Sunday, May 29, 2011

Kyrgyz Kids!!

I am trying to get all caught up before I leave Maryland for next week's new adventures, so that is why you are getting tons of posts here.  This is Post #4 in 2 days, for those who want to go back and look at the pictures from this past couple of weeks.

Yesterday was the reason we centered our trip to the East Coast on this particular time frame.  We are back in the DC area (Bethesda) for the weekend for the Kyrgyz Adoptive Families Cultural Celebration.  Because of the make up of our family and the similarities between Kyrgyz and Kazakh cultures, we often just look at ourselves as generally Central Asian (and yes, we often talk about Dominick and I being outnumbered! Haha!).  Kenny's Kyrgyz background is just blended into our larger Kazakh set of kids.  This was a chance for his country to be lifted up and appreciated, and all the kids recognized the need for Kenny to have "his" day.

We had such fun!  We met families whom we have known only via the internet but who feel like extended family.  I was a little uncertain how it would be for our kids, knowing they would be the oldest and that the majority of kids attended would be preschoolers.  However, in usual LaJoy style, we came to have a great time regardless...and we did!  Several of the kids ended up spending time in the kitchen helping prepare foods for the event and learning more about their favorite dishes.  They played games, heard music, watched educational videos and had a terrific time.  We are headed off in just a bit to the picnic where we also expect to have a blast:

Waiting somewhat patiently for Samsa!

Taken by Joshie

Kenny did the best he could to make himself short for the photo!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Back to Colonial Times

I am SO enjoying the super high speed internet here at our hotel in Maryland!  I have never had it so fast and wish we had such speed at home.  This is my 3rd post for the night, it is getting late and I am running out of editing steam to sort through the hundreds of photos I have taken on this trip.  I take tons, then cull out the best, photoshop them a bit, then post them but that takes a long time when I have 1000 to go through!

We headed off to Williamsburg with our friends, one of whom was a particularly excellent tour guide with a voluminous knowledge of early American history.  It was so interesting to watch the re-inactments and to see people everywhere dressed in period costume.  I think we have found Kenny's future career right there in Williamsburg.  He would make a fantastic tour guide here!!  His only complaint is that he could never live in this part of the country due to the terrible humidity.  I can't blame him, I have been melting a bit too and missing our "dry heat" that I so often make fun of.

Here are a few pictures to share, some of which are "just because" and some actually make a point of showing a little of our experience in Williamsburg:

Doormen in training

Practicing their new skills!

This is the closest Angela will get to a dress until her wedding day!

We all giggled over this, the 1700's version of a commode.  Or as the girls call it, a "toe-let"

We all learned a lot from the various guides

Joshie's new addiction, following in Mom's footsteps.  No, just was  just so hot we all needed a  pick-me-up

Around every corner there was something to watch being re-inacted!

The New Governor

This man on the right was in character and telling this "slave" that he had better watch himself, it was almost a little too real and got under my skin a bit watching it.

A little flushed from the heat but still going strong!

Josh looked so different in this shot,so grown up

Listening to the Jailer describe conditions, everyone was very glad we live in 2011!

No lens hood, so this shot turned out with glare, but one of the kids took it and I loved it.

Can you tell that the kids all shared the camera for awhile?  Can you believe how big Matthew is these days?  Wish I could stop time...

No words...

This trip has been wonderful on so many levels.  We are having the chance to enjoy our children not just for the kids they are, but with a glimpse of the adults they are gradually becoming.  We have such gratitude for the closeness we all share, and for this time together to simply have fun and not worry about work, school, adoptions, or anything else we have spent the past 10 years fretting over.  There have been so many insights about everything we have seen and experienced, so much time to hold hands, walk arm in arm, just stand and hug each other for a little longer without interruption.  Of course there is the practical side of the trip, as the kids have gained so much from seeing iconic places and "connecting the dots" after having learned about them prior to traveling.  But the single most important part of this trip, aside from seeing beloved friends, has been spending uninterrupted time together, enjoying the company of one another.  These days won't last and will soon pass.  We want to squeeze every last drop of togetherness out of them that we can.

And who knows?  Maybe...just maybe...we are building not just memories, but deeper relationships that will surprise us and carry well into adulthood.  Respecting the personhood of our children, them respecting the authority we need to have in their lives right now, appreciating the beauty of "family" and being unhesitant to express that appreciation at every single opportunity...all of that adds up over time.  As Angela aptly put it not all that long ago, it's like pennies in our big coin jar, it all adds up one little penny, or one little hug at a time.  Some of our kids' Love Banks spent years with a mere penny or two rattling around inside.  Slowly we are building a cavernous sized vault which will have hundreds of safe deposit boxes labeled which will hold hugs, kisses, hand holds, private moments to share feelings, and much more.  Those safe deposit boxes will ultimately surround the rest of the space which will one day contain the love they share with their future family.  That cavernous space will ALWAYS have room for more to come in, but will forever remain encircled in the safe zone of the love of this family.

And isn't that what family is all about?  It's not really about seeing the attractions or saying "I've been there!", it's about creating moments that fill those empty safe deposit boxes, that creates a sense of safety and reminds us of the steadfast love of not only our family, but of God reaching out to us through our family.

God is all over this trip, hovering and circling.  God has been with us on the streets of New York City, and back in time at Williamsburg.  God has been in the hearts of those who have opened their homes to us, and those who have reached out to help us on the street.  Most importantly, God has been awake in the wee hours of the morning as we talk quietly in a hotel room, and God has been buckled in with us in the car as we have laughed and giggled our way up and down the East Coast.  God has whispered to us in the Sacred the cathedrals, as  we quietly walked beside long, black walls, and as we heard taps played where the soldiers uniforms were so crisp and their heels snapped to attention with a sharp click.

May God continue to travel with us this next week, may others encounter God along the way with us.  May those that love us and support us know that they too are deeply  loved.  Sometimes, that may be all we have to offer...but it is all of what we have.


Our Hero's Home

This is post #2 of several tonight as I get caught up.

We traveled to Virginia where we stayed with our long time adoption buddies and it was a real blessing to finally meet each other's families after years of knowing one another via the internet.  How many people would be willing to host 7 other people...for several days?  We know that is not something easily offered, and we are so appreciative of those who have welcomed us into their homes on this trip.  More gracious hosts could never be found.  We have also stayed with the Delille's overnight and are returning for another night tomorrow night. (See the link to their blog on the right)  Add our 5 kids to their 7 kids, and that takes some real bravery!

While visiting in Virginia, we took a day trip to visit the home of our recently discovered hero, Thomas Jefferson.  Monticello was something we were all looking forward to seeing, thanks to the Ken Burns documentary we watched and learned so much from.  Jefferson was a one of a kind man, an enigma in many ways, brilliant and self-educated about so many topics, a confounding contradiction on the topic of slavery, and a lover of knowledge.  How could you not love a man who once said "I cannot live without books." ?  His home is surprisingly not as large as you'd expect, but it was thoughtfully laid out with many conveniences not usually found in homes of the day.

From the moment we pulled into the parking lot, the kids were exclaiming about how beautiful the property was.  Barely out of our car we stumbled upon the Slave Graveyard, and we spent a few minutes there quietly speaking about how there were no headstones and how the lives of the slaves were so difficult, and they passed without notice from this earth.  So much of America was built on the backs of our African American brothers and sisters, and seeing the unmarked grave site provided a moment of reflection the likes of which we have not experienced on this trip other than at the Vietnam Memorial Wall.

Ready for the tour

A gathering of believers in self-education!! Hahaha!

The famous gardens at Monticello

My SIX children! Ha!

Matthew said this was a beautiful smile of Olesya's, and that I should share it on the blog :-)

The small museum at Monticello was very interesting and interactive

All agreed, one of the top 1 or 2 favorite places we have seen on our trip

Gate to the family cemetary

Beautiful architecture, beautiful gardens.

All the kids bought a little something at the gift shop, and I was really surprised when both Angela and Matthew decided to each select a nice leather bound book of quotes from Thomas Jefferson. We talked about discussing the quotes each day during our Morning Meeting once we get back in the school routine.

The kids are working right beside me on their travel journals.  It has been fun to see what they are recording from their trip, what has meant the most to them, what has "stuck" in their memory banks.  Now, time to work on the next post!

Capitol Idea!!

Our East Coast tour has been phenomenal, a trip of a lifetime.  I have not been able to keep up with visiting with friends here, running from place to place, and blogging all at the same time.  I am way behind on posting and since this is our family photo album and journal I am beginning to feel like the mom who has a shoe box full of photos that are not yet in the scrapbook (Yes Jill...remember our phrase!) so I figured I'd better catch up a bit.  Therefore I am going to do a few posts here all in one evening, or that virtual shoe box will never get emptied!

I last left off in Washington, DC and we were just beginning our last day there.  We were gearing up to meet long time friends and visit the Capitol Building.  We were really looking forward to the Capitol Tour, but soon found it was the worst of all DC attractions in terms of the rudeness of security staff.  What is it about DC?  I really through New York would be where we wound encounter the most rudeness, but we were treated so warmly there by many strangers who happened upon this utterly lost group of tourists.  Everyone at attractions was courteous and helpful.  DC?  I daresay I have never in my life been treated so horribly by those working with the public in every single location, without exception.  At the Capitol people...including us...were literally being yelled at as if they were drill sergeants...and the security is a joke.  Cursory inspections of back packs, sometimes with computer scanner monitors not even turned on, yet acting as if this was life or death.  I am tired of the average American being treated as if we have committed some sort of heinous crime, all because we wish to visit a location that is open to the public.  

But enough of that little rant...

The Capitol Building was far more incredible than any of us expected.  It was one of the places we had done little study on before arriving, so none of us had any idea what to expect.  What a work of art the building is! You are swallowed up in the history of our country there, surrounded by sculptures, paintings, architecture and lore.  Although we were once again in the mobs of kids on end of the year field trips, and our tour guide said he had never seen it this busy ever, we still had a marvelous time seeing our Capitol.  The kids were quite impressed.

No picture can do this justice!

In the hall where there were many many they eventually had to spread them out throughout the Capitol Building because the floor wasn't strong enough to withstand the weight!

The painted ceiling was spectacular.

Our Tour Guide did a great job, but it was so busy it was sometimes hard to hear his voice!

Some of the statues

Everyone really enjoyed this visit!

Kenny wasn't the only one whose jaw dropped, he was just the only one I caught  with the camera!

Mosaic floors, chandeliers, original art work, beautiful chambers...all agreed this was the best of DC.
 This was the end of our sightseeing in Washington, DC.  Next, on to Virginia to visit our dear adoption buddies and spend time together.  More sightseeing awaited us there as well, more to follow later this evening!