Today there was an air of anticipation as we all awoke…it was our first visit the Angela and Olesya here in our apartment! After yesterday we were more hopeful and continuing to pray that each day would show us a little more of what our life might be like. Possibility hung above all of us, with Dominick and I still a bit reserved and keeping it all close the vest. Would today move us closer to feeling comfortable with everything? Or would we find ourselves questioning what our final decision should be?
We spent the morning cleaning, doing a little schoolwork, shopping for our first family meal together, and making our little apartment look spic and span. We swept and mopped and wiped and cooked…and hoped.
I left to go with Irina to get the girls at about 1:15 from the RBS. We arrived and it was awkward as we waited for Irina to arrive, and I began to feel a little tug that maybe we were on a downhill slide. It was a quiet drive back to the apartment but when I asked questions through Irina, I got relaxed looks and more than one word answers. We went upstairs and went in, where it was plain to see that everyone was just a little bit nervous with this change of environment. The girls looked so cute in the lightweight fleece jackets we gave them a couple of days ago that we bought while in Montrose…and they fit well! They grinned when we commented on them. We showed them around the apartment…a 1 ½ minute tour, and they checked out the chicken Dominick was cooking in the kitchen. We tag teamed it with me starting and him finishing the meal while I went to retrieve the girls and settle them in. The boys were not sure what to say or do at first, and we all sort of stood around for a few minutes staring at each other.
That all changed when I suggested we decorate the apartment with the meager dollar store decorations we brought with us. We had some window clings, and a felt tree and snowman that I had gotten along with some glitter glue to dress it up. Surprisingly, this was all a hit and the girls really loved the idea of helping to decorate! They started running from window to window to put the clings up, and then everyone worked on the silly little tree and snowmen and they turned out great! That ended the awkwardness, and for the rest of the afternoon everyone was comfortable and enjoying one another very much.
We ate and had chicken and potatoes with carrot salad (Sorry Jocelyne!), with bread and drinks. At first the girls were a bit tentative, but soon were gobbling up with everyone else! Boy, did they give Kenny a run for his money in the Eating Department!! Both had a full chicken breast along with another half breast as well as bread, cheese and salami. They loved having cold milk and all the juice they could drink. While the nutrition at their orphanage is far superior to what Kenny had, they are both very, very thin. They were telling us yesterday that they had fruits and vegetables often, but it appears the protein is sorely lacking.
We gave each of the kids one of those chocolate Kinder Eggs as a surprise after dinner. The girls have very generous spirits, and they shared half their eggs with Irina, and then Angela kindly offered to trade Matthew her toy for his as his was a little tiny fairy doll. We all laughed over that one. Then it was on to another game of Rummikub...CheatingKub is what we ought to call it. I was very pleased to see Matthew argue over getting to be on Angela’s team and the two of them put their heads together to see if they could outplay…umm…I mean outcheat everyone else. Dominick and I had totally set this up to the boys yesterday that we WANT them to do anything they can to create an “us against them” mentality in a playful way in order for them all to bond a bit more as siblings as they try to put their parents to shame. Olesya was on my team, and Kenny played with Irina while Dominick played by himself with Josh dipping in and out.
At one point while we were playing, Olesya patted the little stool she was on to encourage Joshie to sit with her, and she wrapped her arms around him in a motherly fashion. They all teased him gently about his blanket, and Olesya went to find it for him at one point when he was looking for it. There is a kindness in both girls that we are seeing that we never would have guessed was present in the previous tension filled week. They are exactly as described and as I had intuited myself in the past…they really are generous and have a tender side to them, even Angela who is definitely the stronger personality. I saw some really thoughtful gestures today that seemed automatic and not at all for our benefit…sharing glue, not getting the slightest bit upset when Josh wanted to work on their project with them and likely make it look not at all as they intended…they eagerly encouraged him to join them.
What I saw today is what I had envisioned for a very, very long time…what I had felt for years and years would be possible. That these girls WERE LaJoy’s in terms of heart and spirit. When I met them 2 ½ years ago, Kenny had barely been with us a week so was not really in my mental equation yet, but I was stunned with the similarities I saw in them with the way they treated one another and the way Matthew and Joshua always were with one another. There was this sense that I was looking at my sons when I watched the girls with each other. Today, watching all of them interacting, if you threw out the dissimilar language, an outsider would have never been able to tell they weren’t raised by the same parents. It is strange, and hard to describe.
We were lucky enough to get a 3 hour visit, and at one point Angela turned to Irina and asked “when do we have to go back” and Irina told her that we had awhile yet and Angela replied “Good! We can play some more!”. Off she went into the living room where she, Matthew and Joshua were playing some pretend game of tazing each other with a Lego device Matthew made. They were really roughhousing together and having a terrific time! It helped me a lot to see that Angela, when in outside the orphanage environment where she is in a family group which consists largely of teenagers, was able to truly play like a younger child. I had wondered if she had that capacity, as I feel it is very important for her in particular to have time to be a kid for awhile, and I was worried she might be too far gone for that. Today certainly proved otherwise, and it settled my heart a little to realize that maybe our kids are the perfect ones for her to be around to help in this task of letting her have a taste of childhood…even at 10 and 11 Matthew and Kenny are pretty innocent and not at all jaded or “teenagerish” yet. Yes, I know it is coming, but we still have time for them to help Angela learn to play all over again.
While all the horsing around was going on in the living room, Kenny and Olesya had settled down in the kitchen with a paper doll set from Klutz. I think Kenny was more excited than Olesya was, and she was VERY intrigued with this! They sat there side by side using stencils and scissors as they began to make beautiful creations and looked at the kit together. It appears that Kenny and Olesya are both “craft kids” and can totally get involved in this kind of project together.
When it was time to leave, everyone felt we had just gotten started and no one wanted it to end. Angela looked at Irina and said “I don’t want to go, I wish I could stay here!”.
Those words were music to my ears, and let me know that the magic of family was beginning to have its effect on Angela.
When the girls left, and we all sat down to “debrief”, the boys could hardly contain themselves, they were so happy! Matthew LOVED playing with Angela and said “Now I can see why this was so important to you, Mommy…they really ARE perfect for us!”. Joshua and Kenny were equally enthusiastic saying they had a really good time with Angela and Olesya and then asked what we thought.
I explained that we were very happy with how things had gone the last couple of days, and were quite hopeful. We also said we wanted to give it a few more days of visitations to make sure this was “real’, and that we had a responsibility to them to be very careful in making this decision that affects all of us for the rest of our lives. We explained we wanted to make sure Angela was able to maintain this connection and keep it growing before we jumped in, but that we felt strongly that things were headed in the right direction. After last week, we said, we just want to make absolutely sure. We also want to make sure that Angela feels firmly that a family is what she is after, and we think she may be turning that corner now and moving from “I used to want this and it will make Olesya happy” to “Man, this feels great! Maybe I CAN have it!”. Before we move to court, we want Angela to be joyful over this, and firm in her resolve. Times ahead will be challenging as she enters a new culture and language and adjusts to family life. The stronger she is in her desire, the more she will be willing to rely on us to help and see is as her guides to this new life and not the cause of her discontent.
So we continue to take it day by day, carefully monitoring hearts and souls as best we can, and starting to allow ourselves to smile as we see them all together. We are cautious, we are trying to be discerning to the best of our ability. We are open to whatever will be and whatever God has unfolding before us.
But…this just could end up being wonderful…