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Things that Break and Kids that Grow


Have you ever realized what a pretty word, “January” is when written out, particularly in script? That struck me this morning as I looked at my new Mary Engelbreit calendar in the kitchen. There’s a little bit of J and Y above the line, all the in-between letters are the same height, and then the J and Y both dip down below. That pleases me aesthetically!

The weather – not so much. It is bitterly cold out and there’s not even snow to even compensate – just icky brown ground. Of course, there’s no ice on the roads, which is a plus. But if we had a snowstorm I’d have a good reason to stay home in my warm house.

And my house is warm again…$600 later. It took me over 12 hours last week to realize that I had no heat. Fortunately, it wasn’t as cold then as it is now. I didn’t know who to call. I’ve had one of Paul’s old co-workers doing furnace and AC checks for me, but I was pretty sure he was on call for his regular job. So, I went with the recommendation from a pastor friend of mine. The people did a good job, I guess, but they sure whined about how far out I live. So I think next time I’ll try to find someone closer. Anyway, the circuit board on the furnace went out. I’ve had to fix and replace a lot of things since Paul died. But this one really got to me – because Paul was an HVAC guy, of course. If he was still alive, he would have tested that thing, and more than likely, he would have had an extra board in his van that he would have installed quickly and then paid the company back for. Or, worst case scenario, he would have had me run up to one of the dealers where he had accounts, and pick one up. Instead, I had to pay someone else to do it.


Will says the circuit board is probably the most expensive repair. Since the furnace is 17 years old he says to make the next repair and then after that start getting quotes for a new unit. I hope I can wait awhile on that!

I couldn’t wait on my dishwasher, but that is only costing me $200. The repair guy came out last Friday, I think. He seemed grouchy. Maybe he didn’t like kids or cats. Or maybe he thought Swan was too far to drive, too. I don’t know. Anyway, he declared my dishwasher unrepairable. He said we’d have to uninstall it, take it in, swap it for another Bosch, and then re-install it ourselves. Well, ok. So, Will loaded it up for me Sunday and I drove out Best Buy. It turned out I didn’t’ have to bring it in. They would have taken it when they delivered my new one. And, I could have any dishwasher I wanted and just pay the difference. So, I did not go with Bosch. The salesman said that right now Samsung and LG are the best performing dishwashers. I found a $1000 Samsung that was on sale for $700. It supposed to spray the water in this new and innovative way. I guess we’ll see if it does. I went with chrome because a black one would be another $100. The space for the dishwasher is not really obvious anyway and I don’t know how important it is that appliances always match all the time. This time I bought the 5 year Geek Squad protection because that certainly paid off this time. That’s another widowhood thing. We never, ever bought extended warranties because Paul could fix anything. But maybe we would for dishwashers now. They are all pretty computerized. The dishwasher arrives tomorrow. Will does have to install it since we didn’t buy installation on the last one. That’s saving me another $100, though.

But, on the plus side of things that break: before Christmas my key fob quit working on the van. Research taught me that the problem probably was not the fob, but something battery related. Apparently, it can be a common issue with Chrysler vans. So, when I was in Waterloo last week, my dad and I tried a few things, but we couldn’t get it to work. Although, my battery itself appears to be fine. It looked like I was going to have to visit a dealer to get this fixed. But, this week it suddenly started working again. It’s probably temporary, but at least in the meantime, I can lock and unlock my doors with the press of a button again.

One of my friends posted on Facebook about her daughter sleeping with her stuffed “abdominal snowman.” I sure hope that was an auto-correct error…

I took Ben to the allergist today for his skin – first visit since 2005. His eczema started bothering him again this fall. So, we got a prescription. He’s also been having a lot of problems with in-grown hairs on his legs. The dr. didn’t know if that was related or not. But it might just be a matter of actually washing the legs rather than letting the water run down them in the shower. So, we went to Walmart and got him some shower gel and a long scrubby brush.

Afterwards we went to Milroy’s Tux and got him fitted for his Night to Shine event next month. Ben went with a black tux, black shirt, and silver tie and pocket square. He didn’t want a vest. I am so impressed with this store. When Ben rented a tux last year for prom, we went through the outfit that contracts through Hy-Vee. They came to the school and measured the boys. It cost $120 and we didn’t even rent shoes. Milroy’s is offering a discount to all the Night to Shine attendees – even including shoes, our bill today was $42. And they were so nice to Ben while we were there. They’ve definitely got my business for all future tux needs (not that I anticipate a ton of them in my life).

In the front window they had mannequins dressed in camo. There was a full camoflauge tuxedo with orange vest and tie, a pint sized version for a ring bearer, and a camo dress. The dress was strapless and the bodice was a silver sequined thing but the rest of it was all camo. Apparently, there’s a market.


Yesterday was Paul’s birthday – would have been, anyway. I made his favorite birthday meal for supper. I did drive up to the cemetery, too, because David had said something the day before about needing to go up there. Sure enough, he’d been there, cleared out the Christmas decorations he’d put up, and put up the plastic birthday balloon I bought a few years.

He would have been so pleased with his kids. I think he’d be especially happy with Sam right now. This kid is a very normal 9 year old, but like David, he seems to have an especially keen interest in spiritual matters. My parents gave him a kids study Bible for Christmas that he seems to really love. He already established, on his own, a time of daily Bible reading. Now, he’s taking that Bible and curling up on my bed every night with it. He was so excited the other night because he was reading in Psalm 1 and he began to recognize the words from a Christian kids’ music cd we listen to on the way to school. He didn’t know that song came from actual Scripture.

He told me that Will challenged him to read all of Psalm 119 by this weekend, so the two of them are doing that separately.

Our verse this week (that I go over with the kids before going into school) has been Philippians 4:4 (“Rejoice in the Lord, always…”). I mentioned to the kids today that that particular verse was written by the Apostle Paul when he was a prisoner – not when things were going well for him. Sam seemed particularly intrigued by that piece of information. He then wanted to know what King David was going through when he wrote the Psalms. He was shocked to find out that, for a lot of the Psalms, he was on the run from murderous King Saul (don’t they teach these stories in Sunday School? Maybe he just hadn’t connected the dots yet between the stories and Scripture passages).

The other night Sam asked me if it’s ok that he can’t remember the exact date he was saved. I assured him it was fine – as long as he remembers doing it.

Ellie has started asking questions about salvation. I’ve been putting her off because she seems awfully young to make this kind of decision. Although, both David and Lizzie were saved at age 5. But I also know she has older siblings warning her that she’s “going to hell” if she doesn’t hurry up and make a salvation decision. I don’t want that to be her reason for praying a prayer. On the other hand, if it would help her behavior improve…bad mom, bad mom…

Actually, Ellie is doing a lot better. I think a lot of it is that I am changing my parenting approach with both girls. I’m proud of myself, because that’s not easy when the methods you’ve been using for 20+ years have worked so awesome with all your other kids. For example, last week Ellie lied to me about messing with some paint I had out. I was pretty sure she was the culprit, but I didn’t have absolute proof, either. So, I put the girls in different corners of the house, even though I was pretty sure Lizzie was innocent. I explained to her that since I didn’t know and since she had done a pretty thorough job of destroying my trust in her last month, I would have to assume she was guilty until I found out otherwise. She was NOT happy with me, but she also said she understood. I told them they could sit there until I got the truth. It took an hour and a half and me putting some pretty strong screws to Ellie. When she finally did confess I didn’t punish, even though I sure wanted to. I thought it would be better for her to see, for awhile, anyway, that telling the truth can be its own reward.

I was so proud of her earlier this week that I had to broadcast it all over Facebook. We butchered 3 deer on Monday. It took forever because it was just us. As soon as those carcasses were on the table, Ellie was right there with a knife. She wanted to help. I didn’t want to discourage her, but I didn’t want her slicing her fingers off, either, so I gave her the dullest knife. She complained about that repeatedly. But, this girl sat there for 5 hours solid, cutting up meat. Sam and Lizzie had no interest and we didn’t make them do it. They did help when it was time to grind and package the meat. Ellie did that, too, and afterwards, I found her wiping down the table with a washcloth.

Her therapist has mentioned that she’s never had a child who is so anxious to clean up after herself in the playroom before.

My back went out last Friday night – sciatic nerve pain that I’ve dealt with since I was a teenager. I was painting the girls room and I guess I’m getting too old for all that stretching and furniture moving because I was dying. By the next morning I could barely move. I got out of bed in the morning and immediately fell back on the bed as a back spasm gripped me. It was terrible! I walked around with an ice pack strapped to my back all weekend and lived on Aleve and Advil PM.I was able to get into the chiropractor on Monday and I’ll see him again tomorrow. I’m doing better, but I haven’t been brave enough to finish the painting yet.

Saturday evening we did go to the New Year’s Eve soup supper at church. Sam and Lizzie wanted to stay later with the boys but Ben, Ellie, and I left by 9. I was hurting. We got home and I must have said something about wanting to take a hot bath for my back. The next thing I knew, Ellie had retrieved my pajamas for me. She trotted down to the basement and found a pair of underwear in my basket because I didn’t have any in my drawer. She started my water, added Epsom salts, and bubbles. I didn’t give her any directions for this. She did it all on her own. She even laid out a towel for me. Then she said, “I’m going to lay on the couch. You get in here and take a bath, Mommy!” Remember what I said awhile ago about her potentially being a scary nurse someday?

I’ve still been taking baths most nights since them because it does seem to help my back. Every single night she asks my plans and then I find everything I need lying on the hamper, waiting on me. The other night she asked if I was planning to take a bath or a shower. I replied that I would actually do both. I would take a bath to soak my back and then I’d shower in order to wash my hair. She thought for a moment and then asked, “So, you’re going to take a bath AND a shower?” I nodded. She was quiet and then asked, “So, do you need two pairs of underwear, then?” Hah!

Will got the keys to his apartment this morning. He says he plans to take his time moving in. He and Arien ordered a mattress last week and he’ll pick it up this weekend. As I’m typing I can hear him carrying boxes out to my van. He wants to get a load of belongings over there today. Sam is pretty upset by this turn of events. He was crying about it again last night. I feel so bad for him. I can assure him that he’ll see plenty of his brother and that it could always be worse. But he knows and I know that things will never again be the same. And for Sam, it’s more like losing a dad than a brother. It’s natural, it’s normal…but it also stinks when you’re only 9. I feel so bad for him. The other day Will was working on the truck (Paul’s old one – Will doesn’t want to let it go for sentimental reasons and I really have no desire to replace it for financial ones). All this exhaust was circling around and I made a joking comment about it “blowing up” with Will inside it. Sam seriously replied, “If Will died, that would be almost as bad as him moving out!”

Well, what else? We had a nice Christmas. I never did feel overly sad about Paul being dead for it. That was nice. It felt like progress. I think my favorite gift (besides my headboard that I am ordering as soon as it gets back in stock) came from Sam. He found this bobble-head “mom” at his school’s Penguin Patch shop that reads, “Super Mom” on the bottom of it. I think I’ll keep that forever!

I am finally feeling better. It only took 5 weeks! I am on another round of antibiotics now, but I think they are really probably not needed. I saw an ENT last week to make sure I wasn’t permanently losing the hearing in my good ear, but since then my ear seems to have fully opened (maybe I did need those antibiotics).I feel really good. But I’m going to be better about taking my vitamins every day. I may add in Vit A and capsaicin to my daily regimen, too. My classes start Monday and I plan to turn my app into the school next week for subbing, too. So, after this week life is going to get considerably busier!

I think this is going to be a good year. It’s going to be a busy year. But I feel like I’m stronger now and more capable of handling things. I don’t even like the number “17” but I think I’m going to like this year.


  1. Love that about "17". It's a prime number! Yuck :-).


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