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Vacationing in North Korea

 Life is going at full-throttle again.  I keep telling myself that a year from now things will be easier and the only reason I think that is because I won’t be in school any more.  So, maybe it will be easier.  But I’ll be working – so maybe not.

Normally, it seems like our professors “ease” us into our classes.  Not this time.  Both are lit classes and both have copious amounts of work.  For  this week, alone, I had to read Hamlet, The Rover, the Illiad, and Ducitus.  Not only do you have to read, but then you have discussion questions and responses and then you have papers to submit on each…it’s killing me.  And then you do the same thing the following week and the next – for 8 weeks!  On the other hand, I am getting a crash course in all these great classics I probably should have studied long before now.  And so far, I’m acing everything.  My one professor is especially effusive in his praise.  I suspect that I answer things more in depth than a lot of my classmates.  But that’s me – I’m a writer.  And once I’ve turned in one paper and gotten my professor so excited then I kind of hate to let him down with work more on level with the 20 year olds who are in my class.

I worked a couple of days this past week and I’m scheduled to work 3 next week.  I’m not going to take any more days because I need the time to do school.  Besides, I’m working 6 days straight in mid-Feb already.  I agreed to this last fall before I knew what these Lit classes would entail!  And I have two out-of-town trips planned for back to back weekends in Feb which is going to limit my time even further. 
I was watching the news the other night and they were all excited about a big lottery drawing that was coming up.  One lotto customer  they interviewed exclaimed, “I could have bought a beer with this money, but I decided to do something constructive, instead!”  My eyeballs could not roll back far enough…
 I found out this week that the schools – well, at least our school – no longer sends kids home when they find lice on them.  WHAT?!!  Apparently, it has been deemed “too humiliating” to the children. So, let me get this straight – to protect a buggy kid’s tender feelings, I have to risk my child getting lice by continually exposing them to the child?  Give me a stinking break…It reminds me of a segment yesterday on talk radio where the host, who is originally from England, was talking about how over there now, elementary students are no longer allowed to have “best friends” because it hurts other kids’ feelings and I don’t know, somehow stunts their own personal development.

Lice are my biggest parenting fear, next to losing my child to death.  I have never had to deal with them and I don’t even know what I’d do if the kids got them.  I know it involves combing every single strand of hair, using some chemical shampoo, covering the head in mayonnaise and plastic wrap, washing every single blanket and pillow in the house with boiling water after keeping them sealed in bags for 6 weeks, etc.  It sounds like a living nightmare to me.  And can you imagine if the girls ever got it with their tight, 4C kinky, curly hair?  Holy buckets… (hair is “graded” by number and letter to classify its coarseness/curliness/kinkiness).  4C is the “worst” and that’s what the girls have, I believe, based on the charts I’ve seen.  Lizzie may have 4B, but it’s not that different from 4C.

Oh, speaking of hair…the gal that did the girls’ hair last summer for the wedding is closing her shop.  I’m not sure why, other than it being a revenue issue.  But, she is going to start making house calls to do hair, instead.  I’ve been thinking of getting their hair done again, so I may call her.  She actually lives just 10 min up the highway from me, so I shouldn’t think it would be a problem to arrange something.
 David’s senior pictures are finally all taken.He and Arien went out this morning and got the last of them done.  Between him getting sick, breaking his nose, and Arien moving it’s been a bit of an ordeal to get them done!  But she did fabulous work and I can’t wait to see them all.  I know some kids who don’t get their senior pictures done until right before graduation, so we’re doing pretty well to get them done in January, I think!  I have a friend who never got around to getting her homeschooled daughter’s pics done a couple of years ago.  She finally ended up taking a couple of snapshots before her daughter headed off to college and called it good!
 I had a day last week.  It was a Monday.  Literally, it was on Monday, too.  It was the worst day.  But it wasn’t the worst as in it was this awful, horrible day.  It was almost just odd because these back-to-back incidents kept happening, all one right after the other.

The first thing that happened was Ellie lied to me.  That’s not terribly unusual.  But this was a humdinger.  The thing that is so difficult with her is that she is so sincere when she lies.  She even cries copious amounts of tears while sobbing, “I can’t believe you don’t believe me!”  And since I don’t see every single incident I begin to doubt myself, even though I know I can’t be wrong.  Or am I?  Ugh.  I went through that again this week one day with her.  Fortunately, this week we had therapy right afterwards so I was able to lay it all out for the therapist and ask her – how am I supposed to deal with this?  I’ll write more on that here in a bit.  I feel like I am losing my mind when she does this.  I read a parenting tip the other day that said you should tell your toddlers that when they lie their ears turn red.  That way, in time, they’ll learn to cover their ears when they lie and then you’ll always know when they are lying.  It’s probably too late for that with Ellie.  Anyway, I felt on that Monday like I should have handled things a lot better.

Then, in the mail that day came a sympathy card for Paul’s death.  I got a lot of sympathy cards when Paul died.  In fact, I have a 2 ½ gallon ziplock bag full of them in my hope chest.  But they all arrived within the first couple months after his death – not four and a half years later!  It was disconcerting to say the least.  I’m not saying it wasn’t a nice gesture and perhaps that’s all it was.   But to me, it seems a bit calculated.  Years ago I used to go to this eye dr in Des Moines.  But I quit going because his office was so aggressive.  They would do things like send me reminder cards repeatedly letting me know it was time to come in for my yearly exam (I get my eyes done every 3 years, not every year.  That may change as I get older, but so far, I’ve been good with every 3).  Once they even called to remind me of an upcoming appointment.  When I told them I didn’t have a scheduled appointment, the receptionist cheerfully told me that she had gone ahead and scheduled me because I was due for an appointment.  I didn’t go.  So, this year on Paul’s birthday they sent a “happy birthday” text.  I don’t even know  how they got his birth date.  I don’t think he ever saw them unless he visited when he scratched his cornea so badly during a seizure.  Maybe he did, I don’t remember.  Irritated at this text, I texted back, not even knowing if they would get it.  Sometimes these business texts are automated and they don’t get replies.  I wrote back, “Paul died 4 years ago” – sweet and simple.  I hoped that would end any future birthday texts.  And the next thing I know I’m getting this sympathy card signed by everybody in the office.  Argh! 

Later that day I was driving Ben to the tux rental place (Night to Shine is coming up) when I realized that my windshield wiper was no longer working.  In fact, it was dangling like a badly broken wrist.  Hmm…I knew I hadn’t done anything to it.  Two days earlier I had my key cylinder replaced at the Kia dealership.  The cylinder is located directly below the wiper lever.  It was fairly obvious to me what had happened.  The dealership is on the north side of DM – about 40 min from my house.  Fortunately, the tuxedo shop is just down the road from them.  So I figured I would swing up to Kia after arranging for the tux, which I did.  They had me drive in, a guy peered at it, and then told me that because I didn’t have an appointment they couldn’t do anything.  Excuse me?  You people broke my lever and you can’t find someone in that entire shop to fix it or, at the very least, check and see if you have the part in stock?  I was not happy.  I ended up making an appointment to bring the van in when the technician who did the original work would be in.  Well, I got a call to to work that day and I wasn’t about to turn down income for this.  So, I had David call and reschedule.  That was on the books for last Sat when I got a call Friday from Kia saying Sat. would not work because the technician would not be in that day, either.  Grrr…So, I then made an appointment for this past Monday.  The kids didn’t have school because of MLK day and I had scheduled therapy for the girls.  So, after therapy we went to the dealership and sat around for awhile.  The guy I’ve been dealing with comes into the waiting room after about an hour and says, “Well, do you want the good news first or the bad news?”  I think I gave him a death glare at that point.  The box that was supposed to hold my new lever was mislabeled.  They didn’t have one.  I pointed out to him that it was not exactly the safest thing to be driving around without a working wiper.  I think he did a little shrug as he somewhat appeared to agree with me.  But, hey, he pointed out – we washed the outside of your van for you! (that was the good news).  SO, I went back yesterday and now I finally have a working windshield wiper.  And I hope I never have to deal with that dealership again.

And then late that same afternoon David asked me to come down to the basement.  There he showed me a very dead, very torn up Butterscotch, the gerbil, on the laundry room floor.  While we didn’t catch her red (literally) handed, we’re assuming Olivia is the murderer.  She had become quite interested in the gerbil lately, perching on top of the cage, intently watching the rodent.  We don’t know if she knocked off one of the tubes that ran outside the cage or if the gerbil just escaped somehow and she found her and killed her.  It was gruesome – she completely ripped open the rodent’s back.  I’m just thankful that David found it before one of the Littles did.  Sam was upset, naturally, although he told me at bedtime that he was “75%” over his pet’s death by then.  He has wanted to replace the gerbil with a hamster for awhile . These gerbils we bought were never very pet-like in that they liked to bite and were very fast.  You couldn’t hold them.  And they were mean to each other which is why we had to put them in separate cages and they chewed up all the plastic stuff in their cages – real pains, to be honest.  But I explained to Sam that it just isn’t safe to bring a hamster into the house right now.  We need to wait for Olivia to get declawed for one thing and I think it would be good to get her closer to her 1st birthday when she’ll be less kitten-like.  He wasn’t happy about having to wait.  In the past, when his hamsters have died we’ve always replaced them within days.  But that’s mostly because he took the deaths so hard.

So, anyway, that was a day I hope I never have to repeat!
  I feel like I had a “break-through” with Ellie this week.  Maybe not so much with her, but with me.  So we were at therapy this week and every week I keep a journal on the girls and then the therapist reads my rambling reports at the start of each session.  This time I also told her about the latest lying incident and just asked her, “What am I supposed to do”?  She reminded me that, emotionally, Ellie is functioning at a lower level.  I get that, I do.  But I never let my preschoolers lie to me, either.  But then she started talking about how the girls are not feeling a connection to me when I am upset with them.  I have a hard time wrapping my mind around that because I know that still love them no matter what.  Well, the therapist told me I should tell them how much I love them even when I’m upset with them – right then and there.  It was awful because I started crying as I tried to express that to the girls and that made me so embarrassed.  I hate to cry in front of people.  But I realized that, while I do say, “I love you” to the girls it’s usually just at night and honestly, that’s more of a a relief, “I love you” because I’m finally getting a break from them!  I even protested to the therapist, “They know I love them!” and she replied that if I had them from birth, they would know that.  But when I get upset, it plunges them into uncertainty.  I don’t know.  It seems to plunge them into belligerence, actually. 

But the very next day in my Christian RAD Facebook group one mother mentioned that her RAD child tends to “fall apart” when corrected, even when in the most mild of ways, such as asking her to hang up her coat.  Other moms chimed in saying that their adopted children are the same way.  A lightbulb began to suddenly flicker on for me.  If a child does not have the connection with their parent then it makes sense that any sort of criticism is going to feel like an “attack” because they don’t have the relationship already cemented in place that would allow a connected child to accept criticism or even punishment from a parent.  Normal things like this are going to make the RAD child very fearful, upset, and angry.  And I wonder if that’s some of what I’m dealing with.  So that evening I sat down with Ellie and addressed this lie she told me again.  But first I explained to her that it doesn’t matter what she does or says – I will always love her and I will always be her mother.  I am wondering if I am going to need to coach all my criticism in layers of these kind of reminders to get anywhere with the girls – that seems like a lot of work!  But, Ellie was finally willing to address the lie.  I could not get her to completely confess, but she did allow that she could understand how I might think she could be the culprit and perhaps it was possible that she had done the deed and just didn’t fully remember  it now.  It’s not what I was hoping to hear from her, but it did feel a bit like progress, anyway.

I wonder if anyone would choose to adopt if they knew how potentially hard it might end up being?  I’m not saying I would not have done it.  For us, it was so clearly directed by God that I never questioned that his was His plan for me.  But if people knew what their life might look like I kind of wonder if there would be fewer willing to adopt anything other than a newborn.  It’s probably a good thing we don’t know.  But parenting RADS (and, again, I’m dealing with more mild levels of it – my life is not the nightmare of many I read about and hear from) puts you in a position of understanding God’s love from a totally different perspective.  He died for people that He knew that would hate Him and spend their lives railing against him.  When a RAD child gets to 18, they are responsible for themselves.  I know parents in my group who are counting down the days to their kid’s 18th birthday so that they are no longer legally responsible.  Some take on responsibilities beyond that, such as raising grandbabies born to their adopted children or continuing to bail their child out of jail, but at some point, they do have to let the child make their own choices.  And I guess it’s that way with God.  He keeps loving, but eventually, those that reject Him do face the consequences of that rejection by going to Hell.  It is one thing to love a child who loves you back, but it’s another to choose to love a child who seems to hate you.
 The cats are wrestling with each other on my bedroom floor right now.  They do that several times a day and it is always entertaining to watch.  Olivia always starts it by jumping on top of Bella or biting her tail.  It used to be that Bella would just stalk off but now she gets right on top of Olivia and puts her face on top of her, sometimes growing.   They will roll all over the floor and I think that even Bella might be having a little bit of fun with it. 
 I had to put this on Facebook the other day because it tickled me:  I worked at the school one day this week so, afterwards, the kids were in the van and we were headed home and Ellie, so seriously, asked, “Mom, is it true that there’s a hot tub in the teacher’s lounge?”  Ha, ha, ha!  I think that would be a marvelous idea…

And I have a couple more Ellie funnies.  These are just from tonight.  We all went to DQ after church to celebrate Sam and Lizzie's baptisms.  We were talking about different travel plans we have in the next few years and Ellie asked, "When are we going to get to  go to North Korea?"  I have a feeling she meant North Dakota but it was funny.  And then she excitedly said, "Do you know that they are making a new land?"  We just looked at her kind of funny.  I have heard that California may be splitting into two states for political purposes, but I would not think she would know anything about that.  Then she says, "Yeah, it's another England.  It's called 'New England'"  We were rolling!
 A week ago I had a huge blessing – a very unexpected one.  In recent weeks I’ve had to have some work done on my van.  An older lady asked me at church one day how my week had been and I told her, well, I had spent $500 that week getting an alignment and a couple of new tires.  I remember she asked if I could afford that.  I explained that I have some money left over from Paul’s death and that covers things like car repairs and the like.  I didn’t tell her that the next week I was scheduled to get my key cylinder replaced.  A few days later I had that work done and  that was another $300.   So, in the course of about a week, I spent over $800 on my van.  I’ve had to do that before – it’s just part of vehicle ownership and management.  And when you don’t have a husband that can fix that stuff – well, you don’t have a choice.  I have to drive and I have to a reliable vehicle to do it with.  So, anyway, last Sunday I was sitting in the pew before the service started and our new pastor came up to me.  He handed me a check and said, “The deacons heard that you had to have some new tires put on and we wanted to help you out.”

It was a check for $800.

I felt like absolutely bawling.  I didn’t expect God to return that money to me.  It wasn’t that I was in a desperate situation where spending that money out of savings meant I could not buy groceries or make an insurance payment.  God loves to work in those kind of instances, too.  But this to me was a reminder that He still sees me.  He still loves me.  He still cares.

Things are different now than they were in the beginning.  Then, I felt like I could barely breathe without God’s help.  I’ve never before or since experienced that deepness of connection and communication with God as I did in those first few days and weeks.  It’s not that I don’t need Him now, because I do, but it’s different.  I’ve learned to stand again, or at least, wobble somewhat independently, anyway.  But every so often God just shows up again in a way that’s different from His normal, quieter presence.

And I’m blown away, all over again.



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