Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Back Together

After four weeks of dividing and departing for various exciting grandparent adventures, Team Tapper has finally been reunited.  Six Tappers in one place.  (Below, at a favourite summer spot: Zion Hill Camp!)

There is something kind of amazing about observing love that actually grows and the unique re-valuing that tends to occur after a time of separation.  I am thankful for this deepening love, even as, admittedly, we are still all in the process of learning to express it consistently well.

...So you have an honest and true love for your brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply, from the heart. 1 Peter 1:22

Monday, July 23, 2012

Les Livres du Lundi

This week, my reading has included a couple interesting books.  First, My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor describes the personal journey of the author, a brain scientist, through the experience of a stroke and the stroke recovery process.  As a neuroanatomist, Taylor is able to work from a strong scientific knowledge base.  Still, her descriptions are clear and easy to understand.  Although it seems that her philosophy on life often leans toward a somewhat pantheistic understanding (which certainly does not resonate with me), several of her insights on brain functioning, discovered through the actual experience of a stroke, treatment, and recovery, do resonate with me.

For instance, she describes how the "blame centers" in her left brain were impaired by her stroke.  As her left brain began to grow stronger with time, the natural capacity for blaming others for feelings or circumstances also grew strong.  Having lived without this response for some time, however, Taylor knew that pinning negativity on external events or others was often not necessary.  She states, "Nothing external to me had the power to take away my peace of heart and mine...I certainly am in charge of how I choose to perceive my experience" (p. 121).

She also describes her deliberate process of recovery, whereby she was "very fussy" about the brain programming that she would work to regain.  She insists that emotional programs such as impatience, criticism, and unkindness were of little use to her, so she chose not to seek to recover these old programs, working instead to recover only those functional responses that fit the person she truly wished to be.  This reminded me of the Bible verse that talks about taking every thought captive.  Taylor describes it this way: "my eyes have been opened to how much choice I actually have about what goes on between my ears" (p. 122).  Later, she discusses how certain emotional programs are involuntary--automatically triggered in response to external stimuli, yet the chemical component related to that emotional response flushes through the blood stream in only about 90 seconds.  If people remain angry after the first 90 seconds, it is a voluntary decision involving the encouragement of that emotional circuit.  Her call for owning your own brain responses is a fabulous challenge!

If you are typically scared off by books that delve into medicine or neuroscience, I encourage you to try this book, as it is quite an easy read.  Taylor's personal narrative is compelling, especially her description of the morning of her stroke.  Individuals who find themselves caring for stroke survivors or other brain injury victims may also find this book enlightening.

Escape Under the Forever Sky by Eve Yohalem was also an easy read, but certainly of a different style.  This young adult novel tells the story of the kidnapping of an American ambassador's daughter.  What drew me to this book was that it was set in Ethiopia.  I thoroughly enjoyed how the author incorporated aspects of Ethiopian culture and geography into the story.  Furthermore, I appreciated the themes of human equality and environmental concern that ran through the book.  Interestingly, it seems that, although fictional altogether, the story is based on several real-life occurances which are described at the very end of the book.

I read this book in one morning and would highly recommend it to anyone looking for an enjoyable quick read.  Also, I think it would be a great book for older Ethiopian adoptees who are looking for ties to their birth culture.

Sorry, no Jadon's Pick of the Week this week!  He has been spending time with grandparents and hasn't been near for book critiquing :)  Stay tuned in the weeks to come...

Happy Reading!

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Beach: Part Two (Big Boys)

This week the big boys are home while Abby and Jadon are still out having grandparent adventures.  We enjoyed some beach time together today.  As you can see, the boys are full of spirit and silliness!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Remembering and Writing

Three years ago, Mike and I had our first meeting with our two Ethiopian sons.  Today, that encounter feels like it was such a long time ago.  This past year has certainly brought a new level of solidity to our family’s sense of belonging and togetherness. 

In the quietness of this kid-free week, I have been trying to write four stories—the accounts of precious children who came into the world in different ways, at different times, in different places.  Composing a narrative for each of my children has been a difficult process.  I want to tell their story of being and becoming from their point of view, not from an outsider’s perspective.  I would like to include enlightening details about the rich and varied settings of their life stories.  I deeply desire to create redemptive narratives that do not fail to fully describe the hard parts of their lives, yet always keep in tension the foundational reality of God’s love and grace.

 Not a simple task.

I sit at my computer, surrounded by an assortment of papers—sample pages from the adoptive lifebooks of others, court documents, medical records, photographs.  Sometimes, the search for the story’s essential particulars is a pleasurable journey, reminding me of fascinating aspects of a birth country’s culture or of a specific joy-filled moment with a child.  Other times, however, the stark painfulness of my children’s histories hits me afresh, and I am stunned by it.  My stomach hurts.  How can I write this?

Still, I am motivated to complete this task for all of my children.  I have, in fact, put it off too long.  Beth O’Malley, author of LifeBooks: Creating a Treasure for the Adopted Child describes the importance of story-telling for children, particularly for those with difficult starts in life.  She states that the process is “invaluable because it increases trust and attachment.  Children trust that the parent/foster parent can tolerate their pain from the past and help them work through it.  They don’t have to take care of their parents in this area.” (This quote is taken from p. 63 of her book.)  I yearn for my children to know with certainty that I am committed to helping them deal with whatever life has brought and all that it will bring.

Today seems to be a day for looking backwards and forwards.  Winston Churchill once said, “The farther backward you can look, the further forward you are likely to see."  It is my hope that this process of remembering, mourning, celebrating, and exploring the past will allow us to better embrace the future together.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Just the Two of Us

While kids are at camp and grandparents', a couple of best friends spent some quality time together...

Monday, July 9, 2012

Les Livres du Lundi

Among my recent readings was a book that I received in a blog giveaway from a fellow adoptive mom, whom we actually met in Ethiopia.  Love You More by Jennifer Grant is a thoughtful reflection on adoption, specifically through the lens of the author’s own family, which includes a daughter who was adopted from Guatemala as a toddler.  The narrative that surrounds Grant’s family formation is full of often humorous episodes and insightful notions.  At times throughout the book, chronology is made subordinate to a line of thought, giving rise to the possibility of some confusion about the who’s, what’s, when’s and where’s.  Once the reader becomes accustomed to the meandering manner of story-telling, however, these skips and jumps can be easily taken in stride.  What is especially appealing about this book is its honest appraisal of the hardships of the adoption process--even in a family which seems to “be successful” throughout.  Additionally, the book is obviously well-informed about a variety of adoption practices and provides some excellent educational information and diverse perspectives regarding adoption in general.  I truly enjoyed reading this book.

Our latest family read-aloud was Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis.  In the last year or so, it has been my intention to provide resources around our home that present the history of black slavery and the realities of racism.  This engaging story, set in the real-life “free town” of Buxton, Ontario in 1860, helps to highlight the contrast between freedom and slavery.  Elijah, the eleven-year-old free-born son of escaped slaves, has the opportunity to see the heartache of slavery through the lives of his neighbors, their families, and a harrowing adventure across the Michigan border.  This boy, considered too “fra-gile” to be of much good to most of the townfolk proves himself a hero in the end.  I think this book was helpful in providing an understanding of some of the disturbing realities of slavery.  It prompted many questions among my children (as well as games of slave-holders vs. abolitionists and new catch phrases like “That don’t make no sense…that don’t make no sense atall!”).  I hope that we might, someday, be able to visit present-day Buxton, which remains a predominantly black community composed largely of descendants of original settlers who had traveled the Underground Railroad.  The town also boasts a well-respected nationalhistoric site and museum.  I would definitely recommend Elijah of Buxton as a read-aloud for any family that is wanting to learn more about the course of black slavery and freedom in North America.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Beach Night

We love going to the beach here in town for an after-supper, before-bedtime treat!