31 May 2009

'sall i got

had an e-mail telling me that it had been so long between posts that the e-mailer was having withdrawl. in case anyone else is, here's how i answered:

there's just no news.

and i had a person staying with me (from my single russian moms group online) while she was here for court.

and i have a cold.

and i stepped on a tin can and split my toe. (don't ask)

so that's news...but it's not the NEWS that everyone wants.

and i won't have that for two more weeks. even though i tell people it's a blind region, they think i'm holding out. they keep asking. and i just. don't. know.

i have most of my pre-court paperwork either taken care of or lined up to be taken care of...so now i just get healthy, heal, pack and go. well, maybe shop a little, too.

oh--after all my year-end assessments and report cards...and multiple field trips...and a bake sale tomorrow and a flea market on saturday....sports day next week and an early end-of-year party....(i am sad to be missing the last week of school with my kiddos. i feel like i'm abandoning them. it's always an important time, but for third culture kids, it's especially important. so i'm trying to squeeze all that good relational stuff in to send them off strong, confident and happy and finish up all our academics without my students feeling hurried or anxious. i'll tell them (and their parents and the rest of our school staff) tuesday that i'll be leaving early.)

maybe i should just post this!

so i did. ;>

28 May 2009

what's next?

I forget that not everyone adopts from Russia. Forgive me.

I am travelling to a blind region (I prefer to call it a "stepping out in faith" region). This region is totally blind...unlike some which are just really nearsighted. (Ha! Laugh at the jokes, people.)

I will not receive any further information about d2b before I travel--no name, no birthday, no picture, no video, no health records.

I'll go to the region on 14 June, meet with the MOE on 15 June, and then have five days of visits with her. (This is because I have a great agency. Some agencies don't get this much face time.) Probably on day 2 we'll have a doctor come in to review her medicals records with me and perform an independent assessment. This will include developmental tasks as well as a physical exam.

At the end of five day, if all is well (and the only reason for declining a referral in Russia, according to my agency, is a medical one) I will sign my "intention to adopt" papers. And go home. By myself. That's the end of "trip one".

A court date will be scheduled 6-9 weeks later (although someone in my region recently had only two weeks between trips one and two). That's "trip two". I will again spend a week in-region, visiting with d2b (yea, agency) and then having court. In July and August things really slow down because people are on vacation. This could work in my favor, as judges try to clear their calendars before going on holiday, or against me, making me wait until September. Let's hope it's the former!

In Russia, there is a ten-day wait until any judgment is finalized. In the past, since it was unlikely the new parents would appeal the decision and they presented "compelling reasons", many regions waived this ten days and granted custody immediately. Not so mine. I expect to have the "ten days" enforced, though it could be counted as either calendar days or business days. I will probably return to St. P, unless we are the exception to the rule and circumstances (everyone at camp, chicken pox, etc.) allow me to have custody during the ten days.

At the end of the ten days, I'll return to pick up my daughter. We then have to get her Russian international passport and do an exit interview with the US Embassy in Moscow. That is "trip three". So far, my region is not taking an extraordinarily long time to issue passports. In some regions, new biometric passports are taking so long (over a month in some cases) to be issued that parents are choosing to leave the country and make a fourth trip. If trends change, and the passport will take a month, I *should* be able to return to St. P with d2b to wait that out and then go to Moscow for the exit interview.

We fly to the US. D2b becomes a US citizen when she clears immigration (and not the infinitely more romantic "when the wheels land" or "when she touches American soil" that I'd prefer). Then, we turn around and fly back to St. P. We might stay a night. But, I'm anxious to use my maternity leave with her in our home in St. P rather than at T@rget (much as I love and miss the big bull's eye). We just need to settle in to real life. And, our real life is here.

I'm double-checking with the consulate, but I should be able to do her social security and US passport applications here.

So, that's what's next. I'm still hoping we're home before my birthday. (mid-September, shop early and often)

27 May 2009

THIS is news

I have been invited to meet a little six-year-old girl. I will be in-region during my last week of school--June 15-19 for an official referral from the MOE.

I'm excited to see who she is. I'm a little sad not to be meeting "my" sisters. And, I'm cherishing a tiny little sparkle of hope that it actually *is* my sisters and their info is just off.

The earlier inquiry about my being willing to raise my age range was made was erroneously. They're actually brother/sister siblings.

More about my plans soon...

(Stat lovers, news of referral came on day 1176. And, today is St. Petersburg Day. Ironic, no?)

26 May 2009

stick fam (eta)


June asked to see the stick figures I was playing around with. Sorry for the tease.

Stick Figure Family at FreeFlashToys.com

Make your Stick Figure Family at FreeFlashToys.com

Hmm...it's too wide for this blog. Mia really is there next to little sis.

25 May 2009


I can't decide if I want to

  • burst into tears
  • go to bed
  • laugh hysterically or
  • scream
I think this teaser-followed-by-no-news is getting to me.

So is the face of the eight-year-old that I *think* is one of the sisters. Oh, I'm hoping, hoping, hoping she is; that the sisters are who I think they are. I don't want my face (and my heart) to fall if the pictures on the MOE's screen don't match up with the pictures on my screen. Oh, I hope that doesn't happen!

I called my friend Marina tonight and asked, "Just how common is X (**not the real initial) as a last initial?"

"Don't worry. It's very common, Katoosh. Everything is fine."

"No. I was hoping it wasn't common. That way the chances that these two are sisters is greater. See?"

"Oh. They're both X?"

"Yes. Xxxxx X. and Yxxxx X. (**yeah--not their real names, either)"

"Oh. Well, it's not as common as (long pause) P. Or (long pause) V. But it's not like an immigrant's name. It's still a Russian name. But you're right. It's not a common initial. I'm sure they're sisters. It's them."

That's a good friend, eh? ;>

Oh. You guys have a three-day weekend, don't you? No wonder things are so quiet. ARGH! That means my agency has s three-day weekend, too. Sigh. Will stop looking for news today.Tomorrow is one of S's days at the MOE. Mozhet bit... (Maybe...)

24 May 2009

don't buy a kindle

Apparently, it's not how far a kindle falls that damages it but how it lands. (I just laughed and said I wish I'd been able to tell the kindle that before it fell.) The "service option" offered was that I pay $200 for a new kindle. I've had my kindle for two months.

I told him I couldn't pay $100/month to use their product. The rep said he hoped this wouldn't happen again. I said I wished it hadn't happened once.

The rep was polite, but couldn't do anything. I e-mailed amazon expressing my disappointment at their misleading demonstration on their website and told them I'd spread the word on their customer service when it comes to kindle. (That's why I'm bothering to post this.) They're great about tracking orders, replacing lost or damaged books. But,

Kindle support is non-existent. Don't buy one.

23 May 2009


Fishermen on the Neva surrounded by hungry gulls as seen on my way to school. That's Vasilevksy Island behind them.

(Pretty picture. No news.)

22 May 2009

ado annie

Thank you all for sharing your experiences. What generous friends I have in bloggerville who are willing to share these very experiences for the greater good.

The nice thing about believing that there is a plan for my life, is the fact that I also believe that can't mess things up. I can't. There is no decision that I make that will be outside of that plan. That doesn't mean I'm a little robot. Predestination and free will are not mutually exclusive.

Okay, let's say that I plan for my students to have an extra recess on Friday afternoon. There is, actually, some math that we could finish up instead, but I've planned for recess. I ask the class if they would rather finish up math or go outside. If they say they'd like to finish math, we will finish math. But, they say they'd like to go outside and we have recess as I planned. They didn't know this was the plan, but they chose it.

That's a very poor illustration of how I think free will and predestination work.

(Boy, am I getting preachy these days. Pretty pictures tomorrow.)

So, no matter what I say, it will all come out right. My decision is already planned.

But, since I've asked over and over not to have to say "no" to a child (even though a little part of me still thinks I might have to...) I am going to be Ado Annie, that infamous I'm just a girl who cain't say no girl. Except I can. I can say no. I just won't.

Just because I was surprised, doesn't mean I'm going to say no. I'm ready to meet these girls! And, the nice thing about me is that my little dilemmas generally sort themselves out quickly. I was surprised, but not doubting.

Remember the last possible? She was seven. And, I never quite warmed to her. But, I kept going. (Really, there are very, very few children that I don't eventually understand and love. And those few had...parental handicaps.) And, because of the first possible, I started corresponding with a family who had their own possible from the same pen-pal situation. The MOE voiced my same concern about my possible and didn't invite me to meet her. The family turned down their possible. And now I have a friend who is interested in pursuing the other family's declined referral. A family could be united...partly because I didn't say no. (Okay, I almost called this post "ripples" ala Joan of Arcadia--a show everyone should watch. )

So I'm waiting to hear if I get to meet these girls. If it's a go I have SHOPPING to do! Shame, huh? ;>

Yes, my brain is in practical mode.

  • I need to find out if it's required for the girls to have their own beds or if they can share.
  • I will need more clothes in bigger sizes. Smaller sizes can be donated to the local orphanages, given to my favorite caretaker at Lapouhinka for her granddaughter and sold on eBay.
  • I need a bigger pair of sunglasses for big sis.
  • I need more sticker books and introductory activities in an older age range.
  • I need to know when their birthdays are so that I know how to increase the age range in both my homestudies. (One sw has been contacted and the other is on holiday until next week.)
  • I will be teaching internationally longer, most likely, to provide for two girls. I should get my masters...but that will continue to be put off.
  • I looked at the database and found a sibling possibility for these ages. If it's them, and they're so precious that I can't let myself think it IS them, then they have lovely names and I know what middle names I'll add.
So I guess I better get busy.

It's possible we'll hear about the possibles later today...

21 May 2009

pharaoh's daughter

Thank you. I am overwhelmed by your generous support.

I am never given a lightening bolt. Never. I don't ever sit bolt upright and know what to do.

I just have a heart that...changes to surety. It's not really that solid of a feeling. It's just knowing what is right.

I didn't start adopting because I had a burning desire to be a mother. That sounds horrible. But, it wasn't that intense. It was quiet. And it was something that I just knew I had to do. I had to give up a job I loved and start over. And it would all be good--even when it wasn't GOOD--because it was what I was supposed to do.

I struggled with the fact that I was single. I think children are much better off in a loving family that has a mom and a dad. But when the family isn't loving, or there is no family, a single parent must be better, right? I knew that, but still felt uneasy.

Then I read the story of Moses being adopted by Pharaoh's single daughter with a different ear, one that was captured by the single mother instead of the baby floating in the river, and I was reassured. Can you imagine the upheaval in her life when she took that baby in? I think the story reads as if it were a whim of hers to take this baby in to her life and her home. But it had to be more than a whim. I imagine she faced innumerable obstacles as she brought in this little Hebrew baby boy in the face of her father's edicts. She became a single mom.

And, really, do you think she didn't know Miriam was his sister? Yes, she could have been completely fooled. She could have been delighted at the convenience of having a baby appear and a nurse for the baby offered immediately. But, I think she knew exactly who Miriam was and who the nurse was. I think God working on her heart to do what was right for this baby and this family is much more in character with my God than it is to think that He used deception to further His purposes. I don't know, but I think Pharaoh's daughter may have known exactly what she was doing and did it anyway.

It has been my prayer all along that the right child or children be referred to me first. (No referral yet, so calm down.) I was hesitant about meeting "Miss Possible" last fall, but told my agency to move ahead. Because she was first. And she was presented to me.

As it turned out, she wasn't meant for me, and I was relieved. But, I did get involved with a series of events because of her that may lead another little girl to her family.

Now, there is a possibility of my meeting sisters who are six- and eight-years-old. Somehow, when I heard that they were six and eight instead of four and six, I felt like I'd lost four years with them. But rather quickly, my heart recalled the faces of my pre-teen girls whom I love so dearly. I was reminded that I'd asked, over and over, not to have to say "no" to a child. And the face of an eight-year-old girl became more important than the darling size four dresses I have hanging upstairs.

We've got two more possibles now. If we go from possibles to referrals, I'll let you know! Please keep all of us lifted up as we wait.

20 May 2009

bow your heads

I could use some wisdom and clarity right now. Prayer warriors, this is a call to knees.

18 May 2009


Didn't I once say if one had nothing to contribute to the conversation, or was in doubt as to what was appropriate to discuss, one could always talk about the weather? (Yes. I did. Basically.)

It's warmer.

See? The meteorologists in second grade said so.

And they're predicting soaring morning temperatures. ;>

**note: the
cold spell lasted four days--these are only recorded on school days. nach.

AND, I put a new picture in this post of my favorite Victory Day poster from this year.

And now I'm off to delete a post from the archives. Otherwise this is post number 555. And it's just not worthy.

17 May 2009


But, I like Juliet and Sawyer!

She's my favorite. He's my favorite. They're my favorites!

There's only one season left.
They'd better end up back together.

kindle-thumbs down

I had planned to do a post "kindle-part 2" to tell you all about my kindling experiences. I had planned to list the pros and cons:

  • you can read in the bathtub
  • many books in a small space (good for travel)
  • quick downloads to and from computer
  • books are reasonably priced

  • not a book
  • one page shows at a time
  • lots of clicking to turn pages--even on the smallest font, I'm turning pages all.the.time
  • my hand falls asleep when I'm reading in bed
  • you can't easily look ahead to see how many pages are left in the chapter to decide if you should finish the chapter before putting the book down or look for a convenient stopping place
  • many books I want are not available on kindle
  • screen saver image gets "burned into" screen
  • not a book

That's basically what I'd planned to post. It was convenient for me in Russia, but I wouldn't use it when I got home.

That's not what I'm posting now.

Now I'm posting that, based on yesterday's experience, you should not buy a kindle. The drop test they show on amazon is not accurate. Mine dropped from a lower height than theirs purports to, and my screen is damaged.

This is not covered under their warranty. There are no repair facilities for kindles. I'm calling amazon today, but I don't hold out much hope. If I'm pleasantly surprised, I'll let you know.

I will not buy another kindle.

And, unless you never drop things (and don't have any dropping helpers around like...kittens or children) I'd advise against buying one.

16 May 2009

my little present

The other day I had on a shirt that wrapped around and tied "on the empire". The tie was so long that I had it in a little bow.

A Russian-speaking colleague at work walked past where I was talking to another teacher, patted me on my upper abs, and coo-ed something about a present.

I was horrified! Did I look pregnant? Having put on a more than a few pounds since I quit dancing/entered my thirties/moved overseas/began the adoption process, I don't really want anyone patting me. And, being a little sensitive about this, I was immediately concerned that she'd confused my adoption with a pregnancy--and was commenting on "my little present". This was my taste of the magnetic quality of a pregnant belly--even if it's just paper pregnant.

I realized much later that *I* was the little present, neatly tied up with a bow. Yeah. Not a comment on my curves-simulating-pregnancy at all. Sheesh, Kate. Mind a little one-tracked, maybe?

No you do NOT get pix of me in the shirt! How can you even ask that after the rest of this post?

15 May 2009

choking cherries

Do you see this?

It's a chokecherry tree on our school playground.

Every year when it starts to look like this:

the weather gets cold. I don't remember this happening in Colorado...but maybe it did. We've gone from warm sunny weather with temperatures in the lower 20's to cold, sleety morning with a temperature of around 8C. I refuse to dig out my winter coat...but I did put on a hat today.The sunshine is predicted to be back on Monday. Let's hope!

14 May 2009

fortnight? eta

Does this two-week wait seem long to anyone else?

eta: Oh, I've already e-mailed. Nothing. Strange "closings" on the days S goes to MOE (Another agency parent tells me he's a creature of habit, to put it nicely, and won't vary his routine. So, he'll only deal with referrals on x day, the embassy on y day.) when other agencies are getting things done. Mentioned that. Got nothing other than referral likely before JULY. Surely that's longer than two weeks?

So much for my one-sentence post.

13 May 2009

bear pix

My friend Jenn sent me this photo after the recent posts about bears in St. P. She took it when she was here adopting her gorgeous son a little over three years ago.

11 May 2009


Do you realize that next year, in 2010, Mother's Day in the US and Victory Day in Russia will be on the same day? How perfect is that?

Did you hear that Madonna is coming to play a concert in Palace Square in St. Petersburg? Russian officials have declared it a "natural disaster".

10 May 2009


The state of the animal kingdom here, for the animal lovers out there...

Thanks for your concern. Mia was not happy with her blanket. She wasn't awake, but she'd flail a bit and try to roll up to her feet. I put her back in her carrier to contain her. Later, when the rolling continued in earnest, I let her out. She was dazed and kept trying to go upstairs. I figured she was trying to get to one of her favorite napping spots--on the heated tile of the bathroom floor--and carried her up. She fell back into that scary sleep...and seemed to be leaking. It wasn't bile or urine. It smelled (yes, I smelled it) odorless. But there were pools of it a couple of times and she was drenched. Poor baby.

I was a little worried about how long it was taking her to wake up. I've had another cat spayed here, and she woke up faster. (I had another Russian kitten who didn't get along with Beazy and went to live with a family from school. It might be because of what I named her. Seriously, did I think Beatrice and Helena would get along? What was I thinking?) But, her incision was on her hip (which I'd never seen--but I think it made for a faster recovery). Mia's is on her stomach. Different surgeons...

About 5 a.m. (10 hours later) Mia was awake and groggy. I brought her in to my room, took off her little straight jacket, and she slept a bit. A little bit. She's eaten a few kibbles and is slowly moving around. She's still a little loopy--and she's very skittish and afraid. I feel so bad for her!

I'm sure she'll feel better soon. She's hiding right now, which just makes me feel worse. She's usually very much a lap cat, much to my chagrin. Now, when I'd feel better if I could comfort her a bit, she's MIA. (ha) And I'm worried about her stitches. (Tami, any tips from Shad on how to keep her from licking them too much? Neosporin? Ace bandage? I know a little licking is okay, but how much is too much?)

eta: It's now quarter past six in the evening and Mia is much more awake. She's sore and her eyes are squinty (weird), but she's much better. She so wants Beazy to snuggle up with her, but Beazy remains wary of that vet smell. Time to break out the vanilla for the napes of both cats.

Changing animals- it's not uncommon to see people on the street with a bear cub asking for "donations". There is always a sign saying that the bear needs money for honey. Unfortunately, this ploy works. You often see children and tourists taking pictures with the bear cubs. The bear cubs look miserable and drugged. I'll go picture-taking for you once school is out. But it's sad.

The "horse girls' near Palace Square have a reputation for riding up and cornering people and being persistent to the point of viciousness in their demands for money "to feed their horses". It hasn't happened to me, but it has to three male colleagues.

At the same time, I've seen old women treat stray cats with great compassion. They feed them along with the birds in the park. I'm told by a Russian friend that the women are making amends in a way, offering gratitude for the animals that were eaten during the siege. It may be this soft spot that local people have for animals that make the ploys of the hustlers lucrative.

09 May 2009


My poor kitty.

Today was the day that Mia was scheduled to be spayed. The secretary at school had made the appointment (my Russian is much worse over the phone than it is in person) for us to go in today at 11 a.m. It seemed like a strange time, right during the parade, but I did as told.

I got Mia into her carrier (easy because she'd never been to the vet) and walked the mile or so to the vet. My car was safely parked at school, away from the festivities. I could hear the parade going on several streets over. The streets were pretty empty and the day was sunny and warm.

When I got to the vet, I gave them my name. When they asked why we were there, I told them "She needs...scissors. No mama." They asked if I had an appointment, and I told them I did for 11.

We were taken back to an exam room shortly and Mia got the once over. Then, the vet brought in their English speaker. (SO glad Oleysia was working today!) After explaining that they would give Mia an injection and that she'd likely vomit and would be ready in 5-15 minutes, she asked us to come back later--there was no appointment in the book for us. They brought in the (note)book to show me and, sure enough, the 11 o'clock appointment had been whited out. When I asked why, she just shrugged and said, "This is Russia." We made an appointment for later in the afternoon.

We walked home, killed two and a half hours and then headed back to the vet. Getting Mia into the carrier was a little trickier this time. ;> The day was warmer and the Field of Mars was filled with people--couples enjoying the sun, boys in uniform, veterans in uniforms covered with medals, children carrying red carnations to give to the veterans.

At the veterinary clinic, everyone greeted us loudly and with big smiles. We went back, Mia got her injection, and was very quickly...still. She still had muscle tone, but was obviously not herself. The vet came and took her away.

While I was waiting for the procedure to be finished, Oleysia came out to tell me about the post-op care (put her on a blanket on the floor because she will be drunk, keep her covered, clean her stitches every other day). A man came in and asked about bringing in his wolf for care. His wolf! Oleysia had a sparkle in her eye as she explained that the wolf had a hurt foot. She also asked if I'd seen the wild cat that was in there earlier. I had--it looked like a baby snow leopard or an ocelot. I thought I'd been seeing things... Oleysia said they get pumas, baby bears and other wild animals. I told her how sad it made me to see the bear cubs out begging on the street. She agreed. I asked her where people got these animals and she replied, with the same shrug she'd shrugged this morning, "This is Russia."

About 45 minutes after we'd started, the vet brought a still anesthetized and completely limp Mia out to me, dressed in a little surgical gown to keep her from eating her stitches. I've done this once before, so I knew what to expect, but it still took me aback. Poor baby!

We walked home and she's resting on her blanket on the floor. She looks so pitiful. Beazy is a little concerned. I'm just waiting for her to wake up.

It's a little unnerving bringing home my kitten while she's in this state. But, (shrug) "This is Russia."

08 May 2009


I'm loafing around home today enjoying the luxury of having a four-day weekend. Water was delivered this morning (on time--will wonders never cease) and the kitten is off to the vet tomorrow to be spayed. Exciting? No. But having two days to take care of these things AND have two more days off is certainly a luxury.

Today, Europe celebrates VE Day. Russia, of course, celebrates it tomorrow. (Why make things easy and share the celebration?) Here's a link to an old post I wrote about Victory Day. And here's a shorter post from last year on the same subject. (I've lived here long enough now that nothing seems new.)

(And, might I add, since I was searching through the 500+ posts on this blog for various and sundry reasons, there are many very well-written posts in the archives? I entertained myself reading them. Caution: lots of typos and they're not all gems. But, if you're stuck in-country and looking for something to read it might help pass the time. Right, Irkutsk families?)

I hope each and every one of you finds some victory, no matter how small, to celebrate this weekend.

(Barb, look what I had waiting for this post before you even asked. A picture! See? Not very exciting.) eta: a picture of my fav Victory Day poster from this year. Before I saw this one, I'd only see billboard versions. I am not ready to drive in St. P traffic and take photos at the same time. My talents do have limits!

These are the only pictures I've taken of late (with my fabulous and very fast but also very big camera) that don't contain either children in orphanages or my students. It's all I've got that's suitable for a public blog.

07 May 2009

exhibit a

I will not miss the fact that I live in a subterranean flat.

As I type, there is a crowd of boys outside my window, acting as if they were at the zoo, tapping on the window and trying to play with my cats. While I realize it's harmless--the boys are giggling away as they trace circles in the air, just like they do for the trained seals at the Oceanarium and my kitten is following their movements intently, dizzy with the effort--it kind of bugs me.

It's bugging Beazy, too. She's jumped up to protect Mia and is staring them down. The boys are using their best sign language to try to get the cats to kiss. The cats are not amused.

Now the boys are making raucous monkey noises. Off to rescue both the cats.

06 May 2009

happy students

For the spring concert (like we need one more thing to do in the spring) second grade is singing "Happiness" from You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. (Can't imagine who would've suggested that one...)

Inevitably, when my students hear this song, they start singing their own versions. Really, how can you not? Today, my little SM, who has provided us with the best esl stories this year, has been chirping away. Most of her songs are a variation of

Happiness is having Miss C for my teacher
And living with her in her 'partment
With my family
And Mia
It's nice to have blatantly happy children in my class. She said to me last week, in utter wonder, "But, Miss C, how you make me like you SO MUCH?" I just told her that I liked her.

We're writing books about how to be a good teacher to give our student teacher when she leaves. (She was in Moscow today so we seized the opportunity to get started.) Most say, "You should be like Miss C." "Don't yell like Miss C doesn't yell." "XYZ like Miss C." I know that most of this is just that my little ones are very concrete thinkers and I'm right there in front of them. But, I'll still put these in what a friend of mine called "The Stroke File"--little things to pull out when things feel grim.

Yep. Hanging on to the happy.

05 May 2009

a fond, simple story

(I should explain to new readers that "my" girls in 3.10 are girls that I sponsor. I visit, take birthday gifts and Christmas gifts, and just spend afternoons with them. They are beautiful and amazing. They hold a very large piece of my heart. If you click on the 3.10 label at the end of the post or in the sidebar, you can read their story. I have not yet received a referral.)

I've been thinking about a snip of a conversation that we had with the girls while we were having tea and cupcakes Saturday. (Marina was surprised that we shared teabags. I am a pro at this by now--steeping just long enough to tint the water brown before passing it on.) Marina asked if I'd made the cupcakes. "Of course," the girls and I replied. They've gone from surprise that I'd baked on my first birthday visit, to boasting on my behalf to newcomers several visits later, to now resting in fact that I do this for them every time. I really like that, actually. It sounds like they're taking it for granted that I'd make something for them, expecting this to happen. I am so glad! It's nice to be taken for granted in this way. It's nice to be expected and trusted.

Marina asked the girls if they cooked. They said no, that they didn't get cooking lessons until eighth grade. She asked them something else about cooking and it was explained to her that cooking was not allowed in the orphanage. (extrapolate the "filling may be hot" warning on mcd's apple pies and tint it with Russian bureaucracy)

Then their caretaker told a fond, simple story about potato salad. One time, she said, she'd helped the girls to make potato salad. It was all very secretive, which I can only imagine added to the delight. After they'd made it, she said, they all ate as much as they wanted. Usually, she explained, they were only given a small amount. But that night they could have it all.

Writing this makes me teary. It's not just the simple delight in a meal cooked and shared. I can see their eyes gleaming as they lick sticky fingers. I can hear their stifled giggles and loud admonitions to one another to be careful, to be quiet, to not make a mess. I am sure that Vera, my little monkey, dropped something and crinkled up her shoulders, smiling, while the others rushed forward to affectionately scold her and relieve her of her duty. I can smell the vinegar. I wish I'd been part of that feast! I would love to have seen them so full and happy, full of love and adventure and potato salad.

The fact that these girls, who are 8-13 years old, don't cook has a far greater significance than I realized when I first heard the story. When I heard it, I tucked it away in the part of my heart that holds their histories. But it rattled around in there. It niggled. And I realized, driving home, that it couldn't simply be tucked away because it was more than history. It wasn't the same sadness that engulfed me this time last year when I gave K her first lotion, (read it if you haven't) but it was similar.

The niggling came not from regret that this self-made feast had only happened once in their lives, but because this little story showed how unprepared my girls are for the real world that is facing them in just a few short years. They don't know how to cook. They don't know how to do laundry. They don't know how to shop or handle money. They don't have the life skills that they'll need to leave the orphanage and succeed.

And, oh, how I want them to succeed. (When teaching Shakespeare, I tell my actors that long vowels--especially those on their own like "ay" and "oh"-- release emotion. Read that again. It's a groan, a moan, a sigh, a cry.) And, ohhhhhh, how I want them to succeed.

There is one program here in St. Petersburg that I've heard about (though there are rumors that it's defunct) that helps eight girls each year who leave the orphanages to live outside an institution. I'll let you know what I find out about it.

03 May 2009

another visit

I went to visit the orphanage yesterday, loaded with birthday gifts (six birthdays since I was last there in my two sponsored groups) and cupcakes. The cupcakes were baked with the last box and a half of American cake mix that a departing ex-pat had left. And the frosting...well, it's hard to find powdered sugar here. I never find it. So, I tried a butter cream frosting recipe I found that started with evaporated milk (one can left by the same departee) and flour cooked until solid. Yum, huh? Yeah, it tasted about that good, too...and it was khaki-colored had the consistency of a bad tapioca. I tossed it and made a seven minute frosting (egg whites, sugar, vanilla and hot water) that was pretty good. I was afraid it would be meringue-y, but it tasted a bit like marshmellow. I colored it pink and dashed on sprinkles. The cupcakes and presents were enjoyed by all!

One of the best parts about this visit was that I convinced a Russian friend to come with me. I've been talking and talking about my girls. Marina often helps me make phone calls concerning the girls, and agreed to come along since it was K and Ka's birthdays (they're two of my favorites). It was nice to have her tell me how beautiful, how polite, how nice they were. Shy little N took to her right away. Marina liked my favorite caretaker and confirmed my opinions about the girls' personalities. It was nice to know I was spot-on even with limited Russian. And, we found that I understand almost everything...eventually. She was very impressed with my Russian--until I pointed out that it was more likely my understanding of PEOPLE than Russian that helped me.

Three new little girls have joined 3.10. They're eight and just-turned-nine. Two of their mothers were orphans in this same orphanage. It's sad to see this cycle continuing.

The new girls are so uncertain, so needy. They talk and talk about their train journey (They're from a different part of the region, quite far away actually. I'm guessing they were brought to this orphanage because of their mother's ties to it. I'm not sure about that, though.), the long taxi ride together, when their mother's are coming. The other girls are gentle with them, especially little N. They stick close together and close to their caretaker.

Due to the economic crisis, caretakers hours have been extended significantly and their pay cut by 25%. My favorite caretaker (she's been there 20 years and actually knew the two girls' mothers--one of the girls is named after her) is worried that the orphanage will be closed and she'll lose her job. Her son has a large debt that she is paying because he has lost his job.

Her husband is just finishing a bathhouse/sauna and I'm invited to come by once fall arrives.

The sun was shining, the sky was blue, the weather was warm. We played a sort of combination volleyball/team handball over the monkey bars while the older boys cursed and played soccer nearby.

On the way back, always a hard time for me. I implored Marina to tell EVERYONE how amazing these children are. People are so scared by older children in orphanages (and not just in Russia). I want her help in letting families know about my wonderful children there. I just can't bear to have them be another tragic statistic.

01 May 2009


Guess what I need.

A coke? (usually) A nap? (often) An updated homestudy? (always)

Yep--it's time to update my US hs...and my medical, my FBI clearance, my employment and my local police status.

Fun, eh?

I'm just hoping thing happen quickly enough that these updates are current when we go to court.


Yesterday my mobile rang. It was Nastia calling from school.

"Kate. I've just heard. They're towing cars on your street starting at midnight."

It may not be the call, but it was a GREAT call, nonetheless!