Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Scooter’s Happy Birthday

Wednesday, April 30

Last Sunday was Scooter’s birthday. He is fourteen years old and acts like he’s a kitten. He is Lola’s boyfriend and the welcome wagon when the ladies come over for Bible Study on Wednesday nights. He’s been a part of my life for ten years. There is not enough I can say about how much Lola and I love Scooter. He’s a comedian, a stoic and a glutton all in one. He’s a good listener, a warm fuzzy pillow and gives great massages. He adores Lola and keeps an eye on his best cat buddy Boo Boo to make sure Boo is comfy and receives a fairly basic ear and face grooming every now and then.

Scooter is a scaredy-cat when it comes to loud noises, thunderstorms and things that go bump in the night. He loves to explore, loves to play and loves to eat.

For his birthday, Scooter got a can of soft cat food. He enjoyed it VERY much. We also found his leash and harness (which I had tried to use on him many years ago to take him for walks outside, but once the harness was on, he would lay down and refuse to move. The cat I had a few years previous to Scooter was happy to have a leash and harness and went for walks every day. I had hoped Scooter would have the same desire, but apparently not) and Lola insisted that we try it to see if Scooter would like it now. We put it on him and carried all 20+ pounds of him outside and put him on the ground. He flopped over on his side like a beached whale and refused to budge. Lola and I agreed that maybe if we spend 5 minutes a day with him wearing the harness outside he’ll figure out the correlation between harness=fun outside and after a week or so he might be more receptive to the idea.

So here’s a toast (with root beer) to Scooter, the awesome cat!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Six-Month Visit

I received a telephone call the other day from a woman at the adoption home study office advising it was time for Lola's six-month update visit!! Wow, time really does fly!! We have been scheduled for a visit on May 13. I was told by my adoption agency that I have to make 3 sets of 6 photos of Lola so the Russian courts can see how she's doing. Unlike some of the paperwork I had to do for the adoption, I think this part will be fun!! I can have Lola help me choose some photos or if she wants we can take a few and show the courts the progression of time - - from Dec 2007 up through May 2008.

The other night we ordered pizza and got out the game of Monopoly, which was one I acquired from one of the ladies in my Bible Study group at her garage sale. When we opened the game we found we had no dice....we looked all over the house to see if perhaps another game had some dice, but no luck...then Lola said, "Oh, Mom! We use cards, ok?" So we got out the playing cards, took the jokers out and I must say I actually prefer using cards to dice's less chaotic to the playing board if we have houses and hotels on the properties!!

Bearing that in mind, I received a letter from Lola's school (in Spanish, no less - -apparently they don't look at her record closely enough to count her as an individual by observing that she is not Spanish...) indicating that I am to appear for a meeting with some panel today at the school regarding Lola's 'below grade level performance'. Someone please tell me how a child that has just received a report card four weeks ago with Math - B, ESOL - B, Science - B, Social Studies - C, General Music - A, Phys Ed - A, and a smattering of S's for satisfactory can be performing below grade level??? I may be biased, but I think Lola has done quite well for only having been in school for eleven weeks!! Yes, I was a bit incensed by this letter and even insulted by having to fill out some ridiculous four-page survey asking me, basically, if my child had been dropped on her head when born, if she has had any run-in with the law, and if I could pinpoint the problem as to why she is having difficulty in school. WHAT DIFFICULTY?? She is a child from Russia who is trying to learn English!! Give me a break!!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Tooth Fairy

Saturday, April 26

Lola had been bothered for about the last three weeks with a loose baby tooth. She had been wiggling and pulling and wiggling some more and just couldn’t get it to release. Finally after all the wiggling and a couple weeks’ time to allow it to loosen a bit more, she finally coaxed the tooth to come out last night. I tried to convince her about the Tooth Fairy, but she just laughed. I told her at least put the tooth in a sock under her pillow and maybe the Mama Tooth Fairy will give her a dollar in exchange for her tooth.  She was ok with that, but upon finding the dollar in the sock the next morning she seemed worried about where the tooth had gone. I told her it was in a safe place and would never get thrown away. She was happy I valued her tooth as much as she did. After all, it’s the first tooth she has lost in America!!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Winter is OVER!!!

The first group of my perennial flowers in the front yard are out and they are fabulous! Lola and I took some photos yesterday. I just had to share!! Spring has been quite late in coming this year. However, as usual in Georgia the seasons go from winter one day to summer the next, and that was more than welcome!!! We can hardly wait for the swimming pools to open!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Another Observation

Thursday, April 24, 2008

After having found my long-lost friend Dave the other day living happily and remarried in California, I was driving to work this morning and began thinking about all the people I know who are living statistics of divorce. Dave is one of them, as well as a very large majority of my group of friends…

The question in my mind is: why is the divorce rate steadily increasing? Some stats I have found indicate that in 1980 the divorce rate was 6%, in 1990 it was 8%, and in 2000 it was 10% ! Is it due to our society becoming ever so much more accustomed to ‘fast’ this and ‘disposable’ that, to the point where it has crossed over to how we actually conduct our relationships? Our food must now be fast, our babies now wear disposable diapers, we now have the convenience of speed dating, quick banking, doc-in-a-box and quick weight-loss diets. I wonder if there are studies being conducted on would be interesting research.

Perhaps that’s why I have not tied the knot yet. I don’t want to live my life in the fast lane when it comes to personal relationships. I don’t want my feelings to become disposable and meaningless.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Bullies Part 2

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Lola announced that yet another little girl in her class has been heckling her. This particular girl says nasty things to her and displays the middle finger. I asked Lola if she had told her teacher. She said no, and I already knew that. She is not one to tattle on another child. After some thought, I told her maybe she should go to her teacher, show her middle finger and say innocently, “Ms. G, what does this mean? Jasmine just showed it to me.”

1) Lola would not get into trouble for tattling by being an innocent party in asking what it means, and
2) Jasmine would be found out and appropriate action would be taken.

…hey, it’s worth a try…

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Juggling Act

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I have a confession to make. I am feeling rather guilty about not spending as much quality time with my guy, Chris, as I did before Lola. Ok, I do know that’s normal and she is at the stage where she needs a mama 24 hours a day. Don’t get me wrong, I so very much enjoy all the fun we have together, and literally BASK in the role of new mother, and at times I am so happy in it I think I’ll explode! But there is something to be said for spending at least a little quality time with the man I love. We may see each other for about 10 to 30 minutes a few times a week after Lola and I come home from school and work in the afternoon (my house has become his ‘temporary office’ for now until he finds a new location for his business) but it’s usually a quick hello and how-was-your-day-kind-of-thing and then Lola and I are off on some new adventure and he’s either off to a business meeting or Bible Study group. Chris and I used to have some really amazing conversations about all kinds of things - - he’s very well-read and quite fun to talk to. He really loves Lola and her sense of humor and he admires her creativity. That is one of the many things I find so attractive about him. He’s too amazing to neglect, yet my daughter needs me full time at this stage and I need her too. I pray every day that he remains patient with me until I get this juggling act perfected to everyone’s satisfaction (if that is possible). Perhaps God will help me find a path through this.

Lola is not quite as keen about having a bond with a male figure as much as she desires one with a female. That is quite understandable, as the numerous people at the orphanage were, for the most part, female. She told me the other day that Chris treats her like a little girl (I didn’t have the heart to correct her and tell her that she IS still a little girl and I want her to be one for at least a couple more years!!) and not a young woman. The strange thing is, I do see the two of them interact and she appears to be having fun with him at times… maybe all I need to do is give it time.

Sherlock Holmes Scores

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I’m happy to announce that one of my long-lost friends I’ve been trying to locate has now been found. I was successful in tracking him down in the San Diego area. I have learned that he is two weeks away from retirement (woo-hoo!!) and has been happily re-married for the last four years. Way to go, Dave!! You deserve all the happiness in the world. You are walking proof that nice guys do NOT finish last! God truly blesses those who are good in heart and spirit.

Now if I can just find my high school friend Lyda….

Lola woke up with a rather sore rear end yesterday, but she was still eager to go skating after school. And so we went, she on skates and me on the Trikke and she didn’t fall down even once!! I’m teaching her how to ride the Trikke as well. She loves it. I may have to get her a smaller version if she finds she likes it as well as skating and biking

I called Kimmi yesterday to see how she’s doing. She’s gimping around rather well, but not happy about having to avoid wearing high-heeled shoes for the next six weeks or so…

Lola’s new camera came in the mail!! She is soooooo excited and we have plugged the camera in the charger. I gave her one of my SD cards and we took her camera to the park for a little photo session.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Day of Mishaps

Sunday, April 21, 2008

Lola decided she wanted a pair of roller blades. That’s normal, I thought, as I secretly panicked thinking about her need for speed (as I was at that age) and what body parts she can fracture flying down a hill and wiping out on those things… deep breath… ok, let’s go to the sports store where they have gently used equipment.

She found a pair of roller hockey skates and insisted she was ok with them. “It’s ok, Mom, I’m very good!” she said as she demonstrated in the store that she was quite capable of skating and stopping. I was rather impressed, really, and so the skates were hers. We immediately went to the park so she could try them out. There is a park in the north Atlanta area called the Alpharetta Big Creek Greenway. I have always called it Snake Park. It is a lovely stretch of fairly flat, wonderfully wide sidewalk nestled in the woods. It is a joy to walk on, bike on, roller blade on and to Trikke on (pronounced ‘trike’, the Trikke is a really amazing piece of equipment that uses the same technique as roller blading but has handlebars and hand brakes just like a bicycle. It’s a bear to go uphill on, but a total high to go downhill on…I love it - -I think they are rather popular in California, but not so much here in Georgia.) The only drawback about this park is that in the spring the snakes that live in the wetlands surrounding the area occasionally slither up onto the sidewalk to get a bit of sun. Thus the name Snake Park. I personally have never been very afraid of snakes, but Lola is a little fearful. This particular day when we were skating (Lola) and walking (me) there was a rather large snake lying in the middle of the sidewalk basking in the sunshine. Lola managed to go around him without freaking out too much and I managed to get a photograph of him just as he decided there were too many spectators for his taste and leisurely wiggled off into the grass. I thought it would be fun for us to compare him to photos of snakes on the internet and see what kind he is.

Just after the snake sighting, Lola was skating beside me and not very fast at all, and suddenly down she went. I didn’t even have time to try to catch her. She landed on her hands and her rear end. With just a hint of tears in her eyes she got up and said, “I’m ok, Mama. Ow. No, I’m ok.” She had a scrape on her hand and a rather large scrape on – of all places – the back of her upper thigh. We went home and got her injuries cleaned up and she looked at me and said “I want tomorrow skate more, ok?” What a trooper! She is definitely wearing jeans the next time!

The phone rang later and it was Kimmi. She called to say she had broken her toe and needed to know what to do for a recovery plan. Since I had broken one of my toes a few years back, I advised her to buddy-tape the toe to the bigger one next to it and elevate her foot and use an ice pack on it. There’s really nothing a doctor can do for a break in one of the smaller toes except x-ray it and then tell you it’s broken. I checked the internet for further information and it said the same thing - - buddy tape, elevate and ice.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Spring Cleaning

Saturday, April 20, 2008

OK, I now have a clean house - - well, at least the main floor. The rest of the house needs some attention. In spite of the rest of my house being a little cluttery, I must say I cannot function in my kitchen unless it is spotless. Kimmi came over last night to take Lola out for dinner and a movie and they had a blast! While they were having fun I was doing my Spring Cleaning. They left the house at about 5:30pm and came back at about 8:30pm to an immaculately clean main floor. Ohhhhh. I had about 15 minutes to spare before they came back to just SIT on the sofa in the living room and marvel at how much I really do love my townhome when it’s clean and clutter-free. It was almost like a meditational experience. It was peaceful. It was tranquil. It was CLEAN. Ahhhhhhhhh…

…it did not last long…

The phone rang and I heard a voice say “Hi, MOM!!!” It sounded like Kimmi, and she will say stuff like that to be silly so I said “Hi! How was the movie?” The voice said “Oh, good! Movie finish - - we drive home now!” I realized for a split second Lola’s English is improving so much daily and at time her diction is so clear that I really did mistake her for Kimmi for a second or two.

When Lola came home, she was quite impressed with the cleanliness of the living room. I had secretly hoped the impression was great enough to inspire her to pick up after herself more. It’s a process - - I see improvement in her making sure the lights are turned out when she leaves a room, and she is being more responsible when it comes to putting her clothes in the laundry basket when they need to be washed. It is definitely a process…

Friday, April 18, 2008


Friday, April 18, 2008

Contemplation #1

There comes a time when a word has been used so often and incorrectly by the media that it screams for some attention. That word is ‘troops’. For years I have been increasingly irritated by the contorted definition of this word in referring to the military, and I feel this needs to be addressed. Is there anyone else out there who feels the same way? I mean, these men and women put their lives on the line for our country every day of their existence and I feel the least our media can do is show a little respect by referring to the individuals as ‘soldiers’ and apply the proper use of the word ‘troops’ appropriately. It is as easy as looking the word up in the dictionary. Here are just a few synonyms offered when looking up the word ‘troop’ in the dictionary: crowd, company, pack, group, herd, multitude, flock, horde……hmmmm, nowhere does it indicate a ‘troop’ as an individual. In addition, ‘troops’ is so impersonal…

Here is a perfect example of the way the word ‘troops’ is being used. This headline is from Yahoo! News, from an article created by an Associated Press Writer:

“Roughly 1 in every 5 troops who return from Iraq or Afghanistan suffer mental health problems.”

Yeah, ok, so upon reading this article I would (correctly so) assume that 1 in every 5 GROUPS suffer from mental health problems. Seems realistic. Mathematically, the numeric results are the same, if the number of soldiers per group (or troop, in this case) is equal. But check out this example from the Associated Press from October, 2006:

“Eleven more U.S. troops were slain in combat, the military said Wednesday, putting October on track to be the deadliest month for U.S. forces since the siege of Fallujah nearly two years ago.”

In this case, I’m guessing the author of this article is referring to eleven people, and not eleven GROUPS of people.

I’m actually curious as to how the mis-connotation of this word began. Yes, I know - - I must have a lot of time on my hands to be ranting about something like this, but I guess it comes down to this: if the media, who are professionals and have more influence over our lives and culture that I’d care to admit, are not vigilant and correct about the proper use of our language, how will our children learn to communicate effectively?

Contemplation #2

Lately I have been trying to locate some old friends from my high school, college and various workplaces. With some I have had success, and sadly, with others I have hit a brick wall. Oh, I can most certainly obtain the addresses / phone numbers / e-mail addresses of these people, but now I have to pay for it! It is sad how our society has been corrupted with the fear and reality of identity theft to the point where some companies have appointed themselves the “information gatekeepers” and for a fee one can obtain the desired information.

With that being said, I am quite sad that I am unable to locate one of my very dearest girlfriends from high school as well as a wonderful man with whom I worked and became quite good friends back in 1987-1988 at a telemarketing company. It is as if one has vanished into thin air while the other’s information can be had for the hefty price of $39.95….

Now that I’m older I see how easily friendships can be lost over the course of time. It is with regret I admit I sometimes didn’t keep in touch when I had the opportunity. On the other hand, life gets in the way sometimes and we each get caught up in our own worlds and by the time we can find a place to breathe it’s too late - - years wind up passing with a scary quickness and it’s not possible to just jump back in where we left off.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Life of a Ten-Year-Old

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Ironic observation of the day - - a man dressed in jogging gear puffing on a cigarette while out on his morning run.

Lola has recently discovered the Waffle House chain of restaurants, and it is now her favorite place to eat (possibly even topping ‘Ding Ding’ aka Fuddrucker’s as Number One on her list). Her favorite food at Waffle House? Why, their waffles, of course! She doesn’t really like syrup, so she just eats the waffle with a little butter.

It has come to my attention over the last three months that burping, to a ten-year-old, is an art form. I hate to admit it, but I guess I must still have the ten-year-old mentality, because at times it is just downright FUNNY! However, the trick is to educate the child on when it is ok to burp and when it is NOT ok. We are still working on this. She’s beginning to understand that it is just not cool to burp loudly in the waiting area at the airport, but it’s going to take awhile for her to refrain from doing it in any large public restroom (as the acoustics there are usually ideal for burping, although while in high school I found the girls’ restroom at school to have that big concert hall sound when practicing my trumpet) or at the outdoor swimming pool.

I asked my friend Tracy at work the other day why burping is so hilarious to children, and she said “Children? My husband still thinks it’s funny!” ….Well, there you go…..

The problem with Lola is that she is one of those gifted (?) people who can conjure up a burp on the spur of the moment. All she has to do is swallow a little air and - - presto! There it is! I figured if she insisted on burping she may as well explore the creative side - - you know, like burping the alphabet and saying phrases (she really has mastered “good night” and “uh-oh” quite well). I do realize after knowing Lola for this long so far that the orphanage pretty much took care of the educational and basic needs of the children but didn’t go any further to instill simple manners. It is a process, and Lola has become quite comfortable now waiting in line and saying ‘excuse me’ and ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, which two years ago never existed in her realm. So perhaps someday, maybe when she is sixteen and trying to be a young lady, the burping will stop - - in public, anyway.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

CRCT Testing

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Lola has been somewhat apprehensive about the upcoming CRCT exams. These exams are given to all 5th graders in the state of Georgia and the results of these tests determine whether or not they advance to the 6th grade. That in itself is pretty scary, for a number of reasons, which I won’t get into now, or else I’ll be up on the proverbial soapbox once again.

The Good News: Lola is required to take only the mathematics exam (the reason being that mathematics is a universal subject and yada yada yada….)

The Bad News: Much of the mathematics exam is story problems in ENGLISH and Lola has only been in American school for 2.5 months…plus the fact that she was in the 3rd grade in Russia…

Yes, the test will be read out loud to her, but she has told me on numerous occasions that she has difficulty understanding some of the teachers in her school are saying (perhaps it’s due to regional accents? I know the Southern accent can be a very strange thing to hear for even English-speaking people!) yet she told me she understands me at all times. Maybe they talk too fast…. I don’t know…..

I personally have big issues with a school system testing and determining the fate of a child that has not been in an American school for even a full semester. Both Lola and I would have been happy if she had initially been placed in the 4th grade, and when I discovered she was advanced to the 5th grade I addressed it with her teachers a few times, but was assured that their decision was in Lola’s best interest. Now, here we are nearing the Test Day, and I must say that I wish I was there to read the test to her. I told her last night that we have worked very hard on what she needs to know for the test and to just relax and take her time, and do her best. Whatever the outcome, she still is Number ONE in my book and I’ll help her work more on the skills she needs to accomplish this.

She is afraid that they will retain her for another year in the fifth grade. I have talked with her teachers and after they told me they don’t expect her to pass the exam they said that it will be recommended that she take summer school and/or I can write a letter of petition requesting they pass her on to the 6th grade due to the fact that she has been in school for only 2-1/2 months and since I’m a native English speaker she will have a greater advantage to learn English skills at a quicker pace.

Yes, she will need to take the test later on, but the next time she should have a greater level of understanding.

I just need to remember that when writing this letter of petition I need to throw the soapbox away and just state facts…and it’s difficult to be a neutral party when you feel an injustice is taking place that involves your child…

The upside of this is that Lola may discover she understands more than she thinks she does and do quite well on the test! She has been very eager to do Funbrain Math games and the CRCT math prep website games on the computer almost every day, and even her after-school teacher said her math skills are rapidly improving. I’ll make sure to provide an update on this.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Spring Break Part 4:There is No Place Like Home

Saturday, April 12

Lola and I woke up to snow on the ground in Iowa. We thought it was pretty cool, but my mom was a bit worried about us driving all the way to Minneapolis airport in it. Apparently one of her neighbors told her the snowfall north of our immediate area was heavier…and so we left Mom’s house at about 11am so as to allow enough time in case the driving was slow. Ironically, the snowfall was pretty much nonexistent most of the way to Mpls so we had time to sightsee and have lunch.

We were doing quite well according to schedule so while we stopped for a late lunch break we also took a quick side trip to one of the Cabela’s Outfitters stores, this one in Owatonna, which is just south of the Minneapolis metro area off I-35. Lola was fascinated at the display of wildlife there. The animals are all real (or once were, but have been victims of the taxidermist) and are in real-life poses. The variety is mind-boggling! They range from the usual bear, squirrel and deer to elk, arctic fox, buffalo, moose and polar bear - - it’s really quite amazing! They also have an aquarium with several huge tanks containing fish indigenous to North America. As Lola would say, “Very COOL!”

On our way again to Mpls airport, Lola had a package of gummi worms candy which we shared. There was one gummi she had singled out from the rest (due to it having a rather crooked body) and that worm was her ‘special friend’. She put it in her jacket pocket and saved it for later to eat. It was eaten with lots of love and TLC just before we arrived at the airport, but not before she kissed it several times and told it she loved it forever.

Dropping the car off was quite fun and painless, as was the visit to the airline ticket counter to get boarding passes. We were both amazed!! We wandered over to the security area (now, bear in mind the AirTran terminal at Mpls airport is really small and there are only two or three security x-rays and one security checkpoint person. On this particular day there was a very nice woman there who checked our boarding passes and my ID, but then said to Lola, “Oh, sorry, all bottled drinks must be either put in the trash or consumed before you can go to the gate. There is a seating area over by the windows if you want to drink your Diet Pepsi.” Oooooooooops! I had forgotten about the Pepsi, and Lola wanted to drink it, so we settled in over by the windows in two comfy chairs. Then I remembered I had not only one, but TWO bottles of water in my backpack. And so we began. I gulped my first water with no problem. I was not so fast with the 2nd bottle. Lola had been drinking her Pepsi one gulp at a time. “Mama, help me,” she pleaded, handing me the bottle of Pepsi. “You drink.” Ugh. I am not a fan of any soft drink, especially when it has oodles of carbonation. I protested, but upon her insistence, I did force myself to take one drink. Now, bear in mind by the time I was summoned to help her I had already consumed 1.5 bottles of water. That one drink of Pepsi I swallowed did it. This huge massive burp flew out of my mouth before I even knew it was there! I must have looked amazed, because Lola went into gales of laughter and actually fell off her chair! At that point the only thing I could do was say ‘excuse me’. Yes, there were people around. Yes, I was MORTIFIED. But it’s not like I could rewind time and cut the burp from the script, and it really was pretty funny, so I laughed too. Mostly I laughed at Lola laughing, which was pretty funny in itself.

We finished our drinks, a bit more leisurely toward the end, and sloshed ourselves over to the security checkpoint. The woman there told us, with a little chuckle, where to find the restrooms in case we needed them. While in the waiting area and in between bathroom breaks we played UNO. I must say, that little card game has saved us from many a boring wait in any place – St. Petersburg & Moscow airports, on the plane for a 12-hour flight to America, on rainy days at home, at my mom’s house in the evening just to relax, and now at the Mpls airport waiting for yet another flight. If anyone has written a manual on how to keep kids occupied, page 1 should feature the game of UNO.

I am so joyously happy that Lola loves to fly! I don’t know which of us is more excited when the plane begins the roll down the runway for take-off! On this flight we were relegated to the economy seats (which is where we should have been anyway) and the ride home was still ok. It was pretty good to be home that night back in our own beds. Isn’t it funny? No matter where you go or how much fun you have or how luxurious your vacation is, there really is no place like home!!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Over the Miles

Friday, April 11

Last night Lola called Russia using one of her international calling cards. She was connected, said a few words to her grandfather in Russian, then got a very strange look on her face and handed me the telephone. “Dyedushka crazy,” she said. “Too much vodka.” Her main intent was to speak with her aunt and cousins and apparently none of them were at home. I told her we would try again today. I’m happy to say at 10:30AM CST she placed another phone call to Russia and even though her grandfather answered he then handed the phone to her aunt and she and Lola had a wonderful conversation.

I had decided a long time ago that when Lola is 12 we are going back to Russia to visit everyone. I will be so honored to meet the people who helped raise her until she was 5 and went to the orphanage.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Spring Break Part 3

Thursday, April 10

The workmen next door are still installing the toilet. At 9am, just like clockwork, the pounding begins. I hope they are done soon. This morning we received a phone call from my cousins about Uncle Don’s condition. They said his lungs had filled up with fluid during the night and he had refused any procedure to clear them or to place a ventilator on him. He told his family he was ready to go and at this point it was just a matter of time. My mom was beside herself and I offered to drive her to Sioux City but she said she would rather remember Uncle Don the way she saw him on Easter Sunday a few weeks ago rather than fighting for every breath in the hospital. My cousins said at this point there was nothing left to do but wait.

The weather wasn’t exactly cooperating much - - it had gotten quite windy and cold and there was threats of heavy rain turning to sleet and eventually to snow. The plan was for Lola and I to drive to Omaha to spend the day with Dawn and go to the Henry Doorly Zoo (my favorite zoo) and perhaps to the Offutt Space Museum. But because of the weather and Uncle Don’s situation we thought maybe we could compromise and meet Dawn halfway in Denison and have ‘brunch’ at a restaurant there and at least have a chance to see each other. I begged Mom to come along since she needed to have a little break from the stress of her brother being so ill.

The winds were quite heavy driving to Denison, but we made it and that little stinker Dawn now has a cute little new car! She got the Honda Fit. It’s adorable and she is well overdue for a new car, since her last one had been plugging away (and not always happily) for the last fifteen years.

When we returned home from brunch we received a phone call that Uncle Don had passed away. From what my Aunt Margaret indicated he was at peace and was joking with the family till the end. In fact, when Aunt Margaret went in to have a private moment with him (as did each of his daughters) she told him she would see him later in Heaven. He replied “Just make sure you don’t bring some old geezer!”

My mom is now the last living child in her sibling group. There were five in all, with the age range from oldest to youngest being about 17 years, I think. Uncle Don was the youngest…

No specific date was set for the funeral, and my mom insisted that we return to Atlanta as planned, even though I tried to tell her we would stay with her for the duration. She assured me she would be fine and she was not going to make us change our flight schedule (I have found in my mom’s older years she is becoming a woman of opinion, which is quite refreshing in comparison to her younger years of being accepting and at times almost complacent about most issues. It really makes for interesting conversation now!)

So the plan was for Lola and I to return home to Atlanta on Saturday by way of Minneapolis and that was that. No argument.

Lola's Contribution

Prevet, this is Lolita mama crazy

Lolita, you are lucky Mama is a little crazy. Life is more fun. Be happy Mama is not skoochnee (boring).

I love Scooter. He is my boy friend

Scooter crazy bekaz mama crazy LOLA NO CRAZY LOLA GOOD

Yes, Lola is good and crazy

NO NO NO NO NO !!! $ o, ok, , k ok k good night borp)

Yes, that was Lola exercising her typing (and spelling) skills. Please note the ‘borp’ at the end (burp).

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Spring Break Part 2

Wednesday, April 9

We had hoped to sleep late on the days we visited ‘Baba’, but each morning it seemed that something happened to cut that wish short. Yesterday morning at 9am we awoke to hammering and other tool-type noises in the vacant condo next door to my mom’s. We found out they were installing a new toilet. Lola was so funny - - she was a bit indignant that her sleep had been so rudely interrupted, yet she didn’t wish to get out of bed and get dressed……10 o’clock came and we had planned to visit the Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend, Iowa and had hoped to leave sometime that morning. I was trying to get Lola up and coherent and my mom walked in and said “Lola, if you get up now and get dressed and ready to go I’ll give you twenty dollars!” I have never seen a child wake up so fast. I scolded my mom for ‘bribing’ her, but my mom told Lola later that she had planned all along to give Lola the money so she could add it to her ‘camera fund’. As of this upcoming Saturday Lola will have a total of $118.00 saved. She has been saving all her money from allowance and Christmas for the sole purpose of buying her very own digital camera. I must say I’m impressed at her determination.

We drove the 80 or so miles to West Bend to see the Grotto. It really is an amazing spectacle. Here is an excerpt from the history of the Grotto taken from the website

“Paul Matthias Dobberstein was born in Rosenfeld, Germany on September 21, 1872. He received part of his early education at the University of Deitsche-Krone in Germany. When Paul was 20 years old he immigrated to America. On coming to America he entered the Seminary of St. Francis near Milwaukee to prepare for the Priesthood. It was there that he began to show signs of unusual artistic ability that was to characterize all the waking hours of his earthly existence.

He completed his studies for the Priesthood at St. Francis Seminary and was ordained there on June 30th, 1897. For one year he served as chaplain for the Sisters of Mount Carmel hospital in Dubuque. Then when the Archdiocese of Dubuque was divided and Sioux City jurisdiction was formed he was appointed the pastor of West Bend Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church and remained there in that capacity for the rest of his life. During fifty-seven years he was counselor, instructor, and leader to the parishioners of St. Peter and Paul's.

The story of how the Grotto came into being is as moving as are the scenes it portrays. It is generally told as a fact that as a young seminarian, Father Dobberstein became critically ill with pneumonia. As he fought for his life he prayed to the Blessed Virgin Mary to intercede for him for the grace of health. He promised to build a shrine in her honor if he lived.

The illness passed, the student completed his studies and after his ordination he came to West Bend as Pastor in 1898. For over a decade he was stockpiling rocks and precious stones. The actual work of giving permanence to his promise began to take shape in 1912. The designed purpose of the Grotto is to tell in silent stone made spiritually eloquent, the story of man's fall and his redemption by Christ, the savior of the world.

It was his purpose that others might see in the beauty of stones the beauty of the Creator and by being charmed and attracted by his work learn to imitate the virtues of the Mother of our Saviour. Father Dobberstein used a vast collection of minerals and precious and semi-precious stones in the building of the Grotto. Petrified wood, malachite, azurite, agates, geodes, jasper, quartz, topaz, calcite, stalactites and stalagmites are but a partial list of rocks gathered, purchased or donated for building of the Grotto. The many offerings of visitors have aided substantially to create this artistic wonder.”

We spent about an hour at the Grotto and Lola was quite impressed by all the different types of materials used to create it. She was astounded to discover it was all done by one man!

When we returned home my mom had not yet heard from my Aunt Marg about Uncle Don’s condition so she called the hospital. We were told he had been transferred to Sioux City to one of the hospitals there. My mom was quite upset by this news so I called the hospital in Sioux City and found out he was in ICU. I was transferred up there and my cousin Ellen came to the telephone and said he had had a rough couple days, but he seemed to be better and was joking around with everyone. She promised to keep us informed and would let us know more later.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Spring Break

Monday, April 7

I had booked airline tickets for us to go visit my mom over Spring Break. This was the first time Lola would meet her new ‘Babushka’. I booked this flight through AirTran on March 5 for departure on April 7. OK, that is about a MONTH in advance. I have normally flown Delta in the past because they have non-stop flights directly into Omaha. It was also very convenient since my friend Dawn lives in Omaha and I always visit her for a couple days before or after I drive to Iowa to see my mom. However, this time the flights to Omaha on every airline was upward of $500.00 round trip per person - - a fare I consider outrageous, gas price increases or not. Instead, after much research, I decided to try flying AirTran to Minneapolis for the wonderful price of about $200.00 round trip per person. Since it is a necessity to get a rental car I figured a couple extra hours driving time was not bad in comparison to the money we would save.

I haven’t flown AirTran for quite some time, but in the past the experience wasn’t all that different from any other airline. However, when Lola and I arrived at the Atlanta airport on April 7 to check in and get boarding passes we were told there were no available seats left on the plane. Eeeeek. Whaaaaaat?? We were then instructed to go through the security checkpoint and on to the departure gate anyway (and of course they checked our luggage to go on the plane whether we had seats or not??!! So, like, what fun is our luggage going to have in Minneapolis without US??) to see if they could get us assigned to either 1) seats on the plane for our scheduled flight or 2) seats on the next flight out. So, while we were standing in the unbelievably long cattle-queue for the security check, I tried to call AirTran’s 800 number to see if they could assign us seats, to no avail. A man standing in front of us told me he had the same problem with AirTran overbooking seats on his last trip and he and some other passenger had been assigned the same seat. How encouraging. Once we finally made it to the gate (about fifteen minutes before the flight was to depart, I might add) we were assured that plenty of people on our flight were willing to give up their seats so all we needed to do was wait until they called our names. About ten minutes later they called us over and gave us each a boarding pass. And to our surprise, when we got on the plane we were seated in the business class seats. That was next to heaven for Lola - - not only did she get a ‘first class-size’ seat, but also one at the window.

Thankfully the rest of the trip, car ride included, went very smoothly. We arrived at my mom’s house about 3pm on Monday.

Lola was a little nervous about meeting my mom, but they seemed to bond quite easily. Lola absolutely loves her new ‘Baba’ and is quite anxious to go back again for a visit, preferably in the summer. It amazes me how quickly Lola has lost her ability to adapt well to cold weather, considering the winter temperatures in St. Petersburg, Russia…I guess I was the same when I moved from Nebraska to Florida back in 1996. We will have to see how Lola holds up to the humidity and heat of “Hotlanta” this summer.

I did learn that my Uncle Don, my mom’s brother, was in the local hospital. He has been battling emphysema for years due to smoking and any semblance of a cold he contracts transforms itself into a serious illness. Apparently this time he had an infection in his lungs and it had caused some complications. My aunt had advised us that any visitors at this point just makes him more tired, so we decided to stay home. We are hoping to hear more about his condition later.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Bullies are Everywhere

April 4, 2008

This morning when dropping Lola off at school she got out of the car and loudly stated “Brrrrr! Oh, my GOSH!! I’m not cold, I’m FREEZING!” One of the carpool attendants heard her and said “Wow, Lola, did you learn to speak English overnight? That was fantastic!”

It amazes me at how the school faculty and students don’t think she can speak much English at all, yet at home she talks a blue streak. Every day I hear a new word she has discovered in one of her classes, as well as other words she may have learned at home from me. I chuckle to think that one day she will be in class, and blurt out (in perfect English) the answer to a question the teacher asks. Won’t they all be surprised?~! I wonder how many jaws will have to be prodded up from the floor!

Lola has been having occasional ‘bully’ issues with a girl in her homeroom. It seems this girl could not keep her hands and feet to herself and Lola seemed to be on the receiving end more than once. After I was certain not to be an over-reactive mother I finally addressed the situation with Lola’s teacher yesterday. The negative behavior and hitting stopped immediately. When I went to pick Lola up from school yesterday she said “Mama, ‘Bad Girl’ (I won’t use names in this case in order to protect the guilty) today stand by teacher, sit by teacher and no talk.” I told her it was because I told the teacher about ‘Bad Girl’ being mean to her and it should not happen anymore. Wow, the smile of relief that came over Lola’s face was amazing. I reminded Lola that teachers here in America are there to help her and if she has any problem and I’m not there she should always tell her teacher. I realized that was a pretty foreign concept to her. I figure in the orphanage the children don’t really have anyone to go to if they are victims of bullying. The teachers are much too busy or discouraged from helping and there are no moms to report the problem to. So, I imagine in many cases these orphan children must learn to deal with the bullies the best way they know how, or in some cases become a bully themselves simply for the purpose of self-preservation. At any rate, Lola was quite happy the problem was addressed by her teacher and now hopefully she can stop being bothered by this girl.

Of course, after much pondering prior to my reporting all this to Lola’s teacher I thought maybe this ‘Bad Girl’ may actually want to be Lola’s friend but perhaps lacked the social skills to deal with a student who is different that she is. I thought maybe we could invite this girl over to the house for a play date and see how it goes. I want so much to take the Christian stand on things and give this child the benefit of the doubt, but since I don’t know her or her parents I feel inclined to be somewhat cautious. The teacher did tell me this girl has always been a bit of a problem and abusive to other students and the next thought in my mind was - - - is this little girl the victim of abuse at home?

For now the ‘Bad Girl’ is under a tight rein. All I can do at this point is pray for this girl and her family…