Tuesday, December 23, 2008

We Love Snow!

Adoption Overview

For those of you who may not be completely familiar with the process of international adoption or who are new to our blog, I thought it might be helpful if I shared an overview of the adoption process. Here are the basics of our experience:

We applied to America World Adoption Agency in November 2007 and were accepted into their Ethiopia program. This began the paper-chasing phase of the adoption process. Employment verification, insurance letters, identification documents, home study, background checks, and personal references were all gathered, notarized, and certified. This paperwork, called a dossier, was shipped to Ethiopia on June 13, 2008 -- our DTE (dossier to Ethiopia date). Read about the emotions of this here.

Our "ticker" at the top of the blog counts the time since our DTE. We are now waiting for a referral. A referral is when we (the adoptive family) is matched up with an orphan or orphan group. Our paperwork includes approval for two children up to age 6. Referral wait times can be hard to predict, especially with any request outside the more common infant referral. Our agency has suggested that others with similar DTE's as ours might be able to expect a referral in March or April. If no sibling groups have come available by that time, we may be given the opportunity to accept a referral for a single child.

After we accept a referral, AWAA staff in Ethiopia will pursue the legal end of things. We will be assigned a court date. We are cautioned, however, that approximately 30% of cases are not successful on their first appearance in court (often due to an outside organizations's failure to produce necessary paperwork). If we fail to pass court, a new court date will be assigned, usually several weeks later. Only after a successful court case can pictures of and information about any referred child(ren) be shared publicly.

Mike and I will travel to Ethiopia a few short weeks after passing court. We will be in Ethiopia for approximately one week. We will stay in Addis Ababa at a small hotel. All AWAA referred children live at a "transition home" in the city. At this home, we will meet for the first time. A day or so later, we will officially take custody and finalize any more paperwork necessary to come home together.

Then begins the challenge of learning to live together. . . This can be a difficult time for many families. As we approach this new year, we ask for your sensitivity and prayers. The waiting period provides little certainty and can be quite emotional and stressful. A referral may raise hopes, but also anxiety and longing. Finally, the demands of reorienting our family after placement will be great. Thank you to all our wonderful family and friends who we know will support us graciously through the coming months! Your care and concern mean so much!

Hope this helps to clarify the process for any newcomers!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Secret Hiding Place

Ethan was helping a woman at the church one day last week. The were in the little kitchen area getting some refreshment items together when Ethan spied a bag of candy up on a shelf. Noticing the direction of his gaze, our kind friend asked him if he would like a piece.

Ethan whispered his response, "Mommy doesn't like me to have a lot of that . . . but I know a hiding spot."

Amused, our friend asked, "Is it in your pocket?"

"No, mommy checks there."

At five years old, he's apparently already got me figured out! At least I still have some good informants!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Choirs, Cuties, and Continuing to Count

Our church Christmas choir presentation went very well this past weekend. Here's a little collage to give you a taste of our experience.

Just for fun this morning, the kids got dressed up and we did portraits at the house. Fun!

Also, we have passed the 6 month mark since shipping our big stack of paperwork to Ethiopia (that's 13 months since we started this adoption journey!) Can't wait to bring home our own Timbits!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Imagine a world where I had time to keep up with my blog....

Just joking, sort of.

Actually, I am putting forth my best explanation for the dearth of updated information on the Tapper clan. As we have entered the Advent season, I find myself increasingly heavy laden with the burden of directing meaningful worship for our local church. While that may sound awful, in reality, it should be described more as awe-full! There is so much wonderful story, creative music, thoughtful poetry, stimulating liturgy, beloved tradition, and unique opportunity for worshipful expression at this particular time of year, that I sense a special urgency--a growing weight of responsibility. Perhaps most appropriately, I think it can best be described as a pregnancy--like Mary's--in which the life of Christ is nourished within.

One practical example of how this "fleshes" out is seen in our upcoming Christmas musical. This Friday night and Sunday morning, our Christmas choir will present "Imagine." This production invites us to "imagine a world without Christmas" and to recognize and rejoice in the glorious realities of God's Kingdom made available to us through His perfect gift, Jesus Christ. Prayers are welcome as we seek to convey our worship to Him and our joy in Him to others.

Come back after the weekend for (hopefully) more regular updates on the Tappers . . . or maybe after December 25th??!!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Fun in any kind of weather...

Well, while the adoption process wait continues indefinitely (we got word this week that wait times are increasing and that young sibling groups are especially hard to estimate), the weather around here has provided lots of fun for the Tappers. Last week was warm and rainy, but yesterday, we woke up to a dusting of snow! Check out the pictures of our fun. (Note especially the "after" picture in the center of the puddle-jumping collage! These kids meant serious dirty business!!!)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Hope for the Waiting

Last week, we passed the five month waiting mark! While there has been a considerable slow-down with referrals from our agency the last couple months, it appears that family matches will pick up again in the next few weeks. In fact, we learned that our agency gave out three referrals on Friday, and there is speculation that they are poised to make upwards of ten more calls in the next two or three weeks. Unfortunately, I do not have any clear indication of when our referral may come. If we were asking for an infant girl or boy, current waiting family counts suggest that our agency would not have a referral for us until March or April. However, requesting a sibling group may enable an earlier referral...I can hope!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Leaves to Rake

Today, we raked.

Naptimes are becoming less frequent in the Tapper household. Though not yet completely nonexistent, the afternoon times of quiet tranquility are no longer expected by this mother. So, instead of counting on an hour or two of "my" time, I try to be intentional about planning my day in such a way as to get the things I need to do (without kids) done during the times of the day when the children are happy to play by themselves and to enjoy other activities together. Sometimes, it even works.

Then there are those other days when you just try to make something work.

Today, we raked.
It was something we could do together. Even though it wasn't necessarily on my list of things to do today, it is the kind of activity that provides some measurable sense of accomplishment once you've completed it. It's a good energy-burner for active preschoolers. And all the romping and stomping and rolling and tossing that go together with raking made us laugh and giggle and take lots of pictures! It all also reminded me of a section from Mark Buchanan's book, the Holy Wild:

A leaf. Behold a single leaf. So fragile, it tears like paper, crushes in your hand to a moist stain, sharply fragrant. Dry, it burns swift and crackling as newsprint, pungent as gunpowder. Yet a leaf may withstand hurricanes, stubbornly clinging to its limb.

Hold it open in your palm. It is perfect as a newborn's smile. Pinch its stem between thumb and forefinger and hold it to the light. Eden bleeds through. Its veins are like bone work in silhouette. This single leaf, joined to the tree, drinks poison from the air, drinks it serenely as Socrates downing his cup of
hemlock, and refuses to return in kind, instead spilling out life-giving oxygen. This leaf tilts to catch the sun, its warmth and radiance, to distill the heat and light down to the shadows, down to the roots, back up to limbs. To shade the earth. To feed you and me.

A leaf. God makes these season after season, one after the other, billions upon billions, from the Garden to the New Jerusalem, most for no eye but His own. He does it faithfully, or else I would not live to tell about it, or you to hear.

Perhaps of all my many sins against heaven, this ranks with the worst: Until this moment, I have never thanked God for a single leaf.

Which is the problem with faithfulness: We hardly notice it. Faithfulness is, by definition, the predictable, the habitual, the sturdy, the routine. It is the evidence of things seen, but seen so often we've grown blind to them. It is the substance of things expected, expected so unthinkingly that we now take them for granted.

Today, we raked. And I am reminded to say, "Thank you, God, for leaves; for family to share them with; and for your great faithfulness which provides my strength for today and bright hopes for tomorrow."

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Court Successes

For those of you following our adoption process, there was some wonderful news for two other families today. Held back from uniting with their children due to court closures during the summer, these families were also denied when court reopened due to changes in the paperwork requirements. However, today--a day earlier than expected--both families passed court! This is especially exciting for our family to watch as both of these families are adopting young sibling groups.

Check out the families at http://www.romans815.wordpress.com/

Also, just because it is fall and beautiful in Maine:

Friday, October 31, 2008

Fun Fall Times

I wanted to share some of the action around the Tapper home. As fall has come, we've been able to enjoy some fall family traditions. For one, we had our pumpkin stew a few weeks ago. Yum yum! We've also been enjoying some hikes through the crunchy leaves. Yesterday, was pumpkin carving day, and today we enjoyed the candy-collecting walk around the neighborhood with one crazy dinosaur and one silly penguin! Take a peek at our fun...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Learning the Lord's Prayer

Today was one of those days with young children. They do not do anything that is bad in and of itself. It is just when they do it and how they do and what they were supposed to be doing instead of it. Today was definitely one of those days.

Needless to say, I was eager for some quiet after-the-kids-are-in-bed time. However, I was ever hopeful that our bedtime routine might yield some teachable moments and quality family time. I had decided earlier that the Lord's Prayer might provide a helpful guide for our devotional prayer times, so I chose to introduce it tonight. My kids generally respond well to an echoing format for learning Bible passages and other memorizable information, so I started saying the prayer phrase by phrase. They repeated back phrase by phrase. I made a mental note to emphasize "Hallowed" another night since this is "H" week in our journey through the alphabet. I opted for "debts" rather than "trespasses" for the sake of their young tongues. Then came the line, "But deliver us from evil." I don't know if it was the fact that she was just coming off trying to pronounce "temptation" or what, but Abby's tongue couldn't handle it all. Instead of deliverance from evil, we got "deliver us our weasel" and a whole lot of giggles after that!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Happy! . . . and Heart-broken.

Oh, I forgot to say yesterday that we have also reached the four month mark for our adoption wait. This is rather exciting as the latest young sibling referrals have been coming at the five-six month mark. Beyond this, our America World case worker encouraged us last week to go ahead and work toward an addendum for our home study, expanding the age range of children for which we are approved from 0-3 to 0-6. Our home study provider had the addendum done and in our hands within 48 hours! That paperwork has been mailed to US citizenship and immigration services. Once it is approved there, notice will be sent to the embassy in Ethiopia so that they will permit us to take the children out of the country. We are very pleased with this progress.

I also want to share a glimpse of the heart-breaking situation that Ethiopia faces. Inflation there (and worldwide) is rampant. Our agency's transition home (where the children are cared for after referral) has seen its costs skyrocket from $4000/month to $17,000/month since the beginning of the summer! We have received word that we will face increased expenses for the remainder of our adoption fee process in order to address these concerns. Although this is difficult, I am thankful that our agency is committed to a high level of care even through these difficult times. Even with their best efforts, there is no comparison between the resources available there and what we experience on a daily basis here in North America. I learned today that the infant child of a sibling group referred to a AW family died in the hospital over the weekend due to pneumonia. While I don't doubt the blessed experience of that little girl in heaven right now, I do wrestle with questions about the injustice of our world's imbalanced wealth and my moral responsibility to act, love, and learn in ways that exemplify God's righteousness. And I mourn with the family (http://www.ethihopeia.com) that yearned to embrace this child yet faithfully trusts God through their loss. May "the name of our Lord Jesus...be glorified in [us], and [us] in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ." --2 Thess. 1:12

Monday, October 13, 2008

Birthday Girl

Well, I'm a little behind on the announcement, but the official notice must be given. Abigail Hope Tapper is three years old. Our beautiful treasure (made for God) continues to love to sing and make music. Using some of her birthday money, she selected a hot pink toy guitar and microphone and has been entertaining us with her imaginative lyrics and unique dance moves. She enjoys pretty much anything pink, swimming, painting, her blanket, snuggling with Mom, wrestling with her brother, and playing tickle with Dad. She can be stubborn and has been known to take advantage of her hard-working, eager-to-please brother (as in tilted head and wide, serious eyes, saying, "Ethan will pick up my toys."), but she makes up for this in delightfully original goofiness, thoughtfulness (I don't think she'll be easily swayed by the crowd), and appreciation for all the wondrous little things of life. We are blessed!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

He Did It!!!!!

After months of training, some difficult injuries, and a rather nervous morning (after having driven the course yesterday), we are pleased to report that Mike has finished his first marathon! The New Hampshire marathon has been run for 16 years around Newfound Lake. The relatively hilly course provided a significant challenge, but our favorite runner was able to finish in 4 hours, 50 minutes! We are so proud! Here's some favorite moments from the family experience:
Pre-race jitters are in full effect (at least for the one in the middle)!

Ethan and Abby had fun on the beach while Papa ran.

We caught up to Mike around mile 23 and tried to snap a shot of our favorite runner. We were much relieved to get a thumbs-up in response!

Ethan and Abby joined their dad for the last stretch.

Our champion!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Moral Development

As part of a course I am taking, I had to write an essay on moral development in children. Part of my essay was to address the question of responsibility for instilling a sense of morality in children. While I support the view that parents bear the primary responsibility for this task, I--as a parent--am so grateful that this responsibility need not be beared alone. In an article entitled, "Until Christ is Formed in You: Nurturing the Spirituality of Children," (available here) Marva Dawn reminds us of the "backward and sideward components of the faithful community" that supports moral and spiritual development for believers, including "Scriptural narratives . . . the 'cloud of witnesses' . . . congregational members . . . books . . . ethnic religious customs . . . special friends" and more. As Mike and I pursue the long discipline of genuine Christian training, we are infinitely thankful for those who have gone before and walk alongside us for the process! And we pray that, someday, Ethan and Abby (and two more) will express their gratitude as well.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Blame the Creator

Last night, Daddy took Abby out for some father-daughter time, so Ethan and I entertained ourselves at home. At one point in our adventures, Ethan was being particularly goofy. As I laughed with him, I asked, "How'd you get to be so silly?"
With a cute smile but the most sincere tone, he quickly answered, "Because God made me like that."

Friday, September 26, 2008

Our Recent Life in Pictures

I love this time of year! The leaves are just starting to turn colors, and evening walks in the crisp air are so beautiful and refreshing. There has been much activity in the Tapper household, of course, so I wanted to give you a peek into our daily activities.
I love how this picture captures the joy on their faces. They simply love to play together!

We took a walk to the pond. There are so many frogs at the pond. That is why we brought the bucket. Alas, frogs are fast. Very fast. On the way home, our bucket was empty, but Ethan was still smiling. Don't you just love a kid like that!

We have great neighbors...the kind of neighbors that you like to pop through the hedge to visit when you see them out in the yard. However, our particular neighborly hedge was becoming more like a neighborly jungle. Last week, the men attacked the hedge and came out victorious. We now have a manageable, pop-through-friendly hedge, and we had a great backyard bonfire to celebrate! Here's Abby being cute...

...and Ethan enjoying the night. (This boy also qualifies for the "man" title used above as he was a great helping in transporting cut branches back to the fire pit!)

Here we have the conquering of Mount Lawn Tractor by two enthusiastic adventurers.

And here they are topping off the fun with some time on the swings.

I just love this pic!

This one is for any of you who only know the quiet, keep-to-herself Abby. I think she was responding to some silliness prompted by her brother, upping the dramatics by about 5000%!

Since we decided to take an extra year before sending Ethan to school, I did want to make sure I utilized the time wisely and did some things that would help the children to prepare academically. Ethan especially has not been particularly fond of anything that seems to be testing his knowledge levels, so I needed to find a way to introduce concepts without putting on any pressure. Well, I found this simple alphabet banner and hung it in the dining room. Each week, we move the little clothespin marker to the next letter. Our letter of the week game has produced great results! By getting them familiar with just one letter at a time, they seem able to focus and have a lot of fun with it. We look for the letter of the week on road signs, at the park, or in the shapes of nature. We focus on the sounds and get excited about finding words in our daily conversations that start with the letter of the week. It's D-D-D-Delightful!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Trying (to grow) my Patience

At the YMCA where I work, there is a girl who comes in whose name is Patience. Now, sometimes you hear a new baby's name, and you think, "Wow...that's some name; he'll really have to grow into that one." Or I, as a former preschool teacher, think, "Oh, the poor kid. Do you realize how hard it is going to be for her to write out all those letters? I hope you'll give her a nickname." At any rate, I think "Patience" takes the cake for a hard-to-live-up-to name. I'm glad it's not my name...at least this week!

This week has brought more than its fair share of challenges -- a new class for me, changes in our schedule as Mike adjusts to fall routines, some tough situations with some friends, little activity to report in "adoption world," and, just tonight, the betrayal of our stove. Yes, the ancient Kenmore relic has ceased to provide its cooking/baking capacity. Actually, that's not quite true. The problem was more that it wouldn't stop. Mike removed his scruptious-looking chocolate cheesecake from the oven and reached to turn the oven knob off. It wouldn't budge. So he got a better grip and tried a little harder. With this additional effort, he was rewarded with a sharp snapping sound and hot, rolling metal at his feet. Ahhh, the gas has been turned off, and we are ready to admit that our occasionally mildly-explosive oven and impossible-to-clean stovetop are due for replacement.

In the midst of God's patience-work on me, he provides wonderful relief in the form of heart-lifting comments from two precious children. Abby crawled up on my lap one morning, turned, and whispered in my ear, "Mommy, you're my best friend." If that doesn't warm your heart...

Ethan, our careful observer, has put these skills to use for bedtime prayer time. If you ever get the chance to be in on a prayer with Ethan, sit back and get comfortable (somewhere that provides cover for significant giggling!) I can't replicate one exactly, but it might go something like this: "Thank you God for lights. Thank you God for ceilings. Thank you God for walls and windows and window screens to keep the bugs out. (pause) Thank you God for beds and wood and wood to make bunk beds out of. Thank you God for covers. Thank you God for pillows. (pause) Thank you God for books. (pause) Thank you God for doors and doorknobs. (pause) Thank you God for..." Pretty special. It makes this impatient (and sometimes irritable) Mom realize how much I've got right here and now!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Three Months Waiting Today!

We have officially endured three months of waiting. Sometimes it seems like the days/hours/minutes are just barely crawling by. Other times, I look back and wonder where the time has gone. Today, the hardest part of waiting is all the unknowns. We do not know when we may receive a referral call. The projected wait times put forth by our agency (based on the wait times of those who recently received their referrals) cover the following timeframes: 1) for an infant girl -- 7-9 months; for an infant boy -- 5-7 months; for a toddler or preschool child -- 6-12 months; for a young sibling group -- 5-7 months. According to these figures, we can presume that we might get a call in November, December, or January. It is possible that our agency would let us know about the availability of a single child before a sibling group becomes available. We would be permitted to accept this single child or to decline that referral and continue to wait for a sibling group. So we do not know when we will get a referral or when we will travel. We do not know if we will be offered one or two children. We do not know whether they will be boys or maybe a girl. We do not know how old they will be.

In the midst of my un-knowing, I cling to One Who Knows.

"Lord, You have looked through me and have known me. You know when I sit down and when I get up. You understand my thoughts from far away. You look over my path and my lying down. You know all my ways very well. Even before I speak a word, O Lord, You know it all. You have closed me in from behind and in front. And You have laid Your hand upon me. All You know is too great for me. It is too much for me to understand." Psalm 139:1-6 (New Life Version)

Blessed are You, O Lord my God, King of the Universe. Thank You for Your care for me.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

For the Love of Summer

We were blessed with a great day on the beach in New Hampshire last weekend. For me (and certainly most kids I know), beach days are wonder-full. There is the incredible sparkle of dry sand...the surprise splash of an incoming wave...the joy of friendships...the slurping and squelching of wet sand being dug into by small shovels or clawing fingers...the unique ocean smells...the toe-pulling of a receding surf...the capacity for sound travel, enabling the hearing of children's shrieks and giggles across the beach...the strong, yet still refreshing breeze...the tiny, beautiful shells and stones...

"...everything comes from him; everything exists by his power and is intended for his glory. To him be glory evermore. Amen." (Romans 11:36)