Thursday, December 10, 2009

Day 4 - Ready to do Battle

The day dawned…well…late!! Hahahah! It wasn’t truly morning outside until about 9:30. It is so difficult to get on schedule after recuperating from jet lag with there being so much less daylight every day than we are used to. It is dark at around 5:00ish. So we can easily sleep in, if only we weren’t up at 3:00 AM or 4:00 AM every day! Actually, last night I think I finally crashed and burned, as I slept until 5:30 AM this morning, but poor Dominick was up at 2:00 AM and never went back to bed. Of course, we have no idea how the stress of everything is also effecting sleep. There are a lot of factors to calculate in.

The cold here is biting and nose freezing… with the wind chill it was 25 below 0 this morning when Dominick went to take the trash out. Hence the reason we have rarely ventured from the apartment without a driver and destination in mind. From what we are hearing though, it is not all that much warmer back home as a cold front has come through! We are actually on the outskirts of town only 5 minutes from the orphanage but 15 or 20 minutes from the center of town where the main grocery stores are and any attractions. There aren’t really many but the Pizza House is our main haunt as we visit with the Oborns and let the boys have their fill of running around inside their wonderful play area with the blow up jump houses. You can check out their blog and follow along on their adoption at: . Yannik, their son, and the boys are fast friends now and their family is just wonderful. The nice thing is that the {Pizza House has a hamburger and fries for 350 tenge, which is equivalent to $2.36 so it is an affordable way to have an excuse to get together and let the kids play as well as eat something that is…well…sort of recognizable. The meat patty is different from one day to the next but we haven’t gotten ill on it yet. It is not quite beef-like, not quite horse-like, at least I think. We are all making plans to spend the holidays together, and hoping we can spend more time together soon as it really helps when you are so far from home to have someone to help you "hold it all together" in this unfamiliar environment, and to laugh about all the differences that can be so disconcerting.

Without the Pizza House the boys would really feel cooped up and playing outside or even going for a walk in this kind of cold is only for the truly hardy and for necessities only. We wish it was a different time of year as we have always enjoyed wandering the streets and exploring our temporary neighborhoods on our own. That is certainly not happening on this trip!

Irina shared with us today that she had to go back and visit the Ministry of Education there and the woman whom we met with there totally loved our family. She said she couldn't stop talking about us and she wished she could have spent more time with us. I guess the boys made a big hit there. We were very comfortable with her, and she was warm and gracious...but then many here have been more than we ever remember elsewhere in Kazakhstan. We have been treated warmly by all the officials at the orphanage too.

We asked to go to the grocery store a couple of days ago and bought about 4 large bags worth of supplies (including Coke Light which has perhaps helped keep the stress level down! HAHA!) and Irina was telling us that Alexander, our driver, was surprised at how much we bought. Here they tend to shop by the day, where we all in America are accustomed to shopping by the week and by the basketloads at our local Walmarts. With 5 of us, which is a larger family than many have here, 4 bags will last 3-4 days!! We finally cooked our first solid meal here for dinner. We have just been too overwhelmed after our visits to do much more than nibble on things and our inner clocks have been off so much that we were eating at weird times individually. I think that for the most part we are back on a schedule, or at least the boys are. We had fried chicken along with some Rice-a-Roni we brought along and corn with an Orange Fanta chaser. It was so nice to all sit down together and eat something recognizable that did not include beef jerkey or Kraft cheese and cracker snacks! Hahaha!

Home schooling is going well for all the boys, and they are enjoying being together so much. They spread out on the living room floor all morning doing their work, and then read alone or to each other. It is almost like being at home as they all sleep in the same room on their pull out beds. They have enjoyed reading the comments on their blogs very much. I know that many people would think that perhaps we should not have had them writing publicly while going through this difficult time, but we feel it is healthy for them to express what they are feeling, and those of you who have commented have offered them support just as you have us. Besides, in our ever-so-humble opinion, life is messy, it can be challenging, it is never perfect. What is going on here with us is sad and difficult, but it is nothing to hide from nor nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed of. If we “shut down” emotionally and hide that certainly will not help anything at all. We think it will only help the boys be more empathetic if they can see the pain and understand all the emotions that lay behind a child leaving their home. This is very hard stuff, and acting as if all is wonderful doesn’t do anything to help create a culture of understanding and compassion within our home. Regardless of our outcome here, they have been fully immersed, fully present, and they have handled themselves better than I ever would have imagined. We are blessed to have such incredible sons. Today Kenny was talking about the girls and “breaking the ice” and how Olesya’s ice was thinner because she didn’t have to go through certain things with her mother but Angela’s ice was “very thick” and might take longer to break through. Dominick turned to me and asked “When did he turn 15 years old??”.

We decided going into today’s visitation that we were going to go for it with a full-frontal assault. Dominick said as we went out the door “We aren’t losing any LaJoy’s without a fight!”. We were prepared to sit them both down after playing for awhile and have a firm talk, and I AM the mom and you WILL listen to me. At this point we feel we have nothing to lose, and I was going to pull out all their photos on the computer that I have had through the years, break down in tears of course as I shared with them how deeply they are loved, wag my finger at them a little and tell them that regardless of whether they want to go with us or not we have not pushed them and they will treat us with respect by at least looking us in the eye and saying good bye when they leave, and explain to them that they are silly to think they can not participate in sports or be good student in America…that everyone does such things and it is nothing special to do it here versus there. I was going to tell Angela she has been so good at taking care of Olesya and yet her attitude was going to deny her and her sister the greatest gift they would ever have…a family.

Basically, I was going to be their mom and let them have it with both barrels. Because that is how I see myself, as their mom…and it is time to act like it.

We were grateful to the Oborn’s for watching the boys for us, as we felt that maybe a visit with just us would allow more opportunity for the aforementioned Mom Chewing Out. We were late getting to the orphanage, and when we came in we were greeted by our friend Boris who was there visiting and waiting for us. His presence has helped a lot. I was pleasantly surprised to have Olesya come right up to me, bury her head under my arm and remain there snuggled in for quite awhile with my arm draped around her. I kissed her on the top of the head and asked how her day had gone, if she had homework, just a couple of little things. Angela came in the front door behind us, red faced and grinning from playing in the snow, and upon seeing her she allowed me to give her a hug and we are happy to see her grin didn’t fade. Boris was kindly there as well and had chatted with Angela the night before about her fears and all that was going on in her head. He whispered to us “The girls have decided to go with you, don’t worry.” Well, it is one thing for the girls to decide to go with us, and another to truly see a change of heart, so we were not all that excited by the news as that was the same news we had on the first day as we left, only to return the next day and have everything feel as if it had blown apart. Quite honestly, we are very, very leery at this stage and need to see continued growth in connection before we would feel comfortable going to court.

We ask to see their bedroom and family group space, and the girls took us upstairs where the Vice Director and their Group Mother were visiting. This was the warm Kazakh Vice Director who had been so encouraging with me two nights ago. We saw the girls bedroom, with bunkbeds for 10 lining the walls of the small room with a large table in the middle. This area had recently been renovated 2 years ago and looked far better than I remember from my previous visit. They have a nice living area for this small family group that has perhaps 20 boys and girls in it. There is a TV and entertainment center couches and new curtains, nice recessed lighting, freshly painted walls, and even a desk with a computer where a couple of the boys were playing games. They even have a very small kitchen area with a microwave but not much else.

We were invited to remain upstairs in the girls room for our visit, and while a few of them including Angela and Olesya gathered around the table to look at photos we carried over from another adoptive family whose children used to reside there, The Vice Director, Boris, the Group Mom , Dominick and I talked for a few minutes. The Vice Director had tried to speak to me earlier but of course I couldn’t understand. She is really a genuinely warm woman, and I wish I spoke Russian so we could get to know one another better. She had spoken with the girls herself and told me not to worry, that they would be going home with us. I replied “Well that will be good news but we need Angela to at least look at us before that happens!” and we all laughed over that one. We talked about Angela’s fear of her mother and it seems there is a lot of anger at her, which is well deserved and not at all inappropriate considering her past experiences with her. This concerns me a lot, as I wonder if that anger will be transferred to me. I ask about her relationships with other women, and she is pretty much respectful and courteous but is not close to any particular woman and never has been which is also concerning, but with the bouncing of women in and out of her life, also not surprising. They said she is not physically affectionate as Olesya is, and is a bit more standoffish…but she has always been appropriately affectionate with Boris who is a safe and consistent male role model in her life. She IS affectionate with Olesya, as many photos would prove.

We all sat down around the table, including a couple of girls from the family group, Tanya and I think Natasha was the older girl’s name. We brought Rummikub to play, which was immediately a hit. Angela sat across from me next to Boris, and Olesya was next to me. This time, Angela was more herself…she was playful even with us a little, she looked me in the eyes often as we teased each other over the game and she was obviously much more at ease being in her room with her friends around. Dominick and I were just our usual selves, goofing off as we played, cracking each other up even if no one else got the joke, and determined to have fun regardless of what transpired. Olesya was just fine, we leaned over looking at each other’s tiles helping each other out, pretending to hide them, etc. Angela and Olesya both started getting goofy themselves, hiding tiles, teasing with the wild card tiles, and they actually enjoyed themselves and were genuine. The two other girls who joined us were very nice, and little Tanya was adorable. She must have been about 9 or so and a little pixie. Dominick ended up sitting on the other side of Angela, and he and Boris teamed up with her to beat the rest of us. Angela was accepting of him being next to her, and allowed herself to grin when he was being funny and didn’t hide it. We ended the visit by going back downstairs to get our jackets and gloves, and Angela asked Boris to ask us about the process for court, etc. She asked about the boys and their school, what grades they were in, if I was staying between court and the time to leave, etc. So at least she showed interest in the process. . Angela has an Academic Olympics tomorrow, and I wished her good luck and told her I hoped she got 1st place, and she smiled back at me.

She allowed a hug from us and didn’t turn sideways this time, and Olesya hung back and gave me another hug. Olesya is 100% ready, there is no doubt. Angela we have some deep concerns with and will give it time to see if we make it with her. We were encouraged by what we saw today, but are anxious to see if it continues when Boris is not present tomorrow, and we want to see some good, positive interaction with the boys. If that piece doesn’t come around, we can’t even consider moving forward, and thus far the boys have been pretty much ignored by both of them. We also want to make sure this wasn’t just a show for our benefit this evening, but is the real Angela coming through. It is obvious Olesya’s heart is very ready and I think we have a daughter there, and having Angela more comfortable tonight helped Olesya be able to relax herself with us without fear that her sister was giving her the evil eye.

So, although well prepared, we did not have to have the "Mom Chewing Out" yet. But believe me, Mom is packing heat and ready to kick it into high gear if necessary.

We have permission from the Director to watch Angela’s basketball game on Sunday, which is in town somewhere, so we will go to that as well and that should be interesting. I am sure that having adult voices such as Boris and the Vice Director, who are pro-adoption, has helped give the girls a different perspective. We are not at all certain where this is leading…if we will feel comfortable with Angela by the end of the visitation period. We have also said that we would be willing to extend the visitation period for another week if we feel like we are seeing progress but are not where we hope to be before going to court. We want to be certain, especially after this very rocky beginning, that we are not jumping into or out of something too quickly. We also want to know for sure that this will not create a “boys against girls” scenario at our house. So there is much to consider, and much bonding to occur over the next several days. We hope with all our hearts that we turn the corner permanently and feel confident at some point that this will work for all 7 of us. If not, we will be able to say we gave it our best shot. We have cleared one hurdle in that…at least for today…they have agreed to come home with us. That could change tomorrow. Now we have to determine if we are a fit for one another. Only time will tell us that, and we pray we have the insight to judge all of this accurately.

Thanks again for all your ongoing care. I am sorry that all hasn't been sunshine and roses, as I know it is not easy to read about how hard this really is. We ALL want to believe in fairy tales and happily ever afters. Sometimes we get that, but usually it is far more complicated. Even if the girls do end up coming home, which is still very much in question, that fairy tale ending is far from being written. We are so appreciative of your willingness to come along for the ride with us, even when it proves to be less than enjoyable. There are an enormous number of blog hits as we struggle here, over 700 yesterday alone, and though most of you don’t comment, simply knowing you are out there checking up on us helps more than you can know. Please keep your prayers, comments and emails coming, we are far from out of the woods yet and quite honestly probably won’t be for a very long time, even long after we are home. Being here in this very desolate landscape without human warmth and affection other than our own is hard enough. Being uncertain what the outcome will be is even harder. We’ll keep you posted as often as we can, and continue to feel bathed in peace.

Good Night Everyone..or should that be Good Morning for you???


Allison said...

It sounds like baby steps are being made! Your family is constantly on my mind and I'm always checking to see if there is a new post on your blog. Poor Angela just sounds so scared to open her heart; I wish she could understand how much she would gain just by taking that leap of faith. I hope you continue to make progress with the girls and you don't have to pull out the big Mom-guns on them:) We'll continue with our prayers.

Anonymous said...

Yo Team LaJoy! What an emotional ride! Wow - so glad to hear there is some progress. I say the "mommy speach" still might be helpful at some point, perhaps modified if you are seeing some progress. It might actually feel good to her to have a "parent" take some control, in a safe manner! Your warmth has already melted the thinner ice around Olesya and will, no doubt, keep melting away at Angela's thicker ice. (Way to go, Kenny!) If it helps at all it is 10am here and still 4 below zero! I know it is colder there and I am trying to imagine how it must be for you! Brrrrr!
Lots of love, Miss Joan

Anonymous said...


I loved to hear you guys are ready for fight for your girls.

Please do show them their photos and how much you love them.

O. will be a fantastic daughter and A. is obviously traumatized and needs to be accepted as a child that has been living in an Institution after being abused, she'll need time and lots of love to heal.

Families take time to create.

Your sons are 3 strange boys who speak a different language, in an age where children usually feel more confortable with children of their own gender.
We have 3 girls and although they have plenty of friends who are boys, all their best friends are girls.
So I'd say it's too early to worry about their relationship with their brothers, it's a lot to take in.
Let them attach to MOM and DAD first and when you get home you can organise family activities for team building and bonding between the kids!!!
You can organize The BIG LAJOY CAMPING TRIP for next Easter and make girl/boy teams for different tasks, or whatever you think about.

Also, do not leave between trips, you need to stay to work on attachment!!
I would offer to help with your boys back home, but I live in Europe so I'm a bit far!!!

I'll keep praying for a good outcome for you all and for those beauties to end home with you guys, where they belong!


Ann said...

Dobre Vecherum Lajoy family.

I am encouraged to hear the day went better for you today. So glad to hear there was a little ray of sun and lighter attitude by Angela. Don't we all wish we had a csyrtal ball to see what was going to happen? Your family is wonderful. I can not imagine the girls not seeing that over the next week or so and melting into the warmth that you have to give. As always I am virtually here watching and reading. Virtually by your side and sending hugs, love and prayers to you all.

Anonymous said...

Just a guess about the ignoring of the boys (although I agree with Teresa's assement) Are there many Kazak kids(as opposed to Russian background) at the orphanage? I am just wondering if there is some prejudice going on?

Rachel said...

I sent out an email last night asking for prayers for your family, the girls in particular. You all are on the hearts of so many!

Maureen said...

It sounds like some progress was made today. As you pointed out, it could all change again tomorrow or when the boys are there again. It does sound like it might be an uphill battle with Angela, but you knew that going into the adoption. If it comes to it, I hope your Mom talk (chewing out) works to help Angela understand where you are coming from a little better. Your whole family continues to be in my prayers!

James in NYC said...

I have been looking at your blog and praying that God's will will be done and that He knows the outcome that is best for your family.

minime0910 said...

So glad to hear that today was a good day!!! I am cheering you on from Ohio and praying like crazy that everything works out. Go Team LaJoy!! Erin

Nancy Potter said...

Hi Cindy! WOW! I have been trying to keep up with your progress. It's a bit like tuning in to a mini series! I just want you to know that your wonderful, dynamic little family is in my thoughts and prayers.
Grace and peace to you-
:) Nancy

Betsy said...

This sounds like progress and I'm encouraged for you! I truly admire your parenting style and how you are handling every aspect of the situation. God is truly fortifying you and Dominick to face this challenge!
It makes my heart hurt to know that Angela has so much to overcome emotionally. If anyone can help her through that it is you two! We will continue to pray for your time spent with the girls and for discernment as you determine what is best for your family.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Things seem to be turning around so I hope it continues on a positive path. What an amazing family you are! I am constantly looking at your blog to see if anything new is on but this is my first comment. I just wanted you to know that the time you spend blogging is really appreciated. I am also reading the boys' blogs and have left comments there, too.
Team LaJoy's attitude and approach is very admirable and I can't wait to see how the rest of this unfolds.
Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

Love and prayers from Mary and her Mom.

Peggy in Virginia

Heather said...

Cindy, yes, it's small steps, but progress nonetheless. I still believe they will get there. And, I think you are having the right amount of "fight" in your attitude. They NEED to know how badly they are wanted by the Lajoy family!

Andrea said...

Your attitudes are healthy and determination right on - love the comment YOU are the mom and can assert yourself as such. Tough love maybe but it's for the right reasons. Your journey is riveting. Can't wait to hear about the basketball game!

smctiver said...

Cindy & Dominick,

I am so glad that you are seeing a a small ray of sunshine and that things may be taking a turn for the better with the girls.

My prayers continue to be with your family!

Hilary Marquis said...

Go Cindy! They've likely never had someone care so much to actually cry over THEM. What a powerful thing it could be to see an adult put their heart out there like that for their sake. You are a strong, loving & EXPERIENCED mother!

Annette said...

Steve said he has 3 sisters and 1 brother and it was always girls against boys! LOL We are keeping you in our prayers - only God knows what the outcome will be. We miss you here.

Christina said...

Love, and prayers!

Bill and Cathe: said...

Hello LaJoy family!

We hope our pictures made a hit and help to let the girls know that they will be able to continue on with sports and education.
Does Alexander, your driver, wear a Memphis Grizzlies stocking hat?

Tell the girls, "Hi" from Max and Tanya and let them know America is a neat place, there will be a lot of frinds for them, and they can still stay in touch with their RBS buddies too.

Ohiomom2121 said...

Wow! Awesome day, and I loved your plan to really communicate love and, if needed, hurt. I agree that maybe some extra time with Mom & Dad alone might be the ticket. Especially Dad, for Angela, as attachment often is said to go to one parent first and she is obviously more fearful of women. Sibling rivalry might not be something you are used to, but its existence in a family does not mean it is not a good family. So, I would not make attachment to the boys a prerequisite for adoption. This might be the girls' only ticket out, so you should make the hurdles for them very low. The little girl we tried to adopt in Azerbaijan had been adopted and then brought back to the orphanage a couple of years earlier. The American family never even left the country with her. Because her paperwork was complicated (e.g., she needed grandparent approvals for bio and American grandparents), we did not get her out before Azerbaijan closed adoptions. There are so many times I have wished that previous family had just taken her to America and disrupted rather than leave her in an orphanage, where she now faces the awful specter of aging out, prostitution, suicide, etc. If these truly are your daughters in your heart, where would you rather leave your daughters, with a family in America or in an orphanage? I'm not sure it's really possible to determine if you are "a fit" in the rarefied atmosphere of orphanage visits, and that seems like an awfully high hurdle to me, when the alternative is so potentially harsh for them. If the worst should happen and Angela hated you all for years, I doubt that would stop your boys from being successful adults or from loving you. But if you don't give her the chance at a family because her attitude is cold, you will be having a definite negative effect on her, and I know that was never your intention. If she says she is willing to go with you, to me, that is it. You were committed before and now is not the time to make up new conditions for that commitment. You have faced RAD before. You have faced older child transition before. That's why I read this, to learn from your wonderful example. No one could be better parents for a prickly, RADish child, than you two. God did not send you across the world to leave her behind if she shows even a halfhearted willingness to go. I just know your LaJoy "joy" can be built in later, but if it can't she will still be better off for having known you. You wrote it all in your blog on 11/27/09. I say, don't worry about a "fit," and just celebrate, because there is HOPE! God bless. Sherry

wilisons said...

Your honesty is refreshing in a world where people sometimes forget to acknowledge the real ups and downs especially in older child adoption. It is clear that you love these girls and you are there mother, always and forever, in your heart. I hope that the progress continues and you can fit and transform into a family of 7.

Prayers sent your way!


Lisette said...

I'm not a mom (yet) so I'm not qualified to give you advice. But given how great your boys are, you must be doing something right! Continue to follow that voice inside your head and your heart. It obviously hasn't let you down yet. God bless!
P.S. You are freaking out this Florida girl with those weather reports! 25 below?! I want to turn up the heat just reading this. Stay warm!

smileysk8 said...

It made me so glad to hear of some postive progress being made today! I will keep praying daily for you guys! Our thoughts and prayers are with you! God bless!

Monica said...

Hi Cindy! (and all of Team LaJoy)

I'm a long time reader (since Kenny joined your family), but an infrequent commenter....I have been following your journey to YOUR girls with bated breath.

I have always greatly admired your openness and eloquence........mostly I have stood in awe of your wisdom as a mom and incredible parenting style (and Dominic most certainly is included in my awe).

Your (plural) determination to fight for YOUR daughters is to be applauded.

You have received much advice from your many commenters that is solid and practical.

I think of you all very often...... please know that here in NY someone is cheering loudly at every small success......keep chipping away at that ice...your instincts as parents are impeccable.

I will continue to read....I will continue to hope....I will continue to pray....I truly feel you will prevail.

Monica in NY

Kimberly said...

Wow - you guys must be exhausted physically and emotionally. I am praying for wisdom, discernment, peace and most of all for God's love to fill in all those scared and worried parts of the girls' hearts. Love will overcome!

Kelly and Sne said...

Glad that you had a better day today and hope it continues and is genuine progress toward becoming a family. In any case, you're got your secret Mom weapon!

Becki Stone said...

This sounds like such a good day. I'm praying things continue to move in this direction. Being one of seven kids, we did have our days of boys against girls, but all in all we are very close to this day. I'm praying for Team LaJoy!