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The End

I’ve been a little pre-occupied for the past couple of weeks.  That’s why this blog post will probably take about 3 hours to read.  A lot has happened in the final weeks of summer.

Where to start…well, today is the kids’ first day of a new school year.  I’m tired.  It’s allergy season so I wake up periodically in the night needing to drug myself and then those drugs make me groggy when I do have to get up.  And then the first day of school means heightened excitement in the kids and so they are up early. And then yesterday the kids let me know that because I once, sometime in their past, made them pancakes on the first day of a new school year, I had established a precedent and they would be sitting at the kitchen counter, syrup in hand tomorrow morning, thank you very much.  So I was up even earlier this morning so they could have their pancakes.

Today there were a lot of parents in the school building.  But tomorrow there won’t be.  It dawned on me sometime last year that I am one of only a handful of parents in the school that walk every child to their classroom door every single morning.  It occurred to me that maybe the kids only go along with this because they think it’s something that is important to me.  I remember by the time Will was in the first grade he would let me kiss the palm of his hand so he could “tuck it in your pocket.”  By 2nd grade I was only allowed to stare out the window at him as he made a hasty exit from the van into the school building.  So, I told the kids this morning that if they ever feel funny about me walking them to their door and hugging them good-bye, we can quit.  I don’t want them to be embarrassed.  I actually almost feel a little embarrassed myself because I don’t see other moms with kids this old doing this! I don’t want to smother these little people. But they all assured me this morning they want me to keep doing that.  So, I will!  I think there was something wrong with Will…and David.  These younger kids have it right!

My house feels so empty now.  Not because the short people are gone.  They’ll be back this afternoon.  But Ben is gone and I can absolutely feel his absence even though it’s been less than 24 hours.  I’ll never get used to this!  We were over at his house a couple of times last week moving his stuff in.  That was a big ordeal!  Fortunately, Will and Arien had gotten back from vacation the night before so Will was able to help us move and construct his bed.  And then yesterday was the big day.

It was a busy day for me.  I had to take Sam and Lizzie to Iowa City first thing in the morning for an ortho appointment.  I got home and we had some last minute stuff of Ben’s to gather up. And then we headed  down to his place.  I still haven’t met any of Ben’s housemates yet, although I have a sinking feeling I might have seen one of them yesterday (he was sitting outside smoking – I had seen him earlier in the house and as he passed by me, he absolutely reeked of cigarettes.  I assumed it was a family member helping him move in because I was told these would all be young men with intellectual disabilities.  But as we left yesterday we saw this guy sitting outside with a cigarette and I’m wondering if he is the roommate and not a family member like I first thought.) We got the last of Ben’s stuff put away and David got Ben’s new computer set up.  We went home for about a half hour and then while David took Sam to football practice, I went back to the house with the girls  and signed about 45 releases (seriously) with the director.  Then, I met David at the school, took Sam from him, and we did the whole meet-your-teacher-and -dump-your-stuff-in-your-locker-thing-and-if-you’re-the-mom-you-had-better-sign-up-to-bring-treats-to-the-Halloween/Christmas/Valentines-party-or-we-will-be-calling-you. And then we went home and ate supper and I popped the kids into bed and that was it.

Only it was too quiet because I couldn’t hear Ben’s music or his shuffling steps on the basement stairs.  I miss him.
I lost Ben, but  I got a new cat.  Not sure that’s an equal trade, really.  Even before we put Bella down in June I told the kids that if they wanted to replace her, we could.  The promise of a new kitten seemed to be the only thing that made them less hysterical about losing Bella.  Two days after she crossed the Rainbow Bridge (note the total sarcasm as I type those words – every time I hear a pet owner reference the “Rainbow Bridge” in regards to their furry one’s demise, I throw up a little bit in my mouth and do a whole lot of eyeball rolling) my neighbor, Kate, told me she had just-born kittens.  So, for the next 7 weeks we waited and waited.  Finally, in early Aug. I asked Kate if the kitties were about weaned yet. She informed me that she had found the new kittens sometime ago – dead.  That might have been nice to know earlier.  So, I began making plans to go to the Humane Society and then Kate texted me and told me she had found someone who had 8 week old kittens.  But the lady had to talk to her husband first to see if he was willing to part with one.  Ok-a-ay.  About a week later I got a phone call from this lady and she told me they had 2 new litters of kittens and her husband had picked out two he was willing to part with.  Seriously?  But ok – we just needed one.  We went out there on a Wed. morning two weeks ago and there must have been 35-40 cats walking around this acreage, plus a dog.  It turns out this guy was our old mailman.  When he found out our name from his wife she said he went down to the basement and got out his old delivery routes and looked us up.  Not really sure why, but ok.  That may have been the only reason he allowed us to take a cat, though.  The wife told me her husband is very attached to their cats and wants to make sure they go to good homes.  I’m thinking he doesn’t realize just how much his garage (where the cats are kept) smells.

So, anyway, we brought home this spastic little orange cat that I named Milo (I wanted to name him, “Larry,” but the kids weren’t having it).  He was so frightened that he burrowed up under the loveseat and when I got home that night from shopping I had to cut him out (just the bottom of the loveseat, not thru the actual fabric).  But he has actually adjusted very well in the weeks since.  Olivia spent most of the first week hissing at him, but I think she has decided to let him live now.  Yesterday, David came home and found the two of them napping, curled up on eachother.  It was so sweet – he took pictures! Actually, though, looking at this picture again, it appears that Olivia's eyes are open and she has this look of acute long-suffering.  But, considering that I was concerned Olivia might actually gut a new kitten, I'm pleased with her self control!
  I took Milo to the vet and she trimmed his claws so now we don’t mind picking him up so much – those ones he had when we first got him were razor sharp!  He will be losing the front ones altogether in Dec.  Twice, he has spent entire nights with me, curled up beside me in bed, purring the whole time.  I love it!  The vet said to me, “You do realize he’s going to be huge, right?”  Um, well, no, I didn’t actually know that.  She said, “Look at his paws – this is going to be a big cat!”  So apparently, I’ve gone and gotten myself a big old tomcat for a pet.  But right now he’s cute and little.  I’ll have to take lots of pictures while he remains so.
The kids and I went to the state fair a couple of weeks ago.  It actually wasn't quite so brutal this year.  I picked a cooler, somewhat darker day (it was sprinkling by the time we left in the early evening).  And my allergies weren’t bothering me that day.  It was kind of nice – kind of.  It’s still the state fair. 

Of course, there was a point early in the day when it wasn’t so nice, either.  Remember how I mentioned that sometime this summer a lady at Hobby Lobby had said something to me about having “polite” grandkids?  Well, we were in the Varied Industries building at the fair looking at the different booths when this saleslady says to my kids, “Are you guys having fun at the fair with your grandma?”  Seriously? And I just gotten my hair colored the week before, so it’s not like I had any gray roots showing.  I can’t tell you how offended this makes me.  Even my normal sense of humor seems to go into  hiding when I get accused of being my kids’ grandmother.  The Littles immediately broke into peals of laughter which clued the lady in that she had misspoken because she immediately began backtracking:  “Did I say, ‘grandma’?  I meant, ‘mom’!  In fact, I’m the grandma.  I must just have grandmas on the brain.”  Grrr…I moved onto the next booth but then the lady had the gall to ask if I wanted her card.  I glared at her.  I absolutely did.  Maybe the fact that I get so offended by this is a sign of my own insecurities.  I don’t know.  I think, in a few years, when I have voluntarily allowed gray streaks to start going through my hair and I am delightedly bouncing a baby in my arms, I will be thrilled when people recognize I am grandma to this darling piece of perfection.  But in the meantime…if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.
Oh, hey – Ben grew.  Last week, when we were doing his big move-in day, I happened to see he and Will standing next to each other.  I commented out loud that it looked like Ben was now pretty close to Will in height.  I was surprised because Ben has always been kind of short – topped out at 5’11” in high school.  Will is 6’1”.  Will quickly commented that it was only because of the sole on Ben’s sandals.  But, a couple of days later I had to take Ben in for a physical and they measured him at the doctors.  He is just shy of 6’1” now the nurse said.  I knew he was taller!  He’s also up to 137 lbs, which is good.  I remember how hard we tried to keep weight on him when he was younger.  I think he was around 11 or 12 and we were having to see a feeding specialist (again) who was having me buy him things like cheesecake and anything else high calorie just to get some pounds on him.  When he broke 100 pounds we were all celebrating.
I made another trip to Iowa City last week.  I am starting to learn that city really well!  This time David had a consult for his wisdom teeth.  Right now, he is scheduled to get them out on Dec. 31.  I may change that appointment, though.  I’ll have to get a sitter for the kids because it will be Christmas break and with it being New Year’s Eve, that might be kind of hard to find.  Plus, the surgery is scheduled for the afternoon and David can’t eat for 8 hours prior.  He’s going to be starving by then. Ben is supposed to be getting his wisdom teeth out sometime this next year, too.
Sam reported to me that we are almost out of lightbulbs.  I knew that Paul was not happy about lightbulbs when he was alive.  He didn’t like the fact that everything was switching over to energy-saving varieties and saw it as some left-wing conspiracy designed to stick it to Republicans.  Or something like that.  I’m not really sure.  I knew he would pick up extra boxes here and there when he went to Menards, but I didn’t realize how many lightbulbs he and gone and accumulated until he died and I found them all and had to make room for them – boxes upon boxes.  At one time they filled up an entire shelf in the basement (I have a couple of garage/industrial plastic shelving units down there).  And now we’re down to just a couple of boxes.
Ellie’s behavior is “flaring.”  It’s been a pretty rough few weeks with her.  About 3 weeks ago she dumped an entire gallon of water onto Lizzie’s mattress.  I don’t know why.  I don’t think she did, either.  I was afraid the mattress was ruined, but it did dry out within about a day with the ceiling fan going.  She tried to break the camera I have her in bedroom so I couldn’t watch her anymore.  Last Friday she stuck a (butter) knife in her sister’s face and threatened to “cut” her.  She got in big trouble for that one.  The next day I was at Walmart with Ben getting stuff for his new place.  Sam had spent the night with my friend, Debbie, and David had gone over to Will’s to weed-eat poison ivy for him (because Will is very allergic to it, as is Sam). I had told the girls to do the dishes while I was gone.  It wasn’t long before Lizzie called me telling me that Ellie refused to dry the dishes.  Eventually, Ellie told her sister, “I know where the knives are!”

This is scary stuff.  Ellie may be all talk, but she may not be, either.  One night this weekend, Lizzie expressed that she was scared to go to sleep because Ellie might kill her while she sleeps.  I think Lizzie was being overly-dramatic and I told her so.  But at the same time, I can kind of understand her fear, too.  And maybe Ellie’s just doing it for the reaction, I don’t know.  She does have a very quick temper and little impulse control, so there’s that, too.  On Sat, I ended up calling Will and asked him to collect Ellie and put her to work.  So he did.  All day long in the hot, humid weather, she picked up garbage at his place (not Will and Arien’s – the former owners.  They remodeled and never disposed of the debris.  Nice.)  And then when she was finally done, I made her dry all the dishes she  had refused to do earlier that day.

But I don’t know if this enough.  We have a therapy appt this Friday and I will definitely be telling the therapist about this.  I don’t know if it’s time to do EMDR therapy (a more intensive type of treatment) or if Ellie is just seeking attention and maturity will take care of that. 

Earlier this summer I finally did tell Ellie about RTF.  That is something I’ve never wanted to do because the last thing I want to do is to place doubt in an adopted child’s heart that they may have to leave home at some point – that this truly is not their forever home.  RTF stands for “Residential Treatment Facility.”  It’s where kids go when they can’t live at home any longer for safety or obedience reasons.  A lot of trauma/attachment kids end up there, unfortunately.  But at the same time, I think she needs to understand that there are limits as to what family will endure. So, I don’t know.  I may have screwed her up more now.
I am noticing a new wedding trend, particularly among the more “elite” in sociey – Sunday afternoon weddings instead of Saturdays.  I wonder why this is becoming a “thing” now?  I suppose there is nothing wrong with it, really.  Those involved in the wedding would have to miss church in the morning, but that’s not the end of the world, either.  Maybe it’s just a fad.
I think I’m going to have to get new glasses soon.  Or eyeballs.  I am having great difficulty reading any fine print anymore.  More often than not, I am having to whip out my magnifying glass that I bought to do my Bible reading to read anything.  Reading magazines has become all but impossible.  There’s the print size and then the glossy page, too, that makes it hard.  And if the print is any color but black – forget it!  That’s so sad because one of my chief pleasures has always been bathtub reading.  The only thing I can take in there is my kindle (in a ziplock bag) and I have the print so big on that thing, anymore, that I only get about 2 paragraphs before having to change the page.  I have read that menopause can cause eyesight issues.  So can growing old, I guess.  But I am wondering, too, if it could be a result of all my screen time.  Between my computer monitor, kindle, and phone, I read an awful lot on very white screens.  I wonder if that has made reading normal print, not on an illuminated background, more difficult. 
Sam has started football practice with the parks and rec dept in Pville.  He’s been dying to do this for several years.  They have practices three late afternoons a week and then games every Sat for a month and a half.  He is loving it, although I have told him that there is no pressure to continue if he decides, like David, he’d rather just watch the game than participate.  Besides, then his brain would be protected.  I know there is growing concern about younger kids having traumatic brain injuries because of football.  Their brains are smaller and more prone to damage from being knocked around.  His elementary principal is one of his coaches, so Sam is pretty pleased about that.  I don’t know.  I hope he’ll be ok.  It’s such a fine line between being smart about things and living your life in a perpetual state of  fear, too.

Sam is not  just a jock, though.  He’s actually a pretty well-rounded kid.  I often find him pounding away on the keyboard and I know he’s excited by the fact that this school year, he can start taking music lessons at school if he wants. He kind of cracks me up.  He already has his Halloween costume.  About a month ago he came to me and told me he really, really, really wants to be Michael Jackson this year!  He has been fascinated with that man’s life and music ever since his music teacher in school last year did a unit on him with the kids.  So, we found a costume on Amazon for not much money at all.  It’s already arrived.  We’re going to get him a black wig and Sam has already told Lizzie that she needs to put some of her make-up on him so he can look, “black – but not too black!”  I told him we could see if we could find a single glove for him to wear, but Sam said that the single glove didn’t come until later.  It won’t go with the red costume he got.  Oh.  I did not know that.  I still think he should get a glove, though, because that’s what people associated with the King of Pop.  Sam said maybe.  In the meantime, he is earnestly trying to master the moonwalk.
Early in June I slammed the van door on my elbow.  Oh, my goodness – the pain.  After about a week I was wondering if maybe I should have it x-rayed because it hurt so bad.  All I had to do was lean on it the wrong way and waves of pain would shoot up my arm.  But I wasn’t convinced it was fractured, either, because there was no swelling.  Will said that elbows can get severely bruised and they can feel like a break.  So I didn’t go and it has seemed to gradually get better.  But last Sun. night I got in my van and guess what I did to the exact same elbow?  Yep.  It got slammed again.  I am dying.  This time the elbow is completely gray so I know it’s just bruised.  But wow – it hurts! I need to quit getting in vans.
Last Friday I received a message from one of Ben’s drivers asking me, “What’s wrong with Ben?”  I didn’t know what he was talking about, but then I figured he must be referencing the poor boy’s head.  The night before I had been giving Ben a haircut when the clipper shield flipped off and before I knew it, I had shaved him to the scalp in a couple of places.  Oops.  I had Will come over and he did the best he could to repair the damage, but needless to say, Ben is now sporting the shortest hair cut he’s had a long, long time!  So I replied to him that Ben was fine, except that he looks kind of bad because of my accident with the shaver.  But then he told me that he had been told Ben was no longer on the pick up schedule.  It was at the same time that I realized Ben was still sitting on the porch swing and had not been picked up for work yet.  I knew immediately what had happened.  The day before I had emailed his case manager, asking her to let Cardinal Cab know that after Friday, Ben would not be needing rides.  When I saw that they failed to pick him Friday, I was hot.  Quite honestly, one of the biggest motivating factors for deciding to move Ben in the first place was because of the cab company.  There have been SO many times that David or I have had to provide transportation because they’ve forgotten Ben, a car has broken down, or a previous client took too long at an appt and they couldn’t make it to my house in time to collect Ben.  But, I am so thankful I held my temper on this one.

I had David go ahead and take Ben to work.  Then, I called the owner of the cab company and asked where his ride was.  He told me Ben was not on the schedule.  I asked him what did he mean?  Ben always works on Fridays!  He called me back, after checking with his girlfriend, who also helps him run the company, telling me that Logisticare, which is a transportation manager of Iowa Medicaid, apparently sends over a daily schedule to the transportation companies and Ben was not on it.  He said they’d be willing to pick Ben up from work if I could call and arrange it with Logisticare so they could get paid.  I agreed to do that.  I was on the phone for over a half hour with that company (and got hung up on twice – probably not intentionally, but it did nothing to increase my goodwill towards them) before I got them to agree to pay for Ben’s ride home.  And then the lady I talked to made a big deal out of how they were doing me a favor since I did not give them the 48 hour notice they require.  I pointed out to her that I was not the one who made the mistake – they did.  Oh no, no – it wasn’t them.  It was probably the case manager, they said.  Whatever.

So, I contacted Cardinal Cab and by that  time I was calmer.  I let them know that they could go ahead and get Ben that afternoon – they would receive payment for that.  I also thanked them for their 2 years of service and told them that without their help (such as it was) Ben could not have successfully held down his job.  They replied back, “sniff.”  So then I emailed Ben’s case manager to update her and she was livid, telling me that she had personally called Logisticare and stressed to them that Ben would not require a ride after the 24th.  Sigh.  Sometimes I really hate this system.

Well, when Ben got home from work that afternoon he told me that his driver wanted to see me.  I was surprised to see both Tina and Richard.  They are a husband/wife driving team, but they don’t usually drive together.  In fact, Tina has been off all summer, recovering from surgery.  They had a card for Ben that everybody at the cab company had signed and written little messages, along with a Walmart gift card for him.  I was so touched! And then both wanted to give hugs to both Ben and me.  And they did that all within the space of a couple hours because they didn’t know Ben was leaving until that afternoon.  I feel much better about that company now!  But, I still am relieved that some of my burden of assuring that everything is lined up for Ben’s care is shifting a little bit.
I have been asked to guest-lecture in a class at Faith (Bible college) this Nov.  I was very surprised to get the request.  Apparently, a professor up there stumbled across an article I had written for RBP on Paul’s death and she found me on Facebook.  I have to present to a class on ministering to the aged and since widowhood usually comes during that season of life, she wants me to speak on that.  I’m just as much excited as I am petrified.  I have to talk for 45-60 min. and I need a power point and hand-outs and everything!  I think a class like this must be so valuable for future pastor’s wives or whoever might be taking it.  And I can’t believe they want me to speak!  I am comforted by the fact that I managed to speak to 600 women last Dec. at Hy-Vee Hall and I didn’t throw up then, so I think I can probably get through this class.  This is one of those “good” things I have prayed for to come about because of Paul’s death.  When I prayed that prayer, though, it was with kind of a more abstract way of thinking.  I wasn’t actually thinking I would be doing the good thing!  Anyway – pray for me.  I’ve got a couple of months to prepare.  I think I’m going to interview a couple of women I know who were widowed in their older years.  I don’t have the perspective on that that they will.
So I finished my Shakespeare class last Friday.  I was really pressing hard last week.  I wanted to be done with school so badly.  I know I wasn’t overly enamored with the guy at the beginning of the term.  I think it’s because of the reading we started out with.  We did his sonnets, some of which – a lot of which – were downright dirty.  They had this recurring theme of him being involved with this woman whom he knew was bad for him, but she was so hot, he just couldn’t help himself.  We also, early in the term, read A Midsummer’s Night Dream and Twelfth Night. I wasn’t too crazy about either of those.  I guess Twelfth Night was ok, but I really did not care for the other one.  It was just too silly.  I read later that it was probably written for a nobleman’s wedding which would explain the light-hearted, unrealistic nature of it.

We did Hamlet.  This was my second time studying that play as I had it in another class I took last winter.  I’m not going to remember everything we did.  Of course, we did Romeo and Juliet which was just ok.  I’m familiar enough with the story that it didn’t move me too much this time around.  We did Julius Caesar and I really did like that one, particularly when my history aficionado, Will, explained to me that the events depicted actually took place during the days of the early church.  I also really liked Othello. I suggested to the kids that we name our new kitten, “Othello” but they were having none of that.  I think “Iago” would make a cute pet name, too, but then, he was the bad guy in the play and I don’t know that  you would want that continual reminder.  I really got into Macbeth, too.  It wasn’t until reading this play that I understood the expression, “Out, out d--- spot!” comes from the play and not from a Shout commercial (something from my childhood that lodged in my brain).  Anyway, it was a good class and I ended up with a 99.something or other gpa and best of all, I didn’t have to take the final exam!  Yay – I was all about that!  That was one reason I wanted to finish earlier in the week so my professor would have time to grade my work and then know for sure that I didn’t have to take the test.  But he ended up messaging me before I even got all my work in, telling me not to worry about taking the test since my class grade was already so high.
So with that – I finished college.  It still seems surreal.  I keep catching myself this week, thinking that there is something I should be doing.  Only, there’s not.  I am DONE with school!!

It feels amazing.

You know what else felt amazing?  Every year our church has a fingerfood fellowship after a Sun. evening service in mid August to honor the college student returning to their classes.  I’ve never been included in that because it’s for traditional college students – not old ladies with a shoeful of children who didn’t get their rears in gear when they should have 25 years earlier.  But this year, they hung up a “congrats” banner and they ordered a cake for me and some people gave me cards.  And Pastor made me come up in front of everyone and told them that they wanted to honor me because what I had done was so extraordinary. And I was so embarrassed by the attention but I was also really pleased and touched and humbled and so, so grateful.
I have a wonderful church family.

And did I mention that I am now a college graduate?!!

I might have.

Once or twice.


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