Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Too Emotionally Involved

I did a staffing today for one of my families and I really wanted them to get the kids. They are a great family and these kids would have been perfect for them.

And they didn’t get them. And I’m bummed. I know I’m not supposed to be emotionally involved, but I ALWAYS get emotionally involved.

Sometimes I think that’s what makes me a pretty good social worker, other times I think it just messes up my life.

But they will be matched with the right kids, whichever ones they are, when the time is right.

I’m a firm believer that we are not left to fate. Call me simplistic, call me shallow, but it isn’t hard at all for me to believe that God has a plan for which child belongs where. This has kept me going through all our ups and downs because I really don’t believe that it was something I orchestrated to get the 10 particular children I did. I believe that God planned for me to be their mother. And I can’t imagine my life without having known a single one of them. And I’m bright enough to realize, had any of the other children we pursued been ones we were selected for, we wouldn’t know some of these.

So, I’ll go to bed a little sad for “my” family, but ready to start tomorrow to unravel the mystery of which children belong with them and attempt to get those children into their home.

Isn't that the way they say it goes...

Well, tonight I decided I had had enough of working. I was exhausted and tired of not spending time with my kids. So I ventured away from my desk to hang out in the living room. I helped a couple with homework and was settling in for an evening of interaction when Tony came bounding up from the basement asking his dad for a ride to the pool.

All of the sudden all 7 of them had plans. Bart decided to shovel at the church where two boys wanted to help and the other 5 decided they were all chlorine bound.

So I am alone.

The best laid plans...

Dinner Conversation

Tony: When’s your anniversary?

Dad: June. It will be ten years this coming summer.

Mom: I think we’re going to take a trip . . . on that good old Gospel Ship

Tony: S***? Dad, Mom said S****.

Mom: Tony, I didn’t say S****. I said Ship. I don’t there there is any such thing as Gospel S***.

Do A Little

Read this quote today:

“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.” (Edmund Burke)

When faced with the huge issue of the almost 20,000 kids that age out of foster care every year, that’s over 54 a DAY, it seems like there is so little anyone can do to make a difference.

If you read the Chapin Hall Study (you have to register (free) to download it) You’ll see things like 40% of kids out of care for three years had been arrested since their last interview with the people studying this group. You’ll see that over 65% are not enrolled and that 40% of them have no money for clothing. You’ll see all kinds of interesting things.

And so one might say that with almost 20,000 of these kids who are aging out without being adopted, that there is very little that anyone can do to make a difference. But, thinking of the quote above, here are some things you can do.

1) Call a Children’s Home or a Residential Treatment facility and see how volunteers are utilized. if they don’t have a program set up, ask if you can do one of the following:

a) Write to a resident;
b) Become a mentor to a resident;
c) Offer to take one child on an outing;
d) Offer to allow a child or children to spend holidays with your family;
e) Offer to spend time with a resident on campus who is not allowed to leave.

in doing these things, attempt to establish a relationship with a teen in care.

2) Find a foster family in your community and offer to develop a mentoring relationship with him/her.

3) Support an adoptive family in some way.

4) Be an advocate in your legislature to improve child welfare.

5) If you own a business, seek out employees who are in foster care and give them a chance.

6) Recruit one other person to do one of the above.

I could go on. There are so many different ways to make a difference which do not include parenting one of these children.

if you are afraid to take the first step, email me and I will help you set it up.



Answer: 42 days

Question: How long does it take for the county to realize that following the recommendations of a manipulative 16 year old kid with FAS and leaving him with no hope for returning home does not work?

Now we’re working on a plan for reunification, as of this afternoon. I could rant for hours about this, but I’m not going to.

Snow is falling like crazy, I still have one more home visit today, and I didn’t exactly click in the zone today, leaving me tired and frustrated.

I know, I know. Whine, whine, whine.

In the ZONE

Yesterday I was lost in what I call the zone. It was the kind of day where I was so immersed in my email and various matching tasks that I was literally caught in a place where time went by and I didn’t know it. I change the laundry every 75 minutes and I would literally look at the clock thinking that only 10 minutes had passed and it had been an hour.

During this zone time I am in cyber space connecting with many many workers of children to get ready for the matching bash next week. I am updating charts and doing follow up and featuring families and it’s all just so intense, yet automatic, that I feel like a machine.

And at the end of the day I’m exhausted. Last night I had two home visits and I was SO tired.

Now this morning, I’m heading back into THE ZONE...

Gratitude Journal #5

I have decided that I am a pretty grateful person because trying to do these gratitude journals is only a challenge because I can’t decide which thing I’m grateful for to list for each today.

Today, I’m grateful for heat. The last couple days have been cold and windy and I’ve been lying in bed at night hearing the wind and being very grateful for a warm home, a down comforter, and my husband who is ALWAYS hot lying next to me. I love feeling toasty warm when it is so cold outside.

(You can decide which definition of the word hot I was using in reference to my spouse).

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

A GOOD idea

I came up with a new idea today. I don’t know how often I’ll remember to do it, but it was a good idea anyway, so I’d share it in case it helps someone else.

When I was folding laundry out of the dryer this morning I started to say a once sentence prayer for the wearer of the piece of clothing for each piece I pulled out. Things like “help Salinda to make good choices today” or “help Dominyk not to feel so lonely in school today” or “help practice to go well for Jimmy tonight.”

I am going to try to do this. I fold a LOT of laundry and if I have to come up with a specific prayer request for each item of clothing for each family member, a lot of prayers will be lifted for them. I’m not much of a prayer as I always don’t think I have the time, but it’s not like I’m doing anything else to take up mind space while folding laundry that is of any significance.

Prior Propper Planning Prevents Pitifully Poor Performance

I learned this back in 1985 in Brookings from a former supervisor of mine, but when raising kids like mine it is OH so true.

yesterday morning was a disaster. I got everyone up and took them to school that was late. Then an hour later, they closed school. Four hours later it started to snow, but I digress...

Last night the “2 Hours Late” sign flashed on the bottom of the TV screen for our school district. So I was able to tell the kids before it was time to go to bed, that they didn’t have school until 10. THey slept in a little late. When we all got up, they were informed that they had to have everything of theirs in a pile (which includes, if you are in elementary school in our town, hat, gloves, snowpants, coat, backpack, and shoes) BEFORE they could watch TV or play playstation.

There has not been a single meltdown. At least four of them are already to walk out the door even though it still an hour away. Dad got up and made french toast. Everyone is happy as they can be...

It’s all about being able to plan. Unfortunately, life throws us the unplanned sometimes, but as long as we can be as structured as possible most of the time, we’re in pretty good shape.

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Conspiracy to Annoy US Parents

Have you heard of The Collaboration to Adopt US Kids?

Well all this snow the week after Thanksgiving is the "Conspiracy to Annoy US Parents." Five days straight without school isn't enough. No, it has to be six.

And now it's starting late tomorrow. Why don't we just go for 7?

Actually, the kids did fairly well and I got some work done, but these snow days are not what they are cracked up to be.

"All I Really Want"

I can’t believe I haven’t heard this before, but one of the workers who was at one of my sessions in Washington told me about this Stephen Curtis Chapman song.

Here are the lyrics.

4. All I really Want
I don't know if you remember me or not
I'm one of the kids they brought here from the home
I was the red haired boy in an old green flannel shirt
You may not have seen me, I was standing off alone

I didn't come and talk to you 'cause that's never worked before
And you'll probably never see this letter anyway
Just in case there's something you can do to help me out
I'll ask you one more time

All I really want for Christmas
Is someone to tuck me in
A shoulder to cry on if I lose
And shoulders to ride on if I win
There's so much I could ask for
But there's just one thing I need
All I really want for Christmas
Is a family

I guess I should go and tell you now
If it's really true about that list you have
Somehow I always seem to end up in a fight
But I'm really trying hard not to be bad

Maybe if I had a brother or a dad to wrestle with
Maybe they could teach me how to get along
And from everything I've heard, sounds like the greatest gift on earth
Would be a mom

All I really want for Christmas
Is someone to tuck me in
A shoulder to cry on if I lose
And shoulders to ride on if I win
There's so much I could ask for
But there's just one thing I need
All I really want for Christmas
Is a family

All I want for Christmas
Is someone who'll be here
To sing me happy birthday
For the next 100 years

It's okay if they're not perfect
And even if they're a little broken
That's alright
'Cause so am I

I guess I should go
It's almost time for bed
Maybe next time I write you
I'll be at home

Cause all I really want for Christmas
Is someone to tuck me in
Tell me I'll never be alone
Someone whose love will never end
Of all that I could ask for
Well, there's just one thing I need
All I really want for Christmas
All I really want for Christmas
Is a family

You do the Math

How does this math work?

Other than my 30 minute break for garbage bags and electronic stimulation, I have been sitting here since 7:45 -- thats 8 hours.

I started with 57 emails in my inbox and I have done nothing but email for 8 hours.

I now have 65 messages in my inbox. Can anyone explain that math to me?

Conversation

On the way back from getting movies and playstation games and garbage bags, three NECESSITIES on a snow day (well, the garbage bags are optional) I had this conversation with Dominyk:

D: Mom, on what Continent do hippos, lions, and giraffes live? (He’s reading off a trivia card)

C: Africa

D: NO, mom a CONTINENT.

C: Yes, a continent. Africa.

D: Well, it’s Alabama.

C: Are you sure you read it right?

D: Yes, it’s a CONTINENT so it has to be Alabama.

C: Dominyk, honey, Africa is a continent, Alabama is a state.

D: Oh yeah? Spell Africa.

C: A - F - R - I - C - A

D: You forgot the L

C: It doesn’t have an L.

D: Yes it does, at the end. A F R I C A L

C: Are you sure?

D: Just kidding. There’s no L in Africa.

C: Nope.

D: And there’s no I in Team.

Out of the Blue


Just overheard in my office (School is officially closed now, by the way).

Dominyk just declared, unprovoked, “THIS year I’m not licking a pole.”

He is working on a rock exhibit. Made signs with arrows all over the house. 120 rocks that he collected in the freezing rain. Costs a quarter to see them.

How am I?

All of the readers out there who want to know how I am this morning, may wish they had never asked.

I checked the TV very carefully as there is a storm coming, and by 7 a.m. there was NOTHING about our school district on the TV. So I woke everyone up and got them ready for school and out the door and dropped them off at a school that appeared open. They came running back out to say school was 2 hours late.

So, after being off for almost all of last week, the social workers around the country are going to be emailing me and I’m trapped in an office listening to Dominyk saw a 2 liter pop bottle in half for a project and Tony and Jimmy fighting in the background.

I know I said I wasn’t looking forward to them going back a few days ago, but by yesterday I was ready. This is not the first time that school has not started on time the day after Thanskgiving and it’s just bad timing. It will probably turn into a snow day.

The kids are thrilled beyond belief and I am NOT one of those touchy feely moms who wants to jump up and say “OH COOL. No School! Let’s go bake cookies.” Especially not when my inbox is filling more rapidly than I can respond to messages and post them.


Sunday, November 27, 2005

It's DONE

Well, it’s typed. That’s not to say it is layed out or perfect or proofed or edited, but it is done.

You can see the remaining chapters here.

Gratitude Journal #4


I want to thank God for Kyle for many reasons. We celebrated his 19th birthday yesterday and he would be the first to tell you that we haven’t exactly had lots of good years.

Kyle moved in at 11 not wanting to be adopted and certainly not wanting a mom. He was used to being smarter than anyone else in his birth family, parents included, and thus he told them what to do and they listened. As you can imagine, that did not go over well with me. He tried to tell me what to do and THAT did not result in positive disource. He moved in at 11, high screechy voice and a chip on his shoulder. He certainly wasn’t going to have anything to do with me. In retrospect, I took him way too seriously.

To his father’s credit, Kyle has, in many ways, exceeded our expectations. He’s done very well in many respects. This holiday weekend was the first one where he was actually able to remain appropriate throughout the weekend without some kind of argument or meltdown and it was fun to see his maturity.

I’m thankful for Kyle because of what God has done in his life and the person he is becoming. But I’m also thankful because of the many things that parenting him has taught me. I’m not sure how I’d be surviving Tony at this point, for example, if it weren’t for Kyle.

He’s heading back to college in 20 minutes, and it’s been nice to have him home.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Not sure about the black and white


I desaturated this picture and am wondering if I should have left the color. It looks pretty cool, but...

Friday, November 25, 2005

Gratitude Journal #3

Tonight I am thankful for several hours of calm over the past couple days. Holidays for us are usually so horrible. There is usually so much stress that I count the minutes until school starts again. This weekend I’ve been having trouble figuring out how to fit everything in to this weekend. There are so many things I want to do alone and with the kids that I don’t usually get to do when they are in school that I’m almost sad that they are going back on Monday.

Unfortunately, I don’t have years of blogging to look back on, because if I did, you would see many holidays of pure torture that I have lived through. You would see many many days where I was pushed to the brink of my nerves and sanity and found myself very angry and resentful.

We have had 9 kids home of our ten this week and we hardly resemble our former selves. Sure, there are moments of chaos, and times when people are annoyed with one another, but there are several stretches of hours at a time where no one has a meltdown and everything is calm. So tonight I am grateful for the calm and the progress that it represents.

MIke Update

Mike is safe and secure in lock down detention until Monday morning. Then we’ll see what happens. He made it very clear that he did not want a call or a visit from us when he arrived at the kids jail.

I spent some time reading most of Nancy Spoolstra's Story, When to Hold and When to Fold. I wanted to read this because it is a question I ask myself about Mike every hour or two. Do we back off emotionally and let him have what he thinks he wants, a life free of parents asking for a connection, or do we fight to convince him, to no avail, that we are the loving connection he needs. Unfortunately, I feel that the latter is proving to be a waste of time.

I will still write to him weekly reminding him that he is still a part of our family and that we still love him. I will send him catalogs and magazines that I have ordered for him. But if he is refusing our calls and visits, it is difficult to make ourselves make the trip to be mistreated.

The weird thing about Reactive Attachment Disorder is that most people, I’m sure, would be asking, “What did you DO to this kid to make him hate you so much?” Well, we provided him a loving, stable home when nobody else would. We forgave him year after year as he robbed us blind, ruined our stuff, took advantage of his siblings, manipulated us, lied to us, worried about him many nights as he ran away, picked up him at the police station time and again, drove around looking for him hundreds of times when he was missing. We bought him Christmas and birthday presents that were never good enough, purchased clothing for him to rip, write on and give away, gave him his own room so he could write on the hard wood floor in permanent marker, bought him new furniture to break, attended countless meetings, staffings and hearings and spent 10 months making our weekends revolve around him and a two hour visit complete with snacks.

And in return after all that we get a kid who is refusing to see us or speak to us who is building his criminal record as we speak.

So, what is the answer to the question? When do you hold and when do you fold? When is enough enough?

Answer: 36 Hours

Question: How long can a juvenile be put in a lock-down facility without a court order?

Thus, Mike is going to a different lock down for 36 hours and then returned, apparently, to the same facility.

FAS and RAD and ODD. Is any of this juggling from facility to facility going to make a difference?

Answer: 16 hours

Question: How long does Mike stay “on run” when it’s cooooold outside.

They just called to let us know that Mike returned this morning voluntarily. The designated detention center, Lino Lakes, is full so they don’t know what to do with him. He spent the whole four days he was there trying to find someone to run with him, and finally convinced them last night. Two of the three returned voluntarily this morning, the other is still missing.

Mike is talking about running again.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Gratitude Journal #2


Tonight I’m thankful for Rand. Six years ago today a skinny scared little hurt boy moved into our home. He had been in 15 foster care placements over a period of 7 years. He had been neglected in his birth home, but abused in every way in foster care. He had a disrupted adoption. He had a long list of diagnosis. We were sure that he needed to be a part of our family, but we were convinced he was going to be so hard to raise.

We couldn’t have been more wrong. He loves to please and is a teddy bear. I talked about his major sports accomplishment here and wrote this entry on his birthday .

Since then he has managed to do three things he has never been able to do before. He successfully completed his first season of sports, he passed his Driver’s Permit test, and he has held down a job for a month. He even made the B honor roll again.

So I’m grateful that he is part of our family and that we didn’t let his scary history and paperwork deter us. He’s on the road to achieving all the success he can with his limitations.

The Project


Last year I made calendars for several family members and they seemed to go over pretty well. I will probably not post every page so that Tara (Bart's sister) doesn't have her entire Christmas ruined (as she reads the blog) but I thought the first page turned out pretty good and wanted to share.

Answer: 4 days

Question: How long can MIke stay at the Group Home AFTER completing the consequence program before he runs away again? He arrived back in to the program on Sunday night at 10:30. He ran today at 4.

Now, when/if they find him, he has to spend 36 hours at Lino Lakes which is going to make Kid’s Peace look like Day Care.

So Proud


I was so incredibly proud of all my kids today. They were appropriate at the meal and treated our guest with respect. They expressed to him that they were glad he could be with us. They used all the manners they had and really did well. And our guest was so very very grateful. Said thank you at least five or six times before the meal, another 10 during the meal and four or five more times on the way home. He even called an hour later to say thank you again.

This was probably the calmest and best Thanksgiving Dinner we’ve ever had. Guess good things happen when Jesus comes to dinner.

More Progress

In the midst of dishes and beginning a Christmas gift progress I’ve managed to get Chapter 30, Chapter 31 and Chapter 32 typed and onto the blog. Not too much longer until dinner. You should smell it around here!

Shock

I love being right, but when I am, I’m actually shocked. I predicted that by the time our oldest was in his second year of college he might actually volunteer to help out around the house.

I just finished doing the first set of cooking dishes. It took me about 70 minutes. And he was there for a full hour of that drying them and putting them away while Bart cooked and I washed. We actually had some civil conversation that bordered on fun.

If there was anyway to convey how far this kid has come, with all credit going to his father, I would try, but it’s impossible.

Decision Made for Now

Well, the decision has been made for the moment. I’m laying low, typing the book, bringing kids in for consultations. This journey retransitioning John into our family is going to be very hard. I just had a long talk with him and his communication style, the fact that he has been institutionalized, and the way he has been able to manipulate things over the last year will make it hard. It is going to require lots of reassurance, much give and take, and us picking our battles. For example, he is suggesting that he has to have his own room. When he moves back in we will have 8 kids at home and 4 bedrooms for them to share. Two of them are girls, so they get their room. That leaves 3 rooms for 6 boys, and he is suggesting that he needs to have his own.

Truth is, it would probably work better, but it would require some work with the youngest who has not been able to sleep in the “big room” with the other boys successfully. Hard to determine at what time whose needs need to come first.

Finished Chapter 29

Tear Jerkers

Two things brought tears to my eyes this past week. One happened on Thursday when the family I was visiting showed me the card their six year old newly placed daughter gave to her new mom for her birthday. This is the girl who wasn’t sure where she was born. She is a HANDFUL -- lots of diagnosis, a low IQ, and for the first couple months was VERY aggressive. But they are hanging in there with her and her siblings.

The card was typical of a six year old in that she said things the same over and over. I love you mom. You are nice. I really love you, etc. But right in the middle of all the love and all of the accolades was a three word sentence that brought the tears. “Please keep me.”

Last night was the second. Bart came home from our ecumenical service with news that one of the local legends, a 40ish mentally ill man in our community approached Bart directly at church last night with a question. A little background: he had lived with his mother all his life and then a couple years ago she died. He has a county social worker and if he is on his medications he is doing fairly well. When he gets off them, he forgets to bathe and has all kinds of interesting behaviors. Right now he seems to be in a pretty good place, but he still has interesting behaviors.

Apparently, in front of the other pastors before church last night, this man asked Bart if he could come to our house for Thanksgiving Dinner. He said, “if you are going to be here, could I eat dinner with your family? I’m so lonely and I don’t have anywhere to go.”

Bart told him he would talk to me, so when he got home Bart told me the story. Bart had preached on Matthew 25 on Sunday, one of our favorite passages. Bart shrugged his shoulders after telling me the story and then said, “Jesus has asked if He can have dinner with us tomorrow.”

Tears came because yes, this is indeed the case. This man would definitely be referred to as “the least of these.” And tears also came because I married a man who so completely shares my passion for reaching out to the least, the lost, and the left out. And tears came because he is so able to clearly see truth, and because he will be more stressed out worrying about how our kids will respond, and because it will involve more pressure for him in preparing the meal, but he is still willing to do it.

So my tears were tears of sorrow -- because we have a world where 6 year old mentally ill girls worry that no one will keep them and mentally ill adults can live in a community where nobody invites them to Thanksgiving Dinner. And tears of joy -- because there are families who will keep six year old mentally year old girls and because I have a husband who will invite 40 year old mentally ill men to dinner.

Dilemma

There are two ways I could approach today and I’m not sure which I should choose.

We have had a tradition in the past of making a Thanksgiving scrapbook. When the kids were ages 3-13 we started it and that year everyone participated. Each year, older kids started opting not to do it, and now I’m not sure I will get any takers if I bring it out. I’m torn between forcing them to maintain a tradiiton, or just letting it be what it was.

It used to be that the kids needed entertainment to stay out of Bart’s hair while he was cooking and so my scrapbook intervention was a good thing. Now there would be stress and chaos and screaming, “that is SO DUMB. I’m not going to do it and that’s FINAL.”

So, maybe my best bet is to sit and my desk and work on projects I have stacked up, like finishing the chapters of the book, or working on Christmas gifts that I will do on the computer for family.

What to do ... what to do ...

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Progress

While waiting for my husband to finish his pies, I stayed up and typed chapters of the book.

You can now read Chapter 27 and Chapter 28.

Gratitude Journal #1

Tonight I am grateful that my husband cooks. Now, I could just say that tonight I am grateful for my husband, but then that would take away like 57 future Gratitude Journal Entries, and if I’m going to do one a day, I have to be specific.

I am sitting at my computer blogging and reading others’ blogs. My husband is in the kitchen. He is making pies. Salinda is helping him. Kyle has made it safely home and is at his computer. Bedtime was horrendous tonight. Maybe I“ll blog about it tomorrow after I’ve slept and not in the middle of my gratitude journal.

Anyway, I am very grateful that my husband cooks. His plan for tomorrow is turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green been casserole, cranberries, homemade buttermilk roles, and pumpkin and pecan pie.

I will not cook a thing. I will do dishes and I will parent and I will probably help our kids do their annual Thanksgiving scrapbook, but I will not have to cook a single thing. And the meal will be absolutely delicious.

There are a whole lot of things that I love about my husband, but if this was the ONLY thing I liked about him it would make him a ”keeper.“

OH MY Goodness!

Dominyk picked tonight to go bonkers at the ecumenical service in front of God and literally everybody: the Presbyterians, the Episcopalians, the Lutherans, and the good old United Methodists.

He was calling me a b•••• in the parking lot. Then during church he sang “God is so dumb” to the tune of “We Gather Together.” He found a way to whisper some rendition of how Jesus or God was dumb or stupid to every line of the responsive reading. He told me to f*** myself several times during the service and had plenty of responses to every word of the first part of the sermon until I had to take him into the nursery. A nine year old in the nursery. It was not a pleasant evening at all.

Tonight we were challenged to make an entry a day in a “Gratitude Journal.” I think I am going to add this section to my blog as well.

I was reminded tonight of the song that we had as a recessional at our wedding. We had the congregation sing it as we ushered out our 300 guests. We have also had it sung at most of our children’s baptisms. Typically a thanksgiving song, it has great meaning and was a wonderful ending to our wedding. It has also remained our prayer of gratitude through the addition of several children.

It is still our prayer tonight.

Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and bless├Ęd peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And free us from all ills, in this world and the next!

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given;
The Son and Him Who reigns with Them in highest Heaven;
The one eternal God, Whom earth and Heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.


For the story of the origin of this hymn, which is really interesting, click here.

Thanksgiving Eve

A change in schedule always rocks our world, but today hasn’t been too bad. Got a letter to Mike written, got John picked up, got the first draft of the Thanksgiving letter written and went to the doctor.

Bart fixed us a nice meal, we haven’t had any severe meltdowns, and if we can make it through church tonight that will be good. We need to get everyone to change clothes and go to the Presbyterian church for our ecumenical service. The kids don’t like going to another church, as it isn’t as comfortable, so they will balk.

I’m debating calling MIke and ending the standstill, though I know I will probably get a rude reception. He hasn’t spoken to us for over a month, but instead of this distance making it better, waiting for him to call is just giving him the power. I realize that calling him will just open up the door for torture.


Well, just to make myself do it I stopped mid blog and I called him. He said he didn’t want to talk to me. Said he didn’t want us to call for Thanksgiving. Said he didn’t want to talk to his siblings on Thanksgiving. I simply reminded him that extending some effort could make things result differently but he was silent.

It is incredibly sad to realize that after pouring literally years of time and energy into a kid that the kid can just be done with his family. During the time he was locked up in Kid’s Peace with hope of coming home, he literally freaked out if he didn’t get his weekly call and his weekly visit. Now, because we can’t provide him with a snack and he can’t come home, he just wants to have us out of his life.

Well, it isn’t going to be quite that easy, but it is a tragedy. He was due home in three weeks until he had to declare to the judge that he didn’t want to come home. Now he will not be coming home. And forcing him to come home when he doesn’t want to be here would be disastrous for everyone.

When transitioning to adulthood, all kids have struggles deciding whether to hold on or let go. But it is pretty scary to realize that we have raised a child who, as my friend Cindy puts it, has feelings no different for me than his feelings for a cockroach.

We’re not sure what to do. I could call him daily even though he doesn’t want to talk to us and have the door slammed on me emotionally each day, or I can let him have his space. What is the answer?

I guess the solution for me for this night is to focus on the fact that 9 of our ten children are doing very well, appear to be attaching to us, and do love us. And hoping that when he “ages out” that he will return to our home to allow us back into his life, rather than to come back and steel us blind.




It's a Great Day to...

Apparently my husband (you know, the box of chocolates) was in a fine mood this morning. Rand went to the church with him and he announced, “It’s a great day to Praise the Lord.”

On our way to get haircuts, Rand told us all about this when Jimmy exclaimed, “It’s a Great Day to Be A Cardinal!”

It turns out that our High School/Middle School principal says this at the end of her announcements every morning -- “it’s a great day to be a cardinal.” Now, I don’t think I even want to know about why we are the cardinals. We are surrounded by schools with mascots like Knights, TIgers, Huskies, and we are a tiny red bird.

Furthermore, for the Winterfest celebration in our town, our neighborhood has an “It’s a Cardinal Christmas” theme. Every single year we are pressured by our retired neighbors, to place a large red plywood bird on our lawn, and light it. Every year we have a hard time finding it, a hard time getting it to stand up, a hard time getting the lights to work, and it is a constant source of irritation for me.

It so reminds me of Grisham’s book.



or the movie Christmas with the Cranks, based on the book.



They had a similar issue with a huge Frosty -- and it cracks me up because I am sure if we didn’t put up the cardinal, we’d be treated as these folks were for not getting Frosty on their roof.

Anyway, I have really digressed, but I must say that I agree with Bart --It’s a Great Day to Praise the Lord -- but don’t agree with Jimmy. Anytime near Christmas and that last thing I want to hear is that it is a great day to be a Cardinal....

Busy Day Ahead

Going to be a very busy day. We have lots going on. Had to pick up wreaths from the Music Boosters sale, the plumber is coming to fix the sink, Bart had to get Thanksgiving groceries, we have four haircuts this morning, have to go get John at the ranch for the weekend, then doing some shopping and I have a doctor’s appointment.

Somewhere in the midst of all of that I need to spend some time at my desk and do as much laundry as possible. And it’s time to write the annual Christmas letter.

Blog topics may or may not be given the attention they deserve...

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Highly Emotional -- Must be Exhaustion

For some reason today everything is making me a little teary, which in my world can only mean one thing -- I’m TIRED. The beautiful sunset, the praise music on the radio, the thoughts of my children during my 4 hours in the van ... all brought tears to my eyes.

It’s 9 p.m. and all I can do is wish my kids were as tired as I am so that I could go to bed.

Tomorrow we pick up John at 12:30 from the Ranch and twelve hours later (or so) Kyle will arrive home for the first time since August. Now if Mike was just talking to us....

Back tomorrow with a new, better mood and some enthusiasm, I hope ....

Where were you born?

Today I did a home visit for one of my families and was reminded of the day the kids moved in. The 6 year old was running in and out, leaving the door open. Finally, the new mom said, “Shut the door? Were you born in a barn?” The girl stopped dead in her tracks and got a really puzzled look on her face. “I don’t know” she replied.

Today the mom and I were reminiscing and the just turned four year old was sitting on my lap. She piped in, “I wasn’t born in a barn. I was born at Walmark.”

I found this not only funny, but incredibly poignant that there are kids out there who have no idea where they were born. Knowing their abusive and neglectful birthparents like they do, they would have no trouble at all believing that they had been born in a barn or born in a Walmart. The stories of their birth, that in functional families are repeated again and again, are unknown.

I was born in a hospital and my parents have told me the story many, many times. Again, what a simple thing, completely left out of the lives of many, many children.

Paying the Price

There are kids in care. Lots of them. Teens who have social workers that deep in their hearts really don’t believe the kids will ever be adopted.

So when someone mentions a possibility for an adoptive home, they either don’t call them back or they stammer around trying to figure out what to say. They can’t really say, “this is too hard so don’t make me try” but sometimes that is what they really want to say.

I am passionate about getting kids home, but when it comes right down to it, I find myself uncomfortable with the role I must take. I must push -- I must push families to agree to a home study, I must push the workers to consider the home study, I must push the workers to push the kids to agree to adoption, and I must push the powers that be to approve the adoption.

Once the kid arrives and starts testing and pushing back, I have to push the parents to stay committed and push the kids to understand they’ve gotten a huge blessing and agree to try hard to make it work.

But most of all, I have to push myself, each and every time, to make myself go the distance, before agreeing to do so in my own mind, to see that a kid (not kids in general, but a specific kid) gets a home.

I can’t exactly explain what it is about certain kids that grabs me, but when it happens I’m in trouble. I have an average of about 10 kids come through my email each DAY that need permanent homes and so I can’t personally get invested in every single one. And of those 10, about 6 of them are over 11. So I can’t possibly feel personally responsible for every single teen in care. But once and a while, one gets to me and then I’m stuck. I have to ask myself, “Am I willing to pay the price to see this kid get home?”

Sometimes I have to honestly answer “no” and back off. Other times I just can’t let it go.

You guessed it, I’m stuck on a kid right now and I’m not even sure the powers that be are going to let me pursue it. But I get a certain feeling -- a mixture of dread and excitement -- when I know that THIS is a kid that I need to do my best for. Several times the kids that have grabbed me have ended up in my own home, other times they end up with friends, sometimes even with strangers.

But whether it’s an assignment from God or just “one of those things” when I’ve been hooked, I’m hooked. And the longer I do this, the more realistic I am about the price I’m going to have to pay.

Here I go again....



What Does Freud Know?

I had a dream last night that my husband was chasing me around the church taking my measurements and making me weigh myself and then posting little post-it notes around the church with my weight and inches on them.

I declare that it means nothing, but Bart always wants to try to analyze the why of things as in, “Freud would say ....”

I could keep an Freudian psychologist busy for decades trying to figure out all the dreams I have each night, but I think my dreams are just my dreams and that Freud was wrong about all of that.

Monday, November 21, 2005

OK, so my day ended a lot later than I thought

I stayed at the computer long enough to get Chapter 26 completed tonight. Twelve chapters and then the Epilogue and I’m done....

I’m kind of feeling weird about being done though -- I’ve been working on this for over 4 years....

Really the End of the Day Report

I took a break to watch 7th Heaven, one of the few shows I care about and only because I’ve followed it for so long, I came down to work some more on getting the book typed. Finished Chapter 25 which you can find here.

I may get one more done tonight -- we’ll see how much motivation I have.



Sermon by Sadie

This summer, in the notebook that I’m writing my book in, Sadie wrote a sermon. We were having “church” in the car, and she decided she wanted to be the preacher. Here is the sermon she wrote.

The Lord has resins for us he did on the chart. The lady had 3 kids and a humbs they were allmost out of mony so the lady need help so a strager help her. Her said do you have anything she sade jest some olil. He shid to go qharter as meony jars as you can and full they all the whay to the top and then shell them form some morey. The family was very happy and they hady some olie left it was so worfull that night. Lets pry any offrying put it in the yelly plat in the frount. Let go to the bingiging did the Lord give up for us no he whent us to partflit thell but Adam and his grlfriend at that apple off that tree.

The end.

If you waded through that you’ll recognize the story of the widow and Elijah and the never ending oil jar -- and the conclusion that mankind certainly screwed up God’s perfect plan for us when Adam and his girlfriend had to eat the apple off the tree...

End of the Day Report

I’m down to 40 emails in my in box, made several of my phone calls, and even took time to work on another chapter of the book. In addition to typing this chapter, I also managed to get caught up in laying out the chapters. This puts the completion of this project even closer.

Check Out Chapter 24 Here

Mid-Day Progress Report and Sad News

Just plugging away. But the more i get done, the more it seems to pile up.

I started with 125 emails. I’ve been emailing for 5 hours straight and I still have 101. For every one I send out another 5 come in.

I’ve also done 5 loads of laundry, but one couldn’t tell.

We heard this weekend that one of our son’s birthgrandmother had passed away. She was in sad shape. Our son’s birthmom called Saturday night, and then her sister called yesterday afternoon.

I wasn’t sure what his response would be, as he hadn’t seen her for at least a year, but he began to sob. Would not be comforted for a while. Found out that she was ill for quite some time, she’s been an alcoholic for years and years, and apparently it caught up with her. Sad to talk to the aunt who explained she was sorry they hadn’t been in touch, but she had been homeless for two years. She’s not sure how they will pay for the funeral.

Also heard about another birth family member (and I’m being vague on purpose) and saw a picture for the first time this week. Very strange to have these people resurface after years.

Hearing of them is a reminder of the amazing impact adoption can have -- showing kids a different way to live than any generation behind them has ever been able to see.

And it is also a sad reminder of people deeply entrenched in poverty and dysfunction -- people who we know are out there, but are often so removed from us that we somehow remove ourselves from the responsibility we have as Christians, or even members of the human race. to do something about them.



A New Day

This morning I woke up Tony. Usually, I try to be cheery and say, “Good morning, Tony. It’s a new day, time to get up” and he responds with something very endearing like, “Shut up, Fat Girl.”

But this morning, I said, “Tony, you asked me to wake you up early for Patrol. It’s 6:50, time to get up” in the cheeriest voice i could muster. To which he responded, “Thank you, mommy.”

Trying not to faint, and daring not say more, I walked out of the room. Turns out he saved his rudeness for his father this morning, who didn’t quite get out of here before everyone got up this morning.

I’m back to my desk and 127 emails to read, respond to, and file, along with about 15 phone calls (which is a LOT for me, as I hate the phone) and the filing project I had to do before I left that I didn’t done. I only have this one day to work this week that I can really work as tomorrow I’m out on a home visit all day and the next five days there is no school....

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Overheard

Last week when I was in Portland I was in the hotel bathroom and there was a woman standing at the sink. Her daughter, who I later discovered was about 4, was in stall next to me alone.

Her mother asked her, "Is everything OK in there?" She responded, "Yes, Mom. Everything will ALWAYS be OK in here."

While it made me chuckle and wish my kid would have said it, as I later reflected on it I realized just what an incredible gift that girl had that most of my children did not have at that age. She was secure.

Every kid who is four needs to have that feeling that "everything will ALWAYS be OK" whether it is in a bathroom stall or any other place.

I was tempted to stop the mom and thank her for providing that kind of security for her daughter, but figured she'd think I was nuts. Because most birth parents who are raising their children in functional family systems, who bond to them at birth, and who create an environment that is safe, don't realize what an incredible gift they have given their children. Most of them do not know kids who didn't have that and how hard it is for them to feel safe again.

So, hats off to the unknown woman in the Portland Ramada lobby bathroom -- and every other parent out there who is bonding to their newborns and providing them a place where they can feel that everything will always be OK.

Sunday Morning

Burning the CD of the multimedia for the morning and attempting not to get too angry with kids who aren’t doing what they are supposed to be doing. Always a challenge getting everyone up and ready on Sunday mornings.

Last night I had fun chatting with Cindy and her son Edgar, whose picture is on her blog. Their house was wild while I was talking to them and it was fun to contrast that with the calm that we actually experienced for a while last night.

Bart is back home and all is well. It’s nice to all be back where we belong. Bart and I will both be home for two weeks straight -- longest than we’ve been together without one of us travelling since June or July....

Then tomorrow I will be back at it setting up post-placement visits and getting ready for the December matching bash, cleaning up emails from last week while I was gone, etc....

My goal is to have my book typed and formatted by the end of Thanksgiving break.... I have about 12 more chapters to type and I’ve got about 16 chapters formatted so far, so it’s a lofty goal.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Calm Day

For some reason, this transition hasn't been all that hard. Maybe they'll all waiting to bring out the big guns when Dad gets home tonight.

Last night was unbelievably good, and today hasn't been too bad. Jimmy had one melt down, Dominyk had a minor one and it appears that Tony saved his for his PCA who is working for a while today.

I've had time to work on stuff for church, and, as you see, work on the book.

See Chapter 23 here

And Yet Another

Got another one typed in the midst of helping Salinda with a project on Venemous Animals, getting some kids out the door to the pool, and making Black Beans and Claudia’s Famous Authentic Mexican Green Salsa for supper...

You can find Chapter 22 here.

Big News

I can't believe I forgot to mention this.

I finished the initial writing of the rough draft of the book, previously known as "Sixty in Six" yesterday on the plane. Now I just need to get it typed, then into correct format, have the five people I want to edit it, and get it printed.

I'm excited to have least gotten this far.

And I even have some time today to try to get some chapters typed. Here's Chapter 21

If you Haven't Seen It

If you haven't seen this movie you need to. In fact, we own it, which is not typical for us.



The reason you need to see this movie, if you are a reader of this blog, is because it is a graphic illustration, based on a true story, of what it means to age out of foster care without a family.

Keep in mind, however, when you watch it, that the more realistic of the two scenarios (Antwoine connecting with his birthmother and Antwoine connecting with his birth father's family) is the meeting of his birthmom. I won't say more because I don't want to give it away.

if you'd rather read the book or would also like to read the book, it of course, is more detailed than the movie.



Finally, my favorite in this journey from the movie to the books, is a powerful collection of poetry written by this same boy now man.

Where is Mike?


I had a friend ask if we knew where Mike was. Well, as of tomorrow, if he doesn’t run again, he will be travelling from the consequence program back to the group home that he ran from the first time. Hopefully he’ll stay there and settle down. Bart’s planning a trip there to visit on his way to a meeting in early December.

The more I think about Mike the more sad I get, because he is left with his FAS brain as the only think he trusts. And cutting us off the way he has, is NOT going to be helpful.

Friday, November 18, 2005

B4 & After


Tony insisted on a haircut IMMEDIATELY. After screaming that he was growing it out forever, all of the sudden he wants it shaved. I think we have an extremist on our hands.

The last thing I saw before leaving for my trip...


This is my desk chair.

The writing is written in glue.

There’s a debate as to whether or not it was Jimmy or Dominyk..... my guess is Dom.

An Unlikely Pal and the End of an Era

Last night after we got up early, drove 2 hours, presented for 6, and drove 4 more, I was exhausted. And Bill and I were having dinner together for the last time with our current roles. I was shocked to find myself nearly in tears several times just thinking about it.

Bill isn’t exactly a person I would have predicted would end up a great friend. He’s old enough to be my dad. He doesn’t agree with me about everything, in fact maybe not about much. He’s spent years making money in the corporate world and as a consultant -- I’ve never not worked for a non-profit. He happened upon a job in the adoption world, I eat, live, breathe, and drink adoption every day.

But last year we started doing these “gigs” where we would head to a state and he would carry my bags and run my powerpoint while I talked about adoption from 9 to 4 three days straight. We did Southeast Texas, we did northern Florida, and this week we did the state of Washington. The routine always includes 2-4 hour trips each night and sometimes travel in the morning.

All that travel and there were no moments of silence. Bill is a great conversationalist and I had 42 years of stories he’d never heard, he had 60 years of stories I hadn’t heard. Our conversations always contained plenty of humor, lots of meaning, and occasionally even some brilliant conclusions. We had nothing else to do so stories could contain history and detail that most people usually don’t have time for.

Now Bill is moving on to a new chapter in his life and is no longer the President of Adopt America. This was our last trip. And I was totally caught off guard last night with how sad I felt.

Because, the bottom line, is that Bill is a NICE guy. He knows how to treat people. He’s a GOOD guy. He always made me feel like a genius, and demonstrated that he accepted me for who I was and respected Bart and I for what we do. He has learned to love my kids through my stories and has showed us in many ways that he knows that what Bart and I do matters.

I may take my “dog and pony show” on the road again, but it won’t ever be the same. Because no matter what, unless Bill is there to drive, unless Bill is there to carry my bags and run my powerpoint, unless Bill is there to do the after-lunch-when-everyone-is-sleepy half hour, it won’t be the same.

I don’t want to leave the impression that I don’t like our new President, because I do, nor that different is always worse. I just am realizing that an era has passed, and it was a stinking good run.

So, kudos to you Bill. Knowing you makes me a better person.

Home Again Home Again Jiggity Jog

Unbelievable. This entire week went without a hitch. No travel delays, no flight problems, never got lost, no accidents or near accidents, no technological difficulties, hotels were nice... a perfect trip.

I’m now home for a few minutes until at least one kid gets here who is going to help me go run and grab a birthday gift and quick wrap it and take it to the party Dominyk is at. Then I’m heading to the grocery store to buy something easy for tonight and stuff for beans tomorrow.

I also need to fax time sheets for my PCAs, finish going through my mail, and catch up on all my friend’s blogs.

And then I need to blog in more detail about the trip and about Bill.

So, now you know what I will be doing tonight -- if I don’t collapse first. Getting up at 3:45 is not really my style.

Haven't seen 3:45 a.m. in a long time

I'm sitting in the hotel lobby waiting for the 4:15 shuttle... Haven't seen 3:45 in a long time!

Should be back in my home by 3:30 this afternoon. Looking forward to it.

When I get back I will blog about my sad night last night....

If I make it back without a glitch, it will be a "perfect" trip travel wise.

Knock on wood....

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Good day ... Goodnight

Dial up access is all I have and I'm exhausted anyway. Great day again -- good audience, though not as big as yesterday.

Have to leave for the airport at 4:20 so I'm going to go to bed early.

Really good, smooth trip -- a VERY good week. Time well, well spent.

Dreading the trip tomorrow but looking forward to being home.

Time Zones and Confusion and the Start of a New Day

This morning we have to leave a little earlier as we have a 90 minute drive to get to the presentation sight in Pasco, WA. This has been a confusing week because of time zones.

We are currently on Pacific time (6:30 here), but our rental car is on Mountain time (7:30) my family is in Central time (8:30) and Bill's office and his "lady friend" (He'll love that) are in the Eastern Time Zone (9:30). We have spent a great deal of time listening to each other talk on the phone, so it's been wild trying to figure out what time it is where we are and where we're calling.

This is our last day of speaking and I'm kind of sad. Yesterday was so energizing that I'm not nearly as tired today as I am sometimes when we do three days in a row.

Many people are rethinking their attitudes about large families, but, more importantly, they are renewing their passion for finding homes for tough kids.

Bart did a presentation last night about "teaching spiritual truths to kids with FAS" in the Twin Cities and he felt it went very well. It's always a good feeling when we feel like what we have experienced, the good and the bad, can have an impact on others and doesn't stop with us.

I left my comb in the car so I'll be having a bad-hair day..... (now THAT was an essential piece of information)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Wow, What a Great 24 hours

Last night, my friend/almost-ex-boss/pal Bill and I had a great dinner. I had these spinach mushroom quesadillas that were out of this world. Absolutely delightful.

Then I went to bed early, woke up early, blogged about Mimi as you know, and headed off to speak. Had my favorite for breakfast (Bacon Egg and Cheese Biscuit) and then went to present. What an incredibly receptive crowd. They made it much easier for me to speak -- their enthusiasm kept me "on" all day. They asked lots of questions and were totally into it and with me most of the day. I left feeling recharged and enthusiastic.

Then we drove through the beautiful cascade mountains. There was one scene that was more beautiful than anything I have seen in a long time. It was dusk ... there was a beautiful still lake, and rising above the lake was a range of mountains, with the sun setting in the background. It literally took my breath away and I am not one to value asthetics...

The song immediately ran through my head, "Oh, Lord, My God, when I in AWESOME WONDER, consider all the worlds thy hands have made...."

I also had a Jack in the Box Oreo Cookie milkshake. Now, those of you who are worried about my blood sugar can just give me a break. We don't have any Jack in the Boxes in MN and I love those shakes. It tasted so good.

Turns out the same menu is in this hotel and I'm having last night's quesadillas again.

If you think my life revolves around food, it doesn't, but God's beautiful creation, good food, and a presentation where I felt like I totally connected with the majority of the folks and didn't get a single bad evaluation, makes for a MIGHTY good day.

Mimi

I woke up early this morning and couldn't go back to sleep. I got up motivated to blog about Mimi.

On Monday night I took a taxi to a Holiday Inn in Vancouver, WA. Behind the desk was the most delightful, enthusiastic, energetic and cheerful hotel person I have ever met. She appeared to be in her 20s, Asian, very petite, using a thick accent, and LOVING her job.

Two or three times in checking me in she asked, me, "I tell you dis da BEST Holiday Inn in da WHOLE nort-west? (She talked very fast, but with LOTS of emotion).

She checked me in and told me all about the hotel. Offered me a chocoate macadamian nut cookie on the counter and at least twice she said, "Dis is a Quiet NOOOOO party hotel. After ten o'clock, you hear any noise, you call Mimi."

I set off to my room to get settled. First priority, ice. I grabbed my bucket and headed down the hall. Got to the ice machine and found it was broken. In the process of leaving the small vending room, I dropped and broke the ice bucket. I headed to the desk. She saw me coming, "ohhhhh. We very sorry der no ice. I find you ice. You like it I come to your room?"

I gave her the bucket and said, "sure you can bring it up."

A few minutes later she brings it up and comes in the room. "Dis is only half, like you say, but you sure it enough?" I assured her it was. She said, "Now, you remember, dis a NOOOOO party hotel. You hear any noise after 10 p.m., and you call Mimi."

Second priority: Internet access. But I was at the end of the hall and the signal was not coming in so I called the desk. "Hellooooooo Mrs. Fletcher." It's Mimi again. I explain my problem. She said, "Oh, I have just da thing. I have a cable. I come to your room?"

I said, "You were just up here. Are you sure you want to?" "Oh, Yes. I be right der."

Within five minutes she's at the door scurrying in the room. She has a plastic bag with an ethernet cable and a box with an antena. She says, "You a computer person." I said, "yeah, kind of." She said, "Good. I not a computer person. My husband come home all da time and he say, "I put new software on the computer and I say, "OH NO. Not AGAIN?"

I assured her I could figure it out. She noticed it needed to be plugged in and said, "I plug in for you?" and before I said yes she was on all fours crawling under the desk to plug it in.

She said, "Now, if dis not work, der a LAST resort. You come down to desk and I give you cord for business center and dat WORK!" And then she said, ""Now, you remember, dis a NOOOOO party hotel. You hear any noise after 10 p.m., and you call Mimi."

WIthin in a few minutes I realized that the box was simply an antenna to convert the wireless signal to an ethernet table, so it wasn't going to work. I finished eating my snack and headed down to the desk.

She saw me holding my computer and said, "OOOOOh.... You ready for da LAST resort." and handed me the cable. I went to the business office. Within a few minutes she's waving at me through the window and says, "Last resort working?" I assured her it was.

Later that night my "boss" showed up and we were talking in the lobby and he mentioned he hadn't eaten. I told him about the cookies so he went to the desk looking for some, but the plate was empty. Mimi looks at her co-worker and says, "I go and get the EMERGENCY cookies." WIthin a couple seconds she returned with cookies for Bill.

As I was heading up to the room for the final time she says, Now, you remember, dis a NOOOOO party hotel. You hear any noise after 10 p.m., and you call Mimi." By this time, I'm just picturing her, this tiny little thing, confronting huge drunk football players and I ask her, "So, if they are noisy, Mimi, what are you going to do, beat them up?" She responds:

"I do it Mimis way. I teach them Tai Chi and they calm right down."

We laughed and I headed off to bed, wishing that everyone I knew was that committed to their jobs, that enthusiastic about life, and that invested in making sure that their customer was completely satisfied.

Not Quite Settled

I feel unsettled about yesterday's presentation. I'm not sure exactly what it was -- can't really put a finger on it, but here are a few possibilities:

1) I talked too much about myself;
2) Our experience with the county has tainted me too much;
3) I didn't feel like I connected well enough with some of the audience;
4) I got the sense from some people that they viewed me as idealistic, and that they had done the job a long time and that that I just hadn't been around long enough to realize that it wasn't going to work.

I also realized that I have been practicing some risky social worker. I have been willing to take chances and some of them have been big chances, for which I have received some criticism. However, these chances have worked out to this point...

I wonder if in this field, we can make anything happen without taking chances? I think we need to take MORE chances, not less. Because the alternative often is unacceptable.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A Day Well Spent

I'm never really sure when I finished speaking if I made a difference or not.... but the audience was for the most part receptive, i said what I planned to say, and for the most part I did OK.

Am totally and completely exhuasted though -- long day of speaking followed by a 3 hour drive and a late supper and I'm crashing at 9 p.m., but at least that is 11 p.m. "my" time so it doesn't seem as wimpy.

Off for another day tomorrow. Hopefully tomorrow night I'll have more energy to blog.

Off to Let 'em Have It

Good night! Lots of rest and I'm raring to go ... Look out social workers!

On my way out the door, but will try to post tonight -- speaking and then a three hour trip.

Woke up this morning after several short dreams that I had already woken up. Very disconcerting.

Speaking of disconcerting... when i arrived at the airport last night they announced, "Flight 433 please meet your baggage at Carousel 10 and would CLAUDIA FLETCHER please meet the United attendant standing at Carousel 10. Immediately a zillion possibilities run through my mind, none of them good -- luggage lost, broken, destroyed, or they couldn't get ahold of me on the plane for an emergency or something well.

Turns out it came on an earlier flight and I got to leave before anyone else.

lucky me -- it was GOOD news!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Here for Now -- Wherever here is

I'm sitting in the business center at the Holiday Inn Express in Vancouver because my room is too far away to get a signal from the wireless.

My day was actually pretty awesome considering it was a travel day. My first flight was awesome. Met an incredibly nice lady who listened to me tell endless stories and even acted like she was interested in hearing about my kids. Made the trip go by really quickly.

Then I had a blast having lunch with my friend Bob, who I hadn't seen for five or six years. He is so awesome. Funny, witty, intelligent, rude and annoying -- all the qualities I love in a person. It was like we had never been a part. Jumped right in where we left off.

Then on the second flight I read a great book -- almost the whole thing -- and had a nice visit with my taxi driver who is a Minnesotan....

Came back and the only glitch was that I can't make the internet work in my room, so I have to be at the business center, but even had a nice conversation wtih a guy here.

And, a big bonus is that nothing my husband told me in our IM conversation tonight and not a single one of my emails pissed me off.

THAT makes for a great day.

Tomorrow I'm going to do some very polite butt-kicking and try to be as passionate and motivated as they will allow....

God's Good. All the Time.

Al the time, God is GOOD!

I'm Off

“my bags are packed and I’m ready to go, I’m standing here.....”

I think I’m ready.... My stuff is printed, my information is transferred to my laptop, arrangements are made for my children (Bart is speaking at an FAS event this week, so there are a couple days when we have others taking care of some kids), my new clothes that make me look like something other than I am (a frumpy, dumpy barefoot and fat housewife) are in the suitcase, and my heart and mind are ready for the challenge ahead.

My week will go something like this:

Leave at 8:30 a.m. Monday. Fly to Denver. 3.5 hour layover where I get to have lunch with my best friend (who I have known since age 13) who happens to be a guy... we went to youth camp together, then to college together, and then worked together at that same college. I called him my “pseudo husband” because the whole time I worked there we had lots of friends who were married and the two of us hung out with them together. Then Fly to Portland where I will most likely wait in the airport for my boss to arrive and we’ll head to the hotel. We’ll meet briefly and then I’ll crash.

On Tuesday we’ll awaken early, grab something to eat, and then I’ll be speaking in Vancouver from 9-4. My morning consists of telling our family story complete with powerpoint and pictures and then talking about large adoptive families . Then we’ll break for lunch and in the afternoon I will discuss the Myths of Matching where I passionately plea for workers to not give up on finding homes for kids, especially the older ones, and teaching them some ways to do it.

Then on Tuesday night we’ll head to Bellevue, stopping to eat probably and crash. The next day is the same routine all day in Bellevue, and then we drive to Yakima for the night. Thursday I do the same all day thing in Pasco and then we’ll drive back to Portland. I fly back at 5:30 a.m. on Friday, getting me in at 2, when I face the kids alone until Saturday night (and I will be exhausted).

But, if ONE kid who otherwise would have aged out gets adopted instead, the whole trip will have been worth it.

I’ll try to blog a little, but don’t expect a lot. It will be a busy week.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

A Decision

I decided that after a weekend of cognitive dissonance and indecision, that Type Pad is going to be the location of my collection of articles. I would love to post poetry, articles, and any other things folks have written on topics that matter to me there with their permission, so if you have something, send there.

So, it’s http://maeflye.blogs.com/ where you’ll find the beginning of the collection.

I did start it in Blogger with this set up which had some glitches but allowed me to use the cool header I made, but I think the category feature in TypePad is going to have me over there for that blog.

Let me know what y’all think...

Someday I’m going to figure out how to use something more sophisticated or just create my own site, but for now there you have it...

Darme Por Vencida

This phrase, literally translated, means “give myself up as conquered” -- or I give up.

I have been obsessed with trying to make WordPress or Movable Type work for me. i know I could do it, but I have to decide whether or not it would be worth the effort. I know that I have the intellect and the perseverance, but I do NOT have the time.

I don’t know why I can’t ever be satisfied with just the simple things. I always want more!

In Way Over My Head

I decided to try to do something with Word Press that involved reconfiguring a whole bunch of stuff. I’m pretty bright, but this time I was in way over my head. I wasted a couple good hours and I’m really frustrated because I can’t get it to work.

In addition to me sitting here wasting time, we had quite the night. Our oldest decided to do something, once again, from afar, to make us question his behavior and, more importantly, the image he is creating for himself. In addition, the boys got all riled up like they used to when John was home before, and the whole house gets hyper tense. Then everyone is out of sorts.

It’s too bad the day ended this way because the rest of the day was really good. Bart took 4 kids to SF to shop and stay away from the carpet cleaner, and I took four with me to speak at an adoption orientation. We all had good days but then it was not a good night.

Heading up to try to get everyone in bed.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

That's Why I Hate Being A Preacher's Children


Dominyk has developed a very bad happy lately -- a habit of swearing... and he keeps adding to his favorite phrase. Now his favorite phrase is YOU G--D---M-----F------ B----.

Now, as you can imagine, this does not go over well in our home, but Dominyk has been exposed to older brothers who arrived swearing and has learned that there is really no consequence that will stop a child from swearing if they don’t want to stop.

Last week we tried the dollar-a-word charge that we used for one of our older boys who loves money and he lost his whole allowance for the week. So this week when he wanted his allowance, Bart gently reminded him that he had lost his allowance for swearing the week before, to which he loudly responded,

“YOU G--D---M-----F------ B----! This is why I HATE being a preacher’s children.

Jumping


Ricardo is just learning English and also learning lots of new things having only been in our country for 16 months. He is just starting to verbalize all the questions and thoughts he’s had. Of course, he could have asked me in Spanish, but he swore off speaking Spanish a few weeks after he got here. I still speak to him only in Spanish so he won’t lose it, but right now he’s not speaking a word of it.

This week Bart took Jimmy and Ricardo on a walk through the Blue Mound State Park a place he frequents often with Gizmo. They saw some deer mating, Jimmy, who is fourteen and fascinated with sex (how redundant is that!) asked if the deer were having sex. They were amazed at how the deer managed the feat, so Bart was trying to explain how the mail deer probably had to jump.

Ricardo, in his limited English, asked increduously, You . .. Mom . . . . JUMP????

Bart assured him that no, Mom and he definitely do not jump.

Friday, November 11, 2005

I've been 4th grade girled


Fun night ... the girls had a blast and I took this cute picture!

Getting It All Together

I’m putting together my presentation for next week when I head to Washington State. I copied and pasted a few of my blog entries into a document so that I can have something to read when a topic I’m passionate about surfaces in the presentation.

I am also in the midst of trying to put together another blog of things I’ve written in the past. I am debating between another blogger spot, a TypePad blog (because you can put items in categories) or just designing my own website. I can’t seem to come up with the right answer and I’m driving myself nuts.

Maybe I should ask for some feedback.....

OK, I’m welcoming comments on this.

Do you think I should

a) Just have another blogspot;

b) Use Type Pad so I can put the entries in categories, even though I can’t make it look like I want it to; or

c) Develop my own website which would give me total freedom but take LOTS more time.

I’ll do what you think is best . . . and if you don’t respond, I’ll be left in the land of indecision.

But now I get to take 3 4th grade girls to Gigglebees for a birthday party.. Doesn’t the name of it make you cringe? It’s one of those places where kids are running wild everywhere and not a single adult in the entire establishment is smiling.

Baby Dream

I don’t know that my dreams are interesting to anyone, but I have always told myself that I should write some of them down so now I have somewhere to write them.

Last night, the dream I remember clearly included me going up to a hospital clinic asking to see our baby. Bart and I had apparently had a surrogate mother give birth for us.

HOWEVER, just an aside here, I do NOT want a baby. When your youngest is 9, a baby is not on the agenda. Besides, they take so much WORK.

So, we get to the hospital and ask to see the baby. They tell me about the baby -- it’s a girl and the “surrogate” mother decided to name her. Her name is Elvira. It was already on the birth certificate. I am NOT happy.

We go pick her up and she’s pretty cute, except that it is obvious that something happened with the insemination process because she looks nothing like Bart or I and a LOT like a guy I know who I think is an absolute dork.

So, we leave the hospital with a baby girl named Elvira who we will have to legally petition to have her named changed who looks exactly like someone I can hardly stand and I’m thinking to myself in the dream, “WHAT WAS I THINKING?” ... a phrase I’ve repeated to myself nearly daily during my 9 years of parenting....

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Quick, Find a Sibling


One of the most interesting dynamics in our large family is that when a child gets in trouble, they quickly look for a sibling who is doing something wrong and try to divert attention from themselves. And, the lower the IQ, the more interesting the connection. For example, the more sophisticated will reach back for a similar situation in history that is connected to the current event. For example, “I understand that you were in the kitchen last night after bedtime” to which the response is, “well, a week ago last Thursday, Dominyk ate THREE cookies and TWO pickles in the kitchen at 11:07. I found him there when I had to go to the bathroom downstairs because the someone was in the upstairs bedroom.”

The less sophisticated, however, might respond this way when confronted with “I understand that you were in the kitchen last night after bedtime” with something brilliant like, “Well, Tony hardly ever brushes his teeth.”

Perfection in a Corner


Our almost 13 year old daughter tried hard to be perfect. And, when she chooses to be imperfect, she does so quietly and sneakily in order to avoid punishment and so that we won’t know she’s not perfect. She switches between showering in the evening and in the morning so it isn’t always easy to keep track of (we shower every day here ... I’m sure there are pros and cons of that and I’m not trying to start a debate, it’s just easier to keep track of and we have lot of smelly boys .... I digress.

Back to topic: So, Princess Perfect didn’t shower last night, at least I was pretty sure she didn’t, so I go into her room this morning to ask her when she had showered the night before and found her half dressed. She said nothing, so I said, “You need to get into the shower.” So she says, “I know!” And I replied, “Don’t even try to convince me of that. You’re half dressed. You were just hoping to get by without one.”

So, her response? She gets completely dressed and then goes into the shower telling me that she always gets dressed before her shower. I asked for clarification, “So, every morning when you shower you take off your pajamas, completely dress yourself, and then walk four steps into the bathroom, completely undress yourself and get in the shower, only to get out and get dressed again?” “YES” she says. I point out that she is being ridiculous she just stands her ground even more and slams the door, yelling through it, “This is the way I ALWAYS do it.”

So, we were all running a little late this morning, and she left the house with fire billowing out of her ears and nose....

I don’t know why it is so hard for her to admit to herself that she made a mistake, but being a perfectionist must be difficult. I’m sure glad I’m not one.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Passion and Blah Blah Blah Blogs

Now before you jump to being either shocked, concerned, offended, or excited, please realize that I am not going to blog about sexual passion.

However, I want to go on for a few minutes about passion of another sort. As I browse blogs, which I usually do a few times a week as I am viewing who is reading mine and seeing what they have to say on theirs, I am amazed at the number of blah blogs. They are not blah because of writing style, nor are they blah because of the information there. They are blah because no matter how many posts you read, you cannot find anything that the writer is passionate about.

I have had a series of passions in my life. (Does that make me a serial passionate?) I have always, since I was a young kid, been passionate about my faith. While kids in high school were wearing t-shirts like “The word for today is legs -- help spread the word” I was wearing shirts that had JESUS in big bold letters across my chest. (One of these shirts I have a vivid memory of, because it was some kind of design that made it hard to distinguish the word Jesus, and I realized after a few months that it made people stare at my newly acquired chest more often than I wished and so I stopped wearing it).

Anyway, as I grew older I developed and added other passions. I was passionate about my youth group, passionate about my typing speed, passionate about helping my mother drive 30 Laotian boat children to church on Wednesday night for “Christian Youth Crusaders” Club. I was passionate about my church, passionate about the college I planned to attend, passionate about being holy and doing what was right.

Then I entered college and I was passionate about many things. I was passionate about, for example, the Miss Groundhog competition that I kept alive for four years -- an outrageously funny event held, of course, on February 2nd. I was passionate about being an RA, about Student Government, about our sports teams.

As I became adult I was passionate about my work as a Student Development professional. I was passionate about Brown Hall at SDSU where I was an RHD and I was passionate about my staff, feeling they were the best around. I was passionate about College and Career Fellowship at Brookings Wesleyan Church.

When I began to work for my alma mater I was very passionate about the school and the students there and attempted to be a good advocate for them. I prided myself on being a Dean who represented the students to the administration, not the other way around. I was also passionate about Wesleyan World Missions, especially the country of Mexico, where I took several mission trips and eventually ended up living and working at their Bible College for two years. I was passionate about Compassion International to the point that I was sponsoring a child even as a poor college student and was even able to visit my little boy in Mexico City during one of my missions trips. I was passionate and still am about Macintosh computers.

And now, as you know, I am passionate about the adoption of older children. I live, breathe, and think about it almost every minute of every day and several chunks of many nights, both lying awake and in my dreams. I am firmly committed to doing all I can to make a difference.

When I was Dean of Students at Oklahoma Wesleyan University I spoke in chapel once every semester. I usually spoke about integrity, but one time I spoke about passion. I challenged the students to choose ONE WAY they wanted to make a difference in the world and then commit to it and do it.

I still challenge people to do so... choose one thing and then make a difference. Do something to make a difference in that one area every day, and you will make a huge impact over a lifetime. I started getting very serious about matching families with children in May of 2004. Since then I have seen over 120 kids make it into permanent homes. But I have to work on it every single day. I’ve found a way to get paid for living out my calling and pursuing my passion ... not everyone is that lucky.

But pick a passion and live it out, day in and day out, for years and years and years. There are thousands of ways to make a difference. If you don’t share my passion, but can’t find one that fits you, Email me and I will help you find it.

The answer: 4 hours and 7 minutes

I got it all done except for the cleaning off the desk and the laundry. Only got 4 loads of laundry done.

For some reason, putting on the blog motivated me. I’m not sure it always will, but it did.

I also did a few other things:

Called one family to tell them the paperwork had arrived on their kids
Wrote 3 emails requesting documentation from the sending state for 3 different cases.
Took care of the paperwork to put Mike in detention if/when he runs again and faxed it back to the worker
Wrote Blog about Rand
Dealt with several phone calls, emails, AND managed to keep 7 Instant Message Conversations going off and on all morning (most of them work related).

Now this afternoon I need to:

Meet and greet the dishwasher repairman who is in the driveway right now.
Get my Hair cut
Make a comprehensive shopping list for what I need to buy this week since the $200 I dropped at Walmart wasn’t nearly enough
Clean off the desk and file
Complete the powerpoint presentations for my trip and burn tem on a CD as well as load them on the laptop
Be interviewed by my friend Mary for one of her classes,
Head to a town 30 minutes away for a post-placement visit;
Be home in time to eat supper B4 confirmation


I love it when I’m motivated!



Third times a charm


The third time Rand took his permit test (today) he passed! I do a slide show presentation of my kids when I speak and when I went last April I had written about Rand, “Panic Disorder Permits him from driving, holding down a job or playing a sport. Struggles in school, but tries hard. Grades often poor” or something like that.

I had to change it all just since April.

He finished the football season playing on the varsity team.
He has kept a job now for about three weeks
and he now has his permit and will be driving!

He also made the B honor roll all last year......

Nice I’m doing these presentations as I often don’t see the progress that I should!

On My Docket

I loved Judging Amy . I watched it faithfully and especially loved the Child Protection work that “Maxine did.” I think that it is absolute torture that stupid CBS cancels the show but still has a website. Dorks.

I always thought it was cool the way that Amy and Maxine, though fictional characters, bended and broke the rules sometimes to help a kid. It was so refreshing to see them act like real people who really cared. And I’m sure that many viewers thought that the scenarios on the show were unrealistic, but with what I’ve seen they were dead on.

Anyway, I always thought it would be nice to be like Amy and have someone like Bruce, her assistant, give me my schedule for the day. You know, ask “What’s on my docket” and have someone else have to keep track of it all and just tell me what was next.

Instead I have my whole day before me and I have to do all the planning. I have to decide what’s most important to get to today and what can wait until another day.

For the sake of accountability, and since I have to write a list anyway, I thought I’d put it here. In case I’ve never explained what I do, I have two jobs. I work mostly as a volunteer for Adopt America and I work part time for a child-placing agency in our state doing homestudies, placing kids, and doing post-placement. Here’s what I SHOULD get done today, not necessarily in any order:

1)         Write the weekly letter to Mike;
2)         Type up case notes from my visit to one of my families yesterday;
3)         Call the courthouse to find out why they called (probably because I screwed up paperwork for a family getting ready to finalize);
4)         Set up a haircut appointment so that I don’t look as much like a dumpy housewife when I’m speaking in Washington next week;
5)         Set up an appointment to get the new van looked at because it sounds weird;
6)         Call and have the old van towed into the shop because it won’t start;
7)         Print and sign paperwork for another one of my families who want to finalize and get it in the mail;
8)         Do at least 7 loads of laundry;
9)         Follow up on several matching situations via email;
10)        Notify the social worker that we will sign paperwork so that if Mike runs again he can go to detention for 36 hours and learn his lesson;
11)         Clean off my desk and file a stack of paperwork;
12)        Do two very over-do expense reimbursements so that we can use some of that money for Christmas presents;

I think I’ll stop there. If I get all that done, I’ll notify y’all and write a new list. There’s a lot more, but I’ll just overwhelm myself. How long do you think it will take me to get all of that done (except the laundry)? I guess we’ll see. Now that it’s blogged, it’s almost set in stone...

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Value of Children

I had a home visit today about two hours away from my home. Stopped and had lunch with a friend, so I ended up being gone about 8 hours. It’s a nice break, even though now I’m quite far behind on what I need to do at my desk.

This morning I voted for a levy to increase property tax so that the school’s could have a larger budget. Since our current administration doesn’t seem to value education, the schools are really behind. Now, I must first state that I realize my opinions may seem irrelevant in regards to property tax since we live in a parsonage, but I guarantee you that I would have definitely voted yes and paid the tax any way.

I was at the polls when they opened and was shocked to see the number of elderly there early. I can assume, pretty safely, that they were there only to vote no to save themselves $700 a year. It struck me as so incredibly selfish -- I will take care of me. My kids are grown and taken care of, so now it’s my job to take care of myself. Me and mine, that’s all that matters.

I prayed almost out loud that God would help me to always keep children as a priority even long after ours are grown.

It got me to thinking, then, about caseworkers and their horrendous case loads. Obviously a government that only pays enough to hire one social worker for every 35 to 50 kids, doesn’t really have a value for children. How can a social worker even do that many monthly visits, much less have time to select an adoptive family?

And then we wonder why we have full jails and a huge homeless population and pregnant teenagers and a drug and alcohol problem among youth. Maybe it’s because there is not enough money given to the programs, schools, and people that could keep the kids from growing up heading in those directions.

I never really liked kids as a young adult (I still don’t some days) but I am bright enough to see that “children are our future” and that if kids don’t get what they need, it will impact who they are growing up.

My husband has often said, and we’re not sure where he heard it or if he made it up himself, “Adults give back to society what society gave them as kids.”

And that’s for sure!