Friday, September 26, 2008


Do you know what? Contrary to every expectation, we clearly are getting better "services" here in our little Catholic school than we ever thought of getting in the public school. I was just reading a post by another adoptive mom, struggling to get appropriate services for her son, and realized that I am very fortunate.

I struggled and struggled when the children were in public school. Everyone was glowingly kind. In so many ways it was a lovely school. Teachers and staff were helpful, interested. Yes; they'd all admit that each of my children needed some extra help to catch up to their peers, but what it seemed to boil down to is that all the criteria they are required to use are aimed at diagnosed learning disabilities, or at ESL students who are speaking fluently in their native language at home with their parents.

The unique problems of older adopted children are not on their charts - which causes them to blink blankly and look confused, and go through their papers again and again, bring in other specialists (such as the Speech and Language lady) that might be able to squeeze my children into their set of parameters, promise to call downtown, and fribble and frabble and nothing much (of true value, and APPROPRIATE) ever happens for our children. It is clear they need some help, but at this point common sense flies out of the window and they delve into their handbooks again helpless to find what they want to find there.

Of course there were the ESL classes, but however "sweet", they were just a "vacation from class" for my kids, aimed as they were for "short term" ESL kids - children of migrant workers, or children of university students....all of whom had normal language development because they spoke fluently at home with their families, and who (in the case of most of the university kids) spent evenings doing their "real" schoolwork in their own language. Reading a story book and doing an activity about American culture a couple of times a week does not fluency make. Eventually (after a year of it) Sergei begged not to have to go to ESL because it just resulted in him getting further behind in his "real" class. What he needed (in MHO) was an aide to sit with him and assist him for at least part of the day...but that was not in their list of possible assistance.

I finally decided to bring my children here to the parish school for a couple of reasons. One was simply logistics - but based on the public schools' seeming disregard for parents [all parents]: They have a K-4 building, a 5-6 building, a 7-9 building and High School. If you have children in each of those buildings, as I would, there is obviously no way you can ever manage to "pop in" and touch base with their teachers on a daily, or even frequent, basis. (Particularly since there is little possibility of even parking at these buildings before or after school.) Furthermore, there was no way I could any longer afford to spend over an hour and a half on drop-off and pick-up each day. But, the clincher was the absolute refusal to hold Zhenya back a grade. Even when he scored at the bottom of his class on every measurement. Even when we did the bone scan and found out that he was at least a year, if not two, younger than we originally thought he was. Even when it was clear to everyone that he is bright, but behind. Even when I pointed out that he spent his kindergarten year, not learning the letter sounds, but just learning to live in this new environment.

Nope. "Research shows it doesn't make a difference!" But.....! What about common sense!!! One of their chief criterion was "he is learning and making progress".... As though learning and making progress means he is in the right setting! I pointed out that he would undoubtedly "learn and make progress" if he were to sit in the office all day - or stay in kindergarten, or enjoy the high school environment! He's a bright, interested child and would learn something in any setting! But is this setting the best for him? Is he progressing as well as he might? Didn't they suppose that always being the one who didn't "get it", or the one who got the worst grade wouldn't impact his self-image at some point?

We moved to our parish school last year. There are clearly some delicate situations that arise due to my also working here, but it is really the BEST situation for the children. The school trusted me to decide on the grade that would be best for Zhen. And, he repeated second grade. It was such a good decision. Instead of being at the bottom of his class, he is in the middle, and improving all the time. Furthermore - he is in with children who are developmentally at the same stage as he is.

But I have been really impressed with the help I am being given with the older boys, Ilya and Sergei. The counselor put together a "staffing"this past Wednesday after school and all of the boys' teachers spent over an hour with me talking about strategies to help them achieve. I was really impressed with the way these teachers worked together to come up with some ideas for helping both Sergei and Ilya get more out of school. Furthermore, I got the feeling that the teachers sincerely care for each of them. What more can you ask??? For them to freely offer time after school, during lunch and during planning periods? I got that too!


I decided to try the Quiz that Kate suggested. I usually think these things are dumb, but this one made me laugh - especially the first part - after what I just posted below. So, take it with a grain of salt, folks! Actually, this IS me. Except for a couple of things. I honestly don't think anyone would call me "selfish" or "grumpy" - except very rarely. Certainly not a personality trait!

What Anniekitching Means
You are usually the best at everything ... you strive for perfection.
You are confident, authoritative, and aggressive.
You have the classic "Type A" personality.

You are very intuitive and wise. You understand the world better than most people.
You also have a very active imagination. You often get carried away with your thoughts.
You are prone to a little paranoia and jealousy. You sometimes go overboard in interpreting signals.

You tend to be pretty tightly wound. It's easy to get you excited... which can be a good or bad thing.
You have a lot of enthusiasm, but it fades rather quickly. You don't stick with any one thing for very long.
You have the drive to accomplish a lot in a short amount of time. Your biggest problem is making sure you finish the projects you start.

You are friendly, charming, and warm. You get along with almost everyone.
You work hard not to rock the boat. Your easy going attitude brings people together.
At times, you can be a little flaky and irresponsible. But for the important things, you pull it together.

You are a seeker of knowledge, and you have learned many things in your life.
You are also a keeper of knowledge - meaning you don't spill secrets or spread gossip.
People sometimes think you're snobby or aloof, but you're just too deep in thought to pay attention to them.

You are a seeker. You often find yourself restless - and you have a lot of questions about life.
You tend to travel often, to fairly random locations. You're most comfortable when you're far away from home.
You are quite passionate and easily tempted. Your impulses sometimes get you into trouble.

You are very open. You communicate well, and you connect with other people easily.
You are a naturally creative person. Ideas just flow from your mind.
A true chameleon, you are many things at different points in your life. You are very adaptable.

You are truly an original person. You have amazing ideas, and the power to carry them out.
Success comes rather easily for you... especially in business and academia.
Some people find you to be selfish and a bit overbearing. You're a strong person.

You are deeply philosophical and thoughtful. You tend to analyze every aspect of your life.
You are intuitive, brilliant, and quite introverted. You value your time alone.
Often times, you are grumpy with other people. You don't appreciate them trying to interfere in your affairs.


My pew.

My hymnal.
My parish.
My job.
Or so I thought. Foolishly.
How confident we get that we have control over things. Especially if, like me, you are a really "good girl". You always aim to please....even like St. Paul to be "all things to all men".
I'm thrasing around all right - in the sea of unknowing. In the lake of fear. In the well of insecurity. I know the only One who can pull me out, but I'm afraid to grab his hand yet.... As long as I continue to thrash I guess I feel like I'm in charge of my fate. I don't want to grab that hand, because I do not know where I'll be when God pulls me out of this. I fear detachment. I fear renunciation.
Perhaps I won't have a job anymore. Perhaps I won't be in this fact, perhaps I will be sent away feeling nothing but humlity and shame. Perhaps I won't be able to cope with the idea that the Church I loved and trusted trusted threw me into this deep abyss to begin with. And no one seems to care. No one seems to care any more than if I'd worked for twenty years for some mega-corporation renouned for being heartless and cold. Perhaps I won't feel at home in this pew. Anger doesn't come easily to me, and so these feelings rising within me are so confusing.
My colleague came in yesterday from a meeting with the pastor to relay the following update:
1) Around January some committee will have decided what positions the new, merged parish wil need.
2) We will be have the opportunity to apply for these positions. (Nice of them!) Applicants will be judged on: Their qualifications for the position (imagine being told I am not qualified for a job I have done for twenty years.) How well they will fit into this new parish. (Wouldn't it be lovely to be told that I don't belong in my own parish?) Finally, how well they will fit in with the rest of the "new" staff.
All in all, it seems like these criteria make it possible to oust any or all of us, however popular or successful we've been - particularly if the rest of the staff is the staff from the other parish.
This coming week we are supposed to attend a full-day workshop in another city entitled, "Agents of Change". Can they truly expect that people who fear the "change" they are "agents of" may ruin their lives and the lives of their children, go cheerily to such a conference?
I suppose I will hold my head up and try not to give into despair. The problem is that I am beginning to feel so offended, hurt and disregarded by this whole process, that if there is any way I can leave here with my home in tact, I will do it. The difficulty is the need to support my family and the need to maintain security for my children. But can I do it in "my" parish when it no longer is mine?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


You get your strokes where you can. I am told that I am now a "VIP Tutor" with my Korean company. That means they think I am an especially good tutor. Now, I wonder if they charge more for my services (without paying me any more, of course!) It hardly makes sense for them to label me a "VIP Tutor" and leave it "first come, first served" for the students.

I also got another shocking piece of news regarding this part-time avocation of mine. Come November and the end of Daylight Savings workday will begin at 4 a.m.! I was struck dumb, I can tell you. This will certainly be a motivator for me to get the children (and myself) to bed early!

Saturday, September 20, 2008


I was just reading Christine's latest post about disruption. It reminded me of a little game I play. Sometimes I'll be stuck waiting - at a store, or at the school....and I'll pretend that I have to go live with the next person that comes out. Play it.
I am sure you will find, as I have, that while you may enjoy most people's company, even like most people, that when it comes right down to sharing a table with them, rubbing elbows in the bathroom, eating food they've prepared, seeing their dirty laundry, climbing into the shower right after them, etc. - you would not relish the idea of going home with just anyone.
This bizarre pastime stemmed from my thinking about children, waiting for adoptive parents. Imagine. You have no idea what sort of people they'll be, how they'll smell, what sort of habits they have - fastidious and fussy all the way to slovenly. Yet, you are thrown together with them. Forever. I have come to feel, through this odd little game, amazment that adoption works as well as it does! Sometimes I think, there is just a "wrong" fit. Picture the mother cow accepting or rejecting an orphan calf. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't. And it doesn't mean there is necessarily anything wrong with the calf or the cow. Just a mismatch.
I am personally familiar with several disruption stories that have very happy endings. I will share one, because it is so clear that things worked out the way they were always meant to. An acquaintance (L.) and her husband wanted to host two children. The little boy was available, but the little girl whose photo they picked had already been selected by another family. They hosted the boy, and at some of the events associated with the hosting they met the little girl (Anya). In person they were as attracted to Anya as they had been from the photo - more so! And it turned out, coincidentally, that the eventual adoptive father of Anya worked across the street from L.. So the famlies connected, and did several things together after the children had come home from Russia. L. continued to be drawn to Anya and Anya clearly enjoyed L, gravitating towards her as children will often do with an adult they like. Although when they were all together, Anya appeared to be a sweet little girl (who played beautifully with L's son Sasha) all did not seem to be going well at Anya's house. Eventually, it came clear that Anya and her family were not making a "go" of it. Her parents never ceased to express doubts about her, share their frustrations and irritation. They also did not seem to have realized that their lives would bo so disrupted by the addition of a child. They hadn't considered fully the implications of Anya's school with their own vacation schedules and outside interests. They hadn't considered how tired they were at the end of their work days and how used they'd been to "suiting themselves" about what they did after work. They were clearly unhappy and Anya was clearly becoming unhappy, too. L. found out through the hosting agency that Anya's parents were actually considering a disruption. Of course L. and her husband were more than happy to take this little girl that they had never ceased being drawn to. Problem. Anya's parents didn't like giving up. They didn't like feeling like failures. They didn't like the humiliation. They didn't want to harm the child by rejecting her, when they honestly realized the whole fiasco was their own fault. They dreaded the shame. They didn't know how to tell people. Until L. shared the whole story with me I'd never fully considered the horror that disruption would be for the disrupting family. The money they'd spent, the excitement generated among family and friends, the looks of disgust and revulsion from people who can't imagine why they'd do such a thing. The real feelings they had for the child. The fear that the child would be irrevocably damaged through their actions....
Yet, in this case, disruption was a beautiful, wonderful thing. Those disrupting parents did the best thing, the loving thing, for that little girl. At least once a year I see L., her husband and their beloved children, Anya and Sasha at the agency picnic. At first, before I knew them I was confused because Anya is the spitting image of her new adoptive mama. She is clearly a happy little girl, chatty, funny and a child who adores her mother. L. believes that it was always God's plan for Anya to be their child.... Why it ended up being such a strange journey no one can say, but God sometimes writes straight with crooked lines.
Another realization that I had related to this situation, is how the adoptive parents - unless they are giants of virtue - will want to "blame" the disruption on the child. It is the natural human tendency, I suppose. So, almost always it is going to seem to be the child who is the "problem" in a disruption and not the parents. Yet, taking on a child is a huge responsitility and challenge. Not everyone has thought it out very well; not everyone is up to it. And, perhaps there is simply that mismatch. Failure to bond. Sadly, always blamed on the child..... Perhaps some adults aren't cut out to bond with children! And perhaps the pieces just aren't in the right puzzle.

Friday, September 19, 2008


No matter how dark things seem. I still have these dear children to love, and they still find fun in everything.

I was a little depressed at last weekend's "Ministry Fair". Being required to spend the greater part of my waking hours in the school gym "selling" opportunities that I might not even be a part of got me down a bit. But I could have the kids (who wanted to be there) with Zhen and Anastasia ran around the gym with a new variety of friends after every Mass.

And on Sunday night, Zhen collected all the balloons.

Despite the fact that my batteries were dead I did manage to get one photo. Now there was a photo opportunity wasted.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


My colleague and I both laughed in a disheartened way to realize we had both seen this "button" month after month in our diocesan magazine and neither of us had thought it had a thing to do with us.

After all our parish is large, healthy....we had no reason to even read those articles.

How wrong we were.

Our parish - the one where I have worked for 23 years - the one where my children were baptized, where my older two more or less lived their childhood.... My parish is merging with another parish - the erstwhile student center. Where do I begin? Perhaps it is the sheer enormity of this change to every aspect of my life that leaves me nearly speechless.

Just personally... this is where I go to church! This is where I spend the greater number of my waking hours. How can it be torn out from under me? Changed completely?

As I look ahead I see dark days. Already several families have left in disgust. "The" issue for the average parishioner is that our parish has always been very conservative - orthodox - traditional. The student parish, as you can imagine, has gone the other direction. I hate disharmony!

But all of those things are nothing really....neither is the prospect of a year ahead with meeting after stressful meeting, many held at night when I want to be home with my children.... What has me terrified, walking around with a knot in my stomach, fighting snappishness and anger.... is that my pastor told me that "a committee" will decide what staff people will be needed for the new parish and I will have the chance to apply for the job. Waves of nausea flow over me as I write this. We rely, absolutely rely on my salary to get by.

With fear and trembling I asked my pastor.... well, let's say I applied for a job in the new parish. Let's say I got it - would I have the same salary that I have now? He didn't know. He couldn't say.

Our parish is unique in having three staff people who have been here for over twenty years. Most people in my position statistically last for 2-3 years! But I have built this program up over all this time. I feel that I have become truly capable. For years I felt like I was "faking it" in some way...not really fully in control. But in the last few years I have realized that I feel confident; I know what I am doing, and we have a really excellent program. But it is all hanging by a thread now. All that I have done. All the work I did when I probably should have been home reading my children to sleep. I try not to be dramatic, but it does feel like my life's work is on the chopping block. That it really didn't matter all that much.

And I can get no more information than what I've shared with you. No more comfort. No bit of encouragement, or assurance that I matter. But I don't need my feelings assuaged as much as I need to know that my family is safe.

So, that's why I haven't written too much lately. Since I found out a month or so ago, my heart has been too distressed. Oh! The announcement this week? The pastor of this new parish will be the pastor of the student center. There went my stomach again.


My feeling is that delivering papers in a downpour has to be just about as bad as it gets....the exception being a really cold downpour.
We had to deliver papers this past weekend during an absolute deluge. The boys were all wet through. Even though I was in the car (calling out which houses to deliver to) I got really wet, because I had to have the windows open in order to give my instructions.
As we rounded the streets I ran across a number of these little "fountains" - something I've never seen before. Unfortunately about the time I was taking this photo, Sergei called out "it smells like a bathroom out here!" making me realize that this was an area where the big "sewer separation" program has not yet reached. Yuck.
I am not exactly looking forward to "doing papers" in the snow, but from my memory of doing a much smaller route with Sergei years ago, it was actually easier than being wet. You just put on all your warmest clothes and move fast.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


I would not have believed this if it hadn't happened to me.

On Saturday morning I was scheduled to present a three-hour "Protecting God's Children" session at our church. This requires me to stand in front of a room full of people being authoritative. Now, my major in college (one of them) was Theater. I figure I have made a fool of myself in front of people so many times that what's one more? So I really do not have the "dread of public speaking" that many do.

BUT, however confident I am about my ability to present the material effectively, I am not that confident about my appearance. So I get up plenty early to get ready.

Problem one: New stockings run mammothly while I am removing them from the wrapper. OK. Good thing I have plenty of time to run to the 24 hour Walgreens to buy a new pair.

Problem two: My hair is dripping. I am speechless. My hairdryer does not work. No. Whatever I try. However many little red buttons I push. My hairdryer does not work! OK. Don't panic. There is the other one, kept at the office for emergencies. All right. Towel dry hair, get ready except for stockings, go to Walgreens. Go to office and complete getting ready.

Problem three: I arrive at Walgreens with a bright new idea! I'll buy a new hairdryer! However, at the checkout (after having spent valuable time choosing a replacement model) I realize Craig has my charge card. I am, however [happy day!] able to scrape together enough change to buy the store brand of nylons.

Problem four: The really unbelievable, I am now in the twilight zone, problem. The hairdryer which I keep at the office, the hairdryer which I used only the day before! Yes! The day before! It does not work either. I begin to doubt the electricity - but - no think clearly! All other applicances both at home and at the office are working.

So. I have to do my presentation with half dry, unstyled, frizzy hair. Fortunately, my presentation style does [usually] rely on a bit of self-deprecating humor. A "bit" which my students undoubtedly thought was not nearly enough as I stood before them looking like a bag lady. Oh, well.

The by-word for my life lately is HUMILITY. As you will future installments.


Perhaps I need to start by making it clear that this behavior on Maxim's part is not the usual thing. There are a couple of issues that are like bare nerves for him, and one of them is being "left". In some sense I think we are really doing a sort of therapeutic foster care. I feel as though our goal is to help him work through these things.

I certainly can understand why people would feel that some sort of discipline is a better answer. However, one thing we discovered the first year he was with us was that if I reacted to these incidents in the way I'd react with any of my other children (save Anastasia, also dealing with early trauma), then it was like pouring kerosene on a fire. He is not in his right mind at these times. When a person is overwhelmed with fear, they can't think clearly (so anything I said to him at that time was wasted, really). I needed to be quiet and calm so he could calm down.

NOTE: Here I initially inserted Maxim's story. It is important to understanding him. But I decided, that despite the fact that in this blog I use his original Russian name (which he does not use in real life), I did include his photo in the it would be better not to include his private history.

Curiously, writing this post and trying to see it from others' point of view, I was sitting at my desk yesterday wondering if I should respond differently to such events, when Sergei came in from school and said, looking at the corner of my office, "That's sure a big spider!" Now, I have a true phobia regarding spiders. When I see one - espcially a BIG one, especially in "my space" (rather than outdoors) I am not able to think. I lept up from my desk, screaming/babbling that he "get it! get it!"! meanwhile throwing the whole stack of first grade lesson plans that I had just run off, across the room as I made haste to escape. Sergei "got it", but if he had not understood my panic, I may well have accelerated in an angry way to get him to GET THAT SPIDER out of there! I've done it with my husband in the past, for sure.

How silly I felt later, picking up the papers. Yet, the whole incident seemed to me an answer from God that, no. Maxim is out of his own control at times like this. He let me see what "out of control" felt like for a minute, just so I'd remember.

Also, we have made good progress on this very issue previously. I ignore him when he is in the throws of hysteria and later, when he's calm, try to tenderly discuss it. I want him to try to understand what is going on. Now, most of the time, if I'm late (and sadly, I have a "tendency" that way), he'll say, "Mrs. Kitching! Why do you do this? You know I have a thing about it! You know I hate it when you're late." That's why I was a bit surprised, even though I'd sensed more anxiety in him about it the past couple of days.

Here is why, I think. I believe Maxim overheard our distressed discussions about the fact that Oakland County (Detroit area) who legally have custody of him, are talking about moving him back there. We have gotten a Court Ordered Special Advocate in on the case, but I think Maxim overheard what was going on, because he was home sick when the CASA representative came to talk to us. So, he does feel more threatened than he has felt in a long time. I am just exhausted by it all.

When Maxim is rude or disobedient like a normal kid, we discipline him like a normal kid. But these attacks of rage and panic don't seem to be a discipline issue.

PS As regards the windshield. Unfortunately (because I would have seen paying for that as accountability, like me picking up all the papers I threw), we had some vandalism the week before, and my windshield already had a small crack in it...that I thought I could "wait on" a bit. But that little crack was enough to cause Maxim's kick to do the damage it did. I could tell that Maxim was surprised himself, as he has kicked the windshield before without breaking it. Anyway, I don't feel quite right about making him pay the whole cost, anyway.

We've not had our "talk" about it yet, as he came down with the flu and has been in bed.

Friday, September 12, 2008


As previously mentioned (I think), all my children get out of school at 3. Fortunately, I have the freedom in my job to work 60 hours a week, oh - sorry - to leave work to take them home. The problem is that Maxim with his abandonment issues [that are no joke however much it may sound like one] is really serious when he asks me to be there the moment he gets out of school.

The problem is that if my work (at the same site as the younger kids' school) is POINT A, and our house is POINT C, then Maxim's school is POINT B. It makes no logical sense whatsoever to leave here, go pick Maxim up, and come back here for the other children, then drive past Maxim's school again on the way home. So, on Thursday I risked it. I hurriedly rounded up those who wanted to go home, Sergei and Ilya, and scooted over to Maxim's school, arriving at 3:09. Anxiety caused me to check the clock.

Maxim was not waiting. We sat there in the hot sun for fifteen minutes - no Maxim. Anxiety began to assail me. Where was he? Usually he doesn't come out for five minutes or so, so by my reckoning he should have been waiting for us, but not yet angry. However, at about 3:30, twenty minutes into our wait, the other boys did, indeed, begin to get fractious. Sergei moved into whine mode, Ilya began to mutter rude Russian words.

Well. What to do? Perhaps Maxim got angry and started to walk home? After only ten minutes? Well....he's not here! So my mind ranged around, and when Ilya's muttering got louder I did think that it was not reasonable to make those two boys sit there any longer for...what? No idea where Maxim was! And anyway (back full circle) perhaps he started to walk and we'll see him on the way. So I decided to run the boys home, using the "walking route" and then, if we didn't see Maxim, come back to the school. Which I did...stopping only to run into the house to see if he'd called.

When I got back to the school, I did not see him. Experiencing my Korean-related desire for a nap, I put my head on the wheel and began to doze off in the sun when WHAM!!! The door of the car flew open and I was treated to out-of-control screaming, yelling, slamming. The B and the F word flung in my direction at a decibal level that honestly hurt my ears. [I really don't know how he can yell that loud!] I tried to be calm. Foolishly tried to explain our end of things. Eventually, decided to leave the parking lot lest teachers hear this altercation. Initially I said that if he didn't quiet down Iwouldn't take him home....I headed toward my office where Anastasia and Zhen were doing homework and (by now) undoubtedly waiting for me. But Maxim's continued yelling and swearing led me to think that a parish office was not the place to take him, and I started home via the freeway. Soon, however, Maxim's anger escalated and he began to throw things around the car, and bang his hand against the dash, etc. I was fearful I couldn't drive safely, so I put the hazard lights on and pulled over. He kept yelling and screaming and then kicking. Thus, the illustration for this blog - my windshield.

I was really wishing a police officer would pull over to see what was wrong, as that would have had a calming effect! But no, and when my vision of the headlines about our death when rammed on the freeway by some SUV going 80 became stronger than my anxiety about his behavior, I headed out again and finally got home.

Maxim would not recognize that I did my best in a difficlut situation. He would not see that, far from abandoning him, everything I did was for him, and thinking about him.

After he got home he apparently went upstairs on a full head of steam and verbally attacked Ilya and Sergei, who he felt were the cause of everything. He took Sergei's water bottle and slammed it at the wall above his head. He said that we pulled away when he was running after the van - and furthermore, that one of the boys looked back, saw him, and laughed.

Even "trusting Annie" does not believe this. To begin with, had that been the case he would have told me that immediately. Secondly, I looked back, all around, and left the school very slowly. Our track star would definitely have caught us. Finally, this "tale" sounded so oddly familiar. A month or so ago, he accused Lydia of leaving him at school as he ran after the car. She didn't think this could possibly have been the case then, either.

So, I come to the conclusion, that this image of us driving away - leaving him, as he runs behind. Of one of the other kids turning, laughing. This is the fear that is seared on Maxim's soul.

Poor boy. Yet. Can I live like this? Can I put up with this sort of harrassment? Can I allow him to do this to my other children?

I am doing my best with Maxim. But this level of anxiety is hard to deal with day in, day out. My best may just not be good enough.

PS - Note to self. Get cell phone repaired!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


It can be a very difficult thing to have a dog that resembles a pit bull. Rosie is actually, according to the vet, a Staffordshire Terrier....the dog which most resembles a pit bull. An acquaintance said that in Germany these are called "nanny dogs" because they are so loving and protective of their families.

Rosie is our nanny dog, for sure. Every night she makes the rounds, going from room to room, bed to bed to make sure everyone is safe and secure. Her preference is to sleep on one of our beds, but you can see her worrying about which one. If she doesn't choose ours, that is fine with me, because, frankly - she takes up too much room for my taste! But the children all vie for her favors, and it has generated a fight or two, I must admit. Of course if someone is upset - Rosie is immediately there to do her best to comfort whomever. She is really a jewel of a dog.

She does her best to communicate. On her own she learned to get our attention to go out by shaking her collar, so the little tags ring. And if you offer her the chance to go out, and she doesn't care to, she'll tell you so by stretching her legs out in front of her and leaning back. She never just leaps onto or off of a bed. She understands that it will shake the sleepers, so she carefully inches her way to the floor. She is a clever, good girl.

One year, for Christmas, we gave Sergei a series of Obedience Training lessons. I went along and was a bit worried that she might attack some other dog. Just goes to show how little I knew Rosie! The other dogs were all small. In fact a couple of them were "teacup" breeds. But Rosie was so anxious and fearful being around these other dogs, that she couldn't even manage to eat the treats we had brought, and which were supposed to be her motivation. The trainer couldn't believe this and offered her own treats. No go. Rosie had completely lost her appetite. And this continued for the whole series. She did get over her quivering, and learned some basic commands but she did not enjoy the canine company!

So. It is a little odd to experience prejudice....even when it is only on behalf of your dog! I shared a photo of Sergei hugging Rosie with our adoption agency for their website, and our agency said they got calls when people saw it on their site - how could they allow a child to be adopted to a family with a pit bull! When Rosie is sitting in the window, or looking out the screen door, we can sit in the living room and hear people walking by comment on that "dangerous dog". It is worse if we try to walk her! I feel that people are expecting me to approach them about a nice little drug deal. Parents push their children behind them, or pick them up in their arms with disapproving expressions. It is honestly so embarrassing that we have stopped taking her out. She has to satisfy herself with the back yard. Poor Rosebud.

Saturday, September 6, 2008


To my absolute amazement I am not suffering as much as I had expected getting up every morning at 4:30 to teach my Korean students. In fact, it isn't bad. Well, it isn't bad at 4:30 in the morning. For the first time in my life however, I suddenly understand the whole idea of people needing a "pick me up" or a snack to "keep them going" in the afternoon. I'd never really understood that concept before. Because never before in my life have I not gotten enough sleep. Never pulled an "all-nighter". Never "burned the midnight oil".... Never felt any lack of energy at 4:30 in the afternoon. Can't quite say the same these days.
I was expecting, when I did the "image search" for spicus (the company I work for) that I'd get that little orange head and the words. This image of the Korean fellow - stuck up because of his prowess in English? - that's new to me.
My students are actually lovely and humble. I honestly enjoy them all so much. They are nearly all important people, and yet they are unendingly respectful to their humble little English teacher. One is the speech-writer for the head of a major conglomerate. One of my favorite gentleman is an engineer - the designer of a lightweight missile, cherished by the Korean navy. But they are all provided these phone-English lessons by their companies and they take them very seriously. This week one of my students was in a restaurant having dinner with the vice- president of his company - yet he took my call.
One of my most surprising and enjoyable tasks was re-writing a letter to someone in Iran titled "Your Excellency". I was glad to be able to prevent my friend from writing to "Dear Your Excellency" among other improvements.
Every morning before I make my first call, I try to remember how I feel in Russia. How frustrating, frightening, befuddling it can feel to only understand a percentage of what someone is saying. That helps me empathize with my students, I think. My students can say quite amusing things, but oddly I don't ordinarily pick up on it because I am so attuned to their struggles, I guess. There was an exception the other morning when our outline touched on snacks found at sporting events. My student was discussing how much he liked baseball and so I asked what he liked to eat while watching a baseball game. His response was "dried ocean materials". I have to confess this phrase did strike me funny. Even when it was finally revealed that he enjoys eating dried fish at the baseball game, the whole vision is just too startling not to be amusing.
Craig is teaching Korean students, too. He takes a shift after mine. So the other morning while I was preparing breakfast, I heard him say, "Human waste?" ....... "Oh, human excrement!"...."Oh, so your saying, it tastes much better with human excrement...!" You can imagine that as soon as he got off the phone, I found out what that was about!
OK. I did think about not telling. But it isn't quite as alarming as it might initially sound. Apparently on a certain island there is a famous barbecue dish. And the item in question is placed on the fire? I think. Something like that. I'm not putting this place on my "must visit" list, I'll confess.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Ilya in Moscow on Sept. 1 - "Moscow Day"

A year ago, we were in Russia. This weekend I experienced really powerful longing to be there again. Almost angst. Last year we were on our "honeymoon" with Ilya. He was adopted on August 26. We didn't come home until September 6.

I can't say enough about how I have valued the time that Craig and I have spent in Russia alone with each of our adopted children. It is such a valuable margin, allowing a less stressful transition to being part of our family. And I think it has been good for both the children and us.

The time with Ilya was a bit different. We had not been in Russia for 24 hours when Craig tripped over one of the raised iron "grids" that seem to be in front of every door. He seriously twisted his knee and was in pain for the rest of the trip. For that reason, the week in Ivanovo and the week in Moscow allowed me and Ilya to spend a great deal of quality time together. I rejoiced in his sweet, protective manner. What a peach! And I think that I had more fun in Russia last year than ever before. [Wait! That sounds bad - it wasn't because Craig was laid up! No, probably because we had more free time and I wasn't as nervous as I've been previously.]

Craig, shortly before unfortunate accident.

Ilya and I headed out together - exploring. Perhaps the fact that he was a savvy little street urchin didn't come amiss. Below is a lady selling Russian sunflower many varieties - and very tasty!

In Ivanovo, we toured the city - Ilya didn't mind some Church visits, in fact he was quite anxious that I see this one - called the "Red Church".

We stopped at a place much like a McDonalds (in fact, called "Mac Masters") - but what a difference! This is the best chicken I have had in my life - cooked to order!

In Moscow, we had the most tremendous time! Exploring hither and the spirit moved us. One beautiful, sunny day we took the boat trip down the Moscow River. I had to snap this photo as we went by this bright billboard proclaiming the city's love for children.

Our friends, Alla and Sergei, fulfilled one of my lifetime dreams by taking us to see Tolstoy's home. I still put myself to sleep at nights trying to "re-see" the house in my mind. What a deeply moving experience (can you tell I love Tolstoy?).

We also visited the famous Children's center "Detski Mir" and shared in the birthday party of Alla and Sergei's son, Andrei.

Me (looking awful), Alla and Alla's older children.

We also went to the circus, and to several lovely historical and holy places:

I brought away so many lovely memories and impressions. But, of course, the best thing we brought away with us is our dear son, Ilya.

P.S. Don't ever expect more than one photo again. Why is adding pictures such a challenge???

Monday, September 1, 2008


Every so often you hear of parents of adoptive children killing them. As some of you may know, if you live in Russia you hear about it all the time! Americans are renowned there for abusing adopted children. Obviously, we know that it happens oh-so-rarely, but certain Russians in this political climate use every instance as a major publicity campaign.

And, it does happen. That it does not happen more often, is perhaps the surprise.

Why? Because I have come to realize that I am beyond fortunate. The region in Russia from which we adopted our crew is one that has chosen to allow their very "best" children to be adopted. By "best" I mean those children who are brightest, most well-behaved, most emotionally and psychologically balanced. I have come to learn, through various support groups that not all regions are like that. In fact, from what I have heard, some regions seem to present their most difficult children for adoption. And then, there are so many people who are anxious to adopt children as young as possible, before they can really tell what the child is like, and even toddlers may have experienced the sort of early trauma that ends up causing the child and their parents significant grief because of the resulting attachment disorders.

Because the behaviors that result from attachment disorders can be so varied, this disorder is both over-diagnosed and under-diagnosed, it seems to me. And, as I read somewhere - the diagnosis itself is really not all that helpful. You still need to deal with the behaviors. And so many adoptive parents (including foster parents and those adopting domestically) are trying to do this using an array of "discipline techniques" that are either intended for children who are basically at peace with themselves and deeply attached to their parents, or techniques that, to my mind, miss the point.

As any reader of this blog may have discerned my Maxim has had, since arriving in the US, enough trauma to impact his behavior and make parenting him a bit of a challenge on occasion. You may also have noticed that God has blessed me with a sense of humor and eternal optimism that has helped me immeasurably. Also, I am amazingly fortunate in having had a wonderfully loving childhood. People who have had their own trauma to deal with often have a much more difficult time coping with their children's pain.

Anyway, even with all these "head starts", I have found that the support Heather Forbes and her "Beyond Consequences" philosophy to be extraordinarily helpful. I just discovered that she has started her own blog. Here is her post about a recent tragedy involving an adoptive mom. If anyone reading here can find this helpful, or even remember it for a time when you may want to pass it onto someone else....well - that is the point of this post. The blog address is:

Heather Forbes' approach is LOVE. Her motto is, "Love Never Fails". Oh! I do believe this! So many times when my first reaction was in accord with what I've been taught about behavior management, I think the Holy Spirit prompted me to pause, and let love lead. I have never been sorry. And I know that it has made an enormous difference in our home. Discovering Heather Forbes, and her supportive philosophy has helped me feel more confident about following the Spirit's leading. Her basic premise is that all of these difficult behaviors stem from fear. And, mentioning this to a priest I know, he commented that more than anything else, Jesus most often said, "Do not be afraid." Fear is the root of all evil. Only love can combat it.