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.