Monday, May 28, 2012


Heather Forbes has likened each individual's stress tolerance to a glass....which, depending on each person's unique capacity and resilience some point - hit its limit and then - the stress spills over.  I guess it is another way to think of the old idea of "the straw that broke the camel's back" straw doesn't seem like anything - and yet, it might just be the LAST straw!

Last Monday, we were all tested - particularly Lydia, Anastasia and me.  I'd invited Lydia to come with us to therapy in Livonia.  I thought she might benefit from the chance to talk to Julie about the ways in which someone like Anastasia might need different treatment than - say - someone like Lydia.  Lydia's famous (and frequent) line is "You would never have let me get away with that!".  And, honestly, I think she goes back and forth [understandably] between thinking on one hand that I am favoring Anastasia, and on the other that I am not parenting Anastasia as well as I parented her.  Anyway, that was my hope in inviting her.  Of course, we also planned on perhaps some shopping and lunch. 

Anyway, after therapy, we headed back to Lansing on I-96, planning on stopping in Brighton at Cracker Barrel (Lydia's choice)with the caveat that if nothing at CB tickled Anastasia's fancy we'd get her some Taco Bell afterwards to eat in the car. 

Just east of the exit we were rear-ended by some fellow trying to change lanes. I was in the center lane just going the speed of the traffic and I hadn't seen him coming in my mirror.   It was startling, for sure, but he didn't hit us very hard.  I discovered last winter when I smashed-in the front of my car sliding at about 2 miles an hour into a pole, how really unable cars seem to be to take much impact at all (it is terrifying, really).  So, though we weren't hit hard, it was scary, particularly as when I tried to move off to the edge of the highway, the car defiantly seemed disabled.  Actually, the metal was so bent that when we moved right it rubbed against the tire, I think. 

Being hit was only the beginning of our problem, really.  I called AAA (being an AAA member is one of the best things we've ever done).  They said I had to make an accident report before they could come.  Frankly, I was shaken, and it was hard just to get my hands to work to dial AAA, but I managed to get the State Police, too, and eventually an officer came.  While we waited Lydia got out and surveyed the damage. I couldn't bring myself to do it.  All I could think about was how dependent I am on our car, since the van is not working, and we can't get it fixed right now.  In fact, how was I going to get Sergei from school?  AND his friend, who (wouldn't you know) is counting us on a ride for the remainder of the school year. 

After looking at the damage, Lydia opened up the hatch and began to straighten out the mess back there - things had gotten thrown around.  While doing so, she uncovered a beer which someone had given me months ago....   I'd sort-of "hidden" it back there expressly because any sort of alcohol consumption is a trigger for Anastasia - all the more so if the person consuming it is me.  I insisted (almost hysterically, because I didn't need a melt-down on top of everything else) that Lydia throw the beer into the bushes at the side of the road.  Obviously she didn't want to do that for a variety of reasons with the other driver watching (you can see how Anastasia's hysteria about beer had passed on to me).  Instead, Lydia told Anastasia the beer was hers....and that averted the problem, probably because at this point the police car arrived as a distraction.

 Fortunately,the other driver was straightforward about everything being his fault.  , then I could call AAA back.  All of this took time, and just being there at the side of the road realizing all of our plans were destroyed took its toll on me, for sure.

They sent a tow truck, but because there were three of us, we couldn't ride to Lansing with the tow-truck driver; but he said he'd take me to the next exit and the policeman could take the girls.  We all got dropped off at a Pizza Hut. 

Now began my FOUR HOUR effort to get us the 40 minutes home.  I tried using my phone in the restaurant,but I couldn't hear over the scratchy country music, so I went outside, where the noise of the freeway wouldn't let me hear.  I finally found that I could hear and be heard in the restroom - so I spent the afternoon there.  Lovely. 

So, I call my insurance company, and they remind me that, after our "review" of coverage last summer, we'd dropped the Rental Car feature on our policy - we could save money that way we'd reasoned, since we have another vehicle.  Right.  We had another vehicle.  But!  Last year the body shop had given us a loaner.  I called them.....well, yes, they would - but he didn't think they had one at the moment. 

Oh, dear!  So, like it or not, there was nothing to be done, but rent a car.  Let's start with Avis - who had no cars.  The Hertz, whose office was several miles away, and we had no way to get there except walk.  Enterprise will pick us up...but!  Wait!  They will not accept a card used both as credit and debit.  What?  Why not?  Couldn't they contact the credit union? No.  But- if I could give them a pay stub.  A pay stub?  Right. I always carry a pay stub with me.  Couldn't they speak to my employer.  Nope.   Eventually, they settled for a copy of the accident report and a copy of my Proof of Insurance (and of course I didn't have that with me I had to arrange to have that faxed to them.) All of this took so much time and made me feel so helpless and vulnerable. 

At 4:30 someone from Enterprise finally took us away from Pizza Hut (yeah!) to their office.  Just as I was about to sign for the car, Craig calls.  He'd walked to the body shop and they had come up with a loaner!  Finally something went right!  And, just in time, too!  Despite a bit of guilt for their trouble, I  took Enterprise's offer to drop us off at a Panera near the exit.  Absolutely did not want to sit in that barren Enterprise office until Craig arrived.    I can't recall when any coffee has tasted as good as that cup I first got at Panera's.  And eventually Craig arrived and took us home.  Thank heaven. 

How odd to immediatly have to leap into action and take Maxim and Sergei to their dog-walking job and Ilya to kickboxing.  While we were gone Lydia threw together some sort of meal from what we had in the house.  Imagining Anastasia needed a bit of reward for being so good all day, I picked her up a Snickers.   As they requested, I got drinks for I and M, and either a drink or candy for everyone.  After dinner, I realized that Anastasia's candy was gone.  Maxim mentioned casually going upstairs something about "his" candy bar.  So, basically, he took her candybar.   And, finally.....her cup of stress was more than full.  That was the last straw. 

Moms are not supposed to have last straws.  So, I took a deep breath and drawing her into the laundry room, spent Lydia's final evening with us, attending to Anastasia. (Though this allowed Lydia some nice time playing games with Zhen.) Really, though - Anastasia had been amazing.  She had coped with one triggering incident after another by hanging on.....and not allowing herself to get dysregulated.  I thought about it (well, she pointed it out.....after some time she realized what was going on....)  The acident.  Scary enough.  The mammoth change of plans.  Yelling (OK; I did yell a bit).  The bottle of beer.  And how could I not have reaized how hard it is for her to ride in a police car?  (brings back being removed from her mother)  No Taco Bell, which she'd counted on.  Loooong time stuck in that restaurant, not knowing how we'd get home.  The purloined candy bar was not the reason she lost it - as it might have was that on top of a huge load of earlier stressers. 

I was so proud of her, for working with me, for getting a grip, for actually realizing and telling me the things that had really stressed her out.  (I couldn't believe I wasn't aware of the police car at the time.)  And, I'd even forgotten that Julie had really pushed her in therapy, and not timed thngs quite well enough to "get her back" before we left.  I'd totally forgotten that I'd left Julie's office thinking, "Oh, crap...."   And, it had been the promise of Taco Bell that brought her back.  So, I asked her if she was still hungry (she hadn't eaten Lydia's dinner).  And, I went and got her Taco Bell.  It seemed to me that it was rewarding her work to become regulated, it was recognizing how well she'd coped with really hard things - one after another - all day!  And it was keeping the promise I'd made when we left therapy.  It was also feeding her, which is huge for her, since her mother didn't. 

But.  Of course, to everyone else, it looked like "spoiling her" and "letting her boss [me] around".  Since no one was in the laundry room with us, all they saw was the bad behavior, so it looked to them like I was teaching Anastasia to act badly to "get her way".  But it really wasn't like that at all.  Or, I don't think it was.

But, people can make me second-guess myself.  I was trying to do the right thing, anyway. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


The inspiration for Lydia's visit this week was the recital which marked the Tenth Anniversary of the Quinn School of Irish Dance - the school which Lydia was a "founding member" of (at least if dance terminology is like Church terminology).  

Ten years ago we took the leap and left the highly respected O'Hare School in Detroit, to drive a bit less far and join Erin's new school in Marshall/Kalamazoo, Michigan.  Erin is a most exacting teacher, and she probably ended up making Lydia the disciplined person which she is today.  Below is a short video I took of  Lydia dancing a Treble Reel with Erin.

Erin Quinn and Lydia
Lydia stayed from Friday through Monday.  She took Anastasia to get her ears pierced again; this seems to be a tradition.  Good thing Lydia doesn't come visit too often!  Then we went out (just the girls) for Mexican food.  Lydia bought me a Mother's Day gift:

There is a story (an OLD story) behind this bracelet.  When I was a very little girl, 4, in preschool, one day another girl spent a day there.  She had the most marvelous bracelet!  It had brightly colored little plastic fruit charms.  Oh!  I loved that bracelet and wanted one so much.  I do not know if I was able to describe it all that well to my parents, and I doubt even if I could, that they would have known how to find just such a bracelet for me...but I do remember how they tried!  The closest match, apparently was a small plastic bowling ball on a ball chain, which I wore for a loooong time.  But, no bright little fruit.  In the back of my mind for all these [many] intervening years, I've had that little bracelet in my mind - so imagine my surprise and delight to find just the bracelet!!!  I'm not sure that the little girl's fruit had faces, but mine does.

On Friday night we ate chocolate and watched a wonderful movie - Midnight in Paris....totally "up my alley" so to speak.  On Saturday we took a family trip to Lake Michigan  -  at least we  got four "family" in the car besides Craig and me - Lydia, Maxim, Ilya and Zhenya.  Sergei and Anastasia were with friends.

No one was up for posing, but I got this photo of all of them to prove it.
I am not sure why we didn't really dress for the beach.  We all put our feet in the water, but that is about it....we did enjoy the sun and the lighthouse, and so forth.  I think Lydia, who lives in Virginia Beach, is spoiled for beaches, anyway.

Lydia enjoyed the dogs while she was here, and we cooked Mexican food another night.

Yesterday she went home.  On Monday we had quite a "challenging" sort of "adventure"....but I'll write about that in another post.

Sunday, May 13, 2012


 Last thing I ever expected was a Mother's Day gift from Nastia, but that is exactly what I got, and obviously done carelully, over quite a bit of time.  I truly attribute this to all the work she has done in therapy to deal with her terrible-and-yet-part-of-her mother, and me (trigger-incarnate).
So, this is the packet, all hand colored.
Inside a message, could be "deeper" but who is complaining?
There is a bouquet of roses!

All carefully-crafted little shrinky-dinks.

God love my dear, damaged, little girl, nevertheless struggling to love. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Now THIS is a Mother's Day Gift!!!!!

A missionary from Ivanovo worked at the orphanage Ilya was in - Shuya School Orphanage.  He now does work with EE students working in the US in the summer near Dollywood....and he has a FB presence.  I noticed that one of HIS FB friends was a young man named Dmitri, who had "Shuya School Orphanage" as his place of work.  I friended him, and he remembers Ilya!

We've chatted here and there a time or two, and today - lo and behold!  A most precious gift!  Photos of Ilya from before we adopted him.  No adoptive mother could be more grateful for anything!

Here he is - see? In blue in the second row.

He is in gray, behind the oranges.  I wish I could have been there.

Second from the right - enjoying himself!
And the best one of all.......

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


In the paper, on-line, on the radio - everywhere, there are suggestions for "Top Ten Gifts for Mother's Day"  "Top Mother's Day Gifts for Tiger's Fans" "Ten Top Gifts for Working Moms" etc. 

When I look at most of these I am unmoved.

What would be my top ten Mothers Day Gifts?  Nothing to buy!

  1. Everyone coming to dinner, liking what is served, and not once saying anything critical of or upsetting to anyone else. 
  2. A clean house. 
  3. A clean car. 
  4. A clean office. 
  5. Flowers planted. 
  6. Play Draw Anything with me. 
  7. Play anything with me - I LOVE to play! 
  8. Church without complaint. 
  9. Kisses and hugs.
  10. A talk.  Love, love, love talking to my children one-on-one.
Not so hard to please me, is it?

PS - the list above is from:

Monday, May 7, 2012


One of my real-life heroines is Keri from Creating My Own Little Nirvana.  We have so much in common, except that she is braver than I am (she works in theater, I bailed); and she is one heck of a lot holier.   In one of her recent posts, her daughter reminds her of her own strategy for cheering up when gloomy...."ten things".

Being grateful for ten things.  So, maybe I'm a little gloomy.  In any case I'm feeling like a failure, but rather than focus on that nonsense I'll try Keri's method.

Ten Things

1.  Religious Education classes are just about over for the year....and that is such a wonderfully freeing feeling! 
2. First Communion is over, and it seemed to go very well.
3. Anastasia has a wonderful therapist, and I have the ability to get her there once a week....and  can see progress.
4. The smell of spring is in the air.
5. Zhenya is off to Disney Land - how I hope it is a happy, memorable few days for him.
6. Maxim is so enthusiastic about so many things - his brightness rubs off.
7. I think I actually got to use my therapeutic parenting knowledge to help a mom in the parish.  At least I know she feels better for talking to me.
8. Lilacs are just beginning to bloom.
9. My cold/flu whatever is getting better....but my most heartfelt gratitude is to Dayquil and Nyquil!
10.I sleep well.....and can't wait to crawl into my soft, cozy bed every night. 

My "new" private blog is pretty-much set is just a matter of taking the plunge.  Shall I only go there occasionally?  Or altogether?  What if I don't have any readers there?  Have to do it, though....because I'm so limited when I feel guilty mentioning anything about anyone here.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


Remember that great word from History class?  Gangs of British sailors would stop a colonial fishing or merchant ship and "impress" the young seafaring men into service.  It wasn't only colonists - occasionally, if short on recruits, they would sweep into an English seaside village, take young men from their beds, accost them as they did their plowing, surprise them at worship, and by brute force, kidnap them and sign them up for duty.  One minute they are in control of their lives, or so it seems, the next they are at sea for a four-year stint.

Well, I feel a bit like I was "impressed" this year.  Ambushed.  Taken by surprise and made to do what I did not intend to do, and never would have done, given a choice - and, you know?  It was done so well (or I am so oblivious) that I didn't quite realize the situation until just recently.  I guess this press gang was a bit more subtle than most.....

We decided to put Zhenya into Grace Academy.  Zhenya is a very bright little boy - he has an absolutely amazing gift for retaining what he hears, but what he reads?  Not so much....  And while he is really good at computation skills there are some other math issues.  Anyway, we felt that it would be wise to focus on his academics, so we made the decision to do what we really could not afford to do and put him at Grace Academy where he gets a lot of one on one attention from a master teacher.  Anastasia had this teacher for 5th and half of 6h grade, until she and her husband were dismissed from Summit for daring to mention that they intended to start their own school this year.  Mrs.A. brought Anastasia up three grade levels in reading in one year.  She is really marvelous. 

Long-time, careful readers may recall that there was one difficulty with Anastasia's foray into Mrs. A's class - the annual class trip.  That year the class went to D.C. and I had to  endure all that accompanied not allowing her to go.  It was just too much for her, I felt.  And, in the end, she and I had a nice week of adventures together locally.  I probably should have asked for an allowance for that week, though, since we'd done all kinds of fund-raising that year....none of the families had to pay anything for the trip.

This year, at the first parent gathering, it was announced that this year the trip would be to Disney World.  All of the associated learning objectives were discussed, and how it would be a theme throughout the year, as well as something the kids had to work for (ostensibly "earn" in a sort of point system, that does motivate Zhen very effectively).  OK.   A few options were discussed for fundraising, and I didn't think much more of it.....

Until January, I think, when we were asked to hand in the cost of airfare.  OK.  Wow.....and shortly thereafter she negotiated the rest of the trip details - staying in the park, with all the shuttlebus services, etc.  Please have $650 by such and such a date.   Good gosh!  At our house that is major money, not easily come by or parted with. 

Yes, there were a couple of fundraisers - selling pizza kits, and putting on a play.  Families got the money they could raise through both of these events.....but, we have no relatives!  And  even my mom didn't want to sit on a hard pew to watch the play (good choice; I really should have volunteered to help with that as Mrs.A's brilliance is clearly in the classroom and not in the director's chair).   I bought a pizza kit or two....but, wait!  I don't think that benefitted me, now I consider it.

So, in the end only the tax refund saved the day and got Zhen's trip paid for......but I am feeling a bit sorely used.  When we committed, reluctantly, to the tuition we didn't realize that we'd also be on the hook for this expensive trip for ONE of our children.  It doesn't seem fair for Zhen to have this great opportunity that the other kids don't get.......

I am glad he is going.  I just feel the pinch of "losing" that money which could have been used effectively for everyone's benefit.  I also think that we have to have a discussion about next year.  I m not sure we should even commit to the tuition again, and I know that I have to ask ahead of time about the more surprises needed.