Saturday, July 31, 2010

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Some years ago I discovered one of Lansing's best-kept secrets - the Cooley Gardens.  There is a big house and then behind it these beautiful gardens.  Craig and I stopped by there one morning after church and have made it a little tradition.  Quite, peaceful talking time in a gorgeous setting.  In four Sundays we've seen precisely one other person is like having our own private garden.


Going to the pool is our main summer recreation....not very creative - but I'm glad we have the option!

Anastasia got a new swimming suit.  Better?  I think so.  She really wanted a skirt, and somehow I thought this one with the skirt, actually appeared more modest than the one with no skirt, but a "mid-section".

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Craig saw the Ritz crackers on the counter.  "Oh, I used to love eating these with Velveeta."

Anastasia frowned, and asked with clear disapproval, "Who is Velveeta?"

Whoever she was, daddy should not be hanging around with her eating snacks!

Saturday, July 24, 2010


I fuss to myself about blogging sometimes.  I wonder if it is fair to reveal things about the kids publicly.  Does it invade their privacy?  Is it disrespectful?  I started my blog on the pattern of Smiles and Trials, and Christine is both pretty open about their family life, and she uses real names places and lots of photos.   She was my inspiration so I did likewise.

Since then, I've run across blogs that are real in terms of what is written about, but the blogger uses made-up names.....and there are also blogs that use obvious "pet names".  For some reason I have the hardest time reading is some sort of disability of mine. If someone calls their youngest child "Alice" I can easily envision the child.... BUT, if they refer to her as "Little Bit" or some other non-name, I can't seem to envision a human being at all, or distinguish "Little Bit" from "Poopsie"; thus if they have several children I get completely lost.  That makes me nearly unable to follow what is being said or to take it seriously.  Again, it must be some sort of disability; I'm sure other people can, but I can't seem to.

And there are bloggers who tend to just share the cute and the sweet and the latest holiday photos.  I respect that choice, but as I read those blogs I can sometimes feel like I am rubbing my face in the dreariness of my life.  Though, there are certainly IRL people with whom I have that same sort of relationship! Our conversation centers on my ooohing and aaahing about their vacation cottage, their latest trip....or worse yet, being asked to commiserate about how hard it is to get ready to go on long vacations!  Or, how disruptive it is to have major home improvements done! [Darn; if I could just afford to get someone in to fix that broken window!]

Anyway, Tina wondered, after my last post, how Anastasia would feel to know I shared her wish list on my blog.  I don't know!  She probably wouldn't like it, anymore than she'd like it if I shared it with other friends IRL.  But Anastasia "doesn't like" much of anything - ever.  That makes deferring to her wishes difficult. 

The boys know about the blog, apparently, and are savvy enough to realize that it is not a lot different than me talking to my friends.... They don't like it, but it is "what moms do".   They may even feel that the blog beats my going out to coffee with people they may see and sharing stuff there!

I do think/hope that few, if any, people the kids know in real life are aware of the blog....the exception being big brother Aidan, who reads it occasionally, another blogger in the parish whom they do not know, and one or two other adult acquaintances of mine.

I suppose that with all the interesting people and fascinating things "out there" in the world.....just my little circle of blogging friends are going to be interested in our family....I think of my blog as the e-parallel of the conversations over coffee which my mom would have with the neighbors, or her other friends.  What would my mom have had to talk about if it wasn't me and my brother? (I would egocentrically think)....   And her doing so seemed only natural.    I suppose if I'd thought about it, I would have figured that I better only do those things that I'd want talked about!

Friday, July 23, 2010


Do you know that there is a whole magazine devoted to found bits and pieces of paper?  Actually this is just my kind of thing, which is why, undoubtedly, I recalled hearing about this on public radio a year or two ago.  Think of the mystery!  The "rest of the story" which you will never know! (But which asks, nay, demands your imaginative interaction.)

These are two found papers which turned up in our wastebasket (hence the spot on the first one), and (sorry) were too intriguing to pass up.  The little one I share just because it is sooooo Anastasia.  From the first day I met her it has been clear that - yes, she loves to write.  When she was six years old and with us for her last few days of hosting, she sat quietly while I did my [then] part-time job of phone interviewing for a medical study.  Patient little thing; she sat across from me in this empty office I had to use for almost three hours.  All the while she copied numbers from a phone book. No names - she didn't even know how to write Russian letters....but she understood numbers.

I've also mentioned before all of the books she copied....pages and pages of text.  Actually, she's over that now.  She still writes, but has turned to comments about her wardrobe, movie reviews, and, as we see here - lists.

She saw the Disney movie "Sixteen Wishes" which, I gather, had to do with wishes made on a sixteenth birthday.  Since she will be thirteen on her next birthday, she scaled down, appropriately.  I can't help but be touched that things like a computer and cell phone are mixed in with "5 things from Russia" and "a new picture of my Russian family"....and her desire to be in touch with her Russian brother just tears me apart. [The thirteenth wish involved a boy at her school, so I didn't include it....though the heart gives a clue.  :( ]

The amusing result of my finding this list, is that having read it, I thought "Well, I can fulfill one of her wishes right now!" (Number 11.)  Because, when I checked I saw that the register in her room was shut, and when I opened it she was able to get more air conditioning in there.  I asked her if she appreciated that, and she looked at me sadly, "Mom, I didn't mean colder - I meant cooler!"

As in "What a cool room!"  She also informed me that her room is too cold already.  Woops.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


This morning I was reading on Christine's blog this post about a respite situation.  It brings up a question I have for other adoptive parents.

Did you get your children's "permission" and/or agreement before you decided to adopt?

I have always envisioned adoption as precisely parallel to giving birth. Therefore, it is in the purview of God to lay the groundwork and the parents to make it happen and the siblings to accept it, as they would the weather....  What parents ever consulted their children to see if it was "OK" to conceive?

Aidan once told me that he was a little bit hurt that I didn't discuss it with him before we adopted Sergei. There may have been two particular reasons for his feeling that way - I admit the timing was odd because he had just moved out, being 18 or 19 at the time. It didn't occur to me that moving out had emotional coloration for him, too - and that he might feel he was somehow being replaced.  Also, Lydia DID know and even went with me to pick Sergei up from his original host family. She knew, but we never consulted her, either.  She may have been allowed to say how she liked him, but there was certainly no sense that she had power of refusal. 

When Aidan and I finally discussed this, years later, and I explained my theory of adoption and birth being parallel, I think he understood and it made sense.  Since he reads this blog, he can comment if he wants and let us know!

In Christine's post,  it seems the family is giving their biological children enormous power over not only their own lives, but also the lives of their parents and two other helpless children. What an enormous (and it seems to me inappropriate) responsibility for children to have!  And, doesn't it seem like giving kids that level of responsibility over the make-up of the family and the fate of two lives could backfire? No matter which way it goes?   In fact, it seems to me like there can hardly not be unpleasant repercussions.

Won't those permission-giving kids always have some sense of entitlement to judge their adopted siblings?   The feeling that it is well within their rights to express regret at their decision? Doesn't allowing them to make that decision give them a sort of superiority that can't possibly bode well for sibling relationships?  Doesn't it make these two vulnerable children seem more like "permanent playthings" than real, feeling human beings, equally beloved of God?  Doesn't it make every behavior and personality trait of these two children (who, we have to remember have already faced enormous rejection) seem to be "up for debate"?  Their siblings don't simply take them as they are; no; they have the right to judge them.  Appealing?  Or not?

Or, if these biological children say "no" - they don't want anyone else taking the money/room/privileges/stuff that would otherwise be theirs.....might that not be something that will haunt them well into the future?  I can't imagine how I'd feel, even now, if my decision as a teenager had impacted the lives of other people to that degree.

So - what do you think?

Sunday, July 18, 2010


So this is what it has come to.  Nothing but Project 52 posts and I'm still behind!

This is one of the reasons.  Here is a "print screen" of my most recent on-line Korean venture.

I was hired to facilitate a course for Korean English Teachers.  Actually, three courses - three hours a day with three different classes of six teachers each. 

Overall it was a truly wonderful experience...even as I look at this picture my heart swells with affection for these teachers.  But, it was surely not the easiest thing I've ever done, to say the least!

As I have discovered in the years I've been teaching Korean students on-line, and which Craig discovered in person..... Koreans are very exacting about certain things., such as everything being very official with all paperwork in order.  However,  they are also very "last-minute" and full of surprises, and very often you are asked to do things with only half the rules in place - the rest of the rules are supplied when you least expect and want them.

I was hired for this project.  The day before it was to begin, when I was anxiously awaiting the materials I'd be using, I got the information that I'd need to WRITE the materials we'd be using.  There were five teachers and fifteen weeks so we were all assigned three lesson plans.  I got lucky and got the first three!  But, that was OK - it didn't matter that I abandoned my family without dinner and slaved over these things for three nights in a row!  I was being paid for it - only two hours a plan, its true - when I put in at least four hours on each one, but it was something.  (Not as much as I thought!  Turns out - oh!, sorry!  That was two hours for all three plans - not two hours each.  They obviously don't know how seriously I take something like this!) 

Then we got a surprise directive to write weekly evaluations of all 18 teachers, and we were to give them homework questions over the weekend, and respond to all of their answers (all of that for no additional pay at all). I'm not usually one to even think about pay.  But in this case, the main reason I'm doing this work is to make some extra money - when I don't have any extra time!  So being asked to give more time, with no pay....even I wonder about that a bit!

And, there were a lot of bumps in the road.  Initial reports that the teachers were all "mad" and disliked us.  Reports that we were offending them; that we weren't dressed professionally, were boring, were not respectful, and on and on.  The frustrating part of it is that none of these criticisms were coming to any of us individually.  So, we are all left wondering "do they mean ME?"  It was so stressful!  Apparently they didn't mean me, because after stuggling with this for the first two weeks one of the moderators popped into one of my classes with the kids [via something like chat] to tell me I had a lot of friends in Korea!  I guess my teachers liked me.  That knowledge helped.

As the time went on I became fonder and fonder of these people.  Quite honestly, if they all taught in one school and that school needed a "native speaker" (as they call it) I'd be applying.  I was truly sad when classes ended last Friday. 

Still, I can't be sorry to finally get some sleep.  When I took this project on, I was under the false impression that the children's classes were ending.  Nope! They ended this week.  That meant that my schedule was the closest thing to sheer torture that  I've endured within recent memory.  I'd have to get up and teach children from 2-4, go to bed and get up again to check in for these TEE classes at 5:30....teach until 8:50 then hop in the car to take Anastasia to tennis.  Crazy...and it took its toll on my sanity.  I'd be feeling completely depleted of energy and have to fall into bed for a nap at various times of the day - and I hate wasting a beautiful sunny summer day like that!!! 

But, it is all over for a while now.  The teacher classes and the kids' classes.  I can go to bed and sleep until morning.  Oh!  You cannot imagine the luxury!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


I am not much of a photographer, but every so often when something seems pleasing, I try to take a photo.  Usually, the result manages to capture whatever stuck my fancy - enough to satisfy me.
Not in this case.  Anastasia has been taking Russian lessons from a friend of ours - Nastya came here before she started school in Russian, so while she can speak, she never learned to read and write.  Anyway, as she and her teacher worked I attempted to take photos of the tea things, and the book....with little success.  In person it all seemed very idyllic and beautiful.  The weather was lovely - and the setting, in Sveta's garden, so peaceful.  The tea things beautiful in their simple way. No hint of that in the photos, I'm afraid.

The sad little addendum is that somehow after only a few lessons, she dug in her heels and refused to go any longer.  (And she had requested the lessons in the first place!)  I cannot figure out why.  She loves to study and work.  She couldn't really articulate it, either which is not like her.  All I can think is that somehow it makes her sad...that she can't read and write?  That she isn't in Russia?  But even as she was telling me that she didn't want to go anymore, she was looking sad, but listening to Russian pop music, so it beats me.

Monday, July 5, 2010


See Ilya in this photo?  I don't either, but he's there somewhere, stomping off down the road...behind the car?

I hate holidays.  Kind of, sort of.

Parents with children with any level of attachment disorder probably know that holidays are ordinarily a big trigger.   But in our case, I have to admit - half (at least) of the problem is mine.

Holidays have always been an issue with me.  I have expectations that are far too high, and they bring out my desire to control everything.  There should be an array of fun, "family" activities, and everyone should be kind and loving to one another all day.  Ha!  Does that sound likely in the best of families? 

This must be the downside of reading - unrealistic expectations!  Only a "Little House" holiday will do for me!  And my parents, the most civil of people, complied pretty well with my expectations, but rarely well enough....they would insist on doing some non-holiday chore, or retiring to their room to read or something.  Not part of my vision!  Fairly regular church goers (at least my mom, brother and me) there was the Easter when it was raining and my mom decided NOT to go to church.  She probably also had a realistic dread of a church packed with strangers showing off finery.  Not being Catholic in those days, missing church didn't have the same opprobrium.  But, I had melt-down; I remember it vividly.  After being sent to my room, I cried some more, then spent an hour "acting out" going to church.  What an idiot!  But it illustrates my own "issues".

I realize I haven't changed that much, and I still have high expectations for any holiday....expectations which family members may not wish to meet.  Then, you throw in other people's "issues" and things can get icky. 

I began yesterday with unrealistically high hopes as usual, and made blini for everyone.  I didn't even get upset when half the family slept in.  But, in short order Anastasia was asking "What are we going to do today?" and displaying her own set of issues.  Her anxiety eventually developed into a melt-down which was not even satisfactory....  She was upset and disoriented - enough to throw a couple of bananas across the room, and bring out her snide, cynical self...but a really GOOD meltdown is one that results in sobbing and crying and then feeling better.  She didn't go "all the way" - so there was an undercurrent of ugly throughout the day.

Ilya seemed to have his own issues, too.  Just a sort of tension.   We went swimming at my mom's pool, but she couldn't come out and keep us company, as I'd hoped because her back hurt.  I told the kids, when they were done that we were going to go in and say hello to her for a few minutes - and I meant it (only a few mintues); she is not that fond of or kids, or company - so we never stay long.  But Ilya felt this was "bait and switch".   And Ilya is a funny boy...he doesn't  give a lot of warning before he gets upset.  Suddenly he is saying he refuses to go to Babushka's; he's slamming out of the car and walking home.  And off he goes.

Thus the illustrative photo above, which oddly I took from the car as he walked down the road.  I wasn't really thinking "blog" - I was actually thinking it might be the last I'd ever see of him!  We live quite a way from my mom...and the only way he would know to go home is via the freeway.  My mind was ranging over all the fates that might befall him.

Pray and think.  Pray and think.  I really didn't know what to do.  My first impulse was to sit there and wait for him to come back.  My second was to drive home.  I began to do that, but couldn't bear to leave him in the rearview mirror.  I drove past him to the next intersection, turned and waited.  "Ilya - come on!"  He snorts and keeps going.  We wait.  We drive past him again, turn, pull in.  Repeat.  Four repeats before he got in.  Well, I was grateful for the guidance of the Holy Spirit on that one.  My own understanding didn't believe he'd ever unbend enough to get in the car. 

Wouldn't you think that  event would have been enough to get everyone "on board" the cooperation bus?  Nope!  More irritableness until dinner, and more during.  More after.  Everyone did their unpleasant share.

Finally, all the kids and I picked up Maxim and went to see the fireworks, and for a few short moments as we watched a really wonderful display, all was well.  Harmony reigned, and continued, to my amazement, until everyone was home. 

Clearly I need to come up with a strategy for dealing with holidays.  That's clear.  But what?

Sunday, July 4, 2010


This morning I idly read the tag on a washcloth in the bathroom.  To my surprise I read,


What the heck is that? Do they expect me to know?

Something that cleans?  Something that we use for our hair?  Something I'd wash the rag in?  Something I'd wash with the rag?

And if the rag touches something containing bensoyl peroxide, what will happen?

Perhaps we'll find out.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


My home away from home....  But, this month I found out that the Youth Minister was let go.  He and I were the last remaining pastoral staff people from prior to the merger.  Now, there is just me.


Maxim deserves a long update but it will be long, and I haven't had it in me....  However, he is back at his Independent Living home, and he's running track - really, really well.  This four-by-four is his best event.  His team scored quite high in the state meet.


As news this is old. But it does reflect this week in our year. Zhen was so delighted to be back with his old orphanage friend, Viktor. I am so sorry they no longer live here! The boys are two peas in a pod.

Friday, July 2, 2010


I ran across this photo and decided to scan it, then saw the option of "blogging" it, on Picassa, so - why not? It was taken a few years ago, obviously, but I love it still. How I wish Anastasia hadn't lost the curl in her hair! What she hasn't lost is affection for her big sister.
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