Sunday, May 29, 2011

SHORT TAKES SUNDAY

1
This was the last week of school at Summit.  I cannot say how much I'll miss my students.  I loved them so much.  I loved teaching so much.  In some ways it was the perfect atmosphere - a small class, lots of freedom.  The chance to teach subjects (Social Studies and Art) that no one would ever hire me to teach for lack of credentials...  Of course the irony is that I did a better and more creative, zeal-filled job of teaching those topics than I did Bible.   I'd forgotten how exciting it is to learn new things, and how healing and enriching it is to sit quietly and work on art.  Oh, well.....I need to concentrate more on the thanksgiving it happened than the regret its over.  I learned so much from the unit we did on the Middle Ages. I know the kids learned a lot, too, but it was a little frustrating because I know their learning (and delight in it) didn't match mine - but I was "putting together" so much....bits learned here and there, years of experience and reading....and they are just little kids. School is wasted on kids.

2
We had Russian "School" (Social Club) Friday night, a very minor version with several absences, but it was so nice, anyway.  Anastasia is so much more relaxed with her Russian friends.  She can just be herself. 
3
For that reason I allowed her to go with Olya and Sveta on an overnight to their cottage.  Tough call.  I could see it was good for her to be with them, and having withheld her from school for the last week was difficult; I figured being with these girls might even help her get back to herself, even though overnights are not generally the best thing. (to say the least)  I'll send lots of "I miss you - want me to come and get you?" texts so she knows mommy is sad without her.
4
The pleasure and joy of housework is under-rated - at least by those who have plenty of time to do it.  I just cleaned out the refrigerator, and it makes me feel so good!  I like the concept I once read on a group called "FLY Ladies", that when you do housework, you are blessing your family.  I fear my family has been sorely lacking in my blessing this last few months. 
5
One of the best things about summer - well, even about the end of the year of Religious Education - is that I have some mornings when things are not too rushed to make breakfast.  I think my family likes breakfast a LOT, and it is so nice to make blini, or waffles, or scrambled eggs and bacon for everyone.  When the older kids homeschooled, the chance to have a nice breakfast everyday was one of the blessings.  I even bought Lydia the sweetest little "breakfast set" with a pretty plate and cup and a special place mat.  I'd often make her homemade hot chocolate, too.  I love being a "housewife", but so rarely get to do it in an unrushed way.
6
Our church is changing.  We had the baptismal font re-done.  And just last week the teal green carpet put in the year I came, was replaced with wine red.  I thought it would make me feel badly.  But, I suppose there have already been so many changes, that I'm inured.  Still, I was surprised at how much I love the font, in particular.  It is not only beautiful, in and of itself, it breaks up an area that was a bit foreboding with lots of very long (and for me, when I sat in them) claustrophobia-inducing pews and creates such a welcoming, open look.  Whenever I go in the church, it makes me happy.  On one level....and then on another, it reminds me my life has changed totally.  I think there is some deep truth about that, but this is a "short take".
7
My big boy, Aidan, called yesterday.  He works for a defense contractor in Washington, DC.  He interviewed for a deployment to Afghanistan.  He and his wife would love to buy a house, and this would make it possible.  He'd train for two months, then spend four months in Afghanistan, then four months back at home, then wrap up the year with four months in Afghanistan.  I hardly know what I think.  It fills me with trepidation, but I can surely understand how much he'd like to provide his family with financial security.  One thing I do know is that it is my job to support, and not to give an opinion in any case.   

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ciska recently wrote about blogging.  I think she is a bit exasperated with herself that she doesn't write for the sake of writing, but rather finds herself drawn to seeing how many readers she has on her stat counter......  I know what she means.

I don't, actually, think about numbers that much (and honestly haven't figured out the stat counter on my own blog), but I do LOVE comments, and when I write what I consider a "good" post that doesn't get comments, I am discouraged.  When I write one that does get a lot of comments I am so tempted to write more of the same sort of thing.......whether that is what I would otherwise have wanted to write about, or not.

But, I have another blog, too, and a discovery the night I first put it on line, certainly startled me (in more ways than one!)

My other blog started out as a way to communicate with the families in our Religious Education program, and since I was already familiar with the blog format, I figured that would be the best way for me to go.  As it turned out it wasn't.  I developed an actual website, and now just use the Religious Education blog to let parents know what the main points of each lesson were, and what the homework is.

However - the night I put it together, I stumbled on the stat counter for it - and to my absolute amazement found that it had already had hundreds of visits.  What?  In an hour?  I thought about it, and explored further.

I noticed that a lot of the people coming to the RE blog were coming from the same place - another "Catholic Religious Education blog!" thought I; I'll visit it!  And I did - and that was shocker number two.  This was not a religious education blog, but rather the most graphic male-on-male pornography.  I was stunned and nauseated, to be frank, and also alarmed.  Why ever would people come from that blog to mine?  Was it some sort of child porn thing??!!??  That really didn't make sense, though.  I simmered down from alarmed to simply befuddled. And, I still don't know - except could they have simply been pushing that "next blog" button at the top?  I just went through about ten blogs doing that, and they all seemed at first glance to be in either the "family" or "Christian" category, until I got to one about "Artisan Beef" and one I almost decided to follow, only because I just LOVE this sort of thing, even to the point of almost doing it myself: "Overheard in Ithaca" is is just that - tiny snippits of conversations overheard on the street.  And, those can be funny, curious, mysterious and unsettling, all at the same time.....

Well, since my experience with the multiple hits on a nearly empty religious education blog, I don't think much about stats anymore, but please, please, comment!  

Saturday, May 21, 2011

BYE-BYE?

Well, I need advice. 

I have loved this blog.  I enjoy writing so much, and it has been such a great outlet for me, especially as I've dealt with various adoption challenges and joys.  However, a couple of problems have arisen.

Back when I started this blog, I wasn't so sure what it would be....and I made the tactical error of giving people the address along with my Christmas letter.....yes; I guess I suppose I thought a blog would be something like an extended Christmas letter.  (Blech!)  So, no wonder I didn't really expect that anyone apart from, perhaps, my bio kids would ever want to read it.  Surprisingly (well, I suppose they have lives!) my bio-kids don't often read it.  However, over time it came to light that a few local folks have read it off and on.  That was initially disconcerting since I'd obviously begun to be much more open about certain things - in particular Maxim's and Anastasia's struggles. You see, I don't mind sharing personal things about myself, but it doesn't seem quite right to share personal things about someone else  -  not to people who might interact with them IRL. But, of the two or three IRL friends I knew of who read the blog, only one (another adoptive mom) had any contact with Anastasia.  As far as I knew.....

Maxim is not known locally by his Russian name, so that seemed all right, but as she's gotten older I've felt less comfortable sharing about Anastasia.....yet, I was lulled into the feeling that no one local would really be reading my blog.....(I'm also concrete-operational enough to believe that readers also comment.....so I know who they are.)

However...... it has come to my attention.....that I am wrong.

First, it was Sergei complaining.....apparently girls at school were able to find my blog with just a google search.  ("Why would anyone look?" I would have thought.)  But, Sergei was very uncomfortable with this.  I really don't know how wonderful bloggers like Christine manage to get their kids to actually pose for photos for the blog.  She is not as open with the "trials" as she is with the "smiles" - true, but my kids wouldn't even put up with a blog that was all smiles.  And when it was just distant strangers (to them) who I envisioned reading the blog, I could ignore their whining about it, but I do realize that they ought to be able to have their privacy among classmates if they want it.  So......I stopped writing as much, but more or less ignored the issue.

Then, yesterday, I realized that something has to change.  I went in for my regular (or so I'd thought) yearly review with my pastor, and lo and behold!  Some well-meaning parishioner had given him a link to my Too Much post.  Since that post could so easily be interpreted as being about a person who clearly cannot give "full-value" to her primary workplace, I was beyond horrified.   Father was very kind, and indicated that the person who showed him the post was just worried about me, and "was there anything he could do"?  I suppose the kind reader felt that he might manage for my children to attend the parish school with tuition we could afford, but I don't think it is that easy for him to make those kinds of exceptions.  And it certainly would not be possible at the Catholic High School, even if switching all their schools at this point would be a reasonable thing to do.

So....the jig is up.  What to do?  I'm tempted to start over elsewhere - with those stupid assumed names or nicknames, and a new blog name. But hiding under an assumed name is just not "me".   I honestly don't think that I want to write if I can't be transparent and honest - and again, I am transparent and honest in my everyday life - but only about myself.....and, as regards work and church and my marriage, etc. within the bounds of what is prudent and appropriate.  And while I have been open about my volunteer teaching at Summit, I've certainly not wandered about my workplace complaining about how my side activities have worn me out! [i.e. not prudent!]

What about the blog?  Do any of my fellow bloggers have any ideas?  Tami, I know you started a password protected blog - but then you didn't write much in it - why?   Has anyone begun a new blog and kept it secret?   How do you start a new blog in a new place while inviting all your blog, but not your IRL friends ?   What do you recommend?  The sad part about doing that is it closes you off to new friends!  And, those readers who never comment, but still "get something" out of it.  (One time I wandered onto a totally heretofore unknown blog, only to see my blog listed as one of their "favorites".)


And to my IRL-friend readers (Funny - I want to write  "if there are any" - even though obviously there are, I just find it hard to picture it.) As you can probably tell, I am not dishonest in real life, just a bit too honest on the blog - its inexpensive counseling!  And I need it!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A FEW BAD WEEKS

I always think an anecdote is more interesting than a litany, so I won't bother with the big list of how dreadful our past month has been, let's just say that a few things.....
  • our being away at the conference
  • my working a LOT this month
  • two students leaving Anastasia's class
  • a teacher leaving Anastasia's school
  • a letter from her grandmother - which she couldn't read
  • a holiday
  • an adoption anniversary
.....have compromised Anastasia's ability to cope. 

When she was younger and could have a full-fledged melt-down, with two or three hours of us having to hold her down.....well, those were cathartic, at least.  After one of those, we could count on a few good weeks!  She doesn't give in to those anymore.  But there is no catharsis, either.  Things this past month have gotten really bad a few times, but after each crisis, have then only gone back to bad - never even "OK".  I have only seen one or two momentary glimmers of my real daughter this month.  The rest of the time it has been the hard, cold person who sometimes inhabits her body.

But, that story I promised.  I am going to tell you about the night that kicked off the "reign of terror", actually.  But what kicked that incident itself off - I don't actually remember.  I expect it was some random thing, like Craig telling her that there was basketball on and since she'd just watched two hours of TV, it was his turn - something like that. Or, telling her that she'd already had seconds on potatoes, so the last serving was Zhenya's.  Something on that order.

I do know the actual genesis of it.  It was Craig and I going away for a couple of days to the therapeutic parenting conference - and leaving her.  My sensible (not cued into the radish daughter) mind figured that she'd enjoy spending a couple of days at her friend Rebecca's house!  (She'd been begging to do it, but I'd found excuses, saving this opportunity up).  I didn't stop to think that ME, her mother, "going off with a man" and parking her with someone was a clear echo of one of the most traumatizing situations in her early life....  Well, that idea may have flickered in my mind, but the bright and sensible belief that she'd enjoy her weekend as much as we would, prevailed.

I think she had "fun" at Rebecca's, too, but it was clear when we got home that all was not well.  So, only a few nights later whatever-it-was happened and all hell broke lose.  Oh - it was the TV. I remember now!  The request to give up the thing that calms her (TV helps Anastasia keep regulated) delivered by the man who stands between her and her mother, so crazed her that she threw the remote.  Unfortunately, rather than land in the basket, it went through the plate glass window behind it.  I know now that she didn't try to break the window, but breaking the window so shamed her that she completely lost control.

But - therapeutic mother to the rescue!  I'd just been to a conference about that!!!  Mind flying back to Jim's lecture, I struggled to remembered the lessons I'd learned.  Don't try to reason. [Well, OK, I'd long ago learned that one...]  But -  Give them a time out.   A time out? Wow.  Would she follow my directions?  I doubted it, but stepped out in faith.  "Anastasia, we can't talk now - just go to your room and calm down..."

She turned on her heel and flew up the stairs, I heard her go into her room and slam the door.  Well,what's a door slam, all things considered?   I took a breath. Relieved....amazed.  Wow!  Jim is something else!  Why didn't I think of this before!?   I sat down for a second to get my breath, thinking about the discussion we'd have later, when she was calm. 

Suddenly, she's running down the stairs, and to my horror I realized that far from calming down in her room, she's been in there preparing to run away - and by preparing I mean slathering on makeup and putting on the most provocative clothing she could find (which honestly, isn't too bad....but I could tell she'd tried).  She shouted something to the effect that she was going to go out and get raped, and we couldn't stop her!   And off she went. 

Should we try to follow her in the car?  Or not?  Not, I decided.  That would probably make her so crazed she'd throw herself under our tires.  And, too, I figured, despite her provocative statements, she was really planning on taking a run, which is actually her best path to a regulated state, and, as I'd discovered before, almost therapy.  The "rape" comment was in response to my protestations on other occasions that it isn't safe for her to be out by herself.  But it was only 7 or so, and light out.  Hopefully she'd feel better and get back before bedtime.

We went about our business.  I awaited her return, went out and looked for her occasionally on the porch where I'd found her before...but didn't worry.  Too much.  It got dark; I still didn't worry.  I'm not a worrier, really.  It got later. And later.  Ten.  Ten-thirty. Well, OK, I worry a little sometimes..... Craig had suggested calling the police earlier.  But I'd thought not....she wasn't really "running away".  But at eleven, I gave in, thinking - we could just ask them to be on the alert, if someone in a cruiser sees her walking, maybe they could bring her home.

When the policeman arrived, Craig went out to talk to him.  Well, this wasn't good.  I'd heard him on the phone saying we didn't want to file any sort of report - just request for them to watch for her....but this guy is calling her "a runaway" and really being pretty rude, overall.  Craig clarified, "She's not a runaway.  She was upset and went out to run, not runaway, but she's not back and we don't think it's safe.  We just wanted officers to watch for her and bring her home.  We don't want to file a report." 

"They'd take her to the police station."
"What?"
"They won't bring her home; they'll take her to the police station."

In my distress, I just turned and went in; Craig declined to "make a report", but before he left, the officer made a remark that, When "people didn't parent their children" this sort of thing happened.  I am still feeling burned up about that one!  How dare he!  I wish I'd not come in - I would have told him that "people who don't parent their children" are not concerned when they are out on the street at eleven at night!  They're watching TV, or sleeping it off, not pacing, and crying and wondering if maybe the authorities could help keep their child safe, if asked.  I intend to write a letter, but frankly, am waiting until I am less angry....a month after the fact, I don't know when that will be!  I'm still steamed!  It is bad enough to realize, that the police have no formula whereby they could help parents find an upset child out after dark, that wouldn't involve further traumatizing them by making them feel they are being arrested, but to be insulted in the bargain is simply too much.

Well, Craig went to bed. I waited.  I wished I could read or watch TV, but I was simply too distressed.  I just sat and waited, and prayed and  kept swallowing my anxiety.  Then, I hear a car door slam.  In she comes.  Relief washes over me.  She is obviously better.  Not good, but better.  She'd walked four or five miles at least, to a suburb where an old "boyfriend" so to speak, lived.  She stood outside his house, across the street and looked in the window, saw his family watching TV and looking happy.  Then she turned toward home. Halfway, she went into a 7-11 and asked for a restroom.  The Dostoevskian night worker (questionable morality but a heart of gold) let her use the employee's restroom and gave her a drink from the case, called some to watch the front and gave her a ride home.  Apparently this girl (Anastasia found out she is 23, a mother of four and obviously working the 7-11 midnight shift) is "just like me"....and also "hated" her parents when she was her age.   Strangely, she told me all of this in a confidential manner, and actually allowed me to hug her and tell her I was glad she was back.  I was worried because it was so late....

We went to bed.  I distressed with Anastasia having stumbled on the very image of her future, that I most fear.

And that was the big kick-off of our own little reign of terror......which has not yet ended......

Monday, May 9, 2011

MY BLOG'S FEAST DAY

I figured that the least I could do on Mother's Day was give my blog a make-over.....  I will say that only a couple of weeks ago we had snow, but the header was looking a bit too wintery.  Because - now - SUDDENLY! everything is a glorious spring-green outside!  It's amazing.

Also, there's a new quote.  I picked up one of my old college-era books on Tolstoy, and was bemused to see what I'd underlined....bemused, then amazed.  I had not realized the degree to which Tolstoy's philosophy of life echoes my own.  No wonder I loved him so much.....  (I had a portrait of him hanging in my bedroom all through high school, where other girls had the rock stars.)

Monday, May 2, 2011

A COUPLE OF GOOD DAYS

As mentioned, a few weeks ago Craig and I went to the Parenting in SPACE Conference in Chicago.  It was phenomenal, and it is difficult to sort out all that happened.  Quite honestly, the best thing was just being together with a whole group of parents who "get" it.  The ability to tell a story and not have puzzled (worse yet, shocked) looks, or to relate a funny anecdote in its entirety, not editing for those who wouldn't understand a child punching a wall out of fear before going to math tutoring....

The whole weekend was like a big gift to traumatized parents parents of traumatized children.  To begin with, I've traveled a lot (well, OK - touring theater, and Irish dance competitions probably don't call for the luxury hotel) but this was the most lovely hotel room I've ever stayed in....a suite, with refrigerator, a TV in each room, and the most beautiful public spaces.  The bed was piled with pillows and sooooo comfortable. 

The food at the event was so delicious, and the conference was not held in some bland conference center, but at an arboretum - so there was nature all around.  The weather wasn't nice....too cold and windy to walk, but just looking out the big windows at the rolling hills and trees was pleasing and relaxing.  So we wouldn't have to be stressed out, there was a shuttle bus taking us back and forth.  There was water and coffee and tea always available.  And cookies mid-afternoon. 

On Saturday night, there was a delightful little informal gathering featuring a splendid (what else could you imagine) sharing by the incomperable Christine, beautifully elegant snacks, and a cash bar [since the kids get distraught if I have so much as a bit of vodka in warm milk at home, I enjoyed a Bloody Mary!]  In addtion to the amazing chance to visit with all the other marvelous parents, including two new favorite bloggers, Lindsay and Hannah, there.

The most wonderful (and generous) thing, was that all the counselors from House Calls Counseling were there at this event....just sitting there! waiting for you to talk to them, ask questions, pour out your heart.  Because we have no opportunity for counseling services on our own turf, this was just so amazing!  The entire practice at HCC is focused on attachment, mind you.  This was the opportunity of a lifetime.  I felt heard, and understood. It was so invigorating.   Encouraging.

I've talked with a number of counselors locally.....dead ends, expensive dead ends, but I have to thank God I recognized them as such and except for one horrble experience didn't allow these people to further traumatize my kids.  My strongest advice to a parent whose child has any early neglect, trauma or attachment issues, is to FORGET any counselor who does not have extensive training in the specific sorts of approaches to take with these children.  They can often make things much, much worse!  A friend was recently turned into CPS because her son (in with the counselor by himself) reported abuse.  The giving of false reports of abuse, as we have discovered, can be one response of these kids.  Counselors who know them, know this - they also know that parents must be an integral part of the process.  My friend's counselor began by informing her that his sessions with her son would be confidential.  No.  Wrong.  Back away.  These kids can be experts in triangulation, they are desperate for control.  As you can imagine, in this situation counseling with the child only can be  seriously detrimental to the entire family (while certainly being useless for the child).  But I've not found anyone locally who "gets" it.....no one covered by our insurance, certainly.  But there I was at this conference surrounded by competent help and advice!  I have to tell you, I don't remember a lot of what I learned at the conference.  What I remember is the sense of being safe.  Being cared for.  Knowing that everything could, and would be "all right".....because I am not alone in the struggle - and there is help.

OK - it may not be readily available to me.....but it exists, outside of Karyn Purvis' audio files and Dan Hughes' books, and that's something! 

A couple of other bloggers here and here did a much better job of explaining how wonderful the conference was.  But since this post has been in the hopper for a month, I suppose it is time to push "Publish".