Saturday, November 24, 2012

Holiday Hoopla

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Elections, Raises, and Amazing Children

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Adults and Fires

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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