Thursday, November 26, 2009

Reflections on Thanksgiving Week

Here is Ben's 13th birthday picture - didn't it turn out nice? I could not decide between the final two I had narrowed it down to, so I let Ben choose!

It's Thanksgiving night. Paul and the older boys are watching "Night at the Museum" on tv, Sam is in the tub (hopefully not drowning since nobody is actually watching him), and I'm too tired to do anything but type. We did a traditional Thanksgiving meal just for the 6 of us. I cooked my first turkey, ever, and it turned out really yummy - for turkey, that is. I'm actually not a huge turkey fan, which probably has something to do with why I'm almost 39 and just now cooking my first bird. I baked two pies and I am anticipating sinking my teeth into the pumpkin one in a little bit here.

I spent several hours this afternoon reorganizing and cleaning Ben, David, and Sam's room. Since Sam's birth it has been a constant challenge to come up with enough room for our stuff. We really need a larger house, but I am reluctant to commit to a larger mortgage right now. But anyway, I'm pleased with what I came up with. For the last year I have had a toy shelf in the living room which has meant that everything in that small room is literally touching eachother - no extra space at all. I hauled that up to the boys' bedroom and I really like how that opened up one corner of the living room. Of course, that meant I now had to come up with more space in their bedroom to accommodate the shelf! I ended up taking the door off the hinges that goes to their little closet (their room has two closets for some odd reason). I completely cleaned out the little closet and got all the clothing in there moved into the bigger closet. Then I had just enough room to move the toybox and Sam's tool bench into the closet. Paul's going to put up a light in there and now it's just a cute little play area for Sam! I got everything cleaned out and vacuumed - and now I'm worn out!

Reflections on this past week: Saturday we met with our pastor again after a 6 month hiatus from counseling. It was good. He was very, very encouraging about the idea of putting Ben in school. In fact, Monday I ended up calling the school. My hand was literally trembling as I made the call. I didn't identify myself when I called, but just explained my situation. The secretary said she'd have the proper person call me back (and he never did this week) and then asked, "Is the Heywoods? You live up in Swan?" Are we that well known? I was a little taken aback. Evidently, our reputation precedes us!

After meeting with our pastor we drove up to Matt and Kirsti's to see them one last time before they moved. It was kind of sad. Matt and David played one last game of Madden football. And then Matt gave David a pair of boxy Hawkeye slippers he himself had been given at one point. They were too small for him. You would have thought Matt gave him the moon. David has not been out of those slippers all week long! He was absolutely thrilled! We ate pizza with them and my palate expanded. I had chicken and mushroom pizza and oh my - it was good! I may have to do that again sometime! This is pretty big for me, because I tend to stick with foods I know and love. I'm willing to experiment when I cook, but if I'm paying to eat out (or order in, as the case was) I want to know that I'm going to like what I get!

Will didn't go with us because he was at his first Hawkeye game Saturday. I think it was better than his birthday and Christmas combined! I picked him up from a Caseys where his youth pastor dropped him off and Will chattered all the way home. I had not heard him this animated since the first time he came home after a week at junior boys camp! Of course, it probably helped that the Hawkeyes crushed their opponent Saturday!

Sunday night Sam ran right into one of the support beams in our church auditorium. He hit his head so hard I was just sure he had split it open. I didn't even realize he had been hurt until I turned around and saw him laying face down on the carpet. Then, it was like those dreams you have where you're trying to run, but it feels like you have 100 lb weights tied to your feet. Another lady got to him first. When Sam gets really upset or really hurt it takes him quite awhile to make an actual sound. His lips turn blue and then eventually he starts crying. He's always been like that. But anyway, he got a goose egg that's a sickly shade of yellow right now and a scrape, but he didn't split it, thankfully. One of these days I know I'll have an ER tale for you with him, though. It's just a matter of time!

Sam has caught onto the idea of praying now before meals. It is so stinking cute! He announces, "pay!" and then screws up his eyes really tight and starts blinking rapidly. I'm not doing a whole lot of praying myself because I'm wanting to watch him instead! Sam has never tolerated having his nose or face wiped - ever. But this week he had a slightly runny nose. He came out to where I was and kept saying, "nose." I didn't know why he was talking about his nose until he then pointed at a tissue box. What a relief it has been all week to be able to wipe his nose without having to fight him!

I started Ben on the Risperadal this week. I'm still a bit leery, but I did some research on the internet which made me feel better. Most mothers reporting on it mentioned that their children gained weight. I don't want Ben getting to be fat, but since he's underweight, maybe this will help bring him to a more healthy weight. And most reported a decrease in the autism symptoms while on the drug. So, we'll give it a shot.

It looks like I am going to be having surgery sometime after the first of the year. I'm going in to talk to my gynecologist about scheduling an ablation. That's where they burn off the lining of the uterus. But one thing I want to know is if this procedure will take care of my near-constant uterine pain, or if it will only take care of the excessive bleeding. If it only treats the latter, then I'm wondering if we'd be better off to just do a hysterectomy and get it all over with. The nurse practitioner who did my biopsy last month gave me a choice among the ablation, the Mirena, and progesterone shots (like Depo-Provera). The last two really did not interest me, so that left the ablation. That will make me sterile, but since Paul already had a vasectomy and I'm in peri-menopause, I really doubt it will make a difference!

Monday was a rough day financially for us. Man, talk about getting beat up! First, Paul was home by noon, which is not good. When he doesn't work, he doesn't get paid. And they just didn't' have anything for him after that morning - or last Friday, or yesterday :( Then, the mail came and there was an envelope from the Council Bluffs police department. Council Bluffs uses those traffic cameras at a couple of their intersections. Evidently, Paul did something their cameras didn't approve of, although he says he can't remember doing anything remotely illegal. And the irony of it is that the reason he was down at the end of town where the cameras are is that he was serving the Lord - working on the furnaces at our former church! Des Moines has a couple of those cameras, too. I've heard one of our radio hosts on WHO refer to them a city "fundraiser." I am inclined to agree, since we are now "donating" $107 to the city of Council Bluffs! And then, lastly, I opened our electric bill. We're on a budget plan so we pay the same amount all year long and they adjust at the end of the year. Last year was great. Our bill went down $5. This year we are up to $116 - a $26 a month increase! Good grief!

Tuesday night my good friend Melissa and I went to see the latest "Twilight" movie, "New Moon." Oh, I just loved it! I am so crazy about those books and the movies! It helps having a fellow 40-ish, homeschooling mom of 4 just as nuts about them as I am, though, to go with me! I think Robert Pattinson made my heart beat even faster in this movie than he did in the first! I know at one point I leaned over and asked Melissa, "Is it wrong to feel this way since in all actuality I am old enough to have given birth to him?!" She assured me that I am just appreciating God's creation. I can live with that! I am totally looking forward to the release of "Eclipse" next spring. And I'll leave it at that since I'm sure at least half my readers are now rolling their eyeballs!

I have studiously avoided shopping on Black Friday for decades. It hearkens back to when I was a college student and stood in line for 45 minutes on the Friday after Thanksgiving trying to buy a bottle of shampoo. I vowed, "Never again!" Well, Will has informed me that we are leaving the house by 8 am tomorrow morning. He has the desire to go buy something shiny and electronic and is convinced he can get a good deal if we go tomorrow. Since I am his ride, I get to go. Sigh...

So, I'm signing off on Thanksgiving night. And I am - truly thankful. For everything.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Bigger Picture

I'm sure glad that God sees the bigger picture and orchestrates things to accomplish it, because right now, I'm sure not seeing it. This is my brother Matt and his family. Today, they are leaving Iowa and moving to Arizona. It isn't right, to my thinking. The day before Thanksgiving is when families are supposed to be coming together, not breaking apart. As it is, tomorrow, not a one of us will be together. My brother Andy, will be eating some turkey-less meal with his family in Minnesota, my parents will probably just eat turkey sandwiches in NE Iowa, Matt and Kirsti will be eating in a restaurant somewhere between here in the SW portion of the United States, and we'll be in central Iowa, eating a traditional meal in our little house.

Matt moved to Arizona following his college graduation in 1998. He soon landed a great job with some company with 3 letters for their name. I have a general idea of what he does, but I couldn't tell you what it is they manufacture. After a few years, Matt met a gal on e-Harmony, bought a house, and married the girl - all within a space of 10 months. After starting their own family, Matt and Kirsti began to feel a bit lonely for some closer family ties. Matt's family was here in the Midwest and Kirsti's in the Pacific Northwest. So they began praying about moving closer to family - one or the other. After a while, it became evident that the Midwest might be a better choice and they began to pray specifically that God would open up just the right job for Matt. They resisted the temptation to move up here without having a job in place, which was wise, but it meant that they had to wait even longer to move. Finally, in the spring of 2008, it all came together. Matt was offered a job in Ames, halfway between my parents' and our house. So, he, Kirsti, and Jake moved up. We were so happy!

Kirsti is the closest thing I have ever had to a sister and I was beyond thrilled to have them here. We immediately began planning lunches out and shopping times together. It was fun! We started having more family get togethers and were able to coax my brother, Andy, to bring his family down to Iowa a little more often. My parents loved it. They finally got to really know Jake, who had just turned 3 when they arrived in Iowa.

But things didn't work out how we had hoped - obviously. Matt and Kirsti had one struggle after another with their arrival in Iowa. It took them almost a year to get a renter for their AZ house and then they had to give up their apartment and move into the basement of some church friends for a few months. Once they had a renter they were able to buy a cute house from some friends. We prayed that they would get the house and God answered favorably. We had a good time helping them move in last May. Kirsti was newly pregnant and it looked as though things were finally settling down and turning out all right. But then the pregnancy got difficult. And then, worst of all, Matt was laid off from his new job.

And that brings us to today. Fortunately, Matt's employer was eager to get him back. So, they put their Iowa house on the market, rented another home in Arizona, and took off today. Little Phoebe is 3 weeks old and I hardly even know her. I know they are anxious to get settled. It's been a very long couple of years, full of uncertainty, struggles, and fear. And I want that for them.

But, selfishly, I want them here for me. I just don't see the bigger picture. Everything seemed to line up with God's will, but yet this had to happen. Why? What changed with God's will? I can only conclude that everything that happened was in His will and it's part of plan that we can't see. Perhaps it's only reason is for our growth and learning to trust God more.

I don't like it. There's not much use for getting terribly upset, though. It won't change things. I told Matt and Kirsti Saturday that we just have to look at this last year and a half as "bonus" time - time together that we wouldn't have had if they had never left Arizona. We live in an age of technology when staying in touch is easier than it has ever been before - mainly, through our computers, but also with cell phones and the resulting free long distance. We can visit - sometimes. When Phoebe gets to be a tween or young teenager I have plans to bring her up to Iowa for a week or so every summer so she can spend time with her Iowa Auntie and I can spoil my only niece. But it's not going to be what we had planned.

And that makes me sad.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

An Incredible Birthday

A week ago Ben had his 13th birthday. He wanted to go to this new joint on the NW side of Des Moines called Incredible Pizza. It's a family fun center and buffet. So, I checked it out on the internet, downloaded some coupons off, and we went there. The first thing I noticed was the l-o-n-g line outside! I couldn't believe it - on a Tuesday night? But, as it turned out there was some school group that was having a deal there, so that accounted for the long line. The second thing I noticed was the fish symbol on the door.

This is one cool place and I'd encourage anyone living here in the Des Moines area to check it out. I imagine that they are probably a franchise, so there might even be some in other cities closer to some of my other readers. The eating part of the establishment is done in a 1950s/60s theme. They offer a buffet and the food is pretty good. It's not a huge buffet, like say, Golden Corral, but it's substantial and offers plenty of choices. Then, you have three choices of where to eat your meal. They have one room that is done up in the living room and kitchen styles of the 1950s and 60s. They play Gilligan's Island shows in there. Another room is made up to imitate gymnasiums from that same time period. They have large screen tvs playing kids' shows and then smaller screens to the side broadcasting ESPN. The room we chose was the "Starlight Theater" room, made to look like a drive-in movie theater. They have black lights in there and a mural along one wall that looks like the countryside with twinkling stars up in the "sky." They play old movies along another wall. When we were there, "Showboat" with Cary Grant and Sophia Loren was airing. It made for a unique dining experience.

Another wing of the restaurant is a game room. They have all kinds of modern-day games, along with bumper cars, glow in the dark mini-golf, and go-carts. You choose whatever dollar amount you wish to spend, pay it, and they load it onto a debit type card. You then swipe the card at each game. This is where the "incredible" part of our night came in. I was playing a game with David and Ben asked for the card so he could play a wheel of fortune game. I gave it to him and then after David and I were done, I could not find Ben anywhere. We finally found him standing in line for the go-carts. In his hand he held a ticket for the carts, which meant he had already paid for the ride. I panicked! I knew there was just no way he was going to be able to drive one of those things. So I pushed my way to the front of the line and explained to the young men controlling the ride that Ben was on the autism spectrum and there was just no way he could do this - could we get a refund? They told me that they had groups of special needs individuals come through all the time. And, as one employee so eloquently explained, "Ain't nobody that can't drive these cars!" Ok, then! They promised they would watch out for and help Ben. So, with my heart in my throat, I watched Ben excitedly climb into his car. And you know what? He did fine. He had a ball driving that thing! When he got stuck, the young men maneuvered him back onto the raceway. Ben was all smiles throughout the whole thing. I had the thought as I stood there watching that he is probably more capable than I give him credit for. I just assume that he can't do a whole lot.

Afterwards, they gave Ben a "first place" ribbon and Ben beamed as he posed for a picture with it. About ten minutes later, I was elsewhere in the game room and I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was one of the young men from the go-carts. He handed me a small trophy for Ben and said simply, "This is for your boy." I could have just cried! It has the name of the restaurant on it and an engraving saying, "First Place." He didn't know it, but a few minutes later I overheard him talking to another employee and he was saying that he had to take apart two different trophies to glue them into one, but he was determined that "that boy" was going to take home a trophy. Ben has never in his life earned a trophy for anything.

So it was a good night. All the staff at Incredible Pizza was great. At one point I thought our diaper bag had disappeared (it turned out that Paul had it) and the manager was helping me look for it! As we were leaving, we saw a rack of Gospel tracts and literature on the wall - what a testimony!

We didn't get home until well after 10 and for some reason, Ben was in the throes of a massive allergy attack by then. We did his cake and presents, but he didn't seem overly impressed - just plowed through opening the gifts without any expression at all. I guess he was tired and not feeling all that well by that point. And let's not forget the autism factor - making the gift giver feel good is not at the top of their priorities. He stuffed most of his presents under his bed and hasn't done anything with them in the week since, including his camera that he asked for. Oh well. At least we have the memories of Incredible Pizza. That alone made the night worthwhile.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Matter of Life and Death

I'll never forget the night of April 8, 1999. At that time I was about 7 months pregnant with David and we were living in a tiny little rental house in Weston, Iowa. That has nothing to do with my story - I'm just reminiscing. No, that night I received two phone calls within the space of maybe an hour or two and the irony of it has always stayed with me. The first call was from my friend, Don. He called to proudly report the birth of his first daughter. I was so happy for him! The next call was completely different. In fact, it was the opposite of the news I had just heard. I got a phone call that let me know that a lady in our church - single, in her 40s - had died from cancer. I remember just thinking about the total spectrum of life that I had experienced that night in phone calls - life and death in a single night.

We kind of experienced that again this fall. It wasn't on the same night, but within a week we received news of both the death of a friend and the birth of a family member. Actually, the birth side of things has been a bit more weighted this fall. I had two really good friends deliver babies in October, we had a great niece born that month, my niece was born Nov. 2, and we have a great- nephew that was born just yesterday. So, I've been buying a lot of baby cards lately!

The lady that died was from our former church in SW Iowa. She was a long-time family friend of Paul's family. Her name was Judy and she was just special all around. She taught in the Christian school that our former church used to have. Paul tells me that the only reason he is able to help Will with his algebra today is because of Judy teaching it to him, so long ago. He still recites all his prepositions and conjunctions, too, in some little rhyme she taught the kids in English class. That actually gets annoying. Judy was a quiet person, but with a ready laugh. When I think of Judy, the word, "encourager" comes to mind. She was that to me. She always noticed when I did little things like cut my hair or wore a new dress. She always, always had something pleasant to say about any service endeavors I put forth in our little church. Judy delighted in my children, which was enough to win my heart! She loved cuddling my babies. When Ben was born I remember her calling me (after a full day of teaching) one night and suggesting that we go up to the NICU and visit Ben together. I still have a picture of her, wearing the required yellow NICU gown, holding Ben close to her, despite all his wires and tubes. Judy cared. I have a vivid memory of inviting Judy and Richard (her husband) over to our little house to help us polish off a crop of sweetcorn. That's all we had for supper that night - ear after ear of buttered sweet corn! I remember, too, that Judy and her husband made the 4 hour trek across the state to attend our wedding - on a bitterly cold and snowy February day! I have a table topper that Judy quilted and gave to me one Christmas in a gift exchange in our ladies' group at church. I'll cherish it forever. Plus, it really matches my living room well!

Sixteen years ago Judy battled cancer - and won. This fall she was told that it had invaded her body once more. She was gearing up for the fight of her life when God very unexpectedly took her home. Paul and I were both so shocked and so saddened when we got the news. We attended her funeral on the last Wednesday in October and it was sad, but yet sweet at the same time. Everyone was relieved that Judy would not have to endure cancer treatments again, but so sad that she would not be living among us any longer.

And then on the other end of the spectrum of life, it was just 5 days later that my brother called to announce the birth of his little daughter, Phoebe - my first niece. Oh, that was exciting! It had appeared last March that Phoebe's life might end in a miscarriage and things were kind of touchy for awhile. And then, my sister-in-law was having all kinds of problems with premature labor the first part of September, which was a little too early for Phoebe to be making an appearance, so that was a bit worrisome, too. But here she was, finally, 8lbs, 4oz, completely healthy and completely whole. It was just a few days later that she was nestled in my arms and I was making little baby noises at her. So sweet!

As I reflected on the events of this one week, the song from Lion King, "The Circle of Life" popped into my head. If you read the lyrics to the song, they're actually pretty non-sensical and full of the new-agey, self-centered tripe that passes for intellectualism today. But the idea of the "circle of life" is what I was actually thinking about. Life is on-going. People die and new people are born. And the living happens in between. Judy's story was finished, the final chapter lived out. Her legacy is all that is left. But Phoebe's - well, her book is waiting to be written.

All of us have the book of our lives. And all of us will have a final chapter. It's what happens between chapter one and the end that defines who we are and how we will be remembered. I'm after more than that, though. I hope, like Judy, I'm leaving a legacy for those that knew and loved me. I'm not worried about being immortalized forever and I know that within a few generations my descendants will be saying, "Sarah Who?" And that's all right. But for now, I'm writing my book. I hope it turns out well.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Travel, Shopping, Drugs, and Pictures

Oh, my goodness - what a week! I feel like I have been running non-stop for the past 6 days or so. Some weeks are just like that, I guess.

We went to Council Bluffs for a long weekend. We had a birthday party there for Will and Ben. And then we had Harvest Sunday at our old church. That's kind of their "big" day of the year. They have lots of special music (this year Paul even sang) and a big meal. Paul spent all day Monday working on the furnaces up at church. While he did that I worked on my grocery list for the next day, read, and scrapbooked and Paul's grown nephew, Chris (who is living with Paul's folks while he attends pharmacy school) skipped his classes in order to entertain the boys. I think he just liked having someone to play video games with! So we ended up getting back Monday night around 10pm.

I jumped into Tuesday feet first. Grocery shopping is a big production when you're shopping for 6 and trying to be economical about it. It takes quite a bit of prior preparation and then that morning I have to get lunches made for us, Aldi bags loaded, make sure I have my bank deposits ready, my coupons filed and ready, and sometimes we have to load up pop cans. Plus, this Tuesday, Ben had three appointments and it was also his birthday. So after doing our running around all day long, we had to meet Paul for Ben's birthday supper. We didn't get home until 10pm and then we still had to have Ben unwrap his gifts and blow out his candles. The next morning I was out the door by 8:15 in order to make it to my Moppets job. No wonder I felt like crawling into bed by the time I got home yesterday afternoon!

But today has been better. I did have a dr's appointment first thing this morning and I had to run more errands than I wanted to, but I was home by lunch time. I've gotten in some school work and I actually had time to kick Will off the computer and blog!

I found out that we are going to be a great-aunt and uncle yet again this fall - this Friday actually - on Paul's side of the family. It's nothing to be happy about though. It's an awful, awful situation and one that really just makes my heart ache. It is a crime what is being done to innocent children!

On a happier note, we are through with birthdays until January! I always breathe a sigh of relief once we get through Ben's. I plan to post separately about our experience Tuesday night at Incredible Pizza, so I'll be brief here. One employee there really went out of his way to be kind to Ben and they won me over as a repeat customer, as a result. It's hard to believe that Ben is actually a teenager now.

Only 4 more nights until I see New Moon! I rented Twilight yesterday, so now I have to carve out some time to watch it before Monday. I'm not sure how I'm going to do that unless I stay up late some evening. I read an article in the Omaha World Herald Sunday about how I am not such an oddity. Apparently, there are many, many Twilight fans that are way over the target age of the books and movies. In fact, there is a website just for these women - you have to be over 25, married, and a mother to join! I was talking to my almost 29 yr old nephew this weekend and it turned out that he's a fan, too! I knew I wasn't that weird!

Ben saw his psychiatrist this week. He wants me to put Ben on Risperdal. I'm leery. He thinks it will help with his aggression and will help him to sleep better. One side effect, though, is tremendous appetite increases. Ben already has a huge appetite (not that it is being absorbed, since he is quite underweight) and I really hate to increase that. I don't like the idea of this drug at all. But - what if it helps? The dr. also decreased his Namenda, thinking that we (ahem - that would be he) got him overstimulated by giving him so much.

I was given the gift of encouragement Sunday night. We were at our old church and my friend, Stephanie, sat me down, and informed me that she has been following my blog. I didn't know! I'm always so pleased and flattered when people tell me that. I don't know - maybe I'm gaining a host of enemies, too, by blogging. But anyway, she told me she wanted to encourage me about this situation with Ben and proceeded to do just that. I think she felt like she was blundering about a bit, trying to find the right words and not really being in a position to advise, since it isn't her reality. But I came away blessed. I needed to hear what she had to say. It was a balm to my soul - so thank you, Stephanie. And thank you to all of you who have assured me that you are praying and are offering encouragement. We will get through this, too.

Work is slowing down for Paul, so you'll probably hear me start to whine about money soon. Not looking forward to that! Paul says that had he known HVAC was such a feast or famine type career, he might not have done it. It's just as well he didn't know then because he's quite good at it and I'm thankful he found this career path. It's just a matter of saving through the "feast" times. God hasn't let us starve yet. So anyway, Paul was off yesterday. He got so much done! I came home and had a new entryway floor. I love it - I told Paul it makes my heart "happy" every time I look at it. It's wood laminate. He picked up this box at the Habitat for Humanity resale store sometime this year for just $8. And then he used a furnace box as underlayment. So, it didn't cost much at all to do our entryway. He planted my burning bush and some naked ladies out by the fence. He and Will extended our back steps another 2 feet so now they butt up against the driveway. We can just walk right off the back stoop onto the concrete. I would say it would be nice if he were home more often, but I don't want that to become a reality! We need him out there earning money, too!

You'll all have to think of Will this Saturday. He is going to his first-ever Iowa Hawkeyes game. His youth pastor was able to get some really inexpensive tickets so there's a group of four that are going - 3 married men and one 15 year old! Will (well, all the boys, actually) is batty about the Hawkeyes. He has his bedroom wall covered in clippings from the Sports section. He has mentioned a few times that he would like a yellow and black paint job in there, which hasn't happened yet. I guess I need to give up my soap operas and Harlequin romances, get off my lazy bottom, and do something around here... He built himself a loft for his mattress a few years ago and painted it black and yellow. He has quite a few Hawkeyes shirts, hats, shoes - all of which he is planning to wear Saturday. So you can think of him if you hear anything from Kinnick Stadium this Saturday! I'm so glad he's getting this opportunity.

Well, guess what?! - it's time to make supper. So, I guess that means I am done here. Tomorrow will be a little busier. Ben has his birthday picture session scheduled in the morning and then all 4 boys are getting their picture taken for a Christmas present for Paul's mother (shh...ah, never mind - she never reads my blog anyway). I'd just as soon skip that session. And then I have scrapbooking in the evening. I'd better scoot.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Midweek Report

This is my picture of the week - David conked out on the couch Sunday night. He had asked me repeatedly for a couple of days if he could stay up late Sun. night to watch his beloved Cowboys play football. I finally told him that was fine - but I still expected him to be up and at them by 8:30 on Monday morning (when chores are supposed to commence). I went to bed before he did, but Paul caught David - sound asleep, missing his game! He's still a little boy!

I want to publicly thank those who responded to my last post - the one where I bared my heart and let you see some of the ugly parts in my life. There's so many, many emotions and different rabbit trails to follow in regards to this possibility of Ben attending school. I didn't even get into them all with that post. In so many ways, I feel like a failure as we examine this possibility for Ben - a failure as a mom, as a disciplinarian, as an educator. But I also know it really isn't about me right now. I can have all the feelings I want but what matters is what is best for Ben. I am so grateful to Laurie for telling me of her thinking in the same direction in regards to an adoption they were considering awhile ago. I appreciate so much the prayers from Joy and Kim and I know there are others out there who read but don't comment - but I know who are also praying. I don't feel as isolated. I know Paul is struggling too, in his own way. Monday he had the opportunity to meet with a friend for lunch. His friend is (I think) the VP of our state's Bible College - he's up there in the hierarchy, anyway. He's supposed to be sending us some reading material on something in regards to this situation he thought would be helpful. That'll be nice. I think it was good for Paul to have the opportunity to share with another man. As a woman, I can run at the tongue a bit and I generally have no qualms about sharing personal things with about anybody who'll listen, but men are usually not wired that way. That's why they tend to be the ones to stick their fists through drywall and throw rocks. They can only take so much, too. I'll keep you updated, of course, as things progress. My heart is still very heavy, though.

Ben said a couple of things over the weekend that I thought were pretty insightful and then made me think, "Am I really considering public school and vocational rehabilitation (as opposed to traditional education) for him?" He asked me Sunday night if anyone can ever "kill the soul." Wow! And then I think it was Monday night I took Sam up to bed and David and Ben were fussing at eachother in their room. They have bunk beds and each has their own radio. So, they have to be considerate of the other and not play their own radio too loudly. David asked me to ask Ben to turn down his so he could hear his football game better. I've shared with you before how Ben likes to listen to Family Radio with its heretical Pastor Camping. Ben loftily interjected, as David made his request, "Listening to Bible teaching about the Lord God of all creation is much more important than football!" Hah!

But then there was tonight...sigh...I shopped all day long today for Ben's birthday which is next Tuesday. It's his 13th and I am following my mom's tradition of making a "13" box for the boys - 13 individually wrapped gifts within a larger box. And this is in addition to his other regular birthday presents. So it takes more time and money, but it's a once-in-a-lifetime thing, so I really don't mind. David and I had a nice day alone together while Will held down the fort at home. No sooner did I cross the threshold this evening and Ben was being a beastie, inciting David to an argument. I put the bags in my room and it wasn't too much later that Will caught Ben in there, snooping. So I then was thinking, "Oh, you are SO going to school next year!"

In reality, this is a decision that has to be made apart from any emotion. Emotion will be tied up with it - there's no way around that. But ultimately, it boils down to what is best for Ben - and the rest of us.

We have a new garage roof! This is amazing to me. I posted last week about how Paul made plans to re-roof the garage because of finding shingles on sale and the promised good weather for Saturday. We had ten men and teenage boys show up at our house Saturday morning. I was blown away. I did not expect help like that! I don't know why. Our church totally pulled together and helped us so much when we had Sam and went through all the medical events afterwards. So I should not have been surprised that they came to help us put a new roof on. But I was. I am very grateful. And very humbled.

I got a letter last weekend from our school district's nurse. Apparently, Iowa has passed a law requiring proof of regular dental care to be filed with the local schools. This is just for kindergartners, 9th graders, and transfer students. This baffles me - the school? Why? And it irritates me to no end - this is totally "big brother." It is nobody's business if I take my kids to the dentist (which I do, by the way - in fact, they were all there just a week ago!). So I called the Home School Legal Defense Assoc. to see if we could wiggle out of this one. No such luck - the state does offer two exemptions. If you have a religious objection to going to the dentist (???) or if you can't afford to take your children to the dentist (which is senseless, because if that's the case then they will just refer you to the state's Medicaid or Hawk-I program which will then pay for the visits). I have one more thing to add to my to-do list. I feel like returning the form with a highlighted message on top, "Not That's it's Any of Your Business...!"

Sam got an eyeful of education yesterday. I have these motion-sensor Glade spray thingies in several rooms of my house. I think they are the coolest invention and do a lot to help cover up the smells of having 5 males living in a too-small house. Well, Sam recently figured out that if you push the button on the front of the unit, it will dispense spray. Yesterday, unfortunately for him, he was pointing one right at his face when he pushed the button. He got a shot of Glade right in the eyeball! Oh, he was one unhappy boy! Poor kid! But I bet my dispensers are safe now! For the rest of the day he kept pointing at them and saying, "owie, eye!"

Sam has developed an interest in his letters and numbers. A week ago every letter was "r" to him, but now he's expanded that to included d, b, and o. Every number is "2" though. I remember Will getting very interested in letters and numbers the summer before he turned 3. In fact, I remember that summer Paul bought this $50 orange book from a door to door salesman. I was aghast! But Will loved the book. It was all about letters, numbers, and early reading type things. So, several years later when another salesman showed up hawking the same book, I bought another one to replace our worn-out original copy! Maybe it's time to pull it out once again. Sam seems a little young yet to be learning these things, but maybe I have a prodigy on my hands!

Oh, speaking of prodigies...well, not really. But I got a "shot in the arm" yesterday. We have a senior education student from Faith (Bible college) coming to our house now to work with David. She's fulfilling a requirement for a class and it helps David. Teaching him to read was traumatic for me. I could write a lot more on that, but I'll simply say for now that it was hard. The reason was that he wasn't ready to read, but I thought because he was school aged and he wasn't that I was doing something wrong as his teacher. He finally started reading almost a year ago, at the age of 9 1/2. Well, I haven't really had any idea how he was doing. I knew he was reading, but I'm not sure where he measures in comparison to other students or how proficient his skills really are. She told me that she was impressed with his "reading fluency" - yes! (arm pumping action). My boy can read! It's just good to hear. I'm grateful he has this opportunity to work with the student, though. She really seems to be going out of her way to make things interesting for David. But we had to phrase it to him so that he thought he's helping her. He was a bit miffed when I first told him someone was going to come work with him - "Mom! I don't need any help!"

We'll be out of town this weekend, until Monday night, actually. We'll be in Council Bluffs and Paul wanted to stay through Monday so he can do some furnace work for some friends. I think the boys and I will hang out at the in-law's. I'm going to rent some movies so they don't die of boredom (or so they would inform me that that was an actual possibility). Actually, I'm going to get "Twilight" for myself. My girlfriend and I are going to see "New Moon" on the 23rd, so I have to get "Twilight" seen before seeing the sequel! I won't be on the computer, I don't think. It's hard to believe, but there is actually a computer out there that is slower than mine. And it belongs to my mother in law. We'll get back Monday night and Tuesday will be jam-packed. It's Ben's birthday but he also sees his psychiatrist that day, has allergy shots and his social skills class. Somewhere in there I have to fit in grocery shopping and Walmarting, too! I'm going to be one exhausted pup by Wednesday (which won't matter because that's my morning to work in Moppets). Pray for me! I may end up collapsing sometime next Wednesday.

Well, gotta scoot. Paul and the boys will be home soon from church and therein will end my quiet solitude. I suppose I should do something useful like pick up the kitchen. Maybe I'll take a bath. I hit the library yesterday so now I have a slew of new reading material...the bubbles are calling my name!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Letting Go

This post is one where I am going to be thinking out loud, in an effort to make things more clear in my mind. We have a huge, huge decision to make in regards to Ben. It's not one I want to make and the thought of going through with it just tears me up inside. So, you're going to get a glimpse inside my murky brain. Feel free to skip this post!

Like most normal moms, I love each of my boys deeply. But one thing I have found is that I love each of them differently, dependent on their personalities and needs. With Will, I remember just being in awe that this little person had come to live with us. He made it pretty clear from the time he was quite little that he didn't really need me, but if I wanted to stick around and make him baloney sandwiches and change his diapers, that was fine with him. And that's fine - that's who he is and I'm still crazy about him, 15 years later. But with Ben, it was different right from the start. He needed me. The staff in the NICU had pretty much written off his life, due to the extent of his brain injury. They made sure I knew that we couldn't expect a whole lot out of Ben's life. Well, that had a way of raising my hackles and I adopted a "I'll show you!" attitude. I learned how to do things with Ben I had never intended to. I learned how to stick a tube down his nose and feed him with it. I used a stethoscope to make sure the tube hadn't stopped at his lungs, which would have caused him to aspirate. I took him to one dr. after another. I stayed up late a lot of nights cleaning my house because we had therapists coming over the next day and I couldn't bear to let them think we lived in anything less than perfect order. I covered Ben's little body in Crisco shortening when his eczema was so bad, wept when his skin continued peeling off, and held him for hours when the infection set in. I bristled when doctors suggested I wasn't doing enough when I knew better. I have a vivid memory of being literally cornered at Children's Hospital in Omaha, Nebraska while a trio of doctors accused me of neglecting Ben (and predicting a sure and early death) because I refused to let them vaccinate him any more. And I stood firm. I taught Ben how to crawl, hand over hand, practicing over and over again. I was the one who danced when Ben took his first steps and I was the one who took him into the ER time and time again, when he crashed and split open various body parts. I have been Ben's biggest cheerleader, his advocate, and his Mama.

My greatest desire has always been to protect this child. That's why I began homeschooling after a disastrous kindergarten year in the public school. I found I loved homeschooling all my kids and have been a huge proponent of the whole idea ever since. It's a wonderful, wonderful, thing. My intent has been to homeschool all 4 boys all the way through highschool. But suddenly, I find that we are leaning in the direction of sending Ben back to public school, starting next year, which will be his 8th grade year. How can this be?

We started having some real behavior problems with Ben about a year ago. Some counseling helped and getting hooked up with a local psychiatrist and having him start on the drug Namenda also helped. But the problem is still there. Ben does not get along with his brothers. I had brothers - I understand that sibling fights are a pretty normal part of growing up. But with Ben it's different. He feels a need to be constantly informing them that he is stronger, older, and better than they are. He refuses to cooperate when they need his help, such as when doing chores. When he is reprimanded, it's like water bouncing off a duck - it makes no difference. Ben has no empathy, which is part of the autism curse. You can't explain to him how his words made someone else feel because he doesn't understand the whole "feelings" thing. One day this week I was very upset because I had spent a long time making and decorating some special cupcakes for my new baby niece's homecoming. Ben accidentally (but it could have been avoided) knocked my closed container of cupcakes to the floor, wrecking them. He laughed. He said that he wasn't laughing that he did it - he was laughing because I was upset. That same morning he turned on my food processor (I had the extra pieces stored in the bowl), cracking the bowl. He said he just wanted to see if it worked. These things have always happened with him. But now he's getting taller and he's extremely, extremely strong and the damage is getting worse. There is no peace in our home a lot of the time. In the moment, Ben cannot be dealt with. I can command him to go to his bedroom, but I can't force him to go there. The other day I literally put duct tape over his mouth in order to stop his abusive haranguing towards his brothers. He ripped it off. Now, later on, Ben is always, always repentant. He wraps his arms around me and tells me, "I'm so, so sorry, Mom! I'll never, ever act that way again!" And I believe he means it. But it only lasts until the next time.

That's one side of the equation. Here is the other: Ben's life is very narrow. His interests are very small. When I am not doing school with him he spends his time doing one of 3 things: 1) swinging outside (it's very soothing for him) 2) playing video games 3) playing a little game that he invented where he speaks into a microphone and records himself and then plays it back. He's pretending to be the announcer at different stores, "Henry, we have a clean-up in aisle 3, Henry, clean up in aisle 3!" and so forth. That is all he does. If it is a night where he is allowed to watch "Wheel of Fortune" (his favorite show) he will also pester me all day long with questions of do we have to go anywhere that evening (thus preventing his watching of it) or even, do I think they might break into WOF with a weather bulletin, disrupting his watching of it (never mind that the sky is blue and peaceful!). He is extremely focused on gaining the fulfillment of his desire, which is to watch that show.

Now, Ben could easily live out the rest of his life this way. I am content with the idea of having him live with us forever. But, should the Lord tarry, Ben is going to outlive both of us. Granted, he could go live with one of his brothers at that point and both Will and David have already volunteered that they would be happy to assume that responsibility some day - and I'm grateful for their tender, willing hearts. But how much better it would be if by then Ben has gained some independent living skills. He might always need some sort of supervision, but he needs to learn basic life skills. And in order to do that, his world must expand beyond what it is now.

In considering the whole option of returning Ben to school, one thing I am sure of: I don't want him mainstreamed, for a variety of reasons. But yesterday the Lord arranged a series of circumstances that put me in conversation with the former administrator of a local school system. He is a homeschooling father himself. So he understands both "sides." We talked at length about options for Ben. I found myself so encouraged as he explained how special education works at the middle school and high school level. It's no longer a matter of trying to make the child "fit in" with the other kids, but rather an attempt to teach the child practical skills that he is going to need once he "graduates." That is what Ben needs, I know! I have taught him the basic academic skills. It's taken him a long, long time but he can read and he can do basic mathematics. Is he ever going to be able to do more than that? Possibly. But that has to become secondary now to teaching him things like following through with tasks, how to talk with people, how to cook, how to do laundry, money skills and so on.

Now, we haven't made a final decision. We're still in the exploratory stage. This man that I talked with yesterday told me that he would place a call for us this week to our local AEA, explain Ben's situation, and get the ball rolling. It's going to take months to get this set up since he has been out of the school system for so long. It may be, once we get to meeting with school officials and see what they have to offer, that we'll quickly realize this is not what we want, and start looking elsewhere for answers. In the meantime we're going to be wearing out our knees, praying about this. Ben won't like it, I'm sure. It was a bit of a trial to get him to go to Kid's Club (respite care) once a month and he's still not overly thrilled about having to go, although he seems to enjoy himself once he's there. Change is difficult for the autistic mind. Hey, it's difficult for me and I'm not autistic!

I don't like it, to be honest. My heart's desire is to keep Ben home where he's always safe and he's always loved and I always know that he's been treated the right way. If we do this, I know that I will be an emotional basket case the first day of school. Just thinking about letting him go brings tears to my eyes - and it's a good 10 months away yet! It will be inconvenient to drive him to and from school every day. No longer will we have the freedom to take vacations in the middle of the school year. I bristle at the very thought of having to listen to others tell me what they think is best for my child, when I am the one who has loved him and invested so much of the last 13 years of my life into him! I wonder if we do this, is it an indictment against my success as a homeschooling mother? After all, I've attended special needs workshops every year at our homeschooling conference and never have I heard any speakers confess that the best thing for our sp. needs children might be not homeschooling them at all. If I only had more patience and more wisdom, might I not be better at this and able to keep him home?

One of the reasons we homeschool is because we earnestly want to live out the instructions that God gave to the children of Israel in Deuteronomy 6, which is to teach our children about God, "when they rise up, when they sit down, and when they walk by the way" We just didn't see how we could do that if they were in a Godless environment for 8 hours a day. I am not completely anti-public school. I know many Christian parents who have made the decision to go that route and I'm not going to argue with them over it. That may be the best thing for their family. But we couldn't justify that for ourselves and greatly desired to shelter our sons from an ungodly environment until the time that they were grown and strong in their own Christian faith. Am I turning my back on that conviction by allowing Ben to attend public school? Perhaps. Although, I was encouraged by this man that I talked with yesterday. He pointed out to me that Ben's mental development is such that a lot of the "nasty" stuff he might encounter in public school is probably going to go over his head. And if he's not mainstreamed all that much, then he's going to be more limited in his exposure to ungodliness. But it's still a concern for me.

Friday night I did not sleep well and part of it was having this on my mind. I had had a lengthy conversation with my mother about this earlier in the week and had mentioned it briefly to my brothers' wives. I had hinted at it on Facebook and received many offers of prayer, for which I am thankful - I love my friends! Paul and I discussed it at length Thursday night. But Friday night I began to pray about it in those sleepless hours. And I just laid it out before the Lord and told Him what some of my fears were in even considering this. At the top of my "fears" list was and is, "How can I protect Ben if I'm not with him?" and immediately I felt the Lord speak. It wasn't audible, but it was so strong that I had no doubt whose voice I was hearing. He said, "I will take care of him." And oh, that was as humbling as it was comforting. For I began to realize that with all the responsibility I have assumed in caring for Ben, I have always had a certain amount of pride in believing that only I was capable of meeting this child's extensive needs. I knew him best, I cared for him most, therefore, it was all up to me. I think I will always carry a certain amount of guilt over the circumstances of his disabilities and I know that has factored into everything as well - "I created this, now I'll fix it" kind of thing.

I wrote this for a couple of reasons. Believe it or not, it isn't because I have this insatiable desire to make public every thought in my head! One, I needed to organize the jumbled thoughts circling around in my brain. This is a huge decision and there could be potentially good and potentially bad things, either which way we go. Two - we need prayer. If we send Ben to public school next year this will affect him for the rest of his life. We dare not screw up this decision. We need prayer and Ben needs prayer. Something has to change in our family. If this is not what we are supposed to do in order to engender that change, then we need clear direction on what is.

It's not like we're banishing Ben to Siberia. He's still going to come home every night and we're still going to love on him and teach him what he needs to know as he grows into manhood. He may live with us for decades yet. But the hardest part of loving him, for me, is going to be in letting him go, so that he can, at last, grow up and become the man that God had planned for him to be all along.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Firearms Correction

Will would like me to inform my readers that he received a rifle for his birthday, not a shotgun, as I reported earlier. I know what a handgun is, but if it's long, it's a shotgun to me! I don't know how to tell the two apart. At any rate, Will wants my readers to know that he has owned his own rifle for several years now and is a proficient marksman with it. Ok, he didn't really say that - I'm just doing a little motherly bragging. At any rate, should an intruder break into our home - I'm well protected! So now you know...

Too Much to Write About

But I'll try. I may end up breaking the events of this week up into two different posts. We'll see. I also have two separate, single-subject posts I am anxious to get to. Sometime! I'm taking a cleaning break at the moment, as it is. Paul informed me this morning that since it is supposed to be 70 degrees tomorrow (!) and because he had just bought some shingles in a clearance bin at Menards yesterday he intended to call different men in our SS class and see if they would help him roof our garage tomorrow. Ack! This means I have to clean my house! I have had no time this week or last to follow my new cleaning schedule, so today I've been back to cleaning like a madwoman. Paul said, "All you have to do is clean the toilet!" Yeah, right! I have to clean every thing their eyes might possibly land on. That's a lot! So, I'm killing myself today.

That's Will, to the left, in his new picture. He turned 15 on Monday! Yesterday, as we were driving home from Boone (with me in in the passenger seat) I couldn't help but notice that he has whiskers above his upper lip - colored ones! My boy is so big! He said he had a good birthday. He wanted to go to a place out at Jordan Creek called Buffalo Wild Wings. I had never noticed it out there before, but apparently some of the boys in his youth group were talking about it, so Will wanted to try it. It was a noisy place, but the food was fine. If I'm going to pay to eat, I'd rather be somewhere where I can actually hear what people at the same table are saying. My brother called while I was there and I kept yelling, "What? What?" like I was some 90 year old woman! But anyway, it was a nice day for Will. We got him a second-hand shotgun (his "big" gift) and some other things. As his Uncle Matt said, "Any birthday where you get a gun is a good birthday!"...followed no doubt, by belching and belly rubbing!

The next day, while I was at the boys' dentist, I realized that my cell phone was missing. That always makes me panicky. I am convinced that evil is waiting to befall me momentarily since I am now incapable of calling for help! Since we were already on the West end of town I decided to swing by Buffalo Wild Wings and just see if, perchance, my phone had been left there. Sure enough, and thankfully, it was there. The manager told me not to feel bad - mine was the 3rd phone he had returned just that morning!

I did get a new niece on Monday. So, she and Will share the same birthday, which is kind of cool, I think. Now my parents' oldest and youngest grandbabies have the same birthday, 15 years apart. This is the first baby girl born into my family since me. So, my parents are pretty tickled! Somehow, I can't help but feel I let them down by producing only males...They named her Phoebe Grace Evelyn. She was Phoebe Grace Amelia for the first couple of days, but then they changed it. It was a scheduled c-section delivery. All my babies were c-sections, too, and you know, there is just something to be said about having babies that way! I went through labor - 16 hours of it - with Ben, and that was kind of painful! Especially at the end when my uterus ruptured! C-sections are just nice. I liked knowing the birthdate ahead of time. I liked the orderliness of the whole procedure. I hear stories about women tearing open their private parts and that does not appeal to me in the least - give me a nice, sterile, incision at the bottom of my belly any day! Of course there is the unpleasantness of the epidural and the recovery afterwards, but that's do-able. Percoset is one good thing to come out of modern-day pharmaceutical developments! Of course, I can say all this now since those days are behind me! I remember feeling like a failure after my first delivery ended in a c-section. I didn't know how good I'd just had it! But anyway, little Phoebe is here - with her perfectly round, c-section head!

We all got to meet her yesterday. My parents had been house and Jake (my 4 yr old nephew) sitting since Monday. So I drove up around noon yesterday. Matt and Kirsti and Baby got home from the hospital around 1:30, and my brother, Andy, and his family arrived from Minneapolis a little bit later. It was a little family reunion! I had to hand it to Kirsti for being willing to do this. I know when I got home from the hospital, all 4 times, all I wanted to do was drop (c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y-!) into bed and sleep! We had a nice time, though. At one point, Ezekiel, my 3 1/2 yr old nephew came into the house, announcing that "the big baby" was outside. It took us a moment to realize that he was talking about Sam, who by virtue of Phoebe's birth, is now the "big" baby!

Different subject now: Last week when we were at the funeral and at the graveyard, I was observing the different graves, some of which were decorated. I can completely understand how that would give bereaved family members a level of comfort to be able to do that. But then I had the thought of wondering if anyone decorates gravestones for Halloween. With its emphasis on things of the dead, might that be a little tacky? Well, no sooner did I think that and I saw a stone decorated up with vampire decorations! I'm sorry, but that is just too obvious and too over the line! Just do something autumn - some nice fall decorations and stay away from the Halloween stuff! Just my opinion here...

It's been a difficult week with Ben. We've had a lot of weeks like that. I'm to the point that I am seriously beginning to consider not homeschooling him. I plan to blog more about this later. But I'd appreciate prayer. This is huge decision to make and it's one I don't want to make. It's also one I don't want to screw up. There's just so much to consider and it's all very overwhelming, after being pretty much divorced from the whole system for 7 years now. But, as Paul mentioned last night, we have to consider my mental health. My mental health? Makes me sound like I'm teetering on the line that divides normal, loving, nurturing mothers between those that drive off cliffs into lakes with their children strapped in their carseats in the back!

We did have a minor "victory" with Ben this week. He went in for occupational therapy and it was so his therapist could see how he did with not having therapy for 6 weeks. She came out and said he's doing fabulous. She gave me a list of things to do at home with him and bid us a permanent farewell. So, after years of weekly OT sessions, we're free!

Sam had his last well-baby check up this week. He's so normal. Even his height has come down a little bit, back into more of a "normal" range. I don't think they got an extremely accurate measurement of either his weight or height, though. He was prancing around quite a bit on the scale and against the height measuring stick. But another chapter in his life his closed...Actually, he's lucky he went to the dr. at all. I took Will in for well-baby check-ups because I was a new mom. I never did with Ben because he saw different doctors so often for so many other things, that it seemed a bit redundant. By the time I had David I was seriously annoyed by most doctors because they tended to question some of my health decisions for my kids. But then I did find Dr. Steinmann who was very respectful of all decisions regarding the boys. And Sam had such a difficult first month of life that it seemed like a good idea to have him followed. They said to bring him back when he's three, but we'll see.

Sam's vocabulary has exploded in the last week or so. I do think he is ahead of where any of his brothers were, verbally, at the same age. I'm sure that's because he has much older siblings. One night this week he very clearly said, "There's a light on the bug!" ("There's a bug on the light") and today when my phone went off, he exclaimed, "The phone is singing!" Too cute! Last week when we celebrated his birthday with Paul's family, he opened a card and some bills fell out. Sam exclaimed, "Oh, Dollars!" I didn't know he even knew that word!

Tuesday night I asked Will to bathe Sam while we went to go vote. When we got home, Will informed me that Sam had had an abbreviated bath because he had pooped in the tub! Will has always been squeamish about bodily fluids, particularly those coming from other people's bodies! I just had to laugh. I have a very vivid memory of bathing with one of the boys when they were quite tiny and having a sudden southern explosion abruptly end that cuddly mother/baby time! It's a good thing I absolutely cannot recall which boy it was - might color how I view them today! Oh, and by the way, I won the election! I was re-elected to my council position. Only one other council person was re-elected besides myself. I wonder what that says about how the residents of Swan view their council? That councilman just had open heart surgery this week so it may be me vs. the newbies for awhile!

We found out today that Paul's re-application for his HVAC licenses was approved. $600 later and he gets to do what he's been doing all along! Sheesh...government! But the good thing is that he doesn't have to try and test out now. I was praying so hard as I opened the envelope today, "Please, please, please let it be a 'yes'"!

I know I said I'd never do it myself again, but today I did buy a box of brown hair dye. I just couldn't stand looking at my yellow head any longer! I didn't douse my head in it, but just combed it through, over the top. I'm pleased with the results. It toned things down and the fake color underneath (well, technically, it's ALL fake color now!) comes through as more of a highlight effect. Maybe I'll do this from now on and save myself bucketloads of money!

Well, I got it all done in one blog post - one, very L-O-N-G blogpost! Bless you for persevering to the end! It's been a long and busy week and I haven't been at my best. We didn't even get any school done, which I should not be, shh! Next week will be better!