Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Day 1000

So, here it final post of Mothering Men to Be, Marriage and Miscellany

Today marks the 1000th day of my widowhood.  I know there’s no real meaning there, other than the calendar has rolled to yet another day without Paul.  But I still tend to ascribe significance to certain days and symbols so, to me, it’s significant, regardless.  I’ve been blogging for more than 7 yrs – mostly about really unimportant stuff.  After Paul died, this blog became a place to make sense of what had happened.  It got pretty messy for awhile as I bled all over the keyboard day after day, but it was cathartic nonetheless.  Today, I’m starting a new blog.  It’s nothing professional – just a place to continue musing about life and relate the funny things the kids say, mostly. But the title reflects my current life a little more accurately than my old one did.  Most importantly, though, I need a new blog because it’s time to quit counting the days – and face the future with hope.

My new blog site:

Here's the link:  More of Sarah

Monday, February 29, 2016

Day 998

February 29, 2016
Day 998

Busy morning…it’s going to be a busy week all around.

Ben had his tux fitting this morning, which was chaos.  There were about 30 boys and their dates trying to look at 2 books and decide on tuxes.  Then, they all had to stand in line to be fitted.  Ben’s date doesn’t actually have her dress yet – just an on-line photo of what she has ordered.  So, hopefully, the tealish-mint green tux and tie we went with will match!  The lady measured Ben and pronounced him having a 30” waist and I told her to measure again.  He does NOT have a 30” waist.  I always have my friend, Elizabeth, put in elastic to make his pants to a 28” circumference.  So she measured again and said, “oops – you’re right.”  I KNOW I’m right! I guess the tuxes do arrive several days before prom and if anything doesn’t fit right they will take them back and make corrections before the big night.  So, that’s good, I guess.

Then I went down to Walmart to work on making copies of photos for Ben’s senior scrapbook for his party in May.  I sat there for an hour doing this when suddenly the machine ate my work – all my scanned copies – gone.  Poof…I’m just going to scan them into my computer and order on-line, I guess.  Grrr…

And while I’m scanning photos I get a call from a stranger in Illinois who used to be a resident of Swan.  Apparently, she was awarded some property here in a divorce and was wanting my opinion on whether or not it was worth it to pursue legally.  How should I know?  I don’t even know how she got my number.   So I told her what I have observed about the property and then she starts telling me how when she lived her in ’05 her teenage son was killed in a car accident and how the depression from that has immobilized her for the past decade.  I told her I could understand better than she thought and she asked, “How have you survived?  Don’t you just want to die?”  And I wished in that moment that I am a better communicator in person and that I wasn’t sitting in the photo dept. at Walmart right then.  I did tell her if she comes back to Iowa to look at the property to come over by my house.  Maybe we can talk more then.

This is “crunch week” for school. I turned in my power point presentation on “Redeeming Love” last night.  Will helped me with that.  I still have to write my big paper (5-7 pages) that’s due Thursday.  I also turned in my paper last night on the Race, Historicism, and New Colonialism theory of literary analysis.

Last Thursday night we discussed the book we read, “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin.  I was very firm and vocal about how much I disliked this book.  This is a story written in 1899.  It was even banned for a time.  It details the life of a wealthy young Creole wife named Edna.  She has two young boys that she refuses to have much interaction with.  Instead, she focuses on how unhappy she is with her lot in life and falls in love with a man who is not her husband.  In the meantime, she refuses to do what her husband wants her to do and eventually moves out of the home, much to his dismay.  So, then the man she has fallen in love with runs away because he does have some moral standards and in response to this, Edna finds another man to have sex with (not her husband).  In the end, a strong swimmer, she walks into the ocean and drowns herself because the man she is in love with won’t marry her because she is already married to someone else.  Boo, hoo, hoo…what a whiner and a loser!  Do you know how many servants and lower class people would have given anything to be in Edna’s shoes? She had prior commitments, anyway.   I have no sympathy for this character and I let her have it in our discussion.

That was our last class discussion.  I’m going to miss this class.  I’ve learned a lot and I think it’s been a good confidence booster and re-introduction to college life. I’m hoping to have earned an “A” in that – so far, so good on that, but I don’t have all the work in yet, either.  Things could change on that end yet!  My next class that starts next week will be all on-line.  And then the two classes after that will both be Lit classes again.

Will told me last Friday he’s pretty sure Special Education is what he’s going to pursue. 


Ellie’s chart is still coming along, although last week was rougher and she didn’t earn stickers every day.  At one point I told her, “I’d sure hate to be in your shoes right about now.”  She looked at me witheringly and said, “Of course not – you can’t fit in my shoes!”

I received a survey from the kids’ school asking for my input on their new behavior system.  I didn’t know it was new since this is our first year.  Unfortunately for them, they asked for parental comments on them.  I had to attach a sheet.  Now, I understand there is a bit of a paradox or at least irony here because I just wrote about Ellie’s bribery chart.  I’m desperate with her!  So now I have to make sure nobody at school ever knows I resorted to bribing my own child to be good.

Because I wrote them a 7 paragraph note in which I asked, “Since when do we reward children for doing what they’re supposed to be doing in the first place?”  I explained that my own kids know understand that if they don’t obey, they will suffer the consequences of disobedience (well, except for Ellie, who couldn’t care less – I didn’t tell them that, though).  I also commented that I don’t recall, as a child,  ever having kids with repeated behavioral issues like I have observed in both my kids’ classrooms in my own – but then, I added, I grew up in an era where the teachers and principal had wooden paddles hanging behind their desks.  I said that I understand that school does differ from home and that times have changed.  However, I added in my  last paragraph, I feel we are doing children a grave disservice because someday when they are adults they may be shocked to discover that nobody is applauding them for exhibiting the characteristics of good citizenship.  My note probably made a quick trip to the recycling bin, I have a feeling…

This did spur further thought in my own mind, though, after I wrote and sent in the survey and note.  What IS the solution, other than revival in our society?  I hear the stories that Sam and Lizzie bring home about the trouble makers in their classes.  It sure sounds to me like a lot of the teacher’s time goes toward these kids – which means my own are being shortchanged in the process.  That day I was there to help with Lizzie’s class Valentine party the main classroom offender was in time-out and his teacher made a comment to me about something his “behavior plan” states.  You mean they have plans for behavior now, not just special education?  I mentioned that to Will and he said yeah, this was something that had been covered in one of his classes.  Apparently, they act very similar to IEPs and outline how the kid who can’t control himself will be handled.

I have a solution.  It’s not the final solution because that involves heart change and mending generations of broken families and children.  And it’s not something that could be taken care of at the school level, either.  It would have to be legislative in nature.  The key to fixing behavioral issues in  the classroom is to make the onus be on the parents.  I guarantee you that these two little boys my kids tell me about nearly every day are not facing any consequences at home when they act up in school.  But, if a system was in place that stated if your child won’t behave in the classroom, he will no longer be allowed to attend school – I guarantee you those kids would shape up in a hurry.  If those parents would suddenly be required to homeschool, enroll their child in an alternative school, or even just be required to attend school with their delinquent offspring there wouldn’t be any more problems.  But because it isn’t touching the parents, they don’t have any motivation to enact severe consequences of their own on their child.  From what I hear from most teachers, anyway, is that parents today get offended when told about their child’s misbehavior and immediately start making excuses or flat out telling the teacher, “You’re wrong.  My child would never do that.”

So anyway.  Our schools are a mess.  Our children are a mess.  Families are a mess.  All we can do is muddle along the best we can.

There is a family that has moved in down the street.  Four adults and 7 children in this 3 bedroom house (pretty sure that’s illegal with renting, but since nobody even knows for sure who the landlord actually is at the moment, that’s probably the least of concerns).  The kids are all siblings and range from 2 – 16.  They discovered my house last week when it warmed up.  David was outside shooting baskets and came in the house all flustered because “those teenage girls just keep staring at me and whispering!”  Saturday the grade schoolers were over in the afternoon, along with some other neighbor kids.  I had trouble with one kid who got into my garage and took out hedge trimmers and lied to me about it.  After explaining the danger of what he had done to him and getting him to admit to his crime (while insisting me look at me in the eyes – that was probably the hardest part.  He wanted to look at the floor and was literally trying to bury his face into his shirt collar) I told him that was his only warning.  If he ever lied to me again (or got in the garage – I need to keep that locked up when others are here) I’d never let him come over again.  Finally, his brother (who had ratted him out in the first place) looked at me and asked, “Are you a teacher or something?”  That made me smile.  I told him nope – just a mom to a lot of  kids…which means there isn’t too much I haven’t dealt with already.  So, hopefully, I put the fear of Mrs. Heywood into them and there won’t be any more problems.  But, I’m going to limit playtime, anyway.  I’m not going to be a babysitter for the entire neighborhood. Maybe if I’m mean enough they’ll stay away, anyway!
I had a strange, vivid dream one night last week.  It makes me wonder if it was prophetic.  Maybe it was the dessert I ate before turning out the lights.  I don’t know!

Anyway, I was returning from somewhere in time.  I came back and America had lost all its rights (apparently it was taking place after the elections of 2016!).  Our family was living in a dumpy apartment with another family.  Everyone’s food was provided by the government.  So, in my dream we were excited because somehow we’d stumbled across 2 lemons ( I don’t even like lemons) and we were going to have fresh fruit for supper!  And I was holding a package of deerburger in my hand, which must have been contraband because when we heard a sudden knock at the door, I threw it, along with the lemons in a nearby cupboard and made sure they were buried under some towels.

Later, I was outside and I realized that I was not seeing any mini-vans or SUVs on the road.  Everyone had a small, junky looking car.  I asked someone about that and they said, well, there were no more children, so larger vehicles were not needed.  I asked, “”What do you mean, no more children?”  Because I had seen children in my dream.  But this person pointed out to me that the only children were about 9 year or older.  Nobody else was allowed to have babies anymore.  And I realized that was right.  Which, on this side of the dream, makes me wonder how the government thought they were going to sustain themselves without future citizens.

And then I was back in the apartment.  Will was in there and he pointed to a bedroom door that was partially open.  He explained there was a man in there praying about stepping up and causing a revolution against the government but he needed to know for sure that this is what God wanted of him.  I peeked in but all I could see where bent knees, with his elbows on them and the tips of his shoes.

Anyway it was an interesting – and spooky and eerie dream.
Ellie to me just now as I am typing: “You don’t have to worry, Mom – I cleaned all the kool-aid up myself!”  I don’t want to know.  I don’t want to know…
Yesterday, I was getting dressed for church and as I eased myself into my spanx (compression undergarment) Lizzie asked me, “Isn’t wearing that like telling God you’re not happy with the body He gave you?”  I wish she was a little dumber sometimes.

I went scrapbooking Friday night and the next morning I saw that my white board in the kitchen was covered in Will’s handwriting.  He had laboriously written out the 10 Commandments, plus a couple other commandment-like instructions from Jesus.  The Littles told me how he sat down with them while I was gone and went through them with them and suggested that they start learning them.

I asked him about it later and he said that he had been listening to David Jeremiah on the radio sometime recently and he had made the comment that  Christians get very upset about the 10 Commandments being removed from courthouses and other public places, but yet, most Christians don’t even have them hung in their own homes.  Will said he got to thinking about that and realized that was true of us and decided to rectify that.  I had never thought about that.

It’s a good idea.  I remember a number of years ago our church did a video series that Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort put out.  The point of the series was that the 10 commandments are an integral part of salvation.  Nobody can be saved until they understand that they are a sinner.  The purpose of the commandments is to point out the sins we commit.

I don’t think I want to keep the commandments on my white board forever so maybe I should find something decorative with the commandments on them to keep in the house.

Anyway, that Will…he’s going to be a good dad someday.

Today’s Facebook post:  This falls under the “ugh” and “So much for my Mother of the Year award” categories:

When you're in a hurry and you tell your 7 yr old to get in the van, we're going to be late… and a few minutes later you go outside and she's messing with the back of the dirty van instead of sitting nicely buckled in her seat like she was told-so you read her the riot act, telling her, "I said you better get in that van RIGHT NOW!" And then later, you happen to look in your rear view mirror and see etched in the grime of the back window the words,"I love my mom"... don't think I can feel much lower at the moment...

And then there’s Ben.  We were leaving this morning for his tux fitting and he looked inside his lunch bag to see what I had packed.  He took out his can of pop turned it over and announced that he couldn’t drink it because the expiration date was August of 2015.  I explained that the pop had not been opened and if he got another can it wouldn’t be cold like this one was.  And besides, pop is mostly chemicals anyway, so everything is preserved already.  He was having none of it and said, “I don’t care if I have warm pop.  I can’t drink anything expired!”  Give me a break…so we were later than I wanted to be all on account of expired pop.  I don’t know if this is just Ben or if it has to do with the autism.

Well, this is my last post, ever, for Mothering Men to Be and Misc…I’m not going to quit writing.  I need this outlet!  But I’ve started a new blog that’s titled a little more appropriately for my current life.  I’ll be putting up a link a couple of days to that.  So you’ll just need to bookmark the new site and then you can continue to follow the adventures of which my life seems to be made.  I guess with my circumstances and this many kids it couldn’t be anything but adventurous!  I like documenting this ride...

Monday, February 22, 2016

Day 991

Feb. 22, 2016
Day 991

I made it through Valentine's Day and my wedding anniversary...whew...

I'm actually looking forward to taking down all the Valentine decorations around here.  I'm just ready for it to be all over.  Ready for spring...and the continuation of life.

Here were some thoughts I wrote about Valentine's Day.  A friend asked me to join a single mom's Facebook group and the question was posed as to how everyone was handling Valentine's.  I had some thoughts:

Ok, so this may turn into a book before I'm done. Today is Valentine's Day and I've been feeling steadily sorrier and sorrier for myself as the day has gone on. I haven't received a single Valentine and it's likely I won't. The kids all got theirs from me but didn't think to reciprocate - which, honestly I don't expect them to. Valentines Day was always between their dad and I, although I always bought gifts for the kids, too. And children tend to be myopic, so their first thought is not going to be, "How can we help Mom get through another Valentine's Day alone?" But regardless, I'm sitting at my desk trying to write a paper on a form of critical analysis that I don't understand that well (my first college class after 24 yrs out of the classroom) and grief, coupled with loneliness, is prodding my soul. This is my third V Day alone and I don't remember it bothering me like this the last 2 years. My wedding anniversary is on the 20th so I was probably more focused on surviving that upcoming day than worrying about Valentine's. Anyway, there's that. And then, right in the middle of trying to decode the theories of Foucault and Derrida, I get a phone call. It's from a lady in my Bible study, whom I don't really know. She tells me that she heard my son, Ben, is going to prom this year and I tell her yes, that's true. Background: (I explain about  Ben here) Thursday morning, one of his "normal" classmates asked him to prom (after consulting with me) and it was a really sweet moment for me, as well as exciting for Ben. Both the girl's mom and I were privileged to be present for the asking. So this lady calls me and says, "I want to pay for Ben's dinner that night. Will you let me do that? Ben is so special! " And of course, I tell her yes and thank her.
I hang up and God lets me sit for a moment. Then he prods my heart. What is Valentine's Day about? It's love, of course. And while I no longer have a husband to give me chocolates and gifts on this day, I have a Heavenly Father who has been lavishing our family with gifts since my husband's death. I'm not saying that replaces what I had with my husband. It's different and the loss still hurts. But today I needed a reminder of just what love is. And like He always does, God supplied. Happy Valentine's Day, Ladies!

And then my anniversary was two days ago.  Only it's no longer my anniversary.  It's the anniversary of my anniversary.  It's Family Day now.

And it went fine.  Nobody remembered except my brother and my parents.  And, this far out, I don't really expect people to. But nobody understands just how painful the day can be until they've been there.  I haven't decided yet which is worse - Feb. 20 or June 6, but they're both pretty rough.  I didn't put anything about it on Facebook this year.  More and more I get the feeling that people think I should really be putting this behind me now.  I AM moving forward, but I don't forget, either. 

But anyway, it was actually a very nice day.  Will took the day off work, which I didn't expect him to do.  We ate lunch here at the house and then we headed to downtown Des Moines.  The weather was gorgeous.  The day before it had gotten into the low sixties and Saturday was in the high fifties with lots of sunshine.  We didn't even need our jackets.  As we walked through the downtown I was reminded of our 10th anniversary when we spent part of the day in Walnut, Iowa going into all the antique shops.  It was much colder that day, though!  But the old buildings in Des Moines reminded me of Walnut.  And I couldn't help but think what a glorious anniversary day we might have had Saturday if Paul was still alive and we had the day to ourselves to celebrate #23.  That made me a little sad.

We went to the Science Museum which is basically a Children's Museum with a science emphasis.  I've been there once before.  I know people that have memberships but that doesn't appeal to me.  I wouldn't think there would be enough to see to make it worth it.  We were there for one of David's birthdays, a long, long time ago, like before Sam was born.  And they still have the same stuff!  They did have a traveling display on the subject of race, which was interesting.  The girls were too little to really understand, although Lizzie liked watching a video which showed a white mother not wanting her daughter to play with a black girl at the neighborhood park.  She was very clearly able to articulate to me what was happening in the video (sadly, the next day she commented to me that a girl at school had told her last week that she doesn't have any friends because "you're brown."  The way LIzzie told the story, it doesn't sound like the girl was trying to be mean - rather just presenting her wrong opinion.  It just makes sick that Lizzie is having to deal with this.  I do not know what to do - yank her out of school and go back to homeschooling?  Dual enroll her in a more diverse school? Hope that things get better with time?  Ugh...)

So anyway, we were at the museum for a couple of hours and then we had tickets to the IMAX theater, connected to the  museum.  They were showing a film on the national parks.  Oh, it was neat!  My desire to take the kids out west has only increased with watching that!  I want to take them to Yellowstone and the cluster of parks that are out there.  The idea of doing it alone makes me quail a bit but in time, I think I could...

And then we went to Fuddruckers for supper, which is one of my favorite places to eat.  Paul liked it too.  In fact, he was the one who introduced me to that restaurant a long, long time ago.

Then we came home and watched my wedding video.  Yes, we did.  Arien suggested it and I thought about it.  I've thought about watching it numerous times since Paul's death but never thought I could.  But she said something about it that morning and as I thought about it, I realized that it just felt right.  And it was.  I didn't tear up or anything - just enjoyed it.

And thus, our third annual Family Day came to an end and is deemed successful.  One of these years I'd like to do another overnight trip like we did that first year.
I got my second explanatory essay grade back - another 15 out of 15 possible points.  Now I'm worried - is she an easy grader and I'm really not as good at this as my grade would suggest?  At the end of that essay I referenced the quote, "The pen is mightier than the sword" and in her comments, my professor said, "And you, Sarah, have a very mighty pen!"  Aww...she knows how to stroke where I feel it most!  I turned in a paper today on the feminist view of critical analysis.   I actually learned quite a bit from this chapter of the book.  I'm seeing that feminism is not necessarily only the belief that"women are superior and men are dogs."  That's definitely a component of it - blaming men for every ill ever befallen to womankind.  But some forms of feminism also have to do with respecting the differences between men and women and working to make life better for ALL of humanity, regardless of gender.

So I wrote this nice paper about feminism today and turned it in.  Then, a few minutes ago I sat down to work on my Bible study lesson and this chapter has to do with the ERA and is in fact, saying that there is no way Christianity and feminism can be reconciled.  So now I'm worried that maybe I just betrayed my faith by buying in, at least a little bit, to the feminist theory of critical analysis!  Ugh.
Will got his grade for the paper I helped him with a couple of weeks ago - 100%.  Yay, me! He said the teacher commented that he "obviously has a good grasp of critical analysis."  That  made us both laugh!  Someone has a good grasp of it, but it sure isn't Will...

Actually, that paper was kind of a pivitol point for Will as he determines which endorsements to pursue.  He's been thinking he'll go for English but after seeing what all is required and how his mind is not naturally bent that direction, he's decided instead to pursue a Social Studies endorsement which will encompass history, geography, and economics.  Of course, he still has to get through rest of the semester in British Lit, though!

This semester he has to put in 40 hours of classroom time, half at an elementary school and half at a high school.  He spent one day a couple of weeks ago with his old football coach in his math classroom.  Last Friday he spent all day with Ben's special ed teachers.  He came home absolutely bubbling with enthusiasm and told me that he had learned more in that one day than he had learned so far all semester.  The teachers sat down with him and showed him everything - how the salary scale works, state and federal requirements for special ed (teachers are only allowed to have so many students under their care, dependent on severity of disability), IEPs - everything.  They told him what classes to take at college now and which ones to save for when he'd go for his Masters (which sounds like is something all teachers get at some point or another).  They had him meet with the middle school  special ed teachers who were equally enthusiastic when they realized Will was Ben's brother.  Later, I wrote a thank you email to Ben's teachers and one wrote me back and said she is so excited that Will is considering special education, although she has no doubt he'd be successful in any type of classroom.  She said she's always thought very highly of him ever since she heard him speak at Paul's funeral.

In my mind, if Will does become a special education teacher (and I'm not pushing it - he needs to pursue how God leads, not how Mom does) it would be redemptive in a way - a way of bringing good out of the terrible events of Ben's birth.  Although, I guess I have Ben's life for that as ultimate redemption.
And speaking of Ben...yesterday was a nice enough day that David dug his bike out of the garage so Ben could ride around town.  Ben's bike is an adapted model - basically, an overgrown tricyle.  Ben came home awhile later complaining that he had been going down a hill when the brakes went out and he crashed, as a result.  He rubbed his elbow, so I looked at it and it did look banged up, but the skin wasn't broken.

Well, later that night Ben was in the bathroom when I heard him hollering wildly for me.  I ran to the room and there he stood stark naked, pointing to his hip.  I handed him a towel while I bandaged up this huge, raw swath of skin on his upper leg.  He also needed a band aid on his butt.  Then I found a chunk of skin had been wiped away on top of his shoulder on that same side of the body.  I guess he did wipe out!  I got him all bandaged up and then Ben says, "Ok, thanks.  I'm going to take my shower now."

What?!  Oh, I could have pulled my hair out.  Why did he let me go to all that work when he knew he hadn't bathed yet?
David looked at the bike and isn't sure if its repairable.  I'll have Will take a look.  We got it from an organization that services the handicapped.  I may have to call them if it's not fixable and see what they want to do.  We didn't have to pay for the bike, so I don't know if they would want me to pay for repairs or just turn it in and get a different one.
Ellie had a much better week last week, behavior-wise.  Of course, she wasn't feeling the greatest all week long.  She wasn't quite sick enough to be in bed, but her appetite was off, she was really tired, and she sported a fever, off and on.  So, she probably didn't feel well enough to be too terribly bad.  But, I did start her Obedience Chart with her, too, and she does seem awfully motivated to earn her stickers and rewards.  So, maybe it's working!  Time will tell, I guess.

I was doing laundry one day and after I took out a load of dry clothes, Ellie excitedly announced, "I want to get out the pus!"  She repeated it several times and I did not know what she was talking about, other than it sounded really gross.  Well, she was wanting to clean the lint filter.  She mixed up, "pus" with "lint."  How that can happen, I really don't know...

She was helping me cook one day last week and when I got out the eggs, she exclaimed, "Hey - these look just like chicken eggs!"  Not sure what kind of eggs she thinks I've been cooking with all this time...
Ben watched the Republican debate last week.  I didn't even do that.  At one point I asked him how the debate was going and Ben replied, "Oh, that Donald Trump - he's such a whiner!"  He told me some other things and then said finally, "I think he's worse than Jeb Bush!"  It made me laugh.
And finally,..this is sad, but it also serves as a good reminder to me that no matter how rough my own life may seem at times, it could always be worse.

A Facebook friend posted a GoFundMe link with a note telling us that this family is real, as is their need.  I read the page and was absolutely horrified and saddened.  There is this homeschooling family here in the U.S, who have 9 children.  One has Downs Syndrome and was adopted from the Ukraine. The picture posted shows all the girls in the family wearing denim skirts (of course).  Very conservative very Godly would think.

Except, a few weeks ago one of the children told her mom that Dad had been sexually abusing her for years.  And then Mom discovers that it wasn't just one child, but several. And the abuse had been happening for Thirteen years. Here is where I have the utmost respect for this woman: she could have ignored this new knowledge.  She could have attempted to justify it.  She knew that by calling the police her family would be shamed and open to scrutiny.  They would lose the only income the family had.  But the very next day she did just that and her husband still sits in jail today. 

And its tough.  At the time of the writing of the GoFundMe page by a family friend, this family had $95 to their name.  Mom's marriage is (assumedly) over, her children are in pain, and their entire family has just been sent through a meat grinder.  In short order, the kids need therapy, Mom needs a job, and the family needs peace and healing. 

The GoFundMe page is doing well.  I'm glad to see that a lot of Christians are responding to this legitimate need.

But, oh, the hurt of this family.  Their last name is Silva.  Be in prayer as you think of it.

And on a personal level, may their story serve as a reminder to me that I have been protected from an awful lot.
Well, that's it for now.  I'm going to be spending a lot of time this week at the computer, but it won't be on blogging.  Lots of papers to crank out in the next few days!

And speaking of blogging - I'll have a big announcement next week.  Well, in the scheme of life, it's not really not that huge.  But it's time for a change.  Details are coming, forthwith!


Saturday, February 13, 2016

Day 982

February 13, 2016
Day 982


The kids didn't have school today.  I really wonder how I managed to homeschool as long as I did.  I've been ready to put them to bed since about 11 this morning.

Well, life has been busy lately.  And I don't foresee any real slowdown.  My class will be wrapping up in the next couple weeks.  That means I have four papers and a power point presentation left to do.  Not quite sure when I'm going to get them all done. 

But, I did get the grade back on my first paper and was completely stunned to learn I had been given 15 out of 15 possible points.  I seriously about fell over when I saw that.

But now I feel this pressure to do that well with all my other papers!  I'm afraid I'm going to be crushed if I don't score well on them, too!  I expressed that to Will and he nodded and said he totally understood that.  He said he observes other students slacking off and it's so tempting as he realizes what he could get away with.

He came home one afternoon this week and told me, "I need help!"  I never hear that from him!  So, of course, I was all ears.  Well, he had to write a paper for his English class and he was pretty lost.  The subject matter - applying critical analysis to a classic piece of literature - is exactly what my class has been all about!  We were able to get it all done by bedtime.  Will sat back on my bed and exclaimed, "It would have taken me days to get done what you were able to just whip out there!"  That made me feel good.  He's going to help me with my power point presentation that's due in two weeks.  I'm figuring out that our professor just assumes we all know how to make one of those.  I have no clue how to do one.  He said he'll help me when I do my math class, too.  I think I had better schedule that for when Will still lives at home...'s been almost two weeks since I last wrote.  What has happened in that time?

Let's see...

We had another racial incident on the bus again.  Grr...Actually, it was kind of funny.  Well, this part was: the kids got home from school one day and Sam came into the house sputtering.  He came up to me in the kitchen and said, "I'm not going to stand for anyone bullying my sister!"  Awww...just melted my heart!  Then, Lizzie tried to tell me what had happened and Sam is standing there literally elbowing her out of the way and hollering, "Let me tell her, Lizzie!" and it kind of cracked me up because he had just informed me that he wasn't going to let her be bullied, but he, apparently, has no problem with knocking her out of the way when the occasion arises!

It was two little mean girls on the bus this time.  So, once again, I complained to the principal via email and he got right on it.  He told me these girls are nothing but trouble, which lines up with what the kids have told me about them.  We got written apologies from the girls and I was impressed that the principal had the girls write to Sam, too, because he was also offended.  Lizzie said the principal had her meet with the girls and explained to them that chickens have all sorts of colors of eggs, but they all have yellow yolks - or something like that.  Anyway, she thought that was a pretty cool analogy for differing skin colors. 

Maybe this is just something that is going to rear its ugly head from time to time because it's an all-white school.  Or maybe, as people get to know the girls, it will cease to happen.  I don't know.  But I find it pretty disgusting, although I am thankful for the principal's willingness to deal with this.  He told me to never be hesitant to contact him with stuff like this.  At the same time, I don't want him groaning every time he sees my name in his in box.  I don't want to be a whiny parent complaining every time her child's feelings get trampled on.

He did tell me that, in his opinion, Sam and Lizzie have really "come far" this school year academically and socially (their social skills were just fine to begin with, thank you) and it's obvious that they have been trained to speak kindly and treat others well.  That made me feel good!  At least in public, my kids are behaving and being nice!

And then last Saturday night was Single Parent Provision night.  When I picked up the kids one of the workers asked me, "Can you bring them every time?  They are just the nicest children!"  Ahhh...

Still lots of work to do, of course.  Ellie is at the top of the list right now.  I don't know if it's her or if it's her age or what.  The lying is almost a daily thing now and the disobedience...oh, my goodness.  I just bought an oil diffuser for their room and Ellie had strict instructions to not touch it at all.  No sooner would I leave the room after spanking her for touching it and she'd be messing with it again.  I think we went through that three times today before I gave up and moved the diffuser somewhere else where she couldn't touch it - which negates any lesson I wanted her to learn.  Will had some coffee/chocolate Starbucks drink (I think Arien is slowly converting him) sitting on the counter from last night (the two of them went ice skating - while it romantic) and Ellie took it upon herself to microwave the drink and it exploded all over the microwave and the floor.  And I am wondering

How does she know how to operate the microwave?

Argh!  But I actually have an idea.  I just need the time to implement it.  I spent considerable time one morning this week praying about Ellie's lying.  I'm kind of at my wit's end.  I don't know what to do because I feel like I've tried everything to convince her that truth telling is infinitely  more preferable than filthy lying but she's not buying it.  So I was telling God this and praying for wisdom one morning.  Then I sat down at my computer to check my email and the very first email my eyes saw was a blog I follow sometimes.  It had the word, "character badges" in the message line so I clicked on it.  Well,  the lady who writes this blog was advertising something her husband has come up with and they sell some sort of badges for good character you use with your kids.  What caught my eye were some pictures of charts.  And suddenly I remembered when I was potty training Will and David.  I made up reward charts for them because they weren't too motivated to use the toilet unless there was something in it for them.  We called them their, "poop charts."  I think I still have them!  Anyway, they worked like a charm.

I knew there was something with those charts I could use but it didn't click until a couple of hours later.  I could make "good behavior" charts for Ellie!  Just like the poop charts, she'd get rewards for entire days with no bad behavior.  If she goes three days, then there will be a small reward and then we'll start over again and shoot for five or six days and then we'll go for a longer period of time, eventually leading up to a "big" prize.  As I recall with Will and David, their big reward was to go to Burger King with a play area and they got to order whatever food they wanted.  Of course, unlike the boys' charts, I'll still discipline when she doesn't have a day where she gets a sticker to put on the charts. 

Maybe this will work - I hope. There is a big part of me that resists the idea of bribing my child to obey.  That ought to happen out of willing heart and if the heart isn't willing, then it should at least be done out of fear of consequences.  But,   I don't have any other ideas.  I'm not ordering from this company, though.  This is something I can make on my own.  I just thought it was interesting that I had literally just prayed about the situation when I saw the email.  It seems like an answer to prayer, anyway.

I woke up at 5 with a migraine.  Ugh.  It was so bad I was awake again an hour later with the same headache.  I'm already on pill 3 and it's only 10:30 in the morning.  Typically, I'll see some relief by late afternoon.  That seems to be the pattern with these headaches that beset me while I'm sleeping.

Ben has a date for prom.  This is one of those things where I just sit back and marvel at God's goodness and the way He has things planned out long before I even begin to think about them.  I've known about this since last fall, but it all came together this week.

Ben had informed me at the beginning of the school year that he had every intention of going to prom this year.  I immediately began to think of everything that could go wrong with that idea.  But he was adamant, even when I suggested that he attend A Night to Shine (a local special needs prom held in the Des Moines area every year) as an alternative.  He wanted to go to his school's prom.

And then last fall, his teacher approached me with the news that not one, but two, "normal" students had asked her. separately,  if she thought Ben's mom would be willing to let him attend prom as her date.  One of the girls I knew, so I was comfortable having her accompany him.

And then, like I said, this week it all came together.  This sweet girl, Deidra, texted me last week with some ideas of dresses she was considering(I encouraged her to go modest - hope she does!).  And then her mom texted me.  We met Monday afternoon after school, Deidra, her mom, and stepdad, and hashed out how we'd do everything.  Then, Thursday was the big asking day.  Ben's teachers were in on it.

  Apparently, the "asking" of someone to prom is almost as big of an event as the night itself.  They're called, "promposals," even.  I'm slightly rolling my eyes.  As I recall, the way I got asked to my senior prom was my boyfriend saying, "You're going with me, right?"  Times have changed.  So, Deidra asked her mom and me to be there.  We snuck into the classroom.  Ben didn't seem to question it too much.  I told him I'd brought him his hat since he had forgotten it (he really did) and then I told him I had an appointment at the insurance office in town (I really did) and was killing time until I needed to go to that.  He accepted it without question and continued to work on his math with his teacher.

Then, Deidra (who had already told me how nervous she was) asked Ben to help her with some papers.  So, Ben followed her over to a table.  Jennifer (her mom) and I tried to unobtrusively follow, our phones in hand, ready to snap pictures of the moment.  Deidra began to lay out sheets of papers, each with a different letter on them, spelling out, "Will U Go to Prom with me?"  Only, Ben misread it and slowly said out loud, "Will you go to Rome with me?"  It was funny!

And of course he said yes and it was sweet.  Jennifer videod it all.  She's a very excitable and emotional person - which is fine.  I'm emotional but I keep it tamped down most of the time!  I probably come off as un-emotional, as a result, to others. I think I took three or four pictures.  But by that evening, she had posted the videos and pictures to my Facebook wall, all excited.  I had no intention of doing anything like that.  But it's ok.  I am very touched by Deidra and her family's enthusiasm for making this night special for Ben.  She could easily have chosen to go to prom with a "normal" classmate - one that won't need help with his zipper, or bounce down the runway during walk-in, one that could potentially turn into a boyfriend, or one that won't tire out and go home before After Prom.  But she chose Ben because she likes him and because she wanted to give him a night that he can remember the rest of his life.

I'll never forget that and I'll always be so grateful.

Man, has God been good to us!
I tried something new last weekend...and everyone who  knows me is aware that  this does not normally happen, particularly when it involves food.  I was just out to eat with a friend a couple of weeks ago, ordered my food (chicken parm at Olive Garden) and she laughed and said, "I knew before we got here what you were having!"  I don't like surprises and what if I order something new and I don't like it?

But, Des Moines just opened up their second Zombie Burger restaurant out at Jordan Creek mall around Christmastime.  I've heard good things about it and have been interested in trying it.  But the lines are always long and I have no idea what kind of food they have other than, presumably, burgers.  I hate trying new things and I especially dislike ordering at the counter when I don't already know what it is I want.  I feel pressured to make a snappy order. 

So, last Sat. evening I was out at the mall for Single Parent Provision.  I needed some dinner and I wandered around, but nothing else sounded good.  I really wanted to try Zombie Burger.  But on a Saturday night, when half of Des Moines is at the mall already?  When the line stretches clear around the corner?  I told myself I'd try it some other time during the week when it wasn't so hectic.  But I really kind of wanted to try it that night.  I finally told myself, "Look here - how many new things have you managed to try and succeed at the last 2 1/2 years?  How can ordering something from a new restaurant be any harder than what you've already done?"  True.  So I got in line.  Well, first I sat down and with my handy iphone, I perused their on-line menu.  So, I least had an idea of what I might want to try.  Then I got in line.

I got a friendly teenage girl to take my order and I explained to her that this was my first visit.  She walked me through the ordering process and I came away with a "Walking Ched" burger, fries, and drink.  Holy buckets...I think you're paying for the novelty of ordering from a place designed to look like the set of a horror  movie.  I paid $13 for all of that - and my Coke was a small, even!

But, oh my goodness...let me tell you about the Walking Ched burger...It's a patty covered in caramelized onions (most of which I picked off), cheese, and bacon.  This is sandwiched between not a bread bun, but a bun made out of fried cheese, stuffed with macaroni and cheese.  Messy, definitely...but so, so good...I sure was glad I stepped out of my Chik-fil-A, Taco John comfort zone and tried something new!

Afterwards, I had no shopping I needed to do, so I went over to Barnes and Noble into their coffee shop area, curled up in a chair, and spent my time reading, "Redeeming Love" which I am doing my final paper for my class on.  It was a very satisfactory way to spend my break time!
I changed my house and auto insurance company.  For some reason, this struck me as a very, "grown up" kind of decision.  Paul always took care of that kind of stuff.  I just co-signed the papers with him.  Even after he died and I had to switch everything over to my name I didn't change coverage (except to buy life insurance for me) or companies.  But I know I've written before  how unhappy I am with my health insurance.  The premiums and co-pays just keep going up and up and up.  And I hardly ever go to the doctor, anyway!  Not that that couldn't change in a hurry, if I got sick or hurt.  Which is why I have to have some sort of insurance.  Plus, I would get fined if I don't have it, thanks to Obamacare.

So, I started doing some looking around.  I actually prayed before hopping on Google.  And wouldn't you know it, the very first website I clicked on popped up with Dave Ramsey's picture on it!  It turns out that they are the only Dave Ramsey licensed ELP in the metro.  So, I called them and the agent actually advised me to stick with my current health plan, expensive as it is.  The agent I spoke with is a Christian, homeschooling dad and his secretary is a former homeschooling mom (her kids are all graduated).  In fact, years ago I talked with her when I needed to find a supervising teacher.  Small world!  He said that the next election will have a lot to do with what happens in the world of health insurance and all we can do right is sit tight and see what happens.  But, he offered to get me a quote for my house and vehicles and I  figured, why not?  He got me better coverage for $350 less a year.  Sold!  Of course, I felt really guilty when I contacted my other agent to let her know I was switching...Paul wouldn't have felt guilty.  He would have just done it.  But I'm a girl and I feel things and I overthink things.  But I'm also going to be a girl with $350 more in my pocket this year!
And to finish with a few funnies.  By the way, my headache has finally lifted (it's now 4pm - right on schedule).  Maybe I'll be able to get a start on that paper after all.  I'm going to write about the deconstructionalist theory of critical analysis.  Sounds complicated, which it sort of is.  It's basically the idea that things are not always what they seem in literature.  For example, if someone wrote about getting chocolates and flowers, the reader might assume they were from their boyfriend or husband as a way of showing love (this reminds me of something - I'll write it in a minute).  But, the deconstructionalist theory says, "Wait a minute..."  The candy and flowers could be a guilt offering because the guy has just cheated on the gal to whom he sent the flowers.  Basic idea, anyway. 

I think next week's paper will be written on the feminist viewpoint.  We talked about that this week in class and boy, did the "poor me" whiners come out in full force in my all-female class.  A couple of times I had to interject that you know, men don't have it all that easy, either.  My perspective seemed to intrigue the professor, as she asked me several questions about it.  I'm sure they don't want to know everything I was thinking!  The second half of our lecture was about the gay/lesbian/queer analysis and boy, did I just have to be quiet.  I was in a room full of pro-homosexuality sympathizers.

Alright, I think I promised some funnies:

First, last week for my class we had an assignment to watch and analyze a superbowl commercial using the semiotic form of critical analysis.  I wasn't about to sit through the game just to see commercials.  But the night before David showed me one on youtube.  It was the sonogram Doritos commercial where the dad is eating Doritos in the ultrasound room, much to his wife's disgust.  But the baby likes it and it's quickly obvious the baby is reaching for the Dorito.  Irritated, the mom grabs the chip and lets it fly past her feet.  Whereupon, the baby suddenly decides to  make a dash for the Dorito.  Sam watched it with me and asked what was happening.  I told him the baby decided to be born in order to get the chip.  Sam then asked, "Well, how did he get out?"  I explained in kid-friendly terms and Sam's mouth dropped open.  He exclaimed, "Well, that had to hurt!"  We were all dying!

I was at the bank this week, making the city's deposit.  All the tellers in there always make such a big deal out of Ellie.  I usually go after picking her up from preschool.  We were leaving, but not out the door yet, when Ellie asked me, "Why did she call me a 'cutie patootie'?"  I told her the teller was just saying she was cute and Ellie protested, "But she called me a tootie!"  "Toot" is our word for passing gas...

One day this week when I picked Ellie up from preschool her teacher came up to me and related what had happened.  She was still laughing.  She said it was snack time and she was passing out the treats and water and every other kid was demanding more snacks and another  cup of water.  She said Ellie finally exclaimed in exasperation, "Do you people think she has fourteen hands?!" (There are 14 kids in the class).  I know exactly where she learned that, too...

Oh, and back to the candy and flowers...Yesterday, Arien sent me a message, "Do you know what your son did?"  I hoped it was something good... She then sent a picture of the front seat of her car.  She had come out after work to find candy and flowers.  I told her it was apparent that Will had inherited or at least learned, his dad's romantic bent...I found the same thing in my vehicles many times when we were together.

Being loved makes for many good  memories.

Happy Valentine's Day!



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.