Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Schizophrenic Blogger

This is a looooong post as it will be the last one before we are on a plane to New York City!!!! There are also several photos somewhere in the body of this post.  So grab a cup o' java...or Diet Coke...and read on...

I was asked the other day about my blog by someone who has never visited it before, and found myself a bit stumped trying to describe it.  What IS this blog about??  At times it feels a bit schizophrenic, for I am truly all over the map and I wonder how anyone can maintain an interest in what gets posted here.  One day it is pictures of the kids, the next a rant at something I consider unjust in the world, yet another day it is about our homeschooling exploits, and always sprinkled throughout are nuggets of faith that probably make no sense to anyone else but myself.  There are things recorded here solely so Grandma can view it, events documented that have little meaning or value for anyone outside our immediate family but this has become our primary Memory Keeper so that means that whether our readers are bored or not I will place certain things here for our future family enjoyment.  There are adoption related topics, educational discoveries, surgery stories, and a surprising amount of sharing about the daily mundane pieces and parts of our lives.  Trying to sum up this place is virtually impossible, pun intended.

When I allow myself to think about it, which isn't often for it freaks me out a bit if I let it in, I am blown away when I think about the fact that for 4 1/2 years now, there are hundreds of people from literally all over the world who have followed our family story, who care enough to bother to visit our blog daily or weekly to catch up on what's going on around here.  So many of you are watching our children grow and a family constantly change...and you have never even met us!!  You have seen Josh grow from a 4 year old pre-schooler to a soon to be official 3rd grader.  You have stood behind us, prayed from afar, and rejoiced with us as we added not one, not two, but 3 children to our family.  Many of you have reached out to us in ways that are very, very difficult to explain to an "outsider" who has not followed along all these years.

If I think too much about it, it influences how I write and what I record, and I prefer what comes out unchecked for that is the stuff that our very real life is made of.  But sometimes, once in a great while I will check the blog stats just for fun and I will wonder who all of you are, what YOUR lives are like, what are your day to day struggles and challenges, victories and successes...and what is it that draws you to care at all about this family in Montrose, Colorado who is just going about it's business of being a family.  Perhaps I will never really understand, but I feel blessed to share this journey with whoever continues with us, for as long as you continue with us.

So here is a little more hodge podge for you, 1 day prior to leaving on our wonderful, amazing, awesome, incredible, trip of a lifetime we have dubbed, thanks to a friend, "7 in '11 East Coast Tour".  I can't categorize this post any more easily than I can any others, so if you are still reading by the time you hit this paragraph then you must be used to my helter skelter ways and will continue on with the post! Hahaha!

We all had a great laugh today as we talked honestly and openly about a little grumbling and grinching going on.  Olesya has been having a bit of a problem with her various siblings over the past couple of weeks...nothing major just nitpicky little typical girlie stuff.  Oddly, and I know pretty unbelievably, we really have very little conflict in our home between the kids, or any of us for that matter.  What a gift THAT is!  Well, the common theme running through our recent mini-travails has been Olesya, so I decided to bring it up at a time when nothing prompted it and when we were all hanging out just snacking and talking.  With no reason for defending herself, and making light of it helped bring out the fact that she admitted easily and readily that it was all her fault, and she was just feeling grumpy sometimes and wanted to get her siblings in trouble! Hahaha!  How's that for honesty?  I tell you, she and Angela both are so refreshing in their ability to be up front, it is delightful.  So we all talked about hormones and how we will have FOUR...yes count that FOUR of them all going through this at the same time, and we need to work hard at keeping peace when inside they are all going through emotions they don't understand sometimes.

We spoke about how it can be harder for girls than boys, and that even then some girls suffer from it worse than others.  Angela is not as effected by it all as Olesya is, and we had a good laugh as I pretended I was back in my teen years and shared how horrible I was for about a year.  I looked at Olesya and reminded her that this was no excuse, and she needed to work at not being so sensitive over everything and with the others I said we needed to offer her a little more understanding and recognize that what she was feeling right now was often out of her control.  I don't know if any of you realizes just how close in age all four of the older kids are, but they are a mere one year and four months apart.  Yes, your pity (and prayers!!!) will be happily accepted :-)

On to topic #2, awhile back I shared that the kids were all taking a doll making class, yes, even the boys really wanted to do it.  This past week they met at their teacher's house and completed the project.  They all painted the ceramic doll faces and then she fired them, then met with them to complete the bodies and clothing.  As you'll see from the photos, we don't have any true doll makers in the group but man, did they have fun!  They all love art in any form, and if it was left to my talent alone to teach them we would be in really bad shape, so I look for outside folks to provide them with what I can't, and I look for unique and different applications for art or music as well.  Their teacher happened to be a former long time foster parent who was so innately in tune with the kids, you could tell she must have been a spectacular foster mom and impacted many lives with her gifts.  Here are some pictures:

Hmmmm...whose doll could this possibly be???

Easy to see they really, really enjoyed this class, and they walked away from it with nice little keepsakes as well.

Moving on to topic #3 (I told you this would be a long post!  Gotta get it all in before we share our travels!), a couple of months ago I mentioned I would be a featured guest blogger on the blog for Connect the Thoughts, a curriculum provider we adore.  Well, I have written three blog posts for their blogs, and thought I'd share the links here for anyone interested:




Topic #4 - We love to camp, but didn't do any last year because, frankly, we were quite tired of being away from home after our winter in Petropavlosk adopting the girls and were just not in the mood to camp.  We have a large popup trailer and our Big Blue Monstrosity van to tow it with, and want to do a lot more camping this summer.  We had been kicking the idea around casually about looking for something hard sided that would also allow for a little more privacy for all of us when changing clothes, etc. and that might have a shower and toilet built in.  Problem #1 - We have no money.  Problem #2 - A family of 7 is hard to fit in most  trailers and motor homes.  Problem #3 - We live in a small town and options are limited.

After spending a little time looking at very used units, getting ideas about layouts and prices, we came to the conclusion we would have to stick with what we had.  Then we saw what appeared to be a fantastic bargain on Craig's List, so decided to drive to Grand Junction about an hour away to check it out.   This particular unit had a perfect layout for a larger family and we thought it might work well for us.  Pulling up to it, it was quite obvious that the "bargain" was no bargain after all as the window seals were all rotted, door handle and lock were totally missing, and from the outside you could see the ceiling was sagging inside.  We left without calling the owner for a closer look, and chalked it up to experience.

On our way out of town though, we passed by a dealer and saw that in the back they had a couple of old 1980's motor homes so we decided on a whim to stop and take a look.  Walking up to one of them, which was a 1985, we quickly realized it was the exact same model as the "bargain" version we had driven up to see in the first place!  The kids excitedly climbed in and immediately jumped onto the overhead bunk bed, exclaiming "Mama...we can ALL fit up here!  This is SO COOL!!".  Knowing its age, I was not too excited at this point, and it was pretty filthy inside and the most unappealing shade of orange with lovely silver wallpaper.  I figured the engine would be shot, and they were asking more than we wanted to pay so I was merely getting ideas for future shopping someday.

As I looked at it closer though, I began to see potential.  This thing was dirty but under the layer of grime it was actually in very good shape inside.  Dominick fired it up and for 100,000 miles on the engine, it sounded strong and after a short test drive we discovered it drove quite nicely.  It was really rough around the edges on the exterior, no beauty to be sure with a broken ladder, faded fiberglass siding, and the usual peeling decals one would expect from something that was 25 years old.  A bent bumper, badly in need of tires, and an air conditioner that would need work were all quickly seen as bargaining tools rather than flaws.  Dominick looked at me and said "Let me go talk with the guy...if I can get the price down to an amount we can sell the trailer for, I think we should jump at this.  We can do a lot to fix this up!  It'll take some work and we can gradually do the repairs, but it is in striking distance financially, it's worth a try."  So, not feeling too hopeful, I told him to go ahead and give it a try, but was not expecting much.  5 minutes later he calls me on my cell phone and tells me he got the guy down $1500 on the price, now we were totally in range and it would be pretty much an even trade once we sold our trailer and van!

So, feeling sort of like we were guided Serendipitously to this particular motor home, we decided to make the leap and do it.  Oh my goodness, the cheers of the kids were deafening!  They were planning where they would sleep, who would get to help with hook ups, and where we would take our first trip.  I was thinking of all those years working our way up to this...a small tent, a big tent, a small popup,  a big popup...and now a motor home.  We have gradually, carefully stepped into what we could afford, and while I know most people would look at this and turn their noses up at it because it is not new enough, not fancy enough, and not "cool" enough (OK, and maybe the orange interior would have a little to do with it as well! Hahaha!), we are thrilled beyond belief to have something like this!  It's ugly, it's a Monster, it is already well used and will be well loved by us...and it's OURS!!  We hope we can sell the popup and van quickly so we don't worry too much, but we felt that deals like this come around too seldom to not jump while we had the chance.  The ugly factor became a big plus in getting the price down :-)

And now, without further adieu, here she is...the Kazakh/Kyrgyz Kamper....Big Bertha.  I am posting several photos for my mom to see it.:

Trust me, up close the true age shows...but don't you love 50 foot paint jobs?

So this is a 1985 unit, didn't this color go out with avocado green and harvest gold in the 70's???

We loved that this didn't have the usual booth, but instead this larger table and couch with chairs on the other side of it.  It will work much better for us as a larger family.

Sparkling clean thanks to the kids and their hard work!  Joshie even begged to clean the toilet! Haha!

Team LaJoy, including Sunny, spent 5 hours scrubbing the interior.  It looked nothing like this when we started, in fact it took Angela over an hour to scrub and clean just 2 mini blinds!  Ick!  But with the elbow grease of 7 well trained detailers (seriously!!) and a little optimism, I think Bertha turned out quite nice!  We cleaned and oiled all the cabinets, touched up all the damaged spots with an oak stain pen, de-gunked the kitchen area,  used toothbrushes to get in nooks and crannies, and all that is left now is to clean the carpeting. I was even more pleased than I thought I would be, and can't believe we got such a great deal!  This thing looks amazing for as old as it is, and all it took was a little imagination and willingness to take on what someone else would have considered too old.  She's Big, She's Bold, She's ORANGE...Bertha Lives Again!!

Topic #5 - Man, this is the longest, most scattered post I thin I have ever written!  Oh well, you need a "good bye" novel, right?  Anyway, living with English language learners can be a total riot, and I have been remiss in not writing down as many of the funny little things they say as I should have.  For example, the other day we were driving south of town where there is this little  stand near a small little section of trees.  The sign advertising the stand is near the trees and says "Jerky".  Angela pipes up from the back seat "Mama...does jerky grow on trees?"...silence for the briefest of moments and then everyone dissolves into fits of laughter.  I replied "Angela, you'd have jerky before...what is it made of?'  She answers "Meat".  I ask "So....does meat grow on trees?" and she says sheepishly "Oh yea, I forgot, the sign tricked me."  It was then that the funniest part happened when Olesya leans forward and says with a chuckle and a little know-it-all tone of voice "Yea Angela...you know it doesn't grow on trees...you know...beef TURKEY!" and again the entire family erupted in even louder hoots of laughter as Olesya was just so certain she was going to share her extensive knowledge of that great American snack...beef turkey.  Sheesh, it's a wonder I can ever keep a straight face around here!

Topic 6 - Kenny's surgery is scheduled for mid-August.  It will be a lip revision with possible additional work.  His braces are back on again, with cool blue trim, and another round with the palate spreader will begin in a few more months. 

Topic 7 - How could I possible have this much to say?  I truly am all over the map, aren't I?  And speaking of maps...I promised grandma I would show more pictures of the work the kids have done in preparation for our trip.  Seriously folks, they have worked amazingly hard, writing essays, creating interactive learning tools called "lapbooks", watching films with ongoing discussion and oral quizzes, and reading many, many books.  In all honesty, this on top of the religion projects pretty much wore me out! Hahaha!  But they totally rocked it, and although no one is deserving of the experience we are about to have, I can say wholeheartedly that these kids have worked very, very hard to earn this privilege.  Throw in all of the above along with trying to fathom just how much hard work has gone into learning English...often with less than age appropriate materials...and managing to maintain a super good attitude, and I think this is a reward which was definitely not just handed over on a silver platter.  I am actually humbled by the work ethic of our kids, they put me to shame, and I still can't believe, looking back, just how much ground we covered this year.   I think it is time for a breather!:

Herre's the gang with a portion of their work.

Joshie's lapbook on the White House

So, time for final planning, final multiple loads of laundry, and final prayers of thankfulness for so, so much in our lives.  Blessings abound, and we have a gratitude that is profound.  Take away a trip, take away a new way to camp, and we'd STILL feel we were the luckiest family alive, for we have one another.  If we find ourselves on the side of the road with a dead Big Bertha, we  will still have what is most important.  If we find that something interrupts our trip, how could we possibly complain for we are rich in memories that really matter that have nothing to do with a vacation.  We have walked through some pretty rough times, continue to face life head on and do the best we can with God carrying us when it is all just too much.  We have people surrounding us who love us dearly and who are worth far more than any trip or any orange RV ;-)  We have a family that is rare for a lot of different reasons...some of which many would prefer not to deal with.

I think we are blessed beyond measure, despite heartache and struggles, despite  4 preteens/just turned teens all so close together going through their "stuff",  despite  financial worries we try to hand over daily to God to deal with, despite learning challenges the likes of which many would never understand, despite surgeries, speech and orthopedic needs,  despite needing time to learn how to let go and love, despite maturity that takes years longer than normal to develop.  WE.  ARE. BLESSED. PERIOD.

As we embark on the "7 in '11 East Coast Tour", we give thanks to all that happened to pull this together...to multiple friends hosting us and sharing a vehicle, to a school program that understands our kids need far, far more experiential learning than the average child needs and which allowed us to use our funding in such an incredibly amazing way, to an adoption benefactor whose generosity led to adding the most wonderful daughters anyone could ever ask for AND the frequent flier miles which will enable us to take this trip.  I give thanks to a husband who works tirelessly, endlessly, even two nights ago getting home at 2:00 AM after a very unglamorous 5 hours spent pressure washing a Walmart who finally gets a real vacation for the first time in umpteen years.

Mostly though, thank you God for the love we each experience each and every day as a family.

Now, I am all caught up....Let the Tour Begin!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 


Barbara said...


You and your family are such an inspiration. I am sitting here procrastinating starting my MBA program, yesterday was my first class and I have so much to do or I will be behind already UGH!! I love the RV, we have also been looking into one, and am thinking we should look older too, we can fix one up and save a ton of money. Have a great trip and if you get close to NC or lower VA please call me I would love to see you guys, I am not that far away and would love to try and drive your way if you have a free moment this trip. I will facebook you my #. I am so sorry those books got lost in the mail. I have been keeping in contact with the lost mail with the post office but no luck so far.

Have a great trip,


Anonymous said...

May God watch over you as you storm the east coast. Speaking of storming, what a way to send you off--snow!.

I wonder why we say, "May God watch over you" when we already know God does. Perhaps it is a way of reminding ourselves of that fact.

Why do we read your blog? I suppose there are as many reasons as there are readers, and some of us have multiple reasons. I'll name two or three:
1. It's fascinating. Who needs heavily scripted, definitely directed "reality" shows when life is so much more intriguing.
2. The characters on this reality show, aside from being real, are genuine, decent, loving people who model the way we would all choose to live.
3. I/we have come to know and love each of you.
4. You live out faith and share your spiritual growth in such a way that I can latch on, make your insights a part of my life. As our church says (same church for all of us), "God is still speaking." God speaks through you.
5. (Okay, I said only two, but if you are going to post long, the reply is going to be long also.) The diversity of your blog brings up topics I would not be thinking about on my own. Now I have to think through my experiences and opinions in the light of your own.

Bertha is beautiful. My home is still in 70's colors, avocado green and puke pink. My decorating budget never was enough to switch to 80s orange. For that I am grateful! But Bertha is a beauty. May you have miles and hours and days of camping delight.

Will miss you while you are gone, but will look forward to seeing the East Coast through your eyes.


(P.S. The word prompt I have to use to send this response is "ungoer". That is really inappropriate for the 7 in '11 East Coast Tour Family.

Heather said...

Cindy, just look at the trailer as "vintage" and you'll be super hip! LOL Your kids will definitely look back on all the memories that will be made in that trailer as adults and will even get a good laugh about the interior! You guys are going to have a blast!

Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh, that camper looks like it will be a blast! I'm ready to hit the open road in it, toolbox and AAA card by my side :)