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 basis...to watch relationships blossom...to 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 "Kazakhstan...nyet...no 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 prepared...so 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! BUT...it 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 have...love.
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.