Friday, August 31, 2007

Another Answered Prayer!! God is GOOD!!

Many of you who have been following our blog since we traveled in May will remember my post about Kenny's two friends, Askar and Turat. These little boys were at Kenny's orphanage and were his brothers in every sense of the word. I have photos of them on the blog posted after we arrived home in early June.

We just got word that they are being adopted together!!! I received an email from the soon-to-be Daddy and it happens to be someone I met briefly in Bishkek. Our whole family is so excited, so happy that these precious little guys will now have a family. We have kept them in prayer, and Kenny has asked us several times if we could adopt them...but of course that is impossible, and we never felt they were really "ours" in that way that other adoptive families can understand. But they never left our hearts and I feel that I can rest easy knowing they will be cherished, and Kenny can know he hasn't left them behind to remain in the orphanage. Of course, his first response was "Momma, maybe in 10 or 20 days we can go to Bishkek and see them!!", that's not happening :-)

But we have been blessed in the fact that this family understands the need to stay connected for our kids, and hopefully a wonderful long distance relationship will develop that will be beneficial for all of us.

And yet again, I sit back in amazement at what God can do.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Email Us!

I have added my email address to the Header of the blog just in case anyone ever wants to email us and can't get the comments section to work (I have had complaints from those who do have our email address that they can't comment on the blog sometimes). For those of you who are lurkers, drop me an email sometime and introduce yourself! I can tell from the stats for the blog that several of you are very regular readers and I'd love to get to know you and hear why you enjoy reading about our strange little family! Hahahahaha!

Another New Son

Ha! Gotcha on that blog title, didn't I? No, we are not adopting again...I just wanted to share some thoughts about Joshua.

We have been alone for a few days now that my Big Boys are back in school. It has allowed me the opportunity to focus solely on him, to talk and work side by side, to laugh and play and giggle. I was thinking today as I bent to give him a kiss after he cleaned my fridge for me (OK, I had to go back behind and wipe a little) that this little boy is so extraordinary, so special, and he has changed SO much this past year!

I now see a boy who is relaxed, calm, warm and funny almost all the time. He is different than he was at the end of the school year last year when we were last alone, he has morphed into the little boy I always hoped he could be. His spirit is at peace, and it is actually as if I do have a new son, a child born of love rather than abandoned in fear. A child who has a lifetime of happiness and joy ahead of him rather than years of feeling stiffled by this niggling thing he can't quite put his finger on that causes him to feel inadequate and prickly. I remember years ago before Josh and Kenny came into our lives saying that I dearly loved hanging out with Matthew, that even though I was his mommy and was supposed to love him, I actually really, really liked who he was!!! I had that feeling so strongly today, looking into Josh's eyes and thinking to myself "You are one cool cat!!". He has a great sense of humor now and loves playing silly 4 year old practical jokes on us with a straight face and then bursting out with laughter saying "I teased you!". He has thoughtful ideas, and demonstrates such great kindness all the time. He snuggled with me in bed this morning after waking with a bad dream, and his physical closeness alone spoke volumes. It was something he was totally incapable of as a toddler, and now he relishes it. He has a very special older girl in his life whom he adores, and she is so tender with him. When we were at the retreat she held him until he fell asleep snuggled in her arms, and I realized how God has placed so many loving and accepting people in his life, he has been bombarded with closeness and warmth! I also realized how there are several more children who are in or who have passed through my life who I truly love.

I can't begin to tell you how I am looking forward to this final year at home with him before he starts Kindergarden. In many ways, now that the Attachment Disorder has dimmed, it is as if I am exploring a totally new relationship with my son, and his light is finally being allowed to shine through fully. I have a child I can have fun with, share the world with, just as I was able to do with Matthew at 2 years old but was unable to do with Josh at that age because we had more important tasks to attend to when he was 2...he had to learn how to let go of control, and how to love and trust others. It took so much work, so much patience and effort, and we missed those precious toddler years together. Now, as a preschooler, we can finally have the relationship we were denied due to his past and his emotional pulling back because of it.

Watching the slow, tentative steps Josh has taken over the years to get to this point has been painful, frustrating and totally rewarding. Joshie, my Little Man of the great big dimples high on your cheeks, you are My Superhero!!!

On another note, from Kenny I received a special gift last week...the gift of being important in his life. Friday was my birthday, and all week Kenny proceeded to tell anyone who would listen that it was his mommy's birthday!! When Friday morning came and he realized that I would be out of town, as I was leaving that day for 2 days, he started sobbing and I couldn't really figure out why until through his sobs he said "But no Happy Birthday tonight! No present for you! No cake for you!!!!" and then he continued to cry. I reassured him we would celebrate when I got home, but he wasn't totally satisfied and still continued to cry a little. Talk about getting a lump in my throat...

That's when it really hit me like a ton of bricks...I am actually important to him!! And not because I am a provider of clothing and food and toys, but because I am his mom and he already loves me. At this stage, so early in our relationship, I assumed I was slowly becoming someone important in his life, but mainly because of what I could provide, not because of...well...just being me. It is so soon, so early in our relationship to expect much more than that. I know we are not anywhere near where we will be in a year or so, but to be this far along and feel this much like "real" mother and son so soon is awesome. I know that there are moments when I look at him and my heart swells with pride and happiness, and I wonder how in the world our family managed without him all this time! I am profoundly grateful that God planted those feelings in me so early as well, because we have much to go through yet and having already claimed him in my heart makes the Mother Bear in me come out, which might come in very handy.

So I had a wonderful 41st Birthday with terrific, thoughful gifts from the dollar store from all 3 kids, and a great night to look forward to tomorrow when I go out to dinner with several friends all for the reason of celebrating with me. I thought to myself this morning how there was a time, not all that many years ago, when I felt that if I died tomorrow there would be no one there to even miss me or mourn me other than my mother and my husband. Today as I write this I think of the effort several friends made to send cards, call and sing to me, and special friends who came by with a cake during a very busy day to celebrate my Geezerhood. I think of the smiles and jumping up and down with excitement of 3 precious little boys who could hardly wait for me to unwrap my presents and show me the cake they made. I think of the embrace of my husband as we looked into our ever-more-wrinkling faces and smiled.

Wow, how did I ever, ever deserve all of this?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

School Day 2

I look in the eyes of my newest son, and I see courage and strength and fear combined. I see pain when he tells me how he cried today at school because he missed me, and when I ask why he was seen swatting at some kids on the playground at lunchtime he explains that some kids were teasing him and lacking the language skills or the knowledge of where to turn to, he did the only thing he could think of. He feels so alone right now, so vulnerable. I realize that as an adult, I can see beyond the immature and babylike behavior at times but as a child of the same age I would simply think he was a weird kid.

This afternoon at home he had a meltdown over some insignificant incident and I know it is more about his school day than what just happened in the backyard. I hold him on my lap as he sobs and I try not to cry myself, cuddling him like the baby he really is in many ways right now. He slowly relaxes and his breathing becomes normal, and he flashes his smile and is off and running to play again.

His brain is in overdrive and not much is making sense to him right now, and there are moments when pity for him floods my senses and then I stop and make myself think clearly and rationally, knowing that pity will not help him at all right now, knowing that in a few months life will look very different to him and surely he will have friends and will be in a routine that is comfortable to him, and his natural confidence will return. But the road to that place which is months away will be rocky and hurtful and filled with sorrow. It might also be decorated with magical moments of discovery, scattered like pebbles embedded in the new, smooth asphalt.

There are times when I too am scared and overwhelmed, as I see all that needs to be taught, all the gaps that exist, all the correcting of behavior and grammer that already is occuring as if on auto-pilot and I know that I am at moments exhausted without even realizing it, for as his brain is being filled, mine is also being stretched as I reach for ways to explain something that has been misunderstood or to define new words in his vocabulary which is often a huge struggle without enough language yet grasped to work with. I am always "on", and never more so than now as he enters school and new experiences are coming at him with lightening speed, and I realize I am the interpreter for him of this new life. It is also my job to pump in the positive and look for opportunities to praise him to balance out the negative input that will come from simply failing day after day and being totally lost. Sometimes, the fact of all that has been missed and all that can never be made up for is beyond my comprehension, and if I allow that to settle in too long it seems an impossible journey we have ahead of us. I often feel inadequate and find myself trying hard to ignore that very feeling.

Watching him bravely walk to the playground this morning, seeing him set his shoulders straight as he enters his classroom, and holding him close as he cried those desperate tears of frustration this afternoon, I am filled with admiration for this young boy who is my son. He is straddling two worlds...his old life of Russian institutionalization and American freedom and independence...his desire to recapture the babyhood and nurturing that he never fully received and his desire to be seen as a mature, capable boy of 8. He is walking dead straight into the fire with no tools yet to extinguish it. He is so eager to be a "good boy" and yet he has no basic understanding of the expectations for his behavior at school. The coping skills that served him well in the orphanage are not appropriate outside of that environment, and he is only beginning to understand what is expected of him in this new life he is leading.

This will be a years long process, the changing and educating of Kenny. It will not happen overnight, or in a week, or in a month. I remind myself that I must take what I am feeling and multiply it by 10, and even then I will not come close to the pressure he must be feeling. The day by day successes will be measured in small increments, and I must let go of feeling judged by others if he does not "perform" or behave properly. I will remember how far he has already come and look backward rather than forward when it all seems too much, and I will help him to do the same. Much is being required of both of us right now, and great will the eventual reward be, if only we both can manage to keep our perspective in it's proper place.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

1 Day Down, 171 More to Go!!

The first day of school is now under our belts, and it was not without a few tears but overall went very well. Kenny and Matthew woke up and bounced out of bed this morning, and proceeded to giggle their way through the early morning routine of dressing and breakfast. I don't know who was more excited, Kenny or Matthew. Dominick took the morning off to go to school too, so all 5 of us, Joshie included, traipsed down there.

I planned on staying for awhile, and ended up there until lunch time. I think for the very first time, I began to get a hint of how overwhelming this new world is for Kenny. Sitting next to him at his desk, watching his eyes bounce from object to object in the room, it was obvious that even the decor of a standard 2nd grade classroom is overstimulating. Throw in 20 other kids and a language you don't understand and I honestly don't know how he can handle it, I know I couldn't. His teacher is simply wonderful, and really feels for his circumstance and found ways to include him without making him feel out of place. Our entire elementary school "family" is awesome, and the Principal had already let all the other teachers know about Kenny so they could watch out for him as well. This school is a place of love and acceptance, a place of high expectations for kids who often are assumed to be able to only achieve only the barest of skills. With a high Hispanic attendance and a lot of ESL learners, this school is often seen by others as being only worth what it's test scores indicate rather then exploring the very unique, warm environment that helps its students flourish. They have to start somewhere, and I can't think of a better place for Kenny to get his start.

Then, in another real "God Thing", I was stunned to learn that the high school down the block in this tiny farming community (graduating classes there run about 60 or so kids...very small) has an exchange student from...Kyrgyzstan. To top it off, she was already scheduled to be working as a mentor in the elementary school. She will be here for the school year and I was able to meet her today. I don't know how much contact Kenny will be able to have with her, but I know everyone is aware of this "coincidence" and will know they can turn to her if the need arises. I walked away from school today just shaking my head at God's ability to care for all of us in ways that never cease to amaze me. This is no coincidence at all, this is God taking care of Kenny. With all He has done to watch over him, I can not begin to imagine what great plans He has in store for this little boy. So although I was told there were tears a couple of times while I was gone, I need not worry for this little guy is in the best of hands.

Matthew and Kenny both had me in stitches yesterday. We have two of the Leapster alphabet/spelling toys for the fridge with all the letters, and I walked into the kitchen late yesterday afternoon and saw that Matthew had spelled out "Kenny I Love You", much to my surprise. I called Kenny in and read it to him and he got the biggest kick out of that, and then he asked me to help him spell the same back to Matthew, so together we spelled out the message to Matthew. When Matthew walked by and saw what we were doing, he then really started laughing and said "Tell me when you are done..." which we did. Matthew then grabbed the letters and topped Kenny one last time. The results are in the photo with this blog along with our first day of school pictures. My strange little family sure does have a great sense of humor.

So, our first day is completed, the boys are tucked in bed, Joshie is mine again for another school year, and all is right with my world!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Summer's Over!

Tomorrow is the first day of school here for the boys, and it is bittersweet for me. I love having them home and doing things together, having that more relaxed schedule that is part and parcel of lazy summer days. We went by the school again yesterday and Kenny and Matthew both got to meet their new teachers. We were mainly going for Kenny but Matt's happened to be in the hall way and we were introduced. Just as we were going to turn into Kenny's classroom Mrs. S, his teacher came out of the room across the hall and I said to Kenny "Kere she is!" and boy, did we get a "deer caught in the headlights" look. He quickly warmed to her though, and wandered around his new classroom looking at all the books, seeing his new desk, etc. while she and I visited for a few minutes. I think he will do fine tomorrow, but as she and I discussed he needs reassurance that I am around and he is not going to be left there for good. After all, unlike her other student who may get a bit weepy at leaving mom the first day, he has every reason to be hesitant to let me out of his sight! So I will stick around for awhile in the background, helping her as she takes photos of each child the first day, and then will hopefully slip out quietly to return later in the afternoon. We are so lucky to have such an undertsanding and warm teacher to work with!

After a trip to the barber shop today for fresh school haircuts, the boys are spread out in the TV room watching afternoon cartoons and making a mess building a castle. Matthew asked if we could just lay around this last day before "my life gets kind of hectic"! I laughed and asked him what he thought this summer was, as it was not exactly a calm and serene 3 months for us! He said "It was fun, but now I have to go back to work.".

I am sure Kenny will do just fine overall in school. He is a bright boy with a real desire to learn.

So tell me, why does it feel like I am leading a lamb to the slaughter? Hahahaha!

Stay tuned for tomorrow :-)

Monday, August 20, 2007

This I Believe

I believe in the power of one...that one person can change another's life which then has a ripple effect. A small kindness, or a moment of selflessness can have a lasting impact. This is not to say that everyone will be a Mother Theresa or invent a vaccine that eradicates a crippling disease, but that I, yes even someone like myself can help someone else see the possibilities their life may hold, or that an hour of compassionate listening can ease another's burden.

I believe that following the path that God has laid out for my life will lead me to my ultimate happiness even if at first it happens to appear to be diametricly opposed to my own desires. Leaving my heart open to His leading has taken me places, both spiritually and physically, that I never imagined visiting. Putting aside my own vision for my life is not always easy, but I have learned through the years that pounding that square peg into that round hole just because it is what I think I want has never really led me to a place of peace. However, even when I have shaken my head in utter disbelief at what God wants for me, if I elect to follow His guidance I am often amazed at the unexpected joy it brings.

I believe that being the one person willing to the do "the hard thing" may often be uncomfortable, but that tackling the uncomfortable is the one way to true growth and strength of character. Tenacity is key and by giving up too soon we often miss out on the reward for fear of what may be required of us.

I believe in being open hearted, that one of the gifts I have to share with the world is my willingness to be completely honest and hide as little as possible, for often others may find comfort in learning they are not alone after all.

This, I believe.

So that was the result of my efforts this weekend at our church Retreat. It was a fantastic, moving and wonderful experience for everyone who attended. I sat back and watched all 3 of my boys being shown love and compassion by so many people, young and old alike. Friendships were strengthened, and new friends made. It was a cool and somewhat drizzly weekend, off and on, and sure beat the heat of Montrose which was in the 90's.

As I looked around the log chapel we held our Sunday morning service in, I was struck by this immense feeling of connectedness to this amazing group of people. I know that everyone who attends church regularly probably loves their church family, but this was more. The United Church of Christ is filled with "characters", those who think outside the box, those who have the ability to admit they don't have all the answers but have the courage to continue searching for them. Our particular congregation is chocked full of talented, outgoing, interesting and eclectic people who all have this common bond born of their desire to know God in whatever way works for them. I love the fact that there is respect for differing opinions, that no one stands before you saying "You are wrong" because you may not believe in the exact same tenent that they do. So here we all sat, some sharing their beliefs with the group, some taking it all in, all with aching backs from bad camp mattresses...and everyone so very glad to be there expressing their love for one another and for God. It didn't matter who was a Republican or Democrat, who was "saved" or "unsaved", fundamental or liberal. It was all about the peace that comes from a relationship with God that touches each individual spirit in incredible ways. There are those I agree with, and those I don't, but each person holds a special place in my heart and I respect their right to see the world the way they do. I have finally recognized that a differing opinion does not devalue the human being. I am not always right, I am simply right for my life. Interesting what maturity does for you, isn't it? For some it means a more firmly entrenched black and white world, and for others...myself means an opening of the mind to new ways of thinking, new ways of seeing the world.

As my 41st birthday approaches this week, I am grateful to be right where I am in my life, in almost every way. I feel I have finally arrived, put the past behind me, and see the future from a new, healthier perspective. I see myself as worthy to be loved by others and as giving love back in equal measure when possible. I am realistic about where I am headed and why I am here, and yet I recognize that there is much more yet to be discovered. I am filled with gratitude at every turn, even though things are not always perfect. I see myself as leading a life of purpose for my family and friends, of trying my best, sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing, but never giving up trying. I guess I am saying I "get it" now in many ways I never did in my younger years.

I will never be President or CEO of a major corporation. I will never be a brain surgeon, or a rock star, or a world famous tennis player. I will never be a Domestic Goddess. I am, however, a child of God who is worthy of His love. I am special in my own not-so-really-important ways. I know there are many that have passed through my life who do not see me as special or worthy or smart or any other positive adjective you could come up with. I have slowly learned that the way others see me will never really be the accurate picture of who I am in the fullest. It will be the pieces and parts of me that they have had revealed to them because of encounters we have had, but we almost never know anyone completely. All of that is ok, we can never please anyone 100% of the time nor should we try. And harboring anger towards those who think ill of us only hurts us and hinders us from being the best person we can be.

So as the weekend drew to a close, we all left that special place with a renewed sense of purpose, of recognition of all that we don't know about one another as well as an appreciation for what we do know. We had our preconceived notions tossed on it's head, and our hearts were opened.

Can't wait until next years Retreat!!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Retreat Day

Today we leave for our church Retreat, which I have helped to plan with several others. Our entire family is going, and we are all looking forward to it! The setting is beautiful, high atop the Grand Mesa here in Colorado, surrounded by whispering pines and still lakes where fish ocassionally pop there heads out for a look. After all the work, it will be a fun and relaxing weekend for everyone.

It will also be a time for spiritual reflection as we ponder the statement "This I Believe..." taken from NPR's series titled the same (you can learn more at ). We are having a workshop on Saturday morning to help each of us try and crystalize a core belief we have for our life and then write a short 3-4 paragraph essay about that belief. I think this will be a fascinating experience and very revealatory about each of us as individuals and our Congregation as a whole. As I tried to clear my head this morning in the shower I came to the conclusion that I have several firmly held core beliefs, but I need help in narrowing their focus and putting them into words. If I come up with anything worthwhile to share, I will post my essay or essays on the blog after we return. That doesn't mean that you have to read them!! Hahahaha! But as always, keep in mind that this blog is really intended for my sons and I think it might be important to them to know what I hold dear in this world, besides them and their Daddy :-)

Aside from the spiritual component we will have time for meditative hikes, fishing, games, and campfires to end each night. This will be a very special time for our entire Congregation, culminating in a Sunday morning service in an outdoor mountaintop worship area where we can survey the magnificent Colorado landscape for hundreds of miles laid out before us. It won't take much more than that to create a spirit of reverence and an appreciation for the holy.

I hope everyone reading this has a great weekend, and I'll blog when we return!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

We knew it would happen...

A couple of nights ago we realized we have hit another milestone in Kenny's transition. We were goofing around in the kitchen with some young friends who were staying with us for the evening, and Kenny was trying to teach them some Russian. They asked how to count to 10, and so Kenny started counting in Russian for them, and when he got to "6", he said it in English, so we joked about it and he started over...and did the same thing!! There was this puzzled look on his face as he realized he couldn't remember the Russian word for 6...ot 7 either!! He tried 3 or 4 more times and then turned to me asking what the words were, feeling a tiny bit foolish and proud at the same time. We quickly grabbed the phrasebook and found the words to fill in the blanks and he laughed so loud, it was if he was saying to himself "Hey Doofus...of course you know it!!" and then went on as if nothing had interrupted him to try and teach the numbers to our friends.

For me, it was one of those moments that often go by unremarked in our unusual little life here...a marker on his road to English success, on the road to transitioning more and more into his new life. I know this has been a little remarkable for our family, that Kenny has fit in so easily, so swiftly, so firmly, as if it has always been. Not discounting the small challenges, but what has remained a constant is that overall, this has been one of the best decisions we have ever made in forming our ignore the naysayers and embrace God's leading to this little boy.

School, which starts next week, will bring about change more quickly as he is immersed in a language rich environment with a wonderful and understanding teacher. We are so fortunate to have Kenny being taught by Matthew's teacher from last year. She knows and understands our family, is encouraging of all parental involvement, and is exceptionally skilled at working with kids who are struggling for various reasons. I think he will have a great experience, but I also fully expect I will be down at the school much more than usual this year.

So it appears we are about to enter the new terrain we have heard so much about, the "Kenny has No Russian and Not Enough English" Express Train! It is barreling down the tracks at us, heading straight to the heart of our family and I know it will bring with it more frustration and aggrivation for him as he tried to communicate but at times doesn't have the language skills to rely on to get his thoughts across. This stage may prove a bit easier for him than for other children, as he has already proven that he has found ways to adapt to his existing speech deficits due to the cleft, communicating in other ways. That may be helpful during this transition as well.

In other news, 2 days until our church Retreat so we are scrambling to get things together for that. We are looking forward to the weekend on the Grand Mesa.

As I sit here typing, I was interrupted by the cutest thing...and I have spent a moment thanking God for the blessing of my sweet boys. First, Kenny came in and reminded me that we needed to go to the Dollar Store after swimming lessons today. He had a small package of candy he purchased there the other day, and everyone else ate it so I had promised him that I would replace it (He obviously made a good selection!). He then asked me "Please Mama, Matthew and Joshua dollar too?" because he didn't want them left out. Not 2 minutes later, before I had the chance to respond to his request for the other boys Joshie came in with his backpack on. He informed me "I have my wallet in my backpack Mom, so if you need lunch today I will buy it for you! I have one dollar!" He had saved it from last week when a friend gave them each a dollar. I then told him he would now have $2 as I was going to give each of them a dollar at Kenny's request. He excitedly ran out the bedroom door, dollar in hand for each of them, yelling "Thanks Kenny!". 2 minutes later Matthew walks in and asks "Mom, do I really get a dollar? Or is Josh foolin'?" and I said yes and he walked up to me, Lego airplane in hand (I'm surprised it wasn't the enormous aircraft carrier he made and has moved around the house for a week!) and gave me a big hug and said "Thanks Mom! I didn't even do anything to deserve it!".

And I thought to myself about all three of them, yes you did.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Small Sunday Surprises

Watching Kenny grow and change is like watching a flower blossom. This morning we all went to church and our family was assigned to be the "greeters". While Joshie preferred to remain in the pew with a friend of ours, there was no stopping Kenny! Along with Dominick and myself, Kenny and Matthew handed out church bulletins and name tags for everyone, and Kenny was so into the entire process that he was literally out in the parking lot greeting people and handing them their bulletins! He is a natural around people, not a shy bone in this little guys body, that's for sure. Dominick and I have often said recently that it will be so interesting to see who he becomes a few years down the road, there is something dynamic inside of him that with maturity and good judgment will really be a sight to see. Interestingly, I noticed this morning that Matthew was much more outgoing than he normally is as well, and I am wondering if Kenny is rubbing off on my quiet, sometimes somber son just as he himself is having an impact on Kenny's life.

Later on during the service, I watched from the back as Matthew and Kenny, my two oldest sons were handling the collection plates for the offering, and I was so proud of moments they looked so grown up, and it was so easy to imagine them as young adults...and then one of them would start playing around a little and I was brought back to the present quite quickly :-)

They both are quite a team, letting Joshie off the hook often much to my dismay, when they are working on a clean up project around the house. They will tackle the dishwasher or cleaning up the patio or car together and with not an ounce of jealousy they work together quickly to get things accomplished. I think they both appreciate that willingness to work that they see in one another and are grateful to have another help bear the load of the task at hand.

Kenny's language development is just amazing us all, and we are trying to be creative with ways to encourage it. His speech and language report was actually quite abysmal, indicating that even in Russian he had quite underdeveloped language skills, so we feel it is important to begin right now reinforcing his positive language efforts and discouraging the negative. Whenever he uses babyish sounds to try and get attention we are telling him "We won't listen unless you use your words..." and already I am trying to get him to speak in full sentances, modeling for him each time how he should phrase a question or make a statement. Then I make him repeat it. I know that may seem stupid at this stage, but there is no time like the present to begin working on the language defecits and if we accept the lesser effort right now, it might become comfortable to him and old habits will follow into English. We are also making him work on speaking as clearly as we can by asking him to look at our mouths when we talk if we hear him make a sound incorrectly, and then we repeat the sound 2 or 3 times and have him try it.

Last night though, was a huge surprise. We ocassionally tell silly stories that we make up at night before bedtime, and Kenny decided he wanted to tell one. So there we are, expecting a 2 minute effort that none of us would really understand when much to our surprise, out pops this inventive, creative story that lasted about 10 minutes...a tale of how Joshua stole Daddy's truck and drove two hours away in it while mom and dad where away and a babysitter was there, and how he called the police and us, and then Matthew remembered that Dominick's cell phone was in the truck and he called Joshua on it and told him to "STOP", and then Josh did and we went and picked him up. He had all 4 of us hooting with laughter over this, Matthew was doing his little handwringing gigglefest that he always does when tickled over something, and Joshua was sitting there in shock that he was the subject of such a cool story. It was complete with sound effects and hand signs, and we all understood 100% of what he was trying to express. Afterward I sat there dumbfounded, realizing that this is a child who until 9 weeks ago never had spoken a word of English. I also recognized this as a terrific tool to get him to use English more, so I think we will all be treated to more stories from Kenny in the coming evenings.

I have a dear friend who has 3 children who all came to America and had to learn English, and she has been good at keeping me grounded and not fretting too much about it all. I love how God puts the right people in your life to say the things you need to hear, and I am glad I have learned to recognize least sometimes. She has told me not to fret to much, that Kenny is smart and will pick it all up quickly, and that has helped in a million ways to make me relax a bit and not become "Over Zealous Mom". Listening to him last night, her words spoken to me just the day before came back to me and I smiled to myself saying "OK God, I get it, you've got it all under control, I'll quite worrying and just do my Mommy Job.".

One interesting thing we learned as we explained about school this past week was that Kenny thought he would be staying there perhaps for the week, and we had to reassure him that he would come home each night and go back the next morning, that he would eat dinner at home. Maybe that was also making him more nervous!! That was one thing I had never considered but it makes sense that he would think that.

So it is now time for me to quit blogging and get some kiddos into the tub and ready for bed...and I'll bet another Kenny story is in the works!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Tag, I'm It! I got a comment that "Tagged" me for an anti-racist parent "meme", which I am not even sure what that is! Hahaha! Guess I am not all that internet aware after all :-) But Tina over at "Hearts Open Wide - Adopting from Kyrgyzstan" so here goes nothing, I am answering the questions posted on her web site, and probably will make no sense at all with my responses...go read hers for some better answers...hahahaha! Thanks Tina!

1. I am:

Very simply an almost 41 year old wife to Dominick and mom to 3 beautiful sons. Tina answered this with more ethnicity oriented answers so I'll add that I am truly a Heinz 57, I know I am at least part German but other than that, it has all been watered down so much through the generations that I am clueless. I think I identify myself more as "American" than as an ethnic group, for I am the perfect example of what the melting pot eventually becomes!

2. My kids are:

Matthew - 8 years old, 100% Kazakh; Joshua - 4 1/2 years old, we think 100% Kazakh but that is questionable to some; Kenny - 8 years old, 100% Kyrgyz; Dominick - 43, 100% Italian!!! Hahahaha! Definitely have to include him in there with my "kids".
3. I first started thinking more about race, culture, and identity when:
I was a kid growing up in Southern California, in fact I remember the very first time I gave race a thought, despite the diversity that surrounded me. I had a close friend all through grade school who was half Japanese and half Caucasian. I thought of her as Japanese but the first time I went to her home when I was around 8 or 9 I saw that her dad was Caucasian and her mom was very traditionally Japanese. Although I knew this as a fact, seeing them in person made me think more about what my friend must have thought of herself as being. I wondered if she saw herself as white or asian.

In all reality though, I honestly never gave race much of a thought beyond that one instance. I mean, in my family there were NEVER any disparaging remarks about any other race, I can't remember even one being made. It was just accepted that people were people, and it simply wasn't even on my radar to think of them as anything other than that. Japanese, Hispanics, Samoans, Filipinos, etc. were all around me and for the most part I had very positive feelings associated with those of other races. While our little pocket of Southern California didn't have a high population of African Americans, there was a community next to us in which there were many and I just never gave it much of a thought at all that they or anyone else was "different".

4. People think my name is:

A pretty name! I often joked years ago about marrying my husband for his name only...I love the way Cynthia Lynn La Joy sounds! Although often people assume it is Hispanic pronouncing it as "LaHoy". My maiden name of Roehrman was always misspelled and although actually relatively simple to pronounce everyone always tried to make it harder than it was.

5. The family tradition I most want to pass on is:
That the most enjoyable things in life are free. We grew up never having any extra cash in our family, so we often played games, went for walks in the dark or enjoyed each others sporting events for entertainment. We didn't get cable TV when everyone else fact not for several years!

6. The family tradition I least want to pass on is:

The lack of extended family connection. Sadly, I had no strong relationships with other family members, no close family friends that were a large part of our family life, and I sorely missed that. I want my kids to feel connected to a larger community, a larger "family" and to have other to turn to in times of need.

7. My child’s first word in English was:
Matthew's = Dada, Joshua's = Baba, Kenny's = A boldly pronounced "Kenneth Toktogul LaJoy"!!

8. My child’s first non-English word was:
Not sure

9. The non-English word/phrase most used in my home is:
"Da, Da, Da" and I have NEVER figured out why it always seemed to have been said in 3's by every Russian we listened to! And "Nyet Angleski" is a current favorite :-)

10. One thing I love about being a parent is:
Standing beside my children as they grow and learn more about the world, watching as the little cogs in their minds turn and smoke come sout their ears as they try and learn something new. Watching the changes take place in their bodies and marveling at the miracle that God wrought in our lives. Getting unexpected hugs from sweaty little boy bodies and laughing over who made the "stinky"...I could name a million things I love about being a parent!

11. One thing I hate about being a parent is:

Consistency with discipline is wearing on me at times, and I hate saying the same thing 20 times!

12. To me, being an anti-racist parent means:
Hmmm...big question. I guess for me, it means passing on what I learned from my own parents as a child. There is no good race or bad race, none are preferred. Being an anti-racist parent means focusing my children's attention on people's character rather than the shape of their eyes or the color of their skin. But here's the rub, does "anti-racist" mean totally unaware of racial differences?? And if so, how can I possibly be that way when my own children are part of a very, very small minority in our own town and are faced with other's comments daily? Sometimes I think we take "anti-racist" too far and equate it to acting as if there is no difference at all, when for our children who walk around in a white world with their dark skin and almond eyes there is no escaping that there is a difference, even if only in appearances. I think denying what my asian experience as part of a largely white culture can also be very harmful...for as "anti-racist" as we may be in our own home, out in the world they will no doubt encounter Matthew already has when a child at day care last year proclaimed loudly "I'm not sitting next to you, you're Chinese!" as he quickly moved to another seat. And I will readily admit to there being moments when I feel completely, totally unprepared for the racism and attitudes of others who feel differently than I do.

13. What is the most racist comment ever made in front of your child/children? (I am adding a couple of questions to this.):

"Why don't you get him eye surgery so he looks more like you?"

My comeback: "Actually, we were thinking about having eye surgery ourselves to look more like him!".

14. What is the one thing you have learned through parenting children of a different race that surprises you?

I have learned that not everyone could or should parent outside of their own race, that it takes away anonymity. Often it is not the "race" issue that is the problem, but the fact that you can never go anywhere in public again without comments or stares, and not everyone is up to that particular challenge.

Ok...end of the questions, unless anyone else wants to through one into the mix via the Comments section.

Ahhh...Lazy Days at Last

The past few days have been what summer was meant to be...lazy, relaxed, unstressed. We are finally slowing down after our Summer of the Suitcase and enjoying every moment of it. The only scheduled activity we have this last two weeks before school starts is swimming lessons. Our afternoons are free to do what we want. Thanks to a friend who signed them up when I was too overwhelmed to think straight, all 3 boys have lessons at the same time rather than spread throughout the day, which is marvelous.

Kenny has been regularly testing me the past couple of days, pushing things to the limit and reminding me that I am so glad that my toddler days are over, or so I thought :-) Nothing at all serious, but just as a 2 year old will do, when I tell him no he has to try it one last time. At moments he also has been extremely helpful and we have discovered that he loves to help in the kitchen and learn new skills. Last night he helped peel potatos and then season the roast we had for dinner...and learned that too much pepper can be very spicy! The day before he helped measure and cook rice and chicken, and it was fun to have him underfoot and answer questions as he pulled many utencils out of the drawer and asked what they do.

All of us went by the school on Monday to show him around without the added distraction of halls full of kids. He met his new Principal and learned where the bathrooms are, which classrooms might be his, the library, and showed him the gym. His eyes widened when he saw the playground and he used his latest new English phrase "Very, very cool!!!". He is filled with excitement and trepidation about attending school, as he doesn't understand how he will be able to learn anything without speaking English. I reassured him that the teachers there knew all about him and that he was not the only child attending who didn't speak English. I took a map and showed him Mexico and explained there were many students who attended his school who spoke Spanish and needed lots of help as well. I also told him I would be there often to help and we would work on everything at home together. He seemed to be a bit pacified by it, but I am betting we have some tears that first day. I am hoping he is placed in one of the classes with the two teachers Matthew worked with last year, but as if this writing I still have no idea what grade they will place him in. Our school is one of the most awesome public schools I have ever seen for a small town, and in fact we have to drive to the next small farming community to take the kids there but it is worth it. I should hear back by the end of this week or early next week about grade placement and teacher, and to begin the IEP process. It's kind of funny because on paper Kenny looks like a lost child in terms of education, being illiterate, speech impaired, language impaired...and yet having spent the entire summer with him I feel no serious concerns over his ability to learn or his intellect. I think our biggest challenges will come from lack of attention due to immaturity and not understanding what si going on around him so he might "tune out" for awhile. Otherwise, this is one very bright little guy who eventually will do very well in school, I think.

Matthew is all set for school, we know who is teacher is going to be, and mentally he is ready to return although we will all miss our laid back schedule. 3rd grade will be the first time he has had a male teacher and I think he is a bit curious about what that will be like, but he had a male teacher for music last year who made a tremendous impact on him and completely opening upm his world where music is concerned, much to mom's delight. I can not believe Matthew, my little Matthew, is already a 3rd grader. Dominick and I were just talking yesterday about how Matt's body has changed this summer, there is no more lankiness to him, it has been replaced by this solid, sturdy framed boy who feels different when we hug him. He has also matured in other ways and his interests have widened with his desire to learn more about history growing by leaps and bounds, and the games he plays on the computer becoming more and more complicated...his favorite right now is Age of Empires which he plays at a friend's house and has begged me to get him.

Then there is my little Joshie Poo, who at 4 1/2 has thus far shown absolutely zero interest in school oriented tasks, doesn't even have the desire to color or hold a pencil or anything!! We are hoping he will start Kindergarden next year, but if he is not yet ready or mature enough for it we will hold off yet one mroe year and make him one of the oldest of his class. I often think back to those torturous first couple of years with him, when his "brain time" was taken up with emotional battles that most kids don't face at that age, and I think that maybe he has really needed this past year to just relax and "be" with us...that the Lost Years to Reactive Attachment Disorder are being made up for right now, and I just see him as having his used his brain for other tasks at that time so he might be behind in terms of interest. There is NO WAY this child is delayed in the traditional sense of the word, and I have no worries about his intellect or abilities. Often I am glad that I am mature enough myself (i.e. An Old Mom) to be able to let go of all those stupid things like pushing my kids to be potty trained before any of their peers, or worrying about how quickly they learn new things. I have 3 bright boys that come from less than traditional backgrounds, and that needs to be recognized when taking stock of where they are at in life and development. They will all do very well in life and school if I just let things progress naturally and throw in lots of parental involvement and a ton of love. Kenny may not completely catch up until high school, so what? Josh may not start Kindergarden until 6 1/2, so what? In order to try and generate a little interest I did take Joshie aside at Wally World and separately bought him some of his own school supplies and made a big deal over a spiderman folder. I told him we would have school at home while the boys were at school, and he actually seemed excited about that so maybe that will lead us somewhere. If not, then we'll just continue with our library times, our Mom times, etc. and try again in a few months.

As for myself, I am working on planning a retreat for our church in a week and a half, and starting to gear up for Cub Scouts. Seems there is always something for Mom to do!! Mostly though, I am enjoying being home, trying to keep the house clean, and spending time with all of my boys, Dominick included. Overall, not a bad life at all, if I say so myself :-)

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Home At Last

Arriving home Wednesday night after being gone 10 days was wonderful. We had a great time, but there is nothing like laying in your own bed being lulled to sleep by the familiar sounds of your house settling in for the night. I can not believe how easy it was, overall, to travel that long and far by myself with three kids this age and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Any problems we may have encountered along the way were not "kid related" at all and I was very proud of their behavior and great attitude the entire time. While I do not like making a habit of traveling with a complete family and leaving Dominick behind, the reality is that I am off all summer, and he is our family's provider as he reminded me, so if we want to do things like this more than for a couple of weeks a year I need to be willing to hit the road solo. This was a huge trial run and if we are blessed enough to have my work schedule remain the same over the next several years I can easily see us doing this again.

After the looooonnngg drive the second day we were about an hour from home and the kids were starving so we stopped for dinner in Grand Junction where the boys and I encountered a family of four with 2 younger kids as well. I had my back to their table getting drinks for the kids and when I turned around the mom stopped me and said "You have the most beautiful family! I have been watching your boys with each other and they are very sweet.". I said thanks and we had a nice conversation during which I explained where they were each from, the trip we were just returning from, etc. and she and her husband sat there and shook their heads in amazement as I told them the kids were just finishing up such a long car trip and were still in such great spirits. I laughed when I told them that for our family, this actually was a SHORT trip considering the one we took to bring Kenny home!

Matthew is my little homebody, and the last hour of the drive he talked a lot about what he missed at home, how he enjoys our trips but always loves coming back home and wants to stay home for awhile (Gee, after this summer, imagine that!). I asked him what he liked about our home and he thought for a moment and said "It's where we all live, it just feels like home!". That comment alone did more for me than I can ever tell you. You see, I have always worried that I was not creating a real "home" for my kids. I am not Martha Stewart or Betty Crocker by any stretch of the imagination. While our home is clean (mostly) and neat (at least once a day) it is not put together well, I have absolutely no flair for interior design, or any design for that matter. I can't put colors together, can't see what knick knack junk should go on what shelf, etc. I always wished I had my mom's talent for that stuff, but not only do I not have the gift, if I am being frank I have no interest whatsoever. I cook most evenings, but nothing elaborate and very, very basic meals. I don't bake much as one of my closest friends fact, now that I think about it, her home is perfect and she cooks like a downhome chef! When I walk into her house or others whom I admire for those traits I always wonder if my kids are missing out on something, if I am lacking in areas that would make their lives nicer and our home cozier.

But Matthew's comment made me really recognize that a home doesn't have to be perfect to feel cozy and welcoming. Our bedroom with it's pre-teen feel with pastels everywhere is homey because our kids jump in bed with us and it's where we have read Dr. Seuss a million times or watched and laughed together as one of us plays computer games. Our place feels like home because we have friends over often and their laughter fills the rooms, and it offers space for us to regenerate before we all go out and face the world again. Martha Stewart doesn't live here, Thank Goodness, or she'd surely tear down the crayon drawings from the fridge and replace the Gogurts inside with pate or some other such garbage!! I realized that I have a home to be proud of not because of the designer furnishings or perfectly color coordinated walls and window coverings, but I can be proud of our home because of the love contained within it's walls, because words of kindness are most often shared here rather than anger being spewed. Our busy little lives are based out of this home, and when we return at the end of each day or the end of a trip, a warmth spreads throughout each one of us that we are indeed home, and peace and love reign supreme in at least one place in our lives. Somehow, I am not so sure that for all the beautiful window dressing Martha or Betty could have created this kind of home.

After today, when we work at the Olathe Sweet Corn Festival at a booth for our church and volunteering a couple of hours shucking corn for Habitat for Humanity, we will begin a couple of weeks of calm before school starts the last week of August. No trips out of town, only swim lessons every day and coming home to goof around and relax. We are in desperate need of some down time, and are going to take advantage of it. I actually have a little part of me that is dreading the beginning of school as this summer, hectic as it has been, has been a very special time for all of us and I hate to see it end. Dominick and I both love having this much family time together which is often lost during the school year. I am beyond grateful that I get to spend summers with my kids being home 100% of the time, it is a gift I never expected in life and it means so much to me.

I still have a trip to Denver myself the week after school starts for the annual Gift Show where I will purchase giftware for our cafes in the airports, and then September 10th we go to Denver to meet with the Cleft Team at Children's Hospital with Kenny, so that will be two more overnight trips ahead of us with Denver being 5 hours away. But other than that, life will settle into our school routine and I will no doubt be volunteering in classrooms, and Dominick and I will be back at work with our Cub Scout Pack which I need to begin serious planning for. While I have enjoyed summer so much, fall is my favorite time of year and I am looking forward to it very much. Being a California transplant and never experiencing a real fall, it holds a special place in my heart and I love the turning of the leaves, the cooling temperatures, the slower pace in preparation for winter hibernation. Who knows what is in store for us during the coming months? Whatever it is, I will continue to share with you all until it gets so boring that even I don't want to bother to write about it!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Pics from California Trip

We did so many things while in California! While I didn't take as many photos as I usually do (Being alone with 3 kids made that an impossibility!) I still managed to take a few of various things we did. Sometimes I feel like I shouldn't bother to put photos up, I mean, none of us enjoys it when someone forces us to look at pictures of their kids, but it tends to illustrate the blog a bit and I think it is nice for everyone to see how Kenny is slowly changing in appearance...and if I put Kenny on here I certainly am not leaving Matt and Josh out! Hahahaha! So feel free to ignore the photos if you like, or view them through gritting teeth to get to the written posts :-)