Sunday, December 30, 2007

GRIEF ONCE REMOVED


I heard day before yesterday from a friend in Moscow, who has kindly kept in touch for me with Anastasia's and Ilya's older brothers, that their mother passed away on December 21. The darkest day of the year.


I am so surprised at how this has touched my heart. I could hardly sleep that night for sadness. Just that day Ilya and Anastasia had both leaned over in front of me and I'd joked to a friend, "If you look at those cute noses you can be pretty sure that their mom has a cute nose, too!" I've often tried to imagine what she looked like, comparing the two kids who have different dads. Yes, the cute nose, and a beautiful complection and lovely bone structure. She must have had all of those. I thought of her, there in Russia, would wonder what she was doing, if she missed her children, if she were improving her life. To think of her gone really hurts me for some reason.

I only heard the children talking about her together once. They were laughing about one time when she was sitting down by the river smoking, and they pretended to themselves that they were going to sneak down and push her in. Obviously, a funny, bright, summer memory.

What other memories do they have?

Their older brother wants Ilya to call so he can break the news. I just dread this. Ilya is so homesick already. To have his first phone call home be bad news is terrible. What will it do to his sense of security? Yet, I feel for their brother Viktor. I can understand why it is important for him to call and tell them.

And Anastasia....Anastasia builds up things in Russia as beautiful. She is very attached here, but she is attached everywhere. From her Children's home to her mother, father, grandfather, neighbor and neighbor's children, she stretches her heart to include them all.... She is not going to take this well.

Please pray that I am able to handle this wisely, and help them deal with this strange loss, so close, yet so distant from them in so many ways.

Friday, December 28, 2007

NIGHT IN THE HOSPITAL


This is what we get for telling the kids to get out of the house for some exercise! Ilya and Zhen were aiming to show Anastasia that her bike was perfectly fine (she's been claiming it is too small for her and doesn't work right). Zhen hit a puddle and fell. Ilya, following too close, then ran over Zhen's arm.
Zhen and I arrived at the hospital at 3:30 and did not get home again until nearly noon the next day. The very worst part of it all was the twelve hours between the diagnosis - that yes, his arm is broken, on the growth plate and will require surgery - and the actual surgery. Until then I sat at Zhen's side defying the desperate need for both sleep and food. When Zhen finally went into surgery I was barely able to find my way to the cafeteria in the basement. Completely unable to master the taco bar [this is sad - I actually stumbled around trying for quite a while] I opted for a bowl of mashed potatoes and gravy, along with a couple of motrin. By that time I had a pounding headache from not having eaten for nearly twenty hours. Anyway, I was grateful to have the entire waiting room to myself - indeed, it seemed like the whole floor! except for that surgical team. Finally, he was out of surgery and they showed us into a room in pediatrics where they had a bed made up for me too! and at 5 a.m. I tumbled into it ever so gratefully. Those nurses were extremely nice. They actually let both Zhen and I sleep as much as possible. They brought in breakfast at 9, and at 11 we got some final work on Zhen's cast and we were released to go home and back to bed.
Now it is just beginning to dawn on my most-lively Zhen, that life is going to be tough for the next six weeks. I am saddest that he's lost his basketball season. He was so enthusiastic about it! And scratch those swimming lessons.


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

OPEN ABOUT ADOPTION

One of the really nice things about adopting older children is that there is never any question about "discussing" it. Never any need to broach the concept delicately. It is open, available for daily and even casual conversation.

Anyway, Anastasia received a "webkinz" for Christmas from her godmother and I was struck by this image as she began to register it on the computer. I was amused because immediately the nice woman in the MOE office in Ivanovo came to mind. I wonder if this duck has such classy and pointy-toed shoes?

I was once on some list - really don't recall which one - where many of the members got very hot and bothered about some fundraiser in a southern city that involved "adopting a duck" or some such thing that would be sailed down the river. The initial poster was incensed that the word "adoption" would be used for any except a sacred purpose. I was shocked at how many agreed with her. As far as I can see if it just common-sense, though. We use our English words in many different ways. Birth is sacred, too, but we can certainly say that someone "gave birth" to an idea or a way of going things. That's just the way it is. My second though after seeing this page on the webkinz site, was how angry that woman would undoubtedly be at such a "light" use of the adoption theme. Yet, Anastasia just loved it! And I do, too.

Monday, December 24, 2007

MERRY CHRISTMAS!


This is the cover of our Christmas card, this year. This is a painting which Ilya did when he was still in Russia. I think he has a lot of artistic talent.
Merry Christmas to anyone who reads this! I know that includes several of you who never respond....
And thanks to you who do respond! It is a lovely feeling to be connected with such nice people.

Friday, December 21, 2007

CAUGHT IN THE ACT

Sergei, Zhen and Ilya caught in the act

My boys may not always get along but they seem to be united in one thing - they LOVE electronic games, and computer games of all kinds. In fact, they seem to love these things with a fervor that seems to border on addiction. I find it very hard to know how much is too much. I want to forbid these games altogether - almost on principle! And just because they seem so addictive!

Also, I notice that Zhenya, in particular, seems to have a whole different frame of mind when he's been playing for awhile... We don't allow really violent games, but he seems to get into the adversarial aspect of whatever game it is to the point that after playing them he is much more argumentative and fractious than usual.

So, I'm always saying "no more screens for the rest of the day" - and then having to follow up by chasing them around or they are back into that activity like a magnet. In this particular photo we see Sergei and Zhen - both "banned" - sharing some "brotherly love" with Ilya, who wasn't.

It is a constant battle, and I never know whether I am being too harsh, or too lenient.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

ANNIE'S CHRISTMAS SPIRIT

OK - I got tagged and will see if I can answer these Christmas questions without too much of a raised eyebrow:

Wrapping paper or gift bags? Whatever is found in my "closet" (see below.)

Real tree or artificial? We go back and forth. We went to artificial because the cats went crazy for the real ones. Then we locked the cats downstairs and got a real one for a few years because Sergei felt that artificial was just terrible. Then Sergei was given the responsiblity for the tree - picking it, helping bring it in, helping take it out. He is now making noises about artificial...or most lately "a small tree". We'll see - Friday is the day!

When do you put up your tree? In a perfect world the weekend of Gaudete Sunday...but between basketball, a snowstorm and religion classes, it didn't happen this year.

When do you take the tree down? After Epiphany.

Favorite gift received as a child? My mom's favorite story is about the year when I am sure they gave me a nice selection of gifts, but when the lady at the grocery store asked me what I got for Christmas I responded, "A handkerchief." I still have that little embroidered handkerchief. I loved it then; I love it now.

Do you have a nativity scene? Yes; I got a "manipulative" one. We move the kings around the room toward the creche during the twelve days of Christmas, and don't add baby Jesus until Christmas morning.

Hardest person to buy for? This year - Zhen. He is so happy with little things... like McDonald's happy meal gifts. I know if I spend a lot of money on him he won't be as pleased as he would be with just some little GI Joe figures....but it seems wrong to have it all so unequal.

Best Christmas present you ever got as an adult: My dad wrote up the story of his personal experiences at Pearl Harbor. My mom wrote up memories of her childhood.

Favorite things to eat at Christmas? Christmas cookies. The decorated kind. Crispy. I can't make them or I eat them all.

Favorite Christmas song? Gosh, I AM a Scrooge; I really don't like Christmas music.

Travel at Christmas or stay home? This is sad; we really have no relatives, except my mom...and we go to her house, here in town.

Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer? No way. Rudolph. That's it.

Angel on the tree top or a star? Whatever I can get to stay up there.

Open the presents on Christmas Eve or morning? MORNING! Good heavens! What ELSE?????

What is the “corniest” family tradition you do, or miss doing? My mom always reads
"The Night Before Christmas" and when she gets to the part about "threw up the sash", she MUST pause after "threw up". Everyone thinks this is very funny.

Which looks the best, theme trees or homey trees? Theme! But I'd never want one in my home because I couldn't have all our old ornaments on it! Beautiful or meaningful - that's the choice.

What does Christmas mean to you? I wish I could get to the spiritual meaning of Christmas, but I am really more of an "Easter person". Perhaps the spiritual significance of the holiday has been sort of lost for me in all the "associated" meanings of family and gift-giving, Santa, etc. All sorts of good, bright associations with the holiday but none seem to resonate with me as part of the faith story.

A JOB PERK


No corporate cars, meals on an expense account, no motivational trips to Europe or Hawaii, but here at my church job I do have one wonderful job perk!
Since classes are over for a couple of weeks, I can use one of the classrooms upstairs in my building to organize all my Christmas gifts! I am blogging to delay the moment when I must go up and make order out of all this chaos, actually.
Another really nice perk is that each Christmas the parish does a "Gifts to the Christ Child" collection. Children can bring baby gifts wrapped as presents and lay them at the creche. The gifts are then given to Pregnancy Services for needy mothers. But - Pregnancy Services does not want all the wrapped presents. We have a little "baby shower" with our teens and unwrap them all. The gift bags, tissue and boxes go into a closet in this room and I am pretty well "set" for the year with gift wrap, as are my assistants. It would be a terrible waste to throw all that away!
Oh - can you see? I can also use this room as a sewing room!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

THREE WISE GIFTS


One really nice thing came out of the luncheon I attended today. One of our priests shared this idea for Christmas gift-giving to put some wise limits on the whole thing.

Three gifts for each child: one for their educational betterment, one for their spiritual betterment, and one just for fun. Now that strikes me as a great idea!

I had heard of the idea of giving three. That's all Jesus got, so why should we get more? But this puts an even better spin on it, in my opinion.

Of course, it is already too late for me this year.

Monday, December 17, 2007

TOO MUCH - FOR MAMA, TOO

Can I confess to being a bit of a Scrooge? Well, no. Not quite a Scrooge. I think I have a generous spirit, it is just that it doesn't seem to connect with the Christmas season very well. And of course I feel guilty and bad about it.

Confession - a few years ago I had a pretty serious attack of depression this time of year, and I always feel it hovering around the periphery. I was standing in Sears today, loaded with snowboots (Nastya outgrew hers and one of Zhen's has disappeared) when all of a sudden that awful feeling loomed. I am not sure where it comes from. Fear, of course. But of what? Disappointment? Change? Death? Why?

I don't really understand it at all. But, there it is. I think that it is just brought on by the stress of too much - (too much for me, this time) - too much expectation, to much to do, worry about money, worry about time, worry about letting people down, worry about details that all seem so essential. Parties I need to attend where I must bring clever $5 gifts, for example. Those things sound charming and fun on their own, but this time of year there is just too much of it! I have something like that every day this week! Two luncheons, a big birthday party, and a Christmas program.

Just as it does for children, "too much" can throw adults off, too. Yesterday was a horrible day. We awoke to a snowstorm. I was irritated right off. I'd decided on Saturday that we were going to turn over a new leaf. Instead of dragging into the 6:30 p.m. Mass on Sunday night, we were going to get nicely dressed and show up at the 9:30 from now on!

But clearly with all the snow, covering the car and driveway, this was not going to be the morning to develop a new habit. I really tried to enjoy things as they were and be happy, but still that "too-muchness" was putting me right at the edge of things. Making me brittle, irritable, needing more self-control than I could muster. For example, I was determined to make it a lovely morning. I was making blini for the kids so they could enjoy them when they came in from shoveling. But Ilya didn't like the look of them (I used the mix from the Russian store, which is supposed to be better!) But he told me my usual ones looked better, and he cavalierly started to get out the frozen waffles and toaster. NO! No way! I was irritated! I didn't want any more mess! This was enough mess! Now I think - what was the harm? There wouldn't have been any harm at all in giving the poor boy a waffle. Later he just about single-handedly shoveled our porch, sidewalk and the neighbor's walk, too. He worked so hard - and I denied him breakfast because of my vision of how the morning was supposed to be!

Later I snapped at Grigori because his room was a mess. I forgot that he is an extremely sensitive boy. He is so easily upset and hurt and offended despite his height, bulk and deep voice. But my snappishness made him mad (translation: scared him) and he reacted by getting loud, and instead of connecting with what he was feeling I exacerbated things, until he was banging doors and yelling. Well, these scenes don't help calm tried spirits!

So with that echoing in my ears I headed through the stressfully icy streets to church, to deal with all 400 some families (or so it seemed) calling to find out if there were going to be religion classes today, and all 50 some teachers (it seemed) calling to ask the same thing - or to tell me they weren't coming.

That was only the beginning. I can't say the evening at home was better! Today I was thinking, if only Christmas could be more like Thanksgiving....with just moderate expectations, a few traditions, one or at most two "get-togethers", no gifts (therefore no disappointment, money stresses, clutter) and no commercialization. How nice would that be? I always think longingly of the Christmases in the Laura Ingalls Wilder books....when a few pieces of candy and small homemade gifts were enough to bring joy. No more. No more.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

CUTE...BUT I'M SURPRISED

I am a
Snapdragon

What Flower
Are You?



I've taken the test a couple of times, hoping to be a different flower....but I guess this is me.

Friday, December 14, 2007

FIVE LITTLE CONFESSIONS

1. I let Ilya have coffee if he wants it. I don't know where he picked up this habit, but I decided not to fight it.

2. Often I wash all the school clothes together - that means white blouses and shirts and navy pants all go in together - then I try and "clean up the whites" on the weekend with liberal use of oxyclean.

3. I type Sergei's and Maxim's school papers for them, taking dictation. (In the interests of honesty I did tell the teachers.) It seemed to me that it would help them express themselves and take control of the language. Maybe it does, but I confess it feels like I'm helping them a bit. Probably because it all gets done a lot quicker!

4. I have a real phobia of spiders and have to get rid of them by means of the long wand on the vacuum! I have such a sixth sense about them that I can be in a darkened room (for example watching TV) and suddenly feel that I have to turn the lights on and see if there is a spider. My husband finds this really amazing.

5. My breakfast is usually a burned (this is crucial) cinnamon pop-tart and coffee. The burned aspect is important; I find a "perfectly-cooked" one inedible.

ADOPTING OLDER CHILDREN - ANOTHER THOUGHT


When we first decided to adopt older children I frankly didn't stop to think how I'd feel about their parents. Perhaps I somehow expected that we'd pretend they never existed! I see parents who adopt infants and toddlers do that; change their names, do all they can to "forget" their Russianness....and erase their heritage. Sometimes even seeming to vilify all that is Russian. Perhaps in some districts it is different, but the one thing that stands out for me is the true love and care that my children received in their orphanages. And the very fact that Russia allows the children to be adopted, is a sign that they are wanting the best for the children...


But when you adopt older children, the pretense that they have no past other than with you is impossible. Of course my older kids had memories, and stories they wanted to share ,and loving them, I long to know everything about their past. But one of the biggest surprises for me was, that because I love my children, I found I began to love the people they came from. My children had to have been loved, or they wouldn't be the balanced, loving people they are. They had to have been cared for as infants and toddlers to a great degree, or how could they be so intelligent and thoughtful? I love my children so much that I can't believe the people who gave birth to them, and cared for them when they were little, can't have loved them too, and can't regret not knowing how they are.


Their families fell apart, alcohol seems often to have been the culprit, bringing out the worst in their natures....but that doesn't erase everything good.


I would love to contact their birth families. Out of my five, Anastasia and Ilya, of course are siblings and I have some connect with their older brothers, and occasionally their family members. (I'll write about that some time!!) Sergei has a sister that I am trying to contact. Zhenya has a grandmother, who I continue to send letters and photos to (the orphanage director gave me her address), but it is always into a void..... For Maxim, there is little information at all; he believes that most of the information on his adoption paperwork is erroneous....

But, as I say they are older children. If I'd adopted babies..... Perhaps the temptation would have been their to just pretend they were my bio children. Or to believe that their origins really didn't matter... I can't say.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

MY MOTHERLY DAUGHTER



Here is Nastya with her "baby". I have never known a more motherly little girl. At first when she arrived in our family I figured it was a bit of a "stage"....and when she begged and begged for a stroller, I let a whole year go by before getting her one. I really thought it would be a waste of money. Finally she got the stroller, and eventually a "baby carrier" and a diaper bag and much of the time, it is as if we actually have an infant living with us. Nastya's teachers don't mind, so that baby comes with us to school most days, with all of her equipment. I am just amazed that Anastasia will pack all that stuff (stroller, baby carrier, diaper bag and baby) without ever a complaint (well, I guess not - no one makes her do it!). But, as I see her lug that stuff through all weathers, fold and unfold the stroller, make sure the baby is "warm" and so forth - I can hardly believe her tenacity! She's been doing this for over two years now!

The adoption of her baby is one of my favorite Anastasia memories. When we adopted Nastya, I met a wonderful Russian woman who did volunteer work at #5 in Ivanovo. Alla gave me photos of two of her favorite girls, who she wanted desperately to find families for. (They turned out to be Christine's Sveta and Karen's Julia!) I didn't think Anastasia really was paying attention to this, but she was! She asked for a baby doll and we set the afternoon when we'd go to Target and find one for her. Now, in my job at the church, I have a bulletin board where we post photos of babies recently baptized. When I changed the board, Anastasia had taken a few of the baby pictures. And now, at Target, as we arrive at the doll shelves, out come those baby photos, and she looked at the photos and at the dolls and back again at the baby photos until she located "her" daughter - the one she'd adopt. I can't tell you how this touched my heart.

Anastasia often tells me how when she gets married, after a week or so, her husband and she will go to Russia. They will take me along and they will adopt a few babies, that I can take care of (because, of course, I'll be going with them). Frankly, this strikes me as a great plan!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

ALL RUSSIANS LOVE TO SWIM

Ilya, Nastya, Zhen, Sergei, Grigori

Russians all swim. This is the opinion, at least, of Grigori, however he stated it like Gospel truth. (Grigori gives this level of weight to many of his pronouncements, I might add.)

This is my crew in Pittsburgh at the hotel pool. I have to say that if my group are representative, Russians DO love to swim. To my amazement, Ilya is a pretty good swimmer, though he says no one ever taught him. But I got a little glimpse into his character during this trip. The kids had gone swimming the night before while I was visiting my new grandbaby. The next morning I came downstairs for the free breakfast and looked into the pool area. There, all alone, was Ilya. I watched him for some time while he did lap after lap, trying to master the crawl. I was so impressed by his effort. I asked him later what he was doing and he said "trying to swim like Grigori". Both Grigori and Sergei got actual swimming lessons in Russia; the boarding school they attended in Ivanovo had a pool. They both swim beautifully, too.

Monday, December 10, 2007

WHAT'S IN A NAME?


A few in this "circle" have discussed their adopted children's names.... Frankly, I never thought of changing my children's names. Sergei, Anastasia and Ilya all have what I consider to be beautiful names. Evgenii is a bit difficult (to say the least!), however the common nickname in Russia is Zhenya, or Zhen and "Zhen" is just such a cool name, in my opinion.

I wonder, if we had lived in some very rural area, if I would have felt quite the same. I think so, but I would have been more aware of the issue. Here in East Lansing, since it is a University town, there are many foreign students, and their children with unique names. As a matter of fact, when Sergei first started school his name was just about the most common one in his class! There were so many Asian, African and Middle Eastern students whose names are much more foreign to our ears. One child was memorably named "Fuk-Yu" but even that seemed to pass without comment - at least in third grade - I can't vouch for how his year in American would have turned out had he been in high school!

Our "name" issue has come through our foster child. Grigori came to America about the same time Sergei did, and from the same children's home, coincidentally. His original adoption did not work out for a variety of reasons, and he arrived in our home a year ago last August. His name was Gregory with an Italian last name. Since I did not think he would want to have to explain his situation, we decided to just tell people he was an exchange student. I also suggested that rather than the Italian last name, which would require constant and ongoing explanation, that he use his original Russian last name. He had already expressed admiration for his Russian father (killed in an auto accident) so I thought he would like to do this.

But Grigori was not all that happy to be known as Russian. He had nothing good to say about Russia or being Russian. His original family had not celebrated his roots at all, and he thought he had completely forgotten Russian. He didn't care. However - don't they say a man's heart is through his stomach? - the same is true of a boy. During our first visits, I brought him some Russian candy. He liked that!! Seeing his reaction, I brought cookies and other foods from the Russian grocery. When he finally came home with us, I celebrated by taking him to the Russian grocery myself and letting him pick a shopping cart full of foods to take home. He did this with glee, but made it clear that maybe Russian food was OK - but that was the only good thing about Russia.

As time went on, occasionally I'd hear him ask the other kids what some word was in Russian, or he'd have them ask him easy words to see if he remembered them. About a year ago, we went to the Russian Festival in Kalamazoo. Greg both wanted to go and didn't want to go. But I didn't give him much choice. He did enjoy the pool, and hotel experience, and meeting and playing with the other adopted kids we met there..... But the morning of the festival, he refused to get out of the car. He didn't want to see all that "stupid Russian stuff!" "Stupid Russian people!" OK. I told him I thought it was cold and miserable, but if he wanted to wait in the car, he could feel free. He came in, had a good day, and shortly thereafter, I noticed he started spelling Gregory - Gregori. That's the name he goes by now at school.
But eventually, he told me that his "real" Russian name was "Maxim" and he wanted to be called that. It seemed odd and artificial, and only occasionally could I manage to do it in a way that didn't seem odd. So, that wasn't working. But when Ilya arrived in our home in September, Greg obviously told Ilya to call him "Maxim", and since then calling him that has been a lot easier since it rolls off Ilya's tongue, and in fact if you call him something else, Ilya doens't know who you're talking about! So we've all begun to call him Maxim (a name I really like). I doubt that in HS he'll ever manage to change himself back, but at least at home he can feel like himself again.
And, happily, this year rather than being embarrassed about being Russian, he proclaims it! He makes a big deal out of it. I'm so glad. He's all the happier for it, I can see.


Sunday, December 9, 2007

DAPPER MAXIM

Last night was the Winter Dance at Lansing Catholic. Maxim went. I love the fact that this school does not "overdo" the formal dances. We could take a trip to Europe on the money I spent on tuxes for Aidan at his public HS. A couple a year at least....and there were fairly costly tickets to buy, as well.
I have no idea how the other kids were dressed; I know the girls wore formals, but Maxim - to my huge relief - did not suggest a tux, but instead was satisfied with a new shirt and tie combo to go with his date's dress. He has nothing but self-confidence (a trait I love) so he also wore proudly the purple hat that I hate to admit was part of a Halloween costume last year. But I thought he looked pretty cool, and so did his friends.
The most fun part of having Maxim with us is the absolute zeal with which he approaches just about everything! He loves all the school social events, "spirit weeks", pep rallies, everything. He is delighted that the boys on the basketball team have to dress up (dress shoes, shirt and tie) to go to away games. All the dances take on a glow for him, the sun rises and sets on all the games.... I find that because he has so much fun, we do too.

BLESS THE COMPASSIONATE TEACHER


After I discovered that the infamous beaded band was no longer in my possession, nor was the lovely little bead loom, Anastasia and I were stuck with a paper about Shoshone beadwork and NO PROJECT. I was desperately trying to catch up on all my work from our weekend in Pittsburgh, and though I considered on the fly, trying to recreate loom, buy beads, and teach Anastasia to do beadwork, this was in no way, shape or form really possible. SO.....in she went with only her photos, while I winced whenever I passed those tables in the hallway with those extraordinary projects.

But, God bless Nastya's Social Studies teacher! Not only did she let my frightened daughter do her presentation privately to her - here is her "evaluation".... no mention, even, of the missing "project". God love this woman!

Friday, December 7, 2007

FLU SHOTS - BAD CHOICE



Yesterday I took Ilya and Sergei to the doctor for their "well-child" checks. They each had a couple of immunizations which were recommended and the nurse suggested a flu shot as well.

Now - we have never gotten flu shots. Despite the fact that my mom has always gotten a flu shot and never had an ill-effect, I've been wary since one of our priests had a full-fledged case of the flu after getting one, and just this past week our custodian here at church was down with a "flu-like" illness directly after getting the flu shot.

I hesitated, but I said, "OK". And - what do you know? Both boys woke up with headaches, and other miseries. BAD MOMMY denied reality and made them both get up, dressed and ready for school. BAD MOMMY even made them get in the car and drive over here, even though both resisted breakfast or even tea. Looking back, I don't know why I was so intent on believing they were either faking it or exaggerating. But GOOD MOMMY came to the rescue and drove them back home when neither could raise themselves from the couch in my building to go over to the school. BAD MOMMY yelled at them first, I have to confess.

And, do you know? No one in our household has ever actually had the flu!

WHAT I WISH

I wish that everyone with a blog had a way of posting photos of their family members with names and ages.... I am just beginning to visit a few blogs, and it is so challenging to try and remember who is who, and which child was adopted, which was not.... I couldn't really figure out how to do it here, but I did make a list.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

OUR RUSSIAN SCHOOL ON THE INTERNET!

http://www.statenews.com/index.php/multimedia/26792

We had a reporter from the Michigan State University paper come to Russian School last week and do a report....so if you are interested, take a look! Some of my sweethearts are there. Unfortunately, Maxim had a game and Ilya went to it, so they aren't there.

BABY PHOTOS



I love, love, love this photo. It is Sergei's passport photo. In Ivanovo the children's passport photos are so touching. Of course, in Russia people do not generally smile for photos, so just that always makes the kids' passport photos seem so heart-rending.

My friend Christine posted some time ago about the lack of baby photos of her adopted girls. I had not let the baby photo thing bother me too much until last year when Maxim needed photos of his life for the enormous 8th grade graduation project at our parish school. Of course most of the children have been in this school since kindergarten and the "biographies" which the children carry up in procession and lay at the altar during the graduation Mass, are very rich and deep sources of shared memories for most of the students. And they are not uniformly "cheery", either - there are children who have had serious illnesses or lost parents for example.

However, for Maxim the whole "biography" project was traumatic, for any number of reasons....primarily because he was keeping his story not just private, but well- he tends to manufacture a lot of his personal history when talking to people. I figured, that his past justifies such a tactic, but even he balked at putting anything less than truth down in writing. In the end it worked itself out....we did a few "snapshot" essays about a friend, a dog, how he learned to read and write, etc. But the rest of the kids' autobiographies were full of photos. That was a challenge. I contacted his previous families, and was actually able to find a few elementary-age photos.

Now, Sergei, only in 7th grade is already thinking about this project. In one way it will be a lot easier - Sergei is absolutely transparent about his past. But photographs are another thing altogether.

Christine had found a place where they do "age regression" photos and posted about it on her blog. When Sergei coincidentally mentioned his wish that he had a baby photo only a day or so later, that was just too much coincidence. I think they are pretty expensive, but Sergei was so excited when I mentioned the possibility that I decided to give it a try. I'll let you know how it works out! (Now, of course, Anastasia wants one, too....)

A friend of mine has a daughter adopted from Ivanovo who is now 14. A few years ago she wrote "The Story of My Life", one of the most beautiful, touching and funny things I have ever read. One of the quotes from her story that always makes me tear up happens to be about photos: When I got to the orphanage, I was one year and nine months. There was a mama there named Valentina Ivanovna. She was there the day I came as a baby and she was also there the day I got adopted 10 years later. She was really nice and caring to me. And, I’ll always love her and never forget her. She told me that, when I first came to the orphanage, I didn’t know how to walk down the stairs so she put me under her arm and carried me down the stairs to eat. She said that I was wild when I was a baby and didn’t like to eat my food. They tried to force me to eat and I screamed and kicked. She still loved me. When I was a baby, nobody took pictures of me so, when I wanted to know what I was like as a baby, I asked her.

Somehow Julia's reliance on the "mamas" for her memories really makes me say a prayer of thanksgiving for the wonderful people who loved my children before I did, and who helped make them the wonderful people they are. I

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

NEVER THROW ANYTHING AWAY

This is a lovely beaded band. No. It is NOT the beaded band that I made myself. It is not the one that half-completed, sat in its little loom in my sewing basket for over twenty years. It is NOT the one I NEED NOW!!!!!

WHY, oh WHY did I ever throw it away? I'd even forgotten I'd tossed it. I'd seen that thing in that basket (my grandma's sewing basket that I rarely open) for years and years. What posessed me to heave it after all that time? Loom and all? So that all I have now are a few little plastic dishes with beads in them. Why? Why? Why? Is my house that much tidier without it? Has life been better?

No. Well, as you can tell....or surmise. I now need my beaded band. I need it so that Anastasia can add a few rows and without a huge amount of time and expense, we can hand it in for display with the paper she has already written on Shoshone beadwork - a topic chosen, by the way, BECAUSE I HAD A BEADED BAND!!!!!

So, I was just about to go on a (another) heaving expedition. I have been fussing and straining under the load of "stuff" and daydreaming about throwing the contents of my sewing room desk into a big bag and never looking back. But, I guess this will put the brakes on anything like that!

TOO MUCH, 2


Was this the weekend from hell, or what??? Well, maybe not quite that, but I feel like it was everything except a rest! By the grace of God, though - and I am not kidding here, or exaggerating - I never remember anything unpleasant. So, though I think I went through the last three days with blood pressure high enough for hospitalization, I really don't remember why! I have the idea that everyone was at everyone else's throats, however, for much of the time! I recall vowing never to do this again, etc.


I was thinking about it, though, and recall even in my own most-peaceful and happy childhood home, my mom exclaiming about how difficult my brother and I got when special things were happening. I recall one of my few spankings coinciding with my 7th birthday party (my only birthday party, too, I think!) I remember my mom getting extremely riled at us one Halloween night.... I think that even for pretty well-behaved and well-balanced kids, too much excitement causes stress which causes unregulated behavior and incites unregulated behavior on the parents' part, too! (If they are not careful.)


I remember when Aidan and Lydia were much younger becoming completely disgusted with their behavior/demeanor and declaring what I called a "No Treat Week". My idea was that they were ungrateful and needed to feel what it was like to have fewer "good things", i.e. no visits with friends, or friends over, no shopping trips, no new things, no movies or TV, no special requests for dinner, etc. Those "No Treat Weeks" worked like a charm, and almost instantaneously! It never required more than a couple of days before my sweet, thankful children were thankfully, back! But, in retrospect, I don't think it was so much that they had "too much" and were ungrateful. I think it was that "too much" of any good thing, makes for too much stress and that makes it hard for kids - maybe adults, too - to control their own behavior.


So, if some pretty tame treats and special events get even well-regulated children going, imagine how the stress of strange people, places, foods, schedules, etc. react on kids who have had a lot of stress in their early lives and are less self-controlled! It isn't pretty. I will say, Zhen was delightful. Sergei was pretty good. But, really, everyone had their less-than-lovely "moments" this weekend, me included!


Wait! I do have this vague memory of Lydia (21) and Anastasia (10) having a loud argument over which one was preferred by Calvin (24 hours). Good gosh!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

OUR NEW FAMILY MEMBER


Calvin Francis Kitching with mom and dad, Aidan and Susan.




WE'RE OFF!



I wanted to wait to post this until I had a photo, but I have a grandson! (Ooooo that is a very odd concept!)




Aidan's wife, Susan gave birth to Calvin Francis (8 lbs., 7 oz.) yesterday evening. And, for the occasion, Aidan was allowed to take leave and be present.... So, we are all packing into two vehicles (I hate to think of the gas!) and heading to Pittsburgh tomorrow morning to spend a day and a half with them. We are one person beyond what the van will hold, but we also want to take them the cradle that my dad made for Aidan when he was a baby.




So, what with that, and the Confirmation retreat I am doing this evening, I won't post again until we are home. Please pray for our safe journey!