I just had to say good-bye to my 13 day old van…as it left my house on a tow truck. Of all the things I hate about widowhood, this is right at the top of the list – having to make repair decisions. That was always Paul’s realm. I knew if anything broke he’d figure out a way to fix it, or in some cases, have someone else fix it. But I didn’t have to worry about it. Of course, now I’ve been filled with self doubt. Was that van really from God or did I act too hastily in buying it? Did I just get sold a lemon? It has worked just fine for the past 13 days. The check engine light has been on but mine was on for the last year and a half in my old van and there was absolutely nothing wrong with the engine. When I dropped of the title to my van I had my car guy hook his trouble shooting device up to it and he re-set the light for me – which came back on about a half hour after leaving his shop. So, when I picked up my tires and batteries a few days later I had him hook the monitor up again and he said it had to do with the emissions, but it was nothing that was going to cause my van to stop running. He said the next time I needed to bring it in for work, then he’d fix that emission thingy.
So, yesterday, I did some work up at City Hall and when I came out, my van wouldn’t start. It acted like it wanted to but it just would not turn over. Will came right up and said he wondered if it might be the spark plugs. So last night he stopped at a store after David’s game and got new plugs and wires and installed them. Then, the van started right up and he was able to drive it home. And then it died again.
So, AAA sent me a tow truck today (that I had to pay for – apparently AAA only pays for 5 miles of towing – and the closest shop to my house is 19 miles away). The driver attempted to start my van and he said his guess would be the fuel pump went bad. I texted Will and he said that makes sense. So, I guess we’ll see. I still haven’t heard back from Gregg yet. Replacing a fuel pump doesn’t sound that expensive, I wouldn’t think.
But now, it looks like I may be taking Lizzie up to Urgent Care…after I first go get my groceries I ordered from the Walmart pick-up. See, today was supposed to be my shopping day. But with no van…However, I had already ordered groceries from Walmart. So, I called them and told them I’d come get them later than I had planned. Early last night Lizzie came into the house howling about her foot. I put ice on it and she hobbled all night long. I figured she was just being her usual dramatic self. But this morning she was still limping quite a bit. I told her to knock it off, but she didn’t. Well, I just had an email from the school nurse telling me the foot is pretty swollen now. I’m just remembering how last year she fractured her foot and I made her wear a shoe for several days before finding out she had, indeed, fractured the thing. So I suppose I had better have it checked.
And that’s as far as I got yesterday. I did run to town and get my Walmart order. When I got home I discovered that Ellie had gotten mad at her brother and deliberately urinated all over the basement steps. David, appropriately, made her clean it up herself. This, by the way, is typical RAD behavior. Control is what children with RAD seek above all else and one thing they can control is their body functions. It comes up all the time in my RAD FB group. Then I discovered that she had poured nearly an entire bottle of Dawn dishwashing detergent, a half bottle of apple cider vinegar, and some other laundry additives into a load of clean, wet clothing in the washer. At that point I didn’t know if she had just ruined the washing machine or what. Later that evening I turned it on with a certain degree of trepidation, wondering if bubbles would begin to foam out from under the lid. Nothing ever happened, so I guess that’s good. And then tonight Ellie opened up the oven door while it was on and pushed Lizzie into the door, burning a 1” streak across Lizzie’s arm. I wasn’t there so I don’t know exactly what happened, but my gut tells me it was intentional.
I am wondering if I am at the point of needing to seek counseling. One thing I did do last night was to draw up a list of all of Ellie’s privileges – everything from going to bed when Lizzie does at 8, to playing with toys, choosing her own clothes, etc. I typed them up on a list that I put on the fridge and I explained to Ellie that all I really owe her is a warm house, adequate food and clothing, and medical care. Everything else is a privilege. I told her she has now lost every single privilege and will have to earn them back, one by one, by days of good behavior. I was drawing from the principles of the When Love is Not Enough book. I’m not even done reading that yet. I also sat with Ellie for 5 min. tonight and made her look into my eyes for half that time. The other half we just rocked and cuddled. The book says this is important. RAD children do not like to make eye contact, which I can definitely attest to. Except when they are lying. Then they will look straight at you and swear on all that is holy that they were not the ones that stole/lied/colored/hit/destroyed. One other thing the book says and I have reminded myself of this several times over the last couple days is that Ellie is not my enemy. RAD is. But if I treat Ellie the way I instinctively want to in response to her behavior (not nice) then she may become my enemy in time. And if that happens, I will lose her. The author of this book I am reading is a Christian. I looked up her website the other day and she has now turned counseling RAD families into a full time business. She does one-on-one counseling over the phone ($300 for an hour) and her organization has RAD camps for parents and children (but it’s $900 a person for one week – yikes). And she has other books now, too. So, I’m going to finish reading this one and see what I can do as far as applying the principles and see how much success comes with that.
Ok, now back to Lizzie. So, I took her to Urgent Care last night because it was after 6 and I couldn’t see taking her to the ER if her foot wasn’t broken. So, all she saw was a PA – with whom I quickly became very irritated. He came in the room and asked Lizzie how she had gotten hurt. I said something to the effect of that I didn’t even know the story yet. He turns to me and says, “How is it is possible if you’re her mom, that you don’t know how she got hurt?” Um, because she was yelping too much the night before to tell me and because I forgot to ask later? And then, while Lizzie is explaining how it is she got hurt (she climbed on top of the swing set – she’s lucky she didn’t break her neck) she kept turning to me to tell me the story. And the suspicious PA kept telling her, “No, no – don’t look at your mom. Look at me while you talk.” I thought that was awfully bossy at the time. It wasn’t until later it occurred to me that he was afraid I was coaching her in an attempt to cover up abuse! She got x-rays but they couldn’t tell if it was fractured or not – no major break, anyway. So, they wrote me a prescription for a boot, which is what they would do for a fractured foot. So this morning I had to drive her up to the north side of Des Moines in a crummy neighborhood to the medical supply place. And then, because I wouldn’t get Lizzie back to school in time for lunch, I stopped at a Burger King drive-through and got crummy service, even though the drive-through person called me “Darling” and “Beautiful.” I idly wondered what her loved ones must think when she calls them that if she’s using the terms for complete strangers. So, Lizzie’s clomping around in another boot (her second in 10 months) and I won’t be surprised if I get a call in a day or two telling me that yes, it has been decided that her foot really is fractured. For all of this I was in David’s car since my van is still in the shop. I feel much more vulnerable in his car than I do my van. Plus, I have a really hard time getting in and out of it. I think I’m going to have to drive taller vehicles for the rest of my life now, even when I don’t have kids anymore.
I am getting my van back tonight, though. It’s finished and the boys are bringing it home after church. Gregg called and said it definitely was the fuel pump. A new one would cost $344 plus labor. But, he said, he had saved a few parts off my old van before he took it in to be crushed. He just happened to have my old fuel pump and would I like to have that one put in instead? I told him sure. That van was so faithful in starting for me every single time. Of course, the pump may go out sooner than a new one would, but I still saved $344 for today, anyway.
Ok, onto better things…I think the entire world knows it by now, but Will and Arien got engaged last Thurs. night. The event was a long time in the planning on Will’s end but it went off without a hitch. He lied to her and told her that they were going out to eat (well, he kind of just postponed the truth – they actually did go out to eat two nights later). But first, he convinced her to take a walk with him in the woods and on the railroad tracks that run under the Swan bridge. So, she came over like she normally does on Thurs. nights. I was hoping she wouldn’t notice that the house was abnormally clean. Will had told me to cool it on the cleaning so as not to arouse her suspicions, but I just can’t have people over and not try to do something! David took off and went to Ankeny to pick up Arien’s sister and a photographer friend. And then they sat in the bushes and waited for the action. In the meantime, I had to take Lizzie to Pville so my friend, Shannon, could take her to the Homecoming parade and to her cheerleading performance.
I felt horrible about this. I wanted so badly to watch Lizzie do her little cheer routine because I knew how important it was to her. But Will had told me he wanted me there for the engagement party. So as we drove to Pville I pulled off to the side of the road and explained to Lizzie what was going on, using a word picture I hoped she could relate to. At first she was disappointed, but she quickly rallied, and it sounds like she had a really good time even though I wasn’t there. I had to promise her I will never, ever, ever miss another cheer event for the rest of her life!
So then I got home and quickly got out all the food I had hidden. By this time Nathanael and Janie arrived and Janie helped me get things set up in the dining room (we made a festive table). Then, all of Arien’s family arrived and we waited around. Finally, the two of them came through the door and I had everyone else in the living room being really quiet. They were beaming and I hugged Arien and told her I wanted to hear every detail – so why didn’t we go in the living room and sit down so she could tell me? So we did and then, of course, she was surprised by her entire family being in there waiting. It was such a special night of celebration. The photographer friend, Anna, who is doing their wedding, too, I believe, showed us most of the pictures she had shot. They were so sweet and that’s neat that they have this moment forever captured now.
I’m happy for the two of them. They’re both perfect for each other and it’s all good. It is an incredible feeling to see the fulfillment of what God laid on my heart not quite two years ago (when it dawned on me that Arien would be a very good match for Will and I started praying about it). But, oh, how this makes me wish Paul were still alive. I know he isn’t missing out on anything, but I’d still love to be able to share this with him. That is going to be the cruel downside of every happy milestone I experience for the rest of my life with the kids.
I’ve got my van back and it’s running fine. But I just don’t trust it the way I used to. My old van never once let me down and so, I am feeling just a bit betrayed by this pretty red one sitting in my driveway. She’s fine for the moment, but when will she let me down again? I am probably taking this too much to heart.
Oh, let’s see – what else is going on?
I have to turn in my paper on Reactive Attachment Disorder this weekend. It’s basically done. One thing we always do in this class for projects is that the project will typically be due on a Tuesday. Then, as soon as we turn it in, the professor re-distributes the projects amongst the class for what’s called a “peer review.” We then take our classmate’s paper, insert comments for things that need to be improved, and fill out a “peer review sheet.” Then we send that copy to both the professor and whoever’s paper we reviewed. Well, as it turned out this time the person I ended up reviewing reviewed mine. This is the second time I’ve reviewed one of his and his writing skills are…well, let’s say they are emerging as is the terminology is on the kids’ report cards (which translates to “he’s totally not good at this but we have to be positive so as not to damage your kid’s self esteem”). So, I already looked to see what he had to say about my paper, but I don’t think I’ll be changing anything before I turn in the final copy! My professor actually emailed me at the beginning of this week and asked if she could save my annotated bibliography (our last project) to use as a sample project to show future students how it’s done. That was my hardest project, to date, in the last 9 months of schooling, but I must be doing something right!
And I’m sitting at 117% in my geography class right now. I turned in another paper over the weekend and again, he gave me 100 out of 50 possible points. This can’t be right!
I have concluded that my feet are growing. I did not know this was possible. But yesterday I bought some new flats and I had to get a size 10. I have never worn a 10 – I have been a 9 ½ for my entire adult life. But my toes were jammed up against the end of the 9 1/2s I tried on. A year ago I bought some pretty red flats at Younkers and I never enjoyed wearing them because of the same reason. My right foot – which is my larger foot – always felt uncomfortably crammed in the shoe. I do know my bunions are growing. At least I think it’s what bunions are – the bone on the outside of my big toe is getting more and more pointy. They don’t hurt, but I suppose those could affect shoe fit, too. I suppose someday I’ll have to have surgery on those things before my feet get entirely crippled. In the meantime, I’m just buying better quality shoes – in a size 10.
The other night a neighbor came over to the house asking if she could start paying the water company directly, rather than writing a check to the city. I explained to her that’s not possible because the city has the account with Rural Water and receives just a single bill every month. Well, then she started complaining that “every month my check is bouncing!” I couldn’t even figure out what that had to do with me and why she was standing on my front porch. Finally, I realized that she was complaining about the length of time it takes for the city deposit to be made. By the time the money was actually coming out of her account, she was in the hole. As nicely as I could, I told her that’s “an accounting problem – not a city problem.” I am just flabbergasted at this mentality – mostly because this is something like the third time I’ve run into with residents. As I explained to this neighbor all she needs to do every month is to subtract the amount of the check from her bank balance and then she doesn’t need to worry about bouncing any checks. “Well, well, “ she blustered, “You don’t understand – we only get paid once a month and insurance has to come out and rent has to come out and gas has to come out…” I told her I really did understand because, I, too, am paid once a month. But, I explained how, at the beginning of each month I subtract all the payments that have to come out, either by check or automatic debit, and then I know how much money I have to work with. I felt like I was teaching consumer math to a fifth grader! I could tell she still didn’t understand when she finally left my porch, but I didn’t know how else to explain it. It is so elementary. My job is to take care of the city’s accounts – not people’s checkbooks!
Oh, I’ve got quite a few cute things from the kids that I’ll end this post with.
A couple of weeks ago Sam told me one morning, “I dreamed you had another baby.” I asked him if that was a good thing or a bad thing. Without pausing he replied, “Bad – cuz you’re too old.” He went on, “It takes about 20 years to raise a kid and you’re already almost 46.” Well, I guess it’s a good thing that there are no more babies in my future since, apparently, I already have one foot dangling over the grave!
Sam was showing me his school papers one day and said, “Just look at this one, Mom!” It was row after row of simple words written in cursive. He asked, “Do you see it?” I did not see anything out of the ordinary. Must be these old eyes of mine. Sam pointed to a single, small letter on the sheet full of letters and exclaimed, “This is my best A ever!”
Ellie accused recently, “You don’t do any work around here – you make US do it all!” Which is exactly how she gets supper every night, clean clothes in her dresser drawers, Christmas presents, and a clean bathroom…
When Sam was little, like baby and toddler little, he adored Arien’s little sister, Lariah, who is six months younger than he is. We’d be watching Sam and it would be hilarious because whenever he saw Lariah, he’d have this look of longing on his face and when he learned to toddle and had the opportunity he would be at her side at church every chance he had. We may have teased him a little bit when he was a preschooler about him “marrying Lariah someday” but as the two of them have gotten older it’s seemed like Sam’s allegiance to her has lessened as the cares of boyhood have taken over. Plus, I’d never want to plant an idea in his head that he would somehow feel obligated to follow through with someday – not that he necessarily would feel that way, but still – they’re children. Let them be and let God decide the future. Now he’s a third grader and at that age where girls are generally considered to be vile and the thought of any red-blooded boy being interested in girl as something other than a target generally is not to be stomached. So, I can’t remember how the conversation went but Sam said something one day recently and purely in fun and just to tease him I slyly said something to the effect of “Well, you never know – you might be marrying Lariah someday!” I about fell over when Sam very seriously replied, “Oh, I intend to marry her someday! I decided that a long time ago.” Quickly rearranging my face from a teasing look to an appropriately serious one, I nodded as Sam continued,
“I’ve thought about my future and I can totally see Lariah being my wife in it.”
This was a conversation on the way to school one day this week: Sam started out by saying, “I know lots of things. For example, I know that babies don’t sit on a shelf in Heaven until God sends one down a chute into a mom’s tummy” I may or may not have shared that sanitized version of human reproduction at one point. Whereupon, the girls immediately exclaimed, “Wha-a-at??? Well, then how do the babies get into the mom?” Thank you, Sam!
Sam went on to muse about his future and said, “I’ve decided that I only want to have a small family someday because I think it would be too hard to take care of a lot of kids.”
Lizzie immediately interjected, “Well, you’ll have Lariah to help you.” Then she paused and added, “But you’ll have to eat lots of vegetables.” (The Spencer family has a very large garden that feature vegetables as the primary crop).
And I’m supposed to keep my vehicle on the road while they’re spouting such serious witticisms!
Every week we have a verse that we review before going into school every morning. This week’s was Proverbs 10:12: Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers a multitude of sins. I explained to the kids that the love referred to here is like a big blanket that is able to cover up the sins that others have done to us. Sam replied, “Well, if I had a blanket, I’d use it to cover up the body of the person who did something wrong to me – after I shot him!” Yeah, I’m thinking my explanation went right over his head…
And that’s it for this week.
Only two more weeks of my classes. That reminds me – I really should be ordering my books for my next class.
I had a call today from Blank Therapy – they finally have an opening for Sam’s speech therapy. That will start in about a month, it sounds like.
We have a wedding next weekend. Will’s friend, who sang at Paul’s funeral – Pastor and Marcia’s youngest – is getting married. I struggle with weddings. I think I’ve mentioned that before.Sigh…
Tonight I watched a 20 min. Youtube video of Lisa Beamer. She was the famous widow of Todd Beamer, who was a 9-11 hero fifteen years ago. It’s funny. Just within the last week or so I thought of her for some, random reason, wondering what it is she’s doing now. And then an old high school classmate posted this video tonight of Lisa speaking at a chapel service at Wheaton College of which she is an alumni. I really appreciated what she had to say. It was deep and profound. She didn’t get up there and give a rah, rah speech on how good God is and trusting His sovereignty - although that is what she talked about – and how God turns all heartache into joy as long as you keep trusting Him, blah, blah, blah. At times she struggled with tears as she spoke. It’s been 15 years and she’s still got wounds on her heart from early and sudden widowhood (which kind of depresses me – I’d like to think by 15 yrs I’ll be over it). She talked about bitterness and I sat here in my chair watching and listening, wondering if this is where I am now. The discontent, the struggle with seeing other married peoples’ happiness, wishing I had help with parenting, feeling like my kids have been gypped out of what they need, etc. I’m sure these are all natural feelings, but am I letting them fester into a spirit of not being content to the life within which I’ve been placed? The uncomfortable feeling I got in my chest while watching this tells me perhaps her words were cutting a little too close to the truth in my own life.
It’s something to think about and definitely pray about. I want to move forward in life and while I’m doing things that are for the future, I’m never going to get very far if my heart is still wallowing in the “I don’t like this and it’s not fair”s.