About Me

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I am a wife, daughter, mother, bilingual teacher, poet, author, women's Bible study teacher, world traveler, orphan advocate, and an adoptive mother.  Our adoption journey has been filled with a lot of hurt and loss, along with even more hope, grace, and healing.  Through it we have experienced more of God than we ever bargained for and have watched Him miraculously redeem our story when we surrendered all the broken pieces to Him.

Surviving the Valley Series

Surviving the Valley Series
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Sunday, September 29, 2013

New Poem

I have no time for writing these days (a busy soccer season tends to do that), but I wrote a poem just before writer's group the other night. It's written to Juan David about his bedroom, which is no longer empty.  Here are a couple excerpts from the poem......


It's as if you've always been here,
or at least were always meant to be.
Yet sometimes I still look your way
and can't believe it's you I see.

I still remember grieving
as if I'd experienced your death.
Now that you're actually here,
It's like you've risen from the dead.


Your room became my meeting room
where God drew me close each day.
Your carpet still holds those tears,
your walls hold all the words I prayed.....

I'll save the rest of the poem for the book, whenever I find time to settle down enough to finish it.  


Thank you, Jesus

I've totally fallen in love with teaching four year olds.  Their enthusiasm to learn and grow is contagious.  Their smiles can melt my heart in a second.  While the rest of the school is undergoing huge changes in how the classroom has to be set up and run (changes that will ultimately have a positive outcome for students but that are incredibly stressful and stretching for teachers to set in place), we're having a blast singing songs, learning how to spell our names and count, and thriving on structure.  

I needed this.  Only God knows how psychologically difficult last year was on me while going through that adoption process again with no assurance that it might actually work out.  

The other day, another teacher who has been in her grade level for many, many years went up to my assistant and told her that she wanted my job. Then a few days later, two more teachers peeked their heads in my door and said, "Rachelle, you really don't know how blessed you are to be here."  God knew.  He knew I needed to be able to relax and thoroughly enjoy my job so I could focus more on my family.  I'm so thankful He saw ahead to what I couldn't see.


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Life's an Adventure!

Life definitely is quite the adventure in our home and family right now, but we are enjoying it. :)  This week, other than the two days I was really sick and the morning that it rained so hard that our power went out (may I add, only our side of the street and only for the two hours between the time I wake up and the time I leave for the day), we had a lot of fun and felt very blessed.

Wednesday brought along night #1 of my ladies' Bible study.  There are about 15 women in the class, and I am thrilled at how open the group is and how willing everyone is to share from their heart.  There are many times when you'll get a group of super quiet people that won't talk at all, so I love it when you get those groups that just open up right from the beginning.  We are doing Jennifer Rothschild's study called Missing Pieces, and it's all about surrendering that big WHY to God and trusting Him to fill in the missing piece with Himself.


The rest of our week was filled with soccer practices and more Meet the Teacher nights at school.  By Saturday, both boys finally got to start their season.  Both had new uniforms to wear, new shoes to break in, and new soccer balls to take with them.  David's was an FC Dallas ball and Juan David's was a NIKE ball that his host family sent to him as a gift this week (the family who hosted him and his sister five years ago through KidSave).  Both their teams walked away with a win, and both boys walked away feeling proud of the goal that they each made for their team. Right before the game, we were showing Juan David the photo books from all of David's soccer seasons and all of his trophies that he's collected.  Juan David said that he is going to work so hard and do all he can to help his team win first place for his age group so he, too, can start decorating his room with trophies. :)  He also told me I need to start making photo books again for each season.  Here's the first picture for this season's photo book.

Photo: Both boys' teams won, both boys scored a goal for their teams. Great start to a new soccer season!

Today we wrapped up our weekend by completing our first post placement visit with our social worker.  All went well and we're sure her report will be very positive about Juan David's adjustment into our family. Getting that scheduled was a bit nerve-wracking during such a busy month (with so many school functions, church functions, and soccer starting up),  so we're glad to have it checked off the list of things to do.

School is going well for all of us.  David is adjusting to middle school and making new friends in his classes and in choir (his favorite class).  This week he gets to go on a field trip with choir on Friday night to sing at a Ranger's game.  He's really excited about that.  Juan David is still loving his classes and his school.  He's very responsible about getting out the door on time every morning.  I've come to the conclusion that I just love teaching PreK.  Those kids keep me smiling and laughing all day long, and I go home feeling good each day. I know they do, too. :)  I see stress written all over so many other teacher's faces, and they say that I just look completely relaxed.  I work my kids hard and have high expectations of them, but I think I might have the most light-hearted job of all.  I truly love it and consider myself blessed.  

Mike finally finished building a truck that he's been working on for about two years, plus he's been doing a lot of work out back, so he's definitely in his element, too. We feel like life is falling into place.  God is good. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Photo Book

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Blessed and Challenged

Every day something happens that makes me think, "I can't wait to blog about this!"  Then I don't find the time to do so until the weekend, and by the time the weekend arrives, I have so much to write about that I can't figure out where to start.  So today I'm going to try to organize my thoughts here by how we've been blessed and also how we've been challenged.

  • Blessed.  
    • This week we've been blessed in so many ways.  To start, Juan David had his first soccer practice on Monday night.  Apparently there were quite a bit of hassles in getting enough coaches for the U16 division.  So, basically, Juan David's name was amongst a group of about 11 other boys who were coachless and teamless.  Finally, they got a coach and assistant coach to step up to form a brand new team.  Mike went to the first parent meeting, and I went to the first practice.  All I can say is that I'm highly impressed with his coach.  He's been playing soccer his whole life and greatly enjoys coaching the boys, but he's very strict about their commitment, responsibility, and punctuality.  He said he's going to work them hard so there's never any excuse for not winning a game.  If they lose a game, they'll lose only after giving it everything they've got.  He also committed to staying with the team until they turn 18.  Juan David is finally back in his element, and he's so excited.  He has practice twice a week, plus he goes to David's practices and joins them, and he plays soccer at church on Wednesday nights for the last 30 minutes of the evening.  He's a happy kid right now.  ("Juan was fascinated with David's soccer pictures, and I still remember him saying how he would love to play on a team like that someday.  I tucked that comment away in my heart, silently vowing to make sure that happened if we were able to adopt them." p. 14, From the Mountain...to the Valley...and Back! )
    • Photo: First soccer practice! Go FC Garland.  :-)
    • Tuesday night we attended Juan David's Meet the Teacher night.  We are so blessed to live in a district that provides a Newcomer program for kids just like him.  No wonder he loves school so much.  It's a small school with just a few teachers, all whom are very passionate about getting these kids ready to transition into the American school system.  Not only are they all in the same boat, coming straight from countries all over the world with a very limited English, but they all have this home base to start out in without having to be "thrown to the wolves". We found that at least two of his teachers are strong Christian teachers.  One of them is from my Rockwall Christian Writer's Group.  I've shared our story with this group and have taken several intimate chapters of my second book to be critiqued by them, so they all know my heart for the older orphan.  When we realized where we knew each other from, you should have seen her face when she realized that everything I've been writing was about him, her student.  Definitely a God moment. We also walked away feeling so blessed by comments like these from several of his other teachers: "I love this kid!" "He is such a hard worker!"  "The only reason I'm still teaching is because of kids like him."  "Some kids come through this program, and you can just tell that they're going to soar.  I know that this kid is going to soar."  
    • On Friday morning at breakfast, Juan David and I were talking about how much I still had left to write in my second book.  He then informed me that he wants to add his own part to the book, his side of the story from his perspective. I never would have asked him to do that, but now that he's made it clear that he wants to, I will do everything I can to encourage him to complete it.  I think it's the essential missing part of the story that needs to be told.  The backside to that is that the book will likely take much longer to finish and publish than I had originally hoped, but I think it makes perfect sense and will make a better book in the end. 
    • On a completely different note, I am finally seeing the grace and the blessing in my change to teaching PreK.  Things went much better this week, and the kids are beginning to adapt well to the structure in my room.  I feel blessed to be able to be their first teacher, I feel blessed to have the "cutest" kids in the school, and I feel blessed to not have to carry such a huge workload home every evening like I used to.  Yes, they're a LOT of work at school.  I am 150% ON all day long (which leaves me quite tired at the end of the day), but I don't take my work home with me.  I can focus my time on my family and on keeping track of all of their crazy schedules.  With all of the changes at home, this change at school has really been a huge blessing. 
  • Challenged.
    • My boys are busy.  Life is busy.  I'm tired. We are the family that only allows one extracurricular activity plus school and church.  Yet with two of them in two different schools (plus my school stuff) and on two different soccer teams, that creates a lot of busyness during this season of life.  This week we had three nights of soccer practice, one night of church, and one night at Juan David's school.  Unless there's a conflict in schedule, we like to attend both boy's soccer practices as a family.  That didn't happen this week.  Mike had ManChurch while David and I went to JD's practice on Monday.  I had a training for Bible study teachers in Rockwall while Mike went to JD's soccer practice on Thursday.  Mike and I went to visit our brand new (beautiful) great niece on Wednesday while the boys had church.  Finally on Friday we got to all go to David's soccer practice together, and JD just joined in and practiced with them.  
    •  Photo: Both boys wearing themselves out at David's soccer practice. That makes four nights of soccer this week between the two of them.
    • After that, we had to rush to the shoe store to get them both running shoes for their marathon relay training on Saturday morning.  It all made for a busy week.  They ended up spending the entire day with their marathon relay team on Saturday, so Mike and I enjoyed a long, quiet day at home until time for church.  Today no one even got out of bed until 9:30!
    •  Photo: Great morning run with relay team.
    • We've been very blessed so far with Juan David.  We're happy that he's so happy to be here and has such a vibrancy for life.  That's not to say that there aren't daily challenges.  We struggle with the whole trust issue, trying to get him to realize and understand  that trust has to be earned, it's not just automatically given.  Trust is also an issue that builds slowly, one step at a time, but that can throw you ten steps back if you misuse it or mess up.  Fortunately the main struggles have been over small things like a missing dollar or taking more poptarts than allowed.  We had one issue over something big where he was caught red-handed.  However, when the same item went missing again, we came down hard on him, only to realize ourselves that we'd falsely accused him and had misplaced the item on our own.  I guess that kind-of leveled the field and gave us all a place to start over. 
    •  The other main challenge we've had is realizing that JD cannot handle choices.  Whether it's food, items in a store, or even clothing--he does not have the ability to make a choice.  He will always choose it all.  This has changed how we prepare meals, how much we put on his plate, and even how many condiments we can have at the table at one time.  No more, "go make your own breakfast".  We have to let him know exactly what his option is for the day and how much of it he can have.  If not, both the cereal and the poptarts will be gone in the first two days.  No more choices on condiments at the dinner table.  We can only use what's out, and if there's six choices out every night, all six will be gone by the end of the week.  It's an adjustment for us, but it all goes back to those gaps in his development due to not having been raised in a family.  Not only do we now have the responsibility of raising a teenager for the first time, but we also have the responsibility of going back and filling in as many gaps as we can.  We've sadly seen how those gaps play out into adulthood by walking his brother through that first year on his own, so we're glad that God has given us the opportunity to at least fill some of them in for Juan David so he doesn't have to go through many of the same things his brother did.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Week two

Photo: Great post from Elmer's Teacher's Club, how are you surviving the first week(s) of school? 
....and may I add the second week of school, as well, especially for new PreK teachers.  I will admit, I like them.  They're cute.  They're little.  They all have sweet little hearts that want to please.  But I have so much to learn about how to corral them, how to get and keep their attention, and how to relate to them right on their four year old level.  I'm pleased with how far many of them have come already in just two short weeks.  We've got a good routine going on now, so I'm not quite as panicked every morning when I go in to work. I am, however, still pretty exhausted.  This all day Spanish makes my brain hurt (I can tell when I'm overly tired because I don't seem to finish my sentences), and then I go home and have to keep it up with Juan David all evening.  He's working a little harder on the English now, but bless his heart, he just has too much to say so he reverts back to Spanish and talks all night long. 

Photo: First haircut.  :-)  Looking good.
This week we ventured out for his first hair cut.  He said he'd gotten so many bad hair cuts in Colombia that he was a little afraid of what they might to do his hair here.  He's got a head full of curls when he lets it grow out, but that takes a lot of patience to get through the "frizzy, afro stage", plus a lot of gel to keep it looking good.  So he and I went to this little place that I always go to, and the lady did quite a good job on his hair.  She left him enough hair on top to still be able to style it in several different ways, so he's happy. 

Soccer officially starts this coming Saturday, and Juan David finally has a team.  It is a brand new team that's forming for his age group, and they decided to call themselves FC Garland.  We should hear any day now when they will be practicing, what color their uniforms will be, etc.  This is what he's been waiting for--a chance to "show his stuff."

David is catching on to middle school and doesn't seem quite as overwhelmed as the first week.  Juan David still loves absolutely everything about his school.  He had made friends with a Colombian girl a few years older than him, but now he's bonded pretty well with his buddy that rides the bus with him.  He's trying to arrange a way for us to meet him and get to know him so we might let him start spending some time with him.  He's a newcomer to the country, as well, and has been here for about the same amount of time as Juan David.  

Today David had a practice scrimmage on the main soccer fields where all of the games are played.  As I sat on the bleachers with Mike and Juan David, I looked across to the field right in front us and remembered calling Juan David from there on his birthday last year.  What a neat feeling to be able to say, "Hey.  Remember when I called you on your birthday and told you that I was at David's soccer game?  I was standing just over there......."

Sunday, September 1, 2013

First week of school

Photo: One starting middle school and one starting high school. Who's more nervous? That might just be me!
Photo: Anyone feeling this way? 

The boys did great this week.  David's whole transition to middle school has been a bit overwhelming to him, but he's getting more adjusted every day.  We're thankful he's found a couple soccer buddies at his new school so he's had someone to connect with.  His bus didn't show up the first day (well, it did, but almost an hour late, so Mike had to come back home to take him to school).  I'm sure that didn't help with the anxiety and nerves when you're stuck on a street corner all alone waiting for a bus to come for over a half hour.  We found out that the same thing happened to one of his friends, whose mom had to come home to take him to school that morning, too.  The rest of the week it got better with the bus.  He doesn't get home till around five, so that, too, is an adjustment.  Lots of change in that boy's life.  He's doing well, though.

Juan David, our social butterfly, was counting the days until he could go to school.  His bus came right on time the first day.  There are only two people who ride his bus--him and one of his classmates from Honduras.  He loves it because they can practice English together and still talk in Spanish as much as they want without feeling awkward.  He loves his classes, his teachers, his school, etc.  Thanks to peer pressure, he's even becoming aware of the mass quantities of food he's been eating and has realized that most people don't eat that way.  Maybe my grocery bill can start coming down now!  Anyway, he's super excited about school and is very proud of the English he's learning (even though we still are not seeing much of coming back out of him).  God has given him an amazing start at life here in the United States.  He gets home pretty early (around 3:30ish), so Mike has arranged his schedule to be home when he gets off the bus.

My week was definitely a whole new experience for me.  I'm constantly on my toes, learning new "tricks" every day as I adjust my brain down to connect with kids on a four year old level.  I didn't realize how hard it would be to teach kids what a line is, how to walk in one, and why we walk in one.  I forgot that the majority of these kids have never been in a single structured environment in their life before.  I can tell the ones who have had parents read to them because they know what a book is.  Others are absolutely clueless. I can tell which ones have discipline in the home and which ones are the babies of the family and treated so.  They definitely are cute little things, though, some of them as tiny as can be.  My morning class has done very well.  We have a great time each day, they're catching on to this whole school thing, and they leave me feeling confident when they leave at 11:00 each day.  Then the afternoon class shows up at 12:00, and my confidence goes out the window.  What a challenge they are!  It's pretty obvious which ones have run around their house all morning without a lick of structure or discipline.  They'll get this whole school thing eventually, but it's definitely going to take them a little longer.  

My biggest challenge is keeping up with the paperwork and organization of 48 kids' supplies rather than the 22 I've been used to.  I'm not able to communicate with the parents as directly because there's so many of them, nor am I able to respond to any notes from them as quickly as I'd like to because I don't get a break until they're gone.  The beginning of the year is quite tedious.  My biggest blessing so far has been having an assistant to help me out with all of that organization.  She's been a PreK aide for 12 years, so she's helped me out a lot with how to do things.  We seem to work together really well, too.  I'm so thankful for her.  

This week David started up with his regular soccer practice one evening a week, both boys attended the student ministry night at church on Wednesday, and they also began training for a Marathon relay that they're going to be running with a team on December 8th.  They are running on a team with David's lifetime buddy, Drew, and it goes to support Scottish Rite.  There are five people on the team, so each one will run a different part (several miles) of the marathon on their own.  They're going to be paired with an adult team so that an adult will be there to keep an eye on each of them.  I think it's going to be a good experience (physically and mentally) for all of them, and I think it will also be a good bonding experience for David and Juan David. 

So, that pretty much sums up our first week of school.  David is excited, challenged, and overwhelmed.  Juan David is as happy as can be, and Mom is doggone exhausted.  Mike is thankful for a nice, quiet morning to be out working in the garage and driveway.  

Oh, and Mike bailed the dogs out of jail on Monday morning.  We had to pay a $25 fee per dog for getting picked up, plus we had to pay for them to get an up to date rabies shot (they were a few months behind) and to get registered.  So, $95 later, they are home.  They seemed remorseful for a day or so...... They stunk horrible when they got home, plus they were exhausted.  I'm assuming they didn't sleep much in dog jail.  Serves them right.  We have two boys that are very thankful to have their dogs back, though.