Monday, November 24, 2014

“This is not a math problem, Claud, this is dinner.” BSC #62: Kristy and the Worst Kid Ever

I remember being really interested in this book when it first came out. My aunt and uncle had just signed up as foster parents with the intent to adopt. It would be a couple of years before I met the little girl they adopted, but when I did meet her, I was expecting her to behave a lot like Lou did in this book despite the fact that a) she’d been living with my relatives more than half her life and b) had only been in foster care a short time.
The Papadakises take in a foster child, Lou, who basically causes minor problems for them for a couple weeks. She recently lost her father and her mother ran out on her sometime back. Lou pushes the boundaries and tests everyone around her, refusing to make friends with Hannie or Linny or follow the Papadakises’ rules. Eventually, her aunt and uncle are found and agree to raise Lou and her brother.
Meanwhile, SMS is holding a charity auction to buy new computers. The BSC writes to a bunch of celebrities they all send autographed ‘stuff’ (jackets and photos and toe shoes and all other kinds of crap) to be auctioned.
And yes, Tessie did comment on the whole ‘foster parent/social worker’ aspect of things. Her take is interspersed in the tidbits.
Interesting Tidbits
I think it’s worth repeating the fact that Watson seems to find thousands of things to do with his weekend, especially while Karen and Andrew are visiting. I’m not saying that his life should stop when his ‘real’ children arrive (I find the idea that he should treat his biological children better than his stepchildren offensive) but it does seem Kristy spends more time babysitting DM and EM when Karen and Andrew are around.
Speaking of DM and EM, Watson and Elizabeth should adopt another kid and call it, say, Fawn Marie or Frank Martin so that the kid can be FM.
Here’s an example of why I hate Karen, outside of the obvious:
            Hannie: Guess what.
            Karen: You won a trip to the moon!
Okay, I don’t have an issue with the fact that instead of just saying ‘What?!?’ like most people would, Karen has to guess. But she has to guess something so completely impossible and then keep guessing until she pisses Hannie off.
And then she has to correct Kristy’s grammar. It ticks me off enough with then babysitters do that to their clients (so not their jobs, unless the parent requests it), but it’s just obnoxious coming out of a seven-year-old. Doubly so because it’s Karen.
Fashionable Dresser is apparently a capitalized title these days. I’d rather stick to lower-case yoga pants and t-shirt, thank you.
YES! Kristy describes Dawn as sensitive. It’s pretty accurate, for once. She may not cry at the drop of a hat like Mary Anne does, but she really does have a sensitive side. (For those of you who want to crow about me saying nice things about Dawn two weeks in a row, I’m going to repeat: I don’t hate Dawn; I just find her slightly annoying. What I hate is that she’s always described as being an individual and not caring what others think when that couldn’t be further from the truth.)
Okay, for those of you not too up on the foster care system, a little lesson (not directly courtesy of Tessie, although she is one of my major sources): The goal of the foster care system is to provide temporary housing to children who, for whatever reason, cannot live at home at that moment. It’s only one part of the parent organization, which goes by different names in different states. I grew up in Illinois, where it is known as Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS). The goal of DCFS (no matter what the name) is to keep families together and, when they must be separated, to put them back together as quickly as possible. Many of the children have been neglected, sexually, emotionally or physically abused. It takes a very special person to be able—and willing—to handle foster children.
Claudia’s musing about the school lunch. She calls it a ‘study in winter tones,’ and suggests shellacking it and hanging it on the wall.
EM calls DM ‘Davie.’ It’s a lot fewer syllables for her to try to pronounce.
Tessie Says: Kristy thinks the social worker’s car looks ‘official.’ Because social workers travel a lot for their jobs, they often use state-owned cars.
I have always remembered this: When Lou first shows up, she heads back out to the car after meeting Mrs. Papadakis and walks over the car and in through the window to get her backs. I think they mean it as a sign that she’s ‘bad.’
The Karen, Hannie and Nancy actually get into an argument over what color to paint their stupid playhouse. It would be really boring except for the fact that Nancy is being just as stubborn as Karen. I do so love to see someone stand up to her and not back down.
Lou starts complaining that the Papadakises have too many rules. (Speaking of, I just realized that Mary Anne is babysitting for all the following children: Karen, DM, EM, Nancy, Hannie, Linny and Lou. Shouldn’t there be a second sitter? And where’s Andrew?) None of the rules are too serious, but since Lou grew up without rules, she rebels against them. Her horrible act of rebellion? She breaks a rule…by trying to go to the park without permission.
Tessie Says: Two comments about this scene. First, rebelling against rules is a gimme for all kids, but especially foster kids. They have to figure out where the lines are drawn. Many of them have been threatened in the past but their parent-figure never followed through. Lou has to test the Papadakises (and Mary Anne) to see if they’re serious about these rules.
Second, when Lou walks off, Mary Anne grabs her by the arm and then basically pulls her around the street. You cannot get physical when disciplining foster children. The Papadakis family would have been trained not to physically force her to do anything. If a child has been physically abused, even an act like grabbing them by the wrist and pulling them around could bring up those memories. Foster parents and social workers become experts at gaining enough trust with children to get them to do things without being physical. (There are exceptions, but they would be for very small children (the kind that have to be carried anyway) or for children with serious problems that would have to be restrained to protect them from hurting themselves.)
After the incident with MA, Lou looks pleased and MA finds it hard to ‘feel sorry’ for her anymore after that. She thinks it means that Lou is pleased with all the trouble she’s causing, but that’s not how it looks to me.
I liked the moment when MA suggests that, for the auction, Cokie will donate mean lessons. I mean, even nice, sensitive people have moments of being snarky.
Ha ha ha ha! Linny has to write a report on a state for school, so he picked Rhode Island…because it’s the smallest and he figured it would be easier. I actually wrote a report on Rhode Island in fourth grade myself, but I picked it because that’s where my family lived, not because I thought it would be easier. (Kristy tells him she used to do that with books until she accidentally chose The Old Man and the Sea. I still don’t understand the metaphor in that one.)
Tessie says: Again, during Kristy’s babysitting job, she keeps trying to touch Lou (put a hand on her shoulder, that sort of thing) but Lou keeps jerking away from her. It’s a better policy to be hands-off. Kristy was doing really well building a rapport with Lou until she touched her. Some foster kids love hugs and crave them, but you have to be very careful again in case they’ve been sexually abused.
Why would Kristy eat the ‘sea legs special’ at SMS? I love seafood but that sounds flat-out disgusting.
Interestingly enough, the Papadakis kids have shown up in nearly every chapter so far in this book (through chapter nine) but we have yet to see Sari.
The title quote comes from Claudia musing—she’s much funnier than normal in this book—about how pizza is like a math problem.
OMG! Watson and Elizabeth took the kids (including Karen and Andrew) to the movies. They do actually spend time with their children!
This made me laugh: Stacey wants to watch The Wizard of Oz, even though Mallory’s sick of it and Dawn says the tornado at the beginning is scary. So Stacey amends her request…she just wants to watch the tornado. Is she trying to piss Dawn off?
Realistic-ness. First the BSC has a giant, multi-room pillow fight at their sleepover, then they wake up in the morning to realize they left a mess. They made chocolate covered popcorn. Jessi: “And we left the dirty pan to soak. I guess we forgot to put water in it.” Sounds like my kitchen.
The chocolate covered popcorn was part of the “gross food combo” game the BSC was playing…despite the fact that chocolate covered popcorn is AWESOME. MA says that Fritos dipped in butterscotch pudding tasted good, and she does the unthinkable: she grosses Kristy out.
I knew I forgot something. Let’s talk about the cover. Yes, in the middle of chapter ten, because that’s where this scene happens. Lou’s wearing her overalls and sweater combo again. That’s Boo-Boo Lou has in the bag, and Hannie (definitely—she always has those pigtails) and Linny (I assume) watching. It could also be David Michael. Honestly, the boy looks too enthusiastic to be either boy, who were both unhappy with Lou.

Oh, and that’s one low-rent TV Watson-the-millionaire has there.
Tessie Says: Kristy thinks Lou is the worst kid she’s ever met, but her actions are actually very mild for a foster child. She didn’t run away from home, didn’t hit, kick, or bite anyone, did her homework and never even rebelled all that much. And unlike some of the kids I’ve supervised, she never sexually abused the other kids in her foster home. Yes, I’m talking about kids Lou’s age. She’s more of a scared, sad kid than a truly bad one.*
Ooh, bad pun time! Dawn explains that cats chase things by nature and it’s a trick; instead it’s a trait of all cats. Linny (he of the awesome egg puns) replies, “Trick or trait!”
Dawn actually lifts Lou off the ground and carries her up the stairs. I don’t have to have Tessie point out (again) that you can’t be that physical with foster kids. Especially because in this case, it was a total overreaction. Lou hadn’t done anything that bad: she put brownie batter in Hannie’s hair. Yes, it’s childish, but it’s not worth the ‘lock the kid in the room’ that Dawn pulls on Lou. She probably could have gotten the same results by telling Lou she couldn’t have any brownies.
Hannie tears up and tells Lou she hates her, but that’s the result of a build-up of what’s been going on through the whole book. Hannie’s been angrier and more stern than that character usually is. (Despite the fact that she’s such good friends with Karen, I like Hannie. She’s the kind of friend I had when I was growing up. Instead of painting ‘playhouses’, we painted an old, non-working tractor.)
Despite that, Dawn is the first one to get to see the real Lou. She finds Lou in Hannie’s room…not destroying it like I would have done at that age, but holding a baby doll and crying. She gets Lou talking by sitting back and listening to her and discovers that Lou feels like everyone abandons her…her mom (who left the family), her dad (who died) and even her dog (who ran away).
Um, I’m no social worker. But shouldn’t Mrs. Graves (Lou’s actual social worker) have waited until she’d spoken with the Papadakises before telling Lou they’d found an uncle willing to take in her and her brother? She had to anticipate the kind of reaction she’d get. Is she new to the job?
Then, to make things worse, when Lou goes berzerk, she just stands back and actually calls Kristy—the babysitter!—in to try and calm her down.
Kristy is, however, the one who finds Lou when she remembers that Lou said she used to go to the stream near her house a lot. She finds Lou sitting next to the brook (hey…is it a Stoney Brook?) and convinces her to go back to the Papadakises’.
Kristy almost cries when Lou meets her new puppy for the first time, but then Claudia speaks up and saves the day. The words of wisdom? “Look. M&M chocolate chip cookies. Boy, Mrs. Papadakis sure knows how to give a party!”
I had forgotten that Kristy gives Lou a copy of one of my favorite books at the end of the story! Throughout the whole book, I was comparing Lou to The Great Gilly Hopkins, who keeps wishing for the mother who abandoned her and isn’t pleased to leave a great foster home and live with relatives.
So. The most expensive item at the auction? Neither the three minute CD shopping spree donated by Cokie, nor the Cam Geary jacket of (alleged) awesomeness. It was 24 hours of babysitting time from the BSC. I would really love to know a) what sucker bought that and b) exactly how much that cost. In order to beat the jacket, it would have to be more than $100. Honestly, in those days, you could probably just call the BSC and get a sitter cheaper than what the winner paid. What a rip off.
*Right after I finished this book I picked up a true-crime book about a family that makes Lou’s situation look positively normal. The dad had twelve kids and had sexually abused almost all of them. His daughters had four children and three of them were his. (Ew!) He’d even had marriage ceremonies with most of his daughters. His twelve-year-old daughter, along with all the other minor children, was placed in foster care, where she spoke vulgarly, refused to bathe or care for herself, refused to follow family routines or do homework, had constant nightmares, saw her father and brothers everywhere and feared for her life. Then she had a psychotic break and tried to kill the foster mother she normally loved. Makes Lou seem like a dream child, huh? I’m going to try to find a link about the story.
Claudia: purple and white stockings, Doc Martins (sic), short black ruffled skirt, cropped purple sweater, black velvet hat
Stacey: green shoes, silver capri pants, oversized shirt, green belt, short green checked skirt, gold leaf earrings
Lou: jeans, shirt, loose sweater; scarf around neck, baseball cap, overalls, red
turtleneck; same overalls with a sweater
Sari: red white and blue playsuit, one red shoe and one blue
New characters
Jay and Louisa (Lou) McNally (11 and 8): 32 and 29

Next week: Time for more Kristy: Mystery #9 Kristy and the Haunted Mansion

1 comment:

  1. I love your comment about "lower case yoga pants and t-shirts." Really funny!

    It was also really interesting to read the insights from Tess.