I tried to post photos earlier, but was unable to until tonight. Here are a few. We went to the beach together where the girls saw the ocean for the first time, and the boys really played in it together for the first time as well. The past few visits it has been too chilly to wade in, and we plan on another trip soon WITH bathing suits! We visited the Channel Islands Harbor Visitors Center and learned a lot while there too.
Here's the gang at the Ventura Pier, where we walked and saw fisherman, surfers and seagulls.
In real life, school is always in session! The learning never stops as long as one is intellectually curious...the single most important thing I hope we can manage to instill in the kids.
At the airshow the kids had a lot of fun. I loved the above warning on the airplane the pilot let us look at closely!
It was on to Disneyland yesterday, where we had a blast and a half thanks to the generosity of our friend whose husband's employee pass was a gift to let us all in! A day that I expected to be one I literally dragged through due to crowds and heat turned out to be extraordinarily special.
While I didn't take photos because I didn't want to drag along a great big camera and worry about it, there are moments that are indelibly imprinted upon my memory for all time. I was a bit concerned about being there with 5 kids, hoping none would get separated, but I needn't have been. We were quite the crew, stomping our way throughout the park, most of the time all of us holding hands as we ooohed and aahhhed over everything.
I can honestly say I left feeling such a sense of gratitude for our kids...not a single complaint even out of Joshua at close to midnight. We shared 3 meals for 6 of us to keep our costs down, and no one ever pushed to get their way about this ride or that ride. In fact, it was kind of cool to watch the pairings and sharing...turns out that Kenny and Angela were the Brave Ones tackling the large roller coaster in California Adventure and a couple of others, while Matthew was the Wise One as he decided not to go on some of the scarier rides, not because he was afraid but because he was being cautious about being on his feet too long in certain lines. He still suffered quite a bit and we all offered to go get him a wheelchair to make it through the remainder of the day, but he toughed it out. After a scarier ride, the "bigger kids" asked Josh and Olesya what they would like to do next, and we alternated easily between tamer and wilder rides. However Josh surprised us all with his willingness to do many of them, including Space Mountain and the Matterhorn!!
The Magic Kingdom was definitely magical for the girls who kept asking if the Pirates in the Pirates of the Caribbean were real...and I was able to share with all the kids about Daddy and I on our first date there at the Blue Bayou restaurant inside the Pirates ride. They all giggled to think about us being not all that much older than they are now. We rode on the Winnie the Pooh ride and I heard all five declare over and over again "Ohh...isn't that cute!".
It was on It's a Small World where I was taken back to my youngest days sitting side by side with my Mom and Dad, who at the time seemed so strong, so perfect, so capable of fixing anything that ever went wrong in my world. I remembered singing that song over and over a million times, and even had a 45 rpm of it so I was thrilled to be on the actual ride, seeing the dolls of the world dancing before me. As we floated along last evening, my rainbow family and I, how could I not be deeply touched by the sentiments "It's a world of laughter, a world of tears, it's a world of hope and a world of fears, there's so much that we share that it's time we're aware, it's a small, small world.". I never could have imagined in a million years back as a 6 or 7 year old little girl that my family would reflect that song so clearly.
The kids all got to be little kids for a day, yes even the boys and not just the girls for whom all of this was so new. As I looked around at the hundreds of other kids wandering the walkways of Disneyland, I was struck by the fact that even at 11 and 12 years old, all our kids were still under the Disney spell, while others their age all seemed a bit jaded by it all. The girls, of course, were transfixed by it all for they had no idea what to expect but knew they would see Mickey Mouse's home. The castle actually caused them to suck in their breath at night, the costumed characters drew great big smiles, and even Autopia brought giggles and grins. But even the boys were singing along in It's a Small World, Matthew was so excited he did a jig at Splash Mountain, and the "Squash a Penny" machines had them all digging for quarters all over the park.
I thought to myself how lucky we are to live in a place where our children are still kids for awhile, where their childhood is not being rushed to pass too quickly. They all spent their saved and gift money on purchases that were perfect for each and also somewhat reflected their innocence...Angela bought a stuffed Pooh Bear and huge character slippers, Kenny bought a mickey ears baseball hat, Olesya a Mickey Mouse watch, Joshua a set of huge white gloved hands to play with and yet another stuffed Pooh to go with his one at home because he wanted it not to be lonely and to have a brother, and Matthew in his usual style waited the entire day and would have gone home empty handed until he found the Lego Store at Downtown Disney at the end of the day and bought a large Lego set. At one point we almost ended up with an enormous Pooh Bear when Angela, Matthew, Olesya and Kenny all put their heads together and wanted to pitch in to buy it for Joshua, but when they found out it was over $100 they abandoned that idea.
Driving home today I was just so happy inside my heart, filled with love for my children. They are truly SO MUCH FUN to be with, a blessing in every way, easy going and good natured, honest and thoughtful towards everyone. They share the load, they bear one another's burdens, they nurture one another and their parents, just as they too in turn are nurtured and carried at times. I wondered to myself how this came to be, how we have managed to make it through some very, very challenging and difficult moments, how our children survived what they have been through to emerge intact and wholly able to give and receive love. It has not been easy, and it STILL isn't always easy, but one doesn't have to look too far to see the sacrifices others are making to help their children heal and recognize we have it pretty darned easy.
There are families who struggle daily...hourly...to bring wholeness to broken and broken hearted children. There are Super Moms and Dads out there who would give up their right lung for their child to stop suffering, and often they suffer in silence for fear of rejection and judgment from others. There are those who would say "See, I told you that adoption would end up like this!", just as we too have heard at moments. Yet still they trudge on into the Forest of Pain as they search for answers and try to find the Meadow of Peace somewhere in the middle.
I am so eternally thankful for making it this far, for having children who are bent, but not broken. To be their mother is the greatest gift I have ever been given, and I know Dominick feels the same way. There may be lots of research, lost sleep, late night worries, therapists and IEP's, but in the long run I always know how much harder it could be and all that we have been saved from. I also bow down with the utmost respect to those whose children are being parented with compassionate strength and purpose, with no end in sight to the challenges they face daily.
Tomorrow will be a day of rest and pool time, as we are busy this weekend with visits from cousins and aunts, another day long dental marathon to complete the work that was started, and a much anticipated chance to drive up the coast and meet a long time friend on Sunday. Now it is time to hit the hay myself and snuggle with my honey!