Tuesday, February 28, 2012

SUCH A GOOD CAUSE, AND SUCH A GREAT LADY

For a few years I've had the most wonderful bloggy friend.  Tamara is an American mom, raising two daughters and living and teaching in Moscow [do I envy her?  You bet I do!!!]  I do not recall how we connected, but ever so kindly she actually responded to my blog comments and has been such a generous and good e-friend (being a super Russian go-between for me).   Tamara even introduced me to her friend Rachael.  She and Rachael met in Moscow, by happenstance, when Rachael was there adopting her daughter.  Well....it turns out that Rachael has become an IRL friend, as she lives right here in Michigan!

Now, Rachael, through some interfering efforts on my part, became familiar with (and familiar to) New Horizons for Children, a wonderful agency that brings EE orphans to the states to find adoptive parents.  Since we got our dear Sergei and Anastasia via hosting, this whole concept is so dear to my heart!!!!  Rachael ended up being contacted by Hew Horizons, and asked to go on their visit trip last year (to meet and select the kids who will be coming to the US).  Well, tempted by all those dear kids, Rachael went back to Ukraine and adopted one of the sweetest teenaged boys imaginable!  You can read all about that at her blog!

So!  Back to Tamara!  Tamara, inspired by Rachael's story is doing an amazing fundraising effort for New Horizons - a Siberian Run across Lake Baikal.  Wow, is all I can say.   Makes my butter lambing efforts look pretty tame.

PLEASE support wonderful Tamara, and the extraordinary New Horizons for Children.  All money raised will go directly to scholarships so that families can more easily afford bringing a child to visit them this summer.  Here's the link:

http://www.active.com/donate/summer2011/siberia

Monday, February 27, 2012

WHO ARE THOSE PEOPLE AND WHAT ARE THEY DOING OUT THERE?

What is that car doing in that distant part of the park late at night?
Who would drive over those rutted, icy dirt roads?
Who would be out there so late?  In the dark?
Is that some guy dancing out there under the street lamp?
Is he out there by himself?

No; I'm with him, and that's Maxim out there, dancing under the street lamp.  Several times a week, we go out.  He dances, and I film him.  He's posted several videos of himself dancing on youtube.  It is kind of fun, to be honest.  Actually, very fun. I think he has natural talent as a dancer.  And he lets me mess around with film "techniques".

Here is one of his videos.  Just scoot in a ways....there's a long set up.  I like his choice of music though in both of these.



I think he also does a super job editing these.



Friday, February 24, 2012

UPDATE ON ILYA

We had the meeting with the Superintendent today.  Both he and the principal are fine men, compassionate, firm and wise.  They realized that Ilya needed to express himself, and they listened respectfully.

I didn't say much, but did try and clarify that the reason Ilya missed so much school in the fall was because he was scared to go to school.  He began medication which helped, then (as I interpret things) got the idea that if people were scared of him, then he could walk the halls without being afraid himself.  I look back now and see that it was a clear idea, and that he set out to put it into action.

For me (only) he smiled
Firstly, over Christmas break he went out to buy clothes.  He bought a leather jacket - actually it was wool, with leather trim, but the "effect" was "leather jacket".  And he bought plain black t-shirts, black jeans and a black stocking cap, and another black and gray fleece jacket.  With his dark eyes and black hair he looks very handsome - but reminiscent of James Dean....yes; not quite "scary", but certainly a "don't mess with me" look.

Then there was an e-mail from his ESL teacher saying he was using bad language - crude words for people of other races and girls.  Only today did I find out that he was in detention a number of times for this!  (This is the only complaint I have with the school - I should have known of every instance.  If I'd known and he'd kept it up, I would have removed him....)  Anyway - at the time, it just seemed like some anomaly to me.  Ilya doesn't do that (or so I thought).

He also developed this practice of staring at people.  He even tried it at home.  I laughed and told him it was ridiculous.  But Sergei complained that he'd do it upstairs, when Sergei had friends over.  Practicing, I suppose.  So - now I can see that Ilya was developing a number of strategies for appearing intimidating, and  keeping himself safe.

The actual step-by-step of the altercation became known, too.  Ilya put his hands on the kid, who punched Ilya in the eye, and then he tried to grab Ilya around the knees to throw him down, and that's when Ilya kneed the other boy in the face.  So - in some ways that is not quite the cold-blooded "assault" that had been assumed.  No matter, really.

I just feel better knowing more, understanding more - even though the result is the same.  Almost.  He can come back next fall if he has a counselor's statement that he is "safe" and if he completes two on-line classes.  So, one good result - we can get as many on-line classes as we want free of charge!

I've been running around all day in a dreadful snowstorm, seeking river rocks for an event we're doing at church here on Sunday.  The truck bringing them from Grand Rapids got into an accident.  So, instead of focusing on home-issues, I've had my mind at church.

Now, I'm heading home.  It will be "interesting" to see how Ilya has processed everything.  Fingers are crossed.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

TRY THIS AT HOME

Last Saturday, in response to Hevel's post, I made these (recipe at link).

Like Hevel, I also took a picture of MY version:

Not so pretty, but they were a HUGE HIT with the kids, Sergei even saying it was a "perfect" idea.  Furthermore, they are very quick and easy - much more so than any other egg dish I can think of. Plus, despite using the muffin tin,the clean up is easy - my tin didn't get especially dirty!

After Hevel posted his photo, I thought it would be fun if everyone tried it and did the same thing.  How about it?  I challenge you!

Funny I'd have a food post on Ash Wednesday, now I think of it - happy fasting!

Monday, February 20, 2012

LOOKIE!

I got my first big girl phone!!!!

This comes with some trepidation, though, because we are no longer all on individual Virgin Mobile accounts.  I can't say enough good about Virgin Mobile.  Their service is amazing, and the connectivity is excellent (am I saying that right?)  Furthermore, there were never any mysterious or surprising charges, as we experienced long ago with the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad plans we got when Aidan and Lydia were home.  I feel I could take a month-long European vacation on what I wasted on phones in those days.  I vowed I would never get a plan again.....but.......

Sergei begged for a good phone for his birthday and Aidan had really advocated for Sprint....so what with one thing and another I held my nose, closed my eyes and committed to a "Family Plan".  That meant that Anastasia, I, Sergei and Maxim all got new phones.  That part was fun, I must say.  Except I really don't quite know how to use it yet.  Patience.  Patience....and a little help from the kids.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY -Part Three - THE UGLY

I have meant for a long time, years almost, to write a post about Ilya and school.   It has been a non-stop battle/tragedy/trial.  

When we went to Ivanovo for his "visit" trip, I met his school teacher, and she was in awe of his abilities.  In his official file were certificates of merit as a top scholar in his grade regionally.  This, at age 13, after not being able to attend school until he was 10.  Ilya is remarkably smart and remarkably hard-working.  And, the instability of his early years manifest themselves in his desire to master situations, and be in control.

Well....I see in hindsight, that school the United States was a tragedy just waitng to happen.  After the age of 11, the brain changes, making it much more difficult to learn a new language.  So, unlike our other children, Ilya arriving so late in life, had a huge disadvantage - and, of all the multiple intelligences that he has, it is quite clear that "Language" is not one of them.  

Lest this be a post of monumental proportions, I need to keep the history out of this.  Suffice to say that we've had three abortive school years so far, but nevertheless went (once again!) wholeheartedly into this one.  For the first time, Ilya was going to public school. Bad choice, I think, but there really wasn't another.  As has been the pattern, he started out OK, but soon dissolved into a place of over-stress where he just shut down.  He wanted to make a go of it - but just didn't have the willpower.  It was so frustrating and heartbreaking to see him get up, get dressed, eat breakfast.....many mornings he'd go to far as to put on his coat and throw the backpack over his shoulder.....only to then be unable to make himself get into the car. 

This is a very nice school district, though, and they advised me that with a doctor's note they could excuse his multiple absences.  So we got that, and at the same time, our very compassionate and understanding Russian pediatrician put Ilya on an anti-depressant. That was in November, and we could SEE it kick in! Over Christmas break Ilya underwent a transformation!  When school started up again in January, he was enthusiastic and determined to go to school.

Now, his attitude was energetically pro-school, but he'd also changed in some odd ways.  He had clearly done a lot of thinking.....thoughts I really can't quite discern even now.  But, a change came over him.  He asked me to buy him some new clothes. (He'd never before cared about clothes, and barely had any because he wouldn't go shopping to try any on.)  He asked Maxim to go with him, and he picked some nice things.  A very Russian look - all black, jacket with enough leather on it to give a "leather jacket" look.  He is terribly handsome.  He began to attend regularly, but rather than get overwhelmed by the work which was too hard (a lot of it), he'd do what he could do, and ignore the rest.  He would occasionally ask my help, but every time within moments of starting to work with me, he'd back down.....the stress was clearly overwhelming.  Ilya is a perfetionist,and when he sees things he cannot accomplish well, he can't stand it.  I thought letting it go was actually a good coping strategy - for now.  At least it gave us something to work on!  He was going to school!!

But some girl in his ESL class was upsetting him.  I gather this Indian girl had a bit of a crush on him, and wouldn't leave him alone.  She decided to show this by "helping" him with his work and alerting him to errors. We heard about this over a week or two, and he was clearly becoming annoyed.  I think that on one hand he felt put down by her "help" and annoyed by it, and all this was exacerbatd by a "different" smell she had.  On many levels he was recoiling from her but he didn't know how to handle it.  Not taking his hints,she continued to be persistent until the day when he cracked and told her (loudly, I gather) to "keep her nose out of his business".  I got a note from the ESL teacher that he was rude and a meeting was called with the assistant principal to address his behavior.

Frustrated and upset, he was talking about this with his Chinese friend in the hall and he used an unacceptable word to describe the girl.  Another boy, passing by, overheard it and got on his high-horse and reprimanded Ilya for his language, which I gather inspired more of it - directed to the boy.  In his new "persona" Ilya was determined not to be afraid, not to back down, and he told the boy to mind his own business.  This is all approximate, of course; I've gotten all sorts of versions from Ilya himself, and from Sergei.  But, basically, there was now some bad blood between Ilya and the boy who criticized his language. 

One day Ilya mentioned that he might have to get into a fight with someone.  At that time I didn't know any of the story.   I wish that instead of just telling Ilya that fighting was not acceptable in US schools, I had chosen to delve and do more to really listen to him.  But, somehow the way he said it that day, there was no feeling behind the statement...it almost sounded like a joke,or something said to get me to react.

Well, I was wrong,  One Tuesday morning we get a call. Ilya has attacked this boy, were told.  Come and pick him up.  I happened to be working from home that morning, so I was able to get out to the school in twenty minutes or so.  I was shown into the principal's office.  From the way the principal told it, Ilya had gone up to the boy, unprvoked, and kneed him in the face, a fight ensued and the other boy clearly had a broken nose.  The principal made it sound as though the victim was a small and wimpy person.  We later heard through kids that he is a mma (mixed-martial arts) fighter.   The principal also led me to expect that Ilya would have been totally unscathed, but clearly the other boy had gotten some licks in.  Ilya's hand was scraped and he had quite a dramatic black eye.   By the time I got there Ilya had been taken to the local police station.  Fortunately this is a small town, and the police station and the staff, by the grace of God, was Mayberry-like.  And even more fortunate, Ilya knew enough to be polite to them.  So I was allowed to take him home. 

He said that the boy had been threatening to attack him for some time.  Why?  Because he didn't like Ilya's language and disrespect to women.  (I can't help but like the boy who is a defender of women and civility, frankly....and wonder if he ever really meant to "do" anything to Ilya.)  Ilya clearly thought he would, though, and apparently thought it was a good idea to do a preemptory attack.  I see now that all of this was part of Ilya's new approach to school:  look powerful, and don't do anything [including schoolwork] that might make you look stupid or inspire derision.  Of course, knowing that Ilya goes to school full of fear, it is easy for me to understand and want to defend him.  But, I can clearly see that from someoe else's point of view he looks like a dangerous, disrespectful, jerk.

His attitude was not at all what I expected, when I picked him up.  He was not hangdog, or chastened.  He seemed almost celebratory.  I can see now that what he felt was relief.  He really did not understand.  Basing his actions on the Russan reality that he knows best, he figured that now, at last, he had shown what he was made of and that he could go to school safe and confident that no one will look down on him.  He had no idea whatsoever, that he would not be allowed to go back!  That he would be expelled. 

Actually, he was suspended for ten days, then expelled when the situation got relayed up to the superintendent.  To my absolute amazement, he [yes; Ilya himself] wants a hearing with the superintendent to show cause why he should not be expelled.  I cannot fathom what he thinks he can or will say. (But then he does not begin to understand out litigeous society that makes it imperative the school not allow a "dangerous" student to be there.)  I just want to leave well enough alone.  They've promised not to put the expulsion (only the suspension) on his record if we just go back to homeschooling.  But Ilya told me yesterday, "I love that school." 

For four years I've wanted to hear those words.  Now, that is irony.

One day I looked at Ilya's eye and asked if he'd ever had a black eye before. He answered, "Yes; when I learned not to spit in someone's face."  And he laughed.   Apparently he spit in some boy's face at the orphanage and he easily interpreted  the black eye that resulted as part of a lesson he needed to learn.  That's the culture he understands.   As someone commented, "You can take the boy out of Russia, but you can't take Russia out of the boy."  

Monday, February 13, 2012

THE CHERRY ON TOP OF BAD

Oh - I just forget the funniest part.

You just have to have a sense of humor.

In early January I spent THREE DAYS working on an on-line survey for Radio Shack.  Well, it wasn't three solid days, but they had us answering questions for 30-60 minutes for three days running.  I didn't mind it, though the topic was not of interest, but I certainly wouldn't have done it except for the pay - $30.   Enough for a nice little treat of some sort.

Well, I got the check, and put it in the bank.

Imagine my "delight" when I got notification from the Credit Union - the check didn't clear "No Account Found" and I was charged $30! 

So, instead of making $30, I lost $30.   Just seemed to fit into a pattern, somehow.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY - Part 2, The Bad

Let's just harken back to that work they did on the sewer in late October - all that drilling, tearing up the yard.  Bringing to the top a yellowish, cementish-textured sort of earth, then throwing a handful of grass seed on it and calling it good.  Looks like someone - well, several someones, are buried in our front yard.

Fast-forward to January when we get our quarterly sewer-water bill.  Imagine my horror, the sinking in the stomach to see a request for over $800!   Much soul-searching, exploring, confusion.  Determined statements on our part that we could not, could NOT owe that much.  Blythe assurances on their part that - yes, we did!  Eventual discovery that - for some reason - (couldn't have been all that VIBRATION now, could it?) the toilet in the basement (maybe four yards as the worm crawls away from all the digging and vibrating) somehow cracked, and had then leaked out $800 worth of water.

Plumber.  $300.  New toilet needed; not yet purchase.  Seven people in one bathroom.

Not a week later, on (of course) a Friday night, the one remaining toilet upstairs became dramatically plugged up.....plumber called - toilet was plugged not in the toilet itself or the nearby pipes, or even the pipes in the house, no - those leading to the [newly replaced] city pipes - totally clogged with black sludge....  Dirt, too, I bet.  Another $300 +

Yes; I am sure this is all the result of the city's work - but I am sure there is no fighting it.

Van broke down in October.  For want of a clamp the something was lost, for want of something the engine was lost [probably].  Will be $1,600 to repair....only possibly worth it.  We've done without the van; initially we were frozen into immobility, now we are reduced to incapacity.  But that causes me to have at least three hours in the KIA every day.  Bad.

KIA started sporting the "Check Engine Light".  December - $250 for .....a clamp!  Light did not go off; directive to return.  What?!  January - It needed another $250 clamp.  Light still on.... oh, dear, better bring it in for a $500 day of taking the engine apart.  I was in despair and shock, but might have done it.....except the mechanic went a tad too far.  When I paused after the suggestion of the engine exploratative, he intimated that.....well, I had been a little late with that oil change.  A little late with the oil change?  I'm supposed to believe that is going to totally destroy my engine?  Sorry.

This Saturday Craig took KIA in for an oil change (in protest he did not take it to the dealer) - what do you know?  The air filter hadn't been changed in a coon's age.  Well, guess what?  Engine light is now off.

But the money is gone. No clue if it needed clamp one and clamp two at all - but I have my doubts.

Zhen goes to a school that not only charges more tuition than we can really afford, but also takes the kids on a big trip.  Previous trips have been to Washington D.C., Boston and educational destinations - this one (I know it will be educational - but it is also appealing) - Disneyland.  Can hardly tell Zhen he can't go.  $250 for the plane ticket was due a couple of weeks ago.  The other nearly $700 for the four day stay will be due in March.  God help us.

Property Taxes due.

Therapy, psychiatrist visits not covered by insurance.

$300 in dental work this past week for Sergei.

Enough said.  I'm just depleted.  Time to trust in God more.......clearly.  

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

CORPORAL PUNISHMENT (Series intermission, sorry)

Once again I started out to make a brief comment on someone else's post, and wrote so much that it seemed nicer and more courteous to make my own post.  Not that I have anything too profound to say.  Just a couple of stories.

Christie posted on hands.....and really, about how our children perceive our hands.  She was thinking about parents who strike their children out of anger or frustration, or those who believe in physical punishment. It brought to mind a guy I once dated in college and how he used to flinch whenever I'd make an unexpected gesture.  For some reason, the first time I noticed it, I immediately understood why and asked him about it.  I was stunned to imagine any parent hitting a child in the face.

My mother was no slouch in the discipline department, but I suppose I was a basically cooperative child.  I recall only three spankings in my entire childhood and I think I recall them because that is all there were!  The first was when I was in kindergarten.  I had witnessed a little maneuver on the playground called "sticking out your bottom" when you turn and thrust that body part in the direction of the person you are cross with.  I am surprised, frankly, that this had apparently intrigued me and I tried it out on my mom one afternoon.  She was rightly appalled and responded by giving me a quick smack on that offending bottom.  

Not too long after that I got my second spanking.  The nature of this spanking was altogether different.  I had dilly-dallied around on the way home from school.  Why, I do not know.  I only remember [amazing to contemplate in this day and age] that as a kindergartner I walked probably a half-mile or more home by myself at the end of my morning kindergarten class.  On one notable occasion, when cutting across a field I got stuck in a big roll of barbed wire, which had become partially unrolled and hidden by snow.  It must have caught on my clothing or shoes and trapped me; I remember the panic of not being able to free myself, getting caught by other barbs, and I was scratched rather badly. I remember the red Mercurochrome being applied over the many gashes in my poor little legs. Possibly because of this unfortunate incident, I was instructed to walk directly home.  And, this day, I hadn't.  My mother had, by now, obviously done some reading on "How to Discipline Your Child". She'd apparently been instructed by the "expert" to talk to me and explain the spanking prior to giving it.  And she did.  The main thing I remember about that is the cold-bloodedness of it.   It made absolute sense to me to be spanked suddenly in response to egregious behavior - but it made no sense at all to hit someone with a complete lack of emotion. Furthermore, the expert must have said not to use your hands, but to employ something else for the spanking, and in our case a ruler was called into service.  I don't recall the spanking (not much of one, and not very painful, I suppose - probably three smacks on a bottom well covered with panties, slip and skirt) and I don't recall what she said about my crime.  But my mother - associated with an unfeeling, cool intention to inflict pain with a weapon (!) - that I remember vividly!  I don't think it felt right to her, either.  The last spanking occurred much later - on my 7th or 8th birthday, when she had decided to give a birthday party for me - with friends.  Not a usual event.  I must have been over-excited, and she must have been stressed out, because she told me to stay outside playing, and I came in anyway - and got a quick spank on the rear with her hand.  Hate to say that is the only thing I remember about that party!  But, again, I do not recall feeling hardly used, or abused or anything else.  I think I completely understood the dynamic, on some level.

That ruler did maintain its role as "The Enforcer".  Perhaps they used it on my brother, but honestly I think its primary purpose was as deterrent, "Do you want me to get the ruler?!"    No.  We didn't!

My physical discipline of Aidan and Lydia was similar (minus the spanking with malice aforethought). I should ask them if they remember any spankings!  We did have an upgrade for the ruler; we had (still have somewhere, I think) a red paddle.  One of those little paddles which originally had a ball attached by an elastic string.  This was kept in dad's bedside table.  Presumably it must have been used on some occasion or other, but I only remember it being used as a threat......until!   I think I'd given Craig a bedside table without a drawer in some re-arrangement of furniture, so he'd put the red paddle between the mattress and the box springs.  Well, let's just say we kept that mattress and box springs far too long.  The springs had begun to free themselves from the covering, and when Craig reached under there to retrieve the paddle to sign that he meant business (!) he got a huge cut from the end of a mattress spring.  I recall that the miscreants were so horrified that all rowdy behavior ceased forthwith.  But, there were a few snickers after that whenever the words "red paddle" were mentioned.

Lydia at 12 - doesn't look like she
could be naughty, does she?
The only spanking I remember giving had a funny and unfortunate after-effect.  Lydia was probably eleven or so, and we had gone to Toronto.  This was a big deal for us, a special trip!  I wanted the children to see the architecture, the important sights - experience a big city!  Yet, all Lydia could think of was buying some new shoes and since she is horribly difficult to fit, we traipsed from store to store and didn't find any.  But, she would not let go of it - the whole afternoon which should have been dedicated (in my mind) to "valuable" stuff, had been wasted on a useless quest for shoes with a high enough instep to fit her.  And she would continue to go on querulously, complaining and whining.  She was disappointed, surely, and I was frustrated, particularly after we finally walked to a museum, only to find it had just closed!  So, we are walking down the street and she is still complaining about shoes.  We got to an intersection and I said, "Watch out, stand back!"  Still in mid-complaint she tried to emphasize her point by stepping in front of me and facing me.  Whether the curb was uneven or what, I don't know, but she lost balance and began to fall backward right as a car swung around the corner!  I grabbed her, pulling her back onto the sidewalk, and in one fell swoop gave her a whap on the rear and exclaimed something along the lines of, "Listen to me before you get killed!"    

Well, that close call had scared both of us, and we crossed the street shaky and almost giggly with relief.
We were totally in harmony again, and beginning to discuss our next move when - WOAH!  We were attacked - or, let's say, I was attacked by the verbal barrage of a woman who must have seen that whole event from quite a distance - at least the whap on the bottom part of it.  And, under full head of steam, she caught up with me to let me know that this sort of behavior from a parent was ABSOLUTELY UNACCEPTABLE!   She was so on her high horse that there was no way to let her know that I really agreed with her!  That spankings were not typical!  That there were some extenuating circumstances.....   Well!!!!!   She strode off, having done her civic duty, leaving Lydia and me totally shaken.  We'd just begun to come back from the adrenaline-rush of the falling-off-the-curb-in-the-path-of-a-car experience, only to have a sudden-verbal-attack-in-the-street experience!   We decided in unison to just get back to our hotel - and fast.  But Lydia was in such a rush to get there she was practically running! She only told me why later.  I was wearing a bright pink dress, and she had the idea that the child protection advocate was next going to call the police and have her taken away from me!   She was terrified.  My feet hurt after that afternoon of shopping, my breath was still unsteady from the two onslaughts of excitement - I remember that was quite a physically stressful run back to the hotel!

I've never spanked the Russians. It really is not my style.  And, it just isn't needed.  Or useful.  Or reasonable.  Or my level of patience has stretched so that I am never upset enough?  No, can't be that - I'm frequently upset enough to cry!  But, whatever the reason, it is really not due to the Toronto woman!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY - Part I, The Good

Where to begin?

I have all sorts of posts rattling around that actually have some slight merit to them - an idea, you know....  However, seems like an update is called for....several updates.  Here is the first:

The good.  Maxim is living with us again.  For those sort-of new to this blog, Maxim is the foster son we had in our home for three years.  Unfortunately for everyone, this was before my awakening, before I understood even the basics of how to deal with a radish or child of early trauma. I just had Sergei, and Zhenya, the perfect children - and Anastasia who up to that point in time, had had occasional tantrums, but otherwise was easy to deal with.

I can see now that Maxim had some significant PTSD issues, and depression.  I didn't recognize them, but just relied on intuition and must say I didn't handle everything entirely badly.  But, I handled enough things badly that we all had a much harder time than we needed to.  And my husband, who like many husbands, feels the need to be authoritative and so forth, didn't "get on" with Maxim at all.  All this was exacerbated by the fact that Maxim did not choose to be adopted by us.  I can now see that it was because he had been in so many homes, and has such an optimistic nature, that he clung to a kind of "magical thinking" that the perfect home was going to come along.  "Perfect" was a place where he was the only child, and where he and his new parents lived in a mini-mansion.  Unfortunately, his best friend in 8th grade had this very sort of situation....so of course it seemed quite possible.  Our family ("all these kids") and our surroundings were, oh-so-far from this vision.

And because he wouldn't let us adopt him, working with "the State" was another issue - always an irritant. Different people all the time, not offering help, but being disapproving.  There is nothing like having people come in all the time and committing to paper the things they find "wrong" with your home and parenting.  For example, in the excitement of  adopting Ilya, we certainly told our regular social worker but didn't make a special written report to the licensing worker.  They "cited" us for this omission.  Now, I frankly figured that if they found this worth "citing" us for, then I really didn't care about their silly citations.  I have a tendency to only feel badly at criticism I agree with.  But, it made Craig hopping mad.  We were cited again when we forgot to tell them that Lydia moved out.  And again when we changed bedrooms around.  Really.  We are supposed to let them know who is sleeping in what room.  Anyway, the whole thing was annoying.

Really, it was worse than annoying.  Their approach created the bad outcome that resulted.  Because I'd had the feeling - totally wrong!, totally, that these social workers were in the picture to help us succeed.  To give us advice.  To point us in the direction of good books, good strategies, etc.  No.  I made the mistake a few times of calling Maxim's worker when we had a problem.  If she had suggested I read Heather Forbes, or had given me Karyn Purvis' website, if she'd come by to let me vent, if she'd done anything at all helpful...... well, things would have been so much better.  Instead, she'd always jump to the conclusion that we were calling to have him moved. I'd share an issue - not unlike the way I do on the blog  - and instead of sympathy, or advice, I'd get this question "So, you want him moved?"  It made so little sense to me that she'd ask that, after presenting my end of the conversation, that I figured it was some sort of requirement that they ask this question at the end of every call.   I do not know why we persisted on this track of complete non-communication for so long, but we did.  I continued to be committed to this boy in a radical way; I continued to call to ask for advice how to better parent him.  They continued to figure we would be perfectly happy to have him removed from our home at the drop of a hat, and to respond to any call I made to them by calling some big group meeting.  I cannot remember what those meetings were called, but they could be nasty.  And nasty or nice, they were totally inconvenient and unhelpful.  Truly - until we had the third one of these nightmarish events, I did not realize that it was me setting the whole thing in motion.  Really!  

Meanwhile, what with the citations and Maxim's anger-management issues, and these "big meetings" Craig was pretty adamant that Maxim move to a different foster home, which, at the encouragement of a counselor from "the county", he did.  In retrospect I can see that the counselor, a great lady and a good counselor as far as it went, really knew less about dealing with traumatized kids than I did.  It is hard to forget that so many of these approaches (Dan Hughes, Heather Forbes, Karyn Purvis, etc.) were really new.  By the end of our time together, I was giving her resources.  But, she feared for our marriage, I think, if Maxim stayed, and just happened to hear about a family who was willing to take a teenager.  So away he went.

 But the folks in his new home were more clueless than we were.  It was a terrible setting for him.

I refused to be part of this boy's life of abandonment and rejection.  I told him, and meant it, that I was committed to him.  I would stick with him.  And  I've done it, through some pretty radical ups and downs.
So, I've always had Maxim in the background.  I've not mentioned it here, because some local people read this blog and I felt that Maxim was old enough - and not even in my household - so it would not be quite fair to write about him, let alone the people he was living with.

ASIDE:  I am seriously considering staring a new blog with a different title, writing under an assumed name, and using nicknames for the kids, so I can continue to blog, but with a bit more openness.....I begin to feel troubled that even regarding the other kids, it is not fair to write about them when they may be in the classrooms or homes of people who read this blog.  I wouldn't like it, and the golden rule still applies.  

There have been a lot of ups and downs, fearful situations and tears, nearly miraculous close calls, but Maxim graduated from high school and - was dropped from the foster care program.  He was only 18, and should never have been dropped, but it seemed pretty clear to me that the reason was his worker's anger at my intervention.  (A long story I'll explain some time.)  In any case, he ended up with no where to live.

Another sort of miracle occurred, which shall never be described, and the result was - Maxim can come home.

He's grown up a lot. He has a lot more self control.  It isn't all easy sailing, as neither Sergei nor Ilya are very happy to give up any portion of their rooms for him.  And, Zhenya, who was pretty traumatized by some of his behaviors when he lived with us before, doesn't like him to be living with us....  But, I think it will somehow work out.

He hopes to start at the community college this summer, and he'll have a full tuition scholarship through the state and an allowance.  (There are some perks having been a foster child, for sure.)  At that point he may move out, but at least we can all feel that he is forever connected with our family, and not totally alone in the world.  Thanks be to God.