Saturday, October 24, 2015

Day 873

October 24, 2015
Day 873




I'm tired.  It has been a week where I have had nearly no time to even sit.  I've been constantly running, running, running.  I haven't gotten a lot of sleep and this morning I woke up with a migraine (pretty much gone, now, though).  Next week might be better.


We've officially started the "birthday madness" that descends on our house this time of year, every year.  Sam had his 8th birthday yesterday.  He woke me up one minute before my alarm was set to go off telling me, "I'm so excited!"  I brought cupcakes to his class yesterday, thinking I'd dash in and out.  I had asked his teacher for a good time of day to do this and she told me, "2:30."  So, obedient parent that I am, I even showed up a few minutes earlier - only to discover the class was in "Guidance" and would be for another 15 min.  By the time we got things wrapped up and back out to the van, cars were already lined up for the pick-up line that occurs every afternoon.  I was stuck - and none too happy about that!  Ugh, ugh, ugh..


But we had a nice celebration at home - once I got there.  Arien came over, even, and we had taco soup, per Sam's request.  It was a really good night, I thought, if a noisy one.  I suppose that's a given any time you get all the kids together at once.


This afternoon I had to pick up Sam from school for his annual eye appointment.  Then we went to the pet store and he picked out his first pet, a hamster.  One of his presents yesterday was a cage.  They had me fill out some form while they scooped Sam's choice into a little box.  I didn't really read it much, but basically I was promising to provide for the animal and not feed it to a cobra or something.  I overheard Sam say to the employee that he felt bad for the other hamster left all alone in the cage now.  The clerk assured him that some other person will adopt the other hamster really soon, too!  It's a little boy hamster, about 3 months old.  He looks a lot like the one I had when I was Sam's age.  Sam named him "Chocolate Chip."  I'm not sure why.  He hissed at Sam all the way home.  I did not know hamsters did that.

Sam's no dummy, even if his knowledge of animal reproduction is a bit hazy.  He commented last night that he thought he should get a girl hamster so then, "maybe she'll have babies and I'll get more hamsters!"


Tuesday night we went to the annual "pumpkin party" held at Valley Church.  It was our first year to go.  They have this for three straight nights every Oct.  The first night is always for special needs families.  Because of that I dragged Ben along, but he tells me he's not going again next year.  I wonder if that means we'll need to attend one of the "regular" nights instead?  I hope not.  I imagine it would be even more crowded.  There were a number of special needs adults there that night but they were all obviously more mentally impaired than Ben is because they were having a great time and Ben was only enduring the waiting and noise.


The Littles absolutely loved the evening, though.  There was SO much offered - so much that we couldn't do it all, much to the kids' disappointment.  They had inflatables, photo booths, the "real" Elsa and Anna (according to the girls) where you could take photos.  They had a balloon artist, carnival games, science projects, a science show, a caricature artist, pony rides, face painting, tattoos - and I'm sure more things we never even saw because we just didn't get there.  It was all completely free.  I think we'll do it again but I may see if I can get someone to go with me next year because I was exhausted by the evening's end!  The kids had different interests and I couldn't get each of them to the places they each wanted to go.  Maybe I should bring two someone else's - one for each little kid!


A couple of weeks ago our church had their fall festival.  It was a warm day (this has been one of the warmest Octobers I remember) and the kids were in sandals.  Ellie had been jumping on the inflatables and then wanted to go for a pony ride.  I told her she needed to put her shoes back on first.  She innocently asked, "Why?  So the horses don't poop on my feet?"  Yeah...something like that.


I had another surprise, anonymous gift from someone in the church.  It was given to me on a Wednesday night a few weeks ago - a check for a $100.  Very much appreciated.  And then two days later my van was returned to me with a new, metal radiator instead of the plastic, factory installed one that cracked this summer.  I had previously paid for the new radiator but I wanted to also pay for the labor.  So, when I asked my friend what I could give him he scratched his head and said, "Oh?  Maybe a hundred dollars?" 


No coincidences with my God!


I was thinking about the hymn, "My Faith has Found a Resting Place," recently.  It was weird.  I heard it on my mp3 player one day which prompted my thoughts.  And then later that same day I heard the song again, this time a different version.  I must really like that song, to have two  versions on my device!  Anyway, I was mainly thinking about the title.


 "Faith" has become a popular word.  Instead of saying, "I am a Christian," people will say, "Well, my faith was what really sustained me," or, "I really needed my friends, my family - and my faith," and so on.  There's nothing false about what they're saying, but it seems less offensive than outright claiming the name of Christ or even directly referring to God.  Maybe I'm too sensitive?  It's just something I've caught more and more frequently when listening to others.  And of course, a person's faith can be pretty individual.  It might be in the Savior of the World, Jesus,  - or it might be Mohammad.  It might be placed in a personal faith in Christ - or it might be in a deeply rooted religious tradition one is born into.  It's kind of ambiguous.


And then, of course, people have faith in all kinds of things with no religious connotations.  They are encouraged to have faith in themselves, to have faith that things will turn out ok, to have faith in the legal system and in our political leaders and on and on.


But this song - My faith has found a resting place, not in device nor creed.  I trust the ever-loving God, His wounds for me shall plead...I need no other argument, I need no other plea, it is enough that Jesus died, and that he died for me.   I wrote that from memory, so I may not have it exactly right.  But anyway, my faith has found a resting place.  There's something secure to place its value upon.  It's like when dollar bills used to be backed up by precious metals.  Those bills rested in the value of their secure backing.  My confidence doesn't need to flit from one thing to another.  There's Someone secure in which I can place it.  It's settled, which means my heart can be, as well.


Anyway, just some thoughts as I put some more miles on my van one day.


I had to take Ben to Iowa City on Wed. for his dental check-up.  He did great - no cavities.  We saw a different dentist this time, for some reason.  He was not so confident that Ben's wisdom teeth removal is years off yet, like the one we saw last spring seemed to indicate.  I'm not going to worry about it, though.


While Ben was in there, another patient came in, a black man with Downs Syndrome.  He was so friendly and gregarious and had the room in stitches.  Some non-residents had come in to observe and this man informed one that he was, "too skinny."  He also insisted on examining the hair of the other one and told him he saw some gray in there.  He told everyone that he would be turning 40 this month.  Someone asked him, "Oh - when?"  He replied, "In December."  I bet he brings his mother (she was in the waiting room) a lot of joy.  I have not seen a lot of black people with Downs Syndrome.  Maybe that's just because there are fewer black people in comparison to whites.  The percentages might be the same.  Sadly, I know that more black babies are aborted than any other race and over all the races, now, 90% of all babies with Down Syndrome get aborted, too.  But could there be a genetic component too?  Are white people more likely to produce a baby with Downs?  I don't know. 


When we were at the Pumpkin party the other night, the girls were telling me, "Oh, there's someone like Marissa!"  Marissa is Ben's friend and teammate who experiences DS.  My kids recognize the tell-tale signs now from spending time with her.  All the Littles seem to be developing real compassion for special needs individuals.  Sam has a boy in his class who has some needs - I'm not sure what they are, but he has a one-on-one and Sam has mentioned to me how he tries to sit by and play with this boy for the simple fact that he recognizes he has needs and he wants to be a friend.


Makes me happy.




Ellie came home this week reciting the pledge of allegiance.  She does pretty well, even though she says, "...under God, invisible, wif liberty..."  It's cute.  They're teaching them at the preschool.  I think that's great.  I was actually kind of surprised when Sam and Lizzie began reciting it after school started.  I didn't know if schools even did that anymore.  Actually, it was kind of funny.  Lizzie was irritated that I had never taught her the pledge.  I don't know - in between teaching math facts, reading, grieving, cooking, and endless just kind of slipped my mind.



I have no power in part of my house right now - no tv in the living room, nothing in the main bathroom, no light in my closet, no hallway light, no tv in my bedroom, and no step lights.  Argh...and Will won't be home until late tonight.  And my only flashlight is pretty puny.  I need to buy a big flashlight and then padlock it to my wall so the kids don't steal it.


A week ago Friday night was senior recognition night at the football game.  Since Ben helps out with the team, he was recognized, too.  That was kind of neat, getting to walk across the field with him while they read his names, the names of his parents (including Paul's), his siblings, and his future plans.  It made me remember when we did this three years ago with Will.


When I was talking with the coach earlier that week via email he made the comment that Ben is "an awesome kid who comes from an even better family."  I don't know why that touched me so much.  Maybe because I don't always feel like I'm doing a good job with the "family" part.


We have the cutest little chipmunk living somewhere in our yard.  I can't remember ever getting to see one so often and so close.  He's always popping up and running around the yard.  None of the kids has been successful at catching him yet - which is a good thing.  He probably wouldn't be so cute, captured.


I went up to DMACC this week and had an appointment with an academic advisor.  He was super nice and kept praising me for taking this "big step" of checking out college.  I had this idea that all I would need to do is take classes for a few years from DMACC and after awhile, I'd have my degree.


Nothing is ever as easy I hope it will be.


It turns out that I have too many credits for DMACC.  I guess three years of college will do that to you.  DMACC is more of a "starter" school for people that want their bachelors or a place to get an associates degree.  But it's not a place to finish a bachelors.  So, I now have in my possession an armful of college brochures and I have to find the time to go through them, sit down with their advisors, and figure out what I'm going to do.  Plus, I'm going to have to pay for it.  DMACC would have been free with all the financial aid I'd be eligible for.




But, there are actually a few local colleges that specialize in people like me, who have lives but want to finish up a degree.  And the guy at DMACC assured me that they are all regionally accredited, which is important.


Will also suggested I check out Liberty University.  He reminded me that a friend of ours just earned her bachelors - completely on-line.  She travelled out there this spring for her graduation and that was her first trip to Virginia.  On-line would be really good for me.


I do have a better idea now, though, of what I could major in.  As I went over some stuff with the advisor it occurred to me that a generic degree in English might be just the thing.  I'm good at it and since it's such a general area of study, it would translate into more than one line of work post-graduation.


So I need to get copies of my transcripts and I need to sit down with these brochures and I need to make some phone calls and set up appointments.

I need more time in my days.


This last school year, Ben is only actually at school two days a week.  Two of the days he is at COC, working, and another day he works all day at Hy-Vee.  So, for the days he's gone, he has to bring a lunch.  I always make them.  But the other night, he started making his own lunch.  I said, "Oh, I can do that for you!" but then I had the second thought of realizing that lunch making is a skill Ben really needs to master on his own.  So, I left him alone. 


Until I found a pile of bread on the counter.  I asked him what the deal was and he replied, "Oh, those all have holes in them!"


The kids got their "Daddy quilts" a week ago.  It was quite a labor of love from people that don't even know us.  My friend and neighbor, Lynne, had taken all of Paul's clothing that summer he died, promising to get some quilts made up for us.  I got mine a year later.  And now the kids have theirs.  They're each a twin sized blanket - lots and lots of work represented in them.  And each has a verse stitched in the center.  I vauguely remember picking out the verses that first summer.


They're primarily made out of denim, so they're very heavy quilts, too, which means the kids won't need quite so many blankets on their bed this winter.


I took the Littles to Night Eyes at the zoo for the first time tonight.  It's an annual Halloween tradition here in Des Moines.   But I've just never gone until this year.  I think there is a part of me that is still trying to figure out new traditions for our family by trying different things.


Night Eyes was so-so, in my opinion, although the kids seemed to enjoy it.  It was a lot of walking and a lot of standing in lines and a lot of people.  And  there really wasn't that much to it, I didn't think.  But as darkness fell and the ropes of Halloween lights lit up and the tree leaves at the zoo rustled, it was kind of a neat, spooky feeling.  It occurred to me that something like this would be a fun date.  And that made me miss Paul.  


I would have liked to have been there tonight with him, sans children.  It would have been kind of romantic to walk hand-in-hand in the darkness, finding contentment with eachother and mulling over more dreams for our future.  I miss him.




But not as much as I used to.


I wonder if some of this longing was actually prompted by memories, too.  I will never forget Halloween night, 1994.  I was a day past my due date with Will and so that night, Paul and I walked the streets of Council Bluffs, hoping to get my labor going (it didn't work).  I have such fond memories of that evening, as we dodged excited trick or treaters, our feet crunching the fallen leaves, holding hands, dreaming about the baby that would soon make us a family.


I think that memory may be why I love Halloween so  much.


It could be the chocolate, too.


This year, my kids are wearing their costumes FOUR times.  They wore them Tuesday night to the Great Pumpkin party out at Valley Church.  They wore them tonight.  They will wear them Thursday to school.  Apparently they have something called a "Halloween Parade" which is stirring up vague recollections of my 2nd grade year when I attended public school.  I think we did something like that.  And then Friday night is trick or treating.  At least they're getting some mileage out of them.


I know a number of people who don't celebrate Halloween and that's fine.  I can definitely see and respect their position on that. There are aspects of the holiday that make me a little bit spiritually queasy and sometimes I wonder if I've embraced it a little too much.  In fact, just tonight I read an article where the author talks about a church that sponsored a "Zombie Walk" at Halloween.  The author then went on to say that she doesn't believe Halloween is Biblical and neither does her church - of which she's the pastor.  So she got convicted about Halloween but not the whole women-shouldn't-be-pastors thing?  Whatever.  When the kids came home with notes telling parents about next Thursday's parade at school and the fact that they are to wear their costumes I actually wondered - well, what about the kids whose families don't do Halloween?  But maybe those families don't believe in public school, either.


I had some other things to write, but I'm going to wrap this up.  I am tired.  And it has taken me two days to write this much.


Tomorrow my article about Paul's death comes out.  I am really trying to not be prideful, but I'm excited to have others read my words.  I imagine some church somewhere where a hurting widow is sitting, trying to convince herself she's where she needs to be, but, in reality,  wishing she was anywhere but in church that morning.  It hurts too much, still.  But then, she picks up this little bulletin insert, mostly in an effort to avoid having to make eye contact with anyone (because she's so tired of seeing the pity reflected in others' eyes), reads my story, and feels comforted and encouraged in her widowhood walk from someone a little bit farther down the path. 


That's what I really hope happens.




















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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