Wednesday, April 30, 2008

CHURCH TAKES OVER - WHAT I'M DOING WHEN I'M NOT BLOGGING

This is the "Grande Window" of our church, the church where I work, and the church where we more or less, live. [To illustrate, when Lydia was ten years old or so, there was a campaign for the homeless in our area and as a part of it there were billboards featuring children's drawings of their homes. Lydia looked at those and commented, "My home is a church." And she was fairly correct! It is where we spend most of our waking hours.]

Anyway, there has been lots going on and my goal today is to try something I've not done before - a post with lots of photos! We'll see.
















Above is a project I am proud of! I wrote a novena for our first communicants. A novena is a special 9-day "program" of prayer....often leading up to a holy day. So these prayers are intended for our first communicants to help them prepare for their first communion - this coming Saturday. With kids, I like to do things that are involving, so each day they can take one of the music note stickers and put it on the little staff. The theme of the novena is "making beautiful music in our souls for Jesus" which goes along with the theme of the celebration (as you see on the title). I was actually rather pleased with this effort. I think it turned out to be not only rather clever (the way the theme was tied in) but also spiritually valuable and age appropriate.



Here you will see the bulletin board that I put up in the school. Each little music note has one of the children's names.

















I came up with this neat project - cross mosaics made from grains of wheat, and we did it with the 70 first communicants last week!

AND, if first Communion is not enough! as our parish is the largest in the area, we hosted the installation of our new Bishop yesterday! One would think that being on staff, I'd get to go - but no! Instead I watched it on TV in one of the school classrooms. I sat there and cried. It was so beautiful!

One funny little aspect of this is that my daughter Lydia DID get to go! In fact, she had a special role. The reason this amuses me is that when our former Bishop was ordained, she fully expected to be there. She was maybe ten at the time, and I ordinarily took the kids to all the big diocesan celebrations. When she found out that she couldn't attend the ordination she was irate! The fact that I couldn't go either, meant nothing to her. She held a grudge against Bishop Mengeling for years - until she got old enough to understand the situation. Anyway, the priest who baptized her was the liturgist for this celebration, and he needed someone to represent (well - to be honest - all European folks!) Representatives from the African Catholic Community, the Phillipino Catholic Community, the Korean Catholic Community, the Hispanic Catholic Community and the Vietnamese Catholic Community had a special "part" in the installation. They realized they needed someone to represent the other 80% of Catholics in the diocese! But they needed someone who could do it with some color! Msgr. George remembered seeing a photo of Lydia in her Irish Dance dress and he decided that could stand up with the other ethnic dress....so there she sat, right behind Bishop Boyea's family....and she went up and gave - and received - a special greeting during the celebration. Poetic Justice!


























Monday, April 28, 2008

RUNNING WITH MAXIM


I just love this photo. I wanted to use it so came up with a title that sort-of fit. But, yes - we are still running with Maxim.
I should not have worried. The DHS is not equipped to "run" very swiftly, so nothing much happened regarding his placement with us. His caseworker did e-mail me and suggested that perhaps we could qualify for intensive in-home family counseling. So, I applied for that, and we were rejected. The "problem", though it is a good one, is that Maxim functions beautifully out in the world. Unless he is apt to kill us in our sleep I guess they are not all that concerned. We did, however, qualify to go back to the same counseling center we were at before. I am hoping that the new counselor will be more "action-based" and practical, and that it might help. At least with this new woman, I can be a part of the process, as can other family members. Previously, with the court-ordered counseling that Maxim was required to participate in for the first year he was with us, both the "required" nature of it (which Maxim found insulting and offensive) and the counselor himself (not a person Maxim felt any connection with) meant that we had to take a lot of time and effort for no good result at all. In fact, the missed school and work and general stress of the thing made it a burden and nothing else. But, I'm keeping my fingers crossed this time!
My first meeting with the counselor last week was pretty good. Most of my readers, I am sure, will wonder how that could possibly be when she actually said to me at one point that she tended to feel that all internationally adopted kids "needed medication". Wow. I was rather stunned. However, despite that red flag, I think she will listen to him with an open mind. Of course after those comments of hers I already made it very clear that he is considered a wonderful kid by every teacher he has had, and every parent of his [many] friends. Furthermore he has pretty good grades, for someone with English as a second language. We can only see how it goes!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

I DIDN'T GET TAGGED

But I don't care. This one looked fun. Anyway I am in dismay because I broke my CAMERA and how can I make a regular sort of post without a photo????

I tag anyone who thinks this would be interesting. I think the key is to answer without really thinking....first gut response.

I am….....in many ways happier than I've ever been in my life.
I want.....my children to know the love of God.
I have......had such luck in being raised by two loving, wonderful parents
I wish...... I didn't have to work outside the home
I hate.......having too much to do
I miss.......my dad (who died some years ago)
I fear........being a bad mother
I feel.........so blessed.
I hear.......my three boys chatting in the other room.
I smell......very poorly....almost no sense of smell at all.
I crave......time in Russia.
I search....for connections.
I wonder.....if Anastasia will be able to rise above the pain she experienced as a tiny girl
I regret......having forgotten so much of the Russian I learned.
I love..........needlework.
I ache.........for all the losses my adopted children have experienced
I care.........about having a clean home (not that I do, mind you!)
I always.......make my bed.
I am not…...a person to hold a grudge
I believe......Dear Lord, help my unbelief.
I dance........whenever I hear Russian pop music (or wish I could!) The kids get upset if I start dancing in the car while driving.
I sing..........at church. The kids wish I wouldn't do it so loud.
I cry...........pretty easily, and think that is healthy!
I don’t always........get places on time.
I fight......lowering my standards.
I write........because it helps me think more clearly.
I never.......get to go to the mall anymore, or read the paper, or watch TV, or read novels. Why am I so busy???
I listen........to my intuition (which is how, I think, the Holy Spirit communicates with me)
I need.........a little more time alone (OK - just any time alone.)
I am happy ......that my oldest son Aidan will be coming home from Iraq in a few months!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

PANCAKES


This week I bought this box of Bisquick, and left it on the kitchen counter. Ilya came through, did a double-take and drew my attention to the box - "Mom - No." Pointing to the picture. "Bad."


Rachael is right. Blini are the pancake of choice for the Russian kids. I assured Ilya that I would never make American pancakes for him. Actually, I vastly prefer blini myself.


I have discovered however that in our search for the perfect waffle, the ones I make with Bisquick are hands down the best. I am really sorry about this, and almost ashamed. I like to be a "scratch" cook and am reluctant to take short cuts when "real" cooking is reasonably easy. But after trying lots and lots of recipes, just for fun I made Bisquick waffles and was abashed to find I liked them best.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

MY LITTLE HOMESICK GUY


Ilya has a hard time sleeping, and last night at 1 a.m., I came downstairs to find him watching this video. Poor little guy. That's how desperate he is for any little bit of Russia. This is a very scholarly presentation and I doubt my older kids could understand 1/10th of it, so I don't think Ilya could get any of the words, but the occasional drawing or sketch, or photo of something Russian mixed in among the artwork, seemed to be enough for him.
I told him that someday, after a few years, he and I could visit Russia and see that museum. That's about all I could say because I choked up. My heart really goes out to him. This move is very stressful forhim. Yet I know it is in his best interest; he is an intelligent, sweet-hearted, thoughtful person, but he was destined in Russia to follow his brothers into a life of alcohol abuse and petty crime. I just have to hope I can steer him clear of that here.

Friday, April 18, 2008

LET'S NOT BE PROFOUND


Not that my posts are usually, or even often "profound", but there is absolutely no such pretense today.

Here is a photo of my favorite all-time kitchen implement. This little darling is the one thing that I use day in and day out. I had one which lasted me years, but a couple of months ago, the crack in it's little body finally did it in. I made it hobble along for a few weeks, but it was sadly the end.

I tried to find another Pampered Chef consultant after I found out that the person I bought this one from is no longer doing it. I should have just gone on-line, but I didn't. Instead I purchased a cheap replica. (The kind one should try not to be fooled by.) Well, I was foolish enough to buy it and it was such a poor purchase that I threw it away in despair the second time I tried to use it. It wouldn't chop parsley - THEN it wouldn't chop tomatoes either?????

Anyway, I was so pleased when one of my favorite bloggers said she hosted a Pampered Chef party. So, I am set, and Ginny gets credit.

Yes; I know. The thing is ridiculously expensive, but I am here to attest to its virtue and solid worth.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A NEW MOM FOR MAGGIE


I was putting something away in a high closet shelf when Nastya, standing behind me noticed "a baby!" up there. The baby in question is Maggie, my "best" doll from my childhood. A Madame Alexander doll which my mom remembers paying way too much for, at a time when they had almost no money, because she was so beautiful.
Maggie was my own dear baby until I grew out of such things. Lydia claimed her for a few years, but Lydia was never so much into baby dolls as she was into dollhouse dolls and "telling stories".
But Nastya, is "all mother" and I knew that she would not, could not rest if she knew that there was an unloved baby in the house. So I took Maggie down and Nastya immediately gave her a sponge bath and dressed her in soft, sweet baby clothes. Maggie is now in Nastya's baby carrier, all cozy and safe. I think I feel better about this, too.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

FLIP-SIDE


I started to write this post a couple of days ago. Then changed my mind, then changed it back and forth a few times more..... I was especially squeemish about posting the photo until I remembered that Maxim's photo - in ultra-large version, with an not-particularly-appealing description is posted for all to see on the state's adoption website...with his real name...or the name he uses at school. So, what the heck!
To be fair and to help everyone see my dilemma, Maxim has a wonderful side, too. Maybe the thing I most appreciate is the zest with which he approaches life. He gets the most out of any experience, and enjoys each day to the utmost. For example, take "Spirit Week" at school (a concept my bio-kids felt was rather lame) - there cannot possibly be any student who delights in the activities the way Maxim does. Be it "Hat Day" or "Twin Day" or whatever - he is there! - and nary a cynical or bored thought crosses his mind. I just love that. He knows how to enjoy life - and he articulates his appreciation, which is just so rare. From stories he relates, and interactions I observe, Maxim is a leader, so he encourages other kids to enjoy things, too. Apparently a dance is not the same without Maxim! (Well, he's Russian; he loves to dance!)
And, he loves to talk - SO un "guy-like". In fact, he'll often come to me and say, "Can we have a legal guardian talk?" (Which cracks me up; he'll go to any length not to refer to us a parents or any sort.) He will tell me all the details of his interest in a girl, or relationships between people (about which he is extremely observant and even perceptive). An amazing quality is that he will ask my advice, actually listen to it - and even take it! Talk about gratifying!
AND, he likes "chick-flix". AND, he likes company watching them! FURTHERMORE, he'll want to talk about the movie the next day! It is really fun!
Maxim is extremely bright, with a nearly photographic memory. This has made it possible for him to do fairly well in school, even when clueless. He can memorize stuff he doesn't understand (not a bad skill for school, eh?) But he is quite interested in history and social studies. I can easily see him going into politics or some government-related career. He is willing to work, when he sees the need (I, of course, wish he saw the need for straight A's, which I think he could do) but he has the typical idea that such good grades would make him "look bad" among his peers, so he will deliberately keep his grades good but not stellar.
He is very gifted athletically. And more than that, he will work; he has the ability to really push himself physically. He has great self-discipline when he chooses to use it. His basketball coach was nearly speechless when he described Maxim's work-ethic.
Maxim expresses gratitude, too. And he can do it sweetly and sincerely. If I buy him something he will thank me then, warmly, and then later - even days later, thank me again. (See what I mean about doing well in politics?) I have to say I get a bigger charge out of buying him things for this reason.
When there is a crisis, Maxim is ready to help, with maturity and a clear head. There have been a couple of times when I found myself gratefully relying on his good sense and ability to "take-over" (and I know....it seems absolutely the opposite of the vision of him setting bottles on fire!)
Frankly, I often find myself feeling very proud of him. If that isn't "motherly", I don't know what is. If we had to part with him, I'd worry about him, and think of him forever.

Monday, April 14, 2008

BRACELETS

Despite drama on the homefront, there are so many fun things going on, too. Without a degree in packaging (!) I nevertheless came up with a rather nice presentation for the bracelets we made last month. Thanks to Anastasia for "lending" me the graphic. I figured if this was the picture of Jesus she chose for her blog it would be appealing to Russian young people. (A caveat here though - Annie is Ukrainian!)

My friend ought to be heading out to Ivanovo in the next few weeks, to adopt her daughter, so these will go along.

I was really pleased when, during the 8th grade religion class I teach, I was just doing a little warm-up activity and for each pink jordan almond the kids took, I asked them to share one fact about Jesus. It surprised and gratified me that so many of them immediately fell back on the facts they'd practiced when they made the bracelets. Not that they didn't know many more things to say, but this apparently was a memorable activity for them.






Friday, April 11, 2008

IN WHICH SHE DESCRIBES SOME OF THE SHENANIGANS SHE REFERRED TO EARLIER AND BEMOANS HER FATE


Imagine how startled I was to find this on my camera! I was going to take an early-morning photo a couple of weeks ago and this photo was right there on my camera - and I didn't take it!


The mystery was solved when Craig got up and told me of the events of the previous night.


He got up to let the dog out and discovered Maxim and Ilya up. Ilya ran into the kitchen on hearing footsteps, but Maxim was sitting in "my" chair in the living room. Craig asked him to turn the TV down, and Maxim wasn't able to do it - in fact, he immediately got violently sick - all over my beautiful, rose-velvet upholstered chair! [I can no longer bring myself to sit in it.] He then, staggered upstairs to his room, falling several times and threw up all over his bedroom. Meanwhile, Ilya (who has become Maxim's little toady) helped Craig clean up the mess in the living room as well as he could.


Maxim was sicker than sick the next day and we took little pity on him. I made him clean up his room, and gave him a cold shoulder. But he begged for mercy, saying (rather poetically I thought) that he'd "crawled through hell" and would never make that mistake again!


I was so angry. Still am. That vodka was a gift and should have lasted me (Craig doesn't drink) for a couple of years! All I ever do is occasionally have a capful in some warm milk - or take a gulp in case of headache. How dare he get into it?


But this episode was just one of a number recently.


A few weeks ago, Maxim stayed home from school (in bed, I thought). I dropped Ilya off after school but when I got home, Maxim had a scar on his cheek. This kid always seems to fall on his feet, I must say. This was a beautiful sort of scar, like something a make-up artist would give the leading man. Ilya, though, had several scars - burns? on his forearms. Turns out they were experimenting in the back yard with blowing up bottles! And my rule is that if you stay home from school you stay in bed!!! So much for that! We discussed the danger that he and Ilya had been in - I related how his eye could have been hit - or his nose blown off! (I am getting to the point where I am tempted to dwell goulishly on this vision.) I felt that he understood. He is not (or so I thought) stupid.


Only two nights later, I come in and see Maxim and Ilya in the basement, where they have no reason to be - this is simply a storage space. "What are you doing?" I really thought they were smoking and insisted, loudly - "You go outside - NOW!" Then I realized they were doing something else - in fact, they had taken (without permission) a gift that had been given to Sergei and was waiting for spring - a rocket - the sort of thing to be put together and launched with ADULT SUPERVISION! They had none of that, and were in the basement, of all places! I stormed downstairs and just as I began to screech, simultaneously Maxim vaulted toward the stairs to go up, and there was a big explosion - I see that he is on fire (actually, his rear end is on fire). "You're on fire! Roll in the snow!!!" Instead (never wanting to look foolish) he tore the burning clothes off. The jacket (a gift from Aidan to Sergei) was ruined, and so (to my delight) was Maxim's favorite basketball jersey. By the grace of God, he was wearing another layer - a cotton "beater" and that protected the skin on his back. But, he got some severe burns on his arm. Frankly, I was so angry I told him to wash it off, put on antibiotic cream and go to bed!!! He was so shaken, he did it. Part of me though I should take him to the emergency room, but I was just too mad to be nurturing. I rather wanted him to experience some pain that night, I must confess. How close he came to setting our house on fire! He might have blinded himself - or worse, Ilya!


While these events are disturbing and a bit frightening, I could mark them down to boyish pranks.


There are a few other things that disturb me more. For one thing, as mentioned previously, Maxim smokes. He took this up when we were in Russia to adopt Ilya. I think he did it partly to "get me back" for wanting another boy when I had him. But perhaps more so, it seems to be tied to his accepting his identity as a Russian. And - it is true - Russian men smoke. Our pediatrician is a Russian - who smoked in Russia, and quit in America. So I had him talk to Maxim. No success. What bothers me more than Maxim smoking is that he was allowing Ilya to smoke with him occasionally. This really makes me angry. Ilya may have smoked in the orphanage, but I do not want him to smoke here! I insisted that Maxim not allow Ilya to smoke, and he promised. And I have not seen him do it - however, Ilya is clearly Maxim's little servant and I cannot see how Maxim would get this sort of hold on him, except through the smoking or through violence.


Speaking of which. One night Maxim became very angry with me. Long story, and in retrospect I see that between his misunderstanding what was going on and me being a bit exasperating, it was to be expected. However, after calling me every vile name in the book, he stormed down to the living room and I hear some unaccustomed noises and run down to find that he hit Ilya across the face, knocking him to the floor and giving him a bloody nose.


The next day, of course, I sat him down and told him that in no uncertain terms, he must never again touch Ilya in a way to physically hurt him. He promised, and so far, so good.


Finally; I am convinced that Maxim is stealing from us. Since last summer sums of money large and small have disappeared from wallet and purse. It took me a while to catch onto this as I am not particularly aware.... But I knew right away when the envelope carrying the birthday money from my mother was empty! I had not spent it! And I began to pay more attention. Just this week, I put two $5 dollar bills in my wallet. (I have actually almost stopped carrying money as much as I can because of this - and even bring my purse to my bedroom at night!) Anyway, Craig gave me two of the new $5s which have the color and the big 5 on them. Because we all looked at them, I figured no one would dare to take them. But - that night (irony) I was going to buy Maxim an ice cream and discovered that the bills were gone! He swore he didn't take them, but we are almost convinced that he has Ilya steal the money for him.... Craig witnessed Ilya running down to the corner and giving Maxim something just that afternoon.


I ceased giving Maxim an allowance a few months ago - in fact, the day I reached into my wallet to give him money I'd gotten just for the purpose - and discovered it gone. But the lack of allowance has not stopped the smoking.


So - you can all see how our happy little family is being well - threatened by Maxim. I can see why the adoption worker suggested that he be removed from our home. He is not a healthy influence on the other children. Yet - obviously there is more to it than that!


What would it say to them if we let him go? That our commitment is that light? Or that we love them enough to protect them?


What would it mean to Maxim? He has come so far with us. He has gained a lot of self-understanding and is much easier to live with. He is a pretty good student; everyone at school loves him - kids and teachers alike. His friends parents like him, and his coaches. He is popular and at school, stays out of trouble. And - who would take him? I am pretty certain no one but us would pay the fees to keep him in the Catholic School where he is blooming and where he is doing so well. In fact, he is from the Detroit area, and I am pretty certain that if he is taken from us, he will go back to Oakland County. They couldn't find him a foster home previously, and he was in a dreadful place for adjudicated youth. How can I send him back there?


In so many ways he is charming and sweet. I think he is fond of me, at least (he swears he wishes we didn't have the other kids). I know I am fond of him. I want to be a good influence on his life... But how long can I let him be a bad influence on everyone else? Particularly Ilya.


But talking with him doesn't seem to work. Neither do other consequences. At least it hasn't with the smoking and the stealing.


So - dear friends. What would you do?

7:30 AM


7:30 a.m. I watched the clock this week. This is the time that I wake when left to my own devices.

Every morning this week I've awakened shortly before or after 7:30, no matter when I went to bed the night before. Wonderful, wonderful gift - to be able to wake up on one's own. What luxury.

Unfortunately, my clock is set for 5:00 a.m. I have Saturday, Sunday - then - Spring Break is over and I'm back to reality.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

ONE LITTLE TREAT AND AN ATTEMPT

We had one of the Russian School boys stay over weekend with us, so last Sunday as a treat, after we dropped him off in his Detroit suburb, we found our way to a Russian Restaurant we had heard of, The Fiddler.

It really was a treat! I had no expectations, so was very happy to find out that they serve really excellent food! I was comforted immediately when I realized that the staff as well as most of the patrons seemed to speak Russian as their first language, and English less confidently. It occurs to me now that had I wandered into a German, French or other ethnic restaurant with a similar level of authenticity I would have immediately felt less comfortable...a little fearful that communication might break down along the way! In this case, it made me feel "right at home" - a little bit of a "trip to Russia" right here in Michigan.

Ilya had been there with this boy's family previously, and had raved about the bread. This is one reason I thought we should try it; if the bread is good, they must be on the right track! The bread did "bring back" Russia! I swear that the best bread I've ever eaten in my life has been in Russia and now I know where to get it (only a 70 minute drive each way and $25 in gas!) I asked if we might buy a loaf to take home, and were able to do so, happily - warm from the oven!

I had borscht and latke; the borscht was terrific and I paid special attention to it as this is the kind of borscht that Ilya said he likes best. I have come to find out that there are many different ways of making borscht depending on the region of Russia one is in - and the cook, of course! I've made it for years the way my Russian teacher taught me to make it years ago when I was in college. (I still remember her horror when I supplied regular cabbage for the dish, rather than red cabbage - if only I had known, her reaction was so typically Russian, I would have appreciated it more; instead I think I was just a tad irritated.) Our first Russian teacher here in the Lansing area, Olga, made her borscht in the same way. This borscht is a heavy dish, depending on a lot of root vegetables - turnips, potatoes, parsnips, etc. and quite thick, perfect for a winter evening meal. So, imagine my surprise when I discovered that there is a dish called "borscht" that is far more savory and charming! (Not so much an evening meal for a farm hand!)

Another Russian friend in the area makes this lighter and more beautiful borscht, keeping at least some of the beets out until the end for redness, and "layering" the herbs - dill and parsly - by including them both in the cooking and sprinkling them liberally on top before serving. She served it at her home one evening and I fell in love....but hadn't tried it myself yet.

Anyway, this "delicate" borscht was what was served at the Fiddler. (I already vowed that for my next trip I am focusing on borscht and bread....forget the latkes.) Craig had a chicken "kotlet" and the boys all opted for pelmeni. Craig and I were able to enjoy coffee and dessert; the kids were full [of bread] and they all actually behaved themselves rather well.

I thought that I'd take a stab at making the borscht last night for dinner. To my absolute amazement our large grocery store did not have a single, solitary beet. Neither did they have any radishes, for the "Russian" salad I was going to make (recipe in my Russian cookbook). So much for my own foray into Russian cooking.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

WORK, MISERABLE WORK

Spring break. Spring, anyway. I guess the boys would not say it is such a "break" - though it is a break from the routine. And, as the English say - isn't a change as good as a rest?

Unfortunately, the parish where I work is full of rather well-to-do people, and most of the children in the parish school the kids attend are likewise "comfortable". More comfortable than we are. This is the standard by which my children rate their own opportunities (why the heck can't they compare their lives with what they knew at the detski dom???)

While most of their friends head off to Disney World, the condo in South Carolina, to Mexico or the Bahamas, the Kitching family stays home. And since we don't have "gardeners" - there are leaves and there are boys, and there seems to be a natural relationship between the two. As you can tell from the looks on their faces, however, Sergei and Zhenya are not particularly pleased about their spring break agenda.

I can't help but think that if their friends were, likewise, raking leaves and helping with spring cleaning, their attitudes would be better. But, that's the way it is.

My problem is taking their disgruntlement too seriously, I think. I really do wish I could wisk them all away to a beach, and a string of fun outings. But, I can't.

Why is human nature what it is? Why can't we be grateful for all the blessings we have? I spend a lot more time wanting what I don't have than appreciating what I do have.

Though I will say, I really DO appreciate this little bit of time I'm stealing to do some housework and get some things in order. I really DO appreciate the extra minutes that I have to make a really nice (though simple) dinner rather than putting something together in a panic so the kids can get to bed at a decent hour. I realize that I actually appreciate the opportunity to do a different kind of work! True maturity? Or truly pathetic?

I'll have to see if I can get the kids to count their blessings, too - once all those leaf bags are nicely stacked out on the street.

Perhaps I should end by mentioning that I DO appreciate having help with the leaves!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

RUSSIAN SCHOOL FEAST


Last night at Russian School Natalia shared not only a recipe with us, but the dish, itself! And (love her heart), she gave us the left-overs so we can enjoy it for dinner tonight, as well.


The dish? Meat pie. Pirogi, which can be made in a large "family size" form as she did yesterday, or in individual pies.


We laughed quite a lot about the fact that this was not a "low-cal" dish! However, it could certainly be made a bit less likely to bring on a heart-attack, with just a little alteration of ingredients. I think this is the "celebratory" version.



Meat Pie


Use pre-made puff pastry from the grocery (unless you are a glutton for punishment - one of our Russian School moms revealed that she used to make her own puff pastry and even has a marble slab for the purpose.)

Lay out one roll of the pastry for the bottom of the pie.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Natalia took hamburger and seasoned it with quite a bit of pepper and several chicken boullion cubes, broken up. She also, to my amazement, mixed in butter to the meat mixture. She chopped onion (or more accurately had her wonderful husband Randy do so) to make up one third of the filling. Got that? 2/3 meat and 1/3 onion. [This, it is explained to me, is the proper proportion for any meat filling/kotleti, etc. and I realized this IS what gives it the "Russian" flavor. Also explains the old belief that a good housewife has lots of onion skins saved for dying eggs red at Easter!]

This filling was arranged over the pastry, then a layer of sliced potatoes was laid on, and another layer of meat over that. Then, the other pastry blanket was laid on top, and the edges crimped. Natalia then very carefully made a hole (about 1/2 in. circumferance) in the dough for every serving, and on this hole put a dollop of butter. Then it went into the oven for about 45 minutes at 375 degrees. Probably three times during the cooking, Natalia "basted" the pie with the juices in the pan (the cookie sheet upon which you cook this needs sides!!) particulary pouring it into the holes, so the meat will be tender and juicy. She said another Russian lady she knows adds water into these holes for this purpose.

After being removed, the pies sat out to cool for 10-15 minutes, then they were dished up and we were happy campers. It was suggested that a great accompaniment for this dish would be a cucumber/sour cream salad.

For some reason "blogger" just won't cooperated with spacing today, so forgive however this turns out!


Friday, April 4, 2008

HEADER HESITATION

The illustration to this post is at the top of the page.

A new header, which is harder to do than it appears! Not "hard" exactly, but tedious to figure out and frustrating because it is difficult to have the complete control of the medium that you might be expecting/accustomed to/comfortable with.....

However, I was fairly pleased with the outcome. After all, much of the delight in "art" is making the accidents work for you.

Strangely, the first header, which I completed a couple of days ago did not have Maxim included. I frankly don't know why I didn't include him. Later I told myself that it was because he didn't want to be included. But that's not really it. The real reason is - I don't know why.

But yesterday, I did something dreadful. Accidentally. Unconscious of the ramifications. Stupidly.

Maxim's adoption worker called. He is a very nice man and, of all the people from "the state", the one with whom I feel most comfotable talking. He is a good listener.

I have not written much on this blog regarding Maxim, and perhaps that has been a mistake. I have also not talked much about him with friends I see. Primarily this is because the people I see every day all fit into so many classifications - my work friends are my social friends, are my church friends, are my kids' school friends' mothers, etc. All overlap. For this reason I have almost no one to whom I feel I can talk with absolutely frankly about Maxim.

So - Mr. "State of Michigan" called and we got to chatting, and as with some female friend, I vented. I went on about Maxim's shenanigans and my anxieties, frustrations, worries, etc. Why? Well, primarily because talking is the way I think! I am pure "extrovert" in the way I process things, and talking helps me think things through. Maybe I also hoped for a bit of wise advice? I don't know. Anyway, Mr. SOM took everything I said far more seriously than I intended. He concluded our conversation saying that he felt Maxim should be moved from our home.

MOVED? He should NOT be moved! The last thing he needs is to be moved! He needs to know someone cares for him. And we do! In fact, frankly. the threat that he might be moved, was enough to make me realize how much I love the boy, how much affection I have for him. It has been a long time coming, too. No magical, instantaneous bonding with Maxim. But I realize now that I do love him, and feel like his mother. I can't imagine having him somewhere else.

Maxim does not think of me as his mother, that's for sure. That's hard, but good spiritual discipline, I am certain. And I do think he is attached to us, however much he might not want to be.

So in my state of distress I re-did my heading to include Maxim. He belongs there, like it or not.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

MISSION

Our mission is to provide a healing place for our children in the mission field called home. Heather Forbes


Here's the entire quote:

"When our life as a parent seems overwhelming, sometimes it can be helpful to see our home as our mission field. Yes, and you say, 'I'll go on a mission trip?a mission trip to China. I'll sleep in freezing cold weather, eat fish eyeballs, risk my life, and do without my Charmin. Sign me up now because that is better than what I'm dealing with at home!' But, we are called to parent and called to take care of our hurting children. We don't need to travel to the other side of the world. Our mission is to provide a healing place for our children in the mission field called home. And that is true servanthood, not victimhood."

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

MORE THAN A HAT

Here is a recent photo of Ilya which a friend shared with me from his weekend at her house.

Notice anything odd?

Most of the time we don't nap in our hats. Ilya's hat dates from October, when we had an unfortunate haircut experience. The hat was taken on as a protection and worn even at the most surprising moments. By now, of course, his hair looks quite nice. But he still wears the hat. The other night when his Russian teacher was with us we took that opportunity to have a serious talk with him. [My Russian is not up to serious talks.] He was running around without his hat, and the moment we approached him about "talking", he quickly donned the cap. Both Natalia's husband and I at the same moment realized that this hat is more than a hat; it is perhaps akin to a "blankie", (or even a suit of emotional armor!) but it is clearly a protective garment. He rarely takes it off. It is not as bad as it was after the haircut; he will take it off, and sometimes does, but doesn't want to all that often.

But the hat is not our real problem. The real problem is that Ilya is taking a very long time to adapt. Unlike my other children, he is still homesick after six months with us. On Saturday, his older brother's birthday, I encouraged him to call Russia to give Viktor good wishes. He didn't want to, and I think it is because he didn't trust himself not to cry.

School is not a good situation for Ilya, and a worse one for me, frankly. I don't know how or whether to make him go. He hates it, dreads it, avoids it. I very stupidly vascillate between forcing the issue, (or trying to) and deciding that he'll learn as much English out of school as in it, and with less anxiety. But, I am really unsure about this one.

I think he knows he should go, but can hardly make himself do it. Our talk with Natalia the other evening was very helpful. We realized a few things.

1) The older children are, the more painful school is because the less helpful it is for an English learner. In first grade, for example, the lessons would all be very conducive to learning English. By fourth grade, the emphasis is on teaching fluent English speakers new vocabularly! Science, Geography, Social Studies, Literature, on and on. And most of the learning is language based - reading or lecturing.

2) We also realized that counter-intuitively, it would have been vastly better if the children in Ilya's class were far less friendly and interested in him. The more attention they give him, the more stressful it is for him. He'd rather be invisible and anonymous and learn at his own pace with no one to witness his errors and uncertainty.

3) The "special" events planned to break up all that language learning, are more stressful to Ilya than class. Whenever there is a field trip, an assembly, or a special event, it ups the ante. He has to put all his effort into figuring out what behavior is appropriate, what directions are being given and how he should behave. Often a whole new set of people are injected into the situation none of whom know he does not speak English well, and who he fears might at any moment speak to him and expect a response that he can't give.

Last week I had bribed Ilya to go to school by promising him a CD player. He went on Monday and seemed to have an OK day. On Tuesday, he got up bright and early and got into his uniform. But the kids all began to tell him how this was "Read a Shirt Day" (for March is Reading Month) and not really understanding that, I could sense his stress-level rising, as they all hunted through his clothes and their own to try and find a t-shirt with writing on it. As this was going on, I found Ilya in a panicked state in the laundry room, going desperately through the dryer, the washer and the dirty clothes piles looking for..... his hat. He was near tears when we couldn't find it. But we finally all got into the car. Once at school, he refused to go in. (Because I work in the building next door to the school, it is easy for him to come to my office and refuse to leave.)

I realized that the whole "read a shirt" concept was strange to him, and no one could assure him that it didn't foreshadow some sort of traumatic moment when he feared he'd be expected to read someone's shirt, I suppose, or explain what was on his own (and since all we could come up with was a sweatshirt with "Adidas" on it, even I would have had a problem with that).

Sometimes I am so frustrated with his school refusal I am reduced to tears, thinking "He'll never learn English if he doesn't go to school!!!" The next day I will think that this school setting will not help him learn English all that well, and is just making his first months here miserable. I really do not know! At my best moments I remember my early days of motherhood when Aidan was 3 or 4 months old and not holding his bottle. I anguished and worried about it - and sure enough! Eventually he held it. After that when these fears arose - "He'll never stop sucking his thumb!" "He'll never be potty trained!" I would think - of course he will! At his own time. I hope so much this is the case with Ilya, too.

Or I can let this judge get hold of him!