Saturday, July 30, 2011

Part 4 - It's a Process

In the end, it is about forgiveness, about love, about growing and learning together.  It is about acceptance and presence, discovery and wholeness.

I am not always going to do it right, neither is Dominick, nor are the kids.  We will all try, we will all fail, but most importantly we will all be there to pull each other up and give a shove in the right direction.

We do our best...

We work towards wholeness...

We struggle together...

We NEVER give up!

As a family, we grow stronger, we are not alone...and that includes the love of so many others.

We explore together...

And in the end, we find the delight in each other and the world around us.

It's all a process, there are curve balls thrown at us daily, there are highs and lows, but in the end, we are with each other, one with God, one with those with whom we are in contact.  We are not in search of perfection, we are only yearning for connectedness.  We have that, and it is good.  Oh, it is so very, very good.

Part 3 - Science Camp!

While you can turn pretty much any adventure into an Edventure, we had the added help of having along our Nancy Larson Science curriculum, as well as our Connect the Thoughts history and a little math thrown in for good measure.  We had a lot of fun doing "block learning" with our science, meaning that we spent a large block of time working with only that subject for a couple of days.  Although this curriculum is designed for lower elementary students, we are using it with Matt as well as he had huge gaps in science, with lots of base knowledge garnered from things we had done together at home and a smattering of public school information, but not a consistent, steady progression of building skills, so together we decided that he would do this along with the other kids to fill gaps, and then do some outside things with physics and electricity that were more at his level in terms of reading.  He has been surprised how much he has learned from this program, despite the fact that technically it is at a far lower grade level.  It is just a super solid program which builds quickly on skills and exposes kids to a wide variety of science areas.  We love it, and it is so easy for me to teach because everything you need comes in a box...I don't need to go buy things for any experiments.

So we were learning about the physical properties of matter, the three states of matter as solid, liquid and gas, and we were doing experiments and labeling things.  Check it out!

Beautiful morning outside!

This was learning about the luster of a solid.  See?  Diet Coke cans come in handy sometimes!

Learning about mass and weighing what we had on hand... salt shakers and rocks.

We all could get used to this Big Bertha schoolin'!

The politically incorrect version of "gas"...he IS 12 guys!

The Yummy version of a solid

Joshie and his liquid, but the better one is yet to come...

Ok, so the more socially acceptable version of "gas", oxygen in a ballon

Here is where the fun began, turning solids into liquids...

Melted Hershey Bars!  What better way to end a science lesson?
It was great fun getting out of the house and learning in a new environment where we could study awhile, take a break and go bike riding and have water fights, then get back to work.  There was an intriguing quality to the newness of studying in Big Bertha, and everyone loved finding their own little space to study...
Sometimes it was at the table...

Or doing math on the top bunk (or the Loft if we are being fancy!)

Sometimes it was sprawling out on Mom and Dad's bed...

Sometimes it was reading a book under a sleeping bag...

Or reading outside as the sun set
Sometimes, the learning took us away from the camp site, as we all went geocaching together for then first time!  We hadn't been in a long time, but it will definitely be a family favorite now, as all the kids LOVED it and we found some cool caches.

For the uninitiated, geocaching is like treasure hunting.  You log on to the web site: and you can create an account, then look for caches hidden in your area.  There are over a million caches throughout the world, with hundreds right here in our own area.  A cache can be as small as a tiny log book inside a film canister or medicine bottle, to as large as metal ammo box filled with trinkets.  All you need are the coordinates and a GPS, and you are set to go treasure hunting! 

The caches basically give you an excuse to go visit some place new that you have never been to.  If you get to the location and find it, you then write in the log book and if there are trinkets you can take one and replace it with your own. The trinkets are not intended to be valuable, usually McDonald's toys, wooden nickels and the like.  We had done it a few years back, and then just hadn't gotten around to doing it again.  However, we are hooked now and will be on the prowl everywhere we go!  We discovered there is an app you can use for your phone that is free and will tell you where any caches are located nearby, and also provide a google map for it.  Very, very cool and you can find it at  While it is NOT as good as using a standard GPS, it got us close enough for success and we were able to pull in all the hints and the actual web page where the cache was logged in. When you find one, you can go online to the web site and log it as a "find" and it will keep track of all the ones you have previously visited.  Anyone can hide a cache as well and log it in, helping make the game more fun for others!

 For kids our kids' ages, this was a really great activity and helped them think more about direction, latitude and longitude, plus they got a big kick out of finding a "treasure".  It is also a ton of fun for adults, and thousands are hooked on this interesting game.  

We found 2 caches on a very rainy day, one was hidden in the most beautiful overlook location in an area known as Log Hill, outside of Ridgway.  Once we got to the location it took us about 10 minutes to find the tiny little cache which was a log book only.

We found it!

Checking out the log book and instructions

This was a tiny little cache in an amazingly beautiful location

And here is the view from where we found it!

Josh studying the rocks

Very cool!!

This was our first "find" and we would have never visited this spot without geocaching as a reason to get us there. That is the cool thing about geocaching, people tend to hide them in fairly accessible places that are out of the way or intriguing to visit for one reason or another.  Our next one was right on a busy corner, and took us to visit a tiny train museum in Ridgway, one we had driven past for 15 years and never stopped to see.

We found it!!

A tiny cache but big enough for little trinkets

Log book

  Drawing was also a big hit for the week as Matthew brought along a couple of step by step books from the library and they all had fun spending time with them and creating a few things:

Matt's masterpiece!

All in all it was a super educational AND fun trip!  One more post with a couple of photos left...

Part 2 - Camping and Relaxin', Sort Of

Now that you know how our trip started, let me give you a little more back story leading up to our Take Off.

The past few weeks have not been pretty around our house.  The level of disconnect with certain of our children has been off the charts, leading to utter frustration and deep seated fear for their futures.  As we headed towards our week of camping, I was hoping to let go of some stress, simply be a mom and not worry about anything so we could just have fun.  I don't think that even I had realized how much everything was getting to me, and things didn't improve the first 3 or 4 days of our trip.  I share this here because I know those considering older child adoption are often very leery and only hear either the horror stories or the fairy tale stories, and seldom does the daily life with older children get shared in a realistic way.  Our kids DO come with issues that others can't always see during brief encounters with them, our kids ARE damaged...sometimes irreparably but their life's beginnings.  We have no idea right now whether some of what we are dealing with will eventually be overcome or not, and therein lies great cause for concern.

Some of our kids exhibit a complete lack logic.  Yea, I know, many of you will say "So, that's pretty typical of any kid!", and you would be right.  But not to this degree.  The inability to look at a situation and assess it properly is a skill we don't even THINK about teaching our kids, because for most of them it comes naturally through their interactions with others as they grow.  They learn cause and effect by playing with toys and exploring the world around them.  If a child hasn't had the opportunity to do so often enough, critical thinking skills are not gained.  Believe me, when you live with children who constantly ask questions throughout the day that have you stop in your tracks and say to yourself "Seriously?  They really need to ask that?  What am I doing wrong?", then you begin to doubt yourself almost hourly.

Dominick turned to me this past weekend and said "How do you do this?  How can you not go nuts with these kinds of ridiculous questions all day long?".  I am not the only one seeing it.  Examples?  Olesya asked us in all seriousness if she and Angela could both shower in the RV shower at the same time like they do at home. is about 2' x 3', can't you tell by looking at it that it would be pretty darned near impossible?  Later that day she proceeded to ride her bike down hill, knowing full well her brakes weren't working and she hadn't told us so we could try and fix them.  We were very fortunate she wasn't seriously injured.  She will often ask me something she actually knows the answer to...or at least did 2 hours earlier.

I make it a point each day to sit down with the kids and go over our schedule so they know what the day will bring, and what is coming up during the coming week.  I do this without fail every single day.  And every single day, without fail, one of the older adopted kids will come to me and ask what we are doing tonight...tomorrow...later in the week...even if it has been repeated 3 or 4 times during the previous few days. While Angela is not as bad, even she has brain hiccups that seem to come periodically and last for a week or two, where nothing seems to quite sink in and I am asked seemingly pointless questions.  I KNOW some of it is language learning and the brain shutting off for all 3 kids, I also know that once in awhile it is for mere effect or to get attention when they haven't had quite enough of me that day.   Even when we have been around each other all day, that does not necessarily mean we have "connected" at a heart level, and that their love tanks have been filled up.  They are not at all typically "needy" kids, but they do crave closeness.

Then there is Kenny, my poor, sweet, aggravating, very much helpless-to-fix-it Kenny.  We ended up driving all the way back to the house to get clothes for him.  This was after I had asked him 3 times to lay out his clothes and show me what he had for each day.  He indeed had everything neatly set out for me to check...and somehow between the time it took for him to lay it out and 20 minutes later when he was asked to move it to the RV he placed almost all his pants and shorts back on his closet shelf, so they never made it in the RV.  I couldn't believe it, after it was all laid out and checked and here we were...a bottomless Kenny with one pair of shorts and one pair of pants for 6 days.  The look on his face told me everything, he had no idea how the items didn't make it into the RV.  I was torn between wanting to throttle him and feeling an incredible sense of sorrow over this brain function stuff that is beyond his control.  As much as it frustrates me, I can't begin to imagine what it does to him.  And I am not going to pretend I handled this one with the grace I should have.

Part of that means focusing on what God would find to be the most important.  Even as I type this I find myself smiling as I think of all the wonderful qualities each of this little souls has.  If I throw out society's idea of what a successful child would look like and replace it with God's idea of success, it is easier to see that all is not lost.  We have children who are filled with deep kindness and generous hearts,  They are thoughtful and aware of the pain of others...and they try to make a difference in the ways they can.  They are very hard workers, they never complain about being asked to assist us and often jump in without even being asked.  They know how to love, they understand what loyalty means, they are accepting and non-judgmental.  They make wise decisions when it comes to friendships and associations with others.  I guess what I am saying is that in many ways, I wish I had the kind of hearts our kids have.

So why am I letting fear step in?  Why am I not trusting more tin the God that brought them each to us, and resting in the knowledge that ultimately, they are loved, and that in itself is good enough?  It can be very hard to ignore the messages our world sends us, it can be a real challenge to have 4 kids who are all essentially the same age going through many of the same hormonal changes at the same time, it can be downright complicated to figure out which child is actually acting their chronological age today...or their developmental age.

All I know is that I need to work harder, I need to pray more often, and I need to reflect the kind of patient care and acceptance the kids offer me each and every day especially when frustration creeps in.  More than anything in the world, I want our kids to walk away from our home some day saying it was a loving place where they were accepted fully for who they were.  Right now I am not doing so good at expressing that.

So aside from our first couple of crazy days, we DID finally hit our stride and settle into a wonderful experience.  Once I had the chance to let go and openly talk about where I am at the moment with a couple of super supportive people in my life, it all sort of slid off and that helped enormously.  We spent the week having all kinds of fun!  Let me show you:

Fishing was fun but a total bust...not a single bite other than mosquitoes!!  We went 2 or 3 times but had no luck at all.  Surprisingly, Angela is "hooked" and was the most enthusiastic of all the kids.  I wish she had caught something as that would have been so exciting for her.  We'll try again before summer is out.

We had lots of fun around the camp fire, and were overjoyed to have many friends come to visit.  They are ALL honorary LaJoy's, adopted into our family as firmly as if there were court documents to prove it!  The kids rode their bikes endlessly too, something we don't get the chance to do as often as we'd wish at home as we live off of a very busy country road with no sidewalks and speeds of 60 mph at times.  Our little cul de sac is the only place they get to ride, as hauling 5-7 bikes into town is not an easy task.  So biking alone was a big hit on this trip.

We nicknamed Joshie "Ponch" because this looked so much like Erik Estrada from the old TV series "CHiP's"

Water fights!!

Why does he look so grown up these days?

Enjoying the sunset

Extra LaJoy's

How many bags of marshmallows for 6 days with visitors?  Three.

That's a lot of chairs!

And still more additional LaJoy's!
The Perfect Marshmallow Toaster

I loved what Angela said to us last night, that even though sometimes we have disagreements in our family, or even though there are hard moments, they don't last and we don't remain mad at each other.  She talked about how she knows there are many families whose parents are divorced or even unhappy with each other all the time but still together, and she is so happy she never has to worry about that, and that "our brothers and sisters all love each other so no one ever leave us".  Yes, Angela, it may be hard sometimes being a family, it was never meant to be without friction or trials.  But how wonderful it is to know that finally, for the first time in your life, you can actually feel the stability and know it will always be there.  It's a blessing to all of us, parents and children alike, that we have one another forever.  Forever.

And that is what I will hang onto myself during the rougher times.


And now, on to Part 3...