Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Water, Love, Pants, and Computers

I spent all morning up at City Hall - didn't really intend to. I ran into a snag with entering water payments and had to wait for the software company to call me back. And then she couldn't figure out what was going on so I had to wait for yet another phone call. Finally got it figured out! Now I'm waiting to hear back from our water commissioner. For the first time, I've got to order some water shut-offs. I hate doing that, but when people have been warned and then they don't attempt to work out some sort of payment with me - I have to do my job! But for safety's sake, I did program the sheriff's phone number into my phone today!

Yesterday was our 19th wedding anniversary. 19 - such an odd number! Next year we'll be celebrating #20 on the 20th, which will make it extra cool. We're already tossing around some ideas of what to do to celebrate that one. Paul actually had work all day yesterday so I spent the bulk of the day shopping with Ben.

Then, Paul and I headed out to Kohls (I know, the romance just doesn't stop!). He outgrew his tan khakis. I have been telling him for several years now that he is no longer a size 34 waist - he would not listen to me. Finally, around Christmas I informed him that we WOULD be buying him new pants because not only was the waist straining but they were so old that the legs had shrunk and they just didn't look right anymore. Well, I finally got a 30% off Kohls coupon last week. I used it over the weekend to buy a few needed things and it just so happened that I spent enough that they gave me a $10 off coupon for my next purchase - that I could use in conjunction with any coupon. So, we found some pants for him last night. Our final purchase price was $7. Woo-hoo! Now, THAT'S a deal! I had been feeling pretty smug for a few hours about my earlier Unstoppables purchase ("Unstoppables" is a new laundry product made by Downy - we can't use fabric softener because of Ben's skin, but he doesn't react to these little pellets and they make the laundry smell so good) at Walmart, but I think the pants beat that. I had Walmart price-match to Target's advertised price of $5.99 which is a $2 savings over Walmart's normal price. Then, I had a $2 coupon. So I paid only $4 for my container of Unstoppables that would normally cost $7. That's a lot of writing just to brag about buying Paul some really cheap pants!

Afterwards, we went to The Cheesecake Factory. We finally got there for an anniversary! I've been trying to get us out there for a couple of years and it finally worked. We had agreed that we would not be buying gifts for eachother this year. I'm kind of getting to the point of not feeling the need for presents all the time and I just went through Christmas, Paul's birthday, and Valentine's with him - I am all tapped out as far as gift ideas go. The last 3 years we've bought either furniture or appliances, but we don't need (nor could afford) anything like that this year. And, besides, more than likely we will be starting our kitchen remodelling project this year and we'll be spending plenty of money on that. Oh, and we're digging out more of the basement and replacing our bedroom floor (not flooring - the actual floor!). So it's all going to cost money. So, we gave eachother cards. I was so shocked to see that Paul had written this poem for me. It's just beautiful. There are 19 stanzas, all rhyming. Every line begins with "19 years..." and the cadence and rythm are just perfect! I was so touched! AND, the poor guy woke up at 5 yesterday morning in order to type it out. He's kind of a hunt and peck typist, so I know it took him awhile. I'm going to copy it out in a different font and then frame it for our bedroom. What a guy!

Another blessing happened last Wed. night. I walked into church and our pastor handed me envelope. An anonymous donor had stuck a $100 bill in there with a note that said something nice, but I can't remember right now what it was. Every time this happens I am just so shocked!

Sam has been asking his brothers lately what their last names are. He gets upset when they tell him it's the same as his. Apparently he wants to claim that for himself! It's so cute - he goes around announcing to nobody in particular, "I'm SamuelLeoHeywood" - all run together like that.

Last Friday the news reported that a young (29 - "young-ish" maybe) man had gotten locked outside of his 3rd floor apt. in Des Moines. So he crawled up on the roof, hoping to get entrance back into his apartment. Instead, he fell to his death. I didn't think anything of it until I started seeing all these messages on Facebook about it. I didn't make the connection with his name until then. This young man attended the Academy, along with his 5 siblings. In fact, his parents were my CBF leaders during my UNI days. How broken-hearted they must be. Pray for the Nemmers family. It's so shocking and sad.

Ben won an ipad last week. The principal had called me a week earlier to let me know and I had to keep a secret! What happened was that Hy-Vee ran this promotion this year. If customers turned in their receipts then they would be awarded points which they could then direct to any school they wanted. A certain number of schools with the most points across the state would win a smart board. Then, in those schools, they also gave the student who had the most points donated in his name would win the ipad. Well, my parents have been faithfully donating points since last fall in Ben's name. I am baffled that they donated the most because my parents are just feeding two people, so I wouldn't think they would be spending overly much on their groceries at Hy-Vee! But anyway, the boys and I all snuck over to the school last Friday. We got to meet the Hy-Vee reps. They wanted to know, "Now, who are the Daniels?" Later, the principal asked me the same thing. I guess Dad's name showed up on their spreadsheets.

Ben had the funniest look on his face when he walked into the gym and saw us all there. We just smiled! They had this assembly with all the junior high students and then they announced Ben's name as the winner. Oh my goodness - he was SO excited! Ben was jumping up and down. They took pictures of Ben for the school paper and I had my camera clicking away too. Hy-Vee also brought a small cake with a picture of an ipad on it and Ben's name written at the top. We left the cake for Ben's classmates and teachers. My other boys were none-too-impressed with that choice! But it seemed like the right thing to do.

Will got the ipad all set up and found some free games to download onto it. I don't know a whole lot about these things, but I guess I'll learn. Today, Ben's teacher is syncing all the games they have been using on the classroom ipad onto Ben's.

Oh, let's see? What else is new? My knee is healing up. I'm down to just one tiny scab now. It's still pretty black and blue, though. I did end up calling the dr who kind of wanted me to come in for a tetanus shot. I'm just really reluctant to do that, though, because it is a vaccine and I've read some terrible things about the tetanus vaccine, especially. Of course, tetanus probably wouldn't be a picnic in the park, either. So he finally said that I just needed to keep a close eye on the bite and if things changed, to come straight in. So far, so good! Well, some older ladies at church got wind of my dog bite (because Sam offered it up as a prayer request during his class time on Wed) and had to see what was going on. Plus, Pastor announced that night that I was having this nodule removed soon. So, they were in a dither over me, which, admittedly, is nice. Not too many people fuss over me these days! There was a group of 3 of them around me on Wed night and suddenly Janice says, "Girls - we have to pray for Sarah right now!" I was a little embarrassed but touched at the same time. She made all 4 of us hold hands and she prayed out loud, right then and there! She also said, "We can't lose our Sarah!" Then she called me twice as the week went on to see how I was doing. I could listen to her all day! God has definitely given her the gift of encouragement. She tells me how nice my boys are and what a wonderful mother I am. Ahh - keep those strokes coming! I wonder sometimes if that encouragement is actually just coming from God - His way of lifting me up.

Sam was so funny that same night at church. One of the little girls in his class messed her pants. She just turned 2, so I definitely wouldn't expect her to be potty trained yet. But Sam later said dramatically to me, "Mom, she just stunk up the whole church!" Oh, the pride of the already potty-trained!

Well, I've got only a couple of hours to get things done. As soon as Ben gets home from school I need to rush him off for allergy shots. Then I have to drop him off and race over to Indianola to pick up Jenny so we can get to our special needs moms group tonight. I'm not doing too badly right now, but I bet I'll be dragging later. Paul woke me up at 4 this morning. He was feeling all romantic and the drug he is on now causes him to have a harder time staying asleep the closer it gets to 6 am or so. For whatever reason, my body did not want to fall back asleep after he woke me - until, of course, right before I had to get up at 7! Argh!

So, I had better keep moving if I want to make it through my to-do list.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Bitten by a Dog

I have a new experience to write about. For the first time ever in my life, I have been bitten by a dog. I remember getting bit a time or two by my pet hamster as a little girl. I'm pretty sure all my kids bit me a few times, at least, as babies. But until last night, I had never experienced a dog bite. Paul went to fix the furnace of some people in our homeschool group. I tagged along so I could talk to the mom. I walked into the house, which was a study in chaos, between the 8 kids and a furiously barking terrier. All of a sudden, the dog lunged at me and bit my kneecap - twice. That was not pleasant, at all. He even broke the skin. Today it is all swollen and bruised. I even had to take some Aleve for the pain. Good grief! I tried to make light of the whole thing, although I was kind of shocked it happened, because I didn't want the mom to feel bad. I know I would feel just terrible if my dog bit someone. I know, personally, I couldn't keep an animal like that around. Of course, I am not an animal lover at all, so it wouldn't take much to persuade me, ever, to get rid of an animal! She emailed me today to see how the knee is doing and to let me know that she did some research on why the dog bit. It's territorial and I "invaded" his territory by passing through the room. Good to know! I'll try to avoid that in the future. She said her kids want to pay to have the dog trained. I hope it works. Like I told her, this time it was just an adult knee. But what if it had been a child? Scary thought!

On to happier things - we went to the marriage retreat Friday and Saturday. It was SO needed and we really enjoyed it. Friday morning we took off and ended up at Merle Hay mall, where I never go. We're wandering around and I finally told Paul, "You know, there's nothing I need here." He replied, "I think you need a new dress!" So I got a new dress! I happened to find one on a clearance rack at Younkers, plus I had a 20% off coupon, which made it really cheap. It's so pretty - it's black and white with clear plastic sparkles glued on the fabric. I wore it Sunday and my friend Janice said, "You're sparkly again!" The previous Sunday I had worn my red, orange, yellow, and black sparkly jacket. The dress has a high (and sparkly) neckline so I just needed a fabulous bracelet, which I found (also on sale!). I already had the perfect shoes so it was good to go for Sunday. I'm having trouble buying groceries these days, but I have a new dress. I think there's a paradox there, somewhere. Maybe it's that I'll look good while I'm slowly starving to death?

We spent rest of the day poking our heads in antique stores in the metro. Paul found a couple more Tonka trucks for his collection. I was looking for something big to put over the tv. I may have found something at the Brass Armadillo, but I'm not sure. There's going to be a big craft show in Des Moines in a couple of weeks, so I want to check that out first. I did find a little statue I really, really wanted to get for our bedroom. However, it was mildly pornographic and I decided that with children in the home, it was probably best not to have something like that around! We were at one store that seemed to have an abundance of Victorian era furniture - heavy, dark stuff. That's definitely not my style. However, I did find a really, really neat secretary desk. I glanced at the price tag out of curiosity and about had a heart attack when I saw that it was priced at $18,500!

The conference was really great. I didn't know what to expect. It was put on by our church association and I didn't realize it would be so big. We're guessing there were about 300 people there, though, at least. I kind of had it in the back of my mind that we would just be preached at, but it wasn't that way at all. The speaker was fantastic and I actually learned some things. He spoke about selfishness in marriage (for one thing) and I found myself really convicted about that. Lately, it seems like my marriage is one area God has really been working on me about. The two of us have peeled back some pretty icky layers and gotten to the bottom of some stuff - some issues that actually go back pre-marriage. So that's been a bit of an eviscerating experience! And then I heard this speaker! It was good. Paul was scribbling notes like crazy and I want to go back over the handouts. Some of this was actually new stuff to me, which is amazing, after 19 years. I figured I had heard it and learned it all by now!

Before the first session on Friday night we got a phone call from the dad of one of the newlyweds in our church. He had heard that Paul does furnace work and had one down. He owns a number of rental properties. Paul finally told him that he just couldn't come. Then we looked at each other and just moaned. As I've mentioned in previous posts, work has been really slow lately, which means that money has been exceptionally tight. I finally told Paul to call the guy back and we'd just skip the Friday night session. He could go fix the furnace. But Paul said, no, the marriage conference was more important. He did end up calling the guy back on Sat. afternoon just to let him know that if he ever needs work done in the future not to hesitate to think of him. So hopefully, he will!

And then, a few minutes later I got a phone call from a friend in Council Bluffs letting me know that a mutual friend of mine had died. Her name was Mary and she was 83 years old. Oh, I just loved her! She was one of my biggest writing fans and was so intellectually on top of things. She travelled all over and loved to sew Civil War costumes for herself and her dolls. She would dress up in these costumes and lead tours at the General Dodge House in Council Bluffs. You would have never have guessed her to be as old as she was. Her death was a real shock to me.

We got back to the hotel where the conference was. Paul took my hands in his and said, "You know what's happening here, right? The Devil is trying to discourage us because we're doing something good here." And he was right. I'm so thankful, now, that we did stay at the conference. We heard some pretty powerful things at the Friday night session that we would have missed if he had gone back to fix that furnace. Later that evening we were in the hot tub chatting with a couple we had met. They go to Burton Ave. Baptist in Waterloo so we had that common ground. It turned out that they are foster parents! They gave us some good pointers and encouraged us to continue to be patient as we wait for that special phone call. It was all good.

We had such a relaxing and romantic time away. It had been 3 years since we did anything like this. I asked Paul why do we not do something like this every year? There's no reason we couldn't. We just haven't thought of it before. Next year is our 20th anniversary, so I know we'll do something extra special. I'd like to come back to the conference some year, as well. Wouldn't it be something if we could steal away to Hawaii, just the two of us? I'll keep dreaming...

And now we're back to real life. Today is Valentine's Day. I've got gifts for all my men. I think it would be nice if we would watch "Fireproof" as a family tonight, but since 3 of them are getting videos of some sort, I have a feeling that isn't going to happen.

Sam asked me Sunday night, "Does jelly come from jello?" Yep - I'm definitely back to my Real Life now!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Baby Deer, Writing, and Cool Ben

I heard back from my dr. today. She is sending me to a surgeon. She thinks it would be a good idea for me to talk to him/her before deciding what to do. She said that she agrees the nodule probably is not cancer, but I'm going to be stuck having to have mammograms more frequently unless I get it removed. She said too, the mental stress of knowing it's there might be enough reason to get it removed, too. So I guess that's the next step.

Paul's brother has been hunting the last few weeks in what is called an "antler-less" season. Paul has never done that so I'm not all that familiar with it. Anyway, Paul was talking to him last week and he said that last week he got a doe, not knowing she had twin fawns, until they came rushing over to their mother after he killed her! And then when he opened her up he discovered another set of twins in her uterus. He said they were about 6" long each. I would have liked to have seen those, icky as it sounds. Mating season typically takes place in late fall so when the normal hunting season happens in early Dec. any babies are still just embryos. But by this time of year they are well-developed since they will be born in the spring.

I am attending a one-day writer's conference at the end of March up in Boone. A friend's husband is putting it together. Apparently, there is a group of Christian writers that meet regularly up there. He has asked me to speak about blogging and to plan a related activity. I think it sounds like more of an honor than it really is. I'm pondering how to stretch out what I know (about 4 minutes worth of information) into an hour long presentation!

I have another writer friend, Elaine C., who has actually published two fiction Christian books. She lives in the metro area. Anyway, we got to talking last night on FB and I mentioned that, as far as I know, Des Moines has no actual critique group for Christian writers. That has set the wheels in her brain turning and we're praying about the possibility of starting something. Wouldn't that be great? Not that I actually have time for any more commitments, but still...

Ben's musical practice is coming along well. I have been so impressed by the whole thing - his abilities, as well as those of his peers and his teacher's skills. I'm kind of helping out more and more each week at practice since I'm there anyway to keep an eye on Ben. I'm not so sure he needs me there, but I'll do it this year. Last week, one of the junior highers had left her book in the room (we practice on the stage) and needed it for the practice. The vocal instructor didn't have time to go back to the room with the girl, unlock the door, and get it. So I volunteered to do it. The poor little girl was so grateful. We got to the room and she stuck out her hand and introduced herself properly to me. So I told her I was Ben's mom. Her face lit up and she said, "Oh, we all like Ben - he's so smart!" Music to a mother's heart...

Sam just informed me that he needs "cleats" so he can run fast while playing football. He told me I could get them for him for Christmas. Wonder if he realizes how far away Christmas is, yet? As I type, he is sitting at my desk, writing on a piece of paper. "I'm writing down 'cleats', Mom, so you don't forget!"

Maybe I could find him a pair at a consignment store. I have become quite the fan of those stores. There are 3 out in the Valley West area alone. Yesterday I found an Aeropostale sweatshirt for Ben at one of them. However, most of the stores just carry smaller clothing sizes. I wanted to get Ben a few "fashionable" shirts. I have realized, watching his peers practice, that while Ben is dressed just fine for school, he looks a little "off." It's because his classmates are wearing holey jeans and name brand sweatshirts that look like they have been run over a few times. I can't do much about the jeans. Ben's tiny waist makes it very difficult to find bottoms that actually fit him. As fast as he grows, I am reluctant to buy any more than I have to, anyway. But I thought I would see what I could do about getting him some more "in" tops. My thought had been to visit Jordan Creek and hit a couple of the teen stores, hoping I'd find something on clearance. But then I suddenly thought of a place I had heard about called "Plato's Closet." As far as I knew, it was a consignment store for teenage girls, but I thought I would go there and just see what they had. I'm so glad I did! It's for both genders and stocked full of gently worn name-brand clothing. I was able to get Ben 3 shirts there for a fraction of what I would have paid new. Score! I think I'll be taking my teens boys there fairly often.

Well, I need to go heat up some soup. I sure hope I'm feeling better by tomorrow. I can't waste another day!

Flowers in the Mud

So, yes, last week was tough. And this week hasn't been much better yet. However, a couple of really nice things did happen.

A week ago I spent quite a bit of time up at City Hall, running all the End of the Month stuff by myself for the first time. I also inputted all the water usage, made up and mailed the new water bills, and sent out the late payment notices, and prepared the month's bank deposit - all by myself! And I did just fine. I had a little bit of trouble with the deposit, which had me tearing my hair out there for awhile. I eventually set it aside and worked on something else. When I came back to the deposit, I was able to figure it out. So, I was pretty pleased with myself, if drained.

I got home and discovered that our neighbor, Charlotte, had brought supper over, along with a Yankee candle for me. I was so touched! And then Friday I was really busy preparing a meal for a family at a church and knew I still had to cook supper for own family. Charlotte called and asked, "Do you guys eat sloppy joes?" Not only did she bring us sloppy joes, but she had purchased me a t-shirt ("because you look so good in pink, Sarah!") with Proverbs 5:6 written across it. I'm wearing it today, actually. She had also thrown in a box of nutty bars for the family.

I've gotten several phone calls from her about this whole breast thing. She's really concerned. It's nice to have friends.

I went to lunch with another friend early last week. She told me that she and her husband just found out that they are getting $250,000 from a lawsuit that she joined up with, thinking that maybe she'd get a $100 or so out of. Wow! She was given an antidepressant during her first pregnancy and now they have linked that drug to autism in the children born during that time. I honestly am very happy for her, but I have to admit, the green-eyed monster was poking around the corner at the same time. Down, Boy!

I finally got on Faith's website the other night to check out things for Will. Tuition for one year is over $20,000. Holy cow. It was $7000 when I went. It doesn't seem like all that long ago, either. Will knows we can't help him out with his college, although I just feel terrible about that. My parents paid half of mine and fronted the other half until I could pay them back. I suggested to Will that perhaps one option might be to work for a year before starting school. He was open to that. In fact, right now he is looking for a regular job. I wish we could do it all for him.

Sam made a butterfly craft last week in Children's Church. I asked him about it and he proceeded to tell me the entire life cycle of a butterfly, from "larvae" to "chrysalis" which are words that I didn't even know that he knew. Then he said, "I learned that all from Kratt Brothers." That's a PBS nature show he enjoys. So then I asked him, "Well, what did you learn in Children's Church about butterflies?" "Oh, I don't know" was Sam's dismissive answer. How nice to know that he listening!?!

This Sunday after church his class is having a Valentine's party. This will be Sam's first party and his first time to ever be left alone anywhere. I think he'll be fine.

We had a night out last Sat. Some of the moms in my Special Needs group got together with our husbands at the Olive Garden. There were 4 of us couples. I really enjoyed it. Paul was actually sociable and talked, which was a plus. One of the dads friended me on FB the next day, which I thought was really nice, too. There's just this instant camaraderie when you're with others who have been where you are. And we're all Christians on top of it, which makes it even better.

All right - one more post and then I should be caught up!

Tough Times

I am typing today with a very drugged up brain, so don't count any misspellings, fragmented sentences or points that lead to nowhere against me! I have come down with a horrible head cold. I have not been sick like this in a couple of years, since before I started taking massive doses of Vit. D. I don't know what happened, but that Vit. D didn't stop this barrage of particular cold germs. My head is so stuffy, my body aches, I'm feverish, my nose won't quit running - argh! So miserable! I just hope I'm better by Friday when we go to the marriage retreat.

Well, as you can see in the above picture, we did finally get some snow. It wasn't the snow I finished up my last blog writing about. That snow turned out to e very short lived. But finally, last Sat, an entire week later, we got a good snow. Unfortunately, a lot of it is already gone. It was really wet and heavy - just made a mess. But there was enough for Paul and the boys to make this giant snowman. That's our neighbor boy in the picture, as well. Ben didn't participate in this. He saw the wisdom in remaining indoors and playing video games!

Last week was one of the hardest weeks I've had in a long time - mostly just emotionally. Maybe that's how I ended up getting sick! I do know there is a powerful mind-body connection. Paul is hardly working at all these days, which is extremely stressful. This is the mildest winter we've had in a long, long time - well, since Paul started working a job that is weather-dependent. He's been discouraged, and as keeper of the books - I've been downright panicky. If nothing else, we've decided that we just have to be setting more money aside throughout rest of the year to be carrying us through these times. Paul has been calling people he knows to see if they have any work he can do. I'm proud of him. I know that's not easy. This afternoon he is actually meeting up with a guy he used to do side work for about 5 years. The guy, who has his own handyman service, had used Paul a time or two back in 05 and 06. And then I don't know what happened - he just didn't have work for him, I guess. Well, today Paul was going through the Craig's List wanted ads and this guy was advertising for someone. So he called him and the guy was pleased to hear from him (we think). Paul's meeting up with him this afternoon to fill out some paperwork. So, hopefully, that will lead to something. And then he saw another CL ad looking for someone to put in about 5 hours a week at an apartment complex in W. Des Moines, so who knows - maybe that will pan out.

I've come to realize over the past few days, though, that I have a really, really hard time trusting Paul or God. And that baffles me, because neither one has ever done anything to really let me down. So where does the mistrust come from? Does it mean that I am trusting in my own resources and relying on myself? That, having to depend on others is an anathema to me? Ugh. I suspect God is trying to teach me something here and the learning part may end up being a bit painful. I'm also coming to the uncomfortable realization that I have a real problem with pride. I just wish I were already perfect! And that everybody around me was, too!

I had a routine mammogram - my first - last Wed. The next day they called me back, telling me they had found something "suspicious" and wanted me to come in immediately for another one. I went in Friday morning for an ultrasound of my left breast. The dr. came in and told me that I have a nodule behind my nipple. He said he doesn't think it is cancerous. He went on to say that I can do whatever I want with it - have it reexamined in 3 months, have a biopsy done, or have the whole thing removed. So that has my mind in a bit of upset, too. I have only one relative who ever died of cancer, so I doubt breast cancer is in my future. But you never know. Plenty of women get it without the family history, too.

Then, Sunday morning, my gynecologist called while I was in Sunday School. I missed her call. She left a message saying, "We need to talk." Well, that was a little unnerving, to have her call on a Sunday and to leave that kind of message. She still has not called me back and now it's Tuesday afternoon. I must not be on the verge of having cancer cells exploding all over my body, otherwise she would have called again. The idea of having another surgery really doesn't thrill me.

But, still...I have lost two friends to breast cancer in the past 3 years. Sunday we had a missionary speaker for both services. He and his wife are younger than we are by a couple of years. And the wife has just been diagnosed with breast cancer. The wife of another missionary affiliated with our church had a double mastectomy last summer and is going through chemo right now. Do I really want to leave something inside my body that might potentially lead to cancer down the road? Not really. I want to hear what Dr. Morgan says. So, hopefully, she'll call me back today!

So, I've had a lot going on mentally, as you can see. I'll get to the rest of my chattering in future posts. Right now I need to get the boys working on their valentines.

But here's a thought...if I HAD to have a mastectomy at some point, I bet I'd get better boobs. They wouldn't be the saggy, sorry-looking orbs I'm carting around right now. And even if I just have this nodule removed, what do you suppose my chances are of convincing my dr. to do a little nipping and tucking while she's at it?

Yeah, that's kind of what I figured, too...