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!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Aggravation and Halloween Surprises

That's my friend,Kathy, and me. This was taken last Friday night when she and her husband were in town and came over for supper. It was so wonderful to see them! Kathy actually has a book coming out in Dec. It's her first, a children's book. That reminds me - I need to go on-line and order a copy!

Well, I'm aggravated today. FaithWriters has been on a quarterly break for a few weeks. The new topic was listed last week and today was the day that all the new articles would be visible for reading and I could start reading and leaving comments. But the FW server went down last night! I'm just thankful I submitted my piece yesterday morning. I wonder, though, if they will delay everything by a week since I'm sure some people were not able to submit because of the server problem. I hope not! I've been so looking forward to today!

Paul and I have a new great-nephew, born last Wed. A few months ago I referred to a "family situation." This was it. Paul's 15 yr old nephew is the father of the baby. There have been many babies born on the wrong side of the blanket in that family and that's always a sad situation. But this one really shocked and bothered me. I think the extremely young age of the parents was a reason and it's also because the mother of this nephew and I were pregnant at the same time. Will is actually 3 months older than his cousin. But yet, I just can't even imagine Will in the same situation. Just last night Paul and I were talking. To us, Will still seems a bit asexual. He has no interest in girls that we're aware of - and I'm not complaining. It could be, too, that he thinks a whole lot more than he ever lets on! He and his cousin were very close up until our move 6 years ago. And now, to see this divergent path one has gone just bothers me and I wish other options had been considered. But I'm sure Paul's brother and sister-in-law are delighted with their new grandson. His name is Aiden, which is a nice name -- one that even made it to my "considerations" list when we were still having babies. I hope Aiden's future is better than his beginning was.

We had a nice surprise this morning. Hanging on our doorknob was a Halloween bag full of goodies. They'd obviously been picked out by someone who knows our family and how many kids we have. There was a note asking us to re-fill the bag and leave it on someone else's doorknob. I think that is so fun! I have to go to town anyway this evening to deliver a meal, so I'm going to swing by Walmart and get a few things.

My office has walls now and part of a floor! Last Sat. they got the entire addition framed. I had to go out there yesterday and measure because I just couldn't believe there would be room for both the computer desk and my craft table/desk. I've been using a temporary table since we moved in 6 yrs ago. But I have a beautiful antique metal table my parents gave me probably a decade ago that I am anxious to pull out and use again. It won't be long! They ended up totally taking out the north wall of the bathroom. The termites had done a number on it. Then, they pulled out the bathtub. So, we got a lot of flies in the house that way. But we also have a new, sturdy bathroom wall. I was walking down the steps from upstairs the other day and I saw some glimmers of daylight through the corner of the wall, where the stairwell meets the wall that hangs down over the steps. That's not good and I'm not sure how we'll fix that. I'm guessing that jacking up the house caused those seams to come apart. Argh - you fix one problem and create another!

The other day Sam wanted to know why the letters on the keyboard don't go in order. Ha, ha - smart kid!

Gotta tell you about my latest money-saving find: It's You know, I've heard of this website before but never checked it out. It is SO easy and totally free. They have coupons posted all the time. You just scroll through them, click the ones you want and when you're finished, print them all out. I've already used some of them, so they are definitely "legal" coupons. I've just made that part of my bi-monthly routine when I make my menus and grocery list.

Well, that's all I know for now. I need to get ready to go here pretty soon. I'm taking a meal to little Rebekah's family. She may be coming home for the first time next week. That will be a big change for the whole family.

Will's youth group is coming over to Pville tomorrow night to watch him play ball. It's their last home Varsity game. Next week is the last week of football. Saturday sounds like it is going to be gorgeous. Paul and the boys should be able to get quite a bit of work done.

So, until next week, which should be an extraordinarily busy week for me, I'm signing off. Going to go check the FaithWriters website again...

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Below the Surface

Here is my latest FW piece. We were to write about the "Inner Person." I kind of liked this one. But, the judges didn't share my estimation :(. It's been a few weeks, so I can't remember exactly where I placed. I know I got in the top 30 and in the top 15 (barely) of my division. I would have liked more words in order to expand the ending a bit. It seemed kind of hurried to me. I know my mom wasn't overly enamored with this one of mine. Why is it I always like the ones that nobody else does? We are now coming off a break from FW and the new topic was just assigned this past Thursday. It's "Face to face conversations." I have an awesome story, but I'm really concerned that I'm not going to be able to fit it into the 750 word limit!

Angrily flipping my phone shut, I seethe. That woman, my mother-in-law, Gloria! Ooh, I’ve just had it with her…she called to let me know that she doesn’t want me to cook this year’s Thanksgiving turkey. She said that she really thought my turkey last year was “too dry” and she’ll take care of preparing it this year. For thirteen years now I have put up with her snide and not-so-subtle put-downs and I’m finished -- I mean it. I hope she chokes on her turkey.

As I try to slow my breathing back to normal, the phone in my hand vibrates once again. It had better not be Gloria! Uh, oh -- it’s the school. This can’t be good, either. Nervously, I answer.
“Mrs. Brannigan? Jessie has been caught fighting and, as you know, we have a zero tolerance policy towards violence on school grounds. She’s suspended now for three days and you need to come get her immediately.”

I sigh with both embarrassment and defeat. Jessie is my fourteen year old daughter. Three years ago we adopted Jessie and her sister, Brianna, out of foster care. Everything was good for awhile. John and I were thrilled to finally be parents and equally happy to rescuing the girls out of the horror that had been their life. As we fostered and then adopted the girls, they really began to emerge from their self-protective shells and we just fell in love with them. We’ve been so thrilled to watch them grow. Jessie is the quieter one, but has made so many self-confident strides since the adoption. Brianna is just a bundle of sweetness, always quick with a hug or a smile.

But over the last year, Jessie has changed. An angry, rebellious spirit has begun to emerge and I’ve been driven to my knees so many times, searching for answers. I really am fearing that love just isn’t enough to make up for her early years of deprivation and abuse. We’ve started her in counseling and even began some family sessions last month. But I’m so fearful of things that Jessie’s rebellious and hurting heart may get her involved in. I know God is bigger than this, but I’m still so scared for my girl.

I just wish that others could see underneath Jessie’s anger -- see the hurt little girl that is still in there. But all they naturally see is her outward actions and it repulses them. My heart just breaks over this. John and Brianna are what are keeping me going right now. Otherwise, I might be tempted to succumb to the despair that overwhelms me. Well, those two and God - He’s definitely carrying me through these troubled waters, too.

I get in my van and start driving the route to school. As I do, I begin to pray for Jessie. Unbidden, an image of my mother-in-law pops into my head. I do not want to think of her right now - I have enough problems! But the Lord is persistent and the image remains.

“Lord, not now!” I say out loud. But, I hear God’s small, insistent voice.
And what about Gloria? You want others to see Jessie for who she really is, but do you look past Gloria’s outer person and see who she is on the inside?

“I know who she is, Lord,” I say out loud, “She’s a self-centered, seventy-something witch who has never accepted me.”


“Ok, ok. ‘Witch’ is probably not a nice word. But still…Right now my problem is Jessie. What are we going to do with her?”

Jenna…I know all about Jessie. Let’s talk about Gloria. She’s scared -- and lonely. You haven’t exactly been available to her since John’s dad died.”

“You know I’ve been busy, Lord - the girls and all? And besides, it’s kind of hard to get close to someone who has it out for you!”

Jenna… Gloria’s lonely and she’s scared. Have you ever considered that her animosity has more to do with herself and not you? Gloria’s trying to maintain control during a time in her life when everything seems out of her control.

“Sounds like a spiritual problem to me” I pronounce as I turn into the school parking lot.


I put the van in park and bow my head. “All right, Lord. I’ll try. I will try to look past Gloria’s prickliness and love her, just like I want others to love Jessie… just like you love me.”

Mom Jeans and Disgusting Boys

Now to get caught up on the last week and a half...

Good news - I think allergy season is pretty much over. My head was really stuffy for all of Sept, but we had a frost a week ago and I've been breathing much more easily. I love October!

I bought some "Mom" jeans this week...sigh...They're actually kind of cute with pocket flaps and everything. But they sit right at the waist. I really prefer the ones that sit at the hip, but when you have excess belly fat, it tends to roll right out the top of below-the-waist jeans. And that is definitely not cool! So, waist-high, compression-front jeans it is...for now, anyway. Maybe I'll get this hormonal stuff taken care of, be better with my chocolate intake, and actually work out on a regular basis and be able to fit back into my size 8s. Maybe.

I found what I want to do about a week ago. About a year or so ago I read an article somewhere explaining what CASA volunteers are and the need for them. It caught my interest. Then, last Friday I happened to catch Dr. Phil and he had Sen. Grassley from Iowa on there. They explained the CASA program and wow - I know this is what I want to do! I don't remember what CASA stands for but each volunteer is assigned a foster care case. The volunteer interviews the child, the relatives, teachers, day care workers, etc and then writes a letter to the judge stating what they've found and their recommendation. It's the first thing the judge reads when reviewing and deciding the case. I did some internet research and it looks like it takes 30 hours of training. I'd love to jump into this, but I don't have the time right now. Maybe someday...

School is still going well for Ben. He is integrated into a few regular classes with other 7th graders, with his aide sitting right there beside him. One of those classes is Science. They are studying stuff I don't understand this year, like electrons and protons. But Ben is really getting into it and chattering on and on about it. He brought home a paper last week where his aide had penned, "Ben really understands this stuff!" I am blown away, honestly. I didn't know that he had the intellectual capability to comprehend this kind of stuff. After all, I sure don't and I don't have any neurological deficits! Well, that I know of, anyway...

I pulled out my Mamma Mia cd this week and listened to it. That music never fails to lift my spirits! But, I think I would enjoy it a whole lot more if I didn't have male children. The boys were singing things like, "Mamma Mia - I've got diarrhea" and making up all kinds of gross lyrics to the different songs. I know this would not have happened if I had given birth to girls. If I had girls, I'd probably never be able to listen my cd because one of them would have snagged it for their own listening pleasure. No danger of that happening here!

Well, today is a full day of working on the house. Paul is hoping to get the walls up for the addition. His dad is here and another guy from church called Paul yesterday and asked if he could use some help on the house today - which I thought was so nice of him! So, he brought his two boys, too. Paul's mom and I are going to shampoo the carpets. I haven't done that in, oh - ever - so I suppose it's time. Busy Saturday ahead!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Me and My Uterus

Just when you thought this topic was a thing of the past...

It's become an issue again. Specifically, it's been an issue (no pun intended) since Labor Day. I don't want to be too vulgar here, so suffice it to say that it's such an issue that Sunday we all had to suddenly leave church just prior to the service and Monday while I did my shopping - I wore my jacket, but it wasn't around my shoulders.

I finally called my dr. late Monday afternoon. At that point this had been going on 4 weeks and I'd had enough. As you'll recall, I had a Mirena put in last March because I was having such miserable and heavy periods. It worked immediately and I've been very pleased with it. That was until this past month. I talked to a nurse and she told me that with what I was describing, I needed to go to the ER. I hemmed and hawed about that for several hours. I didn't want to go to the ER! I finally had Paul take me up to Urgent Care - $20 co-pay vs the $150 one at the ER. They tested my hemoglobin and said I was ok. So I went home. But I had an appt. now for Friday with Dr. Morgan.

So that was today. Unfortunately, they had the notes the nurse took from our conversation Monday, but my appt. had never made it onto their schedule. But they graciously saw me anyway. Guess what - my Mirena fell out! My dr. was so bummed about that and said it's very very rare. Yeah, well, a LOT of things about my uterus are rare! It was halfway out and she pulled it the rest of the way. So apparently, my body rejected it.

So, the question of the hour was what to do next: I can't take any birth control pills because of my stroke history. The Mirena isn't going to work, obviously. Dr. Morgan finally admitted that I am a candidate for a hysterectomy. She explained how she would do it, but she wants to exhaust all possibilities and stave it off for as long as possible. Apparently, the younger you are at the time of a hysterectomy, the greater chances there are for future complications.

So, I ended up getting a progesterone shot today (Depo-Provera) which I really did not want to do. I know several women who have totally ballooned while on the shot. Our flex spending renews March 1, so at that time I'm going to have a uterine ablation done (outpatient surgery - they burn off the lining of the uterus). That's what I had planned to do in Jan. of this year, when I decided, at the last minute, to give the Mirena a try instead. The ablation is a temporary solution, but it could last for several years. So, when the effectiveness of that wears off, then I will have the hysterectomy, which, because of my abdominal surgeries and rupture, will be a major surgery.

Dr. Morgan asked me today if I've gained weight while on the Mirena. I told her, "Yes-s-s..." You all know how I've been complaining about my weight gain on this blog. Well, it's because of the Mirena! I did not know that! She said that with both the Mirena and Depo-Provera women can gain weight - not because of them, per se, but because they increase appetite. So, she really stressed the importance of "counting calories" while I'm on the shot. Hello? My middle name is definitely NOT "Self Control" so I think it will be to my advantage to be on this shot for as short a time as possible! But learning that made me feel better - I'm not getting fat - it's just hormonal plumpness (sounds like a chicken getting ready for market).

I'm also going to be doing some natural therapies. A friend of mine from Council Bluffs (she and her husband are actually coming here for supper tonight; they had to bring their kids to Des Moines for a concert) called her naturopath this week on my behalf and got some suggestions for me. It definitely can't hurt to try something natural, either. The older I get, the more I recognize the limitations of traditional medicine.

So, that's the latest scoop on this defective organ of mine. I'm grateful for that thing because it held my babies until I could, but man, it's given me nothing but trouble since it ruptured! Plus, I'm perimenopausal, which makes me sound terribly old. And that doesn't help either!