Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Newly Titled "Queen of Awe-Summm"!!

I am laughing so hard I can barely stand it, as I have somehow been crowned a "Queen of Awe-Summm" by Lori over at . Thanks Lori, I consider it an incredible honor!! I love that it came today when my blog achieved 60,000 hits, so I guess I will celebrate. This is the last thing I need to be doing right now as I am not packed and am leaving tomorrow for 3...count them THREE days in Denver with my Awe-Summm Sr. High Youth Group. I DO have all the laundry done, which lasts for a mere 5 minutes around here but at least I am leaving with a sense of accomplishment and strict orders for Dominick to keep up with it so I don't have piles to come home to on the one day in between my trip to Denver and our trip to Chicago for Kenny's surgery. He is actually far better at keeping the loads moving than I am so for him it will be a snap. here are the directions from Lori's Blog:
As is the case with any acceptance of a royal title, there are responsibilities. They are:
1. List seven things that make you awe-summm.
2. Pass the award on to seven bloggers you love.
3. Tag those bloggers to let them know that they are now Queens of All Things Awe-Summm.
4. Don't forget to link to the queen that tagged you.
5. If you would like, copy the pic and put it on your sidebar so everyone knows that you're a queen. *OH YEAH!*

So here goes, I am having a very hard time coming up with 2 things, let alone 7 but I'll give it a shot...

1) I have Awe-summm taste in husbands and children :-) That is the only one I will absolutely lay claim to. I am surrounded by the hunkiest, cutest, sweetest men a woman (And I guess now "Queen") could ever ask for!! And I PICKED THEM ALL!! Hahahahahaha!!!!!! Remember, I am a LaJoy and we have a sick and twisted sense of humor...

2) OK...I am already stuck...I couldn't even come up with TWO. Let's see, let me think...

I am an Awe-summm typist, considering I never took a typing class in my life. Dominick jokes about me "driving a Ferrari" referring to my laptop. Now, don't get me wrong, I am not the Queen of Grammar or Writing or even of Proofreading...but for never having training I am far faster than most people would ever imagine I could be. I gained this Awe-summm skill one year when I was very young working at a newspaper office and typing in thousands of subscribers names to a new data base. Don't know how I got that job in the first place since I couldn't type a lick but by the time I was done I sure could! Gained pretty fast 10-Key skills there as well.

3) Ummm...there is no way I am going to get to 7 of these...

Oh yea...I am unequivocally, totally the Queen of Diet Coke drinkers, a dubious title at best (and I gladly share it with a friend in Kansas who KNOWS WHO I AM TALKING ABOUT!!!), but since I am having a hard enough time coming up with them I will admit to my addiction here and tell you I will drink any of you under the table, any time, any place, anywhere!!! And I know Dominick would lay a bet down on me on that one, if he were a betting man!!

4) I know! The boys tell me I am Awe-summm at making up stupid songs, sometimes new weird lyrics to old melodies and sometimes creating new masterpieces about things like cleaning up the house and having messy boys, or driving to school and trying not to crash, or just dumb stuff. And each boy has their own song that I sang to them when rocking them to sleep or as he was trying to learn how to sleep with Kenny. I remember Matthew being about 3 and singing along words to "Lean on Me" that I had changed a little for him :-) Very dumb skill, but hey..I am struggling here!!

5) I am Awe-Summm at being the butt of jokes and not taking offense. Things like hearing for 4 years how I somehow ended up in Salt Lake City coming home from Las Vegas...only about 4 hours out of my way and totally off course. Or the new one from just today was how I almost burned the house down by using the cleaning function on the oven to clean spilled over cornbread...and having every single smoke detector in the house go off! I am not kidding you, it was so bad Dominick and I had to go outside to breathe and as I sit here hours later, the smell still permeates everything, including my hair. We were out shopping and he and I kept giggling about how awful we smelled but we weren't going to take a shower. It was so bad that the piano teacher came up to the house today and asked Dominick to check under her hood because she smelled something burning,..I am cracking up as I even type this...and it was the smell from earlier in the day coming out our open window as we tried to air out the house!!! Hahahahaha!!! Oh man, this is so funny but I know it doesn't translate in writing, if only we had "Smell-O-Vision" on our blog, you too might find it as hilarious as I do.

6) That's it...can't think of anything else. I gotta finish this though, only 2 more to go...can't for the life of me figure out why Lori would include me in this Awe-Summm category, the pressure is on now!! Shoot...
Still nothing....
Wasting time and I need to get to bed because my smoke filled contacts are KILLING me...
I don't even have any quirkie little skills like bending my legs over my head or juggling or anything. Good grief, I have reached 42 and have no Awe-Summmness really to report.
I KNOWWW!!!! I am Awe-Summ at tolerating lots of noise from little boys. Lame, I know guys, but it's all I got to give. I can make myself go into "The Zone" and the noise suddenly drifts to the background, and I can have 7 or 8 kids and not lose my cool somehow. Not saying I can stay in The Zone for long periods of time, but I can at least visit it for a bit.

7) OK, this one suddenly popped in to my mind (whew!)...I am Awe-Summm at reading quickly. I am NOT a speed reader in the typical sense, but I do read pretty an average novel in less than 24 hours if I have time alone to read, and I read voraciously and eclectically. I chew books up and spit them out in tiny pieces. I read all the time, I read the Lysol can in the bathroom, I read the owners manual in the car when I am bored on a drive, and in all seriousness...when I was about Matt and Kenny's age I read the entire World Book Encyclopedia set that my parents had bought (At least it made them feel the investment was worthwhile!) as well as...don't laugh at me please, you all already KNOW I am an odd duck...I read the dictionary in the bathtub and yes, I hang my head in shame and admit I even read (I can't believe I am admitting this on an internationally read blog) the phone book...white pages as well as yellow pages...I was DESPERATE, after all I had already FINISHED the Encyclopedia!!! What else was there left to read??? I am a prime candidate for an Amazon Kindle E-book reader for our trip to Kaz because there is absolutely no way I can ever haul enough reading material over for that long of a stay, and I am totally bummed and wondering what I will do. Of course the cost of a Kindle and it's accompanying E-Books puts it out of range, but I drool over it when I think of 2 trips to Kaz...I covet it...I stare longingly at the web page for it :-) HeeHeeHeeHee...never happen but it sure would save a ton of weight (and save me from Dominick's complaining about WHY we need to drag a suitcase full of books...because he might read a grand total of ONE on a long trip like that! Poor boy just doesn't "get it" even after all these years )!!!

So there, that was much, much harder than I anticipated and you now know the title of "Queen of Awe-Summm" is ill deserved. And I can not believe I sat here ignoring emails I need to respond and not packing so I could blog. I hope my friends forgive me, but I couldn't pass this up! If you are in my "In" box, I apologize profusely and will now stop this silliness and go to bed...if I can stand the smell of cremated remains of cornbread. And this prompted Matthew to ask innocently tonight "Momma, are the ovens to cremate people decorated on the outside?". Hmmmmm....and I think I am weird? Some of it must have rubbed off!

Now, on to bed I must go...and since I couldn't possibly select only 7 bloggers to tag with this, if you read this and blog and want to be a Queen, by all means do so!
Night everyone, talk to you in a few days!!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Little of This and a Little of That

The title of this post sort of speaks of my life right now. Lots going on, a little of this and a little of that...

This afternoon we had Kenny's planning meeting for next school year. Our wonderful adoption Social Worker, Joan, came along to offer support as she could. Eight of us were gathered around a table, discussing Kenny's needs and crafting a game plan. After much introspection, and after seeing a bit of a spike in Kenny's reading skills, Dominick and I decided to give it one more year before holding firm on retaining him a grade. Kenny still tests at the end of first grade reading level, but we have noticed significant gains in the past 6-8 weeks. In discussions today we all felt that the "little of this, little of that" approach would work best, and I was shown how creative they all can be in their thinking when a parent and teaching team work together. There will be many supports in place, a new Spec. Ed. teacher who was enthusiastic about the possibility of having Kenny twice a day working with different levels of readers, my concerns were heard and addressed appropriately, and we will see what the new year brings.

Kenny's current classroom teacher is simply one of the best, she is phenomenal and much of Kenny's growth this year can be attributed to her. I was also pleased to see that between the end of school last year and the beginning of school this year, Kenny's reading scores actually went up a few points, which means the work we did not only helped him to keep from sliding backwards but actually led to some concrete gains. I hope we can accomplish the same this year! With the help of a new computer game sent to us by a fellow adoptive mommy friend, I think we might be on track to continue to improve (Thanks Hilary!!).

I have been doing a little of this and a little of that this week as well, working a little bit doing a small project for a friend at her office, trying to catch up on laundry before I leave this Friday for Denver with my Sr. High Youth Group from church...6 teenagers and myself on a 5 hour drive...can I handle their music that long? If so, I deserve an award of some sort! Hahaha! I ma actually looking forward to this as I love being with these young people, have learned a lot from them, and have a great deal of respect for their talents and enthusiasm. We will be attending church where we can hear a large gospel choir, which was their request and something I will thoroughly enjoy, and will also visit a "terrorism" museum that is newly established in Denver which will hopefully lead to some introspective discussions. We have a couple of other things planned as well, so it should be a great deal of fun and a meaningful experience for all of us. Just a little of this and a little of that...

I will get home on Sunday, then catch up on Monday, and we leave Tuesday for Chicago for Kenny's surgery which will be on Thursday. They will be attempting to close his palate (he already had surgery once in Kyrgyzstan but it opened back up), and the bone grafting for the clefts in his jaw bone. For those who don't know or understand all of this, Kenny has a bilateral cleft which means he had two places that were not closed on his upper jaw and lip, so they will take bone from his hope and graft it into the two places on his jaw where eventually they will place implants for the teeth that are missing. He will also lose one more of his front teeth which is unsalvageable. Again...they'd do a little of this and a little of that! Hahaha!

So far, Kenny is doing far better than we anticipated...not too fearful, no panic yet. He has asked if he can take his blankie into surgery with him (Thanks Grandma Barb!!) and a stuffed animal, and he is talking about it all quite frankly. We will see how things go once we get there, but I am so grateful that he is not terribly afraid right now.

Joshie, on the other hand, well...he has been having melt downs a little here and there. We have had him in our bedroom the past couple of nights as he has asked to be, and last night he had a bad dream and started talking which we were able to calm him down from. Tonight Dominick suggested letting him talk more if he has another one, and to see what he is saying as it might give us a clue how to help him as he worries about being separated from us. I thought he was doing all right with it until this past weekend when the meltdowns started for no apparent reason and then with the addition of nightmares returning I know there is some insecurity creeping in there. If it were any longer, I would try and find a way to bring him with us but it would be difficult with Kenny needing us so much during this time anyway.

There are moments when I wonder if he will ever get to the point where he is more secure in such things. The RAD is so far under the radar most of the time that I am a little surprised when things come the other day he accidentally locked himself in their bathroom and for some reason couldn't manage to get the door unlocked...and he was terrified, screaming and sobbing at the top of his lungs when Dominick heard him and got him out. It really bothers me tremendously that he is still so scared at moments, and yet I don't know what else we can do to heal him from that. Maybe it will take time, maybe it will never really leave him. It can be so hard when you have a child whose hurt is so deep you can't really dig it out and throw it away...

All in all, other than the upcoming travel, life is actually finally a little calm. Hahaha! I say that and most of you must be thinking to yourself "That's her idea of calm??". Maybe it is the fact that for the first time in quite awhile I have no adoption paperwork waiting for me, and that feels very freeing.

I have been thinking of this summer and activities for the boys. We don't have a lot planned this year...yet...and not knowing what is happening with travel I am trying to not make any major plans. Our summer starts May 18th, which is earlier than a lot of schools but we go back to school August 18th. The boys will have church camp again this year, but Josh is still too little to go. Other than that, we have nothing else on our agenda! We are going to do a lot of library visits, hit the pool often, have buddies over to hang out and play. I am thinking about doing some sort of homeschooling unit on pioneers or something to go along with their interest in the Little House series. But the thing they are most looking forward to is spending time with "Mr. Steve", a friend of ours. He has agreed to teach the boys basic woodworking, and they are super excited about that! We might fit in a road trip or two, just to "get out of Dodge" for a bit. But I think, overall, this will be a relaxed and enjoyable summer and I can not tell you how much I am looking forward to spending uninterrupted time with 3 of my 4 favorite people! Part of what makes it so enjoyable is I am one of the lucky few who never, ever has heard her kids say "I am bored!".

Just this weekend we were laying around on Saturday afternoon, just kind of decompressing and Matthew was wandering around looking a little like he was unsure what to do. I asked him "Matt, are you bored? Can't find anything to do?" and he laughed and said "Mommy, I never get bored, you know that...I am just trying to figure out what it is I am going to do next! There's ALWAYS something to do around here!!". With that kind of attitude out of all of them, summers are a joy and when the end of the season arrives we all always feel as if we are getting "ripped off" and want more time to be together.

So there you have it...a totally boring post filled with what I promised, "a little of this and a little of that".

And sometimes, that is enough!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Sweetness of Life

Today was one of those days when the sweetness of life is served to you on a brilliant silver platter. It was an ordinary day in most respects, nothing that most people would look at and say "Hey, that was awesome!". But then again, our family has always been a little odd and needed far less to say "Awesome!" than some might need.

We have treasures in our life, and those treasures are friendships. I just was so struck with gratitude for the many wonderful, loving people who surround us, nurture us, care for us. We don't have much in the way of material wealth, but we have been blessed many times over with these treasures which are far more worthwhile than the latest gadget or trinket.

Our friendships span the gamut...old and young, liberal and conservative, farm types and city dwellers, internet and "real life". They give our lives texture and meaning, and I simply can not imagine my life without certain people in it. There are those who leave an emptiness behind when they exit our home, there are those who by day 3 without an email touching base leave me wondering what they are up to and worrying about them. It is so hard for me to go back in my mind to the time when friendships were not really a part of my life, where I had no idea really how to be a friend worthy of the friendship of others. I am so glad that somewhere along the way I grew up and made discoveries that changed who I am so that others would find me worthy of their time and care. I missed out on a lot of amazing people prior to that.

I can honestly say that the lessons came slowly, and they were God based. Whether or not you believe in the tenants of the Christian faith, the basics of learning how to live a Christian life are worthy of study. If you only view it as a moral code to follow, you will not go wrong. But there is a real joy in living a life in this fashion, to the best of your ability, and if you really embrace it, it is transformative. To put it simply, I am really happy and that was something I wasn't not that many years ago.

The past few days we have been trying to make some arrangements for Joshua and Matthew as we are not taking them with us when we go to Chicago for Kenny's surgery next week. One of the very hardest things I struggle with is asking for help. It is not something I do often, and it is uncomfortable, to say the least. I would much rather be in the position to be offering the help than to be the recipient of that help. I faltered a little in this situation, not wanting to ask anyone to be burdened with two active little boys and their activities and transportation needs. While I would never hesitate to step up and offer to take anyone's child or children in a moment of need, and in fact we have had a houseful on many occasions even for extended periods of time, it is somehow different when the shoe is on the other foot.

I am seeing how it is an important life lesson to take in as well...that receiving is just as important as giving.

In allowing others to help, it allows their love for you to be expressed. We deny others the wonderful feeling that comes with knowing you have helped someone if we don't allow ourselves to be cared for due to pride.

We are in that position right now, and we have so many who have offered to help! A place to stay for the week where you are told "Of course your kids will be staying with us, we love them and would worry if they were with anyone else! They belong with us!". Transportation to and from all their silly, TaeKwonDo, back and forth to school...all of it more than we ever would have thought to ask for. Offers of care packages to send with Kenny as his fears are understood and the desire to assuage them is there. I can not begin to express how my heart is filled this evening as I write this, knowing that when we leave, our children will be loved, will be safe, will be watched over carefully...for all three are our greatest gift in life and knowing they are surrounded by others who care for them allows us to focus on Kenny and his needs.

We spent a day in play today, with friends and family...but I hesitate to make a distinction between the two, for as I am learning, it is much the same. I read an email from a far away friend who has, from Day 1 felt like a next-door friend, and she is recovering from surgery leaving me feeling helpless to do much for her other than cheer her on and pray for her swift healing. We spent time with a newer friend who is already so dear to my heart and will be sorely missed when life takes her elsewhere. An email arrived from a head-and-heart friend whose friendship has grown largely due to our internet communications...little snippets and thoughts passed back and forth throughout the day...and she is ill and scared, and I am scared for her. I heard from a once-close-nearby friend with whom I share an unlikely yet deeply meaningful relationship with whose obvious intellect and insight are the results of careful life learning and not seen by the outside world as "educated enough", and boy is the outside world missing the boat on that one! And I hugged someone this evening who is a sister in a million ways with the exception of the way the law would recognize it.

Today was a day spent with treasures, and I am humbled at moments to think of the chest full of them that I have. For I certainly do not deserve these special gems, I have done nothing to earn them but I am forever filled with gratitude to be walking through life with so many amazing items in my treasure chest!!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Reader Asks "Have You Changed Your View?"

I love, love, love it when you all respond to posts and challenge me to think deeper about things. You have no idea how truly helpful it is as I wrestle with the same issues you all do, to have someone who respectfully and kindly says essentially..."Hey, what's up with that?". It forces me to examine things, to clarify in my own mind what I feel to be true and in my opinion, it makes me a better parent.

Yesterday I received a comment from a wonderful blogger herself, Kim, and so I thought I'd pull it to the front of the blog here and walk through it. You can find one of Kim's many blogs at . Relating to my post this past week of "Moral Dilemmas" Here is what she asked me:

I love reading your blog. Your heart always shows in each and every post. However this one left me a bit confused. It seems as if you are saying now that you understand the pain involved in losing a referral. That it doesn't matter if it were a child the PAP never met, because they loved that child despite never really knowing them. Even comparing it to a miscarriage. BUT... in at least one past post you wrote that you didn't believe people truly loved a referral child. That they couldn't truly love a child they had never met. (i remember this because as a parent who lost a referral i did not agree with your point of view) You even stated that it is not really love when you do first meet the child, that love takes time. So have you now changed your view on this???

Kim, thanks for this...I really am serious when I say I appreciate not only your tone but the comment itself. I went back and re-read my post 3 or 4 times which was something I don't usually do. I wanted to see if I had conveyed something in writing which I didn't intend. I think your comment warrants being addressed with sincerity, especially in the light of all that is going on in Kyrgyzstan right now with 60+ parents in limbo with kids they have been referred who might never come home or children they have even met who also are in limbo. While we all hope this doesn't prove to be true and these kids are eventually remains a possibility that they will become victims of bureaucracy.

First, let me answer your, I have not changed my views. I'll explain them in a moment as I look back at the post but before that...let me make it clear that these are ONLY my views, and I don't expect others to hold them. All of us are different, and I respect the fact that many, many people disagree with me on much of what I have to say...and that's cool in my book. I am not someone who feels it is my job in this world to convince others of my infallibility or that the opinions I hold are the only "right" ones. Some people will read what I write and say to themselves "Yea, I totally get that" and others will say "What a crock!". Both are equal in merit when laid over the text of someones personal experience and perspective.

Now, you have mentioned how in previous posts I have discussed how I don't feel people can really love a child referred to them that they have never met, that love takes time. I still feel that what emotions are experienced with a child who is referred but not met is the idea of the potential for love. Staring at a photo for months of a child you hope to embrace builds connections, it stirs our imagination, it creates hope of a longed for future together as we see ourselves in the role of parent...often for the first time. For me (and again, I reiterate it is only my opinion) what I felt pre-adoption and what I felt post-adoption, maybe after a bit of time getting to know my children, was very, very different...real love takes time, it takes actually KNOWING someone to build, otherwise in my mind it is being in love with an ideal not a reality...and that reality may prove to be very different from the ideal that was long held. If I take it a step further and we call it a "husband" and not a "child" and you had a photo of him, would you be able to say you love him without ever having met him? I couldn't...perhaps some could.

And I think if you asked a parent who had lost a referral in adoption and perhaps lost a child they had parented in real life which caused the most pain, well, hands down I can pretty much tell you which would have the dubious distinction of being "the winner". One is the death of a cherished is the death of a dream of how cherished a child might end up being.

But my opinion on this is known already and no need to belabor that any further...your main question was if I had changed it based upon my recent post. As I re-read it looking for signs of what you were asking I didn't see a diverging opinion.

You wrote "It seems as if you are saying now that you understand the pain involved in losing a referral. That it doesn't matter if it were a child the PAP never met, because they loved that child despite never really knowing them." Just because something causes great pain, it doesn't mean it stems from deep and abiding love. We can be hurt in many ways, we can suffer great disappointment, we can experience incredible pain at the loss of a referral. But what are we really losing? Are we losing a child we have parented and nurtured? No. Are we losing what we imagined might one day be the love of our lives? Yes. I DO want to add an exception here, and that is for those parents who have traveled and met their children but are in limbo. That is excluded from this as there has already been the development of a relationship.

Understanding the pain of a lost referral is easy...I have been there myself. It hurts, it hurts badly, and yes I compared it to a miscarriage. But if you go back and re-read my post you will see that I never used the word "love", because for me that would be false. To say that it is a loss is true, and a stinging one at that. But, for me, to think of losing one of my children now versus in the referral stage is no would cause me to be disappointed and feel sorrow for a long time, the other would make me want to join them in death. In my mind, THAT is the defining difference, THAT is what it feels like when someone you love dies. I couldn't honestly say I felt that when we lost our referral years ago...and with time and distance (again, I never met those children) they are but a dim memory whom I pull to the forefront of my mind and mentally send out good wishes for a happy life. If my children whom I actually LOVE died, that memory would never dim, that loss would never leave, my grief would feel eternal.

But a loss is still a loss and needs to be acknowledge and worked through. The longer you have that photo taped to the fridge the harder it is to let go of that dream. I myself have held onto that dream longer than most who will ever read this blog, so I feel comfortable in speaking to that.

I guess Kim, for me it all comes down to our differing definitions of what constitutes "love". We all have our own understanding of that, mine obviously conflicts with yours...or maybe it is that we both see "love" as beginning at different stages. But I will readily acknowledge that there is a huge sense of loss that comes with a lost referral...maybe what I am questioning is "What was lost?". Was it the loss of a loved one? Or the loss of a prospective loved one? In my mind, there is a huge difference, in the minds of many others there is not.

When I referred in my post to: "We don't walk into adoption with our hearts closed or duct taped shut. We fling the shutters of our hearts wide open, waiting for "our" child or children to appear. Our barriers are almost non-existent, which in my mind is a good thing as that means we are being prepared by God to accept this unknown little person as one of our own." Notice I again don't say "love" anywhere within. I am speaking of our hearts being prepared to love, that we allow ourselves to be vulnerable in this process and that makes it all hurt that much more. For if we do not allow our hearts to be clean slates for our new children to write on, it makes the development of that love that much harder.

I am not sure if I have made any sense here addressing your question. I already know you respectfully disagree with me in the first place. What is important to me though is that we both have come together here to share this differing perspective, that we are both being true to ourselves, and we are honoring each others unique journeys. In my mind, that is what it is all about! Thanks for following along, thanks for your respect...I very much feel the same for you!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Country Boy Soccer

Joshie had his first soccer game of the season this past Saturday, and it was cold outside having just rained all night the night before. I asked him if he wanted to wear sweats, and he politely said "No thank you, I will wear my holey jeans." So off we went, my kid looking like the least likely soccer player on the field with no cleats (We decided to wait until it gets a bit more competitive before spending money on yet another pair of shoes that will be worn 8 weeks and outgrown!), jeans, and a camoflauge hoodie. Hmmm...not really "soccerish" attire. Josh, like the other boys, plays for fun and could care less if they win or lose. None of the 3 LaJoy boys is very enthralled with typical sports, they are definitely not going to fall in the "jock category" which suits us just fine. But they enjoy soccer and TaeKwonDo, and Kenny has expressed an interest in tennis so we might check that out this year.

Well, during the first part of the game Josh was typically Joshie...standing as goalie with his hands in his hoodie, kind of taking it all. Suddenly, towards the end of the game, something clicked and it was like he turned a wee bit into a mini-Pele! Out of the blue he starts jumping in the fray to go for the ball, looking for all the world like the biggest hayseed out there as he nonchalantly starts stealing the ball from others and then...

surprise, surprise...

scoring a goal!!!

Let's hear it for the Hayseeds!!!

But it was this picture which screamed out the nature of Joshie...while everyone else is playing, someone on the other team got hurt and Josh was the first there to see if the little guy was OK, totally oblivious to the game action going on around him.

In my mind, it isn't the goal that makes him a is his compassion. I'd rather have that than a jock any day of the week!

Another Birthday Without a Family

My Dearest A,

Your birthday was yesterday and I couldn't quite bring myself to write this. How it hurts me to write yet another birthday post for you...another year gone by when I had such high hopes that the last time I wrote a birthday post would be the final one with you not home. Alas, sometimes things do not go as planned, and here we sit...separated by oceans and governments and oodles of paperwork. I have tried, believe me I have done all that was humanly possible to get you and your sister home and I will continue to do all I can to fight for you to have the family you always should have had.

You are 11 now, and it is impossible for me not to think of all the time that has passed, of all the memories that have not been shared. I know that when the day finally comes and we are together as a family, all of that will quickly fall away, but for the moment it feels as if I am losing more and more of your childhood, and I grieve that. I wonder if you too think such things...

I hesitate to even write "It won't be long now", but that is my hope, that in a mere 2 or 3 months we will finally be at the doorstep of the orphanage. I can't promise it, but I can hope it with all my might.

You are changing, you are growing from a child into a pre-teen, and you are so beautiful!! Your love and care for your sister warms my heart and gives me a glimpse of the wonderful person you are. I wish I had learned more about what this year was like for you, of all the things you have done and learned since your 10th birthday. I wonder about the little things...are you doing well in school, are you playing soccer or basketball, who are your best friends and what qualities in them draw you to them. To know so little, and yet feel so connected on an inexplicable level is unusual and defies all logic.

I wish for you this year an end to institutionalization and a new beginning. I wish for you 3 new brothers, a mommy and a daddy. I guess, what I am really saying is that I wish for you to hold on to hope.

I know it sounds silly to say that our house feels empty without you and your sister, after all, how can that be with 3 busy boys in our lives? But a couple of someones are missing, and we all know it. A bedrooms sits waiting to be painted a bright and cheery color, a pair of pants with embroidered rainbows sits folded in a bag, and 5 year old photos are still thumbtacked to the bulletin board.

I love you, I always have and I always will. I won't quit trying, no matter what. For I AM your mommy, and mommy's don't quit. Ever. How I wish you could feel that and internalize that, and use it to carry you forth as you wait.

My amazing, resilient, protective daughter, how proud I am of you and who you are. How I would have loved to have baked a cake here at home yesterday, the LaJoy Family traditional chocolate with sprinkles on top and hidden toothpicks to wish upon. I keep telling myself that NEXT year I'll have the privilege.

So I will end this message to you, which you will hopefully read one day in English long after the stress of arriving here and assimilating into your new home will have long diminished. May you know then how deeply you were loved long before you ever came home, and may you feel our love even at this very moment.

May we soon be united as forever mommy and daughter. Happy Birthday, are not forgotten.



Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Moral Dilemmas

In life we are all faced with moral dilemmas from time to time, sometimes they are things we can imagine happening, and other dilemmas are beyond our wildest imagination. We have all been faced with wondering when to keep our mouth shut and when to reveal something, that is a pretty common dilemma. Do we tell that little white lie so that someones feelings aren't hurt? Should we keep the extra change the cashier gave us inadvertently? Daily we are faced with little quandaries that require us to make a moral choice.

There are many moral dilemmas that present themselves with adoption, and sometimes the circumstances are so unexpected or unusual that the "high road" may not always be clear. Some of us approach our adoptions from a religious perspective, while others are less inclined to look for "signs" of which path to take. Regardless of the approach, some of the most painful decisions of your life can often present themselves during an adoption journey.

Over the years I have spent my share of time on the phone with weeping moms, all of whom are struggling with decisions that most biological moms are never in the position of having to make. Sometimes there is nothing to offer which can comfort, for these decisions we have to make feel as if they require impossible-to-acquire-Solomon-like wisdom. Do we accept a referral or decline it? If we decline a particular child whom we know we have the resources to help, are we dooming them to a life of poverty and institutionalization? If we were giving birth we would have no choice, shouldn't we just accept it the same way with adoption? How do I know if this was really a child who was predestined to be MY child?

I spent time with an adoptive mom on the phone yesterday as she worked through her feelings about a gut wrenchingly difficult that would tear anyone up who was in her shoes. I offered what I could in terms of insight and sharing different ways of viewing the situation, but the heartache remains for sadly there are circumstances in life that will never leave us feeling at peace...and perhaps that is a good thing, for it creates the impetus for lasting change. I wish I had been able to be Solomon for this mom, but alas that kind of wisdom elludes me.

One thing that I shared with this mom was that the very things that cause us, as adoptive moms, to hurt so deeply are the qualities that make us the right person to mother a child that is not biologically connected to us. I have learned over time that surprisingly not everyone could parent a child not tied to them by blood. I don't say "surprisingly" in a facetious or sarcastic way, it was truly something I had not ever considered. I had felt, and continue to feel, that I could parent any number of different children and love them completely and unconditionally with no concern about blood connections or legal documents. A child doesn't have to look like me for my heart to melt, they don't have to have any characteristics that are similar to mine...they just have to be their own little unique selves and quite often I will feel a maternal pull. There are many though who could not fathom taking a child into their hearts and homes that was not created inside their womb. This is not a judgment statement, for God made each of us to be very different creatures and I do not feel that the inability to love a child not born to you makes anyone evil or a bad mother. We don't always dictate the matters of the heart!

But it is this way that God has of preparing us adoptive moms to be parents that makes these decisions even more painful. We don't walk into adoption with our hearts closed or duct taped shut. We fling the shutters of our hearts wide open, waiting for "our" child or children to appear. Our barriers are almost non-existent, which in my mind is a good thing as that means we are being prepared by God to accept this unknown little person as one of our own. But this open-heartedness leaves us so vulnerable when things don't work out, and the loss is very, very real. The sense of obligation to this little person or people is strong, we have carried them in our hearts for what is often a long time before something falls apart...and the sometimes life or death decisions that have to be made can be horrendous. Sometimes a child who has been prayed for, cared for and prepared for will not come home for any number of reasons, and aside from it feeling like a miscarriage that no one understands there can be misplaced guilt about decisions we make.

The burden can be heavier than the weightiest boulder on our backs.

How I wish when I speak to these precious moms that I had more to offer than mere ineffectual words! The tenderness with which they carry these anonymous children within their virtual wombs is no less than any biological mom who carefully watches what she eats for 9 months so her child can be born healthy and whole. Yet unlike the pregnant mommy for whom sympathy and understanding flows, the adoptive mommy is left hollow and her pain is misunderstood..after all, it's just some unknown kid you never even met, right? It's just more paperwork and there are millions more kids where that one came from! It's not a big deal!

And yet that prospective adoptive mommy is filled with anguish, her sleepless nights are filled with "what if's", and her soul is injured in ways no one can see.

We, as a community of adoptive parents, try to reach out to one another, to offer long distance hugs, words of comfort. We stand side by side as we fight against governments and seemingly endless delays and frustrations. We watch our children grow older in photos, and we hold on to hope as best we can.

But there are very dark and bleak moments on the path to that wondrous day when we finally hold a child in our arms who will eventually bear our name and have our hearts curled up in their tiny little fists.

Thankfully, for most of us, that day does arrive. It can definitely be a long and broken road, and the child who ends up tucked into bed at night in our home may be different than the one we thought would receive our goodnight kisses. And it is only then that the wisdom of our decisions in the face of such extraordinary circumstances reveals itself. It is then that we can see the larger plan that was at work to bring two hearts together. It is only then that we can let go of our unnecessary guilt, our doubts, our heartache...and embrace the life that we have allowed to join ours.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sensational Susan Boyle

I don't know how many of you have seen the video of Susan Boyle, the much hailed and seemingly unlikely contestant highlighted in the media this week who auditioned for "Britain's Got Talent". If you have not (and if not you must be the only person in the US or Britain who has not), you must check it out here: .

I've watched this video a couple of times now, and it brought me to tears each time. Here is a 47 year old so-called "dowdy, unattractive spinster" singing as beautifully as if she were a Broadway star. Was it the "Underdog Factor" that touched my heart? Was it her impressive talent? Was it the audience reaction?

As I sit here writing this, I realize that sadly it is none of the above. What moved me to tears was the lack of dignity that humans often treat other humans with, whether they have an unexpected gift or not. Why did this woman have to stand in front of that audience and initially be ridiculed and laughed at? Why do we humans love to make fun of others simply because they are not "polished" or one of the "beautiful people"? Let's face it, the world is filled with average, ordinary Susan Boyles. The ratio of "Beautiful People" to "Ordinary" or even "Less-Than-Ordinary People" is stunningly tilted to the side of the average Joe, or in this case the average Susan. So why then are those of us who are in that same category with Susan the ones who are most likely to be the ones who laugh the loudest, who jeer and roll our eyes the most? Is it our own insecurity with ourselves that causes us to lash out at others with unkindness? Are we afraid to see our own ordinariness reflected back at us in the faces of others?

While I loved seeing the audience and judges reactions after this "dowdy" woman opened up her mouth and sang like a seasoned professional, I wondered if any in the audience felt a sense of shame at their initial reaction...if a lesson was learned as the folded up their seats and walked out of that auditorium that evening.

And I pose the question to you all, what gifts of others in our lives have not been shared with the world because the world has dehumanized someone so badly that they wither away, their talent wasted and left unknown to all? What wonderful poets or artists have never been discovered because they refused to make themselves into someone they are not to pursue fame? What gifted authors and musicians never had their voices or instruments heard because they had been derided unmercifully and lost all confidence in themselves, simply because they didn't fit the image of what others felt they should look or act like? What have we all lost because of relentless categorization and impossible expectations?

Or better yet, another question to be asked is this: Does Susan Boyle's value as a human being suddenly rise because her talent is now discovered? Or was her worth as a human being recognized prior to her performance? How sad to think that there are so many of us who would look at her before and after her performance and would find ourselves treating her differently after hearing her if her mere existence on this planet didn't earn her the right to be treated with dignity and care.

I see myself in Susan Boyle (sans the talent) and perhaps you see yourself in her as well. We are all just doing our best to make it through one day at a time in this world. Perhaps we too are dowdy, overweight, unglamorous...we are imperfect in so many ways. And yet inside each and every one of us is a song waiting to be presented to the world. It may be a figurative song and not a literal one, but despite our failings real or imagined, we each are worthwhile, we each deserve to be treated with dignity, we each want nothing more than to walk through the world and be accepted for who we are...even if we are not one of the "beautiful people".

While we all applaud Susan's stunning and surprising performance, I hope that those who have viewed it will take a moment to think about those who live on the fringes of our lives, those folks who are outcasts for one reason or another, those whose quirks or appearance cause us to put them down in a pathetic attempt to lift ourselves up by comparison. Every human being deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, from the down-and-out guy on Skid Row to the cat-loving oddball spinster whom we all have run across at one point in time in our life or another. God created us all, and we were wonderfully and fearfully made. Yes, even those of us who are not attractive or gifted with tremendous talent should be seen as being human with a spirit that can be crushed just as easily as yours can.

We should carry the hearts of others carefully sheltered in the palms of our hands, for when we do that we symbolically carry God around in this world to be experienced by others. Yes, it is we who are God's hands and feet here on earth, and if God can look at Susan Boyle...or Cindy LaJoy...and say "I love you, my child, you are beautiful just the way I made you!!!" then perhaps we can find it within us to do the same. And if we can manage to do so, perhaps we become a bit more beautiful ourselves on the inside, where it really counts.

God Bless you, Susan Boyle. God Bless all who snickered and doubted. We are all human with all that brings with it...may we all strive to do better at being human.

"My Fun Time" - Older Child Adoption

I am back after a successful trip to Denver to apostille documents and send them off. We had confirmation that our agency received them and will hand deliver them now we wait yet again. How I hope that the next call is GOOD news and not another request for more documents or telling us there is some other delay!

Somewhere along the line, I think it was really last night as I entered church for choir practice, I turned a corner in my mind. I have been having a lengthy period of internal turmoil, just not feeling like my usual wild and crazy self. My heart was just so heavy to carry around for awhile, and I think I retreated a bit spiritually to regain some strength. I don't even know why I was so low, other than frustration getting to me, worries abounding, and I guess not turning things over to the One who really can handle it all.

But as I strode towards the door of our sanctuary yesterday evening, I felt more lighthearted than I have in a long time, there was a spring in my step that had been missing and a peace settled over me like a warm "as seen on TV" Snuggie :-) How long has it been since I truly felt that inner joy? Several weeks at the very least.

The trip to Denver was actually a very nice one filled with much yacking and catching up with my dear friend, as well as a visit to the Tattered Cover bookstore, which is another title for "Paradise"...I could stay in there for hours!!! It's like Barnes and Noble in the form of your comfy living room. I didn't buy anything there but was tempted by a couple of things. Now that would be my ideal job, working at a store like that...but I am afraid it would be fruitless as all income would be spent on novels.

One of the highlights of the trip was actually before I even left, when the night before the boys all asked me to wake them up to say goodbye. I told them I didn't want to because I was leaving at around 5:30 AM and they needed to sleep, but they all begged so I promised I would. The next morning, in the dark I step carefully to avoid "Lego Landmines" and climb up ladders to gently wake them up and say goodbye. Instantly 3 little heads pop up and down the ladders they each come to give me great big hugs as a send off, then they crawl sleepily back up to catch a few more winks before the alarm clock starts their day. How much better can a trip begin than that?

Today I volunteered in class with Kenny and Matthew, and Kenny was working on a writing project. It was supposed to be a letter to a friend about their best or most fun day ever. Kenny wrote to his friend, and as I read it I was amazed at how far he has come in 2 short years. A child who couldn't read or write in his own native language, who didn't even know the Cyrillic alphabet is writing letters and reading. Is he at the level of most 10 year olds? Of course not, but he is astonishingly intelligent and is gaining skills all the time. It is easy to focus on what he doesn't know as we advocate for him. After all, we are working with a system that is structured and not very flexible at accommodating kids that do not fit the norm. I blame the system for this, not the teachers. But if we examine Kenny's progress outside the template of graded public school, his academic progress blows my mind.

Kenny's letter, which I have scanned and shown below, is also very touching. I thought I would share it with you all so you can see what is possible with older adoptees...that yes it takes time, but they CAN catch up and make huge strides. We have a long way to go, of course, but there are no doubts he will get there. When considering adopting older kids it can be a daunting task to think of ALL that needs to be made up for, but if you take it day by day and step by step, you eventually see successes stacking up. One of my biggest concerns prior to adopting an older child was the language and educational barriers and wondering how hard all of this would be. Is it easy? No, not really...but it also isn't as hard as you imagine it to be as well. Purposeful parenting, being aware, seeing yourself as a teacher in every single thing you do...all of that goes a long way towards helping your child catch up. Learning happens every moment of every day, not just in the classroom.

Kenny wrote about his best day being the day we arrived in Bishkek, 2 years ago next month (Can you believe it has already been 2 years????). He read it to me as I sat next to him in those little classroom chairs, and I also was struck by his courage. What goes through a child's mind as they grab the hand of a stranger and walk out the door of the only home they have known, never to return? Do they worry if they will be safe? Do they wonder if they will even like their new family? And what recourse do they have if they don't? These older children show courage well beyond what or I would ever do. Imagine taking the hand of say...oh...a husband or wife whom you had met 5 minutes prior and walking out the door of your parent's house knowing you are helpless and vulnerable and completely at the mercy of the person whose hand you are holding. Would you want to do it? I wouldn't. And yet this is what we ask of older adoptees. I marvel at it.

Here is the original and the translation of what Kenny wrote, as you may have trouble reading it on the screen. I will type it exactly as he wrote it so you can get the ability level in grammar, punctuation and spelling, etc. Hopefully this will help give other potential adoptive parents of older kids a feel for what level they might be able to expect their child to be at a couple of years post-adoption.:

Dear William,
My fun time was when i saw mine new parents. First of all i saw mine dad i was little scard then i saw mine mom she was prettyful (interesting that he used this word as he uses the word beautiful all the time, but writing is more stilted for him by far then verbal communication). I hog(hug) mine parents They hog me, too. Next i sew Matthew and Joshua They had cars for me and They hog me. I hog Them and i had some Thing for Them They were rady (ready) i had candy for Them. Then i sai goodbye. before i leve Them and i cry. I wate (went) to a restaurant (how did he spell THAT one correctly??) i palyed (played) with matthew and Joshy i hav fun with them.

Two years. He has had not quite two years of hearing English, of learning the alphabet, of learning writing skills, of learning vocabulary. He started with nothing, he was a blank slate. That blank slate is now FILLED with so many things!!! His writing is easily 2-3 years younger than his verbal skills are. He is not at all perfect in the spoken word, but he is far more skilled with verbal language then written language and his vocabulary is filled with words many kids his own age don't use often, and he expresses himself beautifully even when discussing more abstract concepts. I know many would read his letter, look at his age and think "Wow, this kid will never make it!". I can only look at it and say "WOW, he will accomplish SO MUCH in this world!" for I see all he will become and many will only see all that he is not.

Older adoptees need time, lots of it. Joshua entered Kindergarten this year having been read to thousands upon thousands of hours, having heard English for 5 years, having had a parent help him write and draw and learn numbers and letters...5 years of input. Where will Kenny be after 5 years of input?? You can not quickly make up for 8 1/2 years, in Kenny's case, of minimal input. You have to hear language used millions of times and in millions of ways to store it up in the mental bank to be able to draw upon it. It doesn't take tons of studies to tell you that. We still have 3 more years of language input to get Kenny to what is for most kids a starting point before school...5 years of input.

Things we have done which have helped Kenny are:

1) Talking constantly and using standard or even above standard baby talk other than when necessary when they first come home to communicate about something. Even then, say it in a basic way with short sentences, then repeat it again after it is understood in a more adult format.

2) Explain, explain, explain. Stop mid sentence and ask if they know what a particular word means, then explain it in ways that make it clear what it means. this can be harder than you think and you must be very creative will feel almost as if YOU are going back to school! For example, today during reading, Kenny didn't know what the words "plaid" and "corduroy" were, so I stopped, found a girl wearing corduroy pants and showed them to him, and his teacher handed me a picture card with plaid on it to show him. Don't assume your child has picked up the meaning for a word even 2 years later at home, because their coping skills don't always allow them to stop and ask, they infer things or gloss over it to keep moving forward. I am quickly learning I am the ONLY person, yes even I would say above Dominick, who really knows the level of Kenny's vocabulary. I have been right almost 100% of the time when I stop him and ask him to explain the meaning of a certain word because I know he doesn't understand it. No one else will know your child like you do, and many will think they are more knowledgeable because of their verbals skills. Don't let it slip by, explain, explain, explain long past the point when they can communicate verbally very well. Remember that 5 years before Kindergarten of input they missed, plus who knows how many more!!

3) Read everything and anything, even if you have to stop a thousand times to explain words, then go back and reread it and ask them to explain what is happening to aid in comprehension and fill you in more on what they are actually understanding. We started with baby picture books and I made up stories to go with them. We did NOT start with Dr. Seuss as that is far too advanced and non-sensical for when a child first comes home, regardless of how funny it is. You need real language and real words at first, not the made up words in Dr. Seuss. Eventually, of course, we got to "Green Eggs and Ham" and we LOVE Sam-I-Am, but that was about a year down the road post-adoption.

4) Model language and have them correct themselves...don't just tell them how they were wrong, make them repeat it a couple of times. It helps embed it in their brain better than if you just say it correctly for them.

5) When first writing, if they spell it the way it sounds, don't worry about spelling errors, congratulate them on hearing all the sounds and getting it on paper correctly!! Spelling can come later, but they need to learn to hear each sound in a word to read well.

6) We never used cards with words written on them taped all over the house as some people do and find very helpful. Not sure why, just didn't do it and it didn't seem to matter. Maybe because we felt we were starting from scratch anyway...we had to get the idea across to Kenny that letters made sounds and stringing those sounds together makes words. Kids who come home having that concept down are a little ahead of the game from where we started, so knowing the level Kenny was at we just started at baby level and quickly moved forward.

7) Let them be have tons more to help them experience besides school and homework. Don't spend every waking moment on trying to have them catch up, it won't work anyway. Let them play, let them be your baby for awhile, let them live the childhood they didn't get to helps their brain too!

8) Don't step in and speak for them, regardless of how poor their English is. Let them use it, practice it, hear it coming out of their own mouths. If you jump over them and speak to others for them it invalidates their efforts and serves to let them feel as if they are not "good enough" to speak for themselves. You can always clarify afterwards...and have always tried not to explain what Kenny said, but to explain to Kenny what was not understood by asking him questions and letting him try to re-explain it using his own vocabulary with me supplying a word here or there.

Of course we have the added complication of Kenny's speech issues and that definitely impacts his writing and reading as he can not duplicate sounds correctly and then writes them the way he hears them coming out of his own mouth...but we found early on that at least he was getting the phonics down correctly, even if the phonics were for incorrectly made sounds he wrote exactly what he was saying so we cheered that on and then gently corrected him. As you can see from the letter, there is still some of that in evidence and will be for some time to come until his speech improves or he simply memorizes what the correct spelling is for those words.

I hope this has been helpful to those of you considering older child adoption...I hope it has provided you with some concrete expectations and ideas. But my greatest hope is that this has cast older child adoption in a better and more manageable light. There are thousands of older kids who would make wonderful additions to your family. Don't let fear stop you!!! They come with their own unique set of challenges, and yes there are the emotional issues to consider...but the media tends to highlight the sad and disruptive cases, they seldom show the Kenny's who adapt so well and find their hearts filled along with their family's hearts. I know there are readers here of this blog with older international and domestic adoptees who are thriving. Is it easy? No, and I have shared honestly about many of the difficulties. But is having an infant easy? 3 AM feedings? Screaming without language to communicate needs? If you ever feel the call to consider an older child, don't listen only to the darkest stories shared on 60 Minutes and the like, seek out the less well publicized stories of the Kenny's of the world. There are thousands more like him who could one day be your beloved daughter or son!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Here We Go Again...

Tomorrow I am off to Denver, for another quickie run to get apostilles on documents and FedEx things to our agency quickly in the hopes that our dossier will finally be accepted and moved through the system. I have double and triple checked my list, have my maps and my GPS at the ready, and will undoubtedly "chug a lug" a few Diet Cokes along the way. I am actually looking forward to this trip, as a last minute offer was made by a close friend to go with me, so we will have plenty of time to gab and catch up on our lives.

I feel like I ought to have some sort of ceremony, maybe a blessing of some sort over these documents! Oy Vey, let this PLEASE be the last time and may the next time I hear from our agency let it not be for any reason other than with lots of good news. Anyone out there want to offer their own little blessings, please do so...we need all the help we can get!!

I really need some down time, I have tons of homework I have yet to start for my ministry classes as adoption paperwork keeps taking up oodles of time. I am also in the midst of planning a trip to Denver for our Sr. High Youth Group and am really looking forward to that, which will end 2 days before we leave for Kenny's surgery in Chicago. In between I also have Kenny's IEP meeting to prepare for, and many other smaller projects on the side...and April is quickly passing me by!

I also have been contemplating a new format for the blog but haven't really found anything I like well. I have been scanning 3 column blog templates, but just as I need Garanimal tags for clothing to match anything I guess I need the same thing for blogging!! I am SO not creative with this stuff. I have been debating having two blogs, one that is more adoption oriented and one that is more faith oriented, but somehow I can't seem to separate the two in my own mind so that may not happen. I may find a way to create a blog that works for me in both directions using one blog template, but frankly I don't have time to devote to it at the moment...just like I have wanted to label all my posts with categories that would make it easier for people to find the "good stuff" amongst the daily drivel, but that hasn't happened either and the thought of going back over 400+ posts makes me want to cringe. You all might be stuck with the way this thing looks for a good long time.

So I am off to bed as I have to rise very early tomorrow. Hope I can fall asleep quickly!!!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

He Is Risen...He Is Risen Indeed!!!

We have had a wonderful Easter thus far, and the day is only half over! We awoke to whispering boys as they examined their baskets that the Easter Bunny had to leave inside for them due to rainy weather. Then it was time to find the eggs hidden in our TV room...and we hope they were all located and we don't follow the smell to a rotten egg somewhere later in the week! Hahaha!

Then the boys got dressed in the matching lavender shirts and all 3 decided to wear ties this morning. When we purchased their special Easter shirts I was surprised as I gave them a choice between lavender or a more manly tan, and they all wanted lavender saying it was more "Easterish". We then were invited over to our friend's house for breakfast where, of course, tons of photos were taken and I actually was so pleased with a couple I got of their daughter, who is quite precious and barely a year old. I also got a nice photo of Joshie and his best buddie, who was being baptized today so it was a doubly joyous occasion for us all. I have captured a photo now and then of this twosome, and I can totally imagine seeing them in their teens at confirmation time, arms around each others shoulders, grinning animatedly as they both do today. We have been so blessed to have this friendship for Josh, even though at first Joshua wanted nothing to do with his now "bestest friend"...he was still very much dealing with RAD and not all inclined to have any relationships at all, but the wisdom of his friends mother helped tremendously as she nor I pushed anything despite the fact they were the only two kids at church that age, and we just let things happen gradually. Now, his mom and I both love seeing how inseparable they are.

Then it was off to church where we had a lovely service, and it really and truly felt like Easter and a celebration. The above photo is of the stained glass window in our church which has always brought a smile to my rainbow colors are featured and when the sun hits it just right in the early morning light (not so much today with our overcast weather) it's beauty lights our Sanctuary in a subtle glow.

Lives are resurrected in faith, lives are changed, lives are healed. Mine certainly has been, and as I look back the very crooked road that led me here, I can see where God intervened even when I had no clue why things were happening the way they were (hmmm...sounds like my life right now with our current adoption!). I will be the very first to admit how very far I was from God for years, how I basically turned my back on all that "religious stuff" despite my continuing strong prayer life. I had not found a faith community that felt like home, couldn't imagine ever really finding one where I would be free to engage in an ongoing real relationship that was not robotic-like, but was active and true. I didn't want "religion" as that was meaningless to me. What I had hoped to find was a faith home where I could openly discuss my doubts when they crept in and receive nurturing and support rather than condemnation, I wanted a place could seek the Truth as it applied to me in my daily walk, and where I could rest in a sense of family.

Last night, as our home was filled with dear friends of all ages and all walks of life gathered around the kids as they and their friends dyed eggs and played together, I could so easily see how that sense of family has definitely been found. I also can see how I have learned a valuable lesson myself about how to be an integral part of that I have learned to reach out to others with love rather than waiting on the sidelines for someone to decide to offer that love to me. Active love, just as Jesus has shown us all, is something that for some comes easily and for others has to be practiced. I am one of those for whom practice makes semi-perfect :-) Somewhere along the line I cast aside my fears and some of my insecurities and realized that I may not be pretty, well educated or dynamic but I DO have something to offer that everyone needs, love. While I personally am lacking much in so many areas, I have a surplus of love and acceptance to offer, and almost everyone needs to feel they belong somewhere and are cared for.

Soon we are headed out for dinner, to be shared with many we love. May the love of Christ reside within all of you this special day. May you ALL share this day with those you love, but even more so, may each and every one of you spread that love to others!!!

With much love from the all the LaJoy's!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday, Special Sacrifices

On this sacred day, Good Friday, it felt as if my husband and children were all working to remind me about sacrifice and about giving. Dominick left the house at 6:00 this morning and was not to return until 8:00 PM this evening, having worked a very long and arduous day to provide for his family...and then apologizing for coming home so late. Apologize? For what...for caring so much about all of us that you will work 14 hour days to see to it that our needs are met? Dominick, you have given up so much for your family, and you do so without complaint. With your employee you washed 2 entire car lots, detailed 3 cars and pressure washed a building...and amazingly still came walking in the door with a smile as broad as can be. I honestly don't have a clue how you do it, you amaze me daily.

As we left school today, our Principal caught me at the exit and pulled me aside asking if I had heard about what Kenny did today. Kenny seemed to have no idea what was coming and looked a tad bit fearful for a moment. One of Kenny's reading teachers is taking a leave of absence for the remainder of the school year for a medical procedure. Yesterday I could tell that Kenny was a little sad about this, and he asked if he could take in some cookies to make a little good bye party with he and the 3 or 4 other students in his small group. This morning he decided he wanted to dress up for her last day, so he wore a long sleeve shirt and tie. Interestingly, this is so typically Kenny that despite the kids running around in their T-Shirts and shorts I didn't see anyone even give him a second glance as they would most kids coming to school in a tie...this is a young man who is simply destined to "dress for success" and the business garb settles on him quite naturally. Before they left for school all 3 boys asked if they could take a couple of dollars to purchase something at the Friday Store at school. Well, in his small reading group today the Principal was present for the "good bye" party, and it seems Kenny tried to give his money to his teacher as a gift. When she wouldn't accept it, he excused himself saying he had to use the restroom...then appeared a few minutes later bearing a stuffed animal he had bought at the Friday Store and he presented it to her saying she could have it with her in the hospital so she wouldn't be scared. The Principal said the teacher turned to him and said she had never been so touched in all her career and was near tears. Admittedly, so was I.

We then made our way to the van, where Matthew had a big grin on his face and said "Everyone, close your eyes! I have a surprise for you!" and out of his backpack he brings out decorative pencils that he purchased for each of us...and none for himself. He said "I just felt like getting everyone a little something!".

Later this evening, after Dominick came home grinning and yet very weary, he was laying on the floor and Joshua came up and offered to rub his back and legs for him, and spent 20 minutes giving Daddy a massage so he would feel better.

I look around our little family and I see so much generosity, so much care for one another and others. It is an utterly unexpected blessing of motherhood, these wonderful spirits I am surrounded by. When writing an essay for my ministry classes a few months back in which we were asked to share what we do to nurture and care for ourselves, I tried to explain that despite the fact that I am the mom of 3 young sons I get just as much from our relationship as I put into it, and that being with my children is not at all the drain it might be considered by others to be, but instead is a time of spiritual connection unlike any other I have in my life. It is very hard to explain to anyone who doesn't live in our little family that the boys are incredibly deep little beings who stimulate my thinking in ways many adults can't do, who connect with the real essence of God in ways many adults would never understand. Where many people would see 3 energetic responsibilities, I see relationships to rest in.

Today, on Good Friday, we are all reminded of the sacrifice Jesus made for us all. Sometimes we don't give that much thought, and for some it is a fairy tale or story from history rather than a personalized experience. Some people believe in having a personal relationship with Jesus and others are more generalized and distanced in their understanding of the Trinity and Jesus' role.

Whether one believes in Christ as the Son of God and a Savior come to redeem us all from sin, or as a mere "prophet", if one examines the details of a crucifixion and the agony of a death which occurs in this manner you can't help but cringe. Our minds want to turn away from such violence when it is presented to us, for most people it is almost a reflexive action to not linger on such thoughts.

Regardless of our individual perspectives on the truth of the actual Deity of Christ...that Man named Jesus thought He was sacrificing His life for ours. If he wasn't fulfilling prophecy but was instead a delusional individual as some have said through the ages, even then the idea that this mere mortal thought he would sacrifice himself for all of mankind still blows you away...that ANYONE would willingly take on such a death for another human being is hard to fathom. I'd love to say I would, but that would be a total lie as I would never have that kind of courage. But if this Great Act was indeed the fulfillment of all that was prophesied all those many years prior to the crucifixion, it makes the sacrifice that much more meaningful...that Jesus who had the Power to do as He wished actually went ahead and died for you, for me, for all of us throughout time. Wow, now THAT is love.

I am one of the lucky ones here on earth. I have a loving family that is far more than I deserve, I have friendships that run deep and strong, I have all my needs met. But as I have discovered over the past few years, the single thing that is the biggest blessing in my life is my relationship with God and how it has transformed my thinking and who I have become. That transformation is still a work in progress and probably always will be. I will wrestle with doubts just like anyone else does, but somewhere within that wrestling lies the key to an active and engaged faith is what keeps it real and rewarding.

As we go about our Easter weekend with it's egg dying and basket finding, let us give thanks for the example of sacrifice God provided us in Jesus. Christian or athiest, there is a lot to be learned from it. But more importantly, let us move beyond giving thanks and reach for higher ground...let us sacrifice for others as we have had sacrificed for us.

May you have a blessed Easter.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

For Those Waiting To Come Home From Kyrgyzstan...

I just got off the phone after having been interviewed by KTR TV in Bishkek regarding international adoption. This was a sudden event, finding me drug out of the shower this morning to take a phone call from Rebecca at JCICS and that started the ball rolling to make this happen. I found myself being interviewed by a reporter in Bishkek. It was a short interview, nothing earth shattering was asked or shared, but hopefully in my less-than-professional way I was able to convey that we all love our children and will provide good homes for them.

I don't know what the ultimate outcome will be for any of the waiting families. My heart goes out to you all, as you have waited through agonizing months with no news at all, wondering if children who have already grabbed your heart will ever make it home and find themselves sleeping in those lovingly prepared nurseries. My hopes remain high that they will all one day come home.

Those of us who have completed our adoptions have done all we possibly could...we have shared our stories, we have prayed, we have offered our continued encouragement and support. It is my hope that we will rejoice with you one day.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Malawi and Madonna

The newswires have been rife with stories about Madonna's failed adoption of another Malawian adoption of a 4 year old little girl named Mercy. This was to be her second adoption from Malawi, with her first being of her son David. Most of us are quite familiar with the story, but I am curious what your thoughts are about it all.

From what I gather, Madonna has done a lot of humanitarian work in Malawi, has donated millions of dollars for relief efforts and many other worthwhile causes there. But let me ask the questions...does that mean she should be able to skirt the residency requirements that any other adoptive parent would have to meet? Does the good she has done outweigh the need to keep strict requirements in place for all prospective adoptive parents? Were the Malawian officials doing the right thing when they denied her the right to adopt, knowing it could easily mean the end to millions of dollars in much needed aid? Literally...does this decision mean people might die because of the dire need there?

In my opinion, I think the Malawian government got it right.

It's not class envy on my part, it is not some need to gleefully see a mega-celebrity get their comeuppance. There are rules, they should be followed. We all have to follow them. We may not like it, we may at times find it ridiculous, we may complain and rant and rave. But we have to follow them.

I say this as I spent most of the entire day chasing down more dossier documents and signatures, after having just labelled photos of every room in our house including bathrooms and our toilets, after yet again having to ask others in our life to once again complete another document even though they have nothing to gain from it. Am I sick of it all? You bet!! Do I have millions to throw at the issue to try and skirt the requirements? No. If I did would it somehow be justified to allow me not to go through the proper steps? No, it definitely would not.

There has been much talk about corruption in international adoption lately. There are unanswered questions, there are frustrations, there are accusations that fly freely. And when a country decides to make someone adhere to it's rules, there are cries of outrage. After all, don't they understand the kind of life of privilege Madonna can provide a child? Don't the officials understand that the advantages are obvious? Can't they see that they are jeopardizing millions of dollars of aid money?

And I ask...can't anyone see that they did the right thing? That rules are in place to be followed, and it shouldn't matter the status of the person attempting to adopt? That we are seeing government acting fairly here?

I don't know if Madonna is a good mom, I wouldn't begin to judge that. I do know she is divorced, that she has had multiple relationships with men in and out of her children's lives. That is well documented. I know she can financially provide for a thousand children, should she so desire.

I also know that according to Malawian officials, she did not meet the residency requirements they have in place for adoption.

What remains to be seen is what the end result will be, if Madonna's motives were indeed pure when donating millions of dollars to assist the poor in Malawi...or if it was just an attempt to see to it that she was assured the opportunity to adopt again. Only time will reveal the truth behind the actions. If the purse strings are suddenly closed tight, I guess we will all have a better understanding of the level of Madonna's compassion for the Malawian people.

I, for one, hope that we find that the horse led the cart in this case, rather than the opposite. I hope we see that Madonna's love for the country and it's people led her to try and adopt another child, and not that her desire to adopt led her to offer an extreme form of payoff in advance for the "right" to have another child in her arms.

If it is the latter, then it would seem another case of corruption was thwarted.

Monday, April 06, 2009

"What's a Slide?"

During children's rug time yesterday at church, I was reminded of all my children don't know, of the history that I am so well aware of that they in their youth are ignorant of. Our Pastor referred to a slide in his know, the old days of slide projectors...that kind of slide...and Matthew spoke up asking "What's a slide?".

How many memories from our own childhoods do our younger children have no knowledge of? I remember watching filmstrips in school, most of which seemed to feature Jiminy Cricket for some unknown reason. 8 track tapes of Dionne Warwick whom my Dad adored and the BeeGees who were my mom's favorite. At the time they were younger than I am now! There was Trick or Treating at EVERY house on the block without fear of razor blades being hidden in candy bars and "Harvest Parties" were unheard of. We actually had to get up to change the channel on the TV...usually from "Bonanza" to the "Partridge Family"....and we only had about 6 channels we received on our TV antenna. Listening to the Oakland A's play baseball with our mom on the little red pocket transistor radio. Horror of all horrors, riding in the little nook behind the back seat in a Volkswagon Beetle with no seat belt. Banana seat bikes with white baskets with huge daisies on the front hanging from the handle bars.

What will be the cherished memories of our children? Afternoons where hours were spent bouncing on the trampoline? Listening to mom read them a story long past the stage when they are old enough to read for themselves? Sleepovers with kids piled high on the living room floor giggling until well past midnight? What technology will be invented between their own childhoods and their children's? Will they too feel at times like their childhoods were so drastically different from their own children's?

One thing I have noticed is how much harder it is to explain life to our children than it was for my mom to explain it to me. Much of what we do today is intangible...there is nothing to hold or touch. Music is an MP3 file, photos are digitized and sent over the miles seemingly by magic through our computers, our lives are recorded on blogs which are stored on computers far away. These things that record the passing of our life are like external memory banks, the items are there, just hidden.

That is sort of like our emotions...they are there and they are real but they are intangible and can not easily be held. Sometimes they can not be easily identified, just as computer files with unrecognizable names. We have to name them ourselves, we have to isolate them, we have to understand what they are or they remain anonymous and scrambled nonsense.

That is our job to do with our kids, to help them name those things for which they have no name, to help them understand that which they do not understand. We have to explain to them the power of those emotions and what to do with them, just as we have to explain what the objects of our past are...objects that are so familiar to us yet so foreign to someone who has never seen them. We are, in a way, interpreters of the world for our children. Why is it then that we don't stop to think about helping them interpret those all important emotions but we can easily understand why we need to explain the inner workings of the computer to them?

Our job doesn't stop at the, our job only begins there. The hardest part is explaining the intangible, and sometimes in the teaching a little learning occurs as well.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

"Dear Cindy"

Cindy, I love your rules. Please tell me how you got your kids not to yell at each other and also to apologize to each other sincerely.My kids just flatly refuse. My 8 year old flings "idiot" at his brothers and sister like it was good for them. His father and I tell him he cannot talk like that. He stops when we tell him but the damage is already done and he will not apologize. Not that the other kids would believe an apology anyway. We don't talk that way to them or each other and we do apologize when we have hurt someone in word or deed. We follow all the other rules you do too. And we pray morning and evening prayers as well as during a car ride and we regularly go to church.Any ideas for us?

Oh my goodness, I am certainly not the "Paragon of Parenting" to be asking for advice, and your question really made me have to stop and think about how we have managed to achieve this thus far. Notice I say "thus far" as I am not at all certain I won't be writing for advice myself in the coming years!).

I think it helps that we had a Zero Tolerance rule from the very start, and I mean the VERY start...16 months old or so on up is not too young to begin teaching love and respect. If Matt or Josh who were our only infants ever slapped towards someone or pushed them away, we stopped it right then...I remember taking Josh's little hands, holding them in mine and showing him how to gently stroke his stuffed animals and talking about how we need to be kind and gentle.

We talk often about how something would feel if it happened to us, what emotions come up when we are teased or hurt or are treated unkindly. I constantly use examples from real life or TV and bring them up to talk about, showing how mean spiritedness can truly hurt. Dominick and I make a big deal every time we see one of the boys do something that shows unprompted kindness, we verbally recognize their heroism.

When I just asked Matthew what he thought was the best thing we have done to teach them all to be kind to each other and he responded with "You discipline just the right amount...we know you are serious when we have done something wrong and you don't let us get away with stuff."

We have also gone so far as to show by example what it feels like to be on the receiving end. Some would see this as harsh but often children don't understand something unless they have experienced it to a degree, so if we feel something is getting out of hand we will give a little demonstration. One time I remember Kenny was ignoring what we said and it was developing into a habit, so I had an "ignore Kenny" hour where he asked me things and I simply didn't respond and acted as if I didn't hear him at all. After he began to get upset, I pulled him onto my lap and we talked about how he felt...and I mentioned nothing at all until he was finished crying a bit. Then, and only then after he had processed his own feelings about it did I then share with him that I often felt the same way when he treated me with disrespect and ignored me...and I reminded him that he did it to me all the time, not just for one hour. Suddenly, the light bulb went on and he understood fully why I had been upset with him for not acknowledging me.

I think I shared sometime back on the blog when I did the same thing to Matthew when he was about 3 or 4 and hit a little lying phase. I told him to jump into the car and we were going to have a treat and go to the library, which was always a big deal for him. We drove towards the library, and then right on past it...and when he asked me from the back seat why we were not going to the library I told him "Oh, I lied about that...we aren't going there.". As I looked in the rearview mirror I could see the tears starting to fall and I pulled onto a side street and got in the back seat with him. I asked him how he felt, and he said he was very mad at me and said "You lied Momma! You aren't supposed to lie!!" and then I pointed out to him that he too made me very, very mad when he lied to me and that then I couldn't trust him. He admitted it didn't feel good at all to have someone lie to you, and he promised right then to try hard not to lie anymore, and from that day forward we had very little problem with that issue.

But frankly, Zero Tolerance and consistency every single time is the key. Your children have to know you mean business. If it were me, every time your son uses the word "idiot", and I mean every single time, he then should have to do something nice and helpful for the "target" child...make a bed, clean a room up. On top of that he needs to be stopped, pulled aside and asked how he thinks that makes the other child feel...he has to look you as the parent in the eye as he is talking about it and he can not be let go until he does that with sincerity. He needs to apologize with true eye contact with the hurt sibling and if it is not sincere in your opinion he needs to try again until he gets the right tone. We've had to do that a time or two, to make them understand that an apology is useless if it is not heartfelt. If one of your other children calls him names in retaliation, you need to stop all of them, sit them down and talk about how things escalate. Ask them what they think they are accomplishing, and don't supply the answers for them. Don't accept "I don't know" as an answer...that is NEVER allowed in our house and we make them sit there until they can come up with a thoughtful answer to our questions, no matter how long it takes. "I don't know" is a way to avoid answering you, and is in fact in its own way a rebellious act and is disrespectful to is a "cop out" to get out of the situation. Of course, with children, there are times when they really DON'T know something but often they do, and you forcing them to verbalize it helps them clarify things in their own mind, and helps them become more articulate in expressing their emotions.

We also have always made a big deal about Team LaJoy. We emphasize time and time again that we are a cohesive unit, that they are young men in this family who are of value and who we need to be part of the team. We compliment always when we see them working as a team, we encourage them verbally to come up with plans together for accomplishing goals, we remind them that Team LaJoy is the BEST EVER. All the time we create little challenges that they have to work together to telling them we will bet them an ice cream that they can not get their room military spotless in half an hour, and then we pretend we are military inspectors checking each one of their beds/areas. I play to their maleness often, and tell them how strong they are and that I am so proud of how they can work together so well to bring in a weeks worth of groceries...and they do it so fast!!! When we compliment one son, we involve the others in the compliment saying things like "Who noticed how cool it was today that Joshie tied his own shoes all by himself?" or we will spend a few minutes at the end of the day or over dinner once in awhile asking "What is your favorite thing about Matthew? What do you think Kenny is best at?".

The importance of our family and it's "togetherness" is always a top priority. We talk often about others we know from school or sports activities or whatever who seem very separate in their lives, and we give thanks in our conversations that our family is SPECIAL and we love one another SO MUCH. In our prayers at night Dominick and I will often pray out loud in front of the boys about how thankful we are to have children who show so much respect and love for one another and for us. We continually reinforce what is good, and we try to find examples of how we don't want our family to function and we talk about those...about what is not working, about the differences, etc. Now that I am writing about it and giving it some thought, we sort of act as cheerleaders as their parents, but we cheer things that are often left out by some families...we cheer kindness, we cheer acts of courage, we cheer teamwork. We don't cheer as much as some might over soccer goals or straight A's. We don't ignore it, but we tend to cheer more on character issues. Perhaps that is why when Matthew gets straight A's to Kenny's struggling B's and C's, Matthew has never once bragged about his grades or made a big deal about them in front of Kenny, but instead cheers Kenny on for doing his best when he knows it is an enormous challenge for him. That may be why Kenny tells Josh over and over again how good he is at reading...because he too has had grace shown to him by Matthew and even though Josh is reading barely less than Kenny at 4 years younger, they take pride in each others accomplishments.

All of that aside though, I think honestly that our three sons are very, very special children and we were blessed to have them. I have no idea how much is parenting, and how much is their own unique spirit. God is in our midst, and I do think that makes an incredible difference. I am not even talking about church going or praying, but the awareness that each of us LaJoy's have of a Presence in our lives that brought us all together in a miraculous way. That Presence uses each one of us to nurture one another, and we all seem to understand that somehow. As stupid as it sounds to others who don't know us, but to those who do and have been around in more private or thoughtful moments...Dominick and I are just as nurtured by our children as they are by us. We are viewing our life through a different set of eyes, we are all aware of the Sacred. I see it in Kenny, Matthew and Joshie all the time...this different way of seeing. I am not at all sure that came from Dominick or I, I am sure that God is in the middle of it.

We all do our best to parent, we all have very different goals in mind of how we would like to see our children turn out. Many would scoff at us for not emphasizing sports more with 3 boys, or for not pushing more for them to let go of their childish ways at a younger age...we still have all 3 believing in the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus or at the minimum not letting on that they don't believe. There are those who would focus more on individual accomplishments rather than the "team oriented" approach to family. There are many, many who would call us totally corny, too strict, or overly religious. All of those opinions are fine, and different ways of operating work for different families. Some even think that arguing and bickering among siblings is perfectly acceptable as it is "normal". I know I sure did my fair share with my brother, and I give thanks every day that my mother didn't kill us we were so bad!!

We operate our family in a way that works for us. We like what we have. Many people, however, would step into our midst and be very uncomfortable...they would not like the lack of privacy with kids sleeping camp out style at least one night a week on your bedroom floor, they would not approve of 3 kids sharing a bedroom thinking it only appropriate if they all have their own space, they would think it odd that we hug and kiss one another all the time finding it too "familiar". That is why there are all kinds of families. Ours works for us, yours works for you. I would never hold up the LaJoy's as having the "right way" and tell everyone else they are doing it the "wrong way". I happen to think there are LOTS of "right ways", but some might not work for us with our particular blend of personalities.

I have loved reading about everyone else's rules as you all have commented on the blog (and learning I am not quite as much of a freak as I originally thought...but it seems none of you live near me!!). Many of us are parenting in the same way, with a few differences. But then most of you probably read the blog seeing something familiar and comfortable there, so maybe that is not such a surprise after all. Those who do think we are freaks are probably not regular followers of the blog and therefore we wouldn't hear much from them. Thanks to everyone who posted!!