Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Once Upon a Time...25 Years Ago

25 years.

25 years of laughter, 25 years of challenges, 25 years of heartache...

25 years of love.

Yesterday was our 25th wedding anniversary.  It wasn't marked by a large celebration thrown by our grown children, nor an amazing second honeymoon trip to Hawaii or an Alaskan cruise.  Instead it was spent in typical daily pursuits, Dominick worked, I cleaned and picked up.  We drove to Grand Junction to spend time with friends passing through, celebrating their good news with them.  Then the kids, sans Joshie, asked if we could stop by Dairy Queen so they could treat us to an ice cream.  Standing there at the counter as they all 4 huddled off to the side pooling their wadded one dollar bills, I chuckled to myself as I realized we certainly didn't need an Alaskan cruise to top this moment.

When we arrived home, we were informed that this was only the beginning!  While we will manage to squeeze in an overnight stay somewhere nearby on Friday night, we are being treated to dinner made for us on Saturday with ingredients purchased by them, and a movie that they will get for us which is a grown up movie of our choice, because they said "we always watch kid movies and you never get to watch anything just for you."  I think dinner will be Sloppy Joes :-)  Can it get any better than that?  Only if they actually clean the kitchen afterward...hahaha!

A real life is made up not of the Big Moments, but of the simple things.

It was a simple gesture really, leading up to that night of our first date.

Disneyland Graduation Night 1982 - First Date
Dominick was graduating, and we had been casual friends for 2 years, having met when I was 13 and he was 15.  Using the 80's version of the internet...the CB radio...we did what many of our peers were doing then, we stayed up until all hours of the night, often hunkered down in our parents' cars or at base stations in our bedrooms and talked about inconsequential things.  We went on "T-Hunts" which was essentially hide and go seek with cars and CB radio signals as our guide.

He was a 15 year old mouthy teenager, puffed up with his own self-importance and driving a low rider Chevy Impala whose battery was so close to death he used to yell out to his friends "Quick, shut the car door, the dome light will kill the battery!"  I was a 13 year old kid, needing someplace to fit in where I could find friends who were interested in a bit more than the usual 13 year old angst.  Through the group of friends I met, which included Dominick, I found that place...most of them were really nice young people in their late teens or early twenties, and age somehow receded as our enjoyment of one another as unique individuals grew.  His handle was "Charlie Brown" and I was the "California Sunshine"...cheesy now, but important then.

2 years later, after occasional lunches together at high school, and an earlier request to be his girlfriend, Dominick was graduating.  The tradition at Southern California high schools was to spend graduation night at Disneyland, and the park was closed to all but graduating Seniors and their dates until sunrise the next morning.  Bus loads of kids packed the park, and Dominick was going to miss out on the fun because he didn't have a date.  Knowing this, I offered to go with him just as a friend, so that he could enjoy this last "hurrah" of his high school years.  Yes, our first date was really a "pity" date :-)

I never would have guessed that the next morning upon my return, I would turn to my mom and say "This is the guy I am going to marry someday."

From that night forward, we were never apart.  We just knew.  Corny story, but true.  Two kids, deeply in love with one another.

Two years later, at my own Grad Night, we were newly engaged.  We never suffered through the drama that most couples our ages did.  We were one of the lucky few who actually grew together over time rather than growing away from each other.  There was never a single doubt for either of us that we had found our life partner.

There still isn't.

Cindy's Grad Night - 1984
We had a wonderful wedding complete with fancy cake, long dress, tuxes and toasts.  Fresh faced, young and filled with enthusiasm for whatever life would throw at us.  Little did we know just how much life really would throw at us.  Death at a young age of a sibling and fathers, employment ups and downs, long distance moves, entrepreneurship and years of 15 hour work days...and that was merely the first 15 years.

June 28, 1986

The second 10 years were joyfully challenging, heartbreakingly wonderful.  A blizzard of paperwork, a whirlwind of travel, and arms gradually filled to overflowing with desperately desired children who are the very heart of our home and the manifestation of our love for one another, despite their lack of biological connection.  They are ours, and we are theirs.  Fully.  Completely.  Unreservedly.

We are family.

25 years of building a life together.  It hasn't always been pretty, in fact at times this love thing can be a very messy affair.  But it has always been solid, rock solid.  We are not a glamorous couple, we are not part of the "beautiful people" crowd.  We are a car wash guy and a homeschooling mom with a passel of kids.  We have an odd sense of humor that often is not understood, we can be tacky and graceless.  We are not perfect in any way.

Due to our own fault through the years, God has been distant at times and closer at others, but always present.  Somehow though, God has managed to use this union to touch the lives of others.

Dominick, you are the single love of my life.  You are the best husband a woman could ever ask for.  Your strength, your character, your warmth, your humor...twisted though it may be...still hold us together after all these years.  25 years later I look back and realize I never had a doubt that we would be here 25 years down the road, still holding hands, still laughing and goofing around, still crazy after all these years :-)

What will the next 25 years bring? What adventures will we share?  What sorrow will fill our hearts?  Come what may, it will be together, and that is all that matters.  Thank you for the life you have allowed us all to have through your back breaking labor.  Thank you for the stability you have provided for us, and most especially for children whose lives were anything but stable prior to joining us on life's journey.  Thank you for the way you have cared for my own family when at times that was very, very difficult.

I have a feeling that we will still be grinning and goofing on our 50th anniversary.  We don't know any other way to be!

And maybe, just maybe, if we play our cards right, we can get the kids to pop for another Dairy Queen Blizzard on our 50th :-)


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Growing Into Our New Selves

We have been busy the past few days, having taken our "maiden voyage" in our new/used RV.  What did we discover?  Well...when you buy something so old, you don't expect it to be in perfect working order.  We found that there is something wrong with the fridge, and it doesn't work on propane or electric.  It had been replaced by the RV dealer we bought it from, so hopefully they will be able to repair it or replace it.  So we ended up once again hauling coolers along :-(  We also found that we could not fill the propane cylinder that is installed in it, as it was not working right, but we were able to haul along a 25 lb cylinder and make it work fine.

What did we love?  EVERYTHING!!!  Hot water in a sink to wash dishes, a real bed, a kitchen to work in when it inevitably rained, a SHOWER AND TOILET!!  A real live, functioning, non-hole-in-the-ground TOILET!  Ahhhh...heaven...

We had our annual Church in the Park service Sunday morning, and Joshie and his adopted brother-buddy were presented with a very thoughtful gift bag as a send off for their first camp experience.  How these two love each other!!  When our families first met at church, Josh was still in the worst of the throes of RAD, and he wouldn't do anything other than make mad faces and turn away.  Often we don't realize the light that children can be in the lives of others, and Joshie's best friend has certainly been a light in his, and a huge help in his healing with his gentle spirit, his open heart, and his generous love.  It is no wonder that Dominick and I love this young man as much as we love our own.

I leave Saturday for the first run to haul kids to camp.  My heart strings were tugged a bit seeing Josh reading the card that came with his new flashlight and disposable camera.  He is one of our little miracles, this little boy, and this big step for him is something that a few years back we could not even begin to imagine him taking.  Alone at camp?  Away from family?  Will he make it?  Attachment disorder kiddos struggle in ways others can only imagine, and seeing his excitement with not an ounce of fear fills me with joy beyond compare.  He is ready, he has confidence, he will take on Camp La Foret!! 

He is whole.

The past 12 months have been extraordinary on so many levels, and watching the blossoming of all the kids has been a blessing beyond compare.  Was it homeschooling?  Was it time with others?  Was it natural maturation?  Was it a combination?  I have no idea but Joshua, in particular, has changed in subtle yet substantial ways as he seems less insecure, more sure of himself, and totally capable these days.  We still struggle with night terrors occasionally, he definitely gets anxious when I am gone from home for a couple of days, but all in all he has come a long, long way. 

All of a sudden though, in the last two or three months, we are all noticing a new boldness in Josh, and quiet leadership skills we never noticed before.  The kids were making salt dough maps last week of Colorado, and after being occupied myself with the girls for a bit, I turned around and found the boys being led by none other than Josh.  He donned Dominick's reading glasses and took over reading the map and guiding Matt and Kenny in mountain and terrain placement, explaining to them about why certain areas should be taller on the map because this or that mountain range had a higher altitude, and insisting upon proper river placement. Even more interesting is that his much older brothers had enough trust in him to naturally allow this assertion of leadership to take place, and gladly followed his instructions.

Here are a couple of other pictures of the kids working on their projects:

If there is any of our children who has completely startled us this past year though, it would have to be Kenny.  What an incredible turnaround he has made!!  What a validation of our faith in him despite "experts" who told us that we would just have to lower our expectations for him and for his future.  Dominick and I were visiting with a friend a couple of evenings ago with Kenny sitting nearby.  I have no recollection of how the conversation turned in the direction it did, but somehow the topic touched on Muslim history.  Kenny began rattling off historical facts all about the Ottoman Empire and Richard the Lionheart, basically providing us with a 10 minute summary along with his well spoken opinions.

After Dominick and I picked our jaws up off the floor, we looked across the table at one another in complete delight.  Don't ask me how this is happening, because I couldn't explain it if I tried.  But this wonderful, amazing, gifted and insightful young man of ours is literally bursting at the seams these days with academic and intellectual enthusiasm.  This child, whose daily battle is unlike any you or I could ever fathom, whose rest results had me second guessing my own gut instinct about his intelligence (Thank goodness I didn't let THAT stop us...for it surely could have!) is literally soaring in directions I never would have imagined 12 months ago.  I was merely hoping to get him reading at a 3rd grade level by the age of 13.  A dissertation on the Ottoman Empire?  Uhhh...that would have been beyond a stretch.

But if Kenny is growing academically, it is spiritually where he is really deepening.  We had a long fireside chat alone this weekend, and during it Kenny revealed just how strong he is sensing a call to ministry.  He looked at me with those expressive eyes of his, and with such excitement and a little bewilderment in his voice he said something that my heart recognized..."Mommy, sometimes I just can't make my mind stop thinking about God, Jesus, and all that kind of stuff.  Even when I want to, I just can't turn it off and the more I think, the more questions I have.  Sometimes I think I want to be a businessman, but now more and more I am thinking I might want to do something with God."  Later, in sharing our conversation with Dominick I asked him if he thought this was just Kenny's way of drawing closer to me since he knows this is where my interests lay.  Dominick chuckled and said "Nope, I think this is all Kenny."

It was during this conversation when Kenny gave me a belated Mother's Day gift.  The church service in the park was about rocks...about The Rock and thinking about other important "rocks" that have passed through our lives.  There we sat, Kenny and I, the fire crackling in the twilight as the Uncompahgre River provided the melody for the evening as it pushed against the nearby riverbank.  Kenny looked up at me sideways and said "You want to know who I told Pastor Karen my rock was?" and I said "Sure...who was it?" and he said "You have opened my heart and mind.  All the time before, when I was in the orphanage or even in school, I felt sort of dead in my head and heart.  But you always, always believed in me, and you have helped me see that I am smart and can do all kinds of things.  It is like I have turned alive or something.  You are my rock for sure."

These gifts of ours, these children we cherish so very, very  So very often I recall things they have said or done, and I can't help but smile as I think of each of them.  Matthew who is the man of few words but who walks up and puts his ever stronger arms around me and gives me a gentle squeeze when he knows something is going on that is difficult.  Angela, whose insights about human behavior and whose instincts are always spot on.  Olesya, who mothers her mother just when she needs it the most, and who has the most giving servant heart of all the kids.  Joshie, whose love is sweeter than just about anything in the whole world.  And Kenny, the Seeker who stumbles from time to time, but whose grace and goodness shine through. 

We parents do the best we can.  We try, we fail, we sometimes succeed.  We put our heart and soul into our children, and once in awhile we have moments that we wish we could preserve forever.  Other times we have trials we wish we would never remember.  We LaJoy's have weathered some rough seas, but we are together.  Always. 

I wouldn't have it any other way. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Are You Kidding Me??? Seriously???


Added 6/17/10:  I am enjoying reading your comments about this, thanks to all who have written!  I think though that I need to clarify something that may not be understood.  I get it...I really and truly do...that kids are having sex at younger and younger ages.  I get the need to educate where parents don't do there job. I also agree that someone has to do the job, and if it is in school it will be essentially valueless due to the fairness of acknowledging that people have different value systems they operate under.

What we are talking about here though is NOT education, it is invasion of privacy.  And I am still not sure it is OK for a teacher or school to ask questions of a very personal nature of any child of any age, when the same question posed by anyone outside the system would lead to an investigation by authorities.  I guess I may be the only one disturbed by this seeming double standard, which is why I wondered what others' opinions were on the subject.

And for all that we know does go on in schools and at ever increasingly younger ages...there ARE still children at 10, 11 and 12 IN public schools who are not as sexually aware.

I guess too that part of my frustration with this is directed towards the irresponsible parents who abdicate responsibility for the education of their children about sex to the schools, and that effects every single child there, even those whose parents DO care and will do their jobs. 

I'll still say that if my kids were ever asked such questions, I would raise Holy-You-Know-What and be madder than a hornet.  Looking at Matthew, just turned 12, and I am ever so greatful that he and Angela and Kenny and Olesya are not ignorant of the existence of such activity, but are blissfully still deeply emerged in childhood, as they should be.   WIsh it were so for every other kid in the world.  It is easy to see how we as a society fail in a million ways to protect our support failing support those in need of role models.

So what do we do about it?  Education alone will not change it, folks.  And that is not a comment against the sexual education of our kids.  Just a recognition that it takes a whole lot more.  It takes kids not yearning for love they don't get at home, it takes kids who know who they are and have confidence in themselves...not false confidence but a deeply rooted sense of self.  It takes families passing on values which are wholesome and healthy.  It takes having a safety net.

I guess, what I am saying is, that it takes a village.  But it also takes a strong family.  The village may have to find better ways to support those failing families so they can become stronger.

OK, 'nuff said.  I need to "chew" on this some more!

Below is the post:

We, as a culture, have gone too far.  I am totally convinced of it.

I just read online about the Massachussetts middle school that asked 7th and 8th graders graphic and  explicit questions about their sexual behavior, including questions about oral sex.  Pardon me for being so graphic myself with this post, but I simply don't get it.

Here is a link to the article:

I take issue with this for two reasons.  First of all, is the insanity of our societal expectations and perspectives about sex.  Please, will someone tell me why it is aceptable for a public school to ask our 10, 11 and 12 year old students questions of such a graphic sexual nature...but if a stranger came up to them on the street and asked the very same question that stranger would be labeled a pedophile and branded a sex offender for the remainder of their lives.  I can guarantee you that if some guy came up to my kid at our weekly street fair tonight and asked them if they engaged in oral this survey in school did...I would have him arrested immediately.

So why is it ok for teachers to ask these questions under the guise of "education"?  And why in the world doesn't anyone on the faculty see this as clearly offensive? 

My second issue with this is one most will probably not find as important, but I certainly think it is.  Here is where my Libertarian leanings might come out.  What right does any school official or teacher have to ask such questions even if only on the grounds of rights to privacy?  Since when did it become a school's job to monitor a child's sexual behavior?  Does a child of this age have the understanding of privacy issues and how revealing certain kinds of information may follow them later on in ways they might one day regret?  Even if they did, would they feel obligated to answer a survey or would they feel comfortable enough to stand up for their rights and opt out?

I am outraged, and I remember feeling violated myself when we were going through our adoption homestudies and found that a new questionairre was being required which asked intimate questions about our sexual activitiy.  At least I could understand why we were being asked such things, as there are predators who try to adopt so they can have a victim to abuse...but I still didn't like it.  However, we were given no choice, and I still contend that any adult who has half an ounce of sense would know how to answer such questions to evade suspicion. 

But a child??? 

Don't get me wrong, our family is probably even more open about sexuality than many ore, having had many discussions in our home about various topics.  The difference?  It is in our home, it is not valueless, and my kids will not have anything private about their sexual activity on file in some school office somewhere, or in some teacher's file...nor will their sexual activity be used to gather data about the habits and practices of children.  Our children are still far more innocent than many their ages, despite this knowledge, as it is all in how it is presented and then how much exposure they have to inappropriate content.

I am NOT against providing information, factual and clear.  I am NOT against our children understanding all they possibly can about their bodies.  I am NOT out to shield my children from the real world.  But I am sorry, asking my child if they have engaged in oral sex at 12 years old is basically telling them "We expect you have done so..." and that is NOT the message we want sent to our kids. 

Maybe I am just too "old school", maybe I am not Thoroughly Modern Millie.  It's just that I always am surprised...just as I think we can't possibly stoop any lower than "Jersey Shore", I find there is yet another level of disgust we can sink to.

Wondering how the rest of you all feel about I a total nut case?  Is this sort of thing disturbing at all to anyone else or am I way off base?  Please share as I really would like to know!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Whole Lotta Birthday Lovin' Going On

Can it be? June 12th has rolled round again, and we now have a strapping (and I do mean strapping!) 12 year old son.

The day started out with church where I was the guest preacher...and with knees knocking I got past that.  I will never, ever be very good at this part of ministry, as I am simply not a good orator.  I am learning and challenging myself to do something I am not very successful at, and one day maybe I will be adequate.  It is an incredibly difficult thing to do, and for someone who avoided public speaking as much as possible throughout life, it seems God is forcing me to work on this area over the past several years.  Speaking at adoption events, having to do TV and video interviews (we did 2 while in for Voice of America about Kyrgyzstan adoptions and one  for the Joint Council on International Children's Services for a promo video), and delivering sermons...all have stretched me to the very limits of my tolerance for this sort of thing.  I remind myself whenever asked to go outside my comfort zone that God doesn't ask us to be perfect, God just asks for our willingness.  In that, perhaps there is something that can be used.  I sure am not perfect, and with public speaking I am well below average, but maybe God can take it and use it somehow simply because I am willing to be embarrassed even though I am NOT being all that gifted at it.

After that, it was home for a last minute birthday get together for Matthew.  We have toned down birthdays since graduating to 5 kids, and in fact have never been all that great at huge bashes.  I wish I had the party planning skills that some of my close friends have, who are so creative and on the ball!!!  I really do have some friends who are awesome in that area.  But we asked if a few friends could make it for dinner, and we had a small BBQ and a cake for Matthew's 12th birthday.

Low key though it was, it was plain old nice.  Adults visiting, kids playing and splashing around happily in the pool.  Messy BBQ sauce and cake frosting everywhere...we may not be fancy but we enjoy the company of those we love, and we hope they feel cared for when in our home.

Sitting back, watching Matt this past year has been like watching a movie played in triple time.  In one year, our little boy is gone and a young man has truly appeared.  He has grown so much this year, about 6+ inches (no kidding), his voice has deepened, and his confidence has grown.  Funny, but from the time he was very, very little, he was solid...someone you knew you could count on.  That may sound odd when speaking about a young child, but Dominick knows what I mean.  It is hard lately to remember that he is only an 11 or 12 year old boy, as he is filled with much wisdom for his age, carefully considers all moves he makes, has focus and direction, and is honest and  plain old decent.  He has gradually grown to be a little protective of me, showing me great care and thoughtfulness, which in turn will translate into those same actions passed on to his future wife.  He has the LaJoy sense of humor which is ALL Dominick :-)  and he is a delightful companion on road trips, being my navigator and co-pilot.

But I think what struck me the most this evening in watching the kids gathered round as Matthew opened his gifts, is that we are an extraordinary lucky family to have children who all stand by one another, enjoy one another, and unabashedly show their love for each other.  Kenny and Josh took the last of their savings to buy Matthew a Star Wars Lego set and couldn't wait for him to open it...then tonight Matthew made it and handed it over to the other boys to play with it.  Angela had us all cracking up as she wrapped our gift to him, the game of Risk, in a very creative, layered way and she giggled the entire time she was wrapping it.  The delight on her face as he opened her trick present was a riot to see, and equally wonderful was Matthew's face as he first uncovered the gift wrapped in his swim trunks with a girlie mask on it, then the next layer he found 2 pair of Kenny's underwear enveloping his gift, followed by a Mermaid towel.  All the kids thought this was pretty hilarious, and watching them laugh together touches me.

Then there was the sweetest gift, as Olesya had been working for weeks on making her first real sewing project, which was a quilted blanket for Matthew with airplane and camo print.  Matthew's reaction showed that he knew this took her a lot of work, and he definitely loved it.  Olesya has a tiny bit more to finish on it, and then is going to enter it in our local annual quilt show in the Kids Division.  Matthew asked me tonight "Mommy, can't I sleep with it just for tonight?" so it was easy to see just how much he loved this special gift from his "twin" sister whose birthday is exactly 2 months later than his.

When you think that we have pulled together this family from across the world, forced children out of birth order...more than once, changed their entire lives by ripping them from the only homes they have known, then added more change with homeschooling and being outside the norm here in America, had children whose hurts are soul deep, and yet see the love they are capable of and the warmth with which they treat each other, there is nothing more that I need to do to feel like my life has had meaning.  I honestly don't know how we have pulled it off, but somehow we have, and I am grateful beyond words to all who have helped to nurture our kids and provide them with a sense of loving community, for we know it is not all our doing.  God has provided some of the most loving, caring , wonderful role models and mentors for our kids, and Dominick and I certainly can not take credit for all of it.

Here are some photos from today:

Star Wars Legos!

Thanking his brothers...

Dada and Joshie (Josh still calls him Dada)

Matthew delighted with a gift card!  Waddaya think, will he buy more Legos??

Dear Sweet Olesya and her beautiful gift!

I think this will be cherished

Our Twins

Layer One of the Amazingly Wrapped Gift

Layer Two...Kenny's Undies!

Angela thinks this is the funniest thing she has ever done! :-)

Matthew, my dear, dear son, I love who you are, and look forward with great anticipation to discovering who you will one day become.  Thank you for the grace you continue to show your siblings every single day, thanks for your leadership in this family, and for the gentle respect you show your Dad and I.  It is hard not to shed a tear when I think of the young boy who is no longer with us, and yet I smile through the tears at the junior man I see before us today.  Never give in to your lesser self, my son, push yourself outside your box and try new things, reach out to others when you are in need of a shoulder to lean on...and look right here under this roof for the love and support you might one day need.  Continue to give those long, grand bear hugs. Don't rush growing up too quickly, enjoy this last year or two of true childhood, adult life will wait for you.

Be kind, be firm, be strong.

You are simply amazing.

Love Always,

Friday, June 10, 2011

Beginning to Catch Up has been awhile, hasn't it?  Sorry for the delay, it has been hectic coming back and trying to get laundry caught up, errands done, and other things attended to that we left behind before leaving.  We returned to  incredibly smoky skies, thanks to the fires in Arizona, and it didn't feel at all like our Colorado when we stepped off the plane!  We had an amazing, wonderful, awesome, memorable time but it was really good to be back home.   Smoky skies or not, there is a spaciousness that exists here, a presence that speaks deeply to my heart, and I will never feel that way about another place.  We really enjoyed the beauty and lush greenery of the Virginia countryside, and would love to see more someday.  However, perhaps when it is not so humid!!  Whew, that is some tough weather to handle, and I have a much greater appreciation for "dry heat".  Had a day that was 97 degrees a few days back, according to my car thermometer, and it felt NOTHING like it did in Virginia.

I also have taken longer to post because I am battling some significant vision problems that crept up on me, and I am having great difficulty reading anything at the moment.  I type so poorly that I really need to read my posts over carefully (and as you have noticed through the years I still don't always have time to proof what gets posted!).  I was beginning to get quite worried as I was suddenly having issues with light and dark, along with blurred vision.  After a quick office visit to our friend, who is my optometrist, I discovered that my actual eyeballs were swollen (doesn't that sound funny??) and my vision was off over 3 diopters in each eye.  For those of you who are not in the know, that is an incredible amount.  I went from something near -10 diopters to -13 and -14.  So, contacts out for a week, drops in, steroids drops as well, and hopefully it will be back to normal very soon.  In the meantime I am having itchy, blurry, uncomfortable vision which makes you feel as if you are not really participating in the world.  It has severely limited what I can currently do online or with writing.  So it will have to be short blog hits as I can until this is cleared up.  But I want to try and catch you up a bit, as I realize I left everything sort of hanging.

We spent part of Memorial Day weekend not just at the Kyrgyz festival, but also made an unexpected trip to Arlington Cemetery.  We had talked about going before leaving on our trip, but Angela was adamant about not wanting to see it.  I am not sure what changed her mind, but after we were done with the Saturday events she asked if we could still go, so we jumped on her openness and headed straight there.  I have no idea what it is normally like on a regular day, but because of it being Memorial Weekend it was very busy.  We spent about 2 hours there, walking and reading tombstones, watching the soldiers and the ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  What a powerful place to visit.  I found myself wishing I could return on normal day, when it would presumably be quieter and offer more in terms of contemplative opportunities.  Regardless, it was a holy place, one where the stark reminder of the toll of war is abundantly clear.

In front of JFK's famous speech...which made enough of an impression on Josh that he copied the famous line from it in his journal.

Is our gratitude equal to this??

We spent the actual holiday with the Delille family, whose blog link is shown over on the side of my blog, as well as other friends of ours who also have adopted children from Kazakhstan.  The Delilles have 10 children, 7 of whom are adopted including Kenny's "twin", Sam, who is also a cleft kiddo from Kazakhstan.  The kids laughed, enjoyed swimming together, and goofing around while the moms got in some visiting.  We shared a wonderful cake that was created special for this gathering of our families:

These 2 women prayed unceasingly for our family and for the girls prior to their adoption, and we all continue to pray for Amir/Isaac to come home to the Delille's.  They are the family adopting Kenny's buddy left behind in Kyrgyzstan.

It was a huge blessing that we all got to be present for a Skype call with Amir, and Kenny got to visit with him via an interpreter.  My heart ached as only someone who has gone through it can understand, as I saw Carrie kneeling on the floor in front of the computer, leaning in as if she just wanted to reach in and pull Amir/Isaac right through the screen.  How I know her arms wish to hold him, and how I know what it feels like to watch him growing ever older with each passing month.

This trip was educational on so many levels, but it was about far more than history and academics.  The extended family that has been created for us due to adoption is an extraordinary gift.  Staying with 2 families whose lives parallel our own in many ways, meeting others who we have spoken with on the phone and read blogs about was so comfortably familiar, despite having never met face to face.  Coming home to a card from our adopted family in Wichita who also came into our lives due to the connection we have because of our children,  there can be no doubt that our lives were doubly enriched by the decision to adopt.  Some of these long distance friendships have lasted 10+ years, and bring a smile to my face every time I think of them.

Finally, here are a few random photos from our last few days on our trip.  Sorry I can't post more but even to get this post done I have the laptop screen literally about 8 inches from my face and still all is fuzzy.  We visited The Pioneer Culture Museum, and the girls and I did a quick trip with our friends to the University of Virginia, which without a doubt is what a University campus ought to look like.  What a beautiful place Thomas Jefferson created!  We loved seeing it.

We came home and made the decision that this was the summer we needed to get a real pool, so off to Walmart we went.  the kids are rowing up so fast that in order to make it worth the cost and get enough use out of it to justify  the purchase, we realized we needed to go ahead and get one and not put it off any longer.  Joshie is finally tall enough to touch bottom and still have a deep enough pool for the bigger kids to really enjoy, so now we have the laughter and giggles every afternoon of everyone screaming upon entry because it is so cold! Hahaha!  They have already spent hours in the pool, and I am glad we went ahead and did it despite the cost.  Matt was really getting too big for the baby blow up pools we usually get each year...and pop in the first 3 weeks or so.  

Well, here are those few remaining photos I promised. Seems I never did get any good ones of the girls this time around, always captured the back of their heads for some reason:

Inside an African style home

IN the English style country home, Kenny and Matthew both loved the cat!

Matthew resting his feet in the blacksmith shop

Kenny showing off the handmade nail we watched the blacksmith make

Josh on an old fashioned loom in the Irish frontier home

Now we are home, and on to things like traveling back and forth for church camp, doing a little camping ourselves, enjoying the summer evenings, surgery at the end of summer for Kenny and mid-August for Matthew for a recheck at Shriners for his ongoing foot problems.  Some school will be slipped in all that, and who knows what all else.  You never can tell with the LaJoy's!  But for now, no surprises on the horizon, just a few lazy, happy days of summer.  

Here's hoping your first couple of weeks have been restful and enjoyable!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

New Post Soon

Hi All!  I know I've bene quiet for a bit longer than usual, but I simply haven't had time to blog.  I'll try and get a post up in the next couple of days.  We are home safely, recovering after the "7 in '11 East Coast Tour", and trying to get back into our routine.  I came home to a sermon I had to write for this next Sunday, so that had to take precidence, but I'll get back on the blog soon.  In the meantime, I hope the beginning of everyone's summer has been relaxing and reasonably warm! :-)