Wednesday, December 29, 2010

So this Drunk Walks into a Bar...

Hah! With a title like that, I bet you can't wait to see what follows!

Those who know me well, know that I don't drink alcohol. At all. I have a number of what I think are great reasons and I might enumerate them here before I get finished. At the same time, though, I think that is one of those areas that is best left between a person's conscience and God. So, I'm not going to beer bash.

All that to say - yesterday, for the first time in my life, I bought alcohol. Not only did I buy alcohol, but I got the hard stuff - vodka.

Before you start inviting me to keggers, I'll explain: it's for a recipe. Now, I don't normally even buy cooking wines - never have. I just substitute beef broth or don't make that recipe. But I ran across a recipe for homemade vanilla on my favorite organic website. Apparently, all you have to do is buy some vanilla beans, stuff them in a bottle of vodka, and stick it in a dark place for 2 months. After that - voila! - vanilla! I mentioned that to Paul and he was really intrigued. For some reason, he's got an interest in vanilla. All our married life he has urged me to buy "real" vanilla. Yes, well, "real" vanilla is about 3 times the price of the imitation stuff, so I have generally resisted. Once, he had someone pick us up a few bottles on a trip to Mexico and that lasted quite a while. Of course, I have since found out that a lot of Mexican vanilla isn't truly vanilla at all. They often use something called "Tommy" beans, which, are potentially fatal to humans. Nice to know!

So, it's an experiment, of sorts. If the recipe turns out, then I'll have enough vanilla to last me for a long time. If it doesn't turn out, well, I'll be dumping some brown vodka down the sink. The boys think this is all quite hilarious. I commented to Will that I sure hoped the rapture didn't happen while that stuff is in the house - otherwise, what might people think? He wisely said, "Well, Mom, if the raptures happens, I don't think you need to be worried about anyone finding your vodka and being concerned about it." True enough. But we could die in a car accident, they could be cleaning out our house and then they'd find it and suddenly have an answer for all their wonderings about me.

I was planning to buy it Monday while grocery shopping. Then, I suddenly realized that I didn't have my driver's license, which they would surely demand to see. It was sitting at home in the copier. So, I put it back and picked it up yesterday. I was pushing Sam in the cumbersome cart that Hy-Vee stocks, the one designed to look like a race car. Sam is crazy about those things. The thought went through my mind that that was going to look really bad - to be pushing my preschooler around while purchasing hard liquor. Oh well. So, I got the bottle, double checked to make sure my license was where I could grab it easily, and went through the check out.

And what a blow to my ego it was when the pimply-faced clerk simply rang me up, took the security cap off the bottle, and sent me on way. He didn't even ask for my ID! So now I truly know that there is no way on earth I can pass for under 21...

Part 2: Why I Don't Drink

Like I said, I have some good reasons for this decision. It's one I hope my boys will choose, too. But I also know there are many, many Christians who haven't made the same choice and I'm not going to point fingers. If we're open to God's leading, conviction can happen at different points in different lives.

1. I tasted wine once. I was 12 and it was in my grandma's fridge. I think I would rather eat my own vomit. I have never tasted anything so vile in my life before or since.

2. I worked in a grocery store during my UNI years. Sometimes, I'd have to take care of can returns. There's nothing like smelling old beer cans to permanently create a distaste for the very thought of beer.

3. I have read all 31 Proverbs many, many times. And one subject that is referred to repeatedly is the use of alcohol. I have to believe there is a reason for those warnings and so, it just seems best to refrain all together.

4. I have children and I don't want alcohol in the home because of that. I don't want them to experiment when I'm not around. Now, I understand that could potentially be a weak argument because we do have guns in the home and I don't worry about that since we've trained the boys about their danger. But I like it (the argument) so I'm going to keep it, anyway.

5. The biggest reason has to do with Christian testimony. You can defend drinking any way you want to, but ultimately, it's a bad testimony. Alcohol consumption, like a number of other practices, is something associated with worldliness. Sure, it may be something that falls within the boundaries of Christian liberty, but how close to the world do we really want to get? Should that be our aim, as Christ-followers? I don't think so.

Now, does all this preclude buying a bottle of vodka so I can have my own organic vanilla? Well, obviously not, since that's what I've done. I'll be curious to see if the results are worth all the angst it produced before and after the deed!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sunny Days

Yes, yes, I had to play around with my blog a bit - keeping it fresh, you know. Plus, I find myself just intrigued by all the different things I can do with this blog!

I am in a really good mood today - what's wrong with me? :) Well, several nice things have happened in the last day or two, which helps. But not that I want my mood to be dependent on my circumstances. I would like to think as the Titanic sank I would be the one commenting about how pretty the stars were and weren't we fortunate to be able to see them this time of night? I said I'd like to. Truthfully, I would have been the one in the corner, rocking back and forth, moaning, "We're going to die, we're all going to die!" Blame it on my melancholy personality type!

One good thing that happened is in the picture above. Our neighbors gave us this entertainment center and tv (it's only 3 yrs old and was rarely ever used, which is why they didn't want it anymore). I was blown away. They could have sold it and made some money. But no, they wanted to give it to us. So yesterday the boys and I got busy and unloaded our other tv cabinet (that we've had since 1999 - still in decent condition) and carried everything to the basement. Well, Will carried it all down. I helped somewhat. But when I tried to lift a tv, my hip protested mightily, and it's still mad at me. That kid just swung the tvs up in his arms like they were no heavier than a paperweight. We ended up carrying two downstairs - the one we kept in the cabinet and one we've had sitting on the floor in the back room. Paul had picked it up curbside (with a sign that assured potential picker-uppers, it worked "real good"!). Since Paul hasn't gotten done with the basement yet I was keeping it up here, but decided yesterday just to take it down with the one from the cabinet. It's nice to have it out of here.

And you know, it's just neat to see how God orchestrates the little things. Our neighbors are in no physical condition to help lift anything. That's why they are always paying the boys to come over and do odd jobs for them. With my hip being so sore I didn't know how I was going to lift the cabinet and tv with Will into our neighbors' truck and then into the house. But Will's friend, Nathanael happened to call and said he was on his way over to pick up his deer that's in our garage. Bingo! So I didn't have to do a thing. Will and Nathanael did it all, bless their hearts.

Then, Will spent over an hour hooking up the tv to the Wii (which will go to the basement once that's usable) and dvd player and oh, I was impressed because I would not have known how to do any of that. This old house has such warped floors and walls, too, that furniture always has to be leveled up with shims and whatever we can find. Will took care of all that, too. Now I'm looking forward to finding things to put on top of the center, as well as something for that blank wall space I now have. What fun!

Ben's school Christmas program was last night, and after his music performance in Oct, I was just dreading it. But several things happened that made it a real blessing, instead. First, we ended up having to sit in the bleachers, so we were right beside the students as they waited their turn to perform. Well, Ben is in a self-contained classroom with two other handicapped boys. I know who they are, but not much else. I didn't realize until last night just how fortunate we are. Ben is clearly less disabled than the other two boys. The one boy was sitting right beside me and my heart just ached for him. He sat there, rocking vigorously back and forth and moaning, biting his hand. He was so overstimulated by all that was going on - just couldn't handle the different environment. This time, the music teacher had assigned a "buddy" to Ben, a fellow junior higher and he was so helpful all night long. He made sure Ben got to where he needed to be, reminded him about being quiet, and so on. I was so grateful for this. Ben did a really good job singing with his class.

Ben's one-on-one aide came to the concert with her husband, which I thought was so nice of her. She didn't have to do that. It wasn't like she had any grandchildren performing. But Ben was there and that's why she came. Ben was so tickled by her presence. He couldn't stop hugging her afterwards.

And then what I liked is that this was an actual Christmas program - at a public school! Years ago when Ben was in public school kindergarten in western Iowa I remember his Christmas program was called a "Winter" program. Any songs about the Christ child were carefully avoided and the entire program was about Santa and Jingle Bells. A friend mentioned just this week that her daughter, who attends public school in Des Moines, had a "Secret Snowman" exchange at school. When one of the kids questioned this, stating that it's usually called a "Secret Santa" exchange, the teacher was quick to inform her that Santa is associated with Christmas and the school will have nothing to do with the Christmas holiday, lest they offend someone, somewhere, somehow. So, apparently, it's not just Jesus under attack - Santa's getting the boot, too!

But there was a great mix of music last night - quite a few sacred Christmas hymns, mixed in with "Silver Bells" and "Boogie Woogie Jingle Bells." It was cute and well-done. The children were asked to dress up and the girls were required to wear dresses. Like I said - I was impressed. I need to email Ben's music teacher and let her know my appreciation of the evening.

I had a nice visit today with James and Charlotte (our neighbors who gave us the tv). I like them so much - Charlotte really reminds me of my Grandma Daniels. Nice, nice people. I can't believe we've lived here 6 yrs and I am only now getting to know them. Will and David are over there now helping move furniture back into place since they had some new carpet laid. And I know Charlotte will insist on paying them.

I got home and Ben had arrived. He had Christmas at school today and came home loaded with gifts. I couldn't believe all the stuff he was given! His aide gave him a beautiful Green Bay Packers (his favorite team) sweatshirt. What generosity! Thankfully, she wrote me a list of who gave Ben what so I can get him to write some thank you notes over Christmas break. And his break goes until Jan. 11th! Holy cow - that is a LONG vacation! I hope I survive it. When the kids go back they will only be attending school Tues. through Fri. until Apr. 1st. This is the school district's attempt to save money. They are the first district in the entire state to try this.

And lastly, I'm in a good mood because our van situation is looking better. Paul had come in the house as I was finishing my last blog post and announced that he thought our van's engine was ruined. That was enough to wreck my day! But after he made some calls and talked with knowledgeable people, he decided to attempt to repair it. Apparently, an internal leak is what caused it to die on me in Oct. So he bought a bunch of parts and seals and he and Will have spent the last two nights working late in our neighbor's (a different neighbor - she's not living there anymore; she moved in with another neighbor. Swan is a bit incestuous I think - this isn't the first time that's happened since we've lived here!) empty garage. Last night the two of them didn't get done until after 1:30am. But Paul's feeling very good about the van and is pretty sure it will be drivable by tomorrow. I hope he's right! More than likely, the van's life has been shortened, but we might still get another 50,000 miles out of it - you never know.

So, things are looking good for Christmas. We plan to take off Friday afternoon for Waterloo and I am really looking forward to it. Now, we just have to pray about the weather. Apparently, a big snowstorm is on the way and they're talking 4-8" of snow for us Thursday evening and Friday morning. Argh! So, hopefully, everything will be ok. As you might recall, last year's plans to go to Council Bluffs for Christmas were curtailed by weather, as well. That's NOT happening this year!

Well, Little Miss Sunshine needs to go get supper on...Have a wonderful, merry Christmas, Everyone!

Saturday, December 18, 2010


I finally feel awake enough to compose some thoughts on here. I didn't get to bed until midnight and had to be up before 7:30 - which really, is not a tremendously short night. But I must be getting old because I could not focus at all this morning.

Apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks I am getting old, either. Yesterday, I was taking Will to church for his youth group party. Paul's parents came and got their van yesterday, so I had to drive the car that has been loaned to us - an '88 Chevrolet something or other (read: boat). I'm not used to driving such a long vehicle, so I was put-putting a long, getting the hang of it when Will commented that the vehicle behind us was getting ready to pass us. I said, oh that was fine. They probably assumed I was some little old lady out in her big car, skittish with the winter driving. And then when they would pass us, they'd be surprised to see it was me, instead of an old lady, doing the driving. Will seriously says, "Uh, Mom - you know, you're really not that young anymore!" So, I stand corrected!

Oh, good news, good news: I finally entered FW again after a 3 week hiatus and I won! I finally got back into the top 5 in the Masters division! And my story got 7th overall, so they're going to publish it. Here's the link: I didn't think it was all that great of a story, but somebody liked it. I tackled the subject of forgiveness from the viewpoint of a woman who had been terribly wronged (her sister slept with her husband). So, I was pretty tickled to get that bit of news this week.

We had Paul's work party last night. I ended up sitting by one of his boss' long-time girlfriend. We made polite conversation here and there. But then, they started the bingo games and Paul won a set of Paula Deen cookware. Well, I immediately saw that it was aluminum stuff coated with non-stick covering. I've only recently learned how dangerous that stuff is. So my heart sank a bit because the pans were so pretty - not that I have room for any more pans in my cupboards, anyway. So, I made a quiet comment about them needing to be stainless steel and the girlfriend heard me. Well, it turns out that she has recently started on the same quest as me - learning about natural health. We chatted non-stop for rest of the evening! I ended up giving her my card because her brother runs an organic farm or something around here so she's going to email with information about that. And I was writing down for her the "dirty dozen" list I recently learned about (the top 12 fruits and veggies you should always buy organic because of how porous they are). It was so nice! And Paul was able to trade the cookware for some hunting knives and camping lantern so all is good. Now I have to figure out how to return/get rid of the coffee maker I won!

I had to get my wedding ring repaired this last week. One of the prongs had broken off and, as it turned out, the whole head had to be replaced. So, UPS delivered it on Wed. and I soon realized that it's shorter than it used to be. The stone used to set up really high and now it sits right down on the band. I guess that's ok - I won't catch on things so much. But it just seems weird when I've been looking at it one way for the past 18 years.

Oh, I am feeling much better, now, too, which is good. So far the kidney stone isn't bothering me much. The weird/funny thing is that Dorothy called me Thurs. and we were talking and she says, "Oh, I have to tell you all about our drama yesterday." It turned out that George had ended up in the ER with his first-ever kidney stone. So, it was kind of weird for me to tell her, "Hey, I've got one, too!" But I'm staying out of the hospital with mine.

My favorite drug for colds is Advil Cold and Sinus liquidgels - great invention. So I went to buy some Monday. Here in Iowa we have to buy that behind the counter and show our license and they have to look us up and see how often we've purchased this. Pseudophedrine is the key ingredient in Advil Cold and also one of the needed ingredients in methamphetamine. Hence - the extra security. So, anyway, I handed my license to the pharmacy guy and he takes it and looks at it. Then, the next thing I know, he scurries over to his superior, who looks at the license, looks at me, and says brightly, "You got your hair cut!" So, apparently, the guy had doubts as to whether that was me in the picture!

Well, Paul's been working on our van, finally, and he just came in the house with bad news. I don't know what we're going to end up doing. You might continue to pray!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Blech, Penny-Eaters, and Holiday Stress

I'm sick. Not sick enough to lay in bed for 3 days, but just sick enough that I feel miserable while doing everything that needs to be done. It's a head cold - nasty, yucky stuff. And I have my first kidney stone - yay? I went to Urgent Care yesterday, sure that I had another bladder infection and figured I'd get an antibiotic that would knock both the infection and this cold out of the way. Only, I don't have a bladder infection. The dr. said this stone may pass easily or I may suddenly end up in agony one of these days and have to go to the hospital. Sort of feels like a time bomb inside me. Every time I have a painful twinge in my right side or kidney, I wonder, is this going to pass or is this where my day will suddenly come to a halt as I succumb to horrible kidney pain? Or will it happen when we're traveling for Christmas? Now, that would be fun!

So, I'm really, really missing my bathtub these days. When my body is so achy and I feel chilled all I want is to submerge myself in boiling hot water. A hot shower just isn't the same.

Sam is lucky that he is not sick. I did my grocery shopping/Walmarting alone yesterday, which was great. I got home, only to be informed that the kid had swallowed a penny in my absence. My first inclination wasn't to be too worried. I even posted it on Facebook as kind of a ha-ha thing. Then I started getting these panicked emails from friends, "You have to get that child to an ER right away!" and so forth. A little concerned, I called our ER. They weren't all that worried. They said I could bring him in if I wanted, but if he was acting fine and eating and all that, then there was really nothing to worry about. So I stayed home. And he still seems perfectly fine. He's the first child I've had that has eaten money.

I finished up my holiday baking/candy making today. What a load off my shoulders! I have been so stressed about getting everything done. Now I just need to get some wrapping done and I am finished! Next year, I WILL be starting earlier, like in August. I just can't stand the stress of Christmas-time. My life is busy anyway, but then to add the pressures of baking, shopping, and wrapping about does me in. I want to enjoy Christmas and I never feel like I get to do that. I don't know. Maybe enjoying Christmas is only for children and old people - not for mothers, anyway.

We got the house closed up!!! In a blizzard. Seriously. Last Sat. night we had snow and blizzard winds. The insulation Paul has has to be put up with drywall because it doesn't have a backing. So I'm standing in the room that will be my office, holding up drywall while ice particles are flying through the rafters, stinging my face and eyes. I told Paul to stay up late and finish the job because surely, we wouldn't have church the next day. Well, we did! There was some drifting but we actually didn't get that much snow, so we didn't have any trouble getting there.

Ben was supposed to have his choir concert Sun. afternoon but they postponed that until next week. I suppose some of the school kids live in the country and were more snowed in than we were. I was relieved when I got that call.

I entered a story-finishing contest at Our Iowa magazine. They only gave you 300 words to work with. But I managed to pull something off. I have high hopes for that one - as do, I'm sure, about 300,000 other people who submitted stories!

Oh, and I won a $100 gift card last week from Fantastic Sams. The DM Register has a coupon insert every month and a drawing you can enter. I always send in my entry, not knowing if anyone actually wins. Apparently, they do. I think I'm going to have some subtle highlights put in with the gift card. I found a whole tuft of white hair yesterday in the back of my head. But I don't want high-contrast highlights, like I used to get - just something to cover the gray, er, white. I'll use the rest of the card to buy a bunch of shampoo, probably. Maybe.

Let's see, what else? Oh, we went to Mary Poppins last week! What a great evening. First we went to this organic, underground restaurant a couple of blocks away from the Civic Center. It's called The Oasis. Paul had done work there when it was something else. We tried two other restaurants, but they had 30 min. waiting times - on a Thurs. night! We were the only customers at this place. But the food and prices were great. Them being organic was a nice surprise.

The musical was fantastic. I have never seen anything like that! The special effects were just amazing! At the end, Mary Poppins glides across the audience, suspended on invisible wires and then disappears through a hole in the ceiling. I just sat there with my mouth open - I could not believe it! So cool! I'm so glad we got to go!

Well, I think that's all I know. We're still driving around George and Dorothy's van. I'm really surprised they haven't come to collect that yet. Paul is planning to crack the hood on the silver van this week. When? I'm not sure. He has a couple of side jobs he has to get to. He worked late last night, he's still working right now, tomorrow is church and Friday night is his company party. I sure hope I'm feeling better for that. They give away a lot of nice stuff at those parties. And it's another chance to dress up and go out - twice in two weeks! Living the high life!

Went back to Trader Joe's yesterday. As an experiment, I bought a package of organic butter, their regular butter, and a package at Aldis. I got them home and compared ingredient lists. The Trader Joes stuff is definitely better because it doesn't have the colorings and flavorings of the Aldi brand. But their organic says right on it that its made from cattle allowed to roam and eat - not kept in feed lots. But it's 2 1/2 times the price of the Aldi butter. I also bought a gallon of organic whole milk - almost double the price of non-organic milk. But, I guess you get what you pay for. Now, I did look at their tater tots and french fries but I didn't buy them because their second ingredient was vegetable oil. If I want that, I can get them at Aldis. I did, in fact. I am planning to order an organic cookbook off at that blog I've been studying (the gal who talked with our Sp. Moms group last month). Small changes!

Gotta keep moving. Otherwise, I'll collapse, I think. Hopefully, I can get to bed early again tonight. Until later, when I am much better...

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Babies and Not Big Boys

Will and his friend, Nathanael have been hunting out here, for the past two days, hoping to get Nathanael's last tag filled. I think they've been having fun, too! Season One ends today at sunset, so they only have about 2 more hours to snag one.

Sunday, while in CB, my sister-in-law, Lisa, came out to George and Dorothy's. We literally had not talked in an entire year. Well, she has two small grandchildren now and Sam observed the little ones, even asking to be lifted up so he could see 2 month old Aiden a little better. Moments later, he disappeared into the living room and came out with his blanket around his shoulders, climbed into my lap, and told me, "I not big boy!" I think someone was a little jealous!

This was the first time I got to see my new great-nephew. This is the child born to Paul's 15 yr old nephew that I blogged briefly about before. You know, I actually feel a little bit better about the situation after Sunday. I got to meet the mother of little Aiden and for her young age, she seems to be exceptionally mature. Lisa and I talked at length about what had happened and I have to admit she is handling it with real grace and dignity. She shared with me that she was devastated when she got the news. But she's doing what she can to help the young couple, get them through high school, and give little Aiden a good start in life. Apparently, a wedding is in the works, but they have to wait until late Jan, when Nick turns 16 - state law! If it weren't so tragic all around, I'd laugh.

The 16 yr old mother, Janell, is amazingly beautiful. Her ancestry is a combination of Caucasian, Hispanic, and Japanese races. She's a knock-out and her son is the most beautiful baby I have ever seen. And this is coming from someone who was quite sure all 4 of her own babies broke some kind of world beauty record!

So that's where things are - a baby born to two confused and scared teenagers, but loved nonetheless, despite the tumult into which he was born. Kind of reminds me of another birth we're celebrating this season.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Weekend Woes

Here is Will with his two bucks that he shot Sunday afternoon. He's lucky he got to hunt at all. This was one of the most stressful weekends of my life and Paul's, too, I'm sure. Actually, it has been a whole season of stress, to be honest. The house project has stressed me out more than I probably realize - just the continual mess is enough to send me over the edge. But when you add the mess to the money factor and time and the rush to get the house closed in - argh! It's too much!

Well, my nice silver van went down at the end of Oct, as I mentioned before. It is still setting in front of the house where the tow truck delivered it. Paul, of course, has been so busy trying to get the house closed in, that he hasn't gotten to it - hasn't even popped the lid. Then, a couple of weeks later, his truck blew up - literally. He started it and something blew up in the engine. He almost has that repaired. So, we've been down to our old, '91, rickety red van.

We always go out to Council Bluffs for hunting weekend. The guys hunt for two solid days and I spend my time meeting up with old friends and shopping, so it's fun for all of us. So, we weren't sure what we were going to do about getting out to CB this weekend since the red van has been making a continual whining sound for the month we've been driving it. So, as I had written earlier, we had decided we'd have Will buy a car.

And we tried! We went to look at several last week and had finally found one we thought would work. But we couldn't test drive it until Friday. I hated waiting until the last minute like that, but it couldn't be helped. So, Paul arranged to get off work early on Fri. so we could get the new car. Only, we discovered that the brakes didn't work! ARgh! So now what?

Paul finally said that maybe we should get the whine taken care of in the red van before travelling. We stopped at an auto parts store, the guy listened, and said, "You need a new power steering pump." Paul was a little doubtful that that was the problem, but since he didn't know what the problem was, he went with that dx and bought a new pump. We got home at 6pm. And remember, we still had a 2 1/2 hr trip to take, plus the guys needed to be up between 5-6am to hunt.

Three hours later the pump cracks as Paul is trying to put it in. Now we have no vehicles and it's 9 at night. We had already been wondering if the Lord was trying to tell us we weren't supposed to go to CB this weekend! But we managed to get the part needed to fix this. Paul called his supervisor who lives in Des Moines and he ran to the auto parts store. We borrowed our neighbor's truck to go there. I felt so bad having to borrow a vehicle but our neighbors were absolutely insistant. They live a block away and they wouldn't let Paul walk over in the cold. They sent their son to pick him up and then had Paul drop him off on his way out of town. And they wouldn't take any gas money!

Finally at 12:30 in the morning, Paul has the power steering pump in. And then he discovers that the van is still whining. He quickly finds the part that is making the noise. He just spent 6+ hours fixing something that didn't need to be fixed! Double ARGH! So, dead to the world, we take off. I drive because I'd gotten a little bit of nap while they worked on the van.

The drive is uneventful until I am exiting the interstate in Council Bluffs. I notice that the van seems to shift on its own, but figured I am imagining things since I am so tired and have just spent the last 2 hours listening to George Norrie talking about alien spaceship landings and such. The van starts making a louder than normal whine, so loud that everyone wakes up. We get to the highway below Paul's parents' driveway and the van dies. It won't shift at all. The transmission went out! A sheriff comes by and drives Paul up the driveway and Paul's dad comes and hooks the van to his pickup and we get pulled up.

At 5am, Paul and I fall into bed, just stunned. What are we supposed to do now? We are more than two hours from home and have no way of returning home. We prayed together, asking for wisdom. That's all we could do. Why is this happening?

The weekend actually turns out pretty good. Will gets his deer and I still got to go shopping with Kathy, which was wonderful! We drive his parents' van back to Swan with plans to have George and Dorothy come out sometime this week in their truck with our dead deer. And then they can drive back their van. A few weeks ago a gentleman at church had commented to Paul that if we needed an extra vehicle, he had one we could sure borrow. So Paul called him and he and his wife are bringing it out to our place (a full 40 min away from their house) today. And then Paul plans to get our silver van going hopefully even this week.

This is all so rotten, but yet, it's just life, you know? Yes, it's an inconvenience to have all this happening at once, and as my sister-in-law commented today, it's an infringement on my comfort level. But yet, I can't complain. I don't have a terminally ill child, my husband is employed, we have a house, I don't have to fear the Muslims in the next village coming to rape, murder, and terrorize my family some night - and so on. Life is not bad at all for me. It's terribly frustrating at the moment, but it's not bad!

We'll get through this and someday, maybe even laugh about it (although I'm hard pressed to imagine that reality right now). In the meantime, prayers would be appreciated 1) To know what to do about our ruined red van. We put it on Craig's List and got numerous hits already, so apparently, we can plan on collecting a few hundred for junking it 2) That Paul can get the silver van going 3) That we won't wreck the loaner vehicle that's been so graciously provided 4) That we'll know what to do about purchasing a car for Will 5) That our attitudes would remain right and that others could see Christ in us in the midst of this irritating time.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Unsuspecting Porn Star

This is a FW piece I had fun with a few weeks ago. We were to write on the subject of "gossip or rumors." I would have loved to have more space to expand it a bit. I was disappointed that I didn't place; however, I did get in the top 20, overall, so that's pretty good. Enjoy!

The Unsuspecting Porn Star

Nestled deep in the heart of the Ozark mountains lies the small town of Ira Rogers, where very little ever changes. Oh, the young people grow up and eventually become the old folk, but the attitudes of the people have remained largely the same since 1838, when Ira Thompson stumbled onto this piece of land, half drunk and heartsick over the loss of his best hunting coon, Roger. He liked what he saw, stayed, and eventually the town sprang up around Ira and Roger II.

It was a cool November morning and Young Mitch Howse stood in the produce aisle of the local Shop! And! Save! He was mentally debating the merits of oranges vs. nectarines when Harold Culberts, the owner of Shop! And! Save!, ambled up.

“Well, hello there, Young Mitch!” he called out. Mitch Howse had been “Young Mitch” since birth, his father being “Old Mitch.” Mitch already knew that someday he would be ninety and still be called “Young Mitch.” That’s how things were in Ira Rogers.

“Alone today?” Harold questioned.

“Ma’s a bit under the weather, so she sent me instead.” Mitch explained. The Howse family lived on the outskirts of town. Originally farmers, they now made their money installing and pumping septic systems. But old habits die hard, and like most farmers of a previous era, the Howses came into town only weekly to run their errands.

“Ah, I see,” said Harold. “Well, I sure hope she gets to feeling better soon! Thanksgiving’s coming up and she’s not going to want to be feeling poorly for that.”

“Oh no,” Mitch assured him. “I’m sure she’ll be fine soon.”

“So, how’s that sister of yours?” Harold continued.

Cathy Howse was one of the few young people of Ira Rogers that had departed. Valedictorian of her graduating class, she took off for college and from there went to work for a film production company in Chicago. Everyone regarded Cathy with an equal mixture of fascination, envy, and pity.

Mitch brightened, “Oh, Cathy’s doing great! She just finished up her second foreign film and said it turned out really great. She can’t wait to get started on another one!”

If Young Mitch had been looking closely, he would have noticed the skin on Harold’s neck turning a bright, rosy color. Harold stammered something about needing to check his lettuce and abruptly walked away.


“Really?” chortled Les Grant, Harold’s closest ally since grade school, “I always knew there was somethin’ about that girl!” He moved his hands in the air, making the universal symbol for a well-endowed woman, “ Imagine - a porn star, right from Ira Rogers!”

“That’s what he said, all right!” agreed Harold.

Les leaned in, “Hey --” he said, “Do you suppose she’s got some of those fake -- you know?” He cupped his hands in the general region of his own chest.

Harold guffawed, “Guess we’ll see ourselves! Next week is Thanksgivin’ and Cathy’s never missed comin’ home for a holiday yet.”


That night as Harold spooned his chili in, he suddenly remembered the news of the day and shared it with his wife, Lucille.

“Oh, Harold!” Lucille exclaimed, “You know that can’t be true -- not little Cathy Howse!”

“I heard it with my own ears” Harold declared solemnly.

“Harold! You couldn’t hear the trumpet of the Lord calling you to Glory with those ears of yours!” Lucille countered.

“I know what I heard” insisted Harold, “Cathy Howse makes porn films up there in Chee-cago!” He rested his elbows on the table and mused, “I wonder if she still goes by “Cathy” or if she changed her name to ‘Cinnamon’ or ‘Jasmine?’” He looked at Lucille, “That’s what they do, you know -- all them porn stars change their names.”

“And just how would you know that?” Lucille asked pointedly. She made a hmph - ing noise and got up from the table.


The next Saturday Cathy Howse, who had arrived in Ira Rogers the day before, accompanied her mother to the Shop! And! Save!. As they strolled through the aisles, Cathy began to feel funny. It seemed as if everyone was looking at her -- and grinning. And why had that bag boy nearly tripped over himself trying to open the door for her? Cathy decided that perhaps she’d just lived in Chicago for too long…and began to mentally calculate how many days before she could return.

“And the tongue is a fire…” James 3:6

Sunday, November 28, 2010

PS - I Love You

A postscript to my last post: 2 1/2 yrs ago I was privileged to watch my first (and maybe only) home birth. It was when my friend Tammy gave birth to her daughter, Lariah. Sam was only 6 months old then so he came along. Later on, I joked to Ray and Tammy that maybe I had just witnessed the birth of my future daughter-in-law. Well, it's funny, because by the time Sam was more cognizant and getting around on his own, it was evident that he just adores Lariah. He's always looking for her at church and generally, when you see one, you'll see the other. He is such a busy boy, but he will sit quietly by Lariah out in the church foyer. On Sunday mornings he'll generally make a comment about how we're going to church and he's going to see "Riah." Now that he's getting older, I've noticed he is starting to tease her more. In fact, a couple of weeks ago he was making faces at her in Children's Church so I had him move and that just broke his heart. He cried and cried so I finally ended up letting him sit by her again.

Well, today in Children's Church I was talking to the kids about love and I asked each of the children to name someone who loves them. So I asked Sam, "Who is somebody who loves you?" and without missing a beat, he replied, "Riah." The room just exploded with laughter -not from the kids, but from Paul and me and from the helpers. Interestingly enough, today's teen helpers were Will and Lariah's 18 yr old brother, Nathanael. So, those two were really cracking up!

It makes me curious to see what the future will bring, that's for sure!

Healthy Me, Good Drugs, and Vehicles

It's a Sunday night and I'm not at church -- mostly because I just didn't feel like getting out of my sweats and getting dressed up again! Pathetic, I know. I am fighting a cold, too, but it's not too bad. I do need to go take some more coconut oil soon, though.

Yes, coconut oil. I only recently learned about the powerful anti-viral properties of this product. What you do, when you are feeling ill is to take a spoonful of the oil and spread it on some toast and then coat that with honey to disguise the taste. It knocks whatever you've got right out. I woke up Friday feeling really icky so I bought some of this that day. It's almost instantaneous in how quickly you feel better. I had a piece of toast when I came home from church this morning and I have felt fine ever since. But I'm going to take another one after I get done writing this.

Paul had to get his tooth pulled the day before Thanksgiving. The day before a huge piece of it broke off and left a really sharp edge that kept cutting his tongue. So he got that yanked out. I noticed he got a prescription for Vicodan. I had to have c-sections to get prescriptions for that good stuff! I've had plenty of teeth pulled and I never got anything like that! I think I'm going to go to his dentist from now on! Although, I'm not planning to lose any more teeth.

Our Thanksgiving was quiet. I made a nice dinner, but it was meatballs instead of turkey. The boys were not impressed - and they don't even like turkey! Ben kept pawing through my grocery bags, asking, "Where's the turkey?" and David had plenty of choice comments for me. This was actually Paul's idea. He suggested we just have frozen pizza, but I thought of doing things a step up from frozen pizza. At one point David turned to me and said, "You know, I don't know why they call it 'Turkey Day' when some people serve MEATBALLS!" Sheesh...

Oh, I went to that Norwex party last week. I have to say I was really impressed. They do sell some actual cleaning products but their big thing is their microfiber cloths. They have silver in them and, as a result, you clean only with water. I'm looking forward to getting mine. Later, I read through their catalog and I was bothered to see that their big emphasis is saving the planet (which is a total crock) but the demonstrator didn't mention anything about that. She just showed us the products. I'm half tempted to have my own party and I don't have parties. I got talked into one when Will was a baby and it stressed me out so much I swore I'd never have another one. And I haven't. But if I do agree to host a Norwex party, it'll have to be after my house gets more in order.

Will dragged me out shopping on Black Friday. I didn't stumble across any great deals, but I did get some Christmas shopping done. I almost lost Sam, too. The crowds out at Jordan Creek were unreal. He got separated from me and I was panicking because there were so many people that I couldn't find him. It was only about a minute later that I spotted him standing in the throng, looking around. I don't even think he realized he was lost yet. But, oh, my heart was pounding hard!

I visited our new Trader Joe's for the first time. I LOVE that store! They have so many natural and good-for-you products. And they're not super-pricey. I bought some natural potato chips (not made with saturated fats), some pure mango juice, a bag of almonds (for a granola recipe I want to try) and some yummy all-natural crackers and I only spent a total of $13! I'm going back tomorrow. I didn't realize that good-for-you food could actually taste good, too. But even if it didn't, I'd still eat it, I think. I've been reading up on corn syrup and trans fats and what they do to your body. I have to change my eating habits as much as possible!

We loaded up on bullets and insulated socks and gloves at Scheels for hunting this next week. Oh, my goodness - these guys had better shoot a LOT of deer! Will's special insulated gloves with the rubberized trigger thumb cost $25! And the two pairs of insulated socks I got for him and Paul were $15 each!

Speaking of hunting: figuring out just how we're going to get out to Council Bluffs has been a bit of an ordeal. I've already made plans with Kathy to shop on Sat. But then last night Will said that Paul said he was just going to drive his truck (which he just got running). But we can't all fit in there! So we talked and talked about what to do and finally we decided that we'd just have to pay somebody this week to fix my silver van because Paul does not have the time and won't until probably after Christmas. I hate to pay somebody to do something that Paul can probably do on his own, but time is a commodity too.

But then this morning Paul says to me, "Why don't we just let Will buy a car?" I hadn't thought of that. It was going to happen sooner or later, so it might as well be now. He has the money and since we'd be using it, we can help him out or at least definitely pay for the licensing, insurance, gas, and any repairs. Then, we could take out the red van (that is making a dreadful whining noise) and if something happened on the way, we at least wouldn't be totally stranded because we'd have the car. So, Paul spent the afternoon perusing Craig's List and making some phone calls. He and Will will go look at several tomorrow night. Will is excited! Our use of it would be temporary - just until Paul gets the silver van fixed. I hope that's ok as parents - to have your child buy something and then to turn around and use it yourself!

When Paul gets home tonight we're going to watch the Hallmark movie and then grind up some deer meat that was given to us. We cut it up last night. A guy at church gave us a huge section of a deer he got bowhunting. I am so thankful because now I won't need to buy any hamburger tomorrow! And deer meat is much more healthy for you, too. I also started buying our eggs from the neighbor at the bottom of the hill who has a farm. They're a tad more expensive, but they're organic and free range! I sound sick, I know - what happened to the Dorito Queen?

So that's what I know for now. Off to go spread some coconut oil on toast (and I have always detested the taste and texture of coconut, by the way)...

Monday, November 22, 2010

Monday Musings

Today Sam was going to the bathroom and he told me, "My wiener is raining!" He thought that was hilarious...toddler humor!

Not a whole lot to catch up on today. I need to start dinner soon because I'm leaving early tonight to go to my first Norwex party. I'd never heard of them until about a month ago. Should be interesting - they sell cleaning cloths and stuff, I guess. And you know how much I LOVE cleaning!

Ben had his birthday last week. He got his long-coveted Wheel of Fortune Wii game, so he's been a happy boy. He's been coming down at 6:30 every morning to play. I always send him back to bed until 7am!

Oh - I'm getting published again! I was kind of bummed when I saw that my latest FW piece didn't place in my division. I'm so used to losing anymore that I didn't even think to check the Editor's Choices until my friend Kristi emailed me, saying, "Congrats!" I got 9th place! Here's the link to my story if you want to read it: I wrote about miscarriage this time. I think because so many women have been through it, it touched many at that level. My mom said it's a "three-hanky plus" piece! I have a great idea for this week's topic; I just need to find the time to write it!

So, anyway, that's 5 stories now that are going to be published in FW anthologies - I'm excited!

Paul cut a hole yesterday in the mud room and hung the new door. He bought this gorgeous Victorian door for $10 at an auction this summer. For some reason, I thought it was going to face the kitchen -not our ugly mud room. I really don't like that. The mud room is just that - uninsulated, storage, dirty...and now with a beautiful door! Whatever, I guess!

We still do not have an operating furnace and we're limping along with the one van...stressful times, to say the least. And Paul ended up having 2 seizures over the weekend. But he logged 70 hours of work last week, so I wasn't too surprised.

Well, I need to keep moving. Hard to believe it's Thanksgiving week, already...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

New Maturity

Here I am, the NEW me! It's amazing what a haircut can do. I'd been mulling over the thought for awhile of cutting off all my hair. I didn't know if I would do it, but I did, as you can see. My reasons were multiple. I was tired of dealing with frizzy long hair. It takes a long time to do. And, 40 is looming large on the horizon, which doesn't bother me a bit. But there is something about that age that speaks of a new maturity and a shorter hairstyle seems more "adult" in my mind. Never mind that there are plenty of 40+ Hollywood actresses who still wear their hair long!

And not least of all, there comes an age for all women when long hair ceases to speak of youth and does the opposite - ages the woman. Obviously that's different for all and I'm not sure I was to that point yet, but why risk it? I need all the youth points I can get on my side! I was surprised to see today while doing the back that I've got gray hair creeping down the back of my head. I thought it was confined to the rootline. Apparently not. My stylist says she has a "plan" to let my gray grow in naturally, but at $68 a pop, I may need to come up with my own plan!

Maybe it's not just my hair that is maturing, either. Tuesday was our co-op pick-up. I ordered our first ever bag of evaporated cane juice (non-processed sugar) - expensive stuff! But I knew several of the other women in the group had ordered it in the past and I had only recently learned of the benefits of it. Anyway, while we waited for the truck, I ended up getting into some interesting conversations with the women on health and nutrition. There is SO much I don't know.

And then that very night was my Sp. Needs Moms group. I had no idea we were having a special speaker, via skype. Guess what her topic was - organic and whole eating! She has a blog that I've been studying all week since. I've also been peppering another member of the group with my questions.

The truth is, I don't want to change our eating habits. But I am becoming convinced that our general health would improve if our diets did. I don't want to get to 65 and be on tons of meds that eat up the budget, like some good friends/neighbors of ours have to be. I see Ben and lately David, really struggling with nasal allergies and I wonder - could it be what they eat? Last night Paul had two seizures and kneed me in the eyeball during one. Could he be helped? What about my neurological issues, my daily headaches?

But yet, I don't know how to do this. My new friend, Vicky, an expert out of necessity, is urging me to take it slow. Even, Carrie, on Skype, said it's important to not change to much at once - could send your body into shock or something, I guess. They suggest changing one thing a week or so. And then the expense of it concerns me greatly. It's hard enough to buy regular, additive and corn syrup filled food for 6 people and stay within budget. How on earth am I going to buy organic which costs a lot more?

And I LIKE junk food! My taste buds are very cultured towards sweets and junky stuff. They don't like vegetables and most fruits. And the boys - ! I've ruined them, raising them on white flour and sugar. They're NOT going to be open to changes in their diets!

But I'm praying for wisdom. We just got a Trader Joe's grocery store. I've never been in one, but I guess they carry quite a few organics. So I thought maybe I'd take the first $10-15 of our grocery budget and buy from there. Apparently, Costco carries a lot, too, but I'm not too excited about paying a membership fee and then having to buy in bulk. We just couldn't afford that. So, I'm going to take baby steps. This week I've been reading labels of all our food. I copied down a list of the "Dirty Dozen" fruits and veggies you should always buy organic because these, in particular, tend to absorb pesticides more so than others. I can do that.

So, I've gotten more mature looking on the outside. I have a feeling the inside is next.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Children are a Gift from the Lord

I have had writing this post on my to-do list for about 3 months now. It's kind of interesting that it's today, of all days, that I'm finally getting to it.

Today is Ben's birthday, which is day that often makes me a bit melancholy, since I can't help but remember the traumatic events of that day. What should have been a happy day instead almost ended up being the day that both Ben and I died. It also signaled a whole new direction for our family. But I always struggle with feeling that I should feel happy (and I do) because Ben is still here and very much alive. I'm actually doing pretty well on this birthday - those sad feelings are lurking around my heart, but they're pretty squashed down.

This spring in my special needs moms group we had a speaker by the name of Jolene Philo. She wrote a book entitled, "A Different Dream for my Child." She actually ended up interviewing me about Ben for her second book. I bought the book in May, but didn't read it until August. It's excellent - devotionals for parents dealing with any type of a-typical situations with their children. She had one chapter that really grabbed me by the throat and I have not gotten it out of my mind.

She wrote about how the Bible tells us that children are a "gift from the Lord." Period.


I guess it got to me because while there has never been any doubt that I love Ben, I have often thought, though, that I got the "short end" of the stick when he was born. I look around and I see that my friends got these beautiful, healthy, well-behaved children - great gifts. And I got the broken one.

But that's not what the Bible teaches. It simply tells us that children are a gift. If I was on the ball this morning I'd go hunt up the reference for the verse, but I'm not. But it's in there. So that means that ALL children are considered to be a special gift from the Lord, even those that are not whole in body or mind.

Like I said, it really struck me. It was not new information, but for the first time, I really absorbed it. It's so easy to say, "Oh yes, my child is a gift!" But he doesn't feel like a gift when I've had to go to 13 doctors and therapy appointments in one week. He doesn't feel like a gift when he's arguing and yelling at me. I definitely don't feel like he's a gift when he's throwing a tantrum, jumping and screaming, because he didn't' get his way. It doesn't feel like a gift when I am combing his hair - and having to reach up to do it because he's taller than me. I don't feel blessed when I am putting his deodorant on him or explaining for the umpteenth time why it's important to check before leaving the bathroom to make sure our underwear is tucked inside our pants. It doesn't feel like a gift when I worry that I may and probably will die before him and not knowing who will be there to take care of him in his latter years. What kind of gift is that?

But yet, he is a child. And he was given to me. And, so, he is my gift.

Happy Birthday, Ben!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Lullaby of Love

Here's a FW piece I wrote a couple of weeks ago. We were supposed to write about hand-written letters. This was one where I was really never struck by a blinding bolt of inspiration. I sat down at the computer the night I needed to get it in, not really knowing what I was going to write. I struggled with the ending and changed it several times. It's not one of my favorites. But I did get some nice comments on it and I ended up placing something like 21st or 25th overall with it, which surprised me. I didn't think it was that good.

Lullaby of Love

It is my mother’s weeping that awakens me. She quietly sniffles as the teardrops roll down her face.

Mom is in the corner of my hospital room, holding my two-day old daughter. Today is the day that I go home. And my little girl will go to another home. Soon, her adoptive parents will come and I will release her. And so, my mom is saying good-bye as well, her hurt intensified by knowing how my heart must ache, as well as having to bid her first grandchild good-bye.

My pregnancy wasn’t a huge surprise. I had been remorseful as soon as the deed was done and had begged God to forgive me. Of course He had. But actions always have consequences and that was how I found myself pregnant my senior year of high school.

I had gone to Mom as soon as I mustered up the courage to tell her. She looked at me for a long moment and then swept me into her arms.

“Oh, Kayla,” she murmured. She stepped back and placed her forehead against mine. “We’re going to get through this, ok?” she promised me. And I believed her.

My boyfriend broke up with me as soon as I told him the news. Mom consoled me by pointing out that that choice revealed his character. I just wish it hadn’t hurt so badly.

I spent the first few months trying to act like a normal high schooler in-between bouts of vomiting and attempting to hide my expanding shape under baggy clothes. I finally shared my secret with my cousin, Mandy. I figured my mom had probably already told her mom and Mandy might be mad if I didn’t tell her sooner than later.

Mandy had a little boy last year when she was only sixteen years old. Logan is the cutest toddler with his blond curls! We sat together on the floor, watching him play.

“Ooh!” Mandy squealed, “This is so neat, Kayla! Our babies will be cousins! We can have play dates and if you have a boy I’ve got all kinds of stuff you can use.” She bubbled with enthusiasm.

I was a little stunned. I hadn’t thought of my pregnancy yet as being good news. The way Mandy talked reminded me of when we were little and used to play dolls together. Except, our babies now weren’t just dolls.
Responding to my silence, Mandy asked, “Well, you’re not thinking about giving it away, are you?” The truth was I hadn’t thought about adoption yet. I hadn’t thought about keeping it, either. I didn’t know what I was going to do.

“There’s all kinds of help you can get,” Mandy offered, “Being a single mother you can get food stamps and other stuff. I can give you the name of my caseworker, if you want.”

I left Mandy’s, mulling over her words. The thought of keeping my baby was really appealing. Every day that passed I grew more and more comfortable with the idea of this child. If I kept the baby, it would never lack for any love. I knew Mom would help me raise it. I could do it, especially with the help Mandy said was available to me.

But yet, my baby wouldn’t have a father. And I knew that was unfair. My own left when I was tiny and I knew all too well the hole that kind of loss leaves in the heart. My mom was wonderful and she did everything she could to compensate for my father‘s absence. But some vacancies just can’t be filled.

It was that night that I wrote the first letter to my baby. I told her about the dilemma I faced, how my heart was beginning to war against my conscience. I told her that I loved her and how I prayed God would help me make the right decision for both of us.


“Kayla?” The social worker knocks on my door as she walks in, followed by a nurse. “Are you ready?” Although I know I will never be ready for this moment, I nod. It’s time to go.


That day I said good-bye, my heart silently shattering as I placed my baby in her new mother’s grateful arms. I kissed my sweet girl one final time and then I handed her new daddy a manila envelope full of letters -- a lullaby from me that explained a decision and told of a love big enough to say good-bye.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thursday Thoughts

Tonight may be date night - or it may not. Paul's been working kind of odd hours this week - home at 4 one day, not 'til 7 the next. So, we made tentative plans to go out, but if he doesn't get home soon, I'm guessing we're going to have postpone our plans.

Our thinking was to go up to Des Moines. The bunk bed mattresses really need to be replaced. David has been having horrendous allergy problems every night and morning, so much so that he has recently started sleeping under Will's loft instead (and is doing much better, allergy-wise). I really hate to spend the money right now, but I can't have the boys suffering, either. But it looks like David will be sleeping with Will a little bit longer.

Paul goes on call tomorrow and it is supposed to be getting quite cold, starting tomorrow. So I doubt we'll see much of him this next week. That's always good, though, money-wise.

But it will add to his stress load. He's trying so hard to get this house closed in. And now his truck exploded the other night. It backfired, but it was a strange backfire so Paul doesn't know what is going on. And he doesn't have time to figure it out. And this affects our Thanksgiving plans, too. Neither of us is too fond of the idea of driving that rickety red van out to Council Bluffs. But we don't know how soon he'll get the silver van up and going - if it can be gotten going. ARgh!

Last night at church Paul was sharing some of our current struggles with his small men's group. One of the older men very seriously turned to him and said, "Well, why don't you just take your vehicles in and have someone work on them?" Paul said he didn't even know what to say.

I always like to read the wedding announcements in the Sunday paper, which we always get. Sometimes they have homosexual partners getting married, so those always catch my eye in kind of a icky way. But they had a normal couple and this is what caught my attention: The cool and classic looking bride is the daughter of a Dr. Greg Ganske. He used to be in the House of Representatives. He's also a well known plastic surgeon and runs these irritating ads about how he can do a "mommy makeover" and fix all the damage that bearing children does to one's body. So, anyway, the wedding announcement listed all the bride and groom's schooling and experiences and it was lengthy and lofty - Ivy League schools, training abroad, prestigious positions. And then it listed all the accomplishments of all four parents, which I thought was a bit much. It was just a like a big bragging advertisement. Who lists the jobs of the parents in wedding announcements, anyway?

And then right next to this large wedding announcement was a smaller one. This couple looked very Iowan (read: plump and ordinary looking!) and the announcement stated simply that they both worked for a Hy-Vee bakery. As I mentally contrasted the two couples in my mind I started wondering - is couple #1 guaranteed a happy marriage because they come from a family of high achievers and have buckets of money? Now, granted, a couple that works in a bakery is probably going to have more financial struggles than a couple of Harvard graduates. But will they be less happy? I really don't think so.

My article will be in church bulletins across the nation on March 6th, I found out. I don't think I can wait that long! They had me email them some personal family photos. But then the graphics guy thought that it would be better to have pictures of our church ministering to sp. needs children instead. So, I had to tell my pastor what was going on and he emailed them some pictures for me, for which I'm grateful. So, anyway, I had pulled these photos of Ben out of the scrapbook and they are now sitting on the steps, waiting to be glued back into the books. Sam looked at this one photo we have of Ben. It's one of my favorites. He's about two days old and has his eyes wide open. But there are wires running every which way over his body. His entire head is wrapped in gauze, as is a foot (holding in an IV). He looks pretty pathetic. Sam looked at that and said, "Ben head is broken!" I guess it would look that way to someone who didn't know better. And, truly, his head was broken, but just not on the outside.

We got my grandma's candy making supplies this week. Wow, she had SO much stuff! David and I have been going through it and figuring out what we're going to attempt for Christmas. I think I'm going to decorate Ben's birthday cake next week with some candy, too. I remember the fun of making candy with Grandma and now I will get to do that with David - and the other boys, if they're interested, but I don't think they will be. It kind of adds to my stress level, though, because now I need to find the time to do this, as well as learn how to do it. But I'll get there. And it will be worth it.

Paul called and as soon as he gets here, we're headed down to the Checkerboard. I can already taste those onion rings - best I've ever had. They even beat the Iowa Machine Shed and that's saying a lot!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Beloved Enemy

Here is a recent non-winning FW piece (they've ALL been non-winning lately!). Years and years and years ago my great-aunt Margy used to save these monthly magazines, called "Good Ol' Days." She'd bring me a whole stack of them on her yearly trek to Iowa to visit family. They were chock-full of old stories that people recalled, usually from the 1940s or earlier. I devoured them all. Our assigned topic was "Face to Face Conversation" and I immediately recalled a story I had read in one of the magazines. I honestly didn't remember much, except that the feud was started by dirty laundry. You'll see that I put that in my story. I set mine in the mid part of the last century. I'm quite sure that when it actually happened, it was decades earlier. My mom hinted that this might be called plagiarism, but it's NOT! I totally made this story up - I was just inspired by something I read once. I enjoyed writing this one and I did get some nice comments. The judges, however, were not nearly so impressed!

Beloved Enemy

Thump-thump-thump-thump! The impact was loud enough to cause Myrtle Evans to look out the window. She couldn’t suppress a self-satisfied chuckle as she viewed her neighbor of thirty years, Rose Hillman, who had just swiped the side of her garage with her Cadillac.

Serves her right! Myrtle thought. She lived for these moments. Anytime she could view Rose in an inferior light she smiled.

It had all started shortly after both women, post- World War II war brides, had moved into the neighboring houses on Wilson Lane. One day, Rose had come charging up to Myrtle’s front door, angry that Myrtle’s young sons had thrown dirt on her freshly hung laundry. Now Myrtle knew perfectly well her darlings were innocent since, at that very moment, they were sitting sleepily at the kitchen table, eating breakfast! More than likely, it was Rose’s own hooligans that had soiled the laundry and Myrtle was quick to suggest that to Rose.
“Well, I never!” huffed Rose. She stared a long moment at Myrtle, and then turned abruptly back to her own house. The war was on.

For thirty years, the women had fought silently with each other. If Rose planted petunias, Myrtle planted rosebushes. If Myrtle put up a plastic Santa at Christmas, Rose decorated her lawn with the entire Nativity Scene. Neither woman hesitated to speak ill of the other and when they met in public, they would cross the street to avoid the other.


Still smiling, Myrtle retrieved the newspaper off the table where her husband had placed it.
She eagerly turned the paper to page ten, bypassing ads for Honest Joe’s Used Cars and news about President Carter. There it was -- “Woman to Woman”-- her favorite feature! She quickly scanned the letters, looking for one from “Blessed.” She wasn’t disappointed.

It really was a shame that “Woman to Woman” was ending, Myrtle thought. It was because, no doubt, the newspaper wanted to make room for more of those nationally syndicated columns they seemed to be so fond of. But she would miss it more than anyone would ever know.

The column had first appeared in 1954, entitled, “Housewife’s Corner.” The idea was for women to write in questions and then future issues would feature answers that other women had mailed in response. Myrtle had sent in the first question, asking for the secret to flaky pie crusts. She had signed herself as “Hapless Housewife” because that was indeed, how she felt at times! Days later, an answer from “Blessed in Bentonville” appeared. From there, a friendship was born. Over the years, “Blessed” and “Hapless” had chatted about everything from recipes to childrearing and even marriage through the newspaper column. “Blessed” was the one who had suggested to “Hapless” that her husband might appreciate a little more attention now and then, and “Hapless” helped “Blessed” adjust to the difficult empty nest . It seemed strange, Myrtle thought sometimes, that her closest friend was someone she had never met in person, let alone knew who she really was!


Several days later Myrtle received word that Rose Hillman had suddenly and unexpectedly died from a long-time heart ailment. She found herself surprised at the pang that news caused.

Three months later Myrtle was putting together some supper when she heard a tentative knock at the front door. Well, that was strange! Who would come calling at the front door? She brushed her hands on her apron and was surprised to see Bill Hillman behind the door. While Myrtle’s husband, Fred, and Bill and been friendly, she never had much use for the man. Anyone who was fool enough to marry that Rose Hillman didn’t deserve the time of day from Myrtle!

Bill awkwardly held a large book in his hands. “I’ve been cleaning out Rose’s things,” he began. “I’m not sure what this is, but I thought maybe you’d like to see it.” With that, he placed the book --a cardboard scrapbook, Myrtle could now see -- into her arms. Without another word, Bill left.

Curious, Myrtle carried the scrapbook inside and opened the cover. She gasped and her body suddenly began to shake as tears sprang to her eyes. When Fred later wandered into the house, looking for supper, he soon found his wife kneeling over an old, black scrapbook. Pasted to every page were yellowed newspaper columns, scanning several decades.

“Blessed” and “Hapless,” you see, were also known as “Rose” and “Myrtle.”

Based on true events...

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Happy Times

There is Will from last night - love that smile! He posted this morning on Facebook that last night was quite possibly, the best night of his entire life. That's quite a statement. Paul didn't tumble into bed until after midnight (and he he had to get up at 6 to go into work today) so they must have been having fun! This picture was taken at Red Robins. Apparently Buffalo Wild Wings was so busy both times they tried to go in - I never thought about it being a Friday night and all.

So now we have a 16 year old. Time flies! Ben will be 14 on the 17th. That's hard to believe, too.

Speaking of Ben, we had parent/teacher conferences this week at his school. We met with his sp. ed teacher first. He showed us Ben's work and told us what a delight Ben is. Ben spends most of his day with that teacher and two other Level 3 7th grade boys. Level 3 is a category that defines the most seriously disabled students. Each student has their own associate.

We also met with Ben's industrial tech (shop) teacher. I really like him. Actually, the decision has been made for Ben to take home ec (which is now called something else; I can't remember what) for this semester. He had a couple of ind. tech classes and the teacher was getting really nervous because of Ben's jumpiness and the power saws. He wants Ben to take the class and thinks it can be done more safely another semester when he would only have Ben, instead of an additional sp. ed student to watch closely. I'm seriously considering having David take that class in another 2 years. He has such an artistic bent and a desire to create things that I think it would be great if he could be in this class, as well as Art.

And we met with the music director. We had a really good conversation about the program last week. She said she had just heard that day that I was upset about how things had gone and said that made her feel terrible. We're going to keep Ben in chorus for now because he loves singing so much. Hopefully with a buddy we won't have the wandering problems and maybe with some stage experience, he won't be so out of step during performances. I hope.

After the conferences we went and voted. That turned out pretty well! I wish Brenna Findley had beat Tom Miller for attorney general, but I heard that she may be offered a seat in Branstad's administration, which would be good. She's so sharp and bright - a homeschool grad, actually. And we got that idiot Culver out of the Governor's mansion - praise be! The best thing of all, though, is that Iowans had the courage and conviction to vote out the 3 Supreme court judges that ruled for gay marriage in '09. We sent a loud message that we're not going to tolerate legislation from the bench. It was Bob Vanderplaats, the failed Rep. gubernatorial nominee (that we supported whole-heartedly) that led the mission to oust the judges. David and I were talking about this the other day and I pointed out to him that perhaps that was why God didn't allow him to get the Rep. nomination. It was more important that he lead the fight and educate Iowans on the importance of getting rid of these judges.

And on a personal note, my week wrapped up pretty good. The summer of '09 I sent an unsolicited manuscript to Reg. Baptist Press. I wrote about Ben and how the church can meet the needs of the handicapped and their families. My thinking was that it would be good for their adult SS paper. I never, ever heard back. And then my friend Kay (who writes for their childrens division) told me she heard that RBP was now recycling their pieces, so it was probably unlikely that they were going to be publishing anything new. Well, phooey! It's always been my dream to write for RBP, but maybe now was not the time.

But the mail came Thursday and there was a check from the GARB in there. My first thought, as I was opening the envelope was that something had gone wrong with my renewal of the "Baptist Bulletin" magazine and they were refunding my magazine money I had sent in this summer. But no, it was a check for $80, with a little note stating they were buying my article that I wrote. Woo-hoo!!!! I am excited! I need to get an email off to the editor, to find out the particulars, but this knowledge alone right now is enough for me. This is literally a dream come true for me.

I am wondering how soon the day will come that I will begin to refer to and think of myself as an "author." This past year the door has flung wide open on that possibility. And I am more excited than nervous to step through that doorway.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Winter, Pics, B-days, and Screwed by Sunbeam

What a busy, busy week I've had! Next week should be easier and I am eagerly anticipating it!

I haven't felt well all week, either. Every winter when we start using the woodburner and the little particles of wood and smoke first get released into the air, my allergies flare up. That usually only lasts a week or so and then my body adjusts. But I'm not adjusting this year. And Ben and David are really struggling, too. Fortunately, this should be the last year that the woodburner is on the main level. I'm hopeful that when it gets moved downstairs the effect won't be so great. Also, along with the snifflies, comes the super-dry, itchy skin. I don't know if it's just the colder weather that produces this, or the wood heat. It's getting worse the older I get. Pretty soon I'm going to have to just roll in a tub (if I had one) of Crisco.

I think this depo-provera shot is messing with me, too. I'm having hard time with my temper and irritability levels. That's normally not a problem. The only other times I can remember feeling this way were the few times I was put on the birth control pill. I doubt I'll be menstruating while on this shot, but maybe I still have PMS and it's magnified by this extra progesterone in my system. I don't know. March can not get here quickly enough so that I can go off the shot and have my surgery.

Ben didn't have school today so I took advantage of the day to get pictures done. I got the boys' Christmas photo done. I thought scheduling it for a week morning would mean we'd have the place to ourselves - not so! We were early and still had to wait almost an hour. I was getting nervous because I had more pictures appointments scheduled over at JC Penneys for Will and Ben and I was worried that we'd be late. As it was by the time we got to Penneys (on time, thankfully) we were all starving and we had to wait even longer! They were busy too. And I was not appreciative of one of the clerk's somewhat surly attitude. I had brought coupons in but she wouldn't let me use two coupons ("It's one coupon per day!" she chirruped). I told her I was not happy about that so she went and checked with her manager and came back and said, "You can only use two coupons if we're photographing twins (huh?) and I don't see any twins here!" Oh, I was mad!

So when we were looking over the photos she saw some goofy ones of Ben and asked, "Is he always like this?" I looked at her and said, "He has autism, so yes, he's always 'like this.'" Oh, that got her! She immediately started apologizing all over the place. But I still ended up paying $19 more than I had intended to pay for pictures today because of their stupid coupon rule!

Will turned 16 on Tuesday. We celebrated at home, but tonight is Will's "real" party. He and Paul are taking 4 of his friends out for laser mini golf and to Buffalo Wild Wings. Will also wanted to have them all spend the night, but the basement just isn't closed in all the way yet and I was afraid they'd all end up with pneumonia. So we told him when we get everything closed in and warm, then he can have "phase 2" of his party!

And yes, Will got his drivers' license on Tuesday. State Farm is supposed to be sending me some paperwork for his insurance, but I haven't seen it yet. But they said he's free to go ahead and start driving on his own in the meantime. Tomorrow night he has a party for the Network, so I think we'll let him drive up there by himself.

Oh, I did buy a new mixer this week, although I haven't had time to use it. It seems almost identical to the one I had, although, technically, they are no longer making the same model I did have. What makes me mad though is that the prices are higher now on these machines, but they've eliminated the smaller bowl. Fortunately, my old bowls and beaters fit this new machine, so I'm ok. But it angers me when companies think they can get away with stiffing their customers. Paul called Sunbeam and talked with them at length. He found out he could order a mixer directly from them, but when he told them that I could buy one cheaper at Kohls, they wouldn't match the price.

Well, I have more to cover, but I'm supposed to go watch a movie with the boys. Tonight's choice - Marmaduke. It doesn't interest me, but David picked it out, so I guess I'll suffer through it. I really don't like dog movies. Actually, I just don't like dogs.

I'll be back later!

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Appliance Vendetta

About two months ago my food processor died and I wrote at length about the search and procurement of a new one. Now my countertop mixer has joined the ranks of the deceased. I've had it for 5 1/2 yrs and assumed I'd have it for many more. Not so. It suddenly quit working last week. Paul took it apart and found the gears had been chewed up.

So I brought in my old Sunbeam mixer from the shed where it has sat since I was given my new, red one. I thought it worked and I cleaned it all up - only to discover that it only worked on low speed. One of the beaters was kind of mangled, too. So I had Paul take it apart to see if the gears in it could be transferred to my red one. He opened up and found a hornet's nest - nice. The gears aren't interchangeable.

So now I'm on a quest for a new mixer - which is not in the budget. But it's needed. I've been getting by with my food processor but that thing isn't really designed for mixing like a mixer is. I'd love to have one of those 700 watt ones with the plastic cover that goes over the bowl, reducing the amount of flour that goes up into the mixer's motor. They start at $400, so it's not happening. I did some searching today and it looks like Kohls is the best place for what I need, so I plan to stop there tomorrow and get one.

And our dishwasher - ! Actually, it still works. But, apparently, we've been in imminent danger of burning down our house with it and we didn't even know it. Paul was building a fire the other night in the woodburner and grabbed some stuff out of the recycle trash with which to start the fire. Every once in awhile we get mail addressed to the old occupant of this house. I always toss it. Well, for whatever reason, Paul opened it up and discovered a second recall notice on our dishwasher. Apparently, Maytag went by address first before the name, so they sent it in care of the former owner instead of us. We're the ones that bought the dishwasher in '08. So, anyway, I called Maytag and they'll be out Wed. morning to make the needed repairs.

I'm feeling a little ganged up on! But at least I'm gaining a kitchen full of shiny, new appliances...along with a dwindling bank account.

Halloween at Home

Isn't that a great picture? Ben and his classmates carved this pumpkin in their class this week. They put the three boys' names in a bowl, drew out a winner - and it was Ben! He was so tickled!

We had quite a plethora of pumpkins by the time Halloween arrived. This summer we discovered that some volunteer pumpkin vines had sprung up near Roy's kennel. I ended up harvesting six or seven small pumpkins off that. Then, Dorothy brought us 4 good sized pumpkins from her garden. And then we had this one from school.

I love Halloween. I know there are numerous Christians who find Christianity and Halloween incompatible. I can certainly respect their beliefs and I try to be a little quieter on the subject when I know they're around. Paul and I examined the issue when the boys were small and decided that we couldn't see any Biblical basis for not participating in the holiday. We both have such good memories of Halloween from our own childhoods and it wasn't something we wanted to deny our own boys. We do stay away from ghosts and witches because, in the demonic kingdom, there are real ones of those. I guess if God ever convicts us otherwise, we'll reconsider, but for now, we embrace the scary night with gusto!

It helps that we live in a small town that also loves Halloween. Every year we have a bonfire and hayride the Sat. before Halloween. About every 6 years it works out that trick or treating and the bonfire happen on the same night. That's the way it was this year. And I had not made it to the bonfire since before Sam's birth. So this ended up being a great year. I took the boys trick or treating, which was first. Normally, Paul does that. Ben didn't' want to go this year, so he stayed home and handed out treats. I had to dissuade him from the notion of querying every child as to their preferences and then choosing candy accordingly!

Our mayor is a big kid, so this year he planned some extra Halloween treats for our hayride. He was mum about everything, but I did happen to notice that a nearby field had yellow police tape on it earlier on Sat. I figured that was part of the gig, and sure enough, it was.

We had zombies running at our hayride, shooting silly string. One of them was Will, which totally surprised us! He hadn't wanted to go down to the bonfire when we did and said he'd come later. He still hadn't made an appearance by the time we were loading up on the wagon. I just figured he wasn't going this year. What I didn't know was that he had been heading down the hill to the festivities when our mayor intercepted him and asked him to play a zombie role. So we were totally shocked when one of the zombies pulled off his mask and jumped on the wagon and it was Will!

Later on in the field we had zombies on lawn tractors and one with a chainsaw (probably not such a smart idea, running in the dark, in a field, with a running saw). It was great - such a good family time, as well as time with the townspeople. Sam kept declaring, "I not scared!"

These are memories that the boys will take with them. When their lives are busy and they're living in a large cities, around the end of every October, they'll wistfully remember the Swan Halloween festivities and wish that they could be home, once again.

Or else they'll be amazed at what Biblical ignoramuses their parents were and marvel that they turned out so well, despite being subjected to such obvious Satanic practices!

Oh, to Have a Horse and Buggy

Things are better now - but they got worse before they got better!

Thursday night, of course, was upsetting. And then Paul and I ended up getting in a big disagreement, which is pretty rare anymore - also upsetting. Things are fine now - he finally apologized! :)

And so, sleep deprived and puffy-eyed I made my way to Ben's school on Friday. This particular day I had decided to go the main route rather than the back way I normally take. I wouldn't be just dropping Ben off like I normally do. I needed to pick something up inside the school and so I needed to park;thus my decision to go the main route. All of a sudden the temperature gauge on my van shot to "hot." I knew it was a matter of minutes before the van would die. But I was stuck in a line of vehicles, all dropping children off for school. There wasn't a thing I could do about it. The stress was unbelievable!

And it did die. Ben immediately hopped out and darted across the busy street to the Middle School wing. I informed the driver behind me what had happened and went in the building too. Ben's teacher walked out with me and took a look at the van. He said there was oil mixed in the water reservoir, which is not good. I continued to try to call Paul, but he wasn't answering. I even had the dispatcher at his job try to page him in his van - to no avail. I sat in Ben's classroom for an hour, but got nowhere. All I wanted to do was dissolve in a puddle of tears - I was so upset about everything!

In the meantime, Mr. K asked me how the program had gone the night before. I gave him an earful. He had heard it already from some other source. He basically told me that since this was an extracurricular activity, the school was not obligated to provide extra support/supervision for Ben. But he suggested that perhaps a "buddy" system could be set up for Ben during performances. I agreed to give it a try. I don't want to take Ben out of chorale because he just loves it. But yet, I don't want there to ever be a repeat of Thurs. night's performance, either. So I guess we'll see what happens.

Eventually, I had Will come pick me up in the truck. I got home and Paul finally called. I had a full day of running around planned - of course all that was shot. I had the van towed home. Afterwards, Will drove me to town in the truck so I could get the bare minimum done of what needed to be done that day. The truck is not a sleek, well-running machine. It's a rusty, shaky beater. Will said it drives "funny" and he thought I'd be better off with a chauffeur, which was fine with me.

Paul and Will ended up spending all day Sat. working on our old red van. It hasn't run in months, but it is now. The plan is that Paul will get the house closed in, which is a real concern with the cold now. It won't be long and snow will be flying. Once that is accomplished, then he'll dig into my van. Paul's concern is that the oil in the water indicates a deep engine problem and he doesn't have time right now to get the outside of the house done and an engine job. Plus, work has really speeded up and he's working a lot of hours.

So, in the meantime, I'll be getting around in the rickety red van with the cracked windshield. It's better than walking, I guess. The starter needs to be replaced on it, which will happen tomorrow. I'm supposed to pick one up from some place in Sandyville. Yesterday morning, Paul, Will, and David headed out to Montezuma to pick up some free insulation from a guy off Craig's List. I had planned to take the other boys and go to church. But when I saw the problems that the starter was having I decided to forget it. I could just see me not being able to get it to turn over and having Paul be so far away.

The up side was that I ended up developing a very, very strange desire to deep clean my house yesterday morning. I'm not aware that that has ever happened before. I got the living room and half the kitchen done before I ran out of time. So, I guess every cloud does have a silver lining!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Out of Step

Tonight was Ben's first chorale concert. It was awful. But he's so pleased with himself, so I can't say anything out loud. That's why I'm here.

I want to complain to someone at the school and when I figure out who I'm mad at, I will. A lot of things weren't right. The kids didn't have adequate supervision. Ben, especially, didn't have adequate supervision. So, he wandered off. Twice. The first time, the curtain went up, the 7/8 choir was in place and there was no Ben. A few moments later he stumbled onto stage, walked clear across the front, bumping other kids, until a kindly classmate helped him find his place.

He stood up there, out of step with the other kids. Every couple of moments he got distracted by different things. Then he'd turn around, back to the audience, watch the kids, and then try to do what they were doing.

I didn't even want to watch. It was so painful. My relief when he stumbled off stage was palpable. Of course, later on, the choir had to go back and I watched him ascend the steps and risers with my heart in my throat, sure that he would fall. Nobody helped him.

Later on, afterwards, Ben was nowhere to be found. Eventually, his choir leader found him munching cookies in the choir room. I told Ben that we were worried about him because we didn't know where he had gone to. He said, "I knew where I was. Besides, this is my school!" I knew what he was trying to say, but he was kind of missing the point.

Anyway, all this explains why when the act after the choir came on I was so thankful it was dark in that gymnasium. Because I sat there with tears rolling down my face, weeping for my out-of-step child. Most moments are good, but this was one of those incredibly painful and incredibly hard moments that wasn't good.

And those pierce my heart like nothing else in the world.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Living at Warp Speed

I was with my friend, Sara, last Sat. and she commented, "You haven't blogged in a long time!" It's been 12 days - I guess she's right!

I am in such a busy mode right now. And the kids haven't said anything exceptionally cute. Well, except Sam. He has decided that he wants to go potty by himself - which is fine. It saves me time and effort if I don't have to trudge all the way upstairs with him several times a day. Well last night I was getting his shower ready and he says, "Mom, you need to get out of the bathroom. I have to go potty!"

There is Sam last Friday, on his 3rd birthday. Can't believe he is so big, already! I don't think he understood birthdays yet this year. When I was singing to him at 9:22am, he says, "Stop singing that song, Mom!" When we put the "3" candle on his cupcakes, he exclaimed, "Oh, a '5'!" But by Sunday he had figured it all out. We had another party for him in W'loo on Sat. And then on Sun. we brought treat bags for his Sunday School class. His Childrens church teacher told me that during class Sam kept telling everyone, "It's my bertday - I fwee now." So, somewhere between Friday and Sunday he caught on to the whole thing!

I had a couple of friend "dates" in the last week. Last Thurs. Melissa and I went out. It is always so refreshing to spend time with her. Our husbands see eachother frequently during the week because her husband manages the Lennox store in DM and, of course, that's what Lozier installs. I guess on Thurs. they had seen eachother and joked that they needed a date night. We ate at the 5 and Diner in Pleasant Hill and then we saw "You Again." It was a delightful movie and I don't think there was a single swear word in it - no sex at all. It was really fun - Jamie Lee Curtis, Sigourney Weaver, Odette Yustman... Then, of course we had to talk for a long while afterwards!

And then last night I met up with my homeschooling friend, Malissa. We have a monthly Culvers date. Before I met her, I ran out to Jordan Creek and did some running around at the mall, which was nice - no kids!

This afternoon I have to attend a FEMA mitigation meeting. Tomorrow is free, although I have to crank out and submit another FW piece sometime that day. Thursday evening Ben has his first chorale concert, something I am both anticipating and dreading. Friday I am going to try to knock some of next week's shopping out of the way, as well as take care of my Sunday meal prep. My plan is to carve pumpkins that night, too. Sat. I have a whole day chock full of stuff to do. And next week is going to be a scheduling nightmare.

Oh, and Will is wanting me to be planning his 16th birthday party, I have to take the boys in for birthday pics and well as their group shot for Christmas cards. Will's baptism is coming up in about 10 days, too. So, I'm a little stressed these days, I think!

But thank God I can DO these things! This Sat. will be the 3 year anniversary of my stroke. Things could be so different.

A note of encouragement that was given to me recently: For the first time, Ben is in a SS class without a brother. His teachers are in their late 60s and I was kind of nervous about letting Ben advance into there because of the way he is and their age. Autism is a relatively new disorder. Most older folks do not understand it. His teacher told me that Ben is a joy to teach. She and her husband are just having a ball with him, apparently. They love his attitude, his honesty, and love for the Lord. Janice told me that Ben frequently gives the plan of salvation in his answers in class. She said that, spiritually, he just shines at the top of the class. These are things that I just don't see here at home, esp. now that he is out of the house for 7 hours a day. I would not know that Ben is so spiritually minded if Janice didn't tell me. When Ben is home he spends his time listening to music or messing around the computer (his latest thing is type in the name of a city and then add "Walmart" behind it. That way he gets to look at the designs, interior and exterior, of Walmarts all across the US. Yes, it's strange. And yes, it's totally Ben!). He eats, goes to bed, and then goes to school the next day. So our contact is a little more limited these days.

But it's a blessing to hear these things. Honestly, I'm surprised because I see so many areas where we have not been good, Godly examples for the boys. But they're absorbing something from somewhere. Maybe they're catching things we didn't know we were throwing out there.

Well, back to my schedule. Years ago, there was a comic strip called "Calvin and Hobbes." I loved that sarcastic little kid and Sara got me quite a few of his anthologies. My boys have actually fallen in love with him, too, and I think those books are in chunks now, separated from the binding, because they've been read so many times by both me and the boys. Calvin was a creative little kid, to put it mildly, and one of his inventions was a "duplicator." Usually it would result in numerous mild-mannered Calvins walking around while the real Calvin continued to wreak havoc in the background. I think I need a duplicator for the next few weeks. I don't have any desire to wreak havoc, but I sure could use another Me to help get all that needs to be done, done!