Sunday, February 27, 2011

Kenny's Debut

We had a very nervous boy this morning as Kenny mentally prepared himself to be liturgist for our Sunday worship service at church.  Unfortunately we didn't get the bulletin until Saturday evening, so he didn't have very much time to prepare, but we spent the late evening and early morning going over and over what he was to say.  We spent a lot of time working on enunciation, as Kenny's speech can be difficult to understand at times for those who are not used to hearing him speak on a daily basis.  There were also many words that were very hard for him to pronounce...compassion, imbue and constant were some of the tongue twisters for him but we worked and worked on them until they came out mostly correct.

The church we attend, Hillcrest Congregational United Church of Christ, is a gift in a million ways, but one of the ways that was most important on this special day was that our son at 12 years old could stand up front and lead his congregation in worship to the best of his ability, feeling certain he was loved and respected for who he was.  There was no fear of private ridicule as he tried on this new role, he felt safe and secure to step out and not worry about if every word came out correctly, or if he made a mistake in other ways.  He knew he would be supported in the effort and that, as our pastor has often emphasized and rightly so, this was NOT a performance, this is worship, and that negates the need to feel pressured to be perfect. 

Did he make mistakes?  Sure, a couple.  Did he stumble a little?  Yes, but just a bit.  Overall, Kenny exuded a confidence and maturity that surprised even me, and he walked away standing just a little bit taller and recognizing that his contributions to the life of our church are just as important as anyone else's.  And no less than 3 people shared with me privately that they were in tears seeing him up there, realizing all he has to struggle with and has also overcome.  Many know of his academic challenges and his speech issues are obvious.  But this little guy has gumption, and he IS going to make it in this world.  It will not be all his parents' doing either, Kenny and all our kids have a little piece of so many other wonderful, loving people inside of them.  Do they have challenges beyond what other children might face?  In reality I acknowledge that is true.  But those challenges are being lifted up and cared for by a community of folks who, in big and small ways, are contributing to them overcoming them.  Those folks with tears in their eyes today care about our kids too, and I am humbled by that knowledge and recognize it for what it is, the long reach of God's arms.

And as Kenny sat side by side with our pastor in the front pew, her arm gently resting on around his shoulders, I realized God's arms are multiplied by all of us...we ALL are God's arms, if only we elect to use them in ways that are love affirming.

Other than Kenny's liturgical debut, we have had a very busy weekend.  We went to the Math and Science Museum in Grand Junction on Friday, where we had a great time with all then hands on exhibits.  We spent Friday night playing a geography game from National Geographic called "Global Pursuit".  It is on loan to us from friends and we recently cracked it open to give it a try.  You HAVE to get this game if you are homeschooling and working on geography!  It is terrific fun, and your kids will love it.  They'll learn a lot without knowing they are learning a thing!  We'll be playing this one a LOT in the months to come.

We all volunteered and helped clean up at church on Saturday morning, which was a lot of fun.  Matthew in particular really showed how he has grown in size as he helped muscle furniture down staircases and broke down old counters.  All the kids worked very hard, but it is still unsettling to me to see this big, hulking body with the deep voice who is supposed to be my kid but looks and sounds nothing like he did a year ago.  He is only 11 but lately folks are mistaking him for 13 or so, and I can see why.  I need to remind myself that despite his bigger size, he is still very much a boy inside that body and needs to be allowed to BE a boy for as long as he needs to.

Our little church youth group, Explorers, had it's twice monthly meeting Saturday evening and we all enjoyed that a lot.  We are studying disabilities and the character quality of kindness, and each will receive a pin upon completion of our meeting activities.  Kenny also spoke at the meeting, sharing what it was like to have cleft lip and palate, and he did a very nice job.  We have decided to give him a "public speaking" pin for  his efforts this weekend.  Dominick and I feel it was certainly well deserved.

I have been surprised how much our kids enjoy Explorers.  They are the eldest there, and yet they are really getting a lot out of it and chatter all the way home about what we did that night as they look forward to the next one.  Here is a picture of 4 of the 5 during our awards ceremony.  We have kept the costs inexpensive so that everyone can afford it.  Our club shirts were tie dyed and made by the kids, and our awards sashes were kindly made by the grandma of one of our Explorers.  I think the kids look great!

This afternoon we had a special treat as we went to a concert locally where the focus was on Russian music, and we enjoyed the performance of an extremely talented pianist there from Russia named Kirill Gliadkovsky, who currently teaches at Southern Utah University.  "Talented" is an understatement, and I consider it quite surprising that we were able to hear someone this gifted in our little town.  Friends who provided us with tickets also made sure we could meet him afterward, and it was very meaningful in particular for Angela.  She chatted with him in Russian for a while and walked away saying over and over what a very nice man he was.  She then asked if there were guitar players who were as good as he was on the piano.  Maybe this will spur her on musically.  She really enjoyed speaking Russian face to face with someone, and poor Olesya understood very little of the conversation, her Russian is just about totally lost.  It seems to have no meaning for her, she is not at all disturbed by it, and I wonder if distancing herself isn't more important for her than retaining it.  There are a lot of emotional undertones related to native languages for adopted kids.

We ended the weekend with a lovely meal with our adopted Grandpa, who beat me at Scrabble again, much to the kids' delight.  We caught up as we hadn't visited in a couple of months and a lot has happened in each of our lives. 

Now I sit here trying to catch up on input of hours for the kids for school, trying to write a proposal to be presented at a meeting tomorrow also for school, and running through a mental list of things to get done before leaving town for Mom's Great  Homeschool Convention Adventure on Thursday.  I am starting to get a little excited, but still have a ton to do before then and wishing I was further ahead on laundry and other chores.  Somehow I'll manage, but I need to get in gear. 

Off to read a little before falling asleep and facing a busy new day!

Friday, February 25, 2011


Today seemed to be a day where the impact we all have on the lives of others was front and center.  The day started with me thinking of the incredible blessing we have had of so many people voluntarily being a part of our children's lives, sharing their time and gifts when they receive nothing from that act at all other than the knowledge that they are making a difference.  Miss Pat, Miss Elinor, Miss Lael, Mr. Rog, Miss Jane and Mr. Steve have all spent hours upon hours with our kids with no payback in the monetary sense.  Although I make feeble attempts to show our gratitude, there really is no way to adequately express that we know our children's lives are richer because of the time they spend with them.

My mind then drifted to those through the years who have unknowingly guided me in ways I carry forward to this day.  Bosses from my earliest years in the working world who encouraged and mentored me, friends who have inspired me and nudged me (and sometimes HARD!! Hahaha!), and spirit folks throughout my life who have been God in front of me, nurturing the secret soul places that often remain hidden to others.  I've had Mommy Mentors, Adoption Advisers, and Homeschooling Helpers, all of whom have made a big difference in a variety of ways.  The faces and names of those who have helped me see possibility and paths remain forever precious to me...from my first boss at 15 years old working at Sav-On, to a treasured and talented manager 10 years later as I spent 7 years learning the ins and outs of pest control and supervising others.  I was allowed to make mistakes, I was gently persuaded to try new things or take tests for advancement, I was the recipient of wisdom and knowledge that was willingly shared.  There are friends whose carefully chosen words at just the right time meant moving forward with creating a family when we had almost given up on having one, or whose laid back example helped me relax more into the ever changing role of Mom.  Then, and perhaps most importantly, there are those who have been God standing right in front of me or perhaps hundreds of miles away, showing me a Christ I had never met before and making my faith spring to life.

It makes you wonder, and this has been on my mind a lot lately as I have caught myself falling into a bit of an unhealthy rut of self-absorption, what sort of impact have I made on the lives of others?  What difference have I made?  Is there anyone out there carrying any little piece of my presence in their life years later, whether recognized as such or not?  The truth is that we all make an impact of some sort on the lives of those we spend time with.  The Big Question is, what kind of impact is it a positive, love affirming impact?  Or is it a negative, you-have-forever-made-someone-feel-inadequate sort of impact?

Two of the things I have tried to impress upon the kids during this past year of homeschooling is A)  We are judged by our actions, actions really do speak louder than words and B)  Words mean things.  What is B, you ask?  We live in a world that at times is uncivil, unkind, unthoughtful.  We don't often recognize the power of words.  We all understand the power of our actions, we realize that we can talk the talk but if we don't walk the walk then it is all just meaningless gibberish.  But do we really recognize the incredible power to lift up of the right word spoken at the right time?  Or conversely, the power to wound that a single word can have?  Words can wound, words can disillusion, words can kill a spirit so quickly.

We are using a little book called "On My Own" every morning for our Morning Meeting.  It is how we begin our day, reading a page or two after having discussed our game plan for the day.  This book addresses common concerns and not so common ones, such as what to do if you have a fire in your home, if a stranger knocks and you are alone, if you are getting bad grades.  But it also talks about harder subjects such as what to do if your babysitter is smoking or drinking when your parents are gone, or how to handle the emotions of a move to a new community.  Today's subject was what to do if someone you are with begins to talk badly about others based upon race or religion.  We talked about what might be the best approach with a friend, and even took it a step further about whether they should or shouldn't correct an adult who uses derogatory language.  Josh piped up with "But Mom, even if they are an adult, words mean things and we are responsible to say they should stop..." and Kenny asked "But Mommy, aren't people allowed to have their own beliefs?  I mean, isn't that about freedom?", then Matt piped up "Yea Kenny, but when that freedom hurts others, then it's not freedom for the person they are hurting."

As this conversation was going on, I thought about all the role modeling that has taken place for each of our kids by others, and yes, even those in Kazakhstan at the orphanage, for someone certainly was paying attention to teaching right from wrong, our girls are too morally grounded to not have had many adults setting a good example.  People, who years from now will barely recall our daughters as just two more of the hundreds of kids that were under their care during the course of their tenure at the RBS.  But their words meant something, their actions made an impact, they may never be personally recognized for the good that the did, but that good will carry forward halfway around the world. 

I think that more often than not, we never really are made aware of the ways in which we have changed others lives for the better.  Oh, folks are quick to point out our failings, but seldom do we take time to jot a note, or look someone straight in the eye and say "Your effort has been worthwhile, I appreciate all you do...this specific thing is what has made a difference for me."  Sometimes, that impact isn't even recognized until years down the road when suddenly you realize that if someone had not said this, or had not done that, you would not be where you are today.

It's all about intentional living, about giving it a thought now and then to motivate ourselves to act outside of self-interest.  It took me years and years to realize that this was truly one of the keys to deep, satisfying happiness.  It is not about being a "do gooder" for attention or accolades, it is about living in the moment and doing what we can.  Funny how the most meaningful actions can be the very smallest things...often things we don't even think about 10 minutes later, but that someone else clings to for years to follow.  If we all lived as if our words would be long remembered and played back over and over again, if we all lived lives that were intentional and sought out small moments of opportunity to offer love and acceptance, how much different would our world be?

Would the child down the street find a loving mentor?  Would the co-worker find solace in being heard?  Would the husband find reassurance after a trying day at work? 

Would someone find God in us?

We may never know the impact we have made, but by living as if we wanted others to see God reaching out to them through us, we can be assured that somewhere along the line, an impact was made.  I don't have a clue how anything I have said or done might have impacted others, either intentionally or unintentionally.  But I can rely on the simple truth that being a Jesus person and trying daily to follow in His footsteps, some of it might rub off on someone else, and carry forward to places I can't even begin to imagine.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Dentist Day

Today was the big day for Joshua, he went this morning to have his tooth pulled.  After a long discussion with the pediatric dentist it was decided that a root canal would not be best in the long run, and the local endodontist attempted but couldn't do it.  We might have been able to go to Denver and found someone capable, but even then the long term life of the tooth was in question, so extraction was the preferred plan.

Josh was not all that nervous, which surprised me.  He knew he would be heavily sedated, not quite totally out but definitely not just a little woozy, and he was pretty calm about the whole thing although he did say he was a little scared.  He just didn't act like it.  I took him in this morning while our friend and fellow blog commenter, Lael, kindly came over to watch the other kids so I wouldn't have to worry about them while Josh was not at his best.  She did a bang up job as teacher and they love being with her.

The tooth came out and it was HUGE.  Hard to believe that tiny little mouth housed that big ol' molar!  Joshua was really, really out of it and spent the entire day on the couch fast asleep, literally 6 hours or so.  Then, half an hour before we were to leave for the TaeKwonDo belt rank test he sprang up and started crying, saying he didn't want to miss his test.  He said he was feeling a lot better after sleeping so much and begged me to let him go, so I relented and told him to go suit up.

When we arrived he began to stretch and practice his patterns with everyone else, but after about 15 minutes he began to feel very lightheaded and dizzy, and almost dropped to the floor.  We caught him and he then spent the rest of the evening in my lap, mostly asleep.  He is a tough one though, and I was proud of him for trying.  Surprisingly, he earned his blue belt even though he really couldn't participate tonight, as they base it also on class participation and what they have observed in terms of skill level there as well.  Everyone did great and advanced, Kenny broke a board again but Matthew sadly wasn't able to this time.  Josh is a high enough rank to attempt it, but 3 years too young :-)  It will be awhile before I have to get nervous over that!  Angela will be next in line, then Olesya, then Josh.  That is a lot of possible broken feet and hands to fear for! Haha! 

He was better once we got home and he ate a little something, and the remainder of the evening Josh was more his old self.  He will be sleeping in our room for the next couple of nights still, then back to his own after more than a month of bunking on our floor or crawling in our bed after a nightmare.  He has had a couple the past 3 or 4 days, but not as many as before and not as disturbing to him, thankfully.

It has definitely been "one of those weeks" and we sat down and yacked with the kids this evening, asking if I was honestly just being grumpy or if they were indeed seeing the issues I was seeing.  I told them all they could be honest, that I knew adults had bad weeks too and I was not immune from that, so I wanted their honest opinion...was Mom a Grumpy Gus this week who had unreasonable expectations, or was there really a problem.  They all quickly agreed with grins that it wasn't was kids being spacey and pre-teenish and irresponsible at moments and just plain old not being at their best. 

Matthew is totally oblivious these days, he is more like a teenager than a pre-teen, and his body is changing right along with it.  He is awkward, he is flip flopping between one minute having more adult awareness of those around him and being childlike in his inability to pick up on nuances.  Kenny is very much on a downward spiral this week, after having had a really good 2-3 weeks prior where he was showing some real signs of maturity.  These backward steps with him are expected but this time I am finding it more disappointing because I was enjoying seeing who he might really become someday and I miss that Kenny a little this week. 

Then there is little silly child who so often acts the part of the "dumb blond" with one really big problem, she isn't dumb at all.  We have had several instances this week where it was clear she was just not attacking her school work with any sort of intellectual vigor.  She IS easily distracted at times, but almost always can be reined in very easily.  I asked her point blank tonight while in our comfortable conversational zone "Why do you see yourself as stupid and why do you let yourself off the hook?" .  We had all been just yacking in a relaxed fashion about how tough this week had been when I threw this out, and she looked up at me and said "No one ever tell me at the Internat that I smart." and hung her head.  I asked her "Do you think I am smart?" and she said "Yes!", and I said "Well I struggle in math just as you do, that is only one subject and we all have trouble with something.  You think you are not smart just because you have a hard time with math...that does NOT mean you are stupid!"  then I added "I want to see you not give up on yourself, not take the easy way out and pretend you can't figure things out.  You are too smart for that." and she visibly brightened even as she gave a sheepish grin acknowledging that she knew I had hit the nail on the head. 

We all decided that Joshua and Angela were not having any real issues this week...yet...hahahaha!  I do love that we can share and talk openly like this about these things, that it is not just me bearing my frustration but that as a family we can dissect it a bit and see if we can come up with solutions or at least become more aware together.

Speaking of "awareness", I am aware that I have a sewing machine mocking me.  I bought us each a little pillow case kit from Walmart as a starter project thinking to myself "Well how hard can THAT be??"  Tonight, upon opening the package and seeing the directions, I realized that yes, even a pillowcase might be beyond my abilities.  It is absolutely ridiculous that I can read these simple directions and look at the pictures, which are decent enough, and not be able to understand it.  I mean, it is a PILLOWCASE, for goodness sake!  OK, so it has a little strip of trim, but still, this should be a cinch, right?  I am not even joking, I am not exaggerating in the slightest...Step 1 was beyond me.  You have to fold the "wrong side" of the fabric together and make a stitch of some sort the length of it and then leave space for some sort of something called a "french seam".  What in the heck is that?  I want only ENGLISH seams, darn it!  I have spent an entire year working with 2 kids and foreign languages and I am DONE with that.  Now I am going to be defeated by something called a "french seam"? 

I do have offers of help,  I will be taking folks up on it.  I will expect you not to smirk, laugh, giggle or guffaw and I do hope you know what a "french seam" is.  Now if you asked me what a Russian seam was, I might have at least been able to turn to Angela and ask. Hahaha!

If this is how bad sewing is going to be, I am terrified of the autoharp that I have placed in the spare bedroom so I won't have two inanimate objects mocking me at the same time.  One at a time is more than enough. 

Give me a computer to learn any day of the week over this artsy stuff. 

By the way, a techie friend of mine and I were sharing our iPad envy.  Kim is my techie soul sister, and we laugh over how she is my only friend in the whole world who can sit and spend hours talking about apps and web sites.  She designs web sites and does an amazing job of it, and in fact does me the greatest favor of automatically saving my blog to her business hard drive so I always have a back up.  I don't envy much in this world (well, maybe the sewing gifts of others, but I digress), but I wanna iPad in the worst way, or a generic one, just a tablet of some sort as I get tired of lugging around the laptop everywhere, trying to show the kids web pages and getting the cord tangled up or halfway dropping it as we look at videos or something.  I even wrote in to Ellen Degeneres' show as she is giving a technology gift to a school, explaining how we could totally use the gift of technology here at home, but for some reason I doubt a homeschooler will ever win something of that nature.  Those iPads though, man, aren't they COOL??  I am not a pen and paper kinda gal, I am a notes on the laptop kinda gal.  I could see hauling it to the grocery store with my list on it rather than a tablet, or downloading free books ala Kindle style, or using it to hand easily around the table as we work on our history and are looking at images from Google of hieroglyphics or butterfly cocoons.  I know it's not going to happen, but someday...someday...someday...I was thinking it would be nice if we were like one of those public schools that are now handing out iPads to every student to use.  What a totally awesome thing that would be!  But Ellen ain't callin' anytime soon :-) 

I had better get to bed, or I will be the Grumpy Gus after all tomorrow!  Thanks to all who have prayed for Josh, or sent good thoughts to the Tree Goddess :-)  I think we are over the worst of it for him.  I am sending out prayers to Elva, Dee's Mom from the Crab Chronicles blog over on my blog list.  She is in the hospital and is sorely missed by her family.  Dee's son Michael is a friend of Angela's from Petropavlovsk and his Grandma needs to get home soon where he and his sister can spoil her!  Hugs to you, Elva, from your adopted Colorado Cousins!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Old Dog, New Tricks

I have avoided it for 44 years.  I have skills in some areas, but the arts and crafts, or basically anything requiring more than 2 dimensional thinking, are not an area I want to enter.  But at $12 to hem a single pair of pants, and having a short daughter, I figured it was high time I took the leap and forced myself to learn how to hem.  So I bought a cheapie sewing machine at Walmart tonight. 

You know what was funny?  I almost slunk around the corners, hoping that no one would see me for surely they would point and laugh derisively, understanding almost innately that I can drive a keyboard, but could never drive a sewing machine.  They would be completely correct.  But for $79 I can't go wrong, and it will take only a few pants to recoup the cost.  I can no longer allow myself to sponge off gifted and talented friends to hem our pants.

You have no idea how much I hate even the attempt, for I am clumsier than anyone I ever met when it comes to such tasks, and it serves only to remind me of why I got a C- in Home Ec on 7th grade for creating a "dress" that was somewhat akin to a maternity dressing gown.  This is just not my thing, but by golly, I am going to learn it. 

There was the added bonus of Olesya having access to an inexpensive but serviceable machine.  She has a secret project in mind and is in collusion with a special friend to create a blanket for Matthew that is as long as he now is and is covered in airplanes.  The kids all love their blankets so much, and Matthew has grown into a gargantuan this year.  Olesya wants to make this for him, and it will be a very sweet gesture which I am sure will mean a lot to him.  And let's face it, hey, maybe SHE can hem the pants eventually around here after I get angry and threaten to throw the machine against the wall! Hahaha!

Our new machine looks a lot like this...simple..elegant...mocking, er I mean, magnificent.

Kenny has an interest in sewing too, and in fact has taken up knitting with Miss Elinor, our ever-patient weaving friend.  He is proud of his few rows he has completed (and considering my lack of skill I am impressed as well!) and I think he will want to try out the machine as well.  Something you might not know about Kenny is that he has a little fashion side to him, a designer in the making.  He likes to be sharp dressed and if he could he would wear a suit and tie every single day.  He has talked about a couple of paths for his life, one being to go to Bible College of some sort but he does not want to be a minister, or he likes to check out clothes and has said he might want to do something with clothing some day.  We'll see, he is a young man with a wide variety of interests and I have no clue which way he might ultimately end up going.

But it wouldn't hurt to have another one of our kids learn how to use that darned machine, right? Hahaha!

I am hoping to learn something else as well.  We were given an autoharp by another homeschooling family, and I have decided I want to learn how to play it a little.  I don't know where to start and our local music store in Grand Junction didn't have a single autoharp book, so I am going to check into Amazon and see what they might have.  Strange, huh?  I have no desire to learn guitar, but thought this might be kind of fun to try out.  Despite having 8 years of clarinet back in high school, I was really given no true music instruction so I have no idea about chords or anything so this will be a challenge for me. 

And as I read this post I realize I am a True Geek...unable to operate a sewing machine AND wanting to learn the autoharp.  How much higher on the Geek Scale can I possibly get??  Maybe I should take up Irish Clog Dancing too (No offense to any cloggers out there is meant, let's face it though, not necessarily high on the 'cool factor'). 

Our week didn't start out on a high note, and as the day wore on it seemed I was with The Space Cadet Crew.  Everyone was sort of "out there" today, and it was a frustrating one although we did ultimately get a lot accomplished.  I learned that Kenny has been sneaking into the bathroom at night for an hour or more and reading after bedtime, which both angered and delighted me at the same time.  I mean, how can I get too mad at this kid finally wanting to read that badly??  But, we have a history of Kenny kind of doing this sort of sneaky thing, so I couldn't let it slide.  However, I have yet to come up with an interesting consequence for this one should he break it.  I LOVE good, logical, creative consequences...any good ideas out there?  I can't take away books, that is exactly what we have been working to build toward. 

We actually had a brilliant consequence this past week.  The boys are, well, boys.  That translates into "pigs" when it comes to their clothes all over the place.  I have warned them over and over again that I hate having to search through their room to find all their clothes to wash.  We don't have more than 5 pair of pants for each which means I have to have every single pair in the washer come time for their clothes to get washed, or they will be out of clean pants.  Well, the other day, I had finished (or so I thought) their laundry, only to carry it into their bedroom and find almost another full hamper full between clothes under their beds, on the closet floor, on the dresser, and behind the door in their bathroom.  I grinned as I called all 3 of them together and said "I am SO HAPPY and I want to share it with you!  Mommy gets an entire week off of doing laundry because YOU THREE have earned the grand prize!  A week of laundry detail!  All expenses paid, yes, I will provide the detergent and even the softener, you will provide the labor.  I have told you that I am tired of thinking I am done with laundry only to come in here and find scads more, so this is your consequence.  Thank you SO much for the week off!!", and I turned on my heel and left the room, grinning from ear to ear.

I'll be darned, those boys didn't argue one iota, and followed me out with hamper in hand.  4 days later they have done at least 6 loads, folded (well, sort of), hung up and delivered laundry for all of us with nary a complaint.  They are, however, counting down until Thursday :-)  The girls laughed and said they KNEW they would be next because the new has totally worn off and they have dirty clothes crammed all over in their closet that don't make the hamper.

Oh yea, another new development which is not new to those of you who read my Facebook posts...we have been invaded by Hannah Montana.  Oh man, I can not believe it but I gave in after hour upon hour of Sound of Music I was left mush minded and had no choice. 

I think I prefer Sound of Music, and now yearn for Mama Mia once again.

Justin that...noooooo..........

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Happy Week

Today was unusual...highly unusual.  I took a nap.  That NEVER happens, but it sure felt good!  Dominick is the Nap guy, catching cat naps here and there that really do help him.  The kids and I came home from church and Matthew is fighting a bug and said he felt like taking one, and so did I.  I let go of any guilt and told the kids I was going to go lay down for an hour.  Matt decided not to, and so he and Olesya went out to muck out my disgusting Mom-mobile.  Surprise, surprise, 3 hours later I awoke and Dominick was home from work, the house was well picked up, my van was clean AND stew was cooked for us all.  Man, talk about feeling totally spoiled and incredibly guilty.  OK, maybe mildly guilty.  If I did it all the time it would be different, but I don't think I have had a nap like that since the last time I was ill.  It felt great, but I'll probably regret it tonight as I lay awake at 3:00 AM trying to get to sleep! Hahaha!

I have been in a very weird place these days, and I can not pinpoint it.  I am going through the motions, but not feeling really engaged the way I should be.  Everything that should be getting done is getting done, but for some reason I just seem to have a case of the doldrums.  I am not unhappy at all, and in fact am thoroughly enjoying the way I spend my days with the kids, even more than I thought I would.  At the beginning of this homeschooling adventure, I anticipated feeling...well...if I am being totally honest I thought I might feel a bit trapped.  You all know I adore our kids, but that has nothing to do with feeling like maybe I had jumped into the deep end and couldn't get out.  Much to my surprise, I find that I really, really enjoy teaching...and I never thought of myself as the teacher type.  There is something very satisfying about doing this at this level though, charting growth, seeing it in areas that are not always measureable by grades.  It is not something that will garner me a paycheck or promotion, but it is more rewarding than anything I have ever done, and I am not half bad at it either, at least at this stage.  Would I win any Teacher of the Year awards? I also wouldn't be put on probation either :-)

This "out of it" feeling though is not going away, and I am not really a "going through the motions" kinda gal so it is a wee bit disturbing.  It might be that my ministry classes were filling a hole I hadn't realized existed for my own intellectual engagement.  It could be that I still have not solved the problem of not getting out around adults more.  Or it could be one of those typical ebb and flow kind of moments in my life, who knows? 

Today was a happy day at church, we had our first awards ceremony for the Explorers Club which we created for the kids.  We had 16 kiddos there who all had earned pins, and plenty of parents and grandparents present to help celebrate.  Aside from the kids, those of us adults who are working on this together are having a lot of fun too.  Funny how when you pull together the right folks with the perfect fit of gifts and talents that compliment each other, everything seems pretty easy.  We have a couple who are very craft oriented and creative, and then myself and my friend who are craft impaired.  We have organizers and planners and doers, and if they say something is going to get done, it absolutely will, without question. The nicest thing though is that this particular little group of friends are all so flexible and adaptable, if something falls through no one panics and we just quickly come up with a Plan B without any stress.  There are no anal retentives among us, and I think that is why this is so relaxed and fun.

We are using some of these wards to acknowledge what our kids are doing at home with school related things as well, and so we had a little candlelight ceremony tonight with everyone which included using our singing prayer bowl and each of the kids "pinning" each other as we congratulated them on their accomplishments thus far.  We awarded the girls pins for learning a foreign language, and Matt and Kenny both pinned their sisters for that.  There are reading awards, which in particular meant a lot for Kenny.  They earned lapbooking awards for creating lapbooks, and Matthew and Angela received awards for learning pottery.  The nice thing about these award pins is they have a wonderful array of them, and you can create your own requirements for earning them. 

For homeschoolers, there are not awards assemblies to look forward to or Student of the Month awards, so this is a nice little extra way of marking new skills learned without pitting one against another, it is more about each individual learning what they can and trying new things.  If interested, you can purchase them from  I hadn't thought it would be as meaningful for the kids as it has been, even for Matthew who I thought might find it a little corny.  But when we awarded him the Master Reader pin tonight, he was visibly moved.  It also gives each of the kids something to look forward to earning.

Josh's pain has thankfully totally disipated, but he still isn't able to eat anything solid.  He is going to have his tooth removed on Wednesday, and we are so thankful that the antibiotic reduced his pain.  When I think of what life was like before modern medicine, and how people had to suffer, it makes me quite happy that I am living in this day and age.  

We have a rather mundane week ahead (I hope it remains that way!), with school and not much else exciting going on.  The following week is when I leave for Memphis, and I am growing excited about that.  We are so grateful to have people volunteer to watch our kids for us so I can take advantage of this wonderful opportunity.  I am also very much looking forward to spending time with Madon Dailey, the woman from Nancy Larson Science who oversees the homeschool marketing.  We have had some very warm and interesting phone conversations in the past, and I think we will enjoy getting to know one another.

That's about it I guess!  I am going to try and find something we are doing interesting to post photos of.  As our kids are older, we don't always have the cute artsy craftsy stuff to take photos of for the blog as many homeschoolers do.  Not much exciting about workbooks and composition notebooks open all day long!

Hope everyone has a happy week!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Hodge Podge Post

We have a little of this and a little of that going on around here, nothing at all exciting and I also have no photos to share :-(  Just haven't done anything all that photo worthy, I guess...not that we ever do, hahaha!

Josh is hanging in there, barely.  He was able to sleep a little better last night, but was up 3 times crying, each time falling back to sleep reasonably quickly after dosing him up.  The bad thing is that I am not like my husband who can either sleep through it all or who can fall back asleep after waking up within about 3 breaths.  For me it is more like 45 minutes each time, as sleep eludes me when my brain starts running.  He was doing a little better during the day, but late afternoon he started to crash a little.  We took Josh to choir practice tonight with us while the other kids went to TaeKwonDo, and he sat there quietly reading and laying down from time to time.  When we got home he started crying again, as it was really starting to hurt a lot more.  He is more swollen today than he has been, but he did eat a little pancake tonight and that seemed to help him get a little battery recharge.  Right now Wednesday is looking like a long way away...

In other inane news, Kenny and Angela are now on a Princess/King/Prince/King kick.  Thanks to our dear friend they watched and fell in love with "Ever After" which is a retelling of the Cinderella story, and have spent hours looking at pictures on Google Images of kings, queens and crowns together.  It is so cute to see the two of them huddled together over a screen as they "research" a topic of interest to them both.  Then at the library Angela checked out books on Princess Diana, which I read to them, each commenting on her beautiful clothes and tiara.  Then Miss Pat, our beloved volunteer tutor brought them a DVD of a Cinderella musical, so I guess I will finally move from Uber Geek mom with The Sound of Music CD blaring from my car stereo to new music of some sort from this latest adventure into musicals. 

When I think back to a mere year ago, and how "flat" and disinterested the girls were, it totally cracks me up.  I remember asking them what they liked, what they were interested in, and getting the most puzzled looks.  They had no interests, no strong likes, nothing at all.  Institutional life does not lend itself to self-discovery and exploration.  Contrast that with the girls today, and it is remarkable to have witnessed this transformation.  Between Amelia Aerhart, anything having to do with animals, Legos, guitar, any musical they can get their hands on, rock polishing and soap making, biographies, princesses, church, TaeKwonDo and any other number of things, these daughters of ours have blossomed in ways I never expected.  I would have laughed myself silly thinking of Angela, the jock, loving musicals...and I do mean LOVING them.  I would have bet my money on that being Olesya if you had asked me who might eventually like them a year ago.  Olesya totally loves working with Dominick and desperately wants to help him detail cars, and she works on ours the best she can all the time.  Again, would have tagged Angela for that one possibly if I had been told earlier that one would enjoy it.  So funny, our preconceived notions can be totally way off base, and I love that all the kids feel free to explore whatever strikes their fancy. 

Get this, all 5 kids are going to be making porcelain dolls in March.  I was sorely mistaken when I made assumptions on that one.  Our homeschool program is offering a class on making porcelain dolls, and I asked the girls if they thought it was something they might like to do.  Kenny jumped up and down and said "Can I do it too?  Please mom?" and then Matt and Josh chimed in "We want to make one too!".  So, all 5 are going to craft and fire their own dolls, which I think will be a neat experience for them and certainly non-traditional for the boys.  Kenny hesitated after showing such enthusiasm immediately, until I asked him "Why are you changing your mind?" and then he said "I don't want anyone to laugh at me, after all, it's sort of a girl thing to do." and that is when Matthew said "So what?  None of US are going to laugh and I think it will be awesome to do!  You can worry about what others think, but I don't care, I'm gonna do it!"  Kenny then said "Hey guys won't laugh at me!  I can't wait to do it!!"  Funny how taking away peer pressure opens up the world in ways I never expected.

We are studying history in the coolest way, using the unique curriculum from that I have mentioned in the past.  Their lower elementary program is so intense, that there is no way this wouldn't be considered middle school by most folks.  Currently we are working on the course "What is History/Religion in History" which is proving to be everyone's favorite course right now. I absolutely love this approach as it is very critical thinking oriented and makes for great discussions, and the author shows deep respect for the student's intellect, regardless of age.  We are exploring on a very basic level what role religion has in history, and are spending just one lesson each on the 5 Biggies of religion...Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism and Islam.  I am going to expand upon this and each of the kids is going to take one of the religions and create a display board about it, sharing information they learn about each.  We hit the library yesterday, and interestingly, we found good basic books explaining all the faiths with the exception of Christianity.  You might ask why in the world we would need a reference for the faith we practice, but I want something that is succinct and clear about our faith.  I need to keep looking and see what else I can find.  While I did find some good materials, none of them is really good with the kinds of images I was hoping to find that is not as busy as the Eyewitness style books.  If anyone has any suggestions out there I'd love to hear them.

As for me, hmmmm....I am just plugging along the best I can, sometimes wondering if I am sinking and others feeling like I am doing ok.  The lack of sleep is starting to get to me, as we are moving towards 4 weeks without a full night's sleep due to Josh's sleep issues and now the pain waking him up often.  It could be worse though, and has been in the past, so I am very grateful that we are not back to 6 years ago when Josh was awake 10-12 times a night and I literally wanted to throw myself under a bus some days. 

I am working on reading a few books that are all laying around in some stage of mid-read...Amish Grace:  How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy, which is our book club selection for church and which is extremely thought provoking and humbling.  There is a sharp contrast between the Amish practice of extending grace and our societal lack of grace. Written as a theological exploration of the Amish community's reaction after the murders of Amish school children in 2006 at Nickel Mines, PA, this book presents a difficult to understand opposite reaction to our typical 21st century reaction to such events, which revolves mainly around revenge masquerading as justice. 

I am also just beginning a book recommended by a friend as well titled "Infidel" which is another deep read which already grabbed me from the beginning.  Then there is "The Pastor as Minor Poet" which I should have completed already but am savoring a few pages at a time because I am enjoying it so much.  Let's see, what else is on my reading agenda (Not my nightstand, which is too narrow to hold more than a lamp and my alarm clock, much to my chagrin.), I borrowed a biography on Oprah from the library, and have a brain book sitting here that was just loaned to me by another friend.  Then there are the Christian Century and Christian Science Monitor magazines that I am ever so grateful to receive from beloved friends who pass them on to me so I can enjoy them, which I thoroughly do. 

Even with all of this waiting for me, I still never seem to have enough reading material around! Hahaha!  I get asked "When do you find time to read?" and I guess I just manage to squeeze it in, usually late night read-fests or "Leave me alone I am going to my 'library' " reading time (the bathroom).  I am carrying on the family tradition there, as my Dad always had a rich and eclectic collection of books and magazines in his "library".  That's what we po' folk do, we don't have elegant rooms stocked floor to ceiling with classic tomes accessible by those cool rolling ladders, surrounded by rich leather chaise lounges and mahogany wood work.  Nope, we have porcelain thrones and annoyingly bad lighting from Home Depot's discount section...hahahaha!  It's not where you read, but what you read, right??  I am proud to report the Roehrman family tradition lives on, as I caught Matthew spending 45 minutes in there yesterday and I bugged him to get out and he said "5 more minutes Mom, please?  I am almost done!" as he was reading "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo".  Who ever said biology trumps environment never visited our house! :-)

I had a wonderful surprise invitation recently which I am looking forward to.  We are using Nancy Larson's Elementary Science curriculum here at home, and I was offered the opportunity to work at their booth in Memphis, Tennessee in a couple of weeks at a homeschool conference.  This is a huge conference, one of the biggest in the US, and I will have fun working at the booth and meeting other homeschoolers, as well as have the chance to scope out many other curriculum providers.  I enjoy doing such things, and have done so in the past, and it is even easier when you have used a product and strongly believe in its merits.  It is a bit of a treat for me, although I am sure it will be an exhausting weekend.  It is also an honor that they would want me to help represent their company in front of thousands.  I don't know what I will do with myself, being around adults for an entire 3 days! Hahaha!  It's been quite awhile since that has happened.

Not much else to report, I'm afraid.  Why is it that when I think I am only going to write a paragraph or two I end up writing a novella?? guys ought to be sick of me!  Night's hoping we make it at least until midnight before Joshie wakes up.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Quick Josh Update

We have had a wonderufl day (hear the dripping sarcasm in my voice?) as we shuttled back and forth 3 different times to dentist, endodontist, then back to the dentist...and here Josh sits, still in pain.  It seems that we were directed to the wrong dentist, who does not do root canals, and we then moved on to the recommended endodontist who kindly got us in this afternoon.  After 2 attempts he refused to continue.  It seems the tooth is not fully errupted due to his age, and the infection too bad.  So we returned to the referring dentist who said he might be able to work on it and do a "pulpectomy" but it was not a long term solution and ultimately it was decided that we need to extract the tooth.  However, because the infection is so bad it was suggested that we wait until next week to allow the antibiotic to lessen the next Wednesday we will go in and have the tooth removed.  If it weren't his permanent molar, this wouldn't have been much of an issue, but because it is we were hoping to save it.

So now, we will hope he is feeling better with the antibiotic...he came home from the dentist this afternoon and fell asleep on the couch for 2 hours, however he did sleep better last night waking up only a couple of times in pain.  He hasn't eaten anything other than applesauce the past couple of days, and is basically just wiped out.  Needless to say, this afternoon was very painful as well, with the attempts at the root canal.

Thanks for all the concern, we appreciate it!

Monday, February 14, 2011

More Than a Valentine

It seems difficult to fathom that a year has passed since we landed on American soil, new daughters in tow with 3 boys trailing along as well.  How well I remember landing at this very moment, emotionally spent in ways I had yet to begin to understand.  Angela as prickly as could be, barely daring to look at me, Olesya uncertain about it all as she tried to take cues from her sister but wanting to give in to the nurturing she sensed was right there within grasp.

The terror and relief I felt was real, the anxiety level was off the charts as I tried not to even think of what would come the next day.  I'm going to do WHAT?  Homeschool these girls who have not a lick of English, one of whom can barely tolerate looking me in the eyes.  Oh, we had such a long way to go, and I knew how challenging the coming months would be.  To say I was scared would be the grandest understatement I have ever made.  To say I was utterly intimidated by this situation I had willingly gotten myself into would be quite accurate.

And so we by day, hour by hour, dancing around one another as we gradually fell into routines.  The first two months were as hard as I imagined them to be, we had a difficult emotional encounter, the light bulb went on for Angela as she recognized the potential for real love if she just would let go...and thank our loving God, she did. 

Looking back, the rest seems easy.  I laugh as I type that, for surely it hasn't been, but in contrast to what I know it could have been, it really was.  Olesya and Angela are two young ladies with the most thoughtful, loving hearts I have ever met.  They are wise, sweet, intelligent and FUNNY kids who indeed turned out to be the perfect fit that I spent years trying to fight feeling they would be.  I should have known better than to to doubt my own gut instinct. 

So how did we celebrate our Arrival in America Day?  How was Valentine's Day spent in the LaJoy house?  Well...let's just say that in true LaJoy fashion, it was less than the highlight of the year.  We will never be mentioned in any major magazines for planning the best parties :-)  Imagine this...heart shaped pizzas from Papa Murphy's, candle light, and sparkling grape juice served in champagne glasses.  I gave each of the kids a card as well as Dominick, all of which came from an 8 pack of cards and were not hand selected because the 8 pack was cheaper.  No candy hearts, as the kids had enough sweets from others this past week.  Everyone had to offer a toast, and the values in our kids lives became apparent through their words as glasses clinked...Here's to living in a strong family, Here's to friends who love us, Here's to our church, Here's to the love we all share forever. I was thanked profusely over and over again by the kids for their "special surprise Valentine's dinner", which totally had me laughing as candles must somehow manage to make anything magic.

I had hoped to plan something a little more for the family, but we are in the midst of a little unexpected crisis here.  Joshie's night terrors were beginning to look like they were subsiding, after spending several nights sleeping in our room, but then Saturday night it got way worse, and he suffered through five different occurances of waking up...well...with night terrors you don't really wake up, but you know what I mean.  Nothing he said makes any sense at all, and unlike in years past we can't figure out what is the root cause this time around.  So Saturday I got very little sleep, and so did he. 

Last night was awful, totally awful, and for another reason.  Josh had complained on Saturday of his jaw hurting a little, and when asked he said for sure it was not a toothache, but was the back of his jaw.  Guess what, it was a tooth after all, one we had filled at the dentist in CA but were told was close to needing a root canal.  Josh sobbed all night long, finally succombing to sleep at 4:00 AM.  Dominick made a late night run to Walmart to get a few supplies for him, but of course nothing really works all that well.  So we got a couple of hours sleep late this morning, and then had to get up.  We got into a dentist who determined that we can't avoid it, a root canal is in order, but he couldn't do it and after a few calls could only get us in tomorrow afternoon.  So we face another pain filled night.  It is infected badly, so he is in antibiotic and they wanted us to double dose him before tomorrow.  He is asleep next to me right now, I think passed out from total exhaustion, and I hope he can get at least a little sleep tonight.  This kid is totally shot, dark circles under the eyes, not even the Joshie we all know.  He cried off and on all day long today and can't eat anything.  I think if he had been sleeping decently up until now, he would be doing a little better with it, but he has very little emotional reserves at the moment as he is depleted from a lack of sleep the past few weeks along with the unnamed emotional battles he is fighting when he does fall asleep.

The kids have all been very sweet with Josh, and I had a big smile on my face when Matthew left the house this evening to go to TaeKwonDo and he bent over the couch where Josh was laying down and kissed him gently on the cheek telling him "I hope you feel better, Joshie!  Love you!".  I am hopeful that he is so tired he will remain asleep much of the night.  I will admit to being about as tired as I recall being for a very long time.  I laughed in the shower this morning as I realized that exactly one year ago I was awake all night long too, as we were traveling home from Kazakhstan with virtually no chance to sleep.  Guess it was fitting that the same thing happened a year later, but I do hope we are not going to make it a faimily tradition.

So there's our holiday, Dominick forgot to get me a card, and we just laughed sayiug we were even since I forgot to get him one at Christmas.  You know what I love best about my husband...our relationship?  It's that days like this are nice, but not what it is really all about and we all know it.  It doesn't have to be perfect with gifts, roses and candy. 

It's already perfect without it.

There is no need for us to take a day out of the year to express our appreciation for one another, because we make a habit of it every single day.  I came home Sunday afternoon, tired as could be after being up with Joshie will Dominick slept, and after a long day's work he, Angela and Kenny cleaned the house for me...I walked into a spic and span clean abode!  Not a thing for me to do but enjoy it.  Matthew moved clothes from washer to dryer and then refilled the washer, followed by taking the clothes to their room and having everyone hang and fold them, without me saying a word.  Kenny came up and hugged me, hanging on for so long a couple days ago...just because. 

That's far better than one day a year.  Every day is a day of love in our house, and that is far more important to me.  Sure, it was special to get the card and keychain made for me by Angela, propped up in an envelope on my pillow with "My Secret Love" written on it.  Olesya took her first paycheck from working and bought us a gift card for Chili's so we could have a date night together on her.  The boys did all the clean up tonight after our candlelight dinner.  Those are wonderful gestures, but it is the every day stuff that makes a happy family, not a one time hit, one day of the year.  I am grateful we don't wait until February 14th to say "I love you!" or to show our love for one another.

Tomorrow will be a painful day for Joshua, but it can't be worse than what he has had the past 2 days.  Maybe we will get sleep tonight, maybe not.  Regardless, Valentine's Day has come and gone, but the love lingers on and on.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011


We had a snow day/Daddy's home day today.  It ended with Dominick sitting on the couch, looking at me, and saying sincerely "I could never, ever do what you do every day.  This is fun, but really hard work."  I have had a hard time adjusting on some levels.  Here I am, home all day, and still I find myself behind on laundry, still things don't get picked up the way I wish they would, still the projects I have in other areas of my life keep getting put off until the last minute.  I can't quite understand why I am so wiped out by the end of the day, and having Dominick around sometimes helps me put it into perspective.

Today he made lunch, he got laundry done, he made sure the trash was taken out, the dishes put away, all the little things done that I try to cram in around working with the kids.  What a nice treat all of that was!  The kids just love having him home and it feels like a special day having him around when we are doing school. 

I have gradually been figuring things out with Kenny and Olesya, discovering that some of their deficits are really far more challenging than I realized.  We have been working with a software program for Kenny the past couple of months called "Earobics".  It is designed to work on auditory processing issues, and man, has it been revealing to stand back and watch Kenny struggle with this.  The program is not all that expensive at $70, and they have a elementary version, and a teenager/adult version.  It is designed as a series of games played on different levels, that gradually have you work up to progressively harder listening tasks.  There is an entire beginner level, which Kenny is on, and it has 6 games I think that each have 12+ levels to them.  Beyond that there is an intermediate level, and na advanced level.

This poor kid...when I think of the frustration over the past 3+ makes me want to cry.  SO much of what we have struggled with has related around his memory and inability to process what we say to him.  The hard thing with a kid like Kenny is that there is so much wrapped up in one kiddo, that it makes it hard to isolate specific issues and determine exactly what is wrong and what corrective measures are best for him.  You have speech issues magnified by the cleft lip and still unrepaired palate, plus the fact that his repairs began years later then they would have had we given birth to him.  Then there is developmental and emotional delays due to institutionalization and lack of early stimulation.  Then there is language learning issues because of changing languages at 8 years old.  Top that off with true learning disabilities like auditory processing and memory issues, and you have a real mixed bag of tricks.

Watching Kenny work with this software has broken my heart.  He loves doing it, so motivation is not a problem at all.  But this morning, when I mentioned he had a little time to work on it before we started something else he turned to me and hung his head saying "Mommy, I am not doing good at it at all.  Some parts are so hard I don't think I will ever be able to do it...and I know that even Joshie could do it very easily."  I explained to him that this was a postiive thing, that finally we had pinpointed where at least some of his challenges were and that working with this would eventually help him a lot.  The truth is, he may be at this a very, very long time before we see improvement.  For example, one of the games he is having the most trouble with says 3 or 4 words out loud, then shows you a set of pictures and you are supposed to click on the pictures in order than you hear them.  About 75% of the time he can not correctly click on 2 in a row.  Seriously.  He can't remember 3 or 4 objects but maybe one out of 4 times.  There is another section where you have to identify different consontant blends, and he gets ir wrong almost every single time.  Another game asks you to break sounds into syllables, and he can't hear syllables to save his life.  Every time he manages to get a point, he loses it instantly the next question. 

And I wonder why the poor kid can't remember 12 months of the year in order.  It explains so much, why he can't remember spelling words he spells right many times, then all of a sudden it is gone in a flash and it is like a new word to him.  Another thing I have discovered is that songs don't work for him either.  He can't ever, ever get the lyrics right!  He can't remember them even if he has heard them a hundred times!  Believe, me, I have been "Mama Mia'd" to death, and I still can't figure out what in the world Kenny is actually singing :-)   It is discouraging to see right in front of us, as clear as can be, just how poorly his brain is functioning in these areas.

Then there is Olesya and her mental road blocks with math and spatial stuff.  I really had my eyes opened yesterday when we had our first go at tangrams with her.  For those of you who might not know what tangrams are,  basically, a large square is cut into 7 other shapes, then you take those shapes to try and recreate other patterns.  On a whim, I had Olesya take her shapes, mix them up, and asked her to look at the initial basic square and recreate it with her shapes.  Super easy.  Here is the pattern:

Guess how long it took her to recreat this, trying as hard as she could.  9 1/2 minutes.  I asked Matt and Josh to do it later, just for comparison so I could get a read on it better.  Matt did it in 11 seconds, Joshie in 1 minute 6 seconds.  Olesya's brain simply does not work the way most people's does, and I have yet to really come up with an accurate picture orf solutions yet.  It is frustrating as all get out, knowing there is something just not clicking but not knowing how to deal with it or how to best teach a brain that functions differently.  9 1/2 minutes....sheesh...what do I do with that????  Any ideas out there for working with this sort of problem??  I am all ears.

Despite these very specific things, these kids ARE smart!!!  Others might not see it, but we do in so many ways.  They are both very intelligent children who have some serious areas of concern, but they are far from stupid.   My biggest job, aside from trying to come up with strategies to work with these deficits, is to convince THEM that they are not stupid.  We are making progress in this area, very slow progress, but daily I really focus on their areas of strength and point it out over and over again.  But I think this week I realized we have a much higher mountain to climb with both of them than I ever really imagined.  That's OK, I have a couple of sherpas to help me out with the retired teachers we have surrounding us and holding us up :-)

Often I am asked what I think caused this in the kids, and there are so many possible factors there is no way we could ever know.  In reality, knowing the "why" doesn't help at all anyway, as the end result is still the same and that is what we have to deal with.

But we refuse to see this as "bad", and instead of decided to view it as a puzzle, a  challenge of sorts  On the days when it doesn't have me wanting to bust out in tears of great sadness at their obvious distress, I try to step back and look at it as a great mystery to solve!  I also know that this is NOT going to stop either of these kids from having happy, productive lives...we'll figure it all out somehow, we'll guide them in directions that make sense.  And in the meantime, the homeschooling years will never be boring for good ol' mom as I'll always have a puzzle or two to figure out! Hahaha!

Ordinary Parents

I want to thank all of you who wrote comments and private emails in response to my last post.  There have been times when I have really had to stop and think about whether I should reveal such intimate moments of our lives. I know most folks would not, and perhaps that would be the wisest course of action.  But somehow, this blog...this place...has taken on a life of it's own.  It has become something I never intended it to be, and it has meaning and value for many beyond my just keeping an open, online journal of one family's life.

I have thought long and hard about many of the things I blog about, wondering if it is going too far to share openly many of the things we are working through.  Had I known that our blog would ever be read by so many, I most definitely would have created pseudonyms for all of us, as others often do.  But by the time I realized that there were more people reading it than just our mom's, it seemed to be too late.

There also was the realization that part of what made people connect with what we share was that we didn't hide behind pretend names, which could also lead to hiding behind pretend personas.  There is an honesty that comes from not hiding, there are dear friends who read our blog who would "call us" on anything that rings false.  

I don't share everything here, and what you all get is a snippet of our lives, albeit enough for me to say that if you only read our blog and never met us in person, you would likely have a darned good sense of who we are in "real life".  I'd hope that not much would surprise you at all, or at least I hope we are as authentic in the blogosphere as I strive to be.

I would continue to blog even if I closed it for public consumption, as it has become a priceless heirloom for our family to use as we walk down Memory Lane.  Far better than any album, herein lies not just photos with a short comment or two under them, identifying time and place.  Our blog is our heart, our struggles, our faith...all captured here for us to revisit someday.  Once in awhile, but not often, I will go back and read old posts, usually when I am trying to remember the date something happened, and I will be re-grounded by my own words, I will be refocused if I discover I am off track.  I will rejoice when I think of how far we have come, and how difficult the challenge was.

But why keep it public?  Why share our most intimate moments with the world?  Won't our kids hate us for it someday?  I honestly don't know, but all the kids understand on some level that I write about our family here, and that it is available for everyone to read who might be interested.  If they ever objected, I would not post something, and in fact that has happened a time or two as the boys have gotten older, and I have honored that.

As adoptive parents of older kids, there is a lot of clinical information out there, written by social workers and specialists.  There are a few tales of families and their journey to adopt older kids, most often with wonderful happy endings with the story stopping when the plane lands in America and a short "Afterward" with a few paragraphs of catching up on the facts of how things turned out.  There is also adoption training which most often outlines the worst case scenarios.  There are even a few Yahoo groups and lists with active parents of older adoptees who stick around for the long haul to help, but there are relatively few who do so.

Where do you learn what it is really like?  Where do you hear what happens after the fairy tale portion of the story ends, and the "new " has worn off?  Where do you discover what happens to the kids who settle in to their new families and have challenges and struggles they overcome....but do NOT end up featured on the latest edition of "60 Minutes" because they had to be placed out of their families due to horrible attachment issues?

Where do you learn about a family who adopts a kid from a typical orphanage setting without sensationalizing it or over-fantasizing it all?

I hope that place is here, it is the single reason I leave the blog open for public consumption. Someone out there is like us, or is in the early stages, and needs to know that it is hard...and wonderful...and painful...and beautiful...and that if we can do it, so can they. They need to see that two very, very ordinary parents have created a family that consists of children from not so ordinary backgrounds, and it didn't implode. No one is standing over our beds with an ax in their hands, no one is mentally ill, no one is perfect and going to end up at Harvard at 16 years old. ORDINARY...that's us, ordinary.

That is NOT to take away from the families whose heartache knows no bounds, who have done everything they can to help their children who are terribly, horribly damaged by their previous lives before being adopted. Oh, those stories exist, for sure, and upon reading about them or seeing them on TV you can bet I say a little prayer of thanks that we are not in their shoes, for I know that there but for the grace of God, go I.

My point is this though, the above is what the public DOES hear. Stories like ours are seldom shared, for they are not as dramatic, not as spellbinding...let's face it, they don't make good copy. A little boy's night terrors that began at 11 months old and continue at 8 years old are not exactly headline making news...but it is real. A pre-teen's ability to trust and reach out for love and comfort after a lifetime of neglect and witnessing of horrors, quietly crying in the arms of her mother is not sensational journalism...but it is real. The challenges a 12 year old boy faces as he tries to beat the odds and overcome the learning disabilities that stem from who-knows-what is not something that is going to be reported all that often in adoption seminars.

I received an email from a years long adoption acquaintance this week, after having read my post about Angela and Olesya. In her email she shared that her daughter is stuck in the same pattern of behavior as Olesya is, and she said she read my post aloud to her and her siblings so that they might address the issue without personalizing it for their daughter. They even printed it out to put near her bed to remind her of her worth.

That is why our blog is public.

I received another email from someone else who said they had no idea why certain behavior had bothered them that they had seen in their daughter, that they couldn't really put a finger on it until they read that post and the lightbulb sort of went on for them.

That is why our blog is public.

There was the totally unexpected comment from "fiddlejig", who shared that, somehow, reading our blog has helped them as they worked through some childhood trauma themselves. 

That is why our blog is public.

There are many, many children whose prior lives were filled with horror, whose bios would scare potential adoptive parents to death if they only made decisions based upon what was on paper.  There are countless parents out there living out their own post-adoption stories who feel at a loss about how to deal with the grief and anguish their children feel.  They hurt for their children, they feel frustrated and helpless, and they need to know they are not alone.  They need to hear that others have these terrible moments when our parental hearts are in our throats and we have no idea what to say or do to help our hurting children.  We fear we will do the wrong thing, we don't have a guide book for the types of situations we face, and most often people are afraid to share this stuff openly.

That is why our blog is public.

If one thing we share here helps another parent walk through the dark valleys with their kids, if one thing we share here helps parents realize that NONE OF US is perfect and we all mess up, if one thing we share here helps even a single person realize that older children can heal and should not automatically be crossed off the list for adoption, then it is worth sharing our experiences.

We don't get it right, folks, no more often than you do.  We try hard, we love our kids, we have many, many regrets over the things we have not "caught", things we didn't really understand, wisdom we didn't have early on.   We are no better at dealing with these tragic situations than any of you are, we are just willing to open up and share how we handled it in the hopes that it might be something others need to identify with.  Our way of handling these issues is not necessarily "right", it is just the way we have elected to deal with it.  In time, we may very well be proven to be 100% incorrect.  This blog is NOT about us appearing to be experts, it is about you all knowing you are not alone.  It is about shedding new light on the transition and adjustments of internationally adopted children.  It is about offering hope that healing does occur, even if the process is not always pretty.

We will continue to blog, to share some of the hard times and good ones, to reveal what has worked for us and what has not.  But please don't think I am any more of an "amazing Mom", as so many of you wrote, than anyone else out there.  I am not.  I am just like you.  I have made oodles of mistakes, believe me, I have had far fewer "amazing" moments than many others have had.  I am lacking in a million ways, that many of you are not.  The only difference between you and I is that I write about it here, and many of you might wisely keep it confidential.

The real journey doesn't even begin until the plane lands, and it takes years and years of hard work, of commitment, of learning and growing for both parent and child to help that healing take place.  I have read many blogs over the years as families prepared to travel, and shared their day to day adventures while overseas.  I was desperate to learn more after they arrived did language acquisition go?  What was the hardest part about their child's transition?  How long did it take for hoarding of food to diminish?  What developmental challenges did they face? 

What were the precious post-adoption moments?

We have been at this 11 years now, beginning with Matthew's arrival and five children later, here we are.  I won't leave you in the dark, and someday...maybe 8 or 10 more years from now, you will all look back (if you bother reading that long) and say "Wow!  Did they ever make some whopper mistakes!  Kenny never learned to read, Joshua is in therapy for a lifetime, the girls are on a path to self-destruction and Matthew is resentful of everything!".  Or maybe you will say "Hey, somehow, they pulled it out...they did it.  It took a lot of growth on everyone's part, but none of the kids are in jail, they are all still speaking with one another at family gatherings, and they are all gainfully employed." .  Or, if we really and truly are blessed the next few years you just might say "Man, those LaJoy's rock...they love each other with deep and abiding love, they have restored souls to wholeness, they are giving back to others in extraordinary ways, and they have an emotional strength and compassion that is rare to find these days."  Notice I don't say anything on that last one about anyone becoming rocket scientists or winning the Nobel prize.  Some might say those dreams are too big.  Honestly, I think the dreams that are about love, compassion and wholeness are the bigger dreams. 

Thank you for sharing this journey with us, thanks for sticking around past the excitement of travel.  Your prayers, suggestions and virtual hugs have helped in ways you will never understand.  To know that anyone at all has received a little something back from this odd, virtual relationship means a lot to me.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Grief Comes Calling - Extremely Long Post

It is morning, the deep chill that has come to rural Colorado is a reminder of where we were this time last year, 10 days from arriving back home after an unexpected journey that tested and stretched our hearts in ways that had been completely unanticipated.  What has occurred since then is a blossoming, somewhat akin to viewing time lapse film captured of an early spring crocus as it emerges from it's frozen slumber.  That emergence, to the outsider, is beautiful to watch, and the time lapse version of this emergence glosses over the painful struggle the tender shoot experiences as it pushes up the soil.

To those watching our family, I have no doubt that it all appears to be somewhat storybook perfect.  Five wonderful children have found homes, a childless couple's home is filled with laughter and love.  There is part of that to our story, I'll readily admit that.  There are moments when even I look back over the past 11 years as we built our family and stand silent in wide eyed wonder at how it all turned out.

What others don't see and can't possibly understand is the lives that were lived before the crocus emerges, for those lives were similar to the bulbs that were stored in a dark cellar, kept away from the nourishing light and water needed for growth.  Sometimes, we have to revisit that cellar with our kids, we have to hold their hands as they fearfully enter that cellar, trembling and tentative, knowing they have no choice but to re-enter and gather up more pieces of themselves that were left behind.  

Last night, without plan or forethought, we found ourselves suddenly smack dab in the middle of that very cold, damp, pitch black cellar.  It was a place where we slogged through grief the likes of which I have never witnessed before, where I felt more helpless than a mother ever ought to feel.  This subterranean chamber had been a previously closed vault, locked tight to protect against entry, and somehow I accidentally stumbled upon the combination to open that door, but I was ill prepared for what followed.

It started as a firm reprimand.  I have shared in the past that Olesya is as easygoing as they come, eager to please and as uncomplicated as a child could be.  While this certainly makes for pleasant days, I have become increasingly concerned over the past several months as I have watched Olesya consistently place her desires beneath everyone else's. She places herself in the role of peacemaker far too often, never standing up for herself.  Because none of our other children is intentionally bullying her, and generally never makes an issue over anything, this is all very subtle.  For example, if there is one ice cream left and Olesya  takes it from the freezer, one of the others might say "Oh shoot...I was going to get one too!" and it is a 100% certainty that Olesya will smile and hand it over.  A more generous soul NEVER existed, and because the other child who wanted the ice cream wasn't really whining or angry over it, and was not being pushy, it is easy for this stuff to go by unnoticed.

Well, perhaps it has not been completely unnoticed as I have been observing and tucking it away, and decided this week it was time to begin to put a stop to this.  What appears to be generosity is really more about Olesya deeming everyone else's needs to be more important than her own, it is about her making herself subservient to all others in an unhealthy way, and as I discovered last night, sadly, it is more about fear and ingrained patterns than anything else.

Earlier in the week I had inserted myself in a situation similar to what I described above...Olesya quickly and easily gave something over to someone else and I put a stop to it and sat everyone down to talk for a few minutes.  I asked why it was that Olesya was always the one giving in, and if anyone had ever noticed just how often this happened every day.  Of course, no one had, as nothing had ever been intentional nor done with a mean spirit.  Olesya grinned her usual grin and said "But it not important to me, it's OK Mama...they can have it."  I then said firmly "No, Olesya, it is NOT OK for everyone else to get what they want and you to never get what you want.  I know you are being nice and you love your family, but what you want is important too and I don't like seeing this.  You need to stand up for yourself more."  I then turned to Angela and said "You know exactly what I am talking about, because you do it to her all the time.  Just because she won't fight about it, you know if you say you want something she will hand it over.  I want you to stop that, you are being unfair and you know it, you are taking advantage of her kindness."  Angela hung her head a little, then looked up and said "Yes, you right Mom.  But she give it to me all the time!" and then smiled.  I replied "Just because she does, doesn't make it right, does it?"  The smile dropped and she admitted that no, she knew it wasn't right.

Tonight, the girls were going through some clothing someone gave us, happily digging through to find what might fit each of them.  Later, Angela walked by wearing a cute new TShirt from the batch, and I complimented her on it only to hear Olesya quietly say, "That was mine!" then quickly revert to "It's OK, Angie can have it." and try to walk away from the situation.  

Something in this instance set me off, as I saw just how quickly Olesya was willing to let go to avoid confrontation.  I also knew this had been going on for years, and it was time to create a new dynamic once and for all.

I called Angela back to the table where I was sitting and quite angrily said to her "Was that Olesya's shirt?  Did you guys decide it was hers?  Why are you wearing it?  This is exactly what I was talking about earlier this week!  You go take that shirt off and give it back to her."  Angela truly is a child who desires to please others, just as Olesya is, and without hesitation she went back to her room and changed, then returned.  I had them both sit down with me, and let them know just how serious I was about this.  I told Angela that what she had done was selfish, and that what was going on here was not at all funny.  I explained that I was older and wiser, that I could understand things that she and Olesya could not because I had more experience in life.  I told them that Daddy and I were growing very worried about this pattern of behavior, and that we knew it wasn't their fault, but it would be ours if we allowed it to continue.  

I laid it on the line when I turned to Angela and said "Do you know where this could lead?  Do you know what this will mean for Olesya if she continues to see her needs as less important than everyone else's and always give in to what everyone else wants?  It is going to lead her to being with a boy one day in the back seat of a car and not wanting to make him mad when he wants to touch her in ways he shouldn't, so she'll let him.  It's going to get her pregnant or beat up by a guy who treats her badly, because she only wants to make him happy and what she wants is not important.  What you see as not a big deal is a really big deal, Angela, and I KNOW you are not trying to hurt your sister and that you love her very much, but this pattern you have fallen into is leading her to put everyone else ahead of herself because she doesn't want them unhappy, and it has to stop."

Angela dissolved into tears immediately, as she is one of the most intuitive people I have ever met and I saw the light bulb go on for her before  I was even done speaking.  She saw the truth in what I was saying.  Oh, how she saw it...and she realized that what had seemed to be a fairly innocent childhood act of manipulation could see her beloved sister making really unwise choices in the not so distant future.  She got it, totally and completely got it, and was mortified by it.

I then turned to Olesya and said "You, young lady, need to hear me on are important, you are valuable, what you want in this world is NOT less important than what everyone else wants.  You also are smarter than you have ever thought you were, and I don't know how to get you to realize that.  You need to stand up for yourself, you need to see yourself as worth a lot, because you are.  I don't want to see you giving in to everyone all the time, that is not about being nice, that is about you thinking what you want is not as important as what your brothers or sisters want, and that is just not true.  You have a responsibility to yourself!".  She replied without much emotion showing "But I just want to make people happy!", and I slammed my hand down on the table as she jumped and exclaimed "What about making yourself happy??  You do this all the time, every single day of your life!"  and I turned to Angela and said "Do you see what I mean?  Do you see it?  This pattern you two are in is going to lead your sister to want to make some guy happy someday or to take drugs someday even if she doesn't want to because she doesn't want to make anyone unhappy." and Angela looked me square in the eye with tears spilling over and said "I know, I didn't know but now I know."

I turned to Olesya then and said "Do you think that by telling Angela 'no' she will get mad at you?  So what!  She'll get over it!".  Then I saw it, the tears coming when Olesya whispered "I afraid I lose Angie if I tell her no...I afraid I lose her..."  Angela's head whipped up and she looked at me as she heard this, and I realized new understanding had just occurred.  I said to Olesya "You will never, ever lose Angela again...EVER.  She loves you deeply and will not walk away from you just because you say 'no' to her over a candy bar!  She missed you as much as you missed her! Angela needs you too!  The only way you are going to lose her is if you continue to give in to her and someday, when you are much older, you will get tired of giving in to her and will avoid her rather than be with her because you have never learned to tell her 'no' and stand up for yourself.  She isn't doing this on purpose, you each have trained each other to act the way you act.  It is time to retrain each other in healthier ways so you can enjoy a loving friendship for the rest of your lives."

I then told Angela and Olesya  "Girls, it's not your fault.  None of this is something either of you caused.  You both love each other so much, and lots of bad things have happened to you both to create the ways you act with each other and others around you." and I have no idea why I inserted this but I was having a glimmer of understanding I guess as I added "And then they separated you!  They took you away from each other!  These adults DID that to you, your parents didn't take care of you, then other adults took you away from each other, and you were powerless to change any of it!".

Oh man, that was it...both of them just totally lost it.  Years of pent up emotions came spilling out, trickling down cheeks, heaving in huge sobs as Mom cried right along with them.  Olesya looked up at me and I said to her "You were so alone...I can't imagine what that felt like" and she managed to sob "I thought I never see Angie again...I so scared!!!!" and I then quietly asked them both "Have you ever told each other that?  Have you ever talked about what it felt like for each of you?  Olesya, do you know Angela would have NEVER left you if she had a choice?  She loved you and wanted to take care of you!" then I said "You two turn your chairs around and look at each tell each other how you felt, how sad you were, how scared you were...".  They turned and looked at each other, and the love was palpable, the heartache was exquisitely painful as they could barely get out the words "I was so scared..."  and Angela "I was so alone...I know no one and I so so scared!!" and they hugged and cried in each others arms.  After a few minutes I said "I am so very, very sorry this happened to you both.  I am sorry that you were alone, that no one loved you, that you were not cared for.  I am sorry that no one could protect you from all of this." 

Then, overcome with emotion that even I didn't realize I had locked up I cried out in the same anger and sorrow they were feeling "How could anyone do this to my babies!!!  How could they have done this to you??  You were little girls and you were all each other had and they ripped you apart!!  I can't even imagine how awful that was the day they took you away from each other!!  I wish Daddy and I had been there to stop it! We love you both so much, and we didn't even know you when this stuff happened, but if we had been there, they never would have done that to you!" and suddenly, both girls were at my side, and we were holding one another, and holding one another up as well.  

All 3 of us were powerless for years to bring us all together, all 3 of us yearned for what we now have, and all 3 of us grieved deeply for what had been lost...innocence, comfort, time.  I think the girls also needed to see someone who truly loves them grieve for their losses, they needed to know that their pain was not theirs alone anymore.  They needed to know that even as they were hurting so far away, someone here was hurting for them too, and that at least in part, I understood a little of the horror that had happened to them, I was not oblivious to their previous suffering.

We eventually parted and sat there talking, dabbing at tears, and I said to them "Nothing that happened is your fault, but when bad things happen we do what we can to survive and make it through.  We become tougher people, or we learn to give in because it is easier when we don't have control.  Each of you is different from who you would have been.  That is not a bad thing, as you are wonderful, amazing young ladies.  But I would not be a good mom if I didn't point out what we need to work on together so you can be the happiest and healthiest in your heart that you can be.  There isn't much, but I think you both can see that we need to help Olesya become stronger and believe more in herself.  And Angela, you are slowly learning that there is nothing to be scared of to show how you feel.  You are safe now, and you don't always need to be only the tough kid.  It is not weak to show how you feel, as you are seeing it is hard work and takes a very strong woman to look at someone and to risk sharing your heart.  You can be strong AND soft at the same time, and that makes for the best kind of woman ever.  You call me strong, and I one is going to push me around, but I am also soft enough to grab you in my lap and cuddle you, hug you and kiss you and tell you how much I love you." and at that Angela laughed out loud and said "Yea mom, you strong AND soft!".

But we were not done yet, I thought we were, but we weren't.  It got worse, much, much worse.  The grief had only begun to surface in this conversation...

As we sat there much calmer, we talked a little about their past life, the orphanage, Angela was truthful about how she had to be tough and not let anyone see her fear and that she could sometimes be mean to other weaker kids because she didn't want others picking on her.  Then somehow the conversation turned to her mom and her grandmother, that night, the stabbing Angela witnessed...and all of a sudden Angela put her head on the table and began to cry convulsively.  She didn't speak a word, just sat there, leaning into me as I put my arms around her and her body was wracked with grief filled wails.  Olesya came around me and hugged her, and we three huddled together as Angela relieved herself of years of terrible memories that thankfully Olesya was too young to share.  On and on it went, and there was nothing I could do.  Olesya looked up at me in panic as it was obvious this was something terrible and deep that needed to be released, and Olesya was terrified by the depth of emotion she was witnessing out of her usually strong and self-contained sister.

As this went on, I saw this was really disturbing Olesya, so I sent her off to be with the boys who Dominick had corralled in their bedroom with a laptop, dinner and a movie so we could work through our "stuff" without interruption out in the dining room.  Olesya was torn, but I could see the relief in her face that she could leave Angela in my care and not witness what she didn't know how to fix.

On and on this went, and as time passed, Angela's cries became a mournful keening, and I moved her over to the couch, buried in my arms.  There we sat as Angela internally relived all that had happened.  She shuddered, she cried out "stop...stop!" and she started speaking in Russian...sort of stream of consciousness spewing as she was no doubt a tiny little girl again, witnessing a horrible act of violence committed by her own mother.  An hour past, then almost two.  I was extremely worried as this was truly terrifying to witness, and I was wishing Dominick would come out so that maybe he could see how deep we had gone and he could reach out via phone to someone for help.  This was way beyond anything I have ever experienced with any of the kids, and was more likely the kind of thing that takes place in a therapists office, not in the arms of an uneducated lay person.

But maybe that was why it finally was able to come out, because it WAS in the arms of the right "professional"...MOM.  It doesn't really matter whether that mom thought she was prepared to deal with this appropriately, all that matters is that enough trust had developed that Angela felt safe and secure enough to finally let it all out.  

There she was, this daughter of mine wrapped in her blankey lovingly made for her by our sister-in-law's mother, curled up in the fetal position clinging to me for all it was worth, as she was absolutely in the moment when her grandmother was murdered...and she cried out "No Mama...No Mama...NO!!", and then she trembled and shook uncontrollably as I whispered, barely daring to interrupt the process taking place "Were you scared she would hurt you??" and then her chest heaved as she sobbed "Yes Mama...I soooo soooo scared...I afraid she kill us too!!!  No on there to help me, you not there, Papa not there....I scared she kill Olesya and me!!".  

I guarantee you, had that woman been present that moment, it would have taken all my restraint to keep from being violent myself.

We stayed there, just she and I, as I waited for the cries to subside, and as they did, new ones replaced them...more concerning ones...for this time she was muttering almost trance-like and it was obvious she really wasn't with me anymore.  Now I was very, very scared, and the sound she was making was something that only as I type this I now recall having heard once before.  A man was hit on a motorcycle by another car and flung over mine once, wearing no helmet, the sound Angela was making was the same odd deep chested rumblings that came from this instantly brain damaged man that once lay before me.


My heart stopped. "What did your uncle do to you, sweetie, did he hurt you?"
"Did your uncle hurt you Angela?  Were you scared of him?" I whispered into her hair as I gripped her tightly.
"Yes....I scared...I scared...I so scared..." she replied.
I swallowed hard, "Did he touch you in places he shouldn't?  Did he hurt you that way?" I barely dared ask.
" mama...I scared he kill me too..." she replied as she shook her head.
"Would you tell me if he touched you that way?" I asked quietly.
"Yes mama, no one ever do that to me.  My uncle he crazy crazy...I thought he kill me too like mama." She cried.
"Was he drinking a lot of alcohol like your mama?" 
"Yes, everyone all the time drink, drink, drink, get crazy crazy and do crazy thing.  Papa not bad, papa just sick in the head.  He good man but sick.  Mama not good, Uncle not good." She shared in between deep sobs.

Then "I want my grandma!!! I want grandma! She love me and I wish I see her here where we both safe!  I want my grandma!" and her crying became less trance-like, more in the here and now.

Letting go of any theological arguments others might have against it, I whispered to her "Maybe your grandma is watching over you right now and smiling because she is so happy that you and Olesya are finally safe and loved the way she wanted you to be. She isn't scared or hurting anymore, she is safe all 3 of you are safe and I know she must be very happy if she knows that."  I then added "I am so glad you had your grandma, she is the one person who helped you learn what love is, and without her, you and I would not be loving each other right now because she taught you that love is good."  Finally, Angela seemed to calm down a bit, her chest stopped heaving as deeply, and she was winding down.  

It was 2 1/2 hours later.

We sat there quietly, she curled up coming as close to being in my lap as could be at her size, whispering quietly to one another.  She looked up at me and said " read me a book please?" and I said "Honey, I'll let you curl up with me and I'll read to you when you are 35 if you want me to!" and a grin lit up her grief ravaged face as she ran to get our beginner version of the classics.

How poignant that she grabbed David Copperfield for me to read her, a book that she had worked diligently through the past two weeks and talked over and over again about how she loved it.  So there we sat, my daughter and I, reading about another child whose life had been filled with loss and yearning, who finally found wholeness.

Later, before heading off to bed, she grabbed me and held me for the longest time.  Then she pulled away and at arms length looked me straight in the eye and almost willed me to take in what she was saying..."Thanks mama for make me feel better."

No thanks needed, Angela, that's what mom's are for. MOMS in big 'ol capital letters.


Yes, adopting older children is not easy. They aren't cute and cuddly, they come with damaging memories, ingrained behaviors, truckloads of pain, fears and 3 foot thick brick walls.

They can be:

Positively confounding,
Periodically exasperating.

They also come with one huge word hanging over them, as if in a cartoonists speech bubble:


They have:

Potential to laugh,
Potential to hug,
Potential to learn,
Potential to succeed,
Potential to play,
Potential to love.

Our life often resembles a cartoon, not always subtle, filled with humor both dark and light, sometimes in color and sometimes in black and white.  It is probably the best metaphor for life in the LaJoy house...lots of humor to get you through, and as in a comic strip, a zinger now and then in those speech bubbles.

Time for me to go now, my crocuses are awake and need some tending.