4 days of arguing

Last night wasn’t really a change. More denial of his need to study/do homework. “Can you just stop talking?” he asked.

“No, because we don’t think you realize the hole you’re digging for yourself.”

Bottom line, we managed to (finally) voice our concerns again, which he understood. He took the advice to heart (as much as we’ve learned to expect) and we’re approaching it the same as his other habits (tooth brushing, rubber bands, cleaning litterboxes) in that we’ll remind him, daily. We also pointed out that he has, quite literally, hours to do play, even if he takes the small amount of time to study/do homework. We will (M and I) work together on reminding each other.

My nights are blending together. We’re all seemingly on the edge of being sick (well, T is full blown ill), and we’re not sure how much is allergies. M and I are DRAGGING. After our discussions last night, we went in the kitchen to get dessert, and I took M aside and asked if he was doing ok (distant, irritable, tired). He told me he’s been really tired for days, not sleeping well, and had a sore throat every morning, and headache for a couple days. I told him that he should take just a dose of Nyquil before bed to help his nose and sore throat. (He didn’t complain).

We’ve bumped M’s meds back down a notch, to see if it makes a difference in his not-sleeping, and irritability. Crossing my fingers.

Next week, we’re meeting with the W school, to see how they’ll manage his behaviors, and his IEP. I’ve got to meet with the team from the other school, as well, to allay some (very real) concerns.

This week has slipped away from me. I’ve got a conference call at 4pm, that I’m NOT looking forward to, but is necessary. I’d rather go home and hug my kid.

In Tune

Later in the day, I got a text message from M’s teacher.

“This is what I’m dealing with today. <picture of M with his head down on his desk>. Says he’s tired and doesn’t feel good. Has a bad headache. Any chance you could bring tylenol or something?”

30 minutes later, I get to the school and he’s sitting, waiting in the lobby, noticeably stoic. I say hello, hand him his pills, and he goes back to class.

I know he hasn’t been sleeping well, and it’s a full moon. I also checked the side effects of the drug he’s now on, and of course, it can mess with your sleep and make you sleepy. We just upped his dose on Sunday, so this could very well be the culprit.

I’m tempted to bump him back down to a single dose per day to see if it has an effect, since this sleep business started on Sunday.

The resolution

Yesterday, while I was at work, M was driving T crazy. He started by explaining (lying) that his choir teacher didn’t want him there for the concert. “I got in trouble today. She said I can write a paper, instead.” (We all know she knows he is incapable of writing a paper, so it was suspect…)

We called around, and eventually, I reached his homeroom teacher, who talked to the choir teacher, who confirmed he was lying. I called home. M was in the middle of an argument with T, but answered the phone. I said “so, you tried to lie about Choir, huh? Well, you got caught.” ‘No, I didn’t. I didn’t lie. She said I needed to stay home and write a paper instead.’ (T was on the other extension.) “M, I just texted with her, she said ‘Nice try.'”

“Well, I’m going to skate with C up to school before the concert.”

“Ok. You should clean up and put your uniform on.”

“I’m NOT WEARING the pants. We don’t have to.”

“Yes, you do.”


“M, you do. You always do. It’s a uniform. Email from Ms. W says you do.”


(his friend C is in the room. M & T have already battled over the pants)

T chimes in, “If you refuse to wear them, we have another problem.”

“M, I have to hang up. See you tonight. Goodbye.”

Meanwhile, M & T come to a suitable compromise. Take the uniform, change when you get there.

The concert was great. The kids were greatly improved. Still sad that M didn’t take the solo. C’s mom was there, and we met her, finally. The boys were happy when they got out. We gave M the choice of skating home or ice cream (which we usually get after a performance). He chose skating. We got ice cream.

He really had a great time. The boys looked great together, on their boards, leaving the school. C’s mom told us what a great kid he is, so polite. We laughed.

All in all, despite the arguments, it was still a good day.

We had another discussion about school and summer (and summer school). It started off poorly, but M took it well, eventually, when everyone calmed down. Once we voiced the “why” along with the “what,” and the “what if’s,” he understood.

He said, “I really want to go to GS. Can’t we just try it to see if it works?”

“Well, our fear is, what happens if it doesn’t work? We’re touring W to see what they’re like, so we can make an informed decision. You’ve got the LAST spot at W if we decide to send you there, but if you do poorly at GS, you will end up in one of the worst neighborhoods in town, back in public.”


“We don’t want to have you bussed across town. You don’t want to have to get up earlier and not get home until 6pm.”

“What about C? (another REALLY good school)”

“You’re #300 on a waiting list for that one. We tried, kiddo. This is why we have to check out W, even though we like GS. And we’re worried about your ability to thrive at GS, given your 8th grade performance. That’s why we’re looking at summer school – one last effort to help get you ready.”


“Do you get it?”

“Yeah. Do we have ice cream?”

Oh, it’s definitely a full moon

Yesterday, the fights began. Fights over clothes. Fights over skating. Fights (and lying) over singing in the choir concert which was half his grade. Fights over dinner. Fights over dirty pants. Fights over control of his wardrobe. Bedtime. Homework. Making an effort.

This morning, they continued. He’d emptied the house of all juices and non-milk beverages. “Can I have ice cream for breakfast?”


“You still need to buy me jeans.”

“How so?”

“Well, I’m down 4 pair.”

“No you’re not.”

“The blue pair that had the button ripped out, the gray pair that the seat ripped out, the gray pair that has the holes, and that other blue pair that the pocket ripped out.”

“The blue pair with the button was to replace the blue pair with the ripped out pocket. The gray pair with the ripped out seat was to replace the blue pair with the button. The gray pair with the holes replaced the ripped out seat pair. And I replaced THAT pair with the camo pair. You still have 7 pairs of jeans.”

“Not that I like.”

“Well, you picked them out. You can buy your next pair with your money.”

“So, you’re saying I have to wear shorts?”


“You’re saying you’re not going to buy me clothes?”

“I’m saying we bought you clothes, which you picked out. I’m not buying you any more.”

“Well, I’m not going to school, then.”

UGH. So, after putting on a pair of shorts…

“Do you want to take your blizzard bag packet to school, to work on it with the tutors?”


“Do you know why I ask?”


“I’m asking because the assignment is long, and it’s one of the few issues you have listed in your IEP for extra help.”

“Well –” (stops abruptly) “nevermind!”

(walking to the car) “I’m just saying, that’s one of the tasks they can help you with.”

“You don’t know anything. Ms. M says as long as we start the page and make an effort, we get credit.”

“We all know that your ‘making an effort’ isn’t really making an effort. She can tell when you’re not putting in effort.”

“Well, that’s all I’m doing.”

“Do you understand why I’m concerned? You’re flunking. This affects your future.”

“You think it’s so easy, then you do it.”

“Why would I do it?”

“I don’t think you can.”

“I don’t think YOU can. You turn in blank work and then expect to get a good grade. If you put in the effort, you get a good grade.”

(jumps out of the car at the bus stop)

“Have a good day! Get lots done!”

What’s the cost of your well-being?

There’s been a lot of crappy news out of my hometown in the last couple weeks, and it’s not about the seemingly dozens of my parents’ generation dying off, but it may be even worse for future generations. I’ve written about this before, and it still bugs me, at least weekly. In light of recent news, it bugs me even more.

You’ve all heard the term “fracking.” Depending on which side of the fence you are on, you either see it as an economic boon or an environmental nightmare, but like everything, there is more gray than black and white.

My home county is very poor. You can buy a decent home in my hometown for around $30k. A NICE home in a quiet neighborhood for just under $100k. I am not even joking. A lot of fixer-uppers are in the $20-30k range. And, really, it’s such a small town, there’s not anywhere that’s a horrible neighborhood.

My hometown has about 4,000 people. The county maybe has 50,000.  It’s hilly, and downright beautiful, with lots of old, old homes and family farms that go back for generations.

You’re getting the picture.

When the “energy” companies came in and offered ridiculous amounts of money to be able to drill, a lot of the poverty-stricken farmers, miners, steel-workers, and truck-drivers jumped on the chance, despite the news stories out of other parts of the country about safety concerns, and long-term issues with drinking water. These same folks, living in run-down, unloved homes, have now built mcMansions for themselves. I am not even kidding. Built just a short ways from their ramshackle cabins are huge, gleaming white mcMansions – spending their new found funds.

When the energy companies (“frackers”) came to town, there were hearings, there were meetings, and there were protests, but ultimately, the town decided to allow drilling under the city for $6M, which also got them access to the town’s water supply to use in their operations. The town, which has something like 7 reservoirs, already put a line in to assist a neighboring community about 10 years ago. And, now, the lakes are drying up.

That’s not even mentioning the fact that they’re drilling right next to at least one of the reservoirs. Couple that with the latest news from a county southwest of there, which had a major spill while drilling, sending hundreds of barrels of toxic waste into a nearby stream. We’re talking RIGHT NEXT TO the town water supply, now.

This picture is bleak, but, you know, it’s not horrible. Maybe that won’t happen, here, right?

Ok, let me throw this one at you. Earthquakes. USGS says there’s been an increase in earthquakes in fracking areas. You’re talking about drilling A MILE OR MORE DEEP. We’ve already seen it in Ohio.

Growing up with a dad who had a background in chemistry, water treatment, and geology, and who worked for both the EPA and AEP (another polluter), I was around this kind of talk for decades. Mine runoff. Subsidence. Tainted drinking water. Underground aquifers.

What happens when you crack open the ground, deep beneath the water table? You can guess.

Now, between the townspeople, the county commissioners, and the “Port Authority,” there is a battle for control of an industrial park. The state has already given preliminary go-ahead for a company to dump waste from the drilling operations at the industrial park side, and the city and the county seem pissed about it. The permission was vague. The industrial park wasn’t supposed to be for waste. Who trusts the greedy corporations anymore? And now the county and port authority are running scared, and refusing to talk to the townspeople, whose watershed the dumping grounds are in. Leaving meetings when faced with proof of their lies, about who they talked to and when.

Are you starting to see the issues here?

My hometown was already in bad health when this started. I can’t even count the number of friends and neighbors +-5years of my age who have had cancer. I’m not exaggerating. Every time I think I’ve named all of them, another friend brings up more. I’m 40. One of my closest friends died at 34. Another died at 42.  We’re talking around 10% of every person my age. And now you’re adding all this to it?

The city I love is drowning. Sure, the economy is better, for now, but what will be left in another 10 years? With all the increased traffic (there are something like 20 fracking sites nearby), families are getting run off the road by truck-drivers unfamiliar with the territory, and those who just don’t care. Gone are the days of leisurely play in the front-yards, and leisurely Sunday drives around the countryside.

So, $6 Million. How are we going to fix this mess? Invested, that might yield 4%. $240,000/year. Is that enough to address drinking-water concerns, infrastructure concerns, and energy concerns for a town of 4,000 and the surrounding hills? Who will stick up for our town for the next generation?

I called my dad last weekend, after talking to my friend Iz, who still lives in the area. My dad is an educated man, having lived both in town and in the surrounding countryside, and understands politics more than most. He is rational, but stern. He had said, probably a couple years ago, he was going to run for city council. I called him to ask if he would consider it, again. He said no, and honestly, it was for the best reasons for him and my mom. My dad is not one to pull punches. He is not diplomatic. He is what I am becoming. Difference: he knows when to shut up.

“Do you really think your mother could show her face at church on Sunday, if I was in office? This whole town would turn against us. Or at least half of it would.”

‘But, Dad, who’s going to stand up for this town?’

“Not me, kid. We’re old. We can’t.”

My heart is broken when it comes to what my hometown is becoming. My dreams of a revitalized central village, as it was pitched to us all more than 25 years ago, will never be realized. The beauty of the amazing buildings will be gone, and if worst comes to worst, there won’t be any drinking-water and the whole town will dry up.

It’s difficult to dream about the amazing downtown when everything points toward ghost-town. It doesn’t stop the enviro-architect in me planning a future in my dreams, where the city becomes a proving-ground for new technologies and systems focused on clean water and clean, renewable energy. A city that the residents can be proud of, again.

Concepts that seem far-fetched, that major cities dream of. Geothermal heating and cooling. Wind farms and small-scale localized wind turbines. Solar energy and water heating. Graywater recycling. Moisture extraction. Community and collaborative gardening/farming. Sustainability on a grander scale. What if folks decided “we’re in this for the long term” instead of “we’re in this for a quick buck.” How much would it take?

How much? How many like-minded folks have to stand up?

Been a week

Not a bad week, but a week. Not so good at keeping up.

Lots going on at work, and my turn to cook, so limited time at home. Meetings meetings meetings. Followups on schools. Followups on counseling (gotta remember to call both a high school and a counselor today.)

It’s been a good week. No real arguments, and some genuinely good discussions. BUT, it’s scary. Whenever your kid has nothing to report/everything’s quiet, that usually means there’s something you’re not hearing about.

Saturday, I’m carpooling with some college friends to another friend’s 40th birthday celebration. There will be laser tag. There will be much pain and suffering afterwards, since we are all overweight and out of shape. There will be food and (probably) drinks afterward. And talks re: parenthood and alumni.

Saturday is also the (first?) Neighborhood Yard Sale. We are not selling. It’s supposed to rain, too, which sucks.

M has about 3 days worth of “blizzard bags” to do. He is a little more concerned than usual, and that’s good. He’s been staying up later at night, thinking we don’t notice. He’ll notice on Saturday when I delay his going out for the 3 hours that he’s cost me in sleep this week.

I really wanted to write about something completely different, but I’ll put that in another post. For now, this is a weekly update of good stuff.

Monday, we up M’s meds to the new dose.


Well, we made it to Friday.

M’s grades are down (WAY down). His attitude toward school is sucking. He “forgot” about helping T with cleanup Wednesday after school, so we spent the better part of 2 hours trying to track him down. When he finally came home (in time for dinner) he had no remorse, no excuse. Until I asked “what are you going to do to make it right?” He cleaned the downstairs bathroom with WAY more care than expected. It was greatly appreciated.

Yes, he was mouthy. Yes, he was put off. But, he did it, and did more than he was asked.

I met with a few people re: some neighborhood crime. That went well.

The house is drying out well.

I had a really great conference call with some fundraising folks (for my volunteer work) and we’ve had a great follow-up day today.

Work is good… really hoping for an uneventful evening with pizza and TV, followed by about a 12 hour sleepathon. Zzzz.

Tuesday Blues

Yesterday wasn’t really half bad.

I pulled M out of school for a psychiatry appointment, and we met T at the doctor’s office. M wanted food, and REALLY didn’t want to go back to school (detention). I told him to wait and see when we got out of the doctor’s office.

The visit went fine. We chatted mostly about M’s bad behavior increasing, which he defended saying that it wasn’t increasing, that the principal told him they were just “experimenting” on him to see how he reacted to getting written up. Which is half correct… sort of. The goal was to make sure the bad behaviors were documented, instead of just letting them slide, like they had been. To paint a fair picture for future high schools. I mentioned the stealing, which didn’t concern the psychiatrist. The lying. The “B&E” of the vacant house. None of this concerned her. M had, of course, mentioned none of this, and had shut down for her, which to me was odd, because he was really wanting to talk to her before.

When the psychiatrist sent M out of the room, she asked again about how things were going. T focused on the possibility of disruption, the lying/stealing, and lack of trust. I focused on the good; the small, daily victories: tooth brushing, litter boxes, sometimes actually seeing our point of view recently. She saw the dread on T’s face. She gave us options for counseling, but no longer through her hospital. She told us to make sure to get children’s services involved, getting their resources lined up. She didn’t poo-poo the idea of EMDR, but suggested further research of the company (which she had never heard of the doctor, despite him having written several books). She did poo-poo attachment. She did poo-poo getting therapy lined up through her office. She called me out as seeing the “glass half full” while T was seeing it (more than) “half empty”.

I’m sorry. I believe my son is dealing with 12 years of BS, adding teenage hormones and desires, and inconsistency at home. We try to be consistent, but it’s hard juggling day to day plus crises that come with old houses, and extremely difficult when emotions are involved. It’s really hard when your son is seen as “pissing and shitting on” everything you do, to set that consistent threshold, over and over and over. We know the school struggles with it, too.

We got out of the doctor’s office too late to go back to school. We ended up stopping at Subway, grabbing a sub for M. He wanted to argue about what his 2-day consequences were, when they started and where he was allowed to go. “Well, if I can’t go to X, it’s not fun.” Dude, really? It’s not supposed to be fun, it’s supposed to reinforce that what you did at school was wrong. That’s all. (He’s allowed to go to some trusted family’s houses, but not anywhere else. No park/library/community center/ravine… nowhere but those houses. I texted the parents to let them know to give me a heads up if he didn’t do what he was supposed to.

There was much grumbling, but he did as he was told. At least until after dinner, and then, I didn’t want to ruin the next couple days, so I didn’t check up.

M came home on time, helped his friend with his toys, and did his nightly routine without argument. We did have a little fun watching a comedy special, and got some more paperwork done.

I got a call from a counseling agency, as a referral from the school. They’re checking into whether or not they can help with our specific needs. They bill insurance, but they don’t know if they have the resources to help M through his unique challenges.

Today started rough, but not M or T’s fault – we had a drain pipe burst and gallons and gallons of shower water poured down through the ceiling and walls, through the living room, to the basement, ruining clothes and other things. Very lucky if we have a working TV or entertainment center tonight. Also lucky that the antiques that were under there did not get ruined. T was a mess, filled with adrenaline, and had a difficult time calming down. I shrugged it off. I mean, once you’ve discovered it, taken care of the source, there’s little to worry about other than clean up and calling insurance and plumbers. Why stress? It is what it is.

So, that’s it for Tues/Wed. Not horrible at all. Pretty decent, despite the home woes.

Welcome Back?

I decided to start blogging again. It’s rough to get everything out on Twitter (140 characters) and there are things I can’t really talk about on Facebook.

I’m an adopted dad of a 14 year old ADHD/ODD/PTSD/Mood Disorder boy with a long backstory that we know little of, and who is struggling to be “normal.” M- was placed with my partner T- and me on his twelfth birthday. TWELFTH. That is a crappy word. I digress, a lot.

Things have not been good in a long time. Our patience is wearing thin. Our souls are wearing thin, if that makes sense. The cycle of depression, and continually being burned by our son’s misbehavior and bad decisions.

All the reassurances in the world that “it will get better” are empty. I know my friends don’t mean it to be – and my one friend with adopted kids (K-) understands, and doesn’t try to reassure me that it will get better.

Sometimes you have to hope and pray for the best, but plan for the worst, as my dad says.

So, every day isn’t going to go swell. In fact, only about 5/7 go well. And it’s not the same 5. But, that’s ok. My goal is going to be to record at least ONE good thing for every bad thing I rant about.

Yesterday was a long day. Nobody slept well the night before, and M- had an interview at a potential high school, right after he got home from middle school. Despite being rushed (and I was more than a little concerned), in the interview, M- was articulate, charming, and mostly able to find answers out of his own mind. He talked more than he has about this kind of stuff TO ANYONE. Which teachers he liked, what their teaching style was like, what does he do when he gets angry, his favorite and worst subjects and why. What kinds of things he would like to do for internships. Adorable, charming and articulate. Usually he survives on two of those three. You wouldn’t have known it was the same kid.

When we got home, I had about an hour to charge my phone before I had another meeting. M- & T- were on their own for dinner. As I usually do when I have downtime, I checked my email (actually looking for news that I’d need for the meeting.) I had an email from M-‘s ELA/SS teacher (the one he has the least problem with) letting me know how awful his behavior was, and that he had to be removed, and what would happen if he was like that today. Well, we instated a rule a few weeks ago, when things started to go south, that if we heard from ANYONE at school that his behavior was bad, he would not be able to hang out at the park/library/rec center, and would be limited to the house, and his friends’ house (the next block over) for 2 days. No skateboard, but he could go hang. Just enough to be painful (we let him pick – it was that or be grounded to his bedroom for 2 days. Duh, who’s going to pick that?)

I read the email, aloud, to him and to T-. M- started to argue that “all the other kids” were bad, too. (We also have a stance that we don’t give a flying fig about the other kids, which I mentioned.) When that didn’t work, he started to blame the fact that the teacher was having a bad day because of the state’s mandated testing. That didn’t fly, either – placing blame on her doesn’t take away the fact that you were bad, same as if we’re in a foul mood when you get home and leave your stuff strewn all over the house… you still get in trouble. When he couldn’t argue that, he let me go on to explain that he was going to be grounded to our house and his friends’ house for 2 days. He tried to argue out of that in all sorts of ways. That didn’t work, either, and in fact, by then, T- was angry. Placing the blame on others, misrepresenting/lying about what was agreed upon, just to get yourself out of trouble is a big no-no. T- called M- out on his manipulation.

I managed to calm the situation down. T- still was in a fighting mood. “What do we get out of this? He continues to shit and piss on everything we do.” I said, “this is fine. it’s fine.” And I left.

When I got home from my meeting, M- & T- were just finishing up watching TV. M- was still “starving” despite eating 2 cheesy brats and a bowl of cottage cheese, and a bowl of sherbet (I presume from the empty carton) and a handful of cookies. T- was heading upstairs to finish work. M- tried (halfheartedly) to rile me up, with a big grin on his face. Since it was already the agreed upon time to get ready for the next day/get ready for bed, I let him hang on and eat one more thing – a dish of strawberry yogurt. Filling, and relatively good for you. That kid is eating like I did at his age… whatever’s handy. Six-feet, here we come. He was talkative, admitting that he was pretty bad in school. I apologized for questioning his remembering of the agreed upon consequences, as I remembered later, the truth did come out in the rushed and heated conversation. Being curled up on the couch under a blanket, he made himself an easy target, and I tickled him – just like I used to.

It may have been a rough evening (and it was, even after that – trying to herd cats, so to speak, getting him to go to bed), but those moments of honesty, and the giggles, were the best part of my day.