Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Words Cannot Describe

We are really enjoying the pine country in northern Arizona. We have been leaving the front French doors wide open most of the evening while we enjoy the company of family. Last night was no different. We slept with all the windows open to allow the cool breeze to flow through the house.

Our little rental house was high up on a hill in the mountains of Flagstaff, Arizona. The nights were calm and lightly breezy. There seemed to always be a constant wind blowing through this little sleepy town. This night was no different.

That is until I awoke around 2 a.m. to the most gosh awful smell I have ever smelled. After several minutes of bewilderment, I finally realized the awful stench permeating my bedroom was that of a skunk. The smell was so dense I could taste it. My stomach began to churn. I glanced over at Wifey and to my surprise, she was sound asleep.

I got up and checked the entire house and found 8 out of 10 windows were indeed open. The smell was strongest in my bedroom telling me that the varmint must be right outside my window. It was so overwhelming I could almost lose my dinner right there. I walked around and closed all the windows.

Upon waking the next morning, I asked Wifey if she noticed anything last night to which she replied: "Like what?"


Monday, September 9, 2013

The Bourne Identity and HoJo

Our clan has grown by seven now.
Things are still happening at lightening speed. A day doesn't go by that I don't scratch down some blog post ideas and then, before I know it, two days have gone by and I have a scratch pad full of unwritten posts.

So, I'm up north staying at a HoJo while I muster through my first week on the new job. Just finished Day One of Orientation and glad it's over. You know how boring orientation seminars can be. All the plan changes and uncontrollable events lately have taken their toll on me in different ways.

For starters, when I got to my destination up here in the high country, I happily pulled into my "resort" for an expected comforting night of sleep. I thought I was being smart trading our timeshare week in Sedona for a place near my work while we wait for our move-in date (coming this weekend). After a cheerful greeting from the night desk clerk, I found to my dismay that I had booked this year.

Yep. 2014. I suddenly found myself in need of a hotel at midnight on a Sunday night. With a trailer full of household crap waiting to be put into storage, I now had to figure out where I was going to sleep for the next week while I started my new job. Luckily, the helpful desk clerk called the HoJo down the street and negotiated me a nice price ($50/night). After calling the timeshare exchange company and requesting my booking fee refunded (I tried to charm my way into a stay at the same resort, didn't work), I will only be out about $50 when it's all over so not too bad...I guess.

Tired momma...
So, obviously, I was focused on something else when I reserved my room for this week. Nevertheless, it's working out so far.

CPS conducted their home visit at my house today. Our church stepped up and became involved. A friend of Wifey's stayed by her side for the visit. According to Wifey, they asked basic questions, quickly glanced into each bedroom and interviewed each child (including the 4 year old). Sounds to me like Wifey went into a bedroom and all six girls stayed together for the interrogation in the livingroom (nice move, honey!). I like that much more than little ones being interrogated alone with CPS. The whole thing was less than half an hour or so.

That chapter should be closed now and we can focus on moving. We will be requesting copies of all documentation from both CPS and the school. For the rest of the week, I guess Wifey and the girls will just focus on packing clothes to wear for the first week up north until we get everything unpacked.

I didn't get to blog about Sister's Sweet 16 birthday nor The Queen's 13th birthday but let the record show that they both had a great time and as parents, we didn't let current events prevent us from helping the girls enjoy their birthdays. Oh, and our German Shepherd had seven puppies Saturday night too. That was the first time Wifey and I experienced animal birth up close. And of course, I video taped the whole thing :-)

So I'm going to kick back and celebrate my first day in Management by watching the Bourne Trilogy in the local Howard Johnson's hotel. If I get bored, maybe I'll go hunt down a good 'ol Sonic rootbeer float.


Friday, September 6, 2013

CPS Returns

Just a quick update to report on current events. CPS showed up at the girls' high school today. They interviewed all three girls individually and interviewed Sis twice. We were alerted by their presence thanks to one of our girls sending a text message.

Wifey headed over to the elementary school to pick up the little girls just in case CPS decided to head over there. There has been no sign of CPS at the elementary school... yet.

Wifey withdrew all three high schoolers today.  We spoke in depth about home schooling with last night.  We are one step closer to home schooling the teenagers.  Believe it or not,  they don't want to be home schooled... they say.  But,  they also don't realize that every time they report to us about something ridiculous that happened at their school, they are making the case even stronger to keep them home.

Like today,  Wifey and I were informed that teachers are becoming more strict about letting students use the restrooms during class because "someone"  is smearing blood and feces on the bathroom walls.

What the...? Ugh.

Anyway,  the big girls are pulled out.  School officials were even MORE apologetic today than during our meeting Tuesday.  They swore nobody contacted CPS today.  I believe it.  CPS is just now responding to the school's call last week.

I finally called the school nurse myself and asked her for her side of the story.  It was completely different than Administration's story.  I think they threw her under the bus.  She kept saying "I'm just a CNA,  not a nurse"  like it wasn't even her Scope of Practice to call the authorities.  She said that,  as a foster parent herself who had delt with CPS,  she concluded Sis was NOT  abused and that was why she excused herself from the whole situation early on.

I'd she lying? Who knows.  Bottom line,  we aren't going back to that school. But now,  CPS is coming to my house Monday night to inspect our house and (my guess)  to interview the three little girls.

The worst part : I'll already be up north.  Monday is my first day of my new job.  Wifey has to handle the CPS interrogation herself.  My friend Mr Detective,  who specializes in Child Abuse crimes,  is coming over tonight to talk to us. I'm going to see if he can be here when the visit occurs.

This sucks.  Any advice or words of encouragement greatly appreciated right now.


Monday, September 2, 2013

Garage Sales... a Necessary Evil

Yeah,  so... I'm not a big fan of garage sales.  At least not HAVING them.  I enjoy perusing other people's though.  Today we are trying to sell (or give away) the rest of our stuff.
We are combining two households since Wifey's mom will be moving up north with us.  This is no fun task. 

Well,  it wasn't... until we found... 

The Wig of the Century! 

Are you ready?

I don't think you are!


The Orange Jeep SURFER Dad! 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Front Porch View from Our New Home

Brought another load up north.  Finished unloading and enjoying the views from our front porch.

Breathtakingly beautiful...

Created by Photo Grid.

Sis Invoked the Secret Family Safe Word

Sorry for the delay in the follow up. We're extremely busy packing and running small loads up north to lessen the final moving bill.

So, here's what happened Friday.

9am - I head up north (solo) with a full trailer behind the Orange Jeep.

10:27am - The Queen texts me from school:

"Sis is up in the office. They think she got beat up because her lip. She's trying to tell them but they won't listen and they're calling the police"

10:30am - I call the school front office. I ask if my daughter is in the office. The Dean of Students is put on the phone with me. He informs me that my daughter had come to the office requesting ibuprophen for pain relief. (She has a viral rash on her lower lip, right humerus and left forearm). He concluded that she received the medicine and returned to class.

10:40 - Wifey calls me concerned about receiving the same message from The Queen. I told her I called the school and all was well. We discussed how the text message didn't really make sense and it was probably nothing to be concerned about.

11:30am - Sis calls Wifey on her cell phone from the girls bathroom and says:

(paraphrasing): "They keep asking me if you guys are abusing me. When I asked to call you they said "Not right now." and they won't let me go back to class." Sis is clearly in distress and Wifey now becomes extremely concerned.

11:45am - Wifey calls me and relays the above phone call from Sis. I am two hours north by now. My final destination is another 30 minutes farther. I pull into a McDonald's parking lot and call the school for a second time.

Secretary: "[school name]"
Me: "Is my daughter, name name in the front office right now?"
Secretary: "I'll check"
Dean of Students gets on phone: "This is Mr. XYZ..."
Me: "Yes, is my daughter Name Name in the front office right now?!"
Dean: "Yes, she is ."
Me: "Put her on the phone please."

This is one of the times we got lucky and the school screwed up. I NOW know that if a school suspects child abuse, they should not allow the student to talk to the parents until the police arrive. The school is also NOT suppose to notify the parents of the abuse investigation in progress (which they SUCCESSFULLY hid from us.)

Sis gets on the phone with me. We make a lot of small talk with me asking questions like "are you okay", "what's going on" etc but her answers are short and choppy. Something isn't quite right.

Me: "Is there someone standing near you making you uncomfortable?"
Sis: "Well, not really"
Me: "Is there something that you would like to tell me that you can't tell me right now?"

Sis: "Well...SECRET FAMILY SAFE WORD...maybe..."

And there it was. The secret family safe word that Wifey and I taught our three oldest daughters back when they were the only three kids we had. We picked a phrase that was easy to work into a sentence and would not immediately draw attention to the conversation should one of our children utter the words.

An example would be "PINK GIRAFFE." This is NOT our safe word but it is a phrase that would not sound suspicious coming from a girl. It could be referred to as a child's stuffed animal, or toy etc. If we had not established this safety protocol, we would not have had a clue that our child was in the middle of something  very wrong.

Me to Sis: "Put the Dean of Students back on the phone please"
Dean: "Yes?"
Me: "I'm not sure what is going on up there but you can go ahead and pull all three of my daughters to the front office and my wife will be there in 20 minutes to collect them. We're going to talk as a family tonight about whatever is going on up there and may be requiring a meeting with administration on Tuesday (the next school day).

Dean: "Okay..."

He never sent for my other two girls and never intended to. When Wifey arrived at the school, she was asked to wait for a bit in the front office. She finally spotted Sis in another room through a window when Sis stood up. They saw each other and Wifey motioned for Sis to come to her side in the front office. That's just about when the police showed up.

Wifey was then informed that this was a child abuse investigation. That's when she called me. I asked her to put the Police Officer on the phone.

Officer: "Hello. This is Officer XYZ."
Me: "Hi. I'm the father. This escalated rather quickly, didn't it?"
My ice breaker didn't get recieved well. The Officer's quick retort worried me that I might have a jerk on the phone.

Officer: "No, not really."
Me: "Okay. Well, here's the deal. My daughter has a rash. She's been seen by an Emergency Room physician in the past. It happens a few times a year. She has been prescribed antibiotics in the past but we do not know EXACTLY what the virus is because it has never been plated out in an agar plate at a lab to determine exactly what it is.

So, when they asked her what happened to her face, she correctly answered that she wasn't sure. This lack of an answer, apparently set the school nurse in motion to suspect child abuse."

Officer: "I see. Do you have the prescription?"
Me: "No, we're moving. Everything is packed. I have no idea where it is. It was an old prescription that only had two pills left in the bottle. She has not seen a physician for this latest outbreak because I have no insurance for about two more months."

Officer: "Okay. Well, do you have anything that I can use to confirm your story?"

At that point, the only thing I could think of was a text message conversation between that ER Physician and myself from the day before. I had text her, she is a family friend, and told her the rash was back. I asked if there was anything over the counter that Sis could take for the burning pain. She told me to get Sis some Solarcain.

It was this set of messages that I forwarded to Wifey's phone and she showed the Officer.

Officer: "Okay, I see the messages. It certainly DOESN'T look like signs of abuse to me. I think we're all done here."
Me: "Are they free to go home or is the school holding my children?"
Officer: "Oh no, they are free to go. Can I have the ER doctor's phone number and place of employment?"
Me: "Certainly"

Wifey immediately took everyone to Sonic for some comfort food and headed home. After speaking with the Officer, I continued on my mission. I successfully unloaded the trailer and headed back home. I finally walked in the door at 9pm.

We had a family discussion around the dinner table.

After a full debriefing, the summary to this story is this:

-The nurse suspected child abuse based on these facts (but I will attempt to confirm these on Tuesday when we meet with school officials):

-Sis skipped a class on Thursday to hang out with friends in another class before we moved. She was caught, Admin called us and we agreed to 30 minutes of detention after school on Thursday. The next day, she shows up with a scab on the lower lip. The school nurse assumes this is a result of a punishment by her father for getting detention!

-School nurse calls Child Protective Services even after Sis repeatedly denied any abuse. According to Sis, this nurse continuously asked LEADING questions like:

"Does your father not like your boyfriend? Is that why he hit you?"
"Did you get in trouble for receiving detention? Is that why he hit you?"
"It's okay. This is a safe place. You can tell me."

And it went on and on, Sis says.

So, CPS says (luckily) that they can't do anything. The police have to be called first. So the nurse calls the police. It took the police three hours to respond with an officer. Sis had been pulled out of her first hour class (9am-ish) by the school nurse and the questions began at that time. For some reason, the school nurse left for other business and did not return for over four hours. In that time, two male school administrators (Dean of Students and his assistant) questioned Sis over the same things.

Occasionally they switched her to different rooms but she was never left alone. It wasn't until she asked to go to the bathroom that she snuck a text and call to Wifey. She had asked to call her parents and they told her "not right now." They denied her lunch at noon. She missed all her classes and was never fed until Wifey showed up and demanded food for her well after lunch time. At one other point, the school Counselor interviewed her as well. Sis ended up in the front office (and whatever other rooms they took her to) for a total of 4.5 hours.

Finally, a little before 2pm, the Principle (who had been off campus all morning) entered the room and apologized to Wifey. The nurse never showed herself nor spoke to Wifey. Wifey gathered up the kids and headed to Sonic as mentioned earlier.

Now came time for the family meeting. I had a few hours to mull over what had happened on my drive back from up north. I walked in the front door to the house and immediately called a family meeting. As everyone sat around the kitchen table, I praised everyone for their role in the events today.

Queenie did a terrific job of checking on her sister. She knew something was up and left class to gather intel. With a NO CELLPHONE policy in the school, she snuck off to the bathroom and secretly passed the intel to me. We allow our girls to keep their cell phones out of site and volume off (no vibrating) during school. Communication was paramount in this situation.

Sis did a commendable job staying calm and invoking her safe word. She did not panic, cry or lose composure. I praised her repeatedly for her part in helping us figure out what was going on. So PROUD!

Wifey also kept her composure. She could have gone Super Nova on the staff when she was accused of child abuse. Instead, she recognized that in this type of situation, things can go VERY wrong, VERY fast. She knew that just the mention on involving CPS meant that there was a remote chance her children could get taken away from her for no good reason at all. It happens and we've seen the stories in the news. She stayed in control and kept on eye on her flock.

Aside from having initiated the safe word concept at home, I also performed well. I thought of the text message history. I contacted both the aforementioned ER physician during this scandal AND one of my best friends who is a police officer for advice. I helped keep Wifey in check and relayed a few messages to Macky and The Queen during the ordeal. This potentially horrifying event turned out to be rolled in blessings and our family came together and worked like a well oiled machine.

Nobody was terribly upset by the event. I took the opportunity to explain exactly who the CPS is and what they are capable of. I congratulated everyone on a job well done and we concluded that we are truly blessed for the way the whole event unfolded. I was meant to be out of town. Having never been in this situation before (and therefore uneducated on the school protocol for abuse), I immediately thought the school was guilty of false imprisonment. Had I been able to get to the school, I might have done the wrong thing like insist I take my children home and leave the school grounds. My officer friend explained how the school followed protocol by protecting the child from the parent until the allegations were proven false. I understand that now. It is also the school's "right" to not notify the parents in the case of suspected child abuse.

Wifey feels that the Holy Spirit told her everything would be okay. That "feeling in her gut" said not to panic and that everything would work out. This is a HUGE step for her. She usually requires me by her side for important events like this. She instructed me on the phone as she headed up to the school that she was okay and that I needed to continue on my path to the north. We had a schedule to keep and she would be fine. I was a little shocked to be truthful...and very proud. Honestly, I think me being away for two months in Oklahoma has made her a stronger woman. For the first time in our 15 year marriage, she handled EVERYTHING around the house all by herself for over two months. What a woman!

My remaining questions:

1- Why is this career nurse (I found her FaceBook page along with more details about her than I need to know) not capable of distinguishing the difference between abuse wounds and something that looks like a cold sore on a lower lip? The PROPERLY trained Police Officer could easily tell the difference.

2- According to my Police Officer friend, the only school employee that should have been involved with this event was the school nurse. The other three male administrators should not have been involved. The nurse should have investigated the situation and call THE POLICE, not CPS. The Police call CPS after their investigation, if warranted.

3- Does the school nurse FULLY understand the repercussions of alleging a child abuse case before she starts calling everyone? She didn't interview Sister's other two siblings at the school (both are teenagers). There are other teachers at the school that know my children very well. One music teacher has taken Sis to choir practice before school for the past YEAR. She could have told her there had never been signs of child abuse.

4- Why was my teenager denied food?

My girls have gone to this school going on three years now. Personally, I think this nurse is an idiot. I intend to have a meeting with school officials on Tuesday and we are ALL going to learn from this experience. Along the way, I am going to voice my opinion that this nurse be fully trained before she accuses any more families of child abuse.


PS, if you don't have an established family safe word...what are you waiting for?