Orphans, Sexual Abuse, and A Giant Need

Aila had an appointment yesterday with a GI specialist. I’ll spare you the poop-filled details, but after hearing her history, the doctor’s FIRST exam was to check for sexual abuse. Her first thought was abuse. Not a last ditch attempt to find answers, but the physician’s first thoughts went to sexual abuse because she said she sees it so often with orphans and especially kids with special needs. They have no one to protect them.

Thankfully, that doesn’t seem to be the issue for Aila. And while I’m beyond grateful for that, it is heartbreaking that we even had to consider it.

I liked Aila’s orphanage. I liked her caregivers. They seemed to genuinely care for her. But, there is no substitution for a family. Every child NEEDS a family. I’m reminded of this truth a million ways each day, but this hit me hard today. Our daughter spent 29 months in an orphanage and we believe she was well cared for during that time. Other kids aren’t so lucky.

I recently read about a girl, Jianna, who is about to age-out of the orphanage. She’s almost 14 years old and if she doesn’t get connected to a family, she’ll be on the street on her fourteenth birthday. She needs a family. More than ever, she needs someone to stand up for her, to be her advocate, to protect her and to love her. There’s not a lot of opportunity for a young teenage orphan girl if she doesn’t get adopted. This sad reality is what leads to so many girls entering sex trade and falling prey to abusive situations.

We’re so grateful that Aila was kept safe. But our hearts break for Jianna and the others like her who don’t know what life in a loving, caring family is like. I appreciate everyone who’s shared her file in hopes of finding her family. Several families inquired about her, but at this point, she needs a family already in the adoption process. So right now I’m asking you to pray. Please pray for this girl and her family. Pray for God to move mountains in the next six weeks to get a family to this girl.


Jianna, Reece's Rainbow



Day 10 & 11 – Waiting and Waiting

Yesterday was our Consulate appointment where we should have had her visa issued but we were delayed due to fears from the doctors at the medical clinic.

To catch you up on how this process works (I’ll spare you LOTS of small details and hit the VERY high points), you finalize the adoption in her home town. At that point, she is legally your child. They issue you her passport and you’re on your way. Then you travel to the provincial city and await your consulate appointment where your child is issued her visa permitting her entrance into the United States at which point she becomes 100% a citizen of the United States. Pretty straightforward process once you’ve walked through it. That is, unless your child develops a rash on the day before her medical exam.

Part of the Consulate issuing her a visa is this medical exam that is intended to ensure she doesn’t have a communicable disease that then gets spread in the US. Makes sense. Except that due to a back story that I won’t share out of respect for her home country, this medical clinic is very strict on any rash. They immediately force the child into quarantine and run lab tests that slow…The Process… Way… Down. Even though she had no fever. Ever. And never showed any symptoms of these infections they were looking for other than the rash that went away in the stretch of a little more than a day. Then blood work and more blood work. Take her temp. Call her back in to the clinic for more observation. All of this extra attention has now forced us to delay traveling back home by at least two days.

Saturday. We waited for results.
Sunday. We waited for results.
Monday. More waiting for results.
Tuesday. Still more waiting.

We were told on Monday we’d have definitive results by Tuesday morning which would give us just enough time to have the visa issued and keep our original travel schedule. Tuesday morning came and no labs. We waited by the phone all day. Lunch time, we called again. No results. They needed a few more hours. End of business, we called again. No lab results and now they want to see her medical records from a surgery she had more than a year ago.

There’s a saying, “If you hear hooves, think horses not zebras,” because more often than not, you’re going to find what’s most common. Kelley said tonight, “It feels like they’re looking for zebras.” It’s crazy, because if they were to examine Aila today as a new patient they’d pass her instantly but now that they’ve been digging through her files trying to find something, they can’t seem to let it go and just admit that there’s nothing ou of the ordinary to discover.

Our agent finally convinced the clinic to see her again in the morning. The doctor said he would and knowing the first test came back negative he could clear her and get us on our way. I can’t help but feel so frustrated right now because he could have done that on Monday. We have no new information today than what we had then and we could be on our way home tomorrow as planned but instead we have $2700 in flight change fees that are altogether unnecessary.

I don’t know why God is writing this part of the story like he is. I mean, I get it from a storytelling point of view. If you’re trying to tell a story, you really want to see the character move from conflict to resolution. It’s what makes it good. It’s the arc. Like a roller coaster — you’d be bored to tears if it didn’t have the climbs and falls. But it’s a whole lot easier to read about than it is to be the character who has to deal with it. What I mean is, I don’t know yet why words like delay and resistance have been readily perched on our doorstep all along the way. But every time I see her smile or hear her infectious laugh, I forget my frustrations for a little while. I don’t have a clue what’s in the books for this little girl, but I can wait to see.

She’s worth it. Worth every last drop of it.

Day 9 – Attachment

As a dad, one of the hardest things about the first few weeks (sometimes months) after coming home with your newborn baby is that you so desperately want to be able to comfort and console your child but often the experience for dads falls short of what we imagine it to be. If your experience was like mine, my little baby would cry, I’d pick him or her up and they’d keep on crying, sometimes working themselves up into a full out fit because you aren’t giving them what they want… the lady with the boobs and the soft voice. She’s warm and familiar, but not you. She had nine months of physically bonding with this little miracle and now you’re new territory. You sound familiar, but what’s that smell, and why are you so rough and scratchy? And why don’t you have boobs like the other one? I don’t like you. It was hard for me, those first few months. I cried sometimes. I went to the bathroom, locked the door, turned off the lights, and cried. I was afraid I’d never be able to comfort my child.

While we were going through the adoption process early on, there was some required reading and testing that we did. I remember riding on a train back from Philly one night and listening to these lessons and stories from other families about this idea of attachment in adoption. The first few months are critical, especially for a young child. They gave all kinds of techniques to aide with attachment. Many of which we did with our other kids already, so these weren’t new ideas. The unknown factor for us though, is the reality that neither of us have been able to bond with her for the first two years of her life. When she had open heart surgery, we weren’t there to give her comfort, to tell it was gonna be okay. To hold her when she was scared because someone was taking her into a big, loud city, with people in masks taking her to a back room somewhere. When she got a cold, neither of us were there to suck the snot out of her nose and rock her to sleep. Two years went by. These are critical years in the process of trust building for any child. We missed those. So it’s important that we begin the bonding process immediately. Probably one of the more common fears of adoptive parents is, “Will this child bond with me?” Because we all know that how well they attach (and how quickly, in some cases) determines a large part in the quality of life this little person will enjoy down the road. These moments are critical.

Who knows what life back in the States is gonna look like once I return back to work and we get back into a routine with life. But we realized something tonight. Some things have been hard, for sure. Some things we’re facing now are hard. But for months we’ve prayed and we’ve asked you to pray that somehow, Aila would know in her heart who we are and that God has preserved her in our hearts forever and that while we were away, we were always near. We asked that our love be conveyed through the hands of her caregivers. And as you may have read, it was only a minute or two at that first meeting that she reached for Kelley and tucked her head into her chest. Only minutes before she whispered, “baba.”

When we walk out of the room without her she gets angry and one of us goes to her. She knows that we are the ones she can trust for care and love and nurture. She knows that we are her people. She knows that if she cries, we will pick her up. She is so aware of it at this point that she now has a game. If we sit her down, she will fuss and cry (it’s a very fake cry, but her facial expressions really sell it — drama queen). And then when we pick her up she laughs and smiles the biggest smile you’ve ever seen in your life. She knows we are hers because we’re consistent and our response to her needs is consistent. She laughs because what she hoped for came true. She wanted to be held and that’s what she got. She smiles because she knows she can do it again with the same results. She is growing more and more confident in the ebb and flow of this relationship.

Her development is increasing by leaps and bounds already as well. She had not crawled before in the orphanage. Two days in and she crawls across the hotel room floor for her bottle. She is also pulling up and scooting along the edge of the bed. Walking may not be far behind. She makes noises that sound like words but nothing more than Mama and Baba at this point but she knows who Mama and Baba are. She gets the kids to sing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “Bringing Home A Baby Bumblebee” and she will mimic the hand motions with them. Yesterday, the kids held their hands to their heads like moose antlers and blew raspberries with their tongues and she did exactly what they did. She remembers games we play together, like pattycake and peek-a-boo, and will grab your hands and make you do them with her. She’s incredibly smart. It really catches us by surprise sometimes because all we’ve seen are a few pictures and a couple videos from the orphanage and none of them indicate anything like this.

She’s a two year old toddler but not really. Developmentally, she is delayed. In stature, she’s like a one year old. Some mentors of ours at church have raised a beautiful you teenage girl with Down syndrome. Some of the best encouragement they offered us early in the process was that their daughter made them slow down and have fun. It’s hard to know what to expect but for now she keeps blowing our minds and making us laugh.





Day 7 & 8 – The Medical Exam(s)

By now you may have already heard some of this. I apologize if there’s some repeat information but everything in this update is intended as a personal petition for prayer. Big, bold, unyielding prayers.

Day 6 was a travel day. When we landed in Guangzhou, we were changing Aila’s diaper and noticed a rash starting to form on her belly. In just a shot while it had spread to her back. Contact dermatitis? Allergic reaction to something? We didn’t really know. We showed our guide and she seemed concerned about it. Friday morning was our first medical exam. Normally it’s the only needed exam. The purpose of the exam is to ensure that Chinese citizens traveling to the US don’t have any communicable/infectious diseases that could cause problems in the states. A clean bill of health and the US will issue a travel visa. It’s a good idea over all.

This clinic was nice. Nicer than I imagined, and conveniently situated adjacent to the US consulate in Guangzhou, which is itself is a spectacular piece of design. In the clinic, there’s a back area set aside for adoptive families. We sat and chatted with other families and waited our turn. They called our name and nothing from that point on has gone to plan. Doctor after doctor after doctor came to examine her. We were ushered to three or four other doctor’s offices for further consult. They couldn’t figure it out. At first they wanted to say it was measles. The only problem with this diagnosis is that she only had a rash that started on her belly. Calling it measles based on one symptom is like me saying, “Did you just throw up? I bet you have Ebola.” It’s just not good science. We asked them to expedite blood work to figure it out. They were not confident in the diagnosis of measles either. One doctor explained it like this. He said, “I don’t know what it is but I don’t think it’s measles. Unfortunately we have no way of knowing at this time other than just watching the rash.

The problem is, we have a consulate appointment on Monday morning to either be officially granted a visa that allows Aila to enter the country or we must wait for another appointment. And this is not a walk in and work through some paperwork. This is the Consulate of the United States in China. We had to wait weeks to get our original appointment. They don’t come easy. To add trouble to the chaos, because of my status as a Christian minister, I am only allowed to be here 30 days. That’s it. I have to be off Chinese soil by November 9th. That may seem like a long ways off but if we’re waiting, that date could reasonably come pretty quickly with no resolution and I’d be forced to leave Kelley and Aila in China without me. Not to mention the cost of lodging and transportation in a foreign country.

Kelley, Aila, and our agency rep went back to the clinic today hoping and praying for an all clear from the doctor. She failed. The rash is much improved and they have confirmed that it’s not measles but until the rash is totally gone, it’s a no go, no matter the cause.

So here’s the plan as of tonight… Kelley will take Aila back to the clinic on Monday morning at 8AM. I will go to the Consulate appointment on Monday morning and hopefully by the time our appointment comes, the doctors will have been able to give her the all clear and rush her paperwork across the street to the Consulate and we’ll be cleared for takeoff and on our way home at the prescribed time. There’s not a good backup plan if that doesn’t work out.

If you would join us in praying, here are two things we need to agree on: 1) Pray that Aila’s rash is totally gone by Monday morning at 8AM and that nothing else triggers an allergy or other response, and 2) that we’d receive favor with the US Consulate and be granted travel clearance back to the US at the time we’ve planned for. Our guide said, “We need a miracle.”

I believe that’s what we’ll get.

God’s people… Pray!

PS. If anyone of you reading this happens to have a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd degree connection to someone in the US Consulate in Guangzhou, we’d love to ask you for any favor or influence you might have to be applied on our behalf in the next 30 hours.

Thank you!

The Ant Saga, Part II

So, as I mentioned previously, we are being invaded by the thing I fear the most – ants. I had a traumatic experience with ants on a vacation in the South and I’ve never been the same. The Orkin man showed up today and painted quite a grim picture. Because the backyard had been allowed to rule itself, it grew a vine that poked its way through the siding of our house under the kitchen window and, in the words of the Orkin man, became an “ant highway.” He told us the ants were probably all inside the walls of the house at this point. And what’s more is that the overgrowth has become a haven for ticks, mice, mosquitos, ants (obviously) and possibly even snakes.

This is ridiculous. There’s a beautiful playset out back (or at least I think there is) that we’d love to be able to let the kids play on but there’s no way on earth I’m sending them back there with all the other inhabitants. The Orkin man, Erik is his name, said he’d come back as soon as the backyard was cleared and he’d bomb it and we’d have no more problems with the little vermin. I called our landlord and reminded him of his commitment to get the yard in better shape, which still hasn’t happened. And made him aware that because the yard had gotten so out of control, now the house was infested with ants and the backyard was more than an eyesore, it is now a danger to my children. This was not what we’d shaken on and I need him to make good on his word.

Erik (the Orkin man) is scheduled to arrive on Thursday morning at 7AM to bomb the place and the backyard needs to be done by then. The landlord says he’s gonna try to find somebody. Wednesday is the 4th of July so I think it’s gonna be a challenge.

It’s Difficult to Breathe

It’s been a very tough weekend for us. We appreciate the extensions of love and care. But it is painful to tell the story over and over again so we thought we’d share it here and invite you to read it.

While Randall was in Guatemala, Kelley made an exciting discovery. Something to the tune of six pregnancy tests confirmed that we were having a baby. I came home from Guatemala and found a wrapped gift waiting for me that contained a tiny baby onesie that read, “3 is for quitters!”. We were thrilled. Shocked, but thrilled. And, after a few days of secret keeping, we decided we were just too excited to keep quiet and shared the news with the kids (who were ecstatic) and our families.

The week went on. We immersed ourselves in baby prep – apps, websites, magazines, etc. – started talking about names, discussing where we’d deliver. Weird cravings, nausea, newly-pregnant-mommy stuff… The kids would kiss the baby goodnight and tell everybody how they weren’t supposed to tell anybody about the baby yet. Rosie’s famous line was, “I can’t tell you that my mommy’s gonna have a baby.” She’s not great at keeping secrets, but then again… no female in this family is.

The last couple of pregnancies have started with scares. Spotting. Emergency room visits fearful of tragedy. Both Grady and Rosie are here despite those moments. They were able to fight through to become healthy babies. Eli too. His life was in peril before he came into this world, as most of you know. We are so grateful for the health of all of them.

Midway through the week this week, the spotting started. We kind of expected this. But it continued to get heavier. And on Thursday it became concerning. We had friends coming in town. As soon as they arrived, we left our kids with them and met the doctor at the hospital to see if we could get some insight into what was happening. The ultrasound showed a little blood in places there shouldn’t be blood. But really, it didn’t show what we were looking for. Which was a tiny little baby. Kelley had some bloodwork to check her levels of pregnancy hormones. The doctor called us later and said her level was 33, which was low. Very low. We knew we were losing the baby.

Our amazing friends stayed the weekend. They cooked dinner. They played with our kids. We sat around a fire, listened to music, drank beer and soaked up the time spent with our dear friends. Kelley was sick all weekend. Friday night was the worst of it. She had intense labor like pains (I guess it was labor). But we held out hope that the follow up bloodwork would show a miracle.

We went to church this morning, which was difficult to say the least. Not many people knew what was going on but it was obvious that we were sad about something. We weren’t ready to say anything until we had gotten the results from the follow up labs. But Kelley knew this morning when she woke up that things had changed. She recalled not feeling pregnant anymore. And this afternoon, the test results confirmed it… we’d lost the baby.

We told the kids that sometimes babies are sick. So very sick that it’s better for them to go on to Heaven. And even though it’s sad for us now, because we wanted to meet this baby and to hold this baby, we get eternity together in Heaven, reunited with our Father.

Eli took it the hardest. We wondered if we should’ve told them about the baby. But, here’s the thing. This baby is a part of our family story. We can’t ignore it. Life is joy and sorrow. Today our family was reminded that our Father is the great comforter. That he is able to reach into our darkness and pull us from the depths.

I’m not real sure where we go from here. We don’t know how to feel. Overwhelmed, for sure. Feels a bit like drowning. Like in ‘How He Loves’… if grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking. It’s difficult to keep breathing some moments. Partly due to the pain and mostly under the influence of the love of our Father.

Over the next few days we’ll be taking some time as a family to begin healing. If you find yourself in a moment where God brings us to your mind, take a second to pray for peace and that Kelley’s body heals without the need for surgery.

We love you very much. We are thankful for your concern and care for us and for your sacrificial love for us, especially to Jeff, Jodi, Beth, the Grove Elders, Dr. and Mindy Castor, Kari and Mitch, the band and our families. You are special to us and we are grateful.

Don’t Freak Out

We had our follow-up with the doctor today.

Everything is looking pretty good. She’s lost a little weight but she doesn’t seem dehydrated. We’ll need to follow with him again in a week to be sure she isn’t still losing weight. She still has a little junk in the upper portions of her lungs but she’s responsive, active and eating well.

The company I work for is amazing. One of the provisions of my benefits package is that I’m allowed time away to be with family in times of illness or other extended family emergencies (like this one). I have some paperwork to fill out. To this point the papers have moved between my agency and the doctor’s office. I got the papers from the doctor today but before he handed them to me he said,

“Don’t freak out when you look at these.”


There’s a portion in the documentation that asks the official opinion of the medical provider whether he thinks this condition could worsen. He says she could still have episodes of wheezing that, at its worse, could require CPR.

Well crap. Thanks for that confidence boost, there doc.

What else am I supposed to do with that other than freak out?

C’mon, man. Really. Haven’t we had enough drama? Let’s take a little break.

It is very rare that this could happen. But he wanted us to be aware. The best way to prevent this is to keep her away from any allergens; no pets, no mold, no dust, no smoke – no matter what. Or she could relapse.

Duly noted.

The boys and I went and finished up our Christmas shopping for Kelley this afternoon. They both grabbed the same thing at the same time. It’s pretty cool. I took it as a sign that if they both picked the same thing it must be right. So we got it. I think she’ll like it. They have pretty good taste.

Presents to wrap and cookies to bake and decorate. Merry Christmas.

But Sandwich

We’re home now, which is better than being stuck in a hospital. We get to shower and put on clean clothes, cook a meal and sleep in our own beds. We’re able to enjoy the lights on our Christmas tree and the garland stretched across the mantle over the crackling fireplace. We’ve watched holiday movies with our kids and kissed the grimy-faced little boys we’ve been apart from for more than a week.

But we’re not healthy still. Grady’s got a version of what Rosie has. Fortunately, it only affects toddlers mildly. Eli’s appetite is low and he has been a little sniffly. Not a big deal under normal circumstances but considering what we’ve been though lately, we don’t take anything lightly.

Kelley and I have both come down with probably the same thing. For us, it’s a head cold but with Rosie’s RSV in its history. We’re both getting better but it makes it a challenge to care for a baby with nasty chest congestion and breathing impairment, a toddler and a six year old with a cold and try to make Christmas memorable for them.

What you will not hear from us is complaining. No matter how challenging these days, we are glad to be at home walking though this together.

As most of you know, our family is the center of our lives. And for us, when we are apart we feel it. So to be together, regardless of what’s going on within and around us, is more fulfilling than any other option. Especially during the holiday season.

I know we still have a week or so to go before Rosie is actually cleared. She has to sleep elevated for awhile until we are certain her O2 levels stay in the safe zone while she sleeps. To do this she is strapped into a specially designed wedge that helps her breathe and keeps her oxygen where it needs to be. The problem is – she hates it. It scares her. And her voice is gone from all that she’s been through, so when she cries we don’t hear her. It’s heartbreaking, really. She wakes up alone in a contraption she can’t escape from and can’t tell us she needs us.

Best I can relate, it’s like the dreams I have where I’m being chased and can’t produce the sound from my voice to scream for help.

Last night, we put the wedge between us in our queen-size bed so that if she woke up, we’d be there with her and maybe she wouldn’t be so scared. But due to its size, Kelley and I each have less than two feet of space in the bed for our adult bodies. Which only allows for one sleeping position; I call it the coffin pose. Toes up. Hands crossed across the chest. No movement allowed. Some people may like this. It’s a bit restrictive for us.

We’ll work it out somehow.

We have become more aware recently how connected we all are to each other.

You and I.
We and them.
All of us.

Your prayers over the past ten days have been enriching, empowering and enlightening. We have begun to discover more of the richness of how our prayers connect us not only to our Creator but to the spirits of each one of you. Please know that we are deeply grateful for all the ways you have given to us. Not just the last week and a half but in ways that we are very likely unaware.

We are thankful. There is more good news these days than bad.

Thank you…

Let me begin with a heartfelt thank you to all who have taken the time to email, call and visit….when we know you’re lives are already busy with your own families. Thank you for bringing us food and for your generous gifts.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. Those words are not enough, but they’ll have to do for now.

Rosie continues to improve and we’re seeing glimpses of our sweet girl. She sits up, waves, smiles and even laughs. Those moments exhaust what little energy she has and then she’s asleep…it’s a restless sleep and she wakes often from a painful cough or an alarm beeping. But, she’s healing. And if she continues to improve, we may be able to go home tomorrow!

We ask for your continued prayers…

Rosie has not been able to keep anything down this morning. She lost 10 ounces yesterday, so we pray she nurses normally and her weight remains stable.

Please pray for my mom and sister, who’ve been full-time parents to two active boys. And please pray for our sweet boys…we miss them beyond words. We see them an hour or so each day and take them to the Children’s Harbor to play some air hockey or ping pong. They grasp our hands tightly and want to be close. Yesterday, Eli asked if mimi could stay at the hospital so I could spend the night at home with him. He teared up when I said I couldn’t, but he smiled and gave me a big bear hug and promised to see me soon.

And then I cried in the elevator on the way back to our room. No one seemed too disturbed by a weeping mom…I guess that’s a pretty common thing around these parts. Please pray for our emotional well-being. Randall and I are physically and emotionally exhausted.

Thank you. We love you all.