Sunday, December 23, 2012


You know, if I don't receive a thing this week in the way of Christmas gifts, I've already been given a whole, whole lot.  I'll share about that in this post.

What a week it has been!  Maybe I just need to recount it chronologically, so I don't forget anything.  Last weekend was rough, to say the least.  It was so rough that we once again find ourselves on the receiving end of formal counsel - kind of humiliating to someone who likes to give the appearance of always "having it together."  But I honestly do not, I really don't.  I think God is going to use this time for His glory in the end, but I'm anticipating a rather painful time of soul-evisceration as I attempt to work through some issues with a counselor in the next few months.  Self-denial and cover-up is ever so much more comfortable!

Monday I went to the dr.  I've been sick off and on since late April - mostly "on."  It seems like I catch every single bug that comes along.  I've had 3  head colds since Thanksgiving alone (more than likely, it's the same cold that just subsides for a short time before rearing it's ugly, snotty head once again).  Plus, I'm back to losing weight again.  I thought that had leveled off, but I noticed a couple of weeks ago that my pants were getting saggy again.  I stepped on the scale and I was down an even 20 lbs. since I got the scale in March.  Not good.  I had actually addressed this with the naturopath/allergist/chiropractor Ben and I saw earlier this month.  He told me that it was because I "wanted to be sick" and that he had fixed that and it wouldn't be happening anymore.  Yes, well, telling me I "want" to be sick is NOT helpful at all and the very next week I was sick again after seeing him - so much for "fixing" me!  So, I saw my regular dr. on Monday.  He told me that I've actually lost closer to 25-30 lbs since I had my pre-adoption physical in the fall of '11.  He doesn't know if that is coincidental or related to my seemingly suppressed immune system.  He ran blood work and it all came back normal, which is very frustrating to me.  "What?  You were hoping he'd say you have cancer?" Paul sarcastically asked when I told him.  I see the dr. again in a few weeks - what he thinks he's going to do for me, I have no idea.  It's kind of discouraging.  Not to mention that I have even more clothes to take in, now, and I'm back to shifting around uncomfortably when I lay down or sit for too long (no padding).  I know, I know - half the world would love to have this problem and I think I would probably be more discouraged if I was struggling with being overweight, too.  At least being thin is socially acceptable(thankful this isn't the period of Rubenesque beauties)!  But it is still alarming to me to be losing weight so rapidly and not having a reason to wherewith to credit it.  Mostly, though, I'd just like to quit getting sick!  But, enough about my poor body.  As I get into my older years, I do NOT want to be someone who feels the need to share every ache and pain with my audience.

The next day, I attended a Christmas party for my mom's group.  I came away completely overwhelmed by the generosity of others.  Many, many people had donated gifts for our group.  I guess they feel sorry for us poor mothers of special needs kiddos!  I was given a space heater (that Paul quickly set up in our cold bathroom), a gift certificate to a fancy Jordan Creek steak house, a book, a certificate for an hour-long massage, a gift card to a local pizza joint, a kids' cd,  a decorative plate, some candle holders, lotion, soap, a flame-less candle, and tickets to Des Moines symphony.  I'm still reeling about the sheer amount of gifts I was given! I'm going to have a lot of thank-you notes to write, that's for sure!  It's always such a blessing just to spend an evening with this group of ladies, but to get treated like this on top of that - wow!

Wednesday, Ben's choir performed out at Merle Hay Mall.  That's the group above.  I dragged 4 kiddos with me.  Ben did such a good job, even though he had to stand and sing for an hour.  It was a little harder keeping the 3 Littles occupied while I tried to listen to Ben.  Afterwards, I had to manage lunch at the food court for the kids, plus Ben.  He had a different aide with him who isn't terribly familiar with his needs, so I kind of had to take over.  And David - well, money still presents a problem for him, so I had to go order his food once I had Ben and the Littles all settled and eating.  By the time I ate, my food was stone cold, which is not all that unusual for me.  Maybe that's why I'm losing weight!  I had to do a little bit of mall shopping afterwards and then I got to drive to the McDonald's by the airport and meet up with Matt, Kirsti, and the kids who had just flown in from Arizona for Christmas.  That was neat and fun and the highlight of my day!

That evening the snow started and didn't stop until the next day after we had gotten more than 7 inches.  It was a very wet, heavy snow.  After the last two winters we've had it was so much fun!  It was near blizzard conditions the next day because of the wind.  Paul didn't go to work, Sam and Lizzie were so anxious to play outside, the boys didn't have school - just a really nice, "snowed-in" kind of day!  And now it is assured that we will be having a white Christmas.  I'm not even sure when we last had one of those!  School was canceled again on Friday, which surprised me.  I was a little concerned because I knew Ben had done some shopping for Sam as part of his life skills class - I figured we'd have to buy a replacement gift for him.  But Ben's teacher emailed me and asked if we could meet at the school (even volunteered to drive to my house, but I wasn't about to let her do that) so she could get that to me.

Paul ended up being called into work on Thurs. evening.  He worked past midnight.  Then, his "on call" week started at 8am Friday.  He got home at 2 Sat. morning, got less than 4 hours of sleep, and got home last night (Sat) around 10:30.  He said he had gotten two more calls on the way home, but told the home owners he couldn't come until morning.  He needed to sleep!  He was out the door by 6:30 this morning and it's after 9 now and I'm not sure when I'll see him.

We were discussing this today.  It seems like he is always on call and super busy right around Christmas.  I'm trying to have a thankful heart because I remember how tough last winter was financially.  And the last couple of paychecks have been kind of short because up until this week, we've had a warm, dry start to our winter.  Money troubles always make me pretty antsy and worried and depressed.  But yet - it would be nice to be able to actually enjoy Christmas together.  Tomorrow night my piece is going to be performed by Tammy at our Christmas Eve service.  Will came home from church tonight and said they were "setting up" for it tonight but he wasn't allowed to tell me anything more.  That really has me curious!  And how I wish Paul could see that, too - a lot.  I really, really want him to see my thoughts come to life on the stage!  But I rather imagine he'll still be fixing furnaces then.  We're not even sure when we'll do our family gift exchange because we're taking off bright and early for Council Bluffs on Tuesday.  Sigh...but I just can't complain - too much, anyway.  Paul has a job and he's getting desperately needed hours right now.  When you have a half a dozen kids, you have to expect there to be some sacrifices along the way.

But still, it makes it easy for me to feel sorry for myself.  I think I'm hopeless - I feel sorry for myself when work is scarce and money is tight.  And I feel sorry for myself when Paul is working night and day because he's not around!

I felt the need to watch "Fireproof" again Friday night; Paul had watched it on his own a week ago.  I learn something new every single time I watch that.  This time it was about the importance of forgiveness - ouch, as that is a hard one for me!  Of course, I bawled all the way through the movie, even though I practically have the thing memorized.  I KNOW where the tear-jerker parts are, but I still cry every single time!  And I am not one to re-watch movies; Fireproof is an exception because it is just so amazing.

I have had lots and lots of trouble with Miss Lizzie lately.  I'm not sure what's going on in her little head, but it's translating to lots and lots of discipline issues.  When Paul is not here, that means that I am the one dealing with them.  It's hard - not unexpected, but hard, just the same.  Defiance is a really, really hard thing for me to deal with.  I find myself fighting anger (my own) more than I am used to dealing with.

I spent all day Saturday - yes, the Sat. before Christmas! - doing my normal bi-monthly shopping.  It actually went pretty smoothly, even though Sam and Lizzie insisted on coming.  They were both in an agreeable mood which made my day easier.  I did have to wait in line a really, really long time at Walmart, but fortunately, my kindle is always in my purse these days!  After we got done at Walmart I thought we were going to go home.  It was then that Lizzie realized she had lost her mittens (that were attached by a string in her sleeves).  Argh!  I knew the high was only supposed to be in the teens today, so she had to have mittens.  But I was not about to go traipsing all over Walmart looking for her mittens, esp. with two preschoolers and a loaded-down shopping cart.  So off to Younkers we went...I balked at the notion of paying $15 for a pair of small mittens, so I dragged the tired kids through the mall to the Children's Place and Gymboree, which, of course, did not have the needed mittens.  So I ended up paying $15 after all.

And then,, today....I took the kids to church.  Well, David stayed home since he spent all day yesterday throwing up.  Fortunately, he seems to be doing better and nobody appears to have caught his germs.  I had a few nice conversations with friends at church and then headed home.  I fed the kids, had a horrible time with Lizzie who has recently decided that nap and bed times are her preferred battling grounds.  I picked up the house, did some laundry and present wrapping - just kind of slummed it all afternoon in my sweats.  And then this evening, the doorbell rings.  We don't even have a front porch right now since Paul dismantled it to do the basement.  All we have is a mound of dirt in front of the front door.  We've been using the back door only since late summer.  I opened the door and in traipses the entire youth group of the Pleasantville Church of Christ!  I don't know these teenagers, but most knew Ben.  In fact, quite a few of them are in choir with him.  They got in my house and kept asking, "Where's Ben, where's Ben?"  I found him and he was just thrilled to death to see his schoolmates.  They brought us a laundry basket just full of Christmas stuff - a huge ham, pies, cookies, a wax warmer, a table cloth, a gingerbread house kid, sparkling grape juice (which made the kids giggle since we are teetotalers and the bottles look like wine!).   I have no idea why the youth group chose to bless US, but I am grateful.  It made my evening.  I don't know if they think we are exceptionally poor or if it's because they feel sorry for Ben with his disabilities or maybe it was just because they like Ben, and thus us, by extension.  No matter the instigation, it was nothing short of a huge blessing.

This has turned into a frightfully long post - definitely should have broken it up until several small ones, I think.  I'll leave you with this on this Christmas Eve eve:

This week I was looking at Ellie in her high chair and commented quietly to no one in particular, "Boy, does she look like her mother!"  Will looked at me quizzically and commented, "I thought YOU were her mother!"  Ooh, touche, indeed!  But I am - not of her flesh, but of the heart.

Merry Christmas to all!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Old Boobies and New Names

Christmas is upon us.  I'm doing pretty well this year.  My shopping is all but done and about 2/3 of my cards have made it into my mailbox.  My baking is at a minimum this particular year and I finally figured out how to make my own peanut brittle that tastes really, really yummy!

My favorite Christmas hymn has always been "O, Holy Night."  My favorite version is when my husband sings it - gives me goosebumps!  Josh Groban's version is a close second.  But my all-time favorite secular Christmas song is "All I want for Christmas is You" sung by Mariah Carey.  That song can get me dancing around my kitchen like nothing else!  The other night I was doing Lizzie's hair, which is always a long and painful (for her) process.  You mothers of white children do not know how easy you have it when it comes to hair!  But I'm learning and parts are getting straighter and the hair itself is getting less fuzzy and dried-out looking all the time.  I digress, though.  Since there was a Christmas special on, I parked Miss Lizzie on the stool in front of the tv while I braided.  They announced that Mariah Carey would be singing "All I Want..." in a moment and I got excited.  There was a distinct possibility that Lizzie would end up with some crooked parts because there was no way I'd be able to listen without wiggling around at least a little bit!  Mariah comes on and her dress was cut away - far, far away.  Everybody in America got a bird's eye view of her huge breasts.  I bet half of the viewers (the male half) were thinking, "Yeah, I know what I want for Christmas!"

Lizzie pipes up, "Mommy, that is inappropriate!"  I had to agree with her.  But I had to secretly admit to myself that overriding feeling was not embarrassment at the singer's state of undress, but rather, jealousy.  Mariah Carey is my exact same age.  She was coming into her fame about the time I was in college and getting married so I've always kind of identified with her for age alone.  That's the only thing we have in common!.  I look down at my also-nearly - 42 year old chest and sigh.  Life is so, so not fair.

I was reminded too, of the year my brother, Matt, who was maybe 4 at the time, watched a Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton Christmas special on tv.  He then seriously commented that he felt sorry for Dolly because "her chest must sure be cold out in that snow!"  That still makes me laugh! 

You know, Michael Buble has a really nice, new version of Mariah's famous song.  Maybe I'll start listening to that instead.
We may be changing the girls' middle names, after all. That has never been the plan.  I never, ever wanted to try to pretend that the girls came to me in the normal way.  I thought that by using their first names as their new middle names it would not only help keep their heritage and past in place, but would be a nod of thanks to their mother who chose life for them.

Well, I'm having second thoughts on that now.  We had an incident this week with Birth Mom that was just stunning and kind of dried up any wells of sympathy I had towards her previously.  Baby is named after Birth Mom and it hit me that if I keep her first name as her middle name then she might always have this warm, fuzzy feeling in her psyche that she shares a name with her birth mother.  This thought came to me as I was drifting off to sleep the night that I received a phone call informing me of Birth Mom's latest stunt.  I woke up Paul to inform him of my stunning revelation.  He muttered something and went back to sleep.  In the morning, I tried to convince myself that these are crazy thoughts and of course, we'll go with the original name plan.

But I just can't shake this feeling that they're supposed to have completely new names, first and middle.  So now, I'm on a name hunt.  For years, I've only ever thought of my favorite first names (Elizabeth, Eleanor, and Annie), but never tried to pair anything with those names in my head.  I am having tremendous difficulty coming up with new middle names!  I had thought of "Hope" but Paul shot that down.  I thought that would be perfect, considering the situation.  And it's a pretty name.   He said he doesn't like it when people use nouns, verbs, and attributes as names. He suggested I see if I can find two female names that mean "hope" but aren't Hope.  I've looked at several baby name sites and I don't know, but "Nadia" and "Tikvah" just aren't doing anything for me (those names mean "hope").  And this is what gets me, too.  When I was pregnant with the boys, I came up with the names.  I would tell them to Paul and each time he would say, "Sounds good to me!"  NOW, he decides to start caring what we actually name our kids?

So, anyway, I've got names galore parading through my head, trying to find the perfect combination.  All the while I'm still wondering if I'm doing the right thing by stripping the girls of their original names entirely.  But if you should come up with some really cool names that sound good with Elizabeth and Eleanor, let me know!

I sure don't want to have to turn to Sam for help.  He informed me yesterday that he has decided to have four kids someday, and that two of them are going to be named, "Spike-erica" and "Shab."  "Spikerica" just happens to also be the moniker he has bestowed on his stuffed triceratops toy, too.  I told him that first he'll need to find a wife.  Sam asked, "How many of those will I need?"  I told him one ought to do it.  He then asked if I thought he would be able to find one someday.  I don't think he'll have a problem!

But he may have to do some artful convincing if he's still stuck on Spikerica and Shab for future children's names...

(There's Gonna Be) Days Like This

The last 7 days have been a bit rough.  Hunting season started last Sat and went through Wed.  That meant that I was up at 5:30 each of those mornings making a decent breakfast for the hunters and then spent the morning in the kitchen making a good noon-time meal for them.  My body is not made to arise that early!  It's just...unnatural.  And for all that effort, the guys (Paul, Will, and two friends) only brought down two button bucks.  They were hoping to fill 7 tags.  This was the worst year, ever.  It was pretty warm, which didn't help.  Both Paul and Will had brand-new hunting gear to wear and it was too warm to even wear them!  We butchered up the little bit we had last night - may feed us for a month or so.  I'll be curious to see how God intends to provide now.

And then, Lizzie has had a really, really, REALLY rough week, behavior-wise.  That means Mom has had a really, really, ROUGH week, too!  A couple of days in there she was just golden, so I know she's capable of choosing good behavior.  Yesterday was awful.  We went to Jefferson for Ben's and my allergy appointments.  I brought along Sam and Lizzie.  Before we went in I warned all 3 what kind of behavior I expected.  By the time I was on the table, being worked on, Lizzie was throwing a raging tantrum, screaming and thrashing.  It was so bad the dr. had to intervene and get her settled.  I could have just died - I was angry and embarrassed.  The dr. assured me afterwards not to worry about it - that she would "only be little for a little while."  That didn't help much.  Why does motherhood have to be so humiliating at times?  I know my personality is such that I expect my kids to be well-behaved at all times.  For the most part they are.  And when they're not -ooh, boy.  Things are not going to be pleasant between Mom and Child!  But I also know that's why I really struggled when Ben went through his rough time a few years ago and why I'm struggling now with Lizzie. I have high expectations of behavior for everyone in my life.  That has caused me lots and lots of disappointments, angst, and grief over the years.

We had another counseling session Tuesday.  I was kind of looking forward to it.  So far, the counselor has offered up some helpful information and I've gained insight into the girls' hurts and brain development.  I'm really looking, though, for more "meat."  I want to do know what to do when certain behaviors raise their ugly heads.  So far, the counselor has spent most of her time explaining to me what has happened to the girls' brains and suggesting bonding activities for us (very helpful).  I used the term "deliberate disobedience" when explaining to her what we were dealing with.  She told me I needed to get that terminology out of my vocabulary because there is no such thing as deliberate disobedience when it comes to young children.  That's because they are not capable of choosing to obey or disobey.  They just do - whatever - I guess.

My jaw about hit the floor.  Paul said if he'd been there he would have walked out.  You know, I don't have an advanced degree.  I don't even have an undergraduate degree, since I decided marriage and motherhood were more important to me than spending more time and money pursuing a career I didn't even want in the first place.  I'm sure this counselor has her master's degree at the minimum.  But I am not an idiot, either.  You cannot tell me that children are incapable of making disobedient choices.  Babies can make these choices.  I noticed with all of mine that somewhere around 10 months they would look me square in the eye and choose to do their own thing, knowing full well what I expected. 

So, wow - this counselor is obviously not going to be that much help.  I'll probably go back, but I'm going to be stretching out the appointments farther and farther apart.  It's disappointing when I have to pick through everything she says (like digging all the vegetables out of beef stew) to try to find something that I can agree with and use.  There are some Christian counseling centers in the area.  I'm not sure if they would take state insurance, but all I can do is check.

Neat Adoption quote I ran across this week by a guy named...well, I can't read my handwriting where I scribbled this down off Facebook, actually.  I think his last name is "Loux."  It doesn't matter since I don't know who he is anyway.

Adoption is redemption.  It's costly, exhausting, expensive, and outrageous.  Buying back lives costs so much.  When God set out to redeem us, it killed Him.

I've been thinking a lot about this.  I had never really thought about adoption as redemption, but it is.  It's giving a person a second chance at a good life.  That's exactly what God did for us.  We were all doomed with no chance at all.  But he rescued us through the cross, just as Paul and I are rescuing these little girls.  I kind of hesitate to say it like that, though, because that makes it sound like we are super-heroes and we're not.  We're not saints and we're getting a whole lot of enjoyment out of the deal, too. It has been nothing short of pure joy to add two more children to my brood and to have girls at last just kind of tops it all off!  Of course, there is a certain amount of pain-in-the neck-ness, too about the process.

And adoption is NOT natural.  These kids were not born to me, carry nothing of my gene pool in their little bodies, come from an entirely different culture and race, but yet they're becoming mine, just the same.  How does that happen?  Is love really all it takes?  It truly is an outrageous notion to think that one can graft another person into their family tree, lineage, and heritage for future generations.  But somehow, it works.

Even when they're humiliating their mother at the doctor's office...

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Holiday Hoopla

That's me after making my first Thanksgiving turkey this week.  We had Charlotte and James and James Aaron over, which was fun.  Charlotte showed me how to make turkey gravy.  I was tired out, though.  It wasn't so much from making the meal but because I was still getting over a cold.  Paul got a nasty cold over the weekend and he shared his germs.  By Tuesday morning Ben had a terrible head cold and I had it by that night, as did David.  It was a fast-moving thing, thankfully, and we were all much better by Thanksgiving Day, but it kind of zapped any extra reserves of energy.  I am getting frustrated.  For the past 7 months now, I have been sick, off and on, all the time.  I used to have the immune system of an ox, going almost 2 years without getting a cold, even.  And now, every time I turn around, I'm sick.  Now, Sam and Lizzie are "barking" every morning, so I know they have some germs, too.  But they don't have runny noses and the barking cough seems to subside once the day gets going.

We did some Black Friday shopping yesterday.  I'm not one of the crazy ones, waiting in line for hours and then going nuts once the doors are open.  I got to the mall at a stately 9:30 am!  Will, however, was up at 5 am, meeting Nathanael, so they could score some bargains.  He found a black suit for $70 out at Jordan Creek.  He called asking if I thought that was a good price.  He needs a new suit, so I told him to go ahead.  His suits have all come off the rack before and he was so impressed that this store actually measured him and is now tailoring his new suit!  I was talking to Paul later and asked him, "I wonder how many other parents have 18 yr old sons who actually get excited by new suits?!" 

Will got his acceptance letter to Faith yesterday.  I'm not sure that's actually an accomplishment.  I know when I went there, if you had a pulse, you got in.  I don't know if that has changed or not.  But he'll be needing a suit or two for there.  Although, from what I hear, the dress standards have really relaxed (while the dating standards have gotten tighter - go figure) in the 20+ years since I was a student.

Anyway, where was I?  Oh yes - shopping.  I had Will meet us at Penneys.  They are the only place I have been able to find overcoats for men, which I do not get at all.  But I discovered that their in-store prices were $30 cheaper than what they wanted on-line for the same coat.  I was hoping that they would have even better pricing for Black Friday and they did - 30% off.  It made me forget that I am boycotting Penneys for their pro-homosexual ads and stupid new pricing (although I did send them a letter, which helped somewhat)!  I also found adoption picture outfits for the girls.  And then I waited in line forever.  I did the same thing again at the Children's Place for an $8 pair of pink yoga pants for Lizzie.  That was dumb.  But we were home by lunchtime.  If I had been alone, I probably would have stayed out all day.  But with 5 kids, the pleasure factor of shopping was definitely diminished.  They were good, but it was just hard to get around with all them in the crowds.

Paul met Will and Nathanael for a gun show last night.  When they got home Will had to show me all his new stuff from shopping (no, he didn't buy a gun), which wasn't a lot, but it was kind of fun.  He said, "Boy, Mom - money sure goes fast when you're spending it!"  Umm, yeah - usually works that way.  He was so tickled about some slippers he found at Kohls for himself.  With the sale prices and then a $10 coupon they had sent me that I had given to him, he got them for $8.  Of course, it probably cost China $3.50 to make them, but I didn't tell him that.  He was even more tickled when I paid him back for what he had spent.

I guess he really is grown up - picking out and buying suits and slippers all by himself!

Ok, what else is new?  The last of the birthdays is out of the way.  Ben turned 16 last Sat.  We did his bowling championship thing.  What a crush!  Imagine 50 wheelchairs in a typical bowling alley, along with 3-400 upright adults.  Ugh is right!  Very warm, very noisy...But Ben got to carry the American flag for the opening ceremonies and they announced that it was his birthday, which was special.  Afterwards, we swung by the Habitat for Humanity store and found some wood (real) flooring for the kitchen.  Paul decided to return the stuff he had bought at Menards since this was cheaper and better quality.  My preference would have been for wide planks for a more old-fashioned look, but the ones they had weren't real wood.  So, I think I can live with narrow pieces instead.  We then went to the Machine Shed for supper.  I love their food!  $80.77 later, we staggered out to the van...

We went to Jordan Creek for a little bit.  Paul and Will were looking at rifles at Scheels and I needed tights for Ellie.  So I took the girls with me to Gymboree and I heard a lady, who had the same color of skin as my girls, point and exclaim to her husband, "Oh look - she has two of them!"  I suppose I had better get used to that!  It's funny.  I used to always think that when I adopted someday I wanted it to be obvious that we had done this - having children that very obviously were not born to us.  But now that it's a reality, I find myself a little more self-conscious about the whole white/black thing, wondering what people are thinking about me!  I suppose that will subside in time, too.  It's just still kind of new.

David was commenting the other day about my homemade vanilla that I make from organic vanilla beans and vodka.  He said something about, "Yeah, if only people knew you were drunking us, Mom!"  "Drunking" them?  Oh, my goodness...I have SO much work to do before this child graduates from high school!

Speaking of graduation, I found out yesterday that the association's homeschool graduation will be on June 1 next year, which is later than it has been.  I'm kind of glad.  Maybe I will do his open house that same day since it's not going to be the same weekend as all the area high schools, too.  That gives us a couple of more weeks to get the kitchen done, too, before his open house!

Ellie's vocabulary has really expanded in the last couple of weeks.  My favorite word of all the ones she has now, though, is "Momm-eeee!"  I actually hear that quite a bit from her.  One day this week, Lizzie asked, out of the blue, "Mama, do you love me?"  She does that every so often, just needing the reassurance, I guess.  Well, I had just cleaned out the upstairs bookshelf on Wed. and remembered that we have a children's book with that exact title.  I told her that and suggested we could read that before she went to bed.  She loved the book and insisted that we read it again last night, too.  This may turn into "The Snow People" before we're done!  That book is one that Ben had to have read to him every single night when he was around 3 or 4.  He would not, could not, go to bed without hearing the story of Jacob and the snow children!  I was so sick of that story and had it memorized before too long.  But Ben's little autistic brain insisted on hearing the story before it would shut down for the night.  A few weeks ago Sam picked that book off the shelf for me to read and boy, did that bring back memories!

Our neighbor boy has been coming to church with us for the past two weeks.  A couple of Saturdays ago he asked me if he could start coming with us on Sundays.  He assured me it was ok with his mom.  While I've had pleasant conversations with his mother over city stuff, I get the impression that this boy is kind of on his own most of the time.  Mom has a new, non-English-speaking,  boyfriend and two small children with him, she works a lot, and I don't think that leaves a lot of time for her 4th grader.  It would mean we'd have to take two vehicles to church, but I couldn't see turning him down over that.  The very next day he showed up at the house at 8 am, dressed nicely in a polo shirt and khakis.  I was still staggering around, bleary-eyed and barely dressed.  I've noticed that in church, he wants to read the Bibles they have on the back of the pew.  So, who knows?  If nothing else, he's having something planted in him that hopefully, he'll remember and want to come back to as an adult.  Of course, I have to admit to having dreams of him getting saved and ultimately becoming this pastor who tells the story of his conversion starting with, "There was this nice neighbor family who always took me to church..."!

It's after 10 - time to rouse my eldest.  I'm going to try to persuade him to get down the Christmas tree in the garage.  I'd like to get a jump start on getting the Christmas stuff up.  I haven't quite figured out just how we're doing Christmas this year since Paul will be on call until 8am Christmas morning and again at 8am on the 26th.  We're supposed to scoot over to Council Bluffs during that 24 hour period when he's not on call.  I'm just not going to worry about it - whatever happens, happens.

And today, what happens is hopefully a lot of stuff getting marked off on my to-do list - better get moving!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Elections, Raises, and Amazing Children

Today is election day.  Like everyone else in America, I think I will breathe a sigh of relief tomorrow when it's all over, regardless of the outcome.  I finally got my first political survey call a few weeks ago.  Since we dropped our landline a few years ago, we've gotten very, very political calls.  I'm sure that will change, eventually, though!  I have no idea if this was a genuine survey or if the person was working for one party or the other.  However I was amused/dismayed/shocked when the poller asked, "Are you planning to vote for the Obama/Bidden ticket?"  And then later, she asked, "Do you consider yourself to be Muslim, Jewish, or Protest-ant?  I so badly wanted to say something to her along the lines of "Ask your employer to hire someone with at least a 3rd grade education next time!"  I didn't, but I was rolling my eyeballs.  And just think, she probably voted, too!  I just read a great quote by Winston Churchill last weekend (so great that I had to put it up on our city sign) - "The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter."  Isn't that the truth?!  Scary!

Will came home from his classes today, somewhat disgusted.  He has a student teacher in his psych class that he just loves (her teaching style, that is).  But she told the class that she voted for Obama - not out of conviction, but just because she's a registered Democrat and she thought it would cost too much to change her party affiliation.  Um, hello?  Will said he was disgusted with her ignorance that he had a hard time to listening to anything else she had to say for the rest of the class period!

We will all be definitely voting for the Romney ticket tonight.  It isn't that I like Romney, per se.  In fact, he was probably the last candidate that I hoped would get the Republican nomination.  But, it's a vote against Obama, who is the worst president we've ever had (even worse than Harding, Johnson, or Carter, I believe).  Now, I don't know if this is the "most important election of my lifetime" as I've heard so many assert, but I believe it's important that I vote practically.  Voting for a 3rd party candidate or refusing to vote at all because there are no candidates that totally line up with my Biblical beliefs is just plain dumb.  This is the way the system works.  There are two main parties and one of them is going to win.  Do you want to throw your vote away or do you want to throw your vote toward the candidate who will do the least amount of damage?  I know there are some who will vehemently disagree with me, but they can go suck on their sour grapes.  It's time to be practical, folks - not idealistic.  All that said, if Obama does get in, I will be sad, I think, but not distraught.  I have no doubt that I will see my beloved country turn into a socialist nation during my lifetime.  I don't want to be a "well, what can you do?" type of person and just acede to the inevitable.  It's going to happen with me kicking and screaming all the way.  But the handwriting is on the wall and it's just a matter of a few generations, I believe.  Tell me I'm wrong - please!  But I don't think so.  Not this time.

Ok, onto more cheerful things: Paul got an unexpected raise last week of .75.  Well, they're always unexpected to me because I forget every year that they do reviews in the fall!  Paul got a pretty good raise last year, so he was not expecting much of anything this year.  So, it was a pleasant surprise.  One of his bosses is adopted and has talked to him a few times about how wonderful what we're doing is.  Paul wonders if that might have played into the decision of his raise!  Maybe they feel sorry for him, having to support six kids now!

We had parent-teacher conferences last week.  I ended up having to go both nights in order to talk to all the teachers that I needed to.  I sure got my exercise, trotting all over that school, from one end to the other.  Will's teachers had nothing but praise for him.  His psych teacher told me that Will is the type of kid who will be able to "do anything he wants with life and go anywhere he pleases" because of his excellent work ethic and personality.  His speech teacher told me she wished she could "clone" Will!  Well, I sense a little bit of motherly pride coming on!

I found out Ben has been moved to a Level "2."  I had really mixed feelings about that.  Level 3 is what he used to be.  That's the most disabled student level.  Well, he's done so well in his testing that the state insisted he be moved down a level, which means they don't have to pay his school as much money.  I was really irritated that the school never bothered to inform me of this.  I am concerned that at some point they will try to remove Ben's full-time aide as a result.  I mentioned this to his life skills teacher and he admitted that that might be an issue, esp. as Ben gets older.  They will have a fight on their hands if that is the case!  But on the happy side of things, I had one of Ben's teachers (his Geography teacher, a regular 9th grade class that Ben is in) look at me and tell me, "I hope you realize just how loved Ben is by all the students and staff here."  Oh, that just warms my heart!  If you remember my anguished postings 3 years ago when we were trying to decide whether or not to send Ben to school, that was my number one concern, that Ben would be bullied because of his disabilities.  Instead, he seems to be very appreciated by everybody.  I think some of it is that he has such a sunny personality.  Despite being autistic, he is really an "outward" focused person.  That's unusual with autism.

Our neighbor got arrested!  Well, technically, she's not our neighbor, as in next-door.  She lives one street down.  Actually, she's a nice lady.  She has been very interested in our girls and has been bringing me clothes all summer long for all 3 of the Littles.  She doesn't work and spends her time scouring thrift stores and garage sales.  She would never take money for any of it, either.  I have long suspected she's a prescription drug addict, from things I observed and things I was told by others.  So, I was cautious around her, but friendly.  I didn't have any problem inviting her into the house when she'd come over with another armload of clothes.  Granted, she would always ask to use my bathroom and I knew she was probably hunting for drugs in there.  But we don't keep any in the bathroom.  If she needed to steal some razors or lotions, then so be it.  She didn't, I don't think!  But she did steal drugs and money from some people in Pleasantville who pressed charges.  According to the news, she's facing 10 years in prison now.  Yikes!  She needs help; I don't know that prison will necessarily get her the help she needs, although I suppose it will dry her out (do you "dry out" from drugs or is that just alcohol?).  I'll never forget this summer when she looked at me and said, "Your family just has something.  I'm not sure what it is, but you guys are differernt.  I like that!"  I suppose I should have seized the opportunity then to share Christ with her, but I didn't .  I think I'll always regret that.

Our baby is showing us that she is definitely a toddler now.  Yesterday I was so impressed by her.  A little scared, but impressed nontheless.  I have a retro 1950s stool in my kitchen.  It's a heavy thing.  It's got those two steps that fold up under the vinyl seat.  I normally keep it over by the fridge.  That child not only managed to turn the stool around, but she alternately pushed and pulled it a distance of about 8 feet over to the center of the counter.  And that floor is rough.  Part of it is linoleum and part is just plywood (although Paul did just buy new laminate flooring on Sat - yay!).  She then climbed up the stool, stood on it, casually reached into the fruit bowl, pulled out the last apple, and ate 3/4 of it!  She did it all so casually and matter-of-fact, like it's a perfectly normal thing for just-turned 16 month olds to move furniture and help themselves to fruit!  Her big thing is also the dishwasher.  She has loved the dishwasher since we got her.  But lately, whenever she sees that someone has it open to be unloaded, she will scurry over and start pulling out the silverware and dishes and then hand them to whoever happens to be standing nearby so they can put them away!  It's cute but we've learned to get the sharp knives put away as soon as that door comes open!

Well. that's all for now - probably all for a couple of weeks.  We found out yesterday that Ben has been asked  to  carry a flag in the Bowling Championship's opening ceremonies.  That's so cool because it will also be his 16th birthday.  That should be a fun day!

I think I need more drugs.  I've had a sinus/cold thing for the last week and a half.  It has settled in my voice which my kids think is hilarious because I sound like Barry White.  But it's also giving me tremendous sinus pressure which causes migraine-like pain in my poor head.  So, off to find more drugs (legally, that is)!

New Adults and Fires

Boy, do I love this photograph, even if you can see the section of wall that Paul hasn't finished yet above the office doorway!  This was taken last Friday, on Will's 18th birthday.  He was genuinely affectionate in this photo, which has been a problem for him since he was about 11.  He's always been really squeamish about showing or receiving physical affection from me.  That has caused me no small amount of stress, worrying about how he'll manage as a husband someday!  Of course, I suppose a healthy dose of lust will help with that... And, I happen to look good in this photo, too, which greatly increases my amount of affection for it!

So, yes, Will is now 18.  He votes tonight for the first time.  We got him registered for the Selective Service last night.  He's been putting in applications in several places (a lot of businesses now will not even accept applications from anyone under 18).  Today we went and got his driver's license changed from "provisional" to "regular."  We changed his checking account.  Once he turned 18 our bank was quick to drop his "student" account and transfer it to a high-fee one.  The banker we spoke with today helped us finagle a plan where Will will enroll for Bill Pay.  Every month his account will generate a $5 check to us to pay for his texting.  This will save him $11 in monthly fees just for the privilege of having a checking account.

Lizzie had her 4th birthday last Wed.  It was special because it was her first birthday with us.  I think she enjoyed herself.  I really enjoyed shopping for a little girl, that's for sure!  This Friday she is going to have her first sleep-over at her "other" parents' house (her former foster parents who are adopting her bio brother).   We've seen so much progress with her.  I know she'll do great.  However, she does have her first counseling session this Thurs.  Even with as good as she is doing, I think it's probably the better part of wisdom to get some outside help to help her cope with what has been a very unusual life so far.

Sam turned 5  two weeks ago.  Maybe I already mentioned that in a blog.  That means it's also been 5 years since my stroke.  I recognize now that I am never going to be fully recovered from that, physically.  But that's ok.  I've been given a whole lot back and things could have been so different.  I remember being in the hospital that day, scared to death that I wouldn't be able to take care of my family any more.  Not only was I able to do that, but God increased our family size along the way!  And I'm able to take care of them, too!

Sam cracked me up the other day.  One little "thing" we've had with Lizzie is that her biological mother taught her to dance and sing this song, "I'm sexy and I know it."  I only had to shake my head at her once and she learned that was not an appropriate thing to do in our home.  It's never been a real problem.  When Birth Mom still had rights, I would hear Lizzie sing it on the phone to her, but I understood that this was her way of "connecting" with her mother.  Of course, I have some opinions on THAT, but I just ignored it and it was never a problem outside of the phone calls.  Well, Sam would hear her side of these phone conversations.  The other day I heard him singing, "I'm sixty and I know it!"  Ha, ha, ha, ha!

Our neighbor's house burned to the ground early last Monday morning.  It was just the freakiest thing.  Paul woke me up at 4 am and asked if Jenn's house was supposed to be on fire.  I thought he was sleepwalking and asking really dumb questions in his sleep!  I looked outside and Jenn's house was just gone!  It was still on fire, but it was burned to the foundation already.  It was an older, modular home and those go fast when on fire.  We never heard or saw a thing - nobody did.  So, Paul called 911.  I threw on some clothes and went outside to look.  Paul went over and pounded on the mayor's door (also a neighbor of Jenn's).  He (the mayor) was just dumbfounded.  Then, we walked over to the neighbor on the other side of Jenn's to alert them.  We watched the fire inching closer and closer to the propane tank, which made us very, very nervous.  If that thing blew up, all our houses would go, probably.  We kept hearing this high-pitched, whistling noise and Paul explained that that was propane burning.  I didn't know burning propane made a sound, other than BOOM!  Eventually, he went over and shut off the tank.  I was so scared that he would be killed, but he wasn't - obviously.

The providential thing was that Jenn and the kids had just moved out the day before.  They weren't quite done moving, but most of their stuff was out.  Their animals were still in the house, though.  The new owners were scheduled to take possession on Nov.. 7.  THAT won't be happening now!

It took 20 min, but the fire dept finally came and put out the fire.  20 min is actually good time, considering that they are a volunteer force from Pleasantville.  But it still makes me nervous to know that it takes that long for help to arrive.  I guess that's a major drawback to living in the boonies.

I have had a nearly life-long fear of house fires and this did nothing to put those fears to rest.  Even now, the ashy heap that used to be her home still makes me shiver every time I pull into my driveway.  It is just so weird to know and remember a house that used to be there - and now it isn't.

May the Lord protect our homes - and give us grace to live through the nightmare should something ever happen to destroy them.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Bullet Points 2

What am emotional night last night was - Will's final football game.  I was ruminating on the significance of the night while I got everything and everyone ready to go.  I thought to myself, "I ought to write this down!"  So I did and it turned into a long Facebook post.  I think I touched a nerve - lots of parents, football and otherwise, have responded back.  It was kind of a miserable night, weather-wise - misting, windy, and oh-so-cold.  But I wouldn't have been anywhere else in the world.  After the game, all we senior parents just hung around, waiting for the coaches to get done with their post-game talk to the players.  Will walked toward me, I held out my arms, and he walked right into them.  It would have been a movie moment, except that I smashed my glasses and my nose on his chest armor.  We posed for pictures and then got all the seniors together for more pictures.  Ben asked me, "Why are they all crying?"  The end of an era...

And the next awaits!  Will filled out his application to Faith this week.  I need to download a FAFSA form.  We received a postcard this week from Faith about their scholarship weekend in March, so we're making plans to attend that.  But first, there's still some senior year things to get out of the way - like school.  Will has been taking a college class this semester at the school - Psych I.  He has absolutely loved it.  He loves it so much that he found out they are offering Pysch II next semester - at 7 am!  And he wants to sign up for it!  This is my child who thinks it is just cruel to ask anyone to roll out of bed before 10 am.  I'm not sure what he'll do with all this psychology - I can't really envision him sitting in an office while someone lays on a couch and spills their guts to him while he makes notes and offers sympathetic "hmm, um, hums."  He'd be more likely to snap, "Yeah, so?  Life isn't all about you!"  And there would go his practice!

Oh, I didn't tell about last Friday's game!  That was interesting.  We had asked the youth group to come over, promising them food if they would watch Will play.  They didn't have to be persuaded too hard.  So, I baked and baked, got permission to use the elementary school gym, ("Only because Will is such a fantastic kid!" one of his coaches kidded me), and lugged it all into the school.  We started watching the game and felt - raindrops.  Seriously?  It has not rained in months and months, so much that the crops dried up this year, we've been told there hasn't been a drought like this since 1988, and food prices have skyrocketed at the grocery store.  And it has to rain on THIS night?  The weathermen had been talking about rain for the next day, Saturday, but didn't say a word about Friday.  I've watched games in the rain before, so while uncomfortable, it was do-able.  But then the lightening started, which made the referrees nervous.  Apparently, there are sport rules about lightening - parents get cranky if their kids get electrocuted, I guess.  Just as they announced that there would be a 30 min. recess, the rain began to pour down in sheets.  We were all soaked as we ran across the street to the high school cafeteria.   Paul called Caseys and told them to delay the pizzas.  Eventually, the rain let up and the game resumed.  And then jagged streaks of lightening began appearing once again.  Paul called Caseys and asked them to speed up the pizza order while we ran for cover again.  We ended up feeding the youth group then - without Will.  The game didn't get over until 10:30.  But they won, which made the rain, cold, and potential electrocution all worth it.

The Wednesday before, Will's coach took him and a few other players to Pizza Ranch for supper.  He's been doing that throughout the season - finally, it was Will's turn.  He told me he ate some chicken and THIRTEEN pieces of pizza!  Really, it ought to be illegal to have as many teenage sons as I do at one time.  There's not enough money in the world to cover the cost of feeding them!  13 pieces of pizza!

I spent last Sat. in Council Bluffs attending a craft fair with Kathy.  We used to go to those all the time, but it had been 9 years.  We had fun.  I had to take Baby, but she did well - she's pretty easy.  It was sunny out there and actually humid.  I guess it stormed all day here.

A few weeks ago I was playing a nostalgic CD in the van - filled with 80s hits and songs I remember from my teen years.  "Material Girl" came on and L really latched onto that.  Ever since, she has been going on around singing, "I'm a cereal girl, I'm a cereal girl!"  It just cracks Paul and me up!  I definitely do need to make her an appointment with an audiologist, I think, though!

Well - I'm finished and there's no bullet points to be found.  Apparently, I felt the need to expound in greater detail than I thought I would.  I should be good for another couple of weeks, I think.  We enter our official "birthday" season this week.  Sam turns 5 on Monday (and he was born on a Monday, too).  We'll have our first birthday with L, who turns 4 on Halloween.  Then, 2 days later Will will turn 18.  And then 2 weeks after that will be Ben's 16th birthday.  I also have a niece with a birthday the same day as Will and a nephew with one on Nov. 8.  What is it about February that makes people feel all romantic?  Oh yeah - Valentines Day.  People never think about November when they think about Valentine's, do they? 

Gotta run - lots to do, including birthday shopping for a VERY excited little boy!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Bullet Points

I think this is going to have to be another "bullet-point" blog  otherwise I'll be typing until next Tuesday!

Tonight is Will's last football game - EVER.  I should be happy, right?  No more injuries, no more risk of permanent brain or spinal cord injuries...but I'm sad at the passing of an era in his life.

Oh, the cake - it had been a few years since I did a Halloween cake, so it was time.  I took that up to Waterloo a couple of weekends ago.

Ok, bullet points:

* We have a new dishwasher.  The one we bought in '08 quit working and Paul could not fix it.  4 years really does not seem like a very long lifespan for an appliance.  I was wondering if we needed to spend more money in order to have something last longer.  Instead, the very next day after we decided our dishwasher had gone to that appliance junkyard in the sky, Paul found one at the Habitat for Humanity resale store - barely used and for only $165.  I was electronically washing dishes again by that night!

* I got my story written for Tammy to do at church on Christmas Eve.  I did it according to her specifications, and she said she loved it - but then wanted to change it.  Sigh...but if I didn't agree it would sit on my computer, unused, so I guess it's better than nothing.  But the narcissistic part of me that is convinced my writing is golden and perfect the way it is just cringes to see any part of my work changed!  I think I need to get over myself.

* I got a call from the school principal a couple of weeks ago, asking me to be on the parental advisory board for the special education dept. at the school.  He said he wanted somebody who was "really involved with their children, reasonable, and well-spoken."  Well!  I think I should be flattered!  But there is a part of me that is suspicious that he just needed a warm body to fill a requirement from the dept. of education.  We shall see.

* Will's team has won their last 2 games, which is really amazing.  They had lost everything prior to that.  The first win was again SE Warren, who had also not won anything yet.  Evidently, they were convinced that they would win that game.  So shocked and upset were they when they were soundly beaten that 2 of the players and the coach promptly quit the team the following Monday! 

Ok, those are my bullet points for now.  There will be more in a little while!


So much to update little time!

This particular post will be a one-subject post, hopefully, a short one, too!

Most know, but I want to make it public - we're keeping the girls!!!  Last Friday was Jenn's birthday (Jenn and Paul are adopting the girls' brother that is closest in age to them - they used to be our girls' foster parents) so I began, at the beginning of last week to pray very specifically that we would have an answer by Jenn's birthday.  On Thursday, Jenn called and asked, "Are you sitting down?"  She had just heard.  I have to admit, I pretty weepy throughout that entire phone call!

There is still an appeals process to get through, but we've been assured that is nothing to worry about, so I'm doing my best not to.  However, I think I will breathe a little better once that period of time is up!  I still feel the need to be a little more guarded on the internet when it comes to posting pictures or specifics about the girls until the appeals process is completed; perhaps until the adoption occurs, too.

I feel like this tremendous burden of worry has been lifted from my shoulders.  I am keeping my girls!  I am a mother to daughters - after all these years!  It's a little mind-boggling.  I've noticed that it's made a difference with Paul this week, too.  He's been affectionate with the girls before, but this week he has really ramped it up.  We're starting to call the girls by their new names.  We're kind of mixing that up - just throwing out the new names every so often.  So far, they seem really receptive to it.  I probably won't make a total name switch-over until the actual adoption, though.  The girls have a lot of "new" being thrown at them.

Monday was what they call the "Good-bye" visit with Birth Mom.  That was emotional.  She did not know until she got to the visit that it was the last one.  Her lawyer had not told her, so she was a bit blindsided by the news.  I honestly felt bad for her.  Jenn and I took pictures of all the kids and their mom.  I got some of my girls alone with her.  One is just breath-takingly poignant and beautiful.  I would love to frame it, it's so good.  But I'm thinking that right now, while we try to establish our own family bonds, it's probably not helpful to have a picture of the birth mother in sight.  But I am definitely saving prints of these pictures for the girls. 

While the kids had their visit, Jenn, Paul, (her Paul, not mine), and I went to a sandwich shop.  We have such an amazing bond, even though we've known each other just a few short months.  I think we probably would have been friends anyway, but the fact that we love the same children definitely helps.  Afterwards we slowly walked back up the sidewalk to the house to claim the children.  Our little ones ran toward us and the birth mom walked slowly towards me and placed Baby in my arms.  I about lost it at that point.  I gave her a hug and told her just how grateful I was.  After all the kids had been claimed Birth Mom and her grandmother walked down the sidewalk towards the bus stop, never looking back.  I could have wept.

And I did on the way home because L was pretty emotional.  She told me that she had started crying during the visit, knowing it was her last one.  She wanted to know why and I had to tell her why in a way that didn't place an undue burden on her.  At that moment all the good things waiting for her (our family, a secure future, etc) didn't matter.  All she knew was that her mother had just walked away - for good.  And there wasn't a thing I could do to ease the pain in her little heart.  I will spend the rest of my life attempting to point this little girl to the One who can ease the hurt - the One who carried that hurt to the cross so long ago.

So, that's where we are now.  I have the freedom to call counselors and doctors and set up appointments.  I can cut their hair if I want (although Baby cut a good chunk of hers today when she got a hold of my sewing scissors!).  They are MY children - for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in plenty and in want.  They are mine, forever and ever.

I have found myself ridiculously close to tears all week long, thinking about how much God has blessed me.  Why He would do that is really beyond my understanding.

  But I am thankful - so very, very thankful.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Life of the Culturally Un-Elite

Will's official football picture of the season - his last.  Will actually got injured again in last Friday night's game.  I hadn't been watching (since they were getting creamed, as usual) and then I wandered down to the sidelines.  I saw a player was down and the coaches were trotting out to see if he was dead (I guess).  I thought, "Oh, that's too bad!"  And then I realized that I didn't see Will standing upright out there.  I asked the guy next to me, "Is that Number 7?"  He said he didn't know.  Then, I realized with sickening horror, that it WAS Will!  All I could think about was him getting another concussion and how his doctor had said if he did there wouldn't be any more football.  And then, the youth group is scheduled to attend his game next week and how we'd have to cancel that if Will couldn't play.  And. oh yeah, what if he happened to be paralyzed?  The moments it took for him to arise seemed like an eternity.  All I wanted to do was dash out onto the field.  But I figured Will would never forgive me if I did.   Will slowly rose to his feet and the crowd cheered as he made his way over to the sidelines.  A player had landed on his neck which sent Will into paroxysms of  pain.  In fact, he wasn't able to play any more of the game.  I dashed under the rope to where he was to make sure that he was indeed, going to make it.  Paul and I rooted through our pockets and purses and came up with enough Advil for Will - it was probably enough for  good sized cow to not feel anything, actually. 

I suggested to Will the next day that he might want to see the chiropractor the next week.  He told me no way - that would hurt too much.  Instead, he kept icing his neck and popping Advil.  Monday morning he says to me, "So were you going to call the chiropractor?"  (Rolling my eyeballs here)  He's had several appts. this week with the guy and is feeling much better.  I saw him today for my normal appt and he was telling me that Will is one of the "big guys" now.  He couldn't believe how tall and filled out Will had gotten since he saw him a year ago.

We had his senior pictures done the next morning.  I was fearful that he would be grimacing too much to actually smile, but he did fine.  We met the photographer at Gray's Lake.  I had never actually been down in there, although I've driven by the place millions of times.  I had such bad shin splints afterwards, following the two of them around, toting all of Will's stuff and clothing changes!  For his first picture, Will posed with his shotgun since hunting is a big part of his life.  I had told the photographer ahead of time what we wanted to do and he called the police station just to give them a heads up that if they got any calls about a sniper at Gray's Lake, it was only us.  Later, after we had shot those pictures, we were walking to another part of the park, when this old guy came up to us and demanded to know why we had a gun at the park (by this point, it was locked back in the van).  We explained it was for senior pictures and he started huffing about how inappropriate it was to have that out in public and so forth.  I assured him it was never loaded and walked away.  Some people!  I had a chance to observe those walking the trails there and I concluded that Gray's Lake seems to attract the more culturally and politically elite.  It's not for people like us!  Of course, it didn't help that we happened upon about a 100 people being guided in yoga and meditation out in the open there, too...Anyway, I am looking forward to seeing the pictures soon.

Our next door neighbor was seriously injured last Thursday out on the highway.  He was riding his motorcycle to work (helmet-less) when he hit a deer.  He flipped several times.  He's been in intensive care ever since and is not conscious.  But the doctors do believe he's going to live.  It will be a long road of recovery, though.  He's having surgery Friday to wire his jaw shut and insert a trache.  Paul went up to see him this week and I've been in contact with his daughters.  That's got to be devastating, financially, too, to suddenly not have his income anymore.

We're going to see my parents on Saturday.  I was hoping to have some news from the court before we went, but I don't know if that's going to happen.  My parents have not yet met the girls, so this will be good.  I sure hope I can persuade B to be on her best behavior, though!

Sam was so excited this week when he realized it was finally October.  Every day he looks at the calendar and counts down the days to his birthday.  B is doing the same, too, since her birthday is only a little over a week after Sam's!  The way those two are building up their birthdays, I hope they won't be disappointed by my efforts!

Church is tonight, so I need to keep moving.  I finished my monologue and will give it to Tammy tonight.  It feels like an accomplishment.  I had to write it in bits and pieces, which is difficult.   And yet I am nervous that she may not like it or find it suitable for what she needs.

Our warm weather comes to an end tonight.  I, for one, am glad.  I am always happy for the change in seasons.  This time of year, I especially love the change because the first hard frost, which we should have this weekend, kills the ragweed.  I have had a particularly hard time during harvest lately because it has been so dry.  You can just see all the dust in the air hanging there from the combines stirring it up.

All right - gotta run David to the school so he can practice bowling with Ben.  Then the rush is on to get to church!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Life in Bullet Points

Other than the sounds of Baby's babblings, it's quiet in my house.  The teenagers are up at FaithFest today, Little Miss is napping, and Sam and his dad went over to the neighbor's to do some work.  I'm trying to get everything checked off my to-do list, as well as write a monologue.  A year or more ago a friend at church approached me about writing a Christmas monologue for her to perform at this year's Christmas Eve service (that we won't even be attending).  I said sure and promptly forgot about it.  She reminded me at the beginning of summer and I kept it in the back of my mind.  She needs it by October, which is in, oh, one week, so I'm trying really, really hard to be creative today!  Actually, I have the story in my mind.  Ten days ago I had nothing and then I prayed for a story.  One has slowly developed since then.  But I write better when I have chunks of time and silence.  Unfortunately, both are in very short supply these days.

I think I may have to account for the last 3 weeks in bullet points.  It's just been crazy, which is why I haven't been blogging - not enough time.  Honestly, it's probably going to be January before I can really slow down again.

So, here's my quick, updating points:

* Life is getting sweeter with Little Miss.  I went out of town overnight and both she and Baby were all over me when I came back.  I asked Sam if he had a hug for me, but he said, "no" and walked away.  Sigh...But I got lots of loving from the girls.  The next week Little Miss was an angel and very, very cuddly.  This week I saw more of the familiar vinegar in her personality, but that may always be there.  It may just be who she is.  That's ok.  Not everyone is all sweetness and light!

* I went to Ladies Retreat a couple of weekends ago.  Our speaker was tremendous.  She is president of an organization that rescues women from human trafficking.  I honestly had no idea of the scope of the problem until listening to her.  Wow, oh, wow.  Her Bible teaching was wonderful too.  I'm still going through all my notes.

* Will played his first post-concussion game last night.  Every time he went down, I was muttering, "Watch the head, watch the head!"  He was fine.  In fact, all night long, I kept hearing the announcer say, "And helping with the tackle, #7 - Will Heywood!"  He said his upper arms are awfully sore today.  I can imagine. 

* David finished up a watercolor painting this week in his Art class that he gave to me.  On the back he wrote, "Thank you for always being their for me."  The grammarian inside of me is totally groaning.  He also added, "You are a great butterfly!" (his picture has a butterfly in it).  I'm really not sure what it means to be a "great butterfly" but I'm going to choose to take that in the vein in which it was offered and assume it means something really good, not, "I think you're a worm with wings."  I may frame his picture.

* Sara and family visited last week for an afternoon and evening.  They were anxious to meet the girls and I had not seen Baby Allison since her birth.  She's 6 months now and a chunk.  She's been crawling for a month and is already pulling herself up to stand.  I have never heard of a baby doing those things that early before.

* We had our visit with our licensing renewal person this week.  I feverishly cleaned and cleaned my house since she told me she'd be doing a walk-through.  She never went past my kitchen table after coming in the back door.  All that work!  Oh, well - it's not like we can't appreciate a clean house, too.  She'll be back again next month and I'm sure I will clean like a madwoman again.  If I don't, I know she'll definitely want to do the walk-through then!

* Will gets his senior pictures taken next Sat.  It was literally the only time we could make work between our schedule and that of the photographer, who is a college student.  It sure had better not be raining...

* Sam's 5th birthday is a month from today.  He is SO excited.  For months now he has been flipping the calendar to October and gazing longingly at day number 22.  This week he complained to me that his birthday was still so far away and he didn't think that was quite fair.

* Work on the basement is continuing to progress.  One wall is completely finished already.

*No word yet from the court.  One night this week I felt strongly as though I should pray about the judge's decision.  I almost woke Paul to suggest he do the same, but convinced myself not to because it was probably just my anxieties at play, more than anything.  But I prayed for quite some time.  I mentioned that to my friend who is waiting for the ok to make the girls' bio brother her forever son and she said that she had had the same feeling Wed. night and had been praying as well.  I found that exciting and would not be a bit surprised to learn that that was the night that the judge pondered our case.

*This week I have: 1) attempting to get the city's annual street report submitted (a very arduous and head-banging type of job) 2) night out with Melissa 3) first mammogram since surgery - not looking forward to this since that boob is still tender from last March's surgery  4) Homecoming parade and auction of senior jerseys (I'm hoping someone else will bid for Will's because I sure don't want to spend more than $20 on his jersey, but yet I don't want him to suffer the embarrassment of not having anyone want his jersey.  He said one senior's jersey went for more than $400 last year.  Yeah - not happening.  Besides, embarrassment is a character strengthener, right?) 5) Friday night's homecoming game 6) senior pics

I also need to put together a 1950s outfit for Ben for one of his Spirit days at school.  I thought about wrapping a cigarette package in a white t-shirt for him, but I'm guessing that in this day and age of zero tolerance for anything, the school might frown on that.  Maybe I can slick his curly hair back into a James Dean do, though, and roll up the cuffs on some jeans.  Wonder what guys wore for shoes back then?  Hopefully, blue Skechers tennies...

Oh, and one nice thing...allergy season is drawing to a close!  It's getting colder and colder these days.  One of these nights we're going to have a hard freeze and good-bye sneezing and waking up in the middle of the night to fumble for a little yellow pill so I can breathe and get back to sleep.  Actually, this year has probably been the best ever allergy-wise for both Ben and me.  That dr. we're seeing is really helping, I think.

I tried to buy the girls slips today since it's going to be chilly tomorrow.  I didn't want them freezing under their dresses.  I just checked at Walmart but they didn't have any.  So I bought them tights instead.  I got home and did some internet browsing.  When I was a kid I wore slips under every dress I owned.  As an adult, I only do it when I'm wearing something sheer or clingy.  But I'm thinking they would be helpful for warmth, too.  But it was hard to find them!  I finally found some on Amazon and ordered them. But it took some searching.  I guess maybe little girls don't wear them anymore like they did when I was little.

Ok, back to being creative.  I have a deadline!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Laboring, Injuring, Shopping, and Losing

It's Labor Day and I am...laboring.  I've got a to-do list a mile long.  Writing on my blog was at the top of my list!

It's fall.  I remember last year thinking if I survived fall, it would be a miracle.  I was so overwhelmed with all our normal fall activities, plus I had a bucket load of things to do in preparation for starting our PS-MAPP classes that Oct.  I'm thinking the same thing about this fall, even though we don't have classes to take.  We are needing to go through the renewal process for our license, though, so there will be a certain amount of work that needs to be done for that.

And in the fall is --football season!  Will has had two games so far and I have really enjoyed them.  He is playing the entire game and he is really good!  It was amazing to me at the first game when he trotted out onto the field and I realized that he's one of the "big" guys now!  All those other years he had teammates that were a good head or more taller than him and suddenly, Will is the one towering over his teammates.  I'm trying not to be sniffly about this being his last season.  Next year he'll be onto bigger and better things, but there's just something about that senior year...

Right now, though, Will is out of commission.  He ended up getting a concussion in the last play of Friday's game.  And we missed it - we are such bad parents!  They were losing pretty bad and were down to the last minute of the game.  There was no hope.  We had 5 kids we needed to get to bed so we went ahead and folded up our chairs and headed back to the van.  Unbeknownst to us, Will had just been tackled, stumbled over to the sidelines, and couldn't talk when he coaches asked him if he needed to sit down.  We got the phone call just as we pulled into our driveway.  I hurried back to the school and Will sat on a chair, glassy-eyed, dazed, and with absolutely no memory of being hit.  A couple of his coaches were there and explained to me the concussion policy (5 days of  being symptom-free, plus a doctor's written release).  The principal came up to me and put his arm on my shoulder - such a nice guy.  He strongly encouraged me to take Will to the ER, so I did.

I took him up to Blank because I am not real confident in Knoxville's ER.  Will just out of it the whole time.  We got into triage and the nurse was checking his vitals.  She took his blood pressure.  I saw her look at the screen, and then look again.  Then she quickly left the room and returned with a wheelchair.  She asked me to unhook Will from his cuff, sat him the chair, burst through the ER doors, and hollered, "I need a room, NOW!"  I didn't know what was going on as I trailed behind.  The next thing I know, a bunch of people are bustling around Will as they lay him down and getting an iv ready.  What had happened was that his blood pressure had plummeted and the nurse thought he was about to faint.  But then once they got him laying down the blood pressure came back up and they didn't have to put the iv in after all.  Whew!

Will definitely got a good concussion.  The dr. told me that this time of year, they refer to Friday nights in the ER as "Football Friday Nights" because of all the injured players they treat.  We didn't get home until almost 2am.  While I had been at the game, I was so tired from my busy day and my allergy pills and had been thinking that I couldn't wait to go to bed!  That plan obviously got delayed.

So, Will spent the weekend popping Tylenol, sleeping, and watching football on the tv.  He's doing better but he says that it still feels like his brain and body are disconnected.  Paul mentioned to his mom last night that Will had gotten a concussion.  The next thing we knew his dad called and demanded that we pull Will from football.  Paul just ignored him, but laughed and told Will, "Your grandpa says you have to quit football!"  Give me a break...

That wasn't our only ER trip this weekend.  Early Sat. evening I was in the kitchen and Ben stumbled in from outdoors, dripping blood from his chin, and asking for a band-aid.  He had fallen and smashed his chin on the swimming pool pump.  I looked at his chin and realized he was going to need more than a band-aid.  So, off to the ER we went.  This time I did go to Knoxville.  I don't know if I should have, but it is closer and Ben wasn't in any danger of dying, so that's what I did.  I wasn't even sure if they would stitch him, but the wound did look kind of deep.  We were there a long time, too, because they were busy.  They're never busy!  But I guess a lot of people were out having fun on Labor Day weekend and got hurt.  As it turned out, they said they couldn't stitch Ben's chin because he had torn off a triangle section of skin in the middle and there was now nothing to stitch to.  If it had not been for that, they said they definitely would have given him a stitch or two.  So, two band-aids later, we were on our way home.  I could have done that at home!  Hopefully, that's the end of our hospital visits for awhile!

Paul started digging out the basement last Wed.  It's actually gone very well.  Poor guy - he struggled around Will's school schedule last week,only having him help in the mornings.  He was really counting on having Will's help over the weekend.  But then Will's noggin got knocked and that was the end of that.  But he's got it all dug out now, a beam stuck through so the house doesn't collapse, and is about to pour footings.  Next week he hopes to be laying blocks.  I'm trying to close my eyes to the mess.  I have no front porch anymore and half my deck has been dismantled.  I HATE remodeling/adding on with a passion.  A big passion.

I bought a new vacuum last week.  Our thousand dollar lifetime guarantee Tri-star died and we found out the lifetime guarantee wasn't all that much of a guarantee anyway.  I never cared for it anyway.  It was a canister vacuum and way too heavy.  So, upon recommendations from my Facebook friends, I bought a Shark Lift-Away.  I love this thing!  The suction is amazing, it only weighs 12 lbs, and it cost under $200!  The best thing, I think is, and I didn't realize this until after I bought it, is that I can use it in place of a broom.  It works just as well on hard surfaces as it does on carpet.

I went jean shopping Sat.  I had to take the girls, but they were amazingly well-behaved.  Shopping for blue jeans is about as much fun as shopping for bras - blech.  I don't like jeans that bunch up at the ankles because they are too long, I don't want to pay $100 for a pair of jeans, I wanted to find something that had interesting pockets to add visual width (I have a very flat butt), and they needed to suck in my tummy, sit near my waist (without giving me a muffin top), and not be skinny jeans!  That's not too much to ask, is it?  I have lost so much weight since spring that my jeans from last year won't fit anymore.  I had a really good Younkers coupon so I went there and I ended up buying there, even though I did check out Kohls and Penneys, too.  I found what I wanted right away, which was amazing.  But they were a little long.  So, after thinking long and hard, I decided to have them tailored (for an additional $40 - ugh).  I guess if I have two pairs of jeans that fit well and are everything I wanted then it will be worth it, considering that's all I wear from Oct. through April.  I just hope I don't lose any more weight, otherwise I may have to get them tailored around the waist, too!

Speaking of weight loss - I had a dream last night that my scale was broken.  I had not actually lost a pound but only thought I had because of the scale.  Awful!  Those of you that know me know my weight has gone up and down since Sam's birth.  It's actually annoying because it requires buying two sizes of clothing because ill-fitting clothing drives me nuts.  I suspect my loss this time comes from stopping my migraine medication and just the stress of this summer.  I am a bit shocked that I have lost 16 lbs, though, because I am not exercising and I am eating all the same junk I normally do.  I don't like how my bones stick out on my chest though - I think I look emaciated.  I do like the loss of weight around my middle and in my face though - nothing like having a double chin to ruin a good picture!  Now if I could just do something about my upper arms...

I'm off to Ladies Retreat this weekend.  It's been 3 years since I last went, so I am really looking forward to this trip.  Actually, I'd probably be happy to go sit in a damp, dark cell if it meant there was nobody calling me, "Mom" or asking for something for two whole days...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Tulips in the Snow

It's the first day of school!  Seems like it's been a bit more of a headache to get ready for it this year, but we made it.  As I snapped this year's photo of my homeschoolers I couldn't help but think, "This is our last school photo with Will!"  And it is.  There he is - starting his senior year...sniff...He's actually in class right now.  He's taking 2 classes this semester at the school.  The way it worked out, he'll be at the school every day from 1:00 until football practice ends.  I took David in Monday to meet his art teacher.  He didn't say much when he did so and later I asked him why he didn't seem too excited when meeting his teacher.  It was then I noticed he was shaking!  In a low voice he said, "Mom, I was so scared!"  I had not thought about it until then, but this will be his first classroom experience since he's been homeschooled from day one.  His class will be on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  The times won't coincide with Will's, so I'm going to have to load up all the Littles, drop him off, come home, and then turn around just a little while later, load up the Littles again and head back to school.  I have a feeling I'm not going to be too crazy about Tuesdays and Thursdays!

I made two trips to the school on Monday, attempting to talk with staff about Ben.  He's in high school now, which complicates things a bit.  It wasn't until I made a third trip on Tuesday that I was finally able to talk with both his new sp. ed teacher and the science teacher.  After running around a bit, I settled Ben's science hour and all was well.  Well, then I got a call today from his teacher and the alternative science class I had set up for him isn't going to work after all because of scheduling.  Grrr - after all that!  But I know Ben is delighted to be back in school.  He was so excited on Monday and Tuesday just to be IN the building.  He was loping through the halls, peering into classroom windows.  I bet he hasn't quit smiling all day today!

I got a call Sat. from one of the mothers of one of Will's football teammates.  She realized that I was not receiving emails from the coach, so she managed to track down my phone number through the middle school secretary.  One of the emails I missed was to let me know parents are responsible this year for providing the new Thursday night team meals.  And I was up for this Thursday night!  ARgh!  It's not going to be too bad, though.  There are actually 4 parents assigned each week.  If the parents wish, the restaurant at the Pleasantville Country Club will provide the meal for them, as long as the parents serve it.  We decided to do that, which means I have to pay an unbudgeted $50, but I know I would have spent that, anyway, had I purchased food for the players.  Oh, and I then contacted the coach and asked to put on the email loop!

Hours have thinned out for Paul, so he's been getting more done around here.  He added onto the boys' swing set.  He made a platform over the sandbox that the slide attaches to.  Last night he added a rope swing.  It's really cute!  He made some shelves for my kitchen walls.  They're designed to look like they are actually part of the cupboards.  We've ordered one more base cabinet, which will extend my counter space by 24".  We figured that to buy genuine granite counter tops, it will cost $1800.  So, I think I'm going to go with something that just looks like granite!  Today he is over at our neighbor's, though, working on the van.  It is making a funny noise - probably a cv joint, he said.  But he's going out of town this Friday and Sat to do a job, so I will be here alone and I'm supposed to drive to Eddyville on Friday night for Will's first game.  I'm reluctant to do that unless I know that the van is not going to blow up on me en route!  I am really anxious to get my Suburban (I have decided that will be our next vehicle - a 9 passenger one, I am hoping).  We're saving the money right now and should have enough by the first of the year to pay cash for a used one, I think.  But there is part of me that just wants to go buy one NOW and make payments!  We'll do that if we get put in a position where we have to (namely, our van bites the big one) but Paul is more reluctant than I am to go into debt even temporarily.  He listens to too much Dave Ramsey.

I took the Littles to the zoo last Monday.  I would not have done that except that some friends were in town and asked if I had time to meet with them there.  I had not been to the Des Moines zoo since I was pregnant, five years ago.  It's still a big rip-off, money-wise.  But Sam was so excited - it was fun to watch him.

 I had a really neat experience Friday.  I got to meet our girls' "other" parents.  They were in a really good home for 18 months up until this spring.  These people dearly love the girls and are going through the same process we are, only with the girls' biological brother.  As a result, we will have reason to be in each other's lives for many years to come.  They just had a baby, so I took them a meal.  The wife and I have had several long phone conversations and we've exchanged some lengthy emails.  They are able to fill in a lot of the gaps that I didn't know yet about the girls' history.  This relationship has been such a tremendous blessing to me and a real confirmation that yes, we are in God's will, and that yes, these are the children He chose for us!  When things are difficult it's easy to doubt God's call.

An acquaintance put a link on her FB page yesterday to a blog about adoption.  The blog is written by Jen Hatmaker, who is, according to the site, an author and speaker, as well as an adoptive mom.  Here's the link if you want to read the whole thing:
The blog is entitled, "The Truth About Adoption: One Year Later."  It's a very, very funny post and you don't even have to be interested in adoption at all to get a kick out of it.  I found myself nodding as I read.  Even though we did not adopt internationally, as the writer did, adoption is adoption and I could definitely relate to what she wrote.  By the end of the post, though, I was fighting tears, because the author was speaking to my doubting, weary heart.  I'm going to copy her last few paragraphs because it is just so good.  I hope that's legal to do on my blog.  I would think as long as I'm giving credit, it's ok.  I even had to read this out loud to Paul last night (at 11:00 at night) and found myself tearing up all over again.  I actually printed out this entire post so I can re-read it as I need it.

You’ve mothered with your hands and words, and God did the heavy lifting, just like He promised. You don’t have to be a miracle worker; that has always been God’s territory. You just have to be the ordinary disciple who says yes.

Is adoption easy? No it is not. Is this simple? Nope. Complicated and long-term. Will bonding be immediate and seamless? Maybe, but probably not. Will you struggle with guilt and fear that first year? Yes, but you shouldn’t. You’ve agreed to partner with God in some difficult, heart-wrenching work, and it’s no kum-by-yah party. Give grace to yourself; God already has.

Anything worth fighting for is worth fighting through, and adoption is one of them. I can hardly think of something closer to God’s character, who is the “Father to the fatherless, defender of widows — this is God, whose dwelling is holy.” Certainly, we are his difficult children who spaz out and pull away and manipulate and struggle. We distrust His good love and sabotage our blessings, imagining our shame disqualifies us or that God couldn’t possibly be faithful to such orphans.

But He is. We are loved with an everlasting love, and it is enough to overwhelm our own fear and shame and humanity. In adoption, God is enough for us all. He can overcome our children’s grief. He can overshadow our own inadequacies. He can sweep up our families in a beautiful story of redemption and hope and healing. If you are afraid of adoption, trying to stiff-arm the call, God is the courage you don’t have. If you are waiting, suffering with longing for your child, God is the determination you need. If you are in the early days of chaos, God is the peace you and your child hunger for. If your family feels lost, He is the stability everyone is looking for. If you are working hard on healing, digging deep with your child, God is every ounce of the hope and restoration and safety and grace.

Isn't that beautiful?  I so needed to hear those words!  I don't think I have ever been through anything quite so gut-wrenching, difficult, painful, and mind-numbing as I have in this adoption journey we set out on last year.  I would probably say that I am decades into this experience if I go back to when God first set the call upon my heart.  But realistically, as a couple, we haven't been at this that long.  And we've had the girls less time than that - 8 weeks.  That's all.  Feels like a lifetime, almost, though.  I'm finding tulips in the snow, though.  You know what I'm talking about - at least if you live around here, you do.  Every few years or so we'll have a spring warm-up in February or March.  The tulip bulbs start to think, "Hey, Spring has come!  I'd better get to sprouting!"  And they poke their heads up through the soil.  After a few days we realize that the tulips have bloomed and it makes us think that maybe winter isn't going to last forever, after all.  And then, a couple of weeks later, the temperatures turn cold again and the weatherman advises, "You'd better bring your plants inside!"  Only you can't bring the tulips in because they're planted in the ground.  It gets cold again and we have an April snow.  It won't last long, but the muddy yard gets covered in a beautiful blanket of white.  You look out and you see these brilliant red and yellow blooms contrasted against the white snow.  It's so unusual, but so pretty.  This summer has been one long winter (as contradictory as that sounds!) But just in the last couple of weeks I'm seeing signs of progress that are as surprising and welcome as tulips in the snow.  It's going to work out - not fast, and certainly not with ease, but in the end, it's going to be ok.