Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Toddler Talk, Cold Weather, and Year-End Thoughts

The picture doesn't have anything to do with what I'm going to write. It was taken recently and it makes my heart smile every time I see it. It is a real blessing having a toddler again. I just appreciate this stage of life so much more now than I did when I had the three older boys. As soon as one of them exited that stage, another entered it and it got a little tiring! But this time it's fun! Usually.

Sam picked up a new word this week - "stupid." Uh, oh! I'm not sure where he heard it. The other night he was taking a bath and we heard him holler out, "stupid!" and Paul and I just jerked our heads up. Was that our baby boy talking like that? By the next day he was going around, informing his brothers, "You stupid!" so we had to put a stop to that, even though the cuteness of it just makes me laugh. It's like hearing a little old lady swear - it's just so unexpected, it's funny! Well, it shouldn't be, but somehow, it is.

Paul is on call this week; has been since Friday. He's been getting a LOT of hours, for which I am grateful. Yesterday morning he was called out at 2am, after not getting home until around 8. He came home yesterday around 3:30 and was gone again by 6 and got home at 1 this morning. Today, he is doing inventory on his van ( a year end thing) so they aren't sending him out on any calls until he is done. Unfortunately, he's battling cold symptoms like we all are (thank you, Samuel!) so it's even harder on his system - but so far, no seizures, so that's good.

We are supposed to go to Waterloo Saturday, but it's only supposed to reach a high of 5 degrees that day. So, I told Paul if he can pick up some hours that day - and he wants to - then that would be fine. I'll just go up with the boys. We need all the hours we can get. Christmas Day I did our bills and about cried. Hours just haven't been sufficient to pay all our bills lately! Although, they did predict that because of El Nino, we would be having a mild winter. So far, that has not proven to be the case. December has been quite cold and it's the 3rd snowiest December on record since they started keeping track in the 1800s.

I ordered propane to be delivered tomorrow. Ouch - that is expensive! I ordered the minimum they'll deliver without an extra charge (250 gallons) and that's going to cost $450. We'll need more by spring, probably, but I didn't' want to charge it and this was all we could afford. I am so grateful that we burn wood because that saves us so much propane. But we still need it for the little bit that the furnace does run and then to heat our water.

Of course, this week I could have kicked that woodburner right out of the house! I have a picture that I hung behind the woodburner and it had a plastic cover in the frame rather than glass. It warped up, big time! Fortunately, it didn't' wreck the picture and I just need to buy a new frame - one with glass. But then, I saw that the end blind on my vertical blinds is all warped now, too. I was not happy about that!

This will probably be my last post of 2009. I've been printing out all my blogs from this year (which uses a LOT of ink!), inserting them in plastic covers, and putting them in a binder. I really wrote a lot this year, I'm discovering. I'm amazed at those that tell me they read everything I write - that's a lot of reading! Thank you so much! I'm hoping to parlay my writing into other venues this year, in addition to my blogging. My friend Kristi and I have determined that we are going to make more of an effort to enter the FaithWriter's contests every week that we can. It would be nice if I could use some of this writing desire to benefit others rather than just my own journaling. I'm thinking about investing in a 2010 Sally Stewart guide, too. We'll see how the Lord directs with my writing desires. It may not be time yet. My main responsibility right now is motherhood and I don't know if I can do both.

A final thought as 2009 comes to a close: yesterday I had long conversation with my friend, Jenny. I mentioned her in the post previous to this. She is the one carrying a long awaited baby girl who probably has a chromosomal disorder that will, more than likely, take her life before it begins. Jenny told me that her prayer every day for herself and her family is that God would grow them spiritually. Wow! I have never thought about praying quite like that. I pray for Paul and the boys. I pray for their physical protection, as well as their spiritual protection. I pray that God will keep them from sin and guard their hearts (particularly in the area of relationships and the temptation of pornography). I pray for strength and development of personal character. But I never thought about praying for spiritual growth. Part of me hopes that isn't like the old joke about praying for patience - if you pray for it, then God will send trials that will increase it! But I started doing that today because above all, that is what is important. That's what I want for my men in 2010.

And that's what I want for me. Happy New Year to my faithful readers!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Things That Break my Heart

Divorce...babies who die before they are born...and so much more. But those two things are on my heart today, making it especially heavy.

I found out Sunday that a couple Paul and I went to Faith with 20 years ago (I actually knew the husband from elementary school) are divorcing after 18 yrs of marriage. It makes me sad, even though we really didn't know them and I've only reconnected with the wife in the past year. I'm not casting blame or even condemning them for this decision. God alone knows. But it hurts my heart, just the same.

I just got off the phone with my good, good friend, Jenny. Today she was told that her 24 week old baby (pre-born) probably has Trisonomy 13 or 18 - which is a death sentence. She's not hysterical, but actually very calm and I thrilled to hear her testimony as she shared her conviction that despite the sadness, she knew that this is God's perfect will for her unborn daughter and for their family. But my heart is breaking for her.

And I found myself weeping as I cleaned up the kitchen...because of things that break my heart.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Week

The best week of the year, brimming with anticipation, good scents, and peppermint everywhere!

I'm actually doing well and not stressing out. We are even having school this week which is a first in my personal history of homeschooling. I got done with Christmas preparations early this year and all I have to do now is a little bit of baking and filling the stockings. That's it!

Our plans have changed with the weather. That hasn't happened since 1887 when a Midwestern storm roared across the plains and dumped 17" of snow. That's what I have heard anyway, not having actually been alive then. But seriously, I have never, ever had winter weather interfere with Christmas travel. It's not uncommon for us to have brown Christmases, which is actually a little depressing, but good for road travel. But this year sounds like it will be different. Nobody knows for sure what is supposed to happen - just that it's going to involve ice, wind, and snow. It has been raining all day today, which is seriously depleting our snow levels. But that's supposed to switch to ice as it gets colder and then a snowstorm is supposed to whip up tomorrow and Christmas Day. I have talked with plenty of people who have had to alter their travel plans for this year.

Our plans were a little bit in limbo with Paul being scheduled to be on second call for Christmas Day. But we had planned to just see what the forecast would be. If it was going to be not all that cold, then we'd be safe to travel 2 hours across the state and spend it with his family. But now this forecast has come up. And then we found out that Paul's one brother was going to be visiting his parents' for Christmas. Because I don't know who all reads my blog, I'll just say that that is a situation better avoided if we can. :( So - it looks like we are celebrating Christmas alone this year, which is a first, ever, for us. But it will be fine. I went and bought supplies for a nice ham dinner for Christmas Day. We've got gifts, food, and plenty of wood for our woodburner, so we should be more than good. It's always nice to spend Christmas with extended family, but we're a family, too.

The other day we were listening to "Angels We Have Heard on High" and David pointed out to me that it sounds like they are singing, "Glory in egg shells day-o" Thanks, David! I'll never be able to hear or sing that again without thinking of egg shells!

Sam has a new name for David, who has always been "Dah" to him (which interestingly enough, are his initials!). For the past two weeks he's been "Dee-ba" now. I think it is hilarious, as does Will, who takes every opportunity he can to also call David by his new name! David is not as amused.

A couple of weeks ago the three boys were doing dishes. I almost hate to ask them anymore to do the dishes together because of all the fighting. I'd rather do it myself. All three contribute to the problem and usually I end up removing talking privileges before the chore is over. I'm thinking this points to a character failure on their part and a disciplinary failure on mine! But anyway, Sam was in the kitchen and all of a sudden, in the midst of the bickering, he yelled, "E'rybody need stop!" The room fell silent. None of us could believe that a 2 year old had just said that! We didn't even know he knew all those words, let alone understood that what was happening wasn't right. Wow!

I have begun to notice in recent weeks that Sam seems to have a more sensitive component to his personality. On one hand he's a very rough and tumble little boy. But every so often this soft side peeks through and I get a glimpse of his little heart. Just a few moments ago he needed my help and so I got up. I didn't know that my foot had fallen asleep and when I stepped with it I twisted it and fell. Oh, it hurt! I wasn't screaming in pain, but I was making noise. Pretty soon Sam, who was sitting beside me, just buried his head in my leg and began sobbing. I think he was upset that I was upset and hurting! So then I had to assure him that I was really ok (although I'm not sure - my foot sure is throbbing right now). We've had other similar incidents and it just simultaneously warms and breaks my heart! What a sweetheart!

I took Will out on a date last night. I should have started this a long time ago. It was a chance for me to get an emotional "read" on him and talk to him about whatever. He's not all that talkative by nature, but he was willing to respond to whatever I brought up. I think he's doing ok. I think I'll try to do this with each of the boys from time to time. We went to the Dairy Queen in Knoxville - only because the Checkerboard (Pleasantville) was closed! I couldn't believe it! My mouth had been watering over the thought of their amazing onion strings all day long and then they were closed! But I got to have a peppermint/chocolate blizzard at DQ and that was almost as good as the Checkerboard's strings!

Paul got a raise last week. It's a paltry 25 cent raise and he was not all that impressed. But, I told him it's better than not getting one at all and it's certainly better than not being employed. He's a little frustrated lately with the up and down nature of his work. He's had several days this month where he didn't work because it was too warm and there just weren't enough calls to pass around. And he's had even more days where he has been home early. That stresses me out, too. He has commented a couple of times lately that had he known that this business would be like his, he would have never gone into it. I understand his frustration and I would love for him to be in a line of work where we could count on a certain amount of income every paycheck. But, at the same time, I can look back to 6 yrs ago at this very time of the year, when Paul began to sense the Lord's leading into an HVAC line of work. It was because of that that we moved out here to central Iowa and have this whole new life. I wouldn't want to go back to the life we used to have - even with its regular paycheck.

Even with the stress, God is providing. Just today we got our annual anonymous $200 Christmas check in the mail. This is the 3rd or 4th year in a row that it has come. There's no return address and usually just a simple note accompanies the cashier's check. This year it said, "For the boys." I was praying that the tradition would continue this year, because we are in a particularly tight spot at the moment! God is good to us. He is - we have so much. I'm living my dream. I always wanted to be a mother of a lot of boys (kind of envisioned having a couple of girls in there, too, but that's a different post!) in a warm and happy house. That's my life! Here we all are, together at Christmas, living out my dream. What a wonderful Christmas!

You Know Your Brain is Over-Taxed when...

you say in a previous post that Jesus was born in Nazareth! Duh! We sing, "O Little Town of Bethlehem" for a reason! Well, I don't, actually. That is probably my least-favorite Christmas song. I remember clearly having to practice and practice that song for either a school or church Christmas program when I was quite young and deciding then that I really, really disliked that song! That just hit me out of the blue the other day, several days after I had posted that. It reminds me of last Feb. when I declared in a post that Lincoln and Darwin had been born on Feb. 9th, when everyone knows it was Feb. 12th!

I was at a parental support group Monday night and I made a comment about our kids' with autism brains, "not firing on all cylinders" which cracked up the other mom that was there. After this, I don't think it's just our kids' brains we need to be concerned about!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Missing the Baby

I was driving around yesterday, pondering stuff in my head while I did so (which is generally how I miss my exits and stoplights). And it occurred to me that in the midst of my Christmas preparations, something is missing. This isn't the first year I've felt this, but I'm feeling it more strongly every year. And yesterday I realized what it is. The Baby is missing.

Sam has been bringing home papers from Sunday School this month and excitedly squealing, "Baby!" when he sees an artist's depiction of the Baby Jesus - laying serene in a sterile and brightly lit manger while his mother (why is Mary always pictured in a robe of blue? Have you ever wondered about this? Is there some historical significance that suggests she would have been garbed in that color?) hovers nearby and Joseph stands off to the side - so as not to get in the way, presumably. Sam thinks it's pretty great. We have a nativity on our living room buffet and Sam was exclaiming just last night over Baby Jesus - "Baby! Baby!" I tried to tell him it's Baby Jesus, but he just says, "Baby." In his mind I suppose it could be Baby Jesus, or his cousin Phoebe, or any of the other new babies in our church nursery. They are probably all one in the same in his mind. The important thing is that he's older than all of them!

Our Baby isn't missing. He's actually lucky because most of our nativity looks like they're survivors of a mass genocide. Evidently this set was manufactured in some third world country with substandard manufacturing capabilities. Both our shepards are missing their heads, as is one of the wisemen. Joseph only has one arm. The cow lost an ear. The goat sits on his belly because all 4 legs got broken off. The sheep is balanced precariously on the 3 he has left. The angel lost her wings. It's not exactly up to "House Beautiful" standards! Oh well. Maybe one of these years I'll just replace the whole thing. Or maybe not. The pitifulness kind of makes me laugh every year!

But anyway - what's missing at Christmas is the Baby Jesus. I get so caught up in all the "have to do" stuff that I don't spend much time reflecting on the whole reason we celebrate. Maybe it's not even realistic to think I ought to, though. I mean, really - how much time can one spend in deep thought about this? Perhaps it is just something that goes hand in hand with this season of life. I'm the busiest now I will probably ever be. Christmas generally falls on Mom and I'm no exception. But like I was bemoaning to Paul a few days ago, I really don't think all this is what God had in mind when He sent Jesus to us as a baby.

And that's not to say I don't like it. From time to time I hear other women piously say they have decided to eschew all gift giving and other busyness of the season and focus only on Christ. Okay...(secretly I have always thought that maybe they were just too cheap to do Christmas). But I don't want to do that. I love gift giving at Christmas! It's fun! The shopping part I'd be happy to give up, but I enjoy that aspect of the holiday. I like the tinsel and the lights, the treats, the family time - it makes me happy!

What I don't like is the stress of the season. Now this year I had all my shopping done a full two weeks in advance and I had everything that needed to be mailed done by the 15th. Everything is already wrapped and under the tree - I'm actually ahead of the game this year! I budget out our Christmas spending all year long so that by December, it's a non-issue. The money is there and waiting to be spent, which eliminates stress I remember from previous years. But even with those preparations, there's still a lot to do that has to be done on top of my everyday normal life. I wish there was a way to do it all - AND enjoy the season.

I remember the Christmases of my childhood and it was truly a magical time. I'd spend hours just sitting in front of our tree, looking at my reflection in the glass bulbs, willing the days to go by faster! And I remember thinking then a lot more about Jesus at the holiday. I suppose that's because we were singing about him and talking about him both at church and my parochial school. But I had a lot more time on my hands, too.

But with the advent of motherhood my focus changed. You know, I think it actually changed before then. I remember getting into college and finals were always just prior to Christmas. So now only did I have gift buying and parties and stuff do do - I had to study! And as soon as I was done with that, it was Christmas! And then I got married and was working full-time, which didn't leave a tremendous amount of time for getting ready for the holidays. But it was when I became a mom, and especially as the boys got older and I began to want to do more to establish traditions and memories for them, that stress started becoming a constant factor of December.

There has to be a way to do both. I know the day is coming that my kids will be grown and I won't have so many demands at this time of year. If I want, I can sit and think about the miracle of that little Baby born so long ago. But the truth is, I don't want to wait until then.

The story of Christmas is one of love and I think by missing the Baby, I'm missing out on some of that love. That's the real message of Christmas - obviously, it's not the gifts, parties, programs, baking, and fun music. And it's not even the story found in Luke 2, complete with the pregnant teenager, the trip to Nazareth, rejoicing angels, and shepards. The Christmas message is found in John 3:16. It's remembering that "God so loved the World, that He sent His beloved Son." He gave us His most precious child because He loved us beyond compare, more than anyone else has ever loved anybody. He loved us. He loved us. He loved me.

That's a message that isn't reserved only for Christmastime. But it's one that kind of gets lost in the shuffle of the busyness of days. So, my desire is to still find a way to do it all. Maybe that means eliminating some of what I do (although I am toying with the idea of teaching myself how to make candy this next year, so that I could do some at Christmas next year - which actually goes against the whole "eliminating" idea!). Maybe it just means being a bit more organized so that I'm not attempting to do everything in December. Maybe it means learning to let go of what's not really important (like my beleaguered nativity set) and having the wisdom to determine what to keep and what to let go.

But most of all, it's going to be about not missing the Baby. I've done that too much.

Friday, December 11, 2009

It's SN-O-O-W December

Just a little play on words there, referring to our massive snowstorm this week...It actually first snowed on Sunday while the guys were out hunting and we were in Council Bluffs. I went to lunch with a couple of friends from my old church and afterwards I wanted to do some shopping. Side note: Council Bluffs has done some amazing things with their shopping industry. They are totally developing the south end of town (no doubt because of the casinos down there) and have all kinds of neat stores. I told Paul that the JC Penneys they put in makes me "orgasmic" and he turned bright red and said, "I can't believe you said that!" It is what it is! Had I known this was in the works, perhaps we wouldn't have moved! But I digress. Anyway, while I was shopping, it really got windy and snowy. By the time we left around 7 to go home, the roads were kind of treacherous. We had extra weight on top of our van with the 3 deer strapped on there (charming hillbilly picture...and I still have frozen blood on the side of my van!) and I just prayed and prayed all the way home that God would keep us out of the ditches! He did and I am SO thankful!

Monday was fine, but the news stations were full of news about an impending snowstorm. Ben had an allergy appointment that morning and then I was able to bump up his actual shot appointment to that day just in case things were as bad as they were predicting for Tuesday. We did a bunch of Christmas shopping and it was a good day. But things were a different story by Tuesday. That morning the sky was so gray and heavy with snow and it started coming down that afternoon. By Wednesday the entire metro was basically shut down. Interstates were closed and there was so much snow and so much blowing and drifting that nobody could go anywhere. We got 16" on top of what we had from Sunday! You can see it all drifted up by our back door in the above picture. The news said there hasn't been a storm like this in the Des Moines area in 14 years. It was actually a cozy day. Paul was told not to come into work (not that he could have gotten there anyway). I did my normal stuff around the house and he cleaned up some of his paperwork on the computer desk and helped Will with algebra. It was nice!

Yesterday everybody was moving again - sort of. It was down to below zero and I think the high was somewhere around 6 degrees, so it was COLD! The roads were still a bit icy so you couldn't go as fast as normal. Paul had a lot of no-heat calls to do, thankfully. I had a chiropractic appointment so I crept to town and made it just fine. Then I shopped all day and FINISHED MY SHOPPING! I can't enjoy Christmas until that chore is done. I just can't!

Last weekend went fine. Kathy and I had an amazing time together. We always do. We decided that this is nuts, seeing eachother once a year. There is no reason we can't do this every 3 or 4 months. Council Bluffs is only 2 hours away for me and it's an hour and half for her, so it's pretty even. We also decided that we are going to do a camping trip this summer with both our families. That was Paul's idea. Apparently he and Rich were talking about that last summer at the homeschool conference and Paul told me I should mention that to Kathy. She was enthusiastic about the idea. That will be a wild camping trip because we have 9 kids between us!

The men got all their deer tags filled. Will's friend, Nathaniel, who came along, got a good sized buck. I was pleased for him. He's such a fun, witty kid - I really enjoyed spending time with him! I'll be reporting on the butchering here, soon, I suppose. That's not nearly so fun as the shooting! Ben did go for a couple of hours and when I got back to the house I asked him what he thought of it. He looked at me for a moment and simply said, "It was cold!" I had a feeling he wouldn't be all that enthusiastic about the experience. Maybe if he actually got to kill something, he'd be happier...

Ben was happy on Monday, though, when he got to go Christmas shopping with me. Nothing makes him smile quite like shopping. It always has. From the time he was a baby, he was always content to sit in his stroller and just observe everything in the mall or different stores. Will and David, on the other hand. acted like they were imprisoned in an Iranian torture camp! Sam is the same way!

I was so impressed with him while we were shopping. We had eaten lunch at the food court and a nearby kiosk had caught my attention (because it had jewelry and I am such a girl). He wasn't quite done eating so I told him to just finish up and then I'd be back to clean up and we could go. To my immense surprise, he showed up at the booth a few minutes later, carrying both the drink and the shopping bag - which is not an easy feat for him. He has cerebral palsy and his fine motor skills are practically non-existent. I asked him what he had done with our food mess and he told me had cleaned it all up and thrown it away! Wow! Maybe there is hope for him!

He sure cracked me up the other night. He and David were watching a movie in the living room and I don't even know what it was they were watching (I'm thinking now I should probably be keeping better track of such things!). Ben came to where I was and asked, "Mom - is 'son of a ditch' a swear word?" No, that's not a typo - that's exactly how he said it! I wanted to laugh so badly! But I assured him very solemnly (by biting the inside of my cheek) that yes, that's swearing and we don't say that.

I had to take Will back to the foot dr. last Friday. He has a mess of plantar warts on the bottom of his foot. Nasty! So nobody else is using the upstairs shower until that gets taken care of and he's showering with flip flops on. I thought we had those conquered but evidently not. Anyway, while waiting for the dr to come in, Sam was playing around the door. Soon, he opened it and disappeared! I caught up with him at the end of the hallway and asked him where he was going. Sam replied, "to van!" I guess he'd had enough of waiting around!

I'm going to have to post a picture of my living room one of these days. I am becoming so pleased with that room - finally. It's been painted several colors since we moved in but I just never liked any of them. My colors have always loosely been burgundy (now barn red), hunter, and navy since our first little apartment. And I still like those colors. Last January I finally hit upon the idea of painting one wall a barn red and the rest a cream color. Then we ended up buying a tan couch and things have just really come together since! I picked up some new throwpillows this fall for it. In July I ordered a red throw from a home decorating party I went to. I discovered that a quilt I bought in Branson a year ago looked very nice against my tan slipcovered loveseat. I bought brown drapes last winter and started adding other touches of brown to the room, which I am finding I really like. This week I bought my Christmas present from Mom and Dad (they give me one big check at Christmastime for all of us. I do the shopping for the boys in advance and usually get my own gift right before Christmas). I got a 5' x 8' shag area rug in a deep chocolate brown. Oh, it is gorgeous! And it covers up my boring tan indoor/outdoor carpet that's in there. The boys love it because it's so soft! I just walk into the room and smile every time now! For being a small room, I think it's really quite inviting. And just think - a year ago at this time that front wall was just drywall with splotches of mud on it. The entry way was that awful built-up thing with the peeling white and blue linoleum on it. It's like it isn't even the same room anymore! All right...enough about me and my decorating prowess...:)

Well, it's looking like David may need glasses, at least for reading. He had a tutor for a month or so and she sent me her report on the experience. She told me that David had complained about his eyes hurting and would rub them frequently while reading. I have always been aware that he seems to have trouble focusing on his place while reading, but it never occurred to me that might be because he needs glasses! Now, I feel kind of bad that I didn't recognize this before. A number of years ago we had been to an eye dr. in W. Des Moines when David's cornea got scratched by Will's toenail (yes, really!). At that time he persuaded me to have all the boys' eyes tested since I had never done that before. Well, then he really put the pressure on for me to have all 3 of them put in glasses. I didn't do it because I didn't see that they really needed it. I know from experience that the more you wear glasses, the more dependent your eyes become on them and I didn't want that for the boys. It just sounded like a way for that optometrist to make some money! But - maybe now it's time, at least for David. I mentioned it to him yesterday and he wailed, "No! I don't want to wear glasses!"

I need to get back to my to-do list. Today I have so much that instead of my normal to-do list I have a "Must get done TODAY" list. Blogging was one of my things! So, every time I get something done, then I go wrap 3 presents. That way I'm making progress on that chore, as well. And I enjoy that anyway. I have to make 5 dozen cookies today for a cookie exchange at church tomorrow, which I think will be fun (as long as I don't burn the cookies or as long as they don't turn out to be so hard that they are chipping people's molars - sometimes I have that problem with cookies). And I have to get Will over to church tonight for a birthday party. It's going to be a busy day.

I should go check the mail. We haven't gotten it since Tuesday! Whatever happened to, "...thru sleet, thru snow, thru dark of night..." And I was told at the city council mtg last night that if we don't have our mailbox shoveled out the mailman won't deliver, either. I'm thinking we have a lazy mailman! That's going to be one big load once we do get it, that's for sure!

Off to work!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like...

Christmas! Well, on the inside of the house anyway, I still have my fall decorations up outside and bags of the Christmas stuff littering the deck and front porch. I am just not in the mood this year. Actually, I haven't been in the Christmas decorating mood for the last decade. It's just hard when you have kids (when you are, ironically, supposed to be making wonderful Christmas-decorating memories!). It's another chore to do. If it were not for David our tree would not be up and decorated. I commanded Will to bring in the tree yesterday and I threatened him and David into assembling it. Then it stood naked and pathetic all day until David finally began decorating it. Bless his heart, he even went and found a Christmas cd with "Oh Christmas Tree" on it so he could have music to decorate by. When I got home tonight I put up the last of the decorations and David enthusiastically tinseled the tree. My mom would shudder. When we were kids, we could only put one piece of tinsel per branch, so as to have an even appearance of silver all over the tree. David was taking handfuls and wiping them over the branches. Whatever stuck - stuck!

The tree is not pretty. It's artificial, for one thing. Growing up, we always had a real tree and I tried to do that the first few years we were married. But Paul would never get around to bringing home a tree until mid-December, which was too late in my opinion. And then I found out you have to water those things or they lose their needles. And then after Christmas you have to clean up all the needles! Once we realized Ben had such terrible allergies, it just seemed like a better idea to go with an artificial tree. But it's a trade-off. I dream of having a beautiful, color coordinated tree. I love shiny balls and would love to do a tree with all the same colored balls and lights. Oh, I can just see it in my mind! But, my children would have a conniption if I suggested that. So, instead our tree is filled with home-made decorations, some special ornaments, candy canes (one box for each kid - that's a LOT of candy canes! I'm thinking I may have to rethink this tradition for next year...), and a blue construction paper star on top. It's not pretty. But it's beautiful.

I got my last Christmas card addressed tonight and I tweaked my Christmas letter. How do you condense a year into two typed pages? All I know is that nobody had better send me a card who wasn't on my "send to" list because I am down to about two cards left!

I went shopping with all 4 boys last Friday - Black Friday. Ben was in fine form. Oh, I could have stuck him under a clothing rack somewhere and left him! At one point he had gotten in trouble for not listening to David (who was supposed to be watching him) in the store. He informed me, "I'm not going to listen to anyone shorter than I am!" That kid!

I was leafing through a home decorating catalog the other day and I found something that made me laugh out loud. It was an embroidered picture of a hen on the run with a passel of baby chicks behind her. Stitched above the chickens it said, "Raising children is like being pecked to death by a chicken." Isn't that the truth?!

This coming weekend is the annual hunting expedition in Council Bluffs. Paul has decided to take Ben out for a couple of hours. I think it will be good for him. I can't quite ever picture him with a loaded shotgun (don't want to!) but he needs to be exposed to "manly" stuff like that. We are taking along one of Will's friends from church who also enjoys hunting. I will be doing some hunting of my own - at the mall, though, not in the timber! My good, good friend Kathy will be travelling down from Sioux City and we're going Christmas shopping together. It's a tradition for us. Actually, we go shopping every single time we're together! We have bonded tightly over sale signs throughout the 20+ years of our friendship.

I had an unexpected conversation Sunday night with a lady in our church, whom I really do not know because they just joined this summer. She's older than I am and I just haven't taken the time to engage her in conversation. But anyway, she casually asked me if I homeschool my kids (I get that a lot. I must have the homeschool "look" to me) and so I began to tell her about what we're thinking with Ben. To my utter astonishment, she was incredibly supportive. It turned out that she works in a special ed classroom at a local school. So she was very helpful to me, as well as encouraging.

Yesterday, Ben was being a pill and causing all sorts of problems for his brothers. So, I finally drew them aside and let them know that Ben will be going to school next year. I just did it to let them know that there's relief in sight. The way things are isn't going to be how they always are. I thought they'd smile and say something about it being past time for that. But instead, they both expressed concern for Ben about how he would adjust to going to school. How sweet is that?!

And then today Ben found out our plans. I had not intended to tell him anything until next summer. But the superintendent of the Pleasantville school system called me today while I was driving. I suppose I should have stopped and gotten out of the van so Ben couldn't hear the conversation. I was really hoping that Ben was off in la-la land in his mind, but he wasn't. And boy, did he have questions! But, to my surprise, Ben was actually kind of enthusiastic about the idea of going to school next year. Now, that may change because it's still 9 months away. I fully expect to have to deal with tears and histrionics when the time actually comes. Knowing him, though, he's going to be asking hundreds of questions over and over and over again until school starts. That's going to drive me insane. I understand that this represents a huge change and change is extremely difficult for the autistic mind. It's going to take Ben a lot of time to process the idea. But he's still going to drive me nuts with the questions.

My friend Melissa and I saw "New Moon" last Tuesday night. As big of a Twilight fan as I am, I'm quite sure I already mentioned that here. I have been cracking up, though, to see everybody else in my family's interest. The next day Will wanted me to share the entire plot of the movie with him. Saturday evening Paul and David sat down and watched "Twilight" that I still had out from Blockbuster. Today David was looking at some Twilight posters at Walmart and pointed out the Volturi to me. He figured out who they were just from my description of New Moon! I was sharing with Paul, half-jokingly, the other night about how Robert Pattinson (he plays the hero of the movies) really makes my heart beat faster. So he told me now he thinks he needs to see the movie for himself so that he can, "check out the competition." Ha, ha, ha! I think we may end up being a Twilight family before this all ends.

We're already a Hawkeye family, that's for sure! Yesterday David made an ornament for the tree out of paper. It's the Hawkeye symbol. He colored it, punched a hole in the top, strung a ribbon through it, and hung it on the tree. Tonight Sam was gazing at the tree and suddenly, with great excitement, began to exclaim, "Haw-dye! Haw-dye" while pointing at David's ornament. So cute! He's also started saying, "Tay" for "ok". I don't know why people think 2 year olds are terrible - I'm having fun! Well, most of the time. Sunday I was in the pew with Ben, David, and Sam alone while Paul was up with the choir. Will sits in the sound booth. It's always a challenge with Ben anyway. But now Sam is in there until after the song service when they dismiss the little ones for Children's church. During one of the prayers he began to shriek, "Ben - pay, eye! Ben - eye!" Apparently, Ben didn't have his eyes shut during the prayer and that concerned Sam. Oh, to be a lonely and child-less!

I have a surgery date of Jan. 25th for my ablation, I found out today. I've got mixed feelings on that, but mostly I just want to have it done. I think it will be worth it. I hope so!

Well, I should be getting these children into bed. Then, I need to follow. I made the mistake last night of taking my multi-vitamin and B12 right before bed. Apparently, they work - because I was up until after 1am! Wow! I was cruising Facebook for quite awhile, hoping to finally feel sleepy enough to go to bed. The thing is, I really didn't feel groggy today, like I would expect after a shorter night. My energy levels seem to be normal. My dr. upped my Vit. D intake to 10,000 ius a day, so maybe that's part of it, too. But I really don't want a repeat of that tonight. So, I need to wind things down here.

Hopefully, in my next post I'll be reporting the killing of several big deer by my hunters - enough to fill my freezer for the next year and enough to make them smile and brag for a few months.