Tuesday, November 26, 2013

It's Been A While

It's been quite a long time since I have blogged, and I am not even quite sure why.  I don't think I have ever had this long of a period between blogs before, but something was keeping me from writing, so I just went with it.

Life has been good, calm, and happy in its seeming dullness.  I have a great appreciation for the rhythm of the ordinary, because so often the flow of life leads us down rushing tributaries that overwhelm us.  Peace and still waters are a blessing on so many levels.

We took our trip to California, did a little sightseeing, and spent a lot of time with my mom and Dominick's family.  Having decided to take an alternate route to see a different version of "Desert Wasteland", (those of you who have traveled this way know what I mean!), we stayed in Oakland a couple of days and drove into San Francisco to see whatever free sites we could see.  Budget travel looks different than real "vacation" travel, and we stayed in a clean enough hotel which had gates around the parking lot and a security guard roaming at all hours...haha!  It was super cheap though, and allowed us to see 'Frisco, but we dared not venture out after dark anywhere near the hotel.

We looked at whatever we could do for free, and managed to fill two days with fun activities!

We didn't ride a cable car, but we saw plenty of them!

Of course, the main attraction was the Golden Gate Bridge, and the weather cooperated to give us a beautiful sunny day to visit it!  It was a little too sunny for Olesya, who could barely open her eyes! 

We walked halfway across, and then drove across it as well. The general consensus was that it definitely needed a paint job, but that it offered a uniquely lovely view of the city. 

Of course, no trip is complete with seeing Lombard Street!

Here was the view from the top of Lombard.

Joe Cool takes off his shades for a nice photo on Lombard.

A visit to the Embarcadero was fun and free as we wandered the streets and visited Pier 39.

Street art is cool!

The LaJoy Men in the Big City...looking a little Hick-like!

Team LaJoy's Motto!

We didn't need to pay to go on it, we could just take photos beside it.

OK...you'll laugh, but one of our favorite things about San Francisco was the Boudin Sourdough Bakery on the Embarcadero.  We could watch from the street as hundreds of loaves were made, some quite creatively as turtles, alligators, or other animals.  They literally piped out the smell from the bakery out onto the street in a terrific marketing ploy.  It was fascinating to watch, but even yummier to try a loaf!

There's always one clowning around in the photos...nice bug eyes, Joshua!

We had perfect timing for our trip, because as we researched free activities we learned of the opportunity to board a real, working ship that was used in the Pirates of the Caribbean films!  We had just finished reading about pirateering and swashbucklers before leaving for California, so it was kind of cool to connect that learning with a trip onboard.

Waiting to board the ship.

The volume of rigging and how complicated it was surprised us all.  Costumed in period clothing, the shipmates explained things and answered questions.  

This is the blueprint for the actual ship we were on.

This man has Captained the ship for over 15 years.

The only female sailors onboard...haha!!

We ended the evening with a beautiful sunset walk and view of Alcatraz.  For Kenny in particular, seeing things first hand really cements it for him.  We had talked about Alcatraz, but he just couldn't quite get what it was.  Seeing the currents even from where we were, it was easy to see why those who attempted escape never made it.

We took a drive to what we think was Muir Beach Overlook which offered the most stunning view of the landscape that I have ever seen.  

The State of California left these shelters in place which served to house soldiers who were watching the coastline during WWII.  There were three or four of them, with information about how they were set up, and what life was like for the soldiers (Think "Cold" during the winter!).

Our last night in Oakland we were able to connect with an old adoption buddy and spend a sweet evening with her and her daughter.  We had a home cooked meal, and spent time catching up under the stars with a fire pit blazing before us.  Our lives have intersected with so many during the course of the past 10 years and our adoption journeys have brought some of the neatest people into our lives.  I wish I had more opportunity to offer meals and vacation stays to more friends, but we are definitely off the beaten path where we live :-)

We were then off to travel down the coast, and we spent the night in Pismo Beach, which had grown considerably since I had last seen it, 20+ years ago.  We drove the old Highway 1 with its rich scenery and heart stopping early evening vistas.  Along the way we took a break in Monterey, where Dominick and I recalled the places and sites from our honeymoon 28 years ago.  It looks nothing like it used to, but there was something quite special about driving through with the kids in tow, thinking back to the time when we were so, so young...I was just 4 years older than Angela is now when I was there for our honeymoon.  It was a lifetime ago, and we never could have dreamed of the roads we would travel, the experiences we would have, or the incredible people we would have in our lives.  We laughed as we talked about the mopeds we rented, and compared it to the big van, Jorge.  Olesya loved the seals we saw, basking in the chilly winter sun as they were "beached" and quiet.  The boys crawled over rocks, and we all thought it was a place we might want to visit longer one day.

We had a little surprise in store for everyone, our one treat for the trip that we had been saving for.  Kenny's birthday often falls during our trips to visit grandmas in November, as that is when Dominick's work is the slowest.  Because of that, we wanted to do a little something extra special for his birthday, and so we planned an outing to remember...


We rented ATV's for a couple of hours, and we were stunned how much cheaper it was to rent them in California than it is here, in ATV Country.  Not sure why the big difference, but it is something we could never even consider due to cost around here, but there it was actually not half bad if you only did the two hour rental. The kids were finally all big enough and careful enough to feel they would be safe, and they proved us correct as they listened attentively to instructions, then proceeded to all cautiously ride the dunes.

For us, it was a once in a lifetime experience...the sand, the ocean spray, it was awesome!

Practicing before hitting the dunes.

Twins Olesya and Matt.

Da Man!!! Kenny LaJoy, the Birthday Boy!

Olesya's first comment when the helmet came off?  "Mom, I totally know what I want to save my money for...an ATV!"  Upon learning how expensive they are, she quickly realized that might be a very hard goal to reach.

Angela had a hard time at first, but eventually got the hang of it.

Josh proved to be our most natural rider, immediately finding a comfort zone with the machine and doing quite well with it, even on rougher terrain.

Tired out, but super happy with the surprise.

Yes, I rode one too...even though I am behind the camera and not in front of it.  What a special day it was!

We headed south to Camarillo, where we stayed for a week visiting and doing odd jobs for our moms.  We replaced screens, emptied sheds, and the boys spent a day totally rebuilding my mom's front porch steps, which were in dire need of replacement due to termite damage.  They did a great job, but I didn't get any pictures.  Dominick had plenty of help, which made the task easier.

One day it was warm enough to hit the beach and actually play in the water a little.  I was feeling under the weather from a 24 hour stomach flu that went through all of us while we were gone so I stayed in the van and watched from afar.

Oh, they have grown so much...yet they straddle adulthood and childhood, frolicking and giggling like little kids one minute, and the next moment seriously talking about big things that matter.  

There are times when I wonder what I am doing with my life, when I let insecurity slip in and eat away at my self-esteem.  I suppose we all have those reflective moments, when we ask ourselves if what we are doing is "important", if it matters.  Being home every day, reading history or creating slides for biology, teaching the basics for the hundredth time and hoping some of it sinks in, swimming and swimming upstream constantly while the current of past lives presses against me, I have to do a lot of internal talking to remind myself that it is never going to look like it does for others, the successes will be different, the kudos will never be present the way they are for others.  Awards won't be won for academics, accolades for traditional achievements won't be handed down.

Watching their joy as they stood hand in hand, supporting one another against the onslaught of another wave,  I didn't have to doubt, I didn't have to question.

I have witnessed miracle after miracle, I have been present for courageous moments of healing, I see a willingness to work hard each and every day without complaint and with great humility.  Mostly though, and beyond a shadow of a doubt, I see love...

I watch as they grow in relationship with one another, and with us...relationships that are enduring and fulfilling.  I see siblings caring for one another with great kindness, I see nurturing for the oldest and youngest among us.  As we celebrated Kenny's birthday with his favorite cheesecake, the quiet reward of a "not so important" life.  

As we gathered together as a family to offer care and serve our moms in the little ways we could, as we traveled across the miles to see, touch and smell a new place and experience it to the extent we could, there was contentment and a sense of togetherness that fills us up each and every day.

Happy birthday, Kenny. This past year has been your biggest year of change, maturity, and growth.  The man is gradually emerging, and what a fine man he will be!  We know you have a long way to go, but steady steps will get us there.  Your family loves you deeply,and will always be walking alongside you, nudging, encouraging, and cheering you on.  You have overcome more than most will ever know, and yet there still remains so much more.  Your amazing attitude, your willingness to get the job done, and your heart of gold will take you wherever you need to go.

I love you, my dear, dear son.  Fifteen years old, we may not have had all the years with you, but the ones we have had are a treasure to us all.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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