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December Diatribe

I really should not be writing anything today. My to-do list is a mile long – and those are just the starred “must, really, really get done today” items. But if I wait until I actually have time to write it might be Feb. before I get back on here.

This has been the hardest December I’ve had in many years. And it’s not even because Paul is dead. I have just been so stressed and so busy and so sick. Add in a church Christmas program, a school program, weekly therapy appointments for a couple of kids, Christmas shopping, some sick kids this week, decorating, preparing meals for hunters, scouring up layers of clothing for my hunters, butchering next week, several finals and papers, all due at once, and I’m a candidate for the looney bin! Next year I am starting earlier.

Like in July.

I have been to two different doctors in the past two weeks. I was grocery shopping a week and a half ago and finally thought to myself, “I just can’t do this anymore.” I checked out and went straight to an urgent care center (which was in a Hy-Vee store, of all places – I didn’t even know they had clinics in grocery stores!). She said it was a sinus infection and put me on a strong antibiotic. It helped, but not completely. So this week I went to another doctor. He has me on steroids. He said my ears are packed full of liquid. They don’t hurt, but that would explain why they’ve been clogged for 2 ½ weeks. I only had one ear to start with so it’s been pretty difficult for me to hear much of anything for all that time. When you’re being a mom, that’s kind of a nice thing, but not so nice when dealing with rest of the world. Like in waiting rooms, I have now had to position myself to face the doors, so I can read lips when they call us, since I can’t hear well. But, my ears have been “popping” for the past week so I am hopeful that one of these days they’re going to pop open and stay open.

Enough about me.

I think Ellie is doing better. Of course, like I’ve said before, this is not something we are going to “get through.” Healing her is going to take her entire childhood. Of course, I AM hoping to get through the destroying-mom’s-stuff stage. Last week she cut up a brand new tank top of mine. Every time I wore this new pink and gray flannel shirt I would think, “I really need to find a gray tank to put under this!” And so, the week before last I was at Target and found a cute one for only $10 and bought it. And then one day last week Lizzie brought my shirt up from the basement. The straps had been tied together in hopes that I wouldn’t notice that they were both severed at the top, I guess. Ooh, I was angry! I kind of forgot all about my new calm approach with Ellie. The next day I found some scrapbooking stickers cut up, too. I was calmer then.

One night this week I told her to go up to bed. Minutes later I found her in the kitchen with a pair of scissors and a (junk) piece of cardboard. I watched her because she didn’t know I was behind her. Her movements were really odd – just frantic in nature. It was almost like she wasn’t even in her right mind – her hands were just insisting that they HAD to cut up that cardboard. Disturbing. I mentioned it to her therapist and she nodded like it was actually normal for a RAD kid. She asked me where I’m keeping dangerous things. I’ve put all our firestarters where Ellie can’t get to them. She doesn’t seem to be attracted to knives, thankfully. The scissors are a little more tricky because everyone uses them for various things and they are harder to keep track of. But maybe I need to buy a lockbox or something for them.

Today is a messed up day. It seems like I’ve had a lot of those lately. Right now, I am supposed to be grocery shopping – which, I will be, soon. But Sam woke up complaining of a stomach ache and expressed fear of vomiting at school like he did last week (although it was in the nurse’s office, not in front of his classmates). So, I let him stay home for awhile. He’s doing fine now. I think he just needed a little more resting time. So, as soon as Ben’s work ride comes I am going to take Sam down to school and then I’ll get to my shopping.

Sam has spent the morning watching a video on WWII battles. That kid…Last Friday night David had his youth group Christmas party where they exchange gag gifts. I think David brought an old deer leg and wrapped it up – those are the ilk of gifts given and received. Well, David ended up with this book and dvd set on major WWII battles. Of course, he wasn’t interested in that, but Sam thought this was the coolest thing ever! So, he has been watching that dvd and peppering me with questions ever since. Fortunately, I just helped Will with a history project by reading a book on the rise of Nazism and Hitler so my grasp on WWII history is currently a little more firm. For Christmas I bought Sam the first Rush Revere book. Rush Limbaugh has written several books that take kids through early American history – the history they may not get in their public school textbooks. Did I mention, too, that, on his own, Sam purchased a book at the school’s book fair this fall on the Resistance movement in Holland? It’s about a boy active in that. I am just thankful. A year ago, his teachers were freaking out because oh-my-goodness-this-kid-can’t-read-at-state-mandated-levels…and look at him now!
Ellie told me recently, very matter-of-factly, “Honey is made out of bears, you know.”

She made some Christmas cards for everyone in our family a couple of weeks ago. I about died when she brought a couple to me, announcing, “These are for Grandma and Grandpa. But I couldn’t spell ‘Grandma and Grandpa’ so I just wrote ‘old’ on the envelopes” !!

Of course, nobody may actually get their cards from Ellie because Bella is persisting on using the Christmas tree skirt as a toilet. It’s this UTI we’ve been fighting since summer. I’m taking her to the vet this Thursday one last time and that’s it. I’ve gotten to a point where I am willing to have her put to sleep if we can’t lick this thing in a reasonable manner (dollar-wise). I cannot keep sinking money into this cat and I am so tired of washing things and shampooing the carpet. I did briefly mention to the kids that this might be happening and Sam was immediately in tears. I hate the thought of doing that to the kids but I don’t know what else to do.

I love my cat and I am especially fond of Bella because she was Paul’s last gift to me. But, I’m not crazy either…unlike one of my FB friends (I actually know her in real life) who was posting pics last week of her little yip-yip dog, dolled up in actual dog clothing and she entitled her pictures, “My dog-ter.” My eyeballs are rolling so far back in my head they can see behind me…
I almost ended up in the hospital Sunday night. I came home from the church’s Christmas program with Ellie and Ben. Will, David, Sam, and Lizzie stayed a little bit later. Everything was fine when all of a sudden I began developing this pain in my left flank. Nothing seemed to help. It was beyond horrible. I couldn’t sit, I couldn’t lie down, not even on a heating pad. I was sure I was dying.
Poor Ellie was so concerned. She kept telling me, “You need aspirin, Mom!” I didn’t get up to get some, so the next thing I knew, she ran into the kitchen and grabbed the bottle of Tylenol. Then, I only clutched the bottle to me as I laid on the bed moaning. So, then I heard her back in the kitchen, pulling the stool up to the counter, and before I knew it she brought me a mug of water and commanded me to “take your aspirin, Mom!” She could be a very scary nurse someday…

I began to have a suspicion that I was dealing with a kidney stone so I crawled off the bed to google the symptoms. They seemed to fit. And then I began vomiting. So, I finally called Will and told him I thought I was going to need him to take me in. I really, really did not want to drive up to Des Moines at 9:30 on a Sunday night to go sit in a waiting room. Web MD said that the stones can shift and pass through on their own, so I decided to wait a little bit and see if that would happen. Will said, in the meantime, he was going to change his pants so the ER staff would not think he had just shot me (he had been hunting all afternoon and had deer blood on his pants)! And just like that I began to feel better. So, I ended up not going to the hospital. I’ve been watching things ever since. Maybe this stone is going to pass through on its own. The internet sources I checked said that is what happens most often. It’s just when they travel through that they can get stuck and make a person feel like they are dying. I have slept in a sports bra and sweats the last two nights, though, just in case something happened while I was asleep and I had to go in to the hospital. But I am hopeful that Sunday night was the worst of it.
I went to the Single Parent’s Provision dinner a couple of Saturdays ago. I really wasn’t feeling well, but I love these dinners. Plus, I had been asked to be a table host. But, because I couldn’t hear really well and I wasn’t feeling good, I ended up not doing a lot of what they I think they were hoping I’d do as a host. Oh, well. I was there and I tried! Everybody there got a present. I think a lot of these are donated since the ministry is a non-profit. Things like 31 bags, gift baskets, gift cards, purses were given away. Our table number was drawn early in the evening and we each received a bottle of Avon perfume. I was really disappointed by the attitudes of some of the women at my table. One immediately said, “Oh, I never wear perfume.” Another sniffed and commented that she is an Avon rep and therefore, already has “all the Avon perfume I’ll ever need.” I wanted to so bad to reprimand these women. This entire evening, from the food to the Christmas party for our kids – everything – was a gift. So many people volunteered their time and talents to give single moms a night to feel special…and we’re going to complain about a gift?  Maybe I'm too hard on others, I don't know.

I had never heard of this year’s speaker before. In fact, the founder of SPP didn’t know her, either. As of September, she still didn’t have anyone lined up. Then, she was visiting with a local pastor who asked her, out of the blue, if she had someone yet. She told him she didn’t and he gave her the business card of this speaker and told her to call her. If SPP decided to use her, his church would pay for her plane ticket and lodging. Imagine how shocked I was when this speaker began sharing her story. In 2013 she was a missionary’s wife in Africa, the mother of 6 children, when her 40 something year old husband developed encephalitis and died. I loved what she had to say, about how God is not done writing our story yet. She drew a lot, too, from Psalm 91, which, of course, became MY psalm in the hours after Paul died.

Afterwards, I fought my way through the throngs of women leaving the ball room, walked up to her, and told her, “I was widowed in 2013 and I have 6 kids, too!” We talked for a little bit and she told me to friend her on Facebook, so I did.

And that was one of the reasons I was supposed to be there that night.

Another may have happened a few minutes later when I was out in the hallway waiting for Sam and Lizzie to finish up in the bathroom. The father of the head of SPP approached me. He’s in his 70s, probably. A few times he has worked the Break Times that I’ve brought my kids to and he always has such nice things to say about the kids’ behavior. I had heard that he was widowed as a younger father. So, we got to talking the other night and shared our stories of widowhood. His happened when he accidentally ran over his wife with a tractor – the guilt had to have been consuming! He was left with 4 young children, including a baby (who grew up to be the founder of SPP). As he said, he had no clue what he was doing – he worked the fields and his wife took care of the children. He didn’t realize I was widowed, I guess, until the other night. He told me that the first time I brought the kids to Break Time he didn’t “know your story,” but, he added, “I knew you were hurting” He then added that he also knew by the evening’s end that “those kids have a good mama.” That was sweet of him to say.

Well, Will has rented himself an apartment. I knew this day was coming. And it’s not like it’s a shocker – he is getting married in a few months, after all, and they need a place to live. But still…oof. I’m not ready! He ended up getting one right across the street from church, which will be nice for them – they can just walk over. It’s a little one bedroom – reasonable rent, good neighborhood. What more could a mother want?

To have him at home.

Ah, well…it’s time. He and Arien went and looked at it Monday night and when I got home last night from grocery shopping I could tell he had news. There was just this little extra “spring” in his step. Sure enough, they’d gotten the green light from the landlord and been approved. He’s planning to move in the first week of January. So now he’s scouring Craig’s List for furniture and he and Arien are going mattress shopping next week.

He’s so excited. And I’m excited for him.

I really am.

Even though I want to grab his ankles and cry, “Don’t leave me!”

Last weekend was the big hunting weekend. It was so bitterly cold, but the guys endured and came home with some deer. David got another doe.  One of these years he'll get his first buck.   Will says he’s not sure how we’re going to get it all in our three freezers. I probably just need to do some re-arranging. We had so much last year that we didn’t get it all eaten, unlike the year before. I know I have a couple of turkeys in there I need to get cooked. That would free up some space.

Sam even went hunting. I pulled him out of school early on Friday and he hunted all afternoon long. And then Saturday he was out in sub zero temps from 11 – dark. I wasn’t so sure about that because he’s still so young, but he had a blast. Jonathan and Nathanael were here for a few nights and then Janie and the baby came over Sat. afternoon and spent the night. Arien and her sister were here all afternoon and evening on Saturday – and did my Christmas wrapping. It’s always a busy time, but it’s fun. I hope they keep coming even after they all are completely grown and have their own homes. Tomorrow is butchering day.
I finally finished up the last class of the year on Sunday. I really did not care for this class one bit. But I did the work. Last I knew, I still had an A in there. Of course, that was before I turned in these final two projects. I’m almost at the point where I’d like to get a B. That would take some of the pressure off! And to think that a year ago I was nearly convinced there was no way I could pass any college classes…

So I was feeling pretty good that I was finally done for three weeks anyway. That was Sunday afternoon. And then Monday – one my textbooks for one of my classes arrived. Talk about a downer! But I still have 3 weeks before starting.

This next term I’ll be taking Conservation Ecology and Fundamentals of Communication. Both texts have actually arrived already. I flipped through them and they seem very do-able (no math). The communication class sounds kind of interesting. The conservation one, not so much. The entire textbook appears to be about saving wildlife – big whoopee ding dong. Will says he’s going to need some help for a couple of his classes next semester, too. So, I’ll be busy.

And I might be working, too, on top of all that. Not that I don’t work already. But I might be working more. My friend, one of Ben’s former teachers, forwarded me a staff email today from the school superintendent in which he asked the staff if they knew anyone available for substitute associate positions. She said, “I think you’d be awesome for this!” I believe those are the lowest-paid staff who get paid to work with children with special needs. I thought about it for awhile and prayed about it. I think I could do this. It wouldn’t be every day. And, it might get my foot in the door, for when I’d like to be employed by the district full-time. So, we’ll see what happens. I emailed the superintendent and haven’t heard anything back yet. Maybe nothing will happen – and my sanity will thank me for that.

Ellie had another tooth pulled last week. They put a spacer in there to await the arrival of her molar. Her 6 year molars are breaking through right now, too, the dentist says. I guess that means she’s early? It seems like my boys were always getting their molars behind schedule, like they’d get their 12 year molars when they were 13 or 14 or so. I guess it really doesn’t matter.
I was kind of hurt/ticked off last week when I received a notice from Ellie’s teacher letting me (not me specifically, just a note to the class in general) that they are having a “dad’s day” at the end of January. All the dads are supposed to come for one Friday morning where they do fun, science-themed activities and then the dads are supposed to take their kids out of school for rest of the day and do a daddy/kid date.


There was a tiny little note added that said “substitute dads” are allowed. Well, I should hope so. I would have gone, if nothing else, since I’m all Ellie has in the way of a mom or a dad. But still, why do something like this, especially when you are fully aware that not every child in the class has a father? Why set them up for that kind of potential hurt and embarrassment? It just seems cruel to me. David asked me if I would have been this upset if Dad was not dead. Probably not – because I was more ignorant back then and it wasn’t something that would directly affect the life of one of my children. I’m not saying this is a bad idea. Any time you can get fathers interacting with their young kids, it’s a good thing. But it’s a terrible idea in general because that positive part is outweighed by the potential negatives.

As it turned out, Will quickly agreed to serve as a substitute dad that day for Ellie so all will be fine. This time. Well, I shouldn’t say that. While Ellie will still have someone in the classroom for her, I imagine she’ll still be acutely aware that it is her brother, not her dad.

But what about when he’s not nearly so available? What then? What about all the annual spring daddy/daughter dance information we’ll have to pretend to not care about when it starts coming home in a couple months? What about when my kids hear other kids complaining about their dads and they wonder what it would be like to have someone to complain about?

Why don’t people think?
My dishwasher is on the fritz again. For a Bosch, I am really not impressed. Thank goodness, I bought their 3 year Geek Squad protection. This will be the second or third time I’ve had to have them out. But now I have to wait 9 days for a repairman and do dishes by hand in the meantime.
Well, I just checked my finals. I scored 100% on both, which leaves me at a 96.33% for the class grade. I can handle that! Today Ellie’s therapist made the comment that I seem “so smart” to her. Maybe she knows something that I have never quite believed to be true.
The next few days will be a whirlwind of baking and getting after the kids and getting ready for our own Christmas here at home. I like that. I like staying home and I like establishing our own routine and I like celebrating with those I love most.


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