Friday, January 30, 2009

The First 100 Days...

While it may not be as important as Barack Obama's first hundred days, Joshua's class celebrated their first 100 days of school. We never celebrated "100 day" when I was a kid but it is kind of fun and the Kindergartners all seem to enjoy it. I was thinking about it on my drive to work today, and realized that the first 100 days for Josh have brought about great change for him..."change we can believe in"...hahahaha!

I see in him a new found maturity and a far greater level of responsibility than I ever would have expected. He adores school, is madly in love with his teacher, and is proving to be a good little student even at the Kindergarten level. The child who was least interested in anything scholarly is suddenly fascinated with letters and words, and is trying to read literally everything he sees. Watching him blossom has been such a kick!

100 days from now, I wonder what we will be doing? Ski season will be behind us, the end of the school year will be in sight, and maybe...just maybe...we will be close to a travel date.

We are coming off a rough couple of weeks with Kenny since returning from Chicago. Not horribly bad but Mr. Control reappeared and we have spent the better part of the past two weeks trying to curb his desire to run the show again. He got in trouble in class for a minor moment of not paying attention which unfortunately just had to happen right in front of the principal and a district rep. who were visiting the classroom at the time. He refused to stop making snowflakes rather than pay attention to his assignment, and after being talked to twice still wanted to just do what he wanted to...because after all, hadn't they figured out that Kenny was the "Man in Charge"?? haha! Upon learning of his misadventures that day, he had to come home and write an apology note to his teacher to be delivered first thing the next morning.

We had another incident where he elected not to tell us he had lost a book loaned to us from his teacher from her personal collection and we only found out when Josh innocently shares his secret (Warning: NEVER tell your 6 year old brother something unless you WANT it to be told immediately to your parents!). When asked about it, he shrugged and said "I didn't want to tell you, I didn't want to get in trouble.". Hmmm....I guess he never got far enough in his thinking to realize we were going to eventually discover the lost book when we had to return it. Luckily, he left the book at our friend's house, but sadly he ended up spending what was going to be a homeworkless evening writing 100 sentances about telling mom and dad the truth.

It's all little things, and the subtle control stuff is mainly him trying to tell everyone in the room how we are going to do something, or take over a conversation. We are still working on learning more appropriate manners for interrupting, monopolizing a conversation, etc. It is interesting that all of this is so cyclical, and I think that maybe the last day or two we are on the upswing and all will be good for the next couple of weeks. It does seem to be slowly improving, each time we go through this it is a little less difficult, a little more toned down.

We are done gathering the documents that had to be redone, and are awaiting their translation so we can move forward with the apostille. How I hope this will be the last of the documents we have to recreate!! Kenny's readoption is now done and we need to get going on his US passport. We are still awaiting Matthew's renewed Kazakhstani passport. There are moments when I wonder if we will ever be done with paperwork in our life! Doesn't completing an international adoption qualify one for some sort of Congressional Medal of Honor or at the very least as "Paperwork Pusher of the Year"??

I am still trying to claw my way out of a bit of a funk over a lot of things, today was not the best as I am awaiting news about a dear friend who is experiencing some medical concerns that we just learned about. It just seems at moments right now that I can't handle my usual multi-tasking mountain of stuff, like my head isn't in the game or something. Sort of on the verge of shut down I guess. And I am feeling old...arthritis in the hip and back are slowing me down a little, making sleep elusive. I used to laugh at that old adage about being able to feel a storm coming in your joints, but I sure am not laughing anymore.

I did have a wonderful visit with a friend last night, someone who always helps me see things from a fresher and more positive perspective. It was nice to take some time for myself, to sit in a dimly lit restaurant slurping several Diet Cokes and yacking with abandon.

100 Days. I'm going to mark my calendar and see where we are when we next mark 100 days.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Picking Myself Up from the Doldrums!

The blog has been quiet this past week, too quiet I guess as I received a few emails yesterday asking "Where are you? Are you OK?"! Yes, I am fine, all is tell me please why I feel so down?

I spent yesterday working on redoing dossier docs for the adoption, which will take another few days to complete. With any luck, it will be the last time we have to redo them, but Lady Luck may not be going our way this month. You ever have one of those days where simply every single thing you attempt to do is a struggle? That was my day yesterday...printer wasn't working, email wasn't received, documents weren't cooperating, locked myself out of the house, learned Kenny's surgery may have to be put off until summer, and finally decided to end the day early and went to bed when the boys went to bed!

I don't know why I have a case of the doldrums...but I do. Nothing (other than yesterday's fiasco) is going all that wrong, but I seem to have pulled into myself a bit, which is highly unusual for me. I feel a bit like a turtle, who has a strong desire to tuck my head inside my shell and remain there for a bit. I didn't answer email for a few days, we all decided to stay home from church this Sunday just to be together without having to run around somewhere, I have sat in front of the computer trying to blog two or three different times, but nothing of any significance would come out, so I gave up.

Perhaps it is the strangeness of this winter season, maybe it is unsettling me a bit. We have had unusual weather here the past couple of weeks, it has been almost spring like with temps in the 40's, snow melting quickly and a dash of "mud season" upon us. We finally had a good dumping of snow last night and it feels as if winter has returned. Or maybe it is that ski season and business has been sporadic at best for us at the restaurants, the impact of the economy hitting us smack in the face. It was expected, but makes for odd schedules and weekly adjustments. It is at times like these when I feel even more blessed to have the employees we have, who are understanding and always give their best.

Joshie cried out in his sleep the other night, something about "Don't change my mommy, I like her the way she is!". When he awoke the next morning, he had no recollection of it and couldn't explain it at all. When he awoke me that night with his cry I could not go back to sleep. I always worry about Joshie and the impact many things have on him. I have this great often unexpressed fear that something will happen to me before he is fully grown...and I mean well into his 20's... and all our hard work with him to help him heal from his attachment issues will fall by the wayside. If something happened to Dominick, he would be devastated, but as Dominick and I have both discussed it could completely crush Josh if I were to disappear from his life and that is a weight I carry around with me constantly.

I do know one thing that has been subtly disturbing for me, and it may seem silly but it is true. We were told we needed to take a photo of the girls' bedroom, which has sat silently in it's blue walled glory since we moved the boys to the larger room. It has been an empty room which has become grounds for a slot car race track, a storage facility for a couple of boxes if kindly offered donated girls clothing, a room containing blanket forts on many ocassions, and most importantly a container of hopes not yet realized.

So Sunday Dominick put together the beds we have bought for the small blue room and we will maneuver in a dresser or two for a photo. Afterwards, it will once again remain empty with the notable exception of 2 unadorned loft beds. Why haven't we painted walls a cheery yellow and pink? Why are we not jumping forward with great anticipation with purchasing girlie frilly things?

Because I just can't make myself do it yet. For all the confidence I have expressed in God's leading in this, I guess my faith is not yet as strong as I would like it to be. We are still months away from any sort of homecoming, and the thought of having to undo what we may have done prematurely is heartbreaking, and I can't seem to move forward until we hit an as-yet-to-be-determined stage where I feel more confidence in their ultimate arrival. This empty room which holds so many dreams and hopes for the future could also end up feeling like a mausoleum, containing the memories of lost children...and I simply can not imagine repainting those girlie yellow and pink walls and turning the room into an office.

It would hurt too much.

So it sits there, photo ready to at least prove we have space for them in our home, knowing full well that something else has room that has yet to be filled...a placemarker for 2 female types is holding open the door to our hearts.

And here sits a mommy who has to get off her duff and quit letting the winter doldrums nail my feet to the ground! There is so much to do, so many joys aside from adoption to wallow in, so much snow now to trudge through! One of my greatest joys this winter has been the CD of Taize music that a blog reader sent me, and it has surprised me that Dominick is now hooked as well! As I had anticipated, it is the PERFECT soundtrack to my daily treks to Gunnison, through God's majesty of canyons and wildlife.

There is much to be happy about, and I am going to be HAPPY about it, no matter what!!

Sorry this blog entry is so boring and uninspired. I'll try to do better next time :-)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Nothing More Important

We awoke this morning feeling as many Americans did, a subtle sense of anticipation was in the air as we looked forward to the changing of the guard in Washington, D.C.. Kenny and Josh were not as aware of the historic events of the day, but Matthew, Dominick and I all were conscious of the meaning of what was taking place. I planned to volunteer in Matthew's class this morning, and he and I both wore our Obama shirts as we readied ourselves for school. I was hoping his teacher would show the inauguration in class, and had he been unable to do so I was prepared to check Matt out of school for a couple of hours to bring him home so we could watch it together. I was so pleased to learn that we would indeed be watching it in class, as his teacher felt as I did that this was a piece of history not to be missed.

At the appointed hour I found myself in my own private historic moment. In the darkened classroom with the images of the Capital displayed on the big screen before me, I sat with my arm around my son as several of my Cub Scouts and even a sister of one sat surrounding me. A sea of eager young faces was present, an array of color from white to dark brown and most of whom I have known since Kindergarten. What did Barack Obama's fourth grade teacher think of him? Surely it would have come as a great surprise that a young black boy sitting in front of him or her would one day find himself on the steps of our Capital being sworn in as the next President of the United States. As I gazed into the eyes of the children at my feet I wondered what great things they were capable of and where their own lives would take them.

Would our brief time in their lives help them in some way to achieve their dreams? Would they look back one day and see being in Scouts as somehow formative? Has having a loving arm around them or a gentle nudge to become a young man of greater character somehow influenced them positively? Has one of them been helped to excel in school by having the added involvement of a caring parent working with them?

If so, then the hours of effort and volunteered time was never in vain, even if it doesn't lead to one of them becoming President. Maybe they will become the best trash collector in town who has a loving family and takes care of them responsibly, and even then I will feel as if my life amounted to something more significant than merely having taken up space here on this earth.

But while those thoughts flashed quickly through my mind, by far the thought that took precedent was that I wouldn't have wanted to be any other place at that specific moment in time. As Matt's teacher and I talked about earlier together with the class, we each remember where we were when the space shuttle "Challenger" exploded (and he was in a MUCH YOUNGER grade than I was! Hahaha!), or what we were doing the moment we learned about the terrorist attacks on 9/11. For the self-created DVD of my life that will live forever in my memory, this day too will be a Red Letter day, and I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

Arm around Matthew, he and I whispered back and forth talking about what was going on at the inauguration. We listened to Itzhak Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma as they performed a piece and as the other kids laughed at the cellist's name I was explaining to Matthew who they were and how profoundly talented the group on stage was. Suddenly, Matthew's face lit up as he realized he recognized the tune they were playing from a song he had learned at summer camp and he quietly whispered the words as these extraordinarily talented musicians played totally unaware that across the country in a 4th grade classroom a little boy was touched by the John Williams composition they were performing. The look upon his upturned innocent face gently lit by the soft reflected light from the screen was a "keeper", and will be tucked away in my brain's memory box forever.

As the swearing in progressed I was asked some interesting questions by the young children surrounding me..."Where is President Bush going to live?", "Do you think someone is going to shoot President Obama because he is black?", "Do you think he is scared right now?" and from Matthew, "If there is a swearing in ceremony for the new President, is there a swearing out ceremony for the old President?".

The live streaming video was a bit herky jerky on screen, but it made for a more interesting version of Obama's speech. Each time the image halted for a few seconds, the students all tried to finish what Obama was saying. Very often they were able to correctly anticipate what the next word or phrase was, showing that they already had some understanding of Obama's vision for our country.

The adults in the room kept emphasizing for the kids that they could feel like they were really there in DC along with the millions of others, and embracing that thought the kids stood up at the appropriate times, applauded with vigor, and at the end when our Star Spangled Banner was played they proudly sang with an enthusiasm never before heard during their usual morning routine.

The lights came on, the kids from the other class who had joined us filtered out, and I rode to leave myself when Matthew grabbed on to my arm and said "Mommy, please stay longer...please!!", and as a few other classmates took up the plea I looked at the clock and realized that the stack of bills waiting for me to pay and the dishes in the sink could wait.

There was nothing more important than what I was being asked to do right then.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


By Cindy LaJoy

One day a man came along
Who had a vision for change
He wanted America to unify
But for many the idea was strange

For the past was about the divide
That existed between you and I
But along came that man with a vision
And he said “Come with me…let’s try…”

No more shall we see how we’re different
Let’s see what together we’ll do
When we cast off the old way of business
With an approach and a way that is new

You see you and I are Americans
He said with a smile so broad
We can still disagree vehemently
Yet not call one another a “fraud”

“Let go of the past” he encouraged
Looking back will not help us move forth
We can learn from our yesterdays, certainly
But let go of the anger henceforth

And slowly the hope gained momentum
That maybe…just maybe we’d found
A leader who might actually lead us
Instead of leaving us bitter and bound

It was gradual, this new way of seeing
We began to cast titles aside
He shows us that labels are weighty
And our reliance on them should subside

For our hope relies on just one thing
A unity we should embrace
A pride in one label…”American”
All divisions we should erase.

Now this man with the strangest ideas
Will lead and do his best to uphold
The values he laid out before us
And for years on the trail extolled

But one man…even one with a vision
Can not change the world on his own
Our culpability can’t be ignored
We all have sins which must be atoned

For our leaders, well they might divide us
But we sure bought into the line
That we are fundamentally different
Instead of seeing ties that still bind

If we want the change we so yearn for
It begins not with a leader, you see
No one else is responsible for it…

That Change, it begins with me.

Back in the Groove

It seems that when I let too much time go by without blogging, I have a hard time getting back in the if I can't think of anything to write about. The fact is, I never think anything I write is of enough importance that anyone would want to make it a point to drop by and read it!!!

It was a busy week, with Kenny and I traveling to Chicago throughout much of it for his visit to Shriner's Hospital. Yes, I left a balmy 40 degrees here in Montrose to go to a place where it felt like minus gazillion. And of course it warmed up in Chicago the day after we left. Kenny's appointment went well, and it appears we will be scheduling his first surgery for sometime next month. The MD's there will be doing a bone graft for his upper jaw at both places where the bilateral clefting occurred as well as a second attempt to close his palate. The first closure was done by a traveling medical team in Kyrgyzstan when he was younger, but a "fistula" appeared which is when the palate re-opens. We hope that this will be successful and that other more drastic measures will not have to be taken. Kenny's speech is at a standstill and will not improve any further without changing the structure of his mouth, so we are excited to be moving forward with this even though the emotional toll will be felt.

I was very pleased though that this was the first time that Kenny really seemed to trust me when I said that this visit would not hurt. He didn't once ask me about it or need to be reassured, which I take as real progress. Usually he asks me repeatedly "Momma, they going to hurt me?" so it was nice to see him relaxed about it. This next visit for surgery will likely be a whole different ball game and I anticipate a great deal of fear from him. I have been as honest as I could with every medical appointment, telling him with certainty if there will be pain involved or not, and I think that may be why he now trusts what we tell him.

We also had a great visit with our friends, who kindly put us up for the few days we were there and as usual treated us like royalty. With them, I always feel so secure and cared for, and knowing what we have ahead of us in the years to come it is so nice to know that their support is so close by while Kenny is undergoing the various medical procedures he will have. I also was reminded of just how very much we miss them, and of how much I have learned from my surrogate siblings through the years.

While literally in the air on our way there we heard from our adoption agency and there was a little unanticipated glitch with paperwork processing and after I returned home I learned it will now require us to put together a few more documents for our dossier and will mean a delay of perhaps a couple more months.

Coming on the heels of last weeks comments from our daughter-to-be, I feel more frustration now than I might have felt in the past. I am tired of feeling out of control, tired of waiting, tired of wondering if it will all fall apart, tired of feeling like I am living on the edge. I am also ever-so-tired of adoption paperwork. Ten years of continual dossiers, post-placement reports, re-adoption paperwork, invasive but necessary questions for homestudies about everything from our sex life to our family history to our parenting techniques...I want to be done with this stage of my life and feel like we can move from building our family to simply being a family.

But later in the day I felt more at peace with it all, or perhaps resigned is a better way of saying it. There is nothing that is going to stop us and if they asked us to get full length tattoos on our backs, I'd cringe and do it. If they asked us to run naked through Times Square, I'd do it. If they told me I had to copy the entire Webster's Dictionary by hand, I'd grab a pen and ream of paper. I am at the mercy of two beautiful faces staring back at me from the photo stuck on our fridge door, and I can't throw in the towel just because I am frustrated. Admitting that makes it easier to just do what is asked and not get exasperated as that will do no good anyway, even if my tone of voice during such phone calls reveals a little of the aggravation I am feeling. It does not good to kill the messenger, and sometimes it is hard to recognize that they too don't like making such phone calls anymore than we like getting them.

And people keep asking when we will be painting a bedroom pink...I can't explain that it doesn't yet feel "safe". And I can not imagine the pain of having to go back and repaint those pink walls to a neutral color should things fall through. Guess my trust in God isn't quite as strong as I wish it were, for many would have had the room done months ago and would sit in it quietly every night as they imagined a life that has not yet come to pass. I just can't make myself do it yet. In time though, in time...and when we do I will crack open a six pack of IBC root beer and PARTY DOWN!! hahahaha!

In the meantime, life continues to march forward and other events are tugging at my heart as well. I attended my first lay ministry classes last Saturday prior to leaving for Chicago, and I walked away feeling as if I was discovering a new dimension to myself. I have never before been so engaged in anything I was learning, and it quickly became clear that I was in the right place. I may not know why right now, and I have already had a difficult time explaining to a couple of people who looked at me like I was nuts to take this on at this time (or who knows, maybe ever!), but I am really trying to heed what I feel God wants for my life and sometimes we don't have all the answers immediately. I have had a hard time answering "why?" because I don't KNOW why yet. But I do trust that I eventually will have that answer.

Right now though, I have been feeling a little disconnected from the boys and I need to remedy that. Josh had a pretty hard time while I was gone, crying much of the first night saying he missed me and wanted me home. That surprised me a bit as we haven't had that for awhile, and it sometimes falls off my radar that we are likely to deal with those kinds of residual attachment issues for many years to come. Matthew just becomes more snugly after I have been gone, and we all had another camp out in our bedroom last night while I told a stupid story about all of us getting lost in a cave with a bunch of bats. I love our camp out nights as silly as it may seem, we all pray together, giggle together, talk a little as one by one we quietly drop off to sleep. Waking up in the middle of the night to see three little bodies sprawled all over the floor is a memory I will keep with me forever when they are teenagers staying out late and I worry about them. I hope we can find an adequate substitute for those softly whispered conversations, for I will miss them.

Tomorrow starts a new week, and Tuesday starts a new era in American politics. So much that is unknown lies ahead.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Walls Around Our Hearts

Today was a hard day for me. The reason might seem foolish to some. That's OK, much of what I have done in my life and continue to do with my life seems foolish to many.

This morning I received an email from someone who had visited one of our girls. It had taken a really long time for our packages to arrive so they hadn't heard anything from us in about 3 months. Our friend was innocently and anxiously asked "Did they forget about me?".

I read the email quickly before leaving for church, before I really had a chance to process it. It doesn't seem like much was said, certainly most people wouldn't make a big deal out of it. For some reason for me, it was like getting sucker punched in the gut.

I have written often here on the blog about the kids left behind, about them being forgotten. And here my own daughter is asking the same thing, and it leaves me feeling helpless, angry, at the mercy of a system I can't speed up no matter how hard I try. And it leaves me so terribly sad. I guess to say my heart is breaking is cliche, but it is true.

I cried. In front of a lot of people. I felt foolish. I was hurting and still am so badly. This is my child, as surely as Matthew, Kenny and Joshua are my children whom I would give my very life for. Looking into their eyes, thinking of one of them EVER having to ask that question again in their life is enough to make me want to lose it. Today, I guess I lost it a little.

I think about them daily...hourly if I am being honest. No, it is not an obsession, it is love...pure and simple love. I hurt and I want them home so badly, I hurt for them that they are feeling forgotten, that the hope that existed in their heart may have been lost, even if only for awhile. You see, if that happens enough, it hardens a child.

Forgotten??? How can you forget a piece of yourself you left behind? How can you forget that every morning you wake up and one of the first thoughts you have is that you are not whole...not yet at least. We have spent hour upon hour talking about them, planning for them to join our family, praying for them, wondering what it will be like, worrying about their fears for the future, sending kisses towards their photos as we all giggle a little.

I asked myself later today why this kind of stuff affects me so, why I can't be thicker skinned about it all. Sometimes I am pretty successful at walking around with a smile pasted on, often pretty happy and not allowing myself to get mired in the emotional garbage that is inherent with all of this adoption stuff. You stay busy, you remain focused on the goal line, you trust God that it all will work out, and you prepare as best you can.

There are plenty of practical and obvious preparations we make: thousands of hours of research so we know we are as safe as we can possibly make it from fraud, dossier preparation, eventually decorating a room and buying a few clothes, travel plans to make, etc.

But the most important preparation I can do is to prepare my heart. I was taught something incredibly valuable by Joshua and his Reactive Attachment Disorder. I had a sudden understanding that in order to be the mom I needed to be to help him heal, if I wanted to raise children who exhibited certain qualities that I admire, if I was going to ever have the kinds of relationships I have been blessed to have with each of my children, I was going to have to be a different person. I was going to have to do the scariest thing I have ever done, and that was to be fully open to every hurt, to every joy, to the honesty of emotions and the fullness of life.

This sounds stupid, I know, and I can't express it well. It's like I suddenly saw quite clearly that to parent my children in the way I wanted them parented, I had to become a person more willing to join them in their sorrow and celebrate in their joy. My emotional wall that had built up over those 30+ years had to be torn down, for I had a huge job. I had to teach children how to love who had every reason to never love anyone and who had likely never been truly loved as they deserved. How do you teach best? By example.

Joshie didn't need a parent who couldn't allow others in, who was unwilling to express pain or had to be "tough". What he needed...and subsequently Kenny and I know the girls will as well...was a mommy who could trailblaze the path of emotions for them, walking a few steps ahead as I turn back every few steps and say "See? It's OK to express your won't kill you and you'll feel better afterward. Try it! You see, it goes like this..." and then I have to be willing to open up in the ways that bares our souls to one another. They need someone to help them see that those emotions they have shoved down so deep for so long in order to protect themselves are safe to reveal, they need to know their hearts are cherished in my hands.

If they are ever to be whole, they need to know the world is a safe and loving place. And they need to learn this after having spent years being shown the side of life that is not safe and loving. And, they have to learn these lessons so quickly, we have so little time before they are grown...half a childhood has already been spent learning how to guard their emotions, how to appear strong and capable, how to not allow loss and sorrow to swallow them up. They have had no safe place, ever.

So, I have subconsciously focused on learning how to be as honest emotionally as I can be, I have slowly taught myself to be as vulnerable as possible for if I can remain in that place, my kids will see what is real. I might be able to teach them not to be afraid of letting their own walls crumble, thus allowing them to walk over the rubble of their walls to experience the gamut of emotions that they have stuffed for so long.

What does this do? It leaves me open and raw sometimes. It leaves me appearing foolish at moments in front of others. It causes me to reveal more of myself to others than most people feel comfortable doing. It leaves me feeling very scared sometimes, and unable to stuff what I sometimes wish I could stuff down deep.

It has also helped my kids heal, it has helped them to feel joy, reconciliation, to recognize God's presence, to express pain and to show great love. It has helped them to become whole, where before they were shattered pieces.

And it hurts. On days like today, it hurts more than it would have before. It hurts when others would be able to blow past it.

Someday, years down the road, my sons and daughters will read this. They will be young adults or close to adulthood. They will hopefully recognize their mommy's heart in every line. And when they do read it, my daughters will know that during the long winter days of 2009 when they felt forgotten I was thinking of them constantly, I was preparing for them to come, I was loving them long before they arrived.

No, my dear daughters, you are NOT forgotten. How I wish I could take you in my arms right this moment and begin our life together. You have no idea the amount of love that awaits you. You have no idea how much my heart is breaking for you tonight as I write this. I know, it has been so very long. For you, it has been a lifetime of waiting for someone to love you as you should have been loved from birth. Have Faith, cling to that Hope, don't add another brick to your wall.

But even if that wall turns out to be 3 feet thick and 30 feet high, I am preparing to stand there side by side with you, swinging away with a sledgehammer until it is mere rubble at your feet. It may take us awhile, but we'll do it, and I am preparing right now for it. That preparation makes me look silly and foolish to others, but for you I would look even sillier and ever more foolish.

So go ahead, imagine me tucking you into bed, brushing your hair after a bath, telling you bedtime stories. Continue to dream right along with me. We may be halfway around the world from one another, but our hearts are forever connected.

And don't worry about the love stuff, in time it will come. You see, I am already on the path looking back at you and waiting....just grab my hand and I'll show you how. I've been practicing.

50,000 and Beyond

I was just getting ready to post to the blog and realized that this evening, someone from Lincoln, Nebraska was my 50,000th blog hit. Amazing, in a little over 2 years, all of you have accessed this silly little family site 50,000 times. It blows me away. I have no idea how many unique viewers it is, but it is surely nowhere near that many as so many of you tell me you check the blog daily...which is in itself quite an honor that anyone would find our life interesting enough to want to check in on so often.

I feel like I ought to be giving away a prize to the person who was #50,000 but I have nothing of value to offer. No autographed T-Shirts, no signed 1st edition copy of a book, definitely no trip to Tahiti. Sorry about that.

Thank you to all who have followed us, who have joined us on our journey. Thanks to those who have let me know that keeping this blog in the public domain has helped you in some way as you embark on your own journey.

50, Never expected that.

Thursday, January 08, 2009


++++WARNING++++Long, boring, self-involved, non-adoption related post+++++++++++

For the past 24 hours I have found myself grappling with something that I really don't think I can adequately put into words. I am knee deep in studying for my first TEI (Theological Education Institute - for the licensed lay ministry program I have mentioned earlier) classes which are this Saturday. As part of my reading assignments for a class titled "Church in the World", I was to read Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" which you can find here if you so desire: .

About 2 minutes into reading this, I started reading it more slowly, more carefully. Then I stopped. Have you ever had a moment when you realized just how little you knew in life? Did you ever look at yourself and think "Man, I am SO have I made it this far?". I am not necessarily speaking about the subject matter of racial equality that MLK was writing about. I was utterly and completely blown away by A) His ability to express himself so beautifully, truly enough to bring one to tears at the sheer ability to work with words and craft them in such a way that people are moved to action, B) The intelligence to distinguish the subtle nuances of a complicated issue and then to extrapolate that which is the most important to be used in making his case, C) Grace - He is the Paragon of Grace in writing to those with whom he has an important fundamental disagreement. I will forever remember this example when I am in a contentious situation and use it to guide me in my own thoughts and actions.

And thus far, as I re-read what I have written I see I, unlike MLK, have completely failed to really say what I am feeling right now. Maybe it is impossible to admit that you recognize that at 42 you are so ignorant. Again, I am not lacking in some knowledgable about the civil rights movement, and actually spent a lot of my pre-teen years pursuing my interest in researching the subject of slavery and racial injustice. Around the time I was in 3rd or 4th grade the book and subsequent movie "Roots" came out, and this ushered in my transition from youth reading to much more mature reading. I begged my mom to let me stay up late and watch the mini-series, but it was during the school year and she wouldn't allow it.

So I went out and bought the book, which of course was far superior to anything I would have seen on screen, and found myself making more than a transition from youth reading to adult material, I eventually saw this as an introduction to the adult world of thought, it broadened my world view in a way nothing else could have at that age. I came away from the experience with a profound sense of incredulity of man's inhumanity to man. Growing up in the 70's and 80's in Southern California which was a sumptuous blend of cultures and races, it was inconceivable to me that anyone could be discriminated against because their skin was darker than mine. I still find that inconceivable today, that even highly educated people could use outward appearances to judge inner beauty and intelligence. It's ridiculous. I also find it hard to believe that anyone could not see the inherent beauty in any race. I felt that way long before we ever considered adopting children of a different race, and perhaps that is why I never gave it a second thought. Admittedly, it is also perhaps why at moments I am not as sensitive to the race issues that my children face that progress? To be so unaware not because you don't care, but because it is such a non-issue? Even though sadly it will always be an issue "out in the world"? interesting dichotomy to consider.

But this is all aside from the point, as my thoughts about all of this are stemming from something that has nothing to do with the Issue of the Day that MLK fought for, but has everything to do with understanding that he was brilliant, and I wish that at 42 years old I had read something he had written long before now. I have often felt foolish for not having attended college, but yesterday I really felt my lack of education in a profound way, it was as if I realized I have suffered a great loss and only just recognized it as such. It is a little as if I am in mourning for the person I might have been had I encountered certain things in my life earlier, if that makes any sense at all.

I also kept saying over and over again as I read "Oh man, if only I could write like that!". I have never really yearned to be like anyone else or have their skills...until yesterday.

But what also enveloped me was what I think was the point of the class, and that was a true desire to find or understand my own personal mission in life. To have that kind of passion, where the words flow so freely because you believe in something to the very marrow of your bones...because you live it, breathe it, shed tears over it...that is to some degree why I have felt compelled to take these classes. Because something is building that is beyond my understanding at the moment, but I have felt long before now. Two years ago Dominick and I had a long conversation about this, that it seemed learning experiences were stacking upon one another to lead me down a particular path, that we could almost visibly see it but couldn't figure out what it was. I still can't, and it is frustrating and not just a little fear inducing as it feels large and looming, as if it is a shadow hovering over my life and yet I can't quite make out its form. It is also a blessing beyond belief to have a husband such as mine, with whom I can openly share such things and am supported 100%, not laughed at, and joined hand in hand as I try to discover what lies ahead.

It seems as if I will be learning a lot through my experience with TEI, much of which might outwardly appear to have nothing at all to do with spiritual things, but inwardly will mold me in ways even I had not anticipated.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Post-Christmas Gratitude - More LaJoy Challenge!!

Kyrgyz Klaus has come to town!!

I received some wonderful photos from John Wright over at of group #2 receiving their Christmas Surprise. You can check out the full story at John's other blog where he has all the photos as well as tells the story so wonderfully.

You know, this was a very humbling experience for me personally, as I initially started the whole "LaJoy Christmas Challenge" on a whim, thinking that if we raised a couple hundred dollars over the next month it might help John be able to do at least a little something for the kids. I also thought it would give my own sons a little taste of the Christmas spirit in a way that had nothing to do with them benefiting. And then, quite honestly, I thought it would be fun to joke about the pie in the face that never happened! Hahaha! Little did I realize that in a mere 7 days you all would prove me 100% wrong, times two.

But the humbling part comes not from you, but from the kids in Kyrgyzstan. As you look at their faces in these photos and realize that for many of them it is the first time they have been out to eat in a place like this...or any place for that can you not be humbled by contrasting that with the life we lead here? Where we think NOTHING of dropping in at Mickey D's for a burger and fries anytime we want. To try and understand that the trip in the van alone was an event is just almost beyond our comprehension.

Their lives were so aptly described to me once as being in prison for kids, for that is what an orphanage is. It sure doesn't differ much from are told when to eat and when to sleep, you are not allowed off the grounds, you are given the bare minimum in terms of stimulation and opportunity for intellectual growth, your ability to make the most menial decision for yourself is stripped. You think not? Try adopting an older child who spends his first 24 hours with you THRILLED beyond belief at flipping a light switch on and off all by 8 years old that was one of Kenny's first moments of having control over his environment, and we sat there in amazement watching him. Wide

These kids in the following photos are just as precious as yours or mine, they just have no one who considers them such. Your efforts proved otherwise, your efforts were about far more than providing an outing or Christmas. It was about letting them know that they indeed are cherished, that they matter to someone. So they got a burger and fries, a trip to the circus which no doubt thrilled them all, but what they really got was a gift from the heart from you. You made them feel special, even if only for just one day. For many of them, regardless of how old they are, that may have been the only day of their entire lives when they felt special to someone. That's worth a heck of a lot more than a burger and a coke.

Some were kids in the orphanages, a few were kids at risk of landing there but still with families who are struggling mightily. So take a look at what your efforts hath wrought:

The entire gang with gifts in hand and full tummies!
I had hoped to use this experience to touch my own children's hearts, but just a few night ago Matthew let me know that he already has learned some very important lessons in life. We were watching our new favorite TV show...pretty much the only thing we watch at all on TV..."Extreme Home Makeover" when Matt looked at me and said "Mommy, it would be cool to get a house like that because they really make neat rooms. But I would never want to get one because all of these families have had something terrible happen to them. I'd rather have our house and not have anything bad happen to any of us."
Why do I always underestimate my sons and how God is speaking to them? While they may not always identify it as such, they sure do hear what's being said to them!!
I hope you have enjoyed the photos, and that you wandered over to John's photo display to see the rest and read more of the story.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

2009 Resolutions

Sorry for not blogging much lately, I have been pretty sick and am just now feeling human. I had a bad case of strep throat that is hanging on longer than I expected. I think I will take my mom's advice and go on preventative antibiotics from Dec 15th through Jan 15th each year, as it seems that "Holiday Illness" is fast becoming a LaJoy Family Tradition, one I would gladly let go of. I have been beyond blessed to have the crew I have this year at the restaurant who have helped me make it through. Without them, I would be in big trouble and I am thankful to them all for their help.

The Natives (i.e. Da Boys) have been fantastic stuck at home as Dad runs all over like an overgrown chicken with his head cut off trying to cover two locations and all the extras of our life, while Mom is laying around like a slug. I have been coddled and cared for, tucked in and had pillow thrones made for me, I have been hugged and asked at least 100 times "How are you feeling now mommy?". But I think that as of yesterday the Natives were officially getting restless. In to save the day came our friends who whisked them away for church and then a great afternoon playing games, frosting delicious cupcakes, and seeing a movie. I appreciated their care so much, just getting the boys out for the day was so nice for them.

I had a long phone conversation with a friend this afternoon that due to being sick I was unable to visit while she was back in town. You ever have those friends who you could just talk to for hours? The ones who understand your life can be messy but that doesn't mean you don't love them anyway, even if you can't always be who you'd like to be for them? I have no doubt we could have visited another 2 hours if we had both been up to it, but we each had to get back to our "real life" so we had our fill until we can see one another again, or until we email back and forth to keep up with one another. She is one of the most astute, intelligent, articulate women I have ever met and ours is an unlikely friendship to the outside world, but I am so glad that neither she nor I have figured that out!

So I am not one much for resolutions, as I don't really think that promises made merely because we say "Hey, it is the first day of the year!" are really worthy of keeping. No, it tends to be those quiet moments of reckoning when those resolutions we make are most likely to be kept. But in the spirit of the whole "New Year Thing", I guess I will put forth a few here and we will see in 2010 if I have kept a single one.

1) I will find a way to make more quiet time for myself. I will care for myself the way I try to care for others, and my biggest need is alone time WITHOUT a task before me. In all honesty, I'll bet this is the first one I totally blow and can't keep even if I try, but it is also the one I need to make a real effort to keep.

2) I will make the effort every day to really be with Dominick, even if only for a few minutes. No more only the hastily issued "I love you!" in passing as we rush about to do whatever it is that we think is SO important at the moment.

3) I will spend more time individually with each of my children. I will point out their strengths more, I will let them know just how cool I think they are.

4) I will lose weight. Yea...right...I already give up on that one, depressing though it is.

5) I will try and figure out who I am supposed to be when I grow up, how God plans to use me in the future, what this whole lay ministry thing is supposed to be for. And even if I get an answer I don't like or understand I vow to follow it anyway.

6) I will dream ever bigger dreams, for small dreams are for those who don't have faith that God can do even more.

7) I will try and recognize that I simply can not be all things to all people, and I will try not to be hurt if someone expresses disappointment in me or what I have to offer.

8) I WILL become a mommy again this year. I will...I really will...and I CAN'T WAIT!!!!!!!!

9) I will learn to lean on those who offer a shoulder, I will learn to be more gracious at accepting the kindness of others. It's really hard.

10) I will care for others in the ways I can, even if it seems insignificant. Sometimes, what is insignificant to us is actually profound for someone else.

11) NO NO NO NO NO I will NOT give up Diet Coke!!!! Sorry, that is asking WAYYYYYYY TOOOOO Much!

I had a couple of really touching emails this week that I responded to. I will not share details here, but I felt so moved that these people would seek me out to ask me some very poignant and incredibly difficult questions about circumstances in their lives relating to adoption and family.

You know, adopting can be such a lonely place to be in. We are forced to make decisions or are confronted with our own feelings about situations that we never imagined having to deal with. Others around us, no matter how much they love us or care for us simply can not understand what it is like unless they have walked a mile in those shoes. The moral compass we use in our daily life can suddenly seem out of whack when we consult it to steer us in our adoption journey. So many decisions we wish we NEVER had to make, so many possible outcomes that affect us for the rest of our lives.

We question God, we question ourselves, we question our motives. We ask God "Why? Why can't you just let it be next week...month...year...and let the answer reveal itself so I don't have to figure it out?". And more often than not, we try to force it all, figuring we know best or we'll help God out a bit with this one, instead of just letting it all happen as it will.

Dominick and I have walked this lonely place a few times now, we have paced back and forth during the darkness of night as we wondered if we were indeed doing the right thing, we have looked into faces on videos and in photos and asked ourselves "Is that really my son or daughter?" wishing more than anything that we could have a perfect Magic 8 Ball to tell us what to do. We have cried many, many tears...some alone, some foolishly in front of we have built our family. We have asked over and over "I wonder what they will be like? I wonder if he/she will be the fit that we dream they will be?". We have sobbed at feeling like we are playing God with our decisions, we have ached for children left behind.

I want to let you know, each and every one of you, that I will ALWAYS answer any email or phone call you may make. I will NEVER ignore your plea for help, for encouragement, for insight. We are not experts, and I never want to present myself as such.

But I know how it feels. I really, really do. I can almost guarantee that I can guess what doubts or fears are going through your own head before you can even voice them, because I have had the very same ones myself.

As the frustration with Kyrgyzstan continues to go on and on, as children are waiting for you to come get them and are growing older by the day, as you find yourself having to readjust your image of the child you hope to eventually parent, I want to urge you to reach out. Reach out to me, reach out to one another, reach out to anyone who will listen and really understand where you are at and what you are feeling.

You don't have to be alone in this.

And with that ridiculous soliloquy, I welcome 2009!!! May it be good to each of us.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Call to Action

While it has nothing to do with Kyrgyzstan or Kazakhstan, it has everything to do with international adoption so I'd like to bring something to your attention. The future of adoptions from Vietnam is at stake, and there are tens of thousands of childrens lives that might be affected. Just as the struggles in Kyrgyzstan continue, we need to offer our support where we can. It is important, and we may need to call on others in the international adoption community to lend their support as well in the future.

Sometimes we forget we can make a difference. The $10,000+ tax credit we all enjoy now was the result of a letter and phone call campaign after Matthew came home, when the international adoption community pulled together to rally for an increase from the then current $5000 credit, and thousands of families since have benefited from our efforts back then...including us! Many of you might be in "wait" mode in Kyrgyzstan right now and can sympathize with the plight of many parents who are in limbo in Vietnam. Collectively, our voices are strong and loud, not easily ignored. Alone, we are merely annoying mosquitos easily swatted away. Please read the following and act if you feel called to do so.

Dear Families, Friends and Colleagues,

Senators Landrieu and Coleman, along with other Members of Congress, are continuing to show their support of ensuring every child’s right to a permanent, safe, and loving family. As part of their commitment, they will be forwarding a letter to Nguyen Tan Dung, the Prime Minister of Vietnam. This letter will encourage Vietnam’s continued participation in negotiations related to the new bilateral agreement on intercountry adoption. The letter will express Congressional support for the continuation of intercountry adoption and will emphasize the importance of the transition to a Hague-compliant system and a new bilateral treaty.

Between Monday, January 5th and Wednesday, January 7th, individuals can support this important initiative through the following methods. Please note that many of the Congressional offices will be closed for periods of time throughout the Holiday Season. Please be sure to contact your Congressional offices between January 5th and 7th.

Contact your Congressional Representatives and Senators and ask them to sign the letter to the Prime Minister of Vietnam regarding the future of intercountry adoptions from Vietnam. Also, not that if they are interested in signing, they should contact Sarada Peri from Senator Landrieu’s office ( by Wednesday, January 7th. For a list of Senators and Congressman that have signed the letter as of the time of this writing, please see below.
You can find your Senators’ phone numbers and email address at

You can find your Representatives’ phone numbers and email address at

Please note that many of the Congressional offices will be closed for periods of time throughout the Holiday Season.

Send a notice of support (and ensure that you receive updates on this initiative) via the Joint Council website. To finalize your message, you will need to follow the steps below.
Click here to go to Joint Council’s Webpage
Please note that this is a donation and sign-up page. This initiative is not an appeal for a donation.
Once on this page, please click, “Sign me up for Joint Council news.”
Under the communications preferences, select the drop down menu for “Newsflashes and Updates.”
Click “Sign me up.”
Fill in your information
Under the comment section type “Letter to Vietnam Prime Minister.”
Joint Council will also be forwarding the names of individual who contact us to Senators Landrieu and Coleman.

Contact your friends and family encouraging them to join the effort. Please feel free to forward this email to all interested parties.
The letter to the Prime Minister can only be successful with your help! If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Joint Council staff via

Please note the following Senators have already signed the letter to the Prime Minister of Vietnam:

Senator Landrieu

Senator Coleman

Senator Oberstar

Senator Lincoln

Senator Lautenberg

Senator Menendez

Senator Kerry

Senator Johnson

Senator Bill Nelson

Senator Akaka

Senator Roberts

Senator Murkowski

Senator Durbin

Senator Klobuchar

Please note the following Representatives have already signed the letter to the Prime Minister of Vietnam:

Rep. Jim Oberstar

Rep. Scott Garrett

Rep. Jerry Costello