God will dry them all.
What an emotional day it has been on so many levels.
How exhausted I am in ways I can't easily explain.
It is not the madcap schedule we have right now, running hither and yon, that is doing me in. It is the attentiveness and being on high alert that keeps me from restful slumber, it is the awareness and anticipation of my next moves that is wearing me out. There are times when I wish I could move through this parenting business with a more relaxed, laid back approach, times when I envy others for their ability to seemingly have it all together when I just can't get there. I have messed up 3 or 4 scheduling issues this past couple of weeks, making me feel like a total idiot and heel. More importantly, it makes me wonder what is even more important that is subtly going on around me that I am not catching.
One of my biggest concerns right now is Olesya, who is exhibiting EXACTLY the same issues as Kenny does, so much so that she is almost the female version of him. There is growing evidence that for each of them, their institutionalization has done something to their brains that is going to cause them to struggle more than the average kid, especially if I can't figure out what it is and how best to work with it.
As we sat on the couch today reading to one another, I quickly saw that suddenly, for some reason, Olesya was struggling with super simple words that she has been able to read in English since before she came home. Words like "and", "into", etc. were causing her to draw total blanks, and without notice she suddenly burst into tears of frustration at her inability to recall these easy words that had previously come without thought.
She quickly left my side to go get some tissue, and Angela shared with me that at the orphanage Olesya often cried as this sort of thing happened. She looked up at me and said "Mama...you help Olesya read good? You make her not sad and no cry?". I promised her I would work very hard with her and that one day she would read very well.
The frustration I am feeling tonight is coupled with an admittedly unfair anger at what institutionalization has done to my children. Kenny and Olesya are BRIGHT kids!! Anyone who meets them would see within 5 minutes that they are articulate and intelligent, and perhaps that makes their struggles even more aggravating. What part of their brain has a disconnect? What did institutionalization do that caused one tiny little circuit not to be wired correctly? And how in the heck am I going to figure out the key to unlocking their potential? How will I keep them feeling good about themselves while they fight this unfathomable enemy which did so much damage without being obvious?
She returned to me after wiping her tears away, and I held her close telling her "Olesya, learning to read in English is very, very hard. You didn't even know how to read in Russian well yet, you are doing GREAT so please don't be sad! You WILL read good, I promise! And no one thinks you are not smart." She smiled timidly up at me and whispered "OK Mama" and went on.
Interestingly, I can see the concern on Angela's face often when Olesya is challenged by things we both know she has zipped through somewhere in the past. She too can see that this doesn't add up, and although we do not have the ability to discuss it in depth we look at one another and I know she sees it, and she knows I do too.
Oh God, how am I ever going to teach all these kids? How will I meet their needs and fill in the holes in their brains? I had a moment of sheer terror last week, a mini meltdown of my own when I allowed fear to overtake me. Luckily, a couple of friends were used that day to lift me up, but underneath it all the low level anxiety remains. How I love my children!!! How I want them to be all they are capable of being!! And how scared I am for them, and for me. There is something wrong here that no one else seems to understand or see, and I don't know how to fix it. I keep thinking there has to be some form of remediation available, some brain retraining or something that I don't know about. I need to do some serious research, but I don't really know where to begin nor do we have the money to pump into visiting various specialists who may or may not just blow me off when something like this isn't apparent during an office visit of one hour.
But my beloved children are suffering, truly suffering at moments, over something that is out of the control of any of us. The longer Olesya is home, the more fluent she becomes in English, the more I see parallels to Kenny. We can share with her 15 times what we are doing later in the day, and get asked the same question over and over as if we never explained it. It is like with certain information their brains are sieves, with information being poured in only to leak out the bottom. It is not inattentiveness, it is lack of retention. Just like with Kenny who can be presented new material and forget it within 2 minutes, Olesya does the same thing. We can review and review something, and it is like we never touched it. However, it does not happen 100% of the time, as it seems it is only at odd moments something doesn't click, or something already well learned is seemingly suddenly lost. It is absolutely not an English Language Learning (ELL) problem as there is a stark difference between Angela versus Kenny and Olesya, whose learning issues are startlingly so similar one would think THEY are the biological siblings. The common thread is institutionalization at a young age and for a longer period of time.
So, my late night fears grow as does my love. I pray for understanding while working with them, for some sort of magical insight that will give me the keys to unlocking things for them, and for compassion and understanding when I have the tendency to get frustrated or exasperated. I also pray for courage to teach them, for at the moment that is sorely lacking.
Later tonight, as bedtime approached, the girls were on the couch as we read Curious George who is their new found favorite and I was BEGGED to read more than just one story (Thanks Lael for the PERFECT birthday gift!), and as even the boys said along with us in LaJoy tradition "...and he was veeeerrrryyy curious!", things came out of Angela, emotions and explanations. We finished George (I admit I love that little monkey too!) and she lay there with her head in my lap as Olesya went to grab pillows and blankets to tuck us in with, and she talked. Oh how it poured out!! She explained more about her fears when we came, about what others told her at the orphanage that terrified her about going to America. She was almost in tears when she said "I am sorry Mama...I didn't know...I am very, very sorry when you come I scared. I bad girl when you come, you love me but I bad but I very scared.". Hearing all that she was told coming from her own lips, I was heartbroken as well as proud of her courage.
I stopped her and cradled her head in my arms. I said to her "Angela, don't ever say I am sorry again for that. Papa and I ALWAYS loved you, even when things were bad, and we have already forgotten it all...'me zabeela' (which is what she says when she forgets something)...it is all over with and you never have to think of it again. We love you, don't ever say you are sorry for that again...you are a little girl and it was not your fault.". She quietly looked up at me as she tried so hard not to cry and said "Thank you Mama...I know you love me, you always love me BIG love.". Olesya sat quietly next to us, taking it all in, and kept laying her head on my shoulder and nuzzling me saying softly "I love you Mama.", as if to also tell me that what happened back in Kazakhstan a few months ago was something she was ashamed of. The shame does not belong to them. They are mere children, and amazingly courageous ones at that. I grow ever more deeply in love with our new daughters with each passing day, and my respect for them increases exponentially.
I then started to tell them a little story, the boys had left the room to make camp on our bedroom floor, and we were alone in our living room. It began something like "Once upon a time there was a Mama and Papa in America and two girls named Angela and Olesya in Kazakhstan..." and it went on to outline the ridiculous paperwork struggles to bring them home, in a humorous way, but then touched on "and Angela and Olesya began to think their Mama and Papa had forgotten them and would never come.". Angela jerked her head around and said "Ya Mama, me think you never come! Me worry, me think you forget she and me (olesya and her)". My story then went on to talk about how Mama cried and cried often, how brothers asked over and over when their sisters would come home, and then included our joy when we got the phone call and was a dramatic replay of the call. Throughout the telling they burrowed deeper and deeper under the covers and into me, almost as if they were trying to crawl inside my womb where it would be safe. That may sound strange, but that is what it felt like. They interrupted when I told of their brothers waiting and waiting, and of the Christmas ornament we bought for them 2 Christmas's ago which they saw a picture of the other night. They both said "Brothers good, good brothers...we love our brothers!! Matthew, Kenny, Joshua nice boys funny, funny boys." and then we went on to talk about how they would always protect their sisters and Angela revealed that often she had protected Olesya from mean kids.
We all looked at the clock and it was time for bed, and as has happened almost every other night lately we piled into our bedroom where boys were already camped out on the floor, and made new beds for the girls there. There are seldom moments when I wish we had a different house, but our nighttime ritual has now made it harder for me to slip into the bathroom without stepping on someones noggin, as we really have very little floor space in our bedroom as it is relatively small.
However, I learned this week that our home is perfect, despite my having ungraciously complained about being too small at Angela's birthday party as we all crammed in around the dining room table and spilled out into the living room. When we were headed out to our weaving mentor's home, we drove around a bit as this is a new area for the girls to see, and there are some truly stunning homes there. Large mansion type homes with acres and acres of manicured lawns and personal ponds, and we all talked about this one and that one, how cool they all were, etc. After a bit I asked "Which one would you like to live in if we had a lot of money?" and Matthew selected one he liked as did Olesya. Angela declared "Me no like big house, me LOVE family LaJoy house! It perfect!" with her classic "fa-mi-ly" broken out and her "perfect" sounding more like "prefect".
As we settled into our room for the night, there were giggles and about 20 minutes of goofing around as first one, then all 5 of the kids piled on the bed with Dominick and I, laying on top of one another. Finally we called an end to all the nonsense and said it was time to get to their own little beds on the floor. Angela then crawled right on top of me, laying full length saying "Mama best bed, me sleep here!", as I stroked her hair and held her tight. Eventually she moved to the floor at the foot of our bed, and I am sure there were smiles on both our faces as we drifted off to sleep.
If I only could have remained asleep.
So much going on in my head that I can't turn off, nor should I, for I think God is helping me process it all in our unique way together, so here I sit at 3:00 AM having been up an hour and a half, trying to package it all up for another day.
I have always had a strong desire to be intellectually challenged, to never be "bored". It is probably my worst nightmare, odd as that may sound. Don't get me wrong, I am not one who has ever had the intellectual ability to grasp quantum physics, or to tackle complex mathematical equations. I will never write The Great Novel nor will I be a famous poet. I don't have a great strategical mind, and I am not what anyone would classify as a genius. But I have never wanted my life and my mind to grow stale, I have always desperately wanted to be engaged and feel alive in the ways that constantly learning and growing help us be.
This life of mine seems mundane on the outside. It is a mom playing taxi driver to 5 kids, hounding them gently about school work, getting dinner on the table on a budget. Nothing earth shattering or even seemingly all that challenging about it. On the inside though it is an intricate balance of so many things. It is far, far more than cooking and cleaning and sorting laundry. I know eventually we might get to that place, where so many conversations are not held with me on high alert, where hearts are not having to be healed and heard so deeply. I am sure that at one point homeschooling will seem routine and I'll be more concerned with who they are dating than I am with what they are studying. But for this moment, I am using every ounce of inner strength and resources I have just to make it through each day. All the skills God has given me, all the life experiences that I have had are coming into play in one way or another. This mommying thing challenges me in ways nothing else could, and I wonder what I might be doing wrong to feel so wrung out at the end of each day.
Thankfully...blessedly...there is rest in one place, there is nourishment and refreshment in my God space which keeps me going, and I am continually restored by others who are sent at precisely the right moment to renew me. I am ever so thankful for that. I know I am not running GM or am Leader of the Free World. But this job I have is very, very hard, and I need all the help I can get. Like a bridge over troubled waters, my mind is eased by the One who really is beside us all and can be counted on. And that helps me be the bridge that my children can walk on to cross their own troubled waters. Thank you to all whom God has sent, who reach out in a million little ways to be MY bridge.