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Soaking, Subbing, and Surviving

I’ve been itching to blog for a week or more now – Just have not had the time.  I’ve been putting quite a bit of time into getting ready for my presentation at Faith in a week and a half instead.  I have been frustrated with that – I have the information I want to share but I didn’t like the “flow” of it.  Last night in my Single Moms group I asked for prayer and as we sat   there during “soak”  time (I’ll explain in a second) it suddenly came to me as to how I could re-arrange some things in my presentation.  So today during some down time while subbing I was able to revise my outline a bit and I’m feeling a little more confident.  But I need to put quite a bit of work into it this weekend.

“Soak” time is something that is part of our weekly book/Bible study (they call it a Bible study, but I'm still undecided if that's the right term.  We do spend time in the Bible but we are also spending time going through a video/book series on biblical single parenting).  I haven’t decided yet how I feel about it.  We each take turns sharing about our week and then we turn out the lights and our leader plays worship music from her phone for about 10 min while we “soak” it in – I guess.  My mind tends to wander during that time and I find myself getting really uncomfortable in my chair.  I suppose there is a purpose behind the practice, but I’m not entirely sure what it is yet – I suppose it’s designed to be a time to sit and absorb the messages of the music as well as to unwind.
I have subbed several times now.  However, the calls are not coming in frequently enough for my financial needs.  So I think I’m going to get on the sub lists in some other school districts, too.  I’m just trying to decide if that is something I want to do now or wait until after Christmas.  My first sub job was a couple of weeks ago in the Level 2 classroom for an afternoon.  Mostly I was supervising study halls that day.  I did have to teach a math worksheet to a couple of students.  Then, I did a half day in Sam’s class.  That went fine and Sam said I did great.  But then he added, “If you want students to take you seriously, you need to learn how to talk louder!”

On my first day of subbing I was checking in at the school office and how it works is that, if it is the first time in a calendar month that you have subbed, you take a time sheet for either associates or teacher subs, fill it out, and place it in the folder with your name on it.  For the first time, I got to take a teacher sub sheet instead of an associate and I felt so proud to be able to do that.  All that work I had put in for 2 ½ + years as I finished up my degree was working towards this  very moment!  It was good for other things, too, but  it’s always been my plan to sub with my degree.

Today was my first all-day job.  I had been told it was for middle school science but when I got there I was informed that they were going to put me in the English room, instead, for a little while, anyway and then I’d probably be going over to the science room.  So, I went down to the English room and started looking over the teacher’s notes.  The high school principal was in there and he said something about knowing I hadn’t been told I’d be doing English and how they were having to switch some assignments around.  I told him I was delighted to be in that room because  my degree is in English, so this would be comfortable for me.  As he left the room I heard him say to the teacher (who was leaving on an all-day field  trip), “Hey – she’s got an English degree so your class will be good hands!”  And I wasn’t surprised when I got a text a little later from the school secretary telling me that they had decided to keep me in the English room all day instead of moving me!

I ended up teaching 3 classes as well as supervising a study hall.  I was taking roll in my first group of 8th graders when I called out a student’s name and was met with snickering.  The girl told me that she prefers to go by the nickname,”C___” or she said, I could call her, “Cl______” (boy name).  I thought it was a little odd, but didn’t give it much more thought and got on with the class.  A little bit later, the girl called me over and asked, “So, have you ever had a transgendered student in one of your classes before?”

OH!  I suddenly realized what was going on.  I told her honestly that I had not and the girl began to tell me about how she was “transitioning” and her plans for gender reassignment surgery in the future.

She’s 14 – if that.  8th graders typically turn 14 sometime during their 8th grade school year so she may still be only 13.  At this point the kids were supposed to be writing in their journals so I had a few minutes to just sit and all I did for those 5 minutes or so was to pray for this child.  I found that I was not repulsed by her, but my sympathy was greatly aroused.  It further increased when I told the kids to divide themselves into pairs or threesomes to work on an English assignment.  Nobody wanted this girl/guy in their groups so she worked alone.  I couldn’t blame them for that.  She didn’t fit into either gender group and at this age, kids still very much divide themselves up by gender for activities like what we were doing.  It occurred to me that she must be very lonely.  What does she do for her bathroom use?  For the locker room?  Does anyone sit with her at lunchtime?  As I further thought about it, it occurred to me that probably the only support and encouragement she receives is from her gay or transgendered friends (and I have no idea if she has any “real,” in-person friends of that nature, but I would assume she knows people on the internet).  When a person is so isolated they are naturally going to cling to the only group of people that seems to accept them.  That would serve only to enforce their desire to continue on with a transgendered lifestyle because if they walk away from that, they walk away from their only support system.  I was texting Will about this during the day and he said something about this girl having “traded truth for a lie.”  Indeed.

For the first time in my life I found myself so sad for those caught in this lifestyle.  I honestly wanted to cry today for this child and for all the others similarly ensnared.  God must feel this way, too.

All in all, I felt pretty proud of myself today.  I managed to keep my classes under control.  I was a little concerned about the first 8th grade class because, as the 7th grade class before them left my room, one student advised me to be “really tough” on them and another said, “Yeah – don’t smile for at least a half hour!”  Hah!  They were kind of rowdy, but for all that, I was able to maintain control.  

During study hall, later in the afternoon, I had one 8th grade girl who was being completely obnoxious.  I told the kids I expected them to be sitting in complete silence working on something- homework, reading, or whatever.  And no, you can’t listen to your music (every student has music loaded onto their computers and they all want to listen to it in class).  I did tell them that if they behaved themselves I would let them do music for the last 10 min of the study hall and I did do that.  But anyway, this girl informed me that she was “incapable” of not talking to her neighbor.  I told her she’d better plan on exercising some self-control then.  At that, the girl flounced out of the room and sat her butt in the hallway telling me that since she couldn’t exercise any self-control she figured she better leave the room.  I told her very sternly to get back into her seat while wondering just what it was I’d do if she’d refuse!  She did, thankfully.  Well, then she had nothing to do in class because, she said, her laptop had been taken by another teacher because of disobedience (imagine that).  I told her she could get a book and read.  “I don’t read” was her immediate rejoinder.  Ok, then.  I let her sit for a moment doing nothing.  But it was apparent to me that would only last so long.  So, I walked to the back of the classroom and picked up a dictionary.  Then I found a piece of paper and plopped them both on her desk.  I opened up the dictionary and told her to start copying.  Boy, did she sputter.  She ended up writing exactly one word and then started scribbling on her paper like a toddler.  Whatever.

The regular teacher came back at 3 and I gave him a run-down of the day, including my dealings with this girl.  He said I did exactly what he would have  and since the girl is on a behavioral plan he’d be talking to her special ed teacher.

Even with that, I hope they call me again.  I really did like what I did today and my day went super fast as result.
Well, David quit his job at Fareway.  It was getting too stressful for him to manage both jobs.  He’s not particularly enjoying working at PDI, though, and is quite convinced they will be letting him go in Dec, when his 90 day probationary period is up.  Evidently, it’s part of their practice to give every employee that 90 days, but if they are not attaining certain percentages in regards to pace and quantity, then they are fired.  At this point, David seems fine with the possibility.  I don’t think he’d have trouble getting on other places if they do let him go.  In the meantime, he is quite in awe of all the money he is making!

Last week was Lizzie’s birthday and like I always do, I ate lunch with her and then went to recess with her.  We were playing basketball and this one student, a 6th grader, heard her call me, “Mom.”  He exclaimed, “That’s not your mom!  She’s Sam’s mom!”  I assured him that no, I was also Lizzie’s mom.  It was downright comical.  This boy looked at Lizzie and then pointedly looked at me.  I just smiled at him.  He looked back at Lizzie and then at me.  He did this about two more times before Lizzie took pity on him and finally said, “I’m adopted!”  Good grief – how hard is that to figure out?  I know I wasn’t the brightest bulb in the 6th grade, but I’m pretty sure, even I could have figured that one out at that age!
I went to the eye doctor yesterday.  This time I tried the Wolfe Clinic.  I’ve visited several eye doctors in the last decade and really have not found one I’ve liked.  I’ve been having all sorts of eyesight problems for the past year or so.  I’ve wondered if it’s menopause-related, but the dr assured me that no, it’s just because I’m old.  Great.  So then I went and purchased new glasses – over $500 for two pairs (buy one, get one free, even).  Yikes.  I figured it would be several hundred, but I wasn’t expecting quite that much.  But I’ve got a pretty significant bifocal prescription which drives up the price considerably.

I also had to get two new tires for my van last week and Milo had his surgery. My credit card is smoking.   No wonder I have to get more sub jobs!

Ellie is continuing in her same rotten sinful self.  She’s sneaking out of bed at night to play with electronics and watch tv, she’s told Lizzie she needs to “kill herself” and has started calling her by her latest endearment – the “B” word.  She’s deliberately doing things simply because I told her not to (that’s what she told me), she destroyed her siblings’ Patch books a few weeks ago, she put soap on Lizzie’s  toothbrush,  she’s continuing to punch, kick, and slap her sister – same old, same old.  But, things have changed on my end.  The stress has lifted.  I have come to a point where I have managed to disengage myself from the situations Ellie is creating.  It doesn’t mean I’m ok with what she is doing – I am not, certainly.  But I’m happier despite the anger and schemes of Ellie.  I guess I feel like I finally have a handle on what is happening with her and it no longer feels like I am personally being attacked.

I finished the book Pastor and Renee recommended.  Now I am going back through the book and writing down all the verse recommendations and Bible story characters and I am going to pour these things into Ellie – and really, all three kids. I am still disciplining Ellie.  She is still within my eyesight at all times at home.  I just purchased an alarm for her bedroom door that will go on this weekend. I am very well aware that someday I may have to make difficult and painful choices about her living arrangements with us.  My relief is NOT because I have given up.  My approach is just different.  When she disobeys I am first flipping open my Bible and having her read to me verses like Ephesians 6:1 and Ephesians 4:29.  She can argue with me – she can’t argue with God.  I have changed the way I teach the kids.  I am no longer talking about how they need to be good and make our home peaceful and make Mom happy.  Instead, I am continually directing their attention to what God tells us and how their primary responsibility is to honor Him with every aspect of their lives.  I am delaying handing out punishments to Ellie sometimes.  I need to a chance to calm down and it doesn’t hurt her to have to sweat it out for awhile, either!   I’m not doing any of this perfectly, but things are changing.  Ellie is not, but I am.

Earlier this week I got together with two old (literally – ages 70 and 85) friends of mine.  One adopted her children and I had mentioned in passing in an email to her about having some difficulties with Ellie.  She had tremendous problems with her adopted daughter in the past  so I knew she would empathize.  So we were at her condo and they asked me to share and I did.  I told them all that I’ve been dealing with in recent months, especially.  The younger of my friends, who attends church with me about fell off her chair.  She kept saying, “I never would have guessed – she’s so cute at church!”  Yeah, well, that’s part of it.  But then the older friend, the adoptive mom herself, finally stood up and said, “Where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I…”  She gathered the three of us into a group, those ladies held my hands, and they both prayed out loud for me and for Ellie while I stood there and cried.

Hated the tears, but it was one of the most  beautiful things I have ever experienced in my life.

I am finding, too, that my love and compassion has increased greatly for Ellie in recent weeks.  I have prayed for the love because that has been something very hard to feel.  But I have been surprised by the increase in compassion.  How do you feel that for someone who is abusing another one of your children and seems intent on destroying any shred of peace in the home?  But yet…there it is, anyway.
I got to meet someone really, really special a couple of weeks ago.  Two years ago this coming February, I was visiting with Jen Merritt (girls' former foster mom, she and her husband adopted their brother), who had a brand new baby at the time.  I asked if her if little Anna was the caboose on the family and she said, “Well…” and began to tell me this amazing story of how, a few months earlier, she had been thinking that very thing when one day, she very distinctly heard God speaking to her heart, telling her, “I have another daughter for you.  Her name is Ruby, she lives in China, and she has Downs Syndrome.”  Jen chalked it up to pregnancy hormones at the time, but couldn’t  stop thinking about this message, either.  So, finally, she went to the agency website through which they had adopted their 4th son, Titus, and it didn’t take too long before she found a picture of an available child -a little girl named Ruby in an orphanage in China, who had Downs Syndrome. She had never seen this listing before and would not have had any reason to do so because their previous adoption had been a domestic infant adoption.   Sometime later she called the agency but they wouldn’t even talk to her once they found out she was currently pregnant.  And she thought that might be it.  Besides, the house they were in was already full to the brim with 7 children and 2 adults and how on earth could they ready their current house for selling with a newborn and six other children?  It must have been the hormones.  But yet…

We talked that day and I mentioned the possibility of a bridge loan in regards to finding a larger home for them.  Jen hadn’t thought of that. Later that same day, an image of a jewelry box popped into a mind – the kind with a ballerina  that spins round and round to music.  I knew that was Ruby’s jewelry box.

A few weeks later Jen called the agency again and this time got a nicer person on the line.  They were more than happy to update their home study now that she was no longer pregnant.  In May, they found a spacious home to purchase and one day soon after, in church a lady turned to Jen and mentioned that her daughter was hoping to purchase a home in the area where the Merritts currently lived.  Jen managed to stammer that their house was going to be for sale.  That week the daughter came over and viewed the house with all the chaos and mess of the 9 people that lived in it.  She bought it on the spot.

Less than 12 months later – actually, the day before my college graduation this May – Jen and her oldest son, Tim, were on a plane to China and they brought back Ruby, who turned 9 the day she met her new mom and brother.  I ordered a jewelry box with a ballerina that spun round and round and I filled with cheap plastic jewelry, the kind that makes little girls “ooh” in delight. I had it engraved, “Ruby 2018.”

And finally, last week, I got to meet precious little Ruby.  She’s so tiny.  Her already flat Asian face is flattened further by her Downs Syndrome.  She will need multiple surgeries to straighten her crooked legs.  She’s beautiful.  We met and she immediately began bowing to me, which seemed cute and quaint.  Jen explained that in China, people are expected to bow to those of importance.  The deeper the bow, the greater esteemed is the person.  She said Ruby has begun to lose that practice living here the past few months, but she said the bow she gave to me was the deepest bow there is.

When you see the hand of God so clearly played out there are no human words that can adequately describe it.  But I have seen Him in this family and I saw Him last week in the face of Ruby.

Later Friday
I spent most of my evening in DM tonight.  Ellie had a Sunday School party at the home of our pastor.  I debated about her attendance because I have said “no” to all other parties to which she’s been invited in recent months.  But this is our pastor’s wife and she had changed the party date when I told her the first date she suggested would not work for us.  I had also told her not to do that and perhaps our schedule was not her only consideration when she did so.  But, for her sake, I let Ellie go.  I then took Sam and Lizzie up to Target.  Lizzie has a birthday party this weekend that we needed to get a gift for and I realized today when I cleaned out the mudroom bins that neither Sam nor Ellie have winter boots.  I was hoping to find some at Target but I forgot about Sam being in men’s sizes now and wow…brand new snowboots for men are expensive!  We only got a dusting today and I don’t think there is any more snow in the foreseeable forecast so I’m going to check at Plato’s Closet next week for him and Once Upon a Child for Ellie.  If I had more time, I might even hit up some other consignment places, but I don’t.  So we putzed around at Target – mostly because it took Lizzie forever to decide what she wanted to choose for the birthday gift and then Sam was threatening to throw up while we were in there (although he seems fine now that we are home) and then picked up Ellie from her party.  We got home and I found that David had installed the alarm on Ellie’s bedroom door.  It is so loud!  But hopefully, it’s a temporary thing.  I don’t like that she has to sleep with her bedroom door closed either because that is going to make her room colder.

But, as I explained to her – she chose this.  What other option do I have other than to let her continue to sneak out of her bedroom at night and roam the house and internet unsupervised?  She has an electric blanket so I don’t think she’s going to get pneumonia.  I have a camera in the room so I know what she’s doing and if she needs anything.  I still don’t like this.  I would feel better if I could keep that door open. What if she gets sick or hurt when I'm sleeping and she has no way of telling me?  But right  now, I just don't know what else to do.  This is what sin does.  It makes life difficult and it hurts others and ourselves.

I think I’ve written about this before, but the current trend in adoption is to not change names of the new children.  In fact, I’ve seen adoptive parents get really chewed out if they suggest such a thing in on-line forums.  The thinking is that a child’s name is the only thing they get to keep from their past and besides that, it is a gift from their birth parents that adoptive parents have no right to take away.  I’m usually  pretty confident in my decision to completely change the girls’ names but there are times, still,  that I wonder if I did the right thing.  Recently, on an impulse, I asked the girls if it bothered them that I changed their names.  Lizzie gave a short laugh and said witheringly, “Mom!  My name was Byata!”  Well, she does have a point with that…
I started a “thankfulness” chart with the kids.  I wrote about this on FB so this may be a repeat for some of my readers.  It’s really for Ellie, but it’s good for all of us, of course.  It occurred to me that if a person stores up thankfulness in their heart, then they will have less room for anger or other undesirable traits.  So I bought an easel-sized pad of paper and I introduced it to the kids.  The idea is that each of us writes down something and then explains to the others why it is we are thankful for it.  So, the first night, Lizzie immediately wrote down “foster  care” and that surprised me.  I guess I would not associate the concept of thankfulness with foster care.  I tend to think more along the lines of trauma, fear, loss, etc. in regards to that.  So I asked Lizzie what she was thinking and she explained that without foster care, kids could not be rescued out of bad situations.  That is true.  And then she added with a small smile, “Besides, if it wasn’t for foster care, I wouldn’t have found you.”  My heart…
Recently, the kids and I were talking about the concept of trials – life ones, not ones with juries and judges.  Sam made the comment that he doesn’t feel like he’s really experienced a lot of trials in his life.  That kind of surprised me and I said something about how he’s lost his dad and surely that could be considered a trial.  “Yeah,” Sam agreed but then said, “But you’re doing just fine.  I don’t even know what a dad would do that you’re not doing.”

I didn’t know how to feel about his statement.   Part of me wants to pat myself on the back because I’m doing such an awesome job that my boy doesn’t even miss  the dad he no longer has.  But, the reality is probably more two fold.  One, he may have been in a good spot emotionally when he made that comment.  I have held this boy before as he has repeatedly sobbed because he misses his dad.  They are less frequent now, but he does get knocked over by those grief waves from time to time.  It’s been quite awhile since he’s had one, though.  And, also, Sam has  lived without a dad just as long as he had one.  And when you consider that his memories probably don’t go back more than a couple of years before Paul died, a statement like that really isn’t all that surprising.  He no longer knows what is normal – only what he has.
Lizzie got some fake nails for her birthday from Ellie.  The girls love those things.  I hate them with a passion.She’d been bugging me for the past week to put them on her so I finally relented and did it Wed. night before I left for my book study.  Superglue got dripped on my counter, at one point I glued two of my fingers together, and just before I walked out of the house I accidentally glued Lizzie’s finger to the counter – argh!  So that night after I got home and she got home from Patch Club she pulled several nails out of her pocket that had come off at church and asked me to re-glue them on.  No, no, and no!  Please? She pleaded and grumbling the entire time, I reluctantly re-did her  nails.  But I was complaining and said something about this being “too hard” and “ a real pain” and so forth.  Finally, Lizzie said sternly, “Perhaps if you changed your bad attitude it wouldn’t be nearly so hard!”  Yee-ouch.  Nothing like getting stung by the truth out of your own kids’ mouths!
When I was subbing yesterday an 8th grader was in the room alone with me.  It was time for study hall and he was the first one in  the room.  I realized that this was one of the young men in the school who had lost his mom last March very unexpectedly.  I know I wrote about it last spring how two 40 something moms of boys in our school had each died within days of eachother.  One had a pulmonary embolism and the other – this boy’s mom – suffered a stroke.  I wasn’t planning to say anything to him, but the words came out of my mouth anyway.

“You lost your mom recently, didn’t you?”

“Yeah.”  The lanky young man shuffled his feet, looked down at the floor and back  at me.  I told him I’d lost my husband a few years earlier.  And then I said,

“You know – you’re going to be ok.”

“Yeah” And he turned and looked out the window. 

And I didn’t say anymore.  He didn’t really want to talk to this stranger and his classmates were noisily making their way down the hall to the room.  But there was so much more I could have said.  Maybe I shouldn’t have said a word.  But, on the other hand, sometimes all someone needs is a little sliver of hope.

He’ll be ok.

Surviving just takes time.


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