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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

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Misha & Grisha

Misha & Grisha

People have told us to pitch our own reality TV show, but it’s difficult to get the right niche, or find a catchy handle. We don’t have 15 children, we are not tatoo artists or little people, no pampered actresses or model wanna-bes among us. Our family is fairly mainstream, with enough twists and turns to make it interesting. I am Alexandra, a truly private person who for some unbeknownst reason, feels inspired to chronicle her unusual life and surroundings. Friends tell me that the things that happen to us, don’t happen to other people. I would tend to agree. Plus, the idea of cameras surrounding us at 6:00 am doesn’t sound very appealing.

I come from a Russian-American family, with grandparents who fled around the time of the Bolshevik Revolution. Naturally, they were “somebodies” in the Old Country, or isn’t that what most immigrant families claim? The other side of the Russian family were shtetl “nobodies”, and you can only go up from there.

My husband is Benedetto, from Italian-American roots. Given such backgrounds, we find nothing odd about a hyphenated American existence. All of our names are multi-syllabic and we are at peace with the fact that our kids will never be named John Hancock or Davy Crockett.

Speaking of kids, it took us quite a number of years to decide whether or not little ones were destined for us. Workaholics by nature, we liked kids, as long as they could go to someone else’s home at night. I guess we were aiming for grandparenthood first. When we finally started considering children, we heard of so many already in the world who needed parents.

Which led us to Russia. Full circle, you might say. We were preferential adopters, not having any fertility issues, just wanting to help. And thus we ended up with Petya and Pasha, two older boys who are so amazing.

The kids are age twelve, two months apart. Makes for interesting conversations.

“They’re twins?” someone asks.


“But they’re the same age?”


“Nine months apart?”

“Two months.”

The nosy person usually starts to nervously edge away at that point. We are a medical miracle, plain and simple.

After the first, and before the second child, we added two delightful doggies to the mix. Scotties. Initially it was Misha, but then someone put us in touch with an abandoned puppy who needed a home.

I said, “No.”

Petya said, “But Mama, he’s an orphan!”

Benedetto said, “And he’s free!”

I was outvoted. Shortly after Grisha arrived, Pasha came home. (Are you following this? Petya and Pasha are the children, Misha and Grisha are the animals. Most days. Occasionally, it’s vice-versa. I have found many similarities between our two boys and our two dogs.)

During the average week, we live in different cities. But all together. We load up the kids, the dogs, and the adults to travel in our own airplane. Our pilot is a former fighter pilot who likes to bank and tilt as though he’s bringing it in for a landing on an aircraft carrier. I tell the kids we have no need to go to carnival rides, they can throw up for free on our own plane. That way we don’t ruin their teeth with cotton candy.

All of us love to cook. Benedetto is very good in the kitchen and I tell single girlfriends to “marry Italian”. When we’re not eating food, we may be preparing it, or talking about it. We’ve never met a cuisine or a high calorie delicacy we didn’t enjoy.

Which leads to the issue of weight. I think I look fine, but have a few pounds to lose. Nothing that a good pair of Spanx can’t solve. But now it’s getting worse. You can only squeeze in so much–eventually it’s got to pop out the top or the bottom–giving one watermelon-sized knees or a neck like a weight lifter.

The pounds crept up in the past four years, post-kids. Which is natural, except that we adopted. I make goodies, ostensibly for them. I’m looking for Nutrisystem, or Jenny Craig, or Weight Watchers, or who cares, McDonald’s for that matter, to sponsor my dramatic, real-person, three-month makeover. I figure that’s all it will take to turn me around. As long as I can carry the food around with me, or buy it somewhere worldwide, I’ll be good to go. That’s my main problem, eating on the run. Minus the run.

Meanwhile, my immediate goal until that sponsorship transpires: I have decided to stop eating. Hunger strike. Starvation fast. I figure I can last a good two, three hours, alright maybe 45 minutes realistically speaking, and my life will be changed forever. It’s the cheapest, quickest diet plan I can conjure up for the present.

But we do discuss other topics around the dinner table: current events, field trips, technology, spirituality, family life, international travel, economics, our never-ending house renovations, that only rival our Russian adoptions as far as strange-but-true stories. It becomes interesting, because not everybody speaks the same language in our house. Our top languages are Russian, Hebrew, and Italian, interspersed with French and Latin upon occasion. I will shamelessly make up words when necessary, and my husband has stories about how I’ve convinced native speakers that they were saying something wrong. He says I have a strong personality.

A lot of times we’re out of the country. Along comes everyone but the dogs, since they don’t speak many languages, and lack passports. So they stay with a friend, which is like a spa for them, and they come back smelling of Chanel No. 5, and disavowing that they ever knew us.

We also homeschool, which helps when it comes to travel. (Like I need to be reviewing theorems, dynasties, and algebra when I could be sipping capuccino, riding in a gondola, or chitchatting with you.) Our two pre-teens take their studies with them to cafes, hotels, parks, and museums worldwide. This is the reverse psychology plan that makes them want to stay home, play sports, and be normal, whenever possible.

The houses have issues all their own: leaks, squeaks, spots, blots, renovations, decorating crises, you name it. I’m no Martha Stewart, and Benedetto is no Bob Vila. Some of our “repairs” and “improvements” have gotten us into even more trouble, i.e., big bucks. Everyone told us that buying a home was the smartest financial investment one could make and we’ve made the proverbial financial windfall a time or two. However, our investing experience proves that the age-old practice of stuffing money under the mattress may be underrated, too.

Come along with us as we head to interesting destinations here and abroad, explore hopes and dreams, and survive doggy antics along the way.


(Update note: in 2009, two lovely sisters joined our family. They are two and four years younger than Petya and Pasha. Their names are Mashenka and Sashenka… or something like that…. So our current count is: two boys, two girls, two parents, and two doggies. We couldn’t be happier!)


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4 Comments : Leave a Reply

  1. avatar Liliana says:

    You are an amazing person! I came to visit this website after a reply posted on the DC urban forum. I was intrigued by the name of your blog. I enjoyed a lot your stories. Your boys are very lucky.

  2. avatar Gudinna says:

    You are an excellent writer and your family life sounds very interesting. If you had a show, I’d watch it. 🙂

    • avatar admin says:

      Thanks for the vote of confidence, Gudinna! I could rig up my own 24/7 cameras, but the low-speed connection from our current bedouin tent leaves something to be desired…. And once you’ve seen one camel or donkey, they all start to look alike…. They probably think the same about us.

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