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The Hardest Job You'll Ever Love..."Love" Might be Pushing it...

I’m home from another wedding.  This time it was my friend, Heather.  I have prayed for a husband for her for years.  It was a lovely, short wedding.  I hosted the groom and officiant at my house for two nights and then the officiant, David, and I drove around yesterday running errands.  He’s a nice guy from San Diego – my age.  I felt bad for them having to use that antique shower upstairs, but they didn’t complain.  I think this was the first wedding I’ve attended where I did not feel overly sad because of being widowed.  I don’t know if that is a sign of healing or just because Heather is a good friend and I was so happy that she was happy.

 Sam leaned over to me during the wedding and said, “I’ve decided, Mom – I’m going to get married between the ages of 20 and 25.”  All right then.  As we were leaving he wondered idly, out loud, about how wedding trends will change by the time he has his own.  This kid is just his own little guy – very much a thinker.
 Ok – time to catch up on the past two, three weeks?  I don’t know how long it’s been.

Let’s see.  Lizzie had her MRI this week.  Her brain is nice and normal.  The blood tests came back a couple of weeks ago and her dr. called me and said Lizzie’s estrogen levels are “off the charts” and she can’t believe that Lizzie has not yet started her period.  Well, I’ve been praying she would not, so maybe that is why.  Our next step is starting the drug.  The dr. is applying to the insurance company to find out which method they will approve.  One side effect she made me aware of is that the drug may cause weight gain.  I’m concerned about that because Lizzie is already a pretty sturdy girl – and self conscious, to boot.  The last thing she needs is to feel even more conspicuous because she’s overweight.  But, as the dr reminded me, she may not gain weight at all.  That’s just a possible side effect.  But if we don’t do the drug then she’ll quit growing in height around age 11 and if she does that, it’s pretty much a guarantee that she will become overweight then because of her body type.  She needs some height to balance things out.  So, it’s kind of six of one, a half dozen of the other.  If she does have some weight gain it should stop once we take her off the drug in two years.  Being overweight is not the worst thing that can happen to a person, anyway.  But I would think it would make life more difficult than it needs to be and I just don’t want that for Lizzie.  But if she ends up heavier, she just does. People come in all sorts of shapes and it has no bearing on their worth as a person (a conversation we have repeatedly at our house).
 I have started my new classes.  They are separate classes, but designed to work together, and are taught by the same professor (whom I’ve had before).  For one I have to put together a collection of my favorite college writings in a “creative” format.  Hmmm…  For the other, we’re covering literary theories again, which was the first class I had when re-entering college. I discovered this week that I already own the textbook that I bought for the class - had to buy it for my original literary theory class.  Grrr...  For the final project I have to write a 10-15 page paper applying a couple of different theories to some literature and do a live video presentation.  We meet every Monday and Thursday night.  Since I last had live classes, BVU has changed the system they use.  Before, when we’d meet, we’d usually just type our responses in a side bar.  My British Lit class last fall required actual talking, which I wasn’t crazy about, but I did it.  But now, with this system, we’re all on video!  I can turn it off, but then I feel dumb because there are only 5 of us in this class and everyone else has their video going.  So I’m spending all kinds of time trying to figure out the best way to prop up my laptop so it doesn’t give me a double chin because I’m actually slouching against my headboard during class.  It appears that everyone else is sitting at a desk, but my class goes until 10 those nights and I want the comfort of my bed during that  time!  But every time I eat or sneeze or yawn I have to remember to turn the screen away from me!  And now I have to fix my hair and put on lip gloss before class.  Argh!

I did get A’s in my last two classes.  In fact, for my final exam in World Lit, I got a perfect score – the only one in the class, the professor said.  I was able to go into my test and read her comments.  The last question had to do with the depravity of man.  That wasn’t how it was phrased, but she wanted examples of humanity at its lowest from some of our readings this term.  It wasn’t a difficult question to answer – it just took time.  Fortunately, this is a professor whom I believe is a Christian, too.  I know I’m free to expound on spiritual matters with her.  One of our studies had been on selections from the Quoran so that was a starting point for me, contrasting that book with the Bible and then drawing in examples from our other readings.  So, the professor writes, You rock – you know that, don’t you, Sarah?  I knew I could count on you for a detailed and illuminating response!”  It is nice to be recognized, even though I’m sure my own kids would roll their eyes at the idea that their mom “rocks” at anything!
 David had his prom alternative last weekend – his last one, of course.  He had a nice time.  They went to Kansas City to Worlds of Fun.  They always honor the seniors and present them with a gift.  I always get a phone call prior to the night asking me for gift ideas/interests.  I thought to myself what a blessing it was to be able to tell his youth leader that David’s #1 passion is Christ.  And I wasn’t doing that to make he or I look good.  But while David loves his Dallas Cowboys, Iowa Hawkeyes, and Marvel super heroes, Jesus is the thing that gets him most excited.  So they gave him some Cowboy things and then a nice gift card to the Faith bookstore.

Oh, and David bought a car this week.  This is the first one he’s ever bought with his own money.  He has been searching for weeks – months, really.  He found a really nice navy blue ’01 Pontiac Grand Prix.  He bought it all by himself.  I went with him, but I didn’t know what to look for.  I was so proud of him.  He got a really good deal, too. 
 Tonight Ben is at a dance in Pella – or is it Ottumwa?  Maybe Oskaloosa?  Actually, I have no idea where he is.  It’s a dance for special needs adults – modeled after Night to Shine, I’m guessing.  He went with his friend, Marissa, one of his Sp. Olympics teammates.  I was at the wedding, so her parents picked him up and her dad got Ben’s tie on for him.  My friend, Maureen, sent me pictures and they look so nice together.
 I made a chicken and rice meal the other night, where the rice was cooked separately and then the chicken and sauce is put over the top.  Lizzie was dishing herself up some and commented, “I remember my birth mom used to make rice.  James (brother) and I and she would sit in front of the tv and eat it.  But it didn’t taste like this – it was sweet.  It was so good!”  I was astounded that Lizzie even had this memory because she had just turned 2 when she was taken into state custody.  There was a 3 day period when the kids were returned when Lizzie was 3 ½ so it’s possible that’s where the memory comes from.  But still – that was quite awhile ago.  She was so matter-of-fact about it and didn’t seem the least bit sad.  She was just sharing.

Last night Ellie and I were at Walmart, doing some shopping for David’s graduation party.  As soon as she saw the clerk she remembered that this was the nosy clerk we had 8 months ago (I remember it was Sept) who wanted to know all about Ellie’s adoption.  I mentally groaned but since we were already in line and had stuff on the counter I didn’t want to find another check out lane.  I will next time.  This guy, as I recalled from our previous conversation, immigrated from Egypt last June.  He’s Muslim.  Muslims do not believe in adoption.  He hasn’t lived here long so he doesn’t understand that pointed questions about adoption – particularly in front of the child – can be rude.  He’s just curious because the concept of adoption is so foreign to his culture.  Last night he almost immediately asked me if Ellie was adopted and I  nodded.  He asked, “Did you get her from Africa?”  I said, she was from Des Moines.  Astonished he exclaimed, “But her skin is darker than mine!”  I explained that her ancestors had probably come from Africa, but she was fully American.  He digested this and then asked, “Why did her mother give her to you?”  Ay-yi-yi…I briefly tried to explain that when parents don’t take care of their children the state can remove them and give them to different parents.  At this he seemed very concerned and wanted to know why.  I told him it can happen for a number of reasons – drug use, neglect, abuse, etc.  He then said to me, “Sometimes my son is not respectful, so I take my hand like this, and I slap him.  Will the American government take him away from me?”  I told him it was unlikely unless he leaves bruises or makes him bleed.  He seemed relieved.  Before we left he asked Ellie her name and when she told him he smiled and said that his wife is expecting a baby girl in September and they are going to name her Elina.  That’s pretty.  But – Ellie and I had to talk again when we left and  she grouchily told me, “I don’t want you talking to people about me being adopted.”  I don’t blame her.  I explained to her that he doesn’t understand because he’s Muslim – but yeah, it made me very uncomfortable, too.  We’re going to steer clear of his check out line from now on.
 We had a close brush with a tornado last week.  The last time something like this happened was shortly after we moved here – within the first year or two.  I’ll never forget it was the middle of the night and Paul and I woke up at the exact same moment.  There was this eerie stillness to the night.  He jumped out of bed and flipped on the tv and Ed Wilson on channel 13 was saying a tornado was headed straight towards Swan.  When our tiny town gets mentioned on the news, you know it’s serious!  We’re not even on every map of the state that’s out there! 

So, last Thurs. I had a ticket to go see the new Kendrick Brothers movie that they made about parenting in conjunction with Family Life Today.  It was only going to be in the theaters two nights that week.  I figured they would be packed out so I paid extra to order my ticket on-line.  They weren’t – I could have saved $1.50!  But anyway, it was raining as I left home and every few minutes the scary “breaking news” music would interrupt WHO radio letting us know of another weather threat.  Well, I was heading towards WDM and as I’m driving up Hwy 5 they mentioned that there were funnel clouds in the Jordan Creek area – where the theater is.  Yikes.  So I called Will to get his opinion and he said he thought I’d be fine.  I was.  By the time I got out there it was hardly even raining anymore.  So I went to the movie and my phone kept vibrating every so often.  It didn’t occur to me to check it.  For all I knew, they were texts from stores letting me know that I really ought to come in and spend more money.  I have a couple of friends that message me fairly often and I assumed it was probably them dropping me a line or two.  Besides, you really should not take out your lighted phone in the middle of a dark movie theater – that’s rude to the people around you.

So I enjoyed the movie.  It follows a couple from the time they learn their first child is on the way to their 50th wedding anniversary.  I really thought it was a good movie.  This couple doesn’t do everything right  in their parenting, but they learn from their mistakes.  I’d like to get it when it comes out on dvd. When the movie was over, it went to a round table discussion between the hosts of FLT, the Kendrick brothers, and Jim Daly, who I think works for Focus on the Family.  They asked the movie attendees to take out their phones and text to this number on the screen so we could get our hands on some parenting materials they had available.  When I went to do that I saw that I had all kinds of messages from different people and most were saying things like, “Are you ok?” Oh, no! I figured it  might be a good idea to leave the theater at that point!  I got out to the lobby and made a hurried call to David who assured me all was well and I still had children and a house.  A tornado had headed towards Swan, but I don’t think it ever touched down anywhere.  In fact, half my kids went storm chasing while the other half huddled in the basement under the Foosball table.  It was pouring rain as I drove home and the closer I got the more I could see small branches and leaves on the highway.  But there was absolutely no damage in town, thankfully.
 Ellie continues to weigh heavily on my heart.  I’ve had a lot going on with her, lately.  It’s the same old dynamic that I see over and over.  When one girl is doing well, the other isn’t.  And right now, Ellie is “down.”  Only, she’s being destructive again and I haven’t seen this since before we started therapy 18 months ago.  The other night she attempted to break the air mattress with a barrette.  When that didn’t work, she took a pen to it.  A couple of weeks ago she stabbed Lizzie repeatedly with some sort of stick.  A day later she walked up to Lizzie and deliberately ripped a scab off her sister’s foot, causing it to bleed heavily.    After David’s party, I am moving Lizzie into the spare bedroom.  I was going to wait until I got it painted, which is on my agenda for this summer.  But I can’t wait that long, not with Ellie’s abuse of Lizzie.  Actually, it’s kind of neat – this is a side note:  I’ve asked Lizzie a couple of times what colors she would like for her new bedroom walls and she’s never had an answer.  In fact, she’s only asked, “Well, what colors do YOU like?”  This week, my friend, Jenny, out of the blue, texted me and told me that she had a complete pre-teen bedset that her now 13 year old had used.  They’re moving and she wondered if I could use that for one of the girls.  David brought it home Wed. night from church and Lizzie is over the moon with excitement – it’s got a comforter, throw pillows, sheets, curtains, and even a little canopy for over the bed.  So, now we have the room color question taken care of! (light pink, hot pink, green, and aqua).

The worst thing that happened this week with Ellie is that Lizzie told me she caught her sister looking at pornography on her tablet.  I was devastated.  Ellie deleted the history so I couldn’t go back and see exactly what it was – if Lizzie had been exaggerating or maybe it wasn’t that bad.  And maybe it wasn’t.  Perhaps it was just naked or near naked people. Maybe it was an accidental click.  But the fact that Ellie deleted her history tells me that she knew she shouldn’t have seen that.  Although, since then she keeps trying to act  all innocent, telling me, “What?  I already know what naked people look like.”  Obviously, the internet is gone for her – every bit of it.  I spent some time messaging a friend who has dealt with this same issue with one of her  daughters, gaining some advice and encouragement.  I know I should probably talk to my pastor about this, but I just don’t have time right now to meet with him.  I wonder if he would even have any understanding of the RAD mind, anyway.  One night this week, some people came to look at my camper that I’m selling.  Ellie was out there and it was sickening to me to watch her.  She put on a total performance – very cutesy, using baby talk, prancing around and just soaking up the attention of these strangers, who of course, were only too happy to indulge this pretty, adorable little girl.  They didn’t know they were feeding right into her manipulation.  I wanted to throttle her.  Ellie is so, so smart and she’s gotten very adept at saying things and asking things that point out her physical attributes in a way that serves to make Lizzie look less attractive, less cute, less thin.  And I feel like I’m walking a line here because my emphasis has always been on the heart.  From the very beginning I’ve stressed to the girls the importance of having a beautiful heart – nothing else matters.  But yet, if I do not compliment Ellie, someday she will find someone – probably a hormonal adolescent – who will tell her exactly what she wants to hear because she didn’t get it at home.  Coupled with that is Ellie’s hard-heartedness.  For awhile there I thought she was getting closer to making a salvation decision, but that seems so unlikely right now.  She will even say things like, “Yeah, I’m going to Hell someday” and “When the rapture happens, I’m just going to have to take care of myself.”   

I’m so scared for her.  I love this child.  As awful as she is (right now, I’m back to making her follow me around the house because I can’t trust her to obey.  In fact, she’s told Lizzie repeatedly, “I only have to obey when Mom is watching”) she has my heart.  And right now, she is crushing it.  I look to the future and I don’t want to borrow trouble.  I know that I need to live each day faithfully – “Sufficient unto the day are the troubles thereof…” without leaping too far ahead.  But at the same time, I know that nothing good will be in Ellie’s future unless she surrenders her hard little heart.  She is going to hurt herself – and so many other people – if she doesn’t.   I have spent so much  time in prayer this week, begging God to save my little girl before it’s too late.  But she has to make that decision herself.  I don’t know.  My friend suggested that she and I start getting together to pray for our children with similar struggles.  I think I am going to take her up on that.
 But then, there are good things with my children.  I know I’ve written lately about some of Lizzie’s struggles.  The early puberty onset has definitely not helped.  She’s a little RADish too, and likes to be in control and have the last word.  But her heart is more tender.  I was so pleased this week when she told me of a school incident that had happened.  One of the boys in her class – who tends to be a troublemaker – got angry during art class with another classmate and slammed this boy’s head into the concrete floor (Why do I have my children in public school?  Incidents like cause my mind to race, wondering if there is some way, any way that I could homeschool again).  The injured child is ok, and the little perp has in-school suspension for the next two weeks until school is finished.  The kids’ teacher explained to rest of the class what had been decided and then commented that he was disappointed, not only for the incident, but because he wanted to get some sort of testing done all at once and now he couldn’t because of the suspension issue.  Lizzie told me that when her teacher said that she thought to herself, “Well, that’s what sin does.  It  hurts other people, not just the person doing it.”  Yes!  I have said this so many times to my kids.  She got it – she knows it and she remembered it.  And, I think she’s living it.  She’s conscious of it and is slowly learning to model her life after Christ – despite the very imperfect example she has in me.  This is a child who had a very rough start to life, but the instability and loss and grief she’s experienced is defining her less and less.

Maybe there is hope for Ellie.

I can’t choose her path for her.  But if she continues on this trajectory, it will be in spite of me.  I am not going to hand her over because I can’t see that things won’t ever improve.  If Satan is going to have the victory of Ellie’s bad choices, it won’t because I didn’t fight for her.  I’m going to do everything I know.  I will read the books and I will keep taking her to therapy and I’m going to keep paddling her bottom and grounding her from everything I can and speaking God’s truth into her life.  If she goes – it won’t be because she didn’t know better.

And most of all, I will be praying for her.  I will never, ever quit doing that.

Motherhood: the hardest job I’ve ever done – for so many different reasons, on so many different levels. 


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