Monday, May 28, 2012

Making memories. Every year.

Every year since we graduated from college, we have gone to Lake Erie for Memorial Day.  We go with a big group of our college friends.  Now everyone has kids and some of the kids are almost college-aged.....  Wow how time flies.  That doesn't seem possible.  Weren't WE just in college?!?!?

We had great weather this year - maybe the best weather ever.  We stay in cabins right on Lake Erie.  This year for the first time I walked all by myself on the lakeshore looking for lake glass.  It was nice to have that quiet time all to myself.  Of course it was also nice to see our friends, some of which we only see this time every year.  The kids love it - and look forward to camping for months.  Sometimes they even talk about it all year.

It will be interesting to see what happens as the kids grow.  Will the kids be lifelong friends like their parents are??


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Growing up RIGHT before my eyes

The roller skating rink has the best vending machines...  for $0.50 you can grow up on the spot!

And no, he wasn't shirt-less at the skating rink.  This was the showing-daddy-at-home-right-before-bed-shot.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Russia Day

Today was Russia Day in Luke's class.  I'm starting to like this teaching stuff! 

Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures.....  Not sure if things are a little different in 3rd grade, or if the content was a bit different, I don't know.  I just didn't get any pictures.  It just didn't seem as condusive to picture taking.  Not sure why.

Anyway.  Luke was a bit nervous - but I also think a bit excited! - to share with his class.  Russia and Luke have a strange relationship.  I don't think he remembers anything about it.  We talk about it and he looks at his pictures.  But he also tries to fill in the blanks a lot.  Which is to be expected, I guess.  He has no clue about his first 3 years and neither do we.  He wants to know; so he makes up stories.  I don't think this is an unusual occurance for someone in this particular situation. 

Sometimes Luke is infatuated with Russia.  Some days he practically begs me to go there for a visit.  Then other times, he is mad he was born there and wishes he wasn't and never wants to go there ever again.  Some days he will tell anyone he comes in contact with that he was born in Russia.  Other days, he gets upset if someone mentions it and says everyone makes fun of him for being born there.  Even if they don't know what Russia is - which is probably 99% of the kids at school, to be honest. 

So he wants to talk about it - but only when he wants to talk about it.  We understand that and kind of put the ball in his court.  I have never pushed him to talk about it - but I have never hidden where he came from either.  But kids are kids (Luke included) and they are fickle, if nothing else...  And so, Russia is a big mystery.  To Luke, to the kids at school - and even to us as his parents.  Yes, we were there, but no, we don't know everything about it - and we don't know how much Luke wants to or needs to know about it.

And so we take things one day at a time with this volatile relationship with Luke and Russia.

So the whole "Russia Day" thing was a bit of a stress.  He desperately wanted to do it, but was afraid of what his classmates would say.  He wanted to learn about Russia but was afraid of what he might find.  What if he liked it too much?  What if he didn't like it at all?

So I did what any mother in this situation would do:  I kept it light.

Luke's classmates know he was adopted from Russia.  He told them at the beginning of the school year. (Then he was mad at himself that he did that....)  My very first slide showed where we were in the US and where Luke was when he was in Russia.  I explained that Russia was on the complete opposite side of the world.  "It is 2:00 in the afternoon here; it is 2:00 in the middle of the night there."   "Ooooooo!!!!  COOL!" the class almost unanimously shouted.  Cool?  Really?  Luke caught my eye and decided to join me in the front of the classroom.  (I had asked him to come forward with me before I started and he desperately shook his head, 'NO!' and practically hid under his desk.)

Suddenly this Russia thing might be cool, I could sense him thinking.  Although I was standing, he pulled up a chair and sat next to me. 

I continued through the slides:  we talked about what Russians eat, how they dress, what the weather is like, what toys the kids play with, what sports they play, what holidays they celebrate, what their money looks like, a little bit of history about Russia-USSR-Russia.  Then I taught them some Russian words.  The kids LOVED repeating the words.  Luke was all smiles.

After the presentation, Luke passed out some Russian snacks and candy we had purchased at the Russian grocery store.  He was afraid no one would like it.  He was thrilled when they actually ate it.  Some kids even asked me questions.  He couldn't believe it. 

Something tells me this was more about Luke than about Russia. 

Something tells me it needed to be. 

And that's okay.  Maybe this strange relationship between Luke and Russia will start to become a little more stable. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

A not so good cook in Russia....

I think I have become a decent cook over the years.  Let's just say things taste way better than the box of hamburger helper we used to eat 15 years ago. 

I tried to cook some Russian foods to take to Luke's class.  We did a 'trial run' here for dinner.  It was terrible.  And I mean TERRIBLE.  Luke eats everything in sight - EVERYTHING - and he couldn't even swallow this food. 

I attempted to make Pelmeni, which is beef inside a dough.  It is served with melted butter and sour cream, but even those toppings couldn't make it taste good.  I was going to make Borscht - until I read what was in it.  Just about everything, all pureed together.  It sounded so unappetizing I couldn't even think about making it.  I also roasted some potatoes with mushrooms and onions, which were fine, but considering Luke isn't a big potato eater....  The meal did NOT stack up in his book.  The cucumber salad was the only saving grace, but Luke got sick of that pretty quickly too.

He warned me, "You can NOT cook this for my friends!  It will be so embarassing!"

So cookies and crackers and candy are the stars of the show.  And nothing else.  Or else!  ha ha ha.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Lost in translation

Russia day is coming up in Luke's class.  For Emma's class, I cooked some Guatemalan food for the kids to try.  I want to be able to offer the kids in Luke's class a taste of Russia as well.  So I was thrilled when my google-searching landed me on a Russian Grocery Store just an hour from here!

So I got the address, printed out a map (we still don't have a GPS, we are too old for technology around here!  ha ha!) and we headed to the store this afternoon.

I am proud to say we only got lost once - okay, twice! - but we found it.  Luke was very excited.  I was too.  We walk in and - well - it is as big as my living room. Maybe as big as my living room and dining room put together. 

There isn't much.  Not sure what I was expecting, but....  there isn't much.  Lots of bulk candy along the wall and some crackers and cookies.  Cans of stuff that I don't know what it is.  A small fridge or freezer with stuff in there but I don't know what that is either.  Not surprisingly, everything is in Russian.  We are the only ones in the store besides an old man sitting behind the counter.  I notice he is watching Russian TV.  And has a Russian magazine in front of him. 

I ask him, "Are you Russian?"  He says, "Yes."  I start my dissertation:  "My son was born in Russia, we adopted him from there.  I am doing a presentation in his school this week and I was wondering if you could give me any advice on what I could talk to the children about?"

Dead silence.  He looks at me with that Russian look.  Sorry to stereotype here, but we saw that look a LOT while we were in Russia.  Not really the "you dumb American" look, not a scowl, but not a smile either.   Just a look that makes you wonder what on earth they are thinking.

Finally he said, "You speak Russian?"
I said, "No."
He said, "He speak Russian?" and he points to Luke.
I said, "Not any more."
He said, "I speak no English." and he turned back to his TV.

So now we are left in the Russian grocery store with all Russian words on the wrappers and a Russian TV station on and a Russian magazine and a Russian man.  And not a bit of English except what we were speaking.

But we drove all that way - and got lost twice! - so we are not wasting this trip.  We start to try to figure this stuff out.  We shyed away from things that had no pictures.   So we ended up with crackers and cookies. Luke picked out a bunch of bulk candy - picked only because of the color of the wrappers. 

I finally got brave again and said, "Do you have caviar?"  I figured Luke is an adventurous eater and might like to try it.  The man said, "Caviar?"  I said, "Yes. Caviar."  He said, "Yes yes. Caviar."  He walked over to the cooler and pulled out this itty bitty container of caviar and said, "Caviar."  I said, "How much?" and he said, "$40."  I said, "Oh no.  No thank you!"

So we took our cookies and crackers and candy to the register and $40 later anyway, we walked out of the store.  But at least Luke's class will have something to try.  I have been on the internet all night trying to figure out what this stuff is....  I've got to be careful because I have a nut allergy so it's not like I can just taste this stuff.  I've been finding Russian keyboards and trying to translate....  the one candy translated:  Candy with Gusto Taste. 

Oh boy.  It might be a long night.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Goodbye my old friend

Today was a sad, sad day. My dog died.

I feel so silly saying that, I mean, she was JUST a dog. But she was a part of our family. She was our "first born". We had her way before we had the kids. We spoiled her rotten before the kids came. She went everywhere with me. I talked to her like she could listen. And I think she even answered me sometimes :)

Once we had the kids, things changed. She wasn't my main attraction anymore. The kids required so much of me. And often, I'd have very little left for her. The car rides dwindled. The walks stopped. I yelled at her a lot to leave the kids' toys alone and to quit licking the floor that their bare feet were now walking on.

And yet, she was still there - every day - waiting for me to show her just a little affection.

As the kids grew, the time we spent together came back. The kids started school. I was home. She followed me around. ALL the time. She always knew where I was and I always had to be within her sight. She was getting older - we both were - and she needed that reassurance that I was still there. I was. The petting started again. The walks happened every once in awhile. And when she was lucky enough, I'd even take her for a car ride again. She'd sneak up on the couch with me every chance she got. She was my cuddly friend again.

For 14 years, she was always by my side. We had our rhythm. She knew where I was; I knew where she was. I guess you could say we were BFF's :)

The last month has been up and down. She had a pretty bad spell a month ago, I thought she was leaving me then. But she pulled through and had some REALLY good days. A few bad days, but mostly good. Her habits changed - she had to go outside more often (like several times in the middle of the night) and she had a few accidents in the house. She'd stare at walls and couldn't hear me when I came in the house anymore.

But underneath it all, she was still my pal - she still managed to get up on the couch with me just a few days ago. She'd still follow me around and would always have to be right next to me. And just yesterday, she was up on the table eating the kids' leftover peanut butter. If someone would've told me that yesterday was her last day, I never would've believed it.

I couldn't have asked for a better ending. She had a rough night last night - she was up pretty much all night, pacing around, going outside a LOT. This morning, she went downstairs and never came back up. But we got to say goodbye. Emma and I sat with her, petting her for a long time this morning. She didn't have much strength and I knew what was happening. It was awkward and peaceful all at the same time. I told Emma that we had to go upstairs and get something to eat and we'd check on Maggie in a little bit. Maggie got up to try to follow us but couldn't make it. She laid back down. I pet her one last time and went upstairs. I checked on her a few minutes later and she was gone.

For a 14 1/2 year old dog, that's not too bad of an ending. The vet didn't think she'd make it past a few days a month ago. She made it - and lived the last month like a hobbly old lady, but she didn't curl up and give up. She fought with all she had, she just didn't have any more. At least she got some peanut butter before she went :)

I'll miss you, my old friend. Thanks for the unconditional love. You were a great dog. Even if you licked the floor and ate the peanut butter - and everything else for that matter! - right off the table.

Thank goodness for the dog overlap. Baxter sure is making things easier... But she is really sad and confused too...

I love this picture of my dogs, it is from a long time ago so they look fresh and young! Maggie's pretty black hair turned gray - especially on her face. She had gone through many (ugly) haircuts because her coat had changed and she didn't always let me brush her anymore. Now I can remember her being young :)

But it truly is a sad, sad day.
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