Friday, October 31, 2008

On staying sane

until election day of course.

It's funny.

He likes you. He really likes you!

We went to parent-teacher conferences last night: two kids, each with eight courses (including "advisory"); one room of teachers at tables.

Fortunately they boys have the same English and drama teachers and Gary has the same teacher for two courses. So instead of visiting with 16 teachers we only had 13 on the list, and we didn't make it to Brian's band teacher. We did however talk to the school counselor -- so that makes 13 visits in 2 hours. We did split up a couple of times.

Anyway, Gary was really concerned. He said he didn't want to go along because he didn't want to hear about how horrible they thought he was. I assured him that the worst thing anyone might say was, "we are really worried about him." He wasn't sure, and he particularly warned us that "Mr. H" with whom he has two classes "picks fights with him" and doesn't like him at all.

Can you guess what Mr. H had to say? He thinks Gary is one of the most fun students he has. He can always count on him to engage with the material. "Gary has some of the most interesting things to say!" Mr. H was also very worried because he heard that Gary was a foster child and would that mean that he wasn't going to be able to stay at the school? Gary seemed to be doing well here, and he was such an asset to the school he would hate to see Gary leave. When I explained that it was a permanency program, Mr. H was very relieved.

I told Gary that all his teachers said good things about him, but that Mr. H was the only one who showed that level of concern. Gary was really surprised that Mr. H thought he was an "asset to the school." He grinned, while trying to hide it, and said, "I'm so going to tease him about that." (Except I don't think he used the word "tease"...I can't quite remember).

We also got Gary a "study coach." I had been thinking about an adult, but several teachers recommended the same junior girl. Her mother is the special ed teacher and she is always there after school. We spoke with her and her mother and it is all worked out. She knows that what Gary needs is help prioritizing, breaking up big projects into smaller ones, and generally not getting stressed out. The young woman is very bright and said she had the same problem when she first came here because her last school didn't hardly assign any homework either.

And in case this has crossed your mind too -- she is not Gary's "type." Though he might flirt in attempts to get her to do work for him (shameless), I do not think there is a likelihood of romance. Also they will probably work in the mother's classroom so that will help them stay on-task.

It is a difficult transition for Gary. He is really bright and has managed to "coast" and still get A's and B's. He rarely had to study or have projects that had to be done outside of class. Any papers that had to be written outside of class were not worth enough to bring his grade lower than a C, even if they were done poorly. Though I was happy with the college-prep schedule that Andrew got at Our Small Town High, I know that mostly their mission is getting as many students graduated as possible. They are more concerned with the droop-out rate and failing to pass the required standardized tests than they are with excellence. The same applies to a lot of high schools, including the one Gary went to last year. This school though is assuming that all of the students are going to apply to college and need to be prepared for that.

So Gary is adjusting.

The coach is not something that I would likely do for the bioboys. One thing I have learned about foster youth is that they (very reasonably) have trouble accepting us nosing into their lives. They don't trust easily. Even when kids want to do well in school, it can be difficult having a parent "on their case." Even when they want our help, some part of them is resistant to accepting it. Of course, that happens with the bioboys too -- them not wanting us to be "on them" about things, but the do accept it. It doesn't turn into a power struggle or create tensions in our relationship, at least to the same degree. Over the years I have just stopped making school work a priority for me. I hope that it is a priority for them and I offer tutors, coaches, assistance-when-asked, but I don't push.

That has mostly worked for us.

Brian's performance really dropped off after Andrew left and we weren't logging in to the on-line system so we didn't notice. Most of his teachers agreed to accept his missing work with some penalty. There's no school today (cause of p/t conferences) but Brian rode the bus in this morning to turn in most of his missing work.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Obama, again

I've seen this photo in a couple of places and it stays with me:

It expresses so much of why I feel as strongly as I do about an Obama victory.

It is difficult to explain to people. There is that first level where I mostly agree with him on a bunch of issues. Not everything, but a lot of them. Then there is the way his even, calm temperament inspires confidence. I just can easily imagine taking a nap while he drives the bus, you know? And I like Biden too. One blogger/columnist I read in the past week or so, but can't recall where, said his is that uncle that you hope won't corner you at Thanksgiving because he tends to talk too much, and who you would be the first person you would go to if you were in trouble.

Though I did often wish Obama had more experience (the more I have seen how he runs the campaign the less I worry about that) and still think that Hillary's health care plan is better (but his is more likely to pass), in many ways Obama "had" me in 2004 when he said "We worship an awesome G-d in the blue states and yes we have some gay friends in the red states." That sentence still moves me to tears.

And on top of that he is likely to be the first African American President of our country. That alone would not for me be a reason to vote for him, but that on top of a bunch of good reasons to vote for him is so powerful I do not have the words. What it would mean for my kids, for the boy in that photo, to grow up with this man as president...

I want to live in that country so bad.
Five more days.

Deep Questions

Did the Shih Tzu go crazy barking last night because the Spastic Cat knocked his litter box off of the puppy-proof-disable-kitty-accessible litter box platform, or did the Spastic Cat knock the litter box and all the litter on the floor because the Shih Tzu went crazy barking?

I'm inclined to think the later.


After cleaning the bathroom and threatening to kill a dog (who responded by wagging his tail with a "since we're up do you want to play?" look), I was unable to sleep.

So I graded logic exams from 1:30am -3:00am.

And now I am at work without the textbook for my class because I was so exhausted I just sort of stumbled out of the door.

Today my schedule is jammed with advisee appointments, of course only the students who don't need to see me will show up, class, a faculty meeting, and then capped off with the month social worker visit at home.

Sometimes I really hate my animals.

Sorry this has nothing to do with foster care.

You know, my teenagers almost NEVER wake me up at night. This is why I don't do babies. I need sleep. I have always had a hard time getting back to sleep if something wakes me, then I am not worth a thing the rest of the day.

If it weren't for the advisee appointments I might take a sick day and go home and sleep. If they don't show up, I will be forced to hunt them down and shoot them...after getting some sleep of course.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Holding My Breath

I get the feeling that millions of Democrats across the country are collectively holding their breaths, knocking on wood, and generally working really hard not to let their hopes get too high. Lordy, I know I am there. I am doing deep breathing exercises.

I took Gary to his physical therapy appointment (finally). He has a sprained ankle and tendinitis in his elbow. He thinks "tendinitis" sounds ... big I guess. You know, like it could be something really serious. He's called a couple of people to tell them that he has tendinitis.

Roland had a bad experience at school today. Because of a tantruming student he had to exert more physical effort over a longer period of time than is usual for him. His body didn't cope with it very well. I'm insisting that he call the physican who I expect will recommend that he lose some weight and start exercising.

I am supposed to talk to the social worker next week about guardianship. She's surprised me with how eager she is to talk about this. I mean, I expected her to be willing to talk about it, but I didn't expect it to be a priority for her. I'm trying not to think too much about that either.

Just breathe.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Guardianship III: What's Fair?

One of the parts of parenting that I like least is worrying about whether the kids will think I am being fair. It is just an impossible situation. I decided a long time ago that there was no way to be genuinely fair to all your kids. Either you attend to each kids needs, in which case they are not all getting the same thing, which isn't fair especially if what they need takes a disproportionate amount of time or money, OR you can give them all the same thing in which case you are almost certainly only meeting the needs of one kid.

I almost always go with individual needs, although I do try to even things out when I can. That doesn't always work though.

I went through a stretch of time with Evan where I was spending several evenings a week driving him to appointments in the city. We often ended up getting something to eat while we were there. After a while I realized that it had been weeks since I spent any one-on-one time with Andrew so I invited him out to a coffee shop. We hung for maybe an hour, probably less. When I came home Evan was hurt. I NEVER did things with him "just because." I only spent time with him because I had to. Evan was pretty obsessive about fairness, but I will attempt not to get distracted.

I do think about being "even" on holidays and birthdays, although I am realizing that I need to lower expectations from the older children. I haven't figured out exactly how to do that in a way that feels fair to me.

Brian and Andrew have always been pretty good about it, actually they have been great about it. When Gary moved in we bought him an iPod from a pawn shop just because he didn't have hardly anything. Brian doesn't have an iPod. He makes do with my cast off Sansa. He would love to have an iPod. He knows though that he has at various birthdays and Christmases had enough money for one. He spent the money on something else. Brian also knows that the iPod was a one-time-splurge.

The point of all this? Well, Process emailed me (I don't think she will mind me sharing the content since she said she was emailing me because the comment function wasn't working for her). She asked me a couple of good questions about the legal guardianship thing. They were good for me to think about, and the one that I missed completely was, "How do you think the older boys will feel about this?"

My initial response was on the lines of: the older boys didn't need me to consider this. Evan was almost 18 when he moved in, and David needed a light touch. Any attempt to "claim" him legally might result in him backing off. It might have been a good idea for Carl, but the agency did not support those sorts of moves then. Gary though is in a different place.

And that of course totally misses the point of Process' question. How the older boys would feel about it is completely separate from whether they would have wanted the same thing. It's the pony-effect. You know, one kid might not want a pony but that won't keep them from feeling jealous if you buy one for the other.

So now I get the point of the question and I am trying to puzzle it out. As I stop and think about it, I think Carl and Evan would definitely be jealous. They might understand, but they would be jealous. David would be harder to read. I expect he would be somewhat jealous, but in a quieter way. He won't say anything about it. If asked he will convincingly deny that it bothers him, but he won't look like he is bothered.

I don't know what to think about this, and I am not going to try too hard to figure it out until after we get some more information about what it would look like. I've toyed with the idea of bringing up the topic of adult adoption with the older boys... We really are not certain that it is in Gary's best interests. Roland also is concerned about not having social services in between us and Gary's dad. Neither of us want for Gary to be ineligible for any services, and we are both at least a little worried that it could cause more difficulty in Gary's relationship with his father. So we really don't know if we would do it.

Still, it seemed a good moment to write another post about the difficulties of fairness. I think they probably exist in all families, but it is exasperated when you have kids whose needs are so very different.

How do you handle it in your families?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Guardianship II: Worrying too much

Since I told the social worker that I would like to learn more about what legal guardianship for Gary would look like, possible scenarios keep running through my head. I need to exorcise them and I shall attempt to do that by giving them to the Internet. Ready, Internet? Okay.

Scenario 1. Gary's dad is relieved, as the social worker says that many parents are, that at least Gary is out of foster care. He sees this as the best thing for Gary and understand that one of the advantages is that he will have easier access to his son because I can give permission for visits. I think that Gary needs as much time with his Dad as possible. Gary and his Dad don't have to worry about social services. Gary's dad is in no way threatened. We all live happily every after.

Scenario 2. Gary's dad doesn't like the idea. Someone is able to discuss the pros and cons with him in a calm manner (even though no one has been able to get him to respond to any attempts at contact for two months). For whatever reasons he says no. We respond by saying that in that case we won't pursue it. The advantages legal guardianship would give to Gary do not outweigh creating tensions in his relationship with his father.

3. No one can get Gary's Dad to respond to a request for conversation and so when he hears about it it seems to him to be a done deal. He fights it, tells Gary that he is going to get him back, makes promises, leading to disappointment. Gary's dad calls social workers and judges and tells them that if they do this he will kidnap Gary. In other words, Gary's dad behaves the way he did when Gary went into foster care.

4. Gary's dad acts like my dad when I was a teenager. He learns that Gary thinks it is a good idea* and is hurt. Having a wife on one side who wants Gary out of their lives and a son who seems to him to be saying that he wants out too, Gary's Dad rejects first, says, "Fine. If that's what you want, then go." Deep damage is done to their relationship.

This whole situation is just strange. There is no case plan for Gary's Dad to be following, so there is nothing for him to be failing to do. Nobody has any authority to require him to have meetings with them. There is no way for us or anyone else to have a conversation with him.

Okay...I know. I'm a worry-wart.

I have realized that some of my reasons for wanting to pursue legal guardianship are tied up with wanting to protect Gary from the sense of rejection he is experiencing -- an experience that reminds me so much of my own. That doesn't mean it is a good idea. It just means that I have to realize that my emotions are what they are.

*Gary has no idea that I have asked to learn more about this. I am pretty confident that he will think it is a good idea. I imagine he will be on board at "no state social worker" or "driver's education class" whichever comes first.

Oh the irony

I spent most of the weekend trying not to guilty about feeling sad and irritable that Andrew doesn't call me and trying not to feel guilty that I wasn't calling my mother.

This morning I sent an irritable-trying-to-be-nice email to Andrew saying that that it was very important for him to notifiy the appropriate person at my college that he intended to reapply for the tuition exchange scholarship (the process for which consists of calling her telling her that he wants to do it) AND request a user ID for me from his university so that I can pay his room and board bill. Both of these things are things he needs to do for himself, but to give him a little extra motivation I will send him the spending money I promised right after he does it.

I clicked send and then almost immediately got an email from my father-in-law saying, "I haven't heard from you guys about the financial information that [the trust planner] needs to make decisions for the cottage money. Feel free to call me if you need help. I'm meeting with her Monday and it would be really nice if we had that information by then."


Being a mother and a daughter can be difficult.

And then I think about all the kids in the system who would be happy to have such a privileged problem.

Oh, I can sure work myself up into a guilt sand trap sometimes.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

"The Sanctuary"

If you have read Carl's story you know that he has spent a good bit of time living on a Radical Faerie sanctuary." We sometimes refer to it as a retreat center for gay men, which it also is. I know several men who go camping or attend events at the santuary who would not describe themselves as pagan or neo-pagan but who love escaping the world for a while there.

There are always a few young men living there. They have to pitch in with running the place, and they get free room and board.

Carl refers to it as "the land."

Carl Update

Carl, as many of you know, is almost 25 and has been working at a make-up counter at a high-end department store.

I talked to him about a month ago and he said that business was bad since the economy was doing poorly.

He called a week or so ago to say that things were not going well where he was living and he was looking at new places. I changed the subject before he could ask me to co-sign a lease or help with a deposit because even if he had a financial past that would not make that terrifying, we really can't afford to do it.

He emailed me yesterday morning and asked for an early bus ticket back to the retreat center/sanctuary/"the land." I bought it for him. That amount of money I can take from savings.

It was a one-way ticket.

He told me just that things were complicated and he really wanted to go back. He doesn't like telling me the truth. If the truth is that he has lost his hours or job because of the economy and can't pay his rent, he would prefer not to tell me that. It doesn't matter. Buying him a ticket to the land is something I am willing to do.

I would love to see him be happy and self-supporting in the "regular" world, but at the sanctuary I know he is warm, dry, and well-fed.

Frankie Update

Last night there was an event at my agency. All the employees were dressed up in Halloween costumes, there was candy everywhere, pizza in the kitchen, and reruns of The Munsters playing in the conference/dining room.

There were also eight stations the kids had to visit. They included a room where they were supposed to do a "self-identity poster," a room for taking a life skills assessment, a hearing screening, a visit with the transition coordinator, someone from job services, and I forget the others. The kids seemed to have a pretty good time, many running into friends they had not seen in a while, being welcomed warmly by staff they had met once in the past. Gary ran into someone he worked with closely at a group home once.

And Frankie was there.

He was there with a woman who has been doing therapeutic foster care for four years and who got a license with my agency in order to give a home to Gary. They went through the whole process and then the state workers said, "Um...he was dating your granddaughter, right? Gee...this might not be a good idea." Then Casey said, "As long as you are licensed with us, we think you might be perfect for this other kid."

So about six months ago he started visiting and early in July he moved in. He has been there full-time just a bit longer than he was with us and he is doing well. His current "main" diagnosis is autism, which is plausible. She lives in a small town with a much smaller high school and he is doing pretty well there. She is also really good at dealing with kids who fall apart, roll on the floor and cry. She says he says nice things about us. I told her how extremely happy I was that he was doing well in a family. She sympathized with the pain of losing a kid, and was very glad to hear from me how Gary was doing.

But Frankie is good. I hope he sticks there. He has a good chance and he is in a great home.

Another Blog

My notification box is a widget from Google Reader. When you add a blog to Google Reader the time stamp is not the date or time at which it was originally published, but the time at which it first came into Reader. So, you know that you are the first person to subscribe to a blog when all the posts come in stamped NOW. Well, that is what just happened to the newest blog on the blog roll:

Families R Built with Love.

I'm pretty sure that Lee is the same person who has been commenting for a while, but I just figured out she has been blogging as well. By late afternoon it will be different, but for now the entire notification box is filled with her posts! That should generate some traffic.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


I told the social worker today that I wanted to talk about pursuing legal guardianship for Gary. I don't know that it is the best thing for him or us, but it might be and I want to find out what it would look like. The social worker says that often the parents are supportive of it because it means that "at least their kids aren't in foster care."

I don't know how his dad would react. I would want to present it as something that does not change his status as Gary's father, but does allow us to take better care of Gary. It also means that state social services would be out of our way. It would mean that Gary would have a stronger sense of permanence with us.

I hope it would not mean losing services from the agency. I expect it would mean losing some, but I wouldn't want Gary to miss out on many of the opportunities they provide. I confess to that I don't want to lose the reimbursement money. That money allows us to do a lot for Gary, and I don't want to give up material supports for Gary in return for legal rights. I want to do what is best for him.

I don't know how his dad would react. Currently his dad has practically abandoned him. I am sure he would fight any attempt to adopt Gary. Though I don't want to get into a conversation about the ethics of adoption in general, I find the idea of Gary getting a new birth certificate with our names and not his parents to be an almost violent act. For it to be legally as though they were never his parents just feels wrong. I don't mean to imply that it is always wrong, I don't think it is. In Gary's case though I just don't think adoption would be the right thing.

Increasingly though asking for guardianship does feel like the right thing.

Although I won't know whether to pursue it until I find out more about what it would look like.

And no, I haven't mentioned anything about it to Gary. I won't until I know that it is something that we are ready to do and have a good chance of succeeding at if we try. Gary is good at dealing with disappointment, but there is no reason to put him through that.

Family Ties

We gave one of Brian's friends a ride home after the school concert last night. The friend commented that Gary was the only one in our family who didn't wear glasses. I said, "Yep, Gary got the good genes."

Today I asked Brian if his friends at school knew that Gary was technically his foster brother. Brian said, "No, they think we are half brothers."


"Well, everyone says we don't look alike and I say, 'He takes after his father.'"

Women and Clothes [updated]

I'm feeling so torn about hearing that the RNC spent $150,000 on clothes and such for the Palin family -- mostly for Sarah of course. There's this conversation in my head between the parts of me:

Feminist me:
"Well, of course. Barack Obama may be able to buy five identical suits and wear them until they wear out, but a woman could never get away with that. How many articles have you read about the clothes any of the men wore when Hillary's wardrobe was a constant target for late-night humor? The expectations for women's clothes are so demanding. If someone asked me to run for national office I would demand they shell out for an appropriate wardrobe. It is as legitimate a campaign expense for women as is air travel. Until the American people can accept a woman rotating the same five suits, that's just the way it is."

Ethics me:
"It appears it is actually against campaign rules. Pointing out that they broke their rules is fair game." [Update below]

Family budget keeper:
"One hundred and fifty THOUSAND dollars? Okay, so she needs campaign clothes, but does she need the most expensive clothes around? Hocky mom, just-like-the-rest-of-us my ass."

Democratic me:
"You just got to love the donkey scarf though. I mean really."

Feminist me rises again:
"It just isn't fair you know? Marilyn Frye defines oppression as being pressed between options all of which will get you condemned (I paraphrase, of course). Either she wears whatever wardrobe she had as a governor and is criticized for not looking sharp enough, showing up in the same outfits over and over, or someone has to pay for the new clothes. This happened fast, it isn't like she has been on the campaign trail for two years building up a wardrobe. There was just no good option for her."

Stunned me:
"ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY FREAKING THOUSAND DOLLARS? You have got to be kidding me! The Republicans who gave to the the RNC are going to be pissed."

My inner petty child:
Quietly, somewhere deep in the back of my brain, "We're gonna wi-in. We're gonna wi-in."

Update: It might not be against the rules. If the clothes are considered property of the RNC, meaning Palin doesn't get to keep them, then it may be within the rules. Politico reports that the clothes will be donated to charity after the campaign. With that information I think my settled opinion is that the RNC can spend its campaign money any way it wants. $150,000 is a huge amount of money from my perspective, but in terms of the total amount spent on campaigns it isn't that significant.

Although I wonder what charity they will donate the clothes to? Interesting thought.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Blog Roll

The blog roll, or notification box, is not for me. It is a service to my readers. When I consider whether to put a blog on the blog roll I debate whether it would be of interest to someone who is considering parenting a child who is or has been in care.

So I include every blog I find that is primarily about foster care or adoption from foster care, or about parenting children with challenges typical to kids in foster care. I also include social workers and foster care alumni.

I may read, but don't typically include:
-blogs written by people who are part of the private adoption triad
-blogs written by people who are adopting internationally
-blogs written by parents whose children were at one time in foster care but whose blog is rarely if ever about foster care or the parenting challenges common to people who adopt from foster care.

As I said, I read such blogs. Many are on my Google reader. I don't put them on the blog roll here because they are not related to the topic that this blog is theoretically focused on (I know I stray).

But as I said, the blog roll is a service to you, so if you have any thoughts about what sort of blogs should be added, let me know.

And here are two blogs I am adding today:

Mother Issues
"I'm Thorn. My partner Lee and I are at the very beginning of our journey to become mothers via special needs adoption. This is a part of our stories."

Third time's the charm?
"There is a huge “family” of bloggers who are walking the same path, facing the same issues, struggling in the same way. We are the parents of special needs children. We all came into it in different ways — birth, adoption, foster care — but our lives are amazingly similar. Like all parents, we do our best to help our children, but the things we face are different than those parenting most children."

Recommended Reading

Great guest post on Baggage's blog.

Catching up

this is a somewhat more relaxed week for me -- as opposed to the crazy-busy weeks have been having for the last 6 weeks. It will get crazy busy again soon, so this is the week for catching up.

If you sent a request to be on the private blog and did not receive an answer, please send a new request. If I had meant to tell you that I didn't want to let you in, I promise I would not have ignored you. I just didn't get to it. There isn't much going on there these days, but if you are interested in the archives, let me know. Let me know also if you just want access or if you want email notification of posts.

I have some blogs that I have been reading that I am going to add to the blog roll. I'm pretty sure that I am going to delete the actual blog roll and just stick with the notification box. If you have a blog that you want me to consider please leave a comment with a link. Don't be shy, to get readers you need to let people know about you.

Brian, his name, and school

Don't worry, I'm not going to change his blog name. I am just going to whine.

Brian is taking Spanish. As is not uncommon, he is using the Spanish version of his name which is easily shortened to a nick-name that is not normally associated with the English version of his name. Got that? He wants us to remember to call him by that name. Since I am going to try to illustrate with his blog name, it is as though he decided we should all remember to call him "Ron." There is a connection, but golly it is difficult to remember.

Sadly, the times I remember to use it is when I get a call from school saying he is behind on his work. Hearing me say, "Heh...Ron!" is becoming the prelude to something like, "your drama teacher says you have a D because you haven't been turning in your journals!"

I'm trying to remember that he wants to be called by that other name, but it is difficult.

Oh...and his school performance tanked right around the time Andrew left for college. He has been forgetting to turn in about half of his work. I suspect that Andrew leaving is part of it, but it also follows his pattern of doing well for a month or so and then dropping off. It was disappointing because I really was hoping he was finally more organized. I'm torn between my desire to have him do well and therefore to start trying to stay on top of things for him, and keeping it his responsibility and risking him doing poorly, never go to college, and never move out of the house.

Yeah, I have issues too.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Household Tip: Self-Cleaning Oven

If your self-cleaning oven refuses to self-clean, follow these steps:

1. Buy a large box of baking soda.
2. Make a paste of baking soda and water.
3. Spread all over the inside of the door.
4. (Optional, not recommended) spread also on surfaces inside the actual oven.
5. Allow paste to sit for half an hour.
6. Scrub lightly and wipe away goop.
7. Repeat until the door is clean enough that you can READ THE INSTRUCTIONS for your self-cleaning oven.
8. Set self-cleaning oven properly.

Your results may vary.

BTW: the baking soda paste is effective at removing all that nasty stuff, so you really can clean your oven this way.

Gary and Girls

Gary gets along better with girls than with boys. He is also very comfortable talking with Roland, and likes his therapist who is a man. So this isn't a "man" thing. It is just, generally speaking, he is more likely to have girls as friends.

And the girls like him.

A lot.

The arts charter school is predominantly female. I can't get accurate numbers, but the boys insist that it is 60-70% female in the high school. Given that it is a charter school whose only PE course is dance (hip hop, or whatever is cool these days, but still), that seems plausible.

Gary says he feels like like a deer walking through a wolf pack.

Although he smiles when he says that. At the big high school he also found himself to be under a sort of surveilance and at risk for a certain kind of attack. This sort of threat he feels at the art school is much easier to take. I believe him though when he says it isn't easy.

Things have been rough with the girlfriend from the other charter school. Let's not worry about the details, except to remember that the rockiness started before he went to this school. She has been suggesting that they be "on a break." Gary complained that he didn't know what that was. I told him that I once had a boyfriend suggest we go on a break. He asked me what I said and I told him, "I said no. I said that if he wanted to we could break up and if he was welcome to ask me out in a month or year. I would probably say yes, if I was available." Gary said that was really helpful and sent a text to the girlfriend, who is now definitely (though not necessarily permanently) in the category of "ex."

Which leaves him free to flirt with "the hottest girl in school" who he is hoping, will ask him to the Sadie Hawkins dance. Of course in the meantime, he has to fend off all the other girls who are asking.

Brian told him that every girl in school thinks he is hot. Gary did not believe him and called girl at school who is definitely a friend and not potential romantic entanglement (they've known each other for years). Said girl confirmed saying that the field though had narrowed. Several girls had "called dibs" and warned off all the others.

It's a rough life.

I asked him what he was going to do today. He said, "Clean the downstairs and flirt with girls."

"Girls? Plural."


Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Dangers of Texting

Recommendation from Gary to the world at large:

Don't assume that you know who you are texting based upon the phone number on the screen.

Cause it sucks when you realize that you not actually texting the girl you have the crush on and are instead texting the girl you have been trying discourage.

It really sucks when you have been doing it for two or three hours.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Parenting for Autonomy v. Nurturing

Lee asks why if I think that Gary has a deep need to be taken care of, I don't make the phone calls to the PT and physician. Why don't I take a more nurturing approach? It is a good question. You can read the relevant post to get the background of the story, but the points I want to highlight is that the fact it was only in retrospect that I saw it as a case of a kid wanting to be taken care of, and it wasn't until after I spoke to Roland that my attitude that Gary needed to make the call hardened. Okay, I also want to say that I really don't think the ankle injury is serious. The swelling is going down and he doesn't limp when he isn't thinking about it.

But I think I want to write a post about trying to parent for autonomy while also being nurturing. I try to do both, but there are times when when I can't do both at the same time.

For me parenting for autonomy means not solving problems the kids can solve themselves. This is something that I have to put some effort into because my codependency issues tend to get in the way. I want to fix everything. The kids come to me with a problem and I want to find three possible solutions and offer them, discuss the pros and cons, and help the child choose. I need to hold myself back. Sometimes I have to recite to myself, "he can do this, he can do this, he can do this." I have to remind myself that the child or youth will learn more and feel better about himself if I let him do it himself. Of course all this starts with that first time the baby tries to push themselves forward to reach a toy. If the toy is really out of their reach you might push it towards them, but still leave it just enough out of reach that they have to work for it. Even babies seem proud of themselves when they get it.

Now, I am not always good about this. My anxiety over Brian changing his summer sleep schedule was one of my weaker moments. Turning it over to Roland, who did nothing, was smart. I did not stick to stay-out-and-let-them-do-it-themselves philosophy when Andrew was applying to college. I helped. I did things he could have done. I held myself back and did less than I wanted to do, but I did much that he could have done himself.

None of this is inconsistent with doing the kids a favor. Packing a lunch, helping them find their misplaced coat, proof-reading their papers and hundreds of other things are ways of showing and teaching love and generosity.

I have no clear rule that tells me when I should help and when I shouldn't. I have a couple of thoughts about it though. One is that when the kid can do it and thinks they can't, it might be a really good time to be nurturing by expressing confidence rather than by doing for them. It might not be a good time, of course. There could be any number of reasons why this is a good time to help -- that the child is feeling overwhelmed by multiple problems or just having a bad day are two factors that might make me change my mind.

The other is a principle I learned from Alanon, which is to think about my motives and expectations. Trying to get over the codependent habit of solving every one's problems, does not mean denying myself opportunities to be generous. It is important for me to think about what I am trying to do. If I am doing something because I expect a child to change then I should probably back off.

So all this is clear as mud, right? It's pretty boggy here too. I don't have any calculus that I can put the information into and get an answer. I also don't deliberate over every action trying to decide what is best.

I do try though to remind myself that very often expressing confidence that they can do something without my help is the most nurturing thing I can do.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Helping by not helping

Gary sometimes gets "homework" from his counselor. His homework this week is to force himself to ask me for something.

Gary says it is a woman thing, and that may be part of it. My impression is that it is an asking thing. He is good at presenting his problems and hoping that you will be a responsive parent and offer something.

Like the thing last week that made me angry. He told me that his sweats for gym were short. I asked how short and if they were adequate to gym/dance class. He said they were adequate and then told me about how he used to be teased for wearing pants that were too short. I asked, with concern, if anyone in dance teased him. He smiled and said no and so I asked again if the sweats were really okay. He said they were. I sent in all the clothing receipts to the social worker acknowledging that all these clothes for school did put me way over-budget but that I really was done shopping for clothes for the year. The next day Roland was calling me on the phone to tell me that the only black sweats he could find for Gary cost more than $50. I said something about how he could manage with the ones that that he had. Roland said he had already bought them and that Gary had been very clear: his sweats were too small; he could not wear them. Anyway, that is old news.

What is also sort of old news is that he hurt his ankle the day after seeing the physician for joint pain. The physician said he would call in a prescription for what sounds like steroids and a referral for physical therapy. He hasn't called in the prescription and every other day or so I ask Gary if he has called the office to ask about it. There is a message on the answering machine from the physical therapy people. Gary is also supposed to call them to set up his appointment.

Okay, so the twisted ankle is after the appointment. It did swell, but not dramatically. I encouraged him to ice it, take ibuprofen, and elevate it. He told me that he thought something had come out of place, and demonstrate the degree of damage by showing me that he could put all his weight on the leg with the hurt ankle without pain as long as he stood still, but that when he had to flex it, it hurt. I told him that he did not have any broken or dislocated bones, but that he had probably hurt the soft tissue. I also said that the steroids and the physical therapy were the best things we should try. The physical therapist would certain know if he needed medical attention and that I would take him to the physician except that I was pretty sure he would just say, "Go to physical therapy and try the steroids to see what they do."

Anyway, we have been having this conversation almost every day. He describes to me in a calm voice about how his ankle still hurts and how he thinks that a bone is in the wrong place or a tendon has come loose. I notice that he doesn't walk with a limp.

This morning I expressed some frustration to Roland about it, asking him if he thought I was right to keep the ball in Gary's court -- let him make the phone calls. I know that part of what is going on is that Gary wants to know that we will take care of him, that he can present his pain and we will respond. If I thought that the physician would do anything other than ask Gary why he hadn't followed up on his previous directions I would take the initiative and get him an appointment. I just don't think that his ankle is seriously damaged and I do think the best thing to do is to let the physical therapist look at it.

I also think that Gary needs to develop the life skills to do things like call the doctor's office to ask what happened to the prescription. I know it is difficult for him, but he needs to do it.

As I said, I think it is hard for Gary to ask for things.

Anyway, I had this conversation with Roland about whether I was doing the right thing. He agreed I was. Then he walked into the kitchen and said to Gary (with some frustration in HIS voice), "Gary, I think that before we make an appointment for the physician to see that ankle that you call the physical therapist and have them check it out."

Ahh. Of course. Gary wasn't getting the offer he wanted from me, so he was also presenting his problem to Roland. Roland is much more responsive to these sorts of things than I am. If anyone feels bad he is likely to say, "Do you think you need to see the doctor?"

On one hand I think that Gary has a deep, unfulfilled, child-need to have someone take care of him. He craves the experience of being cared for. He wants to show me the owie and have me fuss over him and make it all better. I think that is a legitimate need. I understand it.

It has also been my experience and kids want it the most when they are not seriously ill or hurting. When they are really sick or in pain they tend to want to take care of themselves. This makes perfect sense to me. It is only when they are not in bad shape that they can really enjoy the pampering. When they are sick they feel vulnerable and their needs to protect themselves and to prove to themselves that they don't need anyone becomes more dominant. This would have seemed mysterious to me before I started care. Now it seems obvious.

Anyway, I want to give him the pampering. He doesn't know how much I want to give it, how much effort I am putting into holding myself back and saying with calm sympathy, "I bet it does hurt! Have you called the physical therapist yet?"

I want him to go to the therapist. I am ready to get him an ice pack and tell him that when I went to therapy it hurt worse at the beginning first too. I want to put him on the sofa, offer to let him watch whatever he wants and bring him something to eat.

But first I have to stand back and let him do what he needs to do for himself.

Of course if I do and he goes to therapy and comes back really in pain he probably won't want to be pampered.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

He is less happy

I'm not sure what it is, and I am trying to just let him be. I really don't want to make him feel like he is supposed to be cheerful. It is okay to feel sad. Still, it is difficult not to want to cheer him up.

He was happier this summer. Normally I insist that though we parents "honeymoon" the kids don't. The kids don't come into our houses with some sense of euphoria. They generally come in on their very best behavior while closely observing with some level of anxiety. They are not relaxed.

In rhetrospect Gary seemed happier then.

He was thrilled to be out of the group home, he had a idol-worship thing going on with Evan, and he was hopeful that his father was going to make a home for him. He had a cell phone and called his dad every other week. He had a bus pass and visited friends every other day or so. He went on fun vacations. He reveled in being "spoiled."

Then his dad decided to patch things up with stepmom, which meant no chance of moving in with dad. That was okay, he claimed, because he never really thought it was going to happen anyway.

Then school turned out to be more stressful than expected. It is a little unclear exactly what was going on, except that whatever it was was definitely trigger anxiety in him.

Then his father's cell phone number was disconnected. He did not hear from his dad for weeks, and then got a call on his birthday. He was pretty angry about being so totally cut off and they quareled. I'm pretty sure they haven't spoken since.

Now he is in a school he likes better, although he is stressed about the amount of homework he has to do in order to catch up.

There is all sorts of girl-friend-related drama.

I wish I could do something that would make him feel better, but I don't think there is, except to be here while he works through it all.

Recommended Reading

Dawn, This Woman's Work "Blog Action Day: Poverty"

Just read it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

That Other Charter School

Remember, the one the girl friend goes to? They called today to offer Gary a spot. They left a message. They sound quite pleased, since, you know, Gary was calling them every other day asking if he could get in yet. Except that Gary changed his mind, and is in the other charter school.

I meant to tell him to call the girlfriend's charter school and have his name taken off the list. Oh well.

His okay with it. He likes the art school more than he thought.

And his girlfriend want to "take a break."

The drama of a being a teen.

Monday, October 13, 2008

One down

class observation, that is. My colleagues came to my intro class this morning. The students were wonderful. I have generally found that when someone is observing your class the students make a special effort to be at their best. No one lets themselves get lost in day dreams. A few more people than usual answer questions, and when I put them in discussion groups every group actually discusses the topic and has something to say when we are reporting.

So the class went well.

Because they can't both get to one of the other classes at the same time, I have three more observations left. This was the class I was most nervous about though.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

My Fellow Citizens

I would like to take this moment to state that "Arab," "family man/woman," "decent," and "American citizen" are not mutually exclusive categories. Though the word "Muslim" was not part of these conversations, I think all know it could have been.

So I want to say to all my Arab and Muslim fellow citizens (an overlapping but not identical group), the cranky old man and his angry, crazy followers do not speak for me.

I am glad we are both parts of the same country. I believe we must stand together.

Who is with us?

Leave a comment...mention a post you wrote and I will link to it.

I got angry

I don't know if one of us was in the right. I don't feel a big need to hash out all the details, but I thought I would give you the outline.

Thursday afternoon I asked Gary about his school clothes. He said they were fine but that the blacks sweats were a little small, and indicated that they were short. I asked if they were tight or just short. He said just short. I said, "Are they acceptable for PE class? I mean, can you use them, or do you really need new ones?" He said they were acceptable and I said good because I had just sent the receipt to the agency.

Last night Roland was running errands and I called to ask him to bring home some grocery essentials (chocolate) and he said sadly that the only black sweats he could find for Gary were outrageously expensive. We had the expected conversation: he said he didn't need new ones; he told me he did; the sweats cost how much? Did you actually buy them? He had. Anyway, I was irritated. I was irritated because Gary hadn't told me that he needed new pants, that he once again went behind my back to ask Roland something when he didn't get the answer he wanted from me, and that Roland didn't talk to me when Gary asked. All of this was especially frustrating as I had been sending in the receipts, am far over budget on clothes, and had told the social worker I was done. I had spoke to Roland about this, or at least made conversation about it, but he doesn't listen. And I was angry because I wasn't a terrible mean person. Why didn't Gary just tell me that he needed the damn pants?

So I stewed for a while. When Roland came home I quarrelled with him. He said he was sorry that he didn't talk to me. I stomped around. Everything is wrapped up in everything else. Roland spending patterns are a hot-button issue for me, as you know.

Eventually I confronted Gary. I told him that it made me angry that he didn't tell me the truth, that he went behind my back, etc., etc. He responded with "yes, ma'am" and "no ma'am" until I went away...then he went to his room.

I gave myself some time to calm down and then went to talk to Gary. I told him that I didn't like for the day end with the last thing I said being angry. I asked if we could talk. I calmly told him that I really was confused about why he didn't talk to me to about the sweats. He told me that he had a hard time asking women for things, and talked a little bit about his difficult relationships with his aunt and his step mother. Anyway, we spoke about it and I ended up telling him that it was just okay if he wanted to talk to Roland when he needed things. Our conversation was longer than that, but that was the most important part.

When we were done I went to give him a hug and he hugged back pretty hard. He joked about how short I am (I'm not). I tried standing on my tip toes while hugging him and he laughed and tried to hold me down. The hug ended with us both laughing.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

In case you are confused

**political post**

The report concludes that Palin had the right to fire Monegan (Head Trooper) for any reason or not reason. They believe that Monegan's refusal to fire Wooten (the ex-brother-in-law) was part of the reason.

The report also concludes that Palin abused power in her efforts and in support of her husband's efforts to have Trooper Wooten fired.

Acorn works to register voters in neighborhoods in which few people are registered, primarily non-white and poor. They hire people to do the footwork and pay them per registration. This always produces fraudulant forms. People fill out forms for "Yondalla PFLAG," "Yondalla Fostermom", and "Yondalla Blogger" even though Yondalla says she is already registered under her real name. Acorn goes through the forms and finds most of the fraudulant ones and, as is the law in most states, turns them in to the office in two piles: the ones we think are good and the ones we are sure are bad. This is why you may have heard a news story in which an official who is required to review all the forms may have referred to a whole pile as "the fake ones." Acorn labeled them as fake. The official still has to go through them and may well be annoyed that Acorn hired people who were not trustworthy.

Note though even if Acorn and the elections office do NOT catch all the fraudulant registrations, only one Yondalla (the one who uses her real name) shows up to vote. There are people who are being hurt in this situation, including Acorn against whom the original fraud was perpetrated, but people voting twice is not even alleged.

The really bad thing that can happen is that real registrations will be tossed in the purge of fake ones.

The best thing that can happen is that hundreds of voters who would not otherwise take part in the democratic process are empowered to do so.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Peer Review

I'm in the middle of one.

You may have heard that once professors have tenure they can get away with anything and no one ever checks on them. Those days are over. Accreditation agencies are demanding that colleges and universities have some form of post-tenure review. My college has taken what is probably the last stressful route to satisfy that requirement: peer review teams.

This year there are six people "up" and we have been divided into two groups of three. We are sitting in each others' classes. We have to share five years of yearly self-evaluations, summaries of student evaluations, summaries of our service to the college and community, and information about our scholarly pursuits. We are to sit around and chat about our challenges, give each other ideas, and then we will do a round-robin of writing letters of evaluation for each other.

In some moods I think it is all a great idea.

In some moods it gives me anxiety attacks. This is all supposed to be developmental, which means it is supposed to be totally safe to talk about your weaknesses because we are supposed to be helping each other. And the fact that all this culminates in a letter that goes to the review committee in which someone will say whether I should have a non-developmental review (i.e. a really scary one), in no way deflects from the fact that this is a environment in which I should feel totally safe exposing my weaknesses.


Fortunately my team one I feel pretty good about. The other woman is determined to do this as thoroughly and effeciently as possible -- and that helps mightily. The other team member is someone I really do feel safe with and as he is the only one who can come to my upper division class, he will write a letter about me. So that helps too. He will be doing a trip during winter quarter so we have to finish early. Also good. Still, submitting myself to the judgment of others is not something that I do without anxiety, even under the best of circumstances.

Intellectually, I see nothing to be nervous about.

As long as I remember to breathe.

First Day of School

Reports from Gary's first day at the charter school:

Gary: "It was okay. Lots of people were happy to be late to class to help me find mine. Mostly girls."

Brian: "Do you have any idea how totally annoying it is to have every girl in school come up to you and say, 'Your bother is hot!'?"

It looks like it will probably work out.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

One too many social workers

Two social workers in charge of the same case is really a bad idea.

See, the way it is supposed to work when the kids get into the private program is that the state worker breathes a sigh of relief and then concentrates the rest of his or her cases. The state worker shows up at permanency hearings and asks the kid how things are going. If everyone is happy, the state worker smiles and leaves again.

That works pretty well.

Probably it is possible for a state worker and an agency worker to both be heavily involved with one kid, but it would help if they actually talked to each other.

It would also be helpful if probation officer kept in the loop too.

I'm just sayin'.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


This am:

"Gary, where is your social security card?"

"In my wallet."

"Okay, where is your wallet?"

"I left it at ____ house."

"I should have it to register you today. Well hopefully they will take the photocopy. Hun, you know you shouldn't carry it in your wallet, right?"

Blank stare of the teenager.

"When you get your wallet back, would you please give it to me? I am supposed to keep it in your binder." (Every kid in the agency has a binder with a bunch of stuff like that in it.)

Continued blank, cold stare.

"You okay?"


"Okaaay...could you respond to what I said?"

"I heard you."

"Okay, I just want to make sure you understand that the reason we tell you not to carry your card is that it could be pretty disastrous if someone got that number. If you don't want to give it to me, please put it in your lock box."

Cold. blank. stare.

Hmm...they do pick the strangest things to have power struggles over. I stood there and looked back and considered my options. How important is it to ME to have the social security card or that he keep it in his lock box? Is this something I want to fight about? I mean, really. Is he carrying it around in his wallet out of some sort of need to have his most important documents on his person? Or is he doing it because we told him not to and he doesn't want to be Mr. Goody-Two-Shoes all the time? Or does he just keep forgetting and is annoyed that I am repeating information he has already been told?

I confess that I am annoyed that I am getting this attitude right in the middle of my dedicating large amounts of time and energy into getting him transferred to the charter school.

I ponder. I give him what I hope is a curious, though somewhat long, look.

I say, "So hopefully you will be able to go to the charter school tomorrow. Does it feel good to be facing your possibly last day at Our Town High?"

"No. I don't want to go at all."

I pat him on the back. "I know sweetie." I leave the kitchen.

I chose not to fight that battle. It was pretty stupid and to difficult to win if he decided to fight back. I don't have doubts about that choice.

But I still feel a bit annoyed at the little pooper for giving me attitude RIGHT NOW.

So I had to blog about it.

Registration today, I hope [update: success]

So the whole probation issue is a object lesson for me regarding the dangers of excessive worry. There were many phone calls yesterday. Those of us who know Gary had expectations of minimal cooperation from people who don't know Gary well. People who don't know Gary well were uncooperative. Alternate routes were considered. Assurances came in from many people that they agreed that the charter school is the best place for Gary. I got more information about the sort of peer issues he is facing at Our Town High (confirmed by third party). The counselor agreed that a move was in his best interest. Everyone agreed to call the principal to convince her that his minimal probation restrictions did not mean that he could not attend a high school shares a building with kids as young as five.

We were prepared.

Then we sat down with the paper work from the school. It asked if the student had ever been suspended. We truthfully answered "no."

It did not ask if the student had ever been arrested or was on parole or probation.

It just didn't ask.

Everyone looked over the paper work twice. Really? Don't the other high schools all have that question? Perhaps they don't have it because they have recently added the high school grades and are still using elementary school forms?

Whatever. They don't ask and Gary has no legal obligation to disclose.

So, all that worrying we did? Never mind.

Gary does have a legal obligation to follow his restrictions. So if anyone asks him to babysit, he has to say no. He doesn't have to say why though.

So I feel a bit silly getting all worked up about it.

Oh...and it is still possible that he will be moved to unsupervised probation. The PO is hoping that a letter from his counselor who has been working with him for a year will be accepted in lieu of a letter from the director of the group home who barely knows him at all. We will see.

Still, this afternoon I will be going to the charter school with all his registration materials.

As long as the state worker faxes in his paper work, Gary may be able to start tomorrow.

Update: We got all the paper work turned in. Gary starts tomorrow. The state worker still had not faxed in his copies of things, but they took my word that it is all on the way.

I am extremely exhausted, but happy.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Art School Update

Principal called. Garys in pending paper work. I told her it would take me a couple of days to get the signature I need since I am not allowed to sign everything. That is of course true, but I am hoping to get the "no restriction" letter from the probation officer first.

I also told her that I would have to go out and buy him polos with the school logo, pants that fit the dress code, and a plain hoodie or sweater -- even though I already went over budget for clothes when I bought him his winter coat.

Her response, "Sounds cool. Looking forward to seeing you."

Have I mentioned recently that I LOVE MY AGENCY?

They call it a catch-22, right?

If you have been reading for a while you know that Gary is on probation and that I am respecting his privacy regarding the reasons he is on probation.

Here's the deal:

1. All junveniles on probation in my county (state? country?) are prohibited from being with children more than 2 years younger they are unless they are supervised.
2. Gary cannot be off probation, because he has not had a permanent living arrangement.
3. He has not had a permanent living arrangement because they could not find him a foster home that did not have children more than two years younger than he is.

The arts charter school is a K-12 school. His probation officer has no problem with him being there because 1) it is a supervised environment and 2) she doesn't believe that he needs to be supervised. HOWEVER, it is possible that the principal would decide that Gary needs a level of supervision that she cannot provide. (When he was in public school and newly on probation he had a "supervisor" at all times. He was not allowed to go to the restroom alone and had to spend recesses in a room with an adult.) Since the school registration forms typically ask if a kid is on probation, we can't ignore this.

I called his probation officer and she is trying right now to get him moved to unsupervised probation* but can't until the group home sends a letter saying he was a very good boy while he was there. And of course the only reason he was at the group home is because they couldn't find him a foster home, which they couldn't do because he was on probation.

I am very frustrated about this right now, although I am very happy that Gary's probation officer thinks so highly of him and is working so hard for him. We hope to get a letter by the end of the week from the probation officer has lifted all restrictions. I really want to have that letter in hand before I go to the school.

But sometimes, the whole system really bites the big one.

*My county has a policy of not taking juveniles off probation every, at all, under any circumstances. What they do is move them to "unsupervised probation" which is just like being off probation except that if you get arrested or even a parking ticket it is really bad.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Art School Could Happen!

Okay, so I got a call from the principal of the arts charter school. She would like for his transcript to be faxed to her tomorrow and she will see if she can build a schedule for him so that he can transfer immediately.

The only hitch is that he has to "focus" in either drama or music. At this point all the kids in music have been playing for years and the principal says she can't put a beginning into band. She assumes, correctly, that he doesn't sing or dance. Brian has been talking to him about all this. What it means is that he will be taking drama every year and will need to do a senior project. It doesn't have to be acting though. Well, he will have to do some acting in class, but his senior project can be something like set or lighting design and construction. He will have to take part in dramatic productions, but again, it can be in things like lighting. That sounds very reasonable to him.

So all of this is falling into place. Before we got the call I told him that I really did not think he was going to be able to do on-line schooling. He agreed. He also said that the more he heard about the girlfriend's charter school the less interested he was. (I am not surprised. Their organizing idea is all about discipline.)

So it looks like he will be making a decision without our telling him that he has to choose between two options that we have picked. I have to send out his transcript to the charter school tomorrow. It is possible that she won't be able to fit him into the classes he needs, but she doesn't anticipate a problem with a sophomore. He may be able to start this week.

He knows that going there will mean an investment in things like uniforms (polo shirts in any color with the school logo with khaki or navy pants -- no jeans), and so we will insist that he commit to it.

The truth is that if he really wants to come back to Our Town High he can, but I'm not telling him that. We won't though support him transfering from this to a different charter school. I personally think it is good that he won't be in his girlfriend's charter. It would be pretty horrible if they broke up. Of course he could start dating someone from this school and break up with her, but at least she wouldn't be the reason he went there in the first place.

Anyhoo, that's the news.

Love my social worker

So I emailed her to say that I was glad she was back in the office after her one-week workshop and knew she must be swamped. Also the physicians office just called and there was some problem with Gary's medicaid and they couldn't see him this afternoon unless we could get it worked out. Also I wanted to talk about Gary's wheel spinning about education...

Within one hour I got back an email in which she said that she called Medicaid and it should be fixed. I should call the phyisician and double-check. (It was).

She also suggested that we meet with Gary soon about about school. She agreed we needed to talk on-line schooling off the table. We will meet tomorrow at 4:15. Hopefully by then I will have heard from the Arts school and will have some sort of answer on whether he has any chance of getting in this year. Exactly what we tell him will depend upon that answer, but we are agreed that though we are not opposed to Gary going to a charter school if he can get in, this wheel-spinning isn't good for him.

Did I mention that I love my social worker? And the agency?

They really are the best.

School Options

Mrs. Butter B wisely comments that many kids who have spent time in group homes or other controlled environments have trouble making decisions. She states that the solution she has seen be most successful is one in which the young person given limited choices.

I'm thinking she is probably right with respect to Gary.

Wanting to discuss his different options for school is not the biggest problem I have ever had to deal with with a kid, but I am finding that I am beginning to run out of patience with it. He isn't certain about the girlfriend's school. She's been complaining about some things and they are quarrelling.

Interesting, the thing they are quarrelling about is his interest in seeing if he could do on-line schooling. She thinks on-line schooling is just for the kids who get kicked out of school. She sees it as a mark that he is one of those "bad" kids and will never be able to get into college or get a job. When he asked me about it I said that doing on-line schooling meant that there were unanswered questions and colleges and employers would have to look elsewhere for the answers. Application essays, recommendations, test scores, and previous job performance all would matter more. So he is trying to convince her it will be fine.

Meanwhile I keep telling him that I do not think it will work out. I have told him that he may not stay home alone all day every day. That is out. He has accepted that and his new plan is to find a job during the day and then do on-line schooling at night. I told him that I didn't think the agency would support that decision. He says he knows, but he will ask them anyway. I'm pretty confident that they will tell him no, particularly after they ask me and I tell them why I'm not thrilled with the plan.

I called Brian's charter school. The receptionist encouraged me to put Gary's name in for next year, and let me leave a message for the principal asking if there was any chance of him transfering in this year. I hope she will call me back today and give me a clear answer.

I want to be able to narrow down Gary's choices PDQ. I want to be able to tell him that this year he is stuck at Our Town High and that it is time to buckle down and get to work. We can put in applications for the charter schools for next year and if he gets accepted he can make a choice one way or the other. Full-time on-line schooling is not on the table.

I think he needs our help to settle and commit.

Although he will, I am sure, still find things to debate endlessly.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Summary of the Palin-Biden Debate

I watched the Palin-Biden debate and whenever Palin talked I kept forgetting what the question was because it was so much work trying to figure out what she was saying. It bugs me. I am a seriously over-educated woman. I can explain passages of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. I just can’t let this folksy woman from Alaska get me. So…here’s my best shot (or at least my current shot) at trying to understand Palin’s half of the debate. I include Biden’s responses when they are relevant to Palin’s. Mostly though, this is just trying to figure out what Palin said.

IFILL: Bail out bill, good or bad?

• A good barometer for the state of our economy is to go to a kid’s soccer game and talk to parents.
• John McCain represents reform, tried to prevent this, and is responsible for fixing it.

IFILL: Polarization in Washington, what will you do?

Biden says he has reached across the aisle and then asks if he can respond to Palin’s last answer. Ifill says yes. Biden says that McCain kept saying that the fundamentals of the economy were strong.

Palin responds.
• By fundamentals John meant the American workforce.
• I’ve worked for reform as a governor
• Obama isn’t for reform, he has always voted with his party.
• We need a maverick in the white house.

Having dealt with the whole polarization thing, IFILL asks: Who should we blame for the sub-prime melt-down?

• Darn right it was the predator lenders.
• John McCain and I will end corruption.
• Everyday people need to pledge never to be exploited again.
• We should demand from the federal government strict oversight of financial institutions.

Biden: discusses Obama and McCain on regulation. He segues into discussion of McCain’s plan to deregulate health care and how that will affect taxes.

Biden and Palin have debate about who has the worst record on taxes.

IFILL: says that is enough about the bailout, let’s talk about taxes. (I know, they were talking about taxes, but they were supposed to be talking about the bailout. Ifill’s next card is labeled "taxes.") To Biden the question is why the Obama plan isn’t class warfare. Biden says it is about fairness. Ifill asks Palin about McCain’s plan to tax health care benefits.

Palin: Obama is going to raise your taxes!

IFILL: Governor, are you interested in defending Sen. McCain's health care plan? (Ifill asks a follow-up question! Mark it folks!)

• It is great.
• It will allow people to go across state lines (translation: undercuts state regulation)
• It is budget neutral (translation: will be paid for by tax on health care benefits).

IFILL Given the crisis, what promises will you not be able to keep?

Palin: I want to talk about energy! I took on the oil companies in Alaska!

IFILL: So there aren’t any promises you would be unable to keep? (SECOND follow-up!)

• I’m too new and inexperienced to have made any promises.
• Me and John will do what is right, put government on the side of the people, and end greed and corruption. (That’s a theme folks, also known as a talking point. You will hear it again.)

IFILL asks about the bailout bill. Palin and Biden both answer. Biden says there are ways to help people now which Bush, McCain and Palin don’t support.

IFILL: Is that true Governor?

Palin: No, but I want to talk about energy! She does.

IFILL, having given up on follow up questions, asks about the causes of climate change.

• I’m not one to attribute “activity of man to the changes in the climate” (Really, that is what she said)
• I don’t want to talk about the causes. (Since we all know that the cause of a problem is irrelevant to the solution.)
• We just need to clean up the planet, which is why we should talk about energy!

They all talk about energy for a while.

IFILL: asks about same-sex marriage

Biden wants to give all the benefits of marriage to same sex couples, just as long as we don't call it "marriage." You know, so they can visit each other in the hospitals and stuff.

Palin: Marriage is between a man and woman but I’m a really tolerant person.

IFILL: What should our exit strategy in Iraq be?

• I support the surge.
• Great Americans like McCain and Petraeus support the surge.
• Obama did not support the surge.
• The surge is working.

• “With respect, I didn’t hear a plan.”
• We are spending too much money on the war and we need a plan. (With respect, Biden didn't give a plan either.)

• “Your plan is a white flag of surrender”

IFILL: What's the greater threat, a nuclear Iran or an unstable [Pakistan]? Explain why.

Palin: They are both really bad. Obama wants to sit down with evil dictators.

IFILL: “Governor and senator, I want you both to respond to this. Secretaries of state Baker, Kissinger, Powell, they have all advocated some level of engagement with enemies. Do you think these former secretaries of state are wrong on that?”

• I had a great conversation with Kissinger.
• McCain and I would engage in diplomacy
• Obama wants to sit down with evil dictators.
• Diplomacy is important

Next topic: Israel. Palin loves Israel and wants to build the US embassy in Jerusalem. Biden is Israel's BFF, and so is Obama. It is Bush's fault that Hamas and Hezbollah have gained power.

IFILL: Has this administration's policy been an abject failure, as the senator says, Governor?

• Not a failure, there were just many "huge blunders."
• John is a maverick.
• We will learn from the mistakes of past administrations and “forge ahead with putting government back on the side of the people”

IFILL: Governor, on another issue, interventionism, nuclear weapons. What should be the trigger, or should there be a trigger, when nuclear weapons use is ever put into play?

• “Nuclear weaponry, of course, would be the be all, end all of just too many people in too many parts of our planet, so those dangerous regimes, again, cannot be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons, period.” (Translation: Bad regimes shouldn't have nukular weapons, and I don't really have an answer to that "trigger" question. Do nukular weapons have triggers? I thought they had red buttons. Okay...sorry...that was just snarky.)
• I want to talk about Afghanistan because I have some Obama quotes I can take out of context that make him sound really bad.

They argue about Afghanistan. Ifill asks Biden if the American public has the stomach for Biden’s interventionist policies. Biden says they have “the stomach for success.” He discusses Bosnia, Kosovo, Darfur.

• “Oh, yeah, it's so obvious I'm a Washington outsider.” She accuses Biden of inconsistent positions.
• “But as for as Darfur, we can agree on that also, the supported of the no-fly zone, making sure that all options are on the table there also.”
• In Alaska we divested from Darfur (um…no, they didn’t)

IFILL: Is there a line that should be drawn about when we decide to go in?

Biden: yes, and John McCain was wrong about the war.

• Biden is a two-faced liar and we will just have to wait for the fact-checkers tomorrow to show that he isn’t. Right now though I am going to say that he is.
• John McCain “knows what evil is and knows what it takes to overcome the challenges here with our military.” He knows how to win wars.

IFILL: One heart-beat away question.

Biden: I would carry out Barack Obama’s policies.

• McCain and I are a couple of mavericks and don’t agree on everything. (Translation: it will be a great big surprise, but you know we are going to be drilling in Alaska!)
• I would “work to put the government back on the side of the people and end greed and corruption.”

They argue about who will create more jobs and who is in better touch with the American people.

Palin segues to education, not that we were talking about education, but she memorized an answer on that and gosh darn it, she's givin' it. You betcha!
• She and Joe are related to teachers!
• Bless their hearts. Their reward is in heaven. (Translation: don’t expect us to support pay raises here on earth.)
• “Education credit in American has been in some sense in some of our states just accepted to be a little bit lax and we have got to increase the standards.” (Palin would have better syntax if the education credit in American wasn’t accepted to be so lax.)
• Yay for No Child Left Behind!

IFILL: Govenor, did anyone explain to you what the VP does? ‘Cause you said you didn’t know.

• Oh, that was just a lame joke.
• The VP presides over the senate.
• “I'm thankful the Constitution would allow a bit more authority given to the vice president if that vice president so chose to exert it in working with the Senate and making sure that we are supportive of the president's policies and making sure too that our president understands what our strengths are.”
• John says I can talk about energy!

IFILL: “Governor, you mentioned a moment ago the constitution might give the vice president more power than it has in the past. Do you believe as Vice President Cheney does, that the Executive Branch does not hold complete sway over the office of the vice presidency, that it is also a member of the Legislative Branch?”

• “Well, our founding fathers were very wise there in allowing through the Constitution much flexibility there in the office of the vice president. And we will do what is best for the American people in tapping into that position and ushering in an agenda that is supportive and cooperative with the president's agenda in that position. Yeah, so I do agree with him that we have a lot of flexibility in there, and we'll do what we have to do to administer very appropriately the plans that are needed for this nation.”
• (I quote at length here and above because it sounds like she wants to say that she agrees with Cheney that the VP can seize whatever power he or she wants, but I’m not sure Palin understood the question. Maybe I just HOPE she didn't understand the question.)

IFILL: Governor, the conventional wisdom is that your Achilles heel is that you lack experience. Is that your Achilles heel?

• My experience is great!
• Lots of things about me are great!
• I understand the problems of real people!
• I have a special needs child!
• John and I are a team of mavericks.
• ("Achilles heel" is what you elites call a strength, right?)

Biden uses standard interview technique of describing a strength as a weakness naming “an excess of passion.” He says that he understands real problems too, and gets choked up briefly when he mentions being worried that his son might not make it.

• John McCain is a maverick!
• (She does not respond to Joe’s emotional moment. Some people say that he faked it. Even if he did, some faked human empathy would be appropriate. I’m willing to assume she was too nervous to notice, not that she is uncaring, but I could be wrong.)

Biden: I’ve known mavericks, and John is no maverick.

IFILL: Give one example where you had to change your mind.

Biden: I used to think the ideology of judges wasn’t important.
Palin: Sometimes I had to sign budgets that I didn’t completely approve of. (Translation: I really didn't like all those earmarks, but they made me sign it.)

IFILL: How would you work to create bipartisanship?

Biden: I’ve been able to do it. I have learned not to question people’s motives.
Palin: I did it as governor. And I have a really diverse family.

IFILL: Give your closing statements.
• “I like being able to answer these tough questions without the filter” (translation: being able to avoid the question whenever I wanted.)
• John and I are mavericks.
• I understand your pain.
• Now let me give you this great quote from Reagan about freedom when he was arguing that Medicare would lead us to totalitarianism.

Biden: This is most important election ever. I understand your pain. Barak Obama and I will be great. God bless America.

This summary is based upon the CNN transcript.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Talking about School, again

Gary wanted to talk again about his school woes. Girlfriend's Charter school is on a 3-week break (it is a year-round school) so he won't hear anything from them for that amount of time. I said that he should probably just plan on staying at Our Small Town High for the rest of the semester.

He told me that he had an appointment with the educational specialist at the agency to talk about graduation plans. He wanted to talk to her about just doing on-line schooling.

I'm getting a little bit tired of this, to tell you the truth.

I told him that I didn't see how he could transfer to the on-line school because neither Roland nor I worked at home. He just couldn't spend all day every day home alone. I did not say that the chances of him succeeding in the on-line school without supervision were very small -- although they are. I also reminded him that he can't take particular classes from the on-line school and transfer them into the high schools unless he gets advance permission from the school, which they are not likely to give. (The truth is that the agency has intervened on behalf of some kids who were determined to leave care on their 18th birthday. The kids have had an extremely low success rate at FINISHING the on-line classes though.)

We spoke again about Brian's charter school. He said that he really wanted to leave Our Small Town High because he didn't have friends there. He thought he did, before he went, but it turns out that the kids he knew from before aren't the same as they were, so he doesn't. "But you don't have friends at Brian's school either." "I know Brian and his friend." "Yes, but you are not friends with them...and they are freshman. I am imagining as a sophomore you are not really going to want to hang out with freshman. You will have to make friends with new kids."

I told him that I thought he could do that, but was he really sure he was going to be happy there? It is an arts school. As far as I could tell he didn't enjoy drama, or like to draw, or play music. He said that he had started to play the drums for a while once and enjoyed that. I agreed that was a good start, but did he want to take two art classes every semester? How about dance -- even though the dance teacher teaches Hip Hop moves, or whatever sort of dance kids are interested in these days. "I won't have to! I already have two PE credits." "But they might require everyone to take at least one dance class. They do have different requirements."

I reminded him that he would have to do a senior project in his focus area and perform for the whole school. That made him look anxious. I also told him that if he went he couldn't stay on the list for the girlfriend's charter school. He would have to make a commitment. He would have to be prepared to settle there, not just use it as a place to wait until he could move to a better one.

He thought about it and then decided that he didn't want me to put him on the list for the arts school for now. He really wanted to get into the girlfriend's charter.

I wish I could believe that if he got into the charter school he would be able to settle and be happy there. I don't though. My guess is that he would break up with his girlfriend and then get himself into a knot about where to go since he couldn't possibly stay there and couldn't stand the thought of going back to Our Town High.

But then I have always been a bit of a pessimist.

Friday, October 03, 2008

The joys of marriage

There are many good things about being married for many years. You get comfortable with each other. You are willing to appear vulnerable. Exposed at your very worst.

You know, like when you have a terrible tummy virus and you loose control over your bowels while vomitting. You might have absolutely no hesitation at all about calling your husband and asking him to clean the floor while you shower.

Just to pick a totally random example of course.

New Job?

For Gary that is.

Yesterday he called his social worker and said that he wanted out of the job training program for now. Then he called the job training program and they said, "Oh! We are so glad you called! We found a job for you!"

So he's going to stick with the program for a while.

If all the details fall into place, he will be working at the Y. Some agency or other will pay most of his salary for 3 months. They will even pay for the training for the job like, for instance, if what the Y really needs is lifeguards, which they do.

Although Gary doesn't want to be a lifeguard.

Anyway, I am sitting at the sidelines, making encouraging noises while he figures this out. He agreed the other day that he probably feels like he is too busy because he is stressed, although cutting back on what he is doing might be a short-term help in dealing with stress. We talked about the need for him to learn to find the calm place in him that will allow him to relax in the moment. He knows that he needs to do that.

I'm still moderately crazy-busy. I feel like I shouldn't neglect the blog, but I also feel like what I have to write is not particularly interesting.

Can you tell I am crazy-tired?

I may go take a nap.

I have added the follower widget

because Torina asked.

I don't know if it will be easier/better to follow blogs this way, as opposed to using Google Reader which I am deeply dependent upon. It is however fun to be able to see who your readers are, which isn't the case with Google Reader.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

My head hurts's a political post.

Does Sarah Palin know what "Achilles' heel" means? Or was she just following her pre-established strategy of giving the prepared answers without regard to whatever the d*mn question was?

I'm sorry if that sounded snarky; I really didn't mean it to. I have to say that I was repeatedly amazed at her ability to totally ignore the questions and deliver her talking points.

And I was impressed with Biden. He knew his stuff. Everyone was worried about whether he could debate a woman and not look like a bully. He didn't. He managed to correct things she said that weren't true without looking like he was attacking her. And he actually answered the questions.

And I am relieved that Palin didn't have any of what I have begun to think of as "Palin-moments." Okay, so she called McKiernan "McClellan" and she said, "nucular" and she did say that she wouldn't "blame all of man's activities on global warming" but she didn't embarass herself, and I am very, very glad about that.

Cause I am ready to talk about something else.

And now I am going to take some headache pills and go to bed.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

I don't normally do this

Every now and then I get asked to promote share information about a web site or charity. I usually just say no because I feel like if I do I should research it and think seriously about it and well, who has the time for that?

I agreed to share this one though. I checked it out enough to know that it is legit, but you should do your own research and make your own decision.

There's the credit card company (the one whose name includes "American") which is having a contest which will determine which charities will get a bunch of money. If you happen to have this credit card you can vote. I really do encourage you to do that. A bunch of money is being given away and you should exercise your opportunity to influence where it goes.

I was contacted by International Medical Corps who wants to use the money to reduce starvation amoung children.

So check them out, and if you have that card, send in your vote.