Thursday, November 11, 2010

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What I wish I knew...

I got a comment and an email about adopting teenagers and it got me thinking about what the most helpful things I could tell someone, which got me thinking about what I would like to go back and tell myself. I started a list and found myself really wishing it were possible to send a note back to me. I thought I would share it with you, but let's be clear. This is what I would have like to know. You experience may differ.

1. if anyone tells you that if you do X, you will make long-term changes in the child's behavior, stop listening to that person.

2. punishment doesn't work at all and rewards systems only have short-term results. (At least for you, they might work for other people but you suck at behavior mod).

3. human beings do not learn when they are agitated.

4. children/teens change their behavior over time if/when they develop a relationship with you and start trying to be more like you. This means: (a) you will not be successful getting a kid to do something that you or your spouse do not do. As long as you leave your papers and stuff in the living room and Roland leaves dirty dishes everywhere, the kids will do the same; and (b) when you have messed up, lost your temper or whatever, you have provided the perfect situation to model appropriate response to set-backs. You don't expect your kids to be perfect, so model being reasonable with yourself. Calm yourself down, apologize if appropriate, try again.

5. Telling a teen "when you did not come home when I expected last night, I was very worried. I kept imagining bad things happening to you. It's important for you to come home when you say you will and to CALL ME if you can't" actually works BETTER than grounding them for breaking curfew (see #2 above).  This does NOT mean this is a technique that will make dramatic changes in their behavior (see #1) just that it is a better strategy.

6. Only try to make and enforce rules that are about keeping everyone safe and sane, not about trying to make them a better person (see #4 above). Keep the list short (e.g "Everyone knows where everyone is'). "Enforce" the rules by following them and reminding teens that behavior is required of everyone in this family. If you do keep the list short and reasonable and follow the rules yourself, you will be surprised at how well the kids accept and try to follow them.

7. Do yourself a favor and let go of academic goals right away. You can be helpful by asking kids what grades they need to meet THEIR goals. If they say, "All I need to do is pass" take a breath and say "Okay, do you need any help from me to do that?"

8. Telling them what the consequences of their actions is most helpful if they don't already know what they are. Reminding them that if they fail they will have to take summer school is not helpful. Making sure they know that they will have to WALK to summer school may actually change their plan for success.

9. The best training you will ever do to learn how to put this in practice you will get in Al-Anon meetings.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

May I vent?


Here's the thing: Gary loves martial arts. He switches gyms/dojos regularly, but he loves doing it. He loves feeling powerful and being able to submit guys. I get that. It makes all kinds of sense.I would prefer he stay with one gym, but I can't even explain to myself why. I mean there are certain advantages, like getting belts, but he doesn't seem to care. I should not that it is not his PLAN to change gyms regularly. It is not part of a plan to master different styles and techniques. He just changes. He has a reason every time, but I don't remember all of them.

Here is the second part: he gets hurt. A lot.

When he first came to me I learned that if Gary said, "that hurts" that translated into "I am in severe pain and I need help right now." Now however he has adapted to having a mommy. Now he says, "I hurt my shoulder. It hurts right here. I think I might have torn or dislocated something. I can't use my arm at all. I literally can't even lift it." Then I take him to the doctor, or more recently tell him to take himself. The doctor gives him some advice that he does not follow and after a couple of days he is using his arm (or other previously injured body part) without significant pain.

I get frustrated on a couple of levels. First, I am a philosopher and I accept pain as a REASON not to do something. If you put you hand in the fire and it hurts that means you should not put your hand in the fire again. I do also understand that there are sometimes reasons why you have to do something you know is painful. Normally if I am beginning to have trouble with my asthma I sit and breathe quietly. I don't keep doing the thing that is bringing on the attack (exercises in the cold, grooming the dog). However, when Gary was panicked while swimming across the lake, I just made myself keep going, knowing I was going to make the asthma worse. Then I made sure he wasn't planning on swimming across the lake again.

So I suppose I take as axiomatic "if something causes you pain, stop doing it unless you really, really have to do it. Then do what you can to avoid being in that situation again." I have assumed that even athlete held it to some degree. Injuries result in poor athletic performance and so an athlete would presumably try to avoid injury while engaging in activities that are still high-risk to injury. It is a perspective that I can imagine some rational person having. I'm have more trouble understanding the motivation for such a perspective when there perfectly wonderful books to read, but not everyone is the same.

But Gary keeps injuring himself. He describes the pain a debilitating. He tells me how serious it is. He goes to the physician of his own free will and then never does what they tell him to. Well, he will go to physical therapy, but he won't rest or continue exercises like he should.Then he does it again.

Okay, so I can accept all that. I don't get it, although if it were your child I would tell you how perfectly normal it was and how you should not get yourself too worked up trying to change it. .I would nod, hold your hand, try to get you to laugh at the insanity of teenagers, and tell you that brain development isn't complete until age 25.

But it is my child and it is making me a little nuts.

He called me early this morning.

"Remember how I said I hurt my knee so bad that I couldn't walk?"
"Well, I told you."
"I went to bed early. Maybe you just told Roland?"
"No I told you. ANYway my knee hurts really bad. like on a scale of one to ten it is a nine."
"Okay." I just don't have the oh-my-god-how-awful-let-me-take-care-of-you-response anymore.
"So what should I do?"
"What do you think you need to do?"
"Well, do we have a leg brace or crutches or anything?"
"Well, okay. I don't know how I am going to get around."
"The school nurse might have something. Remember you said you would take the dog to the groomer. If you want to drive by my work I can go with you so I can get the dog, walk it in and stuff like that."
"No, I can do THAT."
"Okay, well, let me know if you need anything."
"Okay, bye."

As you can see, I am a cold-hearted bitch.

He called 10 minutes later. "I think I should go see the doctor."
"How can I get the money for the co-pay?"
"Tell them to bill us, they will."
"Good. My knee cap is like just floating. I think I dislocated my knee and probably tore something and that is like really, really bad."
"Then the doctor may give you a brace to wear for a few weeks."
"I'll take it off! They can't make me wear a brace!"
I'm on the other end, saying nothing, shaking my head, and sort of laughing.
"I just don't understand you."
"What do you mean? I HURT MY KNEE."
"I know. and you are going to go to the doctor, not do what he says, and then get injured again."
I take a couple of deep breathes. "Honey, if you can't get the dog to the groomers, please call and cancel the appointment."
"Okay. I don't see what's so funny though."
"I love you. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help."
"Okay, bye."

True story.

Venting complete (for now).

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Thinking about Helen

I do a lot of Tweeting and less blogging these days. That means that less shows up on the blog (unless you read the tweet box .... lower right hand corner) and the stories can feel, as one person wrote me, like they are missing chapters.

I still feel sad that Helen isn't here, but I do feel really good about what we were able to do for her. On Friday the plan was for her spend the weekend with us and would be taken to her as yet unidentified new home on Monday. I was to intervene and get a commitment that she would stay with us until her plan was worked out. I learned about the B's on Friday and was able to tell her a little bit about them. So she spent the weekend knowing that she could end up living with us or moving to a family that shares her religious tradition and is near her high school.

Tuesday evening she visited with them. They watched the home-town university team win a football game, something that never happens in this house. She met their various animals and painted the toe-nails of the little girls during half-time. Mrs. B had read many of the books she had and they had good conversations. On Wednesday she and her social worker talked and decided she was going to move in with the B's. They moved her immediately.

If she were 10, I would have thought that the transition was far too fast. She is nearly 17 though and she was the one making the decision. I am happy that we were able to give her that ... the security, space and time to have some control over her life. Once she had made up her mind, it was almost certainly easier on everyone for her to go quickly. It was certainly easier for me. Though I see all the advantages for her and support this decision, I still felt (and still do feel) sad about it. I did not want to be a cry baby in front of her, and with the rapid transition I was able to behave the way I wanted.

Yesterday she called to say that she left a large binder here. The binder was still in the back pack I loaned . We had emptied out and packed up the rest of it, so she didn't realize that it was not there until she needed it. I was thrilled to get to see her so soon, so I hopped into the care and drove to her new house. She seemed very happy. I showed her my new Kindle (did I mention that I got the Kindle 3?) and helped her figure out a few things with my Kindle 2 she is currently borrowing. We had a nice, if short, visit.

Next weekend Brian will be playing the bass in "Your a Good Man Charlie Brown." (He was Mitch in "Streetcar Named Desire" last week.) I think I will invite Helen to go to Charlie Brown with us. I still need to talk to her social worker about the possibility of a regular visitation schedule.

I keep thinking that this is as it should be. That I keep thinking that of course means that I am still feeling sad about it, but I really do believe that this is a good placement for her. And it is best for us. I mean, just imagine how impossible next summer would be with two vehicles and six licensed drivers in the house. Not that it is going to be that much easier with five drivers.

Gary want to be a firefighter

A wilderness firefighter, to be precise. He imagines this as his life-long job. He is very annoyed at people who are willing to be as committed to the idea as he is, because he has finally figured out what he wants to do! Okay, so he has changed his mind several times, but this is it!

To be fair, there are consistent themes in the things that he has been most excited about, and this fits. This one has the advantage of being realistic in terms of preparation. Gary always believes anything he wants to do will be easy. College will be easy. He knows this because Andrew has told him that the most difficult part is just making yourself do the work. Also he has looked at the amount of work I have said I give my students and has been amazed that that is all. Meanwhile, his work in high school is ... uneven. He does very well, demonstrates he is able, and then loses interest. His pattern seems to be that the hard work in the beginning of a term should be rewarded by blowing off at least one assignment later on.

What this has meant to me is his initial career direction needs to be something that does not require extensive education. He needs to be able to start quickly.

Ground crew for summer wild fires seems to fit the bill. There are a couple of short classes he can take which will give him an excellent chance of getting hired this summer. If he finds it is something he wants to keep doing, he can take more classes to get higher levels of certification.

So he came to us with a list of courses he could take this calendar year, and the discount the instructor would give him for paying for all of them at one time. I kept insisting on more information and I finally got it. It turns out that he needs only a couple of the courses to get an entry-level position. Of course, he wants all the certifications to do various tasks. He doesn't want to be a lowly member of the ground crew who can fell trees, or operate special equipment, or whatever. I will have to tell him this morning that Roland and I will only help him pay for the courses he needs for the entry-level.

I am preparing myself to deal with his disappointment and irritation. From his perspective he has finally figured out exactly what he wants to do. If he takes all the courses available he is likely to make much more money. If we only pay for the entry level courses, we are just preventing him from his best chances to get a job and make lots and lots of money this summer. That he keeps changing his mind about what he wants to do is totally irrelevant.

Also irrelevant is the fact that the course we just paid for was for was all day Friday and Saturday. His alarm failed to go off on Saturday and he had to call the instructor to reschedule and now will be forced to miss some high school class time.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Helen's moved to the B's

Today Helen was picked up from school to go to independent living class. She called from the transporter's cell phone to ask if I had heard from the SW. I said no, but as long as I had her, what would she like for dinner? She said tacos. So I swung by the store to get cilantro and other wonderful taco things, thinking happy thoughts about kids who actually answer that question instead of saying, "I don't know. Whatever you want to cook."

The SW called about 4:00 to say that he would be coming by with her after independent living so he could take her and her things to the B's. He spoke with Roland who was much less emotional than I would have been.

I spent about an hour crying. I was worried that I might not be able to pull it together before she got here. I see all the advantages of her going to the B's. I can and will support that move. That of course doesn't mean that I am not deeply disappointed and capable of being a big ole cry baby about it. (On the whiny, cry-baby note, why is it that I never get to keep the girls? I love my boys, but what the hell universe?)

After crying for a while I remembered that she was halfway through The Hunger Games on my Kindle. I decided that I would loan it to her. Then I decided that if she was taking it to the B's I should remove all the tawdry romance novels. Then I decided that I would go ahead and get the new Kindle I have been coveting for a while and let her keep the Kindle on loan indefinitely. So I sat down at the computer to remove a couple hundred books from the machine (not all of them tawdry). It kept me busy and by the time Helen and the SW showed up I was nearly done. It made saying goodbye easier since I was able to spend those few minutes telling her how to use it rather than how much I was going to miss her.

Now this isn't about me being incredibly generous. In fact, one could argue that it was a totally selfish act, since I am using it as an excuse to buy a new one. It also makes me feel better because I LOANED it to her, and that means she and I are agreeing that I will see her again soon.

And now she is gone, and the house is quiet. I won't have to drive an hour tomorrow to take her to school. She is going where she wants to be, having no doubt that she is loved and welcomed here.

And I am going to cry a little bit more while I eat the tacos she wanted for dinner.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Helen and Gary

Helen's biggest concern is Gary. She wants to be close to him again, and she is afraid that he doesn't really want her around.

I shared with her honestly, telling her that Gary felt obligated to entertain her (but he seems to have gotten over that), and that when I was explaining the positives of living with the B's (other family) he countered with the benefits of our home. She liked hearing that. We also talked about how normal teenage boys feel about little sisters. I told her that in my experience when a teenage boy says something like, "Yeah, I guess it will be okay" that is equivalent to an enthusiastic yes. Teenage boys don't "do" enthusiastic.

My guess is that Gary thinks living here is the best thing for her, and he is anxious that it will be hard for him. He is afraid that she will expect things from him, just when he is all about becoming his own person and not being responsible for anyone but himself. If he could trust, really believe, that Roland and I would be the parents, that would help.

To a certain extent this is perfectly normal sibling dynamics, which is what I have wanted to stress to Helen. Younger siblings want their cool older brothers to spend time with them. Older brothers want their annoying younger siblings to leave them alone. For various reasons it is exaggerated on both sides. So I will try to talk with Gary. I would like to help them talk to each other about what they think would be the good things and what would be the hard things about living together. I don't know though. I think I will just wait and see if any good moments announce themselves.

Tomorrow afternoon I take her to the B's (the other family). She will get to see their house and go with them to a football game. She is very excited about that. She very well may decide that living with them and spending some weekends with us is the best solution.

Helen's options

Technically, she just has two on the table: our house and the LDS family near her school. She can visit them if she likes before deciding.

However, her social worker wants her to know that a family from her ward (think congregation) called in to ask if they could get licensed and take her. Also a previous teacher called to get more information so he could talk to his wife about getting licensed and take her. And finally both her lawyer and another person who works at the department said that they never considered getting licensed but they would have for her.

Only two of the options are currently licensed and it is important to get her into the program as fast as possible, so she has to choose between those two. The social worker said that he favors placement with her sibling, but she does get the final choice.

Right now she is driving with him to get the rest of her things. He will answer any other questions she has on their trip.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Talking with Helen about anxiety

As we were eating breakfast this morning somehow or other Helen and I started talking about anxiety issues. She told me that she needed to get a refill on a prescription that is supposed to help with anxiety, although she says that it doesn't really work well. I commiserated saying that my doctor told me my medicine was "working" when my anxiety attacks turned into nausea.

"I asked him if he had a pill that could make me calm and confident, but he said no. The pills were fairly good at taking things away, but there wasn't a pill to add stuff."

That made sense to her and then she started talking about her anxiety had been inexplicably worse recently. I mentioned that it was a stressful time for her and she replied that she deal with her emotions by thinking things through, not feeling. She is doing that with the moving, so she isn't worrying about it.

I didn't point out the obvious connection. I did say, "You know, I was thinking about being a teenager and being told I was going to move in with a nice family I had never met before, and I nearly had an anxiety attack just imagining it."


"God, yes. New house, new rules, new foods, new people to learn how to get along with, not knowing if I had to share a room... Okay, I need stop now or I will lose it."

She laughed and told me that she had moved around enough her whole life that it did not bother her that much.

Then we talked about the pancakes.

Somtimes I am a bit slow

Ever get carried away? I did with Helen. Now, those of you who are excited about this don't worry. We are still committed to Helen and we still want her.

But I forgot that she has been rebuilding her relationship with her mother, which is a very good thing.

Helen and Gary's mother left (or was kicked out, it has never been clear to me) when they were very young. Helen was maybe a year old. Helen though has spent more time with her. Gary had visited once, but Helen lived with her for a short while. Recently they have been writing letters and the agency social worker is trying to find a time when they can travel together to visit. (You may know that six months ago no one could find her. Obviously she has been found and her story does not enter here.)

Anyway, I don't know what will happen between Helen and her mom, but I do think adoption talk is inappropriate. Even if being adopted into our family is eventually the right thing to do, thinking about being adopted by one family while reconnected with your mother is not helpful.

So I am glad that I have not mentioned adoption to Helen. Everything I have said is still true: she is a part of our extended family and she will always have a place. I have told her that I want to set up a regular visitation schedule, something like one weekend a month. I'm pretty sure she understands that if things don't work out in the family she is moving to, coming here is plan B.

But adoption is for people who don't have parents.

It is possible that we will end in a place in which becoming a legal part of our family is what she wants. If it is we will do it and we will be very happy about it.

However, my job is to support her while she reconnects and NOT to do anything to undermine the relationship she may have with her mom.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

I want to keep Helen

I told Roland that. He agreed.

When I got her on Friday and found out that I was supposed to drop her off at school so that she could be picked up by a social worker and be taken to some as yet unknown place, I started feeling mighty protective, even possessive. When I told Roland what was going on and he responded "she's family" and started trying to figure out how fix the basement so it would be comfortable for three young men, well, the train had left the station. I found myself thinking things like, "Damn it, she's part of our family, she shouldn't have to go live with some foster family she hasn't even met!"

So I am going to tell her agency worker, who is conveniently the same person who was Gary's worker, that we want her back. I will propose that she spend at least one weekend a month with us through the school year and then transition to us with the goal of being adopted.

I told Roland that it is not unreasonable for me to want one girl.

Of course it isn't just our decision. The social workers have some say in this, but it is her life and she gets to decide. Though I have told her things like, "we are your family and you will always have a place" I haven't said, "We are going to talk to your social worker about adopting you." Partly because I want to support her transition to this home, and because I figure her life is too chaotic right now for her to think objectively about what she wants.

I don't know what the social workers will want to do, but I can't imagine that they wouldn't ultimately agree that it is best if Gary and Helen end up in the same family.

Gary seems to have deeply ambivalent feelings. Before she came over, he was not as positive as everyone else about her new home. I told him that it was in her school district and he responded, "you've heard of CARS, right?" I said, "Remember, they are LDS and it would be really good for Helen to be able to actually live in an LDS family." He looked at me like I was exceptionally stupid, pointed out the kitchen window to the building on the other side of the alley, "That is an LDS stake, RIGHT NEXT to us."* I told him that living next to a stake was not the same thing as getting to practice your religion with your family. He started talking about why he dislikes organized religion, which I figured was his way of moving away from the topic.

Today his girlfriend came over and he didn't even let her know that Helen was here. He did not give me a happy look when I told her and then introduced her to Helen. Gary has a lot of complicated feelings surrounding his sister, and sometimes he needs to protect space.

Now just to be clear, I am not averse to Helen moving in here even immediately. I just know that I don't get to make the decisions.

I guess I'm protecting my heart too.

Roland, as I mentioned, has been brainstorming what to do about the rec room. He measured it and told me that he thought he would build a wall to separate it into a small TV room and a bedroom. I countered that we won't actually need that many bedrooms all the time and we should look at various room dividers so that one or more boys can have a degree of privacy when they are all home. At the moment we have agreed that he will design something study, but removable. I have made it clear that I get to give approval (or not) over plans he makes, but right now I am open to him putting hooks or some other anchoring system in the ceiling.

*I have avoided making mention of the number of LDS churches in the area because it is a pretty big geographical hint, but I've decided not to worry about that any more. You will probably guess what part of the country I am in, but you will likely get the state wrong. Oh, though I've said I don't mind you guessing, I won't leave up comments that speculate.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Talking to Roland and the social worker

I have two pieces of news, and I guess I will give them to you in the order I got them.

First Roland came home. I gave him a chance to settle down and then told him what was going on. His response was immediate and matter-of-fact. The school thing needs to be dealt with, but if she needs to come here, she will. "She's family. We just need to figure out how to stack all the bodies."  (Remember a while ago when all he would say was, "we don't have room"?) He went downstairs to figure out if there is a way to curtain off a section of the rec room for Andrew when he comes home.

However, the agency social worker says they have identified a home in or near her school district. The family has been with the private agency for years and they, like Helen, are members of the Latter Day Saints. I had thought the current family was LDS, but they aren't. So, the newly identified family is Plan A and all the social workers are glad that I am willing to keep her so that she can make the transition next week more smoothly. They are out of town this week. It is a little unclear to me whether they have been contacted. It is entirely possible that they were given information about Helen a week ago and said they could take her but only after their week-end trip.

We agreed that we are Plan B.

Update: I just told Helen what I know. She's pretty thrilled. LDS family with the agency near her school is more than she thought was possible. I also told her that we are Plan B. I almost didn't because I don't want her to go into a home without being committed. On the other hand, she is going to want this to work, and I decided it important for her to know she is safe.

And it just keeps getting more complicated

So, Helen, who was supposed to need a weekend away from her family, is currently between foster homes. I did not know that until I was getting things from the transporting social worker. After doing a little bit of checking I learned that the plan was that I take her to school on Monday and during the day her social worker, who can't work today because it is a mandatory furlough day for him (budget cuts), will find her a new place while she is at school. He will then pick her up after school and drive her to her new home.

I said, "Um, no."

Next week is my break. I will be grading and doing other desk work, but I can make the 30-minute drive (one way) to her school. I told them that I was going to keep her until they knew where she was going.

Of course it couldn't be simple. She is in the process of moving into the same private program that I have worked in. She can't be genuinely actually be admitted into it until she is living in a home licensed by the program. And ... wait for it  ... there are no program homes available in her school district. The state social worker's idea is to recruit one. This is fairly standard operating procedure. Once they told me that about half the kids come into the program with their family. Finding a home that fits the kid and getting that family into the program is often a better option than making a kid move to a different town and go to a different school. So, let's assume this works. The SW finds a home in the district; she gets placed with them; and they agree to join the program. That process will take at least 2 months.

She has been in an accelerated program and will graduate early in May. She is one of the kids in foster care who really are college material. She wants to go and the private program has excellent resources. They will get her through college without debt.

But she has to be in the program for one year before she qualifies.

Y'all doing the math?

Oh, and she turns 17 in a couple of months, which is also the deadline to get her in the program.

I told the program social worker that I would consider taking her (Roland knows NOTHING about this yet), but it really would be disastrous for her to have to change schools. They've paid people to transport kids to school before . I did it for a while as you may recall. So that is a possible option.

I just had lunch with her and told her that she was family and she wasn't going to be homeless, and we would not let anything bad happen to her. I also told her that right now the plan was to find her a home in her school district, and we were going to go forward on the assumption that that was going to work. I also told her that she would be staying with me for some or all of next week while they try to find the right home.

I think I am not going to ask Roland to consider taking her. I'm just going to let him get the pieces of the puzzle like I did and let him draw the conclusions.

And I would just like to note that I am having a very hard time concentrating on my work because I don't know what is going to happen. Helen however doesn't know where she is going to be living next week and she is cheerful and busily doing her on-line driver's education just down the hall from me.

Helen's coming to visit (UPDATE)

A social worker will be dropping Helen (Gary's sister) off at my workplace sometime today. Helen is taking an on-line driver's education course and she will work on that while I sit in my office trying to make a dent in the 20 hours of midterm grading I have to do.

When we were called I said I had to ask Roland. He was napping but I woke him. His response was, "Huh? oh, yeah. sure."

I told Gary that Helen was coming. His response was, "But I have plans for this weekend!"

"So. You always have plans. Do what you planned. She's not coming to visit you."

"But I TOLD YOU that I feel obligated to be with her if she's here."

"Sweetie, I mean this in the most loving way possible: get over it."

He pouted, but I ignored it.

Helen is coming over because "she and her foster parents need a little break from each other." That could mean exactly that, or it could mean that the placement is in trouble and they are contemplating a move. I woke up wondering what I would say if Helen asked if she could move in with us.So I asked myself, what would in a situation in which a member of my extended family was living with a member of her family and wanted to move.

If she asks, I'll tell her that she never has to worry about a place to go. We are family and she isn't going to be homeless, ever. I'll also tell her that one of the bad things about foster care is that it tends to teach kids that you solve family problems by changing families. She has been with this family for a year. She is able to go to the high school where her friends and the special program she is doing are.Family isn't easy. Sometimes we all want to run away, but that isn't how it works. She can come visit us for a break or just because whenever she wants, but I expect her to work things out with her current family.

I really think this is best, and that is the plan I am supporting. My job is to help her make it work, not offer her an escape route because she is quarreling with her family.

But if she needs a home? She is a part of our family too. We would do what we need to do.

Although I do want to tell you that when I think of that I don't have the excited feeling that I used to have when I contemplated previous kids. It is more, as Thorn said once, "I don't really feel up to it, but if that's what she needs, we will do it."

UPDATE: Helen is here, doing homework at the work study station. She has piles to do and will probably be busy at it all weekend.

And her placement is over, as in disrupted. She has things with her for the weekend, and her worker is trying to find her a new place now. We have not been officially asked. We may not be because it is understood that it would be better for her to stay in her school district, near her church, etc. There is of course the little issue of her not yet being in the program I am licensed in. (My file is closed, but until May I can be re-licensed by having it opened.) I did however tell the worker who brought her that Andrew's room is empty until Thanksgiving.

I have decided that I am not going to ask Roland if we should offer for her. I will just let him know what the situation is and let him do the math.

I expect that if they can't find a home in her school district, they will ask us.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Another reason I like my husband

The thing about Roland that bothers me the most is his tendency to only remember whatever was immediately necessary for him. This means that I can be talking about something for any length of time, but if the information doesn't change his life or require a decision from him, he just doesn't remember.

Take for instance the issue of my hair. About 15 years ago my sister pointed out to me that my hair was thinning. She is also the person who noticed my first grey hair when I was 18, but that really isn't relevant. In any case, once I noticed, I was bothered. I went to the dermatologist who gave me a couple of options. After eliminating a couple of them it came down to two: hormones or spironolactone,  a diuretic that also somehow interferes with testosterone. It is taken by women with female-pattern baldness and male to female transsexuals. I chose it, and the results were not fantastic, but it was good enough.

Now, I am pretty sure that during this time I said things to Roland like, "this diuretic won't work as well, but if I never took hormones for birth control, it seems silly to take them for hair." I am sure that I did, because over the years I have debated whether I should use them. Last year when I went on hormone treatment for 3 months I was very interested in whether it would make  difference to my hair. (It didn't, but the dosage was very low). 

Anyway, now I am older and my natural estrogen levels are falling. I don't think I have hot flashes. (This is not simple because I have always been the sort of person who tended to sweat a lot when she gets hot. Now it is easy to attribute them to The Change.) I don't mood swings or anything like that. I am however, losing hair again. It's been getting worse for a while, and well, it is just got to be unacceptable. So I have been debating whether to take hormones. I float the idea past people who I know would normally be cautious or even opposed to hormone treatment. They glance at my head, look uncomfortable, and say something that sounds like, "This is your HAIR. Bald women look ridiculous. Of course you should take hormones!"  Of course the words they say are more like, "I learned a long time ago to never say never" but that isn't what I hear.

Of course, since I was fishing for an opinion, I can't be upset about it.

I guess I feel like if enough people tell me that taking hormones for what will certainly be for as long as I want to have hair (15 years?) doesn't mean that I am a vain woman willing to take unreasonable risks with my health, then I won't feel bad about doing it. There is however one other option: head coverings. I ran it by Roland 15 years ago and he vetoed it promptly. No, he did not think that it would be a good idea to wear scarves, bandannas, and hats all the time. Modern medicine existed for a reason. Take the pills. 

I have been talking about going back to the dermatologist, and about whether I would take the hormones, for some time. Yesterday I went to Roland and said I wanted his opinion: hormones or scarves?


"No. Scarvvves. For my head. I could cover my hair instead of taking hormones."

"HORMONES? What, you mean like testosterone? What would that do to you?"

"No, I mean like estrogen. It should make my hair grow. Since you have to look at me, I just thought I would ask you. Which do you prefer: hormones or scarves?"

Of course he denied that he had ever heard me even mention that I might take hormones. Of course I did not argue with him about that. After 25 years there are some arguments you can just not bother to have. He said he didn't know, would I have side-effects? I said I didn't know yet. He said that I should probably talk to the dermatologist before deciding. He assured me he would love me either way, which I told him I had already assumed.

Later he found me and asked if there weren't serious risks in hormone therapy. He knows he heard about that. I told him that the risk for individual women was really very low, but that it was a big issue a while back because so many women were on them and they weren't getting any benefit. He said okay.

He found me again later and looked agitated. He said, "If there is any risk at all, I mean ANY, if the hormones would make you uncomfortable, or even if they would make your breasts tender, it is not worth it. You can buy wigs, or lots of pretty scarves, whatever you want, just don't risk your health for hair."

And I realized that was the answer I wanted from him.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

This is a fine mess

So, Gary had planned to change both his first and last name. Because of a lack of communication and the last minute scheduling only his first name was changed at the time of the adoption. Because I could show that I had emailed the lawyer about the change, he is trying to fix it without our having to go through the standard name change process. (He didn't get my email because he changed his email address, and did not inform me. He also didn't set up the old to send notification to him or people who emailed him. He didn't even just turn the blasted thing off so I would get a bounce-back message). Anyway, we are in the in between place where Gary has his new first name but his old last name.

We are hoping that in a matter of weeks both of Gary's names will be change.

But here is the complicated bit (yeah, the stuff above was simple). The adoption order does not have Gary's original name on it. It does for the older boys because they were adults. Gary however was 8 days shy of his 18th birthday. This means he was officially adopted as a minor and only his new name is used in the document. After all, the state has a vested interest in keeping adoptees' histories in the dark.

In short we don't have any way to demonstrate that he is the same person.

This would not all that significant if he were, say two. If he were two he wouldn't have got a driver's permit in his previous name. He passed his driver's test this week and he went to the DMV to get his license. They pointed out that the adoption order in no way indicated that he was the person who had been adopted. They have him a driver's license in his previous name.

Which would be a little less complicated if he hadn't got a part time job and started receiving pay checks in his current name. And of course soon we hope he will have a third name.

I'm going to try to talk to the lawyer on Monday, and see what we can do.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Shared with Permission

Andrew, Gary, Evan, Brian, Carl, David

I may take this down later, but the boys said I could share it with you.

Still too wore out to write an actual post, but I will.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I'm calm, really

Because the tweets of my day will not last forever, here is the summary.

For a couple hours this morning my life was over-taken with calls from the social worker, and text messages to and from David and Evan. It would have been a little simpler if all this had happened when I was not in class. Fortunately my students were very indulgent. I told them what was going on. It all, amazingly came together.

Carl will be getting in to the airport here this evening. David will pick him up and spend they both will spend the night. Evan is coming in the morning.

I emailed my classes tomorrow to tell them class was cancelled.

Andrew and I went to Costco and bought lots of food.

The dog groomer called to remind me of an appointment tomorrow, I rescheduled.

My new glasses came in, so I ran by the optometrist.

Gary was upset because Brian was supposed to take a form to school so that he (Gary) could go to a dance this weekend. When I told him that Brian wasn't going to school he said, "All day? Isn't the adoption just in the morning?" Roland managed to scan the document and email it to the girlfriend so she can turn it in. Fortunately THAT crisis was averted.

It is so strange. For months we have been just waiting, wondering. We went rather suddenly from "some time in the future" to TOMORROW!


The state social worker just called. Helen, Gary's sister, is going to be there too. I'm very pleased. I was planning on inviting her, but wasn't sure it would work out with such little notice.

TOMORROW, maybe, probably, DEFINITELY


We are on! Still waiting for find out what plane Carl will be on, but we're doing this.

We can do the adoption tomorrow first thing (I think a judge agreed to start his/her day half an hour early) if I can just get Carl here.

I've leaving him messages like crazy, sent him an email.

If I can't, we might just go ahead and do the three boys who are here and do Carl when we can.

Or not. We are all hoping we don't have to make the decision yet.

Just so you know...

I got a call last night from the number two person at the agency yesterday. She had been talking with the lawyer about everything. She agreed that it was terrible that the state has had all this time and now the boys are beginning to move away and will have to be flown back. So, this morning the lawyer is going to call the judge's clerk and see if we can maybe, pretty please, have a date THIS WEEK.

That would mean calling Carl and asking him if he can get a ride to the airport FAST. It would mean that Evan, David, Roland and I would not be able to give our workplaces any real notice that we were taking the day off. It might even mean that some of them would only be able to take part of the day off. But it would happen while most of the boys are in town.

Next week is impossible because all the judges are going to judges' retreat or something. The week after that is possible from our end, and at least we would only have to fly in one more boy.

The chances that the lawyer can pull this off is less than 50%, but it might happen.

Oh, and on the other side, the home study and every are all done, but the person who has to sign giving the final approval hasn't done it. So the department hasn't sent the documents over, so the lawyer will basically be asking the judge to approve the adoption of an almost-18-year-old without all the paper work being filed. If they can pull it out of the hat, we will do it. On the other hand, it would in some ways be better if it happened in a few weeks. Everyone could ask for the time off.

In any case, I promised the social worker that I would carry my cell phone with me to class and excuse myself to answer it if she calls.

I just wanted you to know so you could bite your fingernails along with me.

The news will go out as a Tweet first.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Waiting and Waiting...

I am getting so very, very frustrated as we wait for a court date.

Andrew goes back to college in 9 days, and David moves across the country in 3 weeks. We need to arrange transportation for Carl in any case. Evan, Roland and I all need to make arrangements to miss work.

Today I wrote the the social worker and asked if I would at least have 2 weeks warning before the date. I begin to worry that they will say, "Heh! We can do it tomorrow!" Given that 3 tickets will need to be bought, that won't work. It would be one thing if everyone lived here or if it was possible to adopt adults without them being present. Of course I WANT everyone to be there, but not being there just isn't an option. (Well, except for Andrew, and I am insisting that he be there).

Anyway, this morning the agency worker said she would talk to the agency director and see if he can get shake some trees for us.

The stress around here is getting thicker and thicker...

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Turning in the license

I found out the other day that even if we are not licensed Helen, Gary's sister, could still visit because she would be visiting a relative. Since the main reason we were thinking about keeping it was so that we could develop a relationship with her, I am once again thinking about turning it in.

First though, Helen. Helen is in a good family near the high school that has a special program she is in and, of course, her friends. Moving her here would be disruptive in many ways. I still want her to get to know us because I don't know what our relationship is, but being my son's sister seems pretty important. In some way or another we will be extended family (at least) and I need her to feel comfortable coming here.

So as long as I thought we needed to have a license for that to be possible, I thought we needed to keep it.

But now we don't, so I am thinking about not keeping it.

The possibility of being really done with this part of our lives makes me feel anxious, happy, sad, worried. Of course, everything makes me feel worried. I'm a worrier.

On one hand a part of me really feels finished. Not finished in the sense of finished being a parent, but in knowing the family is finished. Like having the last baby and knowing it is the last. There are years of parenting ahead of you, but there will be no more new ones. That excitement and joy that comes with a new member of the family is over.

It feels like the right decision.

And yet taking the step, making it final, is frightening. What if I change my mind? What if there is a kid out there who really needs us?

Although thinking about finding out that there is another kid out there who really needs us bring with it a sense of exhaustion more than excitement. Still, I know that would change if there were such a kid. I would meet him or her and be so very glad that I still had the license, that I could still make the space.

Of course, we don't really have the space for at least another year, and if there was a kid that they really, really could not find another good home for, they might call us anyway.

At lunch yesterday Gary's social worker (the agency one) said something about feeling so bad for the GLBT kids who have to live with families who don't support them. It made me imagine that there are specific kids she knows about who need homes, kids that are safe, because of course most homes now are tolerant, but not kids who are celebrated and nurtured. And I felt guilty that we were walking away from those kids. I'm not too tired or too old or too busy.

I just feel like my family is complete. Six is enough.


Okay, so when the state worker was here last she said that the there were two likely court dates. Those dates are now two and three weeks away. She said that some time ago, and hasn't been able to get more information since. I am feeling very frustrated.

If it is the first date, then we have to fly Carl out, as we planned to from the beginning, except we can no longer get a really cheap ticket.

If it is the second date, Andrew will miss the first few days fall quarter. (And we all do remember that this is Gary's birthday, right? The day he turns 18 and all the things we did for the juvenile adoption become unnecessary.)

If it is one week later than that, we will have to buy Andrew and Carl plane tickets.

If it is later than THAT there is an excellent chance we will also need to buy a ticket for David who is planning on moving far, far away with his boyfriend.

There are also trivial things like the fact that I am writing my syllabus and I would like to know now what days I will be cancelling class.

In other fun news, Gary, who is learning to drive, backed up into someone's yard when he thought he was in drive and was actually in reverse. He then of course had to drive back off.

We don't know if the right front axle was bent on the way up or the way down.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Ethics of Adult Adoption

When the adoptions social worker came by for us to sign the paper work, we ended up talking briefly about adult adoptions. I told her that everyone I met either thought it was wonderful or were completely confused as to why anyone would do it. Now she was getting ready to go, so I didn't push it, but she said that some people were really opposed to adult adoptions. She had a look on her face that suggested those people would be opposed to the adoption we are doing.

I didn't ask her to explain why, and I am embarrassed that I cannot come up with the argument. I understand and support arguments that against private adoption and social services (all of them) that don't support families in difficulties. I understand the argument child adoptions should be (mostly) abandoned in favor of guardianship arrangements.

I am having trouble coming up with a specific argument against adult adoption, that isn't based on an argument against child adoption. Well, at least one that applies in this case. Adult adoption has sometimes been used to create a legal relationship between adults who do not have a child/parent relationship. I suppose the most obvious case is when one member of a same-sex couple adopts the other. My state however requires that you demonstrate a previously existing parent/child relationship. The first example of the kind of evidence they are looking for is that the adoptee was your foster child for at least one year.

So, can anyone help me out here?

I would really like a citation to a carefully made argument, although just having someone clarifying the issues would be great.

I'm supposed to be good at understanding ethical issues. There is something I am missing here though, and I hate that.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

We almost have a court date

Yesterday the social worker came out and we signed the last of the pre-adoption paper work. The worker says that she has been talking to the lawyer and they have tentatively agreed a mid-September court date. However, if there is a glitch, it could be one week later, on Gary's 18th birthday. The irony escapes no one. We are finishing up all the work for a juvenile adoption just in time not to need to do any of that work.

Everyone is excited. I texted or emailed all the boys and they all responded promptly with enthusiasm. David is concerned about the two dates. He and his boyfriend are moving and the earlier date works much, much better for him. Carl and Evan just want to know so they can make arrangements with work and such. Since I will have to buy Carl a ticket (plane or bus) to get here, I would like a firm date with some advance notice. Andrew is supposed to start school the day before Gary's birthday, so the second date means being late for fall quarter. I briefly considered doing it without him, which we could legally do, but I've decided that it simply is not an option. If he has to be late for school, then he will be.

Of course we also have to figure out how we are getting Andrew back to school. Since he is moving out of a traditional dorm room and into a studio room (still in a dorm) he needs new stuff, like cooking pans. We either need to buy things here and drive him (10+ hours each way) or buy maybe fly with him taking extra luggage and renting a car there so we can shop.

Let's all take a moment to reflect that the reason the adoption is at least 6 weeks later than it would be is that Andrew forget to get his fingerprints done when he was originally scheduled and had to do it later. Of course, the only reason that he needed to do it was that he was supposed to be LIVING HERE at the time of the adoption and Gary was supposed to be under 18.


Anyway, various boys want me to reassure them that it will be the 16th, but I am powerless.

Happy though.

Okay, my being with my mother for 5 weeks made a difference too.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Update from Mom's

Cross-posted from Yondalla's Ramblings.

Well, I’m still here and doing fine. Information about Mom is below, but since this blog is All About Me, I will start with my time.

Mom’s BFF has taken me out shopping a couple of times. She enjoys shopping and Mom doesn’t, so that is good. We went to a wonderful tea shop in a tiny town about 12 miles from here. I bought some good black teas. One is a simple black tea; another is chocolate and the third is chocolate mint! I bought very small amounts of the chocolate teas. I wasn’t sure they would be good, but they really are. I don’t normally put sugar in my tea, but these taste better with it.

It surprises me that there is a good tea shop in this tiny mountain town and none within 25 miles of my house. I’m jealous. Oh, and the grocery store, the very tiny grocery store where no one has even heard of chutney, has decent bagels! They are bagel-bakery quality, but they are the best grocery store bagels I’ve had. I told the check-out woman that I was pleased they had “real bagels.” I had to explain that I had expected BSB’s (bagel-shaped bread).

Anyway, back to the tea shop. They had quite a bit of tea ware. I got excited and said, “Ooo! Tea toys.” The proprietor said he had never heard them called that. Anyway, Mom’s BFF convinced me that Mom really would want to buy me a thank-you present and so I picked out a new tea pot. I was thinking about leaving it here to use whenever I am here, but I like it too much. Moms said to take it home, “and who knows, maybe there will be another when you come next summer.”

So, I have decent bagels, really good tea, and my Kindle. Too bad the internet is 7 miles away.

I’ve been successfully convincing myself that I don’t need the new Kindle. I really don’t. I got one for Mom, which she really likes. With the Parkinson’s causing her dominate hand to tremor constantly, holding a book is difficult. The Kindle just sits on her lap, sometimes on a pillow. She can make the type big enough so that she can read it even though her eyes don’t work together as well as they should (Parkinson’s again), and she can push the buttons with her non-dominant hand. So she reads.

If the new Kindle had come out just a month earlier, I would have got it for me and given Mom my old one. It is a little bit smaller and lighter. The batter lasts even longer. The page turning is faster and the screen background is lighter. All of that I would appreciate. I pouted until I realized that I really could return Mom’s, give her mine, and be Kindle-less for about a month. That prospect was too awful.

I’ve been doing the dishes by hand even though Mom keeps telling me I can use the dishwasher. I finally figured out why I don’t want to. When we go on vacation we don’t have one. I do dishes by hand, but it is okay because I have lots of time and it can be a peaceful activity. At home there are always a million things I should be doing, but I stop every single time I walk through the kitchen to put in dirty dishes left on the counter, start a full dish washer (because whoever put in the last dish or realized there wasn’t room for another didn’t), or unload the blasted thing before dishes pile up to much. It is never convenient, and it always has to be done. Here Mom and I have lunch and I say, “I think I will walk up to the park and do the dishes when I get back.”


I think the last time I wrote Mom was still in the hospital. She has been home now since Friday, and is doing well. Her blood pressure is about 105 over 60, which is low but sounds like the blood pressure of a real person. (In ICU it was as slow as 88/29.) Her appetite is back. She gets HUNGRY for meals instead of regarding them as a chore she must face. She is more active, but still tires easily. We have a home health nurse coming twice a week and she will be evaluated by physical therapy to see if she needs any on-going assistance.

The ulcer acting up when it did was probably a good thing. She’s probably had it for a long time and it just didn’t get diagnosed because the symptoms were under the radar. In any case, she is doing well enough that I am feeling comfortable with leaving next week. I will have been away from the family for more than 5 weeks.

And when I get back, there will be kittens!

Brian is volunteering at the humane society. One of the rules they have is that volunteers cannot adopt an animal for 30 days; this rule however does not apply to fostering kittens. Brian called to make sure it was okay with me and when I said yes, he and Roland went right out and brought home a mother and five kittens. They have to be kept in one room for 10 days and then can be allowed to mingle with the other pets until they go back to the shelter on the 26th. Gary first said he would put them in his room but then he claimed that the smell was too much. So now they are in Brian’s. Roland got Gary a plug-in air freshener and now the whole house, I am told, smells like apple cinnamon. The Basement Kitteh (who really does live on the basement level and is black) is angry because he used to sleep in Brian’s room and now he can’t get in AND he can hear and smell the invaders. I am told the kittens are adorable and the mother is affectionate. Brian isn’t asking about adopting anyone. Even if he wanted to, the animals HAVE to be checked back in. None of them can be adopted unless they have been altered.

So that’s the news from central Penn.

Later y’all.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Well, my mom gave us all a scare this weekend. She fainted. I took her to the ER where they said she was severely anemic. Her blood pressure was also about 90 over 45. So she was admitted, scoped, and diagnosed with two ulcers.

I had Roland call United Airlines and ask how much it would cost to reschedule my trip. He gave them the full story and they did not charge anything. I am now coming back on the 11th.

That means 5 1/2 weeks away from the family. Roland misses me. I asked if the kids do, and he said, "Well... they keep really busy." That is fine. I am glad that are self-reliant. I am sure they would miss me more if Andrew weren't there cooking for everyone.

I don't know whether this will delay the adoption. The home study is finally complete. It took a while for Health and Welfare to get Andrew's back ground check to the social worker who was writing the thing. Now though it is done and all the other paper work is being done. The lawyer originally told us that we should be able to get a court about 6 weeks after everything was done.

Gary's birthday is less than 9 weeks away. At that point, we won't need a home study anymore.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Those of you who have adopted, do you know if I put Gary on my insurance, does that mean he loses eligibility for the state insurance?

If anyone has any ideas here, it would be welcome. Thanks.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Gary's last name -- call for help

Gary is still debating what he wants to do about his last name. He is thinking about taking our last name, but still isn't quite ready for that. We had previously explored the idea of finding a name that honored his American Indian heritage. He doesn't know anything about it. All his mother told him is that his genetic father was Blackfoot. Of course that is a nation with more than one tribe and more than one language.

Last night I shared an idea with him. Our family name is means "night watchman." It is a occupation name. In the distant past, my husband's ancestors spent their nights walking the town ready to wake everyone up if there was a fire, or whatever. Anyway, I ask Gary what he thought about trying to find a Blackfoot word that meant something like "night watchman." It doesn't have to be that exactly. A word meaning "sentry" or "guard" would be fine. He liked it.

The problem though is obvious. Though we have found internet sites with lists of words, none of them are what we are looking for. And we would very much prefer to talk to someone who has some expert knowledge of the language.

So, anyone out there have any resources? How do we find someone who actually knows something about one or more Blackfoot languages who can help us?

My birthday party!

Last night Evan and David came over for the official dinner celebrating my birthday. It was, as always, a delightful time. Of course it would be lovely if Carl could have been there too. One of the best things about the adoption is that we will be bringing him in and I will get to hang with all of them at one time.

Last night there were several moments when the conversation was typical wacky for us and I thought, "Oh, I should remember that exchange and blog it." This morning of course it is all gone. I remember no specifics. Oh, well, I do remember the conversation about people getting old which included debate about whether my memory was being affected. I admitted to loss of hearing and grey hairs, but insisted my memory was this bad when I was 20.

Evan gave me a flowering plant that is grows in arid places. It isn't quite a cactus, but it doesn't need much water. The woman at the florist assured him that, other than cacti, it was the least killable plant she sells.

Of course that lead to debate over whether I killed three or four batches of sea monkeys. (Three. Word to the wise, they don't leave them in the window in the sun, next to the stove, or aerate them with an old medicine dropper. Especially the last one. It's really bad when you have to tell your kid that though you kept your promise and didn't move his sea monkeys, you did accidentally poison them.)

I guess I do remember a chunk of it. I love having them all together.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Saying "No" to Helen

We were officially asked if we want to be considered as a placement for Gary's sister, Helen. I talked with everyone in the family. They boys are willing to share a room if Helen really needs us. Roland however is emphatic that the house is full. When I tell him that Brian and Gary say they will share he responds by saying, "We are out of room."

He says that very slowly and emphatically. You know, like he thinks I didn't pay attention the last dozen times he said it. I've tried reasoning with him, explaining that we can make more room. He detailed argument in response is:

"We. Are. Out. Of. Room."

Those of you who have been around a while know that Roland is rather single-minded but not inflexible. He is an emotional/relationship based thinker, and while I will spend all my time in the grey area contemplating options, Roland is where he is until he is somewhere else. So though right now he won't even discuss the possibility of Helen coming here, when he perceives her as having lots of options, he would flip to the other side if he ever thought she really needed us.

What we are telling everyone is that we want to make Helen part of our extended family. We would like for her to be here for extended visits. One reason is of course so that she and Gary have some normal sibling time (you know, living in the same house and not necessarily doing the same thing). The more important reason, for me, is that she get comfortable with us as a family.

We are adopting her brother. I don't know how to categorize or label that relationship, but I do feel like she will be part of the family too. Permanently. I want her to know that.

And I know that some of you are wondering if we might adopt her too. The answer is that I am very open to that possibility, if it turns out to be what is best for her. I can easily imagine a future in which we do an adult adoption. Whether that is the future remains to be seen.

Oh, and though I don't know how I would react to needs from the other boys' siblings, I don't intend to try to foster the same sort of relationship with them. Most of them have permanent families of their own, in many cases that family is their first (biological) one.

The End (of the Blog) in Sight

Yep, this blog is going to end.

Sort of.

I am planning a concluding post that I will put up after the adoption, which I am hoping happens in August. If I find I still have things to say after foster care or adoption, I will post them here.

For those of you who for whatever mysterious reasons are interested in the rest of my life, I'm blogging here: Yondalla's Ramblings.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Attachment and Time

I went to a workshop on parenting adopted kids on Friday. It was very good. Of course I think that largely because the psychologist was teaching what I had already come to believe. You know: behavior mod sucks; kids learn and grow through attachment; any parenting that attempts to coerce attachment will, at best, produce a submissive child; genuine attachment depends upon empathy.

It made me think about how much I have changed as a parent, and it made me think a lot about David. Have you read his Story? It starts here. Those of you who have read it knows that his time living with us ends with us moving him out. It was after his 18th birthday and we finally packed up his belongings and took them to the social worker's office so he could take them to wherever he was living. It seemed to us at the time, and still does, that David was planning on pushing us until we kicked him out. My own reflections on how his placement ended are here.

Of all my kids (excepting Ann who was never a permanent placement), David had the most attachment issues. He wasn't RAD, but he also didn't attach. He was forever the four-year-old boy who divided the world into "good people who give me what I need want" and "bad people who don't" and finally, "people who might give me what I need/want when the people I'm with throw me away." His attention was forever on the third category. Even while he lived with us I knew he needed a light hand. He had been in a pre-adoption placement and it had failed. He didn't want to be adopted. He didn't want to trust.

Though I think, or like to think, that I would have handled things differently if I were parenting him now, I don't think the end would have been significantly different. He had expected to leave us at 18. He wanted to leave. He wanted to be "independent" even though that meant, for a couple of years, that he was just finding new people take care of him.

The best thing we did was not to give up on having a relationship with him. We did very little in the way of commenting on how he was living his life. We certainly had no expectations that we would influence any of his choices. I just didn't want to lose him completely. He had a piece of my heart and I knew that I would miss him forever if I didn't stay in touch. So we reached out every now and then. We dropped by once we knew where he lived. We invited him home for the holidays. We hugged him and let him see how happy we were to see him when we did run into him. I don't want to make us sound heroic here. We went months without contacting him. I licked my wounds and cried and wondered why he rejected me. Every now and then though, I would force myself to reach out again. The first two years were the hardest.

And now?

Well, now he has been in the same loving relationship for almost two years. Now he wants to be adopted and he wants our last name. Now he doesn't just accept what he needs/wants from people. Now he enters into relationships. He lets himself be cared about and he cares for others.

I suspect he will always be a person who protects his heart. He may still sabotage relationships. But also know he is getting stronger and we are part of that journey.

And it isn't over. Parenting never stops.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Proceding slowly

Andrew got back from college a bit over a week ago. He had his finger printing done last Friday. Soon H&W should have the report. They will then send it to the private adoption agency to whom they farmed out the home study. THEN we should be ready to ask for a court date.

In the meantime, my mother who is 72, is having surgery. I've decided not to talk about her specific health issues on the Internet. Her surgery is scheduled for July 2. I am flying back to her house on July 4 (which turns out to be a relatively inexpensive day to fly in the US, unlike the days just before and after). I will return July 28. I'll be able to visit her while she is still in the hospital and talk to the medical people about what sort of home care she will need. I do appreciate that she decided to have this health crisis in the summer when I could give her three weeks or so.

Did I ever mention that my mother does not have Internet? She doesn't own a computer or a cell phone. She does live a few blocks from the library. It is a very small town, but presumably I can check in there every few days. I rather doubt there is anything like a coffee shop with internet access in town.

It is a very small town.

In other news, we are all well. The boys are not looking as hard as I think they should for jobs, but they are staying reasonably busy. Gary is taking two on-line courses and reports that he is getting the work done. He is taking Government 1 & 2. It sounds to me like so far "getting the work done" means BS'ing on the discussion board without actually reading the material assigned. Still, I've gotten good at the whole boundaries thing. I certainly can't make him work any harder or better. He has the skills. He gets to make the decisions. At least this on-line school has an actual teacher and weekly due dates.

We are not going to my father's cottages this year, to everyone's relief. I had decided that before I knew about Mom. With Gary's class we wouldn't be able to go for very long anyway. Dad could only get there during August, which is a miserable time to go. My biggest hesitancy about it was that I was concerned for my sister. Would she be able to handle things if I wasn't there? Finally it occurred to me that I could have boundaries with my sister too. She's in her mid-forties. If she has never rented a car before she is capable of figuring it out now. She decided not to go either. Dad seems relieved too. He likes people to be there for a couple of weeks. Flying back from China for a long weekend wasn't that appealing for him either.

So now I am mother-henning my husband and kids. I may take a page from my mother-in-law's "How to be a Obsessive Compulsive Mother" book. I am getting each of the three boys to give me a list of 3 or 4 things they are willing and able to cook. If I was actually my mother-in-law I would put together a binder with complete list, along with recipes and shopping lists. The boys each cook once a week anyway. I just want to make sure they are organized. Of course after making sure they have all the information to make themselves a variety of healthy meals, they will probably live off frozen burritos, pasta, pizza, and burgers for 3 weeks. I know that.

So life is quiet. I'll try to blog a few times before I leave, but I doubt that I will be on-line while I am gone.

Be well.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

So close....

The social worker who is writing the adoption home study emailed me the first copy this morning. I emailed it back with a few corrections (like the spelling of Gary's last name and where Roland and I met) and filled in some of the blanks she had left (like when Gary moved in).

She still hadn't got the medical reports so I called the physician's office. My doctor is out of town this week, so they weren't sure they would find them, but they did and they said they would fax them right away.

That means we are really and truly almost done.

I think.

Unless there is some process that health and welfare has to go through to accept the home study.

We may actually be asking for a court date soon!

Woo Hoo!

Monday, June 07, 2010

Serendipity? Not quite

Serendipity, you may know, is that phenomenon where you find one thing while looking for something else. It is supposed to be a good thing.

You know, sort of like looking for medical receipts and
finding on June 7
a packet that was mailed March 17
saying that our foster care license will expire June 14
unless we complete and return enclosed materials by May 1.

Yeah, sort of like that, but not QUITE like that.


Roland, who admits he was the one who opened the packet, called the licensing worker who will visit us on Friday, June 11. She will do an extension or something. I really think all we want to do is get the license extended until the adoption.

Though on one hand I want to say this is Roland's fault, the truth is that if I had really wanted to renew our license, I would have called a couple of months ago to find out what was going on. I had been thinking that the new licensing worker was really falling down on the job. I mean, I KNEW we should have received something by April at least. I kept thinking I might call and find out what what going on.

Oh, I also found receipts for clothes and such that I could have sent in for reimbursement but now they are more than 3 months old and not eligible.

I think I'm done.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Adoption Update

The adoption worker called on Monday to tell me that it had been decided that they could use our foster care home study for the adoption. I was of course very excited...right up until she said, "They decided that if you've been licensed with us once, that is enough."

Then I had to explain to her that we had never been licensed with the state, but only by the private agency. So yesterday the social worker who works with a local adoption agency called and she is coming out Wednesday for the first appointment for the home study.

I did check out the agency page though. It looks like facilitate a lot of foster-care adoptions. They have a program for international adoption that actually requires people to take classes on childhood trauma, unlike the OTHER local agency that doesn't. Of course, it is the one everyone uses. They have a page about domestic infant adoption, but it is almost blank and they are not accepting applications from prospective adoptive parents. I am choosing to believe that it is because they apparently have ethical standards that make it difficult for them to compete with the other agency.

I have no idea how long it will take her to write the home study. Given that we are not needing it to be matched with kids already in the system, I am hoping she will be willing to do it quickly. She doesn't have to spend a lot of time trying to figure out what sort of kid we can parent. Gary is doing well here and we just need the study done so we can adopt him.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Roland feels it too

I'm not the only one who is feeling like a parent.

Last night Roland came into the bedroom and said to me, "Have you heard our son's new career plan?"

"You mean how he isn't going to be an emergency room nurse but instead is going to study music and be famous at something?"


And we grinned at each other.

Being his mom ...

Kids can have more than one mom and one dad, more than one family. And one of Gary's moms is me.


About a week ago Gary was talking to me his MMA classes and how much one instructor means to him. He, the instructor, also worked at the group home. He has been part of Gary's life for longer than I have. Gary said that he almost seemed like his father. Then he was a bit uncomfortable and said, "You know that I really like you guys, and I am glad about the adoption and all. I just don't feel that way about you."

I nodded and said I understood, but part of me wanted to say, "This is what my being your mother feels like." I didn't though. Gary needs to classify us as "the people who are adopting him but aren't really his parents," and that is okay with me. I think about David's journey, about how he only seemed to able to let himself get emotionally close after he moved out. I think about how the adoption is resulting in both David and Evan calling and dropping by more often. I think about the various ways that I have felt about my mother over the years and well...

...I feel like he has accepted me as his real mother.

I feel affirmed as his mother every time he interrupts my reading to talk about school, or what career path he is considering this week, or what he wants to do this summer. He no longer asks me if I have time to talk to him, he just says something like, "Yondalla, I think this summer I want to..." He knows I will put down my book and give him my attention. He re-tells me the same thing, goes over the same ground, and I remember doing the same thing to my mother and how she always just sat down and listened. She often didn't say much, but she would listen until I ran out of air, no matter how many times I wanted to talk about the same thing. So I sit there, and listen, and smile at how confident he has become. He knows I'm interested. I'm his mom.

I feel affirmed as his mother every time he asks me, without advance planning, if I will take him to or from his girlfriend's house. As it is almost 25 minutes each way, this is no small task. If I complain about the distance he says, "Well, if I had a driver's license you wouldn't have to be driving me around all the time."

I feel affirmed as his mother when he almost rolls his eyes and says, "I KNOW I told you about the choir concert tonight. Like a week ago! I have to be there at 6, but you don't have to until 6:30." Of course we want to hear him sing. We are his parents.

I feel affirmed when instead of doing whatever I ask him to do he sometimes says, "I did it last time! It's BRIAN's turn."

I know this might all seem strange because it may seem like I am happy when I am being taken advantage of. It's not like that. He is not an insensitive or selfish person. He is responsible, considerate, and kind. When he moved in he was always responsible, considerate and kind. When he moved in he acted like a guest who might out stay his welcome.

I even feel like his mom when he tells people that I am not like a real mom because I let him "do whatever I wants." I interject that it only seems that way because everything he wants to do is within the rules, but he insists, it's different. I'm not always on his case about everything. I'm not authoritarian like that. "You're just ... you know ... you. If I did something that you didn't like would you ground me for a week?"

"No. I would probably just talk to you about what happened. I expect that you would have had a good reason for whatever happened."

"SEE? You don't treat me like a little kid. It's almost like we're roommates. Well, not really, but you know."

"We let you make a lot of your own decisions."

"Exactly." He smiles, having proved his point. I don't act the way he pictures real mother acting, but he likes me.

On the other hand, I am acting the way I act as a mother, and he accepts it with a confidence that he didn't used to have. He knows he belongs. He knows he can count on us.

And all of this coalesced for me last week when he said, "Okay, you're going to be happy about this. I've decided that in this economy I'm not going to be able to move out when I wanted. So I'm going to go to the charter school all year next year and graduate in the spring. You get to keep me a whole year."

And when I jumped up to hug him and tell him how thrilled I was, he smiled, rolled his eyes and said, "I knew you would act like that."

Friday, May 07, 2010

Maybe we're both crazy

Okay, so Gary has been complaining about his tonsils. This annoys me, not because I doubt him, but because I have twice taken him to see the physician about tonsillitis. He has been given antibiotics, insisted he could and would self-administer, and then didn't. He got better both times.

It's like he thinks seeing a physician is a necessary step in the healing process.

This morning though he woke me up to see if I could take him to the hospital right away. Why? Was it because he was raging with fever? So dehydrated he couldn't stand?

No. He didn't want to make an appointment or go to the walk-in in the afternoon (after my classes are done) because it would interfere with his preparation for the prom tonight.

***Here we stop for a minute for you to all imagine my apoplectic moment while I tried to find polite words to respond to him.***

I did tell him, gently, that his going to prom was a lower priority for me than my teaching my classes and I would take him in the afternoon. He told me that he couldn't breathe. I pointed out that if he was talking, he was breathing. He said he couldn't swallow water. I told him he would not die of dehydration before I got him in.

Then he asked, seriously, if I thought he should go to school. He could, and then I could pick him up when he had the appointment.

This is why teenagers can't be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder. The symptoms thereof are "situation normal."

Okay, let me back up. He has been doing yard work weekends for a month to earn the money for prom. It is important to him. I get that.

I'm still proud I didn't say anything sarcastic this morning.

I also told him that I would dispense any medications he was prescribed, and that if he were younger I would forbid him going to the prom.


And last night we had a wonderful conversation. It started with him asking if he could spend the night at his date's house after the prom. Her mother had already offered. He said, "And yes, I PROMISE." The last time the mom invited him to stay I made him process in front of her that he would stay in the guest room all night and not permit the girlfriend to enter his room even if she wanted to. The mother asked if I thought that was necessary.

Anyway, so last evening he was assuring me that nothing would happen. Then he told me that girlfriend's mother had told girlfriend that if she ever decides to become "active" they should talk and the mom would get the girl on you-know-what. He didn't think that the girlfriend would though. Probably her mother would go nuts and forbid them to see each other.

I took deep breaths and told him that the girlfriend should talk to her, and that the conversation would be easier when she wasn't planning on being active any time soon. Maybe she could even tell her mom she needed to be on it because of irregular cycles or something. Gary debated this with me for a while, assuring me that they weren't doing anything and that telling her mother was a bad idea.

I said, "I said that it was important for her to be prepared, even if she wasn't planning on doing anything."

He responded, "What's with you guys and PLANNING. You don't PLAN these things. Teenagers go with the flow."

I put my head in my hands then looked at him. He looked back. Then he laughed, "Oh MY G-D! I just realized what I said. That's SO FUNNY!" He couldn't stop laughing and finally had to tell Brian and Roland what hilarious thing had just happened.

I told him that the girlfriend had one week to talk to her mom before I did.


He also said that he was realizing that he probably wasn't going to be able to move out when he originally planned and would likely live at home for another year. I said good and he told me not to get my hopes up. If he could afford to move out earlier, he would.

This made me happy.

I was happy that he might stay, happy that he was not worried about being a burden, that he was confident that we WANTED him to stay.

Really happy.

Which amazes me because at the same time I wanted to shake some sense into him ... about the girl thing, not the living-at-home thing.

Really, there is something fundamentally irrational about parenting.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Adoption & Gary's name

We finally finished last of the home study stuff ... at least the stuff that has to be done before there is a home study. We got the biographies and preferences document turned in quickly. I had to get a new birth certificate since mine disappeared, and it took a while to get the physician to fax in the medical form.

Now it is all complete... well, except that they won't have actually got the results from Roland's background check, but they know he has been finger-printed.

Now we wait for the private agency that will send a social worker to visit and interview us and then she will write the actually home study document.

And yes, that is the document that the attorney has asked to be waived. No results on that front yet. Nothing expected for a while either.

The private agency (the one I do foster care with, not the one that will do the home study) is paying the attorney directly. I don't even know how much it will cost. I just finally got an email from the appropriate person saying they had worked out something satisfactory to all parties. His fees won't cover the new birth certificates, so the agency will reimburse me for that. The agency is pleased with the attorney and "his dedication to helping young people be adopted."

People either find the adoption of 20-somethings to be wonderful, or inexplicable. We have been asked "why would you do that?" many times. It is not asked in a way I find at all offensive, they are just really curious about WHY. We explain that people need parents even when they are adults and everyone needs legal next of kin. That makes sense to them. It especially makes sense to people when they think about the gay boys who may very well not have legally recognized spouses.

My inner adult and my inner four-year-old have come to a compromise about Gary's name. The four-year-old is pout-y and thinks that Gary should want to have our last name instead of the last name of the person who abandoned him.

My inner adult understands that Gary needs to be in control of this process. He really wants a new first name (he has picked it out), and changing both names at once feels like too much. The adoption for him is, at least right now, more about separating from his family of birth than it is about being a part of our family. It's his choice.

The inner four-year-old though has come up with a plan to which the inner adult is reluctantly agreeing to. I'm trying to get everyone to use Gary's new first name now. I address him by it and I refer to him by it. I told his girlfriend and Brian that if Gary doesn't mind they should use it at school too. The idea is that by the time the adoption is being finalized he will already have adjusted to the new name and will be ready to change his last name too.

My inner adult reminds me that this is manipulative, even if I am doing what Gary wants done. I have been to Alanon enough that I should be fully away that I cannot control people. I shouldn't even try. Trying to manipulate people into doing what I want just sets me up for unrealistic expectations of others and can leave me feeling resentful. It is particularly unfortunate that I am doing this with respect to an occasion that should be joyous. My energy would be better spent coming to accept his decision rather than trying to make him change it.

My inner adult can be a moralizing pain in the butt.

But she's right.

And I am still trying to get everyone to use Gary's new name starting last week.

So there.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Guest Blogger Returns

A previous guest blogger is back with an update and more questions.


I wrote you a few months ago about my foster daughter who was in residential experiencing some confusion about her sexual orientation. Thought I'd write and give you an update.
K came home about a month ago. We had shared with her caseworker and GAL about our concerns that there was some inappropriate sexual behavior going on at the facility where she was staying. These concerns were expressed in court and the judge immediately ordered her to be returned to our care.
Since she has been home, K has stated that she is no longer confused and has decided she is heterosexual after all. I think K has been so starved for acceptance and friendship, she was just going along with the pressures some of the other girls at the facility were putting on her. Her GAL had told us they have had similar complaints about this facility before. But then again, we also recently found that she has once been looking at sexually explicit photos of young woman online. So maybe she is still curious.
Then last night, she asked if one of her friends could spend the night this weekend. She has told us before that this friend is lesbian. Considering what she has told us before and the knowledge that she has been looking at the photos online, we decided against overnights. We did offer that her friend was welcome to come hang out at our house, that they could plan an outing together or whatever, just no overnights for now. K took this very personally, said she is sorry now that she told us about her confusion, sorry she told us her friend was gay. She says we are holding it against her, judging her and her friend. We have tried to assure her of our love and acceptance but she isn't seeing that and just feels embarrassed and hurt.
I feel so unprepared to handle these issues. I'm so afraid I'm going to mess this up for her, make her feel ashamed of who she is and I really don't want to do that.
Any suggestions?