Sunday, October 23, 2011

Daddy's go through all kinds of things. Setbacks, although completely unwanted, are just part of the package deal. My own personal setback happened today. After two and a half full weeks of only smoking once or twice a day (down from almost two packs a day), I've blown through a solid half-pack. No good for anyone. I started two and a half weeks ago. I won't say that I quit then... But I did start getting healthier. I put down the cigarettes, and I started riding my bike the four point two miles to work every day. Which (for those of you that aren't mathematically inclined) translates to almost eight and a half miles of bike riding a day. I started packing my lunch, and I've gone out of my way to start living just a little bit more moderately where my diet is concerned. But today's been rough, and I've had a bit of a setback. Tomorrow starts all over again from square one. But I intend to do it, and do it right this time. That's all for now. Just checking in to show that I'm still alive. And hopefully, once I get in to this healthy kick again, I'll get on here more as a way to sharpen the ol' thinking box that sits on top of my neck. 'Til then!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Daddy thoughts on my son's birthday...

My son's birthday party wrapped up about an hour ago. Mom gets ALL of the credit for this one: she did the planning, the organizing, the decorating, buying the food... All I did was wrap gifts, show up, and help referee children.

That shot there is just the pile of stuff left after the little man has gone off to bed. All goodies that he'll be dying to play with tomorrow. As far as today went, he's overjoyed just to have three brand new batman figures sleeping next to him in his bed. And all are goodies that I'm sure Daddy will have to help him figure out, open up, or just play with in general. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

My birthday was this past Thursday. I've never been one much for celebrating my own birth, so the fact that Mattie was born exactly one week later is just awesome. We can have his party on the weekend between, and I end up getting exactly what I wanted anyways: just a big smile on my boy's face. Ten years ago, I wouldn't have given a shit about the middle of July. Now, I've grown into such a softie, and a daddy to boot, that I can't wait for it.

Which brings me to why I'm sitting here writing this instead of doing the mountain of homework that has sprung up around me. My daddy feelings are weighing awfully heavy right now. I have a two-month-old foster son sleeping soundly behind me, and I'm having a little daddy crisis knowing that he's probably not going to end up staying here. This little boy, who smiles and starts to giggle every day when I get home from work and pick him up, is most likely going back to the people that didn't stop doing crack when they found out that they were pregnant. Back to the mother that doesn't bother to show up to all of her visitations. Back to the father that most recently was released from prison for beating the living fuck out of the mother.

Who's going to throw him his birthday parties? Who's going to make sure that he gets a world full of crap that he never knew he wanted until he saw it? Who's going to make sure that the house is full of aunts and uncles and grandparents to make a gigantic deal out of his special day?

Who's going to go out of their way to love this little boy like we do?

I'm supposed to feel good about "reunification." I'm supposed to be happy that the parents have met the standards that the county requires to get their child back. Unfortunately, I think that the county's standards and mine are a world apart.

So now... I'm sitting here holding a conversation with my twelve-year-old stepson about the show he's watching in his room instead of trying to fall asleep while my almost-four-year-old is snoozing next to his brand new Batmen, and my baby boy foster son is out cold in his little bouncer just waiting to let me know that he needs to eat again... And I'm wondering just how the hell someone else is going to be able to make sure that he gets to the point that I could be holding that conversation with him about his favorite show instead of sleeping.

I like to consider myself one hell of a man's man... but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I'm choking back tears just thinking about all of this. I usually like to pepper my writing with any kind of joke or sarcasm... I just can't bring myself to do it right now. I'm worrying about a future that my little baby might never have to live through...

But probably will.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Adventures in foster parenting!

This little boy has been in my life for exactly two months today. He was born on May 15th, 2011, and pulled into the foster care system as soon as his blood work came back positive for cocaine. His mother's came back positive for cocaine. She did not seek prenatal care until she was approximately seven months into the pregnancy. During that time she used crack, pot, alcohol, and that good old fashioned standby, cigarettes.

His father turned up a rap sheet that runs some forty-nine or fifty counts long, the most recent of which was for beating on the mother. Both of them were recently released from prison.

So, at two days old (and it's still a mystery as to why the hospital didn't keep him longer), he came into our home addicted to drugs and gearing up to go through withdrawal. During the placement phone call, the agency told us that the parents had lost all rights, and that the little boy was adoptable. When they dropped him off several hours later, we found out that that was a lie. The parents still had rights, visitation, and a chance to get their shit together to get him back. We went through with it anyways, because he was a tiny two-day-old infant that needed some serious TLC.

At first, he was the easiest baby in the world to take care of. Never cried, never fussed... But we found out that this was simply indicative of the drugs that were still coursing through his system. As they wore off several days later, the pain started. He was in constant discomfort, shaking uncontrollably almost all day long, and all we could do was hold him, talk to him, and give him all the love that we could.

Over the next few weeks, the shakes started to subside, but it's become evident that he will probably carry some of those tremors with him for the rest of his life.

We've spent the sleepless nights, the four-night hospital stay when his withdrawal symptoms got out of hand, and we've loved him as if he were our own through all of it, knowing that the fact of the matter is that he will not be staying with us forever.

And we are fine with that.

BUT (and this is a huge, mumu-wearing, reaching-wand-using ass of a but), the agency that placed him with us has done nothing but piss me off at every given turn. We're on our second case worker, and probably heading towards the third.

Every week, at one-thirty on Wednesday afternoons, we take the little boy to his visitation with his parents. These are supervised visits, and every week for the past five weeks, the supervisor (caseworker) has been late or not shown up at all. So Pammie and I had been doing the parents a solid and sticking around long enough for them to visit with their little guy for a bit. Not our job, not our place, but we felt like it was the right thing to do.

Until last week. I had already spoken with the caseworker's supervisor, told him how pissed off I was getting at this situation, and he begged me not to give up on it. He said that we were already going above and beyond just by doing the transport for visitation, as most foster parents simply refused to make the drive. He went on to assure me that he would tell her to be there early, and that we could just wait outside, hand over the baby, and pick him up two hours later (like we were supposed to be doing from the start).

So that's what we did. Rather, that's what we tried to do. But when one-thirty showed up, there was still no sign of her. The father came walking up (late by a few minutes himself) and I got out of the car to greet him.

(This is where I split into two. There's no love lost between me and this guy, as I simply haven't reached a spot where I can forgive him for putting that little boy through everything that he's been through. On the other hand, given what followed, I can put myself in his shoes and see why he was pissed. Guy just wanted to see his son.)

He asked if the worker was there. I said no, and that we were only waiting a little bit longer. I told him that he needed to start making all of the same phone calls that I've been making, and start riding someone's ass. He told me that this was bullshit, and went over to my car to open the door.

I had to stop him. That's not allowed to happen. I told him I'd walk inside with him to see if we could get a hold of someone to sort everything out. And he walked with me, but told me the whole while that he was "going to see his son one way or another today."

Long story short, we went in to find the baby's mother waiting. They both started getting loud with me, threatening the same thing. "One way or another." Now, I don't respond well to threats, and I have a bit of volume myself when I need to. I told them that they didn't want to threaten me, and the shouting was just escalating, when the elevator doors opened behind us to reveal the case-worker, Pammie holding the baby, and my almost-four-year-old son.

Pammie handed over the baby, and I went into the visit room with the parents and the case-worker. The mother had immediately calmed down. The father kept going at me. I kept telling him to put his anger on the woman that simply refused to show up on time. She started to get defensive, and I laid into her. I don't have to kiss her ass like the parents do. And when I finally left (with the father shouting after me "THIS IS NOT YOUR SON! GO BE A FOSTER PARENT"), I talked to her supervisor. He told me that he'd instructed her to be there by one o'clock.

When we showed up to pick up the baby, the father came out, looking like a little kid with a shit-eating grin on his face that's been told to apologize. Which is what he did. I told him that I would not stand being threatened again. Which is right when he started denying that anything had happened. He never said anything about "one way or another," he never tried to open my car... I just walked away. Bitched out the caseworker, because none of that would've happened if she'd just shown up on time.

That's just one event in the whole book of shit that's gone wrong. Just the most recent. But every week has had something, like when I left my dad's hospital bedside to meet her at the house and she never showed. Then I have to listen to how she came by, but didn't get out of her car because she didn't see my car in the driveway. I had to tell this woman that perhaps she should try knocking on the door next time.

All right. That's enough of my griping for now. Let's see what happens this week.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Take TWO!

Six months since I seemed to give up on this little blogging experiment. But I haven't given up: I've just gone and got myself even busier.
Pammie and have long since finished our foster parenting classes, and have now been taking care of little boy Jalen for two months. Which makes him two months and two days old. And he's every bit as wonderful as you would expect a newborn child to be. But all of my dealings with the county agency in charge of his well being have driven me damn near to the edge of insanity.

Huh... Ain't that a tease? I'm not going into them right now. Just wanted to check in and see if this blog was still up and active. I'll be sitting down to it again soon, given that I'm always looking for a way to avoid doing my homework. Glad to see you again!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The best nurse I could ask for...

This week marks the longest that I've ever been knocked on my ass by an illness. I was scheduled off of work last Saturday for a wedding, and then called in Monday and Tuesday because I was barely able to get out of bed. My wife took the liberty of calling me off for the rest of the week after hearing the words "walking pneumonia."
There's a shit-load of down sides to being sick: can't breath, the medicine is the only thing that you can taste (and the brightly colored "CHERRY FLAVORED!" moniker is a bold-faced fuckin' lie), and you can't find the energy to do even the most mundane of daily tasks. I'm pretty sure that I never even brushed my teeth that first day, and I know for a fact that I haven't shaved since right before the wedding.
But, I am finding, there are also up sides. I haven't spent this much uninterrupted time with Mattie James since the first few weeks of his life.
I've watched more superhero movies than I can count, and I've got almost every song in "The Nightmare Before Christmas" memorized again, but every showing was worth it, sitting there with him while he explained them to me scene by scene.
We've also managed to play with every toy in his room, clean it up, throw stuff out, and break in his brand new fire-truck bed.
So, yeah... There's a plus side to being sick. Not that I felt like getting up from my pile of snot-rags to do anything, but he took really good care of me. At least, he made sure that I didn't get too lazy.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Daddy in crisis...

Last night was my first night back to school for the semester. I've been going to college (again) for a full year now, but I was having a little bit of a breakdown making the quick change from work to school and realizing that I wasn't going to see my boys hardly at all until the weekend. And Kris goes back to his other dad then, so my only contact with him is going to be making sure that he gets up and bathed before school in the morning.
So, while sitting through my first "Intro to Physical Therapy" course, my mind refused to focus on what was going on. I was lamenting the fact that I'm going to be missing out on so much playtime with the boys, and not paying attention to the teacher at the bottom of the lecture hall that seemed to be doing his level best to scare us all away from ever being full-fledged therapists.
At the first break, I decided to go outside for a smoke (NASTY habit, but so utterly fantastic) and call home. Kris was pulled away from his video game to talk to me, but was gracious enough to give me almost two full minutes on the phone, far from the Black-Ops missions that he was running in Viet Nam.
Mattie took over the phone call, and that boy put his gift of making daddy want to cry to full use. "Daddy... You come home right now. You miss me. I play Batman game... Uncle Matthew... Spongebob... I love you!"
Yeah. Me and my gushy mood listened to that and then went back into class. I've never watched a clock so closely in my life.
The guy let us go right at nine o'clock. I made the trip from downtown to Brook Park in under fifteen minutes. Made it home safely, and he was up and waiting for me.
I don't think that I had ever realized what an emotional wreck my kids have turned me into until right then. Mattie and I sat together, rebuilding his train set (which normally just infuriates me: why he insists on mass-destruction for the town he has been given is beyond me), and then it was time for pajamas and bed. All Kris wanted was to know if he could have ice-cream, and then he took himself up to bed. I don't think that he knows he could have asked for just about anything right then and ended up having me just hand it over.
There's no real end to this story. Everyone just ended up happily tucked into bed for the night. Me and Pammie got a little bit of quiet time when she walked in from work, and then we went to bed too. I'm feeling a little bit better about the whole thing today, probably not going to have the big breakdown again any time soon...
But I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Just some of the things I do...

There are many facets to being a father, and some of the most important of those things involve ZERO actual interaction with my children. Not the least of these of course is my job. Now, that picture there is one of the more extreme situations that I've found myself, but it still isn't the worst. That's me up on the roof, looking like a displaced longshore fisherman.
We've done all kinds of ridiculous things in our job, including having the customer rent a crane which we then had to figure out how to use to deliver their furniture. But those aren't the work stories that I'll be telling here. I'll be telling such gems as the time the little old lady living in the laundry pile scared the shit out of me. Or the time that the eight-year-old boy wearing nothing but a foam helmet decided to piss all over the infant that was sitting on the floor. Or how about the guy that had us bring a sofa into his family room/armory and then started handling his guns as he got more and more pissed off for reasons that I still don't know?
There has to be literally hundreds of these stories, and I'll bring them all up in time. I only do what I do for the sake of my kids, and I figured that I'd just use this as a primer for things to come.
Take care!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Video Game Debacle

My son, just three-and-a-half years old, is apparently following daddy's footsteps when it comes to loving his superheroes. How the hell he ended up settling on Batman is still beyond me, because I've always been a Marvel comics kind of guy.
For at least a year now (following the short-lived but equally powerful "I'm BUZZ LIGHTYEAR" phase), my son has answered almost exclusively to "Batman." He has several costumes, even more masks, and a number of capes that would've made Liberace squeal with delight.
So, we had an all Batman Christmas. I even found him a 1:18 scale model, die-cast replica of the Batmobile that Adam West used to drive.
Then came the release of the new "DC Universe Online" for the PS3. My son had seen the ads in the video game shop where we were buying gifts for his older brother, and asked every day for two weeks "Daddy? Is the Batman game out yet?"
We reserved it, because Daddy likes his superhero games, and my wife and I both knew that it would make his little day. The day that it finally hit the stores, my wife went out, picked it up (and the strategy guide: spend a little more to make Junior happy), and dropped it off with him at the babysitter's to wait for me to get out of work.
He clutched those things to his chest for the three hours that he was there. So damned excited.
I picked him up, got home, and insisted that we get a little cleaning done, bath time and jammies for the both of us, and then we'd play. It was seven o'clock by the time that I hijacked my twelve-year-old's PS3 and popped the game in.
I had never used the PS3 before, and had no idea how long it took to upload a new game. Mattie waited patiently through the first half-hour, watching the little green "loading" bar as it crawled toward the finish line. When it finally did, it immediately started another one, and this one promised to take at least as long as the first.
Needless to say, he was pissed. But he sat, and I turned on an episode of Adam West and Burt Ward prancing around and he coped. While he coped, I read the instruction booklet so that we'd be all set to play.
And that's when I saw that I would need to enter my credit card number to cover the monthly fee for the game.
I'm eighty dollars vested in this bitch, and there's going to be a monthly fee to play it? Well... what's the fee? OH... it doesn't say. I actually had to go to the computer, type it all into google, and read that I was looking at $14.99 a month to get this thing going. $180.00 or so a year.
FUCK THAT. It said that we got thirty days free, so I figure I'll make his day tonight, but then we're done. I'm fuming at this point, he's badgering me to get it going, and he's almost ready to pass out because it's eight-thirty now.
We switched back and the game was finishing that session of loading. Fine. Let's get this over with.
Nope. It started another one. And by my math, it wasn't going to be done until after one in the morning.
I thought that he would start crying. You know... Just bawling in that way that only people under the age of five seem capable of, where their mouth opens to a completely inhuman degree... but he didn't.
Instead, when I told him that we would have to wait until tomorrow, he gritted his teeth together and said "Daddy... You're pissing me off."
I was immediately shocked into laughter. He didn't approve, but it had been a long aggravating night, and I needed it. I tricked him into thinking an old game that we had was the one he was looking for, and we returned that steaming hunk of crap the next day. We must not have been the first, because they didn't even ask any questions.
Just one of the many lunacies that a parent puts up with for the love of their kids...

A father's love...

A father's love must be unconditional... right? That's the only reason that dads would possibly put up with everything that goes on.  Nothing else could ever explain how it is that a boy ever lives to be a teenager, because without that unconditional love... I think he'd be dead a dozen times over by now.
Nothing else can explain how I find it in me to kiss my three three-year-old son at the end of the day, tuck him in and tell him that I love him, even after he has done his very best to go throughout the house leaving a wake of destruction that rivals three-foot flood waters.
Nothing but unconditional love for my children and the prospect of giving them a better life can explain why it is perfectly acceptable to work forty hours a week, go to school for thirty, and maintain what amounts to a long distance relationship with my wife, who I lay down next to every night.
I've been a dad for a long time now, and I've often wanted a place to put down all of the stories that just sounded way too bizarre to be true. So now I'm here, and I'm looking forward to stretching the old writing muscles a bit by relating them one at a time.  The really sad part is that I know I've forgotten more of them than I remember, but I'm going to do my damnedest to get them all down.
Take care of yourself, and I'll see you soon!