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.