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

Civil War

I don’t need a calendar to tell you spring is here. It’s always this time of year when every kid loses their minds. Never fails, they know school is less than a month away from being dismissed for the summer and if they have even mediocre grades they can cruise for the last few weeks in school and not do squat. Not a pleasant time to be House Parenting.

It has been a rough morning. Rodney wakes up and decides that he wants to wear the jeans that looks like he just finished crawling across a coal strip mine. Then he decides that instead of picking up his room it would be better to break all of his toys and scatter them in a protective perimeter around his bed. That ensures no one, namely ME, will walk in his room without suffering some kind of plastic shrapnel wound to the foot. Glad I decided to strap on the steel toe boots this morning.

Then the rest of the children decide to get into some geo-political fight over breakfast and whether the Quaker Oats guy on the oatmeal box is actually alive. That conversation quickly turned into who had the fastest bike. We did manage to get to the bus without a fist fight this morning, but barely.

It’s easy to sit back and get frustrated by the whole house getting spun up into a civil war. But you still got to remember what it’s like to be kid with summer around the corner. For me, the last day of school was better than Christmas. Every year I would walk out of school and in one violent display of my feelings for the public school system, throw my notebook in the trash. I remember the feeling of pure ecstasy as I walked home with the knowledge of not having to go back to school for the next two months. Those were the days.

But for the kids we care for this is a mixture of emotions. On one hand, they are happy like any other kid over the possibilities of summer. On the other hand, it’s a time of change, and any change is scary for these kids. When you’ve had five or six different families by the time your twelve it’s understandable that small changes in anything would cause anger and frustration.

So instead of giving into the drama of spring fever I think we will spend the rest of this week going over the summer schedule with the kids and making sure they have a say in the things we plan. Hopefully this will calm the waters a bit and help to end our little in-house Civil War thats been brewing between the boys.

Now if I can only figure out why my 11 month old daughter is throwing her attitude all around… -Launch

Going Home

Everyone needs a place to escape, a place where they feel safe and welcome. For most people that place is home. It’s a place where you can walk in the front door and talk with the family, have a meal and kick it old school reliving memories.

For my wife that place is Upstate New York, land of ice and snow. It’s a place she can get together with her family and friends and enjoy the presence of each other. It helps her to re-affirm family roots and to re-charge and reconnect to who she is. The time she gets with her family is essential to help define her past and future.

On the other hand there is me. My family roots are more or less non-existent and is just a part of reality I have had to come to accept. It’s actually not as depressing and tragic as it sounds, I have been blessed with an amazing wife and children. I have friends across the country that truly are salt of the earth and most importantly, I have Christ.

So once I loaded my wife on plane heading North, I drove our mini-van 90 miles-an-hour home, power slid into the parking slot in front of the house and fired up the bike. I ran inside the house and grabbed the saddle bags, a change of clothes and my super high speed sunscreen (80 SPF) and hit the road. Destination- Waleska, Georgia.

As I cruised across the South Carolina/ Georgia border I felt like a million bucks. And then the drama that accompanies pretty much any task I undertake, hit. At a gas station outside of Atlanta, I jumped off the bike and ran inside to use the restroom, least everyone behind me would think the bike had a radiator leak if I continued down the road. When I came out- my saddle bags were gone. Someone in the hood snagged them.

In my bags I had a digital camera, an ipod, digital recorder and my Crackberry cell phone. I also lost my sunscreen which resulted in third degree burns later on in my travels. Anyway, being the hardcore biker houseparent that I am, I pushed on. Soon I was driving up the driveway of Goshen Valley Boys Ranch to have lunch with my old supervisor, Craig.

We had a great lunch, caught up on facility happenings and kids, and other HP type of stuff. After lunch I got an invite to a ranch BBQ that night. No way I’m passing free food up. But first I needed a phone.

I headed into town and stopped into some Mexican store/ laundromat/ check cashing/ unemployment agency and bought me a little pre-paid phone. There was a bit of a language barrier and ultimately my cell ended up being programmed in Spanish. I swear I heard the clerk laughing as I walked out the door. Whatever, I had a BBQ to hit, I’ll think about calling INS later.

As I pulled up to the ranch I was hit with a mixture of emotions. In my life there have been very few places that felt like home to me. Goshen is one of those places. I saw many of the boys that I use to work with and was amazed at how big they have gotten. I sat and watched the kids playing with dogs and playing tag out in the field. I can’t think of a better place to grow up as a boy.

After eating there was praise singing and prayer to cap off an already awesome night. I headed down the road that night feeling very content and very thankful for the fellowship I experienced with great kids and some of the best staff I have ever worked with. For me it was a homecoming.

For everyone at Goshen- God Bless all of you guys. To Craig and John- you both have developed something special that is not the norm in this field, keep on rocking guys cause something this good has to be of God. The impact and ministry the ranch has done in the lives of boys is immeasurable. The BBQ is pretty decent also. -Launch

Born To Be Wild

So it begins- respite. My wife and daughter flew to upstate New York to hang and visit family. I just got a phone call and she said it was snowing up there. Hope she enjoys making snowmen in May.

As for me, I have waited, dreamed and yearned for this moment all month. A chance to jump on the bike in 70 degree weather, take a trip and visit a few places and let go of all the pent up frustrations from the past few months.

First I’m heading towards Georgia to have lunch with a friend and then I’ll flip a quarter to see whether to head South or North, either one is just fine with me as long as I’m in the wind.

I’m a firm believer that every one has to find an outlet to relax and recharge your body and soul. Especially if your in a line of work that consumes your every waking moment, such as residential child care. You need some activity that rolls back the years and makes you feel alive. Something that makes you feel like life is not only sweet but worth living. So for those of you out there that may want some ideas on living on the edge your next respite here is a list.

1. Skinny dipping- A public pool will probably end your life as a HP but a nice quiet creek somewhere would be safe for you and the wife. Watch out for crawdads.

2. Sky Diving- Nothing will make you appreciate life as much as hurling yourself out of a little Cessna that sounds like a super charged lawn mower after a one hour “suicide” class on how to be a sky diver. Be sure to buy the video they sell of you throwing yourself out the door so you can relieve the moment for years to come. Now that I think of it, that would work for #1 also…

3. Get a bike- Call me. I guarantee after a weekend of rolling with me and trying to witness to bar full of bikers, you’ll feel better and probably have a police blotter report to show off when you get back home.

4. Start a “Weird Project”- I have always wanted to take a mini-van and turn it into a Drag car. There’s something to said for doing a school run on an alcohol injected, big bore, mini-van that has one of those “My kid is an honor student” bumper stickers. Will score you major respect points at the next PTA meeting.

5. Bungee Jumping- It’s nice to say that you’ve done it. I recommend you drive your car into a wall at thirty miles an hour, it feels the same.

That’s it for me, time to hit the road. -Launch

Help me, I’m Dying.

5:30 am- I roll out of bed, take a swig out of a half empty (and flat) Pepsi and look over at my wife who is peacefully sleeping. Since I believe a husband’s duty is to make his wife suffer as much as he, I yank the pillow out from under head while telling her it’s time to get moving. She responds with a “Good Morning Sweetheart”. I don’t believe her.

5:45 am- Coffee is now done. I slam half a cup before I realize the boy who did dishes last night, Jackson, did not rinse the soap out of the coffee pot. Ha, Ha, thats funny. I’ll make sure that little bugger gets a little something extra when I wake him up.

5:52 am- Turn on CNN. Hillary Clinton is still running for President. In a mixture of emotions- mainly disgust and anger, I accidentally take another swig of my coffee thats laced with dish detergent.

6:01 am- Walking up the stairs with every intention of making Jacksons morning as ugly as mine.

6:03 am- Stepped in puddle of pee in hallway. Hoping kids did hear the words I said.

6:04 am- Start waking kids up, saving Jackson for last. I can feel the adrenaline pumping through my veins. I don’t know wither to wake him gently and tell him he needs to scrub all the dishes before school or just take the passive aggressive route and make him drink remainder of coffee.

6:07 am- Go to wake up Jackson. He is already awake. As soon as I walk in his room, he throws up in the middle of the floor and, I swear, grins at me knowing he just pulled the golden ticket with his dramatic display of illness. Any plans of doing something out of the house today slip away as I realize he will be staying home from school.

6:30 am- At breakfast, Rodney starts saying how he thinks Hillary will be an awesome President. My wife reacts quickly and asks me to go check on our daughter, thereby saving yet another young boy from certain doom.

6:55 am- Walk kids to bus stop.

8:30 am- Jackson informs me he is “Cured” and should not have to stay in his bedroom all day. He assures me that watching Power Rangers is educational. I disagree and offer to take him to school. Jackson starts to feel woozy once again.

10:00 am- Jim calls and wants to go on bike ride. I decline due to my situation. I listen with a heavy heart as Jim fires up the Harley and rides past the cottage. Jackson comes downstairs and informs me that he heard Mr. Jims motorcycle and wants me to know his bike is way cooler than my little bike. I thank Jackson for his honesty and concern for the obvious lack of respect my Honda brings in the motorcycling community. I then offer him a cup of coffee. He laughs and politely declines my offer.

11:00 am- Jackson informs me he had an accident in the bathroom. I go to inspect the damage. “Accident” is an understatement. There is poo on the door knob and walls. I ask how this was possible. Jackson tells me he “Exploded”. I then ask him to get a bucket to help me clean up the mess. He throws up again all over the floor.

12:30 pm- Bio-hazardous material is cleaned up, Jackson has showered, the coffee pot has been rinsed out and I make another pot. Only then do I notice soap suds coming from the top of the coffee pot. Upon closer inspection I realize Jackson dumped dish soap in the water compartment in the coffee maker.

12:35 pm- I slowly walk up the stairs preparing to inform Jackson he will not see the light of day for the next six months. I get to his room and see him crying because he really is not feeling good. We spend the next hour putting a model together in his room.

Sometimes I get so full of myself that I forget what it’s like to be a sick ten year old and just want someone you love to pay attention. It’s times like this a hug from mom or dad is exactly the medicine a kid needs, only these kids are not in a position that they can get that.

I was so busy being frustrated by my own petty concerns that I temporarily lost sight of whats important, the kids. God does use these moments to bring us back into focus and I am truly thankful for that- and Jackson.

Time to get some coffee now- at Starbucks. -Launch

Motivational Speaker

    I give this speech at least once a day in my cottage.

Sometimes I get a little long winded and go into lecture mode. After a few minutes of me talking, my wife will tap me on the shoulder and only then do I realize the kid is all glassey eyed and drool is coming out of one side of their mouth.

I’ve learned not to bring up my own past indiscretions and how those choices have hurt me in this life. Those kind of conversations tend to get really twisted in the head of a pre-teen. I tried giving a motivational talk to a boy at our first facility that had been trying to purchase pot in school. I told him about how most of my buddies I grew up smoking with in my neighborhood were either dead, in jail, homeless or a preacher (go figure). Somehow that turned into a big story around campus how I love smoking crack and vacation in Columbia. 

As a general rule, personal stories are just a bad thing to do. The kids don’t really care about the 80’s anyway and reminiscing about the good old days always makes you sound old.

Maybe I’ll just start forcing them to read my blog instead of lecturing. Both are equally painful.-Launch

Paranoia

 Paranoia is a disturbed thought process characterized by excessive anxiety or fear, often to the point of irrationality. Paranoid thinking typically includes persecutory beliefs concerning a perceived threat. In the original Greek,  (paranoia) simply means madness (para = outside; nous = mind) and, historically, this characterization was used to describe any delusional state.

In the last week we have given what seems like a hundred tours of the cottage, had a informal cottage evaluation, did two fancy dinners where I had to beg, plead and eventually bribe the boys to get dressed up for, and sat through a high school play of “South Pacific” with a bunch of elementary kids that hooted and hollered every time somebody kissed.

After all that I started to wonder if my facility was trying to kill me or at the very least push me into a nervous break down. I should feel flattered that our cottage gets a lot of attention, but instead I find myself thinking that someone is out to get to me on keeping the cottage clean, so I polish the toilet bowls to a high gleam. My wife says I’m doing more harm than good. Any guest that tries to perch themselves upon our highly waxed throne will slip off and probably pass out from respiratory distress caused by the two automatic industrial air fresheners that go off every two minutes. I tell her they will at least die with the knowledge that it is the cleanest latrine their butt has ever had the pleasure of being in.

Being paranoid has actually helped me to survive as a house parent. We have all had a kid that we thought would never smoke only to discover they huff a pack a day of non-filter Camels. Or how about that twelve year old entrepreneur that is running the local black market out of his bedroom? Yep, my paranoia keeps me from being shocked by too many things. I tend to expect the worst case scenario to happen at any moment.

There are very trustworthy kids in our care that are very mature for their age. But I decided long ago not to trust them in a way that gives complete freedom without question. Why? Because it was not so long ago I did many of the same things these kids do.

When it comes to the kids, I sometimes let the the paranoid side of me work it’s magic, such as when I suspect a kid is doing something sinister like running some kind of clandestine underground operation. I’m wrong many times, but every once in awhile I’ll get lucky and uncover some kid trying to pull a quick one.

Last week I had a kid kicked out of an after school program, only I never found out about it until this week. The teacher just assumed the boy would come home, tell us the truth about what happened and deal with the consequences. That would have been awesome if he did that, but in his defense most of the adults he knows can’t fess up when they make a mistake. Why should he be any different?

Most people hide all the dirt that is in their lives. Kids are no different, they don’t want to be judged or persecuted for the sin that is in their lives. Most times they don’t want to confront or deal with the past or other issues they have. I definitely can identify with that.

Anyway, I embrace my paranoid ways. It has always served me well (except for the last Presidential election). -Launch

Why Yes, It Really Is A Two By Four Stuck Up My Butt

I try really hard to focus on the positive aspects of the people around me. I know there are people at every facility that makes everyone else wonder why they are even HP’s. This blog is about them kind of people- with no apologies.

They are usually the ones that are overbearing, egotistical and are just plain creepy when you get down to it. This particular couple never has a kind word to say about anyone or anything. In their mind the facility, the program and everyone involved in it are heading straight for the very bowels of Hell.

They will also go on to tell you that they have raised something like a billjillion dysfunctional children and they know better than everyone else because of their extensive two year background as House Parents.

I really try to stay clear of people I run across that are more concerned with complaining and destroying something than they are of working for a change. I just don’t like the karma these freaks kick up and I always feel dirty after sitting there listening to them talking about how everyone else sucks. Sometimes I just can’t get away quick enough.

This past week I have had to watch some very dedicated and professional House Parents get hammered by a another couple they work with. The other couple has a long history of not working well with others and most people have gotten to the point that we just ignore the senseless crap they spew about everything they come into contact with. But this time is different.

Lets call the dedicated couple, Couple A. The demented couple we will call, Couple B.

Couple A has had great success with their kids. They play with them, teach fairness and have worked very hard at building relationships with the children in their care. As a result, the kids have become attached to Couple A and generally do well while they are on shift. The kids actually “Like” and talk fondly of them.

Couple B is almost completely opposite. The are strict, believe being fair with a kid is a weakness and they constantly look for ways to dig up dirt or take down Couple A. When a supervisor is around they try to act like professional HP’s, but drop sarcastic remarks and ineundos throughout the conversation.

The good thing about this is that Couple B has a history of being Jerks and it really is only a matter of time before they burn their last bridge. The bad thing about this is I don’t know how long Couple A can hold on. They are fairly new to this ministry, but have made a huge impact on the kids they work with. They are really good and believe in what they do. However, they are seeing the dark side of “Christian” non-profit work. If we lose this couple it will be a victory for Satan.

So Couple B is now on my hit list. Instead of sitting back and listening to the moaning and groaning, I’m going to politely tell them where they can stick all the negativity they exorb at every staff meeting or get together. I will let them know, as I hope others will start doing, that to lie and to try and hurt someone else because you think they are more successful than you, is as Un-Christian as it gets.

Please pray for this young couple. For all the others out there that can never say or do anything positive- Put a cork in it. -Launch

Back To The Trenches

Crank up the volume and play it loud and proud, the kids will think your cool for jamming to P.O.D. Show ’em how a HP can rock out. I’m actually thinking of doing a devotional with the kids on this video if I can figure out how to play it off the laptop onto the living room TV.

Anyone that thinks this is not one of the most critical ministries in Gods creation is a fool. Video and song are a reminder that the work ahead is great, but it couldn’t be more important.

God bless each and every one of you that have answered the call. -Launch

Burn Baby Burn!!!


Default-tiny The Tramps – Disco Inferno imported by rvw1919

One of the Family Teachers here had a great idea to get all of campus together and have a bonfire at the Lake House on campus. Being that I love fires, especially big ones, I spent most of Friday with the boys gathering wood from all over the farm.

The back forty of the farm is inhabited by a large number of bovine- Holsteins to be more exact. As we gathered firewood we crossed paths with a cow or two. Every time a cow came within 300 yards of us, Dexter and Rodney would scream and do all kinds of flying kicks and combination punches. If the cow was not intimadated enough to walk the other direction, the boys would throw gravel towards the cow in a desperate show of force. Farm boys they ain’t.

Though they were terrified of our pet cows, the boys thought the geese would be friendly enough to pet. You have’nt lived until you see a kid try to pet a goose, especially one that is sitting on a nest. After I gave Rodney a half-hearted warning, he skipped to the other side of the lake expecting to hang with Mother Goose. That fairytale quickly ended after the goose took off after Rodney beating the daylights out of him with it’s wings and beak. I felt kinda bad for him, but he needs something new to talk about in therapy anyway.

Another lesson for the boys- Cow poo exists everywhere on a farm. When you least expect it, your in it. I made what I thought was a great object lesson out of how walking in a field covered in manure is kinda like life. It was totally lost on them.

Back to the poo- It covers everything. The boys were picking up sticks and branches covered in it, which in turn covered them. I swear Travis looked for cow patties to step in. Fortunately we had the farm truck to bounce around in and gather wood, which saved me from having to explain to my wife why our mini van smelled like cow butt.

The bonfire itself was awesome. Good turnout and I got to talk to a few people I never saw much of on campus. The kids played and ran around the field, roasted hot dogs and I managed to dodge most of the “Flaming Marsh-mellows of Death” All in all it was a great success and a great start for spring. -Launch