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Drippy Nosed Convert

I have caught a bad summer cold.  I don’t know what it is, but getting sick in the summertime seems especially insulting.  I have not felt this bad since I was sick in Nov/Dec 2016.  But, I don’t think I’m getting any worse, either, so I am hopeful that in a day or two I’ll feel more human.  Ellie had a slight cold last week – or, as she called it, “a bad case of the sneezes” and I caught it – only to a greater degree.

I am fully into my last class now.  It’s a class on Shakespeare.  You know – I’m just not a big fan.  Plus, I am so mentally done with school, so that makes it harder.  I am  spending an awful lot of time on the website “No Fear Shakespeare.”  That does help, at least! I am motivated to keep my grades up in this class, though, because this professor says on the syllabus that if we have a 93% average by the end of the term, we will not have to take the final.  I mentioned that to Will and he said that’s very common in college classes, but this is the first time I have ever had that offered to me.   I got an A in both my Senior Portfolio and Senior Seminar class.  Those were probably two of the hardest I’ve ever done – just so much work!

I had Bella put down a week and a half ago.  That was hard.  But it was  time.  I was waiting until the kids got done with camp.  And just that morning I found a pee spot by the piano.  She just wasn’t getting any better, despite all the antibiotics and special food I got for her.  Sam was crushed and refused to go to the vet with us, but the girls came.  First they gave Bella a sedative which caused her to become a bit unglued (they said it does burn going in).  The vet and the tech left the room and Bella immediately  jumped off the table.  She began staggering around as the medicine took effect so I finally just picked her up and held her.  By this point both girls had tears  streaming down their faces.  I offered to let them sit out in the waiting room, but they wanted to be with us.  Then, the vet came in and gave a little shot that stopped Bella’s heart.  It was over.  I wanted to bawl.  She was my last birthday present from Paul and such a comfort to me in the months after he died.  We took her home and buried her and the kids made a headstone out of a cement block.  Sam cried all day long, off and on.

A few days later the vet's office sent a sympathy card signed by the vet and all the office staff.  I thought that was sweet.

I’ve always kind of rolled my eyeballs when I hear people expressing sorrow over the death of a pet because 1) it’s an animal and 2) I’ve lost a spouse, so don’t complain to me about losing your gerbil.  But this was hard.  It hurt.

Our neighbor’s cat had kittens two weeks ago and we’re taking one, so in about a month we’ll have a new kitty again.  But it won’t be the same.   

And then this morning David, who was home for the weekend before heading back up to camp for a few more weeks discovered that his bunny had chewed through his cage and was nowhere to be found.  He’s escaped before, but we’ve always managed to catch him.  This time it hasn’t been so easy.  But, I told the kids that he’s more than 4 years old and rabbits typically die then, anyway.  I have no idea if that is true or not, but they did seem to feel better.  Sam still cried, though.  Maybe he’ll show up again.  I don’t know.

The day Bella went to the great beyond (or “crossed the rainbow bridge” as I’ve heard my animal loving friends refer to it - that does make me roll my eyes! ) we had a terrific storm in the afternoon.  It got very dark here with lots of rain and wind, but we didn’t have any damage.  Indianola, however, really got hit hard.  A couple of houses had trees uproot and fall on them.  I know some guys had to go over to church the next day with chainsaws and cut up trees that had fallen there, too.

It had been rainy all that week.  One night I had noticed a little bit of water on my pantry floor in the basement, but I didn’t think a lot about it.  I also had some water bottles nearby, so I assumed one had somehow gotten open and just spilled.  I cleaned it up and didn’t think too much more about it.  Well, the Saturday night after that big storm Ellie and I ran up to Clive to get Krispy Kreme donuts for her SS class the next day (it was her birthday and she wanted to celebrate with them).  We got home and as we drove home there were a few raindrops on the windshield, which was not unexpected.  Those little drops soon turned into something more Noah-like!  By 9pm it was absolutely pouring.  It was actually kind of cozy, although I always worry about that willow tree falling on the house when we have rain or storms.  I got the kids to bed and by 11, the rain still had not let up.  I remembered that little bit of water from the previous week and thought I would just run down to the pantry to double check.  Maybe it wasn’t wet from a water bottle.  Better safe than sorry.  Honestly, I’m not too worried because our house is on a hill and we have never, ever had water in the basement.  Paul sealed it up quite well, too.  So I ran down to the basement and my pantry rug was soaked.  There wasn’t standing water, but probably about 2 gallons worth on the floor.  Again, I cleaned it up, but this time I texted Will just to let him know.  15 min later he was at the house.  The rain was still a deluge.  He figured out that the drain hose had a bad connection and so the water was seeping under a corner of the house which was sending down into the basement.  He fixed that.  And then he realized that my sump pump wasn’t working right.  It was really full!  Once he jiggled it it turned on, but Will said he had never seen water running into like he did that night.  I’m so glad he checked that!  He told me to get up around 3:30 to check on it/jiggle it again and then again when I got up at 7.  So, I went to bed and my alarm went off – woke me out of a dead sleep.  I stumbled down to the basement – the water pit was low and everything was fine.  I went back to bed.  Again, my alarm went off and I did the whole thing again.  This time I was confused, though, because I knew I had only set one alarm but yet I had been awakened twice!  The next morning I happened to check my phone and realized that at 1:30 a flash flood emergency alert had been sounded and that’s what the first alarm was.  I just assumed it was my alarm and so I got up for nothing!

We ended up with 4” of rain here and Will picked up a new sump pump for me last week.  We were fortunate.  The flooding in Des Moines and other areas was unbelievable.  Some parts got 11” in just a few hours.  A lot of people lost vehicles, things in their basements, etc.  One man, a radio sportscaster, lost his life when his car became stalled in water and he tried to walk home.  One of the saddest things I saw on tv was an interview with this older lady.  She had been evacuated from her house during the storm Sat. night and on Monday, she was taken back to it.  The entire side of the basement was caved in.  Governor Reynolds was there assessing the damage and this poor woman began sobbing.  She said that she was widowed two years ago August and she had been trying so hard to keep the house together and now what was she going to do?  Finally, the governor just pulled her into her arms and embraced her.

Monday we had to go to Des Moines and we drove by Gray’s Lake.  There was one car in the flooded parking lot and all you could see was the top of the hood.  Two days later, the water was still that deep. 


I’m not so  drippy today but I feel like I’ve got about a 20 lb weight sitting on my chest.  Ben stayed home from Genesis today because now he has it and I think Lizzie may, too.  Ugh!

A week ago Monday I was at Walmart, the bastion of all things good and noble, with the kids.  As I pulled into a parking spot they all started chattering about “vandalism.”  I didn’t realize what they were talking about until we started walking into the store and I saw it.  Spraypainted in lime green on the parking lot was a good size portrait of male genitalia.  So classy.  I kept right on walking with the  kids ignoring it and then Ellie pipes up, “Hey, I know what that is!”  Fortunately, the next words she said were, “It’s a bunny!”  So I’m trying to distract the kids away from the “bunny” but then Lizzie says, “Yeah, I think you’re right.  Except – they didn’t get the other ear made.  Maybe the police came and scared them away.”  Yep.  That’s it.  We’re going to go with that!  Sheesh…

 I had an interesting conversation a week ago.  Our little town had a Fourth of July get-together the night of the 3rd.  We roasted hot dogs in the city park and ate all kinds of food neighbors brought.  Then, a bunch of fireworks were set off.  I introduced myself to one gal I  thought I didn’t know.  I felt awful when she told me her name because I do know her.  I’ve talked to her several times on the phone and most recently, I shut her water off for non-payment!  I’m quite sure she is younger than me, but her face and teeth show years of hard living.  So, anyway, she apparently was not holding the water thing against me and we started talking.  She nodded toward the girls and asked if they were adopted (I’m always so tempted when asked to exclaim, “What?  You don’t see the resemblance?”).  I told her I’d had them for 6 years and then she told me that she lost her 4 children a number of years ago.  They are now 18-23 or so and she said they were 7 on down when they were taken so it’s been awhile.  She said what happened was that she had separated from her husband because of abuse.  He threatened to kill himself when she did – and then made good on his threat.  That threw her into a severe depression where she didn’t care for her children and eventually the state came in and removed them and they were adopted into 3 different homes.  She swore up and down to me that she had never touched drugs in her life.  I don’t know.  Looking at her, my first thought was “former junkie” but I could be wrong.  It could just be a series of unfortunate choices written on her face.  Anyway, the conversation was interesting because she gave me the perspective of a birth mom who has had her children forcibly removed.  She talked about how grateful she is to the families that adopted her kids.  Two of the adult ones have now found her and she has some information on the others but is waiting for them to come to her.  At the same time, though, she talked about the agony losing her children caused.  She feels as though she was wronged and subsequently cheated out of decades with her children. .  If she had just had some help from the state, she could have continued to care for her children.  She says that losing the kids caused a depression from which she has never crawled out of and how her heart about stopped when she received the first call from one of her kids.

Everyone always expects “the state” to take care of things.  But that is not what government is for.  It has only been in the last 100 years or so that they began intervening in obvious abuse cases.  I do know that now the object of foster care is reunification whenever possible.  I know my girls’ parents were offered parenting classes – that they did not feel worth their time to complete.  I don’t know what services were in place when this neighbor lost her children 15 or so years ago.  But my short time as a foster parent proved to me that, by and large (not that mistakes don’t get made), the object of foster care is not to rip children from their parents and homes, but rather to make their homes and parents safer. 

But, anyway, it was an interesting conversation to have, to hear the perspective of a parent who has lost children.  I thought it was interesting that she expressed no dislike of the adoptive parents.  I think that has always been in the back of my mind, that the girls’ mom must really hate me since I ended up with her children.  But maybe not.  It really doesn’t matter.  I did mention to this neighbor that my thoughts right now are to arrange a supervised meeting with the girls’ mom when the girls are in their late teens – if that is something they desire.  She told me that something like that would have meant the world to her.  So, I will keep that in mind as the years advance.

A couple of weeks ago there was another arrest of some adoptive parents – this time only about an hour away.  As soon as I heard the news broadcast that mentioned that it was situation involving adopted children and that the kids were often locked in their bedroom, the windows were boarded up, and the floors and walls were lined with plastic and they had buckets for toilets in there – I got it.  Those kids have RAD.  Without knowing the parents, I can almost guarantee you that they adopted with the best of intentions.  These children came from Ghana rather than foster care, but it really doesn’t matter.  I didn’t need to be told that these parents had tried everything they knew but these kids refused to use the toilet and would, instead, soil the floor of their bedrooms.  I didn’t need to be told that they probably smeared their feces on their bedroom walls.  I didn’t need to be told that they were locked in their bedrooms for their own safety and for the safety of the other children in the home.  I didn’t need to be told that these kids had attempted to escape numerous times out their bedroom windows and had probably broken the glass in their attempts.  The kids were removed in January and the parents were arrested recently, which is when the situation made the news.

Now, the news also mentioned that the kids were not being fed properly.  I can’t answer that one.  It could be that the kids refused to eat.  But, there could be some abuse going on, too.  These situations absolutely break my heart.  I’ve written about them before when we had the two adopted Des Moines teenagers die in recent years.  Yes – the parents are responsible.  Yes, they need to get advocate for help.  But I know, from my RAD groups, that that help can be very slow in coming.  Someone in authority has to see the bad behavior and these kids are so clever at manipulation that often the only ones seeing the truly awful stuff are the parents – usually the mom.  RAD destroys marriages and families and it can cause loving parents to truly resent and even hate their own children.  And that’s when the abuse starts.

I wish there was good answer.

Speaking of RAD children, I’ve actually had several good weeks with the girls.  But one thing I observed was that  the week Lizzie was gone at camp, Ellie was downright delightful.  I think I wrote about this.  She seemed more mature and we had some nice conversations.  But the second her sister came home, she began to regress.  I mentioned this to the therapist last week and she nodded her head in understanding.  She said that when I used to bring only Ellie for therapy, she actually seemed pretty mature.  But when I started bringing both girls, Ellie slipped into  younger behavior.  There is some dynamic happening there that I don’t quite understand.  Plus, the therapist pointed out, the girls are extremely competitive with one another which ties into the whole situation, too.  It may go back to the time the girls spent at that horrible foster home before I got them.  Lizzie was essentially Ellie’s caregiver for those 7 weeks and perhaps, Lizzie needs her sister to be “little” to fill a need in her own psyche.  Lizzie is an extremely nurturing type of person (I think she will be an excellent mother someday and could probably do well as a teacher or a nurse).  I don’t know.  We have all these “clues” but no real solution.  But Ellie has to be allowed to grow up, too.

I had a nice surprise in the mail a couple of weeks ago.  Somebody had Amazon ship me a copy of Kevin Lehman’s book, Parenting the Powerful Child.  I’m guessing it’s someone who has read my blog – or who knows Ellie personally!  But that was thoughtful.  I mentioned it to the girls’ therapist and she exclaimed, “Oh, that sounds perfect for Ellie!” and wrote down the title and told me she wants to read it, too.  I will start it soon.

The Fourth of July was last Wed.  For the first time, I was watching the parade all by myself.  The Littles were in the parade, David was at camp, and Ben didn’t want to go.  Smart guy.  Even at 11 in the morning, it was broiling.  I found a tree to plunk my chair under, which helped.  But that meant I wouldn’t collect any candy since I wasn't standing on the side of the street.  I was good with that, but the kids were disappointed by my lack of stash afterwards. Oh well – I didn’t die from heat stroke, which was all that mattered.

After the parade, I ran back to the school, which took forever because streets were blocked off for the parade everywhere, to make sure the kids were situated.  Then, I needed to go to Dollar General because we were out of insect repellent.  Well, as I was walking in, I heard from Jonathan, letting me know  he wouldn’t be adverse to coming over for supper.  So while in the store I picked up some extra brats and hot dogs.  After I bought them I realized that I couldn’t leave them in a hot van while I watched the kids’ dance performance.  So, I had a bag of meat in my purse the whole time I watched the kiddos! I bet I was the only one in attendance who could say that.   But it was air conditioned in there.  This time I didn’t  have to sit alone because the family of one of Lizzie’s friends sat by me.  That was nice.  Sometimes I get so tired of sitting alone.  The kids did great with their dances – so cute.  Sam really gets into dancing, I've noticed.

We went home and I had a whole list of things I hoped to accomplish – and didn’t.  I spent most of my afternoon cooking, which was fine.  Mid-afternoon Will, Arien, and Jonathan showed up and threw themselves in the pool.  Of course, all the Littles had to get in then, too!  Will then casually mentioned that his in-laws were coming over to my house so we could all go to the fireworks together.  That was a surprise, but fine with me.  So we ate and then they came and we all went to the fireworks together.  It was a great show, like it always is.  We sat and ate popcorn and laughed the little kids played with sparklers and glowsticks.  It was a nice evening among friends.

But I still felt alone.  Anymore, I wonder how much of it is still missing Paul and how much of it is just wishing I wasn’t alone.  It’s hard to say.  It’s then that I remind myself that I am supposed to be  praying for contentment these days!

And to end on a rather unexpected, but exciting note.  Yesterday, I was driving Ellie to Flip Squad and she casually mentions from the back seat, “So, I thought I should tell you.  A night ago, I got saved.”   I didn’t drive the car into a ditch.  In fact, with all the kids, I’ve deliberately downplayed this kind of event, even if I’ve prayed about it for years (and I don’t think I’ve prayed more for any of them than for Ellie!).  I don’t want any false professions of faith and I want the kids to have room for doubt and re-commitment later if that is needed.  I guess I should not have been surprised.  She has had quite a few questions, even in recent days.  In fact, the most recent question a few days ago was if a person needs to cry (to show true repentance – it’s a conversation we’ve had when I’ve expressed my frustration with Lizzie who gets very flippant when she’s wrong, knows she’s wrong, and is confronted about it) when they get saved.  I assured Ellie it is all about what’s in the heart.  We’ve had numerous talks about how it isn’t saying the right words – it’s feeling sorry for your sins and being willing to stop doing them.  I quizzed Ellie quite a bit and from what I can tell, this does seem genuine.  I guess time will tell.  We even talked about that – the fruits of the spirit – as we drove.

So – yay!  God does hear my prayers and most importantly, even the prayer of the hardest hearted little 7 year old I know.  I don’t know what this means for the rest of Ellie’s life.  Her personality is her personality – and it is a strong one.  But under the control of the Holy Spirit, that strong personality can do great things for the kingdom of God.

I think my responsibility just got a little larger.


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