WE ARE GOING TO CHINA!!

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On Monday of this week our Article 5 paperwork was picked up from the consulate in Guangzhou.  We had officially completed all of the steps and were waiting for China to grant us travel approval.

For some reason the travel approval wait is haaaard.  Even though it is generally short, usually under a week, something about it being the VERY LAST STEP makes it a little excruciating.

Last week we saw a few people get TA after two days.  I was convinced that we would get ours Wednesday.  Our caseworker generally calls early in the morning when there is any kind of news (they are an hour ahead of us), so I started anticipating her call around 7:30am.  By 10:00 I knew that Wednesday wasn’t our day.

So I was CERTAIN that it would be Thursday.  I woke up Thursday morning and kept my phone close.

Again.  No call.

Mentally I resigned myself to Friday.  Friday would be our day.  As long as we didn’t have to wait through the weekend!  I went about my day and headed out for some Spring Break fun with the kids.

Mid-afternoon I missed a call from a number I didn’t recognize, then immediately after that I got a text from our caseworker, Amanda.  She was home with a sick baby boy and had been notified by the office that we had in fact gotten TA that day!

After all of the waiting, the pain of the unknowns, the struggle of watching to see if God would provide, it was all over in an instant.  No more steps.  No more delays.  We are finally fully cleared to bring our son home.

Our agency submitted our choices for our Consulate Appointment, the appointment at the Consulate in Guangzhou the second week of the trip in order to secure Isaiah’s visa.  Last night as we slept we got an email with a confirmed Consulate Appointment, which is the determining factor of when exactly we will travel.

We leave Friday, April 7th and we will meet Isaiah on Monday, April 10th.  Russell will fly home on Easter Sunday and after adventuring in China by ourselves for a few days, on Friday, April 21st Isaiah and I will make our way back to Houston.  Family of six!

We are coming, Isaiah!!

MudLOVE!

Many months ago, in the thick of fundraising for our adoption, I applied to be a fundraising family with MudLOVE. One day in early January, I almost emailed them to stop our upcoming campaign. Through the provision of God and the generosity of others, this adoption was fully funded! I felt the Holy Spirit telling me to pause and a few hours later my husband was laid off.

Although we are THRILLED that Russell started his new job today, we have occurred unexpected costs in updating our home study and filing updated paperwork to US Immigration along the way. In addition, because of our travel delay we will now be in China during the trade fair that happens every April, which will mean higher flight and hotel costs.

Today we are kicking off our MudLOVE campaign to fill in the gaps. 50% of the proceeds from the products we designed will go towards our adoption and every purchase of a MudLOVE product provides clean water for a week for an individual in the Central African Republic.  I own one of these bracelets and they are beautiful!

The link to our fundraising page is: https://www.mudlove.com/collections/fundraiser-marketplace/products/king-family-adoption?variant=37675372303

We are so grateful for the support of so many!

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Back in business

We are officially moving forward again!!  We had quite the week last week.

After a month of our adoption being paused, last Tuesday our Supplement/home study update to USCIS was approved.

On Wednesday Russ accepted a new job.

On Thursday we received the email we have been waiting for from the National Visa Center.

On Monday our Article 5 paperwork was dropped off in China.  The consulate in Guangzhou is now going through all of the immigration documents to prepare for our appointment during the adoption trip.

The Article 5 will be picked up on Monday, March 13 and we will officially be waiting for TRAVEL APPROVAL.

I think because we had been paused for so long, the end felt very far away for a while.  Now we are thinking we will travel in just over a month and I am all kinds of not ready.  Time to start making packing lists!

Also, because it is just so ridiculously cute, our baby boy engaging in some water therapy.

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Not lacking anything

It’s been 6 weeks since Russ was laid off.

In so many ways, we have experienced so much goodness over the past 6 weeks.

We have seen God provide.  In big ways and small ways, He has financially taken care of us.  He has used people, opportunities to make extra money, and even random checks in the mail to sustain us and lift the burden of finances.

It has been a joy to spend so much time with my best friend.  Even in the midst of unpleasant circumstances, there is no one on this earth that I would rather spend time with than Russell King.  We have laughed together, we have dated each other more, we have cleaned the house together and marveled at how much daily sweeping these kids necessitate.  We have ate more meals together and prayed more together and had fun with our kids.  It has been a gift to have 6 weeks of time with my husband with less stress of life.

I’ve watched my husband have a renewed passion and depth in his relationship with the Lord.  I’ve watched him begin to build new relationships and deepen relationships that spur him on in his relationship with God.  He is a great man, a faithful man.  It has been beautiful for me to see at the core of who he is, when things don’t go his way, his response is to press into the Lord.  I have been reminded in the past 6 weeks that marrying Russ was one of God’s greatest provisions in my life, many times in ways that are still being revealed to me.

Him being home has lifted some burden from me.  I would not trade the past two years for anything, but as he has given me some margin with his everyday presence, I have realized that there has been a lot of wear on me.  More than I had realized.  Navigating the adoption process, fundraising, traveling to China, bringing Elliott home, walking through her adjustment, saying yes again, doing it all over.  Over the past 6 weeks, as Russ has been home full-time and has shared more of the burden of everyday life, childcare, and getting kids where they need to go, I have been able to be quiet.  To process.  To have space to do something other than function in all the roles that I function in.  As I have done so, I have felt some of the strain of the past few years melt off of me.

I have been learning how to make the choice to be vulnerable.  Not vulnerable behind the screen of my computer, but really vulnerable.  I have been learning that I don’t always have to be the one to fix other peoples’ problems.  In the middle of this moment where lots of things have been unknown for us, I could let people love me.  I can let people minister to me.  I can let people see where I am hurt and scared.  I could be prayed for.  And it really will be okay.

And finally, I have been learning how to endure.  I read a quote sometime in the past month or so.  It simply said “Try staying open when you want to shut down.  It changes everything.” My tendency is to retreat.  When things feel overwhelming, when it is hard, when it hurts.  M&M’s and the quiet corner of my room have been my haven many times over the past few years when I just couldn’t deal.  And when I can’t physically retreat, my tendency is to live behind the closed doors of my own mind.  As I read this quote and made a determination to try and walk this thing out by faith, I found that staying open is hard.  It meant that I had to trust God to help me endure in ways that felt a little beyond me.  It meant choosing to live in the middle ground sometimes, where I acknowledged that I had more questions than answers and was honest with God about not knowing how to navigate that.  I have been learning that I can withstand and stay open, to God and the people around me, in ways I did not know.

But in the midst of all of these good things, beautiful things, that we have experienced in the 6 weeks since Russ was laid off, we have very much been living in the tension of waiting.  It has been a hard place for a mom who at her core already feels like the little boy across the world is her own.

Immediately after he was laid off we began the process of talking to our agencies about updating our home study.  The bottom line at this point is that our paperwork has already been processed through China, so any changes that are made only effect US Immigration, who processes Isaiah’s future citizenship and the visa he needs to enter the country when we bring him home from China.

The steps that happen at this stage in the adoption process build on one another:

You get I8oo approval from US Immigration (USCIS)

They forward that approval to the National Visa Center

The NVC issues you a GUZ number, which allows you access to fill out an online application for an immigrant visa.

The NVC then forwards your information to the consulate in Guangzhou, China.  This is where we will ultimately have Isaiah’s appointment during the adoption trip.

You get an email from the NVC saying they have forwarded all your information.  The agency needs this email in order to drop all the rest of your paperwork off at the consulate (this is called Article 5).

The consulate takes 2 weeks to process the paperwork.

You then wait to be granted travel approval.

In order for us to qualify to bring Isaiah in under an immigrant visa, we needed to show that we had income at 125% of the poverty level for a family of 6.  Within a few weeks Russ had secured a very part-time online teaching gig that put us just over that number.

I had a grand plan when he was first laid off that we would be able to time all of this just right.  The ball would keep rolling and while we were in the 2 week Article 5 wait, US Immigration would be processing our updated information.  We would do all the steps we need to and still stay on track for end of February or beginning of March travel.

So it was unbelievably disheartening when our US Immigration officer informed us that he would have to contact the National Visa Center and tell them to pause our case until our home study update and supplement to our immigration paperwork was approved.

That was the middle of January.  Since that point, we have watched the days tick by knowing that we are losing weeks with our son.

This past week at our staff meeting at church we were talking about how we approach stress in our lives.  At our most honest with ourselves, when we look at our response to stress in our lives, what role do we allow the Holy Spirit to play in comforting and effecting us in our stress?

We went around the table and talked about how this looks for us and what scriptures we tend to gravitate towards for comfort.  I shared 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 with the group.  For many years, I have read this chapter regularly in times of pain or stress, particularly these last few verses.

That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.  For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!  So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

So the point is, we take our gaze off the problems and we put our gaze on the things, the One, that is eternal.

As I have reflected on this Scripture over the past week, I realized that over the past 6 weeks I have been attempting to do this, but I have been going about it the wrong way.

I have believed that these troubles weren’t the end.

I have believed that God was writing a bigger story here.

I have believed that if I walk this out by faith I will see Him do something amazing.

But I have also believed the miracle will come in the form of everything coming together just right, everything making sense, us understanding the “why” behind everything.  Why did Russ have to get laid off?  Why does our travel have to be delayed?

I have believed that God could bring all of these fragments of our story together to give us this big climax where everything is wrapped up nice and neatly.  And everything would just make a whole bunch of sense.  After all, that was having faith, right?  That was looking at the things I couldn’t see, yes?

Because isn’t that how God gets glory?  Doesn’t He show off and do big things and make things work out just so.  And in THAT His name is made famous?

As I realized all of this, I realized I was limiting God to not much more than a creator of fairy tales.  Some sort of puppet master.  A writer of romantic comedies.  If all I need is for Him to work everything out just perfectly, there’s no need for a relationship.  I could just sit back and watch the show.  I felt like maybe God was telling me that the point of all of this wasn’t some big elaborate spectacle.

So what is this point then?  If there is a bigger story being written here, shouldn’t the end result blow my mind?

A few days ago, the Lord led me to James 1.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

I realized that maybe the point of this is not for the fanfare.  Maybe it’s not be for the perfectly timed everything.  Maybe the point isn’t to see God pull everything out just in the nick of time and eventually understand how all the puzzle pieces fit together.

Maybe the point is me.

Maybe the point is that, through faith, I am changed by this.  I can look back over some hard things in my life and point to a common thread – as I have walked through hard things and trusted God, He has changed me.  It’s not a new concept for me to understand.

But for some reason, it felt like a lightning bolt to realize it in the middle of this hard moment.

As I was processing through all of this and asking God for clarity, I felt like He shined a flashlight on some areas of my life and heart that He has touched over the past 6 weeks.  Perseverance.  Staying open.  Being vulnerable.  Bending but not breaking.  Renewal.  Choosing faith.

We are expecting to hear about our approval any day.  Russell has some solid job prospects at this point.  There is a part of us that would love some resolution and answers to these questions we have been asking.  The weight of waiting for our son is hard.  That doesn’t really ever end for me.

But we are making a choice to live right in the middle of this place for as long as it lasts.  In my devotional this morning it said “trust protects you from worrying and obsessing”.  I am choosing to believe that God is going to pull this out, for sure, but that I am not just riding out the storm.  I am being changed by it.

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The miracle can happen now

It’s no secret that music and words are significant to me.  For as long as I have known God and walked with Him I have often heard His voice and connected to Him through music.

When we brought Elliott home and throughout the spring of 2016, I spent many, many hours with her strapped to my chest in a carrier.  When I didn’t know how to make things better for her and was overall inadequate to meet her needs, she could often be soothed by being worn in a toddler carrier snugly against me.  Often, we would drop Campbell and Bennett at school in the morning and go for a walk.  So many days she and I walked and walked – just me and my earbuds and my Chinese baby girl strapped to my chest.

I don’t remember the first time I listened to this, but once I did I must have listened to it hundreds of times.  For many steps that turned into many walks that turned into many miles, I was claiming this for her life.  From defeat to victory.  From sorrow to joy.  From bondage to freedom.  From mourning to dancing.  The miracle can happen now.  The evidence is all around.  The Spirit of the Lord is here.

Over and over again we walked and I spoke these words over her.  Over her hard beginning.  Over her sadness.  Over the fear and the trauma that consumed a lot of our life for those months.  Over her future.

In a time where I was often exhausted, often overwhelmed, not sure how or what to pray and felt powerless, I needed this Truth to guide my prayers for her.

As time went by and we began to see little pieces of this girl’s heart transform at some point I didn’t have to desperately claim this over her anymore.  I began to see healing in ways that exceeded my expectations.  In ways that have overwhelmed me and brought me to my knees over and over again.  I saw life begin to flow through her.  Before my eyes she began to physically change from an orphan to a daughter who demonstrated that she knew she was loved.  At some point I stopped needing to desperately claim it over her because I could see the Lord answering my prayers and working it all out in her.

And then I began to claim some of it for myself.

“We’re not waiting on a move of God, we are a move of God”.

I began to evaluate all these things in the context of my heart.  What was the “little bit of faith” that we needed?  How did this apply to me?

It was from that place that we wrestled through our second yes.

To be honest, I fully expected our second adoption to look like our first.  I expected the process to be good.  The waiting to be hard, but the process to be exciting and generally smooth.  I geared myself up for the hard work of fundraising and the ache of waiting to get to our child, but fully anticipated that we would sail through all of it with little to slow us down.

I expected that like the first time, the real work would come when we brought our baby home.

If you have hung with us through this adoption process, then you know that has not been the case.   I have written quite a bit about how hard this adoption has been.  Through the last several months especially, we have struggled.  Sickness upon sickness upon sickness.  Car wreck.  Trip to the ER.  Identity theft.  Saying no to a referral.  Broken teeth.  Waiting and waiting and waiting for God to provide the funding.

Along the way we began to wonder why.  We began to question if all of this was deliberate.  We began to realize and feel affirmed that we were being attacked.  These things weren’t coincidences.  The enemy was attempting to dissuade us, to break us down, to prevent us from pushing forward.

A few weeks ago, right before Christmas, we saw God begin to answer our prayers.  In one week He provided $20,000 and fully funded this adoption.  We were matched with our precious son.  We received our Letter of Approval from China, giving us China’s official approval to make him ours.  In one week, we saw God provide and answer all that we had been waiting for.  It was an incredible, beautiful whirlwind.

I think at that point I breathed a sigh of relief.  It was over.  God had won.  There was nothing left to fight.  The enemy had no more room or ammunition to mess with us.  Our son would be coming home soon.

We enjoyed Christmas and the break with our kids.  Our best friends came in town to visit us.  We celebrated the New Year (the year of Isaiah!).  We got back to school and work.  I began to feverishly count down the days and weeks until China.  60 days.  We were in the home stretch.

After months and months of feeling like we were under attack, we began to put our guard down.  We stopped bracing ourselves for the next thing.  I very much put down all my spiritual armor and began obsessively looking at (okay, buying) little man clothes for the newest member of our family.  It felt like we shook off the hard and began to focus on the adventure in front of us: becoming a family of six.

And so it felt like the ugliest of out-of-nowhere, sucker punches when Russ was laid off from his job last week.

Less than 2 months away from leaving for China to bring home our fourth child, just after we have been matched with and fallen in love with our son, our primary provider has lost his job.

I think practically I should be concerned about things like paying bills and feeding all these people in my family, but at my core I felt instantly broken for my son across the world.  The wait to get to him was already hard.  I felt like someone had just thrown up a brick wall in my path.

After a few days of desperate tears and eating of many M&Ms, I found myself at church on Sunday morning.  Raw and exhausted and filled with uncertainty and trying to put on a brave face.

That morning the Lord spoke over the music and my thoughts and all my crying.

“This is when you choose faith”.

Here’s the thing.  I don’t get to say I am living a life of faith if all I do is point to the work that God has done after the fact and praise Him for his miracles.  To walk by faith means that I make a choice right now, in the midst of the part that I don’t understand, to believe that God is faithful to all the things that He has promised me.  To believe that when He says that He is ordering my steps, He really meant that.  When He said that He was working all things for my good, He meant that too.  When He said He would supply all of my needs, He was being serious.

And when He said nothing is impossible for Him, I can rest in that even when things look impossible to me.

Our reality right now is that China recognizes Isaiah as ours.  Our paperwork has gone through their process and we have been fully approved to make him our son.  They are not interested in the changes that have taken place at this point in our financial situation.

All of our remaining steps in this adoption have to do with securing his visa to come in the US as a new immigrant.  The American Government wants to know of any changes to our situation because they want to know that we are going to be able to provide for him once we bring him in to the country.

Ironically, assets don’t play much into this, as far as we have been able to discern at this point.  Our amended home study will have to show income up to a certain level in order for Isaiah to be granted a visa to come into the country.

Both our adoption agencies have been beautifully supportive and are working and fighting with us.  We are evaluating things like unemployment benefits and if they count, how much income do we need to show, and how much time do we have to do this before we begin looking at travel delays.  And although we have some answers to some questions, we are still very much in a place of not knowing.

So here we are.  We know who the God of the Bible is.  We have seen Him do incredible miracles in bringing our daughter home and in redeeming loss and hurt in her beyond what we were capable of.  We have felt Him sustain us through the tough months of this adoption.  We have seen Him provide in ways that can only be pointed back to Him.

And now we are looking to Him to pull this one out.

I have found myself going back to claiming this song this week.  Having faith, choosing faith, does not mean my emotions just jump in line.  I am human.  There is a reality of the situation that weighs on me.  I am sad.  I am weary.  Some moments I am fighting against fear.  I am ready for things to be tied up all neatly with a bow and feel like a sure thing.

But in the midst of that, I am believing.

How many believe mountains still move?

How many believe God still reigns?

Our Father who art in Heaven

Hallowed be thy name.

Your Kingdom come.

Your Will be done.

Here and now.

He has not wasted any of it

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I’ve debated whether or not to write this down, to put this out there for the internet world.

Two years ago, when we first said “yes” to adoption, we sensed the Lord asking us to be willing to hold our story loosely.  Asking us if we were willing to not only go on this journey, but to also live it out loud.

We agreed to that.  We created this blog.  We began the journey with openness and candor and have tried to remain, even through the hardest of times, transparent about the reality of adoption and the goodness of God in the adoption story.

Sometimes I wonder if I would have known what I was saying yes to, if I would have hesitated more than I did?  There have been some moments where that vulnerability has felt like a curse.  I didn’t want to share the grief of letting go of our initial match in our first adoption.  I didn’t want to be vulnerable when it was hard in the first few months home with Elliott.  And for many months of this adoption, when things felt pretty cloudy and the way ahead was dark, I didn’t want to process or write.  And sometimes the hesitation to share is not just about me.  Sometimes I wonder if I am oversharing my children’s stories, if they will be harmed or angry by so much of their lives being broadcast.

I have experienced some good things as I have poured my heart and soul out on this laptop time and time again, however.  Some beautiful things.  Things that made me glad I have chosen to stick with it even when vulnerability was uncomfortable.  I have found that with vulnerability comes connection.  I have been loved on, supported, and cheerleaded through the last two years by people I know well and people I have never met.  I have had the joy of mentoring some precious mamas praying through the adoption process and beginning the process.  And I have been forced to process, to reflect, to remember, and to choose to give God glory in both the peaks and the valleys of all of this.

I realized that by not sharing this piece of our journey, I was eliminating a beautiful piece of the story that has been written for us.

The adoption program from China is a special needs program.  The children who are in orphanages and adopted out generally all have some sort of medical need or diagnosis.  This can range from correctable things to mild things to more moderate things all the way to more severe needs.  The term “special need” can be a little daunting, but these needs can be everything from birth marks to developmental delays to cleft lip/palates to heart conditions to limb differences to blood disorders to problems with the brain.  And everything in between.

At the beginning of the adoption process, you complete a Medical Conditions Checklist.  The MCC lists lots and lots of medical conditions.  You research conditions, indicate if you would be open to that or not, and then prioritize by age, gender, and medical condition.

During our first adoption, we poured over the MCC.  We researched every single medical condition listed.  We cried as we checked no to some things, feeling like the worst people on earth for marking that we would not be open to a child with this need or that need.  It felt like one of the heaviest, scariest, most heartbreaking things we had ever done.

This adoption it felt drastically different.  We have seen so much now.  We have made friends with people who live all over the country who have children with different special needs, children who thrive, children who live beautiful lives.  We have seen how families operate with deaf children, with blind children, with children in wheelchairs, and with children with chronic, lifelong conditions.  We have learned that these are kids whose greatest need is a family, who may happen to also have another diagnosis or two.  And all of it has become significantly less scary for us.

I think this time I filled out our MCC by myself over the phone with our caseworker.  Looking back at our MCC from last time and from this time, last time we checked yes to very little and this time we said no to very little.  It felt much more like we were prepared to consider the needs of a child in front of us and how they might fit into our family.

Someone in the adoption community asked me a few months ago, as we waited to be matched, if there were was any need I was particularly hoping for.  In reality, there was not. Elliott’s listed need is Developmental Delays.  She was likely premature and at the time her file was beginning to be prepared for her to be made available for adoption, she was very, very delayed.  By the time we got to her, she had caught up a little.  In the last 13 months, we have seen her catch up in crazy, miraculous ways.

In considering needs this time, we mostly thought about it in terms of our life as a whole and our other children.  Could we manage something with lots of hospitalizations?  Could we manage something with lots of surgeries?  Which needs might work into our already busy lives, as we add our FOURTH child?

I’ve already written about us reviewing a file this time before we were matched with our son.  A sweet, 10 month old baby boy.  A baby with Cerebral Palsy.

Although we ultimately said no to that file, part of the process of reviewing a file is to gather information, to talk to doctors, to pray, but to also consider: how might this need fit into our life?  For us, Cerebral Palsy (CP) was not a need that we had considered much.  Or at all.  To be truthful, it sounded pretty scary initially.

Like most diagnosis CP exists on a spectrum.  It is, essentially, some sort of damage to the brain, generally during birth or soon after, that results in motor skills being effected.  It can cause other disabilities as well.

After reviewing the file of the baby boy, we realized that his needs were beyond the scope of our ability to care for him.  He would most likely fall on the more severe end of the CP spectrum.

While it was heartbreaking to say no to this little guy, both for him and for us, through the process we realized we could imagine ourselves with a child with this need in a more mild form.  Something that would require ongoing maintenance like physical therapy seemed much more manageable in our life than something that might require a lot of surgeries.

A few days after we had said no and were back to waiting, I was telling Russ how frustrated I was with all of it.  Basically having a small temper tantrum.  Why did we have to be sent a file that wasn’t our son?  Why couldn’t God have spared us from that this time?  Why did CP have to seem like such a good fit for our family when he wasn’t our guy?

Nine days after we said no to that baby boy, our agency called with another file for us to look at, the file of an adorable, 23 month old little guy.  I held my breath a little on the phone that day as the director of our agency told me what I already knew, he had a diagnosis of mild Cerebral Palsy.

Below is the video we got of Isaiah a few days later.  He has some left side weakness and will benefit from physical therapy, but we think he looks pretty perfect.  Our only fear is that he might not think the stuff at our house is as cool as the orphanage (hello, drum set).

Just under two years ago, Russell and I sat on our bed one night and combed through all the diagnoses on the Medical Checklist.  If you had told those two people that day that they would rejoice at the phone call of a little boy with CP less than two years later, they would have looked at you with shock and disbelief.  Those people did not even check yes to CP on their first Medical Checklist.  Those people were walking on the shakiest of legs, feeling like they could be knocked down by any breeze that came by, completely unsure of every step.

In this journey we have been on, I have learned that God does not waste anything.  Times we have waited.  People we have crossed paths with.  Ways He has provided.  Files we have reviewed and said no to.  He allowed us to flounder through the saving and the fundraising for months, so that He could astonish us and be glorified by providing $20,000 for our adoption in one week.  He’s allowed us to wait, longer than we wanted to wait, so that we might be forced to trust His timing.  And He allowed us to imagine ourselves as the parents of a 10 month old baby boy that was not ours because we needed to see that what used to be a “scary” special need was not.  We needed to be able, just 9 days later, to see the boy behind the need.  Our boy.

He’s not wasted any of it.