Friday, January 30, 2009


Even after four years here both Sergei and Maxim occasionally make lapses in their English language. Maxim had me laughing yesterday, but due to the circumstances I had to stifle my amusement.

He sprained his ankle last week but was managing OK. The other morning he woke me with the news that he'd slipped on the stairs during the night and hurt it much worse. "Mrs. Kitching, I need a crotch!"

Last night he came in and was exclaiming at how much it hurt; he diagnosed infection. I explained that an infection wasn't likely! But he went on to say, "But I need to see a doctor; I might need a casket!"

I sense his alarm, but don't think it is that serious!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Russian Food - FAST!

My children love Russian food, but being a working mom, I don't have a lot of time to cook ordinarily. A favorite at our house is borscht, and a really wonderful-looking recipe for borscht was recently posted at one of my favorite blogs. I looked at it, though, and realized that I'd never manage to make that version - one because of the time involved, and two because of the cost of the many ingredients. There are many versions of borscht, as one might imagine, around the many regions of Russia. I was lucky because the ones that I've been shown are pretty easy and fast. And - my kids love it!

I wasn't given a recipe - only shown, and don't have a recipe. It is never precisely the same...but here is the general idea:

Chop and soften at least one onion in a bit of butter. Add water related to how much borscht you hope to prepare. Add bouillon cubes (or I prefer Better Than Bouillon, a less salty beef or chicken base)...or use canned broth. You can use either beef or chicken or both. While that heats I peel potatoes - at least one per person. (For the hyper-speedy version, you can even use canned potatoes). I chop and add those. After they've cooked maybe half-way through, I add a chopped up cabbage. (Again, for insta-borscht, throw in a bag of prepared cabbage and carrots for slaw.) When the potatoes and cabbage are soft, and you've added salt and pepper to taste, you put in a can or two of beets. Ilya insists on the shoestring-cut kind, but there was argument about this from the other kids. Cook just a bit more, until warm. So good! And maybe a half hour, not a lot more, in preparation. Also, inexpensive! To make this taste like a gourmet meal, and VERY Russian, I try to add some fresh herbs. Parsley or dill are wonderful. I usually put some in to cook, and sprinkle some fresh on top with the sour cream. I frankly can't imagine anything that tastes better and is still healthy!

This weekend, I went a step further and even devised (finally) a quick piroshki! I have been meaning to make Rachael's recipe, but have not found time. So - what the heck? - I bought a couple of rolls of the 'french bread" at the "Pillsbury biscuit" area. I cooked up some ground beef with onion, added salt and pepper. Easy. Pulled off hunks of the bread dough, sort of flattened it out and rolled the beef mixture up inside. Seal carefully - with a tiny bit of water, or it will open up during baking. I've experimented previously with "fast pirohski" using biscuit dough and the kids were horrified, but this version was met with general acclaim, including "They were awesome!" from Maxim who ate them cold the next day!

This whole meal took maybe 45 minutes to prepare and made for many happy Russian children.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009



My Nastya. What a beautiful child! I love her dearly, and feel that we have bonded extremely well, actually. Overall she gives me very little "trouble". I can't count the number of sweet little "love notes" she has written me, or the impulsive hugs, or the sweet kisses I get on a daily basis.

However, one must never go into parenthood expecting love. That goes double [triple?] for adoptive parenthood!

You can only expect TO love. And, to suffer, and to be humbled, and to relinquish "self". Wow! What a spiritual discipline!!

Yesterday I had a wonderful taste of the chastening end of things.

We had our annual foster care licensing meeting. (Now, this is somewhat humbling in and of a virtual stranger comes into your home to inspect it - and critique your homelife, for all intents and purposes.) It is like a mini-homestudy. I resent having to fiddle around and "fix" some things. For example, so foster parents won't kill babies in their care, there is a regulation about how hot your hot water can be. I don't recall the temperature; I only know that we found it is not hot enough to allow even two family members to take showers or baths. Therefore, my "check-list" for the visit involves crawling around on the basement floor lowering the temperature of our hot water. I don't ordinarily aim to deceive, but we just can't live like that day in and day out. If I actually did foster care for a small child, I would think differently, obviously. But all of my crew are more than capable of adjusting their bath water (and complaining loudly about insufficient hot water!!)

We also had to change the beds around this time. That bothered me more, as it rather involved the children in deceit. But however reasonable things might seem to me, regulations are regulations. Anastasia's little half-bed in my room is not acceptable. Children may not sleep in their parents' rooms. I really don't understand this one; families around the world sleep with the entire family in one room! However, in modern-day America this is not considered "OK". [Good thing I am not an actual proponent of the "family bed" - that would bring everything to a stand-still!] But first Lydia, and then Anastasia have felt safe and secure in that little bed in the corner of our big bedroom. However, for the licensing inspection we had to shift it all around so that Anastasia had a room of her own. Meaning Ilya, who never sleeps, was put in with poor Sergei who relishes a good night's sleep (which he didn't get last night).

Anyway....back to our attention-seeker. I am sitting at the table talking with the social worker, when Nastya comes in, marches up to her and asks, "Can you get me a different family?" By the grace of God, she did not go on to relate manufactured events that might really cause problems, but rather focused on her more honest complaints, which obviously just amused the SW. "Zhenya always annoys me; he messed up my bed! I should not have to live like this!" and, "The boys get to play on the computer, and they won't let me play and mama won't do anything about it!" "I want a different family where I get more clothes! See! these pants are too short and I don't have anything else to wear to ice-skating!" Well, yes; it was funny in some respects. But I didn't find it all that funny in light of my previous experiences. Also, it just struck me that I don't enjoy having someone looking over my shoulder like this. I don't like my children getting the idea that our family would or could ever be altered. That is one downside of Maxim being with us. The concept of disruption came into their innocent little heads. It shouldn't be in her mental vocabulary any more than it should be for any biological child.

I had to explain to our "worker" in intimate detail exactly why Craig is working in Korea, and that our marriage is strong. I had to go into detail about my own job, about jobs he has had, about how he obtained the job in Korea, about how he felt about leaving. Frankly, this didn't strike me as their business!! I have an acquaintance at church, a single woman, who has five foster children! Did she have to go into detail about why she never married? It felt so intrusive. Plus, I was "cited" for not alerting the agency "withing five working days" of our "change in household make-up". I simply got a "warning" when we adopted Ilya - and failed to tell this woman I see once a year about it.

Of course I do understand their "rules". So many foster parents are not quite what they are hoping for (as I noticed during the training). They don't want someone's drug-dealing uncle, newly release from jail, popping in to a home. I get it; I just don't like it. Particularly, I am exasperated by the fact that each element of DHS seems to be its own entity. Our caseworkers in two parts of the state discussed with us Craig's and Lydia's plans to move out. So, pardon me if I forgot to also tell the licensing office! I'm just not a good foster parent in this way. I can include Maxim in our home, and treat him as my own. I am not good as treating him as "state property". I cannot regard foster parenting as a "job". So I tend to forget those aspects of it.

Well....I lived through it for another year. Only - I have to go get fingerprinted! This is nearly a laugh-out-loud, side-holding bit of information. I have surely been fingerprinted more than any living non-criminal person! Here's a run-down:

  • fingerprinted by county police deputy to host Sergei
  • fingerprinted by INS to adopt Sergei
  • fingerprinted by Lansing police to adopt Sergei
  • fingerprinted by Lansing police second time to adopt Sergei (adding my "alias", i.e. my first name which I've never used for anything, ever)
  • fingerprinted by East Lansing police for Diocese of Lansing
  • fingerprinted by State Police for Diocese of Lansing (requirements changed)
  • fingerprinted by my colleage and fingerprints sent somewhere for Diocese of Lansing (requirement changed again)
  • fingerprinted by INS to adopt Anastasia
  • fingerprinted by Lansing police to adopt Anastasia
  • fingerprinted by private entity for Diocese of Lansing
  • fingerprinted by Ingham Int. School System
  • fingerprinted by Lansing police to adopt Ilya
  • fingerprinted by INS to adopt Ilya

Enough already??? No!!! I have to return to the same place where I was last fingerprinted for the Diocese to be fingerprinted again for the DHS. And this place is on the farthest end of town, and only open during working hours. Good, eh?

All I can say is - get into fingerprinting! It looks like the next "big thing" if my experience is anything to go by!

Friday, January 16, 2009

ANNIE'S AWFUL AUTUMN - 2008 - Someone Needs Attention

Leave the Shame Behind by Chris Peters

Of all these "Awful Autumn" posts, I think this one is the most difficult because I am still feeling humiliated. However, I have no doubt that it has all been part of God's plan to make me more humble and more understanding.

Shortly after the other Awful Autumn happenings, when I was beginning to feel like things might be able to progress in a happy way, the other shoe dropped.

History: Our dear Anastasia is a sponge for attention...and somehow she particularly enjoys the attention that comes from evoking people's pity. For example, in first grade she had her teacher all distressed about her grandmother's house burning down. Whether this actually occurred or not, I do not know. It certainly didn't happen proximately to her telling about it! (The teacher was all ready to do a fundraiser for grandma.) I don't think Anastasia could have been old enough to have been there or have been emotionally impacted by such a fire, in any case. Ilya remembers nothing about any fire.

Last year Anastasia's teacher came to me a couple of times. The first time about Anastasia missing her brothers (now that she has Ilya, and tells me at least once a week that was a bad idea!) she has to get upset about the four older ones. Another time, apparently, she was "distraught" over her mother. Her teacher caught me in the parking lot one afternoon because she thought I should know about it. Talk about feeling inadequate! "Anastasia really misses her real mother." I am not confident Anastasia could pick her mother out of a lineup as she is now 11 and hasn't seen her since she was 5, but she does know so well how to pull heartstrings. She knows how to make her eyes fill with tears and then, eventually, one will trickle down her cheek. Since I know how to do this too, I am not such an easy mark. Most recently, the other night I took her to a Mexican restaurant that she once went to with Lydia. I saw her staring at the far wall, eyes unblinking (necessary if you want them to fill with tears),"working up" a teary plea to see Lydia - "I miss my siste-e-rr!!!!!" Sergei calls it "pushing it out" and this is so perfect a description.

Anyway....After our dreadful weekend, I was on the upswing until the afternoon I was walking through the school and met a nice looking woman in the hall. I said a pleasant hello and kept walking. Maybe another six yards and around the corner comes Ilya. He had no reason to be in the primary wing except to be on the way to my office, so I asked him in Russian what was up. He said he was supposed to talk to that lady. I realized that was not going to be very useful, unless she understood Russian, so I turned to her and simultaneously she figured out I was Ilya's mother. To make a long story short, Ilya was sent back to class, and she said she could talk to me instead. I was curious, but hopeful this was someone who might be offering some sort of ESL assistance for him or some such. Imagine the chill that came over me, the implosion in the pit of my stomach when she told me she was from CPS (Child Protective Services) investigating a complaint.

Anastasia had gone to her teacher, and told her that her daddy hit her and threw her down the stairs and that we refused to feed her.

I tried, and succeeded, I guess, in relaying what really occurred on that wonderful weekend. And, fortunately, this was a social worker who understands that children who have been neglected and abused in their past are more than capable of making up stories about it occurring in the present. I was, even myself, grateful for having read about this phenomenon only a few weeks previously. But really, it didn't help a lot.

Unfortunately, I realized that if this was happening to any other person I would believe that something actually occurred. I would believe that where there is smoke there is fire, and that CPS would never investigate a situation without good reason to suspect something very wrong. And while I knew that there wasn't anything wrong, I projected my judgement onto others and realized, with horror, that Anastasia's teachers, the principal, the office staff - everyone would believe that we abuse our children. So imagine my horror when I realized that all FOUR of the other children would be called from their classes to talk to the "worker".

For weeks I could not hold my head up. I sent lunch money in carefully via envelope as actually looking the secretary in the face was unbearable. Going to Anastasia's conferences was like running a gauntlet. One of her teachers is a woman I have known for twenty years. I suppose she had her doubts we were guilty, but I still had to breathe deeply and try to keep my composure (just like any criminal would). The other teacher, the one who made the report, is brand new. Knowing that made me realize that she undoubtedly had to go to her fellow teachers and share this "dreadful" experience of "having to report a parent - and not only a parent, an employee in the school". What a traumatic event for her first month as a teacher! I suppose it was, but if she only knew!

Meanwhile, at home, Anastasia's actions were not popular with her siblings. I had to tell them what caused this invasion of their privacy as they were all confused by it. They were, of course, humiliated too, and embarrassed to be pulled from class and asked personal questions about their homelife by a stranger. Though I think this woman did handle it well, there was even a little anxiety. Zhenya had an emotional breakdown the night of his interview that we'd never before seen the like of. Hysterical tears for over an hour. This from a boy who never cries. And he refused to be comforted. To this day I do not know what he thought. We've not been able to get him to tell us. Since Ilya remembers being taken by force from his home by social workers, I really think God sent me down that hallway to prevent his being terrified in this way. Poor Maxim was called from his class, not by the office staff, but by the social worker herself, and calling him by his former legal name. He was mortified.

To add the capper - because we are foster parents, this whole event had to be replicated by the DHS workers who license our home. Yes! all the kids had to be pulled out of their class again, and asked again if we were abusive to them. And while the DHS and CPS were swift enough in their interviews....the CPS didn't even report back that they dropped the case as having no merit. Fortunately, the DHS worker - after weeks of this hanging over our heads, did make an appointment to tell us that we were cleared of all suspicion.

She was jolly and cheerful. She might have come by to collect for March of Dimes, or any other innocent thing. The enormity of our horror and humiliation didn't seem to be anything she even considered. But she actually made me laugh a little bit. Apparently when she went in to interview Anastasia it was after the weekend when Zhenya spent his newspaper money on a PSP (some sort of little electronic game). Anastasia was bent out of shape that Zhen had a PSP and she didn't, particularly when she saw in the little brochure that they can also be purchased in pink. She refused to admit that she might buy one for herself, if like Zhenya, she used her own money. She insisted I should buy one for her! So when the DHS woman interviewed her, Anastasia said that "Yes!" her parents were bad to her - they wouldn't buy her pink electronics! And - she even worked up tears about it, which amused the worker no end. She warned us that we had a challenge there. Yes; I'm afraid we do.

I've hesitated and hesitated to write this post. As it was actually happening, I figured I never would. This was particularly so, as in my wanderings aroung blog-land only a few weeks before all of this occurring, I had happened on a blog written by an older daughter in a home where the parents had taken in a large number of foster and adoptive children. I was enjoying her stories, until the day came when she said that one of her foster sisters had made a complaint and CPS was going to investigate their home. I was horrified...and, I have to confess, I immediately decided there must be unpleasant and distasteful things going on in that family, or there would never really be an investigation. So - you can see how I expect that my reputation and that of my family will never really be the same.

How tempting it has been to keep that reputation unsullied in the blog, at any rate. But, that is not "real" as they say. So, my message is: our social service system is not perfect by any means. The magnifying glass is put on some people who have done nothing amiss. Others who are locking their children in cages, go unsuspected. Some of the workers are negligent; others hyper-vigilent in the oddest ways. There are a few good ones. But in my view, there is too little being done to truly assist foster parents, and a ridiculous amount of record-keeping and reporting, much of which is really an absurd bunch of nonsense, taking up the time of the people who should be helping.

But my awful autumn wasn't quite done. No! My self-esteem was not yet competely vanquished. They waited until Thanksgiving to really reduce me to my lowest state.

Friday, January 9, 2009


Here is one of my favorite photographs of all time. Aidan and Sergei the summer of 2002 when Sergei came to us as part of a summer hosting trip.
About three weeks previously, Lydia and I had gone to an Irish Dance competition in Ohio. We were excited to meet up with one of her on-line homeschooling friends. Lydia had mentioned to me that her friend had a little brother and sister from Russia. When I first saw the friend's mother, I have to say one of my first thoughts was - she's older than I am! That was hopeful! And then, I met her darling little children and immediately wanted to revisit the idea of adoption. (Some years previously Craig and I had thought of adopting from China, but gave up due to cost.)
The day after we got home I called someone in the parish who I knew had participated in a hosting program the year before. I got Dana's e-mail and asked for information. Yes - I did get a packet of information a few days later...but before that - I got a phone call. There were Russian children visiting Michigan right now, and one of the adoptive parents had changed their mind. So there was a boy with nowhere to go. Would I take him?
Yes; I should have heard angels. I should have felt the earth move, and God's guiding hand - but no. I went into panic attack mode. I was immediately horrified. What had I done?! My life suddenly seemed gloriously beautiful without any additions! Just to keep face, I wildly agreed that he could come and stay with us for a bit....but I backpedaled for sure. And then, I went into an absolute state of "I'll get out of this somehow" for the next couple of days before he was to come. Little did I know, but I was actually just "back-up". Sergei was visiting another potential family at that time. [By God's grace they decided not to adopt.] But meanwhile I went around in a cloud of misery - what, oh, what? had I done? I examined every little boy I saw - could I love him, live with him? The answer was always a resounding "NO!" Dana is good at what she does and put on no pressure, how about just meeting him? Well....yes; we could do that....
I remember vividly the afternoon Lydia went with me to "meet" him. He was in Ann Arbor an hour and a half away. Lydia got into the car and looked at me with some irony - "What are we doing? Mom, you know we're not going to adopt this kid." I responded, "No, I don't suppose so, but we can look at him and then go have dinner at the Irish Pub." I don't know why, but I always remember that.....needless to say, we didn't have dinner at the Pub.
We pulled up at this large house, where he was staying - and there were little boys everywhere! Later I found out that the family had four boys, there were four boys visiting because they'd just been at soccer camp, in addition to Sergei. I saw two boys in trees.....would I want them? NO! I saw a little boy sitting crying [whining, really] on the steps - him? NO! Several others were in the family room. NO! Eventually, after talking with the father, I spotted a little boy at the computer in the sun room.....Oh! My heart lept. If only that could be Sergei! HE was ADORABLE! Later I found out that Lydia felt exactly the same way. Of course, no surprise; that little boy at the computer was Sergei....
He only got to spend a week with us, but it was a wonderful week. I was in love with him from the first moment I saw him. It still give my heart joy to see him!
Another defining moment was an afternoon when I took him to Sears. He'd never been in such a place and he was entranced. He particularly enjoyed looking at the tools. Later, in the car, he said, in Russian, "Mama, (they call all ladies "Mama" I later found out) look what I found....." He opened his hand to show me a tiny key..the kind of key that goes to the completely useless locks on a suitcase. "I found it on the floor. Should we take it back?" I immediately worried - did he steal it? But then I realized - if he did - he has a wonderful conscience! I agreed we should take it back, and we did. My heart was surging even more with love for this honest little guy.
There was swimming at my mom's pool. Going around town to put up Irish Dance School posters - just he and I did this, and for some reason had great fun. Sergei asked if he could clean the car out - and he detailed it! What a perfect job he did! What a great worker! He had a lark using the vacuum cleaner to clean the house, we had fun buying interesting new fruits at the grocery store, but the BEST thing of all was when he discovered the copy machine at my office. I don't think I ever remember seeing anyone more enraptured. Being with Sergei made life so much fun.
Sergei fit right into the family, and we all loved him. The moment, one morning, when Craig looked at me and said, "I didn't expect this, but I think God wants us to adopt him." at that very moment all the bonding-love that God gives mothers poored down on my in one huge rush - it was precisely the feeling I had when I first laid eyes on Aidan.
Sergei is our dear boy and fits into our family as though he'd always been with us.

Monday, January 5, 2009

ANNIE'S AWFUL AUTUMN, TWO - Maxim and the System

The Friday after the previously described event...when it was, frankly, long forgotten, I got a phone call from Craig at work.

"They're going to move Maxim. They are putting him in Methodist Children's Home in Detroit. He's to be ready at ten o'clock on Monday."


All I could think was - I can't let this happen to him!

As any reader of this blog knows, Maxim is a challenge. Maxim is not precisely a ray of sunlight in our home...but I have committed myself to helping him. I have vowed to protect him.

And this is a boy who is terrified of abandonment, distraught if I am even a few minutes late picking him up from school. How could they think of doing this to him? I was overwhelmed with the need to stop it somehow. I knew I couldn't call from work, I was beyond I wildly asked my assistants to take care of the catechist who was on her way to see me, and I raced home, hardly knowing how I got there.

History: Maxim has had five "primary" caseworkers in the county where he was originally placed in state care. The first one, despite the fact that she was by law required to see him in person monthly, didn't lay eye on him for over a year - even though for much of that time he was right there in her county. The day she did see him in person - at a meeting with a number of people present, including her supervisor - she pretended to know him. I was disgusted, frankly, at her attempt to act as though the two of them had some little joke together. I wasn't previously enamored of her, frankly. She had taken a superior tone with me from the beginning, responding to innocent questions with orders, stated as though I were deliberately trying to be difficult or obstinant. But,then, she disappeared somewhere.

The next three caseworkers were merely names. I did not get to talk to them, e-mail them or ever communicate with them. They were not "active" and I was glad enough. My experience with #1 had been sufficient. Fortunately our local "courtesy" caseworkers were nice ladies. They "saw" Maxim once a month as required. That was about it.

But late last summer, a new caseworker (L) from the distant county gave us a call. She was unlike the others! The first thing she did was call and say she was driving to Lansing to meet Maxim. Well! That seemed unnecessary to me, but nice. The local caseworker heard of this and just looked confused and couldn't see why that was necessary. When L. arrived, we could immediately see she was a young woman, full of energy; she appeared to be nice, but from the beginning of the conversation it was so odd! "Would you like to write an order to have him removed?" The first time I think we both ignored this non-sequiter. But three more times she asked - "So would you like to sign an order to have him placed in a different home?" Why was she pressing this? I tried to explain that, we might like to find a different home for Maxim sometime in the future, and he had told us he preferred a home where he'd be the only child - but it was important to us all that he stay near his friends, his support system and his school (where we've paid hefty tuition all this while!). That's the way we left it, but we thought her approach was really odd.

So, she apparently was stuck on the idea. Removing him. Why is this her main idea? I still don't know. I've even wondered if she could be getting some sort of kick-back from the residential treatment center? But, no. That makes no sense. They have a hard time finding spots for kids. None of it mades any sense to me.

But, here was this hanging over us. How could I let this happen to him? How could I let him be taken from his cozy home and a school where everyone loves him to a residential treatment center? He is very adaptable....and I certainly didn't want him to adapt to that setting! That's why we'd worked so hard and sacrificed so much to keep him in this safe and positive environment. And to have it all destroyed so suddenly!

My mind was going round and round. At first I'd think of things like school, friends, classes! Then, I'd get a vision of his hugging Rosie, or putting his special Christmas ornament on the tree - and it would all seem even worse. Unbearable. I've never felt so helpless.

That afternoon was hellish. I couldn't reach anyone for several hours. I now understand the idea of "rending one's clothes" because I actually had the impulse to do that. (Craig said I actually did it.) My energy had no where to go. Finally, I reached L on the phone - with voice trembling and tears falling I asked her what her thinking was, begged in every way I knew how for her to reconsider. She kept talking about "safety" and so forth. For heaven's sake! She spoke as though his thrusting a bunch of papers into my face was a full-out attack!

Would we be able to get him back? See him? She didn't know (didn't sound like she cared.) She hung up.

Why I didn't think of it earlier, I don't know, but finally I remembered CASA. Court Ordered Special Advocate. When the judge at Maxim's name-change assigned him a CASA worker it seemed really unnecessary to me. Now it seemed providential. But I couldn't reach them!

I left wild messages on his advocate's phone, and on that of her boss.....

Meanwhile the weekend loomed. I had to go pick up Maxim from school! What would I say? I did pick him up. How miserable could anything be? I wanted to be strong and matter-of-fact - assure him....I'd stick with him no matter what. But, I took one look at him and started crying. Actually, that was good. He listened to me with a softer heart.

And, blessedly, he really didn't understand his danger. He took something of it in....but I think (as children will) he really had faith in us to protect him. So he comforted me. And we processed through the weekend with this ominous thing hanging over us. On Sunday afternoon as we were delivering the papers, Maxim said, "Can you help me finish my paper for religion after this?" My breath was taken away. "Maxim! You may not even be at that school any longer, honey - you don't need to do the homework." Perhaps at that moment he understood a little more. But it was also then that I decided that they'd have to fight me for him. We were NOT going to have him packed and ready the next morning!

On Monday, I took Maxim to school like usual....but told him to be prepared....if someone came to get him, behave. Be good. We'd be doing what we could to get him back. Meanwhile, Craig was on the phone. And between Craig and the CASA workers, we stopped it.

I'd thought that L, herself, would be coming to get him in her she could talk to him, explain things, counsel him. Little did I know that they were actually sending a big, strong security person to take him there - like a prisoner. No. No counseling. No comforting was planned.

But....we headed it off. I called school and had him come to the office so I could tell him everything was OK.

We still wonder what that was about. Craig had hoped to get some advice, some support. Perhaps some referral to anger management. Somethinge helpful! But, oddly, "helpful" is not really in their vocabulary.

I managed, on my own - to locate family counseling. And I pushed and shoved, and used the help of the CASA workers to get us approval and financing.

However....stressful and emotionally taxing as all this was....more was to come. And, from an unexpected direction.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

ANNIE'S AWFUL AUTUMN - 2008 - The Moment it Went Bad

I shared about my unfortunate work situation this fall. That was easy enough to write about. Comparatively. A lot of other really miserable things were also going on at our house. But I didn't write about them for a couple of reasons: firstly, there were so many wretched things happening that my blog would have been too depressing to read, but also, I was just keeping my head above water. Hardly time to think, let alone write.

Now, I'm getting a bit more perspective. Sun begins to peep out from behind the clouds. That wild thunderstorm is abating. Time to sneak out and see what damage was done.


I think I have written previously about Maxim's "hot button issues". I suppose we all have them to some extent, but those who have lived through a lot of trauma that they have, perhaps, not completely processed, can be the emotional parallel of minefields. One has to be careful of not stepping wrong or - it all blows up. I've learned to avoid a couple of Maxim's "dangerous areas", but on that particular day I unfortunately stumbled on one I hadn't previously recognized.

When these "mines" come to light I am almost always slapping myself on the forehead. Of course! Same with this one:

Maxim cannot handle being accused of something he didn't do.

When he is guilty of something he usually immediately confesses, or rarely fib rather badly. It is when he is wrongly accused that he responds with anger.

Well, on this particular afternoon, we were all loading up the newspapers which we deliver on Saturdays. I wanted to be on my way. I was a bit irritable. I think it is important that the kids do the papers; it is a great experience for them, and provides their spending money, but I put in as much time as all of them put together and I have a lot of other things to do! But the boys were messing around on the porch. I sat in the van looking over the delivery list, I called; no one came. I looked up on the porch and Maxim seemed to be attacking Ilya, who was red in the face, yelling, kicking and apparently being pushed over the porch railing. I yelled to Maxim to stop it at once! Why did he have to be so violent with the younger kids???!!! Well, he came unglued, as simultaneously Ilya came up for air and I could see that he was playing. But, Maxim was so angry that I'd accused him of attacking Ilya, that he stormed into the car, grabbed the papers from my hands and hit them at me. I'd say he hit me in the face with them, but that is putting it a bit too strongly. However, that is what Zhen then ran into the house and told his daddy: "Maxim hit mom in the face!" Well, Craig stormed out of the house and "got into it" verbally with Maxim who was, as mentioned, already out-of-his-own-control upset. Fortunately for our reputation in the neighborhood they went indoors to "discuss" it. I followed.

I had a few ideas in my head. One - I wanted to reduce the conflict as neither of my men-folk was quite sane. Two - I wanted to get the darned newspapers delivered. Three - whenever there is any upset in the house, Anastasia's instinct is for some reason to get in the middle of it somehow. She'll either act worse than whichever child is in trouble, or try to insert herself in the middle. She was already giving this a try by standing between Craig and Maxim and insisting that she was hungry; she wanted to eat. Now!

I told Craig that Maxim and I had to do the papers (!) and hustled him out of there. Actually, as Maxim and I did the route, we had a really good talk and I began to understand (and help him understand) what was going on. Both of his previous disruptions were made even more difficult, I think, when the parents blamed him. I suppose this is typical. Parents need to save face. But in his case, particularly the second time, Maxim was clearly accused of doing things he had not done, and I could certainly see how this would make him feel crazy. He could, too. I tried to show him how what happened in the past might make him overreact in the present....when that afternoon, for example, all he needed to do was let me know they were simply rough-housing.

Meanwhile....back at the ranch. Craig was still angry. He didn't really get a true picture of what had taken place, because everyone had been too upset for it to get explained well. I hadn't realized that Zhen had stated things the way he had. In any case, after we left, Craig e-mailed Maxim's caseworker. Mainly venting, I think. He wanted advice. Support. And, of course, at that point both of us still had the unfortunately untrue impression that foster care caseworkers exist to help us be successful foster parents. This really is not the case, as we would soon find out.

Unbeknownst to me, a few very unfortunate seeds had been planted that afternoon.


Here's another borrowed post idea. I really do NOT want to get down to housework today (can you tell?)

This is from Julie. You are supposed to put in bold the things you've done, but I think comments are nice, too. Its fun. Try it.

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars my dad took me camping all the time as a child in Colorado
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity that is not saying much!
7. Been to Disneyland I went first as a grown-up; I highly recommend waiting
8. Climbed a mountain see #2
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo had to do this for a class in college, and also in my theatre days
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Gone rollerskating
15. Adopted a child Four - what a blessing!
16. Had food poisoning
7. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train in Russia and the US
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping My real claim to fame; did this with Bill Hurt (and a few others way back when....)
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset over the Grand Canyon!
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise--we're planning one for our 15th anniversary
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors We went all around the homes my dad and his ancestors lived in in Iowa, and where my mom and hers lived in Southern Indiana
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language Well, I majored in Russian in college...didn't exactly teach myself
37. Acted in a play or performed on stage professionally for seven years
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo's David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance--too many times, but I was never the patient.
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie an extra in The Shining
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
59. Visited Russia five times and want to go more!
60. Served at a soup kitchen for years we did this every Saturday
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial - visited his boyhood home - thats where I held the lamb
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book - I had some essays in published in books (Catholic Homeschool Companion and Catholic Homeschool Treasury)
81.visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper most lately in Our Sunday Visitor
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Won money I won $200 and in the same minute a man had a heart attack. What a hideous thing to have happen. We donated it to his scholarship fund.
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous See #26, Ananias Nin, Sir Michael Redgrave, all of the Chieftains
92. Joined a book club
93. Had to put someone you love in Hospice Care
94. Had a baby Two!
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Read an entire book in one day Those were the days!