Sunday, November 17, 2013

Welcome :)

Hi! Thanks so much for visiting our blog and reading our story. :) I was super nervous to write this post for visitors from Give1Save1, because I wasn't sure how to be interesting AND here it goes! :)

Who are we?

We are the Ruper family: Abe, Marissa, Levi, and Zahria.

We have two dogs.....a giant Black Lab named JD and a tiny (4.5lb) Pomeranian named Mia. Mia didn't want a picture and anyone who has a small dog knows they are the boss. ;) So here's JD. :)

So about us......


Abe grew up in a small farming town on the East coast. He is an only child. Growing up in a rural area, Abe is familiar with driving and repairing farming equipment. He and his dad worked at a dairy farm for a lot of his childhood. Abe taught himself to play the electric guitar; he's never had a single lesson!

Abe had scholarship opportunities for three great universities. He picked the one that I later transferred to (whew!) and we met and began dating in his freshman year.

Abe now works as a mechanical design engineer. I can't understand any of the big words he uses (seriously, his conference calls sound like a foreign language), but when he breaks it down to baby English for me, this is my understanding: he designs giant million-dollar pumps (like, the size of your house) that are sold to companies overseas and they have to function for ten years or so, underwater, without maintenance. So they need to be perfect. Yeah, he's a genius.


I grew up on a small farm on the East coast. I can milk cows, muck stalls, ride any animal big enough to carry me (aka Dad wouldn't let me get a horse, so I had to make due....). From age 14-18, I had sled dogs (BEST. SPORT. EVER.). I learned to sign the ABC's when I was 10 or so off a library book mark. (My sister and I learned so that we could "talk" during church). Two years later, I tried to teach myself some signs off a borrowed book. Then at age 13, my Mom showed me a magazine article about a deaf orphanage in Liberia. I told her, "Someday I am going to adopt deaf kids from Africa." It was 1998.

 That's the year that Levi was born.

I wanted to go to hairdressing school, but my mom didn't like that and found me an interpreting program. I went to a state college for 2.5 years and then transferred to another college (where I met Abe a few months later). I finished my 5-year degree there and have been working as a certified interpreter ever since. I mainly work at colleges, hospitals, and VRS (video relay service.....I interpret phone calls). I work VRS every day from 4am-8am. I do freelance photography and makeup on the side. I'm living out my hairdressing dream through Z's hair. ;)


Levi became deaf at about age 2, probably from meningitis. There was no one and no resources to teach him sign language when he was in Ethiopia, so being the amazing kid he is, he made up a sign system of about 25 specific gestures that he used until we met him. In the past year he has grown 4-5 inches (I am NOT okay with the fact that we will be eye level soon! ;)), put on 14lb, and has sported a fro, a Will Smith 'Fresh Prince of Bel Air' cut, and most recently, a military style 'high and tight'. He will be 15 soon. He loves soccer, running, and basketball, and he's great at all three. Besides the fact that I am ridiculously proud of his sport skills, it also makes being his 'soccer mom' super fun. ;)

Levi's favorite colors are yellow and green. He is doing 2nd and 3rd grade work and 5th grade math (this from have NOTHING last year......incredible!!!!). He loves to draw and play on the iPad. He also LOVES music. We give him headphones and an iPod and he's the happiest kid ever, dancing (and singing!) around our house. He's an awesome kid, and his smile is the BEST! This boy has Jesus shining right out of him. He's also a fantastic storyteller and we are constantly in fits of laughter from his dramatic tales.


Zahria is the essence of the word "helper". She is happiest when she is alongside me, doing whatever I am doing. This baby girl is an amazing person and her giving heart puts me to shame. She has also grown about 4 inches and put on 5lb in the past year. She has gone from a shaved head to a full 6+ inches of hair since last October. I LOVE doing her hair; we pick styles together by looking at pictures on Google and then I modify them if necessary. SO. FUN. It took three months for me to be able to make a decent cornrow, but it CAN be done!!!! :)

Zahria is obsessed with gymnastics. She goes twice a week to her gym and she spends more time upside down on her hands then she does on her feet. If you hear a thud in our house, don't worry, no one's hurt. It's just Z flipping or doing handstands. It's literally 24/7. She even watches movies hanging upside-down off the couch.
Zahria is also obsessed with Rainbow Loom (the rubber band bracelets). I have a SLEEVE of them on my arm. She even made 75 bracelets to sell to raise money to buy Operation Christmas Child boxes (she bought two herself!) and she worked to earn money for a Thanksgiving basket to give to a family in need. It was her idea and she earned the money all by herself. 

                                                     How Abe and Marissa met:

We met through a Celtic rock band that we played in through college. Abe was 18 and I was 21. I didn't want a boyfriend and when Abe asked me out, I replied, "I'm looking for a husband. If you date me, I won't sleep with you and you can't say 'I love you' to me till you give me a ring. AND you have to learn sign language because I'm adopting deaf kids someday." And incredibly enough, he replied, "Okay," and then he went and took three ASL classes. Ummm, can you say, KEEPER??? And he's treated me like a princess since day one.

We still play in a band together.

                                                            Levi and Z's Adoption:

We started the adoption process in January 2010, after the earthquake in Haiti. We always knew we were going to adopt, but didn't know that we would be called at ages 21 and 24 to start the process. We  spent three long years trying to bring Levi and Zahria home. Their story is a complete miracle, from someone paying off our dossier, to us finding Levi and Zahria, to the kids actually clearing (we were told multiple times that this would never happen and that we needed to stop pursuing them). There are hundreds of miracles wrapped up in their story, but it would take me forever to list them all. :) When we brought them home last year, Levi had NO language and NO education. NOTHING. He and Zahria had never communicated before and he didn't even know her name. He was totally isolated. Since last year, both kids have grown in leaps and bounds. They are incredible and we adore them. The last year has been the hardest and yet most rewarding year ever.

                                                    Natalie (this is her bed in Ethiopia)

Natalie showed up at our agency's Transition Home in December, 2012; a month after we left with Levi and Zahria (and "Natalie" means "Christmas" although that's not why we picked it haha!). We saw her picture and information on the Waiting Child List, and I was heartbroken even then to see that she was in the same situation as Levi, but we were so busy learning to become a family of 4 that I didn't think much about her. Then in April 2013, people started tagging me in the private agency group making references to her. In May, I broke down and cried for her. I started crying every couple weeks; I would just see things that Levi is going through and the pain and isolation he experienced and how that will impact him forever, and I was crushed for this little girl. Then on August 18th, I was sitting at work at 4am and God put it on my heart to pull up her information again. I didn't want to. I think I subconsciously knew that nothing would be the same. You can read the rest of how Natalie's story happened at my post here: We are so excited to bring her home and I am DYING to post the pictures that show the difference in her face just since she found out she has a family. She has actually been sending us messages through traveling families; she had one family write down "Mama and Papa, F****** (her Ethiopian name) loves you!" and then she held it up while they took a picture of her and emailed it to me. Brought me to tears. She has also sent two video messages. We got the second video message today and she signed "Mommy, Daddy, sister, brother, I love you." I cried like a baby. This child is so beautiful and amazing that I am crying NOW, just writing about her. She's another miracle. And we are so honored to call her our daughter.

So that's a little bit about us.....thanks for taking the time to read! HUGS! <3

 ~Marissa (Abe, Levi, & Zahria)

If you would like to help us bring our girl home, please go to:

OR click on the "Help Us" tab on this blog. Thank you!!!!

Saturday, November 9, 2013


Our dossier is leaving for Virginia within a couple days and then it will be on its way to ETHIOPIA in about two weeks!!!! SOOOOOOOOOOOO EXCITED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We were not expecting this step to happen until January or February, so this was kind of a shock to us. From our understanding, we needed to get our home study (which is FINALLY arrived last night), apply to USCIS for our immigration, wait for an appointment letter, go to our appointment, then get the actual approval letter, submit our dossier, and start the PAIR process (some kind of investigation that is predicted to cause hold ups) and start our court wait. The wait for court is typically 2-3 months, then you travel, then between court and embassy is three months. Meaning we were expecting Natalie to be home around June or so. (Everything on our side was done in mid-September but we've been waiting on red tape...) But now............maybe she will be home a little earlier???? :) :) :) :)

Our agency contacted me on Tuesday night, asking us to send our dossier immediately. Without our immigration. They said we can send our immigration separately, later. Now sending our dossier is a dream come true. It means that it will be translated and then we can start our wait for a court date. Which means we might be flying in January or February. That's amazing right?!?!?


We need $5,000 to send our dossier. Originally I thought it was $9,000 like last time, but then contacted our agency and found out it is about $5,000 because it is only one child this time. We will owe another agency fee of about $5,000, but not yet. Abe and I have paid $15,000 cash for this adoption so far (homestudy, referral fee, agency fees, etc.) We have our immigration, which will cost $1,000. And then we have $1,000 left over. Which means we need $4,000. Our dossier can't be sent without it. And now we don't have any time to save up the money.

I sent out an emergency prayer text. Now the past few weeks, I have been feeling extra bold and fearless. I recently met a woman who I can only describe as amazing. She is traveling with a Christian team who reach out to the deaf community and I met her at a deaf Bible study. Then I saw her again the following Sunday at my church. We ended up hanging out immediately after first service (we got coffee...I mean, we are tight for life now ;)) and I told her an abbreviated version of our adoption story. When we got back to church, she prayed over me, and let me tell you, it rocked my world. I cried. She called me a Deborah, told me she could see God moving and working in my life, and told me that God was going to get my kids home. She told me to ask God boldly for whatever I needed because He would provide and that He would give me what I asked because I'm following Him against the odds. (I'm paraphrasing; I was pretty emotional haha :)). She basically told me to just ask, because God would bring the blessings.

Fast forward to Tuesday night. Abe and I prayed. I flat out said, "God, we are following you; doing what you called us to....and we need Your help. We need this dossier money now, and we don't have it. We don't have any way to get it. We need you to give it to us. We did what You asked; please show us Your power."

I was pretty excited. We've seen God move in big ways before. Levi and Zahria's adoption--everything about it--was a miracle. We were the youngest couple to adopt from our agency ever. We were the youngest couple to adopt the oldest pair of kids; kids with special needs. We were beyond blessed to be able to pay off their adoption entirely without loans (a lot of work, but no loans). Our kids weren't "adoptable". We were told multiple times during the process that they were not going to clear, and yet here they are, safe and sound, asleep in our house. The whole thing wasn't POSSIBLE and yet it HAPPENED. So we have NO doubt about God's ability to truly provide for us when He calls us. And He's called us. So we know He's got it.
Fast forward to Wednesday morning. I went to work, and someone (an angel?) walked up to me and handed me $500. We've raised $400 this month on our fundraising page which is getting sent to our agency. Then someone donated $100 more . Then I received an email with a gift for $1,000. Then $70 more on our fundraising page. Then an email saying there is a $300 check in the mail. Then 20 orders for frozen cookie dough (mine and the kids fundraiser that we just started). Then a phone call from someone we barely know, saying, "I want to bring Natalie home. Let's talk." 

So we have $1,000. And we were given basically $2,000 in one day. $400 the next day. $3,400!Only $1,600 left....and I'm loving watching God work. Last time around, God blessed us by giving us the opportunity to WORK. We worked our butts off. I worked 18 hours a day. And we saved like crazy. This time around, I can't just pick up extra work because I've got the kids. But God just gave me the opportunity to possibly have some on-call night shifts, which would be great. We also went and took out a loan yesterday, because we know that we will be getting a small refund from Levi and Zahria's adoption so we should be able to pay that right off in six months or so. We got a great interest rate on the loan and it's with a small bank that we love, so we are excited. We are paying off our dossier fee today and putting that baby in the mail. Natalie, we are coming!!!!!!!!!!!

*Update as of 11/17/13.....turned out it WAS $9,000 for the dossier haha.....go figure. ;)


Friday, November 8, 2013

One Year Home. (Wait, WHAT?!?!?!?!)


Pretend I posted this yesterday. Like a good, dutiful, organized mother would have. :) I had glorious dreams of having a beautiful blog entry with a mesmerizing one-year-home video that would be posted on November 3rd, the day when exactly a year ago, we landed in America with our kids. Insert a bright light and angel choruses.

Fast forward to 5:13am on November 4th, where I am sitting at work on a break, pounding a Monster energy drink and wondering how to cram a coherent blog post into a 9 minute break.

Not happening. Even with 16oz of Monster pumping through my veins. ;)

Me, the daughter of a Marine, the most punctual person ever, the girl who went straight from her college classes to her dorm to complete the homework assignments so she wouldn't have to stress over them, the girl who can't procrastinate the slightest......she is sitting here with no celebratory one-year blog post, a list of 100 things to do and no time to do them, and an IV of caffeine, which is keeping her alive. Barely.

It's been a long weekend. And not in the relaxing way. We got a call late LATE Thurday telling us some terrible news. One of Z's friends had lice. And this friend had been at our house for five hours a a few days before. Insert panic. So our weekend basically looked like this:

-500 trips to Wal*Mart, Walgreens, and CVS
-$400 spent at Wal*Mart, Walgreens, and CVS (mattress covers, lice treatments, new pillows, etc. And Gatorade. LOTS of Gatorade. (It's my secret weapon. Sick? Drink gatorade. Tired? Drink Gatorade. Being attacked by disgusting bugs? Drink Gatorade.
-72 hours and counting: shampooing, combing, cleaning, washing, bleaching. REPEAT.
-40 loads (and counting) of laundry. EVERY washable item in our house is being stuffed into our poor washer. And if it can't be washed, it's being tossed. I am NOT taking chances.

P.S. Have you ever tried to comb a brown child's beautiful hair with a lice comb? I just want to state that it's basically impossible. Like, IMPOSSIBLE. I spent SIX hours combing through Z's hair on Friday. SIX. I could have given her cornrows of the year with that much time. Instead, I spent it pulling out half the hair that I so carefully tended this past year.

Luckily we had already celebrated our Gotcha Day (Oct 28th) last weekend, so missing our November 3rd homecoming day wasn't too big a deal. I mean, we still had a family day. And major one-on-one quality time. It was just spent doing laundry and combing hair. But we DID get to watch a bazillion movies together, and hang out all day. :) And I made shrimp scampi and pudding. So it was actually pretty good. :) And now my break is over.............
............Now it's 7:45am on 11/8/13. Maybe this post will be completed by the kids two year anniversary home. ;)

I guess I should actually start writing about the past year now, huh? And on that note...........HOW has it been one year already?!?!?!?!? I can't even comprehend how fast this year has gone by. The three years leading up to our kids dragged on FOREVER. Every day was filled with heartbreak and tears and a void. Then the kids came home and BOOM! Time flew. I went from working 18 hours a day interpreting to working 24 hours a day being a mommy (plus my daily 4am interpreting).

November: Arrived home in the U.S.

December: Levi's birthday and both kids accepted Jesus as their personal Savior on December 18th. :)

January: My birthday and we took a trip to NH to visit my grandparents.

February: JD went to the ER for stolen socks in his colon. He almost didn't make it.

March: Levi was in the ER for seizures. I went to Atlanta for Created 4 Care, and the kids went to their first Callanach show (St. Pats) and stayed in a hotel with their grandparents.

April: Zahria's birthday. A big homeschooling report was due.

May: My little sister came and stayed with us for a month.

June: Lots of Callanach recording sessions....the kids became BFFs with crafts and Netflix.

July: First fireworks, and we had an adoption reunion at a big lake with our besties/adoption family.

August: We fell in love with Natalie and accepted a referral for her. Zahria went to the ER for possible cardiac issues.

September: I went to the ER for my hands (long story). We completed all our homestudy and dossier paperwork in 3 weeks.

October: Zahria is doing gymnastics 2x a week and GEMS (Girls Everywhere Meeting the Savior) and Levi is doing Youth Group (basketball starts soon! :)). Gotcha Day was the 28th of course! :)

November: My sister is getting married so we are driving out to my parents for that, and then the usual Thanksgiving fun and craziness. :)

Levi: He is now at the bridge of my nose (about 5'4 and weighs 103lb) and is sporting a cool version of Will Smith's Fresh Prince of Bel Air haircut. Not exactly sure how to describe it but it actually works for him. He's gotten hit on by two girls recently and I am considering using my position as interpreter Mom to go to his events and terp so that I can spy and block. Just kidding. But it's a little weird to have girls checking out my son and flirting with him..... :-p Abe and I were talking about how he could easily be in his mid-thirties and have GRANDCHILDREN. Who would be growing up with our future adopted children. And then we could be in our 50's-60's and have we will probably live to see our great-great grandchildren. Okay then......................

We've seen so much growth in Levi this year, both personally and in his schoolwork. He is currently doing second and third grade work with fifth grade math. He is really good at math. His English is coming along slowly (his vocabulary has tripled in a few months though, thanks to Horizons Spelling! :)) but it's improving! I am SO proud of him!!!! He's understanding his schoolwork better, and is able to listen to stories and repeat them back or answer questions about them, which is HUGE. He had no language and no education when we brought him home one year ago, so for him to be able to do work with Zahria is incredible. And exhausting. But incredible. :)

Levi is really starting to mature and we are seeing a huge difference in how he handles himself and how he responds to hard situations. He is a typical teen, loving technology, wanting his cell phone (birthday coming up....!) and he is dying to drive. (Again, the future me, the 35-40 year old me is supposed to be writing this. Not 27 year old me!!!!) He goes between not wanting me to hug him (especially in public ;)) to running up behind me and giving me huge bear hugs. It varies day to day, so I take what I can get. :) He is super motivated to graduate high school and go to college. He is still saying that he wants to be a police officer. He's going to Youth Group and YG events (we let him go to a Colton Dixon concert in PA that was 4 hours away, all by himself) and he LOVES it. I always wondered how the Bible could claim that even if a person isn't directly told about God, that they can find Him. Till I met Levi. He always says, "Mom, I couldn't sign but I used to pray in my mind. I knew there was a God. I knew He loved me." This coming from a child who had ZERO language and no communication with those around him. From a background that does not imply a loving God. And yet the moment we laid eyes on him, we saw Jesus shining right out of him.

Levi is crazy about music and dance (he watches a Korean dance team on YouTube all the time) and he is constantly dancing around our house interpreting the music and yelling. It's pretty funny--and fun to watch, because he's a great dancer and it makes him SO happy. :) He loves to tell stories. In fact, I think if he could have headphones and tell stories all day, he'd be the happiest kid on the planet. :)

Zahria: My baby girl is 65lb and 4'4. She is a ball of crazy laughter and silliness. She is in a constant state of hysterical giggles/screams/belly laughs. COMPLETELY different than the shy, silent girl we met in Ethiopia. She's doing gymnastics twice a week and spends more time upside-down than she does on her feet. She can do splits with either leg and is working on her straddle split. She eats like a horse. It's not unusual for her to have 6 pieces of fruit, 3-4 pieces of toast, and popcorn between meals.

Zahria is a helper. That is what she loves. This little girl is ALWAYS finding ways to help me; whether it be taking out the trash, cleaning up something, bringing me a drink--she never stops. Her heart is about loving people. Everyone. She worked all summer and saved up $70 and wanted to buy Operation Christmas Child boxes. I offered to help her pay for them and she said firmly, "No Mama! I have food and a family and I am safe and I don't have to work.....and they have nothing. I want to pay for it by myself." So this tiny girl spent all her money on shoe boxes. THEN she signed herself up at church on the list of people who will provide a Thanksgiving basket to a needy family. She told me, "I will make bracelets and sell them and buy food." And she did. She made SEVENTY-FIVE BRACELETS. They were beautiful bracelets. She sold them for $1 each. And she is buying her basket. I've never seen such a selfless little kid. She puts me to shame. And she's still wanting to be a worship pastor and "help people".

We've seen a dramatic difference in Zahria too this year. She is handling herself better in hard situations too, and is no longer a silent little girl, hiding behind me and refusing to let go of me. Now she leads the way, goes to multiple events every week by herself, and she's a bit too excited to show people she loves them.....she waves and greets EVERYONE. Including all vehicles within a two-car radius when we are driving. Actually, it's funny (even though she needs some stranger-danger teaching) because she lights up their day too. I'll look in my rear-view and Zahria is frantically waving down whoever is near us. When they finally give her that awkward, "Kid....are you waving at ME???" look, she grins and continues speed-waving and bouncing up and down in her seat like they are best friends. And then the poor people can't help but smile back. It's contagious.

This year was hard, and it was amazing. Someone said adoption has the highest ups and the lowest downs. SO true. But this is incredible and I wouldn't trade it for anything. I love being a mom, and I love being THEIR mom. I am so blessed to hear/see them call me that treasured word. I am so blessed to have these children. They are the most amazing people I have ever known and against all odds they have over come impossible obstacles, and still they LOVE......and they are MINE. My babies. I love them so much it hurts. Two precious faces who are going to change the world. Two people who shine for Jesus. Two hearts that are tied to mine with a bond that can't be comprehended.

I am so proud of you, Levi and Z. I love you with all that I am.