Monday, July 11, 2016

Reality (part 2)

My last post shared some of the "real" that comes with adoption, but that's only a small part of the picture. As I look into my little ones' eyes, I see a treasure and a gift from God!

When God allowed us to add first Julia, and then J.T. to our family, He blessed us beyond what we could have imagined! They are both incredibly caring and kind. They are thankful for everything, from the smallest detail to the life-changing events. Their love for God and  faith in prayer puts us to shame. It's not uncommon for us to be in the middle of a conversation about someone who is sick or hurting, and one of them will scrunch their eyes closed, fold their hands to their chest, and start praying for that person or situation. It's precious beyond words!

This girl! We brought her home and watched her evolve from a nineteen pound, scared-of-everything, four year old, into a confident eight year old. She has caught up to her peers size-wise and is the life of the party. She is everyone's biggest cheerleader and encourager! The thought of our lives without her is unimaginable!

What J.T. lacked in stature and muscle tone when we brought him home, he made up for in personality and sweetness! This child charms everyone he meets! We've watched him grow stronger and taller in the past year and a half,  and he is so creative.  He is our resident Superhero, and he takes his role of protector of Mom, Amie, and Julia very seriously!

We have so much fun at our house! Our two little ones are fascinated by everything, even the mundane. It doesn't take much to produce screams of excitement around here. We spend a pretty good part of our day laughing at their silliness!

We experience the fun side of virtual twinning everyday. Julia and J.T. are the best of friends! They play together all day long, and we have instant social skills practice as they learn to share, resolve conflicts, resist being a follower, and put each other first. Watching and listening to them adds a whole dimension of entertainment to our household! They turn back the hands of time when they put on shows that are so similar to the ones our older children performed in our living room ten years ago.

Adoption has given us a "bonus round" at parenting. All the times we've thought, "If I had it to do over again,..."  well, in a sense, we do. We know how fleeting the years can be, so we try to spend the extra time, play the extra game, laugh a little more, and enjoy the stages they are in.

So many children wait for a family to choose them! They literally languish is orphanages and foster care without the hope and unconditional love that a family brings. Watching children flourish because of love and nurture is one of the most amazing gifts that God gives to those who embrace the orphan!

As I stated in my last post, would we change a thing? Absolutely not!

Thursday, July 7, 2016


It's been four years since Barry and I brought Julia home and fifteen months since Amie and I came home with JT. The other day we realized that we're right on the cusp of saying that life is starting to feel a little more normal/smooth/relaxed.

Why am I sharing this thought? Well, in the spirit of full disclosure these are the realities of adoption. We often post about the accomplishments and the tender moments that warm our hearts. We don't neglect to show the struggles out of dishonesty or hypocrisy. We just hold the "real" close to our hearts, sometimes out of respect for the children who are trying so hard to escape the demons of their past, and sometimes out of shame because we lie awake at night regretting harsh words, worrying about each child's adjustment to this new dynamic, and second-guessing the way we handled things that day. But there is a time when it's important to share the reality so that those who come behind us are not disillusioned or blindsided once they bring their children home. 

 When you add a four and a six year old to a family, there are a lot of variables to consider. The behaviors that served a child well in an orphanage/foster care setting (lying, manipulation, helplessness) really don't work well in family life. It takes much time and patience to build character and a sense of secure belonging in a child, and equal amounts of time to knit a family together.

 Older siblings have a huge adjustment when their parents' time and energy gets divided to include other children who more than likely take a bigger portion than seems fair. Parental guilt runs HIGH. There were many mornings this school year that tears streamed down my face as I dropped my oldest off at high school knowing how few drop-offs I had left, and grieving the one that was sabotaged by a younger sibling's emotional outbursts and difficulties. Those times are hard! But God is molding and shaping our older children and forcing them to live outside of themselves, even if it is uncomfortable and frustrating at times. We've watched our older two go through various stages as they acclimate to life with each new sibling- initial acceptance/novelty, irritation, bitterness, seclusion, gradual inclusion, intentional seeking out, genuine acceptance, and true sibling bond. It takes time! As much as I would have loved for them to be instant siblings as if they were biologically related, that's not how it has been for our family.

Our son recently got braces. We were told that the normal time frame to keep them on was anywhere from 18 months to 3 years. In our case, we were probably looking at 2 1/2 years. That sounds like a long time, especially to a boy who is already missing being able to chew gum and eat popcorn! But the work of straightening teeth is not a fast work. It happens gradually over time. As slight pressure is applied to the teeth, they move into the positions that the orthodontist intends for them to take. About the time they've moved a bit and are starting to feel comfortable, it is time for more adjustments and discomfort. At the end of the process, the result is a new look and a beautiful smile.

Adoption is similar to this. A family adds a new child, and while the look is immediately different, over time the shape of the family begins to change ever so slightly. There are times of pressure and pain and times when things seem surprisingly normal. Gradually, the initial bonding turns into secure attachment, and one day you realize that the child that was grafted in has changed the shape of your family. Normal takes on a whole new appearance. This beautiful new look didn't happen overnight but changed over time.

"Virtual twinning" like we did (adding a six year old when we already had a six year old) makes for some mighty cute pictures, but the "what about me's?" and "me too's!" can be overwhelming as you navigate making one child feel like he's a part of things while making sure the other doesn't feel replaced. Parenting two children coming from two different backgrounds with several years of either abuse and neglect or indulgence and favor can make your head spin. Realizing that these two did not have the benefits of character development from the time they were babies and adjusting our expectations of them has been key. How can we expect them to have a conscience or a sense of right and wrong when it's never been ingrained in them? God's mercy is new every morning! We cling to this promise as we adjust our parenting style from expectation to gentle instruction. Over time, these children are feeling safe enough to tell the truth the first time (or maybe the second or third). They're feeling secure enough to put the needs of others before their own with the knowledge that their needs will be met, too. They're learning what it really means to be part of a family.

Raising a bio child is like building a bridge out of popsicle sticks, taking one stick at a time and securing it to another with glue until you build a work of art.  When you adopt a 4 or 6 year old, rather than starting one stick at a time, you start with a pile of sticks loosely formed into a bridge, and the goal is to hold it together while you go back and glue each piece, making adjustments without completely destroying the framework of what is inherently there, to form an equally beautiful work of art.  A daunting task, but a worthy challenge.

Creating a family through adoption takes time- not just the time of the lengthy process to bring them home, but the time required to knit hearts together in a sense of family. Our family is still a major work in progress! To those who might be in some stage of the adoption process, please know that the first six months (or maybe longer) could be just survival and acclimation. It might be love at first sight and it might not. We had about a year-long honeymoon period with Julia, and then the hard stuff came along. With JT, it's been a different roller coaster from the beginning. The bottom line, and why I feel compelled to share, is this- adoption comes from brokenness. We live in a broken world. There is a lot of HARD involved. There's also a lot of WONDERFUL and AMAZING! You can't go into it with too many expectations. Everyone's story is different. God's grace is sufficient.

Adoption is like taking random puzzle pieces and trying to fit them into the empty spots in your own completely different puzzle. Sometimes it's a perfect fit, but those pieces still change the look of the overall picture. Sometimes it's not a great fit no matter how much you cram. Those are the times when God has to restructure the puzzle in order for the new pieces to fit as if they've always belonged there. (Ouch!)  Either way, at the end of the day, the puzzle does not look like the one on the front of the box. Sometimes you think about that original picture, and the image might fill you with a twinge of nostalgia. But then you realize the uniqueness of the new picture, and the old one seems to be missing something. What seemed to be a forced merging of two different puzzles has actually created an amazing work of art through the handiwork of God.

Would we change a thing? Absolutely not!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

An Adoption Process in Pictures

*We had the opportunity to host our little boy for a few weeks this summer, and we took lots of pictures! This is a snapshot of what our adoption process looked like...

6/16/14 Well, the cuteness factor at the Rapp house is about to go up exponentially for a few weeks! We will be hosting this little guy from China for the first three weeks in July. Would you please pray for his heart that he will be able to understand what is going on? When we heard that his original host family fell through, we chose to do this so that he would have a compassionate, loving place to stay where his fears and uncertainties would be expected and worked through. We HAVE to send him back at the end of three weeks, so please pray for that as well. I can't imagine...
(We can choose to start the process to adopt him, but he would still have to go back and wait the 9-12 months that it takes.)

7/3/14 Take one jetlagged little boy and one excited, somewhat jealous little girl, mix in one throw up, one random bloody nose, and one accident on the floor. Toss in one language barrier and lots of cute smiles. Yields two sleepy parents (who wouldn't trade this opportunity for the world!). They are worth every minute of lost sleep!

7/5/14 Can. Not. Get. Enough. Of. This. Snugglebug!!

7/18/14 Little man has wormed his way into our hearts and onto our hallway wall of pictures... We may have to send him back in a few days, but we'll be following as quickly as we can to bring him HOME!! Let the mountains of paperwork begin! 

7/19/14 Imagine taking your five year old, buying him a little rolling suitcase, packing it with his clothes and tiny Mickey Mouse underwear, and filling a backpack with snacks and toys for a long plane ride. Then imagine sending him off to a country where special needs orphans hold very little value in society, knowing that he will be there for at least 9 months- away from home for his birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas. Now harder still, imagine being a five year old boy who left his country to be adopted, or so he was apparently told. (He was supposed to be told he was coming here for a vacation) Imagine finding nurture and love in the arms of a family and then hearing the devastating news that you have to go back to your former life with the status of "orphan" and all that it entails. That's where we're at here in the Rapp family. Please pray for all six of our hearts, especially Monday morning when we say our final goodbyes and the children are taken to the airport. Please pray for a super quick adoption process. Mostly, please pray for little man...

7/22/14  Holy Paperwork, Batman!
We spent a good part of today filling out forms, getting Amie a physical (the rest of ours were done recently enough), filing out more forms, having forms notarized, writing checks, and finally filling out a few more forms! We're coming as fast as we can, Little Man!

7/23/14 Our big adoption prayer request today is for fast government clearances so that our homestudy can be completed. These can take 4-6 weeks, and we hate to keep our little guy waiting that much longer. Would you please pray with us that the clearances would come back quickly? Thanks!

7/25/14 Today I'm thankful for our wonderful social worker who scheduled our home study visit for this morning on just a few days notice, for our case worker at our placing agency who has answered my every email question very quickly, and for a very concise dossier prep guide from our agency! If this keeps up, these two will be back together before we know it! Thanks to all who are praying for our process to move along quickly! We can't wait to get this little guy back home!

8/5/14 It's hard to believe it was only 5 weeks ago tonight that I was packing to go meet this little guy for the first time! Time sure flew then, and it's sure is dragging now! We're waiting on lots of loose ends to come together so that we can move on to the next step.
Would you please pray for Julia? She is really struggling with fear for him, thinking that he went back to the same awful situation that she came from. He's in a different orphanage, and as far as I know he's being well taken care of, but she only has one definition of orphanage and it's a terrible one. Please pray for peace in her heart as she waits for him to return. Thanks!

8/6/14 In adoption news, I got an email today saying, "Your kid was locked in yesterday" (the teacher in me cringes at the use of the word "kid" by professionals, but, oh well...) This means that our agency has officially requested pre-approval for us to continue pursuing the adoption. With Julia it only took about three days, but our agency is saying 2-3 weeks, a time frame that seems consistent with what others are experiencing. It feels like this adoption is taking FOREVER, but then I looked at a calendar and we only started it two weeks ago! I guess we've got a ways to go...

8/12/14  Keep your suitcase handy, little guy, because your new family just got PA!! Provisional Approval means that we can continue the process and submit a dossier. We're one little step closer!

8/27/14 Put your hands together for our great social worker! We have a completed homestudy that is ready to head off to immigration (after a "quick" stop through DSS)!! Yay!!

9/8/14 Our paperwork is on its way to U.S. Immigration right now! Please pray with us for a quick approval so that our dossier can get to China and we can get this little guy back home!!

9/12/14 Ok, my friends, I need your prayers! One part of the adoption process is sending official documents to their state of origination to be authenticated before they can be sent to China. This generally takes anywhere from a day to a week; some people even walk them in to their State House and wait for them to be done. No big deal. Unless you are NJ. Then it's a big deal. When I sent my birth certificate (which took 6 weeks to receive from them- it had to be a recent copy), I paid for expedited service, which according to their website was 8 business hours. When I called them yesterday to find out why my return tracking number wasn't showing up, they told me it could take 15 days or more for them to process it. I asked why I paid for expediting, and the lady told me it was so that the paper didn't just sit in a pile for months. The 8 hours meant that it would get assigned to a worker in that amount of time and it would probably be sitting in a pile on that person's desk for awhile. She said that! Oh my word! Anyway, I asked around in my adoption groups and everyone seems to have the same experience. One girl's paper took 9 weeks and then it was done incorrectly and had to be resent! So if you would, would you pray that my paperwork from NJ comes back to me in a timely manner? It still has to make a trip to the Chinese Consulate in D.C. before it can go to China, and we'd like to get that part of the process done while our immigration paperwork is being processed. Thanks so much!!

When you all pray, you don't fool around!! Guess what just landed on my front porch? MY NJ BIRTH CERTIFICATE AUTHENTICATED!!! My tracking number just wasn't working, I guess. I had even called FedEx about it before I called the person in NJ, and she didn't have it activated either. Praise God for such a quick answer to prayer beyond what I had hoped!!

Just called immigration and our case hasn't even been assigned an officer yet. frown emoticon 
I guess I can stop running out to the mailbox looking for our approval letter for awhile... 

10/17/14 Say it isn't so!! Our case worker emailed to tell us that immigration told him they are backed up and approvals are taking 75 days now instead of the 30 that they had been.

8/21/14 Thinking about a little boy in China today and wishing he was a little boy in America right now... and wallowing a little bit in the reality that it will be months, months, and more months until we can go bring him home.

8/27/14 Just found out that our Immigration request was approved on Friday!!! Next step is to get the document into our hands so that we can rush it through the proper channels and send everything to China!!! Thanks for praying! 75 days turned into 46 days!!! Yay!!!        

 10/27/14 When I called earlier today, the officer told me that our approval would go out in the mail today so I was expecting it later this week. Guess what just landed in my mailbox?? Our approval!!! Our dossier is a few day closer to zooming off to China!!! Yay!!!

10/30/14 Our dossier has officially left the building! I just dropped it in the FedEx box on its way to the Chinese consulate in Washington DC and then it will go to our agency who will send it off to China hopefully in about two weeks! I'm pretty sure I've never been more panicked about letting something out of my hands in my life! Would you please pray that our papers go through these next few steps of the process smoothly so that we can keep heading in the right direction? Thanks!!

11/1/14 November is National Adoption Awareness Month
“Orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes.” – David Platt 

11/10/14 Turning a little green with envy as I look at pictures of some of my friends who are in China right now getting their little boys. 
wink emoticon I'm super happy for them but wishing I was there, too! Our turn is coming, right little guy?

11/12/14 Ok, my praying friends, today is a big day. Our documents are scheduled to be picked up from the Chinese Embassy and delivered to our agency. This particular embassy is known for being incredibly picky, rejecting documents for things like staples being backwards, and other insignificant "offenses". Would you please pray that all of our documents pass and none get rejected? Julia is showing her V for victory! We won't know anything until the courier picks them up, and if any are rejected we have to start them through the process again which could really add to our time. Thanks!

                       11/13/14 We are one stamped paper away from our dossier going to China!!!

11/21/14 Karen and Barry:

Just a quick note to congratulate you on completing your China dossier! You are our first Summer BOH family to get it done, so you win First Place and the gold medal! Congrats! I’d give you a big hug if you were here!

Have a great Thanksgiving!

Linda Perilstein
Executive Director
Cradle of Hope Adoption Center

11/22/14  We ordered a birthday cake and some goodies for our little guy and just got nine pictures of him celebrating with his friends! Yay! It is so nice to see that little face again!

11/27/14 Just got word this morning that our dossier arrived and is officially logged in to China's database! Next step LOA! (Letter of Acceptance- that's when China recognizes us as his parents.) Average wait right now is 90 days, but we're praying for sooner!

12/11/14 Christmas came early to the Rapp house! We were amazed to find out this evening that WE GOT OUR LOA!!! That means that China has approved our dossier and has officially extended the offer for us to adopt their most precious little boy! What has been taking 90+ days only took 17!!! Thank you for your prayers on our behalf! With Julia we traveled almost exactly three months after LOA, so that gives us an estimated timeframe until we get to go get our little guy. We are thankful tonight! 

12/24/14 Merry Christmas to me!! Woke up to pictures of this happy face! A friend was picking up her daughter and visiting his orphanage yesterday. She even got current measurements!

12/27/14 Houston, we have a problem! Our LOA was issued on 12/9, but it has still not arrived at our agency so that we can continue to move through the process. 
frown emoticon It was confirmed that a copy was being sent this past Tuesday, so hopefully it will arrive at our agency early next week. Prayers, please. At this point in the game patience is not my best attribute. Thanks!!

12/29/14 Thanks for your prayers! The hard copy of our LOA arrived at our agency today, so we're back on track!!

1/1/15 Happy New Year! May this be the year that many children come home to their forever families- especially this little guy right here!

1/8/15  Just sitting here waiting for US Immigration to approve of this little guy entering the country. Hopefully we'll hear something next week. Seriously, who wouldn't want this face on American soil??

1/13/15 Just talked to our officer and we got our immigration approval! We're getting closer!!!

1/18/15 Happy Sunday here at the Rapp house! We got another peek at our boy as he enjoys a lollipop brought by a visiting family picking up their son! Your turn is coming soon, little guy!!

1/19/15 Will we receive the much anticipated GUZ# today so that our case can be transferred back to the consulate in China? Rumor has it the gov't office is working even though it is a holiday. Fingers crossed!

1/19/15 Well, false hope on the gov't office being open today, so no GUZ#. But tomorrow's another day.
1/20/15 No GUZ# yet. :(  

1/21/15 We got our GUZ# this morning, and it's time to officially give this boy an American name!
Introducing John Tyler Qingbao Rapp.

1/23/15 Our Article 5 was supposed to be dropped off on Thursday, but they didn't make the drop-off time. Next drop off time available is Monday. Praying for peace and trust in God's timing.

1/26/15 Monday's work day is over in China. Did our Article 5 get dropped off? That's the big question...

1/30/15 We're in the home stretch! Just got the email to schedule our conference call to discuss the details of travel. We're still on target for March, but seeing the word "travel" in an email makes it all the more exciting!!

2/5/15  TBT to one of my favorites from this summer.

2/6/15 Look who got his care package! 
We also got a little update on him. 
"He is able to communicate with people in daily life. He is able to recite poems, sing children’s songs, count from 1-100, say simple English, perform shows. He is able to distinguish colors and size. He likes to play with some familiar friends. He likes to sing and dance. He likes to do what he can to help others. His favorite toys are cars and rubber balls."

2/9/15 Our Article 5 was picked up while we slept, so we are now at the last step- waiting for Travel Approval!!! 
Hopefully we will get that before the offices shut down for Chinese New Year so that we can make our travel plans

2/15/15 Making a wish that we get travel approval tomorrow before the offices shut down for Chinese New Year!

2/16/15 Well, I heard from our agency and the powers that be in China decided to close early for Chinese New Year, so no Travel Approval for us until at least the 25th when they reopen. 
frown emoticon
Good thing my head knows that God already has the plans figured out. I wish my heart would follow. :*(

Unexpectedly, the hard copy of our Travel Approval arrived at our agency this afternoon!!!

2/17/15 Plane tickets are booked! We're going to China!!!

3/1/15 This time next week, while you all going to bed, this little man will be handed back to me for good! #forevermama

To Be Continued...