Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sex and Kids in Foster Care

We don't need to have comprehensive sex education because "teenagers are going to be having sex anyway," especially when we understand that to mean that they will ALL have sex anyway. You can Google the studies yourself (because I'm lazy), but in fact a majority of teens make it until at least 18 before having sex. Among the teens who are having sex, most teens are not having it regularly. If you want to teach your kids that they should wait until they are married, the statistics are against you. If you want them to wait until after high school, treat sexuality as something to be shared only in mature and respectful relationships, there is a realistic chance you can succeed. Most high school kids don't have sex.

We need comprehensive sex education because a minority of teens are having sex.

Those teens who are having sex are not terribly responsive to the message that they should stop.

Now here's the part that is tricky to say correctly. On one hand, the kids who are having sex are coming from all parts of society, and have parents with all sorts of commitments, philosophies, religious perspectives, etc. On the other hand, having been sexually abused is a risk factor for early sexual activity. Kids in foster care have more risk factors for early sexual activity, and there are kids in foster care who have no interest in having sex. Well, maybe not no INTEREST, but certain committed to abstinence.

David, Evan and Gary all came to me having been previously sexually active. Though I have made every effort to raise the kids I have had from birth to make the decision to postpone sexual activity until they are "older" (I'm a little unclear myself on how old I want that to be), these boys had already made that decision. It was pretty clear to me that with them any attempt to convince them to choose abstinence was doomed. They had already made a choice.

If you are going to parent kids from foster care you need to think about how well you can handle that.

Even if you were so inclined, foster care rules will prevent you from telling teenagers that you prefer for them to have sex safely in their bedrooms rather than .... where ever else they are going to end up. You will be expected to follow sensible rules like "no guests in your bedroom" or at least "no guests in your bedroom unless the door is wide open." At the same time you will probably deal with social workers who are more interested in preventing teen pregnancy than preventing teen sexual activity. By that I mean you will generally find them willing to talk about getting girls on contraceptives and buying boys condoms.

None of this should be surprising. These are kids who have been abandoned by their parents. Even if that is not really what happened, that is what the kids feel has happened. Their parents failed them. Other adults come and go. Like all humans they need to feel close to people. They need intimacy, emotional and physical, and it is difficult for them to trust the adults in their lives.

So many of them seek it with other teens.

I'm not sure that I really have a point here, just saying that it is part of the territory. If you parent kids from foster care, and I hope that this blog helps some people decide to do that, you have to be prepared for certain things.

And one of those things is sexual activity.

Long talk with Gary

He and I had a long talk last night about what was going on. I wanted him to know that I didn't think I was up to giving the sort of supervision the girlfriend's mother wanted and so he was probably going to end up having to visit her only at her house. He said that the mother had already decided that was the way it should be.

The girlfriend is a sweet girl, but Gary is not in love. It takes him about 10 minutes to find a new girlfriend after breaking up with a previous one. I told him that I think it is a good idea not to let kids date until they are sixteen, which she won't be for another year. She was almost fifteen but hew as a few months away from seventeen. Did he really want to be in a relationship with a girl that he could not take to the movies or the water park or out for pizza? 'Cause he might really not be able to do anything other than hang out at her house and play "go fish."

He agreed that that was all they would be able to do. Then he started telling me what her restrictions are for movies she could watch and video games she could play. It became increasingly clear that her mother should not feel safe allowing her at our house. Period.

I told Gary that I was having a fantasy of telling her mom that she didn't need to worry because I had already bought Gary condoms. He laughed.

He also told me that when we did respite the last time the kid who was here for the weekend left the cash he had on his desk, ignored the mp3 player, and stole his condoms. Gary didn't think that made sense. I told him that it made perfect sense to me. It was the one thing the kid did not feel comfortable buying for himself. I asked Gary if he wanted us to buy him more. He said no, but with that expression that indicates that maybe he wanted to say yes. So I will ask Roland to get him some. I don't think he will need them any time soon and I certainly hope that he doesn't need them for a very long time, but I do want to make sure he has them.

I doubt I will tell the girlfriend's parents that I have bought him condoms, but I am tempted to. It is becoming increasingly clear that we are very much on opposite sides of this cultural divide. The arts charter school teaches abstinence only in a location where it is acceptable to teach abstinence-based education. It is certainly doing that because most of the parents who send their kids there want it. It isn't just about the arts. It is about a more controlled environment.

But you know this fantasy where I play clueless to their concerns and just reassure them that their daughter is safe because Gary has condoms and knows how to use them is sustaining me.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Just up for this [updated]

Well, I just got a firm talking-to from Gary's Girlfriend's mother.

We have always allowed the teens a degree of privacy. We sort of have a walk-through policy. They have the big rec room downstairs and we are not always there, but we may show up at any moment. When Andrew was here there were so often large numbers of kids playing D&D that we have allowed people to entertain in their rooms, but then only and always with the doors wide open. Gary has been abusing that recently.

It has been a long time since I thought that I was able to supervise kids closely enough that I could prevent them from doing something if they really wanted to do it. They go out into the world unsupervised. Gary has a bus pass. He is allowed to go to the mall without us. He may go to the movies without us. I know that he could easily go somewhere else, be with someone else. He could be doing things I would rather he not do.

I prefer for my kids to spend a great deal of time at home. I want to know them and know their friends. The price for that is a degree of privacy. If I don't give them some privacy with their friends, and yes that includes their girl and boy friends, then they will meet up in other places. If they are here, I can do an unannounced walk-through at any moment. If they meet up at the mall...well...I can't.

Apparently the girlfriend texted a friend telling her that she and Gary were alone. The friend called the mom. The mom called me. She asked me if her daughter was with me, right here. I said no but that I could take the phone to her. I did. I assumed that she wanted to talk to her daughter.

Turns out that she wanted to make it very clear to me that she wants her daughter to be supervised, right there with me, at all times.

I understand. I really do. They have two daughters. This one is the older, not quite fifteen. They want to prevent anything from happening. The only way to do that is to supervise them closely.

VERY closely.

I am thinking that maybe I should tell them that they just aren't allowed to be at our house. I am not interested in chaperoning them. I don't want to spend every minute in the company of two teenagers. If they let their almost-fifteen-year old daughter out of their sight, let her go to the mall, to the movies with friends, for a walk in the park, then her virtue is in danger.

Frankly if "something happens" at the mall, or movie theatre, or Y, or behind the gym, or anywhere, I don't want these parents angry at me because I failed to chaperone their daughter.

I may calm down and change my mind, but right now I really feel like telling them that we suck at being chaperones and they simply should not trust us.

They should not trust anyone.

The girl's mother has decided the kids can only be together under her supervision. Fine with me. Roland and I agree that we will tell the mom that she should only allow her daughter over here if she is comfortable with the level of supervision we provide: privacy with unannounced interuptions. The mom probably won't be, and that is fine with me.

Part of the issue is, Gary tells me, that the girlfriend told her mom a week or so ago that she probably wasn't going to wait until she got married and might want to talk about going on birth control in a year or two.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

My Biopsy

So I did it. I got talked into an unmedicated biopsy. It hurt. At first it hurt like getting a shot, then it hurt like bad cramps. Now it hurts like mild cramps.

Still, it was deeply unpleasant. I bought myself a bunch of chocolate truffles. If I didn't have to go to a committee meeting, take a kid to the eye doctor, and then be nice to a social worker I probably would have bought alcohol.

So, anyway. OB/GYN Guy said that there were a several different things we could do to respond to my bleeding, but we needed to do the biopsy and get an ultrasound just to be sure. I told him I had had the biopsy utrasound already and he pulled up the record, reading out loud, well, mumbling out loud, and commenting.

"Okay....ovary...mumble, mumble cyst"

"I think that is gone because it doesn't ache anymore."

"You're probably right. Let's see....8mm...mumble, mumble, fibroid. You've probably had that for ages."

Then he gets down to the part where there are big medical words that roughly translate to: there's some thing here and we don't have a clue what it is. He said, "Oh! Yes. We definitely need to do a biopsy."

Anyway, then he talked me into a non-medicated biopsy. I am apparently a whimp when it comes to standing up to kindly authority figures who have convincing arguments like, "Oh, you'll be fine." After that he tried to continue the conversation about options for treatment, but my anxiety level was way too high for that.

So I get results in about two weeks, which gives me plenty of time for the trip.

I am going to start Hormone Replacement Therapy*. It would take several months to see if it would really work, but by the time we get the biopsy results we will at least know if I tolerate it.

For a while he seemed to be wanting to encourage me to consider options other than hysterectomy, which is after all major surgery. When I told him that I was an academic and scheduled surgery in the summer would be okay and any surgery during the school year would be very, very bad, he seemed much more positive about it. I don't know if that is because he thinks there is a decent chance I would end up needing it anyway, or just that he realized that I had thought about it.

Anyway, that's the news. Now we wait for 2 weeks.

And think about shiny things.

Although I need to read these brochures and may feel compelled to write about them.

Though Family Doctor Guy uses "Hormone Replacement Therapy" and "Birth Control Pills" pretty much interchangably, OB/GYN Guy means something specific by HRT. It is a lower dosage of the hormones. He thinks that there is a good chance that it will control my bleeding. That would be nice.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Being Sick with Foster Kids in the House

Want to hear something totally obvious about kids in the foster care system?

They tend to be nervous that you won't keep them.

It's funny how we forget that, especially after they have been around for a while. They settle into our homes, our lives, and our hearts and it doesn't occur to us to give them away. Well, okay, sometimes the thought does go through our heads, but I'm thinking about all the times when it doesn't. The thing is, they NEVER forget that you might give them away. NEVER. Even when things are good, even if they have been adopted, the thought is still there. They may reassure themselves, but it is there.

Kids have different ways of dealing with the anxiety. Some of them go back to behaviors that look voluntary but aren't really, quite. Think about biting your finger nails. If you are a biter, it isn't as easy as stopping. Food hoarding, peeing (especially in bed), having melt-downs, lying compulsively, searching out new adults to care for them, and more are, or often are, the same. The kids can't just decide not to do them.

Now the part that REALLY bites is that when your life is stressful, they get more anxious. Of course their their acting out behaviors are likely to get to you (and how could they not), then your anxiety level goes up and so their anxiety goes up which makes their behaviors go up.

Anyone say "vicious cycle?"

If you are thinking that I am about to tell you that Gary's is showing escalating behaviors I'm here to tell you "not yet, anyway." I'm reminding myself what I need to watch for: excessive cleaning, not eating if I am looking, trying hard not to be a burden. None of these things would be difficult for me to deal with, but they are indicators of his anxiety all the same.

Though when I told the boys together that I was having trouble with my girl parts they both insisted that they did not want any information, later Gary asked me via text messaging how my testing went. With the distance the medium afforded, he actually wanted to ask quite a few questions. He was sympathetic and supportive.

I talked to him for a little bit a week or so ago. I told him that I was anticipating having surgery and that I was going to try not to tell the social workers until I had some actual information about when it was going to happen. That way I could make it clear that we had thought it out and meant it when we said we wanted him to stay.

I may have imagined it, but I think he relaxed a little. I told him that if he didn't want to be here he was allowed to call them and tell them. He said that he didn't think he would get along with other foster parents and then asked why I thought he might want to go away. I explained that I was planning on a long recuperation and that everyone was going to have to wait on me hand and foot. He grinned and said maybe he would leave then.

So I tried to inoculate him from the stress a little. Hopefully it will be enough.

Of course if he freaks out and starts cleaning compulsively I might not get too worried.

Monday, May 25, 2009

bodily woes

So I worked on and off on this post about my bodily woes. It was partly a post about not wanting to tell very many people because It Might Be Cancer, and though I'm not really worried about that, other people will probably get worried and sympathetic and that is more than I can deal with.

and it was partly about frustrations waiting for appointments and hoping that there wouldn't be any reason why I would have to cancel my trip in a couple of weeks, cuz it would really bite to have to miss the trip.

And it was also about not wanting to talk to the people at the agency until I have something to tell them, which should be fine except Gary's new social worker (who was and is Frankie's social worker) is coming on Thursday afternoon and the licensing worker is coming on Monday. They both ask questions, and I want to be able to say, "I'm scheduled for a hysterectomy on June 15 (or whenever) and we won't have any problem with Gary staying." I don't want to evade questions or give them part of the information and then deal with them being supportive and sympathetic.

I need a business-like attitude with a side of dark humor, please.

I especially want something definitive to tell the licensing worker because I have literally never met her and sharing information about my lady parts just feels too personal. (Yes, I see the irony -- declaring I want privacy about something by writing about it on the itnernet).

And it was also about feeling so blasted tired. I took a nap today, and I don't really take naps. I'm wore out. I've spent too long in this state of suspension, waiting to find out what is going to happen next. The school year is winding up, and maybe I'm just a bit anemic? I mean, I have been bleeding, though slightly, more days than not. Or maybe I'm just stressed and tired.

And I want to write this completely separate post about how I got angry at Gary and he totally turned on the charm and it worked, and then I realized what he was doing and said, "Okay, it worked. You charmed me and I'm not angry anymore" and he said with a totally straight face, "I wasn't trying to charm you. I'm really interested in philosophy."

But I'm too tired and I can't make the posts be interesting, so that's all you get.

I'm supposed to bring cheesecake to the departmental party tomorrow. I make one almost every year. It's sort of a tradition. I'm wondering if it would be really horrible to just buy one from the grocery store this year.

either way I have to decide now. Cheesecakes have to be baked the day before (or at least in the morning, but I have to proctor an exam in the morning).

Kindle Book Pricing

There is this series of light mysteries (Gaslight Mysteries by Victoria Thompson) that I read when I was sick in bed. The eleventh is due out on 4/2/09. I've read the first nine. Why not the tenth? Well, it is about the Kindle pricing structure.

When a novel is brand new it almost always sells for $9.99. After some undefined point in time, the price sometimes goes up. Then it often goes back down. If it is one of a series it will almost certainly drop. So the price for teh Gaslight books looks like this:

Numbers 1-8: $6.39
Number 9: $7.19
Number 10: $14.37
Number 11: pre-order for $9.99

Now, I expect that number 10 will fall to something like $7.19 when number 11 is available. I had hoped it would fall before 11 came out, but as that is just 8 days away, I'm not hoping so hard anymore. I've pre-ordered number 11, and I wish that I could put an order in for number 10 at the reduced price. It would be like any other pre-order, except I wouldn't know the date. I would just tell Amazon that the day that book falls to a price below $7.50, charge my account and send it to the Kindle.

It had never before occured to me that an on-line retailer should do something like this. The Kindle though makes buying books so easy, wouldn't this just be the next step?


i am testing blogging from my phone.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Alice's Graduation

Today was Alice's (Andrew's girlfriend) graduation from high school. Andrew of course could not be there as he is still at college far away. So we went. Not that we wouldn't have gone anyway, but we went especially for Andrew. I wanted to make him feel like he was there. I know he was excited for Alice, but at the heart of it all it was a high school graduation, and high school graduations are... well ... high school graduations.

We have something of a family game...count the cliches. So I decided to text as many of them as I could to Andrew. It turns out that it is a lot easier to count if you aren't trying to typing them.

I wasn't really planning on doing this, but then I heard that Thorn missed her graduation. So this is for texts to Andrew. [Oh...stuff in brackets is just me to you]

Me: Wanna hear all about Alice's graduation?

Andrew: Mostly I just want to hear about Alice.

Tough. I have to sit through the speeches so do you.


So we are here with her family. Room looks the same.

Ppl r taking the reserved signs off faculty rows and sitting there.


I gave Alice's mom a card for her. (gotta go to B&G's belt cermony)


Yeah. I didn't give her that photo you said not to. but I found another one of you in superhero underwear and a blanket/cape.

There's more than one?

Yep. I didn't give her any pix of you naked in the tub tho.

Thanks for that.

Wait! You gave it to her MOM?

I told A's Sis to tell A to open it alone.

Good...cause there was no 'and her entire family clause'

[when A was four he asked me to take a phot of him in his "superhero costume." I agreed but only on the condition that I could someday give it to his girlfriend.]

Ooo. band is playing.

[send pix of gynomous US flag lowered from ceiling]
stand up and put your hand over your heart.


Grads walking here.

[send blurry pix of tiny robed hatted figure]
That's her!!

You sure?



ooo.. class vice president speaks ... most important day of our lives ... first day of the rest of our lives ... today we go into the world ...

Missed one. only 4 cliches!

My class wins!

That's just the first speaker.


Here comes the class prez.

learn from the past. prepare for the future. live in the present. today is the first day of the rest of their lives.

That's crazy talk.

shoot...I fell behind.

ooo. cool... she's going to read from Dr. Seus' Oh The Places U'll Go


She's crying while reading seus.

that's not good.

student body prez up now.

didn't she just go?

That was class prez.


We have shared memories ... lots of playground stuff ... middle school group colors ... some teacher who lost a finger ...

It was hard, but it was worth it ... relationships to last our lives ... High School is about growing up ...

beginning of the rest of our lives (didn't we hear that already?) ... oh lordy, she's crying too.

that's not good

Intro of student speaker. She's wonderful. drill team. college. very cool.

In 1918 a soldier in WWI sees friend dying

You're kidding.

No..shut to keep up.

Wants to rescue. does. friend dies. he might be dying. but worth it cause they said goodbye. so stop whining about the recession (I paraphrase)

ur high school has a dedicated chem teacher, did you know that? He's just like that soldier.

If you can help just one person. life is a gift. dance in the rain. believe in yourself. believe in something. help a stranger.

oo soldier again.

the world is waiting for us. Our future depends upon what we do today (got that? TODAY.) life is a precious gift.

Okay. it is over.

yay. I think they beat us on cliches

madrigals will sing. at least they won't cry.

they sing good.

Principal presents class. He loves them all.

He lies.

Me on dad's phone...mine died.

okay...a little obsessive tho

Appreciate the mommy

I do! I do!

Superintendent accepts the class (we missed most of the principals talk)

really, it's okay.

next the mayor.

uh oh.

did you know this is the first day of the rest of their lives? The mayor is proud of them all. the city is proud of them. they will do great things. today.....

shoot. it's all cliches. I can't keep up.


oky... hey! he's done. It was short and he didn't turn into a demon snake. all good.

well....that's good.

now they walk.

good. can you see her?

yep. want a blurry photo? thanks.

OK. your girlfriend is a high school graduate. her Sister did a video so you can watch it.


welcome. off to see your bros get their belts.

okay. later.

You don't want details of that?

not really. tell them I said congratulations.

and that's it. If I had a scan of that superhero photo I would so post it. Maybe later.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Baby Boundaries

I have a bunch of drafts about boundaries that I have had bouncing around. I'm trying to shape them into something and I thought I would start with this one.

Boundaries can mean different things, but at the bottom they are about knowing what is ours and what is there's.

So think about a baby whose care is your responsibility. In the beginning practically all of the baby's needs are your responsibility, well, hopefully there is another adult sharing the load. Still, if the baby has a need, the adults need to take care of it.

As the baby gets older, and I don't want to get into child-rearing theories about when this happens, some things start being the baby's job -- like soothing herself when she is feeling grumpy. Even if we don't believe in letting a baby of whatever age cry herself to sleep, most of us at least give them a little more time to cope as they get older. More things become their jobs and we don't help them by trying to figure out how to do it for them. We can't make babies learn to crawl, stand or walk. We can make it more difficult for them to learn by never giving them the opportunity to try.

We help them mostly by not carrying them. We provide the opportunity.

Andrew started crawling early and then took him time learning to walk. I talked to the doctor who said he was physically fine, just doing it his own way. I probably could have slowed him down even more by carrying him all the time, but there wasn't anything I could do to hurry him up. Should I have decided that I was going to invest a great deal of energy teaching him to walk all I would have accomplished was frustrating us both. My job was to get out of the way and let him do his job. That didn't mean that I never carried him. Sometimes he needed me to.

There were two things that I could do that would have done nothing but slow him down: carry him all the time or try to make him walk.

Imagine trying to help a friend who didn't get that. Periodically she tries to make her one-year-old walk. She demonstrates, moves his legs in the proper motions, and encourages. Other times she carries him because, after all, he doesn't know how to walk. You try to explain that what her kid needs is for her to back off. You tell her to put him on a blanket with some toys and just let him be. She comes back to you a week later and informs you that it didn't work. She put him on a blanket with toys every day for a week and all he did was play with toys!

In some ways parenting doesn't change much.

Kids get older and they don't do what we want them to do, so we try to teach them or do it for them. We go back and forth, banging our heads on the wall because no matter how much energy we put into it they still aren't doing what we know they should be doing. We decide that this isn't our job and we decide to back off, but we are really watching like a hawk from the room. We give it a certain amount of time and then we get frustrated because leaving them alone didn't work either.

Nicole suggested that I or someone collect all the things we've learned about foster care. So here's a start. This is something I have learned.

1. Sometimes kids and teens genuinely need us to do things for them that they cannot do themselves.
2. Sometimes kids and teens can profit from instruction and and guidance from us. (As a rule, this only works if the kid is open to it).
3. Sometimes what the kids need is for us to get out of the way, and when it is one of those times we don't get to decide how long it should take, or even it will happen at all.

Now this is what I haven't learned: how to figure out when to take which approach.

Oh...nevermind [update]

So I called my sister's cell phone.


"Hi. You got a minute?"

"Yeah, I got a minute."

"Wait. This is Nephew, right?"

"Yep. Mom gives me her cell phone all the time. I'm supposed to call her when I need to be picked up."

"But I wanted to talk to my sister," I said poutingly.

"You can talk to me," he says in a voice appropriate when speaking to pouting children and aunties.

"But I wanted to talk about my uterus!"

Long silence.

I wait.

" should talk to my mom."

That was yesterday. Today I called again. He answered the cell phone saying, "Hi Aunt Yondalla. This is Nephew. You don't have to tell me anything."

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Actual results [another update]

So...the kidney thing that had me so upset, even though I really was trying to stay calm, not so bad. Actually, not bad at all. There are two tests they do that are direct measurements. They are both in the normal range and are exactly what they were five years ago. Since then they have added another number which is a calculation based upon the first two numbers. THAT number is slightly abnormal. The doctor says he has no idea how you can do a calculation on two numbers that are normal and come up with a result that is abnormal, so maybe we should check it again in a year, but he isn't worried.

I picked on him about terrifying me by calling me in to tell me that everything was fine but weird. He apologized.

My blood sugar was normal, which since I had a diabetic pregnancy I am always happy to hear.

My cholesterol was a little high. Not so high that he wants to put me on a drug, but enough that maybe I should change my diet, exercise more, take those Omega 3 tablets, or start drinking every day. Since my father is an alcoholic I have generally try to drink only occasionally, so maybe I will try those fish oil tablets.

And now the part you have all been waiting for....THE LADY TOWN...

There is a big ole cyst on my right ovary. My left ovary is way up high, just high enough that they can see it is there but too far away to get a good look at it. The endometrial lining is 8mm [see update below on that number]. There's something towards the bottom of my uterus, in the canal. It could be polyps. It could be scarring from a D&C (except that I never had one of those). It could be thick endometrial lining. It could be cancer. Further diagnostics are recommended. I am seeing an ob/gyn next week. So far I've just seen the same family physician I have seen for 17 years for everything from asthma to birthin babies. [Added: I googled all the big words. There one thing that is probably a fibroid, and I also have multiple cysts on my cervix.]

The sort of diagnostic tests that I could have include a biopsy, a thing where they stick a scope up you (forget the name of that one), or an MRI. I asked, again, if we couldn't just do the hysterectomy first and the biopsy second. Family Doctor Guy didn't think that was an unreasonable request, but I need to talk about it with OB/GYN Guy.

So that's all until next week.

I talked to my mom on the phone and gave her all the information. She asked if I was really sure that I was going to be able to go on the trip in a few weeks, because it sounded to her like I really was going to need to have that hysterectomy. She's nervous about traveling and I had to tell her no such luck. I was quite confident that I could schedule any surgery for after I got back. She still has to pack her bags and fly to Sis's house.

Roland wants to know how long it takes to recover. I'm considering telling him that I'm pretty sure I won't be allowed to do any housework or lift anything heavier than a Kindle for six weeks.

This is as much for me as anything. I tend to lose notes and the blog is the first place I go to see if I've recorded certain pieces of information.

Kidney test: The bad number came from a calculation based upon one of the "high normal" numbers plus the fact that I am a 45 y/o white woman. It is an estimate of the results I would get if they did a different test. If it is accurate, it is pretty bad. On the hand the direct measurements they did are not only in the normal range, they are exactly what they were five years ago. So even if my kidneys are a nothing to brag about, they aren't degenerating. If I have the same results next year, I will probably have a follow-up, icky, invasive test. Given that I have bigger things to worry about, it isn't worth doing this year.

The 8mm lining might or might not be "too thick." Right after a period or in menopause it tends to be 3mm, at least under 5. During the regular cycle it gets thicker. I believe it usually tops out at around 10mm (1cm). The problem for evaluating mine is that I have been spotting on and off for seven weeks now and there is no way to know where in the cycle I'm supposed to be. That is why Family Doctor Guy told me that he would recommend a biopsy if it was over 6mm. Anything under that and it is surely okay. Over that and, in my case, he doesn't have enough information to assess. And in case your interested, I'm pretty sure that 15-20mm is normal for pregnancy and outside of normal range (which doesn't mean pathological) for the rest of us.

The reason that too much endometrial lining is an issue is that it means that it is growing too much (duh), and sometimes that growing-too-much turns into cancer. If you have an over-growth there are things they can do that will lower your chances of getting cancer. Things that are not hysterectomies. If it is cancer, a hysterectomy is the recommended treatment.

Of course I have the maybe-too-thick-lining and the "what the heck is that junk in the bottom" issue.

In my case, I can't see choosing anything other than the hysterectomy. I'm an academic, which means summer is a good time (to the extent that any time is good for surgery) and the rest of the year would be really, really bad. I am also done birthin babies, and my kids are old enough that they don't need my to do things like lift them up (which is good since they are all bigger than I am). Besides I'm pretty sure that a "no cancer" result would really mean "no cancer now, but come back and get more tests later." Many of you know how poorly I cope with uncertainty.

I can't eat what?!

Sometimes I really wonder if the Internet is a good thing. I mean, there is so much information and I am an information glutton. I cope with everything by finding out everything I can. I imagine living with to assure myself that I can.

So I did some research on diets that get recommended to people with reduced kidney function who don't want it to reduce further. I took a deep breath and told myself that I had done a strict diet while pregnant, and a less strict one while on Weight Watchers. Also I like really healthy foods. I eat multigrain bread and love lots of veggies. In fact there are some things that I really enjoy (like my brown rice lentil curry) that I rarely cook because the kids and the husband don't like it. If I have to follow a super healthy diet, I will have an excuse. I have to cook these things and they will really just have to eat it or cook their own meals.

So I started reading.

Low sodium. Okay. I can do that. Lots of herbs, vinegar, lemon juice. I don't need salt. If they mean ALL THE TIME then it will be frustrating because I do sometimes like to eat out. I know restaurants have low-sodium options, but those are not usually the foods I want at restaurants. But I can do it.

Low protein. Sure. I was an almost-vegetarian for a long time. It is a diet I can totally get into. There's that mushroom and barely soup that I made once that was to die for, and there was that spinach thing...what was it called? I'm actually sort of excited. My kids hate these foods but now I will have to eat them. Ha!

I gots me a good attitude here.

"You may be asked to restrict your potassium and phosophorus intake." Foods on the no-no list: whole grains, legumes, lentils, tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach.

I went to the bathroom and cried.

Roland found me and tried to comfort me. He was really nice. He was also trying not to laugh. For some reason he thought crying over mushrooms and spinach a little absurd. He did finally convince me that I should not assume that I would be denied multi-grain bread before they TELL me I can't eat it. Just chill and see what comes.

On the up side? The drug that keeps my hair from falling out is sometimes given to treat patients with limited kidney function! Not so much the one that keeps me from being bitchy, but I'll worry about that later.

Oh, I already know I worry too much. That's sort of the point of blogging. It helps.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Back to our regularly scheduled program

Remember how this is a foster care blog? Yeah, well I actually have a foster-care related post! Unless it is just a post about siblings.

As you may recall, Gary is fantastic, especially at martial arts. He knows more moves than anyone, including the teachers. His technique is beyond compare. Of course when he spars with the fighters they often beat him, but that is because he doesn't have the confidence they do. They aren't better than he is. He just has to get his confidence up. Then we get to hear again about how great he is. Periodically I will say something like, "you don't think that maybe the other fighters have specific skills you need to learn, like being able anticipate their opponents' moves?" For the record, he does not think so, or if he does those sort of things are not the kind of thing that counts when deciding who is the bestest of all.

I tolerate it better than Roland and Brian do. I tolerate it better than Roland because he is a better listener than I am. Okay, so he doesn't seem to listen to me, but he does listen to other people. I'm a good listener as long as I want to be, but I don't have any problem letting myself zone out and periodically saying, "uh huh."

I tolerate it better than Brian because I am not a teenage boy.

Yesterday evening Brian's school had the all-band concert. His band did really well. Gary did not come to listen and was instead dropped off at the gym to practice with the fighters. When Brian was done we got into the van, told Brian how great he was, agreed that ice cream was in order and went to pick up Gary. Gary got in the van and started telling us about how wonderful he was. The instructor picked him to help demonstrate some new moves. HIM! He was picked because he actually knows more than anyone there. He knew how to do the move and the other fighters didn't have a clue. They really aren't very good, there is so much that he could teach them. Maybe he would stop going to class [with Brian] because sparring with the students isn't a challenge he can beat every single one of them every single time. It isn't a challenge for him and it isn't fair to them.

Brian was annoyed. At first he tried making a joke about Gary being all that "and modest too." Gary missed it entirely and said that he didn't need to be modest, because he was honest. Fighters shouldn't be modest. In fact professional fighters brag all the time. It is part of intimidating your opponent which is part of being great. Brian then informed Gary that he wasn't as good as he thought he was. Brian apparently remembers every single sparring match that Gary has lost, every exercise in class that Gary had difficulty with.

Normally I let the boys settle their own fights, but Brian was getting mean so I told him that was enough. Gary, by the way, did not respond to Brian's criticisms at all. I don't think he really knew what to do, or what we would allow him to do.

Anyway, we got through the moment and this morning I asked Brian what was going on. He said that he just got tired of listening to Gary brag. I told him that I understood but he needed to figure out a different way of handling it. He stared at his cereal like it was the most interesting thing in the whole wide world. So I said, "Well, maybe you should talk to Dad about it. I really think you should come up with a strategy that allows you to cope and appear to be the mature one at the same time." (Yes, I said that, I'm shameless.) He nodded.

It seemed this was a foster care post because it made me think about how every time a new kid joins the family there is this whole process of everybody trying to figure out what the rules of the game are. It's like foster families are a lot like in-laws. You have the instant relationship with all of the expectations of family but without the history of how conflict gets resolved. You don't know how they fight.

Every family has conflict, and every family has ways of dealing with it.

My family was not the healthiest in the world. My mother and sister dealt with their conflict by fighting with each other and complaining to me. I generally went back and forth negotiating peace agreements. My mother and I, and my sister and I just quarrelled and generally managed to resolve the issues, or not. Still, no one was every in any doubt about whether someone was angry with them. Even though my mother and sister didn't resolve things well, they sure did express them.

I didn't realize that we had a set of rules until I was dealing with Roland's family where no one ever fought. There was conflict, but for the life of me I couldn't figure out how they dealt with it. No one every raised their voices or said, "would you PLEASE stop doing that!" Eventually I realized that they passed messages through other members of the family. As in Roland tell me, "I over-heard Mom telling Dad about what happened with you two in the laundry room. My mom is really upset about what you said about the lint trap in the dryer. She really didn't know that every dryer has one." I didn't realize that I was expected to either go to her and apologize, while pretending that no one told me about it, "Oh hey, I hope I didn't hurt your feelings yesterday when we were talking about the dryer" or, even better, say to my father-in-law that I was so anxious because I thought she was upset about what I did and what did he think I should do? (He would then tell me not to worry about it and and pass on the pseudo-apology to her.)

What I actually did (yes, this is a real example) was say to Roland, "You have got to be kidding? She's upset because I told her that all dryers have lint traps? You must have heard wrong." Then I went on my merry way assuming that if she was hurt she would say something, because that's what people do, right?

And that is sort of what happened in the van yesterday. Brian said, "all that and modest too" which he thought clearly meant: stop bragging. Gary totally missed that signal. He didn't laugh and say, "yep, modest AND handsome" and then either shut up or ask Brian how the concert went. He kept talking about his greatness and then Brian decided that Gary had been warned and so went on the attack.

I don't really actually have a point here, just noticing and thinking.

So, falling apart here

It's the last week of classes and I have to go and teach and talk about normal things and pretend that I am not waiting to find out if I have uterine cancer and kidney failure.

Perimenopause is really not as bad as I thought it would be.

My usual strategy for dealing with ominous medical news is to figure out what the least scary thing is that I could have to explain my symptoms and decide I have that. So I spent like an hour last night on the computer searching kidney function tests trying to figure out something innocuous that I could have. At first it was really depressing because all I found were sites that said things like, "Screening tests for kidney disease are really great because it will let us put people on diets in which they are not allowed to eat salt, protein, or minerals normally found in vegetables or fruit, and then their disease won't get bad as fast."

And so then I am imagining my diet of rice with vegetable oil and thinking, "there has to be something better than this."

So I tried to figure out what the false positive rate is, because it is a screening test and screening tests always have high false positive rates, right? All I could find was a study showing that some new test produced far fewer false positives than this other test. The authors of the study thought that was a good thing because, I kid you not, a false positive can negatively affect your quality of life.

To which my response was, "no sh*t?" Followed by, "I wonder if I got the test with the high false positive rate that negatively affects your life or the one with the low false positive rate that tells you that your life sucks?"

Undaunted I searched on.

I noticed that if you have kidney disease there are a lot of medicines you can't take, so I looked up my prescriptions and you aren't supposed to take either one if you have kidney disease! Yay! And then I found a recommendation for one of them that you should have a kidney function test if you have been on it a long time because it can interfere with kidney function.

So then I was happier, because probably the doctor was just going to tell me that I have to stop taking the pill that keeps my hair from falling out or the one that keeps me from murdering my kids and bitching at my husband, or maybe both, because I can't remember which one had the note about getting the test but they both said to tell your doctor if you had kidney problems (although I pretty much think that all drugs say that you maybe shouldn't take them if you have kidney problems).

Anyway, I decided that being bald and bitchy wouldn't be so bad if it meant that I could still have mustard on my roast beef sandwich, and I remembered that all my kids are bigger than I am and can totally defend themselves. Oddly I felt better about the whole thing.

Also, if I have to go bald I am going to convert to Orthodox Judaism so I can wear lots of hats and scarves and stuff even though I look silly in them. I considered Islam, but based upon the Muslim and Jewish women I know, and there have a been a few of each, it appears that bitchiness is more acceptable in Judaism. Or maybe I will just wear the scarves and TELL people that I've converted. I'm sure the faithful of either religion will be totally cool with me using their faith as a cover-story for my scarf collection.

Monday, May 18, 2009

at least it isn't about my uterus

I came home from work early. I am in the eye of the Hurricane of Grading. I didn't sleep well, and I don't have any appointments with students.

I'm trying not to be anxious while I await the results from the ultrasound. I'm trying not to get nervous over thing that should not make me know, like the fact that my physician said that it would take about a week to get the results from the ultrasound and the technician who did it assured me that I would hear today or tomorrow. Of course I go to, "Did she see something that is making me high priority, or was my regular doc wrong about how long it takes?"

So here I am, sort of hoping they call about the results and what do you know? The phone rings and it is the doctor's office!

On Saturday I went in for the routine blood tests that I forgot to do last fall. My doctor wants to talk to me about the results of my kidney function test.

This is just not right. I would really like to be worried about one organ system at a time, thank you very much.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

My Colleague Again

Remember a couple of months ago when I said that my colleague tended to correct me when I say that I have six kids?

Well something happened a week or so ago and I remember thinking, "I have to blog that" except for some reason the details have slipped away.

Okay, here's the main point. There was a woman who I didn't know well who sat down with us at lunch. She asked me how many kids I had and though we weren't talking explicitly about pregnancy, the question was definitely how many kids had I given birth to. Without hesitation I said, "two."

And my colleague who in other contexts always wants to make sure people understand that I didn't actually give birth to six kids said, "Well that's misleading."

The woman asked what he meant and he said, "How many kids she has is a complex question."

She looked at me, very confused, and I explained.

Anyway, it was a cool moment.

I'm trying to write about things other than my uterus. Unfortunately the only topic Gary is providing is dealing with teenagers and sex and I don't have the energy for that now.

Friday, May 15, 2009

the results, well sortof

The woman ultrasounding me said that she couldn't tell me if she saw anything unusual, until she was measuring the cyst on my right ovary. The largest number I saw come up on the screen was 4.5 cm, which my googling tells me is big but not "OMG! WE MUST DO SOMETHING" big.

My uterus looked like it was a normal shape to me and I didn't see anything that looked like fibroids (based upon my hasty google-images education). On one hand I don't see any reason to trust my judgment, but still, it seems to me that if there were big ones I should have been able to see them.

It took me a little while to realize I should be paying attention to the numbers she was typing. It is possible that I missed something -- really possible -- but after I started paying attention she didn't type any numbers below something like 1.2 cm. That is past the threshold my doctor indicated for a biopsy (again assuming that I remember correctly), but I am feeling more calm about the possibility.

If I need one I still want to ask them to just do the hysterectomy and then they can biopsy the uterus as much as they want after. My mother says that they probably would want to do the biopsy first.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Student Research

I just came back from a rather annoying "special faculty meeting to discuss collaborative research with students."

Excuse me while I use this space to vent. What I am about to say may not be entirely fair. I don't care.

In the humanities we have not just been teaching students what may be considered the results of our research and instead have taught them how to DO RESEARCH for a very long time. Some of us have taken that very seriously, requiring students to turn in topics, bibliographies and abstracts. I am not alone, I believe, in organizing one week around the model of an academic conference. Each student must respond to one other paper. All students read all the papers and each student must defend his or her thesis to their peers.

This is not new, folks. Not new at all. It's how the humanities are taught. People in the fine arts have also always taught students to do what those in the field do: senior art shows, recitals, student directors.

However, people in the natural and social sciences apparently have figured this out recently. They are all excited about it. Let's not just teach students the information, let's teach them to be researchers!!! It's great! They do collaborative research with the students. So today I got to learn all about it. It would be best if my tweeked my research interests so that I am doing something that the students can work on too. Their projects should be self-contained, important and interesting to them, and I will need to work closely with them. This will then count as scholarly work for me too, and the students get so much more excited. They really learn.

Now we have meetings where we are given models for teaching research, told it is an exciting new(ish) approach to teaching. We should all do collaborative research.

I'm feeling a little peeved.

Let me say this again: I have, for my entire career, been guiding students in DOING the same sort of scholarship that scholars in the field do. Please stop pretending that you have invented a whole new pedagogy and that I am only teaching research if I can figure out how to make it collaborative and look as much as possible like what YOU do.


Okay, rant over.

It's the end of the semester. I'm tired. I'm stressed about my body. I just didn't need to lose an hour to that.

"We need to start teaching our students to do research, not just teach them about it."

solipsistic poopy heads.

Hey, I need to tell you something

", no one's in trouble, I just don't want to say this two times."

The boys sit, curious.

"Okay, so my girl parts are pissing me off and Friday Dad and I will be late getting home because he's going with me to have pictures taken to figure out what is going on."

Gary looks worried, "When you will get home?"

"Oh, like five o'clock."

Gary is relieved. I can almost hear him thinking "oh good, they're not sending me to respite."

I ask, "So, is there anything else you want to know, because I don't mind answering questions if you have any."

As one my teenage boys say, "NO."

And I was so looking forward to explaining to them that pelvic ultrasounds involve the use of a magic dildo. (They call it a "wand." It must be magic. I'm nothing if not logical.)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Good Mother's Day

So, I got a CD of Brian's class singing "You are my sunshine" and a crock pot, but it is a really cool one so that is okay. We went to see Star Trek at my request, because I am a nerd from way back. Prior to the movie we saw previews for two separate action movies based upon toys, a third directed by Tim Burton, a fourth in which our heros travel through time to the land of lost toys everything, another one that takes place in a museum, and I am pretty sure there was a sixth, but I can't remember. By the time the previews were over I was worn out with fight scenes and explosions, which was too bad because the movie was full of them. Other than that though, I really liked it. The actors who played the characters of my childhood did an excellent job of playing younger versions of them without seeming like they were doing impressions. And for those of you who are wondering how they can make a prequel without being inconsistent, well I just have to say, "Have you seen science fiction? I mean, you do know how easy it is to mess up a time line and create an alternate reality, right? Okay then."

Evan went with us. We got some quick dinner after and both Andrew and David called me. Carl called in the morning, and Alice, Andrew's girlfriend even called to say Happy Mother's Day.

Really, Mother's Day is the best when the kids are older.

****Warning to all male persons, female parts discussed below*****

All the activity helped distract me from the fact that my uterus is pissing me off. I'm seeing my family doc on Tuesday who will probably send me to another doc who specializes in troublesome uteruses (uteri?). I sat down and had a firm talk with her (the uterus, that is, my family doc is a guy). I reminded her about what happened to the gallbadder fifteen years ago. I wouldn't take this crap from the appendix and though I acknowledge a debt of gratitude for past services rendered that only goes so far.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Dreaming of Hilzoy

Last night I had a dream that FosterAbba took me to her friend's house. The friend turned out to be Hilzoy, whose writing at Obsidian Wings I really admire. Hilzoy turned out to be a woman I had met at a conference years ago and since I already had met her, FosterAbba didn't really introduce us. It was frustrating because I couldn't remember her name. That of course is oddly appropriate since "Hilzoy" is a pseudonym and Hilzoy periodically writes about why she doesn't use her real name.

Hilzoy didn't like me.

She had read my blog and all she said was, "I don't get that extreme naturalism you are always defending."

And I was very sad.

Gary's Job

Gary has been working on a job at a martial arts place The City for a while. He got an interview in the later part of March. He was very confident, but he didn't hear anything back, which was fine with us because Roland and I had some concerns. He did get a second interview about a month after the first. Then it was offered to him.

The entire time I had been expressing concerns about transportation. I've been warning him that we wouldn't help. I'll help him with jobs as far away as Schoolville, but The City is just too far. He's been studying bus schedules, talking about transportation services, and about friends who would help. My attitude has been that it near impossible for it to work it out, so why not let him learn by trying?

He was proud about having been offered the job and that dominated for a couple of days, then he started trying to figure out how he was going to get there.

He's turned the job down. I am really proud of him though. He really did have to figure this out for himself. I hope he is able to find another job somewhere closer.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Happy Fricken Mother's Day

Claudia has a great post. She wrote from the perspective of the kids adopted from foster care. I think she captures beatifully why Mother's Day is so painful for our kids, even when every other day is fine.

Money quote:

I know it's Mother's Day. I know I'm supposed to be nice to you because you
chose me -- because you have given me a home and because you love me. But today
I'm not thinking about you. So not only do I have to feel bad because the mom
that gave me life didn't want me, I have to feel bad for ruining your day

Note: I think that a lot of the mothers who lost their kids to foster care did want their kids. Wanting them though wasn't enough. What happened was ever so much more complex than that. The kids, however, experience as simple. In their minds their mothers made a choice and it wasn't them.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Well I'll just assume it's enough

So a while back Roland mailed in a pack of papers for our re-licensing. We haven't heard anything.

I few days ago, actually last week, I emailed the family developer and asked Roland and I had satisfied the yearly required hours seeing as I had 80% of what is required and he had 60%. That's 140%, right? I've never been in this position before. Normally we have 3 to 5 times as many hours as required. This is the first year in a long time that they haven't had some day long required training that satisfied most of it.

Anywho, she responding copying the new person in the office who apparently is supposed to be dealing with this and asked her to see if we had enough.

I haven't heard back.

So our license expires in about 6 weeks and if I need to get in some more hours I would sort of like to know so that I can maybe do something that would be at least a little bit interesting. I'm frustrated. I've never even met this new person. All I know about her is that she hasn't responded to this email request and she kept asking Roland for a copy of his driver's license after he had already sent it. Now if I knew her, had reason to like her and have confidence in her, these two things wouldn't matter at all. We all make mistakes. I've made worse, recently. But see, all I know about her is that she is the new licensing person and she has made these two mistakes.

I reassure myself though that they are not going to take Gary away. The very worst thing that could happen would be that they would give me a license contingent on doing something within a few months. They did that one year when Roland wasn't current on CPR. He actually went most of the year without getting it done.

grumble, grumble

Monday, May 04, 2009

No Flu, but a new Kindle

So Brian doesn't have the flu, of any variety. He's just sick. He was prescribed antibiotics though -- you know, just in case they help.

Gary is not acknowledging that he is sick too, which is fine.

He is also having second thoughts about the job in The City. He feels badly about telling them that he doesn't want it after all this, but maybe he will. I told him that he could say that he couldn't work out the transportation or that his mean parents wouldn't let him. He thought he might go with the transportation.

I'm not really sure what his real reasons are. The transportation problem might be the big one. Now that the job is real and he actually has to work out the details he can see how complicated it all is.

Wednesday Amazon is supposed to be announcing a new, bigger Kindle which might be good for newspapers and magazines and maybe is really about textbooks. On one hand I look forward to the day when all the textbooks are electronic. Publishers must look forward to it too since it would severely undercut the used book market. I still have my doubts that the Kindle will be the right platform though. As I said before, textbook publishers are already beginning to sell popular books on-line direct to students. Textbooks are marketed directly to educators. Amazon doesn't seem to have anything to offer textbook publishers except lower profits.

I could be wrong, of course.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Monthly Reports, at last

So I did one consolidated report for February, March and April.

I had to dig around for all the information regarding appointments, meds, and such. I searched my email and this blog. Blogs are very helpful for that sort of thing. Anyway, I got Gary's meds so I could type out all the names and dosages. Turns out he hasn't been taking them and isn't even clear on the instructions. So I made Gary get into the car ("no you can't wash your hair first, we are just going to talk to a pharmacist") to go to the drugstore.

We got it all worked out.

I'm pretty sure there is a rule that I am supposed to dispense medications. Brian is quite happy to have his father put his daily pill in a bowl on the table, but Gary (like the boys before him) insists he can do it himself. I understand their need for control and I give it to them. There is a risk, of course, but I think it is important for the boys to take responsibility and learn what happens when they don't.

I happened to mention in the report that he hasn't been remembering to take his meds, so if the social worker wants to tell me to do something else, I can.

In other news, Gary is still within a point of passing English, which is to say he is currently still failing. However, if he does everything he should from here to the end, he will pass. I think he will probably pass.

I hope so anyway.

He is very confusing about school. Whatever class he is in is either outrageously difficult, has a terrible teacher, or is too boring to care about. Classes he might take in the future will be easy, not an issue. He can do them, not a problem. None of them sound difficult to him at all.

He has trouble in classes now because he hates doing homework. It is difficult to concentrate, and large project overwhelm him and he doesn't get them done at all. Geometry however will be easy. He looked at Brian's book and he understands all of that. Brian says that a lot of people in the class are doing poorly because they don't do homework, but he will do homework! Of course he will. Just like he will in college. Even if the whole grade is based upon just 3 big projects, that will be easy! He will have so much time to get it done!

I don't think he perceives the tension in how he perceives the present and the future. I just nod.

Oh, Brian has flu-like symptoms, everything except the fever. We have isolated him in his room. It involved minimal bribing, which is an indication that he really does feel like crap.

Friday, May 01, 2009


Tonight Brian and Gary's drama class is putting on their version of the Lion King. The songs, apparenty, are public domain. The play itself is not, so the teacher wrote a script that uses the songs and is sufficiently different that she thinks the school is legally safe.

The boys agree, because they say it is just awful and barely makes sense. They performed last night and Brian said it went better than he expected.

"So you worked out the kinks?"

"No. It is permanently kinked. But it didn't suck as bad as I expected."

The boys insist that we not go. It is horrible, terrible, embarrassing. We should not see it.

On the other hand I think they want us to want to see them perform so much that we will attend over their objections.

I'm feeling tired and cranky and want to stay at home, but I think we will go anyway. Maybe afterwards we can take them for ice cream. It works for congratulations and consolations.