‘What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men …… That is what love looks like.’ - St. Augustine

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy Almost New Year!

First, thanks for all the prayers and well wishes. Puck is home and doing well! The vet said she did very well and that he is confident it was a very successful surgery. When I brought her home last night, I laid a small towel over her incision to keep her from licking it, and then she slept on my stomach the whole night. I was pretty stiff in the morning (lol), but it gave me peace of mind to keep her that still and relaxed all night. Anastasia was a trooper, letting me sleep in my room for the first time in about a year, and checking on us throughout the night. She stayed in her room with Tink, her new kitty. The poor dogs were stuck alone in the livingroom.

Today Puck seems a bit more herself. I got a better look at the incision, which is much larger than I expected, but not bad. She has about a six inch scar and lots of stitches, but she doesn't seem to be in much pain. She can't jump up or down for a few days, but she meows to let me know she wants to get down to the floor to use her litter box. Today I spoiled her with attention again, and stayed with her most of the day, and she seems to instinctively know now not to touch the stitches.

Any kind of crisis with the animals always brings out the best in Anastasia. She loves being a nursemaid, and gets into a very serious caretaker mode. Today she shoveled the walk without my asking, and fed all the other animals ( again without asking) and became much less demanding of me while I tended to Puck. If this were a person I were caring for, I don't think it would be the same reaction. For some reason, her jealousy does not extend to animals or babies..lol. Anyway, it has been a nice break from her usual need for constant attention. I know it will be back full force in a few days, but I'm enjoying the mini-vacation!

So...Happy New Year to everyone. I'm going to type up my new "Coming Into My Life" list and post it over my desk tonight. Then Anastasia and I will watch the ball drop on tv and toast with her favorite sparkling grape cider. In many ways I'm sad to see 2008 go. It was a good year for us. But I'm also open and excited to what adventures, epiphanies and experiences 2009 holds for the two of us. Oops -- make that the six of us!

Happy New Year from Keri, Anastasia, Puck, Henry, Matilda, and Tink!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Post In Which I Interview Myself

So, Keri, we read that you've been feeling sad lately. Any progress on figuring out what that's about?

Yes. It was pretty obvious actually. I don't know how I didn't perceive it right away. I found out a few days ago that my cat (Puck) has cancer and it was triggering all kinds of fears about losing her. I took her into the vet's at 7:30am this morning for surgery. I was sobbing so much that they had to put my into a room with her right away. I really was a sight, but hopefully they will forgive me. I adore my kitty.

How long have you had Puck?

Over twelve years. I wrote about her here and here. She sleeps in the curve of my neck every night. She has been my comfort and solace through many losses and hard times. She is wise beyond her years, and I'm not just saying that for effect. She really is smart; even people who dislike cats comment on her intelligence and sweetness. She is a really remarkable being.

How are you coping today? What are you doing to keep yourself busy?

Well, Anastasia is giving me lots of hugs and kind words, even though she has a friend (T) that slept over last night. I'm going to go out to lunch with my friend Darcy, and then I'm planning to go shopping for a new oven since ours was ruined in a fiery mishap last week. Then I'll take the dogs for a long, long walk on the beach and have a good conversation (bargaining session) with God while I'm walking. Then, if I still have time to kill, I might actually clean the kitchen. Anything to keep my mind and body occupied. If I just sit home and do nothing, I'll be a wreck.

Do you know what kind of cancer it is? What is her treatment going to look like?

They think it might be soft tissue sarcoma, but they won't know for sure until they do a full biopsy of the tumor. The results will be back on Friday. Then they will tell me what grade and type it is. My hope it is grade one, and that she does not have to have radiation. I'm not sure if I could put her through that. I'll keep you posted.

Can we do anything to help?

Yes! Please pray for my little kitty! If you aren't the praying kind, please picture her surrounded with light and love. I'd be very grateful.

Monday, December 29, 2008

I'm Missing Something Today

...but I don't know what it is. I feel this longing, a deep longing and sadness for something but I really can't put my finger on what it is. I feel like I am maybe missing some Utopian alternate life that has never really existed. I feel nostalgic and bittersweet and like a darkening cloud is encircling me and my little world. It's like that feeling of missing home when you are little and far away from the things that are familiar. I'm sure you know the feeling.

Anyway, just setting that down on paper, so to speak, takes the edge off. Time for a long, self-indulgent walk in the woods I think...

Sunday, December 28, 2008

My Girl Is Sad Tonight

Sad is still a relatively new experience for my girl. Rage? Anger? Outrage? She knows those feelings well, but sadness still confounds her; it is so new.

So Anastasia is sad tonight and I so want to take it from her and banish it from her mind and heart, but I can't. I also know it's a good thing, as painful as it is to see her feel this way. Feeling sad means she is feeling. She is safe enough and stable enough to feel. The walls are down and the defenses cast aside, and she is vulnerable.

Tonight she went to spend time at her friend T's house. T is an older adopted child as well. She has been here three years, and has a wonderful family that adores her. Like Anastasia, she has Reactive Attachment Disorder, but hers manifests in the more disinhibited way. She is charming and sweet and talkative and quick to hug. Anastasia envies her. She loves to spend time with her, but inevitably comes home feeling insecure and jealous. Why, then, do I let her go? Because she needs to learn how to handle and move through these feelings. They genuinely enjoy each other's company and I think it is very good for them to spend time together. Anastasia is learning how to be a friend, she is learning how to share, how to relate to someone in her peer group. She is learning how to be in relationship with someone her age. These are things very difficult for her to learn with other kids her age. They lack the patience and understanding to deal with Anastasia's quirks, fears, insecurities, jealousies,etc. T knows them intimately because she experiences them herself.

Anyway, tonight when I picked her up she said she was very sad. In the car, she cried. She hated herself and her life. She wanted T's life: a two parent family, a brother, a 'real' home (whatever that means), and a house "full of stuff" like T. Mostly, she wants to be "skinny and pretty" like T. I listen and listen. I hold her hand as we drive. At home I listen more and hold her, and I tell her how perfect and beautiful and amazing she is. We discuss ways she can bring some of what she desires into her own life: She loves the 'coziness' of T's house. It is an antique home, with lots of neat furniture and cozy spaces. Our home is more modern in some ways, and I tend to keep it fairly simple because of my ADD. Anastasia wants to " fill it with more stuff to make it cozy." I agree that we can try to do that. We discuss the two-parent family issue and the sibling issue, and she realizes on her own that some of this is just a case of "the grass is always greener." But she still is sad. So we cuddle and I make her a snack and get her nice and cozy in her favorite blanket. I tell her being sad is ok, and -- what's more -- it's normal.

"I just want to rewind my whole life and start over." She explains. I tell her how everyone feels that way from time to time and that this feeling will pass. I remind her of all the things in her life that T does not have. I remind her of all the things that make her special. Inside my head, though, I'm bargaining with God again. Asking Him to please release my daughter from the pain she is feeling. I know it won't work, but it's a habit difficult to break. In the end, I give in to tv watching (her numbing agent) and I wonder how to help her learn to accept sadness when it comes. How do I teach a skill I have not yet mastered myself?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Some Wishes Do Come True

Just before each New Year, I write my "Coming Into My Life" list. It is a simple list of things I want in my life for the next year. I post it over my desk and I check off items/happenings that manifest in my life over the year. It's always amazing to me how many wishes come true. Being a spiritual person, I usually commit the list to God - a kind of figurative handing over of the list into His hands. I let the list be whatever it chooses to be -- no limits or censors on what can be on there. I'm going to be brave and post my 2008 list, even though it was written for my eyes only. It's just that so many things on the list came true, I thought it might inspire some of you to make your own list! You may think some things on the list are weird or even selfish, but remember I wrote it for myself only. It wasn't meant to be inspiring, just an honest reflection of what I desired. Here it is. I colored and put stars next to the ones that came true this year!

Coming Into My Life!

Anya, by year’s end
Kind, gentle adoption support*
Anastasia genuinely happy*
Mom happy & moved on from grieving*
Affordable health insurance
Peace in my heart*
More invitations to make a difference***
A man who loves me and whom I love
Beautifully painted rooms*
A yard lush with plants, trees and flowers
Happy letters from far away*
New, unique, delightful friends**
Old friends returning*
New babies in the family*
Poems and manuscripts I wrote*
Lazy, gentle, timeless days of joy***
New jobs I adore***
Speaking Russian perfectly
Lost weight, easily
Easy and lucrative Fall & Winter Programs*
Praise, support and pats on the back for work well done*
An Amazing Staff*
money in the bank*
Unexpected hugs from little ones*
Happy Gatherings in my House*
A brand new couch to replace the sagging one
A Love of Cooking
Invitations to Travel*
Reconnection with my brothers*
Continued closeness with Dad*
Obama as President***

Out of 32 wishes, 24 came true! And some were long-shots -- like new babies in the family and Obama as President! Now I will write a new list, keeping the 8 that have yet to come true, and adding new ones. I will post the new list above my computer on January 1st and wait to see what happens! If you have the time, type up your own list of wishes and share it with me...at least the ones you feel comfortable sharing.

As we say goodbye to 2008, let's welcome in 2009 with open arms and grateful, expectant hearts. May God/Goddess/Great Spirit/ Alla/Jehovah/Creator/Love (or whatever you choose to call Him) bless you beyond measure in the coming year!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmakwanzaahannukah Pics

For the past four years I have thrown what has come to be known as my annual 'Christmakwanzaahannukah' party. I have friends of every faith, hence the name. This year's party fell on Christmas Eve, and the fourth night of Hannukah. All told, I got to see over forty of my friends and students over the course of the night. Sadly, I didn't remember to bring out my camera until three hours into the party! But I got a few shots of the younger crowd....most of the over forty crowd had already left!

Anyway, here is a group of my students, past and present. I love these girls! Darcy, in the black dress, first became my student over fifteen years ago. Now she's a great friend, and a wonderfully successful playwright in NYC. In fact, her play "The Bird and the Two-Ton Weight" is being made into a movie as we speak! She just got back from a month of filming in London. Can you tell I'm proud? Plus, today is her birthday...Happy Birthday Darcy!

My friend Chris has a great blog you can check out. She is listed at the left under my non-RAD blogs. She always has camera in hand. She is a brilliant web designer, writer, and mom. We went to college together and then rediscovered our kindred-ness a few years ago. I love this girl.....
Below is Chesky (Francesca to everyone else.) She is my first daughter. I was a live-in nanny for her family before she was born, and lived with her from her birth until I graduated from college. She was great practice for being mom to a spirited and opinionated girl! There is nothing I wouldn't do for her...she holds half of my heart. She is going to be twenty next year (gulp), but she'll always be a little girl to me! This 'little girl' is now an honors college student who also teaches physics as a teacher's assistant. If you live in the Boston area, you may have seen her in several local commercials as well :)

Here I am with Amy, now 27, whom I haven't seen in almost a decade. She was one of my first Shakespeare students. I was younger than she is now when I was her teacher! She lives in California now and was kind enough to stop by while home visiting her parents. It was amazing to see her.

PS: I know I look exhausted..I was! I had pulled an all-nighter to take care of the kitten, then all day prepping for the party! I'm wearing the scarf that Anastasia knit me for Christmas.

Despite her typical pre-party protestations , Anastasia had a great time, too. She entertained guests, poured cider and wine (for the adults), and showed off her new kitten to all interested parties. She konked out at about 11:30pm, which is early for her, but the kitten has given us both a run for our money the past two nights. We're exhausted! Here she is last night with one of her favorite people (and mine), our friend Josh. Anastasia had to hold Matilda most of the evning to keep her from harassing the guests and stealing food from off of the coffee table...

I adore the guys in this picture. I've had a very close, family-like relationship with all three of them. Alex, on the left, is a professional actor in NYC now. Josh, in the hat, is in college studying theatre education and is an AMAZING teacher, and Andrew, on the end, just graduated Wesleyan and is looking at a job in the Obama administration - I kid you not! They all came thru my programs starting at ages 9, 10, and 8, respectively. I am so incredibly proud of them.

Wish I had more to share, but I was stupid and forgot my camera till the end! At least you get a little taste of my wonderful world. Happy Christmakwanzaahannukah everyone!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Here's Tink, the new member of our family, with her 'mom'!

Such a cutie!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Meowy Christmas!

We have a new kitten!

Anastasia got an early Christmas present tonight. I took her to the local animal shelter and let her pick out a kitten! She's been asking for months, and I never let on that I was planning to let her bring one home for Christmas. I've been looking for over a month now.

I'll take photo of her tomorrow, but I don't want to scare 'Tink' her first night home. (Anastasia named her after Tinkerbell.) She is tortoise colored -- meaning a little bit of everything. She is a teeny girl, only 2.5 pounds at 15 weeks of age! She is missing one leg, which we think only makes her extra special. The umbilical cord was wrapped around her leg at birth, so she lost it before she even took her first steps, so she barely even notices. She's a good hopper!

Wish I could post a photo of our sweet girl tonight, but we are keeping things very quiet and low-key for now. As Anastasia said " We need to treat her like you treated ME when I first came home." What a smart girl.

Monday, December 22, 2008

To Answer Your Question:

Yes, I took my daughter out of school. Three times actually.

The first two times I was too scared to really follow through with homeschooling for good. Too many people I cared about hated the idea. Too many people had far too many negative things to say about it. And so I caved. I sent her back. The second time was no better. I knew my daughter was in her own private hell, and yet I sent her back and coerced her every which way to stay. It was not until she was literally hurting herself that I realized what a mistake it was to return. This third time was our mutual and definitive choice. She would not be going back.

I'd like to tell you the thousand reasons why this choice works for us. I'd like to share the magic of our decision with you. It has been nothing short of life-changing for both of us. But, I'm not ready to pour my heart out again. I'm not ready to be criticized and questioned about our choice again -- at least not yet. I'm getting stronger, but the questions and criticisms play right into my fear of being a bad mom. I so want the very best for my girl, and I don't appreciate the feigned concern of others for her welfare. It puts me on the defensive when I'm not ready to fight. I'm too busy living and learning with her. I'm too busy watching her spread her wings.

So for now, I ask you to go read this amazing post. It's from an unschooling mom who already found her footing, and she speaks it oh so well. Her post is my answer to why I homeschool my daughter. I may not have climbed a literal mountain with my girl yet, but we've had those same kinds of days..lots of them... and she is learning so much more than she did in the prison of a classroom.

And yes, it may seem a strange choice when I'm a teacher myself --an educator, though I hate both of those misnomers. I would rather be called a door-opener or a light-shiner or a wisdom-sharer. I don't believe one can really teach, per se. But that is the name the world gives what I do, and I have to use it in the same way one uses foreign currency - needfully, but also cautiously and uncomfortably.

I do not have to rationalize for myself why I walk into classrooms every day when I see them as prisons. I love sharing what I've learned with children, and the children are, for the most part, in schools. So I go there. But I do not play by the same set of rules. I'm lucky that way. As an "artist-in residence" I am allowed to change things up, turn lessons upside down, move desks to the side, sit on the floor, run and jump and laugh loudly -- get kids reciting Shakespeare while standing atop a desk, or held in the air by a few friends, singing, rhyming, blurting out words that taste new in their mouths. Of course I'd rather be doing this outdoors under the trees or while hiking up a mountain or skating a pond -- but at least I give them a little break from their monotony. A little taste of the magic of learning.

Anyway, I could write pages on this subject. It is what I'm most passionate about. Someday, after my daughter is grown and I have the time, I will devote my life to education reform. For now, I work to reform one class at a time, one school at a time. And then, each day, I come home to my daughter and we head to our classroom of woodland paths or beaches, museums or libraries and even, sometimes, foreign countries. A much better way to live.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Let It Snow, Let It Snow.....Ok, That's Enough Already!

This is what we woke up to this morning.....

Storm #2 caused huge drifts, as you can see. My one-story house is almost encased in snow! Henry is in the foreground ,admiring.

And Anastasia couldn't get out fast enough to "shuffle"...her favorite thing. See Matilda? She is so light, she doesn't even sink into the foot-plus of snow beneath her! (Sorry photo is blurry, I didn't have my glasses on.)

And finally, Anastasia in all her winter glory. You cannot tell, but in this photo she is screaming " I LOVE SNOW!!!!!!" at the top of her lungs.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Time For A RAD Check-in

Anastasia, just in from playing in the storm!

Over on the left I have a list of some typical RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder) symptoms. All of my fellow RAD mom readers will be all too familiar with these. And for you RAD moms -- can you remember the days before this list was familiar territory? Your life before RAD? Like me, you probably can't! However, in the nearly four years she has been home, Anastasia is slowly exhibiting signs that some of these symptoms are on the backburner now. Not to say I'm naive and thinking they will never rear their ugly heads again, but....well....I wanted to acknowledge where we've come from on this journey and where we are now.

I'll preface this by saying that the changes I have witnessed in her are due to a very multi-layered approach to parenting and, obviously, to my daughter's own ability to learn and grow. Here is what I attribute the changes to, in no particular order:

~INTENSE attachment parenting for four years.
~ Practicing the BCLC method as often as possible
~The switch from schooling to homeschooling and, finally, to unschooling.
~ At least an hour EVERY day of close one on one contact (i.e. cuddling!)
~ Co-sleeping for four years.
~Pet therapy via our three pets! She has benefited SO much from their unconditional love.
~Dream Talk - we stay in bed and discuss her dreams every morning, as they usually hold alot of her anxiety. She likes figuring out what they mean.
~Allowing Regression: baby talk, bottle feeding, feety pajamas, whatever she gravitates towards and not putting a limit on how long she needs it.
~ Psychotherapy: only 8 months this far, but helpful
~Medication: 20mg celexa has provided a HUGE relief from her anxiety and defiance.
~Letting go of the typical timetable: she may not 'graduate' at 18, but who cares? She may not learn to drive or get a job for a few more years...who cares? Not me!
~ Keeping the Love Unconditional. I promised her that I was her safe place FOREVER, no matter WHAT she did or failed to do. I stand by that. She still needs reminders weekly, and STILL thinks she will be sent back to Russia for the smallest infraction, but I just keep gently reminding her of my promise and doing all I can to prove to her it's forever.

Here is the list of symptoms, and which ones have changed for us (and which ones are still an issue):

~Exhibits need to control everything and everyone: lessened, but still an issue
~Constant chatter, manic behavior when dysregulated: now only before big transitions, like a trip
~Fascination with violence, blood & gore, or fire: MUCH less, though fire is still a bit of an issue
~ abnormal sleep patterns/chronic insomnia: still a daily issue: unchanged.
~Attitude of entitlement or self importance: lessened, but still evident
~ Food issues, such as hoarding, gorging: bit of hoarding, intermittent gorging. We are working on this one every day!
~Trouble understanding cause and effect: hasn't changed much.
~Frequent rage, often over trivial issues: MUCH better, happens infrequently - used to be every day.
~ no empathy/ difficulty with empathy: BIGGEST change. She definitely experiences empathy, especially with animals and children under two.
~Developmental/learning delays: not sure if this will ever go away.
~Destructive to property or self: Almost nonexistent now, unless extremely dysregulated
~ Fear often manifests as anger: still her M.O. This will take many years, I think.
~Argumentative, defiant: yes, but more like a typical teen now.
~Triangulation of adults: lessened, but still evident when I am with my brothers.
~Poor impulse control: getting better every day
~ Hyper vigilant: still happens in new situations, but to a lesser degree ( i.e., it doesn't happen at the supermarket like it used to -- EVERY week!)

So, all told -- huge changes. I'll try to do this check-in every six months and see how things continue to develop over time.

If you're a RAD parent, please add a comment and let me know what things have been most helpful for you in dealing with RAD. Of course, so much went unmentioned above. I give God (in whatever form you wish to call Him) the most credit. I know the patience I have developed is His doing. There is no way I could have learned that on my own!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Truth or.....DARE

Annie, over at one of my favorite blogs, posted this challenge.

The assignment: Take a picture of yourself RIGHT NOW.

DON’T change your clothes. DON’T fix your hair. Just take a picture.

Post that picture with NO editing.

Post these instructions with your picture.

Note: This may just be the gutsiest thing I do all year, so be appreciative :)

So, just like Annie, I feel an explanation is in order. I do have a bit of make-up on in this photo because I just had to run out to CVS and I looked like death warmed over...so I fixed myself up a bit in case I ran into anyone of note :) I also had to take this photo in my bathroom because then I can use the mirror to see if I actually have my head in the frame! Lastly, I hate this photo but I'm going to be brave. I'm going to set an example for all the other terrified bloggers out there who fear the dreaded unedited, spontaneous photo of themselves. You can do it, girls. I'm right behind you -with a little lipstick on..lol.
PS: if you do this dare, leave a comment so I can go check yours out :)

What I Wouldn't Give For a Shot of Motivation!

The storm rages outside. Roads unplowed and, therefore, unpassable. Cupboards full of yummy things. Daughter occupied with drinking hot chocolate and watching Christmas movies with our tween neighbor. I have no excuses left! I could be cleaning the kitchen, doing one of the dozen loads of laundry that needs doing, wrapping presents, organizing photos, paying bills...oh so many ways to be productive, but I am not in the mood!

I so wish there were a Starbucks flavoring called " motivation". I could add it to my coffee just like the toffee nut I usually go for. It would instantly transform me into a peppy, motivated, procrastination free version of myself. I would be able to simultaneously walk the dogs while writing out checks for the electric and oil companies. I would be cleaning the snow off the car while doing budgeting math in my head for next month. I know there are people like that. I'm not one of them. I want to be. I dream about it. I know most women my age are dreaming of Jamaican spa vacations and mini-facelifts, but not me. I dream of multi-tasking with energy to spare.

I'll let you in on another secret. When the house looks this bad, and the work has piled up, I imagine I'm Samantha from Bewitched, and I wiggle my nose and 'poof'!...everything is in its place, laundry clean and folded, floors swept, dogs brushed, dinner cooked, beds made. Ahh, I love that daydream.

Well, as I do not yet possess any magical powers, I'm just going to do what I always do when I've lots to do and time to do it -- whine to myself, be lazy, and spend an hour googling everything I can think of. Wow, my life sounds soooooo exciting. How can you stand it?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Batten Down the Hatches!

Yup. That's what we're doing tonight. Storm coming. We are in full preparation mode: locating shovels ,car scrapers and de-icers, recharging the flashlights, stocking the fridge....we'll be ready. Of course, having lived through the Blizzard of '78 means I'm an expert in weathering big storms -- even if I was only 13 at the time!

School has been cancelled for me, so I'll be home to enjoy the 'show' with my winter-loving daughter. Anastasia loves a good blizzard. After living her first twelve years in Siberia, she is pretty used to them. When I first met her in Russia in March '05 it was a balmy twenty below zero, with a foot of snow on the ground. My eyes kept freezing shut because the water on my lashes stuck together. I had to keep pressing my hands to my eyes to unlatch them! Anyway, my Siberian princess adores snow and counts every winter day without snow an injustice. We are expecting 14 inches Friday and then 4-6 early Sunday. I will be able to give you the exact amount this weekend, because Anastasia has a habit of measuring the depth every few minutes so she can tell me how wrong the weather man was.

" He said 12 inches and it's only 11 and three-quarters!" she told me last year at this time.
She never trusted him after that. She is actually known to hunt stations to find the weather-person she thinks is the most honest and, therefore, most accurate. I don't know what her criteria is, but it seems to have something to do with how young they are. She definitely doesn't trust the "old" ones. And she trusts very few of the younger ones! She thinks the whole weather predicting thing is a scam. "They don't know what they're talking about!" She will yell at the tv.

So, I am off to shop for food -- the dog and cat and people variety. We have none at the moment, unless you count saltine crackers, canned mandarin oranges and Russian candy. I hate shopping right before a storm, because all the crazy people are out then. But it's my own fault for putting this off for two days...grrrr.

Hope wherever you are the storm is just a news story on your tv screen! If not, hope you've battened down your hatches!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Ahh, Wish They'd Call!

As some of you know, I had called Massachusetts DSS about two months ago for information on becoming a foster parent. I have not heard from them yet. I called a 2nd time last month, and tonight I wrote an email.

I don't get it. Everywhere I turn there are stories in the paper and on the news concerning the desperate need in my state for foster parents. They even place ads in the local paper! What gives? I just looked up the most recent statistics: over 11,000 children in state care and only 2500 approved foster families to place them in. So why in the world aren't they calling me?

Tonight when I wrote I typed my phone number twice, and I explained that I also had experience with PTSD and RAD. Maybe that'll help?

Anyway, my hope is still to foster an infant or very young toddler. Anyone over three years of age would cause pretty significant jealousy issues for Anastasia. But she is anxious to have a sibling. And boy does she love cuddling and caring for babies!

I'm ready to parent another child, though I think fostering is best until I know for sure ( and long term) that Anastasia will be ok. Keep us in your prayers!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sorry For The Silence!

I just can't seem to think of anything that I want to share right now. I'm not depressed or overworked, I'm just pensive. I seem to be in a kind of 'taking things in' mode right now and am just enjoying being a mom, being an educator and being alive. I promise I'll be back with lots to say! It's just that if I post anything now it'll just be filler stuff, and I value you all too much to waste your time!

Hope you're all enjoying the prelude to the holidays. Remember to step back, take a deep breath and enjoy the moment! Life is VERY short -- in case you haven't noticed!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Those Instruments of Torture Thinly Veiled as Christmas Lights

That photo is me five minutes ago. Anastasia took it after I had battled the swarm of Christmas lights she brought up from the basement for an hour straight.

I hate Christmas lights. I mean a deep-seated, unnatural, I-would-murder-them-if-I could abhorrence. I try to leave my harsh feelings at the door and give them an honest chance to prove me wrong each year, but THEY DON'T CARE! They LIKE driving me crazy...I can sense it. They don't care that I took the time to gently wrap them in tissue paper each January when they get packed away. They don't care that I meticulously check EACH bulb before I even THINK of wrapping them around the tree. They don't care! They LIKE seeing me lose it. They secretly plot all year how they will circumvent all my careful planning to get them up and working. They hate me!

So, Christmas lights, you win. You're on the tree and you're NOT working again. Fine. Be that way. But don't even THINK I'm going to humor you with another tantrum. I'm done. I'm hitting the hot chocolate as we speak, and I'm telling the entire blogging world about your sick sense of humor. Do what you want...I'm going to find a younger, cuter and more attentive set of lights to spend my time on. See how you like that.

Friday, December 12, 2008

True Christmas Giving...Let's Do It!

The photo on the right is of just one of the millions of orphans living in poverty in our world right now. She happens to be from a Siberian Orphanage, where my daughter is from.

I can't bear to be spending money on Christmas presents knowing there are so many hundreds of thousands of children in the world without anything to call their own. Of course, I have to buy Anastasia some gifts. I want to, and she would be devastated if I did not. But I've made a deal with myself this year. I am tallying every penny I spend on her and am requiring myself to spend exactly that much on goods for the children in her former orphanage.

I'm also holding a potluck kind of Christmas Eve party and asking all my guests to bring a small toy or hat or mittens that I can ship over there. I remember the orphanage director telling me that they never hear from the families once the children are adopted, yet each one of them promises all kinds of future help. What happened? Did all those families forget about the obvious needs they witnessed there? On our last trip, my brother went with us and bought about $1,000 worth of new shoes that we then brought back to the children at the orphanage. Financially, I couldn't have done that, but I was delighted to be a part of such generosity. And I can give according to my own means. We set up one of the rooms like a little shop-- laid out all the shoes -- and the director let them come in and choose a pair in their size. It was awesome.

Each year I send a small Christmas tree for Anastasia's group, and Christmas candy for the entire orphanage. It costs about $150, but how I can I complain about the cost when I have a roof over my head and food in my belly? And a job?????

I know I'm preaching to the choir - most of you who read my blog are incredibly generous and kind-hearted souls -- but humor me: I don't know who many of the people are who stop by. My stat counter says I get about 50-75 unique visitors a day on average. so I'm speaking to those anonymous lurkers:

Challenge yourself to spend the same amount that you will spend on your family this season on someone less fortunate. If you need ideas, send me a comment & I'll gladly give you lots of ideas! I'm happy to even furnish the address of Anastasia's orphanage as well. There are 100 children living there right now, ages 5-16. They have nothing. Nothing. Let that sink in for a minute.

What if every single person in this country took up this challenge? Think of the joy that would be spread, especially to children like our own who live in all the orphanages of the world? Anyway, if you ask me, they are our children. We need to show them they are loved, even if it's only a toothbrush sent at Christmas. Do something. Don't let this holiday be about materialism and consumerism and me-ism. Look out past your own backyard. Show others what this season is really about. Let it be about love.

Later Edit: Of course I don't mean Christmas is the only time for giving...it's just that at this time of year, it is often the saddest time of year for those who have very little. Always give, throughout the year....but in this Season of Giving, give like you've never given before!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Haves and Have-nots

My job brings me into different schools and treatment facilities, public and private, every few weeks. I love it. I love meeting new students, I love getting children of all ages excited about language. Basically, I adore my job. For the past few months I had been primarily working at a simply amazing private school. It is run on the Montessori method. However, I have worked in many Montessori schools, and this one is by far the most wonderful: exceptional teachers, devoted staff, caring parents, and delightful, engaging students. It is housed in a gorgeous building, filled with light and very peaceful spaces. There is a forest around it, and wonderful, natural outdoor playing spaces. I feel at home there and look forward to being back there in the spring. For the most part, the families that send their children there are blessed financially. But they are also one of the most generous communities I have ever worked in. I work in countless schools. Some I like --some, not so much. However, this winter I have been very fortunate. I'm going from one school I adore, to another.

In many ways, the school I just began working in today is the polar opposite of the above mentioned school. It is public. It is in the inner city. Instead of a forest, it is surrounded by tenement buildings and lots of litter. Instead of a natural playing space, there is a large, cracked asphalt square, fenced in by a broken, rusted chain-link fence. Yes, there are exceptional teachers here too, but many are exhausted and burned out. Their class sizes are more than double that of the above mentioned school. There is a very devoted staff, but no money to implement any programs. There are caring parents, but most of them are single moms who work 2-3 jobs just to pay the rent. And there are the children: delightful and engaging, just like the private school children, but they are colder and hungrier. They come to school without winter jackets and are grateful to eat the free breakfast provided by the school. They all walk home, most all alone, even at six and seven years old. Many go home to an empty apartment, where they will stay alone, until their mom comes home at 6pm. I love this school just as much, if not more.

It's just really interesting to go from one to the other. I wish so much that the kids in this particular public school could have the same advantages the children in the other school have. I always wonder what their futures would be like if they had the same chances. Today, when I arrived, one of the teachers I know well asked if I had any second-hand coats that my daughter wasn't wearing anymore. She had several children in her class with no winter coats. She had already bought a few at the salvation army, but there is a never-ending need at this school. It breaks my heart.

Today, my new students were just as excited to learn as the students in my last school. The only difference is that more than half of them came up to me afterwards to thank me for teaching them. " Yo, you're a good teacher, yo!" I heard from Javier in a very much 'outdoor' voice, " Thanks for comin' here!" And then a shy Vietnamese girl shakes my sleeve, " I want say thank you. I like."

Lots of thank yous. And it's not that the private school children are not thankful. I know they are, but they are used to getting their needs met (as it should be!) It is not a rare thing for them. With these other kids, getting attention, praise and positive feedback is not something they often get. Their moms are busy making ends meet. Their teachers are bogged down by over-enrollment. So, they are grateful for every little bit they get. And they let me know.

Today I just want to express my gratitude to God for giving me these two experiences back to back. The disparity is jarring, but I'm glad I have eyes to see it and can try to lessen it. Tomorrow I will go back to the school with secondhand coats, and books, and hats and gloves. It will level the playing field a bit. It won't solve the problem of poverty that never goes away, but it will make a tiny dent in a few lives.

Please be on the lookout in your own communities for those who currently 'have-not'. They are, but for the grace of God, you and me. They love their children and want good things for them, but they are often working many jobs at minimum wage. It doesn't leave much room for even essentials. They dream of better lives, like we do, but they don't often have the means to make them come true. They are our brothers and sisters. We need to keep our eyes open to their needs. We are God's hands and feet. How lucky we are when we get the chance to share our wealth with others. (And, yes, 'wealth' is a relative term.) The fact that we have anything to give is a testament to our being blessed. We are blessed!

Monday, December 08, 2008

The Rewards of Conscious Parenting

This is a great post. It's about conscious parenting. It goes right to the core of how I try to parent Anastasia every day. And..it works! I love this woman's blog, by the way. I wish she'd post more!

I just got off the phone with my brother Steve who lives down here in Florida, too. He brought up Anastasia and how he couldn't get over the change in her from a year ago. What has changed since then? Homeschooling, more conscious parenting, and medication. I'm assuming the change is the result of all three. As I spend more time parenting this way, it becomes more of a habit...and I do it better.

Anyway, he went so far as to say she was a 'joy' to spend time with this time. My daughter? A joy? That made my day. That made this whole vacation worthwhile. This was one of my brothers who had very obviously backed away in recent years from the 'tornado' that my daughter has been . He only seees her about once a year for a week. He didn't understand RAD and PTSD, he only knew that she was antisocial, mean, defiant, moody, rude...all those wonderful things. But now he gets to see the Anastasia that I have had glimpses of over the years.

I'm really grateful.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

I'm An Itchy Scratchy Swollen Mess...How 'Bout You?

I'm still in Florida. Long story. But I've got this lovely allergic reaction to keep me occupied, (see photo) so don't worry about me getting bored or anything. I have NO idea what it is...but my face, hands and feet are swollen, and I've got this really weird bumpy rash on my face and ears. It feels like sandpaper over most of my face...and it burns. The swelling makes me feel like Violet Beauregard from the Willy Wonka movie. Remember? The one who turns into a giant blueberry? My brother Steve was terrified of her when we were little. He wouldn't eat blueberries for a long time because he was afraid he'd turn into one, too.

Anastasia is really happy to be going home soon. She says she misses the dogs. She is also very excited for the snow. I, on the other hand, am not excited about the snow. It's 78 degrees here. And sunny. Who would willingly give that up? Seriously, I could easily be talked into moving down here right now.

Well, I've got to go lather stuff on this rash. And start the packing process. And watch Desperate Housewives..... nite.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Photos I Found on My Mom's Computer

Now I'm nostalgic after that last post. So, I went family photo hunting to ease the pain. Just found these on my mom's computer and thought I'd post them for posterity. This one was always one of my dad's favorites. It's from 1973. I was eight. It was taken in our kitchen:

This is the whole gang, including my mom and dad. It was a shoot for a news article on my dad when he was Sheriff. That's why he's in a suit. We all went out on my uncle's boat after this. It was a great day...

Here's my grandmother Margaret ( my mom's mom) with me and two of my brothers. Cape Cod, 1974.

Here we are on Mt Kearsage in NH. My mom's dad had built a little camp in the woods that we went to every summer. This is the summer of '75. My dad had a habit of writing on all our family photos. Hence, the names...

I miss those days...

Is This A Mid-Life Crisis?

Torina poured her heart out on her blog, and it got me to thinking about how much I don't post about my own confusion/anxiety/hopelessness. I have this ridiculous need to put on a brave face, go it alone, not ask for help, not share the dark stuff. I'm sure it stems from growing up in an alcoholic home, but c'mon people...I'm 43. It's time to learn a better way. What is wrong with me? Why can't I let my guard down? What's so dangerous? The bogeyman is gone. Why can't I let that sink in?

In my normal daily life it's easy to just keep moving forward and not think about it all, but I've had ten days of vacation and it is bringing up all the crap! Wouldn't you know it? You go away to sunny Florida and imagine sitting by a pool, relaxing, storing up energy for the next 'round'...but that is not what happens.

I have had anxiety-ridden dreams and even some full-blown nightmares every night I have been here. I have woken up in a cold-sweat three times...heart racing...mind careening...full-on total fear of what life holds ahead of me. See, I'm too busy most of the time to allow the fear to get the best of me. I never stop. But here, I have. There are no classes to teach, no dogs to walk, no house to clean, no friends to support, no shopping to do, no bills to pay...none of those things that take up all the hours of each day. And Anastasia is having such a blast with her uncles and cousins and grandmother, that I have even MORE time on my hands. It's surreal. I feel completely out of sorts. I function so much better under pressure.

So, this fear: I'm thinking alot about where I am in life and not feeling good about it. I wanted to be married. Didn't happen. I wanted a houseful of kids. Didn't happen. I wanted to buy my own home. Nope. I wanted to be financially secure. Big no. I wanted to have accomplished more with my work...wanted to get my masters and my Phd. Finances made that impossible years ago. I wanted to have written a book by now. Not even a page to my credit. I wanted to feel like I had made a difference in more lives. I feel my hands tied.

Aside from the things I wanted, there are the deep, heart-wrenching desires that have built up over the years that I agonize over: I want Anya home, and she will likely never be home. How do I live with that? I want my dad alive again, I want my family to be more supportive -- neither of these are going to happen. But the desire for them does not lessen with that knowledge.I want to be healthy again. But, I'm 43. I'm not going to get healthier..I'm going to get older and more things will fall apart. The diabetes will get worse, the PCOS will cause more pain, the arthritis is already debilitating at times...it will only get more so, the trigeminal neuralgia will require surgery..sooner rather than later, the cervical disc damage in my neck has already lost me the full use of my right thumb..and now my fingers are experiencing the same numbness. I won't even think about my weight issue. It's too damn depressing...

And there are the annoying facts of my life that get in the way of really feeling joyful: my horrific school loans that hang over me like a prison sentence, my poor credit (from said school loans) that will keep me from ever owning my own home, my numerous health issues that knock me down each year at the worst possible times, my lack of health insurance and the jealousy I feel of people who have it and take it for granted, the judgemental attitude so many have towards my daughter..not knowing how truly hard she tries just to make it thru this life. I'm sick of it all!

I don't want a sports car or a casual fling or any of those other things that mid-life crisis' bring to mind...but I do want what they stand for: I want to shake things up. I am tired of my life as it is. I want change. I want purpose. I want support. I want to know every day that I am making a difference. I want kindness and genuineness from the people I interact with. I want to tear off this skin I live inside now and create a whole new me. I'm tired of this one. She's fat and sad and lonely and scared and insecure and overwhelmed and underpaid and a workaholic and anxiety-ridden. I'm ready to trade up. I want the new model. I want to start over and get it right this time.
The photo is of me at ten. I just found it on my mom's computer.That's the first year I became aware of things not going the way they should. If only I could go back to that day in 1975. A do-over. We should all get one chance at a do-over. Don't you think?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Alive and Well in Tornado-Ville

Just a quick post to let everyone know we are alive. It's so strange not to be posting every day. I miss it. However, the computer here must have been built sometime in the last century...it is slower than the U.S. mail. I am only braving it for this one post because I've gotten emails asking what happened to me. I thought I was clear in my last post that we'd be away..lol. But it's nice to be missed, so I won't complain!

So here is what we've been up to: Thanksgiving with my entire family (including a surprise visit from my brother Jim and his family who are stationed overseas.) We also hit Seaworld and the Magic Kingdom, and hope to go to Epcot this week. We survived a near tornado...really! One touched down in the community we are staying in, and the wind was amazing! It was like being in a really intense nor'easter at home. Lastly, God put a little rescue mission on our agenda. We went out to dinner with the entire family on Sunday, and when we came out, Anastasia found a stray cat begging for food just outside the restaurant door. It was really skinny and was crying, which of course got Anastasia crying. The staff told us she had been 'dumped' there a week ago, and that no shelters would take her because they were over-full. My mom refused to take her home, but -- thank God-- my brother Dan relented and let us bring her back to his house. Here is 'Olive', so named because we found her at the local Olive Garden Restaurant.

We brought Olive home, under strict orders that she stay only 24 hours while we try to find her a family. We fed her and held her and gave her as much love as possible that whole night. We checked with animal control to make sure she was not lost. We posted info about her on the community noticeboard, and I took her to the vets yesterday. It turns out she is 6-8 months old, and very healthy. She weighs less than 6 pounds and is very tiny, though you can't tell from the photo. She looks menacing in the picture, only because she was afraid of my flash and blinked! She is a really sweet cat, house-trained, and only wanting lots of love. My brother consented to one more night, and tonight I am paying to have her stay at the Vet Hospital. We've had one person contact us about her, and I soooo hope she decides to take her. The ASPCA is a kill shelter, and I just cannot bear the thought of her being euthanized. I've spent the past three days trying to find a home for her..and spent all our vacation money in the process..lol. Anyway, please pray that the right family takes her in before Anastasia and I have to leave.

Hope everyone reading this is well. Anastasia is doing remarkably well. The medication has obviously made travelling less anxiety-provoking for her. Every single family member commented on the change. There is always a bit of trangulation that goes on when she is around my brothers, but I'm making sure to have ample cuddle-time morning and night to remind her I am her mom!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Tornado Warning

So, there is a tornado warning in effect right now, here in central Florida. Two tornadoes have touched down a few miles away. I've never been here during a tornado warning. It's pretty surreal. Some internal house alarm keeps going off and reminding us that the warning is in effect. The wind is whipping around the house, and the rain pouring into the porch, sideways. It's actually pretty cool. Anastasia is hiding in the guest room watching Lord of the Rings. She doesn't like entertaining the idea of a tornado. It conjures up images of witches and houses falling for her. She'd rather hibernate and immerse herself in Middle Earth until the wind stops. I've been standing on the porch watching the weather do its' thing. If I only listen, it's like being home in Massachusetts during a nor'easter. I love the sound of the wind howling. There is something very primal about it.

Anyway, this computer is so very slow it was only today that I had the patience to use it. I've already reached my limit after one paragraph! I miss blogging. I miss reflecting about our life and chronicling it each day. I feel like I'm kind of floating in space without it -- no anchor, if that makes sense. The trip has been a mixed bag for both of us. There are alot of heavy drinkers in my family, of which I am not one. It's hard to watch the disappointment get the best of my daughter, with uncles choosing nightly binge drinking over spending time with her. She cried all the way to Target last night about it. She is confused and sad, and I don't blame her. If only they could see the pain they are causing. I'm done with talking about it. It does no good. If they only knew how one or two hours of their time and attention would feed her. She craves it and feels so unworthy when they ignore her. 'Mom, they don't call me anymore, they don't try to hug or kiss me. They don't hardly look at me..." was some of the conversation last night. I wish I could take the pain from her.

One a better note, her relationship with my mom has grown and deepened. My mom is giving her attention and support and they are spending time talking and playing games. I'm so grateful. Anyway, apologies for the depressing post. I'm pretty down this week. My family is so distant these days, and their priorities are very different from mine.

I'll likely delete this post later, but for now I needed to speak this. I needed to acknowledge that things are not great and I'm praying for eyes to be opened. Anastasia deserves the attention, love and support from all of my family. If only they knew how much pain their indifference and broken promises cause this damaged little girl. They have the power to be part of her healing. I want them to make that choice.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Florida, Here We Come...

I'm not sure if I'll have access to a working computer while we're away. My mom's is so slow that I'd rather experience chinese water torture than use it. So, if I can't post till December 8th, my heartfelt apologies. I'm hoping I'll find a good internet cafe. I think there's one at DisneyQuest, if I remember correctly.

Just to satisfy your curiosity, here's what we plan on doing: eat lots of turkey, rummage thru my dad's files, lounge by the pool, take long walks in the woods, ride bikes, swim, and, of course, visit the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, MGM studios, and Animal Kingdom. (Don't worry, one of my brothers works for Disney, so we can get in free.)

There are miles of trails in the town where my mom lives, and we often see alligators on our walks! We've also seen owls, hawks, wild boar, deer, strange birds that are taller than me, snakes, armadillos, and all kinds of other 'critters.' Anastasia is both scared and exhilarated by these encounters. I'll make sure our camera is with us this time!

Hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving!

(and Happy 74th Birthday , Dad!)

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Joys of Living with an ESL Learner

Anastasia says things that crack me up every day. I just forget to write them down. The slip-ups with English are getting more scarce, so I want to jot down a few recent ones while they are still in my head. I am dreading the day when these mistakes don't happen anymore!

Of course the best ones happened when she was just learning English. Like 'Chicken tree' for "trick or treat' and 'condom' for condo. I loved the look at my mom's face when Anastasia asked to go to her 'condom' sometime..lol. Anyway, here are a few from the past 2-3 weeks:

"Mom, you crap me up." (And I thought I was being funny...)

"Mom, can I get plastic surgery? I'm really subconscious about my boobs." (self explanatory)

"Mom, you are getting on my last straw. Leave me alone!" (She gets last straw and last nerve confused all the time...adorable)

"B always has a ship on his shoulder." (that must hurt.)

"He's just playing the devil's avatar." (Could she be watching too much of a certain cartoon? She meant to say advocate, of course.)

If you have any to share from your own kids, I'd love to hear them!

Thanksgiving and Giving Thanks... For You, Dad

(Photo: taken at my parent's home last Thanksgiving: l-r my cousin Nora, brother Steve, me, my SIL Jana, and "Captain" my uncle and godfather.)

Anastasia and I are heading to Florida for two weeks. (Yay frequent flyer miles!) We'll be visiting my mom and having Thanksgiving with her and at least two of my brothers. It will be the first Thanksgiving without Captain, my uncle and godfather, who died of cancer in February. It will be strange, as he had become the patriarch of the family since my Dad died two years previously. I miss both of them so very much.

Thanksgiving usually falls on my Dad's birthday, too, so it was (and still is) always a very special holiday in our family. As bittersweet as it is, I'm still looking forward to going, because it has been over a year since I've had the time to visit there. And I love to poke around my dad's office and library. He was a writer, among many other things, and we still have file cabinets and desk drawers full to the brim with his notes, story ideas, research, etc. I even found his high school diary on my last visit while hunting around in his papers. It was so fun to read! My dad kept notes on his life starting when he was about ten. I probably know his childhood better than my own. He had just finished a book on his childhood when he died. He had been working on it on and off for a decade. My brother and I had hoped to get it edited and to the publisher by now, but life has gotten in the way.

My dad never met Anastasia. But he had been ready for her. He had a photo of her next to his bed, a closet full of gifts wrapped and ready for her, and even a nickname. " I'm calling her Annie, whether she likes it or not." was what he had said. He had loved the Little Orphan Annie cartoons when he was growing up, and that, he said, was why he would be calling her Annie. I told him she may not like it, but his answer was " Well, she'll get used to it." Anyway, it was not to be. He died on Father's Day, three weeks after I brought her home. We had plans to fly down the following week to see him. Instead, she met him when he was lying in his coffin on the very day she was meant to meet him in Florida. At the wake, she put a dollar in his pocket and a green apple by his side. She told me ( in Russian) it was in case he got hungry on the trip to heaven.

His death was actually the first experience of bonding I had with my daughter. For those first three weeks home she was the poster child for RAD, and I could not get within a few feet of her without being hit, pushed, scratched or otherwise abused. Emotionally, it was the same story. She would not let me in. But when my dad died, I fell apart. I mean, I really fell apart. I guess seeing me so vulnerable struck a chord with her. She reached out to me, in her own way, by being a little more tolerant of me. She even held my hand the day of the funeral, which was a huge victory to me. Of course, she did this in private. Once we were in public view, she took that hand right back.

So, in many ways, my earliest memories of my daughter are forever linked with my grief at losing my Dad. When I think of her coming home, it is all tied in with picking out his coffin, and choosing the right burial plot, and writing his eulogy. I am glad she was there for such a defining moment of my life. She feels close to my dad because of it. She talks to him before she goes to sleep at night. She asks him advice. She dreams of him. I even found an old photo of him hidden inside her pillow once. And I know, somehow, he hears her. They would have been best buddies. They were, by everyone's account, two peas in a pod. My Dad was tough, opinionated, gutsy, rebellious, and boy did he love to stir things up. He would tell others exactly what he thought of them, no matter how dangerous that might be at times. He sucked the marrow out of life. And he never, ever stopped asking questions. His granddaughter was cut from the same mold.

I remember someone meeting Anastasia after she had been home a few months. I don't remember who it was now, but I do remember it was an old family friend. After meeting her they quipped, " Geez, you went half way around the world to find a kid and you came home with your father!"

That's the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Just Do It

Take a moment, right now, to just breathe and empty your mind of every worry.

Remind yourself that everything is ok. Remind yourself that you are loved by someone.

Remind yourself that you matter.

Step out of your present circumstances and know that 'all shall be well'.

God holds you in His hands. He will not let you fall.

There...now isn't that better?

Friday, November 21, 2008

To the Hundreds of Pro-Gun Men From Ar15.com Currently Reading My Blog

So, some man decided it would be fun to post my profile and blog address over on a very pro-gun, pro-hate, anti-everything I stand for website and forum. They had great fun picking apart my profile and making fun of it. It sent literally hundreds of these guys to my site. I went to statcounter and suddenly I had over one hundred hits in less than thirty minutes.

I momentarily got scared and put my blog on private mode. Then I thought, what the heck am doing? Many of the men on that site talk about defending rights and the right to this, and the right to that ( that is, mingled in with all the hate and anti-gay stuff they are posting.) Anyway, if they really are as 'American' as they say they are on that forum, then they should be my biggest supporters in my right to post whatever I want to here on MY blog.

So, to all you guys who have been having a laugh at my expense, I hope you'll acknowledge that in defending your rights so vehemently on your site, you are, in turn, defending mine. Yes, I choose to blog about kindness and caring for others weaker than I, and about things you deem to be "hippie crap". You seemed particularly bothered by my profile stating I "look up to Gandhi and MLK." I hope you will allow me the very 'American' privilege of "agreeing to disagree."

Although it was upsetting to read posts with so many of you degrading and poking fun at my beliefs, I support your right to do so. I hope that you'll leave me in peace now and move on from this bit of 'fun' you had. I write this blog to support other moms like me. I am a single adoptive mom whose daughter lived through 12 years of hell before she came to me. I'm doing everything I can to help her to become a good person. I may seem like a 'hippie' to you ( that was one of the nicer sentiments anyway...) but I , like you, am far more complicated than a profile.

if it helps you to feel less bothered by me, I come from a family of veterans. One of my brothers currently serves, and I, like you, am indebted to him and others like him who defend our country. But remember, they are defending ALL of us...me included, and all those inalienable rights that we all enjoy as Americans.

Hope you will leave me in peace.

Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control...The Answer To So Many of Life's Problems!

For those of you who are a Heather Forbes' groupie like me, do you ever imagine what the world would be like if everyone read her books and lived the BCLC mindset? I know I may be sounding a bit naive here, but I do think about that, alot. You see, Heather and Bryan (Post) have not only transformed my relationship with my daughter, they have transformed my relationship with the world. It is impossible to practice their methods and not see a marked difference with how I interact with the world, and how the world, in turn, responds to me.

I also practice Heather's methods in my classes. Yes, sometimes I am working with at-risk children, RAD children, PTSD-diagnosed children. But most often, lately, I am in your typical public and private school classrooms. I choose to interact with every child using what I have learned from BCLC. Not only do I notice the difference, but so do the children.....and their parents.

'How are you so patient with them? I would be pulling my hair out!' said one parent this week after observing my class of ultra-rowdy 2nd and 3rd graders.

' You seem to honestly love them and connect with them on such an authentic level. How do you give them such focused attention without going crazy?' asked another just last night.

I want to start carrying copies of the book around with me so, in such instances, I can just pass it on to others. I want them to know it is simply a shift in perception, really. A willingness to be fully present and, for me, it has much to do with being willing to face my own crap. Yup. I've found that eighty percent of what I do that is different now, is simply getting my own past out of the way -- recognizing my own triggers and fears that get in the way of truly connecting with other human beings. Believe it or not, it has even helped me with my landlord and my oil company! Instead of being on the defensive when I get a call about an overdue bill, I listen. I take it in, and respond with truth and kindness. (Kindness solves a multitude of problems, surprisingly.)

I so want to go to one of Heather's seminars and learn to be a practitioner. I know I will someday. I believe in her method so much, and I believe it is the answer in so many other spheres as well -- not just with RAD kids.

If you are a new visitor to my blog, the book I am speaking of is here. Go read it if you haven't. I want to remember to post more about Heather's book, because it is the single most important influence on my daughter's and my life. (Well, besides God and prayer.) I just take it for granted often, because I've been practicing it for three years now. Time to be grateful again, and pass it on!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Transitions and Nightmares and Hugs...Oh My!

Anastasia had a nightmare last night. It's been awhile, but I knew it was coming. Whenever we approach a new transition, the nightmares come: Start of school? A week of nightmares. End of Grammy's visit? three days of nightmares. Vacation coming up? One nightmare and counting.

Next week Anastasia and I head to Florida to visit my mom and two of my brothers. Nothing delights her more than going to Florida, but the anxiety of the transition there is always really tough for her. The first sign of trouble is the mania. Lots of silliness, laughing, goofing off. Then a need for extra cuddling on the hour. Finally, the nightmares. They are always the same theme: the orphanage, physical abuse, and my abandoning her.

This one bears the telling, as some of you might have insight into what is going in in that little head. Ok, in her dream, she was back at the orphanage and the staff was chasing after her and trying to beat her. She decides to hide outside, and stands still in a garden, pretending to be a plant. The staff runs right by her not seeing her, but there is a very old woman sitting on a couch outside in the snow. She has a lamp there, too, but no walls or anything. She lives outside. She stares at Anastasia for "hours" and finally Anastasia can't be still anymore, and takes a breath. The old woman sees her and says " Ahh! I knew you weren't really a plant!" Anastasia is terrified that the woman will tell the staff about her, but the woman says she is very lonely and if Anastasia will be her friend, she won't tell the staff her whereabouts. Suddenly I am there at the orphanage, and Anastasia runs to me crying saying she missed me and hugs me tight. She thinks she is going home, but then I tell her I have things to do, and I leave her there and fly home alone. Somehow the staff come back, and she runs and hides in the orphanage basement, curls up in a corner and sobs. She wakes up crying (in real life) and calls to me...

Of course I listen and help her to process it. I remind her that she is never going back to the orphanage, and that I would never leave her. She asks me to hug her really tight. She says "My awake mind knows you would never do that, but my sleeping mind still thinks you could."

Then, out of nowhere: "Mom? Am I a bad person? I feel like a bad person on the inside."

"What makes you feel like a bad person?" I ask.

"I don't want to visit Anya in Russia. I'm scared. I don't want to see her again until she is living here. It's too hard. I'm a bad sister."

Now, we have no immediate plans to visit Anya. We simply don't have the funds right now. But somehow, I think this trip to Florida is connected in her mind with not going to Russia.

Then she adds, " Mom, I think part of this dream was about baby Ariella. I let my heart love her and then she was gone. I don't like that feeling. It feels empty in my heart. I think that old lady in my dream is me wanting Ariella back."

So, Ariella gets mixed up with Anya feelings that gets mixed up with Russia feelings that, in turn, are somehow connected to Florida (travelling, I guess.)

I hold her and run my fingers thru her hair and we talk and talk, and hug and hug, until she finally seems regulated. Suddenly, she is ok, and goes off to work on her puzzle. At the door, she turns to speak to me:

'Mom, just so you know, if I die in that plane crashing on the way to Florida next week, I love you more than anything in the whole universe."

Well, we obviously still have more to work through.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The World As Our Classroom

As you know, school has been a rough ride for Anastasia. For whatever reason, it causes her huge anxiety which nothing will relieve. Even with medication nothing changed. Yes, some of it is due to the trauma of abuse she suffered at school in Russia. School was not a safe place. In fact, some of her most vivid memories of abuse are from school. One example: She was beaten pretty badly once for stealing food from the school kitchen. Children from the orphanage were not allowed to have school food, as there was no money for it. They did, however, have to watch all the other children from the village eat at school. But they were expected to wait until they returned to the orphanage for dinner. She told me one day she was just too angry and too hungry to wait, so she snuck into the kitchen to steal what she could. She was caught and not only beaten, but reported to the orphanage, where she was beaten a second time.

Anyway, I'm sure you can see why school is considered unsafe territory. Believe me, I've tried. Her teachers have tried, the guidance counselors and social workers have tried, certain teachers have gone above and beyond trying. Still, she is full of anxiety every time she walks thru the door, and no interventions, medication, supports, or modifications have worked. So, we find ourselves homeschooling/unschooling again. It is astounding how open she is to learning when she is in what she considers a 'safe environment' -- home. She is a voracious learner when she feels safe and not on guard. Her favorite thing to do is make up math problems that are too hard for me to solve, so that she must teach me the answer. She learns well by teaching. She especially loves to learn about different cultures.

In late February I have a long break from teaching - four weeks off. We have been discussing what to do with this time. The other day I presented her with the idea of travelling to a place she'd like to learn about. I would want it to be a working/learning vacation -- not just a sit-on-your-butt kind of thing. She surprised me with a wish to go to Africa! We began researching volunteer abroad programs for families and found a great one that a friend of mine has used before. We started learning all we could, and contacted them for more information on their Tanzanian program. It is three to four weeks long and includes working with infants at an orphanage, going on safari, staying with a Maasai tribe for a few days, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro (part way), and even a side trip to Zanzibar. Anastasia was very excited to learn that she was old enough to volunteer and could work in the local orphanage. She loves the idea of helping out with other orphans in some small way. So, we are seriously looking into this. I've travelled a great deal, and Anastasia has been to Germany, France and the Czech Republic with me, as well as a return trip to Siberia. She is an excellent traveller and has no problem roughing it. In fact, all of her best qualities seem to come out when we travel.

Of course, the only issue is money. She has saved close to $2,000 in the bank, but I need to find a way to come up with $2,000 more. If I take on just one more class per week, I should be able to manage. Plus, I'd be motivated to save for such a trip. I'm great at cutting corners, so I'll just do more of that. I'll keep you posted on our plan. I definitely want us to go somewhere in that block of time. If Africa is her first choice, I will find a way to make that happen. I've always wanted to go, but I never though she'd be interested. I also never imagined it'd be affordable, but doing a service program cuts out the cost of hotel, food and transportation! I'm excited! Tanzania is a gorgeous country, and I have a good friend who used to live there. If you've ever been there, let me know!