Saturday, January 29, 2011

Being Real

My, oh my, that last post of mine was whiny sounding, wasn't it?  Forgive me for the less-than-uplifting reading.  It's turned out to be quite a deep week here at the LaJoy Yurt, with Kazakhs and Kyrgyz exploring, encouraging and exploding all over the place.  You know, I always try to keep it real here on the blog, and the last post was real...sometimes this lifestyle choice of ours to homeschool is really, really hard and exhausting.  And I laugh as I read that because the adoption part of our lives seems EASIER at moments, and I know if given a choice of the two, many would select homeschooling over adopting! Hahaha!  Funny how THAT part seems fairly straightforward these days!!! :-)

I read many posts about the joys of homeschooling, and there ARE many, but there are far fewer blog posts on blogs I read about how the adjustment is not always a smooth and easy course.  To go from a working (part of the year) mom of 3 to a homeschooling mom of 5 within a period of a few months, and then add in the emotions of assisting in the assimilation of new lives, new language and new culture...well, the fact is that sometimes it is not all rainbows and puppy dogs.

I'd still do every single thing without question.  But sometimes it is just harder than others.

For example, I knew when we sort of sailed through Joshua's traditionally difficult time of year this past fall, that we had probably not seen the last of his struggles.  Sadly, I was right, and he has been sleeping in our room the past few nights, and for the foreseeable future, due to night terrors which have returned.  We had 3 major episodes just last night, and try as we could he could not wake up, and he stood by my bedside trembling, staring at me and totally in an altered state unable to awaken.  I caught him just as he tried to go the  bathroom where he stood as he was crying tugging his shorts down.  He was terrified of something and could not "come to", and talked about being chased.  Making little sense when he speaks at these moments, it is hard to pinpoint what the cause might be, and he is completely unable to remember anything at all come morning.  The kids reported that he cried out "Mama...don't leave me" earlier in the week while still sleeping in his room.  He starts crying out and screaming so loudly, it is quite scary, and then his zombie-like state when we get to him makes the other kids worried and scared, so we decided to just have him in our room where we can deal with it immediately and they are not subjected to being wakened from a deep sleep with horrifying screams.

Just as I was hoping that maybe we were past all of this and I could breathe a sigh of relief, here we are and worse than it has been in years.  He is back to tugging on his eyelashes repeatedly as well, and has always seemed a little on the verge of being OCD, but the hand washing which occurred a couple years back until his hands were raw has not reappeared yet.  Oh, how I worry for this precious son of ours, how my heart hurts as I see him sobbing in the middle of the night, completely unaware of my presence.  I trust that someday this will be no more, but 7 years post-adoption I am still in the throes of being reminded that he may always carry with him some sense of loss and fear, no matter how hard we try to reassure him.

On the bright side, during the day he is a happy, funny little guy who has decided to torture his mother with  learning a new instrument, the violin.  He tried piano 2 years ago and after 6 months decided he didn't really want to do it, so I allowed him to quit as I didn't want to force it since he was only 5.  It had been his idea, and I debated about it thinking he was a little young, but since it was something he expressed in interest in, we figured we didn't have much to lose.  Now that we are homeschooling, and he does not have music at school, I told him that in September this next school year I wanted him to select an instrument to learn, and that I wanted him to take music for 2 years.  If he didn't like it at that point, we would then allow him to quit, but we want all the kids to learn to read music a little and to understand what it feels like to create music.  Two years allows kids to get past the most awkward stage and be able to actually play a few things decently which often leads to greater interest.

After attending the Christmas concert this year, Josh turned to me and with great certainty said "Mommy, I want to learn the violin, it sounds beautiful!".  He has mentioned it several times since then so we decided to start on it now rather than waiting until September.   What I have not shared with you is that the violin is my least favorite instrument, I am more of a woodwinds and brass kinda gal.  Funny though, how sweet the tone sounded to my ear even as he just played around last night for the first time not having a clue what he was doing.  Seeing his seriousness about it, knowing he really wants to do this, and watching his pride as he showed off his new instrument to his best friend, suddenly that sound I had previously classified as obnoxious became mellow and wonderful.

Here is Concert Master Joshua LaJoy:

As I reread what I posted earlier this week, I heard my own exhaustion, frustration and grief.  Grief?  Why grief?  Well, maybe grief for all I can't fix for our kids, grief for the loss of my pre-homeschooling life that admittedly allowed me greater freedom, and grief that I have lost the more casual but very necessary connections with others that help us all feel part of a larger community.  But tonight God reached down and gave me a Big Ol' Bear Hug in the form of an evening spent with my dearest friend who loves unconditionally, who has been a great source of encouragement and understanding, who has been 100% supportive of every single decision we have ever made, even if those decisions are ones she might not make for herself or her family.  That kind of acceptance is priceless, and she has no idea how she has personally kept me going and feeling loved at moments when I feel pretty darned unlovable and less-than-interesting.

I came home with a warmed heart, feeling better about life in general than I have in quite awhile.  The kids all eventually drifted off to bed, Joshua made his bed up on the floor of our room next to my side of the bed, and the dog snuggled up next to me having not piddled on the floor all day so I actually didn't feel like strangling her.  I then sat down to finish writing in the school  journals I have started for the kids.  In it we each write at the beginning of each semester what our fond memories were of the semester that just passed, what our goals are, and I add something personal as well.  I grabbed up Angela's and finished hers which I had started the day before, and in it found a special note to me that I had been told I could go ahead and look at whenever I got to it.  So sitting here still reflecting on all I haven't been able to achieve nor might never be able to achieve, I had the most precious "Ah Hah" moment ever, one that I will cherish and recall every time I feel low, incompetent, or begin to feel those selfish twinges we all get once in awhile, like the ones I spoke about in my last post.  Sure, I know I need to feed my soul, our marriage, and so many other things.  I also know that,  truthfully, our decision to educate our children at home through high school is a huge commitment that means I am making the conscious decision to put my personal dreams aside for the next several years.  Where just a year ago prior to the girls coming home and having finally got all 3 boys firmly in school full-time I was contemplating the possibility of maybe going back to school part-time and getting a degree, or trying to find a decent job during the school day, I now find myself in a role I never imagined ever, as a teacher...grading grammar workbooks at midnight, leading discussions on opinion versus fact or fate versus free will, and reading "Frog and Toad Together".

Reading Angela's journal entry swept away all the miscellaneous junk floating around my head these days.  It instantly made me realize the value of my everyday, hum drum existence.  Let me share what our beloved daughter wrote me:

Translation for those who can't read RussianEnglishEse well: "Mom this is for you.  You can open it when you are, let's say, 62 years old because maybe it will give you a good feeling."  Yes, you can tell from the joking  tone that she has already been Dominick's daughter too long...hahaha!  I had no idea what to expect when I untaped this little cover to her note, and this is what I discovered beneath:

Oh Angela, thank you for giving me what I needed most right now.  We talked this week about how God whispers in our ear, and we have free will to follow what we hear or make another choice.  God must have whispered in Angela's ear this week, telling her that Mom needed a little encouragement from someone who knew exactly what I needed to hear.

MOM...big ol' capital letter MOM is what I am.  This homeschooling thing is a multi-layered experience for us.  We elected to take this step because we had kids who might become statistics, because we felt we had no alternative.  We wanted them to get a different education than they might otherwise get, and we wanted the 3 adopted at older ages to have the chance to revisit childhoods safely as long as they needed to without fear of ridicule.  We needed to step back academically when necessary, repeat whatever would need repeating...and many times as we had to.  We had a million reasons for homeschooling, all of them valid and good ones.

I had only one reason for not doing it, selfishness.  Period.  And I'll tell you that it went through my mind a hundred times before walking in the door of the school and withdrawing Matthew as our first one home..."Oh man, I am going to be STUCK now and I will never have any time for myself, ever. Do I REALLY want to volunteer to do this?  Will I ever have a 'real' life again?".  Thankfully, my better self won out.

What started out as academic need, turned into much more.  I didn't realize until reading this tonight that, for us, homeschooling has been about showing Angela, Olesya and Kenny, as well as Josh and Matthew, that THIS mom would share all I have to share with them, THIS mom would sacrifice her very life for them, THIS mom would never, ever leave them or place them second behind alcohol or drugs.

Without me being aware of it at all, homeschooling has been about becoming MOM in the eyes of my children.  I had no idea that was what this was all about.  Kenny further reiterated it when writing a short paragraph this week also that said "My mom will never give up on me, even when I drive her crazy".  Of course it was spelled like this "My mom will nevr give up on me ven wen I trive her krazy".  You're right, Kenny, mom's that are MOM's with big 'ol capital letters never give up, even when we are driven crazy :-)

Tomorrow I'll head off to church, 5 kids in tow, and a smile in my heart.  Oh, I might be a bit bleary eyed if Josh has another 2 or 3 nightmares tonight, or if the dog needs to go out at 3:00 AM, or if I simply can't get to sleep and decide to grade some papers.  Our life is not for everyone, our successes would not necessarily be considered "success" in the eyes of others.  Letting go of societal measurements of success is not always an easy thing to do, but we are making headway.  As I quietly shared with my friend tonight, our success is measured not in eventual Harvard acceptances or Spelling Bee winners, success for us is defined is found in a child who no longer cries out in the night, it is heard in the words of a child who begins to see his intelligence despite his challenges, it is in knowing a child feels loved down to the marrow of their bones when for years that was a foreign concept.  Harvard?  Who needs it.  Great job for me?

I already have it.  I am MOM...


Anonymous said...

What a blessing, Angela's note, to be reminded of the value of what you are doing for your kids by schooling them at home and keeping them close. The world does not understand older child adoption. Kids seem to adjust so well and "show" so well in public, that others don't realize the emotional issues they have to deal with. Most of that comes at home, where no one but us see.

Our newest (home three years)is away at a church retreat with other middle schoolers. It dawned on me that it's been different around here, not needing to work through some of the attitudes she continues to have, her attempt at letting me know she's not happy with me and that maybe somehow the grief she can't even pinpoint is my fault. We're still working at using words, rather than facial expressions to keep me at bay. She's truly done very well, but we've had our "attachment" issues of sorts. Hopefully, absence has made her heart grow fonder. I'm anxious to see her and hear about her time away...and curious to see how "re-entry" goes.

And even though our issues have been "normal" and slight, you must know what a blessing it is that your girls have bonded so fully and quickly. I also know that our issues are very much to be expected. It's a fine balance here between letting her bring things up, but not waiting too long to try to help her deal with some of her trauma. She was in the orphanage from 18mo. until she came at 11yrs. But in between, she met her birth mother (at about age 9yrs), when hers became a relinquishment, after beginning as an abandonment. I believe that's made things harder in some ways than for my others from the orphanage who never had such a meeting. Our other daughter (home at 10 1/2yrs)from thesame orphanage had some of these issues, but let go of them much sooner.

The things these kids can adjust to is amazing. And I know there may be harder roads ahead, at different points in their lives. They can know I will always be here (as long as I'm "here") to try to help them find answers. Unfortunately, there are many things we will never know.

Sorry to busy you with my story, but just to remind you that there are those who truly understand some of the issues, varied as they are. Your decision to keep your kids close at home with you is a great gift to them...and to you! In my head, I know it might have been very good for us to choose homeschooling for a time, to encourage the bonding, but in our case, we've gotten much help and support with schooling issues.

Praying for Joshua and his night terrors. Is it also something they can outgrow, as their bodies develop different sleep habits? And just wondering if there was such a thing as biofeedback for such issues? You can see I don't know what I'm talking about!

Nancy in the Midwest

Anonymous said...

There is biofeedback therapy for past trauma. I haven't been able to do it myself, but would love to have the opportunity to bury some old ghosts someday...

Anonymous said...

Everyone needs to whine a little every once in awhile. We understand. :-)

Joshua's mini "concert" was really sweet!

Angela's note to you was wonderful! Isn't it just wonderful when you get something like that just when you need it. I do believe that you're right that God used Angela to whisper in your ear.

I'm glad you're feeling better and ready to dive in and do your job now!

~ Maureen