Saturday, March 31, 2012

Signs of Middle Age

I am feeling exhausted today and I don't know why. I actually went to bed before 10 last night and I slept in today until 8. It reminds me of early pregnancy fatigue, except I know that can't be the case. So maybe I'm officially entering menopause? That's a scary thought.

I did have one nearly sleepless night this week, so perhaps I still haven't recovered from that. I got to do respite care for the sweetest month-old baby boy Wednesday and Thursday. Darling child, but he acted like a newborn in the middle of the night. I spent most of it on the couch, sleeping and trying to coax little K to do the same. But I'd do it again in a heartbeat - newborns are so precious! In fact, I ended up dropping a note to our licensing worker this week letting her know that while we're still open to any young child, I wouldn't mind a bit if she happened to find a newborn baby girl for us! Guess we'll see what God has planned.

I spent most of Tuesday shopping. I had a bunch of coupons I needed to use up before the end of the month. I wasn't able to use them all, though, because I couldn't find stuff I liked. That's another sign of middle age, by the way. I took Sam with me because he needed some new sandals and he wanted to look for some cleats to play football in. We did find the cleats at a consignment store. While we were in Kohls the child was singing, "Staying Alive" the entire time. I didn't even know he knew that song. Well, he doesn't really. All he knows is the "Ah, ah, ah, ah - stayin' alive, stayin' alive" which he sang over and over again. When I tried to join him, he informed me that I was "singing it wrong." How do you sing vowel sounds and 2 words wrong?

I did some bra shopping this week, too. I spent enough at Victoria's Secret that they gave me an umbrella. Um, no thank you! I am not about to twirl around in the rain advertising a slightly trashy underwear store! Besides, it doesn't even collapse and retract. Those are the kinds of umbrellas I like. Is that a sign of middle age, too? I had to carry the whole thing through the mall and then I pawned it off on the teenage neighbor girls who will probably enjoy advertising where they buy their undies.

My class went fine last week. There were not as many attendees as anticipated, so it ended up being a lot less formal than I was worried about. I ended up sitting down and teaching from my chair. After the work I did getting ready for that, I find myself seriously thinking about starting an additional blog. I would want to buy my own domain name and it would not be a miscellaneous, family blog like this one is. It would be more for the purpose of writing - very topical in nature. But before I dive into something like that there is an on-line class I want to take that my friend Patty teaches. One of these days!

Oh, speaking of blogs - my post at Jewels of Encouragement went up this week. I was really surprised by the amount of comments it garnered. Here's the link: I wrote about the amazing Leslie Lemke and his equally, if not more, amazing mother. A friend sent me a link of him actually performing and it is amazing! That's too many "amazings," actually. The video clip is outstanding! Superb! Awe-inspiring!

David had his first softball practice today. When his coach called me last week I immediately recognized the voice, even though it had been 22 years since I had heard it. His coach used to be a seminary student at Faith when I was a lowly freshman. He drove the bus I rode every Sunday and Wednesday up to Campus Baptist in Ames. Small world! When I asked him, he confirmed that was, indeed, him. I saw him today - all gray and a few pounds heavier. But then, I am, too. I'm just better friends with Miss Clairol!

Ok, I have to keep trudging along. This girl - ahem, middle-aged person, has got to wake up or I will get absolutely nothing accomplished today.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Start

I had thought this was going to be nice and slow, easy week. Hah! I have so much to get done in the next couple of days that I'm literally feeling short of breath - in a panicky way - again.

I had a nice birthday - very low key. You know you're middle aged when you get excited by the gift of a digital bathroom scale and a potato peeler... Looking at that picture, I think it 's probably a good idea I got that scale. Boy, do I look chubby! I always kind of assumed I would be thin all my life because my mom is. I should have gotten a clue, I think, when I stopped growing at 5,6" and she's over 5'8". I definitely have my grandma's body - fluffy! Too bad I just can't work up any enthusiasm for bean sprouts and marathons...

We got our first phone call on my birthday from IA KidsNet. It was such an encouragement to me. We are in the system, after all! And they trust us enough to take in children! We're providing respite care this week for two little ones. I think it's a good way to "break in" to doing foster care. Even after just a few days of this, I have quickly come to realize two things: 1) Paul and I are going to have to work like a team to an extent that we have never had to do before in our entire married life and 2) The only way I will be successful at this is to rely on God for His strength and provision in so many areas. I know that may sound a little generic and "Christian-esy" but it's the truth. This is hard! At the same time, though, I have had numerous verses running through my mind all week. I think God is bringing them to mind for strength and encouragement.

I don't have a whole lot else to report at this point, so I'll keep this post short. I'll be back next week, hopefully with a whole list of cute things the boys have said and done!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Boobs, Teeth, and some Cool Kids

My last post...of my 40th year. In two days I'll be 41 and I kind of doubt I'll be inspired to post again before then, so this is it! 41...what a blah number...nothing exciting there, that's for sure!

I saw my surgeon this week for a follow-up visit. Of course, he had to have an intern with him, so I got to show off my goodies to two men, instead of just one! My dr. said called my nodule "pre-cancerous." Isn't that the same thing as "benign"? But it sounds a lot worse. It's like referring to bread as "pre-moldy" or a middle-aged person as "pre-elderly." He also said that the nodule was inflamed, so he was glad he took it out. I wonder if that's why it was so sensitive. I have to go back for another mammogram in 6 months, but other than that, we're done with this thing. Just in the last couple of days, I have turned the corner on my healing, I think. My breast is not quite so colorful anymore and definitely not as sore. I still can't tolerate a regular bra for very long and I'll be glad when I can. These sports bras I've been sporting for the past two weeks really do not do much for my figure! I need my Victoria's Secret!

Oh, and on the health front....this was definitely not part of the plan. Sunday, while chewing gum in church, my crown fell out! This crown is kind of near the front. I call it a fake tooth because that is what it is. The summer I was pg with Sam I was eating a hamburger and all of a sudden, the tooth sheared off. I probably had a filling in there that split it. It wasn't a molar, so there wasn't much left. I remember that we spent over $1000 getting that crown put in. So, I figured I just needed to have the thing glued back in and went to the dentist on Tues. No such luck. There is nothing left to attach the post to. I either have to have a bridge or a surgical implant. We decided to go with the bridge because it's cheaper - $1500 after insurance compared to $3600. The drawback is that it is less of a permanent solution. It may need to be replaced in 10-15 years. But, as I told Paul, I may be dead or raptured in 10-15 years. Or it may last longer. Even if I have to have it done again, I still haven't spent $3600. I'm not crazy about the idea of them having to reshape the two teeth on either side of the gap because they are perfectly good teeth and it seems a shame to mess with them. But, oh well. The nice thing is that I may have my bridge in 2 weeks time. The surgical option would be a 9 month thing - 9 months of not being able to smile too widely.

Of course, the biggest concern is money. We do have our flex spending amount, but we had planned to use that for my surgery. However, if we pay cash up front for this dental procedure they will take 10% off the bill. That's a considerable savings. So I think we're going to pay for the teeth with that and hopefully work out some sort of payment arrangement with the surgeon and doctor's offices. As I told Paul, the worst they can do is sue us. I don't think he found that to be all that comforting.

I had the privilige of meeting one of Ben's classmates on Wed. He is a special needs student, but he functions at a higher level than Ben and attends regular classes with the kids, without an aide. Adjustments are just made for his schoolwork and I know he takes tests orally. Well, I sat down in the wings prior to Wednesday's performance and Jonathan, the classmate, asked me if I was Ben's mom. It turned out that he is quite the chatty young man. I found him utterly delightful! He's obviously not functioning at a normal 8th grade level, but it doesn't matter. He and Ben are only 6 months apart in age. I think it would be neat if they could become friends - if Ben cared about having friends, that is! Jonathan was telling me all about his life and he commented that his dad lives in Florida, but "he didn't want me." My heart about broke when he said that, just so matter-of-factly. I said the first thing that popped into my mind, which was, "That's only because he doesn't know how wonderful you are, Jonathan." You know, it had never occurred to me until then just how fortunate Ben really is to have two loving, invested, and involved parents. I'm not saying that to congratulate myself for being such a wonderful human! It's just something I've always taken for granted - you have a child, of course you stick around around to raise it and you raise it to the very best of your ability, giving sacrificially of all that you have. But not all parents are like that. Jonathan told me about his mother and honestly, she sounds like a real flake. Grandma is raising Jonathan and his younger brother who is also on the autism spectrum, only much more severely. I have no doubt that those with disabilities have harder lives. But how much harder are they when they also have to deal with the reality that their own parents couldn't be bothered to raise them? Makes me so sad!

We've been in shorts and t-shirts all week long - the "warmest March on record" I heard the weatherman saying this morning. I had to hurry up and get the boys' clothes out and sorted when I realized how warm it would be this week. One day, earlier this week, I dressed Sam for the day. I put Tigger overalls on him - very cute, very appropriate for a 4 yr old. Sam looked down over his outfit, then slowly raised his eyes to me and slowly and deliberately declared, "I hate these clothes!" Well, then! Later, he came downstairs dressed in a shiny, slick, basketball outfit of a matching tank top and shorts. I wonder if he is so picky about his clothes because of his older brothers or because of his personality? I remember distinctly that I was laying out Will's clothes every day until he was around 11. Then he decided that he didn't need my help. It's only been in the last year that he has told me he is more than capable of dressing himself on Sundays! I still pick out all Ben's things. David has always been pickier and from an earlier age, but I don't think it was evident at 4. It's sad, though, because Sam has so many cute things and I would love to see him in them! I'm pretty sure that I've moaned about this more than once on my blog, now that I think about it...

Oh, something interesting before I go...I've been reading nothing but Karen Kingsbury for the past few weeks. I read her "R" series of books and now I'm on the next, continuing series, the "F" ones. That's not what she calls them, but each book in each series starts with that particular letter. Anyway, in the R series, one of the characters experiences a uterine rupture. I thought that was so cool! Well, not really, but cool that she was aware enough of things like that to write about it. I think knowledge of ruptures has become more common, but there's still not a wide store of information out there. I know when Ben was little and I mentioned that I had ruptured, people usually gave me quizzical looks. Nurses tended to gasp. Now, I think the public is a little more informed. In the story, the character experiences a spontaneous rupture 3 weeks before her due date and begins to gush blood all over the kitchen floor. Fortunately for her, the baby ends up pressing against the tear which prevents the mother and baby from dying before an emergency hysterectomy happens. I know that 16 years ago when I was pg with Ben the only time I had heard the word, "rupture" was when my ob casually tossed out the possibility when we were discussing the fact that I would like to have a VBAC with this delivery. Of course, she then added, "But that's a one-in-a-million chance!" Yes, well...

Well, I am caught up. This next week promises to be a little easier. I have some projects I need to complete (like figuring out just exactly what it is I'm going to be attempting to teach at the workshop next Sat!) but I have very few places I have to run around to. I'll be home more - and I intend to enjoy it! It's spring break week and it's going to be a true spring (summer?) break!

Parents and Teachers

Paul and Will have left to go with a group from church to work at camp. They'll be back sometime tomorrow night. So it's just me and the younger boys tonight. We're going to eat tv dinners and some other fun stuff I picked up. Then tomorrow I need to run a few errands. We've decided to skip the St. Patty's Day parade this year. I was so thankful the boys were willing to do that. I'm not crazy about downtown Des Moines driving in the middle of the week - weekends might be enough to send me over the edge. Plus, the weather is going to be fantastic and it will be a Saturday. I've been less and less pleased with the crowds in recent years. They're just ruder and crowd clear out to the yellow line during the parade. My friend Gina told me that she heard that they are being prohibited from throwing out candy and beads this year, too. When the boys heard that they suddenly lost interest - to my relief!

Last Thursday I did end up going on a date with Paul. I know I had said in my blog that I was not because of Ben's play practice. But I got to thinking about that and decided that I would go. Ben would be fine at practice by himself and besides my priority has to be to my husband, not my kids. So we went to the city council meeting which was mercifully short and then ate at the Checkerboard. A waitress came up and started chatting with me like we were old friends. It took me a minute but I soon realized she thought I was someone else. This actually happens to me a lot. I think I have a universal face - super average in looks, not too pretty, not too ugly, relatively symmetrical features, nothing striking at all in my appearance. As soon as I leave the room, people forget me. Ever since I reached adulthood, I have had all kinds of people mistake me for others or ask if I had a sister who ________. Nope, no sisters for me!

So, after we got done eating we went over to the school 45 min. before the practice was scheduled to end. Well, I got out of the van and became immediately concerned because there were a couple of kids outside crying. Furthermore, I could not get into the building. I needed to know where Ben was right now! I questioned the kids and they told me that "Mrs. T is being mean!" Apparently, they had elected to leave practice because they were angry and Mrs. T warned them that if they went outside they would not be able to get back into the building. I guess the doors lock automatically, which makes sense. But that I meant I could not get in! I pounded and pounded - nothing. Finally, I began hitting the small glass windows and Mrs. T finally showed up. "What is going on?" I asked her. "Teenage drama!" she replied, rolling her eyes.

Well, the story was that a few of the kids had snuck their cell phones into the wings with them. The rule is that the kids have to put their phones in a box and they can collect them at the end of the evening. It seems very reasonable to me. If the kids are allowed to keep their phones, it's inevitable that they will use them and will not be focusing on studying their lines and being prepared for their cues. So, those kids got in trouble. Somehow, one managed to text her dad before turning in her phone. I guess he came storming into practice and started swearing at and yelling at the director. He then proceeded to call other parents, so by the time I got there, more and more mad parents were in the event center. Somebody called the principal and he showed up. Mrs. T was telling me under her breath that she just didn't see how they were still going to be able to put on the production. The kids weren't ready and now all these parents were getting their hackles up. The practice came to an end and the next thing I knew a mother was just ripping Mrs. T up one side and down the other. She was the mother of the two kids who had been outside the building when I arrived. She was complaining about her children being locked out, "in the cold!" (Never mind that it was in the 50s - hardly any danger of frostbite!) And never mind that her children chose to voluntarily leave because they couldn't accept authority or control their tempers. I was absolutely appalled. I have never before seen a parent talk to a teacher like this. Even if the parent had just reason to be upset, the worst thing they can do is to express that in front of their child. How on earth is their child, or the 40 others standing around, going to have a shred of respect left for that teacher? So that was definitely an eye-opening experience for me.

Then, on Monday night, I was working with the kids again and this dad came into the practice and asked me what the deal was with all the cell phones in a box. I explained to him that this was a school activity and thus, the kids were not allowed to keep their phones. "No, it's an after-school activity!" he shot back. "Well, actually, it is a school activity" I corrected him. He wasn't having any of that, so I just walked away. I guess I could have pointed out to him that his daughter chose to be in the musical and if the cell phone thing was that big of a concern, he might want to consider removing her from the production. But I didn't.

Then, on Tuesday night, 16 hours before the first performance, one of the main characters was threatening to quit because she couldn't get along with her partner in the play. I heard Mrs. T snap, "Well, that's real mature!" During the play on Wed. she actually did walk out. I was about to go after her, debating whether to try to coax her back or to shake her instead. I understand that she's only a 13 or 14 year old child, but I would hope that a person, no matter how young, would have some sense of honor. Grrr! Several of her female cast mates went after instead and managed to persuade her to come back and not ruin the show. I suspect she just wanted some attention, which is why my first inclination would be to slap her silly. It's probably a good thing I never became a teacher!

It's over, it's over - I'm happy!

We ran into a situation a week ago when Will came home from his class and told me that he had been assigned to read a story in his textbook. He had started to do so, but encountered some pretty vile things right off the bat. "I just can't read it, Mom" he said, "I won't." I skimmed through the story and definitely saw his objections. It had immorality in it and some very strong language. So, I debated about what to do. Since this is a college credit class I know the teacher has a little less freedom in what she can teach. But yet, Will is not a college student (age-wise). Should he pursue a writing career, he will encounter some nasty writing. There's really no way around that. But that should not happen until he's more mature and older. So I finally sent an email to the teacher. I was prepared to visit with the principal if she didn't respond favorably, but I was really hoping it would not come to that. A couple of days later she sent me an email and thanked me for my "polite and reasonable" note. She added, "I can see where Will gets his manners." Patting myself on the back here - evidently, not only am I a reasonable and polite adult, but I am a superior mother as well!... After what I witnessed on Thurs. night I wonder if that is more common than I'm aware and perhaps Will's teacher was relieved that I didn't swoop down upon her with my claws drawn.

She was more than willing to give Will something else to read. She said that the first story selection was, indeed, "distasteful." To me, that begs the question: why assign it in the first place? Sunday, Terry, our assistant pastor approached me at church. Paul had told him about the situation, and he wanted to hear about it. He used to be a principal at an area high school. He told me that he always strongly suggested to his teachers to avoid assigning reading that might be the slightest bit offensive. "Why put yourself in that position?" he said to me, referring to teachers, and went on to talk about all the other great pieces of literature that are out there. When there's so much recorded history and stories, why bother assigning trash? Terry said it's so they can feel "cool." I would have to agree. Anyway, Will came home this week with a book full of stories set during the Holocaust to read instead. He's finding it fascinating, as I do. While I have difficulty stomaching a lot of what I have read about that time, it's so important to know this stuff. Will related one of the stories to me and I found myself blinking back tears just from his verbal re-telling of it! So I'm glad that all worked out.

All right, I need to go do some ironing. I think I should be able to wrap up the last of my week in one more blog. And then I'll be good for another week or so!

Proud Mamas

Last night was Ben's musical - oh, he did SO well!
The poor kid had had a rough day with his allergies so he was pretty full of allergy drugs. Then, on the way to the school he informed me that his stomach was hurting. Uh, oh! I didn't have anything to give him for that, either. But he hung in there. He had make-up put on him, which was a first. My friend, Melissa, pointed out to me today that Ben looked just like Mark Twain - must have been the bushy eyebrows and mustache!

I stayed backstage again, which was a good thing. These poor junior highers were scared half to death! At the last minute one came up to me in a panic because her dress' zipper had broken 5 minutes before the play was to begin. I managed to round up some safety pins and got her pinned into her dress. Ben did great, even though he didn't feel the best. I could be a bit biased, but it sounded to me like the audience laughed louder at his lines! Perhaps they appreciated how much of an achievement this was for him.

At intermission I rushed out to Paul and was able to get some red raspberry capsules from him for Ben. I sat backstage and prayed that he would not vomit all over the stage! He didn't - saved that for when he got home, instead. However, he was just fine this morning and went to school.

I was surprised (and secretely gratified) to see my name listed on the program under the "Thanks" column, for my work at the rehearsals and costume help. Of course, I'm not sure how big of an honor that really was because they printed the entire program with the WRONG DATE on it! It said, "April 15, 2012." Guess they had taxes on the brain! But it was a cute little pamphlet. They had pictures of all the kids in costume taken a couple of weeks ago with their names emblazoned across them. And then they had a page where all the kids signed their names. I took plenty of them so I can scrapbook most of the pages.

Paul took the pictures, including a not-very-flattering one of me when I was barreling towards him, needing the red raspberry.

So anyway, I'm really proud of Ben. He was bound and determined to be involved in this musical. And to think that I wanted him stuck backstage doing something inobstrusive. I have GOT to quit being so scared for him! I plan to jot his teacher an email this week thanking her for this. She reminded me the other day of how nervous I had been at the start of this for Ben. Lesson learned!

Ok, on to my next picture: That's Sara, Me, and Baby Allison last Sat. at the hospital. Allison was about 17 hours old in that picture. Allison presumably has a middle name, but I have yet to hear it. For most of the pregnancy, it had been decided that she would be "Allison Catherine." But then her father suddenly happened upon the realization that he could be opening up his daughter to the possibility of the nickname of "Allie Cat" and nixed the chosen middle name. They were still tossing around ideas when I left the hospital last Sat!

We spent the day in Waterloo, which was nice. Will brought along his guitar and the next thing I knew, my dad was getting out his, that he bought in the 60s and the two of them were strumming along together. I mentioned the song, "Dueling Banjos" and then this past week I heard Will picking that out. He had found that sheet music on the internet and is teaching it to himself. I need to have him give me the website so I can send it to my dad. Maybe the next time they are together they can then play that.

I need to end this post on an "up" note, so here's a story from this week: I was walking through the high school hallway on Wednesday (Ben had a matinee performance that afternoon). I passed a doorway that had some clothes thrown over the top, which was a little weird, I thought. Then, I saw the sign on the door. It said something to the effect of, "Don't expect to come in here showing too much skin, or you will be required to cover up!" I was talking to Ben's aide and she brought that up to me. She said the teacher is a Mr. Gordon (he teaches art, I found out - perhaps David will have him at some point if his interest in art continues; I am seriously thinking of enrolling him in art classes in the middle school next year) and he was just fed up with the short shorts and low cut tops of some of his students. According to his aide, immodesty is a real problem at the school, and even though there are rules in place regarding short and skirt length, nobody seems to want to enforce them. As I worked with the middle schoolers the past few weeks I even found myself bothered at times by how much cleavage some of the girls were showing. Actually, it's amazing to me how much cleavage junior highers even had! When I was the same age, even if I had wanted to show things off, I couldn't have. Nothing grew until the 9th grade...sigh...As my dad always said in an attempt to encourage me, "Early to bloom, early to rot!" At nearly 41 years of age, the wilting process has sadly begun...

Ok, that is not an "up" topic to end on. How about this laugh? David watched the play last night and he came to me later and said he enjoyed it, but then pursed his lips and told me that there were two things that he had a real problem with. I had a problem with more than two things, so I was curious as to what bothered him. He had caught the line in one of the songs about "burning our bras" and expressed to me how inappropriate he thought that was. And then, he expressed disapproval over the attire of one of the actresses. She played a biker and getting in character, she wore a low-cut tank, leather jacket, and a ripped, very short mini skirt, and high heeled boots. David shook his head and said, "Mom, that just wasn't appropriate!" "Appropriate" is his new word these days. Actually, it's not really all that funny, and to be honest, I'm appreciative of his sensitivity. But it made me smile, all the same!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Here Comes the Sun

We have had an unexpected, gorgeous week of weather. And next week promises to be just as nice. All week long temps have been in the 70s. I had to hurry and finish up my sorting of the boys' clothes when I realized how warm it would be all week. Then, on Monday, I had to take them to town and buy them all new sandals - the older ones, anyway. Sam had some given to him. My children have such big feet, it's unreal. Will fit into a pair of size 13 crocs, I got Ben a pair of size 11 leather sandals at Penneys, and I found some size 10 ones that met with David's approval at Target. Will outgrew nearly all his shorts from last summer. We picked up a couple of pairs at Plato's closet, but even used, they're $12 a pop! I think I'm going to spread purchasing the rest over the next few paychecks, since we figured he still needs 6 more pairs of regular shorts, plus a pair of gym shorts. It is not cheap clothing boys who wear full grown mens' sizes!

One of the nicest things about this great weather is that Paul has been working every day this week - yay! AC start-ups are going, full-bore. We haven't turned ours on yet, though. Of course, I find myself wondering what future days will bring. If the guys are already doing the AC checks at this unheard-of early date, that means that they will finish up a lot sooner in the early summer than they normally do. Then, does that mean they will be short of work, again? Or, we could go back to normal March temps before the month is out. Or, we could have an unbelievably hot spring and summer which would mean that he would busy all spring and summer long. I have decided that I just can't worry about this. What will happen, will. And God will provide.

He'd better, because I discovered that we went way over last month on our internet usage and had a bill for $200 more than normal! Argh!

The other day when we were shoe shopping, Sam saw some tiny crocs in toddler sizes. He said to me, "Mom, when we adopt a baby, I want to come back here and buy these shoes for her!" That really surprised me because I wasn't aware that he was all that cognizant of what was being planned and hoped for. I'm just waiting...Actually, there is a little girl in Louisiana that I am interested in. She sounds just perfect. But, she's in Louisiana, which is not anywhere close to Iowa. I know it can be a bit of headache to adopt out of state. I think I'm going to keep an eye on her profile and if we don't have a placement by Mother's Day (a year since we fully committed to pursuing this) then I may send an inquiry to her case worker.

I got an early birthday gift last weekend. I went to see Sara in the hospital (more on that later) and she gave me my birthday present. Included was this boxed, sparkly, pink pen. Sara told me that I was to save that pen for the day that we sign our adoption papers. I was so touched by this! In fact, I think it may become the subject of my next Jewels post. Right now, we're on "hold" and I hate that. We went through all the work to get licensed, thinking that once we jumped through all the hoops we'd be given a child. But instead, we're just sitting and waiting, all the while thinking, "Well, maybe we'll get a call today..." It's nice to have tangible expressions of faith like what Sara did for me. Someday, we will use that pen!

I had another blessing last week. It was a tough week, as I blogged about it. I was recovering from the surgery (I still am now, but things are going better - had my first non-drugged sleep last night!) and was so, so tired with all that needed to be done. My friend Jody brought me supper last Thursday. I was so grateful because I knew what a sacrifice it entailed for her. Jody's husband is deployed right now so she is doing the single mom thing to three young children. Not only that, but she's nearing the end of her first trimester of pregnancy, which, as anyone knows, can be a mind-blowing period of sickness and utter exhaustion. At least it was for me. But yet she took the time to cook for our family and to haul all her children into the van and drive over and deliver it while Paul and I were at the city council meeting. And she brought me chocolate, which is full of healing properties, of course! I have been blessed with some incredible friends.

Well, I need to get these boys of mine fed. We have to leave in an hour for the final performance of "Flower Power." I am SO relieved to almost be done with that thing. As the date has gotten closer, it has been filled with drama like you would not believe. I'll try to blog about some of that later. I'll tell you one thing - I am so thankful I do not have a junior high age daughter! Holy cow - that age group just feeds on meanness and drama of all sorts. And as I found out, so do some of their parents!

More later!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Vampire Dreams and Flower Power

I am exhausted - totally and completely. Ugh. If I had spent my day putting up quarts of - well, whatever those uuber moms put up - deep cleaning the house, patching blue jeans, and handwashing laundry, then I could see being this tired. I did spend all morning up at City Hall, but I was primarily just doing paper work, which is hardly labor-intensive. I did vacuum up about fifty million flies and Japanese beetles, though. That took some effort. I didn't sleep as well last night, which is probably why. I've been taking oxycodein since the surgery to get through the nights. It has worked well, but the other morning Ben stood in my room, complaining that he couldn't find any jeans to wear to school. I couldn't even remember what day of the week it was, let alone why Ben thought he needed jeans. As it turned out they were in the drier, still damp. I dried them until 5 minutes before the bus came, but he still went to school with a wet crotch. Oh well - at least it wasn't freezing that day! I'm thinking an uuber mom would not only have jeans ready and dried for her beloved child, but would have had them sitting on a chair next to said child's breakfast plate (do pop tarts and fruit gummies constitute breakfast? Sure hope so!). So, anyway, I thought I might do better to just take a regular pain pill at bed time, which is what I did last night.

I didn't sleep as well, unfortunately. It was harder to get comfortable and I had scary dreams. Paul and I were vampires. In one scene, I was chucking all the bad vampires over a stairwell and growling at werewolves. But the rest of the dream was consumed with an upcoming battle between the good vampires (of which I was one, of course) and the bad vampires and how I really didn't want to fight at all. It was very detailed and eventually, the terror of it woke me up. I may do better to deal with some post-drug confusion than having to battle vampires in the dreamworld.

Speaking of bad dreams...this class I am teaching at a writer's conference is just around the corner, in a couple of weeks. I'm gathering materials for it and one day, soon, I'm going to need to sit down with them and figure out exactly what I'm going to cover in the class and the best way to do it without totally boring everyone. I dreamed last week that the day had come and the conference was being held at our church. And I had forgotten my materials! I had to stand up in front of everyone and just wing it. That was another one I woke up from, so relieved that it had just been a dream!See my new piece? Isn't that beautiful?! A couple of weeks ago I dragged Paul to an area arts and craft show. I would have been content to go alone, but I knew if I found something for over the tv, which was my purpose for going, I would need him to carry it for me. As soon as we walked in the door I saw this and knew I loved it. It had red in it, which I was hoping to find. And tulips are my favorite flower! We looked all around the craft show, though, first, before buying. And then we ran into our former pastor and his wife so we had to chat with them for awhile. It's amazing how little we really had to say. I guess time and separation does that sometimes.

I used the last of my 40th birthday money to buy this and it was so worth it. Even a couple of weeks later, I still find myself wandering into the living room and sighing in delight over that thing. I did have a huge picture collage thing there, which I liked. But I didn't like it in that spot, because, as you can see, the boys pictures are immediately to the right. And then on the wall to the left of the tv is our family picture. It was just too many photographs together and kind of looked like a shrine to my children. I needed to break it up a bit. I moved the collage frame to the stairwell, which was the only large space I had left to hang a big thing. Now, I see it every time I go down the steps, which is fine.

My latest post at Jewels went up a week and a half ago: I hope that link works. I sent it to my mom but she said it didn't open for her. If it doesn't work, you can just scroll down to the Feb. 27th entry - that's me. I got an awful lot of response out of this one. I wrote about Ben and some things he honestly said to me in January of this year. I didn't make them up for writing material, I promise! Somebody even told my pastor about this piece and he emailed me telling me how much he liked it. Then last Sunday he said I really need to submit it to somebody. But I don't know who would be interested. I assume I still have publishing rights to it, but I guess I'd have to double-check on that, if I ever did find a place to send it. I thought it was really nice of him to take the time to read something I write. He told me, "You have a gift!" That's nice. Too bad it's a gift I rarely have time to use! I do seem to get an awful lot of mileage out of writing about Ben, though! I have to get my next Jewels piece submitted by tomorrow. I'm going to write about May Lemke, the mother of the famous Leslie Lemke.

We went to our first Homeschool Day at the Capital last Tuesday, the 28th. It was Paul's idea. This was the 5th one they've had now, I think. It was interesting, although I don't know that I would want to go every year. We met up with one of Paul's co-workers and his family. They are first-year homeschoolers and he had called Paul awhile back to get some pointers on the whole thing, after their boss had suggested to him that we would be a good contact for them. So that was fun. We did a tour of the capital and then afterwards, there was an assembly in the rotunda with the governor and lieutenant governor who pledged their support for homeschooling rights. I sure hope they mean it. After lunch, we went over to the Embassy Suites where they had several speakers. We had to leave before we wanted to, though, in order to get home before Ben did.

Ben's musical is next week. It has been a lot of hard work. I've been helping out as I can. In fact, after tonight's city council meeting I'm going to scoot down to the school and stay until the end of practice (9:30 pm!). I think Paul was a little put out that we were not going to go on our normal post-meeting date, but what am I supposed to do? Ben needs me, too! Besides, I missed practice the other night. I did go Monday night, but I was hurting so bad by the end of the night that I had Will fill in for me the next night.

They had pictures last week and I had fun getting Ben into costume. He is the cutest old man and is doing such a good job with his lines. However, I am having some serious reservations about the plot line. Paul sat in on practice a week ago and came home rather disgusted after seeing it and says he hates the thought of even paying money to see this thing. It's a cute play and has a lot of funny spots. However, and this is a big "however," it is set in the 1960s. The sixties was a time of rebellion, no matter how anyone would like to romanticize it. It was a time of promiscuity and rampant drug use, although that is not part of the play, thankfully. It was also the beginning of the women's lib movement, which is part of the musical. The adults in the play include a dopey sheriff, a self-important city councilwoman, and an uptight school principal. The kids, of course, are ultra-cool. At the end of the play, Grandma tricks Establishment Grandpa by lying and telling him a tornado is imminent and locks him in the tornado shelter so that the teenagers can have their "battle of the bands" on his farm. Obviously, they've got some marital issues! Maybe that will be the subject of next year's musical...

I will be relieved after next week when this is all over. Ben is going to camp this summer so I am also in the midst of helping him fulfill his Camp Coins requirements - Scripture memorization, reading, etc. It's kind of intensive.

Think I'll go fold some more laundry. I started going through the boys' summer clothes this week, figuring out what they will need in the upcoming months. Ben has grown so much in his torso this year that I doubt anything he wore last summer is going to fit. Will is fitting into size 34 shorts - his dad has worn 34 jeans and shorts for as long as I have known him! Too much growing going on! So, maybe I can work on that for a little while before the meeting tonight. I have other things I wanted to get done, but it just isn't going to happen today.

Saturday we are going to Waterloo and I am going to get to hold a brand new baby, Lord willing. Sara is 3 days past her due date (she's 40 and she went early with both her other babies - how did this happen?) but is scheduled to be induced tomorrow morning if her little girl does not get into gear before then. So, assuming all goes well I should be cuddling her little one by Saturday afternoon. Can't wait!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Demons, Hope, Money, and Blessings

I've been thinking a lot about spiritual warfare lately, which is not something I ever give a whole lot of thought to, normally. I'm a pretty down-to-earth, practical type of person. If I can't see it or hear it, I tend not to give a whole lot of thought to it. I tend to discount accounts of "spiritual attacks" when I hear them. It's not that I don't believe that they can happen, but usually the people telling such stories tend to be a little more emotional anyway, which makes me wonder if that is the reason for their belief in these supposed "attacks." While I have a good imagination, my feet still tend to stay firmly planted on the terra firma. It's just who I am. For the last couple of weeks I've been reading a series of books by Karen Kingsbury and a paragraph from the first book leaped out at me. I had intended to copy it here but now I can't find it. The gist of it was that so many terrible things were happening to this certain character and the person making the statement (a pastor) said that he could only conclude that God had something marvelous and amazing planned for this person and Satan was doing all he could to sabotage that.

So, it made me think. We've had one of the roughest falls and winters, ever. Emotionally, I've been all over the place. We've struggled in our marriage like we haven't since the early years (things are fine right now - for now!). Financially, we ended up in a place we didn't expect or like due to the very warm winter we've experienced. Spiritually, God has been revealing some very real flaws in my life and thinking - and they haven't been easy things to fix. We're up in the air about this whole adoption thing (although more on that in just a little bit!). And then there was this unplanned surgery. It's been rough!

But is this spiritual warfare? I read all of Frank Peretti's books and while I don't doubt what he imagined, I find it hard to believe that demons and Satan are all that interested in me - a middle-aged housewife who reads all the time, spends too much money on clothes, and eats way too much chocolate. They don't come much more ordinary or non-threatening than me. But what if it is? What if God has something amazing in mind for our family and Satan is getting nervous, so he has set out to destroy us through discouragement? But what if it's just life? The very human existence is a series of ups and downs. Good things happen, bad things happen. Sometimes those things are a result of choices you have made, sometimes God just allows trials in your life. No matter what the cause, they are all good for growth and to make us more Christ-like. And maybe there is no way to truly know if you're under spiritual attack. It's just some thoughts I've been rolling around in my brain for a couple of weeks now.

Ok, on the adoption: I just called Iowa KidsNet today. I ended up just punching buttons because I didn't know who to ask for. The person who answered is the person who takes care of all of Marion county placements! Although, she told me we can get calls from anywhere. We're not limited to our own county. But is that amazing or what?! We're in the system, but she told me she didn't know us, so she didn't give us a lot of thought. But now that I've called, she wrote our names on a sticky and put it on her computer and said that she will call us just as soon as she gets a little girl who needs a home. She didn't think it would be long at all because they have kids coming in all the time who need homes! We had a nice chat - she has 4 daughters of her own. I explained to her that I had already painted the room pink, so that was why we couldn't have boys and she laughed and said she totally understood. So - maybe soon?! We were surprised last weekend when we got a check for $100 in the mail from KidsNet. It indicated on there that it was for some of our expenses associated with taking the PS-MAPP classes last fall. It could not have come at a better time! But since we were never told that this would come, I called just to make sure it was legitimate. I was told that every year we renew our license we will continue to get a check. That is so great! Although, we're not planning on keeping our foster license active for years and years - just long enough to secure a couple of little girls to adopt. I don't know how long that will take, though.

We had our taxes figured a couple of weeks ago. That was majorly disappointing! For the last couple of years we've received $4-5,000 for a refund. This year we got $300. Paul made a lot of money on the side last year and they said that was why. Not only did we have to pay taxes on it, but it cancelled out our earned income credit. Plus, Will turned 17, which made us ineligible to claim him to the full extent we did before. I'm not sure how that works, since we're still fully supporting him (not to mention also now paying for his car insurance, gas, and repairs!). Our regular tax preparers retired and referred us to this place in Des Moines. We were very under impressed with them, though. They didn't seem to know what they were doing and they spent the entire time badmouthing these people we used to go to. We ended up meeting a CPA a couple of days later who suggested we take our taxes to H & R Block because they offer a free second look. So I think Paul was going to do that, actually today. If all we are owed is $300, that's ok. Obviously, I don't want what we're not entitled to and I really doubt that the govt. is about to give it, anyway! And that may very well be the case. Our income did go up last year, although I think our expenses went up more! But I would just like to know for sure. At any rate, though, it sure was a let-down!

However, we did have a financial blessing just a few days later. Will is looking at going to FBBC for a year. Then, he's thinking of ISU for meteorology. Obviously, he's only 17 and a lot could change between now and then. However, in the last couple of weeks he has asked me to order him some physics and pre-calculus course work. He's been spending almost all his free time doing school work. I had not even planned on having him take physics in high school and I had thought we might do consumer math next year. But he's insistent that he has to take these things. The year at Faith would be just to really solidify some Bible teaching (and maybe for him to meet a wife?). Obviously, not all his credits will transfer should he end up going to a state school after that. And we don't even know if he'll go straight to Faith or sit out a year and earn money first. That will have to be decided later. We found out about something Faith now offers calls "Jump Start." High school students can attend the college for a week in June where they will take an entire course (2 credits) in a week. They go to class and study all day and then do fun things at night. The cost, with books, is somewhere around $400. When I found out about this, I really wanted Will to be able to do this. We can't afford to write a check right now for that, though. So I had had the thought that we could take the money from our tax refund. Well, so much for that! But even with that, I still could not shake the conviction that Will was supposed to attend this class this June.

So, a couple of days after getting our taxes done, we went to Fuddruckers with Will. Faith was having a dinner there for prospective students and their parents. It was great - they had appetizers on the tables and we could order absolutely anything we wanted. Of course, I had to be frugal, though, thinking that while this meal might be "free" it was still being paid for, in a round-about way, with the $20,000 Faith charges a year in tuition! So I just ordered what I always get when we go. But Will - my goodness! He ordered an entire one pound burger with thick sliced bacon piled on top and potato wedges. And he ate the whole thing! As we were eating, the reps announced that they would be doing some give-aways, including two tuitions to Jump Start! I began to pray. Maybe this was why I had such a strong belief that Will was to go to that class this summer, even though we couldn't really make it work financially right now. They drew their first winner. It was a kid sitting at our table. And then - they drew Will's name! I was so excited and flooded with absolute thanksgiving for God's goodness and provision - and His encouragement. Because, it really was an encouragement to me, knowing that God knew our current circumstances and yet, was still watching out for us. Will is going to have an amazing third week of June and I am so very, very grateful.


It has been over two weeks since I last wrote on my blog - is that the longest I have ever gone? And then when I did attempt to work on it today, the computer started acting all funny. I think I've got it working now though.

As you can see in the picture to the left, the kitchen remodeling has begun. Eventually, that added on space out there with the window will also be part of the kitchen. Right now all my top cupboards are sitting on the bench on the other side of the kitchen. It makes things more difficult. I have a feeling things will get even more difficult before this project is finished. A couple of weeks ago we ordered 3 new cupboards and bought the lumber so Paul can build a shelf for the microwave. We could have bought one of those, but figured it was cheaper to make our own. My eventual plan is to have navy counter tops, but we bought an 8 foot piece of tan stuff on clearance. We'll use that along with the stuff we already have until we can afford the new ones. It's going to be a pain in the neck for awhile, but it will be so nice and big when we get done. Being an old farmhouse, the kitchen was already good sized before. But it will be spacious once we get done, which will be nice. I find it very hard to cook and get around in tiny little kitchens. Our first house in Loveland had such a little kitchen. But it was awfully cute. Anyway...

Well, let's see...I had surgery Thursday. That was not pleasant. First, I had to go to the radiology place and get a guide wire inserted. They put you in a chair and push you up to the mammogram machine where they squish the very breath out of you. While all that is going on you are told to hold very, very still while they thread a needle into your breast. Supposedly, they give you a shot of lanocain first, but I really have to wonder about the effectiveness of giving you a shot in order to numb you from the pain of a future needle. At any rate, it's incredibly painful. The nurse kept asking me, "Are you ok? Are you going to faint?" I was just trying to remain still while being tortured, that was all. And then, the dr. decided that he put the wire in the wrong place! So we had to do it all over again. This time the needles was threaded just above my nipple. I probably don't have to mention that that is a very, very sensitive area of the human body...I looked down and there was blood running all down my breast and all over the mammogram machine.

Then, the nurse took two Styrofoam cups - as in, the kind you would serve coffee in - taped them together and then taped them over my breast. I am baffled that in this day of medical advances, they had to use Styrofoam cups to cover my boob. Seriously? Medical technology has not come that far yet? I then had to dress over the cup, which meant I was jutting out the left side by a good 6". I looked like Madonna with Alzheimer's.

I then had a 2 hour gap before my actual surgery. The nurse wheeled me out to the van - thankfully away from the eyes of those who would wonder what terrible disease I must have that caused me to grow a breast 6" taller than the other. The surgery was at a different place. I had intended to run some errands during that time, but instead we sat in the van. I wasn't about to go out in public looking like a freak.

When we did go into the surgery center the receptionist took one look at me and hustled me around the corner, saying sympathetically, "You've already been through the mill today, haven't you?" I nodded and about started crying right then. I didn't like at this place that we had to pay up front. Except for having Sam, I have never had to do that anywhere before. They figure what your insurance will pay and then get their share right up front. So here I'm sitting there with a wire coming out of my breast and I'm digging in my purse for the checkbook. They kind of had me by the short hairs. It just seems tacky to do that.

So they got me all prepped for surgery, including two tries at putting in my IV. The one nurse finally declared, "I give up!" and went and got another nurse. My poor hand... Then, they kept asking me, "Now which breast are we doing?" I kind of wanted to yell sarcastically, "Oh I don't know - maybe the one with the Styrofoam cup taped to it?!!!" But I know they're just doing that for lawsuit purposes. They actually had me walk down to the operating room myself.

All went fine. They said they weren't completely knocking me out, but I have no memory from the time I climbed up on the table until I woke up, trying to yank the tubes out of my nose. After leaving, we went to Fazolis and ate a big lunch (Paul had fasted with me, which was sweet, I thought) and then we went to US Cellular and got me a new phone. The prior week had been tough for our phones. Paul lost his a couple of days after our anniversary. It still has not showed up, so he's been using Will's old one. He was eligible for a new phone and was going to get one, but then, on the Sat. after our anniversary, my phone suddenly began taking pictures at random. It had died. So we had to get me a new phone instead. My contract becomes eligible for renewal this Friday, so Paul will get his new phone then.

And I've spent the last few days recovering. My entire breast is purple, now with some varying shades of yellow and green. It is incredibly painful. I can only wear sports bras and I even have to sleep in them. I'm living on pain pills. The ones I got after the surgery disappeared like Paul's phone, so I've actually been using pain pills from my surgery a year ago. They still work! And I'm so tired all the time - it's terrible!

Yesterday I went shopping all day long. Thankfully, I was by myself, but as the day wore on I got more and more worn out. As I was pulling into Aldi's I called Paul and asked if he'd meet me at the store if he would happen to get off work early enough. I just didn't know how I was going to manage those big, heavy Aldi's bags full of groceries. He said he would but he was still working at that point. I got out of my van and the next thing I knew I was seeing my friend, Tammy and her 11 year old son, Jonathan! They had just finished up their shopping at Aldis. Tammy insisted on going in with me to the store and she and Jonathan ran all over the place, getting what I needed. They unloaded my cart for me, loaded into the bags and then put them in the back of my van and even took the cart back for me. I can't help but see that as totally Providential. It just had not occurred to me that I would need help, but I did. And God provided!

I then went to Walmart to finish my shopping. I was hurting so bad by then that, at one point, I nearly vomited from the pain. I'm so glad I didn't! That would have been totally embarrassing! I kept hoping Paul would show up, but as it turned out, he ended up working until 6pm. That's good, money-wise, but it meant I was on my own. However, I did manage. Fortunately, Walmart bags are smaller and a little easier to handle. I had twenty dollars worth of coupons I used at Walmart yesterday - wow! Normally I have about $9-11 worth of them, but this was amazing!

Well, I think that ends my tale of woe. Every day I'm getting a little bit better. I'm really hoping I can make it to church tonight to teach my Patch kids. I made it Sunday morning because we had to teach Children's Church. But I was feeling it! I figured this would be an easier surgery because it was on something external. I guess it doesn't work that way. About a week before the surgery I watched a 20/20 special on plastic surgery. They had one plastic surgeon on there who put breast implants in his own daughter, which seems really, really icky and slightly unethical/incestuous to me. He also changed his daughter's belly button from an outie to an innie when she was ten. Then they did a segment with Joan Rivers who has had many, many plastic surgeries and they interviewed an 83 year old who had implants put in and some other work done. After what I had done last week - removing one little nodule - I cannot imagine volunteering for that kind of pain, all in the name of beauty. The dr. told Paul that if he had not taken out my tumor (as he called it) I had a 10-20% chance of developing breast cancer at some point there. That's a reasonable reason to have surgery. Increasing my breast size or lifting my face? Not so much! I just have this real aversion to pain and I can't imagine it being worth it - even when I look at side view pictures of myself and sigh because my neck is getting all fleshy and bulgy and I have no clearly defined chin anymore.

I need to go do some laundry and eat some lunch. My next post will not involve words like "purple," "boob," or "wires," I promise!