31 January 2009

January books eta

I've decided to add a monthly tally of books of read and what I thought of them. Now, this is not to say that my opinion is THE opinion. It's not for glory. It's much more selfish. If you find that you've read the same book and hold a similar opinion, perhaps you'd be kind enough to suggest something I might like to read. I miss being able to browse through a library and pick up whatever strikes my fancy. These rec's might help me know what to add to my Amazon orders.

Note: Not all of these were books that I'd choose for myself if I had everything to choose from. But, they were all in English!

So! In January I had two weeks off from school, which meant more reading time than usual. Here's what I read this month:

Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell

This was a treasure! There is nothing I like more than discovering an old book. I bought it because it was on sale and was thrilled. This book is nice and thick, so it doesn't end too soon. The writing is clear and descriptive. The characters were well-drawn. It's a story where everyone ends up just as they ought to--though it had enough in it to make me worry that wouldn't be the case! I loved it. This is a keeper--one I know I'll re-read.

Tale of Desperaux by by Kate DiCamillo

I thought this was fine. I can't believe it won the Newberry Award. But, it was fine. If it'd been written by a student, I would have asked for more--more depth, more plot, more...everything. I would have told them they were keeping too much of the story in their head and asked them to be more generous with their readers.

The Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan

This was an interesting 'tween book. It is the first in a series that posits that the mythological Greek gods are still with us--and still having flings with mortals. The result: half-mortal children who have some powers from their immortal parent. Some of these kids head out on a quest. One of the signs you're half-mortal: a diagnosis of ADHD! I think both boys and girls would like this one. It would be a great way to start some creative writing after a mythology unit--if you were the child of one of the gods, who would you be? How would we know? Me? Artemis, of course. Though I think Athena is close second.

My Place by Sally Morgan

Bleh. I picked this up from our High School and read it because it was in English. It's a biographical account of a woman who traces her aboriginal history. It was mildly interesting. But, our poor students! There are soooo many better books they could be reading!

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I thought this was a book that got caught up in its own cleverness. It has a good premise--a book written by Death--that didn't pan out. There are times you can actually hear the author beaming over an overblown description. The story itself is sound. It was interesting to see the life of a German girl with no particular political leanings during WWII. It was good, I passed it on, but it's not great. Somehow it's sadder to me when a book with potential doesn't live up to it than it is to just be an overall disappointment.

Nobody's Child by Kate Aide

This was a re-read of a great book. It is about the history and challenges of being a foundling. It takes simple questions, "What is your name?" "Where were you born?" that we face on countless forms and examines the difficulties these questions pose for children who don't know the answers. The author is a foundling. She weaves in personal stories and accounts of others in thsi book. It's insightful. It's interesting. I'll probably read it again at some point.

A Small Part of Me by Noelle Harrison

This book is not great. It's okay. I got it in Tallinn in the foreign language section. It's the story of the women in a family. The mother leaves. The grown-up daughter searches for her. The stepmother is woven in to the story. I read the whole thing but will pass it on and not keep it on my shelf.

The Endless Steppe: Growing up in Siberia by Eshter Hautzig

I thought this was a well-told story. It's another children's book. This is about the author's experience being deported from Poland to Siberia during her childhood. She lives there for four years, from the age of 10-14. I wouldn't hesitate to give this to a fourth or fifth grader who was interested in WWII. It's a nice addition to Anne Frank and Number the Stars. If you have children adopted from Siberia, you might like this quick read.

Several collections of Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Waterson
I just love these comics! These were re-reads.

Also: The Days are Just Packed, The Lazy Sunday Book and Scientific Process Goes "Boink"

If only the Washington Post review had been available in Tallinn before I bought this book: Doris Lessing is a legend. The author of nearly 50 books, she has earned her reputation as a notable prose stylist and a writer whose work defies categorization. Several of her novels are numbered among the modern classics; she has reputedly been considered for the Nobel Prize in literature.

These facts only make The Cleft more mystifying. Because it is not merely a flawed novel or a failed novel. It is an actively bad novel.

I picked this up from the fifth grade library because 23 January was an R'n'R Day (read and relax day) at school and I didn't want to bring the above book to school. Holes is a great, quick read. Got pre-teenaged boys who need something to read? Give them this.

Caught in the Act, In the Face of Danger, A Place to Belong
by Joan Lowery Nixon

These are the second, third and fourth books in a series about a group of siblings who traveled on one of the orphan trains. I'd ordered the first one this fall along with several non-fiction accounts of people who rode the trains as children. Lo and behold, our third grade teacher ordered the whole Orphan Train Adventures series! I liked the third book (In the Face of Danger) better than the second. I don't know how I'll feel about d2b reading these, though. I think they could be a little unsettling to an adopted child. For bio kids, these are just kid adventures on the frontier. But...I'm not sure I'll have them on the bookshelf. There is a difference between these and the classic "orphan" stories.

*eta: I read the fourth book in the series and don't think I'll read further (although they are unread books in English...which is tempting...) In this book the mother comes from NYC to marry two of the children's widowed adoptive father and then doesn't. She marries someone else and only takes one of her children back with her. I say no to having these on the shelf.

29 January 2009

paperwork in bag

Just for the record, my paperwork was in a cardboardy container (that I had the school office staff scurrying around to find--though what I got wasn't what I meant) inside a canvas tote bag. I wanted something large enough and strong enough to hide that bottle of wine! (As previously commented, it was a SOUTH AFRICAN wine called Long Mountain--nice label and not cheap. It seems to me that more people like red wine than white, so I called a friend from the wine aisle at the French supermarket and she said to get a Cabernet Sauvignon. IT seems like, generally, older is better so I got a 2003. How'd I do?)

The benefit of using plastic shopping bags is
1. They don't get slushed. They're waterproof and mudproof.
2. When they've had it, you just toss them.
3. You blend in just a little bit. Well, maybe it's better to say that it's one less thing that shouts FOREIGNER about you.

It is a strange thing, though. I remember visiting my friend Dawn in Ukraine who asked if I wanted her to carry the plastic bag around. ;>

Now, we hoard the "good" bags. We ooo and ahh over the strangest things.

28 January 2009

i shall do thee mischief in the wood

Yep. Directing Midsummer Night's Dream. Not entirely sure how I got talked in to this one but SO looking forward to having those lovely, lovely words come quickly to mind and rolling off my tongue. Today we had call-backs and my die-hard drama kids were giggling nonstop as I explained what was being said.

This will keep me busy and happy until the end of March. Surely by then there will be other happy news. Right?

27 January 2009


Today our school, which backs onto the naval academy, has to be emptied by 3:20 p.m. because there was a chance President Medvedev would visit. That worked for me! Today was the day I had to meet with my (lovely, lovely) Russian sw to hand in my paperwork.

I went it, paperwork in bag, a block over to meet with E. I found the building AND the door and went inside. Smiling broadly, I politely greeted the receptionist, "Hello. I speak Russian very badly. My name is Kate C." "Aah. You want E." "Yes! Thank you."

We found her, she had the form ready for me to fill in (and even had a typed copy of what I needed to write). I did, we reviewed my "many papers", and she gave me a document about my ppr's. (I told her I understand. You come to my house. You watch the girl. You say, "Excellent girl!" Documents and papers... She laughed and agreed.) Then came the part that you'll be so proud of me for pulling off smoothly. I gave her a bottle of wine!

See, I've been asking friends at school how to do the "mandatory gifting". I don't know how to do that. I don't even tip well. But, what I've learned is that you simply bring out the gift at the end after everything is finished and say "with a bright, open face" This is for you! I did vary from the script and simply said (with a bright, open face) Thank you so much!

(I did a little practice run by buying a duplicate bottle of the wine for my friend M who helps me SO much and won't let me do anything for her. I gave it to her and asked her to just taste it since I don't drink wine. I told her I didn't want to give the sw a bad bottle of wine. Ha! Even she was impressed with my gifting.)

We had a little chit-chat about d2b (gender, age, and it's a good thing) and then I left. On the way out, I saw a bucket outside her door with some carnations in it. I think wine trumps carnations.

Remember she said that this review would take it while? She said to call her next Tuesday.

I love Russian bureaucracy. I seem to navigate it much more smoothly.

25 January 2009

have hoop? will jump

Friday I copied my dossier. (I was disappointed to find that all my reference letters weren't included--and even more disappointed when I asked my caseworker where they were and she replied, "Not sure why it is missing. Hope everything goes well. Good luck. R". I replied asking for a phone conference and referencing past e-mails that said at least two of the missing rec's had arrived in their office. Grr. ). My whole, notarized, apostilled dossier.


Well, I think it's because of a combination of things.

1. People in Russia don't often admit when they don't know something. They won't ask their supervisors because that would be admitting they don't know. So, they make up an answer--and often it's one that will be so time-consuming that the asker will not bother.

2. A good answer to an unknown question is "throw stamped paperwork at it". (This has the added benefit of being time consuming and will, perhaps, make the asker just go away.)

This is not just my experience. This is not just adoption experience. This is the shared experience of many, many people of many different nationalities.

They've decided I need to have a whole new hs done by a Russian sw. (Actually, new agency didn't even know that's what they were asking me to do. They kept asking me to get two letters. I kept telling them that meant I needed all my paperwork because the two letters WERE a new hs. Finally, and rather ungraciously, they understood and sent me my dossier.) I've copied the dossier and now I have to fill out a form so that a sw can review it. That's on Monday's agenda. I'm hoping it's an easy name-and-address form that I can do myself on the spot. It it's involved, I'll have to bring it to school for some help and return it on Tuesday with the paperwork.

I also have to get ppr commitments from the same Russian sw. Guess how often I'll have ppr visits? Every three months.

Yes, you're remembering correctly. I've flown in two international, licensed-in-the-US social workers to do this very same thing. TWO. And guess what. The latest hs will expire in February. I've got questions in to my agency asking if it needs to be updated or if this new hs will replace it for court.

So I'm jumping through hoops while trying not to rock the boat...or be lost in the crowd. Tricky. Thankfully, as a forum friend (and blog reader) pointed out, they haven't set the hoops on fire. Yet.

Anybody got any other hoops that need jumping through before I take off my tennies?

23 January 2009


I will not...
behave sluttishly around the house, but instead imagine others are watching.

Bridget Jones's Diary
(Yes, the extra "s" bothers me.)

Well, if this *had* been one of my resolutions instead of Bridget's, I would've broken it when I was getting dressed the other morning. I had ironed my twinset, but ironing is not my forte. When I put it on, I discovered it was still rather rumpled. So, in sluttish fashion

(Cambridge Dictionary for my US readers says: sluttish, adjective, VERY INFORMAL DISAPPROVING describing a woman who is habitually untidy and lazy)

I grabbed the already unplugged iron and I ironed it...without taking it off first. And, the shell has a pretty deep scoop. And I now have a capsule-sized and -shaped burn right in my decolletage.

(Cambridge Dictionary says: decolletage, noun, the shoulders and chest of a woman's body shown by the low top edge of a dress.)

(Kate says: emphasis on low)
(Kate also says: ouch)

21 January 2009

lost! again

Do you know what my Sawyer nickname is? "Deepdish" I kinda like it. ;> And speaking of Sawyer, according to votemom's quiz:

You Are Sawyer

You are cunning and calculating. Some people would even call you a con artist.
You're smart and get bored easily. You use your biting sense of humor to entertain yourself.

It's been hard for you to trust people throughout your life. You don't get close to anyone.

You are a drifter. You don't have permanent ties, and you tend to "disappear" often.

You are introverted and even a bit shy. You don't share the true you with many people.

As a result, no one really gets you. At your core, you are a sweet, passionate, and funny person.

Who Are You on LOST?

The nice thing about watching it here is that Lost! is a Friday night show for us. While we're at school on Friday morning, the dvr is humming away (or, some friends' computer is downloading it from iTunes). We leave school and are able to lose ourselves in the weekend. Enjoy!

dvr alert

Have you read this book?

I think it's fascinating. It's about the impact that trauma and neglect have on the brain at different developmental stages. Yes, it is the kind of book I love to read. BUT it also has the added bonus of being very relevant to my pi (post-institutional) d2b. If there weren't trauma or neglect somewhere in her life, she wouldn't be in an orphanage and waiting for me. She wouldn't be d2b.

This book also has lots of good ideas about how to re-build the connections in the brain that early trauma and neglect cause. It's a good read--and one I highly recommend.

But, it gets even better! There was a post on FRUA that said:

Bruce Perry, M.D., Ph.D., is a respected expert in this field. It is significant that childhood neglect and resulting attachment issues will finally be addressed in this popular forum. Set your recorders! Here is a link to the biography of Bruce Perry, M.D., PhD. http://www.childtrauma.org/aboutCTA/bio_bruce.asp

The Impact of Neglect featured on the Oprah Show

Later this month (tentative air date is January 28th) the Oprah Show will feature the story of a remarkable young girl and her adoptive family. Dr. Perry talks with Oprah about neglect and the developing child. This episode features his book, The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog, co-written with Maia Szalavitz.

For anyone interested in a compelling narrative to help teach about the devastating impact of neglect this is a show worth taping. The systemic problems, the caregiving challenges, the ignorance of normal developmental needs of children and the patience, love and effort required to help neglected children recover are all part of this show.

Just wanted to let you know so you could set your dvr's. I've set mine! (In fact it's just set to record from now until this shows airs...)

20 January 2009


I really wanted d2b's "Welcome, new American!" letter to be signed by President Bush. I guess that's one more hope dashed in this crazy dance of mine.

Praying for our country today and for the next four years.

18 January 2009

add to your agenda

The meeting will please come to order.

Roll call: friends? family? bloggerdom?

Old business: The most recent old business is the poor showing by caseworker at new agency and the request for two documents from a Russian sw employed by the municipality. These two documents require all my previously compiled dossier documents.

On the agenda today: Collective hope. We are all going to hope that simply presenting my dossier (which I finally convinced new agency to dhl me) to the sw will be sufficient for her to review and recommend me and agree to do my ppr's. Yes, we have review and recommendation and ppr commitments from US agency and sw. Don't be distracted by that. Just focus on a quick and easy process with the Russian sw. Touch wood, it will be as easy as the home visit was.

All in favour?

Motion carried.

Meeting adjourned.

17 January 2009

Scarlett's right

Today is yesterday's tomorrow. (Profound, eh?) And Scarlett is right--it is another day.

Thanks for the encouragement when I was still in yesterday.

Yes, all yesterday's post was true. But, it's not the state that I live in. I just got hit while I was sitting in front of the computer, keyborad on my lap, and it all spilled out. By the end of the post, I was already feeling better. Now, with some St. John's wort in me, my sleep tank filled and some spaghetti for breakfast I'm feeling better. And that is much more like me. A pollyannaish outlook may seem disingenuous to those who don't know me irl, but really, it's pretty kateish. And it's nice to have it back.

I had a post started a while back that talked about how I can still feel kateish in the midst of living here. One occurrence came when I was buying a Christmas tree. I was obviously their first customer and they hadn't worked out all the kinks yet. There was a big tent outside Okey. You chose your tree (potted), got a ticket, and took it inside to pay. No one quite knew where I was supposed to pay and I trekked back and forth between a checkout line and the information desk several times. They each kept referring me to the other. It was funny. But, that's not the kateish bit.

When I'd finally paid and brought out the receipt and reassured them that they could keep it (they were quite flummoxed that there was only one copy) they asked me which tree. I showed them and the woman asked the man what tree it was--big or little (ha! I chose the biggest little tree.) The man said it was little. I replied, "Yes, a little Christmas tree." and sang the first line of a song in Russian to them about a little Christmas tree in the cold winter.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I burst into song with little provocation. (This is a constant source of amusement to Ann Marie. Yes, it happens during phone calls, too.) To be able to do this in Russian was fun. It's the only Russian New Years song I know, and I only know parts of it, but it just popped into my head and out of my mouth before I even thought about it. I got to sing it! And the workers recognized it, sang the second line back to me, and gave me my tree.

I am a pretty good do-er of little girls' hair. When I walked into the orphanage for the Christmas party, I was greeted not with a cup of tea, but with, "Kate! Make the girls' hair look beautiful." It was the nicest greeting. It made me feel like part of the family instead of a guest. And it's nice to know that French braids are as coveted in a Russian orphanage as they are in my classroom and in the homes of the US.

These little bits of kateishness are encouraging to me. They're things that say that I am still me--no matter where I am.

Home will come. Life will unfold. The waiting will end...one way or another. And then we'll see.

ps Jenni, that's one of my favorite quotes from Shakespeare in Love! Thanks for reminding me. I've added it to the quotes at the top.

16 January 2009


(I know this blog has turned a little weepy of late. But, I'm a little weepy of late. I'm sure it's temporary. But, consider yourselves duly warned.)

Wow, am I in a foul mood. And, this is after a great week back at school. All of my six-year-olds (nice kiddos, but they're all in first grade in their new schools) have left. I added a lovely new girl from the US. Suddenly my class feels like second grade. Everyone is quietly busy and happy. Everyone is working independently. Everyone is speaking and reading and writing in English. I had a lovely week. Monday was so quietly productive that I attributed it to jet lag. But it lasted all week! Fantastic!

But somehow not knowing about that show (glad to hear I didn't miss much, Jessica) really set me off. It just made me want to be home--amongst all that is familiar. I want to know what's playing. I want theatre. I want my theatre friends and busy, simple life. It made me want the anticipation of auditions the joys and devastation of casting, the chance to be someone else, the magic and the immersion of theatre and the friends that shared it. It conjured up a whole life I left behind--and a place that I want to return to someday. It socked me in the gut. It made me wonder (along with recent caseworker unpleasantness and then silence and requests for my million and fourth hs--this time by the city here) if I heard wrong. If I was called to pursue adoption and not actually adopt. Maybe the pursuit was the end unto itself. Pursuing adoption allowed me to meet people,both irl and virtually, and do things I wouldn't otherwise. Pursuing adoption placed me differently...maybe I've done all that I was meant to do.

I have been able to see myself--clearly see, like a vision almost--in certain situations: married to specific men, with F playing on her bed...and those situations did not happen. I was so convinced, because I could SEE them, that they must be a glimpse into THE PLAN. They weren't. And because I believed them, I think I was more hurt when they didn't happen. I thought I had reassurances that things were going to happen "x" way. And they didn't. Repeatedly.

And, I have NOT been able to see myself in situations that did come to pass. I wondered, because I couldn't SEE myself living a life after high school (warning: dramatic teenager thought process revelation), if I was actually going to live past graduation. I had some dreams and aspirations. I knew what I wanted. But I couldn't SEE it. And, umm...I have lived quite a while since high school. Quite a LONG while. So even though I couldn't SEE it, it happened.

Right now (and this post has wandered off course from where I thought it was headed) I can't see an end to this. I can't see d2b home. I can't see anything in the future. I can't see where I'll be living or what I'll be doing or who will be beside me. Which I guess, in a perverse sort of way is a good thing.

I've spent most of my 30's waiting. I went to drama school and then I waited for acting jobs. (I got them, but there is a LOT of waiting between them.) I waited to get married. (Yeah--nothing there yet.) I started feeling tugged to adoption--like the Pevensies and Eustace are tugged into the picture of the Dawn Treader--and so I waited to be out of debt and job-secure to start. I started adopting and I waited. I waited for paperwork. I waited for my agency. I waited for accreditation. I was told I was registered and waiting. I was told I was not registered. I'm still waiting. I'm SICK of waiting! How is it possible to spend a decade WAITING??

Right now, at the moment I'm writing this, I just want to stop waiting and go home. But I don't know where that is. I came to the conclusion a while back that for me home is not a place. Home is people. But I don't have my people yet. I don't know where they are. So I don't know how to go home. Friends, good, good, GOOD friends are scattered all across the country. I would love to be near all of them, to live right in the middle of a happly little version of Wisteria Lane with my friends all in surrounding houses. But that's not possible. And, while they are my modern singleton family, and they are both loved and loving, they aren't quite home.

Going back doesn't seem like an option. Where would "back" be? The lives that I had and loved that were great in my 20's (teaching and acting and dancing and directing and dreaming...with lots of good friends and a good church and lots of travel...) and my early 30's (acting and working at the museum really were fantasticly fulfilling in both an artistic and an I DID IT way) are like the clothes that I wore then. I still have some of them. CUTE, trendy little clothes. I love them. The colors are great, the styles are fun...but they don't fit anymore. They're too small. I can't wear them now.

And, quite frankly, with the incoming administration I'm not sure I'll recognize my country when I do come back. I fear it will be much like living in England or Russia. One thing I've learned, I'm not a socialist. Those countries are nice to visit, but they aren't my home.

So if I don't have old lives to go home to and I don't have my people, what do I do?

I'm weary. I can't see what's next. I can't see where or who home is.

So. I guess I wait. I wait for my paperwork to arrive from Moscow. I wait to schedule an appointment. I wait for the million and fourth hs. I wait for registration and internal investigations to clear and for common sense to appear to the nonsensical. I wait for d2b to come home.

I just don't like it very much.

WHY did no one tell me

Patti LuPone was in Gypsy last year?

I'd have come home for that one.

When I asked what was on I got answers like...

them: Nothing.
them:You know--that one. Like Oklahoma.
me:Carousel?(I sing "June is Busting Out All Over") State Fair? (I sing "It's a Grand Night for Singing) South Pacific (I sing "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair")?
them: Yeah. Carousel! (note-It was South Pacific)
them: Nothing. There hasn't been anything good on in years.

Patti LuPone in Gypsy is not nothing. Patti LuPone in anything is good. Gypsy is good! I'd have flown back for that.

I guess I'd better do my own research from here on out. Sheesh, people. Help a girl out! ;>

13 January 2009


I'm starting to wonder if my forehead is receding. It's not my hairline, which is where it always has been, but my actual forehead that seems to be inching backwards, flattening out.

Possibly, my frontal lobe has liquefied causing my skull to shrink to compensate for the smaller mass of grey matter..

This cannot be good.

12 January 2009

simple wishes

edited to remove details

I'm sure all of you know about Rachael's" little happiness project" and her Simple Wishes store on etsy. This year, inspired by the new hot water heaters and the reaction the girls at Lapouhinka have to shower gels and lotions, we bought lots and lots of shower gel gift sets and lots of chapstick. (Chapstick is always a big hit. I was able to use the handy Russian phrase for "as many as you have" when purchasing it!)

I have delivered her gifts! The first was the "Ikea" orphanage. There were about 15 kids there--the rest were at camp. One of the girls told us that she didn't go to camp because the food is bad--the bread is so thin you can see through it. I don't know if they got to choose whether they went or not, but that was her story.

So, while the kids responded with sleepy (we woke them at 10:30) teenaged indifference, I know they were glad. The boys were excited about the dragon kits until they saw the Spiderman and Pirate of P sets. They LOVED those. I left some dragon kits for the youngest group.

Next we went to the orphanage where the little girl was that I just wanted to put in my pocket and take home. I really like this orphanage. When you walk in, you're greeted by the mural on the left. Upstairs you'll find the mural on the right. It's clean and fresh. Again, the kids were at camp. When they returned that night, instead of there being 27 kids, there would be 45! A nearby orphanage was closing and the kids were going there. The director was nervous, the kids (I'm sure) were nervous...I left a gift pack for each of them. Although I didn't get to give it to them personally, I think it will raise spirits all around for them to come to their new home (or to the home that is now filled with strangers) and find a gift waiting. The new rooms are painted, furniture is bought, and now Rachael has left each child a welcome home gift.

Here is some of the children's holiday artwork displayed. Can you find the bull? (Umm...it's not hard. And apparently it's the year of the ox--not bull. I guess oxen aren't as marketable as cows and bulls.)

We got to visit with the littles there. We walked in to find them eating an enormous lunch--big bowl of soup, kasha with cheese, sausages, bread and a fruit drink. I might have gotten them in trouble by making faces at them while they ate if the caretaker hadn't been talking to V. I just wanted them to eat so we could get to the presents and chocolates. Apparently my miming of spooning soup quickly with a whispered Russian "Eat!" was hysterical. Personally, I took it as an encouraging sign that this elicited giggles so quickly.

Only three of them were in the orphanage. The rest had been taken in by families or returned to their relatives for the holidays. These three were so precious! But, their stories are heartbreakers. One boy was brand new. He had only been in the orphanage for a few days. I wonder what his holiday was like this year. He's four--old enough to remember whatever it was. He clung so tightly to my hand as we went to choose a toy. But, he didn't take anything.

The little girl had been taken into a family (for fostering or adoption...) after a thirty-minute meeting. She went "home" with them on 30 December. On 4 January she was returned. She's a cutie--blonde pigtails--and very clever. She recited such a long poem for her gift! She got stuck part way through, gave an "oi", thought about it for a few minutes, sighed and said, "vsyo"--that's all.

Our last little friend looked like a little boy I taught from Georgia--all sparkly brown eyes and good humor. He is a charmer! He and I played with his truck. The only "guy" I could find who would fit in the driver's seat (we were disappointed the door didn't open) was a Viking warrior. Who knew Vikings were such good drivers? He was so tickled when the truck would jack-knife. Yes, I think I need more pockets for these three. (My little friend, K, we were told, had been taken into a family. I'm hoping it's the right K...and that she's safe and cherished.)

After leaving that orphanage we went to a children's home in an OLD building (Twenty years ago they decided that a new building was needed. It's still not completed. Every year they just paint over the cracks and crumbles and hope it holds together a little longer...). The kids there are teenagers. V remembers bringing backpacks to some of them for their very first day of school! They've been in this building their whole lives. They were all pleased with their new shower gels. There was such a difference between these children and the first ones we saw first. Yes, it was later in the day. Yes, you could easily see that some of them were...engaging in inappropriate behaviours. But, somehow, this last orphanage had more hope.

Oh--recently a child was adopted from this orphanage! It's nearly unheard of there. The girl herself didn't even know that in the US a family in Texas was patiently working on her adoption, I think for several years. And now, "little fish" is home with them.

So there you have it! Simple wishes granted once again. Well done, Rach! Besides creating happy children, the fact that their gifts were shower gels and shampoos means that those things (well soap and shampoo--she doesn't usually buy shower gel but the tweens and teens feel much more grown-up when they have it) won't have to be bought out of V's budget this month. That frees up money for medicine and other needs. The goodness multiplies!

11 January 2009


Not for ME! For YOU! Well...for you smug-marrieds out there anyway.

WACAP, an agency I've heard only positive things about, and had positive interactions with myself, has four 13-year-olds who need homes. All fees for these children are waived. If you are feeling your heart being softened towards older child adoption, but just can't see where the money would come from to complete an IA, this might be of interest to you.

Our staff has met with these children in China and would be happy to talk with you about them. We are advocating for three girls from China age 13 and one boy age 13 from China that must have completed adoptions SOON! They are all listed as healthy. They are in danger of turning 14 and "ageing out." This means they may have no support or resources and have to live on their own in China - if they are not adopted before they turn 14. There are also 30 other healthy children age 10-12 available for adoption.

There is no fee or application necessary to simply review these children's information. We also have video and photos.

GOOD NEWS! Married couples may ask for exceptions to the adoption requirements for these particular children. So if you don't fit all the guidelines perfectly you may still be able to adopt one of these healthy children. There is no fee to pay first to find out if you may be granted an exception.

All adoption fees have been donated for these children. There are no application fees, no adoption fees and no post placement fees. This is a savings of over $14000. There is also a no-interest loan of $4500 that may be available and you may be eligible for over $10,000
in Adoption tax credit. Parents will be responsible for paying for their homestudy, immigration, visas and travel fees.

Wait time:greatly reduced. WACAP (www.wacap.org) will do everything possible to expedite these adoptions. There are also 30 other healthy children age 10-12 available for adoption. WACAP (www.wacap.org) is a non-profit adoption agency with over 18 years of experience in
adoptions from China. Contact FamilyFinders@... or 1-800-732-1887.

Girl, 13, Artist.This lovely and bright-eyed girl, who loves
handicrafts, needs to find a family immediately. She is thirteen
years old and will no longer be eligible for international adoption
after July 2009. She is described as a polite girl that spends her
spare time knitting and painting. She also has an eye for style and
is sought out by her peers to put together their outfits. She is
healthy and developmentally on target. Adoption fees for this child
are waived.

Boy, 13, Athletic. Here's a popular and sensible boy that needs to
find a family immediately. He is thirteen years old and will no
longer be eligible for international adoption after August 2009. He
was sadly taken to the orphanage by his elderly grandfather, who took
care of him for several years following his parent's passing. He
spends his spare time either reading or playing sports. He is
healthy and developmentally on target. Adoption fees for this child
are waived.

Girl, 13, Musician.This girl always puts a positive spin on life, and
now she's wishing to find warm and loving parents. She is thirteen
years old and will no longer be eligible for international adoption
after September 2009. Her aunt reluctantly made an adoption plan for
her because she was financially unable to care for her following her
parent's passing. She is a member of the institute's art ensemble
and her performances are highly praised by caregivers. She is
healthy and developmentally on target. Adoption fees for this child
are waived. QFL.0995.15720.07

Girl, 13, Helpful, Here's an easy-going and helpful girl that needs
to find a family immediately. She is thirteen years old and will no
longer be eligible for international adoption after October 1995.
Both of her parents have passed away and she entered life in an
institutional setting only last year. She takes pride in helping the
younger children with grooming and putting away their clothes, but
longs for a home and family of her own. She is healthy and
developmentally on target. Adoption fees for this child are

Contact us at FamilyFinders@... or 1-800-732-1887.

09 January 2009


eta: caution--very long

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

08 January 2009


I'm back! Tallinn was a nice trip--wide, clean streets and friendly people. 'Most everyone spoke English.

If you've been to other medieval cities in Europe, then this one could be passed. (My pick--Carcassonne in southern France.) But, for a little respite only a six-hour bus ride away ($50--not bad, eh?) this was a nice couple of days.

No, it was not in any way adoption-related. Estonia only does 30 international adoption each year. One US agency is accredited to work there--and it's not mine.

Enjoy the pix! It was cold and clear. The traveling buddies are friends from school--I taught their older daughter my first year here.We spent our time in the old city the first day, and that's where all these pix are taken. There was a Chirstmas market in the square selling hand-knit woolens and wooden...things. I got a lovely hat and a poncho (well, I was cold...it's my only excuse) both in charcoal grey (my fav color). On day 2 we did a little shopping...but didn't find anything worth the hassle of peeling off multiple layers to try them. No pix from that. I did pick up four books in English and a bottle of vanilla extract ($25 for that little bottle!).

Clearing passport control was tricky both ways. They didn't like my multiple visas. And they didn't like my friends' visas at all--and wanted to keep them until they returned! (Not all countries have the visas fixed into the passport like the US does. Theirs were separate documents.) But, we made it there and back and lived to blog about it.

04 January 2009

more esl

Most of my esl students this year--and most of my class--are boys. They are taking things in stride and just going with the flow. The only story I have them, off the top of my head, was when a new esl student and an old esl student were talking. For some reason, China came up.

L: China is bad country. China cheats. (Assuming this is a reference to the last Olympics, but who knows.)
Y: And and Russia is a bad country, too.
L: (wanting to agree with his new friend, but still enjoying his time in Russia...) Yeah. Too much smoking.

My little esl girl is quite a different story. She is working so hard to figure out the new culture she's in. She wants to understand all the social norms of this "American" school. For example...

One day a student spilt his noodles all over the floor. It was on the part of our floor that isn't carpeted and he was upset. I told him it was okay and we cleaned it up and got him some more noodles.

About two weeks later, Seon Min asked, "Miss C, why K noodles all over the floor and you say 'It's okay.'?"

"Well, it was okay. K was upset. And I wanted him to feel better."

"But why, 'It's okay.'?"

"It was okay. We cleaned it up."

"In Korea, teacher no say, 'It's okay.' noodles all over floor. Teahcer say 'BE MORE CAREFUL!'."

We've had that conversation at least three times.

At conferences, I learned that SM was telling her parents that she didn't understand English. (Yeah, right.) She put on a blank face as they related their concerns. I told SM (who. along with the other esl kids is ready to graduate from esl pull-out to Russian lessons with the rest of her class) "SM, if you are not able to understand me in class, then you will not go to Russian. You will need to keep going to esl." The horrified and caught look on her face clearly showed me how much English she understands. I'm not sure mom and dad understood it, though.

The day after conferences, SM came in and said, "Yesterday..."


"When we talking my mom and day..."

"Yes, at conferences..."

"My mom..."

"Yes..." (thinking Mom had something to say about esl)

"She very beautiful?"

"Yes, SM, your mom is very beautiful."

We were talking about what to wear for the winter concert. I was explaining that the girls needed to wear a dress.SM didn't know what a dress was. I was drawing pictures, using google images, showing traditional Korean dresses...she kept shaking her head no. I started showing skirts. Still no. (My principal came through during this time. Nice.) The next day, she came to school in a jumper.

"SM! That's perfect for the Concert! You can wear that. That is a dress."

Big sigh. "Yeah, but I don't know."

"It is. It will be great. And it's even red!"

"Yeah, but I think we sing on 12."

"No, we will practice on the 12th. (showing calendar) But, we will sing on the 17th."

"No, I think we sing on 12."

"You're right we will sing our song on the 12th at practice. But the concert will be on 17. You will wear you dress on the 17th."

"No. I think 12."

"Why do you think we will sing on the 12th?"

(big sigh) "I growing SO fast."

She was afraid her dress would be too short by the 17th. ;>

On the 17th, we were getting ready for the Winter Concert. All the kids were changing into their dressy clothes. Hands and faces were being washed. I was busy doing all (four of) the girls' hair. SM brought me her beautiful Korean dress (not the red jumper) to be tied. I tied a wonky bow and was re-tying it.

SM: It's okay. It's okay!
Me: No, it was not a nice bow. Let me do a nice one.
SM thinks then says, "Ah! I second grader. You second grade teacher. I look beautiful, all the girls look beautiful, and ALL the moms will say in EVERY language..."Miss C is GOOD teacher."

The next day she told me her mom DID say I was a good teacher. ;>

I hope so! I certainly enjoy my little ones. I thought you might enjoy them, too.

03 January 2009

Estonia, ho!

Going to Tallinn. Be back in a few days...