Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Little Piece of Our Reality

Sometimes true reality doesn't fit nicely into words.

I think about y'all everyday. All you lovely folks who've supported us so fiercely these last few years. Hanging on every word and every picture, loving us, giving of yourselves for us, even some of you we've never met.

I don't mean to leave you hanging. Wouldn't it be great if we could sit down for a cup of coffee together? Maybe at our place, in case there are tears, and so we can enjoy the quiet that comes only after two active little people have fallen asleep for the night.

Since we're gathering here from far and wide, and since I've not yet found my new normal (for real though, it's got to be coming soon), and because honestly, time for a coffee date might not be in my near future, I'm gonna give this whole *writing my thoughts down* thing a try.

Side note: I'm drinking a big old cup of chai tea. Maybe you want to break and grab a warm cup of [fill in the blank] and when you come back we'll chat. I promise this will be the most jumbled conversation you've ever had with me here. I 'm afraid that's all I got today. Forgive me.


How's Tony? Is he loving life in his new family?

You know, Tony rocked that first week in Bulgaria. Michaela and I paused several times to say to one another, "This is almost too easy..." And it was. He was calm, content, affectionate, and loving every minute of his new life. Exploring the city? No problem. Living in a hotel? Super awesome. Adult to child ratio 2:1, yes, please! Three plane rides, long layovers, waiting in line over and over again? He didn't really mind.

Home has brought a new set challenges. I weaned Tony off a med he was taking for ADHD because, well, he's not ADHD. But, that med may have been taking the edge off of his anxiety. This last month and a half, he's been experiencing a full range of emotions as I assume he is grieving his old life and growing accustomed to a new one. He's testing every boundary and he's testing me. The question I think is often on his mind is..."Will you still love me if I...(this is different by the day)" There's anger and uncertainty and anxiety, all of which I trust God can heal. But it took nearly 15 years for such pain to build up in his little heart. I can't, and don't expect that he will be healed overnight.

There are a few things I'm discovering he loves, though. He has a stuffed puppy that lights up and sings. It is a great comfort to him. He LOVES to play the piano. He could sing "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" and "If You're Happy and You Know It" all day. I mean allllllllll day. And the boy can dance.

Let's see, what else about Mr. Tony? Ooh, yes! He is brilliant. Like beyond brilliant. And actually I think that explains so much of his pain. He has an acute awareness of his surroundings. He watches and listens and notices everything. He's already learning how to sign. And he can feed himself. And, he has on several occasions gone potty in the toilet. These are all things he's learned just since coming home! However, as I'm learning how to love him, and trying to win his heart (Oh, I have so much more to learn) I'm sure now that I need to back off of trying to teach him and just focus my efforts on trying to love him well. That'll be the springboard for all he'll be able to accomplish in the future.

I think all that teaching is the reason he and I got off to a bit of a rough start in those first weeks home. I was noticing all he was capable of. "He can feed himself! Well, let's work on that." "He woke up dry! Quick, run to the potty!" "He can sign! Say 'please', Tony. Can you say 'more'?" In my mind I just kept thinking about all the years of his life that were completely wasted. Thrown away. And I had this driving desire to win back all he'd lost. And in doing so, I kind of lost myself and all I know about attachment parenting. He has so much healing to do. I need to meet those most basic needs before I can teach him anything. Our relationship needs to come first. So, I'm back to feeding him and I'm backing off of potty training and signing, for the most part. We're also experimenting with essential oils and they really seem to be working. They're not the solution to healing his hurt. Only God can do that. But God seems to be using them as a small piece of the puzzle and I'm thankful to have found them.

We've had several doctor appointments so far and I am happy and grateful to report that Tony is surprisingly and miraculously quite healthy. His echo was perfect, his x-rays looked great, his bone age is 9 (incredible, seriously, considering his history), his blood work: better than expected. He did test positive for H. Pylori and just finished his first round of medication for that. He's continues to struggle with vomiting and diarrhea, but that could be from the antibiotics. He's been to the dentist, too, and just followed up with a dental surgery yesterday, which leads me to the most crazy news yet...he had no cavities! What?! All of the big black "holes" the green/gray/rotten looking color of his teeth, his bleeding gums, the terrible, awful was all calculus. That nasty, smelly stuff built up over the last 15 years and probably protected his teeth. The dentist said calculus is very uncomfortable and his mouth probably felt like it was filled with splinters. So, though his mouth was probably sore when he woke up (he had 7 baby teeth pulled), it still probably feels better than it has in a very long time.

How about a Sam update? What does she think of her new brother?

Can I just say that Sam is a rockstar? I don't mean to brag (except that I do), but she is just the most incredible little joy baby you'll every meet. She exudes happiness as she bounces around our house, taking her balloon for a walk, opening every drawer to search for treasures, drumming on every surface, each move she makes is music.

I couldn't stop laughing a few days ago when she emerged from her room where she'd been playing. She walked through the living room, pulled stuff off of every surface she could reach and casually threw it behind her, coughed twice, pulled a long red ribbon out of her mouth and then walked back out of the room. Haha, what? She cracks me up.

Parent teacher conferences were last week, and Sam's teacher and I both teared up talking about how far she's come, how special she is. My favorite quote from Mrs. Smith, her sweet new first grade teacher- "I hope you never worried about how the other students would treat Samantha at school, because they all love her. And they're not babying her, either. They are really friends." She went on to describe how she's had to ask the other first graders not to rush the door when Sam comes in the room, everyone eager to greet her. "That might overwhelm, Samantha," she tells them. And so the solution is that students take turns. And whoever is the class helper for the day gets to walk right over to Sam's desk and and say hello. They also get to ride along with her in the elevator when they go to specials. Several students enjoy taking turns reading to Sam, and two little girls, who I adore, claim Samantha as their best of friends.

Sam has just taken off, and it is completely a God thing. Actually, even before I left to pick up Tony, she was developing an independent streak. She just knows what she wants and doesn't often need help doing it. Now, I still take care of all of her feeding/hygiene needs and such, but as far as keeping busy, Sam is just full of fun ideas all day, moving from this toy to that instrument, from this trouble to that mischief. It's beyond amazing. I had to put a baby gate up in the bathroom doorframe because she learned how to turn the doorknob and was, several times a day, helping herself into the bathtub and treating herself to a bath with clothes on. (Well, short baths. Just long enough for mom to hear the water and ruin her fun.)

Sam likes her new brother. I thought she'd be the jealous one, for sure, but she is gracious to share her toys and her mom with Tony. More than once she's taken my hand and placed it on her brother. So generous, that girl! Tony is still not so sure about Sam. He had to compete for adult attention at the orphanage and still seems to view Sam as a threat. I've been forcing the together time issue and hope that one day very soon Tony will realize the friend he has in Sam.

How are you adjusting to being a mother of two? Is everything what you expected?

You know, I went into this adoption knowing it was going to be hard. I've been preparing people around me for a long time that things were going to be rough for a few months, maybe a year. Maybe forever. Taking Tony's age into account, and what I know of his history, it just made sense that this transition would not be easy. I was right. The thing is though, you can know that things are going to be hard. You can read the books, gather advice, set up your home...all of those things helpful. But you'll never be prepared for hard. Not really. I wasn't prepared for this, but I can't say that's a bad thing. I can already feel a tension brewing in me. Or maybe its a leaning in. I need the Lord right now. His nearness is my biggest desire. What more can a person need than a constant reminder of their need for Him. Life is hard, regardless, right? We all feel it, the world getting uglier by the day? I needed Tony to remind me to lift my head. Stop distracting myself. To bow my knee. I need him. We need HIM.

Well, y'all, it's getting late. I'm out of tea, and I bet you are, too. Maybe we ought to call it a night. Let's do this again soon, though, huh?

More to come.

Lots of love to all of you.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


When I asked people to pray for Tony, that God would prepare his heart, that he would be ready...

I confess I wasn't sure it would happen.

I just knew, after almost 15 years in that place, without a family, without love or home, family, security, or anything that was his, without any of the comforts we're accustomed to that give us strength to go out and face the world each day...

That he may be afraid. That he might be hesitant leaving his familiar and entering the unknown.

But praise be to God, I was wrong. He was ready.

This boy of mine jumped into my arms and held on for dear life. He was uninterested in saying too many goodbyes, quite literally pulling me by the hand to the front door. Let's get out of here, mom!

It's been six long months since I've seen this kid, and I promise you he remembered. He absolutely knew his mama was coming back for him.

Isn't this photo awesome? I should caption it, "Thank you God! You never forgot about me!"

He loved loved loved his new clothes. He tugged at his shirt throughout the day, kind of waving it around as if to say, "Look at my new shirt!" He was so proud. And guess what?! His new shoes fit just right.

We walked down the stairs...

Said one last goodbye to the new director of the orphanage...

And quite literally did not look back.

He was such a big boy, sitting in his booster car seat.

He was nervous when we started driving. His body went a little stiff and he was shaking, but he got the hang of it pretty quickly.

Especially once the snacks came out. He ate some squeezy fruits off of mommy's finger.

And then relaxed all the way to the hotel. For most of the ride he was holding my hand on one side and Michaela's on the other.

When we finally arrived at the hotel, he had another snack and then we settled in for some quiet time.

Oh does this boy love to cuddle!

He showed mommy and Michaela how he can stack rings! Well a few anyway, and then he decided he'd rather throw the rings and cuddle some more.

I also asked y'all to pray that Tony would be able to get out of the hotel and enjoy the city without fear. Well we got out a bit on that first day and he enjoyed taking it all in. Here's his first trip to the grocery store!

He's had many other firsts since then that I can't wait to share. But here's one more I can't resist.

He met his sister for the first time!

They both loved visiting with one another! Sam kept giggling, and Tony wanted closer and closer to the screen, even laying his head on the table to be closer yet.

Here we are all together for the first time!

Thank you all so very much for your love and prayers. God is answering every one of them and then some. All is most certainly well here in Bulgaria.

And for any of you back home, if you see my Sammer girl today, wish her a Happy Gotcha Day! Its been two incredible, life-changing years with her. My best years yet. She made me a mommy for the first time, and I couldn't love that title any more. Can't wait to squish her in just a few more days. Love you so much, Samantha Love!

Here's my princess yesterday on her first day of first grade!!
Lots of love to all of you.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Getting Closer

Tony, it's finally time!

Mommy's on her way to get you.

I love these pictures of you walking toward me. I look at them and picture you making your way down that hall one last time.

One. Last. Time.

On Monday morning when you step out of that elevator, I'll be there waiting.

I'll bring a handsome new outfit for you to wear. And new shoes! I hope they fit.

And even though you're my big boy, I'll scoop you up and carry you down those big front steps. We'll wave goodbye for good. We won't look back.

Oh I cannot wait to share this big, big world with you. I hope you're ready! I've been praying that you might be able to enjoy your first week of freedom, exploring your home country for the very first time.

There are parks to be played in, and there's sunshine to soak up. Maybe we'll find a toy store. Or try eating in a restaurant. Maybe, if you're up to it, we'll do some site seeing. I can't wait to see what you think of it all.

Tony, you don't know it quite yet, but your mommy loves you like crazy. I think you are the cutest, smartest, bravest, sweetest little man.

And your sister? Well, she doesn't know it yet, but I think she's really gonna love you, too. You guys are going to be great friends. (Don't worry if it takes a little while for her to warm up to you. She's a mommy's girl, but she'll figure this whole sister thing out...eventually.)

See you soon, my little buddy. Forever starts in just two more sleeps.

Fundraising update!

For all of your who responded so generously to our last minute plea for help with funding, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. We have almost reached our goal! So far, we've raised $2,307 of the $3,000 needed to fund our trip. If you'd still love to help bring Tony home, I have a sweet little offer to share with you. An online friend has offered up this hand-stitched quilt as a giveaway for one lucky donor. So, for the next two days, until I pick up Tony, anyone who makes a donation of $5 or more toward Tony's ransom will be entered to win. Just comment below when you donate. 

This fleece rag quilt measures approximately 84x50 inches
and would be a perfectly adorable addition to any kid's bedroom. Love it!


Prayer requests!

My friend, Michaela, and I would sure covet your prayers this week.

Our church is all wearing these bracelets while we're gone as a reminder to pray. They'll be praying over a list of requests we prepared. We'll lay those same requests before you. Thank you so much for journeying with us.
  • For protection from the enemy before, during and after our trip. For us, our families and everyone we love.
  • For our travels, that angels would surround and protect us as we fly, that we will make all of our connecting flights and arrive on time, as we will pick up Tony first thing the next morning. 
  • For the safety and care of our children while we are away. Pray especially for Samantha as she will have her first week of 1st grade while I am away and for Levi who has never been away from his mom for this long.
  • For our hearts as we enter the orphanage, see waiting children, and have to leave them behind. For the children who wait, that God would be near and that He would come to their rescue.
  • For Tony's adjustment as he leaves the only home he's known for 14 years and experiences love for the first time. For his healing emotionally, physically, spiritually.
  • That Tony will be willing and able to eat, drink and sleep during our week in the hotel. That his body will be able to handle the change in environment and that he will not need medical intervention before we get home. 
  • That Tony will be able to leave the hotel during our week and get our and enjoy some fresh air and new experiences.
  • For Tony during our travel home, please pray for God's peace to quiet his heart and allow him to rest.
The next time you hear from me I'll be on the other side of the world. Here we go!

Lots of love to all of you.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tony is...

That tiny, sweet boy of mine. Oh, how I LOVE him!

He is silly.

He is hilarious, and he knows it.

He is attentive.

He is weird, like his mom. Ha!

He is all boy! My little man.

He gives the best hugs!

He gets me. And I get him.

He will be a terrific big brother.

Because he knows how to love.

He can definitely hold up his end of the conversation.

Oops. Looks like he's a little ticklish!

He can't get enough kisses from his mommy. It's not possible!

He has the sweetest little voice you can imagine.

He's a complete monkey baby, just like his little sister.

He's our missing piece.

And soon, so very very very soon, he will be home!!!

My friend, Michaela, and I will be boarding a plane to Bulgaria in less than two weeks. In less than two weeks I'll be breaking my little guy out and bringing him home!

But before I can do that, before we can go...we could use your help once again.

A couple months ago I had thought we were just about fully funded. I stopped fundraising, as I knew gifts would continue to trickle in and I didn't want to ask for more than we needed.

But, since that time, with the counsel of a few wise friends, I made the decision to bring a friend along with me on this trip. Tony's been in a bad place for a long time, and this could potentially be a difficult week for both of us. We may need the extra hands, and the company of a friend who loves us can only help.

Additionally, plane tickets are through the roof expensive right now. I used my credit card today to book our flights, and for the three of us the cost was $5,209.67.

On top of those larger expenses, there was also a miscommunication somewhere along the way, and the TB test that we were told Tony would not need (because of his age), he does need. Another $260.

We received a couple of generous gifts from friends this weekend, for which we are so, so thankful. Unexpected gifts, and blessings of encouragement. Thank you (you know who you are)!

We're not too far off, really, but could use your help just the same. My hope and prayer is that the Lord would provide another $3,000 to help cover the cost of our travel expenses. Will you prayerfully consider helping to bring Tony home? Or helping to spread the word about our need? We appreciate it more than you know.

On the righthand side of this blog there are two working donation buttons where you can give electronically. If you donate through Reece's Rainbow, your donation will be tax deductible. A small percentage of your gift is taken by Paypal if you give in either of these ways. If you would love to send a check instead, let me know in the comment section and I'll get our address to you.

I can't wait for you all to meet this brave, spunky, precious, one of a kind little guy.

Lots of love to all of you.