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Seeking the Sun

Tuesday

November is both a “blue” and “brown” month for me. It’s blue because I experience synesthesia (it’s a real thing – look it up) and brown because that’s just what I think of when I think of Nov. It’s kind of the bridge between glorious orange and red October and the white and green of December. But today it’s not brown. It’s sunny and pretty. It’s also supposed to be 73 degrees, which is actually annoying because by this time of the year I like to have all the summer clothes packed away and instead, I am tripping over two seasons of clothing still in closets and on dressers.

Halloween is over. Half the birthdays are over. I am relieved.

Ellie did not go trick or treating last night (that was fun explaining THAT to the neighbors!) Nor did she carve a pumpkin last week. And I had plenty of pumpkins. Out of the 5 seeds that sprouted, I harvested 12 pumpkins. I think David carved 3. Last night I ripped up my vines and carried them to the burn pile. It was interesting to me to see how thick the vines were (like an inch and a half) the closer I got to wear I had planted them. And to think all that came from a tiny little pumpkin seed! Made me think there must be a spiritual analogy I could draw from this example.

But, no, Ellie didn’t get do any of these things this year. From Sunday, the 23rd to Friday, the 27th, she instead:

*cut all the strings on David’s ukulele

*cut up one of David’s posters on the wall

* dumped an entire bottle of white out all over David’s nightstand

* sounded out the “F” word and wrote it in the dust on the back of my van

* wrote the F word on Will’s calendar

* wrote the F word in one of Will’s books

* wrote the F word in a Bible storybook

* smashed down a pan of rolls that I had rising on the counter

* pulled the tips off Sam’s new nerf darts

* carved Lizzie’s name in the wood frame of Lizzie’s bed

It was a week from hell with her.

Then, Thursday, as I dropped Ellie off at school, her teacher pulled me aside. I thought, “Uh, oh…here it comes.” Did she scratch the F word onto her table at school? Did she clock a classmate in the head with a toy? Did she dump out all the art supplies? No. No, she did not. Every month the school, in an attempt to reward good students and hopefully inspire other students to be good, has something called a “Trojan Tromp.” Two students are selected out of each class who have shown exemplary leadership and obedience the previous month. The staff and students then line the hall the last Friday morning of the month and while “Eye of the Tiger” blasts over the loudspeakers, the chosen students run the gauntlet four times through the hallways, giving everyone a high five as they go. Their names are announced over the loudspeakers. It’s a big deal.

And Ellie was chosen for October.

It was all I could do to maintain a normal face as her teacher explained this to me, suggesting that I might want to stick around for the even the next day. What I wanted to do was explode. I was absolutely furious!

Don’t get me wrong – of course, I am thankful I am not having to deal with horrid behaviors at school, too. A lot of RAD parents are not nearly so fortunate. I read their stories in my FB group. But I was mad – mad that she knows better and can obviously do better…but doesn’t. She saves all her rottenness for me. The entire time I’ve had her, everyone I know comments on her cute appearance and how “sweet” Ellie is. Lately, I’ve been feeling pretty surly, too, when I hear that anymore.

I’m kind of beaten down with her right now. My book calls it “abused at home.” Yeah, there’s that too. I’m tired. I am tired of fighting this and I am tired of having to do it all alone and if anyone ever suggests that I just need to discipline her more, I will probably get real ugly real fast.

I came home from school Thursday (and, by the way, I did attend the Trojan Tromp on Friday and told Ellie how proud I was of her) and posted to my RAD group about what had happened, what was going on last week, and just how mad I was. I quickly heard back from other RAD parents telling me that sounded just like their kid, too. So, I’m not alone and Ellie is not necessarily unique in her venues of naughtiness.

She’s just broken.

One of the moms in my group wrote this: She saves it for you…because you are the closest person, the most powerful person, and simultaneously the biggest hope, and scariest threat to all she has ever learned (good and bad) about human connection. That about made me cry. She also included this picture, whom I call “Super Mom.”
  I actually took her quote and the picture, put it in a Word document, and printed it out on card stock and folded it so it stands up on my shelf. I’ve read it numerous times since last week.

One thing I’ve been doing with Ellie, as a result of my reading in When Love is Not Enough, is what I call “heart” time. I am trying to do this every day, although it is very difficult to do when I am angry with her – and I was angry a lot last week. I set my phone timer for 5 minutes. For about 3 minutes, Ellie sits on my lap facing me and we stare intently into one another’s eyes. Then, for the rest of the time, I hold her and rock her like I would an infant. Fortunately, she’s still pretty tiny and I am able to easily do this. It has been interesting to me that Ellie frequently asks for this time now and reminds me if we haven’t done it for a day or two. One night last week we were doing it and one of the other kids started making fun of us – admittedly, it is kind of a strange thing to do. But Ellie whipped her head up from where she had been staring into my eyes and told her sibling, “Be quiet! Mom and me are connecting our hearts!”

There may be hope. Salvation may change a lot, as it did for Lizzie. She may mature. I am trying not to borrow trouble, but it’s hard to keep my mind from what life may be like with her in another decade. Right now I have her on a pretty tight leash (not literally, although that would be helpful!). She has no privileges at home – just sits and helps me with housework. She cannot go anywhere without supervision, not even to the bathroom. I talked to a friend last week who had a son with pretty severe RAD and she’s supposed to be getting me the name of the camera they bought for his room. I think I’m going to have to buy one. If behaviors are not better by the time Will gets his apartment, then I will also get an alarm system and start having Ellie sleep in his vacated room. I don’t really want to do that while she’s sleeping with Lizzie because that would prohibit Lizzie from getting up to use the bathroom or whatever.

Yesterday was Lizzie’s birthday. While I took Sam and her out trick or treating, Ellie got busy making her sister a birthday card (not that’s she’s supposed to be using crayons, but I chose to overlook that this once). She gave Lizzie this simple card with a childish heart on it. Above it she had written
  i luv Lisie She had sounded that out all by herself. It’s precious.

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Lizzie told me that today at school her teacher read them a story about Rosa Parks. She said throughout the entire story, she could feel the eyes of her classmates on her. I can’t fault the teacher on this one – it’s a story with which children need to be familiarized. Lizzie agreed with me when I said as much, but said that it still made her feel uncomfortable. I can only imagine. She said that after the teacher got done reading she made some sort of comment about how we “all have different skin colors” and again, Lizzie felt singled out. But that’s not strictly true. Lizzie is the only black child in class, but there is also one of Indian descent and another that is half Hispanic. I know Lizzie hates being noticed. She doesn’t like the fact that she’s tall and she doesn’t like the fact that she already weighs almost 90 lbs and she doesn’t like being black in almost all-white world. I keep telling her God is preparing her for some sort of ministry through these experiences, but when you’re only 8, ministry is the last thing on your mind. You just want to be like everyone else.

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I think I mentioned that on the way to school in the mornings, I play kids’ Christian music cds. The other morning we got to school just as a version of “Standing on the Promises” was finishing. Ellie must really like that song. All the way into the building, from across the street where we park, to the walk around the side and up to the doors, she was belting out, “Standing on the promises of God, my Savior, standing, standing, I’m standing on the promises of God!” Sam and Lizzie were mortified and kept asking me to make her stop, but I didn’t. I figured if her mind was busy thinking and singing a hymn then maybe she wasn’t thinking about her new, favorite word (the one she scrawled everywhere last week).

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One of my Facebook friends posted the other day about taking her granddaughter “tricker treating.” Just kill me now…bangs head into keyboard…

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I burned a huge hole in my 3 year old countertop a week and a half ago. I had dismantled my deep fryer for cleaning and didn’t put it back together right (it’s relatively new). I kept seeing smoke but thought there was just food on the burners. Nope. That was countertop burning. I can’t help but be reminded of when Paul and I were buying the counters. We looked a real granite tops but decided in favor of the laminate because of the price. I remember asking him, “Why would anyone pay this kind of money when you can get almost the same look in a laminate?” Well, now I know. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have burned a 8” hole in granite. Within a half hour of the accident, we solved the problem. Now I’m just waiting for Will to get some time to do the project. They make in-counter glass cutting boards and the website I found even advertised them as a way to cover up ruined countertops. So, I think that will end up looking pretty nice when he gets it in. Will said he’ll never see one in someone’s house, though, without wondering what it is they’re covering up!

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I got an A in both my classes last term. When I turned in my final project (a paper arguing for the grade I thought I deserved – very uncomfortable to write since I was convinced I deserved an A!) I got this comment back from my professor: You are wonderful, Sarah. I wish I had a class full of Sarah Heywood students. God bless you in your journey. And all I can remember is last January when I got my first syllabus and about fainted, nearly quitting before I began.
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I buy my flour and sugar in 25 pound bags and fill these great big containers up with them that I keep underneath my counter. Then I store the extra in a sealable tub in the mud room. Anyway, one day last week I had a new bag of flour sitting by the cupboards, just waiting for me to find a spare minute to fill up the containers. Ben decided to take it upon himself to fill the containers for me – got flour absolutely everywhere. Then, when I went in to clean it up, he shrugged me off, declaring, “No, I made this mess and I will clean it up!” And he proceeded to dump even more flour on the floor! I appreciated his attitude, but it was not a good morning.
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I was so disappointed last week when I read an interview with Jen Hatmaker. She is a Christian author, blogger, and speaker. She’s hilarious. She’s an adoptive mom, too. I love her stuff! And I love how, as she writes about the ins and outs of her life she points others to Jesus. So, I read this article and I’m paraphrasing here because I’m too lazy to go look it up again. But it was an interview in which she referred to homosexual marriages as “holy” and stated her support for the Black Lives Matter movement and refugee care and seemed to waffle a bit on what it means in regards to abortion when considering yourself pro-life. I think she was attempting to come from a place of compassion. I have no doubt of that. And, there’s no doubt that gay people have felt marginalized by the church. Why is that? Well, some of it is because their sin has overshadowed their personhood. And that’s unfortunate. I’ll never forget a youth leader in my high school group commenting to we impressionable teens that “they ought to throw all the gays in a bomb shelter – and throw the bomb in after them!” Ack – even as a 16 or 17 year old and as much as the idea of homosexuality disgusted me, I knew that kind of attitude was just as wrong as the sin itself. But, it seems like today some Christians are bending over backwards to embrace the homosexual community (and other people involved in other types of sin) with an attitude of, “It’s ok – Jesus loves you anyway! If you’re supposed to be convicted of it, you will be, and you know, who are we to judge, anyway?” That’s not right, either. I read an interesting piece by Rosaria Butterfield (I think that’s her name) this week that she wrote in response to this interview with Jen Hatmaker. Rosaria is a former Women’s Studies professor and was saved out of lesbianism in 1999. Well, maybe that's not the way to say it.  She was saved out of her sins, period.  But she was a practicing lesbian at the time.  She wrote a book a few years ago that I would like to read. She commented in her piece this week that when she was struggling with whether or not to accept Christ (knowing it would mean she would have to give up her lifestyle) reading this kind of interview would have served as a “millstone” around her neck. She counters that there can be no easy-believism. People want that – to keep their sin and get Heaven, too. She talked about what a huge, monumental step it was for her to accept Christ because she knew it would cost all that was comfortable and pleasurable to her.

So, anyway, I was disappointed to read that article because of how much I enjoy Jen Hatmaker’s writings. I do not think that she is a non-believer. But she has fed into this lie that is so pervasive in Christianity today that says we can have Jesus AND our sins. And Christians had better not judge us when we think we can, either.

Wednesday

Will is 22 today. He was born on a Wednesday. But it was bright and warm and sunny that day. Today it is dreary and spitting rain – as November should be, I think. It also suits the mood of my community.

Two Des Moines officers were murdered early this morning as they sat in their patrol cars. One was responding to the first shooting when he was shot, too. One was shot over 30 times. One was a family man, the other a 24 year old, brand new policeman hired last year. They got the guy. He actually turned himself in, strangely enough. I figured he’d either commit suicide or be taken down.

There’s a youtube video floating around on Facebook of this man. He’s my age. A couple of weeks ago he brought a confederate flag to an Urbandale/Ankeny football game and was angrily waving it in front of a group of black people when they refused to stand for the national anthem. I won’t go into all that now, except to say that I disagree that the Confederate flag is a racist symbol. However, since the black community has decided that it is offensive, it is not right to deliberately antagonize them with its presence if you can avoid it. I see it as more of a cultural symbol than anything, but that can be argued for the rest of eternity. Regardless – treat people nicely. And as far as not standing during the National Anthem? Again – not right, I completely disagree, and I think it’s disrespectful. However, this guy’s actions at the game were still out of line. He ended up being escorted away from the game whereupon he began filming this confrontation with the police with his cell phone. They treated him very respectfully while he was belligerent and whining that his rights were being violated and that they were “assaulting” him and so forth. And for two weeks he let this fester and grow in his mind. See – it’s all about the power of the mind and where you let your thoughts rest. Paul and I talked about this frequently because we had a prime example in his family. His father has been eaten up with bitterness for 26 years now over a church incident. Twenty-six years! We’ve watched how it has destroyed him and now, as a result, he not only lost Paul, but six of his grandkids. Anyway, that’s something we always emphasized to the kids – how important it is to keep your thoughts in check. There’s a lot of verses in Proverbs about that! And now we see this Urbandale man who was a probably a jerk to begin with. But he got angry with the police at that football game, he stoked that anger and fueled the flames of rage – that turned into the double tragedy of this morning. It’s more than double. There are families who don’t have their loved ones, anymore. This shooter has a daughter who attends Urbandale High School. How will she ever even want to show her face there again? My heart just goes out to her. An entire police force is hurting. Our state is hurting.

And so, the weather fits, today.
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I bought myself a new bed today. Well, I ordered it. It will be arriving on the 15th. My mattress (I just typed “our” but had to backspace over that – old habits and all) is nearly 10 years old and I’m feeling it. Or maybe it is just my body that is old. At any rate, I needed something new. I’m actually waking up several times a night with shoulder pain because I’m a side sleeper. I have to flip sides to relieve the pain and then my shoulders hurt all day the next day. I went with a sleep number bed – just a basic model. I actually did quite a bit of research before visiting the store. Paul and I had always said our next bed would be a Sleep Number. That wasn’t why I went with it, though. I slept on a Sleep Number in a hotel a few years ago and really liked it. And I like the idea that I could pay a little more money now and have a mattress that’s under warranty (pro-rated) for 25 years, with a lot of people on the internet claiming they’ve easily gotten 15-20 years out of theirs (not reviews on the SN site, either). They have quite a few models to choose from – ones with memory foam, ones with cooling gel, ones that sit up like a hospital bed, etc. I didn’t even consider those because I’m not going to spend $5000 on a bed. But my research told me that the only real difference is padding. The guy at the store said as much, too. I was a little more comfortable on the bed that had slightly more padding than the one I ordered. But there was a $700 difference between the two beds and that was even with more padded bed on sale! But, what I did – as a result of all my research – was to order my basic model and then I went home and ordered a deluxe, 4” gel and memory foam, hypo-allergenic pad off Amazon for $119.

And I sized down. It too me forever to decide about that. But a full sized bed will fit into my room a little more easily than the queen I have does now. My concern had to do with re-marriage, but I finally decided if that happens, I’ll just buy another bed! I was pleasantly surprised to find out I could have this one I bought today with just a single air chamber so I’ll be able to continue sleeping in the middle of the bed as I’ve become accustomed. And, I ordered a new pillow. I bought the one I have – that I love – at the Lebeda store when we bought our mattress. But it now has 10 years worth of dust mites in it. Time to replace it.
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The last few days had been better with Ellie. I was considering letting her have one of her privileges back ,like Children’s Church or books. Lizzie alerted me to a situation in the basement. I thought I was doing a good job of watching Ellie. Apparently not. Sometime since she got home from school she sprayed the ceiling of the basement with pre-wash. She opened up rest of the pre-wash bottle and dumped it over Ben’s clean clothes. She took an entire bottle of vinegar and dumped it over Will’s freshly laundered and folded clothing. She took water and poured it over my brand new container of powdered oxyclean, ruining it. She won’t confess, which is typical. I know she did it.

What am I supposed to do? I spanked her, with her protesting her innocence the entire time. I told her she will not be accompanying us to the school play Friday night. She is going to stay home from Patch Club tonight. But she doesn’t care about any of that stuff. She did finally confess, later, under further coercion, that she, indeed, had been the laundry room destroyer. Surprise, surprise.
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Sam told me the other night, “When my childhood is over, I’m going to write a book about it.” I told him that’s called an autobiography. Sam then went on to say that he will also write a book about his teens, and then his twenties, and then his thirties. He said, “This way I can be an inspiration to others!”

Thursday

We celebrated Will’s birthday tonight since he worked yesterday ( I did set out donuts for him yesterday morning and made him pumpkin chocolate cookies to take to his college group at church last night). I was very conscious that this is my last ever birthday to “do” for Will. Next year that responsibility will lie with someone else. I suppose this is where I break into Sunrise, sunset, swiftly fly the years – one season following another, laden with happiness and tears…Anyway, so Arien came over after work tonight and I had Will’s gifts wrapped and on my bed, with a card on top. Since last night, I’ve been keeping a close eye on Ellie. But, apparently, there was a moment where she was unsupervised because Lizzie found my card for Will torn into shreds and shoved under the covers of my bed. I was pretty mad, but thankful that I had not put any money in there. I hated to do it, but I then ripped up the card that Ellie had made for Will. Oh, she was upset – which is a good thing. I remember one thing that really helped with Lizzie’s lying was to tell her one day that we were going to the park. I got her all excited and then halfway there I stopped the van and told her, “Oh, I lied.” And went home. But it worked to lessen the lies and now I think it’s been nearly a year since she lied to me – and I found out, anyway. I felt terrible doing that to Ellie’s card because I know she gets real pleasure out of making cards for people she knows. I guess we’ll see if it worked. My only fear is that she’ll view it as “revenge” and think that’s ok now or view this in her mind as the time I was terribly injust to her and ripped up her hard work.  I don't think I can win with this one.

But maybe this will help: I have an appointment with a therapist next Friday for her. Actually, I am just meeting with the therapist for this first visit. I do not know if she is a Christian or not. But, my friend who is dealing with RAD in her son – and who is a Christian (a pastor’s wife, actually) – highly recommended this lady to me. She told me about her several months ago but I didn’t look into it because I don’t have time to take Ellie to therapy! But things are kind of at a crisis point right now, so I’m going to have to make the time. One of my big fears was finding a good therapist that would take Medicaid. Sometimes when you have state coverage you get shifted to less-than-desirable providers. I about cried last night when I looked up her clinic on-line and found that they DO take insurance! She called me this afternoon and when I mentioned the insurance thing she said that yes, a lot of providers won’t take that anymore. But she said it’s not uncommon for hurting children to be at a lower socio-economic level and it’s not fair to deny them help, she didn’t think. I’m thankful for that.

After the gray day we had yesterday, today was bright and sunny. The sun always comes out again – literally and figuratively.

Maybe it will shine at my house again, too, sometime.














Comments

  1. I am so sorry, so grieve, that Ellie is going through such a rough phase. I don't know much about this but I do know kids like that are deeply broken. I remember thinking about my foster brother (who was in our home for about a year, and did many destructive things) that part of it was wondering if the love would continue even when he was being really rotten. It was like he was testing us. And I wonder if part of it is just anger at the world, and she knows you won't beat her, so she takes it out on you. I can't imagine how hard this is. It is obvious that yes, she can be an angel, which is frustrating. But I guess the whole "acting like an angel" in group settings thing is so RAD, right? Bless you. I will try to remember to pray faithfully for you. And I pray this therapist can really help.

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