Have you ever had one of those blessed early spring evenings, where everything just felt right in your world and you looked around as your eyes drank in the sight of all that is important to you and you realized you wouldn't trade your life for anything in the world?
Leaving at 7:45 AM this morning with kids in tow, rushing about to grab swimwear, adoption documents, racket ball gear, jackets, keys, soccer cleats and shin guards and making sure I still have all my marbles contained within my noggin, I never expected today would be the day when I fell utterly, madly in love.
On the agenda today we had 3 meetings scheduled at Delta Vision Home and Community Program, which is the full name of the public homeschooling program we work through. One was to learn about "English in a Flash", a program designed for ESL (English as a Second Language) learners which they purchased for our family. The program looks terrific and will give us a great start for the girls, although surprisingly the first part of chapter 1 of the program contained all English words they have already learned. Their language is developing at a phenomenal rate but this program is designed to be used over a year or more, so I was assured it has many levels of difficulty for them to work with.
Between meetings being held for a variety of mundane purposes, the kids went to the local pool and played racketball, as it is too far to go back home only to have to turn around and return for the next meeting. We happily ran into the kids' horsemanship and science teacher, and their very sweet daughter who is about the same age as the girls. I was happy to see the girls so excited to see her, and they asked if we could take her swimming next time. Slowly but surely, the girls are making new friends, starting to reach out to others and feel more comfortable in their new world.
It was later in the day, as I sat in the car waiting for Dominick to arrive at soccer practice for 4 of the 5 so I could take off that "it" happened. Angela is giggling like crazy laying on the floor of the car trying to squirm out of her pants to change into her soccer clothes, I am tugging on pants legs and we are laughing like happy idiots, then she hops into the front seat next to me, drapes her feet over my legs and winds her feet in the steering wheel, then sits there contentedly chatting with me...so relaxed, so happy, grinning from ear to ear as I rub her leg where she "biffed" on her bike hard yesterday afternoon and came in the house a bruised and slightly bloody mess.
Eventually she and Olesya get out of the car and run to go see Dominick as he pulls up, then all the kids run back to the van to say goodbye to me before I leave. I roll down the window to be greeted by Kenny's puckered lips, Olesya in line for a kiss, Joshua squeezing his way in, and I just felt how strongly Angela wanted to be part of that closeness. I looked up and saw her open, smiling face and her hand reached through the window for mine and she said "I love you...be careful...see you!!" and she squeezed my arm before jogging happily away.
Driving away, I had so many thoughts going through my head. The one that came through the loudest though was my prayer to God for the certainty years and years ago that we were their family, and that we never gave up. I felt so strongly, right at the moment that Angela squeezed my arm that God was telling me I am the single only person who was to be their mom, that something in me and something in them matches...and that Angela in particular needed only me. I am not sure why, but there is this sense that I understand her in a way others never would, and whatever I have struggled with in my life leading up to this moment has uniquely strengthened and prepared me for parenting her...and for letting her spirit be who it is without any desire to change the core of who she is. Why would I want to? She is wonderful!
The child before us now, 7 weeks after arriving home, has a lightness to her and an exuberance we had never expected. She is walking around the house singing all the time, laughing and joking as if she hadn't a care in the world. A homeschooling mentor and friend of ours said she has noticed an incredible difference from week to week too, so it is not wishful thinking on my part. This child is literally transforming right before our eyes. The serious, colder, stiffer child is ever so slowly softening, becoming less burdened, reaching out for comfort and warmth from others. As I typed this and had already tucked the kids in for bed, all the kids chimed in "Night Mom!", and I as usual called out "Night...love you!" and Angela answered back "I love you!" in 5 different sing songy voices. This is NOT the child we brought home!!
Driving to church tonight for choir practice, my first impulse was to call our adoption angels over the phone and sobbingly thank them for the gift of these amazing, beautiful, wonderful daughters of ours. If I had their phone number handy it was a call I would have loved to make, for at that moment their generosity sunk in even deeper than it ever had, as I drove filled with the warmth of the love I had left behind on a chilly soccer field...a love that is growing daily.
I came home from choir practice to discover my family ready to fly a cool kite the boys chipped in to buy and share. I wandered outside to watch as they made several attempts to get it airborne, only to see it crash and burn fairly quickly. The delight over such a simple thing was so LaJoy-like in a way I can not really describe. I live in the midst of the best family in the whole world. There is such an abundance of everything necessary for a happy life here...compassion, sharing, abiding love, commitment, faith. These people, littler and bigger, are the ones I am lucky enough to walk through life with. Their smiles are the ones I get to see each morning, and their hugs are the ones I can receive and give back each night. Their twisted, sick sense of humor is something I think you have to be a LaJoy to appreciate, and their intellect is something I greatly respect even when it doesn't "measure up" on state tests. That's OK because we all know that everyone in this house is gifted in a million ways, and in the areas we lag behind we help lift each other up. Kenny was telling me Angela was working with him to help him not be so afraid of having the soccer ball kicked to him. Kenny in turn has helped explain things in the kitchen to the girls. Olesya is teaching me how to be a mommy to a more girlie girl, and I am helping her learn how to do a gazillion different things. The generosity of spirit is the thing I would miss most though, whether it is sharing gum balls with everyone, sharing the front passenger seat, or sharing our hearts.
Looking at this picture I was surprised to see such a height difference between Kenny and Matthew. Hard to believe that Kenny is actually the "big" brother by 8 months! He'll always be our special little guy.
The love we have at home helps combat the outside world. When things are harder, it becomes our harbor. Josh has had a rough time at school recently. We discovered yesterday that a particular group of boys has been making him pretty miserable at lunch time, teasing him and making fun of him because of his race. He was in tears yesterday as he told us how they have made faces at him because of his Asian eyes, and that he doesn't want to eat lunch anymore because it is happening often in the lunch line. We knew there had been an incident at the beginning of school, but this was the first we had heard of it continuing and he had kept it to himself until yesterday, when it finally came out after I picked him up from school. Thankfully, his teacher came to the rescue and got to the bottom of it, and once again we felt God provided the perfect person at the perfect time to intervene on our child's behalf. She handled it with class and a very firm hand, as did another teacher.
With our two sons being the only 2 Asian children in their school, a little of this is bound to happen, but this was going well beyond the expected norm. With Josh being such a sensitive hearted little boy (not wimpy, just tender), it is a fine line to walk. He is trying to sort out now what is acceptable and what is not...is someone asking out of curiosity or are they actually teasing to hurt his feelings? We don't want our kids walking around with a chip on their shoulder just waiting for someone to say something that they can skew in their own mind into something unacceptable. And let's face it, our family DOES look different and natural curiosity is bound to happen once in awhile. It can be hard sometimes helping our kids maneuver the world they are part of when others sometimes attempt to invalidate them or their family. "Is that your REAL mom?" some ask doubtfully. "Are those really your sisters?" or "Didn't your real mom and dad want you?" the boys often get asked.
But we are the lucky ones. We get to come home to one another, where we are each so deeply loved. Many of the children who taunt don't have that safe haven to return to at the end of the day. Many of the parents whose comments occasionally rankle don't have that peace surrounding them every evening. For everything that is hard...for the transitions and the heartaches, for the challenges and the uphill battles, we still have a happy, happy home filled with all the good things life is about.
Kites are flying and hearts are soaring. God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.