Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Westward Expansion Adventure - Days 1-2

Our trip started with a little surprise for Dominick...a pair of fuzzy dice for "Jorge"!  We had joked when we went to get our "new" used van last year that all that was missing was a pair of fuzzy dice.  We saw some at Walmart and couldn't resist, and pulled them out to hang up as we drove out of our driveway Monday morning!  Jorge was officially ready to hit the road!

20 driving hours after leaving Montrose, Colorado Team LaJoy is spread out across two hotel rooms at a Best Western in St. Louis, Missouri.  The adjoining rooms have the door open, and Josh keeps bouncing back and forth between the Girls Room and the Boys Room.  We left and found ourselves traveling over Monarch Pass in Colorado with significant snow all around us, and ended the day on the dry, sunny windswept eastern plains of Colorado and western Kansas.  Matthew and Joshua already miss the mountains, and everyone agreed that once we found our way more fully into Missouri that the rolling little hills and greenery were a welcome sight.  Seeing the different terrain is interesting for the kids, who all know mainly high desert and mountains.  Not a red rock in sight, as the miles passed by, and sign after sign declared Jesus as Savior and Abortion as Abomination...something we rarely see in our neck of the woods.  What an interesting contrast to see those signs not far from the array of billboards advertising Adult Sex Shops along the Missouri highwayside.  Glad the kids were watching a movie as we passed most of those!

Today was special, as we were invited to stop in Topeka to visit an old friend, Nancy Strouse, who years ago was running the one-woman adoption agency that we contracted with to adopt Matthew. Nancy has always had a soft spot for Matthew, as they share the same birth date, and we have been fortunate enough to stay in touch and see each other once every 3 or 4 years.  When Nancy heard we were passing through Topeka, she contacted me and we were delighted that she could make time to see us.  Nancy is now the Executive Director for the Kansas Judicial Council, which happens to be right across the street from the State Capitol Building that is at the tail end of a 13 year renovation.  She kindly offered to arrange a tour of the Capitol for us, after treating our entire family to lunch!  What a special afternoon it was, and how we enjoyed it!  Here are some photos:

Above is a shot of the exterior, minus the rotunda which was covered in scaffolding for the renovations currently underway.

This may not be the best photo of the crew, but as I looked back at them, I thought it was hilarious to see them all looking upward trying to take photos of the rotunda.  The kids are all going to photograph our travels, and when we return home we will spend time learning how to create informational slide shows with them.  Glad I have one trained already to be my trusted Assistant!

And THIS is what they were photographing!!  Stunning, isn't it?

We just had to take a picture of Angela in front of a statue of one of her heroines, Amelia Earhart!

Where's Diana Ross...here's the Supremes! HAHAHA!

We thought this state Capitol was incredible.  We have now seen the ones in Utah, Colorado, Kansas, and of course the Capitol Building in Washington, DC.  We are going to do some research to see if we can answer our question about how many state capitol buildings have rotundas.  There can be few as beautiful as Kansas'.

We were treated to a HUGE surprise during our tour, when we were privileged to meet Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, who was also a former US Senator and just happens to be a father to two internationally adopted children as well.  Nancy somehow pulled this one off, and we were all a little shocked to have him introduce himself while we were visiting the Governor's Ceremonial Office.  It seems our Westward Expansion trip started off with quite a bang!

As exciting as it was to meet Governor Brownback, perhaps our favorite person we met at the state capitol was our awesome, singing tour guide, Larry.  Larry was the best tour guide we have ever had, and he had a song to tell a story at every turn.  Having spent fourteen years as a guide at the capitol, he knew more about the building and its history than anyone else ever could.  It was a fun and educational way to break up our 8 hour drive today, and Larry helped us learn a lot!

Our true hero for the day was Nancy.  Seeing Matthew standing beside her, strong and happy, reminded me that without Nancy's efforts all those years ago, without her slipping him on our video tape to view even though he had a heart diagnosis and was "old" at 7 months old, he might not be alive today.  She had an inkling we just might be open to taking a chance...and her listening to that little voice more than likely actually saved Matthew's life, and let us to one of our three precious sons.  Many times people don't know exactly how they have made an impact on the world.  Nancy, when you see this photo, I want you to always remember the lives you changed with the work you did.  You will have the gratitude of us forever, as I know you have from so many other families.  Your Birthday Boy is growing into a healthy, wonderful young man, and I am so glad you had the opportunity to see one of your gifts to the world in person today...and that we had a chance yet again to hug you and say "Thanks".

We all enjoyed our afternoon with Nancy!

It was late when we arrived in St. Louis, and everyone was surprisingly not as tired as we had expected.  We went to dinner and laughed so much, teased each other, and I sat there finally feeling like I was actually on a trip away from home and could relax and put everything behind me for a couple of weeks. It has been one of the more difficult years of my life for a lot of different reasons, some bloggable and some not.  God has had to whack me upside the head more than once to get me to a place of peace, however brief.

 But today I am with my favorite people in the whole world, people who despite the challenges they have faced are emotionally strong, resilient, flexible and a pure joy to be with.  As Dominick and I sat across from one another, each a little grayer, we held hands for a moment as the kids joked beside us.  It has not been an easy path to get where we are, and there are definitely a lot of miles still to travel, but it has been worth every single late night and loooong day.  It has been worth every financial hardship, every document filed, every car washed and sandwich made. It has been worth the late night curriculum research, the bang your head moments over phonics and memory issues, the IEP and 504 meetings that drive you nuts.  We could lose our home, our cars, our almost non-existent bank accounts, and live in a shack...but if I lived with these 6 people, oh how complete I would still feel!  I realize that we are some of the most blessed people in the world, to be able to say such things and actually mean it.  Take it all away, but leave my family intact, and I'll still feel like the luckiest woman alive.

20 hours in a van, 7 bodies crammed in, 1100 miles driven...and I wouldn't change a single thing, though I know there are many who would cringe at the mere thought.

Blessed...blessed...blessed!!! It's all I can think of this evening.  What a thought to end the day with  :-)


Anonymous said...

Yay! What a day! Best wishes and prayers for safety.
Teresa F.

Anonymous said...

Blessed are we who can share a bit of the journey. We miss the comaraderie of the van, but we also miss the 20 hours of driving--life is tradeoffs. Thanks for the summary and sparkling pictures, but don't forget to let the kids take a few of you and Dom occasionally--grin and bear it--or bare it, whichever you prefer.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your adventures with all your readers.

Have a great time!


Peggy in Virginia

Lindsay said...

I always thinks what a great family you'd be to spend time with :)

Wishing you an awesome and amazing trip. I hope you all have an absolute blast.

Anonymous said...

Yay! I'm so glad you enjoyed your trip through my great state, KS and that your trip is off to an amazing start.

Elizabeth J