Friday, October 10, 2008


Tami passed on a challenge, and I thought "why not?" The challenge is to post the sixth picture in the sixth folder in your photo files.

Mine turned out to be a decent one. I was glad. This is from the few days we had with Anastasia on her hosting trip to the US.

It was interesting how we ended up with Nastya at our house. We'd adopted Sergei in spring, 2003 and then Zhenya in spring, 2004. I'd teased Dana at our agency that if she had "any spare girls" from the hosting program that summer to keep me in mind! She assured me she wouldn't as only a couple of girls were coming and they were definitely spoken for. But - surprise! - I got a call mid- program from Dana that one family was having problems with their little girl, and would we like to meet her. Well.....yes..... Zhenya wasn't even speaking English yet. It did seem a little soon, but of course I said yes! The family and I agreed to meet at a McDonalds so the kids could play. She and her husband had adopted two older boys previously so there were boys to play with my boys. Of course, Anastasia was adorable to look at and very sweetly behaved at the restaurant. The mother said, however, that she had been very difficult, defiant, angry; she would not do as they asked, refused to make her bed, use the bathroom, etc. As I was supposed to simply meet her, I was stunned when we left the restaurant and this mother started putting Anastasia's few bags in my van! Apparently she was done with her! I hestitated - I hadn't even got a room ready - but this woman clearly did not want Anastasia back in their home. Well, she seemed adorable to me, so I didn't demur too much. Dana wasn't very pleased that the handover had occurred without consultation with her, but of course she figured we were a great place for her.

This photo was taken just as we arrived home. I had Anastasia go with me and the dog we had then, to the park. That is why she is wearing make-up! She "came" with it. (I am not one to let little girls wear make-up in public!) While we were at the park, Lydia made up her bed and got things ready for her.

Then the excitement began. We got off to a good start, actually. I could see that Anastasia was very relieved when I showed her the little half-bed in the boy's room with their twin beds. At her previous house she'd been in "a big bed in a big room". Well, Anastasia had never slept by herself before. No wonder she was frightened. The boys were nice to her, and of course she relaxed since she could finally speak Russian and be understood. But the next day we saw some of what caused this family to rid themselves of her so quickly. This girl can have tantrums like no one's business! I didn't even know what it was that set her off. But the more I tried to calm her and get her what she wanted the more upset she got. [I soon learned that to ignore her is generally the best medicine.]

There she was, only 5 at the time, tiny little thing but a Sarah Bernhardt for sure! I watched her stamp her feet, and gesture broadly while loudly and dramatically proclaiming - "Yes! I know you think I'm a fool! Well, all right then! I am a fool! I am. Then what are you? I want to know what are you? I'm a fool - so what are you???!!!" Well, I had to laugh! She was a miniature soap-opera star. I couldn't help wonder whether she'd taken this from TV or from her family life!

My laughter cranked her up another notch. She spit at the floor in front of me. Then she took out her gum and dramatically splated it on the counter top. But, being sugarless gum, instead of sticking, it rolled up. That exasperated her, and she picked it up and attempted to stick it to the floor I'd just washed. No luck. It rolled up again. She cried, "I'm going to break your table!" and she went over to our large dinner table and behaved as if she would pick it up and toss it against the wall. (Fat chance.) Craig was not as amused as me. He picked her up and took her up to her bed; on the way she bit him. Up in the bedroom she tore all the bedclothes off her bed, but that got the upset out of her and she put her bed back together beautifully, and went to calmly play with the boys. That was the tantrum I remember most. But there were more!

The four days she was with us were quite interesting!!! Tantrums and sweet playing interchanged. I learned about her that she is very studious with an enormous attention span. She would do schoolwork for several hours, very carefully. She could play quietly and happily by herself (she entertained herself for hours on the front porch with a tub of water and little cups and spoons). She seemed very smart. She also had strong opinions. I took her to a lovely boutique which was having a sidewalk sale. The gorgeous dresses, usually $70-$100 were on sale for more like $20. I told her I wanted to buy her a dress and held out one that I thought was pretty. Instead of the amazed delight I expected from this little orphan girl, I got cool appraisal. She leaned back, evaluated the dress, and shook her head "no". "Too fat." Turned out that she likes her clothes close-fitting and elegant - no cute fluff, or full skirts. I just couldn't help but be amused at this little thing being so opionated about clothes when she had none! She still has a great fashion sense - and a figure that causes her to look wonderful in anything.

Nastya seemed to have a sweet dispostion alternating with a crazy one. But somehow it seemed to me that she was really just responding with fear. Before she went back to Russia, I had already learned that if I ignored the beginnings of her bad mood, that she could usually get a grip on herself. Craig was a good deal more hesitant about Nastya (well, he was still nursing his bite) but we decided to go ahead and have not been sorry.

She still has tantrums from time to time but she is learning more about her behavior and tries to get a handle on it. She will probably need some counseling in the future to deal with some pretty strange behavior by her mother during her formative years. But Nastya has many dear and good qualities, is indeed a wonderful student, and we are so proud to have her as a daughter.


Tina in CT said...

She's also fortunate to have you as her mom.

The Combes Family said...

I have such a soft spot in my heart for Nastya! I remember the first day I met her. You had just gotten back from Russia from picking her up and you brought her into the kindergarten classroom to pick up Zhenya. She was very interested in what the teacher was saying, but when I "spoke" to her, she hid behind you. The following year I was assigned to assist in her first grade classroom and she taught me some Russian words so I could speak to Julia when she got home. She was a great friend to Julia - especially in those first few months when Julia was learning English. Thanks for sharing about your special daughter.

Annie said...

And Anastasia will NEVER forget Julia. She has lots of other friends, Russian friends, and American friends, but Julia is absolutely her soul mate (or so thinks Nastya).

Salzwedel Family said...

Thank you for sharing this story Annie. It paints a beautiful picture of how a child can grow & blossom. Great picture too!

kate said...

I love the picture and the stories. Keep them coming!

Rachael said...

Great story! (You are a brave and determined woman by the way! :)) Yet, it seems you were meant to be together in some way.

My Katya knows how to throw a good temper tantrum too. I'd never seen anything quite like it, especially coming from such a little bitty thing! In our case though, the first temper tantrum (actually the first bad behavior at all) that I ever saw from her was our first day along together in Moscow (after the adoption was final -- ha!) The temper tantrum to beat all temper tantrums, and right in the middle of Moscow -- I carried her kicking, screaming and scratching through several city blocks until we both collapsed in a fit of tears in our hotel room. But we survived that and are stronger for it! I guess that was my "labor."

MyGirlElena said...

Beautiful picture! I couldn't have resisted such an adorable little girl either.
You and your husband are doing a fabulous job raising her. I'm sure the tantrums will subside eventually.

Lea said...

What a darling picture!
Annie, I would love to have a copy of your packing list. My email is
My lengthy stay is due to 3 holidays..
Thanks sooo much! Leaving on the 18th for Russia! Yea!!

MamaPoRuski said...

I love this post! Thanks for sharing the shaky beginning so we can see the beautiful start of a great ending! Now I have to really take the photo challenge seriously...

Fioleta said...

What a wonderful story and she is so lucky to end up with you instead of continuing to stay with a family that couldn't cope with her behavior.

Wife to the Rockstar said...

What a blessing she is! What a neat challenge too!

Annie said...

Great story, and cute picture.
God bless.