Monday, March 01, 2010

The Dance

What an eventful couple of days we have had! least by LaJoy standards, which are frankly pretty darned low :-) Sunday was the 2 week mark home, and we are losing no time in moving forward.

Strangely, in many ways, Dominick and I were talking about how normal all of this feels in some regards. Angela and Olesya feel so much like our children, so firmly a part of our family it is as if we have all been together forever. I hesitate to make this all sound too Polly-Anna-ish, but it really is going far better than I expected, in spite of all the oddness at moments. We were well prepared for the issues we are facing, and that helps. We are more laid back and more mature ourselves, and that helps too.

But I keep coming back to the sense that God wanted these specific children with this specific family. Even the boys have each commented that they don't really feel like "new" sisters, there is this comfort level with all of us even though we are strangers, and that is derived from the fact that our hearts are all very similar. There is a generosity of spirit amongst all of the kids that blows me away, an intentional thoughtfulness that I know many parents would kill to have evident in their children and for which we can take very little credit.

For example, today we ended up at the Dollar Store for a snack after school and I handed each kiddo a buck and told them to go nuts. Glad they are so easy to please! Hahaha! Oh my goodness it was fun to watch the girls as they slowly figured out that EVERYTHING in the store was really and truly only a dollar. Angela stopped in the midst of the candy aisle shaking her head in wonder as she tried to indicate to me that she had no idea what to get, there were simply too many choices. Everyone made their selection and we drove the cashier nuts with 6 of us buying our dollar purchases independently so everyone gets used to spending their own money. But in the car it was a free for all...and it made my heart sing to have every single child offering some of their treat to everyone fact insisting that each person at least try their special treat. May sound like nothing but I remember driving my own parents crazy with our greediness and complaints about who got to sit up front, who got more, etc. I am eternally thankful to find myself in the situation where I am parenting children who for some reason are far, far different than the child I once was.

Angela and I are still in a gentle little dance with each other, weaving and bobbing to some waltz that only she and I can hear. Dip in towards each other, dip away, spin around and try it again. Today as we crossed a busy street with Joshie in tow, she grabbed my hand for the first time...such little things take on such deep meaning. She is a unfailingly helpful child, and eager to please us. She tried again to blow me off in the dollar store and I decided to play it up just for grins to see what kind of reaction I would get...she said something like "Momma Bad" when we were talking about someone else and she was taken aback when I abruptly turned and walked away after she said it. She chased me down the aisle and said "I'm sorry Momma...Momma nyet bad!! I'm sorry!", and I think she genuinely meant it and maybe for the first time realized the effect of her little snipes here and there. I was also glad to see her compassion for my feelings, not because it made me feel better (although of course it did...but this was really a ruse to take a reading of her) but because I wondered if she even had the capacity at all to be empathetic with mother figures. Glad to learn she can be that way.

Olesya is proving even more exuberant than we anticipated...this girl is a total hoot (Actually they both are!), literally dancing a jig around the house, collapsing to the floor in giggles, flitting here and there like a butterful in search of nectar that suddenly is ALL around her. I get hugs often throughout the day, continual smiles, and reassurance in this way reminds me all is good when things are a tad harder with Angela.

And I do want to say that "hard" with Angela is thus far NOTHING like with Joshua. How thankful I am for that experience so that we could move forward in confidence to Kenny and the girls! Right now we are going through an incredibly stressful time, but Josh was a full blow nightmare of no sleep, kicking and screaming at me continually for hours on end, throwing Matchbox cars at me from the back of the car, and endless food fights. Sorry girls, next to Joshie, you seem like a piece of cake!!! And I realize to many, THIS would be intolerable. As I said, thankfully we have been presented a different measuring stick from God and that I am able to successfully detach at the harder times and not take it personal, instead seeing it for what it really is...their first mom was untrustworthy and Angela in particualr is affected deeply by that. In time, she will be able to disconnect the image of "Mom" and correctly categorize it all with her biological mom and I in very separate categories. It will take a lot of time and perhaps a lot of therapy eventually, but I have no doubt she'll get there.

Sunday we went out to see the previously mentioned Malinky Moo Moos, thanks to Joshie's teacher. It was freezing, it was Muddy wtih a capital "M" and we had fun! We got to see a calf pee in her son's leg, the kids all took turns feeding the cows, we pet a little one and to top it off they all got to play in a tree fort! Paradise Found, that's what it was. Here are a few photos:

Today we had a slow and somewhat inauspicious start to homeschooling as the girls were really dragging and testing me to see if I really mean it when I say today is a school day. Angela got up with a bit of a 'tude, was quiet and not communicating at all. Olesya was not ready when it was time to leave and was hard to pull out of bed. I let her know in no uncertain terms that I was not going to have Kenny and Joshua late for school because she was deciding not to get moving. In the car Angela feigned sleep as a way of avoiding having anything to do with me...subtle it was not. When we arrived back home, both went into the TV room and laid down on the couches, which lasted all of about a minute and a half until I discovered them. Not one for being subtle myself either, I put my hands on my hips and said "Schoola Time...get up, you do not need to sleep. It is a school day and you need to get to work!", and they both sluggishly got up and shuffled into the dining area. It was not due to lack of sleep after 11 hours the night before, this was toddler testing to see if I was really serious about this whole school thing!! A quick little prayer for patience worked and within 30 minutes or so that air had lifted and it was beginning to feel normal again, thankfully. I really was not in the mood for a knock down drag out about anything and once they got moving on time4learning they stayed engaged and focused for about an hour and really do seem to enjoy it, asking if they can do it longer.

From there it was Letter B Day, and we read a short little beginner printed out book from, the single most fabulous web site ever where you can tailor worksheets for your child and their strengths and weaknesses. I had a word search for them with words beginning in B, and then we baked banana bread together (Don't you just love illiteration?). We are going to do a new consonant each day, even though they know them they have a lot of pre-reading work to do to get ready to read well...hearing the sounds correctly seems hard for both of them, etc. Matthew was quite the gentleman while we were baking, offering to be our Measuring Boy and not have to have the girls share equipment with him...he said to me "Mommy, I have already used a mixer before and done some of this stuff, I just want to help the girls so they can have fun with it."

After that we painted some small wooden name plaques which I will glue magnets on the back so they can be easily mounted on their beds. Angela is quite the artist and it was fun to see what all the kids came up with. In between we bagged coins in preparation for working on learning about money tomorrow. Matthew spent much of his time being tbhe grown up boy he is...helping as he could when necessary, and working independently on his own work. Right now he is studying the physics of structures and building materials for science and he begins working on the fall of the Soviet Union tomorrow with Mr. Steve who has graciously asked if he could teach him that subject.

What a blessing to have special people in our lives who care about our kids...we have someone volunteering to work with English with our kids who is an ESL kKindergarten teacher in real life, one of the teacher's at the kids' school has offered to talk with me about how to approach teaching the girls and offer help in the ways she can, and perhaps the biggest blessing of all...if they can even be our friends who are spending an enmormous amount of time Skyping with the girls and speaking Russian with them. That has sure helped keep the pressure cooker at a reasonable level for them as they can speak their own language for awhile, have someone to share the weirdness of it all with who understands and can be trusted, and of course share with us anything the girls need to get off their chest.

Last night that blessing came our way in an extremely touching way. They called me to the computer as they wanted us to know something. Our friend shared with us that the girls wanted him to tell us how grateful they are that we adopted them, how happy they are, and that we have changed their lives forever. I almost couldn't respond as I didn't want to choke up in front of them. Someday they will go back through this blog and learn all that went into this, all the years of heartache on our part as well as theirs, all the long years of paperwork and yearning. Maybe only then will they know how much we love them...and always have.

For now, actions speak louder than words...and we are showing them what love really is. I do believe they "get it" as Angela happily repeated again in the car yesterday with Lemonheads and Laffy Taffy flying to and fro, "LaJoy Family GOOD family!!".

I have one thing to add to that.

Angela and Olesya GOOD daughters!!


Anonymous said...

What a blessing to read about all the wonderful life changes going on in your family!

We, too, love the dollar store. It is a great place to teach kids about making choices and carefully spending money.

Good to know you were able to nip in the bud "The Attitude," otherwise it keeps growing.

And what joy to read about Angela's comments.

Thanks for giving me something special to rejoice about this morning!


Peggy in Virginia

Unknown said...

It's such a blessing to read how good things are going. Edhelper is a wonderful website. There is so much there, not only all the reading materials, but history and math, etc. You can even customize word search puzzles, make crosswords with your own word lists and vocabulary.

Anonymous said...

One step forward, two steps back, rinse and repeat! Cha, cha, cha! :-) Hang in there, kiddo - this will soon seem like a distant dream. Promise. Vegas.

Anonymous said...

Love, love, love reading of the growth that is happening in your relationships. Even the "tudes" seem pretty mild, though of course you're the one seeing them in person. Our daughter was also 11yrs old when she came home two and a half yrs ago. It's an age where they can still play and be a little girl on one hand, and the next thing you know, you hear a tone of voice that brings you back to reality of how old they really are. But keeping your girls "insolated" from some of the attitudes their peers might exhibit can only be a good thing for this time.

You are doing great. God is blessing you all with just what He had planned all along...being a family with these particular children.

Nancy in the Midwest

Anonymous said...

What an amazing journey to watch your family grow in love! Thank you so much for sharing! I continue to send prayers your way!


Anonymous said...

I'm following your story for some time, it's amazing!

I would like to tell you where the name Olesya came from as I happen to know and you probably wonder. It's a Ukrainian name, a diminutive of Alexandra, in Ukrainian it sounds Olexandra. There's another veraion, Lesya. Both became independent names. In 1980ties Olesya became trendy and spred all over the USSR. There's also a Byelorussian version, Alesya, that got popular.

Also, sometimes Olgas are called Olesyas in Ukraine.

Good luck,

Anonymous said...

Angela--Greek, "Angel" or "Messanger"
Alexandra/Oleysa--Greek, "Helper and defender of mankind"
Matthew--Hebrew, "Gift of Jehovah"
Kenneth--Irish Gaelic, "Handsome one" or Old English, "Royal oath"
Joshua--Hebrew, "God of Salvation
Cynthia--Greek, "The Moon" (among ancient Greeks, Cynthia was an epithet for Artemis or Diana, the moon goddess, who was born on Mount Cythos on the island of Delos
Dominic--Latin, "Born on Sunday, the Lord's Day" or "belonging to the Lord"

From Lael, Hebrew, "beloved by God"

Anonymous said...

Olesya may like the Fancy Nancy books, if she is a girly-girl. They are a little young, but do introduce some vocabulary words. Also, don't miss out on the cooking experience being a great math lesson - fractions, multiplication.