Saturday, May 26, 2007

Book Review: The Lost Children of Wilder

A couple days ago I finished The Lost Children of Wilder: The Epic Struggle to Change Foster Care. Although at first the writing style annoyed me, about half way through the story started to pick up some momentum and I began to get into it. The book uses the story of Shirley Wilder and her son Lamont Wilder, both of whom spent their entire childhood in foster care, to illustrate the problems with New York's foster care system and foster care generally. In addition the book follows the case bearing Shirley Wilder's name and Marcia Lowry, the lawyer who brought the case against the city and the religious foster care agencies. It is a powerful story and it really demonstrates what a difficult and emotionally charged problem the care of children who's parents are not able to care for them is.

One of the main things I got out of this book was a better understanding of how children end up in foster care. I had assumed that children in foster care came exclusively from homes where they were abused or intentionally neglected, but the author makes clear that many children end up in foster care simply because their parents cannot afford to care for them. This is a failure of our society, rather than a failure on the part of the parents and is more proof that for all our talk of "family values" we don't value families enough to take care of them. It is so odd that we would rather pay strangers to care for a child than give the child's own parents the assistance they need to raise the child themselves.

There really wasn't a happy ending and the case itself seemed to do little to really bring about change other than focusing attention on the problem (which certainly isn't nothing as the attention did bring about changes, but few changes were achieved through the law). In a way it was kind of discouraging because this issue is one I am interested in, but the book left me with the feeling that even if I dedicated my life to improving the lives of children in foster care, as Marcia Lowry did, I might, in the end, feel that I hadn't accomplished anything.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Looking Back and Ahead

Back in January I shared my goals for this semester. Since the semester seems to be over for almost everybody who was in school I figured I would go back and see how I did, and maybe set some new goals for the summer.

These were my goals for this semester:

  • Keep my son alive and healthy: He has now completely recovered from last week's stomach bug, and, other than being extra cranky due to teething (finally!), is doing well, so check.

  • Keep my son from torturing the dog: Check. We actually had an incident where my dog snapped at my son, not because the baby was torturing her, but just because she was in a tight space with the baby crawling toward her and she felt trapped, so now I keep them well apart.

  • Do my taxes: Check!

  • Fill out financial aid applications: Check!

  • Decide which law school to go to in the fall: Check!

  • Sell our house: Check!

  • Find a place to live: Check!

  • Do some reading to prepare for law school: define "some."

  • Go see a movie with hubby: as zuska predicted, this was the hardest -- we have not been to a movie.

So for this summer my main goal is to find daycare for the little guy. I have a list of family daycares near me that accept children his age, so I need to start calling them to see if they have any openings. It looks like hubby is going to be able to start working from home soon, which means that hopefully we will be able to work it out so that the little guy isn't in daycare for more than about 6 hours a day. In the morning hubby can keep an eye on the little guy while checking email and doing some of the more mundane tasks of his job, then drop him off at daycare around 10 or 11, and hopefully I will be done with school around 4 or so and can pick him up then. I'm hoping that the family daycares can be fairly flexible about when we drop off and pick up the little guy so that if I have a particularly long or short day, or hubby needs more baby-free time to get things done that we will be able to adjust our schedule.

(By the way, I am going to try calling my son "the little guy" or maybe "LG" for short, because "my son" and "the baby" sound so impersonal and DS is so un-original).

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Excuses for the lack of posts

In lieu of a substantive post -- because I'm just not up for it -- here are my excuses for the lack of posts in the past two weeks:

  • Baby and I were out of town for six days.

  • Before we had a chance to recover from the jet lag, we all got sick. Rather disgustingly sick.

  • I've been watching too much TV. Somehow I doubt I will be watching much TV over the next three years, so I guess I am trying to get it out of my system now.

  • Nothing law-school-related has been going on.

Ok, now that my excuses are out of the way, I promise to get back to posting in the next few days. Please stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Installing Software for Law School, Part II

Aside from taking notes, the other important thing I need my laptop to do for me is help me keep track of what I need to be doing for my classes, for any other activities I get involved in, and also to take care of myself and my family. So, a good task management program and calendar is essential. And, for me at least, I think that task management is more important than a calendar. I may change my mind about this once school starts and I have a lot more things going on, but I feel like a program that helps me be productive during my unscheduled time is more important than a program that keeps track of my scheduled events. So these are the programs I have installed to help me manage my time:

Life Balance -- This is a great task management program which is available for Windows, Mac, and Palm. It is not cheap, but I haven't found anything else that has the features that this program has. The program allows you to break your goals down into tasks and sub-tasks, and sub-sub-tasks, ad infinitum. It allows you to specify whether tasks must be completed in order -- i.e. if one of your tasks is to write a paper, you might break it down into "pick a topic," "do research" and "write an outline," etc, and then specify that those tasks must be done in order, so that the program doesn't tell you to write an outline before you have even picked your topic. It lets you specify places for your tasks and even specify hours that those places are open -- so if one of your tasks is to go to the bank that task will only come up when the bank is open and you could actually go there. You can specify whether each task is a one time thing, something that has to be done by a due date, something that has to be done at a certain time (an appointment), or something that has to be done routinely (like once a week) and then you can set how much lead time you need for each task so that the program can start reminding you to do your task in time for you to get it done. You can probably tell I really like this program -- I haven't even mentioned the balancing part of Life Balance, but you can find out about that on their website.

Rainlendar -- Although Life Balance can keep track of appointments, that is not really what it is best at, so I do need some kind of calendar program. I chose Rainlendar because it is a great little program that I can keep open on my desktop all the time that provides a visual representation of the events on my calendar, and because it is free. It looks like a gadget, and I wish it were because I keep it on the right side where the windows sidebar is and sometimes the sidebar interferes with me being able to click on it. Anyway, I love the little icons and the way the days can be displayed in different colors depending on what type of things are going on that day. Also, it is pretty easy to customize the display -- I took the skin it came with and changed it just a little to be more appropriate for me (i.e. less business categories, more school categories). Rainlendar uses standard iCalendar format, can display multiple calendars, and, if you buy the pro version, can display online calendars and Outlook appointments.