Sunday, May 30, 2010


I was so overwhelmed and busy during the latter part of Lent, that I didn't get to post much.  Here is why: I was asked by a colleage to organize a reception after the Easter Vigil.  The honor fell to me, I think, because I made the mistake of agreeing it sounded like a good idea.  I meant it was something I'd like to attend

I most certainly didn't mean "to organize" since of all the things I feel I might be good at - social events don't even end up at the bottom of the list.  Quite the reverse.  However, you know the situation - as opposed to feeling the security of my twenty-odd years of expemplary performance in my job, the changes in the parish this year, have transformed me into a "newbie", an outsider, an untested quantity.  It is very nerve-wracking, especially when put in a situation like this one.  I coudn't say "no" and I absolutely had to do a first-rate job of it.

Fortunately, a dear and long-time friend, volunteered to help me and just having her to bounce it all off of, provided the focus I needed to grit my teeth and get going on the thing.  I think we did a bang-up job of it.

Obviously, we had to do this in the gym.  Our hall will only hold about 150 comfortably with tables, and we decided to "guess" at 300.  The fact that this was the first Vigil at the new, merged parish and that Easter coincided with Spring Break both combined to make our guesswork even more unsure.  We really had no clue how many people would be at Mass, let alone would come to a party afterward.

But in the end, I really don't think anything could have gone better.  Praise the Lord. 

PS: I've never seen tables arranged in a cruciform shape like this, but it was not only appropriate - it worked beautifully!

Credits go to Anastasia who helped throughout the weekend - and climbed up on the bleachers to take the photo!

Saturday, May 29, 2010


During Holy Week I got together with a friend to mold chocolate. 
Each year for quite a few I have made chocolate crosses and lambs (as well as butter lambs) to sell at church for one good cause or another.  Our new pastor does not allow fundraisers for any "cause", as he feels it causes people to give to this and that rather than to the parish.  That was dismaying, though I certainly understand his point of view.  So I didn't have my usual Lenten occupation. 

But Nicole wanted some help; her initial efforts had not turned out well.  When I saw them, I fear I had to agree, and suggested that we just melt the ones she'd done, and try again.  We both were amused by the "look" of the images melting in the pan....somehow in particular, the praying hands struck me funny.
Our new and improved chocolates are laid out above.   

Friday, May 28, 2010


Next in the continuing saga.....

Saturday was far worse, at least from my personal point of view.

Remember my pointing out a few times how I am my own worst enemy?  Well, here I go again!  I believe I've also mentioned - because I am well aware of it - how birthdays are bad news for Nastya.  And it doesn't matter if it is her own or someone else's....they are a trigger.   And I know it.

But, despite the bizarre level of disregulation, and despite my foreknowledge of the effect of birthdays......I still set out to take Anastasia to a birthday party on Saturday night.  Why?  Sheer imbecility.

Anastasia did seem chastened come Saturday morning.  In fact, after her Friday afternoon cry, she had a late Friday night cry, too....and she asked me to lie down with her as she went to sleep.  And she was pretty normal the next morning. She did a super job making zillions of blini for breakfast without a complaint.

And.... I'd already told the hostess we'd go. 

And, this is her friend from her old orphanage... 

And, selfishly, there was to be a mom's get-together too....and I am really short of IRL friend opportunities.  I hate to miss any chances to be with actual people for something other than work. 

Last-minute-Annie, as always, my "plan" had been to get the b-day gift on Saturday afternoon.  But, I did do a lot of "preparation", talking to Nastya about  how birthdays can be upsetting for her, suggesting ways she might self-regulate despite that..... warning her that any ill-behavior and we wouldn't be able to go to the party because I wouldn't want her to "embarrass" herself.  She was great!  We had a nice time together.  I saw a cute little purse to give to the birthday girl, and there was another one in a different color.  It occurred to me that at their age the "matching" thing is big, so I bought both purses.  That might help a tiny bit with the birthday blues, I thought.

We arrived a little late at the party, due to church, but things were relaxed.  There were a number of girls from different arenas of the birthday girl's life, but several of Anastasia's Russian girl friends were there.  Eventually they all decided to go take the dog for a walk.

Great!  The girls were enjoying themselves.  Moms chat was pleasant and fun.  The food was tasty.  For the first time in a long time I was just relaxing and having a pleasant time.  Until  WHAM!

Suddenly all the girls were running into the house yelling, "Anastasia ran away!!!!" 

As it happens, the birthday girls' house is within a mile of Anastasia's school....but we approach their house from such a different direction that I hadn't even thought about that.  Meanwhile, keep in mind that the school play was running for the second night, and the plan had been to go to pick up Sergei at school after the party.  

Anastasia hadn't known how close we were to the school until their walk took them to a place where she saw a landmark on our usual route to the school.  For some reason, seeing this, she apparently went immediately insane.  She ditched the girls and took off running (across a four-lane road) to the school.  Now, most girls - most anyone - would have thought that this seemed like a long way to go!  But in addition to teaching Anastasia taekwondo, which has not always worked out quite as I would hope - they also have trained her to run.  The PE teacher is on the Olympic Marathon Team (no joke) and just the day before the parents had come to witness all the children in the school running either a mile or two miles.  Therefore....running to the school was no feat for our heroine. 

The worst part of this episode I have to admit is how embarrassing it was for me.  And such a tangled knot of emotions kind of embarrassing. 

I didn't enjoy leaving the party.  I didn't enjoy the prospect of "dealing" with the behavior - and, like a drowning man, was grasping at everything I've read/heard/studied to figure out how to deal with it, even from the first moment....  I didn't enjoy witnessing the little girls' horror.  But, worst of all, frankly, was that it all happened in front of my friends.

And, though these are other adoptive moms, and one of them has an older daughter who has given her significant challenges.....somehow, I still seemed to be winning the prize for "worst child".  So, was I humiliated just on my own account?  No; I also realized later that I am just devastated for Nastya.   When she does these things she compromises her relationships, her opportunities....  And here she created this scene among the only group of people that I really have trusted her to socialize with.....because I know the moms.  Since she has the predilection to occasionally try to glean sympathy from unsuspecting gentlewomen via tales of being abused, I really can't just send her to play at a school friend's home.  This was the one set of people I'd felt comfortable with - but this crazed behavior is not going to endear her to anyone.  People may sympathize and understand - that doesn't mean they will want their daughter hanging out with mine anytime in the near future.

I think that on some level I realized all this at that very moment.  The mothers were concerned, of course, horrified, fearful.  I think they may have even reserved part of their horror for my cool, collected state.  I didn't leap up to go "find" her immediately, as I am certain was anticipated.  I was pretty regulated myself - because I knew precisely what she'd done,
where she'd gone
and why. 

She'd seen the bowling alley, realized she was in running distance of the school, and that she could go to the play and be near M.  While I doubt she thought of it consciously, she also knew I'd know where she was +
it was a safe place + Sergei was there + I was going to go there to pick him up after the play anyway.... 

Up I got. Went to the school.  Watched the end of the play; actually enjoyed it (should I admit that?).  Lights came up.  Located Anastasia.  She glares at me.  I remain composed and cheerful. (That ought to confuse her!)  Watch actors come out.  Watch M avoid Anastasia. 

Sergei likes all his schoolmates well enough, but vastly prefers spending time in his cozy bedroom "den" with Ilya, so he wanted to head home immediately.  I suggested that he tell Nastya we were leaving and at his approach she scurried to the car.  No biggie. 

Until we got into the car.  I didn't lay into her; I simply told her that I was appalled at that behavior, at the rudeness of ditching the girls....  She started crying but I couldn't tell if it was because she'd screwed up her chance to enjoy the party for nothing, or because M wouldn't talk to her, or because I was not happy with her - probably all of the above. 

I don't really remember the rest of the ride home.  Maybe it was silent, even.  Why can't I remember how we got to the end of the evening?

But the next thing I knew, she'd gotten ready for bed and was curled in my arms like a baby....a baby who is clinging to me, saying "I hate you.  I hope you die.  You ruined my life.  You're not my mommy.  You'll never be my mommy."  Good stuff. 

While Craig and the boys watch COPS.  She and I cope with the pain we've experienced during the day.

"I hate you.  I'll always hate you."

"I know you hate me; but I love you.  I'll always love you."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


I stole away.  That's what it felt like, and went as a "mother helper" with Zhenya's class to the state capitol.  I hadn't been there before, oddly, except once when Lydia danced there....and that was just the one tour.

Ever fiber of my being just resonates with old buildings.  I can't understand it, really....but it is a strong, powerful bond with old places.  Probably I'd feel it even more in a more humble building of this same age.  But I have always thought - from the time I was very, very young that I was born a hundred years too late. 

I have a crummy little pocket camera.  I never bothered to read the directions.  I have no clue what I am doing, and my taste in photos is probably just awful, but sometimes I really enjoy the "accidents".  I love the way the lights contrast with the deep and stately governor's chair.  I love this one, too...somehow it seems to capture the children's excitement.

I have been in one other state capitol - the one in Denver, Colorado.  To me they looked just the same, except the dome of the Colorado capitol is covered in gold, as befits a state that had its own gold rush.  However, but for that difference the two seemed so much the same to me.  I was literally standing there thinking, "all state capitols must be pretty much the same" when the guide said, "This architect also designed one other capitol building - the one in Denver, Colorado."  So.....uh, maybe not.  What a coincidence!


This was so pretty.  At the conclusion of the children's' first confession service, after each had gone to confession, they came and lit a small candle from the Christ candle in the back of the church.  The lights were low....even when we turned them completely off at the end, these little candles lit up the whole back of the church.

Monday, May 24, 2010


Yesterday was the anniversary of one of the best days of my life.  Sergei became our son.  I love this photo; it is actually from nine months previous....when he spent a week with us during a summer visit.  God was so, so good to plant Sergei in our family!  I cannot begin to express how much I love that boy.

In the next photo we see Sergei today - I was so glad I found these two because they really compliment each other!  He still loves vehicles!  When he visited us, he was so thrilled with the van.  He went out there and deep-cleaned it every other day!  Down to taking out the mats and vacuuming!  Sadly, that habit disappeared (somehow he discovered that when you clean something - it gets dirty again!)  But in the second photo, his interest in vehicles continues.  He got to try out the cockpit of a jet at one of his Army Cadet weekends. 

Today I am sneaking him away from school for a special lunch with mom.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


I realize there is no option but to continue the story..... Although, at this point, I'd far rather catch up on any of my in-progress memes, or do this week's TTT..... a responsible blogger, back I must go to last Friday and continue........

So, Anastasia is like - I really do hate to say this - but if you've ever had one you will know it is a unique sort of thing - a cat in heat.  And, undoubtedly, like the cat in heat, she has no real idea why the heck she wants what she wants as powerfully as she wants it.....  Anastasia needs to be loved.  Yes; I know that, and she has every reason to doubt the veracity of a mother's love.  So.........boys.

Last Friday and Saturday the school had it's play.  And all the HS kids were in it, as well as a number of the middle schoolers, including her present focus of attention, boy M.

The students who were in the play all stayed at school to rehearse and so forth until showtime.  We were planning on going to the show, but that was not good enough for Anastasia.  We were no sooner home than she demand that I take her back to the school.  I'd made the mistake the night before of allowing her to stay with her friend Elizabeth, to watch the she wanted more of that same opportunity.  I said no.  She said she was going anyway.  She was going to go on her bike.  It was as though she read my thoughts, and she went on, "And don't try and follow me in the car, because I'll just go where you can't follow me."  I decided that she wouldn't really try to ride to the school; it takes us nearly a half-hour every morning to get there, on the freeway.  But, she rode off with a head of steam.  I was had the feeling that following her would, indeed, cause her to "ditch" me, and that furthermore if I ignored her she would probably decide it was a stupid idea and turn back - if she even went any further than just out of my sight.

I couldn't stand it, however, and in only a few minutes did get in the car and drove all the routes that I thought she might use, thinking perhaps I could follow from a distance.  No Anastasia.  As I arrived back home I thought she probably had already come back.  But she wasn't there.  Next thing I knew, the phone rang and it was the Lansing Police.  They'd found her walking her bike down the freeway.  Great.

"Do you know where your daughter is?"

Um.......  I could hardly say "I bet you found her on the freeway, right???" 

When the policeman brought her back, she did not appear to be chastened; she'd not decided to be sweet and friendly to him (as she generally is to outside adults).  No; I could tell immediately by her hard, angry demeanor that she had been frightened.   She was horrible to him, and horrible to us in front of him.  I remembered stories of when she was removed from her home.  I don't doubt it all came back to her.  She is still proud of how uncooperative she was - how she "stamped on the lady's foot" and "tore her stockings". 

But, when I went up to her room, she was sitting there with tears streaming down her face.  I thought there was not a lot of point in talking about what she did.  She knew what she did; she knew how we felt about it; she knew how the police felt about it.  But, she did start telling me about M and how much she wanted to "talk" to him.  Her goal has been to get him to say he "loves" her.  I don't think she has thought any further than that.

She let me listen.  She let me hold her.  She calmed.

M doesn't have any interest in her.  That was obvious from the way he managed to avoid her in the big gym as she stalked him.  One had to feel sorry for him.

She didn't take it too much amiss.  She'd been there; she'd done her "all".  She was quiet, but not even angry on the way home.

Now, if her mother could just learn from experience - but NO.

Her mother is an idiot.  Her mother really thought that Anastasia could bounce back from those two days and go to a BIRTHDAY PARTY on Saturday.  Yes!  Can you believe it?  I am a slow learner, that's for sure.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


I wonder if my days of peaceful existence are over.  Seems like.  Anastasia has gone off her rocker. 

Things have been strained in general with her for the past few months.  However, a few weeks ago, there was this moment...  I can't remember what started it, but she was saying something about being twelve, or someone else was - and I was looking into her face when I saw this idea enter her brain.  And she spoke the horror - "I'm almost a teenager!"  Pause.  "Next year, I'll be thirteen!"   I can't remember what she said next, actually, but I knew immediately as you know when you see the dawn that the sun will be coming up - that what she meant was - well - every fearful thing about a teenaged girl.  And I could also tell, that she didn't see the point of waiting....until she was thirteen.  Twelve was close enough. Time's a-wastin'!

Since then, she's been scaring the bejeebers out of me by asking questions like, "Would you kick me out of the house if I had a baby at sixteen?!"  (What!!!!!!!  I've since discovered - to my amazement and dismay - that there is actually a TV program called "Pregnant at Sixteen" and while it is probably supposed to be a deterrent, I do not believe this has been the effect on Anastasia).  She has talked about "having a boyfriend", "having a baby" again and again. 

I try to be careful. While my inner mom is screaming "More talk like that and I'm going to chain you up, young lady!!!"....outwardly, I try to not over-react - to stay "open" so that she will continue to talk to me, while offering "wise counsel".  At other times I try to concentrate on her significant talents and gifts.  She recently was chosen to compete at the Math Olympics and won fifth place in computation!  I was impressed.  She is smart, organized, diligent.  She could be a nurse!  She could be a doctor!  She comments that she doesn't want to be a doctor; she loves babies.  She can be an obstetrician!!   She does not need to be a teenaged mother! 

Except, I almost begin to feel as though it is in her DNA or something.  Both her grandmother (who seemed to handle it responsibly) and her mother (who seems to have done until turning to alcohol after her marriage broke up) got married and had children very young.  Is this a Russian thing?  One of my favorite Russian ladies says it is quite common to marry young there.  Olga is a gorgeous, brilliant woman, yet she married an American when still in her teens.   And she immediately had children.  That didn't stop her from getting her degree in speech therapy in Russia, and getting certification to work here when they moved to the US.  She is now in her mid-twenties.  She divorced the American guy she married in Russia (let's just say, this wasn't a bad thing) and is now married to a doctor, and starting medical school herself.  All to say - even very smart, clever, organized, hard-working Russian women (at least some) marry young.  

But here in the US, that is considered the road to disaster, and Anastasia is itching to get started on it.

I see her literally eyeing every boy she sees.  While I am fairly oblivious to the people around me, she is noticing whether or not any boy between 10 and 16 seem to look at her and think "she is pretty".  She happily shares these observations with me, causing my stomach to pitch each time.  

She seems to be "going with" and "breaking up with" all the [very limited number of] boys in her school, one after the other.  The intensity of these "relationships" are terrifying due to the fact that they consist of her seeing them (most of them are in the other building) at Chapel on Friday and for a few minutes after school, and on her daily hour of  facebook.  Where can all of this feeling come from?  I fear she is making herself a laughing-stock.  I try to tell her this gently - but I don't need to worry about her getting the message because Sergei blares it loudly.  These are good Christian boys, by the grace of God, with attentive parents.  I peeked over her shoulder (that's the rule) and saw one Chinese boy assuring her he felt for her "like an older brother".  (Oh, heavens!  These poor kids.) 

Her most recent "relationship" (only from her point of view) was with M.   M is not interested in girls at all, but didn't want to hurt her feelings.  So she has been working overtime to get him to say he "likes" her.  He's been working overtime to avoid her.  When he wouldn't respond to her via facebook, she said she was going to call him.  I said, "Girls don't call boys."  She told me that was stupid.  I told her that furthermore, you never call anyone's home after 9 p.m. - it was almost 10.  She was wildly looking for the school phone directory.  Since I am pretty sure it is lost (I can't find it) I wasn't too worried, although she mentioned that "Elizabeth has his number" to which I responded with the "reminder" that you don't call after nine.   I was putting the dishes on, and figured she went up to get ready for bed, but noticed that my purse was open and my cell phone not in its usual place.  Sure enough, she'd made a call.  So, I hid the cell, carrying it around in my pocket, and disconnected the other phone.  Occasionally, we have a wiring issue so she figured it was that.  Good gosh! 

But - that night (Thursday) was serenity itself compared to the past two days.....  to be continued....(and continued, and continued....I'm afraid.)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


I adore this breakfast.  They are called Dutch Babies, or so I was told by the friend who gave me the recipe.  They are sort of an eggy-pancake, an enormous, sweeter popover.  The problem is that my oven will only hold three and they take twenty-minutes to cook.  So in March, on the weekend when Sergei was at cadets, I made them for the rest of us - and still I had to share.  I can easily eat a whole one, I confess!  Fortunately, Anastasia doesn't like them.  I think they are best served with just a sprinkling of lemon juice and powdered sugar.  When Craig pours on syrup, I want to go over and confiscate his.


One thing about me; however ridiculous I look, I will finish what I start, howeve, I do wish I'd done a better job of keeping up!

This is a photo I took of the candles the little children lit and laid at the foot of the Paschal candle after they made their first confession.  In retrospect, I ought to have tried one from a distance....but they were so pretty! The whole back of the church was darkened, except for these candles and the candle that represents our Savior.  These services always move me, and combined with that, quite honestly, is a great sense of relief that it "came off well" and one more "big thing" has been accomplished.

Monday, May 10, 2010


Six is pretty much a wash - I don't have a favorite music video because I've only seen one music video that I can think of.... And without the image no one would ever have guessed what it is, either - Madonna's "Like a Prayer", which my colleague had in the office way back when it came out (1989?).  He was showing it to people as "Exhibit A" in a sort of paroxysm of horror at "what the world was coming to?!!"  

Frankly, I recall my reaction being more complex than that.  In fact, far from horrified, I was very attracted by the imagery, the ambivalence in the "story line" and even had the impression that the religious elements were actually treated in a way that would attract the viewer rather than scandalize.

I began to muse that Madonna might have spiritual depths that needed "awakening".  I henceforth began to pray for her, and did quite a lot for awhile.  Now not so much.  Worthier subjects close at hand.


In the end, I really think that I am glad for the week Anastasia and I had together, even though it was a bit "rough" at times, I could see that she was trying, as was I, to "make it work" and to have a decent time.
She had many reasons to be dysregulated, and actually, so did I.  We both do better with routine, and my routine had just changed greatly with the conclusion of the Religious Education classes for the year.  My tiny office appears to have had a bomb go off in it, and vital things are all mixed up with the left-overs of the 8th graders snack, and gifts the teachers forgot to pick up are stacked on top of baptismal certificates that need to be filed before first communions can be recorded.  Do you think I like this?  Not!  I am itching to put it all to rights, but it was not anything Anastasia could help me with and it is a very tiny room for the two of us.
On Friday, it was colder, and she did come to work with me, and very sweetly helped here and there, but mostly watched movies on her DVD player.  It was boring, but she was very nice about it.  Thursday was a sort of "breakthrough" day, though.  For some reason, I decided to take her to Mason...the county seat.  I suppose, on one hand I was thinking "educational" and "government" but I was also thinking "charm" and "enjoyment". 
I was weirdly oblivious enough when I took this photo, not to realize how lame it will appear next to photos of the other children in front of the White House....however, take it I did and like it she does.  And we saw other historical sites, as well! 
We ate lunch at one of the cute little restaurants on the town square, and then looked through a wonderful fabric shop.  Nastya does like crafts and handwork, and fell in love with these plaited ribbon bookmarks.  We bought ribbon for her to make a "souvenier" bookmark for her teacher.  And I bought ribbon and commissioned one for myself.  Somehow the learning of this new craft, and her immediate success at it did wonders for my girl. 
On Thursday night she volunteered to help out at the Art and Music Festival at Zhenya's school, and was only a little bit too flirty with one of the HS boys who was also helping. (Just another one of my worries....)
Sometimes you hit something right, and the relief....well, it is just that.  I heaved a sigh and the rest of our week went well.  I even think we had a few breakthroughs.  Much better than being away for a week.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


This morning beloved son Sergei, begins the day with "Happy Mother's Day".  But, always helpful..... when he came downstairs, he went into the laundry room where Anastasia was and I heard her yell angrily, "I don't care!  She's not MY mother!  Leave me alone!"  then, ironically, "MOOOOTH-EERRRRRR!!!!!" 

She was a bit testy, had to tell me a few times, she wanted her mother, and hated me, but somehow I got her to help me make blini, and in fact, she was so interested, she pretty much did it by herself.  Of course, she wasn't sweet and gentle, but needed to maintain a distant attitude, insisting I butter each one for her, as they went onto the stack.  I would have done it happily, but she was insistent on saying somewhat rudely "Here's another one!"  "Butter this one!"  But, all in all she was working hard on calming herself and being cooperative.

She worked so hard in fact......

That mid-afternoon....from the living room I hear her little voice....  "Mom, I love you."

Love, you too, Tinka.  So much.

Friday, May 7, 2010


A teacher friend of mine mentioned that she was taking her class to Detroit one Friday, and that they would be visiting the Detroit Institute of the Arts.....I was about to comment that - Wow! it would take more than a day to really see the DIA, when she continued, "and the Detroit Science Center, and the Detroit Historical Museum, and the Holocaust Museum."  I could hardly take it in.  To begin with, the ride itself from Lansing to downtown Detroit, on a school bus would have to take an hour and a that is three hours of their day right there, and though I believe they arrived home late - about 5 p.m. - how could they possibly fit in all of those sites, and have anything in their minds more than a blur at the end of the day?

The day Lydia and I visited the DIA we were both sated; unable to continue after looking at two of the collections.... That was enough.  We rode home talking about the things that had an impact on us, and in fact we continued to talk about them for several days.

I just wonder at the value of rushing children through these "attractions" - as though that is all there is - an attraction without sufficient substance to devote time to.  Look quick and if it interests you, too bad -  forget that and go on to the next thing.  One could argue that by seeing lots of different things, connections could be made, but that is difficult to imagine in such a disparate array.   Now, what I do suspect is that, when you move that fast, no one gets a chance to get bored....not even your most distracted ADHD kid.  I just have a tiny suspicion that it is somehow easier for the teachers to keep all the kids moving than it is to lure true attention and focus from the least-interested.  But, is that fair to everyone else?  Is it teaching the proper approach to a museum?  Do children "get" what they should from the experience?  Or are they taught to treat with disregard (in the purest sense of that word) what ought to be regarded carefully?

The trip Anastasia missed, likewise was scheduled to the max.  I am sure that the children will have had a "taste" of what Washington DC has to offer, but I'd be curious to know what odd ideas and strange impressions they got when they were moving so fast.  Here is the itinerary:
  • Sunday - church at the Washington National Cathedral and a tour of the cathedral/Arlington National Cemetery, including a tour of the Arlington House/D.C. Lights tour, including touring the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Viet Nam Memorial, and the landing of Marine One, with the President aboard, on the south lawn of the White House; the Marine Corps Memorial and the World War II Memorial.
  • Monday visit the Supreme Court; (they did actually see the justices announce the decisions of two cases which I envy)/tour of the Capitol/the House of Representatives/tour of the National Air and Space Museum, the Botanical Gardens, and the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History
  • Tuesday the Washington Monument/Bureau of Engraving and Printing/tour of the Holocaust Memorial/tour of the Smithsonian Museum of American History/tour of the National Archives.
  • Wednesday - Mount Vernon/ the Potomac River and George Washington's grist mill and distiller/the National Gallery of Art and the historic Old Post Office.
Maybe I'm a curmudgeon or somehow lacking in something, but I just think that sounds like too much.  If I had four days to be in Washington DC, I'd want to do only a tiny fraction of that while allowing myself time to think about what I saw before rushing to the next thing.  I think that the goal - and perhaps a valuable one, under the circumstances - was to keep the children so busy, and make them so tired, that they couldn't get up to any shenanigans.  Their minds and bodies would be so fully engaged (no chance for even the least attentive child to become bored) that there would be no opportunity for anyone to get into trouble.

That's a worthy goal, but actually seeing things, experiencing things fully and taking the time to imbibe the atmosphere of places, allowing the quiet time to reflect.  Isn't that important?  Don't we want to teach children that as well?

Thursday, May 6, 2010


Remember the big class trip?  The week-long trip to Washington, DC?  You all soundly advised me against it, many even saying they wouldn't allow their bold, strong, non-radish children to go that far from home as a fifth grader.  Well....did I confess that despite all that I was about to waver?  Stupid, but true - until we had our first visit with our wonderful parenting counselor who, when I threw the question out - responded in no uncertain terms - "No, she shouldn't go!" 

Frankly, I am not sure which was more impressive - that she was so "on the same page" with all of you good advisors, or that she is a counselor who doesn't mind giving counsel.  (Any of you who have gone to counseling want to recall how rare that it???)

Anyway, I held firm, and firmly expected that the few weeks and certainly days approaching the trip would be hell.  Honestly, they weren't!  The teacher deserves a lot of the credit for this; she handled it beautifully.  I would have allowed any other of my children to go - this trip was so amazingly well-organized. But when doing this planning, Anastasia always had a "part".  The teacher had them practice crossing busy streets by linking arms, and Anastasia got to play the chaperone. Just one example she related to me.  Presisely once, before they left, Anastasia said, and with a complete lack of fervor, that I was "mean" for not letting her go.  That was it. 

But the week has come when the class is gone, and Anastasia is here.  The teacher has a scrapbooking session scheduled for Monday, so the children can put together a memory book of their trip. She told Anastasia to bring photos of her family to make a family scrapbook, but I thought maybe she could make a journal of her week, which I'd decided to try to make moderately amusing.  Even before the fact, I knew this would be walking a fine line.  Anastasia does best with structure and routine.  But, after all, that was all shot to heck already.  That said, I figured we should try to help her feel that she wasn't "missing out" too terribly....all the while not over-stimulating her.  Quite a trick, honestly!

She has helped in the preschool at the school where I work in the mornings.  Monday - what a blessing!  - her godmother, who works in the preschool, took her home for the afternoon.  Tuesday, we attempted a little outing, but what with some work commitments we only had a couple of hours and I made the mistake of taking her shopping.  What a coincidence!  That was the very day I got to the section in the great book I'm reading Building the Bonds of Attachment, that explains why gifts are so difficult for children who experienced early neglect.   But, I only read that in the evening - after shopping.

We had lunch at Noodles and Company (which has to be my favorite chain restaurant) and the shopping wasn't so bad.  Though, Anastasia is certainly a selfish little thing.  She doesn't give me much chance to even look for something for myself, although I did also purchase a shirt for Ilya and shorts for Sergei.   It was after we got home, and I started making supper, that all hell broke loose and I wonder if the shopping contributed to it, or if it would have happened anyway.  To make a long story short there was a true misunderstanding; both Anastasia and Ilya felt they had rights to the computer. I wasn't paying attention until the scuffle broke out, but when I turned around she was going after him, hitting at him, and he responded by boxing her ear (which I am certain did hurt but not nearly as much as she's been making out).  She dropped like a fly into wild screams of torment.  I soundly repremanded both of them for hitting and turned the computer off, but that totally ruined the evening and Anastasia was a radling extraordinaire for the rest of the night....and has been what I think of as "brittle" ever since. 

I was doing my best to ignore her and stay off her radar, to tell the truth, lying on my bed near bedtime.  She came in and hit me hard with a pillow - it was a pillow, but it wasn't in fun.  She yelled, "You shouldn't have adopted me!"  Hit.  "I'm not worth anything!"  Hit.   Wow.  If ever there was a clearer declaration of the shame she feels, I haven't heard it.  Or, I haven't taken it previously, for what it probably is - a true statement of her inner being.  I really didn't understand.   I am a bit confused about what brought it on.  The shopping?  The computer altercation?  The stress of the twisted schedule? (That time of month is surely not helping! How could the fates be so cruel?)

Yesterday was better, but she had her hard little shell on much of the time, a persona that is really not all that nice to be with.  We went to Old Town - had icky Sir Pizza in an area of lovely little restaurants (because obviously, that's what she chose), and spent maybe half an hour looking around in shops and galleries I would have liked to spend the afternoon browsing.  Then I let her have her hair trimmed, which it did need. 

She mentioned earlier in the week, that she doesn't know the names of flowers, so the "educational component" to our week is teaching her flower names.  That's a pleasant task, in any case.

Thursday she has been invited to a movie with her godmother, so I will only have Friday.  I wanted her to have some wonderful cultural experiences like her friends....but she claims to "hate" museums, art galleries, historic buildings and anything else I have suggested.  That is the very unpleasant and uninteresting personality of the "hard" Nastya.  She wants everything "for" herself and can't look outside of herself very well.  One's gut reaction is to, indeed, try to placate her and give her the attention she craves.  But, I know that however much I give her, she's really unable to accept it.  Now, I understand better that it is because she feels so unworthy of getting what she when offered, the good things make her feel ever worse.  Really a conundrum.

Monday, May 3, 2010


Here is a little video to illustrate this:

First of all.....this challenge is not just "easy blogging".  Actually, I have already discovered some things about myself that I hadn't quite been aware of.

Today's challenge:  Your Favorite Quote, and I don't know who said it.

The truth about any of us would shock all of us.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


In today's challenge I am to name my favorite book.  Oh, come on!!!  How could I possibly do such a thing?  Clearly, this challenge loses the "fun" quotient if people list their relied-upon religious guide, so I will not list the Bible.  Furthermore, I have in mind a post that I intend to call "Over and Over Again" about books that I re-read often.  So, what to write?

How about my favorite book that I'd never read again? 

Like music, that often overpowers me, there are also books that have overpowered me.  The book Precious Bane is the one that comes to mind here.  The book that took my breath away, that I could not put down, that had me twisted, tied up in emotional knots....yes - Precious Bane, by Mary Webb.  But I can't put myself through that again!  
This character trait is nothing new.  When I was a very little girl, probably third grade - I know because I recall what house we were living in....I read a book called Patty Reed's Doll, about the Donner Party.  It was the first book I'd read that did that to me - take my breath away, grab my heart and soul and not let go until I literally cried.  It was the first book, yes, that made me cry.  Sob.  In fact, it had such a hold on me that I took some tiny slip of paper and wrote the title on it, and stuck it in my jewelry box.  In that paradoxical way that I still think about Precious Bane, I thought then, and still think now (believe it or not) about Patty Reed's Doll.....that I'd like to read it again.  But, I don't dare read either one of them again. 

Writing this made me look it up.  Now I know it is in print.  Now it will haunt me even more insistently. Oh, dear.  Oh, dear. 

Saturday, May 1, 2010


DAY THREE - Your favorite television program.

We can start with the fact that I'm a person who, until forced to sell the vehicle, had a bumper sticker that read "Turn Off TV; Turn On Life".  Pompous, yes?

Yes; I think so.  Now....although I like life better than TV, my life is as Barbara Pym put it, "Perhaps a little too full."  How I'd love to have a simple, regulated life, a life that included just one night a week, maybe, when I could plan on curling up to a nice, stupid, mindless TV program.

This is not the way my life is.  I am not familiar with any of the TV programs that are clearly central to our popular culture.  Exceptions:  before the great digital take-over, I used to be able to listen to Everybody Loves Raymond reruns on the radio, and somehow it was on at a time when I was frequently in the car, so though I never got to experience an entire episode, beginning to end, and have no clue what these people look like, I did think it was a very funny program.  That's about it!

What do you know?  They all look like I pictured them, except for Raymond himself, who seemed much older, and less cute. 

A few years ago I would move heaven and earth to watch Masterpiece Theater regularly.  Then one time they aired one that was not appropriate for Anastasia, and since she is my appendage, particularly at bedtime - it was farewell to that little indulgence.  In any case, what with midnight teaching all....I can't stay up until ten anymore.....  So, this particular day of the challenge [and no one said they had to be consecutive days - in case you noticed] is a bust.