Monday, April 27, 2009


Here are some fun photos!

Petie & Sebastian Bee-Watching in the Courtyard

Our neighbor's dog Buster

The Therapy Car

This past weekend produced gorgeous weather and our VW Cabrio has been getting a workout. I love this car in spite of all the mechanical issues it has had, and it is affectionately known as the ‘Therapy Car’. Lola and I put it in convertible mode and drive all over Atlanta. It is not only relaxing, but exhilarating as well!! It’s so fun that we invite friends along for the ride!! There is nothing like feeling the sun on a summer afternoon, or seeing the lights of the city of Atlanta at night without the encumbrance of a ceiling.

I guess this is the main reason I have hesitated for so long to trade the Cabrio in for a newer, more dependable vehicle. May the ‘Therapy Car’ live forever!!

Saturday, April 25, 2009


Over the past few months I have been getting better acquainted with the Facebook social network on the internet. Through Facebook I have found long-lost high school friends and regained communication with former classmates, college buddies, students, friends from my workplaces and former love interests.

In one case, it has been quite therapeutic to find that one of my past serious relationships which came to a less-than-lovely end has produced a positive new beginning; over the years we each have learned some important life lessons and, amazingly enough, we have picked up the pieces and are forming a friendship. A negative experience which haunted me for years has now been made into a positive. God is with us always, and only He knows what can heal the soul.

I have to admit, upon looking at my contact list on Facebook, there are some pretty amazing people I am proud to call my friends. They hail from all walks of life, all backgrounds and all cultures. Each, in his or her own way, is an amazing person and I feel very blessed to have been given the opportunity to connect or re-connect with each of them.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

We Love Starbucks

One day after school I took Lola to Starbucks for a Chai Tea Latte. They have become somewhat familiar with our faces since we frequent their location weekly. Here is a little surprise they included with our Chai…

Девочка / Девyшка

(Dyevotchka - little girl / Dyevushka - young woman)

I find it quite intriguing to witness Lola’s ongoing transformation from little girl to young woman. At present she is caught somewhere in between, but she’s taking it all in stride.

Her friend Lavinia is almost a year older, if my facts are correct, and as of now I can see the definite difference in conversational / behavioral priorities between the two of them. Lavinia is now very much aware of boys and she talks about them quite frequently. She is cognizant of the fact that they notice her and she enjoys this. Lola is still at the stage of not quite understanding what all the hype is about boys, and is quite jealous when Lavinia talks to one. However, Lola is very aware of one particular boy in her class, whom she has liked since she began school in America in February 2008. After seeing them together on occasion, I believe they do have a strong liking for one another, but it will be awhile until both feel comfortable with their affections. I like this boy very much and he’s not only very handsome, but very kind to Lola. I often see them chasing each other around in front of the school and while observing this I still can’t help wondering to myself who on EARTH decided that sixth-graders should be categorized in the same building as seventh and eight-graders? The social difference between the age groups is monumental.

Anyway, last Sunday Lavinia went ice-skating with us and had dinner at our house that evening. She has now reached the ‘giddy scream’ stage of puberty and I pray that it doesn’t last long. Lavinia also now thinks it is fun to walk up to Lola and lick her on the face. Why, I don’t know. But Lola was so grossed out by this she reverted to the 11-year-old tactic of wrestling Lavinia to the ground and sitting on her. They both had fun and were actually laughing while they were wrestling. No one got hurt, no animals were harmed and no furniture got broken, so it’s all good.

To Strike or Not To Strike - - That is the Question

Since our Spring Break last week was kept to a home-bound level due to the ever-looming possibility of strike at my company, Lola and I are even more so experiencing the need to travel. When I adopted her from Russia in December 2007 I told her the plan was to return to Russia to visit her family every other year. This is the year. I have found the most wonderfully reasonable airfare and our favorite hotel is available for the days we wish to go (right after school is out, and before her family goes to their dacha for the summer). HOWEVER, with the possibility of an impending strike being dangled above our heads like the Carrot of Doom, it seems futile to even dream about a return trip to Russia, much less even dare to look at the fares and hotel rates. I wish I hadn’t checked prices and dates, because it all was so affordable I now am beginning to resent the control being imposed upon us by good ol’ Corporate America and the existence of unionized workers.

Part of the employee force in my company is unionized. The union and the company are presently negotiating to fashion a healthcare plan that meets both their criteria, among other issues. If at any time during the course of negotiations the workers choose to strike, my fellow colleagues and I will immediately be required to work 12-hour days for 6 days each week to take ownership of the duties of those who will be on strike. We have been advised NOT to take a vacation that is more than four hours’ driving time away because if a strike is called we will need to return to Atlanta ASAP to be ready to work. So if the strike is called on a Friday night, we have to be in bright and early on Saturday morning. If it’s called on a Saturday morning, we must come in to work what would be the remainder of our new shift on Saturday afternoon.

Basically, it’s a guessing game. There may not be a strike, but then again, if I’m be-bopping around Russia and one is called I may as well kiss my job goodbye. Lola is not happy about this whole issue, and frankly, I’m incensed (I refuse to get up on my soapbox for this one), but there is nothing we can do but wait…

AAAARRRRRRRGH!!! My only hope here is that everyone comes to an agreement SOON and life as we enjoy it can finally continue.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Baby Pics

I received a wonderful e-mail from Deborah, the woman who was Sebastian and Petie's former 'kitty mama'. She had found some photos of 'the boyz' when they were kittens and sent us copies. Lola was thrilled to see them and insisted that the desktop photo on our computer monitor at home be changed to the photo of the kittens! In looking at these it seems as though our two fuzzy boys were buddies from birth!

The top two are Petie & Sebastian

Again, the top two...

From left, Petie, then Sebastian!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


A week ago last Monday while I was at work and Lola at school, a big thunderstorm swept through the Atlanta area. Lola told me she heard it outside, but since I’m pretty much isolated from the outside world in my office cubicle, I was not as privy to the severity of it as I might have otherwise been. I had looked out the window and saw that the sky was quite dark, and had seen some lighting and heard the thunder, so I was aware of the fact there was a storm, but we are sound-proofed from hearing any wind.

When Lola arrived home from school that evening she called me to say that a huuuuuuuuuge tree fell behind our phase and a newer phase of the subdivision, but luckily was about ten yards from the nearest townhome so no one’s unit was damaged.

Upon arriving home, I went exploring around the tree and saw that it fell from the yard of the neighbor behind us. The tree fell away from his house, thankfully, but crushed a chain-link fence in his back yard and landed on top of some bushes in our subdivision. Part of the tree blocked the driveway to the rear of our section, but someone had already cleared the debris out so cars could pass through.

Several days have passed and it’s still there.

If it stays there much longer I will feel obligated to personify it and give it a name.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Continuing the Need for Speed

When Lola, Lavinia and I went ice-skating on Sunday, we were happy to see our new friends Monica and Joe at the rink. They came to the USA from Poland, and we met them the night of my birthday party last month.

Monica said they have spent the last three weeks moving into a new home, and now finally have some free time since they are, for the most part, unpacked. Lola stuck to both of them like glue while we were at the rink and at one point challenged Joe to a race. I watched as they sped off to the other end, and thinking that was the end of the race, I turned my attention back to improving my backward skating. The next time I met up with Lola she was gloating over having beaten Joe at the race. She was also complaining of her arm hurting. We noticed it was swollen quite a bit, and I asked if she fell. Lavinia explained in detail how Lola was literally flying down the rink and couldn’t stop fast enough, and fell forward on her tummy, then flipped over a couple times....again I had the visual of the penguin documentaries on National Geographic where they slide down snow-covered hills on their tummies...

My child most definitely has a need for speed.

Lola was laughing the whole time Lavinia described how she fell, and they both agreed that if we had it on videotape it would have been worthy of sending in to “World’s Funniest Videos”.

The arm hurting was a given, as there was the beginning of a nice little bruise on the inside of her elbow. I pretty much told her if she was going to be Evel Knievel on skates she will have to survive the wipe-outs.

She has been sporting the bruise like a trophy.

Friday, April 17, 2009


During this week and next Lola will be immersed in the CRCT battery (seems more like 'assault and battery', in this case) of tests. This year she is required to take them all - - Reading, Language Arts, Math, Science and Social Studies.

We shall see how it least this year the fate of her moving on to the next grade is not contingent upon her resulting scores...and I do appreciate the testing as a tool to see how she has been progressing over the past year...although I still find it totally pointless that her scores are counted, because she's still an English-Language Learner...

She seems ok so far with the tests, although I'm sure she has a little fear of the unknown with the language-based tests. I just told her to do her best and she may come out of it surprising herself at how much she may know!

Last summer we concentrated on Math. This summer I think she is ready to tackle more spelling, grammar and reading. There is no doubt in my mind that her reading skills in English are far above what her reading skills in Russian were when she lived in Russia! She knows she can progress even more. We touched on the subject of holding one-hour sessions this summer at a specific time each day to hone her English-language skills so as to get her up to grade level. She understands this is necessary. I told her we are in this together, no matter what. We're a TEAM!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Shoes

Ever since the day of orientation for Lola’s middle school last August we have found it impossible not to notice a pair of leather high-top tennis shoes dangling by their tied-together laces from a power line as we drive over the hill to the school. We do not know how long they have been hanging there, but we do know they seem intent to remain there, steadfastly swaying in the wind, seeming almost like a beacon of welcome each morning for passers-by. These shoes have often been the topic of conversation for Lola and me as we verbally imagine how they got there, under what circumstances, how long ago, and the condition they are now in after being weathered by every possible manner after all these months.

The other day I was continuing my ‘divinely inspired’ project of cleaning the garage and I happened upon a box which had been sorely missed for many years. The box contained my high school diploma and commencement invitation, my college diploma, my battered teaching degree for the state of Iowa (which expired in 1990), notes and completed assignments from my French classes taken sometime during the early 1990’s, and a huge binder with pockets containing most of the poetry and short stories I have written since the 6th grade. After reading some of my short stories and remembering from my Creative Writing class in 11th grade how many of them were conceived simply by looking at a photograph in a book and letting the imagination take over, I couldn’t help but think ‘the Shoes’ Lola and I see every day on the way to her school would make a favorable subject for just this type of story.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Spring Break 2009

A week or so ago while putting the new grill through a ‘test drive’, Lola insisted on being the chef - - we had Italian sausage and hot dogs, and they tend to roll all over the wire rack. As Lola was turning one of the hot dogs over it rolled off the grill and onto the courtyard floor. She picked it up with a fork and as she was going to wash it off in the sink and I heard her say to it, “It’s ok, don’t worry, we’re just having a little fire drill.”

We have cooked on the grill about three times in the last week or so in between rainstorms. We have had far more rainy days than sunny days this spring. Not fun on the weekends. Friday night we went to see the movie “Monsters vs. Aliens”. It was sprinkling rain when we arrived, but about halfway through the movie we heard thunder, lightning and torrential rain pounding on the roof of the building. Strangely enough, the power of the storm was enough to reverse the locks on my car to ‘unlock’, so that left everything in the car up for grabs if any thief wanted to risk drowning to secure a couple empty water bottles and drink cups from the car.

Easter weekend was quite nice. The weather was warm and sunny and perfect for grilling chicken tenders!! As we grilled, the kitties were sunning themselves in the courtyard and enjoying the aroma.

On Saturday Lola had another ice skating lesson and she has again been moved up another level to Basic 3. I’m amazed at the rapidity she learns skating. In comparison with other sports that she professes to love, skating is by far the most suited to her need for speed and artistry! I allow her to be proud of herself in learning quickly, but at the same time stress to her about being equally humble about her accomplishments. She is trying to follow this principle, but every now and then I see the little showoff come out, immediately followed by the ‘diva mode’. It’s really a fine line between self-confidence and self-centeredness, but with some guidance along the way perhaps she will come to understand the importance of humility. If she decides to compete in the future, humility will be to her advantage in many ways. After having been a musician for many years I have learned no matter how skilled you are, there is always room to learn and grow from others who are even more skilled.

We called her skating lesson friend Jane during last week and Jane’s father said she is recovering quite well from her fall last Saturday at lessons. He said he was going to keep her out of lessons for another week but she still wants to skate and will be back next Saturday. We invited her and her family to meet us at the rink on future Sunday afternoons for open skating so she and Lola can become better acquainted.

Easter Day afternoon we had the urge to skate and after checking the rink’s website we didn’t see any cancellations of public skating so we went to pick up Lola’s friend Lavinia and went to the rink to see if it was open. Luckily, it was, and we were all very glad we went. There were only 10 people on the ice, and later at about 3:30, there were only 30 people on the ice. It was fabulous to skate without the obstacle course we usually encounter. We hated to leave!

As all good things must come to an end, so has the wonderful Spring Break vacation. We were pretty much forced to stay home for the week instead of making our usual trek to visit my mom, due to the possibility of an impending strike at my company with the result of being called in to work at any time if the possibility becomes a reality. So far we have not heard any news of a strike being called, but we are to be on the alert at all times.

Lola told me this morning that she hopes there is no strike and I am right there with her on that one. We are hopeful…

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Deviant Cats

After having lived with Scooter and Boo Boo for so long as well as a myriad of other cats over the years, I regard them as all pretty normal felines. Quite entertaining, but normal. After having lived only a few months with Petie and Sebastian I have come to realize that they are really quite unique. These two are like partners in crime - - where one is doing something he shouldn’t, the other one is not far away.

Early in the mornings they engage in a game I call “Throw your Brother Against the Wall”, because that is how it sounds. There are the unmistakable sounds of one cat chasing the other up and down the stairs, then the sound of two cats wrestling, then a few minutes later the sound of one cat hitting the wall. This is repeated as necessary or until both of them are exhausted.

Lola and I have come to discover that Petie has a fondness for fuzzy blankets that goes above and beyond the platonic level. He treats blankets as a ‘girlfriend’ cat and does the ‘hop hop’ on it, as Lola would say. Yes, this cat is neutered. We inquired about this odd behavior with our vet during an immunization booster appointment, and were told Petie was definitely neutered and the behavior is not attributed to any physical malady. The vet speculated it was a dominance issue. At first we tried to deter him from doing this, but it seemed the more we drew attention to it the more he would insist on not leaving his chosen object of affection. After realizing other methods of behavior modification, including hiding the blankets, proved unsuccessful I have just chosen to ignore it.

The latest ‘fetish’ with one of them is to drag a plush stuffed animal down the stairs from Lola’s bedroom to the landing. It is then left there. It never gets dragged all the way downstairs. Over this past week we have found a large stuffed black panther (on Monday) and a floppy-eared dog (yesterday). I am puzzled about this new activity. Totally stumped.

Maybe I can teach ‘the boys’ how to move furniture…

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

It's Science - Part ll

Last night Lola was up doing some activity in the kitchen sink with soap bubbles while she was washing up a few of her dishes from dinner (yes, she has decided she loves to do dishes!!) and she looked up excitedly and said "Look, Mom! It's Science!"

...ah, yes, the plan is working....

Friday, April 3, 2009

Seaweed Salad

Lunch today - - - seaweed salad! I cannot even begin to describe how totally delicious and intoxicating this delectible little dish is! I'm like one of Pavlov's dogs when the words 'seaweed salad' are uttered. MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!!!! Here is a recipe.

o 3/8 oz dried wakame seaweed (stems or rib)
o 3 tablespoons light soy sauce
o 3 tablespoons rice vinegar (without seasoning)
o 1 teaspoon sugar
o 2 tablespoons sesame oil
o 2 scallions, thinly sliced
o 1 teaspoon finely grated ginger
o 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Soak dried wakame in warm water for about 5-8 minutes
Drain and place in a bowl of water. Quickly remove and plunge into cold water
Mix vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, and ginger in a bowl until sugar is dissolved.
Mix wakame and dressing.
Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and scallions
Chill in fridge prior to serving