Tuesday, January 20, 2015
January 20, 2015
I dreamed about Paul this morning. It wasn't a sweet, "I just came back from the dead to tell you I love you one last time" kind of thing. It was just weird. He had only been gone 3 weeks in the dream and then he was back. But he was changed and he told me, "I can't tell you why I was gone." Ok. There were a lot of other things happening in the house - chaotic stuff and we were trying to get ready to for Wed. night church. And then in my dream it suddenly dawned on me that if Paul wasn't dead anymore, the insurance companies were probably going to want back that life insurance money they had paid out (not that anybody collects in only 3 weeks) and I was so divided in my dream. I was thrilled to have Paul back but not too happy to have that financial security taken away. I was so upset by this that I woke myself up - 15 min. before my alarm was set to go off. It was just a dream, but what does that say about me, about who I am at the core, that I would even be concerned about money in the face of getting my husband back? A little unsettling...
Today's post is going to be a little repetitious for some. I've got some things I've already shared with others and on Facebook over the weekend. But I want them here, too, so I don't forget them and so that my friends who aren't on FB but do read my blog can hear them too. I've also got something that is filling me with great joy and wonder to expound upon a bit too. But that doesn't come until the end. So, anyway, Bear with me, Readers, and skip what you what you've already heard.
An article I read last week in the Huffington Post entitled, 10 Signs You are Living with a Threenager. Read it here I love it! Specifically, a girl threenager, I think. I had four boys who were all three at one time and I do not remember that being a difficult time at all with them. When I clicked on the article to read it, Facebook immediately sent me several more suggestions of related articles for my reading pleasure. One was entitled, "Three Year Olds are _________s" (nasty swear word omitted by yours truly). The articles cheered me. Apparently, I'm not the only adult to feel utterly defeated by someone who's only been alive for three short years.
Speaking of three year olds: I was in Walmart one day last week looking at collapsible tables. I am hosting my scrapbooking group for the first time ever, this Friday. I have always wanted to be able to do this but I've never had the right amount of space available to fit a bunch of ladies and all their scrapbooking gear. Except for the outside, my house is done now and I finally have that desired space. So, Friday night my kids will be banished to the basement and the upstairs will be mine. So, I wanted to get another table in case my dining room table isn't big enough. I figure it will come in handy at future graduation parties, too.
So, I'm looking at tables and Ellie starts excitedly exclaiming, "Santa! Santa!" What? I look up and over a ways is an older gentleman, a Walmart employee, with a full head and beard of snowy white. I tell her to hush, which she, of course, doesn't. I mean, I'm not anti-Santa, but I've never perpetuated the story with the kids, either. They know who's spending her time, money, and Discover cash-back points to fill their stockings! I turn around to hoist the 6 foot, folded-in-half table into my shopping card, and when I look up, "Santa" has come over to our cart and is tickling Ellie. ("That's creepy, Mom" said David when I told him. But it wasn't - he was just having fun and it was very innocent and sweet and made Ellie's day). But I was still a bit embarrassed and managed to hurry up and told the kids to tell the nice man good-bye.
"Good-bye, Santa!" they all chorused.
Time to find a new Walmart...
Saturday I was putzing around all day. Actually, what I was doing was laundry - washing every single blanket Ben and David own. Ben had told me Friday night his stomach hurt. I slapped on a bit of peppermint oil and told him he'd be fine. Two hours later he vomited all over his bed. I've never been very good with puke. I don't have a ton of memories of having to deal with it. I seem to recall a few hazy nights where I had the kids strip naked and then laid them on bath towels on the couch with the firm instructions, "Do NOT throw up on my furniture!" and went back to bed, saving the clean-up of their rooms for the light of morning. It's probably why I'll never open my door to Oprah, filming a tear-jerking segment for one of her network shows, as she honors me for my years of self-sacrifice and martyrdom, raising all these kids. And then hopefully, hands over the keys to a new house or car. But, like I said, moms who don't clean up pukey beds and give sick kids hot showers at 3 am probably don't get those kind of honors later on.
I think Paul usually dealt with this kind of stuff, anyway. I do remember him giving a few kids baths in the middle of the night. It's another reason I'm mad at him for dying.
So, anyway, Ben throws up. So I haul all his soiled blankets to the laundry room. David was spending the night at a friend's, so I grabbed his blankets and gave them to Ben to use. Which was fine. Until Ben threw up all over them. Right beside his bed I have this cubicle bookshelf with canvas drawers in some of the cubes. They hold various small toys and belongings of Ben and Sam. Well, he aims his projectile vomiting into one of the cubes and now I have an entire wooden train set that is covered in vomit. I threw away the canvas cube and dumped the train on the laundry room floor. I'm still working up the courage to clean the pieces.
So that's what I was doing Saturday. Ben, by the way, was just fine. Apparently his stomach didn't like the summer sausage he had eaten. I didn't know he'd had summer sausage until I had to clean it all up. I was fearful that he had the flu, but he was fine and the rest of us are all extremely healthy, too. I mean, seriously, we are FINE. We have not had as much as a case of the sniffles in months and months here. I just know we're all going to get sick one of these days and the suspense of when it's going to happen is killing me.
So I'm going about my Saturday and I'm in the basement, moving some things around. And then I see it - the very last anniversary card Paul ever gave to me, nearly two years ago. Oh, that hurt. Just when I think I'm doing ok, something like this happens and I am reminded that I am NOT ok and probably never will be.
But I do like what a friend of mine told me on Facebook. She said, "You're doing ok-enough - and that's fine." I like that - okay-enough.
I'm not kidding, it was about two minutes later that Sam comes to me. He's a pretty serious kid, normally, anyway. But, oh, he was deadly serious Saturday. He approached me where I sat at my downstairs desk, still shaking from my encounter with the anniversary card. He said, "Mom, what if someday I have two girls? And what if my wife dies?" He paused, and I could see his lip was actually quivering and he was literally fighting tears. He cried, "HOW will I do their hair for church on Sundays?" I was so torn in that moment. Part of me wanted to laugh out loud. He was just so serious and I sat there thinking if he loses his wife someday, hair is probably going to be one of the last things he needs to worry about! But at the same time, I wanted to weep. As morbid of a little kid as I was, I never worried about stuff like this. But death changes everything. And each of my kids will enter marriage someday with the knowledge that it might not last forever because they've already seen it happen. We talked and I pointed out to him the different things I've learned to do since Paul has died - things like changing the furnace filter, learning how to add fluids to my van, operating a table saw, etc. I assured him that should the worst happen and he finds himself the single father of little girls, he would learn how to do their hair.
Death changes everything.
In South Dakota last spring I picked up a few educational books for the kids on the area culture, mostly having to do with the Indians and early settlers. My great plan was that every day we'd have Social Studies and I had a list of about 20 books we'd get through this year. Well, today we finished the first book! The best laid plans and all that... But, this first book had to do with the history of the Sioux Indians. But first, a little digression...
I have long thought that "Sioux" would be a great name for boy. It sounds so warrior-like and strong. But then, I had to remember - it still sounds like "Sue." You might have a child and name him "John Sioux Smith" but the day he graduates all his friends will hear, "John Sue Smith." Anyway, that's a bonus for my readers. I also think, "Pharoah" would be a cool name for a guy. And maybe some other mother has already thought of that. But anyone who knows their Biblical history probably wouldn't opt to use that name for their son. It's kind of like naming him, "Judas" or "Herod." Nobody wants to be named after a bad guy.
And more digression...after discussing all kinds of things about the early Sioux, the book wrapped up with where the Sioux Indians are today. Well, today, they're not even Indians, but "Native Americans." And the bad United States government put them on reservations when they stole their land. But those plucky Sioux managed to form their own governments, build their own hospitals and schools, and create communities. All by themselves of course, with their own money. But they're not as nice as what the white people have (I'm paraphrasing). So, those ingenious Indians made casinos and the casinos are helping them a lot. Seriously, this was in a children's book. So, Lizzie and Sam had a non-politically correct sidebar as part of their Social Studies class today!
Anyway, back to the early Sioux Indians. When it came to death they had a custom of never again speaking out loud the name of the deceased. It was considered impolite. I read that to the kids and my heart sank. I cannot imagine not being able to talk about Paul. Some days that's all I want to do. One of the greatest gifts I was given after his death was the night that my Mom's Group ladies convened at my house and peppered me with questions all about Paul. I knew they didn't care about him half as much as I did. Most never even met him. But they cared about me and I cared about Paul and so, they let me talk. It was healing.
I'm so glad I'm not a Sioux Indian.
But I am part Choctaw. And so after we finished our book today I told the kids about their great, great, great Grandmother Emma, a full-blooded Choctaw Indian. They thought that was pretty cool.
And, speaking of my Mom's Group, we met last night. We had the neatest activity. We made marked New Testaments. I've never seen one of these before, although Jenny was telling me our church made some a few years ago after viewing some Ray Comfort videos. I remember the videos but I sure don't remember marking up a New Testament. Anyway, the idea is that you can quickly walk someone who may have never held a Bible in their life through the plan of salvation. Using a series of questions, you start them with John 3:1-8. You underline the verses, write, "What is 'born again'?" at the top of the page, and then at the bottom of the page you say, "Go to page _____" Well, that next page will be Romans 3:23-24. Eventually, the reader will go to about 15 Scripture verses/passages and at the end their questions should have been addressed and there should be no reason they don't understand how to be saved. It takes a lot of "pressure" off the one sharing and it makes things very clear and easy for the one reading.
I want to go to the Christian book store and pick up two more New Testaments. I need ones with larger print than what I had last night because my eyes are most uncooperative anymore where micro-sized print is used! I want to have two ready, one for myself, and one in preparation that, should I be able to use it with someone, I can then give it to them. I'd kind of like to go through it with the Littles, too. Lizzie's saved and Sam may be, as well, but I still think there's some value to just presenting it over and over. Even as I underlined and read last night I found myself, once again, really overcome with the message of the gospel. It's so clear and it just proclaims, "You are LOVED!" so loudly. How can anyone not respond to that?
Ben was talking about his graduation party a few days ago. We're a good 16 months away from said party, but it's on his mind and I've given more than one thought to it myself by now. But then Ben told me seriously that he actually doesn't want the party day to arrive. I figured it was because that will signify the end of high school and I know that's a concern to him. But he said, no, that wasn't it. He said, "Well, Dad died a few days after Will's party and I'm afraid that you're going to die after mine!" Then he added, "How healthy are you?"
Didn't I just say that death changes everything?
Last week I dropped David off at Learning RX for his final assessment and then we had a meeting yesterday morning to discuss those results. I figured this is where I would get the hard sell to try to get me to re-enroll David so that he could improve his scores even more. I came prepared to be very firm in my refusal.
They brought out their graphs and showed me the results. He has definitely improved. He made a tremendous jump in logic and reasoning. His long-term memory ranks at the same level as a typical 19 year old - very, very good. Other areas he's still a little weak on. Visual processing is his lowest area, along with short term memory, but even those were improved from a year ago when he first started. So, I'm pleased. I think the investment was worth it.
They wanted honest assessments from me on how the program went, wanted to know if they could use me as a referral, and gave me a list of board games I might want to consider buying/playing with David that would target some of these specific areas in which he's a little weak. I think I'll do that and incorporate it into our school day (another parental sacrifice - I'm not a huge fan of games). And that was it! No pressure to re-enroll, not even a suggestion that that might be an option! Huh!
Then they wanted to take a family picture. Well, about one minute before they said that both Sam and Lizzie announced that their bladders and evidently, colons, were in dire danger of explosion, and raced off to the bathrooms. So we waited and waited and waited. In the meantime, David's trainer, who was supposed to be in the picture, had another student waiting on her. I finally went back to the bathrooms and hustled Lizzie out, not even letting her wash her hands. Really, what are a few germs when she's holding up everyone? But Sam was the real one holding up the show. I kept poking my head in the men's room, encouraging him to move things along. Each time I would get an explicit description of just what it was he was engaged in at the moment. Yuck. He finally came out and I got the two of us up to the front, only to hear Lizzie announce loudly to everyone, "My mom didn't let me wash my hands!" I am never going to be able to show my face in that place again. When they think of me, they will only remember what a dirty mom I was.
In the dirty, bad mom category, as well: this morning I stumbled to the basement after only about six hours of sleep - not enough for me. Normally, I lay out Ben's clothes the night before but since I got home so late last night I figured I would grab them this morning. But I soon discovered he had no clean jeans. So, I pulled him a non-food-stained pair out of the dirty laundry. I hope he didn't have flies buzzing around his rear end all day at school.
Sam is really,really good at math. He is flying through his first grade book and adding numbers for fun. I can remember being in the second grade and our teacher had promised us a special treat if we could write our numbers up to 200. I wanted to do that so badly, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't. I didn't understand. That was about the time I checked out of math, mentally. That teacher made me feel so stupid that I never wanted to have anything to do with math, ever again, and spent the rest of the year gazing out the window during class. So I am very impressed with Sam's abilities. Will is even teaching him how to multiply now and Sam gets so excited when he figures out that 2 X4 is the exact same thing as two fours. He even pointed out to me this week that any time you add two of the same numbers together you will always get an even answered result. I had no idea. Nor do I care. But I'm impressed that he cares! Paul was good at math.
Ben made me smile Monday. We were in the van and the one of the Littles said something about our friend, Marissa. She is one of Ben's Special Olympics teammates and the daughter of my friend, Maureen. One of the kids was wondering how old she is and Ben replied that she is 20, Will's age. Lizzie exclaimed, "She's TWENTY? But she's so short! Ben replied, "Well, that's because she has Downs Syndrome." Then he added quietly, "That's the way God made her."
I took apart the girls' bunk beds yesterday. What a job. This is how I get up to my neck in most things. I don't stop to think things through. This was fine and I'm glad I did it but I just hadn't envisioned the mess of mattresses, blankets, and bed parts all over the room that ensued. Thankfully, David knows his way around a drill and was a big help in disassembling the railing and ladder.
This was my motivation and I do have one because, really, when you have a lot of kids or even just a few, bunk beds are really an amazing, space-saving invention. And more so than boys, girls have stuff. Stuff all over their bedrooms - clothes, shoes, dolls, one thousand stuffed animals, puzzles, purses, coloring books, Barbies, Barbie's wardrobe, reading books, and so on. It just multiplies and any time you try to throw something away it's tears and pleading, "That is my most favorite possession, EVER!" That's not just a girl thing. I've heard that from the boys, too, every time I tried to clean their rooms. That's how I soon discovered the magical power of black garbage bags.
But anyway, because of all these girly things, bunk beds are a wonderful space saver in order to make room for more girly things. But I've been praying lately about Lizzie and I. We have made so much progress but there's more to be made. Lizzie is a very stubborn, non-trusting, and non-compliant child. I'm slightly stubborn at times, too, and so we butt heads on occasion (every day, maybe every hour). But I know developing the relationship between us is of vital importance. Because of her past, we're behind on that journey. But I don't want her growing up thinking her mother was more interested in getting her to behave just right than in simply loving her just the way she is.
And the answer came to me: take down the bunk beds. With the bunk bed it's a quick kiss goodnight while I stand on my tippy toes and I'm out the door. I'm not a big fan of bedtime anyway. I don't like reading books to my kids. I don't like praying together. I don't like drawn out conversations. I want them down, I want them sleeping, and I want them quiet. I'm tired! But then I remember it's not supposed to be all about me. I remind my kids of that many times a day, Is it all about you? and it's not about me either. It's about eachother, but most of all, it's about God. So the beds came down. The girls were delighted and quickly decided between themselves who should sleep by the window and who is over in the corner. Ellie picked the window, which concerns me a bit. I may want to look into some sort of extra locking device for those windows. I can very easily imagine her climbing out onto the roof some summer evening when she's supposed to be asleep.
But here's what I'm thinking. I can sit on the girls' beds. I can more easily read them stories while sitting on their beds. We can have great conversations. That is one of my biggest memories from childhood is having my parents sit on my bed and talk to me at night. In my narcissistic little world view, I just assumed that they couldn't get enough of me and were reluctant to have me go to sleep because of that. And if I don't fall asleep first, maybe the girls and I can have some of those great conversations that I remember. And maybe a relationship will strengthen because of those talks.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how I had this nagging sense of "missing" something in my life and I finally decided that what it was that was missing was joy and that I would do my best, navigating through the still rough waters of grief, to find my way back to Joy.
I was wrong.
I decided that joy needed to be a destination, although my brother pointed out to me that joy is generally something you experience along the journey of life, rather than a place at which you arrive. Whatever. Nobody was going to deter me from my course. I was joy-bound. It exists. I know that because I've had it before. I just needed to plot my course back to where it could be found. The only problem was I wasn't quite sure how to do that. It's one thing to not know where something is. It's another to not know how to start the boat. So I figured the next time Marcia and I get together I'd quiz her. She loves to answer my questions (I'm being sarcastic. I'm sure her life would be a lot easier if I'd just shut up and watch the Bible study video with her. In all reality, I don't think she minds my questions a single bit, though). Other than that, I wasn't quite sure how to go about this.
In my Sunday School class we are going through a book by Jim Berg called, Changed into His Image. He's actually the author of the Bible study Marcia and I have been doing for the last year and a half. We started this book in class a month or so ago. Everyone else either had the book already or ordered it. I had no desire to, though. I feel like I have so much "input" coming in all the time that I really had no desire to have to read one more thing. I figured I'd just spend my Sunday School hour listening to other people who read the book. But, after a couple weeks of this I found that I was kind of curious about what was being discussed so I ordered myself a copy of the book off half.com for $4 (good price - I would have had to pay $15 if I'd bought it when everyone else did). It arrived and I've been trying to read the chapters before class. Some weeks I'm more successful than others. They're long chapters! Especially when you're reading them at 11 pm on Saturday night.
I was reading Chapter 5 on yes, Saturday night (but a little earlier than 11pm!). The chapter was about seeking God. There was so much meat in this particular chapter. I have slowly begun to realize, in recent months, that I don't have a clear understanding of grace. I don't know if Paul did, either. Since childhood I could quote the acronym "God's Riches At Christ's Expense." I know what it is. It's become such a buzzword in Christian circles in recent years, along with talk of God's love and so on. And that's not bad, but I've long been suspicious that a lot of modern church teaching centers on the love and grace end of things and not a whole lot of the responsibility/judgement end. But equally bad, is being too centered on other end. And I think that's where I've been dwelling. I have not been a grace-filled parent. I've emphasized a whole lot on duty and obedience and had a quick hammer to nail any child that didn't immediately toe the line.
I have spent my entire life trying to be "good enough" for God. Yes, I understand that salvation is a non-earned, free gift, but I have hoped that my sacrifice, attention to detail, piety, service, modesty, church attendance, and well-behaved children would be enough to please Him so that He would find me worthy. It has been a gradual realization, just in the last few months, that I can't earn grace. It's already been given. Anything I do for God needs to come from an overflow of thankfulness to Him for that gift. Yes, Christian service is needed. It's important to train our children right and to be in church regularly and to dress modestly and so on. But these things should flow from me in thankfulness, not because I fear being found wanting and need to "score points" with God. I'm still exploring all this in my mind because it's still pretty new thinking for me. I really wasn't even planning to get into this subject so much today, anyway. But maybe this all ties together.
So I'm reading this chapter, which did touch on the subject of living in grace towards the end, but that wasn't the emphasis of this particular chapter. Instead, it was about seeking God. And as I read, the pieces suddenly "clicked" for me. The gears fell into place and I knew.
This is what I must do. This is all God has ever wanted from me. If I do not do this, my life will be forever incomplete. God doesn't care about perfectly still I've trained my children to sit in church. He doesn't care how many Sunday School classes I've taught. He doesn't care how long my skirts are and if I tithe to the penny. All He wants is for me to desire Him and nothing more. He wants me to pursue a relationship with Him with all my heart. He wants a relationship with ME! It's not like I haven't heard all this before, many times, but for some reason, it's suddenly penetrating.
Sunday I didn't say in word in Sunday School, but I was listening. Our teacher gave the example of his little son who follows him around the house and just stands there, watching his dad, eager to be of help, but mostly just wanting to be near him. I nodded because I remember Will, especially,doing the same thing with Paul. There have been numerous times I've turned around to find Lizzie hovering behind me and mostly, I've found it annoying, but I've never put it together until now that she just wants to BE with me and to be LIKE me. This is how we need to be with God.
So where then, does the joy fit in? I still want it back. As I read the book Saturday night I could hear God speaking to my heart. He said, "Pursue ME with all your heart- and you'll have all the joy you ever could desire." Or, as my friend Jenny reminded me last night:
Mt 6:33 Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you.
All things. Including joy.