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Heat, Adulting, and Teeth


Summer has arrived with all its heat and humidity. The kids’ new pool arrived mid-week and Will got it set up for them. I took the Littles yesterday to the Carlisle pool, which was so crowded that there were not even any parking spots. So, I parked on the grass. But this morning there was a thunderstorm. It was so cozy – thunder rumbling and the sky all dark. I ended up sleeping in until after 9am! I must have needed it.

This was the first week of camp. Monday, Ben and I rode up with his friends, Marissa and Tanji and their mothers, Maureen and Pennie. We moms had a great time! I didn’t really know Pennie, other than by sight at Special Olympic events before. The next day she messaged me and said, “We seem to have so much in common – let’s do lunch sometime!” So, I have a new friend.

Ben was really struggling with his allergies the first half of the week, to the point I was fearful I was going to have to go pick him up. But he rallied and completed the week. His counselor stayed in contact with me all week long, which was nice.Will wanted to spend some time at camp (he told me it felt kind of “weird” to not be there this week, after the last 2 yrs of working there full time and part-time in the years before that) so yesterday, he left before 5 in the morning and went up to volunteer for several hours, cutting wood, I think he said. And then he brought Ben home.

David got home early this afternoon from Water and Work week. He did well. Will had already clued me in to that because he’d been talking with the camp director yesterday who indicated that David was showing amazing work ethic and capability this week. David got 4 weeks of work, plus the Men’s retreat in late August. He’s pretty tired today and has been kind of vegging out all afternoon long. I probably would be, too.

Monday was Death Day. I really did ok. I was a little more emotional, but all right. Of course, that day of all days, I met someone who wanted to hear the story of Paul’s death (my new friend, Pennie). So it was a little harder to tell than it would have been, say, had it been Tuesday. I was all right.

The day before the kids and I went to Fuddruckers and David took some pictures of me up at the grave wearing my “Choose Joy” shirt. I wanted it for my annual FB post that I do on Death Day. And then I wore the shirt again the next day on the 6th.

The difference in my boys…David spent the night Sunday with a friend who was also going to camp. But the next morning, he texted me at 5 in the morning, telling me he was praying for me all day long. And then I happened to run into him up at camp that morning when I got there with Ben and David immediately asked in a low voice, “So, how are you holding up?”

Will never said a peep all day. He had poked his head in my room to ask me something before bed that night and I finally asked him how he had done all day(assuming he was just fine in his John Wayne, “you can’t change it, so why think about it” approach). He said he had gotten a text from my brother sending him a “man hug” that day and his first thought was, “Well, that’s kind of random!” It took him a minute to remember just why it was he might need a man hug. But he said he had actually thought about the upcoming date a couple of weeks ago. Neither approach is wrong – just indicative of their very different personalities.


After I dropped Ben off and was getting ready to go, a couple of counselors were walking towards me, noticed my shirt, and said something about it. Somewhere in the conversation one asked (and for the life of me, I cannot remember how the conversation leaped from the message of my shirt to this), “So what does your husband do?” To which I replied, startled, “Well, nothing – he’s dead.” His face lit up and he said, “So is my wife!” And then we had a nice conversation for the next 20 min. or so. Except, parts of it seemed one sided since he never once asked how my husband died or how long it had been (parts of his story that he was quick to share with me). I could see Maureen and Pennie were waiting for me, so I really had to go, but the guy did ask my name before I left. I don’t know – he seemed nice enough. He probably doesn’t run into too many widows his age. He mentioned that he and his wife never had kids so I suppose any chance he gets to talk he’s going to take it. My friend, Sara, told me the whole thing was probably just “good practice” for the day that I eventually do start dating again. It just felt kind of odd, I guess, because I haven’t had that long of a conversation with any man since Paul’s death.

I sold Paul’s trailer last Sunday morning. Paul had bought it several years ago when our neighbor had an auction. The thing was big – 18 feet long. I remember feeling exasperated with him when he bought it. What were we going to do with that thing?! But he explained that he “might need it sometime.” We did end up using it once or twice for the annual Halloween bonfires, to transport people around town for the “spooky” ride. He and Will replaced the wood on it, but for the most part, it has just sat. My neighbor offered to buy it from me a couple of years ago and I told him I’d sell it to him, but he never completed the sale. So, this spring, another neighbor told me that there was someone on Craig’s List looking for a flatbed trailer and gave me the guy’s number. I asked my other neighbor if he had any intention of buying my trailer and he said no, I could go ahead and sell it to someone else. So, I contacted that guy from Craig’s List and he said he was interested, but then he never texted me back. That was in April. I decided to finally list the thing a week ago on Craig’s List. I immediately had a couple of texts. One was from a guy in Red Oak (south of Council Bluffs – a good 2 hours or more away). Anyway, the first one said he was really interested and wanted to come look at it Sun. morning. I told him I had church, so it would have to be kind of early, or we could wait until afternoon. He offered to come at 8, so I agreed. Anyway, now that I’ve dragged this story out with all these unnecessary details – the short version is that I sold the trailer. And I doubled my money from what Paul paid for it originally. And best of all, I don’t have an 18 foot trailer in my yard anymore.

Here's the bad thing: I told the guy the reason he’d have to come early is because I had church. So, he and his dad are looking the thing over when all of a sudden, several of my children tumble out the back door of the house, screaming at each other. Of all the moments for their sin natures to be on display…I did quip to the guy, “They really need to go to church!” and that made him laugh.

I did feel kind of proud of myself because I do not like to barter. I think men get a thrill out of it, but it just seems kind of, oh, I don’t know, maybe kind of crass to me. I just want to know how much something is and then hand over the money – no discussion. Well, the guy offered me $50 less than I was asking for the trailer. I surprised myself and actually counter-offered him back, offering to split the difference at $25. He said, “Well, I don’t have any change.” I smiled and said, “I can help you out with that!” and had David go get some cash out of my purse for him. It felt empowering.

So, anyway, that’s done.


Another hot day…it’s summer. And I have air conditioning. Stop whining.

A few days ago Ellie had two pieces of bread in her hand. Sam joked, “If you just had three fish now, you could feed 5000 people!” Ellie looked at him seriously and replied, “I don’t like fish.” No miracles from her, then!

Sam’s stuttering has gotten just awful this week with the start-up of summer school. I am really not liking this whole idea. Three days a week I am driving him in to the school (a 20 min round trip) and he reads with a teacher for 15 min. It’s supposed to be a 20 min. read, but he’s always done early. He’s always stuttered off and on, but not like this. I know some of it is made worse by these timed reads they do with him. The speech pathologist at school had finally persuaded the head reading instructor to drop those with Sam by the end of the year. I asked this teacher if she could do the same, but she says she can’t, because then she doesn’t have a way to gauge progress. Why do we need to gauge his progress? Isn’t practice enough? I’m having to do timed reads with him at home all summer long, too, so he can earn a pizza party at school when it resumes in a couple of months. But now he’s getting stuck on every single word about 5-7 times before he can move to the next. It’s not just in his reading, but in his talking. We’re all patient and understanding with him, but I know that won’t be true of all the kids at school if he’s still doing this in August.

I did some on-line research last night and ended up ordering some essential oils that are supposed to be good for speech disorders. I have a hard time understanding how an oil would benefit something like stuttering, but I’ve had such good success with them in other areas, I figured it was worth a shot. I also looked up some speech therapy places, too. I hate to try to think how I’d fit something like that in to my schedule, but if the stuttering doesn’t improve in the next few weeks, I think I’m going to have to seek outside help. I know, from my experience with Ben, that the therapy services offered by the school systems are very, very limited and better success will be found going through a hospital or clinic. But then there’s the whole insurance thing now…ugh.

Lizzie got her braces last week. They’re saying she’ll only need them for about 6 months. Our local dental office had been wanting me to have Sam’s teeth looked at, too, so I had him consult with the ortho while we were there with Lizzie. He thinks Sam needs the same treatment Lizzie does. He literally has no room for his adult canine teeth to descend into his mouth. And all four of his adult bottom teeth have come in accordion style because of lack of space. So, we’re waiting to see what the insurance company will say on him. I am going to have to make 4 hour round trips to IA City every 5 weeks to have Lizzie’s braces tightened.

Ellie had her front tooth removed this week (locally). She did great. The tooth fairy forgot to come until last night – Ellie was not impressed. I think she actually believes the fairy is real. I joked that the fairy lived at the “Molar Pole” and Ellie nodded her head seriously. This morning when I woke her up to get ready for church I saw that she was sleeping with her dollar bill clutched tightly in her hand. So she must have awakened sometime during the night and found the money.

Last Sunday Bella decided to sprawl out on the top step of the basement stairs. She’s been doing that lately – just letting it all hang out. I don’t know if it’s because she’s hot or because she’s fat. Anyway, she apparently didn’t realize that those steps do not have a back to them and she fell straight through the opening into the basement…directly into the sump pump pit full of water. Poor kitty. She’s fine, but decidedly leery of those steps now.

I got the upstairs landing painted this week. I had stripped it last week. This time I had the water based polyeurothane, but just to be careful, I painted a small area with it. I did not want another yellow floor, especially after I spent all that time stripping the old poly and paint up. Dag nab it…my floor began to turn yellow again. And that was a $45 can of poly! I’m going to return it. So, I guess I can’t seal my floor, although I am baffled as to why. I guess I’ll just have to try to keep it clean as best as I can and repaint it every year. I’m going to buy a larger rug for it. My next project is taking down the wallpaper border in the upstairs bathroom and scraping the flaking paint off the ceiling. I’m going to paint the walls a baby blue and the sloping ceiling a lighter brown color. I bought some burlap to make a shower curtain and a pretty light blue/brown waverly piece of “rougher” fabric at Walmart for a valence. About a month ago I found some sparkly shower hooks. I think those will make kind of a neat contrast against the rough, burlap shower curtain.

I’m trying to make a more feminine bathroom since the girls are up there now and since Will will leave home at some point and his bedroom will become a guest room. For a couple of years now the girls have always chimed, “Love you more!” when I tuck them in at night and tell them I love them. Then I respond, “Love you most!” Well, this past winter I found some signs at Hobby Lobby that have those exact sentiments printed on them. So, those will be my bathroom decorations. No more camping theme, no more picture of Paul with his dead deer, more more canoe shelf…we’re going girly.

I ordered Ben a jitterbug phone this week. He’s staying home alone more and more and needs to have a way to get help if it’s needed. Plus, he’ll need something for when he starts to work. I did some research and there is an appalling lack of phones available for the disabled, I found. The jitterbug is actually designed for the elderly. It’s a very simple flip phone. It arrived Friday and I was really pleased with the size of it. It’s larger than I remember flip phones being. And the buttons are nice and huge, which will be perfect for him since he doesn’t have much fine motor control in his hands. Ben was able to quickly figure out how to operate it and in fact, used it the first night he had it to call me while I was at the kids’ VBS program. He had broken a plate and was wondering he should clean it up or not. I think this phone will be ideal for his needs. And if he loses it, it’s only $25 to replace it. 
Last Sunday was stressful for me. Some of it was knowing that the 6th would be happening the next day. Some of it was Lizzie and Ben who were at each other’s throats all day long. I was scolding Ben for reacting to his sister and he was telling me, “Hey – I’m adult now. You can’t tell me what to do!” And then in the next second, covering up his ears like a preschooler and telling me, “I’m not going to listen to you!” Argh! I was reminded of that old saying that says, “They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I ought to be able to bench press a buick by now.” I couldn’t wait to send him off to camp!

We’re definitely in a unique season of life. Ben knows he’s an adult because, really, that’s what high school graduation is – a ceremony honoring the start of adult life. And mentally, most of the time he’s doing good and making competent adult-like decisions. But then there are times, like when he’s provoked by a bratty sibling, that the part of him that is mentally handicapped comes out in full force and I’m suddenly reminded why he was on an IEP for all his school years. I think it would be a lot easier if he was functioning straight across the board like a six year old – like how a lot of his camping companions are. I got Ben to camp on Monday and was accosted by one of Ben’s roommates who went on and on about how he could believe that “Mohammad Ali died! He was the greatest boxer of all time and now he’s dead!” I nodded sympathetically and asked if he supposed Ali knew Jesus. The camper didn’t respond but just continued to shake his head and moan about how Mohammad was dead. And then he jumped up and down, began to rummage through his bag, and said, “Hey! Do you want to see my new Minnesota Vikings cup? My stepdad bought it for me. See, see?” He shoves the cup right in my face. “I love the Minnesota Vikings!” But Ben’s not like that. His maturity levels are all over the place. And so I never know quite how to approach him anymore.

On our way back home, my friend mentioned that her daughter went through a real period of grieving after her high school graduation. Like Ben, she was popular at school and had a number of friends. When it was all over and her “normal” friends started heading off to college and she did not, she struggled. I think that’s some of what Ben is experiencing now. He’s trying to figure out an adult future when he lacks full adult capabilities.

And, not knowing still what is going on doesn’t help. His case manager has been in repeated contact with Hy-Vee and it sounds like they could fit him in for two mornings a week, which would be great, but we still don’t have a definite answer. Genesis has Wednesdays open for Ben to come to Discovery (day hab) but we can’t sign him up for that until we get a definite answer from Hy-Vee. And even when when we can finally do that, insurance has changed so much that we now have to wait for approval from them before Ben can start any new services. I am frustrated because this thing with Hy Vee has been going on for three months now. But I can’t walk in there and demand that they give my son a job.

At the same time, I can honestly say I still have the peace I mentioned a few weeks ago. I know that it is all going to work out one way or the other. If Hy-Vee is not an option, that’s where Vocational Rehabilitation steps in and tries to find something else for Ben. It’s hard for me to imagine any other environment and location that would be more ideal for Ben, though, than the Knoxville store. That’s where I get a little anxious. And, so, in the meantime, I try to find things for him to do.

This Friday night a church in W. Des Moines is having a pizza/karoke night for disabled adults. Will agreed to take Ben so that will be something for him to look forward to. Evidently, they have these nights every 8 weeks, so if Ben enjoys himself, we’ll have to make sure to get him to all of them from here on out.

I have to remind myself that God has never failed to meet Ben’s needs – or mine, as his mom. I just have to be patient,

And I’m not very good about that. In any aspect of my life.

Well, I need to go make my to-do list for the week. My final paper for my class is due in a couple of weeks so I figured I had better get started on it this week. I’ve decided to write about orphans in the Victorian era. Our assignment was to choose a British Victorian novel to read (I am reading “Silas Marner”) and then take some aspect of the story and run with it, turning it into a paper. My girls’ ears always perk up when they hear about orphanages of old and I think it will be an interesting topic. My next class, American Lit, starts in just two or three weeks. I need to be ordering my books for that. I’m looking forward to that one. We have produced some mighty fine authors in the 250 years of our existence.

Oh, and I have to come up with a short article sometime in the next ten days for our church’s July newsletter. I am trying to find something patriotic, but a lot of what is on the internet seems to be intent on sharing what was wrong with the founding fathers. I was going to write about Thomas Paine, but then realized that he probably was not a Christian, after all. So, I scratched that. I’ll keep looking. Better add that to this week’s list, too!



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