Friday, April 30, 2010

(Close to) Midnight Ramblings

Paul is away overnight and because I do not like going to bed without him, I am writing this at 11:00 at night, in an attempt to stave off the time that I do have to go to bed. So, if I get to rambling all over the place or sounding silly - you'll know why.

Paul is at counselor training up at camp today and tomorrow. It's something all first-time counselors have to attend. David was mistaken in its purpose, though. Tonight he worriedly asked me, "If Dad doesn't pass this weekend, will he still get to be my counselor?" He thought this weekend was a test for would-be counselors!

Today I went up to the hospital and spent some time with my friend, Jenny. I didn't get to see Rebekah, though, because she is battling a staph infection and can't have visitors. But I primarily wanted to see Jenny, anyway, so that was all right. It was a good visit and I hope to get up there every 10 days or so. I remember those days. And little Rebekah is doing much better. She is off the ventilator, which is wonderful news! I continue to have this intense desire to be there for Jenny. This is really the first time that I've had a friend go through something similar to what we did. I just hope I'm not too pushy or overbearing in my enthusiasm. Different mothers handle these kind of things in different ways.

Last night I went to see a documentary film out at ChildServe. They were showing 3 different films this week, dealing with different things related to special needs children. Last night was the only night I could make it. I have a new friend, Amy, from the special needs group I attended a week ago. It turned out that we have a mutual friend at my church and I've actually been hearing about Amy for 4 years now through this friend. But neither one of us knew, of course, the other would be at the meeting. So we met, figured out how we knew eachother, and then friended eachother on Facebook. So, all that is to say that she and I met up last night and watched the film together.

The film was very good. It dealt with the siblings of special needs children. While I have had concerns over the years for Will and David in regards to our family dynamics with Ben, I haven't given it a whole lot of thought, since there is nothing I can do to change things. Ben is who he is and a part of our family, just as all the other boys are. Several things stuck out to me as I watched these series of interviews. Siblings of sp. needs kids feel intense pain and anger when they see their sibling hurt, ignored, or rejected. And it's something that cannot be avoided. We don't live in Utopia, and all sp. needs children will experience some form of exclusion at one time or another. The siblings, especially those in their teen and adult years have a level of concern for their sibling's future. They all seem to recognize that Mom and Dad aren't going to be around forever and they're next in line for the care of their sibling. But I didn't sense any resentment from those interviewed about that. It seemed to be a task they were willing to take on. Even my own boys have commented to me at one time or another about how they plan to take care of Ben someday - warms my heart! But I certainly don't want to expect that out of them. We'll have to make alternative arrangements at some point. Another common factor that these siblings seem to share is the desire to not "make waves" in the family. They seem to sense that their parents have an extra work and stress load already and don't want to add to that. I would definitely agree with that. Neither Will nor David has ever given us any problems. I wonder if that will hold true, for Sam, though, since he is so far removed in age from Ben. I hope it is! If I could get through life having Ben be the worst of our family behavioral problems, I would be delighted! And another point of interest I caught was that, by and large, siblings of sp. needs kids tend to go into "compassion" oriented fields in their adult life. That makes complete sense to me. Having a child experience special needs is not something that just happens to the child. It happens to the whole family.

Wed. night at church I noticed that the boy standing beside Ben in our circle time refused to hold his hand. Poor Ben kept trying to grab his hand, which is what we're all supposed to do, but the kid kept yanking it out of the way. I finally told Ben just to hold his hand at his side. I wish now that I had reached around and pinched the back of that kid's neck. There's a muscle back there that if you pinch it just right, causes almost instant non-lasting paralysis. I'm never sure what to do in situations like that, but I feel like maybe I let Ben down. When David heard about this later, he was incensed! I am so thankful I had those 3 boys so close together in age because Ben is so protected, sandwiched in the middle like he is.

I actually had a good time at the boys' softball games Tues. night. Paul was home working on the house and I was dreading the games because of past experiences and knowing I'd be dealing with Sam alone. But it really went well. Ben was a little discouraged that he struck out, but his team did a great job of cheering for him, anyway. And they won. Will's team won, too. And I am not just being a proud mama when I point out that the main reason Will's team won was because Will was on their team! Will had such a lousy season last year that he was dreading this year's a bit. But so far, they are off to a terrific start! (Not that winning is the most important thing or even the main objective - I know, I know...but it sure makes us all happy when it happens!)

On the way home, the boys got into an interesting conversation about the use of certain words. I can't remember what Ben said, but it was something crude and forbidden. David piped up, "You know, Ben, if you ever want to get married someday, you can't be using words like that. No girl will want to marry you!" I think I had my jacket over my mouth at that point, trying not to laugh out loud!

Later in the same trip, David, in all seriousness, asked me, "Mom, when I get older will you tell me what the 'F' word is and what it means?" I choked on my jacket that was already over my mouth! I didn't realize he didn't know about that word; he just knows there is an "F" word. I got to thinking about that later. I learned about that word around age 5 when I learned to read and read it off my uncle's tattooed knuckles! But you know, it's really something that David is almost 11 and still so very innocent. How many other kids as old as he is, could say the same?

David still believes that too much hugging and kissing leads to babies. He has cautioned me several times about that, warning me that I could end up pregnant again because, "I've seen you and Dad hugging and kissing, Mom!" Boy, will he be in for a surprise when Paul takes him on his "13" trip in a couple of years! I think it's a wonderful. Today children are exposed to so much and it cuts their childhood short. David, at least, is having a nice, long one!

Paul told me today that he made an appointment with an orthopedist to have his knee looked at later this month. The pain is steadily increasing and he's having more and more difficulty with it. I am dreading the thought of this, though. We just increased our deductible by one and half times in order to keep our insurance premiums at a more manageable rate. I don't know where the money will come from to pay it off if he has to have surgery. But, he can't continue to live in pain, especially when his job is so physical. And that brings up another point: Now is really not a good time for him to be getting laid up by surgery! Hours are pretty much back to normal with AC checks and we need him to work as many as possible. If he could hold off until August, that would be great because things tend to slow down in that month. Of course, he will need those free-er days to work on the house. It's going to be a rush to get everything done before the snow flies next winter. Maybe he'll just need a cortisone shot. I'm going to pray that's the case, anyway!

Sam is finally saying, verbally, "please" and "thank-you." The other boys were saying them much, much earlier. Sam would not. He would sign them, but no matter how hard we tried, we couldn't get him to express it with his mouth. Will told me I have him to thank for that. He said one day this week while I was gone, he just flat out refused to give Sam his cup until he said what needed to be said. Well, that's why it wouldn't work before - I'm too soft-hearted to do that! But it's so cute now to hear him lisp, "Pwease!" when he wants something! And tonight when I tucked him in bed, he called out, "'night, Mom!" as I started down the stairs. He's never done that before.

All right, the letters here are starting to swim on my monitor. I think my pill has more than kicked in and I shouldn't have a lot of trouble falling asleep tonight. I may have trouble getting up tomorrow, though! And I won't be the only one. Will and David are engaged in some sort of Wii battle out in the living room - at 11:46 at night! I am way, way too lenient!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Growing Pains

It's Tuesday and the sun is (gasp) shining! But we can't get too excited because rain is in the forecast for rest of this week. Actually, I would not have minded today being a rainy day since the boys have softball tonight and you all know how I feel about dragging myself out to the field week after week! But it looks like that is where I'll be tonight. Hopefully, the boys will do as well as they did last week when they had no parents there to cheer them on!

We had a good time Sunday night. Our friends picked us up and we drove to Pella. To our great surprise, two older couples from our church were also visiting! They had heard of our plans to bail on our own church and thought that was a good idea. Pastor Jeff and Courtney were so surprised (and pleased), I think, to see all of us, that they asked if they could take us all out to Pizza Ranch afterwards. Tammy and I were a little uncertain at first, since we have 12 children between us and that's asking a lot to have other people feed them. But they insisted and we had a really nice time.

We noticed Sunday - and were greatly amused - that Sam has taken an interest in singing. He's always loved grabbing the hymnals during song time, but this past week he began lustily "singing" during all the songs. I had to laugh, too, during one song that we were sitting for. Sam stood himself up, faced the front of the church, and joined right in! What a little ham!

Sam also mastered the bunkbed this week - the climbing of it. Only, he can't get down, so he sits up there and hollers and then cries if someone doesn't rescue him right away. I had a sudden memory of when Ben became mobile, around age 3. Paul had to devise a board that fit over the rungs so he wouldn't climb up. We should have used it longer than we did because when Ben was 7, he jumped or fell off the top bunk and fractured his shoulder. Hopefully, Sam will have the good sense to remain seated up there! He is definitely more cautious than Ben ever was (but not as much as David), so I'm hopeful, anyway.

Sam has two favorite blankies. They actually used to be one throw that I had on my bed. From the time he was itty bitty, he loved that blanket. When I'd change his diaper and clothes on the bed, he'd rub his back all over it (it's fake sheepskin on one side, soft fur on the other) and sigh in ecstasy. When he started walking, he began pulling the blanket off my bed! It was so big that he would get all tripped on it, so I finally cut the blanket in half and zig zagged the edges. I thought that this way, Sam would have a "spare" blanket in case one was in the wash or got lost. Well, that wasn't Sam's plan! He has continued to insist that he has both blankets at almost all times. When they need to be washed, it's a real struggle to get them away from him and I generally have to wash one at a time to avoid a battle. The whole thing makes me laugh, especially when I remember the sheer number of blankets we were given when he was born. We had many, many receiving blankets, furry blankets, John Deere blankets, afghans and soft tied ones. He didn't care for any of them - only the one blanket that was never supposed to be his in the first place! Last summer I finally bagged most the blankets up and gave them to Goodwill. It was obvious he was never going to be attached to any of them!

So anyway, Sam started out calling his blankies, his "bi-dahs." Then, a few months ago he shortened that to "dah." Whenever he asks for his "dah" we know exactly what he wants. So, I almost fell over last night (and I have to confess that my heart truly did clench) when I heard Sam announce that he needed his "banket." I asked him, just to make sure that my ears were not deceiving me - and he said "banket" very clearly again. Yesterday morning he was still saying "dah" and within just a few hours, his brain had clicked in recognition to the true word. I suppose it's just a matter of time now before he outgrows his blankie all together. I don't know - I think I'll always look at those raggedy, dirty, stained things now with some affection. They'll always be "dahs" to me!

David's birthday is a month from today. He starts giving us a countdown about this time of the year, "Only 30 more days! Only 29 more days!" Will brought in the mail and David commented, "Hmm - it won't be long until birthday cards start arriving for me!" So, of course, he already has his birthday list well underway and posted, with daily updating. I noticed the other night that he had this listed: "Walking Talkings." It took me a minute. Yeah, you'll get it, too! Maybe I should give him a spelling book for his birthday...

Well, it's lunchtime for the hungry hordes - duty calls!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Big and Little Boys

This post should take care of catching me up on my blogging. This one has a few notes about the boys.

There's Sam, sitting atop the 5 foot pile of dirt we have out back. He loves to slide up and down that thing. Now that it is warmer out, he wakes up announcing his plans to go "out-tide" and he stays out almost all day long. When he gets sleepy or hungry he comes in the house and takes care of that, and then he's right back outside again! I love it because I think that's the way life ought to be for boys - even 2 year old ones!

A few years ago Will and the neighbor boy made a matchbox car "city" underneath the fort in the dirt. Ben and David have never been into toy cars so much, but Sam discovered this abandoned play area with buried cars and he's been having a ball out there!

A week ago he excitedly brought in a toy bulldozer he had uncovered in the dirt and told me he needed to wash it. I saw him pull the plastic stool up to the bathroom sink and didn't think any more about it - until Will informed me a few minutes later that he had caught Sam trying to wash the bulldozer in the toilet! Evidently, the sink wasn't doing a fast enough job for him!

Potty training is still coming along - slowly and with some reluctance on Sam's part. The other day we were at Advanced Therapy while Ben had his class. Sam informed me that he was "wet" so I had Will run outside and across the street to the van to get a pull-up for Sam since I had forgotten to bring them in. I took Sam into the bathroom and did get him to go a little bit. He must have been drinking all afternoon. I got the fresh pull-up on him, and had him standing on the edge of the sink while I pulled it up. The next thing I knew, the kid erupted! I mean - think fountain! He had urine squirting up, over, and out of his new pull-up, it was coming up the back (how that is even possible, I do not know). It was splashing onto the sink and running over onto the floor. So I stood him down on the floor, ripped the pull-up off, and said "Don't move!" I ran out to the waiting room and instructed Will to go across the street, to the van, and get me the last remaining pull-up that I had packed. When I got back to the bathroom, 30 seconds later, Sam pointed to a big puddle on the floor and announced, "Sam pee" And by the way, I did not teach him that word - his brothers did. I think it's kind of crude. It took me about 50 paper towels but I finally got that bathroom all cleaned up. I sure hope they have a nightly cleaning crew that comes in to properly clean and sanitize things! We still had a night of softball games to get through, so I warned Will that if Sam wet again, he was going to be going commando for rest of the night in his pants! Fortunately, that didn't happen.

I remember when it dawned on me that I was going to have to potty train yet another boy. Sam was about 3 months and it just hit me. Prior to then, I hadn't even given it a thought. These days, I think half our laundry pile is comprised of cloth training pants, plastic pants, and wet jeans. I still haven't stumbled onto the secret of early potty training, although my mother -in-law seems to take great delight in telling me how all her children were trained by 15 months. So, I guess it can be done. I just don't know how.

I've been trying to remember how articulate the other boys were at 2 1/2. I just don't remember. I know Ben only had a handful of words. I cannot remember how well Will and David talked then, though. So I don't know how Sam compares. But his language has just exploded. He is so articulate and he says very few things anymore that we can't understand. A lot of it is mimicry, but he comes up with just as much on his own, too. It's fun!

The boys' first softball games were this past Tuesday. Instead of attending, I went to that meeting for sp. needs parents and Paul went home and worked on the basement. I think that qualifies us as terrible parents! We'll be there for the rest of the games, though. My only fear was that one of the kids would get knocked in the head by a softball and they wouldn't have a parent there. But I was only 15 minutes away and Will does have a cell phone. It all went fine and both their teams crushed their opponents, so they were happy when I picked them up.

This year, Ben and David are on the Lavender team. Their coach picked the color and when I saw their shirts, my first thought was, "Lavender? Seriously?" Isn't that a girly color? But half the kids on the team are boys! Then, they were given bright yellow ballcaps, which, for one, don't match their shirts at all. And then, two, Ben and David have a sarcastic older brother and he delighted in pointing out to them how they now look like birthday candles! That has caused David to be quite anxious about his appearance on the field. But Ben doesn't care. I've had to assure David that he actually looks quite manly out on the field. And, as I pointed out to him, when you're winning, nobody cares what you're wearing (rolling my eyeballs here).

I'm caught up now and so, this is it - until one of the boys says something cute or something interesting happens. So, I guess that means I'll be caught up for about the next half hour or so! Off to tackle more "Mom" work!

A Special Life

I just got off the phone with my friend, Tammy. We're making plans for tomorrow night. Our church has their Awana awards night on the last Sun. night in April every year. Neither her 8 or my 4 participate in Awana, so we don't go to our church on that evening. Normally, we go visit other area churches, which can be fun. Our assistant pastor took the senior pastorate job in Pella a few months ago so we are all going to head over there. Tammy's family has this huge van (it used to a prison van, actually!) so they are going to swing by our house, pick us up, we'll ride together over to Pella, and then afterwards we're all going to descend on the local Dairy Queen. It will be fun!

A couple of weeks ago I went to a new beautician. I am mentally crossing my fingers that this gal may be the one I've been searching for! A lot of women in my church go to her and she just set up shop across the street from our church, actually. I was very pleased with the work she did on me and I'll definitely be back to see her. We were chatting and I was telling her about my kids. When I told her about Ben she immediately asked if I was involved in some sort of support group. She attends Valley Church in West Des Moines. They have a Christian support group for mothers of special needs children. I didn't know there was such a thing! She gave me the email contact for the gal that heads this up. Long story short - I went to my first meeting this past Tues. night. It was awesome! There were 7 of us, sitting around a table, sharing. They are going through a study book written for moms like me. I found it to be so uplifting to be able to talk about our children within the context of viewing them as gifts from a sovereign God - a view that is not shared by those who don't know the Lord. The mom sitting to my left that night had a grown son with disabilities and it was such a blessing to chat with her as she has gotten through the teen and early adult years with him. I left with such a light heart afterwards! Next month we are having a special speaker come in, a woman from Boone, who wrote a book entitled, "A Different Dream for my Child." I'm really looking forward to that! I see joining this group as a way to not only gain and give support in our similar endeavors of raising children with special needs, but as another way to make some friends.

And on the subject of special needs: I'm actually formulating an entire post related to this. You'll see that later. My friend Jenny from church gave birth last Sunday to a very special little girl, Rebekah. Midway through the pregnancy a routine ultrasound indicated that Rebekah might not be developing normally. Tests did not reveal any answers so Jenny and her husband, Matt, were really left in the dark for the remainder of the pregnancy. Rebekah was born normally and at the right time, but the doctors were right - something is wrong. She is still alive, hooked up to ventilator, and undergoing numerous tests as the doctors seek to find a diagnosis for her. Right now, if she does continue to live, it looks like she'll be having some probable life-long physical disabilities and it's possible there could be some neurological issues as well.

I spent a lot of last Monday up at the hospital with Jenny's family. I felt like, in some ways, I was re-living what happened to us 13 years ago. We were in the same position. Ben was more than 2 weeks old before we even knew if he would live. All we could do was stroke him through the incubator and try not to wince at all the tubes and wires connected to his body. We were getting all these negative reports from the NICU staff and doctors (even being told that perhaps we ought to think about removing him from the ventilator and letting him go). We didn't know if we were bringing home a handicapped baby, a healed baby, or if we were going to bring him home at all. It was a very "numb" time in my life, as I recall. I got to see little Rebekah (she's beautiful!) and I immediately flashed back to seeing Ben all those years ago. I have this intense desire to reach out to Matt and Jenny and hold their hands during this awful time because I know what they are going through. But really, the best thing I can do is to pray for them during this time of trial. And I can be there for Jenny and help her as her heart begins to process what all this will mean for their family. I ache for them because I understand. But at the same time, I also know, that whatever happens, it is not the end of the world, and they will smile again someday. But I'll leave the rest of my thoughts for a later post. Pray for them, as you think of this young family.

Well, I'm off to roll meatballs - kind of a yukky chore. But they will taste so good tomorrow!

Purple Sunshine

A final thought on the whole contacts/glasses thing: it suddenly occurred to me the other night that I am actually quite fortunate. In a round about way, not being able to wear glasses is a consequence from my small stroke. If I had not stroked, my left eye would not be so damaged, if it were not so bad off, then I could have worn more affordable lenses. Since having that stroke I have met people on-line, my age, who have suffered much more long-lasting effects from their strokes. I know some who have permanently contorted limbs, live in constant pain, suffer from aphasia (inability to speak), and have to wear Depends. I can't complain about my life-long eye problem and I won't anymore.

Besides, it also occurred to me that one of my personal heroines, Sarah Palin, wears glasses. Now maybe she only does it to look intelligent, but at any rate, I've never seen a photograph of her without them. I mentioned that to Paul and he replied seriously, "That's true!" And then he grinned and said cheekily, "And she's a hot mama, too!" I'm done whining!

That's a picture of Laura and me yesterday. I had a nice time. As it turned out, the day was cold and rainy so Paul didn't have any work, so he was able to stay home with the boys. So I was able to take off for Cedar Rapids without a care in the world (other than trying to drive in pouring rain). I met Laura at her sister's apartment and the route took me by a number of "slummy" houses. A lot of them were boarded up and graffitied and I really began to wonder about what part of town I was in! But her sister explained to me that the area I had just driven through was the part that flooded so badly in '08. All those houses I had just seen had been submerged. They just haven't been taken down yet. I'm so thankful we were spared that!

Laura took me to lunch and we spent the day shopping, as we used to always do in Waterloo during our high school and college days. I've missed her! Our lives have taken such divergent paths but there's always that point of reconnection when you are old friends.

This past week was SO busy and I do want to post more about it. I'm going to have to do it in short little blog posts in between housework, cooking, and fetching Ben from respite care later today. I have to go back to Pearle Vision today to get my card credited. I am so tempted to show up in my long black trench coat, collar turned up, and wearing sunglasses! I don't want to go in there!

One bit of sunshine from this past week: I love lilac bushes. It's unfortunate that the lilacs themselves make me sneeze terribly. But they're so pretty and smell just heavenly! I had just had the thought this past week that I should mention to Paul I'd like to have a bush for our yard. He's more into landscaping than I am and I know that if I put in a request like that, he'd get it for me, sooner or later. I happened to look out this week at one corner of our deck and I saw a blooming lilac bush! I couldn't believe it! That bush has been there since we moved in in '04 and we didn't know what it was. It has certainly never bloomed before. But for some reason, we have lilacs this year - great big purple ones!

And I think I need all the sunshine I can get. They are saying storms should be rolling in again this afternoon and tomorrow is going to be cold and windy. I'm just not a big fan of spring, I have to say!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

On Education

I'm going to try to crank out a few posts here in an attempt to get caught up. I also need to get my house picked up, so I don't know how far I'll get. As soon as it gets too dark to work on the basement, Paul and I are going to head to town so we can exchange the oven and then Paul suggested we stop at Fazolis for a late supper.

Tomorrow I am going to Cedar Rapids. I'm a little nervous about leaving the boys and being that far away. But Paul will be in town should the boys need any help. And some of our neighbors are nice (most of them are, actually) I'm kind of excited. I'm going to spend the day with my friend, Laura, whom I have known since kindergarten. We've been friends ever since, but we haven't spent any real time together since about 1990. She lives in the L.A. area now but is in Iowa right now on vacation. I'm trying to convince her that she needs to move back to Iowa! So it should be a nice day.

I had Will take his COMPAS test up at DMACC last Friday so I can send his test scores to the Network for admission to the writing class next year. That ate up most of day, taking him up there, going home, then going to retrieve him, and returning home once again, only to turn around and go up north for softball practice later in the afternoon! When I went in, I took all 4 boys with me because I wasn't sure how long it would take. The receptionist joked about having new students and I joked back that well, we were homeschoolers and believed in starting them young! We gave homeschoolers a good name anyway because Will's scores were off the charts. He said that the receptionists were oohing and ahhing when the computer began spitting out his scores.

To get into the college, they require a 70 on the writing portion of the test. Will got a 94! He smugly informed me that he didn't need to take this writing class because see - it was right there on paper - he is a brilliant writer! So I questioned him about the writing portion of his test. Did he actually have to write anything? No, of course not! All the test consisted of was giving him paragraphs and he needed to correct what was wrong in each one. That is not writing! I told him, "Nice try - you're still taking the class!" I was gratified, though, to see his other scores. Even his math scores (and Alg. 1 has been a struggle this year for Will) were right on target for what they expect. At the same time, I now am aware that DMACC's admission standards are very, very low! At least I know he's not a dummy. He has, evidently, through the years, learned something at my feet.

Today was Ben's IEP meeting. It went well. I was grateful for my speed reading skills and I was able to read the lengthy evaluation report they handed me within the time it took for all the school personnel to arrive at the meeting. There were no surprises. Their observations were the same as what I have seen in all my years as his mother and teacher. I did appreciate listening to how they intend to teach him different subjects. In my mind, I was seriously beginning to wonder if Ben was even educable anymore. I still want the focus of his public school days to be on self care and life skills, but who knows - maybe he'll actually advance somewhat academically!

They are working on the actual IEP now and will mail me a copy. They weren't going to do that, which I did not like. Terry from church, who attended our first meeting (and unfortunately, had to work today and couldn't make it to this one) told me that he wants to review the IEP first. They told me that I had already signed off on the IEP and I did not. The only thing I signed was a statement giving them permission to have today's meeting which would move us forward in the IEP process. And then they wanted to give me reviews of Ben's progress only twice per quarter. I told them I needed those reviews every two weeks. That was Terry's suggestion, as well.

The other sticking point is transportation. I want to take Ben to school in the mornings. But I want transportation provided in the afternoon. The principal said well, he can ride the bus. I told him that was not an option. I rode a bus (full of Christian school kids, no less) as a child and I know what happens on buses! There is no way I'm going to subject Ben to that. The only way I'll agree is if he had an aide riding with him. So the principal said that perhaps we could have Ben leave school twenty minutes early in the afternoon and have a driver take him home first which would then get the driver back to the school to do the normal route. That would be fine with me. The only thing that might interfere is that I told them I want Ben to have vocal classes because of his love of singing. We just don't like to listen to him because he's terribly off-key and flat! It doesn't help that his voice is in the middle of changing, I understand that. I'm hopeful that some instruction might make listening to him more tolerable, especially since he enjoys it so much. That's the last period of the day, which might interfere with the whole taking him home early thing. We'll figure something out.

As it looks now, Ben will be starting school, just in the mornings, somewhere in mid-May. Then, his special needs teacher said he strongly recommends that Ben begin attending school in August two weeks before the rest of the kids actually start. It's a program they have for kids that need more continuity of their education. They also have it for two weeks after the school year ends in June. It's just two hours a day, 4 days a week. So I think we'll plan on that.

Now, if I can just untwist my heart and bear to let my little naked and blind fledgling leave the nest! It's hard, as I have waxed on and on about in this blog for the past 6 months, and I'm sure my readers are a bit tired of hearing about it. Let me get through this beginning and then I think I'll be ok! If not - you'll hear about it, trust me!

Educating our children is big, is it not? I don't even feel terribly burdened that all my boys must be successes and to do so, have to have a college education. If I did, I'd be even more of a raving lunatic on here. I'm not striving to raise geniuses and honestly, my hope is that they can just match the progress of their more traditionally educated peers. And obviously, I don't even hope for that for Ben. I view "education" as much more than just academics. It's part of the whole picture. The picture I have is that I want to produce Godly young men who are educated enough that options are open to them wherever God may lead in their lives - whether that means they are digging ditches or pursuing a college degree. It has just as much to do with their character development, and most importantly, how much they love and serve God. If that's evident in all their lives, then I will know I did my job as the custodian and executor of their educations.

Seeing the Light (and not with contact lenses)

I'm taking a painting break now. Today it's the outside of the front of my house - the addition part. I painted it a year ago, guessing at matching the gray paint on the rest of the house. I guessed wrong and it has bugged me every time I approach my house from the south, seeing the original siding color next to the too-light addition color. I actually took a pice of siding with me to Walmart this week to match it. The color I ended up with is called "Armory Gray." Sounds attractive, doesn't it?! Now that I am putting it on I am wondering if it truly is a match, though. Argh!

Well, I'm a bit bummed today. It's because I'm vain and empty headed. I've had this whole contacts saga going on for the last month. I had been perfectly content to wear glasses for the past 11 years and then suddenly this winter I decided that I must wear contacts again. So, I got the contact exam and a trial pair was ordered for me - really could not see well out of them at all - most things were fuzzy around the edges. And reading was impossible. So another pair of trials was ordered for me. I got them last Sat. Things are a lot more clear with them, but reading is still difficult. The dr. said I'd probably have to use over the counter reading glasses, which is inconvenient, to say the least. But I looked good! And I bought a very cool pair of sunglasses that I could oh-so-casually push to the top of my head when I went inside places. Never mind that it was driving me crazy not to read and I could really feel my left eye straining. When I had the stroke my entire left side was damaged. My left eye went completely black for a couple of days and every time I've had a mini-stroke it has grayed out in the center. A lot of the strength has returned on that side, but it will probably always be weaker. I should have just stopped the process right then and there, but I wanted contacts!

So Monday I went in to the dr, we determined that this new pair of trials was as close as we were going to get, and I went out front to order my contacts. I was thinking a year's supply would probably be in the $200 range, which I was comfortable paying. I about fell over when told it was $540 and that was with a $30 rebate. I didn't know what to do, feeling very put on the spot. So I paid it and the contacts were ordered. But as the day went on I just felt sicker and sicker about it. What was I doing spending that much money on something I didn't have to have? What was I doing spending that kind of money on something that I couldn't even really use properly? Not only that, but this would be an annual expense. But I wanted them, even if I couldn't actually see out them! And so the thoughts whirled around in my head for rest of the day.

Paul was not real happy when I confessed to him that I had just used up a quarter of our flex spending money on contacts. He didn't throw a fit but I knew. He sighed and said something about delaying his needed knee surgery. Anyway, by the time I got to bed I was just sick over it. I literally could not sleep. I finally woke him up and told him that I was going to try and cancel the order the next day. I did that. And I felt terrible doing so because the dr's office had really worked and worked with me trying to find a pair that would work with my eyesight. And I was denying them a sale. They tried to talk me into ordering a half of year's supply instead and even lowered the price for me. But I just couldn't do it. I just got word this afternoon from them that they were successful in cancelling the sale. I'll never be able to show my face in there again!

So that's why I'm a bit bummed. Now when I look in the mirror I see this huge pair of glasses on this unhappy face. At least I can see that unhappy face, which is more than I can say for when I wore the contacts. It's silly and it's vain, I know. I cringe when I see women my age who just don't take care of themselves and I had begun to throw glasses-wearing women into that category of frumpiness. That's really not fair because I know a woman can be well kept and still wearing glasses. Paul assures me that he still finds me very attractive with glasses, but I think that's part of the husband code - one of the things they have to say in order ensure that they continue to get sex and hot meals. So I appreciate it, but I'm also taking his opinion with a grain of salt.

This whole fiasco is what I was alluding to last fall when I wrote about being convicted about spending too much time on my appearance. I think, if anything, God has used this to impress upon me the importance of finding a balance between using common sense and striving to look my best. Nice is good, obsessive is not. And for me to be willing to see less just for the sake of not having frames on my face falls into the "obsessive" category. It's silly and really quite stupid.

So I've "seen the light" and managed to restore our flex spending balance so that we can that money for things actually needed - like Paul's possible surgery and the fillings we both have scheduled for our teeth. And who knows what else might spring up between now and next March before it renews? But I may need my ego stroked for awhile yet so that I can quit flinching when I look in the mirror. And really - maybe it's not the glasses I'm cringing about, but about how dumb and silly someone as old as I can still be. That's what I'm seeing right now when I look in the mirror.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Coarse Talking

This is the post I alluded to in my last posting that I wanted to write. I had intended to get to it before now, but, well - you know how that goes! So, guess when I am doing this? 11:30 pm on a Sunday night! I should be in bed. I took a nap today, which was a mistake. Any time I nap I have a hard time being sleepy enough for bedtime. But yet, there is something about Sunday afternoons that makes me just want to crawl into bed and stay there all afternoon!

All right. Well, I had two things happen the week before last that got me to thinking. The first was this: I enjoy music. I've written about that before. I'm not particular about what kind of music I listen to - I enjoy most everything. Sometimes I wonder if I am hurting my children because I do listen to some secular music and I do not forbid them from doing the same. It's just one area of life that I have chosen not to be tyrannical about and let them make their own choices. Interestingly enough, they all seem to prefer Christian music over everything (well, Ben loves Elvis and the Beach Boys, but overall, he still likes Christian music) anyway. I'm getting off track here and this subject alone may be a future post at some point. One song I have heard on the radio and thought was cute is the song "Hot N Cold" by Katy Perry. I'm not a fan of Miss Perry, by any means. Any person who can start out as a Christian recording artist and then switch over to the secular field, drawn by the lure of more success, does not have my respect. And it doesn't help that her first hit was a song entitled, "I Kissed a Girl." I've never heard it, I have no idea if it has lesbian undertones or not, but I'm doing quite well in my ignorance.

Anyway, I had heard "Hot N Cold" and so a couple of weeks ago I had a list of songs I wanted to download off itunes and burn to a cd (which reminds me - I'm giving serious thought to purchasing an mp3 player at some point - haven't decided yet. But it would be more convenient than having all these cds. But yet, I need to protect my hearing and ear buds aren't the greatest for that. Plus, I like to dance around the kitchen when I cook and I'd rather just put a cd in my player out there rather than be hooked up to a set of earphones. See what happens when I get too tired? My mind wanders all over the place!) So I downloaded and burned the song. Then, I went to listen to it. I was so shocked when in the second line of the song, a pretty crude word is used! If I had known that was there, I would not have bought this song. The very next day I was listening to the radio, to our easy listening station and "Hot N Cold" came on. I turned it up because I wanted to hear - had I missed this awful word every time I'd heard the song on the radio? No, I had not! The radio station beeped out the word and I never knew it. I just found myself aggravated by this.

Then, this happened: I belong to a Yahoo stroke support group. I'm not very active at all, especially now that I'm 2.5 yrs now post stroke. My left side will probably never have the full strength it did before, but I'm actually feeling very good most days. When I joined I was overwhelmed with everything - feeling lousy, so, so, so sleep-deprived, and still a bit in shock that I had had a stroke at age 36! So it was helpful to me at the time. Unfortunately, a number of people on the list seemed a bit bitter to me. But I can understand that, too. When you aren't a Christian and don't have a belief system in place that a loving God cares for you, even during the rough times, it would be very easy to develop a bad attitude over life's circumstances. And for many people, for most people, in fact, strokes are completely life-altering. So, I can't say I completely condemn them for their attitudes. But at any rate, it did make me less inclined to do much on there.

Now, I knew they had established a Facebook group within the past year or so and I did want to join that. Even if I didn't do anything with it, I always enjoy looking at others' groups that they are a a part of. It gives me an idea of who they are and what is important to them. I would not mind being affiliated with a stroke recovery group because I did have a stroke and, as a result, it's a medical thing that I'm more aware of now and more sympathetic about with others. So, I asked someone in the group to send me the link. Without looking at it, I clicked on it and was immediately taken to the Facebook group called "Strokes Suck." I was just appalled. As my hand hovered over the "Join" button, I put it down. As much as I would enjoy being part of a stroke group, I don't want every one of my 200 and some Facebook friends getting notice that "Sarah joined Strokes Suck."

I know "suck" isn't a swear word, and neither was the word in the Katy Perry song. But they are crude. I don't use these words and others like them. Well, hardly ever, anyway. I did refer to Senator Ben Nelson as a "Jack 'Donkey'" awhile back because I was so mad at him during the time of the health care debate. But I shouldn't have. It's not ladylike. It's not Christ-edifying and it does nothing to enhance my Christian testimony. There have been times the boys have let loose with some of these crude-isms and then haven't understood when I've told them that kind of language isn't allowed. "It's not a swear word!" they protest. I think I've done a pretty good job of explaining why it's not appropriate to use these words, even though it's more of a subjective thing - in this case, subjective to what Mom says!

I don't remember hearing a lot of these words growing up. Of course, my parents really sheltered us from the media, but I suspect they weren't as prevalent then. I can flip on the tv to any prime time show now and hear really, really vulgar language. It's shy of swearing, but wrong, nonetheless. And if you go to any movie that's rated higher (or lower, as the case may be) than "G" you're going to hear crude language.

Am I being legalistic? A prude? A little old lady? I really don't think so. I don't mentally condemn someone when I hear them use language like this, but it does affect how I view them. It's worldly. I find it offensive, even.

The book of James has a lot to say about the tongue, primarily about the things we do with it, more so than the actual words we use. But it's a good manual anyway, for how we ought to be talking. I don't think Jesus would join the group "Strokes Suck" or use any of the language I'm thinking about here tonight. And if we can't imagine Him doing it, then we shouldn't either.

We don't have to talk like they did in past centuries. We do live in a much more casual society than ever has been had before and there's room for some the vernacular of today. But we need to be careful that our speech doesn't mirror the World's so closely that others don't even know we are different.

I'm trying to raise gentlemen at my house and this is one thing I'm trying to impress on them about their speech habits. And it's something I need to remind myself about too.

Colossians 4:6 "Let your speech always be with grace..."

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Slower Happenings

I am having such a "easy" week. My schedule has been almost completely clear, which is really unusual. So I've been getting a lot of painting done. I finished up the boys' room yesterday, repainted and varnished the upstairs landing and today I'm painting the downstairs bathroom. Because of the basement work, Paul has shut off the water to the upstairs bathroom so we've been using only the downstairs one - it's going to be a trick today to let the boys use it without messing up my paint job!

Next week I plan to buy the paint for the outdoor jobs I want to tackle. I wonder how long that will take. I have quite a bit to do out there. I'll be glad to get it all done.

And the weather has been so warm and sunny all week. You know, with the winter we had, I didn't think we'd see spring until mid-May. But it came right on time this year! One can almost forget about those months and months of ice, cold, and snow! Almost.

That's one of the official pictures from Prom Alternative last weekend. The two couples on either end were the chaperons. On the right is my friend Melissa in the black. She is the one I shopped with for 11 hours a couple of Saturdays ago for that dress! She looked amazing! Will is in the middle row on the far right. You can kind of see his head. They went to Biaggis for dinner and then up to this huge waterpark by Mall of America. Will said he had a really great time. I had fun on Friday taking him to church and then watching as all the kids arrived - seeing them so spiffied up!

Last Sat Paul's parents came up. They brought their backhoe, which was appreciated. I had to take Ben and David to softball practice and when I got back just Dorothy was there. She asked me, "Were you here when all the excitement happened?" Since I didn't see Paul or his dad, my first thought was that Paul had another run-in with our neighbor and he had ended up getting hauled off to jail! I love how my mind works. Then she started telling me about this accident Paul had on the skidloader. So my next thought was, "he's in the hospital!" But that wasn't the case, either. Paul and his dad had just gone to the store to go get a part for the machine. Whew!

It could have been very bad. Even Paul, who tends to laugh most serious things off, commented that it had been a "near tragedy." He was driving the skidloader, which was attached to the backhoe when suddenly something popped on it. He was hovering over the edge of the 9ft hole that will be our basement. Suddenly, he was pitched forward off the machine and thrown into the hole. He landed on his dad who was standing down there. Once they scrambled out of the hole they saw that the only thing holding the skidloader to the backhoe was a single hydraulic hose - and it had snapped. Why those two machines did not fall into the hole, too, on top of the men, is a mystery. Paul's dad was fine. Paul ended up with two purple fingers and a gash on his butt. It's lots of pretty colors now, but healing just fine. I wasn't there, but I'm still trembling with the possibility of what could have been!

I found my cousin on Facebook about 10 days ago. I was so excited! For some reason, I just happened to think of him, thought to look him up on FB, and there he was! It took him over a week, but he finally got around to confirming me. I have not talked to him since the very early 90s. I had no clue that he was remarried or a stepfather now. I should tell my mom, I guess, since he is her nephew. Maybe she already knew this stuff, though. I love Facebook! Paul's mom was going through it with me last Sat. and finding all kinds of relatives on Paul's side of the family.

I've been concerned about Will's writing abilities in recent months. I've always known that writing wasn't his "thing." That's fine. I don't expect him to crank out anything Pulitzer Prize-worthy or to be an English professor someday. But I've been increasingly concerned about his ability to function in a future college classroom when his idea of an assigned essay is to turn in 7 lines of something - usually repeating thoughts and without proper sentence structure. BUT - I found a solution this past week. There is a homeschool co-op for highschoolers on the north side of Des Moines at a church. I've always heard about it, but didn't know much about it. But I started looking into this week and fortunately, I already knew the director of it, and she's been very helpful with my questions. They have a writing class that teaches these fundamentals that Will needs. It meets once a week during the school year and the cost isn't too bad, I didn't think.

So I was mulling this all around in my mind Monday when I dropped Will off for softball practice. Well, the coach's son was there and he happened to be wearing the official "Network" tee the kids have to wear when they go to class. I asked him about his experience there and as it turns out, he is in the very writing class this year that I want Will to take! He was very enthusiastic about it. That was a confirmation to me that I'm on the right track here.

To get in, Will has to have had some recent testing done. I had planned for him to take his ITEDs this winter at the school, but he begged out of it. I should have made him do it anyway. So, now I have to take him up to DMAAC (community college) this Friday and have him take some tests up there. And then hopefully, he'll be accepted into the Network and I can face his upcoming college days with a little more confidence.

It's like my homeschooling friend, Melissa told me (in the picture): "When your kids are little, you are convinced they are the smartest students on the planet. Then they get into junior and senior high and you suddenly realize there is all this stuff that they never learned and you begin to panic!" She should know - she has a senior this year! So, I hopeful now. As long as Will can get accepted into this class, he should have a chance at learning some better writing skills.

One the way home from the previously mentioned practice, Will had wanted to drive. I said no because it was "rush hour" and we were in a busy part of town. He's a good driver, but a young one, so I don't want to take unnecessary chances, either. So I started driving, flipping on the radio as I did so. Steve Deace's (WHO's afternoon drive-home host) voice filled the van. David piped up, "Hey! I thought you said it was 'Rush' hour!" It took me a moment, but I then realized he was referring to Rush Limbaugh who is on the same station earlier in the afternoon. He wasn't trying to be funny either!

I contacted "Our Iowa" yesterday to see where they were on choosing pieces for profiles of favorite "Ma & Pa" restaurants. I had sent them a piece in late January about the Checkerboard. I got a reply back and the editor told me that she honestly didn't know. The magazine only comes out every two months and they try to avoid profiling two steakhouses in a row, giving some variances. But, she told me she did know that the chief editor had marked my piece as one he was very interested in using. So, it may be that that piece just might show up in print at some point! I hope so - and not just for me. I know it could really help out the Fees, who own the Checkerboard. Usually restaurants see a real increase in business once a profile of their business is featured in "Our Iowa."

Someone sent me a link on Facebook last week about a guy who is running for some House seat out in Western Iowa - the seat that is being vacated by Rod Roberts, who is running for governor. Well, I know this guy! Or, I knew him, anyway. We were both involved in CBF at the same time while at UNI 20 years ago. He married the gal who sang at our wedding. And I remember he attended our wedding because he's on our video!
I think it's awesome that he is running and I hope he wins. He's a busy guy and I suspect that his willingness to enter the race has less to do with a desire for a political career than it does a supreme frustration with the disconnect between our state government leaders (and national, for that matter) and the will of the people. But get this - he and his wife are expecting their 11th baby. Their oldest is 15 - and I don't think there are any multiples. Of course she homeschools and according to his website she is the "trail boss" (whatever that is) for their ranch.

I asked Paul the next day, "How does she do it? My 4 drive me absolutely bananas from time to time. How does a person have 11 children and function?" I'm still a bit mystified at that. I know that I have trouble getting it all done, whether we're talking housework, keeping time reserved for relationships outside the family, or educating the children. I cannot do it all to the extent that I would like to. What is lacking in me that I find having 4 children difficult and yet one of my peers is able to tackle 3 times as many children effortlessly? Perhaps it is that lack that caused God to only give me 4! He knew exactly what I could handle. Or maybe it's one of those situations where as you grow in numbers and situations, so does your ability to handle them. I don't know. At any rate, that wasn't exactly a confidence booster for me!

One last thing before I get back to my painting: Last week I was watching a video my friend Joy had made for her brother's funeral a year ago. It was beautiful. She had set a lifetime of photos on a slideshow and then had a number of songs playing during the entire 22 minutes show. The very first song was one I had never heard before but it touched me so much that I ended up googling some of the words to figure out what this song was and who sang it. I discovered it was written by a blind singer named Gordon Motes. I was able to download it, burn it onto a cd, and I've been listening to it all week. It's especially meaningful to me because of Ben, but really, I think anyone who has lost a loved one or even just wondered "why" at some of life's events, could be comforted by this song. Here are the lyrics:

The Other Side Of Time

She holds her newborn baby to her chest
And sings to him a tender lullaby
Although he gently sleeps
He was born with special needs
She loves him so but still it breaks her heart
It's hard to understand what we can't clearly see
But Heaven will reveal life's mysteries


On the other side of time
Broken things are healed
And empty things are filled
As we stand in Heaven's light
On the other side of time
It's more than just a dream
Children laugh and sing
And every heart is free
There's perfect peace
On the other side of time

Some are like stars that brightly shine
But they only glisten for a while
A light fading in the dark
An unfinished work of art
And we'll never know just what might have been
But there's a distant place that's never known a tear
Skies are blue and rainbows never disappear

There's no guarantee that life won't be unfair
But the debt this life owes us
Will all be settled there

On the other side of time

Isn't that neat?

Well, speaking of time, it's getting away from me and I think my trim paint is probably dried enough now that I can stick tape to it without ruining it and start painting the bathroom walls Sensual Silver (the honest- to- goodness name for that color!). I have another post I want to write on coarse talking. It won't be very long, though - just a couple of thoughts and relating two things that occurred just this last week on that very subject.

I'll be back!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Mud, Ketchup, and Paint

The sun is out! We've had a rainy, hail-ey, stormy week so to finally see the sun again - ahhh! And the weathermen are promising that warmer temps are back on their way, so I hope they are right!

Of course, with all the wetness, comes mud. Nasty, icky, brown mud. You know we have this huge basement project going on right now which has meant the displacement of much of the dirt from under our house. Paul is dumping most of it on the far end of our yard, in hopes of leveling out the yard. But there's still dirt all around and on top of the driveway, the steps, the sidewalk, and other parts of the yard. When it rains it turns to mud. There have been times that I have slid out to my van because of all the mud on the cement driveway. This project cannot end soon enough!

We're having a problem now with our neighbor woman. She's a witch. We didn't know that until this past week. Now we know. She's throwing a fit because of her 6" of property that Paul has to drive on to dump the dirt at the far end of our yard. 6 inches! It's a long story, kind of, and I'll spare you the drama, but suffice it to say - I won't be surprised if the sheriff shows up here one day. I just hope I don't have to bail Paul out of jail. The thing is - I know that we are supposed to show Christ in all we do. I keep thinking, "We may be the only Jesus she ever sees" but then I wrestle with my strong desire to just punch her in the nose! So pray for us, that the Flesh will not prevail.

Well, I got my contacts Monday. I haven't stuck anything into my eye since 1999. I'm kind of questioning why I thought I needed to start doing it again now. In fact, Paul watched me last night, battling this little piece of silicone, smaller than a dime, and asked, "Why are you putting yourself through this?" I whimpered, "Because I want to be pretty!" He sighed and said, "And what makes you think you weren't already?" Of course, as I looked into the mirror at my swollen, runny, bloodshot eye, with all the make-up washed off by the tears leaking out of my eye as I attempted to jab it with the contact, I couldn't miss the irony there...

The thing is, this pair of contacts are not right. I can see to drive, but I can't read. Or rather, I can see large objects coming at me, but don't ask me to read a stop sign. I know it says "Stop" because I recognize the color and shape, but I can't actually make out the word. I called the dr. Tuesday morning and he suggested I pick up a pair of cheap reading glasses. So I did that. They didn't help. They just magnified the fuzzy letters - and gave me a headache. So finally, in frustration, on my way home from Ben's class Tuesday, I stopped by the doctors, and told them I needed to be seen.

I am hopeful now, though. Dr. S has ordered me another pair of trial contacts and he promises that my vision should be crystal clear in them. Part of my problem in that I tore my left contact while learning how to insert and remove them. He says I need to keep my nails short. We'll see about that. Longer nails and contacts are part of the whole picture! My friend Melissa nodded sagely when I told her this last night and said, "Yep, you can either have contacts or long nails." She has worn soft lenses for decades. I'm used to the hard lenses, which were a little more durable. But, it may be a moot point anyway, since my nails rarely stay long - they're always getting broken. So the torn contact is affecting my vision. But the prescription wasn't quite right, either.

I found out, too, he ordered me single vision contacts - but I'm in bifocal glasses. I asked him about that and he had a long explanation, none of which I remember. But evidently, it was intentional, anyway.

So, I'm only wearing the contact now, when my eyes cooperate, for times I'm going out in public and not planning to have to read anything. My new ones should be in by the 19th.

The good news is that I bought a really cool pair of sunglasses! I'm so used to only having prescription sunglasses and there are many more options in the non-prescrip. glasses. I am having so much fun wearing them and then casually shoving them on top of my head when I go indoors. That is so much more convenient than having to immediately fumble in my purse for my regular glasses and switching them with the prescrip. sunglasses whenever I go in and out.

While I was waiting for the dr. Tues. something caught my eye in the waiting room. A middle Eastern family came in and they were talking some strange, foreign language. They were all in Western clothing, even the wife, but she wore a head covering. I think they may be called "hajibs" or something like that. They fit pretty snugly over the hair and all you see is the face. So I figured they were Muslims. But then I happened to notice the little boy's shirt and it read, "Jesus is my treasure." Whoa! I don't care how far behind on the laundry I got, none of my boys would ever wear a shirt that proclaimed, "Allah is my treasure"! So I eventually deduced that they probably were a Christian family (which would explain why they were at this particular dr's office - in the yellow pages, it's called, "Family Christian Eye Care." But the head covering must be more of a cultural thing in some middle Eastern countries and not only an Islamic tradition. And if they are from a predominantly Muslim country, it might make more sense to wear a head covering anyway, so as not to draw attention to yourself and your Christian beliefs.

I shopped for 11 hours last Sat. with my friend Melissa. What a marathon! But we found everything she needed for this weekend - a dress, undergarments, jewelry, and shoes. She's going to look so good! We wouldn't have needed any special undergarments if it were possible to find something remotely modest on top in dressy clothes. I am not kidding - everything she tried on was cut clear down to there! I am no prude, certainly, but still - to think that there is anything remotely beautiful about flashing what ought to be private is just foolish - and worldly.

My feet were kind of numb by the time I got to bed, but it occurred to me then that even a year ago I would not have had the stamina for a day such as what I had. I am feeling SO much better than I have since before getting pregnant. I don't want to take that for granted.

The next day was Easter and we had to get up an hour early to get to the church's breakfast. I had to serve drinks - otherwise I would have been sorely tempted to skip the whole thing. Apparently, the lack of sleep was hardest on Sam. When we picked him up from Children's Church, Debbie (who had also shopped for part of the day before with Melissa and me), who is leading CC this month, told me that Sam almost immediately fell asleep right at the table and never once stirred even with 17 other preschoolers in the room! Poor kid!

This is week 4 with my Mirena. It's my PMS week and I've noticed a few times this week that I've had some really intense anger flashes. Normally, PMS just means I'm irritated and I've learned in recent years it's best not to talk to anyone that week - because otherwise, I'm going to end up apologizing the next week! But this has been different than mere irritation. It reminds me of the year that I was on the pill after Ben was born - similar symptoms. I sincerely hope that this is NOT because of the Mirena because I don't want to have to have it taken out. Plus, I agreed to give it a year to see how I liked it. I don't want to be flying off the handle one week a month for the next 12! And if I do get it taken out, then I'll either need to have the ablation surgery done or suffer like I have been for the past two years with my cycle. I'm so ready for menopause!

At the same time, though, I can't blame everything on what's happening inside my body or even outside it. I've read this before, and then last fall a speaker at Ladies' Retreat brought this up, too: When you squeeze a ketchup bottle, what comes out? Does the pressure you're putting on the bottle change the contents? Of course not. What was already in there is what comes out. And it's just the same for us humans. When the pressures hit - whether it be a result of drugs, outside forces beyond our control, hormonal changes, or whatever - what's already inside us will be revealed. Scary, huh?

I'm painting the boys' room again today. It sure would be nice to get that finished. Of course, I can't find the masking tape - I can never find the masking tape, no matter how many rolls I buy - so I strung electrical tape up where I don't want the paint to go. That stuff is hard to work with because it's so stretchy. My fear is that it may remove the new paint that I don't want to come up, too. I hate painting. Have I mentioned that? Of course, once I am done in the boys' room I need to do the downstairs bathroom. Then, the front of the house needs it, as does the garage. And then I plan to paint the back of the neighbor's steel shed that faces our yard. Oh, and then I've decided that since I'm not going to have a kitchen window for a few years, I really need to lighten up the walls in there, which will be a major project.

I can't get away from it! I have been painting continually for 11 years now, since we bought our first house. My idea of luxury someday will be to move into a finished condo where not one single thing needs to be drywalled, mowed, sanded, or stained. And then my eighty year old self will squint my eyes, look critically at the living room wall and say, "You know, green might be a really pretty color for that wall..." And then I'll slap myself upside the head and say, "Snap out of it! Eggshell is perfectly fine color for that wall!" And I'll sit down in my recliner that I don't have to brush cookie and pretzel crumbs out of first, reach for the remote that is exactly where I left it, and flip on a home decorating show and cackle at the fools on there that make painting look like sublime joy. I can't wait!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Spring - at Last

It has been a beautiful week, weather-wise. That has done so much to lift my spirits! We just went through a really, really long and dark winter. We had record breaking snows, never-ending cold, and not even a January or February thaw to give us hope for spring. And then suddenly - there it was! We started out in the low sixties Monday and by yesterday it was in the eighties! The boys have been running around in shorts and t-shirts and I've broken out my short sleeved shirts and sandals.

Today we had our first thunderstorm of the season. Even that was kind of fun (well, not for David - he was convinced a tornado was headed our way). The rain lowered our temps a bit but the weathermen are promising us a sunny Easter with temps in the sixties. It's hard to complain about anything when winter has finally been given the boot. I won't totally breathe easily, though, until after the 20th. That is the latest that I've ever recalled us getting a measurable snow. Once that date passes, I think we're safe.

Paul worked an almost full week, which was a relief, after the past three weeks. He got his paycheck yesterday - a whopping $97! At least we were in the positive. I was concerned that we were going to end up owing Loziers with all our deductions, this pay period. Even today with the rain they still kept him working, even into some overtime hours.

With the warm weather the boys have spending nearly every minute of it outdoors. Sam's most favorite thing to do is "gump." He can spend hours "gumping" on our trampoline. I suppose I should be fearful that he'll "gump" right off the edge, but I'm really not. We've had that thing for years now and not one child has ever fallen off it - that I know of anyway.

Paul and Ben had a nice trip last weekend, I think. They got home around 10:30 Sat. evening. They had spent quite a bit of time at Incredible Pizza and Paul had hit a jackpot on one of the games, getting something like 1000 tickets that just kept shooting out all over the floor. So he and Ben had fun picking out prizes with all their tickets. Paul was so tickled at one thing he got. He walked into the house, obviously hiding something under his jacket as he told me of his winnings. Then I saw what he had. He found this furry, safari-printed, pillow with gold and silver metallic fabric that spelled out "Princess." That's what he calls me at times and I have a number of "Princess" things he has bought me throughout the years. Never before, though, had he found one printed on animal-print stuff, which is what our bedroom is done up in. Animal print stuff originally was Paul's thing, eventually it became mine, too. So that was kind of neat. His enthusiasm over it kind of tickled my amusement bone too. He was just like a little kid!

Our intent for these "13" Father/Son trips has been that Paul would give the boys the scoop on sex, reproduction, urges, hormones, and body changes. But we didn't feel that Ben was ready for all that right now. His body is changing like gangbusters, so Paul was able to talk to him about that, but he's not ready for the sex talk. We've decided to handle it as he asks questions of either of us. However, with him going to public school soon, those questions may end up coming sooner than later! Paul was lamenting to me later that it seemed like he was really getting through to Ben when he talked to him and he responded intelligently and gave Paul hope. And then later at the pizza joint, Paul had to leave Ben alone for a few minutes to get his own food from the buffet and he came back to the table. There Ben was, talking to the Activity Director from camp, who just happened to be at Incredible Pizza at the same time they were. Ben was wearing an IRBC shirt, which attracted the Director's attention. And Paul said he had a face full of pizza sauce and cottage cheese in his hair as he talked to this guy...sigh...I told him, "Welcome to my world!"

We finished up our testing at the school this week for Ben. On the last day, the AEA person who has been doing most of the testing "interviewed" me about Ben. She said normally they would just do in-classroom assessments of him, but since his classroom has been at home, she needed me to fill in some information for her. She seemed shocked when I told her, upon being asked, that Ben only gets about 2 hours of school a day. And that's on a good day - maximum. I was honest with her - there are some days we don't do school at all. I don't think she understands homeschooling - that a full day's worth of work can be done within a couple of hours. But I felt almost guilty, like I've been shortchanging him educationally.

An OT came in at that same time and she went over some exercises with Ben to see where he was in that area. She was telling me that we can arrange Ben's school day so that he has frequent breaks. She can bring in a small trampoline for him to go jump on if he needs that. She said we can bring his cds if he wanted to spend some time decompressing by listening to his music. And when I told her about his strange play of pretending to be an overhead announcer she said that there are actually reading programs that operate on the same principal and the school would buy the software for Ben's use.

The next day I met with a PT. She did a number of exercises with Ben and had him run for her and do some things in the school's weight room. She said that actually, Ben does not qualify for PT services. That's kind of nice to hear - that with all his needs, there's actually something he's too "good" at to need help! But she went on to say that her job is working with the kids who can't even sit up or are wheelchair bound. She said Ben's legs are actually very strong. It's just his core that is weak. I already knew that from our years of going to OT at Blank. And what she said backs up what Ben's PT from his preschool years (the last time he had PT) told us. One day he said, "Ben doesn't need me. He is his own best physical therapist!" But she thinks Ben could benefit from having some regular exercise, like what they offer in the weight room. So we're going to write that into his IEP.

It's hard to believe he'll be starting school in just 4 weeks!

Paul told me that he met a retiree up at the campground where he and Ben stayed. This guy is a life-long Democrat and is furious about the passage of the health care bill - mainly because he stands to lose some of his medical benefits that were part of his retirement package from Mid American Energy. He said that he has voted Democrat his entire life, but he will never vote for another one. I'm not convinced Republicans are all that much better, but this sentiment seems to be echoed all over these days. I truly, truly hope there is a revolution this Nov. at the ballot box. Don't get me wrong - I'll vote Rep. before I vote Democrat, but I'm becoming more and more disillusioned by that party all the time. I guess I'd call myself a Conservative Independent.

We've been working a lot with David lately on his multiplication facts. About six weeks ago I put away his math book when I realized that he didn't know his facts. Because of that, it made doing his math assignments so much harder for him. So we've been doing only facts for math instead. David doesn't like math and I completely understand that. I've hated math since the second grade when a teacher made me cry and feel inadequate - and so hopeless - over my performance at math. But the truth is, you can't get through life without knowing your basic math facts. David gets upset when I am drilling him and I don't allow him to "figure out" the answer. I tell him that he needs to just automatically know the answer, rather than having to use his fingers or guess. I don't think I've been mean about it, but there's just no way around this - it must be learned. So one day this week David came to me, chin quivering, voice quavering, and said, "I just feel like you're torturing me about math!" I had to bite the inside of my cheek at that one. He was so serious!

But today, David nailed the 7 times table. I was so proud of him! He had to study and study that thing, but he finally got it.

I have had a couple of "dumb" couple of days. Sometimes I'm amazed that I'm still alive, given my lack of intelligence. First story: Ben receives SSI benefits. It's never been a program that I'm thrilled to be participating with - I hate the whole idea of government dependence and it feels a bit like welfare to me. But the money has been very helpful as we have sought to meet Ben's extra needs. And quite honestly, it's one of the reasons that I'm able to stay home with my children, so I'm willing to suffer the humiliation and frustration of dealing with the program in order to provide that for my boys. The amount of that money is dependent on how much we earn in any given month so I have to mail in Paul's paystubs every month to the Social Security office. He is paid by direct deposit and then given a check with "non-negotiable" stamped on it. This month he also received his yearly performance bonus. So I bundled them all up the other day and mailed them to Ottumwa. Sitting down last night to figure up our available monies and budget for the next two weeks, I discovered, upon calling the bank, that I mailed the actual check to the SS office! Oh, I could not believe it! So, I called them this morning and they hadn't even realized I did that since the actual check looked just like the others which aren't real checks. But apparently, it's already on it's way back to me (they mail back the stubs - to me, that's just another inefficiency in a government agency - wouldn't it be easier to just get an employer statement of earnings, rather than paying double postage to have the stubs mailed and then returned via mail?). I will not rest easy, though, until that check is back in my hot little hands. Oh, dummy, dummy, dummy me!

Then, tonight I made a cake with a new recipe. I popped it in the oven and the thing would never solidify. It was so liquid and was taking far longer to bake than the recipe indicated. Finally, it dawned on me: I never put the flour in! It's going to be kind of hard to stick together without that!

And last Sunday one of the boys had a friend come over from church and spend the afternoon. I made pound cake smores, which entails broiling slices of pound cake with mini chocolate chips and marshmallows on top. So I did that. I opened the oven door and flames whooshed out at me! My pan was totally engulfed in flames. I shrieked, "What do I do?! What do I do?!" Paul hollered, "Reach in and get it out of there!" Ok, I'm not the sharpest cookie these days, but even I know that you don't pull out a pan that's on fire. The flames would have easily gotten my hands and arms. I just looked at him with an "are you insane?!" look. I turned off the oven and eventually the flames died down. Paul carried the charred mess outside where I'm assuming, even the birds rejected it. So much for dessert this week!

One good thing that happened this week: I went to the library last weekend and came home with a stack of books. I discovered a new author, Dolores J. Wilson. She is hilarious! I mean, I was in the tub the other night reading one of her books, "Big Hair and Flying Goats" and I laughed like I haven't in months. My flabby belly was shaking so hard it slapped the water, I had tears running down my face, and I had to pause numerous times and stop reading because I was laughing so hard. I'm reading the second one in the series now and I'm laughing just as much. I only wish she was a Christian author. If there's anything that bothers me about her books it's that the main character attends her Baptist church faithfully, but seems to have a very cavalier attitude about premarital sex. Those two shouldn't go together, I'm thinking. The books aren't bad, but that's really the only thing that I can find fault with.

And hopefully, tomorrow, will be a good thing, too. I'm meeting up with my friend, Melissa, in Des Moines and we're going to find her an outfit for Prom Alternative. She's chaperoning and needs something appropriate. And then it sounds like we are meeting up with another gal from church, Debbie, and going to the Cheesecake Factory. It will be a day away from my children tracking in mud, their bickering, and Sam sheepishly holding his bottom and saying, "Mommy - I wet!" I need a break!

And then it's Easter Sunday - the remembrance of our Independence Day. I can't wait to sing "Up from the Grave He Arose" on Sunday morning and be filled with thankfulness once again for my Jesus. I am so unworthy of His great love.

Happy Spring and Happy Easter, Everyone!