Thursday, April 30, 2009

Kindle: Stealth Reading

The Kindle brings some unexpected (at least for me) advantages. There is of course delight of instant gratification, and the related joy of receiving a book you pre-ordered the SECOND it is available without having to go to a bookstore.

But there are other things too.

Say for instance that you are a fan of the Mary Russell books and a new one comes out at midnight on Monday (which is actually the first second it is Tuesday, but that confuses poeple). You of course would be good all day on Tuesday. I was. I taught. I went to meetings. I graded. And then I went home just a little early to read. Wednesday it was more difficult. I put the Kindle into my bag telling myself I would only read it during my lunch hour. In the hour between classes and in the afternoon I would grade, of course.

Do you have any idea how difficult it is to read and grade 50 discussion questions when your favorite heroine may be in mortal danger? Really, it would be just rude to leave her there, suffering, while you grade. No, the ethical thing would be to read.

Of course colleagues and students did drop by periodically. I put down the Kindle and before they could ask said, "I think Peter Singer's new book might be a good one to use for Intro next year."

They responded with something like, "Peter Singer's book is on the Kindle?"

"Why yes, it is" I answered, and then then of course quickly asked them how I could help them.

So I finished the book during office hours on Wednesday. I read it so quickly that I know I need to go back and re-read it to catch all that I missed.

I'm thinking though that maybe I should read Peter Singer's book first.

You know, in case anyone asks me about it.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Let's see...did I tell you Gary got the job in The City that I wasn't excited about him getting? Yeah, well, it was offered. It is rather confusing to me. Anyway, we are being phenomenally unhelpful. He has to figure out transportation, has to stay in school full-time, and can't fall behind on his grades. I don't think it is possible, especially the transportation part, but he is on it.

I wrote to the social worker and told her that I thought kids learn a lot by attempting the impossible and so didn't want to tell him no. She seems okay with that.

She picked him up from school yesterday for a "get to know you" visit. Gary's previous social worker is now the supervisor of workers and Gary has Frankie's worker. So I know her. Which is good because when I got home yesterday the house was a disaster, dirty dishes, paper, junk everywhere. I of course got myself a glass of ice tea and sat down in the comfy chair to read my new novel.

In my defense it wasn't any ole new novel. It was The Language of the Bees, the new Mary Russell novel by Laurie R. King which I have been anxiously awaiting for months, nay a year. I wasn't going to put it down for dirty dishes.

The social worker did not hide that she was glancing around and seeing the mess. She however was more interested in my Kindle. She really liked it, when she found out that 1. you can send documents to it and 2. it will read aloud I think she was hooked. Her exact words were, "So when my daughter sends me 30-page articles she has written and wants me to read them I could have the Kindle read them to me while I drive?" Okay, so that doesn't quite sound like, "I'm going to buy one now" but you didn't see the look in her eyes. She also sort of shrugged when Gary warned her about how expensive it was.

The boys last night announced that they had to have long sleeved black shirts and black pants for school today. Failure to do so would result in undefined horror. I grumbled at them a bit and then sent Roland out to do it, which was entirely reasonable since he had to leave the house anyway to go to a meeting and I told him he could get a fast food dinner.

That meant I had the house to myself for three hours.

I really did take a break from reading to start the dishwasher.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Foster Parenting Milestones

In foster care training they sometimes teach us about the stages we can expect kids to go through when they move into homes. There is that stretch mis-identified as "the honeymoon." Then there is a difficult period that comes after. Whatever. They teach it to us, we learn it, and our experience is something like it.

They don't tend to talk our our milestones. As I read the blogs of foster parents in different places it occurs to me that though our journeys take different paths, we mostly seem to hit some of the same points. I think they tend to go something like this:

1. Pre-placement: "I know it will be hard but we are ready."
During this stage we are often frustrated at people who don't know a thing about foster care telling us that we are naive, that we have no idea what we are getting ourselves into. Right, like they do? We've been reading and thinking about this very carefully for quite a while. We've read the blogs, the books, gone to the training. We know it is going to be hard. We even know that we probably can't imagine exactly how hard it is going to be, but we are ready to get to work. We will face the challenges as they come.

2. The honeymoon: "They are such wonderful kids"
I don't think that kids honeymoon, but we do. We go through a stretch where we fall in love with them. We know at least part of their stories and we have deep sympathy for them. Of course we know that it is going to get more difficult later, everyone has warned us, but we are feeling a real attachment to these kids and we are sure we can weather the storms.

3. Reality bites: "I knew it was going to be hard but I didn't imagine it would be like this."
I think we don't realize how hard it is going to be because we only imagine the kids' behaviors. We tend to leave out two things: 1. how we really will feel when those behaviors are directed at us; and 2. how truly exhausted we were going to be.

We knew that kids sometimes say hateful things to the adults who try to help them. We even understood why. We probably judged other foster parents for responding in insensitive ways. Okay, so he threw his food at you and said he hates you, but he is four and traumatized.

Then it happens to us and it hurts. Having someone look you in the face and tell you that they hate you and hope you die, hurts. Imagine if your spouse/partner said that to you, if you mother said it, if your best friend said it. Imagine the feelings you have then. You are going to have those feelings. The kid spits at you, and inside some angry voice says, "you little b*stard," muscles in your arm tighten as though to slap. Another voice reminds you that you knew this was going to happen, and you take a deep breath. Hopefully you respond more or less like you planned, but that one encounter sucked more of your emotional strength than you expected.

And then it happens again. And again. And again.

4. Hoping for improvement: "it isn't always bad."
Interspersed with the bad moments are good moments, times when you see improvement, feel attachment growing. Times when you feel good about it all.

5. The crash: "I don't know if I can do this."
At some it gets so much worse than you ever imagined. Some of us see it in ourselves. We got so tired, so emotionally wore out that we did something we never imagine we could do. We found ourselves yelling back, "Yeah? Well I hate your guts too." We hid in the bathroom and cried. Some of us see it in the kids. Their behavior just isn't getting better. We are not sure we can live like this. We imagine quitting. We need to talk about it but our friends who haven't done this are unhelpful. They say things like, "You knew it was going to be hard" or "What did you think it was going to be like?" Some of them helpfully suggest that you just quit.

A good social worker or experienced foster parent will tell you it's time for respite. Yeah, you were never going to take respite. You know that kids need to feel secure and you weren't going to dump them on someone else so you could go run off and play, but you had no idea you were going to feel this bad, this exhausted, this homicidal or suicidal. Hopefully you are able to get a break and take it in such a way that the kid doesn't feel rejected.

6. Moving forward or changing paths
Once you have survived your own crash, you need to make a decision. Do you have the resources, which includes support from people outside your family, to do this? Can you keep going but not with this kid? It is possible that the system threw you the most difficult kid just because no one else would take him/her. As heartbreaking as it is to be the next person who fails this kid, sometimes that is the path we have to take.

Sometimes though we realize that we can do this. We take a deep breath and plunge back in. It is hard, so much harder than we imagined, but we can do it.

The cycle continues of course. There are good days and bad days, good months and bad months. The kids have their ups and downs and so do we. Sometimes our bad days come on their good days. Sometimes not.

7. It gets easier: "Heh! I'm doing okay!"
Someday something happens. You find feces smeared on the wall behind the sofa and you realize that you are just sighing. A teenager starts to call you names and the only voice in your head is saying, "wow, how do they find the energy to keep that up?" Maybe it happens when you listen to another parent complain about their bad day and you realize that their bad day would be a walk in the park for you. A child throws a tantrum, calls you a filthy name and your response isn't feeling hurt. You feel sympathy. You see pain.

Of course, your experience may vary.

And it will. Even when you get to the point that you are finding it easier to react the way you should, even after you have learned to pace yourself and take care of yourself, you and the kids will still have bad days and good days, good months and bad months. You will have found though that there are some things you thought would be easy that turned out to be challenges, and things that you thought were going to be hard that weren't so hard.

And then you just might get to hear yourself say, "It was so much harder than I ever imagined, but I'm glad I did it."

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Signs You're Getting Old

When you are younger the things that make you realize you are getting older are generally all about you. You get a driver's license, graduate from high school, order a beer and hope to get carded. Maybe you get married and have kids.

Having the first kid was a big one for me. I remember standing in the hospital room look at Andrew and saying to Roland, "It's just preposterous that we are parents." The nurse walked in at that moment, laughed and assured us we would get used to it.

Buying a house was a big deal too.

But at some point you, or at least I, crossed a line where the markers seem all to do with other people. My son is getting a driver's license, going to college. The colleagues who mentored me are talking about retirement. My students are my the age of my children. It really gets you when you aren't expecting it. Like when you go to a new optometrist and he looks like a child. How the heck did THAT happen? How did I get that old without even noticing?

Oh there are things that have to do with me, but somehow they don't have the same impact. I'm getting older. I know that. Even recently my body has been doing things that might mean "welcome to perimenopause." I think menopause itself is going to feel like a major life marker, but getting a notice that it might be four or so years off doesn't feel surprising. Of course it is my body, I know it is coming.

The other day though I was complaining about it and Roland asked me. I told him that my body wasn't following the rules anymore. He was worried, thought I should see the doctor. I said, "I'll make my yearly appointment soon, but it is probably either just because I got sick, unless it is perimenopause."

"What's perimenopause?"

"Oh it's the four years or so before menopause when your body isn't following the rules anymore."

I looked at his face. The worry faded, replaced by a confusion, and then, slowly, horror. I could almost read his thoughts.

"I'm married to a woman who is about to go through menopause? How the hell did that happen?"

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Maze is Open

FosterAbba and FosterEema's adoption of Danielle is finalized and their blog is now open.

Not Quitting Yet

After my post about my lack of enthusiasm for jumping through the various hoops for re-licensing FosterAbba asked if we were going to quit. We are certainly not going to be quitting as long as Gary needs us. Roland collected stuff today and we will be sending them into the licensing worker. We will certainly do all this again next year so that we will be licensed for Gary's senior year.

Now, up until I replied to FosterAbba's question, I had assumed that we would have to get licensed at the end of Gary's senior year so that he could stay with us until he was ready to leave. Gary will turn 18 at the beginning of his senior year. He can stay in comprehensive care until 90 days after graduation, and the license we will get next year will be good for about 21 days after he graduates. I had been thinking that we had to get re-licensed so that he could stay the whole 90 days.

And I just realized that no...we would have to be licensed in order to be paid room and board for those 90 days. He will be 18 and a high school graduate. We can let him live with us if we want.

The way I imagined it before we would be licensed for almost a whole year after Gary left. I've been telling people that I imagine we would "lie low" but that whether we quit doing care would depend upon whether they came up with a kid we couldn't say no to, and, I tell people, they are pretty good at coming up with kids I can't say no to. So my attitude has sort of been, "Well, maybe we will quit after Gary leaves, but I am going to just see what happens." In the back of my mind a resigned and tired voice says, "And you know they will find one. It's like working for the mob. Once you get in you can never leave." Another voice reminds me that I always get excited about new kids, but that voice is quieter and less convincing recently.

Now it occurs to me that we could quit. Not now of course, but in two years.

In two years I could just let the license expire. Gary would be officially moved from "comprehensive care" to "transitional services" some 70 days earlier than otherwise, but all that would mean from his perspective was that he got a new social worker.

My heart jumped when I realized that.

I have such mixed feelings about continuing to do care. I have some real anxieties about what life after kids would look like. I'm afraid that Roland and I won't have anything to talk about, that we will realize we don't really have anything in common. I'm afraid that I won't have anything to distract me and I will sink into depression. I'm afraid that I will feel obliged to become more deeply committed to my job. I won't have an excuse not to go to the events student affairs invites us to. I won't be the foster parent who is too busy Doing Good Things and will instead merely be the grumpy professor who doesn't enjoy any sports, doesn't like leaving her house for student plays she would probably enjoy if she went, and has absolutely no desire AT ALL to cook pancakes at midnight during finals week, thank you very much.

I also imagine that maybe Roland and I would enjoy being able to spend time together and renew our relationship. We might find the energy for sex. I might be able to do things like quilt and knit. I could cook foods I like every night. I could enjoy the quiet.

I could finally offer to adopt the boys. I keep putting that off because want to do it for everyone all at once. Don't ask for a rational explanation of that. I can talk more about the reasons, but they are emotional reasons that don't completely make sense to me.

Anyway, thinking that maybe I could just let my license expire as Gary graduates from high school was like noticing an escape route. It really felt like that.

I would have to not tell anyone at the agency, or the scheming workers would start presenting kids to me before Gary leaves and not quietly accept my usual response, "I won't even think about a new kid while I am letting go of the current one." I'd have to look like I was going to get re-licensed right up to the point that I said, "Um...I decided not to." [hmm...on a side note maybe this is why I keep having fantasies about being taken into the witness protection program.]

I also can't tell Roland I'm even thinking about it. If I do, he will think I told him that I definitely have decided to quit, and if I change my mind he will be all grumpy and surprised and insist that he knows I told him I was going to quit. He could accept that I changed my mind, but he would never believe that I spent two years just keeping a door open and not making a decision. I would get frustrated because I didn't change my mind and I didn't have a reason, I had just decided, okay? The he would say that he was sure I told him I was going to quit. I would say something like, "Well, do you want us to quit?" and he would say, "Not if you don't want to" and then I would point out that this was a stupid argument and he would say, "It's just that I know you told me you were going to quit." Then I would have to go get Snarky Mom and ask her to go all Buffy on his *ss for me.

No, this will have to be a private fantasy just between you and me. So don't tell anyone.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I'm just not that into it...

I've had the application to be re-licensed sitting at my home work station for two months. I haven't signed it and sent it in. Of course I am going to, but well, I just haven't got around to it.

I also haven't gone to the insurance agency and asked for copies of our home and auto insurance to send to the foster care agency or taken the letters to the doctor's office that he needs to sign documenting that he can't think of any good reason why we shouldn't do this.

I haven't done hardly any training. For the past 8 years I've always had more than I need. This year I am counting reading a book (which is allowed, but sort of whimpy). I'm going to have to ask and if we each have to have the hours (which we've done in the past) or if we have to accumulate the total number of hours between us -- cause with that I could count the four hours Roland spent at CPR/First Aid and the two hours I got for going to a support group meeting we might actually be done. If we each have to do the hours then I need four, and Roland needs a BUNCH.

Roland has been really exhausted recently and is taking a personal day to rest. I got very excited and asked if he could run the errands to the physician and insurance agency. I was sort of scummy or me, because he is tired and wants to rest. On the other hand I have done it every year for close to a decade (well seven years), so it feels fair. He said he would do it. of the end of this month I owe three months worth of monthly reports. Yeah.

It is sort of their fault. Well, it isn't but it sort of is. See, we went to this meeting (or I did, not Roland) where they asked us for suggestions on the reporting form. We all agreed that the current form was stupid, confusing and should be changed and all the parents gave some clear suggestions about what it should say and the social workers seemed to agree. The form I thought we designed would be a whole lot easier to fill out and every time I think I should get my paper work done I think, "Well, maybe the new form is about to come in the mail."

Also if I get to the 20th I can't make myself do a late one because I am just going to have to do this month's in like 10 days, so I might as well be another 10 days late and do them at the same time.

And now you are probably surprised that I am only 2 months behind.

I think.

Yeah, I sent one in at the end of January.

Sometimes I go years and never get a single report in late. And then I have a year like this.

I wonder what would happen if I sent in one form and up on the top where it says "Month ____" I wrote, "Feb, March, and April 2009."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Easiest Task of the day

the social worker emailed to say that she couldn't pick up Gary after school as she planned and could I get a message to him telling him so he wouldn't wait? problem, I replied.

I didn't say that I forgot to tell him that we had set up a definite date anyway. need to send a message.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Let's Hear It For the Girls

I've been feeling badly recently. It hits me at odd times: in the bath; drifting off to sleep; sitting at a stop light. I and a few others have been talking about the joys of parenting teen boys and implicit in that is the claim that teen girls are less joyful to parent.

And I used to be a teenage girl, and I am a feminist, and the preference for boys historically is offensive and I am officially offended by myself.

I want to apologize to any and all teen girls, and those who were once teen girls, for offensive comments.

And I still have found that boys are easier.

I've been wondering why that is my experience, and the experience of other foster parents. I have some thoughts.

One is that maybe it is just my limited experience. I happen to have parented boys who were relatively easy and given respite care to girls who were living in a therapeutic home. It is a distorted sample.

Maybe it is that unconscious prejudice in which people from dominant groups are not taken to represent anyone other than themselves. A boy steals from us and I think, "that is a difficult kid." A girl lies and wanders off and I think, "Girls are hard to parent." I know I am not immune to those errors.

Maybe it is because of the expectations we/I judge kids against. My experience as a professor is that students who get C's from my male colleagues conclude that they (the students) are not good at that subject. Students who get C's from me are more likely to conclude it is because I am a b*tch. They expect me to be more understanding, supportive, gentle, something. So maybe I'm doing the same thing...judging them by different standards, seeing the girls as more difficult because I expect girls to be nicer.

Maybe there is some reality behind it. Girls are more likely to be adopted at almost every age (I'm told, no reliable info to back that up). Once again based upon no firm evidence at all, it seems to me that the most difficult boys are more likely to end up in juvenile detention, so maybe when you put those things together the teen boys in foster care are easier to deal with than the girls.

I have often thought though that one difference is that the boys are not as angry or fearful of women. The girls feel their mothers' failures more acutely. They boys have seemed less defensive with me. Of course the boys often do this whole dominant male dance with Roland, who thankfully doesn't notice and just moves on.

So maybe it is just us.

But I don't know.

A lot of the things I say about teen boys applies to teen girls. They have a track record. You are much more likely to know whether their needs match your skills. They respond better to parents who see themselves as mentors and don't try to control them. They need understanding and support. They need to feel valued and cherished.

So if you are thinking about what age of kid to parent, consider teens, girls and boys.

There are amazing, wonderful kids out there. They come in different ages, genders, sexualities, sizes, and backgrounds.

Consider it.

Women-only post

I mean it...I'm going to talk about periods and menopause.

Actually I want to ask a question of women who have been there, done that. It's multiple choice.

Three periods in the last six weeks means:
a. welcome to perimenopause
b. stuff happens, especially if you've been really, really sick
c. you should call the doctor
d. you should call only if _____

Notes: I'm almost 46, mom had a hysterectomy at40, so no family pattern. No pain or moodiness (usual for me). So far 3rd & current period is really just spotting, but the first two days are often/usually like that.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

"Aren't you excited for him?"

I had a nice long conversation with my sister yesterday. She took her daughters to visit an accredited college -- hugely conservative, but accredited. The admission person gave them a good sales pitch. My elder niece was planning on going to a place where she would be chaperoned constantly and not taught anything. Really. Well okay, they have a curriculum specific for women that will enable them to support their husband's ministry, in whatever form that might take. It was a bit distressing to my niece because she would rather like to study music. Her pastor was in favor of it in part because my niece is wicked good on the piano. I mean that only in the sense that she is really, really good. He sees her abilities and dedication as the path to pride and sin.

Anyway, the people at the very Christian accredited college told the girls that committing themselves to serve God should mean educating themselves. The heathen shouldn't have all the knowledge.

Sis thinks it convinced the girls and we are both happy about that.

Nephew is well and has his first "date." A girl he has a crush on has invited him to with her and her father the next time they go out and net fish and harvest the eggs.

Most romantic date ever.

My sister is also my source of information regard my father. He has apparently got a one year job teaching in China. That would be teaching English Literature at a university.

I asked when he was going and sis said sometime in the summer. My next question was, of course, whether the trip to the cottages was on. She said that he may or may not be there, said we should all go anyway, but not said whether he will give my sister the traveling money she would need to go. So I was listening to my sister, wondering about whether my family might be there alone. It would mean more work for me, and I would miss my sister, but we would have more room to spread out. That would be nice if Andrew came. Maybe I could even take David and his boyfriend. Of course they couldn't stay in the caretaker's cottage, her being the born-again Christian and all, but I would be happy to give her all the other kids...

Meanwhile Sis has begun talking about Dad's teaching job. I'm trying to pay attention and she suddenly says, "Aren't you excited for him?"

"What do you mean?"

"He's going to CHINA. Aren't you just so excited?"

And I realize I'm not.

Later I told my family and they are clearly influenced by my self-centered, non-caring attitude. They debated whether he would try to take marijuana with him and if he did would he just get sent back to the US or would he end up in a Chinese prison?

I remember when my father came back from teaching for a year in the Middle East (he wasn't in one place the whole time). He had stories to tell about how he offended the administration, got involved in politics, helped and became closely involved with a Palestinian family. I listened to all his stories and wondered how much of it was true. Nothing about working with a refugee family sounded anything at all like my father. Pissing off the administration seemed likely, although perhaps not as dramatic as he made it sound.

I hated listening to the stories because they were all about how wonderful he was. He didn't have stories about things he had learned about the culture or politics or anything. They were stories about his trials, his heroism. The information given about the people and the land were only given to give the context to the story about him.

For some reason this all bothers me more than it does my sister. I don't know why, but it does.

So I didn't spend much mental energy thinking about him going to China until she asked...and then I realized that my emotional response was pretty much limited to dreading listening to the stories about him. Already I see the scene in which I am uninterested, even irritated, tired of being his audience, and then reprimanded for being uninterested in the world.


I let myself go back to the cottages...If Dad is leaving for China and Sis doesn't go to the cottages, I will miss her very much. Brian and Gary though will be relieved not to spend a week with Nephew. I wonder if David and his boyfriend could get off, or if Evan wants to go? One of the possible routes would take us right by the sanctuary where Carl is living. We could pick him up too...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Gary's Job, ahem

So Gary got a second interview for the job teaching martial arts in The City. The one where he wouldn't be paid until he got a black belt and the man who will be paying him after he gets the belt is the same one who will decide whether he gets it.

It is also a transportation nightmare.

I however have got better at not trying to solve kids problems for them. I am letting him see if he can figure it all out. If he can, then okay.

But this was supposed to be about the job interview.

In this interview he was to attend a class and teach the other students some things. Gary feels it went really well. He thinks he did a great job and that he was way better than everyone else there. He has more experience than anyone else. Years and years. He has this funny way of counting the years. Like he took some martial arts class at age 7 and now he is sixteen, so he has 11 years in that martial art. He got some lesson in another one starting 5 years ago, so that is 16 years of experience.

ANYway, it went very well. He is very excited. He had a conversation with the guy at the end who said some things like, "You would be teaching basics" which implies that he really would be teaching.

What really convinces him though that he is in was that at the end the guy shook his hand and said, "We will be in touch."

Filled Up (update)

I still find myself dwelling on the question of whether there will be another kid.

The thought that there might not be makes me feel sad.

And I also have this strong sense of having reached capacity, and it is little things, like my brain has only so many slots for remembering birth dates and they are all filled up.

Update: this is on my mind because Evan was here for Easter and we were talking about not having heard from David since his birthday and Evan said, "You remember when my birthday is, right?"

And I said, "September! Definitely September."

Evan said, "You don't remember what day it is?"

"Well, Gary's birthday is in September and I get the dates mixed up."

Gary was there and said that his was on whatever day it is one, and then I was almost positive that I remembered Evan's, and I said the date and was very relieved I was right.

And now I can't remember which is which again.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Dinner with David

So David and DBF (David's Boyfriend) came over last night.

DBF is older than David, maybe even 10 years, or not. He is losing his hair and he has had a tough life. He's been living on his own since he was fifteen and has very little contact with his family. I said, "I'm guessing they have a problem with your being gay?" He responded that that wasn't the case. He has a problem with their chemical dependency, criminality, and violence.

So he and David understand each other. Only David grew up on foster care, but DBF probably wonders if it would have been better to have done so.

Now, David is generally deceitful, but he doesn't flat out lie. I've learned over the years to listen very carefully so that I don't draw false conclusions from what he says. As a teenager when I was explaining to him that curfew was whenever it was he would sit there silent. In frustration I would finally say something like, "Do you understand what I am telling you?" He would immediately make eye contact and say, "yes" very clearly and firmly. I felt satisfied that I had finally got through to him. Then he came home whenever he felt like it. If I refered to the conversation he would state that he never agreed to be home at any particular time.


Anyway, I still pay close attention to what he says. I think he is more honest with me than he was, partly because I am not trying to get him to do things he doesn't want to do.

So...he told me that he was working on a GED program on-line and had taken some of the tests. I was surprised that you could take them on-line. I would think they needed to be proctored. He said they didn't. It is possible that the on-line tests are practice tests, or maybe they are actual tests, but I believe that he is in a GED study program and that is a big step forward so YAY!

I told him that when he could show me his actual GED certificate I would take him and DBF out to a nice dinner. He grinned.

He is working in a video store. The assistant manager is on notice and the manager is deciding who to promote. There are only a couple of people who work there. This is a second job for one and he believes he is a much better employee than the other, so he thinks he has a good chance at it. It would pay more than minimum wage, so that would be good.

We talked about our dogs. I went on and on about all the other kids. And I hugged him a dozen times.

Roland cooked dinner. It was pretty good. He cooked some chicken breasts really well. We also had good bread from the store, a salad that was just tore up lettuce, and ice cream for dessert. Not fancy, but presentable and I didn't have to cook! (I had to stay at work late for scholarship interviews.)

When they left I told him that if he ever changed his phone number and didn't tell me for three months again I would actually slap him instead of just yelling at him. DBF said, "I told you she was going to be mad."

I hugged DBF and said, "You know we really like you, right?" He smiled. "Now, don't let David be mean to you. If he ever is, you call him and I will yell at him."

David said, "Heh! It's supposed to be the other way around! I should get to tell him that if he isn't nice to me my mommy will beat him up."

I gave him a hug and said, "Sorry dear, but you know I'm looking out for your long-term best interests here." He said he did.

All my boys are safe and warm.

I slept well last night.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A dog post

Well folks, I'm still here. Last week was break for me and I spent it lying around trying to talk myself into doing something. This week I am back teaching classes, which I do okay. Then I put whatever energy I have into grading and go to bed.

Just having trouble getting my energy level up.

But I feel the need to update the world on my cattle dog. I don't know why.

The pain pills seem to be really helping Cattle Dog (CD). I have bumped into her and she has not made any noise at all. She hasn't been the at all threatening to people. She likes the pills. She thinks they are little doggy biscuits. She chews them up and then goes and drinks lots and lots of water.

Yesterday I decided to try to train them to sit in response to the door bell. You know, instead of barking their heads off. I got some cheese to use as a reward. After running through some ringing, sitting, rewarding, I left the bowl on the tea tray near the door. The dogs were both sniffing seeing if they could reach it. CD could have, but she is good about not stealing off of tables and counters.

Suddenly CD was going after the Shih Tzu. It was very upsetting because the Shih Tzu backed off right away, but it didn't seem to be enough for CD. She kept at him. He was trying to get behind the sofa and CD was still snarling and mouthing/biting. I stood up and yelled "Stop! Dogs sit!" CD responded right away...still throwing glares at the Shih Tzu, sort of saying, "Just wait until Mommy is gone..." The Shih Tzu did his version of "sitting" when excited, which is to stay in one place nervously changing position. I waited until they were calm and then told them to go play. CD spent about 10 minutes sitting at my feet and looking at me sadly, waiting to be told that she was a good dog. I did eventually reassure her, but my heart pounded for a while.

I think I am get so worried about her behavior because she COULD bite hard. Cattle Dogs herd cattle by biting their heels (hence the alternate name "Heeler"). I've seen her bite through and destroy toys and bones. She still "inhibits" her bit when she fights. Before the pain pills she had bit both Brian and Gary. With Gary she barely broke the skin. Brian said he hand hurt a little, but there was no damage to the skin at all. That's the bite of a dog informing a inferior to leave her along...not a dog that is attacking. (Yes, I know part of the solution is to have the boys do things like put her on sit stays so that she recognizes them as above her in the hierarchy.)

They dogs don't fight more often, but when they do it is getting worse. CD used to only feel the need to snarl. The Shih Tzu backed off and it was done. Now CD doesn't seem to know when to stop. Actually, I don't know what would happen if I didn't stop it. CD's isn't biting hard enough to cause damage, but it is distressing. I worry that it will esclate.

I THINK things are different when we are gone. I think that CD is just unquestionably the one In Charge. I know (because sometimes she thinks everyone is gone and I'm still here) that as soon as she hears the car drive off she jumps up on the furniture and sighs, unless she jumps up to the Shih Tzu's feeding station and eats all of his food. Less of this since we bought a new food neither of them seem to like very much.

Anyway, it is just all very tiring.

Last night CD also seemed to have another seizure. She had one ages ago (like a year? two?) That one lasted a couple of minutes and was very obvious. This time she seemed to be trying to scratch her ear but was bringing her back leg up from UNDER her front leg. I laughed and told her that wasn't going to work. Roland came over to see and she stopped and came to sit in front of him to see what he wanted (she's like that). He said, "Is she having a seizure? What's going on with her mouth?" And I saw that the muscles around her mouth were twitching, but that was all.

The poor dear is getting old.

On another note, David is coming to dinner tonight.

Monday, April 13, 2009

One Last Amazon Post (update x2)

So like a lot of you, I've been reading a more about the stripped sales rank issue. It does seem likely that whatever happened it was not a policy decision by Amazon as a whole. The main evidence for that is that it would be a very, very stupid policy decision and Amazon doesn't make decisions that stupid.

On the other hand it is not clear what did happen. It is not clear if their internal program for identifying "adult" (meaning mostly erotica) material was poorly written/updated, or if some troll group (it would have to be a group),, or hacker started flagging GLBT books as objectionable. That seems to be the dominate circulating theory, but it is A LOT of books. [Update 1: there is a person who is claiming to have master-minded the scheme. People who know more than I do about writing code are debating whether his claims are plausible. Amazon is still distressingly silent -- no apologies, explanations, or quick fixes. I am willing to grant that only the apology is a reasonable expectation at this point.]

What is clear is that it started happening in February. That's when a few authors noticed it with respect to their books and reported it.

I've gone from angry to irritated. I don't expect to write any more posts about it, but I also am not going to buy from them until they fix it. Whatever happened it is ultimately their responsibility and not buying from them is one thing I can do to exert pressure.

But I hope they hurry 'cause my Kindle is lonely.

Update 2: Amazon Replies to my email


Thank you for contacting

This is an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error for a company that prides itself on offering complete selection.

It has been misreported that the issue was limited to Gay & Lesbian themed titles - in fact, it impacted 57,310 books in a number of broad categories such as Health, Mind & Body, Reproductive & Sexual Medicine, and Erotica. This problem impacted books not just in the United States but globally. It affected not just sales rank but also had the effect of removing the books from Amazon's main product search.

Many books have now been fixed and we're in the process of fixing the remainder as quickly as possible, and we intend to implement new measures to make this kind of accident less likely to occur in the future.

Thanks for contacting us. We hope to see you again soon.


Customer Service

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Amazon Rank

Amazon Rank

It's a Google Bomb

More fun than a petition

I don't know if it works as well if it is part of a post instead of a regular link on the side bar, but for some reason I am having trouble accessing my sidebar stuff from this computer.

Frankie and Miss E too!

I wrote back in October that I got to talk to the foster mom who now has Frankie. She actually got licensed with my agency so that she could parent Gary. However, she is the grandmother of the girl that Gary dated at one time and it was decided by the powers that be that that might be awkward. So they sent Gary to me, and quite independently they asked her to take Frankie.

He moved in with her in September. She lives in a very small town that has a moderate size high school. Frankie enrolled there and has been succeeding. I can't tell you what his grades are like, but he is coping there.

She typically does therapeutic level foster care and is a much better fit for Frankie than I was. I have a very laid back sort of parenting style. She has more structure. She also has horses and barn cats. Gary spent the day there and reports that though Frankie still seems really young for his age he was emotionally steady. He seemed happy.

A couple of the kids wanted to wrestle with Gary. He pinned them all very quickly. Even Frankie wanted to and Gary flipped him on his back. Gary said it took it with good humor.

So far it is the longest Frankie has been in a home and I am very happy it worked out.

The family is planning on moving back to Our Small Town, and Frankie will have to go to the local, bigger, scarier high school where he was emotionally overwhelmed back when he lived with me. He may be more successfully this time around. He will have had time in a traditional, if smaller, high school, and had time to bond with a highly skilled family.

I'm happy for him, and I am deeply grateful that there was a family out there that was right for him.

It is hard when a kid's needs are greater than your skills. It is tough when they leave and you don't know anything about where they land and if they are happy. One always fears that they will just bounce. Finding out that Frankie is in a family who is right for him is wonderful.

And today while we were all talking about people we had known, Brian mentioned that he has seen Miss E on the public bus. She was talking (I'm not sure if it was to him, or if Brian was eavesdropping) about the courses she is taking and the community college and her plans to work as a nurse. He reports that she seemed happier than any other time he has seen her.

Of course that is just a snap shot, but it is a good one.

No Best Selling "Gay" Books at Amazon

Go look up your favorite book. sure that it doesn't have anything to do with gay and lesbian issues. Go down to "Product Details" and check out the Amazon sales rank.

It's there for lots of books. Dig around. How about a book on serial killers?

Low look up Strangers At Gate, by Mel White. It is a very moving story about the struggle to be gay and Christian; or one of my absolute favorites, Not Like the Other Boys, a book in which a mother and son alternate telling the story of the son's childhood and their separate but parallel journeys to acceptance; or Always My Child, the very best book I know for giving guidance to parents who suspect or have recently learned that their child is GLBT.

Notice anything?

Yeah, no sales rank.

That's because, like erotica, they are now considered "adult" books and Amazon does not want them to appear in any of the best selling lists. (h/t)

I'm so angry I'm trembling.

According to Amazon's Customer Service number is: 1-800-201-7575

Sadly, I can't find the link to email them a complaint. If you find it, please leave it in the comments.

commenter Elly says the email address is:

New Pillows

Gary is going to Frankie's house for Easter.

Odd, but true.

Frankie, you may recall, is now living with Gary's previous girlfriend's grandparents who do therapeutic level care and got licensed for my agency in order to take Gary. Gary and the previous girlfriend have been hanging together and are just friends. Really. 'Cause Gary is dating the cutest girl in school and he doesn't cheat.

Anyway, they do up Easter in a big way and Gary wants to go and I said yes.

I was sitting around with Gary and Brian this morning, talking about the Spot Spotter I got, which is an expensive hand-held black light that illuminates urine so you can be sure to treat all of the doggy's messes. Sadly, it also illuminates many other things, like milk and who knows what all. I used it in the kitchen and if I thought it only illuminated blood I would think there had been a slaughtering in there.

And then Gary said, "I want new pillows."


"Well, it just reminded me. [Friend] told me what her grandmother found in Frankie's room and I want new pillows."

So I sent a text message to Roland who was going to a store to buy whipped cream, napkins, paper towels and maybe a bottle of wine telling him that if he is going to somewhere like Walmart he should get Gary two new pillows.

I REALLY should have thought about that and thrown away the pillows after Frankie left. I feel pretty bad about it.


Update: they took the Spot Spotter and used it on the pillows. It is always possible that Frankie spilled a lot of milk on them...

Although I don't recall that he drank a lot of milk...

We took the pillows out to the trash.

Would it be sacreligious to use a Easter reference?

David's alive. It was tempting to title the post "he is risen."

So back in February David moved out of the apartment with the nice young woman friend* and in with his boyfriend. This is the same boyfriend that we met on Roland's birthday and with whom we had the family photo taken. We like him VERY much. Roland even told David, in front of the boyfriend who I suppose will have to have a bloggy name, "Don't mess this up, David. He's a good one."

ANYway, David moved out and in with the boyfriend. David reports that the roommate changed the locks on the doors for no reason whatsoever. He is totally mystified by her irrational behavior. I'm thinking there is a piece of the story missing, but I also suspect that he is not ever going to tell it to me. I doubt he has told it to himself.

Anyway, he is sorry that he hasn't called in so long and gave me his new phone number. He is working at a video store now instead of the high end clothing store in the mall. He has to work today so won't be coming over. He and the boyfriend will come up on Thursday, which David has off. Brian and Gary will be around long enough to say hello before taking the bus to their class. Then the four of us adults will sit around, eat a grown up meal, and be civilized. There might even be wine.

About the boyfriend's bloggy name. I'm nervous that if I name him he will disappear. Silly I know. Still, if anyone has any names to suggest that I might consider just getting over it. "Jonathan" comes to mind, David and Jonathan being such wonderful love story. Still, it is a tragic story and though I don't have great hopes for this working out, a more hopeful reference would be better.

It is good to know he is alive.
*New readers should know that I liked David living with the woman just because, being a woman, she was no danger of becoming a romantic partner. This gave their relationship a degree of stability his relationships usually have. It worked -- for a couple of years -- which is longer than any of his other roommate/romantic partner situations have.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Crime and Punishment (update)

Poor Brian.

Yesterday one of his friends came to school with his hand bandaged and told them that it happened when he punched the wall at his house.

Today same friend got called to the office in the morning and said to his other friends, "Well, that's the police come to arrest me for vandalism." He didn't come back.

For the rest of the day the circle of friends engaged in anxious conversation about what would happen to him. Gary, having experience in these things, reassured them saying that he probably wouldn't have to spend more than a week in detention. This of course freaked everyone else out even more. Stories circulated about why he was so angry. The father hadn't paid child support in months and the mother couldn't pay the rent. They found out they were going to be evicted and had two days to move out.

And he didn't punch a wall at home, he broke a window at the high school. He broke it by kicking a rock. No it was throwing a rock. No, he punched his fist through the glass.

Brian came home furious at delinquent dad and not wanting to talk. Gary was philosophical. It would do the kid good to spend a week in detention. I reassured Brian. He had never got in trouble before. His mom would be allowed to take him home.

Text messages flew. People texted the arrested boy and got no answer. Of course not, they don't let you have your cell phone in detention.

Meanwhile our juvenile delinquent sat in the back of his mother's car, listening to his iPod, going through the mountains where there is no cell phone service, on his way to Grandma's, totally unaware of the panic his little joke had caused.

Brian finally got in touch. Friend thought it was funny.

Brian decided revenge was necessary. Texted him telling him that Gary is really, really angry and is going to kick his ass on Monday.

Brian reported friend was terrified.

Brian was pleased. Gary just shook his head.


Don't you miss high school?

Update: Brian took pity and sent a pix/text to the non-delinquent. The pix is Gary making a funny face. The text is "Gotcha!"

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Google Reader Question

Some of y'all have a commnet button on the bottom of your posts that shows up on Google Reader.

I know I have seen it with one blogger blog, so it can be done.

Someone tell me how and I will start publishing full posts instead of teasers....

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Still haven't heard from David

The last time I saw him was the beginning of January. His birthday was in February and it is typical of him to call me a week before his birthday so that I don't forget. His cell phone number doesn't work. One of my students reported a month ago that he saw David somewhere and that his impression was that he had moved out of the apartment with the young woman, in with a boyfriend, and that that did not work out. It never does. I shamelessly asked my student to keep his eye open for him in the clubs and on-line and he reports not having heard from him.

I did tell the student that I understand why sometimes the boys want to deal with stuff in their lives and not tell me about it. I wouldn't want him to give me any information that David wants to keep private right now, but that I would really like to know that he is alive and healthy.

No word.

David doesn't have stable friendships. He is at some level the same little boy who needed to find friendly adults to take care of him and his brothers. He still judges people as good if they give him what he needs/wants and bad if they don't. He knows that people will only take care of his needs for a while and so he is always looking out for the next person to take care of him.

This of course creates havoc on any relationship. He does not give other people what they need. He does not perceive that their expectations of him are at all reasonable. There really isn't even much of a "honeymoon" in his relationship. Most of his energy is going into looking for the new one almost immediately.

So I have long since given up trying to keep track of his friendship. I don't really have people I know to call to track him down. The best I can do is what I have done -- ask people who don't know him very well but "see" him in on-line forums.

The girl with whom he was living works for one of those evil quick loan places. She was eligible for a promotion which would require her to move to another city. The last I heard she was thinking about going and he was thinking about going with her. That is possible. He may have moved.

The lack of on-line presence actually bothers me the most. MySp*ce used to be important to him, but he hasn't logged in for a year.

So it has been three months. I know in 20-year-old time that is not very long. I probably wouldn't have thought much about it if it hadn't been for his birthday.

It is a nagging worry, but it isn't a big worry. I know that I am an "as-needed" mom as far as he is concerned. I have long since accepted that. His relationship with me is what he needs. That I would have needs to know where he is and how he is just not something that would occur to him.

And I don't mean that in a bad way. I mean, if I was a friend, or trying to be, I might. I might feel angry that I was concerned about him and he wasn't concerned about me. But I'm the mom and I know that this really is who he is. It really doesn't occur to him that I might have a legitimate need for anything he could provide.

So I wait. I don't know when I will hear from him. It could be weeks or it could be months.

It even could be years, but I hope not.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Dad Spotting

Gary has seen his dad twice recently.

As in Gary has been somewhere and seen his father drive by without acknowledging him.

The first time he was standing waiting for the bus. The other was today. They were both in vehicles. Gary feels confident that his dad noticed him both times but I am not certain about the second one. There were quite a few people in the car and people driving, as his father was, often look at other vehicles without paying much attention to the passengers. I do believe that it is likley that his dad saw him clearly at the bus stop. It isn't a little booth; it is a sign on the corner on the edge of a golf course. There isn't anything for a tall teen boy to blend into. It is possible that he didn't notice him, but it doesn't seem likely.

Gary remarked that he has been seven months since his dad called him. Seven months since he has heard from him.

The social worker did some research and found his current address. She sent a letter. Gary says that his stepmother might have thrown it out without telling his dad. The social worker said she would send a registered letter that his father would have to sign for. All the letter says is that Gary is doing okay and he (dad) has the right to information about him. Gary doesn't think anything will happen as a result, but it is the right thing to do.

I feel badly for him. I know that Gary is hoping that his dad has noticed him and that that will make him initiate some sort of contact. I would like for it to happen too.

"I could beat you up"

Brian had a couple of friends over for the night last night.

They are awkward gangly fourteen-year-olds definitely on the nerdy side. Brian and one of the friends have become somewhat less pudgy as they have grown. The other always was lanky. They are a geeky bunch. The sort that you would expect to be addicted to video games. The kind of boy who in an old comic strip would have sand kicked in his face by an over-developed bully.

And Gary is the one who would be kicking the sand.

He is taller than they are, but not by much. He is a year older. He is however much stronger. He was always strong, but since he moved in he has been working out more and more. His muscles are well-defined. He doesn't look like a body-builder, not quite, but he does look strong.

This is the first time either Roland and I have seen him spending much time watching him with his peers. He radiated ... what? He was always friendly, laughing, getting a long, and there was always an edge, a threat, a sense that everyone knew that he could beat them up. It reminded me a bit of watching a show about primates, watching the alpha male in a good mood walking past the lesser males, the ones who are not interested in challenging him, just relaxing and having fun, but keeping an eye on the alpha just in case he needs to express his dominance.

It was just a bit creepy.

I know this is why Gary had a hard time at Our Town High. In order to feel safe Gary has too feel secure in being the alpha male. He needs others to acknowledge that if it came to it, he could beat them up. Our Town High has its fair share of gang kids. The registration form asks if the kids are on probation and the principal made their accommodation of probation restrictions sound like a selling point. "We have a community resource officer here every day. Many of our students have arranged to check in with him instead of their regular probation officers." I know from Andrew's experience that you can go there, take college-prep classes, be in the band and stay insulated from the violence, but you can't walk around like an alpha chimp and stay insulated.

Gary's friends are almost exclusively girls. It is getting clearer why that is so.

Roland and I agree that one of the reasons Gary and Evan both did well here, why so many of Roland's students do well with him, is that Roland doesn't play that game. He seems not even to notice when others are playing. It helps that our attitude towards the boys is predominantly one in which we believe we should be there if they need us. The boys know that they can count on him for help when they need it. They also know that if they are in trouble they are more likely to have to deal with me.

I don't particularly have a point here. It's just an observation.

(I'm beginning to feel better. I still have some cold symptoms and little energy, but I am much better than I was.)