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.