Friday, January 31, 2014

In which I am a glutton for punishment

The thing about teenagers is that they're supposed to be figuring out who they are and what they want to do with their lives. They need to test their boundaries and try to learn how to be responsible for their own actions. Because of that, they tend to be very selfish people. They need to be. The thing about that, though, is it is exactly the reason why they make such terrible parents. Parenting requires you to put your needs second, to always make plans around what the kiddo needs, to be patient and caring even when you are beyond frustrated. Teenagers, almost without exception, are emotionally incapable of this.

If you add into this emotional instability, and teenagers who have not been exposed to a functional and healthy family dynamic, you can end up with a really toxic situation. Since he was about 11 years old, Morgan has repeatedly chosen to live with his mother. His mother, Tonni, is a felon, a drug addict, and last I knew had a breathalyzer on her car because of DUI. If you'd like to see what she's capable of doing to try to ruin other people's lives, click here and scroll down to see the five inches of unadulterated bullshit. But Tonni doesn't have these things we call rules, and so Morgan could get away with pretty much anything while living there. What teenager wouldn't jump at the chance? Fiona's story is even sadder, and so while I am massively angry at her at times, there is always a touch of sympathy there. A drunk, abusive father and a mother who can't stop playing victim, she really has no idea what a healthy family looks like.

Two weeks ago we had another family team meeting thing at human services for Rue. I went because I just wanted to know what is going on and no one had been talking to us. What I perceived within the first, oh, ten minutes of this meeting, was that they were preparing to remove Rue from the kids' custody. Morgan had moved from Fiona's to his brother's, who has a heavy criminal record and is currently facing charges. To my knowledge he was going to jail this week. Fiona is still living with her mother. Therefore, neither household is an appropriate place for Rue to be. Where this was inevitably going is Rue is either going to a state foster care that night, or she's coming home with me. So I ask Morgan, if it means keeping Rue, would you move back home and do what it's going to take? And she said yes. So I called Chris, and checked in with him, because you don't just bring home babies like they're stray puppies. And it was a tough call, but we decided to give Morgan this one last chance. See what I did there? I believed Morgan. I shouldn't have done that.

Within a day Morgan had changed his mind again. I sent him an email spelling out what it would take to make it work, including quitting his job which would be too far away now, getting his GED, and working on some form of higher education. Living here, full-time, and taking care of this baby. Apparently I ask too much.

Later that week I emptied out the baby bag to see what all was in there, and I found a business card from an Englewood cop, with a report number on it. Well. Isn't that interesting? I showed it to one of my sisters, who was kind enough to go get a copy of the report. It was a domestic violence call, involving Morgan and Fiona, and Rue was present for it. The most specialest part of that was Fiona brandishing a knife, but both of them claiming they did not feel threatened, so no charges were filed. I contacted the caseworker about that, and she did already know about it. It was one of the things we didn't get to cover in the family meeting because we ran out of time.

Since then we have had two court appearances, the first for them to enter their pleas to charges of dependency and neglect. They were both named respondents, meaning they were both considered responsible for Rue and screwed up big time. Fiona basically pleaded no contest, moving her forward to a dispositional hearing where they will establish what she's going to have to do to get Rue back. However, Fiona's public defender went for an argument that Morgan shouldn't be a respondent, as he is not the biological father. So we had another hearing set, earlier this week, to hear that out in front of a judge instead of a magistrate. The judge, in his wisdom, decided this wasn't the kind of issue you just shoot from the hip on (his words). He ordered them to file a brief and a response, at which point he'll issue his ruling. Good news is that won't mean more court appearances. Bad news is it pushed back the disposition hearing another week.

Morgan and Fiona were both forty minutes late for this, and came in together. Brilliant. They claimed they did not come together so much as run into each other in the hallway. Great way to impress the judge, kids.

The only other thing of note is that Fiona's lawyer said they were pursuing getting Rue enrolled with the Navajo Nation. Great, I'd been bugging her about that since they moved here. Rue's guardian ad litem was happy to hear it, too. But I looked it up earlier, and the Navajo blood quota is lower than pretty much anyone else, 1/4. They provided a copy of Fiona's enrollment certificate, which says Fiona is 1/4, making Rue 1/8, and therefore ineligible.

The next day, Fiona was supposed to start parenting classes. They're six hour sessions, and about an hour into it the parents spend some time with their kids in a supervised setting so they can be assessed and apply new skills. The course is 16 weeks long, and if you miss the first class they cancel you from the rest of the course. I know this because that's exactly what Fiona did.

I was, of course, curious about why she missed. So I checked her Facebook, and it said she was friends with Morgan again. And posts from both of them made it look like they were together again. Good gods, they just don't learn.

Today, Chris tried to take Rue to a scheduled visitation at human services. I called the case aide earlier trying to get confirmation Fiona would be there because she's proving to be very unreliable, but he wasn't able to get in touch with her. Apparently she called in 10 minutes late saying she just woke up (1:00 in the afternoon). So we took Rue out in the cold and snow for no reason because Fiona can't get to anything on time. Hat trick! Good job!

Anyway. Yes, I'm a bit of a sucker. The thing about my family is we don't define it exclusively. It is inclusive. In a way, I will always consider even Fiona one of my relatives. I definitely consider Rue to be family, and I couldn't live with myself if I had let her be taken into the state system. So now we have her here, she's adjusting relatively well though we did have a week of everyone's sick and Rue's digestive system went absolutely to pieces. Everyone's on the mend, and she's doing a lot better now.

The only thing I know for sure about how long this might take is that the state guidelines aim for this to be resolved within a year, and for the child to have permanent placement then. It could be shorter, it could be longer. I think I might throw myself a foster baby shower, just to help get us over the hump, since we haven't really got everything she should have. I would like to take this moment to thank Fiona and Morgan for completely blowing off making sure Rue has what she needs. And you're welcome for everything we did for you that you've taken and destroyed because you aren't even as mature as most kids your own age.

Yeah. I'm pretty bitter, but as hard as this is, I have no regrets. I know I'm doing the right thing. Mostly because it is also the hard thing. Which is the first lesson they need to learn in order to get back on track to having Rue in their lives.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

And now for something completely different

Well it looks like it's been only forever since I last blogged here. So much to cover, but I will try to hit the high points. If you want to pick the story up from where we left off, life has settled way back down again. Fiona never did move back in, Morgan eventually took Rue and ran away because that's what it is when you haven't got the nerve to just tell us you're leaving moved out. As far as I know, they've broken up. Again. Morgan is living with his brother, with Rue, but there's a custody fight on the horizon. No one has asked us for help.

We discussed, at great length, over several weeks, whether or not we would want to take Rue and raise her. We decided that we're really not up for that. It was not an easy choice.

So they've left, and I've mostly retaken the office. There is a very large pile of not-my-problem sitting in my garage. We'll see if they can't manage to come get their stuff before I get fed up with storing it for free in the spot my car should be sitting in, out of the snow.

Let's see, on to brighter news: I've submitted my first very rough draft of my thesis to my committee. I'm hoping to hear back from them very soon, especially my chair, since I really want to sit down with him and discuss what I've got, what needs to be addressed better, what needs to be gotten rid of, etc. I am still on target to graduate in May. If I do really, really well on my thesis, I might be able to grab a Magna Cum Laude with my degree.

So now I have some waiting time on my thesis, and I almost have an office back. Since my dear husband goes increasingly insane the longer he has nothing to do, we picked up an old idea, dusted it off, and we're currently working on creating a tabletop board game based around Presidential campaign dynamics. Like, the real things that happen, not the cut-and-dried-and-boring things we learn about in classes. Yes, winning the electoral college is the entire point of the game. We've taken a lot of the card ideas from Taegan Goddard's Political Dictionary. I suppose at some point I should find a way to ask him for permission, though much of what he's posted is relatively common knowledge. I guess mostly I want to give him credit for an incredible and highly entertaining resource. So we're working up to playtesting it, and we'll see how it goes after that.

I also have been working up to developing my online stuffs. This includes my social media accounts, as well as developing some merchandise ideas through Etsy and Zazzle, but I'm not quite ready to roll those out yet. Part of the problem is coming up with some sort of universal imagery (icons and banners and suchlike) that all say, well, Nobiwan. And I suppose somewhere I should explain that whole Nobiwan thing.

And because I'm not busy enough, I will also be working on career ideas. I've got a halfway decent editor resume, and I've been looking into some non-profit work as well as state, local, and federal jobs. I also finally signed up to take the FSOT, and though I don't know if I'll make it into the next batch, at least I've finally done it.

Also, Happy New Year! I haven't had a cigarette since New Year's Eve. I've promised myself as a reward that when we get to the end of the month, I get to spend as much money as I would have spent on cigarettes on anything I want for myself.

Monday, September 9, 2013

In which the insanity continues

First I will say that I'm feeling much better, which is good because the gastroenterologist never returned my call, and the general practitioner doesn't take Medicaid. Who doesn't take Medicaid? It's guaranteed income, they hardly ever bicker over charges. Whatever. I meant to get on with that today but, well, my weekend went to absolute shit (literally for part of it) and today was only productive because I called in reinforcements to help with the kids while the other kids were at school. Big families are awesome sometimes. I'll try calling to get on with a primary physician tomorrow. The weekend, well it all started last Thursday. But first you're going to need some backstory...

Disclaimer: You should really turn back now, before it's too late. What follows is a sad and depressing tale of two people trying to do nice things and getting screwed for it. Cue drama:

So remember my son's girlfriend that moved in with us? Yeah, here's the thing. My son Morgan said he and his girlfriend Fiona, and her baby Rue were going to move into her mother's place here, about 20 minutes away from where I live. They just needed help getting here from Grand Junction. But Fiona didn't tell anyone that her mom has an open child services case, and her two little brothers are in foster care. So we were like yeah, I don't think so, if you move in there you're gonna get the baby taken away. Move in here, we'll help you out with the baby, get you into school, all that good stuff. Because we're like good people, you know? Don't want to see a kid end up in foster care for no good reason. Only four conditions: you have to go to school or get your GED, you have to help us keep up the house, Rue can't stay overnight at Fiona's moms, and there will be no drugs in this house. (Stop posting on Facebook about getting high, jackasses.) Seems reasonable right? Hang on to that thought.

So we do that. We buy a futon mattress to stick on the old frame in the garage, and we buy three 6' bookcases to create a wall and privacy in what used to be our office for them, and we move the 2 year old to a big kid bed and give the crib to the baby. We drive all the way down to Ikea (seriously, it was almost a road trip) to buy a bunch of boxes for those bookcases for them to store their stuff in. I engage county bureaucracy and get everyone onto Medicaid and foodstamps (well, not Morgan, his mom is on stamps too and she's not going to be forthcoming that he doesn't live there anymore... that's a fight for another day. For more on Tonni the Evil Ex-Wife, refer to this post.). And then, seeing as how we've spent so much money and we're going to run short in a couple of months instead of at the end of the year, I get myself another job.

For those of you keeping score this makes 2 jobs, one grad school career, 4 teenagers, a toddler, and a baby. So then that anxiety thing happened. Like of course, right?

Fast forward to Wednesday, my day off, celebrating my daughter Laurie's thirteenth birthday a day early because I was going to have to work. We decide Morgan and Fiona are not keeping up their part of the housework and we're tired of it, so we talk to them about it when they get home from school at 3, before going to get Laurie from school at 4. It was less than 30 minutes, but you should be asking why so long to reiterate what they had already agreed to. See, Fiona lost her temper. Not a little bit, either. She was yelling at us, about how rude and mean we are, about how she's not comfortable here, about how she can't talk to us because of her temper and she's been to jail before because of it.

Let me pause here for a moment to reflect that my high school had bullet holes in it, there were gangs, drugs, organized crime and an actual body count. Add to that 10 plus years working in psych wards where I did on occasion have to restrain individuals much larger than myself in a manner that would not harm them. Captain small town thug life does not impress me with her juvenile detention record. And I don't take kindly to being threatened.

Back to the story: we make it clear these things are not negotiable, and we go to get Laurie from school, do some birthday shopping, and come back about an hour and a half later.

Things seemed to be going alright until out of the blue Fiona takes Rue, packs a diaper bag, and hauls ass out of the house. Which mean Morgan must follow because he's got to try to stop her from being stupid. And which upsets Laurie on her birthday, just to put a little extra twist on the knife.

Thursday Morgan misses her last class to go ditch with Fiona (missed the bus to bowling, uh huh, sure) and supposedly talk things out.

Friday, Fiona texts Morgan to say she doesn't have enough of Rue's things and can Morgan bring some and by the way can she be abusive, petty, and bitchy while she's asking for the things she didn't have the foresight to bring with her... Chris dropped the things outside her door and texted her to let her know it was there. So then she hops a bus to come over here (what, you say you couldn't do that to come get your things? Oh, wait) to try to cause more drama. She won't cross the property line, though, and baits Morgan into an hour sitting in the sun one the sidewalk with a baby. But she needs us to meet with her so she can apologize. Watch now as I ignore directives hurled at me by spoiled seventeen year olds. We make it clear Morgan isn't to be intermediary, if she wants to apologize she has Chris' number. If she wants to meet it's going to have to be on our terms.

Saturday, a change of pace. You ready for this? Our sewer backed up instead. It does this about once a year because of the huge cottonwood tree in the yard and our landlord's lack of willpower to put in a new main line out of the duplex. Oh yes, double the fun, both units back up into my house. So that takes up the whole day.

Sunday... Yeah. So yesterday, about 2ish, Morgan comes busting out of the house onto the porch to tell us, in a rather panicked tone, that we need to go get Rue because the cops are over there and they're gonna take her away. (Wait, didn't I tell you so? Indeed, I did.) So Chris takes Morgan and they manage to accomplish this task. I got all of this very second hand, so what I can relate is that yes cops were there, no child services. The cops were fed up and left before they were done picking up Rue. Which actually sucked because then Fiona and her mother both lost their damn minds and kept trying to take Rue out of the car. Fiona apparently tried to cling to the passenger side. My husband though, he's a pro at driving, and very carefully drove off and turned to the drivers side so as not to hurt her, eventually disengaging her from the car. So she then threw herself in the street in front of another car, at which point they lost sight of her.

Clearly, this kid is not just spoiled. This kid has some very serious mental health issues that need to be addressed, and not by dragging Morgan into couples counseling, which was her only suggestion thus far.

So today, she finally is apologizing to Chris and asking to meet because now she wants her kid. No, sorry, not today, we're catching up on all that work we missed by trying to help you out. Tomorrow we can do, after school, at a fast food place near the school. This is what I tell her over text. She proceeds to ask to come maybe Wednesday and to our house or maybe to that same fastfood chain but the one near us not near her school. Wednesday is my anniversary. She can have not one minute of it. I very clearly state that we are not comfortable with her in our house, and restate when would work, and where, and she finally agreed.

Now, this afternoon, we talked to Morgan about what he wants, for himself and Rue. He wants Fiona to get some counseling, and then move back in by next week. Because Fiona is a good mom, really, when she's there, even if she did leave once before for three months...

Please hold while I integrate this new data.

No. Oh, no, no, no. This is all kinds of sideways to begin with, and then you drop that news flash on us? She can not be here. She can not stay here until she's in therapy for a while, months probably, to get herself straight and get her priorities in line. If she doesn't (and I'm not holding my breath) are you, my dear Morgan, prepared to go it alone as a parent? We will help, but we will not raise her for you. We've had four kids, and we're pretty done now. Oh, sure, you're gonna make it work. Okay. Make sure you take care of yourself, get enough sleep when you can, don't stay up past midnight on the internet chatting at Fiona (like you did last night). Morgan has to get up at 5:30 for school. Which is pretty early for any human, but asking a teenager to do this every day might be one of the more creative forms of torture I've ever seen. I know, I had to do that in high school, too. It sucked, and I didn't have a six month old to deal with on top of it.

So they go to bed. Chris tells him to get to sleep, and he yeah-yeahs while staring at his laptop.

Gee, the password for the wifi doesn't work anymore? Did someone change the wifi passord? Yes, my dear overworked husband did, and we're not sorry, either. Welcome to fatherhood.

The moral of this story, kids, is to go turn into bastards now before you get taken advantage of, too. Okay, I only mean that a teeny-tiny bit, but it is a nice cautionary tale, isn't it? At least drugs haven't been an issue.