‘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

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Looking For Input

(My iphone always makes me orange...don't know why.)
I'm not kidding when I say I don't want to go home. I'm not even stretching the truth the tiniest bit. In fact, I'm so stressed about it that I had a near panic attack in the middle of the night last night. I managed to deflect it with deep breathing and prayer, but the knot in my stomach stayed.

Well-intentioned friends keep telling me I will be happy once I am home, but that's not really helping  (no offense.) I also know myself enough to know it's not true. I will be sad for a very long time, because I am leaving beind many, many children that I have grown to love very much. And I am leaving before I am ready. And I am leaving with a hundred million question marks still buzzing about in my head. And I am leaving D. And I am leaving a place where I know I a making a difference. And I'm happy here. Genuinely happy.

But for whatever reason, it is evident that by my daughter's clock, it is time to go. And so we go.

In a few days we will head to the orphanage for our big Thanksgiving Feast. It is building up to be quite the event -- many of my Shakespeare students are coming to help with set up (and translating) and Channel One Russia (the biggest of the big) is sending a crew to film us and do a national news story about it. We are going very early Friday morning, so that our Siberian Thanksgiving coincides with the U.S. one. The orphanage kids are already making decorations, and the staff is slowly purchasing all the goods. Nastia and I are cooking a turkey here and bringing it, as no turkeys could be found in Prokopyevsk. Svetlana, bless her heart, found one in Kemerovo and dropped it off at our house last night.

We will buy crates of fruit as well, since it is such a treat for the kids. I'm going to try to create a fruit tower on each table. After we all eat, we will share my family's tradition of going around the table and hearing from each person about what they are grateful for. Then pie! I can't find pumpkin anywhere, so we might be stuck with only apple. We'll see.

Anyway -- the input part: in the evening Svetlana and all my students will return to Kemerovo, the camera crew will leave, and I will have that evening and the entire next day to spend with the kids. I want to make my last day with them memorable, but I'm drawing a blank on how. I think I'm just so averse to leaving, that I'm having a mental block. So, help me. What are some ways I can end my time with them that will be memorable and helpful? How can I give D something to hold onto for the next several months? What would be my best use of time that last night and next day?

Please take a moment to comment if you have any ideas. Thank you.


  1. Wow, press there too? What a great story!! Is there anyway to get copies of the story, 1 for each child and worker?

    You could play team charades or Pictionary. That would be easy enough to teach and all ages can play or at least be on a team.

    Does Daniel have a diary (or a notebook and pen) . If he has an outlet to write down his thoughts it can serve several purposes. Of course to practice writing, also to express out loud how he feels and more importantly, wouldn't we all love to have daily musings of our life when we were his age? It would be a keepsake and possibly unlock unanswered questions later. When you get together, you can catch up with him and it'll seem to you as if you never left! He will be so proud to show you about his day to day life. He may remain busy and focused because he won't want to write that he did nothing but miss you for 3 months straight.

    I hope this is helpful. Thank you again for all of your work. Will be thinking about you and all those happy faces on Thanksgiving Day!

  2. Anonymous9:00 AM

    instead of looking at this as an ending look at it as a hiatis. You were very scared and sad to leave your home in Mass.when you left for Russia. I personally think art is one of the most lasting and expressive projects. Have the children draw a picture of their impression of Thanksgiving and make it into a book and leave it at the orphanage so they can reflect back on it after the day is over.
    Maybe you could do an impromptu talent show which could be funny and non competitive just an activity that could involve everyone for pure entertainment.
    It is obvious your work is not done there just relocating. There is so much you can organize from home that will have positive affect on the children. YOu can get people involved with donation drives, your hosting program and I would venture to say with all the wonderful photos of such beautiful children you have nudged more than one towards adoption.
    Happy Thanksgiving to you and all "your children"


    Ann and Lottie (adopted from Birobijan 2005)

  3. I sort of strongly feel that your visits with those kids are so special, there is nothing more you need to do but go. They appreciate the gifts and such, but you being there and engaging with them is the true treasure. Play with them. Have a memorable day of play and it will be special enough. I believe all the days you spend with them are so memorable in their lives they talk about them a LOT. I bet there are more "do you remember the day Keri came and we..." then we can imagine!

  4. Anonymous9:22 AM

    i second janices idea.. you coud teach them how to play games with the caretakers and all.

  5. As for Daniel, leave something with him that is physically yours. Not a gift purchased just for him, but something like a hat or a scarf or makeup brush...something that is YOURS...something you will want back but that he can take care of and hold onto until you return to bring him home. If possible, have it be something that has been yours for awhile and smells like you.

    As for coming home, remember why you went there in the first place...and why we bring our kids home to America. Heartbreaking as it is to leave these kids behind (I well remember the day my heart shattered in a million pieces when we said goodbye to all the older kids at my son's internat), look at why Nastia wants (and needs) to leave. Look at the progress she has made since she's been your daughter. Look at the help available to her in America. Don't get miered down in the fact that you can't provide that same level of help to all the kids, including Anya (that's a super hard one, I know), but you can for Daniel and you will. It's like the man who walked the beach every morning throwing starfish back into the sea. He couldn't save them all, but what was doing made a difference to the few he touched. The preparations you will make and life you have waiting for you back in America WILL make a difference to Daniel and you have an opportunity to make sure that help is securely in place before you bring him home for good, too.

    You are an amazing lady, Keri. Keep the faith and keep the hope.

  6. When it all comes down to what matters I feel the best thing you could do is spend your last hours just loving on them. That and the promise of a possible return will be something for them to hold onto. The others really had some great ideas as well. Have fun with them.

  7. When my son was in the NICU they encouraged the parents to take a small stuffed animal or blanket and sleep with it under our shirts for a few nights as something to leave with the baby. Whether we know it or not, our sense of smell is pretty amazing. In Daniel's case, maybe you could sleep with it and then spray it with a small bit of your perfume. (Or, if you're like me and don't wear perfume, you could smear on a small bit of your deodorant, shampoo, etc...anything that you wear that has a scent.) Or, if you want to make it something of yours, wear one of your t-shirts for a day and leave it with him. That way, it both smells like you and is something of yours.

  8. For Daniel, I think that something cuddly (or even a pillowcase) he can sleep with that smells like you would be a great help. Even one of your tshirts would be good.

    For everyone else...have you been printing out photos all along? My orphanage kids LOVE to take pictures and to have pictures. I've given them albums and photos and they love them. Maybe you could do a mini-scrapbooking day? Albums are cheap here. And, some colored paper and glue sticks and stickers would be easy to get--and carry.

    I think the talent show is a fabulous idea, too.

  9. Can you get sweet potatoes? yams? They make a good pie that is very similar in taste and appearance to pumpkin.

  10. I love the idea of something of Daniel's Mamas to leave with him. You're already leaving pieces of your heart there. I'm so sorry, yet so grateful all at the same time.

  11. When I went on a weekend trip, my [bio]daughter, who was then probably 12 years old, confessed that while I was gone she slept with my sweater. That touched my heart. I think these suggestions are good, though you have to remember he's a boy and make it something small, or not obviously "keepsake".

    I'd play games with the kids, too....games keep minds preoccupied and provide opportunities for fun. As many non-competitive ones as possible (I find theatre games great for this, and you undoubtedly know a lot).

    If I were you, I'd be consoling myself with plans for a return trip, and maybe developing a way to spend some set time each year there... Development of a Shakespeare Theatre, or Theatre workshop of some sort.

    This is what I'm always planning to do myself, but just haven't managed yet, with a full-time job and four children.... But I like the idea!!! And without a husband, you can move a little lighter.

  12. How about a craft project? Maybe picture frames? They can put a picture of you two together, or their group of friends (something they can keep and remember their friends if they move). It doesn't have to be amazing. I can't tell you how many glitter and/or macaroni encrusted, scribbled on, sticker covered pieces of construction paper I've received over the years.

    Or I like the journal idea. You could make your own (some loose notebook paper stapled, or tied with yarn, between a decorated paper cover. You could use it like a year book and pass it around to everyone to write nice things about each other. Or just one for you that everyone writes on.

    Or how about soliciting for pen pals for everyone? Those kids that want to do it can tell you and you can match them up?

  13. Ditto on leaving the journal AND a personal item that smells like you . . . when we went to Russia to pick up our Dd, my bio 9 year old found a SOCK of mine and slept with it the whole time we were gone! I was amused that she chose a sock but was proud of her for taking care of herself once she realized how badly she was missing me . . .

  14. i agree with leigh.
    keri -- you need no suggestions from us. you'll be there, and whatever will happen will be perfect. wonderful.

    and i also agree with harry - it is a hiatus.

    and above everything... i'm so proud of you for doing this for nastia. hopefully when you're home and sad, she will be of comfort to you here and help you through it.

    you guys are quite the team, quite the family.

    love you.

  15. Do you have access to a video camera? Maybe you could make some fun videos of the kids that they can keep? Skits they make up are always great fun.
    And you can star in one. :)

  16. I have no practical suggestions about children that haven't already been given EXCEPT! that pumpkin pie can be made from any winter squash, not just pumpkin.

  17. Kind of the same ideas..would you be willing to part with your pillow? Or, do you have a blanket that you could leave with D? I have been in a similar situation, away from the person who I felt most loved/cared by. She gave me her pillow and it was a great comfort to me.
    I remember that you mentioned Nastia having a Flip cam and could you ask her to leave that with D (and extra batteries) and maybe they have some way to send those videos via youtube? Just make sure that N gets a NEW flipcam if she does! ; )
    Write a few short letters to D, that he can pull out and read (spray your cologne on them).
    Make a paper chain and have him pull one off each day until you go back to get him. As he pulls each one off, have him write a note on the paper and then save them for when he's older and all of you can look back and see how he was feeling during that time. Hey! YOU could do that, as well! Hang it in your room. You'll be surprised by the things that you write during a difficult waiting period!
    You are an Amazing Mom to ALL "your" kids! I'll be thinking of ALL of you as you journey back to Nastia's "safe place". Would you, Please, give Hugs to those kids for me? Sure wish I could fly over and pick up where you are leaving! (Just remember, your leaving is only for a Season)! You'll go back soon!
    Love You, My Friend! ~ Jo

  18. I would suggest that you just hang with the kids on your last day. If you try to build it up into a big event, especially after the huge feast, it will leave you and them drained and likely out of temper. Keep the last day a quiet one; talk, play, hug and laugh. Leave them refreshed and with simple, loving memories of your last hours.

    I only offer advice because you asked for it. I remain amazed at what you do, and I'm sure that whatever you hit on will be for the best! :)

  19. When my kids were young and they went away for a few days, I would kiss the palm of their hand.
    Then I would tell them that the kiss would always be there. Always.
    My son went to England with his wife and said even though he hadn't thought of it in years, he did then and was glad to find it was still there.
    Might mean a lot more to the kids than something that could be lost or wear out.
    Because like the kiss in the hand, your love will always be with them.


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