Generic Life Updates

One of my dearest friends was let go at work. Her last day is Friday. Sad, sad day. I just can't imagine what it's going to be like going into that office every day and knowing that she won't be there anymore. She is truly one of the kindest and sweetest people I have ever met. EVER. We will still be in touch - she's one of my bingo partners - but work will not be the same.

My parents are coming to my house Saturday! We have big plans - we have to relocate a certain cat that lives under my deck. We are going to try to get Andrew's car running (it won't start!). We are going to play bingo. We'll probably play bananagrams-the best game ever.

I'm FINALLY going to see Hunger Games this weekend. I can't believe I haven't seen it yet. The book series are one of my favorites - and I have read a LOT of books in my lifetime.

Oh...and I'll be preparing for a little trip I'm taking to this place, which some of you may recognize...

Foster Parent Experience - The First Isn't Always the Hardest!

Hello from Casa de Foster Parent!
I have my first house guest this weekend and I almost feel like all the training I did was for fun.  The foster boy in my house has been ridiculously wonderful.

He's a 15 year old who has had a rough past, that shines through when he talks about his family, and it really came through when I offered to buy him socks and he responded as if I had bought him a puppy. He has no socks. NO SOCKS. He's heading off to a group home for the next 90 days, and whoever packed him up last week did not provide any socks.

He is polite, has great manners, is kind-hearted...and he's in foster care and lives a very different life than most children you know. He talks about his six cats, one who they had to give away but who he still considers his own. He discusses mean teachers at school. He told me about his grandparents farm in the midwest. He's somewhat your average teenager. Complete with multiple piercings and holes in his baggy jeans.

He is younger than his years of life, but what would you expect when he's been in and out of school the past couple years? He lived in a group home late last year for a bit. Let me remind you again that his primary caretaker sent him into foster care with NO SOCKS. I suspect that same person didn't hold high value on his education either....and he is in a lower grade than his age. I'm not pointing fingers, but someone out there did not provide enough love, attention and effort into helping this young boy become a young man.

The thing about foster parenting - at some points on this weekend I felt that I'm just babysitting. And to be clear - foster parents DO get paid a stipend. But the difference is the way you respond. For instance, we were going to eat popcorn and watch a movie last night in the sunroom. The bowl of popcorn I gave him was full to the top, like little kernels were balancing and holding on for dear life. With normal kids, you just hand them the bowl and say, be careful, it's full. With therapeutic kids, you have to prepare them for what could go wrong and how it will be handled if it does.

So when I gave this boy the bowl last night, I said to him- the bowl is very full so walk nice and slow. But if some of the popcorn falls out, it's going to be no big deal, okay? We'll just keep walking to the sunroom and set the bowl down and then come back and pick up the pieces that fell and throw them away. No big deal, okay?

That's how it is for everything.
"We're going to go get a movie at the Redbox, but if they don't have a movie we like, or we find one we like and it's sold out, it's no big deal because we will just try again tomorrow and save movie night for tomorrow, okay?"

One of the other things I have learned through training was that too many choices is overwhelming. I could actually see anxiety in his face when I asked him what he would like for dinner, and even when I started listing some choices, it was too much. When I saw this happening, I said to him - I will list out all of our choices (the first night we got take-out), and then we can pick the right one for us, okay?
Then I listed off the 10 places we have nearby and said to him, do you want to pick your top two choices and I'll pick my top two choices and we'll see if we like the same, okay? (most of my questions to him ended with okay-that's not from training, that's me hoping he doesn't have an anxiety attack).

Absolutely everything all weekend had to be carefully talked out...just in case something goes wrong and now you've put them in a position where they might feel anxiety or stress about what will happen.

Somehow, my weekend guest said something about making chocolates. I told him - oh, I have the supplies and know how to do that! He was VERY excited as I showed him all the candy molds I have. We took a trip to Michaels and picked out 3 colors of chocolates and then we spent almost four hours doing this:

"If a glass breaks for some reason, this is what we will do, okay?" And I made sure he knew if the glass DID break, it wouldn't mean we had to quit making chocolates or that I would be mad, it would just be a short delay in our project.

If you paint the wrong part of the mold, it's okay - you can make a new chocolate after this one is done, okay?

If you drip some candy on the mold or your finger or the counter, it's okay. We'll just wipe it up, okay?

If the sticks pop out, it's okay because then they'll just be regular chocolates , not lollipops, and we can make more lollipops after this tray, okay?

Throughout the entire process, his face looked like those suckers. Completely happy. He is with me until tomorrow morning and I hope today goes as smoothly, okay?

Congratulations and Good Luck, Kaylen!

I got this email today at 9:00am:

Congratulations and welcome, Kaylen!You’re going to do such an awesome job. JI’ll let the respite department know that you’re ready to go, and you should be hearing from them this week.

I got this email today at 4:00pm (after a brief phone conversation):

Hello Kaylen! Thank you for having < name withheld > for respite this Friday through Monday morning (3/23 – 3/26am).  I have attached his respite referral for you to review and have on-file.

Can you believe this?? It's HAPPENING.

Friday after work, I will be meeting a teenager who will live with me for the weekend. In my home. A stranger. In my home overnight. For 3 nights. With just me.

Am I ready for this???
Is he going to hate me? What if I ruin him? What if he ruins my desire to foster? What if it's so great that I feel like everyone else in the world is wasting their time by not fostering? 

Who knows what will happen...I just hope that I am able to offer him a very stable and kind place to stay for the weekend and that I somehow make a small difference in the life of someone in need.
Stay tuned for more...

Homeless in the Suburbs

I live in a residential neighborhood where we all have six foot high fences separating each yard. I never talk to my neighbors, rarely see them actually, and as far as I can tell, they never talk to each other either.

We have a neighborhood cat who roams where he pleases, but has never been a real pest, other than the fact that he's 100% deaf and doesn't scare when you yell at him if he's in your garage and you don't see him until you're closing the door. He sticks pretty close to home though and only comes around in the summer when everyone is working outside.

If we do get a cat in our backyard, we scare it off. I don't want some fickle feline marking up my backyard, taunting my indoor cats.

But about 9 days ago, I noticed that the most recent cat I've been scaring off was actually napping in a pile of leaves right off my deck. Who does that??
You can just see a patch of white in this first picture (look to the right of the tree), where he's all curled up, trying to stay warm while he naps.
I scared him away, but he didn't GO away. He went under my deck.

And then I repeatedly saw him over the course of the week and I couldn't convince him to go home.
Being the detective that I am - I added up the signs and I believe this kitty is actually homeless.

We have a few homeless humans out here in the suburbs, and I've talked to most of them when doing my recycling (which is where they hang). There's the guy who is disabled and can't get work who lives in his car with his wife. I usually buy them something to eat when I go grocery shopping and see them. Or if I'm doing my aluminum recycling, I split the proceeds with him, which is fair because he actually keeps me company and helps break down my boxes.

So it stands to reason that I would think to feed the little homeless guy in my backyard!

I've posted his pics on Craigslist and I'm hoping that someone recognizes him. I wandered the neighborhood and asked a few people around the local 2 blocks, but nobody knows who he might belong to.

I feel like he must be an indoor cat - he cried when I took the food container outside and shook it. Feral cats don't know that noise do they?? It's really hungry. It ate two servings yesterday and most of a heaping plate today. Hopefully someone sees my ad for him soon. I think I'll post some flyers up near the elementary school down the street and at the major intersections.

I really think it's someone's pet who was scared from home during the big storm last week. If someone doesn't claim it soon, I'm going to trap it and take it in and see if it has a microchip, but if I do that and he does not, do I just bring him home?? That seems sad-it would have to stay outside. But if I take it to the humane society, it will be up for adoption in three days, and then someone loses the chance to get their pet back. Oy, choices....for now, I need to pick a name for him and start feeding it regularly.

Foster Care Preparation - The End is Near!

The road to being a foster care parent is a long one....but I've done it in just six weeks!! (not counting the initial couple information meetings where they weed out people who have no chance...I signed a contract yesterday and it just has to receive final approval by two people in the foster care food chain and then I'm CERTIFIED!!!

Some of the things I had to do around the house:

I needed a place to lock up "stuff" - like cleaning supplies, scary-looking gardening tools, alcohol, etc. I already had shelves in the garage, so it seemed like it could be easiest to just seal off one of those. And while I wouldn't market my locking-shelf-making capabilities, I am pretty impressed that I pulled this one off myself. Ever try to attach something heavy via bracket to something on a wall by yourself? I tried letting it rest on my head, but my skull isn't as durable as I thought and I struggled with the pain level that comes from having a 6-foot long piece of wood resting on my head. But I'm pretty independent and I don't need help from others- I can do ANYTHING on my own!!!  I pulled my ladder over and it was my partner in getting this task complete.

The next step was to have a locking cabinet inside for medication and things that I need easy access to. I didn't want some unsightly lock on any cabinets, so I chose to use Tot Locks. These things are effing miracles! How did these not get invented decades ago??? I would have loved to have had these when Andrew was a small child. They are a lock on the inside of the cabinet that you lock with a heavy-duty magnet that triggers the unlock feature. You can also disengage it, keep it unlocked with a little plastic piece, which is great for me doing just every other weekend respite care so I don't have to unlock it every time I need in there when I have no kids.

Something you probably didn't realize is that when you have a foster child in your house overnight, you need an alarm on the bedroom door so you know if the child has left their bedroom. Something that beeps or make noise to alert you in the night. I was a bit concerned by this one as since I've started on my heart meds last year, I am the heaviest sleeper in all of history. The door alarm I bought has a ridiculously loud beep though and I think it will work. I'm going to test it this weekend - the alarm detects movement at the bedroom door, so if one of the cats walks along that side of the hallway, they set it off. I bought the Driveway Patrol brand-super cheap but very effective.

The rest of my house was pretty easy. I had to get another smoke alarm-we have one in the hallway outside of both bedroom doors, but requirements say you have to have one in the child's bedroom. Bleh, whatever, that was an easy fix. I had to buy a carbon monoxide detector, which I meant to buy long ago anyway. I needed a fireplace screen for the gas fireplace since the front of it gets hot. Just little things, they said my house was pretty easy. In other homes, they sometimes see major things that need done, like if you have any kind of water feature in your yard, that becomes a big issue. Or if you have weapons there are regulations, of course.

They expect my certification to be complete today or early next week - so NEXT WEEKEND I could have a foster child in the house!!!! Yikes, right?

What to Do: Old Paint, Old Homes

When I bought my house, the previous owner left me every paint can he had ever bought, nicely labeled with what room it was for and what year it was bought. I've just left them alone in the garage for the last 2.5 yrs, aside from a mishap where I grabbed a can to do some touch-ups and found that the color had faded - which encouraged my desire to paint my walls last month.

The paint is OLD - some are dated back to 2003. Some are 2007. The newest is 2009. Some are over half-full. Some have just about a quarter of the can left.
  • Should I continue to keep the paint?
  • Should I paint the boring sheet rock in my garage - not just the plain colors, but maybe create my own color by mixing a little bit of the leftovers?
  • Should I just recycle it at my local paint store?


I pulled our old bird nest down off the security lights finally. The security lights look lonely now. I'm hoping another bird will come along and build there, as it really was great fun to watch the baby birds grow up-and learn to fly! It really wasn't fun when one of the babies was found in a heap of broken bones on the deck (sad!).
Inside the birds nest are these seed like things. Anyone know what they are?

What should I do with my nest? I have two now-this one from the back yard and a tiny one that was in the eaves of our front walkway.
  • Do I need to do anything to make them sanitary?
  • Should I just toss them in the yard debris?
  • Should I put them outside for some other creature to take off and make into their own?
  • Should I see if a local elementary school wants them for a birding unit?

Andrew Comes Home!!

My darling son Andrew came home to visit for the weekend! He is going to India for spring break next week so this was (probably) our only visit until the summer. He has an action-packed weekend full of friends, family, food, getting his hair cut, having a singing lesson, going shopping, barely sleeping, playing bananagrams. I'm sure it felt like a whirlwind to him, but it was so great to have him home. I miss him!!!

He was good about carving out plenty of mom time. Saturday we went down to the Portland Saturday Market. It's always fun to wander around and see what they have or what people are doing. 

The Game of Real Life - where you become pregnant at 16, become a drug addict, go to jail, shoot your neighbor.

These are made entirely out of hand-written numbers. NUMBERS!!! I love these!! I love the person that can not only create amazing artwork but do so using just numbers!

Hey big dog! 

Creative license plate!
My young son is gone again, off to college and then very soon-off to India!! I can't wait to see the pictures and hear all about it. Maybe I can get him to write a guest post? Stay tuned for more....

This is my busy time at work. It's late nights, exhausting days, helping multiple people at one time, trying to keep a smile on my face and hold back the yawning as much as possible. 

I have a new manager now, which is good and bad - good because we weren't really compatible and bad because she knew the job so well and it helped make my job easier.. My last one left to get away from the rat race and tend to her aging parents. She has no job and no plan for one right now - she lived a frugal (boring) life for the last 25 years and now she's not yet 45 -and free of a stressful career! So jealous. Not of the last 25 years that she lived watching every penny (literally), but of her freedom to do what she pleases now. We should all have that experience at some point in life.


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