Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Whether my own reaction last week was a misstep or perhaps lead to deeper understanding, I will never know. It is not something I want to make a habit of but it might have been a necessary rude awakening of sorts. Angela is NOT tip toeing around me, nor is she bending over backwards to make sure I am happy. Instead, there just seems to be a new awareness and comfort level with touch. Don't get me wrong, I doubt she will ever be a touchy-feely-huggy kind of kid nor do I want her to be anything other than what she is, but there is a leaning in when speaking with me, there is far more direct eye contact with accompanying natural smiles, there is more laughter. Maybe it did her good to be put in a position to snuggle on my lap for awhile. It is hard to feel comfortable with physical affection if you have never had it and it feels weird. There almost has to be a conditioning to break the natural response. She still gives one armed distant hugs, but the day to day closeness is subtly different and nice to see.
I also think animals are a key to reaching both of them. What a love of all things animals they have! So I went to the library today and got some early readers featuring a dog named Biscuit and you would have thought Olesya had been given a million bucks by the way her face lit up! I think doing the 4H rabbit project will be good for our entire family.
In a not so unexpected move, Matthew decided he was not interested in an animal project, but instead wanted a general project to work on and in fact surprised me by choosing two. One is totally Matt, and is called "Geospatial" which revolves around GPS technology, mapping and location awareness. He has to do a binder as well as a display board and work through an interesting project curriculum.
The other project totally surprised me when he said he wanted to do Heritage Arts and make a rug! No idea what it will be or how we will pull this one off, but thankfully I have crafty, artsy friends to make up for my lack of skill...and I loved that he wanted to do something so far out of his own personal box.
Dominick and I had a full 2 hours alone this Sunday after our adopted Grandpa asked to take all the kids to the movies, which I felt showed quite a bit of courage! The kids all loved the movie and Dominick and I spent the time shopping for jeans and getting groceries, and yes it felt totally weird to do alone. Someone saw us and asked what it was like to be out with the kids and we said it was great, but that our kids were so easy to be with it really wasn't something we felt was "hard" to do even when dragging the entire crew along. But we did have a wonderful time alone, just visiting, planning, talking and trying on jeans. I hadn't realized it but Dominick reminded me it had been at least 5 years or more since he last purchased a pair of jeans...and they look it:-) Thankfully he wears uniform pants often so they do last longer but 5 years (and maybe even 7!!) is way too long.
Although it is spring break here, we have no plans to go anywhere preferring instead to hunker down and hang out. Matthew still has his CSAP testing to finish this week and Friday we may go to the mountains for a picnic to show the girls. Angela has said on many occasions that Colorado is "so beautiful" and she has yet to see anything REALLY beautiful so it is time to branch out! Having Josh and Kenny home has been fun, we have been playing some games like multiplication bingo and other math games with decks of cards, and all the kids are enjoying being together. I love the encouragement they offer each other, telling each other "good job!" and giving high fives around the table. What is harder is getting them to not tell each other the answers when I am trying to help one of them learn something...they want to help each other so much!
Next week starts a new mini-adventure for me as we are going to have one of our homeschooling friends come over one day a week and I will teach he and Matthew science and writing while his mom works with the girls on reading. We will have lunch together and it will be fun to work together. We will be working on the physics science kit we purchased for Matthew, which should be easy enough for me to work with, and a new writing curriculum that I hope works well for us called Writing Strands and it is written specifically for the homeschooling market. We will see how it works, I hope it is good. If not, the nice thing about homeschooling is you move on and try something else!
Olesya lost her first tooth with us yesterday and the Tooth Fairy visited. She is still puzzled over that one...can't wait to see what happens with the Easter Bunny!
I will try and post more photos and write something more meaningful soon. I am struggling to keep up with everything AND learn about 4H AND plan for school next year AND figure out when I am going to get my own homework done AND stay connected as best I can to everyone in between loads of laundry and filling the dishwasher 3 times a day. Give me a couple of days and I promise more will follow. But I wanted to share how we turned another corner, and to thank those who recognize this is a one-step-at-a-time process, where nothing is predictable, even my own reactions.
For those who felt some recent comments were too harsh, they were honest, and who knows...maybe extremely valid. When I am in the midst of this sort of tumult, I take it all with a grain of salt knowing my own inner self is quite raw and not going to see things for what they really are. I do my best every single day, and some days I am better than others. The fact is, so are the girls doing their best every single day. Creating a family this way is a messy business, isn't it?
The end result is so lovely.
Saturday, March 27, 2010
I didn't sleep much last night, along with Dominick's bursitis flaring up and keeping him awake (doesn't THAT make us sound old?) I was of course replaying everything in my mind, doubting myself, wondering what thinking was going on in another room in the house.
I came to the conclusion that in some ways, perhaps last night needed to happen. In an orphanage, your behavior becomes survivalist. A kid who is not mean spirited can at times act in a less than understanding or compassionate way in order to appear tough on the outside and keep from being gobbled up by others. There also has never been a single adult person in Angela's life who has EVER been emotionally invested in her. That is a totally new experience. Maybe she needed to see that her words or actions have the power to wound adults, that finally there was an adult in her life who actually cares deeply about her that they could be moved to tears and not just turn their backs and walk away...and I think it shocked her. That may not be a bad thing, for she is having to reframe what adults mean in her life, what their role is. Dominick and I are not just disinterested bystanders wrangling her as every other adult in her life has been. We are fully invested in her mind, heart and soul.
It was not about physical rejection, last night was more about disrespect. There is an inner anger at women and when a safe man is around, that anger is more easily exposed. Daily her behavior changes somewhat when Dominick is home, and it hurts my feelings. Yea, I know, I am supposed to be dispassionate about it all, distanced...and often I can be. Last night, I just couldn't. It had stacked up and overflowed.
We flit in and out with the emotional and physical closeness, that is to be expected for months...if not years to come. But much of yesterday began to border on disrespect, it went downhill from the moment we left the swimming pool. I don't blog about every single action, ever nuance, every moment of our lives. I blog about the highlights, the pieces and parts that I manage to pull together to share...or want to share. Sometimes much passes by that doesn't get blogged about, simply because I don't have time to get to a keyboard or want to even talk about it because the moment has already passed and we have moved on.
Breaking through to someone's heart is the single hardest thing I have ever done. Sadly, we are not rookies in this area as it has been only about 3 years since Joshua was still in the active rejecting stage at times having come out of a truly horrific infancy and toddlerhood of anger and physical discomfort with touch. We made it then, I have not a single doubt we will make it now.
That doesn't mean it won't often stink, that I won't be in tears many times, that it won't hurt like hell...on both sides. No pain, no gain.
But this blog is a place to post as much of our journey as I feel like posting. I WANT you to see that I am not Supermom, that many times things don't go as planned, that I am not perfect. I know that over and over again many of you might be saying to yourselves because of my honesty that "I wouldn't have done that" or "She misread that". GOOD! Because through my failures you might be able to see that YES...you too could do this, and probably a lot better. Your heart might be opened to see that those who adopt older kids are not saints but are people just like you. We make mistakes, we succeed sometimes, and we get up and try again. The collective set of experiences usually means that our mistakes are overshadowed by our successes. But others can do this too, we are not special and many more kids should have a shot at a family and not be discounted because they are over 5 years old. Many, many of you who read this could do this, and a darn sight better than we can...I know that and applaud anyone who feels called to do it. Wish you were around so we could chat over a cold Diet Coke and I could learn from you!! Hahaha!
I hear feet walking back and forth down the hall, the chicks have arisen...time to get back in the saddle, today will be a good day!
Friday, March 26, 2010
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Tonight, walked into the kitchen, Olesya leaning on Dominick, eyes closed, gentle smile, enveloped in her Daddy's arms. She remained there, unmoving, arms wrapped around his big strong ones. Safety, security...finally loved unconditionally.
This afternoon, in the office, I am copying adoption decrees and birth certificates to finally send off to the agency. Angela walks in, picks up the decree terminating parental rights of her birth father. She looks up at me through lowered eyes, asks if she may read it. I hesitate only for a moment. It is her life, it is her history, it is not mine to deny despite how much I wish it all wasn't true. I quietly remind myself it is not my job to protect from the reality that already was, but to walk through what will be hand in hand. I nod, she sits, she reads whispering out loud as she goes. She points out something in the English translation...who is this person? I try and explain it is her grandmother on her father's side whose statement is printed on that piece of paper that effectively removed her biological father from her life forever.
She is finished and turns to me. What about Matthew, Kenny and Joshua? I open the file drawer and take out their files, one by one, laying them upon the bed. I offer them to her, we are family, we share it all...the pain, the joy...there will never be secrets here. She is free to read what she wants. She opens Matthew's file, gently turns each page, smiles and points out his immigration photo. "Malinky!" she says. "Very sick" I respond, "Very malinky baby.". She stares, it seems to effect her more than her own history. She reads, she mentions the name "Galina" and looks up at me questioningly when I explain that Galina was our Irina for Matt's adoption, our coordinator. She reads on and closes it, reaching for the next brother's file.
She thumbs through Joshua's and without looking up says "Kazakhstan Mama's all bad...Matthew, Kenny, Joshua, Angela, Olesya...Mama's all bad."
Thump goes my heart, this is not true. How can I get that across? I turn and look at her, she puts down the paper she is reading. "Not all Kazakhstan Mama's bad...maybe malinky and too young to be Mama. Not all drink vodka, not all bad Mama's". She stares at me, eyes wide, considering this information as if it is new. She then says "Matthew, Kenny, Joshua Kazakhstan Mama not bad, me Mamma bad, bad. Olesya Mama bad, bad. You Mama good Mama."
Unable to go further, wanting so badly to go deeper, I simply say "I love you." and go back to copying. It is broad daylight and "Good Mama" is as much as she feels safe offering. Someday, maybe, eye to eye there will be a recipricle "I love you", but not today, it is too soon. There will be other times, there will be other conversations. How I wish we had the language between the two of us for more intimacy on this issue. She struggles so to express herself, yet inviting anyone else in to partake of this intimacy to translate negates it all. It will have to wait. But we will come back to it, over and over again.
One day, she will be satisfied. Maybe I will be too.
A cold, near blustery early evening on a soccer field. The sun peeks through ocassionally, reminding us of its presence. A teacher and I speak, we share, we get to know one another a little bit better. Our children are growing older, we once met in the halls as we picked our respective beloved kiddos up from Kindergarten. Middle school looms large, our families are changing gradually, as do our roles in our children's lives. Common threads, we all share so much by simply being human and living this life.
A young boy stands next to me, my arm around his shoulder. His eyes are shadowed by darkened lenses of ever present glasses. His wicked, sharp humor always makes me smile, his gentle spirit is sometimes not caught by others, but I see it in little gestures...he loves his mother and never hesitates to show it even in public. He hugs his friends good bye. He is inclusive of all around him. What a wonderful spirit he has! Standing there, I say "We are so lucky to have you as our friend...we love you...you are always welcome with us, thanks for being so respectful and kind.". He struggles in school, yet is a bright star in some way I can't put my finger on. But then, isn't EVERY kid if given a chance? He looks up at me, the ever-present smile disappears as he says "Thanks, I like being with you guys.".
Standing in Dairy Queen, Josh kneeling on a stool next to me, chocolaty lips curved upwards in a gentle grin, the tiny freckle on his chin 2 inches from my face as we face one another, his arms wrapped around me while his spoon no doubt dribbles ice cream down the back of my shirt. "You are a silly Mommy!" he declares. "You are a silly son!" I shoot back, then he leans on my shoulder, remaining there for a few precious 7 year old moments that will soon pass us by. How I love him, how I love them all.
The rushing back and forth of the week, the constant movement and chatter and controlled (sometimes) chaos. Within all of that lies the moments that need to be carried around in our hearts a little longer. Contained therein is the secret of a real life. We forget, it is SO easy to forget.
Help me see it better, God. Keep my eyes open for the good stuff, the real stuff, the important stuff. Let me not be blinded by schedules and commitments. Let my heart never harden so much that I am not touched by the beauty of the day to day interactions that surround me.
Let me walk in full awareness, let me drink it all up, let me suck it all dry.
Fill me up.
Drive younger boys to school (12 minutes each way), drive to Vision Homeschool program (close to a 30 minute drive from us one way) every day this week (3 days twice a day) for girl's tutoring and Matt's state testing (goes on into next week as well), science and horsemanship class, soccer began for all kids this week...and of course practicing on different nights, checked out 4H last night and plan to begin that soon, having a friend spend the night tonight and hang with us tomorrow, art class for the kids today, piano at our house tomorrow, planning a little get together for dinner and Easter egg dyeing at our house for kids from church on Saturday evening (around 20 people), grocery shopping twice as we ran out (of course) of things and needed cleats for Olesya...had to create a grid chart to see who needed shin guards, socks, cleats and sweat pants. Working on rhymes and short vowels with the girls as well as beginning level readers which Angela is ahead of Olesya (of course) so it makes it harder as they need to be worked with seperately, introduced shapes and did worksheets on them, working on phonics on Time4Learning today (I need some planning time!), correcting Matt's two last math assignments and 1 grammar he squeezed in on the drive to testing, do ANOTHER load of laundry, shoot we are out of onions and I need some so that means another trip to the store which we live a bit in the country so we are at least 10 minutes from the nearest one which is too expensive so off to Walmart which is 20 minutes away one way and I know I need more fruit anyway so might as well get it, then looking up games on the internet to play on Saturday night for the party, wokr on the consonant H today with worksheets then see what we can find around the house that begins with the letter H...oh yea...HOUSE begins with H! Sight word bingo is on the agenda for today (sure glad Matt isn't home and is testing so I can have more one on one time with the girls!), look at what social studies curriculum we will work on next year together, thinking geography and might need a basic well rounded text maybe at a lower reading level and the girls could get something out of it but that isn't cool enough as we need some hands on stuff so maybe Janice Van Cleave's out of print geography text would be great for hands on things...maybe a lapbook...oh yea gotta check out a lapbook for the girls to work on while I am teaching Matthew and Tony writing and working on the science physics kit together! Maybe horses?? Will it be too advanced? What COULD Tony's mom work with them on that wouldn't require knowing what they don't know? LAUNDRY...need to move it over to the dryer so I can get another load going. Olesya's tooth is really hurting, we need to get in and get that fixed. Wonder what is going on in Joshie's little head, need some time alone with him maybe reading in bed. Trip for Kenny's next surgery in Chicago in June....ROAD TRIP!!! Great opportunity for all the kids to read maps and look at math with mileage, etc and maybe see some cool sights along the way...lots of corn, man Olesya LOVES corn~! Glad her birthday is in August as that is Corn Festival time. Can't wait to see Co, Ellie and the kids in Chicago, my heart still hurts missing them. I need to write Mary Alice, one of the dearest old matriarchs of our church who moved a few months back and for whom I know this was a difficult time in her life, haven't written since before we left for Kaz...gotta do that soon, maybe get some pics printed to incluce. CALL MOM this weekend sometime. Rabbits...the girls went NUTS over the rabbits last night as I wheezed and gagged my way through the 4H exhibits (Remember to grab inhaler from kitchen counter and put it in my purse...doesn't do much good sitting on the counter!), Matt wants to do robotics...of course...how in the world will we do that? Someone has to know something within 4H and can help us, right? Kenny wants a rabbit too, he looked so cute with his sweat pants and button down long sleeved shirt on the soccer field yesterday....that kids may be no jock but he sure has my heart...have the kids clean up the airfield they made out of chalk and chairs and rope on the patio, I do NOT need to maneuver through the runways to get to the freezer in the garage, are all the swimsuits washed and dried and not stinking from being stashed somewhere for the trip to the pool tomorrow? Don't forget to get some cash for Kenny and Josh to go to Banana's tomorrow with Kenny's friend's family (nice to be invited!!), Olesya HAS to pick up her marshmallow toothpick map and pitch it...but man was that awesome to see her interested and trying to copy a map all on her own without prompting for her to do anything! So glad to see curiousity there...how can I bring that out in Angela? Maybe the RABBITS!!! The look on her face was priceless as the goat nibbled on her pants yesterday....NO GOATS NO GOATS NO GOATS...I sure don't really want rabbits or pets but it is obvious God is talking on that one so rabbits would be easiest, right? Hmmm...hated hampsters and how they stunk up the whole house no matter what we did. Besides I don't want to step on one again in the middle of the night and squeal like a girlie girl. Remember to order the replacement Wii cable that broke off in the TV when Dominick tried to remove it for some reason. What ARE we going to have for dinner tonight...I HATE that question every single day! Dominick needs to PLEASE olpen the coconut on the kitchen counter for 3 weeks so the kids can all see inside (look up how do you open a coconut without smashing it with a hammer?), when am I going to get my 10 page paper done and my homework for 2 classes done? Can I squeeze in time Sunday night? Need to call Stephanie and see how she is doing with her 3 new kids, she looked frazzled and exhausted at the library last week...I know how hard it is...., gotta copy documents for Pearl S Buck and get them sent...no excuse why I haven't made that a priority and gotten it done before now, Walmart for that facial cleansing kit for Angela...the one that does miracles for acne...is that even carried at Wally? How expensive IS that stuff anyway, after all they have to pay for all those endorsements. Phonics Pathways is a GOOD curriculum and trains the eye to read, wonder if that is Kenny's issue? Would it help? Maybe we should try it out and see. Matthew needs to write more and finish homework for history class, keep on him about that, pick up the house and sweep....why do I have to sweep 3 times a day opr walk on grit? Where does all this dirt come from???? Sweep front porch and have Olesya clean around her birds nest a little but remember life is not perfect and this is LEARNING so let go of the mess somewhat Cindy...pay bills but make sure there is enough in the account FIRST, out of copy paper so get some at Wally, how can I help the girls make the connection between images of Jesus that they have grasped and a REAL God in their lives? Think a lot about that one, roll it, mull it...begin to introduce God Talk language, would Angela let me wash her hair and show her how to make sure it is really clean? Check again to make sure they are not rationing shampoo...they are not at the orphanage anymore and have dollar stores to get more ;-) Garage is DISGUSTING and filled with junk for the church rummage sale at the end of April, sure wish it was earlier, need to clean it out but can't with all that junk...glad the kids will have such a great service opportunity this year being home to help the women of Women's Union set up, our family has been so blessed by their generosity with funds for camp...oh yea, we need to raise more or we can't afford to send them all and this year we have all of them going...what could we do? I hate bake sales and car washes, can't we think bigger with one big hit for more bucks and maybe less small things? Hmmm....Clean up the kitchen table, what else could we put on display boards to help the girls...find a number line for negative and positive numbers as neither understands that at all nor has never seen one...is Kenny scared or OK with upcoming surgery? Need to talk alone with him but need the right moment for feelings to come out, Dominick rocks and I need to tell him that more often...we need to order more work shirts for him maybe??? Email Stacy, can't believe I lost her email and it disappeared into cyberspace when she was so kind and then I didn't make the effort to follow up...I stink sometimes...and here I sit typing this and not emailing her, what's up with that? When I hit send I will write her. Glad the girls are sleeping in and Dominick took everyone this morning, they are so overtired and need much more rest even though they are sleeping abouit 10 hours a night...remember Cindy they are on overload and will need more rest for growth, but they'll be insulted to go to bed at 8:00 PM...maybe Dominick and I can work out something for one extra sleep in day a week and he can haul kids? Wonder if the girls have grown much yet, need to measure them...too bad you can't measure their brains as I am sure THAT hs grown a ton already! We are so blessed that they are as sharp as they are and such tender sweet girls who aren't TOO girlie! Thanks for hearing my fears on that one God! What can we do to show Steve our gratitude for teaching Matt at...and doing a phenomenal job of it, almost college level as much as it could be for a 10 year old...gotta think about that...freezer, check the freezer...do we have any chicken left? Reach out to Pam somehow as she waits for her little one...loved seeing her mom at Wally yesterday (Is that now how I will conduct my social life, in the aisles of Walmart with kids in tow?), need to schedule a dinner date with Lenore and her family...maybe next weekend? Hate having not made that as much of a priority as I should have to say thanks and we appreciate everything. Look up web sites for first couple of science lessons on force...maybe some cool YouTube videos? Wonde if the girls would get anything out of watching it? Gotta get them writing more in English, work on that today. Math curriculum...will we be able to use Saxon with them? LOVE LOVE that program and it's straightforward approach, man has Matt soared with it! But can it be used for ELL learners??? Word tiles today, so grateful for loaners from Joshie's teacher! And theshirts she gave the girls are SO cute...need to find time to write thank you notes to tons of people but it feels too late and like so little. Wish I could send hugs in the mail. Need more "money" work with the girls, and don't forget to introduce standard measuring system...we can work on that in between trips to Delta next week, glad when CSAP testing will be DONE. Need a break for the kids, maybe a picnic to Ouray! Hot Spring sis definitely out for the rest of our lives...that would cost a fortune for all of us! Maybe when we only have one or two with us we can do it for a special treat. Gotta get off this thing, my 10 minutes are up and actually stretched to 13...why am I posting this? To remind myself to cut myself some slack! Force myself not to go back and proof it, it is OK as it is and if there are misspellings too bad, use my time wisely. so why am I blogging? Off to email Stacy!
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
A comfortable ease has settled in, becoming more and more obvious with each passing day. While still not there 100% of the time, we find ourselves feeling more and more like the family we imagined ourselves becoming long ago. I look at Angela and Olesya before me and see my daughters, and they see their Mama. I don't know exactly how or when this transition firmly took place, but it has happened in God's time and is a wonderful gift. Sometime during this past week we ceased to be strangers living under the same roof, we stopped tip toeing around each other, and we began to take pleasure in each others presence in ways we had not felt comfortable doing prior. There have been enough shared common experiences to recall and laugh over, the newness has worn off and there is no doubt now on either side that the people we see before us are the genuine article, and we all actually like what we are seeing.
I think we "arrived" here in record time. I think we are blessed to have the prayers of so many following us. I think God worked a miracle here on a grand scale.
Today as the girls and I were alone for much of the morning while Matt had state testing and the boys were in school, the familiarity became evident. I felt so right about everything, I felt like I was mothering my kids and could now be fully their mom without fear of rejection or reprisal. There was no touchiness there, no distance...and there was unspoken communication and understanding that comes with all good relationships as people grow closer to one another. Angela and Olesya both have been a sheer delight to be with, moving beyond wanting to be helpful out of courteousness to wanting to be side by side with me as we talk and share our lives. Tonight, for the first time, Angela grabbed a game out of the game closet and came to me at the table, ignoring Dominick on the couch and asked "Mama...play?". We then proceeded to play a word bingo game, then moved on to Uno as various others joined us for a round here or there.
Yesterday was a day of more revelations about life before adoption, before the orphanage. There is this strong need for Angela in particular to share about her life and yet not enough language there to fully reveal all her heart seems to want to trust me with. She has compared me 3 or 4 times to her biological mother, brought up alcohol several times, and there is no longer a "bite" or an effort to outdo me or gently push me aside.
The danger in all of this though, is the these revelations about what happened to my dear daughters prior to joining our family now hurt more, they have the ability to bring about a mother's wrath...the power is there more strongly than ever because real love is now pushing out the "fake it until you make it" love.
I am so very sorry it is taking so long to post, I am trying but I am so mentally tired by the end of the day that I don't have the "ooomph" to do it. I have been doing hours and hours of online researching about homeschooling, trying to see what our future might look like and how I will carve out a curriculum that makes sense eventually. I am uncomfortable until I have a firm grasp on what it is we want to accomplish and a rough idea of how that will happen.
I have homework myself that needs to be tended to but I can't seem to get my mind in the zone yet, and fear I might utterly flop this semester. But doing what I am doing now is clearing out space for other thoughts, so I guess I need to do things in this order.
There is a lot going on around here, as you might well imagine, and much of it is subtle. Joshua is on our floor sleeping every night, last night starting out in his own bed and ending up in our room after a bad dream about a fire in our house. He brought that same dream up this afternoon in conversation, so we are keeping a close eye on his emotional state right now. In every other way he appears to be doing great, but he hasn't really completely felt settled to me since before our trip. Such a little guy, he is affected so very deeply by all that happens.
Language is bursting here, and the new words of the week are "yep" and "nope" which totally cracked me up the first time Angeal said them and now both she and Olesya are using it all the time. The other one that struck me in a tender way was Angela referring to herself saying "She doesn't know!" when trying to make decisions or understand something. Pronouns are a challenge, but something about the accent and the shrug of her shoulders as she says it just gets me every time. Olesya's stutter is becoming more evident as she reaches for new words but plunges ahead with great vigor in her new language. The level of receptive language now is staggering, and the out put is growing exponentially by the day and is fun to watch and listen to.
I wonder where my day has gone between laundry and library and learning. At times I feel like a total flop as nothing appears to be accomplished when looking from the outside inward, but when looking from the inside out there are amazing changes taking place. Being alert to everything, working on language 24/7 in ways that do not appear to be "school" but are terribly important for language acquisition is beyond exhausting. I am always looking for ways to incoporate new vocbulary words multiple times throughout our days. I am having to be inventive about ways to explain new situations, envirnments and experiences with the limited language we have available to us. I am having to observe carefully all that is going on to assess where gaps in life experiences might be, then find creative ways to fill those gaps so we have the proper building blocks for new learning. It is HARD to do this!!! It is also very, very rewarding to see the light bulb appear as new concepts are grasped and connections are made.
I have tried many times over the past several days to put all of this in words that would adequately express the depth of all that is happening. Guess what...I can't! There is so much happening every hour that I can't work fast enough to record it in my brain, let alone blog about it. I know I am supposed to be "steering" but the truth is that in many ways right now, I am merely along for the ride.
We are seeing real growth in both girls as they learn how to explore and play. Gradually they are letting go and trying new things without prompting. Angela built a little model fort out of branches from our tree the other day. Olesya is taking ownership of her new life as she moves about the house in a quiet familiarity now that is nice to see. Both are reading more and we bought clamp on lamps for their beds as they were using flashlights to read by. They love looking at catalogs and other books with pictures.
And there is so much I have regrettably left out which I wish I could manage to record, but am sitting here in a stupor and so tired I can't begin to do it. I'll try to do better over the next few days, I will try and blog more regularly for if I take too long, it is gone and out of my head as we move forward at lightning speed into this new life.
I'll try and find time to post more this weekend and add photos. In the meantime, your continued prayers are helping and we gratefully thank you so much. Sorry for the less than stellar blog post tonight, I'll try and do better next time!
Saturday, March 20, 2010
I sit here late on a Saturday night, feeling quite reflective after some good company, a warm email from someone now home safe and sound, a lovely card received that touched Dominick and I deeply, and a week that taught me a lot about the journey to love.
Many people understandably do not realize how difficult the transition is for a child or children to enter a new family. They see the surface, the "happily ever after", and they think to themselves "Isn't that nice?". The work involved, the emotional baggage to be unpacked, the give and take of building new lives is not readily visible.
It also is often forgotten that every single person accepts a new version of family life...every child already in the family has to readjust and adapt, the new parents have a brand new version of their family before them, and the child being adopted has obviously enormous change to accept. It is not easy, it is something many can never imagine for their own lives, and it is something that for some...like us...is the only way we CAN imagine our lives as this is how we form a family. Don't get me wrong, we don't do it philanthropically...we aren't out to "look good" or "save a child", nor do we have a single, solitary regret about not giving birth. This is just the way we do it, so there IS no other way for us, there IS no imagining a different reality.
I recognize that there are as many understandings and realities about adoption as there are families who adopt, each is a very unique path and there is no right or wrong.
This week, for me, has been all about the journey to love...and about accepting that it is not a destination in and of itself, but is indeed a lifelong excursion into the matters of the heart that is never quite finished if we are doing it right :-)
As I was reminded by someone I love very much tonight, it has only been a month since our arrival home, and we have surely come a very long way. It is sometimes hard to see that when you are living in the vortex and not able to view it from the outside, but the growth curve here is phenomenal, and I need to stop and look back for a moment to remind myself of the transformation taking place right before my eyes.
The first week of December was one of the most sorrow-filled, life changing ones I have ever had. Rejection, battling for hearts, unexpected reaching out, acceptance, forgiveness...all were experienced in this unusual and compressed situation. It was followed by very tentative worry-filled steps, amazing courage, reaching out while still fearful and trying to regain footing and balance.
Here we are, 5 weeks home, and though not at all where we will be in 5 months, we are surely seeing love in an entirely new way as it works it's special magic on those in our family.
I am so proud of our sons and daughters. They are my favorite people in the entire world, for they have all been tested in battle and have proven their mettle over and over again under circumstances that would bend or even break the most mature of adults. How can I not sit back in humble gratitude as I gaze into the eyes of the people whom God has chosen to bring into my life and form a family with?
This past week has been special, it has signaled turning another corner in our relationships, there is an ease that is gradually settling over all of us. I credit my "weekend intensive" which really stretched to 4 days or so with God using wise person after wise person to provide me with encouragement and insight. You all helped me remain focused and mature when it was a tipping point where exhaustion and weariness would have caused me to slip into being a mother I would not have been pleased with being.
Instead, the week began on a better note and is ending on a much higher one. Sitting in the car yesterday as Dominick was driving, I felt the grip of some hands on my shoulders giving me a mini-massage. I glanced in the rear view and was stunned to see it was Angela, and quickly averted my gaze so as not to cause her to shy away like a frightened deer. We are playing musical seats in the car with no one in the same seat twice as all nicely take turns, and I would never have guess that the hands gently kneading my shoulders were hers. I have been allowed to touch her more this week, and feel more "safe" doing so and not worrying about rejection. A hand on the back as I congratulate her, her offering of her own hands to show me how cold she is, hugs that last infinitesimally longer...but it is noticeable. She sat next to me on the couch with thighs touching as we work on school work and read a book together, or as this afternoon she bounced out of her room to share a song on a CD that someone kindly sent that she wanted me to hear because even though it was in Russian it had the word "California" in it so she plopped on the couch next to me so I could hear it.
It may be little things folks, but right now they are HUGE...a touch, a lingering moment of connection...it is very, very hard to get to this stage and a child who has suffered so much requires incredible emotional strength to reach out.
And tonight was really...well...just plain old nice. As I sit here in bed blogging, on the nightstand next to me sits two drawings made for us by Angela and left on our bed for us to find labeled "Mama and Papa" in Russian. We ended the evening with all of us congregating on the floor of the girl's room as they played with rocks in a game that was sort of like jacks and showed off their talents while Russian music played in the background and Joshie came in and out looking like Jason in the horror flicks with a glow-in-the-dark hockey mask on. You know, just a normal old night at the LaJoy home. Everyone drifted in and out, slowly growing more tired, and Angela laid her head on her butterfly rug and pretended to sleep. I wondered to myself if I dared, but figured I might as well try so I leaned over after caressing her hair, laid my head on hers and softly whispered "I love you, Angela". My heart raced as I wondered if it was too much too soon, but soared when I immediately heard back an "I love you" in response...and for a few moments we were mother and daughter without a past between us.
We ARE growing together, we DO have success that might not be measured as such to those watching from the outside. There is still the inability to remain physically close very long, and any expression of affection simply can not be done in the light of day face to face, that would be too intimate. She gently rejected me a couple of times today over minor things...couldn't turn to look at me when jumping rope, etc. But oh, how she is trying. What great respect I have for her strength.
And how much I love them both. Can it possibly grow stronger? Of course it can, and isn't that just about the most exciting thing ever, to realize that as wonderful as it feels now it will only get better and better? It still hurts, it will be hard for a very long time, but with patience, perseverance and desire on both sides, we will make it. And believe me, there is enormous desire on both sides for us to become the mother and daughter we have the potential to be.
I give thanks daily for Olesya's easy love and tender affection, for it has been a place I can turn when it all feels unbearable. Her bright smile, her easygoing manner, her open and loving spirit are almost a reward after a tough moment.
I know we will have setbacks, that this is not a straight line but instead resembles the results of a Richter scale after a large earthquake with lots of aftershocks...many huge swings up and down. But those swings will gradually lessen, and eventually stabilize and the quake will be but a distant memory. We have many tremors still to suffer through, but we will do it together, all of Team LaJoy offering support when needed, love without fail, and immediate forgiveness.
Watching Kenny and Olesya work at the kitchen table today side by side on his doll house, I saw cooperation and sharing more than most families ever are blessed enough to see. Seeing Angela pick up Joshie today and swing him in her arms wearing a bright grin was sweet. Hearing both girls express their sadness that Matthew would be away for the night at a friend's house helped me see what bonds are growing here.
You know what? I don't mind at all going through these great trials, for within them we all grow in ways others can't begin to imagine. We all are transformed, we all are challenged to live out the message that Christ taught, we all have greater rewards than most do because with great challenge comes unimaginable blessing. We may not always appreciate the difficulties, but we sure do love the end result!
This week may bring backsliding, it may bring new revelations of an old life that has now been left behind. We will continue to forge ahead, creating our new family, and recognizing that we will never really be finished...will never really have "arrived", for if we are still living and breathing then we still have opportunity for new growth and understanding, and our journey will never be completed. Thank goodness, for who really ever wants to stop learning new and better ways to love?
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Having children who too have some letting go to do, some transforming to experience, has given me an entirely new perspective.
I have to say that honestly though, this is the most humbling, amazing, wonderful thing to watch...not just the molding of individuals into a family, but to see discovery happening on an almost hourly basis...to watch relationships blossom...to see wonder in the eyes of an older child is unlike anything I can explain. We expect it in toddlers and preschoolers, we seldom see it in today's world, particularly with the children we encounter who have an almost world weary weight around them as they have seen and done so much that almost nothing causes their eyes to widen.
For example, ice is a huge hit around here. We have baggies of it in the car to chomp on, we see girls walking around with it hanging unceremoniously from their lips as it sticks there glued by cold and saliva and accompanied by a huge grin. They had never had ice before, drinks are all served at room temperature or warm there.
A couple of days ago Angela rolled down her window after asking if it was OK, and enjoying the warmth of spring looked at me to determine if it was acceptable to put her arm out the window. Imagine how totally cool it was to watch her as she did this for the first time and realized that air flow over your exposed hand and arm feels incredibly powerful. She played with it the entire time we drove home, as we all did at one point or another in our childhood. She turned to me and pointed at the window and said "Kazakhstan...nyet...no window". She had never been in a car where she could roll the window down and feel a breeze rushing past.
Neither of the girls can identify meat, either raw or cooked. I am asked continually "Is it dog? Is it horse? Is it pig? Is it cat?". Remember, institutionalized children get handed a plate of food and it seldom contains meat in the forms we are used to seeing it, and they never get to see it being prepared...so how would they know?
We have had so many of these moments that I wish I had recorded each and every one of them, but alas time is not always easy to find right now.
But along with hearts opening up, we are seeing cracks in the door of minds as well, and that is about the biggest kick a mom and dad could ever ask for. It is gradual, it is subtle, but it is happening. Gentle encouragement and not stepping in to be the official Entertainment Committee is definitely the right approach, and we are seeing results. In time, we just might have some new Curious George's (or maybe Georgette's!) on our hands!
Here is the nest Olesya carefully created along with the seed. It is just outside our front door and ALL the kids have enjoyed seeing the birds come and eat, although Olesya was disturbed that the birds made a mess of her nest and weren't using it the way she intended :-) This alone was huge and has already occupied her for a couple of hours or more as she tends it with care.
Olesya trying to bribe birds into visiting her nest! She created a trail of seed for them to follow.
In art class the 3 kids all made sunflowers as they studied the works of Georgia O'Keefe. I promptly decided to frame them and hang them in our bedroom, and the kids all looked at them with great pride and were so pleased. Love how the same subject looks so different through varying eyes. Can you guess which child created which one?
This is what we are hoping to see more of, Angela playing like a kid. She stayed out there for about 20 minutes playing in the dirt with the boys while Olesya "nested". If only we can help her recapture even the tiniest portion of her missed childhood, I will feel successful. Slowly we are seeing tentative steps in that direction. Thankfully our sons know how to lead the way in a gentle, thoughtful manner. As an aside, you can imagine the girls' disappointment when told the boat in the background was not ours, that we are simply storing it for someone who needed a place for it for the winter. In fact, it was actually one of the harder things to explain the first day we were home. How do you explain THAT one with non-existent English and pantomiming! BUT...it did key us in on another experience we need to fit in this summer...boating! They've never been on the water before!
We have done incredibly well with the language differences, and overall that tends to be the issue lowest on the totem pole, despite what most might think. Occasionally though, it does give us cause for hilarious hoots of laughter, such as tonight. The girls and Matthew were working in the kitchen for school as they learn life skills, and all were preparing a fried chicken dinner with a much anticipated cake that needed to be frosted. Olesya was making white gravy and was also going to frost the cake with white frosting. The next thing I know I hear "Mama...look....look" and I turn around to find a gravy laden yellow cake staring back at me, and Olesya standing there looking utterly perplexed. She knew it didn't look right BUT these crazy Americans do some odd things sometimes, so maybe this is the way it is supposed to look???
Dominick being the good dad he is actually even tried a bite, but declared it a bit too peppery for his taste! No way any of us could contain the laughter over this one, even Olesya.
But we had success in other areas, and after the kids all poked at the raw chicken and giggled over the word "breasts", they did a great job making the meal, including home made mashed potatoes. We did, however, forgo the Gravy Cake for the evening.
For those of you wondering how Matthew is getting along with the girls being home with him, and having been displaced as the "eldest" yet again, this picture pretty much says it all. It is not a rare moment captured digitally, it is the way they all are together pretty much the entire day. The moment I wish I could have caught was when Angela and Matthew were scraping the bowl before cooking the Gravy Cake, and I grabbed Matt's spoon and took a little for myself...and Angela spoon fed him some from her spoon so he wouldn't be left out. Why is it the tenderest and most telling moments never get recorded the way you wish?
In our final photo of the day, Matthew shows his delight at receiving his new Physics science kit. Beside it is the work he has done the past 3 weeks on his Physics lapbook which focused on materials in buildings and structures. He has learned so much and seeing his excitement about his education these days is enough to spur me on in the homeschooling arena even when I am feeling totally overwhelmed and like I'll never succeed at this. This face alone was enough to make me realize I am not failing, for my son now loves to learn. He is eager, he is being transformed himself this year. Whenever I hear that little voice saying "This is too hard! Who do you think you are to be doing this? You have no college degree nor are you qualified...what are you doing here?" I think I will go look at this photo to remind me of all the reasons I am attempting what seems impossible. And I will also remind myself of the most important qualification I have...love.
So it is definitely a life filled with change at Casa LaJoy. The Team is finding that daily there is something to explore, we are being pushed and prodded into new growth, we are being molded into a new version of Team LaJoy. That can be very uncomfortable at times, and yet we make it through to a whole new world somehow. While the old world wasn't a bad one by any means, the new one will be richer, deeper and filled with ever more love than we might possibly imagine.
Somehow, we are making it. The love and help of others, the understanding and warmth that is offered by both friends and acquaintances has kept us stable and nurtured. The prayers are paying off, how grateful we are for those prayers that have seen us through and continue to uplift us. I wish it were possible for each and every person who reads the blog to witness this up close and personal, I try to convey all that is going on but I can't do it justice. It is just too awe inspiring, even to those of us walking through it.
At moments this week I feel the need to pinch myself. They are here, they are finally home. Thank you God for never letting us get so low that we quit on the dream. Thanks for sustaining us as we try our best to be the kind of parents they have long deserved. I promised you long ago that if given this opportunity to parent them I would give it my all and never give up. You did Your part, now it is up to us to do ours. May we be worthy of all you have blessed us with.
And thanks for the glimmers of light and hope this week, I needed it.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Life itself is feeling full of promise as well, my amazing mentors have nurtured me back to a better place spiritually and emotionally, and it is obvious my thinking has become clearer and more focused. I was so in need of renewal this past weekend and God put the right people in my path, and they generously gave of themselves to help me put things in better perspective. I am grateful. I even got treated to a home cooked meal and a quite game of Scrabble Monday night from another mentor, in the shape of our adopted Grandpa!
This is a very hard, long road to walk...especially after the years long road it took to get here in the first place.
We are making it though, ever so gradually, baby steps following backward steps, we are gaining ground.
Olesya is blossoming, there is no other way to describe it. Even Angela is surprised at how much more animated she is. I had the chance to spend our first time alone together going to Walmart the other evening where she wrapped her arms around me walking across the parking lot and continued to be warm, "huggy" and helpful the entire time we were there. I was taken back to the times I spent with my mom when I was a child grocery shopping, and I think for the very first time I felt I was the mother of daughters. Strange, isn't it? The moments when new awareness hits us. Everything has been so intense, so difficult, so guarded since the first day we met them, that this was the first really relaxed moment I have had with either of them without the presence of someone else. Having the boys around has taken off the pressure, Dominick's twisted sense of humor does as well. But this was mom and daughter doing the ordinary day to day stuff, no tension, no interruption, no stress from someone else struggling with emotions. We grabbed fruit (of course), talked about different things she liked to eat, and it felt so normal and natural that I actually didn't feel I was just enduring a trip through Wally World.
And I really, really felt like her mom.
She is opening up in other ways as well, I am seeing a curiosity about the world around her just blooming, and she is better able to find ways to entertain herself. Yesterday it just busted out all over, and she was bouncing around in excitement between the front and back yards as she decided she was going to make a bird's nest out of grass. She carefully crafted it, found some birdseed in the garage and created a cup for it and a small cup for water and set it up outside after spreading seed all over. She couldn't wait to show me and wanted birds to come so badly. She was rewarded this morning as we all stood at the front door watching her bird seed get gobbled up as 2o or more birds descended. Her face lit up, as did everyone else's.
Someone else is ever-so-slowly relaxing as well. The past couple of days have just felt easier with Angela, less tense and more open. I don't know which came first, getting my head on straighter or Angela "giving it up" a little more. Probably a combination of both. But very subtly she is letting me in. It started with me surprising them and hopping on the trampoline to jump with them...Angela was so happy and giggled at bouncing me all over the place.
It carried over into school with her eyes lighting up at my compliments as I remembered something I have always done but hadn't since we brought the girls home. I have made it a habit to brag on my kids in front of them, not necessarily with other adults, but since I first became a mom I have believed in the power of the self-fulfilling prophecy...tell a kid they are great and eventually they come to believe it. So about a week ago I revisited my old habit, saying things like "I am SUCH a lucky Mommy to have the best kids in the whole world!" or "Man, no other mom has kids who are so smart or work so hard! How did I get you guys?" or when doing school work and something is read well or spelled right the first time it is a high five with them and "Awesome!! It is so easy to work with you because you are the smartest kids ever!!! How did I get 5 kids who are all SO SMART???". I have noticed a difference, a brightness and a little side smile as I say such things, so I think it is working on a level I may not fully understand.
The coolest thing is...I believe every word I say. I AM the luckiest mom in the world!!
Dominick has been so intuitive, so helpful, and so aware...actually very un-Dominick-like at times...hahahaha! He has really worked hard at allowing me down time, helping with laundry, keeping things moving when I am behind. It seems that without me telling him, there is this understanding of how much harder this is on me than it is on him at the moment. He has never been quite this aware before, and it is a surprising and wonderful gift not to have to spell it out to him that I am hurting or brain dead or just need some contemplative time to pull myself back together so I can be at my best to face the day to day challenges. I have no idea how any mom in our circumstances (and I know there are relatively few, I'll admit that) can make it without a husband willing to give it his all as well and pick up the slack or do what needs to be done without laying on the guilt or heavy sighs. I am less organized than I need to be at the moment, yet if I am honest I am probably more organized than most mom's are...but it isn't close to being enough. Homeschooling adds this 5th dimension to it all that makes it far more complicated. I need to get more structured in some ways...and train myself to let go of some of that structure in others.
Yesterday was one of those days as was today. There is a whole lotta learnin' going on even if it doesn't come packaged in the traditional "school-ish" package. On a whim yesterday we went to the animal shelter which I described as a "detsky dom for dogs and cats". Both girls are enormously interested in animals, and we were coming home from the library when I decided this would make a good little mini-field trip. Oh my goodness, I wish I had my camera! Both of them were enthralled with the cats and dogs, Angela squealed as one licked her hand and she said "hard mama!" meaning "rough". She had never felt the lick of a dog's tongue before and it was really neat to watch her reactions.
A metaphorical moment came when Olesya was in front of the cage of a small black and white terrier mix of some sort, and that poor little thing was shaking violently at her presence. It tentatively stepped forward, only to back up as we approached. Olesya was patient, gentle with her voice and touch, and eventually after many stutter steps the little dog approached close enough for her to pet. It was amazing to watch and I explained to Olesya that the dog had been hurt by it's owners and was scared of people because it had been abused. Angela stood back and watched this so carefully, and I have a funny feeling that she too understood what she was seeing on a very different level.
Little steps I need to remind myself, lots of backward steps...then progress.
And we ARE making progress, even if at moments it is at the cost of my heart. The past couple of days have been better, Angela has allowed me in a little more. I can touch her on the shouler without her pulling away. She came to me to ask me to see the rash on her back (the breakouts are much worse right now, poor thing...MD appointment next week if I can get it booked) and then came into my room tonight asking me to put some creme on it...a first time to be allowed to really touch her, then she lingered as she asked which side of the bed we each sleep on, and giggled at the airbed. I am going out of my way to compliment her often on many things, and she is beginning to seek out my approval on school work, etc. When I hugged her good night in the bedroom tonight, it was responded too with more vigor than ever before, a little more comfort with each passing moment. How I hope we make it to a deeply rewarding relationship for both of us!!
This is hard, it is hard on each and every one of us. But it is working and I need to remain focused on that during the rough stuff. We have terribly sweet, kind daughters to compliment the amazingly gentle sons we get to parent. I am blessed beyond all measure to be home with them right now, to have suffered financial losses that pushed us to give up the restaurant in Gunnison and have me home. At the time I panicked, yet again lacking faith and trust in God to take care of us and have a larger plan for our future than I ever would have imagined. If you had asked me at this time last year if I could imagine our lives looking like they look right now I would have laughed so hard!! We regrouped, we refinanced, we reconfigured our lives....we realized we could give up more. We have not a single regret, for our lives are richer and fuller than most I know.
And for all the heartache and tension that sometimes lays heavy across us, there are joys that are higher than most would imagine. I get to see the look of astonishment when my new daughters pet a rabbit for the first time. I am here at the end of the school day to hear Joshie crow about his new charm for walking club. I am present for the moments of discovery when a spider is collected in an old plastic Easter egg and put in with a cricket just to see what happens.
It is being there for the bird seed and the Oobleck and the beginning phonics that are struggled through with short vowels and long practice that make it all worth while.
And the way my kids each ran to the car to hug me unbidden when I returned Saturday night from class, each offering all of themselves with firm grasps and tender kisses...and the one who couldn't bring herself to still running and waving brightly...I get filled up in different ways I guess.
As the kids all gathered around the TV tonight to watch a Barbie movie from the library, and Josh saying in all seriousness "This is a good movie! I am glad Olesya got it.", it was ever more apparent that the girls have added a new texture and diversity to our lives...and I have sons who are open to the experience and appreciative of more than most boys would be.
Oh yes, it IS hard to do this odd blending of strangers, but you learn so much more about yourself and you stretch and grow in ways you never expected. You also learn that real men love Barbies...and I for one happen to think that is kind of cool.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
It humbles me and fills me with gratitude that any single one of these woman would care enough to offer their hearts and minds to me. That there are this many who are so steadfast in their support, so gifted in such different yet overlapping areas, and so willing to reach out and offer their precious time to me makes me realize I am one lucky lady to have such very special guardian angels. You all know who you are...and please know how much I love you back and look forward to the day when maybe, just maybe, I can offer you some of this love in return. I KNOW I can never offer the wisdom you have shared with me, for it would take centuries for me to catch up to any of you in that department.
As I prayerfully look towards a new week, knowing it will be filled with anxiety and joy as well, I am working very hard internally on myself to view things from a God place and not a Mom place. Our sermon this morning was another "Feeding Moment" and I walked away feeling as if God was telling me exactly how to proceed with our family. It might take awhile to really internalize and act on it in the midst of emotional turmoil, but I need to for it is the only way we will succeed.
Our sermon this morning was based upon our Scripture reading from Luke 15: 1-3, 11b-32. You all know the story, it's about the prodigal son. You can read Reverend Karen Winkel's entire sermon here if you so desire:
There were many ways in which I related to this sermon, could place myself in certain roles, etc. But there were a couple of things that stood out for me, to some perhaps in an odd way, but God works differently in each person's heart and we take away what we need at any given moment when hearing a sermon.
I quote here:
"If horses had gods, they would look like horses, so goes a Greek proverb. If horses had gods, they would look like horses.
Our sense of who God is and what God is like is shaped by what we know."
What a powerful reminder to me, that our daughters' image of "mom" is shaped by what they know. What they know...how they have experienced the role of "mom" is quite perverted and unnatural. We need to build an entirely new concept of what "mom" is for them, and what took years to create might take years to recreate. They have had 2 different versions...biological and orphanage "replacement" mom's. Neither will serve them well in the context of a real family. While I will not demonize either image, for each served a purpose, neither version is accurate, neither prepares them to be mothered well, nor to mother well themselves in the future.
The big question is, how do we replace those old, misshapen images with a new, healthier one?
Another thought that came to my mind when hearing this was that our daughters have no sense of God, no relationship that we know of, and a real discomfort with God in general. Let's re-read this again:
"Our sense of who God is and what God is like is shaped by what we know."
I was slammed right between the eyes when I realized that Dominick and I, along with every single person in our LaJoy Family community, are responsible for creating a "knowing" of God for Angela and Olesya, for WE will be how they each encounter the living God. Their new understanding of God will be shaped by what they know, by what they encounter each and every time they interact with others who walk in God's light and love. Very powerful to think about.
Moving on, I quote again:
"When the important and influential people in our lives show us love, compassion, and generosity, the God of our imaging is likely one we’ll want to cozy up to and call upon.
But if these folks are punitive and capricious, if they withhold love and kindness, our God easily resembles them—only super-sized."
What a reinforcing statement. This is NOT about me being a mom and being accepted as such, this is about showing love, compassion and generosity so my daughters have an image of God to lean on. It is not really about them calling on ME, for one day I will not be there. I want them to be able to have the firmest foundation to stand on, one that will exist throughout their lifetime and never let them down as surely I will over and over again. But maybe, through our actions, they will begin to one day trust in a God that is far more solid than Dominick and I...even if we NEVER get to a place where they can fully "give it up" to us. However, I have a sneaking suspicion the two go hand in hand.
And yet more:
"Unlike most humans, the God in Jesus didn’t need people to be like him in order to love them. He didn’t need them to be presentable, to have their act together, to be anything other than they were. Jesus didn’t even need them to want to change. He simply loved people as-is and trusted that this love had the power to turn them around. Turn them toward God. Turn them toward new life."
If I truly want to "follow Jesus" in my own life, I need to listen carefully to this message. I need to love the girls as-is, and more importantly I need to trust that this love will have the power to turn them around...turn them toward God...turn them toward a new life. How much more clear could anything be to instruct me right now?
They don't have to have their act together for me to show love, they don't need to be anything other than what they are...including if they are rejecting of love at moments because that is the model they had before them in years past. If I can be successful at this during the most painful moments, we just might have a shot at helping them have a new life in all ways.
And still more stood out powerfully to me this morning:
"The father could easily have argued with his son about the folly of his request. He could have flown into a rage because of his son’s profound insult. He could have begged and pleaded, hoping to talk sense into his son. He could have let his feelings take the place of pure love.
Instead, the father trusted that the love he had for his son would see him through the worst of his son’s bad choices. And that this love would win."
The unspoken insult of rejection and perceived injuries I am receiving daily are not at all on the scale of the prodigal son's father, and yet they are real, they cause pain, and they are capable of having the power to alter the "pure love" that needs to be offered so that love can win. Anything less will be false and perhaps lead to a "false positive", an outward sense of completeness and in inward emptiness that will be hard to fill. I want the girls to have the fullness of love and life within them, I have to daily...hourly if necessary...fight the urge to offer anything less than pure love, I have to move past rage and anger when actions cut deeply. Because love has to win.
Then most profoundly there was:
"Love does not insist. It does not control. It does not micromanage. It does not threaten. Love sits by the window every night we’re away. It prays for us. It waits on us to change our minds. Love trusts its power to turn things around, even as there are no guarantees."
Wow..."It waits on us to change our minds." Wow. Wow. Yea, love does that, doesn't it?
"Love trusts its power to turn things around, even as there are no guarantees."
I am not living fully in that trust right now. I am ashamed of myself, and I apologize, God. You have shown me over and over again in grand ways how true that is, and yet here in the trenches I have given up that trust. Thanks for reminding me.
And my very favorite part:
"You know what happened. Living in hell, in the outer darkness of his horrible choices, a light finally went on in the son’s heart. He came to himself, scripture says."
"...a light finally went on in the son's heart." Oh how I want to see that light!! There is darkness there right now, there is a flicker of a flame in danger of being snuffed out.
As we begin a new week, may I carry this wisdom close to my heart. It seems at moment I am the Prodigal Mother, who has to learn lessons the hard way myself.
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Friday, March 12, 2010
Thank you to all who reached out to me in my muck and mire of the other day. There are so many dimensions to what is going on right now, so many layers that I am trying to sort through, and often it is scary and overwhelming. I know you are all right and I need to make sure I make time for myself, but in some ways at this point in time that is easier said than done. However, we are trying...and my amazing Team Mate and love of my life is stepping up to the plate in ways I never expected showing great understanding of how very taxing my job is right now. Yesterday Dominick came home at 7:30 AM after getting to work at 3:00 AM to go to work, and told me he was taking the day off so I could finish my ministry class homework and have a break from the kids. He was also going to take care of some last minute technology issues here at the LaJoy Lifeschool campus such as getting all the various used laptops given to us hooked up to the special deal laser printer we just purchased from Office Depot (anyone needing one? They have a bottom of the line HP one that is only $69 after an in store rebate! Will save a ton on ink cartridges!).
To have a husband who sees what I am doing as not only valuable but knows I simply can not stay in the game at the level I need to without encouragement and regular help in the ways he can offer it makes all the difference in the world. Want to know how we do it all? That is how...none of us are in it alone, we are all together and when one is flagging, another steps up...even at the kid level. What is going on around here is a crash course at the PhD level in "Parenting 501 - Trauma and Institutionalization and the Effects on the Pre-Adolescent Heart". Believe me, it is intense, it is at times miraculous, and it is also very, very hard to remain on an even keel yourself when all around you the seas are stormy.
If you are tired of crying, there is nothing to do but laugh!
As I tried to explain tonight to a dear, dear friend and seasoned pro, so much of what is going on is non-verbal, not due to the language issues but because there are emotions that can not be expressed by 10 and 11 year old girls who have never had the opportunity and blessing of having someone care what they are feeling and help them sort it out. There are risks being taken, emotional steps forward and tugs backward that are visible in very subtle ways, and it is exhausting when I can not, nor should I, turn off my Mommy Radar. Don't get me wrong, there are moments when I would give just about anything to be one of the Oblivious Ones, those who don't pick up on non-verbal cues, those who don't agonize over every nuance and perceived signal. MAN I wish I could turn it off!!! And yet I realize that is exactly what I need to be turned on to right now, it is my job.
Thankfully, unlike my daughters up until now, I do have people who help me sort it all out. You are keeping me sane, you are helping me drop it all down a notch when at moments I can see nothing but my failures at a time when there are plenty of them to focus on. You are saying to me "We love you, hang in there...reach out and I am here." You are picking up the phone and calling me, sharing in the laughter and the tears as I try not to ride the roller coaster but attempt to be the one controlling the speed in the control booth.
It is not that I don't want to reach out more, it is not that anyone has failed me as my nearest and dearest has thought. It is that I don't even know how to ask for help or what help I need right now. Does that make sense? It is so much effort to make it through each day and be attentive and focused, that when it comes to my own needs, I feel so drained it seems easier to just keep moving rather than stop, analyze it, pick up the phone and call, schedule time...it just seems so hard. That probably sounds so stupid to some of you who are saying "Go ahead, complain and then you can't even pick up the phone to call someone????. But I think those who have walked in our shoes understand without further explanation. Dominick told me after working with the girls on some homeschool stuff the other day "Man, that hour and a half wiped me out! How do you do this?". I am back to the toddler stage times two at moments, with someone standing at the bathroom door saying "Mama...mama...look!" and being begged to ride bikes 8 or 10 times a day. Sure I could and DO say no many times, but the fact is what we are seeing is huge growth and now is not the time for me to let up, but to encourage that growth. They are "getting it" that someone actually cares to see their latest drawing or watch them play a game!!! They want to be filled up in ways they have never been filled up before, and for real healing to take place, that is exactly what needs to happen! It is like watching an awakening in slow motion, and knowing you can't take your eye of the video camera or you will miss the most important part.
I am being tested as the mom of toddlers as well, and in many ways emotionally we ARE dealing with toddlers who are working hard at understanding this brand new world they find themselves a part of...one where love is expressed freely and often, where accomplishments are applauded, where we put the needs of the family first and the needs of the individual second. It is also a world where Mama means what she says, and that is final. Before Dominick began working with the girls yesterday on school stuff, I took the first couple of hours and we had one of those moments which then led to me getting the cold shoulder the remainder of the day. Going from a rigidly structured school environment to the unknown and seemingly overly relaxed world of homeschooling is a monster change. It also can feel more like play than school, as we go back to some basics or work in more creative ways. I was getting some lax attitude yesterday and I stopped, put things down on the table before me and looked them both in the eye saying "Did you act like this at school at the internat? Would you be allowed to not pay attention? This is still school even if it is at home, and you WILL pay attention and work hard.". Yes, I know they don't speak English, but it is surprising how much can be inferred and from the hung heads and the sudden straightening up in the chairs, they both knew exactly what I was saying. Luckily, they really are good kids and although Angela was a little perturbed much of the rest of the day, she admitted she did not act like that at school and her behavior immediately changed, along with Olesya's.
But it is hard to spend the rest of the day being in your kid's Nasty List. Cold shoulders do NOT feel good. Going to bed without saying goodnight is not a great way to end the day. Seeing the warmth with Dominick and yet being on the receiving end of the conflicting emotions running through Angela is at times both compassion inducing and tear inflicting.
And yet progress is made every single day. Today was a mostly good day with less rejection and yet a heartbreaking one in the middle of the day. It was dentist day with all 5 in for free screenings. Much to our dismay it was NOT a good visit, not due to the kids but due to the findings. 14 cavities between all 5, and one crown needed. 8 of the cavities were between Angela and Olesya and the winner of the gold crown goes to Angela. Can you say OUCH???? Not sure yet how we are going to handle all that but it is not the girls' fault. A couple of the boys are minor ones, almost preventative fillings.
Sadly though, as Angela was in the chair she cried out in pain over one of them that was examined, and I jumped up and grabbed her hand as she had expressed 3 or 4 times fear on the way over about going to the dentist. Her rejection this time was again subtle...she refused to hold my hand, laying there squirming and breathing fast as fear and pain crept in and yet being unable to literally grab hold of the support being offered. It broke my heart that hers had been so hardened and that she had long ago learned that leaning on someone would lead to disappointment. I tried not to let it hurt my feelings, but it is hard...especially when she then had to sit back down afterwards on the bench seat next to me and sat so far on the edge of it that she almost fell off, just to get as far from me as possible. How hard it must be for her, to feel this much fear of even the smallest intimacies!! How can I EVER help her break through this?
And yet this afternoon at the pool, she was trying to gather the courage to jump off the diving board and couldn't do it. Finally I went over to her trying to encourage here and she said "Me Baaack baack" which is my lame attempt to write out her sounding like a chicken. I then figured I'd throw myself to the lions once again, because...hey...my heart needed a little more stomping on for the day and I am a glutton for punishment...and I said "Next time mama swim, and save you" and pantomimed her jumping off the board and me there underneath to get her back to the side. I asked if she would try it then, and got a surprised grin in return and a hearty "Da!! Me Do Mama swim!". And the clickity clack of the roller coaster car could be heard again underneath my feet as we climbed another mountain.
How I love this photo...it shows a tiny piece of what our family life is really like 98% of the time...love, carrying one another, unabashed nurturing and warmth.
The Youngest LaJoys
Tonight, after staying out late for a long overdue visit, I got home and Olesya was almost asleep on the couch, the boys were up late for "Party Night", and I was saying good night and asking where Angela was. Olesya snuggled up under the blanket under my touch, grinned and said "Good Night Mama!!!!" with a sweet smile. Grabbing solid hugs from the boys I then ventured into the girl's bedroom where Angela had been in bed for over an hour. I quietly climbed up the ladder and she moved, kicking her blanket around and I gently covered her feet. She lifted her head slightly and then reached her hand out for me, wiggling her fingers for me to grab hold. There, in the dark with only the soft light of the nightlight glowing, we held hands, she gripped me oh-so-tightly, and I just stayed there for a bit, relishing this effort of hers masked by the darkness as she showed me she wants to reach out to me, but needs time to learn how to do it and to feel comfortable and safe to do so. I regretfully let go and whispered "Good night sweetheart, I love you." as I traipsed gently back down the ladder. "Night mama" she called back to me.
For now, it is enough. Maybe one day I can come to expect real hugs, maybe one day she won't shy away from me in the light of day. In the meantime, it is the quiet moments in the dark that will have to do, where she can hide from the intimacy of love that is growing and feeling so unfamiliar.
In the meantime, I still shake my head in wonderment at the relationship between the kids. What fun they have together!!! What laughter we hear! The pairings continue to change depending upon the activity...Angela and Kenny finally paired off yesterday afternoon for some bike riding, that was the last one I was waiting to see happen. Olesya and Matt go back and forth, and Joshie ends up with either one on a regular basis. It is a joy for a mother to watch her children loving each other.
In the midst of the emotional roller coaster ride, we have finally brought some order to the homeschooling chaos which was really disturbing me and making it hard for me to function well. I know, call me anal retentive, you'd be right. Here are some before and after photos, not that you'll find it all that interesting. We decided to go the cheapie route, after having thought about revamping our living room with a fill line of sturdy cabinets or built ins. It was just way too much and we couldn't justify spending that much money, so we ditched the non-functioning glass doors on our entertainment center, bought a bookshelf at Target, got some storage boxes for hanging file folders, and went to work creating space. The linen closet became "repurposed" (I hate that term but find it funny using it!) as a game and photo album closet. We organized under bathroom sinks and that became our towel storage area. We got rid of school supplies as part of our dining room adornment, and hopefully this system will work well for all the excess. The one thing we have not solved in terms of beautification is the library book situation. We are currently using two laundry baskets in our living room, one for the city library and one for the school library. The fact is, I guess I think books ARE beautiful and if they are out, they will be read. If they are stored neatly away somewhere to keep them from view, they are likely to go unread and forgotten. So, laundry baskets it is. And really, is there anything more lovely than a pile of books waiting for some "Curl Up" time??
So here is the big "reveal"...totally unexciting I know...here are the 2 before photos, jam packed and disorgained entertainment center with doors I literally had to force open by pounding on them (What do you expect from poorly constructed pre-fab furniture??). Then there is the stunningly beautiful treasure trove of plastic drawers filled with pens and the shelves filled with everything from dry erase boards to magnetic letters...what is not showing is the kitchen counter piled high with books and binders:
During these waning days of summer, new adults are slowly blossoming and, for one, childhood is very gradually beginning its tentative wave...