Evan's social worker came over to review his previous goals and construct new ones.
Graduate in May 2006
Apply to post high school program
Work and save money
Move into dorms in August
Yeah...well...that was before going to rehab for 60 days.
So new goals:
Graduate by December 2006
Apply to program
Work and save money
Move into dorms, or if not possible find other housing, in January 2007
So we shall see. It is the home stretch, which is a scary time for all concerned. You can just see the anxiety on his face as we talk about this. It is tough facing the adult world.
We talked about filling out the application for funding from agency's college fund. He wanted to know if we really thought it was "worth it." I mean, there were forms and he might even have to write an essay, but the pay off was worth jumping through the hoops, right? Well, let's see, they are committed to getting you through whatever post high school education or training you are accepted to without going into debt at all. So um...yeah...it's worth it.
He knows from our relationship with our other boys that we will still be here for him. We won't necessarily bail him out if he gets into trouble, but if he needs a weekend away from campus or wants to come home for Spring Break (soft laughter in the background), we are here.
I hope he makes it. The last six months before independence is so trying for the kids. I am trying not to borrow trouble, but I confess I am nervous.
We reiterated that we would not let the agency talk to us about another kid until there was no chance that his plans would fall through. There would not be another kid in the wings waiting for him to move out. Hubby said he would prefer that we not let them talk to us about new kids until after Evan was actually moved out. He likes the break we have had between placements.
Anyway, we shall see.
You can continue to click "new post" to read Evan's story, but if you want to peek into the future to see how some of these goals worked out you can go here:
I , II, III
Monday, July 31, 2006
Evan's social worker came over to review his previous goals and construct new ones.
Sunday, July 30, 2006
...but perhaps we should.
Here's the thing about teenagers: they are in the process of separating from the family, but they want to be completely in charge of that process.
Teenagers spend less time with their families and more time with their friends. Even when they are home they are likely to spend increasing amount of time in their rooms, especially if they can get phones or computers in there.
So they miss stuff.
Yesterday Andrew and Evan were otherwise engaged. Andrew was around for the morning; he even went grocery shopping with me. Evan spent the first part of the day firmly planted in his room. Both teenagers requested rides to friends' houses mid-afternoon. Evan came home before we had dinner but went to his room saying he was not hungry. Andrew got a ride home from his friend's parents at about 10:30pm.
Brian wanted to go to the fair. He asked his dad to take him. He asked in the morning. He asked over lunch. He asked during dinner. Dad was not all that excited about it. He explained that he was not going to pay for rides and that there was not much else to do other than look at animals, quilts, and jars of jam. But Brian really wanted to go and finally Dad broke down.
They left at about 8:00.
Evan came out of his room at 8:20 and asked where everyone was. I explained. He pouted, "They didn't ask me?"
"Would you have gone?"
"No, but I would have liked to be asked."
Yeah, I get it.
It did not occur to Hubby to ask Evan. It did not occur to me to suggest that he do so. It's not the sort of thing that Evan wants to do. I think in the back of both of our minds was the thought that if Evan had wanted to go he would have asked to go.
It's a minor thing, but there are under-currents.
If it were Andrew who had been home and yet not invited he would say something to Hubby. The conversation would go something like this:
"Why didn't you take me?"
"I didn't think you would want to go."
"Well I did." or "I would have wanted the chance."
"Well sorry, but if you had come out of your room at any point during the day you would have known about it and you could have asked to go."
Andrew might be angry or annoyed, but that would be it. This sort of thing actually has happened to Andrew a couple of times this summer. Some thing happens that he never heard about because he was not around any of the two dozen times we talked about it and nobody realized that.
Evan though did not and will not talk to Hubby about it at all. Evan is again spending the day in his room on his phone. He is almost certainly thinking, "I'm not really part of this family. If Andrew were home they would have invited him. They don't really want me to be part of things."
And then I will sit and wonder how codependent to go on this situation. Should I tell Hubby that Evan was hurt? (Actually I did do that. Hubby responded the way I expected, "Evan never wants to do anything with us. I just took Brian because he was asking.") Do I sit down and talk to Evan and explain? Do I address the anxiety that I expect he feels even though he does not express it?
Or do I decide that it is not really that big of a deal and just let it go?
Probably the latter, but of course I will write a whole blog post about it first.
Friday, July 28, 2006
So I am still a little jet-lagged and pouting about having to be home in the heat, but I am better than yesterday.
Mostly things with Evan are so good it makes me nervous. He passed the two summer school classes (A in PE and B in Government). He has a job, and was happy to take the drug screening test yesterday. He claims that he has a 90% in the on-line health class.
I am beginning to have visions of sugar plums -- well, at least of a kid who stays off drugs and finishes high school.
Wouldn't it be love-e-ly?
Evan even saved me from feeling like things were too good to be true. I got called into the end of his counseling session yesterday. Seems Evan recounted having had a wonderful evening with his boyfriend. They cooked something delicious, stayed in the house, and enjoyed some really good red wine that went just perfectly with the food.
It's almost funny; casually mentioning to his rehab counselor that he drank alcohol while we were out of town.
Evan was briefly afraid that it was going to be the end of the world, or at least the end of his being in this program. I had reminded him on the way out to the counselor that his placement date is August 16. In just a couple more weeks he will officially have been in the program for 12 months, meaning that he will qualify for the post high school education and training money. So Evan had images of getting kicked out of the permanency program and out of my house just before that date, all because he had a glass of wine while we were gone. (I actually suspect that he drank more than that.)
I reassured him, told him it was very naughty, and not to do it again. The counselor will have to tell his social worker who will probably have the same response that I did. Maybe it is the heat, but I just can't get worked up about it.
Posted by Yondalla at 3:18 PM
Thursday, July 27, 2006
We were so exhausted when we got home. By the time we got here it was 1:00am in Maine. That the clocks on the wall claimed it was earlier had no effect on my exhaustion at all. I colapsed into bed and managed to sleep for six hours. I am now awake and still wore out.
Coming home means returning to responsibility and heat. I am feeling unreasonable and cranky about everything. Of course I am tired: very, very tired.
He cleaned up the house: it is no worse than when we left. Things are mostly picked up. I think the carpet was vaccuumed. At some point in the last few days dirt in the kitchen was swept into a corner.
He did not eat very much of the food that I bought, which really is okay. I am fine with him living off of cereal and fast food. He is a teenage boy afterall.
He tries to reassure me about the house. He tells me that when he had friends over he locked my bedroom door and kept them out of the lower level, or at least kept them from getting into anything, and he cleaned up when the toilet over-flowed. The bathmat is in the dryer now.
He is not very good at the reassurance thing.
He does not want to tell me how many people he had over. You know, just some people. The house is fine.
Like I said, not great on the reassurance thing.
He got a job though. It is not the job he expected, but it is close. He will be working at one of the local grocery stores full time: 7am-4pm. Today he has to go get his pre-employment drug test. Convenient that.
Today we have appointments, and the grocery shopping has to be done (Evan bought us a half gallon of milk so we could have breakfast. He said he would have bought more, but it is hard to carry it in his backpack on his bike.)
Maybe I can go back to sleep. I am still SO exhausted. I don't want to be nice and responsible and grown up. I want to be lazy and watch the tide come in.
I have to stop writing. I don't even want to listen to this whining.
Back to bed.
Posted by Yondalla at 6:56 AM
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Posted from hotel, early 7/26/06...we will be home at midnight and maybe I will be able to get on-line again tomorrow. We will see.
July 12, 2006 6:00am
I am sitting wide awake in my hotel room while the boys sleep on. The card over on the table promised a free wireless connection, but it seems that the card lied. Perhaps it exists in the lobby or some work room somewhere. I did not read it carefully. So I instead sit here and type in Word. It is jus as well, I suppose. I said I was going, put up the pretty picture. I can just post a travel log when I get back. I will try not to let it get too big.
The flights were horrible. Well, the flights themselves were fine; it was just the silliest itinerary ever. We left the house at 5:30 am, boarded our first plane at 7:15am, and arrived at the hotel 13 hours later, exhausted.
A funny thing happened on the way to the rental car counter – we realized that we did not have our rental car reservation information. Hubby stayed to get the bags while I walked over and went to every counter (6) and said, “This is a bit awkward, I left my reservation information at home. Can you check to see if I have a reservation here?” Everyone was very nice as they told me that they had no record of any reservation. Slowly I had to accept the awful truth: I had forgot to actually make the reservation. Hubby showed up and I had to tell him. How bad could it be he asked? Well…NASCAR is in town, so pretty bad.
Four of the places had no cars to rent at all. One had a single car left, but we would have to bring it back in three days. The nice people at Avis though came through for us. They had a car. They actually had two full-sized cars in the garage, one was reserved, but we could take the other. We could actually take our pick of the two.
The two cars turned out to be an actual full size car and an SUV which had apparently been temporarily reclassified. I, practical woman that I am, investigated the car and pronounced it good. Hubby agreed while looking lovingly at the SUV. It occurred to me that we will never buy one and we are unlikely ever to be offered the chance to rent one at this price, and he had been ever so nice about the reservation thing (which really was my job) and so I said, “You really want the SUV, don’t you?” He grinned and I yelled at the kids, “Okay, everyone out of the car.” I told the boys, “This is officially making up for the other thing.” Brian said, “What other thing?” Good boy.
It’s big and squishy and holds the boys and their luggage easily. The radio automatically turns itself up as you go onto the freeway and then back down as you slow down on the ramp. As long as you never have to negotiate your way out of a parking garage, or get into a tight parking space, it’s great. And I know that the SUV (which I am beginning to think deserve a name) feels comfortable in the hotel parking lot, filled as it is with the vehicles of good ol’ boys and girls come to town to watch the fast cars make left turns.
We went out to dinner at Friendly’s which is a summer tradition. The food itself is comparable to any national-chain diner, which is to say, not all that great. It is however a totally kid friendly place. When the boys were little, this was the point. It is a sit down, be waited on, kind of place, and if you didn’t want to hear me trying to keep my exhausted kids from crying by distracting them with silly songs and endless games of 20 questions, then you should have gone to a grown-up restaurant. Besides, there is the ice cream. Friendly’s started out as an ice cream place. Later they decided to serve some sandwiches. Eventually they replaced the picnic tables with heated and air conditioned dining rooms complete with padded vinyl-covered seats. I, as always, ordered my Monster Mash Sundae from the kids’ menu. I know I could make one for myself at home if I liked, but I don’t. It is a vacation treat. One scoop high quality chocolate-chip mint ice cream; hot fudge sauce poured around it so that it goes down into the bowl where you can’t see it; two candy-coated chocolates for the eyes; a cherry for the nose; a chocolate peanut butter cup broken in half for the ears; and whip cream hair. It is yummy and really just the right amount of decadence. I don’t need to get the two and three scoop sundaes off the adult menu.
We called Evan from the restaurant. He had gone out to the Chinese restaurant with a friend, and brought dinner home. He spoke patiently until he thought maybe I was settling in for a conversation and then he asked if I could call him back later. He was in the middle of something: not something, just something. I said sure. For a while Evan was nervous about being left alone; then we had our little talk about public locker rooms and acceptable behavior at home while we are away, and then he started acting like he was going to Disneyland. I suppose actually Disneyland is going to him.
Today we have a 6 hour drive, a piece of cake after the 7 hours and 45 minutes we spent in airplanes yesterday (I’m not counting layover or car transportation time; that’s actual in-the-air, sitting-next-to-strangers; air-lines-don’t serve-food-so-your-eating-packed-junk, leg-numbing, air time. This time I get a big squishy seat, and can stop for a Monster Mash Sundae almost any time I please.
The drive was nice. We stopped at Friendly’s for an ice cream break in the afternoon. Hubby just had coffee, Andrew ordered an ice cream float (“but just 2 scoops of ice cream, not three, please”) and Brian got two scoops of cookies and cream ice cream topped with crumbled cookies and Reese’s Pieces. (Yuck). I, of course, ordered the Monster Mash. The server smiled and said, “You mean the one from the children’s menu?” “Yep. I want the face.”
I always forget the feathers
I was tired. I fell asleep on the sofa. I woke up a couple of hours later and stumbled into bed with Hubby. Sigh.
Midnight and I am awake. My eyes are burning. The feathers! Why do I always forget the feather pillows? I rinsed my eyes with bottled water, took an antihistamine and waited. I tried lying down on the sofa only to remember that the pillows of it too are stuffed with pillows. Finally I slept in the bunk room with Brian.
This morning Hubby took all the feather pillows up to the attic and brought down the “children’s pillows” that MiMi (She doesn’t like “Grandma”) has in storage.
I will be fine.
July 16, 2006
The boys have left with the father to go fishing, and I am missing my connection to the Internet for the first time since I got here. It is cool and foggy. I can see the ocean, but just barely, and I cannot see the islands at all. It is peaceful.
I finally, and for the first time ever, rid the entire living space of all feathers. I always replaced the bedroom pillows (typically after trying to fall asleep on them and getting symptomatic), but this year I asked permission to replace the pretty sofa cushions with an odd assortment throw pillows. It looks horrible, but for the first time ever I am completely symptom free.
MIL was surprised that I was had trouble in the bed. She put down the non-feather pillows for me. I pointed out that she had put the feather-pillows on top of them. “Those are so you can prop up in bed to read.” The is a certain logic to it I suppose: non-feather pillows to treat my allergy; feather pillows for reading.
I tried to call Evan when I went to the grocery store the other day. I drove slowly along the side of the road while Brian stared at my phone until we found a hot spot. I was able to get through to him, but he apparently could not hear me.
I will try again tomorrow when we go off for our annual seafood lunch.
I tried to call Evan again during our mid-vacation trip to civilization for groceries and lunch. He did not answer. Of course I did not try until we were leaving (partly to accommodate the time difference). Though I had been able to speak to the in-laws on the cell phone earlier, suddenly I was unable to get a signal. We drove up to the top of a hill right next to what Hubby swears is a cell phone tower and drove around a parking lot. The cell phone would show three to five bars when we were moving at least 10 miles an hour and say “no service” as soon as we stopped. No amount of creeping back and forth would allow us to find the hot spot. We kept gave up in a fit of hysterical giggles.
But we stopped at another small town on the way back and I got through. He did not answer though. It was 1:00 in the afternoon where Evan was. “Maybe he is at work” I said to Hubby hopefully. “I doubt it. He’s probably asleep.” “Maybe he is in the shower?”
Still, it has been a week now and I have not spoken with him. I have left him a couple of messages asking him to call the cottage (he could use his cell phone or our house phone), but no calls yet. I am about to resort to running up the in-laws cottage phone bill, which they would not mind, but I have been trying to avoid.
I am getting anxious. I want to know he is okay. Of course he is probably just an 18 year old enjoying the freedom of living alone.
I don’t know that I have ever said much about where we are. The blog is supposed to be about foster care and not about my life, but perhaps it would be helpful to someone to have a mental picture. We are on the northern coast of Maine: farther north by far than places like Kennebunkport, Freeport, and Portland; farther north even than Bar Harbor. We are in the “here there be dragons” territory; where Canadian and American coins come together in your change.
Many, many years ago, Hubby’s great grandfather came up here and bought a small piece of land on which he built a cottage. Over the years other family members have bought other small plots and built new cottages. When the in-laws bought this spot over 30 years ago the only people who were here were academics and crazy people. (My in-laws were among the crazies.) Who would want to be here? Of course it is beautiful, but you have to drive half an hour to get to the bad grocery store. It is 45 minutes to the nearest pharmacy; more than one hour to a bad bookstore. There are no good hiking trails. There is not even a good place to keep a sail boat. There is nothing to do but watch the tide, read books, bake cookies, and put together puzzles. The tap water is orange and there is only enough for on-and-off showers.
It is a bad place to be…do you hear me?
Clearly people do not. I blame the Internet. On our plot are two modest cottages: one for Mimi and PaPa and one for their children and grandchildren. Around us on the cape are increasing numbers of monstrosities: large houses built by people who have more money than sense or taste. Every day brown UPS trucks drive the gravel road bringing people the fruits of the civilization they left behind.
I would be willing to share the beauty with the rich, really I would, but they are pushing our property values up. The property is now literally worth 100 times what the in-laws paid for the plot thirty years ago. Every year it is the same conversation: we don’t know how many more years we will be able to afford the taxes.
It makes me want to cry. My children have grown up coming here every summer. They know their third cousins. They have a sense of family history. They know how to sit still and watch the tide come in. Last night they spent half an hour sitting and looking at the sea during a storm. It was better than any television show.
But I try to look on the bright side. With global warming the entire cape may go under the ocean anyway. Perhaps the sea will take the land before we have to sell to someone who will tear down our small cottages and replace them with some blight on the land.
The hurricane passed by last night. I don’t know how many miles off-shore it was, but it was not close. It did however send mighty waves crashing on the shore. I’ve seen waves as big on ordinary days in other places, but here the ocean usually just laps against the shore. The tide swells in and back out. Waves that curl and break are usually the result of a passing lobster boat. Last evening though the waves built up to six or ten foot walls, curled and crashed. We went out to the beach and stood where the rocks were high. Mostly the waves moved to the lower places on either side of us, but sometimes a wave would come directly at our perch. Those waves would break on the rocks 30 feet in front of us and send fountains of water and foam high in the air, leaving us with damp hair and salt on our tongues, for who can not laugh with delight at such a display?
I said, “It’s like the Fourth of July!”
Brian replied, “Yeah…except for you not screaming in terror.”
July 26, 2006
We did finally get a hold of Evan on the phone. All it really required was admitting defeat with the cell phones and using the land-line. He sounded fine. He has been seeing counselor, but decided it was too much trouble to go to relapse prevention group. (I gave no reaction; if counselor wants him to go then I will start taking him again). He claims he has been going to a meeting every day, which I figures means that he went to at least two in the previous three days. He told me that he was not eating much of the easy to prepare food I had bought; that he had had “friends” over a lot (I actually suspect that he has had one particular friend over a lot) and that they have been eating out or ordering in. I expected that.
Also as I expected, his “guaranteed job” has not panned out. The woman who was leaving is not leaving. The person who guaranteed him a job is recommending him to other departments who might have an opening. Yep. Welcome to the grown-up world my boy.
Yesterday was the big drive down from the cottage to Manchester. I did all the driving. Normally Hubby and I share, but he wanted to listen to a stupid comedy tape and the boys and I were caught up in an audio book. At any point I could have asked him to take a turn, but that would have meant listening to the stupid comedy…. So I drove for six hour and ended up in Manchester exhausted.
Still we are all fine. If we don’t get grounded for thunder storms (that happens once every five years or so) we will back home at midnight.
I did not want to leave Maine. Now that we have, I want to go home…NOW.
Monday, July 10, 2006
I think I'm doing that thing where you get angry at someone so that it is easier to leave them. Or maybe it is just all the last minute anxiety about leaving and everything I need to do.
And write out phone numbers for Evan.
And go up to the campus and print off the documents I need.
And go to or cancel three meetings.
And talk to everyone about what food they want to have packed for the trip and shop.
And go to the library to get a bus map for Evan (you know, he could do that himself. Scratch that.)
But I am quarreling with Evan a lot. Things are bothering me much more than they normally would. He told me that he was going to email me something that he wrote. I got an email with a list that has been circulating on the Internet for a couple of years. I went to him room and said, "I thought you were going to send me something you wrote." "I did." "I mean, something that you actually wrote yourself." "I did." "Well, I just got one email and it is something I have seen before. It's been on the Internet for a couple of years. Maybe the thing you wrote didn't come through?" "Oh! I didn't say that I WROTE it. I said that I posted it on my blog."
Little sh*t...thinks he can pull obvious plagiarism off on me? Who the h*ll does he think I am? Detecting plagiarism, and flunking students for it, is part of what I do for a living.
See what I mean? It would have annoyed me any time, but last night, it was just the worst.
This morning I got angry because the dishes he was supposed to wash last night where still in the sink. "Can I do them when I get home?" "Not without pissing my off. They will be in my way all day." (Okay...that normally would have made me angry.)
He asked if he could have the key to the thermostat so that he could adjust it if they weather changes. I said no. It is set at the summer setting and it is not going to suddenly get cold. I should have just said that. Instead I said, "I don't trust you to not just set it to 70 or less the whole time." "FINE! Trust me with your whole house but not with the thermostat."
Ah...and there is the rub. I am trusting him with the whole house.
He is getting very excited about having the house to himself. He thinks I am worried about him having sex. I'm not. I am worried that the whole house is going to look like his room when I get back: garbage and dirty dishes growing fuzz everywhere; remnants of fast food and cola ground into the carpet; a mess the dog made (because he left food in the living room) uncleaned. I am afraid that he will invite friends over who will bring booze, get drunk, and then vomit on my couch; smoke cigarettes and stink up my house and leave burns in my furniture.
This thing where you go away for two weeks and actually leave an 18 year old boy alone in the house is not easy.
next on evan
Sunday, July 09, 2006
How do you finish that sentence?
At least in movies the answer seems always to be "happy."
In a blog the other day someone wrote that all she wanted was for her children to be happy and successful. She clearly did not mean successful in (necessarily) traditional pursuits. She wants her children to follow successfully follow their own dreams, whatever they may be.
My kids know that I would never say that.
I want a lot of things for them. I want them to bring me grandchildren. Not right away mind you, but I want it. If I get to be old and none of them as bothered to parent, I will be disappointed. I hope that I can accept that with grace. I hope that they don't feel pressured by me, but I do want grandbabies.
I want them to be in long-term relationships with other people that I can get to know. Assuming that I continue to collect boys the way some women collect cats, I really do hope that one of them marries a woman. Oh, I'll get over it, especially if one of them produces a granddaughter, but I confess that I would love to sit down as Thanksgiving and look at my brood and see at least one girl there.
But these are things I want for me. I thoroughly understand that I do not always get what I want and that my children are under no obligation to satisfy my wants. They are not here to be what I want them to be.
And I think that is what a lot of people mean when they say "All I want is for my children to be happy." They are acknowledging that their children's lives are their own; that they have their own dreams and are not responsible for fulfilling their parents.
But still I don't say it.
There's something about that phrase that suggests awfulness to me, "as long as you are happy, I am happy for you."
I know it is not true, at least for me. If they were happy and leading lives in which they exploited others, I would not be happy for them. If they were happy, and content to pursue pleasure and care not at all for the suffering of others, I would not be happy for them. I don't expect them to dedicate their lives to charity work, far from it. I do want them to be the sort of person who cares.
I would like for them to be happy; I really would. But if I have to end that sentence simply, with just a few words, I would say:
All I want for my children is for them to be decent and caring human beings who will try to do what they believe is right, even if doing so requires a sacrifice in their pursuit of happiness.
Oh wait, I said a few words:
All I want for them is that they be strong of character.
Posted by Yondalla at 4:03 PM
I don't think this is a state-wide thing. I think it is just the valley.
The permanency program for which I work has provided a couple of staff people who work with all kids who are emancipating from foster care. The kids actually in the program qualify for some pretty impressive job training and educational money. All the kids may qualify for a federally funded rent assistance program. The social workers help them with planning, job hunting, and budget-writing.
They have a small budget of money for state kids (and a somewhat larger budget for their own kids) to buy bicycles, bus passes, appropriate interview clothes, and other particular things that can help them achieve independency.
The traning/education funding is designed to get the kids through whatever post high school educational and job training they want without loans. In fact, taking out a student loan disqualifies you for future funding. They help the kids apply for every scholarship possible; insist that they work between 20 and 30 hours a week; help them write a pretty tight budget; and they pay for the rest. When Carl was in Job Corps they had a Christmas Break for two weeks. We had told Carl that of course he could spend it with us, even though the campus was open (dorms, cafeteria, and recreational areas). His social worker contacted us and said that they had decided that since the campus was open and he COULD stay there, they would only pay room and board money for Dec. 24 through Jan 1. I was not expected anything. That's when I learned that it is typical for them to pay room and board for college kids when they need a place to stay during breaks. The youth can apply for this funding for the first time until they are 24. Once they are in, they can stay until they finish. The local division has, in one case, helped a kid all the way through medical school.
On paper all of this looks great. The problem is that these services require a higher level of maturity than most emancipated foster kids have.
So many of them, David included, leave care when they are 18. T, our recent respite girl, told me that she can hardly wait until she is 18. Then she can move out and have her own place and "finally be happy." Many of the kids who leave haven't finished high school. Even those who do, make bad decisions.
That they do is not at all surprising. They are children with the legal rights of adults.
Saturday, July 08, 2006
I think I have the safety net for Evan set up.
His therapists have agreed to call the SW if he does not show up for either of his two weekly appointments. I told Evan that the SW will drop by to take him to the hospital since I know the only reason he would miss them was that he was sick. Evan shrugged and said, "I don't care. I'll go to the appointments."
I told the neighbors that he would be alone and not to feel any hesitancy at all about calling the police if there is any loud partying going on. Though he had previously told me that of course he would not be throwing any parties, he said, "You're kidding right? You didn't! I can't believe you did that!"
I will be taking him to the grocery store later today and letting him pick a few things that I would not normally buy that are easy to cook. He has a new bike and there is a grocery store is about 12 blocks away and a large chain drug store that sells milk just a couple of blocks away, so he should be able to supplement as needed. I bought him a cheap plastic envelop to put receipts for any groceries that he buys while I am gone. There are also quite a few fast food chains within walking distance (for which I will not reimburse him). He won't starve.
I have told several people that he is home alone and told Evan that they may drop in on him periodically to see if he needs anything. One elderly couple promised to invite him over for a good meal. I still need to call his grandmother whom I know really will drop by a few times. "You are just trying to keep me from having sex." "Evan, there is no way I could have people dropping by often enough to prevent that."
I still have to finish writing out the list of numbers of friendly moms and dads in the area whom he can call to ask for advice or a lift the next time they are going shopping. Our house is kid central, so all these people owe me.
I do still have to finish writing the list of phone numbers of friends and neighbors that he can call. And I need to make up the batch of pizza dough and freeze in individual portions like I said I would.
His SW is double-checking on his mother's release date, but it looks like it will be after she gets back from her wedding, so that is good. I have two "safe houses" that he can go to if he needs. I don't think he is going to be in danger. Certainly his mother would not hurt him. She however doesn't understand why he doesn't like her boyfriend (aka "The Big Bad Wolf") and could easily decide she wants to see her boy and ask the Big Bad Wolf to give her a ride. It's likely that BBW would not do anything other than glare at him, but it should only be a couple of days between the release date and our return and if Evan decides he wants to spend them elsewhere, he can.
There are at least three things going on with all of this: I am satisfying my motherly needs and making myself feel better (which may be the primary factor at work); I am giving Evan a few things that he actually needs or at least feels safer having; and finally I am emotionally taking care of the little boy in Evan who did not have a mommy who would do these sorts of things for him when he really needed it. He rolls his eyes and even protests a bit, but he smiles too.
So now all I have to do is get us ready to leave.
Friday, July 07, 2006
Thursday, July 06, 2006
Andrew is expressing more frustration with Evan. I think that things are actually a bit better between them. Since we told Andrew it was okay not to like Evan and to avoid him as necessary, Andrew seems more relaxed. However when they do have areas of conflict, Andrew is talking to me trying to find a way to deal. Conflict with Evan is a constant issue of course.
I have the same problems. This morning I was unloading the dishwasher and Evan came in to get a bowl of cereal. He took the bowl from the cupboard (where obviously
I was trying to put away dishes) and put it on the counter below. He got the cereal out and poured while I stood there, patiently but I thought pointedly staring at him. He turned to get the milk; I put away the glasses, turned to get two more, and nearly ran into as I turned around again. Without thinking about it I assumed he would pick up his damn bowl and take it with him to the refrigerator. It would have been no more steps for him and his big hulking body would not be in my way.
Now I did not say anything. I made a small surprise noise, stopped and sighed (I really don't think it was a loud sigh). If it were Andrew or Brian they would have said "I'm moving!" That might have come out sounding polite or annoyed. I would have said, "okay" which might have sounded understanding or impatient. Still that was all that would have happened.
With Evan though it went something like this:
Evan: "WHAT? What? What's the matter now?"
Me: "I'm just trying to put away the dishes."
Evan: "Yeah. And I'm trying to get my cereal! You don't have to make a big deal about it!"
Me: "Evan, I don't think I am making a big deal about it. Could you please just get out of my way now?"
Evan: "Gawd! Why does everything with you have to be like this? I can't even get a bowl of cereal for breakfast without someone getting on me!"
Now this morning I have a sense of humor and I started teasing him. "I know Evan. You the supreme one. Let all bow before you and wait while you do what you need to do."
Evan (now sounding more jovial -- he actually enjoys this sort of arguing): "You always do this to me. Nothing's easy here is it?"
Me (chuckling, but overly polite): "Evan, could you please move out of the way so I can put way the d*mn dishes now?"
Evan stomped off to his room complaining about not being able to even get a bowl of cereal without being hassled. I have by the way edited down that conversation quite a bit.
I am usually able to turn this into a joke argument with silliness so that Evans leaves frustrated but also smiling.
There was a similar conflict between Evan and Andrew half an hour later. Andrew was in the bathroom combing his hair, putting in contacts, etc. Now Andrew has to leave half an hour earlier so it was not unreasonable for him to say "no" when Evan asked him to get out so he could use the toilet. It plays out differently with them though. Andrew, after saying "no" once just continues doing what he is doing and arguing. Evan stands in the hall and tries to argue with him for a while, finally says, "Why do you have to make such a big deal about everything!" and then stomps downstairs to use the other bathroom.
Later Evan will complain to me that Andrew has to make a big deal out of everything (which seems to mean, "he doesn't do what I want him to do" and Andrew will complain that Evan constantly argues with him and he does not know what to do. Anyway, like I said I think it is a little better now that it is out in the open.
Next post on Evan
Evan's Story Part 1: The Beginning
This isn’t a big deal, but I wanted to share.
First, you know Evan. He likes to argue, needs to win, offers unsolicited advice in an aggressive manner. All of this annoys me, but I can cope with it.
I can't resist giving you an example...
Me (directed at my computer): "Oh...poop. You stupid...."
Evan: "What's wrong?"
Me: "The computer froze."
Evan: "Well, try re-booting it."
Me (annoyed): "Yes, Evan. I know Evan."
Evan: "Gawd! If you don't want my help don't ask for it!"
This actually made me laugh and I pointed out to Evan that I hadn't asked for help.
And then there is Andrew. Andrew enjoys a good debate -- but not with Evan. Andrew and David would argue endlessly about where orchids grew or the likelihood of there being an earthquake in The City. They never seemed to resolve these debates -- but they were both having a good time. It rarely escalated. When it did, it would be Andrew who was declaring that he had scored points or won the fight. David would shrug it off.
So...see where this is going?
Evan likes to argue; Andrew can't just not respond; and neither of them is willing to loose. Andrew has decided that it is not possible to talk with Evan. So he doesn't. He is never rude or angry -- he just isn't there. If he is playing video games and Evan comes downstairs and wants to play Andrew will say, "Sure, I wanted to watch my show upstairs anyway." If Andrew is in the living room and Evan comes in Andrew will decide that now is a good time for his evening bath.
Evan has been complaining about it. Recently it seems that they don't even walk home from the bus together. Andrew either gets off quickly and starts walking fast, or the opposite. If Andrew does happen to have to walk next to Evan he just doesn't say anything.
Last evening I got irritated with Brian and turned off the TV to make him listen to me. Evan got mad because he was watching the TV. I told him that the sooner he shut up the sooner he would get the TV back. I settled things with Brian, but I was still feeling full of aggravation. I needed to go for a walk by myself but it was dark and freezing outside so I settled for stomping around the house putting things away.
When I calmed down I asked Evan if he was okay. I knew that it upset him when I got upset. He said that it didn't make him feel exactly safe when I stomped around and didn't say anything to anyone. I told him that I was sorry and that if it hadn't been so dark and cold I would have just gone for a walk by myself. He agreed that he knew what it felt like to need to do that. Then he said, "It's just hard to take right now -- on top of Andrew hating me."
So we talked about Andrew's behavior. I told him that it was not that Andrew didn't like him, but that Andrew was not enjoying the constant debates. Since he (Evan) liked to argue so much, Andrew was dealing with things by avoiding him.
Evan said that he understood, but his feelings were still hurt. I told him that I had no need for him to be on respite, but I wanted him to know that he is allowed to ask for it too. If he needs a break from us, he could have it. Since he was 18 he could even stay with unlicensed people like his grandmother. We talked about how stressful it can be to live with people you did not grow up with. I told him that marriage and mothers-in-law bring up similar stresses).
I also talked to Andrew and told him that his behavior was hurting Evan's feelings.
Andrew does not know what to do about it. He is convinced that if he tries to talk to Evan they will end up arguing. Just avoiding Evan seems the best idea. He asked me what I wanted him to do. I told him that I did not know, but that he should remember that Evan has not been "toughened up" by the system. This is the first time he has lived with a good family and unlike David who would just withdraw if we upset him, Evan really felt it. Andrew seemed to "get it" but he still doesn't know what to do about it.
Evan came back here a minute ago and asked what I was doing (that's another thing about Evan -- he monitors me more closely than my mother did). I decided to tell him the truth. That I was writing you about Andrew avoiding him. He very briefly looked red and teary, but he took a deep breath and said, "okay."
By the way, Evan is STILL not taking his anti-depressants. I don't think he has taken them steadily since he got here. I really don't know how much of his "thin skin" we've been seeing so much of lately is due to that.
Brenda and I talked quite a bit about what if anything we might be able to do to help the boys get along better. What finally helped was that I stopped trying to help. Without saying so in so many words, I gave the boys permission to avoid each other. They divided up the house like a couple of tom cats and I ignored it.
Meanwhile Brenda, the psychiatrist and I all fussed at Evan for not being willing to take his anti-depressants or go to counseling.
Evan's Story Part 1: The Beginning
Evan's Story Part 14: "A big deal"
I don't know why I don't have emails about it, but several times in the fall of 2005 Evan was reduced nearly to tears because I had got annoyed with him. He had asked me a question and when I tried to answer said, "Well, I KNOW THAT." I sighed and said in a strained voice, "I do not appreciate being spoken to in that tone of voice when I am trying to help you." When he protested I responded in a very quiet, controlled, calm voice with, "I think you can figure this out for yourself. You give it a good, hard try and if you decide you want to ask me nicely for help, come find me."
Evan actually wiped tears from his eyes and said, "I can't believe you said that. You would never treat Andrew or Brian like that." Unfortunately the rest of the family laughed at him and said, "Oh yes, she would."
So there were several episodes like this. It just seemed like Evan did not feel safe with any level of anger at all.
I remember my mother having sudden bitch attacks about the clutter and mess. I remember her flaring up sometimes angry that we did not do things without being asked.
It seemed so irrational. We left shoes in the living room all the time -- why today did she pick them up and throw them across the room? The kitchen was always cluttered -- my whole life that was just the way it was. Why did she think that suddenly I was going to turn into Snow White and whistle and clean without even being asked? I mean, really?
Evan spends the vast majority of his time in his room. He comes out to use my computer, though he would much prefer to use my computer in his room. He comes out at other times and is very friendly and chatty -- he just sees no reason to hang out in the living room unless there is something particular going on. Andrew spends a good deal of time downstairs, but will bring his D&D books up to the living room and work there for a while in the evening.
Every night (nearly) I ask the two of them to clean up after dinner. If it is a big job, or if one of them cooked, I help. Since they tend not to be around much at the same time I often ask one of them (usually Andrew) to get the other and do it. If I tell them to do it NOW, they (especially Evan) will roll their eyes and sigh and say that they would have done it like they said -- I don't have to get all Nazi about it. If I don't tell them to do it NOW, they will promise to do it later and not remember.
Yesterday afternoon I waited and waited for Brian to call after school to tell me that he had visited his teachers and had his lists of late assignments. One hour after school I went to find him (he hadn't called) and he was standing outside the school crying because he had been waiting in the cold for me to come with him to talk to his teachers. No he had not talked to them, no it had not occurred to him to go to the office and call me. We went in together. The math teacher was gone for the day and the teacher he has for most of his classes, Mrs. Cook, was her usually unhelpful self. (She will let students turn in work up to the following Monday. However she can never tell us what is missing until she has finished grading it -- which is usually Monday or Tuesday. She does not see the problem here. Brian should take responsibility. He knows what is missing. God she makes me furious. Right now we are working very hard, or trying to, to help Brian develop that responsibility. In the meantime we need to know what is missing before it is too late to turn it in. Why is this such a difficult concept for her to understand? Why does she keep telling us, sighing, that Brian forgot to turn in x number of assignments last week and so has a failing grade, and expect us to be able to do a god-damn thing about it if she will not tell us in time for us to make him do it?)
So I took Brian home. I reminded him to cook dinner. It is his night and it is spaghetti. At 5:00 I called him upstairs to start dinner, put away the milk and feed his dog. At 5:10 I called more loudly for him to come upstairs, put away the milk, feed his dog and put more than one inch of water in the pot. When he came up I told him not to forget to make a salad or some sort of vegetable. At 5:20 I called him into the kitchen to tell him that once he had put the spaghetti in the pot he needed to stay in the kitchen to heat up the sauce and get the vegetable. At 5:30 dinner was ready; although there was no vegetable. Brian forgot.
I told Andrew after dinner that I wanted for him and Evan to clean the kitchen. He said he would. I reminded him later. When I went to bed I noticed it was still not done and I thought "to hell with it" and went to bed.
This morning I started washing the dishes. I told Hubby that I was angry that Andrew and Evan had to be hounded to do them. He said he would try to help with that (yeah, right, that's going to happen). I told Brian that after school I wanted him to go talk to his math teacher, by himself. Get the details on the missing assignments, ask to review the test he did poorly on and then call me. Hubby asked him if he needed to have it written down. He said no. Hubby looked at me like I was foolish to think that this was going to work.
I asked Hubby what time he was coming home tonight. Why, is there something going on? "Yes. We have that event at the agency." "Oh. That's tonight?" There is so much that I feel like saying, but I don't. I DON'T say, "Yes. That thing that I have talked to you about several times. The thing I gave you the flyer for. The thing I told you I had finally got a sitter for. The thing I have been reminding you about all damn week IS TONIGHT."
Evan came in and I very calmly told him that I knew no one had said anything to him last night, but I wanted him and Andrew to remember on their own to clean the kitchen. This was their job. (I was thinking that the reason no one told him was that he spent the whole evening in his room. No one can tell him anything without making a damn appointment -- I am getting pretty angry on the inside but so far nothing is showing on the outside). He says, "oh." Hubby says "When are we supposed to be at the agency tonight?" I tell him and Evan says, "Why are you going?" (He has an edge to his voice. He is frustrated that we have not told him our plans, though it seems to me that he must have heard. I have been talking about it -- arranging it. If he doesn't know it is because it is apparently necessary to visit his room and tell him. He never just hears things because he is involved with the family). I am angry, I am doing the dishes (not my job) and a bit curious as to whether Hubby even know why we are going. So I say, tensely, "Why don't you tell him Hubby? I am busy washing the dishes."
I don't know what look Hubby gives Evan, but they both leave the kitchen. Hubby goes to finish getting ready for work, and Evan goes into the living room and turns on the TV. (If he knew me better he would have gone to his room. He would have looked very, very busy.)
All the anger from the past 24 hours is building up. Here I am doing someone else's job, being their god-damn organizational system, picking up the slack, driving around for the kids all the time, and Evan is sitting the kitchen watching television. It seems to me so obvious that the human decent thing to do would have been for him to help with the dishes. It is his job. I just told him it was his job.
Now really I am angry and frustrated about a lot of things. Right then though it seems like Evan watching television while I do what I just told him was his job was unbearable.
I turned into my mother.
I started off being tense, but calm. "Evan, I am feeling very frustrated right now. There is work that needs to be done. I did not ask you to do it this because I thought you still had to get ready for school. If all you have to do is watch television than I think it would not be too much to ask for you to help...without being asked. I just told you that this was your job."
"Well I am sorry" (In a voice that clearly indicates that he is NOT sorry) "but I'm pretty upset at you yelling me just because I want to know why you are going out."
"Evan I am not yelling. I am angry that you are not helping."
"Gees...I'm going to my room."
Then I lost it. There were words coming out of my mouth...words like, "I WASN'T YELLING BEFORE, BUT NOW I AM. FOR FUTURE REFERENCE THIS IS WHAT YELLING SOUNDS LIKE! NOW I WANT TO KNOW AT WHAT POINT, IF ANY, YOU WILL ACTUALLY PITCH IN AND HELP AROUND HERE!"
Of course Evan had more sense than to actually try to talk to the insane woman in the kitchen. Fortunately Hubby quickly got everyone out of the house and off to school.
Evan did not deserve the level of anger and frustration that got vented his way. I know how he feels -- he is just living here, being a good kid. He is nice and polite and he does what he is asked with much less reminding than most kids. Suddenly I won't answer simple questions and turn into a banshee because he doesn't do something no one even asked him to do?
He is a very sensitive kid. He is likely to feel hurt and might have even cried in the car on the way to school (he has cried when I have been less angry). It is absolutely not fair to him. He has never seen me yell at anyone else. He feels like the outsider, excluded.
I know that if I thought of him as an outsider I would have remained polite. I have less control with him just because I feel like he is really part of the family. I know that I would have been furious with Andrew under exactly the same circumstances. Of course Andrew knows me well enough to recognize when I am teetering at the edge of sanity. He would know that that was a moment to pitch in or look too busy to do it.
Evan has no way of knowing how upsetting it would be for someone to go watch TV when I was, it seemed to me, very clearly stating that I was overwhelmed and needed help. He really was hurt that he had asked a simple question and I responded the way I did. He did not realize that I was angry at Hubby for not knowing the answer, not at him for asking the question.
So now I know that when Evan comes home I will need to sit down and talk to him. I need to make him feel safe again. I need to tell him that it was not his fault. I need to apologize to him.
Right now though I feel so tired and so stressed that that FEELS like more work. I have to make him feel better -- because I am the mom and it is my job. Just like it is my job to make certain that everyone does their chores, their school work, gets new contacts before they run out, has their medical appointments made and is driven to them. It is my job to know everyone's schedule and make certain that everything gets done.
And it is my job to make Evan feel better; to make certain that he knows he is safe and loved. It is my job to figure out how not to have these bitch attacks and upset everyone.
I wonder if I could just print out a copy of this letter and give it to him if it would explain it all.
It is clear to me that I need a break -- but I am not certain what sort of break I need. Do I need to send the kids on respite? That seems unrealistic. I am home all day without them. I have plenty of time to chill.
Maybe I need new drugs
I obsessed over this most of the day. I talked to the social worker. I asked if she could talk to him. I talked to a friend who is also a parent. When Hubby came home I asked him if he could please talk to Evan. Could he be the one who comforted him and made him feel safe and warm? I just didn't have the energy.
Hubby said Evan was fine. He had talked and laughed on the way to school.
It turns out that my "I am annoyed but totally under control" attitude was frightening to Evan. Losing control and screaming, on the other hand, he understood.
Evan's Story Part 1: The Beginning
Evan's Story Part 13: Evan & Andrew
Evan's social worker, Brenda, just called.
First -- let me make just get the characters straight:
The Bully: Mom’s boyfriend (whom she may or may not have married after Evan moved
Teenage Sister: Evan's younger sister (about 14 years old). Though E’s mom and Teenage Sister's dad divorced a long time ago, Teenage Sister's paternal grandmother, aunt and cousin all still claim Teenage Sister AND Evan as part of the family. (When Evan says, "My grandmother" he usually means the one he shares with Teenage Sister).
Baby Sister: Evan's baby sister (3 or 4 years old). I don't know who Baby Sister's father is, but it is not The Bully.
Okay...you may remember that The Bully beat Evan up. The leader for the youth group for gay kids called the cops. Evan was taken directly into protective custody. He was never able to recover most of his belongings. He was interested in getting back the computer that he had built from parts he had bought over a couple of years. When the authorities investigated the home they found The Bully's drugs. E’s mom was put back in jail for a parole violation (The Bully's meth in her house). There is a warrant out for The Bully's arrest, but he is still at large. (The Bully's legal situation may have changed, we don't know for certain). (As soon as E’s mom saw what was going to happen she gave custody of Teenage Sister to her father and Baby Sister to her godparents).
Now...The Bully called Evan's social worker and told her that Evan can't have his computer back because they found gay porn on it and they gave it away anyway. And oh yes...they think that Evan molested Baby Sister and so they don't want him to visit her anymore.
Of course he was slurring over his words when he called.
But Brenda is a social worker and she has to report these charges even if she believes that they are unfounded.
Last week Evan asked Brenda to call his mom at jail. All Evan wants from her at this point is information about his paternal brothers and the location of his father's grave. That's all. He has given up on the computer. Brenda can't call E’s mom directly. All she can do is leave a message saying she would like to talk to her.
All I can guess is that E’s mom told The Bully that she got the message and The Bully thinks it is all about the computer. For some reason he wants to scare Evan off from trying to get it back.
This is the first time that I have had no sympathy for the family my kids have come from. What is wrong with these crazy people?
So Evan has to call his social worker today. She will tell him that he should not contact his sisters (which he rarely does) until they get this straightened out. He should also not go visit his mother in jail tomorrow as he planned. Brenda will try to get everything taken care of. She really will.
Fortunately Baby Sister is with her godparents and they really like Evan. They have temporary guardianship and so they may be able to put a halt to the whole thing. I hope so.
Evan's Story Part 1: The Beginning
: Evan's StoryPart 12: Drama with the Foster Mom (that would be me)
Evan has clearly had a lot of stress lately. I think when I talked to him about what he needed to do and what his options were he was pretty over-whelmed. He got teary and confessed that he has been having trouble remembering to take his meds on schedule. I told him that he should let me know if he needed something, but I don't know how much I can do..
He has been having a hard time with Andrew and especially Brian recently. Evan says he has a hard time dealing with either Andrew or Brian complaining or being depressed -- they have everything so good. On one hand I can see his perspective -- they are to him very privileged kids. They have everything he wanted and had to do without -- how can they have all this and still complain?
So I understand how he FEELS, and I have expressed sympathy, but I can only deal with his attitude so far. Whether Evan accepts it or not, Andrew and Brian have the right to bad moods and unhappiness.
His behavior with respect to them is pretty subtle. I took all of us out to Wendy's tonight. Andrew quietly pulled the breading off his chicken strips. Evan asked him what he was doing and Andrew said that he did not like the breading -- it was greasy, but the chicken itself was pretty good. Later in the evening Evan loudly told someone else how Andrew had complained about the food, whining that it was too greasy. Why can't he just eat it? The friend pointed out to him that he (Evan) had just said that his hamburger was too salty. "That's different. I ate the food without complaining." Andrew had overheard this and was hurt and so I told Evan that I did not think that Andrew had been complaining -- he just answered our questions about why he was picking off the breading. Of course he insisted that he remembered it correctly and I started, but resisted, arguing with him. In the end he got teary again and said that he had just had a hard time dealing with this. ("This" turned out again to be any case of Andrew or Brian complaining or being moody.)
Anyway, it is not a huge thing -- but I wish he was seeing a counselor who could talk to him about this. This is the first kid I have had who doesn’t have someone outside the family to talk to. I guess I am feeling strained. Andrew and Brian are my kids too and I can only let him vent so much. I am on everyone's side and he needs someone to just help him with how he feels. I don't know if he is close enough to you to talk to you about it, but if he is that might be good.
Evan of course will be able to "deal" with Andrew and Brian's lack of appreciation for their privilege when he is feeling less overwhelmed himself
Evan complained the other day about one of his wisdom teeth. It looked to me like it was coming in funny and that there was not a lot of room for them. I called back the same oral surgeon. School gets out early on Thursday and there is no school at all on Friday -- perfect. Evan can have a consult appointment on Thursday afternoon and if they need to come out they will do it Friday morning. All this rather startled Evan -- he had just told me that it bothered him an hour before. He seemed like he might have been a little bit annoyed.
Later in the car he happened to tell me about a time when he had a complaint which his mother ignored for weeks. It got so bad that when she finally took him to the doctor they rushed him into the hospital.
He may have exaggerated that story -- but I took it as a thank-you for responding quickly.
Evan only has wisdom teeth on the right side. He definitely does not have room for them and the oral surgeon said that he would have pain on and off until they came out. He could choose to do it now or later. He also volunteered to remove the scar-like formations he has on his ears.
Because of the positioning of the teeth it will be a relatively simple extraction. Evan should be alert in the afternoon and be able to work on his paper most of the weekend. (More about that below)
We met with Mr. H and he is being very generous. Evan may write a paper this weekend and it will count for two -- the one that is currently due and the one that he missed. After that he is expected to keep up with the readings and assignments for the rest of the term. The paper he has to write is about the definition of justice in Plato's Republic. I told Margo on the phone that this is a topic that I know well and so I can help him with it. Of course he will have to write the paper, but I can talk about it with him. We already had one conversation about the nature of justice in the city. He was able to describe that accurately and I told him that he needs to think about how justice in a single person is analogous to that. It is not a terribly difficult paper. He can do it if he sets his mind to it.
Evan's Story Part 1: The Beginning
Evan's Story Part 11: Drama with Birth Mom
Evan has an interview at a local restaurant. It is the fanciest one in Our Small Town, I know that is not saying much, but it is a nice place.
I hope it works out. I was not the only one who felt compelled to warn Evan that you have to start at the bottom at new jobs -- pay your dues, prove your willingness to do everything, and work your way up. Unfortunately his response has been, "But I am not starting at the bottom. I already did that -- I was trained at the summer program." I am trying not to borrow trouble. Let's just see how it works out.
Evan rolled his eyes about not being allowed to have the cell phone or computer after 10, but he has not protested. He has in fact voluntarily come out of his room to return the phone. I also told him that I would only excuse him from school if he had a fever.
Evan asked me to tell you that he got the job at the restaurant. He starts today.10/24/05
Evan worked Wednesday through Saturday nights. Mostly he liked it. Wednesday and Thursday he was able to take a long break and was fed a meal. Friday night was too busy for eating, he burned his hand, and was sent home as soon as the rush was over (9:00). Saturday he was also sent home as soon as the rush was over -- again hungry. The executive cook told him that it was too expensive to keep this many people there and he should go.
As I said, he mostly likes it. He is having difficulties dealing with the staff. They are lewd and crude. Evan says that summer internship people warned him about the sort of conversation one often hears in kitchens. Evan is not "out" at work, and he does not participate in the conversation. He said that there was a time when he could have but now he can't. It is not so much about being a prude -- it is that he is not noticing which waitress or actress is hot and he has simply no imagination regarding what someone might like to do to such a woman.
They also throw around "queer" quite a bit.
Evan is also disturbed by lax standards in other ways. He claims the executive cook was drinking Jack Daniels while cooking and that one of the other cooks was leaving to throw up (flu) and not always washing his hands when he got back. Evan does not think they would pass a surprise health inspection. Evan said nothing about the drinking, did tell the cook with the flu to go wash his hands, and at one point (not the same night as the flu thing) tell the staff that they should watch how they talk -- someone could claim harassment. The cook told him, with respect to that, that Evan needed to toughen up.
It is so hard to eat in a restaurant when you know someone who works there.
I don't think that Evan is disturbed enough by all this that he wants to quit, by the way. He was on-line the other day looking at iPods. He is very excited about the possibility of having money. He also says that though he would rather not work both Friday and Saturday all the time, he is not going to say anything until he has been there a while. Right now he is going to work any shift they ask him to.
I hope that they give him a regular schedule sometime soon. Right now all he knows is that he is supposed to be back on Tuesday.
They did, by the way, initially tell him that he would work a week and they would see how it goes. I hope that they are liking him well enough -- that they are not too bothered by his apparent prudishness and commitment to the health code. And the one time that he accidentally spilled hot water on two plates that then had to be dumped are re-prepared. I imagine that they normally have a couple of accidents with new staff. Evan is probably much more competent then most of the people they have to train.
By the way, Evan keeps saying, "Will you tell Brenda..." and "Will you ask Brenda..." or "Do you think that the program would..." In general I have no problem with being the conduit for information between you and Evan. Sometimes that is the best way. I told Evan though that I was going on strike. You have been trying to set up a time with him and he wants to ask things of you. So I am just going to clam up.
Evan lost his job at the restaurant. He worked a total of four or five days, in a row. He called on Tuesday to say that he was not feeling well and thought he should not come in. They said to come in on Wednesday. He went, but they said that they had already called someone else. He was told to call before coming in on Thursday and Friday. On Friday they told him that they just weren't getting enough business and did not need him -- indefinitely.
I wish he could know for certain if that was the reason. He burned his hand one evening and spilled hot water on nearly completed plates (which of course had to be re-done) another night -- did they decide he was too accident prone? He was uncomfortable with the lewd and crude language and at least once told the kitchen crew that they really should not talk like that -- someone someday might claim sexual harassment. One night when another cook was leaving the kitchen to throw up Evan kept telling him to leave and wash his hands. He told me that he was shocked to see the head cook drinking Jack Daniels while cooking, but I don't know if he said anything. Did they not like the new guy being judgmental? Did they decide he was unreliable when he called in sick? Was it all of these things?
Maybe. Of course if it was I know they would not tell him. What would they say, "We like our relaxed atmosphere and really don't want to work with someone who is going to tell us to follow health codes and fair work-place practices."
Evan's Story Part 1: The Beginning
Evan's Story Part 10: November 2005 Wisdom teeth and school
Things may be cooling off with Evan a bit. I emailed the teacher he was having conflicts with. Evan thinks that I only asked for class handouts and that that alone made the teacher suddenly be nice. Actually, we exchanged quite a few emails. The teacher was sad to learn that though both he and Evan were enjoying the verbal debates it did sometimes go too far from Evan's perspective. He does still, by the way, blame the teacher for his poor grade in Political Philosophy. This in spite of the fact that he has an A from the same teacher in Economics, he has missed twice as many days in Pol. Phil., and doesn't do the Phil. reading.
Anyway, I am slipping from my original commitment and I don't know if I should. I had been saying that I was only going to worry about Evan's behavior with respect to the family. I was not going to get involved in trying to make him do his homework, get good grades, or even get a job. That was all supposed to be up to him. Now I find myself really tempted to tell him that I will only give him rides or let him use the internet if he finishes the paper or applies to a certain number of jobs. We had a conversation about that -- especially the job part. He really does not want me to impose restrictions on him and I think he understand the pressure I am under to do that very thing. I hope he pulls it together.
My house is just too much fun. The kids have so much gaming equipment; we own so many movies on DVD (which he can watch on my computer in his room). Perhaps with the next kid we should not initially allow them access to various fun stuff until they already have a job. I don't know that that will work though -- since Brian and Andrew have access.
Evan spent a good part of the weekend working his political philosophy paper. I helped him with an initial outline, and he wrote it. He asked Hubby to proof it. Hubby says it is okay. (I recommended that he ask Hubby. He did not have time to do a serious re-write and he did not want to hear about major re-write issues).
He is no longer talking about transferring. I am hoping that finding out he would have to buy his own bus pass along with his improved relationship with Mr. H are helping him re-commit to being here. I hope so anyway.
We had a talk about jobs. I think I at least convinced him that it was not a Beth and Brenda being pushy thing. It was part of the permanency program.
I explained that I was torn because on one hand I had said that I was only going to worry about home behavior with him. I was going to assume that he could handle school and job. He pointed out that I was suddenly very involved with school. I said that's right. When he has excessive absences, failing grades, or no job after two months, it becomes very difficult for me to do nothing. I told him that it occurred to me that I could make use of the cell phone, internet or rides to The City contingent on applying for jobs or turning in all his assignments.
He was pretty appalled at the idea. He told me that he did not respond well to that sort of program. I told him I understood that and that I really, really did not want to go there. On the other hand, if he was not trying to find a job it would be increasingly difficult for me to do nothing. I also pointed out that his getting a job was on the basic list of rules he had agreed to in the beginning.
Somewhere along the way he told me that he was not applying for jobs because he had skills (computer and cooking) and yet he did not believe that local employers would give him a chance to use them. He would be supervised by someone who knew less than he does -- they probably wouldn't even give him a job anyway. I pointed out that he had not turned in any applications and so he had not given them a chance. He asked if you would "get off our backs" if he was at least turning in applications. I said that if I could say that he was really trying but not finding a job it would help. (I did not tell him that if he applies to jobs he will almost certainly get one).
On a hunch, I told him that I knew some gay college students who had worked at grocery store and that they reported that it was a safe environment. He seemed interested and said he would apply there.
I think the first thing we need to do though is get his social security card fixed. I am nervous that applying under a different name than the one on the card is going to be a problem for him. He tried to do the registration for the draft on line and was rejected for that reason.
The college fair went really well. Evan was very excited about a culinary arts institute that he found. He talked all about how impressed the representative was with his experience at the summer program. He said that many of their students get jobs all over the world. He told me that he was really debating between law and cooking. I only he could be certain that he could make a good living cooking. He said he could get an $800 scholarship just for visiting in the spring, and maybe could manage the funding himself since he knows that the foster care agency will not help him to go out of state.
Afterwards we were all very hungry and went to the co-op. Andrew and Evan shared a sushi package and I got goat's cheese and crackers. We all shared. I tell you this because this morning Evan said he felt too sick to go to school. It is not exhaustion, he insists, it is the goat's cheese and sushi. He is nauseous and just a bit dizzy. I did everything I could think of to encourage him to go to school. I even told him that I would not excuse this absence. It did not work. When he gets up around lunch time, as I expect he will, I will try to get him to go for the afternoon. It is in the afternoon classes that he has the most absences. I will tell him that I will excuse the morning if he does. (I just called the school and BEFORE today he has a total of 8 absences in some afternoon classes. The maximum is 9).
Hubby and I agree that we have to take the cell phone and computers away from him at night. He will be angry of course. He does not think the problem is lack of sleep and he will point out that we said we were not going to worry about school and jobs -- just house. I will remind him that that was based upon the assumption that he was going to be going to school and getting a job -- and they are our cell phones and computers. If it seems to us that something we own is hurting him then we have to take that thing away from him. Of course I will not be able to stop him from watching TV or using the land line (for local calls) -- but it is something.
I am frustrated. I suppose the magical thinking is more or less normal for his age -- but I don't really understand it. How can he believe that he can not sleep and still feel well? How can he think that he can average 1 1/2 absences a week and still learn the material? How can he think he can be failing Political Philosophy and have any chance at all of succeeding in law school?
Grumble, grumble. So I will restrict access to the cell phone and computer at night, but I will not expect that it will make a significant difference -- other than that I will not feel like I am adding to the problem. He will do whatever he will do at school and his life will take him where his choices lead.
By the way, yesterday afternoon we went to the Social Security office and requested a new card. He should have it soon. I told him that you were going to come by sometime next year to the do the regular goals making and assessment -- and that a job would probably be the main topic of discussion. Yesterday he expressed willingness to apply for jobs today. He was thinking it would be cool to get a job before you showed up -- that would show you! Hah! (I did not tell him that I doubt that you would be disappointed not to be able to give him the lecture that you were so looking forward to giving him.)
If he has not put some real energy into finding a job by the time you get here next week, I will be ready to make take away luxuries.
Evan is choosing to make some bad choices. I agree with you that taking away privileges is probably the smart thing to do. Evan can be angry but my guess is that he will get over it. I wish I had time to meet with him today but it looks like it will be impossible with my schedule. Could you please have Evan call me when he gets up. I realize that you cannot “make” Evan do anything and if he chooses to not go to class in the afternoon then that is his choice. I agree that you should not call in an excused absence for him – obviously he is not sick. I am beginning to wonder if Evan is consciously setting himself up to fail. Anyway, if he could call me when he gets up that would be great.
Evan's Story Part 1: The Beginning
Evan's Story Part 9: the Job
I sent you his grades with his report. You will probably get them today. You will see that he has an F in Political Philosophy. Mr. H has a policy of not giving F's in his class (as final grades) to students who do all the work and have no unexcused absences. So if Evan tells you he has a "D" that is why. Mr. H perspective on this class is considered advanced placement and A's are 5.0. B's are 4.0's, so F's are passes -- as long as the kid has been trying.
Evan seems to be showing his typical behavior in this class. He did really well when he was interested in the material, but when they started reading boring things like the Federalist Papers he just cannot make himself concentrate on it. When I asked him if his grade reflected his performance on reading quizzes he said yes, but then he also started talking about how frustrating he found the teacher. Notice however that he has the same teacher for Economics where he is doing quite well.
We talked about it briefly on Friday. He said that he was looking forward to college where it would be better. I hesitated and then said, "Evan, I don't know if I should tell you this, but college will be exactly like your Political Philosophy class. There will be readings that you are excited by and readings that you are bored to tears by. You will get along with some of the professors and others will irritate you beyond belief."
"Well, I know that. I just know that college is not going to be like Mr. H's philosophy class." (By the way -- the two quotes above are a summary of a short conversation -- neither of us said exactly that.)
And speaking of college -- we are taking Andrew to visit at least a couple of colleges on Spring Break and of course Evan is invited. Evan is interested in visiting a university north of here. I had originally planned on taking Andrew to one liberal arts college and one state university. I will take them both to the college fair in The City on the 11th, and then later we will make definite plans.
Evan is still not looking for work. I have suggested that maybe he really should start to put some effort there, and he agrees, but no action.
He left a message with the portrait studio. I am hoping that they call him back and tell him whether they can get a photo done in time for the year book. I suspect they cannot, but if they just tell him that he will have time to figure out a substitute. He can get good senior portraits for himself and give the yearbook a different picture.
Evan is beginning to express perfectly normal levels of frustration with Brian and even Andrew to a degree. I talked to him about talking to them, not me, about it. He was not certain about it -- but last night he and Brian had an argument about the frosted flakes -- "Brian you ate almost the whole box in a day!" (Evan brings the box to me in the living room "Look! It is almost all gone." "Yep." I go back to my book and Evan leaves after a minute. "Evan! Give me back the box, I am not finished!" "No. I am getting a bowl first." "MOM! Evan won't give me the cereal." (Silence from me.) "Brian, I am NOT giving it back. I am going to have one bowl and then you can have what is left." "Just don't take it all!" Sighing, "I'm not."
So I regard this as a small step forward in family dynamics. They are beginning to quarrel -- and resolve issues.
Evan was in tears yesterday evening. He is having a difficult time with Mr. H.
I am trying to create a picture based upon what he has told me...
What Evan says is that Mr. H has put the classes into groups. He explains a concept to the whole class and then expects the ones who do understand it to explain it to those who don't. Evan is doing well in economics, but the other people in his group are not. Mr. H said something to Evan (I don't know what) indicating that Evan was not doing his job. Mr. H and Evan apparently got into an argument in front of the entire class about whose responsibility it was. At some point Mr. H had asked him a question and other students were saying to Evan, "Just say 'yes'." At the end of this Mr. H said, "Well, I guess I have to have a few students every semester to keep my life interesting. I have XX in second period and you here. The difference Evan is that you are not witty."
Evan got friends to take him home. He was upset about that and said that he feels like he is just not fitting in there. He has not made real friends. He is generally miserable.
Apparently he called his special ed teacher from City High. She had called him a week or so ago to see how he was doing. The discussed the possibility that he go back to the original plan -- take the bus to The City and attend City High. According to him, she said all he needs to do is to show up and she will take care of everything else -- get him registered, etc. I think she may be mistaken, or else Evan may be confused. She may not know that Evan is not taking Government, or she may know and expect that Evan will take both semesters in the spring (if that is possible).
In re-reading this email I notice things that I did not notice before. I don't know who the friends are who gave him a ride home. Maybe it was completely innocent. Maybe it was just a ride. I learned alter though that most of the time the person who gave him rides home was his drug dealer.
All I thought was going on was a stressed out kid who was having troubles at school. I have many emails about school. I think the teacher at City High did not trust Our Small Town High to take good care of Evan. She was trying to help him by offering to do everything she could to get him back. No body else thought it was a good idea thoug.
So I am trying to think myself through this...what are my objections?
1. Evan should learn to stick with something even if doesn't like it. --Well, yes. Will getting in his way on this teach him that? I told myself after David that I was not going to try to make character changes in the kids I care for. The only thing I ever accomplish is giving myself a headache.
2. I am worried that if Evan is putting in eleven hour days he will not get a job. --Maybe that can be dealt with. Maybe this teacher who is working so hard to get Evan back can find him a job after school in The City. Of course there is no guarantee that keeping him here will result in him getting a job. I have a HORRIBLE track record on the subject of jobs. None of my kids has been successful in that area. Do you have a training on that? What am I doing wrong? Or is it just the kids that I happen to get?
3. I am worried that I will loose him. That the same thing will happen that will happen with David. This might be my biggest worry. I don't mean that I think it is objectively the biggest concern; I mean that I feel the most emotional when I think about it. I don't want to go through that again. It hurt. I am not up for a repeat performance. I did talk to Evan about this and he assures me that he wants to live here until he graduates. This is my problem, of course. It is my fear and my anxiety. It is not a good reason for Evan not to do something if it is objectively a good idea.
4. I am afraid that I will end up coerced into driving to The City all the time. When he is at the maximum number of absences and has missed the bus will I really say, "Sorry kid. I am not driving you." If I do drive him, how many times will I end up doing that? He is already at the maximum number of absences for some classes. (David was told that he could not transfer because he had too many absences. How do they calculate that? Is it per class there too? If he has too many in Political Philosophy will that not matter because he won't be taking political philosophy?) If he is going to school in The City how often will he call to say that there is something really important that is going on and he has to stay so can I pick him up at 7:00? --It is more difficult for me to answer this objection. I feel like it is telling a kid, "Sure you can have a puppy -- but you have to feed it and walk it" knowing all along that you are going to end up feeding it. I guess I want to say I am really not giving him rides in the morning -- even if that means he does not get credit for his courses. He is 18 and if he is going to do this then he has to deal with the consequences.
5. What really is best for Evan? Putting everything else aside I think he is more likely to graduate if he is working with his previous teacher at City High. If everything else could work out, then it would be good for him.
I ran into one of my former students who had classes from Mr. H when she was at Our Small Town High. I told her what Evan had said happened. She attends the same church with him now and knows how he can sometimes be. She recommended that I not confront him about what he said to Evan. Instead I should send him an email, and gave me advice on exactly how to word it.
She said that that would probably make him treat Evan better. I told Evan that – and that I would do it. He seemed pleased and asked me if I would help him with his paper on federalism this weekend. I said I would.
Evan's Story Part 1: The Beginning
Evan's Story Part 8: School continued
I just wanted to let you know how things are going. Generally, they are going very well. Evan is very easily to get along with and both the boys like him. He spends at least an hour every evening (once the free minutes kick in) talking on my cell phone to friends or relatives. He has a gay cousin in New Jersey that I guess he speaks with a lot. He seriously considered dropping the political philosophy class, but in the end did not. He spoke to the counselor about worst case scenarios. He wanted to be in the class, but what if he failed -- he did not think he would, but what if? Would he not graduate? She told him that in the unlikely event that he failed he could take the first semester of US Government either at the high school or as a night class. So he is in.
He is as unreliable as any other kid about doing chores. He has to be reminded, and reminded. Of course he gets annoyed if you say, "Do it right now" but sometimes that is the only way to get it done. Of course it is better to say, "Yes, of course you can use my phone/computer...right after you finish your chores." This gets rolled eyes and a "Awh, Gawd!" But he does it.
He is making friends at school. Mostly girls who he said were made nervous by his seemingly aggressive friendliness -- until he told them that he was gay and now they are all good friends. There is a really cute boy in one class who looks at him a lot and even seemed to hang around after class one day to talk for a while. Evan is interested -- but "wouldn't it be easier if gay guys all had a spot on their foreheads that only other gay guys could see?"
He has not been putting in any hours at his internship. I suspect that they expected him to call in to get his hours, but I do not think that he did. I am sure he will say that someone there was supposed to call him. In my experience at places like that (yep, I have waited tables), they don't put a lot of energy into making certain new staff know their schedules. You don't show up; you get replaced. I am keeping my mouth shut however, and intend to keep it shut. I decided when I went into this that I was not going to fight with Evan about school and work. He has demonstrated that he is able to take care of that area of his life and so I will let him take care of it. If he is currently making a mistake it will be a good learning experience.
We started to set up a bank account but they told us that it would be best just to wait until he was 18. We still need to get his social security card changed and his state ID done. We went to the office for the state ID but the line was so long we decided to try another day. I told him that he could come down without me -- it was only 6 blocks away. We had a bit of a disagreement about whether I was being unreasonable in suggesting that 6 blocks (each way) was an easy walk.
I have told all the kids that we are rationing gas and that they should expect that they will be told that they can walk or ride bikes to see their friends who live 10 blocks or less away and that I may charge them 20 cents a mile for "recreation driving." Everyone nodded and is waiting to see if I really mean it. Of course for a while they are not asking for rides anywhere.
Just thought I would catch you up on a couple of busy days.
The first story is pretty horrible at the beginning -- but pretty fantastic at the end.
At the beginning of Evan's economics class on Wednesday one (very gay seeming) boy sat down near Evan and started telling his two friends that he heard that that gay kid Brett liked him. He felt dirty. How could Brett even think of him like that? The two friends offered assistance. They could help him teach Brett a lesson -- after all, there were three of them. They could take him.
Evan said, “You talking about Brett B.?"
"He's my ex-boyfriend."
Evan: "Anything happens to Brett...you and me have a problem."
Pretty cool, huh?
I should mention that Evan was hoping that he and Brett were going to get back together. They were getting along and talking a lot on the phone. All the energy though was coming from Evan's side. Evan got his heart broke all over again. He seems to have bounced back though.
Friday evening he spent with his teenage sister and their grandmother, aunt and cousin. Saturday he went to hang out with friends in The City. (Brett was there -- this was the occasion of the re-breaking of Evan's heart).
Sunday afternoon he spent with his baby sister. Evan was afraid that she would not remember him, but she did. She knew him immediately. She cried when he left. I told him not to let that bother him. Some kids cry every time their parents’ drop them off at daycare -- and then they stop as soon as they know the parents can't hear them. I told Evan it would be easy for him to spend as many Sunday afternoons there as he likes. Little Sister's care givers seem like really nice people. She is a nurse's aide. He recently received a settlement related to a work place injury and is on disability. The little sister is in a good, safe place.
Evan heard that his mother was bemoaning the fact that she had not heard from him at all. He was not impressed -- he has not heard from her either.
Evan had a good birthday, I think. We took him to the Vietnamese restaurant in town. I told him that it did not look like much. It is in a store front with no great effort put into decorations. The food however is very good. (If you ever go remember to order something that has a Vietnamese name next to it. If it is only in English it is a Chinese/American dish. It may be okay...but it is not their specialty.) The food is usually mild. If you want the hot chili sauce they will be glad to bring it. We had cheesecake and presents later that evening. Evan seemed pleased. He got the balloons you sent too. Thank you. They were at the front door when we got home.
Finally...the school psychologist called to say that it was time to re-test Evan in everything for special education. She said that she needed my permission. I told her that it was Evan's 18th birthday and she said great -- she would just get permission from him. Evan is worried that he may loose his qualification. We pointed out that even if he did he would not loose any services. He would still be allowed to take study skills. He is more concerned about not qualifying for accommodation in college. We will see what happens. I assume that you all want to be part of the IEP meeting, even if that is not required by the school. Would you call the school psychologist about that? Sorry I don't remember her name.
Okay...busy weekend. Perhaps I will see you at the conference tomorrow? I am not registered, but I am going to be hanging around anyway...at least for the morning.
The name on photocopy of Evan's social security card does not match the name on his birth certificate. Do you know if y'all have requested a correct one? Or do we need to do something about that?
His mom called on Saturday (Teenage Sister gave mom our number and then gave Evan a head's up). It sounds like she was trying to frame everything as a change of heart on her side -- Evan really should have his things. It turns out (confirmed in the Sunday call) that wherever her things are, they can stay there only until the end of September. We suspect that it is a storage locker and she can no longer pay the rent. If Evan will solve her problem, he can take his things out. I am concerned that his computer and iPod (the two things he really wants back) won't be there or will be damaged. He says he will walk away if that happens.
Evan's mother blames him for her incarceration and tried to guilt trip him pretty bad both nights. She particularly used his baby sister. Baby Sister should be with her mother. Evan tore the family apart... I am really glad that Evan saw Baby Sister last week. He told me that she is happier there than he has seen her -- and that she is finally talking.
Anyway, Evan said that his mother wanted him to visit. I told him that that was up to him. If he wanted to go we would get him there. If he did not want to go he did not have to and if he wanted he could tell her that no one would give him a ride. (I tell all the kids that they can use me to deal with peer pressure. Evan has always laughed and said he does not need that when we were talking about other teens. He did not laugh this time).
We talked for a little while after each phone call. Evan asked for reassurance a couple of times, "It's okay if I tell her that I don't want anything to do with her when she gets out if she is still with him, right?" (This came out of the blue -- it took me a while to figure out that he was talking about his abuser.) I kept telling him that he was in charge -- he had the right to decide what was safe and healthy for him and what was not. He should have as much contact with his mother as he wanted -- and no more than that. He said that it was so great to be an adult and have these choices.
I also told him that though he had initially turned down talk counseling, if he decided he wanted to have some short-term counseling focused on learning skills for dealing with her he could ask for that. That got a maybe.
Evan is excited about being in the photo shoot for the the agency's new brochure. We will see you at the offices tomorrow.
Evan's Story Part 1: The Beginning
Evan's Story Part 7: School