Saturday, January 30, 2010


Clearly my "Project 52" focus is not
Or, good photography.

I'm trying to pick photos that reflect the week in some way.

This is "Mother's Milk".  I've started making it for Anastasia.  I read somewhere that one little "bonding" trick is to give your adopted child warm, vanilla-flavored milk, as a way of (on some subconscious level, I presume) creating that connection that children would have if they nursed.  OK, I know - it's a stretch....but on any level it is a way of showing her love, nurture, caring.  Giving her something that might give comfort, help her relax.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


The first blog I ever looked at was Smiles and Trials.  I had met Christine on the Ivanovo Yahoo group and she told me to check out her blog and encouraged me to start my own.  I just wanted to start doing the contrary to my ordinary emphasis (I am big on naming things) I gave short-shrift to choosing my blog name.  My first choice was "Second Time Around" which was taken.  I took a stab at a couple on that same theme, then stopped trying very hard and just wanted to get a name and get on with blogging!  One Mother's Day is pretty darned colorless - and yet that very fact rather amuses me on occasion. 

I was thinking the other day that I should have gotten the "Smiles and Trials" name - Christine's blog has too many smiles per trial.  And yet, perhaps she does have trials - and.what we experience here on my blog is horror.  So, perhaps "Horror and Hilarity" would do? 

The thing I REALLY do not want to do is have a blog that so focuses on the difficulties of life that the joys and amusements get lost.  No!  There are some challenges, for sure, but they keep life interesting!

HORROR UPDATE:  The official end of the most recent bit-o-horror seems to be subsiding - at least the part we have to actively experience.  There will be reports written and something or other will be done with them.  If the last CPS investigation is anything to go by, they won't even tell us anything further.  The disrespect is notable. 

Let me tell you what I hate about the CPS investigative "style".  Firstly, as Sergei so aptly put it, they "sneak around".  He is mightily offended to be taken out of class and shepherded into a private room to answer personal questions asked by a stranger.  He is correct my view; it feels wrong.  Their new school apparently felt the same way, because they called me to tell me that CPS wanted to interview the kids and - bless their hearts! - asked my permission to allow the interview.  Furthermore - why do they have to do the interviews at school?  I mean, they surely don't think we would refuse to allow them to see the kids, do they?  Why can't  they see them after school, or ask us to take them out of school for the meeting?  When someone from CPS goes into your child's school and asks to interview your child - how the heck to they think you can look those people in the face again?  How can you work effectively with your child's teacher when you are imagining that the teacher is seeing you as an abuser or pervert of some kind?  And surely they know that most people presume that where there is smoke there is fire!  Even now, quite honestly, if I heard CPS was investigating someone - I'd think they were guilty of something!  Do you suppose they go back to the school and tell everyone it was a big misunderstanding?  The Kitchings are wonderful parents!  No; they do not!!! 

And do they drive unmarked cars?  No; they do not!!! So the neighbors get to see that we are under investigation too.  Thank you, State of Michigan!!! 

The thing that I do respect is that after interviewing Craig and the boys, the investigator decided not to interview Anastasia.  I was a bit worried about how that would impact her - I feared it might disregulate her even further - apparently the investigator has had enough experience to understand this herself.  I did speak to the CPS investigator on the phone and she seemed understanding; even had a suggestion for a woman in a nearby town, who adopted several Russian children who has a counseling business.  Her approach is called "Nurtured Hearts" and it looks good, similar to what I feel most comfortable with...  So, I think everything is OK from the "official CPS" point of view.

But, being licensed foster parents, we are treated to two investigations - like it or not.  Haven't had Maxim in our home for six months, but that is not relevant, I guess.  So, that investigator came to our house last night.  She talked to me and Craig for an hour at least....why do I feel so slimy today?  It is very odd having to justify everything about yourself....give excuses for why the kids are in different schools; justify things I said and did when I was fighting on Maxim's behalf.  (Oh, yes!)  The boys went in and gave her an dynamic is that the boys are becoming a force in opposition to Anastasia.   I think if it were put to a vote she'd be in a car heading to another home at this very moment. [Yes; we have some work to do there.]  Then she interviewed Anastasia. 

Since the incident occurred Anastasia has been in a severely disregulated state.  She's never been this bad for this long. Even she has taken to announcing "I've been angry for ten days." etc. It is as though there is a thick glass shell over her - the shell of an angry, middle-aged woman, sarcastic and scornful, and not adverse to violence.  It is so difficult to live with this person! odd thing happened.

The glass seemed to crack last night.  Why, I don't know.  But, while we were talking to the woman the kids had to wait together on the bedroom floor.  No computer, no leaving the house.  Somehow they got into playing Nerf darts in our bedroom, and that turned into playing with a beach ball.  When the boys went into their interview and I went up to Anastasia, I could already see a difference.  She did go down and let her soap-opera persona be interviewed.  The interviewer was not impressed - apparently she asked Anastasia at one point if she knew it was wrong to hit people (yesterday morning Anastasia hit both Craig and I in a difficult little incident).  Apparently Anastasia refused to answer her and stormed out of the interview.  But, rather than hold that the time I saw her again she was Anastasia.  I could see it.  She sat down and started doing her homework....a regular human little girl.  For the moment, anyway.

HILARITY UPDATE:  (Well, OK - "hillarity" is putting it a big strongly but, I laughed.)  Sergei was doing his grammar homework and I glanced over his shoulder to check it.  He was supposed to be capitalizing words in a sentence.  In this sentence he had capitalized thusly:   He called in the german Engineer Rudolf Niemholtz.  "Sergei!"  You have to capitalize "German" - and why did you capitalize "engineer"?  It is just a job. 

"No it isn't!  It's his name: Engineer Rudolf Niemholtz!  They all have three names!"  I glanced at the exercise and sure enough - in the previous sentence was "Johan Sebastian Bach" and above that "John Paul Getty".  

Suddenly it struck me.  THIS is why school is so hard for Sergei - basic stuff like the fact that "engineer" is a profession and not a name - is new information!  But it made me laugh so hard I cried.  Maybe you had to be me to find that funny....but I did.

Zhen had the assignment to write a riddle.   He came up with this one:

Why is Zhenya getting to school so early?
Because he's Russian.

I love it.

Monday, January 25, 2010


Sorry, in advance that this is so long...
When Anastasia came to us, she was obviously on the RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder) spectrum.  They don't really talk about a "spectrum" but I sense from my recent experiences and reading that there is one. She has none of the really difficult and disturbing "symptoms" - stealing, fire-starting, hoarding food, obsession with blood and gore.  She's never been cruel to animals, or destructive to herself or property.  She has fair peer relationships, and gives appropriate eye-contact; she doesn't seem to lack compassion ordinarily, and she has never lied much about silly things, or chattered about nonsense.  She's a wonderful student.

But, she displayed her royal tantrum-throwing abilities the day we met her - and an imposing flare for drama.  When she feels angry or threatened, she seems to change into a middle-aged, cynical, tyrannical soap-opera queen without any effort whatsoever.  She can be verbally cruel, disdainful and sarcastic with the best of them.  (I wonder where the heck she learned this stuff?!)  At those moments she does show a lack of empathy and remorse.  As she does when she really gets revved up and tries to incite something (usually with me) by slapping people or stamping on their toes, or throwing things in their face. 

This is the way she started, five years ago....but over these years she has gotten progressively better, stronger, healthier and more secure.  She is smart and she wants to be better; she worked to become a happier and more peaceful little girl, by listening and working with me to develop strategies to help herself calm down when she is scared or angry.  (Same thing.)  She takes baths and does her hair; she watches TV, she cleans her room; she copies books.  And she's learned to articulate things that upset her.  We've learned things that over-tax her system (overnights, parties) and things she can handle. 

But there is another little something, too....she loves attention.  But only, it seems, the attention that comes from pity.  She has told me how uncomfortable she is when she has to stand up in front of people.  She is a lovely dancer, but not at a recital. She can act (see above!) but doesn't want to be in a play.   She wanted the fun of being on the basketball team, but was not comfortable being watched playing.   She loves pretty clothes, but tells me she feels "that same feeling" (that she has when people watch her) when she puts on something pretty.  (Isn't it cool she could realize that and tell me?)   But, the other day she says to me, "Mama, I don't believe in God."  I kept my cool, and breezily asked, "Why not?" 

"Because I pray and pray to have a broken bone, and I haven't broken anything."

"Why would you want a broken bone?"

"Because I like people to feel sorry for me."  Nothing like honesty.

Yes; she does like people to feel sorry for her.  Remember the beginning of last year when she told her teacher that we didn't feed her?  A little effort that caused us two "investigations" - CPS and foster care?  Well, she's done it again.  I am just beside myself.

She's been tried, it is true.  I know that Craig's return home has disturbed her beloved routine, and - she seems to feel she has to vie with him for my attention.  There was all the uproar of the holidays - programs, school vacation, the trip to Pittsburgh - and amidst that the momentous news that Lydia is engaged.  That bit of news scared Anastasia a lot.  She said she felt like crying, and was angry that Lydia would "leave" her like that.  She "tried on" being rude (in her soap-opera style) to Kyle on the phone, which rather ruined Christmas afternoon.  But then there was Lydia's visit and all the nice time the two sisters spent together....lovely - until Lydia had to leave. 

So, Lydia left on Friday.  On Saturday morning both Craig and I were going to Zhenya's basketball game; Anastasia didn't want to come, but I told her she could watch Hannah Montana on the computer while we were gone. I could sense that all that parental attention going toward Zhenya didn't feel good to her.  Unfortunately, I took Zhen to the game early without telling Craig about the computer permission, and he didn't trust her alone on the computer, so he told her she couldn't do it.  Her response was to run out of the house mad to her friend "M's" house. 

Only late in the day, did I learn she was mad when she went to "M's", and why (oh, no! denying her her self-soothing strategy isn't good...).....Only later yet did I realize that when she arrived mad at "M's" she tried to get some of that lovely "people feeling sorry for me" attention that she loves so much.  "M's" household includes M's way-too-young mother and live-in.  Now, this moral irregularity has often caused me to question allowing her to go there, but after a while I decided not to fight it as M, herself, is an intelligent and very nice girl who seemed like a good neighborhood friend....  But it never occurred to me that M is the only friend Anastasia has whose parents were not either friends of Craig's or mine, or at least people who knew us long enough that they had seen the tantrummy little Anastasia who arrived in our family. 

So, it is clear what happened.  I think it all worked far better than Anastasia ever hoped, in fact so well that she is very, very sorry....but what could she do?  Not much, I guess.  She arrived upset; they tried to find out why.  She dramatized; they were concerned.  They questioned; she didn't have much detail.  They suggested possibilities; she agreed.  I know this to be at least in part the case because whole new sets of words and phrases came into her vocabulary - most especially: "afraid to go home" which, indeed, is now also in the case "against us" at CPS.   I expect after a while she was, indeed, "afraid to go home".  Especially, when she knew that M's mom was going to call me in to "answer for myself". 

That has to be one of the worst half-hours I've ever spent in my life, and I probably should have done something....what????????what????????what????? keep it from happening.  But I was taken off-guard, I needed to go get Zhenya from his friend's house.  I was not used to neighbors I hardly know asking me personal questions about my parenting.  But, as Anastasia huddled behind M's mom on the couch with M, I hardly knew what to do or say.  I had the sense that if I refused to answer her qustions, she'd "report" us.  I wanted to get Anastasia out of the room - surely she should have had better judgement than to accuse me in front of my daughter!  As though it was Anastasia's word against mine.  But, it was.  And apparently, despite my best efforts to explain some of Anastasia's "issues" with Anastasia listening, they turned us in. 

Now Anastasia is a mess.  Well, who wouldn't be?  Her brothers all want to kill her.   Sergei, in particular, can hardly be stopped from accusing her of wanting to "ruin our family" whenever he sees her.  Ilya just says, "You stupid Nastya" regularly.  Meanwhile, Craig and I have  been shown to be at her mercy. That does not help parenting. Yet; I can tell she is horrified.  I can tell she is sorry; I can tell that she doesn't know how to close this Pandora's Box.  And, sadly, she can't.  But, while on one hand she is sorry, all the stress has her still angry, still hungry for safety, attention, love....all the things she needs.  And she is at her worst.  She is rude, snide, bossy, cynical, sarcastic, selfish and more.  Anyone would swear that she is actually trying to incite Craig into hitting her (she told M's mom he threatened this).  She slapped his arm; she slammed a cupboard door in his face, hoping to hit him, I think.  She is making life very difficult.

 My guess is that in addition to all the changes, puberty is impacting her ability to cope.  I talked to a highly-respected counselor today who was recommended by our Russian pediatrician; she has mostly retired and just has a little private practice where she sees a few cases.  I'm so glad she agreed to take us on; I feel moderately hopeful....even without the help I can see small glimmers of the Anastasia-striving-for-health.  But at the same time I can also visualize an older, bigger, stronger and more out-of-control Anastasia....and I certainly want to head those images off before they become reality!

Saturday, January 23, 2010


Two wonderful blog friends, Tina and her kind daughter, put together a little Russian "goody box" for the children and me.

Here Nastya and Zhenya poor over the candies in the special Moscow Circus tin of "New Year's" treats.

For desert for much of the week, everyone got to choose one treat from the made for a happy week.

Friday, January 22, 2010


We had a busy week - hardly worth sharing with the world at large, but somehow a necessary piece of the year as a whole....and to some extent my blog takes the place of keeping a, I apologize for the lack of literary or photographic merit in this post.  The day Lydia arrived was the date set for the annual Russian community Yolka Party.  Lydia was sweetly agreeable to attending, so she joined us there, and even Ilya made a public appearance.  I was the English language narrator of the program so didn't get much in the way of photos, but here is one that reflects the rather disorganized fun of it all...the Snow Queen appears at left.

During the week, Lydia was busy, meeting up with old friends, but we were busy, too - with the usual sorts of well as trying to spend as much time as possible with her.  Fortunately, we didn't have religion classes this week due to MLK day, so I had much more free time than usual. (Which is actually saying that I had some free time - usually there is none!)

Lydia spent lots of time with Anastasia.  This was lovely to see, and Anastasia basked in the sun of her sister's loving care....but there has certainly come a downside to al that bonding, which I'll write about one day, probably.

Lydia took Anastasia to Claires to get a second piercing on each ear (just like Lydia's).  I'm not too into multiple piercings, but both on the ear lobe, with two little sparkly earrings - it is cute.  We were all remembering the first time Anastasia had her ears pierced!  (And we had to go back to the same Claire's!)  She surprisingly chose getting her ears pierced as the reward for getting a whole series of inoculations.  She climbed up in the chair and got her first ear pierced.  Well!  Then we find out!  She had not realized what "getting your ears pierced" meant!  She refused to have the second one done - we cajoled - she cried - we begged - she refused.  We decided to leave - no; she decided she needed to get her other one done....and on, and on, and so forth.  Finally, after an hour of backing and forthing, she went through with it.  It has been quite a joke with us.....So, she was quite proud to have these second ones done, bravely.

Lydia and I took a day and went to the Detroit Institute of Arts.  Half the experience is getting down there.  I drive to the west side quite a bit, but going into the heart of Detroit proper is always an adventure.  I'm not used to the signage, the heavy-duty freeway traffic, etc.  But, we made it!  Here's my Chick heading into what, surprisingly, was my favorite exhibit of paintings - the Americans .  And Lydia and I agreed that our favorite painting of all was a miniature of George Washington by Charles Rembrandt Peale.  It was just so - realistic....and unlike the Washington we think of....a regular guy, a nice guy.

Our favorite "thing" was this electronic dinner table  in the "domestic arts" section.  Among displays of fine silver and china from the late 1700's early 1800's (think Jane Austen), there was this "table" - you push a button and you see the hands of servants set the table for a fine dinner - using the very items in the see all the different courses.  It was very fun.  And we discovered that there were different menu items on each side, so we played it a couple of times and made ourselves very hungry.

One morning I made blini, and Nastya wanted to learn to make I let her make another batch by herself, thinking that we could eat them another day....Ha!  The second batch was gone before I could wrap them up.  Nastya proved herself quite good at the production.

A Moscow blogger wrote about the icicles decorating her city....well, I read that and knew I had to take a photo of the ones that festoon our house.  (Can you tell we need to see to the gutters?)  The irony is that these formed directly above our main entrance, so diving under them is a risk we all take a few times a day....all the more so, honestly, when they begin to melt and we are splotched with drips.

Friday, January 15, 2010


Moms take pictures of their babies feet.  I took this photo of Ilya's feet.  Those round little feet are dear to me, too.  I even kissed one after I took the picture.  Good thing he didn't wake up.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

TTT - Cheapity

Doing Without. Lydia is here to visit, and as a special treat I bought orange juice - well, also because it was on sale 10 for 10.  She laughed that her younger siblings had to have "Kroger" brand while she got Minute Maid.  I actually felt rather guilty when I realized that actually her siblings almost never get orange juice at all.  Well, Essie, you know, in these economic times.....

Rags.  Essie felt clever for using specially purchased, re-washable clothes in her Swiffer.  I use rags for mine, the same rags the dog chews on, though fresh from the wash.  I have a "rag basket" in the laundry room, and stained t-shirts or really, really bad towels, get ripped in appropriately-sized pieces for everything from Swiffer action to cleaning the bathtub. 

Bread.  I have also found that using my bread machine to make "good" bread saves money. (Now, here is a true TTT snippet - I got the bread machine because a parishioner was walking through the building toward the food pantry to donate it, when I exclaimed longingly, "Oh, a bread machine!"  and they gave it to me, instead.)  Otherwise we eat the dollar-a-loaf bread. 

Value Brand.  I only buy lunch meat on sale, and am so glad to get two for the price of one bologna.  Now, I did try the "Value" bologna one time and Maxim complained about how bad it was.  He really never complained about food, so I decided to be compassionate and threw the rest of that package in the dog's dish.  The dog would not eat it.  I decided that I was probably right in not feeding this to the children.

Ramen Noodles My children all adore ramen.  Ramen was a treat when they were in the orphange.  If they came on a few spare kopeks dropped by a visitor, they'd take off to the corner store and buy a ramen, then they'd crush it up in their pocket and have a walk-around snack all day.  So, an easy and quick meal is to make ramen for them.....instead of the high-salt seasoning, I put on high-fat butter and throw in some onions and perhaps a few pieces of bacon (what amounts to about a slice per person), and whatever cheese I have and toss it all about.  Everyone is happy for only pennies.  Oh - the really, really amazing version is to add only Parmesan cheese and a couple of beaten up eggs.  A kind of pasta carbonara.

Salad.  We all love salad.  Lots of ingredients add up.  Bagged salads are fast and good, but soooooo expensive.  Except I've discovered that at Kroger when they are near their due date (not even past it, just near or on it!) they will put on a $1.00 sticker.  And the Kitchings have salad!

Uniforms.  My children wear uniforms to school, and rather than waste money on this, they each have one pair of pants, and one shirt.  Anastasia has both slacks and a skirt, lucky girl.  They put these by the washer at night, and get them from the dryer next morning.  (If I adjudge them not dirty - often the case with tidy Anastasia) they skip the washer and just get refreshed and de-wrinkled in the drier. 

Church leftovers.  Our seventh grade religion classes this week needed juice and a clear fizzy drink as a way of illustrating various heresies about Jesus.  (You had to have been there.)  Well, I could put the spare juice and fizzy in the teacher's lounge....but I think I'll take it home instead.  And, then occasionally, there are social events or funeral luncheons - and people think of Mrs. Kitching "and all those kids", which works out nicely on occasion, too.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Lydia has come for a visit!  Coming so quickly upon Christmas and New Years, I didn't get to anticipate it as I might otherwise have done, but I am so, so glad she's here!

Lydia lives in Virginia Beach, where she went to live with a friend from high school who is married to a sailor.  Marianne didn't enjoy being alone while her husband was out at sea, so she convinced Lydia to join her so she'd have company.

This has worked out well for Lydia, who loves Virginia Beach and her circle of friends there.  She is also in love, and recently engaged to Kyle, who seems like an extremely nice young man.  Kyle is a navy diver.  He is handy - a down to earth "country boy" and best of all, he obviously has good taste in women. 

Lydia got here on Saturday and treated Anastasia and I to lunch on our way home to the airport.  Yesterday, she so sweetly cleaned out cupboards for me!  What a peach.

This is a good visit for Anastasia (I think and hope).  Anastasia was not happy when she heard about the engagement.  In fact, I think it brought up all those old memories of mom abandoning her for boyfriend.  But, rather than act out (or, to be honest, in addition to some light acting-out) she was able to articulate how upset the news made her feel and try to actually put words to what was upsetting her - the idea of losing a sister.  Hopefully, the quality time Lydia and Anastasia spend together will help her relax into the idea.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Ciska is hosting a give-away on her blog.  It is not sheer greed that inspires me to post this (though in the interest of honesty, I will say that I get two entries for linking to her on my blog).  Actually, that just gives me a good excuse (though she does appear as #1 on my "Wandering Around Blogville" list  - lower right).

I happened onto Ciska a year or so ago, and though it was surprising to be reading the blog of a very young woman - Ciska has some great perspectives on things, some amusing stories to tell, the most adorably dear devotion to her family (particularly her baby brother) and also, she lives in Belgium, which adds another dimension of interest.  She is spiritual; she shares my Catholicism.  Ciska is a beautiful writer.  Check in on her!

Saturday, January 9, 2010


Kate, inspirational blog-friend, took a photo-a-day in '10 challenge, and turned it into Project 52 - a photo-a-week challenge.  I read her post, and ignored it, but then somehow today it struck me as interesting, even if my photographs have never been the best part of my blog (to say the least).

Like Kate, starting late, I'm limited to the photos I've already taken for week one, but here it is.

I found this little drawing that Zhen (my animal lover) did, and had to take a photo.  Just look at those expressions!  I couldn't put an expression on a sketch of an animal if they paid me....and I initially was a fine-art major!  My favorite bit is the threatening fist, honestly.

Friday, January 8, 2010


I am not even sure this girl would be recognized as Anastasia's long-lost twin.  I think these glasses had a bigger impact on Anastasia's overall appearance than even I'd realized!

What a funny picture!   I only took one, as we were running out the door - but no argument, the glasses make her look studious! 

All of you who suggested Claire's - it worked like a charm!  The glasses were her favorite present, I think...and it is cute - she uses them precisely as directed - a sort of "prop".  This picture was taken the first day back at school and she wanted to be sure to let everyone know she was READY TO STUDY!  Anastasia is the only child who is unhappy when there is a snow day.  She relishes her 2-3 hours of homework a night (which, thankfully, she does all by herself!)  It is all, as another blogger phrased it - "beloved routine".

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


A wonderful family we know adopted four siblings through our agency.  They are part of our Russian School group and we see them quite a lot.  Sergei is best friends with their son, Misha.  Misha's younger sister Masha, turned 16 yesterday and her parents had a wonderful birthday party for her on Sunday night which we attended.

They held it at the splendid Russian restaurant which I wrote about previously.  The food was beyond good, as usual.

Though it is difficult to choose, I think my favorite dish was the chicken croquettes.  It was amusing because several of us helped ourselves to them when they arrived and a lady across from me remarked about whatever was in the middle, "Yum, garlicky, but not too strong."   I thought that odd because I didn't taste garlic at all.  The man next to her said, "Bacon! I think it is bacon."  Then I had to say, because there was no doubt at all - "It's a plum!"  Well, at that point I realized, we all did, that there were different centers to them.  What a fun thing!  I wished very much I'd had more "room" to have one of each.

But, perhaps the best part, at least for this party, was the atmosphere.  They made sure that there was a disc jockey, and dancing, and I was so glad!  And, there was another party of Russian people there celebrating a birthday, and they loved to dance!  A couple of the older ladies and one of the younger ones in their group were on the floor all the time, and the men and other ladies would get up for a slow song.  Masha, in particular, and her friends loved to dance. This is Masha in the red dress and heels above (she clearly has the Russian "look".) A number of the children at their table and ours (see Anastasia to the right) danced, too.  And I danced.  I love to dance, and happily another of the RS moms, a Slovakian woman, is perfectly fine with the Eastern European custom of women dancing we had a grand time.

Somehow this fun evening was the perfect conclusion to the vacation....of course "the holidays" are not over!  We have the Yolka party on Saturday night.  I fear this will be a more staid affair, however.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


One thing I regret is that we don't do "fun stuff" (or "special" fun stuff) enough.  Time and money, I guess.  My hope for the new year is that I can work less and do fun things more often. However, we did have a nice time over this vacation.

On the day after Christmas we headed to Pittsburgh.  This is where Susan's (Aidan's wife) parents live.  They are wonderfully kind and gracious people.  There is a clumsiness here, though - Aidan and Susan live in Fairfax, VA now....a whole day's trip away from us.  We can get to Pittsburgh in five hours or so, as can they.  Of course, when A and S are in Pitt (particularly at Christmas) it seems like it would make good sense to meet them there.  So, we do.  Of course we stay in a motel, but the clumsiness comes in when I realize that Susan's parents are more or less obligated to host us a bit.  I kind of hate to put them on the spot, but we do it! and they don't seem to mind, happily.

We stayed two nights and on Saturday, a week ago, we enjoyed a really lovely day in Pittsburgh.  Craig and Aidan went to a Steelers game.  The tickets were a Christmas present to Aidan, and they had great seats.  This photo is rather lame, but I thought it was fun to take a picture of "them" at the game, since we drove around the stadium while they were there.

Susan and her sister, Laura, took the rest of us to the Pittsburgh Children's Museum.  To begin with, Pittsburgh is the most charming town!  The downtown is lovely; with a lot to do.  The old buildings are restored, things are clean.  As Pittsburgh is built on hilly area, there is even charm in the landscape.....though it is sure easy to get lost! (Which could well be another post.)

The museum is hands-on, of course and really wonderful.  We were there all afternoon and didn't even hit one floor (the second, which is supposed to be for toddlers and young pre-schoolers still looked to me like it would have been fun for all of us - and certainly it would have been a blast to watch Calvin there.)

When we first went in there is a huge, enclosed climbing apparatus.  I could tell that Zhen was dying to try it, but at that point it was nearly full....and amusingly, at least half the people in there were adults.  Later, we passed by when it was less crowded and, as I expected, in he went.  I snapped this photo when he was almost at the top, but he could still go up higher onto another floor - so I ran up there to see him there, of course.

This enormous "puppet" was rather easy to move about by means of levers.  Can you tell that I tried just about everything?  It was FUN!

The show "Mr. Roger's Neighborhood" was filmed in Pittsburgh, and there is a whole area devoted to "the neighborhood" and so forth.  Here Anastasia does a little puppet show.  Meanwhile, there is a camera out front where Zhen and I "filmed" her.   This was supposed to be an area that I would have been most attracted to since I once auditioned for the role of the Princess on this show, and was called back for an interview following the audition.  I meanwhile decided that this was not the direction I wanted to go with my acting.  Coincidentally, the next audition I went to (which happened to be the one in Fresno, previously mentioned) there was the current "Princess" auditioning for the company.  I got the part and she didn't. I don't know whether she went back to being the princess or not....and until now never wondered if that would have been a better direction to go....would have changed my life, of course - but how?

There is also a whole wing devoted to art...and here is Aunt Laura and Anastasia helping Cal make a painting.

Meanwhile, I wandered into the rotunda area, and as everyone before me has done, I suppose, photographed the gorgeous display of hanging ribbons.

The third floor is a water exploration area, where Cal had fun and I had fun, and Anastasia and Zhenya were too afraid to play with too much lest they look babyish.  Too bad for them.  Though, they did explore the model of a lock.

My photos are certainly not brilliant - but Cal looked so dear in his raincoat....he still got completely soaked - but they have a place where you can at least partially dry the clothing with a hairdryer.

Altogether it was a very fun afternoon.  We went back to Susan's house for a pizza dinner, and heard all about the football game... then got out the new game which we got for Christmas Apples to Apples, and played it together. 

Zhen and Cal hung out, which was cute.

When we first got to the hotel on Saturday night we were getting ready to go to Susan's house, changing clothes and washing up.  Zhen was feeling boyish anxiety about this and pointed out this sign on the wall.  He said, entirely seriously, "You see; you're not allowed to wear dress up clothes here!"

Saturday, January 2, 2010


One extremely sweet friend, Lisa, awarded me (or challenged me) this week.  The challenge is to name ten things that make you happy and then link to ten others to do the same, except I notice that previous awardees have completely igored the official directions and have passed the baton(or cupcake recipe, rather) to less than ten. Why follow rules?

Of course I can't just rattle these happy-making things off - oh, no!   I have to spend two days mulling it over.  There are times when being a perfectionist is just stupid.  This is one of them, so I am slapping my hand and jumping in, imperfectly.  These are in no particular order but #2 is best of all.

1.  Snuggling into bed at night....fresh sheets (particularly line-dried, not experienced since Ilya took the line down, "Mom, you no need this.") and a hot water bottle would complete the perfection.
2.  Snuggling my children.  Even Sergei and Ilya will lie down with me and snuggle a bit if we make it into a back massage.  But Nastya and Zhenya are snugglers, and I am so lucky!
3.  Coming home to a clean kitchen.
4.  When my family enjoys something I cook.
5.  Embroidery.
6.  Finding bagged salads at at half price.
7.  Doing something special with the family - a movie or museum.
8.  Playing games.  I especially love Pictionary and Upwords, best of all is Guesstures or Dictionary
9.  Reading a good book.
10.Settling down to a movie I know I'll enjoy, or Masterpiece Theatre.  There is a wonderful moment of anticpation just as I give myself over to the experience.

Fortunately, I get to experience the best one daily.  Some of the others (7,8,3,5, 10,9) are very rare, unfortunately.  The main reason I shop at Kroger is #6.

I challenge these fine people to carry on.  What makes you happy?  Another rule is for you to link back to me.  I never like being left out of these things, but I'm not sure if anyone feels the way I do!  Don't feel left out if I don't list you!  Some of you write so prolifically that I figure you've done a post like this already; some keep their blog on a higher plane.  I am listing people who I think might like to do it (but  could easily be wrong!)  I wish I had a Mr. Linky, but it would take me an hour to find him, so please make a note in the comments section if you will join in!

1.  Molly
2.  Milena
3.  Tina
4.  Ciska
5.  Julianne
6. Elizabeth
7. Jeffrey's Wife
8. Amanda

Friday, January 1, 2010


Hevel, so kindly, decided that my thought of "stopping in to others' blogs" for a bit of a chat and a cuppa would be a nice idea as a theme for month.  And, yes!  such a cold dark month needs the cheer of company.

The idea is - when you pop into anyone's blog, you make a commitment to comment.  Rather than just read-and-run.  Just a brief comment is fine!  But come in out of the cold and say, "Hi!".  And, especially if someone new responds, say "Hi" back!