Saturday, November 21, 2015

Day 905

Nov. 20, 2015

Day 905


Well, today didn't start out as planned.  Lizzie bought herself a kindle this week and since it came we've had all kinds of trouble with the content from Sam's kindle getting onto hers and stuff like that.  I really hate electronics... so, I called Kindle today and was on the phone with them for TWO hours while my kids went crazy and started bleeding and yelling at each other.  Argh...


But I do think the problem is resolved.  And the people at Amazon/Kindle are super nice on the phone, even if they have hard-to-understand Indian accents.


We have snow!  Lots of snow!  Not as much as some parts of the state, but I think we have a good 5-6" outdoors.  The kids are beyond excited.  It started snowing in earnest around 5 last night and when we got home Sam and Lizzie were outside playing in it and then requesting hot chocolate at 8:30 pm (which ended up being buggy, a fact they didn't discover until they had drank most of it - I may have just scarred them, as well as given them some intestinal parasites).


Actually, I wasn't too thrilled about the snow last night.  For months, David has been planning on attending the Back on Track conference which is something they started doing for the teens in the area this time every year.  I think it's designed to kind of renew the camp fever that they come home with every July and August.  This year's theme has to do with God in the midst of suffering.  So, David was especially interested in attending.  By the time I got halfway to church the snow was really coming down.  I got him there and turned around and went home and it was the most harrowing drive I've had in a long time.  I had a great deal of difficulty seeing because the snow was coming right at me.   The roads were slick and I had a couple of instances were I began to spin - one time on the hill leading into Swan, which has steep ditches on either side of it.  Fortunately, God kept us on the road and I did make it home.


But I knew I couldn't go back out at 10 and retrieve him.  It's a two day conference.  They were coming back last night and going back this morning.  So I did some quick texting and found a place for him to spend the night with one of the other youth group guys that went.  I'll have to get him this afternoon but the roads have been plowed now and it's sunny out. Of course, last night I couldn't help but lament the fact that if Paul was still alive he could go retrieve David late at night in the snow.  He never minded driving in it.  Sigh...


And next week we're supposed to have some days in the 50s, so I think we'll probably lose most of the snow.  I'm not complaining.  The older I get, the less I like the snow - because of things like last night.


But it sure is pretty.


The last of my fall birthdays was Tuesday, with Ben's 19th.  I'm always relieved once his arrives.  It is work  to get through 4 birthdays and Halloween, all within 3 1/2 weeks!


He had his very last IEP meeting on his birthday, too.  So I brought cupcakes.  We didn't have a ton of stuff to discuss, mostly because it's his senior year.  He's not doing a whole lot of academics because he's doing so much work experience.  But, they did tell me is reading at an 11th grade level now, which blows my mind.  When he started 9th grade, he was barely at a 5th grade level.  His teachers and principal all made the comment that what you see on the surface with Ben is not all there is.  They said he knows so much more than he lets on or that anyone would dream, just meeting him.  I know that - my mom's been telling me that since he was two years old!


We left the meeting and there were a group of girls, maybe a dozen or so, sitting in the hallway for some reason (school was out - they must have been part of an after-school group) and when they saw Ben they burst into, "Happy birthday to You!" and serenaded him.  Sweet.  The white board in his classroom was covered in birthday messages and the lunch room ladies made him a sign and taped all kinds of candy to it.  He is well loved.


I had an interview Wed. at Buena Vista.  I'm going to try to condense this.  Short story: finishing my bachelors is going to take more than I had originally  hoped.  Shorter story: I'm still going to do it.


The rep I spoke with a couple weeks ago told me that I could totally do an English degree on-line.  She was only partially right.  I am going to have to travel to Newton (40 min away) for a few classes - unless by the time I need them they are offered on-line, which is a possibility.  And when I was thinking on-line, I was thinking, do-on-my-time type of classes.  Well, some of the classes are like that.  But most are what they call "blackboard collaboratives" which means I have to be in front of my computer at certain times participating in class and listening to the instructor. 


Also, it's going to take 4 years doing this part-time.  And they're going to be 4 intense years, even with only one class per 8 week term.


When I left that day, my head was whirling and I felt sick at heart.  I don't know how this is all going to work out.  I hate the thought of taking away more time from the kids.  I don't know HOW I will add attending class 5 hours a week, plus doing schoolwork on top of everything else I don't have time to do.  I don't know how that last year of school will work out when I really need to get to work in 3 years.


I don't know.


But, then I had to go to Walmart.  And the employees I dealt with were all middle aged and older women.  And they were grumpy.  And I knew with an absolute certainty that I do not want that for my future.  I have to provide for my kids.  There's no way around that fact.  I will be losing Social Security for Ben and David in the next few years which doesn't leave me a lot of income.  I've got my investments and some in savings - but not enough to live off of very long.  I have to find a way to generate a decent income!  I don't want to do it by working an $8 an hour a job, working twice as many hours to make up for the low pay and having to find a sitter for my  kids during the evenings and summers.


I was talking to Will later and he said, "Do you really have any other choice? (about attending school)"  No, I suppose not.


But how will I do this?  The class I am signed up for in January (Intro to Literary Theory) meets every Mon. and Thurs. nights.  My moms group and my writing group meet on Mondays.  I hate the thought of giving up those relationships for 4 years (other than the occasional term when I don't have to be in class on a Monday).


I want to write!  How does going to school fit in with writing?  It would be one thing, I guess, if I could parlay my writing abilities into a $60,000 annual income.  But I'm not quite sure that's a reasonable goal, esp. with the way the publishing world has changed. 


And will the kids be ok?  I am going to have to give up Wed. night church and teaching Patch Club.  Will they become spiritually bankrupt with the combination of attending public school, having a stressed, too busy mom, and only being in church one day a week?  Although, as sweet Arien reminded me this week, our spiritual lives are not dependent on how often we are in church...


And if I do this, I'll be almost 49 when I finish.  That's old!  But I guess I'll turn 49 regardless of whether or not I go back to school.


So, there's that.  But then I remember how I have diligently prayed for career direction for about 15 months now. 


And then there's the possibility of remarriage.  I mean, there's not.  Nobody's asked me out, I'm not looking, and if someone did, I'd probably tell them I am not ready.  But, this week I went to lunch with a friend who had a not-so-good second marriage after being widowed after 50 yrs of marriage.  So, granted, she's going to be more cautious than the average remarried  person.  But she asked me what I'm thinking regarding marrying again.  And then she strongly cautioned me to wait until the kids are older.  And those are kind of my thoughts, anyway, as much as I miss being married.  Ever since the girls arrived our household has been in a constant state of change.  They need some stable years before introducing new people into the mix.


If I am financially independent then I will be less likely to fall into a bad marriage because I need to be taken care of.


So...the short of it (after a very long explanation).  I do not know how this is going to work.  But I'm going to do my best to make it happen.


After going to Walmart Wed. I got in the van, turned on my mp3 player (which is permanently on "shuffle")  and told God, "Ok, I need you to send me a song here to tell me what to do!"  And Steven Curtis Chapman's "Take Another Step" began to play.


Last weekend Will started experiencing jaw pain and bad headaches.  He tried everything - oils, drugs.  He was convinced it was a sinus infection, but I was dubious because he hadn't been sick.  I suggested maybe he had a bad tooth.  No, no, no - it was definitely a sinus infection.  He got sicker and sicker as the week went on and asked me to call the dr.  I did but couldn't get an appointment.   Wed. morning he texted me and told me he was lightheaded.  I told him to go to Urgent Care.  They tested him for the flu and told him he didn't have it.  He came home, his body shaking and went straight to bed.  Thursday morning he actually felt a little better but still had terrible jaw pain.  He asked me to call the dentist.  Didn't I suggest it could be a tooth problem?...


He went and I was right.  Unfortunately, being right comes with a price tag for me.  The dentist cleaned out the tooth which he said is "dead."  Will said when he took the filling out a stench just poured out of his mouth. Yuck.  It's packed right now but he's scheduled for a root canal and crown around Christmas.


The other night Sam was taking a shower and I realized he'd been in there for quite some time.  I went into the bathroom and didn't hear a thing in the tub, other than the water running.  I pulled back the curtain and he was laying in the tub, the spray pummeling his body - sound asleep!


And here's another one for the "ugh" file.  I recently arranged with the city's CPA to start reconciling our books every month.  I'm doing it because 1) I can't balance those things but also because 2) I want a second set of eyes on the city's checkbook.  It seems like every month I hear of some small town Iowa clerk who has been arrested for embezzlement.  I know I've written about this before.  I don't ever want accusations like that leveled my direction.


This week the news hit the wires of the clerk in Casey who is accused of using the city's credit card (I have one of those, too) for personal expenses to the tune of $300,000.  The night before the state auditors were to come in and go through the city's financial records, she burned down City Hall!  Now she's headed for federal court and prison.


Well, that's all I know this week.  I have to be up a little early tomorrow morning.  The water guy called me and needs to stop by my house at seven AM (!) to re-test our water.  He did it Friday and the results were a little funky so now he has to get a new sample in.  And since his work shift starts I don't know - sometime- he has to be here at 7.  I suppose I really should be dressed before I let a man into my house.  I need to get my sink cleaned out too.


I'm going to do my two week shopping on Monday and then Tuesday will be super busy.  I have to get a filling done that day, too.  And then it's time for Thanksgiving.  And after that the Christmas rush begins.  I'm not sure when I'll get to breathe again, actually.


Maybe in 4 years.

























What I have learned in two years of widowhood:

• God is good - so, so good
• I am loved far more than I ever knew
• I have amazing, resilient children (I am reaping what Paul sowed into their lives)
• Darkness eventually gives way to light
• Strength and wisdom are mine for the asking
• I don't have to have all the answers
• God delights in carefully and tenderly mending torn-apart hearts

Psalm 73:26: My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.







Monday, November 16, 2015

Day 900

 Nov. 15, 16, 2015

Sunday Evening


This won't be a long post.  I only have a few things to write about.  But I just got the girls to bed and I find that, like always, I am reluctant to get started on the nightly routine which involves getting everything out and ready for school so it's not too rushed and panicked before the bus comes in the morning.  So, what better way to put off doing what I don't really want to do than to write?  Besides, I've already been on Facebook two dozen times tonight and really don't want to go back there...tired of reading posts from my liberal friends reminding the world that the difference between the KKK and Westboro church and Christians is the same difference between ISIS and Muslims.  I'm tired of reading posts with the F word in them and I'm even tired of friends who feel the need to remind me exactly how many Saturdays I have left until Christmas...


Of course, I don't like reading that last one because then I get panicked.  I don't even start thinking about Christmas until after Ben's birthday (which is in two days).  I can't handle all that mental pressure - one celebration at a time!


I got a little bit of writing done this past week.  I was somewhere towards the end of the week when the ending for my book came to me - out of the blue.  I quickly scribbled some notes and then yesterday I did the actual writing.  It's just a few paragraphs, but it sort of gives me goose bumps.


And then I started the City Clerk manual this week, too.  I am not planning to quit my job up there but I have a feeling - an unexplainable certainty - that my days doing that job are numbered somehow.  Maybe I'm going to get fired with the new mayor and council coming in.  I don't know!  But I want to leave behind what I didn't have - a training manual on how to do the work. 


I found out Ellie has preschool conferences in a couple of weeks.  Really?  Conferences for preschool?  What are they going to talk about - how well my child does at fingerpainting or refraining from biting her classmates?  The only value I could possibly see would be to get the teachers' input on kindergarten readiness.  Although, as a parent, I feel more than capable of assessing that myself.  Besides, she'll have pre-school testing to determine that in the spring, anyway.  So it's one more thing I have to find time to do.


Today,  one of Ellie's preschool classmates was at church (a family in our church has babysat him since he was born) and so she was enthusiastically waving and calling good-bye to him.  Lizzie began to tease her saying, "Jacob's your boyfriend!"  Of course, Ellie immediately protested this and I attempted to diffuse the situation by saying I was sure Jacob was only Ellie's friend (while mentally rolling my eyes - does the boyfriend stuff have to start this young?).  Ellie agreed, but then added, "It's ok, Mom.  Jacob's a Christian."   Yep - that totally makes dating at four ok.


We had a nasty storm last Wed.  I guess I mentioned in my last post about the possibility of that that they were forecasting at the time.  It came, just like the weathermen said it would.  Of course, I had no intention of being out in it, but like a lot of good intentions...


A little bit after 3 I got a text from the school saying they were keeping the kids because of the weather.  But parents could pick them up if they wanted.  Darn tootin'...I wasn't going to leave my kids for who knows how long at the school, possibly scared to death.  If it was a truly dangerous situation, I wouldn't have gone, but I really felt like I would be ok.  The sky was darkening and it was beginning to rain, but it didn't seem super ominous, either.


So, David and I rushed down to the schools.  It was pouring by then.  He went into the high school to get Ben and I went into the elementary school to get the others.  I was absolutely drenched by the time I got in.  It didn't help that the zipper on my trench coat broke a few weeks ago.  I found my kids and Sam's teacher commented, "I thought I'd probably see you!"  I think she's getting to know my overly-involved self by now!


We should have just waited in the school building for the storm to pass but I didn't know how long it was going to rage.  And I didn't want Ben and David sitting in the van all alone.  So, the kids and I ventured out into the blinding rain and wind.  It was awful and seemed to take forever to get across the street to the van.  We were all soaked to our underpants, but finally we were in the van.  Then, I knew I needed to scoot and get to higher ground in case it began to flood.


As I drove out of the parking lot, the rain began to lessen.  Are you kidding me?!  I just risked life and limb for these kids thinking this would be a long, protracted scary  time, and it was already over?  On the plus side, I now didn't need to worry about driving into flood waters or being swept off the road by a tornado.  So there was that.


We got some hail at the house, but no real damage.  I lost half the leaves on my burning bush and I found a huge limb from the willow tree nestled inside it.  A lot of the willow branches ended up on the opposite side of the house.  All the deck furniture was blown to one corner of the deck.  And a few days later I discovered my  metal pumpkin garage door decoration became a fatality.  The wind ripped that thing right apart.


Later, we found out that an EF 1 tornado did hit Knoxville (10 min, south of Pville).  It tore off part of the roof of the Walmart.  I guess one of Sam's classmates was in there at the time...


But all's well that ends well.  I have a particular horror of tornados that probably has a lot to do with growing up in the Midwest.  But I also have vivid memories of the aftermath of the tornado that hit my grandparents' home in Nov. 1975 when I was only 4 years old.  You don't forget things like that.  I have a Facebook friend who was a real-life friend of Paul's.  His home was destroyed by an Omaha tornado when he was 5 years old.  He, his mom, and his siblings cowered in the basement.  When it passed, all that was left was the basement.  He references that event frequently in his FB posts to this day, 40 years later.


Onto war...


Every year the school hosts a Veterans Day program and Sam came home, deeply moved by the event.  I have noticed his growing interest in American history over the last few months, anyway.  Well, they told the kids the story of how our national anthem was written.  I am pretty familiar with this story, myself.  Sam related it to me and I explained to him the part of the story they left out.


The reason our flag was still standing that quiet morning after being fired upon all night long at Fort Henry was because the bodies of the dead soldiers and patriots held it up.  Because of those noble sacrifices Francis Scott Key received an affirmative answer when he asked that morning if the flag still flew. 


Sam was in awe when I told him that part of the story.

This afternoon he and Lizzie were working on a Thanksgiving placemat project my friend Deb brought them today.  I happened to look at Sam's and under the pre-printed, "I'm thankful For:" he had carefully printed

I'm thankful for the revulonshune woor.  We the U.S.A. We world be stuck.  It world be bad.  I'm so happy. that we live in ir U.S.A.  I'm happy.


Actually, he had first written he was thankful for the "sivill" war which confused me until I realized what he was talking about.  I couldn't imagine why we'd be thankful for the Civil War, but then I realized he was referencing our conversation earlier in the week about the Revolutionary War.  Anyway, Sam stood there with actual tears in his eyes and explained that if it wasn't for those brave soldiers we wouldn't have our country today and things would be very, very bad.


I really like the person this kid is growing into.


Monday Morning

I ended up needing to help Will with a paper last  night so I wasn't able to finish this.  He's writing on the expectations of fatherhood and how sitcoms  influence fatherhood.  I think it's for his Comp class.  He's in a lot of pain right now.  It might be sinus related. It's in his teeth.   It was so bad he spent the night sleeping upright in the recliner.  I tried to convince him to let me make him a doctor's appt today but he doesn't want to miss work.  But that goes until 9 tonight.  So I hope the Advil is enough to hold it off until he can get to the dr which probably won't happen until Wed.


Today I am going to lunch with a couple of older widow friends.  Technically, I guess they're elderly.  One of them anyway.  She's in her 80s.  But I don't see either one as elderly.  I suppose the older I get the more that happen.  The word, "elderly" will be something I only reference to centurians before too long!


Then I need to run some errands.  I am on the hunt for a short trench coat and I thought of a couple more stores that might carry them.  It would be great if I could find one today because the zipper on mine is completely broken and I really  need to replace the coat. Today would be a great day to do that because it's cold and raining!  Tonight I have my mom's group.


Tomorrow is Ben's last IEP meeting.  It's also his birthday.  I think I might bring cupcakes to that to celebrate that it's his last meeting, along with his birthday.  Wednesday will be super busy.  I have to take Ellie to preschool, run up to DMACC and get my FAFSA filed, run back down and pick up Ellie, and then drive over to Newton for a pre-admissions interview at Buena Vista.  Thursday is open.  Friday night my scrapbooking ladies are coming over.  Saturday David will be at a teen conference up at Faith.


And like that, another week will be wrapped up. 

























What I have learned in two years of widowhood:

• God is good - so, so good
• I am loved far more than I ever knew
• I have amazing, resilient children (I am reaping what Paul sowed into their lives)
• Darkness eventually gives way to light
• Strength and wisdom are mine for the asking
• I don't have to have all the answers
• God delights in carefully and tenderly mending torn-apart hearts

Psalm 73:26: My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.


































Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Day 894

Nov. 10, 2015
Day 894


This day is slipping away entirely too fast and I'm not getting done nearly what I had hoped.  Oh well - story of my life, I guess.


I had to spend an hour and a half with the dishwasher repairman.  It turned out that pumpkin seeds lodged in the drainpipe were the issue.  Oops.  But he didn't charge me.  Maybe that's because he was entertained by Ellie the entire time.  While I sat in the other room and graded Geography she sat right beside the repairman and kept up a running commentary on everything from the color of his hair to how high she can count.  Then, Bella, dumb cat, went and plopped herself down right in front of him while he was trying to work on the appliance.  Bet he was glad to get to his next job...


Will turned 21 last Monday.  I bet he is one of the few 21 year olds who spent his birthday with his family.  He said  that some kids in one of his classes found out it was his birthday so he got a number of suggestions about  "hitting the bar" that night.  I remember that was such a big deal when I turned 21, too.  Like Will, I was going to a secular college at the time.  Although, I do remember that night some friends took me out to eat and I was so thrilled when the waiter offered me the wine list!  It didn't matter that I didn't have any interest in drinking.  Just getting the affirmation that I was legal enough was all I wanted.


Arien took the day off work and while Will was at school she came over and stuffed his room full of balloons - some with candy and love notes inside them.  That was fun.  I don't know how many she got stuffed in there, but it was a lot.


Then, that evening we went to David's final flag football game and then out to eat as a family.  We got home and Will, Arien, and David took off to Pleasantville to watch the rest of what ended up being their last play-off game.  And then they came home and Will blew out his "21" candle and we had cake and ice-cream.


I wonder how many more birthdays of his we'll celebrate together?  Well, ideally, he'll live next door to me and we'll celebrate them all, but realism tells me otherwise...


Tuesday was Election Day.  Will was easily re-elected to the city council.  All of the rest of the seats were filled by write-in votes.  As the clerk, I found this somewhat embarrassing.  I am the one who has to deal with the county auditor - who is very understanding, but frustrated like I am.  In late summer, I mailed out detailed instructions to all the townspeople telling them how to fill out the paperwork to get their names on the ballot.  Will was the only one who bothered to turn in the paperwork.  There was some talk amongst certain residents about who was willing to serve and who everyone ought to vote for and I didn't know what to do.  I finally decided, the weekend before elections, that I would go vote - but only for the name actually on the ballot, which was Will's.  If a person desires to serve their city in an elected capacity, but is not willing to even do the little bit of work required to get his name on the ballot, what does that say about the amount of work they'll be willing to invest into their city once elected?


An election I kept a close eye on was nearby Knoxville's.  Knoxville has a small tribute in a public park dedicated to the fallen soldier.  It features a metal cut-out of a soldier kneeling on his comrade's fresh grave.  A white cross stands next to it.  Well, someone (more than likely, an out-of-town liberal group deliberately targeting small cities) complained about the "separation of church and state" and demanded that the city remove the cross.  In August a huge rally was held at the park and I've gotten a kick out of driving around town since because people everywhere have erected white crosses on their lawns.  One homeowner even put up a sign beside his that reads, "Be Offended."   I am reminded of 1 Cor. 1:18 that says the message of the cross is "foolishness to those who are perishing."  What a literal example of that this whole event has been!


Despite the community support, the mayor and council voted to remove the cross, anyway, after Veterans Day, saying the city couldn't afford a potential lawsuit.  The citizens of Knoxville and central Iowa altogether were outraged.  Anyway, those council members that voted to have the cross removed were voted out of office last Tues. night.  The cross will still come down because the new terms don't start until January, but the promise is that the citizens will then persistently petition the city government to have it reinstated.


The other day Ellie was wearing a button down shirt.  I told her, "Oh, we need to button up one more."  She peered down at her shirt and, puzzled,  asked, "Why?  Nobody can see my boobs." 


And then there was this one that I shared on Facebook:


Ellie (age 4) and I were driving around today and from the backseat I could hear her making some soft choking and other excited noises. "Mom!" I heard her quietly shriek. Assuming she wanted me, I asked her what she needed. She replied, "Oh, nothing, Mom. I was just pretending you were murdering me."

She really scares me.


I'm not so sure a good mom would be laughing, but I am anyway!


 The other night at Patch Club, Sam volunteered to copy the night's  verse onto the chalkboard.  I had not realized how much school has improved his handwriting until I saw what he had written.  He remained at the chalkboard and a few minutes later I heard the other students giggling.  I looked up and Sam had chalked, above the verse, "Your butt."  He wasn't being blasphemous - he wrote it way above where the verse was written.  He was being an 8 year old boy, is what it was.


It was just one of the moments.  Part of me wanted to wail, "Where did I go wrong?"  But the other part of me was sort of impressed that he used the correct form of "your,"  too. 


I had parent teacher conferences last Thursday night.  This, of course, was my first-ever time to do this at the elementary school.  Next year, I'm going to put a time buffer in between the kids' scheduled times.  The person in front of me for Sam's ran over which meant we were super rushed so I could get to Lizzie's on time.  Fortunately, there was nobody scheduled after Lizzie's, so we were able to take a little more time there.


While I was waiting for Sam's teacher, I chatted a little bit with the mom sitting beside me on the chairs outside the door.  She worried me.  She wore a very low cut top and evidently, a push-up bra.  Every time she laughed, her bosom would jiggle all over the place, threatening to pop right out, I was afraid.  It made it kind of hard to concentrate on her face.  And yet, another reason for modesty...


Anyway, I totally forgave her, though, because she asked who my 2nd grader was and when I told her, she replied, "Oh, he is such a sweetie!"  How she knows that, I have no idea, unless she has helped out in the classroom or heard reports from her own second-grader (a boy, named, "Paul," which you don't hear much anymore.  Oh, by the way, there is also a boy in Sam's class named, "Stanton," which kind of makes me laugh.  It's such a dignified, upper-crust type of name.  I actually met Stanton yesterday when I picked Sam up to go get his new glasses.  Stanton is...well, how shall I say this?  By the 6th grade, he will probably have the body to be mistaken for a Varsity football player...great big kid.  He looked at me and greeted, "Hi, Sam's mom!")


So, anyway, Sam's conference went really well.  His teacher, who is younger than me by just a few years, has been teaching for quite awhile.  She said that Sam is one of the politest children she has ever run across.  She said she has also observed his peer interactions and said he is just as polite with the kids.  In fact, and she laughed as she told this story, Sam and another boy were eating lunch in the classroom the other day.  Sam had earned that privilege with good behavior in the classroom.  When the kids do this, they are free to go to recess as soon as they finish, so they have some motivation to eat really fast.  Well, that's what this friend of Sam's was doing and his teacher told me she heard Sam caution him to "Slow down - your food can't digest when you eat it so fast!"  Apparently, Sam also suggested to his friend that it would be wiser if he ate his sandwich first and saved his dessert for last for nutrition purposes.  His teacher said to me, "I could just hear his mother as he said those things!"  Hah!


Sam's reading tutor was in  on the conference, too.  I've had a couple of testy emails from her and my opinion wasn't really changed at the conference, either.  My premise with Sam's reading difficulties has been  - let's not freak out about this.  I've explained to both his teacher and the tutor that I am very willing to have Sam tutored and to go over things at home with him, but I am not going to panic about this.  He will learn to read (and he can read -  it's just not with the fluency and as many words per minute as the state demands) but if his brain is not ready, this isn't something that can be forced.  Sam's teacher seemed to be inclined to agree with me, but I could tell his tutor was less-than-impressed with my refusal to panic.  Sigh...I really hate government schools...


But anyway, the good news is that his reading has improved significantly since the beginning of the school year.  As long as he continues on this upwards trajectory he should be able to meet the required standards demanded by the state and the good 'ol No Child Left Behind act.   Summer school might be in his future at some point, but I'm not going to worry about that right now.  Besides, the kid has character - and that's worth far more than any top reading score.


Lizzie's conference went well, too.  Academically, she's doing really well.  I felt like I had totally failed her at her reading, but her teacher referred to her initial difficulties as mere "gaps" in her education and I'm totally not going to worry about that.  Every single student, whether homeschooled, public, or private schooled is going to have gaps in their education.  It is impossible to cover absolutely every single thing and to make sure the child absorbs every single thing.


Lizzie's teacher asked me what Lizzie says about school and I took a deep breath and told her honestly, "Well, Lizzie's scared of you."  And then her teacher felt bad, which was not my intent.  I told her I doubted it was due to anything she had done at all, but that is what Lizzie tells me and, besides,  she did ask...Actually, her teacher thanked me and said that showed her how she needed to communicate with Lizzie better.  And she commented that Lizzie has seemed ill at ease with her in one-on-one settings so this helps explain that.


I also talked with this teacher about  Lizzie's difficulty in making friends.  It was interesting because the same topic came up with that mom I chatted with outside Sam's classroom.  Both told me the exact same thing.  They said the Pleasantville is a great little community, but if you are new, it takes forever to be accepted.  That mom I mentioned said her family moved here 12 years ago and she still doesn't feel all that included!  Great... although, this definitely hasn't been the case with Ben.  And even by the time Will was an upperclassman on the football team, he had developed a camaraderie with some of the players.  Although, I think there is a definite difference between girls and guys, which would explain why Sam is having an easier time.  Boys are good with finding someone to toss a ball with.  Girls want to find a friend to share all their secrets with.


Lizzie's teacher showed me a paper Lizzie had written in September in which she talked about her old life, before me.  It about made me cry.  She talked about how she had to move a lot and how scared she always was.  But now she's happy.  And then she mentioned Paul's death, which made me sniff.


Lizzie's teacher said that I seem "really laid back" (yay, me - that's what I want to be, anyway, even if I'm not so much) and she thinks I am "really good for Lizzie." 


Despite Lizzie's fears, I really like this teacher.  Well, I like Sam's, too, and I want to request both for their siblings that follow in future years.
Oh, and then I dashed over to the high school (in a thunderstorm) and popped my head into Ben's classroom.  It really isn't necessary because I've always been in pretty constant contact with his two resource teachers.  Plus, we have his IEP meeting next week.  But I like them.  We ended up talking mostly about prom and senior pictures and things like that.  And then Ben's music teacher happened to poke her head into the classroom and since I had hoped to touch base with her, that worked out well.  One of Ben's teachers told me, "You have done such a good job with Ben.  You need to be proud." And the other stood there nodding her head and thanking me for being such an "easy" parent.
So, it was a good night and pretty good for my ego, too, I think.


Today there was a knock at the door that I didn't hear because I was talking with the dishwasher repairman.  Ellie did, though, and answered.  She came back into the kitchen and hollered, "Hey, Mom - there's some black people here!"  I think it's safe to say that she has become aware of differing skin colors...I was wondering when that was going to happen.  I think everyone is aware that she is aware now...
It was a couple of salesmen.  I shooed them away (gently, because they're always about the ages of my older children and I'd want someone else to be kind to them) because you have to have a solicitation permit here.  It doesn't matter who it is - these young salesmen always assure me that their bosses took care of that and then I have to tell them um, no they didn't because the permits are issued by me and I know I didn't sell one to their boss!


Yesterday, Sam and I were talking as I drove and I said something about abortion.  Sam was quiet for a minute and then said, "I think the moms and the doctors need to be charged with first degree murder because they planned to do what they did."  Of course, I've always considered abortion to be murder, but I never thought about it in terms like that before.  Sam is a very concrete thinker, though, so I am not really surprised.


I am not a great mom.  There are times I like to think I'm a great mom and I always hope that I am one...but I'm not.  Since the girls arrived 3 1/2 years ago, bedtime has always been a battle.  If I don't stand over them and tell them exactly what to do, they always end up goofing around.  Then, I get mad, throw them half-dressed into bed, and stomp down the stairs.  It's not a nice way to end the day.  I do not recall having bedtime struggles like this with any of the boys.  Maybe time has dulled my memory, I don't know.  So, anyway, this happened last night.  I was especially mad because I had taken the kids to Pizza Hut for supper in order to redeem their Book-It pizzas (a program through the school where they earn free pizza for reading a certain number of books every month) and when we got home, I told the kids to go get ready for bed, which Sam did  easily and willingly.  But the girls were up to their normal tricks and I was not a happy mother by the time I got them in bed.


It suddenly occurred to me before I went to bed that other than to tell the girls, "Go get ready for bed" I've never actually laid out for them exactly what I want them to do.  So, they may have a general idea, but nothing specific.  And then, being little kids, they're apt to get distracted and forget things, too.  So today, I made a chart, complete with clip art and written instructions of the seven steps to bedtime.  I was actually very impressed with Ellie.  She was observing my chart and then commented to me, "Don't you want us to go potty, too?"  Obviously, even though she can't read, she was able to decode the pictures and able to figure out what was missing.  I re-did my chart to include a picture of a toilet and hung it again.


And bedtime went like a charm tonight!  I sent them upstairs and then about 10 min. later I followed and they were sitting in their beds, pajamaed, sweet-breathed, and sleep caps on their curls. 


Very nice.  I may actually get this parenting thing figured out one of these days.


Well, that's all I know.  It's taken me nearly all day to get this written.  Tomorrow I will spend a chunk of my day up at City Hall.  It's supposed to be rainy and stormy most of the day - even the possibility for tornadoes, we're being told.  I kind of like rainy, cold, fall days.  Minus the tornado possibility.  After getting all this work done on the house I'll be very irritated if it gets blown away.























What I have learned in two years of widowhood:

• God is good - so, so good
• I am loved far more than I ever knew
• I have amazing, resilient children (I am reaping what Paul sowed into their lives)
• Darkness eventually gives way to light
• Strength and wisdom are mine for the asking
• I don't have to have all the answers
• God delights in carefully and tenderly mending torn-apart hearts

Psalm 73:26: My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.