31 March 2008


I am really, really afraid of birds. REALLY afraid. I don't feel safe walking past one (let alone a group) without my glasses or sunglasses on my face and protecting my baby blues. This fear started when I read The Last Battle at a tender age (An eagle pecks out people's eyes. It was a good eagle, but still...It was too much for visual, imaginative me.) and was reinforced by the movie The Birds in junior high. You need to understand this to appreciate the creepiness of the following story:

I cannot find good, canned-in-water, white tuna here. (Creepy, eh?) I have tried and have only found what would qualify as cat food. I can get a tuna steak, but I don't like tuna salad enough to go that route. Knowing I'd forget which brands I'd tried, I decided to buy one can of each and bring them all home. Our one springlike day last week made me want a tuna sandwich. I had pita bread and olive-based mayo. I just needed the tuna. So, I started opening can after can after can.

The cans are kept in the refrigerated section of the supermarket, so I followed suit at home. Yes, it seemed ridiculous to refrigerate sealed cans, but I thought maybe they knew something about the Russian canning process that I didn't. Seeing the congealed oil and cat-food-grade tuna in can after can was disheartening. And smelly. I didn't want to put them in the trash, so I set them outside on the window ledge until I was going down to the street. I thought about pitching them out the window and hoping to hit the dumpster below, but as I did not have success with that when I tried it with a friend's baby's diapers on a previous occasion, I decided against that.

While watching tv later, I heard a Poe-esque tapping at my window. There, not five feet from me, was a rook! Rooks are horrible, horrible scary birds. They're so scary that I don't even have a picture to show you. I've never taken one. They're all over the place here. They're fearless and tenacious. They have long, cruel beaks, strong claws, and malicious, mocking, glittering, black eyes. They look like ravens wearing grey waistcoats. I shudder just writing this.

It took a bit of tuna, fixed me with a wicked glance, and then flew away. I was creeped out and didn't do anything. I hoped it would just leave. I feared it would return with a flock of other huge, scary, carnivorous birds. It came back and I knew I had to do something. This was the stuff nightmares are made of, and I have been sleepless enough. (Beazy, nach, was nowhere to be seen.) So, I banged on the window and then quickly gathered up the tuna when it flew away. There was a tense moment when I was exposed--the screenless window was wide open as I gathered the malodorous cans--trying to avoid both (possibly) returning rooks and spilled tuna juice. Fortunately, as the presence of this post attests, I survived to blog another day. Those cans stayed inside until I made it down to the dumpster.

So there you have it. Not earth shattering. But, the bloggy blurb over at the top doesn't promise eath shattering--only what daily life is like for me here. Bad tuna and rooks. That's daily life.

30 March 2008

bits and bobs

Thank you. I knew you guys would appreciate how difficult it was to hear her hysterics. (She indulged tearfully in them.) Fortunately, I have Russian friends at school who basically told her to snap out of it and count her blessings.

Second grade wrote her a great book entitled Baby Care Advice. It included gems like:

If your baby is sick, you should take it to the doctor. But, don't leave it alone there.

Always carry extra nappies.

If you don't like what your baby is doing you should tell it and then leave the room for five minutes.

If the baby is stinky, don't put it in the trash. (They thought that was hysterical.) Give it a bath and change its diaper.

She neglected to look into visas. She's going to have some hurdles bringing him back to the US.

Allison, I LOVE your elephant sightings!! I'm putting an elephant pic up on d2b's wall. It's a mother elephant smiling (really) at her baby.

Old agency is not responding to e-mails--not the one graciously saying I was leaving, the one asking for my ppr deposit or the one asking for my documents. Guess who's turning up at the local office next week?

New agency is helping me get a dossier together for a new region. (Still sad about that one...) It looks like I'll need TWO dossiers--one like any US citizen and one that the Russian citizens submit. Stay tuned as my adventures with local police checks and psychologist visits unfold...

26 March 2008


Our new art teacher, like the staff member mentioned last time, is a Russian citizen who is married to an American citizen. Our art teacher hasn't been back in Russia long. While she's been here, she and her daughter have done some volunteer work at local orphanages. They identifed a little boy they wanted to adopt. He is quite ill and in need of a home. She had her court date yesterday and her adoption was granted! (She adopted as a Russian citizen.) During her wait, as she had some paperwork issues to sort out, she's been frustrated by how slow the process is.

She started pursing adoption just after Christmas. Three months ago.

24 March 2008


eta: I don't really think the book mentioned below is a security risk. I was mostly laughing at the way I instantly donned my superhero cape upon seeing that book, determined to keep America safe. The military scholarship for non-US citizens doesn't sit quite right...even without the cape.

Earlier this year our school hired a new staff member. Over dinner one night, she told us that she, a Russian national, went to the US during high school as part of a student exchange program. Great. I would've loved to be the one exchanging places with her. After her time in the US was up, she wanted to stay. She applied and received a scholarship to The Citadel.

The Citadel, founded in 1842, is a coeducational military college with a rich and storied history. Located in picturesque Charleston, South Carolina, the institution offers a classic military education for young men and women who seek a college experience that is intense, meaningful and academically strong.
Her acceptance there came shortly after the Citadel became co-ed. Hmm...the fact that a citizen of another country was allowed to attend a US military college unsettles me--especially since we've not historically been on the friendly terms. Doesn't that just seem wrong somehow?

She eventually married a US citizen. When she applied for her name change, it was discovered that the terms of her visa (issued by the previous administration--chalk another one up for Bill) did not allow her to remain in the US. The terms of her visa, as she was on a student EXCHANGE, called for her to return to her country to share her experiences and what she'd learned. She was supposed to be in her home country for at least two years before applying to return to the US. Whoops. Instead, she was allowed to attend a US military academy. So, she's back in Russia now to fulfill the two years back in her home country that she should've after her exchange program.

(My friend, Suzanne, always says of irl conversations with me, "Segues are for children." Just stay with me here. You'll see.)

Our library is discarding books that are too worn or too outdated to remain. We have little space in our library, so this weeding out was necessary. The books were given to me to donate to orphanages. Well, naturally, the orphanage don't want books in English. So, I thought about sending them to Star of the Sea. I opened the boxes of books to sort through them and see what if they were appropriate for the children there.

Much like when I heard the story of the Citadel scholarship, I was overcome with a feeling that all was not right. The safety of the American public could be at risk. I knew that this book should not be loose on the streets of Russia:

A Day in the Life of an FBI Agent in Training

Rest assured, the book, complete with many photographs of the FBI training headquarters, is safely on d2b's bookshelf and not at liberty on the streets of Russia. I just wanted you to know that I'm doing my part from across the pond to keep America safe. I remain vigilant!

23 March 2008

Happy Easter

note: this post and does not contain any bunnies, chickes, eggs, peeps, or new dresses.

...Death in vain forbids Him rise...

Wouldn't you have loved to've been Mary Magdalene when she realized what the empty tomb meant and went running to tell everyone? For me, that's Easter summed up in a moment. Yes, they doubted her. People probably thought she was crazy. But she wasn't. She was certain and filled with joy and wonder. Later, I'm sure, as she realized what this meant, she was humbled and grateful beyond measure.

Wishing you joy and wonder and certainty. Wishing you a humble, grateful heart.

19 March 2008


I took this photo while walking home the other day when the Neva was eerily still. It was very close for about a day and a half. Nothing moved. The air was still, the water was still. The city felt wrapped up and waiting.

This is the angel atop Peter and Paul Fortress. My class thinks this was named for a person named Peter Paul. Education is not always enough to combat the conviction and common sense of a seven-year-old.

12 March 2008


A friend asked me to write about the spring in Russia. I touched on it last year in this post, but started mulling it over. How do Russians feel about the oncoming of spring? I'd say...skeptical.

Our winters are typically long and dark here in St. Petersburg. Last winter was mild and this winter was even milder. We don't have the frozen layer of snow (that reveals all sorts of unsavory things when it melts--litter, dead animals, feces...) this year. We might miss some of the gluey mud that adds an inch to your height with every step because there's less to melt. So, without the usual signs of spring, how will we know it's here?

If my Russian friends run true to form (and there's no reason to suspect they won't) we'll know spring has arrived when it's clearly SUMMER. Until then, until the grass is green, the lilacs are blooming and the days are becoming unbearably long, we'll just to see if spring arrives.

Really. That's the way it works. And, I guess it makes sense. Last Monday it was gorgeous--14C! It was sunny and everything in my flat got cleaned down to my curtains which were washed, ironed and re-hung. (Of course, it was Women's Day and the government always arranges nice weather for holidays. Well, they did during Soviet times. Since then, people have just looked back fondly on the times the government would implant the clouds with the proper secret-weather-stuff to ensure a nice day. I kid you not--this is believed.) Tuesday was nice in the afternoon--so nice second grade had no homework so they could play outside. Wednesday it snowed. It's still spitting snow. So...it's not mud season yet.

Ramble, ramble, ramble.

Did it help, S? No one is searching for crocus. No one is stepping lightly or doffing coats. (I was scolded for wearing my lightest coat to school. I had a hat, so they let me off with a warning.) I truly think that rejoicing in the oncoming of spring is viewed in much the same way smiling is. The common thought on smiling is, "What do you have to smile about?" The common thinking on spring is, "You never know. It might not last. It will probably snow again. I've heard it's supposed to get really cold next week."

Not a very happy, butterfly-filled post...the butterflies will be here in summer.

06 March 2008

old timeline

March 2006: adoption plans announced
April 2006: hs visit
July 2006: hs finished
October 2006: I-171H
November 2006: agency says hs must be completely reformatted
February 2007: hs v. 2 & 3
March 2007: dossier to Russia, accreditation expires
May 2007: sw1 quits, sw2 found
June 2007: hs expires
August 2007: SW 2 returns from holiday
September 2007: hs updated. sw visit now required
November 2007: sw 2.5 visits
December 2007: accreditation
As of today: still waiting for the bus

two years later

Were you beginning to wonder if you'd ever get an adoption post again?

After months of trying to make things work with my agency (long phone calls, explicit e-mails, much head banging, etc.) and contacting any agencies that work in either St. Petersburg or Leningradskaya Oblast to facilitate an ex-pat adoption it looks like...

I'll be changing both agencies and regions. Nearly two years to the day from my first adoption announcement, I'm starting over again.

I'm quietly optimistic but not jumping for joy. I am happy to be moving forward but heartsore to know that there are children here in St. Petersburg--special, amazing, wonderful children--whom I thought might be mine but aren't. Now. I've got ten names added to my constant and fervent prayers. I am trusting these little sparrows to His care. But I still miss them. I still can't erase the pictures I have of them playing on my living room floor. And I feel a little guilty about leaving them behind.

I really love my city. I love its glorious past--rising from the marshes, home to the tsars, the window on the West. I love wandering its gardens and streets. I love its beauty and crumbling grace. I was looking forward to bringing home d2b from the home of the Romanovs. (Ann Marie will tell you, this city is unparalleled in Russia.)

But, what matters is getting d2b home, not where she is before she is home. Besides, she'll be a St. Petersburg devochka very soon!

That's all for now. I don't want to rehash all the craziness of the last weeks. My current (soon to be ex?) agency knows I'm looking for other representation but doesn't know I think I've found it. Please, those who know them, keep this quiet for now.

03 March 2008

welcome, spring!

It's Maslenista this week! Click on it over
<-- there under FAQ posts to learn more about this Russian holiday.

It's worth celebrating.

02 March 2008

indulge me

I am a healthy eater--no red meat, naturally low-fat foods. As few pesticides and nasty things on my food as it's possible to get here. (Now I'm missing my fruit stand in Chattavegas and those free stone PEACHES...) I eat in-season foods. I don't eat desserts or sweets or junk. No chips, no cookies, no ice cream...just good food. Great. Gold star. Low blood pressure and cholesterol. And, although it doesn't have the effect on my weight I'd like it to, I feel healthy.

I'm out of sorts today. When I was at the grocery store earlier I took my cart down two aisles I generally don't. One was the out-of-season fruits aisle. On my counter right now are blackberries (my favourite!) and blueberries (my pseudo-niece Maddie's favorite...and a sentimental choice).

My second atypical purchase was made to make my most indulgent junk food choice. Sometimes I crave brownies. But, after years of Bill Cosby proving that chocolate cake is a healthy breakfast choice (huh--not on y*utube. go fig.), they don't scream junk food they way they should. No, what I bought today was peanut m&m's. I put them in a bowl of popcorn to make a treat that I crave maybe once or twice a year. Popcorn with peanut m&m's makes me think of my friend Grace. It makes me think of the time we went and saw Moulin Rouge for my birthday. (We laughed so hard! That is a great film cleverly made by a person who loves musicals.) It makes me think of living in London.

I ate them curled up in my favourite armchair under a lavender-and-chamomile-scented green blanket watching last week's GH. That is the epitome of indulgent.

Time to share! What are your favorite once-in-a-while indulgences?