Saturday, February 28, 2009

LaJoy Laughter

As you all know, we LaJoy's have a twisted sense of humor. Often what is blogged about here is more serious stuff, but frankly, our daily lives are sprinkled with more laughter than any family has a right to have. I thought I'd share just a couple of things that happened this week:

Matthew was laughing so hard in the car as he told me this story. He said he and Kenny were talking and Kenny told him what had happened. Kenny's class was going to watch a movie on Thursday that they had earned for good behavior. As his teacher was trying to get the DVD player working, she found she couldn't get the movie to play. Kenny decided that he knew the exact reason why and volunteered it for his teacher, saying in all seriousness "I know why the DVD Player won't work, I made a promise to God this week that I wouldn't watch TV for 40 days, so He made the DVD player break!"

In another funny little moment, Dominick was speaking with someone and one of the kids...I can not remember which one now...left a door open and this person said "Were your kids born in a barn?" and Dominick quickly replied "Hmmm...could have been!". It took the other person a moment to get it, that we have no idea where they were born!!!

And now I want to share with you the funniest video I have ever seen. It is all the things a mom says to her children in a 24 hour period. First of all, you have to be a mom to find this funny, and preferably a mom whose children are older than preschool age. The boys and I laughed and laughed at this one, and after watching it 3 or 4 times figured out that I have said each and every one of these things a million times with the exception of 2 of them. I have vowed to eventually memorize this so I can sing it to them in the morning or whenever appropriate. Hope you enjoy it as much as we all did!

Friends of the Wrights I have been swamped with a million tasks the past few days and totally forgot to participate in the drive to help the Wrights! Dominick and I both feel strongly about supporting John's work, and I hope others will feel the same....

Dear Friends of the Wrights,We all know and understand the effectiveness of the work John, Julie and family have done in Kyrgyzstan – the country they love so much and have been called to. Let’s get them there ON THE GROUND full time! We can do this. This post is coming out with other blog posts all over the country – people who have blogs that know the Wrights. Let’s shock them with the provision of financial resources and letters/notes of encouragement to help them return to Kyrgyzstan. They want to go as full time missionaries – they just need our help to get them there.We propose that we raise a minimum of the following:$20,000 to cover a year’s needs on the home front• Home expenses – the place to come back to$30,000 to cover a year’s needs on the foreign front• Travel in and out of the country with family 2 x a year• Travel in the country to the different sites• Family expenses – including the educational needs of one daughter• Lodging and mealsThis is just $50,000. We can do this and we can do it quickly. Here is how. Go to JOHN’S Blog and hit the button that is for the Wrights….support. www.actofkindness.blogspot.comAND guess what – you can watch all that is done there on his will learn to live vicariously in a healthy way by reading and supporting the RIGHT cause. What an opportunity – Will you help?Let’s do it RIGHT FOR THE WRIGHTS!Blessings, Lynn and Ruby from LAMb International

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Boring Old Life

I feel a little weird not blogging for almost a week, but the fact is that I have had nothing all that interesting to write about (as if ANYTHING I write about is interesting! Why in the heck do any of you read this thing in the first place????). We have been very busy, lots of little things going on, but nothing all that earth shattering after the drama of last week :-) So this post is just going to be some random things, not in any necessary order. And as soon as I have some spare time I will break out the camera. I realize this blog must be completely boring with no photos to post, but it always seems that during winter I take very few and then suddenly when ski season is past I deluge everyone with pictures.

We seem to be the House of the Tooth Fairy this week, with the loss of two teeth, one Joshie's and one Kenny's. With Kenny's we were pretty worried at first as he had loosened one of his bottom teeth trying to take the cap off a marker with his teeth. Of all the kids for whom we DON'T need more dental work, it is him...and at first we thought it was a permanent tooth that came out. One of the downfalls of adopting an older child internationally is you have no information at all to go on. We don't know how many teeth he had lost in the past, which ones, etc. and he didn't remember either. It was only today that we saw a permanent tooth poke through the gum and heaved a sigh of relief that we don't have to look at another implant.

Fittingly with the onset of Lent, much of what seems to be surrounding our life this past week has been faith oriented. We participated in Ash Wednesday service this evening, which is not really well attended at our church but I was really glad we went. I am enjoying this point in time where thus far, the boys have yet to complain about going to church, and I am often surprised that they aren't bored and don't complain. They love the singing, which is quite traditional and not at all contemporary. They follow along with the prayers, and of course tonight there was a lot of explaining to do after the service on the way home. They are beginning to understand the symbolism of many things surrounding our faith, and it is important to me that they have a strong sense of something greater than themselves. I also want for them to have a solid religious education, as I feel that aside from what it adds to their life in terms of their soul connections, it is important from a cultural standpoint to have an understanding of the religious traditions that make up a large part of the American culture. In time, we will add in Muslim teachings as well so they might better understand their birth culture too.

This past Sunday at "rug time" the kids were all gathered at the front of the church as usual, and the children's message was an attempt to help them understand the meaning of transfiguration. They were asked to close their eyes and think back to a time that was so special, they knew their life would never be the same. Can you imagine how hard it was for me not to totally lose it when Kenny quickly volunteered that his moment was the day his mommy and daddy came to the orphanage to take him away?? I never really think of these things from a certain perspective, as I hate the whole "saint" label that is often attached to adopting parents. If only people understood the selfishness that really is the motivator they would never use that term...I wanted children so badly and I couldn't imagine life without them!! Some sainthood, huh? But, that being said, once in awhile it sneaks up on you that something you did really did change a life forever...Kenny went from being an unloved 8 year old boy to being a cherished and adored son of ours in the blink of an eye. And with the addition of each of our children my life was transformed as well...what a gift for all of us!!

It is also at moments like that when I shake my head incredulously at anyone who thinks we shouldn't be adopting the girls. Sure, it is not something I had ever considered...having a family that large. But when you have the opportunity handed to you and you have the desire, why WOULDN'T you jump at the chance to change a life? I KNOW it will make our life harder, it will mean a lot of financial sacrifice post-adoption, it will mean more work around the house, it might even mean lots of turmoil for a long time with emotional issues. But what purpose are we hear for? Is it only to breathe air and take up space? Imagine someone (God) saying to you "Hey! You! Yea, YOU! I will give you the chance to alter the course of life for two little girls. These kids will face a certain future of drugs, prostitution or death. You can change that. Wanna do it?".

Why wouldn't you say yes??

And harking back to one of my much older posts, "Just because something is hard, doesn't mean you shouldn't do it." Hearing Kenny this weekend, knowing what his adoption has meant for his life and his future, knowing what an incredible child he is who will definitely do something in this world...and thinking of him begging or worse on the streets in a mere 5 or 6 years from now, well all I can say is I am so glad God asked "Hey, you wanna do it?".

I spent a lovely afternoon yesterday before Scouts visiting with a small group of ladies, all of whom I admire a great deal. They are forming a prayer shawl group, to knit prayer shawls for people in crisis or celebration, and the person who will receive it will have been prayed for as the shawl is being knit. Ok, so don't laugh at this because I really don't see myself as a knitter...or a crocheter...or a quilter or a sewer or a potter or a crafter!! Haha! I don't have a gifted bone in my body in that regard, but I love the concept, and I love the women, so I just might find myself surrounded by knitters a couple times a month even if not really participating myself. I might try it, or I might just sit and gab. Regardless, it was a very special get together and I am often so surprised at the incredible company of amazing people God seems to put me together with.

Part of the reason I have not blogged as much lately is that I am struggling with my Lay Ministry homework. I never expected this to be as intriguing and fulfilling as it has been, nor did I expect that it would bring me face to face with many internal conflicts over my faith, causing me to really think about my own theology and not just gloss over it. Writing usually comes quite easily to me, when I sit down to write a blog post, for example, especially one which has been bubbling in my mind a bit and not one like this where it is quite rambling with no real point or focus, I usually sit down and rip it out quickly...some of my longest and what I would consider to be my deeper, better posts have taken the least amount of time...maybe 20 or 30 minutes. My written assignments for class have been arduous at best, I find myself struggling over every nuance, every phrase...mainly because I am examining things from all angles and over-analyzing things, which is something I tend to do often in "real life". Dominick and I always joke about how, I have to think things through from every possible direction. I know that must be exhausting for him after all these years! The important thing is that I am really growing through this process, and it is incredible how much when I consider I have only attended one retreat and one class! When I have hopefully completed the program two years from now, I will walk away from it a very different person, a more faith-filled person. What I will do with all that training remains a mystery which I am trying to be patient about.

I took a little step this weekend, a tiny one hardly worth mentioning but I will anyway. I have been so reticent to purchase anything for the girls, half of me believing it would be heartbreaking to return or give things away if this all falls apart. We have had so many ups and downs that despite my confidence in God's plan for all 7 of us, there is still a small part of me that is protecting myself. We were in Walmart Sunday afternoon, scouring the sale racks for the closeout clothes for the boys...we found some $3 shorts for Kenny and Josh and a couple of $3 shirts for Matthew. We wandered over towards the girls items, hoping to find some winter clothing like jackets or gloves but we evidently missed the opportunity to stock up. We told ourselves that even if this should not work out, we could always send stuff over to them.

And there on a rack, was the cutest pair of jeans with rainbows on them, and little peace signs. Size 12. Girlie. Marked down to $7. Without a moment's hesitation, I bought them. The first real piece of clothing to be waiting for them here. If it hadn't had rainbows, I never would have grabbed them, but silly as it may be, I have been a sucker for rainbows since I was 13...and if I could have talked Dominick into it I would have a big ol' rainbow plastered across our bedroom wall or the side of our minivan, dontcha think a "Rainbowmobile" would be totally rockin' cool??? I LOVE rainbows, but sadly grown women of a certain age look silly with rainbow shirts or jewelry, or rainbows on their bedroom walls. I have always gotten such a sense of joy out of them...yea, that and sunshines. So sue me, I am juvenile, at least it isn't daisies or Hello Kitty!! So, I felt like I made a little progress in opening my heart this weekend. Of course the jeans are buried in a bag on the floor of their bedroom-to-be, in a place where I won't see them for awhile. After all, don't want to get TOO carried away, right?

For Lent we have all agreed to what will be a big sacrifice for certain members of our family...we are going TVless at home for 40 days. While we won't go so far as to say they can't watch TV at a friend's house, we are unplugging for the next 40 days and will see how it goes. This will be so hard for Kenny and Josh, our little TV addicts, but it will also be great as we will spend more time playing games together, going for walks, etc. We actually watch far less than most families do anyway, but when we do allow it those two are transfixed in front of the screen! For me, I could honestly care less as I watch so little TV it is almost meaningless to give it up. Now, take away my computer and we would have a serious hardship!! I would go through withdrawals I think! I am considering doing away with Diet Coke again, as that is honestly very hard for me to give up. I went today with none, but we are at a stressful time right now, and I am not sure I even want to do it. Isn't it quite sad that I am addicted to something like that?? We'll see how the next few days go, but I just don't know if my heart is in that one right at this juncture.

Well, I told you this was going to be rambling and deep thoughts, no conflicts, no heartfelt confessions. Just boring old life. Guess I kind of like it like that.

Friday, February 20, 2009

One Step Closer

WE DID IT!!! Dominick took off for Denver at 3:00 AM yesterday and did the 10 hour round trip in record time. Today, we now know it was worth it, where yesterday we were uncertain if it would make a difference.

I created a quick blog post at work today (3 sentences, gotta be my shortest ever!) to let everyone know that our document arrived by the deadline, so our dossier was packaged and sent to the Embassy today. When I got home and turned on the laptop several hours later, I discovered that my post didn't appear on the blog! Sorry about that, and thanks SO MUCH to all who emailed, called, visited and prayed.

I know this was not a life or death situation, and two months delayed in the grand scheme of things is not horrible, but at this stage I will admit to being on my last leg. I am tired, so very tired on this journey. It has been terribly long, heartbreakingly up and down, and I want it to be done. I want my family completed, I don't want to live another year in some stage of adoption limbo.

Mainly, I want to put my head on my pillow every night and know my children are all safe and sound, tucked in bed down the hall. I don't want to think of them being hungry or cold, unwanted or unloved.

Today, maybe we actually came one step closer.

We still have a long wait ahead of us, many more hoops to jump through. Most of the time, I am really at peace with everything. You can't really walk around for such an extended period of time in a state of wistful anticipation. It creeps in at moments, but then it departs. For that, I am grateful.

I am also grateful to you, my readers, who have lifted me up when I needed it, and encouraged me in many ways. Thank you for your kind words, for the emails early this morning letting me know you were thinking about us.

I was visiting with a wise, dear friend yesterday afternoon who stopped by just because he learned of our dilemma and he cared. We talked about the blog, and I said that at times I have had second thoughts about our lives being so public. 2 years ago, as we began our adoption process for Kenny, I never imagined anyone would read it. It was not written for public consumption really, although of course I figured a few of my long time adoption friends might follow along. But we wanted our extended family who all live in far flung states to be able to keep up with us if they wanted to. I also really wanted a journal for the boys.

By the time I realized what was happening, that people I have never met and likely never will meet were faithfully reading on a regular basis, it felt like it was too late. I couldn't go back and rename our family using pseudonyms as so many would have been pointless as so many already knew us by then, from either the blog or my online postings in various adoption groups I participate in. So I elected to keep on going as I had started, to remind myself who my main audience teenaged sons someday.

As my friend pointed out, it is the "real life" content which makes it all authentic. What you see on this blog is as real as it gets. I know sometimes it sounds a little overly happy, a little too lovey dovey maybe. But it IS our real life, or at least it is our life as we see it. No, we don't have 5 pairs of rose colored glasses with which to view things. We just have love tinted ones.

I have tried to be honest about the struggles, the challenges, the down sides. When things have been less-than-wonderful with Kenny's adjustment into our family, I have tried to openly write about it. When sharing about Josh's attachment disorder and our ongoing moments of pain with that, I tell you all about it. It is my hope that this honesty will help someone along the way, that it will help you feel less alone during those endless nights with a screaming child who won't let you hold them, or when you find yourself wanting to beat your head against the wall with your older adopted child because they JUST DON'T GET IT...yet.

What I never expected though, was just what I would get out of this blogging relationship, heck I never even considered it a possible "relationship"!! I never expected to have anyone actually CARE about us because of what they have read, never expected anyone to go out of their way to email if I hadn't written in a few days to say " guys all ok over there?", and back long before Kenny came home I never ever expected that your support would carry me through yet another adoption.

I know there are many of you who read the blog and have never commented or emailed. When I happen to check the blog stats I see the same cities repeatedly, places where someone has sat down at a computer and looked us up to catch up on our lives. And I smile. We may never meet, even via email, but you know all about my life. Good or bad, right or wrong, you know me. Hopefully those few who read the blog who know me in "real life" would tell you that the person reflected in these blog pages is the Real Deal, that I am not presenting a "front" so that you might view me in a certain way.

You might agree with me sometimes or disagree, you might laugh at our family or read about us with disdain. Somehow though, we have formed an odd little community here, which you all showed so overwhelmingly with the LaJoy Christmas Challenge this past Thanksgiving. It is my hope that you turn away from your computer screen after reading our blog feeling uplifted, enlightened...or even enraged. I may never really understand what it is that keeps you coming back day in and day out, but I am glad you do and I am grateful. You may not need me, but with every stutter step we take these days I realize I need you, my readers, my supporters, my encouragers.

Thank you. Together we are one step closer.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


So I spoke too soon on my post this morning and I am so mad at myself I could just...ARRGGHHH!!! Seems I missed a document for our dossier that had to be redone. Due to various reasons, I have until 10:00 AM on Friday to get it notarized, apostilled and in the hands of our agency rep...or we are 1-2 months from having it submitted to the Embassy.

I don't usually ask for prayer on this blog, but guys, I need you! The apostilling is a 10 hour round trip from Denver...and we have weather here and have to go over the mountains to accomplish this which means an even longer trip probably. Then we have to pray thet FedEx actually CAN get it in the hands of our agency by that time in the morning, or we are a cooked goose.

I know, what's another couple of months??? For the girls, it could be huge...closer to school start time means we need to make decisions about keeping them out of school until functional language is acquired then starting them later in the year as the obvious "new kid", it means less time for me to be home with them full time working on adjustment stuff, it means Dominick has to leave during his peak work time when money is already incredibly many factors riding on this.

So please, if you are reading this...just ask that God do this in the right time, even if I don't recognize what that may be. We are going to do our best to make up for my incredibly STUPID error, and if it doesn't work it is all my fault. All these years and I have never done something like this, so I guess if I am in the mood to forgive myself I could say I was "due". I am not, however, in the mood to forgive myself at the moment.

To top it off, I had 2 hours to deal with planning this, getting the document notarized by both of us, a new translation done and figuring out work schedules for tomorrow before we have to head off to a snoeshowing trip with Cub Scouts.

Breathe deeply...breathe deeply... in...out...

Man, I still can't believe I did this.

Crossroads and Validation

Have you ever been in the position to see how God is using you to help someone else feel their way through this world? I am not talking about the usual things like going out of your way to do the tangible things, assisting someone with a project, going to visit someone who is ill, etc. I am speaking more of being present at a certain place and time, and suddenly realizing WHY you are present, because someone needed to hear something you had to say, or needed reassurance that you see something special in them.

We all find ourselves wandering at moments, "window shopping" our way through life as we pick up one persona, try it on to see if it fits, set it back down...or maybe consider a new career and examine the "package" carefully reading the contents to see if it is something we want to commit to.

Even if we are not one of the Faithful, we often look for signs that we are heading in the right direction, we need our plans validated. We want to know if the dreams we secretly hold are ridiculous or if they should be pursued. Trusting our gut instinct can be scary if we don't feel we have some sort of affirmation that our chosen path is the correct one.

Man, do I know what that feels like. We have gone against the norm in so many ways the past few years, jumped out of the boat, questioned ourselves over and over again. Are our motives pure? Are we REALLY hearing God's voice in this, or imagining it because it is what we WANT to hear? Can we pull this off? Everyone else thinks we are nuts, are they right? When you do what feels right in your heart, what you feel God is calling you to do, I am learning it often conflicts with other people's vision of what your life should be like.

Often God has used someone else to step forward to speak to us, and I have been ever so grateful for those moments. Sometimes it has been friends, sometimes casual acquaintances...sometimes complete strangers. Whomever it was, I needed to hear what they had to share.

I always am mindful of privacy with my blog...not everyone wants their life blabbed about for the world to read this is purposefully a little vague. The past few months I have had the distinct pleasure of getting to know someone better. Every once in awhile you meet someone and just know you were destined to do so. It may not be obvious the reason why, but you "click" in a way that brings real joy because it doesn't happen all that often in life. Sometimes these things develop into friendships, sometimes they are on the fringes of our lives and never quite make it to the level you wish it would. I actually have two or three people in my life at this moment with whom I wish we had the time/energy/opportunity to grow our friendship. Maybe it will happen, maybe it won't...but that sense that it could grow to something very deep and meaningful always lingers there, just out of reach.

So I have been kind of on the sidelines with this person, but he is an amazing individual and I didn't know until recently that he was at a crossroads in his life, ready to take some big leaps of faith of his own that involve huge changes for him and putting his family first in an extraordinary way. I also didn't understand that maybe God was going to use me to help validate a couple of things in his life. What a humbling experience that is, to see how you can be used by doing very simple things, by muttering a few words that to you are just a kind word said in passing but for someone else speaks to them so firmly.

I think that I am at my own crossroads, which might be why others at that stage feel so sympatico with me. I am studying to do something I never imagined myself doing, becoming more involved in ministry work. In the "window shopping" of my life it is a garment I never ever imagined trying on myself. It is uncomfortable at this stage, and I think I am still waiting for more validation that this path is the right one for me...I am alternately troubled and ecstatic...troubled because it is a role I just can't picture myself in, and yet ecstatic because everything seems to be pointing that way. Maybe I too am awaiting validation from some unknown source that will suddenly appear to give me external support for an internal conflict. But as I delve more deeply into my study material I am being called upon to think about things that are more challenging than I have ever studied before. The thought of myself being the one to help others see God more clearly is foreign and sobering, and the growing pains are enough to make me want to bash my head against a wall with frustration at what I don't know and all that I wish were clearer to me!! But there is an can I put this..."ache" is a good word, to do this, as if all the varied pieces that make up the mosaic of my life are coming together finally. For me, this is an excruciating process of growth, and deep down inside I am so scared, and I can't even believe I am sharing these emotions on the blog.

Every day, I literally begin the day with my morning "shower prayers". I know, stupid, but when you have 3 young boys and as busy a life as I do, sometimes the shower is the ONLY place I have 10 minutes alone which are quiet!! I have found myself asking God over and over again on a daily basis to please use me in some way today, to let me touch someones heart. Since I began this quite awhile ago, I have seen how that simple prayer has come to life every single day. Now, I am not certain that it is God providing opportunities, laying them out before me...or if it is that my own heart has changed, if the scales have fallen from my eyes and I am more able to see other's needs because I am not quite as wrapped up in my own. Sounds a little saintly, doesn't it? And I don't mean it to at all...believe me, I am the furthest thing from a saint that you will ever find. But I am really ruminating on this little factoid, that God uses us more if we ask to be used, and sometimes in surprising ways. I have spent most of my life being mostly concerned with myself, with my own needs, being greedy and grabbing for what I thought was due me. It has only been in the last few years that I have begun to see that living my life in a different way is more rewarding. And man, do I still have a long way to go.

I am grateful that this person let me know I have touched their life, it is easy to recognize those kindred spirits for me, as they are always the ones who have the courage to express their emotions and aren't afraid of others' reactions. It is the kind of person I hope to become. So I guess this is an open "thanks" to God...a thank you for putting such wonderful people in my life, a thanks for helping me see things that at one time I was blind to, a thanks for the goodness of others.

And as an aside, as I was writing this post I had an email from our agency that today our dossier will be on its way to the Kazakhstani Embassy!!! Kind of perfect timing, isn't it?

Monday, February 16, 2009

10 Things About International Adoption That No One Tells You

I spoke at an adoption training class once a few years back, we did not yet have Joshua but had completed our adoption of Matthew. I created a list which I wish I still had that was about the 10 things no one ever told you about international adoption. I am sure at this stage I would change a few and add a few, but here are the things I have learned over the years that no one really told me:

1) International adoption is a full-time job. The paperwork, the training time, the learning curve, the paperwork, the home visits, the paperwork...hmmm...notice a theme here? LOTS of paperwork! In triplicate, quadruplicate and sextuplet...hahahaha! I had no idea way back when we began just how much time I would spend during the next 10 years on adoption documents of one form or another.

2) No one tells you that you become part of a new community, the international adoption community. Although you may be stared at by many for being a family that doesn't "match", you also feel an instant kinship when you see another family that looks like yours, and the shared shy smiles across the aisle of a store are indicators of the secret that you both know that no one else around you have both experienced a journey to parenthood that was extraordinary.

Then there is the fellowship of the online community, which was the bigger surprise to me and has also been the first place I turn to for information and support. Online groups, blogs and email have really made it possible to move forward with confidence when at times I was scared to death.

3) Your life will be forever changed, and not merely because you become a parent. It is a spiritual awakening of sorts to things that most of us only read about or see photos of in National Geographic. The poverty, the despair, the eyes of children staring back at you with such longing and hopelessness. Dominick still talks about the children he saw staring back at him in a side room when we visited Matthew, an image he has yet to be able to shake almost a decade later. Seeing a loss of spirit in others is something you can't just forget. Many are moved to action after adopting, many parents find they can not move forward without reaching back and trying to help. Most thought they were going to just go, get a kid, and come back. Some find it is not that simple.

4) Some people will NEVER see you as a "real" family. That one was a surprise to me, as I never thought of adoption as a second class alternative. There are those who can not understand how you could ever love a child that was not of your flesh and bone the way you would a biological child. They view you as somehow babysitting for 18 years. Luckily, these people are few and far between, but it still floors me that they exist at all.

5) Your children will begin talking about adoption at ages much younger than you'd ever expect, as long as they perceive they are safe to do so. Many parents are surprised to learn they need to begin their adoption talks before their child is even two years old! I have been asked over the years by parents adopting infants when to expect to have to have "the talk" with their kids about how they came to be in their family, and I just laugh. The first time they see a pregnant person, the first time they notice their skin is perhaps darker than yours, the first time someone says something in front of them...the secret is out! Haha! It is never too early to have "the talk" and in fact those conversations should be as natural as if you were sharing about the day you went to the hospital.

6) No one tells you how much the referral process hurts. Having to choose a child is as unnatural an act as you can get. You are thrust into a position where you have to really question your motives and make gut wrenching decisions. What if you receive info on a child who has scary medical issues? Are you dooming them if you decline to adopt them? Would you have a choice if you gave birth? Are you prepared to handle it? And what about the children you don't select...were you their last chance at a family? Sometimes, sadly, that answer is yes. Orphanages are filled with older children who were once those younger children who were considered and declined.

I can still remember the young 11 year old boy in Kaz we almost adopted who had lower extremity mobility issues but was a fantastic artist. We saw several videos of him taken over time and I could easily imagine him in our family. Or the infant girl with the congenital amputation of both arms and legs from Kaz whom we discussed for days and made the decision to move forward on with great joy only to learn she was going to be another family's child. Then there were the kids presented to us on videos with both Matt and Josh's adoptions, back in the days when they still send videos out. Did they ever find their families?

7) Even young infants can be terribly damaged emotionally. What happens in those early months can alter the course of who that child becomes. They are not just blobs. The damage that can take only weeks or a couple of months to inflict can take years to undo, if it ever can be reversed.

8) No one wants to tell you that you have no control over anything. Who would willingly walk into something where they can not have even a modicum of control? We have the illusion of control when we select our agency, but as many will attest who have ended up with fraudulent agencies, even that is somewhat out of your control. Give it up, ride the wave, and see what happens. And oh yea, it affects the rest of your life. Don't tell me God doesn't have a sense of humor when teaching us!

9) You will still find things in your child that you SWEAR are somehow mysteriously biologically connected. It is part of the process of claiming your child as your own, seeing these similarities, but sometimes they are eerily genetic-appearing. We are always joking about just how much Kenny is like Dominick, his personality traits, etc. Perhaps because we don't expect such things, it is even funnier when we discover them.

10) No one can ever impress upon you just how much you will love your child, there are no words to communicate such depth of emotion. We try, but fall far short. Regardless of their shortcomings, delays, unrecognized medical issues, etc. the love you feel for your child will absolutely be real, it will not ever be "second best". It may take awhile to get there, when stranger meets stranger love is not instant...but the day it happens you will be so choked up you will wonder how in the world your life ever felt complete without this little person.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

An Open Letter to Kyrgyzstan Adoptive Parents

This morning I received an email from someone adopting from Kyrgyzstan who is currently one of the unfortunate 60+ families who are held up in the process for what has now become months and months of a standstill. Although I am at work, and intended to use my "between flight" time to finally get more deeply immersed in my Lay Ministry Class homework, I found my mind drifting continually back to the plaintive tone of this email and I could not ignore it. I started what I thought would be a short response which grew to a very long one as I hopped up and down from my computer as I helped people at the counter. I decided that I would post my response to this person as a blog entry, as I know there are a few waiting families who read this and maybe, just maybe they can find something of value to take away from this that will help them right now.

I have no stake in the Kyrg adoptions myself, we were one of the lucky ones to be completed before all of this happen, but we have waited for more than double the time for our daughters to come home, more than double the time that most of the Kyrg families have been waiting for their children. But as I stated in a group post, we are a community, we lean on one another, some of us have gone before so those following can benefit from our experiences. I can not speed up a process and I can not do anything to move government officials...I can offer my understanding and prayers. I can share your heartache with you. Below was my response, it is very long and I am certain that those who may read the blog who are not involved in all of this as intimately will find themselves quite bored by it, but someone somewhere might need to read it:

I know. I know how you feel. And no one else who has never been through it can really and truly understand. It's not their fault, it is not without wanting to. I am sure your XXXX would love to be able to offer encouragement and more applicable support, to really understand all that you are feeling right now...but it is simply impossible unless they have gone through it themselves. To top it off, not every IA parent has gone through it either. This "Living in Limboland" is a journey that is unique unto itself.

I assume from your email that you have a faith in God in one form or another. Fully embracing that is the only thing that has gotten me through the past 11 years, and conversely the past 11 years of adoption journeying has brought me closer to God than I ever could have imagined.

If you had approached me before traveling to Kyrg, I would have advised you against it for exactly the reasons you might now be better is harder once you have held a child...a child that Fate may decide is not really yours. That is not to say that some child is not yours, but perhaps not this one. I speak to you frankly and honestly not in an effort to discourage you, but to try and help you see it from a different view. I have never met any of my children prior to this adoption, and if I had my choice I would not have done so this time. It is impossible to "unring the bell", so to speak, to not remember their touch, how they feel in your arms, the scent of them. To look into a child's eyes who you feel is yours and connect is one of the most wonderful experiences you can ever have, to see that hope and trust that speaks to you. It is impossible to detach and it makes the waiting interminable. I wonder if I am not going through this experience so I might better understand the many of you who are also going through it, to provide me with a different insight and compassion for it.

That being did meet your child, your daughter is very real to you...not just a photo and a medical report. This is good AND bad, bad for the reasons stated above, good because you are holding a very special little girl in your heart and whether she ends up with you or not I am convinced of the Divine's presence in our lives, and your continual prayers for her have an effect, at least as far as I am concerned. It is also good because this is a part of your bonding process, and that is always good. So you can see that if your heart can weather it, this is not only to be seen from the negative perspective...but it requires a strength in you that you may not feel you have, but I am sure you can pull up from your reserves.

The fact is, she may not come home.

I know, you don't want to hear that. You won't want to even allow yourself to think of the possibility. These children that we hang our hearts on are not ours until the court says so, until the final document is signed. It leaves us living in limbo for a long time, and in this case longer than most. But they are not ours.

What helps me come to a better understanding in all of this, is also recognizing that we live with the illusion that even once the documents are signed, when all the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed, our children are STILL not really ours, they are God's. He gives us permission to carry them through life for awhile, but even then we find we are in the position of letting them go. And that too is hard, be it before they join our family, or when they graduate from high school. They are on loan to us, and perhaps your daughter is merely on loan for awhile so you can carry her in your heart and offer up your prayers for her to have a wonderful life, to ask for God's protection over her. We can never assume ownership over any person, as we really all belong only to God. It is when we confuse this that we end up often finding ourselves in a position to be heartbroken. Admittedly even when we acknowledge this, letting go can be utterly crushing.

That being said, my friend, I do have a strong belief that adoptions will soon be moving in Kyrgyzstan. Partly based upon faith, and partly based upon my experiences observing how international adoptions have developed and morphed over the past 11 years in Russia and the former Soviet Republics. Kazakhstan went through these growing pains and still does periodically. For some reason, just as we were in on the ground floor of Kazakh adoptions, the same thing has happened with us with Kenny's adoption, being one of the early families can cause your journey to be fraught with unknowns, yet if you are early enough it can sometimes allow you to bypass the growing pains of a developing program. But our length of time involved in all of this has provided me with a unique vantage point from which to take it all in. And this allows me to believe that eventually all will smooth out with Kyrgyzstan and adoptions will proceed.

It may take more time, and I know....your daughter is growing older by the minute. With infants it is even more of a sense of loss as they grow and change so quickly, you can actually see the changes from one month to the next. With older children that sense of urgency is slowed a bit, their changes happen more gradually and your bigger fears are the things that can happen to them in institutions as they grow to the pre-teen and teen years that we can all imagine in our nightmares.

I remember feeling foolish for sobbing in front of my computer screen days before we traveled for Josh and we received an updated photo of him. Our only other photos shows a tiny infant, and here he looked to be a sturdy toddler, despite the fact he was only 11 months old. Today I can grin as I see that much of what I was seeing was the "Little Old Man" in him that we still see come out in him today, and not necessarily growth. But at that moment, I could only think of what I had missed, and that grieving needed to come out, I think.

You know what is amazing though? The very moment your child is placed in your arms, that yearning for what was lost suddenly is taken from you, and you can only see the future you have together. We, as humans, have an incredible ability to adapt to the reality of what our lives are...and our reality sometimes is our children come to us older than we ever would have wished for. Once we have them though, it is funny that you hear so few adoptive parents ever lamenting the loss of those early months or years as they are busy living for the future. You too will find this to be true, should your daughter come home.

You asked how you get by week after week without feeling like you are just existing? I sense you are asking for something more from me than the usual responses on the internet adoption lists of tasks that you can do to fill the know what I am talking about...the "Get the baby's room done, go to a spa, practice carrying around a 20 lb bag of flour" responses. You are asking me how to survive all of this.

I only wish I could better answer you, that I could offer more comfort. For me, the only way I can make it through is by living for the moment to the best of my ability, by not trying to jump ahead of myself, by asking God to help me not miss the wonder and beauty of today because I am so fixated on tomorrow. Interestingly, this is something I long needed to learn, well before we ever began our adoptions. I always was busy looking towards tomorrow and never saw what was in the here and now. I love how I have been formed by this process, how my weaknesses have been addressed and my strengths have been enhanced. You too will find this happening, if you allow your eyes to be opened to it. Regardless of what has happened, you can not emerge unchanged, and it doesn't have to be changed in the negative if you choose to see it from the polar opposite perspective. If you have ever read my blog, you will see quite clearly that there are times when I have been more successful at this than others. The important thing is pulling out of it.

Life exists beyond your adoption, and you will miss out on a lot as you travel through this time if you don't allow yourself to become a part of the living rather than living only in the Land of the Expecting. What will happen will happen, you have no control, and it is a good thing to practice before you travel. The best advice I have ever offered, in my opinion, to the hundreds of families I have spoken with over the years is to give up the need for control, trust your decisions and then let come what may. If you have faith in your work pre-adoption in selecting an agency, they will do all they can for you.

And what if your daughter doesn't come home? What if you allow yourself to imagine the worst? Will it hurt...yes, like hell. Will you move beyond it? Yes, one day you will. Will another child eventually find themselves in your arms. Yes. Yes.

Trust in God, let go of control, and most importantly, continue to LIVE.

May you have peace as you continue this challenging time in your life.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Sweetheart Fest

You know, it is funny how you can mention something, be praying about or thinking about it and then suddenly, marvelously, things happen. In a previous blog post this week I wrote:

"We have someone in our life right now, someone whose entire body cries out to us and speaks of loneliness. This person is so filled with despair and resignation that it is almost painful to be near them, for you do not know what to do in the face of such dejection. How I wish I knew how to reach that person's soul, to bring a little light into the eyes of someone I know is in great pain in many different ways. And yet I have failed there, I am too afraid of being rebuffed, too uncertain of knowing what would be the right approach, and if being honest I am too scared that what I see there might be myself someday."

This is someone we see once a week, someone whom I have yet to really see smile in the several months we have been around them. This person is not at all crabby or rude. They are sorrowful, they are struggling each day to put one foot in front of the other. This week, this special Valentine's celebration of love that our family strangely seems to be having, that changed. I should have known it could, even if only for a brief time.

I have never said much in front of the boys about my perceptions regarding this person's inner unhappiness, which admittedly is probably brought on for very real and obvious reasons which I will not discuss here. And yet somehow my introspection's and concern of earlier this week were addressed in a small way. Sometimes it is the baby steps. Sometimes it is a group effort. This person walked in our home this week, and much to my surprise each of the boys hugged them...a first for all of them and not planned or discussed. I was just as surprised as this person was, and the glimmer of a smile appeared and they said "Wow, how nice!". Later, Joshie emerged from his bedroom with a handmade Valentine as this person was leaving, complete with a nickel included...his gift for someone he instinctively somehow knew needed to feel cared for. It was carefully opened, read, and tucked back inside and then it came, a real smile.

Perhaps those who have visited that very lonely place can recognize another visitor there. Joshie has been there...he may be young but he has a heart that has a big band aid on it too.

As our friend got into the car, I felt the urge to lean in and give a gentle squeeze. It was unexpected and yet something I had not felt would have been accepted prior. As I pulled away, for just a moment I could see who this person must have been at one time, there was a tenseness that slipped away for just a second. I eased the car door shut and wished I had more to offer. But for the first time, I felt at least as if I had done something, even if it was a tiny little gesture. Who knows, over time, maybe we might get to see that smile a little more often.

Our Valentine's Week has been great. It was totally unplanned to have an extended celebration but that is how it has worked out and I think we are done for now, even though the holiday really isn't until tomorrow.

Friday night we had our adopted Grandpa over for dinner and a mean game of Scrabble. The boys decided to make him a couple of Valentine's notes and to leave him a now infamous holiday "Bathroom Bulletin" of his very own. I am sure he felt honored :-) Hahaha! I always enjoy visiting with our dear friend, and one of these days I swear I will FINALLY beat him at Scrabble, and when I do (don't hold your breath) I will find some glorious way to celebrate because the odds are stacked way against me.

Today the boys and I had a special guest, our Ms. Joan. She is our Social Worker and a close friend, and today she was treated to lunch at Chez LaJoy. The boys decided they wanted to make lunch, so decided upon the delectable menu selections of quiche...and chili dogs. Don't ask, I know it will be a meal combo she will never forget. They made their grocery list and we went to the store where they found everything, came home, unloaded the car, and started their kitchen magic. They actually did almost everything themselves, including decorating the house and table for Valentine's Day. They were so excited and loved every minute of it, with Matthew even going out to dig in the shed for our Christmas candle centerpiece because it was red and he thought it would look nice. We even had streamers in pink! Although it certainly wasn't a gourmet meal, it was created with a lot of love and they had a great time planning everything...and again leaving yet another new Bathroom Bulletin.

Tonight we actually are alone...all alone...and what are we doing? Hanging out on the computer! Actually Dominick is now asleep, but earlier while the boys are spending the night at a brave friends house who actually wanted all 3 of them to come over, we went to our church's first movie night where we saw a really great film called "King of California". Wow, I wish all movies were this thought provoking and good! We found it and many others on a web site called where they put together DVD's of shorts and full length feature films that are spiritually oriented or touch on such themes. We saw two shorts and the full length film tonight and am really looking forward to future films. This one, while it had some foul language in it that was not necessarily gratuitous, was an amazing film which both Dominick and I walked away from feeling as if we had really seen something worthwhile. Can't wait for next month's film!

I am kind of considering our Valentine's over, as tomorrow night we are watching 3 little guys for a friend of ours so we won't be going out or anything. But I am wondering of God has anything else up his sleeve for the day tomorrow, if The Sweetheart Fest will continue and we will stumble across yet another wonderful time spent giving or receiving love. I received my special Valentine's Day gift today in the car as we were driving for our grocery purchases. Somehow we drifted into conversation about what Kenny has learned from each of us over the past year and a half. He told me "You learned me how to be a kid, you told me I didn't have to be the boss anymore. I LIKE being a kid!"...and from Joshua a few minutes later "Momma, you taught me how to love. I didn't want to love anyone before you and I was really mad. But not anymore, I love everyone now!!"

And that, my friends, is what Valentine's Day is all about!!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

IMPORTANT: Kyrgyzstan Adoptions - We need your help!

I had a conversation today with Rebecca Harris of the Joint Council on International Children's Services (JCICS) who is working in coordination with our State Department to try and move things along with the stalled Kyrgyzstan adoptions. There are over 60 kids who have parents desperately waiting to bring their children home, many of whom have already met their kids. Boy, do I know what THAT feels like! In an effort to try and let Kyrgyz officials better understand the positive impact on the lives of adopted children, JCICS is trying to compile information to send over about previously adopted children and their current status. Here is the notice from JCICS:

Following the conference call with the Dept of State and prospective adoptive parents with referrals from Kyrgyzstan, Joint Council has initiated a call for Kyrgyz adoptee stories. This will be a part of Joint Council's continued Global Awareness Campaign which aims to show the plight of children in need and the successes of children who have been placed in permanent care. If a family has adopted from Kyrgyzstan and would like to share their story as part of the Campaign they should send their story to Cindy LaJoy at Cindy is an adoptive mother of three children, one of who was adopted from Kyrgyzstan. The stories can be a maximum of 250 words and must have photos included. Families will need to submit an electronic release of information with their story. A copy of Joint Council's release is attached for you to distribute to families. Stories must be submitted to Cindy by Monday, February 23rd. Joint Council would like to thank Cindy for the donation of her time for this Campaign.

If you have completed a Kyrgyz adoption and are willing to share, please send me an email and I will provide you with a sample document as well as the electronic release.

I do hope you would consider doing this, the lives of many children are at stake, including the child of a waiting family that lives very near us as well as Kenny's buddy. If you have any questions, contact me and I will do my best to assist you.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

St. Valentine Arrives Early!

We have never taken Hallmark Holidays too seriously around the LaJoy know, the holidays that were invented so that certain companies can make some big bucks. Mother's Day, Father's Day, Valentine's Day, they all fall into that category. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy being acknowledged as much as anyone does on Valentine's Day or Mother's Day, but I have always found it sad that we have to have a day earmarked to show our love when it should be something so natural and part of our every day life that we never NEED a special day to celebrate it. I don't know about anyone else, but I would much rather be treated with respect and love all year long than to get a bouquet of roses once or twice a year.

I am a very, very lucky woman, I live within a family where love is expressed often and sincerely by every single one of us. I walk in the door after coming home late and there always seems to be at least one person greeting me with a hug. I have kids who come up for no reason at all and give me a kiss, just as I do with them. We probably dispense 10 or 12 hugs a day to each other! And as I write this, Joshie has been sleeping in bed with Matthew for the past several nights, just because they love each other and want to be near one another. For us it is such a natural part of our lives, that I often don't think about how blessed we all are.

Then you see a child somewhere who touches your life on the outskirts, a child whose dirty clothing and unkempt hair tell much of their story. A child who beams when any attention is paid to them at all. A child who in all likelihood isn't told very often that they are loved. A child who you wish you could take home, give them a warm bath and some fresh clothes, sit them down to a hot meal...and then cuddle with them on the couch until their heart is full.

In some ways, I guess I have actually had the opportunity to do just that although for some reason I never thought of it in that way until just writing the above sentences. Kenny is one of those kids, Matthew is one of those kids, Joshua is one of those kids. There are two girls who are those kids and are feeling alone even as I type this. With Kenny you feel it the most intensely though. Sometimes he will come up to me, give me a hug or a kiss or snuggle next to me when we are talking about something important, and it feels as if he wants to crawl right inside of me the yearning is so great and the emotion so deep. Perhaps love is that much more appreciated when it wasn't felt for so long. I have some of the most amazing moments of connection with Kenny...but then again I guess I really could say the same about each of my sons.

Valentine's Day has arrived early at our house, and I thought I would share it with you all. I started it a couple of days ago when I was putting away some dry erase markers and got a bee up my bonnet when, with a grin, I went into the boys bedroom and wrote a "mommy love note" on their bathroom mirror. I then proceeded to our bathroom where Dominick was ducking under the shower head to rinse the shampoo from his hair and while he couldn't see I wrote a love note to him on the mirror. He got out and I heard him laughing about it. I never expected the response I got from the boys when they came home later than afternoon and discovered their note...all 3 of them came running out laughing and giggling as they bear hugged me and told me how cool it was.

Now the Valentine Fairy is sneaking around the house, and every time one message is erased, another appears. Matthew attacked one bathroom, all three boys left us wonderful notes, and tonight Matt erased my message in their bathroom and proceeded to draw a huge heart and tell his brothers that he loves them! Silly as it is, I wish those little notes could stay there forever as a reminder of this sweet time of our lives when life is so good, when love flows freely, when hearts are gently cared for. I have lived long enough to realize it may not always be this way, that difficulties arise and hearts close up to protect ourselves from the pain caused by others. While I hope that won't happen with any of us, I know it could and this time right here and right now must be cherished. The giggles and laughter, the snuggles and kisses all could disappear and sorrow take up residence. It has happened before in my life, which is perhaps why these moments are not just rushed through but are savored.

I know y'all get tired of hearing me talk about "Love, love, love." or "I love my kids" or "Man, I love my husband!". At choir I often get teased because with almost every song I end up saying "I LOVE this one!". I also often write about how much I appreciate and love my friends, and that certainly must get quite boring to read about.

But I can't help but think about what life would be like were I not able to feel and experience that much love, both directed at me and from myself towards others. What would my home feel like on a daily basis? How much less rich would my life be? I thought about it today as I was driving home, what did it feel like for Kenny not to have a single person whom he was important to? Or my dear sweet Joshie, what ache in his heart existed prior to us arriving and what great effort he went to in those first couple of years to protect his heart from another that might have been a death blow. And even Matthew, who from the very first moment I held him refused to look back and clung to me as if I was a lifeline, which I guess I probably was.

And what about those in all of our lives whom we see every day who we know don't have enough love in their lives. The ones for whom the smiles rarely appear, or whose stiff shoulders indicate they have seldom been cradled in the arms of another. We have someone in our life right now, someone whose entire body cries out to us and speaks of loneliness. This person is so filled with despair and resignation that it is almost painful to be near them, for you do not know what to do in the face of such dejection. How I wish I knew how to reach that person's soul, to bring a little light into the eyes of someone I know is in great pain in many different ways. And yet I have failed there, I am too afraid of being rebuffed, too uncertain of knowing what would be the right approach, and if being honest I am too scared that what I see there might be myself someday. For I have visited that place where desolation reigns and have been thankful to only be a temporary guest.

But for today, I am loved and I am loving. For today, my heart is light and my life is right. St. Valentine has already visited here!

Mama Bear Strikes Again!

As my hand gently moved to lay across his arm, he knew there was going to be trouble...

Last night we had teacher conferences at school for all 3 boys and it went very well for the most part. We heard wonderful comments about each of the boys and were quite happy with their progress. Then came the "moment", and Momma Bear came out with a vengeance.

Kenny has a team of teachers working with him, including special ed, speech, ESL and his regular teacher. We only met with the special ed teacher in addition to his regular classroom teacher last night. The conversation was moving along just fine as we reviewed Kenny's test scores, discussed classrooom behavior, etc. Then we mentioned that we are still considering holding him back to repeat 3rd grade and would make a firm decision on that at the end of the year.

That's when I was suddenly subjected to being talked to like an uneducated idiot who couldn't POSSIBLY know what was right for my child. The special ed teacher IS a well educated, articulate woman who knows her stuff. She also has no understanding of post-institutionalization whatsoever and has not once ever taught a child with Kenny's background. Yet she knows what is right for him, in her opinion, and didn't hesitate to provide me with the benefit of her expertise and superior education.

And at that moment I laid my hand on Dominick's arm, years of marriage and non-verbal communication paid off and with no need for words he subtly leaned back in his chair so I could then give this special ed teacher the benefit of MY experience and education...

"Research shows that holding a child back is NEVER the best option." and then she leaned across the table with an acusatory tone and said "So you are saying you want to make your child feel punished?". Then as I tried to express what we were thinking about Kenny's progress this teacher then threw out a threat, and with a haughty tone said "Well, before we do that we will have to involve the Principal and School Psycologist."

Don't EVER lean in at me with an unfounded accustion or threats, or I'll lean on you. Hard.

And I did.

Whew, was I hot!! I asked her if she had taught any children with Kenny's background, if she understood that for every three months insitutionalized a child was delayed 1 month...and Kenny had lived in that environment for 8 1/2 years. I also informed her in no uncertain terms that she could feel absolutely free to bring anyone into the dialogue, but in the long run if we wanted Kenny held back, he would be held back. Period. Or we would reomve him from school altogether and teach him at home as I am not at all averse to doing that and know that at least at this stage in his education I could manage that quite nicely. I explained that she was looking at test scores, which by the way were unsatisfactory in my mind for progression to the next grade, but we were looking at the whole child and would ALWAYS be able to see that whole child better than ANY teacher who worked with him an hour every day in a group setting. I explained to her quite clearly that Kenny was emotionally and developmentally in many ways a 6 year old...that away from school he played almost exclusively best with Josh and his friends despite the fact that Matthew was 8 months younger and far closer in age. I informed her that she may have forgotten but I currently have a son in 4th grade and am in the classroom often so I know exactly what faces Kenny next year should he move up, and not only do I recognize that he is unable to handle work at that level, but so does Kenny. I also informed her we had already discussed this possibility with Kenny long ago, and that despite what she thought he was not considering it a punishment should it have to happen.

Then I was finished, and she quickly left the room. Thankfully, his classroom teacher understands our perspective and doesn't think we are foolish to be considering this possibility. We will revisit the issue at the end of the school year when we will ultimately make the decision, and they can bring in the King of England if they want to but that still won't scare me off. I also know we DO have the support of the Principal and Psychologist, should we need it, and that is nice to know.

Why, oh why, do people who have never even spent 10 minutes with kids like ours from these backgrounds suddenly think they are experts in educating or parenting them? "Studies show...", "research shows"...that does NOT apply to my child unless that study was based upon post-institutionalized children from the former Soviet republics. You want studies? I'll give you studies that are applicable, and I intend on doing that very thing this week. But why do teachers and others not recognize that they show their OWN ignorance when they are so busy trying to reveal mine??

I am NOT an expert in special education. I AM the best expert they will find on Kenny LaJoy. I have a very intelligent son whose reading skills place him at the level of the end of first grade, and she thinks it is inappropriate to even consider holding him back from entering 4th grade?? You tell me whose thinking is inappropriate. He is also not yet working at 3rd grade level in math, which if he were might give me reason to pause. I have a 10 year old whose playmates are 6 year olds, so the maturity factor isn't a concern.

Why can't any well educated person recognize that a bright kid who has had only a year and a half of a new language, a new family, a new culture, and a new life might just need one thing to help him...more time. Kenny is ONLY "special needs" due to a lack of time here to learn. He has no learning disability that has been identified, he has a good brain which is making more and more connections all the time. He has support at home, he is surrounded by caring adults and siblings. What he needs is time to catch up, and he will. If he has it, I have no doubt that he will be performing at an A-B level, but if we don't give him that time his frustration will grow as he is certainly smart enough to see that he ought to be getting good grades and doing well, if only for not missing out on his early years of school.

As we left the building, steam still spewing from my ears, Dominick started laughing and said "I knew once that hand was on my arm that I needed to just sit back and let you go...I'll bet she never expected that!".

Yea, well, I never expected to be treated like someone with an IQ of 50 and as if I didn't know my own son. I never expected to be accused of wanting to punish him merely because I want to see him succeed and am responsible for providing him with all the tools he needs to do just that, even if one of those tools is Time.

Mama Bear is on the loose, don't let her come to YOUR school!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Where Do You See God?

One of the things we often do at night as part of our family prayer time (Corny, I know, but we do it anyway! We are a family of Corn Cobs!! hahaha!) is mix it up a bit. Sometimes Dominick or I will pray for all of us, sometimes the kids will each pray aloud, sometimes we will focus just on praying for help for someone we know, sometimes we offer only thank you's for our wonderful life, occasionally we will light a candle and talk about God. Often there are giggles and laughter, sometimes there are quiet, somber moments, always there is love.

One of my favorites though is when we do "Pow Wow How" which the kids learned at camp. The "Pow" is sharing one thing that was bad in your day, the "Wow" is sharing one thing that was good, and the "How" is sharing how you saw God that day. Last night we did Pow Wow How, as we all laid around on the floor of the boys room, lights off, quietly whispering about our days. When we got to "How" as usual it is always interesting to see where the boys see God at work in their lives, how they interpret His presence.

Kenny mentioned seeing God in the slowly changing behavior of one of the kids at school who is really and truly suffering through a terrible family circumstance. If ever a child needed God's hand on his shoulder, this would be the case. I was glad Kenny could see that and recognize the positive changes in his friend's life. Josh then said he saw God in one of his buddy's that day who is always trying hard and is kind to everyone...he likes this little boy in his class a lot and often mentions how nice he is. When it was Matthew's turn, he replied what he often does when asked where he saw God that day..."I see God right here, right now, with my family."

Yes, that is often where I see God working the most, right here within our very lives...mundane as they may be to the outsider looking in. How can anyone watch a child grow and mature and not see God in it? How is it possible that one can look out their kitchen window at a magnificent sunrise and not feel somehow that He is near? When driving and having a near miss, how can we ignore His protection?

By the same token, it can be very easy to wonder where He is when we see children suffering and unloved, handicapped men without heat or proper nutrition (Check out John Wright's blog the past few days for heartbreaking stories of forgotten men), and people dying of AIDS? How can we see tragedies of seeming enormous proportion such as the fires in Australia and not question where was God?

We can not see Him, because we don't want to see inside our own hearts to find Him, we don't want to feel obligated to act so we work very hard to ignore that He dwells in us, that we ARE His tools here on earth. By asking where He is, by blaming Him for not being present or actually ignoring His presence, it lets US off the hook, doesn't it? Nothing then is required of us.

We show God to others with our own actions. I tell the boys over and over again when we are deep in conversations about evil and good that Evil is allowed to exist when Good men do nothing. Yea, I know, most people don't talk to their kids at this age about the Holocaust, about the death penalty, about the existence of evil in their own realm such as on the playground where good kids let bad kids pick on others, where harsh words are flung at one another to prove strength, where making fun of others is a sport. We talk about how those unkind kids grow up and continue to be the Bullies of the World, the Saddam's and the Hitler's and the Mussolini's.

We talk about people seeing goodness and God in each of us, about remembering that we are a force in the world and it is up to us to decide if that force will be positive or negative. And yes, they DO get it even at 4 or 6 or 8 or 10 years old. Amazingly, nothing is as clear as it is at that age...good and bad are not nebulous, they are easily spotted and understood. I can't imagine waiting until Middle School to start these discussions, by then my children would be Lost!! It's too late to begin to help my kids discern the differences between good and evil by 11 or 12 years old! What opportunities are missed solely because parents think "My kid is too young for that, we'll talk about it later...", and "later" is much, much to late. We don't give our kids enough credit for the ability to think things through, to utilize what we teach them...and then we wonder why they don't understand something because we never took the time to help them see below the surface. It may take work, but those little brains are incredible sponges.

I work with an amazing small group of teenagers, and we met this Sunday evening. I see God in each of them, as they share their dreams for the future, their desire to make a difference in the lives of those around them. Most of them have big plans, and most of them will achieve their dreams, it is easy to see that. I wonder what my own children will be like at that age, what their dreams will become as adulthood looms a year or two away. Will Matthew become the architect he has spoken so often about? Or the Fighter Pilot? Will he go to the Air Force Academy as he has dreamed of? Will Kenny be a Policeman as he so often says so he can help other people and protect them? Or will he drift more towards the arts, this little actor of mine who already shows how he can easily inhabit a character and Kenny disappears for awhile. And Joshua who has suddenly talked a little about being a doctor or a vet, will he do that one day?

But most importantly to me...will each of them continue to see God in their daily life? Will they each be able to show God's love to others?

And when they look back on their childhood and dig out the memories, will they think of those evenings in the dark, our family snuggled up against one another as we pray and share about our day...and will they remember the warmth of seeing and feeling God right there??

If so, then maybe I will the be able to count myself a success as a mom.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Fireproof - Is Christian Entertainment Getting It Right?

Dominick had mentioned that he would like to see the Christian movie which was newly released, "Fireproof". We rented it yesterday and spent a lazy Sunday afternoon watching it together. For those unfamiliar with the plot, here taken from the movie's web site is a synopsis:


At work, inside burning buildings, Capt. Caleb Holt lives by the old firefighter's adage: Never leave your partner behind. At home, in the cooling embers of his marriage, he lives by his own rules.

Growing up, Catherine Holt always dreamed of marrying a loving, brave firefighter...just like her daddy. Now, after seven years of marriage, Catherine wonders when she stopped being "good enough" for her husband.

Regular arguments over jobs, finances, housework, and outside interests have readied them both to move on to something with more sparks.

As the couple prepares to enter divorce proceedings, Caleb's father challenges his son to commit to a 40-day experiment: "The Love Dare." Wondering if it's even worth the effort, Caleb agrees-for his father's sake more than for his marriage. When Caleb discovers the book's daily challenges are tied into his parents' newfound faith, his already limited interest is further dampened.

While trying to stay true to his promise, Caleb becomes frustrated time and again. He finally asks his father, "How am I supposed to show love to somebody who constantly rejects me?"

When his father explains that this is the love Christ shows to us, Caleb makes a life-changing commitment to love God. And with God's help he begins to understand what it means to truly love his wife.

But is it too late to fireproof his marriage? His job is to rescue others. Now Caleb Holt is ready to face his toughest job ever...rescuing his wife's heart.

The male lead was played by Kirk Cameron of teen idol fame, and many of the other actors in the film were amateurs...and it shows.

The premise for the story was not bad, a failing marriage, two people who are self-absorbed and unwilling to give much to one another, living parallel yet disconnected lives...this is the stuff of real life. In fact, in the hands of better actors and better writers to tweak it all, it might have ended up being an absorbing character study rather than coming off as merely a vehicle to A) Send a salvation message and B) Sell related merchandise like any Disney animated film (the Love Dare book which no doubt will sell a million copies) and C) Provide certifiable "Christian Entertainment" to the masses.

The acting was not horrible, there was no flubbing of lines or huge missteps, it was just bland and very stilted. At moments, even from Kirk Cameron it was over acted. The entire film was uneven...some scenes felt like the first episode of a long running TV series when you can tell the cast has not yet gelled and then a scene would come along that had the feel of pretty decent acting. Overall, however, it came across as exactly what it was, a low budget film with inexperienced actors who are not half bad, but also wouldn't be receiving a "call back" for any Hollywood audition.

The story line had potential, and I kept hoping it would eventually find its groove, but it never quite did. And that is sad, as that aforementioned potential really was there. While I found the early scenes which set up the drama of the damage they have both done to their marriage with apathy and inattention to be kind of "canned" but necessary, the real potential came when Kirk's character was making real effort to reach out to his wife and was rebuffed, hearts were already hardened for both of them. If that had been explored and better presented, there would have been a much more engaging story. It was shown, but the emotions were not explored to the extend they could have been, the characters were flat and not fleshed out as much as they could have been, or perhaps the acting was so stiff that it didn't allow the script to work as well as it could have. I also think this is such a common occurrence in marriages that it could easily strike a chord with many who watch it, and would like for the message of forgiveness, of learning to soften your heart when it has been reinforced and has bars across it, to be heard and better explored on a deeper and more intimate level. Although the breakdown of a marriage is incredibly painful, that pain was not palpably felt with the exception (for me at least) of the one climactic scene where Kirk sincerely expresses his sorrow to his wife for his past actions. However, for me that was the only scene in the entire movie that had an authentic feel to it. The rest were either over acted or under explored.

There were good things about the film, one being that the theme of pornography and it's potential damage to a relationship was presented, but in such a subtle way that young kids such as ours had no idea what was being alluded to and older kids who would understand what was being hinted at would see nothing that was inappropriate. Nice for a change to not worry if your child is sitting on the couch next to you. I also enjoyed watching something for a change that was not a cop drama, a detective show, or a medical show. It is as if Hollywood has no idea how to tell any other kind of story these days, and seeing a drama about ordinary life and it's struggles was kind of nice.

The cinematography was decent, not top notch but I give it a score of a tad better than your average Lifetime movie, there was some pretty good camera action going on which surprised me considering much of the film had more of a low budget feel to it.

After watching this film though, I came away wondering why the Christian faithful have not been able to produce entertainment products of higher quality. Or maybe it is just me, I am not sure. It seems to me though that there ought to be enough talent and enough financial backing to produce better films, better books...but then where is the incentive to do so when the Christian community will gobble up anything at all that is halfway decent? We are all so desperate for stories to be told that more accurately reflect our faith and morals that we settle for less than well produced media. And I don't think it is just Christians who are sick of the garbage on TV and the radio, in books and magazines. Even those who do not want overtly religious media are looking for something with some substance, which seems so lacking in anything today.

A few years ago the "Left Behind" series of books and subsequent movies (also starring Kirk Cameron, the Poster Boy for Christian films today I guess) was a phenomenal success...people were clamoring for the books as each was released, rivaling the mania of Harry Potter. While the premise of the End Times makes for some pretty interesting fodder, did anyone who read these books really think they were well written? The same subject matter was tackled by Stephen King from a non-religious perspective and it was absorbing writing...maybe not everyone's cup of tea but no one could claim it was not well written. For me, the Left Behind series felt like reading something no deeper than you might find in a 5th grade text book, and in fact when I heard they had written a series for young people based on the adult series I wondered to myself how much different it really could have been, how they could have "dumbed it down" any further. With such an incredible topic to explore, it makes for great possibilities for some really creative storytelling, so where are the really amazing writers to tell that story and so many others?

I also recently read "The Shack" on the recommendation of a variety of people. The Shack is the latest hit book in Christiandom, and many who have read it have been totally bowled over by it, saying it has been life changing for them. I thoroughly expected to love it, especially when an old book buddy of mine said I HAD to read it. This is one of the reasons I am wondering if the problem is not just me, I was not bowled over by it and instead found myself skipping a page here or there. However with the Shack, I have not yet been able to pinpoint what it was that didn't work for me. I found the concept of God coming to us in a very unexpected form to be quite intriguing, and there WERE points in the book that were fairly interesting to me, but I didn't cull out nay Great Truths that felt new to me, and maybe therein lies the problem. It wasn't poorly written and in fact I found some of the imagery quite good. It just didn't speak to me the way it has so many others, and frankly I wished it had.

So what is it? Is it the lower expectations of the Faithful because they are just so happy to have anything at all that is appropriate and has a moral standard that is less than repugnant? Or is that there really isn't a large talent pool in Christian circles to produce media that is more compelling, to tell us stories that are relatable for us and yet of high quality. And please tell me why we seem to have a need to whack everyone over the head with salvation messages or bible study-type material? Haven't we as a community learned anything from the secular Hollywood hits that are more subtle? Bold proclamations are not the only way to tell God's story of redemption and hope, being in your face hasn't worked all that well...why not try a different path? Can't God's truths be woven into a plot line expertly like a master weaver creating a tapestry? I get the idea of "entertainment with a message", but just wish that the powers that be would see that the message itself doesn't have to be wielded like a sledge hammer to be effective.

Things we have watched that have presented faith in a more subtle and yet more realistic way have been the TV series' "Little House on the Prairie" and "The Waltons", both of which had God and faith woven expertly in and out of the various story lines and felt very "real" yet didn't come across as some sort of religious tract handed out in front of a grocery store or slipped under my windshield wiper with all the subtlety of a Strip Joint flier. I have been amazed over the past 3 years how many conversations we have had pertaining to faith that have been brought up due to an episode they have viewed of one of these two shows, how many values based discussions have arisen after a particular episode has been seen. I guess that is what I year for, entertainment that feels real and honest, which I don't have to hide from my children and is about something other than oversexualized MD's and cops chasing bad guys.

While I know millions of people have loved many of the books/movies mentioned in this post, I have not been that impressed. I have even probably unintentionally offended some people with my remarks, and if so I do apologize. I guess I am just asking the question: If Hollywood can get it right once in awhile, why can't the Christian media moguls?? There certainly is a proven audience for good material, why not give it to us? If we will pay for the lower quality products presented to us now, can you imagine the money to be made on a truly high quality Christian based media product?

Give us what no one else is offering, but don't make us "settle" for second best.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

When Do You Know You Are An Adult?

I thought I would throw this out to my blog readers, as it was something that stumped me this week and I had to give it some real thought. I am working with our Senior High Youth Group at church, and we have all kinds of discussions. Some are more faith oriented, some are about issues the kids face on a daily basis. I am untrained, so basically I am all over the map and whatever strikes my fancy is what I decide to work with that week.

After a conversation with someone I had recently, I thought I would make our discussion tomorrow night about "When do you know you are an adult?". I am not thinking of the typical markers of our passage into adulthood, like obtaining a drivers license, drinking a beer or voting. What I am really gearing this towards are those moments when you recognize you have taken another step towards maturity. I have come up with a few ideas, but I am hoping all of you might have some interesting insights to share with me as well.

We all can look back on our teenage years and see how we thought we were so grown up when, in fact, we finally really grew up in our 20's...or for some of us even longer than that. I remember several moments when I suddenly felt I had taken another step out of childhood and into adulthood, even if I wasn't fully there yet.

I remember my freshman year in high school when one of my friends had a sister who became pregnant. She told me one night at band practice when she could barely contain her grief over what her sister had done with her life. With stark clarity, as I sat there with my arm around her shoulder I can recall thinking to myself "You are no longer a child, the problems you will face from now on can not all be fixed by running to mom and dad."

The night before Dominick left for technical school in Arizona we stood outside his home under the dim streetlight pledging our undying love for one another. I was barely 16 years old, and yet somehow recognized that what I was feeling was deeper than your typical teenage love affair. I knew I was saying goodbye for several months to the man I pictured myself married to, and that he was going off to prepare himself for a career which would eventually support us. We both stood there on the precipice of our future, knowing we didn't want to be separated and yet realizing we needed to do this. I think I knew I had hit another landmark in growing up when we turned away from one another and yet still had supreme confidence in our relationship. We both knew this was not going to falter as we knew we each were incredibly committed to one another. I had somehow turned a corner in my mind, as had Dominick, from "dating" to "preparation for marriage", and with that turn I grew up a little bit more.

Then there was the gradual change that came in seeing myself as part of the world, rather than the world revolving around me. It wasn't an instant change, and in fact it is a lesson that to this day I continue to learn on an ever deepening level. Somewhere along the line, I found a greater joy in focusing outside myself rather than only on myself. With that came maturity.

It is hard to grow up, be it now in the 2000's or when I did in the 80's, or when our parents did in the 50's. Trying to figure out who we are, why we are here, and what our purpose is can be scary and challenging. Leaving our childhood behind in bits and pieces as it falls away from us with each new event that occurs can be heartbreaking as we hold on with all our might to the children we once were but find ourselves waving goodbye to. We rush headlong into adulthood, wishing the remainder of our childhood away as we look forward to new privileges and new signs of our impending completion of the process of growing into adulthood.

And perhaps the truest sign that we have indeed achieved adulthood is when we recognize that we never stop growing and learning, that we are never a finished product.

So what about you all? What do you see as a sign that someone has matured into an adult? What made you begin to see yourself differently from when you were younger? When did you know YOU were an adult, and what made you see yourself that way?

It is a harder question to answer that it initially appears to be.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Feelin' Groovy

Yesterday morning was not one of my more stellar moments in life. It was not lousy, it was not awful, it was just another in a long string of little set backs. This time, however, for the first time in 11 years of adoption paperwork I let my frustration get the better of me. I am TIRED of it. As of this very moment I have an email from Josh's agency needing a post-placement report, an email from Kenny's needing a copy of his Kyrgyz passport for some reason or another, and 3 emails from our current agency with translations attached for some of the documents we are redoing. I am trying to fast and furiously re-gather documents, re-notarize, re-apostille several documents that are about to expire so our dossier can be submitted. I am feeling "hemmed in" with documents I must complete and forward, and I can't even begin to imagine the post-placement nightmare once we have 5 to kepe track of. It is no one's fault, there is no one to blame, but things are just moving slowly. During a conversation yesterday I learned that we will likely have to wait another month to get our dossier submitted to the embassy because someone else is done before us and theirs will go first, which is as it should be.

And much to my chagrin and embarassment, I kind of lost my cool. Don't get me wrong, I didn't yell, I didn't use foul language, I didn't "go postal". I just got discouraged and frustrated and even though I explained I knew it wasn't Leonette's fault (our coordinator) I kind of let her bear the brunt of my frustration. Not proud of it, and usually I am more level headed (and I really didn't get that bad) than this, but learning we now are likely to be traveling in later summer just kind of pushed me over some sort of symbolic edge.

I spent the entire morning in a Nasty Rat Girl mood, and for once I let myself vent with a vengeance after I got off the phone. I complained, ranted, raved, acted like a peeved little child. 3 adoptions and not once have I ever reacted this way, I have always been pretty laid back about the paperwork part of the process. After all, what's the big deal if we have to redo something? It's not the end of the world, right? But I gave myself permission yesterday to be as angry and disgusted as I really felt inside. I gave in to it all. You know what?

It felt gooooooood.

For about 4 hours that is. Then I realized that this feeling was definitely not preferable to the more peaceful and accepting approach, that I was only feeling more and more uptight. The quick hit of the Ranting Drug was good for a short time, but it wore off only to be replaced by a desire to just let go of the control and turn it over to God to figure it out.

On my long drive home I tried to see the bright side, as that is actually the place where my heart usually lives..."Sunnyville" is a far more appropriate place to be than "Prickly Valley". Because of the delay we were able to confidently schedule Kenny's first surgery at Shriners for May 7th, knowing we will likely not conflict with any adoption travel. It will give us time to try and earn a few extra bucks to put aside to cover Dominick's off time while gone as he doesn't exactly get a paid vacation. It will let the kids be there for the last day of school, which they had been a little bummed about missing. Traveling later will mean we won't have to take heavy winter coats for 5 of us. It also means that I will have plenty of "nesting" time around the house and I can already hear Dominick's groan of dismay over that one as that always means a lot of projects. If we had traveled as I had hoped right after ski season I would have not had the luxury of cleaning out every cupboard and reorganizing my cans of soup...hahahaha! Seriously though, that nesting period has always been important to me, so that will be kind of nice I guess.

So after a few hours of discontent I came to a place of acceptance, which actually means I didn't tell God to sit on the back burner anymore so I could throw a minor internal temper tantrum. When I was all done He was glad, and so was I.

And yet still there is that other little voice crying out inside my head "But they are growing older by the minute! You are missing even more time!! Longer institutionalization means harder hearts...". Since I can't change it I have decided to tell that voice to shut up for awhile. I may allow it to revisit every so often but it needs to take a back seat so Pollyanna's voice can step forward for my own sanity's sake.

I also realized that even though this is just a typical adoption delay and not at all indicative of something not happening, I am suddenly finding it extremely hard to look at their picture on the fridge. I know it has changed a lot, they are older and it hurts to think of the times we have missed already. I am forcing myself to talk to others about it when politely asked about plans or schedules, but I am finding I really just want to ignore it all and that is a new emotion creeping in. It gets harder and harder when it has taken so long and people ask "So, are you still getting your girls?". It gets a little embarassing to continue to tell people "I have no idea what we are doing in the next 2 months...4 months...6 months" and it drags on and on. We registered the boys for summer camp which is in early July, and I had to ask if we could get a return of our deposit because we might...could be...maybe gone then...or then again, maybe not.

Actually, you know what best decribes what this feels like? It is like living with a possible miscarriage for 2 years.

But as always, God has this way of reaching out to us through others, touching our shoulder and saying "I know it's hard, I am with you. Don't worry." I ran into a teacher friend yesterday afternoon whom I love dearly and she and I chatted in the hall at her school for quite awhile about nothing adoption related, but for some reason it warmed me. I have a cyber buddy trying to chase me down via email and phone all for the purpose of just saying "Hang in there, I'm here if you need to talk." I went to choir practice last night which always-always-always speaks to my heart in the most moving and incredible ways. And when I walked in the door last night, there were three of the most wonderful, freshly bathed, newly haircut boys there all scrambling to give me a hug and make me feel loved. I wish every person in the world could experience coming home to that kind of warmth waiting for them just beyond the closed door. Matthew told me "Mommy, we missed you! We haven't seen you much for two evenings! I don't like it when that happens, it feels weird.". I agree.

I think my head is back on straight, at least for awhile. I spent this morning listening to Jackson Browne on my drive which is some of the most emotive and best written music on the planet. For some it is also depressing, for me it is just the most articulate and well spun lyrics which speak to my life. A song of his struck me suddenly as I was singing along by rote memory to a tune I have heard replayed at least 5,000 times, a portion of the lyrics are below:

Fountain of Sorrow

Looking through some photographs I found inside a drawer
I was taken by a photograph of you
There were one or two I know that you would have liked a little more
But they didn't show your spirit quite as true

You were turning 'round to see who was behind you
And I took your childish laughter by surprise
And at the moment that my camera happened to find you
There was just a trace of sorrow in your eyes

Yea, maybe that is what I am feeling right now with that picture on the fridge...

and later on what I hope to see:

Fountain of sorrow, fountain of light
You've known that hollow sound of your own steps in flight
You've had to struggle, you've had to fight
To keep understanding and compassion in sight
You could be laughing at me, you've got the right
But you go on smiling so clear and so bright

Awww heck, it's all feelin' groovy.