Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Pre-School

We are running a preschool of one here. Our visits have become golden opportunities to take a very learning starved child from mental poverty to mental gymnastics. We are working on colors, numbers, letters, shapes and a whole host of other concepts. He is a bright boy. We enjoy watching him make connections and making the huge leap from his language to English.


Aaron does not directly converse with us at this point. He communicates mainly by pointing, but because his hands aren’t very useful for pointing, he has developed other methods. When he’s barefoot, he points with this toes. He also nods in the intended direction. But when he’s really engaged, he points with his upper lip. This lip is actually a bit stretched from doing this so much. It’s one of the cutest things you’ll ever see. Lip pointing is just one of his many endearing little habits.

It is very hard to gauge how much verbal ability he has compared to other children his age. We would venture a guess that he has a limited vocabulary and limited sentence structure. This is not because he lacks cognitively, but because he has lacked opportunities for meaningful conversation. We look forward to the day when he begins to communicate with us more verbally.

Not that the boy can’t talk when he wants to. When the mood strikes him or the moment comes, he can spew out a clear fountain of native words at a high level of volume. He uses them mainly to ensure that the other boys in his group are all where they’re supposed to be, doing what they’re supposed to be doing. The nurses call him a little boss because of this, but we think he’s just an orderly personality-- a rule-keeper, like a lot of firstborns. When Elijah was with us he talked to Elijah a bit, brother to brother.

There is also the possibility that he merely thinks we are the stupidest people he’s ever met because we don’t know the simplest words in his native language.

We are definitely going at his pace. After writing his letter “B”, he has decided that he has mastered the letter category and will erase any of our attempts to teach him more. He hasn’t connected the B with written language yet. He is happy to just scribble. Considering that the only writing tools he has ever had are sticks and dirt, we’re happy to let him do things his way. We let him enjoy scribbling in a Winnie the Pooh coloring book, on a write-on wipe-off board or on the magna-doodle to his little heart’s delight. He has the rest of his life to write those silly letters.



For all those thoroughly confused about Aaron’s name…. We ARE going to call him Aaron. His birth name and his nickname we will reveal when the adoption is completed.  No, Sam, my footwork is pitiful compared to Aaron's.  Anyway, every time I try to do something with my foot, he removes the pen and makes me do it with my hands!!  

HE WRITES

    Want to know what Aaron can do?

He can write the first letter of his name....
 No it is not an A. 
 It is a B.   
 Aaron's real name isn't Aaron. 
His real name doesn't even start with a B either. 
How's that for confusing? 
He is called by a nickname (Like Rob to Robert). 

 The first letter of that nickname is a B but it doesn't sound like a B.... but I digress....

     After one try - Aaron wrote the first letter of his name..... 
 The first letter is mine - the second two are his...


 WRITTEN WITH HIS FOOT!!

Monday, August 30, 2010

He Sings!



     The Aaron we enjoyed so much over a month ago is emerging again. He is back to his trademark giggle and outbursts of laughter and it is music to our weary ears. Yesterday evening, in an unbelievably happy and content mood, he sat between us playing for most of our time together. When he finally got up he led us up one path and down another, happily singing to himself under his breath. We could hardly believe our ears.
     Unfortunately, the singing stopped when the internat’s dog pack decided that we had crossed the line. There are about six mongrel dogs on the grounds. Most of the time they ignore us, and we do our best to avoid them. They are tended by the men who work there as caretakers. The caretakers are off on the weekends, and yesterday the dogs were all loose down in the back. There are two scary-looking shepherd-type dogs. One has a crippled foreleg, but a fully functioning jaw. The other barks viciously whenever he sees us and is usually kept tied in the back behind the vehicles.
     We have never seen the dogs together before so it surprised us when the whole pack came out and began to bark at Aaron. We quickly moved him out of harm’s way and took him back to our play area. Aaron versus dog is a loss for Aaron every time. We had moved on a few minutes later when one of the smaller dogs came running up to where we had left some toys, snapped up a deflated yellow punch ball balloon and took off running. Rob tried to go after it, but then the entire pack gave chase. Not a pleasant feeling. Fortunately one of the nurses saw what was happening and came to our rescue. She shook a stick at them and scolded them in her language, and they backed down. They didn’t seem to understand English scolding. We will definitely be more wary of the dogs from now on.

     Thank you to so many who gave us tips on shoes for Aaron. We are going to store those away for when we get home.

     In response to the weather questions…. Let’s just say that I did not pack for the extremes. It is vacillating between the 90’s and the 60’s. I wish I had brought at least one long sleeved shirt and another pair of long pants. I also left my tennis shoes and socks at home. Yesterday our walk home from the internat was a bit miserable for me. It was cold and rainy. I was shivering in my thin jacket. On the next market day we will be looking for a few warmer pieces of clothes for me and long pants for Aaron. Fortunately I did bring a warm jacket for him but left the long pants at home.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

DRY AND WEARY LAND

PSALM 63:1 “O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water.”






     A dreary Sunday in the village. Rainy, cold and depressing. It’s hard on a day like this not to long for home with deep yearning. We miss Virginia. We miss our house in the country, our daily routine and we especially miss our boys. The end seems so far in the distance at this point. We are so grateful each time we are able to log onto the internet (which is a lesson in patience and perseverance) to find e-mails, comments on the blog and face book messages. The Bible verses, prayers, video’s and words of encouragement are helping us keep our heads above the sand in this dry and weary time. Please don’t stop. We can’t even put into words how we are feeling at this time. We are so vulnerable, waiting for a verdict that will decide the fate of one little lost boy whom we desperately want to call ‘son.’






     Oh I wanted my camera this morning. They brought our little guy to us in the funniest outfit possible. A long blue sleeve striped shirt that was way too big with sleeves that hung dopey style over his hands. Wool pants. Ugly, brown striped wool pants. He looked so absolutely precious in his mismatched-too big costume.






     Shoes are a BIG problem for Aaron. His feet are about the length of a child’s 12 shoe but are extra wide. We brought an 11 sandal that have a tie on the top and a Velcro strap to hold them onto his feet.. They just barely fit length-wise, but width wise - definite issues. We are adapting them so that they will work temporarily. When we get home we need to figure out what to do. Any suggestions from those who have children with Aaron’s issues; we would love to hear what you do in the shoe department.






     Rob keeps me from completely going to pieces at times. He is my rock, the one who dries my tears and at my lowest times, he just plain cracks me up. He is determined to learn this language and for those who know him, know that he has the mental capacity to accomplish that goal. His increased conversations with our dear landlady make this quite evident. His problem is proper pronunciation. He is learning so many words but is defeated when he walks confidently up to people using his newly discovered words only to have them look him blankly in the face. They don’t get what he is saying because he can’t twist his tongue and spit the words out with the proper sounds. Last night we went into the store to get ‘no gas’ water. Oh he was confident. I’m standing beside him when he asks the lady in her language for the water. She stares. No idea what he wants. He tries again. Nothing. I say in English “No gas”. She lights up, understanding immediately what it is I want. No gas water. Yes. She brings it to us. Poor Rob. He walks out of the market banging himself on the head trying to figure out what he is doing wrong. We laughed all the way to the institute. In this dry and weary time in our lives, it is good to laugh. I am so grateful he is walking by my side.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

FIREWORKS!!

Yes, Aaron is cute and all of that but get ready for this…. He also is very stubborn and can throw mini-fits!! Sorry to let all of his fans out there down, but the truth must be told. He is learning though that his Mama is a bit stubborn herself and if he doesn’t do what I ask of him, well then we will just put that toy away and do something else. So there!

He greeted us with a smile today. He doesn’t come directly to us or offer hugs or anything. He’s a bit too manly for that kind of demonstration. But he does stand and take his kisses with a grin and a shake of his head (equal to wiping them off I guess). He’s a funny little guy and we are enjoying our time with him though it is HARD to keep him entertained. We don’t spend 3 solid hours each day with our own boys and never did. I know that when we are home, he will be more than capable of playing without needing constant attention. We don’t have that luxury here. We have to play or wander the grounds with a six year old. We are so glad that we brought a wide assortment of things to do. We have not shown him everything yet so that we can make each visit interesting. We got a bit desperate this morning when the punch ball we brought for the ‘new’ activity popped on the thorn bushes within 5 minutes. Aaron has a great attention span though and is entertained well with books, markers and a coloring book.

And now, by request, more pointless observations and rambling wisecracks from Rob:

(Rob writing) On our last night spent in (relative) civilization, we had an apartment in the capital. That evening happened to be a national holiday, and we were lucky enough to be only a block away from the center of the city. We visited with the Carmichaels (RR family from Tennessee) in the square and sat together on the steps of what looked like a bank, watching the celebration, understanding neither one word nor one solitary note of the patriotic music. We waited until dark, half hoping to see fireworks. Julia was sure that they would have fireworks right there in the square. I wisely reminded her that we were in the center of the city, so they couldn’t safely set them off so near. Surely, I said, they will have to launch them at some safe distance. But dusk came and went with no fireworks, and then some grumpy security man ejected us from his steps, so we all said good night and went off to bed.

At around 10 PM, we were both sleeping as only the jet lagged can. It was at this hour that the locals finally decided it was dark enough for the fireworks to begin. Julia is a light sleeper, so she recognized the sound right away. I was so stupid with sleep that I first identified the sound as a man trying to break through our concrete floor with a sledgehammer. It took about three goes before I was sufficiently awake to realize what was happening. They must have chosen our parking lot as the remote location for the firework mortars. It couldn’t have been any louder if we had set our ears right next to a 20-pounder cannon barrel when they set punk to touch hole. The whole building shook with each concussion, and the shock waves were strong enough to set off car alarms. That started the sequence for the next several shots: loud bang, shock wave, then the car alarms running through their assortment of warning sounds. A few seconds of silence, then repeat.

This is not a wealthy country, so it didn’t last long. They didn’t have a lot of fireworks, but the ones they had were big. We couldn’t see them from any window, and before we could decide to go outside, they were finished. And the merciful jet lag lulled us both back to sleep.

By the way, the Carmichaels were so nice. And they’re heroes, too, for rescuing two children as they are. You have to love southerners. The Carmichaels love the people here. Just ask them.

Aaron


He's worth the fight!!


Friday, August 27, 2010

No pictures

Busted. Tomorrow is a new day and hopefully we will get through it without making a judge or an orphanage director angry. Today - not so great in that department. I have had my precious camera with me every day. I have been beyond careful to only take pictures that are allowed. Today Aaron wandered around to the back of one of the buildings and I had left my rather expensive camera back with our stuff. After about 10 minutes back there looking at the tractors and horses with our dear sweet boy, who was in a very good mood today and who was very glad to have us with him, I decided to go get the camera. When I got back with it I proceeded to take pictures of Aaron and Rob, the drying apples on the ground, the tractor (Aaron also took pictures of the tractor - he loves pushing the button), flowers and a horse and wagon. No people - no buildings - nothing on the 'no pictures' list. How can you get in trouble for flowers?? Some of the workers became very nervous over my seemingly suspect behavior and called the director who went through the roof. She called Luda, who called me, and I had to go show the camera with my pictures to the director and one of the men on staff. He speaks a tiny bit of English and fortunately likes us. He agreed that what I had taken was okay and the director mellowed. Tonight she smiled at us as if nothing had happened but honestly, it knocked the breath out of us. We are not in our world. We are leaving the camera at home. I can take a million pictures of Aaron when he is safe in our arms. Until then, my favorite hobby will have to be shelved.


On a much happier note - we think we may have seen the two boys listed for adoption on the RR website under older boys. No promises but maybe... It is very hard to tell but we think they are both in Aaron's group. Aaron mingles with the boys when they have snacktime and both of the boys were at his table. After eating, he left the shed but looked back and noticed that one of those precious boys had escaped from that shed and had run into the other shed. Aaron immediately turned back and began to call out to the workers in his language that the boy had escaped. We didn't know what he was saying but they did. One of the workers went running out of the shed and captured the escaping little guy. Aaron stood there to make sure all was well before he led us away. It warmed our hearts to see the care and concern Aaron has towards the 'least of these.' They are so tiny and helpless. Someone please consider bringing those boys home.

Aaron was much happier with us today. By this afternoon, he greeted us with his old smile. He seems to have mostly forgiven us for leaving him after just four visits, and I don't think we really could have expected better. His poor little jaw is swollen and bruised from yesterday's bad fall (NOT on our watch, although we understand how difficult it is to prevent his falls). He has an inch-long cut on his jaw that most doctors probably would have stitched closed, but the nurses have treated it with some sort of green merthiolate and it is already closing. Add one more to his already long list of scars. We each get only one body this side of heaven, and it has to last us out. He already has too many scars.

Now Rob has something pointless he wants to add...

(Rob writing) Perhaps this overly serious blog will benefit from a few of my silly observations and amateurish wisecracks.

Some of the airports we’ve seen have installed “smoking zones,” glass-enclosed booths large enough to hold several cigarette smokers at a time. In theory, I suppose, these provide smokers with a place to indulge themselves while protecting the public from the annoyances and dangers of second-hand smoke.

The malodorous reek emanating from these booths is hardly to be believed. No matter what ventilation their designers have provided, I have no doubt that the atmosphere inside them is no better than that inside the smokestack of a coal furnace. A smoker would have to need a cigarette very badly indeed to willingly step into one of these things. Yet they do step into them, by the dozens, all day every day.

As for second hand smoke, it is so concentrated around these booths that I could almost feel the tumors forming on my alveoli as I approached them. I think maybe we’ve over-engineered the public smoking problem here.

I imagine the following scenario: Captain Kirk and his crew approach one of these smoking booths aboard the Starship Enterprise. “Standard orbit, Mr. Sulu,” Kirk orders. “Report, Mr. Spock. Is the atmosphere in there breathable?”
“Negative, Captain,” replies Spock. “Atmosphere is approximately 95 per cent carbon dioxide, with trace amounts of poisonous gases and high concentrations of soot and other particulate matter. No known life form can survive inside."
“Acknowledged, Mr. Spock. Beam down one red-shirted crewman, record his death throes, then proceed to our next assignment. I’ll be in my quarters, smoking a cigarette.”

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Thank you

It is midnight here and jet lag has me awake.  It's been a long day and one of the hardest in so many ways.  Yet the peace that passes all understanding is pouring over our spirits as the prayers of the saints are being lifted on our behalf.  We are speechless at how many are reaching out to us and to our boys.  Thank you from the very bottom of our hearts.

Aaron fell before we arrived tonight.  His face was swollen, his lip was cut and the scrapes and bruises on his body made us want to cry.  He was close to tears when they brought him to us and was again refusing to make eye contact.  We were not sure if it was from the fall or from the fact that we did not visit him this morning.  When we were here before, we visited him twice a day for a total of three hours.  I believe the combination of the pain of falling and the terror that we had left him again were the reasons for his demeanor.  Rob held him on his lap for almost 40 minutes.  We looked through the photo album that we finally were able to show him.

 Sometimes mistakes are beneficial.  When we came before, we had brought a photo album that had pictures of our family, the house, Aaron's bedroom etc. etc.  The album was left in one of the taxi's and we never were able to show it to Aaron.  While home I printed a whole mess of pictures that I took of Aaron.  On Wednesday, I inserted those pictures on every page (Luda found the album for us) - mingling them with the family pictures.  It means that at each turn, he sees himself and a picture of either the boys in all their goofiiness or the house or his bedroom.  The child STUDIES those pictures.  He makes little response but it is a big deal for him.  Yesterday and today we carefully went through the album with Aaron, looking at each pictures (there are a lot of pictures) affirming and confirming that he was a BIG part of our family.  After the album we read his other favorite book.  He did not want to walk around so we took the new truck and some other smaller vehicles and sat and just played quietly.  At the very end of our time he was finally willing to get up and walk. I think the pain from his fall had subsided by that point. We are going at his pace and in his time.  Loving on him, kissing him (Mommy's can't help doing that) and just being with him.  He is NOT the same child we were with a month ago.  It hurts that his hurt is so evident.  His laughter is contagious and to not hear it makes the world a bit more lonely.
    I will say it again and again.  God is good.  He is wise in ALL of His ways and despite what took place today in court, we know that we are going to be okay.   I could write more but need to rest.  The comments and e-mails and Facebook messages are precious.  Thank you to the RR people who have banded together to not only minister to us but to our boys at home. 

We do have internet access in our apartment.  That has been the one really nice part of the day.  It is not great for Skype but allows us to have better access to the outside world. 

The only way it could have been worse....

…is if the judge had sent us home without Aaron. She did everything but turn us away. There is only so much we can say on a public forum. Today was not the pinnacle for Reece’s Rainbow adoption stories. We spent the early morning practicing for the questions we would possibly encounter. On the 30 minute drive to the court, Luda gave us tips, advice and information about what to expect. Sitting in the foyer outside the court, she offered us even more tidbits to digest. She kept telling me NOT to look nervous because the judge would question why I was so nervous. The more I was told to not look nervous, the more I just wanted to be sick on the floor.

It was just plain scary in the courtroom. Very serious and very austere. The procedure the judge followed was not standard according to Luda. We of course had no way to compare. She asked Rob his name and address and then made him repeat his address. That was my ‘uh oh’ moment. She did the same for me. There was a bit of a controversy over something to do with the paperwork for the social services director and then she began to question Rob and I about why we wanted another child. He answered first and it didn’t seem to satisfy so she asked me. Neither of our answers were what she wanted although Luda told us later that our answers were great.

After only a bit longer, she left the courtroom. Upon return she set the next court date for SEPTEMBER 9 - in two weeks. That shocked us because it was so far away. Then she had us stand and ask if we would agree for Aaron to come to court. No we didn’t want Aaron in court, but we couldn’t say what we wanted. We had to agree. Luda tried to protest but to no avail. Aaron has to appear before the judge in two weeks. I really wanted to be sick on the floor at that point. It was all I could do to hold it in.

To say we are in a bit of shock would be putting it mildly. Before we went to court we agreed that no matter what, “God is good”. He has brought us this far and He is not going to abandon us. So though we have just experienced another huge mountain that must be moved, we are still clinging with faith that He will see us through.



We definitely need prayers. Luda is very concerned about all the proceedings this morning and as I said, we cannot say everything here.  Luda is going to try to talk again to the judge so see if she will at least move the court date sooner. We are both going to stay because Aaron desperately needs us to bond with him. That is our focus for the next two weeks.



I want to say this because so many are reading our blog - For those who are considering adopting a child from Reece’s Rainbow - PLEASE DON’T BE DISCOURAGED by our journey. Please understand that Aaron is in a mental institute. He is a Lost Boy. There have been no other boys ever adopted from this institute before. There are at least two other precious available children who are desperate for homes from this institute. The director and the people in this village have been UNBELIEVABLY SUPPORTIVE of us. We are blazing a trail and it is hard. But God is NOT making a way in the wilderness to let the weeds grow back. He has a reason and a purpose for allowing this to be so hard. Please pray. Not just for us but that the doors would be flung open. It is the desire of our heart apart from bringing our precious little guy home!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

EMOTIONAL DAY

Today was hard.  We drove all day in a hot car, first to the region where we will have court tomorrow and then to our village.  We were allowed to see Aaron this afternoon but it was not the sweet meeting for which we longed.  At the last minute we were accompanied by the social director here to see how he related to us.  She has to give testimony tomorrow about our relationship with him.  To say that scared us silly is putting it mildly.  We were both in tears waiting for Aaron and everyone was watching what would happen when they brought him into the room.  It was not the best presentation.  One look on Aaron's face and we saw how devasting the last month has been for him.  He would not make eye contact and was just overall unresponsive. He fought the tears as I hugged him, kissed him and soothed him.  It took us a good thirty minutes before he would make eye contact.  Fortunately the director left us in peace and our facilitator gave us space and by the end of the visit we were relating better.  We even heard some laughter and he waved goodbye when we left.  It will take him a long time to trust that we will not abandon him again.
      On top of that emotionally charged meeting, we have had major discussions all day with our facilitator about our preliminary court tomorrow.  We are in uncharted waters with this judge and every word we speak matters greatly.  She is very concerned that we make a good presentation.  We 'tried out' several answers to possible questions and kept hitting landmines.  For most courts, our answers would normally be fine but for us, we have to be very careful in our wording.  Needless to say, we covet your prayers.

     The one bright spot in a very exhausting day came when our facilitator (Luda) told us that a few weeks ago, she had accompanied another family to Aaron's old orphanage as they were looking to adopt a child there.  Luda did not realize it was his orphanage.  The director there somehow knew that she was facilitating our adoption though and asked her about Aaron.  At first she didn't know who the director was talking about.  Suddenly the lights went on and she realized that the director was asking her about Aaron.  What came out brings a healing balm to my spirit tonight as we face a tough day tomorrow.  The director told Luda that they had been so upset that Aaron had to be transferred out of there.  They truly loved him and considered him a very bright, special little boy.  They (the staff at the orphanage) had prayed that God would send a family for Aaron. 

     As we wade through the murky waters, we hold on to those whispered prayers from those who first loved our little guy.  God heard.  He IS going to walk us through this process.  So we hang on for another day.  Because of issues with SKYPE the boys have not been able to contact us today which makes my Mommy heart desperate.  More prayers in that regard would be appreciated.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

WHEELS DOWN!

We are wheels down in the capital. We got the same apartment that we had on our last day here before, which means we are completely lost. Heading out to Aaron's region tomorrow morning. Jet lag in full effect. Plane ride was a new low of misery, roughly comparable to enduring an appendectomy performed with a dinner knife and without anesthesia. With jet lag, though, it feels more like we had a lobotomy.

Skype calls are welcome at our new phone number: 38 099 470-6792.

Going to ground now to rest. More later.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Voice of Hope

We leave this morning.  I can't begin to put into words the emotions running through my mind.  We are crossing the ocean to bring home one little orphan.  One of the "least of these."  We have a picture of Aaron from when he was first listed for adoption.  He was tiny.  His picture was taken and a file was created to show he was available to be adopted.  Then his file was set aside. It sat in a dust heap along with thousands of other files of other children like him.  Set aside because the children in those files were considered 'unadoptable'.  Who would want them?  These files contained children with Down Syndrome, HIV, cleft palate, blindness, arthrogryposis, aperts and much much more.  No one thought they were wanted.  When they reached the age of 4 or 5, these unwanted children were transferred to institutes where they would live for a few years and then die. 
     But God, in His grace has heard the cry of these abandoned, discarded children.  A number of years ago, through the birth of a special little boy here in the United States, Reece, a ministry began that has become a voice for the unadoptable.  And files all over the world are being discovered.  They are being dusted off and slowly but surely, God has begun to raise up an army, His church, to bring those children into homes.  Aaron is just one of those hundreds and thousands and millions of children.  We would never have known about him but for the ministry of  REECE'S RAINBOW.
     So this morning, I want to pay tribute this ministry.  It is a cry for life here in our country for all the unborn who are systematically aborted because they are considered 'damaged goods', and it is a voice of hope for the abandoned, special needs children in the world who are desperately in need of families to love them.
   Our prayer, as we journey to bring Aaron home, is that we will be a voice of hope to the Lost Boys in Aaron's insitute.  We desire to be a testimony and witness of God's faithfulness, love and compassion for the "least of these."

Saturday, August 21, 2010

THE COMPOSER

     I was struggling this morning.  Crying.  The thought of leaving the boys, crossing the ocean again, facing weeks of stress and worry brought me to my knees.   I had an honest to goodness time of just weeping before the Lord.   It helped but I was still incredibly irritable with my boys.  The very boys whom I don't want to leave.  The craziness of this adventure was wiping me out and though I was getting a lot accomplished, I was doing it with a heavy heart and a faith that was about the size of a shriveled up pea.  In the car,  I shared with Ben my struggles.  In his 15 year old, wise beyond years sometimes (not every time) way, he said that God is like a Composer and we are the orchestra.  We had a good discussion about how Aaron's adoption was a symphony that we may not hear in full for years to come but when we do - when we look back - we will be stunned at its beauty.  All the pieces, all the details, all the people, all the events, brought together in a melody that will rival the angels singing before the King of Kings and Lord of Lord.  For now, we both felt like squeaky instruments in deep need of tuning.

     Well, God did some tuning on my instrument this afternoon. 

     Please, Dear Friends, look at the thermometer at the top of this page. 

     The Composer of this symphony blew me away this afternoon. 

     This morning the thermometer read 28,158.00.  When I came downstairs I saw that we had received some money this morning from two families whom we don't know.  They each gave 50.00.  Those donations blow me away every time. 

     With those donations, our total was 28,258.00.  We were still about 742.00 short. 

     This afternoon, I e-mailed Andrea and asked her if I could have the list of those who gave to us since we have been home.  I wanted to put their names on our puzzle.  She promptly sent me an e-mail with the names and the donations.  The numbers she gave me and the numbers I had did not add up.  Too much money according to my calculations.  After looking at my numbers I realized that I had made an error in my columns, placing a donation in the wrong place on our spreadsheet.  When I moved the numbers and put in the RR numbers, all of sudden we were no longer 750 short.  Instead we were short 42.00.  Pocket change.  Nothing!  Absolutely unbelievable. 

     I am completely blown away - the cries of my heart answered in the most beautiful display of His power and His love for Aaron and for our family.  We have what we need.  Not just financially but in every way imaginable.  God is not going to abandon us over there.  Again and again and again He has let us know that He set this process in motion and He is going to see it through to the end.  And in the end, all the Glory and Honor will be His.  
     I am so grateful to be part of this symphony.   I am ever so grateful that each person who has read this blog, each person who has donated to help bring a little disabled boy home, each person who has prayed and will continue to pray, each person who has helped us raise money, helped us with the boys and with my classes and in every other way imaginable, is an important, vital and amazing part of the most beautiful musical the world has ever heard!  This symphony is definitely going to rival the angels singing around the throne!

NOTE:  Since writing, dear Molly decided to finish what she started and donated the last amount that we needed.  How fitting since she made the FIRST DONATION!  If we come out of this with any money left over - it will be donated back to Reece's Rainbow! 

Only two days..

     We leave in only two days.   Still packing, cleaning and  trying to spend precious moments with the boys.  Yesterday I took them bowling.  I won.  Both games.  They took turns bowling my second game for me.  I still won!   Oh how I am going to miss them.  Tears come quickly.  If not for our calling and love for this little guy, I would stop everything and just stay home!


Friday, August 20, 2010

SCHEDULE...

 

  In THREE DAYS we leave for Aaron's country.  My to-do list is growing, my brain is falling out and I am still only remembering THE MOST IMPORTANT things to do while laying in bed, unable to sleep.  I can't ever remember those MOST IMPORTANT things when I get up!  Tonight I think I will just take the laptop to bed with me.  I'm afraid I will be sitting on the plane and finally remember what it was I was supposed to remember...
  
     For those who have asked about our time in Aaron's country, here it is in all its confusion:


We leave on Monday, August 23rd and will arrive on Tuesday in the midst of Aaron's country's biggest holiday.  Understatement of the year:  I think it will be a bit confusing in the capital city.  I hope we get to see some fireworks although most likely we will be dead to the world by that point.  We are unsure whether we will stay the night in the capital or go directly to Aaron's village.  We will do whatever we are told by our able and efficient facilitator, Luda.
     Our first court is scheduled for Thursday, August 26.  The second court will hopefully be the next week.   At the second court, by God's Grace, Aaron will officially by our son.  BUT, there is a 10-day waiting period in case anyone wants to contest the adoption.  Since the adoption is not published in the papers, this is just a formality.  The judge may waive that 10-day period and our facilitator has requested this, but the chances are slim.  We are definitely praying in that direction though and invite you to add your prayers to ours.
     After the 10-day period, the paperchase begins.  We will need to drive to Aaron's birth city for his birth certificate and will need to get his passport (traveling to another city for this).  We will also need a visa for him from the U.S. embassy and a medical saying he is free of communicable diseases.  This whole process takes about another 10 days.  We will be able to have Aaron with us during this period. 
     We both have to be there for the two courts.  After that one of us is allowed to leave.  At this point, Rob is committed to being there the entire time.  I will be with him as long as possible but if the days stretch into weeks and things happen beyond our control (everything is truly out of our control) I will come home.  Ideally for Aaron, we would both like to bring him home together.  We will decide what is best after we know better what the timeline will look like.


    


     As always, we covet your prayers. Pray for our precious boys at home who will be staying at the house by themselves each night (Dad lives next door).  Pray for traveling mercies as we navigate through 3 airports, customs and long plane rides. Pray for our little guy who is still wondering day by day what happened to us.  Pray for the judge to grant Aaron to us.  Pray for our facilitator as she advocates for this adoption and pray for us that we can continue to rest in the knowledge that He holds this adoption and our family in His loving and tender hands.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

No Pictures

    We are cherishing our boys.  We took them to King's Dominion yesterday (Virginia's biggest amusement park) and had a blast as a family.  Sorry - no pictures!  My family was SO RELIEVED that I willingly left the camera at home.  I am the camera nut and they are not always very willing subjects so I left that device at home and focused on the family.   All through the day, as we rode rides, ate outrageously expensive and nasty food, played at the water park, relaxed on the lazy river and just enjoyed each others company, we would talk about Aaron.  He was in our hearts and part of a good bit of our conversation.  Casual remarks.  How he would like certain rides.  Where we will take him next time we come.  What he would think.
     At the end of the day, when we were ready to leave the park, we did our silly family tradition.  A run-through of Yogi Bear's cave.  It is no longer called Yogi Bear's cave, but we still call it by that name.  It is a silly little cave designed for little ones.  The last room in the cave is tilted because silly old Yogi wasn't the best of carpenters.  That is our favorite part.  Walking across the tilted floor.
     I didn't go in this year as I was a bit tired.  But Rob and the boys ran through the cave.  I sat and waited for them to come out.  When I saw them emerge I smiled and waved.  They waved back and then Elijah took off to go run through again.  Sweet moments.  Next year I think Aaron will be running back through with Elijah....

No -  I don't think.  I know.  That tilted floor - it is just too hard to resist. 

And this little boy likes to have fun....



Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Taking Inventory...

     Aaron has no idea what God is doing in his life.  He sits, across the globe in an institute, focusing on surviving each day in a survival of the fittest world.  He has no clue how God has moved and worked in hundreds of hearts to help bring him home.

     We sat down this past week and took inventory of all the people who have given to our adoption.  It stuns us.  8 months ago, when we looked at the 'price tag' for ransoming one little boy from an institute so far away we had sticker shock.  At that point we were looking at 24,000.00 dollars.  When we talked to our kids about the possibility of adopting Aaron, Ben asked why we didn't work on raising the money first, then commit to adopt.  Our response forged for us our focus through this entire process.  Waiting to get the money wasn't faith.  Faith jumps first, trusting that since God laid this child on our hearts, then He would provide the means to bring him home. But Rob and I weren't without a plan.  Being the 'pull yourself up by your bootstraps' kind of people, we decided that we would basically sell everything we had to bring Aaron home.  We meant it. 

     We haven't had to. 

     We did do our share - we sold stuff on e-bay, we cleaned out our savings account and piggy banks, we had yard sales and put out donation buckets and made craft books and buckets to sell. We have worked hard to raise what we could but while we have been working hard, the Holy Spirit has been quietly working right alongside us, advocating in hearts for Aaron. 

    And the money has been pouring in.  From across the globe, hundreds and hundreds of people have stepped up to love one little disabled boy home.  So many who gave 5.00 or 10.00 apologized for giving 'so little.'  Dear friends - it adds up.  Each 5.00 has been an unbelievable blessing and testimony to us of the power and working of the Holy Spirit in this adoption.  When the price went up, so did the donations.  When the price went up again, to an unbelievable 29,000.00 for one child, again hearts were touched.  God has provided. 

     I want to take inventory - I want to pay tribute to all of you who have given to Aaron... I can't name you on this blog as it would be too long - your names will be forever on Aaron's puzzle - but I want to give honor where honor is due...These are the people who came alongside us to love Aaron home...

FAMILY AND FRIENDS

  • Rob's parents, my dad, every single one of our brothers and sisters and their spouses, our nieces and nephews, cousins, aunts and uncles and great-uncles and aunts

  • Friends here in Fluvanna county

  • Friends from Pennsylvania (where we lived for a number of years)

  • neighbors

  • Families from the FAST swim team

  • Families from the Black Box Players

  • Families from Elijah's Boy Scout troop
  • One of the Fluvanna Girl Scout Troops

  • Families from the ACTS homeschool Co-op

  • Families from our church - Cunningham Methodist Church

  • Families from past sports teams and groups that the boys have participated in over the years

  • Families from past churches we have attended over the years - Bethel OPC, Faith Chapel, Belmont Baptist, Charlottesville Mennonite, Bart

  • Rob's best man at our wedding AND HIS ENTIRE CHURCH

  • Friends from college

  • Friends from high school

  • Friends from childhood

  • Rob's subcontractors

  • Former students of Julia's and their families

  • Past teachers



STRANGERS... (No more)


  • Molly - who advocated for Aaron before we knew him

  • Molly's circle of friends and her wonderful family

  • The wonderful families from REECE'S RAINBOW!!  Many of these families are themselves adopting yet in their own need - they still gave to Aaron!

  • Individuals who have Arthrogryposis (like Aaron) and parents of children who have Arthrogryposis. (The outpouring of support and love from this group of people has blown us over)

  • Missionaries

  • Families who have adopted

  • Families who want to adopt

  • The vast assortment of people who have linked to our blog from other blogs or heard about Aaron through friends or family members

  • The anonymous strangers who gave but didn't want us to know their names
     Aaron doesn't know.  It will be a long time before he understands what has happened.  He is just a little disabled boy, seemingly forgotten in a very big world.  Yet God saw fit to move in so many hearts to help bring him into a family.  He hasn't been forgotten.  His story is one that illustrates in the deepest of ways what God did for us through Christ.  Ransom, redemption.  A disabled child, a sinful world, of little value yet of great worth to the Creator of the Universe.   To God we give ALL the glory!


Sunday, August 15, 2010

THE WALL


It surrounds Aaron's institute. 

Made of concrete. 

Forbidding. 

Two gates lead inside.

The pretty one is deceiving.  

Its designs face to the road, unseen by the boys inside. 

It is a secondary gate and rarely used.



This is the main gate.



At night and on weekends.... chained shut.


A side door allows us entrance to see Aaron.






The boys inside never go outside that wall.  



They are hidden.
The "Lost Boys"

They can hear the world going by but cannot see it. 

The cars, trucks, motorcyles and buses that drive past the wall hour by hour are only "Machinas" to the boys, recognized only by the sounds they make. 

Oh, the longing to see what is outside.  It burns in their hearts.

But....

With a Mama and Papa and a brother,
a Lost Boy can walk up to the forbidding gate. 

He can tentatively lean out to peek at the crane working on the house across the street.  

What joy!  What wonder!  
The world outside the gate. 


And even... if but for a moment... to step a happy toe onto the concrete beyond the wall.


In only a few short weeks,
by the grace of God,
we will walk that little lost boy out of that gate,
an orphan no longer, to see the world beyond. 

Wonder of wonders! 

I cannot wait for that day!


Friday, August 13, 2010

FOCUS

     I need to get focused.  Unfortunately the ONLY time I am truly focused is when I am supposed to be sleeping.  Then my brain starts to remember and think about all the things that need to be done before we leave.  I jump out of bed to try to write down all those things I was laying there thinking about.  I open up the screen to the "To-Do" page and.... can no longer remember what it was that was racing through my brain only minutes before!!

     Has anyone else had this problem or is it just me?? 

     We leave on August 23rd.  I am nowhere near ready to go and am so consumed with just getting on that plane and getting back to Aaron and finishing the process, that I am struggling to remember everything that needs to be done before we leave.   Rob is trying to finish up the house he is building.  He is working crazy hours to get as much done as possible in order to take off for weeks on end.  Both our "To-Do" lists seem endless.

     In the midst of the frenzy, over the last week, I have been confronted with the reality that my boys need me.  They need Rob.  This has been a lousy summer for doing anything fun.  We have spent little quality time together.  Adoptions are hard and it has taken a toll on this family.  We are leaving BOTH boys behind for 3-4 weeks.  They are going to be home, alone, in the house for weeks on end.  Dad will be next door to see that they have food to eat, to watch over them and to get them to their various activities.  But that is a long time for us to be separate as a family.
     We desperately need to spend quality time with them in the next week.  So in the midst of getting ready to go - we are working in just plain having fun with our kids.  Yesterday I took them to the river.  Oh what fun to watch them swim, to hear them laugh, to wade in the water with them and to sit in a chair and just read.  Tonight we are going to watch a fun drama production with a group we have been a part of for many years.   Next week we are going to King's Dominion for a day. 
     My allusive 'To-Do' list is important.  Focusing on crossing the globe to bring home a precious treasure is important.  Aaron is well worth the lack of sleep and frantic preparations we both are doing to get ready.  But our two precious treasures here are just as important.  They need us.  They need us to be focused on them and their needs.  They need to know that we treasure them, love them, enjoy them and will deeply miss them when we leave.
     So in the midst of trying to get our heads on straight to get Aaron... I am working at finding things we can do here with the boys.  Just for fun.  Just to laugh and be a family.

BECAUSE THEY ARE WORTH IT!


P.S. - Getting one decent picture of these two goofballs was quite the production!  What in the world am I going to do when I have to get Aaron to cooperate too???

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Just Because...

WE ARE COUNTING DOWN THE DAYS
 UNTIL WE GET TO FLY BACK TO GO GET THIS LITTLE GUY...


WE ARE WILLING TO ENDURE EXCRUTIATINGLY LONG AIRPLANES RIDES...



JET LAG ....


STRANGE HAPPENINGS IN THE APARTMENT BELOW US....



EVEN HAVING TO USE THIS... UNDER EXTREME EMERGENCIES....


SHOPPING IN THE ONLY REAL MARKET IN OUR VILLAGE...


AND TAXI RIDES IN AN UN-AIRCONDITIONED CAR....


JUST BECAUSE WE LOVE TO SEE HIM SMILE....



JUST SAYING....

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Happy Birthday Aaron

I miss you little guy.  I'm sad today.  No cakes or candles or presents for your special day.  No presents to open or anyone to sing for you.  No special hugs or kisses.  Dear little Aaron.  We are coming soon.  Soon.

 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Miss Valla

     

      Aaron's village doesn't have a hotel.  No bed and breakfast either.  There is a school with a few rooms that are available to rent.  They were full.  We arrived in the village unannounced.   This stunned us but seemed normal to everyone involved.  We are Americans who plan our lives out weeks and months in advance.  We make lists, consult maps, google everything and make sure every base is covered before we leave home.  
     We drove into a village with no idea where the center of town was located, where the social services building was located, where a bathroom was located!  Our facilitator took it all in stride.  She knew exactly where to go despite never being there before.  She directed the driver and he drove right up to the building we needed, she walked in and within just a few minutes had started the process for us to go see Aaron.  Unbelievable.  But, our housing still needed to be solved.  No hotel.  No rented rooms.  No problem. 
     Calls were made and within a few hours of our dropping unannounced into the village, an 80 year old woman, with dyed hair and gold teeth, vacated her bedroom and invited us to stay with her.  She spoke not one word of English, we spoke about three words of her language, but somehow we communicated - with signs, a bit of polite German phrases we both knew and a lot of laughing. We couldn't pronounce her name so we called her Miss Valla.

      It was not the Hilton.  The three of us were crammed in one room.


It was hot.  Brutally hot.  We had one little fan that we directed so that all three of us could feel it.

We sat on our beds whenever we were in the apartment.  We had nowhere else to go.

We felt like we had gone back in time.

A kitchen much like my Great Grandmother's kitchen,  although not quite as clean! 

To save money, dishes are washed with a liquid dish soap that is diluted down to one drop soap and one bottle water.  One bottle of dish detergent in Miss Valla's apartment will last her a lifetime.  We bought our own bottle of dish detergent.  She thought we were a bit crazy!





An old fashioned phone with an old fashioned ring!  It worked!



A radio that played non-stop.



Our bathroom...



Well... let's just say that it doesn't have a chamber pot - but it definitely is not the Hilton!

A shower room that is separate...



     The image on the door is deceiving.  Unfortunately I did not get a picture of the shower room (or bath stall).  It is a tiny little room that contains a sink, an old style bathtub and a cabinet.  You have room only to walk in and close the door.  The bathtub has a board laying across the back of it that holds a bunch of washtubs.  So you can't use the bathtub as a bathtub.  You can't use it as a shower either.  The hose to the shower is not hooked up to the wall.  Basically you squat in the tub and wash and spray.  Not so bad for my 5'2' frame but poor Rob! 

We washed our clothes in the washtubs and hung them out to dry on a line off her balcony.   We cooked in her little kitchen (washing all the dishes BEFORE we used them) and ate at her table. 

She had funny little rituals.  Before we left we had to sit on short little foot stools in the little foyer for a few minutes.  It was for good luck.

She thought we were going to get sick because we put bottles of water in the freezer. 

She dried bread in bowls in the windowsill.  In the bedroom.

She served us borscht.   

Poor Elijah.  He took one look at the stuff in the bowl and wanted to immediately throw up.  We were whispering to him to 'just take one bite'.  She was watching and wondering why he was stirring his spoon in the bowl but not eating.  Too cold?  No problem.  She whisked away his soup and heated it up in a pan.  Back in front of him it came.  More stirring.  Too hot? 
 She's definitely confused.
We were quietly begging for him to just take a bite.  Both of us eating ours with more relish than we felt to offset his reluctance.  Finally he got some in his mouth.  His shudder and look said it all.   Okay - she pulls out chicken.  The boy will eat chicken.  Relief!  Elijah loves chicken.  Yes - Da  - he will eat chicken.  She brings it to him... AND DUMPS IT INTO THE BORSCHT!!



Dear Miss Valla 

 We left our fan and Aaron's stuff in her apartment. 

She has already told us she wants us to come back. 

We can't wait! 

Please though - no Borscht!

Monday, August 9, 2010

WE HAVE COURT

     With tears streaming down my face I am writing these words.  We received news this morning that we have court on August 26.  Praise the Lord.  To say we are relieved would be putting it mildly.  A bit in shock - absolutely.  Excited - not there yet!  Too much to do... still pinching ourselves...

     Of course we don't get the easy court.  Breaking into a new region - opening doors for other boys means that each step is only a baby step.  Our court is a baby step.  It is a preliminary court.  The 'real' court will be a week (hopefully) from the first court.  So we actually have two courts.  It is not ideal.  It is not normal.  It means a longer stay in country.  It means added stress as we wait for the 2nd court but the mountain is melting.  We stand in awe.  We have to continue to trust - taking each step as we go.  On the day Rob and I were married, as we walked down the aisle and out of the church, after our vows were made, one of our favorite songs from one of our favorite Christian artists, Rich Mullins, played in the background.  Step By Step.  Over 17 years later - we are still playing out the words to that song.

STEP BY STEP
Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
I will seek You in the morning
And I will learn to walk in Your ways
And step by step You'll lead me
And I will follow You all of my days

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Guess....

Can you guess what is in this picture?


IT'S AARON'S PLAYGROUND EQUIPMENT....

Dilapidated, rusted, neglected, falling apart...

They use them as dryer racks for the laundry!


On one of our first days there, one of the boys wanted to show us the 'car'.  It had a broken steering wheel attached.  He was so thrilled to be able to show us the broken wheel on the rusted out car.   His delight was heartbreaking. 

There is such need.  We can't even begin to get our heads around it.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Finding the Silver Lining


     I hate that we are not heading back to Aaron's country soon.  I hate sitting here feeling like we are spinning circles in the sand.  I'm fighting to have a positive attitude about everything.  So here is my attempt to find the silver lining...

     I get to work  on the Medieval curriculum that I realized was impossible to work on over there!  I've gotten a lot accomplished in the last two weeks while waiting for the ever-important e-mails.... I plan on getting even more accomplished as we wait.  Of course this really isn't something I can get too excited about as I am very burned out from writing and would love to NOT be writing but I'm trying to focus on the positive here....

     I get to take Ben for his first days at a local Community College in a few weeks.  He is going to be taking a few classes this fall and now I get to help him in his first weeks and for that I am very grateful.  

     We get to catch up on some rest... IF.... we could both learn to fall asleep AND STAY ASLEEP.  It is very hard to stay asleep when your heart is torn in two.  We are working on this silver lining.

     Plane tickets in September will be a lot less expensive than in August.  THAT IS A MAJOR SILVER LINING!

     I am teaching two Homeschooling classes this fall and I've been able to order supplies and work on lessons plans.   I'm definitely happy for the extra time I have to put into these classes.

     I get to see Joseph and the Techni-color Dreamcoat in a few weeks.  Rob and the boys were supposed to be in the show but the adoption kept them from doing it.  But at least we get to see it and for that we are glad.   The people in the show are good friends and have been very supportive of this adoption.  They rock!

     So there are a few silver linings.  Of course, if I got an e-mail today saying that we had court next week - I would gladly toss all of that to the wind (except for Ben and school) and jump on the next flight back to Aaron! 



.....BECAUSE WE MISS THE LITTLE STINKER...

P.S.  I took this picture and a whole host of others on the last day we were with him.  I knew we were leaving and tried without success to get him to look at the camera.  He was TIRED of the camera by this point -didn't care at all that he could see himself in the screen and just wanted to play with the new trucks and the crane we brought.  I tried everything to get him to look at the camera.  He would only look at me AFTER the camera clicked.... Definitely a little stinker!!



    

Thursday, August 5, 2010

News of sorts

     We heard from our facilitator today.  In a nutshell and as best as we can understand, the judge is continuing to work through our paperwork.  To compound the issue, key people in her district who would take part in court are on vacation until the end of August.  So we are looking at court not happening until September at the earliest.
     To say we are sad would be putting it mildly.  We are looking at another four weeks at least before we can go back for Aaron.  It grieves us that he will not understand what happened to us.  Though we have been reassured that he has been told we will come back, he is just a little boy and we were the first visitors he has ever had.  I can't wrap my brain around the fact that I can't hold him, kiss his cute little cheeks and listen to his incredible laugh for another month. 

     Please don't grow weary in praying for him, for the judge, for our facilitators, for our situation.  Please keep praying!

Still Waiting for News

     Time is passing slowly.  We have had no news since Monday night and the wait is hard.  We miss Aaron.


Oh what we would give to bring him home. 

Does he think he has been abandoned again?  Is he still looking out the window, waiting for us? 

There are just no more words.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Consider the Lilies

We waited all day yesterday and received no news.  Again this morning we face an empty in-box.  Last night, after checking the internet for the thousandths time, we climbed into bed and reminded ourselves again that this is a journey of faith.  Faith.  Trust.  Obedience.  A willingness to operate on His timetable, not ours. 

This morning the verses from Luke 12 came to mind...

Consider the Lilies....



Okay... so they aren't lilies but I LOVE ROSES...

So for my blog this morning.... through Luke 12.. we are going to stop and smell the flowers in Aaron's country.... and be refreshed in spirit!



And maybe we will take some time to check out ants too....

Luke 12: 22-34



Then Jesus said to his disciples: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.



Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!



Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?



"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.



If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!


 
 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it.


 


For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them.


 

 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.



"Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.

 


Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.




For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.




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