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Archive for December, 2008

Yadda yadda

I wasn’t going to blog about this, I swear! I didn’t want to tell anyone, either. I just wanted to quietly go my way and do it, without blathering on about it.

Yeah. Since when did you know me to not blather on about stuff?

So I joined Weight Watchers 3 weeks ago. Again. And I lost a pound the first week and I gained 1.8 pounds last week, but it was Christmas and I didn’t track and I ate lots of chocolately goodness. Oh, and I had pancakes twice at IHOP. They weren’t covered in chocolatey goodness, but they were covered in buttery and maple syrupy goodness, which is really good.

Last night we talked about Christmas letters, and how they sum up the year for their readers. And then we talked about how we’d sum up 2008 in terms of WW. Of course, since I wasn’t attending WW in 2008, except for a few brief weeks, my 2008 WW letter would say that the end of the year found me at my all-time high weight, and I’m round and roly-poly and really don’t like it.  But then we talked about what we want to say in our 2009 WW letter. And that got me thinking. I think I’m going to write my 2009 WW letter today, and stick it in my journal and read it every week, sort of a keeping my goals in focus kind of thing.

Also, in case you’re wondering, I have absolutely zero intention of making New Year’s resolutions.  I have some things I’d like to accomplish this year, but they’re not resolutions. They’re just things I’d like to accomplish. I’ve heard for years about how it takes 21 days to form a new habit or get rid of an old one, but that never seems to work for me. More recently I’ve read that it takes 40 days. And that makes sense to me. I mean, speaking Biblically, it rained for 40 days and 40 nights. And the Saviour spent 40 days fasting in the desert. And isn’t Ramadan a 40-day fast?  Izzybella got me a great guided journal that walks you through a 40 day kind of emotional/mental/spiritual fast. I’ve been meandering through it at my own sweet pace, because I figure the time in which I do it is far less important than the fact that I am doing it. I also got a few other 40-day devotional type books and I’m doing those a day at a time.  I’m keeping a journal where I track my goals and progress, and that’s good enough for me.

So in 2009, I’ll likely keep taking my medicines that have been so beneficial. It’s doubtful that I’ll eat any oatmeal, although I might try it a time or two before I again decide the stuff is inedible.  I’ll probably read a lot. I’ll probably write a lot. I’ll probably get some work on my teeth, maybe even going ahead with braces. Or not. But the things that are really important to me are recorded, and I’ve got a plan. A very planny plan full of awesome planniness.

And you?

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Thrills and Chills

I was really happy on the day after Thanksgiving, when my  husband came home from his shopping excursions with a brand-new dishwasher. We’ve been in our house for about 10 years now, and our dishwasher never worked very well from the beginning. It was one of those cheapies that people put into not-very-nice apartments. We’ve made do, despite the need to thoroughly wash every dish before we could put it into the dishwasher, until the dishwasher gave up the ghost. Even then I still used it as a drying rack for hand-washed dishes.

And I was elated the day before Christmas when my husband came home from his shopping excursions with a brand-new range. It’s one of those flat glass-top ranges. Our old range had been missing the knobs on the controls for the burners since we moved into the house; I replaced them several times, but they never worked very well. And then two of the burners quite working.  And the broiler quit working. And the thermostat was way off, causing some interesting results when I tried baking things. But we made do. And I love my new range–we installed it yesterday afternoon, and I inaugurated it by heating up a bowl of soup before we went over to spend Christmas evening with our best friends.

Today Joe came home with a hot water heater. Our old hot water heater hadn’t been the greatest thing in the world, but it worked. At least, it worked until last week, when we had a hard freeze, and I forgot to leave the faucet dribbling in the big bathroom, and we don’t have central heat and air because our compressor blew and something went wrong with the furnace and it’s way expensive and we’ve been making do with window A/C units and space heaters. But last week when we had that hard freeze, something broke. I’m not quite sure what, some nozzle or something on the hot water heater. It was merrily spilling out water all over the floor, so Joe had to turn off the water at the street. He’s been turning it on a few times a day so we could flush the toilets and wash our hands, but for obvious reasons it could not be left on.  Now we have a lovely new hot water heater. He’s going to get it installed tomorrow, and then I can do the laundry and mop the floors and wash the dishes and take showers and all that. I’d like to say we could have gotten by without it. Unfortunately, unlike the broken dishwasher (I could always wash the dishes by hand) and the less-than-desirable range (I got used to cooking with only two working burners and I haven’t made anything that required broiling), the new hot water heater was an absolute necessity.  And we’ve agreed that a working furnace and A/C unit is the next absolute necessity.

There are definitely times that home ownership is far more trouble than it seems to be worth. However, I will say that with every new improvement we make, every bit of clutter that we haul off to Goodwill, the house is getting to be more and more comfortable, and easier to keep clean.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, I’m in my home away from home until Sunday at noon. So I get to luxuriate in a soft bed with clean sheets and take as many baths and showers as I want to while Joe’s labouring at home to get our water problem fixed. He’s very good to me, and I appreciate him.

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Happy Christmas!

It’s been a perfectly lovely day. Izzybella came over this morning, and we had the grand going through of the stockings and opening of gifts. Then we went to IHOP for breakfast. Joe decreed that we all wear Christmas hats, so I was wearing a Santa hat Izzy was wearing an elf hat, and Joe was wearing the Christmas tree hat that we bought last year in Buffalo.

Apparently plenty of other people thought of going to IHOP for breakfast, as we had to wait a bit before being seated. Two brothers were waiting with their family, holding their new Batman & Superman action figures and being extremely cute. The older boy told the younger boy, “You’re my best friend.” And they hugged each other. Then they made Batman and Superman hug each other, and then Batman kissed the younger brother on the cheek. All very sweet and heart-warming. They were entranced by Joe’s hat.

When we sat in our booth, our server immediately asked Joe if he’d gtten his hat in Buffalo. Turned out she was from Buffalo, and her fiance had purchased the same hat for himself from the same store and was wearing it at the same IHOP. They’re getting married in May in Buffalo, and they are a very cute couple.

Joe’s sickish today; he managed to wake me up during the night to tell me that he was running a fever. He was too–the bedroom was very warm, and he was curled up in a ball next to me, shaking and shivering. I got him some Pedialyte and Tylenol, and then he wanted some Emergen-C and some aspirin, so I fetched that for him as well. The room was so hot that I first took off my shirt, and then pulled off my sweat pants, in a vain effort to cool enough to go back to sleep. He did eventually turn down the heat. He’s a little better today, but refuses to lay down and rest. He’s trying to figure out what went wrong with our hot water heater–the current theory is a broken pipe after the freeze we had a few days ago.

Happy Christmas to you all!!!

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Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time there was an emperor. He was very vain, and refused to wear the same outfit twice. The people in his kingdom resented it, because he didn’t just give away his old clothes. He burned them. Bad emperor!

This vain emperor was also very silly. That means he was easy prey for con artists and hucksters. A couple of these guys got together, and decided to pull a fast one on the emperor.  It wasn’t hard for them to get an audience with the big guy, because he was always interviewing fashion designers.

“Your supreme emperorness,” one of them said, “we have created and designed the ultimate outfit for you.”

The emperor was interested. “Tell me more.”

“Seriously, your emperorship, this is the last outfit you will ever wear.”

That did not go over so well. The dude seriously liked to change clothes. The emperor raised an eyebrow, but haughtily told them to continue.

“This fabric is hand-woven from the threads of an obscure beetle that is found only in the highest peaks of the Andes. And it has a very special quality, one that we believe you will find to be utterly invaluable.”

“Oh?”

“Only a completely honest person will be able to even discern that the fabric is there. Someone wish the slightest taint of dishonesty will think there is no cloth at all.”

The emperor was intrigued. “Do you have a sample to show me?”

“Not at present, milord. The cost is so prohibitive that we are not able to provide any samples until the entire outfit is purchased and paid for.”

“So basically you’re asking me to buy a pig in a poke?”

“Oh, no, emperor sir, for we would never make such a vulgar suggestion to you.” They bowed and behaved very unctuously, and he ate it up. 

Giving the order to his exchequer to purchase the outfit, the emperor returned to his chambers and changed clothes again. 

Several weeks later the emperor was getting impatient.  He ordered his manservant to go and check on the status of his new clothes.

The valet went to the high-tech factory where the cloth was being woven. The salesman greeted him genially and, upon learning his errand, took him down a long hall with several bends and turns, past a high-security room with an eye-scanner, and into a top secret room with 3-foot thick steel walls. There a lowly loom was set up, and a young man sat in front of it, laboriously weaving the threads of the obscure Andean beetle into a cloth that was most glorious–

“Wait a minute!” exclaimed the valet.

“Yes?”

“Um, ehr–” The valet had suddenly remembered that dishonest people couldn’t see the cloth. He enjoyed the benefits of working for the emperor. “That’s absolutely exquisite. Can you tell me when it will be finished?”

The salesman chuckled, as did the weaver. “Quality cannot be rushed, young man.”

The valet bowed a few times and then hastily returned to the palace to share the news with the emperor.

Another month passed, and the suit still had not been delivered to the palace. The emperor was highly aggravated, and sent his Lord High Chamberlain. Of course he could have sent the valet again, but it occurred to him that this would be a good way to test the honesty of the Lord High Chamberlain.

When the Lord High Chamberlain arrived at the factory, he too was greeted and taken down a series of corridors into a top-secret room. There he saw a dressmaker’s dummy, and a man sewing patiently on a glorious suit of—

“Hey! Wait a minute!” exclaimed the Lord High Chancellor before he, too, remembered that to say he saw nothing meant that he was dishonest. He did not think he was dishonest, but dared not risk displaying his inability to see the cloth.

“Yes?”

“Um, I don’t like the drape of the robes. Have your man fix them and deliver it to the palace at once.”

“Of course, milord. They will be delivered promptly at eight o’clock tomorrow morning.”

“Excellent. Thank you,” said the Lord High Chancelor, bowing himself out of the factory.

The emperor was thrilled that his new suit was arriving at last. He ordered that a parade be organized to allow him to both display this glorious new outfit. He also instructed his secretaries to write down the names of everyone in the kingdom who was unable to see the fabric. “At last,” he pompously proclaimed, “I will know who is honest.”

The suit was delivered promptly at eight o’clock the following morning, and as his valet laid it out in front of him, the emperor was a little perplexed. Hmmmm, he thought. I can’t see anything. Holy cow! I’m dishonest! But wait–I’m the emperor. I get to be dishonest. It’s in the job duties. Thus dissimulating, the emperor allowed himself to be clad in what felt like nothing at all.

He paraded gravely through his palace, to loud cries of great acclaim. He began to sweat a little. They can all see the cloth, but I cannot. Am I the only unjust man in the empire?

He got to the front of his palace and led the procession through the surrounding village. People gasped and applauded the exquisite outfit, and he began to think that he could carry it off.  Perhaps it doesn’t matter that I’m dishonest. If they can all see it, and it IS in the job description for an emperor, well, it’ll be ok ay. They’ll never know.

Then he found himself face-to-face with a little boy. The child gazed up at him in speechless wonder.

The emperor patted the little boy gravely on the head. “You may speak to us,” he said.

The crowd held its cumulative breath and waited to hear what the child would say.

The little boy extended one arm, pointing, and said, “I can see your wee-wee!”

And suddenly the emperor, and everyone in his village and household, knew that they had been conned. I’d like to say that the emperor changed and was an honest man from that point forward, but I’d be lying. And that would kind of defeat the point, wouldn’t it?

The end.

(And I have a nakey emperor finger puppet that was going into Izzybella’s stocking until I decided that I needed it more than she. But it’s not anatomically correct.)

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A Perfectly Executed Prank

I love it when I come up with a good idea. I also love giving gifts. Keeping secrets, however, I’m not so good at.  Izzy can tell you–I’ll get her something for Christmas or something, and will be so excited that I either drop so many anvil-sized hints that she figures it out, or else I give it to her early because I can’t wait. (Okay, so I kept the nakey emperor finger puppet, but that’s different.)

We do Secret Santa each year at work, and I’m always in with the managers. I got the same person this year that I got last year. He’s just the nicest guy you could ever hope to meet. Very conservative, very friendly and outgoing. I have really enjoyed knowing him.  He listed a few items on his wish list, and I decided to get him the Star Wars Trilogy. It fit within the $25 budget that was set. But that wasn’t good enough. I needed to pull a prank.

My co-conspirator had the DVD set in hand, with a sticky note that read “Gotcha!”  Meanwhile, I’d wrapped up a rock star kit (fake tattoos, bright yellow hair glue [he doesn’t have a lot of hair, and what hair he has is cut very, very, VERY short], a Ramones CD, a Radiohead CD, an inflatable guitar, and an inflantable microphone). That’s what I took with me to the gift exchange today.

He took very well to being teased, and promised to listen to the CDs even though they’re not his typical musical fare. And he loved the inflatable guitar and microphone.

But the best thing of all was when he got back to his desk and found the DVD set that Sarah had slipped in there while we were doing the gift exchange.

Seriously? This was fun.

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For the last year and a bit, I’ve had a library card at the Bedford Public Library, just a couple of miles from my old office. I heart the Bedford Public Library, and during the time I’ve had that library card, I’ve paid a record low amount (for me) in library fines. I attribute that to the fact that it was just a couple of miles from my old office, and I frequently went during my lunch hour.

When my company moved, therefore, to Lewisville, I was disconsolate. Sure, I can (and do) still use the Bedford Public Library, as it’s only 6 miles from my house. But I loved being able to go during my lunch hour. It was a pleasant way to spend some time, got me out of the office, and got some good reading material into my hands.

Never fear, though! The Lewisville Public Library has come to my rescue. It finally dawned on me today to look them up and see if I can get a library card. I am informed that any resident of the great state of Texas, with proper identification, can obtain a library card at the Lewisville public library.

Guess where I’m spending my lunch hour tomorrow?

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Got Plans, eh?

Janet, I promise I’ll give you a Word of Wisdom post tonight or tomorrow night. ‘K?

Anyway, last night Joe and I were at Target. While he was in the checkout line (and I, incidentally, was in the ladies room), the lights suddenly went out. They popped on again for a moment, then dimmed again. I hastily finished what I was doing and went to find him. The lights were still dim in the store, but had gradually brightened to the point they were back to normal by the time I found him.

The checker was very apologetic–as if she had any control over the situation–and a manager hastily went around giving $3 inconvenience coupons to all the customers in line.  Joe was tired and headache-y, as was I, but I kept joking around with the checker. She reminded me of Gypsy, which is a good thing indeed.

The guy who was in line behind us wasn’t complainey, but he didn’t seem to be overly happy, either.  I glanced at his small pile of items that he’d placed on the conveyer belt behind our items, and knew immediately why he wasn’t overly happy. He had a box of creme brulee, a pair of gelled insoles (and I’m still trying to figure out how those fit in, and not too sure I want to know), and two boxes of–dunh-dunh-dunh–condoms!

It took everything in me to avoid sniggering or pointing it out. The computers took a long time to come back online, and I think the computer at our lane was the last to come online. He hastily jumped into another line and was out of the store before our items were checked.  So I finally got to tell Joe about it, and he snickered. Not maliciously, you understand. It was just one of those purchases that, were I a checker as well as a writer, I’d go home and write about because it was so funny.

It reminds me of the day, many years ago, when I was at the UTA bookstore purchasing a box of tampons, a box of Ritz crackers, a bottle of ibuprofen, and a huge bar of chocolate. The checker was a woman, and as we looked each other in the eyes, there was no need to say anything. She understood. I’m not sure that she’d have understood the little cracker-chocolate sandwiches I consumed with gusto, though. Heck, I’m not even sure I understand it, as I’ve never done it since. But on that horrible, horrible day, they totally hit the spot.

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On Friendship

I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on the nature of friendship, because I’ve been blessed with some of the best friends a person could ask for, and I’ve also been cursed with some really bad friends.  I found the following excerpt in a book at Project Gutenberg, and it expressed some of the very things I’ve had on my mind. (Okay, yes, it’s very wordy and flowery; it was written in 1847.)  If you’d like to read the book, it’s A Ladies’ Vase, by An American Lady.

It is the language of books, and the language of society, that friends are inconstant, and friendship but little to be depended on; and the belief, where it is really received, goes far to make a truth of that which else were false, by creating what it suspects. Few of us but have lived already long enough to know the bitterness of [24]being disappointed in our affections, and deceived in our calculations by those with whom, in the various relationships of life, we are brought in contact. Perhaps the aggregate of pain from this cause is greater than from any other cause whatever. And yet, it is much to be doubted whether nearly the whole of this suffering does not arise from our own unreasonable and mistaken expectations. There are none so unfortunate but they meet with some kindness in the world; and none, I believe, so fortunate but that they meet with much less than they might do, were it not their own fault.

In the first place, we are mistaken in our expectations that friendship should be disinterested. It neither is, nor can be. It may be so in action, but never in the sentiment; there is always an equivalent to be returned. And if we examine the movements of our own hearts, we must be sure this is the case; and yet, we are so unreasonable as to expect our friends should be purely disinterested; and, after having secured their affections, we neglect to pay the price, and expect they should be continued to us for nothing. We grow careless of pleasing them; inconsiderate of their feelings, and heedless of the government of our own temper towards them; and then we complain of inconstancy, if they like us not so well as when dressed out in our best for the reception of their favor. Yet it is, in fact, we that are changed, not they.

Another fruitful source of disappointment in [25]our attachments is, that while we are much more quick in detecting the faults of others than our own, we absurdly require that every one should be faultless but ourselves. We do not say that we expect this in our friends; but we do expect it, and our conduct proves that we expect it. We begin also with believing it. The obscurities of distance; the vail that the proprieties of society casts over nature’s deformities; the dazzling glitter of exterior qualities baffle, for a time, our most penetrating glances, and the imperfect vision seems all that we should have it. Our inexperienced hearts, and some indeed that should be better taught, fondly believe it to be all it seems, and begin their attachment in full hope to find it so. What wonder then that the bitterest disappointment should ensue, when, on more close acquaintance, we find them full of imperfections, perhaps of most glaring faults; and we begin to express disgust, sometimes even resentment, that they are not what we took them for.

But was this their fault, or ours? Did they not present themselves to us in the garb of mortal flesh?—and do we not know that mortals are imperfect?—that, however the outside be fair, the interior is corrupt, and sometimes vile? He who knows all, alone knows how corrupt it is! the heart itself, enlightened by His grace, is more deeply in the secret than any without can be; but if the thing we love be mortal, something of it we must perceive; and more and more of it we must perceive as we look closer. If this is to disap[26]point and revolt us, and draw harsh reproaches and bitter recriminations from our lips, there is but One on whom we can fix our hearts with safety; and He is one, alas! we show so little disposition to love, as proves that, with all our complainings and bewailings of each others’ faultiness, our friends are as good as will, at present, suit us.

But are we, therefore, to say there is no such thing as friendship, or that it is not worth seeking? morosely repel it, or suspiciously distrust it? If we do, we shall pay our folly’s price in the forfeiture of that, without which, however we may pretend, we never are or can be happy; preferring to go without the very greatest of all earthly good, because it is not what, perhaps, it may be in heaven. Rather than this, it would be wise so to moderate our expectation, and adapt our conduct, as to gain of it a greater measure, or, as far as may be possible, to gather of its flowers without exposing ourselves to be wounded by the thorns it bears. This is only to be done by setting out in life with juster feelings and fairer expectations.

It is not true, that friends are few and kindness rare. No one ever needed friends, and deserved them, and found them not; but we do not know them when we see them, or deal with them justly when we have them. We must allow others to be as variable, and imperfect, and faulty, as ourselves. We do not wish our readers to love their friends less, but to love them as what they are, rather than as what they wish them to be; and instead of the jealous pertinacity that is wounded by [27]every appearance of change, and disgusted by every detection of a fault, and ready to distrust and cast away the kindest friends on every trifling difference of behavior and feeling, to cultivate a moderation in their demands; a patient allowance for the effect of time and circumstance; an indulgence towards peculiarities of temper and character; and, above all, such a close examination of what passes in their own hearts, as will teach them better to understand and excuse what they detect in the hearts of others; ever remembering that all things on earth are earthly; and therefore changeful, perishable, and uncertain.

If we expect perfection in our friends, we’re bound to be disappointed. Our friends are as flawed as we ourselves are, and often in the very same ways. We despise what we see as our flaws, and we expect our friends to be free of those flaws. When we find they’re not, we can choose to accept and love their humanity, or we can reject it, and them, which brings no one any joy.

I’ve found that people who complain about how their friends always let them down are often the cause of their lack of friendship. If you don’t forgive another person’s errors, you’re going to be a very lonely person.

Fortunately, I have fantastic friends. Some are because of family (Joe, Izzybella); some I’ve met through church (Clover); some I’ve met through work (Sarah-bear); some I’ve met through the internet (Janet, Gypsy, Chicory); and some I’ve met through school and common interests and other friends (Jehara, Amethyst). All these friends have enriched my life in so many ways, and I’m thankful for every one of them, not in the least because they put up with me.

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NOT the same thing

Disinterested.

Uninterested.

Not the same thing, not at all. No! If you mean someone is not the least bit interested in whatever is happening, then you would say s/he is uninterested.  But if you mean that someone is a fair and impartial party in a situation, then you would say that person is disinterested.

I won’t even get going on its and it’s; there, their, and they’re; and who’s and whose. That’s a rant for another day.

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A little CPS info

My CPS posts tend to get a lot of traffic. I haven’t worked there in a few years, but it’s by far the most memorable job I’ve ever had. I would encourage anyone with questions to please e-mail me at chauceriangirl(at)gmail(dot)com if you’d like a private response. I do not speak for CPS, of course, but I can talk to you based on my experience there.

In response to a question recently asked, no, there is no quota for CPS. We always want to leave children with their families, and the times that children must be removed for their own safety are very carefully considered from a legal standpoint as well as a child welfare standpoint.

Here’s a rough chain of events:

1. Someone calls the state number with a report of abuse/neglect.
2. The employee who takes the report checks to see if that family has any previous history. Some cases are closed at intake, for various reasons. The other cases are given a priority based on the available information.
3. The case goes to a supervisor in the appropriate area.
4. The supervisor assigns it to a caseworker for investigation.
5. Based on the priority, the caseworker immediately goes out on the case, or goes out within a certain established timeframe.
6. The caseworker visits with the child(ren), the family, gets references, and does everything s/he can to establish the veracity of each report.
7. The caseworker then discusses the case with his/her supervisor to determine whether the allegations can be ruled out (and it always made me happy to be able to rule out a report), or whether they are unable to determine, or found to be with cause. The caseworker and supervisor also discuss whether there are any services that it might be appropriate to offer the family to help it become more stable.
8. Sometimes the allegations are found to be with cause, and sometimes they are serious enough that it seems a child should be removed from the home for his or her safety. In those cases, the caseworker, supervisor, and representatives from other groups, including tlegal, meet on the phone to discuss possible options.
9. If a child is removed from the home, the state laws provide timelines during which certain things have to happen. The child is provided with an advocate; the parents have caseworkers to work with them; and everything that can reasonably be done to reunite the family takes place. Obviously, sometimes the parents do not fulfill their requirements, and the children end up having to spend more time in foster care as the legal process continues to work. And sadly, sometimes parents lose their parental rights. From the caseworker’s point of view, this isn’t a good thing. Children belong witbh their families, but they need to be kept safe.

It is sad that people make false reports to cause trouble for other people, or because they are misinterpreting events. I know that there were many times I looked at a report, immediately thought that it was probably a divorce case, and found that it was. However, that does not mean that I took the allegations any less seriously. I investigated each case in depth to find out the truth.

It’s scary when CPS comes knocking at your door. But your caseworker is there to help. Talk to him/her; if you feel that you’re not being listened to, ask for the supervisor’s number. Cooperate with the investigation as much as possible–if the caseworker asks you to take a drug test, do it. Failure to do so will make you look like you’re hiding something, even if you’re not. Be honest with your caseworker. The more you work with him or her, the easier the investigation will be on your entire family.

I just want to stress again that every caseworker I know always wanted the safety of the child(ren) first and foremost, and preferably within the home, and do everything they can to make that happen.

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