Wednesday, February 17, 2010

No Greater Gift


A title that in this case has been haaaaarrrrddd earned. 5 years of yearning, 2 1/2 years of adoption paperwork, 2 1/2 months of emotional travel and today it all felt worth it, even if it is only for today.

Olesya came up behind me and stuck the above shown a post it note on my back. At first she acted like she didn't want me to see it, and then finally pulled it off to show me. Matthew came along and jokingly made a "Kick Me" post it note and slammed it unceremoniously on my back while grinning and pantomiming what it said to both Angela and Olesya. That too was pulled off by Matthew, and both lay there side by side on the table while I uploaded over 100 photos to Walmart so we could print them for the girls and send them to the Boarding School to share with their friends.

The notes sat there, unnoticed by me at all as I was busily photoshopping and cropping. It wasn't until later when I felt another pat on my back from Angela that I looked at them again, knowing full well which note was plastered again on my back. I was quietly touched to find I was wrong, as I looked at the "Kick Me" note sitting there in front of me and realized Angela had placed "Mama I love you" on my back again. Subtle stuff...important much goes on that is very nuanced.

Or maybe I read too much into things.

Olesya was bored a bit today as I purposely left the kids to their own devices to see how they handled it. They played on the trampoline, walked to the mailbox with Kenny towing Olesya behind him in the wagon, they played with the Wii, Angela and Matthew spent hours working on a Christmas gift we gave him, a 540 piece puzzle that is a round globe.

Eventually Olesya got some paper and markers, and drew something which I did not get a chance to see as I was emptying the dryer and moving laundry. The next thing I knew all the photos and papers were taken off the fridge and rearranged to her liking, and then her own pictures went up:

There, beneath the invitation to our Family Celebration prior to them coming home, prior to all the heartache and challenges of our 2 1/2 month odyssey to bring them home, she placed her drawings. Papa in Russian, everyone else in English...a family drawn at the bottom...HER family. What must all of this feel like? There are moments during the past couple of days that you can almost see her saying to herself "Pinch me! Pinch me! Is this real???? ". Olesya was so thoroughly ready for a family, so ready to give her considerably warm heart to us all.

I must admit, I am with her, there are moments when I have been saying "Pinch me! Pinch me!" as it doesn't feel quite "real" yet.

But beyond post it's and pinches were a couple of other special moments, this time from Angela. Today I was filled with dread as I awoke, knowing Dominick was not going to be here and considering the way Angela has acted towards me the past couple of days I expected things to perhaps get down right nasty today. My fears never materialized, thankfully.

Quite the contrary, today I was called Mama for the first time with feeling from Angela. She has only called out to me once or twice since Day 1 and it was when she wanted food and was uncomfortably said and avoided as much as possible. Conferring a title on someone makes the relationship somehow more valid. Today 3 or 4 times Angela called out to me "Mama! Basketball?" or when jumping on the trampoline saying "Mama...Mama!" and wanting to add on "Look at me" but not having the language to do it.

An even better sign of acceptance was when Dominick came home and went outside to play basketball with Angela and Matthew. The back door opens and Angela sticks her head in and asks "" and I go out expecting to be teamed up with Matthew or Dominick and was pleasantly surprised when she declared "Mama...Angela, Papa...Matthew!" indicating she wanted for her and I to team up. That was a huge surprise, especially when it meant she chose me over Dominick.

Basketball Bonding comes highly recommended by Team LaJoy. :-)

As we played I shot several decent baskets and one really good one that was "nuthin' but net" from fairly far out for our little patio and I heard Angela whisper "Ohhhh....!" then give me a high five with a grin. We beat the boys (Really now, was there actually ever any doubt about the outcome???), and in the process beat down old fears as well. Slowly, ever so gently, we are making progress with connecting with Angela.

But the best and most telling moment came tonight, when I came in late from Ash Wednesday service and both girls were in bed with Olesya fast asleep and Angela drifting and almost deep. Matthew climbed up on the ladder to see if she was already really asleep and I saw her eyes slowly open and she looked down at me. I quietly reached up for her hand, expecting that she might pull it away from me and instead she grabbed hold of it tightly and held on for several minutes. I looked up at her, seeing just her eyes peek out from the covers and as my hand was being squeezed by hers I said "I love you." and she gave an extra little "ooopmh" to the squeeze before letting go.

I was reminded tonight of our current situation when the lines to a litany were read and reminded me of a song we sang in choir awhile back which was taken from a verse in Lamentations. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning, new every morning, great is thy faithfulness oh Lord, great is thy faithfulness.

And so it is for us as well...our own steadfast love will never cease, our mercy will never end...our faithfulness will be great as God promised that we were all to be together and it wasn't to rip any of us apart but to build us up to be even stronger. May I live that out each and every day, even the rough ones.

I am trying, God. I'll never give up. And thanks for the new morning each day to start fresh.

What an incredibly emotional time in my life. I don't think I have ever been through something so deep down poignant, never experienced anything where the emotions have swung from such incredible highs and dropped down to the depths of despair unrelentingly.

I am utterly depleted of any internal resources I have. In fact, as I was driving home this evening I was struck by the thought that I feel very much as if I am telling myself to simply put one foot in front of another so I can make it through each day. And then, just as I feel completely empty inside and as if there is nothing more I can take in before breaking, something comes along that fills me up. Tonight I received the most thoughtful gift. It was a picture frame with a photo of our family, and above it my own words from a blog post a few weeks back in which I had written that I discovered I am proud to be a Professional Mom.

Surprisingly, at least at this stage, I am not finding it all that difficult to care for 2 more. Yes, the extra laundry stinks but if you just get in and get 'er done it isn't a big deal. Cooking for more isn't hard, and having that many children at home is not really all that hard. But then again, it might be if we had different children, but we are blessed to have hard working, considerate children who pitch in without complaint. We all bear the burden of housework, which makes my life considerably easier and makes THEM better marriage prospects someday!

The emotional stuff is what takes it's toll on you, and I am a shell right now, trying to get back in the swing of real life and going through the motions but not being altogether present for anything in particular...just getting by. I wonder how long it will take for me to feel more engaged with the world and my friends.

As I reread my very own words displayed in that frame, I see the truth in them. I see my own years long journey described right there in print

We have a long way to go, our daughters and I. But today, for the first time, I felt like I was really their mom in their eyes.

And after finishing writing and sending this post I read my email and was directed by Hilary to her blog, where she dedicated a post to our family and created a slide show just about us. God lifts us up continually, using one another to be the conduits of love. Watching this lovingly created slide show, made by a woman I consider a dear friend yet have never met, I felt God's hand on my shoulder reassuring me it will all be OK.

I also think that maybe, for just a moment, I "got it". I have always said I don't really honestly understand what draws anyone to read our blog, as it is just about our odd little family whom I assume no one else should really find interesting. After all, isn't it sort of like being forced to watch someone's vacation photos and smile saying how great it was?

Seeing the photos stream across the screen, not having created the slide show myself but knowing the story of our family, I saw the miracle that we are. This family created from nothing but love and a desire to follow God's leading for our lives, no matter how stupid others might think we are. This mismatched, virtual twinned, multi-racial, multi-ethnic, super nutty family of ours is a miracle. Seeing us as an observer rather than the creator of the story for just the few minutes of that show, I caught a glimmer of what it is that might draw you all to our story. Living it is one thing, you don't really look outside of the experience. Seeing it from the outside is very different.

God is breaking me down and lifting me up continually right now. I am being recreated and up until today I have been very afraid and uncomfortable with that. Who will I be when I come out the other side? Who will our new daughters be? Am I going through this so that I can better facilitate their "becoming"?

To view the slide show Hilary so lovingly made to celebrate our family, visit her blog at

turn off the player on the right so you can hear the music from the slide show.

Hilary and Jan, thanks for letting God use you to help me through one of the most amazing and challenging experiences I am sure I will ever face. I am forever touched by so many, and tonight the slide show and the photo frame were enough to push me over the edge...I am raw now, not only with worry, sorrow and anguish, but you placed a band aid with a big old heart right over the wounds of this week, and I know it will remain there as we ride out this roller coaster to see to it that our daughters are healed and loved.

Thank you to so many, many people who continue to lift us up, asking God to be with us.

How'd you know how badly I needed all of this???


Anonymous said...

Hi Cindy,

I have been following your journey since your brought Kenny home. I am so excited for your family. I can't believe the girls are finally home! I think you have hit it on the nail. Angela is trying to make sense of her new life and doesn't know how to show her love for you. It seems she has an idea but may be holding back due to her past? You are right, parenting children with a past is not easy. Last night, Claire (adopted at 5) and Zoey (adopted at 3) and I were watching videos of Pavlodar (their birth city). Zoey was so excited, and Claire was biting her nails. I could tell she was nervous. All of a sudden she asked me if her birthmother could take her away if we went to Kaz. I was so surprised at this. All of this time, she has thought her birthmother could take her away from the only family she has ever known. A testament to the fact that their fears about the past are always lurking even if they don't articulate it.

Hang in there and get some rest, and enjoy your family!

Robin Gillis

Laura said...

Welcome home. My heart sings for you. I would love to have our Petro girls connect some time.
Laura(my Biba is 12)

Anonymous said...

Thank you to Hillary. I've noted your consistently loving comments on the blog and am truly not surprised that you thought of such a totally wonderful gift for Cindy and family. What skill mixed with great heart! THANK YOU!

Ms Jane

Anonymous said...

We are sometimes emptied to make space for the joys and love to come. In your case, I think it has all been compressed and pushed to the edges to make more space around your generous heart.

Love to each of you,

Of course, Angela chose you as her partners. Smart women know how to choose strong partners. Didn't you, Cindy?

Kelly and Sne said...

After reading your post, I wondered if this isn't what motherhood is all about: giving so much of yourself that you feel just depleted inside then being filled back up by the love you feel for your children - and they of you. So glad that both the girls are also opening their hearts to a real mother. Sometimes love is like a cat - if you try too hard to coax it to come to you, it won't. The cat just might need to do it on her own terms and you will just need to be open to it when it happens.

Lori said...

As I am always for you...happy for the obvious and beautiful blessings of each of those sweet little lives.
They too are lucky to have such wonderful parents. My heart is just full knowing you are enjoying such simple but treasured pleasures!!!

wilisons said...

Your posts are amazing, honest, and real. Why I read your blog is simple, you are courageous, filled with love and faith, and a generosity of spirit. You are also an amazing mom and one I view as a role model. Your posts always come to me when I need them most. Thank you for opening up your life and sharing it with us.

another Kaz mom

Tammy said...

These days, everytime I read your blog I end up crying. I know the ups and downs are incredibly difficult, even when you know in your head Angela is just trying to sort things out. From a distance, seeing the courage it takes for her to dance ever closer to you is beautiful and a testament to your entire family.

There is not doubt that challenges will remain as she tries to figure things out. But remember this: she *chose* you guys. She was not an infant or small child who had no idea what was happening when she left the orphanage. She feels *a lot* for both of you or she wouldn't have gambled both her and Olyesa's future. The "specifics" of the relationship, so to speak, she need to be worked out for her. But the relationship is there and has been there for a long time.

Besides, she is competitor - of course she will want to to WIN the basketball game, not just play it! (I have a feeling she feels the same way about this family stuff too - she just needs to learn the rules of the game).

All my prayers remain with you guys.

Lisa in CO, USA said...

Hi Cindy,
Beautiful post again. I think you give all us prospective adoptive parents of "older" children hope that there can be a happy ending for these kids! We are supposed to travel to Kaz in March to meet a beautiful 5 year old girl we hope will become our daughter. So thank you for your honesty and openess about your experiences.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely love love love your blog. I would love to be a Mom like you. There is so much I can learn from you. Your family is absolutely amazing.

Helen from Berlin

(Mom to Nadja, 12, adopted in Russia in 2006)