We have been busy the past few days, having taken our "maiden voyage" in our new/used RV. What did we discover? Well...when you buy something so old, you don't expect it to be in perfect working order. We found that there is something wrong with the fridge, and it doesn't work on propane or electric. It had been replaced by the RV dealer we bought it from, so hopefully they will be able to repair it or replace it. So we ended up once again hauling coolers along :-( We also found that we could not fill the propane cylinder that is installed in it, as it was not working right, but we were able to haul along a 25 lb cylinder and make it work fine.
What did we love? EVERYTHING!!! Hot water in a sink to wash dishes, a real bed, a kitchen to work in when it inevitably rained, a SHOWER AND TOILET!! A real live, functioning, non-hole-in-the-ground TOILET! Ahhhh...heaven...
We had our annual Church in the Park service Sunday morning, and Joshie and his adopted brother-buddy were presented with a very thoughtful gift bag as a send off for their first camp experience. How these two love each other!! When our families first met at church, Josh was still in the worst of the throes of RAD, and he wouldn't do anything other than make mad faces and turn away. Often we don't realize the light that children can be in the lives of others, and Joshie's best friend has certainly been a light in his, and a huge help in his healing with his gentle spirit, his open heart, and his generous love. It is no wonder that Dominick and I love this young man as much as we love our own.
I leave Saturday for the first run to haul kids to camp. My heart strings were tugged a bit seeing Josh reading the card that came with his new flashlight and disposable camera. He is one of our little miracles, this little boy, and this big step for him is something that a few years back we could not even begin to imagine him taking. Alone at camp? Away from family? Will he make it? Attachment disorder kiddos struggle in ways others can only imagine, and seeing his excitement with not an ounce of fear fills me with joy beyond compare. He is ready, he has confidence, he will take on Camp La Foret!!
He is whole.
The past 12 months have been extraordinary on so many levels, and watching the blossoming of all the kids has been a blessing beyond compare. Was it homeschooling? Was it time with others? Was it natural maturation? Was it a combination? I have no idea but Joshua, in particular, has changed in subtle yet substantial ways as he seems less insecure, more sure of himself, and totally capable these days. We still struggle with night terrors occasionally, he definitely gets anxious when I am gone from home for a couple of days, but all in all he has come a long, long way.
All of a sudden though, in the last two or three months, we are all noticing a new boldness in Josh, and quiet leadership skills we never noticed before. The kids were making salt dough maps last week of Colorado, and after being occupied myself with the girls for a bit, I turned around and found the boys being led by none other than Josh. He donned Dominick's reading glasses and took over reading the map and guiding Matt and Kenny in mountain and terrain placement, explaining to them about why certain areas should be taller on the map because this or that mountain range had a higher altitude, and insisting upon proper river placement. Even more interesting is that his much older brothers had enough trust in him to naturally allow this assertion of leadership to take place, and gladly followed his instructions.
Here are a couple of other pictures of the kids working on their projects:
If there is any of our children who has completely startled us this past year though, it would have to be Kenny. What an incredible turnaround he has made!! What a validation of our faith in him despite "experts" who told us that we would just have to lower our expectations for him and for his future. Dominick and I were visiting with a friend a couple of evenings ago with Kenny sitting nearby. I have no recollection of how the conversation turned in the direction it did, but somehow the topic touched on Muslim history. Kenny began rattling off historical facts all about the Ottoman Empire and Richard the Lionheart, basically providing us with a 10 minute summary along with his well spoken opinions.
After Dominick and I picked our jaws up off the floor, we looked across the table at one another in complete delight. Don't ask me how this is happening, because I couldn't explain it if I tried. But this wonderful, amazing, gifted and insightful young man of ours is literally bursting at the seams these days with academic and intellectual enthusiasm. This child, whose daily battle is unlike any you or I could ever fathom, whose rest results had me second guessing my own gut instinct about his intelligence (Thank goodness I didn't let THAT stop us...for it surely could have!) is literally soaring in directions I never would have imagined 12 months ago. I was merely hoping to get him reading at a 3rd grade level by the age of 13. A dissertation on the Ottoman Empire? Uhhh...that would have been beyond a stretch.
But if Kenny is growing academically, it is spiritually where he is really deepening. We had a long fireside chat alone this weekend, and during it Kenny revealed just how strong he is sensing a call to ministry. He looked at me with those expressive eyes of his, and with such excitement and a little bewilderment in his voice he said something that my heart recognized..."Mommy, sometimes I just can't make my mind stop thinking about God, Jesus, and all that kind of stuff. Even when I want to, I just can't turn it off and the more I think, the more questions I have. Sometimes I think I want to be a businessman, but now more and more I am thinking I might want to do something with God." Later, in sharing our conversation with Dominick I asked him if he thought this was just Kenny's way of drawing closer to me since he knows this is where my interests lay. Dominick chuckled and said "Nope, I think this is all Kenny."
It was during this conversation when Kenny gave me a belated Mother's Day gift. The church service in the park was about rocks...about The Rock and thinking about other important "rocks" that have passed through our lives. There we sat, Kenny and I, the fire crackling in the twilight as the Uncompahgre River provided the melody for the evening as it pushed against the nearby riverbank. Kenny looked up at me sideways and said "You want to know who I told Pastor Karen my rock was?" and I said "Sure...who was it?" and he said "You Mommy...you have opened my heart and mind. All the time before, when I was in the orphanage or even in school, I felt sort of dead in my head and heart. But you always, always believed in me, and you have helped me see that I am smart and can do all kinds of things. It is like I have turned alive or something. You are my rock for sure."
These gifts of ours, these children we cherish so very, very much...wow. So very often I recall things they have said or done, and I can't help but smile as I think of each of them. Matthew who is the man of few words but who walks up and puts his ever stronger arms around me and gives me a gentle squeeze when he knows something is going on that is difficult. Angela, whose insights about human behavior and whose instincts are always spot on. Olesya, who mothers her mother just when she needs it the most, and who has the most giving servant heart of all the kids. Joshie, whose love is sweeter than just about anything in the whole world. And Kenny, the Seeker who stumbles from time to time, but whose grace and goodness shine through.
We parents do the best we can. We try, we fail, we sometimes succeed. We put our heart and soul into our children, and once in awhile we have moments that we wish we could preserve forever. Other times we have trials we wish we would never remember. We LaJoy's have weathered some rough seas, but we are together. Always.
I wouldn't have it any other way.