29 April 2007

so not right

I walked outside today, keys in hand, to get in my car. My car wasn't there. I looked up the street, I looked down the street. Not only is my car not there, there are NO cars on the street. There is a bicycle/rollerblading/running race today on my street and, apparently, they towed all the cars. I walked all around the block looking for it, but didn't find it. So, I came home and called our school secretary. An hour later she called back and said that she had found a number to call. The person she talked to had no information about where the car might be. She said that ususally they take them to a paid carpark or just leave them nearby.

So, now I've got to go cruise the streets of my neighborhood (currenly clogged with those people who run even when nothing is chasing them) in widening circles, I guess, to be effective, looking for my car.

How is it possible for people to be allowed to just take my car and leave it somewhere without notifying me or anyone else?!!??

Edited to add: Found it--over by The Field of Mars.

28 April 2007

if i were a poem...

I am the sonnet, never quickly thrilled;
Not prone to overstated gushing praise
Nor yet to seething rants and anger, filled
With overstretched opinions to rephrase;
But on the other hand, not fond of fools,
And thus, not fond of people, on the whole;
And holding to the sound and useful rules,
Not those that seek unjustified control.
I'm balanced, measured, sensible (at least,
I think I am, and usually I'm right);
And when more ostentatious types have ceased,
I'm still around, and doing, still, alright.
In short, I'm calm and rational and stable -
Or, well, I am, as much as I am able.
What Poetry Form Are You?

I've been saving this one. (thanks, suz) I agree that I could be a sonnet, but not with the content of and the definition put forth in this particular sonnet. I think the author is most certainly
a sonnet. To me, a sonnet is full of passion and wit. It's also controlled. All that passion has to be reined it. And yet, it's written in the most natural of all speaking rhythms. Controlled passion, cleverly and naturally put--that is a sonnet. And, that sort of sonnet am I.

Things my friends will attest to: I am not fond of fools or of rules that seek unjustified control

Things they won't: That whole "not quickly thrilled" part...and I do like people individually--just not in a crowd

(I was tempted to write this post in iambic pentameter...)

27 April 2007

agency update

The saga continues...sort of.

No news from current agency. Am going to see if they can register me independently in Leningrad Oblast instead of St. P itself. Doubtful, but worth a try.

Still uncomfortable with agency 2--though they seem to be getting results.

Agency 3 will not work with me b/c I am a non-military ex-pat.

I've looked at two agencies that are still registering families. One won't work with me b/c I'm an ex-pat. The other isn't responding to e-mails (still) and has a mixed reputation.

Short post, eh? It seems as if I'm staying the course with my current agency. There is something to be said for closed doors...

25 April 2007

oh, be joyful

Yesterday I was given joy. I woke up really happy. Really--I was really happy and my first thought was, "Good! One day closer!" And, that thought in itself--and the realization that I was both happy and able to think that way made me even happier. It brought a smile to my face before I'd even tossed off the covers.

While I don't bounce out of bed in the mornings with a twinkle in my eye and "Yeah, SCHOOL!" on my lips, neither do I wake up moaning and groaning. I don't spend time pining away and thinking about how time is slipping away. I don't often count the days since I started this adoption journey, but I occasionally do. It's not a good idea. Seeing the days add up is disheartening.

But, this joyful wake-up was really fun. It was a countdown. Granted, I don't know how many days are left in the countdown, but I do know that today it's one day less than it was yesterday. That brings joy to my heart.

23 April 2007


Do you know how long it takes one person to use a tube of toothpaste if she brushes her teeth 2-3 times a day? Neither do I, but it's longer than I thought.

Ann Marie thought this was so hysterical that I promised to do a post on it for her. I, like all ex-pats I know, have a cupboard full of necessities. My friend Kat shipped loads of toilet paper and paper towels--she hasn't bought any in-country yet. I stash away everything from Advil to creamy Jif. Also in my cupboard, there is a stockpile of toothpaste. I break out if I use anything other than Arm & Hammer baking soda toothpaste. (I love it--my teeth feel soooo clean.) So, it's important to know if I have enough toothpaste to last out my internal exile ;> . I keep trying to remember when I start a new tube so that I can figure out how long my stash will last. I say things to myself like, "Oh, surely I'll remember that I started this tube on Groundhog's Day/the twins' birthday/the third Thursday in October." But I don't. So, THIS time, I wrote the date on my toothpaste tube. I started this tube on 26 February.

It looks like I have enough to last for awhile...

Can you see the two little girl toothbrushes in there? Surely that wins me points. I've already got toothbrushes. (But, my prepared-ness is really a whole 'nother post...)

So--mock away. You call it obsessive. I call it well-planned.

22 April 2007


Today, 22 April, is Lenin's birthday. During soviet times, the Saturday closest to Lenin's birthday was spent in an annual subbotnik--working to clean up the city. Groups of workers and school children would be given the tasks of cleaning up parks, courtyards and communal areas. (All kinds of things might have been festering away under the snows of winter...)

This subbotnik pre-dates Lenin. Lenin himself is said to have been a big fan of "voluntary" communal work on Saturdays. "Saturday" in Russian is Subota--from "sabbath" which, ironically, means "rest". Lenin was reputed to be captured by the idea of workers giving up their free time on Saturdays to work for the good of the community. Random subbotnik-s were scheduled throughout the year as the need arose. My friend N was telling me how her school days were filled with subbotnik. She and her classmates were often "given the opportunity" to sacrifice their Saturday for the greater good.

Yesterday, as we drove to IKEA, we noticed many people were out doing a spring clean of the city. Walls were being painted, parks were being readied for spring. A notice appeared plastered to the front door of my building on Tuesday. The inhabitants of my building were invited to participate in cleaning up a street nearby.

I declined. Had I known that this was the BIG, annual, Lenin's birthday subbotnik, I might have gone along for the experience. But, not having had Lenin's birthday drilled into my head since childhood, I didn't realize that. I just thought they were having some sort of neighborhood clean-up. And, since it's a few streets over and not really my neighborhood, I declined. Actually, when I was over there yesterday evening, I didn't notice that street looking any cleaner... Perhaps the fireworks later last night were considered celebration enough.

21 April 2007


For lunch today I really, really wanted:

some cold bread and butter pickles (I've been known to make this a meal in the summer)

a smoked turkey sandwich with dijon mustard, lettuce and red onions on a well-toasted sesame bagel

a cold Snapple lemon iced tea--or two

I shared this with my friend Kat while we were shopping and now we're both drooling. Would someone please go and eat that for us?

20 April 2007

a call (not THE call)

I'm sitting here waiting for Agency #3 (not my third agency, the third option of the three I've been mentioning) to call.

I've got a cuppa made in my favourite cup sitting on my desk. I also have water, a notebook and various writing utensils. The phone is here charged and to hand.

I've opened an old e-mail with fee information, a copy of their webpage, a list of agency questions I tweaked from the LAST agency quest and the document they e-mailed about their various regions on the mac.

I've rubbed massage cream into my tense shoulders, run the dishwasher (I like the sound of appliances working), and have been taking long slow breaths.

Soo...now we just wait for the call. It's already 8:40 p.m. here. If she doesn't call by 9:00 p.m. I'll e-mail or call there. I also won't be best pleased.

[I know my friend Lara (no, she still hasn't e-mailed) is shouting Meyers-Briggs letters at her computer screen as she reads this...]

I'll update!

I had an e-mail saying that the St. P phones were up to their usual tricks. So, I called her. The head of the Russia program with #3 was helpful...sort of. She didn't really have good news to share. She is going to ask some more questions of her Moscow team to see if they could work with me, but didn't sound terribly hopeful. She thinks (as did I at the beginning of this process) that an adoption from St. P would be in the best interests of d2b--allowing many visits b/t "trips".

She also said that if I wanted to take advantage of their waiting child program, it would be wise to extend my age range to 9. Nine sounds much older than seven... We talked a little bit about the issues a nine-year-old would have as opposed to the children in my current range. A nine-year-old is much more likely to be available for adoption b/c parental rights have been terminated. This could mean a history of severe neglect or abuse. She has seen very easy, successful adoptions in this age range and some that really had to struggle.

She also thinks the whole situation with my current agency and their sub-contracted US facilitators is nuts. AND she said there was no way I could've known beforehand what they were really like.

She gave me a list of agencies that work in St. P. Many of them I talked to in round one of the agency quest. More than a few have a reputation in the adoption world for being either crooked or just plain bad.

This isn't quite the update I hoped I'd post. Let's face it--it's not even close. But, I did appreciate her honesty and her knowledge--and her willingness to investigate something for me. She's really just trying to help! That's amazing to me at this point in my journey. An agency rep who HELPS--just helps without any personal gain. Wow. Impressive.

Edited again to answer some comments:

I was VERY happy to have someone give me the straight scoop. Believe me--I'd rather hear the truth than a pretty lie. I thought I'd made that clear in my post, but guess I didn't. While I was disappointed that this agency didn't seem to be the answer I thought it would, I was very thankful for their honest, up-front approach.

I am willing to adopt from ANY region. I originally thought St. P would be easier, but that's been proven wrong. In my opinion, the travel benefits are outweighed by the added bureaucracy that seems to characterize adoptions here. I am very ready to travel wherever I need to (and actually thought this agency would send me to Vladivostok). It was the agency rep who suggested I stay in St. P. I'm exploring every option--in every region--I can.

19 April 2007

quickie agency non-update

How do things stand? Have I gotten closer to figuring out which agency it is that will get me to d2b? Um, not really.

No news from current agency.

With agency 2, I'm still weighing expense and legality against results. Results are losing.

Agency 3 re-scheduled our chat to Friday night. I wasn't best pleased. While they win so far on knowledge and costs, the thought of re-doing most of my dossier for a different region/agency is a little daunting. Still, it would give me something to DO while I wait for re-accred.

I've looked at a few other options. There are a couple of agencies working "independently" in the south of Russia. One is quite expensive. The other is not answering my e-mails. A friend is on their case, though.

17 April 2007

just another tuesday

Living in St. P has allowed me the privilege of meeting many brand new families. I met my friend Jenn when she and her husband were here adopting their gorgeous son. Lauren invited me meet the amazing Cupcake while they were waiting it out in Moscow. And, Rachael graciously let me spend an evening with her incredible new daughter, reassuring me about some age questions I had about d2b.

Ann Marie and Zach came and stayed with me while they were here meeting Bee. It was fun to see the city through a new pair of eyes. They appreicated the stunning architecture of the city. Ann Marie claims to like driving in Russia (note: she only rode...which may alter her opinion). They enjoyed blinis and hot chocolate and fish "pie" (Stolle's was out of chicken).

It was funny to see what cultural norms I've taken on board from living here without even realizing it. On the first night, Z asked me how to say good evening in Russian. I told him, thinking he was getting ready for a trip into a shop. A few seconds later I realized, with great shock, what it was he planned to do. "You're not going to talk to people on the street? Just people we're passing?" It hadn't even occured to me that he would do that when he'd asked. And, I am the person who makes it my mission to make x number of people smile at me when walking down the streets of NYC or London. It's usually an easy task--smile and they'll smile back. But, the thought of simply greeting people on the street had completely left my daily life. (I still smile--which marks me as a fool. "What do you Americans have to smile about all the time?")

Here's one thing that made us all smile. It's one of my favourite directional indication signs in St. P:

Obviously, it's the right lane that makes me giggle. It thought we could all use a giggle right about now.

16 April 2007

accreditation prayers

Last night, my alarm rang at 1:10 a.m. I was surprised at how easily I awoke. I prayed for accreditation. I prayed for the people working on accreditation requirements here in Russia. I prayed for our agencies in the US who will have to fulfill the requirements handed down. I prayed for the children and families that are waiting to be united. I was so thankful for all the families that are united--and for all the families who pipped it to post. I prayed for d2b. I prayed for wisdom in how I get to her and which agency I used to lead the way. Then, I easily fell back asleep (not often the case) and awoke this morning before the alarm went off. What a restful night!

And now we wait.

Thanks for waiting with me.

15 April 2007

accreditation prayer time

Today, at 4:15 CDT (central daylight time) people in the adoption community are praying together for accreditation. Let's simply offer up the situation and pray for those involved--those making decisions and those who are waiting.

14 April 2007

shopping--US style

At a baby shower for a colleague, chat turned to shopping. Another teacher (from India, long-time Russian resident) was commenting on her experience at a shopping mall in the US.

It wasn't the number of shops that made the biggest impression on her. It was the shoppers. She was amazed, she told us, by their sense of peace. Everyone was calm and unstressed. Children were running just ahead of their parents. Moms were chatting. No one was pinched and worried and weighing decisions as if they couldn't be undone.

She soon learned why. Some one at her seminar bought a pair of shoes at Wal-m*rt. After wearing them for a few hours, her feet hurt and so she took them off. (Really, what did she expect?) That night, after the seminar, they went to Wal-m*art and (gasp!) returned the shoes. My friend was shocked! She was amazed that they would take back the shoes not only without any hassle, but with an apology for the shoes not working out!

It was fun to see her marvel at the little things we US ex-pats have been missing. Can you imagine if she'd gotten to go to Target instead? I don't think she would be able to contain herself. My friend Lara says (and maybe this will get her to e-mail me...) that the sun always shines at Target. All that sunshine might have been too much.

13 April 2007


I know--I was supposed to post this yesterday...or, better still, last week.

The thing is, like Christmas, the communists really did away with Easter. Unlike Christmas, they didn't move the traditional celebrations to a non-religious holiday. There is not a big celebration. Only two of my Russian friends celebrate Easter.

Easter in Russia is a religious holiday--and it is only for the religious. (Ann Marie and Zach's translator said, when I expressed surprise that Easter would not alter their visitations, "It's not like this is a Muslim country".) The city moves around as normal. This is strikingly different from my time in the UK. There, Good Friday and Easter Monday are always bank holidays. Everything is closed. Here, it's life as usual.

Some old traditions:

Homes are cleaned prior to Palm Sunday. On Palm Sunday, you bring pussy willows to church to have them blessed. Then you bring them to your home.

Eggs are dyed using red or yellow onion skins. (It's the Ukrainians who have a tradition of beautifully and intricately painted eggs called pysansky. DAWN--speak!)

Eggs are...shrink wrapped with decorated sleeves. (You put them on the eggs and then pour boiling water on them.) These eggs are best for the cracking game. It's a little like conkers in the UK. You tap the eggs together and whichever egg breaks first loses. I've heard this explained by Russian friends, but never seen children playing it.

An Easter sweetbread (kulich), is baked in a tall cylinder shape. It's then decorated with white icing and sprinkles, and the letters XB meaning "Christ is risen." (Christos voskres.) It's served with pashka (a soft, sweet, cheesy pudding--think light, thick cream cheese filling...sort of). There was a LONG line of Babushkas at Okey on the Saturday before Palm Sunday patiently waiting for the white eggs to go on sale. It takes 10 egg yolks to make one kulach!

Easter mass is celebrated at midnight the night before.

That's really all I've found by living here...

I hope your Easters were happy!

seven is little

I'm still mulling things over. New things to consider:

Agency 1--nothing.

Agency 2--Ex-pat friends here have accepted a referral and will have court next month.

Agency 3-- I met the amazing Katya and her MOM today. Seven isn't as big as I thought...It sounded SO much older than six to me when I started looking at "waiting children". But, now... A rep is calling me on Wednesday to talk with me about their program.

BIG thanks to Rachael for letting me play with her gorgeous daughter. It was a privilege to be a part of their special day.

11 April 2007

written excuse

Please excuse Kate from her recent blogger absence. She has had a full, buzzy head and was unable to post. We expect her to be recovered and participating in her usual activities soon.

My head has been full. In the absence of accreditation, I've been looking at agencies again. Here's what I've got so far:

1. Stay with my agency.
Pro: no money lost, it's the devil I know, great in-region team
Con: little faith in the facilitators, not allowed contact with in-region team

2. Switch to agency 2.
Pro: can be registered now in Leningrad Region--d2b home soon, v. little travel
Con: not sure how this is possible or if it's entirely legal, will cost 26K more than what I've already spent (I don't have that much in the bank)

3. Switch to agency 3.
Pro: program to underwrite the costs of adoption of children over age seven and reduction in the cost to adopt younger sibling, they have ex-pat experience and assign an advocate to every single pap, they submitted papers the same time as agency 1 and have ngo status
Con: they say to expect a referral in 6-12 months--could keep me in exile longer

I haven't come to any decision...and probably won't very soon. Looking at it written down, agency 2 has little to reccomend it other than time. They felt dodgy when I first looked at them and the uneasiness continues. My friend here reminds me to trust my instinct.

While there is nothing happening accreditation-wise, I feel a strong sense of urgency. But, I can't let that blind me to the other important factors.

I'll post about Easter tomorrow.


08 April 2007

He is risen indeed!

Wishing you all joy this Easter.

05 April 2007

at loose ends

Yeah, when I post about hair you know I'm drawing a blank.

It's spring break. I've got oodles of time on my hands. I could be getting my 1040 finished and notarized, but my agency is having selective amnesia. They are telling me that I cannot notarize here. Hmmm...V helped me do that for all my signature docs just a month ago...

I could be switching agencies, but it seems precipitous. I want to make a logical and not an emotional decision. (This is a distinct disadvantage to being single: you do not the the luxury of someone else making logical decisions when you're less than logical.) So, I'm looking around a little and praying a lot. There is another agency I'm interested in...but it would take a lot of paperwork changes (increasing age ranges on my hs and my immigration forms). I'm not sure how my current agency would react. (Yes, I am a trained people-pleaser from way back. I'm working on it.)

I could be shopping! But, I don't know what sizes to shop for. And, I've really got the basics pretty well covered in multiple sizes. Ask Ann Marie. Besides, I don't want to shop here. Everything is expensive. I don't really need anything more than I need to save. I'm a pretty good saver.

I could be cleaning, but I've done that.

I could be reviewing my Russian vocab or scrapbooking or reading or even watching LOST, but my brain is fuzzy and my eyes are tired b/c I had caffeine yesterday after six.

I could call and pester some of you, but you're all asleep. I could read blogs or websites, but since you're all asleep I know there is nothing new posted since my last troll through the web.

I could be posting something interesting, but nothing interesting is happening.

I could be making banana bread with all the bananas I have frozen in my freezer but...but...

Huh. Guess I'll bake.

02 April 2007

vive la france

I have now had my hair bobbed in five different countries. The best haircut award goes to...France!

01 April 2007

the bus is late

I have, at different times and in different countries, relied on public transportation to get around. There are great benefits. I really like riding on trains and tubes/subways/metros. Buses that are clean and frequent make life easy. I love not having the responsibility of a car. There are no oil changes, no dodgy mechanics and no insurance premiums. When the public transport is good, it's great!

When public transportation is unreliable, it's less than great. It's actually pretty stressful, especially for a clock-watcher like me. I am a very punctual person.

What's it like waiting for the bus? You show up five to seven minutes before it's scheduled. For those few minutes, it's easy to wait. You chat about the weather. You read your book. You sing or tap dance if there's no one else there.

The time comes for the bus to arrive and you start to watch for it. You pack up your book, check that you have your fare or your pass and start looking for the bus to round the corner.

When the appointed time passes, you get edgy. You check your watch, double-check the timetable, deride the timeliness of buses on this route with the other waiters, and keep watching for the bus. Your eyes are focused in the distance, willing the bus to materialize. It's as if you can conjure it up if you just watch hard enough. But, just like a watched pot never boils, a watched-for bus never seems to come. Yet, you can't help watching.

The bus that goes in the opposite direction passes you by and you start to worry. Yours was meant to come first. What might be holding it up? Accident? Mechanical problems? Driver didn't show? Can you still make it on time? You check your watch and try to breathe easy. You realize that you're getting tense. Your neck, your jaw, your shoulders all are tense as you wait and watch.

You start playing games with yourself--counting the cars that pass. Surely your bus will come after 5 cars or 10 or 20. You start to calculate the time until the bus after yours is due. If it's less than half the time between buses, yours might still come. You wonder if there is time to run up to the top of the street and catch the other bus that goes close to your stop instead. You weigh the bags you're carrying and calculate the distance you have to go and the time that bus is due. And all the while your eyes never stray from the corner where your bus will round into sight.

This is the best way I can describe how I'm feeling as I wait. It's just like waiting for a bus that is late. I'm alert and watching and a little tense. My mind is racing and I'm constantly revising my mental time-frame. If I knew when accreditation would arrive, I could relax and chat to the others at the bus stop. Instead, I'm hyper-vigilant. It's tiring. (In this analogy my agency would be the broken display that is supposed to tell you how long it is until the next bus comes, but is inevitably wrong.)

Sometimes you miss the bus. Sometimes they skip one out. (Stupid buses in Kent!) But, in my experience, if you wait long enough, you'll catch one. It might not be the bus you thought you'd take. You might be incredibly late. But, you will get there in the end.