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.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Better Days Are October

I may be better now, but I'm not going to know until October.  I went to a regular MD last Friday for antibiotics, which I got.  But they made me sick!  So I got new ones on Monday.  Tuesday, my allergies started kicking in.  So I'm going to be stuffy and miserable until October now.  Really?  I hope not.  I really do.  I just want to feel better again.  The drugs I have to take are probably taking years off my lifespan and they make me so tired which makes me irritable.  Sneezing my head off and dealing with a stuffy head and sore throat also makes me irritable, as does not getting enough sleep the night before, thanks to the stuffy head and sore throat.

Paul commented this week that I have been grouchy ever since we got the girls.  He went on to clarify that I have not been real pleasant, actually, for the past 2 - 4 years.  At first I was offended, but figured that getting grouchy about that would only prove his point.  But I'm baffled as to what life event took place that suddenly turned me into a sourpuss.  I really want to change.  I absolutely do not want to be a grouchy wife and mom.  I understand that right now we are going through a real time of testing as we adjust to being the parents of 6.  I am having trouble keeping all the plates spinning, that's for sure!.  I'm thinking, though, that being a grump has become my fall-back attitude.  That is the last thing I want my kids to take from home as they leave - memories of a grouchy mom.  So anyway, I need to do some thinking on this.  I suspect that the answer may not be so much in eliminating stress as it is in learning how to gracefully handle said stress.

We went to Adventureland yesterday.  It was a nice day for it - not too hot, which would have been miserable.  We finally got up there and I got the stroller loaded up with everything we would need.  We got the girls in their seats, Paul took a picture of all of us.  And then it was the classic, "Do you have the tickets?  No, I thought you had the tickets!"  Argh!  We had to unload everything, load the kids back up, and make another 40 min. round trip to fetch the tickets!  So, it was about 1 before we actually got into the park, which was fine with me.  My allergies were not being kind and I knew the day would be a test of endurance, anyway.  Will joined us mid-afternoon, although it was only due to parental coercion.  He had football practice in the AM and would have preferred to stay home and sleep.  Although, I couldn't help but notice today that he also had practice, but yet, when he found out a bunch of his friends were headed to the state fair, he suddenly had plenty of energy to head that way himself this afternoon!

We did do the water park, too.  I knew with 6 kiddos, it would be more of a challenge.  I did meet a white mom with an adopted black daughter over in the splash pad area.  She approached me when she figured out who my kids were with.  We had a nice conversation.  Later, I was able to float down the lazy river with Paul and Baby.  That was probably the best part of the whole day!  A-Land added a wave pool this year and I did want to try that out.  It was kind of fun for a little bit.  But then, I was on a tube with Baby on my lap, Paul was on another tube and a wave, or another tube rider crashed into me and I completely flipped over, upside down.  I banged my head hard on the bottom of the pool and totally scraped up both knees.  All I could think about, though, was baby, because she went down with me.  Fortunately, she had a life jacket on and was just as happy as could be!  I guess it's not a good idea to take little ones into that wave pool.  They allowed them, but it's probably best avoided, I'm thinking.  My sunglasses got lost in the water and I was very concerned because they are $300 prescription glasses!  Fortunately, Paul was able to find them after awhile.  I'm still banged up with a big lump on my head.  The worst part was that I got my hair all wet and when my hair gets all wet and dries naturally, it looks horrible.  I went to both gift stores, looking for some barrettes or a headband but they didn't sell them.  I eventually stole a tiny hairband off B's braids and bought a big one from the gift store (that they did sell) and was able to pull my hair back so it didn't look quite so awful.  A little bit later I went on a roller coaster and jammed my big toe against a covered bolt on the floor.  It broke my nail and began to bleed.  And people wonder why I'm so grouchy... 

Last weekend was our trip out west.  It went fine.  It ended up being the same weekend that Paul's great-niece and nephew moved in with his folks - lots happening!  I was able to spend some time with the niece, who is 8 years old.  She is a really nice child and very mature for her age.  When I did B's hair on Saturday night she asked me to do hers the same way.  When I did my shopping this week I swung into a couple of a consignment stores and was able to find some church dresses for Elli.  She had grown out of what she had and I figured I probably had a better handle on little girls' clothing than Paul's 70 year old mother does!  So I bought the dresses, along with matching hair accessories and mailed them to her this week.

Last Wednesday we inadvertently skipped church.  Our plan was to eat at Chick-fil-A and then drive over to church.  Had we not had to wait in line for 2 hours and 40 minutes, we might have made it.  As it was, we were eating our supper at 8:30 pm!  It was the Chick-fil-A appreciation day called for by Mike Huckabee and we definitely wanted to stand with other Christians and voice our support for not only traditional, Biblical marriage, but for freedom of speech.  It was SO cool to see the lines wrapped around the inside of the mall.  You had the knowledge that you weren't standing in line for supper, but for a much greater cause.  I just loved being part of the whole experience!  A few days later while shopping with Kathy, I stumbled across a Chick-fil-A shirt at Kohls and had to buy it for Ben (because he needed a first-day-of-school shirt).

Probably not coincidentally, the Des Moines Rag - er, Register - ran a story the following Sunday about a man here in central Iowa.  It caught my attention because this man is a foster/adoptive parent.  He has sacrificed so much for his four children and the story made tears come to my eyes.  But yet, the focus of the story was not on the foster care/adoption part of the story.  It was on the fact that this man is gay.  It bothered me after reading it and I couldn't put my finger on why I was so bothered until a little bit later.  It then that I realized that the story had not been about this man's experiences in parenting as much as it was about his lifestyle choice.  If the newspaper truly wanted to write an article about foster care and adoption, there are thousands of Iowa families (well, hundreds, at least) who have touching stories to share about their experiences with foster care and adoption.  But, no, they chose to write about a gay man and then used the circumstances of his parenting as a reason for the article, when that was not the reason at all.  There was a bigger agenda at play.  That's why I was bothered!

I got Ben registered for school today and turned in the other boys' CPI forms for homeschooling.  Now, if I could just get their schoolwork figured out for next year!  I'm starting to panic, since we need to start in two weeks!

Busy week next week, too, which does not bode well for getting schoolwork figured out.  Monday morning, I go to the zoo with some friends who are in town, that afternoon I have an appt. for the girls.  Tues. evening I have to attend some mtg at school with Ben.  That's when he'll be given his laptop and that's when I have to track down the principal again to inform him that I don't want Ben bringing home his laptop - again.  Wednesday is our big court day.  Thursday I go to the dentist so I can be scolded about my flossing habits.  Friday may actually be free at this point.  But I'm not holding my breath.

Pray for me, friends, ok?  I really need extra strength these days.  I'm feeling very sapped, physically, emotionally, and mentally.  Yet, at the same time, I know God does not ask us to do things He will not equip us for.  That's a very precious promise and one that I am hedging everything on these days!