Thursday, January 31, 2008

FINDING NADIA

I have watched the movie Dr. Zhivago probably more than the people who were involved in making it. As a Russian student and slavophile, albeit, a young one, at the time it came out, I saw it so many times, I began to have much of it memorized. Of all the scenes in this haunting film, the one that oddly stuck in my head the most firmly is that image of Zhivago's and Lara's grown-up daughter disappearing into the crowd of anonymous workers.....

It is that vision that comes to mind whenever I think of Sergei's sister, Nadia.

Nadia has, in a way, haunted me for years. It was only when we adopted Sergei, that I realized that for him to be adopted his older sister, then probably around 16, had to "sign off" on him. She must have done it realizing that she would probably never see or hear from him again. And, being the "older sister", half-mother, having taken care of him for years, I consider that truely heroic. When Sergei shared memories of her, I found myself hurting for her even more. He remembers her putting a bandaid on his knee. Sitting on a porch, telling him stories. He recalls walking with her to church. He remembers her telling everyone she was going to "help him" in the bathroom, and once in there out of view, secretly giving him candy she had managed to come by.

Nadia actually had parted from Sergei a couple of years before we adopted him. He was taken from their orphanage in Rostov, to Ivanovo and the International Boarding School for gifted children there. But, still, he thought of her with warmth, and remembered her as loving him.
So twice, Nadia had to part from Sergei and watch him go on to better things than she would ever know.

If Nadia had been in the Ivanovo region, I would undoubtedly have found her already. Somehow I almost feel that Ivanovo is a second home. I have some connections there. But - Rostov is mysterious and far away. I felt helpless to know how to proceed.

When Anastasia and her brother Ilya were rejoined this year, longing feelings came to the surface for Sergei. He asked if we could find Nadia.

I had been a part of the Post Adopt Birth Parent Seek group for quite a while, and they took on this case at the last minute. Unfortunately, his searcher did not have time to do more than locate her. The report was that she was studying at an institute in a city outside of Rostov, Belaya Kalitva.

Now I think we must try to reach her through another searcher. I am so fearful that, like the girl in the Dr. Zhivago movie, Nadia will graduate, move, and disappear from sight. I fear if we wait much longer we will have lost our chance to ever connect with her.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

ASKANCE


Two blog posts grabbed my attention today. Both are by the moms of large families, Ginny and Courtney. Both understand the feelings that come from snarky remarks about family size. Ginny has the blessing of a Catholic church community that respects large families. Courtney feels something of an eye-raiser, even in her church.

As a Catholic, I do think that large families are more respected/accepted - even in the Church at large, but especially among the homeschoolers. But, I am not sure that the problem of a) judging others' choices and b) feeling anxious about how others judge us, is any different.

As I ponder it, I think most adults are not all that far removed from the junior high cafeteria. We are all anxious about how others perceive us, but pretty comfortable with allowing ourselves to judge others. Maybe those things go hand in hand! But in junior high we were judging one another on clothes and accessories, and friends. As adults - particularly adult women - it is our "lifestyle choices" that are on parade.

My "first family" (bio-kids) consisted of a boy and a girl. Though we left all up to God, no other children came. Frankly, I frequently felt embarrassed by this. I wanted to wear a badge that proclaimed "NO ARTIFICIAL BIRTH CONTROL". I know that people would occasionally ask how many children we had, and when I answered I could see in their eyes a sort of judgement (particularly because as a Church employee, I would be expected to fully support Church teachings), but it would be so frustrating because there was no way I could respond to the unspoken judgement after such an innocuous question!

One particular day something happened that caused me to see things slightly differently. I had two part-time employees at that time. Both moms, but one had one child and one had five. At different times that day, separately, both of these ladies shared their anxiety about being judged. One commented that she felt people were critical of her because she only had the one child, and for that reason she didn't "fit in" to the parish community. My other friend likewise, shared that she felt people looked at them askance for having such a big family. A lightbulb went on for me. Particularly as here I was feeling judged for having two!

We are all walking around feeling judged! For having two kids, one child, no children, or too many! For having our kids in public school, or paying for Catholic School and not getting the important "extras", for being countercultural and homeschooling, or for being "elitist" and putting them in Montessori! We feel judged for staying home with our kids, and we feel judged for working.

There really is no winning. It would be so nice to say that it is just crazy! - because none of us are being judged! But, I think the opposite is true. We are alert to other people's choices, and we compare them with our own. On one hand, we usually find our own far superior, but we wince because we figure they are probably finding their choices superior.

Somehow, just realizing that all this "unnecessary stuff" is flying around has helped me feel more at peace. So perhaps has the fact that I've been:

  • a stay at home mom
  • a working mom
  • a working part-time mom
I've had my kids in at one time or another (honestly):
  • Catholic School
  • public school
  • Montessori School
  • Christian School
  • and I've homeschooled.
I've been embarrassed by having the "perfect two" children, and by having a "big family".
Yet, all the while, I have done my best to follow God's will for me. And isn't His judgement all that I should consider? SO.... I aim to just take all those "looks askance" with a grain of salt, and all the comments with a sense of humor...and remember to stand up tall!

Well....until (as yesterday) someone asks, "Are you going to adopt any more......?" and I can't quite interpret that tone.



Monday, January 28, 2008

WHY DO PEOPLE ADOPT?

I recently ran across a blog post that proposed that perhaps people who adopt might more often than not have had sad or abusive childhoods themselves, and thus find themselves reaching out in compassion towards other hurting children. I had to post a response myself, disagreeing - at least in my case. I had nothing short of the ideal childhood. Two honest, balanced, happily married parents, who provided my brother and me with a simple but extremely happy childhood. Unlike some "ideal" families today our home was not "child-centered", as in focused on "playrooms", trips to Disneyland, outings planned with kids in mind, etc. No. Something I think I like better - structure, peace, traditions, love, kindness, respect, values. Very solid. Perfect.

My own theory about adoption has been more along the lines of wondering if there is more or less a quality of "nurture" in people. I can think back to my childhood and perhaps my one grief was that (well until I was twelve or so) I had no PET! For as long as I remember, I longed to have something to love. I played with dolls until I was in middle school. Then spent my teen years dreaming of marriage and family, but more about baby names than wedding gowns.

I see a lot of "nurture" in my daughters, particularly in Anastasia. Other women really don't seem to have that "lust" for motherhood. They may have children, and may be great moms, but are the sort that laugh gleefully at those jokes about the end of summer vacation. Far from rejoicing at the start of the school year, I've noticed that a lot of adoptive parents either homeschool or have considered it.

If I had the time and inclination, I think this would be a great topic to explore academically...but for some odd reason, the time is not presenting itself!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

MORNING ROUTINE

Nastya and me on one of her "free dress" days

I wish we could have more routine in our lives. I know that the children would benefit from it, and so would the grown-ups! But with my church job, there are at least two nights of the week when I don't get home in time to prepare a nice dinner....and the sports make it really impossible to have any sort of after-school or evening routine.

Morning, however, we "have down"....not that "having it down" makes it any easier. Frankly, there are a lot of mornings when it feels like it takes all the self-control I am capable of to climb out of bed and dive directly into "the routine."

I get up at 5 a.m. Put a load of wash in. Unload the dishwasher, make coffee. Fold a load from the drier. Make lunches. Make a pot of tea. Get the paper from the porch. Now - if I've worked fast, I get maybe ten minutes to look at it, otherwise it is up the stairs to wake Maxim at 6. Put out placemats. Make kasha. Then check to see if Maxim got up.

If Craig has gotten up, we may have fifteen-twenty minutes to look at the paper together. Then I wake the other kids at 6:30. By now, Maxim is out of the bath; usually Zhen or Nastya are the first to come down. They like to get a cup of tea and hunker down by the heating vents to drink it. Craig was all for shooing them up to the table, but I argued that if we had a fireplace, we'd let them gather around it to drink their tea.... A heating vent is the best we can do. Then they will have breakfast, either kasha or toast or waffles with "chocolate butter" ordinarily. Then I will often remember in horror that I've forgotten the laundry and throw another load in the drier, etc.

If there are arguments and disharmony this is when it occurs. When it is time to transition from the tea and table to getting dressed, making beds, etc. Unfortunately there usually are some arguments and disharmony. Up to the grown ups to try and head them off by hurrying one child or the other onto the next task or into another room.

The other "rough place" will involve my having gotten caught up in something and lost my rhythm with the laundry. I have to have both the dark parts and the white parts of the school uniforms ready and just occasionally, we'll be a bit stressed as the drier just does not seem to be drying quick enough!

Then at about 7:25 I beg someone to start the car so it is not completely frigid when we get in (a bonus of having some "big kids"), and brush off the snow if needed (and it has been lately!).

My big failing is trying to fit in some things that probably don't fit - "Let's go over those spelling words one more time." or "Zhen, let me look in your backpack." Or, I'll decide to change a bed, not just make it. That means that Maxim is yelling - "Mrs. Kitching!!!! I'm going to be late!"

It is a huge failing of mine that I almost fear "extra time". I want to be exactly on time - not early - and that often means I get caught running late.

Once everyone is in the car, it is a fifteen-twenty minute drive across town to get Maxim to HS, and another 5-10 minutes to get us to church/school. Whichever route I take someone tells me it was the wrong one, for some reason. "When we go this way we are always behind a bus, mom!" "Mrs. Kitching! I told you the other way is quicker because you don't go by that school!" I tune out as best I can.

When everyone is through the school doors I feel as though 30% of my day's challenge has been met.

I took the idea for this post from Christine, whose morning routine is far smoother. But - mornings just aren't my favorite part of the day.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

THE SOURCE OF DISRUPTION

Maxim (#30) listening to the coach.

We now have two boys playing basketball. Maxim plays on the freshman team at his HS. Sergei on the 7th grade team at his school.

Maxim is obsessed with basketball. Though he is more talented in soccer and a brilliant runner, it is basketball that for some reason consumes him. He played on the 8th grade team; he played on the summer league; he practices every chance he gets.....well, you get the idea.

Sergei, on the other hand, had to be coerced into playing. He was not feeling very much "a part" of his school and we felt that it was this or the spring play and he chose basketball as the lesser of two evils. Sergei is very athletic, too, but is wary because he is not very familiar with the game. He recognizes that since he didn't play basketball from age 6 on, he is not on a par with the other players. However, after a lot of complaining, he has begun to like it, and is actually not too bad - we can say he does not harm them. I can also see that our instincts were right; it is a very good idea he is on the team.

However - a big HOWEVER - basketball has an enormous downside. It completely devastates any idea of ordinary family life. Partly this is because of the distance between our home and their schools, but even if we didn't consider that - the HS team has practice six days a week! And there is no regular schedule. Today, for example, he had practice directly after school. Yesterday, I was picking him up from practice at 9:30 at night. And there are two games a week. When they are "away" games I can have to drive nearly an hour one way. (I am designated "game" parent as my husband is too basketball-crazy to always behave himself.) Sergei also has two games a week, as well as two practices a week. That means that four days a week we have to shuffle two of them to basketball at ever-changing times and locations. Always worrying about bringing the correct array of paraphernalia.

And how to get them anything like a healthy meal? The boys who play can't eat before a contest or practice; I am so busy driving them and picking them up that cooking goes by the wayside. Regular homework times for all of them are a thing of the past, as well.

This is how bad it is - I consider that there is an "upside" to Zhenya breaking his arm. This year he is not playing basketball!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

ILYA'S TREAT

Ilya's treat

We are blessed with what we call "the Russian Store". It calls itself the "International Grocery" which is a little amusing because our name for it is far more apt. At least 95% of the items are Russian. But that is wonderful for us.

However, I don't dare go there too often, as imported groceries are not inexpensive, and the children want absolutely everything they see.

Maxim's energies go toward the candy, black sunflower seeds and the unsurpassed Russian ice cream. Anastasia likes suhariki (the little crouton snacks). Everyone (especially my husband) demands "chocolate butter". But the three younger boys favor fish. Sergei and Zhen are happy with the little packets of dried fish, but Ilya begged for this fish. I bought it with the understanding that he would be in charge of eating it!

I was told that all I needed to do was cut off the head and tail, slice it and serve! So I made nice little fish slices and laid them on the plate in an attractive presentation, or so I thought. Ilya looked at me as though I were a brick short of a load, and took over. This is his final product. Apparently, after the cutting the fish must be reconstituted as much as possible!

I was told that typically this would be served with boiled potatoes, and docily I followed those directions, finding - to my surprise - that this was a remarkable combination! Likewise, my Russian friend explained that to really enjoy vodka, I should drink it with hot pelmeni, and amazingly the two together were far more delicious than I could have imagined!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

GENEROSITY

Natalya prepares for Yolka

We have been truly blessed. A wonderful Russian woman named Natalya with a heart for children, particularly adopted children, puts hours of her time and a good deal of her money, too, into our Russian School.

Natalya's American husband, Randy,is no slouch in this department, either...and truly I am inspired and humbled by the cheerful, everyday kindness of these two people.

Natalya puts up with quite a bit from the raucous children in our Russian School, and on a Friday evening after a full week of doing home daycare, I expect that she could very deservedly and very comfortably put up her feet and enjoy a rest. Instead she gathers up the materials that she purchased in Russia for use in the school, and she comes to spend a couple of hours with my children and a number of others - none of whom understand how blessed they are.

Last night we had a Yolka party....a little late you may think for this traditional Russian Christmas/New Year celebration. But in Russia part of the month-long celebratory season is today - the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord....so we weren't too far off. Probably 75 people - Russian families, and families who have adopted Russian children, celebrated together in the traditional Russian way....with a sort of program leading up to the arrival of Grandfather Frost, his daughter Snegurotchka, and - yes! Presents. The little program includes games and Natalya and her husband had purchased prizes for the winners of these little contests. They provided the main portion of the lovely meal, and spent their afternoon setting up. But what a gift to our children to give them the opportunity to celebrate the holiday in the "old way". (Though, without the elaborate programs that Russian children - even those in orphanages - are expected to perform.)

Natalya and her husband are also generous in Russia, running a charitable organization Shore of Hope, which provides help for a number of orphanages in her home district of Khabarovsk. In fact, if you look at their website you will see that these dear people gave "Yolka" to children in two countries this year! I think there IS a real Grandfather Frost and Snegurotchka - and we have seen them in person!!!



Friday, January 18, 2008

THE STRANGE PHONE CALL

Anastasia hearing bad news???
A few weeks ago I wrote about the sad news we received that Ilya's and Anastasia's mother passed away. Our Moscow friend arranged for their older brothers to come and spend a day in Moscow, and suggested we call at that time to talk to them. That was at the beginning of the school day for us. Well, on Russian Christmas we called. They weren't there. The word was, they had missed the bus. So, it was on for the next day. Again they were not there. [They eventually made it this week, as described in my last post.]
So, we called Viktor's cell phone instead. We found him at his grandmother's house. The children spoke to Viktor and to their grandmother. I watched carefully, but there was no sign of grief. While Ilya was on the phone, I asked Anastasia - "How is your mother?" The response "She is off with some other man." That's the only answer I ever got.

So - is she off with some new man? Or, did the grandmother decide that the children would not benefit from hearing this bad news? Did they just decide not to tell them about their mother's death? Or, were they thinking (as a missionary friend of mine suggested) that maybe they could get a little money out of us by claiming a funeral they couldn't afford? (The expense and hardship of the funeral was mentioned to my friend.) I don't know. Right now the truth is about as clear as the photograph.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

KIND FRIENDS

Viktor and Sasha in their favorite subway station.

I got some wonderful photos yesterday by e-mail. My friend Alla, in Moscow, treated Anastasia's and Ilya's older brothers Sasha and Viktor to a day in Moscow, and showed them all the historical sites.

The day began with breakfast at Alla's house (she said they were both almost too shy to eat), then they visited the Kremlin, including all its churches, Red Square and the various subway stations (this was one of the very fun things that Alla did with us when we were there. Each station is completed in a different architectural style and it is great fun to see them all and choose your favorite) . I guess it was a very long and full day before she put them on the bus for the five hour trip back to Ivanovo. I cannot begin to say how grateful I am for these wonderful friends, who are so kind and supportive to these boys.

The other, staggering, part of this particular visit, is that at my request Alla had them bring photos of their mother and grandmother. Alla scanned them and today I received them in an e-mail. There is such a strange fascination to me in looking at them. I don't think it would be respectful to post them, somehow. And, in any case, I think I will not show them to the children for a while. But I keep opening them up. Looking. Wondering. Trying to see every little detail. So close. So far. Such a strange and mysterious bond between us.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

BLOG AESTHETICS

My good e-friend, Christine, changed the look of her blog. I like it. It features a nice photo of all of her children, which is both fitting and helpful (especially if she can figure a way to label them). However.....this stresses me out. If nothing else has ever done it, my "blogging" experiences have surely convinced me that I am almost too visual. The "look" of people's blogs makes me either gravitate toward them or turn away in distress (distress because I kind of want to read it, but really just can't stand the look of it!).

It is also distressing when the look of my "usual" blogs change. Christine - I think I'll be alright with this, but it is touch and go.

I almost never started this blog because I had such a hard time finding the format that would allow me the freedom I wanted to make it look the way I hoped it would. I had to struggle a LOT. And, actually, I gave up. I made a website instead. And that took way longer than it might have for the same reason.....I tried out probably five or more "hosts" before I found the one I liked.

My blog is only partially successful, and I remain frustrated that the heading has somehow "slipped" and doesn't always look right - at least when I open it.

Oh, well - it certainly looks better than my house does! Which, I suppose, is why I invite guests to my blog and not my house!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Calvin

Here's an update on my sweet grandchild....he is beginning to look like Aidan!

NO WONDER I WAS NO HELP


This morning I came into the kitchen and Maxim, with an agonized expression on his face, was squeezing something in his hands over the sink. "What is going on?" I asked, for obvious reasons. After a lot of waving his hands around and moaning, etc., he told me.

As mentioned in a previous post, Maxim took up smoking. He now wants to quit. He woke me up last night at about 1 a.m. and urgently demanded that I come into his room to hear this announcement. It was actually worth it, though I am reserving my "yahoos" until he has actually dropped the habit. However, what I witnessed this morning, it turns out, was part of his strategy.

He explained that in Russia, as a punishment, they would make you put ice and salt in your fists, and squeeze them together until your palms are burned. For obvious reasons, I stood there open-mouthed. Then he went on to detail another method used to get kids to quit smoking - they are forced to drink a cup of steeped tobacco leaves....a "nicotene tea" more or less.

Suddenly a light dawned! Maxim has been exclaiming that I won't "do anything to help" him quit! I kept asking - "What can I do? It has to be a decision you make!" Well, now at least, I know what sorts of "things" he thought I might "do" to help. However, these are not strategies I feel entirely comfortable with! He'll have to continue to employ them on his own.

Friday, January 11, 2008

THE ANTI-BULLYING TRAINING


Perhaps we need a little bit of fine-tuning on the message? The children's school did a big "anti-bullying" push this week, with movies and sessions with an expert, etc.

Well, Anastasia was out-and-out defiant to me last night, leading to a very unpleasant episode. But this morning she explained, "We learned that if someone says something to you that you don't like, you should just stand up to them!"

Frankly, I don't know whether to laugh or cry! She better learn to put up with a little bullying from me! When I say get in bed now, I mean it!

HATS ARE OFF TO......

I remember vividly the day I started this blog. A very bad day. That was the day Ilya got the fatal haircut that distressed him so badly he shaved off the front of his hair and then, horrified, would not appear without a hat...for - nearly three months!!!
I heroically ignored the situation. Put up with the hat, even had a little fun out of it. And my patience was rewarded. On Monday, Ilya asked me for a haircut. And - ta-da!!! Here he is! Back to "normalnie".

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

OLDER ADOPTED CHILDREN AND LANGUAGE

This article is very helpful! I make a copy and give to each of my children's teachers each year.

The first year they are here, it is easy for the teacher to understand the challenges, but the second year, when the kids seem fluent, that's when the difficulties begin!

Frankly, I read this over every so often myself, because unless you have a child who is quick to admit when they are lost or confused, you will need the reminder too!

BTW, a family in our parish adopted a little girl from Russia. She was in our Religious Ed class. She adopted a different strategy. Yulia spoke up when she didn't understand something. The teacher almost went nuts, because it was a non-stop "I don't get that." "What does that mean?" "What is that word." "I don't understand." She'd only been here about a year, so these interjections were non-stop! I had to admire her in some way, but the teacher thought she was being deliberately obnoxious. So, you see - being honest is not the way either! Poor kids.

WHAT WAS THAT AGAIN?


My major in college was Russian. I got wonderful grades, and read my way through both the Gold and the Silver Ages of Russian literature. However.....that was a long time ago.....and now my Russian is a very weak and shaky thing, indeed. HOW I wish I were still fluent! However, there is a bit of an "upside" to my pathetic grasp of the language - when I was in Russia I experienced much of what my children would later (and do now) experience with English here. That gives me a much-needed compassion for them.

For one thing I remember how absolutely exhausting it is to listen to a language that you don't know well. I can't begin to describe it! It is emotionally, mentally and physically draining. I don't know that I've ever worked so hard!
Obviously, you risk embarrassing yourself when you don't understand (if this is true about an adult in a foreign country where you'd never see the people again, how much more so for a middle-schooler in a classroom where everyone will not only always remember, but where any number of students sit there on the look-out for faults they can find in their peers to tease them about). Furthermore, you need to understand just so you can "survive" - do the things you are supposed to do! You may realize people want to help you, but you can also sense that their patience is limited. And it is terribly stressful when you are pretty sure that their willingness to help will not quite meet your need for it! You don't want to make people frustrated and angry with you, so here is what you do: You pretend you understand for as long as you can get away with it.

This sometimes works. Sometimes, just in the nick of time (before someone completes their directions or explanation and look expectantly at you), you do catch on! Sometimes your "understanding" hangs on one word which you sort of grasp in the "nick of time". Ah-ha! You kind of "get it"; you can make a reasonable response. You heart is pounding. You are relieved that this time you didn't have to "look stupid".

Of course, you are risking by this hopeful listening, that you won't "get it". When you don't it is so painful. Someone has been looking in your eyes and talking for what seems like five minutes, you've been encouragingly nodding, and now you have to say: "I don't understand." I have seen their faces fall. I'm sure our adopted kids have, too. Our "helpers" are disappointed in us. They are frustrated. They may be irritated - they don't know what else to say, they have wasted their time. They are not thinking positive and loving thoughts about you! You expect they are thinking you are darned stupid! It is an awful feeling. But that's why you pretend - so you can prevent such moments. The moment you say, "I don't understand" you see that look. It is not quite as bad at the beginning of an explanation, as it is after you've let them "go on" for awhile. But it is still bad.

Because of this personal experience, I try to be aware that my kids will "fake it", especially in school when so much is new, there is much less individual attention, and the possibilities for embarrassment are so great. So sometimes I put my "patience hat" on and determine that during this homework session my kids will, indeed "get it." But it always turns out to be an overwhelming and exhausting experience. I did this with Sergei regarding a current events assignment a month or two ago and below is an example of what went on. I remember the details particularly because I wrote it all up for his teachers so they could get a better understanding of him.

The assignment was to write up - just list - twenty current events. Well, previous weeks, Sergei had just copied things down from the newspaper headlines. I thought "What good is this if he has no idea what he is writing about?" So I said we'd do it together, and I helpd him chose what I thought was a pretty straightforward one to start with:

"Former Pakistani Prime Minister,Benazir Bhutto's calvacade was attacked by a suicide bomber on Saturday." I asked, did he understand? He assured me he did, but I just thought I'd check..."Do you know who Benazir Bhutto is?" "Yes. He's some leader of some country." OK. First step. I had to explain that this person was female. The former Prime Minister of Pakistan. "Where is Pakistan?" He didn't know. Well, probably a lot of kids didn't know that. Did he know what a Prime Minister was? No. So I explained that. Well, did understand what "former" meant? Yes. What? ???? No, he didn't really know. Well, what's a "calvacade?" No idea. He did know what a suicide bomber was. Well, this assignment took a long time! Over two hours. And, it was painful, because it went so slowly and he felt so inadequate, and because it was slow he knew that the assignment would take a long time and he resented it. Even when I was helping him choose absolutely the simplest headlines I could find, it seemed nearly impossible that we'd ever finish. So it was miserable; I was frustrated and he was resentful.

But I tried to write this interchange up so his teachers can have a better understanding, that maybe for Sergei, just ten current events, understood - would be better than twenty, handed in but not understood.

I'm making some inroads with the teachers here. Sergei has very kind teachers, but it is easy for them to forget, or not fully understand, because after all, Sergei almost has no accent anymore. He is obviously intelligent. Unless I put his understanding under a magnifying glass, even I have no clue what challenges he is laboring under.

Monday, January 7, 2008

TORN IN FIVE

It seems like my biological children were born programmed to know I love them. Of course they were nearly five years apart, so each got their full (and then some) share of undivided attention.

Now, I have five at home. Three of the five are more than normally "needy". And the other two are, after all, kids with some trauma in their backgrounds, and special needs in terms of language acquisition.... (which in my experience for older kids, lasts a loooooong time). Basically, they need to me help them study, help with homework, etc. I love doing that! No problem! I just love them! Love spending time with them, love reading aloud to them.

Except, there is a problem, because the oldest is devastated if I am not at his basketball games, and goes absolutely ballistic if I am ever even a minute late to pick him up from practice, or school, or another activity. Plus, he has some severe issues about being "adopted"....maybe because he is the one whose adoptions were disrupted twice. So, he does NOT want any of the other kids at his games - ever. And, it isn't just whimsy. For some reason, it hits him in some deep place in his soul and makes him almost uncontrollably upset. Also, he often needs help with schoolwork, too!

And my daughter clings to me for some of the same reasons. She experienced mother-abandonment-for-boyfriend, and sometimes panics if I leave her (espeically "for someone else"). If she doesn't panic, at the very least she is upset and disregulated enough by it, that her behavior becomes difficult.

Sometimes I feel as though I am being pulled in five different directions - until my bio-daughter calls and needs my time and attention, or my son in Iraq begs for care packages I haven't had time to send.....then I realize it is seven. Ooops! I mean 8. My husband will sometimes indicate some irritation, himself, that I'm packing lunches rather than talking to him, or am exhausted and want to fall into bed rather than watch a movie....

Tonight I sit here grounded at my work. My car battery went dead and AAA took two and a half hours to show up. So:
  • No one had anything remotely like a nice dinner (for some - no dinner at all)
  • Grigori had no one at his game
  • He had to experience that "abandonment" rush when he found I wasn't there at all
  • No one got help with homework
  • the two that are with me won't get to bed on time
  • School uniforms are not yet in the wash

I feel like a failure torn into a million little peices.

Friday, January 4, 2008

FEELING ALL BLOGGY

I have figured out at least one reason why a lot of my blogging friends have lists of links on their blogs of other blogs they like to read - daily, often or occasionally. It is a way for them to start at their own blog and from there to pop down the list of links and "visit" their friends.

I am fairly new to blogging... I came to it through my friend Christine, whose wonderful blog is my great inspiration. However, I have realized that for me there is something about reading blogs that is like eating chips - it is hard to stop with just one!

Every so often I have found myself just wandering around in "blog-land", searching (I guess) for a soulmate. I really have met some very nice "e-friends" this way, but I can't allow myself to wander around out there for hours on end! I have WORK to do, for heaven's sake! I have a full-time job! And while blog-hopping is a nice little distraction between deep-thinking tasks (or even the mundane ones), I need to limit the time I spend drifting from one blog to the next. And if I have any free time - my five Russian sweeties (and their laundry) are certainly in need of my time and attention. Furthermore, reading too many blogs is like eating too many candy bars - it makes you feel all groggy and glutted.

So, it hit me! I am surely not the only one with this "problem" - and hence those nice lists of "Blogs I Read". So - I have narrowed down the blogs I like to check every day. And maybe tomorrow, I'll make a list of those I like to read sometimes. And after that, I'll just make it my habit to go down the list of links and FORBID myself from foraying into other people's link-lists, and then onto the links on their lists, and then onto - well, you get the idea. I was so greedy today that I am bloggy from the experience!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

MISSING RUSSIA


I don't quite understand why after this past adoption trip (August/September) I find myself so "homesick" for Russia. Perhaps it was because I had a bit more than usual un-accounted for time... time to walk and wander and pretend to belong there! :) (Even to wearing high-heels morning - evening!)
I continually try to figure out how I'll get back! But finances are such that it isn't looking as though it will be very soon. (To say nothing about responsibilities here at home.)
I saw a license plate this afternoon, and realized I was reading BAP as "Var", as though it was Russian letters. I do this sort of thing all the time. I have been delving into some Russian cooking. I made Olivae ("Russian Salad") for New Years, and Borscht and Kurik (chicken pie) - a wonderful recipe a Russian lady shared with me. But, despite eating Russian, I remain right here in Michigan.
Maybe I'm picking up in Ilya's homesickness. I read a couple of blogs - one by an English woman who teaches in Russia, another an American woman who lives there. I envy them! I'd be trolling the internet for options for us, but my husband is an American-loving stick in the mud on that score. So, I think we will end up staying put. I just need to figure out a way to spend part of the year in the country I love so much.


Wednesday, January 2, 2008

REALLY, REALLY EASY TO PLEASE


I'm at work, trying to do all the things I should have been doing all vacation. I called home to ask Sergei what he'd like for dinner....no promises, mind you, but if you could have anything what would you like? (I'm trying to keep a holiday spirit through these Twelve Days of Christmas).
"Well, mom, if you could, I mean, if you could make - not the kind you make yourself, but the real kind - if we could have macaroni and cheese.....the kind in the blue box? Maybe at home with the big pot, you could make a lot of it, so we'd all get enough?"
The kids sometimes make "Easy Mac" by themselves at the office, and apparently this is not adequate for complete happiness. Well....I think maybe I CAN accomodate this little wish. :)

EASY TO PLEASE

I grew up never having cracked a nut - except, possibly, a peanut. Nuts in their shells were simply not a feature of my life. Apparently, Russian families are different. The children have often clamored for me to buy nuts, and a little confused about how this would pan out, I bought a bunch of hazelnuts and a nut cracker.

Well, this bowl is one of many. I put it out for a treat this morning, as the older boys have a friend, Misha, over for a few days and I'm trying to add a little "extra value" to their vacation days.

When I try it, nut shells (and often meats) fly all over the dining room, but I will say the kids are very clever at this.

I'm glad that I can please them so easily!