Saturday, December 31, 2005

Rapidly Developing Crisis

We've now gotten used to our new charge, at least to a degree. She's quite a girl, and we're happy to have her. We actually had a court hearing yesterday, and she'll be here until further notice...probably several months at least.

She is, however, a teenager...and as such, she's likely to have periods where she's bored out of her skull. Today she got to go with The Wife and shop for some new clothes. She came with a pretty limited supply, and no kid of ours is going to have a skimpy wardrobe, even if they aren't our kid. So there.

Anyway, the crisis now brewing is that she has invited several friends over for New Year's Eve festivities. The Wife is madly creating pizza, we have movies, and life is good...but what am I now? How do I act? What's my role?

Should I be the calm, reserved father figure that everyone looks to for authority? Right. Good one. Should I be joe normal, who happens to be the guy "Josie" has to stay with? Probably closer. Or should I just be the guy who's handing out pizza? Why, yes. Yes, I think I will. I like the difficulty factor on that one. I suppose I'll figure out how to behave once we actually have kids in the house.

But I do like that they're coming over here, because no way is "Josie" going out tonight on her own. Not a winged rodent's chance in the sinister hot place. While she was visiting her mom this afternoon we watched the movie "Thirteen". Consequently, she may never be allowed out of the house again. Yeesh.

But her friends are all most certainly welcome to visit here, so long as they haven't given us a reason to kick their scrawny little butts out of the house and so long as "Josie" keeps up the good behavior.

Eep! They're here. Gotta go mingle.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

"Josie" a Criminal?

Yes. NO! Yes again....nevermind.

We were rousted from bed early this morning by the monitoring company whose job is to make life hell for people under house arrest wearing the little ankle bracelets...and those adults responsible for them. You see, until "Josie's" court date, she's under house arrest, meaning her P.O. has to sign off on any movements outside the house.

Seems they had called two times earlier in the night and left messages...their equipment indicates that there were three escapes during the night, duration lasting between a few and 45 minutes. Leaving aside the fact that there is nowhere around here to GO on foot in less than an hour, we sprang into action. The Wife checked her shoes. Dry. I checked HER. In bed, to all appearances sleeping. We let them know that...and went back to bed. Further countermeasures have been deployed for tonight, not so much to catch her, because after consultation we don't believe she did anything, but as a way of gathering evidence one way or the other to bring a stronger degree of confidence to court on Friday.

We're pretty sure she's innocent at this point.

But wait...The Wife calls me into the kitchen this evening, and hands me what looks like a miniature razor blade. What the...? She says she found it in the wash, and thinks it might be the kind of thing a meth (or some other kind of) user might use to crush up pills. Wow. I'm no meth user, but damned if it didn't look just like that type of thing. More food for thought.

15 minutes later, she comes into the living room as I'm mulling over this new information and drops into my hand the rest of the pencil sharpener she found in the wash. You know, the little pocket kind that you twist a pencil into to sharpen it. The kind an artistic kid might keep handy for her doodling.

Holy crap, but we have to be careful not to convict this little chick in our heads without being very, very thorough in our investigations. We're on a hair trigger and looking for trouble here, and this is giving me whiplash.

Heh. I'm having fun already.

Kid: "Josie"

Our first Little Darling arrived yesterday around noon, and we've spent a lot of the time since then getting to know her.

"Josie" (name changed as per the Ground Rules) is a local teenager from a tough family background. She actually seems to like that my musical taste runs to the old and musty, but seems to feel it her duty to introduce me to music that was composed in the last decade. It became immediately apparent that she has an amazing talent for drawing, and she seems a very pleasant kid to be around. We're still wondering when we'll see the supposedly plentiful reasons why her probation officer seems set on her being in residential treatment. Granted, we've only known her a day and a half, but the girl seem pretty clean.

This one is likely to be a trial in some ways if she stays with us long-term, though. She's smart, I think she could be sneaky if she wanted to, and worst of all she has a face like an angel and the kind of figure that's likely to attract lots of boys. Luckily her bedroom window is situated such that late-night escapes will at least be difficult...but who's kidding who. If she wants to sneak out, she's going to. If she does, we'll have to content ourselves with catching her, grounding her, and making her scrub floors and shovel the walks.

But we've talked to her, and she seems to have been pretty honest with us for the most part. The B.S. meter only twitched a few times so far, and she hasn't really pegged it once yet. I think we can help this one, if we get the chance. We have a court date on Friday and should know more after that.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

A Bittersweet Beginning

We have not received word that our imminent placement has been rescheduled, so we're currently preparing to receive our first Little Darling at 11:00 tomorrow morning. Wish us luck.

Concurrently, we're preparing to have Carmi put down. She's been ailing pretty badly lately, and she's now exhibiting symptoms of either severe dehydration (and throwing up any water we get into her) or neurological problems. The vet's closed tomorrow, so we'll have to muddle through tomorrow somehow and I'll be taking her for her last ride Tuesday, barring a miracle.

I suppose we'll be distracted tomorrow...but we've waited long enough with enough anticipation that I think we'll be able to maintain our concentration.

Here's to the beginning of a long-foreseen chapter of our lives. I'll provide appropriate details of the adventure as they become available and appropriate.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Life in a Northern Town, With Apologies to Dream Academy

We're experiencing something of a break in the weather. It's been the coldest winter in the last few years in Minnesota, and we've been bearing the brunt of it...the last few days it finally moved up over freezing during the day, though I only know that by rumor because I've been spending the last few days in the office. Sigh.

So, as I listen to the end of the song lending this post its title, here's a snapshot of life at this moment: my folks are in my house visiting and I'm enjoying their company immensely. We made a trip and finally bought my wife's Christmas presents. Once again our fostering start date has been moved to an alarmingly close date: Monday. I'll believe that one when I see it at this point, but it's tantalizing. Christmas Eve is tomorrow, and I'm in the most Christmassy mood I've been in in over a decade. I have a puppy laying at my feet, I had a good enough day at work today that even my boss seemed happy with the result, I have a shift to work at the Humane Society in the morning, I have Monday and most or all of Tuesday off (depending on circumstances), and all seems right with the world.

Make sure you eat some fudge, listen to lots of holiday music and watch "A Christmas Story". Not watching "A Christmas Story" at least once a year makes the baby Jesus cry, and you don't want to be doing that. Plus maybe one of these times he won't win the fight with the bully. You never know.

Miscellaneous observation: "Sound of Silence" by Simon & Garfunkel is perhaps the most brilliantly orchestrated pop song ever written, especially for only two voices, but it most definitely is NOT conducive to a spirit in keeping with this particular season. Yeesh.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


Stop. Write up house rules so we're armed with documentary evidence that foster kids have been forewarned of what's expected of them. Field calls from the social worker(s). We have a kid coming Wednesday. No, Friday. No, the following Monday. Okay, forget it, we'll just wait until the court date on the 30th and then the biological parents can't just come and yank them out.

Christmas party on the 22nd for work. Cool. Christmas party for the Humane Society, also on the 22nd. Crap. Christmas party for work moved to the 29th. Cool. Christmas party for the Humane Society also moved, also to the 29th. Crap.

No gift for The Wife yet. Double crap. Coworker offers to pick up the items I need since he lives where they are and I can't sneak away. Cool. Major bills come in for propane and the vet. Double crap. Dog breaks remaining good lower front tooth. Cat sick. Triple and quadruple crap.

Exhausting days at work. Crap. Company coming this weekend. Crap. Only Mom and Dad. Cool. Still have to clean. Crap.

Not much time to blog lately. Crap. More time and more material after the new year. Double cool.

Merry Christmas, in case I don't get around to saying it later.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


And now we have finally had some interesting developments. It seems two possibilities for foster children have been identified...both teenage girls. They both sound like people we could help. Both have dealt with things no young teenager should have to deal with. One is local, one is from out of town...unsurprisingly, substance abuse figures into both cases. Both sound (from my limited information) like they are the type where most of the fault for the situation lies at the feet of the parents.

There are kids who deserve to be thrashed with wet noodles for 10 years, you know. Not all of these kids are poor little street urchins with hearts of gold who would discover cures for diseases and set olympic records if only they were given the chance.

No. I've seen both kinds pass through my parents' house while I grew up, probably in about a 25/75 split, with the majority being pretty decent kids when given a chance.

Then there's that other 25. Those are the ones that will give me fits, but frankly I fear for my wife more than myself. I'd be really scared if some good, hard social work hadn't innoculated her against the worst of it. But we can handle ourselves.

It doesn't matter, though. We're finally getting down to specifics, and being told some details about particular cases. Here's where the rubber meets the road.

Will it be an angel or a demon? A future Tiger Woods or a future Ted Bundy? Don't know. Don't care. Don't have the time or the brains to worry about it now. Bring 'em on.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

More Background Info

As you may have gathered, I've been looking forward to our current situation for a long, long time. I guess I've always known I would be a foster parent at some point in life...until a few years ago I always figured I'd have my own first and then add "temps" to the family, the same way my folks did. It didn't change much when I found out I was unable to have biological children, though it did throw a wrench in my emotional works for awhile until I was able to fully accept it.

An interesting thing that I don't think I've mentioned in this space: I have cystic fibrosis. A lot of people don't know exactly what that is beyond a bad thing that some children are born with and the thing some celebrities have adopted as their pet project (Bruce Willis, whose son I believe has it, and others). My case is a very, very, VERY mild one. I don't have any of the usual lung troubles that many force many patients to need transplants. Often it gives patients digestive complications, and while I've had those my whole life, mine are almost always relatively very minor. Mostly I manage it by taking vitamins, whose absorption is often disrupted, and occasionally using supplementary dietary enzymes to help digestion.

But the one big thing I have no way to combat is the fact that almost 100% of male CF patients are infertile. I wasn't even diagnosed with CF until I was this threw me for a little bit of a loop at that point in my life. Oh, sure, I COULD have biological children. The source of infertility is not that I don't produce sperm. I'm sure those little guys are just rearing to go. Problem is, they're stuck without transportation. In one of God's little jokes, the male CF patient produces sperm just fine...but the vas deferens is basically just not there, or at least not in a form the sperm can use. The subway cars are there and on the track, but the tunnel's collapsed.

CF is not without its "charms"...I can basically have to eat like a cow to gain too much weight, I am encouraged to eat a lot of salty things, my skin/sweat is very salty prompting lots of kisses from our dogs (I suppose this is only a bonus for animal lovers like myself) and it's a really handy excuse in my case if I wanted to just take a day off from work. But on the whole, I wouldn't wish it on anybody and the infertility thing is the worst of the symptoms in my particular case.

The doctors actually could extract sperm with a needle (ouch) and we could do the petri dish stew thing, but recall--or be informed, if you didn't already know--that CF is a genetic disease, and it's conveyed by a recessive gene. That means that since I have the thing, any child who is a product of this process is guaranteed at least to be a carrier with one CF gene, and there's an outside chance that my wife could be a carrier and provide the other 50% so the child could die a young and horrible death. I don't like the math on that one, especially when there are so many kids that are in desperate need of homes.

You see, we have two BIG reasons to foster in addition to all the other wonderful reasons. One is that we really do want to adopt and the other is that there is no way in God's creation that we can afford to pay a lawyer full price for adoption. I went through a divorce a few years ago. My lawyer charged me $75 to review a two-paragraph email. Two paragraphs! If we can just get a couple of those kids past the lawyers, I think they and we could be the happiest family in the history of procreation. And when you're foster parents, suddenly there are a lot more low-cost options for adoption.

In the meantime and in addition to any kids we might be able to adopt through fostering along the way, we're hopefully going to be able to help a lot of kids deal with problems that they should never have been asked to deal with. We'll be able to help the police when they make a bust or something and have kids they have no place for while the parents are dealt with. We might even be able to help stitch a family or two back together and give them another shot at being a working unit.

I have no idea if these attitudes and motivations are healthy or the preferred ones for new foster parents, or whatever, but they're ours, they're heartfelt, and on a personal level we feel we're doing God's work as best we can.

Mom and Dad put together a kind of huge, sprawling extended family this way, and many people love them for it, including yours truly. I hope I'm able to do the same. I'd better get cracking. The median survival age for CF patients is the mid-30s. I'm about to turn 38. Better get cracking, don't you think?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

An End and a Beginning

Well, hopefully my dry spell is just about up. After several electrical inspections, a fire inspection and a couple of safety inspections, we signed contracts today. Officially, as soon as "Vicki" gets the papers in the mail tomorrow, we will be licensed for foster care in the state of Minnesota.

We've had to put up railings, buy fire extinguishers, wire and sheetrock our entire basement, box in ducts in the garage with sheetrock, insulate, draw up fire escape plans, and on and on and on. As a bonus, night before last the plumbing fairy visited and we were without the services of our kitchen sink until I was able to learn how to fix the pipe. I didn't even let my butt crack hang out too much. Mom was proud.

I can't say from experience how long now until we get a placement, but from what "Vicki" said and what Mom has said, I'm guessing we will most likely meet our original goal of having children in the house to give Christmas gifts to. One girl in her early teens who needs one-weekend-a-month respite care may be our first victim project...or we may end up with a sibling group, or some other child they haven't mentioned yet.

It's a waiting game now. Hey, that's the game we've been playing since I started this blog! least we know this is the last wait. The Wife and I are going out on a date tomorrow night. We figure we'd better take our chances while we still have them. When the tornado hits, we may not get out on another date alone together until 2021.