Off They Go!!

Today is back to school day! 

A makeup artist, Pixar employee, and a Veterinarian in the making.

Today I sent my sweet little first grader off on a van that takes her to an amazing deaf ed program. Today I dropped off my oldest son for his last first day of elementary school. Today I dropped off my sweet Titus for fourth grade where he walked in with a confident smile. 

I don’t get super emotional on the first day any more, the last day of school finds me a WRECK *because I become SUPER attached to our teachers*, but the first I see as a change of seasons *not literally because in Central Texas it won’t feel like fall until November.* The changing of grades forces me to see my kids bigger. It makes me acknowledge that they are growing! I mean seriously I have a fifth grader!! He just turned 11, how have we made it this far?! 

The first day also forces me to acknowledge the fact that I am handing over my precious babies to teachers, for them to be influenced every day by these new people. I pray everyday for our teachers. I pray they will be wise and patient with my babies, but that they will also sharpen and challenge them in ways that I can’t. I also pray that I have done my part so far and that my kids go into school confidently, with kind hearts and good attitudes. *fingers crossed*

This first day of school also brings back schedule and routine. We start soccer, piano, gymnastics, speech therapy, and Awana. All the while trying to make sure we are all in bed at a decent hour so that we can do it all over again the next morning. This is the area that weighs heavier on me. Honestly I feel pulled in so many directions, and there are days when I am sure the following season we will sign up for NOTHING. Then I remember how happy Zeke is when he makes a goal or a great block, or how proud Titus feels when he masters a piece for his piano recital, and how excited Zoe is when she gets to see her friends and Ms Becky at gymnastics. This season is for them. They are so precious to me, and if for right now I feel like a cabby or uber driver, that’s fine, because it’s for them. Those three that I sent off this morning make my world spin. They also make me crazy and I am lucky that this “uber driver” can yell at them to be quiet or stop fighting without fear of losing my job. 

So here we are. 

The house is quiet, it’s amazing and scary at the same time because you know what they say….”The days are long but the years are short.” Dang, ain’t that the truth?!

I mean seriously. I just dropped him off for kindergarten yesterday!!

The Gospel as seen through Moana

Let me speak honestly. I love Jesus very much. I love Disney very much. My friend Julianna said of me tonight, “Jeanette wishes she was a Disney princess.” Yes, that’s very true. Working for Disney as a princess is my absolute dream job. My house is full of Disney movies and songs, as well as a lot of Jesus.

Moana came out last Christmas, and it quickly became one of my all-time favorite movies. I say all the time that I think Moana’s story line is the closest Disney will come to presenting the gospel. I know what you are thinking, “Come on, Jeanette. Moana! The Gospel?” Ok, friend, let me explain.

First, please know that this is all my own interpretation. This is just how I see it. I know that it can be stretching and silly, BUT I do believe that The Lord speaks to us in many different ways and that if we look we can find Jesus almost everywhere. Now with that said…The gospel as seen or heard from Moana.

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Moana is chosen by the ocean at a very young age to return the heart of Te Fiti. She’s just a child at this point, so she doesn’t understand but she is constantly drawn to the ocean. We are each chosen by God for something in this world. We can call it our calling or our passion. Whatever it is, we are chosen and it draws us. (1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.)

Her grandmother tells her (in the middle of a song OBVIOUSLY) that she is her father’s daughter. He is stubborn and she needs to obey him BUT if she hears the voice inside her calling her to follow the farthest star, that voice inside is “who you are”. Ok let me break this one down…We are supposed to obey our fathers, the bible tells us to but there are times when maybe our dads are telling us something that goes against the voice inside. What is that voice inside? That nudging, I think, is the Holy Spirit urging you to follow the calling God has set upon your life.

You are your father’s daughter

Stubbornness and pride

Mind what he says but remember

You may hear a voice inside

And if the voice starts to whisper

To follow the farthest star

Moana, that voice inside is who you are

So Moana does a super brave thing: she leaves her home, her family, and takes a huge leap of faith. She repeats over and over who she is and what her purpose is, “I am Moana of Montunui….restore the heart of Te Fiti”. I think many times along the way we forget who are or what we are supposed to be doing. Life is messy and busy, and it can be easy to forget. We need to remember: I was chosen, I am a child of God, I have a purpose, I have a calling on my life. (Isaiah 41:9-10 I have called you back from the ends of the earth, saying, ‘You are my servant.’ For I have chosen you and will not throw you away. 10 Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.)

Meanwhile the journey gets hard. She fails and she gets really upset. Yelling at the ocean,Moana asks, “Why me?! Why choose me?” Have you ever felt that way? Asked why is this your passion, your calling? It’s too hard. It takes too much work. You’re failing, tired, and lost. Why!!!! In that moment, she gives up and throws the heart of Te Fiti into the ocean. When this happens to us, God knows. He sees and watches. Sometimes I think He’s going to say, “Calm down. I know what I’m doing. I know why I chose you.” But other times I think He looks and says, “Ok, I’ll let the next person do this, and they will and they will get what should’ve been yours.” I don’t think God is being sassy but I do believe that if we don’t do what we are supposed to do, then someone else will.

In this moment, Moana’s grandmother comes to her (in spirit form…it’s a Disney movie, give me a break) and reminds her of who she is: a girl that loves her island, a girl that has made her family and her people proud. She then sings….

Sometimes the world seems against you

The journey may leave a scar

But scars can heal and reveal just

Where you are

The people you love will change you

The things you have learned will guide you

And nothing on earth can silence

The quiet voice still inside you

And when that voice starts to whisper

Moana, you’ve come so far

Moana, listen

Do you know who you are?

Moana is again reminded of who she is and what her calling is. How often do we need that kind of reminder? Do we have people in our lives who can and will remind us when we’ve forgotten who we are? Sometimes in life, we pick up baggage and scars but those things remind us of where we’ve been, how we’ve grown, and where we are today. But they don’t force us to give up our identity or our calling, not if we don’t allow them to. Moana doesn’t allow this hurt to sidetrack her. She dives in and pushes forward. ( 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 We are afflicted in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair;  9 we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed.)

In the end, Moana takes the heart of Te Fiti and while returning it to where it belongs, she beautifully sings:

I have crossed the horizon to find you

I know your name

They have stolen the heart from inside you

But this does not define you

This is not who you are

You know who you are

This is my favorite part because… God has done more than cross the ocean for us. He literally sent His son to die for us on a cross. He Knows Your Name. Somewhere along the way maybe someone took something from you, or hurt you, or you forgot who you are but that does NOT define you. That is not who you are. Do you know who you are?! You are a chosen child of God. The God of the Universe created you. He knows your name.

(Isaiah 43:1-4 (message translation) But now, God’s Message, the God who made you in the first place, Jacob, the One who got you started, Israel: “Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine. When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end—Because I am God, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior. I paid a huge price for you:all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in! That’s how much you mean to me! That’s how much I love you! I’d sell off the whole world to get you back, trade the creation just for you.)

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What I Have Learned in the Last Two Years

What I have learned in the two years since Zoe came home:

Well real quick, if we are new friends let me give you the story. Almost five years ago my husband and I whole heartedly jumped into the adoption process for a little girl from the Democratic Republic of Congo. We received her picture with very little information about her other than the fact that she was deaf. We said yes and then waited and fought for her for the next year and a half. Zoe Danielle came home August 18, 2015. For me to say that she is the sweetest little fire cracker is an understatement. To say that she changed our family for the best is an understatement. To say that the past five years were easy would be a lie straight from the devil himself. So here are some things that I have learned:

My family looks different. We were prepared for some off looks or sideways glances when Zoe came home. I mean we are a multiracial family and in we walk signing, or widely gesturing. Sometimes Jesse and I will try to dissect the reason for the stares, but really most the time we just smile and then kindly ignore. So my lesson from this is, “Get over it Jeanette. Yes, you look different. Maybe those people think you are giving them off looks because you keep smiling at them. Stop being a weirdo!”

People will ask you LOTS of questions. In these moments I am almost thankful that Zoe cannot hear the things people will ask. I am a fairly open book and we LOVE to tell our adoption story. But, asking how much she cost or if her real mom is dead isn’t the best way to get me to open up. I LOVE when people ask me where is she from or simply ask about our story. These are things that are not only appropriate, but so much fun to talk about. My lesson from this: People ask dumb questions. Sometimes I can laugh them off, sometimes I just ignore them.

You will feel abandoned. Let me be totally real. Our community rallied around us in the most amazing way. We had meals delivered to our front door for weeks. We had groceries brought to us, we had cookies delivered, we had people come and just sit with us. We also had the most amazingly fun and lovely Adoption Shower. We were loved on real good. When all of that faded, the newness wore off, and life just started again, it got real quiet around here. That’s a little hard to admit because I don’t want to hurt anyones feelings, but I want to be honest. I felt so lonely. The dust settled and life was looking and feeling a bit more normalISH. We were forming a family, teaching a language, learning a language, all the while teaching and showing Zoe love and trust. It was hard and exhausting and I don’t think I knew the words I needed to even begin to ask for help. I just felt alone. My lesson from this: If you feel alone you are not: text, call, ask, and even beg someone to let you come over and if they say yes then you better go! I realize looking back that I was scared to act on our new normal or to impose our new normal onto our friends. I am so thankful that I had a friend that realized I was being a hermit and sort of forced Zoe and me out of the house and into the functioning part of our new world.

Play is the language of all kids. I love watching Zoe play with her group of friends. She can be bossy and that always makes me cringe but they are all playing the same thing and only a few of them know sign language or know more than just a few words. But off they go playing and having fun. I love the girls that she has surrounded herself with, they are kind and so accepting. Zoe tends to make friends everywhere we go and I watch her walk up to new kids, reach her hand out and shake then wave them (or drag them) over to start a new game. It never fails that they just follow her, and join into whatever world she’s got going on. I tend to be nervous for her, or for the new friend: Is Zoe being too bossy, will the new friend understand that Zoe is deaf and will that new friend be kind? For the most part it’s yes to all of the above. My Lesson from this: As long as kids are not raised by jerks they will be kind. We have been around a very few jerk-y kids but they haven’t fazed Zoe one bit!

My last lesson is this…

This is hard. Adopting, the process, the becoming a new version of our family… it’s all super hard work. Some days I would lay in bed exhausted, doubting how worth it it was. Then days like the other morning when Zoe came in and laid directly on top of me, snuggled up and dozed off when I know in the deep places of my heart how right this is. My lesson from this: If it came easy you wouldn’t appreciate it. There were times she wouldn’t let me snuggle her, there were times I didn’t want to snuggle her. But years later here we are snuggled up, with consistent “I love you’s”

Two years ago we left the airport with a new daughter. She looked terrified and weary but she was mine. I had ached and longed for this girl. My arms were finally around her and I was  never letting her go. She is a Tapley through and through; loud, sassy, funny and even super tall. She is gracious to me in my short-comings and her gratitude is off the charts. I can truly say that with this little girl in my life and in our family I am a better mom.

On a quick side note, let me tell you one more story: We as a family are huge Disney fans, and this past Spring Break we went to Disneyland. While standing in line for a ride, I looked over at Zeke (10) and Titus (8) and asked them what their favorite core memory (From the Pixar movie INSIDE OUT) was. Keep in mind we are in Disneyland, we had just met Mickey! Without even thinking they both said in unison, “The day Zoe came home.” My heart smiled and I remembered that while we were in the waiting process of bringing Zoe home I worried that we would be “messing up our family” or the boys would get less of us because of her or that she wouldn’t like them or they wouldn’t like her or the countless other fears I had that made no sense! I am so thankful we messed our family up. I am so thankful we look different.

 

 

July Book Reviews

Ya’ll. Summer is coming to an end quickly. I see my ‘To Read’ list growing, but my time actually reading dwindling, while July wasn’t a super busy month for my family, I did choose to watch more TV than I like to admit. But with that said here are my reviews of what I did read!

Fierce Love: One woman’s Courageous Journey to Save Her Marriage Shauna Shanks    This story is probably based on my greatest fear. Her husband tells her he doesn’t love her and is ready to end their marriage. She does the opposite of what I would’ve done which is she seeks the Lord and pursues hope and perseverance. I won’t spoil the ending but it’s a beautiful story. She speaks about using lip gloss as a physical reminder to speak kind and pretty words. She speaks of the Ebenezer Stone and how the Lord was with her each step. It’s a great read!

 

Rich People Problems (Crazy Rich Asians book 3) Kevin Kwan                                                The end of a great series is my favorite. This was a great summer read. The whole series was light, funny and just plain delightful! I loved the ending and felt like it was all wrapped up in a beautiful bow. I still think of the characters like they are real people, and I feel like that means the character development is on point!

 

Worlds Collide (Land of Stories book 6) Christopher Colfer                                                     Ok, this the last book in The Land of Stories series that the boys and I have listened to for the past few summers, and we could not wait for its release! Mr Colfer did not disappoint with this one! After five books, he wrapped this fractured fairy tale series up in such a magical way. These characters are so fun, and we listen to it read by the author himself. Hearing his performance of each character made it so much more enjoyable. My favorite character is Mother Goose. She is a bit of a lush in this series, and a lot of her jokes when over the boys’ heads, but they made me giggle.

 

The Lipstick Gospel Stephanie Wilson                                                                                               I recently got a new devotional and journal (The Lipstick Gospel Devotional and Prayer Journal) written by this same author. In the devotional it referred back to her book The Lipstick Gospel and her story about finding her faith. I decided to read it so I would have a better understanding of her and her story. It was a quick read and I loved how honest she was with her struggles to commit to Jesus and how she leaned into Him and sought peace. Such a beautiful story. And by the way I am also loving the devotion and journal prompts!

 

Today Will be Different Maria Semple                                                                                               I really thought that this was going to be a super fast read. One that I could sit by the pool with and read it really quickly. I’ve read another book by this author before and she’s so light and funny but, this book flipped back in time really quickly without much warning so I found myself a little confused at times and having to re-read the last page or so to make sure I understood where we were or where she was taking me. This was a fun story and I think the quirkiness of the protagonist was super sweet but the ending lost me. I think it just fell a little flat while I was waiting for some big reveal it was just sort of eh.

What are you reading?

What do you want to read?

When do you find time to read?

What’s your favorite thing to read?

 

Started Of Mess and Moxie yesterday and teared up in the intro…good sign?!

My TO READ List:

Of Mess and Moxie Jen Hatmaker

Steal Away Home Aaron Ivey and Matt Carter

Shoe Dog (yes still on my list)

Sophie Kinsella’s and Jane Green’s new books just arrived too!

What you didn’t see…

I mean come on. Disney without kids. Best. Trip. Ever.


Last week Jesse and I went away for a quick three day getaway. We were supposed to go to the beach but with some storms looming we decided to head to Mickey Mouse instead. (You can read about it in my last post here) It was probably the most fun we’ve ever had together. We laughed and joked so much and posted about all the fun we were having to our Instagram Stories. But as much as I love social media (mostly Instagram) we all know or what we so often have to keep in mind is that it’s the highlight reel. Very rarely do I ever post a picture of my kids mess, or the fit they are throwing or a picture of me crying out of anger. What I do post are the achievements my kids have reached, the clean rooms, or me crying out of love (or really any other reason I tend to cry.) So here are a few things from our quick Disney trip that you didn’t see.

The whole point of this getaway was for us to reconnect. 

After almost 13 years of marriage, three kids, one that came at us with a crazy hard and lengthy adoption process, I found myself lost in the work of life. I am a verbal processor so when things get busy and Jesse and I don’t find the time for us to communicate I tend to shut down. For me, this trip was important for us to really talk a lot of things out.

Communicate

So one of our first conversations back to the reconnected way of marriage was for us to talk and ask a bunch of questions: Whats going on? What’s working for us? What’s not? How do we change that? How can we be better parents? What do we see in our kids that we need to build up? How can we shut down some things that we are seeing that we don’t like?

This was a hard conversation time but our view from the Japanese restaurant in Epcot made it a heck of a lot easier.

Trust

Next up was trusting him. I hate going into situations not knowing what to expect or what is going on. Jesse is totally fine walking into a room or situation and finding his way. He has done a TON of research for our family trip to Disney so I just had to sit back and trust that he knew what we were doing. I asked a lot of questions, “Why do I have to wake up so early? Can I have coffee now? When will they let us in? What now? How long will that take? Are you sure this is right?” But in the end I just had to follow his lead.

Going forward

Our last dinner in the Magic Kingdom was so yummy (Ohana at the Polynesian resort)! It was there that we needed to talk about how we can really shift this stage in our family for the best. Our kids are bigger, and the demands they have are more time consuming and complicated. School is starting soon, and we are looking at our calendar and it’s filling up SO fast with homework, soccer twice a week and weekend games, gymnastics, speech therapy, piano, and bible study fellowship (BSF). The big question for me was, when can i see you again?! A lot of the people I look up to say weekly date nights are a must, but honestly when I hear that all I see or hear is the ChaChing of dollar bills. On top of that, Jesse works a crazy schedule and isn’t always home during the evenings. Despite all the obstacles, we decided that we needed to make time together a priority. We set a weekday that we think will work for us and we will either do lunch dates or game nights or if we can swing it, a nice dinner out. Too often our dates land us at the movie theatre because we both love movies but then we lack the communication that we need.

The good news? We got to go away. Our kids survived and we still really like each other. I still think he is super funny and has the best eyes I’ve ever seen, and after three kids and a love of candy he still wants to grab my butt. I’d call it a success.

Dole Whip. Mickey pretzel. Castle Pic.