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.


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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Our thirteen greatest blessings of 2013

Here are our lists of our thirteen greatest blessings of 2013--from four different perspectives:

Mike:  Repeat the list of our greatest challenges.  Each challenge turned into a blessing in the end.

Me:
  1. Receiving our approval from Colombia.
  2. David had the best 5th grade teacher ever, who proved to be an incredible role model for him, someone he will always look up to and have fond memories of.
  3. Traveling to new parts of Colombia and being able to see and reconnect with friends and family there. (Zayde and her family, Mercedes, Julian, and other teachers we had worked with)
  4. COMPLETING Juan David's adoption on July 11th.
  5. The moment the nurse told us that David did NOT have appendicitis.
  6. Making it back from Colombia just in time for David to make it to camp!
  7. David becoming bilingual.
  8. Switching from teaching second grade to teaching PreK.  What an incredible blessing. Plus I developed a really neat relationship with my new aide, a friendship I didn't know I was missing.  
  9. My boys' soccer teams and soccer coaches.  I love watching both of them play.
  10. Building trust and connection as a new family.  It's a challenge, but it's great to look back and see how much we've gained and how far we've come in just five months.   
  11. The newcomer high school for Juan David.  It has its pros and cons, but I think the pros outweigh the cons.  He loves school, has a great group of friends, and his teachers all adore him and speak highly of his abilities. The situation could be so much different.
  12. The Net--our youth/student ministry program at church.  Both boys get to go together every Wednesday evening, and they both love it.  They also have gotten to know the new youth pastor pretty well because of the small atmosphere on Saturday nights, so that's been neat to watch their respect for him grow.  
  13. All of the financial help/blessings that came through right before we left for Colombia and all of the amazing support we received from our Life Group. 
David:
  1. Family
  2. My new Play Station
  3. My school 
  4. My school friends
  5. My soccer team
  6. My bedroom
  7. My house
  8. My Snowflake (the cat)
  9. Mom's Snowball (the other cat)
  10. Dad's Minnie (the dog)
  11. Juan's Mickey (the other dog)
  12. Dad's F-350 
  13. Dad cutting down Mom's tree after the ice storm (it was ugly)     
I'm still grieving the loss of my tree that bloomed pretty white flowers for me once a year on the first day of spring. :(

Juan David:
  1. The adoption and my new family
  2. My new friends
  3. My new church
  4. My school where I am learning English
  5. My soccer team
  6. Winning the soccer tournament
  7. My job that I had in Colombia
  8. Traveling to the United States
  9. The support I have all around me
  10. My new video game
  11. Having a pet
  12. Having a good year
And with that, I guess we'll bring 2013 to a close.  Tomorrow I will see about setting some new goals as a family so we have something specific to strive for in 2014!  

Monday, December 30, 2013

Thirteen greatest challenges of 2013

With two days left this year, I decided to end the year with two specific posts: our thirteen greatest challenges and our thirteen greatest moments/events of 2013. Today will be the challenges.  Mike and I sat down with a cup of coffee together the other night to create this list together.

  1. Waiting on that piece of paper finally declaring our official approval to adopt from Colombia.  The men over our case told us that we were the first family to ever try a second time after being denied, so we knew that piece of paper would change history, not just our own and Juan David's, but possibly for others down the road.  It was no easy feat, though, and they added even more requirements for us than the norm.  God went before us (and all of our paperwork), though, and fought the battle for us.  A picture of that final approval is posted on the right hand side of this blog.
  2. Living through months of the unknown, especially waiting to see if God indeed planned to bring Julian here with Juan David.  The adjustment with Juan David alone has been challenging enough, adding Julian would have been difficult.  However, our hearts and our home will always be open to him if God ever opens the door for him to come to this country.  
  3. Living apart from Mike for our last three and a half weeks in Colombia.  We had friends in Colombia.  Lots of them.  We had Julian and Mercedes, intimate connections to Juan David. We weren't alone. I spoke the language. I thought it wouldn't be so bad.  Ha.  I never want to do that again.  Not without Mike.  Not for that long.
  4. Watching David suffer through such horrible tummy aches in Colombia, the worst one landing him in a little unsanitary clinic far from our living arrangements, far from our apartment in Bogota, far from home, and far from Daddy.  We waited there for nine excruciatingly lonely hours, hoping and praying that it was not appendicitis and that he would not need an emergency surgery in the middle of nowhere. 
  5. Adjusting to a teenager in our home.  One that has lived most of his life without the love, comfort, guidance, and security of a family.  It's a learning experience for all of us, and we just take it a day at a time.  The hardest part is knowing that we never had the chance to teach him and guide him up to this point.  We pray. A lot.  All we can do besides that is model, model, model and hope that he's watching.  
  6. Overcoming the language barrier.  I remember telling Juan David in Colombia that he'd be speaking a lot of English once he was in the States for just a couple months.  The ESL teacher in me knew it could happen because that's how immersion works.  Now almost six months later, it's still a huge struggle to get him to use any English at home.  Instead, he speaks completely in Spanish to David, so David is the one who surprised us by picking up the language almost naturally.  I try to speak mostly English to him, but before I even realize it, he's turned the conversation right back to Spanish.  When I ask him to try to say it in English, he can (or he finds a way).  He just doesn't have any desire to.  Sigh.  I guess there's just been so much change in his life that his language is the one thing he's still holding on to.  We considered pulling him out of the newcomer program and putting him into a regular school so his English would improve. However, after meeting with all of his teachers and his principal, we realized that they are meeting so many more of his unique needs and giving time for the culture to sink in.  The English will eventually come.  I guess in his case, it might take a little longer than the norm.  
  7. Building trust.  Juan David came here expecting so much more than he was given at the start (I guess like having expectations in a marriage and then seeing your actual marriage fall far short of everything you expected).  We don't have a lot of spare money to just go and do or buy on a whim.  We don't have a big house.  We don't have fancy stuff.  We sacrificed more than he'll ever know just to get him here. We also are a Christian family who operates on Biblical values.  There are many things we've never allowed David to do, and it's never been questioned.  Now Juan David is expecting the same material things and the same privileges as his classmates have in a public school.  Stuff that David always understood why he didn't have or couldn't do. It's been a challenge to get him to understand why the privileges and the material things have to start small.  Trust has to be earned, starting with the little things.  When it's broken over something small, that makes it even harder to earn it for something bigger.  We've stuck to our guns and had some success, but like I said, it's a learning experience for all of us.  We take it a day at a time.
  8. Changing all daily school routines with David.  My baby is a middle-schooler now.  And yes, I am grieving. :(  Not just the changes in his little body and personality (a personality that is identical to mine, so I am getting quite a taste of my own medicine).  I am desperately missing our daily morning commute to school together, when I'd drop him off at his elementary school just a mile away from my own. We would listen to the radio together, sing together, and just talk.  My, the deep conversations we could get into during those fifteen minutes in the car each morning.  I also miss picking him up three days a week after school, seeing his smile each afternoon.  Now I leave an hour before his bus comes and I get home sometimes thirty minutes before his bus drops him off.  It's a HUGE change, and one that this momma isn't liking very much. 
  9. Moving down three grade levels with very little notice before the school year started.  Yes, it has turned out to be one of the greatest blessings of my life this year.  But the initial change was quite overwhelming and challenging. I had to spend two weeks of the summer moving out of one room and into the next, then I completely revamped the entire room in order to make it my own, one where I could feel comfortable teaching. Plus, getting into the mind of a four year old took quite a bit of mental adjustment.
  10. Freak weather cancellations.  Since when do they cancel fall retreats, soccer tournaments, and marathons due to ice storms in Texas? We will not even try to mask our disappointment over Juan David (and David) not getting to participate in what would have been key events in their lives.  Especially the fall retreat with church.  A weekend of solid English hanging out among Christian friends would have done him a world of good.  
  11. David's broken arm.  He still got to play soccer, even with his broken arm.  However, it put a damper on quite a few activities and a pretty big dent on our wallet, especially right before Christmas.  The ironic part about it is that he just fell on his own while trying to kick the soccer ball.  All eyes were on the ball, so nobody even saw him fall.  Nobody knew anything had happened until he came running off the field with his wrist hanging limp. Meanwhile, I was at home in bed with strep throat.  Not one of our finer days.
  12. Wishing we could have traveled up north over Christmas so Juan David could meet more of his new family, specifically on Mike's side.  By spring break, we should have all adoption expenses fully paid off, all medical bills paid from a broken arm, and a tax refund to provide us with the opportunity.  We look forward to it.  
  13. Losing a sweet friend to cancer. We just never know how long we have. She challenged me to live life to the fullest.  To smile whenever I have the chance.  She could light up a room with her beautiful smile and big brown eyes. I'm sure she's smiling at Jesus right now.
I hope tomorrow's post will put a smile on your face as you read about our 13 greatest moments/events of this year.  The boys even made their own lists, too, so I am excited to see the year through their eyes and share it with you.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

From the outside looking in

I know I briefly mentioned this in my last post, but there are many days when I still feel like I'm on the outside looking in.  Since coming home from Colombia, I've almost felt "detached", going through the motions of this new life yet not quite grasping the reality of it all.  The reality that I have two sons.  The reality that Juan David is finally home.  The reality that our reality has completely changed.  Forever.  Some days I still feel like I'm waiting on it to "hit me", to sink in.

I sing songs in church that I used to sing with longing for God to reveal His plan, and now when I sing them, I hear Juan David's voice singing them at my side. Hearing that voice singing those words is proof of God's plan being revealed. Yet somehow I feel like I'm missing the awe and emotion that I should feel over witnessing such a miracle.

I hear David and Juan David carrying on conversations all day completely in Spanish, a Spanish that David once resisted with everything in him, no matter how hard I tried to teach him.  I think the child actually speaks more and better than I did after four years of high school Spanish.  His vocabulary and ability to properly conjugate verbs grow every day.  It's a miracle, and I feel like I am on the outside looking in, not grasping the reality of it. 

I'm constantly throwing stuff away or cleaning out closets and pantries for a Goodwill donation.  Why in the world did I keep those two beautiful blue Christmas stockings after all of the heartache that they represented?  Yet this year Juan David finally got his, a precious reminder that God had a purpose for me loving him as a son way back when.  A miracle.

Ten months after the first adoption pursuit failed, I hung a framed verse on the wall of what would have been Laura's room.  The definition of FAITH, surrounded by pictures of the three of them in their continued life.  I didn't know what God was doing in letting me continue to be a part of their lives via their brother, nor why He connected Julian with me.  I just knew He wouldn't let me let them go.  That framed verse and those pictures around it still occupy that wall, while Juan David has now made the room his own.  After all the years that room remained empty, after all the tears I cried in that very room, I feel like I'm still waiting on that flood of emotion to hit me when I realize that he's actually there. 

I'm not quite sure how to describe what it's like.  Maybe I'm still struggling through a little post-traumatic stress disorder (I will be the first to tell you that getting through that second adoption process was an incredibly traumatic experience).  Maybe I'm struggling with all of the fears associated with raising a teenager, no less a recently adopted one from another country.  I write about all the positive things, but we've definitely had many challenges since bringing him home. I don't know.  I just know that I spend a lot of time wondering why the reality of this adoption miracle doesn't have tears falling down my cheeks more often.  I'm still waiting on the reality of this reality to hit me. 




Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas in a family

 

Everything about Christmas changed this year.  Even David's reactions changed now that he has a sibling.  I will have to say that with all the changes, I felt rather disconnected, almost like I was on the outside just watching.  Maybe that's because I'm constantly observing both of my sons, wondering just what is going on in their minds.
I like simplicity, so we started with the stockings, the "little things", so they, too, could be appreciated.  I wrote a card for both of my boys (and for Mike) and stuck it in their stockings, so it warmed my heart to start off the night seeing them carefully read what I had written to them.  I also tucked in little coupons for them to redeem for some one-on-one time with Mom throughout the next year.
Photo
Back in the early summer of 2009, I found two beautiful blue and white stockings at a local garage sale and purchased them for Juan David and his sister.  I so looked forward to putting them up that Christmas for them.   Though that didn't happen that year, I did get to put Juan David's up and fill it for him this year.  That stocking waited four years for him.  To me, that was a pretty big deal.

Photo: The dogs like their Christmas gifts! 
The other blue stocking held treats for the dogs this year, which you can see they enjoyed and devoured quickly.  By the time the last present was opened, the rawhide candy canes were completely gone!

The boys were very thankful and happy with all of their gifts.  Juan David found a black cross necklace in his stocking that he proudly wore the following day.  They have played their new video game system together non-stop, and so far it's been a good bonding tool for them.  Last night I heard them just giggling away while they played one of the games together.  It warmed my heart.

Mike made the comment back in October that all he wanted for his birthday was to go bowling together as a family.  Then David broke his arm, so we couldn't go.  One night I took David shopping for Mike's Christmas present, and we decided that we'd put our money together to take the family bowling this coming weekend.

Juan David got Mike and David matching shirts that say, "I'm kind of a BIG deal". :)  The boys went together with their allowance money to get me a beautiful silver heart necklace.  David got Juan David a CD with some of his favorite music that he's constantly asking to listen to on You Tube, and we got him a little CD player for his room.  Mike got me a new purple jacket and four fiction books that are all set in Lancaster County, PA.  I finished the first one in a day and am halfway through the second one.  

I've spent more time in the kitchen than I normally do, trying to give Juan David that cozy, "family" feel for Christmas.  I often wonder what's going through his mind, finally being at home rather than just one of a hundred plus kids.  Everything changed for him, too.  He's talked a lot about Christmas traditions in Colombia, but when we got invited to someone's home to practice one of those Colombian traditions, he said he didn't want to go.  He wants to experience and learn the U.S. traditions this year. We don't do and have never done Santa in our home, but the whole concept of Santa in the U.S. has been very interesting to him.  He said that in Colombia, everyone knows that Santa is not real, even the kids.  No one believes that there is really a Santa.  Plus they celebrate Christmas on the night of the 24th, not the 25th.  So, it looks like he's in the right family since we never do Santa and we always celebrate together on Christmas Eve.  

I wish I could say that God gave me all I could have wanted this year by letting Juan David be at home with us finally.  However, we didn't get to talk to Julian on Christmas this year, so I still felt like something was missing.  He and I exchanged some sentimental e-mails, but his phone did not work or his personal computer, so we didn't get to talk at all.  I do miss him and wish he could have connected with his brother.  He finally finished up all his classes and will be starting an "internship" in February to work for six months in his field of study.  I pray that completing these studies will open up a whole new world to him, rather than keeping him trapped in a cycle of poverty.  Though he didn't get to come here with his brother, God has definitely taken care of him and has a unique plan for him.

Today will be another day of rest and reflection, then we will probably attempt to be more active in the coming week.  David could sit at home every day and be happy, but Juan David is not the type of kid that can stay idle for long.  That issue is for another post, another day.




Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmastime

Peaceful. Quiet. Relaxed. Grateful for the little things. No rushing around.  No hustle and bustle. Various nativity scenes and lighted Christmas trees are the only decorations in the house. No trace of Santa or any little elves.

That's how Christmas has been in our home for the last ten years for our little family.  No one ever made a Christmas wish list or ever asked for anything in particular.  We gave each other what we could, and there was always a sense of gratitude. It was fun to shop and fun to give because you didn't feel the pressure of making sure it was what they wanted or asked for. I bought little things all year long so I had plenty to give to others at Christmas and didn't have to struggle financially once December rolled around. We lived for many years with no extra money on hand, then a few years where we lived comfortably enough to splurge on some nice things, then nearly penniless again last year as we scraped our way through Juan David's second adoption process. 

Every aspect of life has changed this year, though, and how it affected the spirit of Christmas took me by surprise.  It's left me feeling disappointed.  Part of me found myself pressured to make everything just right and perfect for Juan David's first Christmas home.  Another part of me felt pressured to make everything just perfect for David because of how much he's given up in the last several years just for us to get Juan David home. 

With only one child, we could give what we could and that was okay.  He appreciated everything.  Now that there's a sibling, there's a constant comparison game going on, so I had to be careful to make sure everything was equal--that both boys got the same amount of things and that they were equal in value and in sentiment.  David actually made a wish list this year, and Juan David said he was going to do the same until I told him all the shopping had already been done.  All of this is new to me as a new mom of two.  I'll have to admit that I don't really like it.  The joy of giving isn't quite the same.

This has also been one of the most financially challenging years yet.  We lived by absolute faith that God would provide every penny for us to finish up Juan David's adoption without having to get a loan.  We ended up having a family help us out in the end, and we're paying them back each month rather than paying back on an official loan.  All time, money, energy, and emotion this year went into that process and then into starting our lives together--so you can imagine that I didn't store up a single gift during the year to hand out to others at Christmastime.  We had to accept that this year is all about family because our family is in a completely new stage.  We're still trying to settle in and adjust after all of the hustle and bustle of getting Juan David home. Maybe we can reach out to others again next year. 

With that said, I am looking forward to our yearly "Kloppmann" tradition of going to the Christmas Eve service, coming home to eat pizza, start a fire, and open our gifts in front of the fireplace.  In a quiet, relaxed, and peaceful atmosphere.  I look forward to seeing David's reaction to Christmas with a sibling and Juan David's reaction to spending Christmas with a family. 




Dressing up

Photo
My sweet niece got married on Sunday, so the Alspaugh's actually decided to dress up in fancy clothes for a change.  (Considering we all dress extremely casual for our Saturday night service at church, it's a very rare occasion for us to actually dress up.)  Someone passed on a suit to us for David several years ago, and he fits right into it now.  He wore it for his fifth grade graduation and then again for his Christmas choir concert last week.  Juan David saw him in it and decided he wanted one, too.  He said he'd never worn one before and he wanted to see how he would look.  Thank goodness for my local thrift store and a son who knows I couldn't afford any other option.  He had to pick out each piece individually throughout the store and try them all on, but we left there with pants, a suit jacket, a vest, a nice purple shirt, and black shoes for about $35.  Then I added a blue shirt for David so they both had a bright, vivid color to wear.  
Juan David has been watching all the new Christmas pictures come in the mail, and he made the comment that our family hadn't made one yet. Since we were all dressed up for the wedding, my sister-in-law's father took our family picture for us.  Now we finally have one to print out.

Photo


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Rain or shine

 
After so many freak weather cancellations recently, these boys were determined to run today, rain or shine.  So, despite the pouring down cold rain, they bundled up and ran anyway.  :)  And so, now we have kicked off our winter break.  I've got lots of blog worthy things I've been meaning to write about.  Hopefully these two weeks will grant me just the time to slow down and actually get those thoughts out.
 
 
 
 
 

 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Still going to run



Well, the boys didn't get their chance to run in the Dallas Marathon, but they are still going to run a 5K for a good cause with their team this weekend.  The funds raised through the run go towards helping kids transition from foster care to independent living.  I was glad to hear what their participation would represent because it goes hand in hand to what we attempted to do for Julian.


https://secure.getmeregistered.com/get_information.php?event_id=9447







Sunday, December 8, 2013

Firsts

As a brand new parent of a 16 year old, I will admit that I am a bit heartbroken at times over not having been able to experience many of his "firsts" in life.  I will never know what his first food was, his first word, or when he first learned to walk.  I never got to be the first queen of his heart, like I have been to David for the last twelve years. (Now that there's a girl in the picture, I find that aspect to be a bigger personal struggle than I expected.)

However, since life is all so new to him here in this culture, I am trying to capture as many "firsts" with him as I can.  Here are a few that have happened recently.

Photo 

 Photo

First ice storm, which also included his first school closing, aka "snow day" and even his first time to see church get canceled. He is absolutely fascinated with the ice, never having seen anything like it.

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First time meeting one of his sets of grandparents.  This also meant his first "Kloppmann Christmas" because we always celebrate Christmas with my parents the day after Thanksgiving while they are here.



Photo: Juan David's first Thanksgiving dinner. 

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First Thanksgiving.  My brother and his wife built a table this year that was big enough for the entire family to all sit together for the Thanksgiving meal, kids included.  

Unfortunately, he did not get to experience his first youth retreat, his first time to run in the Dallas Marathon, or participate in his first Tournament of Champions for soccer--all due to icy weather conditions, strangely a very rare occasion for Texas.  Sadly the retreat could not be rescheduled, nor the marathon.  Thankfully the tournament is yet to come, though now we have to wait another two months for it to get here. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

You just never know

Well, I'm thankful that the last five years have taught to me just take things a day at a time.  This coming weekend was supposed to be super busy, then it got a little overwhelmingly busy, and now it looks like we'll be home all weekend drinking coffee, hot chocolate, and eating warm, comfort food. :)

The boys' marathon relay was scheduled for Sunday.  Then we found out that Juan David's coaches had the wrong date for the tournament.  His tournament was also scheduled for this weekend, meaning that if his team made it to the semifinals and finals, he would not have been able to play in the last two games because he was already committed to the marathon.  His coaches were not too happy to hear that, but thankfully Juan David understood the commitment he had to his marathon relay team and did not throw any kind of fit over it.  

However, I went out for coffee with a dear friend on Wednesday, and she said, "Rachelle, with this winter storm coming in, it's all going to be canceled.  You'll all be home by the fire drinking hot chocolate and eating grilled cheese all weekend." I had to laugh when I got these two messages yesterday and today...... 
 
METROPCS DALLAS MARATHON CANCELED



Participants and friends of the MetroPCS Dallas Marathon,
Safety of our participants, as well as our volunteers and spectators, is our primary concern on MetroPCS Dallas Marathon race weekend.
We met this morning with officials from the City of Dallas, Dallas Police Department and the Office of Special Events to assess the situation. Due to current weather conditions, and forecasted conditions for Saturday and Sunday, as of today at 12:40 p.m., the decision has been collaboratively made to cancel the 2013 MetroPCS Dallas Marathon.
We regret that the race will not go on as planned, but are confident this decision is in the best interest of our runners, volunteers, spectators and the general public.


TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS

The Tournament has been postponed until February 7 - 9, 2014
 
 
LOL.  So, looks like soccer will just keep going on and on up till the tournament.  I don't mind that because I'd prefer for Juan David to not have to take a break from what he's most passionate about.  We're sad about the marathon being cancelled because they worked so hard in preparing for it.  However, I am grateful for the way God used it to get Juan David connected with our close friends, the Permenter family.  
 
Now I plan to sit back and enjoy the rest of this beautifully cold day off from school with my two boys and Mike.  It's a first for Juan David--experiencing the ice and these cold temperatures.  He couldn't believe how little tolerance his toes have for the cold!  It's a first for David, who had someone to go out and explore with him this morning.  Perfect day for a movie marathon, some more coffee, and something warm.