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 stuff...so 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 "Mama...basketball?" 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 http://bringinghomeanara.blogspot.com/2010/02/welcome-home-angela-olesya-lajoy.html
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???