Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Goodbye Boy

(Rob writing) You haven't really had a proper goodbye wave until you've had one of Aaron's.

Aaron's disability makes it difficult for him to raise his arms. His shoulder muscles are thin and weak from disuse, and I've read that the tendons in his shoulders may be malformed or misplaced. Both arms usually hang limp in front of him. When he can, he uses his feet to manage things.

He is able, however, to raise his arms a bit and manipulate things with his hands. He can turn the pages of a book with his arms-- it's best to hold the book low for him-- and he can click the button on a computer mouse. It costs him a great deal of effort to raise an arm. When he does, he arches his back, puffs out his chest and sort of tosses his arm into the air. This move is almost always accompanied by a toothy grimace. I think the grimace is one of effort, not of pain. He grimaces each time he turns the page of a book, but he's never reluctant to turn a page.

All of this makes for the best goodbye wave you've ever seen. He thrusts his arm into the air, and the grimace transforms into his trademark smile as he cheerfully waves goodbye. Ever since we left him, I haven't been able to get that picture out of my head.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Rest... He's Got This

Rest... He's Got This....

      I read those words yesterday, written on our comments by "Michelle" and I was touched deeply.  At first I read them on a level that made me smile.  Later in utter conviction.  You see, I found out soon after reading those words some things that almost made my heart stop.  This adoption is NOT a simple process and I learned just how NOT simple it has become yesterday.  I have never wanted to go to pieces so badly as I did yesterday. 
     But I followed the advice of Michelle.  I took Bible in hand, I went to my bedroom and I began to read, pray and rest.  Okay, I didn't actually sleep.  My brain wouldn't slow down for that to happen but I did come away with a different perspective and this morning I am taking one step at a time in learning to let God have this.  Complete surrender.  Rest.  Trusting in His goodness, believing that no matter what, whether we walk away with Aaron in our arms or not, that God has this.  It is His. 
    Does that mean I stop praying... absolutely not.   Monday is crucial.  I can't even put into words how important the meeting on Monday will be.  We are in a strange scenerio right now but God has placed wise people in Aaron's country who are working overtime to make straight the paths and level the mountains before us.  But if those paths don't straighten as we wish/want/desire - God is still good.  He loves Aaron with an endless, boundless love.  He loves us.  I chose to rest in that truth.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


     We have news.  It is complicated and... complicated.  BUT.... there is quite possibly a light at the end of the tunnel!  Praise God.

The short version: 

     On Tuesday morning our facilitator, Luda, found out that the judge had finally arrived in court. Luda quickly grabbed a taxi and did a mad dash down to the village (that's going to cost us a pretty penny) and after much persuasion, she was able to gain an audience with him.   It was in one of those God-arranged minutes because he was LEAVING FOR VACATION FOR TWO MONTHS the very next day! 
     After much heart-stopping discussion, he signed the papers to move our case to a nearby district court.  Luda then drove like a wild-woman to that court (more money) and was able submit our papers there.  The judge in that district is on vacation until Monday so we will have to wait until then to find out if she is willing to take our case and when we can get a court date.  Hopefully on Monday, Luda will travel back down (yikes... this is going to add up) and the judge will agree to take our case.
     We are beyond grateful that things are moving.  We are trying to breathe, but holding our breath at the same time as so much hinges on so much.  But God has again shown Himself to be the director of this drama so we just continue to need to trust and obey.   

We are definitely stressing about how we are going to arrange our lives with such ridiculously hard change-of-plans. We are being hit with expenses that are causing us to gasp.  I don't want to go into details but all of our 'best-laid' plans have been trampled in the dust in regards to the finances.   One of our deepest desires since Aaron is older was for both boys to be introduced to him in his country.  Elijah went and I can honestly say it was the best decision we made.  NOT that it was easy for him.  It was downright difficult on every level.  But to know that Aaron and Elijah first bonded in Aaron's world was worth every nickel we spent on his plane ticket.  

The decision to take Ben is weighing heavy upon us.  He is bursting at the seams to go and we again believe strongly that Aaron needs to bond with Ben on his home turf.  Aaron is a cognitively normal disabled child in a special needs mental institute and is dealing with issues that go way beyond what a little guy should have to carry.  He needs his brothers to understand.  My boys need to understand him.   It is a hard, hard decision. 

     So we sit on the side-lines, waiting, praying more and even more, trying to make unbelievably hard decisions, planning and then watching our plans become dust at our feet, clinging to each other and to our God. 

     Thank you to so many who reached out yesterday when I was hitting bottom.  The e-mails, hugs from friends in our world, comments, facebook messages, prayers - they helped carry me through. 

I can't end this without posting some 'brotherly love' pictures of Elijah and Aaron....

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Broken Record

   I definitely feel like a broken record these days.  How many times can you ask someone to pray?  It would be so much easier if we could come on this blog and hand out jobs.  I know that the 500+ people who have come alongside us on this journey would gladly and willingly jump in and DO something to move this along.  How refreshing would it be if we could all work together on some task to bring Aaron home.  Believe me, if doing something, anything, would bring that child to this house - I would be the first in line to do whatever it took. 

     All we can do is sit on the sidelines and pray.  Sometimes it just doesn't seem like much.  Looking at the many mountains standing before us, feeling so overwhelmed from every corner, I want to just weep and cry and plead and beg and DO something to push the mountains out of the way.  I had everything so planned for the first trip.  It wasn't going to be easy but it was going to work.  Now everything is up in the air.  We have no way to plan, we are scraping the bucket financially, we are emotionally and physically drained and we have absolutely no idea when we will be able to go back and finish the process. 

     So yes, I feel like a broken record.  All we have is the promise that God called us to adopt Aaron and He is not going to abandon us.  I am hanging on for dear life to that promise.  My faith is weak.  I feel tired and frail.  I'm clinging.  Our cliff is steep.  I know that God has hold of us tightly because I believe in my deepest heart that He is Good and Loving and Kind.   I also know that the only way to move the mountains is by prayer.  There are no jobs to give out, no tasks to accomplish.  All we CAN do is pray. 

     So I am going to again be a broken record.  Please pray.  It's all we can do.  It is more than enough.

Galatians 6:9 "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Magna-Doodle...

We have no news to share. 

So let me just share about one little boy and one Magna-Doodle....

When we first laid eyes on Aaron we were definitely surprised.  His arms hung down uselessly in front of him and he walked awkwardly on his toes.  His issues were much bigger than we anticipated.   We wondered how he was going to survive in our world.  What could he do?  It was a bit overwhelming.  All the toys we brought for him seemed useless as they required fine-motor skills and the use of hands.  Kicking a ball for three hours a day was going to get very old!

On our third visit, the nurses stepped in.  They wanted us to know just how special their Aaron was.  Through sign language they communicated to us that he could draw with his feet.  They gave him a stick and he immediately put it between his toes and started writing on the ground.   Then he led us to his pile of sand and showed us how he used his feet to dig in the sand.   Needless to say, we were pleasantly surprised!

We went home and looked at the bag of toys we had brought.  We pulled out the Magna-Doodle and discussed whether he would be able to master the toy.  It not only required holding the stylus and drawing but pulling the lever to erase the drawing.  It required the use of two hands (feet) to pull the lever.  How was he going to manage that task?

Oh we of little faith.

Aaron understood how to use that Magna-Doodle after showing him one time.  His grin said it all..

He immediately took pen in hand and with his feet drew to his heart's delight.

Then he put the stylus down and easily pushed the lever, stabilizing the Magna-Doodle with his other foot. 

To say we were overjoyed, proud and amazed would be stating it lightly. 

Using both his feet he can draw and erase without any help from us.  We also witnessed his maturity.  He 'shared' the Magna-Doodle with us, happily taking turns and enjoying our pitiful creations.  Of course he got the most turns but we weren't counting!!

This was only the beginning of the many surprises that Aaron had up his sleeves.  Keep coming back as we share more about our amazing little guy!

Monday, July 26, 2010


In case you were wondering - the medicine used for cuts, scrapes and just about anything else skin-related is green.  That is what is on his shoulder.. Aaron carries a good bit of green medicine on his little banged up body!

Also, you may have noticed that Aaron is wearing hats in many of his pictures.  In his country, it is considered unhealthy for a child to go outside without a hat on.  I'm not sure how old a child can be before the hat is no longer required but I can say that we were fussed at by our dear landlady for not having a hat on Elijah. 

Quite a number of people have asked us about our financial situation...

In a nutshell.... 

     If we had stayed in country, we would have had enough to cover for all the adoption expenses since the cost of living in Aaron's region was so much cheaper than normal.  Unfortunately, coming home changed that equation.  We are now short by two plane tickets.  If we go back in the next few weeks (definitely the deepest prayer of our heart) then we are looking at additional costs of around 3,000 dollars.    We continue to be at peace concerning the financial part of this journey, knowing that God will provide.  Already people have begun to fill in the gap and for that we are amazed and humbled.   Our blog buttons are open for those who desire to make a donation. 

Over and above any financial need we may have, we beg for prayer for Aaron as he struggles with our disappearance.  He is not quite six years old and it is a heavy burden he carries.  For his entire life he did not have visitors.  No one came to see him.  He has been alone. 

For 7 special days, three people entered his world and loved on him.  Then we disappeared. 

On the last day we were there, as we were playing with him for the last time, he leaned his head onto my shoulder and for about 20 fleeting seconds I felt his little head rest against me.   He didn't know we were leaving at that point.  As I felt his little head against mine, I just wanted to weep in frustration and loss.  He has spent his entire life never having been hugged, held, kissed or loved on by a Mommy or a Daddy.  For seven days he experienced all of these.   He was starting to take some tiny steps to indicate to us that though the physical contact terrified him, he wanted it.  Sitting on Papa's lap to read a story was scary, but oh, so much fun.  Having Mama rub his back froze him in place with the sensation.  His little eyes would glaze over and he would sigh.  Sitting between the two of us took great courage on his part.   At first he just moved away, but on the last day we spent about thirty minutes like this....

Oh how sweet.  Sitting between Papa and Mama and building with the coolest toy ever... Magnetix....




Sunday, July 25, 2010


     We are home.  


Longing to be back with Aaron but trusting, hoping and praying that we will be returning soon. 

We miss this little guy....

We miss his laugh.

We miss the way he blows raspberries when he is frustrated. 

We miss his little voice and all the funny noises he makes. 

We miss following him around the institute kicking his little truck ahead of him.

We just plain miss him.

In our questioning and wondering why this has happened, we are again forced to cling with all our might to the promises of the Scriptures.  God is not going to abandon us or Aaron.  It was He who called us to adopt Aaron and He will see us through.  It is hard to trust.  We are human and frail.  We don't feel strong or brave at the moment.  Last night in my struggling, praying and wiping the tears that often leak out of my eyes, the following verses from Psalm 27 came crashing into my heart.  Memorized years ago, but so needed during this time...

Psalm 27 

The LORD is my light and my salvation
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life
of whom shall I be afraid?

When evil men advance against me
to devour my flesh,
when my enemies and my foes attack me,
they will stumble and fall.

Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then will I be confident.

One thing I ask of the LORD,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple.

For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle
and set me high upon a rock.

Then my head will be exalted
above the enemies who surround me;
at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make music to the LORD.

Hear my voice when I call, O LORD;
be merciful to me and answer me.

My heart says of you, "Seek his face!"
Your face, LORD, I will seek.

Do not hide your face from me,
do not turn your servant away in anger;
you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
O God my Savior.

Though my father and mother forsake me,
the LORD will receive me.
Teach me your way, O LORD;
lead me in a straight path
because of my oppressors.

Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me,
breathing out violence.

I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.

Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.

Friday, July 23, 2010


     We left our apartment at 3:00 am this morning (Aaron's time) and have been traveling all day.  We arrived in Philly tonight (US time - trip took about 23 hours) and discovered that they had overbooked our last flight for Richmond. They only had two seats for the three of us.  Dear exhausted Elijah was bumped from his seat!  We couldn't leave him behind so we are staying at the Ramada Inn and tomorrow morning we will fly home.  It is hard to find humor in the situation.  We are tired.  It's been a hard, emotional day.   The only joy in leaving is that we get to see Ben (when we EVER get home).  We are now out of Aaron's time zone...something we didn't want to happen.  We were told before we left that our facilitator (Luda) and the lawyer (Serge) will be appealing our case to a higher court next week.  Apparently they have decided not to wait for things to be resolved in the village.  As always - please pray that God will melt this mountain that stands before us!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Court Issue

(Rob writing) This is our understanding of the current legal situation, which is admittedly a weak understanding:

Each year the town council must approve a list of prospective jurors and submit it to the court. These jurors are chosen from among the town's "respected" citizens: teachers, doctors, and so on. The court then accepts the list and draws on the approved group of people whenever it needs a jury. Apparently the judge can hear many types of cases without a jury, but for a case like ours a jury is required.

This year, for whatever reason, the jury selection process failed. The list was not approved, and the court did not accept it. They cannot seat a jury. The town council blames the court, and the court blames the town council. Our able facilitator Ludmilla went from one office to the next trying to resolve the issue. Both sides showed her the section of legal code involved, and each seemed to think that the code clearly demonstrated that it was in the right. No one knows how long it will take to resolve this little bureaucratic spat.

On top of all of this, the judge is ill and is not working this week. No one has told us what his illness is-- I suppose it really is none of our business-- or when he expects to return. There is simply no way to know when all of this will shake down, but it will certainly take a couple of weeks or more. That's why we're going home to wait.

Our other legal option is to move our case to a higher court. We understand that the present court has 10 days to act on our case before we can consider an appeal, which probably means 10 business days-- really about two weeks before we can force the issue. And again, nothing can proceed until the judge bangs his gavel, which he's not doing this week. The appeals court would be in some other town, which would complicate matters. In this town, we already have a lot of people on our side. It would be far better to do it here, but we may not have that option.

We really believe that nothing will prevent the adoption from going through in the end. Too many good-hearted people here want to see it succeed, and we have excellent representation. In a little while, we will be back here, and that time we won't come home without him.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


We have just found out that we have hit a brick wall.  The court and the town council can not come to an agreement and we have been advised to go home until it is resolved.  Our hearts are breaking.  We have to leave Aaron for an indefinite amount of time.  Please pray for us.  We must tell him in the next hour and we can't bear the thought.  It is NOT an issue with our paperwork.  Everything in our paperwork is fine and we should pass court without trouble.  It is an issue between two political parties in this area and with the judge sick - there is no way for the issue to be resolved.  Please pray for us.  We will be heading home in the next few days as soon as we can get our travel arrangements planned.  It absolutely is breaking our heart to leave Aaron behind!


     Apart from a few beat up old balls, there are no toys in Aaron's world.  No bikes, only wheelchairs.  No books or televisions.  No playground equipment except some beat up old pieces that are used for drying the boys' clothes.  Each day the caretakers/nurses (ladies in white uniforms) round the children up and bring them to a grassless section where they play.  Sometimes they listen to music.  Many of them just sit and rock.  In the middle of the play area stands a tree. They have piled sand around the tree, and this sandpile is Aaron's playplace.  He has an older Down Syndrome friend who digs in the sand with him.  They laugh together and play in that pile of sand.  There are no buckets or shovels, just a piece of broken tile that they use as a scoop. It is not a clean pile of sand.We have seen an older boy drop his pants and pee right into the sand pile.The nurses got after him immediately, because they don't stand for that sort of thing, but they can't watch every second. That is Aaron's world.
     Around 11:00, the boys come outside in three different groups.  There are around 60 boys who get to come outside.  At first we were overwhelmed by these boys.  There are so many, and they have so many problems.  They make noises and walk funny.  Some are in wheelchairs.  They stare at us and we stare back.  Some cry out "Mama".  It hurts.  They sit in three little lean-to sheds where they have juice and a snack.  When they are finished, they parade back out, usually holding hands in pairs, and go to their outdoor play areas. 
    Since we have come, Aaron stands with us to watch the parade.  These are his friends, and perhaps a couple of foes.  These are the boys in his world.  There are little guys.  Oh so tiny.  I want to scoop them up and hold them.  Most of the little ones are Downs boys.  There are gentle smiling boys in the crowd who wave at us as they pass by.  Aaron's friend comes over and shakes our hands with a smile on his face.  Does he know that my heart is breaking?  There are active boys, ready to run if given a chance.  One child tries often to break away and run to us.  They grab him and take him back to the parade and he hits himself in the head.  This is Aaron's world.
     There are boys who are out of control.  They are watched carefully by the older boys in their midst.  Still, they can slip away.  One escaped and grabbed Aaron's precious truck.  He ripped it apart before we could stop him.  The older boys rushed in and put the truck back together. 
     The nurses are few but somehow they maintain control.  They smile at us and speak soft words to Aaron.  They love him.  It is evident in their eyes and touch.  We are ever so grateful for them.  They care deeply for these boys. They give the older boys jobs.  Those jobs give them dignity and joy.  We see it on their faces as they fetch water from the outside well.  They help push wheelchairs and hold the hands of the little ones.  They call out to Aaron, waving to him and rejoicing for him. 
      It is a sad world, Aaron's world.  It breaks our hearts each day.  We come away drained and longing for home and everything safe and familiar.   He has been here for almost a year.  Yet, despite the sorrow surrounding him, Aaron's laughter has not diminished.  His spirit is not broken.  He has a joy in him that causes us to marvel.  His mirth is contagious.  We can't help but laugh with him.  We are laughing in Aaron's world.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010




This is our ONE AND ONLY CHANCE (for now) to get pictures posted of Aaron until we go back to the capital.  We didn't know we would be able to do this, but fortunately, with the help of our translator and the internet attendant (who decided to break some rules) .... We were able to load these few pictures of our precious little guy onto our blog.  We doubt we will be able to do this again until after court so enjoy them!  We have hundreds more!  I have yet to capture Aaron in his full out laugh (though not for lack of trying) but you get a bit of his personality in these pictures. 

The bumps, bruises, scrapes and bandages on him are all results of his many falls....

Enjoy!  We love our boy!

Prayer requests...

     Please, Dear Friends, please pray. 

We found out some possible major roadblocks in the way of this adoption.  In this country, a jury is seated for a year and the list of jurors has to be approved before court can be convened.  It is July and the list of jurors for this year has NEVER BEEN APPROVED.  This means that there are no jurors to sit in court.  For an adoption, they need at least two jurors to sit in court.  That is one MAJOR problem.  The other BIG issue is that the judge is sick and will not be doing any paperwork until he is better.  We have NO IDEA how sick he is and when he will be able to do our paperwork.  As of next Tuesday, all the paperwork should be signed and ready for court.  We are not sure if the papers have been signed today that Aaron wants to be with us - that seems to be a separate issue but the orphanage director wants us to adopt him and that has major bearing.  Regardless - if we file to have court in another area, we still need the judge to do his part of the paperwork so everything is tied together.  Our facilitator and her boss (Serge) are working the phones and meeting with officials today to try to figure out what can be done to get around the issue.  We ask for prayers.  As you read this please pray.  Hopefully we will have a good idea tonight what has transpired today.  We are so helpless through this process.

Though this all sounds confusing - it is not confusing to the One who has called us to walk this path.  We ask that you storm heaven for our little guy and the crazy paperwork that must be done in order for us to bring him home.


No pictures

Ugh!  We can't post pictures.  Our facilitator, Luda, came back late last night and brought a modem but alas, it doesn't work in this area (surprise, surprise).  That was what we have been waiting for in terms of internet.  Stumbling upon this internet cafe last night was definitely a precious find, but because we are using their computers, we don't have any way to upload our pictures.  So you are just going to have to wait to see pictures!  I am SO SORRY! 

I've been told that they are experiencing record breaking heat here.  Let me tell you - it is breaking us.  We are melting.  Our dear landlady told me last night that tomorrow would be cooler.  It is amazing how much you can communicate even if you can't speak the same language.  Speaking louder doesn't help (neither does speaking slower) but if you use hand motions, gestures and throw in some German words once in a while - we actually are able to understand each other.  We clap, laugh and rejoice each time we are able to understand what is being said. 

Elijah is doing remarkably well despite the heat, food and living conditions.  He is twelve years old and has been exposed to much in the last few days.  We knew that when we brought him that he would see things that would shock him.  We were not wrong.  But we believed strongly that it was important for both boys (Ben is coming in 10 days) to experience the good, bad and the ugly of Aaron's world.  It is a world that Aaron has lived ever since he was transferred here last fall.  Though it could be worse (and Praise the Lord it is not worse), it is still hard to observe.  At first Elijah was shocked by Aaron's appearance.  His handicap stood out strongly in his eyes and it, understandably so, upset him.  After only a few times visiting Aaron, Elijah's demeanor has completely changed.  He has stopped seeing the handicap and only sees his brother. 

As always - Thank you for praying for us and for continuing to follow our journey.  We are hoping that today all will go well with the paperwork.  We have tried not to focus on what Aaron needs to do in order for the final paperwork to be signed so that we can have court.  This whole process has been in the Lord's hands from the beginning and we just are trusting that all will be well.  

We have been VERY GRATEFUL for our nephew Spencer and his willingness to translate our experience for you on the blog.  He is studying English in college.... can you tell?? 

Monday, July 19, 2010

Quick, Scroll Down!

The Nalles are ONLINE! Scroll down to read Julia's first entry since their arrival in Aaron's village!

As soon as I saw the newest post we gave the family another call on Skype. Ben and I spoke to both Rob and Julia, and they told us about a shop they'd stumbled across that held five desktop computers, internet-enabled and cheap to use. So they're online one day ahead of schedule. Awesome! Everything is in another language, so even though they will try to post pictures tomorrow, it may be slow going on that front. Still, the fact that they are able to connect with their faithful readers is cause for gratitude and celebration.

During our first conversation today (which began just as they were concluding their second visit at the institute), Aunt Julia told us, "Aaron so does not belong here." He continues to charm and amaze his new parents, despite the exhaustion that the heat and mile-long walks to and from the institute force on them. He said his second English word the other day ("Papa"), and he strings sentences together with excitement when he's with them. He can be coy with his affection, however. Please keep praying for him, as the day when he'll have to make that big decision is drawing nearer.

Rob, Julia and Elijah have been to the open air market, and they were met with little success. It's booth after booth after booth, and you can tell there are no foreigners in the area because not one vendor is selling tourist items. Produce, meat, bread, etc could be found in different sections of the market. When they made it to the butcher's room, they studied the meat and did not like what they found. The custom there is to pick up the meat, examine it, slap it down on the counter and, if you don't approve, just walk away. It was mutilated-looking. Understandably, they passed.

They did manage to find a pre-packaged ham that Julia prepared. She said it tasted like corned beef. They've also been eating grilled cheese (sliced cheese is expensive but easy to find) and trail mix (which they brought with them). Elijah found ice cream cones that come in packages, a delicacy which the whole family now enjoys for its availability and deliciousness. 

Cold drinks continue to elude them, so Julia has been sticking water bottles in the freezer (without her landlady's knowledge) as a means of combating the heat. Today Valla caught her doing it, and, unable to imagine why anyone would want a cold beverage, put her finger to her head as if to ask, "Are you crazy?" 

They are not living comfortably, but everyone is being fed and watered. In His goodness, the Lord is watching over this family. Aaron enjoys their company, their facilitator returns tonight, progress is being made on their paperwork, and they have found a way to connect to the people who love and pray for them every day. Thank you, God, for protecting and loving us.


Oh my goodness.... we stumbled out in the heat tonight to make a trip to our favorite store and decided to do a bit of exploring guess what we found????  I am so excited I can barely type.  We can now be on-line!!  For less than a dollar an hour we can connect with the outside world. 

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for ALL who have been praying for us.  I am so muddled in my brain I honestly can't type straight.  Spencer is posting our blog for us for the day as we were Skyping with him only recently and we haven't tried to Skype from this computer yet.  We are just enjoying reading the comments and feeling a part of the outside world.  We just can't believe we have had internet access all this time!!

We are doing well.  Tired, extremely hot, hungry for meat, homesick but at peace.  We love Aaron.  That is putting it mildly.  He is starting to like us.  He has got a drop-dead smile and laugh that makes our hearts melt each time he graces us with it.  He is an overall happy little fellow and will laugh at the drop of a hat.  Literally.  So our hearts melt pretty constantly.  We are still just fun playmates to him but he definitely likes playing with us.

He is in a groupa of about 30 or so boys of all ages.  His is the highest functioning group and he is one of the youngest.  We figure that dear little Aaron is the highest functioning child there.  He definitely doesn't belong here.  What we are seeing is definitely heart-wrenching on every level.  There are about 130 boys total in the institute.  From the first visit we have been impressed with the director and her staff.  Their job is unbelieveably hard but they are beyond patient, very loving and extremely gentle with the boys.  (It is an all male institute).  Aaron's group only has two caretakers to watch over all the boys and they have their hands full.  They lack everything.  No playground equipment, toys, supplies etc.  It is a poor institute but they work with what they have been given.  In the fall, a group from Holland will be arriving to give them some training in how best to help the most disabled children. 

We will try to post pictures tomorrow.  For those who asked - Aaron has Arthrogryposis.  He is in worse shape than we understood, but it has not caused us to reconsider this decision.  The first time we saw his dimples, we were sold.  From what we have observed, his legs and hips are fine.  His feet are affected.  At one point he had surgery with rather intense scars that run along his feet and up his legs.  His arms are in definite need of repair.  He can't bend his elbows or his wrists and his fingers are pretty stiff.  To watch him fall is heartbreaking. 

I have so much to say but will end this so I can enjoy catching up on e-mails.   Our facilitator is coming back tonight.  The institute director has already finished her part of the paperwork which is a major praise.  She likes us and wants us to have Aaron!!  Praise God from whom all blessings flow!!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Aaron's First (English) Word!

Lots to write about and be thankful for today.

Yesterday, Aunt Julia told me about a toy dump truck she had purchased at the village market. Her hope had been that Aaron would take fondly to it, and today her wish came true. Her exact words were, "Oh my goodness, this child fell in love." Within seconds, he had figured out how to keep pressure on the truck with one foot and tilt the bed with the other. During their morning visit, he was constantly looking for sitting places from which he could best maneuver his special present.

It was raining in the afternoon, so much of their second visit was limited to the infirmary. Aaron was not eager to join them there, but he forgot his anxiety after being introduced to the Nalles' computer. He saw pictures of himself and of his new parents and brothers, and Julia said he was very quick to make the connection between camera and computer. There was a demo version of a Bob the Builder game on the computer, which Aaron loved. Again, he swiftly figured out the cause-and-effect relationship between clicking the button on the laptop and the corresponding in-game action. 

At one point during his time with the game, Aaron used a crane to put cargo into the bed of a truck. As the vehicle drove away, he said, "Truck!" His first word! Rob and Julia had been calling his new toy "truck" all that morning, and he picked it up just like that. Amazing!

Aaron continues to practice using his arms, though it is a struggle for him to do anything at all. He helped turn some more pages today (book reading has been a staple of these visits) and clicked the laptop button with his hand to make the computer game work. It began to hail after everyone had made it back inside. Julia ventured out to pick up a few of the frozen raindrops and showed them to Aaron, but he didn't like the cold feeling and instructed her to throw them back outside!

He has warmed up to Julia now, just as he had with Rob. They get two ninety minute visits with him every day: one in the morning, and one in the afternoon. Julia says, "He had GREAT focus this morning." Praise God. Nearly all of her comments were positive; he continues to fall and is still unaccustomed to the comfort he now receives each time it happens, but apart from that both visits went spectacularly well. The mornings are brutally hot and walking to and from the institute can be exhausting, but I imagine that is a small price to pay considering the rewards they reap upon their arrival.

A few details about the institute itself, now:

There are 35 kids in Aaron's group, all of them boys; their ages range from four to sixteen or eighteen. Julia has not seen any of the bedridden children yet. Some kids don't walk, but they're brought outside in wheelchairs. You see children with every kind of disability while you're there. Among them are two down syndrome boys who could be anywhere from four to six or even eight, but they appear to be just twelve or eighteen months old. Their caretaker brings them outside together, holding each of their hands. Julia's heart breaks for these two in particular.

Many of the children are curious about these strange new adults and approach them, wanting to talk or play with them, but they're called back by their caretakers. Just to be safe, though, Aaron sends them away if they get too close! His possessiveness is definitely humorous, but it's also a cause for celebration. There is a bond slowly forming between this boy and his future mom and dad. We pray that progress continues to be made in this area.

I have learned the name of the 80 year old woman with whom Rob, Julia and Elijah are staying. She is called Valla, and this afternoon she made borscht (a soup containing cabbage and red beets) for her guests. Julia said it didn't look very appetizing, but that it tasted fine. Elijah had a hard time swallowing the stuff, so Valla, thinking that perhaps it was too cold, whisked his plate away and put its contents on a skillet. Poor Elijah! Eventually, she offered him chicken and Rob ate Elijah's portion. Her grandson (who speaks a little English) joined them for a short time yesterday and brought along an English-to-Russian/Russian-to-English dictionary! YES! The Lord provides.

The meals that Valla has made for this family have been the only real sustenance they've found thus far. Julia hopes that when they next visit the open air market, they will be able to navigate their way to meat and fresh fruit. The locals are not always friendly, so it's likely that they'll be relying on their wits and what little Russian they have learned.

Your comments will appear with more frequency now that Traci is calling and reading them off to Julia (thanks, Traci!). I'll pop in every few hours and publish your thoughts to the blog so they can get to the Nalles ASAP.

Please remain in prayer for this family and the wonderful work they are doing.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Two More Visits and One Big Prayer Request

Before I get into today's update, a quick correction to yesterday's:

When Aaron was five, he was moved from an orphanage to the institute where he currently lives. This was because of his disability, not because he was considered high functioning. Nevertheless, the institute is very nice, and Aaron, despite having very little use of his arms, is able to do all sorts of things, even draw! More on that in a bit.

The woman who provided Rob, Julia and Elijah with a place to stay has been cooking for them, as well. Last night they had ham and potato soup, and she's planning on making something new tonight (Aunt Julia enunciated it for me, but I don't want to attempt to spell it). With no restaurants in town, this eighty year old woman's hospitality is certainly a blessing. She knows a little German, so she and Julia can exchange pleasantries. Rob is learning Russian, too; hopefully they will be able to converse soon, as their translator is no longer with them (and will not return until Tuesday).

When Ben and I made our first call this morning, the Nalles were on the road to the institute for the second time today. They had already seen Aaron once, but he was distant towards and even scared of them during that first visit. He did not want to be touched or sit in Rob's lap. He had a hard time focusing because there were many other children around. Julia described the morning as, "rough, hot, and very confusing." Near the end of that first visit, she watched as Aaron grasped a stick between his toes and used it to draw in the sandbox. He became much more animated as he demonstrated this ability, but shortly afterwards it was time to go.

We were relieved to hear (upon making another call two hours later) that Aaron was friendlier during their second time together. The other children weren't present for this visit, so he was able to devote more attention to Rob, Julia and Elijah. They brought a Magna Doodle (if you don't recognize the name, you'll recognize the product after a Google image search) and, just as he had with the stick, Aaron grasped the magnetic pen between his toes and drew on the board with the same precision our hands afford us. He listened as several books were read to him, and (though it was very hard for him) even turned a few pages, smiling each time he managed it. What great news, to learn that he has even an ounce of control in his arms!

Aaron can not catch himself when he falls, and has acquired some nasty scrapes and bruises. Three times today his new family witnessed him hit the cement, face first, and although he would cry with frustration, he quickly mastered himself as though this was standard procedure. He is not accustomed to being hugged and loved after these falls. Hopefully that will change in the days ahead.


Before Aaron can come home, he has to indicate that he wants Julia and Rob to be his new mother and father. Aaron's reaction to today's morning visit inspired some nervousness on their part. Much of the success of this mission lies in the hands of a boy not even six years old. Please, please pray that the Lord will work in his heart, and in the hearts of the Nalles, as well. Father, give them patience and the real peace that comes only from trusting in You. "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose."

Julia expressed a strong feeling of homesickness during our second conversation. Again, their translator is gone and will not return until Tuesday, so they are alone in a village where no one speaks any English.  She has given me permission to post her phone number on the blog so that her readers (other Reece's Rainbow families in particular) can contact her via Skype. It's free for her, but they charge the initiator by the minute. If you have questions about putting funds in your account, feel free to include them in your comments, but Google might be the better instructor, here.

+38 050 819 2894

When you put the number into Skype, omit the spaces. The phone will not ring; instead, a woman will come on and speak to you in Russian until Julia picks up. She (Julia, not the Russian woman) will be thrilled to hear from you.

Thank you all for your comments and PRAYERS! Please keep Aaron's role in the adoption in mind when you go to God today, tomorrow and until he is home safe.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Aaron Meets His Family!

We have wonderful news for everyone who has been keeping up with the Nalles' journey to bring Aaron home. But first, an explanation:

Rob, Julia and Elijah have made it safely to Aaron's region, but they are without internet access. The town is primitive. There are no restaurants and no hotels in the area, but the three of them and their facilitator were offered two rooms in an elderly woman's home. Ben and I used Skype to call Julia's phone earlier this morning and she excitedly informed us about their first encounter with Aaron (we made sure to take down all of her thoughts and observations). Until the family can re-access the internet on TUESDAY, we will be updating the blog on their behalf.

(I'm Spencer, a cousin of Ben's. My father and Rob are brothers. I wish that Julia could be bringing you all this news, and I know she does, too, but I'm happy to serve her and the rest of her family as they go through the final stages of the adoption process.)

On to that good news!

The institute where Aaron currently lives is VERY NICE, which Julia said was, "A real answer to prayer." The nurses care about the children, and have reacted positively to the adoption. Aaron was fearful and a little upset at the prospect of seeing his new family, but after he was coaxed into meeting them, he warmed up quickly, to Rob in particular.

Aaron has the bluest eyes and the most beautiful laugh. Julia says, "Pictures are on the way." He isn't as skinny as she had anticipated; he is happy and healthy, tall, very solid, and strong. He loves to talk, and although he doesn't know much, he's very smart. He smiles constantly. All he wants to do is play. Although he's one of the youngest children at the institute, the nurses say he's very bossy! "He's going to run our lives," Julia said, laughing.

Families usually get five or ten meager minutes with their adoptees, but Rob, Julia and Elijah got two hours with Aaron! At one point during their visit they had to step out for a short time, and when they returned, Aaron came running up to them with a smile on his face. Praise God. They played ball together and Aaron sat quietly on Rob's lap as his new dad read him a book.

Aaron has almost no use of his hands, but he has adapted and is one of the highest functioning kids at the institute. His abdomen and his legs are very strong. He walks on his toes, which Julia says are as dextrous as our fingers. He can kick a ball farther than you would believe. He's especially curious; during their visit, Aaron would get very excited every time a truck drove by, hidden from sight by a fence. Julia says he's going to "go nuts" once he's out in the world.

On this blog, comments must be moderated and approved before they appear underneath each entry. This morning, Ben read over a dozen new comments to his mother over the phone, and she interjected with laughter and amens. Please know that your messages provide precious encouragement to this family, and that if they don't show up right away, that means Julia will soon hear them.

Please remain in prayer for the Nalles, and for Aaron, who will soon be one of them!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


     We are leaving at 3:00 am for Aaron’s region. It was affirmed to us again that NO ONE has adopted from this area. They don’t even know where the village is where Aaron’s institute is located. Our facilitator will be riding with us and staying with us to walk us through this process. You can pray for her because she is dealing with me (basket case number one). We do not know if we will have internet access in this region. We are going to try our hardest to find a way to stay connected. It makes us feel a bit vulnerable and definitely unsteady on our feet. We have been reassured that we will meet Aaron tomorrow. We can’t ask it enough - please pray for us…

The Cause of All European Wars

(Rob writing) The breakthroughs keep coming in my understanding of European history. I have discovered the root cause of all European wars, and it’s not what you think. I’ve heard all of the stories about disputes over territory, the assassination of this or that duke, and so on. Those are just the sparks that set the fire going. The fuel which the fire burns, though, is something far more insidious. I am speaking, of course, of seltzer water.

All over Europe, seltzer water is sold side-by-side with real water. If there are marks on the packaging to distinguish the two, they are detectable only by a Ph.D. linguist equipped with an electron microscope. The layman simply can’t tell the difference. Every day about half of the people in Europe are bound to purchase the wrong kind of water. It’s just the law of averages.

Now, when an innocent consumer takes a swallow of what he believes to be cool and refreshing water, and instead receives the harsh bite of vile seltzer water, real anger is kindled. A simmering, seething rage is born that lies just beneath the surface. If you’ve met many Europeans, you know what I mean. Then when something happens, say the invasion of Poland, everyone is already primed for war. They think to themselves, “Heck yeah, I’d like to shoot the %$#@ that snuck that seltzer water into my bottle,” and the battle is joined. I really think I’m onto something here.

Of course, they might just be angry at their landlords. At our present apartment, for example: 1)The internet service doesn’t work, 2)The phone doesn’t work, 3)There’s neither air conditioning, a fan, nor even really a window that opens properly, 4)The oven has no wire racks, and hence can’t be used, 5)The soap tray for the front-loading washer is missing, 6)The single stovetop pan available is a saucepan with no handles, and 7) Right now the water is turned off. If you imagine the French peasants as tenants and the French nobles as landlords, then the guillotine becomes not only understandable, but really quite forgivable. The breakthroughs keep coming.

All of that anger could be assuaged, though, if there were only a few more fine Christian folks like the Nances (adopting Zenya and Alec) and the Heims (adopting Darya) from Reece‘s Rainbow whom we met this evening. We looked for a fan today, but all we found were fancy clothes and matryoshka (nesting) dolls. We whined all of our troubles to them, and then after we left, they went out, found a fan, and bought it for us. They gave it to us as a gift. How nice. And I will also say this: I heard both of these families fret about the costs of things, and I can tell they’re both budgeting as tightly as possible while they’re over here. Expenses can be unpredictable when you’re adopting overseas, and they’re being careful what they spend on themselves. Yet when our need came up, they were generous with us. I have often thought before that this is a mark of God’s people: they are frugal for themselves, but generous for others. That is certainly true of these folks.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Abandoned at birth....

Six years ago our little guy was abandoned.... at the hospital....because he was disabled. 

 My heart aches deep within me.  I want to go back six years.  I want to be at the hospital and be present at his birth.  I want to take this rejected little guy with the crooked body and hold him in my arms.  I want to kiss his blonde little head and press him up against me.  I want to hand him to Rob and see him cuddle him in his strong loving arms.  Oh my heart hurts.  I want to watch him grow, learn, thrive because he is loved and cherished.  I want to see past the disability and find the precious child inside. 

In two days we will meet him.  There are no words for what is inside of me. 

Today our SDA appointment went well.  After seven months of waiting it was definitely a bit anti-climactic.  It was pleasant, quick and easy.  We found out that Aaron was abandoned at the maternity hospital.  We were told that he had arthrogryposis (Yep- already knew that!).  We were told he was very smart and slightly mentally delayed (??).  We were told he was slightly psychologically delayed.  How could he not be??  We were shown two precious pictures.  The first is the one above - taken last September, right before he was transferred out of the orphanage and sent to the mental institute.  In it we can see his condition much more clearly.  But if you look close....

You get to see just how beautiful he is. 

The second picture is of Aaron when he became available for adoption. 

Oh how I want to squish those chubby cheeks and kiss that cute little grumpy face. 

I wish I could respond to every e-mail and every comment on our blog and facebook.  You have NO IDEA how much it means to us.  We hang on every word!  Thank you so much for your support and love.  It means the world to  us!!  We have no internet in our apartment though the hookup is there and we were told we had it.  It is definitely disappointing.  We are here in the capital city until tomorrow afternoon.  We will then receive a referral paper that allows us to drive down to Aaron's region and on Thursday, if all goes well, we will meet Aaron for the first time. 

Aaron will be the first child adopted from his present facility.  That is a big deal.  It means we have no idea how things are going to go once we are there.  We ask/plead with you to pray for us.  God has moved the mountains to get us this far and we trust that He is going to continue to move those mountains. 

Last night at 2:30 when I couldn't sleep and was whispering prayers in my pillow as I have been doing now for the last seven months I realized something rather profound.  I am in Aaron's country.  Always before when I couldn't sleep and was whispering prayers, I was counting up the seven hours to "his time".  Last night I realized, I am in his time.  From now on, as long as he lives with us, he will be in our time and we will be in his.  Aaron is coming home.

More with Less...

    The latter half of our first 24 hours have definitely been a bit of an adventure.  |Our first apartment was hot and small but we had fairly consistent internet and discovered halfway through the day that we did actually have a landline phone.  Oh Joy!  We called a few people, Skyped Ben and hung out.  We were pretty content in that apartment.  We still needed a cell phone and hadn't contacted any RR people, but we were comfortable.
     At about 4:00 we received a phone call.  We had to move.  The landlord for some reason or another wanted to move us to a bigger apartment in another building.
     "Bigger is not always better" is definitely true... yes we moved to a bigger apartment but we now had no fan, (massive loss), no DVD player, no phone and.... most importantly.... no internet access.  (There was a phone, DVD player and an internet connection but none worked).  We wanted to get together with other RR families but since we couldn't call them and had no idea where we were or where they were - well... welcome to life in a foreign country!!
     So after unpacking our bags in our new bigger but not better apartment, we set out to explore and find something to eat.  After wandering a bit we found free WiFi and decided to stop and see if anyone had contacted us from RR.  Hurrah!  We had a Facebook message that a couple of RR people were meeting at such and such a place.  OKAY... where might that be ??  What a total hoot!
     Rob and Elijah took up the challenge and went looking for the landmarks given.  Rob has gotten really good at figuring out how to read the signs.  (For those who know him - that should not come as a surprise).  The written language here (though it looks very strange) is phonics based and if you can learn the sounds for the letters, you can occasionally figure out what the sign says.  Unbelievably, based on this new-found skill, they found them!
     We spent a nice hour talking to the Lorraines (adopting Oksana) and Sherry White (adopting Peyton, Jessa and Amelia).  Sherry's husband left a few days ago after they had court.  We've been following both their blogs for some time so it was a definitely a blessing to talk with them!  They gave us some definite help in figuring out where we could shop and eat and insight into what to expect tomorrow.  We ate dinner at TGIFridays (definitely expensive) and headed home to our internet-less, DVD-less, phone-less and TERRIBLY HOT apartment.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Many Errors of International Diplomacy Explained

(Rob writing) After only a few hours in country, I have discovered an obvious explanation for all of recent history's errors in international diplomacy. I feel so stupid and thick-headed with jet lag that I could do or say almost any thoughtless thing imaginable. I could easily and carelessly insult anyone. I could make decisions in defiance of all common sense, up to and including selling the family farm for a song. If any or all of our leaders and diplomats have felt the way I do over the years, it would explain so much.

For example: I'm not sure whether Truman traveled to Yalta by jet, but if he did, then there's the Cold War explained. Certainly anything after that qualifies. In light of jet lag, the long years of ineffectual posturing at the UN are no longer mysterious. Every word that comes out of Joe Biden's mouth is easily understood. I really think I'm onto something here.

We Christian folk like to think of ourselves as spiritual beings, as we should. But for all of that, we are still intimately tied to our physical bodies, and when those are upset and uncomfortable, so are our minds and spirits. I find that I depend very much on my material comforts. An inner-spring mattress may be old technology, but it beats the pants off of the bed we used last night, which more closely resembles a cheap chair seat in construction. By learning from the mistakes of others, graciously shared, we were at least able to avoid buying selzer in the place of water, buttermilk in the place of milk, cheese that tastes like mayonaise, etc. I realize that testing produces endurance, and that's good. No doubt I need more testing, but still I seek peace and comfort.

That's what makes Aaron and his fellow orphans some of the world's poorest people: their complete lack of material possessions. They own nothing: not one toy, not one article of clothing to call their own. We understand that they share even their underwear. Aaron will  leave that institution (Lord willing) owning absolutely nothing. Fortunately, his new Mom knows all about this and has already supplied him with lots of good things. Someday soon, hopefully, with his material needs satisfied, his mind and spirit can begin to grow.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


     We are here.  Exhausted would best describe our state of being - also jet-sick and car sick.  Elijah was great on three flights in terms of attitude but his stomach did not fair so well.  For all those who know him, you can guess what happened.  Twice on the big jet he lost his lunch.    The third plane was not much bigger than the first and by that trip - we were all exhausted, hot and very thirsty.  By the end of the third plane, not only Elijah but Rob was ready to lose his lunch.  
     Did you know that a small bottle of water costs 4.50 in Germany??  Anticipating that it would cost a lot, I had brought a large bottle of water for us to drink in the airports.  The water was confiscated in Germany and their waiting room was HOT.  I guess water is dangerous.  We bought two bottles of their very expensive water but it barely quenched our thirst.  To get the water I had to 'enter' Dusseldorf.  Basically I passed a booth in the airport where I had to hand the man our passports.  We then walked around the airport (very small - took us only a few minutes to go from one end and back), spent 9.00 on 2 small bottles of water and walked past the man in the booth.  Both times he stamped our passports.  Then we took 5 steps and had to hand the passports and boarding passes to another man who put a stamp on them.  All this in the airport and within a few feet of the waiting room.  Don't you just love beaurocracy?
     We breezed through customs.  We got in the 'red' line to declare our money and computers/electronics, expecting our bags to be taken apart and questions asked about the adoption.  Instead we were waved out of the declaration line and sent out the door.  Not normal procedure,  but we didn't argue.  What a big blessing to not have to open every one of our bags and explain why we are carrying so much money!
     Once through customs, we were so relieved to see our driver, Nicholai, holding up a sign with our name on it.  He does not speak ANY English so communication was definitely minimal since we haven't quite mastered the language yet.  We ended up at a small apartment that was a bit like walking into a sauna.  We talked to Yulia (our facilitator) on the phone and she said she would meet up with us tomorrow.  Nicholai drove us to the nearby market and dropped us off.  We just stood there as we couldn't figure out which door led into the market. As I said, we haven't quite mastered the language here!!.  What a hoot.  Three Americans completely clueless standing outside the market trying to figure out which door to enter.  Our driver watched us and finally came back, walked us into the correct store, waved his arms around to indicate that we were in the market and then left.   Figuring out what to buy and how to read the labels was an adventure, but we survived.  We happily walked back to our little apartment.  Getting in another vehicle tonight would not have made any of us happy at this point.  We are now home in our apartment, watching a DVD, eating peanut butter sandwiches and resting.  Elijah found a fan in one of the closets so the room has cooled down to breathable air.  
     Thank you for all prayers offered on our behalf.  We are here.  God is good.  In only a few days we meet our little guy.  I would be lying if I said we are not filled with every kind of emotion.  We are ever so  thankful that we are not doing this alone!!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

(Rob writing) This is the plane we took from Richmond to Chicago. When I first saw it, it struck me that it was a little bigger than a hot dog, but not as big as a foot-long hot dog. The seats were in rows of three, with two on one side of the aisle and one on the other, so it kept trying to flip over in flight. The pilot managed it just fine, though, so we made it here in plenty of time to wait six hours for our next flight.