The surprised gasps of pleasure as we traveled over Monarch Pass high up into the mountains were a total kick. We even had a treat of seeing wild antelope and 2 HUGE elk along the way to prep us for the zoo. We stopped near the top of Monarch and got out to explore a little and stretch our legs. The kids hiked up a rocky section of the mountainside. Here is Matthew playing "Protector" as they make their way up.
There was a large rock outcropping that we could walk on that overlooked the canyon below, and without getting too close to the edge we were able to see the rocky mountainside and the pine forest stretched out before us. We also were surprised to discover this...and Matthew is taking a closer look at it...
It was quite odd to find this highway marker way out on the huge rocky area, far from the road itself. We are going to look it up on the internet when we get home and see if we can figure out exactly what it is.
Joshie wisely remained back a bit, deciding that not venturing out too far was an intelligent decision! Hahaha!
Mr. Smiley Kenny loved climbing up, and of course we HAD to have a few rocks to bring home to remember our trip by.
You have no idea how difficult it is to get 5 kids all smiling decently at the same time while looking at the camera. This was after about 7 attempts and you can see they are pretty much done with Mom and the camera.
The first birthday at home with your family is a big deal, as it marks your new life in some tangible way...days that were either not celebrated or not noticed by anyone suddenly become much anticipated events where...often for the first time...you are special for an entire day.
It also can bring about thoughts for parents and children alike of how much has been missed with older child adoption. Years have come and gone, half a childhood has passed before a family has arrived to treasure a child. In our case, it has been a couple of conversations that have reminded me of this. Twice over the past couple of days we have talked about Angela's birthday and it has come up what a big girl she will be, after all 12 is just one year away from the teenage years all we parents dread, and the kids anticipate, right?
In our case, not so much it seems.
As I was saying what a big girl she was going to be, she vehemently has insisted "Nyet balshoi girl, me malinky, malinky girl!!!" and repeated that 2 or 3 times. Not a big girl, I am a small, small girl.
I quickly understood and followed up with "You will always be my little girl...even when you are 50!". It seems she has the need to be our little girl, to not rush past this new found childhood she is finally getting. That one sentence reached into my heart and squeezed it tight, as it reaffirmed for me just how strongly our kids need to cling to some form of childhood as long as they can in order to move in a healthy direction towards adulthood. Just as Kenny has more obviously needed to be an 8 year old right now rather than the 11 year old he is, and has willingly abdicated his role as eldest and then second eldest in our family, Angela too needs to be someones baby for awhile. After all, she never really was a cherished child of anyone before, and we have a lot of lost time to make up for.
This came on the heels of our conversation last week at their school to place them in 3rd and 4th grade next year, the lowest possible grade we can legally place them in right now. We also are retaining Kenny as a 4th grader next year, giving him another year to mature and catch up on academics. Stepping outside the box of pre-set grade levels and age expectations will help enormously, as it will allow them to be exactly who they are. It won't matter at all to anyone if we have 12 year old 4th graders...some working on 1st grade reading work while doing 4th grade math, others working on 5th grade math while working on 2nd or 3rd grade reading. We can meet them where they are at rather than trying to make them conform to a system that is not designed to handle such wide gaps in maturity, academic swings, and plain old desire to be a kid after having had to be an adult far too early.
I think we will try and have a talk this week with Angela and Olesya both, and reassure them they have a home with us forever, that they need not worry about growing up too fast or having to leave their home sooner than they are ready. Basically, we need to tell them we see them as our "malinky girls", not our "balshhoi girls", and they can remain malinky as long as their hearts need to.
Watching Angela play with bubbles the other day giggling like a toddler as she dashed down the street waving a wand above her head, snuggling on the couch to read Curious George to them both the other day as we all started saying together "...and he was veeeerrryyy curious!" just as I had with Matthew and Joshie when they were "malinky", it is obvious just how much this tall, slender, strong young lady needs this time.
You'll get it, Angela. We promise. Finally, there is a place you are safe to be a child. Enjoy it, my dear one!!
Now...on to the zoo!!