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Sometimes, They Surprise You

I could have worked today.  But I really needed a day to catch up on the laundry. I was having to search through piles and piles to find jeans for the kids every morning. Plus, the internet guy was coming out and I really needed to be home for that.  I bought a new desktop computer this week and hooked it up all by myself (first time for everything!).  But the internet connection wasn't too terrific.  I spent a good deal of time Monday night on the phone with Windstream, who were very unhelpful (they thought they were quite helpful, though).  They finally told me they would have someone call me the next day.  I wasn't sure what good that would do, but I told them, that was fine, but better not have them call until at least 4 pm because I would be teaching all day.  So the next morning I was en route to work when Windstream called and said, ok, we're coming out to your house today!  Um, no.  So, I got them to switch that to today and now everything is fine.  I have a new, more powerful modem now, I guess.

And it's just as well I turned down a job today because Will took my battery.  Yesterday, I panicked when I went out to go to work because my van wouldn't start.  Will had my old van at his house so I called over there and he got me the key and I got to Kville in time in that.  Then last night he hooked up my charger and it started right off.  He tried to tell me that somebody must have left a light on or a door open, but none came on when the van started up.  So I knew that couldn't be it.  And then this morning when I went to take the kids to school - same thing, dead van.  This time I was able to jump it myself and we got going.  So, anyway, Will came over and took the battery to be tested. Edited to add that my battery tested fine.  We finally figured out that my plug-in seat warmer was the culprit.  Apparently, if you leave that turned on while the van is parked it drains the battery during the night.  Good to know.

Right now I'm not scheduled to work tomorrow, but it won't surprise me if I do, anyway (I did).  Monday I had not planned to work at all because the kids had an early out from school and I had a funeral to attend in the late afternoon (more on that later).  But then Kville called and begged me to come in just for 2 hours.  And I'd get a half day pay for that.  So I did.  Yesterday I was a 5th grade teacher down there.  It just warmed my heart when one student walked in, saw me, and said, "Yes!  You're my favorite sub!"  It was a good day.  I had the homeroom of 5th graders in the morning and everything went just fine with that.  And then in the afternoon the other 5th grade classes rotated and I taught the same science lesson 5 times in a row.  Boy, was I tired of that by day's end!  That school has about 130 5th graders and I read the same material and answered the same questions for every single one of them!  Friday afternoon I'm going to be a preschool teacher at Pville.  I'm also going to be in the same room next Wed. afternoon, too.  I bet that will wear me out!

I covered Home Ec. in Kville last Thursday.  They don't call it "Home Ec" anymore, though.  It's something like "Family Consumer Science" now.  This classroom was connected to a very large kitchen so it's evident they do learn cooking skills, too.  But that's not all they learn.  I walked into the room and had time to myself for the first hour and a half.  I looked at posters on the wall that were student-made and it looked to me like they were posters about books they had read or something like that. Anyway, they were on the subject of dating and honestly, about half were promoting homosexual relationships.  And then I saw, hanging from the ceiling mobiles that the kids had made.  Each mobile was about a different form of birth control.  On the counter was a test the kids had taken or would be taking - all about the history of birth control.  I was supposed to show different classes some films.  One was a movie about relationships - "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days."  I think I've seen part of that before.  It's just a Hollywood comedy.  And then another class was supposed to watch a film on circumcision.  I was curious to watch that because I wondered what the film's stance would be - informative only or against it?  I know there is a growing movement that thinks circumcision is cruelty to babies.  But, as it turned out, we had study halls all day long because I could not get the films to load correctly.  I don't know what my kids will end up doing for high school.  I have no idea if they will all graduate from Pville or if God will move us or if they'll want to be homeschooled.  We're just taking it year by year right now.  However, this was an eye-opener to me.  I had no idea this kind of material was being covered in public schools.  So, when my kids get to high school I do intend to sit down with Pville's home ec teacher and ask to see the material.  Maybe I'll get a chance to sub in that class before then and can see it for myself.  But I'm not crazy about this kind of indoctrination.  I do understand that the argument is probably that kids - particularly those able to reproduce - need to have information about birth control so that they can be responsible.  And it's not a bad idea for teenagers to have to care for a computerized doll for several days (this classroom had a slew of them in actual carriers, along with fake pregnancy bellies everyone (even guys, I wonder?) was required to wear for a certain period of time - not convinced of the need for that though.  It's possible some kids may become parents soon after graduation (hopefully, not before).  It's quite possible they aren't being taught skills needed for life by their parents.  But MY kids are and I don't want anyone else teaching that stuff because, I guarantee you, the way I present information and the way a public school will are going to be miles apart.

All right, what else?  Oh, yes.  So, Wednesday of last week I found out that a Pville student had committed suicide.  That was horrible news to hear.  I don't think Pville has ever had a suicide before.  In fact, about a year ago I was chatting with a teacher there who also is a PHS grad and she said she couldn't think of any in all her decades of association with the school. But I didn't know who it was yet and there was a part of me that was really hoping I wouldn't know the kid.  Not that that changes the scope of tragedy, but at least then, I would not feel so bad!  Like, in November, a PHS senior was killed in an accident - unusual, too.  But I had no idea who this guy was and from what I did learn, it does sound like he was more of a "fringe" student.  So it didn't bother me as much. Even before the kids went back to school Thurs. I told them that they might hear talk that day about a suicide.  I wanted them to know, but I told them I didn't yet know who it was and more than likely, it would be somebody we didn't know.   But later that day,  while I was subbing for that above-mentioned class I logged into FB on my phone and made the horrific discovery of the identity of the suicide victim.  It was the 16 year old sophomore son of our elementary principal.  I have worked with him and with his wife, who teaches middle school sp. ed frequently. I've had conversations with both about various things. I've subbed for classes where this boy was a student in the room. Their surviving son is in Sam's class.  I was just flattened.  I walked out of the school that day, got in my van, and burst into tears.  I couldn't believe it.  Why would he do such an awful, awful thing?

Pleasantville is small community.  There's maybe 250 kids in the entire high school.  I live outside Pville but I identify most strongly with that town because we do a lot of things there and the kids' school is there.  Everyone is reeling.  They're calling it "mental illness" and his parents have posted on FB about their son being "finally free."  I suppose mental illness can be part of it.  But this was not a kid who had been in and out of mental hospitals, either.  He wasn't a pot-smoking, heavy metal listening loner drifting through high school hallways until graduation would signal some freedom.  He was popular.  He was a wrestling and baseball stand-out already, at just his younger years in high school.  He was close with his little brother.  Just last week, unrelated to this, I read a statistic that said suicide is now the second leading cause of death in young people.  Accidents are the first.  Todd Friel has been covering this subject quite a bit on his podcasts of Wretched Radio that I listen to frequently. He says, and I would agree with him, that the high suicide rate we are seeing today is a direct result of a post-Christian society.  When there is no hope - and there is no hope without Christ, of course - ending one's life sometimes seems like the only viable option when one is plagued with persistent depression.

And even my own brushes with depression here and there have given me an insight into what the truly, clinically depressed must experience.  You can feel such an emptiness inside that nothing gives the slightest glimmer of hope.  Couple with that with no relationship with Christ - it's no wonder that this is a choice being made more and more frequently.

And have you ever noticed that the majority of suicides seem to be boys?  I think that must be because of the "go big or go home" that boys/men seem to often possess, particularly in terms of relationships.  I think we female types tend to be a little more rational, at least when it comes to matters of self-preservation.

So anyway, the Littles and I did go to the funeral.  It was one of the saddest I've ever attended.  School was dismissed 2 hours early that day so that everyone could attend.  They had a 45 min. long video compilation that kept showing pictures of this little boy and then young man with a sweet, shy smile.  It just broke your heart to watch it.  You saw pictures of him being honored for his athletic prowess and all I could think was, "why?"  At one point in the funeral they invited people to come up on stage and share memories.  Some of his wrestling teammates went up and my heart just ripped apart for these poor boys.  For some of them, this is their first brush with death.  Some stood up there sobbing so hard they could barely get out the words they wanted to say.  This was so needless.

And then the pastor just irritated me.  He spoke quite a bit.  Altogether, the funeral lasted an hour and a half.  I don't know that the family professes Christ.  Quite honestly, in the times I have spent with the parents, my assumption has been that they probably are not Christians - nice, nice people, but just nothing that would indicate a relationship with Christ.  However, the pastor seemed to indicate that he had some sort of prior relationship with this young man before his death.  He talked about the shock and dismay and the time he spent with the family after it happened.  So, maybe the family does attend the church, at least sometimes.  Maybe this teenager was part of the youth group.  I have no idea.  But there was not a single word about salvation the entire time.  We heard a lot about God and Heaven, but nothing more.  I didn't say a word about this at first when the Littles and I were discussing the funeral after we left.  I was curious if they would bring it up and sure enough, one of them did, asking why the pastor didn't tell people there how they could know they would see this young man again someday (that is, if he, himself, went to Heaven).  The kids also seemed a little disgusted by that that the pastor just seemed to take it for granted that this guy is in Heaven.

I wrote the family a letter - about grief, about loss.  A couple of my kids did, too - even Ben.

Today (it's Thursday now) I subbed in the high school for English.  I had a group of sophomores.  I looked down at the roster and there was his name.  Just tore at my heart a little bit.

A couple of weeks ago Lizzie asked me what "pro-life" means.  I told her and she then asked what the opposite of pro-life is.  I told her it's "pro-choice."  Lizzie was silent for a moment and then declared, "Well, that's dumb.  They should call it 'pro-death'!" Out of the mouths of babes...
I had a big laugh a few weeks ago.  Well, it was an inside laugh, anyway.  I walked into the bathroom at church and there was this older woman in there.  I did not know her.  I found out later she was our pastor's wife's mother who was visiting over the holidays.  So I walked in and the woman actually gasped and exclaimed, "You're so beautiful!"  I kind of snorted because I was standing right in front of a mirror.  However, considering her age to mine, I can see how she might possibly think I am slightly attractive.  So, that made me feel good anyway...until the woman moved away from the mirror and I saw that she was using a cane for the blind!  Well, that bubble of good feeling dissipated rather quickly!  PS: I was told later that she isn't actually blind, but her eyesight is poor enough to necessitate the need for the cane.  As I said, it's a good thing I didn't immediately begin to preen when she made her announcement!
Lizzie has suddenly begun growing out of almost all her clothes.  I have to be so careful about what I say to her because well, for one, her little sister doesn't miss an opportunity to inform her that she is "fat."  She gets in trouble when I hear about it, but the damage is still being done.  I was getting kind of alarmed, especially when the scale at the dr's office this week told me that Lizzie is weighing only 15 pounds less than I do now.  And she's about 7 inches shorter.  But she is outgrowing a whole lot of her winter clothing.  My plan this weekend is to go through her wardrobe and have her try it all on and figure out what I need to get for her.  She can't go around in too tight clothing until it warms up this spring.  It's only January!  I did recall this week, though, that I was warned that one of the possible side effects of her Supprelin is weight gain - it's weight that should fall off once the drug comes out of her arm.  When it didn't happen right away I just assumed it wasn't going to happen.  But, apparently it is.  I don't mind having to buy her new clothes.  I just hate that it's going to be one more reason Lizzie will feel like she stands out.  I can tell her until I'm blue in the face that she still has a few more inches to grow and the weight should go away with the cessation of the drug and some added height.  But she's still going to feel bad about it.  I know her.

She has purple hair now.  It is absolutely adorable, but I can't believe how much older it makes her look!  I have been wanting to try yarn braids on her for quite awhile.  I finally watched some youtube videos about the process and it really didn't look that hard.  So I bought the yarn and last Sat. I began putting in the braids.  What I did not realize was how time consuming this would be.  I started around 11 that morning, doing a few braids here and there.  At 8 that night I realized I had better hurry.  Lizzie sat on the stool and I stood behind her for the next FIVE hours.  It was 1 in the morning before we got done and I didn't get to bed until 2. My hands were cramping up SO badly!  Holy cow.  But she has been so tickled with her "new" hair that it almost makes it worth it!  Next time I'll start first thing in the morning, though!  The videos claim we'll get 2-3 months out of the braids (these are tiny, tiny braids - well over a hundred of them, I would estimate) but I'm just hoping to a get one month.  This should be a good protective style that will encourage growth of her natural hair, too.
Well, I need to go jump in the shower and then get to bed.  Tomorrow Ellie has therapy and then I am staying at the school when I bring her back to work in the preschool in the afternoon.  I have always wanted to do the preschoolers, so this should be fun.  Just this week I was leaving the school building after dropping the kids off and a little kindergartner exited the bus, looked up at me, and quickly inhaled.  And then the next thing I knew, he had run right up to me and wrapped his arms around my legs.  By then, I realized that this was a little guy I had worked with several times in the last year, both as an associate and as a teacher.  It's nice to be recognized!

Family night tonight...we're going to pick Ben up from work and go eat at Pizza Hut (mainly so Ellie will quit bugging me - every month she earns a personal pan pizza from the "book-it" program at school).  And then we're going to come home and rent the original Mary Poppins movie so the kids will know what is going on when we go see the new one ...sometime.
Last month we attended the annual Christmas dinner (moms) and party (kids) for Single Parent Provision.  It was wonderful, as it always is.  But I had to laugh when I picked up the kids later.  The girls don't get to hang out with a lot of black people, but at these dinners there is  pretty high representation from the black community.  Both girls, who were in separate rooms because of their different grades, commented on the "weird" names of some of the kids in their rooms at the kids' Christmas party.  I had to remind Lizzie that she used to have one of those different type of names, too!
On Christmas Eve we attended the service at church and one of the college age girls brought her boyfriend - maybe for the first time.  I don't think I had seen him before.  He may be a perfectly nice guy - I don't know.  But I would call his appearance "greasy" and he would be someone that I would be nervous about meeting in a dark alley at night.  Or even in a Walmart parking lot.  Anyway, I didn't notice this, but the girls pointed out to me later that, even though he's probably only in his twenties, he was missing his two top front teeth.  Lizzie very seriously asked me, "Is he a hockey player?"
Ellie's behaviors are continuing to slip back to where she is more comfortable.  They're not as bad as what they were towards the end of summer and into fall, but they're not great either.  Just this week alone, I reminded Ellie when she was unloading the white basket (a catch-all basket that a  different kid is responsible for unloading every day) that she was not to go into her sister's room.  If she had something of Lizzie's in the basket that needed to be put away, she should just put it on the floor outside Lizzie's room.  This is not a new rule.  Well, the next thing I knew, Lizzie was screeching because Ellie had not only gone into her room, but she had trashed it - toys and clothes thrown all over the place, she emptied out the closet onto the floor, etc.  She got in trouble and she had to pick everything up.  The next day Lizzie caught Ellie trying to sneak the house phone into her bed so that it would look like Lizzie had taken the phone.  That phone is the biggest temptation to Ellie.  I put a password on it so she can't access it, but she is constantly stealing and hiding it.  I think it angers her that Lizzie is allowed to use the phone to text her friends and she is not.


Last week at church Pastor asked me how things were going and I told him, "Oh, about the same!"  My name has been on the prayer list for about 7 years now, which has to be some sort of record for our church, I would think. I suspect that I am the neediest member to ever grace the rolls.   First it was for prayer about getting the girls, then it was prayer for the girls, and then it was about Paul's death.  For the last three or four years it has just read, "Pray for family needs."  I noticed that when David brought home the prayer sheet Wed. night that "and encouragement" had been added to the "family needs" part.  That's nice. Yes, I can definitely use encouragement!

Last week Ellie said to me when I wouldn't do something she wanted because of earlier behavior on her part (I don't even remember now what it was), "Why can't you ever give me grace?" That kind of stunned me because it seemed like such a grown-up thought coming from such a little mouth.  I asked Ellie if she even knew what that means and she said, "It's when you give somebody what they don't deserve."  I guess she does know!  I didn't give in that night but it did make me fret a bit.  Am I too hard on her?  Do I automatically by-pass grace with her because I am so accustomed to her just being rotten all the time? But if I was more grace-giving would she then run with it and take advantage of me?  But if I don't, will she have a tendency to be a hammer on the heads of her own children someday because that's all she remembers about her own upbringing?  Ugh...I just don't know.

Although, there is hope.  There is always hope!  Tonight we got home from Pizza Hut and I went to stream "Mary Poppins" and discovered that my only option was to buy the movie for $17.  Ugh - not doing that!  Instead, I found a modern-day adaptation of "Little Women."  I absolutely loved it.  That was one of my favorite books, growing up.  So, anyway, the movie ends and Ellie comes over to me, sniffing and said, "I was crying."  I assured her that I was, too.  Then, she threw herself across my lap and sobbed, "What if that ("that" being the death of a sibling - Beth March died in this version, too) happens to our family?"  Well, in a way, it kind of already did... But I assured her that most of what we worry about never happens and if it did, God would help us.  I also told her that cancer doesn't happen in our family, so we're probably safe, but then logical Lizzie reminded Ellie that the two of them have a different genetic make-up than the rest of us...thank you, Lizzie.  But as upset as Ellie was, it was kind of an encouraging thing for me to see because the only time I ever see Ellie cry is when she is enraged to the point of tears - a not uncommon experience, actually, with the temper she has.  But to see her upset at the thought of losing a sibling to death was actually kind of heart-warming.

And you know, they DO grow up and surprise you at how well they turn out.  I remember what a hard kid Ben was to raise.  Just this week I was remembering the time I enrolled him in an experimental physical therapy study.  It involved kids with cp and walking on treadmills.  The person conducting the study and I couldn't get Ben to quit jumping on the treadmill.  He would have been about 5 or 6 at the time.  He was being very ornery.  So, I finally put my hands on top of his and leaned over him in hopes of helping him complete the treadmill time.  And then he bounced up and smashed his big head into my mouth.  Blood started gushing from my mouth and I remember the study person announcing, "Ok - we're done here."  I don't know what made me remember that this week.  He was hard then but now...well, last Saturday I picked him up from his house and we were driving home when, out of the blue, Ben started telling me that he had been reading in Matthew 6.  He said he thought it was pretty neat how God talks there about how he takes care of the flowers and the birds and if he does that, He'll surely care for us, too.  Of course, worry about finances is kind of on a perpetual loop in my brain and so I found particular comfort in what Ben was sharing.  At the same time, I was just kind of stunned at what he shared, too.

And then tonight at Pizza Hut Ben made the comment that the one thing he doesn't like about some of the guys living at his house is the amount of swearing they do.  He said, "I ask them to please not do that around me, but they forget."  I agreed with him that that was too bad he had to hear that kind of stuff.  "Besides," Ben added, "The book of James tells us that we are supposed to be careful about what we say and that we shouldn't be saying any bad things."   Wow...just wow.  I remember those early years with Ben and I was sure I had drawn the short stick when it came to children.  God must have laughed at me a little bit.

Well, it's a busy day tomorrow.  My to-do list makes up an entire sheet of paper and I started painting my living room last weekend.  Didn't get too far, but I'd like to get a little farther tomorrow.  But that to-do list...ugh.  And I have to make my monthly grocery list, too - double ugh.  First world problems.

I am blessed.


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