Thursday, December 13, 2012

One Year...Give or Take

As of last Sunday, M&M has been with The Queen and I for one year. Time has absolutely flown by. It seems like yesterday that I was getting up with her in the middle of the night to give her bottles and snuggle up with her on the loveseat in the TV room. There is just something calming and peaceful about a small child trusting you enough to fall asleep in your arms, and there is still nothing I like more than to snuggle up with her on my chest in the TV room...she just covers a little more real estate now. .

Speaking of covering more real estate, we were going through a huge amount of "old" baby clothes from the last year to give to a friend of a friend. We found her preemie and newborn clothes. She was so tiny, tiny, TINY! I truly wish I could post then and now photos, but that will have to wait a little longer. She was barely a handful, but she has made up for lost time. She is two months younger than The Banshee, but they are all but the same size.

Mini Me and The Banshee are still with us and likely to remain so through mid March when the next hearing is scheduled in their case. In the meantime, I have to suppress the urge to dope slap their bio parents who seem to be intent on having one dumb ass attack after another.

First, they lost out on leasing a pretty decent mobile home for a reasonable monthly rent just down the street from family because they didn't get a lease nailed down in writing. They had been trying to work off the deposit by performing the painting and make ready work for the land lady. Well, land lady's son needed a place to stay for some reason. Guess who won that one. The land lady did at least offer them $400 for the work they had performed.

Then, they reverted back to their prior idiocy by giving The Banshee Dr Pepper in a sippy cup. Hello??? Anyone in there??? Mini Me has not freaking teeth because you disolved them using highly acidic carbonated sodas and other sugary junk food all because you don't have the skills to parent and never learned how to say NO!!

There is more drama involved that I will not report here because it would elevate my blood pressure beyond reasonable limits, and I've been enjoying a period of relative calm of late. It just angers and frustrates me that I can almost script out the path those kids lives will take in the future; and, unfortunately, none of it is pretty. Needless to say, I cannot wait to be out of the foster care system.

I wanna go back home and snuggle up with M&M now.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Inaugural Review in The Toy Box

Since some of y'all asked, this is your notice that the inaugural product review is posted over at Daddy Hawk's Toy Box. Go check it out.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Toy Box is Open

The first post is up at Daddy Hawk's Toy Box. The layout and look are still under construction, but I wanted to get some content posted sooner rather than later.


Friday, November 30, 2012

There's Gonna Be Some Changes 'Round Here...

Before I get to the changes here at Preachers & Horse Thieves, I'd like to take a moment to welcome another follower. Even though she does not appear in the "official" listing in the side bar, Jane of Virginia sounded off her presence in the comments of the last post. Her profile lists her online presence at "Rational Preparedness" : The Blog. Everybody say "hi" to Jane. While you're at it, tell me if you don't think her profile picture is the spitting image of Cote de Pablo from NCIS.

Now, moving right along, the first change I would like to make you all aware of is the new name. Not for the blog, but for the blogger. Shepherd K has been a fun name, but it's time to put it to bed. There are a couple of reasons for the decision. The main one is the likely adoption of M&M in the near to mid future. As some of you may recall, The Queen bestowed upon me the title of "Daddy Hawk" shortly after M&M's arrival. Over the almost one year since her arrival, I have come to view myself more and more as a husband / father / protector, a Daddy Hawk, as opposed to anything else. Besides, the best nicknames are those that others give you instead of ones you think up for yourself.

So, when you see a comment from a stranger named Daddy Hawk, it's just me.

We'll get along fine as long as you don't mess with my wife or my daughter.

The second change (or second and third depending on your point of view) is the changing nature of the blog. My original intent when I started writing here was to have a place to hone my writing skills, find my "voice" and share random thoughts on a variety of topics and other stuff. In other words, a general blog. Over time, I have gotten away from random thoughts and other stuff and started focusing more on my life as it happens. A diary of sorts. Part family history, part spleen venting. Looking back through the stats though, I've noticed that my most "popular" posts were the car reviews. In fact, my 2010 Ford Focus SES review is the number three entry for that search term on Google. Yeah, I just patted myself on the back. There might have been a self satisfied, maniacal chuckle or two as well.

In light of those revelations, I've decided on a two part solution. Part one, Preachers & Horse Thieves will continue to be your destination for all things related to The Queen, Daddy Hawk, M&M and the happenings at Castle Erickson. Part two is the creation of a new blog, called Daddy Hawk's Toy Box, which is where I will turn my inner twelve year old boy loose for things like writing reviews of cars, planes, motorcycles, guns, tools, books, short, anything a twelve year old boy (or girl) stuck in a middle aged man's (or woman's) body might find interesting.

The Toy Box is under development as you read this. It may be a little bit before some content appears, but I'll get something up there before too long.

Finally, I will continue to contribute to The GunDivas blog on occasion. Just under the new blogger name. Otherwise, it'll be semi-business as usual around here.

As always, I really appreciate your readership, your friendship and your comments.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Welcome and A Brief Word From Our Sponsors

I'd like to take a moment out of my day to welcome a recent addition to the followers list, Little Lotta, of the blog Whitless Relocation Program. Little Lotta, we're glad to have you as a member of the congregation. I hope to hear you singing in the choir.

Now, I know I've been relatively quiet here lately. The fact of the matter is that I have been working on writing M&M's full story, by which I mean her story as I know it from my point of view. I started working on it in late October, and I'm already at 8 pages and 4100 words. It's a bit emotional for me, and it's pretty much consuming what little brain power and free time I have for writing. I promise to give you all fair warning before I post it so that you can have tissues and a few minutes set aside.

I will say that we have crossed one very major hurdle in the process. Earlier this week, the parental rights of M&M's birth parents were officially terminated by the court. They have 90 days to file an appeal. Even if they find an attorney willing to file the appeal, we do not anticipate the court accepting the appeal. If all goes well, that puts us in position to consummate an adoption in early to mid March assuming what we have been told is correct.

So, look for M&M's story sometime after that. Semi-regular content will resume once I have the majority of her story ready for final edit and can focus on other topics.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

I Love My Wife

A brief text exchange between myself and The Queen as she went out for an after dark exercise walk.

Me: Be careful

The Queen: It is well lit and there are people on the playground area.

Me: Okay. Good. God protects. But it always helps to be aware.

The Queen: Naw. I don't think I will be aware.

Me: And you wonder why I want long range I can protect you from afar.

The Queen: LOL, You are so heroic.

Me: Nothing says "stay away from my wife" like a .308 in the ear.

The Queen: LOL. Awww so protective.

Me: That's my job. Is what I vowed on our wedding day. Well, not the .308 in the ear exactly, but the general concept of get off my wife.;)

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Little Light in the Darkness...

I thought I would take a few minutes out of the day to post a brief update on life at Castle Erickson; but, first, we gots to welcome us a new follower. K (no relation) at Planning and Foresight found his way here and chose to stay a while. K's blog is focused on prepping and is jam packed with good info. I'm slowly digging through his archives when I have time. Good stuff. Check him out.

Now then, on with the show.

Mini Me and The Banshee are still with us. There were mumblings in the winds a couple of weeks ago that they might be going back to momma sometime around the first of November. There is a permanency conference set with the court then, and the caseworker was going to be recommending monitored return (kids go home while CPS keeps an eye on things for six months or so).

The key word there is "was".

Apparently, some medical records came in that were not kosher and some required classes and counseling have not been started much less completed. We don't get the details, just the outline of the story. Suffice it to say, the caseworker is backing off her earlier hints and is reverting back to square one which also involves trying to locate viable family member placements. That leaves us back to being in limbo with those two.

It's really a sad situation. While not parent of the year material, momma and daddy/step daddy really do genuinely love those kids from the interactions we've seen with them together. CPS has candidly told us that the kids never should have been removed in the first place (it was apparently the result of momma's child molester step father who called in a false report out of spite) and that they do not have grounds for termination of rights. But...they are in the system now which has its own set of rules and timelines.

The Queen and I really love those two kids despite The Banshee's tendency to scream at every opportunity, and we really want to see them reunited before we exit the system; however, we can't hang around forever waiting for CPS and the parents to sort this mess out. We need to get on with our lives as a family (hopefully with M&M in tow). The really frustrating thing for us is that the parents could have had their kids back by now if they had just done what CPS had asked them to do. Instead, they are wallowing in denial (his alcohol consumption..."it's not a problem") and co-dependence ("I'm going to leave him...I can't afford to be on my own."). Meanwhile, The Queen and I beat our heads against the wall and try to make the best of it.

M&M, on the other hand, is an entirely different story. We have received word that the trial on the bio parents' rights case is set for the last week of November. There is pretty much a 100% chance that their rights will be terminated at that trial. They have left the state, and CPS could pursue child abandonment charges if they were so inclined. That would add a six month delay to the whole thing, and CPS is taking the wiser course of just moving for termination on the existing evidence.

But wait, it gets better. The Queen and the CPS caseworker had a discussion last week. Almost everytime we've talked with the caseworker up to this point, she has been very careful to always remind us that she has to keep looking for family members, there's no guarantee we will get to keep M&M, yada yada yada. For the first time, the caseworker told us even if the momma's mom's home study is approved by her state, SHE has the power to deny it. She also started saying things like "it's looking like we are on track", etc.

[blink, blink] Who is this, and what has she done with our caseworker?

Ah, but there's more. Yesterday, I got a call from M&M's ad litem (the court appointed attorney to represent M&M's best interests). She called to let me know about the trial setting. She also said she would be coming by the house for one last visit so she can write her final report. She indicated she would be recommending to the court that The Queen and I be allowed to adopt M&M.

[blink, blink, blink] I promise I'm not gonna cry. I might be tearing up as I write this, but you can't see it. So, it's not happening.

So, what happens from there? After rights are terminated, the court has to physically serve them with notice of the termination. Since they are out of state with no known address, that may be difficult. Fortunately, the law allows alternative means of service. Most likely, they will be served via publication in a paper of record. Once that occurs, they will 60 days to file an appeal. The court does not have to accept the appeal, and the likelihood of an appeal being accepted under the circumstances are miniscule. The chances of an accepted appeal being successfully granted in the Tarrant County court of appeals...infinitesimal.

Once the time to file an appeal runs or an appeal is rejected/denied, we are free to adopt M&M as soon as a hearing can be scheduled which we hope will be the very next day.  So, unless a miracle happens, the earliest we will be able to adopt M&M is late January.

The Queen and I are beside ourselves. We can't wait for the end of November and end of January to get here. This has been a very emotional journey, and one that, frankly, we do not want to repeat. It has also been a miraculous journey in a lot of ways. I am working on writing the full story to post here. I believe those who are people of faith will see a series of miracles and God's influence leading to an inevitable conclusion. Those who are not religious may not see it that way, but I think they will find it an inspiring story nonetheless.

We have already made the decision that we will be getting out of the foster care system once the adoption is final. Staying in is not an option for either of us. There are too many restrictions. It is too frustrating. We want our freedom back. Whether or not that will impact Mini Me and The Banshee directly remains to be seen. We hope that they will have already moved on to where they need to be by then. If not...who's to say at this point?

In the meantime, don't start planning the party yet...but expect an invitation.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Kid's Say The Funniest Things - Part ??

Last night in the car on the way to go get Pinkberry yogurt.

Mini Me to The Queen: I love you Mommie.

The Queen to Mini Me: I love you too [Mini Me].

Me to Mini Me: What about me? Am I chopped liver?

Mini Me to Me (after thinking for a moment): I'm sure she loves you too.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Training Review: Two Hour Handgun 101

This post was originally posted on The Gundivas earlier today under the same title.

If you have read my bio, you know that I claim no formal firearms training as part of my background. As my involvement in the shooting sports has increased, my desire to change that circumstance has increased as well. Towards the end of August, I was perusing my daily Groupon email when I noticed a deal for a two hour handgun 101 class. One hour of classroom followed by one hour of range time with range fee, gun rental and ammo included for two people for the obscenely low price of $39.

Cha-Ching! Where do we sign up?

Yes, I said we. In my excitement at getting such a deal and my desire to share my hobby with my long suffering wife, The Queen, I signed us both up for this educational experience. Then, I told her I had a surprise for her. The Queen is no stranger to firearms, but she is not obsessed with them like I am. Once upon a time, I took her on a date during which go karts were raced and a select fire 9mm H&K MP5 was rented and fired. The Queen claimed she had a great time at said date. So, this surprise date was going to be well received too. Right?

Yeah, not so much. More on that later. Maybe.

Word of advise to husbands reading this: don't bill a date involving your hobby as a surprise to your wife who is stressed from caring for three children under the age of five and dealing your sorry hide day in and day out.

Word of advise to wives reading this: when you present your husband with the receipts from your massage/spa day/shopping spree/shooting spree, gently remind him that you didn't kill him for getting your hopes up for something romantic.

Any fail, back to our story.

Notice I am not naming names here. There are two reasons for this: 1) there is no need to publicly shame this business across the Internet for those located somewhere other than the Dallas/Fort Worth area (those in DFW can email me for names if you so desire), and 2) I don't want to discourage other businesses from offering similar opportunities via Groupon.

The Groupon portion of the experience was awesome. Paid online. Scheduled online. Printed voucher. Done. No fuss.

The classroom portion of the event was not bad. It was not great either. The classroom was long and narrow with the tables setup facing the centerline of the room instead of the front of the room. This made watching the video portions of the instruction difficult. There were about 22 to 25 people in the class with 1 instructor. Remember these numbers, they will come back to haunt us soon.

Now, here is a little pet peeve. A training class advertised to start at 7:00 know...start at 7:00. Not 6:50. When we walked into the classroom at 6:55, the instructor had already started a power point presentation and was showing a video clip of Clint Smith talking about something or other, I honestly can't remember at this point.

Before moving on, let me describe our instructor for the evening. Short, overweight and wearing a Springfield XD 9mm in a Miami classic shoulder holster rig. I found it amusing that he continually muzzled the whole class with his loaded XD every time he turned around while demonstrating "proper" muzzle discipline with a revolver and a semi auto.

Back to the classroom material. I don't have a problem with an instructor inserting video clips to enhance a presentation. I've done that myself professionally. However, over reliance on video clips from others more qualified than you just highlights your own lack of qualification. Also, I don't really feel the need to pay good money to watch clips of Clint Smith or Todd Jarrett that I can see (and have seen in some cases) on YouTube for free.

The instructor did do a good job of demonstrating a solid two handed grip as well as the rationale for same. He demonstrated the Isosceles stance. I would have liked to have seen other stances covered as well, but that would have meant cutting out one of the Clint Smith video clips.

Positive take aways from the classroom portion: 1) Mag Out / Round Out for proper clearing of semi autos so that you do not inadvertently reload the chamber from the magazine, 2) you use the pad of your index finger to engage the trigger as using the first joint causes the meat of the finger to interfere with proper operation of the trigger, and 3) Todd Jarrett / Clint Smith are worth whatever money they are getting paid since our instructor felt the need to use their material instead of his own.

Now, on to the range portion. The range where the class was held is a relatively new facility with 7 pistol bays. Remember the number of students in class? Do you see where this train is about to crash? To add insult to stupidity, the range was not closed to outside shooters for the class. Those 7 bays were thus reduced to a mere 5 bays available for the shooting portion of the class. So, 1 instructor is going to run 25 students, some of whom have never touched s firearm, through a minimum of 20 rounds of ammo on 5 pistol bays in under an hour. Oh, and give quality one on one coaching in the process.

Yeah, not so much.

To add a additional level of stupid, one of the lanes rented to a non-class member was a guy trying to impress not one but two girls by shooting his .40 gangsta style. I really wanted a few quiet moments with that bonehead, but such was not to be. For what it's worth, one of the girls was a better shot than he was.

Heck, The Queen is a better shot than he was. But I digress.

The rental guns were supposed to be Smith & Wesson M&P .22s. I was really kinda interested in shooting them to see what all the hubbub with the triggers is about. Alas, when I got my chance to shoot, the lane I landed on had a Sig Mosquito for use. Apparently, one of the M&Ps was taken down by a squib round that left a bullet lodged in the barrel that need to be hammered out, and the Mosquito was pulled in as a substitute.

A word or two about the Sig: I don't like the long DA/SA trigger. I've never liked the DA/SA trigger system. Didn't like it on the Beretta. Didn't like it on the S&W 4506 that my brother in law had. Didn't like it on the Mosquito.  Personal preference. Your mileage may vary. The sights were way high. Point of impact at five yards was about three inches low. Once I figured that out, I turned the number 8 on a standard Texas DPS silhouette target into one ragged hole which is what I expect of myself at that distance.

Watching some of the others in the class, there were clearly some newbies. One guy in front of me had the shakes so bad, I thought he was going to drop the gun. He really needed some one on one attention. Unfortunately, he didn't get it that I saw.

Range commands, though discussed in class, were non-existent on the range. I didn't notice any glaring safety issues, but that could have just been luck given the experience level in the class.

So, bottom line: when it comes to Groupon firearms events, buyer beware.

In hindsight, I should have called the provider and asked some basic questions. My self assessed experience level is higher than a basic, intro class. I wanted to take the class for the sole purpose of starting with the basics to make sure I was not reinforcing ay bad habits left over from my grandfather and also to give The Queen and I a good basis for future firearms activities. A mentioned above, I did get something's out of the class. However, I was left feeling like I should have gotten more out of it.

For the price, I can't complain too much more than I already have.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Miscellaneous Stuff

I thought I'd take a few moments to share a few things completely unrelated to foster children. 

Traveler Pro Tip #1
At a busy airport like, say, Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Interntional, DON'T hold up the security theater line by getting redressed at the baggage X-ray roll off area. Grab your stuff and move. As suggestion, those thoughtfully placed benches 10 or 20 feet away are perfect for putting on your shoes, belt, jacket, rolex, wallet, etc. Mr. i-am-so-freaking-important-you-must-see-me-putting-on-my-designer-trash. The other 50 or 100 people in line behind you would like to get their stuff too.

Traveler Pro Tip #2
That bin that was holding your stuff as it trundled its way past the TSA X-ray, don't leave it sitting on the rollers to clog up the works of the other 50 or 100 bags coming through behind it. I promise you won't miss you flight by taking a whole two seconds to put it on the conveniently place roller cart or identical bins at the end of the line.

Traveler Pro Tip #3
While amusing to some, escalator luggage bowling can be dangerous and embarrassing. On my recent trip to Atlanta, I was coming down the extra long escalator from the airport train to the rental car center at which time i accidentally knocked my suitcase over on its back (where the handle hides) and it went scooting down the escalator and shot off the end another 15 feet or so. Got a thumbs up from one guy. The lady in the wheel chair and the British chick at the bottom of the escalator where not amused. I decided not to bow.

Rental Car Pro Tip #1
Chevrolet places the Onstar button in the exact spot where 99% of the population puts its thumb to flip the rear view mirror for day/night deflection. I have no idea how good Onstar's service is as I was able to hang up before the call connected.

Brief Rental Car Review
The 2012 Chevrolet Cruze I rented was better than the Chevy Cobalt that I rented a while back, but that's not saying much. The B pillar keep hitting me in the butt on ingress/egress. The rear view and side mirrors were not especially helpful. Acceleration was adequate if not exciting for a four cylinder engine. I am a firm believer that a four cylinder engine requires a manual transmission to make it halfway fun to drive. Turning radius was sub par.

Marital Dating Fail
Assuming that your spouse will be excited to go to an evening at the gun range for an intro to handguns class after you've told her that you have a surprise for her when she is stressed out and dealing with allergies is not a marriage enhancing move. Selecting said class on the basis that it was a HUGE deal on Groupon is also guaranteed to lead to the class being overbooked thus diminishing whatever pleasure might have been had from said experience. Salvaging the evening with all natural frozen yogurt at Pinkberry barely avoids a night in the dog house.

I should note here that my assumption was based on an early date we had before we were married. It was her birthday, and I set up a "testosterone" evening since she was very competitive. We started the evening at the gun range and rented a select fire H&K MP5 9mm submachinegun. We ended the evening driving go karts. Outdoors. At night. In January. Hands. Cold. Noses. Running. She said she had a great time. Me thinks she was trying to make me feel good.  

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Welcome And Other Good News

Before I get on with my good news and after you get over your heart attack from the realization that, yes, I am still alive and remember how to work this keyboard thingie, I'd like to take a moment to welcome new follower Joey. Though his profile does not indicate so, I believe Joey is the mastermind behind a relatively new blog entitled Senior's Mess. Joey, if that is not correct, please let me know so I can edit accordingly. Otherwise, y'all feel free to check out Senior's Mess. I really enjoyed his intro post, and I look forward to seeing more of his writings. 

Now, for the good news. As many of you know, since it's about all I talk about here anymore, the M&M saga has been a real roller coaster ride. Well, we can finally see the end of the ride from here. We got a call from the caseworker yesterday, advising that it would not be necessary to bring M&M to her regularly scheduled visit with the bio parents. It seems that they recently decided to up and skip town for good and have relocated to another state out west. 

[Brief pause for the happy dance]

The Queen and I think they have actually been gone for closer to three weeks as there was a hearing at the end of last month the net result of which was that the court ordered them to complete the CPS services plan. Violating said order is one of the many grounds for termination of rights. After some last minute shenanigans by bio dad's attorney and a failed, last ditch effort by CPS to identify any potential family member viable enough to take M&M (did I mention that bio mom's mom was deemed non-viable due to health issues?), we think the bio parents finally saw the writing on the wall and decided they have nothing left holding them here (aside from bio dad's two kids from a prior relationship...has to make them feel good...but I digress).

We can't celebrate yet (and won't even plan a party until the ink is dry on the adoption papers), but it appears that it is no longer a question of "if" but is now one of "when" we will get to adopt her. Timing of said adoption remains up in the air. The bio parents could make everything easy for everyone by voluntarily relinquishing their rights which would allow us to proceed pretty much immediately. Thus far, they have not made anything easy. So, we are not holding our breathe for that outcome even though their doing so would be beneficial for them legally in the event of future children.

Door Number 2 would be to wait six months at which time the court would declare M&M abandoned, and we get to adopt her anyway.

So, to recap: no viable family members available to take custody of M&M, bio parents skipped town, hurry up and wait while doing the happy dance.

Monday, August 27, 2012

New Follower

Okay, so I wake up this morning to find egg on my face. Clueless me running on less than optimal sleep made a serious blogger faux pax yesterday. While trying to be efficient, I thoughtlessly linked a new follower to a post involving a particularly unsavory topic. So, in an effort to uncompound my error, I have edited yesterday's post to expunge my new followers information and am placing it here as a stand alone welcome.

So, without further adieu, I would like to extend a slightly embarrassed but very warm and much more appropriate welcome to follower number 61 (according to Blogger at least). Russell J. Collier, Jr. felt compelled to publicly shame himself by throwing his lot in with the rest of us here. Russell, thank you for your comment with your blog information. Russell writes the blog Ungrateful and Insolent and Exhausted. Go give him some love. He was very gracious in pointing out my error.
Russell, again, my humblest apologies.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Another Thing I Will Never Understand

[Insert Name Here] (who I have decided to rename as Wicket...he is the hairiest little tricycle motor I've ever seen) will be going back to his original foster family on Tuesday. As much as it shames me to admit this, neither The Queen nor I can wait for him to go back. While he can be a very sweet little boy, his behavioral issues and our being prevented from properly training him have us pulling our hair out. The only thing that has saved him from having his hide tanned is that it would end any chance we have of getting M&M.

Anybeating, this is about stuff I will never understand not how to retrain a four year old in two weeks or less (note to those can't be done without means to instill fear of imminent bodily harm).

I have commented here before about my complete lack of understanding when it comes to subjects like homosexuality (I don't condemn those that practice it...I just have no grasp on why it is attractive to some people), the blind optimism of people who think that a politician will keep a promise and why people abuse children.

We can now add child pornography to the list of things I will never comprehend.

Not that I ever considered it appropriate before. Quite the opposite. I would gladly take any opportunity to arrange a meeting between God and a child pornographer. They would have so much to discuss.

Here's the deal. When Wicket came to us 12 days ago, he had a raging rash on his butt. You've heard the phrase "that really chaps my a**." Well, I can tell you what that looks like. As a result of said condition, we have been forced to let Wicket run amok au natural in the castle to allow his butt to heal. After what seems like the four hundredth time of saying, "Cover your penis. No one wants to see it." as Wicket sits on the couch or a chair at the dinner table with his legs spread wide for all heaven and earth to see the glory of his little pee shooter, I can honestly say I will NEVER understand what would possess some demented pervert to WANT to look at that for giggles, grins and sexual gratification.

I'm still looking for suitable brain bleach. I'll take suggestions.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Burning Candles and Other Stuff

...Not necessarily burning other stuff. I just mean that this post will cover other stuff besides burning candles. Sort of. You'll get the idea.

Three years ago yesterday, this little corner of the blogger world was turned loose on an unsuspecting and largely non-existent audience for the first time. Not unlike a blind man tossing a hand grenade, but it was a start. In the three years since, the blind man got a pair of eye glasses, dropped his cane a few times, had Lasix surgery and then stared at the sun too long. Now, he's busy looking for the pin to the live grenade in his hand and wondering if the counting has already gone past three.

I don't have anything special prepared to help celebrate my little blogiversary other than another whirlwind round up of stuff that's happened since last we spoke.

First up, I've been traveling more lately. Like a lot more. I get to spend next week in town all week which will be a refreshing change. The Queen is kinda partial to the idea of me being home for a change too. Seems she wants help with the kids or something. Having my smiling face nearby is a secondary bonus apparently.

On a recent business trip to lovely San Antonio, I had a couple of firsts. On the flight there from Dallas, I had my first experience with "new plane" smell. Southwest Airlines rolled out a brand, spanking new airplane for us. It was literally the first fare carrying flight for this bird which was one of their new WIFI equipped Boeing 737-800s. All that plastic, leather and adhesives off gassing together is pretty a "when do we land so my headache will go away?" sort of way. Nonetheless, it was a nice plane and felt a who heck of a lot more comfortable than the little American Eagle regional jet that I was shoe horned into earlier in the week.

The next little story comes from the return leg of the San Antonio checking in for my return flight. I was talking with my business associate when a whiff of Hoppe's No. 9 reached out and rudely assaulted my hind brain. A quick search of the area spotted a Glock in a well cared for tan leather holster. The gun and holster were attached to a gentleman in line ahead of us to check in for our flights. Further examination revealed that the gun and holster were attached to a man in his mid to late 50s wearing brown cowboy boots, pressed tan colored denim pants, brown belt, earth toned button down shirt with a black ribbon string tie, a white cookie duster mustache and a huge straw cowboy hat. Did I forget to mention the Texas Ranger badge and handcuffs?

Why do I mention this? Well, for starters, it's rare enough to see a Texas Ranger out in the wild so to speak much less checking in for a flight at the airport since there are only 216 of them by statute. Second, Ranger rocked his Glock with a very tasteful miniature Ranger badge on the magazine floor plate. I'd be willing to give 50/50 odds that his duty issue hollow points have little Ranger badges on them too. You that the bad guys will know that they've been put down hard by a real American bad ass.

I'd also give 100% odds that no one even thought about jacking with his flight. Because he didn't have to check that heater at the counter and wore it proudly through security.

Now, on to the kid update.

First, a little vignette from a phone conversation between The Queen and I five minutes before I had to start a conference call.

Me: Hello?

The Queen: Hi honey. How is your day going?

[lots of pleasantries, idle talk and lead up later]

The Queen: How do you feel about respiting a four year old boy for two weeks?

Me: It's probably not the best idea we've had lately.

The Queen: But he would give Mini Me someone to play with and make things easier on me.

Me: It's your call. You have to decide if you are up to handling another kiddo. I've got to go for my call now.

The Queen: Okay, see you later.

Five Hours Later...walking in the door at Castle Erickson.

The Queen: It's Daddy. Daddy meet [Insert Name Here].

Me: Hi [Insert Name Here].

[Insert Name Here] has a few issues not the least of which is an incomplete grasp on toilet training. He knows how. He just chooses not to. Perhaps more frustrating than that is trying to communicate with him. I am not sure how best to describe it. There really is no frame of reference. If I didn't know better, I'd say hallucinogenic drugs were involved.

So, to recap. Four kids. Two four year old boys. Two infant girls. No sanity.

Mini Me and The Banshee are still here. The Banshee is still a Banshee. Mini Me has had a few adjustment issues with the new boy in the house. Otherwise, situation normal. Their bio momma is continuing her efforts to get her kids back. She just started a new job. She is getting some out patient help for certain issues. All in all, she is working hard. We are guesstimating she will get her kids back sometime in November. Maybe.

That leaves M&M's situation. We are back in limbo waiting on word for the state where bio mom's mom lives to get the home study back to Texas CPS. We did get word that grandma either has or had brain cancer recently. This may or may not be an issue with respect to her home study depending what kind of drugs she is on and what her treatment status and prognosis are.

Last we heard, the next hearing is still set in mid October. Until we hear different, we continue to treat M&M like our own.

Hope all is well with you all. More to follow when I can.

Monday, July 23, 2012

No Greater Love...

Editor's Note: This post was originally published on The GunDivas.

Since Friday when in first heard about the tragedy in Aurora, CO, I have probably started this post four or five times in my head, on the iPad and the laptop. It’s a serious topic, involving real people, suffering real pain inflicted by a mad man for reasons as yet fully unknown. Obviously, I want to avoid being my normal, snarky, smart alecky self.

At first, I started out thinking that I wanted to talk about the need to examine your core beliefs and establish a personal “rules of engagement” if you will for situations like this. That idea arose from a discussion I had with a friend from church Friday afternoon. He asked the question of what I would have done. Heck, I don’t know. I wasn’t there, and I’ve never been in a situation like that before. I would like to think that I would have the faith and strength of character to put myself between the shooter and those around me and use every tool at my disposal to protect them and get them to safety. Some who were there did just that while others did not. I don’t write that as praise or condemnation. It is merely a statement of fact based on reports I’ve heard so far.

I would like to think that I am ready and willing to die trying in the process. No less a person than Jesus Christ Himself said “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13) That’s not exactly Plan A, of course. My preference would be to make the other person die trying, but that’s a discussion for another time.

I thought about getting into a discussion of gun rights versus gun control; but, honestly, that horse has been run over by the cart after dropping dead from a thorough flogging. I am a member of the gun community. I believe in the right to own and bear arms. Not much is going to change that view. Others believe differently and have little interest in what I have to say on the subject. Though, for the record, I think that gun control advocates are kinda like Ray from Ghostbusters trying to choose the form of Gozer the Destructor. Ask Rahm Emanuel and Michael Bloomberg how well they have succeeded at controlling the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.

And here I was trying to avoid snark…I apologize.

So, what DO I really want to say about Friday’s events?

Go love someone.

Anyone. Right now. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Carry a gun. Don’t carry a gun. I don’t care, but go find someone you care about or really like a lot and love on them.

Why am I saying this?

Allow me to give a little back story first. Ever since my wife, The Queen, and I got married, I have gotten up, gotten dressed and left the house for work before she even wakes up (most of the time…there are exceptions). I have always made it a point to give her a kiss as she lies there sleeping and tell her I love her before walking out the door. Anger, sad, or happy, argument or no, I did this because I wanted to make sure that, if anything happened to me, the last thing between us was an act of love.

Until recently. I have gotten out of the habit. There are lots of excuses, but the bottom line is that I have gotten away from doing what is in my heart.

And then I came within about 2 seconds of dying on the way home from work today. A fool in a large, black pickup ran a red light right in front of me. I can’t say for sure how fast he was going, but I would guess at least 40 and probably 50 or more. I believe he was accelerating. He would have hit my comparatively small Nissan Maxima square in the driver’s side had I made the intersection just a second or two earlier. Honestly, I can’t say for certain that I would have died, but I have investigated enough car accidents to know that serious injury and a trip to the hospital was the bare minimum that I would have gotten away with had he hit me at that speed.

It has shaken me to my core that I might not have made it home to my wife and foster kids this evening. Fortunately, I did get to hug and kiss The Queen and baby M&M this morning before I left. The Queen woke up early, and we shared a little three way hug before I had to go.

12 people in that theater Friday morning didn’t get to go home to their families, and at least 50 or 60 others came close to sharing their fate. Those 12 will never be able to love or be loved again (except in memory). They are beyond the cares of this world now. If it were possible to resurrect them right now, my bet is that their one wish and desire would be for more time with their loved ones.

When the dust settles, no one cares about how good or bad we are with a pistol or a rifle. No one cares how many or how few training classes we’ve taken. What they care about and remember most are the times we were there for them, when we hugged them when they needed it most, when we listened to them, shared their joy, their pain and their lives.

Go. Love. Someone. Now.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


I'm hoping there are still folks out there in the ether seeing this. I've gotten used to the comments, and it'd be a shame to start over whistling in the wind to no one. The excuse/explanation is the, wife, life. 

Before proceeding with the post, I'd like to welcome the two newest members of the congregation. Maddog of Maddog's Farms and David from Musings Over a Pint decided to check their sanity at the door and swell my ego by hitting the follower button. Welcome both of you. I'd say help yourself to anything in the fridge, but pickin's are slim. I need to go shopping for groceries. 

First in the random, stream of unconsciousness mental musings, I have a question for my Colorado acquaintances: Just what the heck is up with Rich Wyatt at Gunsmoke in Denver? I've been watching American Guns for a while...'cause it's about guns. Duh. But, asking $3000 for a Springfield Armory 1911? Letting your teenage daughter out in public looking like a hooker? Seriously??? Someone needs to explain what he is thinking. More importantly, what are people who pay these prices thinking?

Next up, I present the following...

Here, let me help you get a closer look...

I'm not sure this falls into the crimes against humanity category, but it was definitely distinctive. Also, I didn't get a look at the owner, but I'd be willing to bet that her body had some work done to it as well. Oh, and it had metal flake in the paint. So, it SPARKLED in the sun. Like Edward Cullen. Or so I'm told. 

I saw a guy riding one of those Can Am Spyder's the other day in rush hour traffic with no protective gear whatsoever. Not really abnormal around here. What drew my attention in the first place was the pair of crutches strapped to the back. Okay. I can see that. Then, upon closer inspection, I noted the reason for the above the knee leg amputation. Oh. Dear. Lord. You're missing half your leg, and you are going to ride around DFW in traffic with no helmet. Dude, there are easier ways to commit suicide. 

I had to take a day trip to Houston the other day. The client offered to pick me and my senior claims rep up in their corporate jet. I have a photo taken by the iLeash that really does not do it justice. There is a great photo on the net that I don't want to use as it belongs to someone else. Do a search on Cessna Citation CJ2+ on Google. That was my ride for the day. It beats flying commercial with an ugly stick any day. No TSA. No perv-o-scan. No taking shoes off. No cockpit door between me and the view out the front. Hated every minute of it. If you believe that, I have some lovely beach front property for sale that you might be interested in. 

So, the other night, The Queen and I were lounging around after a long, hard battle getting The Banshee to bed. A couple of hippies decided to invade the castle and start talking about how great New York is and other liberal twaddle. The Queen and I looked at them like they were the unwashed heathen that they were. There was an uncomfortable silence in the room. Then, The Banshee cried out in her sleep. The Queen and I snapped, and it was on like Donkey Kong. They needed killin' is a valid defense here. Of course, we had to eat the evidence anyway. 

They won't be coming around here anymore.

Mini Me has an adult tooth coming in surprisingly enough. Two weeks after surgery. Ain't that something?

The Banshee continues to be a living, breathing testament for birth control. She has her precious moments like last night when we were leaving the restaurant after dinner. She was dead tired. I stroked her cheek. She closed her eyes and looked positively angelic. I stopped stroking. Her eyes popped open. Lather, rinse, repeat a few times. Then, she leaned her head into my hand. It was priceless. In case you are wondering, no, it does not make up for the the screaming and shrieking. 

M&M remains as adorable as ever; however, the roller coaster ride continues. Birth momma's momma has now come out of the woodwork claiming she wants M&M and has wanted her since she was born. Uh huh. I'm buying that. It's REAL convenient that she just happens to surface a couple of weeks after the birth parents find out that their first choice is out of the picture. Where the heck has she been hiding the last eight months? God will have to handle this part too. If He leaves it up to me, things might get messy. I don't want that. It's kinda hard to explain to your daughter why her bio parents vanished from the face of the earth for no apparent reason and keep a straight face. Or so I've been told. 

Other than all that, life continues to treat me better than I deserve. I continue to wake up in the morning. People pay me good money to do what I do. I have a roof over my head and food on the table. I have a wife who loves me despite the fact that I'm a goob. I got blessings a plenty and not much really worth complaining about. 

Here's hoping your life is the same.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Adventures in Modern Medicine

No. This is not a post about Obamacare. I just downloaded all 193 pages of Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion today, and I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. I may choose to ignore that topic entirely or just line the cat box with it. I haven’t decided yet.

So, what is this post about? Well, for starters, I’ve seen the inside of a hospital twice in the past 48 hours. Why, you ask? That’s kinda why I’m writing isn’t it?

First up, we spent a glorious eight hours at the hospital on Monday for Mini Me’s scheduled oral surgery. We were originally supposed to be at the hospital at 8:30 AM. After The Queen’s last minute headaches getting Mini Me’s Medicaid coverage sorted out at the end of the week last week, we were told to have him there at 10:30 AM with no solid foods after 12:00 midnight the night before and no liquids after 8:30 AM the morning of. We arrived at the hospital on time…only to be told we weren’t supposed to be there until 12:30 PM.

???? Blink, Blink. What the…?

Who in their right mind schedules a general anesthesia surgery requiring fasting for a four year old at 12:30 in the afternoon?

Anywho. Mini Me’s real parents were there to help which was great. Mini Me spent most of the time before he was called back for pre-op playing Duck, Duck, Goose and other games with Mom and Step Dad. He never once complained about being hungry or thirsty. He never got scared about the surgery itself. He did start crying when he was called for pre-op, but that was only because he had to stop playing with mom.

Allow me a short aside here: Liquid Versed is THE bomb. Seriously. There is nothing better for calming a child that is stressed out. Inside of 30 minutes, Mini Me was more glazed over than a jelly donut.

Anydrugs…the final damage was pretty steep for a little guy to go through. All 20 baby teeth had to have work done on them. Nine were extracted (seven on top, three on bottom). One of the remaining top teeth had a crown placed. The remaining ten teeth all had fillings. The good news was that there was no active infection at the time of the surgery. So, no anti-biotics to take. His permanent teeth should start coming in within the next year; however, it will be about six years before he has all his teeth again.

The moral of the story is: Parents should not give carbonated sodas and lots of sugary snacks to kids on a daily basis. Think about it. Coke is recommended by mechanics for removing corrosion from car battery terminals and is also known to destroy the concrete in the warehouses where it is stored. What do you think it is doing to your teeth?

On another note, the drugs had an interesting side effect. Mini Me has started calling The Queen “mommy”. He also called me “daddy” for the first time yesterday (Tuesday). I almost did a double take when he said it as I wasn’t completely sure I heard him right. The Queen and I both agreed that hearing that for the first time was a little weird. Those words seem to come with a lot more baggage when you hear them from a child. Heavily laden with responsibility and expectation as it were.

But wait, there’s more. Little M&M was not content to let Mini Me have all the fun and attention. She woke up yesterday with a fever and cough. The Queen initially declined my suggestion that we take her to the doctor. Sometime between then and 5:30 when I was stuck in traffic, she changed her mind and decided that M&M had to go to the doctor RIGHT NOW!!! Well, the ER is the only option for an infant less than one year old at 6:00 PM on a national holiday eve.

Off we go to the ER. Little girl had a fever of 102.6. That’s a bit much for a boo boo. She was sitting up all proud and happy in the ER though. Rosy cheeks and all. She didn’t seem to mind. She was the center of attention. I kept Mini Me and The Banshee busy while The Queen handled medical consenter duties. We finally made it home about an hour or two ago. The doctor said she thought it was a viral infection…meaning they don’t know what it is. We were instructed to manage the fever with infant Tylenol. Keep an eye on her. Yeah, like she ever leaves our sight except when we are asleep.

In other news, the status conference in M&M’s bio parents’ rights case was held last week. What we were told to expect did not happen. We were expecting a trial date to be set. No such luck. After the hearing we were told by the CPS caseworker’s supervisor that “they don’t yet have grounds” to terminate rights. By my count, they have at least nine separate grounds. So, something else is going on, and I have no idea what it is.

There will be a family conference with the bio parents sometime soon to try and identify other family members who may be viable alternatives to take M&M. Unless we are woefully misinformed by a certain other family member who is no longer in the picture, that conference will be a complete failure and total waste of time and taxpayer money. If that goes according to plan, the hearing that the court scheduled for mid October will be cancelled and rescheduled or repurposed. If that does NOT go according to plan, we will have to take more drastic measures.

In the meantime, we continue to sit back, hurry up and wait.

The good news is that M&M gets to wait with us and not anyone else.

I do want to take a moment here and comment on the difference in attitudes between M&M’s parents and the parents of Mini Me and The Banshee. Mini Me and The Banshee’s mom and dad are pleasant people who are grateful for the care we are giving their kids. They genuinely love their kids. They have not missed a visit in two months. They’ve done everything ordered by the court that has been available to do thus far. Momma recognizes that it was HER choices that led them to where they are now, and it will take HER making changes to HERSELF to get her kids back.

By contrast, M&M’s parents had that look in their eyes at the hearing that they wanted us to drop dead. Every time we have had any contact with them or have reports about their situation, they are always making excuses for this or that. They blame the system for their situation. They are not even trying to do the bare minimum the court has ordered them to do. They’ve been kicked out of their state funded classes for non-attendance. They have no home. They do not have consistent employment or reliable transportation. They have not gone to counseling. In short, they have done nada, zip, zero.

And the state is considering giving M&M back to them.

I want my girl. I want out of the system.  If M&M is the only child The Queen and I ever have, so be it. She is worth it.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Followers and Other Stuff

I think I've beat my record for lack of posting. As of today, it's been 33 or 34 days since I posted (unless you count "The Ever Evolving Wishlist" page I added two days ago). I sincerely apologize. In my defense, things have been a bit busy in real life. In the past month, I've had two serious claims that required "drop everything and get there now" travel. The Queen managed to wrench a muscle in her back which has really hampered her child care taking abilities. When I'm done doing stuff at the end of the day, it's generally late and I'm too tired to look at a computer.

Bad me.

Before I go further, I'd like to welcome a couple of new followers. A Girl of A Girl And Her Gun has graced this humble space with her presence. I've been following her for a while now. She has an inspiring story for those who have not yet come into contact with her. I would encourage anyone with even a passing interest in self defense to check her out. She takes her training and personal protection we all should. Also, someone blogging at Encourage One Another has decided to hang their hat here. Welcome. Feel free to let me hear from you.

I also received a message on Facebook from a girl I went to high school with who told me she's been reading the blog. It still amazes me when folks I know actually show up here and read my stuff. Welcome, Tracy. Not one word in the comments about my 80s mullet. Zip it. That goes for you too, Tena.

Now, in the midst of life swirling around me the last month or so, I had an email exchange with cyber friend Kymber who came up with an even BETTER name for Little Miss Cobra. Kymber called her the Banshee. So, I am shamelessly stealing her intellectual content while silently cursing myself for not thinking of it sooner. From now on, LMC will be forever known as The Banshee. With her brother, they are Mini Me and The Banshee. Sounds like an interesting name for a band if you ask me. Thanks, Kymber.

While on that subject, Mini Me and The Banshee are still with us. We are making some progress with The Banshee's noise making tendencies. She no longer howls and screams when getting her diaper changed. Huge plus at 7:00 AM when I am trying to get ready for work. Trust me. Car rides are more pleasant too. She still wails like a tornado siren when she is not being held and feels that she should be which is pretty much anytime she is awake and active. Those magical times when she has just eaten or is interested in something like the tassles on my dress shoes are wonderful though, she seems almost angelic...then she turns into Jack Jack at the end of The Incredibles.

We continue our efforts to instruct Mini Me in the fine art of honesty. Please allow me to share a brief scene with you from this past Sunday's Father's Day Dinner at The Cheesecake Factory.

The setting: Mini Me next to me. The Queen across from me with M&M sacked out on the bench cushion next to her. The Banshee plotting revenge in the high chair between The Queen and I. Dinner arrives. Mini Me was ordered grilled chicken, mashed taters and steamed carrots...all things he has eaten previously and liked but not what he wanted to order (hamburger and fries).

Mini Me (after poking at his food): I got a 'tomak ache.

Me: Are you sure? I think you just don't want to eat what you have in front of you.

Mini Me (nodding his head): My 'tomak hurts.

Me: Well, here's the deal. If you really don't feel well, you don't have to eat anymore. BUT, that will be your breakfast tomorrow.

Mini Me: Well, maybe I can eat some now.

Me: Mini Me, you know what you just did don't you.

Mini Me (nodding head): [mumble, mumble]

Me: What's that?

Mini Me: yes, sir.

Me: That's right. You lied. [The Queen], since Mini Me said he was sick, I think we should take him to the emergency room. What do you think?

The Queen: I think that's a great idea.

Mini Me (face draining of all color, water works beginning, sobbing): NO! Don't take me to the doctor. I'll never lie again. I promise.

I wish I could have taken a picture of the look on his face. It was priceless. He HATES going to the doctor. Despises it with a passion. The fear in his eyes was genuine. He wasn't sure we weren't going to take him to the ER until we pulled into the driveway at the house. Yes, it was evil, I know.

While I'm thinking about it, I received a genuine honor recently from fellow blogger, GunDiva. She invited me to be a contributor to a blog she runs called The GunDivas. I haven't had a chance to post anything there yet, but there will eventually be content cross posted here from there. Or vice versa. We'll figure it out. One of the contributors there is a real life, "I get paid to do this", published author by the name of Tara Jansen. So, I am in good company. Hopefully, I can live up to the honor.

There was apparently some confusion amongst the readership on the subject of M&M. She remains in our care. Prying her out of The Queen's hands for a little daddy time is becoming more of a challenge though. She is almost ready to crawl. She is up on all fours and rocking back and forth. She scoots around surprisingly well. She also has a couple of teeth breaking through, and she's started on baby foods. She has a "delightful" habit of "motorboating" while she is being fed resulting in all around her getting splattered with food. It's hysterical until it gets in your eye.

There is a court status hearing scheduled for next week. It is our understanding that a trial on the parents' rights will be set at that time. Such a trial is not likely to occur until the fall at the earliest and could be as late as December. We have some other news on that front as well that I, unfortunately, cannot talk about in detail here yet. The short of it is that the out of state cousin is no longer in the picture. The Queen and I were shocked to say the least. If I ever can post details here, you will see that it really was a miracle and answered prayer.

In the meantime, I am going to try and get back in the swing of posting here more regularly again. I have several ideas for posts. There's the Magellan Award to discuss, there's some thoughts about a political theory I've been kicking around, thoughts about the current state of goverment at all levels, thoughts on cars I've owned and pets that have owned me, and I still haven't gotten around to posting about learning to fly and other things from my murky past.

All in do time.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The New Foster Midgets

As of today, it has been two weeks since The Queen and I were charged with taking in two new tricycle motors*. I thought I would take a brief respite from my workday to give you their story.

It was a bright and sunshiney (not to mention freaking hot – temps were in the high 80s low 90s) Friday afternoon. I had just arrived in the lobby of the building where I work to await The Queen’s arrival in her chariot to whisk me away to faraway retail establishments for purpose of selecting new clothes for work when, at around 5:30, my iLeash rang. It was The Queen.

The Queen said, “I just got a call from Robin (who is the director of our foster parent/adoption agency), and she has an eight month old girl and a four year old boy that need a home right away. What do you think?”

After all we have been through over the last couple of months with M&M’s situation, “What Do You Think?” is a loaded question to be perfectly honest. However, in a moment of blissful insanity, I didn’t bother to think. I said, “Tell her to bring ‘em on.” Sometimes, you just have to lead with your chin. Which would explain why my jaw is occasionally very sore.

So, further shopping plans were abandoned like a campaign promise after the election returns are in, and we hurried home to meet the new minions. I should point out here that “hurried” is a relative term when applied to Dallas traffic on a Friday afternoon when combined with The Queen’s luck with navigation. She has won the Magellan Award for Creative Navigation on more than one occasion; however, that is a story for another time. Suffice it to say for now, that The Queen was a wee bit flustered by the call, missed her turn(s) and had to backtrack her way to my office.

We made it home just about a half hour ahead of the CPS caseworker (a different one from the one handling M&M’s case) which gave us just enough time to do a hasty, whirlwind tour of cleaning and straightening through the house. As you may recall, the heat pump at the castle was most thoroughly and totally dead at this point, and the thermostat in the house read a (un)breezy 89 degrees inside. We chose to wait for the kiddos outside where it was a little more bearable.

CPS arrived (in three separate cars no less – why, I have no idea – our tax dollars at work) at around 7:00, and we met our new feral house monkeys. The four year old boy, who I will henceforth refer to as Mini Me because he reminds me a lot of myself at his age, was very shy at first. He clutched a bag of Wendy’s chicken nuggets and fries in one hand and a soda in the other. He didn’t want to look anyone in the eye, and didn’t say anything.

His little eight month old sister (half sister actually as we later found out), however, had plenty to say. At full volume no less. She came out of the car in her car seat screaming bloody murder which I’m sure included several not so kind words and thinly veiled threats in her version of baby speak. I would like to refer to her as SCREAMER!!!!!11!!!!! in honor of the cute little killing machines with handy dandy saw blades from the scifi movie of the same name starring Peter Weller (better known for his role as Robocop); however, that is probably an insult to cute little mechanized killing machines and doesn’t do her vocal skills justice. To say that this little girl is the polar opposite of M&M is an understatement (not that it is her fault). So, I will call her Little Miss Cobra instead (after the A.C. Cobra designed by the recently departed Carroll Shelby – ‘cause both go from zero to loud in nothing flat…and there might be other reasons too…like a shared name and the fact that she strikes quick…or not).

The kids arrived with a large bin full of clothing. Most of which turned out to belong to Little Miss Cobra. A second bin arrived a few days later after their first supervised visit with mom at CPS which had mostly Mini Me’s clothing in it.

We were told initially that momma had been on the run from CPS for three months, that dad was in jail and that CPS finally caught up to them at a hotel. We were also told that Little Miss Cobra was born positive for prescription medications and had had to go through eight weeks of Methadone treatment when she was a newborn. Most of that has turned out to be more or less true as far as we have been able to determine.

The Queen has met momma, dad/stepdad and grandma. The story that has unfolded is that Mini Me’s dad is in jail for reasons still unknown. Momma hooked up with dad/stepdad not long after Mini Me’s dad went into the pokie and has been the father figure for most of his short life thus far. As is the way of things, momma got pregnant 17 months or so ago. However, while she was pregnant, she was addicted to the pain killers she had been taking due to a back injury. I’m not clear on whether the back injury came before or after she got pregnant. That is what got her onto CPS’ radar in the first place.

CPS apparently allowed momma to take Little Miss Cobra home without a fuss. I assume due to the fact that the drugs were not recreational pharmaceuticals. All was apparently happy and joy for about five months until someone (grandma we think) called CPS on momma. The reason for CPS’ reinvolvement remain unclear as of this writing, but momma said she was scared for her kids going into foster care which is why she ran and tried to hide in hotels for three months. They finally tracked her down at a Budget Inn & Suites and took the kids.

The Queen reports that momma seems like a nice person (which, coming from The Queen, is a pretty good endorsement), is sincerely distraught about losing her kids and very much wants them back. The Queen counseled her to do exactly what CPS tells her to do, and she will get them back.

The kids appear to be in overall decent health. There are some obvious nutritional issues that had to be dealt with right away. I previously mentioned Mini Me’s request for a sippy cup of soda. The dentist took one look at his mouth and immediately referred him out to a pediatric orthodontist for major work to repair his severely eroded teeth. He is not looking forward to going under the knife so to speak. We have had to guide his food and drink choices (would you like apple juice or water?) instead of giving him free reign with the kids’ menu. Little Miss Cobra has some allergies which necessitate that she have a certain type of pre-mixed formula. She is eating baby foods and some solids (she has a thing for Cantalope we discovered last night).

Personality and behavior wise, Mini Me warmed up after a little bit. We had a little defiance the first night over bath time which is to be expected in a four year old. He found out the hard way that trying to hide in the closet while whining doesn’t impress us. He’s been caught red handed in an outright lie. The incident would have been cute were it not for the seriousness of the issue:

Me: [walking into the kitchen to throw something away only to discover the Candyland game box in the trash can] Honey, did you intend to throw away the Candyland box?

The Queen: No, why?

Me: Mini Me, come with me please. [we walk into the kitchen and I show him the trash can contents] Did you throw that away?

Mini Me: Uh uh.

Me: You mean “no, sir”. Are you sure you didn’t throw that away?

Mini Me: [nodding his head vigorously]

Me: I don’t think you are telling the truth. [The Queen] didn’t do it, and I wasn’t here to do it. That leaves you. Did you throw it away?

Mini Me: [nodding his head and turning away]

He got a very simple but firm explanation of just how important the truth is in our house and why that is important. So far, we’ve not had a repeat.

Aside from that and some ongoing training in politeness that is required for many children his age, Mini Me is a really good kid. He is extremely helpful with and loving towards his sister. He loves to play and laugh. I’ve enjoyed having a boy to torment (counting ribs is always a hoot). He misses his mom dearly, and he really does not like the CPS lady. She’s “mean”. I can see why he would think that. She did take him away from momma. He seems to grasp that The Queen and I are not the enemy which is helpful.

Little Miss Cobra, on the other hand, is a whole different ball game. I’ve mentioned the SCREAMING. It really is piercing…it literally interferes with rational thought. She despises being on her back for any reason…which makes changing diapers a challenge. She and I fought tooth and nail for probably 30 or 45 minutes over a nasty, poopy diaper change on the first Saturday we had them (which, as you will recall, was when we still had no AC in the house). After the first fifteen minutes, I had to relocate us from the hot, stuffy bathroom where I had been trying to change her to the living room floor because a) there was no air circulating in the bathroom and it felt like a sauna, b) we were both hot and sweaty and I feared losing my grip on a slippery infant who is thrashing around while trying to roll over on the bathroom counter we use as our changing table and generally escape my grasp, c) did I mention how loud and piercing her SCREAMING can be?, d) especially in a hot, stuffy, 80 square foot bathroom with lots of reflective surfaces, and e) it seemed like a good idea at the time. This hatred of all things reclined extends to her car seat making trips in the car an absolute joy until we can get her to pass out.

Fortunately, all with Little Miss Cobra is not negative. She does like to be held (upright, not reclined). She is crawling and pulling up. She will walk with assistance for short distances meaning we will have a toddler on our hands sooner than we originally expected. She has what I think is an adorable habit when she gets tired. If you are holding her near night, night time (and she is not SCREAMING), she will fall asleep on your chest after head butting you several times in the chest to find the most comfortable spot. She will do the same thing in her crib if she is not already sound asleep when you put her in.

The Queen and I seem to be adjusting to the new circumstances fairly well. After our experience with M&M, we have held back a little emotionally with these two. We still care for them as we would for any child, but we are not allowing ourselves to become bonded in the same way we did with M&M. Part of that is due to the fact that the kids already have a strong bond with their momma and we don’t want to interfere with that. Part of it is for our own emotional protection. The Queen and I discussed the issue of adopting these two briefly amongst ourselves, and we both agree that we would if they became available. However, we’ve not mentioned it since, and we probably won’t even think about it again until after there is confirmation that momma’s rights will be terminated and there are no other viable family members (which is too early to tell right now).

At this point, we have no idea how long they will be with us. There was mention of an aunt who might take them; however, she has to get a job and an apartment before that can happen. As far as we are concerned right now, they are with us until they aren’t.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have some ribs to go count.

* A term for small children shamelessly stolen from conservative radio talk show host, Neil Boortz.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

New Page

FYI, in case you are interested, I added a page with a slightly more detailed profile about who I am and where I came from. More pages might follow. Maybe.

Wascally Wabbits and Other Mischief

Before I give you my lame excuse for not posting more info about the new foster kids, I need to take a moment to welcome DFW to the growing list of followers. Blogger does not show that DFW has a blog. DFW, if that is not correct, please let me know. In the meantime, welcome to the party. Feel free to join in the conversations, have a beer, and generally enjoy yourself. I don't have any lampshades for you to wear while dancing on the table though. Had to get rid of them after GunDiva shot them up last time she got in one of her "moods".

Now for the lame excuses: 1) The dogs ate my home work, 2) I've been really preoccuppied with the whole fighting for M&M thing, 3) two words: TWO INFANTS (also known as instant twins), 4) one infant screams bloody murder until held or she passes out...whichever comes first, 5) who has time to write anything?, 6) why didn't you tell me to get formula when I was at the store an hour ago?, 7) the dogs don't feed themselves, 8) FOUR YEAR OLD BOY with two speed settings - FULL THROTTLE and PASSED OUT, 9) have you seen the laundry pile?, 10) what's for dinner?....

So, in lieu of actual content, I present you with...

...cute bunny foo foo picture. Those are The Queen's hands by the way.

That picture was taken about a month ago after we discovered that Spanky McCloud...

...had inherited the title of bunny hunter extraordinaire from the dear departed Kiki.

The little turd has real talent though. The Queen and I heard the telltale squeak of a bunny in distress just in time to see Spanky carrying his first prize to the dining room for "playtime". While we were busy trying to chase the recently dropped bunny around the living room, Spanky went outside and caught bunny number two. The entire incident took less than five minutes. I know for a fact that there was a third bunny from the same nest that narrowly escaped his siblings fate as I saw him/her making a run for it as Spanky was bringing bunny number two in through the garage.

It's gonna be a long summer if the bunnies don't take the hint.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

My Life is a Bad Country Song - Part 2 of ?...

…The CPS Permanency Conference

Before I get into the details of what happened at M&M’s permanency conference including mundane details like exactly what the heck a permanency conference is, please allow me to satisfy your curiosity about Miss M&M. Despite a quick bout with the flu and an upper respiratory infection that left the poor boo boo coughing constantly and generally being miserable for a few days, M&M continues her steady march towards greatness…or at least toddlerhood.

As I write this, she will be six months old in just a little over a week from now. She weighs in at a healthy 18 pounds, measures in at around 27 inches long depending on how squirmy she is and is actually bigger than most babies her age and many babies older than her by a month or more. One of the concerns that all foster parents face is whether the children in their care will fail to thrive. If that happens, the children can be taken away, and the foster parent could potentially have their license taken away. Needless to say, M&M is thriving in our care.

She is still one of the most adorable babies on the planet in our humble opinion. I was told by CPS that I can set up a private Shutterfly site to upload photos of M&M for the birth family. If curious followers were to ask nicely, I might be persuaded to share the access information. In exchange for some small consideration. Hypothetically speaking of course. Send me your email address at krerick at google’s email domain, and I’ll see what I can do.

M&M is starting to rollover on her own, and she has started teething which has made for some serious droolage. I suspect we will have a crawler on our hands sometime in the next few weeks. Her smile will melt your heart, and her laugh will make anyone’s day brighter than the sun.

But…there is a black cloud hanging over the possibility of our continued parentage of Miss M&M. That would be the cousin.

About ten days ago, The Queen and I participated in the CPS Permanency Conference. This is a meeting at the CPS offices with all interested parties to determine what the long term plan is for the foster child. The main questions to be answered are 1) whether or not the parents are working and making progress on their services plan, and 2) if they are not making progress on the plan, what will be done with Miss M&M in the event the parents’ rights are terminated.

What follows is a redacted version of my notes from the meeting.

In Attendance:
The Foster Parents (that would be The Queen and I)
M&M’s Ad Litem (the attorney appointed by the court to represent M&M’s interests)
The CPS Case Worker
M&M’s Cousin (first cousin once removed actually I think) – [by phone from out of state]
The CPS Facilitator (this is the guy responsible for keeping the meeting on track and getting the information required to make a decision)
The Birth Father
The Birth Mother's atty (interestingly a third year law student working for Texas Wesleyan’s Family Law Clinic)
A Mentor from the Fathers and Children Together (FACT) program
A FACT program liason to CPS (who is also a former CPS case worker)

The Birth Mother was a no show. Her husband mumbled an excuse which I did not hear.

The CPS caseworker started out by discussing the parents’ efforts to comply with their reunification plan. She confirmed that the parents miss about one visit a month with M&M (I think it’s closer to a 50/50 average, but I wasn’t asked). She confirmed that an oral swab to test for drugs was negative on both parents. The birth mother has a psychiatric assessment in early June, and her doctor upped the dosage on her medications recently. CPS still has concerns regarding the parents’ relationship. They have not done individual or couples counseling.

The Queen and I were asked to give a brief summary of M&M’s current status in the home. We reported that she is a happy, healthy baby who is developmentally on target.

The Birth Father was asked to discuss why there had not been greater compliance with the plan. He attempted to explain that they were displaced from their apartment due to their financial situation. Their lease was up in February and had an agreement with their landlord to extend their lease by a month or so when they got their tax return. For reasons that were not clear, they lost their expected tax return. TBF stated that he is currently doing carpet and tile work but does not work on a consistent basis. They are now living at a friend’s house in a rural town between Cleburne and Glen Rose, Texas. TBF confirmed that he has not been taking the anger management classes and that he and his wife were dropped from the parenting classes for non-attendance. He attributes this to their financial situation and being evicted from their apartment.

TBF claims that they are in the process of moving back to Tarrant County. He states that he and his wife have been together for 4 years. They have had five pregnancies which resulted in two live births. Their first son, was taken away by CPS in another state. He was adopted out after the birth parents relinquished their parental rights, and he is now living in another state. The remaining three pregnancies (a set of twins and another child) were lost to miscarriage and stillbirth.

TBF stated that they will be able to complete the services plan. He advised that the birth mother is the one who is violent towards him and that she takes a lot of things out on him. TBF was born in Commiefornia, but he says he is from Texas. He advised that he had a son from another relationship who died about five years ago after being hit by a train in a suburb of Fort Worth. He and his wife met in shortly after that when they both worked at a Taco Bell in small town outside of Fort Worth. They started working there on the same day and became friends. They eventually grew closer. He advised that the birth mother’s mother is in Oregon. They now attend a church in another town outside of Fort Worth. Of interest, TBF arrived to the meeting wearing khaki pants and a blue and black polo style shirt. As he sat down, he pulled a huge (at least 6 inch long) brass crucifix out of his shirt. He tucked the crucifix back into his shirt upon leaving the meeting. It came across to me as if he was trying to demonstrate his new found family values.

With respect to the drug use, he acknowledged that they know it is not condoned. He claimed he had pancreatitis in June 2011 and was in and out of hospital five times over thirty days. He further claims that his medications weren’t working and he almost died. He says he turned to pot to help calm his stomach so he could eat. He stated that the birth mother was using it because of her manic depression/bi polar issues and the fact that she was prevented from taking her regular medications while pregnant.

The CPS case worker bluntly advised TBF that she will be recommending that CPS change the goal from reunification of M&M to the birth parents to termination of parental rights and to staff the case for termination of parental rights due to not seeing enough progress on the services plan.

The FACT program mentor and liason were no less direct with TBF if slightly less blunt and brusk than the caseworker. Their comments were that what has happened to this point no longer matters. What matters is what happens from here on out. They stated they are hearing a lot of excuses, and the time for excuses is over. They say it’s going to take results if they want M&M back.

The cousin advised that she has been trying to get M&M since late December. She is very concerned that the paperwork has still not been finalized. The caseworker confirmed that the paperwork has been sent to Nevada, and they are just waiting on the home study to be finalized. She also confirmed that the paperwork was submitted as a foster care placement instead of a relative adoption placement. This is a change from what the caseworker told The Queen and I previously.

The Queen and I both expressed our desire to adopt M&M if things do not work out with the parents or the cousin. We stated that we would be happy to accommodate an open adoption with visits to the family, etc. We also offered to open a private blog to post photos, etc regularly for the family. TBF was obviously disturbed by hearing the possibility of losing his daughter to another family; however, he did not voice any argument. The cousin, however, was very vocal in stating that M&M has a family in Nevada that loves her and wants her.

The Queen and I spoke with TBF for approximately ten minutes after the conference. He is an articulate person; however, it was fairly clear that he was trying to spin facts and events to be the most favorable towards he and his wife. It was equally apparent that no one present at the conference was buying what he was selling. We simply reiterated to him how much we love M&M and that we would consider it an honor to take care of her and raise her.

After the conference, The Queen and I had several conversations with the case worker and the ad litem. The case worker makes it a point every time we talk to remind us that we probably won’t get to keep M&M since the cousin is a viable family member. The Queen and I disagree on that point when you consider that the cousin is a single parent with a full time job versus The Queen who is a stay at home mom while I am the full time bread winner with a great job that means M&M will never want for anything. Admittedly, we are a little biased.

The timeline moving forward is that the state where the cousin lives will return the paperwork in about a month to three months. Assuming it is approved (which is expected), the court would then set a hearing date for the purpose of deciding M&M’s fate regardless of whether or not the parents rights issue has been resolved yet. If that hearing occurs after M&M has been in our home for at least six months (which is coming up in about a month), then The Queen and I would have the option of filing a Motion in Intervention to become a part of the court case officially as opposed to just care providers. That would give us legal standing to make an argument before the court as to why we should be allowed to keep M&M. The CPS caseworker has told me that she has never seen a judge rule against a viable family member before. I am hoping that there is a first time for everything.

Needless to say, these developments have really upset The Queen and I. The Queen is inconsolable at times thinking about the possibility of losing a beautiful, perfect baby. Thinking about it for any length of time makes me angry and frustrated which is something I do not need in my life, and it interferes with my ability to focus on what is important which is being the best father I can be to her and enjoy every single minute with her.

I have the luxury of distracting myself with work. The Queen does not. M&M is her work. She has no means of escape from being confronted with the unpleasant possibility of losing M&M.

So, now you are up to date on M&M. I would ask as a courtesy that no one try to cheer me up by telling me that at least we’ve made a difference in her life when she needed it most. That is not comforting right now even though I know it is meant well. Words fail me.

There is a scene from the movie Men in Black where Will Smith tells Tommie Lee Jones that it’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. TLJ’s response is the way I feel right now: “Try it.”

Here’s to hoping that it won’t come to that.