Thursday, September 30, 2010


I could write about a lot of meaningful things going on in our lives right now. I’ve actually started writing a number of posts about a variety of topics, but none made it to a publishable end. In the meantime, I’ve been “blog-tagged.” One of the mothers who was in Ethiopia with us last July, picking up her son Martin—a good friend of Andrew’s—has put forth some questions for me. You can check out her very beautiful and seriously funny blog here.

As for the questions…

1. How did you decide on your kids' names?
The first child to enter our family was Abigail Hope. We actually had two full girl names ready for her before she was born, but I couldn’t decide which one to use. I think, in my head, the other name fit with a dark-haired child. Partway through labor, our doctor started chuckling. Obviously, that gets your attention. What could possibly be funny?? She admitted that she was just surprised because she was seeing red-ish hair, and she always imagined what her patients babies would look like, and she hadn’t thought that our baby would have had red-ish hair. I wasn't in the mood for laughing right then, but, I think that was when I knew we would have an Abigail Hope.

When Abby was just under four months old, we traveled to Ukraine to pick up a long-awaited son. In the National Adoption Center in Kiev, we viewed, among many others, a profile for a sweet 2-year-old named Igor. His birthday was one day before our anniversary. We chose to pursue the adoption of that boy. After leaving the NAC meeting, we rushed to catch an overnight train to the city of Donetsk, where that child had been born. Neither Mike or I were in love with the name Igor, so, as the train clickety-clacked through the night, I brainstormed names. By morning, we had a plan. We wanted to offer Igor a name that was phonetically close to the only name he had ever known, so we stressed the EEE sound in Igor and added Ethan, using both names together for a while. We also maintained the “GOR” of his birth name by incorporating the middle name, Gregory. Our little prince became Ethan Gregory.

While anticipating the referral for child #3 and child #4, I did a lot of name research. I noted that we already had two children who could claim Biblical characters as namesakes. I also recognized that we might be referred an older child who was uncomfortable taking on a new name. When we received our referral of Abu and Desalegn, the name research went into full gear. We wanted to offer these boys a new English name, if they wanted, to symbolize their major transition in life. (And, frankly, I wasn’t sure I could keep my brain and tongue in order with an Abu and an Abby in the same house!) We also wanted to keep their Ethiopian names as part of their names, and to make sure that their names were not too difficult to pronounce. Finally, we settled on Andrew Jeremiah Abu and Jadon Desalegn (each, also, with their own Biblical references!), and the boys both seem to have really taken to their new names.

2. What is the one piece clothing you have had the longest and you can't bear to part with it?
I still pull out my “Northampton Konkrete Kids Wrestling” hoodie every now and then. Not every person can say that their high school wrestling team was ranked first in the nation. Thanks to hours and hours of watching my cousins, my brother, and countless other singlet-clad, muscle-bound teenagers grapple, I can also pull out some nifty moves to keep my three boys remembering to mind their mother :).

3. What is your favorite movie and why?
I like the movie Gattaca. It makes you think.

4. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Well, you know, this is a tough question. So far, in my life, I have lived in Pennsville, PA; Sussex, New Brunswick; Oshawa, ON; Brewer, ME; and Aylmer, QC. Each place had its own beauty and its own challenges. Certainly, we can say that we have met wonderful people in every place that we have lived. Besides those experiences, Mike and I grew up on opposite sides of the Can-US border, and we have drawn three children from Eastern Europe and Africa. I know that saying so belittles the question (which specifically states “in the world”), but the idea of “confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God” resonates strongly with me (Hebrews 11:10). And I’m pretty sure God’s city doesn’t require us to fill out any more immigration paperwork!

So there you have it! I think I’m supposed to come up with some other bloggers to tag with some new questions…but I’m going to plead ignorance. I’d love to hear your own responses to any of the above questions in your comments, though!!! And stay tuned. Another post will surely follow soon. If I can just figure out what to write…

Monday, September 27, 2010

Home One Year!

A quiet boy with a quick smile courageously entered a whole new world one year ago today.

(on the plane home, September 2009)

My, what a year has done! As Andrew's language skills have taken off, he has lost almost all capacity for quiet! He wants to know everything and will ask a million questions in pursuit of that knowledge. And, then, he is not shy in voicing his own opinions about things either. Honest and bold are terms I think could be fairly used to describe our boy.

We have learned that determination is a key aspect of Andrew's personality. Whether that is a result of some genetic component or some element of his early life experience, it is hard to say. However, if you are watching him engage in some sporting event, tackling a homework assignment, or simply creating his own imaginary world in play, there is no mistaking his passionate and full involvement.

Andrew also loves to make people laugh. His crazy dance moves and hilarious facial expressions can cause his brothers and sisters to completely lose it. (It's pretty hard for Mom and Dad to keep straight faces, too!)

Andrew is also very practical. He likes when things make sense. He prefers when people cooperate and do their duty. He often has a certain understanding about how things "should" work. He is also quick to notice inconsistency (and, of course, is not afraid to bring it to the attention of others!) I like to think of this as his sense of honor (or honour--for all my Canadians!!) Sure, he's had his own set of not-so-smart choices in the past year, but his heart is set to do right. He lays down a great example as a big brother.

(One year later--September 27, 2010)

Just the other day, we were driving home from a party. Because we had someone traveling with us, I had the distinct pleasure of riding home in the back seat of the minivan between my two big boys. Needless to say, we were snuggled in back there pretty cozily. (Andrew does like to snuggle and hold hands, although he is often a reluctant straight-on hugger and avoids kisses as much as possible.) I got telling stories from "back when Mom was a kid." I thoroughly enjoyed their attentiveness, empathy for my childhood struggles, and appropriate giggles over my own young silliness.

Tucking Andrew in bed that night, we asked our traditional bedtime question: "What was your favorite part of the day?" He thought for a moment and then answered, "My favorite was playing hockey this morning." (It was his first, long-awaited practice, so this was no surprise!) But, then, he quickly added, "And talking with you in the van."

For me, that one comment, which evidenced his valuing of our connection, serves as a great bookend for a remarkable year of discovery. We have been privileged to uncover the incredible nuances of this 8-year-old even as he has been discovering how to navigate a whole new world.
He is our champ, and we are blessed to be family!

(Andrew, 2009-2010)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Magic, Mistakes, and Mike's Birthday!

A while ago, I posted about initiating a chore chart. We continue to have chore time daily. Most of the time, everyone does their duty with only minor complaints or lethargy. On occasion, however, one (or all) of the children puts forth a major fuss.

This week, we had a new response. As I helped Jadon with the dishes (his favorite chore, I think), Abby danced around in the hallway, making repeated requests for me to come check the state of the dining room floor. (Her responsibility for the day was sweeping.) At a break in the sink action, I told Abby that I was ready to check her work. Together, we turned the corner into the dining room.

I wasn't impressed. I could see mess all over the floor by the doorway, scraps of paper over near the computer, and crumbs as well as a big hunk of pizza crust under the table. I turned to Abby, and I'm sure my look said it all. She was smiling sheepishly.

"What did you do in here?" I asked.

"Oh, Mom. I don't really want to sweep today. I thought maybe if I wished it, the floor would get all clean. You know, like magic!"

We laughed. She did actually sweep the floor.

And I was reminded again how quick we can be to look for the quick and easy way. I thought about how some of the best things in life are really hard work--marriage, Christian discipleship, friendships, corporate worship, childbirth, adoption, parenting, etc. Sometimes, I find myself thinking that because something is good, it should be natural, and, by that, I generally mean magic. But sometimes the important things in life are hard.

In the NIV Bible, the phrase "make every effort" occurs 8 times. Look them up. We are supposed to work hard at everything from faith to relationships to learning. This is certainly not to negate God's grace. Our efforts must be inspired by and covered with and submersed in and filled with His grace, or else they are meaningless. Still, we can't presume it will be easy.

...And speaking of presumptions...

I have made a mistake.

And I'm not sure what will happen about it. It was a classic case of misunderstanding. I failed to think clearly through a certain situation, simply presuming I knew what was to happen. And I got it wrong. Furthermore, nobody caught my mistake until now. I expect to be presented with some options (or maybe just an ultimatum) within the next week. I would ask for your prayers that Mike and I would have wisdom in this matter. If appropriate, I will disclose more at a later time.

Finally, on a much happier note...

Today is Mike's 35th birthday!!! The kids helped bake a cake (that we enjoyed last night because Mike does have to work tonight). We celebrated our fantastic hubby/father who has had such a busy and remarkable year! He's the best!!!!!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Monday Fun-Day

It was a beautiful day to pack some lunches and head over to the neighborhood park for some sun, sand, and swings.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Thursday, September 16, 2010


(talking about hair)
Andrew: How come Ethan's goes down and mine goes up?

(passing by a construction site)
Jadon: Where are the workers?
Me: I don't know.
Jadon: Maybe at Tim Hortons.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"Preschool" According to Jadon

In an attempt to keep Jadon from utter boredom, we have introduced the at-home Tapper preschool. I am using the simple weekly plans from this blogger as a loose guide. Little J seems to be quite excited about his own little learning adventure. Of course, he's already looking ahead. He says, "Learning is good for I can be done with preschool. Kindergarten will be different. It will be me and my teacher and my lunch teacher and some more kids."

In the meantime...
..."Preschool is important because I need to do those things."

"I'm good at doing the things what I need to do."

"Only Mom and me go to preschool. I love my mom."

"At my preschool, I do a lot of stuff. I do crafts. I did squares. I know what a cow is. I know how to write my name. Writing letters is fun."

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Ethnic Identity

In 1993, the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect to Intercountry Adoption was established. (Adoptive parents recognize this as the reason they take those crazy-long online training courses!) It claimed that the goal of “full and harmonious personality development” of children requires that they “grow up in a family environment with an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding.” Furthermore, the ability to facilitate identity development was specifically identified by the Hague Convention as an important criterion by which a prospective adoptive parent ought to be judged eligible for child placement. That’s all well and good, but identity formation processes among international adoptees are very complicated things! There’s a lot of great information out there, but—truth be told—there’s also a lot about which researchers are rather unsure. In my own research on this topic of ethnic identity formation among intercountry adoptees (If you have to do a research paper for your Adolescent Development class, you might as well make it something relevant, right??), I’ve found some helpful information for my quest to facilitate my boys’ development. Perhaps the following will be interesting or beneficial for you, my readers, too!

-Adolescence is usually considered to be the pinnacle of identity development processes; however, identity processes actually begin very early in one’s life and continue to be negotiated throughout the entire lifespan. Activities for young children that may be particularly helpful for ethnic identity development include learning some distinctives of one’s own ethnic group and gaining suitable ethnic terminology for diverse groups.

-Most researchers agree that ethnic identity development is especially significant for minority youth. Certainly, an additional level of complexity is involved as the unique stresses of discriminatory environments combine with universally challenging developmental processes.

-The empirical evidence on adjustment outcomes for intercountry adoptees is consistently positive despite the fact that a substantial percentage of adoptees experience factors known to have negative developmental effects prior to being adopted (i.e. poverty, separation from birth family, institutionalization, etc.). Indeed, the overwhelming majority of studied U.S. adoptees demonstrate positive outcomes in areas such as social adjustment, frequency of emotional problems, growth issues, school performance, self-esteem, and hopes for the future.

-Three hindrances to ethnic identity formation that may be particularly salient for those who have been internationally adopted have been identified: 1) Ethnic confusion—arising from physical dissimilarities among family members or lack of knowledge about one’s birth family or birth culture; 2) Experiences of discrimination—which may be exacerbated by lack of training in coping skills related to discrimination; and 3) Integration of other aspects of identity—especially one’s adopted status.

-The most appropriate manner of providing cultural socialization for an intercountry adoptee is difficult to determine. One consistent finding is that a diverse community life is highly beneficial. The research suggests that daily exposure to ethnic and racial diversity, regardless of similarity to the particular race of the adoptee, significantly improves the likelihood of developmental identity progress, with all its benefits for psychological well-being and self-esteem.

-Parents—even throughout their children’s teenage years—remain the primary source of emotional support for their children. Furthermore, the narratives parents develop about their children’s lives may be particularly formative. Researchers who have applied a narrative approach to developmental theory have found that redemption accounts—which involve reconstructing negative experiences from the past into positive and self-transforming incidents—are especially conducive to a sense of personal well-being and social adjustment. It has been suggested that parents can help to facilitate redemptive narratives by teaching coping skills for direct use in challenging situations, promoting open and proactive communication, and providing direct guidance as children seek to make sense of their challenging life experiences.

-Individuals may vary widely in their levels of ethnic centrality, or the importance of race or ethnicity in relation to a personal identity. Increased ethnic centrality tends to be associated with increased exploration of ethnic identity and an increased sense of ethnic belonging. On the other hand, some researchers have suggested that lower ethnic centrality may actually serve some individuals well. It is each individual’s unique balance of centrality, exploration, and belonging that must be determined and reached.

So there you have it: Keep getting the “cultural” books from the bookstore/library, make some new friends who don’t look like you, and tell good stories about yourselves around the dinner table. It all counts! (And keep praying, because—although none of my scientific research mentioned this explicitly--all this identity formation stuff certainly requires A LOT of grace!)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Just Because...

...I loved this pic.
She saw I had the camera in my hand. She intentionally posed. I think this is her "dreamer" pose. What do you think she is dreaming about?

Thursday, September 2, 2010


I had one-on-one time with Abby for approximately 3 1/2 months before adding Ethan to the family mix. Since then, it's been double, triple, or quadruple duty as a rule! The last couple days, therefore, have presented an unusual opportunity: a 1:1 Mom-Tapper child ratio! I'm not sure Jadon thinks it is the greatest thing in the world to have to send off all his playmates every morning. I've heard him--walking down the sidewalk or eating his breakfast--ask himself under his breath, "But who is going to play with me?"
Still, I think we will have a treasure of a year together. He is such a delight!
Those eyes (sporting his new glasses in the pic below), that smile, the infectious giggle--gotta love him!!!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Abby's First Day of School

When we left the house, Abby was saying that she was excited about her first day of school. Upon entering the schoolyard, she watched carefully as her big brothers navigated the territory, following them wherever they went. When the bell rang, and Andrew and Ethan ran to join their class lines to head into the building, however, I found a hand eager to hold mine tight.

As it came time to line up and make the march toward the "Kindergarten door," the hand in mine held tighter and her small body pressed close to my leg. I leaned down and whispered a blessing: "The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and give you peace. I love you, Abby." As the youngsters walked through the door, she lingered, uncertain. But then, after every other child had filed by, she suddenly released herself and joined the line, walking purposefully.

I can't wait to hear all about her first day!