Thursday, August 4, 2011

Ethics of self-care

Okay y'all. My twitter peeps are encouraging me to take a mental health day tomorrow. I want a broader range of opinions. Here are the details:
1. I want to take the day off to go to Starbucks and while away the day with a sweet coffee drink and my knitting.
2. The day off won't really help my mental health (though my mental health HAS been a bit off lately).
3. The one piece of my job that I absolutely MUST DO tomorrow requires about 40 seconds and
can be done from my laptop.
4. If I am NOT at work tomorrow, there will only be two people in the office.
5. Neither one of the people who will be in the office normally works until 5, so one of them would unexpectedly have to stay late.
6. I willingly do my part to pitch in when others are out of the office.
7. But I feel like I do more taking-of-time-off than my most analogous colleague, who is the one who more likely would be the one to have to stay late.
8. So taking the day off is an imposition on my coworkers.

Given all these factors, what say you? Okay to take the day off, or inappropriate taking advantage of coworkers?

MIA! Quick updates

A lot has happened in the last two months since my last post. Here are the bullet points:

  • Odessa graduated from high school. I got to go to her graduation AND meet her mom, but didn't get to celebrate with her.

  • Odessa moved to a new foster home. She refused to pack, so I packed her things for her. No plastic bags. When her social worker dragged her kicking and screaming brought her to get her belongings, the social worker commented that "we don't like to move kids in garbage bags, but bags are a lot easier to move." Uh, sorry?

  • I went on vacation!

  • We had two student interns in our office. Both over 18, both in the child welfare system, both ended up getting fired. That's a longer post that I've been meaning to write for the last month.

  • Odessa turned 18.

  • Sabrina's 6th birthday is in two weeks. I have to figure out what to get her. (Also my nephew. Turning 8. Any ideas for either of them are welcome.)

That's about it!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Odessa and Money

A few anecdotes involving Odessa and money:

  1. This morning: "I don't want to use my allowance to get my nails done for prom.* My allowance is for other things!"**

  2. Also this morning: "All I need you for is money."

  3. About two weeks ago: "I shouldn't have to ask you for money. You should just give it to me. And you should just have it in your pocket."***

*I did not give Odessa sufficient money for ALL the extras for prom. I gave her some money and told her that I would give her more if she showed she was able to be home by curfew and respected me as more than just a source of money. She understood that (she repeated it back to me last night) but did not do what I asked.
**When we worked out her allowance, getting nails done was added as a semi-regular expense that she could save up for. So actually, it isn't :-)
***The last bit is because pre-Odessa I rarely carried cash with me. I try to remember to go to the ATM before Sunday morning allowance time, but don't always remember. And if there's something she needs money for in the middle of the week, chances are good I'm making a trip to the ATM.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


Odessa is going! Next year! To the four year school she wants to go to!

I'm a little befuddled by the May 26th acceptance, but I'll take it. I am super proud of and excited for her.

Now, if she could only figure out how to get home by curfew...

Friday, May 13, 2011

Curfew and Consequences

Odessa isn't late for curfew every night. Just every night that she leaves the house.*

I have tried "if you are a half hour late for curfew, your curfew is a half hour earlier for the next week," but she just doesn't go out then.

I've considered charging her money (that's a way to get a teenager's attention!) because when she is late for curfew, I stay up worrying, and it affects my time and my work. I haven't actually done this.

And then last night she was almost three hours late for curfew. Her phone battery was (almost) dead, she had no cash, our subways stop running at midnight, I felt like crap on a cracker, and she hadn't told me where she was until I got in touch with her after she had already missed curfew. I was completely overcome with worry.

So I am going to do two things. The first is probably a terrible idea but I need to do something. (By the way, she also was late for curfew on Sunday. It was because she was babysitting her niece and couldn't find her brother to drop her niece off--not really her fault.) I am going to make her write sentences. To be completely honest, if I hadn't seen on blogs that some other foster and adoptive parents use this with their children, I would have thought the punishment went away with the '50s. She was 162 minutes late, so she will write "I will be home by curfew" 162 times. It would have been better for her to do it last night but she cursed at me and stormed off to her bedroom before I mentioned it, and, again, I felt like crap on a cracker.

The second is much more logical and appropriate for a teenager. Her senior trip is in 3 weeks. I've signed the permission slip for her to go, but not given the money yet. I want her to have the experience of going, but I don't know that I can trust her to make good decisions. So we are going to make a contract. It is going to involve being home by curfew (with exceptions for 1. if I've given her permission to be out later, and 2. a cumulative hour of leeway for slight delays in buses and such), not cursing at me, and completing chores that I ask her to do (which are few and far between, to be completely honest).

*In fairness, she went out on Tuesday after having ASKED permission, she called at 9 asking if she could go to her cousin's band practice, and when I said no, she was home by curfew.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Status of my License

I made a decision last night. My foster care license expires sometime in September (ish). Odessa ought to have moved to some other situation by then, and I want to buy a house. I can't buy a house where I am now because I can't afford the houses in neighborhoods that are in walking distance to synagogues. I've done a grand total of 4 hours of my mandatory 30 hours of training. So I am going to let my license lapse, work on moving, work on my mental health and attachment issues, and then get licensed in a new state after I'm settled in my new home. I'm still here. Just announcing my intentions to the world. :-)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Family Dinner

I'm looking for advice about parenting teenagers. This is framed within the specific context of eating dinner as a family but probably this is just a symptom of my broader not-knowing-what-I'm-doing-ness.

I don't (think I) have that many expectations, but one of the expectations that I have is that Odessa and I eat dinner together as a family. I stated this the first night Odessa lived with me and have brought it up at intervals (usually when I'm disappointed that Odessa hasn't come home for dinner) since then.

It is hard to model this as "this is what a healthy family does" because besides Odessa, it's just me. And it is important to me that we eat together because 1. I need to make sure she's eating something healthy (and that she's eating at all), 2. it's when I talk to her about school and her friends and her plans, and 3. that's what a healthy family tries to do.

Two weeks ago Odessa complained about this expectation because it's not what she's used to and she thinks I'm "forcing" her to come home, and also when it get's nicer out, she's "not going to want to come inside." I told her I would think about it, but then I didn't say anything until she brought it up again. When she brought it up again last week, I offered her a compromise, that we could make a schedule of two nights a week that she could eat somewhere else. She didn't respond, and explicitly opted not to respond when I brought up the compromise the following day. I stated then that because she didn't respond, I would expect her to come home for dinner every night until she chooses to respond.

She was at her brother's for the weekend, came home yesterday and ate before I got home, and today went to her bedroom while I was cooking and told me she wasn't going to come out when I knocked on her door to let her know that dinner was ready.

I don't want to "punish" Odessa for not eating with me. I know that partly I need to adjust my expectations. But at the same time, I am frustrated because I come home to a television that is very loud, Odessa doesn't say hello to me, she (very teenagerly) responds to questions with at most one syllable... but she turns the TV off for dinner. I'm terrible at getting anything out of her about school (more than 2 questions and she snaps at me) and have almost no clue what's going on in her life; if I don't have 15 minutes at dinner I have nothing.

I need ideas.

Monday, March 28, 2011

And on a related note...

Anyone know of jurisdictions that extend the one family-one worker model beyond child welfare to include kids involved in the juvenile justice system, food stamps and income assistance, other government programs??

One kid-one worker model?

My jurisdiction has (I think!) a one family-one worker model for child welfare, so a kid's parents have the same worker as the kid. But the kid might cycle through workers: one when first removed from the home, then another for her first bit of time in care, then maybe another when her goal changes to adoption (I'm just guessing, as I've not had a kid in that situation) or she ages into teenager-hood... not to mention all of the times her worker might leave the agency or get promoted. And then there are all the extra people at the agency that the kid has to deal with--the educational specialist who helps with her FAFSA and college applications, and others. Now, I understand why it helps to have workers who have specialized knowledge of different stages of the process. But it doesn't seem good for the kid. Do any of you know if there are jurisdictions that keep one worker with one kid/sibling group throughout the kid's time in care?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Hiding in the laundry room

I meant to do laundry earlier today, but Odessa (who last night said she was coming home from her brother's--where she was spending the weekend--tonight at curfew and today called me around 12:45 asking if I could pick her up) and I got home at the same time (I wasn't able to pick her up when she called, as I was out shopping) and pretty much the first thing she said to me was that she was going to do laundry. There went that plan.

So I'm in the laundry room (4 loads!) with all of my neighbors. I knew I'd have to wait at some point in the process so I brought the computer and my phone and my knitting. Odessa laughed at me when I told her I was going to "hang out" down here, but it works.

Plus I'm having a "you're driving me crazy but it's really my own problem" weekend so it's better for me to be away from Odessa. (Though I'd like to be cleaning more in the apartment and my bedroom. Later, I suppose.)

As I mentioned, Odessa spent the weekend at her brother's house. She went Thursday night because there wasn't school on Friday. Friday morning I woke up only to discover that she was home, in her bed, sound asleep. We texted a bit during the day and then about 20 minutes before Shabbat, she called me to tell me that she "needs to take some papers to the building." I kid you not. Still not sure what she was talking about but it did become clear that she didn't expect me to do anything about it. Glad she communicates but really, if all she does is confuse me, it stresses me out.

Friday night as I went to bed I noticed that my phone's screen was on. I was careful to turn it off after I plugged it in, so curiosity got the better of me and I looked to see what I had missed. It was a text message from O and all I could see of it was "please answer t". So then I spent the rest of Shabbat wondering what she wanted. It turned out...

She has a UTI and she wanted me to take her to the ER. She ultimately called her therapist who took her, but of course I feel overwhelmed by guilt that I wasn't there for her. She called me right before Shabbat ended so I called her back and she said "I just got home from the hospital and I need you to get my prescriptions for me." Okay, there went my timed-to-the-minute plan for Purim. Stressful, and I don't know why O's brother couldn't get her prescriptions filled (or, for that matter, why the ER doesn't send people discharged after 7 home with 1 day of medicine so you don't have to find a 24 hour pharmacy), but of course I'll get her her prescriptions. But I checked online and the pharmacies by her brother close at 9 on Saturday nights and it was already 8:30 so I wouldn't have been able to get there. So then I'm stressed plus feeling guilty about not being there for Odessa when she went to the ER plus feeling guilty about not getting her prescriptions filled. (But I was able to make the treats I needed to make for Purim, go to shpiel, go to the late megillah reading, come home and put my mishloach manot together though I couldn't find my stapler, and go to bed by 2:30.)

When I called Odessa back to tell her that I wouldn't be able to get her prescriptions because of when the pharmacies closed, I asked when she was planning to come home and she said by curfew tonight (10 pm). I made my mental schedule for today: megillah reading, shopping for a new suit, quick stop at the craft store for materials for a baby present, come home, laundry, dishes, make a shopping list, go grocery shopping.

I got to the mall at around 12:45 and discovered that Odessa had called three times in the preceding 10 minutes. (No message.) I called her back and she asked if I could pick her up. And we are now back to the beginning of this post, where you can see that my plans for today did not work out as I'd hoped.

Friday, March 18, 2011

This morning's surprise

Odessa planned to spend this weekend at her brother's girlfriend's house. She didn't have school today, so she left last night to head over there. This morning I woke up and discovered that the laptop was not where I left it. Confused, I checked Odessa's room, and there she was, fast asleep.

Now, I slept with my bedroom door open last night. So how did I 1. not hear her come in, and 2. not hear her watch TV (the remotes were also not where I left them)? And what are her plans for the rest of the weekend? I did grocery shopping last night for the next few days, but for only myself. Someone from the Agency is supposed to pick her up today to go to the Social Security office to get her her social security card, but I don't know who it is, and that person expects Odessa to be at her "sister"'s house.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Vacation advice

Okay y'all, I need your advice. First, let me say that obviously any decisions will have to involve the rest of my family and Odessa. Nevertheless, let me tell you what the background is and then what the options are, and then I really really really want your feedback.

Background: we booked a family vacation way back in September. Sabrina was with me then but we knew she wouldn't be staying, and of course I had no clue of Odessa's existence, or that there was even the remotest possibility that I would end up with a teenager in my home. We are going on a cruise leaving from thousands of miles away from our Big City, from a Big City2 that I've never been to. My aunt and I are to share a stateroom on the cruise, and I intend to spend a few extra days after the cruise wandering Big City2 and the BigCity3 that is a few hours away.

The question now is: do we bring Odessa on the cruise, or does she stay somewhere else for two weeks?

1. If she comes on the cruise, I can't extend the vacation. This is for cost reasons (I'm assuming that I can find enough couches to surf for a few days that I won't have to pay for a hotel. Can't do that with a teenager.)--though we'd also have to change up my ideas about what we would do for those few days, and that just seems stressful to me. (Plus her summer job will start the day after the cruise ends.)

2. Stateroom options if she comes:
a. She shares the stateroom with my aunt and me. Total cost (outside of airfare) for the extra person: $580.
b. She shares the stateroom with me that I was going to share with my aunt, and my aunt gets her own stateroom in the same (expensive) category. Total cost (outside of airfare): $4100-some.
c. My aunt and I share our stateroom, Odessa brings a friend and they share an interior cabin. Total cost (outside of airfare): $2489. (Note: I didn't ask about Odessa having her own interior cabin, my guess is that would be about $2200; I'm not sure I like the idea of a 17 year old with her own cabin, though I traveled with my parents and had my own hotel rooms. In fact, we went to England when I was 9 and my sister 14, and we shared a room that wasn't always adjacent to my parents'.)

Airfare at the moment is about $450 per person round trip. I hate spending money but I think I would be okay paying for a friend to come with her, since it would be only a few extra hundred dollars plus airfare.

3. I'm really just bummed that I wouldn't be able to extend the vacation.

4. I promised Odessa that we could go somewhere by plane so we either do this (which will give her all sorts of new experiences) or I have to plan another trip to somewhere that would end up costing about $1000 anyway. (Yes, $1000 is very different from $3500. Nevertheless...)

5. If she doesn't come, I will feel guilty for going on a family vacation and not treating her as part of the family. Even though we didn't know her when the trip was planned.

6. All this time, my expectations were for a responsibility-free vacation. I don't want to have to shift my expectations.

7. I don't know how the rest of the family would feel about the addition of a 17 year old and an 18 year old to our group. (I'm making assumptions about which friend Odessa would choose to bring.)

8. I'm cheap. Over $6000 for a vacation seems steep to me, even if it would be for three people. (I think that the $2500 I have to pay for myself seems steep, but I'd gotten used to it.)

What do you recommend I do???

Catching up

It's a good thing that this blog is anonymous, not because of protecting my dear children's privacy (well, that too) but because I am going to say this:

It is just past 11 this morning. I've just finished my coffee (love ya Dunkin Donuts!) and have done maybe 20 minutes of work so far. Yes, I've been here for 2 hours. I have plenty to do, and none of it difficult, but feel like catching you all up on the last few weeks chez Foster Ima.

Odessa is still with me. I had a visit from my support worker a few weeks ago which is relevant to Odessa still being with me in the following way: my support worker clearly doesn't care about the kids in my care.

Now, this isn't entirely fair, as she did ask if I'd been in touch in Sabrina and how is she doing at dad's. But her lack of concern for Odessa's well-being as a 17 and a half year old in care was shocking and dismaying.

You all know that I agreed to Odessa coming to live with me without much thought or soul-searching on my part because it was supposed to be an "emergency" placement for "about a month." I can't say no to a teenager being without a place to live, and I could handle a month. Obviously it's been about three and a half months at this point, and while Odessa's social worker submitted a request for a new placement (see my last post for more details about how well that went over, my guilt over the situation, etc), MY worker says that the placement office won't do anything unless they feel a sense of urgency. (A lot of good that sense of urgency did when Odessa's LAWYER was the one who found her the placement at my house because the placement office wasn't acting with any sense of purpose.)

So if I want Odessa to move, I need to give 30 days notice. Of course, that could very well mean that in 30 days she moves to an emergency home and then to another foster home like mine where the foster parent(s) hasn't thought about making a long-term commitment to a teenager, and she just gets bounced around and around. I don't want that to happen. But my worker had no problem at all with the possibility of this happening and told me at least four times that I should give my 30 days notice.

Hell, no.

I am happy for Odessa to stay with me until a reasonable longer-term placement is found. I have come to accept that probably she will be with me indefinitely. She is likely to go to community college here in the fall, instead of going away, and I anticipate that she will still be with me.


We got cable yesterday. Odessa and I met together with her therapist a week ago and discussed what each of our top priorities are. Mine was that Odessa communicate with me. (As in, you may not give me the silent treatment.) Hers was cable. So I got cable in exchange for her not giving me the silent treatment. I should have gotten cable earlier (she LIKES watching the news--what teenager wants to watch the news?) but I was a little stubborn :-( At least I am getting something out of it now!

Now we just need to work on the concept of "turn the TV off when you leave for school."


Passover. Passover is coming much too quickly. However, I discovered the advantage to living somewhere where the school system is so tied to the Christian calendar that spring break is still the week after Easter instead of being in the middle of March to break up the spring semester: Passover falls during spring break. Again. I assume that Odessa is going to visit her godmother out of state over her spring break, so I will only have to worry about the last day or two of Passover with her. That is a huge load of stress removed from my shoulders.

Stay tuned for a post soliciting advice about vacations.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Oh sweetheart

Part of why Odessa is in care is because her father passed away and then mom was just unable/unwilling to care for her. We had a very rough night chez Foster Ima and I learned the following things:

1. No one told Odessa that her dad was sick and dying. (She was about 11 at the time.) So she didn't get to say goodbye, didn't get a last time for her dad to tell her he loved her, was lied to by everyone in her family.

2. Perhaps her dad could have been helped by a kidney transplant? Odessa kept saying through her crying "I would have given you a kidney."

3. She is really angry at her dad for dying (as is completely understandable) because he is the only person she could ever count on and then he left her too and so she is in this cruddy situation.

I should add that this is all MY fault. (Not really ALL my fault. There are many times before I got involved that other people did crappy things to Odessa.) I could have said no to the placement because I'm not at a place in my life to make a life-long commitment to a teenager (or anyone). I could have suggested at our meeting on Friday that the social worker didn't need to request a new placement. But I did say yes to the "one month" placement and really should have known better! And I didn't stop the team from agreeing to request a new placement (I also didn't encourage that part of the conversation). So Odessa is feeling abandoned yet again, this time by me.

As an aside: she was two hours and 40 minutes late for curfew, including a visit by the police to take a missing persons report. So there will be consequences. (Curfew 2 hrs and 40 minutes early all week with the only exception being if she stays at night school because she can't get home by 7:20 if she's at night school, and something additional that I haven't decided on yet because she was late intentionally to piss me off. Any ideas?)

Plus there are consequences for the lack of communication with me, and that is that I get her phone while she is in her bedroom. (This so that she cannot hide out from me on the phone. She can have privacy while she talks on the phone if she would like it, but she can't say at 6:45 "I'm going to bed" and then talk and text until 3 in the morning. I'm hoping this will have the side benefit of her getting more sleep.)

Poor girl also confessed to lying about homework, so we're a little bit consequence-heavy around these parts.

(Oh, and there's a consequence for me. I was carrying around my camera for no good reason and I broke it, so now I have to buy a new one. If you have any recommendations, send them my way!)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A transcription

What follows is a word-for-word transcription of my last texts with Odessa. Elaboration to follow.

2/19, 6:43 pm: Me: Sweetheart, I'm disappointed that you ignored me this afternoon when you left. Please text me to tell me where you are and when you'll be home.
2/19, 8:21 pm: Me: I'm concerned because you haven't responded to my text. Please text me to tell me you're alive and safe, where you are, and when you'll be home.
2/20, 12:16 pm: Me: Hi sweetie, have a good afternoon. Do you expect to be home for dinner?

2/20, 3:44 pm: Me: I am trying to figure out my evening. Are you planning to be home for dinner?
2/20, 3:45 pm: Odessa: No bye
2/20, 3:48 pm: Me: Thank you for letting me know. Be safe and I'll see you by 10.
2/20, 3:50 pm: Odessa: Im comin in when i feel like it
2/20, 3:52 pm: Me: No. You have been disrespectful for the last 24 hours. You will be home by 10, no arguments. There will be consequences in you are late and they will be more than just an earlier curfew for the week.
2/20, 3:55 pm: Odessa: I dont give a fuck u can do whatever the fuck u feel like im not bout to deal with that shyt do what u want...

If you look closely, you will see that I sent Odessa four text messages before she responded to any.

Yesterday she asked for her allowance. She gets her allowance on Sunday, and while I'm not averse to some flexibility, I cannot handle money on Shabbat, and she got $500 from her brother just this past Sunday. I was not unsympathetic to her desire to get her hair done, but trying to impart some real world lessons. I don't always have the money on hand for her allowance until Sunday morning, and in the real world, her pay day will be her pay day, and she won't be able to go to her boss and say "I need to get my hair done today because the girl can't do it tomorrow or Monday." Maybe the conversation could have gone better on my end, but after Odessa spent a few minutes cursing at me, she opted to put on her coat and storm out of the apartment without responding to my questions or even to my saying goodbye.

I texted her after Shabbat, the first text above.

She came home before her curfew but didn't speak to me at all. At one point I said to her that I was going to the laundry room to get my laundry, she'd had 10 hours to be mad at me, and when I got back upstairs I expected her attitude to be better.

No such luck.

This morning I left while she was still in bed. I knocked on her door, put her allowance next to her on her bed, told her I was going out and would be back later.

After I got to my car I realized I'd forgotten something, so I went back inside, at which point Odessa was awake and talking on the phone. I went back to her room and tried to get her attention (I think it's rude to interrupt someone on the phone, but would never have the opportunity to speak to Odessa if I didn't)...I mentioned her allowance, I said again that I was going out, I told her to text me if she needed me, I asked her to talk to me...nothing.

Then was the no response text early this afternoon, and then finally, after more than 24 hours, the first acknowledgement Odessa gave that I'm alive.

After the unpleasant exchange, she called her lawyer, who then called me. She told me that if Odessa isn't home by her curfew, I should call the police and tell them that I'm a foster parent and my foster daughter isn't home by curfew and to ask to file a missing persons report. I hate the idea of doing this, hate the notion of "criminalizing" being late for curfew, hate involving the police especially with these kids who think that the police are going to be called any time they do anything wrong, and wouldn't do it EXCEPT that Odessa's attorney is the only person who has been constant in her life since she's been in care, is a really great, caring attorney, shares a lot of my values, and even so she is the one who suggested this as a response.

So I'm keeping it in my back pocket as an option.

(I should add that last night there was a teenage female who was shot and killed in one of the neighborhoods where I suspect Odessa hangs out. She was home by the time I learned about this, but this is part of why I don't like it when she doesn't tell me where she is.)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Woah, you're actually interested in fostering?

I caught the attention of someone on the subway today when I got snippy about the HUGE CROWD OF PEOPLE right by the door when there were many many open seats. People should realize that sitting is sometimes a good-thing-to-do, just as standing for someone who needs a seat is a good-thing-to-do. So I barely was able to get on the train, then stepped on a guy's bag nearly falling into the crowd of people, and then said a little louder than I meant to "there are seats, why is everyone crowded by the door?"

It turned out that I actually know the person whose attention I caught. Well, let me rephrase.

She knows me. Her boyfriend lives in my building but more to the point, I've met her at shul. Apparently. Still haven't a clue but we had a great conversation about how she's having 17 people over for Shabbat dinner tonight and I'm having a 17 year old over for Shabbat dinner tonight. (If she comes home. Last week she didn't get home until after I left at 6:30; I thought she'd be home by now, but she's not.)

Well, after she expressed shock that I have a 17 year old (in casual conversation I call her "my 17 year old" as opposed to "my foster daughter"--if I can avoid the fawning over how wonderful I am, I'm a happier girl), and I explained that she's my foster daughter, and she did the requisite fawning, she said that she wants to be a foster parent!

Her mother died when she was 16, she didn't have a relationship with her father, and until the last minute no one in her family was willing to step up, so she almost ended up in foster care. It turns out that the relative who did finally step up stole her social security* so she thinks she would have been better off if she had been in the system. And now she wants to be a foster parent, too. If I ever figure out her name, I'll have to keep an eye open for a two bedroom apartment for her.

* As I type this, I wonder if the relative used that money to pay for the added expenses of raising a teenager. But probably not, given how the story went.

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Meme

I don't normally do the meme thing. Especially since they extremely very much often have nothing to do with the subject of this blog.

But hey, "7 deadly sins"? Talk about NOTHING to do with the blog. I've heard that the 7 deadly sins have something to do with one of those branches of Christianity. Or maybe all of them? Dunno.

Anyway, this looks particularly self-absorption-inducing and I love me some self-absorption.

I think it's "supposed" to be one sin per day, but let's just throw them all out at once:

Day 1: Pride - 7 Great Things about Yourself
  1. Me? I've got mad skillz at hating myself.
  2. I am the world's worst granddaughter. I could win a prize. Really.
  3. According to the people I know in real life, I am the world's greatest humanitarian, single-handedly saving the world for all the poor kids with sucky parents.
  4. I sleep very well.
  5. I get lots of great ideas. It's the follow-through that's the problem.
  6. I make a killer lime cheesecake.
  7. I'm very good at data entry.
Day 2: Envy - 7 Things You Lack or Covet
  1. Yarn. I mean, I have some. But I want it all.
  2. Good friendships. Or the ability to have good friendships.
  3. Self-confidence. Or was that not obvious already?
  4. A house. (As in, I want to own a house. With a sunroom with tiled floor, and with a yard.)
  5. Goals.
  6. Athletic inclination.
  7. Clothes that fit.
Day 3: Wrath - 7 Things that Piss You Off
  1. People who stand by the door of the subway at rush hour when there are seats available
  2. People who are obviously walking slower than me who cut me off in crosswalks having caught up to me at the light.
  3. Needing to go to work.
  4. People at work who call multiple times with the same question.
  5. Not enough hours in the day. I need more hours, people!
  6. When my coworkers don't answer the phone and I have to.
  7. Stupid people.
Day 4: Sloth - 7 Things You Neglect to Do
  1. Dishes.
  2. Vacuum.
  3. Wash the kitchen floor.
  4. Change my car's oil.
  5. Review my credit report every year.
  6. Go to bed at a reasonable hour.
  7. Invite people for Shabbat meals.
Day 5: Greed - 7 Worldly Material Desires
  1. Shoes. If I go to the mall, I will undoubtedly come home with shoes that I didn't intend to buy. (I went yesterday for a specific pair/function of shoes; came home with those and another pair. Not my fault, though--Odessa made me go to the extra shoe store!)
  2. Yarn.
  3. Books.
  4. DVDs of my favorite TV shows.
  5. Earrings and necklaces.
  6. Craft supplies.
  7. I need a new mattress and I love to sleep; can I count a mattress as a "worldly material desire"?
Day 6: Gluttony - 7 Guilty Pleasures
  1. Cola. I don't actually have a brand preference though I gravitate towards the one whose initials are CC. This is reason number 1 why my clothes don't fit.
  2. Dunkin Donuts coffee with cream and sugar. This is reason number 2 why my clothes don't fit.
  3. Grey's Anatomy and West Wing. And Glee. And Private Practice (a season and a half behind, no spoilers please).
  4. Twitter.
  5. French fries. Or spaghetti. Not together.
  6. Cheese.
  7. Anything made with ground beef. (Have you noticed that most of my guilty pleasures involve calories?)
Day 7: Lust - 7 Love Secrets
  1. See: April Kempner from Grey's Anatomy. Though I guess that while this is a secret, it isn't so much a sin.
  2. Oh dear G-d I have to come up with 6 more?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Race and Consequences

Odessa is now quiet after about thirty minutes of very loud cursing and then a phone call with one of the many adults in her life who care about her. She had the phone on speaker for the phone call so with some effort I eavesdropped. The best line from the woman she was talking to was "cable is not a life or death thing. When you're paying your own bills, you can have cable."

[That I don't have cable is a huge thing in our house. Apparently, there is nothing in life if one doesn't have cable. I hear quite frequently when Odessa is on the phone with friends that there is nothing to do here because we don't have cable.]

Okay, so here's what happened.

Odessa had a great day at school today and I ruined it. She did not get suspended for fighting (a relief) but in my adult, parental-role opinion, I thought we needed to talk about problem solving and not punching people. I brought it up over dinner, where I learned some new vocabulary ("popping off" is swinging at someone, "I stole her" is "I punched her") and explained that I understood why she felt that she needed to preserve her dignity after her (now former) friend swung at her, but that punching someone isn't the answer. I addressed her safety and the consequences that she could potentially face if she punched someone out of a school context.

And she said "look, we're not like you. White people are calm and s***. I ain't racist but we ain't like that."

To which I responded, "It sounds to me like you're saying that black people solve their problems by hitting each other."

Yep, that's what she thinks. So from you, my loyal readers/friends: how do I respond? How do I recognize and acknowledge and celebrate differences in our backgrounds while not allowing her to think that violence is acceptable?

I know that one thing I should do is to make sure that I socialize with Odessa in situations where there are African Americans who are as calm as I am. This is a problem as we don't go anywhere together and I don't have friends over ever.

Other advice, please?

Anyway, after the part of the conversation above, I told Odessa that there were going to be consequences for fighting. I said that I was proud of her for telling me what happened and for telling me the truth, and because of that the consequences are going to be less than what they might have been. Before I was able to tell her the consequence, however, she started yelling about how "I didn't even get f***ing suspended" and "I'm done talking about this" and she stormed off to her room where she did just what I do when I'm really upset, which is to curse. Very loud.

Lots of f*** this and bit** that.

Then she called a friend and kept up the cursing. It was a lot less stressful for me with her in her room cursing. My favorite line of that first phone call was "
What the fuck you gonna consequence ME for? I didn't even get fucking suspended, bitch!" Still not sure why she raised her voice and directed to me "You can call the police if you f***ing want, I ain't do nothin' man!"

So this was our evening.

(The consequence, by the way, is an evening without getting to use my/the computer. ONE evening. But not until she lets me tell her what the consequence is, so she extended it a day by not letting me tell her what it is.)


This morning Odessa knocked on my door (while I was being my typical adolescent hitting-snooze-and-fighting-waking-up self) to explain why she was in a nasty mood last night (more on that later, perhaps):

"I might be suspended."

Why? "My friend stole the money I was going to use to buy my bus pass out of my purse so I had to fight her, so I might be suspended but I haven't gotten the papers yet."

"Well, we'll talk about fighting later [keep in mind I was just waking up] but do you have enough money to get to school?"

So I gave her the money I had in my wallet (meaning that including the advances on her allowance that I gave her last week so that she could get to school*, I've given her $100 so far this week). It's not her fault that her friend stole her money and I'm not going to penalize her for it, though I do think that she would have had better luck getting the money returned if she hadn't responded by fighting. (The only conversation I can imagine in my head now is "I shouldn't have fought but she started it by stealing my money and she should have to pay me back.")

If she does get suspended, she's coming to work with me. I can find lots of scanning she can do for me so she isn't bored--and also isn't on facebook all day.

*Regarding why it sounds like she needs to use her allowance to pay for her transportation to school: where we live, there is a student transit subsidy. If she gets the card, she can pay $30/month to get to and from school. I give her that $30 at the beginning of the month. (This is the money that was stolen, though since I didn't have any $10 bills, I actually gave her $40.) If she chooses not to get the student card to buy the student pass, her transportation to and from school totals about $7/day ($35/wk vs $30/month) which comes from her allowance. She then complains about not having money from the FORTY DOLLARS PER WEEK that I give her to do things like get her hair and nails done, though we worked out her allowance together, and the $40/week was supposed to cover things like hair and nails if she used the money responsibly.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Teenagers and a kosher kitchen

I got a request for more blogging about kashrut (kosher-ness). And since I just came back from the grocery store with kosher beef and a package of frozen shrimp (not to mention some other very not kosher frozen items) now seemed like as good a time as any to do so.

In eleven months, I never really figured out what Sabrina would eat. She was only with me for 4 dinnertimes a week, ate lunch at school, and ate cheerios for breakfast. Plus, she was hungry when I picked her up from school and then when we got home at 6:15 post-snack and I still needed to cook dinner, she was no longer hungry (thanks to the snack).

But I actually need to feed Odessa. Like, multiple times a day. She won't eat school lunch and is with me every day including weekends (this confuses my friends who got used to Sabrina being at her dad's on the weekend--they now think that all foster placements are for weekdays only). And she's old enough to fend for herself.

This last is really the problem.

So I've given over the microwave to her. She can have whatever she wants heated in the microwave, as long as she uses paper plates and plastic silverware. (I'm just hoping that my complete freak-out when she used a real plate in the microwave made her understand the severity of not following that rule.)

Even so, she complained to her social worker that she doesn't like what I cook. She eats what I cook, happily, so that was news to me, but it was more that I don't cook what she wants. I explained to the social worker that yes, there are rules about what can and can't happen in my kitchen and that is why Odessa isn't allowed free rein, but that I let her use the microwave, etc etc. I think that satisfied the social worker.

Well, Friday night Odessa started in on one of her mumble-the-same-thing-over-and-over-until-I-want-to-tell-her-that-if-she-says-she-wants-XX-one-more-time-she'll-never-get-it patterns, this time "I want shrimp." After about the 15th time I apologized that we can't have shrimp in the house. She got pissy, as she does frequently (she IS a teenager, after all!), and I don't want to reward that behavior, but...

I told her I would buy some not at all kosher frozen items for her and while I was in that aisle, I noticed that one of the shrimp things was on sale, so I bought it for her. I can't imagine that microwaved frozen shrimp scampi is any good, but I think that if I can get her to realize that I DO do things for her, she might be more willing to ask me to do things for her, which will make me better able to do things for her.*

*Earlier today she was on the phone with her cousin and said she couldn't go to her cousin's son's birthday party because she didn't have money to get there by public transit. (She was sitting next to her allowance, but setting that aside...) She told her cousin that she wasn't going to ask me for a ride. I was sitting right there to hear the conversation. When she got off the phone, I asked: "You're not going to ask me for a ride?" Odessa: "No." Me: "Is that because if you ask me for a ride and I say yes, then you'll be mad because you can't say that I never do anything for you, and if I say no, you'll be mad because I'm not giving you a ride?" Odessa: "Yes." The conversation then turned to how I need to be psychic. Not gonna happen. So she needs to get more comfortable asking me for things.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Language suggestions, please!

Yesterday was the first day of new classes for Odessa (block scheduling). She came home with some things that I needed to sign but she got home rather late (evening credit recovery classes plus public transit problems) and was very tired and said "I'll give them to you in the morning."

It turned out that one was something I needed to sign (fine) and two were page-long "parent/guardian survey"s. As in, lots to fill out.

And it turned out that one of them was supposed to be done by today. Odessa had given it to me maybe five minutes before she needed to leave for school. So I filled out the basics (contact information) and said that I would email her teacher.

Here's the question: I don't want to completely throw Odessa under the bus for not giving me enough time to fill it out, but I don't want to place all the blame on myself because if she had given it to me last night, I would have finished it.

What should I tell her teacher?

Friday, January 21, 2011


I really ought to be blogging more about my experiences with Odessa. I'm taking a few moments right now to do so, even though I yikesreallyneedtobegettingreadyforwork, because there's no way I can vent/record this morning's interaction in only 140 characters!

Yesterday morning we had this conversation:
Odessa: Do I get my allowance today? or tomorrow?
Me: You get your allowance on Sundays.
Odessa: Well, I'm getting my hair done tomorrow so I need money.
Me: You get your allowance on Sundays. You need to think about whether you are going to have money before you make plans like getting your hair done.*
Odessa: She can't do it on Sunday because she won't have time to do it all.** [Walks away in a teenager-y huff.]

Last night I got home from work to be greeted by this conversation:
Odessa: Can you take me to the beauty supply shop?***
Me: Not tonight, I'm sorry. You have homework due tomorrow and I need to go to the grocery store and cook for tonight and tomorrow.
Odessa: It's just extra credit; I don't need to do it. I just want to.
Me: I'm sorry but I don't think we have time tonight.

a few moments later... Me: I'm happy to take you to the beauty supply store on Sunday.
Odessa: You don't need to take me anywhere. I'll get there myself.****

Last night, disaster with her extra credit assignment. I can't even begin to share how it went, other than that it took HOURS and involved quite a bit of cursing on Odessa's part. Frequently because I was unable to answer a question when she was the one with the computer in front of her to get the answer. Things were not improved by my refusal to write excuse notes for her absences from her history class that were either 1. before she lived with me or 2. she lived with me, but she wasn't absent from school on those least not as far as I knew.

So then came this morning. I checked in with her when I woke up (she gets up before I do!) and she was still very clearly peeved with me. As in, she wouldn't answer my questions. She did, to her credit, turn down her music when I asked her to because I don't want it bothering the neighbors through her wall. She has a half day today, and it's Friday, so I was particularly interested in what she might be doing after school. And when she'll be home. So I asked:
Me: Do you have plans after school today?
Odessa: I ain't have no money so I can't go anywhere.
Me: Then I will see you when I get home from work. I'm going to go get myself ready for the day.

I went to my room and went to the bathroom. (TMI? It's relevant to the story.) There was a knock on the bedroom door while I was still...indisposed. I said "hold on a minute," finished, washed my hands, and went to open the door. There was an angry knock as I got to the door. (my interpretation? "why aren't you opening the effing door?") And then we had this conversation:
Odessa: I only have $5 on my [public transit fare card] and it's $6***** to get back home so I need $2.
Me: Okay, hold on just a second. [after rummaging in my wallet, gave her $2. Did not explicitly tell her that it is coming out of her allowance next week.]
about 45 seconds later I realized that I needed to add to the conversation:
Me: Hey Odessa? I don't always have cash on me, so it would be helpful if you could think ahead if you're going to have a problem getting to school.
Odessa: I tried to get my allowance yesterday.
Me: That wasn't my point. Yesterday when you got home, you knew you only had $5 on your card. If you had let me know then, I could have gotten cash when I went to the store if I didn't have any. [Not to mention that if I had been in the shower I wouldn't have heard the knock on the door.]
Odessa: [No response.]

I'm telling you, she's going to drive me to drink. :-)

*I didn't say quite so many words. I don't remember exactly how the conversation went. It was something like this, though.
**No, I have no idea how a weekend day has less time in it than a school day.
***Quite possibly the first time she's asked me to do something for her instead of "I need..."
****I still haven't figured out how she's planning to pay for the hair she intends to buy. Hair care is part of her allowance.
*****There is a student fare that is $30 per month. Or she can spend over $30 per week if she loses her student card. I give her $30 per month on top of her allowance; if she loses the card, she has to pay for her transportation to school out of her allowance.