Tuesday, March 31, 2009


A wonderful thing has happened in our house this year. Two of my boys have bonded in a big way.

My two fourteen year olds became true brothers....they are actually ten months apart in age, and hardly look like twins, do they? Sergei tall and lanky with bright blue eyes and that Ukrainian "look". Then stocky Ilya, with his glistening black hair and snapping dark brown eyes. Both such handsome boys, and so dear to me....and, as I thought, so different. Sergei is calm and gentle, kind and thoughtful. Laid back.

Ilya is the perfectionist. Whatever he does he does it with zeal. He sets out do to a job and seems to have the ability to do the work of a team all by himself. He is still adapting, still feeling some loss, I think....and one of the areas of loss is school. In Russia Ilya won prizes for academic excellence. Here, of course he is reduced to nothing. Even the math is done differently. Ilya is such a perfectionist, to begin with. And he's an adolescent. So, of course making mistakes in English and being laughed at, doesn't sit well. School hurts.

But in all of this, he has become close to Sergei. School hurts for Sergei, too. Sergei is one of those truly kind people. He has depth, and gentleness and goodness. He is thoughtful. He is amazed at how immature and unkind his classmates are. How even his "friend" (a Polish boy who is also one of the rare "middle class" kids in a school where most are wealthy) will turn on him when the group dynamics are right. Sergei sees this; it hurts; he disdains it. He'd never do it himself and can't completely respect anyone who would. I think Sergei is mostly liked by the kids. But in a small school if someone has a desire to be a bully, they have to find some victim....and Sergei stands out. He's a safe target.

Sergei once said to me, during a conversation - "Ilya is the only person who understands me!" Perhaps that should have upset me - I want to understand him! But actually, it warmed my heart to hear that Sergei felt that closeness to his brother.

They laugh together and are physical - but not rough. They have little jokes and fun; they get together for big "projects". Oh, I know they sometimes annoy one another. They share a room at present. Sergei would really enjoy having the room to himself, and, logistically, he could - but Ilya clearly wants to share with Sergei, so Sergei acquiesces. They have different styles.. Sergei would like to keep things tidy; Ilya will let things devolve into a mess, but then periodically without prompting do a thorough cleaning. (As Aidan would have needed to have a fire lit under him to ever clean, these cleaning boys - whichever way they do it - really do my heart good!)

They both share generous hearts. Whenever Ilya gets anything good he will share it. That is his first and gut reaction - even when whatever he is given is a "favorite" and in limited quantity. I would like to be so naturally giving myself. Sergei, likewise, thinks of others. God love him; this weekend he made some money doing yard work, and he gave me half of it. "To put in your bank account?" No. "To help you buy things, mom."

Who could have two better boys? And I'm so glad they have one another.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


The center aisle of our church.
In a recent post Tami bemoans the understandable desire she has for her children to look perfect in church. All I could think reading this was - if you think YOU want to look perfect - put yourself in MY shoes! I WORK at the place! I give ADVICE about this stuff! People LOOK at my kids! It is a huge burden, frankly. Though, I try to have a sense of humor.

The first Mass Zhen ever went to was (ironically) the 3 hour Mass for the Easter Vigil. I figured we needed to start as we meant to go on... and, after all - he was baptized Orthodox! He could take it! So the innocent child (5 at the time) was packed up with the rest of us - and, actually, for the most part, he really did well. One of the most dramatic and powerful parts of the Vigil is when the church is in complete darkness except for the newly lit Easter Candle. I am always in a sort of spiritual ecstasy at that moment...and that year too, my rapt attention was directed to the candle raised high in procession and the beautiful words of the Exultat. Then I vaguely became aware of - a police car! or so I thought - the lights must be flashing through the Grande Window of the church! Then Sergei elbowed me about the time I heard the stifled snorts and giggles and realized it was Zhen !! We had given him tennis shoes that lit up....and, his pride and joy, there was no way he'd wear anything but those to Mass. That was OK - what was NOT OK was dancing in the aisle during this exquisite moment of the Liturgy in order to make the lights flash around the church! Little did he know he was signaling the Resurrection!

That little episode had humor. Good thing I find it amusing because people mention it to this day. Just this week someone asked me if Zhen would be wearing his "special Easter shoes". Right. But Ilya's first Mass was another thing entirely.

I've always found that one of the best ways to get children engaged in the Mass is to sit front row, center. They can see and hear and somehow I think the proximity to the sacred action gives them a greater sense than I can impart of how reverently they ought to behave. Well, I somewhat proudly brought my dear family - including our new son Ilya - down to the front. (Craig was working but I did have my grown daughter, Lydia.) I carefully arranged everyone to ensure the best possible outcome. Lydia between Zhen and Nastya; me between Nastya and Sergei, Ilya on the outside next to Sergei. Every time I glanced over there things seemed to be calm enough. There was a bit of whispering between Sergei and Ilya, and I gave them the usual "look". It was only after Mass, when Sergei told me in horror, "Mom! He was turning around and giving people the finger during Mass!" At this point I realized I might not want to go to Mass at the church where I work any more! Certainly not with the whole family arrayed as for an illustration of perfection.

One thing my ministry has revealed to me is the degree to which we all are thinking about what others think of us....particularly at church on Sunday. A friend revealed her shame that her Jewish husband didn't go to Mass with the family....and she believed everyone was looking at her. Another friend with a single daughter pointed out that people looked askance at them for having only one child, while that same week the mom of a family of ten expressed pain that her family "stuck out" so much and that people - even Catholic people, who used to rejoice in big families - seemed to look at them with disdain. Frankly I don't expect anyone was looking at any of these people - everyone is too busy wondering what flaw people are seeing in their family this Sunday morning.

Tami came up with some wonderful thoughts.... It is not looking good at church that matters. It is helping our children focus on the reason for worship. But looking good doesn't feel half-bad. Aidan and Lydia were born church-goers. It was absolutely nothing I did - just their natures. But, they not only paid attention, and participated - they looked picturesque, too. Boy, oh boy - those were the days.


Yesterday I focused a bit on Ilya. I don't quite know how to put this, except that Ilya is a bit "wild". Not in his behavior, but in that he reminds me sometimes of a feral cat. In his early childhood he had many a time when he was forced to take care of himself - even to finding food and a place to sleep. There is still a bit of this in his makeup, particularly since he still has those cat-like sleeping habits - very irregular.

Anyway, I look for chances to "tame" him, as it were, calm him, bond with him. (Interesting how our bonding has mostly taken the form of his caring for me.) Yesterday he went out with me on an errand and we stopped for a treat I know he loves - banana split. I aked him to name his five favorite foods and the only one he could think of, apart from ice cream, was "soup" - by that he means borscht. So I promised myself that I'd surprise him with borscht for dinner. And gilding the lily, as I am wont to do, I decided that it might be just the opportunity to make real piroshki, rather than the fast kind. I have a couple of Russian cookbooks, but ended up using the recipe posted by Rachael on her blog. At least I used her dough recipe. For the filling I followed a couple of simpler ideas from the Russian cookbook, and made both a meat filling and an egg and onion filling.

Well, everything turned out great (a lot of time and mess later - you just try to cook in my minute kitchen and see how much fun it is!) I called the kids and....... Ilya, true to this weird nature of his, was sleeping. We tried! Even though we know better. When Ilya is sleeping there is no waking him. You can throw him to the floor (literally) and he doesn't wake up. So..... "Ilya's dinner" was not quite the wonderful "See How I Love You" moment that I'd hoped for.

The food was good, though. I discovered that I vastly prefer the boiled egg and onion filling - and I am having one now for breakfast and enjoying it mightily. At least when Ilya comes down there will be left-overs.

Monday, March 23, 2009


Anastasia had the assignment to write a poem.

Dinner was over and she and I were sitting at the dinner table talking about it. Zhen ran by attempting to give her a "brotherly" whack, but he missed. So she cried out, "Missed me! Missed me! Now you've got to kiss me!" I exclaimed, "Stop tormenting one another!" and then realized we had a poem! I suggested that she use those "real life words" (almost) as the beginning of her poem - and I think she did pretty well with the rest, don't you?

The cute part is that she decided to illustrate the poem with photographs so I got the two of them to pose. Soon they really were... getting along, and nothing went wrong. We had a lot of fun....I was a little sorry she decided to draw the illustrations.

Friday, March 20, 2009


Nastya wearing her "St. Thomas Aquinas Detective Agency" badge

For some weird reason, "March is Reading Month" has sent my two youngest into a frenzy of some sort.

I will say that our school's librarian has outdone herself. She chose a "Detective/Mystery Solving" theme for the event and has done a bang-up job. I am a detail-oriented perfectionist and I can't imagine anything she could add. She even doctored up the library door windows to appear to have frosted glass! Every time I walk by I think "Guy Noir, Private Detective". Every M is RM detail is exquisite.

However, all this effort has resulted in a reading rampage in my house. Contrary to what one might think, this is NOT a good thing.

To begin with, reading seems to have become not just a contest, but something akin to a contact sport! I put reading right up there with praying. In fact, I was once smacked in the face by an examination of conscience when I realized how addicted I was to reading before bed, while praying before bed might just occasionally be "forgotten". So it is not that I have any problem with my children becoming devoted readers, even zealous readers, but rampaging readers? No. Don't like that.

Anyway, though things have calmed down a bit at this point, the month began with a tantrum from my sweet, easy-going Zhenya. I wouldn't sign a paper that he read (his words) "this book about the two guys who invented the airplane." Me: "What were their names?" Z: I don't remember. Me: Well if you don't remember their names, I have a hard time believing you read it very carefully. Normally this would result in his shrugging and walking away. (No. I fear it would not result in his returning to carefully re-read the book....Life isn't that easy.) However in March-Reading-Month this interchange inspires sweet Zhen to throw his reading-record-book across the room and scream that he'll never read again! He then dramatically ripped the M is RM badge from his uniform shirt. I (wisely, I thought) ignored the drama until I noticed him writing "I hate mom" on the hallway wall with [washable] marker. Still! I just had that wall painted! So, I had to up the ante and we had a very unpleasant bedtime, indeed.

Later, mind you, his teacher confirms that he did read the Wright Brothers book. (Just not well enough to know who he was reading about, think I.) Well, OK - he DID pick up that they sold bicycles previous to inventing airplanes. Still!!! I am not a stickler about all details....it is just that the NAME of someone you read a biography about seems moderately IMPORTANT. No? Am I wrong on this one? Apparently. When the milder aspects of this incident was shared with librarian and teacher they both looked at me as though I was the M is RM Grinch. OK! So I signed! I suppose some day he'll be able to play general knowledge games with the rest of us.

Then there is my organized Anastasia. My with-the-program Anastasia. She may well be the only student in the school still wearing her M is RM official detective badge. In the photo it's looking a tiny bit dog-eared and that was about March 3! Imagine what a distasteful spectacle it is now, on March 19! However, I can't help but admire her tenacity.

What I could not admire was her workmanlike approach to the M is RM challenge. "Get it over with." could pretty much sum up her attitude. There were certainly sorts of book she had to read and a certain number of pages. These were to be attained asap. So she worked like a navvy for about a week and a half, doing nothing, nothing in her spare time except reading. Reading like a mad woman. If she wasn't reading, she was writing down what she read, and if she wasn't doing that she was counting pages! Counting pages! Oh, my heavens! Has there ever, ever been anything I would like my children to do less than COUNT PAGES! (OK; there is....I also don't want them to steal, lie, or physically attack others....but page-counting is right up there with crimes against humanity.) Reading is to be approached the way you approach one of the greatest pleasures of life! You don't count the flowers you smell, the babies you snuggle, or the birdsong you hear. You don't count the songs you sing, the stories you tell, the artworks you enjoy. Yet, here was my own child......counting pages. When she hit 400, she sighed contentedly and ceased reading. Reading in that way, anyway.

I almost feared that M is RM would cure her of wanting to read at all....but it was with relief that I did see her copying a book the other day. Reading, in her own very slow way. But, here is one true March is Reading Month success. After reading a Nancy Drew, she told me, "I really like mysteries." Me, too! Maybe she'll read another next March. With luck, before.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Or - the alternate title: WHAT DOES MOMMY DO ALL NIGHT?

I have ANOTHER new job! (Did I ever mention money was tight?) A better, and holier way of expressing this is that God has been providential, and just when I was going to despair, I was invited to make some money by staying up all night teaching Korean students via webcam!

OK, not all night, though it seems like it, rather. I begin at 2 and teach until 4. The time actually flies by, and I enjoy it a lot. Initially, I thought I would just get up, teach, and go back to bed, but as it turns out, I am too awake....I suppose I should have known I'd have to thoroughly wake up in order to teach! I'd thought that I'd drop my adult phone-English classes, then for the extra hour of sleep, but since I'm awake anyway, I just take a "blog break" from 4-5. Well, "blog/laundry/lunch-packing/breakfast-making, house-sorting" break. Or should "break" be in quotes? Then I go on to teach adults until time to get the kids up.

So. What's it like? The lessons are twenty-minutes in length and I can see all the students on the screen. In one school district there is one camera on the whole class, so I can see them move around - and I actually have them move from one to another and ask/answer questions. In the other school district they all have their own computer and webcam, so I can interact with them more individually. The students are in 5-8th grades. They are adorable. This is an after-school program, so they are the motivated and well-behaved ones, for the most part. The only really curious thing to me is that they all have "American" names. For the most part - John, Susan, Daisy, Lucy, Tommy, Billy, etc. However, in nearly every class there is a student or two with names like "Money" or in one case "Wheresthemoney". I have no ability to really address this issue from so far away so I have to call on them using those names, like I don't know how stupid it is. Weirder yet is that the kids are well-behaved, serious, not obnoxious, and just answer docily to the name. Today, odder yet, I had a child called "Hitler" in two classes! What the heck? "Hitler, your turn. What grade are you in?" It is crazy.

The weird downside to this job is the webcam aspect. I do like seeing the students - but they see ME. That means that I not only have to get UP at 1:30 am! I have to put something decent on - at least on top. So at present I am still sitting here in my nightgown and blazer. :) And makeup. I don't always even wear makeup in "real" life. But when you are having to look at YOURSELF (yes, I see ME on the screen, too.....), it sparks renewed "effort". And HAIR! I have to try and make my hair look decent! I think that it is for this I am paid; I'd volunteer the teaching part, but the hair and makeup part..... In the middle of the night..... Not at all my idea of fun.

OK..... If any of you certified teachers anywhere in the US would like to join this interesting enterprise, let me know and I'll give you the contact info. The possible teaching hours are actually midnight until 4, Eastern time. You lucky folks in the western time zones could do this without the mental and physical no-sleep stress those of us out here in the east experience.

Monday, March 16, 2009


NOTE: Posting photographs to blogger, for a perfectionist with an eye for layout is a true Lenten Discipline. I am SO sorry.

"What do daddies do all day?
Daddies work while children play."

These were the opening lines of a Golden Book I had as a child, and then read to my children. Sexist, no doubt, but frankly as a wanna-be stay-at-home mom, I don't care a whit.

Anyway, sadly my life didn't work out quite that way, but I can thank God for a job that is often kind of fun.

This past week I planned a Lenten "retreat" for the third graders at the school. For some political reasons (attempting to create warmer school/religious education relationships), and also just because the people at the school have put up with so much from me and my kids and have always tried to meet our needs with such graciousness, I thought this was a nice gesture. And, of course anytime you do the work to put together something like this you can either use most of it again for another event, or "part it out" for lessons plans, etc.

A "retreat" for little children (as I explained to them) is running away (the "running" part came from one of the boys who clearly plays "army") from what you usually do to spend some special time with God. Then I reviewed Lent a bit, introducing the idea of sackcloth and ashes. Yes - I know this seems a little heavy for these little ones, but not the way I did it. The early Christians would wear sackcloth during Lent to show God that they didn't care about how they looked, or how comfy their clothes were - they cared about Him. And, the ashes idea is already quite familiar to the children from Ash Wednesday.

Then I invited them to share some of their Lenten promises - of special things they would do or give up. And asked how many have already slipped and not kept their promises. A few admitted this; me too. So, I turned to a short passage from 2 Corinthians 6:2: Now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation. And I had them do a little craft that will remind them that God is ready to love us right NOW, and if we have messed up and broken our promises to Him, or done something wrong, NOW is the time to get that relationship right and start over again. The little refrigerator hanging they did is the top photo (which I'd place here, if there was any chance of that).

I also had them make "Sacrifice Beads" - the second photo. Perhaps you can tell from the picture that you can move the beads along the string in such a way that they will stay separated from one another. This is a little "challenge" to oneself to be loving and giving. You carry the beads in your pocket and as you do little kindnesses, are happily obedient, don't answer back, etc. you can move one of the beads from one side to the other. Your goal is to "make ten" a day...but of course if you are ADVANCED in holiness, you can strive for more, or to "beat your previous record" or whatever. I frankly find these useful myself and they really DO make me more aware of how I behave in the moment.

The final photo is of a bowl of grass seed, and later I'll need to go take a picture of this same bowl (Zhen's ) a week later - the grass is growing beautifully - and honestly, I can't begin to account for how cheerful and glad it makes me to see those bright green spears of grass! The idea is that on Easter you can make a centerpiece with Easter eggs lying in the grass. I love the beautiful lesson that you can teach in conjunction with the planting of seeds - dying to self. The seeds cannot become grass until they cease to be seeds. I can ponder that one a long time myself. How many not-so-good things I hang on to.

Their final activity, and the one I actually led myself, was the making of pretzels. Long ago, pretzels were a special Lenten food. They were a form of bread without fat in it, which made it acceptable for Lent, and the bread was shaped into the form of little arms in the gesture (arms crossed, hands on shoulders) used for prayer in those days - now used in the Catholic Church when we are asking for a blessing. I have an easy, no-boil, pretzel recipe that I have the children help me mix up, then I kneed it, and break it into small balls for them to shape into the pretzels. They bake in ten minutes and while they bake I read the wonderful book Making Heart Bread. I had three groups of children and each time I read this book, I got choked up and had to work hard not to let tears fall. It is such a wonderful book...and would be a tremendous book to read, and idea to present to adopted children. I highly recommend it!

Anyway - my job. My job for the past many years has been to organize religion classes for the children who are not in Catholic School - preschool through 8th grade. I also coordinate all the parish children's reception of Sacraments: infant baptism, first communion, first reconciliation and Confirmation. I assist homeschooling families in any way they wish with resources and support. If there is a Bible School or Family Camp, I organize it, as well as things like family nights or little retreats like this one, or any family event. Actually, in the past few years I have gotten away from "events" for various reasons. But my energies have plenty of room to run: I oversee the parish library, the food pantry; coordinate a mother/daughter conference each year, formation opportunities for the catechists, etc. etc. I have various things I "always do" for Holy Week and Christmas. If you do anything twice in a Catholic parish you will soon find that it has "always" been that way...so some of these "duties" are now carved in stone.

My future job will be smaller. I am only responsible for K-6 classes, to begin with, and only for first reconciliation and communion, not Confirmation or Infant Baptism. Some things are still cloaked in mystery....who will do things like the food pantry or library, for example. But, in general I think my duties will be somewhat pruned, but I will serve more people. At first this depressed me, frankly. But, with further thought I realize that I can sprout out in some new directions.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


On Saturday night our Russian School hosted a Maslenitsa party for the Russian and Russian American community in the Lansing area.

It was not really a lot like those in the homeland which I've been reading about here and here. It was all indoors for one thing. But everyone had a good time....including their fill of Russian food, and some traditional games, visiting, and a little children's program.

The girls in our group were "flowers in the Garden of Spring".

I wish I had better photos, but I was "English translation" voice of Spring and Winter so I had to pay attention during the program.

One of our Russian School moms, who is originally Slovakian and a great cook, brought blini, and had decided if needed to make some more there. So she brought the batter and a frying pan. But she got distracted by the program and left the pan just a tiny bit too long - and the smoke detector went off! And it blared, and blared, and blared. The ladies from the church were embarrassed because their kitchen has such poor ventilation that there wasn't even any door or window to open to try and wave the smoke (which really wasn't bad) out. Of course the culprit was horrified, and the men of the church were pretty exasperated themselves because they couldn't figure out how to turn this industrial level smoke detector off! Actually, only the fire department could do that. Oh, dear. We just stood out there and waited until the noise was over, and then went on with the show!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


I got offered the pre-6th grade Director of Religious Education position. Am I glad? Yes. Am I elated? No.

The task ahead is too trouble-laden. Too many unhappy people. Too many unknowns. There will be a lot of loss....no more baptism prep, no more lector training, no more this, that, whatever, that I do now. But, more of something else, I guess.

My colleague, Joe, was also offered a job as RCIA Director. He shares my relief. We are mutually glad we'll be working together for another twenty years.

Our most able assistant did not get hired. That makes it particularly hard to either rejoice or even talk about the future. furthermore, no one likes forced change, and I'm no exception.

However, paying the heat bill will be good. Serving God will be good. As one of you dear people said, whatever happens will be God's will, so I will endeavor to step along this new path with jaunty confidence that I am doing His will.

Monday, March 9, 2009


I have been thinking about whether or not to write this post. But a recent post on the Slava Bogu's private adoption blog [about gifts to her newly adopted daughter] made me decide I would....

I am just beginning to realize that Maxim, probably because of the disruptions he's gone through and, perhaps the particular behavior of one of his adoptive families, has never learned the delicate dance that is our culture's relationship to money, ownership and material goods. Four and a half years later, he does not understand what it is reasonable to ask for and what is not. Why we sometimes say "no" and, most disturbingly, why he can't just take what he wants.

In fact, he has been taking what he wants....and in contrast to his cleverness and determination to get what he believes he has a right to, I have been like a lamb to slaughter. This is a shame, too, as we are so poor right now....with money and financial security an ever-present worry.

Somehow, since Maxim came to us after having been in the states for three years, I presumed he would have figured it out....but it is clear that far from having developed appropriately, he is truly dysfunctional in this area. And, I've realized, if I don't help him get things straight it will be to his detriment. Hugely to his detriment.

So far it has surely been to our detriment! In the past six months, I have discovered that Maxim has used my Paypal account to participate in a scam resulting in nothing but a big bill that I can't straighten out, used my bank card to set up an "account" on x-box live, used a credit card (a Sears card that I didn't even realized could be used anywhere other than Sears) in the same way, asked me if I would allow him to download two songs (for $1 each) in his I-pod, and instead downloaded over $90 worth of music over two weeks, accessed his cell phone account and spent a great deal of money on texting, photos, ringtones, etc. Just this morning I find out that he has been using the money I gave him for drinks at lunch to buy not only "extras" for himself - but for his friend (the doctor's son) too.

Don't I want him to be generous? he asks me. Well, yes. But he doesn't quite understand that being generous with his own money is a different thing than being generous with mine. Hopefully he will understand this, now that he will get his drinks from the drinking fountain for the next week, at least. I suggested (sincerely, really) that every time he take a drink from the drinking fountain (the water from which he says is really bad) he will think about the pleasure that he got from treating his friends.

I should have known from the beginning that something was amiss. Shortly after he arrived with us I realized I had had to give up keeping any cash in my wallet since it would disappear. And in retrospect, I blame myself for simply ceasing to have cash around and not trying to address the knot of issues, threads of misunderstanding, confusion, neediness, etc..

Instead of addressing the issue, I sort of ignored it and I can tell you that not keeping any cash around is annoying and clumsy in the extreme. But, worse than that, I didn't address full-on his taking money from the other children.

Sergei's bank (a cute little safe with his own code, given to him by his godparents) in which he had kept all this allowance and "found money" for three years was "robbed".

Anastasia was given $40 cash for her first communion and that "disappeared." Frankly, I warned her and she would not give it to me to put in the bank. Warned her because over and over again, monetary gifts have disappeared. I want to say "disappeared into Maxim's vortex of "greed". That surely is what it seems like....but perhaps "neediness" is more like it. And incomprehension, too.

Perhaps Maxim is greedy with our financial resources, the way we are greedy with the resources of this earth. Not to get into a discussion of environmental issues (because I don't really think about it much - but that's the point)...do we, really, stop to think when we use wood, or water, or paper, or plastic that we should consider the "big picture"? The needs of others? The state of the resources, overall? Or do we just have this feeling that it is all "owed" us? If we can get it that's all we need to consider?

Well....I think that is Maxim's state. He believes that money, food, clothing, treats, all of it comes to him in the way that rain and snow and wind come to us all. If it has been dry for awhile, we just drink more when we have water again, rather than wonder about the drought.

But, yes. I'm angry, too...but not angry enough to be wise, I guess. Recall, I have a teflon memory for these things...

It is hard for me to understand that he doesn't see that we don't have much right now, and work hard to help out like everyone else does. The I-pod theft occurred the very week that Sergei and Zhenya refused to have beverages with their Sunday after-church fast-food meal because they decided getting drinks was too expensive. [But because I know that other people stint on showers to save water - does that make me do it? No!]

I am beginning to realize that Maxim missed a bunch of lessons that he needed to learn. Lessons, that slowly and painfully I've had to teach my other adopted children....lessons oh, so much more easily learned at the ages of 2,3,4 by our bi0-kids...... We teach when they are that age, almost without knowing it.

I have realized that it is important to remember that our adopted kids usually have very little experience of having either belongings, or having "what they want" in any sense..... And it is not because the orphanages are "horrible" or the caregivers "cruel". We have to remember that in an orphanage it is not unlike an all-the-time school situation where it just isn't feasible for children to have much in the way of personal property as it leads to all kinds of problems.

Add to that - they come from a very poor country. Even ordinary Russian and Ukrainian children have very little to call their own. Furthermore I don't doubt that the fact they live in so-recently a communist country adds to the mix. Whatever it is, you have to realize that you have adopted a child who has no idea how personal property should be accepted, given, treated. Plus, many of the children (and adults) have an idealized vision of the US as a place that looks just like the movies and TV. So we are startled when they don't seem to "appreciate" what to us seems like am amazing upgrade from their orphanage life, because it is not as good as what they saw on television! They didn't realize they wouldn't be able to have whatever they wanted at the store, anything they liked to eat, as many of those cute outfits as they liked, to wear....

Slava Bogu's Deb made a statement that her new daughter appreciates the gift of a piece of gum as much as the new digital camera. That is just what I've experienced with my children. They are also (odd to occasionally find this upsetting!) amazingly generous. Upsetting? Yes; when you give your child a valuable item and they immediately give it to someone else! (When I give Maxim lunch money and he treats his well-off friends!)

Before adoption, I'd never even realized the very delicate set of "rules" that we have about what we own, and never considered the way small children come to an understanding of what we "can afford" - what a reasonable request is versus an unreasonable one, what you share, what you cherish, etc.

The more I think of it, the more confused I feel, frankly.... At the conclusion of our stormy conversation this morning, Maxim asked me why I didn't adopt African children - they really need help! I said enthusiastically that that was a fine idea! But.....he backpedaled a bit - perhaps he didn't mean it....

Wish me luck on this one....I'm trying to teach things I don't understand myself.


Storm at sea

So now I discover that some sort of anesthetic has been at work all this time!

Between the effects of daylight savings and the impending letter, I had a hideous night.

I am "at sea". As I tossed and turned and imagined the different possible contents of the letter I was nearly ill considering each and every one...and becoming more and more fearful. Whereas I've been sailing along, without sight of land for months now, I was refusing to consider that at some point, I would either reach land or perish at sea.

Why the heck would daylight savings time (which always leaves me a sleepless wreck for some reason) and "the news" have to come simultaneously? Now, I go through the day with a knot in my stomach and an ominous sense of doom. None of it helped by a major Maxim meltdown...but that's another post.

Friday, March 6, 2009


March 1 - the day when we were supposed to "find out" about the job situation at the new-and-improved-parish, came and went.

A colleague and I mused that it hardly mattered. Although we are in a sort of limbo, limbo seems quite a bit better than knowing. Because there really is no "good and comfortable" outcome.

Once we "know" we will have to move on to the next phase which will be more painful than this one, most certainly. It is probably very "incorrect" and shows a distinct lack of the expected enthusiasm to say this, but I am just human. No one enjoys change like this. In the interests of blog-reality I have to be honest. Enthusiasm can come later. I hope.

Actually, my colleague did find out today, that the new pastor is going to mail letters to everyone Saturday (tomorrow). That is annoying because a) why the wait - why not just put them in our interoffice mail boxes and give us the weekend to hide out and conform ourselves to the appropriate attitude, and b) I will most likely not get mine until after everyone else does, because I live in Lansing rather than East Lansing. The East Lansing people will get theirs on Monday most likely.

So, there we are. What will be will be and I've just about gotten to the place that I don't care. or feel like I don't care. Of course, I do care. Horribly. But I'm not sure what the best outcome will be. Whatever happens will be painful and difficult no matter how you look at it.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


After we came home from Russia with Ilya last year, Sergei gave me a hug one morning and breathed deeply - "You smell like Russia!" Finally, we figured out that it was the laundry detergent that we used in our little apartment in Moscow.

When a friend went to Russia a few months ago I asked her if she'd be willing to bring me some laundry detergent, and she was kind beyond my expectations - bringing four or five different kinds.

I've used a couple of them, but when I got this one out this morning, I had to laugh. It boldly advertises "French Aroma".