Doug and Amy's Blog

Sunday, October 17, 2010

In Memorandum for My Mother

Today would have been mine (Amy's) mother's birthday. She lost her life on May 5, 2010. We received a phone call at 2:15 am from my niece who lives with my mom. I saw the caller ID and jumped out of bed telling Doug "Something is wrong, it's from home!" I still think of California as my home. It was my niece that lives with my mom. She was crying and telling me that "Grandma is dying!" The Paramedics were there working on Mom but she passed away. It was the hardest moment of my life. I was there when she left this earth. A few days earlier, she had fallen, twice.
My nephew, Randy who also lives with my Mom, helped her up and not knowing that she had broken her right shoulder. She was hospitalized for a day and then allowed to come home. I received a phone call from one of my sisters telling me what happened to Mom and that she was now at home.
I immediately called Mom and spoke to her. Three times she asked me if I had fed the kids. I told her yes each time. She told me she was OK and I told her I would hang up so she could get her rest.
I called my eldest sister and asked her if Mom was really OK. She assured me that Mom was heavily medicated and that was the reason she was asking me the same questions over and over again.
I felt better after talking to my sister until I received the call that morning from my niece.
How could that be? Mom is suppose to be here forever. What do I do without her? Who do I turn to? I love her so much. Even during her last days on earth, she was still being a Mom. Mom was concerned about the welfare of her newest grandchildren. My sister told me that while in the hospital, Mom told her how proud she was of Doug and I for adopting Alex and Kristina. But they would never get to meet this most wonderful and precious woman.
Mom was always about her family. That was her life.
My Mom and Dad came from India when they were young and recently married. My Dad was in college in India and wanted to get his degree in the United States. My parents were sponsored by my Dad's Aunt and Uncle who were living in California. After my Dad received his degree in Agriculture, they made the US their home and purchased a ranch. My Dad was Westernized and my Mom soon followed. They became US citizens.
My Mom learned English and taught herself to drive a car. We were all so proud of her. She would attend our school functions dressed in a beautiful dresses and heels. My Great Aunt Mary (married to my Dad's Uncle) had my Mom's beautiful long hair cut and styled and bought her dresses and suits.
Mom kept her traditional Indian clothes to wear at home.
Mom was an exceptional cook. She learned to cook from her Grandmother. She was raised by her Grandparents in India. After my Mom was born, her Grandparent fell in love with her. Mom stayed with them often and learned many thing from her Grandmother. My Mom's cooking was one of her many talents. She could take ordinary food and make it taste like heaven. My Dad was especially proud of my Mom's cooking. There were so many times when Dad would bring people home for dinner. Mom always had more then enough food and was always gracious about unexpected guest for dinner. My Dad always took in people that didn't have a place to stay and Mom always fed them. My sister recalled a time when Dad brought home several college students that didn't have a place to stay. Mom took our mattress' off our beds and we helped her to make up a bed on the floor of our screened-in porch.
My sister told us that just before our Mom passed away that she was wearing our Dad's ring. She hadn't worn the ring for years since Dad passed away many years ago. We think he came to get her.
Mom was sent to meet her maker on Mother's Day. It was my first Mother's Day and it was the day we all had to say "Good Bye."
Today, I am having a more difficult time. I always would send her many gifts for her birthday. Every time I would see something I thought Mom would like, I would buy it and save it for her birthday. She would always tell me that I spent too much money on her and I would reply "I only have one Mother". She deserved it all and much much more. Mom loved all the holidays. The holidays were very big in my family and they will be a very sad time this year.
Each day is filled with so many memories and tears especially when I'm alone.
My sisters and I hope we can remember all the traditional things Mother has taught us.
Alex and Kristina do not understand because of the courage my parents had to come to America, has created a new life for them and opened a new chapter in the Rai and Arnold family history.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Kristina Goes to Church Camp

Friday, Kristina went to Camp Tuttle for the weekend on a Church retreat for kids. Me, Doug and Alex found the weekend to be extremely enjoyable because the drama queen was away. Kristina loved it because she had a great time and was surrounded by new people who had not heard her Ukrainian stories yet. Kristina loves to talk to everyone who will listen to her. She and her accent were now the center of attention for the weekend.
We thought church camp would be a good thing for her: as she would be around kids her own age, to make some new Christian friends and we hoped she would learn some humility. Our biggest challenge with her is trying to convince her that we, as her parents, know what is best for her. Thirteen year old Kristina of course has all of the answers and looks at us like we don't know what we're talking about. During our many talks, she will not answer our questions directly but ask another question to avoid answering us.
When we went to pick her up and she was playing games with the other children. She told her new friends "Good-Bye Guys."
On the way home she cried as she said she missed them. We asked her what she had learned while at camp and she told us it was about honesty. We were glad to hear that, as we had some questions to ask her about finding things in her room that she did not have permission to take .
Kristina had been grounded and we only allowed her to go to church camp to help her and to try to mold her into a better person.
I've read on other blogs, that some of the moms said in some cases, they will not win the mother of the year award, I feel I won't win any awards, ever. Kristina doesn't accept listening to us very well. It amazes us that her teachers speak so highly of her and say she is an extremely respectful student but she can't show any respect at home. We keep telling Kristina that someday we hope she will be grateful for all the opportunities we have given to her, but to her we are not doing anything. We now have a new rule. If Kristina takes something without permission, then something of hers will be taken away and donated. She has taken a step in the right direction this evening. The neighbor that drives Kristina to school each day gave her some money. She had given all the girls in her car pool a little money and she takes them to the store after school so they can spend their money on treats. Kristina has $2.61. Kristina ate an entire bottle of decorative candies for cookies/cupcakes that I use during the holidays. Since she had $2.61 from the neighbor, we asked her what she should do with the money. Kristina told us to keep the money as she wanted to pay back the $3.00 she owed for eating the decorative candies.
We asked her why she had not asked us first for the candies and why she felt she had to take them without permission. She would not answer. There were other things she had taken but we were concerned about her need to still take and hide food. She knows that there is plenty to eat. Alex comments quite often that Kristina eats more than him. So it comes down to the attention thing. How to get more attention? She knows the food thing is annoying and therefore, keeps doing it. Kristina knows her dentist would not approve of her eating candies. Shes had allot of dental work this year and there will be more in 2011.
She had now turned in for the evening after a hot bath and wanted to read the Beeble (as Kristina pronounces it) which was loaned to her from church. As for the rest of us, after putting up our traditional Halloween village, sound effects and all, were are all getting ready to turn in for the day.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


It's hard to believe Alex and Kristina have been in the US for 1 year. On one hand, the time has gone quickly and on the other, we are still struggling with the same problems as we've had a year ago. Mainly with Kristina and her "How am I suppose to?" That's her way of trying to get out of her responsibilities or school work or just having her daily melt down. Sometimes I wish she didn't learn English. Being 13 and having an attitude is pretty tough.
Last week, Kristina began her period. Of course, when I asked the Russian translator to explain to her at least three different times, what was going to happen, Kristina said she already knew. We spoke about it again after she started and the tears began when I told her Aunt Flo was coming every month for a long long time. First she told me that was a lie. Then she told me she thought it was a one time deal. "But Kristina," I said, "I thought you already knew about this."
She kept the crying up and said. "I didn't know it came every month!" Heaven help us because we are in for some major PMS.
Since school started, Alex has been coming home almost everyday with all kinds of graduation packet information. With the cost of graduation pictures, class rings, rental of graduation cap and gown, graduation announcements, diploma frames, etc, etc, etc..... things can get overwhelming. Alex is all for getting his class ring but to the rest he says, "I'm going to get sick!"
Alex is quite entertaining. He has a great sense of humor. We really didn't expect that from him as he is very reserved. It is nice to see that he is very comfortable with us and can let his hair down. He asked me if there would be any 16 or older girls coming in October for the hosting program? He is willing to help with any translating (and not just for the girls) since he speaks both Ukrainian and Russian.
We decided the kids need to go to church and join the youth group. They usually sit in church and do not participate. We are hoping that the other youths and get them involved is church activities and they can make more friends. Most of the kids in our families are older and live in other states so not so many family members live locally. The youth group program starts in about a week so we will see how Alex and Kristina do.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Happy Day/Crappy Day

Today, Doug and I were able to take a break from our hectic day and have lunch together. It's nice to be able to get away and kind of go on a little date. I always thought when we had our own family, I would always want to spend all our time together but now I look forward to just getting away for a little time by ourselves. A couple of weeks ago, we sent the children off to the movies. They both wanted to see different movies in the same theater. Alex like action movies and Kristina likes chick flicks. We thought it would be nice to go out and have a quiet early dinner alone. We enjoy going to a little restaurant, "Tin Roof." The price is right and the food is great. Going on a date with my husband is something I really look forward to more and more these days.
But getting back to today, Doug informed me at lunch he had an little situation with Kristina this morning. She always brings us papers from school at the last minute and expects us to sign everything without reading any of it. We have a rule, if we sign a school document, we make a copy of it so we can refer to it later or just to know Alex and Kristina are doing what we agreed to sign.
Doug asked Kristina "What is it that I'm signing?" She went into her room to get another paper from school and threw it at him. Doug read it and said he was going to copy the paper he signed and Kristina started screaming "Do not copy it!" "Do not copy it!" Doug told her he would copy the paper because that is what we need to do and as always, she starts with the crying. She did not want Doug to tell me what happened and Doug told Kristina, he would tell me. We've told her before, we tell each other everything. She began to cry even more and soon it was time to leave for school. Doug told her they needed to leave for school because the traffic would be bad, but she kept crying and would not leave so he opened the garage door and started his truck. Kristina came running out of the house and got into the truck and they left for school. Just as Doug had said, the traffic was horrible and Kristina said "Thank you Papa!" "You made me late!" That's Kristina, blame it on everyone else. Doug reminded her that she would not leave when he asked her to.
Before she got out of the truck, she told Doug that "I will not come home after school!" "Don't look for me!" We've been through this so many times with her. Kristina loves all the attention she can get. Good or bad, she loves attention. When Doug told me what happened I told him not to pick her up from school and to let her walk home, which she did. We live within walking distance from the school.
Upon arriving home she said "Thank you Papa for not picking me up!" Doug told Kristina, "You told me not to." She said, "I said, I wasn't coming home after school, but I never told you not to pick me up." We get that a lot from her.

She's always assuming that I told her friends about her bad habits so none of her friends will talk to her. It's never that they are 12 and 13 year old girls and very moody, so they don't always run and give each other a big hugs when they see each other. I get the, "THANK YOU MAMA! Now none of my friends will talk to me." It's usually one girl that doesn't say "Hi" and she may not have heard Kristina say "Hi" first. By the next day, all is well again with her friends. When does this get better!! Sometimes I blame Alex for not having a brother.

Well the paper that Doug signed said that Kristina had to read each day for 20 minutes and then write 40 words about what she read by the end of the week, she is to turn her paper in to earn points. Kristina, told us the teacher told the class only read 3 times a week not everyday. Her assignment started the last three days of the week (starting Friday). Three days this week, the 27-29 and starting next week, 4 days a week with all the dates listed. She never looked at the back of the paper and told me I was all wrong. When I showed her the back side and what it said, she told me "How am I suppose to know?
Me saying: "By listening."
Her saying: "OK OK." After a quick shower to get rid of the "tissue" which she on calls "itching" she got, "the tissue", from sitting on the grass. She started her homework and we are calling it, an end to another crazy day.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Figuring Out Fractions

Yesterday afternoon, Doug and Alex had a 5:15 haircut appointment while I had to make a stop before coming home from work. Doug started making dinner and Kristina was working on her Science homework. I misunderstood Doug as he was telling Kristina the answers to the questions she had to complete for Wednesday were in the book. I thought she had already read the chapter but was having trouble with the questions so in between working on dinner, I helped Kristina with her Science questions. We finished the homework before dinner was ready. The rest of the evening went smoothly.
This morning, Doug informed me that Kristina never read the chapter and was trying to answer the questions without reading anything. Boy, was I duped! She got me to help her before we made the rule that she has to read her assignments 3 times. I asked her if she read the chapter in her Science book and she began to cry. The crying got more intense as I continued to ask about the reading. Kristina would not talk to me at first and then said "What did I do to you?"
I told her she was not listening to me. I asked Alex for assistance as he translated to her in Russian. I held her hands and asked her why? She said, "her teacher did not tell her to read the chapter before answering the questions." I couldn't believe Kristina did not understand. There are many times when she uses the "I didn't understand or I don't understand" excuse or "You didn't tell me". I told her she could read the chapter now while she is waiting for her ride and she agreed. The TV was turned off and Kristina began reading the chapter.
A few minutes later, she read a section and remembered it was one of the questions on her homework assignment. We both knew she could do it and told her so. Kristina had the biggest smile on her face. When I got home from work today, she told me she had an awesome day at school. Dad said Kristina had a bit on an attitude when he picked her up from school . She's our drama queen!
Today, before dinner, we tackled fractions. Again, with the crying and "it's too hard!" "I never learned this." I reminded her she said the very same thing to multiplication and division. She's a whiz on the multiplication now and knows some division. I told her again, if she knows multiplication and division, then she can do fractions. We gave her a problem and she started getting it. She wanted to work on another problem all by herself. We are down to the last two problems and Kristina asked Alex to help her, he's great with math. So we ended the day with a great spaghetti dinner and Kristina back in smiles.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The kids finished their first day of school.

Thanks for the comments. We appreciate them very much and will do our best to blog more often.
We got through the first day of school. Alex had to change one of his classes to Drivers Ed. He had his 18th birthday on July 26th and we thought it would be best for him to learn at school before he graduates. Alex tells us that all the boys at his orphanage dream of fast and expensive cars. They dream about cars they know they will never have a chance to own. Alex carved two cars out of w
ood while he was at the summer camp in Ukraine. He showed us the cars he made when we first met him. He did a nice job and when we went to check him out of the orphanage after our 10 day waiting period, we asked for the cars. Alex had given them to his director as a gift. We were touched by his thoughtfulness. Last year, Alex took a sculpting class and made an alligator and a corvette. He is very creative. His art class was exhibiting the students artwork and Alex was asked by his teacher to bring his art pieces to school. She asked him 3 times and sent a note home for us. Alex did not feel comfortable to show the sculptures. He felt like he was showing off. His Dad convinced him that it would be helpful for the other students to see different styles and may encourage them to try their hand at doing some art too. Alex agreed and he won a ribbon for his corvette. The green ribbon was for an"Awards of Excellence". In his Wood-shop Class he made an electric guitar which he learned to play. We don't know what to expect this year but he kind of hinted at making something for us for Christmas since he signed up to Wood Shop class again. This time he will be paying his own fees for the class since he was able to earn some money this summer. Kristina is attempting Middle School. We talked to her at the end of last year about how different 7th grade would be from 6th grade. She had a distorted idea of what 7th grade would be like. Maybe she was thinking it would be more social and less school work. Kristina spent most of her summer at Challenger, learning as much as she could since she only had 1 year of school in Ukraine. Not even 1 year, part of that year she spent in the hospital. She was reminded about how we discussed, how much harder that 7th grade is than 6th grade and that we could not do her homework for her. She started with the tears and tried her best to answer the questions verbally. Not even close, but she tried. We told her to try to read her assignments 2 or 3 times over (she loves to read) and try to remember key words. Kristina has an amazing memory and remembers which page something is on. She is extremely detail oriented. Although she is smart, she tends to be lazy. Sometime, we just wish she could remember most of the school work stuff instead of the fun stuff. She loves to tell us about her Ukraine life which we've learned so much about her and we are still learning. They both are very comfortable telling us about themselves and will answer any questions we have. We love that they both have no trouble getting up in the morning for school. Alex gets up at 5:00 am and Kristina at 5:30 am. As we sit here blogging, Alex and Kristina decided to go to sleep at 8:40. What a nice surprise for us.

Monday, August 23, 2010

On Friday, August 20th, we celebrated the first anniversary of our adoption. Alex and Kristina were asked, "What is special about August 20th"? Their answer was it's "Friday". Yes, it is Friday but what else does the 20th mean?
Alex: "It's the day Kristina starts school". Yes again, but what else. Neither of them could come up with the correct answer? Doug was working but we called him and asked him what is special about August 20th and Doug said "Its the day we adopted Alex and Kristina!" We celebrated on Saturday by going to the Olive Garden for lunch. We asked the kids what is the biggest change in their lives since they have been living in the United States.
Alex: "Everything!" Kristina says, "that family is the most important and biggest change for her". Alex has done extremely well for his first year in High School. We are so proud. He has begun his senior year. Now, for the pressure to do as well as he did last year. It was a very nice day being able to experience getting his senior pictures taken. Kristina is now in Middle School and is starting to act much like a teenager. Our lives have changed so much in the last year. Our once quiet life has been turned upside down. Keeping up with everything has been very tiring.
On Sunday, we gave the kids all their new school supplies and clothes. They were so excited. Alex said he was lucky. There are times like that, that you know you did the right thing with the adoption and at other times, we are ready to go on a long vacation; just the two of us.