Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Whole New World

This entire year has turned our family upside down, not just with the addition of 2 beautiful daughters, but with the quite unexpected path of homeschooling which I was ill prepared for and still feel quite terrified of. Slowly I am letting go, relaxing, "winging it" the best I can, and thus far am fairly pleased with the results when I am not beating myself up.

Having children who too have some letting go to do, some transforming to experience, has given me an entirely new perspective.

I have to say that honestly though, this is the most humbling, amazing, wonderful thing to watch...not just the molding of individuals into a family, but to see discovery happening on an almost hourly watch relationships see wonder in the eyes of an older child is unlike anything I can explain. We expect it in toddlers and preschoolers, we seldom see it in today's world, particularly with the children we encounter who have an almost world weary weight around them as they have seen and done so much that almost nothing causes their eyes to widen.

For example, ice is a huge hit around here. We have baggies of it in the car to chomp on, we see girls walking around with it hanging unceremoniously from their lips as it sticks there glued by cold and saliva and accompanied by a huge grin. They had never had ice before, drinks are all served at room temperature or warm there.

A couple of days ago Angela rolled down her window after asking if it was OK, and enjoying the warmth of spring looked at me to determine if it was acceptable to put her arm out the window. Imagine how totally cool it was to watch her as she did this for the first time and realized that air flow over your exposed hand and arm feels incredibly powerful. She played with it the entire time we drove home, as we all did at one point or another in our childhood. She turned to me and pointed at the window and said " window". She had never been in a car where she could roll the window down and feel a breeze rushing past.

Neither of the girls can identify meat, either raw or cooked. I am asked continually "Is it dog? Is it horse? Is it pig? Is it cat?". Remember, institutionalized children get handed a plate of food and it seldom contains meat in the forms we are used to seeing it, and they never get to see it being how would they know?

We have had so many of these moments that I wish I had recorded each and every one of them, but alas time is not always easy to find right now.

But along with hearts opening up, we are seeing cracks in the door of minds as well, and that is about the biggest kick a mom and dad could ever ask for. It is gradual, it is subtle, but it is happening. Gentle encouragement and not stepping in to be the official Entertainment Committee is definitely the right approach, and we are seeing results. In time, we just might have some new Curious George's (or maybe Georgette's!) on our hands!

Here is the nest Olesya carefully created along with the seed. It is just outside our front door and ALL the kids have enjoyed seeing the birds come and eat, although Olesya was disturbed that the birds made a mess of her nest and weren't using it the way she intended :-) This alone was huge and has already occupied her for a couple of hours or more as she tends it with care.

Olesya trying to bribe birds into visiting her nest! She created a trail of seed for them to follow.

In art class the 3 kids all made sunflowers as they studied the works of Georgia O'Keefe. I promptly decided to frame them and hang them in our bedroom, and the kids all looked at them with great pride and were so pleased. Love how the same subject looks so different through varying eyes. Can you guess which child created which one?

This is what we are hoping to see more of, Angela playing like a kid. She stayed out there for about 20 minutes playing in the dirt with the boys while Olesya "nested". If only we can help her recapture even the tiniest portion of her missed childhood, I will feel successful. Slowly we are seeing tentative steps in that direction. Thankfully our sons know how to lead the way in a gentle, thoughtful manner. As an aside, you can imagine the girls' disappointment when told the boat in the background was not ours, that we are simply storing it for someone who needed a place for it for the winter. In fact, it was actually one of the harder things to explain the first day we were home. How do you explain THAT one with non-existent English and pantomiming! did key us in on another experience we need to fit in this summer...boating! They've never been on the water before!

We have done incredibly well with the language differences, and overall that tends to be the issue lowest on the totem pole, despite what most might think. Occasionally though, it does give us cause for hilarious hoots of laughter, such as tonight. The girls and Matthew were working in the kitchen for school as they learn life skills, and all were preparing a fried chicken dinner with a much anticipated cake that needed to be frosted. Olesya was making white gravy and was also going to frost the cake with white frosting. The next thing I know I hear "Mama...look....look" and I turn around to find a gravy laden yellow cake staring back at me, and Olesya standing there looking utterly perplexed. She knew it didn't look right BUT these crazy Americans do some odd things sometimes, so maybe this is the way it is supposed to look???

Dominick being the good dad he is actually even tried a bite, but declared it a bit too peppery for his taste! No way any of us could contain the laughter over this one, even Olesya.

But we had success in other areas, and after the kids all poked at the raw chicken and giggled over the word "breasts", they did a great job making the meal, including home made mashed potatoes. We did, however, forgo the Gravy Cake for the evening.

For those of you wondering how Matthew is getting along with the girls being home with him, and having been displaced as the "eldest" yet again, this picture pretty much says it all. It is not a rare moment captured digitally, it is the way they all are together pretty much the entire day. The moment I wish I could have caught was when Angela and Matthew were scraping the bowl before cooking the Gravy Cake, and I grabbed Matt's spoon and took a little for myself...and Angela spoon fed him some from her spoon so he wouldn't be left out. Why is it the tenderest and most telling moments never get recorded the way you wish?

In our final photo of the day, Matthew shows his delight at receiving his new Physics science kit. Beside it is the work he has done the past 3 weeks on his Physics lapbook which focused on materials in buildings and structures. He has learned so much and seeing his excitement about his education these days is enough to spur me on in the homeschooling arena even when I am feeling totally overwhelmed and like I'll never succeed at this. This face alone was enough to make me realize I am not failing, for my son now loves to learn. He is eager, he is being transformed himself this year. Whenever I hear that little voice saying "This is too hard! Who do you think you are to be doing this? You have no college degree nor are you qualified...what are you doing here?" I think I will go look at this photo to remind me of all the reasons I am attempting what seems impossible. And I will also remind myself of the most important qualification I

So it is definitely a life filled with change at Casa LaJoy. The Team is finding that daily there is something to explore, we are being pushed and prodded into new growth, we are being molded into a new version of Team LaJoy. That can be very uncomfortable at times, and yet we make it through to a whole new world somehow. While the old world wasn't a bad one by any means, the new one will be richer, deeper and filled with ever more love than we might possibly imagine.

Somehow, we are making it. The love and help of others, the understanding and warmth that is offered by both friends and acquaintances has kept us stable and nurtured. The prayers are paying off, how grateful we are for those prayers that have seen us through and continue to uplift us. I wish it were possible for each and every person who reads the blog to witness this up close and personal, I try to convey all that is going on but I can't do it justice. It is just too awe inspiring, even to those of us walking through it.

At moments this week I feel the need to pinch myself. They are here, they are finally home. Thank you God for never letting us get so low that we quit on the dream. Thanks for sustaining us as we try our best to be the kind of parents they have long deserved. I promised you long ago that if given this opportunity to parent them I would give it my all and never give up. You did Your part, now it is up to us to do ours. May we be worthy of all you have blessed us with.

And thanks for the glimmers of light and hope this week, I needed it.


Anonymous said...

I'll be the first to comment this time, as I woke from the couch at 12:15am, good book slid to the floor, glasses still on my face. My 2nd wind brought me to check on a friend's caringbridge site and to see how your day went. As you can see, there is more than one person living vicariously through yours. You know it's just that I can so relate to all the new and challenging things you experience each day, as the love continues to grow there.

I love the sunflower art! I still have two framed drawings in our bedroom that our daughter made for us when she was four or five. Mine was an pretty blue teapot, daddy's was a blue sports car. Little did she know then that he would be traveling through life in a series of mini-vans! She became a design major, before switching to kinesiolgy. She's now married and a very caring personal trainer. Life goes by way too fast.

Homeschooling is providing your kids concentrated and accelerated bonding with each other, building a ton of memories, filling their hearts with family "history" for the years ahead. I'm sure when the other two come home from their school day, they are generously welcomed into the mix. You truly have been blessed with great kids whom God intended to be brothers and sisters. We had four girls before we became parents of two sons. Since then, two more daughters were added to the mix. I remember asking our social worker during our homestudy visits for our first son (age four when he came home, if it was fair to give a boy four (eventually six!) sisters? I'm so thankful our girls have had the chance to have brothers, and vice versa. The older four have been such a blessing to these younger ones, and having these younger ones has both challenged and blessed them in return. They have added new dimensions to each others' lives, as your boys and girls are doing. That is a gift, knowing more about the opposite sex by having the opportunity to grow up with them.

Olesya's gravy cake was just too funny, not to mention a great memory for your family of these times of discovery. Your response and acceptance of her natural mistake was wonderful, not to mention having a dad who would so generously/bravely try a bite. I can only imagine, that along with some of the hard times, you are experiencing so much love and laughter at your house. The girls must be soaking it in and slowly healing from the difficulties of their past. You are all on overload, being both blessed and stretched from all angles. When I read all the great ideas and new experiences you are providing for your girls, all the living going on at your house, I praise God for what He has done for two more children in the world by giving them a wonderful family to call their own. I know none of us as adoptive parents like to have people tell us we have done a wonderful thing in bringing home our kids...but we can see it for others and know it is true. That's what keeps me coming back to read here, watching the blessing of family unfold for two more children who so desperately deserved to know committment and love.

I'm sorry my comments are way more than comments, but your words and photos bring out so many thoughts, Cindy. Again, your blog is such a wonderful family history of this time. If it weren't for letters I wrote to our kids while we were in process and when they came home, I would have forgotten some of the amazing details and funny antecdotes. I hope you're printing this as you go along. You don't want to chance any of your words being lost in cyberspace.

Nancy in the Midwest, heading back to bed before it's time to get up again

Anonymous said...

If we can't be present or at least occasional visitors, we are blessed to enjoy Team LaJoy through your words and delightful pictures. Thank you.

I think your friend who is storing the boat with you should pay you with some outings this summer. Sweitzer Lake for a go at water skiing--take along your camera for that new experience, and Ridgway Dam for beauty.

Sometimes college degrees are given more weight than they deserve. Wisdom, kindness, love, applied intelligence, and creativity provide qualities that no college education can teach. Those are qualities you have in abundance.

Oleysa's nest is beautiful. It is a job any bird would be proud of. If you can convey to her, once a nest is occupied by baby birds, mom and dad have the job of keeping it clean. They push debris and scat out on a regular basis. Perhaps in a past life she was a mother bird.

What a joy the picture of Matthew with his new physics kit is. What a gift to see a child come alive with learning. The decision to homeschool is one to confirm and celebrate.


Raynola said...


You are doing an awe inspiring job with your children! Please don't ever question your parenting skills and techniques. You do everything from a genuine place of love and that shows through in the results.

I am impressed with the artwork, my guess at the artist of origin would be Angela, Matthew, and then Oleysa, working from the top down. Am I right? While I was reading and viewing the sunflowers Rob sat down on the arm of my chair, after a few seconds, I could hear him quietly singing in my ear, "You are my sunshine, my only sunshine...." Perfect to go along with the sunflowers! Tell your children, that I would love to make a trade, some of my artwork for theirs. And I hope that maybe,perhaps,one day I might have the oportunity and honor of sitting down and collaberating on a piece/work of creation with them. That would be so much fun.

Thank you so much for your kind words of encouragement last night, I needed that. You in all you in the middle of doing, take the time to help others I can see why your children love you so much and are doing so well.

God Bless you and all of yours, for we are truly blessed for knowing you.

Anonymous said...

What a joy to read about your day to day activities!

After waiting through the long, long winter, spring comes at last. It seems it is spring in more ways than on in the LaJoy home.

Praise and thanksgiving to our Creator!

Peggy in Virginia

Michelle said...

I think Oleysa's is in the middle! I am really looking forward to is fun to see how other families initiated it before we jump in.

Kelly and Sne said...

How great that everybody is opening up! Nothing like that moment of discovery at ANY age! I think many of today's kids get world weary because so much entertainment is served up to them on a platter in videos, movies, TV, internet, videogames, etc. They start to expect the 'real' world to be that exciting - with action every minute - and with enhanced effects. Glad that you are taking a different route!

p.s. try putting the bird's nest into a hanging basket (like for a plant) under an eave (spell?) by a quiet part of the house. a bird family may just move in if she is feeding them nearby. we have several families in various parts of our house who come back every year to the same place.

Anonymous said...

I've never commented before but I want to say what a great woman/mom/teacher/friend you are to so many! You are so wise and loving - those kids can't help but turn out great! I wanted to say as someone with advanced degrees that college degrees aren't all they are cracked up to be - they only teach you how to learn and hopefully how to love learning, in my humble opinion and sounds like you have it all!! Love to all those wonderful LaJoys, Lynn

Regina said...

Hi Cindy,

I have rediscovered your blog since I became a new Antares Foundation sponsor. I have enjoyed catching up and seeing how much your lives have changed and how much your children have grown!

I am sponsoring 3 children through first box is going out on Monday. I think 2 of them may have been in your daughters' family: Tanya Malvishkina and Maxim Lopatin. (The other child is Indira Adelbaeva.) I wanted to mention it in case your daughters would be interested to know. :-)

You are an inspiration to many, and it's wonderful to see that you and your husband are in the right mindset for this latest journey with incorporating Oleysa and Angela into your wonderful family.

My son, Milan (Milo) from Aktobe is now 3.5. He is doing very well growing like weed under a nuclear reactor. Much respect and many good wishes for continued strength, wisdom and love!

Regina, Frank and Milo Ruopoli