Moments

1. It’s Cookie Walk time again…which means we turned these (20 dozen!)…

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into these (stealing an idea from my friend Lauren)…

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and, yes, the first batch of icing was too thick and the second batch was too thin, but they all dried beautifully and were safely transferred to church, so we wouldn’t eat them…

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2. Quincy did a Polar Plunge yesterday. It wasn’t an actual event…just something she and her friends cooked up. And, yes, we thought she was smarter than that too. After watching a video that one of her friends put on facebook, poor Feff was distraught, “My Quincy! My Quincy! What happened? Is she OK?” Bless his heart.

3. Fiffer brought home an ornament that she had made at school, along with a beautiful note that said, “Thank you, Mom and Dad, for taking such good care of me.” She was so excited to give it to me…and I was so excited to open it…but after I read the note aloud, she said, “I think I better give it to my mom” and then looked at me, obviously worried about my reaction. (For the record, half of her class had to make more than one ornament since both of their parents weren’t living together, but Fiffer…for whatever reason…rejected this idea.) I hugged her and reassured her that it was fine with me if her mom got the ornament…her poor mom will be sad on Christmas Day…but I get to be with Fiffer and her brothers…which is way better than an ornament. It was a nice moment…but poor kid…life shouldn’t be this confusing at the ripe old age of eight.

4. On a similar note, Feffer had some questions last night at bedtime. We’ve been keeping Christmas on the down-low, mostly talking about the Sunday School program (which is on Christmas Eve…which all of the kids are supposed to be in…but I’m sure the little boys will chicken out). I haven’t brought a single gift into the house, since they’re all such sneaky little snakes. So. Evidently Feffer has been worried, because last night, after the other two settled down, he asked me a string of soft questions, “Kris…are we getting presents tomorrow (they’re celebrating with their mom on Friday)…are we getting presents on Christmas Eve…but there’s nothing in your closet (ha!)…did you make me something (double ha!)…” Finally, after being assured that I have some presents for him, he held my hand for a few minutes…even resting his cheek on it…before he fell asleep.

5. Both Fiffer and Feffer had pajama days at school this week. They were over-the-top excited. Seriously. So. Excited. When I suggested that we have a pajama day while they’re on break, they were beside themselves with joy. Ah…the simple joys.

6. Although Fiffer wears dresses quite a bit, they’re all pretty casual, so I picked her up a dressy Christmas dress last week…and let her wear it to school yesterday. There’s nothing quite like a little girl twirling around the house in a new dress, knowing completely that she’s a princess.

7. After finishing The Giver as a family (big kid) read-aloud, we watched the movie yesterday morning (while the littles were at school). Such a good book, and such a good movie. It deviates from the plot a bit (more action, more romance) but definitely captures the spirit of the novel. Good stuff.

8. Quincy gets home tonight! And Josiah’s off work! Let the games begin!

Surprise Friends

When I started this blog, I intended it as a family scrapbook, of sorts…a scrapbook that gave me a lot more space to write (something I love) than a “normal” scrapbook would. And the blog is fulfilling its purpose.

But it’s also given me a delightful surprise…new friends. It’s not that I don’t have friends in “real life.” I do. But real life has a way of being awfully intrusive on friendships. Most of my friends are juggling kids and jobs and husbands too…and we barely have time to say hello to one another…let alone time to talk in-depth. And that’s the joy of the virtual world. Late at night, while my people sleep, I can read what one of my virtual friends wrote yesterday morning. And I can think about what she said for days, if necessary, before I make a reply. With this flexibility and without the clamor of little people making mischief until I put them in the van and take them home (as often happens when I’m conversing with people in real life), we can really get down to the heart of things.

A small sampling of how I’ve been blessed with these surprise friendships these past few weeks…

A school acquaintance from a hundred years ago read one of my posts about Dillon and completely understood…because she’s raising a child just like him. We were actually able to talk on the phone one afternoon (so “old school” of us!), and I filled a notebook page with her suggestions…books to read, methods to try, ways to cope. The thing that I needed to hear the most, though, were these words, “Kris, this isn’t our fault. It just isn’t. We both know kids who come from horrific home lives who manage to be nice kids. We just can’t possibly be screwing up enough to cause these boys to behave the ways they do.” I shared these words with my husband, who needed to hear them just as much as I did.

My husband’s niece’s mother-in-law (try to figure that out…it sounds like a prayer chain request, doesn’t it?), a woman with whom I’ve only exchanged a few words in “real” life but who is one of my go-to online mentors wrote this about our latest experience with the counselor, “Boy do I get this! And yes, it is always the sane one who sounds insane to the counselor. Totally NOT FAIR!! And it made me so angry, and it made me question my sanity, too. More than a little. I think the dynamic that gets set up by psychologists is that they try to connect relationally and win the trust of the most difficult party–that would be Dillon–just in case you were wondering. I’m on your side, Dillon. You can trust me, Dillon. I’m going to help you, Dillon. See, I’m going to make it easier for you to live with your family by talking to them. Blech. And they sometimes seem totally ignorant of the fact that they are joining the drama in chapter 44 and just because they are joining, doesn’t make it chapter 1. You get the feeling they see you not as persevering, educated, rational ADULTS who love their child and are trying to help, but as someone they are there to re-educate and reform on behalf of the poor, misunderstood other.” Amen and amen. These words gave me the courage and conviction and language I needed to call the counselor yesterday and reestablish with her what it is we are trying to accomplish.

And, finally (for today), Jen Hatmaker is a Christian author and speaker. Technically, she’s not a new friend for me…since she has no idea who I am…but she is a wise (although I don’t always agree with her), funny adoptive mother…and she posted this gem this week. If you are parenting adopted or foster kids, I would highly recommend reading it. It’s all about kids who tend to sabotage big days…a trend we have certainly witnessed in our own family for years…but she moves way past the frustration of it to explain the why behind it…timely words as we prepare for the holidays with our newest little saboteurs.

Ah, friendships…old ones, new ones, “real” ones, “virtual” ones…God gives us such gifts in one another.

 

God Loves a Cheerful Giver…

…but He has to be crazy about the cute little grumpy ones too.

When Feff got on the school bus this morning, he was carrying a big box of homemade cookies…our Christmas gift to all of his teachers/aides/bus drivers/etc.

When Feff got off the school bus this morning, he was crying. Since this was pretty unusual for our joyous little boy, I pulled him onto my lap and asked him what was wrong. His scowl was deep and his fists were tight as he said, “Those teachers won’t give my cookies back.”

Warms the cockles, doesn’t it?

Catching Up

Feffer got into a brawl at school this past week. Bless his heart. He giggled like a fiend as he opened his backpack to show me the note from his teacher; I think the pressure was getting to him. I talked to his teacher…and the principal…and they didn’t seem too worried about it…so I’m not either.

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Hayden slept over at a friend’s house on Friday. While I was running her out there, Jason guided the little kids through a little Christmas craft. They were thrilled with the results…and so was I.

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Since Josiah was at work, Hayden was at a friend’s, Dillon was watching a movie, and the littles were sleeping, Jason and I had dinner by candlelight…followed by a rousing game of Rummikub.

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Saturday, Fiffer “got” to help Jason make meatballs for the first time. He’s a meatball Nazi…they all have to be the exact same size and shape…so it’s nerve-racking to train with him. She handled him it like a pro:)

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Hayden bought a new guitar on Saturday. Since Josiah will take his guitars with him to college, she will need an acoustic of her own. With all the Christmas sales going on, she couldn’t resist this beauty. (While we were gone, Feff threw a massive fit about being left behind…so massive that Jason put him into his room…where the little brat broke a window…thank heavens he’s cute.)

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We also tried a new dessert recipe Saturday…Oreo truffles…life-changing…delicious.

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Sunday, we had friends over for dinner…and a rowdy game of Heads Up. Such great kids…three of whom are graduating high school in a few months…two of whom are heading off to basic training shortly after…we need to have more get-togethers like this.

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While we were enjoying our friends, our stupid wonderful dog tore up our bedroom carpet. I. Swear. So I called a handyman today to take care of the broken window…and the torn-up carpet. This is why we can’t have nice things:)

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Sunday night, we went caroling with some people from our church. We started by singing long distance to a congregation member who is stuck in the hospital in St. Louis for several weeks. Caroling is always fun…even if I did have to leave early to put two very naughty little boys to bed.

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The littles now get one Kiss if they sit at the dinner table in a civilized manner for five minutes. They get a second one if they make it another five minutes. They seemed very motivated by this the first night, but tonight I ended up pocketing two Kisses for myself. We’ll see.

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Dillon completed this project today and was very proud of it.

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No pictures…but we made 9 dozen Kiss cookies for our youth group cookie watch. Tomorrow’s project…besides school…is to make sugar cookies.

Thanking God for the day-to-day blessings.

You don’t realize how crazy you sound…

until you’re explaining your life to the newest psychologist in your child’s life.

Oy. I don’t debate or defend homeschooling much anymore. Some of our friends are homeschooling, so they don’t need me to make a case. Most of our friends aren’t homeschooling, but they’re used to our lifestyle, and they don’t care. After all, our kids (at least most of them) are well-adjusted and happy and successful…just like theirs are. It has been a non-topic for a long time.

Until the psychologist asks me what I need to happen (with Dillon) so that our family life will be happier…and I answer that I need the boy to speak to me with more respect (and less disgust) and I need him to make an effort to enjoy the family again. She asks if there is anything else, and I say no…that those two things about cover it for me. And she asks Dillon the same question and he flashes his eyes at me and says that he wants to go to the junior high school. And she looks at me for my response…and I answer that I actually have one more thing to add to my original list…that we not keep rehashing things that have long since been decided. 

Good heavens. And I’m not going to get into it all again here, either, because it’s long since been decided. And it’s not because we’re fanatics…and it’s not because our hearts are hardened toward our son (opinions I know he holds and I fear she now shares). There are certainly pros and cons to any schooling decision. And we’ve weighed them. Over and over and over. And (because we’re certainly humble enough to admit that we might be wrong) we tried the school option (against our better judgment) earlier this year, and it did not go well at all (a fact Dillon seems to gloss over).

So. Here we are. Negotiating with a terrorist. Again. Still. And we (the parents) have an assignment for this week…a cut-and-dried, clear-cut, report-to-the-counselor-whether-you-did-it-or-not assignment. And Dillon? He’s going to “try to be more respectful”…which sounds to me like a wishy-washy, hard-to-define, subject-to-interpretation assignment.

Jason and I keep telling ourselves (and each other) that we committed to trying this route for eight weeks (the psychologist’s recommendation)…which will be over by the end of January…and surely we can play along and see what happens for that long…can’t we?

Have I mentioned how much I hate counseling?

Inspection

Yesterday, our DCFS licensing person came for her biannual visit. Six months ago, when she came, I had a little list of things to take care of before she returned. And I had every intention of doing all the things on the list right away, but…you know…you get busy…and she’s not coming back for six months anyway…and…you end up running to Walmart for a carbon monoxide detector two hours before she shows up…ahem.

So. We almost made it. We had the carbon monoxide detector (which means we now have one on each floor where people sleep), all of our smoke detectors work (I climbed on a chair and pressed the button on every single one), our medicines and cleaning supplies are all locked up (which is totally normal…I’m certainly not one of those mothers who needs to have the kid’s antibiotic smack dab in the middle of the kitchen counter or she would never remember to give it to the child…wink, wink), our pond is filled in (as opposed to constructing a five-foot fence around the silly thing), and our water wasn’t too hot.

The water temperature was something we put some effort into this time. I’m not even sure what the water temperature is supposed to be, but it’s some ridiculously low number…much too low a house with eight people and all their dirty bodies, dirty clothes, and dirty dishes. Yes, we realize we need to be careful so the kids don’t burn themselves, but good heavens. Last time, we turned the thermostat down on the water heater after our morning showers on the day of her visit. Not good enough. She made a little note that it was too hot and warned she would be retesting in six months. This time, we turned it down the night before; Jason took a lukewarm shower, I skipped one altogether. I figured we were golden.

So as she stood with her thermometer under the kitchen tap and commented that it certainly wasn’t heating up very fast, I worked to keep my face innocent and nonchalant…and hoped she couldn’t smell my unwashed body. She checked the bathroom tap…with the same results. Finally, we trooped down to look at the setting on the water heater and she noted that it would need to be hotter than that, for heaven’s sake. At that temperature, she didn’t think I would be able to keep things appropriately clean.

Sigh. Almost made it. And then…I ran out to the van to get our insurance card…and she noticed Fiffer’s &*%$ antibiotic bottle…right in the middle of the kitchen counter.

Maybe we’ll do better in June…

That Pesky (Convicting) Holy Spirit

The story I promised yesterday…

Long, long ago…in a place far, far away…a quarrel erupted within the congregation Jason was serving at the time. It was mostly stirred up by one woman, but the flames were fanned and carried throughout many members of the congregation during one pretty-awful week. Jason spent all day every day that week either talking on the phone or visiting people in their homes, trying to calm everyone down and keep people from doing anything rash. It was an exhausting week for him, and he literally had no time to prepare a sermon. He went to his rarely-used backup plan; he pulled a previously written sermon (based on the same readings) out of his files and preached that one on Sunday morning.

Imagine his surprise when he was attacked after church (just verbally, not physically) by the woman who had kept everything so lively all week. She. was. livid. She just knew that he had written that sermon about her! She was humiliated because everyone else knew that his entire sermon was directed straight at her.

Honestly, he was too flabbergasted to give her much of a reply, but I laughed all week long. “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Indeed…whether the preacher’s in on the plan or not:)