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If you think this is about YOU, maybe you should go reconcile with your parent and work to get back your kids instead of continuing to be a jerk. If you think I am you, or similar to you, welcome! :-)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Update on Naomi's Lulabelle

Naomi has temporary custody and is the children's guardian. There will be a hearing next month for plenary guardianship. 

Lulabelle is quite alive. She apparently can't "handle things" so she is in another state, about halfway across the country from where Naomi resides. Per her attorney's instructions, Naomi said very little, just that the children were well and Naomi was taking care of them. Lulabelle didn't provide an address, and called Naomio's landline from a pay phone. Naomi took the number off Caller ID so she could get an idea where Lulabelle was, which was suggested by her son. (Yes, they still have pay phones. There are 3 in my neighborhood alone!)

Of course, Lulabelle "had" to leave, and of course, if she had said she was going, Naomi would have stopped her. Lulabelle didn't have time to talk to the kids, which was a blessing for Naomi.

Naomi's son will return to classes tomorrow.  He and Naomi found the kids' birth certificates on a shelf in Lulabelle's old apartment, and their social security numbers on some paperwork as well. Naomi was shocked to find out that the father listed on the eldest child's birth certificate is a classmate of Lulabelle's from high school. This opens a whole new can of worms, as up until now, Lulabelle told everybody it was the guy in prison. It will be a relief if it isn't the prison person, as he's in jail for assault with intent to kill. Naomi's attorney told her that the law firm would simply contact the fathers listed on the certificates and see if they could persuade them to take DNA tests before having the court order them to take such tests.

No word from Naomi's Ex and his wife.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

That Meme

There is a meme making the rounds that has six photos in one frame, to describe a person's actions, life or existence. I thought I'd give it a twist for retread parents with embeds from YouTube.

WHAT MY ADULT CHILD THAT CAUSED THIS THINKS I AM (also my Ex and Ex's family, but who's counting).

March Deals

In our quest to keep a handle on finances, whether because we need it for court costs or just to get Junior a new pair of gym shoes, I announces some deals I've found from time to time. March looks like it's going to be a great time for some stuff.

  • EGGS: I've recently seen eggs as low as 89 cents a dozen in my area. During the winter months, eggs were as high as $1.89 a dozen, so that's a significant drop. Eggs will store in your refrigerator for 3 to 5 weeks. If you want to take advantage of these sales and you have freezer capacity, eggs DO freeze with very minimal leg work. Whites can simply be frozen, and need no help except taking them out of the bag and flopping them into freezer-strength sandwich bags (50 cents to a dollar with coupon, and at least 50 bags). Whole eggs need to be beaten with 1/2 teaspoon of sugar or salt for every 4 eggs (about a cup), then put in freezer-strength bags. I've frozen mine two-by-two with a 1/4 teaspoon of salt and no worries. Skipping the salt step will give you a gummy yolk that won't mix well in anything. Defrosting in the microwave will cook the eggs, especially the yolk. Place all the egg bags flat in a container. If you did what I did, you will have to defrost a container of 5 bags, 2 eggs per bag, placed in a round freezer container. It's kind of like a puzzle. Make sure you cook frozen eggs thoroughly, no runny yolks or over-easy.
  • TUNA: I haven't seen as much canned tuna as I would like. I did find some locally at 69 cents a can, limit 6, Chicken O' the Sea. Tuna is a great staple for food pantries, stockpiles and emergency supplies. It also makes a wonderful tuna casserole, tuna burgers, and tuna salad.
  • OTHER FISH: I am NOT a fan of fishsticks, but the kids are. I saw Gorton's on sale at Walmart for $3.98 and $3.96 for the big packages of traditional fishsticks, fish fingers, fish portions and fish for sandwiches. I had coupons, so that got whittled down in a hurry. I also saw Great Value (Walmart store brand) on sale for $3.88. I also saw talapia for $2.98 for a 16-ounce package and salmon for $5 a 12-ounce package (same as last year). I don't think it's going to get any cheaper. 
  • TOMATOES, STRAWBERRIES, ONIONS: It's harvest season in California and parts of Mexico. I saw some really fabulous tomatoes this week for 49 cents a pound. They don't taste like plastic, have good color and nice skins. Poteet, Texas, doesn't have their Strawberry festival until the middle of April, but that's not stopping strawberries from ripening and coming to your market early, at 99 cents to $1.50 a more-or-less pint basket. Onions from Georgia are popping up, sweet and fresh at 39 cents to 59 cents a pound. Tomatoes don't freeze well, but if you find them cheap enough and of sufficient high quality, they certainly brighten the cold months. Onions need to be stored in a cool, dry, dark place- NOT the refrigerator. Onions can also be sliced, chopped or diced, then stored in freezer in the freezer in bags. As for strawberries, freeze them on a cookie sheet and dump them into a big freezer bag.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Farewell, McDonald's!

It's better for my health and my purse, I am sure. It's better for the rest of the family, as well. It isn't as if I went there every day of the month, or even once a week. McDonald's and I are parting company after 40-some-odd years, excepting for the giant unsweetened tea. 

It isn't out of some patriotic boycott. It isn't because my favorite sandwich, the Double Fillet O'Fish, cost $4.19 all by itself in my area. And despite the health benefits, it's not about health; at least, it's not the health issues of bad McDonald's versus healthy me.

There was a time in this world when I could go to work, go out and party after work, wolf down a huge 12-inch Chicago submarine sandwich, fully loaded, and bring home another 12-inch sub for breakfast, to be eaten in a few hours. I gained no weight as a result. My stomach never complained. 

I know I went to McDonald's before my 14th birthday, but I'll never forget the first time I went alone and paid for it. I had a lovely hamburger, an order of fries, and a hot chocolate. It tasted like Heaven.

But my body has changed, and with it, my trips to McDonald's. After a couple years of tests, three food diaries, antibiotics and several rounds of various forms of Omeprazole, I now know there are some foods that just don't agree with me any longer. So does my doctor. 

It's not a long list: Iceberg lettuce, coffee, regular orange juice, and most of the menu of McDonald's. Everything's healed, there's no hernia, and yet- when I go to McDonald's, even if I've had a pill prior, it attacks me, painfully. Everything must stop while digestion takes place, and it's a painful process. 

So, it's now 6 to 8 little meals, lean meats, fresh veggies and fruits excepting the offending lettuce, and no more Mikky D's. 

I won't hurt again, but I already miss those double Fillets!

Proceeding Without Evidence, a Key or a Clue

Our friend Naomi is between a rock and a hard place today. For the past week, she's had as her guests her grandchildren, 2 of them under 5, and one of them young school age. Naomi's daughter- you guessed it- left them for the weekend and didn't come back. Naomi has taken 2 sick days and 3 vacation days so far. Naomi's son is in college, and that college is a good 500+ miles away, so any help he might offer is at a premium. 

Naomi's ex-husband and his wife are none too keen on taking on the little brood, and even less help in trying to find Lulabelle. Her daughter's phone rings, but it goes to voice mail. She is frantic about her daughter's safety. 

Naomi is pretty sure she will take the grandkids for now, but if her Lulabelle is just playing her, she wants custody. She knows who is the father of the eldest, but he might still be in prison. She has no idea who fathered the other two, but she thinks it's two separate men.

Here's the thing: Naomi doesn't have some pretty important pieces to the puzzle, and not just the names of the younger children's baby daddies. For starters, she has no paperwork for any of the kids. She isn't sure who provides daycare for the younger ones. She knows where the older one goes to school, but it is one town over from hers. And she knows where her daughter lives, but she doesn't have a key to the place; neither does the eldest child.

Believe it or not, Naomi's first trip needs to be to the apartment complex where her daughter formerly resided, with a squad car and some law enforcement officers. The people in blue can get the door opened and do some digging where Naomi can't. Naomi's daughter has a history of drug and alcohol usage. If it's a crime scene, she won't be able to take anything, but at least she'll know, one way or the other. Hanging outside the complex and calling the manager repeatedly isn't good enough. 

While she's at the cop shop, Naomi can file a missing person's report. Lulabelle is obviously no where to be found. 

Finally, the police can call Lulabelle's cell- repeatedly. They can use GPS to find out if Lulabelle is in the area or if she or someone with evil intent ditched her cell.

As it turned out, Lulabelle was not in her apartment but her cell phone was. The manager, who prior to the intervention of the police couldn't care less, suddenly had an eviction notice for Naomi to give Lulabelle. Naomi asked the manager how long Lulabelle had to move out. He said 30 days from service. Naomi replied she'd take out what was important to the children if it was all right, and did he have a key, as she was- you guessed it- Lulabelle's cosigner, and she had no doubt the owners would soon be chasing her (Naomi) for back rent. The manager turned to the cops, who more or less shrugged. The manager came back with a key for Naomi. The cops took a couple of photos, but there was really nothing out of place, no blood, no missing sheets, no cuts out of the carpet, no strong smell of anything but the garbage left behind in the kitchen garbage can (It didn't help that Lulabelle was 2 months behind on the rent). They know Naomi filed a missing person report, but they don't think Lulabelle is dead or kidnapped.

This afternoon, Naomi has 3 appointments with attorneys. One of them will be with her in court on Monday for an emergency order of custody and protection. As is the law in her state, child protective services has been notified, but the agency is fine with the grandkids going to Naomi, rather than coming into Naomi's home all gangbusters as if she is the perpetrator. 

Her son skipped his Friday classes to drive home and help his mother, proving once again that just because one adult child becomes a negligent loser, the others don't. They will clean out the important things in the apartment this weekend, hoping to find something the police did not. 

Naomi is hoping the eldest grandchild can stay in the school one town over, even if she has to drive him there five days a week, at least until the end of the school year. She hopes to find enough this weekend to go to social services on Tuesday, baby-sitter by Wednesday, and maybe she can be back at work by the following Monday. She contacted HR, and was shocked to find she was covered under the Family Leave and Medical Act, because basically, the middle-aged don't think so much about this sort of situation.

Please say a prayer for Naomi, her grandchildren, and all the grandparents and grandchildren put in this sort of situation. And please say a prayer for this Lulabelle, wherever she is.    

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Through Heaven's Eyes: the Value of ALL One's Children

This is a new one on me: Sylvia writes that her adult daughter contacted her after a few years' absence, a letter from well out of state. Sylvia and her husband, Jack, are their 3 grandchildren's legal guardians and expect the adoption to be final next month. They had no idea where their Lulabelle was, with whom, but some idea why (yes, good old drugs). Sylvia and Jack's attorney assured them that Lulabelle's chances of coming up with the funds and evidence to contest the adoption at this late date are nil (some states have a time limit after the adoption hearing, which confuses me, but OK). 

But Sylvia is hurt just the same by the letter she received (Jack didn't want her to open the envelope, but he wasn't home when Sylvia got it). There was the usual bla-bla-bla which Sylvia knows is untrue, as her other children function just fine, in college and doing well. That wasn't so upsetting to Sylvia as the accusation.

It seemed Lulabelle accused her parents of taking the children into their home, providing for them and adopting them because (are you ready for this) they wanted to replace Lulabelle. Lulabelle knows this. Apparently she was lurking on a game site where the eldest grandchild also plays. Lulabelle thinks her parents are much too good to the child, and the other two children, as well. 

Yes, you read that correctly. It appears Lulabelle is jealous of her own children.

If Sylvia and Jack really, truly loved Lulabelle, the children would be with Lulabelle right now. Sylvia and Jack would help Lulabelle by stopping the adoption, coming to their senses (Lulabelle's exact words), give Lulabelle the money they are currently spending on the children and the adoption, and continue to give Lulabelle money for the grandchildren. They OWE it to Lulabelle, according to same, because they tried to replace Lulabelle with her own children.

I would be speechless. I've been told and heard many things from my adult daughter, including that I allegedly mentally abused her every day of her life until she left (that would be 28 years, including when she was in college and her 3 years of military service some overseas time, but nevermind). I've heard things that have been said by other people's adult children, and they are equally disjointed of logical thought. 

But this Lulabelle left her children with Sylvia one weekend and just never returned, over 3 years ago. Sylvia and Jack went through the anguish of fearing Lulabelle dead or worse. They hired private detectives when the police could do nothing, located her the first time one state over from theirs. They then went through the work to try to get her to come home, to try to work with a therapist to resume her place in her children's lives, got turned down; went through the work of finding Lulabelle a second time; learned their lesson a third time. Sylvia and Jack have been above-board on the adoption process in their state, and with their other adult children and the extended family. 

Yet Lulabelle feels slighted. Boo hoo, boo hoo. 

When a parent has to make the choice for their grandchildren and against their adult child who is the biological parent of those grandchildren, it is certainly not to replace the old child with the new ones! No child can ever replace another. Each and every child is unique, as parents who have lost children to death will tell you. 

Each and every day there is the nagging suspicion that there is just ONE THING the parent can do to repair the shattered relationship with the adult child who caused this in the first place, if only the parent could see clearly what needs to be done. Too often, there is nothing to be done, and the relationship is unrepairable in its present state. 

The adult child will not admit to having done anything wrong. Admitting any type of wrong-doing would be the start of repair. Oh no. It's so much easier to blame Mom and Dad. After all (this is one I've heard more than once), everybody has some good in them, and we have to accept the good with the bad in people. Mom and Dad are judgmental.

I can't think of any way to help Sylvia. My only thought right now is the words to the song "In Heaven's Eyes" from the animated movie Prince of Egypt:

A single thread in a tapestry
Though its color brightly shine
Can never see its purpose
In the pattern of the grand design.

When we take on the retread parent role, we have no idea of our purpose in the pattern of the Grand Design, or how the Grand Designer sees our efforts. But I'd wager we're doing the right thing, no matter what our Lualbelles and Juniors say. Hopefully, our grandchildren will see our worth through Heaven's eyes, as well, when they are grown. For now, we're just going to have to trust and keep it up. 

But if you'd like to listen to the song (it is a beautiful number), here you go:

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Youtube Guy- a Different Take

So sue me. I understand why he did it, even empathize with him, but I wouldn't have done it.

If you haven't heard about Tommy Jordan, he's the guy who got fed up with his teenage daughter for posting a nasty-gram about him, his wife and the cleaning lady on her Facebook account, not once, but twice. Frustrated with her behavior and attitude, he took his reaction to Youtube. After informing his daughter of a few things, he took a pistol to her laptop, on camera, for all the world to see; yes, it went viral.

I understand his frustration. I truly do. We had teenagers here once, and we plan on having more very soon. They create more gray hair, even the ones who do well and stay on the straight-and-narrow. And I am not saying his daughter Hannah didn't have it coming to her. 

I just would have handled it differently:
  • I get the passwords to ANYTHING that is Internet-related. Change the password, lose your Internet privileges- it is a privilege, not a right.
  • I am your friend on Facebook, your very good friend. So are a couple of aunts and uncles, to see what I don't. I can see your friends. I can talk to your friends. Set it up so I can't, and I find out- no Facebook until you are old enough to pay your own way. 
  • Nobody under 18 has an Android phone; texting yes, even text-multimedia, but no Internet. Phones are for safety reasons, not to increase the social life of teens, who already have quite the social lives.
  • All the computers, including the Mister's and mine, are in the office. Adults who pay for their maintenance and ISP fees get first dibs. Kids get usage as needed and then as their behavior warrants, even big kids.
  • I wouldn't have made a public case out of this, certainly not a world-wide case out of this, where the teenager's name is out there for all to see. That would mean MY identity would be out there, too. I'm a quieter person than that. I like the sudden surprise of a teenager coming home from school and finding his electronics gone: sold, turned off, gone; not just the laptop, but no online accounts, the sudden empty sound on the cell phone, Nintendo, Wii, Xbox, down to the automatic key ring.    
I'm not surprised the police and child protective services showed up at his door, even though there was no abuse (and trust me, this was no real abuse, just a lot of frustration). Having raised teenagers in the Tattletale Age, I saw that one coming. Sorry, Tommy.  I don't like dealing with police in such a matter, but I even hate child protective services more. The case workers at the various child protective services I've encountered don't listen well. The concern wasn't when he talked out the problems on the video. The concern was when he blew away her laptop- nothing illegal, but cause for concern. We live in an age where parents who can't gain custody think nothing of murdering their children via brutal methods. While I don't think Tommy would do it, I'm not a cop, and not a case worker.

Retread parents, you are going to get frustrated if you have any contact with teenagers. Things haven't changed that much since the last batch of teens you raised, just the technology that's been amped up. Teens still need love, boundaries and safe situations to attempt their ability to be their own person. We can only claim them as our legal dependents for so long. We don't want them growing up like the ones who put us in this position, and we also don't want them to be naive to the point of not being able to handle life on their own. 

Before you use the family arms on the laptop or cell phone, think about DCFS, CPS, whatever you call them, showing up at your front door and pronouncing you crazy. They might take the problem child, but they also might take the others, too, to a round of foster care. That means involving the attorney, and he or she would rightly want money for this one. 

Tommy Jordan is young and can handle that sort of stress. You aren't. Pick your battles. 

When you do pick a battle, use finesse. Don't use a $1,000 tool where a $10 tool will do. And what seems the element of surprise is always classy in family warfare. Just ask the Borgias. You've done this sort of battle before today. You have Time and Experience on your side. Use both! You'll be a lot happier.


Monday, February 13, 2012

The Blessings of Sunday Breakfast and Supper

I am sure many of you remember a time when Sunday was not just like any other day. Some sort of church service was in the offing, along with "Sunday best" clothes, a lack of manual labor (as much as possible, anyway), good food, visits with family and friends. Finding an open restaurant was as difficult as finding anything open; at least, there was nothing more open than a newsstand (for the Sunday paper), a bakery (where one could also purchase that missing loaf of bread and the milk to go with it), and maybe, just maybe, the dime store. We prepared for Sunday.

Sunday had a certain civilizing influence on the rest of the week. A lot of people worked a half-day on Saturday. Some schools were even in session for a half-day on Saturday. Sunday was the One Day when just maybe Dad could take a nap, catch up on his children's lives, maybe spend a little time with Mom alone. 

Times have changed and Sunday (or Saturday if you're Jewish or one of the Adventist groups) has been thrown out the window by too many as one more day. Family is scattered to the four winds, brought only together by Facebook. Dressing for church (small c, the building as well as the meeting held in the building) has been replaced with dressing for comfort. Every store and its subsidiaries are open and ready to receive trade. There are a wide range of activities that are well, just the same stuff we do every other day, Monday through Saturday, no difference except we have the day off from work or school to get more stuff done. Meals are grabbed from fast food emporiums, in the rush to get things done. 

I tried to revive Sunday dinner, inviting extended family and friends to at least take an hour or two to see each other, chat, and stop to actually dine for a change. Nobody had time for it, not even for roast or lasagna or even pizza. 

It's become a point of mine to attempt to bring Sunday back as a day of rest and not a day of rush. I refuse to run around doing stuff on Sunday. Period. The dressing up part hasn't caught on, but there are now certain clothes that just don't make it to Mass. Even the Mister must now wear his Sunday jeans, as opposed to his everyday jeans.

We don't do much of anything that day, except go to Mass and choir practice. In this day of Sunday being just one more day of the weekend, sometimes we go to the movies, or out for Sunday breakfast. Mostly, we stay home and rest. The Mister gets a midday nap. The kids get to veg. 

When we don't go out for Sunday breakfast, we create it. It is an institution in our family. We've had Sundays where we were all ill with the flu or some such, and the kids cried because I wouldn't be serving Sunday breakfast. 

This baffles me, as Sunday breakfast if often quite simple: Meat, some sort of sweet food, eggs, fruit, beverage of choice. The meat could be ham, could be bacon, could be sausage. The sweet food could be french toast, could be pancakes, on rare occasions sweet rolls, doughnuts or a coffee cake. Eggs are usually over easy, but could be scrambled, could even be poached or baked. It's often eaten after Mass, but sometimes before, within the dictates of fasting for Holy Communion. It's a meal where we bring the meal together as a family, sit down together, and savor.

I bail on Sunday Dinner, AKA a big meal in the afternoon. If it isn't cold cuts with condiments and relishes, it isn't happening. 

Now Sunday supper is another matter entirely. For this meal, I'm big on soups: Chili, hearty vegetable of beef or chicken stock, chowders. This requires possibly more cold cuts, cheese, bread of some sort (tortillas, chips, corn bread, etc.). Everybody likes it, it's easy to assemble and the clean-up is minimal. There is a dessert, something we don't have with every meal. 

I've recently handed off the preparation of Sunday supper to the eldest children in residence. 

Did I mention this isn't a matter of opening cans and heating them? We don't eat canned soup, at least not as soup. It tastes so...canned, processed. Even if the soup involves canned broth or stock, it has to taste like "fresh" soup. I'm willing to concede packages on the bread and dessert. But a good soup needs to taste fresh, at least as fresh as soup can taste. This often involves sauteing onions, celery, green pepper. It involves peeling carrots, potatoes. All in all, it's a big deal for preteens. 

I'm not afraid to say that I may not have a lot of time left in my life; certainly, I have less predictable time than I did when raising my first batch of children. I'm in good shape for my age, although somewhat portly. But every day for an aging person is another day closer to death, let's face it.

It is important to me that this second batch of kids can function as adults, or even before that. I don't want to be morbid, but I also don't want to suddenly die and have them unable to take care of themselves. 

Children are much more capable than the experts would have us believe. Teenagers are especially more adroit than present theory leads us to fathom, and can cook and clean with the best of them. Despite the baby-fying of America, with health insurance on Mom and Dad's tab until 26, college educations without the responsibilities, get-away vacations alone and unsupervised as a rite of passage, kids are capable. 

Kids being raised by grandparents need to be a little more capable than kids who have young parents as a back-up plan for life. Grandma might not make it until the grandchild is 18. Grandma might make it, but Grandpa could pass away, and the kids will be much more responsible as Grandma returns to work. Grandchildren might go back to a parent who has fooled the court and appeared to be a capable caregiver, but is not. This demographic of children needs life skills and needs them young! Those life skills include cooking, cleaning and learning how to take life easy once a week.

If this is so, then it stands to reason that a tradition such as Sunday breakfast and supper is more than a nice little ritual to continue relaxation. Being a participant in this tradition gives kids the opportunity to develop skills they can use later. Does that violate the Commandment to keep the sabbath holy? I don't think so. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Who's that lady?

No, that's not a photo of me. That was my paternal grandmother. The little girl in the back is one of my favorite cousins. 

I've heard about Grandma's flaws from far and wide. She was certainly no saint!  

I won't go into her very bad ways, but will remark on her culinary skills. She didn't have many. In later years, she was one of the biggest believers in the microwave oven. She liked to get out a lot, and didn't let emphysema slow her down; in fact, she strapped her oxygen tank into the front passenger seat before she lost her license. She did like to keep up her personal appearance, and I was one of the recipients of her almost-empty nail polish bottles. She knitted and crocheted for her grandchildren, especially ponchos in the 1960s and 70s. She loved Zane Grey novels. I tried to get into them, but never could. When Grandma died, her eldest daughter stuck a packet of Juicy Fruit, Grandma's favorite gum which she constantly chewed, in Grandma's pocket before she was buried. 

My younger cousins assure me Grandma really turned out to be a fabulous grandmother to them. I wish she had more time when we were little.  At the time I was growing up, Grandma had 27 grandchildren, and only 11 lived in any proximity of her (when she died, she had 31 grandchildren, 30 here on Earth and one to meet her in Heaven). We did share correspondence when she was placed in a care facility. I treasure those letters. 

It should also be noted that, for all the poor choices she made throughout her life, Grandma helped raise three of her grandchildren. One of my aunts was not always there for her kids, often for months at a time. Grandma took up the slack for Auntie. For that alone, Grandma deserves merit in my book. 

Grandma's face is going to be my profile photo for awhile.