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Messy Margarine and Making Memories

Summer is here (after the longest winter, ever).  It’s 9 am and it’s already hot out.

Well, the last week or two since I last wrote have not been quite so difficult with Ellie.  But there are still things.  I’m trying to work on my reactions.  In fact, yesterday our therapist told me that instead of writing down all the incidents that happen in a notebook like I usually do, she wants me to write about how I respond.  Ugh.  It’s easier to write about the bad stuff they do!  I did think I was particularly clever  this morning, although I know Ellie didn’t appreciate it.  Lizzie had been hinting to me that she didn’t really care for her hairstyle.  But, like normal, she wouldn’t come out and directly say it, so I ignored her.  She needs to learn that if she wants something to change she needs to be direct in her communication.  So Ellie told her after I got done, “You look like a baby!”  Of course, she knew better than to say this where I could hear, but she still got caught.  I wanted to scold her up one side and down the other.  But instead, I simply said, “Why, thank you, Ellie!  Thank you for volunteering to do your sister’s chores today!”  She was not happy with me.  She’s going to be even less happy when she gets home today and it’s chore time.

Yesterday, Ellie and I were reading one of her Junie B Jones books and the chapter we were in was about a little girl getting a piece of coal (well, charcoal) for a Christmas gift in a Secret Santa exchange at school because she was such a pill.  Ellie said to me, “If Santa was real do you think he would give me coal?”  So I asked her what she thought and she said she thought she’d probably get a least a little piece! 

One other thing the therapist mentioned is that Lizzie has a low self esteem.  Huh.  I had never thought about that before.  But I can totally see it now.  In fact, one of the group activities we had to do yesterday was to list out on paper 8 good qualities about ourselves and Lizzie refused to do it (Ellie had no problem whatsoever, and  had trouble confining her list to only 8!)  All she was concerned about was whether she would get in trouble with me for not doing it.  I was not happy with her because she was told to do this activity and did not do it.  But yet, if she is having self worth issues, then I can see where this kind of activity would be difficult.  Lizzie is an avoider (something else the therapist pointed out) which makes sense.  That’s even true with the hair thing this morning.  I need to be careful though, because the whole self esteem movement is really a secular thing.  We all need to find our worth in Christ because of what He did for us in our unworthiness.  I’m not sure true salvation can even occur until we view ourselves and our sins as something putrid – something that needs salvation.  This is one thing  that bothers me so much about Christianity today.  The emphasis is so much on self – how Jesus makes us feel, how loveable we are, how God is so anxious to have us for Himself, etc.  It seems very one sided and distant from recognizing the absolute holiness of God and the filth of our wretchedness.

That aside, though, I do understand self esteem issues.  I felt pretty good about myself until I hit puberty and it took me decades to climb out of that pit.  Some times I’m not even sure I’ve totally come out altogether.  I don’t want Lizzie to experience that and I’m probably not the best person to help her regain some feelings of self worth, either.  Moms usually aren’t because we’re so busy chipping away at all the flaws we see.  But then, if we don’t help our girls see themselves as valuable – who will?  Probably somebody we would not want to.
I did sign the girls up for an 8 week tumbling class in Knoxville.  It starts next Tuesday.  It’s a bit of an investment, time and money-wise, but I thought it might be a good outlet for both of them.  And, it’s only 8 weeks long.  We’re not committed to doing this indefinitely.  They’re both so good at all things acrobatic in nature.  Lizzie can twist her body into a pretzel – seriously.  She has this move where she starts on her back and pushes her trunk up with her arms and legs.  She then moves her head underneath her entire body until it’s peeking out between her legs.  And Ellie can do the splits like nobody’s business.  They’re both pretty excited about it.  I asked Sam if he wanted to go but he was adamant that tumbling is not for him!    I did sign all three of them up for the “Star Spangled Dancers” which is part of the Pville July 4th celebration.  The girls did it last year – they get to ride in the dance team float and then put on a show in the afternoon.  I wanted to get the kids into swimming lessons again, too, but it looks like the country club is not offering them this year.  I know last  year they almost didn’t have them because they couldn’t find instructors.  I suppose it won’t hurt the kids to miss one summer of lessons and besides, I don’t need to have all our days jam packed.  What I’ll probably do is start looking around at other swim lesson options next spring and they can just do it next summer instead.
My van is going to cost me another $1000.  Ugh and ugh.  After this I will have put $3000 into it since buying it last summer.  Jonathan rode with us to graduation last Sat. and pointed out to me a vibrating sound.  A few weeks ago I had my van into my mechanic for some minor things he didn’t charge me for.  But I’m starting to get the idea that he only looks at what you tell him to, rather than giving the vehicle a complete inspection.  So, this time I called a guy in Pville that had been recommended to me.  I don’t know him.  I hope he’s honest. I’d like to have a mechanic that’s a little closer to home and he’s only 10 min away.  He told me it’s going to take a week to work on it.  I need a new tire, new left and right lower control arms, new bushings, and a complete alignment.  He said he took my van out yesterday for a drive and nearly walked home because it’s so bad.  I had no idea.  He could be exaggerating which means I’m getting ripped off or it could mean that I came very close to having an accident with all my driving around.  He said that the way things are now, I could have had a horrible accident where I would have lost complete control of the vehicle.  I don’t know.  I’m sick about paying this much money and I’m wondering if I need to consider buying newer, more expensive vehicles in the future. 

That’s just the way it goes, I guess.  The church did slip me a check for $200 Sunday so I guess I know where it is going now!
Ellie had an  unfortunate incident at school a week ago where she accidentally brushed a student’s arm when walking by him and the fellow first grader exclaimed, “Eww – I don’t like it when black people touch me!”  She was in tears by that night and it was only a little bit later I was emailing her teacher.  I am just aghast that these kind of attitudes still exist.  The teacher immediately emailed the school principal and he emailed me back Sun. night and talked to me Monday morning, assuring me he would be talking to the boy, which he did.  He made the comment that this was probably something that the child had heard at home.  I didn’t think much about it until today when Ellie’s teacher stopped me in the hall to talk about it.  She told me then that she has heard this child’s parents make racist comments before in her presence.  It blows my mind.  As I told the teacher, our society tolerates everything these days but yet there are still people who honestly have a hard time with the color of someone’s skin?  It seems inconceivable.  The only thing that makes me feel a little better is that I happen to know a little bit about this boy’s family life and it’s not a stable, classy situation to say the least.  I would be more horrified, I guess, if it was a community leader’s home.  But anyway, after the principal talked to the boy he did give Ellie a hug, she said, so apparently he must have lost his revulsion for black skin somewhere along the way.

Makes me mad.  Of all the things I thought I’d have to do for my adopted children, it never occurred to me that I would have to advocate for racial equality, too.
 I have a new roof!  Finally.  It only took 14 months from the time I told the roofer I wanted him to do it until he came.  But it looks great.  He had a crew of about 15 guys – all Spanish speaking, quite a few smoking, all tattooed, and by the end of the day, all shirtless.  It was a big job.  There were 5 layers of shingles on my roof – no sheeting whatsoever.  As they got to the bottom layers wood shingles were exposed.  Will said he thought those dated back to the 1920s.  And then they eventually got the entire roof exposed – 168 year old beams laid across the frame of the house.  And they are still strong and in good shape, I was told.  I ended up getting into conversation with one guy – about God of all things.  This guy was white but so tattooed, he looked blue.  He even had a teardrop tattoo by his eye, which I have read means gang involvement (at some point – I would assume current gang members do not work construction).  He had said something about finding evidence of past termite damage (I was told there was no evidence of live termites now) and I explained that we used to have a problem with those things until we put a basement under the house.  He was shocked and blurted out, “You put a basement under here?  That must have cost a fortune!”  I assured him it had not and told him the story of how Paul had gotten started and then the church guys finished for me.  I could tell he was just dumbfounded.  But then he started talking about how God always provides for us and some other stuff, so while I don’t know that he was a fellow believer it’s evident that he has some basis of belief.  It occurred to me too late that I probably should not have mentioned the part  about being widowed.  But Will was hanging around all day so maybe they assume that he lives with me.  I hope so!

But anyway, I’ve got my roof and I’m told I should be good for the next 25 years with that.

I had to laugh when I happened to be outside and one of the guys on the roof pointed to the trailer where the old shingles were being thrown and began to yell, "fire, fire!"  Apparently, a worker had thrown his cigarette butt in there.  So someone had to jump in and stomp it out.

And then when Lizzie got home from school that day she was horrified to see the men without shirts.  She walked up to one and said very pointedly, "Sir?  Sir?  Would you please put your shirt back on?"  David was with her and quick hustled her into the house, saying he didn't think the guy heard - thankfully.  Lizzie has always had a "thing" about shirtless men.

It was actually quite the day for big machinery in my small town.  We had our roof going on.  In fact, my newest neighbor (who used to live across the street from me, years ago) needed me for something, came to my door, and groused about the “mess” being made with my roof.  Well – duh.  It’s part of the process. I think he’s just negative – if there is a downer statement to be made, he feels the need to do it. Anyway, he and his wife are now building a home next door to me so they had equipment stuff going on.  Up the street, a house is being remodeled for flipping purposes and that day, the guy had a skid loader going, doing some landscaping, and then around the corner, some friends were replacing their gravel driveway with a paved one.  All on a Tuesday!
I burned my leg last week in a most unusual way (I thought).  I was super gluing a toy/shower cap holder to the shower wall because the suction pads quit suctioning.  The superglue shot out of the tube and onto my pants.  Well…shoot.  A few moments later my leg began to burn to the point that I had to turn the cold water on and run it over the top of my pants.  Only, my leg was still burning because the glue had stuck my skin to the pants!  So I had to ease the pants off my skin which was excruciating.  I ended up with blisters.  I guess this must be what they call a “chemical” burn.  I had no idea super glue could do that, though.  My leg is healed up now but it’s got a deep red 1” diameter scar now.
 David graduated Sat.  It was a wonderful day.  I was so proud of him.  The ceremony went fine.  It did bring back memories because the last time I had been in this same church was for Will’s homeschool graduation 5 years earlier.  And then, of course, Paul had died just a few days later.  One mom turned around and asked how I was doing.  I brightly assured her I was good.  Her face assumed a hang-dog expression and she asked, “Really?  Are you sure?”  Well, I had been doing fine…But no, I really was ok.  I’m not saying it was not difficult to go up on stage alone when all but a couple of other graduates had both parents, but I was more focused on David than what I was feeling.  I was just so stinking proud of him and that caught my attention more than anything.

I was concerned about David’s party.  Like Will and Ben’s I planned for it to be an indoor/outdoor deal because I don’t have an open floor plan or a big enough house to have huge crowds at one time.  But as we were arriving home after the ceremony it began to rain.  And rain and rain.  It poured all afternoon long.  Yikes.  I had the boys set up chairs in the basement.  The thing that pleased me though was that I was not terribly upset by the rain and possibility of having to put everyone downstairs.  I think if this had happened for the other boys’ parties I might have been more of a mess.  Of course, now my basement is mostly finished and it wasn’t when they had their parties.  But, as it worked out, the sun came out about an hour before the party, we dried off chairs and tables – and had a really nice time.  More people than I expected showed up and some even drove several hours, which was touching.  I got a lot of compliments on the food, which is funny because, other than the dip, I bought it all.  I had fried chicken from Hy Vee and a couple of cakes from there (white with strawberry filling – so good!).  I made a bowl of strawberries and pineapple, which is David’s favorite and very summery, to boot.  And I had potato chips and dip and for the more health-conscious, some cut up raw veggies.  Oh, and I just bought a ton of lemonade in cans and bottled water so I didn’t have to worry about making drinks and having cups.  I’m getting smarter the more of these parties I do…

Awhile after Paul died and I was packing away his stuff I had the thought that I would like David to someday have his class ring.  Paul wore that ring all the time up until oh, about 8 or so years before his death.  Then, he wore it less frequently, but occasionally, he’d take it out and wear it for a week or two.  So, a couple of weeks ago I had it professionally cleaned.  I was surprised to see all the detail that he had put on this thing.  He had his initials, his year of graduation, a tractor, and a deer head.  I wrapped it up and gave it to David the night before his graduation.  He about started crying.  He pointed out to me that his dad’s name is engraved inside the ring, too.  I had no idea.  The ring needs to be resized (Paul had humongous knuckles) but for now, I wrapped embroidery floss around the inside and it hasn’t been off David’s hand since.  I told him that maybe it would help him feel like his dad was at graduation with him.

The day after graduation David told me that Will had given him a copy of the letter Paul had written him when he graduated.  This was a pages-long letter in which Paul had just poured out his heart to Will about how to be an adult and what really matters in life.  I remember that Will even quoted from it at the funeral.  I didn’t know he was going to make that copy, but I’m glad he did.  I have no doubt that Paul would have written a similar letter to David.  So David told me about that and with his voice thick with unshed tears added, “I’m pretty sure yesterday was one of those  times that Dad got to peek at us.”

I think it may have been, too.
The kids’ last day of school is tomorrow, so they’ve been bringing home reams of papers they’ve done throughout the year.  Sam had a creative writing piece where he wrote about meeting a member of the “illuminate” (??) and being offered three wishes.  Sandwiched between a couple of normal 10 year old type wishes, Sam wrote that he wished “for a dad.”  Sigh…
The other day I had a tub of margarine sitting on the counter and accidentally knocked it off.  Lizzie immediately jumped up and started helping me clean up the bit that had spilled on the floor and down the stove.  She was admiring the design left on top of the lukewarm margarine  still in the container after it went tumbling and exclaimed, “See – God makes beautiful things out of messes – even butter!”


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