Thursday, September 15, 2011

I don't need your permission...

.. I just need you to rescue me from my mistakes.

I'm too tired to be writing. The new sleep specialist was very apologetic when, after I told her that I was feeling GREAT, that she had to say she had to change some thing and I might feel pretty bad for a while. Actually I think part of the reason I'm feeling bad is that I started feeling depressed as soon as she told me that I was going to feel worse. But see, that is totally irrelevant to the story, although it might be relevant to why I am telling the story.

There has been a certain theme lately.

Gary talks to us about some outrageous, unrealistic plan to see what we think.
We say, "If you do that, X will probably happen and that would be bad."
He says, "X is NOT going to happen, and even if it does, I have two great back-up plans. So what do you think?"
We say, "We don't think it is a good idea."
He does it.
X happens.
Our suggestion that he use his back up plan is met with incredulity. THAT won't work.
He indicates what he needs from us to fix the problem.
We indicate that he is not going to get it.
He tells us how truly horrible his life will be if we don't fix his problem.
We agree that it sucks to be him, but whatever happens he knows he has a place to live and food to eat.

And I am beginning to feel worn out. I know it is the sleep thing. I've been not-tired for a couple of months and it has been WONDERFUL, now I'm tired again and feeling pissy.

And I swear, if he comes up and says, "Question. I thinking it would be a good idea if I..."

I am going to scream
or hit him over the head with a hammer
many times.

I think 18 might be my least favorite age.

Thank you for listening to me whine. Sorry I haven't been writing. I kinda feel guilty not writing at all and then coming here just to whine, but well, I figure you will take it from me.

I'm going to bed now.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Strange Conversations Today

Conversation 1
Sis, "Are you sure you are okay with everyone going to your house for Thanksgiving? Because if you are not, I'll tell Dad we can't make it."

Me, "Everyone's coming to my house for Thanksgiving?"

Conversation 2
Setting: 3pm, Gary emerging from room for the first time (still in pj's)
Me, "Honey, this is is me asking for the 3rd day in a row that you bring up all the dirty dishes from the basement and get them in the dishwasher."

Gary, "I know. I know. I have more important things to do."

Me, "Like what?"

Gary, "Um... like fill out these job applications?" (said in the "parents are so stupid voice")

Me, deciding not to comment on the fact that he has apparently been sleeping all day, "Okaaay, do you think you could fit dishes in sometime in the next hour or two?" (I admit, there was a tone.)

In case you are interested:
It is okay with me if my sister, her husband, 3 young adult children, my father and his wife all show up here for Thanksgiving, particularly since they will be staying at a hotel and I long since figured out how to cook two turkeys in one oven.

Also, Gary did get all those dirty dishes up into the dishwasher. It wasn't a full load, but...

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Still growing up

Gary is still working at the frozen yogurt place. He has been there several weeks and yesterday he was called in to talk to the manager about his performance. This is a new shop and Gary was one of the younger people hired. Because of the way he presents himself, he was hired as a team-leader or assistant-manager.

There have been two sorts of problems. One has to do with irregularities with respect to money. It could be that someone on his shift has been lifting money. It is more likely that they have been making some small mistakes in the cash register. Gary himself has been making a fairly big mistake regularly. He has been adding change or singles without taking out larger bills to replace it. So when he adds $10 in quarters the register looks as though they made $10 in sales. It also looks like someone stole $10 in quarters from the safe.

There were other things, like not leaving the store properly stocked and prepped for the morning. The store has been very clean. It is obvious that Gary has not been rushing what he believed he needed to do, but that for some reason he did not recall that he was supposed to the other work.

So Gary has been warned. He is one part defensive and one part committed to making sure he proves himself and gets a good recommendation from this place.  am very glad that the manager gave Gary the talking-to and the second chance. He has left or lost other jobs and based upon what he told me I have concluded he was let go because of job performance, but nobody seemed to tell him precisely what he was doing wrong. This is of course speculation on my part, but it is based upon him telling me about his work.

 The point is, that it occurred to me this morning how really terrible it would have been for Gary if he had been encouraged to move out last fall when he turned 18. So many foster kids do, even when they legally are not required to. (In my experience it is difficult to convince them to stay, they do not like being in care.) Gary is still not ready to take care of himself.

Oh, he sounds like he is. He talks about savings goals, criticizes friends for not having a budget and saving money, talks almost reasonably about how much he expects to need when he lives on his own. Much of the information is there, but the habits of life are not. Not all of the knowledge, of course, he has been appalled at how little money is left after taxes and gasoline. When he calculates the added cost of car insurance he wonders if he can afford to work.

He is making progress, at least a little. I do have hopes that he will be able to move out within the next six months.

He still thinks he is going to be going to community college in a month ... even though he has not actually applied or done any of that other stuff. He simply doesn't believe me when I tell him that the classes there fill up quickly. He seems to think it will work like high school. You show up the first day, register, and get your scheduled.

Anyway, I am glad he is still here. I am the adoption made him comfortable with the idea of staying longer. He needs what I am beginning to think of of stage-two adolescence. He thinks he is an adult. He is doing what he thinks he needs to do to actually become one, but he still needs the safety net of parents.

Wait, he doesn't just need to safety net, he needs us to hold up all the ropes.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Like mother...

A few days after returning from visiting my mother Andrew and I were driving in the car and he asked me how it went.

I told him that mostly I got along really well with my mother. The only thing that bugged me was the sense that I was always being evaluated. Like at lunch one day she said, "I can't decide whether I like your glasses" which seemed to me to be a very silly thing to say. I mean, if I was decided whether I wanted them then her opinion would be relevant, but now they just were my glasses. I didn't CARE if she liked them or not. And she is almost never critical, but you can tell she is working at it. Like, her friend made me this new nightgown that I cut out from Mom's fabric stash. It makes me look as round as a pumpkin. Mom looked at it, didn't say anything, and then half an hour later said, "I guess that is a cool, comfortable night gown for you to wear in the summer, isn't it?" So sometimes it gets to me, this feeling like I am being constantly evaluated ... even when the evaluations are good.

And the silence in the car was very, very loud.

I said, "I do see my faults in my mother."

And Andrew said, "I was pretty sure you would get there by yourself."

Which is precisely the sort of thing either my mother or I would say.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Update on me & the rest of the fam

Did I tell you I had a sleep study done a few months ago? Yeah, I found out why I was so freaking exhausted all the time. I got a CPAP machine a couple of months ago and it has been wonderful. This has resulted in my spending less time on-line because I have energy to do things that don't involve sitting in a chair. It is all pretty cool.

I went to spend my now-annual visit with my mother. She is looking much better this year than last. Her tremors appears to have be no worse, and possible even a bit less. She reports though that they are more extensive. She feels this higher in her arm and in her face. I think they appear to be less because she was so exhausted last summer. In any case, she is serious about moving out of her house. I told her that Roland and I had already talked about her moving in with us. She was glad to hear it because she thinks she can't afford assisted living, hates the idea of living in a retirement community (though she would probably adjust), and is afraid that if she moved into an apartment she would just have to move again as the Parkinson's progresses.

So we talked about the details. She would take our room on the ground floor and we would move down to the basement where we were when Carl first moved in. I warned her that she could keep her room as tidy as she wanted, but the rest of the house would be a change for her. She has clearly been thinking about that and seems prepared. She wanted to talk about the details of moving. The most important part was, I think, that I assured her that I would fly back with her. Right now I would think there is a better than 50% chance that she would move in.

Most of the time I think that is a good idea and I am very comfortable with it. Every now and then I have a moment of panic. "OH MY GOD, MY MOTHER IS GOING TO LIVE WITH ME!"

So, just to give you a complete picture: Gary should almost certainly be moved out by next summer. Brian will have just graduated from high school and preparing to move a full half mile away into the college dormitories. Andrew on the other hand will have just graduated from college and is hoping to move back home for a year (at least) while he take courses for a teaching certificate. You know, so he can put that philosophy degree to use.

Roland and I are coming to accept that we will never have to deal with the anxiety of an empty nest.

Update on Gary

So, Gary got credit for his English class, on the condition that he take economics in summer school. Since he had a day-time job, he got permission to take Econ in the digital learning academy. Of course, the class started this week and by that time he had quit the job, but we won't go there.

So far this summer he has worked for about a week painting houses. He quit that job because, well, because he didn't like it, but officially because he had to drive into The City and couldn't afford the gas. He got a job in a plant and had to quit that because they wanted him to work 60 hours a week. (I was out of town and do not know if I could have persuaded him that that was a stupid reason for an 18 year old trying to move out on his own to quit a job.)  He only worked that job one day. He went to his martial arts class and cracked a rib later that day and was told not to work for two days.

We got a letter from the insurance saying that because he got a speeding ticket back in December his car insurance was going up. Again, I was out of town and Roland just isn't as good at being tough with teenagers as I am. When I got back I explained to him that he really could not drive, except to go to work, until he started paying us $25 a month to help pay for it.

I used all my tough-teen skills, which means that instead of telling him that I would not allow him to drive I explained that I would be happy to go with him to the bank to set up an account so he could cash the two checks he had. I would further be happy to let him use those checks to pay us the $25 first even though he has already asked us for a loan based upon both of them. I pointed out to him that this would mean that he would be able to drive again in less than 24 hours!

For whatever reason, he has been unable to present himself during business hours for the past couple of days and so has not yet gone to the bank.

Today he has an interview to as frozen yogurt store. I am sure he expects to drive himself, but I am considering given him a lift as I have an errand to accomplish in the same area. Of course I will once again be all that is generous, completely overlooking the fact that my generosity will prevent him from taking any side trips while he has the car.

It is obvious to anyone who is not Gary that he is anxious about moving out on his own. He may even be depressed. As always, everything that he plans to do will be easy. He is excited and confident. Everything he currently needs to do is either easy or not worth doing for some reason or another. We have been down this path with kids enough that it no longer makes me crazy. I've gotten really good at this supportive attitude during which I am actually making his life as uncomfortable as possible. You know, given that he has a job interview he will be able to buy himself deodorant and a hair cut very soon!

If I had been posting more regularly, you would have been on the roller coaster with us. Starting jobs at which he was going to be making lots of money allowing him to move out in two weeks, only to have those jobs crash and burn. You would have had to listen to me congratulate myself multiple times on how zen-like I have become.

I will try to keep you better informed as we progress through the summer.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Possibly up the proverbial creek

This afternoon Gary and I had a conference with his (previous) social worker. Here's the situation.  None of this is news to me, by the way. I just haven't been posting about it.

1. Since he has not done any of the things he was required to do to get funding for post high-school education/training he almost certainly won't get it. However, if he can show that he has been accepted to a college, applied for two scholarships, filled out the agency paperwork, and get his unofficial transcript to the committee by FRIDAY, the committee will consider him. She assured him that he still qualifies for some transitional support.  If he has a job and some savings they will pay the initial deposits on an apartment, for instance. He isn't worried about that because he has decided he likes living here. (Part of the adoption negotiations included that he would continue to qualify for anything he would have had he not been adopted).

He has been planning on going to community college in the fall. I have suggested that with their current enrollment rates he needs can't count on being able to go full-time, but he is confident.

He also is confident that he going to graduate at the end of May. The school says that you are not allowed to have more than 9 absences, but he points out that that really just means that you have to petition if you have more. Now I told him that back when he had 8-11 in his various classes. I told him it wasn't all over. If he turned it around he could still make it work. I called attendance for an update and found out that he as 21 and 16 absences in the classes he needs to graduate (24 and 35 in the other two). He may still be able to petition, but only if gets at least a C. Oh yeah, he is supposed to show very good reason for the absences, like providing documentation that he was too sick to be there. (Yeah, um, he can get a doctor's note for at least one day).

So I've decided just to expect him to go to summer school. If he graduates in 5 weeks that will be extra cool.

Oh, his younger sister is graduating next month. She's going to the state school in the fall and might move into the dorms in the spring when she is 18.

He has constantly changing plans for his future. The fire fighting thing seems to be over. Of course, if he is in summer school he would miss the fire season anyway. (For those in other parts of the world, being a wild land fire-fighter and being a structural fire-fighter are different things. It is relatively easy to get certified to work on a crew during wild-fire season.)

So Roland and I have already warned him that though he won't be homeless, he can expect less support from us. I have framed it as "when you are no longer a full-time student." I need to be more specific though. Given that he has unofficially dropped (i.e. stop attending and agreed to take the F) one class he isn't really a full-time student now. I told him that he would continue to get "full support" for 90 days after graduation. I think I need to change that to "after when you were supposed to graduate with the option to re-new if you are in school full time in the fall.

Today I made it a bit clearer what will be have to pay for or do without:
1. Free gas and car access
2. Car insurance
3. His MMA classes
4. Cell phone
5. Deodorant, hair cuts, and all other misc. expenses
6. Anything else I can think of

Oh, and rent is $50/week, and I somehow expect that I won't be buying any of his favorite foods.

Of course all this is about pushing him to independence. If doing more for him was helping, we would help. It is obvious to everyone but him that he is scared. He fears failure so much that he sabotages himself. Everything in the future is easy. Everything in his present is easy or stupid and not worth doing. He always has plans, but no action.

So well, we will see how it all goes.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

You can't make this stuff up (update 3/9/11)

A few months ago, Sis sent me an email asking what I thought about Dad's new girlfriend. Having not heard that Dad had a new girlfriend, she followed up by forwarding his email to her about the nice family who owned a convenience store and their lovely 32 year old daughter. (For those who don't remember everything I may or may not have mentioned about my father, he has been living in China for a year and a half.)

Shortly after that, I got an email from my father telling me that he was trying to help this 32-year-old woman, the relationship he with whom assured me was NOT romantic, get a visa to come to the US. He needed to know the date he got divorced from my mother for the application and wanted me to ask her.

There were several emails that bounced around the globe, until I finally sent a rather short one to him telling him that I would not give him Mom's phone number. She didn't have the divorce decree at her house and she wasn't going to go to the safe deposit box for him.

He responded a week later with a long email in which he assured me that "never in [his] darkest hour" would he ask me to give him information about my mother, knowing that it possibly endangered all the progress he has made in rebuilding a relationship with me over the past two decades. He had intended to send that email to my sister. (Hey, don't ask me to make sense of that. I'm just reporting).

I haven't responded to that one yet. I thought about just saying, "Don't worry about it. You email didn't change my opinion of you at all." Except that I don't have any reason to torture the man. So I thought I would just let it be for a while and then email him about something else, demonstrating that our relationship is unchanged.

Then this morning I got an email from Andrew. Last night he was bored. He Googled his relatives just to see what would come up.

My father married the lovely 32-year-old woman 6 months ago. You know, the one he doesn't have a romantic relationship with.

Okay, put the age thing aside. My father got married 6 months ago and didn't tell me.

The thing that makes this hilarious is that if I had made a list of things my father might do while in China, "marry a much younger woman and not tell us" could totally have been on that list. This is definitely in character for him.

So, now I am wondering what and whether to email my father. Recall at his last email he was worried that he had damaged his relationship with me by asking me to give him my mother's phone number.

I'm so tempted to send him an email with a link to the marriage announcement that Andrew found and say nothing but "Um, congratulations?"

Meanwhile, I am trying to find out what her name means. See, my first two step-mothers were both named "Bonnie" (I kid you not). If her name means something like "good" or "pretty" then we could just call her Bonnie the third.

Maybe I could ask Dad in that email I don't know how to write.

Oh, if anyone has any idea about the etiquette  on whether and how to congratulate your father on his marriage he apparently didn't want you to know about, please share.

Update: My father sent me an email asking me a question about his Kindle. That gave me an opportunity to write him and include a brief congratulations in the context of a longer email. That worked and saved me from the danger of sounding sarcastic.

In his follow-up email he only talked about the Kindle issues, not his marriage or bride or anything. That's okay. Odd, but okay.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Stuff I didn't expect to have to explain

1. When applying for credit, you cannot list expected revenue from plasma donations as income.

2. Though you can't be arrested for skipping class, the penalties really can add up to failure to graduate.

3. All high schools frown on announcing in English that you plan on stabbing the vice-principal in the eye.

4. Threatening the vice-principal is a unhelpful response to a notice that you have a disciplinary referral for not going to detention for cutting class.

...somehow I expect I will be adding to this post.

Let's play, why don't you add your pearls of wisdom in the comments?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Friday, January 21, 2011

"I'm 18 and you can't tell me what to do"

Been there yet? Kids turn 18 and suddenly they think they should have all the freedom of adulthood with none of the responsibilities.

We're doing it now with Gary. He is doing appropriate things, like hanging out with a friend whom we like. But he is doing it at inappropriate times, like until 3am on a school night. He did that last night. Today he isn't going to school because "he doesn't feel well." Exhaustion will do that to you.

I told him a while ago that I was only going to excuse him if he was really sick. If just wasn't going because he was exhausted, he would have to deal with it with the school. He asked what the school could do, because he was 18 and all. I thought about it and told him the truth. They can hassle him. Tell him to go to detention and Saturday school. They can give him in school suspension, or out of school suspension. They can expel him, and they can not give him credit for courses.

He wanted to know if they can arrest him.

See, that's the thing about raising kids who have gone through real trauma. There really isn't anything we can do to them that compares with what they have gone through. I said I didn't think so.

I could see him thinking about it. How many days could he cut and how many detentions etc could he refuse to go to before they would do anything he would really mind. All he wants to do is graduate and all he needs to do to do that is PASS English and Economics. He can fail the other two. Of course there is no way he is going to fail one of them, because it is just a TA hour and he can usually just nap then. The fourth class is something that is incredibly easy. He can get the work done in class and still have time to be bored silly. So his grades will be okay.

And now it is a challenge. He's 18 and he shouldn't have to go to school if he doesn't want to. They can't make him. He asked if he couldn't excuse himself and I told him that the school doesn't make that as easy as they used to. I have no idea what they require for him to get permission to do that, but he could find out and let me know.

So this morning, when I learned he wasn't going at all, I went back to the kitchen and made some tea. I remembered when Carl did this and when David did. I wore myself out with being angry and frustrated and trying to make them see reason. I met with the dean of students. I talked with social workers. I am sure I cried.

I realized bow differently I felt about it this time. I am sort of interested to see how this was going to go. Instead of thinking "OH NO! What if he doesn't graduate? What will he do? How can I make him behave differently?" I was  thinking "Thank goodness he is doing this whole rebellion thing with the school and not me! I wonder if I should send them a thank-you note?"

And then I giggled.