Monday, July 16, 2007

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Andrew & Evan reprise

Last summer I pulled together emails I wrote early in Evan's time with us. I just went back to see what I wrote about Evan and Andrew almost two years ago. For those of you who don't want to read the posts, I will summarize. Evan and Andrew did not get along.

Both liked to debate. Both hated to loose. Evan was used to winning though being louder than anyone else. Andrew uses logic leading people into argumentative dead ends. Evan complained that Andrew did not like him and Andrew complained, well, that he did not like Evan. As far as Andrew was concerned, Evan could fall off the face of the earth and he would breath a sigh of relief.

For a while I tried to help them understand each other. Finally I gave up and let them work it out themselves. Andrew dealt with it by avoiding all contact with Evan. They divided the house up like a couple of tom cats. I kept taking deep breaths and thinking they just had to make it until the end of the school year. Evan was supposed to be with us for only 10 months or so.

Sobriety did wonders for Evan's personality and after he came back from rehab he and Andrew just started getting along.

I just went to Andrew's room to talk to him about the possibility of our getting another kid and where Evan might sleep when he wanted to come home from school for vacations or just because he needed a weekend out of the dorm. Andrew didn't think about it. He just said, "He can share my room."

You know 18 months ago it would have been, "I can't stop you from letting him stay in the house. Just keep him away from me."

Evan and Frankie

Yeah...I barely know anything about Frankie and there is already sibling rivalry.

I asked Evan if he would be willing to write something about what it is like living here. I have been wanted to create a short portfolio on our family for a while. I wanted to give the social workers permission to show it to potential kids so they would have an idea of what we were like. I thought a page from Evan would be really good since he has maintained his relationships with the rest of his family while he has been here. Since Frankie has family in the area, that might be something that ze would be reassured to hear.

But I did end up telling Evan that there was a kid that the agency was considering introducing us to.

And Evan's response? He's worried about where he will stay on vacations. I promised him that he could come home during breaks, even though he knows the agency will pay the extra for him to stay in the dorms, he really wanted to be able to come back here.

I reassured him. I had told him before that I could not promise him an empty bedroom waiting for him, but I could promise that he would always be welcome. He could bunk with Andrew or Brian could bunk with Andrew and Evan could have Brian's room.

I promised Evan he would still have a key to the house. He could still come over on Saturdays and do his laundry (well, check with Hubby -- he's the captain of laundry around here). He can come home for the weekend just because he has to get out of the dorms.

I know he will miss having the bedroom empty, there for him any time. Bunking with the boys won't be the same as coming back to his own room. I think though that he is feeling reassured.

This is one of his homes.

I feel like I should give him something, other than the key, that indicates I really mean it.

Don't know what though.

Frankie's Coming to Visit

It is not the same thing

So this year Evan is paying me rent, which he does very reliably. He pays me in cash on a weekly basis.

Last year I was being paid room and board by the agency (more than I am getting now). Before we left on vacation I stocked up on all sorts of foods. I told him that if he had to buy more food he should keep the receipts and I would reimburse him. I came back and it seemed that most of the food I had bought was still here and that he had pretty much lived off of fast food, for which he knew I would not reimburse him.

This year I suggested that he not pay me rent for two weeks. He could just buy his own food instead. If he budgeted carefully he would actually end up with extra money. A month or so ago that seemed to him to be a good idea. In the past couple of days though he has been asking me when I was going to to shopping. I explain that I wasn't. He could buy what he needed.

His anxiety went right up. He had to do the shopping? He didn't realize he was going to have to do grocery shopping. And what about teenage pet sitter who was coming in?* Did he have to buy groceries for him too? I said that I wanted him to keep the house stocked with things like milk and bread, but that he did not have to buy the house sitter special items.

It was all so overwhelming.

Finally I said, "Okay. How about this. I will go shopping and stock up the house. You put the rent money you would give me into an envelop and if you or the pet sitter need any food you can use that money to buy it. You can make a run to the store, or you can give the pet sitter some of the cash. When I get back you can give me what is left."

He was relieved. That was different.

Just so long as he doesn't have to do any PLANNING.

*There is no way the puppy can be allowed to stay alone for 10 hours while he is at work.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

More thoughts about zir

I've decided to go ahead and give the name "Frankie" to the youth we were told about.

I re-read my last post and the words "it all could come to nothing" jumped out at me. I was tempted to just edit those words out, but I decided instead to take them back in a separate post.
Several things could happen in Frankie's life. Ze could be admitted into the permancy program and become part of my family. Ze could also continue to live in the group home. Frankie is at a cross-roads in zirs life, and no path is "nothing." There are just paths that include us and paths that don't.

Hubby and I have not told anyone about zir, not even Andrew and Brian. We didn't even have to discuss that. We know too little. Andrew and Brian would have questions that we cannot answer. I will make you suffer with knowing and not knowing for three weeks, but not them. Sorry, friends in my computer, but I have no obligation to protect you from psychic angst.

I find that I am glad to be, or potentially be, out of that morally icky place where I am hoping for them to find me a kid. There is something goulish about that psychic place -- waiting for something bad to happen in the world so that I can have something that I want. And yes, it is something that I want. I find it to be one of the most rewarding things I do. It is stressful, exhausting, damaging to careers and friendships and everything else in one's life, but it is rewarding. My life is richer because of these three young men. I am glad that I parented them and I want to do it again.

And in order for that to happen, some other parent must be unable to care for his or her child.

It is easier when there is a real kid, when I begin to know a little bit about why this kid needs me. I am no longer hoping for a bad thing to happen; it has happened. It is what it is.

Frankie is living in a group home. Zirs parents cannot care for zir. I do not know the whole story, but I know major parts of the story involve the medical diagnoses of the parents. Ze does not have a failed adoption placement in zirs past and I don't think that ze has even been in very many different foster homes, at least compared to most kids.

I will be anxious to find out if the social workers will let ze into the program.

It feels strange to be going on vacation right now. I want to be here to hear what they learn, maybe even be part of the decision.

There is not doubt that Frankie will be a challenging kid. Ze has not lived been successful in a family. The workers at the group home think that ze is ready to try again, but it will not be easy for zir, and it won't be easy for everyone else.

If ze is questioning in the way we think ze might be, then it could be that just being in an accepting and affirming home will help a lot. But that won't make everything better. A kid who has grown up not feeling safe, not confident that zirs basic needs will be provided, will not relax because suddenly ze is in a home with parents who have PFLAG logos all over the place.

And on that questioning thing...the social workers think that Frankie is not really aware that ze is questioning. Hubby and I think that is possible, but highly unlikely. It sounds to us that the questions that ze has been asking in therapy session are the sort of testing questions that people ask in order to figure out whether it is safe to come out. The people at the group home have not responded to zirs questions, which is better than responding negatively, but not much.

So I am anxious to learn more, but it will be a while.

I almost wish I weren't leaving for vacation in two days.


A Definite Maybe

We went to a training last night, where we learned that the world is an incredibly dangerous place, that there is little we can do about it, so we should be vigilant and not worry too much.

In other news, the supervisor and the family developer wanted to tell us about a teenager they met.

I shouldn't perhaps be telling you about zir because I can't tell you much and the youth might not even be accepted into the program. It could all come to nothing. Worse, I shall be leaving for vacation on Tuesday morning and will not have access to the Internet until early August, so you will be left without even knowing what is happening.

So I shouldn't tell you anything, but why should I suffer alone?

Here's what I can tell you. The youth in question is fifteen, seems younger, and said things which indicate questioning. The social workers talking to us struggled to find the right words and I finally said, "The youth tripped your gaydar but is not self-identifying as GLBTQ." They were pleased. That was it exactly.

There are behavioral issues in the past which would disqualify zir from the program and for living with us, but there is reason to think that ze might be better now. The representative of the group home where ze is living is advocating for zir, saying that they almost did not accept zir back after ze left them for a long-term treatment center, but they did and ze is like a different kid.

Ze very much wants to leave the group home and live with a family, and would like to move to my part of the world as it would allow zir to have contact with the birth family whose own medical and other problems make it impossible for them to care for zir.

So we shall leave for vacation. The social workers will try to get to know zir better, and ze may come to visit us when we get back.

Or we may come back to be told that they decided ze was not appropriate for the program.

More Thoughts on Zir

Thursday, July 12, 2007

My father

My father is still here.

Or some pale remnant of him is. It is not my father who is napping in the hotel a mile from my house -- it is the old man he has become.

He is things that many old men are. He is hard of hearing, easily tired, and has fingers that are no longer quite straight. He has a cell phone which he does not know how to use. I put phone numbers in his contact list (he had none after owning the thing for two months) and tried to show him how to dial numbers from the contact list, but he seems to think there are too many steps. I expect that if he needs to call my sister he may look up her number in his phone but then search for a piece of paper on which to write it so he can dial the number.

He is and is not the father that I remember from my childhood. He seems smaller, perhaps is smaller, and I do not think that he could hurt me physically. He does not frighten me. He is no longer mean, does not take pleasure in making people unhappy, but he also is thoughtless, unaware of the effects of his actions.

All except Brian know this. "Acceptance" is perhaps not the word to describe our attitude towards him, but certainly no one thinks that that anything can be done. My father was confused about his itinerary and called my sister this morning to tell her that he would not be arriving today and leaving Sunday, but would be there tomorrow and leave on Monday. She called me to get his exact itinerary and sigh about schedules which had been changed which now must be changed again and vacation days taken which cannot be given back though though would be much better used later. Had he called even yesterday her husband could have gone to work today. I sympathized, but not even she could get up the energy to be angry at him.

It is just who he is.

And I have trouble knowing what to do with him, how to interact with him. My instinct is still to tell him nothing. I had a brief moment of irritation that my husband told him that I had been listening to audiobooks this summer. The look of disapproval on my father's face was also brief. A younger version would berate me for listening to books, quiz me and then be horrified at the silliness of the novels I was currently listening to. This elderly version of him however let it go, having come to accept in his own way that the world has come to this sad state of affairs.

He did not talk about it, but I imagine that if it did that conversation, like nearly every other would go to the same place: the contemporary disregard of the "canon." Nobody reads the great books any more. Shakespeare is an elective for English majors now. An elective! Can you imagine? English Professors teach poetry of _____ or some other such nonsense. (I have omitted the specifics to avoid offending my readers who are human). When he is gone no one will teach the great writers of western civilization. His department is no longer an English Department is a bleeping department of cultural studies.

But he does not have much energy even for his favorite rant. He gets started, but there is no enthusiasm. He has given up. He buys his grandchildren video games. His own daughter listens to crap on an iPod and nobody, nobody reads Milton. Nothing can be done. The end is upon us. He is a dinosaur who will soon wander off to die and lie with the other fossils.

I do not know what to say to him, nor he to me. He opens his book and falls asleep on my sofa.

This old, tired, inconsiderate man does not seem to be the same person as my father. That man was large and frightening. He was often mean. There would be periods of generosity and of niceness, but they always felt artificial. They were better the times of meanness, but they had their own strangeness. I did not know my lines. I did not know how I should behave and was never not nervous.

I spent my time with him afraid, sad or anxious. I still carry anger. A part of me still wants to confront the father of my childhood. I have feelings regarding him. I am angry at him. I used to fantasize that I would confront him; I would yell at him. I tried a few times as a young adult, but it was unsatisfactory. I wondered if I would ever find a time and place in which it would be right to confront him with the pain he caused.

But that man is gone, all that remains is this shell.

And I do not know how I feel about the thing that is what is left of him.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Congratulations to Bacchus

The adoption is finalized!

Go read celebratory post -- complete with photo of adorable "Baby R".

What if?

I had an interesting conversation with Brian the other day.

A few days ago, for the first time, I considered the possibility that the agency just wouldn't find us a new kid. Evan would go to school, and Andrew would follow a year later. Both boys, like young people all over the world, would have an empty bedroom of their own waiting for them to occupy during holidays.

And most of the time it would just be me, Hubby and Brian.


I asked Brian what he would think about living like that -- just him and his parents.

"Well, what would be the advantages?"

" could have any bedroom you wanted."

"I like the bedroom I have."

"Anytime you wanted a parent's attention one of us would be available."

He looked at me strangely -- rather like I was telling him that we would never run out of milk. I followed up, "You know, there wouldn't be other kids needing things and we wouldn't always be driving them to appointments and stuff."

He still looked at me funny.

"You would not have to fight for the computer."

"I'm not going to have to soon anyway. Evan's giving his old computer to Andrew."

"But if we got a new kid you would have to share again."


"So, what would you think if the agency just didn't find a new kid and it was just the three of us?"

He again looked at me like I was asking him what he would think about living on the moon, and said, "I think I am going to save up my allowance and buy my own laptop. I should be able to do it in about two years, I think. There really isn't anything I want to spend my money on."

Sure...back to reality mom.

My Father Visits

My father is visiting and that is always a stressor.

It was a little unclear exactly when he was going to get here. He showed up yesterday, just after I had got rid of the last family member and was settling down to watch The Closer on my DVR. Brian was the only one I could get in touch with, which is fortunate because he is the only one who has "uncomplicated" feelings about my father. We met him at the restaurant near the hotel (one of my least favorite eateries in the world, but that is irrelevant) for dinner.

The first thing he said to Brian was, "So you haven't lost any weight since I saw you last, huh?"

Brian with surprise told him that he had not lost any weight, but he had grown and not gained any. He was still expecting to get thinner as he grew. I backed him up on that claim. It is likely. I considered explaining to my father that the weight gain was caused by one of the drugs that we had tried and that it was true that once he switched meds he stopped gaining, but my long standing habit is to never give my father more information than absolutely necessary, especially information he can use in a negative way. He doesn't know anything about Brian medications or counseling. I am not even sure we have said anything about him going to half days at school. If Brian wants to tell him, he can.

He is planning on taking Andrew and Brian out to lunch today. Not Evan, of course.

I told him that Evan was back and that he works from 2-10pm everyday so they won't see each other much. My father turned that into "not at all" and has just crossed him off his list of people to think about. I have some responsibility for this as I don't push Evan back into his consciousness. I could have told Evan just to be ready at when he shows up and announce to my father that Evan was going to meet them wherever and Dad would go along with it.

The thing is, I think that Evan would probably turn down the invitation if it were made. After last year he has learned that my father is not really a nice person and he probably doesn't really want to have lunch with him. Like me, it is not the lunch, it is the thought. I am sure he will be hurt that my father did not even consider inviting him. And that is the one thing that I cannot make my father do. I can't make my father care about any one's feelings.

He leaves Friday afternoon.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

David, Evan and Andrew all growing up

David's roommate's parents live in Our Small Town and yesterday she came to visit them and dropped David off with us.

He and I played about cards for a couple of hours. He is the only person in the world who will play cards with me. It probably has something to do with him being the only person in my world who can beat me half (or even more than half) of the time.

Like always I want to invite him to come home. He has been struggling for two years now, and doing fairly well. He is slowly recognizing how little he can do without even a high school diploma. I want to bring him home and let him finish, and yet I am convinced that it will not work unless it is what he wants. I think he is getting closer. He spoke last night of his efforts to stay healthy. He seems to understand how precarious his life is. One illness and he cannot pay his bills. He will be 21 this fall. Someday this life may get old.

Do you get tired of reading that after every visit I have with him? I hope not, because the desire to "rescue" him and the effort it takes to remember that rescuing him when he does not (yet?) desire to be rescued are quite strong. I need to vent it all somewhere.

But putting that aside, it was a wonderful visit. It is perhaps because our visits are wonderful that I so strongly feel the need to take him in.

Evan on the other hand had dinner with the other kids in the education/job training program with the agency. The kids got their vouchers to buy whatever it was in their plan to buy (Evan got a lap top, we're talking generous vouchers here). They were also told that they each had a budget of $500 to buy things for their dorm rooms. So I think Evan will be fairly well-stocked with linens and trash cans.

Andrew is very excited about Evan's new lap top. Andrew is getting the old one. It is on "indefinite loan." Evan considered selling it to Andrew but then decided that he wanted to be able to recall it if anything happened to the new one. Andrew of course agreed.

Evan won't give it to him until he transfers all his stuff over -- all of it. He was quite insistent. I think Andrew started to say that he could be trusted not to snoop or mess things up, and then I think he realized just what sort of things Evan might have downloaded that he would want to remove and agreed.

I offered the use of my external hard drive if it would help with the transfer process. As long, of course, as everything was deleted off the hard drive.

And we talked about Andrew's college plans. He too will be leaving in a year.

I love that they are turning into responsible adults. I really do. I am proud and excited.

And a little sad.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Minor updates

Things are so quiet and peaceful here, now that the girls are gone.

Our biggest drama is Brian being made to be responsible for taking his own medication. This means no drama when he remembers and lots of drama when he forgets. The power of pharmaceuticals is amazing.

The second biggest issue is Evan's ... whatever it is. I ask him to bring up dirty dishes from his room. He tells me he has none. I SEE dirty dishes in his room and tell him to bring them to the kitchen. He promises me he will. I go down to his room while he is at work and bring up four of the best glasses, four plates, two mugs, and a handful of flatware.

Hubby tells him that if he opens his AC vent to full his room may be 60 degrees (where he likes it) but the living room at the other end of the house is 80. He needs to keep it cracked. Hubby shows him where to set it. He agrees. Hubby goes in after Evan goes to work and it is open to full.

Funny, Hubby expresses just as much irritation as I do about the dishes.

We have learned though. He has no intention of arguing with Evan. It gets you nowhere. Evan will agree, assure, and promise and then do the opposite. Hubby is already trying to do something or other to the vent so that Evan will no longer be able to change the setting.

The thermostat issue is important because it has been hot here. I normally avoid talking about the weather because it is a geographical clue, but as there is a heat wave covering much of the country I suppose it is safe to say that it has been hot. Really hot. So hot that I bought a styrofoam cooler and a bag of ice to bring home the ice cream from the grocery store. So hot that stepping outside in the late afternoon feels like walking into an oven.

I wanna go to Maine now, please. (We leave on the 17th).

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Bad Holidays

'Tis the Fourth of July again. It is my trigger holiday, although I think I am too wiped out to have much emotion one way or another. Last year it bothered me more than usual, and I think I am back to my typical pattern. My emotions are subdued (maybe in part because I am so tired after the respite care marathon), and once again the holiday is today has caught me slightly by surprise.

I know it is because we don't celebrate it. I don't, like with all the other holidays, think in advance about what we should do. I don't plan a menu, bake pies in advance, keep an internal count-down of the days as I engage in preparations.

What I do do is think about triggers and foster kids.

See, something really bad happened on the fourth of July twelve years ago. I have processed my feelings in multiple ways. I understand that nothing bad is going to happen today. I will not have an anxiety attack or cry. Well, maybe I will cry, but it will just be a few quiet tears, not sobbing. I will however think about that day. I will wonder where he is and how he is. I will calculate his current age (15 or 16) and wonder if he is doing the things that other kids his age do. Perhaps he re-learned all the skills and knowledge he lost that day. Perhaps those who know him now would never guess. I will wish that I had not lost contact with his mother. I will wonder if she simply stopped writing to me, or if talking to me is somehow painful. I do not think that she thinks poorly of me, but I could believe that thinking about me involves thinking about that day her life also changed. So maybe it was just easier for her not to think about me. Maybe that is why she did not contact me after she moved years ago.

I will feel sad and I will try to shake that feeling. I am an adult, and I will deal with my feelings in a way that does not affect other people (aside from my not planning any appropriate celebration). I might vent a little on the blog, but I will spend the day looking and acting pretty much the same way I do on any other day.

And I will think about all the children we care for. How many holidays are like this for them? Do they have powerful negative emotions associated with all of them? The holidays are usually excuses for excess.

We often have unrealistic expectations for the children we love. We hope that while in our care they will heal from the trauma they have experienced. We hope that it will somehow go away. That the past will stay in the past, and they will come to enjoy the events once associated with pain.

Though that is possible, I think it is unrealistic. I think instead our goal should be that they will understand their triggers so that when those triggers come around they will know why they feel the way they do and will be able to take care of themselves without hurting people around them.

And that is a lot.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

More thoughts about princesses

In my post Re-Training a Princess Carolie said:

I'm a pretty cheerful person...and I was brought up to believe that even if I was in a nasty mood, I should at least act pleasant to those around me. I had a boss who was disgruntled allll the time. She hated computers, and had hired me to be her designer, and also to update her computer software. One day, she stuck her head in the office and said "oh, by the way, when you finish that, will we be able to blah blah blah(something to do with the new software)?" I said "No problem!" with a cheerful smile.She went ballistic, screaming at me not to condescend to her, and how dare I, stop that fake sh*t, etc., etc., etc. All I meant with my cheerful, smiling and sincere response was "I'd be happy to do that and should easily be able to fulfill your request, boss!" What she heard was "that's easy, you dumb bitch!" said with fake cheer.Where do you draw the line? After Rhonda has manipulated you with her eye-batting routine once, how do you know when she's manipulating, or whether you're reading in ulterior motives to her smiling demeanor? (I'm seriously asking, and not at all accusing you of misreading her!)

I think this is an incredibly important observation and I suspect the heart of the answer is in a recent post Gawdess wrote. Gawdess, in discussing her daughter's princess-like behavior, pointed out ways in which she was oblivious to others feelings.

And I think that might be really important. It might be that that obliviousness is what makes the behavior clear and distressing to those who live with princesses and invisible to those who merely interact with them occasionally. It may also be the answer to Mongoose's question in a comment on the same post:
Why does it matter if she's cute about asking for something she's allowed to have? For that matter, why does it even matter if she's cute about asking for something she isn't allowed to have, as long as you don't give in? I'm sure we all do it sooner or later.
It matters because it is not really the behavior. Oh any behavior repeated constantly can drive you up a wall. But princess behavior is a problem because, at the heart, it rests on a blindness to the needs and feelings of others. This is probably true of all sorts of manipulative techniques, of course.

But I wonder if that is the answer, such as it is.

After I wrote the post I began thinking about what it would be like if I could and did find a way to get Rhonda to stop engaging in princess behaviors. What if I taught her not to give me wide eyes, pouts, and pleading tones? How would she understand the lessons?

Would she see them as simply a different role to follow? A way to manipulate people who don't respond to her current skill set?

I don't know, and I confess that I am relieved that I will not have to figure it out, but I think that somehow the heart of the problem and the key to the solution has to do with teaching empathy.

Now if someone could just figure out how to do that, we would be all set!

Monday, July 02, 2007

I scared the princess

I frightened Rhonda last night. She has been asking if I am angry at her, and I don't know how to have a conversation about what she is doing that bothers me. The truth is that I just really don't like her, and I don't want tell that to the poor child.

On one hand she is off the charts on the princess scale. I have met wide-eyed, innocent, pouty manipulators before but I have never met anyone who lives at the furthest extreme of the spectrum. On the other hand, I can only believe that doing this has been essential to her survival. I am sure that underneath this princess behavior there is a girl who is afraid and behaving in the only way that has worked for her.

If she were mine I might be able to form an attachment or bond to her that would make me want to try to reach inside the princess and love the girl. I certainly would try.

As it is, well, she is leaving tomorrow. I don't have such an attachment to her, and I don't like her. I confess that I like her less than any foster child I have had to deal with. And that is remarkable considering that I have had kids who actually frightened me.

I behaved badly last night. I frightened the poor thing as badly as FosterAbba had frightened my dog.

Just as I was getting ready to go to bed they were loud and I knocked on the door and told them calmly and appropriately that they needed to be quiet so that I could sleep. Quiana who had spent the afternoon visiting with her mother, not napping as usual, was in bed looking quite exhausted. Quiana, by the way, spent more time primping for that visit than she had had for her boyfriend. I don't think her mother gets passes very often and I suspect that Quiana was emotionally exhausted as well. Rhonda simply nodded.

Five minutes later I heard Rhonda's pleading tones and I knocked and openned the door again. I said, "Rhonda, I am exhausted. You have to be quiet."

Rhonda, "Do you know how to play chess?"
Me: "Not well."
Rhonda, "Me either! Will you play with me?"
Me: "Rhonda, I am exhausted. I have to sleep."
Rhonda: "Pleeeeease?"

I'm afraid I just looked at her like she was a giant bug and shut the door.

Five minutes later I walked by the room and heard, "Pleeease?" It wasn't too loud, but I was furious. I, without cause, anticipated that it was going to get louder. I want to tell you that I was also acting out of concern for Quiana's tiredness, but I'm not sure that that wasn't just an excuse.

I really was exhausted to the point of tears. There has been no one thing that I have done that I did not want to do. Some things I have recently done, like have visitors, I really wanted to do. But still it was true that I had had respite kids and/or company in the house for three weeks. I had not got enough sleep and I wanted to have a good cry and run away.

So when I heard that "Pleeeease?" coming from the room I transformed into the evil-monster-mommy. I threw open the door and said, not loudly but with venom, "What are you demanding from Quiana now?"

Quiana said, "She wants to play chess."

Rhonda said something, but I honestly don't know what it was. I said, "Okay. I will take away the chess set." I picked it up and walked out.

It doesn't sound that bad does it? Trust me, you had to be there. It was all in the 'tude. That and startling the crap out of her by throwing open her door.

Hubby, uncharacteristically, suggested that I apologize for at least opening her door without knocking. I told him that I was psychologically incapable of apologizing to Rhonda for being insensitive to her needs. I did tell her this morning that I should not have frightened her so much and that I had been exhausted. She just nodded, looking at me a little fearfully and went on.

We are at a point where she knows, or suspects, that I do not like her or am mad at her and she honestly doesn't know why.

I want to sit down with her and say, "Rhonda. There's been tension between us and maybe we should talk about it." But I'm pretty sure she will respond with wide-eyed sweetness and say, "Will you take me to the store and buy me Star Crunchies?"

I need a nap. I need more than a nap. I need a vacation from children and animals. I need to have a grown-up day somewhere and have a massage.