Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Catch Up!

It has been awhile...too long in fact.  I haven't blogged in 25 days, that has to be a record for me and hopefully not one I will repeat again.  I have missed you, but have been engaged in other ways as a new friendship has entered my life and I have been taking the time to attend to it, nurture it, and watch it blossom in extraordinarily wonderful and unexpected ways.  My evening writing time has been taken up with hours long phone calls, and lengthy emails.  While the blog has suffered, I certainly have not, and this Thanksgiving I am especially thankful for God's care for me in this way.

Friendships matter, and I have been blessed with particularly rich friendships in the second half of my life.  I spent the first half of my life devoid of real friendship, and now I value each and every person who enters my life so much, and I am more willing to put in the effort that a truly strong friendship requires.  This time spent in a personal "retreat" of sorts has been fruitful in ways seldom experienced, and already I can see how I have grown from it.

So what has happened over the course of the past 3 weeks or so?  One big thing is that we now have a newly minted 16 year old in Kenny!  We celebrated Kenny's birthday last weekend, in a low key but very special way.  Here's our birthday boy:

Big changes this past year for Kenny, as he has matured so much and grown into himself in many ways.  It is a big change from the little 8 year old we brought home 8 years ago:

This was taken in our first couple of hours with Kenny...that same softness seen in his eyes is still very much present today.

For our 16th birthday tradition, we let Kenny pick out where he would like to go to dinner, which for our family is a special treat to actually eat out at a real restaurant.  Kenny selected the Olive Garden, which for those who know Kenny and his appetite would be no surprise with unlimited soup, salad and bread sticks! Haha!  Kenny then anxiously opened up his gifts from us.  Here is what he found:

Kenny got a new dress watch from a real jewelry store :-)  He loved it!

Then, a special little gift:

This one needs some explanation.  Kenny had spoken with me at length about how his 16th birthday felt somehow very different to him.  He described it as his life finally starting at Ground Zero, as if he was truly starting over now that he has been home as long as he was in the orphanage, and also now that he has made so much progress in school and other areas.  Matthew and I were talking, and Matt said I ought to get something for Kenny with a Phoenix on it, signifying rebirth and renewal.  I loved the idea, so I went to a silk screener and had this sweat shirt made for Kenny to recognize his rebirth.  Kenny LOVED the symbolism of it, and loved the hoodie.  It meant a lot to him.

What deeply touched me though, was when Kenny first received his gift bag and he grabbed for the card.  He looked at all of us and said, "I love mom's cards the most, they are the best part of the gift." He took his time to read it carefully before opening anything up, and he repeated it again that my cards are more important than any gift.  Yes, it was hard not to tear up at that one.  I love how our kids can express their emotions so well, and never hesitate to do so.

Kenny reading our card.

Joshie also wrote him a sweet note, our kids love for one another and their unabashed willingness to express it to each other is probably one of my greatest joys of parenting.

The Hungry Menfolk

The Women of the Family

When we were finished with dinner, we went to the mall, because the kids had to purchase Kenny's gift...a new sport coat.  Now, mind you, Kenny is a very slender young man, so this was no easy task.  We tried on jacket after jacket with each one being too large or not the exact thing they were all looking for.  It was so fun to watch the kids all trying to find the right thing for him while Dominick and I just sat back and watched the action.  

Matthew led the charge, and it was extremely moving to watch him gently steer Kenny here and there, holding coats up and helping him in a very caring way.  These two are really great friends and dearly love one another, with Matthew being protective of Kenny in some ways, and Kenny being the mouthpiece for the quieter Matthew sometimes.  Matt was determined to find just the right thing for Kenny, and then at Kohl's they found it, a sport coat in a slender.  The problem?  It was $185, way, way more than all the kids were pitching in to pay for.  Matt took one look at it, then told Kenny they were getting it.  Kenny said, "No way, Matt, that is way too expensive."  Matt just told him to be quiet and step away for a moment while he talked with me.  I tried to talk him out of it, and Matthew shut me down quickly.

"Mom, 16 only comes once, and I want Kenny to have a special gift from us.  He has always had it harder than the rest of us and I think he deserves it.  I will pay the difference, I brought an extra hundred dollars." he said.

"I think that is way too much to pay for this, Matthew, and you really ought to wait and we can see what else we can find elsewhere." I replied.

He came back quickly with, "This isn't really your decision, Mom, it is mine and it is my money I earned, and this is what I want to do with it.  I don't mean to be disrespectful, but I really want to get this for him."

How could I argue?  So off to the register we went, where thankfully, we discovered it was on sale with quite a discount and ended up being less than $100.  I was so glad that it was more reasonable than we expected, but I looked at Matthew through new eyes when it was all over, and I saw that our quiet one runs very, very deep in his feelings for his brothers and sisters.

Ready to shop!

We have also had a trip to Salt Lake City during my blog hiatus.  Shriner's is going to do Matthew's back surgery on February 2, 2014.  It will not be a minor surgery, and we were told it will take between 4 and 5 hours, depending upon what they find when they have access to his spine.  Matthew has a broken vertebra he has had perhaps for his whole life, probably due to malnutrition when an infant.  He will be in the hospital for 5 days there, then it was suggested we remain in SLC for another 2-3 days before the long 6 hour drive home, so that his back has time to heal a little more.  He has been experiencing increasing pain, and really wants to get this over with.  Matt suffered with rickets as well, and his shins are somewhat curved but not bad enough for surgery, though when he was younger it was thought he might need it to correct the curvature.  Orthotics have helped with that issue, and he will need those the rest of his life.  We lucked out on that one.  He has had limited physical activity for years, and we hope this will bring him permanent relief.  

Josh continues to grow and grow and grow!  He needs all new clothes again, and has been borrowing a few of Matt's as his shoulders are so broad he needs them, but the sleeves are too long :-)  That will have to wait until after the holidays, as we can't manage a new wardrobe right now for the 3rd time this year.  He continues to check himself to see if he is taller than Olesya yet, so that he can move out of "Shortest in the Family" status :-)  What a sweet and hard working young man he is becoming, hard to call him a boy any longer for he definitely carries himself as a man now.  

The girls are blossoming in all kinds of ways, reaching out toward adulthood gradually.  What a gift Olesya and Angela are in my life, let alone the entire family.  It is hard to believe that once I was scared of having daughters, thinking I was mainly a "Boy Mom" and not really capable of being a "Girl Mom".  I am no different than I was, I still don't know how to dress well, seldom wear makeup, and in general still eschew many things most women enjoy.  It doesn't matter, not a whit.  The girls and I couldn't be closer, and every time I need to even make a quick run to the store they both beg to come with me, just to be with me.  We talk about everything from cute actors from India, to what has happened in Ferguson, to God's presence in our lives.  Enjoying their company has been so rewarding, and watching them grow into young women is quite a gift.  They are often found helping with various things at church, and enjoy being with our older female friends very much, all of whom treat them with great respect and kindness.  Their English is suprisingly good these days, though we still have a long way to go with written English.  But it was interesting to watch Angela tonight as she was watching some show on Netflix that was Korean, and had English subtitles.  I told her, "Can you believe that in less than five years, you are watching films subtitled in English and understanding everything?", and we both laughed about that.  How far these sweet girls have come, how much they have overcome, and how deeply I love them both...

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and if ever a family had a lot to be thankful for, it is us.  That we found one another in this world, that we are living together in great love for one another, that we are surrounded by the love of friends...yes, we have surgeries and work worries and other things ahead, but somehow, that all pales in comparison to what we have been blessed with.  More importantly, we never seem to forget how blessed we are, it is a constant part of our daily conversation, and I think that alone makes a big difference for us all.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Sunday, November 02, 2014

A Big Sigh

We have had a busy and fun couple of weeks! Fall has been kind, fall has been gentle, fall has offered more beauty than I can even express this year.  Dominick and I were both talking about what a lovely season it has been.  Friendships seem to be warmer and richer, new ones are circling, school is...dare I say it...finally, FINALLY a bit less stressful.  As I write this Sunday morning, laying here in bed as the sun peaks in through the blinds and rests on the walls before me, my soul feels as bright and warm as the light before me.

We had a Halloween Bash at our home Friday night, 30 people were crammed into our not-really-little-but-not-really-30-people-sized house!  Oh, it was SO much fun!  The laughter, the visiting, adults dressed in costume, kids out on the trampoline giggling, cupcakes everywhere...we had the most wonderful time and the warmth will fill me for several more days to come.

Here are some photos:

Kenny, Auntie Kim, and Matt
Funny, Kim doesn't look all that scared!

Angela with her M&M costume she created by herself.

Dearest friend George...such an appropriate costume for him!

Beloved Mr. Steve and his sexy legs!

Dang, when did Josh turn into this mature looking young man?  It's happening all in one year with him, I think, not gradually, but manhood has grabbed him by the shirt collar and is not letting go.

A little love fest as everyone arrives and enjoys the costumes!

This is not everyone who came, but is everyone who was dressed up.

My Home Boy and My Home Girl friend, Monica
Throwback to our SoCal days...Dominick pulls this off nicely! Haha!

Ready to pray

This.  I love nothing more than this...a houseful of people I love (and yes, I love our friends very, very much!), laughter, sharing...this is what brings me great joy.

Me being all "Pinterest-y"  Plastic cups, a black marker, and dollar store candles.  That's about all anyone can ever expect from me.  It sure made the driveway look pretty as these little luminarias lined it.

Volleyball season is officially over for the year, and it is time to settle down and get the books really crackin'.  In a couple of weeks I will be traveling both to Denver and to Salt Lake City, so there is movement on the horizon.  We have Kenny's special 16th birthday ahead of us, a "work retreat" for me with my buddy and Web Diva as we work on our new business, a Sweet Adelines performance, and I even get to officiate a wedding for the first time!  Lots of wonderful things ahead this month, and I am very, very happy down to my tippy toes, for the first time in quite awhile.  I haven't been miserable or any such thing, but I feel I have finally returned to a place that is more centered,  and am feeling more content than I have in perhaps years.  We still have some big challenges ahead, and maybe God is preparing my heart for another rough season by providing me with a fall that is equal parts sweetness and fullness.  Whatever the case, as I have eased into this place, it is as if I have let out a big sigh.

I hope you have been able to enter into this fall season as beautifully as I have.