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Preview: Thoughts from a Foster Family

Thoughts from a Foster Family

One family's journey through foster care. The stories are true, but all the names are changed.

Updated: 2018-04-24T14:36:09.294-06:00


Me and my grandson


Me with my grandson, Gary's son, Rowan.

Gary isn't mad at me any longer.

An update just in case you are still reading


I feel like I left this blog hanging, like there should have been an end and there wasn't.

The stories in this blog continue, but generally we are all well.

Andrew is completing his MAT and expects to be a high school teacher. He is still with Alice. Alice feels like she has two bad choices: the wedding her mother wants to give her or the anger her mother will experience if they elope. So she continues to take the third path: the frustration her mother feels that they continue to live together. When she tells me about this Andrew just listens and smiles. It is clear he is ready to do whatever Alice decides, whenever she decides to do it. She is a graphic designer who likes her job. One of my small gift certificates at Christmas for the kids was a gift card to Albertson's (grocery store). She grinned and said, "I designed this one!"

Brian is living at home again. He is working at the Humane Society. Right now he is a lowly animal attendant. "My life is poop!" he says grinning. The Humane Society is expanding and he is hoping to eventually work in Animal Control. He has far too many animals. As long as they stay in the basement I can deal. He brought home a rescued tortoise a month ago. It disappeared from the gardening box in which it lived. We searched the back yard daily assuring ourselves that there was no way he (Vladimir Pushin) could get out. A week ago he came home having announced that Vladimir had got out and had been turned into the reptile rescue in the next town. I was skeptical, but he showed me the identifying marks. Brian went to dig out the gardening box so it was deeper and harder to get out of -- and, you guessed it -- found Vladimir happily burrowed and hibernating. So now there are two tortoises.

Carl lives in Portland. I've erased the paragraph I wrote about him. I will say just that he faces may struggles and we love him.

David lives in Florida. For the past few years he has been managing a hotel for a national chain. He is no longer with the young man we liked so much, but he seems happy. I do miss him.

Evan is the one I see most often. He has been with same young man for more years. They are lovely together and wanting to move out of their apartment and into a house. There may be mixed feelings there. The partner wants to move partly so they can have more pets. Evan would like to move so that he won't feel so crowded by the pets they have. There may be some concern that the the crowding would not be better for very long. Evan is 'the IT guy' in a company you have heard of. He is happy.

Gary is mad at me. He moved back in after my mother did. We told him at the time that we were happy to let him live here, but we could not take care of him as we did when he was a teenager. Most particularly we would not be his taxi service. That went about the way you would expect. He didn't want to get a job here because he really wanted to move to The City (or what passes for such), but he couldn't move because he didn't have any money. It didn't end happily. We have gone through rocky stages with the other boys and I am confident we will get through this too.

My sister did divorce her terrible husband. She graduated from college, currently works for a bank and lives with a very nice man who wants to marry her. She says she just can't get married again -- ever. She is happy.

My mother ... well, that might be a new blog. I may need to do that. She currently lives in a long-term care hospital. It is just three blocks from where I work so I eat lunch with her just about every day.

I want to thank all of you who helped me keep my sanity through the foster care years.  Be well.

No Empty Nest


A new blog is coming. I'm thinking of calling it "No Empty Nest." There is a lot to tell you but here is the summary of the last few months.

Life with my mother is good. Particularly now that we are out of her hair and she has hours alone every day. She is doing more housework. She doesn't like doing dishes or vacuuming in front of us since she moves so slowly. She seems to feel good about being able to be helpful, and I certainly do appreciate the help.

The real news is my father. Where to start?  So you all remember he got married right? His wife left late last spring to visit her parents in China. Dad started getting a bit weird about it. He doesn't talk much on the phone, but well, let's just say I had decided that he must have started drinking again. He apparently thought that Mom moving in with me was such a good idea that he emailed Sis, who is getting divorced (more on that too) and said that she should find an apartment they could share in Minnesota. Sis decided that was a good idea, found a place and she, my nephew and my father moved in.

Within a week Sis realized that Dad was suffering from some form of dementia. It seems that Dad was aware that he was having more trouble managing his life. Moving in with Sis just seemed to him to be the obvious solution. Particularly since his marriage was in trouble. That is another story I will have to come back to.

Anyway, Dad left California with one small suitcase of clothes and his wallet. We learned from the tenant who rents the apartment at the back of the house, that the place was left in shambles. He (the tenant) has cleaned the place up and put all the paper work he can find on the table. There is a court date for the divorce in just over a week, and I am flying to California this weekend to go through the previously mentioned paperwork, possibly meet with the divorce lawyer, and maybe take statements from people. Sis is making a list.

So how's that a teaser for a new blog?

The Hard Part


Before Mom moved in I told a colleague that I was sure that having Mom here would be difficult in ways I didn't expect. It is. Mostly it is easier than I even hoped. Mom clearly came deciding that she was just going to adjust to the way we do things. We don't keep the house as tidy as she would, she doesn't complain. She doesn't make veiled comments about my weight like I feared she would. (In the past it wasn't that she said mean things. It was more that she always noticed and complimented me if I lost any weight. She said mean things about OTHER people's weight problems. That combined made me feel bad.) Anyway, mostly living with her is good.The hard part turns out to be money. She is indirectly far more expensive than I expected. Her direct expenses are of course minimal. Her impact on the grocery bill is nearly nil. She pays all of her own personal expenses. We even use her car, which she maintains, insures, and supplies with gas, whenever we have to take her anywhere.So how is she expensive? My mother has always been very frugal, which has also meant that if there was something important she needed, she had the money for it. She expects me to be able to do the same.So, for instance, the bathroom. Mom needed it to be renovated. I told her that I needed her to pay for it. Because of the inconvenient window, we hired someone who would do a custom tile job. No way would any pre-fab unit fit. They guy came, we think very highly of him. It was his idea to move the toilet. That would cost an extra $300, but it was such a good idea. In retrospect I suppose I should have said, "great, now install a pre-fab shower/tub and your great idea will mean that we will pay you less." The truth is that I didn't even consider it. The extra $300 was in Mom's budget, just barely, but still under. Then I realized that the shower faucet set up that the contractor was going to use would be great for just us, but for an extra $50 I could get the ADA compliant one that would be SO much easier for her to use.  I'd have to pay the extra, but how could I not? THEN I realized that moving the toilet and tub meant that there would be three small holes in the floor where the tub plumbing used to be. I debated what to do. I could leave it, I suppose. So there are holes in the floor. The obvious answer is to pay a very reasonable amount of money to have the floor tiled to match the tub surround.I considered not repainting the kitchen which I had been planning on doing since before Mom said she was moving, but my father sent me money for my birthday and there was enough to cover it. When it was done Mom said that I really should put up knobs and pulls. I asked if she needed them and that if she did, I would split the expense with her. She said she didn't really need them, but that my nice painting job was going to get messed up if I didn't add the hardware. After she mentioned it a couple times, I just bought the pulls.Our AC really isn't very effective and it gets hot here. She said that if it was okay with us, that after she caught up with having paid for the bathroom, she pay her next installment for "room and board" by replacing our windows in the living room with some like she put in her house (translation: high quality ones). We tried not to jump up and down for joy at that suggestion. She said that that would probably help keep the room a whole lot cooler, and did I think we could afford to add a window AC unit? I said sorry, but we really couldn't. THEN Roland told me today that he thinks that he thinks it might not even be safe for a elderly woman to be in a house that often hits 83 degrees in the afternoon (it is a dry heat), and he has ordered a window AC unit.She has noticed that I have repainted every room in the house except the living room. She said she really doesn't like this color and that should be my first project next summer. I told her that I wasn't going to do it. I'd LIKE to do it, but see, the wallpaper under the windo[...]

Bathroom renovation pics


I plan to update this daily.

Day 2:

As you can see, we decided on a regular tub instead of either a walk-in (tub or shower). This one is lower than average, which will make it easier for Mom to climb in. There will be grab-bars aplenty of course.

bathroom renovation


Remember the posts about the need up renovate the bathroom for Mom? The big issue was that there was an inconveniently placed window. This is what my bathroom looked like this morning after we took out the shower curtain, rugs and towel bars:

After what the builder called "demolition" and I prefer to call "de-construction," the bathroom looks like this:

We are going to move the toilet to the spot next to the window! Problem solved. This solution is possible because the laundry room, which is directly under the bathroom has no ceiling. All the plumbing is easily accessible.



***This is a post I intended to work more on and publish a couple of weeks ago. Here it is...

Sis and Niece got here the other day. I love them, I really do, but it is rather like having Adrian Monk, and his not-evil twin, move in. After much debate Jennifer decided to clean my kitchen first. Now, before she got there I cleaned the kitchen so that she would not be too horrified. I did all the dishes, put everything away, wiped down the counters. I thought it looked pretty good. It wasn't deep-clean, but it was respectable.

I've been working on Mom's bedroom (another story) and as I left them in the kitchen I heard Niece say, "What's wrong Mom?"

"I'm just so overwhelmed."

"It's okay, Mom. Just pick one spot and clean that and then pick another spot."

I was in and out of the kitchen of course. When we were eating dinner (cooked by Niece) I looked up at the upper cabinets which have glass doors. Everything was so shiny. "Did you clean every single spice jar?"

"Yes!" says my sister, Adrianna Monk.

I turned to my niece, "Does that seem just a bit excessive to you?"

Niece, clearly trying to be gentle with me says, "They were very dirty."

Gary not-officially moved out


So, the last time I saw Gary was Friday evening when he waved cheerfully and said he was spending the weekend with his friend ... the one he is planning on moving in with. He called the house yesterday and spoke to Roland saying that he was going to stop by to pick up his check. Roland said there was no check, and Gary said he would try again another day. I'm not sure what check that is, although it may be his last paycheck from the restaurant.

He still has quite a bit of stuff here, which is why I suspect that he is considering himself as still "visiting" his friend and not moved in. His friends parents have invited him to stay. Their terms are remarkably similar to ours.  We asked for 5 hours or $50 a week. They are asking for $100/month and a couple of hours of chores a week. So I suspect they are taking him in since he is such a nice boy (which is true), and his adoptive parents are cruelly prioritizing birth family and shoving him out the door (which is misleading at best).

My sister, whom I've named "Adrianna" after spending two weeks cleaning my house with her, first said that the friend's parents probably think we are kicking him out. She thought I would be shocked or at least hurt. It is old news. Besides, I don't think Gary really made it that dramatic. He would have just said that he didn't know where he was going to live because members of the "real" family were moving in and there wasn't enough room for him.

I figure it will be a learning experience for the parents. Stephen figures this is the beginning of Gary's "couch-surfing" career and that he will be back. Since he hasn't "officially" moved out, moving back in will be easy. He just has to show up and say it turns out it wasn't going to work out at the friend's house after all. We will let him, of course. Growing up is not easy.

I spoke with Andrew again about the terms for him living here. I told him that if it was in the house he could use it or eat it, but if it wasn't he had to buy it. He also had to pay for his own gas. His "rent" will be paid primarily in planning and cooking our dinners. I may get very, very spoiled for a while. At this point his girlfriend is not "officially" moving in. That is fine with me. I imagine that she will live part time at her house and ours. If she moves in here she has to bring her cat, whom she does not think will be happy here, and since she is committed to helping to care for her younger sister anyway, she might as well still live there.

Brian is doing a litter of foster kittens again this summer. This time it is five kittens with no mother. We thought that would be easier on the rest of the animals.

I'll write a whole post, or maybe even start a new blog, to talk about my mother, but I will say here that things are working out well.

Mom in 30 days (ish)


Yep, Mom's move-in date is quickly approaching! It is final weeks at work. When I am not here, I am working at the house. I know that we have done a lot of de-cluttering, but there is always more. Roland and Gary are going to clean out the garage. I told Roland that if there are any boxes that have been there since we moved in 18 years ago, he should take them to the thrift store without showing them to me. He agreed, after making sure I wasn't trying to make him do the same thing with HIS boxes.

Over the past few days I have painted the bedroom Roland and I are moving into. I really should have just painted it the soothing neutral with white trim that I wanted and never asked Roland what he thought. I asked Roland though and all he cared about was that the room was as light as we could make it. I let him pick the main color: a light neutral with yellow undertones ("Seaside Sand"). Then I tried to do the trim. I didn't like the white I bought to go with it. Then I didn't like the slightly darker neutral that I thought would coordinate well. So then I bought testers of two darker neutrals and picked one. I finished the trim and then when I went to work the next day I realized that I had painted my bedroom in the same colors as the interior of the building. I told Roland that I was very sorry, but I HAD to buy a new color for the trim in the room. When I told him why, he completely understood. So today I am going to buy a quart of a dusty rose color.

I hope I can get that mostly done this evening. Tomorrow evening I am committed to pre-baking pizza crusts for Thursday's department dinner at my house. Everyone knows the state of my existence right now, so I won't be trying to clean the house for them.

Friday I plan to clean the carpet in that room and Roland and I will move our things in over the weekend.

Wednesday, May 16, I have a meeting with the dean, must turn my grades in by noon, and expect my sister and niece to arrive in the evening. We will spend the next two weeks on the rest of the house. Then we fly to Pennsylvania to drive Mom back!

So I have constantly updating lists in my head: lists of things to be graded; schedule for the next three days; goals for the next week; things that will be easy to cook for dinner while my sister is here.

One thing I want to do is get estimates for bath renovation for Mom. The house is 80 years old and we still have the original claw foot tub. I love the tub, but it is definitely NOT ADA compliant.Nothing is going to be simple. There is no alcove. The walls are just painted; and there is a large window that would prevent installing most pre-made units. So I'm pretty sure the options are: freestanding, walk-in tub; custom shower; or a bath with hand shower.

In other news, today is Gary's first day at his new job. He is working in the kitchen in a small restaurant next between the winery and the "fruit ranch" just outside of town. You know the one, right before you cross the river at Lizard Butte.

The Rental Agreement


So I talked with Gary, over his 1pm breakfast, about his rental agreement. He looked like he was just barely able to keep from rolling his eyes. When I got to the payment for room and board being $50 a week, payable in 5 hours of course a week he said stunned, "A WEEK?"

"Yeah. 5 hours a week"

"That is freaking lot of hours."

We talked on and I mentioned some things he could do today. "I don't have time today! I have to train from 3-8, everyday."

I took a slow quiet deep breath and did not mention that that was 5 hours, every day. Hours that he is training because he wants to. Hours for which he is not getting pain. Instead I told him that I had a list that Roland had made of things he could do so the chores did not pile up. He did not quite resist rolling his eyes at that. I said I thought it was a good offer, and was actually less that Andrew and Alice were going to be doing. He said, "Yeah, but I don't even get my own room, so what's the point?"

He went on to tell me that he could move in with his best friend for $175/month. He would have to sleep on a sofa, but he could create a private space. It was in the same town as his gym and the community college so it made a lot more sense than staying here. Especially since he doesn't even have a car anymore.

I agreed that it did sound good and asked if he had made any definite plans yet. He said no.

I kept my voice calm and unemotional throughout. In the inside there was another voice being loud, yelling about how the ungrateful little shite has being doing nothing for months and offering to pack up his things and move them to his friend's right now. I don't like that part of me, but it has been trying to get out recently.

I feel badly about being so happy and relieved that he might really move out.

I want things to be better for him and I want to be able to help him to make them better. I just don't think he is ready for that though. He has to do it his own way.

You know that nasty voice that wants out? It wants to start nagging and bitching and fighting with Gary to push him over the edge so he will grab his things and storm out before his friend changes his mind.

I am not always proud of myself.


I have been keeping my sense of humor though. I have just found out about the wonderful "first world problems" meme and have been having fun with it. When Andrew caught me scowling while doing dishes and wanted to know what was wrong I told him, "I'm just so frustrated. I could make Gary's life perfect if he would just do what I want him to do when I want him to do it!"

Talking myself down


After more than a decade of foster care and time in therapy and (most of all) work in Alanon, I know this to be true:As long as I am trying to figure out how to make Gary do what I think is best for Gary to do, I will succeed only in making myself crazy.So, what I need to do are establish the boundaries I feel are necessary to protect myself and the rest of the family and the action plan I will take if those boundaries are not respected. Action plans are not threats coerce behavior, they are actions I am genuinely willing to take to protect the rest of us. This, of course, include protecting us from being treated unfairly.The only real action I can take is evicting him. Evicting is both difficult and easy. On the easy side, he doesn't own very many things and the foster agency would store them in his basement. So evicting him would be as easy as boxing up his things. We might consider changing the locks, but I don't think that would be necessary.That is extreme action and one I would be willing to take only under extreme situations. That means that I need to accept that I am in fact willing to continue to support him in a very basic way even if he doesn't behave in the ways that I want him to, as long as he behavior stays basically civil. In other words,the boundaries are in fact things like not stealing from family members. There is a point at which I would say enough, but for the sake of everyone's sanity, I am going to avoid going down that path where I only become willing to do evict after a long period of anger and attempted manipulation. Right now I don't have any particular deadline, but eventually I will. I will commit to not fighting with him, but at some point in the future I may give him notice. Start paying rent (or whatever) or you will be evicted.I know that I am more anxious now because I really hoped and expected that Gary would move out (as he wanted to) before Andrew and my mother moved in. Once Gary does not have a private bedroom he will have no place to isolate himself. That means that we will all have to deal with him, and he with us. I spin possible scenarios in my head. Recently he has been spending most of the weekends with his friends and is only home on the days when he has the house to himself for much of the day. When people are here every day and he has no private room, will he start doing that all the time? Maybe. Though I think that "hanging out" and probably drinking is bad for him, storing his belongings while he essentially lives with friends is not bad for me.I want help him succeed. I cannot however direct that path.So...I have written up a "rental agreement." It specifies what behavior Gary must agree to in order to continue to get free room and board. The agreement includes doing 5 hours a week of chores and not creating more work for others by doing things like leaving messes in the kitchen and dirty dishes in the basement. This agreement has no "teeth." There are no consequences I am willing to impose upon him for immediate failure to comply. Part of the agreement includes that we are not available for small loans or to pay for personal expenses, so I cannot threaten to withhold those if he doesn't comply. So all I will really be doing is documenting non-compliance in case I need to make it clear to him why he is being evicted.In the meantime, I commit to trying not to create new anxieties for myself. I will not worry about how stressful it will be for me or others to live with Gary when he no longer has a private room. He avoids stress and it is just as likely that he will end up rarely being home as being here fighting with people.How long am I willing to do this? I don't know. However long it is though I will remind myself that I decided to let him stay. I am providing him with a safety net, housing and [...]

Feeling less guilty anyway


I told Gary that Roland and I would pay off the bills from his ER visit (which look like they will total at least $1200) if he paid us $500 out of the student loan payment he expects this week. He has other bills, but the medical one is the largest and, I think, the most serious.

He turned us down. He doesn't think he can afford to pay that much one one bill all at once.

The conversation went on, but I don't feel it would be appropriate to post it all here. Suffice it to say that he seems determined to make decisions that appear to me to be foolish.  So we will be handing him the medical bills and letting him deal (or not) with them as he chooses.

Update: part of  his decision seems to be based upon a rumor there is a new law saying that medical bills can't affect your credit rating. I looked it up. There is a bill that so far as I can tell, has not yet been passed, which says that once medical bills under $2500 have been paid, the fact that they went unpaid for some period of time will have to be removed from your credit report after 45 days. I'll make sure he is aware of this.

I know that the reason that I am experiencing so much frustration right now is that I am trying to make him do what I want him to do. I'm going to have to think about this...

Feeling a bit stressed


Mom sold her house. She sold it after just two weeks. It was purchased by a local family who I guess had always admired it. In the paper work they agreed that Mom could stay until the end of May. Sis and I are flying out on the last day of May. Presumably we will be spending one or maybe two nights with an aunt or Mom's BFF. Then we will drive back to Idaho. The people who bought the house are finding it difficult to be patient. They now want Mom to move out by the end of April. That's not going to happen.When I found out that Mom sold the house I had a couple small moments of panic similar to moments I had late in the second pregnancy when for some reason or another it all became very real. You know, that what-in-the-world-was-I-thinking feeling. I kept reassuring myself that I had meant it. I mean, I wasn't just trying to score good-daughter points by saying, "You know Mom, you can always come live with me."No, I really did mean it. Really.Anyway, Andrew is here for spring break. He and his girlfriend, whom I call Alice on the blog, are helping with some de-cluttering and reorganization of the house. Yesterday we sorted through books. A&A took three large laundry baskets of books to the used book store. Roland is taking one basket to church and two to his school. That means that all the books that are currently on the ground floor (the house has a ground floor and a finished basement) are now on the bookcases in the basement, which are again close to full.There is much more to be sorted, sent away, and moved, but I will spare you the details. In the end, Mom will have the corner bedroom on the ground floor. It is the largest, and has lots of windows. I wanted her to have a room that would be comfortable to use at least some as a sitting room. I know she will need to be able to get some privacy during the day. Roland and I will have the slightly smaller bedroom on the ground floor.Brian is going to be going off to college in the fall. He is definitely going to the college where I teach, a whole half-mile away. He will come home for holidays and maybe more, but starting in September, the bedroom would be mostly empty. Gary says he can't sleep unless he has a room of his own, but he has always regarded this as a fair option because, you know, he was moving out in two or three months anyway.Alice has been unhappy with her living situation. She lived in the dorms her freshman year and liked it but decided that she couldn't afford it her sophomore. So she moved back home with her two sisters, mother, and mother's boyfriend. She doesn't complain much, but it is taking a toll on her. Andrew plans on living at home for a couple or three years so he can get take the courses to become a high school teacher. Alice would like for him to find a part-time job so they can rent an apartment together. Andrew sees no reason at all to spend money on an apartment while he is a student and he can have free rent at home.I talked to them and told them that it would be helpful for me if they lived here. My mother is used to a much cleaner house. Andrew already knows that he will be paying for his rent by cooking dinner more often than not. I gave them a list of other things I would really like done, including be available to drive grandma to appointments. We've agreed on a limit an average of 5 hours of work a week each.  They would mostly have the basement to themselves, and could arrange the rec room however they liked to make it comfortable for them both.I feel much less stressed about it all when I think of them being here. Alice says she has to bring her cat who doesn't like other cats. We agreed she could bring it and assured her that cats learn to tolerate each other. I know she is nervous about movin[...]

"I just want to be taken seriously"


Gary has had 4 ER visits in the past year.The first was for an injury he sustain in MMA practice. He was afraid he had broken a rib. He had not.The second was for a panic-attack-from-hell that he had as a result of consuming something (or several somethings) at a party. He thought he was dying. He had his friends call him an ambulance which took him to the ER were they gave him IV fluids and an anti-anxiety medication.The third was 10 days after he had his tonsils removed. He hadn't bothered with the routine anti-biotics he was prescribed and he was spitting up blood. He could not wait a few more hours to go to the doctor's office. At the ER they gave him sympathy, considered giving him antibiotics, but got an afternoon appointment with the surgeon. He was prescribed antibiotics which he did not take because "the doctor didn't think it was an infection." I argued that the doctor must have thought it was an infection, because he prescribed antibiotics. Finally I just started handing them to him on schedule.The fourth was yesterday. Friday evening he was at a bonfire with friends. He was drinking, did something foolish, and hit his head hard. At noon he felt he had to have medical attention because he had such a terrible headache. We took him to the urgent care clinic, but he reported symptoms of a concussion and they sent him to the ER. There he was given Tylenol, had a CT scan and was told he was fine.He has this pattern with his health. He has a symptom, is afraid he is seriously ill and must see a physician. The physician sees him, prescribes some treatment, and Gary goes home, ignores the treatment and usually feels better very quickly. He seems to have a strong need to be seen by a professional. This does not translate into any desire to follow up on the treatments.And I have noticed at every emergency room visit, at some point when we are waiting for something or other, he will say, not necessarily to me, "I just want to be taken seriously."My usual approach won't work with this one. I cannot just let him do what he is going to do and deal with the consequences himself.Okay, I wrote that and then thought "sure I can. I just don't want to."I can't imagine going back to yesterday and saying, "Sweetie, you have no bruise, no bump, and your eyes look fine. You are severely hung over and you hit your head. Of course you feel miserable. Drink some water and take a pill."I wanted to say that. I think I would have been right to say that. On the other hand, what if I had been wrong? What if he had had a concussion? I no longer trust his reports of his own health. I don't think he is lying. I think he is genuinely frightened by what he is feeling. He needs the reassurance. Maybe he needs the attention from me. Even if I am right about that, he still could be seriously hurt.Only the thing is ... I seriously cannot afford this. Roland and I are living on a very tight budget paying off debts from last year. Two thirds of that debt is a combination of Gary-related car expenses and Gary's medical bills. Before this latest ER visit I had hoped we would pay off all the debt before my mother moved in, but thought more realistically, we might make it by the end of summer. I know that "can't afford it" is relative. I know that if he had had a concussion and needed surgery I would be resigned to paying off a higher debt load. I would be worried, but I would cope.Right now though? Right now I am angry because even if he had been seriously injured, it still would have been the result of getting drunk. He doesn't seem to think that is a big deal. When he was in the emergency room after taking the stuff at the party he seemed quite sincere when he said that he learned[...]

My Mom


Plans are being made to move my Mom here at the end of May.

Last June I made the offer to Mom and she seemed to think it was a definitely possibility. I suspected that Mom would keep putting it off, agreeing that it was a good thing to do in a year or so. She couldn't delay moving indefinitely. She lives in a small house with a bedroom on the second floor and laundry in the basement. As the Parkinson's progresses she simply will not be able to handle the stairs. She says she doesn't want to live in an assisted living/retirement community, and that does not leave many options.

The big change is that her BFF is going to retire and move next fall. That decision wasn't expected, but it makes sense given the events in the BFF's extended family. Mom has become very dependent upon her friend for all sorts of things. Her friend drivers her to most of her appointments, takes her shopping, and carries the laundry up and down the stairs.

My sister is finishing her class work for college in early May. After that she does and internship and then she plans to get a job. Sis can take a month off early this summer to help with the move, but doesn't expect to be able to take that kind of time ever again.

So right now, here is the tentative plan. Sis is a meticulous housekeeper. I'm not. Sis will be flying out here when she finishes classes and will spend two weeks bossing me around and whipping my house into shape. I am by the way, pleased with this. I am getting professional-quality home organization service free. Well, I have to give her room and board and be her staff-of-one, but it should be worth it.

Then Sis and I hope to be able to fly to Mom's house. If all goes according to plan, Mom, with the help of her BFF, will have the closing of the house finished. Most of the furniture is going to a local auction place. Some will have gone into a small moving van. Lots of things will have gone to a thrift store or the dump.

Sis, Mom and I will then drive back here. It will take about four days. It could be done in less, but neither Mom nor Sis do much driving and I think 9 hours a day is about all I can expect of myself. Maybe we will take five days. The main advantage to driving is being able to bring Mom's almost-new car back with us.

We have not finalized all these plans, and Mom is still thinking about whether she would prefer to do it another way,

***correction: I just got an email from Mom's BFF. Mom is sending a check to Sis to help pay for travel. We're on.***

My niece will be coming along with Sis. She will help with the grunt work in my house and with the driving on the way back. With niece to help with the driving, maybe we can make it in 3 days.

I guess I am moving on to the next stage of my life. I haven't been a foster parent for more than a year. Soon things will be different again. Maybe it is time to start a whole new blog. I imagine there is probably a community of bloggers who are living with or at least caring for their elderly parents. I don't want to lose y'all, but it might be good if I connect with them too...

Catching up


(I just read the post below. Damn, it makes me feel depressed about my life. I think this is why I haven't been writing much at all. I don't really feel depressed. Actually, I feel pretty good. But there is not a lot of good news.)Hi all, just in case you were wondering...Gary has started taking classes at community college. It is too early to know what will become of it. One of his main motivations is financial. He qualifies for a significant amount of federal aid, and he needs it pretty desperately. He has car-associated bills that are unpaid leaving him in a very difficult place. If continues to live at home, goes to school, gets all the aid, maybe gets a part time job also, he might be able to be out of debt by summer. He wants to move out, but it is unclear whether and when he will be able to afford it. We gave him a rescue in the fall. We put a new clutch in the car and made an insurance payment so he could keep driving. Roland tended to wonder if this would "work," meaning would it get him set on a path that would lead to stability. I said that I did not expect it to work, but I needed to know that I had done it. The first time he got in over his head, I would bail him out. So, I don't know what will happen to him next. He can stay here and have free room and board indefinitely, but we are doing less and less for him outside of that. He is supposed to be paying all of the rest of his expenses, so mostly that means he does without. I get irritated with him sometimes and then do passive aggressive things like put onions in whatever I am cooking so he won't want to eat it. But he is trying. He is struggling with growing up. He makes poor decisions, but I know he wants to be independent. His plan is not to live off of our grudging generosity indefinitely. Eventually he will pull things together. His sister Helen is spiraling out of control. My theory is that she just rushed into adulthood too quickly. She did so well in high school. She graduated early, went to college early. She made a couple of really bad decisions which cut her off from her last foster family. Then she got sick and could not or did not ask them for help. She ended up not going back to school and is struggling in ways we all hoped she would never have to. There are people who will help her when she is ready to ask for it. Hopefully she will ask. I don't know how much I can do for her, our resources are pretty stretched. We don't get support from the agency anymore, which I am not complaining about, but the reality is that we are living on a tighter budget than we have in a long time. I've got out all my old vegetarian recipes and am enjoying meals with beans (which Brian hates) and onions (which both Brian and Gary hate) and loving it. I'm not doing it to make them angry. It is more that the budget issue has over-ridden my desire to cater to them and so I can enjoy eating things I like without feeling (very) guilty. Today I will be making pizza dough and baking up individual-sized pizza crusts. The boys can dump stuff on them and bake them when they want.You may remember that Andrew is graduating from college this year. He wants to move back in and attend the college where I teach to get his teaching certificate for high school. It will probably take him two years. After cooking for himself at college, he is very good at eating on a budget. He cooks when he is here, and I am looking forward to that.My mom's Parkinson's is progressing as Parkinson's does. Her best friend is planning to retire in the fall. She will be moving out of state, which almost certainly means that Mom has to move this summer. She has become[...]

I don't need your permission...


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

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

There has been a certain theme lately.

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

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

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

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

I think 18 might be my least favorite age.

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

I'm going to bed now.

Strange Conversations Today


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

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

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

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

Me, "Like what?"

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

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

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

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

Still growing up


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like mother...


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

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

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

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

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

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

Update on me & the rest of the fam


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

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

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

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

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

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

Update on Gary


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Possibly up the proverbial creek


This afternoon Gary and I had a conference with his (previous) social worker. Here's the situation.  None of this is news to me, by the way. I just haven't been posting about it.1. Since he has not done any of the things he was required to do to get funding for post high-school education/training he almost certainly won't get it. However, if he can show that he has been accepted to a college, applied for two scholarships, filled out the agency paperwork, and get his unofficial transcript to the committee by FRIDAY, the committee will consider him. She assured him that he still qualifies for some transitional support.  If he has a job and some savings they will pay the initial deposits on an apartment, for instance. He isn't worried about that because he has decided he likes living here. (Part of the adoption negotiations included that he would continue to qualify for anything he would have had he not been adopted).He has been planning on going to community college in the fall. I have suggested that with their current enrollment rates he needs can't count on being able to go full-time, but he is confident.He also is confident that he going to graduate at the end of May. The school says that you are not allowed to have more than 9 absences, but he points out that that really just means that you have to petition if you have more. Now I told him that back when he had 8-11 in his various classes. I told him it wasn't all over. If he turned it around he could still make it work. I called attendance for an update and found out that he as 21 and 16 absences in the classes he needs to graduate (24 and 35 in the other two). He may still be able to petition, but only if gets at least a C. Oh yeah, he is supposed to show very good reason for the absences, like providing documentation that he was too sick to be there. (Yeah, um, he can get a doctor's note for at least one day).So I've decided just to expect him to go to summer school. If he graduates in 5 weeks that will be extra cool.Oh, his younger sister is graduating next month. She's going to the state school in the fall and might move into the dorms in the spring when she is 18.He has constantly changing plans for his future. The fire fighting thing seems to be over. Of course, if he is in summer school he would miss the fire season anyway. (For those in other parts of the world, being a wild land fire-fighter and being a structural fire-fighter are different things. It is relatively easy to get certified to work on a crew during wild-fire season.)So Roland and I have already warned him that though he won't be homeless, he can expect less support from us. I have framed it as "when you are no longer a full-time student." I need to be more specific though. Given that he has unofficially dropped (i.e. stop attending and agreed to take the F) one class he isn't really a full-time student now. I told him that he would continue to get "full support" for 90 days after graduation. I think I need to change that to "after when you were supposed to graduate with the option to re-new if you are in school full time in the fall.Today I made it a bit clearer what will be have to pay for or do without:1. Free gas and car access2. Car insurance3. His MMA classes4. Cell phone5. Deodorant, hair cuts, and all other misc. expenses6. Anything else I can think ofOh, and rent is $50/week, and I somehow expect that I won't be buying any of his favorite foods.Of course all this is about pushing[...]

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


A few months ago, Sis sent me an email asking what I thought about Dad's new girlfriend. Having not heard that Dad had a new girlfriend, she followed up by forwarding his email to her about the nice family who owned a convenience store and their lovely 32 year old daughter. (For those who don't remember everything I may or may not have mentioned about my father, he has been living in China for a year and a half.)Shortly after that, I got an email from my father telling me that he was trying to help this 32-year-old woman, the relationship he with whom assured me was NOT romantic, get a visa to come to the US. He needed to know the date he got divorced from my mother for the application and wanted me to ask her.There were several emails that bounced around the globe, until I finally sent a rather short one to him telling him that I would not give him Mom's phone number. She didn't have the divorce decree at her house and she wasn't going to go to the safe deposit box for him.He responded a week later with a long email in which he assured me that "never in [his] darkest hour" would he ask me to give him information about my mother, knowing that it possibly endangered all the progress he has made in rebuilding a relationship with me over the past two decades. He had intended to send that email to my sister. (Hey, don't ask me to make sense of that. I'm just reporting).I haven't responded to that one yet. I thought about just saying, "Don't worry about it. You email didn't change my opinion of you at all." Except that I don't have any reason to torture the man. So I thought I would just let it be for a while and then email him about something else, demonstrating that our relationship is unchanged.Then this morning I got an email from Andrew. Last night he was bored. He Googled his relatives just to see what would come up.My father married the lovely 32-year-old woman 6 months ago. You know, the one he doesn't have a romantic relationship with.Okay, put the age thing aside. My father got married 6 months ago and didn't tell me.The thing that makes this hilarious is that if I had made a list of things my father might do while in China, "marry a much younger woman and not tell us" could totally have been on that list. This is definitely in character for him.So, now I am wondering what and whether to email my father. Recall at his last email he was worried that he had damaged his relationship with me by asking me to give him my mother's phone number.I'm so tempted to send him an email with a link to the marriage announcement that Andrew found and say nothing but "Um, congratulations?"Meanwhile, I am trying to find out what her name means. See, my first two step-mothers were both named "Bonnie" (I kid you not). If her name means something like "good" or "pretty" then we could just call her Bonnie the third.Maybe I could ask Dad in that email I don't know how to write.Oh, if anyone has any idea about the etiquette  on whether and how to congratulate your father on his marriage he apparently didn't want you to know about, please share.____Update: My father sent me an email asking me a question about his Kindle. That gave me an opportunity to write him and include a brief congratulations in the context of a longer email. That worked and saved me from the danger of sounding sarcastic.In his follow-up email he only talked about the Kindle issues, not his marriage or bride or anything. That's okay. [...]

Stuff I didn't expect to have to explain


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

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

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

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

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

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

Inquiring minds want to know.