Thursday, April 29, 2010


Day Two - Your Favorite Movie

Can I pick one?  No!  Here are two, and as contrasting as any two movies could be, I think.  Plus one.

Although there are a lot of movies I've loved, the one I remember with the most joy is Enchanted April. I saw it twice and am almost afraid to see it again lest I not like it as well.  I'd rather remember that wonderful feeling I had....

What more can I say?  I would have said it was warm, funny and romantic, but I notice that on the blurb to the left.  It is all those things, with gorgeous acting, as well.

Furthermore, given half a chance I'd leap right into that movie and stay there.  Just my era.   The story is taken from the book by Elizabeth von Arnim.

My other favorite - as in "movie that impacted me most powerfully in one way or another" is The Thin Blue Line.   This documentary had me hanging on every word, with my mouth open in horror, amazement, awe....  Such an extraordinary piece of work, capturing the oddest set of people and circumstances. The subject is the shooting of a Dallas police officer and the wrongful imprisonment and death sentence of the man arrested for the crime.  This movie was significant, as I understand it, in eventually causing the accused to get a new trial.  Absorbing...absolutely. 

And finally - the movie I have loved the longest, having seen it only once....  The Russian movie Dimka, described here.   I think I must have seen this when I was possibly a Freshman in high school, maybe even earlier. I can place it in time because I named my cat "Dimka" after the movie.  I saw it at an art house, and I am sure my Russian teacher suggested that I go.  In the description it is called "lighthearted" and I think it was, but I also remember the angst I felt for this dear little boy without a father [hm.....Russian child needing parent theme enters Annie's life.]  This is one I've searched for and wanted to see again for years, but once again, I'm fearful, lest it not be "the same". 

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Hevel is doing a "Thirty-Day Challenge" and while I have a lot of things to post about, I don't have the necessary energy or.....stamina? to do the required thinking and emotional processing (for the personal stuff) or the creativity for anything else.  In case you are thinking (as I am) "She hasn't even managed to keep up with Project 52!" - well that is because I am never near the card reader when I have time to post.  I'll try to catch up - the pictures are all in there.

This beats the usual "list" that we use to kick off when we're in this state, in fact, it looks like fun.  Here is the original list - at least the variant that Hevel is using, and that I'm signing up for.

DAY ONE is "Your Favorite Song".  Great start! [sarcasm] I am not really that "into" music.  Perhaps this is where my own RAD beginnings come out (did I ever say I ought to be a radish myself, having been relegated to the hospital nursery for the first month of my life?).  In any case, or for whatever reason, music usually over-stimulates me.  Music in the background, any sort of music, is too affecting.  I don't like my mood to be assailed in the way music assails it.  If I am in a certain frame of mind, perhaps there would be music to fit - but unless that fit is perfect, it is just too much for my internal processor.

That said, I do like music in church, and the song that means most to me is "Be Not Afraid".  I am listening to it as I write this and can hardly keep from falling on the desk in sobs.  For me, this is the message that Jesus brought that I most need to listen to - and I must not be alone, since according to a favorite priest, Jesus said just that "Be not afraid." more than he said any other thing.    

But this song has been central to my faith for much longer.  Aidan, my big boy, was not supposed to live.  He was born in an emergency c-section at 27 weeks gestation.  Furthermore, he had a condition called fetal hydrops, which at that time was almost always fatal, especially (for some reason) in males.  On June 21 Aidan was born; he was intubated because instead of fully-formed lungs, his chest cavity was filled with amniotic fluid.  So, he was a challenged little guy.  They put him into a drug-induced coma and kept him there for quite some time.

I recall one of the doctors saying he "wasn't viable" - but God had been so good!  I'd been insistent on giving birth at a birthing center, and had some great midwives.  So, instead of ending up at the closest hospital (which I later found was a dump), the midwives took me directly to Oregon Health Sciences University - and by some extraordinary work of God, one of the worlds' experts in this particular disorder was there for a short-term teaching engagement.  This brilliant physician and a team of fifteen delivered Aidan and he was whisked off to the neonatal intensive care unit.  Where he stayed....alive, but his condition not changing much.

A nice aspect of this hospital and Oregon was that they were ahead of things in terms of understanding both the need for mother/infant bonding and the importance of human contact.  I was allowed to sit by his little incubator for as long as I wanted, whenever I wanted.  The nurses were wonderful.

But, back to the song - one Sunday at Mass, as I was in the procession to communion, I was of course praying for Aidan and this song - Be Not Afraid - was being sung.  I looked up at the crucifix and it was as though a light shone on the wound in Jesus' side - precisely where the tube was inserted in Aidan's side.....  All I can say is that it seemed as if time stopped.  God told me "It will be all right.  Have him baptized."  Honestly, when I "came to" no time at all must have gone by - yet it seemed like forever.  I was so surprised that I was still in the communion line, and moving forward - as opposed to being either at a dead stop with everyone stalled behind me - or even fainted away on the floor!

At that time I was not as knowledgeable a Catholic as I am now, and I hadn't thought of baptism - why?!  We had Aidan baptized on July 21 and even the staff in the hospital were looking at each other in awe and amazement - because from that moment on he made extraordinary progress.  From nothing - to full-tilt recovery.  I brought him home only a couple of weeks later. 

So - I loved the song before.  But, now I hear it and I think of the miracle of Aidan

By the way - this photo is of Aidan at maybe 4-5 months?  He came back amazingly; if I get a chance I'll scan and post an early photo.... he was only slightly more than 2 pounds in weight after they siphoned off the fluid.

But, in no time at all he was the healthiest of little babies - then boys.  I can almost say he was never sick - except he did have chicken pox.  Quite extraordinary, really.

Friday, April 23, 2010


 A month or so ago, Rachael gave me the "Beautiful Blogger Award"....why, I don't recall, but rather than do something easy like share seven things about myself [the required response], I decided to write seven essays about beautiful things in my life.  [That follows - doesn't it?  Sure.]  The first one was about needlework.  Very apt.  For some reason, needlework - in particular, embroidery, has always held a joy and fascination for me.  This installment is about books.  Books - from the time I have remembered, I've loved them.

The old library where I first fell in love with books....a Carnegie library with the richest, safest smell of old wood floors and books...The hard, cool worn-to-smooth marble floor, the fireplace which in winter crackled softly, as the leather of the easy chairs made an answering noise; some elderly man shifted his position, and the newspaper he was reading swooshed as he turned the page.  And nearby such a charming apparatus, made of fine polished wood - a rack hung with all sorts of mysterious newspapers, with odd titles and print - I hadn't previously known there were papers other than the Boulder Daily Camera.  And it was an early summer evening, the sunset's light came through the tall windows on my left, flowing graciously down over the room giving everything a golden sheen.  The stairs to the children's section made such a wonderfully mellow response as I climbed them, creaking warmly and solidly.  How smooth and cool the carved wooden stair railing felt on my hands, never accustomed to handling anything so substantial and strong - and that welcoming smell of wood and time!    And these stairs came to a landing - such a marvelous thing, a landing - and they turned to go up - up to the cozy and intimate second floor-children's section - where I knew I'd find such a wealth of adventures, books with covers so worn they were thick yet soft and rounded at the edges, the pages gentle, not stiff or harsh.  But before I went all the way up I could stop at that landing window.  Here on the shaded side of the building a soft waft of summer breeze brought the smell of rustling leaves, the calm, late-in-the-day chirp of birds in the leaves just outside the window, and just then the church bells rang.  Deep, rich bells.  Such a comforting sound. I was there in that moment; all was right with my world, all safe, sweet-smelling, kindly and in every way lovely.  Perhaps that is the first time in my life that I was aware of being alive in every fiber of my being, with every sense - and every bit of it was beautiful.   Down below was my mother and my little brother.  My dad in his workshop at home.  I was loved.  I was safe. And here I was in this place burnished and softened by time. In that moment I think I fell in love with books, and libraries and everything old.  That moment of bliss defined so much about who I was and have become.

Not long after, they build a new library; it was supposed to be a good thing, but it nearly broke my heart.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


One winter I was "resting" - the rather charming way the Brits refer to an out-of-work actor.  Actually I truly was "between engagements" which also sounds nice, and was true.  So as not to entirely waste my time for those three months (while working in some menial capacity in an administrative office of UC Berkeley)  I auditioned for the prestigious American Conservatory Theatre's "New Play Series", which was a sort of lightly rehearsed Reader's Theatre.  For some reason, this little company while primarily cast with students in the conservatory, allowed other actors to audition.  And, lo and behold, I was cast.  This was not a paying gig, and I need to make it clear that while the ACT is "prestigious", the "New Play Series" was definitely not.  However, I figured it would "look good on my resume".  [It does not actually look particularly good when applying for jobs running Sunday Schools or teaching Theology....but, who was to know?]  In any case, there I was, and in addition to the resume sheen,  this little engagement led to my most interesting "date".  And dates are one option for this week's TTT.  [I confess I made a little error, and it was supposed to be "worst" date....oh, you will see this is more like "most interesting" date ever.]

Somehow, in my ACT debut, I caught the attention of an elderly gentleman who was a generous contributor to the conservatory.  He gallantly approached me after one of our performances and asked if I would be willing to accompany him to one of the conservatory's chief fundraising events the following week.  For various reasons I was reluctant, but I am nothing if not kind-hearted and I could think of no way to say no.  [Kind sir, I have no clothes for such an event.  Kind sir, the only other elderly man I ever went out with attempted to take advantage of me and assault my virtue.]  I just said, "Oh, that would be lovely.  Thank you so much for asking me."

The other tricky part of the invitation was that since even the full-fledged students at the conservatory were supposed to work at the event, this at least seemed to go double for me.  But I somehow sleezed out of signing up on the assignment sheet, and got a friend to loan me a passable dress to wear.  All the time, really dreading the event, and just wishing I'd known how to say "no".

How I wish I remember more of the details.  I remember the elderly gentleman's first name was Herbert, and since he could be my grandfather I just couldn't call him that (despite his asking me to).  However, I couldn't pronounce his long Polish last name, so that was uncomfortable throughout. "Kind sir" just wouldn't work.

I do not recall why I wasn't mortified that he picked me up from the crummy place I was living in in Oakland (yes; Oakland - of riot fame).  I do remember that I was quite anxious that he not come to the door to collect me, because I didn't want him to see that I had only a mattress and a steamer trunk for furniture - which was obvious because I also only had one room.  So, I bounced enthusiastically out of the front door, in my borrowed evening gown, I am sure rather startling the chauffeur.  I don't recall the surely uncomfortable conversation as we crossed the bridge and drove into downtown San Francisco (surely it must have been? but perhaps not.)

This event was themed "A Night with Cleopatra".  The location was Macy's Department Store.  What did I expect?  I expected that there would be a floor of this enormous department store, heretofore unknown to me, that was given over to banquet facilities - or, something.  But no.  No. No.  No.

To my absolute amazement the STORE was given over to Cleopatra!  Of course this was a long time ago and I don't recall every detail, especially as the opulence, the sheer number of marvelous things was so overwhelming I couldn't have taken it all in and described it thoroughly if I'd just been there yesterday.  Egyptian slaves (I should have been one of them, of course) met guests at the door and ushered us to the elevator and pushed the button.  The elevator was a mass of gold, gold shavings on the floor, gold walls, gold dangles from the ceiling.....

When the elevator doors openened!  Oh!  In front of us was a fountain!  Flowing with flecks of gold and in the center of the fountain - gold "Greek athlete" statues - that amazingly every so often would change poses, revealing that they were actually human beings....they were extraordinary!  But you couldn't watch them too long, because here were snake charmers! (With real snakes, of course!)  And here were belly dancers!  Here was a whole row of  exquisite, life-sized Greek statues - all carved from ice!  And, always an array of servant-types, even little monkeys dressed as servants, handing 'round glasses of champagne and splendid
trays of every sort of food imaginable.

And there was music!  Where they got it, I hardly know but every sort of "Egyptian" type music....and every sort of dancer.    And everywhere you looked, there were all kinds of interesting acts - magic acts, contortionists,  trapeze artists swinging above the stairs and elevators....  Exotic birds in cages, on trees, on the arms of scantily clad ladies.  You walked and everywhere you turned was something else extraordinary....and up the stairs to another floor - equally as magical.

The wonders didn't seem to cease.....and - quite amazingly - most extraordinarily - all of this was right there in the STORE.  IN THE STORE, PEOPLE!!!!!  They didn't clean out the store - it was amidst the store!!!   All of it took place among the displays of jewelry, among the housewares, through the shoe department.  The one thing that I recall seeing and hardly believing were all of the exquisitely dressed rich people sitting, relaxing, enjoying themselves just as though it were normal, on the displays of household furnishings.  I recall  Mr. Herbert P and I sitting on a beautifully made bed for some while and thinking how completely topsy-turvy everything was!  (i.e. "He and I were on a bed together.")  Lounging on the pillows, moreover!  But we were surrounded by hundreds of beautifully dressed rich-folk, and the most extraordinary display of music, dance, art, mime and every other sort of odd entertainment that I'd ever seen.

The climax of the evening was the Grand Parade.  You will not believe this!  The lights dimmed which alarmed everyone (OK, alarmed me), and the Grand Parade began with torchbearers - nearly nude, Egyptian-coifed young men running and calling out, carrying fizzy, flashing torces, and then jewel-bedecked ladies with TIGERS on leashes!!!!   And all sorts of other unexpected, exotic animals....finally - can you believe this?  ELEPHANTS.  Elephants, dressed up as Egyptian elephants, walking through the bedding department of Macy's!  And after the elephants, a let-down almost - Antony and Cleopatra, carried aloft by servants.  And all around them ran little girls and boys, dressed in elegant little "Egyptian" costumes, carrying little gold purses to give all the ladies - and each of the little purses contained a wonderful assortment of cosmetics!

I don't remember much about my dear elderly gentleman, except that moment when we were lounging on the bedding together.  I could tell that he enjoyed very much seeing how excited and amazed and overwhelmed I was about everything - because I never bother hiding it when I'm feeling any good thing.  I really did love him dearly for bringing me, and felt quite right about coming, even when some of my theatre colleagues gave me a wink of recognition.  Really, oddly, the last thing I remember about the evening was the Grande Parade and being given the little gold bag.  I don't remember the trip home or anything.  I'm sure I wrote my elderly friend a nice letter of thanks for taking me.  The holidays were on us then, and he went to some rich person's winter location.  Before he came back, I went on to my next theatre company.

I did have one more little cool experience, related to my association with the ACT.  Somehow Mary Crosby invited me and four or five other actors to her house for Thanksgiving.  She must have been in the conservatory herself at that time, or in one of the conservatory shows; she wasn't in our group, so I didn't know her well.  She invited me because she'd heard I was far from home.   It was only at that meal that somehow I learned she was Bing Crosby's daughter.  Her apartment was very nice but not ostentatious.   Up until then I just thought she was a nice, and very pretty girl who happened to share his last name.  About that Thanksgiving, I primarily remember how comfortable I felt, especially when even in that company of "theater people" she had no compunction at all about beginning the meal with prayer.

But in a week or two I went home for Christmas, then on to my next job....and that was the only taste I ever had of how the wealthy live.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Yesterday was Anastasia Day - her fifth anniversary of being our girl....amazing!

In this first photo she stands in our hotel (Ukraina) after the first of what was to become many, many long and lingering baths!  I remember how enchanted she was with the idea of a relaxing bath - and not having to use someone else's water!

This moment stands out in my mind because just after the photo was taken, the waitress at this wonderful little riverside restaurant brought us an order of fries - now, quite possibly they were the best fries I have ever had in my life - good, hot, and sprinkled with fresh dill and parsley.  While still standing here next to daddy, she took her first bite of a french fry - and she's not looked back.  This girl loves fries. 

Curiously, apart from those, all of her food preferences are healthy - and she won't eat chocolate or any sort of she retains her gorgeous slim figure.

To celebrate "her" day she asked to go to see Alice in Wonderland.  I didn't want to go; was sleepy and totally uninterested - but I absolutely loved it.  We had a nice time; she and I went to that one and Ilya and Zhen to some boy movie....with dad and Sergei staying home.  But, altogether a nice evening with my girl.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


This morning on the way to school, even NPR did a short piece on the recent tragedy of the little boy returned to Russia.  Nastya asked, with horror, "Why would someone do that?"  I said, perhaps unwisely - but to meet her fear head-on, "Maybe that stupid mom didn't know how to love a child who behaved badly.  When you love someone, you love them no matter how well they behave."  She was quiet a second, then cried out in true alarm, "Maybe that was my brother!"

Now that little interchange is cute, horrifying and illustrative all at once.  It does rather strike me funny that her immediate thought was that she behaves badly, so her little brother might behave badly too.  Her concept is clearly that her "bad behavior" might be genetic.  It is horrifying to me because it shows how much her little brother is on her mind.  It is horrifying to me also because knowing that her issues (and behavior) are environment-based, that her little brother might well cause his family problems...  I've wondered and worried a bit, and have wanted so much to know if all is well with him - because no matter what, I'd take him! 

Her clear worry that this child probably is her brother, also reminds me how small the world is for children - even children who have come across the world.  It shows me how careful I need to be to protect them from stories like this, because such a fate seems to loom over them.  When you are little, what you hear on the news seems to have happened within the world you know.

But, I assured Anastasia that her little brother is in Ireland....and that he is only six years old, not seven.  She was not convinced - then I remembered that this little boy is named Artyom, and her brother is Denis.  That calmed her, finally. 

This post is supposed to tell the truth about adoption.  Well, as Essie pointed out, 3/4 of my adoptions have been pretty darned trouble-free!  Though - if we stop and consider.....there are those pesky teen years, and early adult years up ahead.  Who is to know?  I am not sure I could say that even Aidan and Lydia, easy and pliant children though they were, were completely without problems.  No.  What human being is? 

Anastasia gives us a few challenges, true - but more than challenges, she gives us joy.  More than challenges she gives us goals; more than challenges she gives us a reason to learn, to explore, to find out things about human beings and their development that we never knew.  She teaches us about ourselves, about our own challenges and our own blessings.  Anastasia gives us extraordinary opportunity in all these ways, but most of all she gives us the opportunity to love.  To love God through sacrifice, true love and doing hard things.  I am so blessed that she is my daughter.

And the boys?  Well, as I say, no child is perfect.  No parenting skill beyond reproach...but these dear children are as close to perfect as children can be.  They give me more joy than any person has a right to, I sometimes think.  They are a mysterious, undeserved gift.  I can think of nothing more magical, special, awe-inspiring than my dear children - all of them....but the adopted ones....coming as they did, out of the normal course of nature seem to have been a special gift directly from the hand of God. 

That is the truth of adoption as I know it.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

REAL Russian Food

Last night I made the one dish that every single one of the children consider their favorite - Pofloti, or "Navy Macaroni".  It is easier to explain it again than to find the post where I first described it.  To make pofloti I cook ground pork with at least a third again as much chopped onion, in  a deep pan so that it does not get crisp at all...occasionally I need to add a tiny bit of water.  I season with simple salt and pepper and put that over macaroni.  On top of that goes a nice dollop of sour cream.  Except in the dark of winter, I can usually find a bit of fresh parsley to put on top.  It really is good.

Yesterday, though I didn't have any pork, so I figured that though the taste would be different the concept would still work, and I made the same dish with ground beef.  Sergei noticed and asked,   "Isn't this meat different?  Don't you usually use rat?"

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Here's just a few informal updates. start with, last night a mouse ran across the kitchen.  I hope Rosie the pit bull will lower herself to dispatch the smaller rodents.  She's not that fast at catching balls, so I'm not especially confident, frankly.

Then there were my adventures in Easter eggs.  Previously I posted about the successes.  I didn't mention the little "snafu".  I decided I wanted to engrave some really bright and intensely colored eggs, so I headed into unknown territory and decided to dye a dozen of them using  permanent Ukrainian egg dye.  I did six bright red ones.  Gorgeous.  Then I started some bright blue ones.  Who knows why?  I certainly don't, but the first egg I put into the dye exploded, spraying bright blue dye all over my kitchen - on the counters, on the floor, on the cabinets on all the dishes in the open shelves, all over my shirt, my face and hair.  We can add to this that in typical Annie fashion, I wasn't "just" dying eggs - no.  I had decided that I'd whip off that little job in the midst of preparing dinner.  So just as all of this mess was sprayed all over the kitchen, the buzzer went off telling me it was time to serve the food.  I suppose that is why I headed into clean-up with such zeal.  That, and the fact that I could just see myself having to walk around for weeks with my face dyed blue!  Well, let's just say, I did get the dye off my face but now have large red patches instead.  Perhaps Ajax isn't the thing most dermatologists would recommend for enhancing the complexion.  Though, in this case I think perhaps it did.

I actually got most of the dye taken care of, but we had the most surreal experience yesterday morning when Craig sliced into a beautiful Harry & David pear - that juicy pear was bleeding bright blue juice!  I think a splotch of dye must have landed on the knife somehow.

The other night I vacuumed up two little tubes of instant peach tea mix from the dining room carpet.  In a most surprising turn of events, my dear good boy Ilya, had angrily poured them there.  Oh, except for the one he threw over Anastasia.  This is not at all like him.....but I could figure out immediately what brought on such uncommon behavior.  My own stupidity.  (Isn't this my theme?)

When I was at the store earlier  in the day, I had a hankering for a beer.  Now, this isn't a usual state of affairs.  I almost never drink.  On occasion, I used to take the Miss Marple sort of medicinal gulp of gin or vodka to help get rid of a headache...but even at social events I almost never have even beer.  And I don't like wine at all.  Yet, that afternoon a beer sounded so good for some reason...and when I noticed that at this little store they sold small lite beers by the single bottle, I bought one.

Now, I already knew Ilya does not like to see alcohol.   One time he found one of those tiny airline-sized bottles of vodka that I had hidden away for a headache, and he poured it down the sink.   Obviously a little boy who loses his first mother to alcoholism before his very eyes has reason to dread seeing any sort of liquor in the house.  I should not have been surprised that, when he found the bottle of beer - not an empty bottle, but one with about a third of it gone, in the cupboard...he drew my attention to it.  Then shortly thereafter, here comes the "odd" and angry behavior from him. Ostensibly about something else, but not really, I don't think.  Why the heck couldn't I do with out those two swallows of beer, I ask myself.

I let him calm down a bit then pulled him aside for a conversation.  He didn't say much when I suggested my theory about why he did something so out of character, but he left  thanking me very sweetly and humbly for sweeping it up.  Sweet Ilyushka.  Stupid mommy.

Counseling update: Had my "intake" with Brooke the other day.  I was glad I hadn't taken Anastasia.  Although I am thinking that I'll take Mary's advice and we'll stick with our therapeutic parenting counselor - just not so often and with homework in between.  And, I'll take Anastasia to the MSU clinic in hopes they can help her with some burgeoning OCD stuff that she's talked to me about.  Brooke is about 23, though she tells me she has "a lot of experience" working with girls this age.  I'm thinking this must have been talking to friends when she was this age, because otherwise she hasn't had time for a "lot" of experience....but I didn't have warning bells or lights going off, so I guess I'll give it a shot.

Did the unthinkable and allowed Anastasia to go on an overnight - two nights, in fact, with some of her Russian and Ukrainian friends.  Frankly, she was so dysregulated simply due to the vacation week and lack of structure that I figured things could hardly get worse.  So, I let her go, after a conversation about how difficult too much excitement can be, and how important it would be to consciously try and regulate herself when she returns.  We even made a list of activities that help.  Yesterday, she was returned and things didn't look like they were going that well. But she has not really seemed relaxed and happy since October.  We'll see how today goes.

I'll be glad when everyone is back in school....though I have really enjoyed not having to get up early.  Really.  Enjoyed.  It.

Friday, April 9, 2010


Was just reading responses on Essie's blog, on this horrific topic in the news.

Some kindly types responding there, said they "didn't want to judge the mother", so I figured - heck - I don't mind one bit, judging her actions!  As Dr. Laura would say, that's why God gave us brains - we're supposed to exercise judgment!

I'm so full of judgment in this case that my tendency, in fact, is to figure that there could well be very little wrong with the CHILD - having to live with some woman with that little intelligence, sensitivity, imagination, ability to problem-solve, or concern about her child's safety, the future of international adoption, her own legal and personal future, the ramifications of causing an international incident - or even her own reputation! Living with someone that lacking in life-skills might make anyone act out!  If she showed that level of smarts in dealing with the desire to disrupt the adoption, let's just imagine what level of wisdom and compassion was in play when she was dealing with his anxiety and stress. I feel like drawing pictures of burning her house down and I didn't even have to live with her! 

I mean, the woman must be really, really clueless.

There are social services. Yes?  There are churches in every city where she could leave him with more surety of his safety than she showed in putting him on an international flight. How about her family doctor? How about his pediatrician? You can't tell me there is no place to go!  If she'd told any one of these people what she had in mind (and her MOTHER was complicit in this? Give me a break! What rock did they crawl out from under???) they would have taken the little boy to some hospital or social service agency to drop him off, or gotten some respite care, even ask that he be removed from her home for his own safety...  They might have found some family desperate to adopt a little boy, who had more resilience and strategies than this woman apparently had. 

Afraid? I can see being afraid if perhaps he was starting fires. But the grandmother claims to be afraid of a drawing of a fire. And, why do I think that if he'd actually done anything dangerous THAT would be the story she'd tell? 

No recourse, eh? You are going to tell me that if she called her agency and said what she was planning to do, they wouldn't have helped her?  Does anyone believe that?

If she'd called just about ANYONE AT ALL??? And said what she had in mind?  Any of us, even? 

I'm not lacking in compassion.  I do know, first hand, about the fear that comes from feeling that your child is out of control....even fear that you might be hurt....that someone you love might be hurt.  (Though a small seven year old?)  But, common sense should have clicked in at some point.  If not love and compassion.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


This was one of our "better" years for Easter eggs...  I actually had the right equipment!  To the left is my very most-favorite apparatus.  It allows you to easily (yes! easily!!!) remove the insides of a raw egg and to wash out the inside of the shell, all only making a tiny hole the size of a pin.  It is the coolest thing ever.  It is so easy to use that Anastasia cleaned out a couple dozen by herself.  And it is all done so cleanly that you can use the eggs themselves for whatever you like.  I made three pies - two buttermilk, and one custard.

Next is a new "fun" thing, that I played with for the first time this year.  As you can see it is an "engraver".  You color your eggs,  then you can use this tiny battery-operated drill to engrave a design into the egg.  You'll see a couple of mine below, though not the best one which I gave to my mom.  I still have 9 or 10 eggs that remain canvasses for future works of art.  I'm looking forward to messing around with this a little more.

And, our Russian school group is planning to have a lesson in Pysanky-making in May sometime.  Lent would have been more appropriate...but I'll be looking forward to doing it "whenever".

I also enjoyed the wonderful egg wraps which Moscow Mom sent me last year.  There were Gzel ones, "folk art" ones, and religious ones.  I just love them all.  I used most of the religious ones because I wanted to make a bowl of eggs to decorate the serving table at the big Easter Vigil reception I was in charge of this year.   I also used a regular box of egg dye from the grocery store to do the gold leaf-looking ones.  All in all I thought it was a pretty bowl of eggs.  Imagine my dismay when I realized that our guests had decided to help themselves!  In the end, to my surprise, the only eggs left were the two folk art ones.  I suppose it is rather gratifying to know that our Easter Vigil crowd prefered religious-themed eggs, but I had not counted on losing them all!  I'm glad I reserved a few for next year.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


Not an attractive photo of either of these extremely attractive people:  Nastya, Craig and I try to go by my mom's apartment every couple of weeks to spend a Friday or Saturday night playing our favorite family game, Upwords.  Upwords is a version of Scrabble that is a lot more fun.  We have a game and my mom has a game.  We used to play it so much that my folks attached the game board to a lazy Susan - makes playing a lot easier and more fair, since every player can see the words "right side up".

Nastya is a smart little thing, and reallly enjoys activities with structure, like board games.  She was competitive!


I'll use this quiet Easter morning to catch up on my weekly photos. 

All February and March Zhen played basketball...practices on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, games on Saturday morning.  How I loved to watch Zhen play basketball.

Surely one of the most joyous parts of being a parent is watching your child's gifts and talents reveal themselves.

How Zhen became good at basketball is a mystery.   He never had the opportunity to watch it, or play it casually; we have no hoop at home.  But, he's good at it.  His little team was absolutely dreadful, honestly....and the coaching was lame, but I still enjoyed watching Zhen.  Next year he'll be on the STA school team.  They start team sports at 5th grade.   And, one of his teammates will be Coach Izzo's son.  :)

Saturday, April 3, 2010


Yesterday was Good Friday.  For the first time in as long as I can remember (new coordinator of Holy Week liturgies), I was given a part in the reading of the Passion.  The entire congregation did not cry out, "Crucify Him!" but I did it - a lot.  Fr. Mike teased me later about the enthusiasm in my cry.  Even I was surprised, I did get a good "take" on it.  Somehow when I'm doing it from the assembly, rather than frightening, it just sounds stupid.

However....while I was up there at the lectern, I had the powerful view of our Grande Window...not the view in the photo, but straight-on.  It was powerful to hear the Passion narrative and look up and see the image of Christ.  But, what took my breath away was the Iraqis.

I almost wrote about this dear family before - they haunt me.  By anyone's standards they are an attractive family - the mom is just beautiful.  She is a doctoral student in internet security at MSU.  Her husband is a quiet, kindly man, an accountant of some sort.  They have two very sweet children, a little girl of twelve who is so polite and fun to talk to, and the cutest little seven year old boy....  When we celebrated the Stations of the Cross (a family-friendly version) on Fridays during Lent, they were always there and the little boy was so excited to dress in the smallest alb and carry the candle.  They told me about their church in Iraq and are clearly dismayed (though they didn't put those words to it) that the church is not so central to people's lives here.  But, to be Catholic in Iraq.  I thought, "The Christians there must really need to support one another."  But I didn't know how true that was.

In chatting with them, although they didn't offer the full story until asked, eventually I found out that they are from Mosul.  The city in Iraq where there has recently been a great deal of violence against Christians.  Family members, people they know from their parish, were pulled out of their homes and told to leave - no packing, no preparation.  "Christians aren't welcome here."  A few were summarily killed....for no more reason than their faith.  This nice woman's parents live there.  Too old and fearful to try and leave for a safer part of the country, as her sister and family have done.  "But there are some kind neighbors, Muslims, who watch out for them."  Still....the anxiety of knowing your parents are in that situation - unable to safely go out to public places - even to worship.  You can see in her eyes that it haunts her.

I asked casually, when I first met them, "Are you planning on going back to Iraq, or are you going to stay here?"   A flicker of horror crossed her face as she said, quickly, "Oh, I must go back!  The government is paying for my education!!"  But then, later she said, that when she does go back, she has no idea at all what she will do.  She stated the bald facts.  "If I were to go to the university in my town - Mosul - they would kill me.  That is where I am expected to go, but I can't go there or I'd be killed."  Little did I ever expect to hear such words uttered at a table in our brightly lit parish meeting room

And this lovely woman, with her sweet daughter, darling son and kindly husband were standing in the second row, as I read the Passion yesterday.  With the image of Christ overshadowing them in the enormous window, and the story of His suffering and death being heard.  It all seemed a piece, somehow.  There are still those dying for their faith, and these people here in front of me might well be among them in only a couple of years, if luck is not with them.   How much more powerful that Passion story must be for them! 

Hearing about Christian martyrs - even modern day ones in places like Iraq.....well, it is hard to imagine, isn't it?  And we think they are so different from us.  Not little girls enjoying a craft project, or smiling little boys so proud to help out at church, or an intelligent grad student.  What did I picture?  I surely didn't imagine that I'd meet martyrs in our own church.

So, pray for the Christians in Iraq this Easter - please.

Friday, April 2, 2010


Yesterday morning I was unloading the dryer and realized that there were a few things in the laundry that brought a smile to my face.

One is this towel.... It says, in Russian obviously, "Ilya".  It reminded me of the little mall in Ivanovo where some enterprising lady had a kiosk where she sold these embroidered towels.   I got to buy them for a number of our Russian friends....Misha, Masha, Olya.   But, no Sergei, no Zhenya and no Anastasia!  Only Ilya has a towel.

And here is one of Ilya's t-shirts.  I ordered it for him for his birthday from another enterprising soul in Ukraine.  It reads "Danger; Radioactive Material".....somehow just seems so "Ilya".  And he is still so Russian at heart.  He will always choose one of his shirts with Russian writing on it, if given a choice. (i.e. there are any clean!)

Finally, for the past year my laundry room has been a haven for the lost, seeking to be found.  I took a photo of about fifty socks - single socks, mind you - laid out on my dining room table in attitudes to clearly reveal their singleness....but one of my sweetie-pies erased it.  It was far too difficult [and silly] to do a second time, so you must simply take my word for the fact that we have an entire laundry basket full of socks without partners.

My theory had been - one manufacturer for each boy/man.  Maxim was Adidas, Sergei Wilson, Craig Nike, Ilya OP, and Zhenya Gold Toe.  Anastasia had her array of pastel numbers.  But, have you noticed how the sock manufacturers have conspired against us?  Buy a bag of Adidas socks and there will be three different styles in there, at fact one bag of six pairs I looked at recently had six different styles - different logos, differently placed, some gray, some black, etc.  So that means finding your pairs is harder, and if you lose one sock you lose a pair, as there are no duplicates.

I feel I've reached my limit.  So, I went to Marshall's and after carefully surveying the possibilities - after eliminating every bag of socks with any variation whatsoever in design - I bought five bags of the above photographed socks.   My intention was that all the "menfolk" would have to wear the same socks.  I tested the candidates for stretchiness, so they all will fit Zhen's smaller and Sergei's much bigger feet.  Everyone liked the feel of them....but there was a bonus!  The other morning I watched as Anastasia tripped through the house in the same socks!  Now that is simplicity! 

Thursday, April 1, 2010


....continuing - the saga of finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow - a COUNSELOR!

After that little "incident" with the CPS, we were both advised and somehow figured out ourselves (!) that perhaps we should take all of this advice and find ourselves a counselor to help deal with Anastasia's issues.

Our pediatrician, who is Russian and has a sort of specialty in adopted children, suggested a retired woman, who came with the highest credentials.  Former university faculty, years of work in family therapy, etc.  She agreed to take our case, and Craig and I went to see her.  I liked/like her very much.  Warm, friendly....but - it is one of those things.....If I pay her, I should pay all of you, because when you get right down to it, it was far less helpful than blogging.  Yes; I am one of those people who come to realizations "in process" as it were.  As I talk and write I discover new things and get hold of new ideas, but you guys are all quite adequate as listeners - in fact, you are wonderful, great, spectacular listeners and commenters.  Better, I could see, than this woman I was paying $180 an hour.  Craig and I went once.  I went alone once.  Anastasia and I went.  That was a joke!  Anastasia was excited to "have a counselor", but when push came to shove she could not imagine why she should open up to this woman.  "I'm not going to tell that lady I ate garbage!" was one of her memorable comments on the way home.  (Dr. S had tried to get her to share about life in Russia....which, as Anastasia expressed it to her, was very nice, thank you.)  Craig and I went again.  After sharing the conclusions of conversations Craig and I had already had at home, Dr. S's comment concluding that session was, "Well, the main thing is not to take the things she does personally."  Right.  At this point in our professional relationship, such as it is, Dr. S and her husband departed on a two-month vacation. 

Frustration.  I follow another lead, provided by the CPS worker who handled our case.  A woman who has herself adopted four older Russian children.  She has an approach she calls the  Nurtured Heart Path.  Well, I like the sound of that!  And we like her right away.  She had strategies, things for us to do.  She so obviously understands the situation.  She refers to resources I am already aware of, I share some with her that she energetically takes note of.  She gives us a book to read, and some things to do.  (Her mentor is Howard Glasser.) This is great!!!  I almost wanted to cry on the way home from that first visit because I finally felt a sense of hope.... if nothing else, here was a person to talk to face-to-face who understands and who has found strategies that she has tried and that have worked.  This past week we asked her if she wanted to see Anastasia and she replied that she felt it was far better to work with the parents.

But, the other shoe has to drop, doesn't it?  Sure enough.  Insurance will not pay for a LSW; they require a psychiatrist or licensed psychologist for counseling.  I am just so frustrated!   They'd pay for a PSYCHIATRIST - who wouldn't be half the help - at twice the cost???   So, I figure we can eek out a few more sessions using our medical expense reimbursement account, but any hope of an extended relationship is pretty much shot.  After talking to Blue Cross, I sat with the phone in my hand and cried real tears.

Anyway, I'd also signed up at the MSU Psychological Clinic to get on the waiting list there and yesterday I got a call from "Brooke".  While I really liked the intake counselor who I spoke with when I initially called, my first impression of Brooke wasn't all that good.  She sounds about 23, which is OK if she knows what she's doing, but she didn't sound warm.   She was working [too hard, I'm thinking] on sounding professional.  She wants to see me, Craig and Anastasia.   My inner buzzers were sounding. 

I say, well....I'd really prefer to talk to you first without Anastasia present.  Those were the only words I could have said, my gut reaction was so strong.  Later, I thought, taking Anastasia in there is like digging up a land mine and handing it to the first person who says, "Hey, let me see that!"   I'm not going to get Anastasia all excited about "a counselor" again, without having any idea whatsoever of her approach, her level of understanding of attachment, some idea of her past reading and experience, and some level of comfort with her values.  But she seemed to take offense at the idea I'd want to talk to her before bringing Anastasia in.  She didn't say it, but I heard it in her voice, so I asked why she'd want to see Anastasia before talking to us.  (How could we even share our experiences and insights about her, with her sitting right there, for heaven's sake?)  Well, says Brooke, "with children this age we always involve them in the treatment plan".  I asked her what she meant by "treatment plan" and she said something about "working on her behavior".  

So, am I losing it?  Am I just so enamored with the approach of my Nurtured Heart counselor that I have an attitude problem?  Or, are the red flags justifiable?  Doesn't it seem reasonable to talk to a counselor before handing my very fragile daughter over to her?  One little niggle is that part of Anastasia's issues involve her sexualization and seeming feeling that once she's a teenager (only a year, she reminds me frequently) she should have a boyfriend and at one point (I'm so glad I was driving and she couldn't see my face) she asked if I'd be upset if she had a baby at 16.  What the heck!!!???!!!  Presumably no counselor would recommend a baby at 16, but I darned well want to have some idea about what this counselor would say!!! 

So - I want your reactions, dear friends.  Am I having issues or are may antennae working adequately?