Tuesday, June 30, 2009

There's No Such Thing as "Coincidence"

Divine Coincidence.

Someone used this phrase in a conversation after church this past Sunday and it has stuck with me. God puts things together that we often would never imagine, the creativity of the Spirit cracks me up! In equal parts it also stuns me, amazes me, and brings me to tears.

Our life the last few years has often felt as if we are walking around in the midst of Divine Coincidence all the time. The human connections we have made, the things that have happened that are perfectly timed, the things you shake your head over and say "Man, I can NOT believe that!". But it makes me wonder...what comes first, the chicken or the egg? I mean, does something become Divine Coincidence because we are astute enough to perceive it as such? Or does Divine Coincidence CAUSE us to become enlightened and be able to see it for the act of God that it is?? Hmmmmmmmm...........might have to think about that one for awhile.

This past week despite the fact that life has ground to a halt for our family with the now infamous "Summer Flufest of '09", it has felt as if we were turning a corner and gaining momentum in some ways. After months and months of stalls and setbacks with our adoption, it feels as if the ball has begun to roll downhill, as if something is happening. I don't know why, as there really isn't anything that much new or exciting to report, but we received our FBI fingerprints back and sent them off for apostilling and then on to our agency, and that was the last of our expired documents (we hope!) that needed to be redone. Maybe that has brought hope.

But it seems that each time we have adopted there has been a moment when it all shifted, when it felt like we had moved beyond mere paperwork and could maybe let go and grab hold more firmly of the dream.

I think I am finally there.

Don't get me wrong, we are not quite ready to paint a room or anything like that yet...but we are closer, we have rounded the corner, and for some reason I am more lighthearted than I have been in a long time about all of this.

There are other things in our life that might be falling into place that initially had me fearful and worrying, and showed me the utter lack in trust in God that I actually have. Time tends to reveal all, and slowly it is as if the curtain is being pulled back on a new life in almost all areas. I am now slowly beginning to see it as preparation for our new improved version of our family. How scary it can be to take a running leap off a cliff, not knowing if there is anything to break your fall at the bottom!

Whatever is going on and however it all turns out, about a week ago I threw up my hands and figured God always had a much better plan than anything I would ever come up with, so I needed to just sit back, shut up, hold on, and yell "Yeeee Hawwwww!"

We have had critical and loving communication this week with special little someones, and there is no doubt that has lifted some of my gloom as well. Hearts are being prepared on both sides, and I feel more certain and confident than I ever have of the message God gave me years ago. More cliff jumping, I guess. But I know when we eventually board a plane I will do so with such a light heart and no fears for the future that it will be a moment of intense joy and anticipation. Not discounting the very real circumstances and challenges of older child adoption, just an understanding that whatever it is we will face will be what we are supposed to face, and God will be with us through it all.

I begin my next semester of lay ministry classes in 2 weeks, and I am looking forward to it very much. I can not believe just how much I have enjoyed these classes despite the fact this is about the hardest thing academically I have ever done. That's not saying much since I have never really been to college so it might be quite easy for some, but for me it has required a lot of critical thinking. The most exciting part is I am viewing my faith from very different angles, I am stretching and growing in new directions. Besides, as Dominick will attest to (and has driven him crazy over the years) I tend to love to over analyze everything, to dissect it, to explore it. It is nice to be in an environment where others enjoy doing the same thing!

Today I woke up to a beautiful summer day, and have spent it in some work and some play. The nicest thing about it was this was the first day in almost a month where I felt good! I still have a bit of a croaky sounding voice and a tiny wheeze in my chest, but as I opened my eyes I realized I finally didn't feel "sick", so I am overjoyed today but will still be taking it easy the rest of the week. The boys are all in some stage of getting over it, with Matthew showing the exhaustion the most. I am hopeful that another couple of days and the LaJoy's will all be in tip top shape and ready to enjoy what is left of summer.

We have done nothing but hang around the house, but we made strawberry swirl ice cream and created our T-Shirts for the 4th of July! It was our first attempt at tie dye, and it was mostly a success. The boys thought it was hilarious that I made them tie dye in their underwear...I didn't want to ruin new summer shorts or shirts!! There is finally an awareness out of all of them that you all are following along on our lives as Matthew said "Mommy, is this going on the blog? Make sure you don't show our underwear!!" Hahahaha! I, of course, promised to only show shots from the waist up. We also took an old sheet and made a tablecloth out of it. What I will NOT show in pictures was the joke we pulled on Dominick by tie dying a pair of his underwear. Rest assured, however, that come Saturday you can know that under his regular shorts, Dominick will be proudly patriotic :-) I am glad I married someone with such a terrific sense of humor.

So maybe now summer can really begin, maybe now the long winter of my soul is truly over...it is beginning to feel like it.

Love, Marriage and CB Radio's

We still remain ill here, Matthew is slowly recovering and even Kenny's cough is still present...now Joshie has the hack. You KNOW something is wrong when 3 little boys all would prefer to stay home than go to the park!! I am better, but have the raspy voice and lingering cough. On the phone with a friend this morning, she suggested only half in jest that perhaps we have the swine flu as it has hit a nearby county. Whether swine flu or otherwise, this has to be the nastiest thing to run through our family ever, and the weeks long recovery and general lethargy of all of us is to be taken seriously. Thankfully, Dominick has thus far escaped it all.

In the midst of this weekend, we celebrated our 23rd anniversary. Well...celebrated isn't the right word. We looked at each other and said "Happy Anniversary!", and that was about it. We thought about trying to go out for dinner or something, but it just seemed like too much effort with all of us feeling this way. We might try and do something in a couple of weeks, or wait until next year.

One thing we did do was curl up on the couch, and we shared with the boys about our dating years, and how Dominick proposed. It is so much fun to watch their grins and giggles as they imagine Daddy as a young man, down on one knee with a ring in hand...then they all had to clown around and pretend to do the same thing. We reminded them that I was only 3 years older than Kenny and Matthew when I met Dominick...and that they might be sitting in class next to the very girl that might one day become their wife. You just never know!

Dominick and I met when I was 13 and he was 15, it was the summer before I started high school and CB radios were all the rage. We met talking on the CB radio...his handle was "Charlie Brown" and mine...don't laugh...was "California Sunshine". Corny, but hey...what do you expect from a 13 year old kid?? It was far from "love at first sight", or in this case "love at first listen". He was mouthy and very typically a California teenaged boy...not all that appealing actually! Trying to be cool, tough guy act. But I soon learned that an act was all it was, and as I started high school he soon became my on campus protector, we'd occasionally have lunch together and I began to see the boy behind the act. He didn't fit into any mold...he'd go to keg parties laughing and bringing along his six pack of Coca Cola. He didn't care what anyone thought and because he boldly didn't care, neither did anyone else. He wasn't a jock, he wasn't a pocket-protector type...he actually loved the business clubs and kind of did his own thing, and yet he seemed to fit in with everyone.

It was in the summer of my 15th year when he graduated, and he casually threw out that he didn't have a date for the Grad Night trip to Disneyland our high school graduates always took. I told him "You don't have to miss it, why don't we go as friends?".

The next morning I came home from the overnight trip and told my mom that I think I had met the man I was going to marry.

Something happened and he and I both knew it. We couldn't explain it if we tried but from that point on, in our minds if not in anyone else's, we belonged only to each other. You don't know how many times in the 27 years since then that I have thanked God that He gave me the wisdom at 15 years old to see the extraordinary man that hid inside that 18 year old boy.

We have weathered much, we have grown stronger. We have had our disagreements and spats, we have lived several different kinds of lives together. We have gradually built a family through sweat, hard work and determination. We have had more than our share of joy, we have been blessed beyond all measure.

We stood in the kitchen talking softly Sunday, and I asked Dominick "Did you ever imagine our life being this way when we were young? Did you ever imagine doing all the things we have done?" and he just laughed and shook his head. To the outsider, it may not seem like much...but to two young kids who walked along the railroad tracks to Journey tunes whispering and wondering what our life would hold...our life has been an amazing trip. We have done things others would not. We have thrown in the towel on city life and walked away from stable, years long jobs to find the simpler things found only in small towns. We have started businesses and ended them, we have taken risks and some have paid off and others have not. We have built a life and a home and a family which may not be the envy of others but is certainly more than we could have ever dreamed of...maybe it is fair to say that the life we are living now was one I would have envied when we first started out! We have taken in strangers in the form of little children, and we have loved them, and they have loved us...and we have become one, we have become "The LaJoys".

And it all started with a CB radio, Charlie Brown, and the California Sunshine.

The boys have been fascinated with our 25th anniversary approaching in a couple of years. We have joked about how they would be throwing us a party if they were older, and that they need to save their pennies to send us on a trip! Hahaha! As we sat on the couch talking about our dating years and our wedding, we mentioned that some people have another ceremony to renew their vows. It is not something we have ever considered doing, I don't know why but I guess we thought once was enough and I have no real need to do it again...although I certainly can understand why others choose to do so. We may have to rethink that as the boys showed incredible enthusiasm for the idea. They talked about how cool it would be to do it, how they could dress in suits and the girls could dress in long dresses and they could be there to see Mommy and Daddy get married since they missed the first time. Something about it sounded kind of sweet, kind of wonderful...to have our completed family surround us as we recommit to one another and celebrate not only our marriage, but what that marriage has created. It is something we might give some more thought to, if only for what it would do for our kids in terms of cementing our family in a unique way.

And somewhere on a back table in a place of honor would sit a CB radio :-)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Icons in Death

Wow...today death surrounded us, didn't it? Farrah and Michael with Ed yesterday, these celebrity deaths all seem to come in threes, don't they? All 3 of these icons...for each surely each was an icon of pop culture in their own right...had it all, at least at one time. Fame, Fortune and Fans.
Then why as I sit back and contemplate each of their deaths do I feel such pity for each one of them? Why does this day bring such sorrow to mind?
I wouldn't trade my relatively mundane existence for any of the three of their lives...lives filled with money woes and bankruptcy fears, drug addiction and unhealthy, angry relationships.

Lives of desperation.

Yes, each of these individuals had their time in the sun, they were adored and admired by millions. Their deaths are mourned by the world, and by individuals as if they somehow knew them personally...for once someone comes into your home via radio or TV every day for years and years it creates a false sense of connection...as false as the lives they lived.

Of the 3, Michael saddens me the most. This poor, pitiful manchild whose very life was ruined by exploitative parents and an explosive talent that was abused by others. How could he possibly have EVER led a normal life? That was taken from him in childhood when he had no choice of his own, and by the time he reached adulthood the damage had already been done...his perspective was already so skewed it would be impossible for him to view the world as anything other than dangerous. It is no wonder at all why he would choose to retreat as an adult to a childhood he was denied.

Their lives were tabloid fodder, often not of their own choosing but sometimes very much manipulated for their own benefit.

We all have messy lives, we all have imperfect families, we all make mistakes. We don't all have it played out on the 6:00 news, we don't all have a 3 ring circus upon our death.

My life, such as it is, is a good one, a solid one. It is not perfect, and were it to be played out in the tabloids there would probably be little of interest but surely there would be something that could be dug up and placed on display that would embarrass or shame me.

Sadder still, should we want to get introspective for a moment, is that we all played a part in their demise. We purchased their albums and their posters, we watched their shows nightly, we fanned the flames of fame hunger and then like rabid animals we turned on them, making them the brunt of our jokes and declaring them "freaks" and "losers" as we took great pleasure in watching the disintigration of their lives. Think I am wrong? How about Jon and Kate and the delight most are taking in ripping this family to shreds as it literally implodes in front of millions of viewers each week. No, we are not innocents in all of this, if there wasn't a market for it, there would be no fame.

What was missing for all 3 of these human beings? Some would say "Nothing, they had it all!". Others, like myself, would shake their heads sadly and reply "God...God was missing, in whatever form it might have taken for each individual. They began to believe their own "spin" and see themselves as God-like.".

Our spiritual lives give us meaning, provide us with purpose, create a map for who we want to be and where we want to go in this world. We are lesser people without a sense of the Divine, even though contrarily without it we build ourselves up to be larger than life. When we allow ourselves to think "small" and not build elaborate pedestals to place ourselves upon, we gain so much, for it is then when we are on the same level with everyone else that we can share in our humanity with one another.

I think of the heartache experienced in the lives of these three people. Loneliness beyond anything you and I hopefully have ever experienced, mistrust of others who are out to use you...not because of paranoia but because they are legitimately out to use you! The pain of being disconnected from family and loved ones due to fallings-out which last years. The frustration of being held hostage to drug addiction which can't seem to be broken free of.


Why can I not recall the glamour of their former lives tonight? I watched Farrah like every one else on her one season of Charlie's Angel's, one season on TV which forever cast her in the role of "Hollywood Babe" and from which she never really moved forward to a more meaningful career short of a couple of made-for-TV movies. Ed whose voice I still recall when laying in my bedroom down the hall when my parents stayed up late to catch Johnny. And then there is Michael, whom I literally grew up dancing and singing to daily in my teens, who ushered in modern day MTV and videos and moonwalking...and walking freakshows in the later years.

They each lost themselves along the way, wandering souls searching for the one thing they could never find in Hollywood. Peace was forever elusive as they continued to live in that plastic society. I know, I lived near enough my entire childhood to see how it stretched to those non-celebrities who felt they too were denied their rightful place because they didn't have the stretch limos, the million dollar homes, the jetsetting to tropical islands. Oh how easy it is to fall prey to such thinking!! How much easier it must be when others feed it, when you begin to believe your own hype and lose your sight in the process!

Perhaps in death Ed, Farrah and Michael will finally know peace. Perhaps not.

It sure was a high price to pay for being labelled an "Icon".

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Birth Mom Sues After Being Found by Child Placed for Adoption

I read an interesting news article today on AOL in which the ethics and consequences of reunification between adopted children and their birth parents took on a new twist. 30 years ago, an Atlantic City woman made an adoption plan for her daughter who was conceived as the result of a rape. In August 2008 the woman received in inquiry letter from New Jersey's Division of Youth and Family Services explaining that an adopted adult was looking for her birth parents and requesting verification of the woman's identity and interest in pursuing this contact. The woman had no interest in meeting her biological daughter and did not respond to the letter, assuming that would be an indication of no desire for contact. Evidently, someone went ahead and provided information to the daughter, who appeared on her biological mother's door step four months later.

This was not a happy occasion for anyone involved. The bio mom had no desire to have contact and be reminded of a very painful experience from her past, and the adopted daughter was then rebuffed by her bio mom when she had hoped for a wonderful reunion and very likely answers to a lifetime of questions left unanswered. The biological mom is now suing the state for emotional damages.

As I read this, my first inclination was to put aside all thoughts for the moment about the law suit itself and think only of the privacy issues and rights of all parties in this complicated situation. It really is quite controversial when one considers the current plea by so many for unsealed adoption records, for open adoptions, for the rights of the adoptee to be considered over the rights of the placing parent.

I can not speak to this as an adoptee with the gaps in life history that exist, with the unknowns of the past and of biology that are carried forever. I can not speak to it as a biological mother who made a decision to relinquish a child to the care of others. I can only speak as a spectator to that part of the drama, for even as an adoptive mom that particular and distinct set of experiences and emotions are not ones I am party to.

I am the one standing on the sidelines who is willing to step in when others have to step out. While I live with questions about my children's birth parents, the mysteries of those unknowns are not ones I internalize...they don't inform me about who I am or why I think and act the way I do. As the adoptive mom, it is more the curiosity factor...looking for explanations for inherited quirks, gifts and traits. Also, for myself but perhaps not for others, it is more about the fact that I would love to have even one opportunity to thank my children's birth parents for not aborting, for choosing life, and for their sacrifice which ultimately allowed me to parent their children. .

I also can not begin to pretend to understand what it feels like to look at a tiny little face created within my womb and know I will not be parenting that child. Regardless of the reason, the sheer enormity of that decision goes beyond any level of strength I can imagine having, and it also leads one to consider the remainder of a lifetime left for a biological mother to think about that child.

So whose rights trump whose? That is really the question here, isn't it? Does the adopted child have rights above all else? Does their desire to discover more about their identity come before a birth mother's rights to conceal hers???

Very, very tough moral dilemma there, isn't it?

I think that in this day and age, the majority of those who would be asked would say that the child has a right to know...that the information being withheld from them is rightfully theirs and they shouldn't even be having to search and ask. A part of me who would advocate for my own children tends to want to side with that perspective, as now I as the adoptive mom do come into the story and am left holding the "explanation bag", trying to offer up the "why's" and "how come's" that are not even mine to know, let alone be able to accurately explain. But as I am the only one around to connect biology and adoption, it falls on my shoulders to try and speak for someone whom I have never met, to rationalize and guide my children to an understanding of abandonment for which I have no explanation myself.

But you know what? As I thought this over throughout the day, I surprisingly found myself ultimately coming down on the side of the birth mother. I feel she was horribly violated, regardless of whether the child was conceived as an act of rape or not isn't even an issue. The birth mom made an adoption plan, was told her information would be confidential...and 3o years later that child ends up standing at her door. In essence, it was almost as if the birth mom was raped again, her privacy taken from her, she was left feeling powerless as she stood staring back into the face of the child that was born to her whom she had never had a desire to see again. Is it right that she didn't want to meet her own child? That is not mine to judge, nor should it be anyone's. She did the best she could under trying circumstances, and then moved on in her life. If we took adoption out of the context, how many of us would choose to revisit certain mistakes we made in our younger years? How many of us would welcome being jarred back to a time of great pain and emotional suffering and then feel obligated and forced to share details we had long stuffed inside? The difference in this case is that someone else felt they had the right to do that to the birth mom, that their desire for "transparency" and satisfaction of curiosity justified revealing information that was supposed to be confidential.

It's not right, I just can't see how it is right.

And we wonder why so many women choose other options when having an unwanted pregnancy. We wonder why abortion can seem preferable to having to deal with an adoption and all its attendant issues. If a woman can't feel safe and secure when relinquishing a child, knowing that their privacy will be insured, why would they risk it when a more "permanent" solution is so readily available?

And here is where I risk the ridicule of so many adoptive parents and perhaps adoptees as well...and I want to point out that I have already said I can not speak to their circumstances so this is purely my own opinion and thoughts spread out here for you to go ahead and knock down (respectfully, of course)...why is it that adopted children are not being taught that very possibly their need to "know" should not supersede the right of their birth mother's to maintain privacy? Why is there no sensitivity to the disruption of lives and possibly entire other families? Why, oh why, does an adopted child feel their needs come first and to hell with the havoc they may create should they force an unwanted reunion??? Why are they not taught respect for the decision made by another human being?

I know, perhaps I am extremely naive in all of this, after all my kids aren't old enough to search. But I have answered at an earlier age than most "Why did my mommy leave me like that? You told me mommies love their babies, why would she do that?". I have tried to treat my children's birth parents (not just mom's, mind you...the dads existed too, you know!) with respect and dignity when speaking of them. I have offered educated guesses and tried to help my kids explore possibilities for answers that in the case of international adoptees they might never have the ability to obtain.

Please don't get me wrong, if my kids wanted to search when they were older, I would support them 100%. But in doing so, I would strongly urge them to consider the needs, thoughts and feelings of the people who created them but for whatever reason could not parent them. I would (and have already done so) explain the sorrow of an unwanted pregnancy, the need for medical care, the possibility of gut wrenching poverty. I would encourage them to back off immediately should they discover a parent was reluctant or had no desire to meet. It is a matter of allowing human dignity to remain, of showing biblical respect for your parents. Just because they have a desire to know something or someone, doesn't mean they have the God given right to know. And I am fully aware that there are an enormous number of people who would vehemently disagree with me on that one.

Desire doesn't necessarily indicate a right. Want doesn't equal need. We don't always get what we want in life. We don't make others suffer who made a life giving decision for us.

And after all, pushing a reunion with an angry or reluctant participant is pretty pointless in the long run, isn't it? There will be no fairy tale ending, and as often is discovered in even the best of circumstances those Cinderella stories are a cover anyway for what often turns out to be very mixed emotions, convoluted and complicated feelings.

I am wondering how all of you feel about this. I am hoping you will share your perspectives. You may persuade me to see it otherwise, you may strengthen my own view point, or you may help me see it in a completely different light. I do hope you'll comment, as this one was a tough one for me to work through in my mind today, and it is very relevant to anyone who reads this blog and is involved in the adoption triad. It pulls you to think more deeply about what your thoughts really are on this subject, about how you view birth mothers and fathers, about what you feel is the right of your adopted child in all of this. As international adoptive parents, we think we will not ever have to face this sort of thing, but the world is growing smaller by the day, my friends. The countries we may view as backwards today may be very, very different in 20 years. People we think would have no way of finding us or us locating them will be ever closer with the march of the beat of the internet drum. I wonder, what would YOU do as a parent if you opened an email in a few years and found there a message from a biological sibling who tracked down information at an orphanage for their brother or sister...who happens to be your son or daughter. How then would you view privacy???

Looking forward to reading your thoughts!!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Fathers In Our Lives

Father's Day. A national celebration of the importance of the role of the Dad. A day for BBQ's and yet another necktie as a gift, or perhaps an addition to the after shave collection. Maybe a day of fishing, or a dinner out at a restaurant. I know that statistics show that Mother's Day is the bigger holiday, which perhaps is understandable on some level as Mom's are the true heart of a home. But if that is true, what are Dad's?

Dad's are the muscle of the home. Dad's are the protectors, the "do'ers", the arms and legs and hands of the home. And yes, if you are lucky, your Dad is also another nurturer in the home.

I was fortunate, I had a real honest-to-goodness #1 Dad. All that I am and all that I will ever be is because of my parents, and I honor and respect that even more the older I get and the more I parent myself. I miss my Dad so much sometimes, I wish he were here to meet my sons. His love of aircraft was definitely passed down to Matthew through osmosis or something, or perhaps is God's little way of reminding me that Dad is still with me and does actually know my family, even if only from afar. Of my two parents, I myself have far more of my Dad's personality than my Mom's...which in some ways probably helped my Mom and I avoid much of the "teenage daughter" trials during those difficult years.

It is interesting to look at my sons and see Dominick in each of them, to see in practical application the arguments both for and against "nurture vs. nature". There is no biological connection, not a lick of similar DNA between any of the 4 of them, and yet anyone who meets all of the "LaJoy Boy's", including Dominick, would find it a challenge to point out that they don't all fit together perfectly in some odd way....that the LaJoy testosterone appears to be very, very similar despite the obvious differences in race and backgrounds. They fit together, they each carry traits of Dominick's which in equal measure both thrill me and exasperate me! Hahaha!

Matthew is a researcher like his Dad is, he will go to books to find a solution to a problem, and he can take one look at a diagram and at lightening speed he can put something together that would probably have me still trying to figure out what direction is up for the diagram!!! Joshie has his Daddy's warmth, he gives the most amazing hugs and all of himself to those he loves...his heart is on his sleeve at all times. Just as with Dominick, no girl will ever wonder where she stands with him someday, she will know she is treasured every waking moment...just as I do with Dominick. Kenny, well, of all three he is the one I sometimes wonder if Dominick didn't take a little trip to Kyrgyzstan about 11 years ago! Man, if he isn't a little "mini-me" of Dominick. His outgoing, fearless personality is exactly who I imagine Dominick was at that age. His entrepreneurial mind, his ability to approach anyone even before he could speak their language was Dominick through and through. And they ALL, every last one of them, have their Dad's nutty sense of humor, for which I am most grateful as it keeps our house rocking with laughter day in and day out.

Sons and daughters both need their fathers. It is how they learn how to become a man, it is how they learn how to judge how a man should treat them. My children have the gift of an incredibly involved, engaged, loving father. We may not be able to provide them with the latest and greatest $100 sneakers, the Nintendo Wii's, or the European vacations (we have to exclude adoption trips on that one! hahaha!), but I think that what they have in Dominick is far more precious than any of that. They have a rock solid Dad, one who is at every school function, who runs Scouts, who reads to them and plays with them, whose very life and sole purpose for working is to provide for them and to make time for them. He gives them what they NEED which is far more important than what they might WANT. And surprisingly, when a child has what they NEED, they tend not to WANT those other things. A "Game Boy" can NOT make up for an absent father, ever.

Although Dominick and I both have lost our fathers, we still have one to guide us. It makes all the difference in the world in our adult existence to still feel the care and love of a Father. We can turn to the Bible and hear our Father's words. We can pray and know we are taking to our Spiritual Parent and feel that presence. We are not alone, our biological fathers may have passed, but our God will never leave us and in that presence we are comforted. We still have Someone to turn to when we are confused and need guidance, and we can trust that guidance to be in our best interest just as we could with our earthly Dads.

There are other fathers in our lives as well, amazing men we turn to once in awhile, whose encouragement and care of us is loving and kind and true. Dominick tries to be that kind of man to others in his life as well...young men who work for him who are lost on their path in life, older men who need to feel worthwhile and productive, men who just need another man to talk to and be supportive....its all fathering, isn't it?

Today, as you sit down to your BBQ meal or pat your own Dad on the back, think of what your life would have looked like without his presence. Who would you have become? How much different would you be? What would it have been like to grow up without the solid and steady hand at your back, the clothes ON your back, and the man who "has your back"...and say with meaning..."I love you, Dad.".

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Tearful Trip Down Memory Lane

With the house quiet, the laundry caught up (Yes, even every rug and towel! Proud of me??), and not much to do but lounge around eating bon bons and watching Oprah (Yea, right...totally not me.), I decided with the blog update to go ahead and tackle tagging all my old posts so it might be easier for people to find relevant material if they need to look for travel information, RAD, older child adoption related posts, etc. I hadn't realized that I had hit the 450 post mark yesterday, so maybe the blog refresh and changes were long overdue!

It is an arduous task to go back and label each previous post when you have 450 of them, and I am about a third of the way done. In order to accurately label them, I need to skim each post to remind myself of what I wrote and what topics were included as many of the posts contain multiple topics.

I have been writing this blog for 2 1/2 years now, and as I revisited those old posts I realized many things:

A) I am one blessed woman.
B) We have had an astonishing amount of things happen to us in 2 1/2 short years.
C) My own life brings me to tears at moments, and often the more powerful of these are the ones recorded that were the quieter ones...not the big spotlight events.
D) Oh, how I have changed and grown, how we all have.
E) Love is spread everywhere throughout our lives, and not just from those in "real life" but we have been loved very well and fully by those in our "virtual lives" as well.
F) The sacred is everywhere, if you only look for it.
G) I live with the 4 most incredible human beings God ever made, aside from Jesus. Yea, Dominick and the boys beat Socrates and Einstein and Mother Theresa hands down. I know you don't feel that way and might beg to differ, but is there really any other way for a Wife and Mommy to feel?
H) Our life ain't perfect, but it's good enough for me!
I) I am pretty sappy in my writing :-) Why do you read this drivel???

It's an odd thing to do, to go back and read about your life knowing how it all turned out. The fears before we brought Kenny home were very real and rational, and the certainty we felt about the rightness of it all indeed turned out to be well placed.

It is also a great gift to have thought to record things, sometimes fairly well, so that when any of us in our family do read it we can be taken right back to that very moment...the look in the eye, the little comments made that indicated a turning point, the emotions well up so easily! It may not be always be good fodder for public consumption, but in facing this task I am finding myself very glad I have forced myself to sit down and write regularly. Someday when they are all older, my children will know their mom better than most simply by reading what I have written. I acknowledge that may not be a good thing :-) but they will know the depth of my love for all of them, they will understand what makes me tick, they will maybe be able to use some of what they learn to say "Ahhh...THAT'S why she did that!"...even if they disagree with what I did.

I know that for Dominick, the blog has been a way to learn what is going on inside my head when we have been so busy we haven't had time alone for our talk to go deeper than "Who's picking up the boys tonight?" or "What time is the soccer game on Saturday?". And I think, although I may be wrong, that it has helped him get more in touch with his own feelings about all that has happened in our lives as he often will shyly tell me in the morning "Well, you did it again...had me crying reading about my own life!". As often happens, it is the woman who leads the man down the emotional seas of life, steering and helping him navigate when he struggles to find the words. Hopefully, that is what the blog has done for Dominick at moments as we together each do our jobs on the SS LaJoy.

But reading about Kenny's adoption and the emotions leading up to it was very poignant for me as well, especially in light of where we currently sit with our attempts to complete the adoption of our daughters.

I realized that I haven't honestly admitted something in the swirl of all that is going on, in an effort at building those fences around my heart to protect it should things ultimately fall apart.

I want them so much, my heart aches. I yearn to be their mom. I desperately want to experience all the wonder that will come with mothering girls...yes, even the raging hormones, the explosive mommy-bashing in the teen years, the healing that no doubt will be necessary for any older child who has been adopted to move forward to a productive and healthy adult life. I want to take them clothes shopping and gasp at what they want to wear, I want to see their smiles when they have that right of passage of getting their ears pierced, I want to see them in a prom dress. So much will already have been missed that I can only think of the future and not the past.

Actually, I sense it is not so much that I only "want" them, but that I need them in every way. Just as I needed Matthew, Joshua and then Kenny...I can't explain why I need more children, why I need two girls. But I do, and I give up trying to figure it out.

It is funny, as I look back on it. When we first wrapped our mind about the sudden possibility that we might really and truly become the parents of 5 children, I was in a total state of panic. FIVE kids??? Who in the heck does that? Were we going to be one of those families with the back window of our car covered in a foot long string of stick figure representing our family?? Laundry for 7 people??? Are you KIDDING me? How do you manage the logistics of the lives of 7 people? College for 5 kids...forget that, how about even coming up with soccer fees for 5??? Then came even more practical things....we only have a 40 gallon water heater and a septic system to worry about, we will not be able to transport friends AND kids with a standard minivan, we don't even have enough kitchen chairs at our table.

And in the time that it has taken over the past 2 years to get to this place, somehow all of those concerns have fallen by the wayside. It will work itself out, if only we can get them home. I don't fret and stew about laundry or transportation anymore, no instead I finally have my head on straight and am thinking about the most important things...what if we never get the chance to parent them? Somehow, I still manage to hang on to hope, and recognize that the logistics are the least important part of it all...we have Team LaJoy and somehow laundry will get done and kids will get where they need to get even if it is a little hectic. At least it will be a "Happy Hectic".

So I have allowed myself for the moment this afternoon to re-open the door to my heart, to let a little of the stress and desire come to surface, and now I will tuck it away again behind the fences where it will remain until...well...just until...

In the meantime, as I spend my quiet evening labeling posts and reminiscing, I sit here in profound gratitude for the amazing, incredible, not-so-noteworthy-but-perfectly-wonderful life we have led thus far. There will always be more to the story, regardless of what the future holds. No doubt I will shed more tears of both joy and sorrow as we watch our sons mature into men and hopefully watch our daughters grow into amazing young women. That story may never be important to anyone else but us, but as the saying goes:

"Home is where your story begins."

Thanks for visiting our home and hearing our stories.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Looking for a Little Sunshine!

Well folks, turns out is was pneumonia. So I am spending the weekend doing absolutely nothing, popping pills and resting. The medications are already helping and I am hoping I will be in top form by next week. Seems I find myself fighting this stuff every 6 months, like clockwork, and my history of allergy and asthma problems exacerbate it and make me quite susceptible to having a plain old ordinary cold turn into something quite difficult to shake. I HATE being down for the count like this, it is hard for me to simply stop, but I am slowly learning to be better at it.

As you can see, the downtime has finally allowed me to work on changing the blog layout...and I apologize for the imbalanced look at the moment. I do not know HTML so I am struggling to figure out how to fix the margins. If anyone out there has any clue, I'd sure appreciate the help! I kind of like the new layout and colors, it's a tad bit more "girlie" without being TOO girlie :-) In time I will add more to it, and I still want to tag/label all my old posts...but at over 400 of them that might never get accomplished...unless the pneumonia sticks around far longer than it should! Haha! I think it might be helpful to some though to find RAD, Older Child Issues, etc as right now they are buried in the blog. I never did it way back when I started the blog as I NEVER imagined writing it this long!

I also need to get started working with Matthew and Kenny on their blogs! Yes, eventually the boys will each have their own blog. We will use it as a tool for writing assignments for school when we finally travel to Kazakhstan. I am not sure how successful we will be with Kenny writing one, we will give it a shot and see how he does with it. I think it will be fascinating to read what each of them has to say about their experiences over there, and it might give our readers some insight into an adopted child's thoughts as they return to their birth country. I have no idea how "literary" it will be, but since it will be part of their schoolwork they will have to do their best. And I also think it will be a wonderful journal for them to go back and read someday when they are older. Who knows, we might even set one up for Joshie and have him dictate what he would like to say! We will certainly have plenty of downtime while traveling, so we should be able to do pretty well with it if we make it a priority to stick with it.

It has been a very interesting and unsettling couple of weeks around our house, lots of things happening that I am not really at liberty to share at the moment but which are causing Dominick and I to look deeply at God's guidance in our lives, ascertaining directions to turn and where we will be in a few months. I realized too just how much I have pulled back in terms of living for the adoption, I am going through the motions of doing whatever is required but nothing feels imminent, there is definitely a wall up right now and emotions are quite guarded. We have done absolutely nothing to prepare really, other than paperwork. It has been hard to start letting go a little at a time as I WANT to get excited, I WANT to be at the stage where we can talk about it again with joy and anticipation, I WANT to be DOING something to prepare....I WANT TO NEST!!! But for some reason, I just can't get there yet...can't allow myself to let go. I keep thinking that I will put so much distance between us and our long-hoped for reality, that one day I will wake up and get "the call" and scream in utter panic thinking to myself "How could you do this??? You have had 2 1/2 years, for goodness sake!!".

Oh how I wish that actually WOULD happen.

In the meantime, we methodically attack things that we know need to be done...still working on Matthew's passport and paperwork is on it's way to our friend, Ayana, in Astana. Need to get Kenny's US passport. Waiting for that new FBI background check to replace the expired one. Busy work, but all necessary. What I really want to be doing is calling for airline reservations, I want suitcases spread all over the floor...I want GIRLIE things (oh my gosh, did I REALLY say that???) to be bought!!

All in God's time, right? It's clear it will happen, I keep reminding myself when anxiety arises, it's been made known over and over again so I just need to sit back and not stress over it.


But I will tell you, the day we get the call, you will see the most excited, over the top, glee filled post you have ever read!!

With that, I am off to rest, to pop more pills, to hopefully find myself feeling more human with each passing hour. In the meantime, here is a little sunshine for you all...sunshine and rainbows, man, here's looking for a little more! Even if you don't need it, I do!!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

"Adopting Alesia: My Crusade for my Russian Daughter"

If you look off to the left and see the links for other blogs, you will find one for the "Crab Chronicles". That blog is one I have followed for years and is written by adoptive mom Dee Thompson. Dee and I are friends of the close internet variety, having emailed back and forth for a very long time and yet not having the pleasure of meeting in person. Dee has written and published 2 books, and the book to the left is her new "baby". I was lucky enough to receive an signed edition in the mail yesterday afternoon, and of course I ripped it open and proceeded to spend the evening reading the entire book. What can I say, I am sick, coughing all night and this was a GREAT way to take my mind off it all!

Her title is very apt, as her pursuit of adopting Alesia indeed became a crusade. Against seemingly insurmountable odds, and as doors kept closing Dee shares with us how she refuses to quit, how she stood in front of the doors and kicked them in with her modest, low heeled footwear (anyone who has been to Russia will understand THAT joke! The high heels there, whew!)! Although under circumstances that are quite different in many respects, it might be obvious to many why I can relate so well to such a well told story.

For those who have yet to travel to adopt from any of the former USSR countries, the vivid descriptions had me chuckling with their accuracy. This would be a wonderful book to get a strong sense of the environment, the attitudes, the cultural differences that you will experience.

Utilizing actual saved emails which are sprinkled liberally throughout, Dee weaves her crusade tale expertly and the authenticity of those communications lends itself to helping the reader feel very "present" as each part of the story unfolds.

As the months drag on, as the wait extends far longer than anticipated, you can feel the author's roller coaster emotions, something that will resonate with many adoptive parents who find themselves in the same leaden shoes as they wait for what seems an eternity for their adoption process to be completed. The descriptions of seeing children who have changed over the time it has taken to adopt them and they have grown ever-older were personally touching for me. I've been there, I've felt that, I know what it is like.

I find that reading stories such as "Adopting Alesia:..." help me as I work through our own adoption processes. Let's face it, though international adoption is not exactly an unheard of oddity these days, thanks to Angelina and Crew, it still remains an experience that most of us are unable to fully share with anyone in our mommy cliques unless there happens to be someone nearby who has also adopted internationally. When one considers that fewer than 5% of all international adoptees are over 5 years old, the odds of running into someone whose life experience mirrors your own is very slim...and our experiences as parents of older internationally adopted post-institutionalized children is a very, very unique one with a distinct set of fears and challenges. Reading Dee's work was a great reminder that I am not alone in how we formed our family, that others have done it and the horror stories that non-adoptive "friends" always want to share with us to warn us of the train wreck coming our way are not ALWAYS true! There are many Alesia's out there, and there are many families like Dee's and mine who have successfully adopted older children and would do it again in a heartbeat if the opportunity presented itself.

No, "Adopting Alesia" is not a 20/20 expose on the nightmare of adopting older children from Russia. Sadly, stories like this one rarely get the airtime that the others receive. I say that not to deny the very true reality that many families face of emotional issues with their older adoptees...sure, those stories are out there and are part of the larger mosaic of the story of internationally adopted children. But it is refreshing to read a story that more closely fits with the overwhelming vast majority of stories I have heard directly out of the mouths of mothers and fathers for years...children overcoming incredibly difficult pasts to embrace a new life and a new family with gusto, adoptive parents going to great lengths to bring their children home and provide them with the tools they need for success.

Read this well written chronicle of a mom's resolute and relentless pursuit of her child. You will come away shaking your head in admiration for both mom and daughter.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I've Got the Sick House Blues!

Yet again I am amazed at how quickly kids recover from illness. Matthew caught the crud I have on Saturday, spent 3 feverish hours asleep on the couch next to me napping yeesterday afternoon...and today was up and rarin' to go despite the lingering cough

I, on the other hand, am definitely not up to par yet. Sleep has been elusive with coughing spasms throughout the night and a strange recurring dream about our family somehow getting trapped in Kazakhstan by terrorists and having to fight our way over the border and over the mountains into Kyrgyzstan in order to evade capture. Yea...as you can tell it has been some way-out-there night drama

I have spent the last 6 days doing nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing. I am trying to learn when to STOP when my body asks it, but of course sometimes I don't have that luxury. It seems that for the past couple of years I am getting this respiratory stuff like clockwork every 6 months and have a 2+ week battle fighting it off. While I will readily admit to being somewhat whimpy in character, this stuff is nasty and Dominick has been sleeping in the other room to try and spare himself the misery.

I am glad I hit the library just prior to coming down with it, as at least I had plenty of reading material at hand. In between watching a borrowed collection of DVD's of the first season of "The West Wing", I have read 8 novels since Friday. They include:

1) 1 James Patterson thriller
2) 2 Karen Kingsbury Christian romantic/family dramas
3) Spiritual Sayings of Khalil Gibran
4) Growing Up Amish - The Teenage Years
5) Joyce Meyers 100 Ways to Simplify Your Life - And realizing I am really, really complicated!!
6) While They Slept - An Inquiry Into the Murder of a Family: This is a really interesting study on one real life case of parricide.
7) "Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled - and More Miserable Than Ever Before" - This is an insightful and interesting read which is leaving me conflicted as I read it. Much of it is common sense to anyone who has given this much thought, and some of it is helpful to inform us of how to parent and raise our children differently. I actually don't see my generation of children as being a fit in this "Generation Me" and am thinking that this economic downturn will limit this kind of self-centered thinking. This book was published in 2006 right at the peak before the decline began.

Boring, I know. But it beats daytime TV!! This batch of books was less eclectic than is my norm. Usually a bi-weekly visit will have 8 or 10 novels that are all over the map in terms of subject matter. I don't always read them all, and like to have plenty to fill in should I have picked a loser or two in the bunch. Now I have had tons of reading time this week as I have felt so lousy and been in bed a lot, and this probably looks as if I totally ignore the kids while I am kicking back on the sofa reading and eating bon bons. But I am fortunate enough to be a fairly quick reader, and most of my reading during a non-sick time is usually done after the kids are in bed, or when in a car on a long trip. In a normal week I plow through 3-4 books a week and usually have them laying all over the house in various stages of completion.

The Generation Me book will be one that stays with me for awhile, I can already tell. The conversation on the sense of entitlement of most young people today is one that needs to be held, and the focus on "Me" is one that is well explained and contrasted in this work. It is something we continually fight against in our home...or at least try to maintain a balance about. The idea of "healthy self-esteem" being fostered rather than earned is one I tend to buck against a little. While I can certainly understand both sides of the coin on the issue, I am a firm believer in the fact that "self-esteem" CAN be overrated, that our incessant spouting about it means that often our kids are deprived of the true self-esteem building experiences that are so important...and that in many parents's minds today "self-esteem" is often mistaken for spoiling and pampering.

I want our kids to earn things, I want them to gain confidence in themselves as they gradually develop skills, I want them to not feel they are entitled to a $250,000 house and a $70,000 salary upon graduation from high school. I also recognize the reality that in today's world it will be significantly more challenging for them to obtain a home and a decent paying job than it was for us...and it wasn NOT easy for us and STILL isn't. I want to find the balance between encouraging them and complimenting them on true strengths and gifts, and overinflating their egos to create a monster of entitlement. I want them to learn that giving to others has a reward unlike any other and that our greatest happiness comes from that very thing rather than concering ourselves only with our own gain. It took me years and years to figure that out, and when the day arrived that I truly embraced loving my neighbor as myself I instantly became a healthier and happier individual. I'd like my kids to understand that at a much younger age than I did.

Well, don't know where that tirade came from but let's move on....hahahaha!

We are trying to restore health in the LaJoy house quickly as we have a great camping trip scheduled this weekend with several families from our church, and then next week we have a road trip to Wichita!! I need to feel better, I need to get out of the slump I have fallen in the past couple of weeks. There are a few things going on which have knocked me off center, and I need to gain some perspective. There is nothing like time spent with great friends to get you thinking about all that is good in your life rather than focusing on fears for the future. The boys were cheering today as we talked about our Mommy and Sons road trip. Much to my surprise they are looking forward to being in the car, singing and watching movies and talking for so long. They are very much looking forward to the end of the road where we will gather the giggling gaggle of kids and have a blast playing with friends.

In the meantime, the boys are busy making up silly backyard games and enjoying hanging out doing nothing. They have their dedicated dirt barrel to play in which is part of our raised garden. I couldn't begin to count the hours over the years that thing has been played in...with $3 worth of plastic army men and popsicle sticks to build barricades...and water as pictured to the left to flood and create moats.

We also are tending Dominick's favorite summertime garden project where we are growing tomatoes, potatoes, corn, peppers, carrots and onions. Yea, I know we have 3 acres of land and the barrells look silly, I know it makes no sense. But I also know we have very little time to garden and weed it all, and so we found this was a way to have a garden we could actually attend to well. And it works! Our neighbors laughed at us like crazy when they first saw us growing corn in it, saying it'll never work and thinking I am sure "City Slickers" but we had the last laugh when we were nibbling on our ears of corn and our homemade salsa!

The boys were playing on the trampoline today and made up a new game. Kenny was trying to "shoot out" the bubbles that Matthew and Joshie were blowing. In the meantime, Matt and Josh both got soaked and they all had a blast. I am sometimes so grateful that it takes so little for my kids to be entertained and happy!

And here is a photo of Matt at his birthday party with the traditional Lajoy chocolate cake with sprinkles on top and magic toothpicks in the center. It wouldn't be a birthday without it!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Weekend Update: Not Saturday Night Live!

Learning to stop. It is a hard thing for me to do, but with the help of others I am doing it this week. We are not going to Salt Lake City, with the nudge of the friends we are traveling with, I admitted I feel pretty icky and would prefer not to go right now. Breaking the news to Matthew was hard as he had so been looking forward to going to the Air Museum at the Air Force Base there. A few tears were shed, and not all by my now 10 year old boy, but despite the tears he reassured me that it was OK and he understood, he was just disappointed. We will definitely be making this trip up before summers end. I hate being the cause of disappointing everyone and was still going to go despite how I feel. But I admit to being relieved to be able to just lay around, hack my lungs up for the next few days, and hopefully be feeling better by next week.

Although I am under the weather, I sure had a nice day. I am alone with 3 boys, and needing plenty of rest. I had a tray brought in to me this morning with breakfast on it. OK... we won't mention that it was dry cereal and untoasted bread, but it was very thoughtful and made me smile. I am so lucky to have kids who pretty much entertain themselves, even with no TV. They all played all day together, outside with water, on the trampoline, inside with legos and games. And every hour or so one of them (or often all 3!) would come in the bedroom and check on me, tuck me in nicely and tell me they were just in the living room if I needed anything. Later this afternoon Joshie came in and crawled under the covers with me, and we lay there side by side talking quietly and he slowly drifted off to sleep. It was exactly what we both needed after yesterday, I think.

Yesterday at Matt's party I was talking with my friend, from whom this shouldn't have surprised me at all knowing how she feels about our family. She was speaking about an extended family member who was adopted and reunified with his biological mother years ago. We discussed the situation and she kept referring to the "real" mom, and it took me a few minutes of conversation to realize that she was referring to the ADOPTIVE mom as the "real" mom!! Although I am not one to worry much about political correctness, I have to admit it felt nice to think that someone so close to my heart saw me as definitely my kids "real" mom.

So it will be a mellow weekend, likely spent with me laying around doing nothing much but talking in a creaky voice, being up all night coughing, and hoping Joshie is NOT up all night with nightmares!

Houston, We Have A Problem

After a long, cough-filled night I sit here with laptop in hand feeling utterly exhausted. We had Matthew's birthday party last night and ended up with 7 little boys running around on a treasure hunt, then settling down (as well as 7 little boys will settle down!) for a fondue meal! It was Matthew's idea, and it was a lot of fun and something none of the boys had ever done before. Today is actually Matt's "real" birthday, and I refuse to believe he is 10 years old already. How I wish I could stop the passing of time, that I could keep him my little boy forever. But the ever growing solid body in front of me is a reminder that time stops for no one, and he is maturing and facing new challenges every single day. When do you change from calling them "boy" to "young man"? There are moments lately when it feels almost demeaning to call him a "boy" as he gradually continues his ascent to manhood. Yet there are still sweet moments when I am reminded there is still a little boy lurking inside...when he cuddles his stuffed animals, when he crawls up into my lap.

There is a bit of a cloud looming right now, as Joshua has entered a season of real emotional pain and we are trying to get to the bottom of it. Yesterday I became convinced we could not longer assume it was another temporary phase and I am now in the process of pursuing appropriate help. Kenny and Josh have been taking swim lessons through our local Park and Rec. Department. For the past 2 weeks I drive them to their school where a bus picks them up and takes them to the pool, then drops them back off when they are done. All has gone well until a couple of days ago when Josh got a bit weepy and said he didn't want to go on the bus because he was afraid it was going to crash, so I drove the boys over myself to the pool and watched them swim.

Yesterday I was running short on time and asked Josh if he could ride the bus and he said "yes" so we headed over. As we arrived the bus was there waiting and suddenly Josh comes unglued. There he is, my poor baby, standing in the street screaming and sobbing that he doesn't want to go, that the bus is going to crash, that he just wants to be with me. I urge Kenny to get on the bus and I talk to Josh in an effort to try and figure out what is going on, I ask him if he wants me to take him to the pool myself and he says he doesn't even want to be at the pool if I can not be right next to him. He is still sobbing, almost inconsolable and I tell him to hop back in the car where his cries become softer and he gives me a big hug and says "Thank you Mama for not making me go.". He gets settled in his car seat, tears still falling and I ask him "Joshie, what is going on? Why are you so worried?" and he says "I don't know Mama, my heart just is scared all the time now.".

This has been gradually escalating over the past 3 months or so. I at first wondered if our trip to Chicago was a trigger, leaving him here with friends, but Dominick reminded me that we were seeing things long before that. He is now having night terrors 4 or 5 nights a week now where he will cry out in the night things like "Mama don't leave me!" and the other night "No, don't hurt Matthew!". This past weekend when he was spending the night camping with our friends and we went up to spend the day with them all, he was off with all the kids on a walk around the pathways in the camping area and when they got to a place where they couldn't see our campsite despite the fact that they all knew where it was, Joshie became suddenly terrified and started crying desperately that they were lost and he couldn't find us...even though they all knew where we were.

Last night, after everyone had left and things had settled down Dominick and I had a talk with Josh, and he can not explain what he is feeling...he can not describe it as fear we will not return or will leave him, he can't define it in any way other than "There is something wrong inside my heart and I feel scared.".

I feel so helpless right now, I have no idea what to do to offer him some sense of peace. We continue to see things resurface from time to time as he hits new developmental stages, but this is the worst it has been since the very beginning, and it is extremely painful to watch. I can not explain what it is like...to see your child in physical pain is one thing, as there are concrete steps you can take to alleviate that pain. To have your young child in emotional pain is another thing altogether, as often the steps needed are not clear and the waters are muddied. I HATE that Joshie is walking around with this heavy heart dragging along with him, that he is so often scared of day to day life and doesn't even understand why.

What makes this even harder is that the rest of the time, all appears to be well. He is not acting depressed in the way you and I know it, he is joyful much of the time, he seems calm and rational on a daily basis. It is just when these triggers occur and he begins to panic suddenly, and then he looses it, or when he has the bad thoughts deep in the night.

I think I will not be spending any time away from him for quite awhile, and that as soon as I am feeling better we are going to go back to co-sleeping or at least having him in a nest on the floor near our bed every night. But I will be the first to admit that this is so deep inside him, I am clueless about how to approach it and now we need professional help. All I know is that I don't want my 6 year old walking around filled with terror every day, I don't think MY heart can take it! Josh is such a tender little spirit in the first place, and most who meet him comment about that very thing...it stands out. I don't know whether he has become that gentle person because of what he has been through, or if he is so affected by it all because that is who he was in the first place. That whole "nature vs. nurture" debate continues and we never really know which begats which. All I know is that I want my son to feel safe and secure walking through this world, and it is my job to do what I can to help him get to that place.

So though our home remains happy and our lives full, there is always a bump in the road that keeps us humble and grateful for all that is good. I wish it was as easy as contacting Mission Control and saying "Houston, we have a problem.". But then again, maybe it IS that easy if I just focus on moving forward productively in the ways we can, and turning it over to God, our greatest "Mission Control".

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Aniticipating Needs, Accepting with Grace

When you live far from family or find yourself in the position of not having much in the way of immediate family in the first place, you do the best you can to ignore that fact. We don't have grandparents at the kids events as so many of their friends do, we don't have someone to call on a moments notice and ask them if they could watch the kids for an hour or two will we go shopping, we rarely go out for a "date" because the cost of the date plus a sitter makes the evening too expensive. However, when you are in these shoes you honestly don't think much about it because that's just the way it is...you muddle through the best way you can, you improvise, you haul kids to work with you, you plop them in front of a TV with a video when you are feeling sick yourself. You don't know any better because that is the way it has always been, and you take it for granted that no one in their right mind wants to be bothered with your children. When the total eventually reaches 5 kids, it will really be ridiculous to expect anyone to handle them all! Just because we are nuts doesn't mean others are :-)

Somehow though, in the midst of need, there is "family". It may not be family by the Webster's definition, but it is certainly family by God's definition. While there is no biological tie to many of those we consider our "family", we don't seem to put much stock in that in the first place around the LaJoy household!

The past couple of months have really had others reaching out to offer their support of us, to show us their love for our family in the best way possible...the gift of time. They have watched our children while we were in Chicago for Kenny's surgery, allowing Dominick to be able to be there too rather than worrying about having him stay home to be with Matthew and Joshua. Our adopted family again stepped in when Kenny and I had our sudden and unexpected trip to Washington, DC, making it much easier for us to leave knowing that the burden wouldn't all be on Dominick to figure it out.

The past couple of days have shown that as well. I am sick. I am not at death's door or anything but I have a nasty cold that I tried to shake off but hit full force a couple of days ago, leaving me drained and feverish with a husky voice that might be nice if I was trying to be Lauren Bacall, but alas, I am not. We have Matthew's birthday party tomorrow and our trip to Salt Lake City on Saturday, and I am trying hard to cut back and take it easy in an effort to shake this thing...all in the midst of our usual busy schedule.

Yesterday, the boys were supposed to go pull weeds at our adopted Grandpa's house. He "won" them at our church's "time and talent" auction a few weeks ago, and we had settled on yesterday to get the job done before he had guests showing up from out of town. We were going to make a fun afternoon out of it, including weed pulling, pizza and a game of Scrabble between he and I. I called to beg off on my part early in the day, explaining I was feeling under the weather. What happens? Not only do the kids end up at his house to complete the task, but he watches a movie with them and then takes them all out for dinner! This thoughtful gesture allowed me the entire afternoon and early evening to "veg out" with a book and some cough drops with no responsibilities or guilt about not doing anything with the boys. It was a real gift, and not something I anticipated or even knew how to ask for.

Today, our dear Mr. Steve called and offered to pick the boys up from swimming lessons tomorrow, which is very much out of his way and not near his home at all, then feed them lunch and begin "Mr. Steve's Summer Woodworking Academy" with them, as he is going to kindly work with them on woodworking projects over the summer. This will give me time to get things ready for Matt's party and maybe even relax a little in between. Again, something that never would have occured to me to ask for, and yet someone anticipated a need and stepped forward.

There are times when I wonder what we have ever done to deserve this kind of thoughtfulness from others. I also wonder if those who make a point of being involved with our sons realize how precious their presence in the LaJoy Boy's life really is, if they see how they are filling gaps for them that could never be filled. Sadly, we may not have living grandpa's for our sons, but they are under the care of many loving men, young and old, who are contributing in so many ways to who they will become. We may not live near grandma's and aunties, but we have so many wonderful women who step in and out of our lives as needed, offering love and tenderness when mommy is not there. Friends grandma's who willingly take on 3 more kids saying "Why not? I'd love to have them!", or combo auntie-grandma's who share with delight in all the silly things they do when there is no one else to share it with.

As I sit back and think about it, I hope I too have been that person in someone else's life from time to time. I have had to learn some really big lessons about receiving in the past couple of years, and they have not been easy to accept. Receiving graciously the gifts of others that are offered us can be a real challenge, especially when you are not used to it being offered so freely. I used to be fiercely independent, grew up in a family where you never took anything from anyone...you could do it yourself or you didn't do it at all. It was all about that "rugged individualism" that is so often spouted on talk radio. Those lessons were not at all bad ones to learn either, as you learned to stand on your own two feet, to take care of yourself and yours, and to rely on yourself.

Oh, I was halfway decent at reaching out to others...I delivered Meals on Wheels in high school, volunteered here and there for various things, and I think I did it with the right spirit...not trying to say "look how good I am" but because I truly wanted to help others. What I never learned in all of that was that there comes a time when others want and even need to do for you, and your rejection of their offers of assistance...no matter what the reason...can be hurtful and damage relationships. It makes relationships one sided. It took me awhile to see this on a deeper level, and even longer to begin to practice accepting love and care from others without feeling like a "sponge" myself (OK, so maybe I am not really there yet but I am trying!). I also learned that we may never be able to help those in concrete ways who have helped us, as that may not be where God wants to use us, but if we remain open to the Holy Spirit working through us we find many, many other ways in which we can "repay" our debt of gratitude. I will readily admit our Adoption Angel has done enormous teaching in this area, and I am slowly getting it through my thick head.

So I sit here tonight, blogging and hacking away with a pack of Hall's drops near my side, and I am decidedly giving up guilt over the love shown us and am actively saying prayers of thanks for care in even the littlest of things. I am grateful to everyone...our blog readers included...who show such love and care for our family. Your ongoing prayers, your kindness, your words of support are just as meaningful, whether it be for a measly cold or for the quick processing of adoption documents. We need you, and I hope that somehow you need us too.

:::cough cough::: :::hack hack::: :::blow blow::: ::: sneeze sneeze::: Good Night!

Saturday, June 06, 2009

I Heart Colorado!!!

The Home of My Heart

There are many things in life that I have lived to regret, many things that didn't turn out quite the way I had hoped, but the one thing I have forever been grateful for is moving to Colorado. It was quite a leap of faith for us, very scary in so many ways. We had no jobs, bought a house, and basically thrust ourselves into a "sink or swim" situation of our own making. The first few years were terribly hard (Heck, it still is now!! Who am I foolin'??) and required an enormous amount of sweat equity.

The life we have now here is one I never could have dreamed of having, it has the depth of relationships that make life so sweet, it has the beauty and spaciousness we are surrounded by that nurtures peace in our hearts, and it is Home with a capital "H"...something I never felt while growing up in Southern California. Maybe I did when I was very young, but as I entered middle school and especially high school I grew to feel a sense of longing for my heart's home, and I knew that where I was living was not it. I never knew anyone else who felt that call to a different place so strongly until recently, when someone new in my life expressed the same thing about returning to this area of the country. I knew exactly what she meant, as I too felt out of place somewhere once as well and experienced the sense of well being that came with finding my heart's home.

We explored a new area of our world today, going up to the high country to visit the boys who are camping with Kenny's best buddy's family. I don't know why we have never managed to get up to this incredible plateau before now, but seem to have always ended up going in opposite directions. Standing on what felt like the very edge of the world, looking out over the vista that God placed before me...seeing easily all the way into Utah...I was filled with something akin to indebtedness to God for providing us with this landscape, for helping us to raise our family in a place that often feels so sacred and special. I was talking with my fellow mommy this afternoon about how being able to access such quiet and natural spaces soothes the soul and allows you to get in touch with all that is greater than ourselves. It also helps us see how we need to live in harmony with the land around us, to show it respect, to remember we are caretakers of all that is before us.

More importantly is the community in which our children are being raised, where it may appear sometimes that poverty reigns but in fact it is a poverty of material posessions only...not a poverty of spirit as I often witnessed during my own childhood growing up in an area that rapidly became affluent. We live in a community where people reach out to one another, where nature is appreciated, where obtaining the latest and greatest TV is not uppermost on the majority of our friends' minds. We still hang out in the summer evenings visiting with our neighbors while swatting at mosquitos and discussing irrigating our land. We wave at everyone who walks or passes us by while driving...to not do so would be considered absolutely impolite in our neck of the woods! And when someone says they know someone who lives in Montrose, you ask for details because there really is a very good chance you may know them!!

Our children are having a childhood very unlike my own, a city dweller like me who grew up being taught not to talk to strangers (let alone wave or show a friendly smile), who never saw a real cow or deer up close until I was in my late teens, who didn't have a clue what the true meaning of "community" was.

In keeping with my Vow for Summer 2009, I brought the camera with me today, and I captured a few photos which I liked. Of course, they are mostly all of the family really, despite my effort to face my lens in other directions...it seems to have a mind of it's own :-) Let me share a little of my Colorado Mountain Afternoon with you...

Uhhhh...yes, we really ARE in Colorado and we really DO have really BIG and SCARY wildlife!

This is their idea of "firewood"...but with no axe to cut it into small logs!

The newly christened "Dirty, Smelly Camping Gang!"

Does this kid ever stop smiling???

Joshie is the "Man of Many Faces"!

The true Hero of the LaJoy family story!!
I love you, Dominick!!!!

Playing "Hide and Seek" in the forrest but giggling so loud they are easy to find!

"He's MY Daddy!!"

"The Unabomber"
We are always teasing Kenny about having his hood on everywhere he goes!

Caught in a "GQ" pose!

Friday, June 05, 2009

Summer, Full Steam Ahead!

Now that the excitement has died down from our Washington, DC trip, life is getting back to normal...whatever that actually means around the LaJoy house. Laundry is caught up, suitcases are back in the garage, and we are trying to settle into some sort of summer routine. I have to ask this...does any other family who reads this blog and has adopted internationally more than once seem to have an inordinate amount of luggage in a variety of sizes? I am floored at how many suitcases and duffel's we have, from carry ons to large rolling suitcases. Easily we have 9 or 10 and probably more than that if I went and counted. And STILL it seems we never quite have exactly the right size for any particular trip we are taking. I honestly don't want to collect luggage, but we seem to do everything from overnight camping to weeks long trips and have amassed a Walmart aisle full of bags!

I am already feeling "ripped off" this summer as we still do not have summer weather here. As I look out my front window it is cloudy and blustery with rain and high winds due later this afternoon...and we have had rain almost every single day! Summer with the kids always seems far too short to me anyway, and with the weather being what it is it feels more as if we are in early spring.

During a brief interlude Wednesday morning Matthew was outside playing in the water with a friend who was over, and I managed to get a couple of pictures:

The body may be getting bigger, but the photo on the right looks exactly like one I took when he was about 3 years old. Same broad smile, same delight in his eyes. How I wish they all weren't growing up so fast, and yet how I enjoy the people they are all becoming.

I received my new assignments for my next semester of classes for the lay ministry program, and just as with the first ones I am feeling the panic rise. These are not lightweight classes, and as I read through the syllabus for each one I find myself growing more and more intimidated. This semester will be very difficult, and will include homiletics (preaching) and Christian Worship. Just as with my first semester, I found my initial reaction being "I can't do this.", and I am hoping that as the semester goes on I find that I actually CAN do it.

My own personal faith journey has been transformed through these classes, even if I eventually find I never use them in ministry it will have been well worth the time put into study. Yet for every new discovery it seems only to lead to a vast cavern which contains even more questions. While I still have great uncertainty about where all of this is leading, I find I am more drawn than ever to finding my place and learning what God has in store. It seems that somehow this course of study will come in handy and will be used someday, and my curiosity grows as I continue my search for whatever path is meant for me. I have so many wonderful mentors in my life who are gently nudging and steering me, who express great confidence in the direction I am taking. Without these people in my life, I highly doubt I would take myself very seriously in this arena, and that serves to teach me how valuable our own encouragement of others actually is.

Someone else is working hard at their studies, as we try and incorporate a few things over the summer to keep the kids up to speed. We checked out 40 books or so from the library last week and have read a good portion of them already. All 3 boys will be doing some writing projects in composition books I got each of them. Josh started yesterday without being asked and wrote a full page story about Iron Man :-) He is our major Super Hero kid and never seems to tire of creating stories in his mind and acting them out by himself as he saves some poor innocent person or challenges a "bad guy". He can play by the hours acting out scenes, and of course it is accompanied by appropriate sound effects which are surprisingly accurate

For all our efforts to create more down time this summer, it seems we have a rapidly filling schedule of fun activities ahead. This weekend we are going to spend Saturday up in the mountains with Kenny's best buddy's family, and Sunday night we are going to hear Dave Roever who is visiting our local high school. Dave has a very touching and powerful Christian testimony to share and I think our entire family will enjoy it. You can learn more about Dave at: http://www.daveroever.net/ . We are then going to visit Salt Lake City next weekend with our close friends. This is a special treat for Matthew for his birthday as we are going to see an aerospace museum at Hill Air Force Base. The following weekend we are going camping with several families from our church which we always look forward to. The next week I will be driving to Wichita with the boys to visit our friends in a long overdue get together with our 3 kiddos from Aktobe (Matthew and their two daughters). After our aborted attempt last summer in Denver, this will be a very special time for all of us. Mercifully, July looks relatively empty other than a week at La Foret church camp for Matt and Kenny. I will look forward to spending the week alone with Joshie, and maybe we will do something special together.

On the adoption front, we are redoing our FBI fingerprints and medicals which expired, and then hopefully...finally...our dossier will be submitted to the Embassy. At this stage I have given up even trying to plan when we might travel, which makes it difficult considering the length of time we need to be gone. However, giving up thinking about it also seems to help keep my heart intact. I hope that eventually I will be kicking myself for not being more prepared, I'd love nothing more than to find myself scrambling to pull a bedroom together while at the same time crossing items off my packing lists.

For the rest of summer I vow to:

1) Read a gazillion books
2) Take my camera out far more often, shoot photos of more than just the kids!
3) Swim more
4) Stay up late, tell more stories in the dark, play more with flashlights
5) Tickle more, giggle more, wiggle more
6) Nurture friendships
7) Be Happy
I wonder if I will revisit this list in 3 months and feel I accomplished much of what is on it.
What is on YOUR summer list??