February 1st: Carnival excesses and spinach?

king_cake20091Carnival time is a lively party time in New Orleans! Beginning two weeks before Fat Tuesday, Carnival is one long party for the Crescent City and its surrounding areas. Loud music, dancing in the streets, gaudy clothing and fun-loving folks. Carnival literally means “farewell to flesh” and marks the feast before the Lenten fast which Catholics observe from Ash Wednesday until Easter. Carnival is a fortnight of excesses: a bit too much delicious King Cake, a little too much imbibing, a few too many pieces of fried chicken along the parade routes.vodka king cake flavor

Angelle lives in a mode of entitlement and excess. She fixates on certain foods or drinks and will eat/drink nearly nothing else for weeks on end. A vegetable lover at heart, Angelle decided at the age of 10 or so that she loved sautéed greens. She asked for collard greens, chard or spinach with onions wilted in olive oil or butter every day for dinner. She requested it for her afternoon snack. She wanted me to whip up a small skillet of it so that she could eat it all. No matter how much I prepared, she attempted to finish it. One day, I put a large container of spinach (2 lbs or more) in a wok to prepare for our family dinner. Angelle walked into the kitchen and lit up, exclaiming, “Is that all for me?!” She moaned, groaned and stomped away when I suggested that nearly 3 lbs of spinach was too much for a little girl to eat.
Angelle’s abandonment caused an “empty hole”  that needed filling and re-filling. This incident coined our family’s phrase: “There isn’t enough spinach in the world.”


January 10th: Joy Ride

coastal highwayDriving a convertible along the waterfront on a cool day is the epitome of a movie joy ride. Personally, driving with the sunroof open through red rock country impresses me. Cruising along a wintry road seeing the snow flakes dance across the frozen road like sand in the wind also takes my breath away. Perched on a roadside cliff along the North Sea with the windows rolled down hearing the roar of the ocean is amazing too! Traveling through bright fields of sunflowers, lush fields of sugar cane or the parched leaves of a pumpkin patch all evoke feelings of joy in me. My husband, on the other hand, loves the weather-related drives of a storm chaser and star-gazer.sunflower road

Angelle lives vicariously through recreating others’ fond memories, hoping to achieve happiness as others have. She knew that her siblings experienced joy and freedom once becoming car owners. She could not wait until college to have a car. Her friends, most of them drivers at least a year before her, surely told of their adventures. Angelle quite literally could not wait until she became a legal driver to begin her adventures; and she foolishly posted pictures and videos on social media of her illegal moments in the car!

rock face rdEven as a legal driver, Angelle’s adventures have an air of needing to surpass those of others. One weekend she sent a photo to me of her “first flat tire” as though it was an accomplishment! Not surprisingly, the “flat” was not from a nail or other small hole, but a two-inch GASH in the sidewall. Her version of the story involves a mountain drive and striking a rock in the road, but the damage on the tire likely required a jutting rock face along side a mountain road. Of course, there was no cell coverage in the mountains, so she and a friend had to hike along the narrow, curvy, two-lane road without a shoulder until they could call for help. In the meantime, several men stopped to help the damsels in distress; thankfully, with purely noble intentions.

January 9th: Stolen Car

Thousands of cars are stolen from their owners each year! Auto insurance companies compile lists of the most popular models taken. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, most stolen new and used car models in 2013 were Honda Accord and Civic as well as Chevy Silverado. These models are expensive to insure due to their appeal among thieves. Individual insurance premiums reduce when owners install security systems, alarms and wheel locks. In addition, thefts reduce when motorists take precautions such as removing valuables visible within the car, locking purses and suitcases in the trunk and closing windows and sunroof all the way even in warm weather.

man-arrows-choiceMy daughter’s father all too often believes her self-serving promises and quakes each time she deceives him, reneges on a promise or feigns ignorance. I wondered whether having the car before being allowed to drive alone would be an unbearable temptation for a child  with obsessive compulsive tendencies. I suggested that the vehicle be stored elsewhere for safe keeping. Angelle’s dad hid the keys instead. I wondered if it might be a good idea to remove an essential piece from the ignition or motor to keep it from inadvertently being started. He thought that measure unnecessary as well.driving-dad-crazy

A teen driver’s permit in California carries no insurance; their temporary insurance coverage is on their parents’ policy. Thus, the parent signs that the permit holder needs to have an adult over 25 with a current CA license in good standing in the car at all times. They are specifically prohibited from carpooling to and from school, except with siblings. Angelle, as I predicted, borrowed What she called “her car” without permission, after lifting the spare key from her dad. She took the car on more than one occasion. She carelessly posted a video of her and a young friend driving in a city 10-15 miles from home. She posted a photo on Facebook showing a group of girls posing near her open car door, leading the viewer to believe that the group was about to climb in for a joyride. This implied that Angelle also broke another rule concerning under 18 drivers having no front seat passenger younger than 25 years old. One has to wonder if she drove carefully, avoiding being spotted by police or loudly, music blaring and oblivious to the danger?

I wonder if anyone heard a faint “I told you so because I know my child” in my complete silence!

January 8th: Car Usage Criteria

I recall my first vehicle. My father promised me a new car if I met two criteria. First, I must graduate from high school on the honor roll and preferably in the top ten of my class. Second, I must choose a local college for which the car would be in lieu of living in a dormitory. My first car was painted a hideous shade of lemon yellow with a camel colored interior. It was a boxy little compact with a zippy, fuel-injected motor. I drove it with pride to and from university and felt that I had earned it through hard work at our family business, good grades in school and respect for my parents.

We helped our college students with their first vehicle purchase. It was during their second year away at university. By then their college-aged sensibilities had proven to us their ability and trustworthiness. Both student maintained 3.0-3.5 GPAs to earn the privilege to bring a car to college. We held the proverbial bar quite high.do not drink and drive One instance of driving under the influence cost Raphaella a whole semester without her car at college. Gabriel never made that mistake. I suppose he learned from his sister’s foible. To my knowledge, this was the one and only time that the older kids broke the car rules while living at home. Angelle would be a completely different story.

At merely age 17, Angelle got from her dad the purchase price of her siblings’ first vehicles. She scoured the Internet to find an eye-catching, envy-evoking, albeit older vehicle for that price. As clever as she is, I suppose it surprises me that she did not include an inflation index and ask for a more expensive car! Never mind that she only had a driver’s permit at the time and had a sleek, pre-owned, German sports car at her disposal for her six months of learning permit. Never mind that Angelle’s school attendance and GPA were poor even given numerous grade-boosting accommodations in the IEP (individualized educational plan). Never mind that she was still in highschool. Angelle wears down her father in a way no other child can.

do not driveAs mentioned, my ex-husband and I disagree on many topics with respect to our adopted daughter’s needs and wants. It seems that he inadvertently buys periods of silence by appeasing her desires. Her dad did, in fact, buy her the car she tracked down: a pre-owned gas-guzzling pseudo-military vehicle. They parked it in the driveway for use in her training and months before her first opportunity to get her driver’s license: SIX months later.

January 7th: Vehicles for Learners

I did not get a car to use freely when I got my driver’s license at fifteen. Yes, in the 1980s fifteen years of age was the legal motor vehicle license age in the great State of Louisiana. I got my permit on my 14th birthday! old chevy suburbanI learned to drive in my dad’s gigantic, rust-colored Suburban van, which he regularly used to haul boxes of fresh produce and food stocks for his grocery business. My practice hours behind the wheel were more than one spent after loading watermelons or other fresh goods at the New Orleans French Market. Later, my first two children learned to drive in our old vehicle, a bright red clunker of a car. red carIt got them to and from high school, drove them to summer jobs, on dates and errands. We did not let them take it on the road when they left for college. It was neither road-worthy for long trips at that point, nor did we want them serving as the designated drivers of a car full of experimenting drinkers during their freshman year.
Angelle always sets her sights high. She did not want to use the family’s older car while learning to drive. She badgered her father for months before even passing her learner’s permit test! Although the decade-old, German import vehicle was good enough for our frequent out-of-town guests to borrow, she did not really like it. She liked to show off when her dad drove her to school in the sleek, black car with the fancy hood ornament. car pink mercedesUnfortunately, she said it smelled “funny”, probably due to the leather seat cleaner! She insisted that her father should buy her a different pre-owned car as a “learner’s permit car”. She set her sights on finding a car worthy of her peers’ envy.

Jan 5th: Driving Ability

Driving examinations seek to put safe drivers on our roadways. Driver’s education is a good thing. It allows us to learn the safety rules and subsequently pass a test at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Driving instructors are given a list of non-negotiable driving mistakes for which to FAIL an applicant. Both Raphaella and Gabriel failed their behind the wheel examinations on their first and second attempts. bike laneCrossing solid white lines; driving too many feet in a turning lane or in the bike lane;  not braking for pedestrians in a crosswalk and changing lanes without using a turn signal are all offenses which will fail you on a driving examination. Even my ex-husband committed on of the “Deal-Breakers” on his first attempt at a California driver’s license. Passing the DMV test should put capable drivers on our highways and byways.
One of the issues where I disagree with my ex husband concerns Angelle’s readiness for driving a motor vehicle. Without guardianship, I was not required to sign for her driver’s permit, but I would have been reluctant. pedestriansA series of random events pushed her licensing date until after her eighteenth birthday, so  Angelle did not need parental signatures.  She is a legal adult, who decided to get a license, but I do not think her emotional maturity or mental decision-making acuity is near that of her chronological age.do_not_cross_double_white_line
Angelle is eighteen and makes her own decisions with respect to many topics. She is “non-compliant” with respect to her prescription mental illness medications, doctor visits and therapy for the disorder.  As a result, she becomes uber-focused on topics that bother her forgetting all responsibilities in the meantime. She suffers from a sort of anxious paranoia and often thinking others obsess about her, other times being obsessed or enamored over others. These are just an example of the many issues that could affect her driving. Whether she passed a written exam and a driving skills test at the Department of Motor Vehicles or not, I do not feel our daughter possesses the emotional stability of a safe driver. Driving exams to not always rule out unsafe drivers.

January 4th: Parental Consent

Angelle has screaming often physical and destructive fits when things do not go her way; she has done this all her life. Although it comes from a place of deep hurt and trauma, she can control it to a degree.  dosanddontsFrom the date of her adoption until her preteen years, I remained in concerned relationship but confronted her struggles, insisted upon medical treatment and medication compliance; which in turn, invoked her wrath. As mentioned in another post, our daughter’s aggressive tendencies made it dangerous for me to parent her alone at the time of our separation.Our parenting styles were and are quite different when it comes to our adopted child of trauma. In our divorce, my ex husband retained guardianship of our troubled daughter.
Angelle and her dad live a rather parallel existence. Her dad avoids the upsets and allows her to own them herself in her teen years. They reside under the same roof in our former family home, but they are not what I would call “in relationship” at home. Sadly, across the miles, neither are she and I. She keeps her mom at arm’s length, likely because she knows that I expect her to follow rules despite her inability to control her temper. Her Dad lets her make rash decisions regardless of rules and suffer the consequences.  In her early years, I tried to “set her up for success”. In her teen years, her increasing demands for autonomy coupled with her dad’s more permissive parenting style introduced her to quite a few self-chosen failures.Lost and Confused Signpost
Just to name a few: Angelle no longer seeks help for mental health issues. She dropped out of high school but will hopefully seek a GED. She refuses to seek employment. She does not take medications as directed by her psychiatrist. She turns night and day upside down. She hangs out with and dates who she chooses. She disregards the law. Granted, she is over eighteen and will have to pay the consequences for her actions, but it still breaks a mother’s heart.

January 3rd: Driver’s Permit and Practice

The second portion of driver’s education in California is the required 50 or so hours behind-the-wheel. An instructor takes the young driver-to-be on city, rural and highway routes containing various driving challenges and decision-making situations during their lessons.

Once the instructor signs off on a base level abilities, the student is nearly eligible to take their driver’s license test, but not until their parents also sign off on the remaining hours.drivers ed

After parents complete the required teen-parent hours, the instructor visits with the student and takes them for one final drive to receive their final stamp of approval.

Driving lessons are a family affair and being the rather jumpy sort, I bowed out. Their dad clocked the mandated hours in the passenger seat checking off the long list of driving situations to which the young drivers needed exposure. With Dad’s and an instructor’s accolades under their wings, Raphaella and Gabriel met the challenge. The big day arrived for each of them: the DMV test! Each of them failed more than once! Each time their self-esteem deflated a bit. All concluded that the examiners at the Dept of Motor Vehicles are mean and ruthless people. Third time is a charm and eventually,  my older kids did pass their exam and have been good, level-headed and law-abiding drivers.

In addition to 6 hours with the “behind the wheel” instructor as mentioned, Angelle required driving instruction time with her dad. Angelle badgered her father to pick up the study guide for the learner’s permit. To our knowledge Angelle never opened the book.  Her dad completed the required hours with her behind the wheel in record time because she would not stop nagging. He claims a dramatic increase in gray hairs with her at the wheel, especially on one very long drive up the central California valley. She and her dad waited in the long DMV line only to discover when their number came up that she did not have the necessary paperwork. Unlike her level-headed siblings, Angelle blew off her last behind-the-wheel instructor hour without informing her dad. She insisted that he take her to the DMV for her road test.People Waiting In Line

A second time, after getting angry at her father for reminding her to collect everything necessary for her application, Angelle forgot a piece of paperwork. They stood in the DMV line for nothing and she, once again, screamed and ranted at her dad the entire ride home.

She hemmed and hawed and finally took her driver’s test just after her 18th birthday, passing it the very first time. Much to my surprise, Angelle’s examiner saw nothing of concern; whereas her brother and sister, who were so well prepared, suffered repeated failures in their early attempts to pass their exams.

January 2nd: Getting a Driver’s Permit


Getting a driver’s license is a right of passage for teenagers.  In most states, in other than those large metro areas where public transit rules, young adults start asking their parents about taking driver’s education as soon as the law allows.  The student takes their permit test at the Department of Motor Vehicles after completion of driving theory. Their driver’s permit is usually valid for one year but the student is technically eligible to get their license after just six months; certain criteria must be met.Teen driver In California that means if you pass the learner’s permit exam by 15 years and six months of age, then you are on the fast track to pass the driver’s licence test at the DMV on your sixteenth birthday! Freedom from pesky parents is so tangible at this point that teens can taste, smell and envision it!

Two of my three children had no driver’s education offered at their high school, so their dad and I paid for private programs. My two bio-kids, Raphaella and Gabriel, in their self-regulated fashion did their due diligence. She found a competitively priced theory class, registered, waited until a school break to attend, participated in the classes, paid attention, took notes. Raphaella attended a number of boring classes in “driving theory” and was able to take practice tests  in class. Gabriel completed driver’s ed at school with the same responsible attitude. They studied for their written driver’s exam, both sweating bullets of worry, but easily passed the test in the first go round.

Angelle, my adopted child of trauma, as with most things she does created a big conflict situation at home concerning her right to drive! She investigated taking driver’s ed online. CA online drivers edShe located and pre-registered for the next available driving theory class without a glance at its cost or a care with respect to timing or workload in the school term. Once in the online class, her other school-related homework fell by the wayside, yet she very likely played and remained connected and updated on all social networks on her telephone during the online instruction, taking little or no notes. Once acquiring the coveted driving course completion certificate, she demanded an appointment at the DMV.

The appointment to take her permit test caused another hullabaloo; it did not matter to her that her father needed to schedule time away from work to accompany her during the limited opening hours at the DMV. Angelle took the test “cold” and failed, ranting all the way home, taking no responsibility for her lack of preparation. She spent the following weekend “studying” through the use of YouTube videos (of what, no one knows). The following week, she waltzed into the Dept of Motor Vehicles and took the test with a passing grade! Now THAT, to me, is frightening!


December 15th: Doomed NOT to Impress

Angelle lives with a perpetual wish list of unattainable goals and tangible wants. There are many expressions for this state of mind. “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” comes to mind. Another one is “Keeping up with the Jones'” or today it is probably Keeping up with the Kardashians! A friend of mine calls this “being a big NH”, Never Happy.

As a ten-year old, Angelle and her school friends in Southern California became aware of Brand Name clothing. She wanted to look fashionable, appear “rich” and mostly be envied by her peers. She requested canvas shoes, no other color than navy blue. She received them but arrived crying from school saying, “They are not Keds!” The following school year her shoes “had to be” Vans suede skateboard style. Her thin feet and narrow ankles would barely stay in the shoe and she tripped every few steps! She made it worse insisting that she tie them loosely and tuck the bow under the tongue, which I heard was “in”. Suddenly, the only acceptable shoe was a high-top Converse. Then came Uggs. In high school, Angelle insisted upon high heels with a capital H. I understand fads in fashion, but I could not understand refusing a perfectly intact shoe that still fit, and I mean complete rejection from that day forward!
wishlist2Brand named electronics and accessories came next. Electronics such as a Nintendo DS, an I-pod Nano, a Smart Phone, a lap top, a newer phone and others appeared on the following years’ wish lists. We could seldom afford her wishes and she hated it.  Although neither her older sister nor I, her mother, splurged on expensive handbags, at twelve my pre-teen wrote “a Coach purse” on her Santa’s wish list! I suggested that we buy a gently used one she found at a thrift store, but she soon realized that her purse was an older model and rejected it. The following year, Angelle specified a “new Coach satin purse with a wrist strap”. I could not justify sending a middle school child off to school with such an expensive clutch!  I knew that Angelle would defy any demand that she only use it for church or family outings. I understood that each gift was for show and she would sneak it off to school.
The students literally compared notes on who owned how many of each coveted item. For a child of trauma with identity struggles and feelings of inferiority, the battle of “the haves and the have-nots” raged. Each year the lists grew more specific, more pseudo-mature and more expensive. Each year the gifts gave less and less pleasure. Each year, Christmas became less and less enjoyable for our family.