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Frantic February

Saturday
Ugh – it has been so long since I’ve been able to write. As it is, I may be writing on this post for the next week. Suffice it to say, I am one busy woman right now. The other day I had to get a resume done (more on that later) and the lady helping me commented that “You have six kids, some with special needs, you are working two part-time jobs, you’re a single mom and you’re going to school – I don’t know how you manage!” I don’t think about it until someone says something like that. I imagine God has a lot to do with that!

The substitute calls have been rolling in. So far, I’ve worked one day at the high school, one at the middle school, and three at the elementary. There were a whole lot more days I got calls that I couldn’t take. I finally got my paperwork turned into the superintendent’s office this week so I can eventually get paid and the lady doing it said something about me being in hot demand. I told her I was sure it had more to do with signing up in the middle of cold and flu season! I’m booked now for four more days this month and I’m sure I’ll get more calls this week. I switched my phone around so it’s on the “good” (hearing) side of me. I even hung up a power strip on the wall so it can charge over there instead. Still, when the phone rings at 6 in the morning asking if I can come in, I feel like I’m going to have a heart attack, because the shrill ringing startles me awake! Sometimes they text and that is a little bit more gentle way of awakening. One day I was asked to come in and they were trying to get ahold of Will, too, but he wasn’t picking up. I told them I’d see what I could do. I called him EIGHT times before he woke up. But that day was kind of neat. I ended up being assigned to a little boy in Sam’s classroom and they put Will with a boy in Lizzie’s class. Will said Lizzie was so embarrassed she refused to make eye contact with him until lunchtime!

I’m learning how to manage my time. If I know that I am free the next day I get everything ready the night before in case I’m called so I’m not running around like a crazy woman while trying to get the kids ready for school, too. After a few quick meals of mac and cheese and chicken nuggets I am learning now to cook our meal the night before, if I know I am free the next day to work. And then I don’t get called, I just have more time the next day to get my own stuff done. It almost feels like a “bonus” day! I imagine as we move closer to warm weather things will slow down a bit, too.

I’m making some interesting observations about public schools and education in general as I do this. I probably don’t want to get too detailed here on a public blog since they are now technically my employer. From what I can see, public schools are not bad. If you go to enough homeschool conferences you tend to get the impression that the minute your child walks through the doors of a public school they are pushed up against a wall and humanistic ideology is poured down their throats all day long. That’s simply not the case. From what I can see, the teachers genuinely care about the students. The problem that I can see is that because they are secular, public schools stop short of where they need to be. Here’s an example: my first day at the elementary I walked through the hall and the kids had just come in from recess. The recess monitor was there with a couple of 4th grade girls and their teacher. Obviously, something had happened on the playground that needed to be dealt with. I heard one of the girls belligerently exclaim, “Well, I don’t need any more friends!” It wasn’t hard to piece together what had happened. She had obviously just been reminded that if she does not treat others kindly then she will lose her friends and not make any more. And that’s where humanism falls short. A Christian parent or a teacher in a Christian school could draw the child aside and explain that we are to treat others kindly because that’s what pleases God. After all, He was kind to us when we were very unlovable. And then, one of the benefits of treating others nicely is that we do have friends, as a result.

Everything is going fine, though. I do enjoy the work most of the time. They had me in the preschool one day this week and I think I worked harder there than I ever did any other day! But at least it wasn’t as nerve wracking as when I had to help out in 8th grade math…When I do the elementary I have to do recess duty. That has been motivation enough for me to finish my degree so I can substitute teach. Teachers don’t have recess duty!

I couldn’t work yesterday (I got two calls) though. The morning got crazier than I thought it would be (more on that later). But Ben went to Night to Shine and I had to spend the day getting him ready. Once I was finally on the road, I had to run up to Ankeny and pick up his boutonniere, and then over to get his tux. I had him to the church by 3:15. It was crazy…but really, really neat.

Night to Shine is something that Tim Tebow started a few years ago. Churches all across America and even a few in other countries all host these proms on the same night. Tim spends the night flying from prom to prom, although he obviously doesn’t get to all of them. It is the neatest thing. Special needs adults are treated like absolute royalty. In fact, they all get crowns! I really didn’t know exactly what this was, but I received an email about it last fall and Ben said he thought a dance sounded fun. It was so much more than a dance. After I got him registered I began getting phone calls and emails from a person on the committee at the church, wanting to know all sorts of information about Ben and giving me lots and lots of details. I began to develop the sense that we had just signed up for something really cool!

And it was. We got there and tuxedoed men waited at the door and ushered us in. We checked in and Ben was given a lanyard with his name, a number, and information about him on the back. A helper immediately appeared to take him to the pre-dance activities. Along the way he was given a shoe shine. The girls were getting their hair and nails done. Ben got a limo ride, which he thought was pretty neat! They fed all the attendees (Chick fil A provided the meal) and then they were taken to the dance at the Community Center across from the church. There, each attendee had a “date” who stayed with them for the entire dance. Oh, and they had a red carpet that stretched from the parking lot into the community center. Each participant walked it while cameras flashed, paparazzi style.

Meanwhile, the parents or guardians were welcome to do as they wished. They could leave or stay. I left for a little bit because I had a few errands to run. As it turned out I ran into Ellie’s SS teacher at Kohls so we ended up going to the mall and eating supper together. But then I came back to the church and discovered that they had food for the parents in a different room. They even had a masseuse there giving massages! A huge screen was hanging from the ceiling and on that we could watch a live feed of the dance. I did see Ben!

Around 9 the dance ended and they began shuttling the attendees back to the church. Ben was in the one of the last groups to arrive, so I was able to people watch for awhile. Everyone was so happy. Ben walked in and when he saw me his eyes just lit up. His tuxedo shirt was hanging out, his tie was askew, and his boutonniere was gone (I found it stuffed in his pants pocket later). He exclaimed, “I can’t wait to do this again!”

And the night wasn’t quite over yet. Each person was given a bag and in it we found a Night to Shine drinking cup, rubber bracelet, a handwritten note to Ben, a picture of him taken that evening, a Chick fil A gift card, and a silver, engraved frame to put the picture in. What a blessing the night was. Ben is not extremely talkative (unless the subject happens to be grocery stores or game shows) but he must have chattered for a good 15 min. of the ride home last night. He was so excited! My heart was full.

And did I mention that this didn’t cost us a thing? A tuxedo shop in Des Moines gave heavily discounted tux rentals, but I was contacted by the church last week and told that if I sent them my receipt they would be reimburse me. In fact, the only money we spent was on his boutonniere (a whopping $11) and the gas to get there.

I’ve always loved this quote from Ghandi: “The measure of a society is found in the way it treats its most vulnerable citizens.” As I said on Facebook, I think we’re doing pretty well, then!

Of course, after the morning I had with vehicles yesterday, I’m just thankful Ben made it at all! Thursday night Will took my van up to Ankeny and as far as I know, it’s in northern Minnesota right now. A group of about 30 young people who are involved in a Bible study at Faith decided to go this weekend. They’re hanging out in some cabins and ministering at a church up there tomorrow. So, I was going to be driving David’s car all weekend, which is ok. The brakes need some work and my plan was to take the car in the first of this week and get that done before something really bad happened. Well, I went to take the girls to school yesterday morning (Sam was home with the stomach flu – same variety the girls had a couple of weeks ago – no spewing, just tummy pain) and I could tell something wasn’t right. It felt like something was dragging and I thought maybe I had a flat tire. But I didn’t. I made it down past City Hall and I knew I just could not go any further. The back end was fishtailing even though the roads were fine. As I was driving home I heard a loud “bang” but the car kept moving. I told David and he came out and drove it around the circle. And then he got stuck. I trotted over to where he was and he was able to push the car. He reported that one of the tires was not rotating, which would explain the fishtailing and feeling of dragging. So, long story short, I had to have it towed. The tow truck guy said maybe I broke an axle. I don’t know. It may not be related at all to the brakes needing replacing.

So that meant I was left with Will’s car to drive. I hate his car. The muffler needs to be fixed or replaced or something. But he won’t do it. He’s either too cheap or he thinks it’s cool to have a loud car. So I have felt absolutely humiliated all weekend long having to drive this thing around. My only other option was to rent something, which I was willing to do. But, that does cost money and I was so short on time yesterday that I hated to take the time to have David drive me to the rental place in Des Moines. So, I didn’t. I figure I’ll save that for when I really and truly run out of vehicle options.

I’m actually giving some thought to buying a “spare” car right now. David is putting applications in at grocery stores and one of these days he’ll have a job. With me working and needing to transport kids to school every day, besides, we both must have something to drive. I figured up that the two weeks I was without my van would have cost me more than $800 for a rental. I either need to add renter’s insurance to my car policy or buy a spare car.

I ended up not taking the girls to school yesterday. I just called the office and said they wouldn’t be in. It was already so late and with everything else I had going on I didn’t have the time to run them to school. I would have then had to arrange for a bus ride home for them since I would need the car to take Ben to WDM at the time school would be getting out. It was just another hassle I didn’t need.

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Ok, so that’s that. What else? My neediest kids are still…needy. Ben is continuing to have occasional struggles with wanting to be as independent as his brothers. I almost wonder if there is something physiological going on his brain right now, like there was at puberty. This isn’t as bad as puberty was, though – thankfully. Ellie is doing pretty well. Yesterday, on her unexpected day off school she took 2 pieces of wood she found, laid them almost together and then cut up a cardboard box. Anyway, she made an “H” decoration for “Heywood.” Sam helped her hot glue the pieces together and then she painted it. She was thinking I’d hang it in the living room. I convinced her the basement needed an H decoration more. Still, I was pretty impressed. It looks pretty good for being made with 5 year old hands. Today she did refer to herself as an “artist” in a conversation and later told me she didn’t think she was one because nothing she ever makes turns out right the first time she tries!

We’re making progress with the RAD stuff, too. One night last week she got angry at Lizzie and as Lizzie was drifting off to sleep, Ellie crept over to her bed…and slapped her sister across the face. There’s nothing passive aggressive about this one! Another day this week she became angry with Lizzie when Lizzie refused to get her a tissue and spied David's cell phone that was on its charger cord in the living room. Ellie ripped that phone off the cord and flung the phone at her sister. Well, that doesn’t really sound like “progress” I suppose (Lizzie would definitely think it wasn’t!). But, I do think she’s growing up a little bit. I’ve noticed her vocabulary and thought processes seem to be expanding. A couple of weeks ago, out of the blue, she asked me why I don’t like her. I was baffled because I hadn’t even been mad at her lately. She went on to tell me that when I close my bedroom door (which I do when I am doing schoolwork and do not want to be interrupted) it feels to her like I no longer like her. I was really impressed by her articulation, even if she was totally wrong. So now I’m trying to remember to tell her ahead of time when I plan to shut the door and assure her that it won’t be for a really long period of time.

She’s been asking more questions about salvation, too, but I don’t think she is close to making a decision yet. I’m still slipping in instruction as I can. The other day Ellie made the comment about something, “…and I’ll just die!” she exclaimed. So I asked her, “And then what happens when you die?” She replied seriously, “You won’t see me anymore.”

Well…that’s true, too, I guess!

Sunday

I saw a Zales wedding advertisement on tv today…featuring a pair of lesbian brides. Argh!! It’s because of something called “heterosexism.” That’s a term I only learned recently, helping Will with one of his classes. It refers to the idea that society promotes a preferred form of sexuality by its expectations and advertising. For example, if an ad features a pretty woman and an obviously interested man, that’s heterosexist because you are telling the viewers that it’s preferable and normal for a man and woman to be attracted to one another. I helped Will with a discussion question last week for this same class. He had to identify his sexual preferences (which seemed like an awfully intrusive question, I thought) and then list advantages and disadvantages he experienced as a result. It was very hard to come up with any disadvantage to being a heterosexual. I think we finally came up with the idea that since he’s a white, heterosexual male sometimes his opinion is automatically discounted by those of a more liberal mindset. Then, his instructor replied that she was so sorry he felt this way. And Will doesn’t, not really. But it was the only drawback we could come up with for being normal! What a world we live in…

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A little over a week ago I received a call from BVU. My adviser had nominated me to be one of the two junior class marshals for this year. I had never heard of such a thing. Apparently, it’s a big deal. They pick 2 students from the junior class, one from the regular studies and one from the on-line program. They have to have a 4.0 gpa (good thing I haven’t taken my math class yet!). The marshals lead the seniors in at graduation and they have to be on-campus in western Iowa for a day in late August, too. I can’t remember the reason for that – some ceremony or something. The graduation day thing is a two day commitment, but everything is paid for. The best thing is that it comes with a $1000 scholarship. So, all I had to do was submit a resume and then wait and see if I made it through the screening process and would receive a phone call from the selection committee.

Except, I didn’t have a resume.

So, I tried to make one. It was pathetic. Forty-five years of living and it was all condensed into about 3”. I feel like I have lived a full life, but apparently it doesn't translate well to paper.

My adviser had told me that the Newton campus hosted a resume and job search center. I discovered when I went that it was actually paid for by Goodwill Industries. I had no idea that they did stuff like this. Totally free. I don’t think it is only for students, either. It took me 2 trips – and Newton is 45 min. away. I got there and discovered they weren’t going to open for another 3 hours. Grrr…. I went back that afternoon and came out of there with a really cool resume. The gal there is a former teacher. She was able to take all these different aspects of my life and put them onto paper that made it look like I have really lived- even my experiences in parenting Ben and adopting out of foster care. Actually, we had a really nice conversations. She adopted her nieces out of foster care and both had RAD and she went through quite a bit with them, too.

So, I submitted the resume and now I just wait to see if I receive a phone call this week. I guess, to be honest, I’m kind of neutral on the whole thing. The honor would be nice and so would the money. But it will take some time and right now, time is my most valuable commodity. If I am selected I’ve been trying to figure out if there is a non-bragging way to announce it on Facebook. I don’t think there is! So, my blog will be as close as I probably get.

As all the actors say at Oscar time, “It’s just an honor to be nominated!”

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Well, this is all I know. I am trying to cram in the last of my schoolwork today. I need to attend church tonight because Ellie has her first lines in a Patch skit. But I have a feeling I’m going to have a pretty late night as a result. I won’t even get any extra sleep tomorrow morning like I normally do on Mondays (late start day) because the girls have to be at the school for dance practice. All 3 kids are participating in the Spring Dance show in April. I was surprised Sam wanted to do it, but he does. The boys’ practices are on different days. I wasn’t sure what to do about this when the paperwork came home from school. So, I emailed a friend, a Christian, who teaches at the school and has a daughter in Sam’s class and asked her opinion. She said that so far, it’s been all right and she lets her daughter participate. They don’t do anything inappropriate at the elementary level, but she did admit that after watching some of the senior high girls’ routines you feel like you’re in a “gentleman’s club.” I kind of had that idea from seeing them at the football games, too. So, I told the kids we’d try it. But if I think the show is inappropriate we won’t be doing it again. I also told them that if we do continue, as they get older there may come a time that we have to drop involvement if they are being asked to participate in dances I don’t think are prudent. I have pretty mixed feelings on this. It sounds like just about every little girl in the elementary is participating and I want the kids to have opportunities. Since we can’t do sports right now because of my schooling (the time sports would require) this seems like a good alternative.

I don’t know! I guess we’ll find out.

So anyway, it may be a short night for me.
















































































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