Waiting on the World to Change

Everything is just so weird right now.

  1. The kids went back to Latvia.
  2. My dear buddy Ardeth died.
  3. Suddenly I see that Michael Phelps has crater-sized dimples.

I can’t really decide how I feel about any of it.There’s good stuff and bad stuff involved in each. (Okay, maybe not with Phelps, though he probably at some point endured playground trauma regarding his dimples.)

Mind-numbing amounts of the Olympics makes for excellent self medication. It’s like they organized this ginormous event, just to amuse and distract me.

Alosa and Nastja were psyched to get their picture taken with this police officer. Didn’t I choose a dreamy little specimen? He may have been made of wax.

Big plans were made to load this pic onto Latvian Facebook for all their friends to see. Somehow I don’t think that’s what the Christian hosting agency had in mind.

“Stand in front of the Chrysler Building and make a funny face.” Works for the boy who hates to smile for photos.

The kids were awesome, and we had a terrific time with them. I wanted to zip myself into one of their suitcase and go live in their foster home–a working farm with dairy cows, chickens, milk-producing goats, and a huge organic garden–for a decade or six.

Have you ever heard the story of the Jewish dude whose rabbi advised him, as he lamented how chaotic his home was, to bring in the farm animals for a week? That’s always how I feel after hosting.¬†My regular old life, right here at home, suddenly seems like a walk in the park.

But then I find a pic like this, taken under the Mom radar. They’re surprisingly glowing, for two who spent hours and hours in front of the TV.

Here’s me at the NY Hall of Science. Think anyone will notice if I start reaching up really high all the time? I think it makes me look thinner.

I first met Ardeth about nine years ago, at church. She was already struggling with memory loss. In her final years, Ardeth had big-time Alzheimer’s and lived in the lock-down unit of a nursing home/rehab center. Even with all that to manage, she brought heaps of joy to those around her. We visited her as often as we could. It was a little like church, except with funkier smells and much hooting and hollering (actually, some churches involve that, come to think of it) and sacred gelato runs and lots and lots of funny stories.


She died a couple of weeks ago, while we were all manner of distracted with the parenting of two additional children. She went to a party, said she didn’t feel well, went brought back upstairs to lie down for a nap, and never woke up. I still haven’t quite wrapped my head around that.

I’m not sad that she died. Dementia is hell. Nursing homes are hell. That’s a life nobody would ever choose for themselves. On the flip side, I’ve lost one of my anchors, and am a little more dazed and confused as a result.

We actually have plans to drive our butts back out to Long Beach, which is close to an hour away, to tell the nice Guyanese couple who own our favorite gelato place that she died. They used to give us free truffles. Ardeth was kind of like a Latvian host kid–she tended to bring out the best in people.

This is a very good friend of mine. I will miss her like fire.


It’s not so much that I’m waiting on the big bad world to change, though that would be nice. It’s more the world inside my head, which is sort of dark and loamy at the moment (though nicely punctuated with all manner of Olympics-honed muscles on the teevee).

It’ll change. It always does. And until that happens, I’m waiting.




Wind Cakes

Admit it: You’re wishing you lived in my fridge right now because it contains these.

Delish and delisher.

Look! It’s talking to you.

Or perhaps it’s fixing to spew brown goo like Linda Blair in the Exorcist. We really don’t know. Time is our only answer.

That was profound, wasn’t it? In fact, that goo consists of coffee-flavored sweetened condensed milk (possibly only available in Latvia, alas) and shameless amounts of butter.

These little pockets of insanity are called wind cakes. They are named, according to Nastja, because:

  1. They are easy as the wind to make. (True.)
  2. They are light as the wind in your mouth. (Also true.)

We took these cakes to a pool party.

Nastja: “I think they will want us to come back every weekend.”

Julia (swallowing a bite): “I think you’re right.”

Here’s a boy who can make that scooter jump on command. He every time doing.

Boy goals:

  1. Eat lots.
  2. Work out.
  3. Get huge.
  4. Trick out our Prius with spoiler, new hood, sundry accessories to make excellent sports car.

Foster sisters, happily reunited at the pool party.

Girl Goals:

  1. Work on tan.
  2. Watch TV.
  3. Watch more TV.

Mind-blowing amounts of TV are being watched here these days. Truly. You would palpitate if I told you how much.

Jesus is coming. Look sporty.

11-yr-old Goals:

  1. More TV.
  2. Less summer homework.
  3. And a little more TV.

Can’t say I blame her on the homework.

Fact: Even when reunited with foster sister, said host siblings still included my girl.

Points scored with American mom: Scads.

Here’s me with my birthday hot sauce.

Mom Goals:

  1. Roll peacefully through life’s gigunda uncertainties.
  2. Take grown-up vacation.
  3. Maybe get a pedicure.

(Among other things.)

Dad Goals: forthcoming. Pinky swear.

When not watching TV or scootering the sidewalks of New York, these kids are thinking their way through some Major Life Decisions. Any prayers or good wishes sent their way are deeply, deeply appreciated.

Oy and Alas.

I love them all, but they are much crazy.

Just add Latvians to bust out my best broken English. You think I’m kidding, but inside my head most of the time now, I sound like Latka Gravas on Taxi.

Nastja expressed an interest in learning how to cook more things, so we have been firing up thing after thing in my inferno of a kitchen. She takes careful notes, with exact measurements. A chemist, to the bone.

The sum total of these cookies became invisible in approximately 36 seconds.

Will the 9-yr-old boy in me ever grow up? Apparently not.

We have been to the beach twice now. That’s twice more than I’ve been in the past, say, 10 years. While I am not at all a beach lover (which may cause some of you to run screaming for the vodka), I am a good dooby. It has, to my great dismay, been surprisingly enjoyable. Why am I such an Archie Bunker when it comes to sand and crowds?

The owner of these feet is. on occasion, showing himself to be a one-man comedy show. He would like to live at the beach.

I think someone was feeling a little homesick.

The good news is that we also went to Brighton Beach, which involved no sand or homesickness at all. Just Russian food delicious.

Let’s all pause for a moment of silence as we ogle that cold beet soup.

Is it me, or do you find it amusing that I’m the one in plaid and Joe’s all floral and Old Navy pretty? I think it’s me. I’m easily amused.

With bellies full of pelmeni and sour cream, they all three liked us at once for a second or two.

Nastja: “Okay, put heads together and make funny face.”

One of the huger blessings these kids have brought us is now kind they have been to Lil. That has certainly not been the case with, well, any of our other hosting experiences. While Joe and I are entirely outnumbered, our girl is having what I suspect to be the best summer of her life.

Which rocks, plain and simple.

Joe (watching Julia take this photo): “Are you blogging tonight?”

We have a birthday (mine), a name day (Alosa’s), a half birthday (Nastja’s), and tonight as a kickoff of these events, a 11 1/6 birthday. It makes for a mouthful when you sing to the birthday girl.

Does celebrating your faux birthday mean you need to faux wish? Discuss.

Doing and Doing

And doing. Indeed, I have some facts to share.

1. We are very much on our neighbor’s s**t list.¬†Fortunately, it has nothing to do with the kids.

The following cheewawa barreled into the hallway the other morning and bit said neighbor’s sweet little shih tzu, who was entirely minding his own business.

This is a gal who really, really, *really* loves her dog, so it was as if I’d barreled out of our apartment myself and peed on her carpet.

It’s okay to *have* a dark side, but flaunting it is another issue entirely.

We slid a note of contrition under her door tonight.

Alosha: “That is a very long apology.”

Julia: “Yes, it is.”

Enter the Gentle Leader training collar. Jenna looks thrilled, doesn’t she?

2. Going from one to three kids has us a-hopping.

Number of kids signed up for afternoon classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology two weeks ago: 3

Number remaining: 1

Our attempt to set up groovy urban American teenager social integration opportunities went over like a dead hamster. I reassigned el nino to basketball camp (tepidly liked, at best), and allowed la nina to quit entirely.

It is my hope that this will one day become family lore. “Remember the summer I went to fashion camp hell and Mom was so cool and let me quit?” But we’ll see on that.

Julia, by email to the FIT program directors: “An option would be for me to attend the class in her place. If I bust out the Oil of Olay right now and begin slathering, we’ll all pray for me to look 17 again. Do you think Jesus would mind taking a little time out of the winemaking and dead-raising duties to grant me this one?”

Yes, I wrote that in real life. You were afraid I was going to say that, weren’t you?

3. In real life, I also covet el nino’s new glasses.

My inner 9-to-13-yr-old boy would wear these in a heartbeat. Yours wouldn’t?

“The spectre of the pirate’s skull and crossbones leers out from the temple.” Which is a huge selling point.

4. The following, introduced yesterday, are now but a distant memory.

Nothing too unusual: Rice Krispie treats and your classic chocolate peanut butter no bakes, inspired by the fact that I had a brain spasm and accidentally purchased two (2) gigunda boxes of Quaker Oats from Costco. As a result, I could singlehandedly smack down the cholesterol level of the better part of Queens at this moment.

Even more excellent was the fact that I deemed these both a healthy breakfast food. That was rather un-clenchy and cool-mommy of me, wasn’t it?

5. Could someone please help me decipher the content of my kitchen wall?

I think I got this one: A floorplan of their foster home, about to be decimated by an upbeat ogre duck.

The (apparently verbal) upbeat ogre duck’s name is David? You tell me. And please don’t drunk dial that number.

I will admit to being a bad slumber partyer at some ont in my child, one of my abundant quirk-flaws. But how they figured this out?

Pray they can’t read the rapidly-calcifying contents of my head. That would be of no benefit whatsoever, to anyone. Trust me on this one.

The more you shoosh them, the nuttier they get. Lather, rinse, repeat.

We’ll Let You Be the Judge

How’s it going with the kids? Tell me what you think.

She every day needing Nastja. 

I think my girl has a new idol. Ditto Bruno. 

Nastja calls the 11-yr-old Lilly. Believe it or not, I like it. But only, only from her mouth.

Boyz of summer. (Alosha is wearing Joe’s undershirt.)

A self-induced wasabi dare.

Both girls are starting fashion camp at FIT on Monday. Today we went to their orientation.

That’s a shirtless steel drum player over yonder on the platform.

That ID office security guard was quite interested in the spelling of her exotic name. Ahem.

Post-orientation wipeout.

I had originally registered all three kids for FIT.

Alosha: “I would rather go to paintball camp. Or sports.”

A new pair of kicks constituted today’s basketball camp orientation.

Kind of proud of myself for navigating Boy World with approximately zero experience. It helped to ask the shoe store guys for guidance. “Are ankle socks still acceptable in teenage basketball world?”

Kind of proud of el nino for rocking this sudoku today.


A New York Minute

I am thoroughly enjoying the contents of this boy’s head.

He very much likes this picture of himself and plans to upload it to the Latvian version of Facebook.

This morning as we were packing a lunch for our Statue of Liberty outing, I pulled some bagels out of the freezer. “They are what the policemen eat, no?” he observed.

(Informed, I believe, by the Simpsons.)

Our departure was subsequently delayed due to an extended episode of me clutching the sides of the kitchen counter and howling with laughter.

Regardless of where you are in life, doesn’t this make you want to just go dye the underside of your hair? Talk about a party atop your head.

Unarguably pretty. One of the kids caught this glamour shot, but no one can remember whom.

These kids brought with them many qualities to appreciate, one of which is their patience and open-heartedness. There seems to be a peaceful, easy vibe about them. We’ve never been blessed with that feature in previous hostings.

I looked up from my sudoku to find the three of them sucking the contents of the recycled-from-office-breakfast-tray jelly packets. If that’s not summer, I’m not sure what is.

Julia: “I bet when you were little you liked to climb into really small spaces and hide, didn’t you?”

Alosha: “Yah. We would go up in the tree and eat apples all day.”

Do I detect a hint of a smile here? They come once in awhile.