Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Day 848

 September 30, 2015

Day 848


This morning someone asked me if my boys are "yours or are they adopted, too?"  I couldn't believe the indignation that swelled up in me as I replied, "Well, they're my biological children..."  I had never experienced that before.  It was just the idea that the girls are "less real" than children I gave birth to.


I wasn't mad - just surprised at the feeling that brought up inside me.  The thing is that unless you have adopted or are adopted, it's not going to occur to you how offensive that kind of question is.  And it's not even that the question itself is inappropriate.  It's just the wording.


Anyway, that was kind of interesting to me.  Perhaps, after three years, the girls have finally worked their way fully into my heart.


The last day of favorite month starts tomorrow.  And we've finally got the cool weather to go with it, which is nice.  It's sunny out.


And I'm feeling better on the inside about the whole school thing...finally.  Man, that was tough.  Just today, I had a nice email from Sam's teacher in which she commented that Sam is opening up more in class and developing friendships with some of the boys.  I had noticed that he seemed to be talking about certain boys more often. In fact, he was just telling me yesterday that he has found a couple of Christian boys in his class and at recess they like to get together and talk about God.  I am impressed, although not surprised.  Sam is a pretty serious little kid.   He also earned some good behavior reward which meant he got to choose a treat and he chose to eat lunch in his classroom with a friend.  I have noticed that he seems to particularly relish telling me about the "bad" kids in class.  That would be his personality at play.  Just this morning he was telling me about this one boy that I actually feel kind of sorry for.  I suspect he probably isn't a bad kid, necessarily, just one lacking a lot of self-control.  Sam told me this boy cries when he gets "marks" in the classroom, which makes me feel so bad for this little boy.  I can imagine him trying to hard to be good but because of all his extra energy he just can't quite make it happen.  Or, maybe he's a devil child, destined for prison someday - I don't know.  Anyway, Sam commented that this little guy argues all the time with the teacher and, "You just can't argue with grown ups - he should know better!"


What really helped me feel better about the kids' schooling was the report I got last week on Lizzie's reading assessments.  She didn't do so well.  Her scores are better than Sam's and he's getting the help he needs.  But I was shocked.  She seemed to latch onto reading so easily and needed very little instruction from me - unlike Sam.  Lizzie's teacher explained to me that Lizzie does not know her short letter sounds and has no clue how to sound out words.  How is that possible?  I taught her phonics!  Well, what it is is that she's a good memorizer.


She's going to get the extra help she needs, so I'm not worried about that.  But this was a real eye opener to me.  How did I miss the fact that Lizzie wasn't really learning how to read? That answer is pretty simple.  I missed it because I have been stretched so thin the last few years and my attention has been bobbing all over the place as I attempted to put out fires.


I have felt like an absolute failure for putting the kids in school.  I have beat myself up thinking that a good mother would never expose her children to the worthless, ungodly public school system - particularly when I could still homeschool these few years until I go back to work.


But I couldn't.  I wasn't doing a good job because of all the other demands on me.  And I didn't even realize that.  Seeing the neat handwriting my kids are suddenly coming up with on their papers and getting these nice emails from their teachers makes me think that maybe public school isn't as worthless as we homeschoolers would like to think it is.


I'm not sure yet how it's going for Lizzie.  I don't think her adjustment as been as quick as Sam's.  She made a comment last week that indicated to me she is completely stressed out at school, mostly because she's afraid of getting "marks."  It's the disciplinary system at school - kind of worthless, as far as I can see.  They lose recesses if they get too many and if they get 4 in a single day they send home a note to the parents.  She hasn't received a single one but being embarrassed is at the top of her things-that-keep-me-awake-at-night list.  She has often commented that it is embarrassing to get in trouble by anyone other than your mom (lucky me).  I explained to her that I would only ever be upset if she got marks for being repeatedly naughty, but I'm not going to freak out if she gets one from time to time.  The last thing I want is for her to develop an ulcer over this. 


She says she enjoys lunch and recess and says people are nice to her.  But she doesn't talk about any specific girlfriends yet.  But, neither does she doesn't whine about going to school, either. I put her to bed by 8 and she's asleep within minutes, which is not normal for her.  I know she's tired every night.  So I just don't know what to think about it all in relation to her  yet.  Hopefully, time will take care a lot of her anxiety and ease my concerns, too.


Oh, and speaking of Lizzie's class...I ran across a class list her teacher provided at the beginning of the year.  It's always interesting to me to see what parents name their kids.  I think in recent blogs I've been mentioning some of the names of Ellie's classmates.  I noticed that Lizzie has a "Drayden" in her class, which is a new one for me.  But there's also an, "Earl"!  I sure hope he was named after someone and not saddled with that just for kicks. 


Ellie has a new friend at school and this whole situation is interesting to me.  Last week I picked her up and I noticed that there was a new little girl and that she is bi-racial.  Other than Ellie, the entire class is made up of white children - not unusual for Pleasantville.  This little girl's skin is actually pretty light, although it has some duskiness to it, thanks to her father.  She also has the thick,kinky hair and broad nose.  Well, that first day, Ellie ran up to me and exclaimed, "Mom, Mom!  That little girl has skin the same color as me!"


I was just astounded.  At four years of age, how did she even realize this?  It's not like this little girl (named, "Miracle" of all things!)  is dark like Ellie.  If it weren't for the hair and nose, I think she could easily be mistaken for being white.  But Ellie knew.  A few minutes later, this older lady came up to me and asked if I was Ellie's mom.  She  told me she is caring for her great-granddaughter and she said that when she brought Miracle to class that morning, her great-granddaughter singled Ellie out and made a beeline for her.  The grandma's assumption was that her great-granddaughter had recognized like skin, as well.  Both the grandma and I are white and we were both flabbergasted.


Since then, the girls are inseparable at preschool and every day, the grandma and I chat for a little bit.  The whole thing is just making it ever apparent to me that I need to be praying for some black influence in the girls' lives.  I don't understand why they need it, but they do.  What I want is for skin color to not matter and for the girls to be happy to be surrounded by all the white people who love them.  But for some reason, it is not enough.  I see the way Lizzie pores over pictures of black models in the magazines I get and how they both beg to watch tv shows that feature black actors.  I watch the way their eyes follow black people when we're out and about.


I'm just going to make this a matter of prayer and ask God to bring some good, godly black people into their lives, esp. as they get older.  For whatever reason, it is important to both of them.  My fear is that if I do not find some for them, someday they may find their birth family and the black community as a whole very inviting because they are unfamiliar with it and because they finally find a place where they don't stick out.


Oh, and speaking of black people...


David, Ellie, and I went to see the movie, "War Room," on Monday.  He paid for my ticket.  I was going to wait for it to come out on dvd, but he was very anxious to see it now.  Plus, we've seen all the other Sherwood films in the theater and he didn't want to break that tradition.


Oh, my goodness...this is a must see movie, like all their rest.  The main characters are all black, although that has nothing to do with the story line.  It is a wonderful movie about the power and necessity of prayer.  In fact, I came away from the movie with my mind whirling over practical ways I can make my own prayer life more organized and productive.  I absolutely loved it and like the rest of their movies, cried throughout most of it!  For several weeks this movie was number one at the box office - not that you heard that reported in the media, though.


The other day Will's alarm on his phone was going off in his bedroom.  He was ignoring it so we kept hearing this vibrating, buzz, buzz down in the kitchen (there is a vent between the kitchen ceiling and his bedroom floor.  At first I wasn't sure what it was, and Ellie exclaimed, "Maybe it's an explode thing!"  I think she meant, "bomb."


Oh, and I was complaining about Thred Up in my last post.  I have a post script.  After threatening to never shop with them again and leaving a somewhat menacing (for me) message on their voice mail I finally got an email from them.  They told me to keep the shoes - not that they will do me any good since they're the wrong size - and they'll not only refund my money but are giving me a 20% discount the next time I shop with them.  So, I may give them one more chance - just to take advantage of the discount, if nothing else.


My allergies have finally lifted, praise the Lord.  A couple of weeks ago David and I were watching a 48 hours interview with the prison worker that helped those two convicted murderers escape out east this past spring.  David is an allergy suffererer, too.  So, this prison worker, who is now a prisoner for her role in the escape, was sitting in her stripes, telling her story to Matt Lauer.  She was emotional and had a tissue in her lap.  At one point she lifted it to dab her eyes and David and I both looked at eachother in horror.  This thing looked like it was still half bark.  Prison issue tissues are not Puffs!  And yet, another reason to avoid jail at  all costs!


Last week, the bus driver arrived with the kids and normally he drops them off in the middle of the street and then an arm extends to keep cars from running them over while they cross to our house.  But this day, he pulled right into my alley and after my kids got out, he followed, which he never does,  shooed them off and said, "I need to talk to your mom."   I think what it was was that he was worried I was going to get all hyper-sensitive after an a incident that occurred and report the bus to the school.


I guess what happened was that Lizzie was turned around in her seat facing the back, with her knees drawn up - not real safe.  But that kid can't sit still for anything, so I'm not surprised.  The bus driver was trying to get her attention to get her to turn around and she didn't hear him.  So, this teenager in the back yells, "Hey, Black Girl - turn around!"  Well, Ben's head whipped up at that and I guess  he was about to tear into this kid but the bus driver intervened and diffused the entire situation and he told me he told that kid to not refer to Lizzie that way ever again. 


I didn't hear anything that really alarmed me.  No, I don't want people going around referring to my girls by their skin color, but it doesn't sound like it was meant to be derogatory, either.  I talked to Lizzie about it later and she didn't seem offended.  I thought it was kind of sweet that Ben wanted to defend his sister, actually.


People are just so easily offended these days and a lot of times looking for a reason to complain.  I suspect that was the driver's concern.  Actually, what I was more concerned about while he stood talking to me is that a little girl still on the bus crawled into the driver's seat and was moving the wheels back and forth!  Not the safest thing!  I'm not convinced this driver is the most capable at what he does, although he's a very kind man.


When we didn't have a porch on the house, we couldn't use the front door and Ben had to go out the back door, around the house, and down the alley to meet the bus.  We would send him out early enough to be there by the time the bus arrived.  Well, this same driver was so concerned that one day he called me and said to not send Ben out in the cold until I saw the bus.  He didn't want Ben standing in the cold waiting for him!  He also came to Paul's visitation and gave us money.  He just a nice, elderly guy - who probably should retire.


I bought a car for David last Friday.  I've spent close to a year fretting about the need for this and I finally just did it.  It helped that I'm going to have to give up my van for a couple of days to have the radiator replaced soon.  I kind of got forced into the purchase.  I started looking at Craig's List  last week and then Will did the same.  He had some time Friday after class so  he called on a listing on Thurs. night, we met up with the owner at a Perkins in Urbandale the next morning, and bought her car.  I don't know what I would have done without Will.  We got there and Will said, "Good - it's a woman!"  First, he was coaching me to "let me do all the talking!" and then he changed that to, "Well, if you could let it drop that you're a widow with 6  kids, that might be good...and maybe if you mentioned that two are adopted and one is handicapped, that'd be even better!"  By that point I was looking at him wondering just who this person I gave birth to is...  But it must have worked because he declared the car (a '98 Taurus) a good buy and wrangled the owner down a few hundred dollars from the asking price.  It seems like a good little car, even if it's older than what I wanted.  It doesn't need any work at all.  Considering that David will probably wrap around a telephone pole at some point (I hope not) I think it's a good buy. 


David has taken complete ownership of it, even though I paid for it.  He's lined the back window with his Hawkeye and Cowboys gear.  We went and got the plates for it today and he insisted on paying for those.  I didn't argue.  He says he's going to pay me back for the car, but I don't really see a need for that.  This is just as much for me as it is for him.  I needed a back-up vehicle and it will be nice once he has his license to send him off to retrieve siblings or pick up a can of soup at the store.


So that's something I don't have to worry over anymore!  Now I can direct my worrying to David's driving...


Sam and I have this silly game where when I tuck him in at night I say, "Goodnight, my little _________" and fill it in with the name of some animal or insect.  Last night I called him a "platypus."  I have a vague idea of what those are, but wasn't sure.  For all I knew, it might be an extinct dinosaur, actually.  Sam immediately sat up in bed and corrected me, "It's platypus, Mom - not platy--poos."  From there he launched into a four minute lecture on the eating, mating, and play habits of said platypus, rounding out with a minute or two devoted to the preferred habitat.  This is one very odd child I'm raising.  None of his brothers were ever into animals the way he is.  Maybe he'll be a zoologist someday.  Or have lots of pets.


I finally got to see Ben in action the other night at the football game.  Will ended up spending the game in the pressbox with one of the coaches, going over the game plays, so David stayed on the sidelines with Ben, sending him after the tee.  David has such a self-conscious element to his personality and he was relating to me later how horrible he felt when he accidentally sent Ben in at the wrong time.  I didn't notice.  He said he apologized profusely to Ben for embarrassing him like that and Ben just patted him on the shoulder and said, "It's ok - we all make mistakes."  David couldn't get over that.


About midway through the game, after Ben trotted out and retrieved the tee, the announcer announced, "And on the field we have Ben Heywood!" and the entire stands erupted into cheers.  Ben turned and faced us, smiled, and gave us a double thumbs up.  It was cute.  He's quite the kid.


There's one more home game that Ben will get to participate in.  So far, the Trojans are undefeated, so there's a very good chance they will make it to the playoffs at the Unidome in November.  I doubt  Ben would be involved with that, though.  Will's pretty excited for the team.  I wish they had played that well when he was on the team!


I read a blog piece by a remarried widow the other day.  Her point was all about remarriage and how she is finding that suddenly people don't want to hear what she has to say about widowhood anymore because they don't feel she is one.  She pointed out  that she will always be her first husband's widow, just as she is now her second husband's wife.  One doesn't cancel out the other.


I found it interesting.  In applying it to my own life, that means I'm a widow forever - at least, I will always be Paul's widow - even if I have seven more husbands ( I hope I don't have seven more husbands).  This widowhood thing is permanent.  It's not something I necessarily get to shed when I say, "I do" to another man.  It's part of who I am now for the rest of my life.


Sort of related: I am definitely concluding that now is not the time to be looking for another man.  When I think through the logistics of blending a household and all that would entail - I just cannot do that to my kids right now.  Their lives have been completely upended several times over the past few years and we need some time of quiet and stability before I go rocking the boat again.


That thought kind of depresses me because it would be nice to think I could meet someone and then I wouldn't be lonely anymore and the kids would have a dad and I wouldn't have to fret over money or houses or autos.  I'd have someone to take care of me once again.  But it's not like I'm talking about another decade or more, either.  Well, I might be.  Who is going to want a used up middle aged lady with six children?  Round and round my thoughts go when it comes to this subject...Paul could have saved me a lot of trouble if he could have just managed to stay alive, that's for sure...


Over the past few months I have been thinking more about  my marriage.  It's amazing the clarity you have when you are no longer in the thick of a situation.  I am seeing things I never saw when Paul was alive.  I think emotions get tangled up in the logic and I know in my case I just so much wanted him to see things my way that it was hard to accept there might actually be other ways of viewing the same thing.  Anyway - what's that they say?  Hindsight is twenty-twenty.  Maybe I'll write more on this when my thoughts are more clearly sorted out.  It was a good marriage.  But I could have been a better wife.


And it's that kind of clarity that makes me think well, if I do get the chance to do this again, I'm going to be so much better at it!


We'll see.  Right now, though, it's still a time to rest and to figure out who we are as family without Paul.  It's a time to regroup, refocus, and still, as needed, mourn.


It's time for the second half of my life. 
An Ellie funny with which to end:  Here's the deal.  There's no way I can remarry until she's grown.  This girl is going to take so much watching and so much of my energy that I dare not have anyone else in my life that needs attention.  If I look away from her even for a second I'm going to regret it.
We were at church tonight, waiting for the kids to come in.  I teach Patch Club and they spend the first half hour learning their music and working on the upcoming church skit.  Then, they divide up into their class rooms and my friend, Wilma, and I, work with the younger ones.  So, Ellie was coloring on the chalkboard while we waited.  She drew something and asked me to look.  I said, "Oh, that's a nice heart!"  She replied,
"It's not a heart."
"It's a butt."
"Mom's butt."






















What I have learned in two years of widowhood:

• God is good - so, so good
• I am loved far more than I ever knew
• I have amazing, resilient children (I am reaping what Paul sowed into their lives)
• Darkness eventually gives way to light
• Strength and wisdom are mine for the asking
• I don't have to have all the answers
• God delights in carefully and tenderly mending torn-apart hearts

Psalm 73:26: My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.








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