Thursday, June 26, 2008

I FIND HELL AND HIGH WATER BETWEEN THE ROCK AND THE HARD PLACE

Our nest is a bit too small

Sometimes you just can't make a good decision. This past week I made one of two possible bad ones.


Lydia, for some very good reasons, decided to move home - and not in a few weeks - NOW.

The apartment where she was living - or, more precisely, the roommate she was living with were not salutary. In fact, just a week or two ago, we had a 2 a.m. call when she awoke to discover a drunken stranger sitting on her bed. Her army training (and general aggressive approach) kicked in and I'm sure he was glad to just get out of there. In any case, she had some good reasons to move.


However....in past months, when she idly wondered if she could move home, of course I said "certainly!". Isn't home the place where if you show up they have to take you in? And, when she said she wanted her old room, of course I said OK. Not thinking, not really believing she'd end up moving in, to tell the truth.



But - suddenly - here she is. And she wants her "old room". Well, our house is not big. We have an old "foursquare" and Lydia had for the last year of her time here, had the attic room. For most of her childhood, it had been the TV room, and then for a few years Aidan's room. Really, it was only "her room" for a brief period of time. However...that's the room she wanted.



In the past year, however, Sergei had moved up there. And in the past month, he and Ilya had joined forces...a pairing that was working extremely well. I think it was good for Ilya not to be alone and he really loved his room. Ilya is a tidy housekeeper, and took great care to make sure both beds were made every day (while Sergei's chore was to take care of dirty clothes and trash). It was working beautifully. They had taken the doors off one of the closets and created an entertainment center. It was really well done.



Now, Lydia is coming home, so we told them, they'd need to move downstairs....into Anastasia's room (which she'd only been in amonth since Ilya moved up). Anastasia moved back into the cranny in our room. I am really kicking myself now. How could I be so oblivious??? I made those boys move all their stuff downstairs. Then when Lydia got home and went upstairs she was cross that it wasn't spotless - and yelled at them until they cleaned it. I probably would have put a stop to that, but I wasn't home.



Ilya responded to her approach by punching a couple of holes in the wall (what you'd call this wall, I'm not sure....a very thin sort of plaster board from the 1920's). Not a nice wall. Still....



It was late in the day that they moved down, and only after more very bad behavior on Ilya's part, when I finally realized what a dreadful thing I'd done to that boy. To both of them, really - but particularly to Ilya. To kick him out of the first place that he'd ever had to call his own. The first little place he'd ever been able to take pride in. It makes me ill to think of it.



But - when I suggested this to Lydia, almost hoping she'd offer to give them their room back, she responded in tears. So now her home wasn't even her home anymore! Did "the Russians" have to take everything - her mommy and now her room, too???? I am thinking: she is 21. She ought to have the good sense to realize that she is over-dramatizing everything. But, I guess I can't tell her how she should feel. I can only try to understand how she does feel.



I really am in dismay. What should I have done?









Wednesday, June 25, 2008

MY LIFE IN SIX WORDS

Cris tagged me with a really challenging assignment. To put my life into six words. I have taken a few days to think about it and here is what I came up with:

Lovingly nurtured, loving to nurture others.
I grew up in the most wonderful home. I had the most splendidly loving parents who taught me so much, so well. They were not overtly Christians, but lived a Christ-like life....full of generosity, kindness, honesty, self-sacrifice, purity, courage, hope, and enormous love. No one could have been more beautifully nurtured - both fed with wholesome habits and ideas and judiciously pruned. The older I get the more profoundly I understand the importance of a solid home.
And God has given me the desire to nuture. Even my "life in the theatre" was in a sense - that sort of giving. Acting is sharing every aspect of yourself generously with strangers. And then teaching. Then parenting. It is as though there is some sense within my subconscious, even, that having been given much, much is expected. So I try to be a channel of God's love to everyone I meet, particularly my children.
(How pompous this seems..... I fail a LOT... a LOT.) i.e. watch for the next post.
Now, as Cris set out the rules, I am suppose to tag five others, asking them to do the same task. So I tag some ladies who love to make use of language: Tamara, Elizabeth, Kate, Sarah and Rachael. (I apologize if you've been double-tagged....I think I noticed that there was another such chain going around, too...)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

TALKING TO NADIA

Nadia and Yuliana
This week we finally spoke with Sergei's sister, Nadia.
She lives in a tiny "settlement" (not even a village) very far from anything in Rostov District, Russia. This spring we did a search for her, and by the grace of God (they called it a lot of luck) she was located.
It was wonderful talking to her, though not nearly as emotional as one might expect. We decided to have the translator associated with the search agency assist with this initial call, anyway. My Russian is not up to much of a meaningful phone conversation, and I was fearful that perhaps Sergei's was not, either. (Though I have to say that at one point I was able to provide the translator with a word he didn't know! That was satsifying!)
Nadia is a pretty quiet and straightforward person, much like Sergei. Not a lot of excess verbage or emotion, but genuine, kind and sweet-natured. It was good to find out that everything we had been told about Sergei's "story" was accurate. He had a married mother and father. They lived in Belaya Kalitva in Rostov District. He had one older sister, Nadia, who was 8 when he was born and (this was sort of a surprise...though Sergei had vague memories) a brother who is now 27. He recalled perhaps a brother being in the army, so perhaps this is why the memories are vague.
Nadia remembered his birth in the winter, and how very tiny he was when he came home from the hospital. She was very involved in his care from the beginning, as she was old enough to be valuable help, and seems to have a powerfully maternal nature (she obviously dotes on her own daughter, Yuliana).
She said that she fed Sergei, and watched him, and when he was older read, and read, and read to him. When Sergei was four and Nadia was twelve, the father died of TB. It was only after that, that their mother tragically began to drink. After that she quickly lost the ability to care for the children, or for herself. They were taken to children's homes when a neighbor intervened. Though they were in different facilities, Nadia visited Sergei often initially. She and their godmother would bring him candies and take him to church. He has memories of this, as well as of happy visits to this godmother. I was so pleased to find out that she is well and so pleased to re-gain contact with him!
I was also relieved to find out that the box of gifts I sent in the spring got to her. She is too poor to mail even a letter to us, unfortunately. But she was so happy to get the little dresses and the stuffed animal for Yuliana. I could tell immediately that the way to Nadia's heart is through her daughter.
And, what a lot of joy I got from shopping for someone who has nothing - as opposed to "the person who has everything" as so often happens. I always feel I should be sending gifts to Calvin (my 100% grandson) but it feels so futile as he has many doting [rich and nearby] relatives who leap into that breach before I get there. Nadia's Yuliana, however, has no one to buy her pretty dresses, so I had a good time with that.
Sergei seemed very pleased at having had the conversation, too. No big emotional scenes of any sort, but just a sort of deep pleasure. Hopefully we can visit her sometime!

Friday, June 20, 2008

PRAYER REQUEST

Natalie


There is a beautiful family in our parish, who have four sweet daughters. The oldest, Alexandra, is in Anastasia's class in school. The youngest, born last fall, is Natalie.

At four months Natalie was diagnosed with leukemia. Can you imagine these parents' distress? Natalie has just started a second round of chemotherapy, and then she will receive bone-marrow transplant from her older sister, Alexandra. The family's two-year-old daughter, Lindsay, was just hospitalized yesterday for severe anemia....brought on by depression and loss of appetite. This just illustrates the fear and stress that the entire family is feeling. Poor Alexandra just had to give five large vials of blood yesterday, in preparation for her bone-marrow donation. How frightening for a nine-year-old, even if it didn't involve her sister's life!

I am just heartsick for this family and immediately thought of you lovely people, and your prayerful hearts. Please keep this family in your prayers, as they endure the next couple of months - at their baby's bedside in another city, while trying to lovingly care for their other sweet girls. Thank you!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

HOW SAD IS THIS?


I have a friend who is heading to Russia this weekend to adopt their daughter. She was going to take all those wonderful bracelets that our Confirmation students made, so they could be sold in Alexei's Christian bookstore.

Well, I boxed them up, along with some other things I'd purchased for this purpose. When I got to the post office, I realized that I'd left my charge card on my desk, so I thought I'd leave it all 'til the next day.

Unfortunately, a bunch of rotten kids stole the box from my car in the middle of the night, apparently ripped out the contents (probably strewn around the neighborhood) and threw the box in a neighbor's yard.

I suppose I was glad he brought it down to us. Otherwise, I never would have known what became of those things. How sad, though.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

WAIT-OUT AT THE WEBBERVILLE EXIT




Maxim has told me for a while that on June 11 he would quit smoking for good.




June 10 came. Maxim came into our room a little before midnight, woke me from a sound sleep, and demanded that I join him on the porch. I wrapped a robe around myself and went out there with him. Honestly, it was beautiful....a perfect, still night... But the purpose for this midnight rendevoux was not to enjoy the night; rather Maxim was asking me to join him in "honoring" his final cigarette. [This must be some Russian concept? Or is Maxim, himself, just a bit poetic?] He sat in the rocker and smoked while I sat on the railing and watched. Suddenly he leaped up, and dashed something against the asphalt in the driveway creating a blaze and a little explosive sound. I gasped, but Maxim explained that was the end of his lighter. (I didn't know they'd do that.) He finished the cigarette, doing everything but pray over it, and I added the prayer. So far, so good.




The next night Maxim had a basketball tournament in a city about forty miles away. So, I spent significant gas money getting him there and sat in an absolutely sweltering and extremely sweaty gym for TWO basketball games, with an hour sitting in the car in between. I felt rather proud of myself, frankly, for being such a good "mother figure". This seemed to be self-sacrifice at its best. Pride goeth before a fall.




We were about to pull out on the freeway when Maxim said he was thirsty. I'd already offered him dinner, but he said he wasn't hungry. I stopped at a gas station and handed him a twenty, reminding him I wanted the change (he'll always keep it, given the chance) . He opened the door, but then began to pull out all his wheedling skills, begging me to buy him some cigarettes. "I want to smoke just one more time." "Just one more cigarette!" (I could throw the rest away, he promised.) I was adamant. Firm. Determined. No. He could have a drink. If he didn't want a drink, give me the money and shut the door. After quite a bit more of this, he did slammed the door (not giving me the money). But I decided that, with the door shut I'd get away from temptation.




We were no more than on the freeway when he pointed out that he didn't have his seatbelt on and, furthermore, wouldn't put it on. When he pulls this stunt I am just beside myself. I asked him to step aside and look at his own behavior. If he saw a boy his age acting like this, what would he think? This was baby behavior But he was also adamant; he wouldn't put it on. So the best I could do was get off at the next exit - Webberville - and turn into the dusty yard of a minor truck stop. I stopped the car, tried a few more times to get him to put the seatbelt on. He refused. I turned the car off and stared out the opposite window, desperately thinking of the "right" thing to do or say.




Round and round we went. "Only one last time." I tried to tell him that those words were famous as precursors to failure. He didn't understand that.... He'd never heard that. What a pain sometimes he is only 15! But that was just one theme.... At one point I think I said, when he'd threatened this: "All right then, get out - but give me the money back before you go!" Then he went into how that's all I cared about - money. (Ha!) I pointed out that I'd had the money ready to buy him dinner! Then he somehow went into the fact that I was a terrible mother, didn't care about any of my kids, in particular - told people I'd like to adopt him and sure didn't mean that!!! I said I did mean it and he proclaimed that that would be the day! He doesn't want to be my son, as I am not "his type" of mother.




And on and on, and back for more. We revisited all these ideas again, and the one about "just one last time" many, many times. Eventually, I just gave up.... At least I gave up trying to accomplish anything on my own, and I began to pray fervently. Fervently is the only word for it. An hour and a half after we first pulled in there, he finally put his seat belt on, and for good measure threw the money in my lap. Prayers answered.




On the way home, being oh-so-careful, not to appear to relish my "victory" or even to recognize it, I asked if he'd like some ice cream. By then, he wanted dinner so I pulled into a McDonald's. I began to talk more reasonably, both complimenting his resolve and his strength of will, and suggesting strategies.



He conned me into buying him some "gum" - nicotine gum. This was going against my philosophy - using a "crutch" - instead of willpower and God's power. He knew this, and also probably knew that because he'd "given in" earlier, I would be more ready to give a little, too. I was.




And here we are, several days later. Because the gum smells like smoking, I cannot tell if he's smoking. I actually witnessed him taking a cigarette butt out of a receptacle. He said it was for Ilya. I told him I didn't want Ilya smoking either, and we went round about that for a bit. I began to wonder if this was just a ruse to make me suspect that any smell of smoke was Ilya and not him.




As you can tell, I do recognize Maxim for a manipulator. I expect I am a pretty easy mark, too. However, I can only do what I can do and trust God to do the rest.




Should be an interesting summer.







Wednesday, June 11, 2008

CHECK OUT THIS FAVORITE BLOG OF MINE!

Some months ago I stumbled on a blog which I just love....for so many reasons! Elizabeth is a young woman living in St. Petersburg, doing work with orphans. OK - two connections there: Russia and orphans. She is also a Christian. She also writes wonderfully!

http://lizinstpete.blogspot.com/

I have enjoyed Elizabeth's blog as she has covered lots of topics, from spiritual growth, to hymns, to life in Russia, the Russian character, to strategies to help orphans... But this week she has been absolutely riveting as she describes her brother's marriage to a woman in the Congo! What a splendid chance to "take a little trip" into someone else's interesting experience!

If you want to start the "wedding" theme, scroll down a number of posts to her story of her trip to Moscow to get her visa:

http://lizinstpete.blogspot.com/2008/05/cest-une-americaine.html

Have fun!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

SR. JOAN AND HER NIECE

Sister Joan came to visit our school to share some vocations information. She shared this story. She went out for a movie and ice cream with her young niece. The little girl asked her, "Auntie Joan, why don't you get married?" Sr. Joan responded, "Well, I am married in a way. I am married to Jesus." The child pondered this a moment, and then commented, "I didn't think you knew him that well."

When she told this story it reminded me of one our former pastor told. When he was at his previous parish an effusive parishioner came up to him gushing about one of his homilies - "Oh, Father you should have them published!" He demurred, "Well, maybe posthumously." She replied, "Father - I just hope it's soon!"

These stories are related in my mind by the thought that I should enter them into Catholic Digest and make $25 but I'm sharing with you instead. :)

Monday, June 9, 2008

ORPHANAGE GAMES

Zhen, Maxim and Ilya playing the "knife" game

I am amused again and again by the pastimes the children have brought with them from Russia - or, is it just from the orpanage? Russia does seem to have a whole different concept of "safety, importance of" than we do here in the litigeous US.
When you can be seriously injured just walking down the sidewalk, or attempting to cross a street - wouldn't you expect games to be really death-defying? Well, yes. And they seem to be.

I do not know why, but I just flow with this for the most part. Me, the over-protective mom. Granted I have always been overprotective more for my children's moral safety than their physical safety, but I surely didn't let my older two ever do any of the things my current set do on a daily basis.

Above you will see the "knife game". This game is really rather fun. It involves dividing a large circle into equal parts for each player. This is a sort of political/military game and this is his/her territory. Then they take turns throwing a knife (yes; this is the dangerous part) into another person's territory which borders their own. (Yes; while they are standing in it.) Then you can carve out (using the line indicated by the way the knife pierced the earth) that portion of your opponent's territory and add it to your own....then scuffing out the old boundary and keeping the newly carved one. You can "lose" if either your knife does not pierce the ground, or if you are too greedy and, with both feet in your own territory you can not reach far enough to carve out the new swath. Note for those wishing to play: Maxim swears that one-half of a broken pair of scissors is the preferable "weapon". (He tells me that's what they always used in Russia.)

The children also seem to think that playing on roofs is a perfectly natural pastime and that, in fact, roofs are intended for this. I have had six eyes staring blankly at me, registering nothing but confusion when I forbid removing the storm window to make it easier to play on the roof.

The other night the kids found a whole new realm for dangerous play. They placed a ladder in the middle of the backyard, and then grabbed an otherwise out-of-reach tree branch; then they'd jump off the ladder and swing around from the branch until their arms gave out. They told me that the "dangerous part" was possibly landing where a dog poopie had not yet been cleaned up. I guess!

Craig saw me not only watching this play, but even attempting to photograph it. (It was too dark, unfortunately.) "Are you letting them do that?" Well, yes, I admitted guiltily.

With these kids there is some feeling, I think, in the back of my mind, that God, Himself, is caring for them with a special care (or, perhaps he just assigned them particularly robust "Russian version" guardian angels). They kept safe, somehow, in a setting far riskier than the one they're in now, I guess I am thinking....so I'll not mess too much with success. They all seem to radiate confidence and coping ability. They take physical blows and scrapes with amazing equanimity. And they all win top marks on the fitness tests at school. I think their style of entertainment is healthy, rather than not. I guess I feel as though it is just too late to wrap them in cotton wool.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

WHAT GRIEF LOOKS LIKE

There are people in our lives that create a sort of background. We do not really "know" them, but for one reason or another we notice them.

For at least the last twenty some years there has been a family in our background. It is only coincidence that I know their name as their three daughters went through our parish school. I'll call them the "D" family.

I don't know why they were in our parish school. I don't really think they are churchgoing. I do not recall once laying eyes on them at church or at any other parish event. And, I would never recognize Mr. D. But Mrs. D and the three girls were strangely a part of our "background".

For one thing, Mrs. D is a long-time crossing guard on the corner near the school. But more than that, she and the girls seemed to be a peculiarly non-stop feature on the streets - usually within the mile or so around the school/church and their nearby house. But once or twice, even notably far afield. We hadn't been here long before we noticed them, and this is why: whatever the weather, this mother and the three blonde girls seemed to be always on the move. If they have a car, I've never seen them in it. But, we could not help but find vast amusement in the wide and every-changing variety of their other conveyances: mother pulling wagon with girls in it, mother riding bike and pulling girls in cart, all four on bikes, two tandem bikes, all four on roller skates, all on snow shoes, mother on snow shoes pulling girls on sled, all on cross country skis. As you might imagine, this became somewhat of a joke for us. We'd take bets on what transportation we'd see them using this time - as we always saw them! We really couldn't believe how we would see these people every time we drove out, whatever the time of day, from the dark before dawn to dusk. And if the girls were in school (after all of them were old enough) I'd always see the mother going somewhere somehow. Eventually, the girls one by one went on to HS and then college and then it was only the mother....still out and about, and still on the various conveyances.

The other ongoing source of comment for us, from time to time - not that we made a huge deal out of it (my older two are naturally polite), but for obvious reasons it seemed curious - was that the mom, despite this seemingly non-stop exercise, remained rather heavy. There were times when we'd see them coming and going and as we ran a few errands, a few times in-between - maybe four or five times in one day! I remember actually wondering when this woman would have time to eat....let alone shop and prepare food. And certainly, how could she eat enough to remain heavy, considering all that exercise???

What a funny little pasttime. Noticing, but not knowing. Taking light interest in people who seemed really rather cheerful.... It was like the attention we would pay to what color impatiens some household would plant along the street this year, or the new color on a certain home's shutters, or the huge hornets nest on the tree that, now tattered after the winter, still hangs oh-so-directly above the road. Just a tiny bit of interest.

But that changed earlier this year. One morning I read in the paper that the oldest of the three daughters was murdered in a hotel room in a far-away city. This non-descript girl who so docilely pedaled along, walked along, rolled along, rode along for all those years, through rain and snow, and under the sun, in what appeared to be such pleasant family unity....

The paper explained that she had gone with a friend to Las Vegas, got somehow involved with a stranger, and agreed to marry him for $5,000. No explanation as to why. So I ponder it, horrified. Thinking it all a joke? Just behaving in the foolish way young people do, but too foolishly. Because she took the man's money and left town. Somehow, later, she went to this other city and met him again. Why? Again, the paper gives no clue. To return the money? To apologize? Did her conscience trouble her? Did she maybe not have the money any longer? Did she tell him his plan was foolish anyway? Insult the very idea of marrying him? I cannot imagine any part of this scenario. Not any part. The trip to LV with a college friend. Only that seems reasonable. Believable. The rest is.....well, it is the stuff of the little articles on the "National" page of the paper....the ones that "grab" the attention of people not interested in politics, pollution or economics. One of those little articles that cause you comment to your spouse over coffee, and wonder, "how could anyone?..." but certainly not picturing anyone that wouldn't have seemed "cast" in such a tragic role from the beginning. Never envisioning a girl that could ever have been part of our own bright background.

I even thought - perhaps I was wrong. Perhaps I'd been fooled by a name that was not that uncommon. Maybe it wasn't her.

But now I know it was her. I am confident. I know because now I see her mother out again. Alone. And she is no longer heavy, "pleasingly plump". She does not appeat to be the same person at all. She is haggard. She is wasted. Perhaps she feels in the truest sense of the word, wasted. And I see with my eyes what grief will do. A grief that related as it is to humiliation, could not invite the support, encouragement and loving-kindness needed to sustain any parent through it. If anything but trust in God could sustain one through it.

Please say a prayer for what was once, a funny little family in our background. Please do.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

PEELING THE ONION

Anastasia on the day she was removed from her home

Anastasia, as I have mentioned, throws tantrums. Meltdowns. Whatever you want to call them, they are unpleasant at best. When she first came to us during the summer hosting program, she was one enormous tantrum! I am not sure to this day why we committed to her - not because of her charm! I t seemed to be God's will. Also, I suppose I had a sense of humor about it.

She is a pretty good girl most of the time, but after a couple of years of no tantrums, since Christmas she has been handing us a few again. Yesterday was one more. But this time, I think rather than just let the storm blow over, we looked it in the face. Aren't there people who chase tornadoes? Perhaps that is what I felt like.

Now, if you have two children with "abandonment issues" and they go to different schools and both schools get out at the same time - you have a problem. Most days we manage OK, but yesterday Craig could not pick up Maxim, and because not picking him up means he is standing out in front of the building, with good reason to feel abandoned, I went to pick him up. After school Anastasia can cross the driveway from the school to my office building - which is, as I have mentioned before, our "home away from home". Also, both Sergei and Zhenya are here, as well as adults that the children know and trust. There was no [sensible] reason for Anastasia to be overly upset that I was not here. Sometimes I am even over at the church when school lets out. It was not that extraordinary a circumstance....except that my car was gone, and when I got home with Maxim, he needed to talk, and Ilya needed attention - and it was an hour and a half later when I finally got back to work.

I could tell immediately that things were not good. If an upset child would act upset - wouldn't that be nice? But no - this upset child acts like the nastiest, most disrespectful, defiant little brat you can imagine. A pretty little girl, when upset she wears an extremely ugly snarl on her face. I was not back to the office five minutes before I realized that we need to up and run, so we could get home before the storm hit. So I hustled all three into the car and we did get home before all */#% broke loose.

Once there, in no time at all, Anastasia was like a terrified cat - hissing and spitting and hoping to scratch my eyes out. At least that's how it feels....she really does try to hurt me a bit - enough to make me feel her pain. I ignored her, which usually works, but yesterday she was whipping me in the face with her sweater, and trying to stamp on the tops of my feet. For some reason, I really couldn't take it. Sometimes I can ignore her. This time she was too far gone, really. Without knowing where this would lead I took her in a hold and we ended up on the floor. Craig held her feet and we just sat on the floor with her. She called us all the mean and nasty names she could think of. I thank heaven that I have some experience behind me, and sufficient self-esteem to take the hurt she can dish out. Finally she got into the "You're not my mother!" stage of things. That usually ends up with screaming, tears, and as her energy wanes we usually discover some sort of strategy to help her to calm herself. In this case, television.

After a bit she came close to where I was. Frankly, at the time I wished she hadn't; I was exhausted and really - sick of her. But I could see she needed holding. So, I took her in my lap and cuddled her and my affection for her resurfaced. But those "You're not my mother!" words were still resounding. For the first time, I addressed it head on. I said something like this:

Anastasia, do you know how much your mother loved you? I think maybe you don't. I know she loved you so much. But she had a kind of disease, where she couldn't stop drinking alcohol. It was all she wanted, she had to have it - but it made her a bad mother. Can you imagine how terrible that must have made her feel? To want to love her beautiful little girl, but not to be able to?

Frankly, I felt so led by the spirit that for the first time I really did put myself in her mother's place and couldn't help sobbing with the pain she must have felt. I could tell that Anastasia was actually understanding this and opening up to this new idea. I went on and on about what a dear, good, beautiful baby Anastasia was, what a pretty little girl - and how sad and sick her mother was not to be able to take good care of her...and her brothers. And I talked about the good and lovely qualities of each of her siblings, and how grieved her mother must have been to have been unable to love them right, tied down as she was by this awful disease. Anastasia cried; I cried. I felt so much release in her.

Then she surprised me. She brought up the family who had originally hosted her three years ago. She remembered so much of that, to my amazement. She came for a hosting program, and I am sure that the trip was very stressful for her little six year old self. She behaved so badly at their house (though I must say that their strategies seemed guaranteed to make her as bad as she could be - forcing her to sit on the toilet, physically forcing her to make her bed - were two I remember the woman telling me about). Anyway, Anastasia asked why they did not love her? Why did that mommy leave her? And, they had said we were their friends - why did we never see them, then???

I was completely taken off guard by this one! She had spent only four - five days at this house when our agency called to see if we would like to "meet" her. I met them at a McDonalds, and was amazed when it turned out they had all her things packed and were putting them in the back of my van! I wasn't ready for that at all! But, I didn't realize that she had thought much about those people or that experience. Back then, she had nothing good to say about them - she seemed to only remember the "mean" things that she perceived they'd done to her, and how frightened she'd been in a big bed in a room all by herself in the dark. Once with us, she was extremely upset that they had not sent along all the "nice" clothes they'd given her, instead delivering her to me with just what she'd brought from Russia. So now I realized that nearly four years later that whole episode still haunts her - and that she ties it in to her mother's original abandonment (which was not once and for all, but many and varied over the years). But I think that her experience with that family fit into the "pattern" she'd seen in her little life. The person who says they'll love you and mother you, abandons you.

Little surprise that she was unhappy to arrive at the office from school to find "no mommy". I wonder sometimes how I can be so clueless.

But after the whole exhausting experience, I began to feel like one seeing some clear sky after a storm. I felt like some cleansing had taken place. I was very glad that we had opened up that subject together. I'd love to think that she was "healed" - that all would be well. But the image came into my mind of an onion. I expect that we peeled just one layer....and there will be many, many more to go. And there will be tears.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

THE BEST GIFT EVER!!

A friend of mine went to Russia for a first visit with their daughter's sister, whom they plan to adopt. She brought me back the COOLEST present! If I had known such a thing existed, I would have been seriously wanting it - but since I didn't know I was happily surprised, as well as having this unmet need gratified!

I hope that you can make out the details in the photo - can't be sure - but this is a little cabinet of Russian spices. I meant to make a list, but I can't make them all out myself in the photo. There is dried parsley, red pepper, marjoram, a curry powder, and some others - even salt and pepper.

What a delight to see Ilya's excitement to get this. You will recall that he is my little gourmand, and seems to have an interest in cooking, as well as some real ability in a few areas. He was practically jumping up and down to see all these things - and authoritatively giving me information (more than I could take in) about using them. Especially cute is his assurance that (Yeah, mom!) that even that salt and pepper are absolutely superior to anything available in the United States. Oddly, I almost agree. The pepper (to my surprise - I guess I rather expected it to be stale) is really extremely flavorful. The salt, likewise, is interesting as it is somewhat more course than what we are accustomed to.

Anyway, I get such a charge out of using these; I pace myself, knowing that my next trip to Russia won't be anytime soon. I also love just seeing them in the kitchen....reminds me of my "other home".

Sunday, June 1, 2008

WATCH WHAT YOU YELL

One of the other ladies here at church recently went to meet her son. He is in the navy and his ship was arriving in Boston after a tour of duty in the Middle East. The arrival was beautiful, the USO did a great job of creating a welcome, including having a band which played. My friend who is not shy, wanted to express her thanks so she yelled out, across the wide intervening space, "THANK YOU, USO!" She immediately noticed that instead of appearing pleased or gratified, the band conductor looked around with a frown. Now. To understand this, you have to imagine yourself yelling those words across a distance.... When you do, you will understand what he thought he heard. I don't know why this cracks me up so much, but it does.

This same friend recently saw one of the gentlemen walking into the office, having just bought himself a large vanilla ice cream cone. In an attempt to be jaunty, she called out - "Everyone hold him down so we can lick his cone." She was not prepared for the snorts and attempts at restrained laughter that followed.

I have to be grateful that I'm not quite so impetuous!