Monday, June 29, 2009

So Peaceful It's Boring

Well, I'm not actually bored, but the blog is doomed.

Andrew is volunteering at the animal shelter. They have a rule now that volunteers cannot adopt animals for 30 days. It is a very good thing that I know that we simply cannot take in another dog because I would be doomed. When I picked him up on Friday he had finished grooming a long-hair Chihuahua. It was such a sweet little thing, walking right by his side and looking up at him. He was an owner-surrender and came in with another, somewhat larger Chihuahua. They were (are) devoted to each other. The smaller one got adopted over the weekend and the bigger one is pining.

He, Andrew, went to walk a short-haired Chihuahua today. At first the dog snapped when Andrew tried to put him on the leash. So Andrew shut the kennel. The dog then sat by the door and looked very apologetic. So Andrew tried again and this time the dog cooperated, but was terrified walking past all the kennels with the big dogs. When they got to the exercise yard the little guy seemed to want to run. Andrew was fine with that, but the dog kept getting under his feet. He finally figured out that the dog was trying to get in front of him and flop down so that he could be picked up.

Andrew wouldn't carry him around the exercise yard, but he did sit in the grass and let the dog climb into his lap ... and he carried past the scary big dogs when they went inside.

Brian did is weekly hour of volunteering today. This time he got to play with (i.e. exercise) the cats. He also has stories about which ones are wonderful.

Gary is have a more difficult time, having nothing to do other than go to MMA class. He mopes a little, but we ignore it.

Gary and Brian are not getting along as well as they once did. Brian is irritated by Gary's bragging. Gary is irritated by Brian's habit of doing as little as possible when asked to do a chore. I find both characteristics annoying myself, but I'm better at letting it roll off.

I'm really enjoying Andrew and Alice. I'm not sure that is exactly the right word, but they are so sweet and loving. It is making me remember what it is like to be young and in love. They are delightful.

Roland spends time relaxing and working on some furniture for his classroom. He decided it needed to be repainted, but then decided that they needed ... oh I haven't a clue. It involves the use of clamps.

As for me, I feel a bit guilty about reading novels all the time and not preparing for my fall classes, but apparently not guilty enough to stop reading novels.

Like I said, so peaceful it's boring.

But I'm not complaining.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Frankie Doesn't Live There Anymore

The woman who had been Frankie's foster mom called me a couple of days ago and said she would like to car pool to a recreation event the agency had for the kids today. (They climbed a big rock.) She picked up the boys, but I didn't see her. Roland went to get them, but none of them was Frankie. One of the boys said that he is in a "transitional home," which could mean just about anything.

The family had been living in a tiny town north of here. He had been doing well at the small high school there. Now they have moved to Our Small Town, and Frankie isn't with them.

I have no idea what happened. Gary's new-to-him social worker is also Frankie's worker. I will have to see what information she can give me when I see her next. It won't be much. She might say that Frankie decided he didn't want to come back to Our Small Town because the schools. Maybe the learned that the high school would insist that he go back into the restrictive program he was in when he was with us. If that happened, she would tell me. Or maybe he disrupted for any number of reasons. If that is the case, then the social worker won't say anything other than the placement didn't work out. She won't give me details.

At least he is with the agency. They will stick with him.

I had really hoped that placement would work out for him. I really had.

It is funny. Just a couple of days ago I started a post about kids moving in foster care, about how we can't have fewer moves by deciding we will have fewer moves. Kids move for reasons. If we are going to ensure fewer moves, we will need to address the reasons.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Random Summer Reports

Let's see....

Andrew did make a real effort to apply for a job. He even went to the fast food joints he didn't want to apply to last year where they told him that they couldn't keep paper application forms in stock and if he wanted to apply he would have to go home and print his own application from the internet and bring it in. He goes to the orientation for volunteering at the animal shelter on Thursday. We are hoping they can put him to work for many hours every week.

Brian also wanted to volunteer, but not being sixteen he had limited options. I remembered though that the private cat-only shelter (which was started way back when the county animal shelter only took dogs) lets teens as young as 13 volunteer. So he went in and they told him they could fit him in from 2-3 on Mondays. He went yesterday and weeded around the outside of the building. I'm thinking they are fairly overwhelmed with volunteers.

Gary complains that he needs a project this summer. He can't get a job either, even though he is signed up with a governement-funded program that will pay his wages for the first couple of months. That's right folks. Local businesses are so overwhelmed that they are turning down free part-time employees. To be fair, these employees need to be trained, supervised, and reported on. In any case, he can't get a job, but he wants to do something. He didn't want to volunteer with Andrew because one of his ex-girlfriends volunteers at the animal shelter sometimes and he didn't want to volunteer with Brian because he spends a lot of time with Brian and it would be good for them to have some more time apart. (Okay, he didn't exactlly say that, but that is what I understood).

As seems typical with Gary, he only wants to do something if it is big. He doesn't want to spend a couple of hours walking dogs, he wants to do something that will change the world in meaningful ways. Like start a group that advocates for kids in foster care. I asked why he didn't join the local organization of foster youth/alumni that advocates for kids in foster care. They do good work and he could certainly help them. He seemed disappointed that such an organization already existed and didn't seem to think that attending their meetings would be very interesting.

It's a hero thing, or something. He doesn't want to do grunt work. He wants to do something Really Important, or else spend the summer complaining periodically that he doesn't have anything important to do.

He keeps going back and forth on the MMA tournament thing. The only person who thinks it is a good idea is the job coach, who might not think it is a good idea. He might just be facilitating Gary's ideas and thinking that we are supportive of it. We aren't. It isn't that it might not be a good idea under some circumstances. It is just that the gym where he trains doesn't think he should participate in a national tournament before competing in regional ones, and he has to pay for half of it himself. Seeing as he doesn't have a job, that will be difficult. Yesterday he and the job coach had this idea of having a car wash at the church.

It took a while to explain that yes the church would probably let him use the parking lot, water, etc, but maybe not if it was just him and not a club or any other type of organization. However, it wasn't a good location for one. Oh, and no, he couldn't count on people at the church coming. He can't use their parking lot when there are services and the absolutely won't allow him to sell tickets to his car wash at the church. Yes, they let the church youth group do that, but they are the church youth group. He is a boy who never goes to church who wants to make money for his own project.

We are not in close communication with the job coach. We need to talk. On one hand I feel strongly that kids should be allowed to pursue their crazy, unrealistic ideas. It gives them something to do and they learn a lot along the way. And then there is always the possibility that they will succeed, and that is good too. Still, there is a difference between Gary having crazy grand ideas about what he will do, and the job coach giving him crazy ideas. I remind myself that all my information about what the job coach says is from Gary.

Anyway, I am seeing a theme here with Gary. Nothing is worth doing unless it can be done in a spectacular way. If it can't be done in a spectacular way, then why bother? Of course a lot of this is self-doubt and self-protection. It sounds like he is a kid who wants to take risks, but it actually protects him from risks. The things that are within his grasp are not worth doing. The things that are worth doing are not possible for him to attempt.

Let's see...

It really looks like Alice is not going to get the money together to go to the art institute. On one hand I am so very sad for her. On the other there was never any way for her to do it other than getting people to co-sign on loans for her. The amount of loans she would have had to take would have been overwhelming. She is sad about that, but adjusting. That Andrew can come home as often as one weekend a month seems to help, I think. Of course my main goal is to keep Andrew from even considering leaving the college he is in and sticking around here so he can be with her all the time.

We invited her to go with us to the cottages this summer. To her surprise her mother agreed without argument. She didn't even have to explain that she and Andrew wouldn't even be sleeping in the same cottage. She figures her mother must know that if we are there we will be supervising them. I figure her mother realized that if she didn't say yes, Andrew might stay here and they would have the whole house to themselves. Also both of them are over 18 and they have been dating for two years. I think we all trust them to be responsible about whatever decisions they make, and believe it is their business what decisions they are making.

So all that is good, although it is going to be complicated. I have to plan menus and write a grocery list for all six of us, plus maybe my dad. I have to get it right too, because the closest grocery store is 2 hours away. Well, there is a tiny store where we can buy a $5+ gallon of milk, but that is to be avoided.

And I am happy to report that I don't have anything more interesting to report.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Kindle-Gate (update w/Amazon's response)

There is confusion about Kindle's DRM policy. If you haven't read these, and care about Kindle and DRM, please do. Try not to get too worked up though.

DRM sucks and I don't like it. I'm not going to try to defend DRM in general, but I have a guess as to what is going on.'s DRM policy is that you can have your book on 2 computers and 3 devices at any one time. You don't have to register devices with them, so it is possible for me to loan you an audible book by putting it on your mp3 player. Of course this is dangerous. If you like, my adults sons have done, simply DO NOT BELIEVE that I have to remove the book with my computer so that that I can have that copy back at my disposal, I am no able to have it on no more than 2 devices at one time. If you have your books on two different computers and they both crash and burn, you can call audible, tell them what happened, and have the DRM re-set.

And if you are going to have DRM at all, you do have to have some such policy, or the DRM doesn't actually do anything.

The problem is that Amazon's policy for DRM is not clear, and that is a big problem.

Right now up to six devices can be registered on one account. They also have to share a means of payment. My husband's new iPod Touch is on my Kindle account. He can read any on my books if he wants. Theoretically, a book club of people who really trusted each other could all buy Kindle's, put them on one account, and share copies of a one purchase. (They would need to be careful about syncing or backing up their comments and bookmarks though. The system is set up to assume one person is using all those devices and each sync will over-ride previous information.) Did I mention they have to trust each other?

There is nothing on the web site about temporarily putting a device on your account, but someone must have thought about this. It appears that I should be able to register your iPhone to my account for a limited time so that you can read one of my books and then unregister it later. Of course, while you are registered I have to trust that you won't access the account and buy a boat load of books. I imagine that if I was in the habit of registering and de-registering devices at an alarming rate, or if a particular iPod was getting successively registered under different accounts, Amazon would notice and do something about it. (BTW, when you de-register a device Amazon wipes it. Don't believe anyone who is trying to sell you a used Kindle with pre-purchased books).

Anyway, all this could we worse. iTunes doesn't allow purchases to be downloaded more than once. You break your device and don't have a backup? You lose your music.

Now of course, if there is DRM there will be limits to how many devices a book can be on and/or how many times you can download it. That is what DRM is all about. One should also expect that if you are allowed to download a book more than once, it is probable that sometimes there will be a glitch and you will need to call customer service and have them reset the count on your books.

What is unacceptable is that Amazon does not have a consistent policy, or even a clear way to learn the book-by-book policy.

Update: Amazon's response is...

Publishers choose whether they apply DRM to their content and thus determine how many copies of each title can be downloaded to different Kindle devices at the same time. There is no limit on the number of times a title can be downloaded to a registered device, but there may be limits on the number of devices (usually 6) that can simultaneously use a single book. If you have upgraded or replaced your device, you should delete the content and deregister any device(s) no longer in use, which enables you to download to new registered devices.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Plans for the day

Gary is going to his girlfriend's birthday party. She has a pool where her family has just moved and he needs a new swimsuit, he says, because his current one hits him four inches above the knee. It's a swimsuit, dude. Ah well, styles change. So I will be buying him one. He wants to buy her flowers.

The rest of us are going to Pride. Brian is taking a friend from school. Andrew is taking his girlfriend and her sister who is required to write a paper on an event from a community other than her own. I know she will be respectful and interested. Roland volunteered to sit at our church's booth for an hour or so.

David will be there and wants to meet us at 1:20. He of course really wants to see us, but I imagine he is also hoping to be bought lunch. That's okay. So it should be an exciting, fun-filled day. One of us at an outside pool and the others at a rally, march, and fair.

Oh, did I mention the weather? It is overcast, cool and windy out side, thunderstorms are expected in the afternoon.

I suppose this is to be prefered from the time we had Pride when Andrew had undiagnosed walking pneumonia and temps reached a record-breaking 114 degrees.

But not by much.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Update on my body

'cause I know you have all been just dying to know.

****Space so guys who don't want to hear about these things can close the window or something****

Anyway, I went to the doctor because I was bleeding every other week and though I was certainly concerned that it might be cancer or other bad things, I also really wanted to just make it stop. I found out it wasn't cancer and was offered ablation or hormones to try to control the bleeding. I chose hormones.

On a side note, I find it curious to remember that when I was in my 20's I was adamant about not using hormones as birth control. I was a careful and successful user of the diaphragm for 10 years (then Roland got the surgery). It was all about feminism, as I recall. Being a feminist meant respecting my body, working with it, honoring its cycles, or some such thing. Now of course my feminism is about understanding my own privilege and working to end the oppression of others, so hey, bring on the hormones.

I'm taking two completely separate prescriptions: an estrogen and a progesterone. Actually, multiple versions of each at low doses. I take the estrogen every day and the progesterone on the first 14 calendar days of each month. I started about a month ago. Now the advantage of taking two separate prescriptions is that it makes me feel like OB/GYN Guy must really know his stuff. I'm getting treatment that is just for me! The disadvantage is that I pay two copays and there is no way I can Google my treatment and figure out how this drug treatment is supposed to work. (It just occurred to me that there might be another insurance advantage. I imagine that all the prescriptions that combine the hormones are classified as birth control, and I don't know if my insurance pays for that. It didn't back when I was using the diaphragm, but that was 16 years ago.)

The OB/GYN Guy told me that it would take me a couple of months to find out if the pills were going to work. However I stopped spotting two days after taking the estrogen, so I was all like, "Hah! It works for me right away! Woo Hoo!" As the days passed I had to keep reminding myself that I had gone 7, 8, 9, 10 days without spotting over the past several months. I shouldn't get too excited until I had gone 3 weeks, like I did back in the olden days. Sure enough, on the 13th of the month, (which would have been after 12 doses of progesterone, since I take that in the evening), I started spotting.

I haven't stopped.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen (if any remain), I have been spotting now for a week.

Today I would say I am actually bleeding.

So far not that much different than before the meds. But the meds aren't supposed to work right off, right? I reassured myself. Give it some time. After a while... suddenly occurred to me that I did not know what should happen after I took them a while.

So I called the nurse. I asked. Would I not have periods at all? Would they be light? Would they occur at the same time every month? If so, when?

The answer are: unlikely, maybe, probably, within a week of stopping progesterone unless it is just after starting progesterone. You know: individual results will vary. On the up side, after three months I will know what my results are, except of course they could change as my body continues its journey through menopause, but probably only in that whatever bleeding I have should get lighter and then maybe stop. In case you are wondering, failure to "work" is defined entirely by whether I am happy with whatever results I get. If I am not, I can chose ablation or insist on an elective hysterectomy. (Insurance will cover either. I've even met my co-pay, which is an incentive to do whatever I might want to do before the end of the calendar year).

You know, I am not a very patient person. I want to know now.

When I first heard about ablation I was sort of creeped out by it. I'm not sure exactly why, but it just seemed wrong. A hysterectomy seemed cleaner somehow. Also the only thing that is guaranteed to work. If I am unhappy with the drug therapy I am leaning towards hysterectomy. All other treatments may fail and I could end up there anyway. I know that I might not, but the thought of just getting it done and never having to worry about it again is very appealing. Besides, every single woman I know who has had one has said the same two things. First, it was real surgery and it did require recovery time. Don't take it lightly. Second, they are thrilled with the results.

But I am going to give the drugs a real chance to work. If they don't, I can' always schedule surgery at the beginning of Christmas break and be waiting on while everyone is on holiday. That should be long enough since I should qualify for the two-week recovery time version.

And that is my ever-so-exciting update on my body.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Grocery budgeting

Budgeting for food with teenage boys, especially a boy like Gary, is really really difficult. I've been aiming for having left-overs, but that is clearly a mistake.

Three nights ago I cooked bratwurst for dinner. I had one and there was enough for all the guys to have two. After dinner I put three in the frig. They were gone in the morning.

Two days ago I made Chicken Marsala. I cooked an extra piece for Alice who didn't come over after all. Gary was busy and did not come in to eat with us, but when he came in later he ate both pieces. You must understand, these are pretty BIG. I still have 3 cups of mushroom-marsala sauce if anyone cares.

Last night Andrew cooked a chicken curry. He used 6 large chicken breast fillets, two cans of chick peas, and pound of spinach, and cups of rice. Gary and Brian were at Marial Arts class working up an appetite. While they were gone Roland, Andrew, Alice and I ate a little less than half of it. When Gary came home he ate the rest. I'm not quite sure what Brian ate. He doesn't really like curry. In case you lost count, that means that Gary ate 3 large chicken breasts, one can of chick peas, and 1/2 a pound of spinach, no rice though. I now have four cuts of cooked rice in the frig, if anyone is interested. (I may be eating it with mushroom-marasala sauce for lunch).

Gary is not the least bit fat. He is very muscular, and he is working out. I know he needs the calories, but the boy is going to eat me out of house and home.

Like a lot of teen boys, Gary likes meat, lots of meat. He eats fruits and veggies. Grapes are a favorite. He likes his carbs. I bought frozen waffles as a treat. Gary ate 5 at a time, because that is as many as he could fit into the toaster oven. He likes pasta and will cook himself enough penne pasta to fill a 2 quart bowl and eat it with sauce and cheese for lunch. Okay, he likes food. Still, it is meat that I need to learn not to try to fix enough for leftovers.

We are spending too much money on food, but Gary needs the calories and he needs quality food. He will eat bean dishes, if there isn't any meat. He is pretty good, in fact, about being willing to extend meat dishes with beans. He did not, for instance, have any problems with the chickpeas in the curry. When he makes enchilladas he uses chicken but then he also adds lots of beans.

For a while I was doing really well on our food budget. Of course I was buying a lot of whole chickens and cutting them up myself. We were eating more dark meat. Recently I have gone back to buying chicken breasts. I've bought big bags of them from Costco, so they are less expensive, but it is really still too much.

I'm mostly just whining. I know I need to start planning nutritious, inexpensive meals my whole family will eat. It is just when I start trying to make list of those sorts of things I come up with so little.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

it's the politeness the confuses them

this morning a young man came to our door to sell something related to home schooling, or educating at home, something. Roland who is very, very nice sat on the step and talked to him. They finished with Roland telling the young man that he should come back in the evening since we had just got up. I was a bit annoyed at Roland. He is so determined to be polite to people and doesn't seem to understand that you can be polite and still refuse to engage.


A little while ago Roland left to get the boys at martial arts and the young man showed up. The dogs were making a rukus, very annoying. The Shih Tzu got out and I had to go out to chase him. I told him that Roland wasn't here and if he wanted he could talk to him tomorrow.

I said, "but you should know we don't home school."

He said, "Oh, it is not about home schooling. It is about education."

"I see, but I am still not interested."

"In education?" He seemed quite confused.

"No. In your product."

"Oh. But maybe I could still talk to you..."

"No. You can come back to talk to Roland tomorrow though. He is an educator and he might be interested."

"But you are a family, and how can he be interested if you are not?"

By that point I finally caught the dog. "Yes. That probably is a problem from your perspective. Have a good evening."

And I shut the door.

That, my darling Roland, is how it is done.

Andrew & summer work

Though Andrew responded well to the idea of being rewarded for volunteer work, he really wanted to see if he could get paying work. So he went to different places where he was told that they had no openings. He went to a cafe that was advertising a position and added his application to another twenty. He may still check out the golden arches, but he is ready to start volunteering.

It is really bad out there.

Summer with Gary

Gary is bored. He says he needs a project. I said, "okay." I'm really supportive like that. He still talks about how he is so much better than all the fighters at the gym. I'm getting really good at letting that flow right over me.

He can be really frustrating. In one conversation he can tell me how he is really good at school and wants to go to college. He loves reading. He has read a whole lot more than almost anyone else his age (true) and he is a good writer (also basically true), so he should do okay in English in high school. He just has trouble making himself do it. That's why he got a D in English this year, he just didn't want to do what they wanted him to do. And that one teacher, the one I know really likes him, he's studid. "He keeps trying to say all these things to me to get me to work, but he doesn't know that I know that is what he is doing. I'm too smart for that. I see right through him."

"Right through his too obvious efforts to motivate you to care about your future?"

"Yeah" he says grinning at me, knowing I've got him, "You know better. You don't do that. You know you can't trick me into doing stuff I don't want to do."

"Yes. I have accepted that you are the only one who can make you care about your future and do your work." He does not hear the sadness and resignation in my voice.

"So why doesn't he?"

"Because he cares deeply about you and your success matters to him."

Gary shakes his head at the stupidity of the adults around him. Roland and I are the only adults he knows that get it. We know that it is a waste of energy trying to keep him from self-destruction. "I don't know what I am going to major in in college though. Are you sure you need a master's degree to be a physical therapist?"

I give him the long, blank stare.

"You have to start doing the work in high school if you want to go to college."

"Yeah, I know. I can do it. I just don't want to do it."

I feel badly that all of you mostly just hear about this part of his personality. You don't see the rest. He really is a pretty easy guy to live with.

One on hand I really believe we are taking the right approach with Gary. I think this is what he needs. On the other hand I'm not certain that the reason I am taking this approach is that I am wise and experienced. I am afraid that the reason is that I have been worn down.

Monday, June 15, 2009


I was out of them, socks that is. I complained to my laundry service (aka Roldand) and was told that socks would be forthcoming.

In a few days I received several pairs.

I insisted that I had more socks than that.

He pointed out that I have a tendency to pull off my socks and shoes and have not always got my socks into the laundry basket. He washes them but cannot track them.

I made mention of the baskets of undone laundry in the laundry room.

He informed me that he knew exactly what was in those baskets, and in none of them were there socks. Besides, one of those basket's was Gary's.

So I bought more socks. Little white socks. Then I went to my sister's where it was colder than here and I bought more socks, colored socks, to go with one pair of shoes I had brought. I think I may have bought 9 pair. So then, I had socks.

And yesterday Roland brought up a basket of ... socks.

Yes. Socks.

You see, Gary had left a large amount of laundry in a basket, but he put it on top of a basket full socks and underwear. (Roland's laundry sorting system is bizarre, but I've stopped trying to explain how the rest of the world does it).

Now I have socks.

Lots and lots of socks.

In fact, my sock drawer doth floweth over with socks.

I am still low on underwear without holes though.

Depression Ethics

My husband's grandmother once told me that she hired a housekeeper in the Great Depression not because they needed one but because at the time it seemed to many that if you could afford to give someone a job, you should. She was a teacher in a private girls' school who would later teach at a college and eventually would do research into teaching children we would now diagnose as autistic. I didn't really believe her about the hiring of the housekeeper. I didn't think it was in any way bad for her to have hired one. I just didn't think she did it out of a sense of social responsibility.

I have changed my mind.

I have friends who now eat out at one particular restaurant every week because they want it to stay in business. They someday will tell their grandchildren that during this economic crisis that they did that and those grandchildren probably will also think, "Yeah, right, they just wanted an excuse to eat out every week." Though my friends no doubt enjoy eating out, they have made a habit of it, because it seems the right thing to do. The money they spend is some one's pay check, and too few people are getting those these days. They are not the only people I know who are doing such things. Many people are trying to decide where and how to best spend the dollars they can spend, even while they save so as to be safe from any disaster.

Unemployment in my county has reached double digits. It is bad out there, and even if the stock market is recovering, the job market is not.

And I am thinking about this because we are pressuring Andrew to go out and get a job. He has NEVER had a paying job. This is not good. He needs to have the job experience. Last night Roland and I talked about it. We worry that we are sending him on a mission destined to fail. There are no jobs for him to find. We worry also that he might succeed and that the job he would get might come at the expense of someone who needs it to support themselves.

So we offered him a deal. If he volunteers 20+ hours a week at the animal shelter, food bank, thrift store, wherever, we will compensate him. We can't afford to pay him an hourly wage for his work, but I told him that I would buy him more tickets home next year. At first he thought I meant that I would buy him more than we had discussed before...back when we thought Alice might be going to the same city for school he might only come home at Christmas, staying there with her for Thanksgiving and Spring Break. I explained that no, I meant more than last year. He can come home one or perhaps even twice mid-quarter, each quarter. I know it looked like Alice wasn't going to be going, and I thought that maybe getting to see her more often would be a good compensation for the work.

He grinned, nodded, and got up to shower and go find some work.

We didn't tell him that we were also nervous that he might choose to stay here and attend the college where I teach, not because it is a good choice for him, but because he does not want to be separated from Alice. We did not tell him that we would have offered those extra plane tickets to keep him in school regardless of what he did this summer.

The plane tickets are motivation for him, but I also feel good about the thought that he might spend time this summer volunteering instead of working. It is a good choice.

And I now believe what Roland's grandmother told me.

boys in my house

Last night Andrew had a D&D party. It was like old times. Except that his bedroom is now on the main floor instead of the basement and this morning there are boys (okay, young men) sprawled over my living room furniture instead of all over the basement. One of them is in my chair at my work station. I made pancakes, but that did not wake them up. I've had the song "wake up little susie" in my head for DAYS. I'm wondering if I can put a You Tube Video on continuous play. Perhaps if we all play it at once. Ready?

One...two...three... CLICK

Saturday, June 13, 2009


Well, Gary's grades anyway.

You know that you are a seasoned (i.e. worn down) parent when you open a report card, see two D's (3 C's, 1 B, and 1 A) and think, "Oh good, I don't have to take him to summer school."

A condition of his probation is getting C's or above in all his classes. That means the D's are probation violatons. His PO doesn't know about them but I doubt she will do anything. Theoretically she could make him spend a day or two at the detention center. I doubt she will. On the other hand it is highly unlikely that she will be able to get him off probation this summer like she was saying she would.

Still haven't received Brian's grades yet.

Hours with Alice

Alice, who is Andrew's girlfriend you'll recall, went with me to pick up Andrew. I picked her up at her house at 5:00pm. I got a big hug from her older sister who used to work as an aid in Roland's class, a greeting from her mom, and a joyful smile from her one-year-younger sister. (I forget exactly what her disability is, but she used to be one of Roland's students. She is slowly getting better at focusing on a board that will say things for her. Mostly I just get smiles.)

Anyway, I wanted to pick some things up at the co-op in The City so we left early. We allowed room for traffic, which was not a problem, so we spent a lot of time wandering around the co-op. We discussed the value of knowing that there was FINALLY somewhere we could reliably purchase rice cakes with seaweed in them, and marveled at the large, hand-carved wooden corn cob holders. You know, because sometimes the cheap plastic ones shaped like corn cobs just aren't enough.

Andrew's plane was late so we had a long time to sit and talk. I regaled her with my story about Kindle customer service. We talked about Andrew's character flaws, and we talked about her college plans. I feel so badly for the poor girl.

She really wants to go to the art institute. I've mentioned it before. I spoke with someone who teaches at my college who says that this is a particularly good one. It is a for-profit school which means things like they don't have much financial aid and most of the courses are taught by adjuncts. The school is located in a place where there are a lot of people working in the industry she is interested in, so they tend to get people who really know their area. So, it is what it is. And her desire to go there is sincere and, I am now convinced, quite independent of wanting to be with Andrew. She would have wanted to go there even if he wasn't there.

Sadly it is just so expensive. She got a Pell grant and a Stafford loan. They told her that she qualifies for work study money but they won't tell her how much she can earn until she registers for classes and she can't register for classes until she has a financial plan worked out. So apparently, they don't want work study money to be part of the financial plan. Right now she is something like $14,000 shy, and that is for the first year. Her mother can't help more than she is, and her father won't help.

She got emotional when she told me how hard everyone is working trying to come up with ideas and she feels horrible about disappointing everyone, like she just got their hopes up for nothing.

Anyway, if she can't go, and it looks increasingly like she can't, it makes most sense to her that she just stay, live with her mom and take courses at the community college. This summer she has a part time job working as her sister's one-on-one at the summer program ("It's great. The best job ever. I have been taking care of her my whole life and now they are paying me to do what I would be doing anyway") and the program has offered her a job during the school year too, although it may or may not be working with her sister. She had some anxiety about telling me this, but she said that Andrew had said that if she couldn't come to a school where he is then he could just come back and go to school here.

We both think it is the wrong decision for him. He could go to the school where I teach but it is much, much smaller and he is interested in subjects too close to my areas. It has the potential to be too awkward. He loves the school he is at. He loves the city he is in. I don't think that he realizes that telling her that if she can't come to him, he will come back here affects her rather like him saying, "If you don't come here, I will jump off a cliff."

She says he doesn't understand, and he doesn't. Though I don't think of myself as rich, I know we are secure and for her family that is rich. He was incredibly lucky to have both a grandfather-funded college fund that he doesn't hardly need to tap AND a full-tuition scholarship that he got because his mom is a professor. His college fund pays for his room and board. Mom and Dad buy his books and plane tickets. I give him a small allowance for laundry -- no more than he got when he was in high school. He spends almost none of it. He doesn't feel spoiled. Other students are spending large amounts of money on things, and he spends nothing.

But he also has never had to worry. He has never even considered that he might not have the money to go to the school that he wanted to go to. On one hand he seems to me to be unspoiled. Unlike some of my children's friends, he never complained about not getting designer jeans, or expensive shoes. He didn't get his own car like some of the kids he was friends with. The video equipment he got was almost all stuff he bought used with money he saved from allowances and gifts. He has been happy with that and not wanted more. On the other hand, he has quite honestly got everything he has ever really wanted. He really isn't very good at accepting that one of the things he really wants (his girlfriend going to the college she wants to go to in the same city as the college he wants to go to) might not happen.

Of course one of the reasons it is difficult is the same reason it is difficult for me. This is what she wants. In our society it ought to be possible for students to go to the colleges they want to go to (I'm ignoring my whole issue with for-profits at the moment).

I was glad she was able to talk to me about it. I wish there was something I could do.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Kindle Customer Service

Other than the fact that they didn't solve the problem, that was a pretty helpful customer service experience.

First my problem: I bought Among the Mad (A Maisie Dobbs mystery) by Jacqueline Winspear on my Kindle. I read and enjoyed it. I then removed it from the Kindle. It should have still been listed with all the other books on the "Manage My Kindle" page at Amazon and I should have been able to find it under "Archives" on my Kindle. It did not show at either place. So I wrote them an email and after about 24 hours of not hearing anything I decided to call.

The initial calling experience was really cool. I was on-line, logged in, and clicked the "contact us" button. They said if I wanted them to call me right now I should click the "call me" button. I did, AND MY PHONE RANG, like immediately. When I answered I heard a recording asking me to wait for someone to talk to me, but a nice young man picked up in less than a minute. So I explained my problem. Now of course he thought that I was probably confused about how to use the manage page, but first he confirmed that I had bought it and then he sent it my Kindle. Then he went and checked on the other part of the problem.

Bemused (I've been wanting to use that word for a while), he said, "I can confirm that you bought Among the Mad. I can see it on our list of your orders, but I can see that it is not on your list."

"So you can see that I can't see it?"

"Yes, I can see that you can't see it" he laughed. "Um, that shouldn't happen."

"I agree."

He said that he would try to figure it out and while he did I told him about how they really needed to give us organizational folders for all our books. He said that they weren't working on that project yet, but other people had suggested it and he would pass my request along. I said that was good because if they wanted me to buy lots and lots of books the least they could do was let me get them organized.

He then very kindly said he needed to put me on hold (you know, so I would stop talking to him and he could figure it out). Then he came back and said that he needed to send me to the second level people who might be able to figure this out.

The second-level guy was less fun. He said, "I understand you are having trouble with one of your Kindle purchases?" I explained. He offered to send it to my Kindle. I said the last guy did that, now I was hoping he could fix the next part. He said he needed to put me on hold while he checked it out.

He came back and said, sounding mystified, "Well, it is on our list of orders. I can definitely see that you bought it, but for some reason it isn't showing up on your Manage My Kindle page."

I said, "uh huh."

He assured me that they absolutely knew that I had bought it. I didn't have to worry about it. Their records were clear. Then he said he was going to put me on hold so he could check some data bases.

Finally he came back and said, "I want to assure you that it is clear that you bought the book and if you need it put on your Kindle again you can call us anytime and we can put it right back on for you. I am going to have to write up a ticket on this problem and I will expedite it. The team will get working on it right away."

So we said nice things to each other, and hung up. I find this to be a pretty worrying problem, I mean, how many books might I buy that disappear? On the other hand the customer service people were trying to be helpful and I get that they can't fix major problems with the site's software, or whatever. I have to tell you about the next part.

When I clicked the button saying I wanted to call them I got a little pop up window on my computer. Throughout the call it warned me not to shut the window because doing so would hang up the call. (Odd, but that is what it said). Once the customer service guy and I hung up it said something like, "We hoped we were able to resolve your issue. Your feedback is important to us. If we resolved your issue, please click here. If not, please click here."

So I clicked the second link, said that the customer service people had been really nice and that I hoped the issue would be resolved soon.

Two hours later I got an email saying,


Thanks for writing about your Amazon Kindle customer service experience.

Strong customer feedback like yours helps us continue to improve the service we provide, and we're glad you took time to write to us. I'll send your comments to the Kindle team.

Thanks for your interest in Amazon Kindle.

Please let us know if this e-mail resolved your question:

If yes, click here:
If no, click here:"

I clicked the second link wrote, "Cool. Is this an infinite feedback loop where I tell you that my problem is not solved and then you thank me for giving me feedback and ask if thanking me for feedback solved my problem?"

I haven't got anything back from that one yet.

And Among the Mad still does not appear in my on-line library.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

First Hug

Well, not really, but sort of.

When I came home last night Gary was sitting in the recliner and he smiled and held out an arm -- just enough so that if I didn't want to hug him, he could turn it into a stretch or something. I went to him, bent over and gave him a hug. He had one arm across my back and one just above me knees. That perhaps sounds a little creepy, but it didn't feel like that. Well, aside from the fact that he could have easily thrown me off balance. It felt more like he wanted to hang on to all of me, make sure I didn't leave until HE was done hugging.

I build up to hugging the kids slowly. I want them to feel in control of their physycial boundaries. I don't know when he started offering hugs, but he has been a pretty good hugger.

Although, come to think of it, he tends to rock when he hugs me, in a way that keeps me physically off balance, or at least in danger of being off balance. It is a slight exaggeration of the way anyone might put a little movement into a hug. It makes it silly, gives him more a sense of being in control which is all fine.

Stilll, last evening was the first time he indicated he wanted a hug first.

Trouble Reading the Blog?

Yeah, me too, at least sometimes. I don't know what is going on and I haven't a clue how to fix it. I have found it happens with some of the other Blogger blogs I read.

I have found that using Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome instead of Internet Explorer helps.

I am also publishing full feeds, so you can read the entire post in Google Reader or Bloglines.

(BTW, I just started playing with Google Chrome. It is as fast as they claim it is. Really cool.)

Down the Rabbit Hole

My sister is in a difficult place. She is rejecting most or even all of what her church teaches. She isn't sure that she is going to end up believing at all. I think there is a good chance she will become a non-church-going agnostic. She doesn't do well with grey. If Christianity is the true religion then the Bible would be clear and we should believe everything it says. If the Bible has contradictions in it, then it is not clear, cannot have been written by God, is therefore entirely a human work, and religion is something people make up to help themselves feel less afraid of the dark. Right now she stays at the church because it is necessary for her daughters to continue, and because she has nowhere else to be. She took a communications class in which she learned that one of the things that people need is affiliation -- a sense of belonging in a community. She has learned that it is normal for people to stay in communities that are harmful to them because it is more difficult than leaving.

Right now she is so very busy trying to work as much as she can, keep up with the church responsibilities and go to school full time. She doesn't have time to find a new place to belong. I am not, by the way, going to try to suggest web sites or churches or groups to her any more. I only suggested one -- a parent support group that I learned met in her town. She thought it was a good idea, but can't fit it into her schedule. I think right needs to protect herself from finding anything new. She is trying hard to remain a member in good standing at church so that her second daughter can continue going to school there. Next year, after Niece2 graduates, she may change her mind.

She was very relieved that when the Pastor read the requirements for keeping the scholarship that Niece1 was given (attendance at one of the schools on their "approved list," attendance and service at a church near the college and at the home church in the summer) he left out "continued membership of the parents in our church." That had been there before. I don't know if Niece1 noticed it, but the church did make a promise to keep giving her a small amount of money for school even if her parents fell from the path of righteousness.

I don't know how Sis would have raised her children had she not gone down this path. It is impossible to imagine. She feels deeply guilty about leaving the world she has built for them. She wants to let them make their own choices, knows she can't make them do anything else. No decisions are easy.

They live in a not-small town. Their house is in a modest neighborhood across from a largish city park. They shop at Sam's Club and the mall. They have library cards. For most of the kids' lives they did not have television. When they finally broke down and got it, the girls mostly didn't watch it. Of course my sister didn't either. They periodically watched movies as a family and my brother-in-law watches sports. They don't get a newspaper, subscribe to any magazines, or listen to radio in the house. If didn't listen to the radio since even the Christian station played rock music and rock music is obviously demonic, seeing as it comes from Africa. They attend a small church that grows ever smaller, and attend the school there which has dwindled to about 12 students from kindergarten through high school. The girls read only Christian novels.

My nephew now goes to public school and Sis listens to NPR while she drives and cleans, so things are slowly changing for them. They had Internet access for a while, but the girls had no interest in it. Now it is off and they have to go to the library to access it. Nephew has an email account but the girls know about the satanic spam, and they have no one to write to anyway, so they don't.

The girls have no friends who are not part of that church. They have no source of information not approved by that church. They have accepted this life. They believe that their eternal salvation and all possible earthly happiness is tied up in living this life in which they accept their place as women, never wear pants, and read their Bibles every day.

It is amazing that it is possible to pull this off.

No one has taught them basic anatomy. My sister asked me to define "moxie." We were at the church banquet and I told her to ask me later. When we got home I told her I couldn't tell her at church because the only thing that came to mind at the time was "ballsy." She was confused so I said, "You know, like when they say that a man has brass balls?" She was still confused so I explained further. Eventually she got it. Niece2, who is 17, however was confused by the brass balls part. What were brass balls? Without pausing I told her that "balls" was slang for "testicles." She looked at her mom and asked, "Do I want to know what that means?"

Sis said, "I don't know, do you?" Niece2 looked at me nervously. I said, "They are part of a man's body." She responded, "Oh! No, I don't want to know then."

A few days before that Sis told me that she had only recently insisted that Niece1 let her explain sex to her. Niece1, who was then 18, did not want to know, but Sis said that she didn't have a choice. Niece1 told me that she thought it sounded really gross. I was certain they were kidding me, but eventually they convinced me that they weren't.

My nieces have grown up knowing where babies come from but not how they got there. They know nothing about the anatomy of men. They know that there are sexually transmitted diseases, but they do not know what they are called or exactly how one might get them.

Niece1 was helping with the bus mission. They bring kids in from various neighborhoods to come to church. Sis hates it, saying that the only parents that let their kids go with strange people are those who are desperate for free babysitting. Someone tattled to Niece1 telling her that one of the kids was swearing. This time she asked her mom for information. She said that she couldn't tell if the tattler was lying or not because she didn't know what the swear words were. Sis dutifully listed them for her, letting her know which ones were worse than others.

One gets a feeling of complete disorientation now and then.

They think that evangelicals are bad or liberal or something. I think it is that they have made compromises with the devil by using rock music, but I'm not sure.

They really believe that a person could come to Christ, change their entire life, by reading a few Bible verses and that that wouldn't be a mark of mental instability. My sister didn't get that one at first. I asked her what she would think of someone who had read a few quotes from the Buddha and based upon that alone decided to dedicate themselves to following the Buddha and seeking enlightenment. What if that person had completely abandoned their previous way of living and explained it by saying that those words came to them at just the point when they needed them. When they read those few words they realize they would finally know true peace if they abandoned all worldly things and followed Buddha, and just like that they sealed themselves off from any source that might tempt them to change their mind and tried to be Buddha-like in every aspect of their life.

"Would you think that that showed that Buddha was the one true way, or that that person might be less than totally sane?"

Please understand that I do not think that all religious people are insane.

It occurred to me that my nieces are what Gary's Girlfriend's mom wants Girlfriend to be.

I try not to worry for my nieces. They do not know how small their world is, and I don't know that they are the least bit prepared to handle any of the world out there.

Horrifying the pastor's wife

The last evening I was there the nieces' home economics class was giving their end of the year banquet. This year the four girls made recipes sent to them from each of the 12 missionary families the church supports. They cooked their favorites for us. There was a soup from Singapore, a curry, Swedish meatballs, a thing with corn pancakes and cheese, a sort of fruit pastry, and... a few other things. They were not finished in any particular order. The diners included Sis, Mom, and I, parents of the other two girls, the pastor, his wife and mother, and a couple of other people whose relationship to the girls I didn't figure out.

Before we left I lost one of my sister's earrings. I really need to just stop wearing jewelry, especially earrings. She pointed out the little plastic things to put on the back of them so they don't fall out. I fully intended to use them, but got distracted. Anyway, my sister went from heartbroken, to telling me they were just things, to finally laughing about having something to hold over me for the rest of my life, so it was okay. Looking for them however did make us a bit late. We got there and I know that my sister was nervous about her judgmental church friends and so I apologized to them all and said that I had lost an earring and made everyone late. While we were waiting one of the men said to my sister, "I found something you want" and I blurted out, "The earring I lost?!" He stopped and sort of stared at me. There was total silence and someone said, "Oh my. They're like two peas in a pod."

The silence continued for a few seconds until the man continued to tell Sis about the poster frame he had seen in Target.

All through the evening people commented that we look alike (which we do only in a sisterly way) but they seemed really stunned that we had the same totally inappropriate wise-cracking humor. I told someone that we got it from our father, which is true.

At the end of the night my sister indicated to me that my fly was open. It was truly horrible in this church where women aren't supposed to wear pants anyway. I said, "Oh, maybe that's what happened to the earring!" She laughed and pastor's wife who was standing there trying to be nice to me was speechless with horror. Now most of the women I know who are married to pastors have a part of them that completely rebels against the sort of proper behavior that is often expected of them. Some of them know the best dirty jokes I have ever heard. This woman however is one of the other sort. I think she is prim and proper right down to her DNA. In a hopeless attempt to fix the situation I said, "There is no embarrassing situation that I can't make worse with a really tasteless joke."

She looked at me like I was everything she had come to church to escape, everything she wanted to rid the world, or at least my sister, of.

I was Sis's evil twin, and she thought my sister was the naughty one.

Sis started laughing uncontrollably and took me by the arm and led me out.

Fortunately it was time to leave anyway.

Later I tried to tell Niece1 about it. She did not think it was funny AT ALL. In fact she looked horrified herself.

Sunday, June 07, 2009


okay... So I reached my phone's limit with the last one.
On Friday we spent all afternoon at the mall. We found the expensive
one that looks it might have been made for it and a less expensive one
that looked okay. Saturday we went back to buy the expensive one.

This is when I learned that I am not a real girl. See when Sis said
she had made up her mind and was just going to run in and buy it I
believed her. (Do you hear that laughter?) No. It took 2 hours for her
to go through all the stores we missed the day before and decide on
the expensive one. That one was 1 for $45 or 2 for $72 so my thrifty
sister decided she had to buy 2. The secod was for her and it would
work with a skirt she had if she just bought this little over-top
thing and some jewelry. My niece and sister had a wonderful time. I am
ready to renounce all claim to being a real girl. My sister hopes that
the hormoneswill help

The ceremony is in 3 hrs. I am writing this. N2 & my mom are reading.
N1 & Sis are getting their hair & nails done.

the perfect dress

I started this Sat. Night...I tried tweeting this but I think I garbled it.

My niece needs a dress for graduation the neckline may be no more than
3 fingers below the colarbone. The hem must be low enough to hit the
floor when she kneels. It must have sleeeves. She thinks that dresses
with jackets make butt look big. so is june. Sun dresses
are everywhere. A few strapless prom dresses can be found. Many
sleeveless dresses with jackets for businesses women...but nothing
will work. We searched for HOURs yesterday. FINALLY found a beautiful
cocktail dress (please God, don't let her fine out the sign said
"cocktail" dress). It's a purple with beautiful decorations.
Any... Now it is Sunday.

The dress has a normal pretty neckline and so we had to find
something to go under it. A ballet leotard would be perfect, but
impossible to find. We walked all over that blasted mall looking at
shells and tanks. I finally found a perfect one but it was $
the search went on.
to be continued...

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Signing Off

Well, I am going to be gone for a week. I'll see my Niece1 graduate, hang with Sis, Nephew, the other Niece, and my mom. I am taking my cell phone with which I can, rather laboriously, read blogs, email, twitter and even compose a blog post or two. We'll see. If you don't Twitter you can still read my every so exciting tweets in that widget on the side bar of the blog.

Or not.

Have a great week.

I shall leave you with a story:

One of Gary and Brian's friends ran for school president. He used a series of unfortunate photographs of himself in his posters. It was a joke at the school because the powers that be didn't see anything wrong with them, but they were memorable in that the young man appeared to be, um, affectionate with a series of inanimate objects. To be very clear, this was precisely the effect the young man was going for.

Anywhoo, Gary's Girlfriend's comment in the aspiring politician's yearbook included a reference to "humping trees."

Now she has detention every day and she has to go talk to a therapist.

Have I mentioned recently that I live in a red state?


The nurse called about my biopsy results. All's well in Ladytown.

The fan was running so what I heard was something like, "your results are [unclear] 9." I thought, "9 on a scale of what?" I asked her to please repeat and she said, "b9." It took me a minute to process that. My first thought was why didn't they give me the flipping scale if they were going to talk to me in code? I got a B9? What if it was a A8?

Then I heard it correctly.

My mother had trouble too. I told her and she said, "What?" I said, "The nurse called and EVERYTHING IS FINE." She said, "Oh! You confirmed our flights? Great."

Yeah, it runs in the family.

So, what happens next?

Well, first I go on vacation and think as little as possible about my girlie parts.

Second, I continue taking the hormone treatment and see if they control the bleeding every other week. (I started them on Thursday and haven't bled since Saturday. I'm feeling very hopeful and I have to remind myself that I had stretches of up to 13 days without bleeding in the past 3 months). [added: I mean waiting to see if the hormones control the every-other-week-bleeding, not if they work every other week, but you got that, right?]

Third, I talk to the doctor later about the hormone treatment and about whether my ultrasound results still mean that I will have to have biopsies in the future.

I am thinking that I will probably stay on the hormone treatment for a year, at least. It takes, I'm told, three months before we really know if it will work. Since there is no cancer the worst case scenario is putting up with irregular bleeding for a year and having a hysterectomy next summer.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

I may have made a mistake

According to the web site, the oat bran muffins were supposed to look like this:

Mine however came out looking like this:

They taste okay. Pretty crumbly, but maybe they are supposed to be?

Monday, June 01, 2009

Licensing Worker Visit

So she came an hour later than expected, but that is technically my fault for writing the wrong time on the calendar. You know, technically.

It all went fine. She walked in prepared to love us because we had mailed in all the forms, properly filled out and signed, way back when we were originally asked. I know, that doesn't seem like a big deal, but apparently long-time foster parents get a little lazy about that.

We answered some of her questions before she asked, "No, we don't have any guns, and the prescriptions are in the lock box behind you. The only major change to the house is that we had it re-wired, and we even remembered to change the batteries in all the smoke alarms."

We were quick on the draw with others, "Yes, we have fire extinguishers. One in the hall outside the bedrooms on the ground floor, one in the kitchen, one outside the bedrooms in the basement."

I did tell her that I was dealing with issues with my girl parts. She is a good ten years older than I am and I have found that women "of a certain age" react matter-of-factly to that sort of information. I told her that I hadn't told anyone at the agency because the more people you tell about tests the more people you have to remember to tell about results. I did tell her though that we spoke with Gary and reassured him that there wouldn't be any reason why we couldn't all take care of each other if I had surgery. She said she would be careful how she wrote the report, that she would say something to the effect that I was dealing with some medical issues that might require surgery down that line but which did not present any challenges to the continuity of care we could provide.

Works for me.

Speaking of my girl parts, my body has been behaving itself since I started the hormone treatments. This gives me hope that that is all the treatment I will need. I am of course carefully ignoring the fact that my body has had stretches of a week or two of behaving itself since all this started.

and speaking of the visit, Gary came home and said, "Wow, you guys cleaned the house! Why did you ... oh yeah, you said that social worker was coming."

he knows us well.

We are about to start our tenth year of providing care. [Update for clarification: we have completed nine years.]

I have to share

Okay, this is nothing better than gossip, but I can't resist.

Someone wrote in Gary's Girlfriend's year book "remember: no glove no love."

Sadly, Girlfriend's mom whom I am beginning to think has some major issues here, read it...and all the comments in the year book. (As an aside, did anybody's mother read all the comments in their year book? Have you ever? I don't mean as a fun sharing or even teasing moment with your kid. I mean as reading it to make sure it's appropriate.)

Anyway, Girlfriend's mom decided that and other comments were inappropriate and she called the principal of the school. So half a dozen kids were called down to the principal's office today to be "spoken to" about what they wrote.

I'm really beginning to feel sorry for this poor girl. When Gary told me before that she had no privacy I didn't really believe him. I'm thinking he might not have been exaggerating.

Beyond Abstinence and Condoms

Okay, first, I know that sex education classes of whatever stripe cover more than just abstinence and/or condoms, but we don't talk about it much do we? I've been thinking about this as I've been writing about teens and sex, which I do just about every time I have a new teen making me confront the issues teens face about sex all over again.

Evan made me face it directly when he got into the car after a very comprehensive sex education program at the GLBT youth group. They had given him every piece of information he could possibly need. He knew about oral gonorrhea, syphilis rates in our county, Hep B and the use of heavy-duty plastic wrap. He knew that condoms would not protect him from genital warts or lice. I asked him how the class went and he said, "You know, what the people who teach those classes don't understand? They have no idea what it is like to be a teenager. They don't understand romance."

After I was done marveling at how each generation of teens seems to assume that the adults around them were born 30 years old, I explained that they did in fact remember being young and in love. We all did. We remembered that feeling. We knew how difficult it was, and we STILL expected them to use condoms every single time. Evan was surprised and countered that it really wasn't possible to do that. "Talking about condoms ruins the mood." I told him not to talk about it; he didn't need to say anything except maybe "wait a sec." Just grab one and use it. If his partner was the one who needed to wear it, he (Evan) could put it on his partner. Again, no conversation needed. Just put the thing on. I offered to buy him a box and cucumber to practice. I believe his response was, "Is there anything you are uncomfortable talking about?"

No…not anymore.

I've been talking with Gary a lot about consent and coercion. We've talked about how just believing your partner will eventually leave if you don't say yes eventually puts an unacceptable pressure on a young woman. We've disagreed about how a young man should act so as not to create that pressure. Gary points out that repeatedly stating, "it's okay if you don't want to" can create a sort of pressure itself. That wasn't exactly the behavior I wanted to encourage, but the conversation was good. I also told him that women who want sex initiate, or at least participate in initiation. They say they are ready. They take off YOUR clothes. He assured me he had plenty of experience with that. Still, it is something I tell my kids, even my college students. A woman lying quietly and barely moving is probably in shock. That is not what consent looks like.

In my college bioethics class we talked about some pharmacists not wanting to dispense emergency contraceptives. We talked about whether young women would use them monthly if they could. I asked them if a girl could carry condoms herself and not appear to be a slut. Turns out things haven't changed. Good girls don't carry condoms. One young woman told me that her doctor wanted to put her on birth control pills to control her symptoms. She said she argued against it. She was terrified that it would get out at school that she was taking birth control pills. She would be one of "those girls." It would destroy her reputation. She did not tell us what decision she made. I've not yet parented a girl, but I know that is an issue they need to talk about. How can they be prepared to ensure they have safe sex without damaging their reputation? How can they get through the moment that Evan worried about?

When Andrew and Brian were young, they each had a friend who got them into trouble. We had to talk about how to get out of the situation. Just saying no was not enough. They needed more tools to communicate with boys that were their friends. I learned that when Andrew at five kept telling me that just telling his friend no wouldn't work. In frustration I said, "Andrew, if you do those things again I won't let you play with him for a week. You can tell him that for me." Andrew brightened and said, "Can I tell him two weeks?" For Brian techniques like suggesting an alternative looked like it would be more helpful. I don't know that either of these approaches would be helpful for a girl who needed to strategies for asserting herself with a boy she loves, or thinks she loves, but doesn't want to have sex with. (I'm not opposed to the idea that boys may need this conversation. That just is one issue I haven't had to face.) I do know that girls, and probably boys too, need to be told that they don't have to have a reason to draw the line wherever they want to draw it. That you have been okay with a partner doing one thing doesn't mean that you are being silly to say you won't do one thing more.

This of course is just a beginning, but it is part of what teens need. They need to have conversations about how they feel, what they want, and yes, what they value. They need to be able to talk about how to get through the awkward moments, how to handle the pressure, how to extract themselves from situations in which they don't feel safe. And I think they need to know that it is safe to talk to us when it has all gone wrong, when something happened that they did not want to happen. If they were coerced, pressured, even (especially) if they are raped, they need to know we are there for them. They can talk to us and we will help, not judge.

It isn't easy, but it really does get easier. You just have to jump in, start talking. Don't expect them to say much back the first time. Don't be afraid to share your awkward teenage experiences with them. Be prepared to listen. I've found the car to be an excellent place to talk, as I believe I have said before. It allows for limited eye contact and limited means of escape. Of course the boys have figured that out too. They are more likely to bring up what they want to talk about in the car. I don't think I will ever forget talking with Evan about sex in inappropriate places while driving on the freeway in rush-hour traffic.

As I said, this is just a beginning. What can you add? What have your teens needed to know and how have you got the conversations going?