What We Have Are Stars

A little epiphany struck me last night as I was lamenting the fact that No One Refills The Water Bottles Except Me. I decided that a star chart was absolutely in order, and that the first star should go to me. So it did.

Now, when I stumble across a shoe flopping about, poorly washed dishes, an errant water glass…STAR! Right there, on my chart, thank you very much.

The Latvians were all over this idea.

El nino is particularly motivated, as you can see.

Twenty stars earns a buck. And I have been known to toss out five-star jobs like penny candy from a parade float.

Amount of time this system has been in effect: 22 hours.

Amount of time I sound like it’s been in effect: much longer than that.


I am totally buying myself Something Shiny with my first buck. Maybe if I’m lucky the kids will leave all their shoes out for me to pick up tomorrow.

In other news, we are all settling in and enjoying each other a hearty most of the time. Financially, everything times three (or five) all of a sudden is a bit mind-boggling, but I suspect that my head will wrap itself around that, in time.

The mechanics of five are so entirely different than four. There are little things that you don’t expect. Like the ride home from the airport when the stoopid taxi driver charged us ten bucks over the meter for the fifth person, despite the fact that his Toyota Sienna more than fit all of our butts with room to spare. (Believe it or not, he was the bargain–another driver wanted to charge us fifteen.) What. Ever. Freaking taxi guy.

Mind you, these kids are worth every penny. My heart bursts all over them, daily. I spend concerted time and effort not freaking them out with that.

Boy likes boating. Quite a bit.

We took a little family outing to the Central Park boathouse this afternoon. The weather was perfect, Alosa discovered an affinity for rowing, and Joe and I scored a Latvian-guided tour around the pond (or is it a lake? Yes, I’ve lived in this city for over twenty years. #sosolame).


Quite a few boathouse boys were quite eager to help my new daughter into her rowboat. Ahem.

Perhaps the new facial ‘do will keep the boys at bay. Pun intended.

Gotta go. Spotted two water glasses, one half full. Cha-ching.


Yes, Yes, YES!

How do I even put into words news this hugely great?

As of today, we are a family of five! FIVE!

That’s so many! (Okay, I know it’s probably the American average in terms of family size, but to the formerly-three-us, it feels ginormous.)

Two excellent things happened today.

1. Nastja and Alosa told the orphan court today that they are hardy enough to weather my super-sized neuroses would like to travel to the U.S. in continued pursuit of being adopted into our family.

2. Both of their student visas were approved by the America embassy in Riga.

Hot damn. (That’s not a cuss word if I write it in Latvia.)

This is my heart felt like after today’s court hearing, only bigger and splashier.

Never turn down a banister opp, particularly after you’ve made a gargancha life decision.

Yeah. What he did.

Between the orphan court hearing and our embassy interview, we had the additional bonus of visiting Nastja’s school and meeting her teacher and class (completely by her invitation).

Yes, she’s breathtaking. And she’s MINE.

Teacher’s pet.

Joe: “I look like such a geek!”

Julia: “You really do!”

Something a little more tactful and supportive may have been in order. #badwifealert

These are the books she returned today. We have a scholar in our midst.

Julia: “How many people do you know who can say they’ve experienced the inside of a Latvian orphan court–twice–and a real Latvian high school?”

11-yr-old: [shrugs]

Julia: “Um…NOBODY.”

True facts:

1. We strongly suspect we’ve hit the jackpot.

2. Every bit of bizarro struggle we’ve endured to get here? Very freaking worth it.

3. We have three. THREE! And they rock.

They do things like this. They’re a freaking pack.

Required vicarious celebratory activities for each and every one of you:

1. Do a happy dance. Preferably an ungainly one.

2. Drink a cocktail. Preferably one of generous proportion.

3. Eat a cookie. Or three. Or FIVE.

You! Now!



Keeping Busy

With two teenagers and a teen aspirant in our midst, we’re walking the fine/finer/finest line between up time and down time.

Here’s what some of that looks like.

Nobody loves the bus (except me).

But it generally takes us someplace a little bit excellent.

If el nino can climb the freakishly large web…

Apparently so can la nina and me.

(It was approximately 58 bajillion feet off the ground up there. The kids will concur.)

Sometimes we fly at a safeishly low range. It’s cool.

Because anything done at the beach is automatically cooler than the same thing done elsewhere. Sitting, for instance.

Passerby, you smiled so pretty for my camera. Paldies!

What is UP with this pseudo-olive complexion I’ve developed? I will blame it on childbirth. And also my husband for glowing so smugly pink in contrast.

You, too wish for a chipped newsprint manicure? We can share our secret recipe, for a price.

(You may, however, find yourself wishing for the above souvenir ring. The amber jewelry options here are breathtaking.)

Magic Schoolbus, please to take us to the giant Lido restaurant of our dreams.

(Well, *my* dreams.)

Thank you, Magic Schoolbus, for this table groaning with Latvian awesomeness in the form of fried meats and strawberry fluff.

Lido makes everyone smile.

Can we just live forever at Lido?

Conversations With Our Son

It is only now hitting me that I will soon be able to casually toss out the words “my son”. And what excellent words those are.

Having lived in Girl World for, well, 43 years, and in a parental role of said world for eleven years, I knew not of these boys you speak of. Girl World? A different country. Lovely nonetheless, but entirely foreign land to Boy World, with minimal overlap.

Sorry, but you can’t have this guy. We got dibs.

I have really not met a kinder, more easygoing young teenager. Ever. Parenting this sweet boy feels like a big phat gift (15-odd years behind the curve, note how effortlessly that slang rolls off my tongue/fingers).

A couple of days ago, I told him that his first work-for-hire in America would be to paint the inside of his closet any color/s he wanted. Last night as I tucked him into bed, he told me, “I am thinking about what color I will paint my closet.”

Eight shades of stoically psyched, methinks.

The verdict is leaning toward green walls, purple shelves, and chalkboard paint on the inside of the door.

It’s only a matter of time until I paint my own closet to be just like him.

Additionally, today’s father-son motocross outing (a really big deal in 13-yr-old boy world–motocross only comes to this area about once a year) has set the scene for our future living room decor.

Objet d’art.

Alosa: “I am thinking there needs to be a little bit of me in Party Central.”

Julia: “Yes.” (Presses fingers to lips, glances to ceiling as if it will reveal the exact location of spare frames languishing about the American apartment.)

[Sound of odd pop song suddenly blaring from Joe’s smartphone.]

Julia: “What are you doing?”

Joe: “Checking for motocross.”

Can’t talk. Researching.

Party on, Wayne.


I try to never pass up an opportunity to count my blessings.

For three!

For an hour of mad flipping at the Olympiskais Sporta Centrs, completely unhindered by intrusive cattle.

For the means to spring for an impromptu Latvian value meal (“kompletks”).

For this most excellent hombre. (And the, gulp, 983-calorie Rudzu burger I devoured in approximately six seconds flat.)

For one of my favorite cities in the world.

For slapjack.

For these beautiful hands, and the beautiful young woman attached.

For an array of delightfully ketchup-laced Latvian-style pizzas. 

(Because apparently the thousand-plus calorie lunch didn’t quite satisfy me. Gad.)

For this vessel of ridiculous beauty, as seen from our hallway window.

Goodnight Riga. I’ll never be able to quit you.

Serenity Now

It’s wonderful and strange to be back together as a big family.

I am struck by how hugely the ignorance-is-bliss factor played last year, when we attempted this the first time. I honestly had no idea that adoptions could still fall flat at this stage.

This time around, I’m all atwist. And not in a good yogi kind of way.

I really need to freaking relax, but it’s hard to do that, when this feels a little like A Really Important Job Interview (like for the position of President of the World, which I would hate), or A Major Dream Date.

It’s time to start baking, isn’t it?

So here’s a little bit about our first day and a half together.

Yesterday we got to meet the kids’ really wonderful foster mom, who has a small slice of paradise nearly self-sustaining farm about 20 miles from Riga. Think dairy cows (one on the farm, one in the fridge, as the kids informed us), dairy goats, chickens and turkeys, and an expansive garden. Living there has been really therapeutic for the kids, and after seeing it first hand, I can see why they are sad to leave. (Truthfully, I wanted to live there solely from the way they described it to us this summer. Seeing it up close just confirmed what I already knew.)

The orphan court experience was more grueling and much longer than we remembered, but the 11-yr-old got to join us in the room for it, and we had a fabulous translator. If nothing else, I am good at appreciating the little gifties that this crazy journey throws our way.

Still, the I Heart NYwear went over with hearty approval.

So handsome.

So jaundiced. (My painting job, not his.)

Riga’s famous bridge of locks. I so love this city.


Nastja told me a funny story about how once, visiting Riga with friends, she stepped down onto a moss-covered stone to get a better look at the locks and splash, into the drink she went. “The rock was sleazy,” she told me. I knew exactly what she meant.

Homemade pizza: ketchup, pickles, pineapple, cheese. Quite delicious.

I think the Latvian hands that made it were the key ingredient.

Tomorrow we hit the Olympic Sports Center to commence the bouncing and flipping. Alosa wants to practice up on a few parkour moves requiring more than the couch. I’m thinking a little upside-down time might help loosen up the jangled-up pile of nerves that is currently me. Lord, let’s hope so.

We’re Baaack…

Latvian Adventures, The Sequel has officially commenced. Is this real life?

Doing! Some items *may* have been crossed off without completion, but that cannot be confirmed beyond reasonable doubt.

Please take a moment to investigate the hand ornamentation. Ditto the footwear. I really love airport people watching.

Airplane MicroCoke! Mayor Bloomberg would so approve.

Mmm…mystery meat. Yeah, we ate it. Captive audience and all that.

Much of travel, I have come to realize, is days where all that defines you is which transit vessel you will plant your butt in next, and where/when/what will comprise your next meal. The last two days have been exactly that.

We had a four-hour layover in Helsinki. From what I could tell from the view through the airport window, I could spend about forever in Finland.

Joe: “What kind of coffee do you want?”

He had to ask? Apparently he forgot he’s married to a 12-yr-old boy trapped in a 43-yr-old woman’s body.

Wiener cafe. Heheh.

Both legs of our flight were, thankfully, smooth as glass. It felt like no time passed before we hit Latvian soil.

This one complained about zero percent of the time, even while she was earning this yawn.

Check out the entrance to our apartment, all stealth and tastefully accessorized.

We made a quick trip to the Riga Market to score some buxom lady chocolates for a good friend and fellow adoptive mom.

The woman at the market stand was truly perplexed by my determination to surmount the language barrier and procure one of every color. No lady left behind!

The beet-laden Latvian soup inhalation has also commenced. Check out my sweethearts, jet-lagged within an inch of their lives.

We sleep and sleep now. See you all tomorrow when we stop sleeping long enough to reconnect with the kids.