Saturday, July 30, 2011

MORE (than you want to know, probably) ABOUT THE LAST POST....

I've been finding my posts far too wordy and "heavy" lately, so I tried to sharpen up the last one, and in doing so, probably left everyone wondering about my sanity. 

Worst,  I hope I didn't come off as touting myself as "saintly"!.  That last post was written by the "me" that is standing by, quite amazed, at my ability to be so unselfish in those situations.  I can assure you, I have a host of faults, and do a lot of selfish things I should have grown out of long ago....  Yesterday I turned water on for a bath, and when I could tell someone was in the shower - I left my hot water running.  Now how selfish is that?  I knew it at the time, and did it anyway.  (Just one bit of evidence.)

But, I left out some of the "back story" that made my ignoring Anastasia's text seem somewhat reasonable.  As my birthday approached, I found her in a composed moment and brought up a conversation about birthdays.  In the past few months, I've gotten a lot more overt in talking with her about her issues.  So I tried to explain how, since she has a hard time believing she is valuable, it creates a lot of confusion and anxiety when she is the center of attention.  That anxiety comes out in feeling angry and being mean.  I could tell this was resonating with her, and saw glimmers of realization flicker across her face. I went on to say, that strangely, when it was someone else's birthday and the focus was on them, THAT felt bad, too.  I kept referring back to how when her mother didn't know how to take care of a baby, it created some mistaken ideas in her head.   When her mom didn't take good care of her, it made baby Nastia feel she wasn't worth taking care of.  It made her feel like garbage, even though she is precious.  I want her to know she is precious, and I want her to believe it, like I do! 

In some context during that conversation, I actually used that term "making life a living hell."  She laughed at the phrase, and it I guess it stuck in her mind.  I told her my birthday was coming up, and I knew that it might make her feel uncomfortable.  I promised that I would try not to do anything to make it especially hard for her, and I wanted her to try to remember that when someone else gets attention, it does not mean that they are any more special or important or loved than she is....that one of the best presents I ever got from God was her!  She is priceless. 

So, when I got her text, to me it said:  I remember our conversation about birthdays.  I am feeling stressed out about yours.

I didn't respond to the text, and she didn't make life a living hell in any way. I ended up having to work all day; Craig took me out for pasty and coffee before she got up, and Sergei and Ilya took me out to a Sushi restaurant for dinner and I brought Anastasia back my left-overs.  All was well. 

Maxim's comment came in the context of a 3-4 month period when he has had no one on earth to rely on except me.  Looooong story.  The other day he was exasperating me, rather.  "Mrs. Kitching I want you to wait for me."  "Mrs. Kitching, can you go in with me?"  "Mrs. Kitching please, you make that call."  "Mrs. Kitching, you have to help me!  I don't know how!"  I came within an inch of exclaiming, "Stop being such a baby!!!"  And, as those words came into my mind, I realized that he's bonding with me like a baby.  He is relying on me.  He does need me.  He isn't helpless, but he needs to feel held and loved and cared for.  Meanwhile, from that place of as-much-safety-as-I-can-provide-with-four-other-kids-at-home-and-two-jobs, he is making incredible strides in self-understanding.  Way too much to write about, even if I wrote about him every day.  It is really remarkable.

I think that I could find his statement ironic and funny, partly because in my heart I think it is just the opposite.  In my heart I think, that just maybe he is beginning to believe that there is someone on this earth who finds him valuable and will stick with him, no matter what he says. 

Hope so.  But, I am also glad to observe in myself that my love for him doesn't rely on it.

Friday, July 29, 2011

PUT ON A HAPPY FACE

One thing I know. I am becoming more truly loving and this is not as much fun as one might think. I aways thought I was a "loving" person, but it was a "tit-for-tat" reciprocal sort of love I was envisioning - or, at the very least, loving kindness that would be appreciated.

I rather like author Scott Peck's definition of love, found in his book The Road Less Traveled, "I define love thus: "The will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth."   I actually think he could almost have written "one's own and another's"....  Seems to me they go together....  But, in any case, you certainly need a sense of humor keep you going.

Two cases in point this week:

Monday was my birthday. I had to scoot out to work before Anastasia got up - but never fear! She sent me a Birthday text, to wit:

                                                           It is ur birthday. I am going to make ur life
                                                           a living hell.

Now, if you can't laugh at that, you have no sense of humor.  OK; it took me a moment.  But, after a bit of thought I realized this is actually a sort of breakthrough. It shows that she recognizes birthdays (both hers and others') as a trigger.  Step in the right direction, yes?

Slightly harder to take, but still funny in its way was conversation with Maxim last week.  Every week I drive him to his counseling session, and abandonment-wary as ever, he wants me to stay there rather than go run errands or whatever.  As long as the interesting magazines held out I was OK with that, but having read the same Good Housekeeping for the third or fourth time (down to actually reading the tiny ads at the back), I suggested that rather than wait in the waiting room, I get his laundry started a few doors down.  (That was going to be the next thing on our list, and while I had intended not to do it for him, but to teach him to do it -frankly, two birds with one hour and a half sounded good.) 

Unfortunately, this was one of those 95 degree, high-humidity days and that darned laundromat didn't have air conditioning!  It was like being in a cross between a hot house and a men's locker room....stinky, dank....horrible.  Nearly twenty-dollars in quarters later Maxim joins me, and as is so often the case, was full of insights and ideas that he wanted to share with me.  I strained to listen attentively, while folding laundry; by that time I was literally faint and almost nauseous from being over-heated, and foolishly I'd worn some sandals for the first time that were torturing my now throbbing feet.  But, Maxim had some big thoughts to share and he headed right into them.  He isn't able to love, he has concluded.....  "Now, for example, you, Mrs. Kitching.  I like the stuff you do for me and everything.  But, if you died, I really wouldn't be sad about it."  

Throbbing feet, sweat dripping down my face, more clothes than could fit into the two baskets.  A couple of big, thick towels that would not dry....  But, somehow, despite this (or perhaps because of it) I was still able to find the situation amusing.  And, later I could even see the bright side - it certainly shows he trusts me enough to tell me anything, doesn't it?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

PROBLEM RESPONDING TO BLOGS

For the last month or so I have found that I cannot respond to blogs that require "signing in".  It is SO frustrating, and confusing.  Weirdly, it seems that I can respond at work.  My little logo pops right up without my doing anything.  But I am not generally blogging or looking at blogs at work! 

At home, I can sign in as anonymous and sign my name, if there is an "Anonymous" choice.  If not, and I select Google ID, it sends me to "log in" (although I may only then have completed a post),and then it tells me that basically, I don't exist.  That password and ID work for me in every other circumstance.  What gives?

A few comments here and there have led me to believe I am not alone here.  Did anyone figure it out?

THEN AND NOW

Are there things that stick in your mind?  I recall hearing Dr. Laura say many years ago that "people never change".  What the heck could she mean?  Anyway, ever since I heard her say that I've had an underlying "search" going for examples of people changing.  And the other night I startled myself by realizing that I am one of them.

My neighbor Rosemary and I have been friends since my older kids were little, but we only see one another in the summer due to our school year-intense jobs.  Saturday night she happened by on her walk and I invited her to come up to sit on the porch for a bit.  As she sat down, Sergei was being picked up for his dog-walking job.  In a few minutes, Ilya and a friend from across the block came running through a few yards and into the house.  Not long after, a van arrives, spewing out four loudly chattering Russian girls.  A couple of Russian school moms had taken the girls to the Ionia Fair and they were dropping Anastasia off (of course, all the girls needed to go into the house before continuing home).  When I finally sat back down, Rosemary commented on how different my life must be now from the days when I simply had two quiet, compliant children.  I hadn't thought of it before, and yet I realized - yes; things are SO different.

No longer a perfectionist... One thing Rosemary and I always have had in common is this perfectionistic tendency.  Suddenly it struck me that undoubtedly she has noticed, simply from the look of our yard and porch, that something has changed for me!  Garden tools left out, a cardboard box sitting on the porch steps day after day, projects uncompleted, flowers unplanted.....in fact, a few totally empty flower beds.  All attest to the fact that things have changed. I have to admit that if the yard is bad, the inside is worse.  I had a bit of an awakening - suddenly "seeing things" through Rosemary's eyes.  I hadn't even remembered the degree to which I used to revel in my pretty, clean and tidy home.  It is tidy no more.  I aim for clean and don't always make it. 

No longer a decorator... No longer do I pick up "Old House Journal" when I get the chance.  I have lowered standards in terms of home decor, to say the least!  Though, I expect that if I wasn't caring for four kids and paying off adoption debt, our faded sheets and towels would have been replaced long ago. We used to have a pretty, matched set of china.  No longer.  Any two matching items are a surprise. The upholstery is worn....OK, even stained here and there.  Rugs are threadbare.  Linoleum needs replacing. 

But, it is more than just the outer things that have changed. 

No longer so controlling... I have loosened up.  Partly it is realizing that raising children is not an exact science.  I was hyper-controlling with my older two.  No TV - almost ever.  We had a TV, but it was on the third floor, where it was hotter than heck in summer and miserably cold in winter.  They had to ask permission to go up and watch a religious video from church.  That was a treat!   The computer was for parents or for educational purposes.  For safety's sake, they were only allowed to  play in the backyard.....  When they were 15 or 16 (I am not exaggerating!) I allowed them to have radios and play music, but the rule was - if I heard it, they'd lose it. 

Now we are pretty loose about the computers, and the TV....and there is a TV in the LIVING ROOM, for heaven's sake!  There is an xbox.  There is a sound system in Sergei's room. 

No longer so tense... Startled, I realize that I've become a lot more mellow.  Not all of those strictures with my older kids were simply for their protection.  A lot of them were for my protection!  I couldn't bear to hear "background noise" (like TV and radio)....  How can it be that those things don't bother me much at all, anymore?  I actually took a nap yesterday afternoon with Russian techno music pounding through the ceiling.  

No longer as protective.... I used to be so worried about the children's moral influences.  Well, I suppose that when your children had all kinds of influences which you couldn't control for years before you got them - and they are still wonderful, and adorable - you figure that those things perhaps don't matter as much as you thought they did.  And Aidan and Lydia, while very good people, are quite happy living in the contemporary culture, listening to music and watching TV - their early years did make them readers, but they seem to enjoy popular culture as much as the people whose parents didn't protect them from it.  Furthermore, they are not a priest and a nun.  What can I say?

Rosemary's interpretation is that I have received so many graces.  Yes; in some ways, yes.  When I let the kids eat in the living room, watch TV, listen to music - I realize - I am not as selfish.  When I allow them to run around the neighborhood, take long walks, have friends over whose parents are not pillers of our parish - I am more trusting in God.  We don't eat out as often (almost never); I never buy cappuccino anymore; frankly, I don't have very nice clothes; no time for luxurious baths; no time to enjoy novels apart from those I read to the kids - my reading time is focused on "attachment" books.  I think I am a lot less self-indulgent and a lot more self-disciplined.

However....just looking at the surface what do we see?  A tumble-down house, with a broken basement window, surrounded by a scraggly yard.  Kids in and out, sometimes climbing on the roof, hanging out of the third-floor window; playing in the street since the front yard is far too small; belongings not carefully put away, but strewn about the lawn and porch.  No discernable sense of order or organization.  Dinted cars always in the driveway since the garage seems to be full of bags of leaves which missed the spring pick-up.  And don't forget the pit bull staring out the window!  

It's not a very attractive picture, to say the least especially when you add in occasional yelling, crying, slamming doors.  I'm glad that Rosemary could see past the outer layer to the  goodness inside.  I doubt everyone does.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

SHORT TAKES (REALLY! WELL, MOSTLY)

Craig had been encouraging Anastasia's singing (to my mind a true work of charity), but she met me at the door telling me she had been singing scales and she claimed, "My throat is annoyed!"  Took me a while to realize she meant "irritated". 

We got into the car, wet from swimming, on one of the recent very hot nights.  Zhenya complained that the cold air was too cold, and Sergei responded, "We have to have it on Zhen.  Otherwise it is too moggy in here."  I think the combination of "foggy" and "muggy" is just the word we've been needing!

We won Diana's monster give-away.  I really felt that the monster ought to be Anastasia's for his therapeutic benefits, but it was Zhen who was beyond anxious to open the box.  Well, wouldn't you know - a fight ensued.  He may be an efficasious monster, but he was unable to manage that little difficulty. I was about to tell Zhen that Anastasia needed the monster (I'd typed out and read his benefits prior to our opening the box) but Craig, not quite with the program, weighed in before me and declared the monster was Zhen's.  Sometimes nothing is easy.  Fortunately, someone texted her and saved the peace.

Maxim is a fun person.  He has so many interests and enthusiasms; that's why I enjoy him so much.  Yesterday, he asked me to come over and film him (on my little Nikon that will make minute-long "movies") dancing to Michael Jackson music.  I had so much fun experimenting with "techniques" and "camera angles"!  I loved the result, actually.  Plus, he's a good dancer.
I loved Essie's post about the therapeutic benefits of slamming your shopping cart into the cart rack, and perhaps was more open to consciously realizing the degree of pleasure I get from opening those refrigerator biscuit rolls by slamming them against the side of the counter - and the satisfaction of seeing them pop open!

It is only late July; I am finally "getting to" the front yard.  Unfortunately, the annuals you buy in July are ugly lanky things.  It's their fault, not mine, that it all looks so crummy. 

Public radio is doing a story about the "cost" of not graduating from high school....  Strikes me that it isn't the "not graduating" that costs, but the underlying problems in families that create children who can't succeed or don't value education. 

I am now old enough to realize that an enormous amount of "dumbing down" has been taking place in our educational system.  I never completed a Masters when I might have done because I made the move from education to religious education.  Now when I take Masters level classes I am a little bit amazed that they are not as rigorous or demanding as my undergraduate classes.....and when I initially took my education classes, I was distressed at some of the low standards I noticed compared to my initial undergraduate courses - though at the time I put it down to the difference between Russian Language and Elementary Education (but surely, future teachers shouldn't be allowed to hand in papers with cross-outs and white out - in this day of computers?  Really?)  As an undergrad, pre-computer, if I made an error in the final sentence of more letters than could be corrected by the "auto-correct" feature, I'd type that page over.  Frankly, I am convinced that my BA is equal to a present-day MA.  And, my mom, who only graduated from HS - my guess is that she got a stringent BA-level, cross-discipline education.  But, then - in those days not everyone was expected to graduate from HS, only the intellectually motivated.  My grandmother, who earned a MA from Columbia in 1915 must have been brilliant, indeed.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

HACK AWAY!

Now obviously, hacking into the phone of a girl who has been abducted is beyond the pale.  Hacking into the Prime Ministers' phone to get health information about his child is tacky.  But, hacking into Hugh Grant's phone.....well, inquiring minds want to know

Listening to the BBC, as I do, I have heard almost nothing in the past few days except for the buzz about Rupert Murdoch and his news organizations and their efforts to get a lot of news that is not fit to print via illegal means, i.e. hacking into people's phones. 

In the US, everything is personal, so when it was covered here on some PBS show (Talk of the Nation, maybe?) all the conversation was about how people could prevent their own phones from being hacked.  Ordinary, un-newsworthy citizens, like you and me were calling really perturbed about this  new threat to their "privacy".   Are they all having affairs?  Or spelling out their passwords in their voice mail messages?  Who would want to hack my phone?  I can't fathom....  But just to check it out, I figured I better get in there and listen to my VM messages before someone else did!  I am relying so much on my cell phone that days can go by without the messages on the house phone being checked.....there they are, just waiting to be hacked.

Mr. Murdoch! take note:

  • If Sergei calls Mrs. Draper, he can hear something to his advantage: she will be arriving from the cottage on Wednesday and he can earn some money helping her unload some furniture.
  • The milk, donated by Mrs. Mann, is in the refrigerator in the church basement.
  • The KIA dealership thanks us for our recent service call.
  • Our prescription [drat! No details given!] is ready at Walgreens.
  • Our Comcast bill is past due [Woah!  That is embarrassing! I admit, I did forget to pay that before we went on vacation.] 
It is comforting to know you have no secrets.  Except.....well, I really hope no one figures out a way to let the world know the state of my laundry room.

What's on your answering machine fit for the  News of the World?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

DRIVERS' ED

Sergei is taking Drivers' Ed.  He has been begging for this for a long time. I've held off because neither Aidan nor Lydia got their drivers' licenses until they were 18.  I've presented that as our "family rule", though it was a family rule that came about by accident.

With Aidan, it was a mistake.  I had him hold off on the classes until he was 16.  In Michigan kids can take Drivers Ed when they are 14 years and 9 mos. old, or something ridiculous like that; I think that is way too young - they began to let them start that young when they added a number of restrictions at the other end.  In any case, no 14 or 15 year old in my family will ever take Drivers Ed!  When Aidan did take it at 16, he misunderstood what he was supposed to do.  He was supposed to take the card saying he'd passed the training to the Secretary of State and get a Learner's Permit.  Instead, he thought the card was the Learner's Permit, and since this was a "passage of adulthood", I had left him in charge of it, and knew no different.    Additionally, I was pretty strict on the practice-driving supervision; I vowed  that I'd never sign off on his practice driving until I could ride around with him without white knuckles.  He  was 17 and a half before that happened.  When he went in to get his license, they pointed out that all he was eligible for was a Learner's Permit, because he'd failed to get one (and done all his practicing illegally, as it happened).  So, it was simpler to just go in when he was 18 and get his license; he would have had to wait that long anyway.

Lydia, for her part, was a reluctant driver. She had no particular desire to go to Drivers Ed, and only went with a friend her senior year of High School.  So, she too, got her license at 18.

 I am not (as you can perhaps tell) a fan of teen drivers.  While "taking Drivers Ed" sounds innocent enough, it is really a Pandora's Box.  Once a child can drive, oddly enough, they want to drive.  And, as they don't have a car, they want to drive your car!  So, you are faced with either often not having your car when you need it, or constant pleas for use of it, or a combination of both.  Furthermore, once your child drives a family car UP goes the insurance premiums......no matter if they only drive with you, or only drive rarely.  Same increased expense.  And, there is the push, the nag, the whine about wanting their "own car".  And, there is the parental vacillation - it is annoying to always be lending out one's car.  However, once your teen has his/her own car, you have so much less control over  where they go and who they go with, even how long they are gone....  Before that, you can more easily demand your car back at a certain time.  When they have their own car, you have that much less "say" about it. 

Kids do need to break away, but I like to delay that as long as I can......

Be that as it may, Sergei is taking Drivers Ed.  I think he'll be a good driver; he is serious and competent and very law-abiding by nature.  But, of course....he is already hoping for his "own car".......  

Monday, July 11, 2011

FACING DOWN HUMILIATION

This weekend we had two social events.  Our regular Russian Club meeting was Saturday night.  Russian "School" has given over to primarily social get-togethers, in the summer at least.  And, on Saturday, we went to our Adoption Agency's annual picnic.

We missed the last Russian Club meeting.  Ordinarily we meet at my church, in the gym.  Last time the get-together was at the home of the woman who called the police after finding Anastasia walking on the street.  I am sure Anastasia feels humiliation seeing these people (as do I!). But you can't hide from these things.  I was glad Anastasia seemed willing to go to Russian Club, but when we passed by the road to the church, she wondered where we were going, and finding out it was this particular house, she began to talk in a way that made me realize this was not a good idea. (This is the same house, by the way, from which she ran away during the birthday party last year.)  Anastasia can bear being with these people in her space, I realized - but in their home it is too much.

This week we all met for a picnic at the lake.  I could see that it was a little bit difficult for her just seeing these folks, and I can certainly relate to that!  I am thoroughly embarrassed in front of all of these people, honestly.  Some trauma mamas seem to think that all adopted children have attachment issues.  Well, they don't.  In our group of probably 15 kids who are presently involved, or who have been involved, only Anastasia is "issue-laden".  As a result, no one "gets" it.  Yet, I think that in some ways because by definition we are always touching on her adoption/loss issues when we are with this group of friends, they've seen her worst behavior.  But, they expect me to do "typical" parenting.  So, I am usually, a) horrified by her behavior and b) humiliated because I know the other parents think my inadequate parenting is the cause of it.

So, on Friday I could see her struggling (which presents itself as snappish and snide), but she used good judgement and wandered down to the lake.  However, there she was presented with another trigger - two girls from school.  The girls were my students and wanted to say "Hi" to me, so she brought them up.  Now, how do I know they triggered her?  Because I happened to be taking a phone call when they returned and she interrupted my conversation, when I didn't turn around immediately, by hitting me in the back.  One of the other mothers chastised her "Don't you hit your mother!" and tried to grab her arm.  Fortunately, I was able to get up and defuse that situation.  Being touched has become very difficult for her.  Even laying a gentle hand on her shoulder makes her shy away like a wild animal, so her teeth were bared on this one.

However, I was proud of how she handled it.  Instead of staying around the table and building up to something really awful (I was already imagining how bad it might become), she went for a walk with Zhenya and regulated herself.  Later, she and her friends went swimming in the lake (in their clothes) and the evening ended with ice cream....for all the world as if she were having a good time like any normal girl.

On Saturday, we drove to Troy (a hour or so) to see pretty much the same people who'd been at the Russian Club gathering - and for another picnic - except that Dana, the agency head was there, of course, and I always love seeing her.  And there are always potential adoptive families there to encourage - as well as lot of people we don't know....those who have adopted from other countries, and domestically.  Unfortunately, apart from her friends of the previous evening, there weren't any old friends or new people to meet and she was prompted to remember some things that upset her.  Sasha, an older girl we know and love, who went through a disruption, is usally there, but wasn't this year, and I think that was disturbing.  I did get to talking to a couple of people interested in adoption, yet all the while I had to look nervously around, hoping Anastasia wouldn't utter one of her shocking statements in front of them...  (As in, "Where's Dana?  I want to talk to her about getting a new family."  She said that loudly in front of our usual circle of acquaintances.....Sheesh.)

The best part of the day for all of us was our trip to the "Russian Store" afterwards, where we spent an entire week's worth of grocery money on Russian tea, pastries, black sunflower seeds, smoked cheese - all the kids' favorites.  We brought a cooler and filled it with ice, so we could bring home some of this:
I was really tempted to get some of the CCCP (USSR) brand, but went for the ice cream sandwiches to the right because I remembered them as being scrumptious - and they still are!   A bit of heaven on earth.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

THREE GENERATIONS

I vividly remember having a View Master as a child. (What do they call them now?  Surely not that!)

The images were so amazing to me that I can still SEE some of them in my mind's eye.  I can visualize "The Three Little Pigs" better than the home I was living in when I first saw them. 

I had slides of a few different tales like that, but also, oddly, a travelogue of Michigan.....  Why?  I can't imagine!  Though we live in Michigan now, I grew up in Colorado and have no idea whatsoever why I should have had Michigan view master slides.  Those slides were a complete mystery to me.  I didn't understand, even, that Michigan was a state! (Or, undoubtedly, what a state was!) I need to remember to ask my mom why I had those.  But one slide of that set I remember in particular - actually the only Michigan slide  I remember - "Ann Arbor" and there was indeed an arbor, as I recall it, with roses.  But, I was very confused about it all.....not understanding that Ann Arbor was the name of a town, where this place was, why I should be looking at those pictures. 

Of course I gave Aidan and Lydia a view master, only because it had been such a memorable thing for me.  I didn't suppose they cared for it that much.  Perhaps my mother didn't think I did either - being that neither I nor my kids picked up and carefully store away our slides!  In fact, I can still remember being frustrated that my slides were not in order, as I dug them the bottom of the toy box.  But it must have made an impression on generation #2 because Lydia brought Calvin a view master.  I frankly couldn't quite understand why the packaging kept emphasizing 3D!  Wasn't that the point of a view master all along????  And, honestly, when I looked in Calvin's view master, I thought his slides were vastly inferior to my Three Little Pig slides.  Or, could there be an issue with my memory? 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

FURTHER ADVENTURES IN THERAPEUTIC PARENTING

Overall, things have not been going especially well around here. Anastasia is non-stop angry.  She was bad before we went to Virginia; having me leave her was bad, indeed.  However, I owed it to my older children not to let her ruin the time I spent with them. 

Now her snide, nasty comments and expression puts everyone in a bad humor.  I know that in some way she is trying to take control by controlling everyone's moods.  I'm pretty good at ignoring her and not letting her get to me.  I try to find opportunities when she is able to listen to me to name her behavior, name the reason for the behavior and the underlying need/motivation, just as the counselor advised me.  i.e.  Anastasia, I notice you using a lot of swear words lately.  I bet you are doing that to make me angry.  If you can control my feelings, then you'll feel safer.  I guess you must want to do that because so many things in your life are out of control lately.

If she argues that that is not what she's doing at all (!) I am supposed to say, "Oh, well, I only know that if my teacher had abandoned ME in the middle of the year, and I had to go into a class where my own mom was spending all her time with other kids, and I had to take 8th grade math even though I hadn't finished 6th grade math - well, I'd feel out of control!  I'd want to do whatever I could to feel in control of something!"

But, I must have been right on, because rather than arguing, she brought up school and how unfair it was for her to get a bad grade in math when she was working as hard as she could. So we ended up having a civil conversation for maybe a minute or two.  Until she remembered that I went on vacation and left her!  And,that whole anger issue was triggered because a boy she barely knows went to camp for a week, and did not come back when he said he would!  (Another abandonment.....it's everywhere.)

When I last dropped the Anastasia Saga, I was going to take her to Chicago to House Calls Counseling - a whole practice devoted to attachment and trauma.  They are wonderful!!!!  I can't say that enough, however, we are a bit over four hours from their office.  To justify it, Billy [Kaplan- who heads the practice] was ready to set aside three hours for us.  Isn't that amazing?  Still, short of time and money, spending $50 in gas and an entire day a couple of times a month.....it seemed a bit too crazy.  Especially as another mom who was at ths Parenting in SPACE Conference told me about an attachment therapist in Grand Rapids, just a bit over an hour away. 
Anastasia went obligingly with me to Chicago, and though she wrote out answers to questions which Billy gave her, she refused to speak to him.  She went along without complaint the first time we visited Families Forever in GR.  However, I could see things were not going to go much better when Mr. Ellis asked her to put a pin in a big map to show where she is from, and she refused to do it.  Then she refused to talk to him.  I was about to lose it.  I was so stressed out - in part because we'd hit construction and a detour and I was so afraid we'd be late, but also out of sheer desperation, to be honest.  I picked up a soft, fabric ball to kneed and get my stress out.  I'd laid a second soft ball on the couch between us.  At some point, Anastasia picked up that ball, and turned toward me; I could tell she was going to throw it, and at my face and for some bizarre reason, I threw first; I had some idea that we'd be throwing them simultaneously, but she'd hesitated a moment.  Though it didn't hurt her at all, my throwing the ball probably embarrassed her and it definitely took her control away - she wanted to embarrass me!   She stood up in a fury and stormed out.  I was just devastated, as you can imagine.  Mr. Ellis assured me that it wasn't really my fault; she was just looking for an excuse to do that.  I am sure that's true, but it made me feel like such a complete loser anyway.  Fail! (As Sergei would say.)  At the end of the session, Mr. Ellis walked out to say something pleasant to her, and she saw us coming and closed the windows and locked the doors.

So I've been going now every week for a month, and she won't come.  So, I'm just trying to learn how to work with her, and I think Mr. Ellis is wonderful.  But it sure looks like a long way out of this valley we're in.

I am excited about some upcoming training!!!  I am signed up for a two-day Conscious Discipline workshop in northern Michigan later this month.  Essie just loves this approach! (Not.)  So, I figure if I don't get anything out of it, at least I can make fun of it with her.

And - TA-DA!!!!!!  In August I am signed up for the training with Dan Hughes, himself!  I'm beyond excited about that! 



Monday, July 4, 2011

A FEW SHORT TAKES ON THE FOURTH OF JULY


How many boys does she have?!?! 
A few neighbor boys appeared to assist with set-up. 

  • After three years of hard use (and, admittedly, not putting it away during the winter) our trampoline was shot.  Springs were broken, the net was broken, and when two jumped at once, (or Sergei alone) they'd hit the ground.  So,  a few days ago I bought a new one.  This has been one wonderful purchase.  All of the kids take "breaks" jumping at least several times a day. 

  • Let's just get this over with!  Yes!  The back yard is a PIT.  Well, it didn't used to be.  When we moved in, when Aidan and Lydia were little, there was lawn, in the center at least, violets and other shade plants back around the edges, flowers near the porch - even a couple of rose bushes.  But, over the years the neighbors' trees completely took over and covered 95% of the yard in deep shade.  So the shade plants (or weeds, whatever - green, anyway) took over. I added a few hostas, and impatiens for color.  But one day Ilya pointed to the tiny garden beneath the porch and asked if I wanted it weeded.  Sure!  A couple of hours later, I came home to find the entire back yard bare of every green thing.  Uh.....thanks......   A few times since he has "cleaned it up", last time even removing the larger bushes.  As I never had the heart originally to tell him that barren was not the look I was aiming for, he's tried to ever-"improve" the barrenness.  I now begin to see that those odd, stretches of dirt in front of all the houses and buildings in Russia....were NOT accidents!  Apparently they work for that.  Beats me (especially considering the emphasis on houseplants indoors!)  Craig and I were discussing perhaps putting down bark, or pea stone.....  I'd like something to help prevent all the dirt from coming in the door!
  • If I found a school that offered hours from 10-5 or 11-6, I'd enroll the kids so fast everyone's head would spin. Is it just us? Those are the "natural" hours for kids - at least mine.....At 8:30 or nine they wake up happy and refreshed, rather than sleepy and crabby. And then I'd get to spend lovely time with them when they are fresh in the morning and the after school hours could be so much better structured. When I homeschooled that's pretty much how our days went (at least for me and the homeschooled child) , and it was grand. Craig and I would get up early - 5:30 or 6 and talk over the paper and coffee. He'd leave with the schooled child a bit before 8. Then I'd have an hour or so to clean, do laundry, even sit with my embroidery, before the homeschooler awoke. Then we'd have a lovely breakfast, and we'd putter about before leaving the house between 10:30 and 11. I seem to remember that the first on-line class began around the time we got to the office. Oh, those were the days!  Life was so good.  Somehow getting up early, with everyone feeling miserable and crabby just sets the tone for the day, and so diminishes the joy that might be possible with simply another schedule.

  • Sergei is one of the kindest, most compassionate people I know.  He became acquainted with a boy playing games on-line who lives out in the country, in driving distance from us.  This boy was crippled since having some disease several years ago, and is now in a wheelchair.  Sergei makes an effort to arrange "playdates" (well, OK they are teens - but still, that's what it is) so that his friend has some IRL friend time, too.  He was tired the other night but wanted to go because his friend was expecting him.  My boy is a jewel.  I'd just picked him up from his dog-walking job.  He walks the boxers that belong to one of the Summit teachers; the man's wife had a back injury and can't manage them, and when her husband is teaching out of town at a community college, these big dogs still need exercise.  Well, Sergei came out to the car terribly upset - the out-of-control boyfriend (now in-jail boyfriend) of the daughter of the family had shown up at her graduation party, made a ruckus and ended up attacking brutally the girl's step dad, (Sergei's teacher).  This man is a sweet, gentle (and totally-unprepared-for-physical-combat) scholarly type.   Sergei was really beside himself after seeing the poor man recovering from his injuries (a broken arm among them).  He kept saying he "felt guilty" that he hadn't been there to protect these people.  He would have done it, too.  What can be a better feeling than finding that you admire your children?

  • One of these days I'd like to do a Maxim update.  Except it will be long.  After drama worthy of a made-for-TV-movie, which undoubtedly took years off my life,  he has graduated from high school, praise God, and is really doing better than any of my kids, in many ways. 

  • I suppose I owe people a Lydia update. (I looked at my "stat counter" last week, not having looked a it since installing it.  Most of it didn't make sense, but I did see a couple of searches for "Lydia's husband".) After sharing the news of her marriage a couple of years ago (happy news), I wasn't much in the mood (and after all it was somewhat private) to share the news of her almost instant divorce.  The young man did not turn out to be ready for marriage, but at least he realized it almost immediately. It was practically a non-event.  Lydia was hurt, of course, but re-bounded and considers herself stronger and wiser for the experience..  Now she has a wonderful, serious gentleman friend.  Vance brought Lydia to Cedar Point last summer to meet us all, and he was at Peej's baptism last week.
  • I really dislike holidays.  Is this my rad coming out?  I don't think I have many symptoms, but am now looking for them all the time, of course. Since my mom was seriously ill after I was born, and I was in the hospital nursery for over a month after my birth (and I don't think these were very touchy-feely places in the '50's), surely there was some impact!  Anyway, as I say - I hate holidays.  The only good thing I can take from these upset/dysregulated feelings is knowing that they may help me understand what my Nastia may be feeling sometimes.  I dislike the sense that none of our routines are in place, or even if they are, they shouldn't be!  I feel like something wonderful and special and fun should be happening, and it never is.  Every other family in the world is out having a picnic, playing games, going to the cottage or the lake. We're at home doing nothing.  But, if I try to create "fun" I'll just get upset if/when my family members don't "get with the program".  I can't help but feel that everyone else in the world is surrounded by lots of happy family members, all working together to have a lovely time.  This is nothing new; the same misery followed has followed me through my life.  As a child I so bemoaned having no relatives, no extended family.  It was just the four of us, and only my dad and I seemed to want to "do stuff".  When I got married, and we moved to Michigan things got a bit better.  Between my dad and me, we could usually pull everyone (now there were barely enough people for festivity) into having some fun of some sort....but when he passed away my mom's ability to have fun diminished significantly.... And I have to say that my husband and my mom have similar no-fun qualities.  It is hopeless.  I'm going to try to get some satisfaction out of cleaning out my pantry today.  Poor me.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

RESPITE, MY NON-EXPERIENCE

I've sat back and watched how Christine, so many times, and now Courtney, have adopted children from disruption, and frankly, I'm really, really envious.  How I'd love one more! 

So, a couple of years ago, I joined a couple of yahoo groups for adoptive parents having problems.  I've had this idea for a while. I was an active participant in one of them, in particular, trying to give some suggestions when parents begged for advice on issues that I'd already managed somehow, offering (or so I thought) encouragement, and linking to resources that have helped me.  I admitted that my kids, not even Maxim, ever had some of more disturbing issues.  No fire-starting.  No pee-ing and pooping.  No real-life sexual acting out.  (There were a few unfortunate incidents on the internet.) With Maxim there was a fair share of violence, initially, and periodically since his adoption,  Ilya has been a terror of destruction; we've lived through tantrums galore, and when it comes to theft, my dear M. set us back significantly.  However.....no fire-starting and no peeing/pooping.  God knew what I could handle.  And, I fully believe with Heather Forbes that love never fails.  It is not that affectionate, reciprocated love that we expect with children, it is hard and painful; it may not work quickly, granted, and it may not work the way you expect; it may require significant spiritual growth on the parents' part, and significant suffering, but it never fails entirely. 

In any case, I am an inveterate optimist, and for that reason, I think, somehow the moderator of one of these groups really took a dislike to me.  My optimistic outlook seemed to get under her skin.  Meanwhile, to be quite honest, her negative one did the same to me.  But, I thought I was always able to be gentle, and respectful, so I couldn't quite understand why, on her side she called me "self-satisfied" and "pompous" and all matter of unkind things.  Fortunately, off the board a few people e-mailed me privately to thank me for my hopeful outlook, to tell me a suggestion had been helpful, etc.  I rather wished they'd posted these positive comments publicly because the negative comments really hurt my feelings, to be frank.  I tried to see the truth in what this woman said, and did begin to see that if someone's child presented problems that for whatever reason they were simply not prepared to face, then a positive "you can do it" voice, might indeed be an irritant.  I tried to imagine my kids doing the peeing and pooping and the fire-starting. I don't know what I would have done.  Anyway, she could have said that kindly - and not been rude!

I decided that this was not the right place for me and quit the group - or so I thought.  But, oddly, after some time of not receiving their posts, suddenly a year ago in June, I was receiving them again, and a mom was posting about her Ukrainian son who was ....well, she made it sound as though he were killing her dogs.  And yet, her posts were so convoluted and odd.  I commented in some way, and surprise! She called me.

As we talked, the stories of  "harm to the animals" fell apart.  One dog had eaten a piece of gum with artificial flavoring which is poison to dogs, but she'd seen gum like that discarded on the street when walking another dog, she admitted.  A cat had been fed with the "special" cat food - and not at the regular feeding time!  And, she "really cares about" her animals!  She couldn't have that!  It sounded like this little guy was just being a normal little boy.  Not even a particularly naughty little boy.  After I asked some questions it turned out that he was guilty of things like being told to put his clothes away, and instead putting them under the bed.  Like, playing with the cat, even when told not to.  Like, being upset and running out to the yard and hiding in a tree.  The mom wanted respite.  I spoke to her as softly and compassionately as I could, and was about to ask Craig about to taking her son for the summer, when ....   I hung up from a conversation with her; prayed about the situation; opened up my e-mail - and there was an e-mail from a friend here in the parish who has five daughters.  It struck me that this would be the perfect place for this little boy (M).  And, sure enough, this friend and her husband immediately agreed to having M. come to visit them.  His family brought him up and dropped him off the very next day without any homestudy or other exploration of the situation.  They gave the family something like fifty dollars and disappeared for the rest of the summer.  After a few phone calls from M to his folks, they told my friend that they didn't think the calls were a good idea.  They'd talk to my friend and her husband, though, and once agreed to send his soccer shoes and the fee for soccer camp, but that was it.

Since I'd initially communicated with the mom, one day after we'd had M out swimming with us, I sent her some photos of him having a dandy time, and e-mailed that he was doing great, very happy.  Instead of the relieved response I expected, I got one that sounded just as though the moderator of that group had written it - saying I was a self-satisfied piece of work who apparently thought I could parent better than anyone else in the world.  I was mortified!  It felt like I'd been hit in the stomach.  I was embarrassed and humiliated.  I looked at my e-mail to her again - I'd said nothing to generate a response like that!  I didn't even mention myself, really, just that M enjoyed time with my boys and we enjoyed him; he was doing well with his respite family and I hoped she was having a restful summer.  But, I licked my wounds, and I certainly didn't write to her again! 

While his adoptive family had spoken of respite care for the summer, making the situation permanent had been mentioned.  When September was approaching my friend and her husband had come to the decision that though they really loved this little boy, because they had a daughter the same age, they weren't entirely comfortable with adopting him.  Their year of homeschooling was beginning and they felt maybe it was time for M to go home.  But, his family kept finding excuses not to come for him. Because I'd "placed" him, so to speak, I felt it was on me to find him another home.  We'd spent quite a bit of time with him in the summer but I didn't think there was any way this woman would want him with me! (And  I certainly didn't wish to communicate with her further.)  So our house was not the place; however I thought of another possibility for this little guy.  And it worked out! The pastor at the school where I taught, took him.  And, there too, he fit in beautifully. (He was transferred from one family to the other, without benefit of parents, by the way - just phone and e-mail.)  School began and M was in Zhenya's class.  M did great in that small, safe environment, and in his big rollicking family.  The pastor and his wife not only have eight kids of their own, six still at home, but were hosting two exchange students.  And, their home was a general meeting place for all the secondary students.  Lively, healthy, and cheerful.  M was happy; you could see it in his face.  The Pastor and his wife decided to ask about adopting him.


And suddenly, it was over.  M was whisked away in the course of a couple of days.  The pastor's wife was heartsick, obviously.  Apparently, M had expressed his desire to stay; and somehow that and the pastor's wife assuring his mother that M was wonderful in every way - not problems whatsoever.....was offensive.  I can only suppose that it made "mom" feel inadequate, criticized.   She wrote to the pastor's wife very much in the same way she'd written to me.  If M was happy, apparently, and not a "problem", she found it offensive.

Then this week I heard from my first friend - the one with the daughters who originally did the respite - his family wants to drop off M once again.....and wouldn't my friends really like to keep him?  Well, they do care deeply for him, and their daughters love him, and ask for him;  the parents agonized over it, but their concerns remain.  While I have read that the taboo against sexualized sibling relationships seems to easily slip into place with adopted siblings, I didn't feel like I wanted to urge them to do anything against their instincts.  The pastor's wife was called next (to their surprise) by "mom".  Apparently, these folks are desperate.  But these friends are also rightly fearful of getting involved with these crazy people again.  And, I can understand that fear, too.  When people behave so erratically, and can sound so vindictive - with no cause - there is no telling what they might do the next time.  And M's disappearance last fall was hard on their children. 

Meanwhile, this poor little boy is living in an environment where he is not loved (admittedly).

Frankly, my feelings, and those of these friends have been so wrung out over this that I almost feel I don't have the heart to meddle any more!  I tried to help, was insulted, and now have put two families into the throes of emotional distress over this little boy.  I wonder if more harm was done than good. 

But......the plight of that little guy haunts me.  I do have another family in mind.....who might like to take M.  Do I call them? 


Friday, July 1, 2011

ESTATE SALE

I noticed a sign for an Estate Sale a couple of blocks away, and partly because I'd always wanted to see the inside of the house, I dropped in.  It reminded me of a typical "grandparents" home - meaning nothing like my mom's spiffy, sweet-smelling, tidy and contemporary home at all - but like the homes of my grandparents, perhaps, or their relatives and friends.  Actually, apart from the musty smell, a lot like the homey, quaint "20's feel" I aim for (and fail to obtain) in my own home.   [OK - I just revealed one of my chief weirdnesses; I hope you'll still like me.]
In any case, I wandered through; things I liked were generally priced too high, and with our vacation coming up I needed to reserve all spare funds for that, so I passed up some nice embroidered runners (linens are a weakness), and antique cups and saucers (no more room in my china cabinet, anyway). 

Down in the basement I found this collage of what appears to be senior portraits from around the turn of the last century, and it made me so sad.  All of those bright young people, now all undoubtedly passed away, lives gone, forgotten.  Forgotten.  That's what made me sad.  They had been filled with such anticipation when those photos were taken; someone loved them, cherished them.  Now it was over; they were dead and no one wanted their pictures any more.  "Past hope, past help, past care."  (Which I think is a quote from some Shakespeare, though I couldn't say what.) I was feeling sad and nearly queasy pondering it all, though I had to realize that undoubtedly even the owners of this home - even if they were in their 90's, wouldn't have known these people; they were another generation back, at least.  Then I considered - if these were portraits of my own high school friends, this collection would seem easy to part with.  If my HS portrait were in the group, I'd be all the happier to have it disappeared.  I was clearly getting far too melancholy and romantic about everything! 

Still.....in the kitchen I paused over some china.  I heard someone ask the sale coordinator if the couple had both passed away, "No!  They decided to go live near their kids up north."  Relief.  My eye caught that of another woman browsing over items in the kitchen, and she articulated what I'd been feeling, "That makes me feel better, somehow."  Yes, indeed; I'd been feeling quite a lot like one of the ragpickers out of A Christmas Carol!