Something about this photo is symbolic to me of Joshie's childhood...the superhero action figures, the beloved torn and tattered blankie, the coat and backpack haphazardly strewn across the airport floor...I saw this and knew I had to take a photo of it. There is my son's entire younger childhood right before my eyes and seeing it almost makes me tear up because I love him so much and it reminds me of the innocence of this time in life for him. It also serves as a great reminder that sometimes, even when the beginning is terribly challenging, God heals and children can become whole again. If Josh did, our two newest can too.
At the Frankfurt Airport where we had a 7 hour layover, the kids were all astonishingly laid back and well behaved. Dominick and I have both been profoiundly grateful to see just how terrific a fit the girls are for our family in so many ways, and one of them is their ability to be flexible and just "go with it", not a trait one would expect from institutionalized children. They are extremely polite and helpful, and we had more than one comment from fellow travelers who asked about us because of our shirts and learned the girls had just joined us who were stunned, as they all appeared so settled and the girls present as if they have always been parented by us with our family rules. We have also been very happy to discover their honesty and we have had no fear about leaving money laying around, and even when we give them money to spend they immediately turn around trying to give us back change.
I do say that with the one caveat that I KNOW that this could change as we struggle over the next few months, but for now at least they are on "good behavior" and are very easy to go places with. Yes, that is a can of Paprika Pretend Pringles you see there that Angela is chowing down on. Sounds strange, tastes not much different than BBQ. In addition to paprika, in Kazakhstan you have the treat of possibly eating crab chips, beef stroganoff chips, and other surprising combinations.
Kenny was the smart one and took a nap! He looks so sweet here, and of all of the family members his loyalty to Team LaJoy is probably the strongest...how he loves his family!
Here we are, oh-so-weary as we slowly make our way into the airport in Grand Junction where we were met by friends who agreed to meet us and drive us all the hour back home. Thanks Jane for capturing these photos of us!
I wonder what others around us thought with this oddly mismatched crew coming home! Here Matthew is checking out a little package sent to us by his friend Clay who sent it along after waiting for us in Montrose at the airport!
The love we were greeted with by so many was something we will never forget, both those that arrived to help us and those who were waiting at the Montrose Airport to shower us with love and friendship. It sounds like there was quite a crew waiting for us and we are so sorry we couldn't get in there! We were greeted with flowers, hugs and balloons...and a home that was filled with little messages of love attached to many meals, home made cookies, the most enormous basket of fruit I have ever seen, more flowers and a tidied up home after Dominick's two week stint there.
I've said it before and I'll say it again...our family is so undeserving of the gifts bestowed upon us. We can never, ever repay the love that we have been showered with, but I promise that over the years we will do our best to try and pay it forward. Thank you seems just so incapable of capturing what we feel...you have sustained us in ways you will never really understand. I hate that people think we have done something extraordinary because we wanted a family and this was the only way we could do it, but if we HAVE done anything extraordinary, you all have been just as much a part of that as we have. We can't do it alone, no way, and though the majority of people are not called to do this sort of crazy stuff, supporting those who do can mean the difference between success and failure. You have no idea what supporting and adoptive family can mean to them...the prayers, the nurturing when it can be terribly difficult, the emails and staying connected when others walk away...YOU are the reason people like us can tackle this.
Thank you to those who know us, and those who know us only through the blog.
Ahhhh...home at last, and our first breakfast together at home on a table filled with love in the form of flowers and fruit! Just seeing SUNSHINE streaming through my own window was enough to fill me up. Adding in the faces of ALL of our much longed for children is enough to make me totally lose it. God, thank you for our family. You always promise us immeasureable blessings, and those who are infertile and struggling may not yet be at the stage to see what all You can do, despite what seems to be a hopeless situation.
Am I nuts to say I am so incredibly grateful never to have given birth??? Look at those faces above...they would not be part of our lives if we had been able to have biological children and I can't begin to think of what our life would be like without THESE children!!
We only had the clothes that were packed in suitcases and unlaundered for the girls, so while we quickly spread out making a huge mess as we unpacked it all to do our first loads, they spent the better part of the day in their PJ's and couldn't wait to get outside to play on the trampoline and try out the scooters, which they had never seen before and didn't at first know what to do with.
For those of you who truly don't understand the climate we left, I have to share with you what Olesya said when she was outside in her bare feet at first with only her PJ's on and it was 40 degrees ABOVE zero..."Mama...HOT" as she fanned herself. Hahaha! Yea, I guess an 80 or 90 degree swing in temperature WOULD feel like it was hot at only 40 degrees!
Angela started with the trike and got a big kick out of it!
She then moved on to Matt's bike which is almost too small for him now too! Neither of the girls know how to ride a bike, but Angela in particular is itching to learn.
And THIS is what will get us through it...sick, twisted humor!! Love the Kazakhstan underwear hats!
Christmas came late this year, but it was still a delight! Our first day home we went to get haircuts. I know that may seem like a strange thing to do, but Joshua was very disturbed by his long hair falling in his eyes so we decided to make a little trip out of the house for haircuts and to Target to get a few more clothes for the girls where we scored some $4 jeans!! We came home and then opened presents. The dropped camera is sometimes not doing well with exposure so I am thinking there may be something wrong with it as well as the lens, which totally bums me out. Thank goodness for Photoshop! This pic of Matt may not be the best exposed, but it shows his sheer joy at getting a new Lego set! Actually it was a used set purchased on Ebay as he is getting into the more expensive ones we can't afford. He could care less and immediately set out to put it together!
We were not prepared with Christmas gifts for the girls as we had thought we would be home in between, have our Christmas, then go back and get them. I fretted over this a bit as I didn't want them feeling left out when we came home and there were packaged for the boys. Along comes my friend Jill to save the day, who went shopping and wrapped it all for them so they would never know they were not included!! Oh, for the love of a good friend!
The big surprise of the evening was opening Grandma Alice's gift...a brand new Wii!! My mom and I had talked a lot about this, as she knows our feelings about video games and not wanting out kids to be glued to screens, iPods, cell phones, etc and pulling away from their families as they are sucked into screen time. But as Dominick and I considered it, we came to the conclusion that carefully monitored time might actually be a real boost for the kids, as it is something they can do together than is not language based and it might help them have another outlet for playing together as older children who are usually more language oriented in their play. So we agreed this might be perfect, and we will place strict limits on it. Luckily it came with a couple of games, as those suckers are expensive, and I am so stupid I didn't know our local Hastings book and music store even rents the games out, so we can get buy without huge purchases of cash sucking gaming cartridges! The girls have no idea what it was, of course, but no doubt will spend hours of fun in front of it!
Perhaps the most important gift given was this one...a basketball for Angela. I could tell it meant a lot to her, and later she sat there hugging it. It was her first glimmer of understanding that we acknowledge the unique sports loving girl she is and will not try and change her into something she is not.
It was later that night, in the dark, as I walked back across the patio after taking out the trash that we had what I feel was our first real moment together alone bonding. She went outside in her sock feet to try out the basketball, and I surprised her when I came around the corner as she didn't know I was outside. She shot, I rebounded, and we played in the cold, dark starry night together for a few minutes. I could see her surprised look as we played, as I think she had lived with an assumption all along that she was "different" from me, that I am more of a mom that is Olesya's more girlie style and would not enjoy what interests her. I have not yet shared with her the hours upon hours of basketball I played with my brother as a kid, the years of softball where I was an all-star pitcher, the fact that I can throw a spiral better than many guys can with a football. She'll figure that out gradually, that I not only respect her abilities but will join her gleeefully as she excels at sports. I may be an old fat housewife now, but give me a batting cage and I'll show her a thing or two...and maybe, just maybe I might end up growing closer to my daughter in the process. And I have my Dad to thank for that, for never seeing me as "just a girl" or thinking my love of all things academic and books meant I shouldn't also know how to throw a baseball as hard and fast as any of the boys!
So there you have it...our first couple of days of our new life together. It was relatively painless, filled with exhaustion and still is, and uncomfortable and unsettling at moments polka dotted with lots of laughter and shared love as well. Real life begins, and there are no illusions about it being easy. But God never called us to do "easy". God calls us all to do what is right and good in this world, to do our best to be a light to all around us. The light of our family is slowly working on 2 young girls who lived in darkness for far too long, it reached out across the miles for many years, and it will continue to shine until even the darkest places in their hearts are no longer shrouded, but are shining brightly for others to be able to reach as well. It won't happen overnight, or without some real pain along the way...but we live with the hope that it WILL happen in due time, and that patience, consistency and steadfast love will prevail.
Despite what we know lies ahead, I think we are off to a great start!