Unrealistic expectations

Yeah…. I’m sure. Skip the roses on your next date and just put in a big old fatty dip. That’ll impress her.  

This is a reprint from the forum board. I don’t get much tobacco contraband issues with our elementary kids. So I’m just taking a nostalgic walk back to 2006 and a little ranch tucked away in the foot hills of Georgia. -Launch

We caught one of our boys sneaking a dip of snuff in the rest room the other night. Immediately he spit out what he had and went directly to the family couch and had a seat (He is familiar with the drill) while we tossed his room.

We found a can in his room and finished up the search. We then went into my office to have a talk and discuss the ramifications of this new discovery. A few minutes into our discussion, I noticed he was becoming very uncomfortable. Since this was not exactly the first time we had this little talk I figured something was going on. I then saw him swallow VERY hard. I knew then he had another dip in.

Instead of making him spit it out, I decided to have a little fun. I figured he had either a lot of courage to try and sneak a dip into my office or he just plum lost his mind. I started asking him how he was feeling and trying to get him to talk (Every question I asked caused him to swallow more tobacco juice in order to answer).

After about ten minutes I noticed he was sweating and not looking very well. I then proceeded to go into how great men can overcome obstacles, the history of tobacco which somehow led into Valentines Day (?) and Nazi occupied France. This was a good twenty minute roll. By this time he was wiping tears out of his eyes. He finally lost it when I grabbed my bible and asked him if he knew what Proverbs had to say on our discussion. He jumped for the trash can coughing and gagging. He apologized, confessed and told me he had a dip in, and swore never to touch the stuff again (Which I doubt).

Needless to say my yard should be looking good by the time he gets done raking next week. He is also very confused about France now. -Launch


 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


Over Worked

This past weekend my wife and I decided to plan a romantic day. We found a babysitter, made some hasty lunch plans at a local sea-food restaurant and planned on enjoying a nice quiet afternoon with no kids, no baby and a strict rule of not discussing any aspect of child care. Not one. 

By habit, I carry my cell phone everywhere. I don’t even take a shower unless my cell is within reach on the towel rack, just in case the President might call and want my personal opinion on his foreign policy. I call it being prepared, my wife calls it paranoia.

So naturally I take my Crackberry PDA/ cell/ walkie-talkie/GPS receiver with me on our romantic escape to the Blue Ocean restaurant, which in hind sight was a bad, bad move. I got a call from a psychiatrist that just finished doing a evaluation on one of our kids the previous week. Why she was calling on a Saturday I’ll never know, but I felt I needed to take the call. 30 minutes into the conversation I happened to glance over at my wife who was waiting for me to finish up the conversation so we could order. I knew I was in trouble by the gleam in her eye and the way she was gnawing on the last hush-puppy. 

The rest of the day that we were off and free of kids was filled with talking about the kids and different projects that we are involved in surrounding kids. Sometimes it’s impossible to disconnect from being a HP when your off. It’s almost like trying to stop thinking about your own kids when they go to Grandmas for the weekend, your glad for the break, but you still wonder and talk about them.

Having to much technology also makes it rather hard to unwind. My office, for example, would make mission control at NASA jealous. They would laugh at my Macintosh, but I’m sure they would find all of the other gadgets rather impressive. I have two printers, and about 10 different USB devices that make pretty green flashing lights. It’s like having Christmas tree lights on all year long. 

My Blackberry cell phone has a walkie-talkie that keeps me and my wife in constant touch. I also get my emails “Instantly”. No more having to wait for my junk mail. My calendar is synced with at least two other computers on campus and alarms go off every time I need to dispense meds, wether I’m on or off duty. If I need to drive somewhere I turn the GPS on and drive off into the sunset with my satellite radio cranked up. 

My portfolio is loaded down with two different calendars (In case the Crackberry dies), treatment plans, medical info, budget spreadsheets and one serious cast iron ruler that doubles as a sword should anyone get out of line in a meeting. 

I have somehow convinced myself I need all of this stuff to survive. Between tracking kids, working on opening another group home, blogging, meetings, church commitments and trying to start a website I have streamlined my schedule, but have scheduled every waking moment devoted to some sort of task. So much for my dream of doing nothing. 

I’m not alone. Fifteen years ago, very few people carried a cell. If you had to talk to someone while you were out, you just had to stop at a gas station and use a pay phone. Somehow our society managed and thrived without cell phones, PDA’s, email GPS units and Microsoft Office. 

We are at a place now where most people don’t even have to go to a store and shop for music, they download it from home. I can’t even imagine where we will be at in 5 years with technology. 

I am going to try to start unplugging. I’m still trying to decide which stuff is a must have for day-to-day life. If my wife gets her way I’m sure the Crackberry will be the first to disappear. -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

It Is What You Make It…

Frustration is a part of life. If your a House Parent- it’s a major part of life. There are many many things about our choice of lifestyle that brings us angst. Bills, kids, behaviors, Social Workers, dysfunctional members of the community, scheduling conflicts and meetings are just a few of the things that makes me want scream everyday.

Lately I’ve been in discussion with a few people about being frustrated over several aspects of this ministry. Like everything else, being a HP has it’s ups and downs and it usually happens minute to minute. We “Surf” the emotional roller coaster of a Bi-Polar environment. Calm and laid back one minute, chaos and drama the next.

It’s really no different in any other job or ministry. I remember sitting in the cab of a truck somewhere in Nebraska praying that God would deliver me from being a Long Haul trucker. I also had that same conversation with God a few years earlier sitting on a beach in Hawaii praying he would deliver me from a tiny, sunny island in the South Pacific (I know- I’m an idiot).

Bottom line- It is what you make it. The place your at now may be your “Hawaii” your asking to be delivered from. Maybe it’s time to move on or maybe you just need a breather. No matter what you do in this life, we all get to a point where we ask ourselves if this is really what we should be doing.

God calls us all to different areas. Some find their niche in a steel mill in Pennsylvania, some it’s eating sand and blowing stuff up in the Mid-East, for others it’s cleaning pee off the bathroom floor and taking care of kids that have a love-hate relationship (at best) with you. At some point if your following Gods will, peace can be found. Maybe not consistently, but there will be a sense of peace at times.

As much as I absolutely love what I do, there are still days that I would LOVE to slap a staff member that I think is out of their mind. I sometimes have to walk outside or get a cup of coffee at the gas station just to keep from saying or doing something to a kid that is trying to get me riled up. I probably make others feel the same at times. We are all only human after all. The best we can hope for is to learn to control our responses better and to embrace the concept of forgiveness.

It is what you make it. But your only going to make it if you reach out and connect to others that will help build you up and empower you to do what you’ve been called to do, serve others. -Launch

Oh The Pain.

I loathe all that is Mac.

Nothing but system errors and messages that seem to mock me; System error, System Timeout, Network Unavailable, Contact someone that loves you- AHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!

I have lost spreadsheets that I have poured my very soul into. Spreadsheets that were formatted perfectly. I had layouts that were pleasing to the eye, a tapestry of color. Gone forever.

I have tried, oh how I’ve tried, to get my Mac to do something as mundane as download music, back up my Blackberry or merely connect to the internet (I’m borrowing a laptop at the moment). It’s no use. Everything the Mac touches it destroys.

The final straw came last night. I had just finished unplugging my Blackberry from the beloved Mac only to see all my contact data was erased. As I gently threw my Blackberry across the living room at the wall, I grabbed my Paul Simon CD and put it in the CD drive in the hopes that old Paul would soothe my soul and stop me from chucking the Mac into the backyard.

Instead, itunes starts ripping the CD and formatting it into some evil Mac language and refuses to play the CD. Desperately I tried to eject the CD but the Mac refused to give it up. My wife got a worried look on her face and quickly walked out of the room saying she thought the baby was crying. She wanted no part of this one. I know now what must be done, I can’t risk another human being being cursed with my Mac, it must be destroyed.

I have spent the last few hours trying to think of a fitting demise for my little Mac. Perhaps I should give it to the boys and let them have their way with it. But if I did that, parts from the Mac would be all over the cottage and serve as nothing more than painful reminders for years to come.

Fire would be a decent way to go, but I’m pretty sure I would go to jail for torching it in my backyard.

Maybe a long drive, a nice quiet field and a box of ammo would be a more fitting end. I’m actually leaning that way because it combines my hatred of Mac with my love of firearms, a win-win situation.

I’m open to any suggestions as to how the Mac will meet it’s end. If anyone would like to donate a PC drop me a line. -Launch 

Mommy And Daddy Brown

In a field where the tour of duty for a House Parent couple is on average only a year and half, you have to take notice when you run across an old timer or two that have been ministering to children in need for longer than some of us have been legally able to vote.You may have that couple at your facility, here they go by Jim and Becky Brown. From what I know about them they have been at our facility for ten years, or forever, I forget which. Needless to say they have seen and experienced a lot of change in those years. They held on through changes in staff, programs and kids. By example they prove that a facility is what you make it.

Jim and Becky are Family Teachers in the toddler cottage on campus. Countless kids have gone through there in the years they have been doing their ministry. Fortunately some of the earliest memories these kids have are of “Daddy and Mommy Brown”.

I had the honor of filling in last summer for a week in their cottage. We were assured that it would be a cake walk. A bunch of toddlers, a playground, early bed- no problem. After all, I am an old grizzled Army Sargent and used to going toe to toe with disrespectful teenagers. I walked in the cottage with the expectation that having to listen to the Tele-Tubbies on the TV would be as hard core as it would get that week.

Upon entering the cottage all the kids verbally assured me I wasn’t Daddy Brown. I reassured them I had the power of making snack time vegetables or pudding pops, it was their choice. They did not seem the least bit intimidated or concerned. I needed to rethink my strategy.

The rest of the day went great, the kids were very well mannered and polite. I had a blast on the playground with them and thought we were bonding well. Then it was bath time.

If your not familiar with young kids, they either hate bath time or can’t get enough of it. My wife went to take care of the girls, I was going to take care of the boys. I told the boys to get ready for a bath and they were all naked in about 5 seconds and fighting over who was getting in the tub. This was a new one for me. I guess I had to be more specific with the instruction.

So one boy got in the tub. I was helping him to get situated and noticed that all of his buddies were still hanging out in the bathroom. One was brushing his teeth the other was taking a dump. No shame at all, they were just taking care of business. The whole situation was system overload for me. I’m the guy that locks the bathroom door just to brush my teeth.

At bed time I had to run laps around the house trying to catch a kid that refused to go to bed. The more I tried to grab him the harder he laughed at my fat butt trying to catch him as I tripped over furniture and toys. I finally got him when I tripped and fell and he collapsed from hysterical laughter.

After that week I had a new found respect for Daddy and Mommy Brown. They are definitely the hardest working couple on campus and have an energy level that most younger staff here would have a hard time keeping up with. This video is just a small representation of the fruits of their ministry and a life well spent.

The Brown’s are a great example of what we are called to do, serve kids.-Launch

1st Annual Houseparent Network Retreat

Houseparent.net retreat

Houseparent.net technicians in front of secret lair

It’s finally beginning to come together, the first annual Houseparent.net retreat. Rest assured my expectations are set incredibly low as to what the turnout will be, but I figure worst case scenario if only a couple of us show up in Alabama to split a hot dog and share a few war stories around the fire it will be well worth it.

Over the last few years I’ve heard it said more than once that trying to get a bunch of HP’s to gather in one place would be impossible. As a rule we are busy with the kids and meetings, and generally most HP’s don’t care enough about networking or being involved in any community outside of their own living rooms.

If your one of the people that believe that it’s hopeless to try and gather the masses for a time of fellowship and fun, you may be right. In fact it will better for you to stay home, because hopelessnesses of this magnitude is just insane. Besides your facility probably could not function without the joy you more than likely bring to those in your presence.

As for the rest of us, don’t be expecting Dr. Spock or Father Flanagan to make a guest appearance. This is after all the first annual HP retreat. No fancy hotels or speakers, just a bunch of families getting together to fellowship, compare notes and hopefully plan out something more substantial for next year. This is the first step in what I hope turns out to be an annual event that we can all get something worthwhile from- and look forward to the next year.

The one tradition I want to start now is a “House Parent Of The Year”. This individual (or couple) will encompass all the quality, skills and attitude of a professional HP. The lucky recipient will have smack talking rights of being the universally accepted uber HP of planet Earth until the following year. I will look into setting up some kind of email or post a topic on the board for HP of the year submissions.

In the coming days I will be PM’ing everyone on the forum board and sending out emails and mailings to all the facilities I can find. Details will follow in the mailings and emails.

If you and your family are unable to attend, please encourage someone else to go that may have vacation or off time during August 7- 11. Bring your kids, the facility kids, your second cousin, whatever. Just come with an attitude of connecting with fellow brothers and sisters in an awesome ministry. -Launch