Thursday, December 29, 2011

City Matters, Travel, Christmas, and Cold

It's been a week since I last wrote, which is not unusual. Christmas happened during that time, so it really seems like it has been longer than just one week.

I've been spending a lot of time up at City Hall this week. I officially become city clerk on Sunday. Today Jen (the current clerk) and I went through all the files and I refiled absolutely everything, so I would know where it is. Next week, she and I will go to town and get my name on the checkbook and debit card. I have a whole list of office supplies I want to buy and I even need to order a return address stamp that says, "Sarah Heywood, Swan City Clerk" - so official! I just hope I'm up for this. I actually had an honest-to-goodness nightmare one night this week about the job. I woke up gasping, "It's not real!" I just hate that! The mayor seems excited that I am taking this over. I hope he's not disappointed.

We still haven't gotten our official word yet on whether or not we will be licensed as foster/adoptive parents. I assume that we will be, but it would be nice to have the actual notice. Of course, once we get that, I assume the phone calls for placements will start! That will definitely take some wisdom and discernment. We still need to put the bed together.

We are leaving for Council Bluffs tomorrow. We were kind of up in the air about it all week long. Paul's folks also volunteered to come out here. That would have been fine, except I always worry that they'll want to stay through Sunday and that is something I am just not going to put up with. Paul's dad chooses not to behave himself in public situations and I'm not going to be embarrassed by him any longer at church. But if it came right down to it, there would probably be nothing I could do to keep him from going to our church, short of locking him in a room somewhere. But I have managed to keep him away for 4 years, so I'm crossing my fingers that my luck will hold out until either he dies or I do. And if they came here, then I'd have to cook. Again, that's not such a big deal. I get a little tired of George's comments about my cooking. The last time he was here and opened his mouth, I finally told him, "You know, you don't have to eat it." And then he blustered, "Well, now, I wasn't saying that!" And I went on to tell him that in MY house, nobody criticizes the food and expects to eat. He was quiet after that. Do I sound bitter? Hah! I'm just not really sure what to do with Paul's parents when they come. I really don't want to go anywhere with them because of George's poor behavior, and it gets a little old sitting around the house just looking at eachother... But anyway, we are going out there tomorrow afternoon and will come back on Sunday afternoon. Paul's birthday is next week, so that way they can have a party while we're there. I will probably just curl up in a corner somewhere with a laptop or a book.

Christmas was good. Paul was on call, but it was so warm, he didn't have to fix anybody's furnace. My parents came down and put the ham in the oven while we were at church. It was just a very nice, relaxing day. To my surprise, Paul got me a beautiful pearl necklace for a gift. This is only the second time in our marriage that he has voluntarily bought me jewelry (my wedding rings were involuntary gifts!). I about fell over when I saw the price tag, but he assured me that the necklace had been on sale for a lot less! It's a pretty, two strand twisted affair. The next day I had to go out and buy matching earrings, of course! He also got me a stovetop popcorn popper that I had requested and some antique Anderson Erickson milk bottles. I was so touched by Will. He had a Hobby Lobby gift card that he had not used yet and he used it to buy me a stone cross with a verse on it. I think this is the first time he has ever chosen and bought himself a gift for me. It's kind of nice when they grow up!

I've seen quite a bit of Paul this week, unfortunately. It has been so unseasonably warm this week. We haven't even had a substantial snow yet this season. Christmas was totally brown and I wore my trench coat to church that morning! New Years Eve is supposed to be 57 degrees out! It's insane! But anyway, lack of cold means lack of furnace work for Paul, so I've been seeing him around home quite a bit more. That is definitely going to make bill paying and grocery buying more difficult! I am just praying for a bitterly cold snap and lots and lots of broken down furnaces!

Will told me this week that he would like for me to buy him a dressy vest for church use. I was surprised. He's definitely becoming more fashion conscious all the time!

Something funny and it's not even one of my kids: Last week we had a Christmas party for the Patch kids and a college student who helps out was doing a Bible question game with the kids. He asked, "Which woman did Jesus talk to at the well?" One boy piped up, "The Proverbs 31 woman!" Ha, ha! Not quite!

Earlier this week Paul was talking with one of his co-workers about a particular job. Well, then, the co-worker, Mike, started asking Paul about homeschooling. Apparently, he and his wife pulled their daughter out of school this year and started homeschooling. He had mentioned at to one of their bosses and Gary, the boss, had suggested to Mike that he talk to Paul sometime because he knew that we homeschool, too. So, during that conversation, Paul volunteered me to contact the wife to see if she needed any assistance. So, since then, this co-worker's wife and I have been emailing back and forth and talking on Facebook. It's been so nice! Whoever thought that the day would come when I would be considered a "veteran" homeschooler and worthy to give out advice? I guess this is our 9th year of doing it, though.

Speaking of homeschooling, some new materials I ordered arrived just the day before Christmas. We ordered an entire dvd set from Answers in Genesis about the workings of the human body. They look fascinating. It's for Will for right now but I know I am going to be seriously tempted to sit down and watch them myself! And Sam's new Hooked on Phonics set arrived, too. He was so excited! Today I have been going through our kid bookshelf, pulling out books to read to him. I need to be doing that on a regular and consistent basis. He appears to be quite bright and ready to learn, so there's no reason not to be doing things with him now.

My Jewels post was up earlier this week: I didn't do funny this time. I tried to, but I couldn't get the words together. I was writing this the day of Joy's funeral and I guess that was just too much on my mind, so I ended up writing about that instead.

Tonight Julie and I are headed to Des Moines for some vampire love! We're going to see "Breaking Dawn" - finally! I think that thing is almost out of all the theaters. I checked yesterday and there's only one left in Des Moines that is showing it. Then, next Monday, my friend Heather and I are going out in the afternoon. She's a friend from church who is currently in grad school, getting her masters in music. But she's home on break and needs to buy some "naughties" for a lingerie shower she's attending. She thought I would be a good help with that! Me - a middle-aged, saggy, housewife! But it will be fun. I need to fit some more work in up at City Hall, I need to go visit my neighbor, Charlotte. Wednesday Ben goes back to school and Will has his first day of class at the school. It's Paul's birthday and that night Patch Club resumes. I promised our mayor that I would thoroughly clean City Hall before next Thursday's meeting (it's not technically in my job description, but I am not going to work in a dirty building). I think next week will be gone before it even gets here!

Gotta run...Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Slow-Down, Hands, Darts, and Gifts

It's Thursday night and I am feeling very unmotivated. Something happens when I actually accomplish my "To-Do" list for the day, such as I did today, and I usually don't feel a whole lot like moving on to the next day's to-do list! Maybe it's because I'm not supposed to be home tonight. Melissa and I were supposed to be going out, but she got sick and hasn't moved off her couch all day, she says. So, that's postponed for a couple of weeks. Bummer!

Things are really slowing down at Paul's work. They've finally gotten through all their routine maintenance checks and since the weather has been so warm they don't have anything to do, like what usually happens in Feb. and March. Fortunately, Paul has been on call this week and he's been able to pick up some after hours calls. He got home this morning around 11, but just now left for an overtime call (it's almost 7pm). I keep thinking it has to get really cold one of these days and then they'll have work to do. I hope so, anyway!

We had the Lozier party last Friday night. I enjoy those things, but at the same time, I dislike them. I just feel kind of awkward. People probably think I'm stuck up because I don't say anything but, even after almost 5 years, I really don't know hardly anybody there. The older I get, the less outgoing I am becoming, too, so that doesn't help, either! We didn't win the big prizes. I keep telling myself it has to happen one of these years, but so far winning is eluding us. But then, as I reminded myself at the party, it's just stuff, you know?! We don't NEED a big screen tv or another computer or an ipad or any of the "good" prizes. We have all we need. But nobody walks away empty handed from these parties. We won a small drill that will be good for household use, a set of 6 nice glass mugs, and 2 $25 gift cards to restaurants we have never heard of. I guess we don't get out much!

The choir cantata was last Sunday night. Will was so funny, I thought. He is not one to care overly much about clothing. I would say he cares more than his dad cares, but not by a wide margin. He's nothing like David, that's for sure! But last Saturday he told me that he had his outfit all planned for the cantata - his black suit with a black shirt, and a bright red tie. It amused me that he put that much thought and effort into his appearance. He looked quite Christmasy! In fact, during the program, Sam whispered to me, "I see Will, and he is wearing a shiny red tie!"

Last Saturday Ben had Kids Club (respite care) up at ChildServe. They took the kids to the zoo where they got to see Santa. I'm not a big fan of Santa, of course, but I figured at 15, this probably wouldn't warp Ben too much. They took pictures of all the kids with Santa and told me that Ben had the best smile of them all. He does have a nice smile, I think! When I dropped Ben off, I was so surprised when he bent down and kissed my cheek! How utterly sweet!

I remember Sunday I was helping Ben get dressed and found myself mentally sighing as I unzipped his pants in order to get his shirt tucked in around his hips where it would hopefully stay (yeah, fat chance!). And then I had to string his belt through the loops. And then I had to adjust his tie so that it was underneath his collar, instead of on top as he had placed it. As it so often does, the thought ran through my mind, "Will he ever be capable of doing these self-care things for himself?" But immediately I had a new thought pop into my head. It was this: God gave ME hands that work because He knew Ben's would not. That's a different way to look at it.

We did get a welcome call this week from Lutheran Services. Ben lost his case worker a couple of week's ago. She got fired. I swear, I had nothing to do with it! :) We've nearly gotten other workers fired in the past, but this one had nothing to do with us. Actually, I don't know why she lost her job, other than being told it had nothing to do with us. But anyway, that was a matter of concern because I had been really pleased with the things our case worker was teaching Ben (independent living skills). We waited so long to get our own worker due to some bureaucratic/clerical error and then we had to wait longer while they searched for someone willing to drive to Swan. And then we only had her for 3 months! But we were told a new worker had been hired. She came over yesterday and I was pleased. She actually lives in Pleasantville and has a son in the school.

We had a nice visit and I definitely felt like we "clicked." However, I think she came bearing fiery darts because I about had to pick myself up off the floor after she left. In our conversation, the new worker mentioned that she had a son with mental health needs and, thus, was familiar with Pville's special ed system - a system that I, so far, have been very pleased with. Then, she mentioned that her son was adopted out of Iowa foster care at age 4. Whoa! That caught my attention!

It turns out that this worker used to head up the state's foster care parental support program and had the second-in-command position for the national association. When I told her what we were getting into she was not delighted. In fact, she told me to be "very, very careful." She went on to tell me horror story after horror story of things she had endured. She told me that I was risking "ruining your family." Of course, the effect on my kids has been my biggest concern when deciding whether or not to pursue this. Sam is just a little guy and more vulnerable and, of course, we are risking things to a certain extent with Ben and his autism.

I felt utterly deflated and full of self-doubt after she left. But I slowly began to pick myself up. I could tell that this worker definitely does not know the Lord. She's a nice lady, but that part is obviously missing. I also know that God has directed our footsteps all along. A year ago at this time I would not have considered adopting through foster care. The fact that I have changed my mind so completely has to be of the Lord. There's the fact, too, that both Paul and I are in such agreement on this. That's not to say that we couldn't both be agreeing on something wrong, but I don't believe that to be the case.

A friend of mine is pursuing an international adoption right now - actually, a special-needs adoption. Her husband posted on their adoption blog last night and I read it and was encouraged. I wrote to her and told her about what had happened that afternoon. Today, she sent me a verse -
Ephesians 6:16
Above all taking the shield of faith wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked

Has God called us to this? Yes. Has God's calling changed because somebody scared me? No. Then what am I to do? I take faith in knowing what God has asked, knowing that He will provide, He will protect, and He will sustain. That's not to say that my flesh won't fail and that my knees won't get wobbly, because they will. That's not to say that there won't be rough waters and times that I am clinging onto the smallest scrap of trust I can hold in my weakened hand. I have no doubt that there will be. I suspect that what we are venturing into is going to be one of the hardest undertakings of our married life, ever. And we thought having and raising Ben had been rough! I have a feeling that may seem like a cakewalk, in comparison, by the time we are finished.

But we won't ever be alone.

Well, I suppose I could launch into a sermon right about now, but I'll refrain. I have clothes to iron and a house to clean. This will be my last post before Christmas, which is this Sunday. Other than some cooking and cleaning, I'm ready. My parents are driving down Christmas morning.

I did get my first Christmas gift today. Well, that's not quite true. Last night one of my Patch kids gave me a loaf of her mother's strawberry bread (yum!) and homemade salsa. But I got my first gift in the mail. My brother's long-time girlfriend has achieved some notoriety in the sewing world (a world that I did not know actually existed). She designed a pattern for a hat and it is featured in a book called "One Yard Wonders" by Rebecca Yaker and Patricia Hoskins, published by Storey Publishing and available at Barnes and Noble. Ava sent me a copy of the book today. It's neat. I'm definitely not a seamstress (my sewing endeavors being limited to sewing curtains and hemming church pants for little and big boys), but I will enjoy looking through the book. I am so pleased she thought to share it with me.

Have a merry Christmas, everyone!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

School, Signs, Mom Smarts, and Something Fun

Ok, this is weird - I wrote this last Wed. and thought I published it. Evidently not! So this is what you should have seen 6 days ago...

I want to finish up my blogging and then I have to make supper, run Ben to his allergy shots, and get to church for Patch club. Tomorrow I HAVE to finish up my Christmas baking. I've been working on it since August (really!) but it is past time for me to be finished.

I took Will into the school yesterday to change his CPI form so that he can take his class next semester. Then we walked down to the high school office and asked the secretary to show us where the class will be held. The secretary said, "Oh, you're the Heywoods, right? Ben's mom?" Then she went on to tell Will that her son played football with him. But how does the high school secretary know Ben? And then she walked us down to the classroom. The teacher was in there and as soon as we poked our heads in she said, "Oh, you must be Will!" It had been more than a month since I had emailed this teacher and she had no idea we were going to stop by. But she remembered his name. And then she said, "You must be Ben's mom!" How does everybody know Ben? We had a nice chat with her. Right now there are only two students registered for the class, but that might change. She said she usually has about a half a dozen students enrolled in it. I had no idea the class would be so small - that's great. Then, Will remembered to ask about a laptop, so we went and chatted with the lady that takes care of that. Will will be issued a laptop to use for the class. He's pretty pleased about that! His teacher asked him where he's thinking of going to college and when Will told her he was looking at Faith she nodded and said, "Oh - the Bible college!" Usually people don't know what we're talking about when we mention that. But, anyway, I'm very pleased. I think this class is going to be good for Will.

Ben had his Christmas program at the school the other night. I was the only one who went. Am I bad because I read a magazine during all the sections of the program in which Ben was not performing? Going to the program got me out of butchering. I had to do some when I got home, but I got to miss the majority of it, thankfully. I don't know know why they persist in having these music programs in the old gymnasium. There just is not room in there for everyone that attends. They have a larger gym in the newer part of the building - use that! I did actually enjoy the program, though. They do such a good job of presenting both sides of Christmas, the secular and the sacred. I know from experience (remembering Ben's "Winter Program" his kindergarten year) that not all public schools do that. Ben did the best he has ever done - he kept his hands at his side, paid attention, didn't sway - I was so pleased! I found out later that his aide bribed him with extra computer time if he remembered to do all those things! Ben reminded me again on the way home that he intends to be in the spring musical. Guess there's no getting out of that one!

Paul got a 50 cent raise last week - yay! It's not as much as the dollar raise he got a year ago, but we'll take it. It's been warm enough this week, though, that he has been coming home from work early. We have yet to have a really cold snap and they are running out of furnace checks to do. I sure hope things aren't super slow for the next six months as they can be some years.

Last week we had a rather interesting city council meeting. After the meeting, before we broke up one member (who tends to be a bit contentious) informed me that my signs are "offensive." I'll back up here. A year ago the city bought a new sign. We use that to inform the residents of upcoming events. When there's nothing to post, I post some short pithy quote. I have had so many people tell me how much they appreciate the things I put up, that they make them "think" as they are leaving town. I'm always careful in what I put up. I never, ever put up anything remotely religious. They're just basic quotes (I get most of them from "Our Iowa" magazine) about life and the different seasons and so on. So I was rather taken aback when she informed me that she found my quotes offensive! She asked if we could just have "Merry Christmas" on the next sign I put up. So do you know what I did? I put up a very short quote on Christmas and then below it wrote, "Merry Christmas." Then I hid the keys to the sign! Ok, I probably didn't win any points with this particular council member, but I was offended that she was offended when there is absolutely nothing offensive in the first place. Sheesh... And then this same council member climbed all over us for not voting for her in the past election. I refused to rise to the bait and even admit whether or not I voted for her because it is none of her business. Our mayor was tripping all over himself trying to explain to her his reasons for not voting for her, but I wasn't about to do that. I just sat there with my mouth shut. Last I knew, voting was a private affair! This next council might be a little interesting...

I had a little stroke of ingenuity last week. I had bought David a new pair of gloves this fall for the upcoming winter season. I guess I should explain that mittens and gloves drive me absolutely batty. They are forever getting lost and I spend half my time looking for them. I can't stand it when the boys wear non-matching gloves and it drives me nuts when they go out in the snow in non-insulated hand wear and come in with red and chapped hands. I solved that problem with Ben and David by sewing a string to their mitten and running it through their coat sleeves. I know it probably looks a little dorky for Ben since he is 15, but he has yet to lose his $27 pair of specially made mittens (made by a grandma in Alaska - specially designed for those with motor problems - they don't have thumbs). I'm giving him a new stocking hat for Christmas and I know it's just a matter of time before he loses that. I wish there was a way to attach that to his coat. This is a child who would lose his head if it wasn't screwed onto his neck, as my junior high English teacher used to say to me. So anyway, David lost a glove. I looked for it, couldn't find it. He swore up and down he had searched this entire house and it was just nowhere. So, I told him I would buy him a new pair when I went shopping this week. His face lit up and he seemed relieved. And then I added that when I did that I would be sewing the new gloves to a string that we would run through his coat. His face fell. I told him that if he managed to find his missing glove before I went to the store, though, he could continue to keep his gloves in pockets. And wouldn't you know it - that boy somehow managed to find the missing glove! Heh, heh, heh - Smart Mom strikes again!

Oh, I found something really, really cool yesterday. I was at the Bass Pro store in Altoona, getting some new coveralls for Paul's birthday (shh - don't tell him! He's been running around looking for a good deal and I already bought them. Of course, I'm going to have to hurt him if he goes ahead and buys a pair before his birthday comes!). I ended up in the women's clothing section and I discovered camouflage lingerie!!! I had never seen anything like that before. They had little shorty gowns and two piece outfits, too. They're all made out of the silky stuff (which is the only thing I wear to bed, per my husband's request) and designed with a genuine camo print. They had pink with the camo and then the regular green design, too. They were a little pricey - $40, so I didn't get any. But I am going to watch their sale ads and hopefully I can pick up one sometime around our anniversary. Paul will be so surprised and pleased I bet. What could be better than nearly naked woman in camo clothing? We are hoping to get away to the GARB marriage retreat in Johnston a week before our anniversary. I have always wanted to go to that thing and it would be a good chance for the boys to be on their own overnight without us being too far away. But that's going to depend on this foster care/adoption thing, of course. I may have written about this before. That would be a good time to surprise him with the new nighty, though.

Well, time to get back to work. I am looking forward to the next two days because I don't have to go anywhere. I want to finish up my baking and wrapping. Friday evening is the Lozier party. Hopefully, we'll get to go. It will depend on whether or not Paul gets calls since he will be on-call. It would be kind of awkward if I am there alone, since I really don't know anyone and am not employed by the company! But those parties are always fun. They give away good prizes. Of course, I'd be just as pleased if they saved their money and put it into a bonus check for all their employees, instead. But nobody asked me...One of these years we're going to win the $500 mall gift certificate or the big screen tvs they always seem to give away. Now would probably be a good time to insert a verse about not desiring things of the world...

Gotta scoot!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Boys and the Funeral

This is Sam, taken last Friday. I was trying to get a good shot of him licking the cake beaters and I caught him in-between licks, apparently a little annoyed with my picture taking!

I have so much to get caught up on - I may need to split it between two different blog entries.

Sam is not happy with me again this morning. I kind of feel bad, but it's one of those things that can't be helped. There is a PBS show called "Dinosaur Train" that Sam enjoys. I have always been bothered by the show, though, because of its blatant pro-evolution slant. Sam has come to me insisting that dinosaurs were made "millions of years ago" and won't listen when I correct him. I let that one slide. Will, especially, though, has never liked the show. Will is a huge Answers in Genesis fan and reads all the publications and mail that we get from them and I would assume that's where his angst comes from. Well, I was gone for most of yesterday, finishing my Christmas shopping. But when I got home Will told me that on the show yesterday they had talked about celebrating the "Winter Solstice." That did it for me. Obviously, the solstice is a real thing - it happens every Dec. 21st. But I have noticed a trend in recent years of the celebrating of the solstice. It's done by those who reject Christ and the idea of having a holiday to celebrate Him. Essentially, it's a pagan holiday rooted in worship of the earth. So, I told Sam we wouldn't be watching Dinosaur Train anymore because it "makes God sad." Sam was fine with that last night. But when he woke up this morning and wanted the tv turned on, I had to remind him that Dinosaur Train was on and so we had to wait to turn on the tv. He was definitely not impressed! So we cuddled on the couch and I re-explained my reasons. I think I jollied him out of his bad mood, but I won't be surprised if we go through this every day for awhile.

The boys exchanged names again for Christmas. I posted on Facebook last night about the amazing Captain America shield that Will made for Sam. When Sam told Will that was what he wanted I suggested to Will that he go to Toys R Us and get him a plastic version. Will didn't think that was a good idea and informed me that the would be making a shield for his brother. He used spray paint, a thick piece of scrap plywood, and his dad's power tools. Then he remembered that Sam is left-handed, so when he put the handles on (made out of duct work hangers) he made sure to adjust them accordingly. I am SO impressed. The whole thing did not cost a single penny to make, either! This will be a toy that I will want Sam to hang onto forever.

Will also had me pick up a little Colts t-shirt for Sam from him. The boys all have their favorite football teams and they - particularly Will and David - are forever trying to persuade Sam to pledge allegiance to their team. A couple of weeks ago, David asked him, "So do you like the Cowboys, Sam?" Sam looked at David seriously and said, "I have to like the Colts now, David, because I'm sleeping in Will's room." Hah!

I made cookies last week. They are called "Cowboy" cookies. I have no idea why. It's just the name of the recipe - a combination of chocolate chips, oats, and rice krispies baked into a cookie. So, anyway, Sam was eating one and then he heard me refer to them as "cowboy cookies." Sam threw his half-eaten cookie on the table in disgust and cried, "I don't want to eat a Cowboy cookie - I want to eat a Colts cookie!"

Onto sadder subjects: Saturday was Joy's funeral. It was a time of sadness and embarrassment for me. Paul was working that morning, so the plan was that I would bring dress clothes to the college (where the funeral was) and he'd change, attend the service, and then change again and go straight back to work. Well, we didn't get there until the starting time of the funeral. Paul decided that he wouldn't bother changing clothes since it was so late and we would undoubtedly just be slipping into the back rows of chairs, since we were late. Instead, we walked into the gymnasium and an usher asked us how many people we had. When I told him "six" he lead us to the second row, right behind the pallbearers! I could have just died! So there we are, dressed nicely, and Paul's in his work uniform, which is a pair of jeans, a polo shirt, and a thermal shirt underneath! Paul is so pragmatic that I don't think he was really bothered, but it was nearly all I could think about!

The funeral was sad. I know the intent was to focus on God's goodness and the promise of Heaven and they did a good job of that. Our pastor preached an amazing message. But at the same time, there is just no way to sugarcoat a tragedy. A young mom died before she was done raising her kids. She will not be there to help guide them into adulthood. A husband has suddenly been left without his lover, his partner, his best friend. I honestly had some mixed feelings concerning the deceased. We had some unpleasant history that was never dealt with but I even found myself tearing up. Maybe it was because of that - that things were never made right. It was a difficult time. Her burial was Monday in Missouri and her husband posted on Facebook that it was honestly the hardest day of his entire life. My heart just aches for him.

Afterwards, though, I caught what I thought was the most poignant moment of the funeral. Over the years at our church, I have slowly come to realize what a heart our pastor has for the people in our church. I think it's his whole family, really, that feels that way. I remember getting my first glimpse of that when we'd been in the church about 6 months. Paul had been fired that day from the job we moved out here to take. He still had two more days on the job, but we were just so hurt and so blown away by this and very uncertain of the future. Well, I was flabbergasted that night when our pastor and his wife drove up to our house. We live a half hour away from them but they came to be with us in our time of need. And there have been incidents like this time and time again in the 7 years we have been at this church. Our pastor hurts for his people. After the funeral I saw our pastor standing over by one of the gymnasium doors and his 18 year old son and another daughter were crying and he put his arms around them. One by one, his other children joined the circle and the whole family just stood there crying for the Brace family. How amazing is that? They weren't crying for themselves - nothing had happened to them. But because it happened to a church family, they felt the pain.

After the funeral I made a wrong turn and ended up getting separated from Paul and Will. But it was ok because I ran into my friend, Julie. Julie had become quite attached to Joy since last spring and both Joy and I were instrumental in leading Julie to the Lord in Sept. I'm not saying that with pride - just stating a fact. Well, Julie was devastated by Joy's death and she just sobbed and sobbed in my arms after the funeral. I know she was saying stuff to me but I couldn't hear any of it, since my deaf ear was closest to her mouth. But I just held her. Sometimes that is all you can do.

It's a good reminder of how God holds us in our times of need. Sometimes, all the wise words in the world won't mean anything, but a comforting set of arms means everything.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Decisions, Death, and Dress

We had our last class last night and our 3rd home visit this evening. And in the space of time from one to the other we went from being adoption-only to seeking a dual license. This is what we were originally seeking up until two weeks but then we changed our minds and now it's changed again. I won't go into everything that transpired but we came to understand over the past day or so that by seeking only our adoption license we are kind of shooting ourselves in the foot as far as adoption goes. Most children who become available for adoption are adopted by their foster parents. That leaves very few available for adoption-only homes. That's not to say there aren't any out there, but it can mean a long wait - like 2 years or more.

My mind was just in a tizzy this morning, trying to figure out what to do. Paul and I are both very firmly committed to the idea of adopting and neither of us wants a revolving door on our house. Neither one of us is wild about the idea of foster care, although it is something we're willing to do if necessary. I suddenly thought of the lady that spoke at our homeschool conference this summer. She was the one who had adopted something like 18 children out of foster care and she pointed us in the direction to go. So, I facebooked her and we ended up talking on the phone this afternoon. I was so grateful to her for taking time out of her busy day (she homeschools all those kids, too!) to talk with me. She strongly encouraged us to go for our dual license. She said that when we get a call for a foster care placement we can ask where the child is in the system. If she has just been removed from her home, then we'll refuse the placement. But if she's been in for 9 or 10 months and they just need a new foster home that also means that a permanency hearing will be coming up soon. That usually happens right about 12 months into the process, although a judge can defer a decision for a few months longer than that if the birth parents are showing evidence of trying to get their lives back on track.

There is also the possibility of us adopting out of state. Generally speaking, though, that's kind of a last resort, though, because it can be really difficult. But some states won't even consider inter-state adoptions unless the parents have a dual license. Also, if we got into a situation where we had one child whose parents had lost custody but say, she had a baby sibling, the parents might not have lost their rights yet to the younger child. So in order to take both children, we would need to have both types of licenses.

Our worker agreed to recommend us for a dual license, although she will be emphasizing to the licensing board that our preference is for adoption. So now we wait to see what happens next. Our home has passed inspection, we are done with our education, and now it's up to the state. If approved, we will have to take 6 more hours of training in the next 9 months to be certified in CPR, first aid, and medication management.

So, in all reality, we could have another child living with us in 30 days. Or maybe not. If it does come through foster care, though, I will not be able to say anything on my blog about it. I'll mention that we have a placement, but that's all I can say. There's a whole lot of privacy rules we have to follow until an adoption takes place.

Here is my latest Jewels of Encouragement post: I wrote about our broken nativity set. It was funny - when I unpacked that thing again last weekend I discovered that Joseph is now headless, too. I really should give in and get a new set!

I read an amazing book last week. I got it out of our church library. It's by Terry C. Thomas and called "At Least We were Married." It's quite old, being first published in 1970. In fact, the marriage he wrote about it probably happened before my own parents' and they've been married 43 years! The story was about the courtship between the author and his wife. It was a really sweet telling of that time. They were married in a huge southern wedding in Georgia the day after Thanksgiving. The next evening they were leaving on their honeymoon in the rain when a car crossed the center line and crushed their red VW bug. The bride was killed instantly and the groom was critically injured. In a space of 24 hours they went from utter elation to complete devastation. Can you imagine? It just really made me want to appreciate Paul more because we've had more than 18 years of marriage but it was a good reminder that it could end instantly, at any time. I wanted to know the "rest of the story" so I did an internet search but I didn't find a whole lot. The groom ended up becoming a "Dr" Terry Thomas. I assume that's an educational or Biblical doctor, not a medical doctor. He worked with Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ at the time of the accident. I didn't see anything to indicate that he had ever remarried, but I didn't see anything that said he had not. He did re-release the book at least once. Anyway, it had quite an impact on me.

Joy died Sunday night. I feel crummy because I had finally psyched myself up to go visit her. I was going to make it happen this week. And now it's too late. The funeral is expected to be huge, I guess, so they are having it up at Faith. Sometimes it sure is hard to trace the hand of God. This is the 3rd woman, my age, in my circle of friends of acquaintances to die within the last 2 1/2 years. I'm busy right now getting ready for Christmas and I find myself thinking that a year ago Joy was doing the same thing, having absolutely no clue that it would be her last Christmas. We just never know.

This past weekend was hunting. I didn't count on how exhausting it would be for me! This was the first time we stayed here for the event. A guy from church came over to hunt, as did Will's buddy, Nathanael. I felt obligated to feed the weary hunters so I was up before 6 all three mornings, making them a huge breakfast, and then cleaning that up and making a large lunch. I also had to make supper! I knew they would work up an appetite tromping all those miles in the cold. And, I like to feed people, so I felt the need to cook a lot. I never ever want anyone to leave my house feeling like they didn't get enough to eat (or that it was so bad they had to choke it down out of politeness!). I think I did a good job...maybe.

Today when our case worker was here she was interviewing the boys and asked them, "How does your mom show love to you?" Will replied, "She cooks for us!" To a teenage boy, I guess that is the ultimate expression of love!

This quarter for Sunday School, most of the classes, high school on up, are meeting in the auditorium for a video series. It's called, "Quieting the Noisy Heart" or something like that. I'm looking forward to it, because I feel like I have an entire marching band in my heart at times! That is freeing up quite a bit of space in the downstairs of the church so they decided to reinstitute a former practice of having the younger SS kids meet for a time of singing before breaking into their classes. So I took Sam to the new room on Sunday and it wasn't but a few minutes and he was just sobbing into my coat. I was so baffled! He has always been such an easy-going kid and has transitioned well in all situations. I didn't know what to do. My plan had actually been to skip SS myself and run to Walmart because I needed a few things for lunch for the guys. So I ended up just taking Sam to Walmart with me. And then we hustled back to church in order to be in our pew by the time Ben wandered upstairs from his class. That would have been bad if we hadn't been there for that. Will, Paul, and David were out hunting that morning so there would not have been anyone for Ben to find. Later, Sam told me that he was just "so scared" by going to the new room. I don't understand it, but I guess I'll have to do plenty of preparation this week before next Sunday morning!

It's almost 8:30 - can I go to bed yet? I am feeling so tired. Last night was our last class. It feels so victorious to be finished. We stuck it out, didn't miss a single class, and we accomplished something, learning a few things along the way, too. At the end of class, we had to each talk for a few moments, saying what we had learned, etc. And then, the instructors mentioned something they liked or noticed about us. I was hoping to hear something like, "Oh, you're such a wonderful mother, Sarah, and we know that you'll be fantastic at taking in another child, too" but instead, they mentioned how much they enjoyed my "fashion sense" and my "blingy" clothes and how it gave them something pleasant to look at each week! On one hand, it's nice to have affirmation that my efforts in personal care are noticed and appreciated, but on the other hand, that's not why I was there! So I don't know what to think! I guess I should just be thankful that this 40 year old, middle-aged, increasingly plump gal can be labeled as "fashionable"! Wonder if that will still be true when I'm 80? Probably not so much...and neither will I care when I am 80 years old!

I got the last of my Christmas decorations up today...and, I got all my fall decorations packed away in their tub, which is actually more of an accomplishment. I even decorated the deck. I have avoided that for the past few years since it's been a bit of a mess with all the work on the house. But it's actually cleaned off and attractive looking now. The Christmas spirit has been slow in arriving, but it's finally here, I think. Thursday morning I plan to run up to Des Moines and hopefully finish all my shopping. I don't have a tremendous amount left to do. Amazon has been my best friend this year!!

Paul goes on back-up call this Friday and on first call a week later. It is finally getting awfully cold, which means that I will be essentially a widow for the next two weeks since he'll be busy handling most of the no-heat calls.He goes off call the morning of the 23rd and then he'll be on call again on Christmas Day. My parents are coming down that day, so it should be a nice time.

Better go pluck a certain 4 year old out of the bathtub!