‘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

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Are You There God? It's Me, Keri

Nothing can dilute this sadness today. It is an all-encompassing sadness. For my daughter. For all the mother-less daughters and sons left behind in her orphanage. For her sister, alone and waiting for her government to care enough to set her free. For disrupted children. For children holding out a hope for a family that will never manifest. For the tiny infants I saw tied to their cribs in Baby Home #2 in that forgotten Siberian village. For the children in our fractured and dysfunctional foster care system. For the orphaned street children of Moscow and Port-au-Prince and Phnom Penh.

Some days the immense sorrow that exists in our world, in the hearts of millions of children, just hits me, hard, and I weep and weep and weep.

When I'm this sad, there are only three things that are a balm at all. First is making a difference: sending a care package, collecting items to send, calling Anya to offer her support. And then there is prayer and poetry. They both help me.

This is the poem that helped me today. It is by one of my very favorite poets, Rainer Rilke. This translation is the best one I've ever found. I thought I would pass it on, as a gift to all of you that grieve today, too.

by Rainer Maria Rilke

How shall I hold my soul, that it may not
be touching yours? How shall I lift it then
above you to where other things are waiting?
Ah, gladly would I lodge it, all-forgot
with some lost thing the dark is isolating
on some remote and silent spot that, when
your depths vibrate, is not itself vibrating.

You and me — all that lights upon us, though
brings us together like a fiddle-bow
drawing one voice from two strings it glides along.
Across what instrument have we been spanned?
And what violinist holds us in his hand?
O, sweetest song.

Friday, January 30, 2009

RAD and the Prevalence of Disruptions

I've been quite sad lately, learning of yet more disruptions in the world of older child adoption. It devastates me. Don't get me wrong -- I do not judge any parents who decide to disrupt. I am just so incredibly sad for the children. Something needs to be done about the number of disruptions that occur in this country. Pre-adoptive parents are not being properly prepared or informed of their child's potential needs. I wasn't. Not one parent I know who adopted an older child was prepared in any way for what was to come. This should not be.

I know that parents of older adopted children are wary to post too many negatives on chatboards, forums, etc, for fear of scaring pre-adoptive parents, but this is not fair or just. Even adoption magazines and other media shy away from the truth. I have submitted a few articles to adoptive magazines concerning RAD and the difficult first few months home with an older adopted child -- I was politely informed that my words weren't 'appropriate" for their venue. They were too "graphic" and if I could write a more "upbeat" piece on older child adoption, they would be more inclined to publish it.

Children coming from institutionalized care, however "ready" they may seem, are traumatized. Even if they did not experience the severe abuse and neglect my daughter did, they did not receive adequate care by any means. They are bringing with them a litany of fears, sorrows, challenges, concerns and significant needs that most parents are not equipped to deal with. Even the most prepared, experienced parents will experience a long adjustment period with an older IA child. If only every parent truly understood the potential issues they'd be facing, disruptions might be less prevalent.

Anyway, there is so much I want to say about this subject, but it's too much for one post. I just needed to vent a bit. Every time I read of another disruption, my heart aches. I want to find a way to do what I can to help prevent them. I've read of so many lately, it is making me feel a sense of urgency about finding a way to help. I know many of you feel the same way.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Dear God, When Will It End?

My mom just called from Florida to tell me she saw on the news that another storm is on the way to New England. I've already had two snow days -- no school -- due to two storms this week. My car is glued to my driveway thanks to a rare snowstorm-rainstorm-freezing temp combination. The dogs refuse to go outside and have resorted to sneaking into the basement to do their business. And even the mailman has abandoned us this week because our walkway is literally a mini-ice rink. What is going on????

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Outing Myself As The Shakespeare Geek I Am

That's me. It's ok to laugh. It makes me laugh. I'm wearing what is called a wimple. (Think the Nurse in Romeo & Juliet.) I won't bore you with a wimple definition - you can read up on it yourself if you're so inclined.

Anyway, many of you have asked me about my work -- most recently when I answered your, umm, flurry of questions of late. (I do love sarcasm.)

So, I thought I'd post the link to my website for a few days. I hope I'm not making a grave mistake! I do value our privacy, but I also want to humor the handful of you who might truly be interested in what I do. So.... here it is!

Edit 1/29/09: I've taken down the link due to one nasty comment about my "not caring about my daughter's privacy", but I am happy to provide the link to any of my blogging buddies -- just send me a comment with your email address. I'll send the link and then delete your comment :)

I'll take it down in a few days, but for now feel free to venture forth into Shakespeare land and feel privileged to be in on the (until-now) secret life of FaerieMama.

I can't take credit for the website -- my friend Christine created it --but it does give you a pretty good idea of what I do and how and where I do it. I love the photos. You can go to the alumni page and read about some of my famous and almost-famous students :)

I am a bit paranoid, so I may take this down sooner than later. You can always send me a comment requesting the link later on, once I take it down. If I like you, I might just send it on!


I was just getting out of the shower moments ago. I didn't realize Anastasia had come in to use the toilet. I opened the curtain in all my middle-aged nakedness to find my daughter there, and she looks me up and down with a big smirk on her face and says,

"Helloooooo...........(long pause).............YOU!"

I'm still laughing.

Maybe you had to be there :)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Your Questions Answered

Here they are! The answers to your burning questions! Actually, only two lurkers wrote. Everyone else is one of my longtime blogger buddies - and I'm even more grateful for you today!

Kristina P. asked "I've been curious to hear if it's harder to adopt as a single woman? " I had heard it was from adoption boards and chatrooms, but I didn't find it difficult in the least. My SW did want to make sure I had a nice support network, and the Russian judge queried me about being single. I thankfully got her to laugh by asking if she knew any available single Russian men in the vicinity. Other than that, I didn't run into any problems, or even many questions!

Torina asked "Ooh! Fun! My question is, how do you work and home/unschool? I am not questioning you in a negative way, just in a way of hmmm, I wonder how I can do this, too, way. Also, have you seen any progression in your foster care journey? As to unschooling, it has proven easier than when I sent her to school! My schedule changes every month, so that means our home learning does, too. I guess the best way to explain is to talk about what we are doing this month:

Me: up at 6am for shower & last minute house cleaning
7:30am Leave for work.
7:45-10am teach
10:10am home, wake up Anastasia
10:30-12:30 learning may or may not happen
12:30-2:30pm teach
2:40: home: learning may happen from 2:40pm on.
10:10am or thereabouts, begrudgingly gets up
May do any of the following: read, knit, bake, create a lego sculpture, organize her room, work on her scrapbook, make an online movie with her imac, create soundtracks (cool imac thing), paint, do science experiments from one of her cool chemistry or physics books, build a snowfort, do math problems online, watch Planet Earth and then quiz me (she loves doing this), cut her hair (lol), play with the dogs outside in the yard...you get the picture.
10:30-12:30, she will do some of these things with me.
Then from 12:30-2:30 she is home alone. Being 16, she has that luxury. I am 3 minutes away by car, and have my phone with me at all times, but she has only called me once all year when I was at work, when she had a migraine. I came home right away.
After school hours, she will go in search of kids in the neighborhood to play in the snow. She loves snow. I have to remind her to come in!

After Feb 5th, I have four weeks off, and we are already planning what to do. During weeks I do not work, we usually go into Boston for the day, or visit friends, or find things to do locally. Some things we've done during my time off: gone camping, visited relatives, take the dogs to the beach & build winter sandcastles, go museum-hopping, go antiqueing (she hated it), go on mystery rides (see where the car ends up), visit the library, the local wolf sanctuary (yes, there is one!), go on a scavenger hunt, etc, etc.

Hope this gives you an idea! We live very spontaneously, which would not work for everyone. I like that my schedule changes so often. Life is never boring that way!

As for fostering. ....grrr..... I still cannot reach the woman in charge at DSS. Her line rings non-stop on weekends and after 5pm weekdays, and then is busy non-stop from 8am-5pm weekdays. It is infuriating. As for the Ariella fostering situation, I'll be answering that below....

Diana asked "Have you heard more about being able to parent baby Ariella?" Get ready to be shocked. I heard from my friend J yesterday that N, the mom, moved home again, and both Ariella and her sister are out of emergency foster care and back in the home. Yup. You heard right. They were returned to the parents who consistently leave them home alone and do not feed them or show them any nurturing at all. I give up. The SW didn't even have the decency to call me and let me know.

Ashley asks "I'm a lurker- I may follow now that you know I'm here...Have you a favourite Shakespeare play? Yes! "The Winter's Tale." I know it's not his best work in many ways, but the story of redemption and forgiveness makes it incredibly powerful to me. And the magical story of a statue coming back to life doesn't hurt either!

hippymummy has asked "Brilliant idea! Here's one...The camp that you run each summer, could you tell me about this? As an English mum we don't have summer camps here....."
Well, I started it twenty years ago, with just me and a group of twelve students. I now have a staff of about sixteen and enrollment capped at about 120 last year. Children aged 6-18 come and participate in a number of month-long programs, all culminating in Shakespeare performances at the end. We have an outdoor stage at a simply magical location on the ocean, surrounded by willow trees and a two-hundred year old lighthouse. I look forward to the summer all year long, even though it means a sixty hour work week for me!

MimiX asked " I like reading about your daughters journey from Russia. Like her, I was adopted from Russia and I am interested in hearing about other adoption stories. Actually, I have thought of a question. It is random, but is your daughter fluent in Russian? Are you?"
Anastasia is still fluent, though she is starting to forget a few words here and there. The three girls who were adopted at the same time as she was from the orphanage have all lost their Russian entirely. I fought to keep Anastasia fluent. I think speaking to her sister every few weeks helps to keep her current with it. As for me, I have never been fluent but could speak what I'd call "kindergarten Russian" when I adopted her. Translation : I could make myself understood, but was not very articulate! I can still speak very basic Russian, but I understand it much better than I speak it.

And finally, brenkachicka asked "If you could only give one piece of advice to a mom with an adopted from foster care at 13 months three year old who clearly shows signs of RAD but cannot find any professionals who believe her, and does not get any kind of therapy, what would that advice be? "
Wow. What an amazing question. First I would tell her to trust what her gut is telling her. Of course a mom will know better than the professionals if her child has RAD. Then I would simply tell her to act "as if". If your child did indeed have RAD, what would you do? Then do those things: co-sleeping, lots of intense attachment parenting, allow regression, love unconditionally, and everything else I mention in this post. For me, keeping myself completely available to her is the most important choice I've made. No matter how frustrating it gets, I make sure I drop whatever I'm doing when she needs face time, cuddles, rocking or what have you. I know I can't do that forever, but for now I know it's right.

I'm Home With The Flu, And Cabin Fever Is Setting In

I woke up with the flu. Went to work at 7:30am and was told to "go home and get better." Guess I looked pretty bad.

So, I'm home with a 102 temp, feeling like crap, but bored out of my mind. I've taken to reading all my old spam mail -- you know, forwards and things sent by my students, mostly. One of them said to go to my seventh photo folder and choose the seventh photo therein and write about it. Ok...

Scary, huh? Don't worry, these aren't real witches. Just a few of my Shakespeare students before a performance of Macbeth. This was taken July 2007.

On another note, I only got seven questions from my desperate attempt to cull out the lurkers among you. Oh well. I'll answer them and post later today. So much for the whole 'question the blogger' idea. At least I tried!

Off to puke and then back to bed...lol.

Ps: Did you know Shakespeare coined the word 'puke'? Yup.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Shhh.....I'm Stealing Torina's Idea

Torina's blog is one of my very favorites. I know I'm not alone. She's honest, funny, and talks about whatever is going on - ovaries and all..lol. I read her every day. Well, except on the days she doesn't write, and then I'm just grumpy all day.

Anyway, Torina has been taking questions from her readers and answering them in a series of posts. I have LOVED reading them. And I realized I always have questions I want to ask my blogging friends, but never do! So then I thought, hey, maybe people have some questions for me? So, I'm opening up the phone lines...ask away.

It actually works out perfectly, because I'll be insanely busy this week and unable to really put the time into posting, and answering questions will take less time - knock on wood.

So, you can post your question in a comment & I'll cut & paste them all into a post. (I don't think Torina will mind my 'borrowing'. Torina?) I'd love to hear from lurkers. It seems I have many, and I wonder what they're thinking! I'll allow anonymous comments for this, as some might want to ask questions but aren't ready to be 'out'!

And my last bit of advice, go to Matroyshka's blog and add her to your reader. I don't understand why she only has three followers when her blog is so awesome. I love reading about Jupiter, and I'm ever envious of their life in Maine! Do yourself a favor and read her. I'm hoping she gets a camera one of these days and posts some photos of herself and Jupiter. I'll keep my fingers crossed!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Hoarding, Gorging And Other RAD Food Issues We've Encountered

I was reading one of Cj's posts today, about her son's food issues & it got me to thinking about Anastasia's which I've never really talked about.

When I adopted her in May 2005, she was twelve and a half years old and weighed only 72 pounds. During the required medical exam in Moscow, I was in the room and was shocked to see all her ribs perfectly defined under her skin. She was so very tiny. That was the first time I had seen her undressed.

When we were first out in public in Russia, she was very tentative with food at first. She was very undecided when we ate out in restaurants, but if we took her to a shop, she would buy whatever she could and then hide it when we got back to the hotel. One of mymost vivid memories was when we were leaving Kemerovo to fly to Moscow. She had a long string of sausages around her neck. I told her she could not take them on the plane with her. Being the great delegater she is, she first tried to talk my brother into taking them for her. I explained that they would not allow any of us to wear a sausage necklace onto the plane, and suggested she leave them in the tiny room fridge for the hotel staff. But hours later , as I added one last forgotten thing to my suitcase, there were the string of sausages, neatly packed and hidden under all a layer of clothes.

Once home, the gorging started. I had read about it, and I spoke to her doctor about it early on. He suggested I just let her find her own way with food, and not to limit her or she might overcompensate. Even with that tiny 72 pound frame, she managed to eat an entire bunch of bananas (6) in one sitting that first morning. Then, later that week, it was an entire crate of clementines. Where was this food hiding in her little body? Thankfully, she had little interest in sweets and junk food. She wanted fruit. The more the better.

She slowly stopped gorging after the first six months, but still continued to gain weight steadily. She still tended to check the fridge twenty times a day, just to make sure there was food available to her. For the first year home, she would pack extra food to bring with her whenever she left the house. Her school backpack was loaded with snacks she would never eat. Just having them made her feel safe.

The biggest downturn occurred during the first month of seventh grade. The nurse at her school wrote me a letter about her concern for Anastasia's weight gain. She weighed 110. At 5'1". Not a problem in my book. I went and spoke to her in person, reminding her Anastasia was in her normal weight range and that her doctor and I were handling her food issues.

This lovely nurse obviously did not like my answer. Later that week, she called my daughter into her office and, in front of other students, told her she was fat and needed to lose weight! Like any good mother, I stormed into that school, went to her office, slammed the door behind me and threatened her and shamed her in every way I could think of. " You are NEVER to speak to my daughter again. EVER. Understand?" That was how I ended the conversation.

Now, you might think that was harsh, but you didn't experience Anastasia's devastating reaction to this name-calling. When I picked her up at school early that day (they had called for me to pick her up at lunch, because she was 'uncontrollable.') She got in the car and started banging her head against the window as hard as she could. I had to pull over to make her stop. She was hysterical and crying. At home she ran to her room and locked the door. When I picked the lock, she was in there tearing her clothes off and threatening to kill herself. "I hate America! America made me fat! I'm fat! I'm ugly. I want to die!" she screamed. How could an adult, in a position on power over a child KNOWN to have issues, known to lash out - how could this woman make such a stupid choice?

It took weeks for Anastasia to recover from this incident. She refused to go back to school for several days, try as I might to get her there. I arranged a meeting with the head of school and made sure she understood that this nurse was to have NO contact with my daughter anymore. Not only had she told my daughter she was fat, she did this in front of two other children, and poked her in the belly. This was witnessed by two other 7th graders . "Geez, you're really packing on the pounds there, Anastasia.." were the words she chose to use with my daughter that day. How this woman ever got a job at a school I'll never know.

Anastasia starved herself for days afterwards . I met with her doctor, and consulted with therapists. I begged, I pleaded. Finally, within a few weeks, she had settled down, but to this day she still recounts this story with tears, even though it happened over two years ago.

Food issues still remain, but Anastasia doesn't hoard food in her room anymore. She does, however, still have a very difficult time monitoring her own food intake. She eats healthy, but more than she should. When she is overeating, I will suggest that maybe what she really needs is some love, and most times she will accept a twenty-minute cuddle instead of eating three bananas in a row. It's a slow process. I think it's more important that I be sensitive to her feelings than insist she eat only what I allow. It may take longer, but it's less stressful for her.

The stress of school caused alot of emotional eating. Now that we are unschooling, food has become less of an issue. She is more aware of what she is eating, and she's more likely to limit her intake. She knows now that her metabolism was used to working in starvation mode, and now that she is eating normally, her body needed time to adjust. She is at 135 now, and perhaps needs to lose a few pounds to be at an ideal weight healthwise, but I am not worried. Her emotional health is so much more important right now. She will have a lifetime to learn how to manage her eating, and she is learning.

Funny side note: while I was typing this, Anastasia came in and asked if we could make a trip to the Russian food store, a few towns over. She didn't even know I was writing about food issues...lol. So, that's where we're headed. We haven't been in over a month. I know she will purchase pickled tomatoes, sausages, pelmeni, halva (a pate made from sunflower seeds), cyliodka (a kind of big, smoked sardine), condensed milk, and dark russian bread. If she makes an effort to speak Russian to the shop owners, she may get a special treat. They usually treat her with russian candy or blini or something sweet if she uses Russian with them. They are as determined as I am to keep her fluent. I'm glad for the help.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

In The Bleak Midwinter

On these bitter days of winter, I always think back to midsummer. I fill my mind with green and warm and light, to get me through these icy-white and unforgiving days. When I think back to last summer, my mind immediately fixes on one particular day...the Prayer Flag Day.

See my header photo up there? The colorful flags hanging amidst the trees? I took that on one of the most beautiful days of my life, and this is its story. Maybe you always wondered about that photo? Maybe you thought I borrowed it from a stock photo site? Nope. I put it at the head of my blog because it is a constant reminder to me of what this life is all about...

Susan was a friend of mine. The most free-spirited, quirky, funny person you could ever meet. She died last winter of pancreatic cancer. Her daughter was only 12. We all grieved and, even once the summer rolled around, we still felt sadly empty. We wanted to find a way to celebrate Susan, and it came about it the most wonderful way...
Years ago, Susan had come to my rescue in a very dark time. One of my students had died and I was left with the task to tell many of her friends and fellow students the next day at the summer camp I run. I was barely able to keep myself together. How would I manage thirty grieving children the next morning? Susan happened to call me in the midst of it all. I was crying and relayed the news between sobs. "Keri, can I come by tomorrow and do something with the kids?" She asked.
Susan showed up that morning with small white squares of fabric, paints, brushes, twine and things. She sat with us on the ground beneath the willow trees and listened while thirty children and a half dozen staff poured their grief out about losing Holly. She listened and cried with us, and then she passed out the little fabric squares and asked us to paint our love for Holly. Paint the joy she brought us, paint the magic, paint in celebration of her wondrous life. And we did.

And there was music and singing and laughing. There were new stories told and old ones retold. And in the end, Susan took our flags and strung them on twine and raised them up between the willow trees. There was a rainbow of words and prayers to Holly. It was beautiful. And on that sad day, our deep grief was transformed in an amazing way.

Those prayer flags hung in the church during Holly's funeral. They hung in her memorial garden. They hung in her parent's backyard. They hung anywhere that Holly was being remembered and celebrated those next few years. Then, last November, Susan died...
Again, we grieved as a group, we supported Robin, her daughter, in every which way we could. We even dedicated our play last summer to Susan, setting it in 1972. ( Susan was the quintessential hippie!) And one day last summer, during the rehearsal of 'Susan's' play, Holly's mom showed up.
She brought small white squares of fabric, paint, brushes, twine and things. She sat with us on the ground beneath the those same willow trees and listened while thirty new children and staff poured out their grief over losing Susan. Kacy listened, and then she passed out the little squares and asked us to paint out our love for Susan. Paint the joy she brought us, paint the love she showed us, paint in celebration of her wonderful life. And we did.

And there was music and singing and laughing. There were new stories told, and old ones retold. And in the end, Kacy took our flags and strung them on twine and raised them up between the willow trees. There was a new rainbow of words and prayers -- to Susan. It was beautiful in ways you cannot imagine. And on that day -- that wonderful, magical I'll-never-forget-you-day -- our grief was transformed in an amazing, only-God-could-imagine way.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Believe It Or Not, I'm Gonna Miss Him

I'm not kidding. This ultra-liberal, peace-loving,
Obama-voting Democrat is going to miss George
W. Bush.

I won't miss his policies, his agendas, his
posturing, or his stance on the war. But I will miss his ability to make me laugh, and his ability to laugh at himself. That ability is what made me decide I didn't hate him after all. I don't agree with him on anything - ANYTHING, but after eight years of tolerating him, I'm finding myself a little pensive about the end. Don't get me wrong! I am overjoyed in ways I cannot even express that I can now call my man Obama 'Mr. President'. And I cried today. Alot. And I prayed today, and sang today, and danced around my house today -- but I actually did feel a kind of unexpected sadness when I watched George W. and his wife get on that helicopter, and wave goodbye.

So, instead of the expected Obama-mania blog post you might have assumed you'd read, I'm going to simply say goodbye and good luck to GWB. George, I yelled at you (on the tv,anyway) for eight long years, but now I find you've grown on me a bit -- as a human being, not as a president or policy-maker, I must add. But I appreciated your ability to laugh at yourself in these last few years. And with that, I'll leave you with some of my favorite Bush-isms. Even when I was raging mad at some of the choices you made, I was able to laugh with you when you came out with one of your many gaffs. I've collected hundreds of them. Here are a few of my favorites. Hope you don't mind:

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."—Washington, D.C., Aug. 5, 2004

"Too many good docs are getting out of the business. Too many OB/GYNs aren't able to practice their love with women all across the country."—Poplar Bluff, Mo., Sept. 6, 2004

"See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in -- to kind of catapult the propaganda."—Greece, N.Y., May 24, 2005

"There is distrust in Washington. I am surprised, frankly, at the amount of distrust that exists in this town. And I'm sorry it's the case, and I'll work hard to try to elevate it."—speaking on National Public Radio, Jan. 29, 2007

"We'll let our friends be the peacekeepers, and this great country called America will be the pacemakers."—Houston, Sept. 6, 2000

"It's important for us to explain to our nation that life is important. It's not only life of babies, but it's life of children living in, you know, the dark dungeons of the Internet."—Arlington Heights, Ill., Oct. 24, 2000

"People say, 'How can I help in this war against terror? How can I fight evil?' You can do so by mentoring a child, by going into a shut-in's house and say I love you."—Washington, D.C., Sept. 19, 2002

And my current favorite, as it's so apropos:

"I'll be long gone before some smart person ever figures out what happened inside this Oval Office."—Washington, D.C., May 12, 2008

So, goodbye George W. It's been a long, tough road. And I mean this with great sincerity:

I wish you well.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Oh Happy Day!

Isn't it great to have a day off from work and spend the entire time in the doctor's office and a blood lab? Isn't it just lovely to find out that your horrific intestinal bug of a week ago was actually salmonella poisoning from STUPID PEANUT BUTTER CRACKERS????

But, doesn't it just TAKE THE CAKE to then find out you just happen to be one of a small minority of people who contract an AUTOIMMUNE disease from salmonella ???

Yup. Found out today, what I had suspected. I have developed Reiter's Syndrome: a lovely consolation prize from my recent bout of salmonella poisoning. I wouldn't mind if this were temporary, but it is a chronic, come-and-go, lifelong thing. Yippee!

Anyway, the doctor was nice enough to NOT order a joint fluid aspiration (very painful.) Instead I get to start visiting a rheumatoid arthritis specialist. Reiter's is very similar to RA and he's supposed to help me figure out how to manage it and deal with the pain.

Oh Happy Day!

(And no, I'm not telling Anastasia. And if you are one of the few who read my blog AND know us, please don't share this info with her. She gets freaked when I get a splinter, never mind some chronic thingamajig...)So....prayers? Sympathy? Extra strength advil? Give me what you've got people...lol!

For Canine Use Only

I was in my room when I heard Anastasia screaming at the top of her lungs. It was that frantic, ear-piercing terrify-your-mother-why don't-you kind of screaming.


She was bent over our little sheltie dog, hands shaking the poor thing like there was no tomorrow. Then she swiftly lifts her up in an attempt to perform what looked like a modified Heimlich Maneuver for dogs. Matilda's eyes  search out mine and plead for me to intervene.

'Honey, why are you yelling at Matilda? Please put her down.'
I demand.

'NO MOM! SHE ATE MEDICINE FOR CANINES ONLY! SHE'S GONNA DIE!' Anastasia continues to attempt the Heimlich as I try to gently extricate Matilda from her arms.

'Honey, what are you talking about?'  I'm confused. I now hold a traumatized furball in my arms.

'LOOOOK!!!' My daughter thrusts a chewed open heartworm med capsule into my face. 'SHE ATE IT ALREADY SO WE HAVE TO GET HER TO THE HOSPITAL NOW!

'Honey. it's okay that she ate that. It's her heartworm medication.'


My daughter falls to the floor in a flood of tears and grief-stricken moaning. I put the dog down and try to comfort her.

'Honey, it's okay. Canine is just another word for dog. This is medicine for a dog. All dogs take it. She's not going to die. She is really ok.' (Well, Matilda might beg to differ. She has already run for her life and hidden herself under my bed at this point.) I rub my daughter's back. I try to soothe her.

The news starts to sink in for my little drama queen. She finally stands up and walks over to the empty single medication capsule on the floor. She reads it slowly, mouthing out the words. Then, she throws the thing with great gusto across the room.

'STUPID, STUPID IDIOTS! WHY did they put that STUPID SCARY MESSAGE on the box?'

Yes, honey, why did they put 'for canine use only' on the box? Shame on them.

Twenty minutes later I find her cuddling/coddling poor Matilda in a tight semi-chokehold of blankets in her bed. She is stroking her and speaking in hushed, motherly tones.

'I'm sooooo sorry you almost died, Honey...soooo sorry. That will NEVER happen again, honey...never ever.....'

Matilda looks up at me with a look of plaintive desperation: Help? 

Poor thing.

Does the drama NEVER end?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Day One, Kitty Wars: No Ceasefire In Sight

Reporting from Eastern New England, this is FaerieMama.

The special forces arrived under heavy fire of snow and ice at the backdoor. The enemy insurgent had breached the Livingroom border unexpectedly, and they were going in, with brave faces...

They met up with expert Combat General Puck, just before the border, to survey the situation. (General Puck has a lifetime of experience with this kind of breach.) They took the time to observe the enemy from afar:

The insurgent was boldly camped out in the open, with a clear view of enemy lines from her high vantage point. She had already successfully completed three or four raids in Hallway and Bathroom. Emboldened by her successes, she had taken on the highly populated area of Livingroom .......known canine territory. She was urged to withdraw, but efforts were futile:

Special forces sent in Lieutenant Matilda for a closer look. The lieutenant urged the insurgent to "cease all hostile actions immediately". She responded with renewed threats and drew her weapons. Lieutenant Matilda tried to hold her ground and repeated the need for FULL and IMMEDIATE withdrawal of Livingroom territory. Her words went unheeded:

Lt. Matilda retreated under pressure and Secretary of Steak, Henry, was sent in to try and work out a ceasefire agreement. He released the following statement earlier today " Our goal remains a durable ceasefire that will lead to permanent stabilization of LivingRoom." The insurgent rebuffed these statements with a shockingly bold show of teeth and claws. Sec. Henry, by eyewitness accounts, held his ground bravely:

We regret to report that no ceasefire agreement has yet been reached . Lt Matilda continues to patrol the border, though at a safe distance. General Puck sent out an urgent request for backup units from neighboring humans. In a rare photo captured below, the enemy combatant can be seen brazenly instigating a response from special forces at the border. We will keep you posted on further developments.

In other news, humanitarian groups in the region are reaching out to any displaced humans by providing them with knitted blankets -- there is a great need during this cold snap:

Water supplies continued to dwindle in the nether regions of Kitchen, due to frozen water lines.
Heaters were implemented in the adjoining country of Basement Catch-All Room to help unfreeze the lines. For the meantime, humans in the area were forced to forego dishwashing and bathing until water could be restored to the region.

And that is our news for tonight. This is FaerieMama reporting from Eastern New England. Good Night and God Bless.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

'Dark Night' Aftermath Report

This morning I let Anastasia sleep in late...really late. I figured she needed sleep, if even to help her process whatever was going on for her last night. When I woke her at noon (yes, noon) she responded to me in her baby voice -- a sure sign that she is needed extra nurturing and cuddles. I crawled into bed with her and just held her and sang while she rocked. She not only rocks at night but pretty much whenever she is feeling vulnerable. So, she rocked and I sang the song that makes her feel better, while I ran my fingers through her hair.

" Mom I had a really bad and weird dream last night, but I don't want to tell you about it." Now, knowing my daughter, I knew that this meant she did want to tell me about it but was embarrassed or ashamed.

" You know you can tell me anything and I won't laugh or get mad or think you're crazy. You can tell me if you need to." I tried to affirm.

" But it's really embarrassing and I don't know what it means."

After some gently nudging, she said she would tell me the dream if she didn't have to face me while she told me. "That's fine." I told her. She rolled on her side and continued rocking while she relayed the dream.

The dream involved her being in a huge, sterile house - with lots of rooms, that sat high up on a hill. (This sounds something like her orphanage, by the way.) This home, in her dream, was the home of her best friend Julia, whom she grew up with in the orphanage. In the dream she was visiting Julia and was in a bed in a large room. She looked down to see that she had a huge erect penis. She described it as being almost two feet tall. It was bright red and "very scary". It was sticking out of the covers and it would "not go down". While she lay there feeling scared and exposed, a small dog with sharp teeth came in the room, rushed on the bed and ripped off half of the penis. She said she screamed from the pain, and then she saw the dog holding the half-penis in its mouth, and raw meat was squirting out of the bitten end -- "like raw hamburger", she said. Then suddenly two men were after her and Julia, wanting to murder them, and they had to rush out of the house and parachute off the hill to get away from them. Then she woke up.

Now, I won't even pretend to know what the dream means, but my gut tells me it is tied into her behavior the last few days, and last night. I'm wondering if some of the sexual abuse she experienced happened in January and this is causing the anxiety, sadness, clingy-ness and bad dreams of late. I know we are very cyclical creatures. I know I personally tend to revisit past traumas around the same time they happened, and not usually consciously. I'm grasping at straws, but that's what I'm thinking is happening with her.

Today we spent most of the day at my friend Julie's house, helping her fix her computer. Anastasia was abnormally quiet the whole time, wanted a blanket, and wanted to stay cuddled on her couch in silence the entire time. This is not the norm for her. And all morning before we left for Julie's, she spoke in that same baby voice. I just let her. I could tell it was something she just needed to do, so I tried to mother her more, baby her and hope I was giving her what she needed.

If there are any dream analysts out there, I'd love to hear your thoughts. She does not often have sexual dreams, and penis imagery only usually comes up during times of great stress - hence my guess that it is abuse related.

So, things here are calming down a bit now. It feels like this few days of dysregulation are coming to a close. I'm guessing, from past experience, that she will be back to her normal self before the weekend is out. I wish I knew better how to guide her through these tough times. I wish I could just experience them for her, but that's sadly never going to happen.

Anyway, feel free to chime in with your thoughts. I'm curious to know what others might make of this dream. I'm going to go hang out with her and the animals on the couch for awhile. Peace.

Another Dark Night of the Soul

I wonder what happened in some other January, long ago.

It is 1:30am and I just spent two hours comforting a very sad girl in her bed. For the past few nights she's found it very difficult to go to sleep. She has been outrageously grumpy during the day, and bedtime is full of really intense rocking...and tears, along with a good sized helping of self-inflicted verbal abuse. Where does this come from? What happened to my girl some far away January that she is reliving/remembering now?

The negative self talk is devastating to listen to:

" I'm a loser. I'm evil. I'm nothing." or

"Why did I have to be created? Why, mom? I'm not good for ANYthing." and then..

" I suck. I don't deserve you. Please don't hug me, mom, I don't deserve that."

Inside of course I am dying. My heart is ripping apart and some dark thing inhabits my mind. I don't know how to rid myself of the pain, and so I try to hold/not hold my daughter and be with her and hear her while simultaneously trying not to weep from the words I am hearing.

She really emptied out alot tonight. I know I should be grateful. I know, it is good that she at least feels she can open her heart like this to me. But it just breaks mine.

" Mom? Can I tell you the truth about something? I don't believe in God. I'm sorry. I want to, I really want to, but if he really was real, he would have heard me begging him for help when I was so little. He didn't. He let me live like that. Every night I sat by the window when everyone was asleep and begged him and begged him to protect me and bring me my mom. Why didn't he answer me?"

Of course I give her the answers she needs to hear, but she can't accept them. I try. I try to make sense of it for her,but really, how can one make sense of the senseless to someone who lived it for twelve years? I try. I keep trying, but she keeps rocking and pushing me away. I tell her how God did answer both our prayers, but maybe not as quickly as we'd have liked. I tell her how much he adores both of us, to bring us together as He did.

" But why didn't he just put us together in the first place and save us all that trouble?" She asks good questions. I just keep quietly and calmly comforting her as best I can, but I know that she knows I do not have all the answers.

" Why did my stupid birthfather have to die? I didn't even get to meet him and he died on me."


" Why would God let Oksana [birthmom] have a baby if he knew she would just dump me outside?"

Later she asked,

" Why can't I just live my whole life in a little room filled with soft pillows and a furry rug and no people or anything, and I just stay there forever watching movies. I wish I could do that and not feel anything."

Eventually she let me hold her, and she just poured out a litany of apologies:

" I'm sorry I'm a bad daughter. I'm sorry you hate me. I'm sorry I'm a loser. I'm sorry you didn't get the perfect daughter you deserve. You really deserve a perfect daughter and I will never be that. I can't do anything. I can't even love you because I don't even know what that is. Mom, what does love really feel like? Why does everybody talk about love but I never know what they mean by that? I'm sorry I can't love you. I'm sorry I'm lazy and stupid and mean..."

This outpouring lasted almost an hour.

And then it was over. She got up, told me she loved me, and asked if she could go knit for awhile alone and watch tv. " I need it right now, even though it's the middle of the night.."

And I knew she did. It was too much for her. She needed a break from feeling.

And right now, as I type this, I hear her laughing at the tv. But it's a fake, forced laugh like she is trying so hard to find something funny, but really, there is nothing funny at all.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Ah, The Good Old Days...

There has been a flurry of activity on facebook lately. All these old college friends are suddenly joining and creating alumni groups and adding photos from the good old days. You know, those days before parenthood and full-time work? College.

So I've been sent some photos that I hadn't seen in years, which got me digging around for some of my own and, well, in my nostalgia, I am sharing them with you! Here is a little glimpse into my life circa 1985-90.

In '89 I studied overseas as part of our college's British Theatre Seminar. Here I am (far right) with my fellow theatre-obsessed English majors. We thought we were on top of the world -- living in London, seeing theatre every night, pubbing it, and having amazing conversations about all things theatre. This photo was taken before one of our big nights out...seeing Vanessa Redgrave in a new play at Piccadilly Circus. As Ms Redgrave was a friend of a friend, I even got to go hang out with her in her dressing room for an hour! From left to right, Kristin, Cheryl, Barb and me. Barb and I are still good friends. She lives about four miles from me now. Cheryl and I lived together on Nantucket Island in 1991 and 1992, but have lost touch. Kristin? I have no idea where she is these days, sad to say!

Jumping ahead a bit, here's a photo of me just moments after my college graduation ceremony. The look of absolute bliss on my face is not feigned. I worked SO hard to get that degree...working three jobs for five years, all while attending school full time. I paid most of the tuition myself ( I'm proud to say!) with some help from loans and my dad. My friend Christine is at left and MaryEllen on my right. Just got back in touch with Chris via Facebook, and MaryEllen lives a few towns over, though we don't see each other very often. A dear friend, Laurel, from college. She graduated a year ahead of me and was already married when this was taken, at their first apartment. She had me write a poem in honor of their marriage and read it at the wedding. I was sooooo scared no one would like it! (But they did!)

Finally, though out of order, me and my best friend from college, Nicole (on the right, as we look similar!) This was taken at the beach close to campus in November 1987. Just located her via facebook after exactly nineteen years!

Anyway, please excuse the late 80's fashion choices. These are tame compared to what I usually wore. (I was a vintage addict then.) But still. Can you say skin-tight leggings??

Note: I am sad to report that this fashion faux-pas is back in vogue. Yuck! All my current high school students are sporting the second-skin leggings now. What are they thinking?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

'God Isn't Finished With Me Yet'

An elderly woman once said that to me when I marvelled, jokingly, about her advanced years which were in direct conflict with her constant and myriad health problems. I can't even remember who it was anymore - just the gist of the conversation, and her words.

'God isn't finished with me yet,' She had smiled. I loved that this woman had such a great outlook on her long, difficult life. Her words stuck with me.

So, I remind myself of these words often. Today I did, but it was in the context of feeling gratitude. I had received a call from a social worker who was assigned to Baby 'Ariella's case. You may remember her from my many October posts. Anyway, it turns out that her mother has been found unfit to parent at all (diagnosis of a mental illness) and it seems the father is unwilling to continue caring for Ariella anymore. She called to ask if I would be willing to 'take her.' Take her? Though I didn't like her choice of words, I did like the sentiment behind them: Would I be willing to be Ariella's parent? I'm sure you all know my answer to that.

So, all I know is that I am the court's choice for a permanent home for Ariella. I also know she is currently in emergency foster care again. But that is all. This woman will be calling me back 'in a few days', which we all know is fostercare-speak for 'a week, a month, or never...just be ready!'

I'm cautiously delighted. No other way to put it. I can't not be excited, but I can't exactly go out and buy diapers either. I'm in that weird foster care system limbo-land. But, you know what? I don't mind. Her call made me think of that phrase 'God isn't finished with me yet.' He isn't. He's got work to do in me, and I'm hoping that work involves changing diapers and singing lullabies and looking into two very big brown eyes. But.....sigh...... I'll have to wait and see. It's all in His hands. Keep that sweet baby in the above photo in your prayers.

And, 'night all! (Yeah, right, as if I'm actually going to sleep until I HEAR from her again!)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Mom, I Have A Surprise For You!

Those are the words Anastasia greeted me with when I came home from work on Wednesday. She was yelling it from the bathroom.

" Mom! Go RIGHT in your room and look near your computer!" She yelled a second time. so, I take off my coat and boots, and saunter into my room, expecting another painting or maybe a lego sculpture. But instead, I find this:

After I screamed from shock, I yelled back, "What did you do????"

"Oh, mom, I just needed a change. Didn't you ever feel like you needed a change RIGHT away or you would go nuts or something?" She added. " PLEASE tell me you like it!"

And, to my surprise, I did. Here are the photos I then took of Anastasia with her own pretty well executed haircut. I'm still not over the shock of finding a foot of hair on my computer keyboard, but I am liking the new 'do'. ...

No more surprises for awhile, though. OK, kid?

Monday, January 05, 2009

Taking the Plunge

I'm going to do it. I'm jumping in. That's right....I'm making a list of goals for 2009. I never do this because, well, frankly, I can be a lazy bum in some respects and always end up disappointed when I don't live up to my own aspirations. But I keep thinking of all these things I really want to accomplish this year and I thought the least I could do was humor my obsessive thoughts and put them down on paper. Well, virtual paper anyway. I'm also not putting any pressure on myself to do them. (Hear that, Mr. Guilt? No pressure.) But I want to be able to look at them now and again for inspiration:

Finally Become a Full-Time Vegetarian
I have been flirting with vegetarianism for over a decade. The longest I've gone is nine months. I've tried going raw, going vegan, going macrobiotic, going pescetarian....but I always end up with red meat in my mouth in the end. I don't seem to have the will power. But, darn it, I want this year to be different. I could say I'm doing it for health reasons, but that would be lying. I simply can't rationalize eating animals anymore. I could never ever kill one myself, so what gives me the right to eat one? I'm not evangelistic about it, so don't worry. I won't be turning this into a P.E.T.A blog or anything. It's just that, well, my heart hurts when I eat any form of animal. And I just don't want to anymore.

Growing a Vegetable Garden in my Yard
I know next to nothing about gardening, even though my father forced us to weed and plant things almost every weekend of the spring and summer when we were growing up. But I want to learn! My plan is to find someone really passionate about self-reliance and gardening who wants to teach me...for free. I have a big yard, so I really have no excuse. We do already grow blackberries, strawberries, mint and such, but I can't take credit for them. They were already growing when I moved in four years ago. In my garden I want to grow tomatoes, spinach, corn, carrots, peas, eggplant, cucumber, and rhubarb!

Become A Foster Parent
This is simply a step in my dream to have a bigger family. As naive as it sounds, I really want to change the world one child at a time. There is no greater way for me to give of my life than to raise a child. Even last year I did not think I would be able to adopt more children because of Anastasia's RAD and PTSD issues. But she's grown and matured in so many ways, and we both feel ready for another child to come into our lives.

Create A Healthier Body For Myself
I'm at least forty pounds overweight for my height and frame. I don't exercise enough. I drink too much coffee and too little water. I don't put enough nutrient rich food in my body. I'm 43. I can't keep going like this without jeopardizing my life. It's not fair to my daughter and future children.

Find A Kind-Hearted Man That Can Put Up With Me
I don't mean to brag, but I kinda used to have to fight off the men. However, that hasn't happened in almost a decade. I pretty much stopped dating about six or seven years ago. Why? You got me. I have no idea, but I'm sure it's tied into issues with body image and weight gain. Also, my priorities shifted. I really wanted children and the last two men I dated adamantly did NOT want children. I'm even uncomfortable writing about this, because it makes me feel so vulnerable! I won't be devastated if I never marry, but it would be nice to share this journey with a kindred spirit. He'd have to be a pretty special guy, with endless patience and a great sense of humor. He'd have to love kids at least as much as me, and he'd have to give me a wide berth. I mean, I love my freedom and independence.

Well, I think that's it. I don't want to get carried away. Those five things alone will keep me plenty busy. Let me know if you have any sage advice regarding any of them. I'm always open to the wisdom of those who have been there/done that!

Ok, it's almost 2am. I have got to get myself to bed!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Out Of The Mouths Of (RAD) Babes...

Had to post this, as I've been laughing about it all evening:

As most of you know, Anastasia is on the antidepressant celexa. It's been two months now & hugely successful. She would never remember to take the pill on her own -- I give it to her at dinner time each day. Today I tried to give it to her and she insisted I had already given her one.

" No, honey, that was yesterday. You're confused." I explained. She refused for a while, and I became insistent. (Side effects of skipped meds are no fun..)

So, as she is about to put the pill in her mouth, she stops and gives me a very serious, stern look.

"Ok, if you say so!" she yells...

" But it's YOUR fault if I'm extra happy today!"

She swallows the pill, storms out of my room and slams the door.

I'm still giggling.

One of THOSE Days..

I'm having one of those days. The ones that suck. The ones where everything seems to be plotting against you. But I am making myself blog about this day, because I tend to not want to show my grumpy side, but it exists. Just ask Anastasia! I need to validate the yucky unloveable part of myself, too, right? So here is my day thus far. I will list the joyful events in chronological order:

1. Up all night with the most violent stomach bug known to man. You know the kind: the I'm-chained-to-the-toilet variety.
2. Puck (cat #1) puked all over my pillow and sheets.
3. Matilda (dog #2) tried to eat it.
4. Dog #2, angry that she was not allowed to eat said puke, found the litter box. And ate to her hearts content. (can you say GROSSSSS???)
5. Got a never-ending nosebleed while cleaning up puke and dog poop.
6. Slipped in dog pee while running to the bathroom because of event #1 (see above)
7. Found out I am out of one of my meds and the pharmacy is now closed.
8. Get talked into driving Anastasia to the local sandwich shop in my pajamas. Run into everyone I know while looking like death.
9. Send Anastasia into Starbucks for me, and wait SEVENTEEN MINUTES for her to come out.
10.Have a 'bathroom call' while sitting in the car waiting for Anastasia for SEVENTEEN MINUTES. Regret going out even more.
11. Drive home quickly, only to find that my coffee is COLD.
12. Come into house to find Henry ( Dog #1) had gotten into the trash. And ate disgusting things.
13. Cry.

So, that's my day thus far and it's only 4pm. And I only rolled out of bed at 10:30am because of said bug. So, I managed to jampack in ALL that great stuff into only five hours!

Can you say vacation?

Saturday, January 03, 2009

And Now For Something Completely Different...

If you have not discovered Etsy yet, I will assume you have been living in exile and I will therefore forgive you. If you have already discovered Etsy and, like me, spend waaaay too much time drooling over items, you may want to skip this post. It may send you back into Etsy addiction.

I love Etsy. I visit there at least once a week. I've only bought ten things from them in the past two years, but I am a die-hard Etsy addict nonetheless. I save hundreds of things in my "favorites" file. I could never buy them all, but I like to look! So let's take a little visit to my Etsy "favorite items" file....

Above is an original watercolor map of fairyland by Paint & Ink. I love it!

And here is an adorable little wool felt bluebird in his nest by vermontfairies. I would put him on my kitchen windowsill....

Ok, I am enamored of this artist. His name is Joseph Blake. I wanted this watercolor so badly! But , alas, it was not to be...

And what about these adorable, hand-carved stamps? Too cute for words!

Now I'll show you a few of the things I broke down and actually bought from Etsy. Here is a gorgeous bag by Pineblossoms. Mine is a bit different, but no less beautiful. She uses recycled clothing and vintage trim to make them...

And can you believe I got this oh so sweet original lilac painting for under $50? It is in my bedroom (that I never sleep in...lol.) Sadly the artist is not on Etsy anymore...

Here is my hand batiked tablecloth from Margotbianca. It's in my favorite color - periwinkle!

And here's an adorable little item I use every day. It's my iphone case! It puts a smile on my face everyday, when I fumble thru my pocketbook to find my phone...

Hope you enjoyed my little vacation from all things RAD and mom-related! Now you should go on your own little Etsy vacation, here!

They Called! And More Great News

A social worker from DSS finally called about foster care! Of course I didn't get the message until today, so I have to wait until Monday to call back. And of course this call comes right before the start of one of my busiest months of the year! Anyway, I'm happy. I'm really excited to start the training and see what God has in store for us as a family!

And more happy news: My friend J and his partner R have decided they are ready to start a family through adoption! J and I have been friends for 25 years, and he and R have been together for ten. They want to get coffee this week to pick my brain. Where they live is a bit of a trek for me, but a place I love. I'm excited to make an adventure of it with Anastasia. They live almost RIGHT on the ocean in Gloucester, MA. You can see all the fishing boats from there house.

They are going to be wonderful parents!

Friday, January 02, 2009

Mommy, Do You Like Me?

This is the question my daughter woke me with today. She has asked me this same question every day for at least a week. Though I'm not sure why she asks, I treat each time as if it is the first. I never brush it aside. This morning we played out a ritual of sharing we have done so many times. But I never tire of it....

'I like you and I love you and I ADORE you,' I answer, 'You are my everything! You are the best gift God ever gave me.'

'But do you really, really like me?' she seems suspect of my answer.

'I like you and I love you with all my heart and soul, and I don't know what I would do without you.' I remind her again.

'But I was your second choice.' She knocks me over with this one.

'What do you mean?' I ask.

'You didn't want me first, you wanted some other little girl named Katya. You didn't choose me first. I'm kind of like chopped liver. '

First I need to calm myself before responding. (And try not to laugh at the 'chopped liver' comment) It is so upsetting to me to know she has been carrying this thought around in her head for so long. I take a deep breath.

I explain how badly I wanted to be a mom. I explain about signing with an agency and knowing she was out there somewhere. I tell her about all the letters and journal entries I had written about her over the years. I told her about the empty spot in my heart.

'But you had a room set up for another girl. Not me.'

'I had a room set up for my daughter. I did not know where she was coming from yet, but I knew that God knew.' I reminded her.

I told her the story she already knew -- how the agency had sent me a referral for a little girl named Katya from her orphanage. How I had been told I would be bringing her home at Christmas. I told her about how the trip was cancelled at the last minute because Katya's birthmother that came back into the picture and wanted to bring her home again. I told her about trusting God, that He knew all along that Katya was not my daughter, but was only the way He would bring my true daughter home to me.

'But I was still second.' She insists. 'You just took me because you had to.'

And then I remind her of the agency sending me referral after referral after Katya. I remind her of my looking at the countless photos and knowing that each beautiful child they sent me photos of was not my child. I tell her of the two year old boy with wispy hair and of the rosy-cheeked eight year old girl, I tell her of the dark haired toddler and the curly blond haired girl of seven. I tell her how I prayed each time a referral was sent to me, but none answered the call of my heart.

'until you.' I remind her.

'Why me?' She knows the answer. She has heard it a hundred times. But I delight in telling her even if she needs to hear it a thousand more.

'Because before I even saw your photo, or even read about you, my heart knew. Because when they told me there were no referrals left in that region, my heart told me they were wrong. You were still out there, and I begged them to check once more. Because when they finally called and told me they had found one last referral left in Prokopyevsk, but that she was out of my range -- over twelve years old -- I still knew it was you. And then, when they sent me your info and I read about you, my heart lept. And when, later that day they sent your photo and it slowly loaded on Grammy's computer and I saw your eyes for the first time, a light filled my heart. I knew you. I recognized you. I don't know how, but I did. There was my daughter staring back at me, for the first time.'

'I love you mommy.' she says and squeezes my face to hers.

I love you, too, daughter of my heart. More than words can ever say.

(Photo: Anastasia, March 2005. A week after I met her for the first time.
Taken by another adoptive parent who was visiting the orphanage.)