Monday, October 31, 2011

To Mother You

I honestly cannot imagine how I never heard this song.  It is the lullaby for the older adopted child.   Don't watch the video, but play the music (below) and read the lyrics.  


This is to mother you
To comfort you and get you through
Through when your nights are lonely
Through when your dreams are only blue
This is to mother you

This is to be with you
To hold you and to kiss you too
For when you need me I will do
What your own mother didn't do
Which is to mother you

All the pain that you have known
All the violence in your soul
All the 'wrong' things you have done
I will take from you when I come
All mistakes made in distress
All your unhappiness
I will take away with my kiss, yes
I will give you tenderness

For child I am so glad I've found you
Although my arms have always been around you
Sweet bird although you did not see me
I saw you

And I'm here to mother you
To comfort you and get you through
Through when your nights are lonely
Through when your dreams are only blue
This is to mother you


Saturday, October 29, 2011

AN INTERESTING MEAL

Earlier this week I made a meatloaf.  I have been trying to plan ahead and make simple, healthy meals.  For some reason I hadn't made a meat loaf since Ilya has been with us.

Whether it was the beans from the night before, or some other reason, both Ilya and I had some indigestion issues.  He confided in me his concerns about my cooking:  "Mom, I don't think you should cook that wolf any more."

Apparently "meatloaf" and "meat - wolf" sound similar.

I think people need to take any  comments about my cooking with a grain of salt!  No bush meat here, no matter what the kids tell you!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

TRAUMA MAMA

Trauma Mama. 

At first this nomenclature struck me as odd.  But I understand it now. 

Why would you identify yourself with this most difficult part of your life? 

Because you want to find others like yourself.....people who will understand, not judge, know the "lingo".  (Funny that most of you - certainly you beloved friends who commented so supportively on my last post - could identify "Dan Hughes" or "Heather Forbes" or "Nancy Thomas" - while the psychiatrist looked at me blankly.)  We are specialists, with our area of expertise, and we can and need to communicate with one another about issues that no one around us can understand.  Especially because it is those issues that seem to sometimes cut us off from others.

But, why would you be flip about something that threatens not only the soul and future of a person you love, but everyone in your family, the family unit itself, your financial stability, your relationships, your worklife, even your marriage and your sanity?  Because laughter and lightness is what keeps you going, that's why!  If I couldn't distance myself enough to see the funny side of all of this, to be a tiny bit disrespectful of it all -  I might go crazy. In truth.  Or do something rash.

I'm with Heather Forbes, "Love Never Fails" - but I think it needs the able assistance of humor.  Here's a thesis or dissertation topic for someone --  "Correlation Between Parental Sense of Humor on the Rate of Adoption Disruption Among Attachment Disordered Children".

But, along with humor I think you have to have a circle of people who understand.  Thank heaven, thank heaven for you. 

A little update:

As things have gotten worse and worse with Miss A. I got more and more determined to get some improvement going.  It finally came to my attention that Anastasia will not talk to men.  Hence the failures with Billy Kaplan, brilliant Chicago therapist, and Kurt Ellis, gifted attachment therapist in Grand Rapids.  Both were amazing, and both helped me, but she wouldn't give them the time of day.  So Kurt suggested the Attachment Coalition in Livonia.  All women.  Wonders have not ceased since I called them.  The one who specializes in teens just got a couple of openings.  Craig and I go see her tomorrow.  And she agreed that it sounded as though Anastasia needed some medication and she recommended a female psychiatrist.  Remember the months I waited before being able to see the last psychiatrist?  Well, this one had a cancellation today.  It took some physical restraints and intercession of the Saints, but we did get her in the car and to this woman, and though she promised she wouldn't talk, she did talk. 

We have a diagnosis - PTSD - and we have meds, the prescription being filled at the pharmacy even as I write this.  So, I am feeling optimistic. 

Granted, the finances have taken quite a hit, since our stellar insurance plan does not cover mental health, but barely (only a psychiatrist and then only 50%).  But, it's worth it!  I've already tried the dried bean approach to meal planning.  It is not going all that well, in fact even I am having some gastrointestinal issues, but I am sure we'll get used to it.  And the entire family will benefit from improvement in its most troubled member.  As Anastasia herself put it so aptly, "If I'm not happy, nobody's happy."  Too true.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

IN THE MUCK

You never stand so tall as when you stoop to help a child.


So why do I feel as though I have been groveling in the mud?

A couple of weeks ago I experienced a humiliation so rich and deep that it's taken me this long to show my head.

Why not write about other stuff?  Why not just never mention it?

One can control pretty well what you reveal on a blog.  But that doesn't work for me, because this blog is all about being honest, and sharing things that I might not be able to share with people I know from church or whatever. I admit, there are huge bits I've failed to tell you - but only for lack of time.  Not to hide anything.  Not anything that is reflective of who I am, who I appear to others, what matters to me.


That little quote at the top is part of the "signature" on our Russian teacher's e-mail - well, hers and her husband's.  A couple of weeks ago I got an e-mail from them, for all intents and purposes telling me that my family was not welcome at the fundraiser they were giving for a family in their church.

This family is going to adopt Oleg.   I am so, so happy for him and them.  I'm glad to have sewn a stitch or two in that beautiful tapestry.  But, whenever I think of it, I expect I'll always feel a sinking shame due to this subsequent event.  Perhaps it is good for me to experience shame, as Anastasia feels so much of it.



So, what precipitated this? At the last "Russian Culture" event, Yolka (the Christmas party) all the boys planned to come.  But Sergei was bringing his girlfriend as well, and though Rebecca got as far as our house, she got ill at the last minute and Sergei had to stay with her.  Ilya and Zhenya came, but in the end, without Sergei there to give him strength, Ilya couldn't bring himself to enter the hall.  Zhen was too shy (and loyal) to come in without Ilya.....so they sat in the vestibule.  I kept going out to encourage them, but whenever I went out there, Ilya just sat there and wouldn't budge.  Obviously it looked anti-social and defiant. But it isn't. Ilya has such a desire to go places,but sometimes a fear just freezes him at the last minute.  He is almost agoraphobic.  I did everything I could to get them to come in and eat, at least.  But the room full of people was too much for him.  Nothing could move Ilya, and Zhen was not coming in alone.  If I hadn't brought Anastasia, with her friend, I would have just put them all in the car and left.  But I was stuck.

I didn't realize this, but at some point Ilya must have smoked. I cannot really believe he smoked in the building, but perhaps outside....and there was probably no facility for it.  The Russian teacher's husband suggested that he smoked all night and made a big mess. But I have a hard time believing that because every time I stepped out to check on them (frequently) - there he sat.  Among all those Russian men, I wouldn't be surprised if a few went out to smoke.  Apparently, there was some mess somewhere - and Ilya may have made at least part it.  Or, even all of it. 

Result: they did not want my "boys" at last night's event. Moreover - they "didn't need" anyone to see Anastasia being rude to adults.

They weren't referring to any behavior of hers at the Yolka, where she was very appropriate but they did see her behave badly at the park when we had Russian School picnics this summer. I won't deny it.  In fact, I  described it here.  And, looking back at that post, I can see that no one responded much, so perhaps that is because all of you recoiled in horror at her behavior as well.

I understand completely why these people don't want my children at their fundraiser. I do. They want only appealing, well-behaved and talented Russian children. Of course!  And maybe that is why I feel so absolutely low about it all. 

My beloved children and are I socially unacceptable.
I am pretty sure they blame me, or the directive would have been delivered with a little bit of sorrow and compassion.

I cannot begin to tell you how humiliating and painful it is.  And, I feel so, so sorry for Zhenya and Sergei who are the loveliest people, the most well-behaved children, and are yet tarred with the same brush. 

If I could feel "wronged" it would be different.  But, I can't.  They weren't wronging me. They called it as they see it. If I didn't know the truth of the situation - I'd agree with them!  If all I had to go on was appearance,  I'd think that Mrs. Kitching was a pretty poor mother and her kids would have been better off in Russia!


You don't necessarily stand tall when you stoop to help a child.  You sometimes get dragged right down into the dirt, if the child's problems are stronger than your ability to help them.

Oh, I am still hopeful.  New counselor, new plan and all.

But for now I feel sad - both because I've lost this group of in-real-life friends and maybe more because I have a new vision of how I appear to people. 

I can't fathom facing this group again, the adoptive parents with healthy children.  I'll just slink away in shame.  I felt like doing that here as well.  Somehow I guess it is only fair and honest to let you all know that the people who know me and my children in person, wish they didn't.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

SCHOOL CONFERENCES

Last night I went to conferences at Grand Ledge High School.  Was I ever impressed!  I have gone to conferences at three other high schools over the years and a couple of middle schools, and I am once again confirmed that the gas money [and time] is well spent. 

Ten teachers, two boys who are not stellar students.  Ten positive experiences.  Every single teacher I spoke with made me feel that my boys were special.  I could say, "I'm Sergei's mom," (even when I popped over to a teacher's table simply because there was an opening, not because it was my scheduled time) - never was there a flicker of non-recognition, never a look of confusion for a moment.  And, immediately, and quite naturally, each teacher would begin to tell me what they liked about my boys.  Now, I know you are thinking - they recognize the Russian name...  Maybe.  But, I can assure you that would not have been enough at East Lansing High School, or Eastern High School in Lansing.  I suppose it is not the teachers' fault so much as it just being too large a school.  I guess. 

I'll never forget the first high school conference I attended, when Aidan began at East Lansing.  I had prepared my list of questions for the teachers - Did he participate?  Did he seem comfortable with the other students?  Does it seem he has the appropriate background (remember he'd first been at Montessori, then homeschooled).  Was he mastering the material?  Did he appear to be interested and motivated?  Well, that little list was soon crumpled and tossed in the trash can.   The only way any of his teachers could begin to get an image of who he was, was to match his name to their seating chart.  One teacher continued to refer to "Adam" .  OK.  No wonder the "conference," such as it was, focused on their little print-outs of grades and assignments turned in.  It was like thinking you were going to walk into a greenhouse and instead being transported to a cold, dark basement.  And, for the four years Aidan was at East Lansing, and the one year Lydia was there, that feeling continued.  When he got older, in his junior and senior year, he was "taken up" by one of the math teachers who encouraged him to be on the lacrosse team.  So, he was no longer anonymous there.  But that was about it.  A few teachers over the years recognized him as the one who sat in the front and was so polite.  Aidan had all the hallmarks of being a first-rate student without actually being one, which confused them mightily.  They rememberd him for that A+ demeanor, and then were confused (even to the point of admitting they might have lost certain papers or assignments) when they saw some blank spots in the gradebook. 

None of that last night.  And even more impressive was the attitude that permeated the place:  we are here to do whatever it takes to make sure every child succeeds.  Every greeting, every expression said "I am glad to meet you; you and your child are important."   And there was not one teacher there who I could easily see walking out of the building complaining about having had to spend their night at conferences.  Every teacher seemed to love teaching and love their students and expect a positive, wholesome partnership with parents.  Honestly, as parents don't we always go to conferences thinking "I want to find teachers that have faith in my kids."  Well, in this case I really felt like the teachers were hoping the same thing from the parents!  It was lovely.  And it was real.  It was not printed on posters on the wall.  It was imprinted in their expressions and in everything they said.

And so honest!  I couldn't help but adore the teacher who admitted that she was kicking herself for making Ilya get up in front of the class to do a speech on Thurgood Marshall, not thinking in time that she should have offered him the chance to do it just for her.  And, her delight that he did it, and did it pretty well, was so evident.  She even related details about the classroom atmosphere as he gave it, how encouraging the other students were, how one girl hid her face because she was so embarrassed and worried for him and didn't want him to see it.  This is what I want from a conference! 

Now, mind you - this was not because my boys are stellar students.  Sergei has a big, fat F in Geometry right now.  He must, by some alchemy, have inherited the Kitching math aptitude.  But the teacher was not interested in shaming me, or being disappointed in him - only in finding ways that he might actually learn the stuff and feel good about himself.

And, this is why - I am pretty sure - Sergei said to me the other day "You know mom, I think my self-esteem is going up."  I think it is, too. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

THE ENGLISH BOOK

I have a new career in mind.  I want to write English books for Koreans, because I have to tell you, some of the ones they have are so bad they are laughable.  When teaching the adults not a day goes by that I have to "correct" the textbook. 

Today I had to tell my student to just skip part of the lesson.  It was nonsense.  Usully I teach adults but this student is a ten year old girl. Child or not, she is smart enough to wonder about this idea:

Heavy rains kill many people.
Storms destroy our homes.
When we keep nature clean
it gives us many good things.

Huh? 

I had to have her take out a pencil and cross out part of this sentence:

We eat apples, bananas and vegetables of nature.

And lest we think such odd sentences are in an effort to clearly define the words, I'll share a definition or two from the previous page in this chapter called "Nature Force" (a typical American concept). 

made from fibers of a particular plant (I'm sure we'd all know right off - cotton!)
a piece of cloth of unique design (that is how I always think of a flag)

Anyway, I just have to share today's lesson, as it is so inspirational:

We live with many animals in this world.
Some kill elephants for ivory.
They also kill foxes for fur.
People destroy forests and make new cities there.
Many animals lose their homes.
We make a peaceful world for animals.
We are good friends with animals.

Right.  Let's discuss that, shall we!

Monday, October 10, 2011

OVER THE YEARS, ANASTASIA


Here's my girl, from first grade until last year......

The first two years she was a bit of a tantrum-thrower, regular basis, but a fun girl most of the time.  She was vastly prettier than she appears in these photos.

Then for two years an occasional tantrum-thrower..  October (birthday) through mid-January (holidays) was hard...but she was full of sweetness, interest, loved her Russian friends, loved her dolls, loved to draw and craft.

Fifth grade, a diligent student, an affectionate, dear girl, only occasionally dysregulated.

Sixth grade, suddenly the weather changed.  She feels compelled to grow up, but she doesn't want to.  She feels desperate for a boyfriend, who she doesn't want to be with in person. She thinks about sex all the time, and hates herself for it.  She is a ball of shame inside, defiant outside. She is troubled by compulsions (to mentally trace words with her teeth, to look at herself in mirrors); she is overflowing with stress and anger, except at school.  At school things are peaceful and safe....until December...when Mrs. Allen left.  And the rest is history.

What photo would we, will we get this year? 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

WHEREIN I RATTLE ON WITH CRAZY TALK

Sergei is doing some Physical Therapy now to assist with some back pain.  One day last week, after a stressful day at work, then running out to get Zhen from school, taking him home, picking up Sergei and racing to PT (you get the idea) I found myself feeling very self-conscious.  In my little office all day, I'd been unpacking and organizing textbooks, and not seen many people.  But, now in the public eye, I realized that my clothes were a bad mix of fall and summer (should I really be wearing sandals with this skirt?) Worse yet, it was suddenly really cold and for some reason that morning I'd been unable to find anything like a heavy sweater or light jacket....and as it was absolutely time to go! I'd grabbed my dad's old quilted jacket (why was it even on the coat rack?) as I raced out the door to get kids from school. My office is quite chilly, so I had to take something. And then , worst of all was my hair - working against the clock to get the Religous Ed program up, with no time for the hairdresser, I was only too aware that a color and cut had been due at least a week previous.  Basically, I felt a complete mess, and as I so often do, was desperately hoping I wouldn't see anyone I knew.  Since I work for a big parish and have children of all ages, going out and not seeing someone I know in East Lansing, is a rarity.

At that point, a couple swept past me, chattering happily.  The man was looking down into his wife's face with warm brown eyes full of laughter; she was holding their baby - a child who looked to be about 18 months old - and she was in the midst of telling him something in a foreign language - my guess was that it was about something the child had done - there was so much affection both in his look and her voice.  This was the university Clinic, so there was no surprise at all in hearing the foreign language - but this was the first time I'd ever actually seen someone close up, in a burka.  And in every way, at that moment, my preconceived ideas about it were shattered.

First thought - I always presumed a woman would wear a burka because it was required by her cold, demanding husband who considered her his property. I even imagined a much older man, not this attractive and friendly young guy.  And, clearly this husband and wife had a close and warm relationship.

Second thought - A burka would make you feel conspicuous, at least in this country.  NO!  At that moment, actually even before I began to notice the couple's relationship - what I thought was how relieved I'd be if I could be wearing a burka!  I envied her with every fiber.  To just be there.  Not worrying about how you look, being judged "unattractive".  No guilty anxiety about not "keeping up appearances", of being found "odd looking" "inappropriate" "disheveled".  Everything in me cried out "Give me the burka!"

Third thought - in this country women are always judged by appearance.  Hair, figure, clothing, shoes, makeup.  I'm really sick of it.  Wouldn't it be interesting to be judged by what you say and do??? 

And when I saw how happy this woman was, evident by her quick and light step, and her smiling eyes - well, I envied that, too.  Her husband came with her to the doctor's office!  She didn't even have to drive!!!!!

And, what about driving?  That seems like quite a mixed blessing to me.  There was one week, when I was driving so much that my legs ached miserably and non-stop from sitting in the car with no time for even a quick walk. (Well, that week, if I wasn't in my car I was at my desk revising lesson plans.  Sometimes I'd kneel at my desk, or stand, hunched over, just to change the quality of the ache a bit.)  Those women in Saudi Arabia might have a chat with me before they agitate for this "privilege" too loudly, or like me, they'll be running themselves ragged every waking moment, a slave to their automobiles and all the possibilities they allow. 

In a conversation about the Sabbath a few weeks ago, I actually found myself arguing that housework certainly should be appropriate activity for the sabbath, if it was the thing you never got to do, and longed to do.  So, you can see where I'm at - actually longing for a Sabbath of housework, since my Sabbath (and every other day the last few weeks) is filled with churchwork and driving, and an infinite number of trips to the store.  I was at the store last night at bedtime...and I am just hearing Craig, at 6:45 a.m. say "There is no milk!"  Criminey.  There was milk left last night after dinner!  

Where is the milkman when you need him?  They have milk delivery in England!  And in Saudi Arabia the women have their day free to go to the market.  What the heck is with this country?

Monday, October 3, 2011

A MEAL OF LEFTOVERS

I've a few photos in my camera that I took with the idea of perhaps using them in a post.  I figure I'll throw them in here and catch up a bit.

We went to Cedar Point on the last possible day before school started.  Nothing like cutting it close, but I like to use it as something to hang over their heads a motivator during the summer.  This was not the best trip.  I had told  myself previously that I wouldn't go again without a young child to go on rides with.  I wish I'd listened to myself!....or at least made Craig come.  I really do not like roller coasters.  They do nothing for me - but that is THE reason the boys go and Nastia is fine with it. 

Last year Lydia was with us, and we all went around together, and while I was mainly the pack animal, I did enjoy watching the kids go on rides and I went on two or three myself. This photo is of Zhenya and Anastasia trying to convince me that they should be allowed to go off on their own, as the big boys had already
done. I let them. But then I felt very sorry for myself. I noticed other likewise, child-less parents but they had been smart enough to come along with their spouse for the most part, or a friend. Only one or two other pathetic and lonely-looking souls were to be seen. (You can tell I spent the day people-watching.) I felt silly going on any rides alone.  I did meet up withe these two at a couple of points - first, to share an elephant ear, and second to ride the ferris wheel. 

Another year, I think I'll wander the city, or spend the day somewhere with a book.  That was one heck of a lot of money to pay for a day of people-watching and one ferris wheel ride.

I snapped this photo of Ilya sitting on the back porch (OK - back stoop) just to prove he is still alive, I guess.  He has not gotten past his hatred of having his photo taken.  I don't get that.

I see Rosie's tail.  He was probably hoping to catch Posey using the back yard for the right purposes. 
This silly photo is just to remind me of this little "thing" Craig and I do.  Rather than spend money on a movie, or go out to eat for a "date night" we go up and sit on the bed and watch a 48 Hours Mystery on my laptop.


The comforter, by the way, is not really my taste....but I brought it back from Ivanovo, and anything from Ivanovo is beautiful to me.




Lydia's godmother's daughter got married last weekend, and Lydia came on a flying visit to attend the wedding with me.  She brought her wonderful gentleman friend, Vance, as well.  Vance is a darling.  He is so nice, so good to Lydia and to all of us.   While Lydia and I were at the wedding he led the boys in a "landscaping" and "home-improvement" session - trimming hedges, and fixing the knob on the side door.  What a dear.  Then he bought the boys a new x-box game and played with them.   The night before Lydia treated all of us to dinner at Bravo. 





The wedding was in St. Joseph, MI.  We had a couple of hours between the wedding and the reception and among other things we rode this really cool carousel which was down by the beach in the same building as the reception hall. 






The timing of the wedding was not so good for me, because it was the night before the big opening of Religious Education classes.  I had to spend the entire day from 5 a.m. on at church.  Lydia took the kids to Uncle Johns, our local cider mill.  The weather was perfect for it.






Anastasia did have some struggles with this visit.  New people, emotions about family; Lydia having to leave....thus causing abandonment feelings to come to the surface...yes; it was a challenge, but Anastasia worked hard to control herself, and it wasn't the catastrophe it might have been.  It was touch and go there for a moment, though.  Lydia was really a good sister through it all.


Saturday, October 1, 2011

ZHEN'S SCHOOL

This is Zhenya waiting to be let into school.  He is attending Grace Christian School, which is really a one-room school taught by Anastasia's wonderful teacher from last year (and the year before), Mrs. Allen....who was summarily dismissed from Summit because the word got out that she and her husband were  planning this enterprise. (It is actuallly a two-room school because he teaches HS on one side of a divider).

Mrs. Allen is, without a doubt, the best teacher I have ever run across.  She is so focused on the children's individual progress and learning.  There is no wasted time, no homework assignments that make you pull out your hair because they suck up family time with busywork.  She understands teaching's "best practices" and follows them.  Homework is corrections.  Research has shown again and again that one of the best ways to learn is to correct your mistakes.  She also requires tons of reading.  This is amazing, but I already see distinct improvement in Zhenya's reading and spelling.  Plus, she knows the secrets of motivation!  I've never, ever, seen Zhenya make the effort to study without coersion from me.  On his own he studies for Mrs. Allen.    One interesting feature of this school is that it is 90% AA.  Zhen is one of two white children in the elementary, but I kind of like that.  These are the nicest families!  Sometimes we've not seen the best aspects of the AA "community" on our end of town.

Lest Mrs. Allen's classes sound so focused on academic progress that there is no experiential learning, let me tell you that she (and Mr. Allen) excell in that,as well.  The second week of school they took the entire student body on an overnight camping trip to the Sand Dunes.  Long-time readers will recall my discomfiture at Anastasia's class going to Washington DC, something she was not ready for.  But, this year the group is going to go to Florida and Disney World, and that is just the perfect thing for Zhenya!  She has the trip threading throughout the year as a focus for learning and a motivator.  (They earn "Bonus Bucks" in many ways - behavior, academics and more - which help them "earn" their trip.)  There will undoubtedly be some real fund-raising going on, too.....

The church is in a part of town called "Old Town" which is becoming a sort of "artists'" area.  It is on the third floor of a church which was previously First Presbyterian, and now "The Epicenter of Worship".  I have to say that name makes me giggle inside; I guess it is just the contrast between it's drama and the solemn names of the churches I've attended - St. Thomas Aquinas, Resurrection, Our Lady of Sorrows, etc.  A few times I've chatted with people at the church and I have never run across kinder, warmer - yes, more Christian people.  For example, I came in with a box of books one day and before I could even focus on how much I did not want to carry it up three flights, a zealous young man came down from a ladder where he was painting, grabbed the box from me and headed up to the classroom.  What kindness!  If that happened at my church, I really think that the onlooker would be friendly, "Got a heavy load there, eh?" or even, "Why don't the custodians do that?"  but I can't see too many folks helping.

The surrounding area is very mixed; they can actually walk to the Capital. This week they walked to the Historical Museum for the afternoon. The "mixed" aspect is why the doors are always kept locked. And since the school is on the third floor, there is usually a wait before someone comes down to let the kids in. I feel like volunteering to watch the door from 7:30 - 8 and let everyone in.  Someone needs to.