Monday, May 18, 2009

What to do?

Our timeline had been to be making an offer on a house by... right about now.

But, it's looking more and more like it's going to take longer (our biggest hint: we aren't making an offer right now. That's how we know it's going to be sometime in the future.) For one thing, our credit report has some old stuff on it that should have come off because it was paid in full or aged off a long time ago, but even some of the things that were paid in full, the companies/agencies who reported them never reported that they'd been paid. Instead, they changed their names slightly every month to keep the now inaccurate entries constantly current. A credit card that I paid off and closed in 1993 is still on my report. And, because we're going for an FHA loan and credit is tight right now, it all has to come off - all of it - before we can get approved. We're working as fast as we can on getting this done.

Which is just as well, because we've discovered that getting out of our lease is going to be harder than we'd thought. We sent in our letter of intent not to renew our year-to-year lease three months in advance of the anniversary date, as required. Our landlord sent us back a letter informing us that because only B signed the letter, it didn't meet the conditions for not renewing and our lease is now automatically extended to July 31, 2010. If we want to get out of it before then, we have to pay the landlord a $1k non-refundable extra-special-permission bonus and then find someone else to rent the apartment at our own expense.

I've started tracking down other people who are in the same boat with this Fan Apartments as we are - there are at least a dozen I've found already - and one of them told me that Fan Apartments has turned down three applicants for his place already, and he's still on the hook for rent and responsible for finding a new tenant, even though he's already done a walk-through and turned in the keys.

So, long story short, we figure at this point our best bet is to take a breather, be happy that the time pressure is off, work more on getting all the crud off our credit reports and becoming perfect little mortgage-seekers, and then, when we're all ready to go, call the Fire Marshall. Fan Apartments is a repeat offender for chaining and padlocking shut the fire escape on this building. Any port in a storm, right?

Ye gods, I really do loathe this kind of purposeless difficulty. And I still have to call the agency to let them know that our timeline has changed.

Monday, April 27, 2009


I've been in pain every time I walk (and quite often when I'm not walking) for weeks now, thanks to this wart on my heel that went ballistic and had to be removed, which meant cutting out a big chunk o' heel. It's the limping that's getting to me, throwing everything else out of whack, straining tendons and joints. I'm miserable and stressed to the breaking point, crying a lot over nothing, insomnia, etc. So, if I'm sounding extra-bitchy... that's why.

The good news is: it's healing. This is not the way things are always going to be, this is temporary, and recovery is on its way. We're focusing on that. The other good news is that the husband that drives me up the wall is also the same husband who has been taking care of me, bringing me things, changing the dvd, getting me food, and just being within earshot whenever I take a shower, just in case I slip and fall... everyone should be so lucky as to have a B like my B.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Days until Sims 3 is released: 40
Days until every single thing in the history of time is cleared off of my credit report so that I can get a mortgage: 15 to 45
Days until I have to give my landlord notice or else renew my lease for another year: 7
Total dollar amount of all items keeping me from making an offer today: $2,087.43
Days left to prepare a level 1 D&D adventure: 10-20
NPCs created for adventure so far: 116
Days left to prepare for seminar on programming for EAV table structures: 2
Slides ready for seminar: 1. Well, almost 1.
Max size of sibling group we'll consider adopting: 3
Min age of oldest child in group: 12
Approximate times I've been told that teens are hard and sibling groups might "gang up on me": 15,000,012

If anybody who has adopted teens or sib groups happens to read this post, did you experience the same reaction coming from family and friends? My friends and co-workers almost universally report that teens drive them crazy. My otherwise supportive family practically turns into concern trolls when I mention the possibility of a sib group. I see it as a kid with an intact relationship and support network; they get very wide eyed, exhale audibly and say "three is a lot of kids."

And for the record, I like teens. They're just like adults but thinner, with less money and more drama. Being around teens is like being a fan of a low-budget soap opera.

UPDATE: so, I opened up the EAV presentation file to work on it, but instead of doing that, um, I did this.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Adoption Meeting

The blog is going slowly, I know. I'm trying to stick to adoption issues and, occasionally, work stuff for filler. Otherwise, I'd be putting up lots of posts about politics, links to things like this video of a robot which solves Rubik's Cubes in which the newscaster asserts that a cube has five sides and that the robot's best solve time (26 seconds) is "almost double" the fastest human time (10 seconds). I weep for humanity.

Or, I would be linking other videos like this one, which I've watched a dozen times today and it makes me cry and smile and I love it. I'm still weeping for humanity, but in a completely different way.

We had a meeting at the adoption agency yesterday. We went back over our opening checklist. The difficult part is that the goal is to be "open" with the agents, but it felt like everything we said just opened us up to misunderstanding. It went like this:

Agent: You've signed the agreement not to use corporal punishment, and you've been to the classes that have talked about discipline methods. Could you talk about how you were disciplined growing up and what your philosophy is with regards to discipline?

Me: I remember when my father announced that he'd decided that spanking was just teaching children that it's acceptable to hit when you're angry, and he wasn't going to do it anymore, and my first thought then was: "why did he wait until now, when I'm eight and too old to spank anyway, to figure that out?" I can see the rationale for a corrective light swat on a pre-reasoning bottom, but I think that, even if there weren't all the other reasons for not using corporal punishment on a fost/adopt, spanking a child over the age of reason is correction through humiliation, and that's a bad idea under any circumstances.

When we talk about discipline, the thing that I keep in mind is that it isn't possible to really "control" a child. A teenager, especially, is going to hit a moment when it occurs to him that there's not really a lot their parents can do to them, and what they can do might be a small price to pay for whatever it is the teen wants to do (I remember clearly when I had that delicious revelation). Children are autonomous beings, and it's up to parents to guide them by building a relationship in which parents' guidance and opinions are valued (or at least complied with because it's such a hassle otherwise...) And that works and it lasts - I still can't stand the idea of disappointing my dad. The important thing is to avoid overreaching the bounds of parental authority, because the inevitable result of that is that the parent either becomes a tyrant or a figure of ridicule or both.

And we have theories, not children, and we'll probably laugh our asses off a year from now at these theories, but for right now, that's where we're coming from. Use a light touch, build the relationship, horse whisperer stuff.

Agent: OK, but you understand that these kids might be 15 years old but emotionally aged 4, so they can't really make good decisions for themselves?
And everything was like that. Except for the part when we told them that what we really wanted was a kid with ropy muscles, good for "working the farm." They asked about what experience we had with kids and one of the things we told them about was the open houses we did in 2003-2006. I was going back to school at VCU and we made dinner for whoever showed up one night a week. Told a few kids at school about it the first time, and they came, and then they told two people, and they told two people, and it went on like that. There was somebody every week who we'd never met before, and we still keep in touch with some of the regulars. Met their parents when the 'rents were in town. Good kids, for the most part. We enjoyed having them around.

Still no firm news on the house situation. The house we'd like to buy has been re-listed at the same excessive price. We're getting close to the point where we're ready to make an offer, but we're not quite there yet.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Code Camp

If you're going to be in Richmond, VA on April 25th, and you want to hear a highly technical (which is the nice way of saying mind meltingly boring) talk about designing Entity-Attribute-Value table structures and programming techniques to compensate for their performance shortcomings, I will be conducting exactly such a seminar at Richmond's Code Camp (too lazy to link) two weeks from this Saturday. Should be fun, and by fun, I mean woohoo! I can check off one of this year's work "stretch goals!"

Monday, March 30, 2009


This is a fost/adopt blog. Really. In spite of the fact that the fost/adopt process is still in its nascence, and also in spite of the fact that I rarely blog. I thought I'd take a moment to give you an update on the whole shebang.

We have turned in a great big pile of paperwork, but still have another great big pile, including our autobiographies, to go. We have a meeting with the agents on April 15, by which time we hope we can have the rest done. We're also hoping by then to have some more definite information about the house we want to buy. We aren't worried about anybody else grabbing it before we can get there - it's way out in the sticks, almost an hour from the edge of Richmond, the asking price is ludicrous (10% over assessment, no we're not going to pay anything remotely like that) and nobody but us has even come out to look at it since last May. It's new construction on 9.5 acres, still owned by the developers, and none of the other four much larger lots in the tract are so much as cleared.

We're very excited about the house and we expect that sometime within the next six weeks we'll be ready to make an offer on it. We'd love to move sooner, but... see the problem is that we aren't people who like to live on credit - I haven't had a credit card since the first $500 limit teaser card I got my first week at college, and I cut that up before I graduated. In the nearly fifteen years B and I have been together, we have had... wait for it... zero credit cards and exactly one car loan and one student loan. That's it. Until the little Versa I'm driving now, we've bought used cars for cash. Except for the student loan and me putting my foot down when the '81 Toyota MR2 gave up the ghost on I-195 (in all fairness, we paid $2000 for that car and put 100,000 miles on it at over 30 mpg highway - it was a deal), if we don't have the money on hand, we don't spend it. Which means that our credit sucks because there's not much positive to report on it.

So... six months ago when we decided that this is the year to buy a house, we not only went to work on that whole down payment thing, we also went to work on putting some positives in our credit history so that we could get a better rate on a mortgage. Since our lease isn't up until the end of July, it made sense to take our time. Sometime in April, early May at the latest, we should hit our goal number (we're 10 points away right now) and then we get the pre-approval, make an offer, seal the deal (refinance the car while we're at it) and get our move on. That's the plan. And I'm happy to report, it's on track.

I'll let you know as soon as there's anything else to tell.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Security and Personhood

Well this is just appalling.

SAFFORD, Ariz. — Savana Redding still remembers the clothes she had on — black stretch pants with butterfly patches and a pink T-shirt — the day school officials here forced her to strip six years ago. She was 13 and in eighth grade.

An assistant principal, enforcing the school’s antidrug policies, suspected her of having brought prescription-strength ibuprofen pills to school. One of the pills is as strong as two Advils.

The search by two female school employees was methodical and humiliating, Ms. Redding said. After she had stripped to her underwear, “they asked me to pull out my bra and move it from side to side,” she said. “They made me open my legs and pull out my underwear.”

Ms. Redding, an honors student, had no pills. But she had a furious mother and a lawyer, and now her case has reached the Supreme Court, which will hear arguments on April 21.
There's a lot of hyperbole from both mother and daughter in the article - the mom's lawyer calls this "the worst nightmare for any parent," Ms. Redding describes the incident as "ruin[ing] her life" but all the same, this is a clear case of a lack of respect for a kid's boundaries. And I find it worrisome.

First of all, I find it worrisome because these kids won't always be kids. They'll be adults in a very short time, more to the point, they'll be voters, and the people who grew up in this drug war zero-tolerance atmosphere in schools will someday outnumber those of us who grew up in the good old days when the Fourth Amendment applied to everybody.

Once we're out of school, most of us have limited contact with the same degree of intrusive authority that exists in the public school system, and for many people who do not have their dignity systematically threatened it is possible to believe that dignity is an earned state, not a contracted right. This is to say, unless we ourselves have had the misfortune to be the subjects of unjust intrusion into our personal effects, we tend to believe that such intrusions are generally justified and that if you aren't doing anything wrong, you have nothing to fear from the State.

How much is this compounded when a person has learned to expect throughout their childhood not that an expectation of some privacy, a degree of respect by society for a boundary of the personal, is negotiable in certain specific circumstances where society has compelling reasons, but it does not exist at all. Because certainly, if society can argue that the lack of a record of prior wrongdoing by a 13 year old girl is only proof that the girl hasn't been caught doing anything wrong, then we have entered the condition of the Paranoid State. If that same society allows a 13 year old girl to be strip searched without her parent's permission or even knowledge, in the pursuit of a dose of Advil, then we must conclude either that children's persons are violable by the state, or else that the notion of a "compelling social reason" has been redefined out of meaning. Is it any surprise, when our children grow up in an environment in which they have no rights the State is bound to respect, that they themselves have no respect for the rights earlier generations considered inalienable?

I mention this here because when we talk about kids who have experienced trauma, we talk a lot about boundaries. Children whose boundaries have been violated - either emotional or physical - cease to understand where lines are properly drawn. And so they may flash their private parts because they no longer understand that there is any such thing as a "private" part of themselves. Much of the work of a fost/adopt parent is to help the child re-learn where her appropriate boundaries are. And this is a challenge - how, for instance, do you deal with a child who has experienced sexual abuse and who now refuses to submit to medical examinations? He needs to receive proper health care, but he also needs to feel secure in his own body, and these needs are, for the moment, in conflict with each other.

Medical attention is a case where the only way to administer it is to threaten a child's boundaries; schooling is not another such case. If we live in a country in which the we allow schools to neither recognize nor respect children's boundaries, perhaps our traumatized children are in the right after all. The world works the way they think it does, and we are hopelessly naive to think that a child can survive in it without taking off her clothes whenever and for whatever reason an adult tells her to.

Monday, March 23, 2009


We have completed the eight hours of instruction required to become adoptive parents, which is eight hours more instruction than is required to become biological parents and approximately seven hundred ninety-two hours (give or take) less than is required to begin to have a clue about what we're getting ourselves into. I've tried to fill the gaps by reading everything I can find, both in print and in self-publication, i.e. blogs. And for the record, here's what I've learned:

  • Child raising is like CPR, in that new information is always forthcoming and periodically the new information is revolutionary. There's a cycle of throwing out theories as new theories emerge. That doesn't mean that all theories are bunk and you can just ignore them, but do be ready to accept new ideas. Just because last year they taught you mouth to mouth and this year they say no mouth to mouth and hum the BeeGees while you do compressions doesn't mean that this year, if you see someone in cardiac arrest that you shouldn't do anything because next year they'll find another song that's even better.
  • The behavior is what will present itself, but knocking out a behavior without getting at the underlying cause will only cause a new behavior to spring up in its place. If the underlying cause is unknown, fear is a safe first guess. In other words, Fear is the Kudzu of parenting traumatized children.
  • Getting involved with fost/adopt is checking into the biggest morass of second guessing I've ever come into contact with. There is no end to criticism of the system and everyone who is a part of it, which in every case should either have let kids be with parents who were good or removed them much earlier from the bad ones, but in no cases ever acted exactly as soon as anybody ought to have noticed that something was wrong and not a day before. Somebody always ought to have known what Anybody else thought would have been best for Everybody, if only they all hadn't been so selfish/lazy/stupid/only in it for the money. The motives of all voluntary parents of suffering children are automatically either laudable, suspect, or both and they should all be considered guilty of not doing enough for their children until they prove themselves innocent by collapsing from nervous exhaustion.
  • Sometimes kids wet the bed as a response to a specific, temporary anxiety. And sometimes they do it because their abusers didn't want to rape a kid who smelled bad. The fact that they continue to wet themselves when they're safe with you doesn't mean that they don't feel safe with you, necessarily. It's because that's the way the world works for them. Even if you're safe, that doesn't mean the world is. This cross applies to basically everything.
  • There is a different right answer for every child, and the only people who don't know what that right answer is are the people providing day to day care for him. It is strange that this should be so, but as the world in general tends to be in agreement on this point in each individual case (although the pattern is generally denied) anyone taking the part of a parent in any particular accusation is taking what is popularly considered to be an indefensible position.
  • When a child is neglected, a caustic chemical is released in her brain that has a calming effect on that child. If the neglect happens too frequently and the chemical is released too often, the brain resets its "rage thermostat" so that the chemical will now only be released under more extreme circumstances, leaving the kids with the most to cope with a harder time coping with everything. If one assumes the existence of an Omnipotent Diety, this single fact must be proof of Its satirical nature.
The agency has informed us that a case worker will contact us on Wednesday to begin our home study process. We still have a house to buy before the study can be completed.

My heartfelt good wishes for Torina. More than anything else, these poor waiting children need people like Torina's (and Yondalla's and the Grateful House and RADical Adventures) prominent presence in our society, because she provides visibility for their situation and encouragement and inspiration for people who are considering taking on the challenge of reforming their family to include a parentless special needs child. It is a shame that any dyspeptic troll can drive one of these bloggers underground by threatening to make false and baseless accusations of abuse against them. Taking her blog private was the only prudent thing Torina could do, but future adoptive parents will be poorer for not having her example to learn from, both in her successes and in her setbacks.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

About that "i" in "Gullible"

Doop de doop de doo, what's up on Facebook today? (Answer: links to more information than I wanted to know about the sex life of a guy I knew in college, that's up.)

But what is this? There, across the top - it appears that 2 of my facebook friends have challenged me to an IQ test! And 1 of my friends - somebody in Glen Allen - thinks I'm dumb! Which is weird because I didn't know any of my friends lived in Glen Allen, although it would be cool if they did because that's where I work and it would be so close by and we should totally get a drink sometime or something. Just as soon as I take this IQ test and show them who's dumb!

Clicky clicky and this is a 10 question IQ test. WOW the questions are so easy! And there's my cell phone number and yes I accept the terms and conditions and...

It dawns on me that my IQ definitely has been tested here.

On the phone canceling my new subscription now...

Monday, March 2, 2009

Snow Day

The 'net was flaky today, as was the power. Last night at 10, as we were taking the doggus for her walk, there was a kind of a zzzttt and a kind of a bright blue light, and a kind of a POW and then there was a kind of a dark all the way down the street. Across the street they had power. This happened after the hurricane too - the other side of the street had their power reconnected the next day, but our side of the street was up for an hour, then zzzt-blue-POW! and it was down for a week. That wasn't quite as bad because it was spring, so the lack of a working heater wasn't such a dire prospect. Last night, we missed the heat.

Went to see The Reader on Friday. Lot of skin. I enjoyed it, enough to pick up the book right after we got out of the movie. Read it Friday night. The book is much more clearly about the generational struggle in post-nazi Germany, and the tension created when the post-war generation's obligation to condemn the actions of their parents comes into conflict with a realization of the older generation's pitiable limitations. The movie was more a character study - interesting, but only as a character study. I found the book meatier. Speaking of meatier, the movie is much steamier than the book, so if you're looking for something with Kate Winslet and David Kross nude, lots, and from many angles, but on paper, Felicia Day reviews some Highland Hunk Fantasies that might interest you.

Watching all that skin, had to wonder how much longer we'll be able to go see intelligent movies that have a non-neurotic, not-cartoonish sexual aspect and have to stick to the flicks that eschew sensuality and concentrate more on shooting, car chases, and the "Gimme some sugar, baby" theory on relationships. I could do without the sex scenes entirely, as long as the movies are smart, but those are even harder to find. Waitress was smart without being pr0n, but that's just one movie and Adrienne Shelley isn't around to make more of them. Woody Allen writes about relationships without focusing on the sex, but B hates Woody Allen who really peaked with Hannah and Her Sisters anyway, so what's the point?

The next fost/adopt class is on March 11, at which time we're going to have to ask for fresh copies of the application paperwork - many thanks to the cat who saw a half-full glass of orange juice sitting on the desk beside the paperwork and said This Will Not Stand. Mostly I'm not worried, but there is a tiny bit of me that frets over having to admit... that I can't train a cat. A cat who is remarkably stupid, by the way. A cat who makes it so we can't have a resevoir waterer for the pets because she will sit at it, by the hour, scooping water out of the bowl with her paw, marveling at the way the water goes out and more water comes in! She'll sit in a quart-sized puddle of water, still amazed at the way the water keeps coming and sometimes there are bubbles in the tank! And I can't train her! So who would let me have a kid if I can't even teach a stupid cat not to do whatever she wants? Also, I can't bend space and time. Disgraceful.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

What I Did This Weekend

Future SIL Amy, her mom Judy and I went to the Maymont Flower and Garden Show and Home Show. The menfolk are very resistant to the Garden Show. There was much mocking and there was limited patience when we met back up in the afternoon to hearing about the show. We didn't even get the chance to tell them about vendors like this one:

They even sell t-shirts!

My big find at the show: Heuchera, and that Sandy's Plants in Mechanicsville carries lots of varieties.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Cool (Earth) Stuff

Completely OT, but neat. This Smart Strip power strip has seven outlets - one "control" outlet that is always powered, two red outlets that are always powered, and four outlets that power up and down depending on the power draw on the blue control outlet. In simpler speak, if you plug your TV or computer into the blue outlet and plug all the peripherals (printers, dvd player, etc) into the white outlets, whenever you turn your TV off or let your computer go to sleep, the Smart Strip will detect the decrease in power to the blue plug and turn all your peripherals off. When you turn the TV or computer back on, it turns all your peripherals on, too. Plus, there are two non-control always powered plugs, so the same strip works for the cable box with the router plugged into it that you want left on all the time. Nifty, huh?

TerraPass has a lot of cool stuff, like chocolate that comes with carbon offsets, and a Roadrunner showerhead that is a high pressure low-flow shower which detects when the water temp hits 95 degrees and then automatically shuts it down to a trickle until you pull a cord (then the water is on until you turn off the tap, at which time it resets itself). The upside of this is that you can turn the shower on in the morning to heat up without sending hot water down the drain with nobody around to enjoy it, and the low-flow means that the hot water lasts longer while you're in the shower. I swear, if this thing had been around when I was a teenager, my dad would have been a much, much happier man.

Update: Solar/USB/AC powered charger, with built-in carabiner. Just sit it in the sun (or plug it into either a wall or a computer's USB port) and you can charge your cell phone, digital camera, etc. with it. I don't know why the carabiner makes it so much more exciting, but it does. This is just one of those moments when I realize I have an REI soul trapped in a Lane Bryant body. Le sigh.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Homeless Rates Increasing

Via John & Belle Have A Blog, this article in the WaPo on homeless families has some bad news for Virginia's kids:
A study to be released tomorrow by the Richmond-based research groups Commonwealth Institute and Voices for Virginia's Children concludes that if the national unemployment rate reaches 9 percent by the fall, as many as 218,000 Virginians might drop below the poverty line, including 73,000 children. A similar analysis by the Maryland Budget and Tax Policy Institute estimated that Maryland could see as many as 189,000 people slip below the poverty line.
It's probably the same in your states. I'm just guessing here, but rising numbers of families and kids falling into poverty sounds to me like a scenario for rising numbers of kids showing up in foster care. The bitter cup runneth over.

Please do read the WaPo article - it profiles a family, two parents, two kids, they were making about $60,000/year. Parents both get hit with job cuts and... whoosh. It's all gone.

For nearly a generation, the face of homelessness in America has been that of a man or woman living on the street and panhandling for loose change. But with the foreclosure crisis, stagnant economy and rising unemployment, advocates for the homeless said they are seeing more two-parent families seeking shelter.

Many of the newly homeless are renters whose landlords were foreclosed on, members of families in which a parent lost a job or low-wage workers who were living on the edge even before losing their jobs.

Experts who study homelessness and poverty said the increase in homeless families illustrates how severely the economic crisis is affecting middle- and working-class households and how the worsening economy is pushing more people toward poverty.

I'm struck more and more by the renter's dilemma. There's potential deflation in the housing market on the horizon, so buying right now - even if you can - is a considerably risky business. It might seem safer to stick with renting because it's easier to downsize, if that's what you have to do, and because you don't want to join the ranks of people whose mortgages are for more than the homes are worth now. But even if you rent and even if you keep your job and even if you make your payments, you could come home and find your stuff on the sidewalk if your landlord doesn't pay his bills. There should be some protection for renters whose landlords default, but there isn't.

Anyway, if you came here through some means other than fost/adopt, if there's room in your home and your life for a kid whose parents are good people but caught up in economic craziness, there are most likely going to be lots of kids who could use your help in the coming couple of years. If it's something that you just never thought about doing, now would be a good time to give it a think or two.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Looking for Info

I'm trying to find information on the education needs, up to and including home schooling, that my future Annie/Oliver might have. Unfortunately, googling "homeschool" and its variants so far has turned up all manner of "home school your children to keep the scary fact-based world out and bind the kids to you 4EVAR!!!" advice that does put the fear of God into me, but not in the way the authors intended.

Can any of the sane, rational people who read this make any recommendations? I'm looking specifically for info that would give me an insight into children ages 12&up, and children with cognitive delay.

Also, question for the day, why is it that people who do international adoptions aren't required to learn any of the language their children speak? I'm not wondering why folks aren't becoming fluent in Mandarin Chinese (although there is a "Teach Yourself" series B and I saw at the bookstore that included "Teach Yourself Mandarin Chinese in 14 Days." We'd been about to purchase that company's German kit until we saw the Chinese one and decided that the company might have a tendency to overpromise.)

I enjoy being a nerd.

Had a lovely Valentines Day, now B is watching the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer in one room and I've got Firefly on DVD in the other, so we're on a happy Joss Whedon kick here. I should be doing work stuff right now (I was sick this week and want to stay on track), but I just found this webcomic...

Saturday, February 14, 2009

New Blog from a Foster Care Survivor

Found through Yondalla, a very new blog called From the Past into the Future (, described by the author as:

I am a 20-something year old femme lesbian living through life one day at a time, one step at a time. I’m a foster care “survivor”, birthmom, mommy, and so much more wrapped into one person.

I’ve started this blog to share about my journey through foster care, my thoughts on the system, a little about adoption, and some about my every day life.
It's marvelous. If you come here through some other path than an interest in fost/adopt, then especially please go read it. I honestly believe that if more people were aware of these kids who need protection and solace, we wouldn't have a shortage of homes for them anymore.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Nothing much new to report

I wanted a new top post, is all.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


We have to write autobiographies as part of the home study. This is a standard requirement and the length is typically somewhere between 5 and 25 pages. For those of you who know me, you can probably guess that generating 12 pages of whinging about my mother followed by 3 pages of explaining that I've learned to deal with it (my favorite way of expressing this is to say that I've excused myself from the focus group for her particular brand of crazy) is no big deal. I have some concerns about exactly how much I want to reveal about my mother's (and her family's) particular brand of crazy: should I explain exactly what my brother means when he refers to what they call "family game time" as "guns or knives Pictionary"? should I include the most fantastic liberating moment of my life, the one when my mother told me that once, when I was three, I took my dad's hand and refused to hold her's and she has felt rejected by me ever since (I am not making this up, and it was more than twenty years later she hauled this story out and expected me to feel guilty about my selfish toddler ways) and it finally occurred to me that if an infant's capriciousness was enough to wound her for decades that her emotional baggage was neither my fault nor my problem nor my responsibility and I was free, glory hallelulia, Moses take me to the promised land!

Should I explain that one of the most formative moments of my life was when my mother's twin sister tried to force my youngest brother to eat vomit? And that I wish to this day that I'd had the guts to stand up to her and make her stop? Or even just to be openly sympathetic towards him while he sat at the kitchen table for hours in front of a plate of his own puke? Should I explain that the reason I don't have control issues as an adult was from learning then from my aunt's revolting example that the more you attempt to control others, the more you risk losing control of your own moral center?

These are the issues we're dealing with here, people, and this is heavy stuff. But there is a much harder question that I have to find a way to answer: how do I get a man who once responded to an assignment to write an essay on "What I Did on my Summer Vacation" by writing (and this is the entirety of his essay):

It is none of your business what I did on my summer vacation.
How does that man write a five page autobiography?

But for you, Annie/Oliver, we'd never know how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop.

*Update: Nobody's commented about the vomit thing and I understand that because it's just revolting and I was honestly afraid to put it up on a public blog, but after I'd done it, it felt great. We're only as weak as our secrets are strong - it's saccharine but true.

Anyway, I thought it could use some context because as it is it sounds bizarre and because it's kind of cleansing to tell. She didn't start out by trying to make him eat vomit, she started out by trying to make him eat overcooked yellow squash. The stuff was revolting (and I generally love squash), all slimy and gross, and Danny doesn't do vegetables anyway. But it got - fast, head-spinningly fast - into this place where he. was going. to eat. the squash. because she told him to and he wasn't doing it. He took a bite and said he felt sick and she told him he didn't and he said he needed to get to the bathroom and she said he couldn't and he threw up right there at the table (which did nothing to make the squash more appetizing for the rest of us, let me tell you) and she just couldn't let him beat her like that. So she told him to eat it and he wouldn't and then she told him that he wasn't going to get up from the table until he had eaten it and he just sat there for about three hours and the rest of us were told to stay away from him and we did. I'm ashamed to say it, but we did. And we lived in a place where things like that though generally not as graphic happened for about five months and then when Mother moved in too it got a little better and my aunt didn't try the really outrageous stuff anymore but things were still tense for about another five months and then we moved into Mother's house and we got a whole different flavor of crazy, although Mother was always better by comparison with her sister and brother-in-law. Like, for instance, the time that the five of us kids were alone at Mother's and Uncle Bob showed up for a few minutes and, when I told him that I was starting to feel really sick, he collected the other four kids, left me alone in the house and didn't call anybody to let them know that I was ill or check up on me again (he lived about two miles away, in case you're wondering). By the time Mother got home and found me, I was severely dehydrated, fever of 104 and I had collapsed halfway to the bathroom in a pool of my own... why do these stories always involve vomit? But, for extra fun, I'd also lost control of other... it was gross, let's just stipulate the total and absolute grossness of the general situation. Anyway, it was not a super fun time to be me. So for any of you out there who knew me then and for several years afterward and always thought there was something a little too tense about me, now you know (knowing is half the battle, yada yada, etc).

Frankly, I'm surprised I turned out as well as I did.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Core Issues in Adoption

Class #2 was more of the same stuff we pretty much already knew, but it's good to have it drilled in. So much of the focus seems to be on convincing people who are adopting infants and/or toddlers that their kids can grieve for the loss of their bio parents. I have to confess, I think it's weird that a newborn can identify mom - and even weirder dad - by smell. Wasn't aware that nasal passages work very well in utero. Once they get the first meal, I can see identifying the mom smell, but minus that, how would baby differentiate mom from nurse from adopted mom? Heart rhythm?

The instructor had a list for us:
  • Loss
  • Rejection
  • Guilt/Shame
  • Grief
  • Identity
  • Intimacy
  • Control
And let us know that whatever one of those we felt vulnerable about, the kid would find it and push that button. I'm not scared, and that makes me worried. The thing is, I'm not uncomfortable with any of these, I am fully aware of how self-defeating it is to get into power struggles, I'm not afraid of getting close to this kid and I'm not afraid of her pushing back (mostly because I'm not fooling myself into thinking that she won't or that she'll really have any option other than to push away frequently). I want her to have a strong sense of identity that is all about her, and I'd be honored if she wanted it to be partly about me too, but my feelings of self-worth aren't tuned in to her wanting to be like me or wanting to be with me all the time or any of that - my feelings of self-worth as a parent center around knowing I did the best I reasonably could to give her the best chance of having a happy life she can have. My me is really about me, not about her. I really just don't see how a kid could get at any of the vulnerable spots I know about. At least, not until/unless the kiddo's career in either computer programming or Eng Lit really starts to take off.

In other news, when we got home, B volunteered that he had some issues he wanted to work out before we get the kid. This thing just keeps getting better and better. I've looked up AlAnon meetings for him. Thank you child, you do good things for B by needing him, even though you don't know yet that it's him you need.

Tonight, sitting on the couch with the doggus, watching Waitress.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

In Which I Relate News of No Importance to Anyone by Myself

The release of Sims 3 has been pushed back from February 20 to June 2.

I. am seriously. pissed off.

Will I be playing Sims in June? No. I will be buying and moving into my first house in June, or getting ready to buy and move, or having just bought and moved and now looking for someplace to sit, and I will be knee deep in the selection and placement process besides. And, while work right now at this moment is pretty lax, we will be paying the price for this wait-and-hurry-up strategy starting around - three guesses - June. There will be Lots Of Shit going on in June. Lots of Very Important Real Life Shit (or LOVIRLS, for short). That is what June is going to be like. February, March, April and the first week or two of May, those are going to be very boring, anticipatory months. Boring, anticipatory months that were going to be whiled away by playing with my new computer game. Which is now delayed until... JUNE.

I. am seriously. pissed off.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Class #1 Attachment Parenting

Our first class last night, on Attachment Parenting (see title, above) was very interesting. We learned about as much about brain chemistry as a two hour class geared toward people who took biology twenty years ago, in high school, could be expected to teach. Apparently, when you get really upset and stressed, your brain dumps a chemical called Cortisol (sp?) into itself to calm you down. However, cortisol in large and frequent quantities is corrosive, so if you trip the brain's too-much-cortisol meter the distress thermostat gets reset and from then on that person has to reach higher, longer lasting amounts of stress to trigger the calm-down-happy-brain-juice. So people who have been under a great deal of stress at a very young age often get really stressed out much more easily than is normal and stay that way much longer than is normal. Fun times for all.

One thing I really liked was that the instructor said that one of the things that is just missing from these kids lives (even babies) and which makes a person feel much more secure is the sense that somebody else is simply delighting in their presence. It made me think of my dad, who will often say my name, and when I respond and ask what he wants, he says "nothing, I just like saying your name" with this big goofy grin on his face. I'm sure that there was a time when I was a teenager that I thought that Daddy was just being so stupid and annoying by doing that, but I don't remember it.

I'm looking more forward than ever to Annie/Oliver coming home.

Now Reading: Oliver Twist. Actually, this is going to be the first time I've read the whole thing. It goes really fast up until Oliver is kidnapped away from Mr. Brownlow, but then it starts to drag.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Something Completely Different

Dear Microsoft:

When a google search on "customize the ribbon" returns 15,200 hits and they preponderantly refer to your Office 2007 ribbon and the solution you offer for how to meet this demand is that the user can always just alter the MyRibbon.vb and MyRibbon.xml files it makes people GRUMPY!!! It is time to publish a patch.

I want my *^$(@*# merge across button in Excel back.

Thanking you for your prompt attention to this matter,


Monday, January 19, 2009

Crisis of Confidence

OMG can we do this? Are we letting ourselves in for years of hell and the destruction of my career for the sake of a relationship that is never going to actually bloom into anything? Am I inviting an abusive person into my life? Why would I do such a thing?

When we talked to the agent and we were discussing some of the things on the questionnaire, we had to explain ourselves a little. The questionnaire just said "Preferred/Acceptable/Would Consider/Unacceptable," even on questions like "child has learning disabilities." Well there are learning disabilities and learning disabilities, now aren't there? We weren't enthusiastic about that question. Can we deal with a kid who is behind in school because they've been dealing with life shitting all over them? Hell, yes. Mild emotional damage? We're pretty much expecting it. Can we handle a first kid with Down Syndrome or severe autism or a wild case of FASD brain damage? Maybe we just don't know our own strengths and we could, but the fact is that we don't want to, not on the first kid. We don't want to stop at one, and if we have to look forty-five years into the future and figure out who's going to take care of kid #1 when we're ready to check ourselves into a home, we're not ever going to get to kid #2, and we want to get to kid #2. There wasn't any place on the form to explain that we're more interested in IQ than in grades, and there wasn't any place to explain that we assume that these kids are probably going to need a parental safety net into their thirties, but we would like it if the kid we're looking for has a decent chance of becoming more or less self-sufficient by then.

Is that unrealistic? We want to take in one or two at a time and do some serious neosporin parenting and give them the space and support they need to figure things out and to stop surviving and start living. We don't think that our love will make things all better, but we think that enough time in a safe space makes anybody breathe a little more free.

In the end, all we could tell the agent was "it's our first time, be gentle with us."

Omigawd, what am I getting myself into?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Back from the Agency

Saw the agent today, and we're signed up for classes, all of which will be done by the end of March. That's a month ahead of our target (end of April), so we'll have a big incentive to close on a house in May instead of dawdling and waiting until June or July, because the purchase is going to be the only thing holding us up.

The agent asked about the apartment, basically wondering if we could speed things up by getting approved here. We had to explain that, yes, we have two bedrooms, but one of them is packed full of things you would normally find in a garage - things like table saws and drill presses. It's just not an option. And even if the bedroom wasn't full of industrial shelving and an air compressor, there simply isn't enough private space here to add another person. B is a man who cannot live without a lot of "alone time" and I'd say the same about myself if I didn't have B around to teach me how needing alone time is done. So enough space that we're not in each other's way all the time is a must.

We got a glance at a one-page mini-file on Annie. There's a history of schizophrenia in her family, and she suffers from seizures and is taking a psychiatric medication, although we don't know what med that is. Oliver has a history of abuse or neglect, which we had expected, but that wasn't mentioned on Annie's sheet.

Oliver is "on hold" already - somebody's begun the process of adopting him already. What was that thing about these kids being hard to place again?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Post-vacation Review

Colorado was what Colorado always is. The first three or four days, the thin air is a severely limiting factor; then I get one day when I can keep up on a minor hike or a day of walking around a scenic/resort/downtown area; then we fly home. In the interval, there's lots of nice time with the fam and much sleep deprivation due to allergies and a smaller-than-we-love-it bed (B and I got a king size bed last year because the dog takes up so much space, the queen wasn't big enough for the three of us (me and B and Her Holly-ness the Pup) anymore. Dad & Kris put us in a guest room with a full size bed, which felt like that scene in Barefoot in the Park where Robert Redford announces that "we will be sleeping from left to right tonight." Plus, I missed Holly. I repeatedly woke B by scratching his belly in my sleep, and on at least one occasion, I woke up enough to exclaim "Oh, you're not Holly, you're B!"

So there's some sleep deprivation going on, but that's not what you all both came here to find out about today. You came here to find out how the adoption announcement went. And the answer is that it went really well. They're happy, the first thing my dad said was "I'm gonna be a grandpa!" which was pretty much exactly what I wanted to hear, and they want to know all the details of everything that happens every step of the way. So, very supportive, very happy, and that's about all there is to it.

I spent a lot of time fantasizing about how cool it's going to be, probably in January 2011, to bring Annie/Oliver up to CO. Dad and Joe got out their guitars and played a bunch of songs, Amy and I sang along (both altos) and I kept on thinking about next year, maybe we can get Dad and Kris out to the east coast and then Danny (youngest brother) would be there too and then there would be three guitars going and I kept thinking that Annie strikes me as somebody who might like to play guitar with her uncles and maybe she'd like a guitar for Christmas next year, and maybe Oliver would like a really tricked out toolkit and toolbox all his own (his profile says that he likes to take things apart, which is totally a bonding point for B). And we went up to Breckenridge for a day and I thought about maybe in 2011 we could bring Annie/Oliver (or maybe even Annie & Oliver!) out to Colorado and how much fun it would be to learn to ski together and wondering if maybe it would be their first airplane ride, or first cross-country road trip... the kiddos were always on my mind.

Back to work, get through day, then hit the sack and try to catch up on sleep.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

pre-vacation summing up

Leaving tonight for Raleigh, to stay the night with brother Joe and future-sister-in-law Amy, flying out in the morning to Colorado Springs for post-Christmas with the parents.

We will be telling them about our adoption plans while we're out there. Joe and Amy already know, but I wanted to tell Dad & Mommy-Kris face to face, so we'll be doing it on this trip. And for some reason, I'm really nervous about it. Which is weird, because these days I can't stop thinking about fost/adopt and I'll talk anybody's ear off who lets me. Should be an interesting trip.

I finished the needlepoint on Amy's Christmas stocking earlier this week - just in time. I started the kit on Thanksgiving, and it's a rather involved pattern. I still have to take a picture of the one I actually did, but just so you can see what a heroic effort it was (with 24 different colors of yarn, some of which become indistinguishable in the light of our compact florescent bulbs, and with so few big solid areas and so many spots where you bring the yarn in for just three stitches) here is a picture of the sample stocking from the website where I bought the kit:

Other than that, things are going pretty well. On the job front, I'm loving my job (yay!) Bit of a story, a year and a half ago, I'd worked out a programming technique for a pretty sticky coding problem that I was pretty proud of. Right after I'd finished shaking all the bugs out of it, an article on the subject was published on a professional journal site I read. I posted my technique in the comments (scroll down) and was asked to write an article about it based on that comment. In a peer-reviewed journal, no less, and they were offering to pay me for it! The bad news was that, of course, I had to check with my job to make sure it wouldn't violate any company policies if I did write this article (if they hadn't offered me money I wouldn't have had to worry about that so much). My boss at the time made a bit of a stink about it and eventually came up with conditions that were so ridiculous that the first time I stumbled on the article, I decided that the whole thing wasn't worth the bother and gave it up. The really ironic thing is that the company I was working for then had a improving their google ranking as a high-priority goal, but my boss - the IT manager - knew so little about how google works that he didn't realize that a couple of articles by me with a link to the company in the bio would have shot the google rank through the roof.

But, I have held on to that link and offered it to various prospective employers and new bosses since then as a sample of my work (it's pretty common to be asked for a coding sample as part of the interview process). I just got a new boss here at Unisys (marvelous company to work for, by the way - great adoption benefits!) and he looked at it and without knowing the history said "you should write this up in an article - this could really help a lot of people, and it would be a big help to you in your career." So no obstacles, no conditions and no more excuses - I have a technical article to write!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Everything you always wanted to know about wanting to know

When her son and his wife were expecting their first child, my aunt used to like to say "no children, twenty theories; two children, no theories." Marc, you see, had many Ideas about how things were going to be Different with his kids because he and Julie had a Plan.

I have no children, twenty theories, and a blog, which is another way of saying that I'm about ten different kinds of a damn fool. I know this, and knowing it doesn't stop me, which means that this one (me) goes to eleven.

Anyway, Yondalla has a post up about teens and sex that is thought provoking, and being provoked, and seeing as how these thoughts are going to be very important to me in, very hopefully, the near future, I thought I'd talk a little about them here.

I should start, I guess, by explaining my own experiences with learning about It. I knew all about reproduction by the age of 5, thanks to my OB-GYN nurse mother. It always made me giggle - same with seeing people kiss on TV. Very embarrassing stuff, and I remember really wishing that she'd just shut up about it (it really felt sometimes like somebody had taken a completely de-kinkified Dr. Ruth broadcast and played it on an endless loop). We had one sex-ed class in fifth and sixth grade after school and my mother taught the girls' group for that, too. I remember at least one of my classmates approaching me after that class was over, and the awestruck way she told me that I was so lucky to have a mom who is willing to talk about sex. Which I guess just goes to show that there's a flip side to everything.

That was one side of my sex education. The other part happened when I was seventeen years old and was talking to my friend, Liz. It was after our first semester in college, I remember, and she told me that her high school boyfriend had come to visit, and they'd decided that the long-distance thing wasn't going to work out, and that they'd broken up. And then, after they broke up, they'd had sex one more time, for old time's sake.

And I was no end of shocked, I gotta tell you. I mean, pick my jaw up off the floor flabbergasted, and I asked her why? and she looked at me kind of blankly and said "for fun." And those two words blew open a lot of doors and windows for me. I could not remember a time when I didn't know the hows and the whys and the why nots about sex, but it had never occurred to me that it was either permissable or possible to have a good time doing it, or to do it just for the good time. And that was true even when I thought about sex within a relationship; I would have found the idea of married people engaging in gleeful quickies absolutely incomprehensible.

It seems to me that we make a lot of shocked, shocked! noise about how sexified our culture is and how much we should push back when kids are growing up, but we're a little deaf to the background noise that exists that pushes a lot of screwed up notions about sex on to kids. Dennis Prager's marital rape how-to guide is reprehensible, but it's not exactly an outlier. The idea that sex is a subject that can be approached on its own terms - and not as something that is inextricably entertwined with a committed relationship - is still treated as radical, even in the same breath as the pervasiveness of that idea is decried. And that is unfortunate, not only because it seeks to deny us some zesty fun, it also detracts from the value we place on non-sexual relationships (and opens the door to Prager's deplorable "logic") which is another lesson in the whole "flip side of everything" concept.

So here's the twenty-theories and a blog deal: telling kids about how babies are made and how married people have a "special kind of hug" and about how great sex can be when it isn't just sex, but part of a close, committed relationship, is maybe a quarter of a sex education. Telling them about staying safe - and not just about using protection, but also about things like, if you're at a party and you're feeling drunk and you want to go home, scope around for a girl who looks sober and whether you know her or not, ask her to get you home. If she won't do it, look for another sober girl and repeat until you find one who will get you home safe*, are another quarter. Telling them about rape and not-rape is another solid quarter. Telling them that sex is a lot of fun, and reminding yourself that the years between sexual development and about thirty are when people are at their most energetic and most wildly hormonal and most daring and that those don't necessarily add up to bad things (actually, they can add up to a lot of fun) is the last part.

We tend to focus on the idea that minors having sex is bad. I don't think that's necessarily true. I tend to think that sexually mature people having sex is natural, even if the person in question isn't mature in other ways (this is very important to people like my husband, who would be a 40-year old virgin if he had to wait until he's grown up... just kidding, B is only 38.)

So here's where I'd want my kid to be as they approach adulthood, as pertains to sex:
  1. I'd want them to understand that it's something that they should only do when and if they want to do it
  2. I'd want them to understand what herpes is. Graphically.
  3. I'd want them to understand that sex can bring unintended obligation, and that even protected sex does contain a particle of risk of incurring that obligation. This applies to partners who might get emotionally vulnerable as a result as well as to surprise offspring.
  4. I'd want them to understand that sex can be fun and tender and intimate, but it can also be used to hurt and humiliate, and that hurting and humiliating another person is a terrible and awful thing to do for anything less than $500 an hour, adjusted for inflation.
Yondalla has a number of scenarios up, and I'd have to say that the answer doesn't lie in the circumstances, the circumstances are merely learning experiences on the way to living the principles I've outlined here. Scenario 1, with a thirteen year old kid performing oral sex as a party game freaks me out a little, I'll admit. But I have to say, the first thing I'd ask was "so how do you feel about it?" Because there are two possibilities here: we could have a case of not-rape and a kid who needs help to avoid being not-raped again; or, we could have a budding exhibitionist who is eagerly anticipating the next party. The odds lean heavily towards the former here, which sounds to me like the kids need an adult to blame for why they can't go to the cool-but-extremely-scary parties anymore.

Scenario 2 sounds to me either like somebody whose ideas about love=sex are prompting him/her to attempt to substitute the latter for the former, or somebody whose interest in sex far outpaces his/her interest in a relationship, but who is attempting to offer a relationship in exchange for sex. Either way, it's time to work on decoupling.

Scenario 3 sounds pretty healthy and normal to me. Same for scenario 4, although I would be inclined to ask if he and the boyfriend couldn't think of someplace to go where they'd be a lot less at risk of being arrested and/or banned from the gym.

*This is actually one of the most valuable things I learned in college. And for the record, I was the sober one.