Tuesday, March 29, 2011


In January I had my students write a speech, sharing their dream for the world, using the model of Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech.  This turned out to be a super assignment.  For one thing he uses two really obvious (and useful) literary devices over and over again, so it was a great teaching tool, but also it got the students thinking.  I generally, try to disassociate myself from Anastasia in the classroom.  That's too bad for her in some ways, because I don't give her the same assistance I give other students....or even the same feedback.  In doing the third quarter grades I ran in to her "Dream Speech" again, and this time, even more than when she first wrote it, it really amazed me.  I think I was fearful, when I first saw her topic that it might get messy....not just the speech, but the whole situation.  So, if I were "distant" before I became doubly so in this instance.  So much so that I honestly didn't even take in the content fully, at the time.  But, looking at it now, I'm really flabbergasted that she selected this topic and that she was so honest, so open and so vulnerable.  Obviously, since I haven't really read it until now - I've never addressed the content with her.  Maybe on some level I am afraid it will "scare her off" if I do. 

Now, without further ado.......Anastasia's Dream Speech:

I have a dream that one day all parents will be more caring so that they do not lose custody of their children.  I have a dream that one day the children that aren't in very good families will be able to be in a wonderful family and a good environment and their family will become more responsible.

I have a dream that one day  the children who don't have food will be adopted and get the love they deserve.  I have a dream that whenever parents are not around, they have someone taking care of their child and keeping him or her safe.

I have a dream that one day all babies will grow up in an amazing family.

This is my hope and faith.  With this faith we will be able to have everybody very happy and people cared for.  This will be the day when people give up their child if they can't take care of it and I hope people won't give up their baby because it has a problem.  All you need to do is to give it so much love and to take care of it.

I have a dream that everyone will always have someone that will be there for them no matter what.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


This is a duplicate of a post I put on my other (daily photo) blog.   I don't think anyone reads that blog, though....

Sergei picked up the plastic cover of the cake and sniffed it appreciativly, then recalled, "In Russia, we used to always pick these up and smell them when we'd find them." Just as my heart began to weep for the little orphan who had to smell the box, rather than ever get the cake, he commented, "They don't really taste as good as we thought they would,"

Though, since he smelled the containers of Russian cakes - perhaps they did.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


I was sure that were "in for it" last night.  

Things have been pretty good lately, Anastasia-wise, but a perfect little storm brewed: 
  • Due to a variety of things, we were really late heading home.  Anastasia and I were together,as she'd been at school for track practice.
  • Because we were late, I bought take-out sandwiches, and was not at all happy with how much it all cost, so I was kicking myself for not having the energy to go home and cook.
  • I put it all in the front seat of the car, along with all of the homework I need to correct, and went back to the church to pick up Anastasia.
  • When I came out from locking my office, she'd moved it all to the back seat.  I wasn't happy, and groused at her because, I pointed out, it could all fall on the floor if I had to stop the car suddenly.
  • On the way home, as luck would have it, at the last intersection before we got home, some idiot pulled out right in front of me and I had to put on the breaks.  Of course, all the food, papers, everything threw itself all around the backseat.  
  • I was scared.  Anastasia was scared.  My mouth went off in an un-lovely way, blaming her for all that expensive food being ruined.  (And it wasn't ruined; I just knew the salad had come open, but it didn't). 
Yes; I did the thing you should never do with a radlet. I yelled at her.  She yelled back, "Let me out."  Fortunately, she was not crazed enough to jump out of the car (though she started to).  But, when we got home, she jumped out and took off.

So, we ate the food (after the bag broke and I dropped it all again getting it into the house).  And Anastasia didn't come home.  And didn't.  And it was past nine, still no Nastia.  Craig drove around in the car looking for her.  We wondered where she could be, what she could be doing.  Worst case scenario:  picked up by a maniac.  Almost as bad scenario:  She's gone to the house where she made the false accusation and cried out for protection against her horrible parents.  But - if she'd done that, I reasoned, the police would have called, or shown up.  We went over it all again.  No where for her to go.  Zhen, anxious, went out and checked the back yard and the other car, and the garage.  No Nastia. 

Craig was irate at her; I was defending her - after all, she didn't deserve to be yelled at.

Another half-hour passed.  Well, past the time I wanted to go to bed, now.  I'm imagining a night of crisis. Preparing for it, emotionally, practically.  Wondering who I call to find a sub for the 5 a.m. Korean teaching.  But, worrying wondering.  Could she have tried to walk somewhere?  I really can't think of a place she'd go.  Maybe we should call the police - the patrol cars could be looking for her, anyway.

Zhen goes out again to look for her - and this time finds her on the front porch.

It is with such a burst of gratitude and joy that I see that little figure sitting on the stairs. I go out to talk to her, and she is calm, teary.  We talk. I fervently apologize.  She reminds me that I said, "I'm fed up with you."  But, I'm not!  I'm not!  I tell her I was just scared and upset.  After a while she says,  "I could think when I walked.  And I thought about how I always say I hate you.  And it is because if I say I hate you,you're always here, but I'm afraid if I say I love you, you'll disappear." 

The night spins around and settles again.

I am overwhelmed with the enormity of this revelation.  Could  I have said it better myself?  If I'd tried to feed her the lines she needed to say?  I hug her, assure her.  As she hasn't done in so, so long, she accepts my hugs and kisses and my arm holding her.  How good that feels.  I tell her that it is only natural she'd feel that way, because she loved her mother, and her mother disappeared.  She cries; she cries out for that long-lost mama.  I assure her that I won't diappear.  I'll stick with her forever.  How I love that little girl. 

I hold her close and think how brlliantly insightful she is.  I try and tell her.  She is one amazing child.  One grace-filled lovely child.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


I'm not going to give up blogging for Lent.  However, I am going to refuse to be as undisciplined as I have been.  I don't mean about my own blogging - let inspiration come as it will - but about reading and commenting on other people's blogs.  THAT I am going to limit to the spare moments [often literally] which I have during my Korean teaching in the early mornings (getting up that early to work is enough self-denial for anyone), and Sunday.

I do have the bad habit, of coming to some sort of a transition in my work - and "taking a break" to read a few blogs (as you all know, for me that also means commenting).  It takes much longer than I imagine that it might, and I realize that I'm running (very) late, or haven't prepared what I should prepare, and that while hanging out with you, my e-friends, I may even have left my family hanging (or doing without dinner when it ought to be served).  And the number of times I find myself racing out to the school to teach, barely making it on time, are too many to count.  Not that such tardiness is due to blogging - at least I don't think it is - but it is part of  bigger picture of allowing myself to be undisciplined.

My schedule is difficult enough without adding to it any unnecessary undisciplined activity!  So, maybe cutting off the indiscriminate hanging out on blogs will help.  We'll see; at any rate I'll be able to tell if it makes a difference.

Meanwhile, last night I took a "webinar" (my first such educational experience) from Dan Hugues.  It was a good, clear presentation of how to approach parenting a child who experienced early trauma.  I like his "S"s.
The DO NOT "S's" are:  Do not use shame, sarcasm, shouting, smacking seclusion, "shoulds" or allow over-stimulation.  You see what  I mean?  It wasn't like there was a lot that was entirely new in the webinar, but I've not had the approach laid out so clearly as he did it.    However, in that way it was more an outline of a class than a class itself.

I got my question addressed, too!  Though, to my disappointment, not by Dan Hughes but by the lady from "Adoption Partners".  My question was about A's obsession with having a boy (any boy, seemingly) to "like" her at all times.  And, preferably, always a new one.  Interestingly, the speaker interpreted this as a social-development issue rather than something need-based.  I don't think I agree, though clearly there is some of that.  But I'm not so sure that what I see really is all that off-the-mark developmentally - it is just way, over-the-top extreme and very needy.  I don't think most children her age are ready for a mature, thinking-of-the-other, boy/girl relationship.  I know I wasn't; I don't think any of my students would be.  But they don't feel the need to play at it the way Anastasia does. 

I did get a reminder that I need to help Anastasia see me reflect my sense of who she is (i.e. my delight in her).... I do need to reflect more not just my love for her, but specifically the things I enjoy, admire and value.   That was underlined by Lydia's recent remark that she finds Anastasia to have "no depth and to be silly beyond words"  She sounded so much like Miss Elizabeth Bennett (Pride and Prejudice) reflecting on her younger sister that I had to laugh - but I hope we can avoid the same results. [I found that image a bit too close for comfort!]

Saturday, March 5, 2011


Ilya is the first child you see if your eye travels up the right side of the photo. (More civilized than the typical school cafeteria, wouldn't you say?)
Occasionally I run across the phrase "Orphanage behaviors".   A catch-all phrase, referring to unpleasant traits of adopted children.....usually implying that the said behaviors stem from poor care, neglect, etc.

Firstly, I have to say that the orphanages in Ivanovo are amazing.  Parents may initially be horrified (I was) because they look so poor, so spartan and spare.  The furnishings appear odd; unattractive.  There are various things going on here - one is that Russian and American ideas of "attractive" are very different.  When I visited some well-educated and well-employed Russian friends and saw the same sort of furniture, linoleum floors and bare walls that I saw in the orphanage, I began to realize that the orphanage environment was actually very homey (from a Russian point of view!)  This was underlined when one orphanage director proudly showed me her newly decorated office, and to my mind it was no better than it had been before!  Likewise, when I peered into the show windows of an upscale Moscow furniture store and noticed the same style of couch and easy chair that I had thought so old and out-of-style when I saw it in the orphanage waiting room.

Sergei with one of his "mamas" and Danile (the one who got away)
I can also say that having had a number of visits with the caregivers, having seen them hold "their" children as they say "good-bye" trying to hide tears, the children are cared for an loved - more than I ever saw evidenced in my older son's "Kindercare", for example.  These ladies make a career of mothering these children - they are not in and out, considering the labor beneath them, as I saw so often when I tried to find childcare for my older kids. 

But that's Ivanovo.  Four orphanages in Ivanovo.  Other parts of Russia may be quite different.  Surely, other countries are different.

But, back to the idea of "orphanage behaviors".  Often, it seems to me, the sorts of things that people put down to "orphanage behaviors" are actually behaviors that are more associated with early trauma and some level of attachment issue.....lying, hoarding, tantrums, indiscriminate friendliness, etc.

It occurred to me the other day that my children all really did have some "orphanage behaviors" - and by some good fortune, still do.

For example:  They put their dishes away after eating; they make their beds; they hang up their towels; they brush their teeth.  They were accustomed to bathing and getting new clothing once a week, and I can tell that a couple still feel it is wasteful to change underwear or take a bath more often than weekly.

They are modest.  They always close doors before changing; and never (as far as I can tell) strip down completely then, re-dress.  Rather they do it incrementally, to protect their modesty throughout the process.  When Zhen first came home at age 6 and I suggested he join Sergei (10) for a bubble bath, I came into the bathroom afterward to find two little wrung-out twists of wet briefs - apparently they both wore their underwear in the bath for modesty's sake!

They are generous.  Not one of my children is ever given a treat without offering to share it with their siblings and with me!  I am struck with the beauty of this every time I witness it.  And I recognize that I am very greedy in comparison.

They are helpful.  Never do I try to lift or push something heavy that the boys don't offer to help.  They have good table manners.  I've tried to emulate them on occasion!

They're stuck in their ways.  Ilya insists on eschewing the vacuum cleaner for what worked perfectly well in Russia; he sweeps the living room carpet.  They still think that the best way to enjoy a big snowfall is by jumping off the roof into the drifts.  They have some unusual approaches to medical care; Sergei refuses to take medication - like ibuprofen or sinus medication -  for example.  He swears that peeing on an injury will get rid of "microbees".  I hope he hasn't actually done this.

And then there's a few oddities - they love tea; they love onions and garlic, even to the point of taking bites out of onions, or pulling up the green onion stems from the yard and stuffing them in their mouths.  I'm not used to the smell, honestly! 

But all in all, their "orphanage behaviors" are lovely.  They were taught to be kind, mannerly people, and they learned their lessons well.  I often think that they were "mine to mess up", as the saying goes.  I hope I don't damage them too badly.