Sunday, May 23, 2010

Dropping it Down a Notch

This weekend marked the beginning of summer for us, and the beginning of a new and different life. The changes won't be all that noticeable immediately, and it is my hope that we settle in to a new normal very soon. I am realizing though that I am in dire need of a period of rest...both physical and mental. My soul feels deadened for some reason, Dominick and I talked about this on the way home from church. I have a funny feeling it might take a long while to pull out of this. It is not depression, it is more a sense of disconnection with the world outside my immediate family.

Maybe it is all so intense right now that I can only handle so much. But I miss myself, if that makes sense. I keep waiting to reappear, and I am forcing myself to keep on doing things when at the moment they often feel awkward. I am hopeful that a week or two of no school, no soccer, no running, no stress, no school planning will give me the chance to recenter. I say that as I spent half the afternoon and all evening basically working on creating a schedule and finalizing what we are doing the next several months with school. Just as I think I have it figured it, I realize I am working with a moving target and need to re-organize as the girls are making bgreat strides, as new information helps me see Kenny's needs differently and realize we will step back further than I thought.

I also have had some wonderful, wonderful people approach me and ask if they could work with the kids and help in that way. I don't know how we have been so blessed to have people actually ask to spend time teaching our kids, and it is hard for me to say yes and even harder to figure out ways to incorporate them. I am really not a control freak, I think it is because right now I am still getting my own feet wet and making it up as I go along...sort of like a first year teacher not having a clue how to utilize a volunteering parent effectively in the classroom where a 20 year veteran says "Bring 'em on...I have a million things they can do!". I guess I don't have that level of confidence yet.

I also am recognizing that part of my internal self being unsettled is this feeling of taking, taking, taking and giving absolutely nothing back right now. I think perhaps if I found ways in which I could help out others I might feel better. However, I am going to gratefully accept help with the kids, particularly with reading, as I can't for the life of me figure out how in the world I can teach 4 kids to read who are all at slightly different levels and 2 of whom have some mechanics down and can sound out nicely but don't have a clue what they just read because their vocabulary needs to be built step by step. But these blessings in the form of volunteers have all been educators in former lives, and will instinctively know how to direct the kids. What a gift, if only I can open up my clasped hand to accept...stupid, I know.

Really though, we have only the most amazing and positive things going on around here, and our transition is so much easier at this stage and so much further along than I ever would have imagined it could be. The girls are ours, heart and soul now. And I admit it, I am loving havng daughters around. Especially these daughters. It is also very, very strange at moments to parent children who arrive in your lives at this stage.

Take Angela for example...she is nearly as tall as I am, and this morning at church was drinking coffee which they had at the orphanage sometimes. Two days ago she was hugging and playing with dolls, and today was watching the Little Mermaid with rapt attention. You think this isn't hard to adjust to? It is a major challenge to remind myself almost hourly that inside that outwardly appearing almost teenaged body is a very little girl at who loves mermaids and wants to try on being the little girl she missed out on being for a little while, yet has the experiences and lived the life of a much older child for a very long time and that isn't ever cast aside easily. Olesya for some reason has the demeanor of a younger child, and much of this is very appropriate and feels less obviously out of kilter. At moments I feel like I am like Lucy and Ethel at the chocolate factory, scrambling to keep up with an ever moving assembly line!!
But life is good, despite anything going on inside of me, life is very, very good. Other than language issues, anyone would be hardpressed to guess that Angela and Olesya joined us a mere 3 months ago. They look more and more like happy LaJoy's every day, they act like us and totally get Dominick's odd sense of humor and match him with it. They deeply love their brothers...and each of them at one time or another has watched one from afar and said to me "Kenny so cute..." or "Matthew so so smart!" with huge grins on their faces. The boys are equally enamored of their sisters, enjoying them to the hilt and declaring them to be the nicest girls they ever met.

Sounds Pollyanna-ish, doesn't it? I know...I know...but I can't pretend that there are big conflicts going on or jealousy when there isn't. I am just as surprised as anyone else is, as I thought surely we would have conflicts over all kinds of things...who gets the front seat, who gets mommy next, who gets the last ice cream. None, nada, zilch, zippo. How much easier they have all made this time of transition with their kindness towards one another. I keep waiting for the honeymoon to end, for the other shoe to drop. Someone said to me recently that maybe we got the hard stuff out of the way over in Kazakhstan, and this is the reward. If so, all I can say is a huge thank you filled with gratitude.
We are planning a little surprise for the kids, and it is converging perfectly with interests in our house right now. Our dear friend and blog commenter, Lael, who is single handedly the most creative person I have ever met, put together a special Paleantology kit for Joshua after learning of his science interests. Whether it was to steer him away from autopsies and spare me the agony of feining courage as I stood by to watch, or if it was to encourage him to further explore the sciences, it was the coolest thing. She found a skeleton of a small critter as yet to be identified (we should figure that out tomorrow) and put it in a container with dirt, and included some small tools, a toothbrush, etc and created an adventure for him to uncover the skeleton and identify it. He has had SUCH fun with it, even getting up at 3:00 AM to work on it!!

Well, it just so happens that our Russian speaking friends who have been so generous with their time in Skyping with the girls, helping us get Matt's passport after numerous calls to Kazakhstan to translate for us, and so many more things are planning a driving trip to a place we had on our "to visit" list for years. About 5 hours from here in Delta, Utah there is a fossil bed where you can dig out fossils! The girls are in a "rock stage" right now too, handing me pockets full to save...or forgetting to hand them to me and washing them in the washer along with their jeans :-) So timing is perfect, and we are going to meet our friends there and dig us out some fossils, then go to a dinosaur museum the next day. Dominick and I decided not to tell the kids until that morning when they get up. They will be SO excited and SO happy to spend some extra time with him. He has been working super long hours since we returned from Kazakhstan, and needs to have a little down time with the kids. I also am happy that the girls will be able to use their Russian while they still have it, as it is fast leaving them. Within a few more months they will have very little left, so this might be a very, very special opportunity for them...aside from the whole "rock thing", that is! Hahaha!

This weekend we had a fund raiser at church that was western themed. Although we live in rural Colorado we are not exactly the Cowboy type and had no duds appropriate for the ocassion other than Josh's cowboy boots. So off to the Salvation Army we went and scored a few shirts that would sort of work. The kids were all excited about it and had a great time running around playing Deputy, and "getting hitched". Our pastor performed shotgun wedding services, and even found herself marrying Joshie! Dominick and I reupped for another 20 years or so, Lord willin', Kenny married our friend, and Joshua was a two timer and married Mommy too. Our hours of playing Blackjack in Kazakhstan paid off for Angela as she and Matthew played and had a lot of fun while the other kids all played Go Fish and Old Maid. I got some cute pics of the kids and they all giggled when seeing them today.

So we are on to our first week of summer, loving every minute of it!


Joyce said...

Hi Cindy
your first part resonated with my so much and probably still does. When my laddie came home for good (over 2 years ago) I felt quite useless, sadly I felt unsuccessful as a mother as well as loosing all contact with the outside world. Shame kept me home along with his eagerness to touch everything and anything in sight. I was quite active within our church organisation and friends, ready to give a helping hand with families and babies and whatever. And suddenly the world was shut out and we were shut in. Throw in a huge dose of grief (over loosing a number of children close to me) and not wanting people to see how badly I was coping (or not coping) meant that life really changed. I know your circumstances are different, but I think our brains have a limited capacity - oh its a huge capacity but still limited. And so we are so filled up with thoughts, needs, processing, parenting, helping, emotionalism.. that we cant really converse with the outside world as much.
But one day that will slowly change - your season for being mum and teacher to various grades/abilities will end or tapper off and you will feel the ability to connect with the world again... ok maybe not but I am counting on that happening!!!!

Love to you all

Lindsay said...

I hope you have a wonderful summer and some well deserved down-time - though how much downtime you can get with 5 children I can't imagine!

I can't begin to imagine how stressful it must feel to take on the education of all of your children especially with them all being at so many different stages; within themselves and between each other too. Having so many people offer to help is a wonderful gift, but it can be stressful too, trying to figure out how to make it all work. And speaking as a 'veteran' teacher - there are very few perfect lessons, and even fewer perfect days! Some of the best things that ever happen in education happen spontaneously; there may be a big plan but there doesn't always need to be minute planning. I often think our education system is backward: we do all the telling and ask our children to regurgitate it too us by asking them a lot of questions to prove they learned 'stuff'. Let their questions lead you - I bet they will take you to some wonderful places. And yes, it can be hard to accept help and not be left feeling that it is "taking, taking, taking and giving absolutely nothing back right now", but remember that giving isn't always about paying it back, but paying it forward. And by accepting all the different help and experiences that your friends can offer you are giving to your children and their futures.

Bob; Carrie DeLille said...

Grrrr. nothing like writing a long comment and have it disappear. We'll have to talk sometime soon. You've been in high gear. Try to slow down and take a break from plannng and stressing and just let life move on-sit back and watch a moment (condensed version)p.s. You give constantly. People want to help. Some aren't called to adopt, but they are called to help the orphans, and this is where God has led them-helping you help orphans :o)

Anonymous said...

I laughed to read: "I am hopeful that a week or two of no school, no soccer, no running, no stress, no school planning will give me the chance to recenter." Knowing a bit of your "non-schedule" for the next few weeks, I can only hope that the change in where you go and what you do will provide some decompression from the school days because I know that you will be on the road again, swapping summer activities for school session activities.

As for your volunteers let them bring over brownies and diet Coke and chat over what they would and can offer and perhaps one of those teachers can even help you integrate talents into curriculum. Besides, at the very least, you'll get good company, pastries, and diet Coke.

Think of your "disappearance" as having poured yourself out like a fountain. The "water" is still there only now it is flowing in a brook, gathering in a pool, trickling into an underground reservoir. Eventually it will come back to the surface to begin cascading down again. The brook and pool and reservoir, the drops and rills are Dominick, Matthew, Kenny, Josh, Angela, Olesya, your friends around the world. Right now there's a hiccup in the fountain's flow. The pump needs recharging. It will happen. Meantime, you are reflected in all of us. In time...

Love you,
Have a great time in Utah,

Anonymous said...

Yes, by all means, sit back and relax! You have literally been on the go since you came back with the girls, and months before that I would assume.

And don't forget that "school" is always in session, as your girls are learning language daily, as well as all the other new cultural experiences they are discovering.

I would agree that you need to accept the help being offered, as you sift and sort through which things will best help your kids. It's an incredible gift God is offering you and your family through your many talented and caring friends. I know it's not easy to accept help, especially when you know that right now, you don't have the time or energy to give much back in return. But as someone else suggested, you are giving others the blessing of giving to you. You know how good it feels to give, so enjoy the opportunity to let others have that wonderful feeling....if that all makes sense.

And there's always a writing/drawing/gratitude/social grace lesson to be had in all of this, as your kids write or draw thank you notes to those people who are giving to them in those ways. It's also more wonderful people whom you choose to have in your kids' lives.

But for now...take a breather!

Nancy in the Midwest, wishing there was something I could offer from this distance. Remember that attic bedroom, if you're ever passing through. By then, the bathroom should also be finished up there!

Anonymous said...

The offers of help are very generous but ending up as the general contractor of your childrens' education may not be the best use of home education.

Tammy said...

You've got it backwards Cindy - you have been giving, giving and giving for so long - now you are getting back some of what you have already given out.

I too went through a phase after Zachary got home where I on overload the whole time (and I only had one although that first one's a doosie!!) Your world will expand again. For now, just enjoy your tunnel vision - it will broaden again before you know it.

Anonymous said...

So is it wrong to be the "General Contractor" of your children's education? A good "GC" knows their strong and weak points and can "sub out" the the things they are weak on. Keep on directing what needs to be learned in the education of your children, good job Cindy!

Anonymous said...

As one of the friends who has offered to help with home school, I find this a unique opportunity to explore my own "gifts" to see what I might be able to share. As anyone who has ever been in a teaching situation, the teacher who seizes the opportunity learns far more than the student.

And if anyone doubts, these great kids are far more motivated, and therefore challenging, than any I have had in previous classrooms! I can hardly wait! And Mr Steve feels the same way!

Ms Jane