Friday, March 31, 2006


Phew. Near miss. We got a call about a sibling group of FIVE this afternoon. You have to understand that if we didn't already have three kids in the house this weekend, we're just dumb enough that we probably would have tried it. As it was, we volunteered to take two of them if we absolutely had to, but we never got a callback, so the situation must have resolved itself before they got down to our part of the list.

"Charlie" and "George" are here this weekend. "Charlie" is still as cute as ever, and "George" seems to have something against my eardrums.

Teething must really, really suck.

But hey, at least it takes my mind off the problems with "Josie". I spoke with Mom on the phone tonight, and she reminded me that it was precisely when the airheads at the county started pumping her up about going home that her progress nosedived and she turned into a combination of Medusa and a harpy.

Those people should be fired for gross incompetence, child endangerment and for just plain being stupid beyond all human tolerance. They're the government version of "Dumb and Dumber".

Some of you may remember some time back, when I was having a lot of fun with the possibility of catching "Josie" trying to sneak out. The Wife and I have a suspicion she's up to something for tonight, and it's sort of hard to care now. Before it was like I was fighting a battle for her soul. Now it's like I lost that battle, and the current one is stacked against any possibility of even putting in a good showing by the people who are officially supposed to be looking out for her best interests.

If I win tonight, so what? She waits a week, and she can snort drano, pierce her skull and boink the football team next weekend without repercussions anyway. Her mom won't care that much...not enough to ground her and stay home from the bar and her boyfriend enough to make it stick.

That poor girl. Nobody cares about her like we do, and she seems convinced that we hate her. I wonder if she'll ever realize how it really is with us?

Probably. After it's too late to do any good.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Cold Shoulder

Tonight I was feeling remorseful for how harsh I was with "Josie" last night. I wanted to soften things a little bit, and when she was just standing there in the kitchen I thought I saw an opportunity.

"Say, 'Josie', I just wanted to say that I didn't mean to be so harsh last night. I was angry and while I meant most of what I said, I'm sorry it came out so hard."

She looked at me, turned, and walked away.

Harsh. But I'm not really worried about it. Because all I said was from the heart, it was true, and she needed someone to at least try to wake her up. Sooner or later, after she's lost enough friends and family, she'll understand.

And when she does, I'll be the first in line to give her a hug and welcome her back into my good graces.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

All Over But the Crying

So today "Josie" is still on spring break, and The Wife was good enough to let her have a friend over for the day. The Wife lays down for about 45 minutes--not even sleeping--and gets up to find that "Josie" suddenly has a pierced tongue.

The Wife, of course, immediately called the social worker to make sure she was authorized to make her take it out.

Think about that. We have to call the social worker to make sure we have permission to reverse a stupid situation. The kid has been told, by her probation officer, that she will most likely be going home in a little over a week. We have come to understand that this county rarely keeps kids in foster care longer than three months, and it's obvious that all the local kids know that and consider it a form of punishment.

I can't believe there are professional social workers running this show. Somebody at the top around here is a complete bonehead. How do they expect foster families to help these kids if the kids consider it a punishment before they even get here and know that whatever they do, they'll be back home in three months? Where's the incentive to try to do anything worthwhile with their lives while they're here?

We've had a chance to analyze the kids' scene in the small town where "Josie" is from. Many of them have been in foster care, and it's the same thing over and over again.

Well, no more will likely be coming here. The Wife and I have agreed that there is no reason to take placements from this county when there is a steady stream of placements waiting to be made from other counties, and even other states. In those cases, we'll have a captive audience, we'll have time, and while they may be harder cases, we'll have a far better ability to have a go at cracking them.

Tonight after "Josie" and I drove her friend home, on the way back I laid it on the line with her. I started by informing her that she no longer had any right to call me "retarded" after she stuck a piece of metal through her tongue on purpose, joining that select group of girls that I've heard referred to as "sluts on parade". The Wife even said she sounded literally retarded after the piercing, slurring her words and barely able to talk.

I told her she's been hard to take lately. I meant what I said before, and I love her with all my heart, but I don't like her at all just lately. She's been rude, crude, ugly, and nasty. We understand she's going home soon and that she knows she's going home soon, but that doesn't give her free license to lie, sneak around, and not do anything for herself.

I will no longer be giving her rides I don't have to give her, I won't be doing her any favors, and she needs to give some thought to why it is that a lot of people don't seem to like her. Good gravy, this girl has taken to belching out loud at the dinner table. Last I checked, this is not Saudi Arabia.

About this point, she said something to the effect of "Fine, then, I'll just cut you out of my life altogether". As if she had planned on including us in her daily life after she left. Heh. I won't be sitting by the phone waiting for a call in any case.

But I left it on a guardedly lighter note as we approached the house. I told her, not for the first time, that if she's ever in real trouble she has someplace to call. The stuff I just said isn't supposed to mean we don't love you, because real love doesn't break that easily. But when you're being a little bitch, loving you doesn't mean we have to be thrilled to death every time you walk in the door, either.

This girl would also do well for herself to remember that not everybody is as softheaded as The Wife and I. Normal people will size her up for what she is and dismiss her, not bothering to look for all the good stuff she's trying so hard to hide. For most people, it's not worth it.

I hate to admit it, but I'm not all depressed about having finally had a decently edgy confrontation with her. I probably should have done it before now in fact, but the timing never seemed right. But I had to get this stuff out so she would at least have a chance to think about it before she goes.

And I'm now convinced she will be going. Her court date is a week from Friday, and her PO told her she'll probably be going home. He's the only one the court seems to listen to. I can read the writing on the wall, even if it isn't in braille.

We've been put in an impossible situation here. It was impossible from the get-go, we just didn't know it. I'm bitter about that. They're throwing this girl back into the same situation they took her from, and haven't given her a chance to address any of the things the court said should be addressed at the original hearing. No family therapy. No individual therapy, at least not outside of her admittedly excellent school.

So no, we will no longer be taking placements from the county we live in without a very clear understanding that it will be long-term, we will have autonomy to treat the case as we need to, and the kid will under no circumstances have an understanding that all they have to do is mark time and they will be going home. No sir. Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us twice, shame on us.

I'm starting a pool on how many locals here will be visiting her when she lands in a group home far out of town. I'm putting my dollar on three. Her mom, The Wife and me. I would have said two, but I suspect her mom may be able to tear herself away from the bar for a Saturday afternoon once in awhile. If she can't, there's always the chance her excellent counsellor at school will care enough to make the trip. I'll split the difference.

It's a hard world we live in, friends and neighbors. I'm taking more than my share of hard knocks on my psyche lately.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

A Bunch of Words About Nothing Important

One of the things we've been waiting for all winter is to install the invisible fencing around a large area of our yard. You see, we bought the thing late last fall (as I think I posted) but the ground froze before we could get it in.

I'm just dying to see puppy eyeballs go bouncing across the yard when they get jolted a good one for going where they don't belong.

Okay, so I'm not. In fact, I'm a little worried about the shock, at least on Tasha, who's old enough to maybe need a pacemaker. She's like 80 in dog years. I'm also worried that it won't phase Mitch in the least, except maybe to exacerbate his peeing problem.

But the larger problem here is one of age. Every year since I can remember, I become sort of a slug starting around October, and stay that way to one degree or another until around April. That's the time of year I usually get my energy back, drag my butt outside and try to get into some sort of useful rhythm that allows me to get some stuff done.

It gets harder every year. By the time I'm 50, I'm REALLY gonna have a fight on my hands...but this year my tactic is to think how great it's going to feel not to have to untangle dog leads. Open the door, they run out, close the door. Now if we could just get some automatic foot-wipers.

Can you tell I'm a little bored tonight? I can't believe I just blathered through a whole post about...well, pretty much about absolutely nothing. Major blahs here. Long day of work, not much going on tonight, and I'm feeling kind of shiftless. I should pick up the guitar again, which I haven't done in a couple of weeks, but my muse is fled.

I think I'll go try to find it.

Monday, March 27, 2006


Walks. "Josie" likes to go on them. A lot. The usual thing is smoking, and I can dig that. I smoked for 16 years before giving it up, and I know how it is. I started at 16 and also know how it is to try clumsily to hide it. Fair enough.

But then there's "walks" where she goes with a friend who is staying over, and they go to meet a boy, as happened last night. I'm pretty sure it was fairly innocent and the friend was the one interested in him, though I don't know that.

But the info came to us through a keylogging program I installed shortly after she got here. As I type this, my keystrokes are being recorded in our log. It's a nifty tool, and I recommend it to any parents generally and foster parents specifically for keeping tabs on what your kids are doing online. And if you use it, do everything in your power to keep them guessing as to where you got your info. You have to be careful or they'll figure out where you're getting it and dry up your stream of juicy info.

She has 3 or 4 email addresses, all of which passwords I now possess. I haven't snooped too much in them yet, and she seems to keep the accounts empty most of the time anyway, so it hasn't yielded too much in the way of intelligence, but she chats a lot online, and that will be her downfall.

One other thing...I know for a fact I was not as crude in my mannerisms and thinking as she and every single one of her friends seem to be. Her sleazy come-ons to boys she knows and unknown people she doesn't seem to know, and the nasty way she and her female friends catscratch each other is really, truly off-putting. If I was a boy looking for a date, I'd steer WAY clear of this crowd.

If this girl was my daughter and was acting like this, she'd be grounded until she was 40 by now. But of course, as I've outlined, we're pretty much neutered as far as any parental authority in this case, so I guess we'll just keep on keeping on.


Sunday, March 26, 2006

In the Doghouse Now

Okay, so the deck plan didn't pan out. As I was preparing for work, I sat back and thought to myself: "Self, do we really need that deck redone right now? Why, no. No, we don't. What we really need done right now is a better dog-containment facility."

And so now we have a brand spanking new 6'x12' dog kennel in our back yard, with Bo's old house bumped up flush with it and a neat little hole cut so the mutt can go from the kennel into the house in bad weather, or if he just feels like it. And get this: it's carpeted.

Yep. We still had the strips of carpet we tore up when we tiled the kitchen and I didn't want to use garbage volume to get rid of them if I didn't have to, so presto, dogs live in style. Oh, it won't last forever, but it'll make for a nice, soft place to lay anywhere in the kennel. You gotta like that.

My Dad, my former foster brother and I had a pretty nice day, and while we didn't follow the original plan, we got a critical piece in place for long-term sanity around here. The deck will come soon, but with the mud pit that the driveway has become in front of the garage I'm wondering if a load of crushed granite might take precedence next.

Give us a year or two, and we'll have the new place licked. You always need a full year or two in a new house to find all the seasonal problems and figure solutions, and we've been sort of remodeling as we go.

A future question: do we go to the time, trouble and expense of putting in an egress window in the basement so we can add one more foster-enabled room? Probably, but probably not this year. Still, if I get bored one Saturday afternoon this summer, I may dig the egress anyway, in anticipation of a future window. It never hurts to be prepared, ya know?

Two years ago, if you had told me I'd be doing this kind of work on my own, I would have laughed in your face. Now I sort of like hanging around at Menards looking at power tools and PVC pipe. Life is weird.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Bad Week For "Josie", and Home Improvement

"Josie" had a tough week. Tuesday she found out she's not going home...and I have a feeling she thought it was a slam-dunk. Thank the county social worker for that. She went into a sort of fit of despondency and acted out at school, earning herself some in-school suspension and a revocation of permission to have an overnight visit home this weekend. Oh goody. Now we get to bear the brunt of it.

She's REALLY pushing our limits. Lots of sulking and moaning, CONSTANT requests to visit home or a sibling every day. The miles are starting to add up. We need to consider requesting a kid who comes from more than 7 miles away next time.

Anyway, she spit on a kid's food tray in school this week, then lied to us about it and was immediately caught out by the fact that we know we can trust her counsellor on the details far more than we can trust her at this point. Other things. This is NOT the "Josie" I know. Or is it? I also found out that at some point in the relatively recent past, she had taken a list one of her friends had made of all the boys that friend had slept with and made copies and passed them around school. The item we turned in to the police was, in fact stolen.

Is this the girl I thought I knew? The more I find out about her, the more adjusting I have to do to my image of her.

But I still love her. I can't help it. I KNOW there's so much good stuff in there, and we've just got to find a way through all the crap she's throwing up to confuse us. Mom did this time and time again. Sometimes she succeeded. Other times she failed spectacularly. She's even still working on a couple, though she's been out of foster care for years now. I can do no less.

Speaking of her successes, one of them is arriving shortly with Dad to help me replace the decking on our back deck. Whoever built the thing thought it would be great craftsmanship to use 2x4s as decking and space them about a half-inch or more apart. Just the right size for chair legs to slip in and get caught. So last weekend I bought a bunch of ACTUAL decking and am going to put at least some of it in this weekend.

The 2x4s from the deck will be used for something that, you know, 2x4s should ACTUALLY be used for. Since these are treated, they'll be used as the bases for the studding of the walls we're going to put up in the basement, and whatever's left I figure would work well for the studs around the bathroom. It's a little overkill, but since my folks' basement was flooded out in [drum roll] The Great Flood Of '97 [trumpet call] I have a small case of moisturephobia. Sure, with our lot topography North America would have to flood out in order for our house to meet the same fate, but you STILL can't be too careful.

Anyway, my former foster brother, former college roommate, former post-college roommate and best man at my wedding called last night. He's having a tough time right because of some personal issues and needs to be around "comforting people". Of course, when people need this and they know Mom, she's who they call.

And as a bonus, since Mom was going out of town today and Dad was coming to help me, he's coming with. I love when other people's pain leads to help with my deck. Heh. Anyway, it'll be good to catch up with him again (he's one of the few friends I hated to leave when I left the Big City).

It's probably going to be a good day. The coffee's on, and now I must go and prepare the tools and the work site.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

In Short

Muddy yard. Dumb dogs. No kennel. Dogs on tie-outs. Many posts under deck. Much wrapping. Much dog crap in yard. Much mud on dogs. Much crap on dogs. Much wiping of dog feet. Not enough. Much mud on carpet.

Much anger at dogs. "Josie" at driving class. "Josie" in pissy mood. The Wife in pissy mood. Me in pissy mood. Dogs very happy.


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Twitchy Nerves

And now the deed is done. It worked out somewhat differently than planned, with The Wife making the handoff, but the effect is the same.

Then came time to fess up to "Josie". We took the easy way, basically saying that the cop came and asked us to find the item, which he had information that she had. She was mildly upset that The Wife had cleaned her room and said she wished that we had just called her and she would have told us where the item was.

Then there was a pause while I retrieved my jaw from the couch and pushed my eyeballs back into my head.

Oh, my, but this little girl is a cool cucumber. No sign of really any animosity, and maybe a touch of satisfaction with the idea that her rival will potentially be getting into some serious trouble. I don't think she's thought through all the ramifications...but she's been burning up the phone line tonight, and she does seem a bit depressed. I have no idea whether it's related to this issue or not.

At any rate, the touchy part is over (I think), and now my radar is twitching again. She's planning something. Yes, I know I'm being paranoid, but that doesn't mean she isn't out to get me. I don't know if it's in the immediate future or if maybe she's lining something up for spring break at the end of the month, but she's up to something. Her responses to things are all wrong, she's still pulling away from us, and she just overall seems a

I'm still mortified by the choice we had to make last night, though. I truly hope it does work out all right all the way around. The social workers clearly have more faith in the wisdom of law enforcement and the courts than I will ever have. I hope they're right in this case, because I'd like to believe that I can trust their judgement. We followed their lead this time. Whether we're likely to listen to them next time depends a lot on how this plays out.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Tricky Situation

Okay, I've thought it through, and this is probably going to seem pretty lame and generalized, but I have to protect "Josie" and other players in this little soap opera.


This evening the bell rang in the middle of my last post. I attacked the dogs and dragged them away from the door while The Wife answered. Silver Star glittering through the screen door. Uh oh. "Josie" flashed through my mind. Caught on the lake in a tryst with Snotface? Caught smoking again? About to be dragged out of our house today after all?


He had heard through certain channels that she posessed an...item. One that would, if it came to light, have the potential to wreck a young lady's life. This would be one of the young ladies with whom Snotface cheated on "Josie", which complicates things considerably. Is it blackmail material being held for current or future use? Probably. We know it was stolen, in any event, complicating things even further.

Apparently The Wife had prior knowledge of this but forgot to tell me...and she knew that we had the option to give up the item or not to law enforcement. We demurred for the moment to consider the ramifications, telling the officer we'd call his boss tomorrow.

After much thought, I can only say that this is the most difficult moral dilemma I've been faced with in my entire life.

On the one hand, if we surrender the item, "Josie" will be very deeply hurt and angry with us for a long time. We'll have hurt her trust in us. I've considered the possibility that our property may be vandalized, as her friends may decide to retaliate...though I don't think that's likely. "Josie" will, however, take yet another hit to her reputation. The other girl, however, will likely have a permanent scar on her life. I am in the way of knowing, or at least strongly feeling, that while she's no angel, the punishment would probably far exceed the actual crime.

On the other hand, "Josie" has apparently done some really, really snotty things in the past, and this would be a poetic justice of sorts. She's smart enough that she would take a lesson from the experience, even if the lesson came at the cost of our relationship with her. The other girl did in fact break the law as it is written, and there are prescribed punishments in the law. We can't let theoretical retaliation by kids influnce our decision. And finally, there is a lady deeply involved in a positive way in "Josie's" life whose judgement I am rapidly beginning to trust and who feels we should release the item.

There are other hands here, plus other aspects of the hands above, but I feel I've divulged as much as I can without getting into trouble.

But after a couple of calls for guidance to people we trust, I guess the decision is made. I'm going to bring the item with me to work tomorrow. I'm going to call the Silver Star's boss and tell him to have one of his boys come around and pick it up. I guess we'll see where it goes from there.

I really, truly hope this is the right course. I'm going to call my mommy now to get her agreement if I can, and comfort in any case.

I feel very young right now.

See You In Court...Or Not

I took a half-day off today on the theory that if today happened to be "Josie's" last day with us, I wanted to make sure I spent some of it with her. Her hearing was set for 3:30, so we went for lunch at a wonderful little local Italian restaurant, stopped at Dairy Queen for dessert, and shopped for a swimsuit for her (being very tired and not much of a shopper, I stayed in the car and tried unsuccessfully to nap for a half-hour).

3:00 rolled around and we killed 20 minutes with a little drive around town, and then landed at the gate to the courtroom about 3:20. Chatted with the social workers, attorneys, "Josie's" mom, and one of the probation officers. 3:30. 3:40. 3:50. 4:00. 4:10.

During this time, various groups formed and went into the jury room. Conferences were held. People that weren't in the conferences milled around and chatted. The ONLY ones that were not invited to ANY of these little dances guessed it. The Wife and I. Apparently foster parents are the least important people involved in foster care.

I doubt I'll bother taking off work next time. It threw a crimp in my work day and week, and it was almost utterly useless. It was probably harmful, as it would have been much easier to keep secrets from me if I hadn't bothered to show up. DAMN me for caring.

...and here a cop showed up at the door. A further post on that shortly...

Anyway, a summary of the rest of the day: the hearing that I took off work for was never officially held, "Josie's" mom refused an alcohol/drug evaluation (which bodes well for our having "Josie" around longer than 30 days) "Josie" is now at drivers' ed [shudder], Mitch peed on the floor, and I'm waiting for a callback from Mom regarding the new crisis. She'll know what to do...she always does.

Stay tuned. Another post later tonight for sure. This will probably be one of the very interesting ones...especially figuring out how much I'll be able to post without violating any rules.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

A General Observation on Children

Children are devices which come with self-destruct mechanisms. It's true. I observed a group of them this morning, loitering on the lawn after church. In 15 minutes of watching while waiting for The Wife to get out of a meeting, the self-destruct mechanism triggered at least once on about 80% of the 10 or 15 kids I was watching...thank goodness it malfunctioned on all of them.

The child-self-destruct sequence is initiated in any situation where you get more than 2 or 3 of them together and don't give them something constructive to do. The sequence speeds up if you throw in a couple of skateboards, frisbees or whatnot. If you leave them in that state long enough without intervention, you're guaranteed a trip to the emergency room. The morgue isn't likely, except maybe in the case of any parents that are watching.

I witnessed some world-class biffs from skateboards, an encounter that looked from my vantage point a lot like an ultimate fighting match, and watched "Josie" almost push her head into her torso when a handstand went terribly awry. I was almost out of my seat on that one until she stood up and got her arm working again. Whew.

Stephen King made the observation through a character in "It" that "You can't be careful on a skateboard". In the same segment, he made it clear in soaring prose that while kids can ride skateboards to beat the devil, adults should stick to nothing racier than the odd stickshift, or maybe a motorcycle if you're a madman like yours truly.

He's absolutely right on all counts. Not only do kids alone have the necessary reflexes and balance to properly operate a skateboard, but they are the only ones with the resilience and flexibility to fall on any part of their body and bounce up like a superball. Plus, they're the only ones stupid enough to try some of this stuff.

I'm in awe.

The "L" Word

Yes, that's right, I came across with it to "Josie" tonight. I was taking her home from her church youth group when it struck me: what the hell am I waiting for?

The girl may well be out of our home and out of our lives in two days. She says she'll be back to visit if that happens, but I've heard that song and dance before, too. She hasn't heard a lot of sober adults tell her they love her.

So I made a little speech while driving her home, which went something like: "I wanted to make sure you know how much we've enjoyed having you live with us, Josie. I love you. I wish you were my daughter...and I don't think you've heard that kind of thing as much as you should, and not nearly as much as you deserve."

To which she replied that no, she hadn't heard much of that from people who were sober. She had just gotten off the phone this afternoon with a drunk (her mom? one of her friends? her mom's boyfriend? does it matter?) who swore their undying love and/or friendship. Drunks are like that. I was like that a lot when I used to drink. I know in a deep and personal way how stupid drunk people can be and how worthless their declarations of fealty and proclamations of love and everlasting friendship are.

She didn't have much else to say on the subject, and I'm not sure whether it hit her as deeply as I had hoped...but I feel better now. I got it out, at least.

And the best part: every word I said to her was completely true. She's an aggravating, self-centered, manipulating little twerp. And I love her.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Drugs? "Blade Runner?" No Need to Decide

Well, smack me in the face, stick a swizzle stick in my eye and stir my brain. Or make me watch "Blade Runner" again. Either way, the effect is the same.

You see, though I love movies and watch them all the time, for whatever reason I never saw this flick. They could also have called it "Pink Floyd's The Wall 2 with Harrison Ford". No need to spark up some Colombian red, just make sure you don't have to operate heavy machinery for at least 12 hours, pop it in the DVD player, make sure you have some munchies on hand, and enjoy.

I saw it on clearance at Menard's of all places, and took a flyer on it on the theory that since I'm among the elite group of only 7 or 8 people that never saw it, it must be a great movie (and the fact that it was 9 bucks didn't hurt). And I suppose it pretty much is--if only for its popularity--though I spent about 1/3 of it completely lost. It was interesting enough that I suppose I'll have to watch it again and have another go at detangling the intricacies.

One problem is that this particular DVD is the director's cut, which is always a lot more pretentious, a lot more obscure, and usually cuts out the best bits and includes 18 bucketloads of irrelevant, maundering crud. Witness the hatchet job they did on the director's cut of Apocalypse Now. Pathetic. Maybe the original "Blade Runner" was a bit more coherent...but I have a feeling this was just one of those projects that was dreamed up over a case or two of Heinekin and put together by people with too much money and too much time.

So why do I come away from my first viewing sort of liking this steaming pile of crap? I confuse myself sometimes. But then, what do you expect from a former college theater major?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

On The Wife

I have a vibrant, busy and loving household in which to live my life, and I owe all of that to The Wife. It occurred to me that I should give a little of the history there...she's as big a part of all this as I am, and probably bigger.

We met in the spring of '87. I remember it like it was last year...I was hanging out in the hall of my dorm at what was then Moorhead State University and has now changed names a couple of times to the point I don't bother keeping track anymore. A friend of mine who lived a few doors down came down the hall with a beautiful blonde in tow.

This was a bit of a surprise to all of us, because, well, let's face it, this friend of mine was a psycho. He had his moments, but he had no business having a girl like this with him...but there it was.

I was available, but she wasn't. Sigh.

Over that summer, I found a girl and fell madly in love. When school started the next fall, she and I weren't yet a steady item, but neither was I truly "available", though The Wife was, I think. In fact, it was primarily due to The Wife that the girl got nervous I was getting away and really sunk her hooks in.

The Wife was available, but now I wasn't. Sigh.

I went out with that girl for most of the next year and a half, and spent a year or two after that getting over her. During that time, a bunch of us at school, including both The Wife and I, grew into a fairly tight-knit group of friends. We partied together, studied together, and shared our boredom, joys, sorrows and even apartments with each other. Some of us still see each other regularly to this day. During that time, I had a girlfriend or two, and The Wife had her relationships. Neither of us seemed able to find what we needed, and so it went.

I was sometimes available, and The Wife was sometimes available, but we were both stupid. Sigh.

Then school ended, she started her career in social work in town, I moved to Minneapolis and started my career, and in the early 90s I got married to another woman. The Wife came to visit a couple of times. There must have been an electricity between us that we didn't see, because once during a visit from her and another couple of my friends, I got a sunburn and The Wife put some lotion on it for me, and my then-wife got VERY VERY ANGRY about it. It truly was innocent...but she must have seen something she didn't like.

Fast forward through 10 years of a painfully difficult marriage and a difficult but surprisingly amicable divorce, during which I needed a friend to lean on. There was The Wife. She was a friend and confidant, but as our friendship renewed itself while my marriage was ending, I didn't look further than that. In fact, The Wife had a friend that I was very interested in. I found out later that The Wife had already been a little interested in me at that point, and didn't care for my interest in her friend at all. But I didn't realize that at the time, and I was simply trying to figure out where to go with my life from there. And then Mom made a comment that changed my life.

She mentioned to me that my aunt, who is a great and wonderful lady and whose judgement is not something to take lightly on those rare occasions she offers it, had seen me, The Wife and her friend together. She observed that I was interested in The Wife's friend, and that while the friend was okay, The Wife was a truly fine lady. She told my mom I was after the wrong one.

When I thought about it, I had to admit that my aunt was right.

I was free. The Wife was free. Neither of us was being stupid this time. Hmmmm.

Shortly after my first wife moved out and the paperwork was sent in, The Wife and I started to rapidly drift toward our current life together. We were married the next spring back in our old stomping grounds. I rented a horse-drawn carriage for a ride through town after a fairly small ceremony. It was without exception the best day of my life so far. We spent a grand evening with a bunch of our family and friends. We stayed at the finest hotel in Fargo, ND our wedding night, and a week together at the lake cabin afterward. It was a fairy tale come true.

And every day since that one has been a day well worth living. I have no doubts about The Wife's love, and she need have no doubts about mine. We have a trust in each other that could only be borne of a long friendship and deep, slow-grown love. We were a little unorthodox about how we got there, but if you read this blog at all you'll realize that we don't always really care that much about how things are usually done.

Babe, you are my life. You're my last and best love, and when death parts us, know that I have loved my life with you. It's been a better ride than I could have imagined; a much better life than I deserve. I'm humbled to call myself your husband and utterly charmed and delighted to call you my wife.

I love you, lady. I always will.

UPDATE: The Wife wishes to correct me in that she remembers the lotion incident somewhat differently than I do. I remember her putting some on my shoulders. She remembers just solicitously showing concern about my sunburn, and fears I have put her in a bad light. She's wrong, of course, but I do try to present both sides of the story when possible.


Monday, March 13, 2006

A Week From Tuesday

That's "Josie's" court date. That's when we find out if we'll have to opportunity to make a more lasting impression on this beautiful girl, or if she'll be thrown back into her former unstructured, lonely life.

I sent an email to The Boss this morning informing him that I've been knocking myself out for him over the last few weeks (to the point that I've even neglected my blog at times out of sheer fatigue), that I'll be knocking myself out over the next few weeks or months through this crucial time in our company's young life...but that he WILL give me the afternoon of the 21st off.

His email reply said, simply, "OK". The Boss can be okay when he's not being, well, The Boss.

Our current not-fully-formed plan involves picking "Josie" up from school that day and taking her out for her favorite lunch, which is anything from Subway. Then we'll shop, or go to the museum or find something else to do together, and around midafternoon head over to the court house and find out if our fine little temporary family will stay together or not.

I hope it will. I surely do.

Saturday, March 11, 2006


Last night, the local chapter of Youth for Christ had a "Game Night", at which The Wife volunteered us to chaperone. I have never seen such a collection of games of all kinds in my life. Air hockey, fooseball, three video game setups (one standard, one with a dance-pad interface and one I had never seen before that had a guitar game controller in which you have to play along with the rock stars on the screen...a wonderful idea in my book and I want one). Card tables. Board games. Poker (for chips only, of course). Hackeysack. One of those basketball-shooting things you see at carnivals. It was wonderful.

But the thing I noticed was that "Josie" was thoroughly bored when I got there and periodically thereafter...but she blossomed like a flower when The Wife or I or anyone else gave her our focused attention. We played hackeysack or cards with her and it was like magic. It turned the mope switch off and her smile brightened the whole room.

I think that's what most kids who are in trouble need more of. They need someone, preferably and adult, to just give them FOCUSED attention, and sometimes give them the idea that they're more important than going to the bar, or worrying about bills, or doing extra household chores. On my front, I've got to learn to take more time out from work (and worrying about work) to give her a little more TIME.

If, starting immediately, every kid got 3 hours of undivided attention a WEEK from the adults in their life that are most important to them, I predict we would see world peace, the cure for cancer and men walking on Mars in 10 years. Okay, maybe not, but I bet there would be an improvement.

Side note: John, the adult leader and creator of the local chapter of Youth for Christ is a remarkable man. Six kids, one stepkid, I'm guessing not a large salary, and a huge commitment to the kids in the community. Great to talk to, and has a real rapport with his members. One girl in particular (who I got the idea has a rather troubled home life and who also stayed at our house with "Josie" last night) loves him dearly. There needs to be more men and women like him around. I'm trying hard to become one. I may have just found a role model...something not only kids need, ya know.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

In a Rut, But In a Good Way

I'm a software engineer...a professional geek. It has been said that the difference between a nerd and a geek is that a geek gets the job done. I've been getting the job done a lot lately, and I'm starting to attenuate.

My work life is really very cyclical. There are days when I could just go to work in the morning, put a dummy in my chair, go home and sleep, and get up and go get the dummy again for all the work I get done. The phone gets slow, my mind gets slower and things just fall into a dull pattern.

This is not one of those times...and I really haven't had a long slow period since I started my new job with a small company. When you're working in a small company, it's eat or be eaten, and anybody who doesn't pull their weight for very long will be pitched to the sharks.

I've been working hard the last month or two on a new software release that will happen in the next couple of weeks, and it's a BIG upgrade. That means there are 14,000,000 details to take care of, and given that there are mainly two of us working on this, at least 7,000,000 of those are mine to nail or screw up. I've got about 3,000,000 of them done, 3,000,000 of them lined up but can't do them until during or after the upgrade, and about 1,000,000 yet to address. That's a lot of 0s.

And now I've gotten into a peculiar state that in my experience is known mostly to software geeks, social workers and musicians/artists. I've been working so long and so hard at something I love to do that when I force myself to take a break, I'm all nervous and fidgety. It's hard to sleep sometimes. I've started to go to work a few minutes earlier and stay a couple hours later. I work at night from home sometimes.

Chances are slim to none that this extra effort will pay off in the form of a raise or bonus. The most I can expect from The Boss is a pat on the back, which I'll probably get once the thing is done. That, and job security....and maybe a day or two of comp time, if it goes particularly well.

Things are much different out here in the sticks than in the big city where I used to work. People measure things differently. You take your sense of self worth much more from your own internal feelings of accomplishment and having done well than from a fatter paycheck, a bigger house or a flashier car.

You also know your neighbors, have closer friends, live a slower, more natural lifestyle (when not trying to meet a deadline), and more often do without the expensive restaurants and outings on Lake Minnetonka. You can pull over on the way to work if you feel like it and drink your coffee while you stare out over a corn field or watch the mist roll off the lake. You can ride a motorcycle without the constant feeling that you're about to become a nasty statistic. You can sit in the back yard at night and watch a million sharp points of light instead of a few blurry spots in the middle of a glowing haze.

A year ago, I had no idea I'd be leaving the life I'd been living for over a dozen years. Now, I can't believe I stayed in that rat race for as long as I did. I'm busy sometimes, but I've found a peace of mind I haven't had since high school, and since high schoolers never have peace of mind, this has to be better...especially when you consider that things in the past always look better than they really were, and the best times in the past look to me about on a par with what things are for me now.

I'm doing well. I love my life.

Busyness, Sadness, Sadness and Happiness

I worked late last night, then went home and worked until bedtime. I'm at work early this morning. Yes, we have a project coming due.

The event of note for yesterday was that "Josie" was scheduled for a home visit...but her mom never called the probation officer, so she wasn't allowed to take it. The Wife told her mom repeatedly that she needed to call the PO, and she said things like "call him and have him call me". She was informed that it's not our job to chase down the PO for her, and she should call if she wants her daughter to visit. She was told this on Monday. Guess drinking was more important. She didn't call. Josie was home with us last night.

As an added bonus, she brought a friend who was having a hard time with her father, who was drunk, to spend the night. I didn't get to talk to her a lot since I was working, and after all parents (and foster parents) are things to be ignored at all costs by the host child, but she seemed nice and The Wife got to know her a little and agrees with that assessment.

I suppose I should stop beating about the bush. I was pretty much in "Josie's" bag about two weeks after she got here. I might as well make it official, to my readers if not yet to her face.

I love this girl. I wish she was my forever daughter.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Weird Scariness

I had to work late tonight (as usual for Tuesdays lately), and I got a call toward the time I was thinking of heading home. The Wife was scared, because "Josie" had taken both of her medicines at the same time, and she was now dizzy, disoriented, and not able to say a full sentence decently. Compounding the problem is that we have a steep driveway down to our garage, and it's late winter and it's been raining. The van can't make it up the slope today, so "Josie" couldn't be brought to the doctor should it become necessary.

I was out the door in 30 seconds flat.

When I got home, it seemed about like The Wife had said, but it didn't seem worse, so it looks like we'll just wait and see. The Wife has a headache tonight and is lying down, so it looks like a vigil for me tonight.

We'll probably let the school know what happened so they can do a UA if they want, but this didn't feel like a getting-high-gone-bad kind of situation to me.

Rest assured, she's going to the hospital at the first further sign of trouble.

Monday, March 06, 2006

And We're Finished

Taxes filed, with a surprising return. That's probably the most pain-free tax filing I've had since the last time I qualified to use the 1040-EZ, which was probably the 1992 tax year or so.

TurboTax may be good, but H&R Block Rox. Plus, come to think of it, this is the first time I've filed my taxes by satellite. Sign o' the times, my friends.

I look forward to 30 years from now, when we'll be filing our taxes via direct brain wave uplink. People will get arrested and/or fined for filing taxes while flying their hovercraft to work because they don't have a brain-multitasking license and they're not in one of the newer self-guided hovercraft.

It'll be cool, but the cop that arrests you will have to have a graduate degree because it'll take so many years to learn all the laws the politicians will have passed by then so he can enforce them.

Of course, foster kids will still be "going on walks" (perhaps on the conveyer sidewalk or the Seguey version 7.5) to smoke and kids will still be gathering to have bonfires and drink, and they'll still be parking and jumping into the back seat of the hovercraft together.


Went to Skool

For the first time in a very long time, I showed up at school this morning. It was more fun than work, the teachers were much nicer than I remember (probably because I wasn't the one in their sights), and the chairs seemed smaller somehow.

The Wife and I were there to participate in a war council in preparation for "Josie's" upcoming court date, where she will find out what sort of medium-term future she'll be enjoying. It was attended by most of the people who deal with her on a day-to-day basis. With the possible exception of the county social worker (again probably there only because her employer is footing the bill for "Josie's" foster care), we were like one mind.

It was a lot of fun to hear these people echo my thoughts so precisely. I also had the chance to study this Creature From The County a little closer when she wasn't looking. It totally blew right by me that she, like our Little Darling, has at some point in her life driven a spike through the flesh of her nostril. Bear in mind that this lady is serving as a direct example of how we want our children to behave. Heh.

Maybe it was just my perception of the situation, but it seemed to me that she was being very, very still through the whole proceedings. One teacher after another highlighted "Josie's" good progress over the last few months, and then highlighted even more the need for her to stay in her current environment in order for her to continue her improvement. More than one flatly stated that if she were to go home, it would be "a disaster".

The same ones predicted the same result if she were to go to the regular high school (she's in a "therapeutic" school at this point). One of them said something about how she had "burned all her bridges". I have no doubt this is true, but I'd love to hear the details on that one. You can bet I'll be buttonholing that particular teacher when parent/teacher conferences roll around. Or if I accidentally find myself wandering around town on a lunch hour this spring, I may wander the entire 4 or 5 blocks to the school and offer to buy her lunch in exchange for information.

I'm shameless.

The most disheartening thing about today? I had it confirmed to my satisfaction that Snotface's pet nickname for "Josie" is "Thumper", after a certain rodent who will happily do a certain activity very frequently.

I value this girl far more highly than she values herself. We need to find a way to change that.

The Tax Man Cometh

Some people have their taxes completed, signed, sealed and filed every year by February 2nd. Others get it in the mail on April 15 in the last 5 minutes the post office is open. I've personally been all over the map, depending on the year, my mood, my financial condition, whether I'm getting money back or sending it in, etc.

This year I'm feeling fairly uptight about my taxes, given that I've bought and sold houses, I'm dealing with an in-home business for the first time, I suspect that fostering doesn't really affect taxes but I'm not really sure, and I've just generally had a low-grade ongoing anxiety attack due to the massive life changes I've undergone over the last year or two.

I think I'll start with H&R Block (.com) to run the inital figures and go from there. I've taken a hit in income, given that I moved outstate and took a large pay cut, so you'd think we'd pay less, but it seems like some employers delight in withholding too much in order to slowly bleed you during the year and entice you into blowing your return on 24K gold pooper scoopers and imported handmade quartz Bart Simpson figurines, while others favor the tactic of withholding too little, the better to screw you into the ground in April.

I'm about to run the numbers, ladies and gentlemen. Place your bets.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

A True Circus

A regular married couple, with their two regular dogs and two regular cats. Okay, maybe two dogs and two cats isn't "regular" for most couples, but it's not really outside the bounds of normalcy, either.

But then add one foster dog, one long-term teenage foster daughter, one respite-care toddler and her infant brother, and you've got something special. Then add water, as God chose to do this morning with what I believe is the first rain of the year, and you've got a True Circus.

Especially when it's on a Sunday and you've got to bundle everybody up (well, all the humans, anyway) and get them all to church. It was fun...lots of oohing and ahing and cooing over our regular-looking "family". I'm a regular Ward Cleaver.

Little did we know that while we were at church, Satan was at our house using our dogs for evil. Think the social workers will believe that our dog ate our foster license and some of the paperwork for our foster kids? Because I swear before the almighty that that's what happened.

The only other event of note was that "Josie" approached me yesterday apparently having decided to use the direct approach. "I don't even like [Snotnose] 'that way' anymore," she claimed, to which I said something to the effect of "I don't even believe you". A discussion about our perceived (and somewhat actual) lack of trust in her ensued. It was hard, because we do actually trust her with a lot of things, but not with anything regarding him. I was even straightforward enough to let her know that it would help a lot if she didn't look and sound like a groupie at a rock concert whenever she was talking to him on the phone.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to go to the Menard's website and find out how much the makings for a good, sturdy outdoor kennel would cost me. Because another incident like this morning (and Friday morning, and those that went down earlier in the week) and Mitch will be either deceased or homeless. We suspect a kennel would do the trick quite nicely, but it has to happen soon or Satan will begin to work through us.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Dads Suck

We've got "Charlie" and "George" this weekend, besides "Josie", Mitch, Tasha and Willy. It's a madhouse, but for the moment we've got "George" passed out in the crib, "Charlie" wandering around the house being watched by yours truly, Mitch passed out next to me, Tasha and Willy passed out in the other room, "Josie" on good behavior because she really pushed our limits last night, and The Wife passed out downstairs after convincing "Charlie" that she was going out for a couple of hours, since she was up with "George" most of the night (as was I for part of it, having spent 3 hours or so with "George" sleeping on my chest while The Wife got at least a little sleep).

Almost instantly after The Wife retreated to the basement, "Charlie" fell while climbing into a chair and banged her head against the wall, hard enough to break the skin. Suddenly "Dad" had to be a nurse, and bandage and kiss and make it better. "Josie", as I mentioned before, is great with kids and was a good help in that emergency. Judging from how quickly she quieted after what was really a pretty hard hit, I clearly passed the test, but just as clearly I'm not her mom, and The Wife would have been a preferable triage consultant.

I'm now simply enduring an endless series of questions from "Charlie", about 3/4 of which consist of "What're you doin'?", trying to fit in a post between running into the other room to see what sort of mischief is happening, and listening for the baby monitor to announce that I have yet another direction in which to spread my attention.

I'm also paralyzed by the idea that I may have to change a diaper. Yes, I'm a disgusting wimp. But through a magical confluence of luck, skill, and sneakiness, I can only recall a single diaper change I was ever required to actually perform, and that was on my nephew nearly 20 years ago. I may be a little rusty, you think? The second may be this afternoon. Wish me luck. Heck, wish "George" luck. We'll both probably need it.

Friday, March 03, 2006

The Dog May Die

Mitch had a bad morning. We've been confining him with the other two dogs in the kitchen during days when The Wife has to work as a sub para-teacher at one of the schools. Today I went home over lunch to let the dogs out, and it looked like he had eaten everything and then excreted it all over the floor.

This is not how I had pictured my lunchtime going down.

So 20 minutes of traveling home and back, half an hour to pick up all the splinters of the throughly eaten wooden napkin holder, vacuum, break out the odoban (which ran out in the middle) and Resolve, scrub, and vacuum again while taking periodic breaks to open the patio door and scream obscenities at the dog. During these intervals of madness, Mitch looked at me as if to say "what, me?" while the other two seemed to wonder what the hell I was on about this time.

I called The Wife to warn her that she may come home to find Mitch munching on a chunk of countertop when she gets home, and fled. Life is less aggravating when I'm dealing with difficult clients and trying for 10 hours straight to find a bug in a program that turns out to be a single misplaced character in 100,000 lines of code.

Tonight: we begin a weekend of respite care for the two small ones we will be taking care of one weekend a month. That ought to be fun. more later.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

A Date and Hope Renewed

Well, "Josie" and I had a date. It was actually a very nice, mellow time, at least for me. We drove to a town about 20 miles away and had dinner, followed by a stop in a record store to get her a new nose ring.

I guess this isn't the 50s. Or even the 80s.

You know, it isn't often most people get to see a thin 15-year-old girl eat like a rhinoceros, but most people don't often take "Josie" out for chinese. Holy crap. I had to lean back from the table to be sure I didn't let any loose clothing get sucked in along with the rice, crab legs, egg rolls, and half the rest of the buffet. People get hurt that way.

And on to the mall. After collecting our purchases at the record store from a guy whose face looked like a tire chain and whose arms had not one visible square inch of flesh tone but lots of green, blue, red, and other colors, we walked by a shoe display.

She wanted those shoes. Apparently they're "crumpy", and apparently that's a good thing. And she knows how to turn on the charm. Of course it's hopeless to resist. I will be assimilated. But along the way, I will get part of her allowance for a few weeks and I will have my car cleaned out for me. This is the deal she offered, and I had the strength not to accept it on the spot, but of course I will, probably tomorrow. I'd be a hopeless case if this girl was actually my daughter.

And the best turns out her PO does care after all. Word is, he's going to recommend to the court that she stay at our house after being brainwashed briefed by The Wife on the Facts Of Life. Good, good job, babe. We got him where we want him now. And we've got our "Josie" where we want her, too.

There's still hope.

A Date

I worked late last night and didn't feel like blogging in the little time I had left at home, so I'm taking just a bit of my time back from The Boss this morning.

I have a date tonight with a beautiful lady. No, not The Wife, but don't tell her. She's at her usual Wednesday-night Bible study, so "Josie" and I are going out to do something together.

I have to think of her as a beautiful lady, because I've been disappointed in her lately and can't think of her as a Good lady. It seems she feels the need to break the land speed record in dropping her pants and spreading her legs at every opportunity to be with her boyfriend. You know, the one I've discussed before who sleeps around a lot and is carrying who knows how many STDs. And mind you, she won't use any birth control. She's not real smart that way.

Our problem is compounded by the fact that the county social worker has been pumping up the idea of her going home, presumably because the county doesn't want to pay for her foster care...the social worker said the only reason she's involved in this at all is because it's the county's dime. Her social workers, counselers, teachers at her school, plus her foster parents, her PATH social worker and even her mother have recognized how well she's been doing since living with us and are united in opposition to this stupid (at this time) idea. Her probation officer doesn't seem to give much of a crap one way or the other so long as she doesn't have a positive UA. Drugs or alcohol aren't even a real problem for this one, so it's easy for her to stay clean that way.

On the bright side, I think there will be good attendance at her court date next month, and I think if he gives us the chance, the judge will get an earful from most of the players in this. Here's one we can actually save mostly intact instead of having to just pick up the pieces. Hope the court recognizes that.

In other news, scientists have learned a new technique for grafting wings on pigs.

I predict she'll go home next month, and if she's lucky she'll be back within a month or two. More likely she'll be shipped out to an out-of-town, far more expensive residential facility. On the county's dime.

"Vicki" needs to get us a new project soon, I think. This one's about to be taken away from us.

Oh, and please post any ideas on what we should do tonight, besides eating/getting an ice cream. I've never been good at creative outings. Maybe bowling? She likes that.