Memorial Day

Hopefully everyone has had a good time BBQ today, or just a peaceful day kicking back around the house. In any case, sit back and watch the video. Remember that as we sit here, there are others out there putting it all on the line and like it or not, we are raising the next generation that will carry on where we left off at.

This video is for every brother who has spent a night walking patrol in some God forsaken desert.

For those that come home and don’t know why everything seems different and can’t sleep through the night anymore.

For the dwindling WW2 crowd that saved the world from pure evil.

For the Korean vets that fought a forgotten war.

For the Vietnam guys that bled and sweat all over South East Asia for an ungrateful nation of tree hugging hippies.

For every service member that has served or is still serving in a FORGOTTEN Afghanistan campaign.

For everyone that has had to convoy with the thought of an IED blowing them to kingdom come.

For those that never came home and was never declared to be among the living or the dead, forever to be a mystery.

For the ones that served in peace, patiently waiting for the call to come.

And for those that have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country, in war and peace, Thank you.

-Launch

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Reply

Not Sure I Have Hated it More?

What you might ask?  HOUSEPARENTING!!  I work in a long term residential foster care facility.  The same one I have worked in for the last 9 years, in the same cottage for over 6 years and I am unable to describe my pain at the moment. 

I have spent the better part of this weekend packing up two boys that I have raised since the day I moved into this cottage, and I have been sobbing or flat out bawling the whole time.  They are going to live with their birth mother when they get back from camp on Wednesday.  I have grown to love these boys more than I can describe, and I never thought it would be this hard to see them go.  Of course until 9 months ago, nobody thought they would ever leave before they graduated from high school or college.

One of the boys is now 8 years old, and can only remember us as parents.  He has not lived with his birth mom since he was a toddler.  What makes it even harder, is the fact that I am not sure they are going to a better situation.  They will go from having virtually all their needs met to a situation where daily life will be a struggle.  They will go from a situation where education, spiritual and moral training, hygiene, was important and taught, to a situation where it’s not.  It will be an absolute culture shock to both because it is not a lifestyle they can remember living in, and the weekend visits that have taken place once a month for the last 6 months can no way portray what is in store for them.

There are other kids here that I love and I know the pain of this week will lesson and life will go on, though I know it will never go away.  I know because I am still saddened every time I think of Madison, the first stealer of my heart.  I still get choked up when I start thinking about her and have often cried.

I am sure it looks awful funny for someone to see a big manly guy like me in tears, and I must say it is hard to see the screen through the blur, but it really hurts and I can’t help it.

It really SUCKS.  In order to care for these kids they way you should, you have to LOVE them, and when you love them, it is only a matter of time until you are hurt.  The question is: How many times can you take the pain? 

The problem is you cannot stay detached.  If you do you will suck as a houseparent.  You have to build relationships, you have to nurture, you have to love, even big pain in the butt teenagers that don’t want to be there, and are juvenile delinquents (I know because I cared for them before too).  The kids will know how much you care, and your effectiveness will be a direct reflection. 

As for me.  If you pray, please pray for me, my wife and all the kids in our cottage because we know life has to go on.  And also for these boys – that everything will be alright.

Summer Survival Guide

Another week in the trenches. This time of year is always rough with the kids getting ready to bust out of school for the year. One Family Teacher I bumped into on campus mentioned that it’s the pollen that knocks them stupid (I think she may be on to something).

Spring fever is a call to arms for HP’s across this great nation. Time to get ready for vacations, road trips, sunburns and having the kids home 24-7. This can be a scary and confusing time for newbies and those with weak cardiovascular issues. But don’t worry, Old Launch is here to help you through “The Valley of the Shadow of Death”, or as some call it, summer break.

NEED TO HAVE ITEMS:

1. Sunscreen- anything above 80 SPF. If it will be your first summer in the south, don’t go back outside until mid November. Nothing will make you beg for the sweet release of death like a sunburn from the beach.

2. Medication- Load up on the anti-depressants, cause it will be a long summer. But aside from that, get one of those pill cases that you can load the kids meds into. That way when you take of to the YMCA or are out at the store you can give meds at the correct time instead of missing a dose or waiting until you get home.

3. Flask- Your probably expecting me to say something witty about alcohol here, but Sorry, no booze on duty. If it gets that bad call a help line or check out AA. I carry a pint flask in a book bag when we are out of the cottage to help with giving meds. A lot of times I find myself out in the middle of nowhere trying to find water so a kid can take their medicine. Bottled water works, but we always end up drinking them before its time to do meds.

4. Camera- If your still using film, Grandpa, you are the last one in the free world to be doing so. Get a cheap digital at Wal-Mart. You can take endless photos and pick the ones you like, discarding the rest. It’s very important not to spend more than $150 on the camera. Anymore than that and Murphy’s law takes affect. (Drop it in the toilet, a kid will bounce it off your head, etc…)

5. Closed face reels for fishing- If you take a kid out fishing with an open faced reel, you deserve every minute of frustration and pain that will follow. If I see you out there I will laugh and take pictures then post it on the internet. Just keep it simple, closed faced reels only.

6. Cell Phones- You and your spouse need to both have a cell. The ability to effectively communicate with your team mates will GREATLY reduce the amount of antacid tablets you consume. Being able to talk in real time and react to constantly changing scenarios with the kids is well spent money.

7. Toilet Paper- Stash rolls in the van, in your purse and chuck a couple of sheets in the old wallet. Nothing is more frustrating than having to go #2 on a trip in unfamiliar parts only to find yourself sitting there without the required materials needed to make a graceful exit.

8. GPS- TELENAV works great on your cell phone. TomTom is also amazing. Portable GPS is a must have on those road trips, especially when the back of the van starts doing the “Are there yet” routine. You can now tell them down to the square foot how far they are from the final destination. GPS will also help you find gas stations, hotels, restaurants and parks. It’s an absolute lifesaver when your traveling with a group home.

9. Gameboys, DS’s, PSP’s, whatever The beauty of portable game systems is they will keep a kid occupied for hours. I know many HP’s think those little electronic gadgets are of the devil. I suggest you do your own controlled study on the way to the Grand Canyon this year. Let Johhny play his gameboy and tell Bobby he will get the joy of singing “100 Bottles Of Beer On The Wall” with you and your lovely wife. See which kid goes insane first.

10. Folding Chairs- Always, always, always, keep portable chairs in the house vehicle. Kids are fine sitting in mud and grass. However, I am old and rather particular about where I rest my derri¨re.

This is the short list. Good luck with the summer and hopefully there will be a few of us left when the dust settles. -Launch

I’m Sorry, Seriously Dude…

The following are some lessons I learned the hard way, some of them I did (I’ll never tell which ones) and some were committed by other residential staff. Enjoy the following painful lessons of your fellow HP’s and remember, some idiot with a blog is always watching….

1. That scary neck tattoo you got in Atlantic City last year might not have been a great move before your interview at the Baptist Children’s Home.

2. Paint ball guns are lots of fun! However, Johnny’s case worker was not impressed with the quarter size bruise on his tender forehead from the coup de grace shot between the eyes the opposing cottage gave him after he was captured and dragged from the fort.

3. Mosh pits at concerts are not for middle aged adults. Concerts that have mosh pits are not for eight year olds.

4. Sniffing fingers of teen boys after they come out of the rest room to see if they were the ones smoking can sometimes bring up unexpected hygiene issues.

5. Asking one of your kids to help DJ the facility Christmas party is not a good idea, unless the group home you work has a deep appreciation for 2Pac’s greatest hits.

6. Body piercings are cool! Showing off your nipple rings at the swimming pool on campus ain’t.

7. Make sure the moving truck is already packed before you tell your supervisor which side of eternity you’ll see him in. One couple I knew was fired and had to find a place to live while they were still living in facility quarters. Just a little awkward for all involved.

8. Do you ever just hand the meds to your kids without watching them being swallowed? School called today, Bobby has been selling his Adderall medication to the cheer leading squad.

9. Growing a plant on the windowsill in a Styrofoam cup is probably a school project. Ten plants growing in the closet is probably not. (They were growing marijuana for all you non-pot heads out there).

10. The walkie talkies all of the boys keep in thier rooms just turned into a sophisticated communication/ intelligence gathering tool. At 22:00 Zulu time they make a run for the girls cottage and grab a smoke while ten year old Danny radios in your position every time you get ready to do a bed check in the house.

11. Maybe letting a twelve year old drive your Jeep on the ranch, beside a ditch, was not the smartest move…

12. Lucky, the 4 year old dog that walks sideways and chews on her tongue makes a great pet…. (Sorry Craig, had to throw that in!).

13. Playing hide and go seek in the cemetery sounded really cool, until you had to tuck your seven year old into bed…

14. That bottle of wine back in our private quarters tastes like water….

15. I have complete confidence in the new internet filter I put on the boys computer… Wait whats this? Amish Porn????

16. A drum set is a cool idea for a Christmas present.

17. Working in a COED TEENAGE HOUSE. Enough said.

18. Trampoline + Pool= Really uncomfortable emergency room questions.

19. Doing written reports on curse words. (I asked for a two page report, Gary gave me a ten page thesis on the “F” word. He enjoyed writing the forbidden word as often as he could, using it as a noun, adjective and verb. After the research Gary used cursing as more of an artistic expression of life rather than in fits of anger like everyone else).

20. Mentioning little things over dinner conversation that come back to haunt you. Like stating that “Alka Seltzer” will make a Sea Gulls stomach blow up. The following beach trip was real ugly with dead birds and crying kids.

The point is we all make some bone headed moves at times, although the consequences differ on how bad the choice is. Playing hide and go seek in a grave yard will keep you up all night with freaked out six year olds. Getting nasty with the boss will result in loss of shelter and food and marijuana growing in the closet of your 16 year old will ensure a visit from the local sheriffs Department as soon as they start bragging about their “Bumper Crop” at school.

It’s all about choices folks. We all get em, just try not to screw things up too bad….-Launch

Here’s Some Driving Tips!!

It may be just the city that I live in, or it may be the whole country but it seems that we have more and more drivers on the road today that don’t know a lot of the basic rules of the road. So I figure I will do my part and maybe educate a driver or two.

*If you arrive at an intersection that is normally controlled by traffic lights, but find that there are no lights at all, (Usually the result of a power outage caused by a tornado, hurricane, ice storm, earthquake, mice, or a ton of other things.) – you treat it just like an intersection controlled by 4 way stop signs.

*When at a 4-way stop sign, the vehicle that arrives at the intersection first goes first.  If two or more vehicles arrive at the same time, the vehicle to the right goes first.

*A steady yellow or amber light means that the light at the intersection is about to turn red.  If you can safely stop, you should. If you can’t safely stop, you should continue through the intersection.  It never means that you should speed up to try and get through before it turns red, because you don’t feel like stopping at the red light.

*If a big red truck with blue or red lights and sirens is approaching, you should know that it is probably a fire truck trying to respond to a fire or some other emergency.  Pull over to the right side of the road and stop, so that it can easily pass.  If you are in multiple lanes of traffic and can’t pull all the way to the right, pull to the right as far as possible.

*Usually any vehicle with blue or red lights and sirens is an emergency vehicle and should be treated the same as a fire truck above.

*Driving while putting on make-up, shaving, trying to write a text message on your cell phone, programing any electronic device, woopin’ the children in the back seat, reading the newspaper, etc.  is dangerous and the cause of many accidents.  Pull over to the side of the road and stop in a safe place before doing any of the listed activities, as well as several others.  In the case of shaving or make-up it is easier to do that in your bathroom at home.

*If you are making a left hand turn, be in the left hand lane or designated turn lane.  For right turns, be in the right hand lane or designated turn lane. If you are not able to get in the lane you need to be in safely before your intersection.  It is much easier to miss your turn and change your route, than to cross four lanes of traffic and be t-boned.  If you crash you will have to spend hours dealing with insurance companies, car rental agencies, and repair shops not to mention higher insurance rates.  Is that really worth losing 5 minutes to find some other route or turning around up the road to make the turn safely.

*Drafting (tail-gating, following to closely) is only recommended on race tracks, in cars driven by professional drivers. Even then it can result in huge wrecks, creating large amounts of scrap iron.

*Wear your seat belts and make sure your passengers do also.  For those that are houseparents, non-compliance could result in termination depending upon your facility.

*Be courteous and respectful.  I think this one principle alone would alleviate many accidents and road rage shootings as well as reducing health care costs associated with hypertension (high blood pressure). 

*Last but not least – be forgiving.  Before you wave your fist, start shouting profanities, or flipping off the driver that just cut you off, remember the time last week you did the same thing to somebody else.

*If a police officer is directing traffic, please follow his/her directions.  It will surely save you a bunch of hassles with law enforcement.

If you are still confused and would like additional information, each state publishes a driving manual specific to their state, it should be able to answer many of your questions. 

I hope somebody finds this helpful and I am sure there are many more rules that could be added to this.  That is what the comments section is for.  Feel free to add to the list, just be appropriate.

It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This.

The past few days I’ve had a chance to reflect on my career in residential childcare. One of the big concerns my wife and I had when we decided to start a family was how we would raise our own family in the atmosphere of a group home.

Like most couples that find themselves in the same situation, we worried about one of the boys molesting or hitting the baby. We even briefly discussed other options to make a living. Thankfully, we put it all in Gods hands and decided to see how things would progress as we started our family in the shadow of the “System”.

Over time I have learned to appreciate the richness, vitality and love that comes along with living in a big house with several kids. At this point, I can’t imagine our family without the boys we live and work with. I can’t, and won’t, imagine any other scenario in which my daughter will grow up without having other kids around and helping in her own way, to make another person feel loved and part of a family.

I know all to well how blessed I am. There was a time when I drove a tractor trailer down the road and missed every moment of my kids lives. Birthdays, holidays and life milestones like taking a first step or saying that first real word. I ran the road chasing a dollar in the belief that the more I made the better everything at home would be. It didn’t take to long before I realized that it would never be enough money to justify being absent from my family.

There are ups and downs with any career, and living in a group home has it’s pros and cons. But it’s a place where I get to be a part of my daughters life. I have been there since the moment she took her first breath and her first steps. I have spent more time with my wife in the last few years than most couples do in 20. Our family has been given the opportunity to do the best we can to love and take care of kids that need somebody to care.

I’d be lying if I told you it was all gravy. I’m overweight and have an ulcer the size of a hub cap. My day starts at 5:30 am and normally goes until 11:00 at night before I can get a moment to myself. I work with a few adults that may very well be clinically insane and don’t even get me started about dealing with some of the teachers and familys of our kids.

But it’s all worth it. Every blasted waking moment that God gives me to settle a fight, wipe a tear, step in a puddle of pee, wrestle, play, stress about a non-existent budget, get my car keyed, teach a kid to read or tie their shoes, see a family get put back together, watch my cat get thrown out the second story window, take down a tobacco smuggler and go on a bike ride- it’s all worth it.

What can I say? I love what I do. It’s hard for me to understand sometimes why there is such a high turnover in this field. I think the best thing you can do is find humor in all the kids do and to remember, there’s always a tractor trailer out there with your name on it if you need to get away from your life.

-Launch

Dropping Benjamins

So here I am, starting a brand spanking new website for reviewing different child care facilities. I figure maybe $100 will get me going on godaddy.com and I will add the title webmaster to my resume. Think again.

It seems that running a website is a bit more expensive than I anticipated. To get a halfway decent set up I need to drop at least 300 bucks. I don’t care what facility your at $300 in our world is still a pretty big chunk of change. I also need to replace the camera that got stolen in Atlanta a few weeks ago, along with my voice recorder. Won’t be much of a facility review without some pictures.

So the website will need to wait until after our Houseparent Retreat in Alabama this August. I will still be hitting the road and reviewing a few facilities before then, but don’t look for anything to be up on the net until September.

I also need to do some serious research into how to secure the web site. You would be amazed at the comments and spam some sleaze bags leave on this blog. Everything from child porn links to electric lawn mowers.

Due to my recent education in web expense and evil spam, we all need to take a moment and thank a man that is responsible for the entire HP Network, Mike Hyde.

All those times I heard him complaining about spamming infidels, cost, upgrades and massive amounts of time spent working on the site, I thought he was just being kinda girly. After all, how hard is it to run a website?

Mike, thanks for creating and keeping this site running , even when most of us out here really can’t imagine the blood, sweat and tears involved in something like this.

Anyone that would like to donate, oh lets say a thousand bucks, to get the facility review up, give me a holla. (I know it’s a long shot, but it never hurts to beg). -Launch

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Reply

Nothing Beats A Rainy Day

Ceasers Head Bike Ride

Took a well needed bike trip (See previous post) with another HP buddy today up to Ceasers Head State Park, SC and then on to Brevard, NC for lunch.

The trip started out decent and we made good time up to North Carolina. Had a decent lunch, did some much needed venting and started the roll home. Then, against all predictions from the National Weather Service, it rained.

I knew it would for the simple fact that I didn’t pack anything to ward off bad weather karma. If I would have strapped the rain suit onto the back of the bike it would have been 82 degrees with a gentle breeze. But in an effort to impress my buddy, I left all of my nerdy gear at home, and hence I became wet and cold.

Kinda reminds me of all the times I tell a kid he ought not do something and he does it. Last week I told James not to run around the camp site bare footed. Five minutes later he takes his shoes off again and is doing a wind sprint across the camp site when he trips over a log and comes limping over to me wanting a band-aid. I just find it ironic that just like the boys, I don’t always make the smart choice when I knew I should have.

Coming home my consequence was to drive 70 miles an hour while rain drops pelted me like BB’s for about the last 35 miles of our journey. Of course I never let my buddy know that five more minutes of getting beat down with rain I was going to start crying like a school girl. Thankfully we made it back and I played the tough guy act until I got home and could whine to my wife.

Still a great ride and I had a great time hanging with Josh. Next time the rain suit is coming, along with all of my other nerdy stuff, like the battery heated socks and my coco thermos. -Launch

Shalom…

Many times before I have said the hardest part of residential childcare is the adults, not the kids. I can also tell you from first hand experience that none of us have all the answers. Relationships, both child and adult, are difficult and complex. What is the right answer now, will not be in twenty minutes. To sum up the last few days of my existence I would have to say that I truly do not enjoy being around any HP that does not approach our line of work as a ministry and as a professional.

Without dropping dimes on any particular individual that is really irritating me at the moment, I would like to share some of my pet peeves with you all that have all seem to have filtered down into a gooey mess the last few days.

1. Treating your “Biological kids” different from the foster kids.-There is nothing in this world that infuriates me more than double standards between staff kids and the facility kids. Before you dish out a consequence ask yourself if you would, or have, given the same kind of “Justice” to your own kid. Better yet, think about how you would feel if you were forced to live in a house with people that were not your family and to be reminded DAILY that you come in second to other kids in the house. Not a pleasant thought is it?

2. Griping about EVERY kid that is to be admitted- In residential child care we deal with behavior and psychological issues, IT’S WHAT WE DO. What did you expect coming into this job?

3. Competition- This ain’t the freaking Olympics champ. There is no ultimate houseparent challenge so please, next time you start throwing out how many years you have been a child care worker, ask yourself if your actually trying to make a valid point, or your just trying to be a self inflating jerk.

4. Fortune Telling- Maybe you do see dead people and can predict when it will snow, just don’t do it with the kids. To walk around and say to yourself or others that a kid is doomed to be a addict, sexual predator, inmate or doomed for the burning abyss of hell, is to set a kid up for failure. Think about it, keep reinforcing a kid with nothing but negativity and your going to get negativity back, with change.

5. Job -VS- Ministry- To do what we do has got to be a calling from God. It’s not a glam job, you will live in poverty, and the vast majority of kids you work with are very ungrateful for what sacarafices you and your family have to make to help them. You have to believe God has called you to to be here in this moment, at this time. Or you just have to be completely loco and love the emotional drain and pain.

So there it is, my top five. I really hope my week gets better and the blogging is a little more uplifting. -Launch