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.

25 September 2007


Since I wore my new green sweater today (can you say Helsinki?) I simply couldn't resist this quiz.

Okay. I have a hard time resisting most quizes. (big surprise--however, this is reflected in my result--I am reflective and know myself well)

My favorite is the part about being "charmingly assertive". Actually, I think this one is spot-on. ;> I wonder how many greens there are...

You Are Apple Green

You are almost super-humanly upbeat. You have a very positive energy that surrounds you.
And while you are happy go lucky, you're also charmingly assertive.
You get what you want, even if you have to persuade those against you to see things your way.
Reflective and thoughtful, you know yourself well - and you know that you want out of life.
What Color Green Are You?

Anyone else? Care to comment?

Thanks, jen, for the quiz!

24 September 2007


School this year starts an hour earlier than it did last year. I'm glad. It means we get home a half hour earlier. I'm all in favor of changes that allow me to have more of a life outside of school.

Starting earlier naturally means I leave the house earlier. I don't see the same people on my morning commute. I don't see the mousy woman--mousy of hair and demeanor--who wears the brown coat and hurries to work in her worn, low heels (by Russian standards they're low...but I'd never attempt to run in them). She'll run a few steps and then walk a few steps. I've never figured out if she is perpetually late (in which case why didn't she leave earlier?) or this was her exercise (in which case, why wasn't she able to run further each day?). I don't see the man with the high-swinging briefcase anymore. And, the street cleaners on the bridge haven't started work when I'm walking across now. I miss these "friends" of mine. I used to be able to tell the time by who I saw at which part of the bridge. Now, the bridge is fairly empty.

One person I still see is my fisherman friend. He's out most days until the Neva freezes. We exchange good mornings and he is always smiling. Sometimes he tells me about what he's caught. One day he had an enormous fish and was just bursting with pride. Grinning ear to ear he held it up to show me from a block away. And, he said he'd caught an even bigger one (six kilos!) two days earlier. In a culture where smiling is frowned upon (What is there to smile about?) it's nice to have his smiling face greeting me each day.

20 September 2007

wish i were incommunicado-er

The latest news is...

Yes, I have to have a home visit. (No use asking why we're just getting around to this point now...so I'm trying not to waste time and energy on useless whys.)

SW cannot come until NOVEMBER.

I'm going to Helsinki for a very expensive day out. We leave tomorrow and return on Sunday. Hoping a taste of the West will be cheering.

19 September 2007


No telephone or internet at home for the last several days...estimated that it will be back on NEXT WEEK. Sigh. Talk to you then...

17 September 2007

facilitators strike again

SW#2 sent the update to the facilitators for approval.

The reply was an incredulous, What?! There have been no home visits since 2006? The court will not accept this. and a reminder that the court has not seen the original homestudy. There was no mention of the fact that the court did not see the original hs because is sat on their desks for five months and then missed out on the deadline to file before accreditation lapsed. But, I digress.

I pointed out that I had been told that we would file the original along with the update and that a new homevisit was not needed.

Then, I didn't open the reply because yesterday was my birthday and I didn't want to hear more bad news.

I sent out an e-mail that said it was my birthday and asked if they had any good news. No reply.

I'll read the other later today.

I'm selfishly hoping that I am not on this adoption journey simply to be a help to others who are on the same path. I'm HAPPY to help, I LIKE helping, I am a helping kind of girl. I feel very fortunate to have been in the position I am so that I CAN help others. And, I am so grateful for the opportunity to be with new families at this amazing time of their lives. I just want a turn, too.

15 September 2007


Just a quickie to let you know that things are going well. I've so enjoyed the opportunity to watch the transformation in this little one. On Wednesday night she was very serious. She would look at books or toys, but did it dutifully. She wanted to be held the entire time.

Thursday, when she arrived, she just relaxed (I'm sure it's partly because Mum did, too) and seemed at ease. She went to sleep easily and though she protested her bath, it was with less spirit than the night before.

Last night (Friday) she was cheerful and playing. She happily comes to play with me or on her own and checks in with her Mum. She enjoyed being tickled, and laughed and laughed. She stayed in the bath without crying. She was very perplexed when we took off some clothes (like her tights..and then eventually all but her onesie). She kept trying to put more clothes on. ;>

This morning she's been happy--singing and playing and smiling. She's enjoying running around barefoot. She's eating and sleeping well. She just woke up from her morning nap and is smiling and flirting. What a change! She still won't drink anything, so we're feeding her lots of soups and fruits. (Any ideas here? We've used different cups and glasses and beverages...)

Some of this is due simply to the amount of sleep she's getting. She's been able to get back to a sleep schedule that is more normal now that she's not running around to various offices and has a crib instead of a makeshift bed. Bringing her here and putting her in the portacrib (thanks to a generous friend--who also sent along some great toys) made a big difference. Some of it is that she's learning more about her new world. Some of it is, I'm sure, that Mum's feeling more at ease. My flat is more homey than the one she had been staying in. And some of it is my cat. Really--Beazy is fascinating to her. The sight of her always brings a big smile and some chat.

They had good news yesterday. Their visa to the UK was processed in record time. The people in the office said they'd NEVER had a visa processed so quickly. They are headed home on Monday rather than Wednesday!

I'm off to play. Who can resist a smiling baby? And, by the way, she walked straight to me last night as she called, "Kate!" when Mum asked if she was looking for me. The girl is obviously a genius. ;>

13 September 2007

temporary leave

My friend who had court on Monday, picked up her daughter on Tuesday and was feeling overwhelmed on Wednesday. I'm picking them up after school today and have persuaded them to stay with me until they leave. So...posts may or may not be regular in the next few days. Just wanted to give you all a heads up.

12 September 2007


Happy birthday!

(My sister is a year wiser today.)

a votemom quiz

10 years ago I was: just back from a summer theatre course with the RSC, performing in "Crazy for You" and teaching first grade.
5 years ago I was: touring with a production of "The Frog Prince".
1 year ago I was: thinking I'd started my last year teaching in Russia.
Yesterday I was: having dinner with my friend to celebrate her adoption!

5 snacks that I enjoy:
1. i'm not much of a snacker
2. "dry"
3. Ryazhenka--sort of a baked yogurt that you mix jam into
4. banana and skimmed milk or toast
5. toast (I'm on a big toast with honey kick now...often eating it for dinner)

5 songs I know all the words to(I know about 5 million so here are the first ones I thought of):
1. I've Been Changed for Good
2. If Momma was Married
3. Always a Bridesmaid
4. Goodnight, My Someone
5. Somewhere, Out There
(hmmm....I can see the train of thought, but it sounds like a completely different train when you're outside of my head)

5 things I would do with a million dollars:
1. tithe
2. buy and furnish a little house in the US
3. buy a car in the US (silver crv w/ sunroof)
4. save 250,000
5. use 400,000 to establish a fund for children in need

5 favorite TV shows:
1. Anything in English
2. Lost
3. Strictly Come Dancing
4. X-files
5. Trading Spaces

5 things I am thankful for:
1. knowing i'm the beloved child of a sovereign God
2. being out of debt
3. having lived out so many of my dreams
4. amazing friends
5. US citizenship

2 names I go by:
1. Kate
2. Katooshka/Katoosh/Katyenka/Katya

2 parts of your heritage
2. scottish/english/austrian

2 things that scare me:
2. other things that fly...like bats and moths

2 of my every day essentials:
1. hot shower
2. Arm & Hammer baking soda toothpaste (like that's a surprise...)

2 things I am wearing right now:
1. cute toille pj bottoms
2. charcoal hoodie
(and black cashmere socks. i know that's three, but they're all important.)

2 of my favorite bands/musical artists (at the moment):
1. "original broadway cast"
2. "original london cast"

2 things I want in a relationship (other than real love):
1. like-minded faith
2. cleverness

2 truths:
1. There is a plan for my life.
2. I can't mess it up.

2 physical things that appeal to me in the opposite sex:
1. wit
2. strength

2 of my favorite hobbies:
1. reading
2. horsey things

2 things I want really badly:
1. to hear the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant."
2. to not tell you what the others are ;>

2 places I want to go on vacation:
1. provence
2. talinn

2 ways I am stereotypically a chick:
1. my sense of direction
2. the song "A Mix Tape" from Avenue Q

2 things I normally wouldn't admit:
1. nice try

2 things I am thinking about right now:
1. how cold my nose and fingers are
2. if i skipped any questions that i need to go back and answer
3. the fact that i don't seem to be able to follow the constraints of this quiz and limit myself to TWO answers...one would be easier than two, i think..

2 stores you shop at:
1. okey
2. ashan

2 people I would like to see taking this quiz:
1. ann marie
2. you (please leave a comment so i can come and read yours--i know rachael and chou 2 will oblige!)

2 people I haven't talked to in a while:
1. nif
2. juls

11 September 2007

no apo

Sadly, we no longer enjoy APO mailing privileges. You can send my post (lavish gifts, etc.) c/o

US Embassy, box L
00140 Helsinki

They will drive it to the consulate here in St. P and we'll pick it up there. Good thing Amazon will ship to Helsinki!

chock full

You guys rock.

This post is just bursting with good news.

*my new hs is finished
*sw#2 seems to be communicating well with both agency and facilitators
*agency will do the review and reccommend

*A friend from the UK had court yesterday and was granted custody with her ten days waived! This friend has been in process (indy) for four years. She went to court for an eariler referral and found out that the child had been noticed by a Russian family who was interesed in fostering. That little girl is with her Russian foster family now. (This is a HUGE simplification.) But, all's well that ends well. She collects her daughter tomorrow, will get her visa clearance (UK, remember)here in St. P--so no trip to Moscow--and will, I predict, be on a plane home on Saturday. I get to meet the little one tomorrow. She is perfectly named! (I know it's a tease, but it's all I can say.)

So--onwards and upwards!

09 September 2007

the plot thus far

Yesterday, September 8, marked 18 months from the time I announced my plans to adopt. It's hard to pick a length of time when someone asks me how long I've been in-process. I've wanted to adopt since I was in junior high. I knew it was time to adopt when I gave up life upon the wicked stage (it's a song--sing along if you know it) and went back to teaching. So there's never really been a specific time from which I can date things. How long have I been in process? 25 years? Close to four years? It seems best to date it from the moment I opened my mouth and said, "Go!" That would be 18 months ago.

Remember this post about me adopting an elephant? (You new readers have no excuse--it's in the sidebar and alluringly titled.) Well, if I finish in the next four months, that will be true. Right now that seems to be cutting it a little close. My I-171H expires on 6 March. I'm hoping to be finished by then. That would put me just shy of 24 months. It's a nice round number. Actually, it's not really nice. And, it's not really round. I think you have to be a multiple of 5 to be really round. Since we're dealing in base-12, I suppose 24 is round-ish.

September 8th is an important day in St. Petersburg. It's the day the seige began. All over town buses are carrying posters that say, "We remember." The siege of Leningrad lasted 900 days. (That's a round number.) Nine hundred days! It makes my little siege seem pathetically short. While I'm VERY hopeful that my adoption doesn't take 900 days (that would take us to right about this time next year) I am confident that I can outlast anything that is put in my path.

Have you ever wondered what God thinks about the internet? I have. I do. I think it's safe to say that there is some horrible, evil stuff out there--and the internet gives ready access to it. But, like all things, I believe that the internet can be used to work for Good. I have been so blessed to connect with people across the world who support me and my d2b both in prayer and with good wishes. I'm amazed at the friends I've made on this journey. A cyber-friend (who is extremely supportive and spends a lot of time checking in on me and offering encouragement) recently put me in touch with an irl friend of hers. It turns out, her irl friend has been reading my blog and praying for me every night for a long time now. Amazing! I didn't even know it. Another cyber-friend e-mailed me recently to say he had a strong sense that the verse, "Be still and know that I am God" was meant for me right now. It came at just the right time. I had just started to re-read Peretti's This Present Darkness and was feeling that a battle was being fought on my behalf. I spent the next day or two with the songs, God is Bigger than the Boogie Man and Amy Grant's Angels in my heart and on my lips. I have a faithful friend who keeps up with my journey despite the very busy life she has now and is quick to offer support--and cd's. All this in addition to my amazing IRL friends whom I know have had me covered all along. This blog has been a way to keep them updated with the trials and victories I've had along the way. It's an amazing thing.

(Thank you to ALL of you 100 or so people who read my blog each day and keep me well-supported. I value each and every one of you. Thank you for your comments and your e-mails.)

This year, there was another big event that took place on 8 September. I was reunited with my now-working car. Even the windshield wipers work now (wow, I've actually mentioned my wipers in two previous posts...a little sad)! Yes, it needed a new alternator. It cost about 8400 rubles for the jump start and escort, recharging the battery, checking all electronics, parts and labor for replacing the alternator and some dead bulbs (umm...like my brake light). I thought that was a pretty fair price. Then I asked them to winterize--change the oil and filter and check my fluids. That was going to cost over 12,000 rubles. The oil change alone was going to be 3000 rubles. Welcome to Russia! Still, I can't pay over $100 for an oil change. I bet there's somewhere online I can figure out how to do it myself (said the little red hen).

So, September 8 was a big day. Today it's September 9 and I'm ready to continue on my journey (see, there's the car bit tied in) with the support of friends and family (paragraphs 4 & 5 which seemed a little random should now make more sense) for however long it takes (siege reference) to complete my adoption and bring my little elephant home (and we're back to the top).

07 September 2007

definition, please

I was reading aloud one of my favorite books, Ramona the Pest, by Beverly Cleary. I've read it to every class I've ever taught. All of them love Ramona--and love being nostalgic about the far distant past when they were in kindergarten. My class clamors for "Ramona time" and would even trade it for recess. My teaching assistant loves to listen and says she often wants to applaud Ramona's adventures.

Today Ramona's mother was "exasperated". We stopped to guess what that might mean, thinking about what had just happened in the story. Most of the definitions were, "Is it like _____?" and the student made a face to indicate their emotional guess. (I love the way they define things.)

After talking about it some more (with some examples of things in the classroom that might make their teacher exasperated) one of my little girls said, "Is it like when my mom is busy doing something or many things and my dad is just sitting on the couch and me and my sister say, 'Moooom. MOM!!' and my mom says, 'WHY CANNOT YOU ASK YOUR FATHER?!!?' "

I told her that was the best definition of "exasperated" that I'd ever heard.

(In case you're wondering the three words that most often pepper their writing after reading this book are reluctant, indignant and exasperated.)

05 September 2007

happy birthday

Just wanted to wish a happy birthday to my I-171H. It's a year old today. Ahhh, they grow up so fast...


Here was the response from the facilitators in the US (of course I heard nothing from the actual agency):

Basically you have a choice.

1. Submit everything without a home study agency (social worker's
license, state letter as what she is licensed to do, proof of her education,
state laws of what a social worker with her education is licensed to

2. Use a home study agency with the state letter, license and

You will need the agency agreement and sworn statement with either

We read all home studies before they are notarized and apostilled (to
check to make sure it is in the format the judges want and includes all
the information the judge wants.)

Choice number one doesn't even see like a choice to me. Doesn't it sound illegal? If it IS a choice, WHY haven't they told me this BEFORE? And, if this is a choice, do we sumbit the parenthetical documents or are they a definition? Have they forgotten that I live in Russia?

I know there are people out there who are thinking about using my agency...or their sister agency. My advice, which I've refrained from giving up until this point, realizing that every situation is different, is DON'T. I am just so worn down by being faced with Russian thinking on both sides of the ocean.

Seriously, isn't this e-mail a little reminiscent of my recent post about getting my car to the mechanic?

Thank you again for all your prayers and support. I'll keep you posted. (Ha--isn't that funny on a blog? POSTED?) ;>

04 September 2007

today's call (still not THE call)

Here's the adoption mumbo-jumbo:

So, it turns out sw #1 (who got fed up with my agency much faster than I did) told sw#2 that she would not do a "review and recommend" that is needed for ex-pats. She told me she would...but that was back in June. So, sw #2 thought we had a BIG problem.

We might. But, it's also possible that my agency can do the r&r. I just called them (answering machine memory was full halfway through my message. great. par for the course.) and e-mailed them.

If you're a pray-er, I ask for prayer for every pair of hands that touches my papers, for sw #2, my agency in the US, my agency here (without V--so sad) and the extra US facilitators. I need this finished! (And, if it could be finished BEFORE my I-171H expires, that would be incredible.) I could also use some prayers for protection--for my adoption even more than for me. A friend of mine pointed out that my accepting attitude of all this happening at the perfect time could be great. Or, it could be leaving this adoption open to attack. (Yes, I not only believe in God, but I do believe in evil.)

Wishing you all joy!

With a grateful heart, I am your
Катуш (Katoosh--what my Russian dear friends call me, and what my teaching assistant and the cleaner at school have called me from the moment we were introduced)

03 September 2007

a lighter note

We just celebrated three birthdays within four days in second grade. I was musing with the art teacher about some huge blizzard or global blackout that must've occurred...encompassing Austria, Estonia and Turkey. Then I realized. They're all SEVEN. Happy birthday to all my millenium babies. ;>

dust yourself off...

You know, everytime I get knocked back in this adoption ride, it gets a little bit harder and takes a little bit longer to get back up and press on. After today's e-mail from sw#2 (she had concerns), I sense another knock-back coming. I'm calling her tomorrow.

Best get to bed so at least I'm well-rested for our conversation. (I'm already a little disgruntled that she didn't just call me...Why am I the one calling her? Need to try to sleep off that attitude.)

Prayer warriors, please standby.

01 September 2007

how long is too long? (ironically--it's long)

I'm into year #3 living in Russia. There are times when I start to wonder if I've been in Russia too long. For instance, when I'm given a sturdy bag while out shopping and I think, "Wow--good bag. Better save this one." I'm talking about plastic shopping bags here. And I do save them. I hoard them. Good size, good quality and attractive--that's a keeper.

The way things went with the mechanics on Thursday made me realize how much better I understand the culture now than I did when I arrived. I remember how frustrated I was when the internet service I requested be turned on before I even arrived took MONTHS to be connected. Our new-hires at school commented on how patient I was waiting for my car to be fixed. Back in the US I could take the car to any quick oil change places and have them hook up the electric diagnoser. It would take minutes to figure out what was wrong.

We've been talking to mechanics for weeks. I've asked a friend to help instead of the office (political fallout expected because that's their job--but the guy in the office thinks it just needs a new battery. He's wrong.) We called a friend of hers who's a mechanic. He was on holiday. When we finally reached him (maybe a week later) he said he didn't work on my car, but gave us a reccommendation for a dealer. I avoid dealers in the US but was willing to give them a shot here..

When we finally reached the dealer, they said it would be three weeks before they'd be able to fit us in. They were remodelling their shop and only had one open bay. I didn't want to wait.

So, we called the mechanics that the consulate use. They don't do any electronic work. They recommended someone.

We called them. They said we had to drive it to them. (*note: remember this for later) I planned to call the jump start people (my battery is too big to be jump started by most cars available) and then drive it over. The electro boys said they could come and jump start it for the same price. I asked if they could just come and get it and drive it to their shop and was told definitively and resoundingly that they did not do that. (keep remembering) We were to call them back on the following Monday to see if they could come on Wednesday.

We did call Monday, and they said to call Wednesday. They'd see if they could fit us in. They work for the city as well (in some capacity) and if there were many accidents, then we'd get bumped. When we called on Wednesday at 10:30, they were still sleeping. We were to call back at 11:00. We're in class at 11, so we called at 12:30. Too late--but we were first on the list for the next day.

On Thursday, they said they'd come when they could fit us in. This is not the best option as I'm in class and cannot drive the car to their shop whenever they pop by. We asked if they'd come after 3:00. No. That would not be convenient. But, why was I worried about missing class? They always travel in pairs and one of them would drive my car to the shop. I just had to sign a release. (see why you had to remember?)

They came just as my class was headed to library. After much rigamarole (They enlisted the janitor to help them push the car about 20 feet away so that it would be more convenient...even though there was no one parked next to me on either side. They really didn't need to move my car. And the janitor, when I thanked him, replied that my grandchildren would pay. The secretary who was translating thought it was hysterical.) they had the car started and said that I should bring it to the shop in the next few days.

Being the experienced Russia-dweller that I've become, I said that they were meant to take the car with them. They said they couldn't. I said they must. They said they couldn't--they might get stopped on the way. I said all I had to do was sign a waiver and they could take it. They said they couldn't. I told them that the car would not start again if we turned it off and I could not leave. They said that if they wrote out a note and I signed it they'd risk the militsia.

The thing is, I wasn't really surprised by this and knew right away how to play the game. They also said that I might have my car that night (the office staff laughed knowingly and made the international money sign by rubbing thumb and fingers together). I didn't hold my breath. It's a good thing, because I still don't have my car. Neither have I heard from them. But...I'm still optimistic. Maybe I'll have it on Monday.

I don't think the patience our new-hires attributed to me is what I've gained in living here. It's closer to resignation--though without the despair or discontentment that connotates. Or, that I associate with that word. It's closer to acceptance and understanding--though without approval. And that lack of surprise in itself is a sign I've been here too long! The fact that I accept that things here work very differently is either a sign to move on...or an incredible sign of growth, maturity and tolerance. Yeah, I'm thinking the former.

(Blogger spellcheck irony--doesn't recognize internet.)