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 informative.....so 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 cows....my 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.
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. www.callanach.com
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: http://helpabeandmarissaadopt.blogspot.com/2013/09/referral-2.html 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!!!!