Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Another Domino

We got an email from "Vicki" today telling us our last reference came in. The only thing left is the fire inspection, about which we've yet to hear word one from the fire marshall. I'm not even entirely sure what points we might need to be worried about yet...but we can't be THAT far off.

But we're getting the sense that the current lull on the fostering front won't last much longer now. The Wife and I are enjoying our time together alone with our animals. It's the calm before the storm, and it's a storm that could last 20 years or more. I guess we should be thankful for the chance to prepare, but then again I've been preparing for this for a long time.

Let's get the show on the road.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Character: The Boss

My boss is an amazing man. He's the ringleader of a small circus, and I'm the new clown in the tent. He was a school teacher/principal in another life, and he's probably the best-connected man in the entire 5-county area. He knows everybody.

He's business-savvy, he's trying desperately to build our business, and he gets the job done, whatever it may be. He demands that of us, too, and appreciates our effort. He's the first boss I ever had that actually thanks me when I stay late to tackle a stubborn problem. He's a natural leader and a rain maker. He makes stuff happen, and it's usually even the stuff he wants to happen. If I had a mattress full of cash, I'd invest it in whatever he's doing, because it may happen early and it may happen late, but it will happen. Plus, he lets me play with neat stuff. Okay, so I'm a geek. I love the gadgets we have to program.

He demands a lot. I haven't been around the company long enough to tell for sure, but I suspect he'll be generous as well once we've got some real success under our belt. I want this man to get very rich and very comfortable, because I plan on hanging onto his coattails until I get rich by osmosis. Or at least until I can afford a boat.

Am I an on-board, dedicated employee? Does an ursine mammal defacate amongst large groups of deciduous and/or coniferous arboreal flora?

The Boss' comment when I told him our plans: "God bless you. You'll need it." Which left me wondering what this former school principal knows that I'll be finding out the hard way.

Tightrope Walking

I've been working a lot. Like 60-70 hours a week the last few weeks, getting ready for a big deadline that's very important to my company.

This is a thing that happens periodically in my line of work...but it's going to have to be tempered a bit, as per orders from The Wife. You see, she has let me know in no uncertain terms that once our waiting game is played out (still waiting on references) and PATH places one or more children here, I will have to help her take care of them.

Of all the nerve. Heh. Anyway, she'll have to accept that there will be times that my services are going to be desperately needed and I'll have to put in more time. My boss is going to have to accept that while right now I'm relatively unfettered and can pull his fat out of the fire when necessary, soon it's going to be harder for me to drop what I'm doing and go baby a customer through a software install at 8 o'clock at night over the phone.

Wife: strong. Hard driving. Demands my time, and lots of it. Needs my help to make it through.

Boss: strong. Hard driving. Demands my time, and lots of it. Needs my help to make it through.

Wife, meet boss. Boss, meet wife. You two have a cage match or whatever and figure out how I'll be spending the majority of my time over the next few years. I'll be over here in the corner waiting to find out who will be my master. If I was a betting man, I'd have money on The Wife, but The Boss is tough, too. Hard call.

You ever get the feeling that you're not exactly the one in control of your own destiny sometimes?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Today when I got home from work, I found that we had received a gift from our veterinarian. When they came out to put down Beau (my best friend for years and the finest monsterdog I ever met...I'll mention him from time to time, I'm sure) on September 2, they brought with them an interesting thing. A blank plaster mold. After Beau's heart had stopped beating and mine was beating harder and heavier than I can ever remember, they pulled out the mold and took a paw print.

A simple thing. Not a big deal, just a nice little touch so we might have something to remember him by. They had it finished somehow with a smooth texture, and it came today. It hit me like a ton of bricks.

Beau has his eternal rest in our back yard, and I go out every few days or so to pay him a visit and remind him, wherever he is, to be a good dog and remember me until we meet again. Typical grieving pet owner stuff, and it's already begun to taper off a little. I thought I was getting over losing him, but one glance at that paw print and I was a gibbering pile of jello. I didn't know eyes could well up that fast. I was afraid I'd dehydrate.

I hate to imagine what it will be like when they come and take away kids we've been taking care of and gotten attached to. I'm glad The Wife has a good grasp on life. I need her steady hand to make it through what's ahead, I think. I'll provide the spark if she'll provide the damp cloth when it's needed. Sort of the opposite of how my folks ran things, I guess. But if it works, you can't argue with it.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Holding Pattern

I haven't been writing anything the last week because there's nothing really to write. One of our references decided (after having the forms in their hands for a week) that for unknown reasons, they don't want to be a reference. So we had to get a new reference...not a problem, but we do wish we'd known this earlier. So we had PATH send out two new forms to two different new references, telling them to use whichever one comes in first so we can get this show on the road.

Speaking of PATH, we hadn't heard anything on the fire inspection, and it's our understanding that the inspection and the references are the only things left in our way. So The Wife called yesterday, only to discover that NOBODY was in the office. That's a neat trick...I'm going to have to bounce that off my boss and see if we can't do that at OUR office on Fridays. Heh.

Anyway, we'll try to get some word on where we're at, and you'll know as soon as I do, Faithful Reader.

Meanwhile, Mom tells me this morning that there was a major meth bust in the next county, leaving 15 or more kids needing foster homes...I'm beginning to understand why they are constantly crying so desperately for foster homes. It's clearly because they don't see the people raising their hands, screaming and stamping up and down and volunteering as loudly and obnoxiously as possible.


Thursday, October 06, 2005

Character: Dad

Dad grew up on a farm. He served in the army at Tule, Greenland, which proves that either he loves his country more than life itself or he did something to tick off his commanding officer somewhere. He was a teacher, an occupation that didn't suit him well. He fixed televisions on the side, an occupation that fit him like the skin on an apple.

Dad was quiet, but I always knew when he was around. He exuded an aura of calm, assurance and love. He still does, though he's gotten much more relaxed as his teaching career recedes further into the mists of the past.

Mom flew and bounced around making everyone else's life better, but she couldn't have done it without the rock of stability and reservoir of calm that Dad provided. He was and is the wind beneath her wings, so to speak. He can build or fix anything if he has the tools or materials, he's an acute thinker about all things mechanical, technical or otherwise arcane, and the only area there that I can outclass him is in computers and programming. Of course, the only reason for that is that he never found a good reason to learn. Otherwise he'd probably be running rings around me in a matter of weeks.

I don't think Dad would have been a foster dad if Mom hadn't wanted to do it simply because of his reserve, but he was very, very good at it and has many people out in the wide world who still remember him fondly and love him. He's the man I most want to be like, and in important ways I've begun to dare think I may be succeeding in some small way. It's a feeling I cherish.

Rest assured that in my new adventure, both Mom and Dad will be getting frantic calls requesting advice on how to deal with the various crises we're sure to encounter along the way. And rest assured that we will get the best advice money can't buy when that happens.

Character: Mom

My mother is a very in-your-face kind of lady. Let's just say that I'm not the most perceptive person, but I've never had a problem figuring out what her current attitude is toward me.

She left home when she was very young, and it seems to me that experience had a very large hand in shaping who she is. She has had to work hard, and she expected no less of her children growing up...but at the same time she has a soft spot for hard-luck cases and knows how hard things can be when nobody seems to care. She's opened her home to everyone who ever wanted to stay for a little while or a long while, an attitude she obviously passed on to me.

She took in many, many foster kids, but she also took in foreign exchange students for two years when my biological sister and I were in high school, rented out the basement bedroom at a steal to college students and friends alike, allowed my alcoholic uncle to live with us when I was little (until it just got too hard), and once invited a family friend's rock band to stay for a weekend when they had a gig in town. I was a member of the drama club in high school, and we had a lot of cast parties in the basement.

She made our house a true home, a place of warmth, acceptance, happiness, excitement and love. What's more, I'd lay you odds that even the most insane kids she ever took care of would acknowledge that. Until she moved out of town, she had a steady stream of ex-foster kids visiting and calling to bear witness to the fact.

She, more than any other single person or thing in the world, is the reason I will be opening my home to Other People's Kids with an open heart and great expectations. My fondest hope is that I do half as well as she did. She set the bar very, very high.

As an aside, this woman will be the first recourse when a foster kid pulls a stunt that stymies my ability to comprehend the potential for stupidity and/or duplicity in the human race. I'll simply throw my arms in the air and run screaming like a little girl to my mommy so she can make it all better...or at least advise me on the best techniques for getting back at correcting the little shit child.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Fire and Water

One requirement for foster care licensure is that if you have well water, you have to get it tested to ensure that the Little Darlings aren't going to be drinking arsenic, or too many nitrates or phosphates, or molten lead or troll feces or whatever out of your faucet. On its face, this seems a very reasonable precaution.

I was not aware of how ridiculous the process of obtaining a suitable sample can be, though.

According to the instructions we received, you are only to use an outside faucet for your test. "What if you don't have one?" is the first question that popped into my mind, though we do have one, of course. Second, you have to let the water run for 1/2 hour before taking the sample. How ridiculous. When you're on a pressure tank, that takes electricity, and it also tends to flood the yard. But okay, fine, we'll give the electric company a few bucks and run our well dry for these people if it will make them warm and happy.

The fun part comes next: after running the water for 1/2 hour, you must turn the water off, use a blow torch (which I just happened to buy to do some plumbing when we moved in this summer) to heat/sterilize the faucet (preferably without torching the siding on your house, as I learned the hard way), then run the water for a bit again. As an aside, I advise against gripping the faucet handle immediately after applying the torch. I'm just sayin', is all.

And then you put your sample in the little pee cup, and bring it in.

Bureaucracy used to royally chap my hide. Now it just sort of amuses me. And I honestly do understand the need for this particular precaution, but you have to admit it's a pain.

UPDATE: Our well is A-OK. $35 down the tubes...but one more item off our list. It's worth it.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Flower Power

One technique my mother used in running her foster home was hard labor. No, not crushing rock with a sledge hammer...just making kids help do things around the house. The results varied depending on the foster kid. I remember several who actually loved doing this sort of thing. Mow the lawn? Not a problem. Help with vacuuming, dusting and so forth? Okay. Other kids acted like you'd stuck a shiv in their toe when you asked them to do things like sweep the floor or clean some windows. Those were the fun ones, because they made so much noise about simple things. I was actually one of those sometimes, but never mind that.

Anyway, our situation is a little different, due mainly to the fact that while Mom was a career woman and really needed to have kids do things like that because she just couldn't, we are able to afford keeping The Wife at home full time, and so she has the opportunity to do what needs doing without resorting to slaves.

You see the ethical dilemma here, right? The Wife can't very well sit on the couch eating bon bons and soaking her nails while cracking the whip for the foster kids to clean the baseboards with their toothbrush. It wouldn't be right...and have you ever tried to actually crack a whip while soaking your nails? It ain't easy, my friend. And never mind how I know that.

So tonight we began the process of making work for future foster kids planting flowers. We have 309 bulbs to plant, and we probably planted over 100 tonight...the rest to be planted in the evenings this week as we figure out where they need to be to achieve maximum beauty in our lives and provide maximum opportunities for foster kids to do watering, weeding, etc.

Seriously, gardening is an activity that isn't too physically onerous, it's something The Wife and I will be doing ourselves, it's an activity we can do as a family to spend time together, and it'll be something they can do instead of, oh, say, holding up the convenience store in town or ripping the wings off of insects. The good kid will probably enjoy it, the average one probably won't see the point and be mildly annoyed and the more difficult one will likely hate it like's perfect. Nothing like a proportional response, eh? No "weapons of mass destruction" here. Weeders will know ahead of time what the penalties are (1 hour? 2 hours?) and what will bring them about. It will be made very, very clear. Then the little darlings will proceed to do the very things that they have been told very clearly will bring about gardening time as punishment, and then they will be made to maintain our plants. When everybody's good, I'll do it on my own. I figure to spend at least 5 or 10 minutes doing gardening next summer on my own. The rest of the time, I'll almost certainly have company. It's a law of foster physics. Tell them what they are not supposed to be doing and they will do it.

And as an added bonus, it'll salve our bruised consciences to know that while their pain is our pleasure, it can be dressed up to be egalitarian, educational and non-child-abuse-allegation-producing. Until I start them cultivating the back forty on their own on school vacation days, anyway.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to go soak the whips. You didn't think they'll be willing to participate in our little impromptu delinquents' occupational program without a little prodding, did you?