Friday, November 30, 2007

EIGHT RANDOM FACTS -TAGGED BY KAREN

1. I once lived in: a shuttered TB hospital, a Brewmaster's House, a former brothel (which like something out of "Great Expectations", had sat locked and empty for over 50 years....

2. I was once best friends with Emily Kuroda, the woman who plays the older Japanese lady on Gilmore Girls.

3. I skinny dipped with William Hurt (OK - this was a long, long time ago; new standards have been imposed.)

4. I used to be a Magician's assistant.

5. I once worked in the Empire State Building.

6. I love my hot water bottle!

7. My great grandfather was president of the Iowa State Constitutional Convention.

8. My children only have one school uniform each and I wash them every night.

I tag anyone reading this! If you don't have a blog, respond in the comments. :)

KIDS COME HOME HUNGRY - WORKING MOTHER VERSION


Just now I read the lovliest post on my friend Christine's blog about the charming after-school snack her children share. Hot chocolate, pretzels dipped in peanut butter.....
It reminded me of one of the more memorable after school snacks I provided my Zhenya.
I work at a Catholic Church, and actually, if you have to work this is not so bad....for one thing, my kids can be here with me (in fact I homeschooled my older two here for several years each - one at a time, of course). My office is in the former convent, so there are most of the amenities of home....including a big kitchen, a room we call the "playroom", computers, etc. Usually, it is just fine. There is a lot for them to do.
At this point the younger four go to the school associated with our parish, and after school just come right over here. On a good day I have made bread in the bread machine and they come over to warm bread and butter.... But are there really that many "good" days?
One day, it so happened that I didn't provide much of a snack and Zhenya, the ever-ravenous one, was hungry. I was talking in the library with a nice couple regarding their child's baptism...and in the midst of my inspirational talk about the glories of Catholic parenting, in comes Zhen, brandishing a can of peas (cadged from the for-the-poor food pantry, I might add). "I'm hungry, mama, can I have some peas?" Well, this was embarrassing! I made a split second decision to send him on his way asap..... "Yes", and I was going to add, "Ask Sergei to help you open it." But Zhen was gone. The conference continued. (I think I'd clumsily tried to make this look good, by emphasizing the wholesomeness of Zhen's choice of snack.)
Well, I forgot all about it, and we concluded 30 or so minutes later. As I was leading the parents down the hallway we passed the kitchen. Zhenya stood in the doorway, pouring peas into his mouth from a can that had clearly been hacked at by every utensil he could find in the kitchen, until he'd managed to rip a jagged hole big enough to get a few peas through. And there he stood - the child of a radiant Catholic mother, chosen by her parish to give classes on Christian parenting!
Once again, all I can say is. I'm glad I have a sense of humor. I hope those folks did.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I'D RATHER BE WRITING OR COOKING OR.....EVEN DOING LAUNDRY

And there it is on my computer screen - my blog page.....but really, I can't write today.

See all that work there on my desk? Confirmation forms, baptisms to record, letters to write, mailings to send, a retreat to plan....and worst of all (for family life) a meeting I have to go to right now.

Ilya and Greg are home with daddy and fast-food. Zhen and Sergei are staying here playing on the computer and Anastasia will go to the meeting with me and (oh, please!) she will be very quiet and good.

Monday, November 26, 2007

WOOPS

Our foster child Gregori, who is now 14, has been here from Russia for four years. His English is really pretty fluent, seemingly, but sometimes he will make mistakes. Because he is so bright I ordinarily figure that he will soon "catch on" to things and don't correct him, as he doesn't usually take it very well from me.

However a couple of times his errors have been such that I figured I'd better say something before he created a riot. For example, the other night he was saying that they were planning a really funny "prick" on one of the teachers. [prank] Or, when he injured himself in basketball he said he thought he needed a "crotch". [crutch]

The most shocking was when he subsituted the word for the male sex organ for the word "penance" when talking about the Sacrament of Reconciliation. DO NOT WRITE THAT ON YOUR RELIGION TEST!

RUSSIAN FOOD


A couple of weeks ago at Russian School we all made pelmeni from scratch. Something that seemed so extraordinarily difficult turned out to be really very easy. And they were so amazingly good! My husband said that had they been the first he'd ever eaten he would have fallen in love with them. A couple of days later Nastya and I made some at home. I was exasperated to see that someone erased the photo I took of her with them. I was pretty proud of those pelmeni! They looked gorgeous.
This week, she and I tried another Russian recipe - Vatrushki, seen here. They were quite good, they taste like little cheesecakes. I wish they'd looked a little better, but I need to work on the crimping, I guess. Ilya was so excited when I told him what we were making, then he tasted them and said immediately they were not "real" ones. Later he amended that to say that they were just too small. The recipe (which we found in an old Russian Life magazine) said to make the rounds 4 inches, but I think they misjudged because even in the photo it appeared that the finished vatrushki were about 4 inches across.
Anyway, it is not really the finished product that matters so much as the pleasure Anastasia and I take in the production, and the delight the rest of the kids take in eating the finished product.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

HOW GOD ANSWERS PRAYERS

For years I longed for a bigger family. Especially as Aidan and Lydia entered her "doublel-digits", I really wanted some younger ones, too. And then, when my brother died, and I was left the "only child" - with almost no extended family, none that we every see....I felt so lonely! Other people seemed to have households burgeoning at holidays; we had a table for 4.
Every so often this would really weigh on my heart, and one day I shared this desire with a very holy mother in our parish. She suggested that I pray before the replication of the Our Lady of Guadalupe painting in our parish's little prayer room. In this painting of Mary, we see her as an expectant mother. So, though I tend to me more "direct to God" in my prayer, I did go to the place where this picture hangs and I asked Mary to pray with me that I might have more children. That night, like a slap in the face, it became clear that this prayer was not being answered this month, anyway! Probably because of the time of month this was especially painful for me emotionally.
Just last year, cleaning out my bookcase, I ran across some old prayer journals. Glancing through them, I was interested to read of that experience of prayer and disappointment, but then - I was almost struck dumb. I had prayed on February 6, 1994. The day Sergei was born.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

WHY OLDER CHILDREN?


Sergei with his daddy on our "honeymoon" in Moscow.

My e-friend, Christine, posted on this topic. She and I were thinking that it might be interesting if those of us who read each other's blogs, addressed some of the same subjects.
Well.... Firstly, it was God's will! I am not very much of a "planner". I tend to travel down life's path looking just a step ahead of me. In fact, the image that always comes to mind is one I read in something Fr. Benedict Groeschel wrote.... He speaks of us being on a spiritual journey through life, walking behind Jesus just following the lantern He carries, and only able to see just His heels and our present location as we follow along. Maybe there are deep caverns ahead of us, or wild animals, or thornbushes. We don't know; we don't have to worry about it. We just follow in Jesus' footsteps and we know He will lead us on the right path.
So. As for planning. At one point my husband and I did kind-of, sort-of get an idea on our own and we looked into adopting a little Chinese girl. This was, frankly, the only foreign adoption we'd really heard of. We never considered domestic adoption because a) we had heard how nearly impossible it is to adopt an infant. b) My husband was working for a social service agency and knew how very damaged older children usually are by our "system". (Don't get me on that topic!) I wrote for information from the first agency I found in the phone book, and when I saw the cost, we gave it up as absolutely impossible.
I prayed often for more children. The prayers seemed to go unanswered.
Years passed. Through some very crooked lines God wrote, which wonderously became straight, we found out that it was possible to adopt from Russia (a country I love - I majored in Russian at college.) I wrote for information once again from the first agency I found. The whole idea of adopting from Russia was just so intriguing that I thought I'd see if maybe costs had gone down in the intervening years, or if in some other way a miracle would happen. Before I even received the packet of information in the mail, I got a call from Dana Marra, of Adoption Options, Worldwide. At that very time there was a group of children from the International School in Ivanovo in Michigan for a summer visit program. Two little boys were at a home where the family had decided they would not want to adopt them. Did I want to host them?

Yipes. I hate to say that I nearly turned my back on this miracle. I panicked. I backpedaled. But I did say that well, I'd think about it. I hung up, my heart in my throat. What had I done??! What was I thinking?????!! I don't quite remember how I calmed down enough to really consider this. Actually, I think Dana called me back and had to actually talk me into hosting! There were two boys - Sergei was 9; Valeri was 11. I had thought about if I could possibly bond with an older child, and remembered that whenever I teach a class, I fall in love with "my" kids. I pictured the kids in my religion class. Yes; I could bond with one of them. But - 11? That seemed way too old. I told Dana we'd host Sergei, but not Val. However, I did ask our pastor if he'd mention this to the congregation, and though I know him well enough now to think that he would never do this (and he probably would never do it again!), he was new to the parish at that time, and I plowed right in and asked. He agreed, and a family came forward to not only adopt Val, but later another child from the Interdom!
Little did I know that by hesitating I almost shot myself in the foot! Dana doesn't let any grass grow under her feet with kids' futures involved, so she had already placed Sergei in another possible home. By God's grace, they decided they could not take him, so I took Lydia and we went down to Ann Arbor to pick him up.
I'll never forget the moment when Lydia was getting into the van and she looked at me and said, "Mom, I don't know why we're doing this; you know you're not going to adopt this kid." And I responded, "I know, we probably won't, but at the very least you and I can have a nice dinner at the Irish Pub." When we arrived at that house, I've never seen so many little boys! There were little boys in the tree outside, little boys playing in the yard and a little boy crying on the front step. None of those children appealed to me in the least! I looked at them, tried to "feel" something - and didn't. We went in and talked to the dad. Turns out they did have 8 kids, but were also watching the neighbors' kids as well as having Sergei and Val there. We talked a bit, and I noticed a little boy sitting at the computer. Immediately, I fell in love with him. Lydia looked at me and whispered, "I hope that's him." Every aspect of his face, hair, demeanor, everything appealed to me. Just at that point, the man noticed my glance and confirmed that this dear boy was Sergei. We took him home, forgetting all about the Irish Pub.

We had a great two weeks with Sergei. My husband all this time, I must confess, was not in any way, shape or form committed to adoption. He really had his heart set on a Chinese todder, not on a 9 year old Russian. But Sergei was so sweet, so calm, so polite and so easy to be around that one morning Craiglooked at me and said, "I certainly didn't plan on it, but I think God wants us to do this." And at that very moment all the power of love that God puts into a mother's heart poored into mine. It was this amazing physical, mental, emotional sensation....exactly the same as when I first laid eyes on Aidan and Lydia. Sergei was my child, my dear, dear boy.

So - did we put thought into this? No! Are we glad we adopted older children? Yes!

I see many advantages. For one thing, Craig and I are older. Though we would have been able to adopt a toddler at that point, I don't think I really had the desire for it. Frankly, toddlerhood was not my "best" time for parenting my bio kids, either. Also, as I have to work outside the home (wildly flexible, yes - but not quite flexible enough for a toddler or preschooler), it was just workable. Also, I see some huge advantages in that you can see what sort of person your child is....if there are disabilities, personality traits, whatever, that you just can't imagine dealing with, you - well, you either know about it up-front and realize this is what you are taking on, or you say you cannot make such a commitment. There are always surprises, just as there are with kids you give birth to - who continue to surprise you their whole life long. But you aren't going to be absolutely in the dark about serious learning disabilities, for example.

Right now we are still on the bumpy road of adapting to Ilya (and he to us). This, I acknowlege, may be the greatest challenge for our family to date. I'll perhaps post more about that later. But I could not imagine myself being happier about having done anything in my life, than I am about mothering these dear children. God has been so good. Now, I think, He is just asking me to focus once more on Jesus' footsteps, and that light He's shining and go forward one step at a time.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

LAUGHTER THROUGH TEARS

This phrase "laughter through tears" was coined to describe a lot of Russian literature. I have my own "laughter through tears" moment to record.... I almost titled this post - The Russian Orphanage Dictionary.

The "tears" part involves the fact that while we were in Russia our foster child reverted to being a smoker. That is bad. Worse is that somehow he and Ilya connected via this hideous habit. I addressed this with Maxim the other morning and was pretty firm about his being a bad influence on Ilya. He came in to talk to me later and told me that Ilya had been smoking since he was seven, and, anyway what he was doing prior to smoking with Maxim was far worse! Ilya was going over to the hospital near our house and picking up cigarette butts that he found on the ground and smoking them! And, he concluded very seriously, "Mrs. Kitching, that second-hand smoke is really dangerous!"

I couldn't help it; I burst out laughing. I never thought I'd hear another definition of second-hand smoke, but there you are.

Friday, November 16, 2007

MY DARLING DAUGHTER


Last weekend we went to the Russian Festival in Kalamazoo. This has been a yearly event for us for some time. There are performances, a silent auction, lectures, a Russian meal and vendors.
I allowed Anastasia to take with her some of the money that she received for her first communion (after she had already donated 20% to Russia4Christ), God love her.
While I enjoyed some tea and talked to friends, she wandered off with one of the older girls to "shop". After a while she came back. "Look what I got for you momma!" I was amazed. I opened the little sack and discovered a pretty blue-embroidered cloth. I was so touched. She often says she loves me, but somehow the fact that she was actually thinking about me when I was not there, and sacrificing some of her gift-money to buy something for me, almost reduced me to tears.
And, too, the fact that Anastasia had paid enough attention to what I like that she knew exactly what I would truly cherish, made the gift all the more special.

I'M GLAD


I am so glad I posted about Aidan yesterday. Today he sent me this link. Frankly, I'm sitting here in my office with tears running down my cheeks. I hope no one comes in!!


Please watch this.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

VERY PROUD MAMA


This is my "big boy", Aidan. He is presently in Iraq in Ft. Speicher which is outside of Bagdad. (Baghdad?)
Anyway, he works in Intelligence, and his job involves locating, from way up above in the plane, IEDs that have been planted in roads down below. He has, on his own, discovered some so that they could be dismantled and lives saved. He is my hero. I am so proud of him.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tagged by Christine

On her Ukraine Adoption blog, my friend Christine "tagged" everyone with these questions. Your job, if you have a blog of your own, is to answer on it. Or, if you don't e-mail me. These are fun questions.

What are the first three things you bought for you new child? Well I have to think - which one? However, Ilya is most recent, so my memory is better.
  1. I sent him an MSU sweatshirt via Elisabeth. (Thank, you, again Elisabeth!)
  2. I "sponsored" him through a mission and made it possible for him to attend art class.
  3. My friend Alla took him some little gifts on my behalf, God bless her!

Who laid the first big kiss smack dab on the face of your new child? Me. Well, I tried. Ilya is not a cuddler.

What was one of the first phrases you learned in your child's native language? Well, I studied Russian from 7th grade on, so it is hard to remember!

What was your favorite food in country? Salads! Russian salads are amazing! So is the ice cream.

What was your least favorite food? Christine; I agree with you - I can't bring myself to try the gelatin dish with settled meat at the bottom. I did try kvass, but didn't like it much!

What part of the adoption process has been the most sentimental to you apart from meeting your child? We hosted Sergei. I really was drawn to him, but I remember the moment my husband said, "This is not what I expected, but I think God wants us to do this." I felt all of a sudden the very same rush of love/bonding that I felt when I first laid eyes on my biological children. So amazing.

MORE THAN JUST A HAT


Here is a photo of Ilya from this weekend. I'm glad I am not naturally a worrier. Ever since the fatal haircut, Ilya has worn his hat. That was almost a month ago and his hair has grown out enough that he looks just fine. I am afraid that in the interim he has become so accustomed to wearing a hat that he feels strange without one. And now this!


Look closely and you will see at least three outer garments. Ilya's Russian teacher Natalia, gave him a couple of items to layer one day when it was cool. Since then he has [with two exceptions] worn it ALL. The exceptions are when he sleeps. And then the hat is underneath his pillow and the other clothes at the end of the bed. And, this weekend he actually removed the hat to go swimming!!!


I happened to be watching as he came into the pool area. He took off the top jacket. He started to take off the hat - no; he put it back on. He took off the second jacket. Then, he did take off the hat, laying it lovingly on the back of the lounge chair. Then he took off his hooded sweatshirt, and immediately put his hat back on, while he removed pants, shoes, and shirt. Finally, ready to swim, he removed THE HAT. I am glad I have a sense of humor, or - as I say - I might worry.

PERSONAL STYLE

This is a little open cabinet in my kitchen. If you put your hand up and cover the left side of the picture you will see what my house used to "look like" - at least you'll get an idea of the style.... I fell in love with 1920's/30's green long before Martha Stewart did. I actually used to have a lace cloth on the shelf, stenciled vines in the background and a much more attractive arrangement.

Now I see that the Russian things I love have sort of squished in and elbowed the other things over to the side. I bought my Gzel teapot on trip three (and on every trip I've treated myself to a little mug). I really love Gzel. This past trip at the very last minute I ran over to the grocery store and bought three bright little wooden pots of honey. I thought I hadn't gotten enough gifts. Well, when I saw them lined up on my dishwasher, I fell in love with them. That's one of them to the left of the teapot.

Anyway, suffice to say my "personal style" has been Russianized. And in more ways than one. I have actually considered re-painting the kitchen. No more green and ivory. I thought two shades of pale brownish gold might work with both the Gzel and with the pieces of kolkoma (I think that's the name of the black laquer-ware) I've collected. But, frankly, such effort is pretty unlikely. The money goes to basketball shoes, soccer teams, etc. and the time goes to homework, Russian school, reading aloud, etc.

I do love pretty things, and I always relished the idea of a charming home. I try as much as I can, but just like I won't put the Russian things away to let the other things stand out, I'm going to let the schoolbags and the books, the homework and the soccer shoes jumble together in the other rooms, vying with the rose wallpaper and lace curtains for attention. In my heart however, one thing stands out - and it isn't love for my home - it is love for the beautiful children who live there, and honestly, the only thing I want is for them to find it beautiful.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

TRUE BEAUTY

Yesterday I went to wake Zhen up for school, and pulling down the covers found that Rosie had chosen Zhen to sleep with, and was all cuddled up with him like a stuffed animal. Cozy dog, cozy boy.

I couldn't help myself, I leaned over and kissed the back of my warm little Zhen's neck, and the the dog's muzzle (which I love to do) and they were so warm and fragrant.....boy, oh, boy it was hard to wake them and start that morning routine!

But - to heck with how my house looks. Sights like this are worth more than ten gorgeous houses.

BEAUTY IN THE HOME





I think it was William Morris who said that everything in our homes should be either "useful or beautiful". I used to strive for this, actually walking from room to room and evaluating things by this standard. (When did I have that kind of time???) Not recently!

In those days, I had a set of glassware that I enjoyed very much. This is the only remaining example. They weren't expensive, but I thought these etched glasses (there were shorter ones, too) were very pretty and pleasing to the eye and to the touch. This is the last remaining piece of this set, I realized with dismay this morning as I unloaded the dishwasher.

Now I have a very motley collection of glassware. Evaluating the array this morning I decided to absolutely put my foot down and return the old plastic one that somehow came home from the office. It is unsightly! But other than that the glasses of various styles and sizes from all sorts of sources aren't visually appealing, but serve us well enough.

Years ago I would have been really irritated at my husband for buying glasses for a couple of the kids imprinted with "Coca-Cola" and expecting that I'd have these in my house!!!! Now, they sit there with the others, and sometimes the kids who got them originally ask for them. I got four new glasses on clearance the other day - rather pretty, green glass, with a molded cow on them. If I had a whole set they would give me pleasure, but the reason they were so "affordable" is because there were only the four remaining. This morning Nastya said, "I want a cow glass." The kids don't care. They take pleasure in the variety, I guess. And as for me, perhaps it is a sort of spiritual discipline, to sacrifice this little pleasure of "beautiful things" for a greater one...... I'd rather pay for an adoption than for the most beautiful home, and if these little hands drop a glass, what great loss is that?

Yet, I guess I still have that stubborn streak - a really wise mom would be delighted with the plastic, I suppose.








Monday, November 12, 2007

Why THIS Blog?


The other day I stumbled on a blog while doing some research at work. It was a seminarian's blog, all about his life in the Faith. Frankly, I began to feel a little ashamed. His blog was so spiritual, so uplifting. He talked about grappling with the Word; the struggle to give himself in love every moment of the day; he talked about his prayer life.


So, I began to think.... Why "onemothersday"? Why didn't I decide to blog about my spiritual journey? Why didn't I decide to blog about my professional/spiritual life as a DRE (Director of Religious Education)? I hung my head. Don't I like my job? Maybe I'm not really putting my heart into it anymore.... No. That's not true. I am still excited about planning new lessons, improving the curriculum, making sure the teachers enjoy their efforts and are successful.

Then I began to muse about how there are all kinds of blogs! I love fine embroidery. Why not go there? I love family history, why not blog about genealogy? Aren't there blogs about Iowa history, maybe? Blogs by people who love Victorian literature? Well, OK. Maybe I don't have as much time for some of those things as I used to. :)

I guess what it boils down to, is that my blog does reflect where my heart is. Not that I don't have lots of interests, and enjoy so many aspects of life - and I do take pride in my work. But what gives my life special meaning right now is being a mother. And, my spiritual journey right now is right through motherhood. In particular, mothering these Russian children.

So, I think that this blog helps me be a little more aware, helps me focus more on this journey. I hope it also helps me to praise and love God in all the little occurrences of the day. Not a priest, not a missionary to foreign lands, not a nun. "Just" a mom, but I think that in this I am finding the mission God gave me.

I'm trying to, anyway.




Sunday, November 11, 2007

THANKS

Christine just complimented my little slideshow... And I thought - Christine! I should be thanking you and giving you credit! Christine is my inspiration in many things, but particularly blogwise. :)

She kindly taught me how to make the photoshow, and as I stumble out and look at a few other blogs here and there, I see how much she is also my inspiration for the blog, itself. And, in other ways.

Christine's blog is: http://smilesandtrials.blogspot.com/

It is a lot of fun to read....providing everything from essays so touching they bring tears to the eyes to laugh-out-loud stories, to neat recipes. Christine - thanks for sharing your life with us!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

COWARDLY PARENTING


I was thinking yesterday about one of my parenting "techniques" (if you can call it that!) Perhaps you could call it the "cowardly" approach to child-rearing. I go out of my way to avoid problems. Or, anything I don't particularly want to deal with. So long as it doesn't seem to harm my children in any way.....

Here are some good examples of this tactic as employed with my bio kids. I admit they may seem a little selfish.

I didn't rush my kids out of bottles into cups. My selfish thinking was along the lines of: do I want to clean up spilled milk? My answer: No! Question to self: What if they never learn to drink from a cup? Answer: I'll teach them before they go to kindergarten.

Potty-Training: After one traumatic attempt when he was about two, I decided that until Aidan was absolutely, postively ready to use the potty, what difference if he stayed in diapers? Did I really want to be interrupted in the middle of the mall by requests to go to the potty? Once again, I queried, "Will he go to school in diapers?" My answer: Unlikely.

I also made a vow (and how could I have been this wise???) to never, ever buy anything from the checkout lane at the grocery store. I think during my single days I'd had enough experience seeing the miserable and oh-so-common scenario: Child grabs candy bar and asks if he can have it. Mom says "No!" Child whines. Mom repeats "No!" Child whines more loudly and manhandles candy bar. Mom grabs candy bar (and sometimes child) and nearly screams, "NO! You can't have candy!" Child gets louder. Mother spanks, yanks or slaps child, screaming "No, candy!" Child whimpers. Mother says, "Oh, OK!" and gives the child candy. I decided to avoid all chance of this ever occuring by making it clear to my kids that while other people might buy such things, in our family it would never, never, and I mean never happen. And it never did.

Here's where it really gets cruel. I also noticed families where the kids always seemed to be whining and begging to "go to McDonald's". I was more of a food-purist when Aidan and Lydia were little and certainly had no desire to create McDonald's addicts out of them. So, step one was to never once get them a "Happy Meal". Now, it really wasn't long before my own hankering for fries did take us to McDonald's, but I resented this marketing giant's manipulation of my kids, and firmly continued to resist allowing them to connect food and toys. If someone mentioned a "toy" I'd ask "What do you mean, toy? I thought we were here for lunch! If you don't want to eat, but want to play, we can leave." [I do think my older kids still like me - though I must say I've softened up enough that this sounds a little mean, even to me.]

In the long run, I think this "avoidance" strategy was better for my kids. It saved them having to deal with an irritated, cross mother. I can say I never yelled or slapped them in the checkout line, never went ballistic over spilled milk, never yanked their little arms out of the socket while running for the public restrooms in the mall....

Now. With my adopted ones, this strategy has turned out to be even more important, though it manifests itself much differently. I'll save that for another day.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

TURN OFF TV - TURN ON LIFE


Every time I think of being "anti-TV", I remember an embarrassing experience. As I say, when Aidan and Lydia were little we used allow almost no TV. We had one, but it was on the third floor, where it was too hot in summer and too cold in winter to watch anything you really didn't want to see all that badly.
We were really into literature.... Lots of bedtime reading, and I'd also discovered books on tape, which we listened to whenever both kids and I were in the car. So at one point we were listening to Cheaper by the Dozen, which is an absolutely wonderful book - nothing like the stupid movie versions. On a summer afternoon we were going to the fabric store and listening to the very moving final chapter of the book. We arrived at the store, and just sat in the parking space hanging on every word, oblivious to everything but the story.
Suddenly - knock, knock, knock. I had to turn off the tape and shake myself out of my trance. I rolled down the window to respond to the woman standing there. "I just wanted to say how much I like your bumpersticker." My bumper sticker was "Turn off TV - Turn On Life". I was so embarrassed, because I immediately realized that we were all glued to the tape player and completely insensible to anything going on around us (i.e. "real life")!
When I recall this incident I have two feelings. First, I recall feeling a little embarrassed to have been caught by an anti-TV person so enraptured by my tape player. Secondly, to this day I am irritated that she ruined that last chapter for us!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

RUSSIAN MOVIES


I used to be so totally opposed to television that I had a bumper sticker on the back of my car that read "Turn off TV - Turn on Life".

I am still pretty anti-TV, and am always hoping to use the kids' desire to stare at a screen for my own purposes. One of my hopes is that the kids stay fluent in Russian, and while they do go to Russian school, that is not enough. Not even the seemingly constant infusion of a new Russian speaker into the family or our group of friends seems to be sufficient for increased fluency.

So, I was pretty happy to find a way to "use" the television (or in this case the computer) to my own ends. I discovered a great website: http://www.memocast.com/cat.aspx?id=17312

You can get all sorts of Russian movies, cartoons and so forth FREE. At least that's what I've done so far. You can become a member and get a greater selection and that commercial-free. I wanted to check it out before paying, but after our "trial run" I think we will join. Anastasia really enjoys watching the large selection of fairy-tale movies, and I notice that even Zhenya, whose Russian is the weakest, will sit and watch with every appearance of understanding. (Of course I'm hoping he is not just zoned out....)

Anyway, it is a nice resource for anyone wanting to put a little painless Russian into their life.

Monday, November 5, 2007

LYDIA


Here is a photo of my oldest daughter, Lydia, with the little boy she babysits.

Yesterday was her birthday. Twenty-one. Yipes.

Having them grow up is not all good! I really miss some of our "old times". Lydia and I read all of Jane Austen's novels out loud - at least twice!...all of Elizabeth Gaskell, Charlotte Bronte, Barbara Pym, the other Bronte sisters, and untold numbers of other novels....Laura Ingalls Wilder, Maud Hart Lovelace. There is nothing like reading together to build intimacy....it is almost like having a shared set of experiences.

And there is no one more fun to settle in for a Masterpiece Theatre with than my Chickie.

We also lived and breathed Irish dance for eight or nine years, spending untold hours together in the car, driving to practice, to competitions, to shows. The year when she was working to gain Championship level, we went to all the competitions we could, and to save money would do them in a day, leaving at 4 or 5 in the morning, spending the day at the feis and then driving far into the night to get home. How many times we had to pull off in the road in the dark in a thunderstorm. Little did I ever realize how many summer nights include thunderstorms!
And to help me stay awake, we'd listen to BBC World News.... Thunderstorms and the BBC.

Lydia is in transition now. This year some serious issues with her feet have thrown her some curve balls. Though it surprised us all, last year she joined the army and was nearly done with her training as a medic. She loved it! But, to our dismay she ended up being given a medical discharge because she could no longer march miles carrying a heavy pack. And she can no longer dance without a great deal of pain, either. But, from my own experience I know that however curious some of our life experiences may seem, God weaves them all together to prepare us for the mission He has for us.

For any number of years I wondered - Why did I ever study Russian? What was that about?

Meanwhile, I am so glad to have her back! I was proud of her when she was in the army - and she can sure write an engaging and amusing letter. But we love her presence, more. She's a great big sister. Having her in the mix at Sunday Mass is a lifesaver! Every one of the kids loves Lydia. They love the special attention she gives them, and the privilege of "staying over" at Lydia's, which she will often give to one child at a time on Friday night.

Giving birth to children is a mystery. Seeing how they develop into the adult person God wants them to be is another, even greater one. You think you are "raising them"; when they are little you believe you are influencing them, forming them. You may also realize, in horror, that in some parenting areas you are a catastrophe; in others you feel some confidence that you may have succeeded. But the older your children get the more you see that much of it is not, maybe never was, in your control.

All I can say is that the only way to be a parent and keep your sanity is with a lot of prayer and trust in God. When you are surprised or disappointed in the choices your kids make, you rely in Him to keep them safe and carry them along. And, then - Joy! When they seem to be turning out "all right" - you can just praise and thank God!

And right now I thank and praise God for my Lydia!

EARLY TO RISE

I prefer Early to Bed. This morning I got up, got dressed, threw the load of laundry from last night into the dryer, noticed that I would need to make a fast trip to the grocery store because no one picked up some essential lunch staples, and then I allowed myself the luxury of sitting down to talk to Craig for a few moments with a cup of coffee before darting out to the store. I checked for the newspaper. It hadn't arrived. That caused me to check my watch. 4:30.

4:30!!!

So, when Craig said he was changing the clocks yesterday..... He didn't, apparently, mean ALL the clocks. For example, he obviously didn't mean the BEDROOM clocks.

Well, I did get in and out of the grocery store pretty easily - it was just me and the stock clerks!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

TOO MUCH

Anastasia as a Flower Girl

One challenge of motherhood, I am discovering, is discerning when your children are getting "too much", and when they are getting "too little". Though I suppose this applies to belongings, privileges, punishment, sleep, food, homework, chores, and a myriad of other things, I am really just thinking about focus.


Today was supposed to be Anastasia's first Holy Communion. Her godfather is a priest in another city, and we'd planned to go there and have a party afterwards at the rectory. Many of our friends (who like Anastasia and love Father Pung) were planning on joining us there.


A typical part of "First Communion" is "the dress". And, like most moms, I was also pretty much into this aspect of the celebration. I spent hours, I confess, designing in my mind the most glorious all-white sarafan. My good sense, and realization of how much time and money I really have, nixed this idea but I was still quite "into" the veil and the sweater or jacket we'd get for her to wear with her white flower-girl dress from Aidan's wedding. I can't believe I put all this energy into thinking about and discussing what she'd wear, despite the fact that I have often wondered if, for children this age, too many of these details actually detract from the mystery and spirituality of the occasion.

Well, between worrying about "the dress" and who would be coming to the party, what we'd organize to eat, and how we would get to this other parish in plenty of time, etc. I was a little late in realizing that Anastasia had met and surpassed her "limit" of focus. Way, way too much about her. And focus on her creates a lot of stress. Stress results in bad behavior.


I don't quite understand it, but while all children are like this to some extent, I think for children with trauma in their past, the level of focus - and thereby, stress they can take is far more limited.

I noticed yesterday that instead of the sweet, peaceful little girl I love, I was seeing a monster. A mannered, demanding, spoiled-brat type monster. "You can't go home; you have to take me to get a jacket for my dress!" "I don't care about my first communion; I want to spend the night with Sveta and Olyah!" And so on. This really is not Anastasia.

Fortunately, God worked with me in my sleep (He is so good this way!) and I woke up understanding what I should have understood much sooner. Too much! This is just too much for her! Stop now!

So, I have just been calling all the invited guests and uninviting them. (One thing anyone expecting a child, bio or adopted, needs to know is that at some point your beloved child will cause you acute embarrassment. Undoubtedly more than once.)


I think that Anastasia's first communion will take place at the regular 9:30 Mass, that those who wish will congratulate her downstairs at Coffee Bar afterwards, and that hopefully the focus will be on Jesus, not on Anastasia. Where it should be, anyway!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Russia Will Out


After appearing as St. Jane of France at school, Anastasia decided that she wanted a different costume for the evening's excursions. Now that she is in Catholic school she does not have the freedom to wear her sarafan to school, as she did at least weekly last year. So wearing that again appealed to her, and now she also had the chance to finally wear the kokoshnik which I brought her from Moscow. And like the boyarinas, she put a pretty shawl over the top.
When people asked about her costume, she'd say "I'm a Russian girl. I'm really a Russian girl!!"
I love the fact that she is so proud of her heritage.
Zhen is oblivious to being Russian at this point, except when it comes to food. Sergei, at 13, is so anxious not to be "different" in any way that he hates to have anything mentioned that defines him as distinctive. Only Maxim, in 9th grade, also has an enthusiasm for being Russian. He has realized that it seems to hold a certain charm for the girls.