‘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, July 31, 2010

The Impossible Task of Saying Goodbye...

I'm feeling sick to my stomach writing this. So sad. So very sad. A new level of heartbroken.

Dasha is upstairs cudding with Nastia. She begged us to hide her in a closet and put a doll that looked like her on the plane instead. All day she was handing me the phone begging me to "call a Papa, find a Papa". 

How do you say goodbye to someone who feels like your own flesh and blood daughter? How do you give her hope, but not false hope? Dasha is adamant that she will be back with us at Christmas. I told her it was not a sure thing and that it was up to other people, not us. She said she will not go with anyone. "I will run away." she added. "They will never find me" She begged me to buy a house in Ukraine and just adopt her there. I explained that the laws were still the same -- single moms cannot adopt children from Ukraine. She says she will talk to the president of Ukraine herself. She says she will move to a different county. " I will walk" she says " I will walk out of Ukraine."

In a very uncomfortable twist of fate, an interested family called tonight to learn more about Dasha, just as I was sitting down to write this. I tried soooo hard to be polite, but I think I was pretty curt. The woman would not stop asking questions, even when I told her I wanted time to say goodbye to Dasha. " But I need to talk to you now!" She insisted. " I don't want anyone else getting her before me!" Lady - I wanted to say - she is not a front row seat at your favorite venue. But instead I said I'd call her back.

It's our last night with her. It feels sacred. It was incredibly hard to get a call like that when we're trying to say goodbye. I'll be in better shape to talk to her after a few days. I want Dasha to have a family, of course I do... but I can't help feeling tonight like she is meant to be with us, somehow, someway. 

Today she cuddled up in my arms in the morning. "I love you, Mama." She said in English. "Please you come Ukraine...." She added. I think the look on my face told her of the impossibility of that. " PLEASE PLEASE..." She added. Please please please."  

Today she called a great many people to say goodbye. She talked to my mom on the phone for at least 45 minutes. In Russian..lol. She ended with five full minutes of "Grammy, I love you. Please come Ukraine. Please?'

I can hear her crying upstairs now, so I need to go. 

Thursday, July 29, 2010

When Magic Happens...

Serendipity. Synchronicity. Coincidence. Divine Intervention.

We all have different names for when those magic moments happen. We had one tonight that was very sweet. Dasha has been pining away for a horse to ride for several days now. She has never ridden, but is borderline obsessed with animals of all kinds. Our poor cats can attest to that. Anyway, I had called numerous farms and what-not, trying to find one willing to allow Dasha a ride. I had had no luck. I finally posted her wish on FB tonight and within the span of a few hours, I was talking to an amazing woman named Sophie who will be taking us up to an equestrian center in Groveland tomorrow.

Here's the interesting twist: My friend Jo Ann is the gem who called  her friend Sophie and explained our situation. She then sent me Sophie's number. At the same time, towns away, my friend Brian was posting an urgent request for a horse for Dasha on his FB page. His former employee happened to see it, and took the time to call his sister Sophie about this little girl who wanted to ride a horse. Yes, same Sophie!

So when I reached Sophie by phone, she had just heard from her brother about Dasha, via my friend Brian! We had a great laugh about the coincidence.... well, I call it "magic". Anything that serendipitous seems like magic to me! It's God at work, and I love it:)

I'm guessing that Sophie and I are meant to meet. Turns out we have three mutual friends, too. And she lives just a few towns away.

In other news, we are having a family camp-out in the yard tonight. We cooked our meal over the fire, sang Bob Dylan songs, laughed, ate s'mores and baked potatoes and too many hotdogs. It was wonderful. Now the girls are in the tent with the poor dogs, giggling and fighting intermittently. I'm a stone's throw away on the computer, soaking up some much needed mom-time.

Today was a completely rage and tantrum free day. I am beyond happy. We even had Nastia's therapy today and she gave up half her session for Dasha. It was an incredibly fruitful session. After which, her therapist took the three of us out for ice cream! Can you believe it? What a day...

Someone is obviously looking out for me:)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

True Love

Forgot to mention in the past few weeks that Dasha is in love. And this is not the fly-by-night kind of love. This is the Cinderella kind of love.

Dasha first met Jabari a few weeks ago at a rehearsal. He is playing the lead in Othello. She was immediately smitten. It was quite obvious, because she watched him like a hawk the entire time. I thought perhaps maybe she had never seen a person of another race, but that was naive of me. It had nothing to do with that. It had everything to do with this:

"Mama, I know why the princess in the play wants to marry him." she whispered to me half-way through the rehearsal that day.

"Why?" I asked.

" Because he's sooooooo beautiful..." she said with that dreamy quality of voice that teen girls use when they are in love.

And that was that. Jabari became the topic of conversation at least once a day. She called him "The King" because  I had explained that he played a king in the play . ( My Russian is limited, and I didn't know the word for Army General, so I described him as the King...so shoot me.)

When we played princess over the next few weeks, I had to be Jabari. When she played husband and wife, again, I was Jabari. When she pretended to talk on her little toy phone,  and I asked her who was on the other end, the answer was usually " The King!" or "Jabari." Actually, she never got the hang of his name, so it sounds more like this very cute slavic version " Ja -VAH -rrrrrrrreeeee ( rolled R, missing B)

Tonight we went to see him perform again. At a castle, no less. " Ca-ROLE, Ca-ROLE!" she squealed excitedly when she spied him inside the castle door. (That's what the Russian word for King sounds like.)
She sat transfixed through the entire show and often asked "Where's the King?" if Jabari was missing from the stage for more than a moment.

" He's coming..." I'd assure her. And when he stepped on stage, she would smile, or squeeze my hand.

As you may know, the end of Othello is not pretty. Othello kills his wife and then himself. Dasha was visibly shaken at the end of the play, and had to check on Jabari countless times after the curtain call, to ensure he was truly ok. She held his hand and stayed right by his side while he greeted his fans. And when it was time to go home, it took countless returns to him for several hugs before she would agree to leave the building.

As we walked to the car, she said with deep conviction, " Mama, I love Jabari."

"I know, honey." I said.

" No, I LOVE him." She added extra emphasis so I would truly feel the gravity of this confession. "Someday he will be my husband."

 I explained, once we were in the car -- and in the gentlest way possible -- that he was too old to be her husband.

"Well, then I want him for my Papa." She explained.

I then had to break the news to her that he was too young to fill that role either. As we drove past him in the parking lot, she yelled for me to stop the car. She rolled down her window and blew him a kiss. He waved goodbye to her with a big smile on his face. She was in heaven.

" Mama, if he loves me it doesn't matter how old he is..." she sternly told me. So, I let her have the last word.

She was smitten and, as we all know, there is no arguing with true love.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Husband Shopping, Ukrainian Style

Believe it or not, there is a Russian Orthodox Church in my hometown. Look to the right -- I have photographic proof.

Anyway, in my 45 years of living here, I have never ever set foot inside this church. But it's a local landmark, and it's used in directions quite a bit:

'Go down past the Russian church and take a left.'

Anyway, it is close to where I work in the summer, so Dasha has seen it quite a bit, and every time she sees it she asks if we can visit. This past Sunday we did.

The inside of this church is exquisite enough to warrant a visit by everyone in Salem. It's gorgeous. The service was long for Dasha, but almost exactly like the service I had attended in Siberia. Liturgical, moving choral music in Russian, incense, lots of babushkas praying in their head scarves. Very moving.

Dasha really wanted to attend,  because she wanted to go someplace where everyone would be speaking Russian. I don't blame her: after just a week in Siberia on my first trip, I nearly tackled an American family when I overheard them speaking English in a coffee shop. I was desperate for my mother tongue. Those of you who are well-travelled can commiserate.

So, after the service, we were led downstairs to the coffee hour. There was a toy corner and Dasha hid herself there for a bit. One of the pastors started introducing me to families. One woman, 'Elena' from Ukraine, was particularly kind. She came and sat with me in the toy corner and filled me in on her obvious love for her church. The conversation came around to Dasha.

Elena: "So, you are adopting her? That is wonderful."

Me: "No, I can't . I would just love to, but Ukraine no longer allows single parent adoption."

Elena: : "But look at her, she adores you. She obviously belongs with you."

Me. "I know, and we love her very very much, but there is just no getting around this law unless I get married." I laughed, so she would get that this was not an option.

Elena whips out her cellphone and starts dialing. "I know the perfect man for you...hello, Sergey? Yes, there is an American woman here who needs a husband..."

And before you know it she is handing me the phone to speak to  Sergey.

Elena: "Go on, talk to him. He's short, so your age won't bother him. He's had trouble meeting women..."

Before you start laughing...hear this: I ended up with no less than FIVE phone numbers of Ukrainian men being shoved in my pocket before coffee hour was over.  I kid you not.

And Dasha heard everything,  as it was in Russian. And boy did she have the biggest smile on her face.

 As we left the church, she was walking cheerfully back to the car holding my hand.

"See, Mama? I told you God would find me a papa! Now we have FIVE!"

When we got home, Nastia met us at the door and started interrogating me.

She asked me who Sergey was.

"What??" I asked incredulously.

" Some guy Sergey keeps calling our house asking to meet you as soon as possible. I told him you were at church." she said angrily.

Ahh, the Russians and Ukrainians do not mince words or actions. If I let them, they'd have me married by the end of the week:)

Note: Names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Keri and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Yucky, awful, painful, overwhelming, disappointing day. Wouldn't even know where to start in telling you about it. All the intentions were good. I managed to get Dasha to the local Russian Orthodox church, as she has asked. But someone there made the mistake of asking her how long she had left in America, and from that point on it was hell. She was grieving and it was just heartbreaking to watch.

I just feel so very distraught about the pain inside Dasha. Pain deep enough to cause her to do as much physical damage to me as possible when she is angry.

I did my absolute BEST to keep her safe today (and me safe) but the angrier she gets, the more she lashes out. She lashes out at whatever is closest. She managed to get in two really hard bites to my hand today, and hit me with a piece of wood hard enough to cause a lump on my head. Lest you think I'm neglectful -- like how could she possibly get a piece of wood if you were watching her closely -- she grabbed it from the ground outside in the yard when I was picking her up to keep her from hurling any more rocks at the dog. 

My hand stings. It's swollen like a bee sting where she bit me. The dogs are wary of her now. She is so loving to them most of the time, but when she is hurting, she hurts them. And then her guilt afterwards is just too huge for her. She lies on them telling them how sorry she is. 'I am bad, you are good!' she tells them over and over.

But the good of the day? She reached resolution after I held her before bedtime. I rocked her for a good 40 minutes and sang while she hummed. When I was done, she looked at me for the longest time and just traced my face with her finger. 

I cannot help but hope for a better tomorrow for her.

A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes

Here it is! The video of Dasha dancing!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Amazing Day

...Just wish I had photos to go with it! Dasha had a FANTASTIC day. She was regulated, happy, connected, curious...and very much your typical little girl. It was wonderful to behold. We had a great morning at home, and then hit the farmer's market, which she loved. We then did some cleaning at home, and then had to head to my work to drop off Matilda (the dog) as she appears in the play. She needed to be there by 1pm, and I expected we'd head right home after dropping her off. To my surprise, Dasha wanted to stay.

We watched the 2pm show, and Dasha sat transfixed for two straight hours. Mind you, the play is in English. And, mind you again, it's Shakespeare! But she loved it. She asked hundreds of questions and even acted out some of the scenes for me during intermission.

After the show, my plan was to head home, but she wanted to stay and see the second one. I weighed the pros and cons. Would she get over-tired? Would she have a meltdown in front of everyone? Would she fall apart later? I ended up staying because it was obvious she truly enjoyed the show and wanted to see it a second time. We walked Matilda, left the island for some food, and then returned at 5pm in preparation for the 6pm show.

As shy as she can be around other people, she has really taken to one of my students, named Zoe. I was able to go to the bathroom alone, which was a nice change, while Dasha stayed with Zoe. And later she started taking a liking to one of my very kid-friendly directors, Hannah. This really was a minor miracle, because Dasha has been very cautious and slow to let other people into her 'inner circle' Today it was absolutely wonderful watching her open up a bit.

The best part of the day was just before the 6pm show. Dasha was on the stage acting out scenes for me and a few choice others. They were adorable. After about 20 minutes of doing this, she announced she wanted to do a Cinderella dance in front of the entire audience before the show. I doubted this would happen, but I humored her, got her Cinderella dress from the car, and waited. About five minutes before the show, she asked to change into it. She told me to explain to Chris (my head staff person and dear friend) that she wanted to wait backstage until the pre-show announcements were done, and then, she said, Chris should say the following : And now, Cinderella will dance for you.

I fully expected her to run off scared, but to my surprise, she took the stage on cue, smiled, and, when Chris started singing  A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes Dasha danced. She danced so beautifully and was so present, I burst into tears. Turns out I wasn't the only one. The crowd was dead silent. And when the song ended, and Dasha curtsied, a roar of applause rushed to meet her. She smiled and very gracefully walked off the stage.

I could never explain how meaningful this moment was for me. But watching her dance, and hearing the very apropos words to the song, and thinking about this amazing little girl I love having to return to the orphanage in a week...I just lost it. I was proud and amazed and sad and grateful all at once.

I'm hoping my friend will post the video she made of it tomorrow, and then I will share it here. I can't promise you'll be as moved as I was, but you just might.

Please pray for our Cinderella, would you? She soooo deserves a happy ending.

And I soooo want her every wish to come true.

Knock On Wood

Yesterday was a mixed bag, but, on the whole, pretty good. We visited my work to see my students perform. Dasha was reserved, but well-behaved. She was completely engrossed in the performance once it started. This took us all the way until 3:45 and I was thanking God for the reprieve.

Then we got home.

Not really sure what triggered her, but on the surface it was about not getting to open a box that had arrived for me. (I knew the contents were something for her to take on the plane with her.) She went from sweet little girl to the incredible hulk in zero point two seconds. I ushered her into her room (still empty) to keep her from breaking things. She managed to grab my jewelry box on the way out and dump all its contents on the floor. (What is it with jewelry boxes?)

Once in her room she headed straight for the blinds, which she has been trying to destroy for days now. I lifted her away from them and got the worst pinch a child has EVER given me.

I do know therapeutic holds from my drama therapy work with severely traumatized kids, but I would not use them without permission from NHFC. I tried my best to keep myself and Dasha safe, but she was like the Tasmanian devil at this point - thrashing herself against the bed, hitting me, trying to bite me. I finally just held her loosely on my lap with my arms over hers. I explained I was trying to keep her safe. She broke free. I was not comfortable holding her in place, so I did my best with running around the room like a goalie protecting a net. She found my shoes,which I had taken off, and whipped one at my head. She then tried to bang her own head on the bed post. I held her again and tried to put her in an infant cradling pose, hoping she might just relax into it and cry. Didn't work. She hauled off and bit me really hard. I howled. It really, really hurt.

At this point Nastia came in. (My mom was in the other room with her.) Dasha started telling us that she was going to find a knife in the kitchen and stab us all in the heart. Then it was in the face. I told her that I would not let her hurt us or herself, because you protect the people you love. She said "I am going to stab myself and die!" I told her I would not let that happen. I kept reminding her that we loved her and wanted to help her, and that my love will never go away. " Yes it will! I will MAKE it go away!!!!" She screamed. "I will run away from the detsky dom and be homeless. I will kill myself!"

At this point there was so much rage and anger in her face I was worried. I started wondering, in the midst of this episode, if she might have some psychological issues besides just PTSD. I admit, I was a little scared. Hearing someone wants to stab you with a kitchen knife, even if they are only 3 and 1/2  ft tall and 45 pounds, is scary. I had Nastia stay with her while I went to call the director of the program.

When I came back upstairs, Dasha was 'herself' again. Yes, that fast. I walked into the room and she said "Mama, play with me." I told her that I couldn't play, because I was hurt and I was sad. She just ignored me and turned to Nastia to play. I told her no playing right now. I asked Nastia to leave the room. She started to rage again, but then discarded the attempt and just sat on the bed ripping the seams out of the mattress with her fingernails. Nastia and my mom left so that Nastia could catch a break. She needed it. I stayed and watched Dasha attempt to destroy the mattress one seam at a time.

You might think I should have stopped this behavior, but I knew she was trying to press buttons and so I ignored it and sat nearby on the floor. I told her I was very sad about her hurting me and trying to hurt herself but that I loved her and would love her no matter what bad things she said or tried to do to us. That made her really angry. She yelled and tried to break the bed posts, but she is not strong enough. I could see her starting to give up. She made a few last attempts to break part of the bed, and then she burst into tears and crawled in my lap.

"I'm sorry, Mama! I'm sorry I'm bad! I'm sorry I hurt you."  she cried.

And I just held her like a baby and rocked her. I stayed there holding her for nearly 45 minutes. Eventually she started humming the Cinderella song, and later, smiled. "I love you, Mama." She said this in English. "I love you, too." I said.

I was supposed to return to see the final cast perform at 6pm, but it was not to be. Dasha did not want to leave her room, and I knew it would be disastrous if I tried. We stayed home. I  cooked dinner. We then played "family" for two hours. I was first the grandmother, later the husband, sometimes a friend, her baby's doctor, etc. She acted out her life from birth to marriage and having children. She play-acted going to school in America.

"Pretend you adopted me and now this is my home and I am coming home from school!" she said excitedly. She got on her backpack and acted out leaving me and kissing me goodbye, and then returning at the end of a long school day. It was very sweet.

At night she regressed. (I expected it.) " Mama, I'm a baby now," she said "I need my bottle," And so I dressed her for bed, cuddled her up in my arms, and fed her a 'bottle'(sippy-cup). After an hour, she fell asleep.

Today has been great thus far. She woke up happy and regulated. We played in the morning, and then headed to the local famer's market, where she asked to buy some wildflowers for Nastia. We came home with bags of goodies, and Dasha slipped into my room and woke Nastia to a handful of gerber daisies, lavender and what-not. I can hear them giggling as I type this.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Wish I Could

So much to share tonight -- good & bad -- but I am too tired. Just wanted to say thanks to my on and offline friends who have been so supportive this past week. Thank you. So much. 

Here's a photo of Dasha that I love. I haven't taken any photos for several days because, well, you know. But I'm really hoping tomorrow is a good day and I can take a few new ones. Time is running out, after all. 

Blessings to all of you.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Truly, Madly, Deeply

I love that movie. Have you seen it? If not, please do. I'm going to have to go back and watch it soon, because it has been stuck in my mind for the past 12 hours, and I'm guessing that means it has a message for me at this moment. I need a message. I need something.

I don't like posting when I feel despondent, but we all feel that way now and again, and I think it's healthy to share it. I don't want people thinking I'm immune to moments of despair when dealing with extreme behaviors. I also don't want to scare anyone away from potentially adopting Dasha, but it's important they know the good and the bad. How else can you make an informed decision about something so important?

Dasha exploded last night. It was after several hours of complete calm. She and Nastia had set up a tent in the yard and were playing in it. Dasha decided she did not want to share the tent with Nastia, or anyone, and proceeded to try to push Nastia out. When Nastia wouldn't let her, she absolutely lost it.  I was upstairs on the phone with a potential family that was interested in adopting her, and I heard her screams through several doors and two air conditioners blasting.

I won't recount the ugly details of trying to get her up to her room, but I will say it involved Nastia being hit, scratched, punched and bitten. And once I took Dasha from her arms, it involved the same for me. She pinched me so hard on my way to her room, I had to put her down. She ran to her room and slammed the door. In the under-10-seconds it took me to catch up to her,  Dasha had managed to smash the table lamp so that tiny shards of glass now covered the floor and rug. I opened the door to find her slamming the drawer against the wall (why oh why had I put it back?) and standing in a scatter of glass shards. The dogs ran in,  revved up by all the screaming, and Dasha kicked them while I tried to usher them out.

"I HATE YOU, DOGS!" She screamed. "I HATE YOU FOREVER!" she ran to kick them again, but I stopped her.

I asked Nastia to get me the vacuum and the trash can. I was barefoot and ended up with a nice shard in my big toe. I did not react. I tried to move her away from the glass, which was everywhere, as she screamed "YOU'RE HURTING ME! YOU'RE HURTING ME!" Of course I was not.

All I could think of in that moment, if I'm honest, was that the windows in her room are open and my neighbor is going to be calling the police any minute. This is why families of traumatized kids get reported to DHS all the time. Ask Diana. She knows.

Back to the raging. Dasha pinched my face and banged her head into mine as hard as she could, "I HATE YOU ! I HATE YOU!" She screamed. I lifted her onto the bed to keep her from the glass, and she kicked me, hard, in the stomach. She may be tiny, but she packs a punch. I was in survival mode and not feeling much of anything -- not angry, scared, sad -- nothing. I felt numb.

Nastia arrived with the vacuum and started cleaning up. Dasha yelled really rude things at her " YOU ARE STUPID. YOU ARE SO DUMB. YOU ARE FAT. I HATE YOU AND YOU ARE NOT MY SISTER!" I had taught Nastia in earlier Dasha tantrums not to react. It's been a hard lesson for her to learn, but she kept her cool this time, used a calm voice, and only spoke to Dasha what I asked her to translate.

At this point, I took a moment to help Nastia. Dasha grabbed the nearest item and hurled it at my head. It was then that I realized everything needed to go -- the dresser, the toys, the dolls, the books. It simply was not safe to have anything in her room. 

I told Nastia, and she understood -- I had had to do the same thing with her years ago. To keep her safe. Nastia calmly started removing everything from the room while I tried to keep Dasha from hurting herself or us. As Nastia cleared the room, I had her calmly explain to Dasha why we needed to do this. It was to keep her safe and to keep her from hurting herself or us.

" I HATE YOU! YOU ARE BOTH STUPID IDIOTS! I HOPE YOU DIE LIKE MY SISTER!" Nastia was remaining surprisingly calm. Then the dogs pushed through when Nastia opened the door.

" I HOPE YOUR DOGS DIE TOO! AND YOUR CATS!" This time I saw Nastia fill with rage, and I knew she might lose it. I told her to go take a break while I dealt with Dasha. She started to leave and...

"AHHHHHHHHH!!!" She got a huge shard of glass in her heel. She screamed and dropped to the floor.

"Mama, Mama! It hurts! It hurts!" She was sobbing. Then the blood started coming. Suddenly Dasha stopped raging and backed away towards the door. She looked terrified. "I'm scared," She said very quietly, almost at a whisper. I needed to take care of Nastia, so I simply told her Nastia would be ok, but that I had to remove the glass from her foot and help her.

At this point, Nastia was sobbing. She let out all the hurt and frustration of these past 4 weeks with Dasha. " Mom, it hurts! I dont want it to hurt anymore." She leaned into my shoulder and wept hard.

This whole time Dasha looked on dazed. Finally she raced to the bathroom and brought back the bandaids. I tried to take the box " Mama, please I do it." She said this in English. She removed the bandaids and gave them to me. She sat crouched on the floor watching us  as I pulled the glass out and cleaned up her foot and placed on the bandaid. Again she added "I'm scared." in a small voice, almost a whisper.

Eventually, Nastia calmed down and, as Dasha was now calm, I emptied out the rest of the room -- glass-infested rug as well -- as Dasha watched. She only cried when she saw me throw out the little jewelry box she so loved, but she had smashed it against the wall. It was beyond repair.

After Nastia was ok to go in her room, I stayed. I sat on the empty floor and waited. I told her I was there for her and that I loved her still, even though I did NOT love what she did. She sat on her bed and cried. She made her way over to me and climbed in my lap and wept and wept and wept.

I would be lying if I told you I wanted to be holding her right then. I'd be lying if I said I felt anything at that moment. But I did what I knew to be the right thing, because that's what good mothers do. They stay. They weather the worst storms, because that is what God does. It's not fun, its not easy, it's not what I wanted to be doing, by ANY means, but it is what this child needed, and so I sat and held her even as I watched my toe bleeding underneath her legs. I just held her and reminded her that my love was there regardless.

Eventually, I lifted her up to her bed -- a bed devoid of sheets, stuffed animals and all the trappings of a little girl's bed. Just a urine-stained mattress and a pillow in an echoing, blue room. She fell asleep.

 I stayed for a bit and prayed and prayed over her that God would help heal her broken little heart, and then I brought a sheet in to cover her, and went to bed.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Almost Wordless Wednesday

Today we went to the beach....

Later we visited the Friendship in Salem...

D loved steering the ship's wheel!

She later told us she now wants to live in a boat...

Wonder what she is thinking about here...

Then Nastia carried her, which D loves...

So after a really rough morning and before an even tougher night, we did fit in some great moments!

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Pain Is So Deep

I really struggled with whether to post about what happened tonight, but I feel like people really need to be reminded.

And reminded, and reminded.

There are over 143 million children like D in this world. Let that sink in.

143 million.

The pain they carry in their little hearts is too heavy for them, and they can never put it down. It is so much easier not to know about them and their pain. (Life looks pretty ugly when you allow the reality of 143 million orphaned children to settle in your mind. I get that.) But, it is real. It is not a made-up number. It is not exaggerated, and their pain isn't either.

Tonight D was not herself. The reality of her impending departure is weighing heavily on her, and she raged tonight, but with a degree of sadness that I had not yet seen. Nothing precipitated it this time, she simply walked in her room after we got home, slammed the door, and yelled 'I hate you!'

I went in to try and get out of her what had upset her, but she just started crying with a depth of sorrow I recognized from when my father died. It was the grief we feel with loss. I immediately knew this was about her leaving, but I just stayed present and listened. She cried and cried deep soulful cries into her pillow and did not allow me to touch her. If I tried, she screamed 'YOU'RE NOT MY MOTHER AND NASTIA IS NOT MY SISTER. LEAVE ME ALONE!'

I spoke softly and told her I understood what she was feeling and that I loved her. She kicked and pounded the bed, and even pushed the dogs away when they tried to comfort her (as they always do when she cries.)

'GET AWAY! YOU ARE NOT MY DOGS!' She yelled at them, and pushed them off the bed.

She then fell deep inside herself and just heaved and cried and cried. It seemed like it would never stop. The pain was that deep. It just kept coming and coming, and I knew she was releasing a great deal of grief about a great many things. I waited. And I prayed. God, how I prayed.

 Eventually, she let me rub her back.

Between sobs, she starting speaking 'NO ONE will rub my head at night there! NO ONE will stay with me! NO ONE will read me a book or hold me!' I knew she was talking about the orphanage.

I lay down next to her, rubbing her head and told her 'I will always be a part of your life, even when I am not with you. I will ALWAYS love you. I will ALWAYS pray for you. I will think of you every single day. When I am able, I will write to you and call you and send you things." I said everything I could think of without making any promises I could not keep.

'I will never see you again, " she wept,  "I know it. I know it! I will never get to see you again...ever....' She fell into her pillow sobbing again. Her whole body was shaking while my heart spilled into a million tiny fragments.

I told her I loved her over and over again. After what seemed like forever, she turned over and clung to me. I sat up and pulled her onto my lap. She cried and cried into my shoulder and stuck her arms under mine and held on as tight as she could. 'Mama, mama, mama....' She cried.

I held it together. I needed to for her.

And after awhile, as it always goes, she stopped. She relaxed and let me rock her, and she cuddled in to me,  but without holding on for dear life. And I held her like that and rocked her for a good 30 minutes more. Finally, in her own time, she got up and started to walk to the door. 'Where are you going?' I asked.

'I want to go watch Cinderella with Nastia.' and that was it. The storm was over, and the calm returned.

I followed her into Nastia's room and watched her climb up over her 'sister' and get cuddled under the covers. 'Ok, Nast, I'm ready. Turn on the tv.' She said cheerfully. She had emptied some of that weight in her heart, and I could tell it felt much lighter to her.

Last week I asked God to let my heart hurt the way His must. Tonight I think he answered my prayer.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Nastia Update

Lest you lovely readers think I have abandoned daughter #1, let me assure you she is doing great! Nastia hates having her photo taken and also isn't so keen on my writing about her too often now that she "gets" the whole blogging thing. I have let her read much of it, and she says she is ok with the 'old stuff' about her staying because it is from 'a long time ago.' These days I am starting to think I need to check in with her before posting about her...out of respect for her privacy as a teen. But she says it's ok to post about the 'good stuff'.

Nastia is doing so well I could burst from pride. As hard as hosting Dasha has been at times, it has also afforded me the chance to see just how far Nastia has come. She is a great big sister! Yes, she loses her cool now and again, but by and far she is just as supportive as can be. Dasha completely idolizes her and wants to do everything like her. Nastia has become so attached to Dasha herself that today she told me to start 'papa shopping', too! Now, if you know Nastia, you know that is a HUGE leap. She used to try to get me to swear I would never ever marry because she didn't want to share me!

Nastia has grown up so much, I am starting to see glimpses of the woman she will become - strong and kind, nurturing and brave. She is a great mix of gentleness and strength. I want her to have the happiest life ever. I pray for that every single night. And Anya -- she can't wait to see Anya again, and has lately become a much better sister -- calling Anya more regularly and speaking longer, showing support for her sister by keeping her hopes up. She really makes me proud.

So, though I haven't blogged much about my sweetheart lately, it is really only because she prefers I don't and she absolutely HATES when I post photos of her...lol. She is at that awkward teen stage where she thinks she is unattractive no matter what I tell her. But thank goodness she is actually glad I have Dasha to blog about. She says it gets her 'off the hook'!

 PS. Yes, that's an iphone. She's asked for it for over 2 years now, and has been sooooo patient. Her therapist suggested I do something really special for her and since she needed a new phone....I splurged. I never splurge. It was time. She deserved it. And not to mention the peace of mind I experience now that she has a working phone again!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

I Really Truly Believe...

...that I was born to parent this irascible, mischievous, complex, adorable little girl. I don't know what mountains God plans to move, but I honestly am begging for it to happen. I cannot imagine going forward in life without her being a part of it. The thought devastates me. She is like a little puzzle piece that completed a puzzle that has remained incomplete. She has changed us, and we her. Her completely unfounded trust and faith that we are her family at first unnerved me and worried me, but now I wonder if maybe her little heart knows more than mine?

When she says ' Mama, God told me this is my family'  I have corrected her, and explained it cannot be. But her tears and deep grief just tear me apart. I now tell her that if she is meant to be with us, no law will stand in the way. But I try to offer her the thought that her family may be waiting for her. In the right time, she will be with them. ' No, no, YOU are my family. You and Nastia and Henry and Matilda and Kitty. You are my family and I am not going back to Ukraine.'

Hosting is agonzing in this respect. We walked into this knowing that I could not adopt her as a single mom. I went into this knowing it would be temporary. But my heart and Nastia's heart and Dasha's heart have all come together and it feels so good and right. I don't know what we'll do when we have to say goodbye. I really don't.

Here's to Faith and Trust in things not seen.

(note: Photo is of my mom with Dasha.)

Papa Shopping

So, Dasha has told me once again that she wants me to go 'Papa shopping.' 

Tonight at bedtime she had her usual line of questioning, which always revolves around adoption. ' Mama, I'm going to live with you forever,' she explains with the fortitude of a politician. Once again I remind her that we don't get to choose, the government makes rules about that. I gently explain that  the law says 'no papa, no adoption.' I've reminded her of this at least once a day every day for the past 2 weeks, because the question comes several times a day.

"Mama, then go get one." She states in Russian matter-of-factly, as if husbands were as easy to come by as bread.

I explain that it is not like that. There is no 'papa shopping' in America. But she follows me around the house with her little hands on her hips, berating me in frustration. She sits me on the bed and takes my face in her hands.

"Mama, you haven't even tried. I see you every day. You have not tried at all. Just go out tonight while I'm asleep and find one. They are everywhere, I promise. I think I saw some at the beach today. They were alone. I saw them. Go there or to a train station, maybe. Then I will meet him in the morning, ok?

I'm torn between laughing and weeping. 

I bite my lip. The entire time she is talking, she is patting my hand in hers, like some old Babushka giving me advice.  

 'And Mama, I want him to be handsome' She adds, "And not too old.'

She  asks me to write it down. 

'And Mama, he should like dogs. I like dogs. I want my Papa to like dogs, and cats and fish and horses. Ok?'

This precious little soul. How do I explain to her that I will not be her mom? How do I tell her that fathers can't be found at beaches and train stations - at least not the way she wants and needs? My heart is heavy and cold. She is still tugging on my arm. 'Ok, Mama, ok? Dogs and cats and horses, too ?'

Ok, I say limply.

She is satisfied and runs to her dolls and lifts them in the air. I hear her telling them 'Little Sunshines! Mama is going to go shop for a Papa! 

The door softly closes behind her. 

I close my eyes.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

My Wish

 I'm going to be bold and say it out loud. You all know I'm thinking it anyway. My wish is that Dasha  might be my daughter and Nastia's sister someday. There. I said it.  Can't take it back.

I don't know why I'm so scared to put that in writing. I don't know why it makes me nervous to say it out loud. I'm guessing I'm just so burned from the 5 year saga of trying to bring Anya home that I am:

A. A bit scared to hope these days, and...
B. A bit scared that people will think I'm nuts for letting myself fall in love with another child just after we 'lost' Anya.

But, you know what? It's the truth that I have fallen in love with this sweet soul and I dream of being her forever Mom,  so why should I try to hide it? God knows my heart. He knows that, despite this desire, I will do anything I can to make sure she finds a family. I'm pretty sure now that this is one of the reasons she ended up with us. He knows I'll fight for her. Just like I'm fighting for Anya.

On another note, here are some photos of our day today. Dasha got her first haircut ... and she loved every minute of being pampered:

Above, Dasha is telling the stylist how she wants her hair....

She wanted it even shorter, but we said no!

Here is the final 'product'...long enough to still get into pigtails!

 We also took her to The Willows finally, too. She loved it. If you're not from around here -- The Willows is a small amusement park/arcade that dates to the 1860s in Salem. I spent my childhood there, as did my Dad and my Grandfather. It has an antique carousel and lots of cool antique arcade games, and it's right on the beach.

The carousel I've ridden at least a hundred times since I could walk...

Just LOVED seeing Nastia and Dasha enjoying the same carousel horses.... forty years after me. Wish we could relive today over and over again.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

An Epic Tantrum & What Great Friends We Have

Before the dentist yesterday, I made the big-big-big, 'oh-no-you-didn't' mistake of telling the girls I would buy them something if they weathered the dentist visit well (i.e, no tantrums or meltdowns from either of them). Why did I do this? Why do we parents succumbed to bribery so often? Oh yes...because it works.

Well, this time it backfired. I know better. I know, from years of experience, that bringing a post-institutionalized, just-home child into a toy store (or any store for that matter) is never, ever, EVER a good idea. 

And yet I did it.

After the dentist we headed to Toys R Us  (sadly not a typo) to pick up a present for the two girls who did so well having metal instruments in their mouths for an hour. I was careful to explain - very carefully - that this was one gift each, nothing else, no matter what amazing toys called to them from the shelves. One toy.

The first 15 minutes in the store were great....ooohs and ahhs over all the toys, excitement in the barbie section, squeals of delight in the 'princess stuff' section, complete awe in the 'pretend play' aisle. Both girls were very careful about choosing their gift. Dasha was torn between a little stroller for her baby dolls and a doctor kit. She mulled over it for an eternity. She eventually settled on the stroller, because, as she put it , 'My babies need this.' Nastia went right to the game section and picked out a wii game she had been asking for for months. We proceeded to the checkout, and all was going well.


Dasha spied fake press-on nails in the checkout aisle.

She had to have them. I explained that we had agreed on one gift for each of them. I explained that we cannot buy everything we see. I explained and explained and, as I was explaining, this little girl was getting redder and redder. I  turned momentarily so I could pay the now impatient cashier. And that's when it happened. 

A roar emitted from D that can only be described as mammoth. Legendary, possibly. I've never heard anything like it before. 

Suddenly, she was kicking and screaming like no other little girl I have ever seen. In the checkout aisle. All eyes watching. no escape route. This was the tantrum to end all tantrums.

I thought of my friend Diana in this moment, and her recent post of her tantrum experience. I knew all eyes were on me, and I hated it. I wanted to get us out of the store ASAP. Nastia took our bags and my purse, while I tried to collect D. Elbow in my eye, hair pulled, arm scratched. She was giving it all she had.

I managed to get her out to the car with help from nearby sympathetic parents. 'She's probably really hungry.' Suggested one. 'Does she have sensory issues?' asked a Dad holding the door for us, 'Sensory issues can cause meltdowns like this', he offered.  As we headed to the car, with D trying to scramble over my shoulder, while biting me - hard-  an old man in a red mini-van full of grandkids yelled over her screams, asking if I needed any help. 'I've got chloroform in the back..." he laughed and laughed, leaning against his car door.

Not funny.

I climbed in the back of my car with D, as Nastia sat with her fingers in her ears in the front. I knew I just had to weather this. No explaining, just sitting, keeping her safe, and being with her. She raged for a good fifteen minutes in the car. She kicked the seats, hit the window with her fist, tried to pull my hair, spit at me.

Nastia begged me to 'just go buy the stupid nails, ma.' I explained to her how dangerous that was. D needs limits, honey, just like you did. I know its hard, but we just have to wait till she calms down. 

As fate would have it, my  blood sugar dropped suddenly , so my hands began shaking noticeably.  Nastia freaked out. 'Mom! Your hands! Are you gonna die?' No, honey, I'm not going to die, I just need to get a drink of OJ or a piece of candy. I just need to eat. Now Nastia is crying and D is finally quieting. I tell D I I need her to say she is sorry for biting me and put on her buckle. She digs in her heels and I just wait. And wait. Nastia is crying, and I'm about ready to give up, when.... 

'Iz viniche, Mama..' 

There, she said it.Buckle her up and drive quick!

So, we head Friendly's nearby for some food, and then have an uneventful, almost peaceful drive back home. Once D is in a regulated state, I explain to her why we couldn't buy the nails. She seems very contrite, almost ashamed of her behavior. 'Iz viniche, Mama.'  She says again, and she means it. Just then we pull up to the house, and what do we see?

A gift bag. A barbie gift bag.

Someone is very happy again.

In it, is a vet doctor's kit, two large containers of sidewalk chalk, and two cases of chocolate pudding! Nastia squeals 'Mom!  He remembered!'

My friends Brian and Pam had had us over for a playdate the day before. Dasha had fallen in love with the pet doctor set that Greta had, and they had all drawn on her chalk wall in her room...and Nastia had lambasted Brian for not having chocolate pudding in their house. 

He had driven all the way over to drop this gift bag off for the girls. 

Monday, July 12, 2010

Our Brave Girl!

Warning: Do NOT watch Finding Nemo just before someone's first ever dentist appointment.

I informed Dasha last night that she would be visiting the dentist, and she seemed fine about it....until Finding Nemo. I had completely forgotten the  horrible dentist that takes up a good part of the movie -- root canals, pulled teeth, screaming, terrified patients,...drills. What kind of mother am I?

So, this morning on the way to the dentist, Dasha was in hysterics. I had forgotten about the movie that we had watched the night before and could not, for the life of me, get her to share what she was upset about. But the tears were so real and the sobs so deep, we stopped at Starbucks on the way to sit with her and calm her down and get her a cool drink. After fifteen minutes of pleading, I had a lightbulb moment. " Are you afraid to go to the dentist?" The wail she emitted scared the barista.

So then my slow brain put two and two together, and I told Nastia about the movie. She couldn't stop laughing, which made Dasha cry harder. Nastia picked her up on her lap and explained that the dentist was NOTHING like the Finding Nemo dentist and that she used to be scared, too, but Dr. Polan made her not scared anymore. She told her how gentle he was, and how kind. And that he would not do a thing to her without her permission. It worked.

So, here, in pictures is Dasha getting her teeth checked, cleaned, x-rayed for the first time. She has four cavities, but only one needs to be filled. The others are teeth she will lose soon. She was sooo brave! Everyone from the office came in to congratulate her.  By the way, If anyone lives on the North Shore and wants the world's greatest dentist, head to Dr. Polan's office. He is truly an angel in a dentist smock.
They let Dasha control the suction...

and the water...

and had her test everything first to show her it wouldn't hurt...

She didn't complain once! 
And in the end, Dr. Polan invited her to be his assistant while he filled a cavity for Nastia! 

Now she says she wants to be a dentist:)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Things I Didn't Know I'd be Doing

Hosting a six year old brings with it a whole host of new experiences for the host parent. Here are a few things I didn't know I'd be doing. Any sound familiar to anyone?

1. I didn't know I'd ever be getting up at 5am to play barbies. Every day.
2. I didn't know I'd ever go through a box of band-aids a day.
3. I didn't know I'd ever hear myself say 'please don't pee in the tub' .
4. I didn't know I'd be cleaning sunflower seeds out of butt cracks.
5. I didn't know I'd be changing bed linens every. single. night.
6. I didn't know I 'd ever have badly painted, neon pink-glitter nails. (Yes, my nails.)
7. I didn't know I'd ever lie to a child. 'No, the ice cream truck only plays music when it's out of ice cream...'
8. I didn't know I'd ever hear myself saying 'Please don't lick the dog.'
9. I didn't know I'd ever be wearing fairy wings and a pink tutu -- willingly.
10. I didn't know I'd be so in love with a little girl that I'd be crying myself to sleep at the thought of losing her.

And as to the photo above -- Have you ever caught yourself saying  'Honey, please give me the keys and get out of the driver's seat' to a six year old? No? Didn't think so.

God Grant Me The Grace To...

...accept the things I cannot change. 

I cannot change the fact that Ukraine does not allow single parent adoptions anymore. I can only pray and hope the hearts of those in positions of power will learn to put the children first. Unlikely, but still -- miracles occur everyday.

Each night I have a long conversation with God about what I am grateful for and also what I need from Him. Lately the 'need' list is getting heftier. I need Him to grant me the grace to let D go in a few weeks. I honestly do not know how I will do it. The four-plus year Anya saga makes it difficult for me to trust in a positive outcome, but I'm trying. 

I want God to help me accept that D may not be my child. Even though she is a perfect fit. Even though she tells us everyday that she wants us. Even though she threatens to run away and come find us when she has to return to Ukraine. Even though I know in my heart that D would truly thrive with us. Please, God, please remind me that you have a much better vantage point than I. You know best what is best for this little girl. Help me to think like you. 

This little girl -- this frustrating, irascible, demanding, tantrum-loving, independent, fiery, sometimes impossible, always amazing little girl --has captured our hearts, and holds them tight in her little fists. I want the world for her. I want her to have EVERY SINGLE thing she needs, in spades.

God grant me the Grace to accept the things I cannot change.