Bye" until they respond or they are really far away!

I worry because I know so little about my Bozi boo and those first two years, then I realize I actually know quit a bit for the six months we've had him. Six months seems like such a short time and in other ways, it's been an eternity--in a good way. Then I think about before we had Bozi. I can't imagine that little body that leans into me not being cuddled 24/7, those squishy cheeks not being kissed and having no one to rest his face against like he rests his face against mine. He stays so still when he does that, our cheeks touching, almost like he doesn't want the moment to end. I have to put those thoughts quickly out of my mind. I truly can't bear them. I can't imagine the fact that he could still be there. I remember there are more children still there, still in cribs and in beds, still sitting, rocking themselves and waiting. They wait for something they may not comprehend, something they remember they had once and lost or someone that will never come--and my heart breaks again.

So, I look back again over the six months. I see my little tiny boy's favs. I know them. Having that knowledge came at a price for everyone involved. But, we've adjusted. We've learned. We've grown. Our hearts have been filled with more love than we thought possible. Our minds have been broadened to what God can do with and through us and our children. I look at my sweet boy and that's exactly what I see...MY boy, OUR son, a part of us gifted to us through another woman.
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September 13, 2018 vs March 13, 2019
Then and NOW!

A lot has happened since we picked Bozi up on September 13 and brought him into our family. I remember seeing all the 2 and 3-year-olds milling around outside on that gorgeous day in a huddle, none of them really playing--just standing or sitting. We couldn't see Bozi. I thought he was inside getting ready for our arrival, but as we walked up the stairs to the white door I remember his delighted shrill squeal over all the noise. He saw us. He knew us. We all jerked our heads. I remember seeing him desperately flailing to get to us as quickly as possible, he couldn't walk so one of the workers was helping him. He was smiling from ear to ear, the workers were smiling. I felt like he knew we were there for him.

I look at him now. His face is a little rounder, his eyes are a little brighter and he has grown in every way. Every adoption is different and every child is different, but for us these are what six months home looks like:

Bozi sleeps in his own room. This started early for us out of necessity. The kid sucks his fingers. It's SOOO loud, it literally kept us from sleeping. So, this happened in the first month for us. Don't get me wrong, I'll take finger sucking over major sleep issues any day. It took about three months before I was leaving his room at nap or bedtime before he actually fell asleep. Then I slowly began leaving before he fell asleep. It took about a week or so before that went well. I feel we've been pretty fortunate in this area. Now after I leave I get to listen to him sing to himself for a little while before he falls asleep. It's the sweetest little sound.

Daddy love!
Bozi is still primarily a momma's boy, but he is all about his daddy too. This was the slowest part for us. Bozi really rejected Kev from the beginning. Kev was competition for my attention and his security. That process isn't easy. Even when you know in your head all the kid is dealing with, rejection is hard, and watching your husband deal with that is hard. The loss of time with your spouse because you have a new appendage is hard on everyone involved--even the new appendage, because he is scared as well.

Two big things happened the other day that showed how dramatic a change we've experienced in this area. Bozi ran to Kev and asked him for a hug or in his words a "ug!" This is the FIRST time he requested that of Kevin this entire time. Another time, Bozi was sitting in Kev's lap and I walked by, kissed Bozi on the head, continued walking and... Bozi stayed in Kev's lap. Insert jaw drop! This seems so small, but I spent a lot of time hiding myself from view for the past 6 months, just so Bozi would relax and just hang out with Kev. Normally, the second he saw me it was over--crying and begging for me to hold him began. It's exhausting for all of us. Today we all rode together to pick up our car from the repair place, and Kev got out to go drive the other car home. After about 5 minutes Bozi says, "Where's Lolly?" BTW, Lolly is what he used to call Kev. I'm pretty sure it started because Violet wore a retainer in the fall and couldn't quite get the word Daddy out without a lisp. Ha! So, now he gets called "daddy" "lolly" and "laddy." It's pretty entertaining annnd I'm hoping it will stick.

Rocking and rolling. Bozi still rocks (side-to-side) himself to sleep at night, but not nearly as much as he used to. He still sometimes rocks when he sings during the day, but it's to the beat and doesn't seem to be for the same self-stimulating or comforting reasons. Also, he used to find a corner or wall and sit up against it and suck his finger and rock. That hasn't happened in months. I think this was tied to the fact he would get bored and be unsure of what to do. He could not entertain himself well and he didn't know how to play, which leads to my next milestone.

Bozi plays independently sometimes! This JUST happened for the first time the other day. Woo hooo!!! This is huge for him AND me--entertaining him or keeping him busy all day is a lot of work. This little boy came to us without any idea how to play. He threw things like a 12-month-old baby might. He didn't know what to do with cars, even if we showed him, he just threw them or got bored and would go sit and rock by himself. If I happened to walk near him while he attempted to play he would just start crying and ask me to pick him up. We eventually got him to color a little but that bored him pretty quickly. The only thing he really seemed to play with for more than a few minutes was the kitchen set and he mainly opened and shut the door and moved things around. He didn't "play."

He lets me put him down. For the first time in months I don't have to hold him 24/7 to avoid screaming. He comes to me for a hug--I can pick him up hug him and set him down. I have free-ish arms! This is huge. The beginning of this was super hard on the girls as well. They went from having mommy to themselves to hardly having any time with me at all. They slowly understood, and now I can have one of the girls sit in my lap and Bozi isn't running up to push them out of my lap immediately.

Dino shoes!
Bozi is walking, running (a little) and can jump about a 1/2 inch off the ground with both feet. He wears his SureStep orthotics or "dino shoes" as we call them because the pattern he picked out had dinosaurs on it. These dino shoes support his ankles and help him to have proper alignment so he can better walk and improve his muscle tone. It's a pain to find shoes that fit over them and he doesn't have the same cool shoe game he had before, but they are worth it. For a kiddo with low tone who didn't begin walking independently until October this is amazing. He has his

The kid talks and talks and talks. Granted, it doesn't all make sense, but he didn't talk much at all for a while. He now has over 125 words and has used 3-5 word sentences. He definitely understands us and figures out ways to communicate what he wants even when he doesn't know the word. Today he saw and ambulance and didn't know the name, so he said, "Mommy, mommy, wee ooo wee ooo!" He's learning and getting there and in such a short time.

He can stay with people other than us and survive! I was so nervous about leaving him, but switching jobs and our upcoming move required us to do a little traveling for preparation. He traveled with us on one trip and my parents came and babysat at the hotel (they are THE best)! Most recently, we had to go find a new home for our family and that required us traveling for a few days without the kiddos. I was so so nervous about this and had no idea what to expect. Daddy and Momma came and watched them here at the house so the girls could go to school and Bozi could be at his therapy appointments. He did GREAT and had fun! We even Facetimed and he didn't freak out. It was such a relief.

FaceTiming with cuteness.
He goes to a class during the church service and does really well. We started that after about four months home. I really appreciate Port City Community Church's structured two-year-old classroom. They have free play, do a craft, teach a lesson and have snack. It put my mind at ease because I didn't want him to have lots of free play as most "nursery" type environments have, he's likely to throw something or hit someone. Also, I did not want him to be held all the time for continuing attachment reasons. Structure is so helpful. Before we were comfortable leaving him in a class I sat with him in the nursing mom's room or the cafe. The first time we visited Georgia, my friend Hannah, who he loved from the first time he met her, kept him with her so I could go to the worship service for the first time in months. I wouldn't leave him with just anyone at this point still but, it's comforting to know he can handle it.

We are in awe of what simply having a loving family can do to help a child progress. Beginning with the very young mother who gave him life and brought her child to the orphanage because she and her family couldn't care for him. Then the people who cared for Bozi for two-and-a-half years as best they could while caring for so many children. They fed him and clothed him. I could tell they loved him. Not all orphanages, caregivers or foster parents are that way. The two ladies at the orphanage. Tatiana, the psychologist, who worked with Bozi and Skyped with us weekly for months between trips. Donke, the sweet caregiver, who walked with us to the car and stood at the gate until we were completely out of sight. I watched. I saw her joy, but also her sadness. Now he has his very own mommy and daddy, not a caregiver he has to share. His own sisters who will always be there and not other little kiddos that he may never see again. Now he has his very own family to live with, love him and help him grow but, I am grateful for each person leading up to this point, because without them he would not be ours.
Bozi and his best girls!

It's not just all the therapy he receives, the research we did, or having all the answers of how to, when to or what to do. Those things are helpful, but cannot replace the stability, love and security that comes from having a family. He is growing and learning. He is loved. We are a family, we are his home. He knows it and we know it.

International adoptions are on a sharp decline. I pray you would consider how to support an adoptive family or welcome a child into your or someone else's home.
Coming soon...a list of Bozi's favorite things!
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Do you ever feel punched in the gut by life? The kind of hit that takes your breath away and not in a great “Top Gun” type of way. It’s like when you unexpectedly fall out of a cherry tree in your yard, land on your back and the air gets knocked out of you. Or when you fall out of the boat whitewater rafting and every time you try to take a breath you are swept under the rapids. I fall a lot. It’s the kind of punch that scares you because you think for a split second--I might not make it.

It doesn’t matter what it is. It could be a job, your health, your spouse, your children, friends, money issues, family or a nice mixture of some or all of those things.

Those blows are scary. They challenge your faith in yourself, in your capabilities, in the plan and if you are a believer, in God. But, in a larger capacity they can refine you. They can bring you to a deeper understanding of who God is and who you are (or are not) in ways “happy” experiences never could.

Here are a couple reminders I’ve learned through these experiences. 

God is in control. Sometimes this is comforting and other times it’s downright scary because God being in control means He will do what is best. That sounds good until you think about the fact that what is best is not always easy. Difficult isn’t fun, but it’s necessary sometimes. Difficult situations can whittle away pride and other things that get between you and God. It can be a way God protects us from things that are worse. Ask your kids: do they love it when you tell them they can’t go to a friend’s house? They don’t always know the family is dysfunctional and you are leery of the man that lives in the house. They miss out on temporary things, but are preserved in much bigger ways.

When we pursue God through these difficult seasons we glorify God in a way we never could when things are going great. It’s easy to glorify God when you just got back from your 10th trip to Disney with the fam, your kids are the poster children for their school, your husband won the lottery, you just received the Nobel Peace Prize and your dog rescued a baby from a burning house. Who wouldn’t praise God if that happened… But God being in control is deeper. God being in control means I do not have to worry about how things work out, because He will work them out according to His purpose. Isn’t that what I truly want? I gave my life to God, so why do I continue to fight for control? Why do I fight against His refinement?

Christianity is not transactional. This is my husband’s goto soap box lately and it’s true. We tend to believe if we serve God/pray/go to church/are nice to others, He will work things out for us. How many stories of Bible heroes actually support that idea? Several of the disciples were slaughtered for their faith, Job was faithful and received painful situations because of it, Paul was stoned, imprisoned and shipwrecked and Moses never made it into the Promised Land. Those are just a few examples but those are key people in the Bible. Not to mention the present-day missionaries and believers who lose their lives, or at the least suffer for what they believe. Why do we think we are exempt from pain? Maybe I should be thankful for our biggest struggles, because they obviously could be worse and good usually comes out of them. Our relationship with God doesn’t start with us, it starts with Christ and we respond. Christianity doesn’t start with our good deeds and result in God giving us a gold star and smooth sailing. Christianity is not about what we do or how we succeed, it’s about what God does. What God does is not always easy.

God doesn’t promise us a food, money, or housing. God promises Himself. That concept is one I will continue to understand more and more deeply as I pursue Him and life happens. He will supply our needs. We look at that through our American lens and say, “But, bad things shouldn't happen to good people.” God sees outside of the box we live in called Earth. God cares about our daily situation, but His love and concern go beyond the daily things to the eternal things. Eternal salvation is our true need, not Earthly survival. God is our only true need and if God can use our suffering to draw us closer to Him or bring others closer to Him, then I’m on board.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

“Do not be anxious… Let your requests be made known to God.” That’s the good part. It’s where we stop most times because as humans we think if make a request, our request will be fulfilled--transactional Christianity. But, verse seven is what caught my attention: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard you hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” God’s response to us making our requests known is that He will provide peace to guard our hearts and minds. It never says He is going to fix things the way we want or answer our prayers with our preferred answer. It says He will guard our hearts in Christ Jesus.

What does that even mean? I believe it means that He will guard our hearts from doubting Him, losing trust in Him, being angry at a situation or even angry at Him. He guards us from anxiety about our future, worry about our kids--that is what I need protection from when times are hard. Hard times come. We can’t shield ourselves or our children from everything. He will protect our minds when they flood with all the worries and fears that come with major transitions and unexpected life situations. Jesus is the answer to our need. God desires most for us to have a relationship with Him through Jesus, but not a subpar one--a living, vibrant one.

Maybe God will answer our heavy-hearted prayers with a gold star and the perfect scenario, but there is never a promise of that. No one wants to experience difficulty. Being refined is scary and hard. But, I do want to be refined and while I’m being refined, I pray God always guards my heart.
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Trip to the aquarium. He was worn out!
We take one step forward and two steps back. Bozi is learning “thank you” and “no, thank you.” He’s learning to say “please” to request something. He tells people “bye” and “see you later.” It’s so cute to watch him catch onto these little phrases.

Most recently he said an ENTIRE four-word sentence. My mom asked him if he was cold and he responded, “No, I not cold.” That’s huge in regards to his understanding and language acquisition.

Bozi is learning to say “Sorry!” That is important for a lot of reasons. I am hoping he is gaining the meaning or at least that it needs to happen when he hurts someone. It’s super sweet until you lean in for the follow-up hug AKA “ug” and he hauls off and smacks you in the face yet again and smiles. Love those orphanage behaviors.

After Bozi got home and settled he started screaming and hitting a lot. Kev’s first response was “There’s no way he got away with this in the orphanage.” Then we remembered how kids even in the mall in Bulgaria screamed a lot and no one really said anything. We also remembered that in our Skype calls, Bozi often hit the sweet lady that Skyped with us from the orphanage and she would throw her head back and laugh about it. Maybe parenting is different there, or maybe they cut him slack because he was an orphan, or maybe they just didn’t want us to see them discipline him, who knows. I do know #1) he’s not an orphan anymore and #2) I can’t handle getting smacked in the face all the time.
Daddy love!

Parenting is hard. The same thing doesn’t work for every child. People have opinions, strong ones and they share them. I am not a newbie. I was a parent prior to Bozi. We have two bio girls, so it’s not like we haven’t done this before, but at the same time parenting an adoptive child is different. I worry about our parenting style and if it’s appropriate for him. That concern brings with it a lot of self-doubt.

I am coming to terms with some things about myself and Bozilicious.

I am so scared I am going mess up and screw up my kid. I’ve talked about this before. Who doesn’t suffer from this disease? I think we’ve all been there. We worry “Did we take it too far with discipline? Did we take it far enough to make an impact? Did we miss an opportunity to help our kid learn a lesson by ignoring a behavior because we just didn’t want to deal with it for once? Should they have taken piano instead of dance?” We put so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect when everything we are doing screams how much we love our kids. Discipline is loving. Boundaries show love. Saying “I’m sorry” when we mess up as parents teaches our kids that we aren’t perfect and also shows them we love them. If we didn’t love them, we wouldn’t be so concerned about doing things right. So parents, cut yourself some slack, do your best and keep moving forward.

I treat my child like a fragile flower. Other than the fact he is a little wobbly when he walks and you could knock him down, there is nothing fragile about Bozi. He fights for his toys and yells “stop” or “dop” (ha) when the girls play with them. He lies and manipulates better than either of my girls. The other day he hit Chloe and had to say sorry and hug her, and when they hugged he clutched his eye and screamed “Owww, owww.” Chlo never touched his eye. He’s just trying to get her in trouble to distract me from him being in trouble. He’s got the best pitiful face and can work up some serious tears in 0.5 seconds. He works both angles. If Daddy says “no” to something, he runs to Mommy and tells on Daddy and asks Mommy. He throws things. He hits us. He hits himself when he is mad. I forget this kid is straight outta the orphanage. He fought for attention in an orphanage. He did what it took to get his needs halfway met, he learned how to feed himself by using a spoon and drinking out of an open cup better than a three-year-old before he turned two. He is strong. He’s a fighter. He’s a survivor. He is not a tiny flower. He has some things to learn, but he isn’t as easily broken as I worry he is. Let’s give our kids some credit and not neuter them. If I baby that “ooshy gooshy squishy cute-faced” Bozi he will never learn the consequences of his actions. I’d rather him learn it now than in “juvie."

Everyone has input on parenting. Evvvveryone. People without kids have input on parenting. Daycare workers without kids have input on parenting. My 10-year-old loves to share her insight on my parenting (insert major eye roll here). Side note: I hate to say this, but if you aren’t a parent yet, I don’t want your input on parenting my newly-adopted child and no, knowing another two-year-old doesn’t qualify you. Just love me, tell me you are sorry it’s hard and to keep up the good work or don’t say anything. I know you mean well, but it’s just super irritating. That’s just real talk. I’m trying to teach this to my 10-year-old as we speak. She is full of great ideas. My family has ideas on parenting. The lady at Jason’s Deli staring at me while I correct my child as he is throwing food has opinions on my parenting. That guy at Walmart watching me try to high tail it out of there when Bozi decides to scream his head off and not listen probably has hearing problems now… and opinions on my parenting. Being a parent is hard enough. When you are also worried if people think you are too harsh or too easy on your kids or if you should’ve handled something differently you stop parenting the way you know should and it’s not their fault. You are just distracting yourself from the issue at hand…Your kid.

So here's what you do...

Do your research. Seek wise counsel. Consult others in similar situations. I have many adoptive friends. I am a member of four different groups on facebook of adoptive parents from Bulgaria and one from Colombia. They provide a wealth of experience, knowledge and wisdom that I can access at any time. They understand my struggles and are quick to respond with suggestions and advice. I agree with some of it, ignore other parts of it and use what is best suited for our family.

Don’t let fear freeze you from parenting. Trust your instincts and proactively parent that child. Ignore the evil looks you get from people in the stores. Disregard the commentary you hear on what they would do if they were your kid's parent. God chose you to parent your child. It’s your job, sooo...

Do your job. It’s not anyone else’s job to teach my kiddo how to thrive as a child, teenager or adult. They aren’t going to just learn good manners and proper behavior from children’s books. They won’t learn to how to treat others and set healthy boundaries unless I demonstrate that and teach them. And no kid is going to be able to humble themselves when they are wrong to say “I’m sorry” if parents don’t teach them to do so and model it for them, that’s another soap box. In a nutshell, don’t be afraid to BE the parent.

God gave me my little people and right now my main job is to help them grow into Christ-like, loving, compassionate big people who actually contribute to society. I will do my best to do that job. I am probably going to screw up some, have major off days, say I’m sorry one billion times and make plenty of mistakes, but My Chlo, Baby V and Boziboo will survive and probably turn out pretty OK.

Bozi therapy update: Obviously, we are working on some behavioral issues, but it is a work in progress. Bozi most recently learned to drink out of a straw thanks to his little friend Brady, which is HUGE and just makes my life less messy and easier. He is being seen for occupational therapy where we primarily work on chewing and fine motor skills. He sees a physical therapist to help continue develop his core muscles, strengthen his muscles in his legs, become a more stable walker, learn to jump and run. Most recently in physical therapy we learned he will need little orthotics for his ankles. We have an appointment with the Hanger Clinic for him to be fitted. This will help correct the alignment of his ankle bones with his legs. This will likely mean he progresses quicker with proper muscle development in his legs and the ability to walk better, run and jump. We will consider speech if he seems to need it, but for right now we are slowly adding new therapies as to not over-whelm him.

We are receiving his therapies through the CDSA the North Carolina Infant-Toddler Program. It is a state-based program based on the child's developmental needs. Every state has a program like this as far as I know. The fees for therapies are on a sliding scale based on our income. Going through this program means there are some hoops to jump through, but it is 100% worth it to receive the therapies at a cheaper rate, especially if your child needs multiple therapies. Adoption is not cheap and neither are multiple weekly therapy appointments. So, if you are adopting or just have a child with developmental issues look into your state-based program. They are amazing and so helpful. He is getting ready to age out at three-years-old and we will move into the school-aged program which will look a little bit different depending on his needs. His evaluation for that program is coming up next month. They will continue his therapies if he qualifies and have a preschool program specialized for children with developmental needs to help prepare them for school. The range of services that he receives will depend on his progress and development. Thank you for your continued prayers.



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Bozi's Christmas hat...if he wears it!
A couple of weeks ago I set out our nativity scene! I love it. It’s probably my favorite Christmas decoration, except for the singing and dancing tree that lights up and sings “O Christmas tree.” We all like to jam to that one. One might say it’s a tad less classy and spiritual, but it’s super fun. Anyway, My mother-in-law gave the nativity set to me years ago after she heard me mention I wanted one. It’s got all the “big names.” You know, it has the shepherds, the wise men, an angel, a donkey, a cow, a sheep, Mary, Joseph and of course, Baby Jesus. He is Bozi’s favorite. He walks to the edge of our dining room and points at the set with his cute little finger and says “Jssish.” I have to say, it’s pretty adorable. 

His second favorite piece is Joseph. I would love for this deep love to
be a result of a spiritual reason or connection to Joseph being an adoptive dad, but I’m pretty sure it’s just because of our morning FaceTime convos with his cousin, Joseph. He yells his name over and over when we look at the set. 

When I first set out the pieces I introduced them all to Bozi. I started with Jesus. I mean, He’s kind of a big deal. Then, I pointed out the animals complete with cool animal sounds. We talked about the shepherds, wise men, Mary and then I got to Joseph. I said, “This is Joseph, Jesus’ adopted daddy. Joseph adopted Jesus and loved him as his own son!”

I don’t know why that all came out. I knew those facts about Joseph, but I never identified him that way when I described him. I certainly don't know what happened after that. All of a sudden water was leaking from my the corners of my eyes and I barely could speak those last three words. The nativity came so close to my rapidly beating heart. Now, it was a mirror for my son—Jesus was adopted. Joseph’s role jumped out and smacked me in the face. Jesus was raised by a man that didn’t create him. He was loved by a regular guy who responded in obedience to God’s call to love and care for His son. He wasn't rich. He wasn't perfect, he was willing. You cannot celebrate the birth of our Lord and not celebrate adoption. If you miss that, you miss the whole point because it leads us to the next step. The step where God sacrifices to adopt us. That’s an important step. 

The nativity scene is a beautiful picture of adoption. A man loving someone else’s son and making him his own. 

I worry about Bozi. I worry he will not see how valued he is in our family simply because he doesn’t have the gorgeous Layne eyes or mommy’s transparent ghost-like skin. I worry he will classify himself as an orphan before he recognizes the truth, he is a nephew, cousin, little brother, a grandson and our chosen son. 

Then I look at how we all live. We all live as orphans. Selfish, hopeless, full of anxiety, seeking to preserve ourselves and have our needs met, no matter the cost. We live without hope, without a sense of value, without peace and we miss the fact we are “chosen.” 

We have to get rid of our orphan status. That no longer defines us as Christ-followers. We are not fatherless, we have a Father. We have value ascribed to us by His only son coming to earth to live, die and be raised from the dead. God paid dearly for our salvation through His son, Jesus. What about this story doesn’t scream adoption?

I’m so thankful to have a VIP to show Bozi his value. I can teach him his family arrangement isn’t super far off from Jesus’--minus the virgin birth part. Adoption is woven through the entire Gospel. You honestly can’t get away from it. 

Tonight as we started up the stairs Bozi started pointing at the nativity
set again. “Jssish, Jssish,” he yelled.  I pray he continues to call His name. I pray he talks to him when he wakes up, throughout the day and before nighttime. I pray the same way adoption permeates every part of the Gospel, Jesus permeates Bozi’s life.

As we went to bed, we said, “Night, Night Jssish.”


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"How are things going?"

I hear this in one form or another most every day. It's so nice having loving friends, many I don't see very often, who check in on me. I usually comment on Bozi, his attachment and obvious cuteness (duh), and the girls' continued adjustment.

Forget the child trauma issues of adoption for a minute, I'm back in adult trauma issues--aka Toddler World. The world where your super cute child poops in his diaper right before you walk out the door and maniacally laughs in your face because he definitely knows that for once you were leaving on time. Where the word "no" flows freely and it doesn't matter what language it's said in, the sentiment is effectively communicated. The season of your life when you have to fight to have time to take a shower and count yourself lucky if you walk out the door remotely "together." Where you cannot have a complete conversation with another human without 25 interruptions, much less remember where you left off in the discussion when it picks back up two years later when the kid is in preschool. The place where your child wants and expects you to meet every need / want / desire / whim / thought at the exact moment it occurs to them or they just might scream their heads off until they get to be teenagers. For moms, its the land were you are trying to keep up the pace you have been going prior to the super cute child, be everything to everyone and then are forced to semi-accept the fact you can't quite keep up.

I want to be a good mommy to Bozi. So, I make sure he gets lots of love, affirmation and encouragement. I set up playgroups for his social and emotional development. I go to storytime to encourage language acquisition. We teach him about Jesus and read Bible stories and sing songs to help him learn about God. He is starting occupational therapy. We have an evaluation in December for physical therapy and speech therapy is a future possibility. We want to give him every opportunity to grow and reach his full potential. But, I still have this intense desire to fulfill all his needs. Every time he cries, I want to pick him up. Every time he expresses a desire I want to fulfill it. I don't want him to feel any more loss than he already has felt. I don't know why I act like leaving the orphanage and the loss of his prior life was the last time in his life he will experience loss, an unmet need or pain. It's not even the last time he will deal with the loss of his biological family. It's not helpful for me to teach him he won't experience those feelings again, even if it's simply over getting a treat or holding him when he wants. I'm not promoting growth if I shield him from all pain rather than let him experience doses of it in a loving, healthy and safe environment. I'm not teaching him to have Jesus meet his needs when I am sweeping in to do it all.

I want to be a good mommy to Chloe and Violet. I don't want them to feel neglected or experience loss. Why it didn't occur to me that adding a member to our family would by default decrease the quantity of one-on-one time with each individual child, I have no idea. Math was never my strong suit. The kids won't grow emotionally if they don't experience some suffering and pain, even if it's as simple as not getting to sit by mommy at dinner every night. Why would I want to cripple them with the inability to handle pain and loss in a healthy way? Why would I want to train them to be so self-absorbed that they can't see when someone else has a need that requires our attention to have it met. I want them to grow to be strong, loving women of God, not 30-year-old self-centered adult-sized children who only look out for themselves and can't or won't attempt to see things from someone else's point of view. I want them to learn a healthy balance between taking care of themselves and taking care of others. I want them to see me filled with Christ and responding to Him in my life. What kind of example am I setting?

I want to be a good pastor's wife. I simply can't do what I have done in the past. I just have my hands full. I can't meet my family's needs and everyone else's needs and I truly want to. I've struggled with this balance our entire ministry life. A war goes on in my head of the needs I see around me, the people I want to meet with, the ministries I love to serve in and my own ideas of what I think I should be doing counteracted by what I am capable of doing. Pre-kiddos, half the time I ignored what I was capable of and forged ahead doing it all. It wasn't what I would call healthy, I was trying to do everything in my power, I was too busy doing for God rather than God living through me. God calls us to our family first. During this season, my focus is my family, but sadly I feel like I'm letting people down.

Add to the mix an unhealthy dose of perfectionism and people-pleasing and you've got a perfect storm.

There are two ways to go about this. Attempt to be and do everything and fail, or don't do anything and fail. I'm not a "do nothing" type, but this time around I can't do everything either. Obviously, neither is good, and both are self-focused.

So maybe there is a third way to go about this. Stop living for others--even my children (gasp!).  Allow Christ to live through me. Realize there is only one person who was ever perfect. Teach my children to seek Christ and to have their needs met by Him only, rather than external sources.

Let's be brutally honest, that's a tough to-do list. Whoever said giving up control is easy, which is what you are doing, is not right in the mind. It seems way easier just to try to do everything yourself, kind of like in school when there was a group project. Yeah, I was the girl you wanted in your group project because I would do it all--in my mind that's the only way it was going to get done right and receive a decent grade (perfectionism alert).

We succeed when we let God fulfill us, demonstrate that example to our children and teach them to seek Him first.

I look back over the past few Thanksgivings. I remember looking at the empty seat at the dinner table, wondering who would fill it. I remember looking up YouTube videos of kids in orphanages at Thanksgiving. I've used Black Friday as an opportunity to advertise upcoming fundraising opportunities to raise money. It's usually about the time I wrote my yearly love letter to our unknown child or children. I longed for the day to fill that seat, to see that face, to hold that hand and to give thanks for all God has done.

But, that's the kicker... All GOD has done, not Emily. God didn't call us to adoption, provide the resources to make it happen and entrust a child to me for me to be anything and everything to him--that wasn't even our original reason to adopt. Yes, we wanted to provide a home and family for a child, but a greater desire than that was to share God's love to a child and teach that child to passionately pursue Him. We wanted to live out the Gospel. We would not have a relationship with Christ if it wasn't for His sacrifice and God's adoption of us through Him.

So, this Thanksgiving I'm getting a little perspective and friendly reminders. Reminders of who I am
not and who He is. Perspective on my true capabilities. Just like I can't and shouldn't try to be everything to Bozi, I can't and shouldn't attempt to be everything to everyone else--that's Jesus' job.

This Thanksgiving, I know his name and I see his sweet face. This year, the chair is no longer empty.


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I read these words in a facebook post by another adoptive mom. It wasn't long after I read her post I was sitting with this little face in our porch swing. It had been a stellar day.

It started with the lady behind me in carline telling me my back tire was almost entirely flat, after filling it up with air to get me to a tire place, I ran home to make breakfast for the boy, while throwing away a bad egg I missed the trash can by an inch. Then I had to head to a doctor appointment we couldn't miss. I fed Bozi lunch in the doctor's office parking lot, then i had to take care of the tire. So, I ended up going to two different tire places just to be told at each (even when I called ahead) that the wait was significantly longer than what I had originally been told. Side note, can I just say getting a toddler in and out of the car repeatedly is incredibly stressful? I had totally forgotten that. I never did get the tire fixed, the boy missed a decent nap and slept for a whopping 30 minutes in the carline for pick-up and I finally headed home with two crazy hyper girls and a sleep-deprived, delirious 2-year-old. I could barely set him down to do anything without intense screaming once we got home. I was done.

The porch swing is his fav and I was all about a calming non-screaming experience so we headed out to the porch. We sat there swinging and I looked down--that first picture is what I saw. The boy has a sweet way of making the difficulty of the day and the stress that comes from a demanding two-year-old--AKA himself--just melt away with one big cheesy smile. I could've missed this. This moment, that smile, the sweet giggles, the screams that come with his frustration, the tears about problems I can't fix and the heart entrusted to me to love and care for.

At bedtime, Bozi was rocking. He rocks side to side to put himself to sleep. It's a common self-
soothing behavior in orphanages. The workers are unable to rock the children so the kids rock themselves.  It's not a gentle thing either; he thrusts himself from side to side. He won't let me touch him. So, I just stay with him so he knows I'm there. As I sat there watching I thought, what's it like to be truly alone? To not have anyone who belongs to you or you belong to, nothing that is yours and only yours. What does that do to a child? What does a room full of rocking children sound like? It has to be loud. Bozi rocking by himself is loud and a little unsettling. He rolled over, draped his arm across me (checking if I was there) and leaned calmly into my body with a deep breath of contentment. Again, I thought, I could've missed this.

Adoption is hard. Honestly, from the stories I've heard, this kiddo is doing pretty darn good. But, would it really matter if he had more challenges? No. What if we hadn't taken steps to adopt? What if God hadn't taken steps to adopt us? This wasn't an easy process, but all it takes is a willing heart. It's not easy, it's kind of lonely. People don't always get it and sometimes you get some weird looks when you describe your day or your experiences.

Hanging with V.
Life was pretty easy prior to Bozi. The girls were getting to the age of doing things on their own. Two kids aren't too many, so we can provide most of what they want (although we still haven't made it to Disney). Adding to your family through adoption isn't just about the thousands of dollars it requires to make the initial act happen, it adjusts your entire family's future. All of a sudden, there is a naptime, an earlier bedtime, one more mouth to feed, one more person with one more schedule, one more extra-curricular activity, one more set of friends, one more set of goals, one more seat in the car/airplane/vacation. At first glance I see that and it looks daunting, then I realize the only reason it's daunting is for superficial reasons. All I have to do is look at that sweet face and I realize those things don't matter. Comfort and ease should never supersede the life and future of a child. Then there is the task of loving and caring for a traumatized child. A child who doesn't operate like your bio kids or most standard kids. This is just the beginning for us. We've just gotten started. Things could get easier or worse. We want to adopt more children, again things could get easier or worse. We won't be able to "fix" their trauma, but in the words of another adoptive momma, we can help them carry it.

Bozi has been with us for over a month, but I have already learned so much. He is teaching us patience. I can't move as fast as I would like to and I can't do everything I'd like to do. Some things have to wait. I am learning patience in dealing with him. You cant't unlearn two years of behaviors in two months. You have to pick your battles. He is teaching us not to be selfish. It's hard to think about whether or not you get to do what you want when you see a little boy who is lost, scared and confused by everything around him. He has taught us not to be materialistic. We aren't rich. Honestly, most of our friends who adopt or are adopting aren't rich. This adoption was a paid for by a combination of some of our money, grants, financial support and fundraising. Adding to our family will change how and what we can do, but when I remember where he came from I realize there are way more important things than a trip to Disney. Our girls are learning compassion. They didn't want to learn that lesson, but they are learning it. Chloe has handled the transition well, but my Baby V has struggled since we've come home. Just this week, Violet started asking to change Bozi's diaper. So weird, because as much as she loves her little cousin (and there is A LOT of love there), Joseph, she never wanted to change his diaper. In fact, we always joked about it and she would usually freak out... I was a fun game. So, Violet asking to change Bozi's diaper was odd, but I let her. While she carefully changed him I asked her, "Violet, you never wanted to change Joseph's diaper. Why do you want to change Bozi's?" Her response went straight to my heart: "He's my brother." I literally cried.
He wanted to hold both their hands as we walked.

We could've missed this opportunity. Our lives would've gone on. His life would've been different, but we would've never known. We wouldn't know the sweet smiles we would miss, the hugs I get when he has been apart from me playing for a little bit, or the goofy personality that has all of us dramatically searching for cats and dogs. We would've missed all the lessons he has already taught us in such a short time. I can't teach compassion. It has to be learned. I can't become less selfish until my selfishness has a big spotlight shining on it and I see it. It's hard to be less materialistic without having a forced shift in my priorities. We would've been fine, but we wouldn't have been all that we could be.
We are growing as a family, not just numerically, but as individuals.
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What on Earth is he thinking?

Granted, this is not the first time I've wondered this about my children. Most people I know would love to spend an hour swimming around in Violet's head. Let's just say that child thinks waaay "out of the box." I can visibly see the wheels turning in Chloe's head and I know it's not just about unicorns and rainbows. She's probably figuring out the most efficient way to structure her day, solve world hunger and become president.

The other day I watched Bozi look out the front window. He just stood there and stared. He soaks up everything. He watched the cars that randomly drove by, looked at the plants and checked out the structure of the window frame--probably making sure it is stable (as most two-year-olds do). I don't know if the windows were low enough at the orphanage for him to look out, maybe this is the first time he has been able to do that. Maybe his crib was against a wall and not on the window side of the room. Maybe there weren't many windows. I never actually saw his room. I planned to ask, but on the day we picked him up little details like that were far from my mind. I didn't ask a lot of things I probably should've.

While I read to him at bedtime and naptime he doesn't always look at the books. Many times, he rolls against me, his body facing mine, sucking on his finger, looks up and looks so deeply into my eyes. Sometimes he is waiting for me to smile at him, so he can smile back and giggle, other times I feel like he's searching my face for answers.

Are you going to stay?
What am I doing here?
Why are you so white? (no, I haven't shown him Mean Girls)
Will I go back to where I was?

Well, I don't know that a two-year-old has all that going through his head, but it goes through mine. I do know the feelings and sense of insecurity associated with those questions are felt by him. I see those in his little face sometimes and can tell by his behavior. As he goes to sleep, if he is not against me, he reaches out to touch me in some way. Sometimes, it's holding his hand, his feet propped on me, his whole body leaning over my stomach, just leaning up against me or his leg thrown over mine.

Just so you know, I took a shower today, my kids have matching (ish) clothes on and have eaten. So, in my mind, I'm basically killing it right now, ha. As we drive to our home we pass many homes that were flooded. Possessions are in big piles on the side of the road. This is just one example in a line of homes on the street. I feel so grateful and guilty at the same time. Everyone around us has something going on in their lives right now, whether it's transition, major hurricane damage, illness or in my case, adoption. I am happy major hurricane damage is not on my list. As I watch and try to help my friends who are dealing with the results of the hurricane, I wish it wasn't on their list either. In fact, I'm still collecting donations for a friend who lost their home here.

Life is not "back to normal." It's a new normal in many ways. Wilmington is recovering, but it will take time. It's weird seeing signs in front of stores letting people know new hours, whether or not there is a full menu or if it is closed until further notice. Last week, Bojangles didn't have fried chicken, they only had chicken supremes--that's just messed up. Two weeks ago grocery stores weren't completely stocked. One business will be struggling and another place just next door will be business as usual. As far as at home, we still are working on his attachment to me, Kevin and the girls. Bozi is getting there. He's letting Kevy and the girls hold him here and there. He crawled to Kevin and reached for him at least twice this week so far. The girls are working through the adjustments of adding a new family member. It's been fairly difficult for them. Bozi still has the same behaviors as last week, but they are reducing a little and I have a better grip on my brain. He only had a couple screaming fits this week where only I could console him, which is a major improvement from last week. This is a process, whether you are in the paperwork phase or the home phase.

When the girls turned a year old, Kev and I wrote letters for them to read when they got older. To
both of my girls I wrote about my desire for them to have compassion and love for others. It's something I've wanted to teach and instill in them. They have learned to serve others, they reach out to friends who are hurting, they love on people who are lonely and reach out to the new kids. For all practical purposes and compared to most, bragging mom over here, I've got some pretty sweet girls. Through this process of coming home with Bozi I've realized some things. Compassion is easy when it's on your terms and the child you are adopting is a cute picture or a Skype call once a week. But, true compassion isn't centered around us or our schedule, it's centered around another individual and their needs. This is the type of compassion I prayed for them to have years ago. It is not the easy kind that I just listed out examples of. I wanted them to have the type of compassion where they were OK if it cost them something. So far their "easy" compassion skills have gotten them pats on the back, approval from teachers and other parents and good feelings from their friends. Learning to have compassion for their new brother is a whole different ballgame. It's costing them to add him to the family, that applies in any situation. It costs them time with us, changes in our routine and changes in our schedule. The difference is it's not like an infant who sleeps most of the day and lets you adjust slowly to the new norm. We crash-coursed with a one-nap-a-day kid who is awake 99% of the time they are at home, thinks the girls' toys are cool to throw, wants mommy all to himself and cries a lot. It's hard. They are adjusting. We are all adjusting, but it is slow. They are gaining a lot as well. They are gaining a sweet little boy who will hopefully love them to death one day and drive them nuts, like any little brother should. They are gaining a deeper understanding of how love, compassion and sacrifice go hand-in-hand. Pray for our Chloe and Violet. Pray for wisdom for us as parents and pray for our Bozi.

We visited the pediatrician this week. Our pediatrician is ahhh-mazing. She adopted boys from Russia and took her time with Bozi and me. Trying to get a clear picture of the situation he came out of at the orphanage helps shed light on the accuracy of their records. We talked about immunizations. She said sometimes parents choose to start over with immunizations because the reports don't look accurate and other times we can do a blood test to see if they've actually had them. She discussed all of our concerns and we set up an appointment in a couple of weeks. She needed time to review the files I gave her and I need to set up an evaluation with the Children's Developmental Services Agency (CDSA) of the Cape Fear office of the NC Department of Health and Human Services.


The CDSA will evaluate Bozi next week and determine what where he is developmentally and type of therapies he will need. Our pediatrician thinks he will need speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy. I'm anxious to get the ball rolling. Bozi took his first steps on his own yesterday. He had taken a few steps at the orphanage, but since we have had him with us he has only held hands and walked or crawled. It was so exciting. He was so proud. He giggled, smiled so big and wouldn't stop walking until he was physically exhausted. Some sweet friends who brought us dinner were able to witness the big show.

That's the general excitement around here. We are still cocooning in our own way, sticking close to home, doing a couple short trips out to places like the grocery store or the park to help Bozi adjust to being around people and in different environments. We are the primary people that hold him, feed him and meet his needs. Even once we begin venturing out more, this part will remain consistent. We pray he develops a healthy attachment to us. He spent 24 hours every day of his entire life in the same room, with the same faces and the same routine. Just going out of the house is kind of a big deal. We are trying to remain in environments we can control for this season. We are keeping a stable schedule for him so he knows what to expect as he gets comfy.

It's a new norm and it's pretty cool. I look around the house and see the different kiddo toys strewn all around. I see his sweet face when he gets super excited to eat dinner and smiles so big. I watch the girls get so excited to talk to him, see him in the morning and after school. They give him kisses until he starts pushing them away. I wonder what he would be doing and how things would be different if he weren't a part of our lives. What if we never pursued this path? I'm so glad that "what if" isn't even an option. I'm thankful Bozi is finally home and a part of our family. I'm thankful my girls will come out of this stronger, with a greater understanding of God's love and a deeper compassion for others. Much like my Bozi, those qualities do not come easy, but they are so worth it.

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