Wednesday, January 31, 2007

the end of the day

i'm doing bedtime alone because Bart is doing some very tough situation pastoral care. He will come home very tired, so I'm hoping the kids will be settled down by the time he gets here. It is not looking promising.

tomorrrow is another day filled with appointments. I hope I have time to get some work done.

Four Hours on the Road

I returned from my viist with a delightful and very interesting person who I cannot share about because of confidentiality, but it was worth the trip. It is my hope that this will someday turn into an adoptive family.

I now fifty minutes until it is time to head to Wednesday night activities at church. The three youngest children (and the 3 noisiest) are gone as is Salinda (who is a quiet person but likes to listen to her music loudly) so the house is silent. My in box, down to less than 30 this morning, is at 100 again after all my diligence yesterday. I will spend the next 45 minutes attempting to deal with some of them, though there are several there that require 5-10 minutes a piece to handle.

All of the kids need therapy before they see John again to process the fact that he is not coming to live here again. Until they have the therapy he cannot visit with them. I did intakes on all 5 of them this morning and now I have to fill out 20 pages of paperwork for each of them.

I am feeling a little tired right now and thinking about that makes me tireder (and yes, for people with a life like mine, that's a word).

Packing Again

Once again I am heading down to the basement to pack Mike's clothes. Even though he protested, he will be spending the next 10 day to two weeks in a facility near here while awaiting CD treatment. He did an excellent job of proving to the assessor that he needed CD treatment badly. I can't imagine that he was using/drinking as much as he reported.

Of course other things in the assessment where not accurate either. I am emotionally and physcially abusive, it is important to Mike to be a good father to his children, he has 7 brothers and 7 sisters, and he can't function in our home because we ourselves are substance abusers.

We confronted him after court about some of it and he declares that he was talking about his birthmom and that he said that and that he doesn' have any children. We let the rest go.

He is requesting sensitive teeth toothpaste on his list of wishes, but I have to leave town and don't have time to go to the store. I am going down now to pack his clothes.

As always, things aren't working out quite like Mike planned, but this time they aren't blaming us. The place he wanted to go for treatment isn't an option, so he's going someplace where he knows no one. He is staying in what he reports is the worst place he's ever been (he's a connoisseur of detention/residential treatment facilities). And the judge had enough foresight to order that restitution include the ankle bracelet that he PERSONALLY pay for if charges are filed.

Mike has no ability to look down the road and see how all this is going to pan out for him. Unfortunatley, we do, and we do not share the hope that he does that 30 days of Chemical Dependency Treatment is going to solve all of his problems. But by the time he is done, he will no longer be a juvenile and we will no longer be legally responsible for him.

You parents of 18+ year olds out there, do I want to know if that makes it better or worse?

If You're Doing a Poor Job of Dieting

You might enjoy this essay I just posted called Cupcakes, Cheetos and Cookies, Oh My!"

Full Day Ahead

I woke up to find an email from Cindy indicating that somehow the link to her blog from mine had gotten messsed up when I redid the template of the blog. I HAD to fix this as Cindy and I have been blogging together for nearly 2 years.

This morning Tony and Dominyk have therapy followed by court with Mike and then I'm heading to another town to visit with a prospective adoptive parent. I will get back just in time to head to church for our Wednesday night activities.

I may have a few minutes between things to stop at home, but not many. I am sure my inbox will grow substantially today.

And a head's up, if you don't know it already, Cindy is a new contributor to the older child adoption blog. Check it out if you have time.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

As Predicted

Well, tonight was pretty much as I predicted. I spent 2 hours trying to figure out why AOL quits unexpectedly on Bart's computer and never figured it out. I spent 2 hours enjoying the warmth of the fire while trying to keep Dominyk's obsessive compulsive hands out of it. I spent a half hour pretending to be twelve on the phone with my friend Sue and I spent some time trying to figure out why my Adsense CPM is suddenly so low. Now I'm trying to get everyone into bed, but I'm about ready to start giving up on that with some of these kids. They're getting old enough now that they probably don't need as much sleep as they used to and the battle is annoying. Only the kids in 6th grade and below have a bedtime anyway -- everyone else as long as they are appropriate can choose when they go to bed as long as I don't have trouble getting them up and they usually don't abuse it. They make good decisions and typically get enough sleep.

Bart is holding his novel and snoring at the same time, so I think it is about time for us to call it a night.

Restless and Bored

It's cold outside. It's cold in side. We're building a fire.

I have nowhere that it sounds exciting to go. I have nothing that sounds exciting to do. I am restless and bored.

I enjoy many things but tonight I can't think of anything I want to do that sounds fun. I get like this once and a while. I have just spent an hour and 15 minutes listening to JImmy cry and scream and whine, having a major meltdown over something simple. He got in trouble for throwing a snowball at a teacher and instead of just having a conversation about it with me he had to take it to a rediculous realm. I avoided the power struggle for the most part, but things just got worse and worse until he was in a complete blubbering fit, including drooling on himself. I keep thinking he'll grow out of it, but it hasn't happened yet.

I had just finished that when Tony started begging for something I had already told him no about.

Most of the time I find my life so rich and full and compelling that I don't want to be anyone else. But tonight I'm just bored, bored, bored. I can't think of anything that sounds fun.

Another Boring Email Update

I'm down to 29 emails. I've been working hard for 5 hours doing nothing but processing email (with the exception of a few calls and time for a bowl of cereal for lunch with my husband here at home).

I'm going to take a break from all of this and try to get my feet warm...

Updated Again

Bart has updated his blog again. He used to be pretty sporadic, then quit altogether, but those of you who read my blog every day are used to me letting you know when it has been updated.

So, check out his entry for today.

An Issue That's Been Bothering Me for a Long Time

At the new blog I've started I post a question about "difficulty of care" points and "therapuetic foster care" and "levels of care" that I've been wrestling with for some time.

It is not my intention to anger anyone, but to really attempt to solve this issue for myself so I have posted it both at Everything Adoption and the Adoption Think Tank.

Hope you'll check it out and add comments, as I think it's an important issue.

All that Begins Well

So far this morning things have been very peaceful. Bart couldn’t sleep any more, so he was up at 5:30 and out the door by 6:20. Tony was complacent and mellow all morning and he has left to catch the bus. The girls were up on their own and though not cheerful, not horribly crabby. Rand got himself up and is showered. Jimmy and Dominyk are in the shower. And I’m sure Ricardo is sitting on his bed, but he’ll be ready when it’s time to go.

It’s nice to have a day start well. I am the kind of person who wakes up relatively happy every single morning and remain happy until something comes along to throw me off. For several years, the “something” almost always happened before I even got out of bed, but now that the kids are older I can often make it well into my work day before my cheery disposition is challenged by a disturbing email or phone call.

It’s 7:06 and all is well.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Love That Software

Digital photography is just awesome. Today I downloaded a beta copy of Lightroom and am amazed at how the quality of a digital can be altered and become so much more clear with just the click of a button.

I'm not a great photographer (in fact, Salinda took this picture) but what software can do is amazing.

One of THOSE days

I have been sitting at my desk for six hours today. I started my morning with 125 emails. I still have 118. They are coming in faster than I can respond and I don't appreciate that. Salinda has been home for an hour but hasn't spoken to me. I know she is not happy as her best friend was not in school today and she isn't going to want to go to practice without her. So that battle is forthcoming. In a few minutes the rest of the kids will be home and we'll all be here for a while.

Tonight Bart has a class at church. Maybe the kids and I will build another fire that I can try to protect Dominyk from while I warm myself and work with my laptop.

And Yet Again

And Bart did a much better job, again, of describing our morning in his post, Another Opportunity for Humility.

The Results of the Hearing and Staffing

Court was very uneventful. John was ordered into "Permanent Foster Care" to stay at McCrossan Boys Ranch until he turns 18. We do not have to go back to court for twelve months.

We had a staffing afterwards that was also very non-stressful determining what our next steps would be. Our kids who want contact with him will have to see a therapist first. He and I will have a session with a therapist before I visit with him again. it will be slow and gradual.

Everyone was in agreement that this was in his best interest, so there was no discussion. We're releaved but saddened that it can't be different. The bottom line is that he does have a family, just not one he can live with, and he always will. And that is more than a lot of kids in his situation have.

Once Again He Puts it All Together

As the articulate writer and the deep thinker in our relationship, Bart puts together our feelings about court today in this morning's blog post.

A Crime to Drink While Pregnant

Head over to Everything Adoption to read about a state wanting to make it a crime to drink while pregnant and thus give birth to a child with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Change of Venue (and only 5 more hours)

I changed my routine this morning. My typical routine is to go downstairs and shower, sit in my office for a half hour, read blogs and blog and then come upstairs with the kids meds to wake everyone up.

This morning I left my laptop in the bedroom by accident so I came upstairs to read blogs and blog. I'm sitting in the bedroom accompanying Bart while he does his ironing and tries to calmly get Tony out the door (he is the only one who rides the bus).

In just five hours the hearing and staffing for John that I am dreading so much will be over. And I know how to make the time go fast. I have 124 emails to respond to. If I work hard I can have a lot of them cleared up, 10 a.m. will be here before I know it, and then we'll get through it all.

So that's my plan for the morning.

Sunday, January 28, 2007


Remember that inseperable friend you had growing up? In 7th and 8th grade for me it was Traci, in 9th it was Randi, Traci again in 10th, and then Michelle in 11th. By 12th grade I was working all the time and couldn't be with someone 24-7.

From 3:00 p.m. on Friday until 9:30 p.m. tonight, Salinda and her best friend were literally together the entire time, without a break. I hope they can make it until tomorrow morning at school without seeing each other again. Fortunately, they balance each other well most of the time and we enjoy her friend... she's outoing and loud and fun, while Salinda is typically reserved and more quiet. And she likes me. That's a good thing.

The Newest Blog

I have started a blog where I will attempt to address one adoption related issue a day and leave this blog for the never ending saga of our family and my personal rantings. The first entry in the blog is about the pcyhicatric medication, Abilify, and the effects it is having on Dominyk. You can read about it at Everything Adoption.


Bart has come back to blogging, and I'm glad. Click here to see his blog

If I Knew Then What I Know Now

In her comment, Debbie asked,

Do you think if someone would have been honest with you when you adopted about what life would be like, would you have still made the same choices? Do you tell when you give these adoption trainings what their life will be like?

To answer her and anyone else asking this question, yes. I'd do it again.

Interestingly enough, we were told what life would be like. It's just that we didn't believe that they were telling the truth. We though, "we're smart, we're educated, we're resilient, we'll be good parents." And then I think we believed, "It will get better. Maybe it will start bad, but it will improve."

Our trainers told us, "if you have a good day a month you'll be lucky." They did not de-emphasize anything. We just thought we were different from everyone else.

And when I train, I tell people like it is. I promise them "the hardest thing you'll ever love." I tell them our horror stories. But I also tell them, "You CAN survive."

Now that we have 10 kids between the ages of 10 and 20 life is probably the hardest it's ever been. But we are more resilient, we have learned to pick our battles, and most days we do pretty well. We have a lot of stress, but we have learned how to keep it at a manageable level.

I think the bottom line is always expectations. If you expect things to be very hard, then when they are there are no surprises. I expect our lives to be pretty difficult over the next 10 years... and I hope to be surprised that it is better than I expected.

One of the things that parents today have that we didn't have 10 years ago are connections with people who have been living with these kinds of kids and gotten through their adolescense. We look at the best of parents and realize that maybe it isn't our fault -- that we do the best we can. We have people ahead of us who are telling us how to do things and how to feel, and we have others behind us that we can feel good about advising. The internet has given us these connections.

I tell folks, "Yes, it's hard, but just because something is hard doesn't mean it shouldn't be done." And I truly believe, that when it is all said and done, regardless of how many mistakes I make, that I will be able to look back and say, "My children had a better life because I chose to parent them." And that's what it's all about because, "it's not about me."

Analyzing my Stress Level

Now that yesterday is over and today is here and I am well rested and relaxed, I can look back and yesterday and determine why it might be that I felt so much stress. I realize today that it was because I was repressing the fact that we have two important court hearings this week, one for John and one for Mike, and I was trying not to think about that. That was looming over my head but I was trying to keep from dealing with it.

The hearing for John is about giving him "permanent foster care" status until he is 18. I wish there was another answer for him, but I think institutionalized care at the Boys Ranch is probably the only thing that will work for him. He still is refusing to take his medicine, the very issue we were dealing wtih when he had his downward spiral this summer. It is not the decision that I am bothered with, but the fact that so many times the judges and others have been critical of us. They look at us as if, "Why do you have so many children if you have a son who is bi-polar and assaultive, both verbally and physically?"

Well, obviously, had we known that when we were adding children, we would not have done things the way we have. But from the time John was 8 until he was 11, we didn't have any issues like this with him. By the time he was 11, there were already 4 children younger than him in our home. He didn't completely out of our control and big enough to be dangerous until we had 6 kids younger than him. It wasn't as if we said, "HEY, we have a houseful of kids and so we want to ADD a violent one."

It makes me very sad that John is unwilling or unable to make the changes he needs to make. Every setting he is in he is aggressive, angry, and refuses to take his meds unless he is in a controlled environmnet. But we have to do what is smart and safe and we can't as a family live as victims of domestic violence with a person who is unable or unwilling to change.

The second hearing is about MIke who is attempting to manipulate the situation so that it gives him what he wants. We are not going to say much -- he's less than 6 weeks from 18 and they are treating this much differently than when he was younger. But he knows that I believe that he is finding a new way to run away from the situation he is in, so if someone else figures that out and doesn't give him what he wants, it will be our fault once again, even if I don't say anything.

Those are the thoughts that were running through my mind yesterday, an undercurrent of stressful thoughts that I was attempting to repress. This morning though, I have faced them head on and know that after the hearings are over this week, things will settle down again into something more emotionally manageable.

Sometimes I question my own sanity in being so transparent on this blog. I wonder if other people wouldn't handle things better than I ... if possibly I wasn't cut out for this. But then I talk to others and in my situation and read their blogs and realize that we are all consistent in our response . . . because we are all human.

Some of us just hide it better (or more intentionally) than others.

Dreaming Again

Last night, for the first time in years, I had a dream where I was young and single (and beautiful) and reality never hit me until I woke up.

I was still a missionary in Mexico and there was a big team meeting in New York City with all of the missionaries and I met a guy named Lars for London. It was fun -- all the same twittery feelings of the first flirting and he even liked me. Lots of weird little quirks in the dream -- like him having one of those candy necklaces and it breaking and me scrambling all over the escalator to pick up the small pieces of candy.

Or me deciding to bring my long fir coat (no, I don’t have one) with us to walk around the city and it being too warm and the coat too heavy and I had no wear to put it. (the fact that it was 8 below here last night and I can’t find my coat from the move might be one reason I’m dreaming about having my coat).

But it was a fun dream -- one of those that makes you wake up smiling.

And this morning has gone well so far. We’ll be leaving in ten minutes and almost everyone who is riding with me is doing pretty well.

Therapy for Me?

“Process” left a comment as to whether or not I needed someone to talk to. My husband said the same thing last night. I think it is kind of funny, because I usually only have one or two days each month where I feel a failure -- and on those two days, I do have people to talk to.

I have several “therapists” in my life. First of all, I have my husband who, whether he realizes it or not, listens, and when I need to rant that’s all I need him to do. Then I have several other adoptive moms that I call or email regularly who are always willing to listen. I also talk to my children’s therapist when I take them in.

And I have the blog.

The truth is, I know myself pretty well. I know that when I have those days, that I’ll feel better in the morning. My mother told me this when I was a teenager often and it was always true.

This morning, I’m fine. Gone are the feelings of uselessness, helplessness and frustration. Each morning is a new day.

It may be true that I don’t need to barf those days on the blog. I’m sure there are other people who have them and don’t blog them. But it is therapy for me.

So, all of you who are my therapists, thank you. And just know that, as always, joy, for me, comes in the morning.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Pity Party

It took me several hours to get my blog back the way it was and that's annoying to say the least.

But for right now, I am going to spend some time whining a bit.

Sue and her daughter spent some time with us today and it wasn't all that fun. Tony and Dominyk were in rare form once again and I was not responding well. I was talking to Sue later and apologizing and she was being so gracious. She said she understands my kids have issues and that if she didn't want to be with us she would say, "I don't feel up to that today" or "I'm not sure I feel patient enough" or "I have other things I'd rather do." She graciously let me know that she could stick up for herself and that she loved my kids and chose to be with us when she felt like she could handle it. I was grateful for her support.

But, as she was talking, it hit me. I didn't feel up to being with my kids today. I didn't feel patient enough. I had other things I would rather have done. But Bart was out of town and I had no choice.

I spent nearly my entire day (just sat down now to do something I wanted to do for the first time today) trying to make my kids and/or husband happy. He was gone and a clean house makes him happy, so I started trying to get the kids to help clean. Salinda wanted to have friends over so I was cleaning so she could. She called and ask if a friend could spend the night, and I said yes, against my better judgment. I offered, if they helped clean, to do something with our Sue and Sarah for lunch and Kari and her family for dinner. I signed up for a racquetball court because Salinda wanted to go to the YMCA. I took people places, bought them things, fed them, played games with them, sat by the fire with them.

But Salinda's friends didn't end up coming, Kari had plans, and noting else went very well anyway. And apparently, I didn't do it with the right attitude, the right tone of voice, the right look on my face and so none of it counted anyway. All of that and it didn't even count because I was so "CRANKY!"

Next time I don't feel like being a parent, I don't think I'm going to try so hard to be a good one. It just seems to backfire. I wonder how it would have gone today had I tried to be a bad parent. At least I would have been successful.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Beyond Frustrated

As you can tell, I switched to the new bloger. Everything got messed up and I spent the night VERY frustrated trying to fix things.

Bart is leaving early in the morning, he's tired and going to bed, and nobody here is where they are supposed to be.

I just wanted to let you know that i know it looks crappy.

Upcoming Conference

I'll be speaking at this conference on Saturday.

Registration is now available for the 2007 MN ASAP Conference. Go to or to register online or call 651-644-3036 to register by phone. This excellent two day conference is entitled 'Positive Practice for Permanency ~ a conference for professionals' on Friday, March 16 and 'Celebrating & Strengthening Families ~ a conference for adoptive,
foster and kinship families' on Saturday, March 17. The location is theContinuing Education and Conference Center at the University of Minnesota, St Paul campus, cost $30 per day. CEUs are available. Keynote speakers are Maris Blechner and Tito Del Pilar of Family Focus Adoption Services of New York. Multiple sessions each day feature excellent speakers on topics in a wide variety of areas.

A Good (?) Thing about FASD

I have blogged on this topic before, but there is a bright spot in parenting a child with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum. The child (or in this case, the man-boy) has no ability to consider the past or the future. It reminds me of the lyrics to this sound from the soundtrack of the musical “Rent“

There is no future, there is no past
I live this moment as my last
There’s only us, there’s only this
Forget regret, or life is yours to miss
No other road, no other way
No day but today.

It’s a great idealistic way to live, but doesn’t work for most of us. Most of us have to think about the past and the future all the time.

But for our son Mike, it’s only right now. On Tuesday in court he was so angry with us that if looks could have killed us we would have been obliterated. He was, as I mentioned, blaming us for the outcome of court.

Last night he called. He was fairly chipper, asking about what the other kids were doing (something he never cares about when he’s actually here), talking about how bad it was where he was, asking if we had written him a letter. What happened on Tuesday just didn’t exist in his mind. All the anger had been forgotten.

Sometimes I wish I could live that way -- totally in the moment. But then I realize what I’d be missing with a mind like that as well. Good memories of the past, nostalgia, reminiscing ... those would all be absent. And I would not enjoy having nothing to look forward to, no anticipation, no planning, no joy from reaching for a goal for so long that reaching it is an incredible feeling.

No thanks. I’ll take the past, marred with regret sometimes, and the future, along with it’s fear and trepidation. It’s what life is made of.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


And finally, as my friend was getting ready to leave, I apologized and she said, "Oh well, it was a diversion?"

Tony overheard me incorrectly and asked, "Mom, you're a VIRGIN???"

Athlete's Neck

Tony said something funny. My friend, OK, it's Sue, my friend Sue's daughter had a rash on her neck that was bothering her. Right behind her ears.

I was asking her questions like "Did you eat anything you've never eaten before?" "Have you used a new kind of lotion or soap?" "Are you alergic to anything"

and from the next room we hear Tony pipe up.

"Touch anyone's feet?"

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

I invited a friend of mine and her daughter over tonight to kill some time with me. Bart is out of town and I thought it would be fun to kick back and sit by the fire and enjoy some time talking. Sadie, Tony, and Dominyk were going to be the only ones home.

We sat by the fire and it was a miserable 90 minutes. Dominyk could NOT keep his hands out of the fire. He found more ways to mess with it than a person should ever be able to come up with. I had to focus all my energy on keeping him from burning himself and could not focus on the conversation.

When he left the fire obsession, he started in on the dog, which is a constant temptation for him. The dog can certainly fend for himself, but Dominyk gets nipped at a lot and sometimes he gets bit, but he doesn't seem to be able to leave him alone.

So, by the time I spent an hour trying to keep him from getting burned or bit, I told my friend that she could leave any time, that I couldn't imagine it would be enjoyable.

It's pretty obvious why I don't try to have many friends.

MIscellaneous Information

A few things you might want to know:

1) I’m very excited to be doing an adoptive parent training and I did this flyer for it and I think it turned out great. Now I’m trying to get it in everyone’s hands so that a lot of families will learn about it and decide they want to adopt.

2) Bart is gone until tomorrow afternoon. I always like it better when he is here.

3) I am leaving the house for a while to do some errands. I do not like errands. They annoy me. But I am going to do that and pick up something tasty for lunch while I’m out.

4) Rand has a job interview tomorrow. I got tired of him filling out applications that he would fill out and leave all over the house so I made him sit down and apply for a job online. When they called to talk to him, I took the call and set up the interview. That man boy is going to start working!

5) Due to this post about my dream I am now the #1 google hit for anyone who is searching for “chimichanga breeding.”

How Long Until He's 18?

Someone asked this about Mike, and I encourage you to click here to find out exactly how long.

It's Me or Him

One of the things that I don’t blog about much is the tension that can be in a marriage when parenting older children who have experienced abuse and neglect. They have such a wonderful way of manipulating, triangulating, and pitting one parent against the other, that there is a level of stress, kicked up a notch, for married couples attempting to do this together.

Fortunately, Bart and I are both stubborn and that has helped us to remain committed to working out our difference before we go to sleep regardless of how late that is. And something else that is fortunate is that we also are often on the same page on almost every issue ... or at least we’re in the same chapter.

However, I have heard many families who are disrupting do so because either the mother or the father says to their spouse, “I can’t live like this. It’s either me or him/her.” And then the kid has to leave.

I’m blogging this because last night I had a dream that Mike showed up having run away from detention. In the dream I was way more upset about it than I am (I know, my subconscious talking) and so I was just beside myself. I expressed to Bart that I thought MIke needed to be put back in detention immediately and Bart was hesitating and I starting to “shriek” (as Bart calls it). That made Mike angry and though I didn’t say the words, I inferred to Bart that he needed to choose what he was going to do. Much to my surprise, he started to walk towards Mike and I left the scene and headed over to Kari's.

The part of the dream at Kari’s is just weird, but here I was all upset and all she could talk about was how much fun she had shopping for a variety of small screws at Menard’s. She asked me if I needed any, and what sizes, and suggested she’d even go to home depot if I wanted.

But anyway, I woke up very happy to be awake (and not just to escape screw-hunter Kari). I am so glad that my husband and I communicate better than that, that we don’t give ultimatums, and that we’d never put each other in that position. And I’m glad that Mike is safely locked up in detention.

I have a lot to be grateful for this morning.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A Few Hours Later

This just goes to show that things change. I blogged about each kid a few hours ago. Since then, Kyle has decided against the purchase, they have discharged John from the psych hospital already, Salinda apparently has dropped the idea, at least for now, of quitting gymnastics, and JImmy reports that he has been doing much better and the teachers are complimenting his behavior.

I just found it ironic that so many things changed in such a short time.

Self Help is Not Encouraging or "Want to Learn to Surf?"

(I got this painting from They don't know I took it, but I figured I better give them credit. You can see more of their paintings by going there).

This morning while Tony was in therapy, I read the first half of an Oprah magazine. I used to be motivated by self-help stuff, but lately it’s just been depressing.

Sure, I have a creative side. Sure I have ideas of how to improve my life and the life of others. Sure, there are things I want to do, and write and create. There are ways I want to change the world.

But lately when I read those things I get discouraged because I am pushed to the limit on every side of my life. Not only do I have two jobs and do a few things at church, but I have my kids and their multiple issues. Just today I am dealing with Kyle who wants to, as always, spend money he doesn’t have, Rand who hates giving rides to other kids because they don’t do things his way, Mike who is locked up in a place he doesn’t want to be and it’s (my fault), John who is in the psych hospital and telling folks it is because of his “family situation”, Jimmy who is getting in trouble in school every day for being annoying to his peers, Salinda who wants to quit gymnasitcs and is furious with me because I’m saying she can’t, Ricardo who refuses to read and is 13 and in the 5th grade, Sadie who is too stubborn and sneaky to obey the rules, Tony who calls me a Fat A** first thing every morning, and Dominyk who is eating himself into oblivion after spending years underweight. And that is only listing one issue per kid.

So, when I read an article telling me that I CAN exercise one hour a day, five or six times a week or an article telling me I should take time for something fun for me, or an article about how I need to go out and find a way to change the world, all I can think about is everything I am supposed to be doing.

And while I love my jobs and my kids and my volunteer stuff and church, I can’t even keep up with the things I want to do here, much less add more to my life.

It’s sort of like someone offering to teach me to surf when I know that if I stop dog paddling I’ll drown.

Getting Used to It

One would think that after a while, we’d just get used to it all. Yesterday for example, had all the elements of things we’ve already lived through. Anger, disappointment, defiance, disobedience, poor choices, selfishness -- things our kids have shown us for years. You’d think we’d get used to it.

But from early morning until 3 minutes before I went to bed at 11, someone was exhibiting some of this stuff. And I’m STILL not used to it. It still bothers me. It still makes it hard for me to go to sleep when I’ve just been completely defied over something small. It still makes me sick to my stomach when I see our man-boy off at college clearly displaying that he has not picked up our value system. It still makes me feel sad when a child takes out their poor choices on me.

I don’t know why I figured I’d get used to it, but I did, and I’m sure that my responses have toned down over the last ten years, but the same emotions are still there.

Apparently the boys ranch has decided to send John to the psych hospital to regulate his medications. This will be his sixth visit there in the past five years, and the last time we were there they offered us no hope that medications were going to be able to help John. It will be interesting to hear about the response of the staff there. I’m sure he’s thrilled -- he really likes some of the people there, so this will be a nice treat for him -- at $1,000 a day of insurance money.

I have designated today phone call day and as soon as I return from therapy with Tony I’ll be spending the day making phone calls that I need to make. I don’t really like talking on the phone much any more, but I’ll be glad to have those things crossed off my list. It’s getting fairly long.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Cold Feet

Today, like many days, my feet are cold. It happens when I am under a lot of stress. The court hearing and Mike’s stone cold silent stares were unnerving. I tried resting this afternoon because usually when i awaken I’m back to an equilibrium with my body temperature, but that didn’t even work today.

Tonight I’m in front of the fire that Sadie keeps feeding for me ( we keep burning cardboard because the logs are being stubborn) and drinking tea while I work. That’s the beauty of this great new laptop.

My feet are finally starting to warm up. Hopefully by bedtime they’ll be warm enough that I can sleep.

My trip was cancelled today and I’m enjoying being home and not on the road. 4 kids are playing hockey, Salinda is online talking to a couple friends, and Bart is reading in our bedroom. Dominyk is watching a movie. All is calm, and all is well.

Yes, He Did it Again

Mike found a way to be angry with us yet again.

Before court the probation officer's supervisor (becuase as you will recall, his P.O. is basking in California sunshine on her vacation) told us that after talking with Mike he would remain in detention until he went through a chemical dependency assessment. He had told them that he would really rather be in a group home in another town where he had been before.

I laughed and said several things. 1) It wasn't a detention facility and he had run from there multiple times. 2) I doubted they would take him back because they had pressed charges against him for damage to property. 3) He had gotten a dirty UA for smoking pot while he was there a year ago.

I was simply trying to save some time, but when his lawyer brought it up in court, the lawyer for the county quoted us at saying he had not had success there when he was there before. The judge said he did not want to hear about it from us (the lawyer offered that option) because he wasn't planning on putting Mike there anyway.

But of course, now Mike refused to speak to us on his way out.

In addition, Mike used John as his reason for not wanting to be in the facility they are sending him, stating that John had a violent criminal history and he was afraid that the connection with him would make him less safe. (This is supposedly his "closest brother."

It's just amazing how twisted his thinking is. He is saying now that he has smoked pot daily for two months and that he has experimented with several other substances. Last Thursday he supposedly wasn't using very often at all, was not addicted, and hadn't tried anything except marijuana. My guess is that his UA is going to demonstrate minimal marijuana use, but I could be wrong.

But here is the message that he gave today. "I am an addict and I need treatment. While I"m waiting for treatment, can you please let me go back to that place where I smoked pot before?"

His way of thinking is mind boggling.

But once again, his whole life will be our fault. We have ruined his chances at being where he wants to be.

And, by the way, the chemical dependency treatment program that they want to send him to is NOT where his friend is. So his whole plan is getting all messed up. And, if they tell us we have to pay for it, I'm not sure we're going to agree to, which I'm sure sounds horrible.

But I'm not sure he has a chemical dependency problem. I think he just thinks that this is a kind of place that might be more fun than house arrest. But again, God is the only one who REALLY knows, because we don't and Mike sure doesn't.

Not Really Surprised

Got a phone call this morning from John's worker at the Boys Ranch. Apparently he had been pretending to take his meds, but not taking them and gave them to someone else who took a few and ground up and snorted a few. He threw up and had a bloody nose, but is OK.

Sad thing is that the worker at the ranch and I were both completely NOT suprised. John continues to say that he doesn't want to take his meds, but if he doesn't he is violent and out of control.

He is saying how bad he wants contact with us, but he still won't take the medicine that he needs to take to keep from being aggressive and violent.

One of the things that amazes me is how clearly he can articulate what he wants in comparison to how little he is willing to do to get what he wants. But I suppose that's true for all of us in many ways.

The Day After a Disjointed Day

Things are a little bit of a wreck around here. My disjointed day took me off schedule and I didn't touch any laundry. And, the risk of leaving the kids home alone is that they go crazy with food. I'm glad this is the worst that happened, it could have been disastrous, but the little boys (who are far from little any more) ate so much food yesterday and ate it everywhere. So the house is messy, the laundry is piled up, and my inbox is overflowing once again.

Today we have court for MIke at 11:30 a.m. In talking with his Probation Officer's Supervisor yesterday, it appears that Chemical Dependency Treatment is where he will go, which is what he wants. What isn't going to make him happy is that he will probably have to sit in detention until they complete an assessment. And who knows what the assessment will determine.

Last night we were "served" our summons last night for John's hearing on Monday. They are requesting the judge to order him into permanent foster care. Since this county is known for doing that often, I think that will probably happen. (Since so many local people read my blog, I'm not going to give my opinion about this as a practice here.

I also have a trip to make to meet a potential adoptive family, so it's going to be quite a long day.

We've been through having a child move out of our home and into a residential before, several times, and I know how it will all happen around here. There will be a few days where we are getting used to it, and then, in about a week, we will start to notice the "little things" that everyone has been doing under the radar and start to deal with them. And after a while things will be back into shape around here.

Until there's another transition.

Monday, January 22, 2007

What a Disjointed Day

Today has been one weird day. I had been trying to help friends of ours get internet into their home since Saturday and finally, after spending a couple hours on that project today, I got that done. Welcome to the internet and to my blog, TS&S!

I also had to deal with MIke and get him into detention. I am also trying to compile proof that he was dealing drugs. It is all internet based and I am waiting for a call back from law enforcement. This also involved visiting with one of his friends and interrogating him.

And the kids (well, 4 or 5 of them anyway) have had the day off from school, so they have been in and out of the office just like I have. Bart took Jimmy with him on his trip today. They should be home in an hour or two.

i think I'll take the remaining children out for supper... and hopefully we'll have a calm night here tonight.

Sorry for all the weird posts lately. Hard to focus.

Not Taking the Compassionate Approach

While MIke was waiting to "turn himself in" I could not take the compassionate approach. If I had time, which I certainly do not (kids home from school, work piling up, other responsibilities) I could go through our conversations and explain everything I talked about.

But the bottom line is that I think this is Mike's new, creative way, of running away. He's trying to get himself into Chemical Dependency Treatment. Because he is addicted? I'm not sure. Because he has himself buried in a hole and sees no other options? I think so.

Somehow he has convinced himself that Chemical Dependency Treatment will be better than anything else he's tried. This, unlike Wilderness Detention Programs, Residential Treatment Programs, etc., is going to be the answer. If he can get there, he can run away from the fact that he has no job and just got fired. He can get away from the school he doesn't like and is not currently on target to graduate from. He can get away from House Arrest. He can get away from the over $500 (soon to be $2500, if the home monitoring people are telling the truth since he cut off and lost the anke bracelet) that he owes us. He can get away from whoever he owes money to in the community.

I'm not sure how much anyone will even ask us at this point what we think Mike needs. I will report to them what he told me. I will be truthful. I guess we will see what happens from there.

What to do, what to do...

Well, about 8:15, when I was reading through his internet history of dope selling deals, Mike shows up. I told him I could either take him down to the station or I could call the cops. I'm giving him some slack and letting him shower first, which I may regret.

He is asking us if we're still going to "be there for him." I told him we would, but had to point out the irony of us sticking by him when he has no respect for us, our posessions, or reputations. It's hard for me to care about if someone takes his shoes when he has stolen my bike yet again He told me where he THINKS he dropped it off.

If I recounted to you our conversation, you could see how messed up his brain must be. The stories he tells and the things he says just plain don't make sense.

I have 4 kids asleep now -- I will have to leave them alone here as Bart is heading to St. Cloud to speak at the Fatherhood Summit...

Sunday, January 21, 2007

For Those with the Desire but without the Memory

Now here is a great deal for people who want to send cards to others, but just don’t have time in their schedule to be remembering to buy cards to send people for their birthdays, anniversaries, etc. Even with the most organized system, it’s still a hassle to remember to send them on time.

However, sending ecards is a much better answer. Right how you can sign up for free, but a membership is as low as $13.99 for a year, allowing you to send as many as you want. And here’s the part that got me: You can have them scheduled to arrive on any day you choose. So, you can take an afternoon and schedule cards to be sent to everyone for the next year, cross that whole thing off your to do list and move on. Couldn’t be much easier or much more convenient.

So, do I take an afternoon or a chunk out of 25 afternoons in the next year? Do I spend the money on paper cards at $2 or $3 a card, or do I get a yearly membership for $13.99? Do I spend my time writing personal messages on the card, or do I quick type them and have my own custom designed cards and messages? Seems like a no-brainer to me.

Dreams and Reality

Having shared my chimichanga dream, there is nothing quite as exciting, though last night I did spend some time with the doctors at Seattle Grace Hospital (you know, the ones in Grey’s Anatomy). They were charming, most of the guys were in love with me (who wouldn’t) and I had to stop their advances because I was married (even though on the show that doesn’t bother anyone). Bart and I served them chips and salsa for breakfast because the first guy I was ever in love with was showing up for the day.

And then I woke up. And Bart was ironing his clothes, the snow was falling, I was not in Seattle, nobody was trying to kiss me, and, thank goodness, the first guy I fell in love with was NOT coming over for breakfast.

I’m wondering if because there is less sress I am getting more REM sleep. It would be nice if that were so. We are supposed to leave for church in 15 minutes. It’s looking like we might make it.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

And I Finally Have Time to Blog about Last NIghts Dream

I was very happy to wake up this morning, because I was having quite a strange dream.

The dream was about probation and chimichangas and stolen wallets.

First of all, it was about me and Tony (of all people) going to visit Mike’s probation officer. She was working at a farm for juvenile delinquents that bred chimichangas, sort of a youth work farm. Now, in real life you and I both know that a chimichanga is a tex-mex deep fried tortilla with stuff in it kinda thing. But in my dream a chimichanga was a large animal that sort of looked like a mountain goat but stood on all fours. In fact, this picture is almost exactly what they looked like in my dream. First, Mike’s Probation Officer showed us the artificial inseminator machine that they were using to get the female chimichangas pregnant. It looked sort of like a brass statue of a mountain on all fours. But then she took us to a new barn to show us the new male chimichanga they had purchased to breed the female chimichangas. It had an extremely large insemination device, but that’s beside the point.

While we were in the barn, I left the car unlocked. This is something that I might do. I am careless sometimes. But in this particular dream, Bart’s checkbook and IPod were in the vehicle. So, idiot that I was, I parked the car and left it unlocked at a JUVENILE PROBATION chimichanga breeding farm. Of course, when I got back, the IPod was gone and Bart’s checkbook was empty, no Driver’s License, no credit cards, no check blanks, nothing.

I was SO glad to wake up and realize that I was dreaming. So very glad. You can’t imagine the dread I was feeling knowing that I was going to have to confess that I had left the car unlocked at the juvenile probation chimichanga-breeding work farm.

What do you think Freud might do with that dream?

You Gotta Have a Thing

Today I had coffee with a friend and her daughter. I got on my soap box about having a passion -- having one thing that you care so much about that you can’t help but do it. A world-changing thing. An important thing.

I was telling my friend’s 14 year old daughter that one of my goals was to help her find her “thing.” I was on a roll and I was very intense. I hope I didn’t scare the heck out of her, but I hope I made an impression.

What I was telling her was that she didn’t realize exactly how fortunate she was and that she needed to make sure that she realized what a great responsibility she had. I explained to her that she had something that none of my children had. She has parents who loved her unconditionally from conception to today. Two of them. And she is an only child, so she has had them all to herself. She is very bright, very talented, and attractive. I told her, almost with tears in my eyes, that she needed to make sure that she wasn’t distracted by stupid stuff, because there was a world out there that needed changing, and she had every advantage and needed to be the one to change it.

I compare her life with the lives of our kids I am saddened by the contrast and I am motivated to make sure that she realizes the blessings she has. Adopting our kids has really opened my eyes to how many things I did not have to overcome in growing up. I was cherished from conception on. I was completely bonded to my parents and had no attachment issues. Not one minute of my life have I been neglected or abused or abandoned by my mom or dad. I have had every chance.

And I take that responsibility seriously and that’s why I have always known that it is my job to make a difference in the world. From the time I graduated from college until this very day, I have always had a “thing”, a passion. I articulated them in this blog post a while back.

And I still am convinced that we all need a thing. We need something to be passionate about. What’s your thing?

You Don't Know What You've Got Til It's Gone

You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone. That’s part of a song, but it’s about positive things. But the song is also true of negative things.

I almost feel like a bad person for saying this, but it is a relief that Mike is gone. (Mike, if you are reading this from somewhere, it is not because I don’t love you).

I would rather have Mike here. We love him. But when he is gone life here is so much different. The stress and the tension of wondering if he is going to be coming or going, whether he is using or selling drugs from here, if his friends are going to come, what he is going to steal next... it’s all very hard to live with. So when he leaves, we realize what we had -- and what we had was tension and stress.

And now that it is gone we realize that we had it.

So, even though I put up with the stress and the tension because I love Mike, and I realize the more time I spend with him, that his world is a mess and most of what he does is not intentional, it has still been a very relaxing day. Everyone here is in a much better mood. There hasn’t been a single meltdown. Everyone is getting along. We are more relaxed than we have been in months.

For lunch the girls and I went out for lunch and then we did some shopping. We donated a fair amount of cash to Target and Salinda got a haircut. We had a nice time. Then I went to the YMCA with Jimmy and Salinda and we played racquetball. Then I got to go out to coffee with a friend and her daughter, and it was a significant and meaningful time (provoking my next post).

I came home to a very peaceful house with everyone getting along. Bart, Ricardo and Tony had arrived home and the girls were actually allowing the little boys to be in their room. It was a great feeling. We had supper and I’m settling down in my office to blog. All is at peace.

Yes, I want Mike to be safe. Yes, I want him to be back home because I love him. But a break from the stress and tension is OK for now. And I’m going to enjoy it.

Parenting is Forever

Still no word from Mike. I don’t know how long it will be before we hear from him. I have some proof that he was selling pot and we will have to deal with that whenever he resurfaces. FASD is amazing. I told him that I was recording everything he did on the internet and he still was negotiating drug deals online.

I couldn’t sleep in very late this morning. Lots on my mind, lots to do. Every kid has issues that I need to deal with and that I feel I need to deal with in the best way I can, so that takes up a lot of my brain space. And then there is work on top of that, so I seldom have any time where I am not thinking, and sometimes that thinking keeps me awake.

I’m not trying to copy Cindy’s post title idea, but I did read her post called forever this morning, and it reminded me of when I was caught up in the idea of becoming a “forever” parent for my kids and what that might mean for them. I was thrilled with the idea of providing permanency and security. I looked at forever parenting from their point of view.

Now I am seeing that parenting is forever. Whether it is by birth or through adoption, parenting doesn’t stop when a child becomes an adult. it is a never ending challenge and, I would offer this: when you adopt children at an older age parenting is harder longer. We never have hopes of an empty nest. Even though on paper, any of our children SHOULD be able to live independently, I don’t know how many of them will really be able to. Lately I’m wondering if any of them will.

And getting them out of here really isn’t the goal -- it’s having them become contributing members of society. And I’m not sure what percentage will be able to do that.

So, where I used to see active parenting as ending when a child reaches adulthood, that dream is now dying. I see that active parenting continues on forever.

That reminds me. I need to call my mom.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Not Surprised but Quite Sad

Tonight I could tell something was weird. Mike was acting very strangely tonight. He asked for the clippers and apparently shaved his head, though he had it covered and wouldn’t let me see it.

He told me I needed to call his Probation Officer and explain to her that he needed chemical dependency treatment. I asked him why he hadn’t done so yesterday when he was telling her that he hadn’t been using any drugs at all. He explained that being on probation was really hard and that I didn’t know what it was like.

We had friends over for supper and so I didn’t have time to talk to him much. I did head down and see him putting stuff into a full backpack but he told me that he was just gathering his snowboarding stuff together. I knew something was weird.

About 7:45 Rand went downstairs and found a note. “claudia”, it said (yes, after 9 years, all the sudden I’m Claudia), “yup, if you got this I’m gone. This time when I’m locked up don’t give up on me. Maybe I”ll get some C.D. treatment. Love MIke. I’ll only going to be gone a few days.

I called the monitoring service to see if he was shown as missing. They said he was but they had to wait 30 minutes before calling the probation officer. She called a little later (apparently not quite gone on vacation yet) and if/when he returns they will have to lock him up.

I’m not surprised, but as much as I was angry this morning, I’m sad tonight. He seemed so sad. I feel pitty, I feel grief for what could have been -- for the person he would have been without organic brain damage. For the person he could be if he trusted us. For the way life might be if things were different.

Recovering from the Morning

After three hours at my desk, I’m feeling a little better about things. Now we’re heading out to have lunch and buy an external display for my computer. For the first time ever, I’m contemplating something other than an Apple product, and I know that I will most likely be disappointed. However, we just don’t have the $ right now for the quality I’m accustomed to.

I’m working on setting up a new training model based on the one used at You Gotta Believe where training is ongoing and families can start at any time. We’ll see how it goes.

Lots of exciting possibilities out there in my professional world right now, even though a lot of that is lacking with some of my kids. Fortunately, I know myself well enough to know that it won’t take me long to start feeling more hopeful about them as well.

But, even though it isn't about me I'm still MAD

Take this morning for instance. Little evidences everywhere that he’s been pilfering other people’s stuff. A 20 minute shower when he knows that lately we’ve been running out of hot water. I have asked him three times to get out of the shower. I started out fairly nice. I got less nice. It hasn’t mattered. He won’t get out.

So, even though I know that I am supposed to be patient, even though I know that as a good parent I would recognize his disability and be kind, even though I know that as a good parent, I would not get as riled up as I am at this moment.

But sometimes I AM NOT A GOOD PARENT!!!! sometimes i get mad.

Anxiety and the Not-Always-So-Obvious Conclusion that It's Not About Me

I didn’t sleep well. All kinds of thoughts probing my brain. Did his friends really actually smoke pot in our HOUSE? Did he really sell dope? If so, what will we do about it? How will we handle this? DId his P.O.’s vacation start today or will she still be in on Friday? Should we have the cops bring drug sniffing dogs here? What are we going to do?

Doesn’t make for good sleeping conditions and sometimes, I just can’t let it go.

So, today, which I had originally planned to be quite a good day -- no appointments, my husband home on his day out, has turned into a day which, if the sellee confesses to the transaction, filled with police, probation officers, etc. And today I didn’t WANT it to be a day like that. I wanted it to be an easy day.

And I must say again, that last night seven families talked to me about adoption. Seven families that I will attempt to persuade to adopt. Seven families who, one day, could be having the same kind of night I did last night.

But then in the midst of my moping patheticness, I realize that many birth parents end up with pot-smoking, pot-selling teenagers and they certainly didn’t sign up for it.

And, I realize, once again, the same conclusion to which I am forced to come often. It’s not about me. We didn’t adopt children so that we could have restful nights sleep and all good days. We didn’t do it so that we could feel happy all the time. We didn’t sign up because somehow we believed that our quality of life was going to be enhanced, our days would be more peaceful, and our lives would be carefree.

We did it because they needed someone who, at the end of a pot-smoking, pot-selling day, would be able to say, “No matter what, we still love you. After all, you’re our son.”

Thursday, January 18, 2007

But It Ain't Gonna Be Three in a Row

Two calm nights, but we didn't make it three in a row. Tonight has not been an inwardly calm night for me.

Tonight Bart and I had meetings. We took a risk and left five kids home. Mike, of course, had to be left home. He had a friend over (against our rules) and the whole house smelled very weird when we got home. He had showed me that he had some insense a couple days ago, and I had told him he couldn't burn it any more. Apparently tonight he decided he could. Or he was smoking pot.

We have heard rumors that he may have sold some pot last night. . . we're waiting to try to get more details before calling anyone.

I'm feeling quite a bit of stress, but know that this, as everything else has, will pass.

On a bright note, I had a great turnout for my meeting tonight -- a possibility of 6 or 7 good families to work with. I think some of them are pretty serious about adopting. That's always good news.

But signing people up to adopt on a day when I think my kid might be smoking pot in my basement and selling it to people seems a little weird. Come on, y'all -- join me in pergatory! That's my battlecry.

Way to Suck Up the Time

Well, the new computer arrived, and it is awesome! And it is definitely sucking up time -- getting things transferred and set up has taken nearly my whole day...

other than the lunch date and the meeting with the Probation Officer. That meeting went better than expected. Mike has actually been much more engaged and pleasant since the whole house arrest things started. Very weird, but I'm done trying to figure stuff like that out.

Tonight I have a meeting where I will attempt to recruit folks to adopt. I hope there are many who will. There are so many kids who wait.

Two in a Row

We have had two calm, pleasant nights in a row around here. In fact, we had a calm morning yesterday morning as well.

Last night after Wednesday night activities, everyone was calm and went to bed fine. The girls were borderline cheerful, which is a miracle in itself.

Today I have to do the social history with Mike and his Probation Officer alone (Bart has a funeral). Then tonight I have an informational meeting about adoption. I hope that there are several interested families that show up.

Bart and I also have plans to have lunch with someone.

So, busy day ahead. But a calm night and good sleep always helps to prepare for a busy day.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Rules for New Kids

Amie asked:

Specifically in older child adoption, what do you feel are reasonable expectations for the children once they are in your home? Mostly in reference to chores, modest clothing, TV, movies, music.....a lot of kids (mine will be 6-12) get to do things that I am not going to be cool with, I mean, we are not the Gaithers (not that there is anything wrong with that ;0 ) but I have a feeling our standards (limited TV, no short skirts/belly shirts, no rated PG-13 movies) are going to seem unreasonable to them. How can I senstively handle this?

Here are my thoughts:

Don’t change your family rules to accommodate kids coming into your home. Our rules are similar to the ones you listed, and our kids have had to respect them. We had 11 year olds coming in having viewed many R movies, and they went down to G or PG-13 if a parent was watching with them. We just made the rules and tried to enforce them.

I explain things like this to my kids. Every family is different. In some families everyone goes to everyone elses sporting events. In some families, they can’t afford cable. In some families girls can’t wear pants. In our family we do things a certain way.

Your responsibility is to go to school and try your best, participate in church activities, do one chore a day and dishes once a week, and obey our family rules.

The privileges of our family are that we eat out at least once a week, have pizza once a week, get great meals cooked by our awesome chef (my husband, and OK, so I got on a food kick), see a couple movies together once a month, give rides to our kids, let you be involved in sports that we pay for, clothes that you like (if they are reasonably priced), etc. etc. etc.

I equate responsibility with privilege and I remind them that it’s only for a short part of their lives that they have to live with me. I have been known to say things like, “When you move out of this house you can go around naked for the rest of your life if you want to, but if you live here you are NOT wearing that skirt.”

So, I recommend keeping your rules the same. I think as a blanket statement that kids don’t mind limits as long as they know they are consistently enforced and they understand what they are. Even if they think you’re nuts, you ARE the parents and you’re not nearly as nuts as you’re going to be after they live with you for a while. :-)

Motivated to Respond -- First Meeting

This is the first picture we ever saw of Kyle and Mike.

Moving Sheri to tears in my last post, I am motivated to respond to another question.

A reader asked about advice for the first meeting with a new child or children. I thought I’d encourage you to read Meeting the Boys a chapter from the book we’re supposedly in the process of editing to be published. It tells about when we met Kyle and MIke.

Here are some of my ideas about how a person should act and what one should do during pre-placement visits.

1) Keep things low key and as close to family living as you can so that expectations are not created. If your family goes to Chuckie Cheese once a month, but only gives out a dollar of tokens, for example, don’t give the new kid a $5.00 bill the first time you meet him ... or from now on it’s going to be an expectation. Doing lots of things that cost money will make them think that is always the way it is. If your family never orders dessert, don’t do it during the first visit.

2) Do not give them a lot of gifts. Again, you’re setting up an expectation and they are going to think this is only the tip of the iceberg. Many kids in foster care have attachment issues and they are not looking at a new family as “someone to love me” but as “someone to buy me stuff.” So, the more stuff you buy upfront, the more they will look forward to stuff, stuff and more stuff.

3) If you do give gifts, give gifts that focus on the relationship. A photo album or something with the family name on it are good options. A CD of family pictures, or of favorite family songs. Things that will make connections.

4) Plan activities that will involve interraction -- watching a movie is NOT a good example. Something active or something that involves communication -- board games, card games, etc. allowing for plenty of conversation are appropriate.

5) Realize that this is the ultimate in a honeymoon. It’s more like an arranged marriage first date. It’s OK to fall in love, but don’t think that this visit is what it is always going to be like.

First visits are fun. Enjoy them. But be careful not to set an unrealistic tone.

What Would It Look Like?

In a follow up question to what I would have done differently with Mike a reader asked what, practically, it would have looked like as she is facing the same decision.

Here are some things that I practically think I should have changed and what it would have looked like. I do not say “we” here, because Bart is much better at a lot of stuff than I am, and these were my issues, not his.

1) I would have talked a lot less (and a lot softer and a lot slower). I am a verbal processor and I talk a LOT. I am sure that by the time I finish a paragraph I start to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher to Mike. When I rant, he gets NOTHING of it. I would have used a lower tone and talked slower. But, most of all, I wouldn’t have talked nearly as much. My words did nothing but make me feel better for having said them (and sometimes they didn’t even do that).

2) I would have done “time ins” instead of time outs. Mike spent a lot of time in his room as a younger child. When he was about 13 and finally diagnosed with FASD, I read something that said, “By the time a child with FASD gets up to their room, they forgot why they were sent there.” If I were to do it again, I would have had him spend more time with me instead of less, even though I would have had to have more breaks.

3) I would have started PCA services much earlier. Getting Mike out to do positive things when I could not take any more of his screaming (he is a rager) or his behavior would have been so healthy for him. Instead, as I said, he was in time out. He needed LOTS of time doing very active things (he loves extreme sports) but he could not be left unsupervised. I would have gotten someone, PCA, hired person, big brother or something to get him out getting him VERY tired, instead of forbidding him from leaving just because there was noone to supervise him.

4) I would have found more positive things to say. This is a fault I have with all my children and something I am trying to do better with. I would have caught them doing something right more often and praised the little things.

5) I would have, as I mentioned, taken my focus off the behavior and worked on the relationship -- making him feel more special with little things, not taking away things to attempt to correct him through consequences (because it just made him feel deprived), more time together, etc.

6) I think the bottom line is that if I would have known now what I know then, i could have let go of my desire to fix things. I would have been able to see that most of what he did was because he “couldn’t” not because he “wouldn’t”. Now that he is almost 18, I can certainly see that he is not intentionally doing a lot of what he does. His mind is scrambled and he really doesn’t get much of what is going on.

7) I would have resisted the urge to make connections for him and left his crazy, illogical stories alone, just sitting there in the air, instead of having a compulsion to “set the record straight.” I think I have mentioned this before.

8) I would have felt more pity and less anger. For the first few years it all seemed so personal -- as if he was taking it all out on me, that I was the target and he was always on my case. It seemed like he was disobeying just to show me. Now I realize that most of what he does is unintentional. For the last few years what we have said is, “If it is this hard to parent Mike, it must be much harder to be Mike.”

I think I’m starting to repeat my old post some, but I hope this helps. To generalize, I would have thrown all “normal” parenting out the window and would have tried creative things. Kari tells a story of a mom who sewed her sons pockets shut because he kept pilfering things. That’s the kind of stuff I’m talking about -- out of the box thinking that changes the environment instead of trying to change the kid.

Is any of this making sense?

No Wood and Still No Chaos

I couldn’t find a piece of wood to knock on, but we still had an uneventful night. It was actually peaceful and calm around here. We needed that.

Today, because Bart is being gracious and agreed to take Tony and Dominyk to therapy (to this point I have always done it) I get to sit in my office all day long. I’m very excited about this because I have a lot to do. Tomorrow or Friday my new computer should arrive. It’s not a computer we have purchased, so don’t freak that we’re spending money we don’t have (those of you mother-ish types out there).

I only share that to say that I am going to try to clean and reorganize my office as well as catch up on a lot of emails, write a home study update and two finalization reports, and send out a LOT of homestudies.

A day like this excites me. By 7:30 I’ll be alone and able to focus. I may even have time to blog about a couple of topics suggested by readers last week or even upload video of Salinda on the balance beam.

Another day in the life. It may seem boring to most, but to me, uninterrupted time to produce, create, and check things off my to do list is a GREAT day.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Uneventful Night (or the internet as babysitter)

We had to go to parent’s night for gymnastics for Salinda tonight (I’ll hopefully post some video footage tomorrow). I sent Rand to the YMCA with 3 boys, Sadie agreed to keep Dominyk occupied, and I let Mike have internet.

I figured he’d get lost in cyber space and forget to call all his buddies to come over and it worked. I know now that he knows my blog address so I won’t elaborate, in case he reads this, on all the things they might do if they were here.

Bart and I had a nice time alone together watching our graceful and beautiful daughter compete. She has a lot of potential, but she hates it and can’t wait to join basketball next year.

So far it’s been a pretty good night at the Fletchers, but why oh why do I say that? You know now that unless I find some new wood to knock on, that we’re in big trouble now.

What Got Broken Yesterday

Maybe I should blog each day what gets broken here. Yesterday morning, Tony grabbed my computer’s external microphone and slammed it over and over again on the table because I told him he had to wait until Bart came home to have a package of YoGos. Yup, $30. Fortunately (or unfortunately) it was the microphone that I had had to replace because someone had stolen it. I hadn’t seen it in months, so I already had a new one.

Yesterday afternoon Dominyk came in to talk to me and sat on top of the paper shredder, which apparently he used to do quite often before he gained 30 pounds on Abilify. This time it didn’t go so well. It’s still usable, but it’s a nice shredder and to replace it would cost over $100.

After supper Jimmy decided, that since nobody was watching him and nobody would know who did it, he could kick a soccer ball in the house, breaking our 20 x 24“ family picture frame. That’s gonna be about $20, but HE’s paying for that one.

So, another day another $150.00 in damages. This really is how we live. Our kids, raised in chaotic environments, even though they have lived with us for years and been taught differently, are still careless, even when they aren’t angry.

Today’s another day. Maybe we’ll make it through without anything breaking. or not.

And Bart, if you're hearing about this for the first time here, Dominyk told me he was going to confess to you. If he didn't, bummer that you have to find out by reading the blog, I just haven't really had time to talk to you about stuff like this laterly when we're trying to decide on other issues like how to survive HOUSE ARREST.

Monday, January 15, 2007

And it Just Keeps Getting Better and Better

II went to the dentist with Tony because he chips his tooth we find out that it is a baby tooth and that unlike most people, he has no permanent tooth coming back in, so the dentist tried to save the tooth. It may be saved, it may not. While waiting for this news, I got a call from Bart. Mike has been fired, making his house arrest all the sudden become an extra 40 hours a week, his entire senior project completely screwed because it required him to snowboard another 100 hours, AND means that his paycheck will not be coming in to pay back the money he owes us.

His story is that people he doesn’t know lied and said he stole some snowboarding goggles and sold them. Who knows what really happened. But the bottom line is that he is angry, his future schooling and work possibilities are all messed up, and he’s stuck here ALL the time. He’s already spraypainted in his room since he’s been home, something he’s not supposed to do and the whole house reeks, but it’s freezing cold so we can’t open any windows.

And, to top it all off, it sounds like Salinda’s best friend may be moving and even if that doesn’t happen, she is probably grounded, leaving Salinda without anything to do.

Bart has a meeting tonight and I get to sit at home and parent amidst this mess. I really wish I there was a pause button on our lives so that I could push it and get a break and then take it all in small doses over the next few weeks.
Because living it straight through is going to be VERY difficult.

Hi, my name is Claudia, and I'm a Control Freak

Parenting my kids has really showed me just how much of a control freak I am. I want things to go a certain way. I want to know what is happening all the time. I want to make things turn out right. And I’m learning every day that I can’t make it all work out right even if I try hard.

I also have a huge need to be right and have people know that I’m right. LIke last night, Mike told me an obvious stupid story that made no sense. It took all my willpower to keep from pointing out to him how wrong he was. Instead I said nothing.

But you know what? Today I was entertaining thoughts of saying something to him like, “MIke, just because I don’t say anything doesn’t mean that I agree with you, or that your lies or working, or that I think you’re telling the truth.”

See, I am a mess.

I have been trying to blog for 2 hours this morning. We don’t have school because of MLK day and I have been trying to keep everyone settled and meet their demands. Bart is home off and on today as well, but he was gone taking the older boys to breakfast and then taking Jimmy out for a reward for shoveling. So I was here trying to appease the rest.

I think now, at this moment, all are appeased and engaged in something. Later I have to get some clothes for a few of them -- something I used to enjoy when they were little and now just a battle for everyone except Dominyk (who went from a 12 slim in June to a 16 Husky in January thanks to his new meds. And I really don't even want to go outside when it is below zero or close.

I also have some work to do. We’ll see if that gets done.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Electrical Outlet

Sometimes I feel like I am one of those unsafe overjammed electrical outlets -- with several power strips on them and the cords coming in from everywhere.

Each cord is a teen or preteen sucking energy out of me. Now grant it, they don't all always suck. Sometimes nothing is plugged in, and sometimes there is actually some recharging going on.

But sometimes it feels like everyone is sucking everything out of me all at the same time. Yesterday was one of those days. By last night I was just exhausted.

Today has been better, but I am looking forward to bed. We had supper out together (had to try twice because the first time we didn't even all make it into the van before there was a fight.... but the 2nd round was pretty fun.

Tonight we're cozy in our home while it is cold and snowy outside and there is no school tomorrow for 6 of the kids. The girls are spending the night at different friend's houses, and I'm going to sleep in.

It appears that I have survived yet another day of too many suckees sucking and I'm getting recharged. And I'm glad.

Five Minutes to Go and We AREN"T Going to Make It

This morning on multiple levels there has been stress and we are not going to make it out the door on time. ALmost every Sunday we do, but today we aren’t going to .

We’ll still be in church on time, I hope, but we won’t make my goal.

Possible blog topics, if I had time, might be:

how there is no safe way to confront MIke about anything because he always responds in anger;

how I am amazed that 14 year old girls can’t figure out that it is NOT OK to throw things at the driver;

how I am amazed that an 18 year old can’t figure out that he needs to tell someone the FIRST time his riders throw things at him;

how the poster child for ODD can still get a rise out of a few of my buttons even after 10 years...

Future blog topics WILL include:

The Electrical Outlet Syndrome

The Way Old Fletcher’s Had a Home....

Tune in for those sometime soon.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Thinking About Limited Internet Usage for the Children

Last May I took away internet privileges for everyone but Bart and I. Just wiped it out. Cold turkey.

Now I am contemplating giving it back, with limited access and a keystroke recorder that records everything that is written.

I’m debating even getting a more expensive program that would take screenshots every five seconds so I can see everything that is going on.

And I would give each child one hour a day to start with as an experiment. And if I got arguing and lip, it would just reinforce my decision that they really don’t want it back.

It took me a long time to think of any reasons to give it back, but now that Salinda is getting so good at photography and might be able to sell some of her shots and Mike is making some awesome tattoo designs (like the one above that he did, unsolicited, with my name) that he could sell on line, I am thinking there may be some reasons.

So, I’m thinking about it.

Am I stupid?

Tech Gadgets

I wouldn't classify myself as a Techie, by any stretch of the imagination, but there I do love technology and all that it can do for me. I came across Techzoogle, a site which highlights all the newest gadgets. Since I don't have lot of time to surf the net getting answers to be questions or finding out what is out there, Techzoogle can be the one that introduces me to the latest technology.

A perfect exampe is the IPhone that I posted about earlier... the basics of it are all quickly covered in this blog post. The Iphone's gonna change my life and this announcement is exactly the kind I need about a new product -- lots of information but not too long to read. The most important basics all right there.

I'm glad I came across Techzoogle, because with the amount of time that I spend and the computer and the lack of time I have to research the latest computer stuff, it's a great resource.

(This post has been sponsored).

Decision Made and All Was Well

As far as I know, my decision to quietly warn the girls to stay to themselves and then go to bed went OK. I think Mike was tired from his middle of the night escapades the night before, so I think he settled down. However, He may have done some other things inside the house that I’ll find out about later.

I work up much earlier than I had to and couldn’t get back to sleep so I’m at my desk seeing how much I can get done before I am in the thick of Saturday parenting.

I’m very far behind with work and my office is a mess. I have tried hard not to work weekends lately, but I think I am going to have to make an exception -- especially considering there is no school on Monday and if I’m this far behind and then try to work Monday while the kids are home we’ll all be very crabby.

The picture above is one that Mike asked me to take -- shows what he looks like while at work...

Friday, January 12, 2007

Decisions, Decisions

Bart made a beautiful fire and I'm sitting in front of it with my laptop. He is reading a book and we are overhearing Mike bad talk us on the phone. I'm guessing I'm going to have to wait another hour at least for a phone call from Salinda to come pick up her and her friend from a gynastics meet to stay here for the night.

Mike is home from work and has to be here. He doesn't want to be here. He wants to run the streets as he is accustomed. But if he does he will set off his ankle bracelet and he'll get thrown into detention.

I am at a loss as to what to do tonight. I would like to just go to bed like I usually do after the girls get home, but with Mike here I'm not sure I can. I do not want him to invite friends over while we are asleep ever, but I especailly don't want him to invite anyone here when Salinda has a 13 year old friend spending the night.

So, I can either stay up and "police them" or I can go to bed and worry. I'm not finding any peace in either of those choices. I am not finding any peace in the whole house arrest thing, no matter how hard I try to do so.

So, the fire is beautiful. I wish there was peace in the my heart that corresponds to the peace in the house right now and the peace and warmth that the fire communicates. But instead, my heart and mind are pulsating with stress while my surroundings are actually calm.

Outward calm here is not typical. It's too bad that I can't have inward calm when we actually get some outward calm.

Such a Crazy Few Hours

Wow. It was a marathon for a while around here. First of all, I was trying to make an online purchase and my credit card wouldn’t go through. It took me a long time (almost 4 hours) to figure out that mess.

in the meantime, i was doing the ankle bracelet for Mike. He was insinuating I should pay the deposit on it (no way, buddy, I didn’t break the law). He’s take on it .. he’s our kid and we’d do it for the other kids. I don’t THINK so, son). He then told the guy putting it on that if he broke his leg snowboarding with it on he would sue the company. The guy said, “I don’t have to put it on at all. In fact, you can march right on out to my truck and I’ll take you straight to detention.”

We then had to hook it up so that Mike was connected via sattelite to some box that has to be here in my office. Very annoying situation.

AFter that I had to deal with Jimmy who had stolen the girls CD this week and allowed Tony to get mercilessly tortured for it. I also had to talk to him about how he continues to be disrespectful, noisy, inappropriate and rude at school. Then I moved to Sadie who was not handling a situation well regarding her plans for the evening.

It was non-stop not fun parenting for quite some time.

Mike was under house arrest for only one hour tonight before he went to work. Apparently, he can get exceptions for going to work, so he is planning to “work” a lot over the next few weeks. He will at least not be here. DUring the hour that he was here, 4 kids ended up down in his room and cigarettes were lit and walls were spray painted.

It’s going to be a long haul until he blows this, which may or may not take long.

BUt for now he’s supposedly at work. I know that I won’t sleep well knowing that if he leaves the house after 9:30 they are going to call here. AAGH..... At least he’s got himself going to work.

Hating the Wait

Well, on day two of Mike’s probation (which was yesterday) he was in by curfew, but then snuck out of the house at night. Today he didn’t come home from school.

When his Probation Officer heard, she got an order from the judge to put him under house arrest (not anything we’re excited about).

Then she ran into him at Best Buy. Told him he had until 1:30 to be home or he would be put in Juvenile Detention. He was only 6 minutes late.

They are supposedly coming here to put on his bracelet sometime in the next couple hours. How exciting will that be?

I hate waiting for people like that to come to our home. I don’t know if he’ll stay around long enough to get it or not. And then, we have to live with him here knowing that he can bolt at any minute.

I don’t know what his point is -- maybe he just figured he won’t make it so he wants to get it over quickly. Or possibly, no probably, he just doesn’t think.

I can’t imagine what it is going to be like having him home all the time. We’re the ones who are being punished.

My extremities are cold (but that could be because it’s like 5 degrees outside). I’m not feeling very happy. I’d just like to have it all go away. But it isn’t going to.

Don't Know How it Happened

But I slept until 8:20 this morning! Now I'm heading to get a haircut and then I'll be on my way home...

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Bedtime Anywhere is Still Bedtime

I'm staying with friends in luverne. It's been great to catch up and find out how everyone is. They have 3 kids, all "normal," all by birth and they are having a hard time getting them to go to bed.

it's kind of funny... bedtime is always bedtime.

How Weird is This?

I'm sitting outside our old church parked in the cold "borrowing" the wireless internet system that Bart and I helped to get up and running a few years ago.

I'm heading to my meeting soon...


Sometimes i have to give my body a restart. This morning I was working fast and furiously. Sent over 100 emails in a little over 2 hours. It was crazy.

But eventually it’s like I’m using up all my RAM and my brain can’t function any more. I know that if I don’t relax a little that I can’t go at that pace and stay sane. So I lie down for 30 minutes and “restart” my system.

I just finished doing that and I feel quite a bit calmer, which is a good thing as I’m getting ready to drive a couple hours...

Just getting things ready to go now. Hopefully I’ll find a wireless place somewhere in the next 24 hours or y’all are gonna be worrying.

The IPhone

Nobody is paying me to write this, but I WILL have one of these IPhones as soon after they come out as I can get my hands on one. I’ve been saving my blog income for something special and by the time they come out I should have enough to get one.

This gadget will revolutionize my life. I can process email from anywhere, what I do all the time -- so that I can have more freedom. When I’m travelling or sitting at the pool watching the kids swim or when I’m stuck on a plane for hours or anywhere I am I can be getting work done that at this point I have to sit here to do.

For example, this morning it has been like I have been sitting in front of an email firing squad. Since I started emailing at 7:00 a.m. I have had emails coming at me like a firing squad of machine guns with messages as ammo, and I want to get caught up before I leave SO BAD. But next year at this time, there won’t be that pressure, because it will all be able to come with me.

I am going to get an IPhone. And I am going to LOVE it.

They Came Back to Life

During late November and in December, many social workers are focusing on other things besides getting kids matched. So I don’t have much I have to do.

It’s almost like they all died out there. My emails don’t get answered and everything is very quiet.

Well, this week they woke up. Yesterday when we left for lunch I had 29 emails in my inbox. By the time I was done in court it was 85 requiring action (that’s after I delete junk and stuff I don’t need to reply to). Now I’m up to 103 and this day hasn’t begun.

This afternoon and evening I’ll be gone. I’m heading out to the SW corner of the state where we used to live to do a home study update visit and I’m spending the night there as to not have to travel home late at night. I’m also going to get a haircut and visit with a great friend.

But between now and then I have to deal with all of these emails ... sending studies flying around this country like crazy, trying to match kids with their families they can finally be home.

The First Night of Probation

First, I need to share this little FASD moment. Yesterday, I went to lunch with Bart and I could only eat about half of my meal so I decided to save it for after court. I brought it in in a box and set it on the counter. Bart went and picked up Mike (who had just finished his lunch hour at school) and brought him home to change. I came upstairs to get in the car to go to court and there was Mike, munching on my sandwich.

How can a brain just not think to consider if food belonged to someone else? It was still warm! DId he really truly not consider anything about it’s origin, it’s owner, it’s purpose? Or does he just not care?

A second piece of this is the UA (which we don’t have results yet). Mike went to the bathroom and was gone a very long time at around 2:00. We went into court and we were out by 2:30. The P.O. didn’t have time to do the UA and set it up for today. Mike by 3 had to go to the bathroom so bad he couldn’t take it. Bart said he saw him drink gallons of water, probably trying to wash the drugs through his system. (This is after he told the P.O. it would come out clean)

Anyway, we went to court and came home with Mike on probation until they do a social history. He needs to abide by family rules, which I told her to define. I explained that she needed to be specific. She said we needed to know where he was at all times and that he needed to be in on time.

I am going to call her today and let her know that Mike doesn’t even know where he is at all times, so how can he let us know???

Anyway, I digress. So, yesterday afternoon after court he says that he has a ride to work with a friend. He waits around a while and the friend comes to get him. His curfew is 9:30, so I made sure nobody was on the phone after nine so we could take his call and go pick him up from work.

At 9:50 he shows up, having never called us. “We needed to drop someone else off before we got here.” I reminded Mike that we had been available to come pick him up and that we would have gotten him home on time. He apologized.

So, as a little lesson in reality, I’m going to explain this to the Probation Officer. In this circumstance, did Mike violate curfew? I’ll be interested in her response.

So, on his first night of probation he technically violated it. Simply amazing.