Sunday, December 31, 2006


This morning we sang “Once in Royal David’s City” a song that, ironically, I learned in 7th grade at a private school where I was surrounded by quite wealthy, mostly Jewish people. I got a scholarship and was bussed in from the poor neighborhood to one of the best schools in the state.

I owe a lot to Graland Country Day School. My hardest two years of school, even including college, my master’s degree, and my doctoral classes, were 7th and 8th grade. It was there that I was pushed to excel academically -- challenged beyond my abilities sometimes. I had 3-4 hours of homework a night and I did it. I found myself frustrated and yet remember even then being happy not to be bored in school.

I moved on from there to a couple other private schools and then graduated from West High School at my request. But those 7th and 8th grade years really prepared me for the rest of my life. It was those kinds of risks that my parents took -- to push me into uncomfortable territory -- that made me who I am today. I hope I can live up to the potential they saw in me.

In reading these lyrics, isn’t it odd that I learned them from the same people who taught me songs about Dradles?

Once in royal David's city
stood a lowly cattle shed,
where a mother laid her baby
in a manger for his bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ her little child.

He came down to earth from heaven,
who is God and Lord of all,
and his shelter was a stable,
and his cradle was a stall;
with the poor, the scorned, the lowly,
lived on earth our Savior holy.

And, through all his wondrous childhood,
he would honor and obey,
love and watch the lowly maiden
in whose gentle arms he lay:
Christian children all must be
mild, obedient, good as he.

For he is our childhood's pattern,
day by day like us he grew;
he was little, weak and helpless,
tears and smiles like us he knew.
and he feeleth for our sadness,
and he shareth in our gladness.

And our eyes at last shall see him,
through his own redeeming love;
for that Child who seemed so helpless
is our Lord in heaven above;
and he leads his children on
to the place where he is gone.

Not in that poor lowly stable,
with the oxen standing round,
we shall see him; but in heaven,
set at God's right hand on high;
when like stars his children crowned,
all in white shall wait around.

The Weight Loss/Exercise Challenge

It looks like we have some takers ... so, look for more details sometime over the next few days. (Before the 3rd, which is the official beginning for me as that is when the kids go back to school). The Challenge stuff will be on the Shrinking Slob website, but I’ll let you know here when I set it up.

Should be fun!

Sunday Morning Scramble and Round 143 of Teenage Girl Silent Defiance

Salinda was told that even though she was grounded, I would let her choose 2 things that she could do away from the house during the last week of Christmas break. She’s almost done being grounded, so I figured we’d ease back into reality.

She turned her 2 things into four days away from home. I agreed to it, but then she came home and her attitude was nasty, nasty, nasty. Last night she was on the phone later than she was supposed to be and then I caught her twice watching TV after bedtime.

So I’ll have to crack down again. And she’ll be sure and punish me for it again.

The day ahead doesn’t look so fun, though the night should be. We have friends coming over for dinner and the evening.

But today I have early service, then coffee time, then I am cooking lunch because Bart is swamped. At 1:00 I have a long conference call and then we need to clean the house to get ready for tonight.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Mall

We did the mall today. Seven children and me. The preceeding hour of cleaning the house and taking down the tree was so VERY not fun. But the trip to the mall was fun enough I suppose. We ended it with several movies (each of us choosing what we wanted to see).

It will be really nice for school to start. Really nice. Anyone agree?

Looking Ahead to Next Year

For those of you who are interested and struggling with the whole weight loss merry go round, you may want to check out my lap band surgery blog. I changed the name of it and now it is called: The Shrinking Slob: How to Cheat at Lap Band Surgery.

I’m hoping some of you will join me and on January 2nd I can try again to do what I’m supposed to do and lose more weight -- I’ve gained back 18 of what I lost after surgery a year ago.

Anybody game?

Adding Those Photos

I got the pictures from the camera downloaded and decided to add pictures where they belonged. Things were going at such a quick pace that I didn’t even have time to do that for a while.

You can see a picture of Ricardo celebrating his 13th birthday on this post.

You can see the only picture of Salinda smiling the night she opened her pictures by clicking on that link.

Christmas morning photos are here.

A picture from the Children’s Christmas program is here -- from way back on December 17th.

Hope they brighten up the blog --- haven’t had many pictures on lately.

Sometimes It Seems Too Annoying

The past couple days, as you can see, I haven’t blogged much. Part of it is that it is just too annoying to write down what is happening. Within the last three days, Mike and his friends stole my bike (this is the 6th bike that has been stolen since he moved back in .... and another one is destroyed. We are down to two bikes in the house and one of them has flat tires or it would be missing as well). He completely lied about it.

Rand and Kyle nearly got into a fist fight brawl over something stupid. Tony smacked Dom with his hockey stick. Tony packed a back pack and “ran away” for two hours. He got cold and came home. Salinda and I have had several annoying arguments, Kyle and Bart have not been seeing eye to eye, which always causes stress, and Sadie and Tony lied and manipulated me yesterday. We found a box of women’s undergarments in the house that don’t belong to any of the women who live here, so we are trying to get to the bottom of that mess. Kyle announced that he needed a ride back to school 4 days earlier than planned and when we suggested it might not be possible, that was not acceptable. We figured out a way to get him back simply because forcing him to be here would only make the rest of us completely miserable -- that is something he taught us long ago.

Now those are the things that just popped into my head from the last three days ... I haven’t even had to think to come up with them. So, just be glad that I was in a “maybe if I pretend it isn’t happening it will all go away” mood instead of blogging each of these annoying incidences in detail. Now THAT would have been annoying.

Today it is my hope that I will have a little time to post some pictures on back posts.... in addition to many other things I’m supposed to be doing.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Anyone else doing a New Year's Resolution about Meal Planning

I remembered this resource I did several years ago for large families when Kari mentioned she was wanting to do a better job of menu planning this year.

Complete with grocery lists and recipes that serve ten people (you can half them if you don’t have a big family) this site gives six weeks of menus.

Feed your Large Adoptive Family

If you get there and then want to see the rest of the site, the links aren’t going to work right now ... so just go to the LAFTER website.

There is way too much going on in my world right now for me to even blog it.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Think I'm Negative Do Ya? Bring it ON.

My brother (who I never see and who I don’t talk to very often) commented to my parents that he thought my CHristmas letter was negative.

I really wanted to hear that today. I have decided not even to blog about my day, because it just wouldn’t be pretty and I’m tired of being whiney.

But on days like this, how is calling me negative going to help????

An Interesting Couple of Perspectives

I didn’t get to blog much yesterday. I was busy transporting, working through issues, etc. I did get to have a little fun with a friend last night and get away for two hours, but came home to Bart and Kyle’s monthly argument where Bart dares to correct Kyle’s behavior and he explodes and blames Bart for everything and won’t apologize, yada yada yada.

Holidays always pretty much suck. Though we had a pretty good Christmas, the day before, and the days after have not been fun.

I thought this post from a mom who adopted four little kids about a year ago combined with Kari’s post about life with her adult adopted sister told a pretty discouraging story. The first post asks,

“Are these kids going to do this EVERY year then? I know that is the way of lots of kids adopted out of the foster care system. But I mean are they REALLY going to do this right into adulthood? Are their spouses and children going to dread Christmas every year because their parent/spouse cannot hold it together due to childhood trauma?”

And then Kari’s post basically answers the question. And it isn’t the response any of us really want to hear. I don’t think we’ll add this information to the recruiting brochures.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Kyle got me the first season of Grey’s Anatomy on DVD for Christmas. I have been wanting to add ONE TV show to my life (I used to watch 4, now I’m down to an occasional episode of 7th Heaven and that’s it. But someone told me not to try to jump in and watch Grey’s Anatomy in the middle, that I needed to start with the first episode.

I’ve watched three, and there was a great line that I thought was awesome that came at the end of the third show.

I think it completely applies to this marathon race we’re in of both parenting adopted kids and working in the system. I don’t know if anyone will find it profound as I did, and I can’t really even explain why I found it so applicable and deep, so I’ll just post it and let it be.

There’s another way to survive. A way no one seems to tell you about, one you have to learn for yourself.

It’s not about the race, at all. There are no winners or losers. Victories are counted by the number of lives saved. And once and a while if you’re smart, the life that you save could be your own.

One of Those Domino Effect Nights

Last night I finally got to go to bed at 10:30. Tony is on some new medication and it keeps him from being able to go to sleep (but fortunately he is much better during the day). So, getting him to quiet down was not easy. So, around 10:30 or 10:45 we went to sleep.

At 12:10 the phone rang and that begin the Domino effect. The phone was for Mike and I told the person that I didn’t know if he was home or not but even if he was he couldn’t get calls after 10. I was very groggy but when I got up to go to the bathroom I heard lots of noise downstairs. When I got downstairs I found Mike and one of his 13 year old friends in the family room laughing at something with kyle. I told the friend that I was going to take him home.

When I came back from that adventure, I heard an alarm going off in the girls room. When I got in their, much to my surprise, Salinda and her friend who were spending the night were not there. So I searched everywhere for them, inside and outside of the house. I also found Tony’s bed empty, but later found him on the couch. After a thorough search of the house I drove to the park and through the streets seeing if they went for a walk but was almost out of gas so I came home.

So I sat up worried sick that they had taken off and something had happened to them. I worried for nearly 90 minutes.

At 1:40 they came inside. Declared they had been outside on the tramp the whole time and had watched me come outside and Salinda was trying to convince me that I hadn’t looked hard enough. I pointed out that if she saw me, she should have known I was looking for them and let me know that they were out there.

Her attitude stunk. She was rude and nasty. I’m not sure what I’m going to do about it either.

So, around 2:30 I finally fell asleep. Now I’m up at 8:15 to give rides to yes, you guessed it, Salinda and Mike who, disregarding family rules, are the ones to blame for my sleep deprivation.

And, you guessed it, they will be the ones to point out of I’m a little crabby today.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


Other than the one hour I spent at the YMCA this afternoon, I was in the van from 1:30 to 5:45 and I never left town.

Heavy sigh.

But It Only Lasted One Day

It’s 10:38 and our good luck streak is over. Salinda has declared the week “sorry ass” even though I tried my hardest to make her happy. She said yesterday was a day when everyone fought all day long. If that’s her perception then it is very difficult to deal with the crap. When I exerted every ounce of energy I had to keep things as calm as possible, practically gluing myself to those who normally melt down to keep them from screaming ALL DAY LONG, and then it is still declared a “sorry ass day” it makes me wonder why I bother.

Although I felt good about myself yesterday, so I guess that’s worth something.

Well, we made it

We made it through an entire Christmas Day without a meltdown. We were adequately thanked. The children who are never grateful at least shut up and the ones who usually are were VERY expressive with their gratitude. We spent lots of time together and had a good time.

Now we begin the full week of no school, nothing to do, and the chorus of “I’m boreds” that will permeate our home.

But at least we had a good Christmas.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Still Hanging in There

I keep waiting to have to come and blog some catastrophe, but so far things are OK. We finally had Salinda’s birthday cake at about 8:00 p.m. tonight. Mike has remain disappeared. Four of the boys left again to hit pucks around the ice in the park. Dominyk has already gone to bed. Sadie’s taking a bath and, yes, you guessed it, Kyle is in front of the TV. He’s bored, but at least he’s been appropriate.

Salinda mentioned that her “friend” might be coming over for a while... we’re waiting to see if that happens. I told her I was going to be in bed by 10 tonight, so if he came he would be going home by then.

All in all, so far, a much better day than anticipated.

BEST Christmas Dinner Ever

The children were the most appropriate for Christmas dinner than they ever have been. I’ve just been waiting for everything to fall to pieces but so far it hasn’t.

Maybe they got it out of their systems yesterday.

I actually got everyone to help get things cleaned up. Usually at this time on Christmas day everything is a wreck, but we’re almost done. Five of the boys are at the park, I am assuming MIke has disappeared somewhere, and Kyle is, as is very common, in front of the TV.

Sadie is helping me with dishes as it is her turn -- the living room is rearranged and clean -- just needs half of it vacuumed. I’m letting Bart rest this afternoon as he spent most of the day cooking.

I wish I could upload one of his buttermilk rolls for you to download... they are so awesome!

V I C T O R Y, Victory is My Battle Cry


since 10:21 I have played a game of Trouble, a game of Battleship, a game of chess, a game of checkers, and 3 rounds of WhoNu.

Won the game of trouble
Won the game of Battleship
Won the game of Checkers
Won two rounds of WhoNu

but that darn Tony beat me in chess and Sadie won a round of WhoNu.

Bart has been busy cooking dinner and I’m getting ready to go clean off the table so we can set it for our Christmas dinner.

So Far So Good

The tree before we opened gifts.

Salinda and Sadie waiting until 8 when we wake up the oldest boys.

Sadie reading the Christmas story from Luke -- one of our traditions before opening gifts.

Tony in New York attire

Things started a little rough this morning with Dominyk and Tony both up at 6:30. We have an agreement, to appease the teenagers, that we won’t start opening until 8:00. It was a long 90 minutes. I finally gave up and got up at 7 to try to keep them calm. Tony was relentless and Dominyk hyper. But the opening of gifts went well. We do them one at a time and it was a good thing that we cut back this year, because it still took almost 2 hours to unwrap everything. In previous years it took 3, and it was just too much. When kids are bored of unwrapping, they have been given too much.

Up to this point everyone has been able to be civil and grateful. Tony is almost starting to lose it and Mike and Kyle have disappeared to commiserate and bicker as usual, but at least they have learned to be nearly appropriate. I would say, up to this point in the day, this has been the best Christmas we have had so far in regards to meltdowns and negativity.

But I must point out that it is only 10:21 a.m.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Too Bad I Didn't Have More Breaks

If I would have had a break to blog, say, right after church this morning, I could have blogged about what a great service it was. Or, if I would have blogged after lunch, I could have talked about how fun it was to have a bunch of people helping Bart make our Christmas Eve brunch. Or, after running errands and taking Tony and Dominyk to a silly kids movie to get them out of the house, I could have blogged about how fun it was to hear Dominyk say, "I really liked that movie Mom. Thanks for taking us."

Or, if I would have had time to blog immediately after our 5:00 p.m. Christmas Eve service I could have blogged that I had just attended the best Christmas Eve service of my life. 270 people packed in a sanctuary with excellent music. I could have blogged about how Bart tripped and landed on the grand piano (flat hand on the piano keys) making a loud noise 15 minutes before service and that I missed it, much to my dismay. I could have blogged about how awesome the service was and how great it felt to sing Christmas carols with a brass and woodwinds orchestra and 269 other voices. I could have blogged about how innocent and perfect Dominyk looked holding his candle and singing "Silent Night."

Or, if I would have had time to blog immediately after dinner at the Chinese restaurant (our weird Christmas Eve tradition -- as it is one of the few places open and Bart never wants to cook (or eat what I would cook) between services). It was definitely the most well-behaved, calm Christmas Eve dinner we have ever had.

But instead, I am blogging now. We came home so that Salinda could open her birthday presents. I had tried to convince her in advance that this would not be a good time, but I usually let her choose because having been born on Christmas day she always seems to get the short end of the deal.

Bart and I bought her only one gift -- a digital camera -- so it was a nice gift, but she only had one to open. The other kids, as always had no money for her birthday. This really stinks because traditionally she has been the most generous of all. The fact that she only had 3 presents to open wasn't the sad part though. It was Kyle who had to start ranting about how he was going to have a sucky Christmas and Mike complaining that we probably spent more on Salinda than on anyone else (which is never true -- we always keep it even). Then Kyle and MIke started whining because Salinda wanted to have her birthday cake when THEY were full from supper.

I was trying to get a picture of Salinda with her cake while Kyle was screaming at Tony for eating in the family room. Mike decided it was his job to hold the cake and when I mentioned to him that I was trying to get a picture with Salinda holding the cake, he left the house in a huff, which Kyle blamed on me.

By this time Salinda just said she didn't want to have her cake yet and I started to tear up because it was impossible for her to have a good birthday and she cried too and we both cried a while. And then we had a talk and she got over it and I tried to -- and so did Bart.

But having very selfish people living here makes life hard sometimes for those who aren't, and it is hard to figure out a way to make it better. We haven't had Kyle and MIke both home for Christmas or a birthday together for over 2 years and we had forgotten just how awful it is.

holiday hell is what Cindy calls it -- and there has to be several horrible things in their past that make them respond to holidays this way. But it is very difficult to overcome their attitudes, no matter how hard we try.

So, tomorrow we'll get up and hopefully they'll have it out of their system. But for tonight we're feeling a little bleak.

Dragging out the Christmas Cheer

This morning I am almost feeling like I might be able to pull find some Christmas cheer deep down inside me. Tony woke up early and he and Bart went to church with Bart. Dominyk was up before I was and took a good, fast shower (something that never happens). Speaking of things that almost never happen, Salinda woke up happy and pretended to be crabby and mean to me and told me to “bring it” so, in a surprise move, I jumped on top of her on her bed and tickled her until she screamed. Mike was up without being told after spending the night in his own bed. Rand has agreed to drive without arguing, so I can leave early enough to get a good seat and a good parking spot with Dominyk, Sadie and Ricardo while the rest of the teenagers come 10 minutes later.

I read Kari's cheery post this morning and I’m thinking maybe I’ll be able to find some Christmas cheer after all. We have a very busy day today -- church at 9, home for a few hours, church at 5, celebrate Salinda’s birthday, then another service at 10:00 p.m. In the middle we have to purchase a cake for Salinda and I am still working on Christmas cards. I may also end up taking the kids to a movie this afternoon just to get them out of the house as the younger ones will be bouncing off the walls while the older ones scream and yell at them for being annoying.

But somehow, in the midst of all of the chaos, I know, based on experience, that it will come to me at one point or another during the next 30 hours. God, having only One Son, chose to send that Son to an imperfect, evil place called earth, to live among us ... not because it would be a better life, but because it would allow God to understand what it meant to be human.

And in the form of a tiny, helpless infant God came to us to be WITH us... not a distant stranger, but One who walks with us not just then but now.

And when again, as it has every year, that thought permeates my busy overactive brain and my hardened over-intellectual heart, it will be as it is every year, like a new message, especially for me. Jesus came at Christmas so that God could walk with ME.... and so that later He could die and so that I might live forever.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Trying to Make Them Happy

It never fails. Whenever I try to make the kids happy, it never works. I could go through every annoying detail of the last 3 hours and explain everything that happened, but the bottom line is this: It is impossible for any of the plans that I orchestrate to ever make anyone happy. There is always a reason why someone is angry that things didn't go the way THEY wanted them to. I always swear that next time I won't even try.

But then, i do, and it doesn't work. In fact, it completely backfires. And I learn my lesson for a brief period of time, until I try again.

And my final thought of the day that I've said for the last several weeks: If God said, "You will adopt again. You will either adopt 10 sons or one daughter" I'd pick the ten boys and raise them from infancy to adulthood before I'd parent one more teenage girl.

A Variety of Thoughts, Feelings, and General Dumping of Emotion

I don’t know that you would call me a scrooge, but Christmas is difficult here. From the day school gets out until the day after Christmas we seem to have unending moodiness and bickering. The amazing selfishness of some of our children becomes ever so more apparent during this time and those who do not deal well with unstructured time go bonkers when you add the anxiety and excitement.

As parents we endure and try to be as pleasant as we can.

Today I spent a good portion of my day in the van taking people where they needed to go to get shopping done. It was a long tiring day. Tonight we’re hoping to have a PG movie on Downstairs and a PG-13 on upstairs (there will be those who complain because they don’t want to watch either one) and hopefully we can make it through the evening.

I enjoy the irony of our relationship sometimes. Bart found a good deal on a Wok today, so he bought it and I went out to buy the kind of screwdriver we needed so I could assemble it for him. Now he’s making stir fry for supper.

For some reason I am missing John more now that he is at McCrossan. Maybe it is because we had some very good times with him there, or because I can picture him there easier, or maybe it is just because he is so far away. I suppose it could be because it’s Christmas and he won’t be with us.

The emotional exhaustion of trying to remain positive and boost the moods of those less happy is taking it’s toll and at 6:45 I’m longing for bedtime.

But I’m sure I’ll get my second wind. maybe.

Bart's Gonna Be on the Radio 2 More Times

Save the Date
Sunday December 24 and December 31,  2006
You Gotta Believe!
Would like to wish you and your loved ones a Happy Holiday.  During the Holiday season we would like to remind you that our radio broadcast will continue to air.  You can listen to our December 17, 2006 broadcast if you missed it.  We will broadcast the show again on Sunday December 24, and Sunday December 31, 2006.  This is a great show that featured two special guest. 
The first half hour we interviewed Richard Paul Evans the author of the book on the New York Times Best Sellers list entitled "Finding Noel" This is a unique Christmas story that includes a lot of important issues. 
The first issue is a "bad" adoption: An adoption of a seven year old that went bad.  The adoption happened for all the wrong reasons. 
The second issue is that of the parentified sibling being separated from her younger sister for no other reason than she loved and cared for her all their young lives.  They were 7 and 4 when they were separated. 
The third issue is the importance of being adopted even when you are an adult when you get adopted. 
The fourth issue is Late Discovery Adoption  -- two adults in the story didn't learn about their adoptions until they were adults. 
And the fifth issue is search and reunion: the desire to find one's biological roots and the need to be reunited with not only birth parents but birth siblings as well. 
Hence the title of the book "Finding Noel."  Mr. Evans was with us for the first half hour.   He had also wrote many other novels and books and perhaps his most well known novel is "The Christmas Box" a book that was #1 on the New York Times bestsellers list and sold over 11 million copies and was published in 22 different languages.
The second half of the radio show examined the issue of spirituality as a post adoption support to families.  Rev. Bart Fletcher, who happens to be a United Methodist Minister in Minnesota, spoke about the spirituality of adoptive parenting particularly during the hard times. The Rev. Bart and his wife Claudia have adopted 10 special needs and older children.   Christmas time is a very difficult time for traumatized and abused children.  Bart shares some inspiring perspectives about the role of spirituality during a family's most challenging times coming at it from the perspective as both a spiritual being and clergyman and an adoptive father.

So if you are not doing anything between the hours of 8-9pm Eastern time on Christmas or New Year's eve, please listen in to this wonderful program."
  The Adopting Teens and Tweens radio show can be heard this Sunday from 8:00pm until 9:00pm (Eastern time).  People who live in Nassau County most of Queens, Western Suffolk& Parts of Brooklyn can tune into WGBB 1240 on your am dial.  If you reside outside of these areas you may listen on line to a live stream by logging onto
You don't want to miss this weeks Adopting Teens and Tweens radio support group!

Always Haunting Me

This morning I had the luxury of lying in bed for a while before getting up and, as is typical, all kinds of thoughts came pouring into my mind that are related to finding more homes for older kids. I have written before about how they haunt me.

Then I came downstairs to see that both Kari and Cindy linked this story to their blogs this morning. The sad thing is that I have been trying to recruit a family for him to no avail for over a year. Reading his story makes me even more frustrated that I haven’t been able to do so. I have a picture of him on my hard drive. He’s a very good looking kid. I’m sure there is some data privacy reason why I can’t post it here, but if you want to see it because you are interested in adopting him, let me know.

So, on a day where I’m supposed to be focussing on my family and Christmas things, I wake up with lots of ideas and motivations for work.

But I’m just going to write them down and put them on hold until next week or the week after. Unfortunately, the kids who need homes will all still be waiting then.

Friday, December 22, 2006

"Ew, Cranky!"

For some reason I have been quite irritable tonight. I know I have been, so it’s not like I’m blaming others for irritating me. Sometimes I just get irritable I guess. When the kids think I’m crabby they say, “Ew, cranky!!!” As you can imagine, that just snaps me right out of my mood and makes me feel instantly less crabby. NOT.

I think the bottom line is that I get frustrated with the kids in our family who have a sense of entitlement and sit back and wait for others to serve them when they never chip in to help. I try not to let it get to me, but for some reason around Christmastime it always annoys me that the ones who expect to have the most are ALWAYS those who give the least.

I could rant about this for say, a couple thousand pages, but I think I’ll stop as I’m sure you’re bright enough to get the idea.

Tonight I’m waiting to take Salinda’s boyfriend (who was her boyfriend until Sunday night and then was just her friend until tonight and is now her boyfriend again) home. I told him he could stay until about 10:30 and then I was going to take him home. I hate it when I have to make myself stay up late enough to give these 13 and 14 year olds a ride home.

all i want to do is to go



Am I whiny or what?

My New HP

You know how our each member of our family loves to take pictures with a digital camera. I’m sure you would agree that we are certainly deserving to win a contest and get a new HP digital camera and photoprinter, right?

Well, let’s see if the judges think so.

Here’s my entry for the contest:

It’s a song to be sung the week after Christmas while school is still out.

My New HP

(Sung to the Tune of “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits)

I want my, I want my new HP
I want my, I want my new HP

Now look at them yo-yo's, that's the way they do it
Ten kids at home and from school they’re free
They ain't workin', that's the way they do it
Sittin on their butts as they watch TV
Now they ain't workin', that's the way they do it
Lemme tell ya, them guys ain't dumb
They are doing nothing but working the remote
Getting a little blister on each thumb

We got a house to clean from Christmas wrappings
Gonna have to take down the wreaths and trees
We got meals to cook and dishes to wash up
But all they’re doing is watching those dumb TVs

The college student thinks he deserves a break after finals
The youngest needs time to play
The middle ones can’t bear to lift a finger
They act as if they were millionaires

We got a house to clean from Christmas wrappings
Gonna have to take down the wreaths and trees
We got meals to cook and dishes to wash up
But all they’re doing is watching those dumb TVs

I know that I have found the perfect answer
I need to spark creativity
Look at that mama, she bought hers an HP camera
Man we sure need one
Her kids are out there taking lots of pictures
Acting like friends instead of fighting siblings
Oh, she’s got it working that's the way you do it
Get your kids busy with a new HP

We got a house to clean from Christmas wrappings
Gonna have to take down the wreaths and trees
We got meals to cook and dishes to wash up
But all they’re doing is watching those dumb TVs

Now that ain't workin' that's the way you do it
You keep your kids busy with a new HP
That ain't workin' that's the way you do it
You keep your kids busy with a new HP

You keep your kids busy with a new HP

I want my, I want my, I want my new HP
{Repeat, ad lib to fade}

This post was brought to you by HP.

A Home for the Holidays

Tonight at 8 EST/PST and 7 MST/CST it’s time for A Home for the Holidays. Don’t forget to check it out.

Posted with Permission

These are two of the kids that I placed this summer who have now finalized the adoption and will never have to worry about not having a family again. When I can experience moments like this, my job is very rewarding.

Why I Love January

I am so excited about January. I am sure that January is not a month that most people love, but I really love January. I love January because I love my jobs and in one of my jobs January is the month where everything kicks back into gear and folks start really working at getting kids home. December is kind of dead because of Christmas preparations, etc, but in January it’s time to WORK!

So, when these kids go back to school on January 3rd, I will settle down to long days of frantic matching. I will hopefully get into the “zone” again (which I haven’t been able to do for a long time) and crank out the work that leads to kids coming home.

But between now and then I am going to try to forget about it all and have fun with my kids. We purchased several board games as gifts and I’m hoping to spend time playing them. I have a project that I traditionally include the girls in (see last year's here) that we will work on next week as well.

But for now, I am going to live in the moment and try to enjoy the kids and our time together (however, I don’t know that I will be able to make myself enjoy taking them shopping for each other on Saturday, but I will try).

Wound Up Tight

I didn’t understand what “wound up” really meant until we started parenting these kids. It’s not really a hyper thing, necessarily, because it plays itself out differently depending on the person. What it is is a higher level of anxiety -- kind of like a purring in the background of everyone, a buzz so to speak. They are excited and anxious and their memories are triggered to Christmases long long ago that were not so good.

Trying to get things done amidst this purring of tension is nearly impossible. Everyone is competing for negative attention and it doesn’t matter if we give them all we have, both of us, it still doesn’t seem to be enough. They are bored and want Christmas to be here. Fortunately most of them have a full day of school today. I don’t know what we will do this evening to combat the stress, but we need to have a plan.

I discovered during my wrapping party last night that I had left one gift sitting at the store before paying for it so even though I THOUGHT I was done Christmas shopping, i have to go BACK to the mall AGAIN. Yes, that thrills me.

Our two youngest have psychiatrist appointments today as well.

On a happy note, I was able to match one of my families with a “miracle” match of a one year old yesterday and tell them they were selected. it was great fun to be able to tell them that right before Christmas. I was shocked beyond belief that they had been chosen because stuff like this hardly ever happens.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Don't Ask Me Why

I have a zillion and one things to do but I found myself lost in the updating of our Family Website. You definitely will want to check it out as there are new pictures of everyone and even Rand and Mike's senior pictures (scanned with permission of James Photography) that just arrived this week.

On that page, if you haven't done so already, you can download a digital copy of the Fletcher Christmas newsletter.

And yes, it has a lot of ads on it. Duh.

If You Could See My Office (or my Brain) Right Now

You would wonder how I can move in here. It is horrendous. It looks like there has been a tornado whirling in here for weeks, which is actually sort of true. I have felt like a tornado lately. Hopefully I’ll get it cleaned today.

But my brain is worse. It is so cluttered with all kinds of stuff -- my Christmas shopping is only half done and we’re usually done by December 15. I have several work situations that are disappointing and frustrating (families not getting the kids they were matched with, etc.) I have 236 emails yet in my inbox and that is pulsating in my brain, because I hate being behind. I have complexing situations and dilemmas to ponder with at least 5 of the 10 kids right now and my day today is packed.

Last night Mike found himself in a real bind. He has a job as a snowboard instructor, but his boots and bindings were shot. Expensive to replace. He asked me what to do and I told him that he could either invest in new ones by borrowing from us, knowing that most of the money he earned would have to be spent on the equipment he needed to have the job or quit the job and find something else. Since he had already invested $70 in stuff, he decided to borrow the money. Needless to say, we didn’t know it would cost over $300. Now he is in debt (because of his shoplifting fine) almost $500 to us and who knows how much money he is making at the resort. He said something about working on commission. Was it a wise loan on our part? Of course not. He will more than likely either get fired, not make as much as anticipated, or have to go into a detention facility for stealing the car and not be able to work. BUT, it may have all been worth it due to one comment he made.

“If I was on my own,” he told Bart, “I wouldn’t be able to do this.” Bart reminded him that it was a loan and Mike said, “yeah, but I still wouldn’t have been able to do it without you.”

It gave Bart an awesome opportunity to point out to him that there is value in having a family....

Loan for goggles and a ski resort fleece: $70
Loan for bindings and boots: $330
Loan for shoplifting fine: $50
Loan to payback a friend who is mad at you: $20
Realization for a RAD kid that family matters: Priceless

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Day Is (Almost) Done

Got calendars done. Got Christmas pictures done. Cleaned and helped Bart cook. Had company for dinner. Now I’m waiting until it is bedtime. Tired.

Found out that John is leaving first thing in the morning to return to McCrossan Boys Ranch. We like the program and the staff and he did well in the past, but are sad that we will not be able to have more contact with him. So far the county isn’t recommending any.

The social worker said, “I was wrong.” I said, “I told you so.” He said, “I knew you’d say that. I had it coming.”

He admitted he should have listened to us, but wanted to give John a chance. Said he had never met a kid that NOBODY could make progress with him. I pointed out to him that we were pretty skilled parents and hadn’t been able to get him to do the right thing. He is finally concluding that possibly we were right.

I wrote John a letter and sent some pictures and our Christmas letter to him via the social worker. We’ll see what kind of contact they are going to allow. It will be sad not to have him around for Christmas.

Another sad trip around the same merry go round.

Christmas Letter is Done and Uploaded

If you’d like to read the Christmas letter for our family you can open it right here. You may have to zoom in to see it well, but it’s there for the reading.


I was swamped trying to catch up yesterday and didn’t make as much progress as I had hoped. My morning after diligently working, only brought my inbox from over 300 to about 288 because so many more were coming in. I had lunch with Bart and then came home to more office stuff. Spoke to a Senior Citizens club about adoption (great group of old men, average age 75-80) but it was a good time.

When I returned I had to focus on getting the packages mailed that are for relatives. I still had 3 pages of the calendar to do and to print. And I still needed to finish up the Christmas letter which obviously will be mailed late.

That, along with dinner, took all of my evening (except for a quick surprise visit from Kari and her family which was a fun break). Salinda spent the night at a friend’s after a gymnastics meet last night and Mike was working, so they weren’t home. I went to bed at 10:15 VERY tired.

This morning Tony and Dominyk have therapy appointments, so they are not up yet, making the morning a fairly easy one. I have way too much to do to cram into one day today, but I’m going to give it my best shot and take one thing at a time.

The Makings of a Great Agency Chapter 6: Core Values

In reading any book about building a great business or company you will hear about “Core Values” but I’m not sure if the core values of YGB are intentionally defined or are there because each person who Pat hires already had these values as a part of who they are.

Each of us has core values: Bart and I, for example, have some core values: our faith and the need for that to be lived out through worshiping with others, the importance of having the family together once a day to sit down and connect, and the priority we place on friendship with others. There are many more that govern our lives. But there are other core values that some of our kids have. For example, it is a core value that Kyle see movies when they come out almost immediately. It is a core value of some of our children that their friends come before anything else, including logic, reason and their parents rules.

So we all have core values. What happens in a great agency is either that everyone who joins the agency already has a set of core values that match the agencies OR that the leadership of the agency is able to infuse those core values into every staff and board member. And eventually in an agency like YGB, they must impart those values to the parents who are adopting as well.

In my observation, there were several core values that I observed:

1) No kid is unadoptable. Maybe a child needs psychiatric care or can’t even live full time in a family setting, but every kid deserves at least one parent that is committed to him/her for life.

2) It’s not about the match. Any parent can parent any child if they are trained well and have the right support. I even heard one person go so far as to say, “If you as an adult decide you can’t parent a child, you need to look inside yourself instead of saying ”it’s not the right kid“ to find out why you can’t keep your commitment.”

3) There is only one purpose. The mission, as I mentioned in a previous chapter, is all there is. Getting kids either morally or legally adopted before they age out is the only point and everyone buys into it.

4) It’s not about me. Believing this as professionals and teaching it to parents keeps everyone working hard and committed. It’s about the kids, not about the parents or the professionals.

5) The system as it stands is faulty. Teaching people to be “temporary” parents is doing a great disservice to kids and the foster care system has done nothing else. There are many horror stories about teenagers bouncing from home to home because of their behavior. An entire paradigm shift is required.

6) The sky is the limit. When I returned from my week in NYC, I felt like I had been to youth camp. Pat is more like an evangelist with a message to preach than a social worker running an agency. The message is that the way we deal with teens in foster care must be changed so that we stop the perpetual re-abandonment of hurt children. As I have mentioned, the name of the agency includes the word movement and it is obvious that the staff is committed not only to doing all they can in the future to place as many NYC kids as possible in permanent homes, but also to influence the rest of us in any country where there is “foster care” to rethink the way we do things and make a difference.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Anybody Tape the Shows on Sunday Night?

I’m trying to track down a tape of the 60 minutes segment on Sunday night and/or the MSNBC special that was on about foster care in Indiana.

If you happened to tape it or no someone that might have taped it, I’d be so grateful to get my hands on a copy.

Quick Update

Yesterday I drove to the finalization for one of the families on my caseload. It was a great time. Both sets of grandparents there and everyone was thrilled AND I KNOW these parents have the skills to hang in there with a pretty tough couple of girls. So that’s exciting!

I then came home for an hour at my desk before supper and immediately after supper I went Christmas shopping and then went to a friend’s to wrap gifts. It took us two full hours to wrap about half of the gifts (the other half remain unpurchased) and we’re on a tight budget this year). I came home, put the kids to bed, talked (apparently too much, according to him) to Bart, and went to bed just to get up and start again this morning.

I have 301 messages in my in box to deal with. I write that only so that I can report to you my progress, giving myself some external accountability which is always helpful when I am working alone. And my to do list is so long... heavy sigh.

I’m speaking to the Kiwanis club this afternoon as well. And Bart and I will sneak off for some lunch, possibly even with friends...

Ten Teens and Preteens; Ten Predictions

Looking through the crystal ball I’ve created through past experience and the experiences of others who have adopted children with a history of abuse and neglect, I make these predictions to participate in the ProBlogger Group Writing Project. Most of them are done “tongue in cheek” but with enough truth to them that I will go back 12 months from now and smile at my foresight.

Kyle will complete his Junior year of college and, after making all kinds of other plans and suggesting several ideas, will end up living at home for the summer. He will plan to save his money but he will spend it. He will return for his senior year, get a B average, and work a lot of hours at his on campus job. Regardless of my unending reminders to build his resume with leadership experiences, he will not see the need. He will watch between 47 and 57 movies in theatres and will watch 150 movies on DVD during 2007. He will wonder where his time and money have gone.

Rand will graduate from high school, having done fairly well. He will have made plans to leave home, but when it comes time to, probably won’t. He will spend a great deal of time lying around and spend most of his income on non-essentials (if he has a job). I will either choose not to intervene or to intervene, but either way it will take me to the next level of insanity.

Mike is the only one I cannot predict with any certainty whatsoever. WIll he serve time for stealing the car? Will he take off the day he turns 18? Will he graduate? Will he maintain a job? My only accurate predictions are that he will live in the moment, act impulsively, be confused a great deal of the time, and never be sure exactly how he has gotten himself into the current mess he is in.

John will not be allowed to return to our home. He won’t maintain his stay in foster care. He will be in a facility and may not earn the privilege of having contact with us that his social worker is stating he must earn. He will continue to be assaultive and angry and his mental illness will control him. UNLESS, which very well might happen, God intervenes in a major way and to this end we pray.

Jimmy will take driver’s ed sometime during 2007. He will not pass his driver’s test the first time. He may not pass it at all, but he will be taught to drive. He may get his permit. He might possibly get his license. He will argue with me daily, torment his siblings, and yet at the same time be the most helpful kid in our home. He will charm the socks off of every adult that he meets outside of our home and he will push some of his teachers closer to retirement with his incessant naughtiness at school.

Salinda will be best friends with several different girls and “go out” with several different guys. They will break up, make up, and argue. There will be a lot of drama. She will continue to get good grades and will excel in any sport she tries. She will find me tolerable 3 of every 7 days and maybe love me one out of every 10.

Ricardo will excel in soccer and football. He will continue to use his smile to attract every girl within a mile of him. He will refuse to try to read and finish the 5th grade as a 13 year old who reads at a second grade level. He will be sneaky as ever with his misdeeds and always be able to make me smile when his “mayan stoic look” bursts into a big grin.

Mercedes will morph from her pleasant and mother-loving self into a teenager, leaving me behind in a myst of hormonal exhaust. She will test everything we say. She will begin to use makeup with our permission and will be drop dead gorgeous. She’ll start orthodontic work. She will (crossing my fingers here) remain thorough in getting her chores done and will save more money than she spends.

Tony will either realize how important it is that he modify his behavior or there will be some kind of upcoming changes for him which may include a psych hospitalization or something. He will go back and forth from being very defiant to very loving and tender hearted. He will confuse and frustrate us and yet somehow do things every once and a while that make us want to hang on.

And Dominyk will make me laugh every day. He will say or do something hilarious and provide comic relief to our family. The medication he is on will continue to make him gain weight like Tim Allen in The Santa Clause until they switch him to something else and we go through another upheaval. The school will patiently work with him even though many will have either no or grey hair by the end of the year. He will remain our baby and still give me a hug every day even though he reminds me he is getting too big. And he insists he will be going through puberty.

So there you have it, my honest predictions. They are realistic and while it may seem negative, pretty on target. As for Bart and I? We will wake up each day and do it again. Some days we will be excited about the prospect and other days not so much. But our big God will give us the strength we need, our friends will support us, and our kids will provide us with enough joy amidst the challenges to make it worthwhile.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Makings of a Great Agency: Chapter 5: Thinking Outside the Box

I think in all previous posts you can see that YGB thinks outside of the box. Solutions and ideas are not like everyone elses. There are no “rules” that absolutely have to apply.

One of the most clear examples is staffing. “Good practice” in the field of social work would say that people all need degrees, regardless of life experience. But we all have very little patience for social workers straight out of college who are neither married nor have ever parented us telling us what to do. Now, hire, like Pat does, people with life experience that pertains to the subject and no degree and that person is going to have much more respect by the parents in the trenches.

Another area that I have previously mentioned is in the area of office space. There are not enough desks so each person can have their own space. A huge problem? The exact opposite. Most of the work that needs to be done should be done “out in the field” -- in people’s homes and in schools and residential treatment facilities. So, if there is no desk it assigned to a person, then there is less temptation to spend time there when there is other stuff that needs to be done away from the desk.

Another example. A couple of women in Pat’s church said they wanted to be involved in YGB. He thought about the needs of the community and said, “Get your Notary and you can sit at the front desk and notarize things for people.” They charge a couple bucks to people and in serving the community bring in a couple hundred bucks a week to add to their unrestricted income budget. They also offer to make copies and send faxes for a small fee.

What about a parent who has adopted a couple of teenagers and has a lot of great skills but already has a full or nearly full time job. Why not hire them for 10 hours a week -- maybe they can work Saturdays and do training. Sure, it’s a payroll hassle to have an additional 10 people only working a few hours a week, but it ties people into the mission.

When you think of a traditional “board of directors” you think of middle aged people who contribute a lot of money financially, most likely highly educated, who have big names and lofty connections? That’s the standard in the field. But why not find people who are completely bought into the mission? Why not include people who have aged out of foster care or who were adopted as teens?

It’s all about tossing out all the rules of what works for every agency and making your own by thinking out of the box.

And by the way, you know that You Gotta Believe isn’t an adoption agency, right? It’s a homelessness prevention program.

To Further Make a Point

Here’s an article that reinforces what I’ve been saying about adopting teens -- A tough Time for Teens .

ANd for those of you who may not take time to click to the article, I quote from the Frederick News-Post Online:

About 8 percent of children adopted nationwide in fiscal 2005 were 14 or older, according to the September 2006 release of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System. One percent of those adopted were 17 years old; 2 percent were 16 years old; 2 percent were 15 years old and 3 percent were 14 years old.
In all, 513,000 children in the United States were in foster care in fiscal 2005, according to the report. Of those children, 51,323 were adopted.
Those between 1 and 3 years old had the highest rate of adoption. Of those, 13 percent -- the highest rate of those adopted -- were 2-year-olds.
Because many people look to adopt younger kids that they can love, nurture and mold, it's hard to place teens in permanent homes, Mr. Bertulis said. Many believe a teenager might only be a part of their lives for a few years. And at times it's more difficult to deal with the behavior of teens, particularly if they have turbulent backgrounds.
The need is great, however, Mr. Bertulis said, because many children age out of the foster care system, still lacking a sense of permanence in their lives and a family to call their own.
"Even though we prepare them for independent living, there's still a void," he said.

Just Overheard from the Bathroom

Dominyk just said, “Yup, definitely going through puberty.”

I don’t even want to know.

An Amazing Amount of Temptation Out There

Blogging is amazing but it can also suck a person into a myriad of tempting opportunities to use time in ways that might or might not be profitable or lead to anything worthwhile.

For example, just this morning I was able to learn that I am the Time Person of the Year (and so are you), that Heather Amstrong was in New York the same time we were, and that there is a great Group Writing Project that I would love to participate in. However, none of these things relate to anything I am doing in my world.

Today I am only going to be home for a little while. I need to do some Christmas shopping (as I am still far from being done, in fact, I’ve barely started) and then I have an adoption finalization for one of my families to attend that is 2 1/2 hours from here. I’ll be back home in time for supper and then, if Bart is OK with the plan, I may go to where our presents are hidden and wrap for a while tonight.

Fortunately, even though I was out of town last week, I did work, so I am not horribly behind. I am basically caught up on email, which is a good thing.

And now, it’s time to wake up the children. IN some of their cases I have a strong urge to “let sleeping dogs lie.”

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Media Night

I started with the sixty minutes segment about Finding Families, an organization that looks for relatives of kids in foster care who are not adopted and don't have a resource.

Then I listened to the radio program hosted by You Gotta Believe that Bart did a segment on. Did anyone hear it? I thought he did great.

And now I am watching 'No Place for a Child" on MSNBC. Tony has spent the entire time since we got back talking about how he wants to go live somewhere else and how he isn't going to live here anymore. So we are watching the stories of some children who because of behavior problems had to be institutionalized (which he is saying he wants -- to live in a group home like Mike and John did).

The show has had him in tears once, so I'm hoping that the message sinks in and that he realizes the need to change the behavior that he can change. He has been so trying over the last week -- his PCA isn't going to work with him any more and I don't blame her. She had a horrible week here trying to take care of everyone and I am very upset with my children, especially with the ones who are usually fairly good for me.

But right now we are in the middle of this media extravaganza hoping we'll learn something, and that Tony will too.

Packed Day Ahead

Kid's Christmas Program at church -- A Wiseman (not wise enough to change his orange Miami t-shirt that I begged him to change because I knew the robe wouldn't cover it), an angel, and a shepherd.

First service was great once we , Sadie did an awesome job with her liturgical dance group in 2nd service, we’re home for a half hour and then it’s the Chinese Buffet with friends, and just us girls shopping with some friends for clothes (I had to invite friends so I would survive the event). Then it’s the kids program, followed by refreshments, and then we’re coming home to an adoption extravaganza on TV and radio. There is a 60 minutes special tonight, followed by Bart on the radio (2nd half of the program) for You Gotta Believe's Radio Show from 7 to 8, and then I want to watch an MSNBC documentary on foster care. By then it will be 10.

Always great to be cussed at during church. Makes my day. Before, during and after this time...

The Making of a Great Agency: Chapter 4: Invest in People

YBG has 21 full time staff and several part timers. They share two offices and I think we counted maybe 12 desks between the two offices. Both offices are not large. They are not located in neighborhoods that convey status because they want to be where their families are -- and many of them have come from lower middle class or poor families.

The equipment is not necessarily state of the art and the offices, while clean, are overcrowded and cluttered. And the walls are decorated with newspaper articles and ... caricatures of each staff and board member.

When you invest in people your families have the support they need. This staff of 21 places about 50 placements a year. If you would compare that to other agencies who are making that many placements with half or less staff, it seems less than impressive. However, the kinds of kids that are being placed are nothing like the placements in other agencies. Hardly ever is their a sibling group placement, so they actually are making about 50 placements instead of 20 placements of 2 or 3 kids at a time. And the kids that are being placed are all over 10 and most of them are coming from residential treatment facilities or group homes. These are TOUGH kids... the kinds of kids that nobody else thinks can be placed. The ones often thought of as “unadoptable.”

So investing in people makes sense. There are staff members who know the kids very well and who do therapy with them to prepare them for adoption. There are staff members who homestudy families, obviously, and almost everyone is involved in one way or another in making the placements last.

And the investment is not in the same kinds of people that most agencies recruit. A few do have advanced social work degrees, but many do not even have a college education. The criteria, from my observation, appears to be that they need to have parented a teen from the foster care system at one point or another, and they have to be fun!

The Making of a Great Agency: Chapter Three: Everyone Buys In

When an agency is great, everyone buys into the mission. If the leadership is there and the wedge is narrow and the mission clear, then it isn’t difficult to be completely engulfed in that mission and have the movement carry you through the tough days.

We were able to see the YBG staff in several settings, but they could not stop talking about their mission. It wasn’t just their jobs they were talking about, it was their passion, their mission, their life.

There is a member of the staff who commutes over 700 miles and stays in the city at Pat’s house three nights a week so that he can make money doing what he loves. He’s been doing it for YEARS. And every time he is tempted to quit he asks himself where he would go that would be as fulfilling and he just can’t come up with anything.

There are many others who have long commutes. The organization has classes on Saturdays and Sundays because that is the only time that some of the prospective parents can come, and so they work on Saturdays and Sundays. Someone is always available 24/7 to take crisis calls. Their job becomes there life because it’s not just a job -- it’s a passion, a calling, a personal mission that they can’t shake.


Every time we take a trip we come home and the transition back (the raw emotion, the crabbiness (theirs and ours) the bickering and fighting between us makes us swear we will never, ever travel again. But then the pain passes and we forget and before you know it we are planning something else.

It is great for Bart and I to get away but it is so very hard for us to reintegrate everyone back into a routine. We find ourselves so overwhelmed upon our return.

It’s a good thing I blogged so much while we were gone. Now I can look back and remember how great it felt to be treated as intelligent and articulate people who had wisdom to share. Because here I’m a dumb f****** fat a**. Being called that is always such a nice way to prepare myself for worship.

Coming back: Quite a shock to the system.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Always a Shocking Reality

Well, we came home to nothing horrible, but all kinds of typical stuff. Our room had been broken into (main suspect, Mike), Tony and Ricardo were missing when we arrived (they had only been left unsupervised for an hour because we missed the first shuttle), Salinda made me go out and wait in the van when I went to pick her up because she was embarrassed to have me be seen by her friend's family (even though her best friend shrieked and jumped into my arms (literally) with joy when she saw me), our remote is missing (from our locked bedroom), we got a nasty letter from the IRS dealing with a problem I've been trying to work on since March, Mike is complaining that there was nobody here to give him a ride to work even though HE wasn't here, and the six hours of five and a half hours sleep we got last night followed by hours of travel did not prepare me to face it all with a balanced perspective.

When we were speaking this week and telling stories of how they drive us crazy we forget about how yucky it feels sometimes.

Safe Flight

We arrived back to Mpls safely and are now waiting for the shuttle. I called home and all of the children are still alive. We'll see if they last until 5 when we arrive.

The Makings of a Great Agency: Part Two: A Thin Wedge

The thinner the wedge, the deeper the cut. This is something I learned years ago. That if you want to make a deep difference you can't have too broad of a purpose.

You Gotta Believe is constantly fighting against getting a wedge that is too broad. The focus is very narrow -- finding homes for teens and preteens. If a family comes wanting a child under ten, they are referred somewhere else. If a county wants help recruiting for a child under ten, they are encouraged to take an older kid, but if they cannot be swayed they are referred somewhere else. The decision has been made to rent office space so that extra energy and time is not taken up by building maintenance. Expanding to other states across the country is not an option -- there are enough kids in New York City and the surrounding areas to focus on.

Pat gets lots of opportunities to speak across the country and even though he is not interested in expanding to other states, the name of the agency is "You Gotta Believe!, The Older Child Adoption and Permanency Movement, Inc." and it is clear to the staff and board alike, as evidenced at their Christmas party, that the intention is to make people across the country believe in the importance of finding permanent homes for teens.

In spite of a tough travel schedule, Pat always rearranges his schedule to teach "class #9 which is called "Behavior & Unconditional Commitment: The Only Love that Matters To Teens." This way he gets to meet every family at least once. This is not easy since there are 8 classes being held every single week around the city. You can check out the Class Schedule here. (and it appears that honorariums from his speaking are put back into the operating budget for You Gotta Believe).

The focus is narrow and clear and regardless of any temptations or offers to expand to do something more or different, there is intentionality about making sure nothing is added that is not directly related to the mission.

Broadway and Rockefeller Center

Bart and I are sitting in the Newark, NJ airport waiting for our flight to depart. Pat had to teach 2 classes today, so he needed to get us here a bit earlier than we had to be here. Our flight leaves in about 2 hours.

Yesterday afternoon we left Pat's house at about 3:00 p.m. to pick up his fiancé, Madeline, and drive into Manhattan. From a distance we were able to see landmarks such as the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty.

We stopped at a monstery to see the guy who did our first adoption training ten years ago. He gave us a tour and it was fun to see him again.

Then we drove to Broadway and parked the car and went to get "twofer" tickets. We decided on Les Miserables and bought our tickets. We then took a walk down to Rockefeller Center, an amazingly beautfiul and extremely crowded place last night because the weather was beautiful and lots of people were out.

Following our jaunt there, we headed out to Spanky's for a loud evening of delicious barbeque and fun conversation (though we had to yell sometimes...) It was then time to head to the show via Times Square.

Other than the fact that the seats in the theatre were made for people who are 4'10" tall and weigh 90 pounds, the musical was incredible. if you haven't heard the story, it's an incredible tribute to the power of grace and forgiveness.

The drive home took an extra hour as Pat, "Mr. Focussed on the Mission 24/7" had to stop and pick up a CD of Heart Gallery pictures. We fell into bed exhausted around 1 a.m.

We were up and ready to leave the house by 8 this morning. It was a very fun night and we are very grateful to Pat and Madeline for their generosity, kindness and for taking their time to show us the city.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Makings of a Great Agency: Part One, The Right Leader

I can't say enough about Pat's passion and how this is the key to the success that YBG has had over the past several years. First and foremost, Pat is a man who is completely consumed by the mission to prevent homelessness by finding permanent families for teenagers in foster care. Listening to more of his story today, I am amazed at the personal sacrifices that he had to make in order for his dream to come true (things like working as a volunteer for the first few years, having an office which was no more than room for a desk and a chair in an attic with no heat or air conditioning, being told no more times than yes with grant proposals and licensing requests, etc.) Nobody without complete commitment to a dream would be willing to endure so much to make something happen.

There is never any question as to where Pat stands in regards to mission. His responses are consistent with his belief system and never change.

In addition, there is a great deal of respect and trust between Pat and his staff and board. I'm sure he has some idiocyncracies that aren't always their preference, but they trust that he is going to do things consistent with the mission and always without his own self-interest in mind.

He is completely focused on his mission and while I don't know that anyone could maintain his intensity or go at his pace, that kind of leadership inspires people to do more. The one thing on his mind first and foremost is preventing homelessness by finding permanent families for kids. I have often suggested things to him to only have him respond, though not exactly in these words, "that would take away my time from the mission."

With a leader like that who has proven with his time, energy and personal sacrifice over years that his life focus is the mission of the organization is the beginning of any great agency.

Unsolicited Outsider's Evaluation of YGB

I asked Pat if he I could include my own evaluation of what I have seen and heard over the past week. He told me he would be interested in seeing it. I suggested to him that if he felt I was way off base that he could always tell me to take it off my blog and I would (although I did point out that it might be AFTER 200 people or so had read it).

It's been an amazing amount of information to digest in a short period of time, so in order to make myself get started, I've decided to blog about it in segments. So, the following series can be called "The Makings of a Great Agency."

Last Night's Christmas Shindig

Last night was awesome. For four hours we crashed (actually were invited as special guests) a You Gotta Believe Christmas Party and Board Meeting at Gargiulio's. It was a great time. A several course Italian meal surrounded by very fun, very happy, very LOUD New Yorkers. Everyone there appeared to be so excited abouto being together and thrilled to be associated with the agency.

Later today I am going to attempt to thoroughly blog my observations of why YGB is a one-of-a-kind agency that should be emmulated, but Bart and I are going to have breakfast with Pat soon so I'll just share pictures of the party last night.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Great Afternoon

This afternoon was great. We got to view the video that I mentioned in this post. It's done and it's awesome... except that I look fat and dumpy, I talk way too fast, and there is no footage with me and Bart together. Instead, there is lots of footage of Kari and I. Therefore, people are thanking Pat for featuring a same sex couple online. I tried to call Kari and tell her about this, knowing she'd get a great laugh, but she's not home.

Then Bart presented for almost three hours to the whole staff of You Gotta Believe. He did a great job and it was really fun. The group was very engaged and interractive and seemed to be understanding what we were saying.

Later, with Pat's permission, i hope to blog some of my observations of the agency and their staff. In about 20 minutes we're heading to a staff Christmas party. That's our last "obligation" and then tomorrow is a fun day.


I just finished my initial draft of a proposal to serve Spanish-speaking families who want to adopt. While doing so (and blogging) I am watching a Cable TV program that You Gotta Believe produces. It's available on the internet, but I'm actualy able to watch it on TV because I'm in NYC.

Here are a few pictures of our trip so far.

This is the Brooklyn (Coney Island) office of You Gotta Believe.

This is the Long Island Office.

From our perspective in Minnesota, these are small offices. But space is limited and priorities seem to be a little different here.

Below is a picture Bart took when he was touring the United Nations Buildilng.

Waking to the Noises of the City

Woke up refreshed again and listening to the noise of the city, Pat has returned from his trip to California (on the red eye) and been out for a jog on the Boardwalk before heading down to catch a few hours of sleep. Bart already spent his time on line and is now quietly reading a novel. I am buckling down to get some serious work done as I have several projects I'd like to finish when I have lots of uniterrupted time, including a grant proposal.

We will leave here at 1 to head to a staff meeting and then a staff Christmas party. I'll take a break in a couple hours to post pictures from yesterday.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Odd to Not Have Blogged Too Much Today

It has been a fairly long day, but a fairly good one. Bart and I decided to do some exploring and road the subway for many hours today. We rode from Coney Island in Brooklyn all the way to Manhattan. We had some lunch and then Bart toured the United Nations building while I sat in the lobby. Once again I am feeling too tired to dedtail it all, but it was a good day. I don't know how people live here though as it is so exhausting. I suppose if we lived here it might not feel so tiring but just the large number of people, all the walking and climbing of stairs to take the subway, and being surrounded by so much noise drains me completely. Much easier to be surrounded by 10 children.

We got back to the house and had to leave less than an hour later to go to our speaking engagement. Talk about pathetic -- here we are in New York and because of parking and time constraints we ended up eating at McDonalds. Very disappointing. However, the next 2 nights will be much better as we have plans with others that involve much finer dining establishments.

The group tonight was small, but the interractions and conversation was good. Always makes us feel better to share our story -- it's empowering. We know we are far from perfect, but we remain committed to our children and that seems to be what they need. We always return vowing to do it better as well.

Tomorrow I will attempt to blog some pictures of where we were today and the You Gotta Believe offices we've visited. We have responsibilities from 1 p.m. until about 10 p.m. tomorrow.

Sleeping In

I slept until 8:45 this morning, which is very late for me (although it is only 7:45 our time). It felt great. i have put in an hour of work and now Bart and I are going to get on the "train" (subway) and explore.

This is a picture of the house where we are staying. Doesn't it look like it's straight out of a movie? I would worry about Pat's privacy in posting this, except that you can't see the house number and it's not like there aren't a few houses in Brooklyn that look VERY similar. :-)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Long Day, Good Day

I have a lot to blog about but I'm tired! I rested some today, worked a lot, and then we left at 3:30 for our speaking engagement. 2 hours and 15 minutes of city traffic jams later we arrived at our destination to do a parent appreciation night/pre-adoptive training class that the Long Island office of You Gotta Believe. It was a great meeting, Good crowd, great staff, good connections made, receptive, engaged group of people. It was tons of fun. Only took us an hour to get back, but now it's 10:45 and I'm ready to sleep again.

i did take some pictures ... maybe I'll blog some of them tomorrow.

Up for Hours Already

We got up early this morning to take Pat to the airport so that we can use his car while he is gone. We were up and out the door by 6:30, which is 5:30 back in MN. So we've taken him, gotten a few groceries and come back to the house while our kids are just getting out of bed.

Pat reads my blog occassionally, which is kind of an odd feeling. I don't want to post many of my observations simply because I think it would feel weird to be him reading it, not because I have anything negative to say. However, I can say this -- the man is mission driven --everything in his life is about "preventing homelessness" by finding homes for kids.

I'm going to work a while today and our speaking engagement tonight will begin around 3, but tomorrow we're planning to explore a little. Right now I'm having a tasty bagel before I tackle the inbox for this morning.

Monday, December 11, 2006

From Pat O'Brien's Living Room

How cool is that? Bart and I are sitting in Pat O'Brien's living room. He (Pat) is at the office preparing for another trip. We had supper together after we arrived and then took a tour of Brooklyn and Coney Island. Saw the boardwalk, a new baseball stadium, a memorial to the firefighters who lost their lives during 9/11... fun evening. Travellling always makes me quite tired, but we had a great day and evening.

The week is packed and we will attempt to cram as much as we can into our week hear. Lots of stuff to be learned from Pat -- he certainly does not do things "the normal way" but does get a lot done. Many teenagers have a family because of his efforts and the effort of his staff. Though things are non-traditional, I so admire his passion.

The neighborhood/office/house are like what you'd see in a movie. I know I sound like a hick from the midwest when I say that, but it is definitely just like what you'd see there.

I have much work to do but will probably go to bed early tonight and tackle most of it tomorrow as travelling makes me very tired, even when everything goes smoothly.

We haven't received any phone calls from home, so I guess that is a good sign. Pat has offered us free long distance on his phone as that is the plan he has. I'm tempted to use it and check on people, but then again, maybe not knowing is better than knowing.

While Walking Through the Airport

"Bart, you should get some noise cancelling earphones."

"Why would I want noise cancelling earphones? Then I couldn't hear you snoring."

"was I snoring last night?"

"like a sow in heat..."

Airport Luncheon

Bart and I are having lunch at Chili's in the airport while I multitask and try to clean up the 50 emails that arrived in the last 2 hours.

We got everyone off to school (except Tony who is suspended for another day and has a PCA with him). We are now able to somewhat relax and be on our way.

We're looking forward to a meaningful AND fun time. Hopefully we'll be able to pull of both and I can still get the hours I need in so I can be paid the same for the week.

More from NYC tonight!

Not Quite Ready But Almost

Well, almost all the details are taken care of. In 20 minutes I’ll wake the children up and make a concentrated effort to make sure that their last memories of me as they leave this morning are good ones, but considering the emotional climate in our home with transition brewing in the air it may not be possible. I have gotten everything in my office fairly well situated and ready for the trip. I still need to pack myself and one of the kids and take care of a few small things, but as always, it looks like when the plane takes off we’ll be on it ready to go.

I have to take a couple minutes to blog about the people who are helping with our kids this week. I jokingly have said to a few of my friends that God has put me on this earth to give people who have a servant’s heart someone to serve. Now really, if EVERYONE had that “i love to serve people” attitude, there would be nobody out there to serve. It’s a theory anyway. :-)

One of the things that makes Bart and I unique as speakers in the adoption realm is that we are currently parenting tough kids on a large scale. Because of this, we have a perspective that is very different from that of someone who “used to have a house full of kids” or someone who has studied them, counseled them, or worked with them. But, the only way that we can go anywhere and share our knowledge with others is if we are surrounded by wonderful people who are willing to participate in our “ministry” by taking care of our children.

Because of about 10 people who are chipping in to help this week, we will be able to go to NYC and touch a lot of lives. Their willingness to help us, even when it is inconvenient to them, is the only way we can do so.

Most of our trips do not include much “vacation time.” In addition to speaking on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings, it is my plan to work from our hosts home during the day. I will work from airports and on airplanes as well. I will attempt to get in as many hours as I can because this week I will be paid by the hour and it isn’t a good time of year to have a deduction in pay. But on Friday we will be having a blast seeing sights, eating good food, going to a Broadway play, so there will be some fun to be had.

I’m not getting far and am beginning to ramble, but I wanted to say this: Thanks to all of you who are making it possible for us to take this trip. Every adoptive parent who is helped by anything we have to say or any staff member that is trained in such a way as to make them more effective in working with children and families will happen because of you.

And because you who help us care about children, not just ours, but the ones who have no families you can know that your contribution will make a difference for those kids. And hope that this fact makes your efforts seem more worthwhile.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Those Last Few Hours

The last day before we leave I always wish I would have never planned the trip. Just so much to do... so many last minute things.

Today we did church and sunday school and then I came home and actually helped with some dinner preparations. Between trying to get instructions typed up for all of the people that we need to cover for us when we're gone, I helped Bart make dinner. Last bite was swallowed and I was off to take Mike to work and then head off to shop for Ricardo's birthday and do some Christmas shopping with my new friend, Sue, whose schedule is flexible enough most times to fit around my wild one. We were gone two hours and then I rushed home to finish the instructions, have Dominyk and Tony's PCAs stop by to get the instructions. By 5:45 we were heading to drop of the youngest 4 kids and meet friends for dinner, which was ever so fun. We went to a nice Italian restaurant with great atmosphere, wonderful food, but annoyingly poor service. We ended up being there a very long time but it was very fun. We left there to come back to reality where we had cake with Ricardo and he opened his presents. I then left to drop instructions off for Kari and then show Rand where Sue's house is (they are feeding and caring for 3 boys two different evenings this week. I then took Rand to Mike's work place to pick him up and show Rand where he was. Came home to finish a project and do last minute work related things.

Now I'm up in my bedroom but it is 10:30 and I just can't make myself pack myself or Tony tonight, so I'm checking in with all of you and then heading off to bed.

I always regret planning anything out of the ordinary, but I know that this week will help us come back refreshed and ready to parent again.

Hopefully I"ll remember to post some really cute pictures of Ricardo when I get back. He's a great kid.

When you stop long enough to breathe it takes your breath away

I started this post yesterday and didn’t finish it.

Yesterday was another wild day. Got up, picked up Jimmy at 10, took home Ricardo’s friend at 11:30, left for the movie at 12:30, took one of Salinda’s friends home at 3 (right after the movie). Left with the other one of her friends at 3:45, picked up Mike around 4;30. We decided to postpone Ricardo’s birthday celebration until lunch time today because Bart after the wedding and all the cleaning he’s done the past two days was too tired to cook supper. So I took the kids who wanted to go to the hockey game out to supper while Bart took Mike to work and picked up Rand from his friends. Then Salinda’s “friend” came over and after the hockey game I took him home.

Today will be similar. And whenever I take time to breathe and look around, all I still need to do before I leave tomorrow takes my breathe away. I basically haven’t even started what needs to happen and I don’t have much time home today to get it done.

This morning I’m going to try to leave in 20 minutes but Tony is refusing to go to first service (though he will go) and nobody else is moving very fast.

Ricardo turns 13 today. By Christmas day we will have had 5 birthdays in 40 days. It’s a wild time of year for us.

Last night the family we went to watch hockey with is the one I referred to in this post. They are as awesome as ever. Their son, who used to be 5 is now in 7th grade and scored two of the goals. He did great out there. It was like a breath of fresh air to be with them again.

And now, I have to get four kids out the door to church. It’s not looking promising.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Radio Program

Save the Date
Sunday December 10,  2006
You Gotta Believe!
"The Adopting Teens and Tweens Radio Forum will be discussing a unique recruitment approach for teens in the foster care system this Sunday.  We will discuss the Wendy's Wonderful Kids Project, a signature program of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.  Our guest will be Astrudge McLean and John Dean.  You Gotta Believe's two Wendy's Wonderful Kids recruiters."
  The Adopting Teens and Tweens radio show can be heard this Sunday from 8:00pm until 9:00pm (Eastern time).  People who live in Nassau County most of Queens, Western Suffolk & Parts of Brooklyn can tune into WGBB 1240 on your am dial.  If you reside outside of these areas you may listen on line to a live stream by logging onto
This Radio support group is an excellent resource for child-welfare Professionals, Parents who have adopted and are fostering children  and youth in care. The live broadcast allows the listening audience to connect with qualified Professionals in the field,  experienced Adoptive parents and youth who have experienced first hand the effects of the foster care system.  This is an opportunity to call in to the live broadcast and ask questions and receive the needed support. 
 If you have questions or concerns or you just need HELP!  Please call us during this live broadcast at (631)888-8811
You don't want to miss this weeks Adopting Teens and Tweens radio support group!