Here's a few highlights from the past few months.
In April, Ira Joy celebrated her 4th birthday at home. Her Momma got most teary upon picking up the cake. The clerk said it was such a lovely princess cake and how old was the birthday girl. "She's 4 today, but she's never had a birthday party and likely not a birthday cake in her life," I said. She couldn't say much in words but she was so excited and knew that the cake, presents, and decorations were all for her. Her most favorite gift was a Little Tykes car from Grandma and Grandpa, to which she said "Machina, machina, machina" (car in Russian). (She's had a love and fascination with cars ever since she left the orphanage.)
In May, her Papa filled up the swimming pool. For the first two weeks, she was absolutely terrified of the water. Even with Momma in the pool holding her she was shrieking about it. She told me in English "too big water". So we went to Walmart where they have the tiny plastic pools. Then she would say Ira "neesky" pool (Russian for "little"). We decided to have Papa get in the big pool and that is exactly what she needed to overcome her fears. Then she liked it a little too much, scaring me to death with her bravery in the big pool!!! Unfortunately, around late June, after an afternoon of swimming, a patch on a repaired whole gave way and ripped the liner from bottom to top.
July included her first Independence Day, along with our family tradition of eating at the International House of Pancakes every 3rd of July, and her very first vacation to the North Carolina mountains. We spent about three days in Lake Lure, enjoying swimming, and a special trip with Papa driving a pontoon boat, gem mining, and some hiking at Chimney Rock State Park. It was a lot of activity, but I assure you, she never ran out of energy!!!
In August, we went to Asheville for Grandpa Richardson's family reunion on his mom's side of the family. She was her cute and charming little self and was excited about staying in a hotel overnight. As is the case sometimes at home, she sang throughout the night at every awakening, "Twinkle, twinkle", the Barney song, "Jesus Loves Me", and oftentimes combinations of multiple songs together. Needless to say, some of us didn't sleep. Hmmm, probably until she outgrows this habit, there will be no more one room stays for the whole family. I will tell you, her little voice is very sweet, just not so welcome at 1am, then 2am, and 3am. You get the picture. She used to sing in Russian and it is kind of sad that she isn't able to do that anymore. (Since she has always rocked and sang in the night, I really wonder how the other 13 children in her groupa ever got any sleep--- Perhaps, they all did this-- an all night chorus)
In September, Ira Joy began preschool. It is so nice that it is close enough to walk there, and to know she is so close by should she need me. This has been wonderful for her as it has helped with her speech delay. She tells me, "Mommma school Evan, Stephen, Liva... Ira go school, play... Papa go work." It has given us much needed time for getting one on one homeschool teaching done, while she is busy happily playing in the structure her little system needs and craves. (We've found it is kind of tough for a child to go from every single thing in their lives being scheduled and structured-- even the potty, to a family relaxed structure... It is just so different!) Anyway, she loves her school and everyone in it very much. She is very Russian in her good-byes though, has to hug and kiss everyone she sees on the way out the door. Sometimes, I have to hurry her along. It is comical.
This is something Ira Joy dictated to her teacher. I was shocked she got all this out last week, but her teacher assured me these were Ira's words, although it took some time for her to get the words out:
by Ira Joy White
Mommy and Poppy cook.
Your tummy hurts if you eat too much.
Poppy and Mommy put cheese on spaghetti.
Mommy buys it.
Spaghetti is good.
There have been so many first experiences for Ira Joy over the last few months and we are sure to add more. The tantrums, developmental difficulties, and sleepless nights have been difficult for our whole family. You don't just become an instant picture perfect family overnight. We've all had to make some adjustments, but it is part of the process. God is using this to shape all of us into the people he wants us to be. It certainly has uncovered our weaknesses, but probably our strenghts too. We have days where we all blow it, but we get back up give it another go. She has an infectious spark, a zeal for life that is amazing given her history. She loves us so freely, and it is all worth it when I hear her sweet voice, say after school "I missed you Momma."