Wednesday, September 28, 2011


And What We Found There.....*

For over a year I have tried to find a psychiatrist for Anastasia.  I am fully aware that years of talk therapy are undoubtedly in her future, but to make that happen, and to get her through some of the challenges of the teen years, I also have the feeling that she could use something to help her calm down enough to think.  Something to take the edge off her fear and panic, so that she can see them for what they are.  Something to quiet the urge to put out all the prickles (consisting of nasty expression, snide remarks, cruel comments, aggressive and angry gestures and actions) so that she has some hope of not making every person she meets detest her.  She's realized that she does this to control the situation - if she can MAKE everyone dislike her, then she doesn't have to worry they'll decide to so on their own - and based on who she really is. But she can't control herself.

But finding a psychiatrist to see her amidst all those who don't see children or don't see teens, or aren't taking new patients, took getting the assistance of our pediatrician and waiting this long......

So - you can imagine, can't you, the hope we placed in this?

So far, Anastasia has not gone to school.  I fully intended to enroll her for the K12 on-line school  that was adopted as an option this year in Michigan.  I could write an entire post about that - long story short, we fell between the cracks and she didn't get in.  So, she really needs to be able to be with at least a small group of people.  I kept thinking - when we get some medication, we'll see how she does and then decide on a school setting....


The long-awaited psychiatrist appointment was a complete bust. It was (as my boys would say) LAME. I think we had an intern; he was impossibly young. And he didn't seem to even resonate or connect with the idea of RAD. Everything I said about it seemed to flow over his head like water off a duck's back. Do you know how you can sometimes get a sense of what someone is thinking?  Well, from the first moment I mentioned RAD, I had the distinct sensation that he was finding me laughable.  I think he saw me as a stupid woman who grabbed onto some cockeyed idea, got a little knowledge and is now running around being a blowhard about it.  And, the moment I sensed that's what he thought, that is exactly how I sounded to myself - like a complete ignoramus. 

I also just knew that from that moment he saw Anastasia as simply a "difficult teen" and me an incompetent mother. 

She didn't help things....and it is so sad, because she was trying to.  She is scared of herself.  She desperately wants to feel more stable - to be able to go to school.  So,to that end, she started acting out in a way totally unlike herself..  When sitting in the hall, she texted me every other moment.  She pushed her chair up against the door and made noise.  Now, this is ridiculous.  This is not Anastasia - this is Anastasia's idea of looking crazy.  [How ironic is that?]  Because I was surprised and suddenly dealing with new and totally unexpected behavior, I ignored it, which I am sure looked incompetent.  I expect he figured if I didn't have the good sense to a) not let a child like that have a phone, or b) turn my own phone off, that I was a boob beyond believing.

So, due to her efforts to get help, he was completely distracted from the help she needs and saw only that I have a disrespectful,  attention-seeking, out-of control, teenager.

He suggested parenting classes. WHILE she was sitting next to me. That gave me more credibility!
To my despairing cry that she can't go to school, because being around other people, especially kids, causes her to get so dysregulated she is violent.....(to say nothing about not being able to think or learn).... His response was literally a shrug - "Well the school would deal with it and put her into some specialized program, or the police would be called, and they can help." The POLICE can help???!!!! What universe is he living in? Well, maybe I could put her in a RTC,  he suggested. Like that is a great idea! 

Because of her clearly contrived and planned behaviors, she distracted him from what is really going on.  If only I'd been able to realize this consciously at the time, I would have articulated it, and perhaps save the day ( doubt it, but who knows?)  But, I didn't really understand what was going on until much later.

It would be funny and laughable, except we'd rested so much hope on this!!!! I had fully expected that he'd prescribe some sort of light medication that would reduce her anxiety a bit, and make it feasible for her to go to school. OR, he'd write her a diagnosis, or "official opinion" or something that would make the school district have to send a tutor, or provide on-line school for her.

I did not expect him to happily lay out a future scenario involving expulsion and the police.

I was so upset at that, that I started which point he suggested that maybe she could go live with another family for awhile. Damn the man! Just what Anastasia needed to hear. And, he wasn't even attuned enough to understand that it was HIM who was reducing me to tears, not HER.

Thanks for nothing. Well, something. When I sobbed that we couldn't afford weekly therapy, he must have listened to that. This appointment that was supposed to cost us $245, only required a $15 co-pay.

*Apologies to those who read much of this as a post on the Parenting in SPACE facebook site.  

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Warning: non-literary, newsy post.

We only found out mid-August that Summit was not going to be in operation this year.  On the off-chance, though, I had tried to apply for "Schools-of-Choice" status to all of the local school districts that seemed a good fit for us (i.e. smallish, conservative, good reputation, close)*.  Most were not taking students in one or another of the childrens' grades.  Or, they were not open at all, or I'd just mssed the deadline.  I ended up applying to three of them, and got rejection letters from two (the two nearer my work).  It is an odd phenomenon, but over the years, it has seemed that while our house is in the south part of Lansing, we actually live in East Lansing.  The people we know are over there, the places we shop are is really "home".  Summit was over there.  My mom lives there.

Anyway, those districts (East Lansing, Haslett, Okemos) didn't work out.  The one that did (Holt) is contiguous to us on the south side, and the HS is about fifteen minutes away, just on city streets.  It is a fair district.  It was a relief to get in.  I enrolled everyone (everyone except Zhen - more on that another time).  But, it was actually an exercise in frustration - I wouldn't have just the right papers (for example, they require proof of residence, and wanted a utility bill - well, I pay on-lne, so didn't have that; they wanted tax papers; I coudn't find them.  I thought my Voter's ID card would work.  No.  Or a letter from my insurance company.  No.  And, for some reason Ilya's immunization records were not acceptable....  It was hugely frustrating.....and after several trips down there, the kids were still not enrolled.) 

Meanwhile, Sergei was agitating about Grand Ledge.  Several people he knew from Summit were going to Grand Ledge.  I pointed out that they lived over there!  Grand Ledge is a small town to the west of Lansing - not a suburb (like Holt, where we were enrolling), but actually a different town.  His friends, at least, lived in west Lansing!  But, because of his enthusiasm I did look - and they were not accepting schools-of-choice students.  Case closed.  Or, so I thought.

Then about a week before school started Sergei found out from one of these friends, that Grand Ledge takes tuition students.  Right.  Just what I thought - but the tuition?  One dollar per child, per year.    So, I jumped through all the hoops to enroll them (which actually was much, much easier than enrolling them in Holt.)  So far, so good.  At least as far as school is concerned.  Sergei is very happy.  They had just decided to put together an ESL classroom for Ilya and about four Exchange Students, so that worked out great.  The only downside at this point is the time - when I take them it is an hour or more from our door to my office - and the gas - about $10 a day.....

However, everyone is hugely friendly; the teachers seem to communicate pretty well.  The one exception was a requirement for me to sign a sheet that I'd read the syllabus for a computer class.  I said to Sergei, "Where is the syllabus?"  He said, "I didn't get one."  I wrote on the form that I promised to read the syllabus when I got it (he was mortified).  But, he came back with a message - Oh, that's OK; she didn't hand out a syllabus!  What?  She also doesn't seem to know much about computers.  I bet this was a last-moment assignment for this poor woman.  Anyway, that's the only glitch so far.  Sergei and Ilya accounted for. Wish us luck.

More on Anastasia and Zhenya to come.

*Lansing Public Schools, our district, has abysmal test scores, and the ambiance in the schools is not what I'd hope for.  You would also think - if you either try to contact them by phone, or use their website - that they deliberately set out to discourage enrollment.  It is a weird place.   But, due to a fluke, Lydia did attend her final semester at Eastern High School - and ended up getting her diploma from there!.  It is nothing I'd turn to, however, unless desperate....

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


One morning a couple of weeks ago I was awakened in the pitch dark by Ilya "Mom!  Come downstairs!  Mom!"  So, I hobbled out of bed and down the stairs bleary-eyed at 3 a.m. 

This is what greeted me - and Ilya crying out, "Look what I found!"  This poor little "teenaged" dog was emaciated, and had dreadful imprints around her neck and legs from either rope or a haltar of some sort.  Her hair had been worn away and discolored and under one leg there was a sore where the rope had been too tight.  On the top of her head was a round open sore.  The parish secretary took one look at it later and said, "Fr. Joe's dog had that same thing when he adopted her."  "What is it?" I asked.  "Cigarette burns."

Ilya, who wanders the neighborhood, always aware of his surroundings, knew where she was from. A "bad" house.  Of course I suggested that we needed to return her, thinking that I didn't want some guy (from  a "bad" house) showing up in a drug-enhanced rage, accusing us of stealing his dog.  But, Ilya assured me that the house was empty and had been for some time.  That fact, and the obvious signs of being tied up made me wonder later if Ilya hadn't perhaps gone on a middle-of-the-night rescue operation.  If he did, I'm proud of him.

Everyone (including Craig) took one look at her and it was understood that the Lord had provided us with a dog.  Of course, I fell in love with this needy little face.  And - I've never imagined a dog could be so appreciative!  She so obviously tries to show us how glad she is that we are good to her.  It is amazingly touching.  Her eyes express such gratitude. 

Now, taking her on is no small thing.  Being tied outside for her life, she is not potty trained.  She chews.  She is another pit bull, further besmirching our reputation with passers-by.  She eats like a horse.  I've always contended, and it is no joke, that taking on a puppy is far, far harder than taking on a child.  I'd more gladly take on another child, to be absolutely honest.  But, "Posey"* as I think of her, seems to be very fond of me.  Maybe everyone else thinks she is especially fond of them, too.....but that does make it easier for me to get up to a mess many mornings. 

Her "puppiness" is endearing, too.  The desire she has for cuddling - especially at night (though I wish very much she was about a quarter of her size, and wonder why God doesn't bless us with someone's neglected pocket poodle for a change....  This is our second pit bull "rescue" - Rosie came to us under similar circumstances.) 

Both of these dogs are sweethearts.  They are ernest and try so hard to please, and to figure out what we're telling them,  But (shhh, don't say this out loud) Posey is a lot smarter than Rosie.   One big reason I was glad to keep Posey is because she will walk on a leash!  One would expect this to be a basic dog skill, but , perhaps because of earlier abuse, Rosie absolutely will not walk on a leash.  I totally gave up trying.....even with the help of a dog trainer, we couldn't manage it.  Even the trainer was flumoxed.  I am sure the trainer would have eventually mastered, it, but I didn't have the determination.  Taking Rosie out for a walk is like setting out to have a wrestling match with the leash; ridiculous and embarrassing!  Posey just trots along happily beside you, not even pulling or being in any way annoying.  It is lovely.  Posey has other basic dog skills down, too.  She can play fetch.  Rosie can "go get:" but once gotten she won't give whatever it is up again - end of game.  Posey can catch balls.  I think Rosie does not have the eyesight for this basicdog/human interaction.    So, Posey plays with us - and she also plays with Rosie, which is a delight to see.  Rosie loves it and - well, she just has a big smile on her face when Posey is around.  Dogs do smile - especially these two.  A lot.

And that is worth cleaning up a lot of stuff. I suppose adopting another pit bull is a good deed in rotten world, and worth it.  Most of the time.

* The kids think her name is "Lucy", but I am not buying it.

Friday, September 16, 2011

SO SAD.....

I took this photograph of my classroom in Summit in August sometime.  I went in [finally!] to sort things out and clean up from the last school year....hoping very much that I might be back.....

But, to my sorrow, the school had to close. 

I had so many happy hours in this room.  I adored my students and I think of them often, with great fondness.  I know where some of them are, but wonder about others. 

The school had "issues" to say the least.  But my middle schoolers got a good education from me, I think.  It was too much, and overwhelming to have taught three classes there while keeping up all the work at my real job.  I undoubtedly didn't do nearly as well with the classes as I would have done had I had more time to devote to it.....I didn't communicate with parents enough, or get papers back quickly enough.  But, I think I brought out the best in each of my students.  I helped them see how they were smart.....and to my mind they were all amazing kids.

I think that is one reason I like teaching.  There is some magic that occurs, wherein I am infused with love for each of my students.  Suddenly, I am their champion, I see all their greatness, I am filled with warmth and fondness.  It is such a great feeling, and it only grows throughout the year.  It is not unlike becoming a parent, and the care of all those souls gives life such richness and meaning. 

So, there is an empy spot where my kiddos were.  And those bright ideas for projects, new ways to practice a skill, new ways to organize, new teaching strategies that leap into my mind - I have to let them all float away, wasted.  There's not a thing I can do with them.

I love the work that I do.  I love being a mom.  There are only so many hours in the day.  That's the reasonable voice talking.  I do NOT need to be teaching English, let alone World History.  But, something in me stamps its feet and cries - "But I WANT to!!!!!!"

Monday, September 12, 2011


I spent the last couple of weeks, off and on (mostly off, to be honest) trying to "fix" my blog so it wouldn't just go to "blogrolling".

Well - I'm proud of myself!  I think I did it.

Only a couple of weeks!  And the "interface" on blogger is changed.  This is better?  Why???

Now, if only I had time to write..... 

Religious Education needs all of my attention.

I have two boys in Grand Ledge High School - "only" 20 minutes from home, but probably 40 from my office, and then Zhen is going to Mrs. Allen's school in Old Town....20 minutes from Grand Ledge.  All in all it is an hour commute for me.  Craig was supposed to help, obviously, but he's in the hospital with blood sugar adjustment issues.  Good luck to me. 

Anastasia is supposed to be doing a K12 on-line program, but getting her enrolled in it is like trying to climb Everest.  Quite the challenge.

Lydia is coming to visit in a couple of weeks, with Vance!  I thought it would be fun if she surprised her godmother at her godsister's wedding....I just wish it wasn't the night before Religious Education classes begin.....  I'm really scared about getting everything done.

One cute thing.  I took Ilya to the Y tonight, and he said he really liked "that Russian heating thing" (better known as the sauna).

Yes; joined the Y, but no time to actually go to the Y.  While he was at the Y, I ran back to work to return some calls.

Now it is bed time; Zhen wants me to read aloud. 

If I haven't lost all my readers....well, probaby even if I have, I'll be back to it soon. 

Reading this I note that, whatever else is going on, I seem to have lost the ability to write.