stevenpiziks: (Fountain)
On Monday, I battled rush hour construction traffic and arrived to pick up Sasha on the morning of his last day living at the shelter.  It was rainy, but we didn't care.  He was going to have a place of his own.  The van was already piled high with stuff I had scrounged and scavenged for him, and the two boxes and bags he had with him from the shelter barely fit!  He was both happy and a little melancholy.  The shelter had been his home, of a sort, for almost eight months, and now he was leaving it, and all the people he knew there.

First we had to hit the credit union to draw up a cashier's check for his security desposit and first month's rent. Then it was off to the apartment house.

The very nice manager walked Sasha through the lease. It was three inches thick, and more complicated than any lease I've ever seen. It included three pages of provisions about mold, for example, and a separate clause that covered how to escape a fire.  It was obviously written and added to by an enormous team of government lawyers over several years.  All of this had to be read and signed and initialed. 

At last Sasha had the keys and we hauled several loads up to the apartment.  Thank heavens for the freight elevator!

To be honest, I was bracing myself for something substandard, even bad.  But the place was very, very nice.  It's a little one-bedroom place with an open living/dining area and a nicely-sized kitchen area.  It sports large closets and a dishwasher.  I wasn't expecting the latter!  The carpets were new, as were all the appliances, and it had been freshly painted.

We basically dumped all Sasha's stuff into the middle of the floor and rushed away again so we could meet a wonderful friend of mine in Ypsilanti who was giving him an easy chair, some endtables, and a kitchen table.  The easy chair is leather and definitely a guy's chair.  The table fit perfectly into the eating area.  Some other friends had donated a set of kitchen chairs to the cause, meaning Sasha has a place to sit and eat right off the bat.  Excellent!

The Salvation Army store didn't have anything Sasha could use, so it was off to Ikea to fill in a few gaps, mostly a couple more lamps and some bathroom stuff.  And a mattress.  My mother and the various garage sales I'd visited supplied him with most of the kitchen stuff he needed.

The Ikea trip took a long, long time.  We were getting kind of tired, but there was still more going.  We grabbed a quick lunch and ran a couple of other places, including a used computer store to get him an inexpensive laptop and the Transit Authority to renew his bus pass and to Meijer for a blanket and a couple of other things Ikea didn't have.

By then it was supper time.  We ate at a diner in Ypsi, then went Grocery Shopping.  Sasha had nothing, of course, so we had to get him all the stuff that you only buy once a year, like mustard and medicine, and all the stuff you buy monthly, like coffee and sugar and toilet paper, and the stuff you buy weekly, like milk and bread and eggs.  It was a long, long trip to the store, and we were both tired and crabby by this time, but we forged ahead!

Back at the apartment we unloaded yet again.  It was after 8:00 by now.  We tried to put his bed frame together and discovered the bolts I'd bought to replace the ones we'd had to cut apart to disassemble the thing last time were the wrong size.  The frame is really old anyway, so later we'll have to get him a different frame.  We got him set up with a place to sleep, then unpacked the kitchen and the bathroom so he'd have a functional place in the morning.

As a bonus, we discovered a building wifi network.  Sasha doesn't need to pay for Internet!  Awesome!

Toward the end, I could see that Sasha was a little uneasy about being left there.  It's the first time he's ever lived alone.  In Ukraine he lived with his family and then at the orphanage.  Then he lived in America with his new family.  Even at the shelter he was in shared sleeping quarters, with shared bathroom and laundry and eating facilities.  He was never really by himself.  Now, however, he's living alone for the first time.

I hugged him and left, worried again.  I had to remind myself firmly that this is =his= place now.  He has to figure stuff out.  He'll make mistakes and hopefully learn from them.  That's the way it works.  And he does have help.
stevenpiziks: (Fountain)
While I was doing some kitchen stuff, Maksim said from the living room, "Dad, I know I've said this before, but thank you for adopting me and Sasha."

It was very sweet and it made me cry.
stevenpiziks: (Default)
This year we celebrated Family Day by going to Cedar Point.  Family Day is the day we adopted the boys.  (Some families call this "Gotcha Day," but we don't like that--it sounds like the parents leaped out of the bushes and snatched the unsuspecting children away.)  The official date was June 21, the day we were in court, but we arrived home and the boys became citizens on June 27, so we kind of celebrate at a point somewhere in between, whenever it's most convenient.

At any rate, we all went down to Cedar Point.  This included Kala, who is up visiting from Arizona.

It's nice having a world-class amusement park only 2-1/2 hours away.  It means you can do a day trip and not rack up hotel fees or airfare.

As most families do at Cedar Point, we broke apart, came together, and broke apart again in different combinations.  Cell phones made this a lot easier.  I spent time alone with each of the three boys at one time or another. 

We discovered that although Maksim is tall enough to ride almost everything, he professed a terror of any kind of roller coaster, or indeed any ride that involved a height higher than six feet.  Even the ferris wheel was a no.  Kala can't handle swoopy or spinny rides anyway (I can't handle spinny rides), so she spent most of the day with him on smaller rides, though I spelled her.

Aran went on the Mantis, the stand-up roller coaster, and barfed toward the end.  Turns out he can't do upside-down.  I spent most of the day trying to convince him to go on other roller coasters, but he wouldn't.  Kala got him on the Wildcat, a wimpy-ass roller coaster, and from there I coaxed him onto the Gemini, which he loved and went on several times.

Sasha bounced around from ride to ride.  At first he was leery of many of them but, as is his habit, he got over his fear and went on nearly everything.  The only one he avoided was the Power Tower.  While we were waiting in line for one ride, we saw the new attraction.  I forget the name, but it's a spinning swing ride that goes nearly as high up as the space needle.  But it got stuck.  The people on it hung in their seats for over half an hour before the ride slowly, slowly spun them back down again.  I had wanted to try this ride, but not after that!

The weather was perfect--sunny and breezy.  Since it was Wednesday early in the season, there were no crowds.  The longest we waited in line was twenty minutes.  Most rides had a five or ten minute wait.  It was great!

At about 8:30, right when everyone was getting tired and ready to go home, thunderheads rolled in.  Mackie started to freak out.  Storms make him nervous and he was tired and far from home.  I calmed him down and took his hand as we trotted for the van.  We were a few steps away when the skies opened up, and we shot inside before the deluge really began.  Just in time!

A good Family Day.
stevenpiziks: (Fountain)
We celebrated Maksim's half birthday over the weekend.  Since his real birthday is so close to Christmas, we do a celebration for him in June; otherwise it gets lost in the holiday explosion.

When I asked Maksim what kind of cake he wanted, he said, "One with green frosting."   Okay.  I made a carrot cake and colored the frosting green.  It looked strange, but Mackie liked it.

My mother and brother came by, as did my in-laws, so we had quite the little gathering.  The weather had finally cleared up after several days of clouds and rain, so we barbecued hamburgers and hot dogs.  For presents, Mackie got some powerful water pistols, more bakugan toys, Nerf gun refills, and a set of toy handcuffs (because he wants to be a policeman when he grows up).  He also got two expansion packs to City of Heroes, his favorite on-line game.

While I was installing the add-ons to his game, a piece of email arrived from our translator friend Gene in Ukraine.  He had a letter from Sasha and Maksim's sister Larissa, which he had translated and attached.  I printed it out and gave it to Maksim to read.  He wanted to sit down right away to write back.  Sasha got the letter next.  He was reluctant to write back at first, but Maksim insisted, so he did.  I wrote a letter of my own--the boys tend to be short to the point of curt--to fill in more details.  Later, I typed up the boys' letters, sent Gene a translator's fee via Western Union, and emailed everything to him so he can translate and send to Larissa.

I think Sasha's family and the boys believe Gene is doing this to be nice.  They don't know I'm paying both ends for translation.  Heh.  But they don't need to know, and Gene's fees are reasonable.  Really, he should expand into that as part of his business.

And now Maksim is nine and a half!  Can you believe it?
stevenpiziks: (Carved Rock)
I'd promised Sasha's family I'd send them more pictures of the boys.  This week I put some recent ones together and just now I spent an hour painstakingly transliterating the name and address for Sasha's sister Tatyana.  This involved finding a web site with the Ukrainian alphabet on it and copying, letter by letter, the appropriate characters into a Word file.  And oh yes--I had to track down the village name because the spelling I had for it wasn't quite right.  Thank heavens for Google Earth.  Oi!  I finally came up with:

Tatтиaнa Каминчук
Калинівка 11340
Україна

It took forbloody EVER.  But at least I have it now and can print up address labels at will.
stevenpiziks: (Light)
Out of the blue this evening, Maksim handed me a handwritten letter. It read:

Dear Mom and Dad,

I miss you, even though I don't remember what you look like. But my American Dad told me about you. Tell my nephews that I miss them and I miss our sisters. Sasha was the one who came to visit you, but I am Maksim. Now I am 9 1/2 years old. Steven has been taking care of us. I hope I can visit you.

Love,
Maksim

P.S. Please write back on this square and send it back to me.

[hand-drawn square on page]

----------------

I told him I would have it translated and mailed for him.  I emailed it to our translator friend in Ukraine, who said he would translate it and take care of it.

It was so sweet but so heart-wrenching at the same time.

I would like to take Maksim to Ukraine to visit his birth family, but right now . . . that's just not a possibility.

Downhill

Sep. 30th, 2010 08:46 pm
stevenpiziks: (Carved Rock)
After the successful banned book talk, the evening went rather downhill.  The highway home was under construction and was narrowed down to three lanes, then two, and then apparently one.  I finally exited and took sidestreets home, but wasn't sure if that saved me any time.  A 25-minute drive took 65.

I realized by the time I got home that I was getting sick, either with something new or a recurrence of the same thing I had before.  Kala had come over for the evening to supervise the boys, and when she left, I checked school web sites and found email from one of Sasha's teachers about trouble in class, and the on-line reporting system reported that he was sliding elsewhere as well.  I called Sasha in to discuss this, and it turned into a full-blown fight.

Fighting with Sasha is always complicated and messy, and I hate it, and I think I need to find a therapist for him again, even though I know he won't want to go.

It was an exhausting night.
stevenpiziks: (Carved Rock)
Sasha's phone is at least three years old--ancient!  I checked with the phone company, and he's definitely due for an upgrade.  Sasha had never heard of this.  "Upgrade?  What is upgrade?"
 
"It means you can get a new phone for cheap or for free if I'm willing to sign a two-year contract with phone company."
 
"New phone?  I want a new phone!"
 
We scrolled through the ones on the phone company's web site, and he really liked the back-flip android phone.  It was priced at one cent with the upgrade.
 
I looked up AT&T store locations and called.  The first place had none in stock but would have it on Friday.  The second place had them, so off we went.  It took considerable time to find them because the address didn't appear in the proper place on my iPhone's map.  (Ironic that the phone company's own store was listed in the wrong place on the product it sells.)  But at last we arrived.
 
The phone Sasha wanted was listed at the store as $50.  I blinked.  "The web site lists a different price," I said.
 
The sales clerk looked up my account and discovered this was true.  He said he suspected that price was for a new line or new account.
 
"The web site lists it as a penny," I said, "under =this= line."
 
The clerk checked with the manager.  I, meanwhile, told Sasha that if it was $50, we'd go home and order it and he could wait a few days for it to arrive.  He didn't like this idea, but such is life.
 
A few minutes later, the clerk came back and said that the $50 price was correct and the one cent price was indeed for a new line.  "But," he added quickly, "she got it changed, so we can give you the web site's price."
 
Well, good.  Because then we started, as I expected, the additions.  The case--and Sasha needed one--was $30.  (And those cases can't cost more than $5 to make, ship, and stock.)  And did we want a car charger for $30 more?  "If you buy it with the case, we take off ten bucks, so you save $10," the clerk said.
 
Nope.  The phone has a USB port, and the car has a USB plug.  It'll charge the phone--we checked--so I don't need to pay $20 to save $10.
 
And then there was the data plan.  Sasha's old phone didn't have Internet or texting, but he wanted both on this one.  Meanwhile, I checked my iPhone data usage.  See, iPhone started with a $30 a month charge for all the Internet you can eat.  Then they found out this takes up too much bandwidth, so they changed it to $15 for 200 MB a month or $25 for 2 gigs a month.  My highest usage was 180 MB, and that was because Sasha watched lots of videos on my phone, which he won't do now.
 
In addition, one of the phones on our family plan has texting for $5 a month and 250 messages.  Sasha wanted texting, but I had no idea if he needed an all-you-can-eat plan or not.  However, a family texting cost $30 per month.
 
I was already paying $60 per month for data plans and minimal texting.  If I cancled the low texting plan, downgraded my data plan, put Sasha on 2 gig Internet, and added infinite texting for all phones on the account, I'd pay $65 per month.  Okay, then.
 
The clerk handled the switch, popped the chip from Sasha's old phone into his new one, and set up Sasha's phone.
 
He's been glued to it ever since he got home.  I've already gotten more texts from him today than I've gotten over the life of my phone!
stevenpiziks: (Which Way?)
Today I ran everywhere getting ready for the Ukraine trip.  We had a small bombshell--Gene casually let drop by email that one of Sasha's sisters has two children.  What the hell?  I was seriously angry at him.  The whole point of me hiring him to visit Ostapy was to learn this kind of thing and report back to us.  On top of it, he didn't bother to mention what gender the kids are, which meant I had to email him again to get more information.

"Oh, didn't I mention?" he wrote back.  "I thought I did."

No, he hadn't.  After another email from me, he wrote back to say they were both boys under the age of five.  He didn't mention their names, so I had to write =again= to ask about that.

At any rate, I took Mackie toy shopping for them.  I bought some bubble stuff, Slinkies, Pez dispensers with refills, and airplane-shaped fans that whoosh at you with their propellers.  I think the boys (my grand-nephews?) will like them.

Back home, there was much stuff to gather--toiletries, clothes, entertainment thingies, and so on.  Sasha had vanished and wasn't answering his cell phone, so I drove down to his friend's house, found him, and snarled that he needed to get home RIGHT NOW.  Did he think the magical Europe fairies would get everything done for his trip?

When he got home, I made him do all the laundry, mow the lawn, mop the kitchen floor, pack his suitcase to specifications, and fill his backpack with entertainment stuff for the flight.  I also made him sit through a going-over of airline security procedure, since he wasn't really a participant when he came to the US the first time.

Somewhere in there I made supper for the boys--homemade pizza--and packed my own suitcase.  The phone rang and rang and rang.  Kala.  My mother.  My father.  My friend Kurt.  I finally stopped answering it.  There was a bad moment when it looked like Sasha's passport had disappeared, but it turned up.

Once it was all done (as much as could be tonight) I watched the latest DOCTOR WHO to unwind for a while.

Giftage

Jun. 27th, 2010 03:56 pm
stevenpiziks: (Fountain)
At gunpoint, I forced Sasha out of the house and made him go gift shopping for his Ukrainian family today.
 
"I don't know what to get them," he complained.
 
"Neither do I," I said.  "That's why we have to go look for ideas."
 
Mackie really wanted to come, too, so we took him.  Off we went to downtown Ann Arbor, the best shopping place for interesting and/or weird stuff.
 
We got there a little before noon--oops!  It was Sunday, and most of the shops were still closed.  But the comic shop was open, so we went in there and browsed.  The boys picked out a couple of things they wanted, and in the interest of spurring interest in reading, I ponied up.
 
Then it the shopping began.  Oh, the moaning and groaning!  The theme was Stuff From America.  We stopped at various shops, including Crazy Wisdom, where I found some small dream catchers, a perfect American gift.  Then we went down the street to Peaceable Kingdom, which has a bunch of interesting little thingies, and we bought magnets bearing the initials of Sasha and Maksim's family members in English.  And on the way out, I pointed out to Maksim the fairy door just outside the exit.
 
Downtown Ann Arbor is riddled with fairy doors.  (One enterprising individual has collected several in photos here: http://urban-fairies.com/locationspages/locations.html , but admits there are probably others, since they come and go.)  The fair folk have even installed one in Ann Arbor's Google headquarters, though the sign above their door says "Giggle."  Mackie found this fascinating, especially since you could look through Peaceable Kingdom's fairy door into a small living room beneath the store's display window.
 
We also stopped at a store that sells University of Michigan paraphenalia, which sells U of M t-shirts that say "Michigan" in several languages, including Russian.  We got one in Russian and one in English for Sasha's sisters.
 
Yesterday I spent considerable time (over four hours, all told) putting together a photo album for Sasha and Maksim's mother in Ukraine, so I declared the gifting now complete.
 
We were starving by now, so we stopped at Jerusalem Garden, Ann Arbor's premier cheap eats place.  I though Mackie, our vegetarian in training, would love it, but he declared he hated felafel, which meant he went hungry while Sasha and I snarfed ours down.  Then we paused to admire the five-story deep construction pit next to the library, where they're building a new parking structure, and then home in time for the huge thunderstorm.
stevenpiziks: (Good News)
The trip to Ukraine is somewhat risky.  What if Sasha's mother had moved?  Or even passed away?  Or had more children?  How will she and her husband react to us suddenly showing up at her door with her missing son after five years?  The physical and emotional challenges run high.

To help smooth the way, I've hired a man named Gennady Sazhine to be our driver, translator, and guide during our trip to Ukraine.   He does this sort of thing full-time, guiding American families with adopted children.  Most of the kids in question were adopted as babies and have no memory of Ukraine, but the principal for us is still the same.

A while ago, I sent Gene a letter from me, a letter from Sasha, and some pictures of the boys.  Gene drove with them to Ostapy, Sasha and Maksim's home village, to see if he could track down the Danylchuk family.  This morning I heard from him via email.  He writes:

First I went to the village council where I made good friends with the head of the village. And then she agreed to show me up to the bio-mom Maria. . . . [W]hen we were speaking a lot of inhabitants gathered around us and, I must say, Sasha really was a "star" there, everybody loved him.

So, we met the bio-mom Maria, in a house which Sasha and Maksim used to live. I showed her and her husband the pictures from you and she cried a little, her eyes were watery especially when I was reading your and Sasha's letter.

I also visited the bio-sisters. They live in another nearby village, named "Kalinovo". I told all of them about your future visit on the 30th of June, So, everybody was very excited, the bio-mom most of all!


This is good news in that Gene was able to find them, that the boys' Ukrainian family knows they're all right, and that they know we'll be there to visit. 

I wasn't able to tell Sasha until after school today, and I didn't want to post it here until he'd had a chance to learn of it first.  But now Sasha does know, and his eyes grew a little watery, too.

It Begins

Apr. 9th, 2010 11:01 pm
stevenpiziks: (Which Way?)
Today the research began in earnest.  We're planning a return trip to Ukraine.

It'll just be Sasha and me going.  One week this summer to find his birth family.  He hasn't had any contact with them since the adoption, and we have no idea if they know what happened to him and Maksim.  This is also the last summer before he turns eighteen, so it has to be now.

Read more... )
stevenpiziks: (Bear)
Sasha has been reliving his Ukrainian childhood lately--by eating salted raw garlic.

We first encountered this treat in Ukraine when Irene, our housekeeper, made borscht. You peel a clove of garlic, dip it in coarse salt, and eat. Sasha has been doing this quite a lot lately, and Mackie has followed suit. It's been rather . . . unpleasant to stand close to him.
stevenpiziks: (Bear)
Elton John applied to adopt an HIV-positive infant.  The Ukrainian government refused him on the grounds that he wasn't married and that he's more than 45 years older than the child.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090914/ap_en_ot/eu_ukraine_elton_john

Sorry, I'm not buying.

Ukrainian law does state that people who want to adopt internationally must be married (Ukraine doesn't recognize same-sex marriages) and that they must be no more than 45 years older than the child they adopt.  However, Ukraine has historically bent or broken its adoption rules, especially when the child has special needs.  Kala and I were originally "certified" by Ukraine to adopt one or two children between the ages of three and six  When Kala and I got over there, we were told several times by several different people that neither of these conditions really applied if we were interested in adopting an older child or a child with special needs or more siblings.  Perhaps we might want three siblings instead of two?  It would be done!  We were perhaps willing to adopt a child with cerebral palsy?  Done!  Fetal alcohol syndrome?  Done!

Sasha was eleven--five years older than the age Ukraine originally gave us permission for.  But few people would be willing to adopt a child Sasha's age, and we were.  So it was done!

Elton John is a wealthy man, with access to enormous medical resources.  He isn't in a marriage recognized by Ukraine, and he's older than their laws allow, but he is willing to adopt an HIV-positive child which no one else wants.  (Ukrainian law also states that a child be available for adoption only to Ukrainians for the first fourteen months s/he's in an orphanage, so clearly no Ukrainians have stepped forward to adopt Baby Lev.)   The government should have sent his adoption request right through, just as it has for so many others who don't fit the legal requirements but who were willing to adopt special needs kids.

Why was Sir Elton dismissed?  In what way is he different from all the others?

Yeah.  We know.  And it's Baby Lev who'll suffer for it.

stevenpiziks: (Default)
Mackie is well into the Fun Stage.  This is, supposedly, the point at which children are at their best, the age between about six and twelve.  It's when they have enough independence to release you from the chore of constant care but are dependent enough to still need you.  They still think parents are cool.  They say and do cute things.  They're big enough to be fun to play with, but they still want to cuddle or be read to.

This is a first for me.

Aran didn't have a Fun Stage.  This isn't to say I don't enjoy being with Aran or playing with him or talking to him, but all interaction with him is filtered through his autism.  It's the elephant in the room, except we don't ignore it so much as deal with the fact that it takes up so much damn space it's hard to get to the Wii.  And I still tend to think, "How can I get Aran to _______ more?  What if I ask him about ______?  Or to ______?  Maybe I should challenge him by asking him some more abstract questions."  Even a game of Lazer Tag turns into play therapy because I don't dare miss an opportunity to help him develop.  So while Aran's Fun Stage . . . isn't.  Quite.

Sasha, of course, was just coming out of his Fun Stage when we adopted him.  We didn't even get the usual "honeymoon phase" that most adopted kids give their parents.  Sasha challenged us on the first day we took him out of the orphanage.  Six months later, he became a teenager, and six months after that, he entered adolescence.

Mackie was three when we adopted him, but was developmentally closer to two.  He regressed a little when we got him, too, probably in an attempt to be a baby again and make up for the fourteen months of his baby- and toddlerhood when he didn't have parents and his care came from a series of only semi-personal orphanage workers.  He "forgot" his potty training, he hoarded food, he wouldn't sleep by himself, he became a terror in school, and so on.

All of this completely skewed my expectations of childhood development.  I never expected my children to be nice, or simple, or fun.  I loved (love) them, yes, but it always came with a "What crisis is coming next?" question at the back of my head.

Now Mackie is settling into this Fun Stage I've heard about but never expected to experience myself.  He's incredibly cute.  He likes hugs and still wants to be tucked in at night, but insists on independence in the morning.  He runs around the neighborhood with the pack of local children, but he still thinks Daddy is pretty cool.  He wants me to go on bike rides with him, watch TV with him, play video games with him.  I don't have to think about how to phrase my questions for abstract content or wonder if he'll suddenly shift moods with adolescent suddenness.

So I'm going to enjoy it.
stevenpiziks: (Which Way?)
We've been trying to find another counselor for Sasha for a while.  He saw one for about a year quite a while ago, but she went on maternity leave and never came back.  Over the last few months, he's been showing more and more signs of stress and difficulty, and we decided he had to see someone again.

We found one guy who didn't work out.  His version of counseling was to give lectures in psychology.  Some of what he said was useful, but it wasn't what Sasha needed, especially since he spent only about 10% of the time letting Sasha talk.  The other 90% of the time he talked to me or Kala.  He never saw Sasha alone.  So we ended it with him.

Wednesday Kala took him to another counselor, who seemed to work out rather better.  Kala said he responded well to her.

"Was he ever diagnosed with PTSD?" she asked at one point.

"Not formally," Kala said.  "But we kind of suspected, and so did his other counselor."

"Huh," she said.  I'll diagnose him right now.  He has PTSD."

I knew that insomnia, sleepwalking, audio hallucinations, and difficulty concentrating are symptoms of PTSD, and Sasha experiences all of these.   But Sasha has another habit, has since I've met him: he asks me to speak for him. 

One of the most common things I hear from him is, "Dad, tell Mom about that thing that happened," or "Ask Mom if I can use her computer," when Kala is sitting right there.  He'll ask me to tell his teachers things for him as well, usually when they're standing next to us.  I put this down to a strange version of shyness or low self-esteem, but it turns out this is a common symptom of PTSD in young people.

So now we have to see how best to treat it.
stevenpiziks: (Which Way?)
This article exactly describes Sasha's position:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/25/education/25ellis.html


(Requires free registration, but I've never been spammed because of them.)

New York City classrooms have long been filled with children from all over the world, and the education challenges they bring with them. But hidden among the nearly 150,000 students across the city still struggling to learn English are an estimated 15,100 who, like Fanta, have had little or no formal schooling and are often illiterate in their native languages.

More than half of these arrive as older teenagers and land in the city’s high schools, where they must learn how to learn even as their peers prepare for state subject exams required for a diploma.

“They don’t always have a notion of what it means to be a student,” said Stephanie Grasso, an English teacher at Ellis Prep, which opened this fall and is New York’s first school devoted to this hard-to-educate population. “Certain ideas are completely foreign to them. They have to learn how to ask questions and understand things for themselves.”

Sasha will graduate high school at age 21, though in my more scared moments, I wonder if he'll graduate at all.  There's so much he doesn't know that other seventh-graders take for granted.  Sasha came to us not knowing that the earth revolves around the sun instead of the other way around.  He still can't add or subtract in his head.  He can't tell time and doesn't know how long a month is.

In high school, he'll be expected to complete four years of English, three years of math, and three years of science, among other requirements.  I don't know how he's going to do it.  It frightens me quite a lot.

stevenpiziks: (Fountain)
Sasha has turned 16.  This is very strange.  It doesn't feel like he's 16 to me, mostly because he's still in seventh grade and he doesn't really act like a 16-year-old, and this is fine.  If he needs to slow down his childhood, we're happy to let him.  While it had good parts, his childhood in Ukraine was harsh in many ways.  We can let him slow down and rebuild.

No, he isn't getting his license anytime soon.  He isn't ready, and he doesn't want it, in any case.

Biologically, however, Sasha is 16, and there are flashes of the mid-teenager that show up.  He hasn't been my son for even five years, and he's moving past childhood.  It's like I've leased him or something.

At any rate, Sasha said that for his birthday present, he wanted to have a party with his friends at the bowling alley.  I called the bowling alley, and it turns out they do have a party package that includes two hours of bowling, shoes, a large pizza, and a pitcher of pop.  We asked for two lanes (which included two pizzas, etc.) and ordered an additional pizza and pitcher.  Sasha invited six friends, the max I said he could bring.

The weather on the morning of the party was dreadful.  Much snow, much cold, much wind.  We got a call from one parent asking if the party was still on, and we said it was.  By early afternoon, the bad weather had cleared out and the roads became rather more driveable.  We all piled into the new van and drove to the bowling alley.  Four of the invitees showed up--pretty good, considering the roads and cold.

The boys (including Aran and Maksim) bowled and played around.  The pizza came, and there was much munching.  We lit the cake (home-made carrot), and there was more munching.  More bowling followed.  It was a very good afternoon, really--a good way to get people out of the house after being confined for so long due to bad weather.  Sasha had a really good time.
stevenpiziks: (Gloom)
I've gotten so many e-mails from people who have written to tell me horror stories about Hands Across the Water, the adoption agency from hell, that I finally created a Yahoo! group for them so we can all stay in touch all at once.

There is at least one lawsuit going on now.

So if any Hands Across the Water alumni are reading this and you haven't gotten a Yahoo invite, contact me!  I'll get you in.
stevenpiziks: (Ireland)
Today I was supposed to get a bunch of writing done.  Lots of it!  It was all planned.
 
And then . . .
 
 

Profile

stevenpiziks: (Default)
stevenpiziks

September 2017

S M T W T F S
     12
3 456789
10 1112 1314 15 16
171819 20212223
24252627282930

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 21st, 2017 03:16 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios