Monday, May 27, 2013

Our First Week Home

We made it through our first week home!

We are so glad to have our entire family of five under one roof, now.  What a relief!  It has definitely been an adjustment, but the adjustment has been made relatively easily by all.  Glory to God!  Now, I'm not saying that there haven't been tears (including some from myself), but now that the jet lag is behind us, and we are beginning to close in on a schedule that will suit all of us, we are happily finding our new normal.

Three children under five years old is No Joke!  Our home is full of energy and excitement at all times!  So grateful for the awesome gift that my brother-in-law and sister-in-law sent me this week...50 K Cups of my favorite coffee!  Perfect gift!  I'm definitely going to need all of that caffeine.  Thanks, T & P!!!

This first week home has been a wonderful adventure!

Our arrival at the airport was so wonderful!  We were greeted by our precious boys, our parents, siblings, nephews & nieces, my aunt & uncle, my cousin & her family, and some great friends!  We definitely felt loved!

After our airport party, our families headed to IHOP for brunch before we made the 2 hour drive home.  It was crazy!  There were 22 of us (9 kids under seven years old)!

Finally, we got home, and we could not have been more excited!  The boys loved showing Eliana around the house, and we were so glad to have made it!

The next day we celebrated Eliana's 2nd birthday with a cake and a couple of presents.  We also presented all three of the kids with their souvenirs from China.

In the middle of the week we took the kids out for our annual Good Ol' Boys steak night with my Dad.  It was a lot of fun, and the kids really enjoyed it.

Our first couple of days home, my Mom came to help us, and the next couple of days Randall's Mom came to help.  They were such a blessing to us!  The moms cooked, cleaned, played with the kids, and helped pick up the slack while we got over jet lag.  During that time we had a lot of pajama days (and will continue to do so), and we enjoyed staying around the house.

When you are cocooning (spending ALL of your time at home), it is important to find some fun things to do.  So we played lots of games, played outside, walked around the neighborhood & planted a little "green house" with the kids.

We ended our first week home with Clay's very first violin recital!  He did such a wonderful job!!! As he sat backstage waiting for his turn to go out and play, he looked at me and said, "I'm so excited for my recital!"  He took that stage like a pro!  No nerves.  He just went out there, and he did exactly what he had rehearsed.  I think he likes being on a stage!  Hmmm...I wonder where he gets that from???

Monday, May 20, 2013

Home is Where the Heart is

Praise God, we are HOME!

This absolutely must be our home, because my heart is so full!  Full of love, full of joy, FULL!

Now that we are a family of five (all in the same place), I could not be happier!  Our children are having a wonderful time together, and it is a blessing to watch them together.  They giggle, they play, they run and they share!  It's truly amazing!  Now, I know that every day will not be like this, but I am going to savor this moment.  The three of them are learning how to communicate with each other, and how to play together.  It's so cool!

Clay loves to put his hands on Eliana's cheeks and say her name.  Precious!  We even watched "The Aristocats" in Mandarin in the car on the way home from the airport yesterday, and Clay chose Chinese instead of English, because he wanted Eliana to understand what was going on.  When we asked him if he understood, he replied, "It's okay, I'm learning."  What a sweet heart he has!

Davis is having the best time with his new sister!  He loves to hold her hand and giggle with her.  Too cute!  At one point this morning (after a long time of holding hands and running together), Eliana decided she was ready to move on to the next activity, and Davis said, "I want MY Eliana!" It's so neat to watch them together.  They are so close to the same size, and being so close in age (only 2 months apart), they really have a beautiful understanding of each other.

Eliana is absolutely loving her new home and her brothers!  We were very nervous about how she would react when we put her in her car seat for the first time at the airport, but there was nothing to be nervous about!  Her car seat sits right in between her brothers' car seats, and the three of them immediately held hands and started laughing!  When she first came into the house, Clay and Davis did a wonderful job of showing her around, and when she saw the playroom, she knew just what to do!  She also did great in her room last night.  I am sleeping in a bed next to her crib, and she seemed to be very comfortable.  She woke up very upset one time last night, and I rocked her for about five minutes, and then she went right back into her crib and slept until 7:00 this morning! Amazing!

I have so many things that I would like to share with you all, but it will have to wait for another time.  Right now we are wonderfully jet lagged!  And we are also trying to soak up these precious moments.

I will leave you with some pictures that my sweet friend Ericka took of our homecoming party at the airport.

We are indeed BLESSED!

My first hug with all THREE of my children!
Family of Five!
The boys made awesome signs to welcome their new sister.
Our 2 two-year olds!
Meeting her big brother Clay.
She wasn't sure about all of the attention she was getting, but she handled it very well. She is so very LOVED!
Eliana with her grandparents.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Cocooning...What to Expect

To our family & friends,

Your love and support through this journey has meant more to us than you could ever know.  We feel so blessed and honored that God would call us to this journey, and we are glad to have you all holding our hands along the way! It is almost time for us to come home, and we would like to give you an honest idea of what to expect.  We also want to let you know about what our family will be going through. 

What this will be like for Eliana:

Unlike bringing a newborn home, Eliana already has a view of the world.  Before she left the orphanage, she already knew from where she would get her meal, how it would be presented to her, who would clean her, change her, and be the source of her care.  She already had friends, had favorite toys, and had shared laughs with her peers.  Her life may not have been ideal to this point, but it has been HER life.  She has learned to cope with an unnatural situation of not having parents.  She didn’t even realize she was “coping” with anything, though.  This was just life as she knew it.

While we have had years to prepare for our new addition, only your prayers and what little the orphanage caregivers were able to do have helped Eliana prepare.  At her young age, her caregivers couldn’t fully get across to her that those people in the pictures she was given are her new parents.  She’s never even understood what parents are. For almost every day of her life, she slept in the same spot and stared at the same ceiling when she was trying to fall asleep.  She had only ridden in a car a few times. She had probably seen some of her friends leave the orphanage, but never quite understood why they didn’t return.  This new shift in her reality is monumental.  What was the happiest day for us was to her a traumatic day. 

Because of the trauma she has faced and the need to heal those wounds, life for the Stoves family will be…let’s just call it weird.  We will go through some details about this weirdness in the remainder of this post. 

First, we want you to know that this is only a season.  Lord-willing it will be a short season followed by a much, much longer season of quasi-normalcy.  Also, please understand that we are leaning on YEARS of expert opinions on adoption; some by professional experts, some by friends who’ve adopted even from the same orphanage.  It may not make sense to you, and that’s okay.  We want your support, and part of earning that support is helping you understand, so questions are always okay

What to expect when we come home:

We are excited to meet family and friends at the airport (our airport party).  We welcome anyone who wants to be there!  “Welcome Home” signs, taking pictures and making video would be a great blessing to us!

We hope that our flight will be relatively uneventful, and that we will have been able to sleep.  However, even at its best, it will be a tough trip.  We will have spent around 24 hours in airplanes and airports by the time we land in Birmingham.

We will be very tired when we come home.  It is a 13 hour time difference from China to Central time.  We anticipate jet lag for us and for Eliana for the first 2 weeks home.

We will be taking Eliana to the International Adoption Clinic at Children’s Hospital in Birmingham in the first couple of weeks after we get home.  We are praying for a healthy report, and we are prepared to meet any issues with strength from God. 

Things will also be a bit different than when we brought the boys home from the hospital.  We'll need a different kind of support. 

Our approach to the first few months home:

We do ask that you don't ask to hold her or give her anything at the airport.  If you have special gifts, we can save those for later.  Her brothers will have a gift for her.  And she will have a gift for her new brothers.  Other than that, we feel that it would be best to wait for other gifts (or give them to us, and we will give them to Eliana once we are home). 

We also ask that you allow us to spend our first moments in the airport introducing our children to each other and reconnecting.  After the boys have had their opportunity to meet their new sister and to hug mommy & daddy, then we will invite others to hug us and to meet Eliana (while she is being held in our arms).

Eliana has a pretty strong case of stranger anxiety.  Please don’t be offended if your offer to hug us is met with tears or a blank stare. Even if she’s had weeks to talk with you via Skype!  This will be her first taste of “foreigners” en masse.  As of now, these “foreigners” have been the minority.  Every outing we have here in China she sees people groups she expects to see.  Things you may not even think are scary may scare her.  For example, some sweet friends of ours warned us before we went that when they adopted from China, their daughter will now tell them that her mom’s blue eyes scared her.  She had never seen blue eyes before.  Just remember, you can do everything right, and she will likely still be scared of you.  This is okay.

After the airport, we're going to try to lay low for a while.  In the adoption community it is called cocooning.

We understand that this is going to be hard for you guys and for us.  However, we are trusting all of the attachment/adoption experts on this.  We will focus our time on connecting as a family of five.

It will take time for her to understand that we are her parents now.  We are starting at a place where she has no concept of parents or family. 

Also our parenting will look very different.  She has lived her life, up until this point, in an orphanage.  She has shared a room with around 20 other babies, and she has had to do what has been necessary to survive and to thrive.  Once we are home, helping her find security in her new family (mommy, daddy & brothers) is very important to her attachment in the long run.

What do we mean by attachment? There are many articles and studies and professionals who can speak to this; but for a child who has experienced loss, finding a secure place is very important. Even if she is very happy and energetic, at the core she is still not sure what is going on yet. For her to thrive she needs to know that we will take care of her. She needs to know that she doesn't have to charm her way into being fed or getting a toy or being held.  She needs to know that she can give up her survival mode.

As infants, our boys figured that out, on their own, very quickly. We were purposeful about getting them used to lots of people who fed them, cared for them, and gave them things. 

Well, with adoption, it's backwards. 

So, we don't want anyone to have their feelings hurt or feel that we are keeping her from all of you. Everyone in our family & community has been a huge part of this journey!  From helping us financially and physically to helping us emotionally and spiritually, we are grateful for you.  So, we are asking you to join us on the second part of this journey.  This isn't the glamorous part.  This is when we parent and love and grow into a forever family with a new child who has come from a hard place.  The reality of her past doesn't go away, even when she maintains a playful disposition. 

What you can do:

*Please allow us to feed her, change her, hand her toys, food, and anything else she needs.  It is important that we are the only ones to meet her needs (ALL of her needs) at this time.

*If she reaches for you, please go ahead and smile at her and point to us.

*Please don't give her any gifts at this time. If you want to give her something so she knows it is from you, you can hang on to it, and we will let you know when it is appropriate to start giving her gifts.  If you do have a special gift that you want her to have now, you can give it to us, and we will give it to her at home.

*Please pay special attention to our boys. They will need lots of extra attention.  Their world is changing too!

*Please feel free to bring meals, call or text to check up on us, or anything else you would normally do for a family that has just added a child.  Just bear with us and understand that we will need to limit visits to very short/front door meetings.  (This will keep Eliana from getting confused and/or nervous with lots of people coming in and out of the house as she has severe stranger anxiety.  Again, we will be focusing on teaching her who our immediate family is.)

We know that this is a lot to ask. And we know this is going to be hard for the first few months. We've always worked very hard for our boys to connect and have special relationships with family & friends, and we want the same for Eliana. However, it's going to have to come at a slower pace. We have been taught that if a child connects more with someone else, rather than the parents, in the first few months, it can delay their attachment by months. So, we are grateful that you all understand and are going to allow us to have a different approach for a few months.

As her parents, we have to make the best decision for her and help her to thrive in the best way possible.  We really appreciate all of your support in this adjustment.  Thank you for loving us, giving us so much grace, and being with us through all of this. We invite you to the next phase with us! 

We don't know exactly how long this will take; but we've been advised to cocoon (lay low) for the first three months home.  So, that's where we will start.  It is really going to depend on Eliana, and how she adapts.  We will be following her queues.  Please keep praying for us!  We will be posting updates on the blog and sharing on Facebook.

Please feel free to message us or ask us if you have any questions on attachment or cocooning.  We aren't sure how crazy things will be; but we promise to be open and honest.  We appreciate all of your grace during this next phase. 

Living in a hotel with Eliana as an only child for 2 weeks has been a great opportunity for us to bond! But when we get home, it will get real!  We say, bring it on!

Randall & Candice

As for our BIG NEWS today:  We received Eliana's Visa!  We are going HOME!

Eliana's excited about finally getting her visa, while Daddy is less than excited about using his visa to change flights. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

While you were sleeping...

We have some exciting news share!  WE HAVE HAD OUR CONSULATE APPOINTMENT!!!!!

Today was a "lazy day" where our group requested to move our somewhat daily activity with our travel group to the evening. We slept in, barely made the breakfast buffet in time, and were rained in for the morning.   This uneventful day was mostly made up of Randall and Eliana playing in the room and riding up and down on the elevators while I worked on a letter writing campaign to Senators and Congressmen.  After closing the computer for the morning, it was already lunch time.  After lunch came a nap for Eliana.  We were due to meet our travel group at 4pm in the lobby to go see a famous landmark tower in Guangzhou once Eliana woke from her nap.  Randall went downstairs to cancel our flights with Delta.  Once Eliana was down for her nap and Randall returned from cancelling our flights, a sadness washed over us both.  This was the first, real, tangible action taken toward our extended stay in Guangzhou, and the weight of that was heavy.

That's when the phone rang!

"Can you meet us in the lobby in thirty, umm...., thirty six minutes?!  We are going to the Consulate!"

We've never moved so fast in our lives!  We were still in pajamas (mostly) and had to get ready for our appointment.  So many questions were running through our heads.  "Is this an appointment before visas are submitted?"  "Is the US government simply granting us some exemption?"  "I thought the consulate was closed this week.  What happened?"  Randall, Eliana, and I were the first of our group to arrive in the lobby.  To say we were excited would be an understatement.

Once the whole group arrived, we all got onto the bus.  After a 20 minute bus ride, we were at the Consulate!  It's amazing how many things had changed between 2:30pm and 3:30pm. Our sadness had been completely replaced by hopefulness and optimism!  After some security screening, we were allowed inside.  We were not allowed to bring electronics or cameras, thus no pictures.  

We joined about 60-70 other adoptive families in the waiting area.  We listened for our daughter's Chinese name to be announced, and when it was called, we joined the Consulate worker at the banker's-style window.  A mere two minutes later, our paperwork was complete!  Now, all that lacked completion was the oath.  After all 60-70 families were served, it was time for the oath.  

I'm not sure what is normally done, but I assure you, this was anything but normal.  All 60-70 families were asked to stand and raise their right hand.  At this point, it was mine and Randall's duty to speak for Eliana and swear the oath that all applicants for immigration must swear along with every other adoptive family in the room.  And just like that, we were done!  By 5:15pm, we were walking out of the Consulate with a promise that (Lord willing) the visa we wanted so bad would be delivered to us most likely by Friday or Saturday!  We could leave the country this weekend!  Three hours took us from "the valley" to "the mountaintop!"  Praise God!

"I know Who goes before me.  I know Who stands behind.  The God of angel armies, is always by my side!  The One who reigns forever, He is a friend of mine!  The God of angel armies, is always by my side!" - Whom Then Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies), Chris Tomlin

Randall and I decided to celebrate the most American way we knew eating Mexican food!

Now, nothing is assured, but we are hopeful to find a return flight to Birmingham departing late Saturday or early Sunday!

We still need your prayer.  The change fees we will incur per ticket are already looking to be pretty high.  The cost of a few extra nights in the hotel are small potatoes next to these change fees.  God has already found a way for us home.  We don't know if it's his will for us to take on these extra costs merely for changing our flight, but we are praying that the fine folks at Delta can see the extenuating circumstances for what they are and waive these costs.  The Lord be praised either way!

Thank you for your prayers, assistance, and encouragement.  We are blessed so much to have friends and family like you who have our backs in time of need.  

Help Us Get Home

We just returned from the US Consulate!  We received a phone call at about 2:30 pm local time informing us that the consulate was open, and we needed to leave the hotel in 30 minutes.  We quickly woke Eliana from her nap, and got dressed and out the door.  We have now had our paperwork finished and taken our oath.  Now we wait for Eliana's visa.  They hope to get her visa to us tomorrow (our Friday), but if they cannot get them all printed in time, they plan to work on Saturday to finish getting them printed.  The sooner the better!  We have had to cancel our flights, and we are praying that Delta will be merciful and waive some of our fees.  We are also praying that we are able to find a flight home that isn't fully booked.  Thank you all for praying and for contacting your Senators and Congressmen!


So many of you have expressed concern and willingness to help us as we wait for the US Consulate to re-open after the security emergency that occurred at the beginning of this week.  As you probably already know, we are unable to bring our precious Eliana home until we have her visa from the US Consulate.  They are currently saying that they will be closed for the remainder of this week.  We have no idea when they will re-open.  We were supposed to be boarding a plane to go home in about 20 hours, but that's not going to happen now.

Here is how you can help:
1.  Pray for us!
  *Pray for peace and patience.
  *Pray for our boys.  We miss them terribly, and we know they are ready to have their Mommy & Daddy home.
  *Pray for the financial side of this situation.  This extended stay was definitely not something that we budgeted for.  We will have extra nights in the hotel, flight change fees, & possibly flight fare differences.

2.  Contact your Senators and Congressmen (and anyone else in Washington who could help).
  *Here is a letter you can send:


Dear Senator/Congressman:

I don't know if you are aware of the situation in Guangzhou, China right now, but my friends Randall and Candice Stoves and many other American families are in immediate need of your help. The US Consulate in Guangzhou is the only US Consulate in China that processes the Visa paperwork required for newly adopted Chinese-born children to enter the US with their American families. As a result, all American families adopting children from China must pass through Guangzhou to obtain a Visa for their new child to enter the United States.

This past Monday, a package containing a suspicious white powder was discovered in the US Consulate. As a result, the Consulate was immediately shut down, and all appointments indefinitely postponed.

My friends, The Stoves, are in the Garden Hotel in Guangzhou, China with at least seventy other American families and their newly adopted children, a vast majority of whom (their daughter included) have special needs, including heart defects, limb abnormalities, and various other conditions which require surgery and/or special care. These American families have each spent tens of thousands of dollars on these adoptions, culminating with the trip to China and its very expensive plane tickets and two-week minimum hotel stays. They are now being told that the US cannot process their children's Visa applications, and as a result, they must (i) continue in their hotels indefinitely and (ii) either change their plane tickets or, if that is not possible (which it isn't for many who bought restricted tickets) buy NEW plane tickets home, each of which will cost several thousand dollars. In addition, many of them (including the Stoves) must scramble to find childcare for the children they left at home, for what they thought was a two-week trip. This is an impossible situation for our friends and for most of these families.

They have been told by a friend in another US Consulate that the Department of Homeland Security, in extreme cases and if authorized "from above", has the authority to allow individuals into the United States without the usually required Visas. If there ever was a time to exercise this authority, it is NOW. These are all minor children, most of whom are under age five or six, and all accompanied by dedicated American parents. They could not possibly pose a threat to the United States.

On behalf of my friends, their new 2 year old daughter, and their 2 year old and 4 year old little boys waiting at home in Auburn, AL, I am begging you for help. On behalf of all the well-meaning American families stuck in Guangzhou, China, with their adopted children, I am asking you to get involved. Please do whatever you can to allow them to return home to the US without further delay and expense.

If you would like to contact the Stoves directly in China, their email address is: Thank you in advance for your attention and intervention!


Here is a list of some of Alabama's Senators, Congressmen & Governor.  If yours is not listed go to:

Jeff Sessions -
Phone DC: (202) 224-4124
Phone Birmingham: (205) 731-1500
Richard Shelby -
Phone: (202) 224-5744
Spencer Bachus -
Phone: (202) 225-4921
Mike Rogers -
Phone: (334) 745-6221
Phone: (202) 225-3261
Terri Sewell -
Phone: (205) 254-1960
Governor Robert Bentley -

Thank you!
Randall and Candice

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Graduations, Gardens & Governments...Oh, My!

The last 24 hours have been eventful!

We ended our night, last night, by skyping in on Clay's pre-school graduation!  It was so much fun to watch him sing with his friends, and get his new big boy Bible!  The program started at midnight here in China, so I had a cup of coffee to help keep me awake, and we watched it all in our pj's.

What a precious little boy, he is!  We are so proud of him!  

This was our skype-view of the program.

Davis was having a good time showing off with his GiGi on skype.

This morning, our travel group took a trip to the Guangzhou Botanical Gardens.  It is definitely not your typical US botanical gardens experience.  There were tons of sculptures, and everything was crazy colorful!  It was really cool...however, it was NOT literally cool.  We thought we were going to die!  I promise you, it was a million degrees outside, and the humidity must have been somewhere around 300%!!!  We lasted maybe an hour before we had to seek air conditioning.  So glad we were able to experience it, though!

This picture was taken in honor of both of our boys and their favorite colors!  Clay's absolute favorite color is Orange, and he loves for you to know it!  A few weeks ago, we asked Davis what his favorite color was, and he responded, "DRAGON!"  So, there you go!

After such a hot and exhausting morning, we decided to stay in our hotel room for the remainder of the afternoon.  We had naps, played and enjoyed some fun time together.

Daddy and Eliana working on flash cards.  She is picking up on English so fast!

Eliana LOVES to color!
Clay & Davis, your sister LOVES the princess coloring book you sent her! 

We read some Bible stories together.

Eliana had her toenails painted for the first time, after her bath tonight.
So many of you have been praying for us and the situation with the US Consulate, and we thank you!  Please continue to pray.  We still have no idea when we will get to come home.  The latest news that we received today is that the US Consulate is going to be closed for the remainder of this week.  It looks like we will be celebrating Eliana's 2nd birthday here in China after all.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Shamian Island & Dinner Cruise

Today was a full day of fun!
While we wait for our consulate appointment to be rescheduled, which was cancelled due to a situation that arose this week, we are having a good time and exploring as much of Guangzhou as we can.
This morning our travel group went to beautiful Shamian Island for site-seeing, shopping and lunch.
This evening our travel group enjoyed a lovely dinner cruise where we enjoyed the bright lights of Guangzhou.

Miss E getting ready for a fun day of shopping!  Isn't she cute!?!
Eliana loves to pull me along as we walk places.  She is such a determined little lady!
We ate lunch at the famous Lucy's.  We even happened to be seated by the Alabama license plate!  It was so good to have a burger for lunch!
Eliana fell asleep on the way to our dinner cruise.  She is quite the little sleeping beauty!
 The Canton Tower in Guangzhou is the tallest building in Asia.  It is absolutely gorgeous when it is all lit up at night!

Eliana absolutely adores her Daddy!  We had so much fun looking at all of the beautiful buildings and cool bridges.  Everything was lit up!
Eliana wore her new, traditional silk dress for our dinner cruise.
Isn't she lovely!?!
Today was a lot of fun, and we are so thankful to have this opportunity to learn more about this amazing place full of history and culture.

Please pray for the situation with the US Consulate.  We are ready to get back home to our boys and finally be a family of five (on the same continent)!  As of right now, we do not know when we will be able to go home.  We are waiting for the US Consulate to re-open and reschedule our appointment.