Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Quiet Evening

I picked up the boys from school today just because. Everyone has my cold and Brian went immediately downstairs and crashed. Gary however hung around. I asked if he minded fixing the spaghetti for dinner and he did. Roland had a meeting after school so it was just us.

We ate and talked, then hung in the living room and talked. He told me about his girlfriend, about getting in trouble at school for "pda" (they held hands), and asked me how old Carl was in the picture over mantle. Somehow though we talked for two hours. It was pleasant, and I know he enjoyed it...just having an adult who found him interesting who wanted to talk, wanted to listen.

And I wanted to tell you about it. I like sharing the moments in between the dramas. It can be so difficult though to find words, so I guess I will borrow Lewis Carol's:

''The time has come,' the Walrus said,
'To talk of many things:
Of shoes -- and ships -- and sealing wax --
Of cabbages -- and kings --
And why the sea is boiling hot --
And whether pigs have wings.''

Monday, March 30, 2009

Kindle: Dangerous Sickbed Companion

So there you are sick. Really sick. Cough-up-your-lung, can't-get-out-of-bed, kill-me-now sick.

What do you do?

Well, sleep if you can, but there is only so much sleeping a person can do. If you are awake and too sick to make yourself do anything, what do you do? You could get an old favorite book off the bookshelf, or you could turn on the television. Of course it would be nice to get a new book, but that would mean going to bookstore or the library and you can't get out of bed, right?

Enter the Kindle.

You don't have to go the store. You don't even have to drag your sorry, sick tush to the computer. All you have to do is click "Shop in Kindle Store." In a minute your Kindle will offer a variety of books it thinks you will enjoy. There's an interesting-looking light mystery. How about that? It is just $6.50. Sure. Just click the button, stumble to the bathroom, come back, blow your nose, and there it is.

So you read, and doze, and then read again. When you finish the book you find yourself looking at the Kindle store again. That book you read is the beginning of a series. The next one is only $6 too.

And so it goes. If you are really sick and spend four or five days in bed, you may be very, very glad you had the Kindle. Everyone should have one. You had an unending supply of books to keep you distracted, and you never even had to leave the bed.

And then of course you get a little better and go over the finances.

"I spent $70 in four days!"

Um....yeah. Kindles are dangerous things.

Wonderful, dangerous things.

When I was really sick..

I periodically thought about how wonderful Roland was for doing everything, but when I was at the very worst point of it all one thought kept popping up in my head:

Thank G-d I don't have a baby.

I think that is because the last time I was that sick I did have a baby, or at least a toddler. I remember being really sick and having to care for or reassure a small child. This time all I had to do was ... um ... nothing. Roland and the boys took care of everything. I was so grateful for that, so glad that everyone in the house could manage just fine without me. There wasn't the least bit of guilt, no feeling like I really HAD to get up and make sure that someone ate vegetables or was wearing clean underwear. It was so wonderful.

It did occur to me that it was an odd thought -- like going in for emergency surgery and being glad that you remembered to return all your library books.

Right now I still have a terrible chest cold. I'm congested and tired and sometimes I cough so hard I pee my pants a little. (You're welcome.) And that is much better than I felt on Thursday, when breathing itself was an effort and walking to the bathroom was exhausting, and my reoccuring happy thoughts were "Roland is a very good man" and "Thank G-d I don't have a baby."

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Easiest respite ever

Let's see...how much effort did I put into this respite?

Wednesday night I said, "Hun, didn't they say the boy was coming today? You should make some calls and figure out what is going on." And then Roland made calls to the agency and talked to the social worker and the person who was supposed to do the transporting and then the parents and then came back to the bedroom and said to my semi-conscious self, "He's coming tomorrow at 4:00." So that was easy.

And on Thursday when he came in I pulled myself out of bed and went into the living room and said, "Hi. I just wanted to meet you. I'm pretty sick, so you won't see me much, but don't hesitate to ask the boys if you need anything. We all sort of take care of ourselves around here." And then I stumbled back to the bed and crashed, exhausted. A few hours later I walked out to the living room and told Roland he had to take me to the emergency room. On the way out the back door Roland told the boy, "Andrew is in charge, but we will be checking in." I tried to say something to him, but I was coughing up a lung and I don't remember what it was. Still I tried to look confident and reassuring. I'm pretty sure I failed.

After getting breathing treatments, antibiotics, steroids, xrays and reassurance at the ER, I came home and got back into bed. I didn't sleep and a while later Brian came back to ask if I had given the boy permission to be on my computer. I hadn't so I walked out to the living room for my third interaction and said, "You shouldn't be on my computer without permission." He very quickly jumped up, apologized and trotted downstairs. That is an example of establishing and maintaining clear expectations. So you see, I did act like a real parent while he was here.

And on Friday I'm not sure if I spoke to him at all. Surely I said hello or something in passing? I pretty much spent the whole day in bed reading a mystery series on my Kindle. No, wait, late in the evening I said, "Do you have permission to be on Roland's computer?" He nodded and I said, "good." And that was my positive behavioral reinforcement act of the respite. Not hard at all.

On Saturday I saw him when I went to get a piece of toast. He was putting uncooked ramen noodles into a bowl and pouring boiling water on top of them. I said, "I've never seen anyone make ramen like that." He said, "I usually make it on the stove." To which I replied, "So do we." And then I realized I wasn't really hungry and the kitchen was too full of people anyway, so I turned around and went to bed. This was the moment in which I exercised the principle of allowing young people to work out their own problems. It is very important to allow them to experiment. I often find it difficult to force myself not to take over and show them how to do things my way. This time however it was surprisingly easy. I'm getting really good at this.

Then later I came out to my computer in the living room to try to catch up on reading blogs. The door bell rang. I knew it was his parents picking him up, but I was a fright so I got up and hid in the bedroom.

And then he was gone.

I'm pretty sure he was adequately fed and supervised.

Unless he wasn't.

At least he was still here when he parents came to get him.

Like I said, easiest respite ever.

Our Friend from The Bridge

Remember our blogger friend who hid under the bridge after the troll attack?

Yeah, too many people tried to climb under there with her so she moved to a new home.

I think it is permissible to post this message...but I will take it down if our friend requests.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Home sick

Tomorrow will be the third day in a row I will have cancelled class to stay in bed.

I've been icky, but I think I am getting better.

Can't type much cause I had a breathing treatment (3 breathing treatments) and I am all jittery

and they gave me codeine cough suppressant so I am sedated.

also antibiotics and steroids

sleep time now

New Rule: Everyone should have a Kindle when they are sick.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


We're confirmed on the respite. The young man is coming here.

Sadly I checked with everyone except Gary before I said yes. They are both signed up with the same job coaching organization. Gary doesn't like him.

I declined to call back and say he couldn't come. I may regret this respite, but it is just three days. What's the worse that could happen?

Don't answer that.

How to Eat With After A Root Canal

Let's say you are Gary and you have just had a root canal to a front tooth. You've had your yogurt and scrambled eggs. You even ate some of the roast pork by cutting it up and putting it into your mouth with your fingers, but you are still hungry.

1. Get a box of brownie mix.
2. Make brownies.
3. Put approximately the equivalent of 1 quart of brownie into your bowl.
4. Attempt to eat.
5. Discover they are too gooey and sticky to eat with your fingers and that scraping the fork with your teeth is unbearable.
6. Add milk and mix.
7. Drink through straw.
8. Totally ignore younger brother making gagging sounds.

Mmmm...brownie milkshake.

My miserable experience with virtual high school

Someone asked me about my experience with virtual high schools.

First, let me say that all the students I know who did it were adding a class in addition to going to traditional high school. I have no direct experience with kids who are going to virtual high school full time.

Second, let me say that it was almost universally a failure.

The one success was when Evan took Health from the state virtual school. There was an actual teacher whom he could email and there were weekly deadlines. He did the work, completed the credit and got a good grade.

The other students, including Brian and Andrew, took a course from a university. It was self-paced. You needed to finish within a year. There were no instructors you could contact for help (although it was claimed that there would be). The math class problems were assigned from a book that was no longer available. This was extra frustrating as the book the university sold for the class was the new one.

There were also a couple of kids from the agency who signed up for the courses.

As far as I know, not a single one actually finished their course.

Not one.

So if I were doing it again I would be very careful about "self-paced" courses. I would not let my kid take a course unless I had the time and ability to be the teacher. I would make sure that there was a period of time in which I could cancel and get my money after I reviewed the materials.

My experience is very limited, so don't make any decisions on it. Talk to others.

Monday, March 23, 2009

His Mouth Hurts

Remember when Gary got his tooth knocked out?

Today he finally had the root canal and temporary crown. He goes back later for the real crown.

In case you are wondering why it took so long, that was because he could theoretically keep the temporary tooth extension. Then when he decided he would get a real crown I did not realize that saying, "My tooth is a little sensitive" meant "OMG!!! IT HURTS! IT HURTS!" So I calmly suggested that maybe he would like to make the appointment for spring break.

He came home looking pale and saying that it really hurt. Expression of actual pain might mean he feels a little safer expressing weakness or it hurts beyond all belief.

I told him that I would get him whatever he wanted to eat. He is really hungry, not having eaten since breakfast (that was his choice), but all he wants is yogurt.

He's moved up to scrambled eggs and small pieces of pork roast.

A Message From Torina

A troll nearly ate Torina and she is now hiding under the bridge at a Busy Intersection. Her blog, as a result, is now private and you will need a password to get in. If you are a reader, you can email her at

torina.busyintersection at yahoo dot com

for access.



I got a call from the agency to do respite for a 17 y/o boy. I told her that it would be easier if Andrew weren't home on vacation and I needed to check in with everyone. I called back to tell her that my best offer was the sofa in the rec room.

She is going to call the supervisor and see if that is allowed -- it was five years ago. If it is she is going to check in with the boy and see what he wants.

The family who had committed to doing respite has to travel suddenly for some sort of family emergency. They could and would take him along, but there would be added expense to the agency. The social worker feels obligated to see if she can find an alternative.

So I guess we will see.

The burden would mostly be on Roland. I have to go to work. Everyone else is on Spring Break.

What she said

And by "she" I do mean altasien

T*rina, one of my favorite bloggers, got some serious threats from a Troll. Altasien has a great post on it. It was particularly savage because the troll stated he was going to turn her into CPS. Her crime? Writing about how exhausted and overwhelmed she was. Being honest about her feelings.

Really, read the post linked above.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Talking about Gary

Roland took me to the see the PA (physician's assistant) yesterday, which gave us some precious time alone to talk about .... the kids of course.

We spent a big chunk of time talking about Gary. We agree that we need to talk to the job services coach, and maybe the social worker. We need to tell the job services guy that jobs in The City are not a good idea, that we do not want him to suggest to Gary that if he has difficulty getting to an exciting job in The City he should consider dropping out of brick-and-mortar school and go to virtual high school.

We are very much aware though that we are getting all our information from Gary. Based upon past experience I know that his conversations with the job coach could be something like:

Gary: "I might not be able to get there on the bus on time. Do you know if there a different way that I could finish high school?"
Job Coach: "Some people are doing high school through ____. You need to talk with your parents though. They might want you to stay in regular school."
Gary: "But if it was okay with them, it would work?"
Job Coach: "It could. We do have a study group on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the kids who are doing virtual school. Everyone comes in to work on whatever projects they are having trouble with. The kids who succeed are really organized and keep to a schedule."

Gary to US: "[Job Coach] says that I can do virtual school! He thinks I am really organized and so it will be even better for me. He helps people on Tuesdays and Thursdays. If I get the job that is what I think I will do. This job would be perfect for me, because, you know, it will help me do exactly what I want to do for my entire life."

So I won't assume that the job coach is pushing this plan, but we do need to have a conversation.

So if you haven't kept up, Gary has had one interview at a martial arts place 30 miles away. The guy is looking for instructors (I'm pretty sure it is plural) with experience in martial arts whom he is willing to train. If I remember correctly, there is no actual payment for a while. He wants to exchange training for instruction. At some point, there is supposed to be the possibility of actual pay. And get this! The guy is going to open another location and one of the people he hires (the only one he hires?) will be in charge of the new location! And Gary is totally confident that this guy could pick him. I'm seeing this whole thing as good interview experience for Gary. I doubt that he is going to get the job, but would be a little worried if he did. The deal where he doesn't get paid but get promised the possibility of great rewards later is concerning, and the thing where he is considering dropping out of school and doing virtual school is very concerning. My experience with kids and virtual school has not been good. Roland and I both work full time and supervising a kid's high school education is not something we want to take on.

Roland and I are both interested in trying to figure out the whole over-confidence thing.

Several of you have commented that the over-confidence is probably actually a lack of confidence. I get that. I know that is what is happening.

I'm still trying to understand it though.

Carl expressed over-confidence, but it was accompanied by avoidance of risk and evidence of anxiety. I completely understood. He was worried about passing the test or getting the job or whatever. He lied to me and when he did so he convinced himself. It was half lying/half self-pep-talk. His dynamic was very much connected with being a people-pleaser. He wants you to think well of him. If I am critical of him he feels bad. He wants to change my opinion of him and he will quickly turn to lying to make that happen.

Carl's dynamic seemed an extreme form of something very normal.

David also expressed over-confidence, but the dynamic seemed deeper in his psyche. It is harder to explain. Though I know that somewhere deep inside David has anxiety about himself and his abilities, but it is very deep. David is a very sweet person to be around, but he doesn't attach. He isn't reactive. He doesn't punish people or try to scare them away. He doesn't seem to panic when he gets close. He just doesn't get close. It is all superficial. He is capable of turning off whatever there is. If I am critical of him, his conscious conclusion is that I am wrong and he needs to find someone who appreciates him.

I think that Carl is closer to emotional health. I think that he can develop a level of awareness of the dynamic and could develop healthier relationships with people and a better self-understanding.

David I love, and have less hope for. David may have a good life, but I think it will be very difficult for him to ever form healthy long-term relationships. The thought that he is wrong in any way is not permitted to enter his consciousness. He is right. He deserves to be treated like the princess he believes he is (his language for himself). It took me a year to suspect that he wasn't trying to be funny when he said some of the things he said. He believed them.

When I read the description of narcissistic personality disorder my heart sank.

I love David, and I know that at a very real way he is still the abandoned five-year-old who has to get himself and his baby brothers fed. He doesn't believe in love and relationships. He is committed to getting what he needs/wants. If he doesn't get it from one person then he has to find someone else. That kept him alive as a child.

Carl was well cared for as an a small child. In middle childhood his mother got sick and he became the caretaker. When she asked him how things were in school, she didn't really want to know. She wanted to hear that everything was fine, because she couldn't do anything about it. So he told her what she wanted to hear. He made her happy. He was in some ways a responsible adult and an irresponsible child. And he is still that kid. He still wants to be loved, and it is hard for him to believe that you will love him if you know the truth.

It is in this context that I wonder about Gary.

I know that the "I'm so great!" language actually masks something else.

What I am not sure about yet is how deep that dynamic is.

Roland thinks it is fairly isolated to being a fighter. His need to believe that he is great at martial arts is part of what makes him feel safe in the world.

Stupid Asthma

Last night I finally went to the walk-in clinic associated with my doctor's office and saw a PA there. The machine said that my oxygen levels were good. It was just about two hours since I used the rescue inhaler for the third time that day and I was coughing when I breathed deeply. She asked me if I was coughing anything up, because there are some nasty viruses going around. I said no.

I told her that I was making an appointment on Monday and she gave me a longer-lasting rescue inhaler. She said that she thought that my daily steroid wasn't working for me and I really needed to replace it, not the rescue, but that she wanted my regular physician to make the decision about what to try. I agreed.

So we got back in the car and drove home, and as we drove my breathing got easier.

Stupid, stupid anxiety.

I was relieved that it I still had the cough if I breathed really deeply (cause that meant it wasn't ALL "in my head"), but a lot of the chest tightenness , okay all of it, went away. I had talked to the doctor about the possibility of some of my symptoms being caused by being worried about having symptoms. He said that anxiety can cause athsma symptoms and I need to treat the symptoms. He seemed genuinely uninterested in whether a particular symptom/attack was caused by anxiety or not.

Okay, last night I had more troubling breathing when I lay down, so I settled myself in the recliner surrounded by comfy pillows. I woke up with the adorable Shih Tzu curled on a pillow right below my face.

So this morning I feel cruddy.

And I think I have a cold.

My sense of my own body, my ability to understand what is going on in it is all wacked out.

Do I have a slight headache and feel tired because I didn't sleep well, or because I have a cold?

Do I have post-nasal drip because the dog slept in my face, or because I have a cold?

Do I have this horrible cough because my asthma medicines aren't working or because I have asthma and a cold?

I think I have a cold.

I feel like I have a cold, but maybe I feel like I have a cold because the PA suggested that I did.

See, most people don't know how much control their mind has over their body. I haven't studied the biology, but I have come by enough of it second hand through the discussions of the ethics of medicine and human research that I do. I know how powerful that connection is.

Stupid anxiety.

I probably have a cold.

On the up side, whether it is a cold or an asthma flare-up the response is the same: treat the symptoms.

Now where is that humidifier?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Busy Day...and Asthma Update

I am spending sitting in front of a computer and meeting (in person) with people who may come to this college next year....all day. (9:30-4:00) I didn't realize when I signed up that it would be Andrew's first day home. Oh well, perhaps it is for the best. He can sleep and relax without my hovering.

It is always difficult to work on a Saturday.

I'm finding that I have to remind myself that I thought Symbicort was making me no better or perhaps even worse, but coming off of it I really doing less-than-great. I just took myself off it and went back to my old meds. I'm wondering now if I should have talked to my doctor about coming off it slowly in order to give the other med a chance to build up.

I forgot how long it takes for a daily treatment (as opposed to a rescue inhaler) to build up to make a difference, and I didn't realize that I was going to be going back to the beginning of the process.

BTW, normally I don't use the brand names of products. I've changed my mind in case any one else is searching for patient experiences of Symbicort. I don't doubt that it is a a good medicine for a bunch of people, but the whole experience did not go well for me.

Sweet Alice It Is

You have some really good name ideas. We are calling Andrew's girlfriend "Sweet Alice," although I will usually just refer to her as "Alice" in honor of Cathy's mother who died one year ago and was joined by her husband, Cathy's father, just recently.

When the original Sweet Alice died Cathy wrote to us:

With Dr. Strangelove and the Doo Wop Boys standing in attendance we watched
as she left to join her beloved parents and siblings. There was a tremendous burst of thunder accompanied by a distant lightning bolt and more rumbling thunder.

We all looked around, smiled and said, "Well, she's there."

I would not presume to use her name except by Cathy's request. She did suggest it and I am honored to name Andrew's Girlfriend after such a strong and beloved woman.

You all gave me some wonderful suggestions. I appreciate them!

Cathy does not blog herself, but she is a long-time reader, periodic commenter and email buddy. This blog started out as a way to vent what I couldn't say in other places. It became a way to make many new friends. There are no words for how much that means to me.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Gary's Interview Went Well

Gary is a funny kid. He's got this very juvenile confidence. Like a kid who's going to dig a hole to China. I wonder if it is a defense against feeling inadequate thing. I'm not sure. I do find myself often somewhere between impressed and stupified by it.

Anyway, he had an interview to teach martial arts at this place that he could just barely get to after school if the buses run perfectly on schedule. He feels the interview went really well and is "99% confident" that he will get a second interview.

For myself, I confess I would rather he not get the job. I doubt that he will really be able to get there and back on the bus. Commuting 40 minutes to work is one thing, driving 40 minutes to pick someone up from work, and then another 40 back is another. But Roland and I have decided not to worry about it. We will just see what happens.


We got Andrew from the airport. We took the girlfriend along (anyone want to nominate a pseudonym for her?). I talked to her a little bit about her plans. As in, I asked her to tell me about them and she did. I did not express any judgment, other than to congratulate her on getting in. She really has thought about it. On one hand I think there is very little chance that she would be going to this city if Andrew wasn't there. On the other hand, I am confident that she is doing what she wants to do.

A friend of hers is going to the same school, and that makes her feel safer. They will either share a college-sponsored apartment or, if her older sister goes along like she says she wants to, they may find somewhere else to live.

In any case, we had a pleasant afternoon and I am looking forward to a quiet evening.

Anther Boring Asthma Post (update)


I took Symbicort for about 10 days. After three days I was literally trying not to cry because I was so jittery. I asked students for permission to let another student return papers. I was stammering. I am willing to believed that my reaction was worse because the anxious feeling was making me anxious and upset. (Anyone who has struggled with anxiety will understand that. The rest of you just move on.) Ultimately though all that means is that the jitteriness might not bother someone else as much. I called the doctor's office and said I wanted to quit the med. They said that it could take my body a little longer to get used to it and would I give it a few more days. I agreed.

By Monday I was better. Not great, but better. I stammered a bit. I dropped my keys the first time I tried to pick them up, but mostly I was better. However whenever I used the medicine my chest felt funny and I coughed. After a while it seemed like the coughing got worse. Now Symbicort is one of those medications that can make you better unless it makes you worse, so I called the doctor again and said that I wasn't taking it any more. That was yesterday.

And today I felt calm.

I forgot what it was like to feel calm.

Calm is good.

Except my asthma cough is back. It isn't bad, but it is here. I used the rescue inhaler which helped for several hours, but now it is back. Just a little.

My last appointment with my doctor wasn't really to get a new medicine. It was to find out how aggressively I should treat symptoms. I wanted to know how bad it needed to be before I used the rescue inhaler. The answer was, "not bad. If you have any symptoms, use it, and if you need to use it more than twice a week come back."

Sigh. I have a feeling I'll be calling again.

That sound you hear is me slapping myself on the forehead.

If I stop taking my regular steroid inhaler for 10 days, it will leave my system. When I start back up on it, it will have to build back up. Having one steroid LEAVING your system while another is building up is not the same thing.

So I won't worry about how much I am using the rescue inhaler for a little week or two. (Don't worry, Jo. I will use it when I need it and if my symptoms get worse I will call the doctor anyway.)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Gary on Girls, Part 2

So we talked a bit more about the breakup. He is a little distressed but not much.

Of course it was hard to stay focused on the conversation with me since he was busy texting with the cutest girl at school.

Gary on Girls

Just yesterday Gary announced that he figured out the secret to "handling" women: chocolate.

Today we had this conversation.

"Is [Andrew] going to bring back the spare phone?"

"Why, do you need it?"

"Yes. [Girlfriend] wants me to give this one back."


"She's mad at me."

"What happened?" (Yes I'm nosey like that.)

"She's not talking to me. She got mad and said, 'well, I just won't talk to you then.' Then I said, 'Okay. I can live a couple of days without talking to you.' I guess that was the wrong response because I haven't heard from her in four days and now she wants to phone back."

"So the chocolate plan won't get you out of this one?"

"I don't have any more money left, but I think it is probably better to stay out of trouble to begin with."

Growing up is hard.

Anyone know anything about...

The Art Institutes?


Note: These schools do not include the Art Institute of Chicago.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Andrew's Excited

His girlfriend has been accepted at the Art Institute in the city where he is.

I have really mixed feelings about this. I've kept quiet because I try to stay out of the kids' lives, but I think I do have to say something. I told her that she shouldn't worry about the sticker price of the colleges. Just apply and see what happens with the financial aid.

The art institutes though are not college. They have little to no in-house financial aide. They epxect the students to get loans and pay the sticker price. I hope I am wrong about that, but I don't think I am. It is really expensive. They don't have dormitories, though they do have "campus-sponsored" apartments. It isn't entirely clear what that means. They are much more expensive than the dorms though.

I really like this girl. What Andrew is asking her to do (and hopefully she has applied elsewhere and is exploring her options) is to go deeply in debt so that she can live in the same city he is in.

I don't really understand why she would be applying to the art institute anyway. She is an excellent student.* If she wants to be in the same city, she should be applying to the university where he is attending. It is more expensive on paper, but almost certainly less expensive after financial aid.

So I am happy for Andrew and if she goes and wants to be there I am happy for her. I feel potentially responsible for setting her up for disappointment. I told her not to worry about the sticker price.

I forgot to tell her that there were things that looked like colleges that weren't colleges.

update: Suz was right to point out that that was a stupid thing to say. What I should have said was that I am afraid that this particular young woman is choosing the arts institute because she thinks she won't succeed in traditional college. I could be wrong about her. I hope I am. I also hope she isn't just following Andrew. It is a very expensive gamble.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Phone Call from Carl

Carl called yesterday. He was back at the Sanctuary where he has lived on and off for years. There are only two full-time caretakers there right now, including him, so that gives him a position of responsibility...and excellent choice of accommodations.

I told him that I liked him at the sanctuaray, by which I mean that I know he is safe. You know, warm, dry and fed. He said, "I like me here too" and then told me about the ways in which being there makes him feel good about himself and how when he is there is thinks he is in some ways a better person. When he is at the sanctuary he is taking care of himself and others.

Whenever I talk to him I always wonder how much of what he is saying is the truth. He told me that he was happy there, enjoying the solitude of the place, taking satisfaction from the work.

And that might be true.

It might also be that he is depressed, lonely, and finding it difficult to make himself do anything. Telling me that he is happy might be his way of talking himself into feeling good about it.

Either way, it was good to hear from him.

Now if I can just get David to call.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Grumpy Cattle Dog (update)

Well, our grumpy Cattle Dog nipped Gary badly enough that she broke the skin on his forehead. She has been getting worse over the years. When I first noticed she was getting grumpy I did take her to the vet. The vet didn't think there was anything wrong. She is just an 8-10 year old Cattle Dog.

Cattle Dog's are not recommended as family pets. They are serious working dogs. They are smart, trainable, tend to be dog-aggressive and sometimes people-aggressive. They herd cattle by nipping them in the heels, so biting can also be an issue. Our Cattle Dog (CD) did a little heel nipping when she was new. She quickly learned that all playing would stop. She also go a lot of basic status-reduction work. She will sit/stay for anyone in the house.

Over the past few years though she has grown increasingly grumpy. She doesn't like anyone to touch her hind quarters. She snarls sharply at anyone who bumps her. She often then looks apologetic, especially if it was me or Roland, but she does it.

And she has nipped the boys several times. She nipped Brian's hand when he was petting her while doing something else. He didn't pay attention to her changing mood. A few years ago she would have walked away when she got irritated. That time she nipped his hand.

Today Gary was rubbing her tummy and probably wrestling with her. She nipped his face, barely breaking the skin in one spot on his forehead. I'm pretty sure the agency would not be pleased.

The boys are not pleased either. They don't trust her. Roland just took her for a real walk, something he hasn't done for months. He says he will try to give her more exercise and see how she does. The boys don't have much confidence. They are in favor of us finding her a new home.

I have grave doubts about the ability of finding a new home for an older grumpy dog.

I don't like the options. The safety of humans comes first, of course.

We will see if exercising her hard helps.

Or perhaps we will just see if Roland will actually keep up with the exercising. I hope he does. It would be good for him too.

Update(3/24/09): we finally got the dog to the vet. She got a one-month supply of an anti-inflamatory pain killer.

Going Galt? Oh, Please Do!

I'm with Hilzoy. Really. Know any "successful" people who are so upset that they will have to pay taxes on their income over $250,000 who claim that they are going to "go Galt"? Tell them I will help them pack.

Okay, needlessly snarky, but I want repeat what Hilzoy and so many others have rightly pointed out.

First, if you make $300,000 in a year, you will pay the higher tax rate on the last $50,000, not on all off it. That's what a marginal tax rate IS. If it is so important to you that you not pay an extra couple percentage points on that $50,000 that you are going to try not to earn it, well, fine. Don't earn it.

Second, if you really plan on "going Galt" please remember that John Galt in Ayn Rand's book didn't try to keep his income lower while whining about taxes. He withdrew his creative and productive energies from society and LEFT. Untimately he went started a society full of like-minded people where everyone was proud of being selfish. In this magic land apparently no one got old without sufficient savings, because proudly selfish people apparently never manipulated the stock market or stole the pension funds of other proudly selfish people. No one ever developed a disability that prevented them from earning their own support, and no one had a baby and then lost the means of supporting that baby. None of this happened because all the people who went there were successful, creative, non-whining types to whom nothing bad ever happens.

So, please, if you agree with this STOP WHINING AND GO.


I will help you pack.

Of course I will expect you to pay me for my time.

Crated Dog, Night One

Well, that didn't go so well.

He was okay for a while and started whimpering at 12:30. Roland who had gone to sleep in the guest (aka Andrew's) bedroom, couldn't take it and came and got the dog and put him in the guest room with him.

There the dog scratched on his door to get out. Roland let him out and the dog scratched on my door to get in.

Roland put a barrier in front of my door and locked the dog into the guest room. The dog whined.

Roland locked the dog out of the bedroom wing. The dog went into the back yard (we have a dog door) and barked and howled.

Roland locked the dog in the kitchen and the dog pooped.


On the other hand, I got a very nice sleep and woke up feeling pretty good. Of course, I was sleeping in new clean bedding and with a new furnace filter.


I've lived with this dog for two years. My past pattern has been that as long as he is bathed regularly, the furnace filter is changed, and the house is kept fairly clean, I have been okay. I have even been able to help with the cleaning and dog bathing. It was a local event that affected every asthmatic in the area followed by the electricians that seemed to have pushed me to a new level of sensitivity. From September to January the dog slept in bed with me every night and did not give me any particular problems. I know that I could train him to sleep in the crate. It would just take a couple of tough nights. Maybe only one tough night. Roland is the one that is difficult.

So we are going to try letting the dog sleep in the bed and just keep everything clean (including the dog) and see how that goes.

If I have to crate train him maybe I can send Roland away for a while.

Now I need to get dressed and have breakfast.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Dinner with us

I'm not very good about going back and linking to old posts, but some of you may remember that I wrote a bit about Gary not wanting to eat with us. I wrote that in my early years of doing care I would have thought that it was about rejecting me. Now though I didn't see it that way at all. Instead I think that after years of having to eat on group home schedules it was difficult for him to feel hungry on command. He really didn't want to be told to eat.

So I mostly stopped serving dinner as sit down meals. I left food on the stove and told people that they could come and get it when they wanted. They could eat in the kitchen or else where if they brought back the dishes. Gary started eating more when I did that.

Slowly I have been asking people to eat at the table with me more often. Gary has become more and more comfortable with eating with us.

Today Roland and I were going to go out and buy important things like bed spreads and furnace filters. Because I wanted to be out of the house for a while we also decided to get some fast food dinner. Brian announced that he didn't want to come. He would just get himself something to eat. I asked Gary what he wanted to do, fully expected him to say he would stay. Truthfully, I was sort of looking forward to a couple hours with just Roland.

Gary though said, "I'll come!"

And he did. We three went shopping together and then we cheap dinner. He was relaxed and cheerful. We all had a really good time.

It was nice to see him so relaxed, and it struck me that he has come a long way in the past six months.

Shih Tzu Is Not Hypoallergenic (updated)

Shih Tzu's are supposed to be hypoallergenic because they don't shed. Of course, everyone knows that it isn't the hair that is the problem, it's the dander. The Cattle Dog, who does shed, does not trigger my allergies. The cats don't seem to bother me. Nope. It is the supposedly hypo-allergenic Shih Tzu that sets me off.

I started a new asthma med on Tuesday. The side effects were pretty harsh. Friday morning I called and said, "I can't take it anymore." The nurse asked me to give myself a couple more days to adjust. I agreed to keep it up over the weekend, and this morning was better, side effect-wise. My asthma symptoms are worse though. I think that might be because when I woke up the Shih Tzu was sleeping practically in my face.

I should say that I do like this dog. It is very similar to the dog I had as a kid. I would like to train it not to bark so much at passing pedestrians and visitors at the door, but it is a sweet puppy. I like to take it for walks. It likes to curl up with me in my favorite chair. That I don't want to separate from the dog makes it more difficult. Officially it is Brian's dog, but both boys really like him. He is fun to wrestle with, apparently.

And now he sleeps on my bed, because, you know, I'm the one who is allergic to him. Last year he slept in Brian's room, but Brian has moved downstairs to The Domain of the Big Black Cat Where No Dog May Go. So he sleeps with me.

If you look up advice on what to do if you have asthma and a pet the first thing they tell you to do is re-home the dog. Not thrilled with this one. I know that I could find a good home for a moderately-trained Shih Tzu. I remember how difficult it was to find an adult small dog when we were looking for one. It is the option of last resort though and right now my symptoms are not so bad that I'm thinking about it. Keeping the dog outside is not an option. It's a Shih Tzu. It is a people dog. It would be better to the dog to find it a new home than try to turn it into a yard dog.

So...other options:


  1. Keep the dog out of my bedroom. Keeping the Shih Tzu out of the master bedroom would mean keeping all the animals out, which would require constant vigilance from everyone. I just don't think that is likely. So I think the only reliable way to be sure the dog does not go where I sleep would be to move myself into the guest bedroom. Again, I could do it. If I need to do it, I will do it.
  2. Wash my bedding weekly. This will mean buying a new coverlet/comforter because I am NOT washing a handmade quilt every week. I might have to do this no matter where the dog sleeps at night.
  3. Set up monthly appointments to have the dog professionally groomed. I think I get worse as the dog's hair gets longer because I start combing out mats and giving it baths. Regular grooming will help.
  4. Get someone to give the dog a bath every week. Sigh. This just isn't going to happen. I look down that path and all I see is me being irritable, nagging, pleading, threatening, and yelling at Roland. Brian isn't the problem, but it really is two-person job. (Maybe there is some sort of equipment that I could buy that would keep the dog from jumping out of the tub so Brian could do it alone.)
  5. Prevent the dog from sleeping on my bed at night or at the very least not on the pillow next to my face. I've thought about trying to set up a pillow or something to attract the dog to the bottom of the bed. Usually that is where he sleeps. Sadly I really think that the only thing I can do to make sure he doesn't cuddle with my head is crate him. There isn't a lot of room for a crate in the master bedroom, but maybe I could find somewhere. I hate to crate him in a different room, but I know that he would get used to it and probably better and faster than I would.
  6. I need to ask Roland to check the air filter in the furnace. I know he changed it right after the electricians were done, but maybe it is time to do it again. We buy a good, not-cheap filter, but maybe we need to jump up to the really good, expensive filters.

I keep imagining Victoria ("It's Me or The Dog") reacting to my saying, "I have asthma but I like the dog to sleep on my bed." It isn't pretty. Sigh.

I just measured the dog crate. I'm pretty sure I can get it in next to my dresser.

I hope this works.

Anyone got any other ideas?

(De-shedding tools won't help since the Shih Tzu isn't a shedder).


Update: So I bought a coverlet for the bed. It will cover everything, including the pillows during the day. I can fold it back at night so even if animals have been sleeping on it, I will trap some of the dander in the fold. Some anyway. I'm considering washing the pillows, though I'm not sure I will get them done tonight. Right now the windows in the bedroom are open (no one think about the heating bill). I expect to go to bed in a clean room.

Roland confirmed that the furnace filter was nasty again and we bought new ones. We've been going through them, but then the electricians did stir up a LOT of dust. It is possible that the Shih Tzu is getting blamed for more than is strictly his fault.

Roland is also setting up the crate in the bedroom. I hope the dog deals with it without too much complaint. He used to sleep in it all the time when he was a puppy and untrustworthy. Roland is also washing the cover to the dog bed that goes in itWhen I picked up the dog at the groomers I made appointments for the next three months. We will see if monthly groomings work. Stacy kindly left me a link to a device that will restrain the doggy in the tub. I will talk to Brian to see if he thinks he can use it to wash the dog by himself.

Gary's and the job market

This kid has this incredible self-confidence that continues to amaze me. Maybe it is a lot of bravado, but it is convincing. The job market here, like so many other places, is really bad. The jobs that teenagers usually get are being taken by people who are currently laid off and looking for better work. Even the places that are still hiring teenagers only want the ones with experience.

Still, he talks about getting a job. I believe that he does submit applications with his job services coach. Of course it is possible that he doesn't. He may be trying to bluff me. I have just got to the point where I don't worry about whether he is telling the truth about things like that.

Anyway, he is bounding back after losing confidence with respect to marial arts, which is interesting because he gets loses match-ups with others all the time. He is talking again about going to this tournament in the summer...the one that will cost $1500. He can get about 1/3 of that from the agency, if they are convinced that he is working for another chunk of it. Once again he is talking about sponsorship. I'm being cautiously encouraging, which is to say that I say positive things without getting very invested.

He is an odd kid. He talks about how much he hates his English paper, about how he can't write and that he knows that part of it is that he is intimidated by the papers. He doesn't see how he can do it. Then he asks me if students write in my class and I say that they have to write at least 6 one-page papers (they can turn in one a week and I will take the top six grades), participate in the on-line forum every week, and write one 10-page research paper. He tells me that that is NOTHING. He can do that! College sounds easy!

I don't know how he manages to maintain this positive self-image. I think it is a good thing, don't get me wrong. I'm impressed with him. I just wonder how he manages it.

He is always full of plans. Big plans.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Total natural consequences

Gotta love them.

At Christmas we had two spare old phones lying around in case anyone needed them. Well, Andrew took one back to college with him because his phone wasn't holding a charge very long. Gary took the other a bit ago for the same reason.

Anyway, yesterday Gary left the last working phone on the bus.

I've been totally nice about it. I understand. I'm sympathetic, and there is nothing I can do about it. So sad.

Next month we are eligible for new phones and Roland is planning on getting one. I told Gary a while back that he could have Roland's hand-me-down, but until then he is stuck.

He told me that he HAS to have a phone. He has important phone calls to make and he can't wait until he gets home.

Oh the horror.

I told him that I understood. "It is going to be a hard month."

"Isn't there anything else I can do?"

"Do you have any money?"


"Can't think of anything then."

I do love natural consequences.

Why College Tuition Is So High

Just to be clear up front: this is part and only part of the picture. I do think that cost to students and families are too high, and that that is a problem for our society which needs to be dealt with, but it can't be dealt with by telling the colleges to cut costs. Also, let me take a minute to say that private colleges have higher tuition because public colleges get tax money. That that needs to be said is probably surprising to you, but I do run into a fair number of people who think that the state universities are more efficient than we are. They're not. They spend more per student.

Colleges are expected to offer more than in the past: computer labs; nicer dorms; better food; electronic white boards (Smartboards). One little known fact is that colleges are spending a higher percentage on administration than they did before. It isn't all justified, but some of it is. Here that has meant going from one mental health counselor to three, a full-time staff person to assist students with learning disabilities, a better staffed career services department, more people in the business and financial aid offices, and more people in student services running programs, not to mention the six over-worked people in the IT department.

The pressure to research is no longer just what happens at "research universities." Faculty are pressured/feel the need to research more, and they respond by demanding that teaching loads be reduced. I'm inclined to think this affects things like class size more than total cost of the education, but it should be mentioned. I may sometime write an entire post about what I think the pressure for everyone to research is doing to the profession, but that is another post.

Stated tuition numbers are close to meaningless. When a school says its tuition is $30,000 a year what they mean is that (1) they think they are just as good as that other school that charges $30,000 a year; and (2) they think there is a chance that they can get a few students to actually pay that much. Here, where our tuition is nowhere near that high, the students who are paying full tuition are generally international students.

You should know that from the college's perspective there are two kinds of financial aid: real money and discounts. Andrew is going to school on a "tuition exchange" scholarship*. When I look at his bill it says that the school has given him something like $8000/quarter. In fact no actual money went anywhere. They just aren't charging him anything. The other kind of financial aid puts real money into our bank account. Student loans represent real money. Many colleges have endowed scholarships which means that there is actual money in an actual account that generates actual income that we give to ourselves on behalf of a student. Scholarships students get from outside organizations are also real money. Many colleges have discount rates of 50%. That means that their published tuition is, say, $20,000 and they collect an average of $10,000 of tuition money per student. That is less money than you may imagine when you think of all the salaries, science equipment, books computers, etc the college has to pay for.

So what this means is that when you try to figure out how much college costs, the sticker price is an inaccurate measure. Fortunately, there are people who figure out how much families spend and how deeply students go into debt. That number is way too high, and it is a problem.

Now here is the dirty little secret: less and less scholarship money is going to students based upon need.

That might not sound like a bad thing. Meritocracy is good, right? Students who work hard and get the grades should get the money. Well, it is less of a good thing when you get into the nitty-gritty and realize that there are a bunch of kids getting very generous scholarships who have GPA's of 4.0 and families whose make $200,000 a year, and another bunch of hard-working kids paying for their education primarily with loans whose GPA is a 3.6 and whose families make $50,000. I am not saying that all the kids with 4.0's come from wealthy families and all the kids with 3.6's come from middle income-families. I AM saying that when a lot of the available non-loan financial aide is awarded to the kids at the top of the academic meritocracy without regard to need, there isn't a lot left over for other students who really need it.

You may be wondering why colleges do this. Why don't they give out their aid based upon need? The answer: US News & World Reports. Okay, it isn't that simple, but it is almost that simple. College ratings have become immensely important to students, families, and people who give out grants. Ratings are calculated on a variety of factors and one important one is the stats on incoming students. If a college wants to gain in the rankings, it will need to recruit more students with 4.0's and high test scores. Colleges are competing for those students. They may think they are paying us, but we are trying to out-bid other schools for them. It is becoming crazy. We are creating new "scholarships" for the "best" students and there is no money behind them at all.

We need the kids who have 3.5's to pay us more money so that we can give the 4.0 students a free ride.

This existed before widely published college rankings, but it was not this bad. I went to college on a merit scholarship. Twenty-five students a year got it and it came with an automatic payment of what was then about 25% of the tuition. However, if you got the scholarship the college met your need. Every year there were one or two of us whose scholarships were equivalent to 50% or even 100% of the cost of tuition. If the other 23 students were unhappy with their 25% of tuition scholarship then they could go somewhere else and some other student would get it. An average entering GPA of 3.6 instead of 3.7 was not big deal. Still, colleges typically award the money they have to give away based upon merit.

The other side of the problem is that state schools are getting less support from tax money and the federal government has cut their budget for need-based aid. When you hear that students are increasingly going into debt it is not merely that the cost is going up, but that the funding is going down. More of the cost is being put on a smaller percentage of students.

As a society we have to decide whether higher education is important to us. I accept that it isn't the right choice for everybody, but I also believe that a significant portion of our population needs higher education and that it is a tragedy for some of us not to get it because we can't afford it. The only way I know to solve problems this big is collectively, and in this case that means through our government. You may have another idea, but I don't see how increased federal support cannot be a big part of the solution.

*Tuition Exchange is a program that colleges can join. Every time we give a scholarship to a student whose parents work at one of the other colleges in the program, we get a credit that allows us to send one of our kids into the program. Schools need to stay in balance. So some schools only give scholarships to 10% or less of qualifying applicants. Some, like us, have a lot of kids we want to send out and so give the scholarship to 100% of qualifying students accepted to the college.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Jo will approve

'cause she always seems to be the one who pushes me to see the doctor.

So I told my doctor about the asthma problems I have had, starting with the ... um ... thing that happened here that made the air bad. (Sorry, it was in a while back and I didn't say anything because blogging it would have been waving a great big flag saying "I LIVE HERE." The air was bad, okay? If you have guesses, kindly do not live them in the comments.) He thinks that it was the bad thing that set me off and that my lungs never quite got back to good. Bad things can do that sometimes.

Anyway, he has changed my daily inhaler from the one I have to one that is like the one I have PLUS a dose of a long term version of my rescue inhaler. If I like it better I can stay on it, but I think I am not going to like it better. It makes me jittery. He wanted to listen to my lungs. I told him that it was a good day; I wasn't having any symptoms. Then I coughed and said, "Well, almost no symptoms." He reported that he could hear just a little bit of wheezing.

In other news, we have to call back the electricians because Brian's ceiling light only works when the rec room light is turned on. This makes sense because once upon a time Brian's room was the back third of the rec room and his light was on the same switch. Still, for years it did operate independently and I am confident that it can once again.

Let's see...what else? My last computer is well and truly dead. The appropriate response to that is "woo hoo!" In these tough economic times the college is not rushing out to buy me a new computer. I did however get to keep the loaner from IT, which is a much better computer than my previous one, even when that computer was working. It is too big to fit into the padded section of my back pack that I have been using for years. I have decided that I must start saving allowance to buy a grown up bag. I went to look at them before my appointment today. What I don't understand is why no one seems to be able to make a woman's computer bag with padded straps. I don't have anything against using a plain black unisex bag, but I sort of like some of the ones designed for women.

I just don't want to choose between looks and comfort.

There was one comfortable bag...it was red and had metal hearts on it. I'd rather have black.

I had to suspend Gary's cell phone service because he can't find his phone. He probably left it on the bus. He was already using the only remaining "back up" phone in the house. We let Andrew take the other off to college since his battery was having trouble holding a charge. We are "eligible for new phones at discount pricing" in about a month. I guess he might just have to do without for a while. If you see his phone though, please let us know.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Kindle -- some days later

So I have owned the Kindle 2 for almost two weeks. I just thought I would check in and tell you how much I like it.

I like it sooooo much that Saturday, when I was lying on my bed and I thought maybe I would re-read one of my favorite books which was like four feet away from me, I had to talk myself out of buying it on the Kindle. It would have been so easy. Now it wasn't that it would have been such an effort to roll over and pull the book off the shelf. It was that it seems like such an effort to have to hold the book open and turn the pages. I mean, how lame is that? It's like after you get used to having cruise control, paying attention to your speed and the position of your foot feels like an extraordinary task. (Not you? Well, I'm lazy past all imagination.)

When I read with the Kindle I just hold this tablet thingy and periodically move my thumb. I don't lose my place when I put it down. It remembers where I am. When I don't know what a word means I can push the little joystick thingy and see the definition of the word at the bottom of the page. I haven't actually bothered to put down a book and look up a word in a dictionary in a very long time. At least for fiction, I mean.

I am proud to report that I did resist the temptation to purchase a Kindle copy of the book that was a mere four feet away. I bought American Gods by Neil Gaiman instead. In the past 9 days I have read four novels on the Kindle. One was Coraline, but another was American Gods, so it evens out. I have purchased one academic anthology and read several articles in it. I have the first chapter of half a dozen other books (fiction and non-fiction) sitting in my list while I decide whether to buy them.

The lack of page numbers is still bothering me, mostly in the anthology. If I put it down for a while there is no quick way to figure out which article or chapter I am in. It can be done, but it is wierd. I can look at the bottom of the screen and see that the text on the screen is location 105-120. I can then click to the table of contents, which has no location numbers, and click on the title of the article I think I am in. If it starts at location 210, that's not it. Usually in anthologies there is a header that tells you what chapter or article you are in.

That and the lack of organizational folders are my only major complaints. I could probably come up with a long list of suggestions, but that's all for actual complaints.

Except of course that they need to get Laurie King's The Beekeeper's Apprentice available NOW. I'm in this contest where someone (probably a publicist) is impersonating Mary Russell (the now 109 year old protagonist of a series of Laurie King's books). She sends out quotes from the book and you respond to them. The problem is that Friday evening I was telling our guests about it and Ron, who is a very kind 85 year-old man who has never asked me for anything, asked if he could borrow it. I couldn't say no. The last three of the Mary Russell books are available on Kindle, but the first five are not...yet. I really want that book back...it is difficult to participate in the contest if I can't look for the quotes. I couldn't let myself buy the book if it was just on the shelf, but who knows how long it will take Ron to read it?

I think he is trying to protect me

The other philosophy professor here is a marvelous colleague. He was a fantastic mentor when I first showed up. He offers to do things that he knows that I hate doing. He's just an all around great guy. We are both happily married to other people, but every now and then a student will ask to confirm that. Particularly if we are "quarrelling." He says that the philosophy I read and teach is boring. I reply that it is only boring to him because it makes sense. That sort of thing.

Anyway, he is one of the only people who has expressed doubts about my continuing to be a foster parent. He shakes his head and says that Roland and I are too nice. He has laughed and said, "You really have to stop taking all these kids!" Early on he very gently tried to communicate to me that being a foster mom was likely to hurt my career. Once it became clear to him that I was making a fully informed choice about my life, he has been supportive.*

But he still wants to protect me from the stigma of being the mother of six kids.

And yes, that is how he sees it, or how he sees other people see it. When people ask me how many kids I have I say six. I see questions in their eyes that I don't answer. If they make comments that suggest that they are imagining that I went through six pregnancies, I don't correct them. I let them think what they think. On the blog I talk about bioboys and foster boys, but in real life I just let people be confused.

But my colleague is protective of me and of my reputation.

Last week we had lunch and an alumna came by to say hi to him and show him her baby. Of course I was the one interested in holding the baby. She asked if I was ready to be a grandma and I said that I would be when my kids were ready to be parents. After a while she talked about how far her life is from what she thought it would be a few years before. I said, "I know what you mean. My husband and I planned on having two girls."

"What did you have?"

"Six boys so far."

Her eyes get just a little big. I saw the question cross her face. I ccould almost hear her thinking, "How can she be a college professor and have six kids?" She was imagining whatever she was imagining and deciding not to ask. (They almost always decide not to ask. Probably has something to do with my direct eye contact, smiling, one-eye-brow raised, "I dare you to ask" expression.)

My colleague makes a noise of protest and says, "She didn't HAVE six kids. She and her husband are foster parents."

His attitude says that I am making a joke and he isn't going to let me get away with it. That's not it though. We are both very good at the straight-faced ... well, lie. If I start a tall tale he will generally join right in. Frankly I am more likely to blow his cover than the other way around. I will take pity on the poor confused mark and say something like, "Yeah, and he also has a bridge he'd like to sell you." And he corrects me in the same spirit...saving the poor mark. He understands that I won't deny any of my kids. He knows why I won't, and he respects that decision, but he also knows that having six kids reduces me in some people's eyes. And I know that is what bothers him. I know this because I have worked with him for sixteen years. I know him.

I of course have mixed feelings about it. I understand why he does it and I appreciate those reasons. That some of my kids are foster kids is not a secret. Anyone who has known me through the process knows it. In his mind it isn't that the information is a secret. It is that I can't be the one who says it. So he clears it up for me.

I think what really bothers me is the need for the record to be set straight.

I work in a world in which women average less than one child each. I know a few female professors who have birthed two children, but can think of only one who had three. More than two requires an explanation. Who took care of them? How did you pull it off? Does/did your husband stay home?

I don't mind answering these question when the questioner has a need to know. Part of what I do is mentor younger women. When they want to know what choices I made, were there sacrifices and how do I feel about it now, I am happy to talk to them.

And I live here too. I have the values of this world I inhabit.

I feel like I should tell my colleague not to explain my family to people. If I did he would do as I ask, though it would be hard. He would not be comfortable sitting there, knowing I was being falsely judged and not say anything about it. I give myself lists of reasons for not saying anything. They are true reasons.

And maybe one of them is that only part of me dislikes that he does this.

*My scholarship does not meet the bar for promotion to full professor. I may still get there, but it will be later than others. Had I not done care I probably would have made it on schedule -- or perhaps I just would not have had an excuse.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Quick updates

computer dead. Kaput. Won't turn on. Fortunately a week ago it turned off in the middle of nothing and I backed stuff up. Roland will let me use his computer as necessary, but he needs it too and it is at his desk. Just not the same as having the computer next to my chair, reading posts and tweets at a moment's desire. If I get lucky I will get a loaner from IT tomorrow.

Gary's found a job on Craig's list for "an experienced martial arts instructor." He sent an email yesterday and is very surprised and annoyed not to get a response. "How many experienced trainers could there be?" I said, "the question is how many people THINK they are qualified." He then explained, again, how much better he is than almost everyone he met. I nodded.

I think I forgot to tell you about Gary coming back with an injury and story remarkable like the one Brian told the week before him. Someone who did not have control hurt him. He was emotionally more subdued than Brian was but did tell me that he was never going to spar with that guy again.

Oh the things I have learned not to say.

Sigh...well, I will be back on line periodically. The twitter box on the side bar will continue to update some. Brian reads those, so I do have to be careful what I tweet.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Electricity and Asthma

Thank you all for your insights and experience. I'm still sorting through it. I have an appointment with my physician for Tuesday.

The husband and boys vaccuumed and dusted while I grocery shopped for our dinner guests, and it seems to have helped. I'm breathing well and calmly. I didn't cough the whole evening. I'm feeling better.

The electrician came by to fix the last outlet and get paid. He also figured out that Roland had wired the dining room fixture just fine. It wasn't working because the switch was broken. He put in a new switch. The job came in under budget which was nice. Well, it came under the maximum "don't let me ask for extra outlets if it pushes me past this number" budget -- and that only if we don't count the attic fan which will have to be replaced when the weather improves. Anyway, I liked the guys, for all the trouble there was with getting the job done on time. I would still recommend them, with the appropiate warning of course.

The electrician helped Roland get the dining room light installed. Before he left he looked at it and said, "I'm so glad those could be saved. They're hammered brass and bronze you know." I didn't, and it is nice to know.

Then they left, giving the dogs one last treat each.

I think they are really going to miss my dogs.

Asthmatic Expectations

I know what expectations are realistic if you are diabetic. I had gestational diabetes. I stayed off all blood sugar meds by sticking to a careful diet and exercise plan. The plan was more rigorous than I could commit to indefinitely. I didn't go to a conference because the thought of trying to eat when and what I should, not to mention take four scheduled 10-minute walks, while attending various sessions was just too much to contemplate. I know that if I were to develop diabetes again that it would be likely that I would go on medication and that medication would mean that I would not have to follow as strict a regimine, but that I still couldn't have the cake.

Well, not very much cake anyway.

The point is that it is unrealistic to expect that treating your diabetes means getting to live as though you aren't diabetic. You still have to follow the diet.

So is it similar for asthma? If your asthma flairs up when you do deep cleaning or dog washing does that mean that your asthma is not well-controlled, or that you should avoid deep cleaning and dog washing?

I really don't know. I do know that if I have to give up deep cleaning and dog washing for the sake of my health, then that is a sacrifice I am willing to make.

And yes, I am going to make an appointment with the doctor and get some feedback on this.

Forgive me. I'm tired and grumpy. I've had electricians cutting into plaster raising dust on and off for three weeks and I still don't have ceiling lights in my dining and living room. Since last night I have either been coughing or dealing with the trembly, irritable feeling the inhaler produces.

And I don't have any chocolate in my office.

Grumble, grumble.

Asthma Post

I need a asthma mentor. It seems easy to figure out what to do, but it isn't really. I probably over think it.

I've noticed that I literally forget what it is like to breathe normally. What I mean is that there are times when I wonder whether I am having trouble breathing because I am thinking about it, or if I am distracted by my breathing because it is just a little bit difficult to breathe. So I bought an Peak Flow Meter. It's this plastic thing you blow into and it gives you a reading. It was supposed to help. I could get an objective measurement that would tell me "not to worry." The way it works is that you use it until you figure out what your peak number is. Then you turn the little dial thing so that you move the top of the green zone to you peak. Now when you blow in the little red dot will land in either green, yellow, or red. If it is green, you're fine. Don't worry.

Okay, so last night I cleaned carpets after the electricians left. I vaccuumed really carefully and then I got on the ground with the carpet spot cleaner and took care of some spots that had been there a long time. I may have breathed in a fair amount of plaster dust or pet dander. I don't know.

I do know that afterwards I felt bad. I was coughing. I used the meter. I could get it to go into the green zone, but blowing that hard produced a coughing fit. I used the rescue inhaler. It was an old one and I wasn't sure if it really had enough medication in it, so I asked Roland to pick up the new one waiting for me at the pharmacy. He got home about two hours later and I used it. I went to bed tired. I wasn't coughing much, and not at all if I was still.

I woke up tired and coughing some. I thought about staying home with my asthma and the alergens, but work seemed to be a better plan. I used the rescue inhaler.

I came to work, coughed while talking to a student, and went to class. I was okay, although I did cough some. My voice sounded like I was getting laryngitis. By the end of class though I was better. I did cough when I took an experimental deep breath, and I felt just a tiny bit breathless, but it was that "do I feel that way because I'm thinking about it?" level.

I came back to my office determined to treat again (2.5 hours later) and decided to use the peak flow meter first. My reading was excellent (as high as ever) and getting it made me cough for a while.

So what the heck does that mean? Do I take another hit of the medicine, or do I distract myself and stop thinking about whether my breathing is normal?

I think I need to call the doctor and set up an appointment to talk about managing my asthma...although maybe I need to make an appointment with an asthma educator. There are such people aren't there? I know they exist for diabetics.

Anyone out there got any helpful information? Advice? Thoughts?

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Pictures of the Fixtures

I took some photos of the fixtures I've been talking about, in case you were interested.

This is the one in the dining room. The living room is the same except it has a 2" dark red glass ball that hangs in the center. There are wall sconces that coordinate in the living room, but they are current taken apart and need to be rewired. Actually, the ceiling fixtures are a mess right now too. We may have to have them professionally re-wired. Roland tried but the electrician said he didn't do them right. I took this photo before they came down.

These are the ones in the guest bedroom. These are the least attractive of the bunch. Since this bedroom is also the warmest in summer we are considering putting up a fan. We will keep the original lights in a box in the closet if we do.

The ones in the master bedroom may be my favorites, although I admit the compact florescent doesn't do much for the sconce:

I've been reminding myself that I really like the living & dining room lights. I'm so frustrated right now because they are pulled apart. The electrician took off the bare light bulbs that were hanging from the ceiling and walls, so we don't have anything other than lamps out here now. Part of me is just tempted to go to the home improvement store and buy new stuff.
I must resist that temptation, and not just because I like the old fixtures. The electrician bill is going to be higher than expected. Sigh. In part that is because we asked for more outlets than he originally figured. Partly it is because he found previous re-wiring that was unsafe and had to be fixed. We've put off replacing the attic fan (which we had hoped could be repaired) for another month, which should help a little.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Practical Advice for 16 y/o (updated)

Hannah asked a couple specific questions about parenting a 16 y/o boy. Please feel free to add your advice, or questions. I will update this post if there are questions.

They have to cook dinner once a week, and I have them pick a weekly and a daily chore. Most of the time the daily chore is kitchen clean-up on the days when they don't cook. I find that it is a lot of work to make them do the chores, so I am careful not to give them too much and to give them choices among things I can stand to have left undone for a while. Most of the boys have chosen to do their own laundry. That is partly because Roland does laundry for those who don't and he seems to have a policy of quarantining clothes for two weeks. He also complains that the reason he has so much trouble getting laundry done is that we all have too many clothes. Wait...I'm digressing.

I don't worry about their rooms unless it is a safety issue. I do remind kids every now and then that we do live in an area where there are some spiders that like to hide in clothes on the floor and which have some bad bites. None have actually made it into their bedrooms since we moved in, but I try to scare them. It doesn't work.

What you give them for allowance will be tied to what you expect them to pay for. I pay out monthly. I put $10 in their savings account, $10 into their account for presents, and give them $40. I have been thinking about just giving them the present money, but they prefer for me to force that savings. That they give presents to each other is important to me, so I will probably keep doing it. I like using Visa Buxx. It allows me to see where they are spending their money. I don't tie allowance to chores. I have sometimes paid kids to do extra work, but when I do that they seem to expect much more money than the job is worth. I pay allowance up front and I don't give loans.

I have friends who pay that amount weekly. Their kids are expected to pay for their own school lunches if they decide not to pack (foster kids get free lunch at school), and at least some of their own clothes and toiletries.

We buy inexpensive basic toiletries. I don't buy deodorant that is heavily perfumed because they will spray it all over themselves and want more in a week.

Homework Time:
I don't worry too much about this with older boys. In theory they are not supposed to spend more than 1/2 hour in front of an electronic screen until their homework in finished. In practice they lie their petudies off about homework, and it is a fight I can't win. Right now both boys are restricted from all electronics (except watching TV with us) until they can demonstrate that all their grades are at least a C. Gary keeps telling me that the school web site is all messed up and his grades are really higher than they appear. I nod sympathetically and tell him that I would accept a note or email from his teachers instead of a print out from the web site. Then he tells me he is staying after school to take another quiz. (Brian just has to pull his grade in Band up. This will happen when he gets the boat-load of points for the concert, or after weeks of remembering to turn in his practice sheets. He is bummed because he can't turn in late practice sheets so he can't just "catch up" and fix that grade quickly.) I find that I am really enjoying them while they are not distracted by the electronics. They are also getting more sleep.

Cell phone
You didn't ask, but I like the kids having cell phones. I pay for text messaging and remind them about the minutes. Most teens seem happy to do nothing but texting.

Entertaining Themselves
I don't worry much about what they do with themselves, Hannah. I bought kids art supplies, books, whatever. They eventually think of something else they want to do. Every teen I know though loves their MP3 player. I bought an iP*d for Gary from a pawn shop as a moving-in gift. He was very happy with it, at least until he washed it.

Tell Them What They Don't Know
It is really surprising how many rules we have without realizing that they are rules. Are you allowed to get a bowl of cereal any time you are hungry? What foods are off limits. At your house is not flushing the toilet every time disgusting, or is flushing all the time wasteful? I always tell them that they won't get in trouble for doing something or eating something that I had not told them not to.

I have found that I need to be very direct about how much money I budget for Christmas and birthdays. Many of the kids in foster care have had extremes. Either no one buys them anything, or they get piles of stuff from charities and family trying to compensate for everything else. Kids who grow up with you figure out what you budget because they know what you gave them before. A kid who has not lived with you will genuinely have no idea. Though I find it awkward to tell them that I generally spend under $50 for birthday presents, it is information they need.

Update 2:
It occurred to me that it would be a good idea to talk about showers. Teenagers fall asleep in them. They shower until the hot water is gone. It is very, very annoying. I haven't quite decided to buy this, but I'm thinking about. Seriously.

Are there any more questions?

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Good books?

Hannah asked for recommendations for books to help prepare for the entry of a 16 year old boy in her family. I've been pondering it and I realize I don't really have good books that focus on teens...or at least not many.

I really like Faber and Mazlish. I prefer the more theoretical book: Liberated Parents, Liberated Children although I know there How to Talk book is generally more popular. They have a newer one with examples for teens. These are just good parenting books, nothing in there is intended for kids from foster care.

I think the memoir Three Little Words does an excellent job of giving insight into perspectives of kids who have spent a good deal of time in foster care. There's a Kindle edition of it!

I still think that the best foster care training I have ever got was from Alanon. The reason that it has been so helpful is that it is all about (or largely about) learning to let other people take the journeys they need to take. I got better there at two things: 1. stepping back and letting them do what they needed to do; and 2. doing what I needed to do while letting go of the consequences. Both of those things together mean that I don't judge my choices based upon the results. Well, I remind myself not to, but it isn't easy. I will look around and see if there is a good book that deals with that.

Does anyone have any book recommendations? Please add them in the comments.

Bad TV inspires good talk

So I watched the season finale of Secret Life of the American Teenager last night. As I have mentioned before it is really bad, but some of the characters are well-played and it is difficult (for me) not to care about them and want to know what will happen. Basically I have spent the whole season being glad that the show hasn't presented adoption as "the beautiful choice" after which the mother is able to restart her life as though nothing happened. I was also routing for Amy to figure out how to parent the baby since it was clearly what she wanted. That is how the season ended...sorry if you have it recorded and didn't want to know. Amy's going to parent the baby and everyone in magic TV land is going to help.

Anyway, the point is that Gary watched the end with me. Now I have a rule about watching bad TV with me. The rule is that I know it is BAD, however I am enjoying it so if they watch they have to SHUT UP. No mocking the mock-worthy while I am endulging.

When it was over Gary asked the sort of questions that one would ask about a show you haven't been watching. "Who's that guy and why is he doing that?" sort of question. I'll spare you the details. We did end up having a long conversation about teenagers and whether and why they have sex, and about the nature of consent in sex. He agreed that if a girl reported that she wasn't even sure that what they did was sex, it probably wasn't a "full consent" sort of situation. Thought I avoided it, I did end up telling him that Ricky (the babydaddy) is in foster care, that his father was a scary dude and was out of jail for a while but went back when one of Ricky's friends (or at least schoolmates) reported the dad for buying drugs.

Gary found a lot of similarities, and it got him talking about his dad.

He's wanted to talk about his dad a lot recently. A couple of days ago he spontaneously told me a story about an interaction between his dad and his favorite staff member at the group home. He was afraid it was going to come to blows. He told me how he jumped between them and got his dad to "stand down." He didn't want to see "his two most favorite people in the whole world" fighting. And in that conversation he did bring out all the love he has for his dad. It is still there. He wanted to talk about it.

Yesterday he wanted to talk about being angry at his dad for cutting off all contact. So we talked about that.

At one point I asked to him to tell me what age his dad was when HE was abandoned by his parents. Gary said his dad was twelve when he was dropped off at the juvenile detention facility. (Gary's Dad never went home. He spent his teen years in foster care.)

Anyway, along the way I told him that there was some evidence that when that happens, the parents don't have a model for how to parent their kids past the age of their own abandonment. So, if Gary's Dad wasn't parented after he was twelve, then he probably didn't know how to be a parent to to a kid who was twelve or thirteen or older. I pointed out that his dad did better by him than his grandfather did by his dad. (Mostly that was to encourage him that he could do better still.) Anyway that made sense to Gary. He said that when his dad visited him he did not reprimand him for saying things that he had not been allowed to say when he was younger. It did seem like his dad stopped treating him like a kid, which I know was hard for him then because he so wanted to be parented.

Gary said he was angry that his dad had decided not to talk to him anymore. I told him that I didn't think that his dad had made that decision. I suspected that it was more that on any given day he didn't call. He probably told himself that he should call, but he wasn't sure what to say and so put it off again. (Gary hasn't heard from his father since his birthday in September. I am pretty angry on his behalf, but that is another story). Gary at first thought that I was wrong about that, but later said, "You know, maybe he hasn't decided never to talk to me, maybe he is just avoiding calling. Do you think so?"

Gary didn't get very emotional about it, but he talked about how his father had chosen his siblings. "I mean he said that. He said, 'I can't take care of all of you and I am choosing them.' It was because of what I did." I nodded. It is true. Gary knows it is true. And it still hurts him. Even though Gary accepts that he can't go home, it hurts. And every now and then he needs to air out that pain.

There isn't much to do about that one. It is just there, and it hurts.

Monday, March 02, 2009

David and Carl

I still haven't heard from him.

From what I can patch together it appears that he moved out of the apartment with the nice, stable female friend and in with a boyfriend. Then he saw said boyfriend out with a sweet young thing, and moved out and is staying on the couch of yet another friend.


He is unlikely to call me until his life is settled, and I can respect that.

I hope it is sooner rather than later.

I also am not entirely certainly where Carl is living. He might be back at the sanctuary, or not. I haven't heard from him for a couple of months either.

Evan though still seems to be doing okay.

Electrical update

All around my house there are bulbs hanging from walls and ceilings. The actual fixtures are not installed. The bathroom and kitchen lights do not work. The electricians did not make it all last week, but promise to be here on Wednesday. At that time they will:

1. Get back into the attic and replace the wires (which they apparently cut, oops) to my kitchen and bathroom lights. They are very sorry that they told me that I could put everything back into my pantry closet and now I have to take it out again.

2. Put the last outlet in my bedroom so that I can move my bed out from the middle of the room and back to the wall.

3. Re-wire the back entry light, using wire molding.

4. Give Gary a couple extra outlets, also using molding.

5. Install a new door bell.

6. Install an outside outlet where that box is under the security light. (You know, the one on the garage.)

They will not put a new light on the ceiling in the laundry room like we talked about and they will not install any fixtures. We told them that we didn't need the light and that we could do the fixutres. The electrician's buddy was very pleased to be told that we could install our own fixtures. Our job got interrupted by service calls and is now interrupting other scheduled jobs. I know this is what happens to small independent contractors. I was warned that it happens to this guy in particular.

We have to decide what to do about the fixtures. They had already re-installed the dining room one and we were getting some sparkage. Actually, a lot of sparkage. Anyway, we either have to re-wire the fixtures or put in new stuff. As you know I want to keep the old stuff, but we will see how much difficulty we have doing the rewiring. Paying the elctrician to dis-assemble fixtures and put new thingamajigs in them would put me way over budget.

If we do buy new stuff, I will package up the old stuff carefully and put it in the top of a closet so that we, or other owners, will have the option of fixing them and putting them back in.