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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…!

Outward & Upward Bound with Mama

roadtrip_vanMy younger three kids are troopers.  They haven’t been around as long as our eldest, therefore a lot of trust issues are still toying with them.  In general, if Mama suggests a course of action, an article of clothing, or a specific food group, it’s probably been offered in order to maim them for life, goes the thinking.

Adopted from Russia at older ages, Pasha is now 16, Mashenka is almost 15, and Sashenka is 12.5.  Beautiful, challenging ages for most anything, other than to sit in one’s room and veg out on electronics.  But Mama’s plan is change them into Someones who Count, so I keep trying.

“Hey, I have an idea…” I start one day about a month ago.  “You know how Petya and I have attended homeschooling conventions for a few years.  I was wondering if you guys might like to take a couple-day getaway with me and see what they’re all about….”

Stunned silence.  Eyes narrowing with suspicion.  If Petya were not going, Mama would most likely be up to no stk150071rkegood—perhaps forced vaccinations, strangling, or memorizing of times tables.  They resorted to the shrugging of shoulders when the silence grew too long.

“I realize that you might not know what goes on.  Well, it’s fun, actually.  That’s a secret that doesn’t always get out.  There are educational sessions for students, for parents, for teachers, in fact you might say for parent-teachers, since this is a homeschooling convention.  We can schedule our own parent-teacher conference any time we want, which is actually pretty convenient if you figure you only have to talk to yourself….”

They stare at me like statues.

vintage-car-road-trip-ready“There are special sessions just for teens.  You name the subject and there are professors addressing it.  Many are pretty funny….  Yeah….  Did I mention the hotel has a pool?”

They brighten.

“And free soft drinks and popcorn?”

“I’m in,” comes the response from one after the other.

While I’ll tell you sometime about the sessions themselves, which were fairly amazing for a variety of reasons, let me say this:  road trips can be bonding experiences.  Going 70 mph down the highway with Mama could be compared to an Outward Bound wilderness experience, or perhaps to falling backward off of a telephone pole and trusting that someone is going to catch you….

The trip was about 4-1/2 hours by car.  No danger there, since I was occupied.  After a couple of hours, I pulled out homeschool-convention2snacks and gave them a bathroom stop.  Both earned me brownie points.

Back on the road.  Nearing our target city, we stop for gas about 15 minutes outside the urban center.  I also ask if they’d like to stop for lunch in about the only populated place we’d encountered for quite a while.  Discussing the choices of one chain restaurant versus  another, my eyes light upon a small, hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant.

“Yes!!!” they all enthuse, and we enter the establishment, which was really quite cute and authentic, and filled with a lunchtime crowd.

Getting a consensus, I order for all of us, exactly what they want, and we hope to share, as well.  Most are chicken and vegetable dishes, no MSG, no fried rice, just plain rice and tea.

“May I have sugar in my tea?” Sashenka asks, Queen of the Sugar and Salt Intake.

photo-workshops“Sure, but just use half a packet for such small cups,” I direct, observing her carefully, knowing that if I turn my back for a moment, several packets will mysteriously find their way into her cup.

She decides to try an artificial sweetener, and I decide to overrule that.  Meanwhile, spring rolls arrive.  The waiter had asked if we cared for any, they came with the luncheon entrees.  I had replied, “No, thank you,” so of course, here they were, along with a small bowl of very hot Chinese mustard.

All of the children eyed it, watching if Mama might try it.

“You can try it,” I nodded, “but just take a very little bit.”

Testing a tiny amount on my own spring roll, I feel fire going down my throat.  “Ooh, it’s hot!”fpea-crowd(1)

But I like hot.

Pasha, who enjoys most hot foods, as well, puts a miniscule dab on his roll and concurs, whereupon Mashenka takes her whole spring roll and dunks it like a donut, hot mustard spred about 1/3 up the roll.

I gasp, “Be careful!” not wanting to overreact, and trying to give her some space to do her own thing.  Unfortunately, she chooses the path which leads to destruction, popping the ENTIRE END of the egg roll into her mouth and chomping off a huge bite.

Her nose, her eyes, her mouth shoot forth flames of fire and she gulps down her (hot) tea.  The rest of us look on in shock, not knowing if we should call the Fire Department or what.  Things can only go up from here.

14218-8__17643.1328214293.1280.1280After that, Sashenka is convinced that I must be out to poison them.  Why else would Mama bring them on an all expenses paid two-day getaway, stopping for their favorite Chinese food on the way?  Sashenka, who is always hungry, declares that she will serve herself, while the others have opted that I please fill their plates from the serving platters.

“Help yourself to some of the sweet and sour chicken, Sashenka, you’d like it,” I suggest.

“No, I don’t like those flavors,” the Food Critic declares.

We explain that these are basically chicken strips that are breaded in dough.  There are no “flavors”.  Everyone has to add their own sweet or sour sauce.  She would love it, but we can’t sell her.

“No problem,” I say, when she sits there eyeing the rest of the food after finishing the pile on her own plate.  “Just remember that we won’t be eating again for about six hours.  The food is here, if you want it.”

She tries one.  Then another.  Then another.  Then finishes off the serving plate of chicken.

Interesting.  I instruct one daughter to be very careful with the very hot mustard sauce, and she downs half the dish.189681-tb-sweet_and_sour_chicken  I recommend to another daughter that this is a food she would enjoy, and she shies away from it for as long as her rumbling tummy can hold out.

They think I’m going to kill them, comes the realization. But I feed them every day at home, usually doing 80% of the cooking myself.  Could be that they think I can hide their bodies by the side of the road, and then go on my merry way….

Whatever I say, they’ll do the opposite.  Road trips can be illuminating, when you’re forced out of your everyday routine, and the old PTSD issues come floating to the top when facing something new.

Pasha, who is over six feet tall, and quite thin, asks if I’ll be finishing my rice.

“Pazhal’istah,” (please) I wave in Russian, smiling at his trusting, hungry heart.

Soon the popcorn, pool, and diet Pepsis will win over his sisters.  And then we can learn something other than Basic Survival Skills at the convention.



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2 Comments : Leave a Reply

  1. avatar Shelley says:

    You are too much, Alexandra. How your kids survive… lol.

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