31 December 2007

quick quotes

New Year's is a harmless annual institution,
of no particular use to anybody
save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks,
and friendly calls,
and humbug resolutions.

~Mark Twain

The only way to spend New Year's Eve
is either quietly with friends or in a brothel.
Otherwise when the evening ends and people pair off,
someone is bound to be left in tears.
~W.H. Auden

New Year's Resolution:
To tolerate fools more gladly
provided this does not encourage them to take up more of my time.
~James Agate



29 December 2007

sharing an oddment

During my recent sick-in-bed-for-nine-days I was looking for some light reading. I decided to read the Harry Potter series in order. That made me think I should do the same with the films. I found out there are five of them. (I thought there were four.) I drove ALL over the city and checked out all sorts of places that sell dvd's.

Prisoner of Azkaban is not available in English. Anywhere. All the others are, but not that one. Strange, huh? It makes me wonder why. In the kateish universe everything has a reason--no matter how convoluted or obscure.

(I got the other four and ordered PoA from am@zon.co.uk. It should be here soon.)

Just found that a little odd and had to share...

28 December 2007

ikea is ok-ea

Warning: this post meanders quite a bit

We were laughing as we were driving yesterday about the fact that on many horrible roads in Russia there have been signs put up a warning drivers about disastrously pot-holed roads instead of fixing the road. The warning above functions in the same way. ;>

I admit that I'm not a fan of their furniture or their store layout. Before yesterday I would have considered it a place to buy vanilla candles and temporary solutions. But now I have a soft spot for that retail giant.

The orphanage director from the orphanage I went to yesterday has gotten IKEA to sponsor her facility. They repaired the building (It's a large, U-shaped building. One wing is completely closed. Another had fallen into serious disrepair--broken windows, leaks, etc.). They rebuilt shower rooms. And, they furnished the children's rooms.

We handed out gifts the students at my school collected to some of the school-aged children.

And afterwards, we went upstairs to see one of V's special friends, L. V has known L since she was three. At that age, L took V's hand and led her throughout the orphanage showing her things and asking questions.

L is eleven now. She is warm and sparkly and open. She wanted so badly to talk to me! She exhausted her English (with help from her roommate, O) and considerately slowed down and simplified her Russian for me. Still, I found it difficult to converse. That is FRUSTRATING! I just wanted to chat. Every time I meet one of these amazing children one-on-one I think I need to raise my age range! Remember when I decided seven was still little after meeting Katya? Today eleven feels little, too.

L met us in her study. She and one other girl have a room furnished with two desks (chairs, lamps, etc.) and a wardrobe for their things. They had personal items on their desks and in the wardrobe. This was such a welcome surprise! I hadn't seen any other orphanages with this personal space allocated to children. And, it was quite a difference from the usual all-communal property.

Space might be one of the things this orphanage has going for it. It's a big building! But, I think that the director's vision for what the children need is just as important. Otherwise, this space could be used as offices, storage or simply left unused. The fact that these children are given this space as their own affected me tremendously. This director is leaving the orphanage. Valentina summed it up well when she said she is sad to see such a wonderful woman leaving the children, but glad that she is moving up in the ranks of government. She is going to be a supervisor of many orphanages now (I think). Valentina thinks her talent and intelligence will take her far--and hopes that having such a caring woman in a position of influence will help all of Russia's children.

We also talked quite a bit with L's brother, his friend, and L's roommate O. O was not happy with her Christmas presents. She didn't like the wooden dollhouse furniture that you assemble. She was upset that she didn't have a doll the right size. The dolls she did have she declared either too tall or too fat. She wanted the gifts L had. L offered to share, but O was determined to be unhappy. She didn't want her picture taken. She didn't want us to find her a doll. She just wanted to be sad.

She forgot to be sad when L wanted to talk to me. O is more confident of her English than Lena and liked being able to help her. She didn't want to speak to me herself, but she liked being able to help L say, "I am eleven." I asked where they learned English. We were told (V translated) that their dancing teacher wanted more money so he had begun teaching them English as well. When we left, O was fine. V, who was very concerned, told the deputy director that O was upset with her gifts. The deputy director said that this was usual for O. I'm on a secret mission to find a doll the right size...and something fun for L, who generously offered to share what she'd been given.

V is always an interesting source of opinions on the state of things in Russia. She thinks that Medvedev will be the next president of Russia. The statement that made the biggest impact on her was his claim that in two years there will be no orphanages in Russia. She thinks this is laughable. She is very concerned about a law limiting abortions that goes into effect next year. She foresees a dramatic rise in the number of children in Russian orphanages.

V also has her eye out for d2b. I confided to her that I was concerned that neither my current agency nor the other possible agency has experience and contacts in the region where I'll need to be. She often works there and is going to talk to some directors she knows who have placed children internationally. Maybe we can work this backwards and get d2b home!

27 December 2007


1. My agency has accreditation!

2. I am still trying to speak to an alternate agency. I'll call after New Year's and fill you in asap.

3. I got to deliver orphanage presents collected by our school today. Post to follow...

24 December 2007

good tidings


Wishing you a merry Christmas
filled with wonder and joy,
and love

and sticky, candy cane kisses.

23 December 2007

not "when" yet

Lauren did indeed work her string-pulling magic. The new agency has told her that they would be willing to represent me. (WOW!) However, I'm still waiting to have an e-mail answered by the agency. (I picked a great time to be switching--what with the holidays and my current agency's reaccreditation. SARC!) I want to speak to the director directly before making any decisions. If they are willing and able to register me in Leningrad Oblast then we'll switch. (gulp) If they reccommend another region, I'll need to weigh things a bit. It seems like a wasted opportunity to be in Russia, able to visit d2b regularly between "trips", and not take advantage of all the transition-smoothing that would allow. That being said, I am willing to go wherever it is that d2b is waiting. I've really wanted to take the Trans-Siberean Railway to Vladivostock for years now... ;>

I know that I am too much of a people-pleaser. Not only do I want my current agency to like me, I feel like I'M letting THEM down by considering a switch. I believe that they did nothing out of malice. However, their cautiousness and unpleasant demeanor has cost me time, social workers and irreparable damage.

I try not to dwell on what's been invested so far. But, you've been asking, so who am I to disappoint? I quit my perfect job 3 1/2 years ago to start saving and building respectability. I announced my plans and officially "started" about 22 months ago. I've spent $7000 with my current agency. My first hs (which never saw the light of Russia) cost $1800. My second hs, so far, has cost $2200. It will cost another $1000 to complete. So, I guess that's a total of 3 1/2 years and about $12,000 invested so far.

I know there's a reason for all of this. And, I know I probably don't get to know what that reason is. I just get to trust and move forward. I feel called to pursue Russian adoption. So I'll keep pouring out the time and money until God says, "When".

When my good friend, Kerry, was considering how much time had been invested so far, she told me that my daughter was going to be AMAZING to have kept me waiting so long. I can't wait to see that amazingness for myself!

22 December 2007

internet is back!

I'm completely snowed under with getting caught up on a month (two weeks SICK and two weeks without internet) of internet-related tasks. I will do it...just be patient with me.

Be back soon. I've missed you guys!

14 December 2007

before the bell

We don't actually have a bell. But if I'd put "before the kids come" it would have raised hopes.

No internet at home. Don't know when I'll have it.

SW2 submitted updates with all changes to agency. Agency wrote back an impolite list of further changes.

SW2 has HAD it with agency and will either submit as is or will charge me for an entirely new hs. This is MUCH more expensive than an update...which isn't cheap. She says she's never dealt with such a difficult agency and wishes she had never taken on my update. She says that SW1 has communicated that she feels the same way.

The amazing Lauren (Cupcake's Mommy) is busy behind the scenes trying to work her magic and pull some strings. If that ex-pat string can be pulled, changing agencies, even as I hear that accreditation is expected next week (deja vu), may be the best thousands of dollars I've ever wasted.

Please, keep this situation in your prayers.

07 December 2007

bang, bang

  • I am feeling better. I'm not well, but I'm on the way. More bedrest for me this weekend!
  • Internet is being turned off sometime soon (that's as much as we know) so that we can change providers. No telling when or for how long I'll be internetless. Nobody panic.
  • HS seems to be ready! SW2 e-mailed asking for info (which I gave 2.5 when she visited...) and then it's FINISHED. Well, it still needs notarizing and apostilling and translating. But, accreditation can come any time now.
  • I have an exhausting couple of weeks coming up. Today was conference day. It was nice that I didn't have to plan for a sub. But, now I have to make up those conferences before and after school for the next two weeks. I'm not sure an extended day is a good idea for me right now. And, we have the school winter concert on Wednesday.

(Did you know that the title of this post meant you were getting bullets instead of a real post?)

05 December 2007

please excuse kate

from life this week. This includes, blogging (both writing and reading), e-mails, telephone calls and anything that takes place out of her bed. Her doctor has Rx'd antibiotics and bedrest (saying, "And I mean in the bed!") for five days to kick a respiratory infection.

No fun. It's my first antibiotics in eight years! But, I can certainly feel the need for both the suprax and the total rest. I'm getting better, but it will be a while before I'm well. No worries, though!

(Oh, and I still haven't had a reply re: my homestudy. Do you all realize this has been going on since JUNE? That's a long time when you look back. When it was happening, it was all little delays of sw vacations and more vacations. But, they sure added up to one l-o-n-g homestudy!)

Be back next week...breathing easier.

04 December 2007


What's this new blogger thing? Why do I want the option of being me or anonyomous or nicknamed?

I guess I could be Toasty Christmas...

Seriously, though. What gives?

02 December 2007

all that jazz

Musical theatre is a decidedly American form of entertainment. Modern musical theatre using not only the spoken word, but also music and dance to tell a story. When the emotion is too big to be contained in words alone, the character sings and dances. Muscial theatre started in the US and no one does it better. The Brits try, and some of their efforts are stellar (Les Miz, Martin Guerre, etc.). Most, imho, however, fall flat; lacking that spark that makes musical theatre magical. I've seen some musical theatre in Russia. Russians just seem to be mystified by this genre. It doesn't quite work here.

Friday night I went to see Чикаго, as it said on my ticket. It was a production of Chicago. This is a show I love. I've seen it on Broadway, on tour and in the cinema. While it was lots of fun to go, this particular production lacked razzle dazzle.

It was the best musical I've seen here. But, it was on par with a good amateur production. The choreography was lackluster. My grades 4-6 dance class do a better job (and their choreography, if I do say so myself is more interesting, more clever and more Fosse-esque) with the opening number than this cast did. The entire production looked like it was trying to be the film. Film and theatre are DIFFERENT. One should not try to be the other. But, in this case, scenes from the film had been added to the play. The costumes were very reminiscent of the film. Velma looked remarkably like Catherine Zeta Jones. She was good. Roxie, bizarrely, looked like Little Orphan Annie--curly orange wig and ill-fitting dress. Although she was a Russian Actor of the People, she was not very good. She was cartoonish and melodramatic. She has little truth to her character instead posing and shouting. Amos was likable. Billy was horrible. And the chorus, well, left a lot to be desired.

I don't like ballet very much. To me, ballet, especially here, is all about physical prowess and lacks passion. The story gets lost in technicality. The dancer focuses on precisely positioning his or her body in demanding positions. And, to me, this is boring. These dancers had certainly been trained in the Russian ballet. They were flexible and able to kick...but they didn't use dance to tell the story. Bob Fosse, I'm certain, would not've been unimpressed.

But, even a poorly executed musical is better than no musical at all!

The most entertaining part came from our interactions with the other theatre goers. We were astonished to find that Kat (the ticket purchaser for this girls' night out) had gotten us seats in the front row of the balcony (my favorite spot) for only $14! The seats were plush, we were in the center of the theatre and life was good.

It was actually too good to be true. It turned out we were actually seated in some makeshift seats behind the seats in the balcony. It looked like an area that normally was used for storage. We couldn't see a thing!

We moved our chairs forward and I turned mine around backwards and was kneeling on it. The usher, who looked very stern, came and told me that after the lights went down we could go and sit in empty seats.

The lights went down and we leapt. Unfortunately, only Liv and I got to move down. (Though, as it turns out, Kat ended up with a more comfortable seat with less irritating neighbors.) The woman sitting next to me, who also moved down when the lights dimmed, was unpleasant-- crowding me in my seat and worrying that my boot might touch her. It was bench seating. Although the seats were generous, she decided to sit right on the edge of her seat next to me for the second act--and to be disapproving.

I was glad this was a show I knew backwards and forwards. I merely sang along in English in my head (well, mostly in my head...) and watched the dancing. I did laugh out loud when the line "My sister in now unfortunately deceased" was translated as "But now my sister nyet." No one else laughed but I was tickled.

01 December 2007

light makes right?

Edited again to add: I've just heard what I've never heard broadcasted here before. There is a big, blue truck driving around broadcasting happy music!! Bring on the life-is-good-so-why-change-things propoganda machine! Putin described the voting today as "festive". Besides the lights and music, MANY incentives are being given to lure voters to the polls--mobile phones, tickets to concerts and events, housing contracts to villages with the highest percentage of "mature" voters, etc. Sounds festive to me.

The votes will be counted by next Saturday, according to Russia Today.

eta: link is fixed

Interestingly, (okay, I know I say that a lot, but I find lots of things interesting...) the holiday decorations went up much earlier this year than they did last year. Last year, if you remember, lights weren't up until after 5 December. This year, light were up before Thanksgiving. More lights and more trees are around the city. The Snovim Godim signs aren't up yet, but the other lights are up and, as of Friday, were lit.

My theory? I think it's all about the elections. I think having the holiday lights up makes people feel happy, warm, contented...like life is good. And, if life is good, why should people vote to change it? My Russian friends were amazed at my insightfulness when I posed this theory. It's nice to be seen as wise and not cynical when expressing these theories! While my Russian friends know all about the coercion and manipulation that occurs under the soviet system, they're still learning about the manipulation that occurs during this "free election".

Elections are tomorrow...

29 November 2007

mmmm. pie.

Come on--we haven't had a quiz in ages! And, yes, this should have been a pre-Thanksgiving quiz...but chou2 didn't find it in time for me to steal it before Thanksgiving. ;>

Besides, I think we really should be eating *more* pie. Pie is an endangered dessert. And if we don't eat more pie, phrases such as easy as pie and that's a piecrust promise may disappear from the English language. Do you really want to be responsible for the degradation of the English language? Surely not. So eat more pie. (And take the quiz.)

You are Pumpkin Pie

You're the perfect combo of uniqueness and quality.
You're able to relate to many types of people with many different tastes.
But you're by no means generic or ordinary.
In fact, you're one of the most original people around.

Those who like you are looking for something (someone!) special.
You tend confuse people when they first meet you. You're not as complicated as you seem.
Even though you have a lot of spice and flavor to you, you're never overpowering.
You are a calm and comforting force in people's lives.

28 November 2007


No news from SW.

No news about accreditation.

Agency isn't on the current re-accred list floating around FRUA.

So...at least my hs wasn't finished way before accreditation. Or vice-versa. Right? It should all time out nicely.

27 November 2007

talking politics-edited

Above are the first set of political signs: "Putin's Plan is the Victory of Russia" . A teacher at school joked that they'd just taken all of Stalin's signs and changed the name. The vertical pix are about the plan. The one with writing says I-You-We. (There were more but I don't want to bore you.)

And, these are the new signs. It says: Putin's Russia, United and Independent. The vertical picture is of the footballer I mentioned before. I'm still working on identifying the others in the first photo. They're all featured on individual posters around town so they must be recognizable. The footballer's slogan says (I think) St. Petersburg chooses Putin. Петербург has been graffiti-ed out on other signs I've seen. Apparently, not all of St. P chooses Putin.

Click here for an article worth checking out in today's St. Petersburg Times about last weekend's protests. Interesting, eh?

Another teacher told me there is a big sign near her house that makes her feel like she's in the novel 1984. It says, "Putin is watching you." I asked her to take a picture of it for us!

I've been told that Putin values his reputation as a man of honor too much to manipulate things so that he can stay in office. His wife, however, is rumored to be a possibility. Sheesh. As if I didn't have enough of those husband-wife politicians! (You guessed it--not a fan of the Clint*ns.)Didn't Argentina just elect the president's wife, too?

26 November 2007

bah humbug

I was on Amazon the other day with a list of recommended books to buy. Most were adoption books, full of interesting attachment tools and blah, blah, BLAH!

I do NOT want to read another adoption book! I've read good books and stupid books. I've read forums and blogs and online classes. I've read about attachment, trauma, PAD, out of sync children, memoirs, and bitter rantings. I've read about adopting toddlers and "older" children. I've read about medical issues. I've read about children adopted from Russia and China, the US, the UK and Ireland. I've read TONS and think I'm just about the most well-read ap out here. No, I'm not blowing my own horn. I've just had a long time to read! And right now, I just don't want to read about it any more.

Do you know what I need? A new Bridget Jones book. Anybody friends with Helen Fielding?

SW2 is due back from nursing her ailing mother (I am a BAD person who inside my head keeps saying something to the effect of Doesn't your sick mother need her rest? Can't you hit print on my hs while she's napping and then just pop to the post office while you're still in the US? I know. I said I was rotten. I am. And selfish.) on Wednesday. Agency continues to expect accreditation "any day".

25 November 2007

in protest

This morning I woke up and saw about 12 militsia outside my living room window. When the tow trucks starting making the trip up and down the street, I decided to move my car. While outside I counted about 30 militsia. And, another militsia car, lights flashing, led a convoy of snowplows, street washing trucks and big salt trucks towards Palace Square.

There's going to be a protest in St. Petersburg today. SPS, The Union of Right Forces, is having a rally against Putin's United Russia party. With elections coming up next weekend, we've seen the city covered in banners and signs declaring "Putin's Plan is the victory of Russia". The signs have just changed to include a photo of a top footballer endorsing United Russia.

The St. Petersburg times recently had an article saying that people weren't impressed with this campaign. It was repeatedly mentioned that no one know what Putin's plan actually was. And, in an interview with Fox news, one market seller remarked, "We've talked to friends, neighbors, family, even customers," said Ivanova, 43. "They don't vote for United Russia, but United Russia somehow wins."

My camera is at school! I'm tempted to go out and see what's going on in Palace Square. But, reports from yesterday's protest in Moscow and the urging of friends here has convinced me to stay inside. This bit of an article from the Chicago Tribune made me think that me and my little blue passport should stay inside:

Despite the opposition's weakened stature, the Kremlin has behaved as if its detractors pose a legitimate threat. At a United Russia-organized rally in Moscow earlier this week, Putin warned that his political opponents have been turning to Western governments for financial help to foment an uprising not unlike the revolutions that brought pro-West leaders in Ukraine and Georgia into power.

"Now they're going to take to the streets," Putin said. "They have learned from Western experts and have received training in neighboring countries. And now they're going to stage provocations here."

If I see anything from my window I'll let you know. For now it's quiet.

ETA: My street stayed pretty quiet and I stayed inside. ;>

23 November 2007

are there turkeys in russia?

Lauren called me and asked for this post. I am always happy to oblige a request for a post.

Readers who remember last year's Thanksgiving adventure can answer this question. Yes, there are turkeys available to buy...but they're expensive, scarce and not native. (A visiting Russian friend and I were telling another friend that animals in Russia make different sounds. Roosters say koo-koo-ree-koo and dogs say koff-koff. She asked what turkeys say. Deadpanned, the Russian friend answered. "Nothing. Turkeys are not popular in Russia.")

This year, I didn't order a turkey. While I was shopping at Okey, I went to the deli and located fresh turkey breast. I asked if they had any whole turkeys (I know the word this year), whole birds. They replied that they did but they were very big. I asked how big. They said very big. I asked to see one. They brought out a turkey. I said I'd take it. Surprised, the butcher went back to wrap it up.

While we were waiting, the deli workers asked why I wanted turkey. I said (in English) "Thanksgiving?" hoping they'd have heard of it. They hadn't. I said (in Russian) On Thursday is American Day for thank God and turkey. (Hey--I was impressed with that explanation. My Russian is obviously improved from this time last year, but I have no idea what the word for Pilgrim is in Russian...)

My wrapped turkey was HUGE. The worker wanted to come to the cashier to ring it up, but I told him I had shopping to do. (Aside: a friend tried to tell another worker the same thing in English and failed miserably when she picked up turkeys. She had to go and check out immediately. I, however, was allowed to shop on. Score!)

My 14.8kg (32lbs!) turkey barely fit in my 'fridge. But, I managed. All was well until Wednesday night. I arrived home ready to cook my turkey in preparation for the next night's festivities. I needed to cook either it or the pies in order to be ready to eat Thanksgiving dinner after school. Surprise! No electricity. I rummaged around for some candles and eventually cut off half of the turkey (so it would fit in the oven) and prepared it for roasting. I thought I might put it in early the next morning.

Early the next morning I decided that was a ridiculous plan. Instead, I'd wait until I got home. Surely there would be time to cook half a turkey. Admittedly, it was a very large turkey. But, eating fashionably late is fashionable. The turkey could wait until after school. And the pies...well, they didn't really need to cool.

After school I took the turkey out to roast it. I gave it a sniff...and discovered it was rancid. I had to throw out all that turkey. Fortunately, I had a frozen turkey breast in the freezer. I took it out, defrosted it, and roasted it. My guests (S, her dad, her translator and my friend N who used to teach here and now teaches in India) were infinitely patient.

At last the turkey was finished! The potatoes, carrots, green beans and the not-cran-but-close-berries were all waiting. I took the turkey out...and dropped it on the floor! I was mortified. I'm really tired (report cards, remember?) and my co-ordination is a little compromised. I could see it happening and thought, "That's going to fall out." as I watched it fall in slow motion. Not good. Really, so not good. My guests in the living room pretended not to notice as the juices splashed 15 feet across the room and into the hall. My friend N hissed, "Just rinse it off!" as she grabbed a towel and started mopping up. I picked it up, dusted it off, fervently hoped the cleaner had been thorough with the floors that day, and plopped it on a plate.

Everyone was very, very gracious. As my friend Lara says about my simple food, "Kate, it's the only common thing about you but you really do have a peasant's palate." I take no offense! I really do like simple, hearty food best. And, that's what we had. Fortunately, everyone seemed happy to just spend the evening together. I was disappointed not to have pie for everyone, but there just wasn't time or room in the oven. We'll have pie at the school friend's celebration tomorrow. (One is just finishing as I type. My flat smells yummy! Forget putting bread in the over when you're selling your house. Put in a pie--or even just a pie crust.)

During the evening we heard from B that her court was l-o-n-g but ultimately successful! She'll be back in two weeks, since her ten days weren't waived, to bring her children home.

So, Lauren--yes. There are turkeys in Russia. But getting them on the table is more involved than one might think!

20 November 2007

court today...

We have a mom! And we will have another...

S had a successful, 45 minute court session and had her ten days waived.

B had her passport either stolen or lost. Without it they wouldn't hold her court hearing. She is getting an emergency passport and will have court on Thursday. We're hoping that this doesn't pose a bigger problem...Apparently, there could be a problem getting her children home when she has an emergency passport. She's had SUCH a tough journey.

19 November 2007


Tomorrow--two different judges will be hearing two different cases (one for a two-year-old girl and one for a brother and sister ages eight and three) of two different single moms who are here to adopt--both at 11:00 a.m.! I'm looking forward to hearing good news from S & B about their new families tomorrow evening.

Do you know the Sesame Street song about the little girls playing with their dollhouse and the kittens who knock things over? Was going to allude to that, and write this whole post to fit that song, but thought the reference might be too obscure. The song starts, One. Two. Two little girls. and later on goes Two little girls fed two dolls tea, feeling grown up as can be. and still later What's that soft pitter pat? One. Two. Two kitty cats! Ring any bells? I'll save Everybody Sleeps for another post.

** Note: B says she's seen lots of children in the children's homes (her children are in different homes). Her three-year-old's home has increased from about 80 children a few weeks ago to over 100 now.

Also, you'll have to wait for those snow pix until tomorrow because I left my camera at school. Sorry to be such a tease.

you can go but be back soon

(name the musical)

It's report card week! That means I do nothing but report cards. Fun, huh?

To tide you over, I will put up pix of my class last Friday. It snowed big, fluffy flakes the whole time they were at p.e. It tapered off, the sun came out, and it was pleasantly warm (around 0C) by the time they got back. They were so late getting back from the gym (it's a short bus ride) that we only had 10 minutes before lunch. So, we went to take a picture. We played for a bit, relishing the chance to get play in all the new, unmarked snow all by ourselves.

After ten minutes we took a quick vote and decided to play first and then have lunch after. That meant that only second grade was out of the playground for about 45 minutes. There were no big kids to boss us around and take the "good snow" and no littler kids to get in our way. It was great! They made HUGE snowballs and we even managed to stack two of them. It was a fun way to celebrate our first REAL snow! This recess was proclaimed by one of my students, with all the joy and hyberbole of a seven-year-old, the best recess of my whole life!

15 November 2007

china ap needs support

One of my yahoo groups had this horrible, tragic story posted. I can't imagine how this new mother must feel:

A family is in China now and evidently the father fell into a diabetic coma yesterday and died. The most recent I have heard is since the China portion of the paperwork has been completed there is no problem with the mother bringing the child home.

Prayers have been requested for the family. What I know is that her nameis Sandy, the child's name is Hannah, and her husband's name was Dennis and their agency is Bethany. They are in Guangzhou now.


(This is a travelmate's blog.)

13 November 2007


My sw is in the US until 28 November taking care of her mother. Wondering if she'll be finishing my hs while she's there...

My internet access is so slow at present (and in the recent past) that I cannot bear to sit here and wait for pages to open. Hence, no answered e-mails; no read blogs.

I was talent-spotted! The other day when walking home I was asked to be in a movie. My part? I threw a piece of paper into a trash can. I think they just liked my striped gloves...Still, better give my agent the heads up.

12 November 2007

not much to report

I was greeted this morning with a cheerful, "So, Miss X, didja get your family?" and the day ended with "Katoosh, Katoosh, what did they say? When will you know about the girl?" It was a nice sandwich to the day. However, explaining the vagaries of timing in Russian adoption is beyond the comprehension of a second grader and beyond my abilities to explain in Russian. The best I could do was, "Maybe after new year's."

Sorry to leave everyone hanging. I'm afraid we'll all have to hang on a little bit longer. No eta for the hs as yet. I'll send a few friendly nudging e-mails this week.

Car was taken to visit the mechanic today. He thinks it's not driven enough.(Seems to be a common Russian diagnosis.) When I told him I drove it Friday and it didn't start Saturday it sort of shot down that theory. It's getting hooked up to a computer for diagnosis tonight. And, since my brother didn't make it out here in October, I'll spring for the $100 oil change. (Whodathunk?)

I was going to post a picture of a huge political ad for you today. I brought my camera to work. It was daylight after school. That threw me. I headed home in a daze, wondering at the light sky. And, yes, I forgot to take the picture. I've a teacher's meeting tomorrow (yuck) but will do my best.

09 November 2007

the visit

She didn't ask me anything.

She arrived without her cell phone (left it in the car) to find that her luggage had been lost (didn't make her connection). She couldn't find the driver who was there--and who waited for over an hour--so she took a cab. The walk from the hotel to my flat was really too long for her (I felt a little bad at making her walk) and all the buttons were falling off of her coat.

She came in, looked around the flat (was very impressed with everything), read me an e-mail my agency had sent me already about extra information, ate some soup and then left.

I did manage, on our long walk over here, to share anecdotes that gently illustrated my strong community of support both irl and in the bloggy world, my awareness of the current state of things in Russia, my desires for a school-aged child and other important bits.

During the tour of the flat, I showed her the dresses my friend Kat brought back from Brugge and that let me talk about how many people are excited about this adoption.

She saw the books my mom has sent. I talked about the photos of my niece and nephew, my friends' families (yep--those Christmas card photos are still up), and children I've babysat for as I showed her around the flat.

I talked about the fact that I get to teach children to speak English is one of my favorite parts of teaching here. I told her how I loved seeing that development in fast forward.

I spoke Russian when we stopped to buy toothpaste and when I called her a taxi for the journey back, so she knows I've got some basic skills.

I jokingly offered her a child's toothbrush to replace the one she was missing so she's knows I've got that. (I gave her a spare grown-up one instead.)

I even managed to turn an anecdote about my poor, sick cat (Beazy is gorgeous and always a conversation starter--and 2.5 has a cat) into the fact that my cupboard is stocked with children's tylenol and triaminic. That was nicely done if I do say so myself.

She ate my soup and I sent her home with an apple for tomorrow, a toothbrush for now, a needle and thread to mend her buttons and 50r for cab fare so she knows I'm prepared.

I didn't get to talk about all my research, my theories, my hopes and my endless plans. But, hopefully, I snuck in more information than she realizes. And, the soup was good, so... I'd count this as a success. It just seemed a bit of a joke. I guess, as far as jokes go, this was a good one.

08 November 2007

dress rehearsal

Days off from school are a mixed blessing. While it's great to have a day away, preparing for a sub is much more labor intensive than preparing myself for a day in the classroom. Everything has to be spelled out. You can't really introduce anything new. It's a struggle to find a balance of real work (as opposed to busy work) and sub-proof plans. I've been a sub. I was a highly -equested sub. I was a very good sub. But, here it's hard to find those kinds of subs.

I also have to prepare my kiddos. They're only seven. They worry tremendously if I'm not in plain sight as they walk up the stairs each day. If I've stepped into another classroom it's cause for alarm. So, not showing up all day with no prior warning would be very unsettling. (Besides, I have to give them that teacher-look and impress upon them that the rules of second grade are unchanged in my absence. They must still be kind and helfpul, respectful and responsible, building a good reputation for themselves, our class and our school. I don't care who is in front of the class, their behaviour must remain unchanged. I expect a good report on Monday.)

This afternoon I told my class that some of them knew and some of them didn't that I was in the middle of something very exciting. I was adopting a little girl from here in Russia who didn't have a family. I told them that tomorrow I would have to stay home so someone could see my flat and ask me some questions to see if I would be able to give a child a good home.

Suddenly the protests about my being gone and the claims that they wouldn't come either ceased. There was an uproar. (It was really snowing all day today, so we were close to the edge anyway. And one student had decided to be a mouse all day. This news just pushed us over the edge.) The classroom was buzzing. Most students were excited and all were curious. I got to practice answering questions that are likely to come up in tomorrow's visit from my own group of "international social workers" including:

  • Will she come to our school?
  • Why do you want to have a little girl?
  • Why don't you just get pregnant?
  • What will happen when you get married? Because, I mean, you will get married. And then you will have a baby. Or twins. Or triplets. And then you will have FOUR children!
  • When you have "your own" children, what will you do with the girl? (Think this questioner might be a future judge in Russian family court, perhaps?)
  • How old will she be?
  • Why didn't you want a baby?
  • Why a girl and not a boy?
  • She can't just stay home. What will she do when you are at school with us?
  • If she is not old enough for our school, where will she go?
  • What will you name her?
  • How will you teach her English?
  • How are your Russian lessons?
  • Will she sleep in your bedroom?
  • Do you have clothes for her?

And there were lots more... Some were concerned about why she didn't have a family. One child had very negative things to say about orphans and adoption. Most wanted to know about her--who she was, what she would look like, when they could meet her, if she could come to school the first day I had her, etc. Everyone was very excited to meet her. Meeee, too!

Big thanks to my second graders for the dress rehearsal today. ;>

06 November 2007


(Disclaimer: This post has nothing to do with hat sizes.)

There is an additional good thing about my car being broken. My sw was expecting me to pick her up at the airport. While this would save me some money, I'm not sure that me driving like a maniac (read: like the rest of the drivers here...though I'm not on par with most of them) is really the best first impression. With traffic the way it is, that drive from the airport can take over an hour. It can be a tense drive, especially on a Friday, and one that is not conducive to small talk. While I do usually manage to curb my tongue, my mental language is always really bad during a trafficky drive. And, once we got here, I'd have to parallel park (and not on the sidewalk). Not the best way to start a homevisit with a new sw. I shudder to think.

Walking her from her hotel (from whence she's asked me to collect her--and there's nothing wrong with "whence"; it's preferable to ending with a preposition, imho) to my flat will create a much better first impression. I'm not a half-bad tour guide...though I'm not certified. (Just a little in joke for those who've been on a tour with a certified guide...)

So, maybe 3/4 full was too conservative an estimate. Maybe that glass is more like 11/16 full.

04 November 2007

easy as pie

**Disclaimer: I am not a great cook. I'm pretty indifferent about cooking...and eating, really. I do like to bake and make soups. And, I'm not bad at either of those.

Ann Marie (who's sampled both soups and baking, so she knows what she's getting into) asked, so here it is. How I make pumpkin pie, even in Russia:

This is an easy, always works, pie crust. I know it's counter-intuitive to those of us who think cold-cold-cold when making pie crust, but it really works.

Hot Water Pie Crusts (it makes two):

1 cup (225 g) -1T shortening (I use butter) 1/4 c hot water 1 T milk 2 1/4 c all purpose flour 1/2 t salt

Put shortening in a bowl. (I chop the butter into cubes that are about...1") Pour milk and hot water over it. With a fork, break up the shortening. Tilt blow and beat quickly (I've used both a fork and my Braun zhhh-zher thing) until the mixture looks like whipped cream. Add flour and salt and mix well (with a fork or your hands) forming a dough that cleans the bowl.

Divide in half and chill the dough for about 15-30 minutes. Then roll out. **This dough works best if you roll it out using waxed paper.** Don't roll it too thin.

The pumpkin filling (the way we made it on Thursday...though this is only one way):

Cut a gutted pumpkin in half. Put the halves, rounded, skin side up, in a casserole dish that has about a half inch of water in it. Bake until the pumpkin is cooked through.

Scoop out pumpkin, trying not to collect the juice. (Some people suggest straining it through a paper towel or a coffee filter to dry it out. I don't do this.) Mash the pumpkin with a potato masher. (You could also rice it or zhhh it.) Place 1 cup in a bowl. (The rest can be frozen or used in other recipes. Try Elle's curry pumpkin soup!)

Add 2 cups milk or cream (I've made it with skimmed milk, 33% cream, and various combinations. You choose.), 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 t cinnamon, 1/2 t nutmeg, 1/4 t salt and 1T molasses.

Mix well, pour into pie shell and bake for ages. It takes about 2 hours here. Bake at a higher temp initially to set the crust and then reduce the heat to let the filling set. (It is advised that the filling not boil as that will make it watery, but I let mine boil the last time or two and it was fine.) Ideally, you should bake it until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. But, I tend to just bake mine until the crust and the skin on top of the pie are nicely browned. Then, I take it out and let it cool.

**This pie will not set as firmly as the canned pumpkin + evaporated milk pies...but it's soooo good! I like it better. And, it is very suitable for breakfast. Pie for breakfast is recommended by a highly regarded nutritional expert (umm, me). It's great!

I think I need to go make another pumpkin pie...and maybe an apple one...

summary of findings

I just walked into school (I'd left my car there on...Friday and needed to go pick it up.) and found:

*****snow flurries!*****

And there's little bits of dry, grainy snow clustered around the trunks of trees and on patches of bare ground. We're supposed to have a cold, clear winter and I cannot wait!

I also found that my car won't start. Again. It's making machine gun noises. Again.

On the way back, I found that they've moved the big trash bins on my street. This usually means that all cars on the street will be towed for some event (rollerblade rally, marathon, parade, dignitary driving past, etc.).

So, my car won't start but at least I know where it is. And winter is coming! My glass is at least 3/4 full!

03 November 2007

fall break

How is it possible it's nearly over?!??!

Monday--I have no idea what I did. None.

Tuesday--Met up with a family from my agency who had just collected their daughter from the children's home. She did not like me speaking Russian to her. She froze--seriously, did.not.move--when I did. One time it sent her to the corner to hide. Very, very unsettling. So much for learning Russian to ease the transition. She was two in July and is SO cute! Once she settled in, we had a good time and I got lots of giggles and grins.

Wednesday (aka TRAFFIC DAY)--I left the house just after 9 a.m. to meet with the family mentioned above. They'd borrowed a pack 'n' play and a few toys for their stay. I didn't make it to their flat before they left at 9:30 a.m. It takes about 20 minutes to walk there, but took about 25 minutes to drive.

Then, I went to pick up my Russian teacher to take her shopping. I waited at the pre-arranged meeting place (and walked up and down in the mistiness) for half an hour. She didn't show. So, I drove home (another 20 minute walk--right by the Angleterre, Ann Marie--and a 30 minute drive) and called her. We arranged another meeting place and I headed back out.

By the time I picked her up we were low on gas. We went and got gas and then went back to pick up the baby gear (you don't even want to know how long that took...and I've blocked it out). THEN we went to Mega. We arrived there at 1:45 p.m. (trip to Mega takes 20 minutes with no traffic)

After shopping (I got the bins missing from the bookcase, a grey flokati, some vanilla candles for Friday's visit and some bits and bobs from the French grocery store, Ashan. Galina LOVED Ashan!! She kept comparing this trip to shopping during perestroika. While prices are HIGH on products at Mega, there are products to be bought.) we headed home. I got back after dropping Galina off and getting totally turned around (no surprise--but I did manage to have a happy, peaceful heart and was thankful for maps, that I could read, that I recognized a street, that my car still had gas...) I arrived home at about 9:45 p.m. Loooong day of driving.

Thursday--A school secretary came over to learn to make pumpkin pie. It was nice, but a little uncomfortable because of the glaring difference of my flat/lifestyle provided by the school and hers. I did my best to describe the darling little studio apartment I had in the US that I was so sad to leave (it was in a turn-of-the-20th-century school and I LOVED it) and to be very grateful for what I had now. Still...

Friday--I dropped off the pie at school and then went to meet a friend at the consulate. (We saw some verrrrry interesting political signs that I want to take pictures of...but I've got to be careful.) We walked to her flat and then I spent the afternoon with her and her children (one of whom I taught last year) at her flat, in the car (welcome to life in st. p. apparently, the mayor made a speech ranting and raving about traffic problems. when i asked what she proposed to solve the problem, my question was met with great surprise. the mayor had no proposals. she was just complaining.) and at the Oceanarium. They're a really nice family with whom I always enjoy spending time.

etc (edited to clarify): I didn't ask the mayor what she proposed. I asked the person telling me the story what the mayor proposed.

Today--woke up with a cold and just lounged around. I took some airborne (twice) had tea and toast, read the latest Shopoholic book (can you believe i bought it in hardcover?!! this is why i miss libraries...), watched a Northern Exposure epi, did a some messing around online...

Now there's just tomorrow and Monday (National Day of Unity...whose name makes no sense since Russia and the former Soviet republics are LESS united than the Soviet Union was...) and then I'm back at school. Of course, it'll be a very short work week since I've got my home visit on FRIDAY! I haven't received permission to take that day off yet, but am hopeful...

It's all a blur. And not a very interesting one. I'm sorry for all our sakes!

02 November 2007

can't remember

How is cheese packaged in the US? Chicken?

Everything here is on styrofoam and then plastic wrapped. I really thought we'd done away with the styrofoam a while back in the US. Am I crazy?

Accreditation! (do-over)

Edited to subtract:

Hiya, folks. Sorry for the do-overs, but it was a case of tmi. (Sorry, too, if I messed up your bloglines playing with the template.)

My agency (well, the facilitators) has confirmed that the third batch of agencies, of which they are one, has received the needed signature from the Mininstry of the Interior. Their applications are now all signed and being sent to the Ministry of Education. Once it's confirmed the agencies are up-to-date with their post-placement reports (Have you done your ppr's?) then accreditation can be granted!

They anticipate this being accomplished in the next two weeks! Perfect timing with my hs visit coming up, eh?

It was especially nice that this news started leaking out right after FRUA's worldwide 24 hour prayer vigil.

Rejoice and be glad!

01 November 2007

just the doctor

Any Dr. Who fans out there? Having grown up as a Star Wars kid (the real Star Wars...when the movies had names and weren't just episodes...) I do have a soft spot for science fiction. Now, it's not all science fiction I like. I has to have a good story, be consistent and clever, and have a strong woman character. A trekkie I am decidely not.

I just finished season three of the new Dr. Who. When I was teaching in England my class loved Dr. Who. The whole school would be buzzing the Monday after each new episode. The creepiest one was The Lost Child. SCARY!

Here are a few of my thoughts on the first three seasons of the new Doctor:

I really like Christopher Eccleston and surprised my self by liking David Tennant as well. Loyalties and all...I'm still a Tom Baker fan! But, the brillance Dr. Who is the whole regeneration angle. We can like as many actors as they cast. Smart. Good plan. The loyalty becomes more to the character than to the actor. (Not great for the actor, but...)

I liked season three the best. Why? The absence of Billie Piper! There were some great stories in the first two seasons, but she drives me crazy! She's just dim and trashy. I was so sick of hearing about Rose. I don't think I'm the only one. I think the character of Martha Jones (so much more likable, imho, played by Freema Agyeman) reflected the sentiments of many viewers. She was sick of hearing about Rose. The best bit of Miss Piper's stint on the series was when Rose's body was taken over by another alien who exclaimed in disgust and dispair, "I'm a chav!" Yep. Complete chav.

If there's one thing I ask of the Dr. Who writers it's this: Leave Rose stranded in her alternate universe forever. Do not find a way to bring her back.

Unfortunately, that this new series reflects the, shall we just call it "liberal" agenda, of it's creative team fairly blatantly. Ick. There is a lot to look past. (Don't even try watching the spin-off series T*rchwood. I won't even write it's name here. ICK!) But, it's worth a look. (The other is not.) I don't think it's great for kiddos, although that's its target audience--and it airs at 7 p.m. in the UK, because of the scariness, the violence and the aforementioned thinly veiled agenda.

Okay...since I suspect this will not be the most universal of topics, I'll stop here. But, I'm happy to carry on if you comment. ;>

31 October 2007

gone purple

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

As challenged by Elle, we've gone purple (because she likes purple) to commemorate National Adoption Awareness Month. (Well, it's a start...maybe we'll get purpler as the month progresses. I really need to learn more about html code and techy-bloggy thingies...)

29 October 2007


DaisypathAnniversary Years Ticker

So what do we think about tickers? Love 'em? Hate 'em? Should I keep it or not?

28 October 2007


That title reminds me of a sketch from The Shakespeare Revue. It made me giggle.

This is a quickie to say that our clocks have already changed here in Russia. Just thought you should know.

27 October 2007


SW2.5 is coming on 9 November for my homevisit! I *just* found out minutes ago, but feel like the latest preparations I made both last week and earlier today came at the perfect time.

I'm all about being ready. How long ago did I show you pictures of bedding and clothing, toothbrushes and medicines? How long ago did I tell you about all the multi-sized tights and socks, underwear and camisoles that are ready and waiting? Ages ago. So long ago you probably forgot. (I forgive you.) And, the preparations have continued. I've spent the last 20 months adding bits to my home and getting everything ready for d2b.

Last week I bought a bookshelf (IKEA. Ick.) for d2b and filled it with her books, train, crayons, coloring books, etc. I need to get her some blocks. And, I need two more green and pink sliding bins. I'm taking my Russian teacher shopping on Wednesday, so I'll pick them up then.

This morning, before I'd heard anything, I re-arranged all d2b's dresses (sizes 70-120...'cause who knows?) so they're hanging by length instead of by size. I can't think of anything else to do... Seriously, if you told me d2b was coming home tomorrow, I'd be ready. I just need some shoes (stocking up on multi-sized shoes seems silly), her baby doll (which I won't order until I know d2b's hair and eye color so that they match), and some more pajamas (they don't wear them in the children's home, so buying lots of expensive pajamas--'cause you know I'm a natural-fibers-no-characters-only sort--that I cannot donate if they're too small seems impractical). I could do all that in a day.

(Yes, those are bitty baby clothes next to the hats. And, yes, d2b has plenty of leggings, jeans, t-shirts & clothes other than dresses.)

Hooray for progress!! I think we're all ready for this visit. Thanks for waiting with me.

how tired are you?

Okay, so we've been teaching non-stop since mid-August with NO breaks--no three day weekends, no holidays, nothing. Do you want to know how tired that makes a teacher? Last week we had a lice scare at school. A nurse from Euromed came to check everyone's head. I admitted to a teacher friend that I was hoping I had lice just so I could be sent home. She said she was hoping the same thing!

Hoping one has LICE to be sent home to start vacation a day early...that's how tired teachers are who have taught for 45 days with no break. (That does not include professional development days and pre-school in-service...)

26 October 2007

losing battles

Insomnia. I battle if often. Yuck. But, it's vacation! That means I have a week to sort out my sleep (I like to sleep 2 am-10 am which was perfect when I was acting but not-so-perfect when I'm teaching) and get myself back to myself.

I'm flattered by how quickly some of you read my ramblings. Some of you read that I had an e-mail from sw2. I was pretty taken aback by some of her wording. And, while I wanted to leap in and defend myself, I didn't. I decided that a gloating sw was a better visitor than an angry one and that I'd have to lose this battle. I sought some wise council and the counselor concurred. So, I said nothing about my priorities (which were called into question) or my uncertainties about sw2.5. I did not vindicate myself or insist that I get my way.

SW2 offered a compromise and I leapt to accept. Too much public disclosure is not a good thing, but, suffice it to say that 2.5 will be coming to visit.

I felt like I'd lost. I hadn't gotten exactly what I wanted out of this. I didn't get to say what I wanted to say. I didn't have the sw I wanted coming. But. But, when I thought about d2b it became no contest. Of course I'd rather "lose" the battle of the homevisit and win the war of bringing her home. How could I ever explain to her that I didn't bring her home because I was too prideful and too stubborn? I couldn't. I won't. I will smile and chat and be nice. I will catch my flies with honey. I may even bake muffins.

So, 2.5 is coming...as soon as I can get a response to an e-mail. My hs will be finished, I will get my I-171H renewed (at no cost, thank you very much), and d2b will come home. I just keep praying it's soon.

22 October 2007

i really like...

...the sound of appliances. Isn't it FAB to hear the sound of something else doing the work you'd be doing otherwise? And, isn't it nice when people call and ask what you're doing and you can honestly say, "Doing laundry." instead of "Sitting in my pajamas watching Top Gear simply becasue it's on and reading blogs."? All that's peachy...and the white-noise is so soothing in and of itself.

...ground turkey breast. I just ground up some and am making spaghetti and saving some for future inspiration. Yum!!

...clean sheets. (winking at sybille) I've got some gorgeous, high thread count, Egyptian cotton, silver-grey ones on my bed today. They just came out of the laundry (see above) and smell like lavender and chamomile.

...reading in bed or in the bath (bubbles are obligatory to hide the off-color water).

...my LUSH products--angels on bare skin, imperialis, marilyn, various bubble bars...

...napping in d2b's room.

...getting enough sleep. I slept 13 hours on Friday night and could've slept more. Beazy woke me at 10 am needing to be fed. Yes, I was in bed by 8:30 and asleep by 9:00 that night. See, all of you who tell me to enjoy it while I can--I am.

...lots of things! I'll tell you more later. For now I'm going to eat some spaghetti, take a LUSHous bath and then curl up in my clean sheets with a book. I can't promise it will be a good book, but it will be a new one. ;>

Hope you do something you like today, too!

ETA: My break doesn't start until NEXT week. I just whiled away the evening with simple pleasures. And, even better--the book was good! I ought to add a few "likes" I thought of last night.

...when my cat curls up in the small of my back or the crook or my knees and purrs

...sleeping with the window open, especially when the nights are cool and the courtyard is quiet

...the fact that it's finally cool enough when sleeping with the window open to have an extra blanket on the bed (but it never gets cold enough for a down duvet here...)

21 October 2007

you're not missing anything

Hello, my lovelies.

Just a quick pop-in to let you know that while I still have limited internet time, you're not missing anything. I've yet to hear from either social worker...or to have real news from my agency.

We've got a week left until Fall Break. I'm so tired that I was shaking last week. Seriously. We've been teaching since mid-August without a break. I know your non-teacher hearts are just breaking...but we really do NEED a break. I'm so glad we've got one coming.

Someone from school is on the case about new internet, so hope to have it soon. However, my definition of "soon" has radically altered since moving to Russia.

Thanks for all your lovely wishes of support and for all your prayers on my behalf. I miss bloggerland and will be happy to be back asap!


13 October 2007

for the adoption junkies...

Couldn't leave you hanging indefinitely without some sort of update...

I decided that I'd prefer my SW2 (J) to do my homevisit. Some of this was just an unsettled feeling about SW2.5 (N) and some was because I was wary of having three social workers on my very fat, very atypical homestudy. I sent this e-mail to both of them last Tuesday:

Dear N and J,

First, let me apologize. I am sorry that I did not think through things faster. This is very unlike me. However, I'm sure you can appreciate the attrition that occurs in Russian adoption. You've done more Russian adoptions than I have! So, when the opportunity to have a month shaved
off my time in-process, I leapt.

Perhaps N's delay was really a good thing. It caused me to consider the impact of having three social workers involved in my homestudies. I trust you both when you say that CIS wouldn't take issue. And, it's likely that Russia wouldn't either. But, there is the possibility that they would.I am my agency's first ex-pat adoption. And, as far as we've been able to gather, I'm the first ex-pat adoption by a resident of St. Petersburg from St. Petersburg. This has made my agency very cautious. They've had me appear before the committee of the ministry of education twice
already--and my papers, as you know, are still not filed. This has given me both the advantage and the disadvantage of being known by the committee. As I'm sure you'll appreciate, being atypical in Russia is not usually a good thing. And, my case is far from "normal" in the eyes of the committee.

All this to say, I think it would be best to wait for J to do my homevisit. I've spoken with my
agency and they concur. I am sorry for any inconvenience this has caused. I appreciate the time and energy N contributed. J, after you've recovered from your holiday, I look forward to seeing you as soon as your schedule permits.

Many thanks to you both,


I thought this was a kind, respectful e-mail. I've not had a reply. I also e-mailed SW2 (J) about getting her visa--I'm thinking a year visa may be better since we'll hopefully have some ppr's to do in the next year as well as this homevisit. She is still on holiday. N says that they talk on the phone, so I'd think that this change in plans has been discussed between them. I've also gathered that they're very close friends. I am hoping that this doesn't impact my homestudy. J seems too sensible to let that happen, but...

I'm hoping to hear something when she returns from holiday at the end of the month. I've decided not to e-mail either of them again until then. (Unless they e-mail me, nach. I just won't instigate further contact.)

Comments? BTDT? Do you think I'm handling this correctly or should I send an e-mail to make sure they received that one? (Yahoo says it's been sent...) Was the letter too harsh? Really, I still think N is disappointed to be losing a paid trip to St. P and a paying gig. I just don't want that disappointment to come back and bite me...anywhere.

blog interrupted

Well, my lovelies, (that's how I address this year's class so far...especially when they're being either VERY lovely or very UN-lovely.) I have sad news. No, it's not THAT sad. It's only sad...not devastating. Let's keep things in perspective.

I have no internet access at home AGAIN.

Apparently, this is because I've been watching GH on my slingbox. I've asked the other IT person at school (and not the one who said he'd take care of it last month...) if he'll look into why my unlimited internet access is now limited.

Until it's back, I'm only internet-ing at school--and then only after a day of teaching, dance/drama classes and Russian lessons. Somehow I just can't manage to get online after all that unless I'm in my pajamas. I guess I could bring my pajamas to school...

10 October 2007

force of consumerism

Who knew?

Since I've been away from the US they've stopped making my foundation, mascara, eyebrow gel, lipstick color, saline solution, bras, underwear, stockings and loads of other things I'm forgetting right now. My apologies to all of you who are suffering lack of supply because I wasn't there to do my part as a demading consumer.

At least creamy Jiff is still available. Thanks for picking up the slack. ;>

07 October 2007

you can uncross

SW couldn't make arrangement to come in October (I said it would take a month...). She can come in November. Since SW2 was also available in November, I'm asking that she do the homevisit instead of SW2.5. I just think having three different sw names on my hs is not going to make the MOE very happy...

And, btw, has anyone looked at my timeline lately and realized we've been updating this hs since the beginning of JUNE?

Edited to add: SW 2.5 is really, really cross with me. I hate it when people are cross with me. I, rather cynically, suspect it is because she is a. losing out on a fee and b. not getting the paid trip to St. Petersburg. (Told you it was cynical...but I know she was planning to stay an extra day to sightsee, go to museums, etc.)

SW2 won't be back from holiday until the end of the month. SW2.5 is threatening says that it's likely SW2's schedule has filled up and she won't be able to come until December. The way things are going, I'm tempted to wait for SW2. WAIT?!?? Willingly? Am I crazy??

At least the I-171H now has a free update--and free fingerprinting. I'll be getting my money's worth out of that visa!

Agency agrees that fewer SW names is better.

pickles and prejudices

note: This is just a report of some of my Russian friends' take on food and culture. I thought you might like an uncensored show of current attitudes here. Don't flame the reporter, please.

Friday was a professional development day at school. The biggest perk--we get an actual lunch break...and are allowed out of the school to eat! This, for a teacher, is a rare treat. We have no cafeteria at our school, so usually I wolf down my lunch standing up (no room in my classroom for a desk for me...) after I've microwaved everyone's lunch, opened stubborn juice containers and had some second grade chat. Believe me, lunch out on a schoolday is a treat!

Since we had 45 minutes instead of our usual 30, some friends and I decided to go to a nearby chain that serves baked potatoes (jacket potatoes to my UK friends) with a choice of toppings. We were walking and realized it was noon. Then, my friend P commented, "Oh, no. It's Friday."

That's not the usual preface to a comment about Friday. However, we were headed straight past the mosque. This is a place to AVOID on Fridays. On Fridays it's filled with gypsies begging--rather aggressively. P explained that Islamic law says that one must give something to all beggars. (See disclaimer above.)

We were quickly marked and chased down. One little girl, probably about nine years old, tried to grab the Coke right out of my hand. (Professional development gave me a headache. It was medicinal.) I admit, it was a little scary. Even thought she was only nine, she was really aggressive. And, we were surrounded. I was glad to have my big, strong friends in attendance.

Then, I was treated to a debate between my Russian friends about whether or not these were actual gypsies. P says emphatically yes. N says no. P says at least these are Tajik gypsies who only steal and not Moldovan gypsies who are violent. He said they were easily distinguished by their clothes. (I could have my Tajik and Moldovan characteristics mixed up, but I think that's what he said.) Even so, we walked back by a different route.

Over lunch, I was regaled with matter-of-fact stories from P and N of how gypsies refused all schooling and opportunities for a better life, preferring, instead, to live on the streets and pick pockets. I was also told a rather scary tale about another encounter P had some years back. He warned some Americans that they were being followed by gypsies and to watch their wallets. The band of pickpockets quit following the Americans and targeted P and his friend in retaliation. P and friend had to hide in a shop! He said they could see the pickpockets lying in wait--plying their "trade"--outside the shop window. This was at a time when it was not easy to exchange money and he had a substantial sum on him--the grant funding for a project. Eventually, they called a cab and had it park RIGHT in front of the shop. They dashed to the cab and got away with the grant money safely in P's pocket.

There is a strong prejudice against gypsies here. And, I have seen many pickpockets/thieves/beggars to support this. Do I think this is a broad generalization? Probably. But, as I disclaimed, this post is just to let you know how people here feel.

On a lighter note--I was holding the table while my friends got food. I asked for chicken on my potato. (I *love* bbq chicken on a baked potato, but knew that was not going to happen. I was thinking just grilled chicken...) P arrived at the table with my potato--covered in cheese with an ice cream scoop of chicken salad on top--chicken salad with lots of pickles. My thoughtful friend chose the salad with pickles especially for me because the plain one would be "too bland". I smiled and ate most of it. And, I regretted it later! My American stomach isn't keen on the hot potato-pickle combination. I tried to just think of it as potato salad...but...no.

Next time, I'll get the grilled chicken sandwich--hold the pickles.

04 October 2007

fingers crossed...

SW 2.5 thinks she can be here 20 October for my homevisit. No visa yet (and she thinks she can do that faster and cheaper than the consulate so I'm graciously letting her...) but I'm hoping it all works out!

01 October 2007

paige's names

Here's a bit of silly fun courtesey of Paige:

1. YOUR ROCK STAR NAME: (first pet & current car),
Betsey Blazer

2.YOUR GANGSTA NAME: (fave ice cream flavor, favorite cookie),
Peppermint Gingersnap

3. YOUR “FLY Guy/Girl” NAME: (first initial of first name, first three letters of your last name),

4. YOUR DETECTIVE NAME: (favorite color, favorite animal),
Grey Lion

5. YOUR SOAP OPERA NAME: (middle name, city where you were born),

6. YOUR STAR WARS NAME: (the first 3 letters of your last name, first 2 letters of your first),

7. SUPERHERO NAME: (”The” + 2nd favorite color, favorite drink),
The Periwinkle Snapple

8. NASCAR NAME: (the first names of your grandfathers),
Noel Frank

9. STRIPPER NAME: ( the name of your favorite perfume/cologne/scent, favorite candy),
Allure Lemondrop

10.WITNESS PROTECTION NAME: (mother’s & father’s middle names ),

11. TV WEATHER ANCHOR NAME: (Your 5th grade teacher’s last name, a major city that starts with the same letter),
Riley-Stewart Reykjavik

12. SPY NAME: (your favorite season/holiday, flower).
Autumn Hydrangea

13. CARTOON NAME: (favorite fruit, article of clothing you’re wearing right now + “ie” or “y”)
Berry Peejaysie

14. HIPPY NAME: (What you ate for breakfast, your favorite tree),
Toasty Christmas

15. YOUR ROCKSTAR TOUR NAME: (”The” + Your fave hobby/craft, fave weather element + “Tour”),
The Theatrics-Equestrian Thunderstorm Tour

Come on, do it. You know you want to….

(Seriously,though, this would be a minefield of information for those who are identity thieves...having had a friend fall victim, I've left out and changed a few answers! The questions are fun, though, so I've left them up. Discuss amongst yourselves.)

29 September 2007

as promised

St. Petersburg is a beautiful city...but you do have to actively look for the beauty and edit out the bits that distract and detract. Here's my captured golden afternoon--edited for you so that all you see is beauty.

a month saved

While sw2 is not able to come to visit me until November, she has arranged for a colleague of hers to do my homevisit over the weekend of 20 October! That saves me a month. Hooray!!

I really do like sw2. She not only keeps the crazy facilitators happy, but also offers me some encouragement. And, I really appreciate her problem-solving on my behalf.

Knew you'd all like to share in this little victory!

28 September 2007

saying good-bye

In case you’re in doubt, there really is an artistic personality. I need art, I need theatre and music in order to be me. It’s as necessary as breathing. Without a creative outlet, I can feel myself shrinking a little bit every day. I become a little less me.

Fortunately, the year I was hired a couple of other artistic types were hired, too. The art teacher, the music teacher and I quickly formed a little artistic enclave…which met in the second grade classroom. We could just TALK theatre, TALK art, and life was better. It wasn’t the same as performing, but it did slow the rate at which I lost little bits of myself. The p.e. teacher’s office was right next to my classroom. He told me he was amazed at how much we could talk about theatre—and that heated arguments and spontaneous song often accompanied that talk. The three of us put on the first musical the school had ever had—and, for what we had to work with, we did a bang-up job.

Art is so important! That year, kids were painting and singing and dancing and creating. They learned so much—how to work together, how to take responsibility, how to express themselves, how to practice, how to persist, how to make mistakes…

Our art teacher is great at creating a safe place so that children will try. Because mistakes are treated as opportunities or inspirations to try something new, my students are eager to dive in and start creating. While I do have an artistic bent, my forte is the performing arts, not the visual arts. I am continually frustrated by the fact that the picture in my head doesn’t come out of my pencil. I readily sympathize with my students who suffer from the same malady. But, with our art teacher, students achieved and felt successful.

At the end of my first year, our music teacher left to return to theatre in Belarus. The art teacher and I carried on—teaching, chatting, supporting. We put on another musical. One of our best field trips ever was when the two of us walked my class to the Hermitage and back. The kids loved sitting outside and sketching. And, they came up with some great pictures!

Now, our art teacher is leaving as well. He’s returning to Belgium along with his family. The artistic enclave has ended. I’m so sorry to be losing another person who started out as the best of colleagues and quickly became a friend. While I’m happy for the opportunities he and his family will have, I can’t help being a little sad for myself. This family has been a great champion of my adoption. They’ve driven me around town searching for a car battery. They’ve helped create Oz and Neverland. And now, they’re leaving.

So, to them…go forth and conquer. Be happy. I’ll miss you.

26 September 2007


It's my favorite time of year. The trees are changing colors, there's a nip in the air... It's time for football games and scuffling through leaves. We're having "Babushke Summer" right now. Obviously, it's the Russian equivilent of our Indian Summer. It got it's name, I'm reliably informed, because this time of year is like a woman who is having her last flush of beauty and vigor before she lapses into winter and old age. (Just an observation: It seems this always happens right after the city officials have, after being faced with an early winter onset and many cold, damp days, decided to turn on the city's centralized heat. As soon as the heat is turned on the weather warms up. Конечно. Ето нормально. Of course. It is normal.)

Yesterday was a perfect autumn day. It was sweater weather--cool and sunny. I went and walked through the garden next to The Church on Spilled Blood and the Summer Gardens. The light was just golden. It was heavy and soft--like a kitten who's fallen asleep on your chest and is purring contentedly.

I wasn't the only person who was out trying to both capture and enjoy the afternoon. I met many people with cameras and easels. I'll share more once I sort through the masses of photos I took, but I'll leave you with one from the Summer Garden.