09 January 2009


eta: caution--very long

I planned have a post for you about delivering orphanage gifts today.

I set out this morning and the Colorado-girl in me immediately categorized last night's snowfall as great powder. Images of skiing (from long ago) flitted through my brain.

Turns out, those images were eerily appropriate. I soon realized that my tires were not up to this latest snowfall. I was slipping. Even with all of that Colorado-girl training (I wish this weren't an automatic! Downshift. Let the engine slow you down. Gently pump the brakes. Steer into the skid.) or perhaps because of it, I realized I was not going to be driving hours out of the city to deliver gifts. Perhaps tomorrow the roads will be clearer.

But I still need to give you a gift-giving blog for today...

Aha! You remember one of Rachael's readers donated money for what turned out to be about 1 1/3 hot water heaters? Remember that I was going to just quietly purchase the other 2/3 (because you can't really buy a fraction of a hot water heater)? Well, I had some help! Our high schoolers held an Evening of Dickens and donated the proceeds to the hot water fund. And, one of my students who is leaving to go back home to South Korea donated all of his saved pocket money. His one request was that it help children with no families. What a gift from this seven-year-old!

So, I loaded up the car with the toiletries our school had collected

and the gifts I've been quietly gathering over the year (more shower gel & lotions, cool towels that fold into a tote bag, games, dvd's, cars, little dolls, hair brushes, computer headphones...). I went to Maxidom and bought a hot water heater with no problem (this was my third attempt--try #2 resulted in a refused credit card).

And, I went to my favorite children's home near the village of...

It had the empty, unsupervised feeling that reigns there during holidays. Many of the children were home. Group 7 (K & N's new group--I know, sorry. I skipped. There were two visits before this that you didn't hear about. On the first one, for N's birthday, I found out that the sisters had been moved to a new group. All the groups were restructured. All but one are now co-ed. I think it's both because numbers are down and to provide a civilizing influence. But that's conjecture. The tone of my little group of girls has certainly changed. The air of girlish innocence is gone. Yes, some of it is just the passing of time. But, some of it is the introduction of teenaged boys into the room. Somehow you can't play dolls while shoot-'em-up computer games are being played in the corner. I miss the magic. The other visit was for a Christmas party. I'll get to that one. I think.) was at the Circus.

I made my way to Group 5 (room 3.10) and found a couple of my girls. Ka is always there during holidays. Now, her brother (who smelled like smoke...which didn't please me) is in her group. I asked Ka and V to help me know how many boys and how many girls were in each group so that I could give each group (thought that was better than some people having way better prezzies than others...and I don't know them all...) a bag of treats. They made me a list, but we fell apart when I was asking which group had the older girls. I could figure out the older boys because I knew some names. But, I don't know the older girls. I couldn't remember the word for "teenager" and "old girls" and "big girls" were getting us nowhere. Asking for their ages was, likewise, fruitless.

Finally, I told them to get their coats and shoes and come with me. They came--without coats or shoes. (Of course, one of the older girls came ambling up the drive in only her bra...and gave me a very polite greeting before heading for the gates with teenaged bravado, so I'm not sure why the no coats worried me. V went back in for them later--and they accepted goodnaturedly my "I said so!") We opened up the car and I pulled out the prepared bags for groups 5 & 7. I showed them the "ingredients" for the other bags. With a lot of effort, we put the bags together. (It turns out there are two groups with mostly older girls. I goofed. Some got hair stuff. Some got stuffed animals. Ka, as always, was reassuring.) I let Ka and V deliver the bags to each group. I think they enjoyed being in on the giving. And, they loved their necklaces (thanks, Rach, for doing my shopping) and other goodies.

One of the boys in group 4 (I'm really impressing myself with keeping these groups straight because there is no rhyme or reason to them) told me, when I popped in, that there were no batteries for their racetrack. Silly me. I put batteries in with the train, but didn't know the racetrack needed them, too.

I went back to 3.10, said the boys needed batteries and asked if there was a shop in the village. (All this to a strange caretaker. There is a minimum of staff there during holidays.) I was told that the shop wasn't working. Ka jumped in and said it was working. After a short discussion, I decided to go and look for the shop. Imagine my surprise when Ka came along for the ride! I kept asking if it was okay. She assured me it was. It was such a strange feeling to be driving off with her--sort of forbidden and completely normal at the same time. We got to the shop, ignored the attentions of a couple of intoxicated men (Ka made the sign for crazy), bought the batteries, popped into the next shop so Ka could buy some chips (which brings up the question of pocket money--where does it come from?) and then went back.

The batteries were a big hit. The little boys had the racetrack set up downstairs in the...foyer/common/entry room and one of the big boys was helping them. When I passed through 45 minutes later they were all still gathered around it.

I was getting ready to leave and one little girl from group 4, who has been sidling up to me on other visits, was walking me to my car. There is only one other girl in her group, and they don't seem like the best of friends. I think she likes the girls in group 5 better. It's tricky. I want to be warm and friendly and generous to all of the children there. But, I don't have the salary to bring every child a gift on their birthday. I can offer friendship...but don't want to seem like I'm playing favorites and rejecting others gift-wise. So, aside from group 5, I've just been friendly and polite to the other children. That worked last year, but now the groups are all jumbled. I think I have to take on groups 5 and 7 this year...And this little girl does catch at me. So, tonight I gave in. I was more than polite. We talked about her Barbies. I asked when her birthday was and what she needed. How could I not? She had crept in and, while being very thankful for her groups' gifts, was admiring the more personal gifts given to group 5. She smelled their lotions; exclaimed over their necklaces. How could I not take on another little one? I think maybe it's all cookies, cards and chapstick this year. But, do I do this for everyone? Just the littles? But, (yes, another but)the older boy who was helping with the racetrack had special spark and a tenderness about him. And there's one of the older girls who is so gentle; who doesn't show up drunk to school; who is not one to run out in her bra. I'd love to brighten their birthdays...

Isn't there anyone reading this who is led to older child adoption and can adopt from the Leningrad Region? Anyone? I know so many wonderful children here.

Okay. Sorry. Had to ask. Back to that night. I'd been peppered with "Senk you, Ket!" from not only my girls, but from group 4 as well. It seems I'm better known than I thought! I was just leaving when I spotted N. Group 7 was back! I went up to their common room and found the boys there busily putting together the parking garage. I gave special gifts to K and N. I gave a gift to their caretaker. A bittersweet pride washed over me as K explained that in addition to the gel there was cream for after your shower. Hearing her explain it in my exact words to her from last April...it felt like someone poking a bruise on my heart.

After some time fooling around with my camera, it was time for me to go. It almost felt like the end of something. I'm not sure what. But I left with a grateful heart.


Tina in CT said...

You bring so much joy to all the kids. You must be emmotionally charged (and drained) when you get back home. It must be so wonderful to see the joy you bring to the kids at the orphanage but also sad to know that they don't have a family and home.

Those hot water heaters are such a wonderful idea and thank you to all who helped make them a reality.

Showing up drunk to class!!!! How can that happen???? Walking around in just a bra!!!!! I'm shocked!!!!!

Rachael said...

Loved hearing about the prezzies and the Lophukinka kids. Thanks for sharing it with all of us.

I wonder how many of those children ARE available for adoption? I guess I was under the impression (not sure why?) that many of them were not in that category (parental rights not terminated, or etc.) It rankles me that YOU are not eligible to adopt in Leningrad; I'm sure it does you too. It seems ridiculously wrong and completely nonsensical.

votemom said...

sadly, i'm not at all shocked about the girl in the bra. the teenaged girls in the orphanages we saw dressed incredibly promisculously.

i'm also sad about the mixing in with the boys. i don't get the purpose of that change. and changes should have a purpose.

Liz said...

This post was sad and sweet and heartbreaking all at the same time...I'm glad they have you in their lives, and hope their futures will be brighter than it seems right now.

The McCollum Adoption said...

Kate please email me Papedge@apl.com

The McCollum Adoption said...

sorry kate is papedge@aol.com

Jojo, Julz, Jules said...

I don't know how you do it. I had no problem going into the two different orphanages where I adopted. I sort of put blinders on. I couldn't/wouldn't allow myself to look at or think about the other children. It hurt so much. When I think about my daughters and their short time at the orphanage, it puts a pit in my stomach.
I always say I would love to do some sort of outreach program for Russian orphans. But in reality, I could never go to the baby homes again. That pit in my stomach would explode!
I am so glad you have the strength to give those older children love.
I would love to adopt again, but it's not in the cards for this single momma!
Bless your heart for being there for those kids...
I want to help you deliver some magic. Do you have a paypal account?
Is it too much trouble to mail you a package?

Andrea said...

"Isn't there anyone reading this who is led to older child adoption and can adopt from the Leningrad Region?"

I am only the first part of that :( I wish so, so badly I was the second part of it too. I wish I could take a hundred home. I wish I could take them all.

Hugs to you, Kate, and bless you for being able to be there, to give of yourself to them.

Carrie said...

You're an angel, Kate. Really.

I'm curious to know what ages are like in the different groups.

Some day, I do hope to adopt an older child, but now is not the time, unfortunately.

Next year (or next time you take them gifts, etc.), let me know if there's something I can send (something smallish that ships easily) for your group(s).

Annie said...

My stomach is just roiling. I DO have a heart for older child adoption and I WANT so much for another girl..... Hey, everyone pray that my husband has a change of heart, himself. :) Unfortunately he thinks four is enough. Though my agency does not "do" Leningrad. Perhaps the blog world could point out the cheapest one that does.

Kate - your writing is amazing.

Kathy Friend said...

I know exactly what you mean, and how torn you feel...there are so many children at Anya's home that have that 'something' in thiere eyes that makes my heart melt. So many kids who need homes, that need to feel special...I wish we had the money to do it all (but of course, that isn't the answer either).


Room to Grow said...

I always love to hear about your visits to 3.10. You've been such a positive influence to those kids. Hang in there.

Jenni said...

It must be so heartbreaking to see how the older kids start to change in unhealthy ways. It's their way of adapting to their life, and perhaps it brings them some happiness, but it still must be hard to see.

It's wonderful that you continue to show kindness and love to these children, despite the heartbreak. I know that you're making a positive impression on them, and maybe somewhere down the road, they'll remember you and do a kindness to someone else.

I'm with Rachael though in wondering how many of those kids are available for adoption. Many of the kids in the Children's home where Vika lived were not available. There was one little girl whom we were told lived in the orphanage for most of the year, and went home with her family over the holidays. But come February, she was back in the orphanage for the remainder of the year. So sad.