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September Scenes


Sunday night…

I just helped Sam with his math homework.  Fifth grade and he finally has real homework...  I have no idea if I’m teaching him the way he’s supposed to be learning with common core, but it’s the only way I know how to multiply double and triple digit numbers. We got through it and by the end he was doing it himself. 

I finally started subbing this week – not teacher subbing, but associate subbing, like what I’ve done before.  It was two half days.  The first day was in kindergarten.  There was this little girl in my class that just made me laugh as much as she caused my eyebrows to lift.  The day had barely started and I remembered hearing the teacher caution the other kids to “only take down your chair!” (off the tables where they were stacked from the night before), adding, “We all know Hanna won’t like it if you take down hers.” Well, then we were in circle time and in the kindergarten classrooms they have this magnetic chart with columns so the kids can remember what they are doing at lunch time.  One column is for hot lunch, another for the salad bar, and the last for cold lunch.  When the child comes in in the morning the teacher will ask them their plans and then take a magnet with the kid’s name and put it in the appropriate column.  Well, little Hanna suddenly got up and started walking toward the board.  The teacher stopped her and this little girl said simply, “My name is on the bottom.  I don’t ever want my name on the bottom!”  Wow!  And then, during art class, the teacher told Hanna to get back in her seat and the little girl responded, “This class is boring and I don’t do boring stuff!”  She cracked me up, but wow – what a proud little heart at only 5 years of age.  I wonder if her parents are despairing or if they created her this way.  Maybe she’s only heard positive affirmations her entire life and been told repeatedly that she’s a princess.  I don’t know.  Her class is comprised nearly entirely of girls this year and the rest of them seemed to all be perfectly nice, normal children, but because of this child’s personality, as well as her physical beauty, all the other little girls just seemed a little faded next to her.

Monday

And that’s all she wrote last night because I got my second wind and ended up carpeting Sam’s room.  I felt a bit like Superwoman after doing that.   Of course, it helped that I didn’t have to lay down a carpet pad and there was no trim in the room.  But still – I think I did a pretty fine job for it being my first carpet laying experience!  And then I got David to help me move all the furniture back in and now Sam has a brand new bedroom, just the way he wanted – lime green and baby blue walls.  I need to get him a new mattress, too, but  he wants to help pick that out.

So I’ve been trying to get my substitute license application going for the past week and a half.  It was a bit frustrating because nobody would ever answer the phone at the Grimes Bldg which is in downtown Des Moines and it houses the Iowa Dept. of Education.  I needed to get an appointment for fingerprinting.  I ended up calling the AEA in Johnston and was able to obtain an alternate number from them.  When I called somebody actually answered and I was able to schedule an appointment for the very next day.  They also told me to go ahead and start my application on-line so I would have a folder number and then I could also pay the fees for the application – both of which were needed for my fingerprinting.  The next day it was pouring rain absolutely all day long.  But I drove to Des Moines and I wasn’t exactly sure where I was going, except that it was in the downtown.  My GPS kept trying to take me to WDM and I knew that was wrong, so I had to do this one on my own.  Miracle of miracles (not really – I prayed about it) I found the building.  Then, I discovered that parking was a good two blocks away.  I went into the lot and drove around and around, wondering just where it was I would be able to park if I couldn’t find a spot.  I finally found the very last spot in the lot!  Then, I took a soggy walk to the building and did manage to get myself to the right floor.  I filled out the needed paperwork and was asked for my driver’s license. 

And I couldn’t find it anywhere.  I about emptied out my purse and it was not there.  I wanted to cry – all that I had gone through to get to that office and now I couldn’t get fingerprinted because I lost my stupid license.  But then, the gal behind desk said, “Oh, never mind.  I believe you’re who  you say you are!”  Maybe she thought my middle-aged, damp, frizzy haired self couldn’t possibly up to committing identity fraud.  What a relief!  It was at that point that I suddenly recalled where my license was – it was in my scanner on my desk at home.  I had needed it for something else I’m doing.  So I got fingerprinted, which did not involve any ink at all, surprisingly.  And then I went home to fret.  Because, I found  out that my application would expire in just 30 days.  But Buena Vista was telling me that my transcript would still be a good 4-6 weeks in arriving.  They told me to go ahead and order a transcript through this other company they use, so I did – for $8.25.  But the thing was, I couldn’t submit my sub application without the official transcript.  And if that didn’t arrive within the next 4 weeks, then I would be out the $163 I had just paid the Dept. of Education for my application.  Argh!  Not a thing I could do about it.

And then yesterday morning this older lady at church stopped me and asked me how she could pray for me and I blurted out, “Please pray that my transcript arrives in the next 3 weeks!” and she said she would.

Guess what was in my mail today? 

Yes, yes it was.  This transcript came from Buena Vista itself so I think I wasted my $8.25 ordering from the other company but that’s a better loss than the $163 one I was potentially facing.  It didn’t take me but 15 min. to scan the transcript, along with my Sub. Authorization transcript of the class I took last spring, and submit my application.  So now I wait 4-6 weeks for approval and then I will be an official

Substitute Teacher

Tuesday

It’s a beautiful Tuesday morning, Sept. 11.  I’m remembering another Sept. 11 today, also on a Tuesday – as are a whole lot of other Americans.  It was nice out that day, too, as I recall.

I had to run down to Ben’s house this morning to deliver his insurance cards.  Tomorrow, his house mom (that’s not her title, but it’s how I think of her) is taking Ben to his dermatology appointment.  This will be the first time in Ben’s entire life that I have not been the one to take him to the dr.  Well, there was that one time when he was 3 or 4 that Paul took him to the ER to get his chin stitched while I was at work, but other than that – never before.  I could still take him tomorrow, but there’s always a possibility I might be called into work and I would hate to turn down a job if I didn’t have to.

I had a nice chat a week ago with the lady that oversees all the Optimae homes in the Knoxville area.  Right now, Ben only has one roommate but they are wanting to put 5 guys in this house.  There is one that they have been waiting on funding approval for but the other two slots remain open.  One will remain so for awhile until they convert the current laundry room into another bedroom.  But anyway, I had a very reassuring talk with this lady.  She said as they’ve gotten to know Ben they’ve come to realize that he has a certain “naivete” to his being and they want to make sure that whoever they get for his roommates are going to be good for him, esp. since the house is unstaffed in the overnight hours.  She said they’ve had a couple possibilities come up that she’s said no to because she was concerned about Ben’s well-being.  I appreciate that very much.  Now, today, the house mom told me that they are getting someone new in there this week and this isn’t the guy they’ve been waiting on funding for.  He may be coming next week.  So I will be curious to meet these guys.  Ben’s other roommate seems really nice.  He does smoke and he’s a little older, but he does all  his smoking outside.  He’s very helpful and polite.  I guess I didn’t realize the mentally impaired could smoke, but I suppose any bad habits can be easily picked up.  I can’t imagine Ben being able to handle a little stick on fire, though!

***********************

So, I’ve been thinking about churches lately and trying to mull something through in my mind.  We’ve had a number of families leave our church in the last year or so.  I only know why a couple have chosen to leave – the others are a mystery to me. And I have been told about some others who are pondering doing the same but haven’t yet. I know that when a church is in transition it’s not uncommon for some to leave and others to arrive.  A few weeks ago our pastor said from the pulpit that the only reason a person ought to leave their church is if they have a doctrinal disagreement with the pastor.  Paul used to say the same thing and I know he got that from his pastor that he grew up with.  Paul also was a teenager when his church went through a terrible split that the church, thirty-five years later, has not recovered from.  I guess I’ve never been convinced that that is the only reason a person should ever consider leaving, though. And we have to remember that pastors, above everyone else, have a vested reason in making sure people don’t leave their church.  That’s got to feel personal when it happens.   But, there isn’t biblical instruction on this, mainly because when the church was being formed and the New Testament was being written there weren’t a whole lot of other options.  If you wanted to go to church you met at the one closest to your home and you stayed because you couldn’t travel to the next town.  I was talking to Will about this and he made the comment that when someone leaves a church then they are often leaving conflict behind rather than learning to work things out.  There is that.

I don’t understand why people are leaving our church, though.  And granted, it just seems like a lot now but I have to remember that more are staying than are leaving.  But it makes me wonder if I am missing something.  I honestly am very content and I can’t imagine leaving people that I have become bonded to.  But am I so unaware that I am not seeing this Issue that others are?

But who’s to say that God doesn’t move people and that sometimes churches that once were a good fit, no longer are, even if the doctrine is still good?  But how many, too, have left churches because they were bored or just wanted a change or felt like they didn’t have anyone they connected with so then they went somewhere else.  And there’s always the lure of the “flash.”  Other churches have exciting ministries and outreaches and youth programs and worship leaders and drums (not criticizing at all – there’s room for different types of worship preferences).  But it makes more solid, older churches seem outdated and more suited for the over 60 crowd (although we’ve lost some older people in recent months, too).

I just don’t know.  But I’d like to.  I’d like to know that I’m not staying out of habit or because I’m afraid of change.  And I wish others would stay, too.  I know everything is not about me and I’m sure I’m the last thing on their mind when they make this kind of decision, but it hurts those who stay behind.  It feels like rejection, even if it is not intended that way. I wish I knew what God thinks of this.  I suppose, in the end, it’s just one of those individual things.

I was so pleased with Lizzie yesterday.  She loves to watch videos and as such, she is familiarizing herself with all kinds of different people (which is why I keep tabs on just which videos she watches – so far, so good).  She seems to have a special appreciation for the Williams sisters of tennis fame.  I can certainly understand that – they’re beautiful, black women athletes with a great fashion sense.  Over the weekend, Serena Williams made the news when she threw a fit at a game.  It started when an official warned her that her coach, who was in the stands, could not verbally coach her.  Serena immediately denied that he had been doing so, although the coach, when questioned, admitted to doing so.  From there, things just escalated.  Serena wasn’t content to take the warning and move on.  She demanded an apology from the ref and ultimately ended up throwing her racket on the ground and I don’t remember what else and ultimately lost the match and was fined $17,000.  This was discussed on the radio yesterday – otherwise, I would not know what had transpired because I think watching tennis is as about as fun as standing in line at Walmart.  Then, I guess Serena made comments to somebody – twitter, reporters, maybe, I don’t know – that she was standing up for “women’s rights” and that if she had been a man, this would not have happened.  And of course, that is silly because, as the radio talk show host pointed out, sometime recently some male tennis player found himself fined right off the bat for less unsportsmanlike behavior than Ms. William’s exhibited. Her opponent was also black, otherwise I imagine we might also have heard cries of “racist!” directed against the ref.  I didn’t even think to bring up this story to either of the girls, but Lizzie watched some video about it and then began telling me the story of what transpired.

She was so disgusted, even without hearing my take on it first.  I was proud of the way her little brain was able to rationalize how this event had nothing to do with the rights of the marginalized female but with Serena getting caught cheating and not having the courage to admit it – and then allowing her temper to flare, as well.  Lizzie even knew that Serena has a daughter of her own and she mused out loud, “How is  her daughter ever going to learn good sportsmanship?”  I think Lizzie is going to turn out just fine.  Serena – not so much.

And then tonight, Ellie made the comment, “I’m bad because my birth mom was bad.  It just runs in my blood.”  First of all, I never once have told the kids that their birth mother was “bad.” I’ve been honest and told them she made very poor decisions and that a lot of that was because when she was growing up she saw others making the same kind of bad decisions.  But anyway, Lizzie immediately jumped all over that statement and told her sister, “No, you’re just making excuses.  You’re bad because you choose to be bad!”  Uh, huh – she’s going to be just fine!

Ellie, though…I just don’t know.  But then I remind myself that she’s only 7 years old.  And I see enough glimmers of maturity and spiritual development that I do have a sense of hope…sometimes.  In the last couple of weeks she has again, threatened her sister with a knife.  This time she was unloading the dishwasher, and picked up a steak knife and swung it in a threatening manner.  Her therapist doesn’t really think that Ellie intends to harm her sister and I’m inclined to think the same. In the therapist’s words, Ellie is extremely impulsive and has a quick temper (I added the last part and the therapist agreed with me).  Unfortunately, that fits the personality profile of a whole lot of people sitting in jail cells today.

Wednesday
 
One day last week, I had put both girls down for naps and the rule is, of course, that you don’t get out of bed once you’re down.  Not only did Ellie get out of bed, but she took a hardbound book and threw it her sister who was in her loft bed in her bedroom.  The book shattered the light globe in Lizzie’s room.  Ellie swore up and down it was a simple accident, that she was merely tossing the book in her sister’s room so she could read it,  but I didn’t believe her, of course.  She got spanked.  I made her pick up every shard of glass and when I went downstairs to get the vacuum she reportedly hissed to her sister, “I was trying to hit you with the book!” So she got spanked again.  But I don’t know that that is really effective in changing her behavior, either.  And the lying – it won’t stop.  She makes up these plausible stories with shrieking and tears streaming down her face.  One day last week Lizzie reported that, during nap time again, Ellie was using her tablet.  I had been suspicious that she was doing something when I checked on her through the camera on my phone.  But I just wasn’t sure.  So I checked the history on the tablet and sure enough, during the time Ellie was supposed to be resting, she was looking at videos.  Those tablets are never supposed to be upstairs, anyway – only in common areas of the house.  But she tried to convince me that it was Lizzie looking at her tablet.  What am I supposed to do with this?  It is absolutely maddening. I am told repeatedly that lying is a natural part of RAD and I can believe that, but what do I DO about it?  We’ve had all the talks about how dangerous lying is and how it builds walls between Mom and you and God and you.  I have spanked, I have ignored, I have grounded, I have employed various other creative means of truth-telling motivation  – I don’t know what else I am supposed to do.  I can’t make her tell the truth.  Although, Ellie did come home with a birthday party invite this week and she airly commented, “I know you won’t let me go to this because I’m so bad, but  I got this party invitation…” And the thing is, it’s for this weekend and I could have made it work and immediately I began figuring just how to do that and then I remembered,  stopped, and said, “ You’re right – you’re not going to this party.  Do you want to tell me why?”  And she did.  She knows.

She knows, she suffers the consequences, and yet she still keeps doing it.  Our pastor recently made the comment from the pulpit that all the parenting advice you need is found in the Bible.  I want to talk to him sometime and ask him just where does the Bible tell me what to do with a child like this?  Other than the stoning suggestions of rebellious children found in the Old Testament, of course…

But yet, her little brain IS working.  Recently, Ellie asked me abruptly, “Does God hear my prayers?” I could tell she was kind of embarrassed to ask the question because she kept sticking a pillow in front of her face while we talked about the answer to that.  And then a few days later we had a therapy appointment and I usually play UNO out in the lobby with whichever girl is not in with the therapist at the time.  We played, Ellie won a game, and she commented, “I prayed that you would lose!”  And this Sunday she came home and asked, “Does Jesus love the big children?”  Think about that one for a minute…

It’s nothing new.  And really, there’s not a whole lot more I can than what I am already doing.  Changes have to come from within.  My job is not to ensure that my children grow up to make good choices.  That’s on them.  All I can do is train them and then, in the end – they decide what to do.  Ellie may gain in maturity as the years go on, she may grow spiritually, and she may decide that life is a whole lot easier when you obey and tell the truth.  Or she may not.  But I can’t bear the burden of her ultimate life decisions, either.

The last time I posted I mentioned something about maybe it being time to start EMDR therapy with her and the very next time we went to the therapist, she brought that up, without me even having to say anything.  I don’t really understand it, other than it has to do with eye movements.  But parents in my RAD group seem pretty pleased with it, overall.  I’m open to about anything right now, if it will help my girl.

And that’s the rub.  She’s MY girl and because of that her actions do affect my life and the lives of her other family members and it’s harder on all of us when she chooses to be this way.  If I, worst case scenario, have to give her up to RTF therapy or I lose her to her birth family or the streets someday, it’s going to hurt me.  And I don’t want that, just as much as I don’t want her to be hurt by her actions.

All the same, while I have to be aware, I don’t want to unnecessarily borrow trouble, either.  Ellie is not horrible all the time.  In fact, a lot of the time, she’s really quite delightful and funny.  Just the other day, I caught this exchange between she and Sam.  We were on our way home from his practice and Sam noted that the van in front of us was the same make and model as mine.  Ellie then said, “You’re crazy!”  Sam sputtered and told her he certainly was NOT crazy and went on to explain just why it was that he was right about the van we were following.  Ellie then calmly replied, “I didn’t say you were wrong.  I just said you were crazy.”   I thought it was pretty funny, but Sam was not that amused!

When I subbed last week in the kindergarten this little girl came in crying (well, actually there were several little girls crying – it’s kindergarten and the start of a new school year – pretty typical, I think).  The teacher mentioned to me that 9 months ago this little girl’s father was killed in a work accident – and her mother was pregnant with baby #4 at the time.  This kindergartener is the oldest.  She said that every morning this little girl comes in in tears.  It could be because of the family tragedy, I suppose.  It could also be because a lot of scary and new things have happened in her life, including most recently, the start of kindergarten.  But, regardless, my heart went out to her.  Then, at recess, one of the associates came up to me and also  told me this little girl’s story.  She made the comment that the girl’s mother is “not doing very well.”

What does that mean – “not doing well”?  Does it mean that she is refusing to come out of her bedroom or is spending hours prostrated on her husband’s grave?  Or does it mean that she grappling with overwhelming, raw grief while trying to single parent young children who have just had their worlds rocked?  I don’t know.  It also makes me question what did people say about me in my early months?  Did they also say in low tones to one another, “Yeah – poor Sarah.  She’s really not doing well.”  What does doing well look like when you are dying on the inside?  Without knowing her story, I felt kind of defensive of this young widow when the associate said that to me.

Tonight I am attending my first single moms Bible study.  I have wanted to do this for a couple of years now, since I learned about them.  It’s through Single Parent Provision.  But college work had to take priority.  Now I am free.  I’m kind of nervous, having to walk into a place where I don’t know anybody, but I think this will be a good next step for me.

Last week I received a call from SPP, too.  Apparently, there is a church in Des Moines that spends one Sunday morning a year fixing up needy peoples’ homes – yardwork, mainly, I think.  This year they asked for recommendations of families from SPP and they picked me!  I feel kind of bad about that because I do have grown boys that try to help out, although both are so busy these days that I often have to wait quite awhile for needed help.  But anyway, it was encouraging, and if nothing else, I’ll have a tidy yard by the time they are done.  It’s nice to be taken care of that way by others.

By God.



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