Yesterday we were supposed to go to the Boarding School for a performance called the "Circle of Joy". Sadly, Irina's schedule didn't work out for us and we were unable to make it in time. It was at our urging that she remained with the French family here on their first day assessing infants to adopt...we know how stressful that can be and they needed her more than we needed to be there for the performance.
However, we did go later and found that there was a little party set up to say goodbye to the girls, although we are not taking them until Wednesday. We walked in to find everyone lined up waiting for us with grins on their faces and then tables set up with tea and pastries! The Director had already left and returned to visit with us, and there were several of the ladies on staff there, including one whom the girls have giggled about who has evidently fallen in love with Joshua for some reason and asked the girls if she could have some of their pictures of him. When we got there she was totally smitten with him and could hardly keep herself from swooping him up and holding him, and then asked us for more pictures of him with her. It was cute and I think she saw some resemblance as he did look like he could have been her son.
The kids all read little poems to the girls and our family, and asked us repeatedly not to forget them, not to let the girls forget where they came from, to be sure and send pictures and emails and keep them connected. It seemed very important to them and we learned that the photos we had brought of 2 other children adopted from here had been posted up for the entire orphanage to see. They have really done the best they can here to create a family environment, with a homey atmosphere, family groups instead of huge dorms, and caretakers who know the kids individually.
Eventually the children were all shooed off and the adults sat around the table when the vodka was brought out. The Director insisted it was the "law" that we have a drink with him, and I laughed saying the only other time I had experienced vodka was when Yuri at Poludino told me the same thing! I could tell there was no way Dominick would do it, so I whispered to him that he owed me Big Time and down the hatch it went, with much grimacing I couldn't hide but which brought much laughter. We all toasted and many wonderful wishes were offered to our family with more than one caretaker saying we were the perfect family for these 2 girls, and 3 or 4 talking about how Angela was "shy" (And Irina, Dominick and I all laughed at that one, we sure haven't seen that!) and Olesya was "more active" (Again, laughter from us because we have seen the opposite). A couple mentioned the girls very sad beginning in life and how happy they were that the girls now had the family they deserved. A couple of astute women pointed out that Angela was very guarded with her feelings and Olesya was not, and urged us to be patient because she was a good girl who hid herself from others a lot. And I said a little prayer right there among the pastries and the vodka that somehow, someday, Angela can be freed from that and feel we are a safe place to turn to and share her feelings.
While all of this was going on the boys and went off with all the kids and there was much laughter and mayhem going on in the girls group bedroom, funny it sort of felt like being at home with extra kids over and tons of laughter escaping down the hallway!
When it was our turn to toast, Dominick and I each thanked them on behalf of all the children they had cared for there, and complimented them on having an orphanage that was more like a home and how well developed their children were. I said that each of them was a mom and dad to the unloved children of this country, that like us they too were parenting children and doing the best job they could do. I thanked them for preparing the girls for life with us. Then I toasted to all those who step in to parent children who have no parents, be it orphanage staff or adoptive parents.
And yes...down the hatch...ICK!!!
The entire group of children was so well behaved, so well mannered. I wish we could have spent much more time there at the orphanage and had originally planned on being there a bunch with this family group to get to know them better...many of whom I have also watched grow up in photos...but after our rough start it quickly became apparent that we would be better off meeting away from the Boarding School as the girls were needing to get a strong sense of what real life would "feel like" with us, and then they begged to come to our apartment after they were comfortable, so we decided that it was better to focus solely on their needs right now.
But I will say I feel it was a missed opportunity in many regards. So many terrific, wonderful kids there whom we would have loved to hold and hug, play with and enjoy. Maybe it was best for my heart though, anyone who cares about kids would have a hard time not being heartbroken walking away from this place...for no matter how good it is there are children growing up without feeling precious to someone else, and that is terribly sad to me.
It was time to leave so we all grabbed coats and gloves and the girls walked us downstairs to the door, where we were greeted warmly by Alexander who had waited for us. He was there with a hearty handshake and a hug for the boys, and I was reminded as our time here draws to a close that there were many wonderful people placed in our path here whom I will never forget and if they were in our "real lives" would be close friends. We will leave here anxious to get home, but no doubt a little heavy hearted as we know these are people we will never see again, and our lives our much richer for having known them.
We are packing up fairly quickly and easily, 5 of us make that job easier than 1! I know many would say "What? 3 little boys making it EASIER? You're nuts!" but that is not the case with us! They are an awesome help as we instruct them to go grab extra clothing to pack, haul suitcases around the room for us, organize and sort. Dominick and I are so blessed to have children with such helping hearts. We hope the girls will continue to have the same attitude as the boys and really choose to be part of Team LaJoy, as they already seem to want to do when they are with us...helping clean up, digging in to put things away. We will see over this next week or two what areas we will have to focus strongly on.
Watching the girls as they delightedly played with the boys amongst their friends, Angela being a horse on her hands and knees with Joshua on her back, the sounds of Kenny and Matthew giggling as they all goofed around in their room, Olesya prancing around back and forth from us back to the kids, leaning out a door in the hallway down from us to give us a big wave and grin, it all felt so normal and so "right". While we may have doubts about what might creep up and our own ability to parent well in certain situations, we have not a single doubt about having done the right thing in having the girls join our family. We and the boys all feel as if they have been part of us almost forever, despite all the newness here. There is a comfort level that has been reached, a familiarity that was there even in the midst of the emotional turmoil of the first week, there is a certainty that comes only from God.
There will be times I will want to tear my hair out, times of frustration and sorrow and chaos. There will never be a time when we wonder if we did the right thing, not ever. It is not the lovely, neat and easy story of an infant adoption. It does not contain the cuddly little pictures of an adorable babe in our arms, happily settled and comforted easily. This was a hard road, it will be harder. The kids are old by most understandings, they are scarred and bruised by life, they have issues that are known. This is a different kind of adoption story, a different kind of love story. Many might not realize it, for they look only for the "cute" factor, but this is just as amazing, just as miraculous and they are just as beautiful for us as any infant that might have been places in our arms. We have given birth here, just to more fully formed human beings. But Dominick and I still marvel at the fact God has blessed us with two more lives to care for and nurture, 2 more lives to embrace in our family and call "our own".
Sometimes hard earned love comes with deeper, stronger bonds. May that be the case for us!