Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Oh, you should write a book

That's at least what people tell me about my adoption adventures. Sounds good, no? I even have a great title: "Suddenly Mommy." The subtitle? Hmmmm. "Kids, cats and Kazakhstan"? Or "how to start a family when you're 50"? Or "why Christian singles should adopt"? (The latter is because most of my church friends told me I *had* to get married before adopting. Nice thought, but...where are the men?
How about this: "In the steps of Genghis Khan: How I found my kid-o on the Kazakh steppes."
Actually I have made inquiries. My current publisher told me the idea is too "niche;" not enough people would buy it. My emails to 2 other publishers/agents went unanswered. So the world is not yet crying out for this book. Actually, I think single moms could use all the encouragement and funny stories they can get. There's precious little out there for them as it is. I am still in contact with lots of single women adopting internationally. Not much has changed on the corruption front. One said her coordinator is charging her $800 for a kid's passport. The real price is $50. Oh, the graft...
Last Sunday I splurged with a friend and we saw "La Bayadere"danced by the Kirov at the Kennedy Center. For those of you who have never seen that haunting "Kingdom of the Shades" third act opening dance, click here to watch it on You-Tube:
( It is gorgeous; one of the most famous scenes in all of ballet-dom. Those Russians sure know how to do those massive productions right.
Speaking of massive, I am spending the weekend frantically trying to get through the edits for my Quitting Church book. Am trying to line up babysitters to give myself more time. It's not easy to get kids these days, especially those over 15. Has anyone noticed that when they get a kid, they get more accident-prone? I have never knocked over so many things: glasses of this or that, or dropped things in my life. Thank God I have wooden floors downstairs. I do not know if I am tired or proccupied or what but it seems as though I am constantly bumping into and spilling things.
The photos are from Christmas: Veeka adoring her gifts and her cousin Carley.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A year ago: Veeka's court date

A year ago today (Jan. 25) I got custody of Miss Olivia Veronika. Funny, that strange court date seems truly like only a month ago; showing up at the courthouse early in the morning, meeting the interpreter who had no idea what she was doing, going through the formalities of a hearing with a judge who clearly was only half paying attention. But I got my little girl and brought her back with me that night to sleep with ME next to her instead of 16 other screaming kids. The photo here shows Veeka, myself and her cousin Lindsay at Christmas. Scroll back to this date in 2007 and see what Veeka looked like then!
Which brings up the current dilemma: how do I deal with the fact that every morning at 4 a.m. or so, I get a nocturnal visitor? She shows up, blanket in hand, next to my bed, expecting to crawl right in. She started this about 2 weeks ago. As she climbs up, my disgusted cats hop off. My friends tel me I have *got* to break her of this habit. Well, I tried leaving the baby gate up one night. When she encountered that early in the morning, her shrieks were enough to wake the dead.
So, if I reinstall the baby gate, there will be several nights more of dramatics. Any one else with this problem? I am assuming this will stop one way or another but I've let it go on in that it's kind of nice to wake up in the morning and have SOMEONE look back at you other than a kitty face.
Well, once I got custody, there disappeared something from my life called free time. It is impossible to do something like read the paper in peace, as Veeka constantly wants to be read to, talked with or something. I tried putting in a video of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and she sat for that for a record-breaking 10 minutes before deciding she wanted my lap (and attention) instead. Singing "Someday my prince will come" along with the video did not draw her back into the story.
The speech therapy lessons is helping Veeka's vocabulary. Just tonight, she said "water" for me. This Saturday: Ballet lessons!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Searching for Bopa

Opa and Veeka

Luckily for me, Veeka is a very fastidious child and she insists on cleaning up all the crumbs on her high chair tray. She will find a speck of something on the kitchen counter and insist I wipe it up then and there, so I am counting my blessings that she's not a slob. Every week something different comes up; she now doesn't want to fall asleep at night, so for the past 2 nights, I've gotten on my cell phone and called various friends long distance while rocking her to sleep. If she's wrapped just so in her favorite blanket with her head on my chest and my voice droning in the distance, she conks out.
Then at about 3 or 4 a.m., she wanders into my room. As my cats unhappily jump off my bed, she climbs in and goes to sleep again. Am not sure how long this stage will last but hey, she could probably use the mother-daughter bonding time.
She's doing well in speech therapy and when shown a photo of her grandparents, says "Bopa" instead of "Opa" although she is capable of pronouncing the "O" sound. She still hasn't come up with a word for "Oma." Part of the attraction of "Bopa" is that he's pictured in my bedroom holding a kitty, Veeka's favorite object in the whole world. "Kitty," not "mommy" was her first English word so we can see where her sympathies lie.
As for me, I am now running 3 blogs: this one, my religion blog at work and a new papal visit blog, also at work which is a temporary one for Benedict's April 15-20 visit here. My book manuscript has been sent back for me to correct the edits and the editor wanted it yesterday soooo, am spending as much time as I can get this weekend working on it. Oh, and I have a lengthy article on the new Prince Caspian movie due this coming Friday for a magazine. The movie's not out until May 16, but they work months in advance. It would be so lovely if I had MLK day off so I could work on these projects, but unfortunately that is not the case.
Also at my workplace, the editor and managing editor of my paper announced their resignations this week, so lots of changes (hopefully good ones) are afoot. And Veeka starts kiddie ballet lessons next Saturday so we'll get to see what kind of talent lies under her love of anything involving music.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Speech lessons

It's now back-to-the-grindstone time and our little princess has switched speech instructors. I now have to have her at one of the local elementaries 2 mornings a week at 8:30 a.m. No sleeping in that day! It's amazing to get the instructor show Veeka how to say words like "bubbles" and make squawking noises when she sees a chicken. Not to mention the "woof woof" and "mieow mieow" she already knows. There's reading exercises, then there's put-balls-in-the-hole exercises and on and on. Finally all those school taxes I've paid over the years is resulting in something.
Typically, her inability to concentrate on anything for more than one minute does get frustrating for me as I have to constantly supervise whatever she does. So all my unread books and magazines sit in huge piles. Getting a babysitter for the weekends is not always easy; just tonight I tried 4 teenagers and all of them were busy this weekend. Basically this means I stay up to 1 a.m. every day trying to get my work done. But she does not play alone at this point and there's no one nearby with whom I can share play dates. She constantly needs to be entertained or related to. She loves gadgets, but I cannot let her loose on my computer because of some damange she's already done.
One thing on my Veeka wishlist is that she get pottytrained quickly. Even Oma's efforts over Christmas were frustrated by Veeka's refusal to sit still for more than 2 seconds. She's in line to enter a much closer daycare this spring, but she has to be pottytrained by then so if anyone has great ideas on how to do this, pass them along.
Meanwhile things are going well with my blog at work. Again, the URL is: and I've spiced it up with headlines like "Do Lutherans Believe in Hell?" One entry on the Baghdad Prayer Patrol got 65 replies! I posted that earlier this week. The beast needs to be fed nearly every day and starting Jan. 15, we're premiering a 2nd religion blog on the upcoming papal visit to Washington 3 months from now.
The photo shows Miss Veeka several weeks back on stage after the reception at the Indian embassy. A friendly woman I met is talking with our little celeb as she tests out the microphone. Veeka, btw, acted like a model princess that entire evening. When I saw the aghast look on the face of one of the embassy people when she arrived, I figured we'd have to make a quick exit. But no, she sat quietly the entire evening and charmed everyone with smiles and kisses.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Our first anniversary

Yes, it was a year ago - Jan. 4, 2007 - that Veeka and I first met. I was still jet-lagged from having arrived in the country two days before when I arose some time near dawn, threw down the first of the many weird breakfasts I would have at Hotel Tseleena, then jump into a freezing van for an hour ride through snowy steppes to Rudney where we pulled up at a somber brick orphanage, then clambered inside. The smell of urine nearly knocked me over. There was the discussion with the orphanage director, then the big march upstairs to a large room I'd get to know very well during the next 3 weeks.
About 10-15 children were playing there and then I spotted one that looked about the age of little Veronika Ahmedianova. She was scowling. As they brought her to me, she started to shriek. She would continue to act like this for the next 2 weeks. I flet pretty helpless trying to spin a top for her and take her around on a tricycle while the interpreter, orphanage director, adoption coordinator and orphanage doctor all looked on. Very little pleased Miss Veeka that day and she was awfully glad to be rescued from me and restored to Lena, her caregiver.
Tonight, Veeka and I dined on steak and salad and she ate about half the steak! She kept on signing "more" so she got more. Then she kept on saying "cookie" so I had to dredge up something with a flour tortilla, butter, sugar and cinnamon in a microwave as I had forgotten to get something special. But we did burn a special candle I had gotten for her in Kazakhstan plus we went and got some snow boots for her immediately after work. And tonight she got an extra long hot bath.
Sooo, compare the first photo of Veeka (in the yellow sweater) and the other orphanage kids with one taken last week at Oma and Opa's. She's gained about 5 pounds, grown 3 or so inches and her feet have increased by 2 sizes. Saturday morning, the social worker comes for Veeka's yearly assessment which all adopted parents have to agree to.
And I have absolutely no regrets. In fact, I am encouraging several single women in this area to do the same thing.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Veeka's first Christmas

Well, we're back in Virginia after 9 really restful days in Seattle. Unfortunately, Veeka and I are still on Pacific time, so she had a tough time going to bed last night and tonight - cried herself to sleep tonight when I ordered her off to BED.
But as always she was a hit at family festivities. Her little 2-year-old self livened up Christmas Day as all 13 of us gathered to see each other and open gifts. Uncle Rob got to swing Veeka up near the ceiling. Cousin Carley (who works for a dentist) taught her how to brush her teeth. Cousin Michael saw her for the first time. Oma and Opa took her for walks and to a zoo and to church (while her mom slept in). And the sun even came out for a few days - a miracle. Plus, we had several clear winter nights with beautiful moon-lit skies and no rain. Am very glad we bought a direct flight - paid a fortune - but it was worth not getting stuck in Chicago like so many folks were. Can you imagine being marooned at O'Hare with a 2-year-old? The mind boggles.
Anyway, the photo is of Veeka and moi just before she went to bed Christmas night. And of Uncle Rob doing the Swing.
Just think: a year ago, I had just flown into Almaty.