Friday, May 30, 2008


I got such amusement out the picture that my Zhenya did as an illustration of his "first communion" experience. He is illustrating, as it happens, not communion itself, but the practice. At the practice I played the part of Fr. Dave, while Fr. Selvam, our visiting priest from India, let the children experience receiving communion from a priest (and more to the point - coming up that close to him).
Zhen's picture is amusing to me because I see the same underlying mindset of the medieval artist who did the othe picture. Note that the Christ figure is much, much larger than everyone else. Those unimportant guys are small in size, too. In the same way, in Zhen's picture Fr. Selvam is somuch larger than I am. I have to tell you that in real life, Fr. Selvam is probably about the same height as I am - perhaps shorter! I am rather glad that in Zhen's estimation he has great stature!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


I read this quote recently and really like the way it makes me think about some things in a new way:

The only pain that human beings experience is not getting their way. There is no other pain—"I’m just not getting my way."

It also ties into the idea that original sin - and our actual sins, too, are all related to pride....that is, thinking that our way is better. At heart, that we know our way is better than God's way. But that translates into our justifying saying things, doing things, taking things, even thinking things - or not doing, taking, saying things - because we convince ourselves we are somehow "deserving". We "override" our conscience because "our way", in this thing, we judge to be superior.

I suppose this will be my one "Director of Religous Education " post of the year.
Though I actually read the quote on a website about child-rearing. When our children are unhappy, we need to remember (I need to remember!) that, at heart, this is why. Are they justified in being pained in not getting their way, or not? Maybe this is pain they ought to feel, or need to feel in order to grow. Or maybe the pain is fear that comes from our not giving them what they need. It is an interesting way to re-visualize a situation, anyway.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Calvin, the Cute with Lydia

I had a hard time picking a photo, but I like this one because it shows so well, in Lydia's face, how smitten we all are with Calvin. He is an unbelievably sweet, good-natured baby. His daddy was likewise easy-to-get-along with, but I honestly think Calvin is even a tiny bit cuter. And that is saying something!!!

My daughter-in-law Susan and her sister, Laura, came on Friday afternoon late and left at Sunday noon. We had a nice visit. It is totally strange to be called a "grandmother". I don't feel like a grandmother, that's for sure! The kids enjoyed being called aunts and uncles, though.

Aidan should come home from Iraq in July, then we'll visit Calvin in his own territory - Pittsburgh.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Which Disney Princess Are You?

You are Belle. You are strong, deep, and you are not a slave to petty superficial things. You are independent and allow yourself to see inner beauty without sacrificing your values. You are almost too good of a person.

Find Your Character @

Saturday, May 24, 2008


Rachael broached a wonderful question. If you could go back and give some advice to your past self, knowing what you know now, what would it be???

I woke up this morning thinking about this.

ONE: Annie, you can wash that perm out if you do it right now - then you won't have to go to work looking like Cher in performance! It's OK - wash it out, do without the curls. me on this.... it will look so bad you'll end up having to cut your hair and you will never be able to get it past the clumsy stage again and you will hate your hair forever. You will be chained to hairdressers for the rest of your life and will never again really feel like yourself..... Wash it out!!!!!!

TWO: Don't listen to your professor. Your theater career can be taken up again after you get back from Russia! Getting offered that nanny job is amazing! Hundreds of people applied for it! It is not critical that you take that job touring the school gyms of the northwest doing children's theater! Really - you have such good recommendations, and good connections, and it will only make you more interesting if you take the job in Russia for a year. You've spent all this time studying Russian - cement it now by spending some time in that country you love, or give it up, girl! You will forget it all. You think you won't, but you will. There will be no reason to use it for a long, long time - but the time will come and then you will be so filled with regret that all you can do is stumble around verbally like a half-wit. Trust me on this!!!

I suppose there are a few others:

Annie, that house is way too far from your office. Wait a few years, and the home prices will come down, you can buy in East Lansing and you will SO make it up by not buying hundreds of dollars of gas a month.

Annie, that dog has a lovely personality, but people have a huge prejudice against pit bulls! Neighbors will now forever look askance. Anyway, you're a cat person!!!

Friday, May 23, 2008


Sergei's passport photo

It is truly difficult for me to believe that it was five years ago today that we adopted Sergei! It seems only yesterday that we began this "Russian adventure".

Another adoptive mom posted her journal entries from their adoption, in retrospect, and I found it interesting, so here is my journal entry for that day:

Today – Court Day.

Amazingly, I slept well. Craig had to wake me. I’d been very anxious before bed last night and had to bring out the rum which was helpful. I felt better, though still nervous. I certainly didn’t want breakfast this morning! We got ready and went downstairs, as directed, at 8:45. The court was actually walking distance – only a couple of blocks from the hotel. We were taken in the car, however. Galina
[our beautiful, saintly translator]
was with us, and the lawyer from the school and the Socialization Director. The judge was a plump lady of 45-50 with authority and also humor. There was an attractive secretary and a sharp-faced, humorless female prosecutor.

Craig was called to speak first and was obviously flustered to begin with, but he recovered nicely. The greatest problem was with my name.
[I go by my middle and maiden name and this is unheard of in Russia!]
I could honestly see why the judge might find our whole system irregular because I certainly feel the same way about how they will issue a new birth certificate for Sergei, with untrue information, saying we are his birth parents and that he was born in Ivanovo!

There were many interesting things about the court experience. It was rather fun to be able to understand most of what was said, since they weren’t expecting that and were probably a bit freer than they might be with Russians. I suppose there were two main things that stand out for me. The first was the wonderful way Galina stood up for me and actually stepped forward and argued vigorously with the judge about my name! I was so grateful to her! There was also an interesting interplay between the prosecutor and the judge. The prosecutor asked me very firmly if I was intending to “force” Sergei into a certain religion. I responded that, of course not, everyone must choose their own religion. (The right answer, apparently!) She let it go, but it was clear she was anti-religion. So it was all the more interesting, then, when after it was all through, the judge came up to us and asked God’s blessing on us in a very sincere way. She made it very clear that she was a believer.

One interesting thing I overheard, since it was just an aside between judge and prosecutor, and not translated, was the judge’s observation that Sergei’s birth parents were older than we were

In any case we were given the right to be dear little Sergei’s parents. It was primarily just a great relief right then, but as the day has progressed I’ve felt more relaxed and surges of happiness keep washing over me.

Sergei is the best little boy anyone could have. I realize I don't write as much about him as I do about the ones who give me challenges. Sergei is kind, good-natured, helpful and loveable. He has a dear sense of humor and is a truly loving boy. We have been so blessed by him. He is very gifted as a mechanice and has a natural sense of how things are put together. He is very clever and can often "make things work" at the point when everyone else has tried and given up. He can draw meticulously.

He is strong and energetic, a wonderful swimmer and excellent soccer player. He played basketball this year, and I had to admire the effort he made to learn a totally American sport when he had little background. His effort paid off and he wasn't a bad player at all! His teammates respected his effort.

This day is a day to celebrate!

Dear Lord, thank you for our Sergei!

Thursday, May 22, 2008


Mind you - he was ahead of the rest of the runners here!

My husband asked me this morning why I wanted to "stick with this kid". Well, (apart from my odd ability to only keep in mind the good things about him) this is the answer:

He is talented. He has potential. Not just as an athlete - though surely there. He is smart, too, and perceptive (about everyone except himself). He has a sense of humor. He can be thoughtful. However difficult it may be, God placed him in our home.

And: I don't want my other children to think that the people God puts in your life can be abandoned or discarded when they become difficult.

Sometimes I pray that the "right" family will show up for him. Especially now when there is the "summer program" coming up. I think my husband might agree to hosting a little girl, if we didn't have Maxim. But we do have Maxim.

This photo was taken yesterday at the track meet. I was not planning on going to the meet. 1) Anastasia had volleyball, 2) Sergei had Athletic Awards, 3) the meet was in a far-flung town and I am trying to save on gas. 4) Zhen was at a friend's house so I was already having to drive out of my way in another direction to pick him up, and at about the same time.

But, Maxim called me from the meet and begged me to come. Begged. I was giving him all the reasons, as above, when he started pleading, "I want you to come. I want to show you how fast I can run. I'm going to run my best today. Please! I'm standing out here almost crying! Come, Mrs. Kitching. Come!" All right. All right. I'll come. Calm down. And it is not like I haven't seen him run! I've been a quite a few of the meets.

Then I had to pay $5 to get into the meet (and sit freezing on metal bleachers, in a cold, damp wind) to watch him run his last race.

But, for some reason it was important to him. This is all one big mystery. I just continue doing the best I can.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Painting by Ilya Kitching in the style of Van Gogh (reflecting my much happier mood today)

Fortunately, God graced me with a near complete inability to remember anything unpleasant. Thus, I am already completely over the latest "Maxim Incident".

This "teflon-like" trait is a good and a bad one, I think. Even as a child I remember being SO frustrated at myself that I couldn't "stay mad". It seemed so shallow! And very unlike any of the dramatic and passionate heroines that I hoped to emulate.

On the positive side, obviously, I stay pretty happy! And I guess the Lord's Prayer suggests I can ask God's forgiveness with a good hope of getting it. I still cannot "stay mad", and frankly am usually unable to take offence, or even to understand when it has been given! My daughter Lydia once found a woman's behavior to be extremely rude to me. Lydia had to take me aside and review with me what the woman had done and how she had done it, and how insulted and affronted I should feel! Without her tutilege I would have remained absolutely oblivious. Once Lydia pointed it out, I did see she was right, but being cross about it didn't seem to make a lot of sense.

There is a down side, however. I usually forget the "bad things" my children do so quickly that I don't consequence them as I should. Ordinarily this isn't a bad thing, either, immediate consequences being best. However, when anyone acted the way Maxim did, it seems to me that it might be better to respond at some point with a bit of starch! I couldn't do it, though.

When I got home last night, Maxim ran to take the groceries out of the car. Then he came up to my room and sat on the edge of the bed. He was sweet as could be, and apologized. I probably should have waited for the other shoe to drop, because then he asked me to take him out to buy a birthday gift for his best friend. Of course I did it. When I am giving Maxim what he wants he is the nicest kid in the world.

I am so grateful for everyone's comments. Please continue to pray for us. I am not certain how this will all work out. For a while I really did think that Maxim was probably "testing" me a bit as he begged for another family. But lately I begin to think that he is serious. I know he is fond of me (for all of his odd way showing it). However, he is very uncomfortable living with our other children. I can't tell, and he can't tell me whether this is because they are adopted, or simply because he wants more attention than he can get in a larger family. He's voiced feelings that reflect both ideas. But when he has said that he just feels he doesn't "fit" with us, that has rung true. Perhaps he doesn't.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


I was hoping I'd have revived enough to be able to post today with a cheerful heart and a bit of humor, but I am not feeling humorous.

Maxim is pushing the limits of my endurance, and since he has already pushed my husband's limits and he is only with us due to my passionate insistence....he is being one foolish boy.

We had a really ugly incident last night. Yesterday afternoon Maxim came home from school "sick". He called me around one, saying he was ill and begging me to come and get him. I had my doubts. Frankly, he sort of overdid the misery in his voice. However, with the "puking illness" going 'round the state of Michigan (courtesy of Rachael), I couldn't be sure.

As I was cooking dinner he came into the kitchen and asked me to take him to the athletic club. I said no; he couldn't go out since he'd come home sick from school. But he persisted and persisted and when I was firm, began acting out. He was holding two lighters [almost seemed to me that he was even holding them to sort-of flaunt them - Ha! I smoke and you don't want me to do that!] But as I persisted in refusing his request/then order, he began to flick them, lighting them, then he finally held one up to the plastic handle of the dishwasher. I will say this; I didn't respond to this and he didn't persist in doing damage. Instead, he threw my stir-fry skillet off the burner, turned that burner off, then turned on all the other burners, and the oven on Broil.... and it was all done in a defiant and threatening mode. However, I kept my cool.

He continued to persist. Demanded I take him. I said that there was no way I was taking him anywhere and if he thought this attitude would change my mind he was really wrong. Then he went into the laundry room and threw all the clean baskets of laundry all over the room, calling me obscene names while doing it. Then he slammed out of the house.

By the grace of God, Craig was in the living room and he kept a grip on his temper. I've asked him not to over-react, which as a man he is tempted to do, especially in my defense. However, I feel it is better to let Maxim carry on, because he is just acting out, it is not true threat, or true damage. Still....tell my nervous system that! This is NOT what I need at the end of a long day.

He swore he wouldn't eat my food, then stormed out to who knows where. I later had to go to the store, and when I came in he'd put tater tots in the oven and either forgotten them or deliberately decided to burn them up in there. Fortunately, I was able to turn the oven off and prevent something really awful. I went upstairs and he was in Sergei's and Ilya's room. They have recently merged and share a room. I have a rough time getting Ilya to sleep, and having him with Sergei has helped. And they were in bed, but Maxim was playing their x-box and refused to come down. He had to "finish the game" for at least 20 minutes. I was steaming. I knew that if I went up there and demanded he come down that all hell would break loose, and that is certainly not what the other boys needed as a lullabye. So I threatened to put the game player away during the school week. That's not really fair to Sergei; it is his player, which he bought, and he does not ordinarily use it inappropriately. But in my helplessness, I went the extra mile in unfairness and told Sergei as it was his player he must make Maxim quit.

This morning Maxim continued to act as though I'm abusing him. Though I expect it is just to save face. He refused to get up when called, to make his bed or clean up his room. Instead he went up to Sergei and Ilya's room again to play the game player. Now I'm writing this , I expect that was calculated to make me particularly angry, but I was too busy to pick up on it.

We have got to have help if we are going to keep this boy. But - can you believe this? After having both the adoption worker (the person responsible for finding him a home) and the caseworker tell us to find family counseling, and after my going exactly where they said to go, and finding a person who I KNOW would be helpful.... After all that, Oakland County refuses to approve it!

Maxim does not seem to have any sense whatsoever that his behavior matters. I think he believes that I care about him too much to see his future destroyed. But he doesn't realize that I love my other kids, too. MY kids. He has recently said again that he does not want to be adopted by us.... I owe the other four a sane, peaceful home. To say nothing about Craig. This puts a lot of stress on our marriage, frankly. Yet, it would also put stress on it if I had to worry about Maxim forever.....

I am at wits' end!

The worst thing here is that if he is not in our home he will be returned to Oakland County (Detroit). When he was there they couldn't find a foster home for him so they placed him in a dreadful facility primarily for adjudicated youth. There were a few that were labeled "abuse and neglect", but frankly, they didn't seem any more upstanding. The place had its own school and they had Maxim working at something like third grade level - of the rest of the kids appeared to be brought up from inner city slums and that was the best the bulk of them could do.

So, if he is not with us, will he end up in that hole again among the criminal element, with strip searches and attacks in the visiting room? No personal property (the CD player we gave him was confiscated by staff then "disappeared".) He does NOT deserve to be there! But if we cannot get some counseling, I do not think we can stick it out.

But just as I write this, in comes a mom just now whose son is on the track team with Maxim - raving about what a great kid Maxim is. "So funny! So nice!"

I guess he is. I guess we'll get through this and move on..... However, I needed to vent. This is not easy. I just want to love....and I do not know who or how.

"Thou must untangle this, Lord, not I! For 'tis too hard a knot for me t'untie!" (One of the few quotes that stuck with me from my Shakespearean acting days. Viola; Twelfth Night.)

Monday, May 19, 2008


Aidan in April
Aidan should be home in July! We are all looking forward to that, as you can imagine!

He is having quite a difficult decision to make about what he will do when he gets back. In fact, I gather that he's been agonizing about it a bit.

He has a specialty which, if he stayed in Iraq and worked for a contractor, would pay him in the three figures. It would pay for completion of college, buy a house, let Susan stay home with Calvin, etc. However, he would not be with Calvin. There was also the possibility of uprooting Susan and Calvin and moving to Virginia, to do the same sort of job. Wouldn't pay nearly as well as doing it in Iraq. And then, the third option is returning to his former job doing security and loss-prevention for the Goodwill in Pittsburgh. He actually rather enjoyed that work. That will pay not well, as one might imagine, but he will be home with Cal; Susan will have the continued support of her extended family and there is not the stress of moving. Aidan can also continue his education, in addition to working. It does mean that Susan will need to work as well, but I think that between the two of them and Susan's family, Cal will not be in daycare.

Poor Aidan. He is grown up now! It is an interesting phenomenon to see your children suddenly have "adult" decisions to make. I guess I suddenly understand that there is a dividing line between those decisions you make as a young adult that really impact no one but yourself. Maybe they are "practice" decisions really. I recall them as being rather fun - they seem "big" at the time because they will make a big difference to your immediate future, but they have a bit of thrill and excitement to them that is unsullied by the burden of caring for others. You find that when you marry and have children the decisions you make are not quite so carefree and fun anymore because they impact more people than just yourself. And these "serious" decisions are the ones you will have to make thereon out. No more throwing caution to the wind. Welcome to adulthood!

Sunday, May 18, 2008


Calvin in April
My daughter-in-law, Susan e-mailed today to tell me that she and her sister are bringing Calvin up to see us this coming weekend! I am so excited. It has been really painful not to have the chance to get my hands on this little guy. Isn't he cute? He should be; he looks exactly like Aidan at that age.

Friday, May 16, 2008


Anastasia on her summer visit - can you see why I fell in love?
Our adoption agency is definately going to have a hosting program for some children ages 5-10 from Nizhny Novgorod this summer. I am so excited! (Not that we are planning to host a child, mind you, but I am certainly excited for those who do!) We have never been "really" involved in a hosting program, but ironically both Sergei and Anastasia came to us that way. Each of them was hosted by another family who chose not to adopt them.... Except I don't think of it that way. There was nothing negative about it. What I think is that God knew they were ours from the first, but He writes straight with crooked lines!

If anyone knows anyone who would like to be involved in this program, or find out more about it, they should e-mail me and I can give some "warm-up" details before they contact Dana at the agency. I've often found that people like to talk to me before contacting the agency, as that step seems a bit too committed when they are just trying to get basic information. People from any state can be involved, so long as they can get to the Detroit airport to pick up the child and return him/her. If people live out of driving distance, they might want to have their visit at a cottage here in Michigan.
I think that hosting is a tremendous thing for older children for many reasons. To begin with, the children get a wonderful, bright vacation in a world so different from the one they know. Secondly, as they are back in Russia waiting for the adoption, they know where they are going to go, and who they will live with - can you imagine how much less stressful that would make adoption from their point of view? Finally, though it seems crass to call it a "tryout", in some ways both for the family and the child - it is. It gives everyone the opportunity to see if things feel right. And, if they don't, there is time for the children to meet other potential parents and find the family God prepared for them.
One of the delights of hosting - apart from this opportunity to spend time with your future son or daughter - is that it awakens your own appreciation of the world. Apart from having a bed ready, there is no need to plan "special" things for the visit. Children are so amazed by everything! Every household appliance is a miracle to them, and riding in a car? It is something most of the children have rarely done. If I live to be 100 I will always remember Sergei meeting our copy machine at the office as one of the highlights of my life. He was as enchanted as anyone has ever been by anything. We had so much fun.

Of course, I'm sitting back again....ready and waiting for someone to have a spare little girl they don't want. I doubt we'll get that lucky a third time...but you never know what God has in mind.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Craig and I were taking a walk the other afternoon when we saw a disturbing sight. A man was radically trimming back a beautiful lilac tree. Frankly, I don't think I have it in me to lop off branches of a blooming lilac just to toss them in the back of a pick-up! We walked on by but I couldn't take it, and we turned and went back to ask for some of the discarded lilacs.

That was an odd moment, frankly. Craig asked nicely for a few of the flowers and the man doing the trimming came towards us thrusting a large branch full of flowers like a sword. The look on his face was startling. I know this sounds terrible but it was as though I immediately knew this 50 some year old man with the frightened yet frightening face had been abused and brain-damaged as a small child. [Well - "knew"....I feel I know it.] Anyway, it was a very strange moment. But we took that lilac branch and headed home with it. I was able to fill four vases!

Now, here is the really wonderful thing. People have said to me for years - "lilacs don't last". And, I've tried them and they haven't lasted. Yet it has puzzled me because I swear that when I was in college, there was a bush near where I lived, that I helped myself from - and enjoyed the blooms for days. Also - I've seen paintings with lilacs in vases - how's that for proof! Anyway, these wonderful lilacs have lasted for days. They have lent their fragrance to the whole house.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Originally I had thought to call my blog "Mother's Day", but someone had taken that so I changed to this title. However, it occurred to me that with either title, I really ought to report on this Mother's Day. Well, sad to report I had a bad, or more accurately not-so-good day.

I was sick in bed for the entirety of it. I woke up sort of hallucinating about Rachael's post regarding the stomach flu....or, "puking illness", as she called it (as a doctor it makes sense that she would be more precise.) Anyway the funny part about it was that, I was kind of confusedly thinking I'd caught it from her....(computer virus?) I finally woke and found myself to be, indeed, a little queasy but nowhere (thank you, Lord) near puking. However, I did need to make use of the fastest path to the restroom. Frequently. And, other than that, it was sleep, sleep, sleep all day. As sicknesses go, it wasn't too terrible.

However, it was no "Happy Mother's Day". Except, in a way, it was sweet. We're really not too big on these "cultural" holidays at our house, with the exception of Thanksgiving and Fourth of July. So no big plans had been made. But, each of the children at some point in the day came in to give me a hug or a kiss, and tell me how sorry they were I was sick and offer me a few loving words. (No, not Maxim - don't think crazy.)

Actually, what Maxim did was burst in at about 7 p.m. and demand "What am I going to do about my poster, Mrs. Kitching? You said we'd do it today!?" To be honest, I had been thinking of getting up for a bit just to prepare me to go to bed again at "bedtime". So I did crawl into some form of clothing and drive to the office so Maxim could use the computer for his project. (We do not have internet at home, only here at my office.) I will not give him any marks for gentleness or sensitivity. I believe he'd do well as a guard in some gulag. "March, Mrs. Kitching! March!" was sort of what it felt like. But, happily it did prepare me to come home and sleep some more, so I could get up and start the week healthy. Happy ending.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


I was wandering around the other night in blogville and ran across a fellow blogger, who was playing the Pay it Forward game. I was one of her first three respondents, so thought HOORAY! Sounds fun!

This is how it works: I will send a gift (of my choosing!) to the first 3 people who leave a comment on my blog requesting to join this "PIF" exchange.

YOU must make the same pledge on your blog.

So, if you want a surprise from me & you are willing to do the same on your blog, let me know! I will need your snail mail address to send you your gift - we can email each other off list for that. So leave your e-mail!

Thursday, May 8, 2008


I don't know why I chose this clip art; just let my subconscious do it.

Someone used this phrase around me years ago and I thought it was slightly vulgar, to be frank. So, why am I using it myself? Well - because it stuck in my mind.

As I was putting together the list of things that "flit" through my mind (or trudge through, some of them) I was surprised at the number of my multi-daily thoughts that are "shoulds".....and not just the obvious, everyday "shoulds" like - make dinner, pick up children, do laundry, clean house, make beds. But the bigger "shoulds", the "shoulds" that you figure define your character (or would if you actually did them), the "shoulds" that stem from all the good things you see other people do that you wish you did, and then the "shoulds" that come right out of your center - the things you "should" do because you want to do them so intensely.

So what are my shoulds? I was a bit unfair in that previous post, because I removed most of them. I saved them for this one. I'd be interested in knowing if these thoughts go through other people's minds. Some of them appear twice as they really fit in two categories.

These things SHOULD reflect my character:

I should read Scripture daily.
I should pray for at least 30 minutes each day.
I should go to daily Mass.
I should read daily.
I should get involved in volunteer work outside my church setting.
I should be volunteering in my children's schools.
I should be spending sweet and loving time with my husband every day...(not just "You'll need to pick up Maxim because I can't. Did you get milk?" sort of time)

Other people manage this; I SHOULD, too:

I should get aerobic exercise every day.
I should do some strength conditioning.
I should have a really clean, organized home (I do think this is a way of loving your family)
I should have a pleasant daily schedule...dinner always on the table at a certain time.
I should set aside time to help each child with homework daily.
I should always cook wholesome, attractive and tasty meals.
I should keep up with the news and really learn enough to UNDERSTAND current events.

I SHOULD fulfill my longings:

I should become fluent in Russian.
I should read every day.
I should set aside time for needlework.
I should really let myself get into painting, Russian style, on the walls, as I want to so much.
I should learn to sew vestments, maybe then I could stop thinking about designing them all during Mass!
I should make the extra money so I can take the kids to Russia in the summer.
I should organize a mission trip.


I just think this is so wonderful.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


It's a miracle! Someone took my picture!

Sarah posted on an interesting topic. She wrote: "Parents have a lot on their minds. Here is a list of things on my mind in no particular order. Most of them to some degree cross my mind at least once a day, some of them for sure every day." Then Sarah shared her list.

Here is my list of the things that are fairly constantly - several times a day at least - going through my mind. In no particular order.:

  • Ilya's difficulty learning English - why?
  • Ilys's school resistance, how to handle it
  • My desire for a nap
  • How beautiful the spring flowers are
  • Ilya's need for a sleep pattern
  • Wishing the kids would all get along
  • What's for dinner?
  • Is there enough bread?
  • Is there enough milk?
  • Do I need to pay bills?
  • Laundry, doing it
  • Laundry, putting it away
  • Laundry room, state of chaos therein
  • Drawers, messiness of
  • Politics, disgust with
  • Homework, who has what
  • Spring clothes, need to bring from basement
  • Winter clothes, disgust with
  • Grades, anxiety about Sergei's and Maxim's
  • Gas prices, worry about
  • Desire to go to Russia
  • My example - I am too impatient, cross, turns
  • Wish for more time
  • Wish for more room
  • Wish for more money
  • Beautiful memory of Russia
  • Heartfelt thanks for the blessings I have
  • How glad I am it is spring
  • How I wish I didn't have to work
  • How much I enjoy some project at work
  • Finding one-on-one time with each child
  • Not slipping up at work
  • Need for a new stove
  • How much I love my children
  • Wouldn't it be nice to have another girl?
  • Bright idea for teaching strategy
  • Wish to be in the classroom, not in administration
  • How much I'd like to have a day just to clean
  • Gratitude to my husband
  • Thoughts about God's plan
  • Is it time to go get Lydia?!
  • Frustration at too much to do
  • Need for more exercise
  • Need for more prayer
  • Desire to sit and read
  • Desire for time to do needlework
  • When's the next track meet?
  • Should call my mother
  • Ideas for needlework project
  • Worry about kids on computer too much

The sublime and the ridiculous and everything inbetween.

ANNIE AND THE SERIAL KILLER Linked to Killing of 5 Women in Michigan Capital By NICK BUNKLEYPublished: September 1, 2007DETROIT, Aug. 31 — A paroled sex offender was identified on Friday as the man whom the police suspect of attacking and killing five women in Lansing, including an activist whose daughter is on the City Council. A sixth woman survived the attacks.The authorities in Lansing said they were looking into whether the suspect, Matthew E. Macon, 27, who was arrested on Tuesday night on an unrelated warrant, is responsible for attacks in 2003 and 2004 that coincided with two periods when Mr. Macon was on parole after being jailed for a larceny conviction from 2001. At least some victims this summer, as well as in 2003, were sexually assaulted, the authorities said.
This serial killer (well, accused serial killer) came to my door a few times both in 2003 and 2004. His MO was to ride around on his bicycle, knocking at doors and asking to do odd jobs for cash. You know me. I had him mow the lawn once, and paid him well. The next time he came, he asked if he could have the money today and do the lawn the next day - and I said, "sure". I don't think he came back, but then if I recall correctly, the lawn didn't need doing, either. I was just trying to save his face and not simply offer charity. The following year we had Rosie (the pitt bull). He commented on Rosie and baby-talked her through the screen before I paid him. She didn't like him, and I recall wondering if she was prejudiced against all black people because she started life as a drug-dealer's dog prior to being rescued. I was embarrassed at my dog's racism, wondering why she couldn't just tell "good from bad". And then the final time, he came when Craig was home and Craig came out of the dining room and said firmly that we didn't need anything done. I gave an apologetic look as he scurred off, and that was that.
Until this. Telling someone about it the other day, they responded "Good thing you gave him work." Hm. I wonder. Did he not kill me or attack and leave me for dead because I was kind? Wouldn't that be a nice thing to believe? But, wanting to think well of the dead, it seemed to me that they were probably all kind ladies. Now, I will say that I did not ask him into the house. I have that little bit of wit about me. I think I came out on the porch. Somehow not asking someone in, but remaining behind the screen always feels so rude, so - untrusting. (And one wouldn't want to seem that, would one?)
It just feels confusing. Perhaps I ought to be profoundly grateful that something - his mood, the sound of kids, the dog, the fact I didn't let him in, the fact I found work for him.....whatever it was....saved me. But, mostly I just look at his photos in the paper every day and see how easy it was to believe he was a good guy. Frankly, the whole concept of going door to door to work seems so upstanding, so full of integrity and grit, that I admired him. That someone doing something like that would not be what he seems...I guess it is that disappointment that keeps bumping around in my mind confusing me. You can see from the photo that he does not look cruel. He looks like a hard-working, down on his luck man. So, I'm no judge of character in the short term, I guess. And I'm very lucky.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


I think you need to click on the photo to see the next one. In the dancing photos, I made all but a couple of the dresses.

Monday, May 5, 2008


So why was everything at sixes and sevens last week? Why were the children acting up? Why was mama impatient and cross? Why was everyone's nutrition sub-standard?

The first Communion sarafan, that's why!

But at least the result was nice. I'm not sure this photo does it justice, but it is full-length, anyway. (If you click on the photo to see it close up, you get an idea of how I put it together - also you'll see the front entrance to our "home away from home.) Anastasia's insistance on wearing the kokoshnik so far back on her head took away the traditional Russian look, a bit, still I think she looked like a fairy-tale.

The only problem with this result is the sacrifices we made to get it (noted above). I really only put two and two together this morning, as I wondered why the heck all hell seemed to break loose among the troops this weekend. I suppose abandonment by the mother-figure last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights (I could only sew at night, so just took the kids home and came back to my sewing room here at the office) was not all that conducive to a safe and secure feeling on the homefront. Dad doesn't come through with the meals like I do, either. I would come home at 11 or 12 and see the evidence of ramen and mac and cheese "meals". Poor kids. The bedtime routine was just "bedtime" and not "routine", too.

I could kick myself. I sometimes get obsessed and refuse to not do too much. I wanted so much to do this for Anastasia every since she and I came up with the idea. Anastasia loves wearing sarafans. When she first came, went to public school, and was a bit younger she would wear one to school at least once a week. I've made her several, but never had a real pattern. Of course, since this one was not for play or even for a Russian community get-together, I felt I had to do a "real" garment - no short-cuts. And was that ever stressful! And it started off with the iron spewing some not-so-clean droplets onto this fabric, and causing one more trip to the fabric store.... renewing my anxiety about working with WHITE.

She was thrilled with her dress. But what I ask myself, is how much of this project was for Anastasia and how much for me? I love to sew, but am so busy with other things that I rarely do it unless there is an event that requires something. Maybe that's why I've sewn nothing but sarafans for the past three years! But was this whole enterprise primarily selfish, when you get right down to it? There's no doubt that Anastasia was pleased, but any new dress would have pleased her. Or was it just a slight shadow of some obsessive-compulsive disorder: Any good idea must be followed to its conclusion.

I suppose all is well that ends well. I hope it all ends well, and that none of the other children have initiated a downward behavioral spiral that cannot be halted.

Now that first communion is over, I guiltily ask myself whether or not it would be sacreligious to use a garment made for a holy occasion when Yolka comes around. I think it would make a terrific basis for a Snegurotchka costume.


Yesterday afternoon around 5 p.m., as I attempted to teach my 8th graders about Confirmation, and the rest of our parish Religious Education program was functioning smoothly for the last class of the year, my office staff was confounded to see a police car drive up, stop and drop off Ilya!
Turns out, that because he had not been cooperative about doing the chores we asked him to do, Craig had told him he would not bring him to my office. As mentioned before, my office is our second home and the children like being here. Sergei has a sort of "office" upstairs (this is a former convent with lots of space) where he has a computer, there is a playroom, and there is a playground, and basketball courts (and internet access, which we don't have at home). Plus ,there is ordinarily food. The kids like being here. Most of the others were here - had been with me since morning Mass. Maxim had done his chores and Craig took him to the gym, leaving Ilya home alone.
Ilya took matters in his own hands and decided he would ride his bike to my office! Well, it is at least 5-6 miles between our home and the office, as a crow flies. Early Sunday morning, under the best conditions - i.e. no traffic and lights set in my favor - it takes 15 minutes by car. And, I should add, by freeway. Ilya set off towards the office, and apparently almost made it here when the officer spotted this little boy riding his bike on the freeway and picked him up. This must have been a moderately unique experience for her, too, since the lecture she undoubtedly planned to deliver about laws and safety would have fallen on non-English-speaking ears. He says he just pointed the way to the office.
What surprises me, a bit, is that she just dropped him off and didn't seek me out. Probably, the number of cars indicated to her that finding me might be difficult, and his lack of English may have made her suspect she wouldn't be able to speak to this child's mother anyway. The fact that she was dropping him off at a church might have caused her to hope that someone was on this family's "case" already. Whatever the reason, I am profoundly grateful that my 8th graders did not conclude the year by witnessing their catechist pulled out of the room by a police officer!

Sunday, May 4, 2008


As a response to Moscow Mom's challenge, I will see what I can do with "A".
1. What is your name: Annie
2. Vehicle: Accord (ours is an Appallingly disorderly van)
3. City: Ashland (in southern Oregon; the town where I acted in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival [the link] and where my husband grew up.)
4. Boy's Name: Aidan
5. Girl's Name: Anastasia
6. Beverage: Ale (unfortunately, due to some of the Russian's prediliction for spirits, I can no longer keep a couple in the fridge for the end of a hard day)
7. Occupation: Administrator (of a Religous Education Program) and formerly, an Actress
8. Something you wear: Antique jewelry
9. Food: Appetizers (always love them far better than the meal itself....)
10. Something found in a bathroom: Analgesics (and in my purse, and in the kitchen cupboard, and in the car....Motrin, or the "store brand")
11. Reason for Being Late: Another load of wash needs to go in before I can leave!!!!
12. Author: Austen (have read them all many, many times.)
13. Something You Shout: Ahhhhhhh! (Sorry - but it really is probably what I shout most)
15. Body part: Arm.
16. Store: Aldi's (where they have loaves of bread for .49! Except they only take cash so I don't go there as much as I might)
17. Hobby: Applique (well, any sort of needlework, almost)
18. Color: Aubergine
19. Place: Arbat (I wish I were there! Touristy, but still fun.)
20. Word to describe you: Accomodating (Like St. Paul, I try to be all things to all people, and sometimes it wears me right down....)