Tuesday, November 29, 2011

SICK FOR A WEEK - AND, IT'S NOT ABOUT MC DONALDS

Yes; weekend before last I began to cough a bit, then Monday night I was really feeling pretty puny.  That was about the last of me for a week.  Tuesday and Wednesday I did nothing but cough and sleep.  Same on Thursday.  We'd generously been given a pre-cooked Thanksgiving meal, but I was so sick, and Sergei was also so sick, that no one ate Thanksgiving dinner.  On Wednesday Sergei had developed a rash - all over his body and so bad that his face and lips were swollen.  He also felt terrible with chills and fever.

On Friday, Craig put both of us in the car and took us to Redi-Care.  I clearly had bronchitis.  They'd little clue what was wrong with Sergei, but gave us both prescriptions and sent us home.  I hoped for quick relief and didn't get it.  Now - four days later, I feel a bit better.  The coughing isn't much relieved, but at least I don't ache all over, and I can think.  I'm weak....but not so much as I was.  Happily Sergei is also recovered from the mystery disease.

It was fortunate that I was sick over a vacation, as there was no panic and anxiety over work.  Craig was here to take care of the kids, though I think that meant McDonalds nearly every day, to my horror.

Even downplayed, Thanksgiving was a big trigger for Anastasia.  I got in about ten intense minutes with her a day.  One day it was her bouncing on the bed above me and telling me she hoped I'd die.  I didn't care; it was all like a dream to me at the time.  Mama being sick is a trigger, too.  Someone else getting attention; her not getting it from mama. 

Saturday I said, "I think Thanksgiving is a hard time for you."  Her response in her most sarcastic tone - "Ya think?   I'm supposed to be thankful?!  For WHAT!  I didn't want to be adopted!  I want my real family!"  Oh, yes - I was sitting downstairs watching TV with her.  The non-stop "happy-family" commericals and imagery must be a hideous abrasive for so many people.

Sunday night I was feeling enough better to cope with a particularly intense exchange.  I was actually well enough to insist that Craig go to the store and get something else [other than McDonalds] for dinner (despite the fact that perversely, I really craved the half of a fish sandwich that I'd had for a couple of nights straight).  He took "orders" for various sorts of ramen, etc.  Anastasia ignored it all.  He left; he returned; boys ate.  She said, "I want something to eat.  I want McDonalds."   I explained, reasonably, that we weren't having McDonalds again.  Things accellerated.  She was not happy.  "You don't feed me!  I want food I want McDonalds!"   This build-up took longer than I can really describe in quotations, because I was  [stupidly] responding with logic and reason to the things she said....or only scratching a tiny bit below the surface, with the ever-futile "Why are you acting like this!?"  Once she threw a book across the room.  Once she stood over me menacingly.  Once she demanded the scissors (which I had hidden), and finding them, began a little foray into cutting (which I pretty much ignored).  Maybe because it was getting physical and maybe because I realized I didn't have enough energy to expend, I finally made a solid leap into therapeutic parenting the last time she yelled, "I want McDonald's", I yelled back (or at least responded with similar intensity), "You know you can't have McDonalds!  But I don't think that's it!  What else is it that you want but can't have!?!"  She didn't miss a beat, but continued as if this had been the subject all the time, "I want my real parents!  I don't want to be adopted!  I was a quiet little girl in Russia!  I was nice!  Why did you adopt me!" and the real conversation began..... (followed, an hour or so later, by Anastasia, without ado, getting up and making herself a little meal from food in the kitchen).

I heard her, and let her know that I understand how painful it must be for her.  Same conversation we have almost daily, slightly different words, another little coloration, maybe a bit more understanding of some little piece of it.  Poor little dear. 

But, it had me thinking.  As I often do.  Sometimes I wonder that more parents don't kill and injure their children.   The uninitiated parent.  The adoptive parent expecting a thankful child, or at the very least, an obedient and respectful child.  A step-parent coming into a situation with a hurt and damaged child......  A foster parent thinking "This kid should be grateful!"  It is so darned easy to look at the surface. I think therapeutic parenting all.the.time!  I am not unintelligent; I have imagiation. Yet, Sunday night, even I initially saw:  a little brat who wants McDonalds, and when told she can't have it, becomes a defiant, violent little jerk.

Anastasia didn't know it wasn't about McDonald's either.  She was just expressing a huge, deep feeling that slid into the most "convenent" package  to deliver itself.  If you think it is about McDonalds, of course you will scoff and scorn and get angry and punish.  Having her deepest feelings rejected (without really understanding that this was what she was expressing) she will be crazed when further shame is heaped on the searing pain she is already trying to unburden.  Of course it is an emotional beating ready to happen - if not a physical one.  It is hard to hear communication expressed in code.  Especially in the bustle of homelife [especially when you are sick], it is hard to stop and realize - It is not about McDonalds

Friday, November 18, 2011

LIGHT

We're driving to the store, and Anastasia says "My jaw isn't hurting."  As I've mentioned before she has an OCD issue with "tracing" things she sees with her teeth....sort of grinding her teeth together in the various outlines.  Obviously, this means she is clinching her jaw all the time and for a couple of years (while I chased a psychiatrist) she complained of pain.  That was the first little glimmer....I realized, the meds are kicking in!

And, sure enough, she went to the mall, and when I picked her up, and watched her walk toward the car, I noticed that her posture was different....willowy, not stiff.  And, then, she wanted to show me something in the back yard - and she grabbed my hand.  The only physical contact we've had in the past five months has been me hugging a cold, stone statue, or her aggressively bumping me "by accident".  Here was her soft hand, grasping mine. What a hope-filled feeling!

She began to make eye-contact.  She no longer said, "Go die" when  passing me.  Best of all, she got up one day and said, "Where's my math book?" and since then, has been assiduously studying Algebra. 

It was truely like watching a girl made of ice, melt.....and a real girl appear.  And with the "real" girl, there are feelings running through those veins.  Instead of those angry, snide and snarky comments, there are sincere and painful questions:  "I don't understand why everyone leaves me."  One afternoon she called me on the phone, crying, "I miss him.  I miss my real daddy."  She has begun to dwell on her father, who did show her some true love (one piece of which was allowing her to be adopted, as he told me himself.)  But, that is a hard bit for her to understand. 

And, we have a therapist.  Miss Julie is wonderful, and began therapy with Anastasia's "Life Story".  I am learning a lot I didn't know, despite all her previous sharing and my previous questions.  Until the medical expense account kicks in, in January, we can only afford [barely] an every-other-week visit, but I hope for some real progress soon.

Huge, huge mountains to climb.  But, at least we're not still part of the glacier.

Friday, November 11, 2011

THANKS FOR THE HELP [NOT]

Now, with a daughter who is very triggered by any display of sexuality - aren't I lucky to have had this billboard posted on our primary route to all the places we go?  (Right as we get on the freeway.)  And, if you can believe it - there is a similar one - except this time for a place called the "Wild Beaver Saloon" a block from our house on our route home!  Come on people!  And, as I expected the moment I laid eyes on this one - the first time Anastasia saw it she commented very matter of factly, "I could work there."  And I did my best at  "A" for "accepting" and commented back, "Well, I think you could find a job that paid more and had better benefits since you're so good at math."  To my relief, that was the end of the conversation.  Though I very much fear she tucked this convenient job opportunity away in the back of her mind.

And, then there is television.   I saw the very pretty ads for the new Sunday night program "Once Upon A Time".  I envisioned some lovely, high-production-value effort, geared to families, with the story and adventure for children and possibly some good acting and depth for adults.    Was I ever disappointed!

If there had been a committee of evil  men gathered in a smokey room imagining how best to trouble and disturb adopted children, they could not have done better.  Adoption was a major theme of the piece....with a decidedly anti-adoption point of view.  I was sitting open-mouthed.  At one point the lovely heroine [teacher] says of a boy "He wants what all adopted children want."  That is, of course - their "real" mother.  Yes, indeedy - and if we might not understand that concept, it is clarified by making his adoptive mother a cold, hard person - and in the modern day/fairy tale parallel.....the adoptive mother is the wicked witch.  I could hardly bear to sit there, frankly.  But, I thought that the best hope was to possibly get some conversation out of it at some point.  (We haven't yet.)   

I'll also add that in every other way this trauma-pill disappointed - the production values were not as good as I'd hoped.  The script, apart from its questionable ideas and complete lack of depth, also lacked any sort of sparkle and the acting was dreadful.....somehow fairy tale people with flat American diction are just jarring (I don't expect an accent, mind you - simply classic American stage speech)

A palate cleanser was needed, I thought, so we watched the program that I can always count on to be quality - Masterpiece Theatre.   And, the program was well-acted, beautifully filmed, with a splendid script.....all about Russian whores.  Yes, indeed.  Can you believe my luck?  Russian whores....a fact well noted by Anastasia, who seemed to feel not so alone.  And that is painfully true.  These girls were whores, but good Russian girls on some level. Oh, boy.  At least they kept getting murdered, so I hope that was off-putting.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

BAD MOMMY

Sorry for this delinquent post.  But, better late than never?
I got the "bad mommy" award this Halloween.  Let's start with the fact that one of my busiest months at work is October, then add to that psyciatrists/therapists/a broken-down vehicle and a routine that thus requires me to drive about an hour and a half for both pick up and drop-off routines.....well, there you have it - not enough time to make cute, homemade costumes.  So, Sunday night, the 30th, after a fourteen-hour work day, and a dinner I somehow don't remember (bet it was on the order of a can of mushroom soup mixed with a can of tuna), I hobbled out to the car with Zhen to go "get" his costume.  For some reason his glee in picking a new costume each year is so intense, that I just couldn't do the reasonable thing and direct him to the costume boxes in the basement.  For one thing, he actually plays with those costumes all year, on and off, so I can see how they don't have the excitement that a "Halloween Costume" should have.

At Meijers - "yahoo!" I thought - all Halloween stuff was 50% off.  But, as it turned out there was nothing there.  Really - nothing.

On we went to Target.  The Halloween stuff was in the far back corner.  As we are hitting the point where we could just see it in the distance, over the intercom I hear "The store will be closing in five minutes."  

I gave Zhen a little push ' "Run!"   And, I'll say this - Zhen is a power shopper.  He picked these items [no 50% off, unfortunately] within the five minutes and we scurried up to the check-out in the nick of time. 

And, I didn't even have to mention expense.  I was delighted that Zhen seemed to be shopping to a budget. 

The big boys, not wanting to appear to "care" (boy,its hard to be a teenager) did grab old costume bits and the three of them went out with a neighbor boy trick-or-treating in our own neighborhood. 

Tradition has long been for us to go to one of my friends' houses and, after a pizza dinner, for she and I to walk the kids around her (more extensively savory) neighborhood.  Too bad for me.   I guess we've come to the point in Halloween where the parents are no longer necessary.  Oh - not so fast.  I was necessary!  I needed to drive Anastasia to a bonfire party in Okemos - the furthest city that could be considered not actually out in the country.   After that I went alone to my friend's house.  Her daughter, meanwhile, a diligent high school student (very unlike my own) was not trick-or-treating, or even handing out treats.....but working on a paper.  So, Marianne and I did our usual thing, and went to some other friends' house for coffee, pumpkin bread and apples, and conversation......before I had to drive all the way back to Okemos to pick up Anastasia. 

What I saved on the costume, I think, I expended in gas money.  But, I graduated sort-of painlessly to the next level of being a Halloween parent.  (Does make me consider foster care,though - life is just so much more fun with little kids.)

Monday, November 7, 2011

OUR KITCHEN

Just a little anecdote I don't want to forget. 

Zhen and I were watching Iron Chef, and there was a commercial referring to your kitchen being the best place in your house.  Our kitchen is terrible.  Terrible.  So I asked Zhen, "What is the best room in our house?"  He said, "The living room - or Sergei's room."  (Sergei's room is a perfect boy-cave.)  

I said, "Yes; our kitchen is not a very nice room."  And after a moment, he said sort of wistfully, "A lot of amazing things come out of there, though."

I'm not that good a cook - or I should say dedicated a cook - so I was really touched.

Later in the evening he said, "You'll have to give my wife your sloppy joe recipe.  Or, maybe you could just keep making them for me forever."