SNAFU (Situation Normal, all F---ed Up.)

This is an email I sent to Yelena's teachers and therapists this week:

I wanted to give you an update on Yelena as she seems to be struggling right now and any help you can give her on this issues would be appreciated. My husband and I have noticed that she is throwing her meds in the toilet. We have been trying to have her swallow them in our presence but mostly she refuses. When questioned about it, she says that she doesn’t want to talk about it. We have told her that if they make her feel odd or bad in any kind of way, she needs to let the doctor know and we can change dosages, etc. We are going to talk to her meds provider about the med situation. I know she hasn’t been taking the Concerta but I am not entirely sure about the others.
Last week, she stole $40. from my wallet which was in my locked car in the drive way. She took my keys which I found in the kitchen. I asked her for the money back and she didn’t deny she had taken it. I spent quite a long time with her and she finally said she would write down what happened. She gave me $7. change and said she had the other $20 in her pocket. I asked her what she had bought and she told me she had bought a sprite. I told her that was a very expensive drink and she admitted buying a box of cookies at the gas station down the street.  I don’t know if she spent the rest of the money or still had it. I asked her to go through her room with me and we could take out other items that did not belong to her and return them. We found several of my husband’s shirts, a nice set of headphones and a leather binder.  
She has decided that she will only wear my husband’s shirts and her black jeans. Unfortunately, this means that my husband doesn’t have any shirts because every time I take them out of her room, she just steals them back again. The other day I said something like: “I notice you really like those black jeans. Do you want to go shopping and get another pair? “ She responded that she didn’t want to talk about it. She has not washed the jeans in weeks. Every once in awhile when I insist, she takes them downstairs and then brings them back upstairs about 1/2 hour later (not possibly long enough to wash and dry them) and she shows me they are warm and smell like the dryer sheets (but they haven’t been washed.) 
Her personal hygiene has been deteriorating as well. When I do get her to take a shower, I am not sure that she is using soap or shampoo. I put the shampoo in the bathroom in a particular way and it hasn’t been moved in weeks although she does wet her hair and use conditioner. She puts the same dirty clothes back on after her shower. 
Sometimes, we use taking a shower or changing her clothes as a prerequisite to a privilege such as watching her DVD player or Netflix. The other night, her DVD player (which I had bough 2 weeks ago) didn’t work and she threw a full blown tantrum. She tore up her books, punched her hand through the wall in several places and told me she wanted to kill herself. She also said that she wanted to go back to her birth parents who were the only people who had ever cared about her (that’s not the first time I have heard that but it is so patently ridiculous that I don’t react at all to it.) She said: “OK, now send me away again. All you do is send me away.” I told her that I would rather have her stay with us. She was really looking for a fight from both my husband and I but we kept our cool and she finally went to bed and woke up fine in the morning. This looking for a fight and trying to provoke us has been going on for several days.  
She still goes to the library every day after school but has been good about returning home before 7 pm which I praise her profusely about. She is obsessed with the TV show: “Once Upon a Time” which has the characters Anna and Elsa from “Frozen”. She watches it constantly and things seem to escalate each week before Sunday (when the show airs) because she seems sure that she is going to do something which would impact on her ability to watch the show. She is very anxious about any possibly of not being able to watch the show on Sunday night.


The Summer That Never Was

     To go back to where I had left off, several months ago, at Camp/ Vacation/Respite/Time Out/Relief. Well, it never actually happened…
     After several weeks of 12-hour days at the library, we finally succeeded in getting Yelena to camp. I took a day off from work and we drove her three hours up to Maine. She was excited and she seemed perfectly happy - happy to be there and happy to see her counselors and her friends. We left her there and drove to the beach and had a celebratory meal of lobster and beer and a refreshing swim in the ocean.

     Everything was fine for about a week – just enough time for me to begin to feel the earth under my feet again. One afternoon at 5 pm at the end the first week of camp, I received a phone call at my workplace from the camp director and the special-needs director. I was put on speakerphone and Yelena was in the room as well. It was unfortunate (from my point of view) that she was there because I wasn’t really able to speak openly and ask the kinds of questions I wanted to but I think that was the intention on their part. It was a fait accompli as they had already made up their minds.

     The incident involved Yelena stealing Magic Cards from another camper. After the theft was discovered, she was given the chance to returning anything else she might have stolen, with complete amnesty, no questions asked.  Yelena said that she didn’t have anything else that was stolen. About an hour later, she was caught with more stolen Magic Cards trying to trade them to another child. Apparently since the incident involved other children, the staff felt that Yelena has lost the trust of the other members of the community and that there was no alternative except for her to leave. So at that point, late in the afternoon they told me on the phone that I needed to come and get her within 12 to 18 hours. When they asked me what time  they should they expect me to be there, I said that I needed to speak to my husband and would need to call them back later. Hoping against hope that my husband could talk them into keeping her, he called the director to be told that Yelena’s belongings were all packed and that she had been isolated and was waiting for us to pick her up in the infirmary.

     I took another day off of work and we drove up to Maine. When we got there we spoke to both the director and to the special-needs director whom we have known for about 5 years at this point.  We were told that Yelena had made a really close group of friends and she was welcome to stay in touch with them and would be provided with their addresses and phone numbers. We were also told that she was welcome to come back next year for a week and if that week worked out well that she could stay for another week. The special-needs director also suggested a number of treatment modalities for Yelena that when I looked them up later realized that they were for autistic children not for children with any of Yelena’s diagnoses.

     We had to back the car up to the infirmary so that no one could see her getting into the car so that she wouldn’t create a ’’disturbance”. Yelena got in the car, lay down the backseat and cried all the way home. She refused to speak with us.

     Yelena asked me for the addresses and phone numbers of her two friends which she had been promised, I contacted the special-needs director and after several months of e-mailing back and forth with elusive and evasive answers, I finally gave up and Yelena gave up asking. What bothers me most is that they promised Yelena and that promise was broken. One more broken promise in a life of broken promises and each one takes her farther and farther away from us and away from her recovery.

     A month or so later I got an email from the camp (I’m still on their mailing list) saying that if I register now for next summer I could get a significant savings for camp at the early bird rates from 2014.  I sent a note back to the director basically saying that I wasn’t quite sure how to handle this and do you have any suggestions. I was still thinking there was a possibility that Yelena might go next summer. She never replied. Thinking it through, I am not going to send Yelena for one week or potentially two weeks to this camp again where she could bounce back home at any minute, I need to find someplace where she can be for the whole summer and where they are not going to send her home because they understand that would not be the right thing to do for this child. So, I guess I am looking for another camp for next summer.

     This had been Yelena’s 5th summer there and she loved it. It was also a JCC camp and Yelena’s connection with her Jewish identity is very special to her and something the camp cultivates and stimulates really well. Camp was the highlight of the year for Yelena. We felt that they knew her and they were comfortable with her and they could deal with her. It was a special needs camp and I didn’t really have any idea that a special needs camp would send the child home for something like stealing Magic Cards. A diamond ring, a computer, an iPad maybe but not Magic Cards. I thought they would work harder to try and work it out with her. I know those cards are valuable to the kids but it’s still hard for me to understand how our five your relationship with this camp has fallen into basically no relationship.

     Coincidentally, at dinner tonight, Yelena mentioned the whole incident about not even being able to say goodbye to her friends when she left camp. She is still very angry about it and so am I.
     I don’t mean to say that I am placing the whole blame on the camp. Stealing has been a serious problem for Yelena. It is the one issue that frightens her father and I the most because it really could lead to jail when she gets older if we can’t find a way to deal with it. Yelena, of course, after crying the whole way home from camp and not really talking to us much for a few days, started to tell us that the whole thing was the camps fault, her counselors fault, etc. It is almost impossible for her to take responsibility for her actions and to accept the consequences. It is a hard thing for any of us but it seems to be an almost unobtainable goal for Yelena.


Camp/Vacation/Respite/Time Out/Relief

     Tomorrow we will drive Yelena to Maine for 3-1/2 weeks at camp. This is a milestone that I wasn't sure was going to happen this year. It was touch and go for awhile but then my husband and I sat down and decided that no matter what was happening with her, we would do everything we could to try to get her to camp. We are almost there...

     Looking back on the past few months: there were 6 days in the ER over Memorial Day weekend, then two weeks at a very mediocre in-patient hospital program, two weeks of a partial hospital program, graduation from 8th grade and then a total of 3 days that she went to school for the past month or so. She has been spending her days from 9 am to 9 pm at the public library.

     I happen to love libraries. I spent a large part of my childhood at the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library looking at books. Yelena spends her days there on the computer going back and forth between a mind boggling mixture of Disney, anime, music videos and pornography. I went to check on her the other day and I asked the reference librarian what he would do if he saw a child in the library watching pornography. He said that he would do nothing. I asked if that was the official policy and he said that he didn't know what the policy was.  I asked to speak to his supervisor. I ended up speaking to a lovely woman who used to be a librarian in the children's room and has known Yelena for years. She said that the policy of the library was not to turn a blind eye to children doing potentially dangerous things on a computer and she would definitely go up to Yelena if she saw her watching something inappropriate and tell her that it was inappropriate. She said that she would find the exact wording of their policy and send an email out to all employees.

     Part of the reason that Yelena has refused to go back to school is because she said that it wasn't any fun. Did someone say high school was supposed to be fun??? Also, the therapist that she has had at school for the past three years and who she has been very close to, has decided to retire and told Yelena that her second day there. When I suggested that she might want to go to school to see Dr. M., Yelena said that she never wanted to see her again for the rest of her life and then proceeded to get very close to a tantrum on the subject. I think the strength of her reaction only belies exactly how hurt she is about losing Dr. M. This loss and the transition from middle school to high school has just about done us all in. Had I known that she would not be going to school, I would have sent her to camp for the entire summer. Hindsight is 20/20.

   I am thinking however, about planning a pleasant day with my husband after we drop Yelena at camp. I would like to explore an area we have never been before: find a new beach, lie on the sand for a few hours, a lobster roll, a beer, a swim in the ocean. Relax. Together. Just two of us.


This was the email I sent to her teacher this morning:

Yelena had a rough day yesterday. She was ready to go to school and then because the van was late, she said,  “I am not going to school if the bus is going to make me be late again” and went upstairs again. She came back down because I needed her to unlock the phone before I sent it to school (and remove the pornography). She got angry and started walking down the street. She spent the whole day at the library on the computer. 

When I went to get her at 6 pm, I decided to take a different tactic with her than "You need to come home now" because I knew that would not work. I pulled a chair up next to her and she shoved me and told me to go away. I said  "I need a hug." No response. I said it again and she said "Well, you don't deserve one." I did not say anything and I got up and walked away feeling really hurt. I realized a little later that she probably meant that SHE didn't deserve it.

She came home at 9 pm (when the library closes) and was very pleasant. (That was 12 hours on the computer in the library). She ate dinner and then lay with her head in my lap for about 1/2 and hour before she went to bed. I said that I knew this was a rough transition and I asked her how it was going at school and she said, “so-so.”

I had asked her if she wanted to go to camp and told her that she didn’t have to if she didn’t want to (inspire of the fact that I have already paid several thousand dollars for it). She responded emphatically that she did want to go. She had said the other day after she stole the phone at home (very sadly),  “I guess this means I won't be going to camp.” So I was thinking that either she was expecting that as a consequence or that she really didn’t want to go and was stealing so that we would tell her she could not go to camp. I am still not sure. She repeated yesterday how much she wanted to go to camp and I responded by saying that her actions were not indicating that. I asked if she wanted to go to a CBAT or to the hospital and she said she didn’t want to be away from her family again like that again for so long. Personally, I do want her to go to camp this summer because (aside from the money I already spent), my husband and I can really use a 3-1/2 week vacation.

Yelena told me last night that she didn’t want to go to school today because she was scared. I think she is worried about whatever consequence there might be at school for taking H’s iPhone (she told me that he had loaned it to her.) I said she had to go to school anyway and she said that yes, she knew that. I think she might be embarrassed about facing H and nervous because she doesn’t know how much the other students know about what happened.

She had trouble getting up this morning and has not had a shower since Monday night. I heard the cab honk their horn a few minutes ago and ran downstairs. (She had also forgotten her meds which I took down to her and she said: “Oh, I thought I had taken them." I leave them on the bathroom sink - it’s obvious.) I looked outside and realized the cab was stopped 1/2 way down the street with cars piling up behind him so I ran down the street in my nightgown and asked him to please turn around and come into our driveway. He said he didn’t know where the house was. Anyway, he did turn around and come back and honked and Yelena was sitting there eating pizza with a knife and fork and I said, “It’s 10 after 8 and they are waiting for you,” (the bus is supposed to come at 7:45 and she said, “I have not finished eating my breakfast.” I said put in on a paper plate and go.”  She kept eating. I think if I hadn’t gone downstairs when I did, she might not have gotten on the bus…

Stealing three phones and an iPod within the space of two weeks is a lot of theft even for Yelena. It could be the transition to high school, anxiety about the summer or something else. I know that she has got to be pretty upset about her therapist at school leaving because she hasn’t said one word to me about it and I haven’t asked her.

Anyway, I hope today goes well. I know that usually once she is there, she does fine. Let me know how it goes.


It's Raining Cats and Dogs...

Ah yes, the etymology of the phrase "it's raining cats and dogs"... There are a 
number of versions running around on the internet. I like these two:
The first: with 16th century European peasant homes frequently being thatched, 
animals seeking shelter from the elements would fall out during heavy rains.
The second: that drainage in 17th century Europe was typically poor so they would, 
during heavy rains, disgorge any of the animal corpses that had accumulated in them.

So... To take up where I left off. After our 9 hour visit to the ER, we took 
Yelena back to the ER the following Friday. Her return to the ER was also recommended by our in-home therapist and our family partner's concern 
for Yelena's safety and our safety. My husband made a list of everything 
that had happened in the past two weeks and it was quite a formidable list. 
Our family partner wrote the list down. This is the list:

    List of Inappropriate Behaviors:
  • Stole $15 worth of chocolate covered strawberries that belonged to the girls
  • Stole other food that belonged to the girls
  • Dug in flower beds after being told not to
  • Scraped moss off of rocks after being told not to
  • Kicking the car with karate kicks
  • Spit food out, threw salad on the ground and stormed up the street
  • Brandished a knife (threateningly)
  • Brandished a large spatula (threateningly)
  • Broke a knife
  • Stole $75. in $5 dollar bills and a leather jacket
  • Stole another student's notebook in school
  • Left the house twice without permission for 6 hours and refused to get in the car 
  • when I went out looking for her.
  • Barricaded me in my bedroom, took her baby pictures out of their frames and 
  • tore them up and ripped up the book I was reading.

Unfortunately, we got to the ER on a Friday evening of a holiday weekend and 
Yelena's ER visit turned into a SIX DAY STAY IN THE ER. It still blows my 
mind to think about it. Totally inappropriate. They kept moving her around 
from room to room and finally ended up putting her in the area with locked 
doors and guards.

Then began a totally fruitless daily effort to try to get her out of there: emails 
and phone calls to everyone we could think of. We were told that there would 
be no CBAT beds for two weeks. Her therapist from school said that April and
May were the worst months for hospitalizations with kids. Amazing. Yelena had
a great time. She stayed in bed, watched TV all she wanted and had her meals delivered to her. She had a group of Child Life Specialists who brought her 
games, art materials, a portable DVD player and videos. 
And this went on for six days.

On Wednesday, I was told that she would be moved to an inpatient hospital 
about an hour south of us. Also, aside from being an impossibly far distance to 
visit regularly, it was a hospital with a lousy reputation. I hadn't hear ANYTHING 
good about it. My husband and I were on the phone all day (not unusual) - back 
and forth between each other, the ER, the agency that was looking for a bed, the psychiatrist. I was told that she had to go to an inpatient facility as the 
psychiatrist in the ER would not allow her to go to a CBAT. I called the 
psychiatrist and was given a very short and smug reply.  She essentially told me 
she was too busy to talk and I asked her, please, to just listen to me for a 
minute and she said no. She called me back a little while later to tell me that my daughter was going to an inpatient facility. I was furious. She was not able to 
hear me. I asked to speak to her supervisor and she said "I'm not sure" and 
I said "What? You're not sure of what? You're not sure who your supervisor is?" 
She said "No, I know who my supervisor is. I'm not sure you can talk to her." 
The attitude and bad vibe she was giving off was unbelievable. I begged her to 
consider a CBAT instead of in-patient but it all fell on deaf ears.

I called the agency that was looking for the bed and asked what would happen 
if I refused to sign her in. The woman told me that if I refused, they would 
probably would file a 51A against me - which is effectively telling the State of Massachusetts that we are abusing our child. It's what everyone seems to 
threaten me with when they are trying to force me to do something I don't 
want to do for Yelena. Something that I don't think is in her BEST INTEREST. 
The State of Massachusetts and I seem to disagree about what is in Yelena's 
best interests.

My husband called and told me it was too late, she was already in the 
ambulance on the way to the hospital.

A NOTE ON IN-PATIENT HOSPITAL PROGRAMS vs. CBAT PROGRAMS (Community Based  Acute Treatment):     
In hospitals, you cannot be forced to do anything. You don't have to take a shower, you don't have to wash your hair or brush your teeth or change your clothes or wash your clothes. You can watch TV all day if you want to. You can stay in bed all day if you want to. You can use the telephone as much as you want to call anyone you want and anyone can call you. There is very little to no therapeutic work done with patients.       
A CBAT is a highly structured, and monitored therapeutic milieu and crisis stabilization program where there is a very specific schedule that takes into account all of the above. As a parent you specify who can be in communication with your child and who they are allowed to call. They have regular exercise and school work. Males and females are strictly segregated. To my mind, the CBAT is much more highly structured (which Yelena needs) and far more therapeutic.     

There was a basketball court opposite the door to the hospital wing where Yelena was. I asked her if they ever went out to play basketball (which she loves) and she said no. They were confined to a small courtyard that the adult patients also used. They ate meals in a cafeteria with adult patients. None of those things are appropriate for Yelena. She told me that the adult patients used the courtyard to smoke cigarette and crack (no, I didn't ask her if she knew what crack was because I know she has no idea.) Yelena called me about 20 times a day while she was there - for no real reason I think but just because it was something to do. I didn't answer ALL the calls...

They released Yelena from the hospital on Wednesday. 
She is scheduled to start a partial hospitalization program on Tuesday for 2 weeks. It covers her for the vacation between middle school and high 
school but leaves us with a number of days with no plans for her - not a good condition under which to release 
her from the hospital.

I spent most of the day with her today which is my day off from work. I feel 

like there is a kind of institutionalization setting in. She is now spending 
more time in hospitals and other programs than she is at home. 
She said she was really tired and needs to rest (?) I said: 
you have been resting for two weeks, you need to get out an do a little activity. 
I told her that her in-home therapeutic mentor is coming tomorrow. She said: 
"Oh no, I just got out of the hospital. Give me a break.You can't make me 
get out of bed tomorrow." I said "She's coming at 11 and what happens after 
that is between the two of you. We went shopping and she 
refused to help bring the groceries in from the car and help put them away - 
she made herself a sandwich instead and sat down to eat. She learns a lot 
about how to behave from the other kids in the hospital and they are not there because their behavior is exemplary.

She is graduating from 8th grade on Wednesday. Her 

teacher said that all of the kids get dressed up in really 
nice clothes. I have been asking about what she wants 
to wear and asking to take her shopping. She says she 
won't wear a dress. I have suggested a number of things 
and she just says no. She only wears dirty baggy jeans 
and old T-shirts. I think I want her to get dressed properly 
for once so she will not feel out of place and be embarrassed 
but I really can't protect her from that and she needs to find 
out for herself. 
She is wearing bras that are about 2 sizes 
too small and she refuses to go with me to get new ones. 
Ok, I am going to leave it alone. 
Not one more word out of my mouth. I swear.


The Storm Clouds Continue to Gather...

This is the email I sent to Yelena's therapist this morning:

Thanks for your help.
Things have not been going very well - either on Yelena's end or ours.
We spent about 9 hours last night in the ER after my husband called the police. It was a kind of craziness that he ended up calling the cops in the first place - he thought that she was escalating but I didn't.  Everyone (the staff at the hospital, Yelena, myself and my husband) felt kind of 50/50 about having her admitted. In the end, she wanted to come home and we brought her home. 

I don’t really feel that 2 weeks in a CBAT is a solution. It is a vacation - TV, movies, junk food and trips. It is a break but it doesn't address any of the issues.

The other morning, I found her wallet on her bed in plain view (almost as if she had put it there for me to find) and it had $75 in it in 5 dollar bills - an unusual denomination for so many bills so we thought it might have come from some place specific. She had gone to the library without permission on Wednesday and Thursday nights and was there for about 5 or 6 hours each time. I called the library and they said that they were not missing money from their cash registers. I asked Yelena about it and pushed her a bit. At first she said that she had had it for a week and she honestly didn’t remember where she got it from. Right. The she finally told us before she left the hospital that she had gotten it from a kirtan/music that we had all gone to about a month ago where there was a basket that people put their contributions in. It makes some sense but I still don’t think that’s the truth. I know that it’s not the right thing to push her for the truth (partially since I am not getting anywhere) but it’s driving me nuts. I am also missing a gold necklace my mother gave me that is very valuable. She says she has no idea what I am talking about. I have torn the house upside down but I can’t find it. She is probably getting quite a buzz off of me for all this. I have been trying to talk to her and I keep hearing in the back of my head you saying that we talk to our children too much. 
I think this episode is far from over yet…


Warning: Storm Clouds Overhead...

     This morning after I woke her up for school (at 5:45 AM), Yelena turned on her Frozen CD really loud. Her boom-box is on the other side of the wall that separates our bedrooms and it is right near my head. I banged on the wall and asked her to lower the volume (which I have done before with no ill effects.) She didn't lower the volume so I asked again. Her response was to storm into my room and tell me that she didn’t want me banging on her wall and then she slammed the door really hard as she left the room. My husband got up to go to the bathroom and she yelled at him as well and then came in our room again and slammed the door a second time for emphasis. My husband went to the Y.

     My husband told me this morning that she ate some chocolate covered strawberries that the girls bought that were in the fridge with their name on them.  Ten dollars worth. They need to actually hide them not just put their name on them.

     After she left for school, I searched her room and I found:  
1. My spare set of car keys (I have been locking my car every night because I keep food in it).
2.  A really nice brand-new looking black leather jacket. It does not belong to us. I emailed her teacher about it.
3. A screwdriver and a pair of scissors (things that I don't keep around the house.

     It’s almost like she is acting out because she feels guilty.

     I called my husband this afternoon from work to see how things were going after she came home. He said that he was in the kitchen with everyone and he said to Yelena: "This would be a really good time to apologize to W. for eating her chocolate covered strawberries." Apparently she apologized and my husband said that they had cost $10. and that he had already reimbursed the girls and expected that she would reimburse him.

    When I came home from work, Yelena was very surly towards me. I said that I was going to make us a big salad with everything in it and she said she didn't want salad. Everyone else was going out to eat dinner and to listen to my husband sing at a local restaurant. I took some chicken out of the freezer and she said "I don't want chicken either." She asked why I was so angry with her and I said that I didn't feel close to her and I felt like she was pushing me away. She said that she knew she wasn't going to be allowed to go to Karate tomorrow. I said that Daddy and I had to discuss it. She said that she knew we had thrown out her DVD player and all her Avatar (the Last Airbender) books and DVD's and all I said was they they were being kept safe for her. She laughed and said "Yeah, safe in the garbage." She repeated these accusations several times but I didn't say anything further,

     I decided on risotto and started cutting onions and mushrooms. I had a large kitchen knife which she took and pointed at me. I didn't blink. I told her to please put the knife down several times which she did not do. She held it up to herself and said she would cut herself and I said that I didn't think so. She said "Well, I will use it. I have already committed suicide several times already." It was hard not to laugh. My husband was still at home and about to leave. He told me to leave and go to a friends house. I got my bag and my computer but Yelena beat me out of the door and went and stood in front of my car door so that I couldn't get into my car. We went back into the house and I went back to cooking my risotto. I told my husband to go and he told me that he wanted to be sure that I was safe (and that we were both safe) and to call him later. I went to say goodbye to him and coming back into the kitchen, Yelena blocked the door. I said "Excuse me" several times but she made no effort to move. She told me that she was a lot stronger than I was and I couldn't stop her from doing whatever she wanted to. I forced my way into the kitchen to turn off the stove. She encircled me like a coat so I couldn't move. I got free and I grabbed my purse and headed out to the car. She followed me and said: "If you want me, I will be at the library" and she took off down the street. I got in my car and then decided to follow her a little ways. She looked like she was about to turn around to go home but saw me and continued on her way. I went to get some Sushi.

     When I got home at 9:30, all the lights in the house were on. The kitchen was a mess. She had eaten leftover pizza and had not cleaned up. I started washing dishes. She came into the kitchen and said "I'm sorry, Mommy." I said that I knew she was sorry and I kissed her on the forehead. I asked her to clean up her dishes (while I finished the 1/2 made risotto). She cleaned up and then she said she was going up to bed.

     I know it isn't over yet...



Boy Trouble...

Yelena has had a "boyfriend" for a couple of years. He is a boy who she met at camp so (conveniently) she only saw him about four weeks a year. We will call him Sam.

After the summer she met Sam she came home with a very jam packed suitcase. When I was throwing everything into the wash, I found a note from her to Sam. I think she never gave it to him because she still had it but she wrote it. It said something like: "I will meet you after dinner behind the dining hall and I will show you mine if you will show me yours." I think that was the moment when I first started thinking about contraception or (an even better solution) getting her tubes tied.

Last summer when she went to camp she told me that she was going to kiss him. I said "Nothing more than that OK?" She agreed. When she came home I asked her if they had kissed and she said that they had and she was very happy. I thought it was all very sweet (not sure about innocent though).

Last summer, I picked her up at camp and she was upset about Sam. She asked to use my cell phone to call him and I did let her have it. And, yes, I listened to the conversation... Apparently something had happened and she wouldn't really tell me what it was but when she spoke to him, she wanted to talk about this "thing" that had happened. She said it was all a misunderstanding and he hung up on her. She called again, they talked for a few minutes and he hung up on her again. She called again and he didn't answer the phone. She tried a few more times and then stopped.

In the middle of the winter she decided to give it another try and called him again. This time he spoke to her and they made up and they were all lovey-dovey again. He sent her a Valentine and a birthday card and they talked on the phone frequently. She seemed happy.

A few months ago she told me that they spoken and he had broken up with her again. She was crying and distraught. It made me very sad and I asked her to tell me the whole story. What she told me was that she had told another girl in her bunk (let's call her Lauren) that there was another boy that she really liked. I asked her who that was and she said it was Ethan, who she had met in second grade. She hasn't seen him since fourth grade and she is now in eighth grade. Apparently, Lauren told Sam that Yelena had another boyfriend and Sam was angry so he broke up with Yelena. Yelena was sure that Lauren told him that because she wanted him for herself. Yelena also told me that Lauren had tried to kill her and was then sent home in the middle of the summer. Where the truth lies is anyone's guess.

So apparently, Sam was talking to Lauren again and she encouraged him to break up with Yelena. Then Sam told some of his friends at school what had happened and all his friends told him that he should break up with her so that was what he did. I told her that she didn't want a guy who breaks up with her because his friends tell him to.

Yelena is in eighth grade and at the end of the year they have a "Moving On" ceremony. The ceremony is at 6, then there is a dinner at 7 (her teacher said that this means pizza) and then a dance until 10. About a month ago, Yelena came home with the very happy news that someone had invited her to the dance! I asked her who it was and she said that it was a guy in her science class named Nick (all names are changed to protect the guilty). She said it was no big deal as she has known him since 6th grade. I asked her what she was going to wear and she said she wasn't sure. She said that she was "consulting" with her best friend trying to help her figure out her outfit for the ceremony and party. Yelena is a tomboy who wears nothing but basketball sneakers, blue jeans and her father's T-shirts which she steals with alarming regularity. Her best friend is what Yelena would call a "girly girl" and always wears really nice clothes, is interested in fashion and looks very put together. Yelena is going to help her get dressed?

The other day, I was at a school event and I asked her teacher about Nick. She said that she had never heard of anyone named Nick. She asked another one of the teachers who accompanies Yelena to her science class (which is a mainstream class) if she knew anything about Nick and she also said that she had no idea who he was. I am starting to get worried here.  I asked them to see what they could find out. A few days later, I got an email from her teacher that went like this:

We found out about Nick and he is a very popular 8th grader who plays football.  Yelena says hi to him but Kathy (the other teacher) has never seen them talking to each other.  I do not know how accurate this is that he asked her to the dance.  She has never mentioned it in class or to any other kids.  
I talked to the staff at school and they said 8th Graders do not typically ask each other to the dances, they go in groups.

I am starting to get very worried here.  I had told a friend about the situation and she asked what I was going to do and I told her that I was just not going to mention anything else about it and see what happens.

Well, tonight my husband and I were doing the dishes and Yelena had already gone upstairs. She came back into the kitchen a little while later and said that she was depressed. I asked her why. She said that she had been upstairs and the phone had rang and she answered it. I have to say right here that the phone is my husbands business phone and normally no one ever answers it including my husband. She said that she answered the phone and it was Sam calling to tell her that he was sorry and that he wanted to get back together again. She said that she told him that he had had his last chance and it was over between the two of them. She was very proud of herself for telling him off and my husband cheered her on. Yelena told Sam that she was in love with someone else anyway. I asked who that might be and she told me that it was Nick. Nick the Phantom...

I had the feeling that no such conversation had taken place and I went on line and looked up the phone calls to that number (Oh, the marvels of modern computer science!!) and sure enough there were no calls received or made on that phone in the past few days. So she did not talk to him tonight.

Such an elaborate story and I have no idea how much or if any of it is true at all. She is also only 15 so I have the feeling we are in for a lot more of this....


Friday at the Ranch

Friday is my day off. Yelena came home carrying a new bag today. It is a black and blue small duffle bag with a Nike insignia on it. She may have had it for awhile - but I am not usually home when she gets home so I am not sure how long she has had it. When, I saw it I said "Oh, you have a new bag." She said "Yes" and I asked "Where did you get it from?" and she said "I forgot." She also has a gold chain necklace hanging out of her pocket which does not belong to her either. 
To Be Continued...


The Mourning After...

Well, this is the thing: my sweet adorable baby girl who I love beyond reason, stole an axe.  This was not a small little hatchet but a large regular sized axe that could cut down a tree (or whatever else which I shudder to think about it.) Axe as in "Lizzie Borden took an axe..." She stole it out of our neighbor's shed (which I thought was locked but my dear baby girl has a way with locks.) My husband spoke to our neighbor about this today and confirmed that it was his axe. He said that our neighbor was "concerned" about safety issues. Yeah, so am I. She has a way with locks and also a way of knowing then to strike if something is left unlocked and unattended for two minutes or less. And she can find whatever she wants in two seconds flat and be out before you know she was ever gone.

When she was a toddler, we would go to the beach and I would turn my head for a split second and she was gone. I would find her later half way down the beach sitting on a stranger's blanket eating potato chips. You know the expression: "May you be in heaven a full half-hour before the devil knows you're dead. Kind of like that.

The thing is that this happened in October - probably a good six months ago and we never knew. So our anger seems a little misplaced right now. Anger? That's not it exactly. There is really a sense of sheer terror about this situation. That axe was sitting under the snow for months. I am sure that she probably totally forgot about it and if we spoke to her about it, I'm sure she would say something like "that was months ago and you are not allowed to talk to me about this now."

Yelena is not self destructive. Her idea of a suicidal act is breaking a pencil in half and making scratch marks on her arm. I don't really think she would intentionally hurt my husband or me but I am also not sure how well she knows her own strength. The only time she actually did hurt me (she threw a paper weight at my head and I had three stitches) she was totally remorseful and very sorry. She is, however, destructive. Everything she touches breaks. I used to call her "my little destructo-matic."

How Long??

My husband and I had built a wood "sculpture" in our back yard a few years ago to disguise our compost pile of leaves and dead branches. Sometime in the fall, I realized that the sculpture had been destroyed. We had a Workaway (http://www.workaway.info) guest from Germany who was wonderful and spent a lot of time working on our garden - I asked her about it and she said that it had been intact the last time she saw it. We were puzzled about who had destroyed it. My husband had suggested an angry neighbor. We didn't think that Yelena had the strength, resources or reason to destroy it.

I do have to say in her defense that when we asked her, she did remove the stone fire circle and pile of kindling with a wooden "teepee" over it that she had built in the back yard. She told us she was just "practicing her survival skills that she had learned at camp." Note: She spent a year in residential treatment for firesetting.

Today was a beautiful sunny day and one of the first days that I really felt that it was time to go out into the garden. Serendipitously, husband and I both wanted to work on rebuilding the sculpture so I went to Home Depot and bought a bunch of 4" nails and dug the hammers out.  I went to look in the woods in back of our house for any additional wood I might use and on my way back, I saw an axe strategically placed behind a tree where you wouldn't notice it from the garden. I knew the moment I saw the axe that Yelena had in fact destroyed the sculpture. My heart sunk. Where did she get an axe from? My husband went and hid it in our neighbors garage thinking that it might belong to him. I had also found a mat knife(mine) and my garden shears (that had been missing for awhile) while I was in the woods.

Yelena came outside and asked if I would buy the soundtrack from Frozen for her - her new favorite obsession. I said what I had been told to say at the Attachment Institute: "I have to talk to Daddy about it and as soon as we both feel close to you." We had been talking a few days ago with her therapist about restitution (the restoration of something lost or stolen to its proper owner, recompense for injury or loss) for an incident that had occurred a few months ago that had landed her at a hospital CBAT for two weeks.

What had happened was that Yelena had broken into the room of one of the students that we host from foreign countries that come here to learn English. Yelena had taken her iPad, removed the cover and threw it away and then erased everything that had been on the computer. The student was enraged (as she had every right to be) and started to yell at Yelena who immediately went upstairs and put on her karate outfit and came back downstairs ready to fight. When my husband tried to intervene, she told him that it was none of his business, shoved him and knocked him down and then hit him. He took her to the ER when she had calmed down a bit. I was at work at the time but met them at the ER where she stayed for 24 hours before they found a bed for her about an hour away from us (it was a holiday weekend, naturally). Our three students were gone the next morning.

So, today, when she asked me to buy her music I reminded her that she still needed to provide restitution for that incident. I know, I should not have brought the subject up but I felt that we were all forgetting about it. Not that everything else has been wonderful. She took a shower and changed her clothes two out of five days that she went to school this week. She drew on a lampshade. She left the kitchen a mess several mornings and evenings, etc. We had discussed this before and I had suggested she write her student a letter apologizing. She asked me what she had to do and I told her that she should think about it and I was sure that she could do this. She asked another couple of times and I mentioned the letter. She said she couldn't write a letter because she didn't know the woman's address and then because she couldn't write in Turkish and I said she could write it in English. She stormed off.

When we came back into the house, she shoved a folded piece of line notebook paper at me. I read it. The letter said: "Dear F. This is a letter of apology. I am sorry about what happened. Best wishes, Y.
ps The turkish coffee was great. LOL" I said that I would have to talk to Daddy about it. She screamed for my husband to come "right now" and shoved the letter at him. He put the letter on the table and walked away. She screamed for him again. I said something about attitude and tone of voice. She went after my husband and he reappeared in the kitchen saying he was going to the Y to work out and left. I didn't get to the part where I was going to compare a $600. iPad and the loss of about $400. week in income from the students to a short slightly sarcastic note.

Yelena and I were standing in the kitchen. She crumpled up the letter into a ball and there it across the room. She reached for a jar full of pencils and pens and started breaking them all in half. I said nothing and left the room to go upstairs. I went in my bedroom and sat down at my desk. She followed me upstairs and came over to me and opened up all the bottles of her medications which were sitting on my desk and dumped them onto the floor. I went towards my bed to get my purse, put my phone, my kindle and my keys in it and tried to get to the door but she closed the door and was blocking the exit with her body. I lay down on my bed and started to read. She came over and unscrewed the lightbulb in my reading light then picked up a book I had been reading and started to rip it to shreds. I said nothing. I didn't react, I kept on reading. I have a shelf where I keep a bunch of photos of all of the kids - she started taking them out of the frames and ripping them up one by one. I said nothing. I didn't react. I kept on reading. She came over to me and grabbed my kindle from me. I stood up and wrestled her for it. I didn't get it but I made sure it was turned off and went to leave and she blocked the door again. I asked to be let out. She said "I have you trapped and there is nothing you can do. You are powerless." So I said, "No, not really" and went and picked up the phone and said "I can call 911". I dialed three numbers at random and acted like I was waiting for them to pick up. She said OK and gave me back my kindle. She was still blocking the door so I went back to the phone to dial 911 again and she said "OK" and moved away from the door. I had my purse so I walked down stairs and put my shoes on and walked out the door into my car. I drove for a few blocks and then called a friend and asked if I could come over.

I probably got to my friends house about 6 or 7 pm. We talked had dinner, watched a movie. I came home about 11 pm. All the lights were on in the house. The kitchen was a mess - she had made french toast for her dinner and didn't clean anything up. She had been in the bedroom that our sons used to share - lights were on, books on the floor, trombone lying on the bed, ouija board on the floor. I went upstairs. No further damage to our bedroom but nothing was cleaned up. I went into her room to check on her and she was fast asleep. I leaned over to give her a kiss and she stirred, looked at me and asked where I had gone. I told her and then said "Good night sweetheart, sleep tight."