Thursday, August 28, 2008

How does He do it??

You know, I share a lot of my feelings on this blog and many of you know me better than people who I interact with every day who think they know me and yet don't know much of what complete strangers know about me. It is something I never thought about when I began writing the blog, as it's purpose was to be a diary of sorts for the kids. I didn't pause for a moment when I wrote those first posts almost 2 years ago and opened up my heart to my children so they could understand what this roller coaster ride of adoption is all about from a perspective other than their own. As I write, I often picture any one of the three of them at 18 or 20 reading these words and hopefully walking away from it with a new revelation of just how treasured they are and having a better understanding of things that right now they are too young to even be aware of. I never saw the blog as an outreach to others and I remember when having 10 hits a day back in the beginning was kind of a kick. My intended audience was my kids and our moms, and honestly that was it.

Somewhere along the line things changed, and our "audience" became larger and more diverse than I ever could have imagined. By the time I started having 20,30, 40 and now 70+ readers a day my writing style was already firmly in place, and I realized it was going to take courage to really put myself out there to strangers, and that perhaps the best way to do that was to always keep in mind the purpose of the blog every time I sat down at the keyboard...that I had no reason in the world to hide myself or my feelings from my children. I am thankful that my husband has supported the blog 100%, and in fact says to others who we might meet that it touches him deeply, and the other day he said to someone "I know, it's my own life and I am living it and I STILL find myself in tears sometimes when I read what she wrote...".

Opening up our hearts to others is a risk, it is scary to be "real" and let others see our joy and our pain, our struggles and our anger. We can be judged, laughed at, criticized...and cared for. Sometimes we forget that part, that others can not nurture us and wrap their arms around us if they don't know there is a need to in the first place. How often do we miss out on the love of others because of our fear of intimacy? What friendships are not explored because we don't simply say "I really like you...can we be friends?" as we might have when we were young and those invisible barriers that keep us from others were not yet erected? What hugs have we missed out on because we were fearful of appearing "weak" to others and what opportunities have others missed to unburden themselves and grow because we did not "open the door" to certain conversations?

I thought long and hard before clicking "Publish Post" on my last blog entry because the last part of it, the part about feeling alone and not having "mommy peers" who really understand where we are at in our lives and can offer practical advice and encouragement...well, it sounded kind of whiny to me, too "poor me" and as if I thought I was "special" or something. But the fact is, that is where my mind was this past week, and it was my truth for the moment and it was a feeling that isolated me. I always figure that as weird as I am, if enough people read something there must be at least 1 person who has experienced the same thing...odds alone dictate that.

So I posted it and walked away realizing that my kids might one day find it interesting to read that they are not the only ones who feel alone sometimes. What I forgot is that I am NEVER really alone and neither will they ever be. God is always with us, and He works through each and every one of us to remind others that they are not alone. Yea, I know, we sit back and view ourselves from our own narrow and often negative perspective and see only our limitations, we forget that God working through us can accomplish extraordinary things...He can touch others lives...He can comfort others...He can work miracles.

He touched me this week through others. He used the email of a couple of different Kyrgyzstan adoptive mommies to tell me essentially "I feel that way too, we may have different lives in many ways but I see what you are saying and understand it and often feel I am living it as well." or "thanks for being honest and open, for not sugar coating it all.". He used birthday cards from a couple of different friends to say loudly and clearly "I love you, you are important in my life".

Then there was the clincher from someone I have "known" online in adoption circles for a very long time, someone who I know for a fact has walked a long road very much alone as it was a more unique path than most of us walk and not one many would choose for themselves. Peers? For her I am certain there are none. She had sent me an email a few days before I even posted my last blog entry saying she had a little package on its way to me and not much else about it. It arrived the day after my post and touched me to the core. As I opened it I felt Him saying "You are not alone."...well, if I am going to be honest here and let the rest of you think I am as crazy as I already am I heard it sung to me in the form of a song our choir sung on our Pastor's last day at church recently.

This mommy, the one with no peers herself due to her unique family situation, sent me a locket in the shape of a heart. In that locket, which she wore 15 years ago, she displayed the photos of her children for the 2+ years it took to finally bring them home. She was now gifting it to me to be worn while we wait. While she had hoped to bring me some comfort while we wait what seems an interminable amount of time, she was used by Him in this very moment for another purpose, and that was to remind me that NONE of us really has "peers", for each of our lives looks different than the person sitting next to us even if at first glance it appears they are living a life very similar to our own. We all approach life wearing rainbow glasses that are colored based upon our childhoods, our genetics, our experiences, our parenting, our environment...and it changes for each and every one of us how we would react to any given situation.

But I was also reminded that in other ways we are ALL peers to one another. We all feel sorrow, worry, pain, happiness, excitement. That is part of the Human Condition and not at all unique to any of us. We all have common threads that weave us is the color and texture of the threads that is different.

I find myself always surprised at how He somehow reaches out to me each and every time I am low or in need of encouragement, how He reminds me that just because I can't see Him or hear Him in the way I see and here any one of you, He is still there offering comfort and He is more committed to me than anyone else ever will be. He may visit me in the voice of a stranger or the warmth of a loved one, He may hug me using someone elses arms but it is all from Him. I am so grateful that He has so often used others in our lives this past couple of years...and that others have listened to that little Voice and acted on what they felt moved to do.

So this morning on the way home from dropping the kids off at school, I realized I had a lot to be thankful for...I had a lot of wonderful people in my life both in "real" life and in my "virtual" life, and I have been given so much from all of you and have no real way to give back anything to you. I have my words here, which are often inane and meaningless. I have my care, which I can offer via personal emails and phone calls but often feel less than helpful. Sadly, I am not Oprah and don't have a new car for you, or a new house, or a million dollars.

But I have my gratitude I can offer you. Thank you for keeping me going, thanks for lifting me up, thanks for sharing your own experiences with me so often via emails, thanks for sending me cards and encouragement. Thanks for being my virtual "peers" even if our lives DO look different from the outside. My gift to you all is the video embedded in this post below. It is on You Tube and is from a song that had me in tears this morning as I heard it once again and realized THIS is what it is all about...what you and I are doing IS important, it IS hard, it IS not often recognized as such...but being a mommy or a mentor to a mommy or simply someone who cares IS enough.

Steven Curtis Chapman so vividly and breathtakingly captured what it's all about in his song "One Heartbeat At a Time". So as you go about your day today picking up dirty socks off the floor, scraping oatmeal out of the bowls, nagging about brushing teeth and wiping away tears of frustration when the math homework makes no sense...when you are near tears yourself because your baby's heart is hurting and you don't know how to fix it, when you are the target of misplaced anger at birth moms, when you want to sit down on the floor and cry over the things you can't heal...or you think of the children you left behind who are STILL waiting to be in your arms and you can't stop the tears from falling no matter HOW hard you try and tell yourself that in time they will indeed be home...please think of this song. It is the only gift I can offer you to tell you how much I love and appreciate you all.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Meandering Minds

I apologize for not blogging much this past week. I know many of you check in regularly to see how we are doing, what is new on the home front, etc. and I kind of left you hanging with Joshie starting school and his struggles emotionally with it all. I appreciate any prayers that might have been thrown our way, as ultimately things went very well and he is now extremely happy in Kindergarten. What some people don't understand is that this was not a fear of school at all, in fact he was quite happy to be going to school. This was all about his fear that I was going to die while he was in school and he would once again be all alone. Almost word for word that is what he said. He didn't mind being away from me...he was just afraid that for some reason I would never come back. Quite different than the average kiddo who merely has the standard "First Day of School" worries, believe me. The level and depth of this was much more intense, and could almost be classified as terror. However all's well that ends well, and he is happily ensconced in his new class and doing well.

From there we went on to another unexpected emotional mini-crisis this afternoon. Today was a special day, as we found a trumpet for Matthew to take lessons at school. For the first time the Middle School is offering band classes for the 4th and 5th graders in the Elementary School to help build some skills and develop talent before they arrive in 6th grade and start music classes. This is a neat opportunity for the kids, and Matthew begged to take the trumpet, so we agreed to let him do it and needed to find a trumpet for him as his class starts on Wednesday. Thankfully a local music store went out of business and had been advertising that they were selling off their old band instrument rentals so I contacted them and they had a cornet (a small version of a trumpet) for $120 so we went out to his house, bought it and brought it home. It is used...pretty used actually...we are crazy gluing tubes back in place tonight actually...but the valves work fine and for a starter instrument it was the right price. I hadn't known instruments had gone up so much since my own band days! If he takes care of this and sticks with it we will try and find a better instrument for him in a couple of years. Matthew was SO excited, his face lit up and he threw himself on me with a great big bear hug and thanked me for his new trumpet.

So we had it out at home, oiled the valves and I was playing a few notes and surprised myself at actually getting out any sound at all and then Matthew took a turn, and he too was able to make a couple of noises that were close to notes. Joshie got a turn to blow and of course no sound at all but then suddenly he got his lips vibrating just right and a little "urp" came out! Kenny's turn came around and he grabbed it with a big grin and I showed him how to hold it correctly, and I also explained he might not be able to make any sounds because of his open palate but he gamely put it up to his lips and blew...and blew...and blew. I pinched his nose so air wouldn't escape and still not a sound. I am not even sure if his lip is formed well enough or if there is enough muscle control after his first surgery when he was a toddler there for him to be able to realistically play it. He dejectedly handed it back to me and sat down at our kitchen counter stool, and as I looked into his eyes at that moment I just knew he was going to melt, which he did.

He cried out "Momma...I can't do anything!! I never be able to play instrument!!" and as I stood up and held him close, I just couldn't help it...and my own tears came as well. I can't fix this for him, I can't take away the way he was born. We can offer medical care and do our best to get things corrected but right here, right now, I can't fix it and all he wanted to do was make a sound out of a trumpet. This wasn't fake tears for attention, this wasn't pouty tears to get his way, this was tears of genuine sorrow and a realization of a limitation he hadn't really expected. While I reminded him of all the other instruments he could play and that I was working on getting piano lessons for him, he had just seen a garage full of wind instruments...shiny trumpets and baritones, curvy saxophones, licorice black clarinets...and they are all out of his reach and he knew it. "I never be able to blow right, Momma!" and my offers of other instruments he could play fell on deaf ears. Matthew came over and hugged him and then as Kenny said "I ugly, my face so ugly!" Matthew shot back quick as a fox "No you are NOT Kenny! No one even notices it, really!". So I sat in the chair with Kenny curled up in my lap quietly crying, and slowly he stopped as I told him "See, this is why we want to get your mouth fixed!! It has nothing to do with how handsome you are! It is only so you can use a straw, eat well, speak well...and play an instrument if you want to...I like you just the way you are and wouldn't even worry about surgery if it weren't for important things like that."

Here you are, just going along doing your usual thing in the day, and something comes up that throws you for a loop...and you have to once again shift gears and quickly rummage through your mind trying to find the best approach so that this seemingly insignificant moment to outsiders is used to change your child's perspective towards seeing things from a more positive place, where they are growing from rather than wallowing in their differences. I readily accept that perhaps I take all of this too seriously, that I let it weigh on me too much when at times I could just gloss over some things or joke our way past it. But every time I think about it I just can't seem to do it, as in my mind it negates the seriousness of what they are feeling and that is the last thing I want to do.

So I haven't posted much lately because...well...I can't really explain it but my mind has been full of lots of things, and sometimes I need to just rest with it all as I work through it. When that happens, it kind of blocks out everything else and I'll sit down with the laptop and nothing wants to come out no matter how much I want it to. It's not that I write anything of any consequence here anyway, but at times it is really a release to let go of something I have been mulling over for days, or to share in writing some silly thing that has happened in our life that for us was a "moment".

There are times when I know I must "overthink" things, overanalyze them, turn them upside down and shake them inside my head as crystals fall out like salt over a buttery baked potato. The thoughts "season" the core idea but like the butter can also flow right over the top of the foil holding it all together and spill out on other areas. That is a really corny illustration, but sometimes it is exactly what it feels like. And I don't know how to be any other way, and some times it drives me completely nuts. I have yet to find a way to quiet my mind, and then there are times when I am so glad I can't calm it.

I have been fighting an inner battle over something lately, and it is not something I want to share here but has been a really tough one as it has been relentless in it's pursuit of me and I have tried and tried to fight valiantly against it. I don't understand it, it is requiring me to view myself from a new angle, it is downright scary to me, and it's timing is utterly ridiculous. This weekend at a funeral I attended, I "got it" and gave up on the fight, finally. I can't win anyway, so why pretend...but I sure don't understand it. As I become more comfortable myself with it all I'll share more here, but suffice it to say that right now I am walking around in a half conflicted state much of the time, shaking my head in bewilderment.

I had a wonderful birthday yesterday consisting of a serenade by the Three Mini Soprano Future Tenors early in the morning, and then again being sang to by our church choir later on which was actually quite beautiful! Everyone should have such a melodic beginning to their day! I received a surprise special gift from a dear friend which is currently lighting up my bedroom when it is dark and is serving its purpose as intended :-) I spent the afternoon with our adopted Grandpa, a close friend who the boys and I went to lunch with after church (Dominick had to work yesterday) and then headed home to our house for a rousing 3 games of Scrabble with him (He whupped me 2 games out of 3!), which just proved what a geek I am that I LOVE that game and can't ever find anyone to play with. I had a terrific dinner at a friend's house where I was served the most perfectly well grilled steak and a huge dolop of friendship on the side. I was given the gift of two wonderful and thoughtfully selected books as well as awesome hugs from my friend, and then I was hunted down on the phone literally all day by our friends in Chicago so that we could Skype and visit on my birthday later that evening. The boys each got me carefully selected gifts from the dollar store...a plastic kitty cat to match my plastic doggy given to me by Josh last year, a small plastic bell with a rose on top that lights up with led lights from Kenny, and small colored stones with words on them from Matthew that say things like "Faith", "Family", "Love", etc. Matthew had just told me last week that he knew he was growing up because he was suddenly finding it more fun to give presents than to get them, and he thought that was cool. Dominick made me a chocolate cake that was delicious! All in all, a day filled with love, and how can you top that??

For myself for my birthday this week I bought...UGH...I can not believe I am writing this...READING GLASSES!!! Yes folks, it is one of the perils of being an older mommy that reading Green Eggs and Ham has become harder as the book is held further and further away...hahahaha! I had no idea how badly I needed them until I tried a pair on in Target and loudly exclaimed "WOW!" as I could actually read the side of the contact lens cleaner box. But why, pray tell, do the cheaper reading glasses all have to be so darned ugly??? I may have submitted to the reading glasses, but I am a LONG WAY from wearing them on a chain around my neck!!

I had an extension to my birthday in the form of a long, wonderful conversation with a friend today. I have never seen myself as a "girlfriend" kind of know the kind that many of you probably actually are and I wish I was...the kind depicted on Hallmark cards? Funny though, the older I get, the more I am becoming like that and enjoying it! However, there are a couple of common threads that weave in and out that tie my closest friends together, regardless of how dissimilar they may at first appear to be...they are authentic and they are all extremely bright, far brighter than I am. I have friends from all walks of life, with many different political and religious perspectives, of many differing ages. Each one has a purpose and I have gained so much in the past few years from these wonderful women who are the individual squares that make up the quilt of my life thus far. Part of it, I think, is I simply don't have time for those with less authenticity, I don't "suffer fools gladly" which is not necessarily a great quality of mine but it is the truth. I also like to be around people who are smart, as I always learn so much from them.

Well, I found myself sharing lots of things today, found that talking them through helped crystallize my own thoughts much as writing here on the blog about certain things often does. I wasn't much of a listener today, which is a little unusual because most of the time I find others more interesting than myself. While much of our conversation centered around a particular topic, it branched off into something that kind of hit the nail on the head for me at the moment in another area and I guess I hadn't realized it before. We were talking about fitting in groups, finding our peers, etc. and I was able to voice that right now at this stage in my life and in my specific environment, I am having a hard time finding true "peers". I am an older mommy than many of the mom's I know, sometimes much older than the moms of the kids in the boys' classes. In one sense I am on the fringes with older women yet they are usually alot further along in their child raising years than I am or are perhaps through. In another sense, my younger mommy friends are at a different stage with their kids and their lives...retirement is not yet looming as much in your future at 30 as it does at over 40.

No one I know in our community has our unique family make up, no one is dealing with racial differences on a daily basis along with special needs, language acquisition, RAD and adoption issues all rolled up in one enchilada as well as the "background noise" of another adoption in the works that will throw two more into the mix adding who-knows-what into the soup. I have no real "mentor" mommies to turn to, I have no one to model myself after. Even the adoptive families I know are playing on a different field now, most of them adopting infants as we first did. Somewhere along the line, as I grew older and as our family is growing larger, I lost out in the Peer Department and I doubt I will ever find my way back. So I tend to often feel as if I am fumbling around, blazing my own trail even if it leads me to drive right off an unforeseen cliff. I find myself picking pieces and parts from those stories I read online, trying to separate the wheat from the chaff as I figure out what to do and what direction I am headed. But there are moments, no matter how much I love all of my wonderful friends, when I sure wish there was someone...anyone...who really could steer me when I feel as if I am about to run off track. I wish there was someone who could offer advice that I know comes from a place that is similar to my own rather than from a place where they imagine they know what it is like to live our life. It is not that often that advice and encouragement isn't valid, because it often is. But sometimes, as in this past week with Josh, others simply can not possibly understand what it does to your mommy heart to send your child to school knowing they are terrified you will die in a car accident before the end of the day.

I know it is not anyone's fault, and I know that our family is made up exactly the way it is supposed to be and I am NOT complaining at all about that. I guess what I am saying is that sometimes I miss the moments other mommy's have when they get together and talk about things like their childbirth experiences or when they are at the park with their kids playing in the background and they share advice about how to handle normal day to day things. And our normal day to day things are very, very different...such as having other children make "Chinese Eyes" faces at your kids behind their backs at Walmart as happened the other day or hearing your son's prayers as he begs God to find a family for a friend left behind. There are often heavy burdens carried around by our kids, and sometimes heavier burdens than we give credit for carried around by their parents as well.

Sometimes, I guess, I am simply tired of thinking.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Silly Little Family

There are so many silly little moments that I often don't bother to share, but I decided to show you what Dominick and I were treated to last night. We celebrated it being the last day of summer by going swimming with friends and then out for ice cream. We had a double whammy to be joyful about, as yesterday Joshie also lost his first tooth!! Much to his surprise, as he was munching on macaroni and cheese, his lower front tooth finally gave up and out it came, and the surprised look on his face was a riot! Of course, he had to show everyone the rest of the day :-)

We came home and as a "last supper" for summer I made the boys' favorite that they always beg for...potato soup. Don't ask me why, but they love the stuff! Joshie got his bowl put on his "special plate" and while I was in the kitchen cooking, the boys excitedly planned a surprise for us in our family room. Every time I glanced in their direction I was exhorted to PLEASE not look there until they were finished. Finally, dinner was ready to be served and we were going to eat in front of the TV and watch a couple of old episodes of "Happy Days". Yea, we are a boring family...hahahaha!

As we made our way downstairs, we found that they had laid blankets to make a special pathway for us, and had made signs and taped them all over the place. Hearts...yea...hearts. You folks who think only girls leave hearts written everywhere need to see this! Ha! They had draped a blanket on the couch, placed a long body pillow on the coffee table for our feet, and were all grinning from ear to ear as they saluted and hand trumpeted us. A finer reception was never had!!! So, I guess our last day celebration of summer was also for us as well! Here are some photos of the "event", corny though they may be:

Today was the first day of school for Matthew and Kenny, with Josh going tomorrow for one day this week and then starting full day Kindergarten on Monday. I tried to get a less-than-goofy picture out of the boys this morning, but in "silly mode" it just wasn't happening:

If any of you are praying folk out there, please keep Josh in your thoughts as he starts school tomorrow. We had some pretty serious concerns come out of him last night all of a sudden with a few tears shed, and while I know in the long run he will do fine, I think the transition to the real world for him might be very, very tough the first couple of weeks. He is extremely worried that I will disappear on him while he is at school. There is that part of his brain that is still working hard at protecting his heart and it sometimes over rules his reasoning brain. He has seen me come and go for years dropping the boys off, and irrational or not he worries that something bad might happen to me if he is not with me. It is always hard to take your last child to their first day of Kindergarten, but this might be exceptionally so if we are faced with the kinds of things that came out last night. On the plus side, despite the voiced worries there were no nightmares and we had a dry bed, so maybe it was a one time thing or we were able to adequately reassure him. I spent last evening writing a long email to his sweet new teacher, explaining a little about his background and struggles so that she might better understand it if he has some problems or if things flare up. I hesitated before doing so as I don't want him "marked" as a kid with issues, but felt it was only fair that she have the information she might need to more effectively teach him. If he expresses a need to be reassured, she might be more willing to let him go see one of his brothers for a moment to help him regain confidence or something, and if certain things come up in conversation with him she will have the background to perhaps understand what he is trying to express.

We had one last summer project yesterday, and that was to find a way to make the boys' room look neater. We had the idea of hanging curtains of some sort to enclose the area beneath their bed and hide the chaos from view. This creates a great "clubhouse" effect as well as neatening things up a bit. We tied some cord from one side to the other and got some discontinued curtains at WalMart that we lucked out with and were a perfect match with the red and tan colors and were really marked down! Matthew helped me select them and he, in particular, was amazed at how much better it looks and said "Mom, it transforms the room!". Maybe I have a designer on my hands?

And for those of you considering older child adoption who worry about missing all the firsts, let me remind you that you get other, equally meaningful moments with your children. Last night Kenny prayed "God, thank you for the best summer I ever had my whole life...thank you for my loving family...thank you for hear me pray all that long time for good family...I have best family in whole world!"

Back to school and back on schedule...while I hate to have the boys go (I am not one of those mom's who counts down the days until summer is over!) I will admit I could use the break from all the activities! Time for my silly little family to get back to business.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Whew!! (Warning, long and "churchy" sounding post)

Whew! At last we are home for awhile and might have the opportunity to catch our breath for a bit as we look forward to the beginning of school on Wednesday, with Josh having his first day on Thursday. With our Retreat so close on the heels of the Chicago trip you can imagine what my house looks like with the "drop and run", "empty and repack" mode we were in. With the addition of new school clothes to wash I think I am in for a very busy week on the home front.

Our Retreat went well, and since I was in charge of it I was happy there were no major problems. We had a wonderful location at an inter-denominational group camp which I had just learned about that is only 15 minutes from town but feels like you are quite far away. It had one of the best views of our city that I have ever seen, and with the full moon this weekend it was simply spectacular to walk around at night.

This Retreat was an interesting one for me. I was really forced out of my box and had to try new things, I led an afternoon session which was totally new and uncomfortable for me. I have never put together something this big and although I had a lot of help the outcome still rested upon my shoulders and I felt the responsibility of making sure everyone had a good time...but more importantly for me the top priority was that people walked away carrying a nugget or morsel that would help them grow in their faith. Being uneducated and probably the least likely person to try and lead someone in their Christian growth, this was a huge challenge for me.

As busy as I was though, I had a little time alone with God myself, and it is so funny that I have had a few of these moments in my life where I kind of "go" someplace else in my head, and I feel that my relationship with God is very, very real. I had one of those moments at 15 when I sat beside the Rogue River in Oregon as I was helping my family clear out my Grandmother's home to move her after my Grandfather died. I had just had my first date with Dominick a week before and had to leave town, and I was utterly confused and conflicted by my emotions. I felt so strongly that I had met my future husband and yet I was so young that this discovery was quite startling and a bit scary. Having never been to church before but despite that somehow still having a certain faith, I remember sitting on a huge boulder as the river rushed by, the sounds of the water as it trickled through and around the smaller rocks, and my deep and heartfelt prayers as I asked God to explain all of this to me, and to give me the courage to trust him that what I was feeling was indeed real and that for whatever reason He had seen fit to present me with my life partner much earlier in life than I had ever expected.

While there have been several other such prayerful and powerful moments in my life, the most recent was as I walked the streets in Kazakhstan, my chest hurting so badly from my broken heart as I angrily asked Him why in the world He had laid certain burdens on me when I was powerless to change anything...and I think for the very first time I truly and totally let go and turned something all over to Him. I couldn't understand my own emotions at the time, but later I learned that He had laid not a burden on my heart but was preparing me for an unexpected greater joy and journey that would lay ahead...He had a plan and He needed me to just give up all control and let Him go to work. He had to show me the power of Christians pulling together and pooling their respective resources of finances, endurance, energy and love and hopefully He will continue to use that to show others aside from me as well. He had to teach me to trust him 100%, which I am working on daily. Now, because of all of this, 2 precious girls will become our daughters. Because of all of this, I have a faith that has grown by leaps and bounds and a far better understanding of the Power of one will EVER be able to tell me he is not as Big as I imagine Him to be. We are truly walking around inside of a miracle of huge proportions right now.

Sunday morning I found myself awake at 4:30 AM, and I decided to take some time that I never manage to take for myself, so I quietly slipped out of my sleeping bag and headed for the shower (I can't ever start the day without one!), then in the still of the pre-dawn morning I went for a long walk and had time to really reflect on my life right now. Time alone is an almost unheard of luxury at the moment, and the cloudy sky filled with the muted light of the barely rising sun provided the perfect opportunity for me to walk the gravel pathways and give thanks for so much, to ask questions, to just simply "be" for a moment without having to "be something", if that makes any sense at all. As I continued to walk among the high growth of the scrub oak, one thought kept turning over and over again in my mind. Gratitude and Growth. Even a mere 5 years ago I was so far away from God it was almost inconceivable to me. I was angry, hurting, filled with negative thoughts of others, pessimistic, and thoughtless. I was a very different person, not one I am proud to admit being. I had gone through some experiences with people close to me that had left me feeling empty inside, and I couldn't grab hold of the joy that always seemed just beyond reach. I had few friends, and those I did have walked through life bearing the same chip on their shoulder that I bore. Misery loves company, doesn't it?

Gradually, God drew me in.

Yesterday morning I saw things from a position that was filled with peace, hope, comfort and joy. I no longer have a yearning for material things as I once did, I no longer feel alone as I once did, I no longer wish I was walking in someone else's life at moments. Somewhere along the way, as I became more enveloped in the loving arms of our church family, I came to love myself in a new accept life on it's terms and not worry about the things that really have no meaning. I am sure that becoming a mother helped in this regard, but really just giving up the illusion that I am in control and letting Him have it has been the key for me.

I know this entire post sounds so much like proselytizing, and I hope it is not taken as such. I guess it is just profound gratitude that somewhere along the line, I "got it" before it was too late, and my soul feels much more at peace because of it...the day to day anger and bitterness is gone and it has been replaced by something much more fulfilling. I was so glad to have that epiphany yesterday, to see as I walked along in the cool morning hours that life is good, really, really good. I was glad to take a moment and have a glimpse of the old Cindy and the Cindy who is today and see some improvement, and to wonder where I will be in a few years.

I also took the time to make some commitments to Him, ones I have been running from for awhile out of fear but will no longer do as I heed my own exhortation to others yesterday and I "step out of the boat" in new and scary ways. There was a tremendous sense of peace that came from that as well, as running leaves you tired, doesn't it? These are areas sort of unrelated to adoption but which I will share on the blog eventually as I move forward. But I am tired of Him yelling at me about it, and will do what I should have done a long time ago and bow down to His will, even if I can't see myself doing these things at all. He'll help me figure it out and if He is telling me to do something, then He knows more than I do.

I was surprised at one moment during our Retreat when Matthew, my quiet, unassuming Matthew stepped forward and wanted to lead prayer for the entire group before dinner. He started everyone singing a prayer that all the kids learn at church camp, and for him, this was a huge "step out of the boat" and I was proud of him and saw another way in which Kenny has had an influence in all of our lives with his leadership in areas one never would have expected. Kenny's lack of fear of approaching others has made a lasting impact on Matthew, as he has helped Matt in the ways he can while Matthew teaches him the ways of being in a family.

So the Retreat behind us, I now look forward to dossier preparation this week as we received word that our homestudy is essentially completed with background checks finally returned. We continue to move forward in lurches down our adoption path, gathering documents and mentally preparing. I tried to explain to someone recently what it feels like. This was another adoptive parent who I doubt I conveyed the full meaning to. Sure, there are the practical things such as painting rooms, gathering clothes and GIRL toys, doing paperwork, etc. But to me, each time we have adopted, the most important part of the preparation is preparing myself emotionally for what we will face, as best I can. Another part of that is relaying everything to Dominick and interpreting what I have learned over the years to him, reminding him of things gleaned from adoption internet lists that might be applicable, etc. It is also very carefully preparing the boys for the addition of our newest children...emphasizing their roles, reminding them of what they girls will and won't know or understand, letting them ask questions as need be, talking about what our life might "look like" when they are home. It is how I have handled it each and every time but it might be overboard for some people. For us though, it works.

I had that reinforced for me today when around the breakfast table the boys were talking and asked when the girls might be coming home. I said maybe before or after Christmas. Kenny asked if they could still get the girls some presents even if they were not home yet, and Matthew asked if we would stick to tradition and include them in getting an ornament for them as we do all of them or our family each year. I said of course we could!! I then decided the time was right to share a few things, and I explained that many people feel we are not making a good decision in bringing the girls home, that they think we will cause the boys problems and that if the girls start acting out it will harm them. I also explained that many people think the boys will have a lot of jealousy and will be looking to see if our family starts to have problems...that many people prefer to see the negative rather than the positive (Gee...couldn't be talking about me a few years ago, could we?). I wanted them to be prepared in case they enounter people who question what we are doing or make comments in front of them as often happens. I have never understood why some adults are so clueless and think it is their right to say anything they want right in front of our children.

Once again, my dear, sweet, courageous "water walkers" set me straight. Matthew just got the biggest grin on his face and laughed as he said "They don't know us very well then, do they? I made it through Joshie...I can make it through ANYTHING!!" as we all laughed with him then. Kenny then quietly added his own very profound comment "Mommy, other people don't have God, we do.". explain to me again why I have let the opinions of others speak more loudly than the opinions of the very people whose lives will be affected? Because I am an idiot, that's why. I forgot who I live with, a house filled to the brim with "Peter's" who daily have taken risks and shown great trust in God despite the naysaying of others.

If you want to walk on water, you've got to get out of the boat.

Maybe I need to take lessons from the LaJoy Boys on that one.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Swing Your Legs Over The Side of the Boat!

Lying in bed this morning, my mind was meandering through my mental list of the tasks I have before me over the next few days as we prepare for our church retreat and get ready for the kids to start school on Wednesday. But I couldn't focus on anything as one thought kept coming back to the forefront. Yesterday I was reading a posting from an online group I am a member of and was so saddened to read about a certain situation with someone we know and I was reminded of what a blessing...actually what a miracle we Joshie.

There is no way, none at all, that I could have ever predicted that we would end up with the child we have in him. If you had asked me back when things were at their worst with the RAD when he was around a year and a half old, I would have said that my only hope was that he grew up and didn't end up killing someone. I honestly lived with that fear for well over a year. I didn't dare dream of actually snuggling with him nestled deep within my arms or of his darling smile beaming up at me.

Reading others post about their longings for "normal" children, about their day to day struggles and their moments of deep sorrow is so hard sometimes. It is why I have remained on the many lists for so many years post-adoption. I try to reach out and help those whom I might have a nugget or two that would help them over a rough spot, but I know that really I have no answers. I don't know why Josh made it and others struggle for years. I know those parents pray as long and as hard as we did, and we are not special or more deserving of Divine blessing.

And as Dominick and I both talked about last night, I also know we are not through yet. Yes, we have "made it" through the darkest of times with him...we hope. But we very realistically know that in many smaller and less obvious ways we are going to deal with abandonment and loss, with RAD and insecurity for all his remaining years with us in some form or another.

We are hitting a new milestone next week with Joshua starting Kindergarten, which will be an all day program. When asked if he is excited about starting school...which I know he is...he invariably says "No, I am going to miss my Mommy". He also has mentioned 4 or 5 times recently how now we won't our time together alone away from the bigger boys.

Now, I know many of these things are no different than any other mommy hears when her child first starts school. Many who don't understand the underlaying issues would say "So what? My kid did the same thing!". But others, as usual, don't understand and tend to minimize what we know will be a bigger issue than they assume. Luckily, we have a supportive school environment with a Principal who understands that he may not always know what our kids have been through but that they sometimes have different needs. During a phone call yesterday to find out the names of the kids teachers he said "Why don't you bring Josh down in the next couple of days before school starts and we can introduce him and show him around without all the other kids here?". That kind of thoughtfulness and support is so not have to justify or over-rationalize with someone who insists they know our kids better than we do is wonderful. To know Josh will be in a place where others will tune in to his needs is priceless.

And yet, despite our concerns for the future and worrying about what we might miss or not pick up on in terms of his needs, Joshua is a splendid success story in every possible way. He is charming and not superficially so. Although certainly no longer a baby he is diminutive in many ways and something about him brings out a protective streak in those whose lives he touches. Most importantly for me, he is happy, something that at first I never thought he might be.

I received a wonderful email yesterday from a blog reader which I have yet to answer, but it reminded me of one of the reasons I have chosen to open our family up to the world, leaving us admittedly vulnerable to the judgment and scrutiny of others and yet hopefully provides others with much needed hope...hope that kids CAN heal, hope that you are not necessarily bringing home a "monster" if you adopt an older child, hope that you can form a close knit family without blood bonds.

But I will admit to moments of fear and trembling as we one more time "tempt fate", as others would say. We don't see it at all like that, but I know many people in our lives do. It is not that we don't understand what we are getting into, well, at least as much as anyone CAN understand what they have never lived through. I "get it" that our children will come to us as what others would see as incredibly damaged goods, that their souls have been deeply wounded...and that we ourselves might find ourselves wounded as well as we discover much about their difficult past and that we will likely find ourselves squarely in front of the emotional firing squad as we try to develop trust that will need to be earned and prove over and over again that we are indeed sincere in our love and committment. We will need to be perceptive in ways we never have been, and strive to gently pull things out that may stubbornly want to remain hidden.

We aren't sadists, we aren't ignorant, and we definitely aren't considering ourselves saints. We are very realistic that the next couple of years...or sadly perhaps the remainder of our lives...could be spent in utter turmoil and chaos.

But we also recognize that we also might miss out on one of the greatest blessings of our lives if we ignore our Call out of fear. And, sometimes, those blessings come hidden inside angry, scared, hurt children.

Our church retreat theme this weekend is based on John Ortberg's "If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat". It is something that is so pertinent to us right now, as well as for so many other adoptive parents. Sure, there are risks. I am not denying that and I am not mitigating the reality of living with a child who is wandering around with the "alphabet soup" of diagnosis...RAD, FAS, SID and the like. But fear can keep you from what wonderful things God has in store for you as well. Right now, we are purposefully choosing to get out of the boat, despite our justifiable doubts and fears.

If we find ourselves facing the worst case scenario, at least we are not alone in it, for even then He is with us and we can rest secure in that.

But maybe...just maybe...our "damaged" children will show the world once again that faith and hope can be restored, that love coupled with committment can conquer many seemingly unconquerable things.

So here we sit as a family, our legs dangling over the side of the boat, swinging together in unison as we wait for our turn to stand up and walk. I am so grateful you are all there inside the boat or on shore watching, cheering and encouraging us.

And there are those of you who are on the verge of swinging your legs over the side as well...come on, hold our hands and we'll do it together.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

One More Birthday

Dear ....

Yesterday was your birthday, and you were not home to share it with us. We currently live on the edge of hope...trying hard not to get hopes up too high while being unable to contain our joy that maybe, yes really maybe you will be home soon. It was just yesterday at someone else's birthday party that I was ticking off the various birth months of our kids...and you and your sister were included. We joked about how we had somehow managed to spread them all out throughout the year, as if we had any control over that at all.

I sent you a package and I know you will not receive it on your special day. I want more than anything to make you a LaJoy cake with sprinkles and toothpicks, to give you a hug, and to let you know you are already embraced in the loving fold of a family that will cherish you forever. For that is the truth, we all talk about you and think about you daily. You don't know it, but you are already burrowed deeply within our hearts as "our sister" and "our daughter". You are NOT forgotten, you are NOT alone...and with God's grace soon you will feel that too.

I wish for you peace, happiness with no fears for the future, and a carefree childhood for the time that remains. I wish for you bedtime kisses, stories snuggled next to your siblings, giggles on the trampoline, and yes...even every once in awhile a "He touched me!" and an exasperated "Mommy, can you make him leave me alone!".

Everything we are doing right now includes you in our planning, our thoughts, our dreams. I know for a fact your dreams are including us as well. Hold tight to them, my sweet little girl. We're doing all we can to make them come true, but God has His own schedule and it is perfect.

Happy, Happy Birthday, my daughter. Wish you were here...

Love, Mommy

Monday, August 11, 2008

Miscellaneous Family Photos

Yes, Matthew knows this means "I Love You"!!

And these are the last photos, I promise!!

Navy Pier After Dark

Thanks for indulging me with the many photographs. As this blog is really for our family I sometimes include many more pictures than I am sure most of you would care to see...but it does help tell the kids our family story which is more important to me than boring all of you!! Hahaha!

Other Chicago Images

SOL Tour - Update #2

As this has truly been a vacation, I adhered to a self-imposed rule that I would "unplug" for awhile and not blog or answer emails. It has actually been nice to detach myself from the electronic umbillical cord for awhile although I will admit to checking my emails should anything important come in.

Our SOL Tour has honestly been one of the most relaxing and fun-filled times of our lives as a family. We are on our last day here in Chicago, and have pretty much been treated like royalty by our friends and have done every possible inexpensive thing we could come up with!! Thankfully our friends live much as we do and understand our need to conserve funds, and they always have a ton of great ideas for cool things to do, coupons to use, ways to make things fun but not costly. I am always amazed at how little we spend to have so much fun when we are all together. A group of 10 could be enormous in terms of funds needed for entertainment, but that never seems to be the case with all of us. We have walked downtown and explored much with day passes on the transit system, we all agreed that one of the highlights of the trip here was the Lincoln Park Zoo which is free and terrific with fantastic exhibits. We went to the free fireworks show at Navy Pier and had a picnic dinner there after seeing the fountains downtown. We each carried backpacks on our daily adventures filled with lunches and snack packs, and it was a well-managed production which I watched in utter disbelief as in military-like style bags were packed and lined up for all of us. We went to a concert which was a true sight to behold as the "cheap seats" were far more fun than the "real" seats. They have a grassy area where you can hear the music but not see the performers, but it was a hoot to see how the place packed out as people made it a real event by bringing along little tables, candles, fresh flowers, wine, etc. and the sort to create an upscale "tailgating" kind of party so no one even cared if they could see was all about the companionship and picnic!

We went to see Dominick's cousins and also were warmly greeted and it was nice to reconnect after so many years. In short order the kids all acted as if they had known one another forever, and our family quickly became addicted to playing their video game "Rockband" where Dominick totally got into pretending he was a lead singer and Matthew's drumming skills looked cool even if he didn't hit a note right! hahaha! Me...well...I'll just take poetic license and leave myself out of it as I made a fool of myself but had a lot of fun. We got to visit with two of Dominick's cousins and their kids along with his aunt and uncle, whom the boys had never met. It always brings me up short to see Dominick with his Chicago relatives as he suddenly falls back into that more Chicago-like persona and it is so funny as he slips in and out of it so easily. I loved the fact that the boys got to meet some of their extended family which they have never before had the opportunity to meet. Living where we live, which I wouldn't trade for anything in the world, we are admittedly kind of isolated and it is not an inexpensive place for anyone to visit us or for us to visit others easily. Airfare is phenominally high from or to Montrose (Think minimum $450 per person and often as high as $800). So air travel is often pretty much excluded for us unless we drive to Denver or someone flies into Denver and we drive the 5 hours there and 5 hours back to pick them up. So this was a real treat for all of us, and in fact we barely missed seeing Dominick's niece from California who left after a visit the day we arrived. The funniest thing happened on our way back from their house when Matthew lifted up his short sleeve and yelled out "Hey...wait a minute!" and realized that his female cousins had made good on their threat and "tagged" him, using lipstick to write a message about Princesses on his upper arm.

Throughout every leg of this trip, we have been invited into people's homes, offered rides, meals, and hospitality the like of which we have never before had. Having a family of 5 stay with you even for one night, let alone for a week as our dear friends have had, is like experiencing a mini-invasion. Despite our best efforts to pick up after ourselves and to offer to help in any way we can, we know it is above and beyond the call of friendship to invite our family for a visit or to use someone's home as a stop-over on our way somewhere else. We have been blessed beyond all measure in the way that matters most...we have been blessed with friendships that are true and lasting, and that is what makes us wealthy. In fact, I feel right now like a millionaire if my wealth is measured differently than most would measure it.

I also recognized something about myself during this trip that I need to work on. I am completely and totally uncomfortable with having anyone take care of me. That may sound weird, but it is true and it takes something away from the caretaker to resist it so much. Throughout the past week I haven't lifted a finger, I have been pushed out of the kitchen, told by a 16 year old boy that I need to relax and let them "pamper" me, and have pretty much been treated like a Queen, which is a very unusual role to find myself in. I think I define myself as a "Caretaker" which is what I have been doing for many reasons in some form or another since I was in my mid-teens. Especially at this stage in my life, I have been in continual serious Caretaker mode as we have added to our family 3 times in 8 years and plan to bring two more into our fold. With the backgrounds our children come from, I have to be in "top form" all the time, anticipating needs, predicting possible outcomes, looking for areas where there are gaps in life experiences and trying to come up with strategies to bridge those gaps. Then there is the daily juggling of schedules and planning of our lives, which is part of every mommy's life. It is a pressure both Dominick and I gladly take on as it is also our greatest delight, but I think I am just now acknowledging how hard it really can be at intense it is and how easy it is to lose myself and my marriage in the daily meeting of needs of the kids.

I have always tried to blog honestly about our life, and don't think I sugar coat things, but what I have failed to adequately capture in words is what goes on inside my head constantly as we worry about what we might not be aware of that will prove to be a problem in the future that could be better addressed now, or if we are making the right choices as we raise the kids and guess at what is best for each one and for our family as a whole. Decisions about schooling, dealing with adoption related issues, adding older kids to our family and the impact that will have, the logistics of day to day life and how best to make sure each person in our family feels treasured and special...all of that adds up and as the Mommy I am pretty much in charge of all of that and so much more. For many of you, it is just the same as well as I certainly don't see myself as unique in that regard.

But for this week, most decisions were out of my hands. I didn't have to worry about how we were getting anywhere or what we were going to do. There were no concerns over what to make for breakfast, how many chairs we needed to take with us, or even what to carry. Like a well cared for child, I found my snacks in my back pack and I just had to follow along. I was told to sit down and do NOTHING, to read, to watch TV, to simply "be". My head was basically empty of all worries or planning. I had tons of hugs and laughter filling my heart and head instead.

That, my friends, was a gift I'll never forget.

Other moments on Stage 2 of the SOL Tour that I will never forget include:

1) Listening to upraised off key voices coming from the back of various buses and trains as the kids all sang songs of squished frogs and smashed peanuts that they learned at church camp...and seeing the slow smiles creep across the faces of fellow passengers as they listened to the sounds of all of our children just being the happy kids they are. Ok...and maybe a few grimaces on some passengers faces as well...I DID say off-key! Hahaha!

2) Looking backwards and seeing all three boys joyfully holding hands of their best friends as they looked up in wonder at tall buildings and busy city streets...and knowing that the hands that held theirs really loved them.

3) Having a discussion after the picnic with our adoption friends about how at first Kenny thought that we had been his birth parents who had left him and came back for him. Joshie was standing there and looked up at me in all his innocence and brought tears to my eyes as he asked "But why did you leave ME?" and it became immediately obvious to me that still we have not quite yet "made it" with him as I once again explained we never would have left him. And I was left wondering when he will fully comprehend his beginnings.

4) Heaping plates of spaghetti and "gravy" that will forever be embedded in my mind as a LaJoy meal that bridges the generations.

5) Matthew's heaving shoulders under my hands as he tried to hold the tears in check as he waved goodbye to our friends as Dominick, in a role reversal, took them to the airport as they left today for a trip and we remain behind in their home until our flight tomorrow morning. As we came back into the house after bidding them goodbye from their own front porch, he dissolved into sobs saying "I wish they never had to move, Mommy".

6) The sounds of the cicada's as they competed with the BoDean's concert in the twilight...and thinking how the noise reminded me of something out of a Stephen King novel.

There are many more, but these immediately stand out in my mind.

We have to get up tonight at 2:30 AM to get to Midway for our 6:00 AM flight to Denver. We are planning on doing nothing more than smashing pennies on the nearby railroad tracks, watching a couple of movies and taking a quick drive past Dominick's old house that he grew up in. We MIGHT just stop by Fannie May and pick up a few chocolates for some friends back home.

Upon arriving in Denver we are on the road again for the 5 hour trip back home as we rush to get there in time for Joshie's best little buddy's birthday, which has been rescheduled a couple of times so that we might be able to attend. Then it is down to serious planning for our church retreat this next weekend where we will enjoy our hometown friends and have a big Group Slumber Party in the dorms there. I am a bit worried as I am doing a lot of the planning for it and I am not at all sure it will turn out OK, and I have to lead an afternoon session which will also be a first for me.

So I will continue to enjoy the last hours of doing NOTHING and then turn my head and heart back to real life...which is pretty darned awesome itself, even if it IS hectic!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

SOL Tour Update #1

The beginning legs of the SOL Tour (Summer of Love) have been fantastic! We arrived in Denver on Sunday to have lunch with our friends from Bishkek and once again we wished more than anything that we all lived closer together. Finding those people who cross your path who simply "fit" is a gift, and we loved the time we had visiting. In fact, as we later spent the evening around a pool with our agency coordinator and our other friends whom we actually have only been around a few times we all commented on how comfortable and "right" it felt, as if we had known one another for years. While they all actually had known one another for a long time we were the newbies and it sure didn't feel like it.

We enjoyed the picnic where we met with several waiting families or those newly arrived and made a couple of connections I hope will continue. It is a treat to speak with couples who are anxiously awaiting becoming new parents...and also Dominick and I felt so grateful we are not in their shoes again, even if we are technically a "waiting" couple as well it is not as foreign and strange to us, we are not at all scared of the practical aspects of travel, paperwork, etc. No, for us the fears and concerns come into play more in the emotional end of the spectrum, the learning how to make ponytails, the acquisition of English. Get us over there and we don't care if we sleep on the floor with goats, as long as we can bring our kids home!! But it reminds us of our first go round with all of this, the wonderful sense of anticipation, the patience required, etc. We met some really neat couples and I was even told a time or two that our blog had been read, which was nice to know.

We came "home" to our Denver "hotel", which is our friend's home which feels like the best B&B we have ever stayed at (which it is since we have never stayed at a B&B in the first place! Hahaha!). Arriving late in the evening we didn't visit long but went quickly to bed.

Yesterday our day began at the somewhat disappointing but inexpensive Firefighters Museum which was less hands on than it used to be. However, that was not the main event so it didn't matter much. The more important part of the day had just begun when we met Nancy, Matthew's old agency Director, there with her two beautiful daughters. With 3 boys and 2 girls in tow we headed over to the Capitol building for a tour which revealed some funny secrets about the building and those nearby and we all had a good time, despite the heat. It was at lunch where we all really started relaxing more with one another and by the time we hit Nancy's hotel where all the kids played in the pool for a couple of hours the kids were all dunking one another and having splash contests as if they had known one another forever. Funny how quickly kids can gel together, isn't it? Nancy, Dominick and I got caught up on our lives, sharing the inevitable sorrows and joys of the past 6 years since we had seen one another, and quietly discussing our kids, parenting, etc. After an unexpected quick interview with Channel 9 news about Kyrgyzstan adoptions, we were off to dinner at Casa Bonita which was a sort of low end (ok...very low end with thankfully reasonably inexpensive food that was palatable) Disney-esque place replicating a Mexican village with a cliff diving show and a pinata bust up which the kids loved and allowed the adults more time to visit together. We parted ways laughing like crazy and vowing not to let so much time go by again before we see one another. It was really a wonderful day spent together, and a blessing to be able to have Nancy see the wonderful, finger snapping (Nancy'll get that one!), funny little guy that she helped bring into our lives. Our debt of gratitude to her will forever be unable to be repaid.

We ended the evening with a quiet..ok at times raucous...visit with our B&B Buddies as we caught up on local Montrose news and basked in their kindness. This evening we are just hanging out with no real plans other than to get on the plane to head to Chicago tonight, where there isn't a one of us who can't wait to see our adopted Clan.

Thus far our trip has done what we hoped it would, allowed us to just "be" together, to relax, to laugh, and to forget everything we have left behind for awhile as we just ignore impending surgeries, adoption paperwork, transition worries, etc. We are so thankful to just be within the family we are in, and to enjoy that playful part of us that comes out even more when we are not in the usual hurry scurry of our day.

I love this family! I love the people who have been placed along our journey!

Friday, August 01, 2008

"Summer of Love" Tour!!

Here we are, the Underwear Heads ready for their Road Trip!

You know, sometimes I wonder why our family gets strange looks out in public...maybe it has nothing to do with that whole transracial adoption thing....
And then again, there are some moms who diligently post the CUTEST portraits of their kids on their blogs...and what do I do? I post pics of my kids with Hanes Hat Heads...yea, really attractive. But then again, as those of you who have read the blog long enough or know us in person know...I've never denied that we really ARE a strange family!

So, we are 2 days away from embarking on our "Summer of Love" Tour, as I have named it! Hahaha! After a very busy weekend ahead of us, we are going to be ready to rock. Tonight we have a surprise birthday party to attend and then tomorrow we will be spending the entire day and evening at the Olathe Sweet Corn Festival where our entire family will be working at the Cub Scout booth selling ice cream in an effort to raise funds for our Pack. It will be a long, hot day and I am wondering how much of our profits will be eaten by our own crew!!

I am in the final stages of packing so we can then jump in the car at 5:00 AM on Sunday morning and head to Denver to begin the SOL Tour. We have an extraordinary time ahead of us and all of us are very, very excited. I also sort of feel like we should have a painted school bus or something, a modern version of the Partridge Family on the road with the main differences being that we can't sing a lick and David Cassidy is definitely not amongst this bunch (I had such a crush on him as a kid! Ugh! Hate to admit it!). Oh yea, and thus far we don't have a red headed drug addled Danny Bonaduce in the group.

First stop will be Denver after the 5 1/2 hour drive where we will meet friends from Kyrgyzstan for lunch!! We will get to spend the afternoon with friends who hosted our family for dinner a couple of times while in Kyrg, and we are so looking forward to seeing them again. Our family has been blessed many times over to meet people throughout our lives whom we have just "clicked" with, and this was certainly the case in Kyrg as well. After spending the afternoon with our Kyrgyzstan friends, we will head over with them to the Adoption Alliance Kyrgyzstan families adoption picnic which should be great fun. The boys were all asking if there was going to be anyone older there as I told them that there would mostly be babies, and they looked at each other shrugged and said "We'll have fun with each other!" so I guess even if there is no one there their age they'll be just fine.

After Love Stop #1 we have Stop #2 where we are staying with our friends who were from Montrose but moved last year to Denver. Their son is Matthew's best buddy since they were almost 4 and we are all looking forward to staying with them and visiting. The boys will be in Lego Heaven together, and maybe I'll get recharged visiting with my dear friend who always seems to provide me with insight that is new and thoughtful.

Love Stop #3 will be on Monday, when we meet Nancy, Matthew's old agency Director and spend the day with her and her daughters. Wow, are we looking forward to this and I have a feeling poor Dominick will feel like he is surrounded by a couple of clucking chickens as I know we will yack our heads off and catch up after 6 years!

Love Stop #4, and the real reason for the trip, will be to fly to Chicago to see our best buddies who moved at the end of the school year. To say the boys are a little over the top excited about that is a huge understatement and the countdown has been going on for weeks now. We adults are looking forward to just being around one another again, relaxing and playing cards until the wee hours of the morning...and feeling like we are home again in that special way you have with true friends. I am sure, knowing them, that we will have some whirlwind adventures exploring downtown Chicago and their own neighborhood.

The last stop on the LaJoy "Summer of Love" Tour will be Love Stop #5, where we will spend the night at one of Dominick's cousin's homes and visit with family we haven't seen in years. With our kids really falling in between one generation and the next due to our delay in starting our family, they will be the youngest there of their cousins...second cousins...uhh...not really sure about that whole Big Italian Family thing, isn't everyone family??? Much of the family I have only met once or maybe twice as we were never able to really afford going to Chicago before and most of the time have spent any vacation money we've had the past 1o+ years going back to see our moms in California.

We would like to thank President Bush and Congress for sponsoring our "Summer of Love" Tour with their economic stimulus checks. We also would like to thank our other sponsors Southwest Airlines with their incredibly low "Ding" internet airfares, and all our friends who are putting up the Fab Five as we travel. Your hospitality is very much appreciated and will be cheerfully reciprocated, but more importantly your love is cherished. We'll try not to trash our rooms and throw TV's out the windows...hahahaha! Can't guarantee you won't be stepping on a Lego or two or be subject to crying jags if Joshie looses his blankie!!

So, all joking aside, we have one of the most wonderful trips ahead of us to lead us into the school year. It was unexpected and things have come together to create what really is the Summer of Love tour...we will smile, laugh, joke, hug and spread the LaJoy.

We are SO BLESSED to have such wonderful people in our lives, even though some of them have only been present for a short while. Reconnecting will be very special and I am sure, boring as it will be to all of you, that I will have a lot to blog about. Seems road trips bring about those moments for deep conversations and I am hoping that we will have time to really relax together during this "calm before the storm" as we gear up for a hugely busy fall with adoption stuff, school, work, and readying our hearts and lives for the addition of two more people to love. Lots of adjustments coming down the pike for us all, and having this time together will actually be really important to cement us all together in a special way before the upheaval we expect as we transition to becoming a family of 7...and adding PINK to our lives!!!! Maybe we should rename it the "Summer of Testosterone" or the "Summer of Denim, Mud and Bugs"!

As an aside, thanks for your comments regarding the new look of the blog. It took me hours to figure out how to do it as I am not at all a techie. I hope you enjoy it!