Burnin Some Calories

Comparing my current weight to my weight when I first became a houseparent, I have an average annual gain of 5.272727273 pounds.  If I continue at this for another 20 years and continue to grow at the current rate I will weigh over 365 pounds.  Considering that I am only 5″7″ tall, I figure I will look like a super-sized pumpkin and probably be as mobile.

Needless to say, I don’t want that to happen so I have decided that I need to eat better and get more exercise.  I have been spending less time on the computer and more time outside playing with the kids.  Today I ate two salads, skipped the deserts & sweet tea and since we ran out of Mac & cheese in the dining hall before I ever got there, I greatly restricted my carbs.

I have also decided to find other ways to be more active and one of those ways was to stop using our 54 inch, zero turn commercial lawn mower to mow grass with, instead I will only use a 6.5 horsepower 20 inch push lawnmower.  I started with it today, and you would not believe the number of people that stopped to visit with me.  Some were very concerned that the Zero Turn was not working, because they also needed to mow their grass.  Others wanted to make sure I knew that the Zero Turn was perfectly operational, and that I didn’t need to use a push mower. 

I would take the earphones, that were pumping music from my new Pantec Duo cellphone into my head, out of my ears and explain to them what I was doing.  They would say cool, but I seriously think some thought I had become even more crazy. 

I was able to turn a 30 minute mow job into one that lasted for over 2 hours.  I have no idea how many calories I burned, but it has to be a significant number.  Having a cell phone that plays music was definitely an advantage.  The music made the work easier, and since the phone would ring through my earphones I didn’t have to worry about somebody not being able to get a hold of me during my three hour workout (including trimming, edging and blowing).  I am going to have to spring for the blue-tooth headphones however, the cord from my regular headphones kept getting caught on things and I had to unplug them from the phone to be able to talk on it.

I really enjoyed my time.  The air was fresh.  There were no kids hollering at me and I was able to enjoy three hours of music.  I am feeling pretty sore at the moment, but I plan on mowing a different area on Wednesday.  It’s a great workout and I will probably build some serious brownie points with other houseparents and admin if it reduces their workload.  It may sound crazy, but I saw a young man lose over forty pounds in 2.5 months mowing grass and considering the things he ate, I could lose even more.

I am also planning on finding more ways to be active.  I will be parking further away from the door at whatever store I go to and will walk rather than drive whenever I can.  Who knows, that might even help lower gas prices.

If anybody else has ideas for burning calories I would love to hear them.

Road Trip

Road trip

Time for conference baby! No kids (Except mine) and a hotel room up in the mountains of North Carolina.

My wife decided to take the bus with our facility. But you know I got my rep to maintain. So I got the bike out of the shop, loaded up enough luggage on the back to make it look like a Korean taxi service and pointed the bike north.

Awesome trip. Only real scary part was going through some mountains that looked like some kind of South American landslide had just happened (I’ll try to get some pics loaded up).

I’ll try to give some updates each night I’m here about the Family Teacher conference. -Launch

CWLA (Child Welfare League of America) Internet Radio Broadcast

For those that are not familiar with CWLA they are probably the largest organization in America that deals with child welfare issues, including foster care, residential care, juvenile justice, etc.  They have recently started an online radio talk-show that airs on Wednesdays from 2:00-2:30 Eastern Time.

 I listened to last week’s show and it seemed that most of their discussion was focused on social workers, but referenced child welfare workers in general.  Tomorrow’s topic is “Child Welfare Workers: Overworked and Underpaid”  I am not sure if they have a very large listener-ship, but it may be a forum to gather information or even let your voice be heard.

Here is the information for the broadcast: The call-in number is 347/326-9411. Visit www.blogtalkradio.com/CWLA-Radio

 They also publish a quarterly newsletter that deals directly with residential care (Therapeutic Residential Care) you can subscribe to it at: http://www.cwla.org/programs/groupcare/rgcq.htm  However, I just checked their website and it appears that they haven’t published one since last summer (2007).


So far we are right on schedule for the holiday recovery. The biggest issue we had was a six year old that cried off and on throughout the night because he missed his Grandparents, who are also the guardians.

My heart really went out to him and his family. Danny actually has some very loving and caring Grandparents. They are good people and honestly want nothing but the best for Danny, but they are very elderly and realize that they just are not physically capable of raising him. If they were able to do it, they would.

It’s hard to watch them drop Danny off after a visit because you know this is one family that has done everything in their power to keep the kids, but ultimately came to a point where medical problems drove them to needing placement for Danny and his siblings.

I am use to dealing with families that have more or less given up on a kid, are addicts or suffer from some mental disease. Over the years I have been in intake meetings with families that would sit there and tell me how evil and rotten to the core their child is, how they cannot control them and not mention ONE redeeming quality about the kid. Many times I would find it hard to concentrate on what they were saying because of the smell of stale smoke and beer emanating from their clothes. What chance does any kid have with that?

So when the rare gem comes along where a kid has someone in their life that loves and wants nothing but the best for them, is forced to a position where someone else has to step in and raise their child, it breaks my heart.

Thankfully Danny will at least grow up with the knowledge that there is someone in the family that loves and cares for him, even after they are gone. I do believe that will make a huge difference in this kids life.

As to the other families that I deal with- It definitely frustrates me when I see the level of dysfunction that comes out of a broken home. I have to remind myself that the problems they have as a family are more than likely several generations deep. It’s that whole sins of the father thing the Bible talks about.

But that’s the mission isn’t it? We are Christ’s representatives to help at least the kids caught up in all this mess break the cycle of dysfunction. Only we often doubt if we are really doing anything at all.

I do know Danny is loved and deeply cared for. That gives him at least a little bit more of an advantage in this life than some. -Launch

Holiday Recovery

Chocolate Rabbits

Most of the kids here left to go home or to a resource family for the Easter holiday. These are good times. We get a break, the kids get a break, and we both dread the end of our carefree and happy days.

The boys start coming back to the cottage today. This means the next 48 hours will be filled with “I’m calling my caseworker”, “You aren’t my parents”, “Whatever” and my favorite- “Step off fat man”.

I have to admit the cottage runs pretty smooth most of the time. But every-time there is a break in routine it upsets the harmonious karma we have and the boys try pushing the boundaries for a day or two after which we tend to settle back down into what we would call “normal” life around here.

In less than two hours the first wave will hit. A couple pre-teen boys hyped up on sugar and caffeine will come strolling in dressed like they just got done shooting a rap video. My first reaction will be to tell them to get a belt on because their butts are hanging out. My second reaction will be to give them a wedgie after they tell me no. I will then proceed to tell them that if they are really aspiring to be gangsters they will need to dress a little more “Combat Effective” in order to stay alive in the hood. Seriously, “Busting a Sag”, (wearing your pants almost around your knees) has got to be the stupidest fashion statement EVER. In my day the other kids in my neighborhood would have given me a wedgie that would have needed medical attention.

I’ll ask their mom if she happened to give them anymore CD’s that consist of gun fire and cursing, she’ll tell me I need to be more culturally sensitive to her boys and I’ll fight the overwhelming urge to ask her if Gangster rap, smoking crack and dressing like a thug has worked so well for her then why am I raising her boys? But I won’t say it, because I am after all sensitive to her need to express herself as a mother the best way she knows how.

Second wave will hit just before bed time. Two Six year olds, completely stoned on Mountain Dew. They will be laughing and giggling WAY into the wee hours of the morning. Trying to wake them tomorrow morning will be like raising the dead.

Even though we’ve been through this every holiday and the next two days will be a little rough, we still miss them. I’ve been sitting here thinking of how nice it would be to take them on a bike ride today.

I guess the ride will have to wait until the dust settles and we go through Easter recovery!-Launch

Cranial Four Point Of Contact Disorder

I have noticed something amazing about child psychological diagnosis. It’s a lot of guess work, a little background information and a whole lot of “What’s the flavor of the month”.

When I first began my career, the catch phrase was “Attention Deficit Disorder”. If a kid didn’t have that label on his intake sheet, he just wasn’t cool. The following year was big on “Bi-Polar Disorder” followed by “Attachment Disorder” which later became a much cooler sounding and ominous “Reactive Attachment Disorder” or “RAD” for short.

Who could forget the catch phrase for 2006, “Oppositional Defiant Disorder”, I call it JERK for short.

All of these are very real symptoms and terms (except for the one about being a jerk- thats my own term) and we have all dealt with legitimate cases. But it just seems to odd to me that every kid in a certain year will have the same diagnosis and kids the following year who present similar behaviors will all be labeled with another diagnosis.

What’s really fun is to actually buy a copy of the DSM 4 and look up all the labels your kids have. Some of them will be dead on, others will have you scratching your head wondering how in the world someone could have came up with that diagnosis for that kid.

I’m no shrink and to be honest, I would probably benefit from some serious psychiatric help and/ or confinement. Nevertheless, I wonder how some of these diagnosis become all the rage only to go out of style after a year or so. It must revolve around conferences or something.

Even worse than a Psychologist guessing at what disorder a kid has, is a HP making the diagnosis. Many of you out there are very bright and intelligent, but too many times I have seen an HP go on the war-path to get a kid diagnosed just the same as their retarded cousin Jimmy because they both eat crayons. It’s above our pay-scale folks, let it go. You may be right, little Johnny is an Idiot Savant. But does it really change anything in your cottage or how you teach to the kid?

I will now use my powers of blogging to create a new catch phrase that the industry can latch onto and savor for the next six months or until a cooler diagnosis comes along.

Are you ready for it? Here it comes……

Cranial Four Point Of Contact Disorder Formerly known as “Head in butt”.

Throw this term out in the next treatment or planning meeting you have. Someone will nod their head like they know exactly what your talking about and may even say something about themselves writing a college paper about it. Chances are they suffer from this very disorder.

CFPOCD covers most child behaviors and by coincidence the majority of adult behaviors. That kid that you told to make their bed ten times before coming out of the room? CFPOCD sufferer. Your supervisor that is always 30 minutes late to their own meeting? CFPOCD like a big dog.

Treatment will consist of Nyquil or Tylenol PM. The only cure is for the individual to be asleep where they can not harm themselves or anyone else.

If you hear anyone throwing the term around, remember, you heard it hear first. -Launch

Fishing Season 2008!!!


So it begins. Another year comes and it is now time to unleash my boy’s into the wilds of South Carolina to wreck death and destruction on the pan fish population in the heart of Dixie. I predict a bumper crop of Blue Gills the size of ping-pong balls coming out of the farm pond here on campus.

Besides Jesus, my family and motorcycle, few things are as near and dear to me as fishing. So here is my recommendation for getting your set up just right. -Launch

This is a reprint from the christian houseparent forum.

Being that I originate far above the Mason Dixon Line in the heart of Yankee territory I have had to struggle a little with this whole Southern Bass fishing thing. For one, my roots (and heart) remain steadfastly a fly fisherman- dry flys at that. But I gave in and geared up for Bass fishing.

Problem is taking the kids fishing. Everyone of us that has spent a day on the water with several kids knows you spend 98% of the time fixing lines and setting bait. I started getting real annoyed with the needle nose pliers in the front pocket and having to hunt down the tackle box for hooks.

So, using some Yankee ingenuity I went out this time with my vest instead of the box. Not exactly southern etiquette but it worked great. Best part is my vest is designed for fishing streams. Everything is tied down and set on retractable cords. Which means I never wonder where I laid my knife down.

So here is my basic set up on my vest.

1. Forceps- Works way better than the old needle nose, especially on pan fish and Bass. They are worthless on Catfish though.

2. Mag Light.

3. Hooks- On the front of the vest is a fuzz patch you can stick various hooks on. You need a hook, rip it off, tie it on. No more trips to the box trying to find some between kids.

4. Worm box- Simple tin box that you can snap on. Works awesome with little kids if your the one baiting all the time.

5. Line snip/ Finger nail clipper.- Quick and easy to cut the line, less dramatic than the Bowie knife.

6. Snaps- quick hook replacement, especially if your fishing ones with leaders already attached.

7. Hat with spinners attached- Just makes people think you know what what your doing.

8. Knife- Along with everything else, TIED DOWN.

9. Sinkers- I use the ones that come in a red container with a spin top because the container is easy to tie down.

10. Leatherman tool- Works great for on the spot repairs for the reel or hooks.

Non- Vest Items:

Any kid I take out that I have to do most of the work with gets a closed faced reel- no discussion. I know one HP that will only get open faced reels for his kids. I think he is either bored or clinically insane.

If I’m out to slaughter pan fish, I carry brass salmon egg hooks in a old plastic snuff can.



Lets see, in the past week we have went to see guys do back flips on motorcycles, taken at least five bike rides, camped out all night in the living room, and ate at McDonalds twice. But guess what? It all SUCKED!!! At least according to Rodney who was speaking on behalf of the larger student body in our cottage.

Yep, seeing a guy do a back flip on motorcycle did not impress the lads. Eating out at Mickey D’s could not satisfy their hunger pains. It was all for naught.

Most facilities I know have at least one summer vacation, get several events such as concerts or fairs, and Christmas is usually insane with the amount of presents the kids receive from donors. But for the most part, the kids could care less.

Take the kid in the above picture. On his own accord, he stuck his chubby little noggin thru the back of his desk-seat. A highly skilled quick reaction team is assembled to free the boy, two Janitors, one Lunch Lady and the Principal. All here to help out this budding MIT candidate. Once the desk is off his head do you think he’ll even say thanks? Probably not. He will probably complain about the bruising around his neck and the fact the Janitor nicked him with the hack-saw as he was removing the chair. (Bet you didn’t think I was going to be able to tie in the graphic with the blog, did you? Oh ye of little faith).

I have tried over the years to figure out why so many of the kids are ungrateful about what they get a chance to see and do. Some of the theories I have pondered are the following:

1. The “System”- Most of the kids were taken out of some really bad situations. They received little attention from the adults who were supposed to be caring and loving them. But once in the system the kids meet nothing but adults who are trying to help them and give them a better opportunity to enjoy their childhood. It’s like system overload. I often wonder if this is the thought process of some of the kids, “Yesterday I was eating rotting food out of the fridge and today I have a lawyer, a caseworker AND were going to Disney Land next weekend. It’s like Gangsta Paradise up in here G”.

2. Us, as in you and me- I’ll admit my heart goes out to all kids who are without the benefit of being raised by their family. Sometimes I do try and compensate for such a crappy predicament as they have found themselves in. Kids see this and take advantage or I just spoil them to the core. I really don’t like the thought of either one of those scenarios.

3. Survivor Mentality- With only the occasional rare exception, the kids will hustle you like a Gringo full of high school Spanish classes in Tijuana. Learning to lie can help you avoid being beaten, get what you want and control a little of your situation. Maybe the same goes for showing gratitude. To show gratitude would be a connection to someone else that you know is just going to leave or disappoint you in the long run.

4. They really are just a bunch of spoiled brats- I start thinking this way just before respite. Thats also about the same time I start thinking the kids are out to get me and wife is trying to poison me with the out dated milk in the fridge.

I don’t know why so many of the kids are as ungrateful as they are. All I do know is it’s frustrating trying to figure out something they would actually like to do.

Anyway, gotta go and get ready to take my little band of critics to a movie, which is already doomed to suck. -Launch

Weekend Package

Every week our boys vote on something called “Weekend Package”. It’s supposed to be a motivation tool to give them something to work for and to feel good about working towards an achievable goal. Past weekend packages have been camping out, going to an arcade,staying up extra late, hiking, skating, etc..

This Saturday we went to a freestyle motor-cross. Nothing can compare to watching dudes on dirt bikes doing back flips while eating a hot pretzel. I looked forward to this all week. Every night at dinner we sat and talked about how they learned to do all of those tricks, I worked with the boys trying to build a two foot high ramp the boys were going to use to practice all the gnarly moves they were going to learn by watching the pros at the event. We were stoked.

Saturday morning- I awake to the sound of birds signing outside my window, this will be a good day! I go to the kitchen and make a big breakfast, wake the boys up and make some coffee for my wife. I even change my daughters diaper without the usual gag reflex I have every-time I change one of her diapers. Yep, today is my day.

Things were going so well that I didn’t notice the sky turn pitch black. It started to thunder and the heavens opened up. It began raining on a biblical scale, Noah would have felt right at home. The boys began to panic as I turned on the TV and saw there was a tornado watch in our county. All of the boys began to worry we would not be able to go to the motor-cross event. I assured them that even if the tornado flattened our cottage, I would make sure the tickets would be safe.

My wife then began to try and talk us out of going. I tried to explain to her that you just can’t cancel a man event because of rain or a little tornado. This moto-cross is so much more than an evening out with the boys. This was a crucial rung on the ladder of manhood. For me not to take these boys to the one and only motor-cross event in our area for this year would almost guarantee the boys would be doomed to playing with Barbie dolls and tea parties. It just aint right to doom a boy to that kinda fate. I tried to assure my wife that this is an area of child development that I know best, just trust me, this time. Please? She walked away shaking her head. Crisis averted.

Finally it was time to load the bus. I was giddy with excitement, in less than two hours I would be in the presence of screaming motorcycles flying through the air.

Then it began.

Ten miles into the trip I started getting “Are we there yet”, which was quickly followed by “I have to pee”. Twenty miles down the road and they started fighting about who passed gas. 45 miles into the trip I pull into Mcdonalds for dinner. I was secretly hoping that a Happy meal would shut them up. It didn’t.

Finally we arrive in downtown Columbia, SC. I decided to drop off my wife and the boys and then park the bus. Luckily, I found a great spot that was conveniently located a little over two miles away from the stadium. I jog to get there before the event starts.

Finally I arrive. We start walking to the seats when suddenly, Jake has to pee for the fifth time in the last two hours. For a six year he is either very well hydrated or has the prostate gland of a ninety year old man.

Then Carl decides it would be a great time to walk off and go shopping by himself at the concession stand, along with the other two thousand or so people that were in the causeway. I can hear the motorcycles and the crowd cheering as I search for my lost sheep. Finally I spot Carl and I gently guide the young lad to his seat.

After missing the first fifteen minutes, I am finally able to sit down and enjoy the show. Oh wait, Charlie now has to use the restroom. I tell him to hold it. He threatens to pee in his popcorn bucket. I actually thought it was a great idea, my wife didn’t.

So I was standing outside the Men’s restroom waiting for Charlie to take care of business when I noticed a bunch of other fathers standing outside the restroom with me. Every-time the crowd screamed and went wild, I would watch the reactions of the guys standing with me. There was a little sadness in their faces as they realized they were missing most of the show.

Eventually Charlie emerged from the restroom. Once we got back to our seats, it was intermission. The kids told me all of the great tricks the riders did. Kick flips, back flips, the superman, you name it- they did it. My wife was even having a great time. I took this opportunity to ask if ANYONE had to use the restroom. No one did.

The show starts up again. I watch as the next rider prepares to launch his bike off the ramp. Two of the boys begin arguing about who is touching who. I turn my head to calm the boys down, just as the rider does an amazing trick and the crowd goes crazy. I missed the whole thing.

I know when I have been beaten and I have to admit they whooped me good. Tomorrow I’ll give you the follow up. Till then enjoy the video, I need some sleep and a chance to relax and dream of respite. -Launch