Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Adoption and Thankfulness

Two words that fit perfectly together...adoption and thankfulness.  How appropriate that National Adoption Day falls in November.  Where would our lives be without adoption?   There would be seven much lonelier people in the world, that's for sure.

As I returned home from my mom's this week, and was barely out of the security door at the airport before I was glommed onto by 5 every growing bodies and one who stood back saying "I'll get my hugs in a few minutes", I was reminded of how blessed I was to not just have children when once we had none, but I was incredibly grateful for the very specific lives that were brought together to form this family.

Yesterday was the 9th anniversary of Joshua's arrival home.  Oh, how hard that first couple of years was!!!  How beautiful the process of mending a broken heart became!  When I think of the changes that occurred in that child, I am blown away...the before and after photo reveal it all.  An expressionless face, eyes that are without a twinkle, prickly, stiff body.  Today, he is melt in your arms charm and delight, a bright and tender light in our family who is deeply loved...and most importantly loves deeply.

While I am grateful for much in my life, this will be an adoption themed gratitude list:

1)  I am grateful for boundless love and laughter, and for the arms of my entire family that wrap me in that love.

2)  Monday evening at TaeKwonDo testing someone leaned over to me and said, "I bet they fight all the time at home!" knowing we had five kids present.  How I know I am fortunate to be able to reply back, "No, actually they never, ever fight." and I was telling the truth.  Even better, when having a conversation this week about adults who argue and fight, the kids looked at us saying they just didn't understand why something had to turn into a fight.  When I asked them how they managed not to fight with each other, Joshua looked at me and said, "Well Mom, we just work it out and you've taught us to be kind to each other even when we disagree.  It's not really that hard, that's why we don't get it why adults can't do the same thing.  We do it every day."

3)  Adoption is about loss.  I am grateful for the losses each of us has experienced, for each of us has experienced great loss.  It helps us to be able to be more compassionate with one another.

4)  We are witness almost every single day to the kind of courage unknown to most.   Daily, I see someone continue on in the face of almost certain defeat, I see overcoming of obstacles that would keep others from ever even trying.  I see emotional walls coming down, and ladders being built.  At Kenny's belt rank test this week for TaeKwonDo, he was all alone on the floor in front of the entire gym full of spectators and participants.  He was the lone student trying for his black stripe, which puts him at the same rank as Matt and Josh who will be testing for black belt next.  What makes being alone on the floor harder for Kenny, is he has no one doing patterns alongside him to provide him with a glance reminder of where he is in the pattern when his memory inevitably fails him.  The higher the rank, the harder and longer the pattern.  He tried...he failed.  He started over...he tried...he failed again.  All of us were holding our breath.  One more time, we saw him gather his courage, and begin. This time, though he faltered momentarily, he made it through and did a beautiful job.  He could have given up after the first or second time.  He could have broken down and cried.  No one in the room other than his teacher, Mr. Steve and Miss Jane and his family understood why this was so difficult for the young man on the floor.  And yet, as usual, Kenny's courage never wavered and through determination, he eventually succeeded.  Witnessing that sort of courage as often as we get to is a blessing that can't really be described.  Witnessing Joshua who bravely says to me during his hardest time of the year, "You go ahead and go be with Grandma Alice, mommy.  She needs you more than I do right now." when I know darned well how hard that is for him to say, that is a complete blessing.

5)  The tenderness and thoughtfulness I live with every day is a gift that is beyond special, and I never take it for granted.  Most wouldn't look at our gregarious, loud, sort-of-Asian-Russian-more-Italian acting family and see tenderness there, but then they aren't looking deep enough.  If Dominick or I ever fall asleep on the couch, almost never do we go 10 minutes without a child covering us sweetly with a blanket.  I left on my trip only to open my backpack and find Olesya had hidden a little package of notes she had each member of the family write, and then had tied a little ribbon around them all.  She also included a couple of little snacks for me.  Matthew and Angela never let me carry anything heavy, and these days Matthew is growing ever more protective of his family as he sees his own strength and size growing.  Watching him help Olesya this week as she was trying to do something awkward and heavy and he gently nudged her aside to take over the task, I saw her give him a quick hug of thanks.  While I was gone, they spent hours helping their Dad move his work equipment to a new shop with nary a complaint.  In fact, when I told Matt on the phone how grateful I was for his help with Dominick's move, he replied, "Mom, you don't have to say thanks. I am glad we could help him!  He gives up everything for us, that was no big deal at all for us to help."  Hardly a morning goes by where I don't enter my kitchen after showering to find that Angela has quickly cleaned up any messes from breakfast.  Most of all, while we may joke all the time, seldom do we use harsh language with one another.  Sure, once in awhile we slip, but mostly we gently tease, we encourage, we speak words of care to one another. I realize that for some families, that alone would be foreign and uncomfortable, to simply speak kindly to one another. I am very grateful that is not the case for us.

6)  Hugs. Big bear hugs.  Quick side hugs.  Long, I-never-want-to-let-you-go-hugs.  Group hugs.  Laughing hugs.  Hugs with friends.  Just because hugs.  Congratulations hugs.  I am hurting hugs. Good bye hugs.  Hello hugs.  I can't make it without you hugs.  Foot hugs under the table.  Walking through Walmart arm around you hugs.  Our family is the huggingest bunch ever!!!  How thankful I am for the physical warmth we share, for Angela's perpetual protective arm around my shoulder everywhere we go.  For Dominick's enormous, enveloping bear hugs.  For Kenny's melt into you hugs.  For Olesya's clinging hugs.  For Matt's full on hugs which are given out judiciously with others but are generously and vigorously offered mom or dad.  For Joshie's ever-growing-taller-sweet hugs.

7)  I am grateful for a strong work ethic in everyone I live with.  There are no short cuts, there is no putting it off, there is "Let's get 'er done!".  To be far from home for 2 weeks and to know that schoolwork wouldn't come to a standstill and that no one had to be hovering over the kids to make sure it got done is a big deal.  To come home to a messy house after a long weekend of busy activity and know that we will set the timer for 30 minutes, and by the time the buzzer rings the house will be relatively clean is such a blessing.  For each of us to know that we have help nearby whenever we need it for any project is a huge support for all of us.  Matthew's fort project had many hands helping cut and glue twigs.  Olesya's cake projects had Matthew helping her clean up afterward.  It's not just about helping mom and dad.  Helping get work days done at the church is easier.  Helping friends mow lawns or rake leaves is easier.  Working at the airport on Christmas becomes a treasured family tradition rather than a drudge.  Everything, just everything is easier.

8)  I am grateful for the incredible sorrow we have experienced.  For the near miss with the girls' adoption which broke down hearts and emotional walls which then later proved to be such a help in  allowing us to bond faster.  Who'd have ever thought that first two weeks which were such a nightmare would actually have led to exactly what we needed in Angela's heart to be able to eventually parent her so effectively? I am grateful for the many, many times we have all shed tears over Kenny's disabilities and challenges.  I am grateful for all that Matthew has witnessed on multiple trips to Kazakhstan, and with each of his siblings' arrivals.  I am grateful for Josh's deep, deep heartache over abandonment and loss. I am grateful for the multiple difficult situations Dominick and I have faced, for the excruciating suffering the girls lived in for a very long time, and for the years spent childless.  It has created in each of us a resilience that is unusual, an awareness that is helpful, and a commitment to family that is unbreakable.  Together, we truly ARE Team LaJoy and we each hold onto that tightly, for we are all too aware of how precious that is.

9)  I am grateful for burps and farts.  I am grateful for stinky feet, and disgusting bedrooms.  I am grateful for filthy cars, and dead (or soon to be) hamsters.  I am grateful for annoying, peeing dogs and size 12 work boots and shoes left all over the floor.  I am grateful for continual messes on our kitchen counter, for books strewn about, for muddy floors 4 minutes after I swept them.  I am grateful for towels across shower bars, for scooters on front of the back door, for Legos EVERYWHERE, and for lost jackets and gloves.  I am grateful for the lack of perfection, for every  annoyance, for every single little thing I almost never had.

10)  I am grateful for the presence of God in our lives, for the Spirit which hovers not above us, but flows through us.  It makes everything more meaningful, it helps us really see one another with eyes that are wide open, it helps us mature and grow into the people we were always meant to be.  I remember one time, long before children arrived, reading how a family who had an active faith life, regardless of flavor of that faith, was far more likely to live with one another peacefully and would be overall stronger.  I am glad I haven't had to find out what it would be like without God at the center of what we do and who we are together.  For us, it works, and I am grateful.

Mostly, I am thankful that each of us is no longer alone.  

1 comment:

Adrienne said...

this is a great and powerful post...... you have such a great family and lots to be thankful for...but they in turn have two great parents....and how wonderful that you all realize how much you have in having each other...... they say if you want to know how rich someone is take away all their material wealth...... Your family is wealthy in all the ways that truly matter! you are an inspiration to the rest of us and Thank you for sharing your family with us!!!:)
Adrienne in Ireland......Mom to two Kazakh cuties and one homegrown almost 17 year old:)