Thursday, Sept. 29, 2005
I am waaay too tired to write much, but I wanted to say 2 things -
1. We are headed to Myrtle Beach tomorrow for a few days of R&R - YAY!!
2. I posted a couple of new photos of Alesia. She is looking more and more grownup every day.
I'll post more in a few days!
Wednesday, September 28, 2005 I meant to post Sunday but I was too exhausted. Alesia went to her first baseball game. She loved it. We took binoculars so she could see the field. My friend Gary went with us and explained the game to her. He played little league for 3 years. We also took Sam, an Australian boy who’s staying with my friend Maria as an exchange student until January. Both Sam and Alesia had a great time.
Our grass is coming up in the back yard – yay! I have been watering with sprinklers and that’s exhausting. There are bare patches but it’s coming along.
Alesia has had 2 days off from school – the governor declared it when Rita was bearing down on Texas. Pissed off a lot of parents..
Alesia helped Mother get some laundry done and do some things around here. She also watched the rest of “Dr. Zhivago” – my Russian history lesson for the week.
Yesterday, Alesia rode her bike over to her friend Elena’s house and played with her all afternoon while Mother and I went to a new therapist. I am glad Alesia has a friend close enough to visit on her own like that. It’s about a mile’s ride, maybe less. It’s all on neighborhood streets, too, so I feel like she’s safe. She had a walkie talkie.
Mother and I went to a new physical therapist. I think he can help her. He was very gentle. He is a young guy just out of Emory, but very nice. The therapy place is 5 minutes from the house, which is unusual for Atlanta and very convenient. The therapist said if Mother doesn’t go on and increase her range of motion the shoulders will get harder and harder to move. I don’t want her to be a semi-invalid. She doesn’t want that either, but dreads being in pain, which is normal. I feel very good about the therapy, even though it means I can’t take a lunch hour for a while, as I will have to come home 2 days a week and take her to therapy.
Alesia told me last night she wants brown hair, straight. I told her most women would kill for gorgeous curly blonde hair. She has no idea how lucky she is.
wrote an e-mail to my friend Pasha, who is Russian:
Hi Pasha -
How are you? How is your job going? Is it getting cold there yet? [He is working on a Korean oil project near Sakhalin Island]
We have have unusually warm weather lately - we still run the air
conditioner all the time. It's only cold in the movie theater...
Alesia's English is coming along well, although I can't seem to break her of
saying certain things like "will don't" as in "We will don't
have ice cream now?" She also tends to get pronouns mixed up, referring to
inanimate objects as "he" and men and women both as "she"
sometimes. I can't seem to get her used to the idea that all nouns are just
"it" and have no gender.
We have had bizarre weather here, with Hurricane Katrina and just today
Hurricane Rita. I have friends and distant relatives who were affected by both
hurricanes. One relative, my cousin Terri, fled Houston with her family, the
dog, turtle, etc. but they were able to go back home today and their house was
fine. There was a panic yesterday and our governor asked all the school systems
to close Monday and Tuesday so to conserve gasoline, since he was sure Hurrican
Rita would damage the gas pipelines. I don't think that happened, but Alesia is
happy to be out of school for a couple of days.
We are leaving this Friday for Myrtle Beach, which is on the Atlantic ocean.
We have rented a place for a few days. I am excited about Alesia seeing the
ocean for the first time. I love sitting on a beach, reading and relaxing. Alesia
doesn't like long car trips, but I intend to use the time in studying, so she
doesn't get behind in her classes. Myrtle Beach is about a 5-6 hour drive from
We are watching "Dr. Zhivago," an old movie, but a favorite of
mine. I told her it was a movie about Russia, and she was very disappointed
that the characters don't speak in Russian. They have Russian names, but of
course English accents, and you hear almost no Russian, unfortunately. It's a
good story set against the backdrop of the Russian Revolution, and I am trying
to teach her some Russian history. She is woefully ignorant about it.
I am taking Alesia to her first baseball game tomorrow. I explained to her
that my grandfather was a baseball player, and my family loves baseball. I
think she will enjoy the game. She has watched it on TV with us. It's much more
exciting being in the stadium, however.
I took Alesia and her little friend Elena to see a movie this afternoon, and
they were sitting in the backseat giggling and speaking Russian. Alesia forgets
that I do know SOME Russian, enough to get an idea of what they were saying. I
noticed the word "malchick" [boy] being mentioned a lot. Elena is
originally from the Ukraine, but speaks Russian well.
I hope you are doing well, my friend, and getting some sleep whenever
possible. Be safe. Stay warm.
Alesia was a pill most of the day. She didn’t feel good – is having her
period – however, Mother wasn’t in a great mood either. We cleaned out about a
third of the garage today, and hauled a lot of stuff to Goodwill, but there’s
plenty more to go. It’s just exhausting work.
We went out to lunch at Hickory House, then by Kroger to pick up Mother’s
prescriptions. Alesia was sighing every time Mother asked her to do anything,
acting like it was so difficult and she was very put upon. Finally, Mother just
blew up and screamed at her in the car. Alesia deserved it.
Alesia and I had a talk when we got home. I told her I wanted to see an
improvement in her attitude. I hope it has some effect – so far I’ve only
noticed one tiny change, she said “Yes m’am” without prompting. Oh well, it was
a little progress.
Alesia made an 88 on her Georgia Studies test! Yay! I was so hoping
she could remember enough to at least make a B. Thank the Lord she
remembered. The teacher was so tickled she wrote on the paper "You got
it girl!" I liked the teacher.
I lost my father to cancer in 1996. Not a day goes by that I don't think of him. The funny part is, he would've been totally crazy about Alesia. She reminds me of him so much, oddly enough.
My dad was a sleepwalker. Alesia told me tonight that when she was in the orphanage she was a sleepwalker. She said the caretakers put down a wet towel beside the bed so when she stepped on it she would wake up. She said they also gave her Valerian to help her sleep. It's an herbal thing. I take it sometimes myself, but I can't imagine giving it to a kid. I have not seen her sleepwalk here, but I will be vigilant for it.
I sleepwalked once mysel, in Russia, ironically. It was the first night in Khabarovsk. I was totally exhausted and fell into bed asleep about 8:30 - it was a day more than 28 hours with no sleep, due to the 9 hour plane ride and time change. The next morning, my roommate said that she had gotten into the shower after I was asleep, accidentally banged the long shower sprayer against the side of the tub, and I had jumped up and gone in there, and said "You all right?" She said she was more frightened of me than the weird shower. She said she told me she was OK and I went back to bed. I have absolutely no memory of it. Freaked me out when she told me!
Additionally, Alesia is just so much like Grandpa Tony [as we refer to him]. She walks like him, snapping her fingers when she's happy, loves to sing [off key], is good with numbers, loves movies - just so many things. I feel sort of like Dad had a hand in sending her to me. I feel his presence in my life all the time.
I do believe if you love someone strongly then the boundaries between this world and the next can be crossed. Dad visits me in my dreams all the time. Mother says her parents come to her in dreams, too. They are powerful.
I had a small skirmish with Alesia this morning over her hair – they were
taking school photos and I made her get up early and shower, so her hair would
look pretty and fluffy. She usually showers at night. She used too much
conditioner and her hair was not fluffy, and I lost my temper. Not a shining
moment for me. I finally just said “Do what you want.” To my surprise, she
pulled it back in a clip and it looked OK.
Bronwyn couldn’t pick her up from school, so I left work early and got
Mother, and we picked up Alesia. She said she knew all the questions on the Ga.
Studies test and felt like she had done well, thank God.
Alesia said the math tutor helped her this morning, thank goodness. Alesia
has a math test next Tuesday. I dread studying for that. She also has a project
due the same day and I have no idea how to do it, or even what it is – the teacher
said she’d send home something tomorrow.
I have planned to take to take Alesia to a Braves game on Sunday. We also
wanted to try and get some boxes unpacked from the garage. Plus groceries, etc.
It’s going to be a busy weekend.
I spoke to my Aunt Diddy tonight, as I was very worried about her daughter,
my cousin Terri, who lives near Houston. Diddy said Terri and her children and
husband are leaving tomorrow to stay with friends in Texarkana, so hopefully
they will be out of danger. It’s 6 hours north.
It’s gotten so I don’t want to turn on the TV any more. I don’t want to see
the terrible images of devastation. I pray, I give money, I don’t know what
else to do.
My mind has stopped whirling around madly like a crackhead mouse on a wheel, finally. We got Alesia's first grades yesterday.
My friend Bronwyn, who picks up Alesia from school since my mother still can't drive, said Alesia showed her the grades on the way home, and Bronwyn said to her "What do you think your mom's giong to say when you show her these?" and she said Alesia replied "I don't know, but it's gonna be scary." Bronwyn said it was really difficult not to laugh at that.
Alesia's grades weren't that bad - mostly, C's, 2 A's, and a failing grade in history. They averaged out to a 79. However, she can do much better if she tries.
When I got home, we loaded up Granny in the Toyota and headed to CVS. In CVS, Alesia asked me if she could buy some sort of little electronic game, saying she didn't have enough money to get it [from her allowance]. I said "Girls who make bad grades on their report cards don't get my help with things like that." She looked utterly abashed, and wandered off. I felt kind of bad, but I wanted her to understand that I really wasn't going to tolerate her grades being below par. Plus, I wasn't going to tolerate her attitude about projects and tests.
I have come to the conclusion that SOME of the difficulty is just language. She doesn't understand what the teachers are saying and hates to admit it. Some of it, though, is just KID. Some parents don't care how their kids do in school. She's not used to ANY parental involvement.
She brought her Science book home last night and we were finally able to work ahead a little bit. I enjoyed reading it. I didn't realize that most of our air is Nitrogen, not Oxygen.
Mother also spent a lot of time reviewing her Georgia Studies notes with her, for the test. I pray she does well on that test, so it will boost her confidence.
I also had the pleasure of seeing our yard finally starting to look decent. The landscaper finally finished re-grading the backyard, and got the grass planted. It's red dirt with an overlay of green, and the backyard looks huge. They also built up a raised flowerbed about 5x8 right next to the back patio, and we are looking forward to planting flowers and veggies. Alesia loves raw tomatoes, and squash, so next summer should be good. We've also planted roses in a little side yard and maybe they will climb up the fence - it's a privacy fence between the driveway and backyard.
We're planting azaleas and camellias in the big pinestraw bed out front, in a few weeks. That should be beautiful next spring. I hope to plant some bulbs, too, maybe irises.
Last night when I was putting Alesia to bed, I told her a little story, about her great uncle Don. I said when Don was a little boy and didn't want to do his schoolwork, my grandfather had a talk with him. He told Don, "You can either make your living with your back, or your brains." I explained to Alesia that she has the same choice. She can do hard physical labor, or go to college and get to sit in a nice office in front of a computer. She loves computers. She's not big on doing dishes, and I told her that was the sort of work she might have to do if she doesn't work hard in school. I think it made an impression. We also talked about that if she goes to college she will be able to have a lot of choices, and not just get stuck doing something menial.
I told Alesia if she will staudy hard in math and science - 2 subjects she actually likes, and is pretty good at - that she could be a veterinarian, if she wants. She's not sure about that, but she loves animals. When I was in the adoption process, the caretakers at the orphanage told her she could be either a fashion model or a veterinarian. She was oblivious to the whole debate - we were all sitting at a big table, discussing her future. She was looking at the photo album I had brought to her.
At least now she's beginning to realize she HAS a future, and she's not oblivious any more. One day I will have to tell her she is a beautiful girl, and that gives her a lot more power in this life. For now, I want her to stay innocent. She has no idea what she can accomplish, with her beauty and brains...
I spent almost an hour on the phone yesterday morning with Alesia’s teacher,
Miss Kerivan. It was a very constructive conversation, but also made me
She said she had told Alesia to tell me about the 8th grade Open
House last week, and Alesia promised she would. Alesia never mentioned it to
me. She also said she found Alesia letting another student copy her math
homework – she pulled Alesia aside and told her that was cheating and never to
do it again, that this isn’t Russia. She said in Russia that cheating is
common, and the kids lie all the time, too. I have always felt Alesia was
basically a good kid, but those reports made me furious.
I confronted Alesia about it later and lost my temper, yelling at her for a
few minutes until I could regain control. Yelling seems to be the only thing
that works. I hate losing my temper and yelling at her, but I just can’t help
it. My frustration level just gets overwhelming. Finding out she had lied and
cheated in school was really upsetting. However, I also told her she couldn’t
watch any TV all weekend, which upset her because that’s the only time I let
her watch TV.
Miss Kerivan said the other teachers are supposed to make allowances for the
ESOL students, since they don’t know English and don’t get any special
instruction but are put into regular classes – except math. I told her Alesia
has a low C in math right now, but I am starting her in an in-school tutoring
program on Tuesday mornings at 8, so hopefully that will help.
Miss Kerivan said that Alesia tested in the 1 percentile for English
speaking and comprehension a few weeks ago, and she has to pass a test at the
end of the year to be able to go to high school. Miss Kerivan has doubts that
she will be able to pass it. She likes Alesia and agrees with me that she’s a
bright kid, but it’s going to be an uphill battle. I asked her if she thought
we should put Alesia back a grade or two and she said no, that would really
I told her I am willing to help Alesia, but she doesn’t even bring home her
work or her books half the time. She said she would have a talk with Alesia,
and talk to her other teachers. I pray this will work.
I spent a lot of time yesterday and today helping Alesia do her science
project. Some of the stuff was really difficult because she hasn’t given the
kids books yet, and Alesia didn’t have all her handouts. I just found things on
the internet and tried to use them but not really plagiarize – tough to do.
I spent quite a bit of time also working with her on Georgia Studies, her
social studies course. I read the entire lesson, which takes time because I
have to stop and ask her things like “Do you know what the word settler means?
No? Well, look it up in the dictionary.” We make a flashcard and keep going. Later
we review all the vocabulary.
Today we went to Sunday School and church, then out to lunch. Alesia is
enjoying Sunday School. They have a good class, and she is a mini celebrity
because she is Russian. She was disappointed that they didn’t serve juice and
cookies again – that was just a kickoff celebration, clearly.
Mother and I are taking a Sunday School class on St. Paul, and the teacher
is a theology professor from Berry College, and just an excellent lecturer.
Sunday School for grownups is really a lecture series and there are several to
I was amused after church today that when we were leaving we turned around,
and this older couple who were standing behind us were so funny. The woman, who
was very well dressed and coiffed, quite a society looking person, just stared
at Alesia and said “You are just beautiful! Just a gorgeous girl!” I have
trained Alesia to just say “Thank You,” when this happens, which it does from
time to time.
Alesia has grown half an inch in the past two months. She will soon be
taller than me – hallelujah. Maybe if the academic thing doesn’t work out she
can be a model…
I am very discouraged about Alesia. I have told her 3 times this week to
bring home all her homework every day, to work on her science project, to
study. Today, she came home with nothing, saying “I have no homework.”
Last night I stayed up until 10:30 to teach her Georgia Studies for a test. Then
the teacher canceled the test.
I reminded Alesia last night to bring home all her science so she could do
her project this weekend. I had told her Tuesday to bring home her science so
we could do the project due Thursday. On Wednesday when I got home she said
about science “I forgot.” On Thursday, she said the science teacher said she
could have extra time.
Today, the teacher told her it was too late. When I asked her tonight, she
said she didn’t bring home her science because the teacher told her she already
had a zero, since she didn’t turn in her project yesterday. I tried to explain
that if she didn’t learn it now, she would fail the class. I reminded her that
she has to learn all the new vocabulary ever night. She just dropped her head
and wouldn’t look at me.
I finally said [quietly] “Alesia, why don’t you do what I tell you? Why
don’t you bring home your books and papers like I tell you, so I can help you?
What am I going to do with you? I’ve tried yelling, punishment, promising
rewards – nothing works.”
She just stared downward at the dining room table. I didn’t lose my temper,
but it was hard.
Finally, tonight when I was tucking her into bed I said “Maybe it was a
mistake to put you into 8th grade. Maybe you need to go back to
third or 4th grade.” She looked dismayed.
She said “Why you put me in this grade?” I said “Because when I enrolled you
in school last year they tested you and said you could go into 7th
grade. I think maybe they were wrong.”
She said “Can I go to Elena’s school?” then of course I had to explain that
Elena goes to a private school, and I can’t afford that.
I am trying to figure out what to do. Today, from work, I sent e-mails to
several private school admissions folks today, but got no replies. I even left
a message for the headmaster of Galloway School to call me – I met her last
year in Russian class. She adopted a little girl even though she’s in her 50’s.
Even if I can Alesia in – to any private school - I probably wouldn’t
qualify for financial aid. The school cost from $10-15,000 a year!
Miss Kerivan sent me an e-mail saying she didn’t think Alesia could pass the
test to leave 8th grade. She said Alesia tries hard, but isn’t
getting it. I need to call her this weekend. Maybe she can suggest what we need
Maybe the problem is that emotionally Alesia isn’t ready, and subconsciously
she’s sabotaging herself so she won’t have to go to high school and really
start growing up. She’s bright enough to do the work, if she works extra hard
to learn English. But she won’t even bring her work home, much less work extra
When I told Alesia that if she gets put back a couple of grades she will be
20 or 21 when she finishes high school, she didn’t look upset. I even reminded
her that after that she would have 4 year of college, and wouldn’t graduate
until she was 25 or so. She didn’t look upset even then.
I keep thinking about something I was told recently by a colleague who was
raised in a foreign country and studied language acquisition. She said that by
the time a child is 6, language is hard-wired into their brain. They can become
fluent in another language but they will never be bilingual. I read somewhere
that it typically takes 6 years of intense study before a person not born here
can manage academic English.
Maybe I just have to accept that, and hope Alesia can get some sort of
skilled job later, and not push her towards college. Maybe I am being unfair to
Mom went to the doctor today and didn’t use the wheelchair – a lot of
progress there. She has done a lot better in raising her arms. She still has
another followup visit, though, for mid October.
She also made dinner tonight, with Alesia’s help. The doctor’s assistant
gave her some exercises to do every day to increase range of motion. I am
praying they will help and she will continue to improve.
I posted the following on my Yahoo board:
I am in a better frame of mind tonight about Alesia.
Mother helped Alesia with her Georgia studies homework, and she did her math
homework on her own. She completely forgot to even bring home her Science! I
told her she better figure that one out, fast, and ask for extra time on it.
I came up with a great idea. She has been keeping a little notebook of
unfamiliar English words and the Russian equivalent. Tonight I made flashcards
for her - English word on one side,
Russian on the other. I make her tell me the Russian word, then an English
synonym, then use it in a sentence. We are going to practice this every day.
She liked the "game," which was great.
I also told her if she learned all the English words in the new chapter and
finished her science project by Sunday afternoon we would go to the movie. I
hope she does that and I can reward her.
I am also using movies to get her attention focused on history. We watched
"1776" a few weeks ago and discussed how America was founded. We are
watching now "The Last Emperor" and discussing the differences
between communism and a republic. She is a visual learned, and I am coming to
understand that better.
I posted this on my yahoo board for single adoptive moms:
I have been concerned that Alesia is not understanding the material in school and I called a conference of her teachers. Only 3 showed up but they were the important ones - math, science, and social studies [this year it's called Georgia Studies]. None of them knew Alesia was adopted - one of them was surprised I had no Russian accent! I had to explain about the adoption because they were looking at me like I had 2 heads!
After a month in school, Alesia has a low B in Science, a low C in math, and is failing social studies. I don't know about Language Arts and Business, her 2 other academic subjects, but I think she's doing OK in there. The Language Arts teacher is Russian and also has her in an ESOL class. I am horrified by the failing grade. The teacher assured me she would grade on a curve for the ESOL students but that didn't comfort me much.
I told Alesia this afternoon that from now on I want her to bring home every book and notebook and I will check ever homework assignment every day. She didn't like hearing that. She is very independent. She is bad to do her homework at school and not bring anything home for me to check, though. She also hasn't shown me a single test or quiz yet, and the teachers assured me she has taken several. Fortunately I can check the website of the school for the homework assignments.
I am just discouraged. I thought she was doing so well. I've encouraged her to study and look up her English words every night and she's gotten better about that, but she resents me butting in on her schoolwork. She gets really snotty when I try to talk to her about it.
It's hard for me to be patient. I've explained in English [and a letter I got translated into Russian] that in my familly everybody goes to college and I expect her to go too, and she has to study NOW. I think she's never had anyone talk to her about her future.
We were in the car today on the way to the dentist and when I told her the new rule about homework she became quite sullen.
I said "Alesia you're a very smart girl, I know you can make A's and B's if you try." She replied "I'm not smart girl!" I said "I NEVER want to hear you say that again. I am a lot older and I know a lot more and I'm telling you, kiddo, you ARE smart!" She looked like she didn't believe me and said she felt stupid because she didn't understand in class. I said "Honey, Granny and I are here to help you.
If we can't, we'll find someone who CAN help you" -I was thinking about math.
I don't know how to comfort her.
I also dread having to start in and teach her the social studies lesson every night. I love history, but trying to teach is not my bag.
Also, what little free time I can eke out will fall by the wayside, even though Mother said she'd help her with the Math and Science. That is far more "hands on" than I wanted, but maybe if we can be positive about it, Alesia will view this as a challenge, rather than become too discouraged. I don't want her to give up.
I have been thinking a lot [daydreaming] about the day I can get my condo sold and finally finish paying off the adoption debt, and look at getting daughter #2. That goal seems out of reach now. There are only so many hours in the day. I wanted a 5 year old.
I am praying hard and trying not to let this get me down.
Addendum: I spent 2 hours tonight going over homework with her and it's now after midnight... Her dental appointment [first cavity filled] and 7-8 p.m. dance class screwed up the day...