30 April 2009

4-5-6, please

It should not surprise any of you that I chose the age range of d2b with great care, thought and research. Research helped me set the top end (though I'm sorely tempted to increase it). Thought and care set the younger parameter.

As I've mentioned many times over the last three-plus years, I have requested a little girl or sisters aged 4-6 years. I do not want to adopt a baby and then hand her over to someone else. That's not how I want to parent.

If I could be a SAH mom, then I'd happily bring home a younger child. But that is not an option for me either now or in the foreseeable future. I do not want to put my newly-adopted child in a Russian kindergarten (daycare). I can only imagine how confusing it would be to take a child out of one Russian institution and then enroll her in another. I do not want to hire a Russian nanny. I don't want her to be surrounded with a worldview that is at odds with mine. I don't want to be the only person in her life who doesn't speak Russian. Can you imagine how confusing that would be? Can you imagine the added attachment issues that would bring?

Even if I was in the US, and the daycare providers and/or nanny spoke English, I would not want to do this. I can not imagine adopting a baby and then handing her to someone else. It's just not kateish. I can't. I won't.

When d2b comes home, we're going to stay home for every single FMLA day that I have. By adopting a child aged 4-6 years, when that time is over, she can come to school with me. She will be in the classroom next door if she's in kindergarten and the one upstairs if she's ready for first grade. I can still be the one who kisses her scraped knees, gives her lunch and reassures her. She can pop in at recess and see that I'm still there. She will be learning English and surrounded by other children who are learning English. It's an international, multi-cultural community. And, it's small enough and flexible enough to allow for what is best for my child. It will let me parent AND teach.

And that's why I'm teaching. I'm teaching because I want to be with my child. Teaching doesn't give me the most money. It won't buy us vacations in Greece. But it will give us the most time together.

So, that's a little bit of how I came to the conclusion that d2b is 4-6 years old. I'm not adopting a baby. Because sweet as two-year-olds are (and I love those "terrible" two's), adopting a baby won't let me be the parent that I want my daughter to have.

29 April 2009

new digs

I know where I'm moving! (Jim, they like to keep all the foreign-hire teachers close, so I can't move to Vasilevsky. Too bad 'cause I love it there--although it has very poor bridge access to Petrogradsky, where I work.)

I'm moving into a flat that our school currently uses. The teachers who live there are leaving and the lease has been re-negotiated. The flat has a nice big living room and an open kitchen. It has two bedrooms and a larger bathroom than my current one (which is modeled after an airplane lavatory.) There are American appliances left from previous tenants. (A drier. A DRIER!) There is a babushka who stays downstairs all the time and the principal will live upstairs from me. That's all good!

It's on a canal and the tour boats that cruise up and down incessantly are LOUD. So, I anticipate some griping posts about that. I'm a little sad to be ending my time on Millionaire's Row--simply because of the name. But, in all, I'm glad of the move.


Agency says the MOE was closed last week. I think it will likely be closed Friday for May Day and then possibly through May 11 (Victory Day is May 9.) So, I think it could be awhile before we hear anything.

Agency asked if I was interested in younger than four (settle down, Julianne) just as a possibility and I said not really. I did offer to up my age range to seven. But, I get the feeling they don't have great contacts outside the baby homes. Hmmm... I'm sure we talked about this before I signed....

In other news:
  • I am going to be moving this summer. Hooray! Probably hooray. I'll be glad to not be here. But, I don't know yet where I'm going.
  • I have a student teacher. Oi.
  • Sleep deprivation season has begun! Although, this year, we sort of skipped mud season. I guess that's what global warming (sarc!) does...

Hang in there. I am.

28 April 2009

name game revisited

Thanks for the first-hand name experiences! I wanted to post this where it would be seen in case those commenters aren't following the comments.

My plan, right now, is to keep d2b's Russian name either as her first name or her middle name. I don't want to erase the part of her life that she lived before me. Her Russian name will be there--I'm just not sure how. I won't be sure until I meet her and hear her name. I have three English names that I just love. One of those will be added somehow. That's my gift, the part that welcomes her to my family. It lets me claim her as mine. If d2b is plural, then I get to use two of those cherished names.

For me, this seems like the best way to keep HER name and to help her feel loved and accepted. It gives her options for the day when she's old enough to choose. Being a name-changer myself, I understand the need to feel comfortable in your name.

And I said I wasn't going to write another post on names. The more fool me.

fortnight plus?

No news yesterday.

No news today. Yet.

I did show tremendous restraint and waited to e-mail until today. M always says that she'll e-mail me as soon as she has news, and I'm sure she would, but news always seems to come right after I e-mail her.

When I woke up yesterday, there was a song with what I think d2b's name will be in it playing. That seemed promising. I thought about doing a photo every hour yesterday. I thought that might be fun to post and for d2b to see someday. How great to be able to record the referral day! But, I decided that seeing me teaching school was not that interesting. And, I didn't really want to show all of you pictures of my messy house and my computer screen as I watched the sling and checked things around the web.

Today I had a small hope that there would be news waiting when I woke up. I was even telling the story to myself. "I had taken a shower and was in my blue robe. I put in my contacts so that I could see the computer and went down to feed the cats. Then I had some chocolate chip cookies (Just found these this weekend. They're from Holland and very good!) and milk for breakfast while I checked my e-mail." And there was no referral news.

So, there's no mad dash to post and e-mail before the clock hits 7:00. It's time to blow dry and head off to school. I have a student teacher right now, so it's not the relaxing place it once was. But, I'll be busy.

Really feeling like the bus is late. Again.

26 April 2009

passing the time

Yep. Just sitting here killing time and filling space while we count down those two weeks...

I could write about the names I'm thinking of using, but I already did that.

I could write about how differently I think I'll parent a pi child than I would a bio child, but I already did that, too.

That's what my mind is filled with right now. You can see that it's been filling my mind for a long time.

But what can I give you...

I headed out Saturday to run an errand. I was struck with how empty Palace Square was...but how typically it was peopled. Then I realized--you might now know what it usually looks like. AND, I had my camera...so... Here are the soldier boys marching across the square. It's likely that a practice for Victory Day was in the offing.
Carriages lined up in front of the Hermitage waiting for tourists:

Tour groups in front of the Hermitage.

Roller-blading siblings:

A motorcycle rally (This is not completely typical. But, it IS typical for the square to be used as a public gathering place--for bike races, roller blade rallies, marathons, celebrations, concerts, etc.):

On the way homeI wandered through a book store and picked up some sticker books to take on my referral trip.>

And then ended up stopping by the store for a few odds and ends. When I saw this I had to eat it for my sister--who loves chocolate covered cherries. It was good--but the stick was all the way inside the ice cream.

This is the sign letting everyone in my courtyard know that Saturday was subbotnik. While I was out I checked on my own courtyard and on the nearby street mentioned. It seems the compulsory voluntary work days that Lenin held dear are held less dearly today.

20 April 2009

girl of substance

About a month ago when I was praying for d2b--that they are safe, sleeping well, that they smiled at something today, that they are loved, that their hearts would be prepared for me, that a longing for a family would be present and growing in their hearts, that I'd know them, that they would be beautiful in my eyes, that the right children would be referred to me first--something felt different. There was more weight to her. (I started to think it really was only one child.) She felt more solid, more like a person I know and less like someone I don't.

That was a week or two before I heard that I'll hear soon.

I still am hoping for sisters, but I think d2b is singular.
I am hoping she's five--or even six, but have a feeling she is four.
I have no idea what she looks like.
I can feel her hand in mine.

This is an excerpt from a yahoo group post I wrote shortly after my paperwork was approved. I thought it should be here, too:

I just wonder who and when. I have looked at the little faces on the databank for my region. There's a little girl with dimples so deep and a smile so open that you just want to raspberry her belly to hear her laugh. Those dimples are very kissable.

There is a little girl who is so delicate and gentle. She wants a slow, quiet place to blossom. She makes me feel very protective.

And a third little girl has the most beautiful hands. Her little picture is posed during a recitation or a dance. She has a big grin and just looks like she's having fun.

There is a little pixie who is glancing sideways at the camera and smiling impishly.

These four... I can't help but wonder. It's very likely that d2b isn't on that database at all. And the majority of the pictures there are so sad--children with obvious challenges. But these four little ones give me hope.

19 April 2009

keeping busy

You guys are fab! How do people adopt who don't blog?

And, I've realized that I know a lot more Russian than I thought I did. As I was reading through your lovely lists, I didn't even have to think about how to say most of it in Russian. That makes me feel better. I also have half of a class ready to chatter away to me on Monday to remind me that I am an excellent ELL-communicator and teacher-of-English. That year at The Oxford School of Drama really paid off. ;>

I'm so glad to have my Russian teacher helping me. I was driving her home last week and was speaking to her like a child. She was doing something dangerous and I told her to "Be careful!" My Russian teacher told me that was not a strong enough warning for a child. That what I needed to tell her was "That is forbidden." Some of that, I think, is cultural. Children in the US are encouraged to explore and to find things out for themselves. I remember when I was visiting my friend Dawn in Ukraine. One of her friends there was shocked by how American treated their babies--putting them down to crawl and explore. The friend told me that Ukrainian babies were bundled up tightly and expected to sit still. I've recommended it countless times, but Two Worlds of Childhood by Urie Bronfenbrenner is an extremely interesting read that makes this point very clearly, even though it's dated and out of print. Children are raised to fit into the society of which they will be a part. So, at the beginning I can reassure d2b (and the orphanage workers, social workers, etc.) with familiar boundaries and vocabulary before we're home. Then the swaddling comes off and she can explore! (Figuratively speaking, nach.)

Today I'm finishing a photo book with captions to leave with d2b. (me, our house--which I think I'll replace with a page about St. Petersburg 'cause I think I'm moving, the cats--who need to pose together nicely for a new picture but aren't feeling amenable, family in the US, friends in St. P (current kindergarten class), friends in the US) I'll laminate and bind it at school. And, I'll leave a blank page and bring some contact paper so I can add a picture of us together.

I'm thinking that a bead kit would be good to bring for the first visit--a fun activity, lots to talk about and good fine-motor assessment all in one! I've got notebooks, coloring books, markers (shudder-will def. leave at the children's home), balloons, bubbles, nail polish, lots of chapsticks, and a beach ball. I might go look for more stickers. (Bex--what did you take to Julia?) I've got sticker books and eye-spy books...but those are for the plane. I've got wooden sewing cards, but those won't travel well. We can always go outside or just play with what's there.

I need to buy or borrow a video camera and a laptop. Electronics here are EXPENSIVE so I'm hoping for the "borrow" option.

Oh. No. You didn't miss anything. I still don't have news. I'm just packing my equivalent of the hospital bag and leaving it by the door.

18 April 2009

your useful phrases

Okay, bloggerville--chime in.

My Russian teacher (who has been too busy for Russian lessons for, oh, the last two years but who would have been incredibly hurt and insulted if I'd found another teacher--the mention of "Rosetta Stone" had her huffy for weeks) has graciously conceded that I *am* in a rather urgent language situation. And, she's even decided to stop teaching me to learn Russian and instead help me to learn Russian phrases. (I told her I need to know how to issue commands in Russian--a whole 'nother case-and she finally agreed.) There is a huge distinction. I'd still love to learn Russian. But, I'm happy she's willing to shift gears.

So, if you're an AP, especially of a 4-6 year-old, what were your most useful Russian phrases? If you're not, what do you find yourself saying to your three or four-year-old over and over? And what am I going to say when I meet her? I hate to rely on a translator for that first meeting. I think we need to color. And look at books of animals. I'm good with animals, toys and colors. And dolls--I can play babies in any language.

Surprisingly, I came up with a lot of useful parenting phrases which include:

It's okay.
It's not scary.
Well done!
Let's go. Quickly.
Come here. Quickly.
Let's walk.
Be careful.
That's forbidden.
I said...
What did I say?
Do you want...
Do you have...
What is that?
Hold my hand.
Sit down.
Be quiet.
Stay here.
This is not a joke.
I'm serious.
Very interesting.
You need to sleep.
You are tired.
You are very tired.
Mommy is very tired.
You are a dear, sweet, beautiful girl.
I love you, ________. (with various endearments)

I'm making a list of things I don't know but think I'll need:

Be gentle.
Leave the cat alone.
We don't hit.
We don't kick.
We don't spit.
We don't scratch.
We don't bite.
You must obey Mommy.

eta: Flush.
Wash your hands.
Don't touch.

That's as far as I've gotten. I know there are more for both lists.

Wanna help? PLEASE?

eta: You guys are great! Even when there are suggestions that are things that I know (my Russian vocabulary is much more extensive than what I've written here), it reassures me and reminds me that I can, actually, SPEAK. And, as I've found visiting my orphanage kiddos, children are much easier to speak to than adults are! I know it will wreak havoc with your reader feeds, but I think I'm going to keep updating this list as suggestions come in so that I have them all on one page. Целоваю--Kisses/I kiss you!

15 April 2009


Still pretty happy here. ;> Thanks for being happy with me. It's so GREAT to be able to share progress!

It's like that kitten at the beginning of the last video when he gets to those last few steps... What? You missed the video? Even with the nice title I gave it? KIDDING. I know--it got overshadowed by my amazing news. And I do love having amazing news to share.

But do go read that post before it.(<--That's the same link, just in case you didn't click it up there. I wanted to give you a second chance.) Because, IF I start a new blog when d2b is home and it has the address I think it will, then you'll need to have read that post for it all to make sense.

I'd hate to leave you out of the loop.

13 April 2009

a fortnight?

Other people's mail is always so much more interesting to read. Unless you're ME, TODAY!

-----Original Message-----
From: kate [mailto:onlyk8@yahoo.com]
Sent: Thursday, April 09, 2009 1:40 AM
To: M
Subject: checking in

Hi, M.

I just wanted to check in and see what you'd heard from Sergei in MD. What's the news?


--- On Mon, 4/13/09, M wrote:

From: M
Subject: RE: checking in
To: "kate"
Date: Monday, April 13, 2009, 8:59 PM

Hi Kate,
Sergei is expecting news within the next 2 weeks, and I will let you know what the news is as soon as I hear from him. You will either be invited or they will give him an idea of when you may be invited.

From ME, Kate, to M just NOW:

No WAY! There is a possibility that I could be invited in TWO WEEKS!!!

Today was our first day back after spring break so I was fielding more, "Any news?" questions than usual. I told all of them--quite truthfully--that there wasn't but I really didn't expect any until late May or June.

So I'm floored.


I know, I know--I could still be May or June or July....but it could be in a few weeks!



I am a Sesame Street baby. The show started the year I was born. When my sister came home on my third birthday, I wanted to name her Maria. (I also wanted to exchange her for a puppy. Neither happened. Go fig.) Friends tell me today's Sesame Street is a little less wholesome, a little too pc, and a little less magical than it used to be. But I grew up in the golden age of Sesame Street. I can sing you soooo many Joe Raposo songs...

Here's one. I just love the kitten in the beginning of this and all. those. stairs.

I'm thinking when d2b comes home I may need a whole new blog filled with classic Sesame Street clips interspersed with war stories. (Okay, it's spring break. I've got a cold and lots of time on my hands.**note: Post was written during spring break, though today was a school day. And the doctor says he doesn't think it's strep--test will be back on Saturday.)

At any rate, enjoy. And keep on trying and trying again.

12 April 2009

let's celebrate

Happy Easter!

I find it very odd to be celebrating holidays when the world around me isn't. This is true for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter as well as smaller, silly days like Groundhog's Day and St. Patricks's Day. There is a communal spirit that, for me, is lacking. The air is not full.

It might seem like this is an ideal opportunity to cast aside the commercialism of these holidays and focus on their true meaning. There are no Cadbury bunny ads, no one is buying Easter hats and dresses and there is no competition for the biggest basket. But, there is a shared spirit of anticipation that is also missing. It's a little lonely.

It makes me wonder what I'll do when d2b is home. Delaying and celebrating Easter and Christmas on an orthodox calendar (which I could do for Easter since it changes every year anyway but don't think I could give up December 25 as my Christmas) doesn't really solve the problem. Those holidays just aren't CELEBRATED here. They're observed by some, but the spirit of celebration, for me, is lacking. These are important holidays to me and need to be celebrated--joyfully, wholeheartedly and expansively.

TCK's (third culture children) often have difficulties with holidays. They've been told about them, and they've celebrated facsimiles of them with their immediate families and their ex-pat community, but they haven't experienced the "real" holiday that they're parents are trying to recreate. Having marshmellows for the sweet potatoes becomes an end unto itself and not a fond reminder of past holidays spent with family. I don't like either sweet potatoes or marshmellows, but when I'm planning Thanksgiving here in Russia, I know that is something important to include for my ex-pat friends. Even if none of us eats them, passing the dish untouched is part of our holiday experience. We know that Grandma loves them and that they belong on the table.

I think it's a little like the forced nostalgia those of us in the baby bust generation experienced growing up watching television shows like Happy Days and The Wonder Years. We were presented with a sentimental view of a time we'd never experienced.

But my little one(s) have extra obstacles. How do I find ways to celebrate holidays that they know nothing about? . How do I create traditions (because traditions and rituals are important anchors) that are celebrations and not recreations? It's something I think about. I suppose, to a certain degree, it will be like teaching my class about the way people celebrate around the world. It will be fun and interesting the first few times. The emotional attachments and the traditions will just have to grow over the years.

Flying back to the US to celebrate each holiday is not the answer for me. Firstly, because in the first year or two we're sticking close to home. I think disrupting life to be thrust, jetlagged, into a new culture with new people is not the way to build a family or build traditions. I think it would just be stressful for all of us. And, secondly, I am so ready to NOT be travelling on holidays. As a singleton, I'm the one who is expected to make the rounds. And, sometimes it's nice. But sometimes I just want to stay home and make my own holidays.

Whatever answer I come up with, and I'm sure it will evolve and change, I am very much looking forward to being the holiday-maker for me and d2b. I can't wait for us to celebrate together.

10 April 2009

need your Rx eta

eta: Cheers, guys. Your comments have highlighted my dilemma! No fever. No swollen glands. No sinus problems. Really, no sign of any infection. So, no doctor, right? But, do have some nausea and loss of appetite. In my students sore throat + bad tummy always = strep. And my teeth feel kind of fuzzy, vote. So I should go to the doctor. But going to the doctor here...unreliable. Remember the ENT who rx'd peach oil for my respiratory infection last spring? And I generally feel worst morning and evening and okay during the day. I've been doing honey all week, Carrie. And zinc, vitamin C, echinacea... but still bleh.

If I'm asking if I need to go, I probably do. But WHAT is the POINT of waiting to see the doctor (two weeks for a cold to go away if you see a doctor, 14 days if you don't, said my US doc.) if you just feel BAD for two weeks and THEN have to have all sorts of icky chemicals? And I just don't think it's strep. I don't think my throat feels bad enough for it to be strep. And there's no fever. So there's no infection and I don't need an antibiotic, right?

Not today, I think. I don't even feel like going shopping today. Today I'll make some more chicken soup with lots of garlic. But maybe I'll call to see who is in the office today and tomorrow. If Dr. Peach Oil is in, my decision is made!

I hate to go to the doctor. And, I don't really want to take ANOTHER round of antibiotics. Last spring/summer was too much.

But strep was going around. And I have a sore throat. And a killer pressure headache. And no energy. For a week.

BUT, I would think that my throat would be really sore if this was strep.

So...will juice and rest and soup fix this or do I need to go to the doctor? (I can't see into my throat to tell if there are white spots on it or not. And it's spring break, so everyone's gone.)



I went for a massage today.

I love getting a good massage. Touch is important! And massage lowers my stress (which gets carried in my neck--especially the left side) and keeps me healthy. And, it makes me feel GREAT--loose, languid and with a lower pitch to my voice.

However, my massage experiences in Russia have not been good. They're way too hard with lots of fast, fingertip action (ouch). There's no manipulating a tense muscle until it pops. There's no cheesy waterfall and pan pipe music. There is nothing relaxing, to me, about Russian massage.

Today I went to a spa (instead of having someone come to my house). I had booked an hour massage but asked that it be only on my back/neck/shoulders/head. The receptionist told me that they offered a back and neck massage that was thirty minutes. I said I knew that, but that I wanted the hour "relaxing massage". She said I could have two back & neck massages. I told her that was more expensive and that I wanted the relaxing massage. She made a phone call and seemed to sort it all out.

My "specialist", Tanya, came to collect me and take me to the treatment room. On the way we chatted about what I did, where I lived, and why I wasn't at work. Once in the room she asked if I wanted my legs done. I told her no. She asked about my arms. I told her I didn't need that. "Why?" she demanded. I took a deep breath (knowing that I looked like a deer in the headlights) as I mentally rushed through my Russian vocabulary to see if I could come close to "One time when I let them do my arms, they dislocated my elbow." I couldn't, so I just said, "It is painful." Big exhalation from Tanya, the specialist.

Now, I've had lots of massages (the best in Tennessee at the Institute of Healing Arts, some good ones in Helsinki and Cincinnati--though Cinci is where they dislocated my elbow--and mediocre but not painful ones in the UK). In every case, I've been left to disrobe--leaving on my knickers. This time, I was presented with sort of disposable panties to put on--made out of the same stuff that shoe covers are. Seriously, I looked like an idiot as she presented me a tiny package that contained a scrap of elastic with two tiny panels of tough kleenex to cover my front and (some of my) back. I had no idea what she was handing me. I almost brought it home so I could photograph it for you, but just couldn't bring myself to do that. Ick.

Tanya did ask several times during the massage if it was painful. And, she was always surprised when I said yes! (Could she not see me cringing away from her until I nearly fell off the table?) But, when I told her it hurt, she'd say, "That's bad." and move on to somewhere else.

What I decided today was that the objective of Russian massage is different than the massage I'm used to. I think Russian massage, even if it's billed as relaxing, is meant to increase circulation. Judging by the value Russians put in getting whacked with branches post-sauna, circulation is important here. And, since I was really itchy, I think it succeeded in that. But it's not quite what I had in mind.

While I was lying there I had the feeling that this was significant. That it said something about...I don't know what. Russian adoption? Living in a global world? Misunderstandings in general? We're both talking about "massage" but what we think massage is and what we think massage should accomplish is very different.

I'm back. I'm massaged. I still have knots in my neck and the muscles across my chest are still tight enough to be drawing my shoulders in. It didn't release that tension or drain my lymph nodes (that might sound gross, but it really helps to knock out a lingering cold). I do have great circulation. I guess.

I'm wondering what the Swedish massage--as performed in Russia--would be like. Maybe I'll give massage in Russia one more chance. And if that doesn't work, I'll wait for my next trip to Helsinki.

08 April 2009

pursuit of knowledge

Do you realize it's April? That means that our 3-5 month wait for a match *could* be up NEXT MONTH! Next month will be three months since approval. Wow.

I had an interesting trip to Knowledge Bowl in Warsaw. I did manage to walk in to see the reconstructed Old Town, but most of the trip was spent with our middle schoolers. I love middle schoolers. I was a junior high youth worker and have a minor in youth ministry. When it came time to choose what grade I'd teach, I was going to get my certification in grades 4-8. But, my youth group at the time told me to be their friend and not their teacher. It's advice I took. Now, I'm teach primary grades but play with the big kids.

It was our school's first knowledge bowl. Our kids always make an impression when we gather with other international schools--for being NICE. They're nice kids. They are kind to one another. They have an innocence that the kids from the bigger schools lack.

As far as knowledge went, we didn't do quite as well. The first day we won half of our matches. That means we lost half. And the ones we lost, we lost gloriously. That night we saw the Warsaw school's (900 students) production of Midsummer. I had three cast members from my show with me...and two enthusiastic fans.

I'll just say it (no false modesty here)--ours was soooo much better! Seriously- SOOO much better. I know I'm a good director, (refer to previous parenthetical expression) but this reminded me that I'm a GOOD director. I'm a VERY good director. This was clear not only from the production, but from the comments of my actors. These nice kids weren't ha-ha-ha-ing. They were making comments (when we were on our own) about use of space, understanding the text, handling the verse, physicality... And they were quick to point out the interesting costumes, amazing set and "better mushiness" of the production we saw.

But our production was better. And, seeing that after a rough day of competition lifted spirits.

The second day of competition went much like the first. The kids competed a little better, but didn't steal the show. We faltered in math. There were few questions in our stronger categories of literature, history and geography.

But, we had a nice time.

While there I met a single adoptive mum from another school. It was great to get to talk to her a bit about what lies ahead. And it could be lying ahead next month!

01 April 2009

be back soon

Here's a perk to international teaching: I'm accompanying the middle school knowledge bowl team to their competition. In Warsaw.

We leave tomorrow and will be back late Sunday. THEN, we have spring break.

Nice, eh?