Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Perfect Fit

I've wanted to blog for a couple of days, but sometimes the words don't come. 98% of the time, I open up the laptop, blather on for 20 or 30 minutes, rarely taking time to proof it or reread it as I simply don't have the time necessary to do so (or I would never get a post up at all!), and call it done. Sometimes a post will take on a life of it's own and I have no idea where the words are generated from, once in awhile it will be something I have mulled over or chewed on myself for awhile, and occasionally it will be a thought that popped into my head in the shower. Rarely though am I at a loss for words. I say that with a broad grin as my mom always used to tell me I never stopped talking as a kid and that I always had to have the last word. Maybe I missed my calling and should have been an attorney. Although, thinking about it, the skills needed to be a mom are much the same as those needed to be a good attorney. Negotiating, thinking one step ahead at all times, understanding human nature and nuances...all things needed in both professions.

I shared pictures of our trip to the zoo, but didn't write because words aren't coming easily right now. I don't know if it is a case of brain overload or what, but I find even in one on one conversation I am dulled, unable to connect heart to heart the way I usually can. Perhaps right now that part of me is all used up.

We had a wonderfully relaxing weekend. The kids all loved the zoo, and I was surprised how many animals were there that I had never seen before. It was a particularly special delight to be there with somewhat older kids who were not at all so jaded or world weary that they were bored to death doing something as "childish" as going to the zoo. Much to the contrary, Dominick and I were grinning at each other as Angela and Olesya both started literally jumping up and down in their seats as we approached the entrance to the zoo. The boys weren't far behind them on the excitement scale, and the happiness continued throughout the day. There wasn't a dull moment as we visited everything on the "must see" list. Angela had to see bears, and got her fill. Olesya wanted to see giraffes and elephants, so we made sure to see them. We even got to touch a giraffe pelt shown by a zoo employee. Matthew wanted gorillas, so we checked them out. Kenny and Josh had no strong desire for any particular animal, just enjoying all of them.

Adding to the animal extravaganza, on our drive over and back we saw a terrific variety of Colorado wildlife, more than we have ever seen on any one trip. It was like our lovely state was showing off just for its newest residents. Within a few car lengths we saw huge elk, buffalo, a herd of antelope, a few marmots, several deer, and taking an unusual route home Angela counted no less than 11 waterfalls of varying sizes. We stopped at one to get out and stand nearby, just to hear the loud roar of the rushing water and feel the cool mist drifting upwards. "WOW!" was heard over and over again this weekend by boys and girls alike.

Before we left, I was cracking up as we were far more prepared than an entire Boy Scout troop. First Matthew packed up a medicine pouch that he could carry "just in case" with band aids, etc. Not 5 minutes later Joshie comes to me and asks if I can help him fill a small box with first aid supplies. We go digging for a few things when I realize it would be easier to just give him the small first aid box to carry, so off he goes to stuff it into his backpack. Then Olesya comes to me with a metal latching box and wants to take along a first aid kit back we trudge to the bathroom to stockpile what will now be enough band aids for an entire platoon. Olesya was the one to actually be the most prepared when we hit the zoo, and our little friend fell and before she could be picked up and dusted off, there stood Olesya having quickly whipped out a couple of band aids to be used, just like a pro. She is SUCH a wonderful little caretaker. This isn't typical orphanage care taking of a younger sibling, for she was that younger sibling herself being cared for. This is a naturally nurturing little lady who is just a born mommy in a million ways.

While over in Denver, we decided to take in the Museum of Science and Nature before leaving. We don't get over there that often, as it is quite a trek and not an inexpensive one, so we decided at the last minute to take advantage of our time there. Along with our friends we spent the morning there Monday and thoroughly enjoyed all the exhibits we managed to take in. We could have easily spent another 2 or 3 hours there, but it was growing late and we had a long drive ahead of us so we left without seeing the entire museum. It leaves us more to check out next time we visit.

There are moments when we are reminded that we are very blessed to parent the children we parent. We had several this weekend. I loved watching all our kids gently help with our friend's young 2 year old daughter, taking turns pushing her around the zoo, keeping an eye out for her, carrying her and serving her in the ways they could. We had other older children who did the same for ours when they were younger, and it is nice to see it paid forward in a small way.

We made this trip on a tight budget, but wanted to do a little something special for Angela's first birthday home so decided it was worth the cost. We were a bit like the Clampetts walking into the hotel room with a cooler filled with leftovers packaged up, as we spread our our smorgasbord of lasagna, Mexican seasoned chicken, beef rice, chips and salsa. We cracked up when we made sandwiches for the entire crew to cut down on cost a the zoo, and realized we had forgotten any small baggies to pack them in. We used the bag the loaf of bread came in, repacking it with with sandwiches, and realized we have entered an entirely new realm when the whole loaf was used for lunch!! Heavens, that is a LOT of sandwiches!

As we were readying ourselves to leave the zoo, we wanted to get Angela a little gift to remember her special day with. I was touched as I pulled each child aside and asked quietly if they would mind if we got Angela something, but explained we could not afford something for everyone else. Not a single complaint or even the expectation that they would get something, and all "ooohed and aaahhed" over the peacock sun catcher Angela selected as her gift. Without knowing what Angela had gotten, our friend later returned to the hotel with a small gift for each of the kids...a peacock feather! How fitting was that? Somehow that little coincidence spoke to me of connection and beauty. We actually were surprised to turn a corner and find a peacock standing there with tail feathers displayed royally, as it quietly stood in the shade showing off for a small crowd. It was the first time I have ever seen that, and it was spectacular. The one thought that returned over and over again throughout our zoo visit was that only God could create the depth of color seen so vividly in nature. We humans try to replicate it, but we can never really come close. The peacock proved my point brilliantly.

It was on our way home when Angela's joy over everything became obvious. That girl didn't stop talking and singing to herself the entire trip home! Everyone in the car was laughing happily with her, as she has always been the quiet one while Olesya is our gabby girl. This time Olesya was easily outdone as Angela said in a sing songy voice "Me so so happy! Denver Bolshoi Funny!" (Translation...Denver was BIG fun!" and jabbered about everything and anything in both English and Russian. When asked what everyone liked best Angela replied "Me love all of it..ALL OF IT!".

During the drive we were going over a couple of mountains where we were reasonably close to the side and it was then that Angela brought up memories from her past. Vodka plays such a leading role for her, one that thankfully doesn't effect Olesya to the same extreme but is front and center for Angela as she was old enough to recall many things a child should never have buried in the back of their mind. She talked about people drinking too much vodka and how they would drive off the cliff. She has shared that more than one person she knew died due to drinking and driving, and she remains very scared of alcohol entering her life again. Almost daily right now the subject of alcohol abuse and her past come up in some form or another.

Dummy me, the other day I was marinating steaks in beer and teriyaki, and had the bottle out on the counter thinking nothing of it. Behind me comes both Angela and Olesya, bottle in one hand, the other hand firmly planted on a hip asking me "Mama, no drink vodka...NO VODKA...why this here?". I quickly explained that I was only cooking with it and that the alcohol cooked out of the meat. I showed them about marinade as they looked at me skeptically. They eased up a little and really loved the taste of the meat afterward, but I can not believe I was so unthinking about it. We don't drink at all, not an iota, and for us that beer was no different than any other marinade and had been sitting in our fridge since long before we left for Kazakhstan. It never entered my mind that it might be concerning to the girls. When talking about what a nice time we had with our friends this weekend Angela said "Mama Papa good friends, no vodka...Kazakhstan mama papa bad friends, bolshoi vodka".

I know we have a lot of emotional work ahead of us in this area, and we will have to take it one day at a time. Today we went for a long walk at a beautiful nearby park and as Olesya and Matthew were goofing around walking ahead of us I quietly told Angela "Sweetheart, I know you are scared that Mama and Papa will drink alcohol or vodka and your life will be bad again. I promise you forever, we will never drink it...ever. You don't need to be scared about that. You can ask our friends, we have never drank alcohol and never will. You and Olesya are safe.". She literally stopped in her tracks, put her arm around my waist and looked at me saying "Oh mama...thank you...thank scared sometimes."

For all the teasing we have taken over the years about being Diet Coke totallers (not fond of tea, sorry!) and not grabbing a beer, I am glad I can look our daughters in the eye and promise them something as well as show a track record from the past that can give them peace. I never imagined how important it might one day be to declare "I don't drink...not ever."

I also believe it was "Divine Coincidence" that these particular girls ended up with this particular family. The "fit" in so many areas could not have been custom ordered to be any better. I have wondered recently how the girls would have felt being adopting by a different sort of family, or having a different sort of mom. What if they had been adopted by a dress wearing, makeup plastering, Southern Belle who hated sports and wanted them turned into debutantes? Or what if they were adopted by a family of casual drinkers who occasionally had one too many even if they were basically a sober bunch? What if they had been adopted by a family without other siblings to ease the way...or who had other daughters who were very different from them? Or what if my very modest little girls ended up with parents who bought them bikinis and skin tight curve hugging shirts instead of the boys T-Shirts they both are letting me know they prefer because they don't like to show off budding curves or have low necked items?

I am very thankful that Olesya and Angela ended up with a family who isn't trying to change who they are, and instead appreciates all the things about them that others might not feel was a good fit for them.

I am even happier that family is us.

Snuggling on the couch reading today, Olesya on one side with her arm looped through mine and Angela on the other as her head lay on my shoulder, I was struck by the familiarity and comfort level we have achieved in such a relatively short period of time. I also realized that my fears pre-adoption about not being the mom they needed were wrong, and showed very little trust in the Spirit who was hard at work in our lives.

They needed me, they needed us. They ended up with the mom the Spirit knew they needed all along...the jeans wearing, sneaker shuffling, book reading, softball throwing, burping and laughing, makeup free, less-than-polished, talkative mom that God provided for them. She isn't a perfect mom, but she is a perfect fit for them. The girls were laughing about a young female friend of ours who is very quiet and a bit shy. They said "LaJoy family no quiet, me no quiet...LaJoy family bolshoi talk!" and they both giggled about their talkative family and about how they too are not quiet.

As hugs grow warmer, closer and longer, as laughs grow more genuine and open, as hearts' doors are flung open ever wider, it becomes ever more obvious why I felt the strong pull towards these particular two children. The painful beginning has been shed, reality has settled in all around us like Joshie's comfy torn and threadbare beloved blankie. I used to question God when it was so hard to wait, what in the world was it about these two kids that had grabbed hold of me? Why couldn't I shake them off and move on? What was it that haunted me and wouldn't allow me to let go?

How many times did I want to give up because it was so hard? How many times did I doubt what I felt, because at some point it started feeling a little insane? How often did I wonder if I was a little loopy, placing so much hope on what I felt was God's promise that these were indeed our daughters?

How glad I am now that the Spirit kept reminding me, kept lifting me up when it seemed impossible, kept reassuring me gently yet firmly.

OK proved your point. You are always right.

You'd think by now I'd have learned better. Shame on me.


Anonymous said...

Joy! Coke tasks better than vodka any personal opinion. Alcohol is a drug and should be recognized as such. Angela has good reason to be concerned. It is the basis of much unhappiness....a fact, not my personal opinion. Thanks to you and Dominick for being such good role models as parents.

Anonymous said...

More wonderful news to read of your families outings and bondings. I also appreciate the lifetime of not drinking. It is such a pervasive influence in our culture, so accepted by most, and so very harmful to so many families. We also find ourselves to be the "unusual" ones at times, though most of our social situations involve friends who don't drink. It's just so much easier to decide to never try it and to teach our kids that it's not worth the bother or the risk. The balance comes in teaching our kids that members in both of our extended families drink socially at family gatherings, and that it doesn't make them bad people...just not very wise, in our humble opinion. They just don't have the strong convictions that we do about avoiding it all together. How very sad that your girls suffered from the result of alcohol. What a blessing you can assure the girls it's never been part of your lives and never will. I would even wonder if you'll decide to marinate in another manner, also, knowing how it might still cause unease in the girls.

I have to marvel at God aptly giving you the correct surname... knowing how much Joy He planned to bless you all with!

Nancy in the Midwest

Anonymous said...

I can see God now chuckling over your latest blog, enjoying the family, the fun, the delight in each new discovery of God's steadfast faithfulness and surprising ways of impacting our lives. Never underestimate God's sense of humor.

As to alcohol, few of us get through life without being impacted in some way by those who choose to drink. I have found that within families those who choose not to drink must make the choice to seek support, so that our attitudes and actions are not as destructive to family as those of the drinker. Alcohol and drugs challenge the fabric of society. I am delighted with the choice you have made and that God has given these children a family that can guide them through the perils of alcohol and drugs.

Love ya,

Lori said...

As a dress wearing (heels too!), make-up using (not plastering!), Southern Belle who is not a big fan of sports (except Hokie football!), I laughed out loud at what you wrote! I can say though, I've always told John that boy or girl, no child of ours would EVER be anything but who they were supposed to be and whatever that was, we'd take it and run! (NONE of those bikins either!) I love that the girls are the perfect fit and seem to be realizing just how perfect their family is for them!

My mom and dad both came from homes where their father was an alcoholic. I never saw my mom or dad have an alcoholic drink growing up, and even at my wedding, my parents were VERY upset about us having a bar available. They too were so worried about the effects of alcohol, after seeing it firsthand. I do drink wine or an occasional drink, but always with a respect for what it can do because I know how much their lives were affected--to the point that they NEVER wanted their children affected. I know firsthand that your witness to the girls in not drinking is something so amazing and special to them--such a gift.
I always look forward to your updates. They make my heart happy!

Raynola said...

You and your family are all so blessed, in all ways.
As we all are, with the presence of you in our lives.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, for sharing. Knowing you has made my life so much richer.

With great love, Raynola

Tammy said...

It amazes me to think that only a few short months ago it seemed as though this beauty would never happen. It is really, really HARD to believe God knows what He is doing when things are at their worst. And then, somehow, it becomes so obvious :-) I wonder how many times Angela and Olyesa questioned their lives when they were younger. I'm sure there is a part of Angela that continues to wait for the other shoe to drop. It probably feels too good to be true. The courage it takes for your girls to continue to trust and open themselves while still probably having the fear this will all fall apart is truly amazing. It really is a lesson to use adults who don't ever want to take chances in our lives.

I am so, so happy for you all. I hope you tell the rest of your family how happy we all are for you guys!

Christina said...

This blog was beautiful... :)

We have started using coupons in a major way... the kids are eating a TON so I can only imagine what 5 will eat... we are spending about the same each week, but have a ton more food after we started using coupons. Don't know if you are interested or not, it doesn't take much time (as a working mom of three, I have little time between soccer, school, work, ect.) the websites match up the sales I just make a list before I go to the store and then the websites tell me where to get the coupon from..... the kids help me find the items at the store, and LOVE to collect coupons from the display at the store... keeps them busy while we shop...

Anyhow, your loaf of bread lunch made me think to ask ...

Blessings, and love :)