Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Suspiciously Good Weekend

The old song says "Somethin's happenin' here; what it is ain't perfectly clear." That's how I felt all weekend long and all week so far.

I think I can speak for The Wife when I say that we were dreading this weekend. Oh, it was going to be a great weekend...but we weren't sure how "Angel" was going to handle the change in her routine. You may have noticed in previous postings that her history with us indicates this might be a bad time. NOTHING could be further from the truth.

Shortly after we got there, she became acquainted with what would be her room--and her timeout place. I didn't say she was perfect, I just implied she was really good.

The major blowup of the weekend was actually our fault. You see, when you go to the lake, you can't keep the kids out of the water. It isn't fair...that's what the water is basically for if you're a kid. And "Josie" is still a kid. So, more or less, is her friend that just turned 18 and came with us. "Angel" didn't think of swimming...until she saw "Josie" and her friend dive in. It follows that "Angel" will be going in the water or we won't be getting any peace the rest of the weekend.

Of course, she went in the water.

It turned out to be a family affair, with The Wife and myself joining in. A good time was had by all, passing "Angel" back and forth with a push. "Angel" surprised us by basically already knowing the basics of swimming. We're guessing somebody showed her a few things somewhere along the way, becasue she knew to put her hands down at her sides, put her face in the water and kick, so we just had to place ourselves a small distance from each other and push her back and forth, and she did the rest.

It was great. UNTIL...we decided we had had enough swimming and started to get out. "Angel" wasn't done yet, and of course she made sure we knew about it. All the way up on the dock, up the hill, into the cabin, into her room, and for quite some time after that.

Sheesh. She had been basically an angel until then, especially when daddy taught her a new game that involves him hiding behind a tree, and then her chasing him around the tree until he almost yarfed all over her.

"Josie" was mostly an angel, too, helping with "Angel", actually helping clean up to go home (a little...she is, after all, still "Josie"), and not complaining too much about how boring everything was. It was a good decision to bring her friend.

Who, by the way, got her first motorcycle ride this past weekend. I took her up the lake to a really pretty scenic overlook. She was a real trooper, leaning with the turns, not overbalancing, and generally acting like a seasoned pro. When we got back, her only comment was "my legs won't stop shaking." Not bad.

"Josie" was gone last night to the regular overnight with her mother (with counseling, I believe), but tonight I came home to her making supper and helping out. I asked her who she was and what had she done with my foster daughter. She said The Wife hadn't been feeling great, and so she got supper together for everyone.

Either we're making headway or being set up for a huge fall. Either way, it's a nice break, I gotta admit.

Sorry so little real good stuff after a rather long break...actually I'm not that sorry. Stuff has to be hard to live through before the telling of it gets interesting, and as I mentioned, I needed a break. I still extra day off was nice, but I need at least a week after the winter of work projects I've had plus work on the house, the fostering stuff and life in general.

Final topic: tonight if there's time or tomorrow for sure, I'm going to start biking. I'm not getting any younger, and I always figured at some point in my life I'd make it a project to develop a physique I was proud of. This weekend at one point, The Wife made some sort of joking comment to "Josie's" friend to the effect of "don't mess with my husband", to which she replied something like "I don't like old guys."


The summer I was 19, I dropped 55 pounds and looked okay, but I was sort of too skinny then, without any strength. I'm about 15 pounds lighter now than I was when I started that, and I don't want to drop more than 10 or 15 from where I am now...but I need to figure out a companion workout with the biking that will give me that Schwartzeneggar-esqe upper body.

[pause here while The Wife rolls her eyes, Mom snorts, and everyone else reading this who knows me gets up off the floor after laughing hard enough to wreck their spleens]

Anyway, if I'm gonna do it, it better be soon. I don't believe the guy in the commercial who says he's 44 and in better shape than when he was 24. One or the other, but not both buddy.

I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Preparing for the Weekend and Slapping "Josie" Down

I need a break.

It's been almost five months since my last day off, and probably two years since my last vacation...which would be my week-long honeymoon. Great as that was, it's regenerative power is about spent. I'll settle for a three-day weekend...which is convenient right now. Maybe.

I've been working pretty hard on a project at work, and I can't say it's been the easiest one. I can say that if you live in the continental united states and eat vegetables, then you'll likely eat some of the results...and when you open that can of green beans or peas you should remember my blood, sweat and tears and raise a fork to the boys in the trucks, harvesters and guard shacks.

But dedication comes at a price, and I may have to eat into my weekend a bit to get it done. I'm hoping against hope that there's some good guidance from an expert or two in my email tomorrow morning. If so, I could get off work at a decent hour and head for the lake. If not, well...this weekend won't be my choice for a vacation.

Did I mention that "Josie" is a manipulative little snot? I did? Oh, well then I'll just content myself with relaying the latest evidence.

We had a nice lunch together yesterday, and I had a great time. Today, just before lunch, I got a call. Not from her...from her counselor. I was too busy to take the call, but it was a simple message. "When 'Josie' calls, the answer should be 'no'." I assumed it was The Wife warning me of impending manipulation.

Turns out it was her uber-counselor warning me of impending manipulation. Shortly after that, "Josie" called, wanting to know if I would take her to lunch again. It felt good to be able to turn her down and actually be telling the truth when I said I didn't have the time.

We have a wonderful badmitton match going on with this counsellor. She knows exactly what "Josie" needs, and makes sure she gets it. She's thanked us for loving her as much as she does, she's got a brain in her head that won't quit, she's truly dedicated to her counellees (?) and she seems to like us.

Plus she's got a great sense of fun, to the point where if I ever knew that "Josie" had something planned and was sneaking out and I invited her over here on the sly for a sting operation to catch her in the act, it wouldn't surprise me at all if she would show up to join the party.

So now we have a weekend to get ready for. Hopefully I'll be able to go with my family on their holiday. I'd really hate to miss out on a full, long weekend at the lake. There is not, however, a computer at the cabin (which is as it should be) so if I don't get around to getting to my folks' house and demanding to use their computer so I can satisfy my blogging habit, I hope you'll understand if you don't hear from me until Tuesday night.

It's a long weekend with two foster kids. I'm guessing there will be tales to be told by then.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

"Josie" Meeting

I work in a small town. Small enough that the population is more easily measured in hundreds than any other unit...which makes it all the more remarkable that they have such a great school for special-needs kids. This is the school that "Josie" attends, and it's the one where we had our semi-regular "Josie" pow-wow this morning.

I had to get up early, because it was scheduled for before work, and then I had to go into work before that to put out a fire, as they say. The Wife had to stay with "Angel" (still no PCA and the guardian wants "Angel" to never be in a car with less than two people, making The Wife a virtual prisoner from the time I go to work until "Josie" comes home from school) so I was there to represent us.

I finally met "Josie's" psychologist who by chance I hadn't previously had the opportunity to meet, did my best to ignore the county social worker while remaining polite as possible, warmly greeted her teacher and the uber-counselor I've mentioned fondly before, and settled down to business.

We went around the table and had our say, and every single person there except the social worker and me made a point of mentioning that "Josie" was doing much better, now that she was back in regular foster care with reduced home visits and someone to monitor her meds and actually, you know, parent her. I didn't bother to join that parade because I figured everyone else had said that part, plus it seems self-evident to me. Anybody who saw her for five minutes before and five minutes now would have to be under 8 or very slow not to see it.

"Josie's" also getting straight-As, behavior is much improved, and the staff at the school is delighted that we've managed to pull her once again out of the all-crisis-all-the-time mode so they can work on some of the more subtle issues that have been buried for so long.

This girl is flowering and beginning to love and trust us more each day. She's often a great help with "Angel", she's got a great sense of humor, and best of all she called me later at work as I was just about to take a break and asked if we could have lunch together. 10 minutes later we were ordering sandwiches in a local cafe, my favorite because it has a 50s theme and the owner is a great guy who has a tip jar set up whose contents go to sponsering a child through Compassion. The Wife and I sponsor three kids, two of them through's a great outfit, which is why it's in my links.

We talked. We sat in silence. We laughed. We looked at movies that were on sale while waiting for our sandwiches. We ate, we talked some more, we generally bonded. As I drove her back to school, I told her it was really fun to take a break and spend it with her. She seemed pleased, and The Wife mentioned when I got home tonight that she seemed to like having lunch with me. We'll definitely do that again.

My life just keeps getting better and better. I know there have been bumps and bruises over the last year, but overall these are the best days of my life. In the last few months it's dawned on me that my current life has now surpassed the salad days of college when I was wild and crazy and made the best friends I ever had.

How rare is it that you can state with confidence--without needing the benefit of hindsight and time to get a better perspective--that you are now, today, in the middle of the best period of your life so far?

I'm there. I'm a happy man. Hope it keeps on this way.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


At what point is it appropriate to become concerned about a child's development? I ask this because we've now had enough time with "Angel" to evaluate many aspects of her personality and draw some conclusions. Many of them are very positive and heartening. A few are not.

"Angel" is far brighter than we were told before she came. She enjoys mimicking things she sees us do (causing us to be much more careful about what we say or do...self-censorship reigns). She is picking up a few words that we never heard her use before and we're able occasionally to hear complete sentences out of her now.

She has settled into her routine pretty nicely overall, and bedtimes are far easier than they were at first. She still has a rebellious streak, but I think an objective observer might not call that all shows a lot of spirit, and that can be a very good thing. I just wish she'd show more spirit with me and less with The Wife. Around me she's usually pretty docile and compliant, and she can be a holy terror at times with her. I'm better-equipped physically do deal with a raging child, so that's not convenient...but it doesn't worry me.

There are really two things that have me pondering what to do. One is her socialization skills, which need work but are really another post altogether. The other is the one that really kills me, and that's her speech. Her pronunciation and even ability to articulate some sounds (such as the glottal plosives) is really spotty and she is very hard to understand at all for someone who doesn't know her. "Tasha" is "Cha cha", for instance. "Monkey" is "Mun ee".

The girl desperately needs a good speech pathologist, but we haven't even been able to get the Personal Care Attendant hours we were promised before we took her in over a month ago and they still haven't managed to schedule a full physical work-up to see if there are any problems we need to address from her accident over a year ago, so we're not holding our breath for any other kinds of help.

So what can we do to get started on catching her up with her age bracket? This girl is smart, and I desperately want to be able to talk to her. She has such a sparkling personality and it seems to me that she's beginning to show some signs of frustration at not being able to communicate more effectively.

Even as it is, she gives us long sermons with the most priceless facial expressions and hand gestures. She's telling us stories when she does that, and I think our lives--and hers--would be far richer if we could understand fully what she's telling us and come back to her with worthwhile feedback.

Me? I'm a guy happened to take some speech courses in college because he was silly/idealistic enough to begin his college experience as a theater major before switching to something that has the prospect of earning a living. That makes me qualified to notice there might be a problem and even be able to detect some of what the problem is, but not how to fix it myself.

Anybody with any suggestions, please post them in comments. This is a thing that's beginning to bother me--which I guess is just another illustration that I love this kid a lot. I want more, and I won't get it until we figure out a way to understand each other better.

Monday, May 22, 2006

A Date on a Very Special Day

Today was the second anniversary of the greatest day of my life. Two years ago today, The Wife and I took a horse-drawn carriage ride through downtown Fargo, ND and several parks on our way from our wedding to our reception. All our best friends were there, and it was a day of pure heaven, followed by a week of bliss at the lake cabin.

At that time, we didn't know for sure we would be fostering, that we would be moving out of the city, or really what we were going to be doing. We just knew that whatever it was, we would be doing it together and supporting each other, and that was enough.

It still is.

Tonight Mom and Dad came to watch things while we stole away for our first evening out alone together in a couple months (thank you whoever decided it would be a good idea to tell us "Angel" came with PCA services but didn't mention it would take months to set up). We ate Mexican food, took in a movie ("RV" isn't nearly as lame as it looked on paper) and, of course, shopped at WalMart. No visitation by cupid could be complete without trying to see if you can snag a bargain, no?

And she only called home to check up on things twice. I was proud. And "Angel" was only able to con Mom out of an extra 20 or 30 minutes of uptime. I was proud of both of them, too. Mom for not losing her foster training after several years and "Angel" for doing so well against her. I don't recall doing that well very often myself. She was tough to game.

None of it was very romantic, but it was pure bliss just the same to be alone with my best friend for a time. Both of us are private people and we both need time alone to be really healthy. We got it tonight, and while we didn't do anything that special, it was a time to remember nonetheless.

Love you, lady.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Random Observations

Life seems to be working the way it should, which unfortunately makes for poor blogging. Combine that with my lack of creative impulse the last few days, and you have a sad situation indeed.

I do, however, have a few observations on life to share this evening before I get some sleep.

1) "Rumor Has It" is a scary, funny, romantic, fun, nasty, intriguiging and all-around romp of a good movie. Any review would be a spoiler, so suffice it to say that Jennifer Aniston finally created a character that wasn't one-dimensional and wasn't a clone of Rachel from "Friends".

2) Children must be reminded of things again and again. A child insists on crawling around chasing puppies, one of whom is large and a klutz. She gets them buzzed up and the klutz either grabs her hand too hard with his mouth (NOT a bite) or steps on her hand or otherwise hurts her. She screams bloody murder and insists on many kisses to make it okay again. That child will, usually within an hour, do the same thing again. Even after it has happened 3,272 times in the last 2 weeks and you've begun to lose sympathy.

3) If a dog can get their lead tangled in the garden hose and pull it hard enough to break the faucet, they will. Plumbing again soon.

4) Gardening is hard work. It's also rewarding. I planted my first vegetable garden yesterday, and I'm hoping I did it right. I guess I'll know in the next few weeks.

5) My father is a criminal. He drove my boatlift on a trailer 60+ miles while nearly two feet over the legal width limit. I had my checkbook all fired up to pay for any tickets, but we seem to have gotten by with one. Apparently my sheriff neighbors didn't pick the exact wrong time to head for church and meet Dad coming in like I figured they would.

6) I seem to have become entrenched as the go-to guy for bedtime as far as "Angel" is concerned. Mom is mornings, Dad is bedtime, and THAT'S ALL THERE IS TO THAT. NO QUESTIONS WILL BE TOLERATED.

7) I get to go on a date with my lady on our anniversary tomorrow night.

Life is good.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Overrun by Life

Whew. Rough week at work again, plus busy with two foster kids. I suppose it's something of a blessing that in spite of the busy schedule, there's nothing of real moment to report.

I do want to do a post sometime about the different way I've noticed poeple approaching me as a foster parent, though...just a short word on it now.

People seem to think that now that we're licensed for foster care that we're some sort of superparents. Heh. Us. Neither of whom have ever been a parent before. But my coworker who is an expectant father and a couple others have asked questions about "what it's like to be a dad" or "what do you do when they [insert upsetting behavior here]".

Our usual answer: wing it.

I'll probably get into that more later, but for now, after having spent the first part of the evening cuddling my little girl and the second part of the evening making s'mores with my big girl and her friend, I can happily report that being a dad is everything you ever wanted, plus chocolate sprinkles and a cherry on top.


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

One More Day Shot to H*#&

Went fishing with "Josie" tonight. Had a good time...Willy loved her even more than he already does when he smelled her fish-hands. "Angel" and The Wife loved both of us because we brought home Dairy Queen treats.

Pulled a hat trick with "Angel" tonight...three perfect bedtime routines in a row.

Now for a small quiet time on the deck, and then maybe I'll mosey into the bedroom and see what's up. The Wife was dropping hints and making eyes at me earlier.


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Another Night

The Wife is out shopping, "Angel" went down like a dream again, "Josie" is visiting her mom and I'm home alone.

The cricket-and-frog chorus is warming up in the swamp behind our house and dusk is falling. Time to step off the deck to our fire pit, burn some garbage, and reflect on things...beginning with the story I read to "Angel" tonight for bedtime.

The Plot: a man finds a carnivorous plant. He takes it home, pots it, and feeds it a weiner. A dog comes along and steals the weiner from the plant. The plant then bites the dog's freakin' tail off.

Do these children's books authors read the stuff they write? Do they know that children think about the stuff they read in these books? I caught "Angel" looking speculatively at Mitch yesterday and wondered what was going through her mind. Guess I can stop wondering now. That book should really go in the garbage, except that I really like the story about the giraffe and the nine monkeys.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Gastrointestinal Incident

So The Wife brings "Josie" and her friend home from a night at the movies. The Wife is tired and the girls seem in good spirits. The friend will be staying the night. After putting groceries away and exchanging pleasantries, I retire to the living room to watch the rest of my DVD (see earlier post).

Suddenly, "Josie" and her friend come prancing into the room: "I have a show for you." She proceeds to belch loudly while breathing in AND out. How attractive. The twelve-year-old inside me is screaming to be let out at this point, but the only ouward sign was probably an upward twitch at the corner of my mouth. I ask her what her problem is and tell her she frightens me and please leave. They both shriek with laughter, which gets Mitch going and he chases them out of the room, nipping at their heels.

A few minutes later there are serious biological sounds coming down the hall from "Josie's" room and the bathroom. Mitch comes tearing out of the hall, looking a little spooked. I get worried and investigate. As I understand the story, apparently, "Josie" grossed her friend out pretty severely with the belching. She then purposely switched to puking sounds, which made her friend actually puke into the waste basket.

Her friend's actual puking then caused "Josie" to run across the hall into the bathroom, just making the toilet bowl before she actually puked. I walked in to see "Josie" complaining of the awful taste and laughing while blowing her nose into a wad of toilet paper the size of a sponge. There is now much sniffling and tissue usage on either side of the hall in an attempt to clear noses, mouths and sinuses in the aftermath. Guess The Wife really got her money's worth when she took them to McDonald's after the movie, eh?

I'm coming to appreciate the weird looks my best friend and I used to get from our parents when we would often go temporarily insane for no discernable reason and do weird stuff. Not this weird, but we did have our moments.

And I swear to you on my mother's grave I'm not making one bit of this stuff up. I'm just not that imaginitive.

I'm now requesting suggestions on which of the following is true:

1) This is normal teenage behavior and there is nothing to worry about.
2) I should make both of them take a UA in the morning.
3) I should give myself a UA in the morning because I might be hallucinating.
4) Puking on command is a valuable skill in the entertainment field and "Josie" and her friend have a new career option.
5) This will be the next world championship sport we see on ESPN3.
6) I should just let Mitch eat both of them.

I love my life.

TV Trouble

I must have reception problems with either my TV or my satellite dish.

I say that, because I felt like watching some music videos tonight. No problem...that's why I got satellite service, so I could watchs stuff like that from time to time. Switch to MTV. They had some bad rap crap on, and I barely consider good rap to even be music. It's more of a hopped-up summer camp fireside chant with slutty girls dancing around.

Switch to MTV2. Some lame "reality" show that resembles reality in exactly no ways that I can recognize.

Switch to VH1, which has always been where I go when nowhere else that's supposed to be showing something to do with music is showing anything to do with music. There is Hulk Hogan...doing nothing of interest. It's actually rather depressing to see him in a real-life situation instead of in a pair of tights threatening to knock some slob's block off.

So I give up on music since none of the three music channels I pay for is showing music and instead decide to catch some sports. Maybe some baseball is on. ESPN? Some dorks talking about baseball. ESPN2? More even dorkier dorks talking about golf. Golf! ESPN3? Paintball championships. I didn't even know they had the playoffs...though I did find a new name for my fantasy football team next year. I shall be the Naughty Dawgs.

This exact situation is why God took mercy on us and created DVD players.


For the very first time, "Angel" went down for bed without a peep. It's a good thing, too, because she had about used up her good karma for the day.

The Wife absolutely HAD to go run some errands today. "Angel" came with a Personal Care Assistant (PCA) warranty, but the paperwork is horrendous to get it, so a month later there is still no relief in sight.

And let's be clear..."Angel" is far, far better than we were expecting given the doom-and-gloom description we were given of her--never believe what they tell you about a placement until you see it with your own eyes because it's almost always insultingly wrong--but at least for the near-to-midterm future, she is a special needs kid. She takes a lot of care, and she takes the wind out of our sails each day, particularly The Wife, who is bearing the brunt of her behaviors.

Such was the case on the errands she had to run. Understand that The Wife isn't strong enough to carry her very far or lift her in awkward positions. Heck, I barely am. She's not obese, but she is chunky and big-boned, and she's an expert at the limp-noodle/dead-weight technique. Today she had to drop lunch off for her stupid husband who forgot it this morning. As she arrived at her stupid husband's place of employment her husband thankfully saw her pull in and met her at the car, because "Angel" unbuckled herself as they were pulling in.

The worst was yet to come.

On the way back toward home and the other town where she had to run more errands, "Angel" unbuckled herself on the highway. The Wife had to stop the car, get out, almost get run down, go around to the other side of the van and discover that "Angel" had climbed into the front seat. When commanded to come back and get buckled in, she fell back on the screaming, her trusty standby. I'm sure The Wife could put her in her place with some truly world-class screaming one of these days, but I guess she's not quite there yet. I'd love to be a fly on the wall when it happens, though, because I think "Angel" has a surprise in her future, scream-wise.

Then into the pharmacy, where she ran away, down the aisle, collecting lots of goodies before The Wife could put a halt to her larceny. The desk clerk apparently had been in that position or else just wanted the kid out of her sphere of influence, because she expedited the order. Outside and the kid takes off again.

And so it went. Someone recently remarked to my beloved that she deserves a halo. I concur.

But, she will be shocked and appalled to read and/or hear, "Angel" was, in fact, a true angel at bedtime tonight. I think my eardrums sprained themselves bracing for the typhoon that never came. But I'll live. Unless The Wife decides to destroy me just out of plain frustration at my good luck tonight.


Saturday, May 13, 2006

A Nice Attempt

Last night I flew solo with "Angel", The Wife having kidnapped "Josie" and taken her to town to do a bunch of shopping. Divide and conquer, as they say. It's just as well...I'm not much for shopping and am most useful for hauling the stuff into the house after the trip anyway.

When I do bedtime, it's usually than when The Wife does it. There is usually less screaming, less tests to see if somebody will really come flying at her to swoop her into bed again if she opens her bedroom door, and generally just less trouble. She has to get used to The Wife doing it as well, but last night she should have known better.

She didn't.

We went through the whole regular routine, getting into jammies, brushing teeth, storytime. Then bedtime prayers ("talking to Jesus"), a hug and kiss, and finally pretending to reach for the light, at which she says loudly "PeePee!". This is every night folks. Part of the routine.

Then the last PeePee, and the usual reluctant perp walk back into the bedroom. At this point she unexpectedly stopped. This was not part of the routine. I waited. She turned around and faced me, looked up coyly, smiled, actually batted her eyes at me and queried: "PeePee?"

Yeah, girl. Good luck with that.

But now I knew I was in for it. I don't know how, but I absolutely knew if I didn't handle this right there would be holy hell to pay.

"You just went, now get into bed."

Way wrong answer, dude. The siren went off. I scooped up the siren, deposited it in bed, managed to silence it a moment with a firm kiss on the lips and left the siren wailing in bed while I finally shut out the light and closed the door, diminishing the volume somewhat.

I then went into the other room to wait it out while waiting to do my duty by the grocery and other bags when my other two ladies got home.

15 minutes or so. Longer than usual these days, but not all that long compared to what I remember a few weeks back. Ladies and gentlemen, slowly but surely progress is being made.

And now I must go and help get ready for guests. The public celebration of "Angel's" fourth birthday begins in a couple of hours. The "Princess" party favors, food, grill and assorted other tasks await.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Happy Birthday and Explaining Things to "Josie"

Today was "Angel's" fourth birthday. I don't think she understood exactly what we were all so excited about, but she got the hang of opening presents real quick. Toys, puzzles, and [drum roll] A Brand Spanking New Bike (With Training Wheels)!

Of course, after seeing her on it, it's too small and we're going to have to return it for a bigger model, but it was a hit. I don't EVER want to hear someone complain to me about how foster parents "just do it for the money". I figure I'm behind by many hundreds of dollars since I started this crap.

Of course, I wouldn't trade it for anything...but people are just so obtuse sometimes.

Anyway, she got the kind of birthday that every little one should have every year for at least the first 10 or 12 years of their life, and she loved it. Of course, the real party isn't until Saturday. That's when grandma and grandpa, most of the neighbors and some other people are coming over to barbeque, eat cake, and spoil her with more presents.

But on to a more interesting phenomenon...teenage stupidity. It knows no bounds. A further example of this smacked me upside the head tonight. You see, I had let "Josie" know in no uncertain terms over the past few months that she is NOT to download LimeWire and start downloading and sharing songs on my computer. You see, I have no desire to give all my money to a recording company and spend the next few years wondering (or finding out) if my cellmate likes men. Therefore, I frown on anything someone does that might put me in that position.

Tonight she came home all excited, because she had found out about a new program (Bear Share or something like that) that she could use to download the song. Get it? It's illegal to download songs with that bad, nasty LimeWire, but downloading the same song is perfectly okay with this other program. And it's perfectly legal, her friend even told her so.


So I had another try at explaining copyright laws to her. She pointed out to me that I had lots of music on my hard drive. I pointed out to her that I probably spent a couple thousand dollars over the years on the CDs, and then tried to cram the idea of "fair use" into her brain with limited results.

It was a disheartening evening. The third-most disheartening thing was that "Angel" had a relapse and gave us a pretty good screaming fit before falling asleep.

The second-most disheartening thing was that I caught the "Behind the Music" for Pantera. What a depressing story.

And the most disheartening thing that happened to me tonight was that while trying to educate "Josie" on how to keep herself (and me) out of prison, she referred to my music collection as "a bunch of oldies". Now, granted, 95% of my collection was recorded before 1991, but still. Everyone knows it isn't really an oldie until you go back before 1980. My friend even told me so.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Brief Truth

I have only one thing to say tonight, but it is important.

I knew a man once who was a cowboy at heart. He rode competitively in rodeos, though not professionally. He rode a lot, bulls and horses, and he was thrown a lot. He broke bones doing this. He did it for fun. This man once told me that a rodeo cowboy has the hardest job in the world.

Clearly he had never tried wrangling teenagers.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Of an Evening

I just wrote half a post about the minutae of daily life, realized it was boring enough to put a cheerleader on crack to sleep, and erased it in the interests of not being the most boring blog in Blogsville.

I'm still in the afterglow of yesterday's victory. The sky is darkling, the moon is out, the weatherman promised thunderstorms and it looks like the western sky may be getting ready to deliver.

The deck is done, the dogs are restless, the breeze is freshening, the iced tea is calling my name and James Ingram is crooning to me on the radio. "Angel's" in bed, Josie is at her Mom's, and The Wife is hiding out in the bedroom.

I'm going to sit on the deck, set the radio next to me, lean back and reflect on the average rainfall in Paraguay, or perhaps the standard deviation of 1999 SAT scores for bisexual Brazillian immigrants, or maybe just the way the tips of the trees are swaying back and forth.

And watch the stars--or the lightning, whichever-- appear. Yes.

Hope you're loving life like I am. And now Annie Lennox is telling me what Sweet Dreams Are Made Of. If you'll pardon me, I don't want her to think I'm not paying attention. The deck beckons.

Monday, May 08, 2006


It looks like "Josie" will be with us indefinitely now. I'm still trying to stretch my cranium around today's events, but somehow I know our letter got in front of the judge. It was like he was quoting several of the things I said in it. I'm pretty sure the aforementioned school counselor had much to do with it...but whoever did it, I'm saying a thank you to God in my bedtime prayers tonight for pushing them to do it.

I'm also now a cat on a hot tin roof. I'm pretty sure we've spent a lot of what little political capital we've acquired in our short time fostering here to pull these strings, and my guess is that there are a certain probation officer, a certain social worker, and perhaps others who now will be gunning for us and would like nothing better than for us to fail so they will have something to use on us whenever they disagree with us.

Couple that with the fact that "Josie" is indeed likely to suffer some sort of setbacks along the way (as do all of these kids) and we're in a tenuous situation. The judge made it very clear that she was now on her last chance, and one more clear violation will get her booted out of town for a very long time.

Mom and Dad watched "Angel" for us, and afterward apparently Mom sat "Josie" down and told her things. I'll leave it at that, in part because I don't know what was said but also in part because Mom has sat me down before and told me things, and it's very uncomfortable. I'm glad that lady is on my side these days, and I hope I never seriously cross her again. Nuff said.

Now, I'm just going to relax, rejoice in the fact that my weird little family is whole again, maybe drop a line to the wonder-counselor to thank her, and think about the changes we're going to educate "Josie" on after "Angel" goes to bed.

Because there will be changes. And she's not going to like some or even all of them. But we have a chance to continue molding her into an actual human being, and we now have an axe to hang over her head.

It won't be pretty. But I hope it will be really, really good.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Ooh, One Other Thing...

I've been feeling right with the world this weekend for one other reason. "Josie" called us from lockup. Twice. I got to talk to her both times, and she was pretty down both times. I did my best to buck her up. She actually seemed concerned that we might not bother to show up at her court hearing. She was worried we didn't care.

Now I ask anyone who has been following this we care? We have not hidden our affection from her. She can be such a dipstick sometimes. But then, a girl like her in her position probably needs lots of reassurance. That's okay. We have lots.

At the end of the conversation, I told her I loved her, and hang in there. Both times.

Her answer both times: "I love you too."

Score! I win.

UPDATE: And then I look back at recent entries again and discover I already told you about the first time. Well, at least the second time was news. I can only say that I'm physically exhausted and probably not at my sharpest. Time for bed, I guess.

Blogroll Update

While checking up on Beth (because somebody needs to keep an eye on that girl) she pointed out to me the folly of my not having taken note of Lisa, who is not a foster parent or (to my knowledge) a former foster kid.

She does, however, say many smart things and let's face it: to judge by her picture, she's hot.

My friends, we have discovered a new species this fine day: the Foster Child Advocate. Her blog has a beat and you can dance to it, so check it out, won't you? I've added it to my blogroll under "Fellow Travellers", as she seems to be one, even though not a fellow foster parent.

Now I must go and hide before The Wife reads the "hot" comment above. I may be blogging from the dog kennel for awhile.

UPDATE: Boy, do I feel dumb. Perusing through my recent comments, I realise that in this very blog, Lisa had mentioned that she was a former foster child. Talk about falling asleep at the switch. She will now be moved to "The Flip Side" (blogs by foster children or former foster children).

Weekend of Heaven

This weekend was just what the doctor ordered. We spent a large part of it working on our deck, but the pace was leisurely and there was a lot of chit-chat, a lot of Mom & Dad getting to know "Angel" better, and a lot of just plain fun.

My personal favorite was when "Angel" decided she should be helping me and dad dig screws out of the old deck boards. She saw us kneeling down with our butts in the air, using screws to dig the wood away from where an old screw had been sunk too deep so that we could get the drill in to remove them. Being the little trooper she is, she grabbed a screw and immediately pitched in to dig out the screws from the new deck boards we had just installed. Her heart is in the right place, but her aim is off a bit.

We got her pointed at a screw that actually needed to be dug out and she set to work. Dad was on one side of her and I was on the other, so it happened that there was a fine display of three butts in the air, a smaller one surrounded by two (much) bigger ones. Of course, Mom was sitting behind us and started giggling. And then she noticed that her camera was sitting on the table next to her.

It wasn't a digital camera, so I'll post the picture after she gets it developed. Nothing cures bashfulness like posting a picture of your butt on the internet, or so I've heard.

After a weekend full of moments like that, I feel tired but refreshed, and ready to face whatever our court engagement brings tomorrow. As I said in comments, I'll probably tweak the letter but not change it substantially. When you get right down to it, in a situation like this you've got to speak from the heart...and that's what the letter is. I was nothing but brutally honest. It's not very diplomatic, but I'm not an ambassador.

By the way, I seem to have acquired a number of regular readers, more than I really ever expected I'd have. I'm not sure what you all see here that you like, but I want to let you know that I'm really glad you stop by and follow our little story once in awhile. It makes it more fun for me to share it with you. Thanks.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

The Letter

The following is the text of the letter I hope to be able to read in court, or at least to get into the hands of the decision-makers before "Josie's" case is decided on Monday. Your comments are requested on how this might be improved before I give it to somebody who matters.

Not to imply that you all don't matter, of course. But you probably don't matter as much to "Josie" as this letter might.

To whom it may concern:

My wife [The Wife] and I have concerns regarding the future of our former--and we hope future--foster daughter, ["Josie"]. We feel that our concerns have not been solicited or adequately addressed in the course of her time living with us and we feel duty-bound as her foster parents to do what we can to make her future a brighter and more successful one. We also love her and want what's best for her.

Our efforts to do the best by ["Josie"] have been hampered when we've had to learn about court dates, scheduled home visits, and other information from ["Josie"] or her family rather than a social worker. Our PATH social worker sometimes learned these things from us. The communication in this case was sorely lacking all around.

When ["Josie"] came to our house last December, she was an angry, frightened girl, which is to be expected when going to a new home. We recognized her potential and proceeded to work with her on areas that needed to be addressed. Based on our own observations plus feedback from her family, teachers, counselor, psychologist and even her friends, she was doing much better than before she came. She still had areas of her life she needed to work on, but it seemed to be going very well.

Immediately after she got to our house, there seemed to be a push to send her back home as soon as possible, with many home visits. This was implemented by parties other than us or PATH, and we didn't understand or agree with this course of action. However, our input was seldom asked for. On those rare occasions when we were allowed to voice our concerns to someone other than our PATH social worker, they did not appear to be taken into consideration at all. We feel this course of action was and is harmful to ["Josie"] until we've had a chance to address some remaining issues and build a sense of stability in her life that she has sorely lacked.

During recent home visits when we haven't been supervising her, we have learned that she used alcohol, was abusive to people, and did not regularly take her medication. We have had to deal with bad moods--particularly after she started visiting home often--but we never saw things like this. Then last week, ["Josie"] got into trouble in school resulting in her arrest and removal from our home to juvenile detention. At that time, Dan was unavailable and [The Wife] was given the option to either take ["Josie"] back to our home that night or send her to detention. She chose the latter, and Dan concurs with that decision.

We have been informed that some parties may have taken this to mean that we "have had enough of her". Nothing could be further from the truth. We still believe in her potential to become an incredible young woman, and we believe we have the ability to help her realize that. We do NOT, however, have the ability to do that instantly. We don't believe anybody could, and nobody should be asked to try.

["Josie"] needs time in a stable environment, with people who love her and know how to deal with her. As people who have lived with her for several months every day and have learned about many of her problems, we feel she would be better served in our home than in a group home or other institution. She cannot, however, be expected to excel if she is constantly sent home on weekend and overnight visits before she is ready, where we cannot monitor her medication, behavior and other aspects of her life. We do not wish to be her foster parents under those conditions, because we do not wish to engage in an effort doomed to failure.

If you should decide that a group home or other environment would in fact be more beneficial to her at this time than foster care in our home, it is our judgement that her care providers should be given adequate time without constant home visits to address her issues.

Since she went to detention, we have been contacted by her family and even her peers who feel she belongs with us, requesting that we try to get this information to people who make the decisions about her future. This letter is our best effort. Please take it into consideration as you decide what is in her best interests.


Foster Parents

Remarkable Phone Call

I just received the strangest and most heartening phone call I've received since I started my new life almost a year ago.

I answered the phone, and "Josie's" uncle wanted to speak with one of us about what was happening and why. He was pretty upset and felt his niece was being railroaded (as do we), and he wanted to offer to do anything he could to get us into the courthouse on Monday so we could speak our piece. He said he used to work in the courthouse and quit some time ago, calling them "crooked". Apparently he was aware that we are being shut out of the decision-making for "Josie", and apparently he has been impressed with what we have been able to accomplish with "Josie" while she was here.

I can't be certain he wasn't drunk, but if he was he wasn't too far gone, at least, because he spoke pretty clearly and made sense. I mention that because I'm guessing there are those of you out there who are experienced enough to know that calls like this are often inspired by a conversation with a bottle or more than a few cans.

He noted that she had gone downhill after being forced back home too soon, he passed on her grandmother's (his mother's) comments about how she seemed like "a different girl" when she was living with us, and he offered to watch "Angel" while The Wife went to court uninvited.

That's a non-starter for multiple reasons, the biggest of which are that only a licensed foster parent or respite provider will be let near "Angel" and The Wife doesn't really share my temperament. I would walk in there uninvited and speak up at any chance I was given with a certain species of glee...she would probably be too uncomfortable doing that.

That said, I do appreciate the offer, and I appreciate more the sentiments he expressed along with it. He and the rest of her family (quite a number of people, all told) seem very aware of what we've been trying to do with "Josie". They've been impressed with the results we were able to achieve in a pretty short time and they are all allegedly angry that we haven't been given more of a chance to continue trying to help this girl.

This was a lightning bolt out of the blue to me. I figured her family didn't care a whit about us, or have any thoughts of any kind, pro or con, about us...except maybe a mild resentment that we were standing between them and "Josie". That's the most common biofamily reaction I've seen in my years of being around this business. But it seems that this particular family "gets" the situation better than I gave them credit for. I assumed they, like so many families, just assume that the child should be with her parent(s) regardless of whatever problems there are. If I've been told true, then my apologies to them for underestimating them.

This makes it doubly or triply important that I draft my letter to the court very, very carefully. I really, really don't want to screw this one up. The family may not be able to provide what she needs, but they recognize when she's getting it and care that she gets it. That's a lot.

I'll post the text of the letter when I have it in or near final form (tonight perhaps?) and open it up to critique. Stay tuned.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Full House

Tonight we have Mom and Dad staying over, along with my sister-in-law and her boyfriend. The boyfriend is kind of a hood, so we have to keep an eye on him...but then so am I, so I'm not too worried.

The disruption in routine led to a louder- and longer-than-usual screaming exhibition at bedtime for "Angel", but it ended the same way it always does. The fun part of the evening was when someone said "no" to her at supper. She wound up to scream and just got her volume cranked up when someone said something that caught her attention. Mid-scream she lost her mojo and cut herself off with "What?"

The table broke up in laughter.

The Wife and I also spoke with "Josie" on the phone. She didn't have much to say, but she seemed glad to have someone to talk to. I asked how the place was. "Like a prison". Well, duh. It pretty much IS a prison, chick. I made sure she understood that, contrary to what her PO and social worker apparently told her while shipping her out, we are NOT sick of her and we DO want to bother with her. But the sweetest part came last. As we were ending the conversation, I told her again I love her, and to keep her chin up. She paused a beat, and finally said: "I love you too."

Finally, I dragged it out of her.

As for that damned PO and social worker...we spoke about it over supper and I was drafted to write a letter to anyone concerned stating our position. We would happily welcome "Josie" back into our house with open arms, but we just can't help her with the straight-jacket they've had us in. We'd desperately love to help her and we had great success until the PO and social worker stepped in and forced her back into the situation that created her problems.

We're going to give this letter to "Josie's" counselor who will likely be in court (we weren't invited, natch) so she can give it to the judge. We're probably going to send copies of it to the PO, the SW, the county attorney, our PATH social worker, and anyone else who seems like they might have any interest. We want to make damned good and sure we go ON THE RECORD with our position in terms clear enough that there are absolutely no questions later about who said what and who was at fault for making a balls-up of this girl's life.

Guess that's all for tonight. Guess that's enough, don't you think?

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Cooling Down

Well, we're trying to find out what we need to do so that when we show up at the detention center to visit "Josie" this weekend, they don't turn us away because we're not on some magic list or something. We are going to stick with this girl...somebody has to. The system has failed her utterly.

I'm getting my anger under some semblance of's sort of morphing into a deeper, calmer sort of thing. Sorrow? Regret? I'm not sure. I just know that the world isn't as much fun as it was for awhile there.

Maybe that's natural when you've experienced your first defeat in this game, but even if it is it doesn't make it any easier to take. I'm very, very glad I have a beautiful woman to comfort me and who knows how I feel because she's feeling the same way.

"Angel" helps a lot too. She knew something was bothering us tonight, and she was especially huggy and kissy. She wanted to help, and she really did.

And now the dryer is on the fritz, and I've got to help my beautiful woman see if either of us or both of us together can muster enough fix-it skillz to end the drying strike.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Oh My Gawd (UPDATED)...

Heather's comment about a piece in Time magazine a post or two ago piqued my interest, so I just now looked it up and read it. Join me, won't you?

[pause while you slog through 3 pages of putrid, sanitized horse manure]

I apologize for inflicting that on your frontal lobe. But NOW I understand some of the insanity that's been inflicted on our household. I should have known it was some kind of organized assault.

Oh, the brilliance:

Plans such as the one Oksana accepted still use the threat of removing a child from the home, but they also encourage troubled parents to enlist a support network--birth families, friends, in-laws, neighbors, nonprofit and government agencies--capable of interceding before a crisis develops.

Great. Except for the fact that family friends and/or neighbors might be and sometimes are the ones buying drugs for the kids, or sexually abusing them, or who knows what else. "Josie's" visit with her dad last weekend was just information is that he himself bought her and her friend booze during the visit. But after all, the best thing is to rush them back to be with Mommy and Daddy, right? With parents like that, who needs Satan? And what about the fact that a lot of these kids don't have relatives or a support network around them, and if they do then the relatives are often as big a part of the problem as the parents?

My favorite is this bit:

Most controversial, however, was Finch's proposal that if Karla and John should decide to use drugs, they do so when Justin was not home but at a relative's, to protect him and avoid losing custody. "We don't encourage parents' using," says Christie Bausman, another county social worker, "but we know that they might. If they're going to use, we ask them, 'How can you use when your children aren't around and in a way that won't damage them?'"

The answer to that oh-so-perplexing question? You can't. Period. How hard is that to understand? You can't use drugs, or your children will definitely be taken the hell away. That's part of the whole parenthood thing you willingly entered into, even if the pregnancy may have been "accidental". Pretty sorry about that Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Addict, but that's how it is. Being a foster parent, I can't drink even though I'd sometimes like to. Being an actual parent, you can't shoot up or have a hit. It's a sad, sorry world we live in, but there it is. But these people are just so ready to accomodate and enable drug abuse, so why quit when you can just ship little Johnny or Jane off to your sister's so you can get high for an evening?

Can you tell I have little patience for parents who use?

Upon completion of reading this foul breach of sanity, I immediately had an involuntary typing spasm and fired this off to the editor:

To the Editor,

I saw your piece entitled "When Parents Are The Thread", and I am curious as to why you never sought out a serious opposing view to "Alternative Response". Your article makes it sound as though everyone is mostly happy with it so far. I vigorously dispute its worth in many if not most real-world cases, and as a foster parent working in one of the Minnesota counties that is piloting this one-size-fits-all wonder program, I can assure you with complete confidence that the opposing viewpoint is not mine alone.

We have had a bitter experience this winter dealing with this blinkered adherence to the idea that the best thing for a child who has finally escaped a horrible situation is to rush them back into the same situation as soon as humanly possible. In our experience, nothing but that remarkably counter-intuitive idea seems to have had any effect on the decision-making process. The opinion of the people who are closest to the situation on a day-to-day basis (us) has never once been asked for by the county social worker that I can recall.

If you want meaningful, heartfelt objections to this approach, you should start by attending a foster parents' training/meeting somewhere in Minnesota and just ask someone at random. There are a lot of skeptics there, if nowhere else.

I don't have time or space here to get into specifics, but you can find a fairly detailed chronicle of my practical observations of the results of one application of this "great" program at


PS. Bite me. [ok, so I didn't include the PS...but I wanted to -ed]

Bet they won't print it, but I feel better for having sent it. And yes, I did note that they put a token semi-objection from someone, but from what I can tell there was no serious effort to elicit a negative response to this abortion of a program.

If you're truly a nerd, you can find all the information you'd ever want to know about Alternative Response in this 176-page report. Being only a semi-nerd myself, I could only spend 5 or 10 minutes with it before my eyes glazed over...but I discovered a very telling fact about this report. It's in acrobat format. Do a search for "foster parents" or "foster parent". Unless my computer is different than yours, you'll come up with a goose egg.

Zero occurrences of "foster parent" in a 176-page report on a new child-care system. The least they could have done was add the sentence "screw what the foster parents think". But I guess that was implied, so they didn't need to explicitly come out and say it.

If you do a search for "foster", you'll get two hits, neither of them significant.



Here's the response from TIME:

Dear Reader:

Thank you for letting us hear from you. The editors appreciate theinterest that prompted you to write, and they have made attentive note ofyour comments. We hope that you will continue to share your thoughts with us.

Best wishes.
TIME Letters

Deep Anger

I understand simple incompetence. It's pretty common and not really worth getting excited about. I understand mistakes. They happen, and everyone makes them--including me. I understand how things can not be thought through when things are being set up, and a system doesn't work in certain exceptional circumstances. No system is perfect...ask any programmer.

But what I'm witnessing in "Josie's" case angers me so deeply it's like a toothache in my mind. It just sits there eating away at my good humor, hurting, and driving me batshit. I want to give all involved the benefit of the doubt, but what I'm seeing, what I've been told, how I've been treated and other factors all point to the idea that there must be actual malice here.

"Josie's" school counsellor is furious (there'll definitely be more about her later...I don't think they want to ruffle her feathers--and I think if anyone can salvage this sorry mess she'll be the one to do it). "Vicki" has yet to see thirty and she seems very burnt out over the whole thing. Mom seems flabbergasted by how the whole thing is playing out, and I was under the impression she'd pretty much seen everything.

I can't even write anymore tonight. I have zero good humor right now, and it seems much more a chore than anything fun. I just put "Angel" down for the night, and when The Wife gets back from Bible study I think I just need to go for a walk and maybe listen to some music. It can't hurt and it might help.

There will probably be some late nights for awhile. I'm having a hard time handling this. This is definitely the icky part.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

End of the Line (For Now)

Well. Just like that, "Josie" is gone.

I'm not even sure I understand exactly what specifically happened, but I believe I know some of the real causes. Apparently she issued a threat to one of the para-teachers when they were on their way to equine therapy. "Josie" apparently was confused about it herself, claiming to her counselor "I just lost it." Indeed.

"Something" happened later, The Wife wasn't exactly sure what it was, but some other type of incident, and it landed her at the sheriff's office. The Wife was contacted and told that it was her choice: if she thought we could control the situation, "Josie" could come home with us tonight and they'd figure out what (if anything) to do tomorrow. If not, she'd head straight to the juvenile detention center (in a largish town you've maybe heard of but probably never been to) an hour and a half away.

That's not a fair thing to ask, especially when she didn't have a chance to consult with me...but she made the right call. "Josie" is, as I type this, probably settling into bed after maybe having gotten to know her cellmate(s) a little.

This county, and now that I learn more it sounds like one particular social worker, has made such a balls-up of her case that I can't begin to understand where their heads are at. Do these people really do this for a full-time living? How are we supposed to be able to help or even control this bipolar girl when they keep her away from us more than half the time, and during the time she's not with us there is nobody making sure she is taking her meds?

How do they expect us to establish any kind of trust or rapport with her when they keep hyping her up about going home "soon"? How can we have any kind of leverage to get her to do the things she needs to be doing when we can't keep her from home visits and it's so easy to wait one or two days and she's out of the house again anyway?

How can we have any effect whatsoever when her mother is not only a drunk but a complete pushover?

Due to my technical wizardry and "Josie's" lack of care in chatting and emailing, we now know that she has pierced one of her nipples. In front of a boy. A boy she has claimed not only not to like, but to be annoyed with. I mentioned earlier the infamous tongue-piercing. Some of her chat sessions are downright slutty. Most of the clothes she wears by choice likewise.

She was doing very well from the time she got here until that damned SW got involved, and it's been downhill since, and now it's picking up speed. We can do nothing for this girl under these circumstances except visit her when we have the chance and bring her a Subway sandwich (her favorite).

The only--the only--good thing that has come out of this is that when we went to bring in her meds to the cop shop and say goodbye, she hugged me. I've wanted that to happen since she first got here the day after Christmas, and when I finally get it, it's under such gut-wrenching circumstances that I'd just as soon forget it ever happened.

Except not really. Because, like an alcoholic who finally hits their personal bottom, maybe this is the thing that, while rude and uncomfortable and lots of other nasty things, finally gets her to realize that she's got to change something in her life, with or without us.

Her PO made an pertinent observation that began to change my impression of him; he noted that she is so focused on being with her friends and so "in the now" that she's not working on herself and her own future at all. Another thing Mom mentioned tonight about "Josie" I sit here and try to remember, I can't recall a single instance when I gave her a ride or bought her something nice or The Wife took her shopping or anything where she simply thanked us. That's got to be the description of some disorder or other.

The other thing Mom (veteran of nearly 30 years of the foster wars) mentioned that sort of floored me is that "Josie" was a more difficult kid to have in our house than one of her last kids, who was one of her worst ones ever and who Mom is still working on from time to time with no visible effect. Wow.

Now. All that said, we are prepared to welcome "Josie" back into our house. If you recall, I foresaw this part of the opera, and the show isn't over by a long ways. "Josie" still has well over two years of foster home elligibility, and I'm betting she finds a way to get herself landed in one again...and we'll be the first ones they call.


This county WILL give us a written agreement--signed by anybody official who might conceivably have anything to do with "Josie" and probably their spouses and next-of-kin--that will stipulate that we WILL have the power to curtail home visits in the event of misbehavior, visits having a bad effect on her, etc. Their SWs, POs and whoever will NOT pump her up about going home. We WILL be given a minimum timeframe in which to try to do any good for her. "Josie" will NOT know that timeframe, but WILL be told it's "a long time". It WILL be a fairly long time, 6 months at LEAST. We, in consultation with the PATH social worker, her counselor at school and her teachers and other people that actually know her WILL have input (unlike now) on when she will be judged to be ready to start going home.

Or we won't do it. We refuse to be a party to institutionalized child abuse, and that's what this smells like to me. Take it or leave it.

What I would say to "Josie" right now if only I could: I love you, you little snot. Even if you're a snot, you're our snot. We'll keep doing the best we can by you. When you get older you'll probably realize what pieces of crap the adults handling your case really were. When that day comes, if you need someone to hold them down while you beat the shit out of them I am definitely in. I hope you make it through this stuff and have a good life, girl. Call us sometimes. We already miss you.

Monday, May 01, 2006

In Which We Push the Envelope

You've been advised of our adventures in getting "Angel" to sleep at all. Now welcome to our adventures in getting her to sleep like a normal person.

We've been advised, and we believe, that it is good for children to learn as early as possible to fall asleep with nobody else in the room. Some of you who have experience with toddlers may have been chuckling to yourselves at our naivety in laying down with her to get her to sleep, foreseeing that we would be stuck doing that for a long time.

Not so. We were and are mindful that there may be things that have happened to this child that would give any sane person (and she has proven to us that she is very, very sane) good reason to be very afraid of the dark, especially in a strange place. Therefore, we gave her a special dispensation on the whole sleeping alone thing, in favor of just getting her into a regular sleep routine of any kind.

Last night began her initiation in to the final version of how bedtime will be going for her for as long as she lives here, or at least for a few years. That would be early changing into bed clothes, watching a movie or playing, brushing teeth, a little more playing, peepee and then storytime, after which Mom or Dad (whoever's doing story time) will say prayers with her, hug and kiss her, turn out the light, and curl up in a fearful fetal position hoping for the best walk out of the room and shut the door.

Last night she screamed for over an hour, with admirable volume and tone. One of her finer performances, I'd have to say. The lows, the high notes, the nice touch of desperation, the whole works. If I'd detected fear there, I would have broken (probably rightly), but it was very self-evident that this was anger and defiance. I don't respond well to either one from a child, and neither of us responded at all to this virtuoso performance except to listen with awe as a girl yet to experience her fourth birthday party gave a demonstration of lung power that neither of us would be able to match.

When she was done and it seemed she must be asleep, I looked in on her to see if I needed to straighten anything up or put her in bed for the night. She had put herself in her bed when she was done...I couldn't believe she had landed in such a normal position after all that. Well.

It left me with a tinge of anticipation for what I'd get to hear tonight. I figured she was just getting warmed up. Apparently, I was wrong.

Oh, there was screaming tonight...but only about 5 or 10 minutes of it. At that point The Wife looked at me with speculation in her eyes and mentioned that she didn't believe "Angel" had had her normal chance tonight to go peepee. I thought about it. If some big oaf put me in a bed and my bladder was stretched, I'd probably let somebody know about it in no uncertain terms too, even if I had different agenda in mind besides that one.

So, I went into the screaming child's room, and she immediately quieted to sniffles...but she was still on her bed. I know she had gotten out at one point because I heard it, but she was back in bed now and looking pitiful.

"Sweetheart, do you have to go peepee?"

"Yeah. [sniffle]"

"Okay, "Angel", I'll make you a deal. I will let you go peepee now, but when you're done, we're going to have to come back in here, and I will kiss you goodnight again, and then you'll have to go to sleep. Do we have a deal?"

"Okay, daddy. [sniffle]"

And that is how it worked out. I waited until she was clearly done and beginning to think about screwing around with the stuff in the bathtub next to the stool, reminded her that she needed to clean up, walked her back to her bedroom, put her in bed, gave her a hug and kiss, told her I loved her, and left the room, closing the door behind me.

I listened. Silence. I listened some more. Silence some more. I went out into the living room where The Wife, "Josie" and her friend were watching a movie in order to brag about my child-rearing prowess. Nobody seemed to care much about my mastery of the four-year-old psyche. Must be a good movie.

So I'm bragging to you. And I don't care if you don't care. It's my blog.