We had a nice visit with the girls today at the apartment, which capped off our "School's Out" day for the week. Tomorrow it is back to the books! While we are still trying to get in touch with Tim at Federal Travel to confirm things, here is what our schedule looks like for the remainder of our time here:
Monday, 2/1 - We are invited to go see a small presentation at the Boarding School titled "Circle of Joy". Not sure what it is but we all teased and laughed as we couldn't think of a name more suited to us right now!
Tuesday, 2/2 - We pack up, no school work from here on out until we get back in a real classroom! Of course, on a trip like this and with all that is going on, you can guarantee there will be a lot of learning going on, even if not the measurable kind. We are hopeful the girls can go out with us to go shopping for things for a small party for their family group...for 30 or so people! They were VERY EXCITED when we asked if they wanted to come do the shopping, don't know how often they have ever had the opportunity to do so as they acted as if they were going to Disneyland. We are going to give them a budget and have them select everything carefully themselves and stay within budget. The boys have decided they will be their "slaves" and carry everything for them! Hahaha! Of course I'll get pictures of that one! Haha!
Wednesday, 2/3 - This Is It. We will visit the orphanage sometime in the late afternoon and have a party with the kids there. We have been informed that their brothers can be with them in their family room but we have to stay with the Director and other grown ups :-( hahaha! They have this all planned out, and it is totally cute that they pulled the boys into it all with them with huge grins. We will all sleep under the same roof for the first time, what a wonderful moment it will be even if it isn't back in Montrose. It doesn't really matter because "home" is where your family is...and we are certainly family.
Thursday, 2/4 - We're off to Astana! We have made the decision due to small planes and luggage requirements (and small births on the train) to fly to Astana but are still going to check into the train to Almaty as that was where the real savings is. The flights to Astana were not much more than the train, by the time we calculated in food for 7 and fears that we might have to pay extra for seats or luggage on the train. It looked like it would be a "wash" so we will take the plane this time around. Turns out Angela is a little frightened of flying, so Dominick talked to her a bit about it today. Not terrified, just a little nervous I think.
We remain in Astana and see the sights while waiting for the registration paperwork to be completed and headed for Almaty. Turns out we will get the apartment the Oborn's are in once they vacate it the day before we get there! Wish we were going to see one another there, but it is kind of cool to follow in their footsteps there. We will hopefully capture a ton of photos, see a lot of neat things and museums, and get a taste of New Kazakh Culture!!!
Wednesday, 2/10 - We fly to Almaty to finish the process and hopefully all will have gone well and our documents will all have arrived as well. Not sure where we are staying yet or even who is meeting us there from our agency!! Hahaha! Someone will want to get rid of the crazy Americans dragging around 5 kids so we are not too worried :-)
Thursday and Friday, 2/11 ands 2/12 - We will have the girls' medical appointments and the Embassy appointment.
Sunday, 2/14 - Happy Valentines Day! We leave Almaty for home!!! We have a 7 hour layover in Frankfurt and will arrive in Montrose on the last flight of the day around 10:00 PM...we hope...if we aren't delayed anywhere...if we have all documents done...I am almost afraid to post this as we have encountered every delay possible from the day we started the adoption so is it really, really possible this last leg will go without a hitch? Stay tuned to find out! Hahaha! Anyone want to take bets on it???
Tonight's visit was special in some way I can't put my finger on. Maybe it is that we are all really ready to become a family. I think that without realizing it, that has been bothering me more than being here and not being home. We are cozy, we are safe, it may be harder than home but we have nothing serious to complain about. But our mission feels half accomplished with a court decree in our hand and no children in our arms.
As long as this stage has seemed, it has been good for all of us and I think is as God intended it to be. There is a relaxed sense of "family" that has snuck in between all of us. I thought that as I saw Angela and Matthew curled up on the couch sharing Uno cards to try and beat us...as physically comfortable with one another as if they had been brother and sister forever, looking for all the world like Kenny, Josh and Matthew snuggled up reading or playing with each other. This relationship is such a gift for each of them, Matthew has often been left out of the relationship Kenny and Josh have, not by intent but by maturity. He joins them often, of course, but how long can a mature 10 year old play "imagine I am a super hero"? I know Kenny is 11 but he is 7 or 8 in most ways, and we are not going to drag him forward any faster than he needs to go...it is obvious he needs more younger childhood time and he will get it. After all, he has matured about 4 years worth in 2 1/2!! But Angela and Matthew are about the same level of maturity, and it will be wonderful for him to have someone older and more at his level to play with.
But Angela drifts between them all. Kenny claimed her on his Rummikub team today and she grinned and happily sat next to him, then she left the game for awhile and played with Joshua on the floor for quite awhile. I see slowly in her the ability to maybe leave behind the teenaged girl she was reaching to be when we first arrived, and the desire to take on the younger child for awhile. How I had hoped for that, she so needs it! I should have trusted the Power of the LaJoy Boys and their silly sense of fun to do that for her. Like our kids, who don't seem to need a whole heck of a lot to be entertained, the girls are the same way and Angela spent 20 minutes playing with Angela on the floor with this little plastic stretchy lizards. It was so cute to see them with each other. (At this moment the boys have all rolled up their socks, turned the coffee table on it's side and placed it next to the couch to create a fort and are having "Snow Sock" fights! Hahaha!)
This evening though, it was Olesya whose joy seemed to hardly be able to be contained! WOW!! This girl is SO ready to go! We laid out the game plan to them all tonight, explained our schedule and talked about leaving the orphanage. Angela pretended for a moment to cry with a grin on her face when we talked about them leaving for good next Wednesday. I reassured her that we knew it was a happy AND sad day, and she needn't feel uncomfortable at all to cry that day...that we would not be offended and we understood. She gave me a shy smile that sort of said "thanks for that Mom".
Olesya asked if Wednesday they were sleeping at our apartment and got a HUGE smile on her face when we said yes and that she would never sleep at the boarding school again!! She counted the number of days on her fingers. Earlier when we had all been goofing around in the kitchen (I have been wondering lately, do we ever NOT goof around??) with the kids each spanking each others bottom and trying to karate chop each other and she came up behind me and grabbed me in the biggest hug. I turned around to face her smiling face and she just sad "Mama!!!" and hugged me tight again.
My heart filled, of course.
Later I was teasing the Cheating Team of Matt and Angela leaning over the table looking for the Uno cards they were inevitably hiding and pointing at each one teasingly and fiercely saying "Matthew LaJoy...Angela LaJoy I am going to beat you whether you cheat or not!"...we all laughed and Irina was next to them on the couch and said "What about me? Irina LaJoy?" as we have joked about how we are old enough to be her parents, literally. I laughed and said "Yes...Irina LaJoy! No Cheating!" then from beside me I hear Olesya say something to Irina and Irina turns to me and says "Olesya says 'what about me? What is MY name?" and I turned to her and wagged a finger saying "Olesya LaJoy! No cheating!" and she just smiled and smiled as we hugged again.
After all we have all been through, to arrive at this place where love is sprouting, where we are all beginning to claim our new version of our family...it is a miracle, pure and simple. 2 months ago we were each heartbroken...not only us but two paralyzed and terrified little girls were as well. What healing comes from God!!! What goodness comes from love without condition!!! Did any of you seriously think after that first week that we would be in THIS place today?? Countless hugs and giggles and joy. I had such high hopes when we got on the plane for this, and yet it seemed it was going to be out of reach, that too much damage had been done by others and too much time had passed.
It was your prayers that made the difference...it allowed us to be in a place of peace when walking through a storm of emotion. It was your prayers that hovered around all of us, creating opportunity for God to work on doors that appeared to be nailed shut. It was your prayers that made the LaJoy family the one that stands before you all today. It wasn't us, for none of us has the ability to do what happened here.
With each visit, the yearning to be together has grown. With each visit, the reluctance to part has strengthened. It has been voiced by both girls "We wish we didn't have to go back.", and maybe this small piece of "absence makes the heart grow fonder" has helped stir up desire and created space to dip their feet in the pool of family love, then pull out and go back to the orphanage to think about it and process it all, then come back and wade in a little deeper.
Olesya is jubilant, while Angela is more quietly pleased. The reality of leaving their life behind is more "real" for Angela and I sense, maybe not correctly but my gut says it, that she is dreading the leaving and wanting to get it behind her so she can relax into family life without that facing her. Although Olesya is more demonstrative, Angela is not at all doing this for Olesya as I at first feared she might. She is ready for her new life too, and after wiping away the tears that goodbyes always bring I am guessing she will step firmly forward with joy and happiness, as she is sure happy when she is with us and always asking if they can come to our apartment for visits!!
Watching the kids all together, no one would ever, ever guess they hadn't been together since birth. This is stunning to me, absolutely amazing. For those of you who know us in real life and will be around the kids right when we get home, you will be blown away and come away shaking your heads as we are doing right now. I hope that our travels to Astana and Almaty help cement it all firmly. Even nicer is that the girls and boys all bounce back and forth with each other, seemingly enjoying one just as much as another. Could we actually be so lucky as to have with the girls what we had when we added Kenny to our family???? Time will tell, that would be almost too much to ask for, like striking gold over and over again.
And so the countdown begins! We are ready now...the days are dwindling, fears are receding (at least the kids...Moms are a whole different ball game!! Language, culture, trauma...oh forget about it for awhile!), and bonds are growing.
The future is dangling like the proverbial carrot, right before our eyes!