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


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

Great Deal on a Great Book!

Respecting Residential Work with Children I got an Email the other day from James R. Harris, Jr., Ph.D. He is the author of Respecting Residential Work with Children, One of my favorite books and one I think every houseparent should read. You can read my review of it, by clicking here.

Anyway he is in the process of updating the book and is getting ready to release the new edition this fall, but right now you can get his original edition for a steal, $12 postage paid by ordering directly from him. I paid $32 plus shipping for my copy from three years ago.

If you are a houseparent looking for a great resource this is it. If you are an administrator looking for a training resource for your houseparents, this is a great resource at a great price.

To get one or more copies of Respecting Residential Work with Children send your payment to:
James R. Harris, Jr., Ph.D.
55 South Brow Street
East Providence, RI 02914
(401) 431-0555
(401) 431-0566 Fax

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

The Houseparent Bulge!!

belly.gifI have an issue I have to deal with and the more time I spend with my four year old grandson the more it becomes apparent.

Last year when “Shrek 3” came out he got a Shrek doll from one of those fast food joints, I can’t remember which.  Anyway I was sitting at my computer one evening, minding my own business and he comes up and looks at me, then looks at his Shrek.  Looks at me again and says, “You have a belly just like Shrek, huh Bepoo (Bepoo is what he calls me instead of grandpa)?  After that got around campus I spent the next month receiving Shrek trinkets in my mail box, and most of the staff asking how life in my swamp was.

About a month later, he was riding with his mother, and all of a sudden got this real sad look on his face and started pouting.  His mom asked him what was wrong and he said, “What am I going to do?”  She said, “what do you mean, what are you going to do?”  He replied, “My Bepoo.  If he keeps eating he is going to pop, and he’s the only bepoo that I’ve got.  What am I going to do.”  After she stopped laughing, she tried to reassure him that I was not going to pop, however it was a good month before he was able to let it go.  It became a frequent topic of our conversations.

TODAY!!  He was telling me about a friend of ours that is pregnant, very pregnant, like 8 months pregnant.  He said, “Ms. Stacie’s belly touches the table.”  He then looked at me and said, “Your belly is tall like hers, can you touch the table with your belly?”  I said, “Sometimes, now leave me alone!!”

I weighed 180 pounds when I started as a houseparent in 1997, I now weigh 262.  I know I have a problem and seriously need to do something about it.  The problem is that the less expensive foods that are eaten in a children’s home are also the less healthy foods.  A pound of rice is a lot cheaper than a pound of fresh broccoli.  On top of that every business and organization in town thinks we need candy, treats and other sugar filled goodies on a regular basis.  Plus, I am a huge stress eater.  Nothing is better at the end of a day of confronting every kid in the cottage, and dealing with adults that make you want to pull your hair out, than a half gallon of ice cream.

Yep, sure is a problem.  Maybe tomorrow I will do something about it

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