Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What Happens at Our House

In this time of establishing new norms as we Tappers adjust to living as six, consciousness usually begins somewhere between six and seven. Generally, I try to set my alarm for about 6:30, hoping that this provides me a few moments of personal quietness and the opportunity to start my day with my Bible and my journal. I may need to bump this time up a bit, as it seems that I have been hearing the tell-tale signs of awake children by about 6:40 or so.

Those bumps, patters, and calls signal the beginning of the crazy rush to have everyone washed up, dressed, fed, and generally ready to meet the day. Ethan, who now is a BUS RIDER (in this case, capital letter signify the necessary inflection required to express tremendous excitement), must catch the bus a few streets over at 7:44 sharp.

Okay, so we missed the bus this morning. It was our first try with four kids. Ethan has forgiven me, and I'm sure we'll do better tomorrow!

(By the way, yesterday we met with the principal and a department head at the elementary school to work out the details for Abu/Andrew to start school. The school has been very helpful. Andrew will start half days in an English 1st grade classroom after Canadian Thanksgiving. He is very eager to go. Today, after we dropped Ethan off at the school, he looked at me, pointed to himself and asked, "School?" When I said, "Not today," he kind of nodded as if to signify the wisdom of that decision and firmly stated, "School tomorrow.")

Given his enthusiasm for school (and the rainy weather), we started the day with some worksheets and projects. I introduced the spelling of "Andrew," and he practiced and practiced and practiced.

A little later in the morning, everyone joined in a game of Zingo. What a great way to learn new words, practice taking turns, and have fun together.

During free play time (while Mom cleans up a bit), the blocks were a hit today.

Before naptime, we always read a story or two or three.

After naps, it's time to get Ethan off the bus. One of these days, I'll actually remember to grab the camera so you can see Ethan's joy in this experience. Andrew was pretty impressed with it all, too. A snack provided the fuel for some crazy driving by the three boys. Despite the cold and wet, nobody wanted to come back inside.

After supper, we cleaned up and got out the puzzles. Each child completed their own, and there were lots of proud smiles!

Of course, all of the above took place within the context of the necessary establishment of boundaries for Andrew, the constant battle of reminding Jadon that he has to share, the increased volume of dirty dishes and laundry, the decreased longevity of any type of food in the frig/cupboards, the very deliberate management of spending individual time with each child, and the challenge of purposefully describing everything so that Andrew can learn language. So, that's what happens at our house!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Day One

The main "mom" activity for this day was referee-ing the three previously-settled Tapper children in their pursuit to claim exclusive rights to the newest addition to the family. We literally had conversations like this:

"Abu, Abu, Abu! Come play, Abu."
"No, Jadon's Abu!"
"No, My Abu!"
"No share Abu. My Abu!"
"Hey, guys. He's Mama's Abu, Papa's Abu, Ethan's Abu, Abby's Abu, AND Jadon's Abu. The whole family."
(Meanwhile, Abu just smiles off in the corner.)

Overall, it was a great start...but there's a lot of adjusting to be done. Here's a peek at some of our finer moments today...

First Hours


After strong rains and exhaustion prompted Mike to get a hotel rather than push through toward home on Saturday...

After three hours of haggling at the border...

After six full months since seeing their faces for the first time...

After two years of paperwork and process...


Saturday, September 26, 2009

So Close

I just had a wonderful phone conversation!!! I was able to speak with both Mike and Abu, since they have cleared US customs and are gearing up for the final legs of their journey home: a short flight to NYC, a stop at my parents to visit Gramma and Pappy and also pick up Abby, and the drive up and over the border. Both of my guys sound great and eager to be together with the rest of the family.

One blessing from the flight home was the opportunity to visit with another Ethiopian seated near Mike and Abu. Through this gentleman, Mike was able to have extended translated conversations with Abu about his life, background, and future. What a special gift!

Just a few more hours until we are all under the same roof!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Wonderful Update

Things continue to go smoothly in Ethiopia this time around. Praise God!

I received this email from Mike sent out at 11:25 our time:

I'm typing from Yebsabi house...son looking on. We have a visa
and our son is coming home! Most excellent.

i spent most of the day travelling to and from Abu's grandfather's village. A hair
raising experience to say the least. The terrain was absolutely
accidents/swerves...full package. When we finally arrived, I met
Abu's grandfather. An elderly gentleman who greeted me by kissing my feet
and crying. . . .

We're leaving in 20 min to head to the airport. . . . Can't wait to bring
our boy home. (our bald boy btw)

(For those of you who may not be aware, the comment about the baldness is completely positive based on many recent adoptive parent's stuggles with lice. We are totally pleased on all fronts!)

All believers, come here and listen, let me tell you what God did for me.
I called out to him with my mouth, my tongue shaped the sounds of music.
If I had been cozy with evil, the Lord would never have listened.
But he most surely did listen, he came on the double when he heard my prayer.
Blessed be God: he didn't turn a deaf ear, he stayed with me, loyal in his love.
(Psalm 66:16-20)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Safely Arrived

Mike passed along the following report from Ethiopia:

Arrived safe and sound this afternoon. It was a pretty smooth flight although I had an exceptionally loud travelling partner beside me. Talkedly-talk-talk-talk. Nothing really to complain about though. Similar to July the wait through immigration and check-in was two plus hours. But, different from July, T and Dawit were waiting there for me. . . . We just went to the Zebra Cafe to have a meal of tibs...very good.

T is staying overnight in my room so we can be on the road by 7am to head out to Showa to meet grandpa. T made a few calls today to Robel and things seem clear for the visa. If all goes as planned we'll be back in town mid afternoon to pick up Abu. How fulfilling and wonderful this will be! Like a dream, really!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Daddy's on his way!

As I'm typing, Mike's plane should be taking off for Ethiopia. In approximately fifteen and a half hours, he should land in Addis Ababa's Bole Airport (where it will be late evening). Get some sleep, babe! Big days ahead!

In the meantime, the boys and I have been having some fun. Please forgive the quality of these pictures. I only have my cell phone as Mike took our camera with him.
We had a fair amount of rain this morning, making things pretty wet all
day. When I picked Ethan up from school this afternoon, we were finding
snails all along the edge of the grass. We now have a snail hanging out in
a margarine container in our kitchen.
This evening I had scheduled the pick-up of a item I found in a local ad.
I had wanted to arrange an earlier pick-up time to facilitate an earlier
bedtime, but the woman couldn't meet me before 7 o'clock. That gave us
plenty of time after supper to drive to her area of the city and search for
a "new" park. We found one complete with very wet slides, wet sand, and
wet climbing apparatus. The messier, the merrier!

The park also featured a walking trail through the woods which just begged to be
explored. Of course, we obliged.


We've added a new song to our bedtime family devotions repetoire: "Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelujah...Praise Ye the Lord." Do you know that one? Well, it has definitely become a kid favorite! At random moments of the day (driving through town in the van, on the potty, while coloring on the floor, as one is setting the table), I'll hear a little voice singing, "Hallelu..." May God be honored by such simple praise!

For God is great, and worth a thousand Hallelujahs. Psalm 96:4

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Bringing Home Our Boy

Mike is leaving today for a flight out of JFK tomorrow. He will have a whirlwind trip! Arriving in Addis Ababa on Thursday night, he'll have a visit with someone from the boys' extended family on Friday, pick Abu up, and head right back to the airport Friday evening for the LONG flight home.

Abby is taking this opportunity to have a few days at Grammy and Pappy's house. I think she has packed five pairs of shoes for her four-day adventure. She is also looking forward to watching movies with Grammy, helping Pappy, and playing outside, especially with the kittens.

So it will be me and the two boys here at the house for a few days. Then, hopefully, Saturday night we will ALL be together!!!

Coincidently, the CDC amended their policy on TB last week. It looks like other adoptive families facing similar situations as ours will not have to go through the extensive waiting period that we have. I am amazed to see this policy change so quickly, but it is so obviously the right thing to do! Perhaps our case was one of those considered when the policy was reviewed, and we were able to play a small part in making others' journeys easier. If so, I am glad for that.

Mostly, I am rejoicing in anticipation of getting to know one very special boy. (Check out the video below from the delivery of his last care package by the Lanzillotta family. Here's what they said: "We talked to Robel before we left and he said that Abu was told that Daddy would be there Thursday and he would fly on the airplane home with Daddy on Friday. We were told he was VERY excited!" Next package comes from Dad, buddy!)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Savoring Swing Snuggles

For a few moments, we had great snuggles on the swing -- Mom and three kids. Eventually, things dissolved into whines and sobs as this has been an especially busy and trying week, and all are in need of some extra sleep, I think. An early bedtime and a weekend change of schedule will hopefully bring some needed rest to our clan.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The results are in!

...and we are now really counting the days!
Nine more sleeps until Abu comes home!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


This post may be a bit raw. In order to maintain the authenticity of this blog, however, I feel the need to journal these (not too pretty) emotions in the same way that I express the joys and well-learned lessons in life. If you just want to hear the good stuff, don’t read this post.
*** *** *** ***

We have been told that the authorities in Ethiopia who are in possession and control of our son’s sputum test are not expected to communicate the results of that test until Friday (18th) or Monday (21st). While this still allows us to receive the news (quite narrowly) before our previously-scheduled flight plans, this delay is pushing my emotions past their normal range.

I feel very, very angry. When someone tells me that I just need to wait for God’s perfect time, I want to spit. It is one thing to learn to wait for something that God is orchestrating. While I did not enjoy the wait for our referral, I could bear it knowing that God had spurred us on toward this adoption and that waiting for the match facilitated by our chosen agency was part of that process. While I did not enjoy the waits for our court dates, I understood this as part of the process as well. While I have been heart-broken over these last weeks of waiting for a culture test to fully develop (required by a policy that I think is wrong), I have realized that this is something that won’t change overnight. In contrast, waiting for someone to communicate the results of a test that has been completed for days…results we were told to expect last making my anger boil over. It seems to me that this wait is much more a result of another's sinful abuse of power than God's unique plan.

These results are HUGE for our family. They mean the difference between togetherness and separation. They mean the difference between trust and suspicion. They mean the difference between completion and continued unsettledness. They mean the difference between home and away. Right now, as we wait, we hold all these various concepts tenuously. If the news we hear demands that we let go of togetherness, trust, completion, and home…then we will learn how to do that. On the other hand, if we can let go of separation, suspicion, unsettledness, and away…we will fling them far with shouts of joy. But holding them all is so hard.

We were given a date to expect results. Day by day, we’ve awakened with expectation. Day by day, we have been left holding oppositional forces, trying to balance all the “what if’s,” facing uncertainty. I am angry that it is this way. I feel oppressed by someone’s lack of integrity, by another’s slothfulness, by somebody’s poor decision-making. And I feel powerless to make it any other way.

Feelings of anger and powerlessness can be a terrible combination. Frankly, the management of these emotions has been a struggle. I am thankful that others have faithfully gone before me. I am thankful that the Bible even records some such strugglers.

Psalm 10:12-18 (NKJV)
Arise, O LORD!

O God, lift up Your hand!
Do not forget the humble.
Why do the wicked renounce God?
He has said in his heart,
“You will not require an account.”
But You have seen,
for You observe trouble and grief,
To repay it by Your hand.

The helpless commits himself to You;
You are the helper of the fatherless.
Break the arm of the wicked and the evil man;
Seek out his wickedness until You find none.

The LORD is King forever and ever;
The nations have perished out of His land.
LORD, You have heard the desire of the humble;
You will prepare their heart;
You will cause Your ear to hear,
To do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
That the man of the earth may oppress no more.

Dear God, overcome wickedness and release us to whatever the future holds. Prepare my heart to do your will, Lord. In the days to come, may your goodness be a force to be reckoned with because of us crazy Tappers. And just be near me to get me through this next few days, hours, this moment. I love you. Amen.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Shirt Confusion

When I was getting Jadon dressed this morning, he kept insisting something about the bright yellow Hot Wheels shirt I was trying to wrangle him into: "Abu(ya), Abu(ya), Abu(ya)!"

Well, I know that this shirt is way too small for Abu. I know we didn't take this shirt to Ethiopia. I know I have never seen Abu in any Hot Wheels shirts. So I insisted back: "No, this is Jadon's shirt." We went back and forth like this for a while. (It can take some time to get a spirited two-year-old into his clothes.)

Once fully dressed, Jadon ran off. He returned quickly, however, carrying Mike's Ethiopian soccer shirt. Ahhhh, now I understood. Flashback to Wednesday of Ethiopia week and you'll understand, too...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Joyful Jadon

Before I continue, I'll make the note that my last blog post should be re-titled, "Five Days for Waiting," as we have been informed that tomorrow is an Ethiopian holiday (New Years). Apparently, no lab techs have shown a willingness to come into work on a scheduled day off in order to relieve some anxious family across an ocean! Tune back in on Monday for potential news on that front.

In the meantime, I thought an update on Jadon would be well-deserved. I appreciate all those who have been praying for his adjustment. We have now been home from Ethiopia for almost 8 weeks. It is amazing how much a person can change in such a short period of time!

Of course, language is a huge part of the early adjustment period for any internationally adopted preschooler or older child. Let's just say that language is a HUGE part of Jadon's life in general. This boy can talk and talk and talk and talk! Fortunately, we now understand most of what he says, as he has picked up an incredible amount of English in these last few weeks. One of the funniest things about his language acquisition is his tendency to add syllables. For instance, "grass" comes out sounding more like "ga-rass," "bike" more like "ba-yeek," and "Grampsie" more like "Ga-ram-pa-see." Quite a mouthful, really!

With Mr. Chatterbox always trying to monopolize the conversations around here, we've tried to be very purposeful in encouraging listening as well. We often have to say, "Ssshhh. It's Ethan's/Abby's/Daddy's/Mama's turn to talk." Of course, Jadon doesn't mind copying this technique himself!

"Ssssshhhh! Jadon's turn!"

When Jadon first came home, we were calling him by his Ethiopian name, Desalegn. However, as this pronunciation is difficult for most North Americans, we soon switched over to Jadon. In the last couple weeks, he himself has switched to calling himself Jadon exclusively. One of the games that we played a lot in the first few weeks home was a naming game. I would point to him and say, "Who's this?" He would respond, "Desalegn." I would point to myself and say, "Who's this?" He would say, "Mama." We would repeat this a number of times and then include others around us: Papa, Ethan, Abby, Granny, etc. This was a great help, especially in situations when we wanted to differentiate between mere acquaintances and closer relationships. If Jadon seemed keen on giving an inordinate amount of affection to a stranger, we would scoop him up, start the name game (restricting the naming to our own family), and move on. Also, I think this game helped when introducing him to new family or friends with whom we really did want him to feel confortable. At any rate, while we don't play the game as much now...he has switched over to calling himself "Jadon."

Many have been asking about Jadon's sleeping patterns. I am happy to report that he has adjusted amazingly well. After a bit of a rough start during which pretty severe expressions of anxiety would be manifested at bedtime, it seems that Jadon has grown comfortable with our schedule, his bedroom environment, and the idea that Mom or Dad WILL return or ARE available if he needs us. He has bonded nicely with his blankie, associating it with both comfort and his bedtime ritual. Although, given the choice, he would prefer to skip naptime, this Mom continues to insist on an afternoon rest. He generally settles quite quickly during this time as well.

For each of our children, we have developed a little tag phrase that we use daily (especially at bedtimes, but also at other times during the day) to encourage them to identify themselves as a uniquely designed child of God. Abby is our "beautiful treasure made for God." Ethan is our "Prince of the Kingdom." When Mike and I were discussing potential tag phrases for Jadon....well, there really wasn't much discussion! It seemed so obvious. He is our "Joy of the Father's heart!"
Raising young children provides a wonderful opportunity to see the world through a fresh set of eyes. I think this blessing is amplified when you are raising an adopted toddler. New things are not just new, they are revolutionary and incredibly fascinating. For the first time in two months, I drummed up the courage to bring out paints for the kids. It was certainly NOT mess-free. The kids enjoyed the chance to release their creativity. It was worth the mess.

Oh, one last thing:
I love to watch a child learning to pray. This is a typical Jadon prayer -- (in a kind of quiet, secret-like voice...which NEVER happens otherwise!) -- "Thank you God for Nanny. Thank you God for Grampsie. Thank you God for Grammy. Thank you God for Mama. Thank you God for Papa. Thank you God for Abby. Thank you God for Ethan. Thank you God for Abu. Thank you God for trucks. Thank you God for monkeys. (shouting now) AMEN! POTTYTIME!!"
"Light-seeds are planted in the souls of God's people; Joy-seeds are planted in good heart-soil. So, God's people, shout praise to God; Give thanks to our Holy God." Psalm 97:11-12

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Three Days for Hoping

We have been told that we may receive word on the results of Abu's sputum test this Friday. It is possible that we will not hear for a few days after that, but Friday is the earliest that we might have news. Of course, Friday really can't come fast enough! These past two months have been exciting and full in many ways, but they have also been plagued with this nagging sense of heartbreak...even of injustice.
A friend wrote powerfully about the particular scenario in which our family (and a few other international adoptive families) find ourselves:
Imagine, if you will, that your child travels without you to a foreign country,
contracts a disease and then is not permitted back. Horrifying, isn't
it? It is like the government is holding your child prisoner, separate
from you, with an undetermined timeline for when he might be permitted back
based on various treatments, tests, and the performance of doctors and hospitals
you don't know and have no control over. You're going to have to imagine
it, because--for your American-born children--it will not happen. But we
are living it.
We pray not only that the "undetermined timeline" for bringing Abu home will be eliminated with the upcoming test results, but also that policies will be changed in order to abolish such unnecessary delays for future adoptive families. If you would like to be informed and proactive about these concerns, please read this article and sign this petition. And, if you really just want to help me survive through the waiting, random acts of free domestic service and any form of chocolate goodies would certainly be welcomed!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Sweet Abby

I am absolutely amazed by the resiliancy our sweet Abby has shown during all the transitions and adjustments of the last few months. If you had asked me a few months ago, I might have predicted that being displaced from the "baby" role in the family might have made Abby into a jealous, more demanding little girl. I would have been so wrong!

Instead, Abby has shown remarkable maturity and an incredibly loving spirit. On another Ethiopian adoptive family's blog, I was reading about how many families considering adoption might have thoughts like this: "Part of us feels pulled toward adopting older kids or a sibling group, but another part is very scared of what it might do to our family, how it could affect our current kids, and what kind of short- and long-term implications it might have. I don't want to take anything away from what we already have." After re-ordering their family through adoption SIX TIMES, this family has some credibility when they address such fears by saying: "You are NOT taking anything AWAY from your birth children. Instead, what you are doing is imparting to them something eternal: You are expanding their capacity to love. Think about that for a minute before you read anything else. How do you plan to teach your child to love others unconditionally and in total compassion without giving them the opportunity to do so? I'm telling you now, You CAN'T."

Well, for me, it is an incredible joy to watch Abby's heart capacity stretch to love in ways I've never seen her love before. I am so thankful for that.

I wanted to share some more random "special things about Abby" for your enjoyment!

  • We purchased a used bunkbed in our area and replaced the double bed in "Abby's room" with this bunk. I used the quotations around "Abby's room" because, while the room has contained all her clothes, dolls, dress-up clothes, etc., she refused to sleep there. She insisted on sleeping on the top bunk in the boy's room, contending that she didn't want to be alone and would move to her room only after "big brother" came home. However, with the new bunk's arrival, Abby reconsidered. She loves her new room arrangement and has slept the last few nights on her own in what can now truly be called Abby's bedroom.

  • We got some clothes down from the attic (thanks, big cousins!), and Abby found this beautiful dress with cheetah-print trim. As we took a walk that day (with Baby along, too, of course), Abby informed me that the reason she was walking so fast was because she was wearing her cheetah dress!

  • Abby enjoyed decorating these visors with the names of all the kids in our family. She did a great job! As we worked that day, she asked about when Abu was coming home. I explained that, in 7 sleeps, we might know whether Daddy could bring Abu home very soon.

Abby looked at me with exasperation. "But I can't wait that

"Why not?" I asked.

She exclaimed, "Because he'll be too tall!"

She's a keeper, our Abby girl!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

First Day of School

No tears. No clingy uncertainty. No stubborn refusals to cooperate. Just a great courageous beginning to the first day of the first year of Ethan's schooling!

Meanwhile, Abby and Jadon had a lot to do -- bike riding, bouquet-gathering, cookie-making, book-reading, phone-talking little adventurers that they are!

We were so busy that I almost forgot to pick Ethan up from school! We did get there on time and were greeted by our crowned prince with a big smile. His words: "Mom, I wasn't even scared."