Big. Week.

Although I want to get back to writing on a more daily basis, this week was not the week for that, so here’s one ginormous update…

First of all, this week kicked. my. butt. Wow. The routine for this school year is…working at the daycare from 6:30-11:30, then home for schooling with Hayden (Bible, geometry, physics, world history, literature, Spanish, instruments, and P.E.), getting the little kids off the bus at 4:00, spending the evening on homework, supper, meltdowns, baths, stories, and bedtime battles, finishing up some work with Hayden, visiting with her and Jason a little, and then to bed as early as possible. Big. Days. But we made it. And the little kids got up at 6:00 this morning to celebrate Saturday. Fabulous.

I am learning so much at daycare. I was blessed to be able to stay home with our kids, so this is a new experience for me, and I am continually amazed at the staff. They are unbelievable. I’ve always thought I was reasonably good with kids…after all, I’ve raised a few of my own. However, since I haven’t raised them 20 at a time…I’m pretty darn clueless. These women that can keep a whole group of three-year-olds happy, safe, and learning…and the toddlers…and don’t even get me started on the babies. I have subbed in the baby room a couple of times, and it has made me feel like I’ve never had a baby in my life. There are a couple of twenty-something “Baby Whisperers” in that room that leave me in complete awe. Day care workers should be paid $20 an hour…after all, they’re taking care of our most precious “possessions.” They’re not…which means they do it out of love…which is pretty awesome.

The littles are adjusting to school. Little Feff, after getting long not-very-complimentary notes from his kindergarten teacher for the first five days of school, finally got smiley-faces this past Thursday and Friday. Hopefully, hopefully, he is making the adjustment. First-grader Feffer has seemed to be doing well…no news is good news, right?…but we did get a phone call from the bus garage yesterday, saying that the little toot has been so naughty on the bus that…after repeated warnings since it’s the beginning of the year…they decided to call me. I told Feffer that he will no longer walk from the bus to our house (a total distance of one front yard). Instead, one of us will meet the bus every afternoon, so that the bus driver can give us a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down. A thumbs-down means that Feffer won’t play outside that afternoon. So…I’m thinking he’ll have some pretty amazing Lego creations by the end of the week. Fiffer seems to be doing great, although I have yet to talk to her teacher…hopefully this week.

Dillon had court this past Wednesday. Since the children’s home is two hours away, Jason and I split a total of eight hours of driving for that day (on top of everything else). Delightful. Back when Dillon got into trouble, we were told that the case would probably be swept under the rug (since it’s his first offense) unless we (as the parents) pushed the issue. Although we considered doing that (because we wanted him to learn something from the whole experience), we dropped it once we decided to send him to the children’s home. However, no one informed the judge that this was something to sweep under the rug. She sentenced the little lad to a year’s probation, 30 hours of community service, and $216 in court costs (which he will pay using his $5-a-week-from-the-children’s-home allowance). Yikes. Jason and I were both duly impressed. Dillon…not so much. I’m afraid he sees it as a bit of a status symbol…proof that he is just as “bad ass” as he himself believes. On the way home, he even told me that he committed the crime because he was hoping it would get him sent to live somewhere besides our house. The fact that that could have been the detention center doesn’t even make him blink.

Hayden is rocking right along. She and I both doubled down on the week’s schedule on Monday and Tuesday, so she was done with the week’s worth of school by 3:30 yesterday afternoon. Alleluia. Besides her schoolwork, she’s working at the daycare center every day, playing in the community orchestra, volunteering for a weekly program at our church, helping with special-needs sports through our recreation center, and visiting the nursing homes on Sunday afternoons with her dad. She’s a busy girl. She’s also a little lonely; she was beyond delighted when Josiah called her earlier this week to fill her in on college life…and she was happy to run around with a friend yesterday afternoon…movie, ice cream, and errands…good times.

Josiah is doing great. From several reports (please remember that I have spies everywhere), my somewhat-quiet child has morphed into a very social young man. He loves his classes, especially New Testament (taught by a friend’s husband), which he has talked a lot about. He has spent lots of time “jamming” with several other guitar players from his dorm; this has morphed into a band, including a keyboard and who knows what else. At about 2:30 this morning, he posted on Facebook, “Fugitive is amazing! Running around a strange town in the middle of the night while being hunted. Life doesn’t get much better than that.” So. I think he’s adjusting fine.

Zachery has been quiet this week. I don’t think I’ve talked to him at all, which is unusual. Hopefully, we will catch up with him, Raven, and Sophia tomorrow over lunch.

Quincy is doing great, as well. Her two favorite classes so far are “Interp” (Interpretation of Pauline Epistles) and Christian Teacher’s Ministry (or something like that…taught by a prof I had back in the day). My previously perfectionist daughter is pretty laid back as she starts her junior year, a change that I am delighted to see. Her social life seems to be rocking right along too; she was watching movies at a friend’s house into the wee hours last night. So. She seems happy too.

Haley is in transition right now…looking for a new job, moving into a new apartment, learning about a new roommate. She and I have talked a couple of times this week, and she’s talking about coming home for Thanksgiving. It will be good to see her…if that all works out…things change pretty fast in Haley’s world.

So…there you have it. Now…off to grocery shopping…and hopefully a movie date with my husband this afternoon. Blessed Saturday.

Big Changes

After a busy week of transitioning everyone, tomorrow is the official start of a new chapter in the Rensner household…complete with big changes for almost everyone.

Feff started kindergarten this past week. He attended two days, and both of them were a little rocky. The very first day, his teacher called to report that he had thrown a thirty-minute screaming fit because she took his scissors away from him. When Feff is upset by something in his real life (like having his scissors taken away), he retreats into his imaginary lives (which right now consist of big doses of “Frozen” with a dash of “Annie” and “Beauty and the Beast” thrown in for good measure). So…during his thirty-minute fit…in the classroom…on his very first day…he was screaming things like “The beast! The beast is coming for me!” and “I’m a foster kid! You can’t treat me like this!” and “You’re shutting me out! You can’t shut me out!” and “You’re freezing my heart!” Good heavens. When he got off the bus from his second day of kindergarten, he reported that his teacher had been nicer that day (smile), so he hadn’t had to sit in the red chair (evidently, the spot designated for fit-throwers). However, he had gotten in trouble on the bus. When asked what on earth had happened on the bus, he replied, “I was very angry, so I was punching some kids. And then the bus driver came back there and…(dramatic pause for eye-widening)…he freaked out on me…and I had to sit in the front seat.” Oy. Let’s hope things get better from here.

Feffer started first grade this past week…at a new building. He has reported good days, a nice teacher, and fun friends…and we haven’t heard anything different from anyone, so we’re hoping all is well there. Thank heavens.

Fiffer started third grade…at a different new building. The biggest news in third grade (so far) is that they get lockers, which she has only mentioned about 5000 times. She seems happy and excited so far, as well.

Dillon started his freshman year at Carmi Public School this past Monday. He was all excited about it when Jason talked to him on Sunday. Hopefully, it will be a good year for him.

Hayden starts her junior year tomorrow. She’s both excited and nervous about being the only student at Rensner Academy…a big change…but we have (I hope) a fun year planned.

Josiah starts his freshman year at Concordia tomorrow. I took him and Quincy to Nebraska this weekend, and we got them both moved into their dorms. It was a great time. More and more of my former classmates are showing up to bring their children to college, so it’s move-in weekend and a mini-reunion all at the same time. So. Much. Fun. Unfortunately, we were so busy that I only took one picture (sorry, Quincy). Josiah was eager to get started and has reported fun times since I said goodbye to him Friday evening.

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Quincy starts her junior year at Concordia tomorrow. My formerly perfectionist daughter is very laid back these days, but she did finally buy a couple of textbooks yesterday, so I think she’ll be fine:) She and I had some extra time together Friday evening and Saturday morning, which was super fun, and we were both a little teary when I dropped her back at the dorm on Saturday morning. Quincy is perfectly happy at home and at school…it’s just that transitions are tough for her. I know the feeling.

And…last but not least…after a couple of days of getting my feet wet this past week…I officially start a part-time job at a daycare center tomorrow. It turns out that paying someone else to raise your delinquent child is a budget-buster, which is a bummer, but we definitely saw God’s hand in me getting this job. I had resigned myself to fast-food because I wanted to match my hours with Hayden’s (she works at the same day-care center), so that we could have the same hours free to homeschool. When I double-checked Hayden’s hours with her boss (a member of our church), she offered me a job too. So…I’ll go in at 6:30…Hayden will go in at 8:00…and we’ll both get off at 11:30. We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect solution…except that poor Jason has to get the littles on the bus…which is his big change for this year…bless his heart.

So…after some good worship this morning…and hopefully a nap this afternoon…let the games begin.

Throwback Saturday

The kids gave Jason a little grief about his eye patch last night.  As I was debating about making him a little sleeve for his glasses, I asked them, “Do you think it will just look stupid?”

Quincy snorted and nodded at her dad (who was wearing a pirate-like eye patch with an elastic band around his head), “Stupider than that?!”

As we were cleaning up the table, Josiah tossed his dad the dishcloth, and then they all laughed hysterically when Jason completely missed it (that darn depth perception).

Poor Jason.

They come by it honestly, though. When Amy and I were kids, our dad was in an oilfield accident and had to have both his eyes bandaged for a time. I think there was some thought that he might experience some permanent blindness, but that didn’t stop Amy and I from enjoying ourselves. When Mom told us to get him something to drink with dinner, we opened the refrigerator and asked, “What looks good tonight, Dad?” before collapsing in laughter. After Mom set his plate in front of him and guided his hand to show him where each item was, we spent the rest of the meal reaching over and giving his plate a little spin…just to keep things interesting.

So. I’m going to do my best to keep the children from tossing things to their dad today…but I won’t be all that surprised if it doesn’t work:)

“Just A Virus”

Yes, it was just a virus. It was. And a pretty typical one, at that. But those darn viruses can bite you in the butt.

After all, it was a virus (a week before our wedding) that caused the crazy scars on his retinas.

And it was a virus (14 1/2 years ago) that attacked his heart and left it permanently weakened.

So, why was I surprised when this morning, instead of finally heading off to work (after 4 days of illness), he woke me with the words, “I’m seeing double”? Of course, he was.

So we called the eye doctor. And we headed to Vandalia (since there wasn’t a doctor in the Effingham office today) so they could take a look. After that, we hightailed it to Salem, so a specialist could take another look. Monday will bring blood work to rule out something. Tuesday will bring a trip to Marion to see another specialist to rule out something else. If both those things are ruled out (and the doctor is pretty sure they will be), we’ll wait for it to heal on its own. If it doesn’t, we’ll head for…wait for it…another specialist…who will fix it.

In the meantime, he’s supposed to patch one eye (which resolves the two images into one) so that he can go on with his life (the constant double-vision causes headaches and nausea). We searched the world over for an eye patch, but the only ones we could find were adhesive ones (which are annoying for the long term) or conical (which don’t fit behind his glasses very well). After seeing an inspiration on the internet, I fixed him up with a little sleeve for his glasses instead.

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Doesn’t that look snazzy?

Just a virus. Oy.

Whirlwind Days of Late Summer

We’ve been so busy wringing the last drops of fun out of these summer days that I haven’t taken the time to blog…

Hayden and her friend Emma juggled at the Effingham County Fair talent show. So much fun!

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Sophia got a high chair to use at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. She wasn’t completely sure about it on the first day, but she’ll be enjoying family mealtimes with us in no time.

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I called to talk to Dillon Sunday, only to find that he had already had a phone call. Apparently, another boy’s mom had called, there was a miscommunication so Dillon got on the phone, and the two of them talked for fifteen minutes before either one of them realized that it was a conversation between strangers. Oy.

We made the decision that Feff can no longer sleep in our room. Unfortunately, he wasn’t part of the decision-making process, so he’s not really on board with the plan, which has made for some long nights. The kid hears everything. I’m wanting to buy him something to play music or something, since we have so many fans in his room, the poor child is going to freeze to death.

Hayden started her new job at the day care center last week, and loves it!

Josiah ordered (and received) his textbooks for first semester. Seven hundred dollars. Good heavens. His calculus book alone was $300. He better learn a lot!

Quincy put in 22 hours at Panda Express this past Monday and Tuesday. She has one more day to work, and then she will be done with that job. Suffice it to say, that if she ends up working in Effingham again next summer, she will re-apply at the day care center instead of Panda.

Along with the rest of their youth group, Josiah and Hayden went on a camping/canoeing trip that was short on canoeing and long on flash flooding. It was cut a day short, but they still came home with stories galore.

After some poorly timed fits got the little kids grounded from family outings for a bit, we did take them to the St. Louis Zoo yesterday…what a fun/hot/exhausting day! They were impressed by St. Louis itself (especially the “h-arch”), and they loved the zoo. We got a bunch of tickets as part of a membership package, so we saw a sea lion show, rode the train, rode the carousel, and petted the sting rays…as well as enjoying favorites like the penguins, primates, and big cats. It was a great day.

Jason didn’t come with us, though, because he’s been hit by the flu. He ran a fever for a few days last week, but it hit with a vengeance on Monday, complete with body aches, chills, fever, and non-stop vomiting. Yesterday, he was fine to be home alone (who wouldn’t be?!), but couldn’t even look at his computer screen without feeling nauseous. He spent the day eating soup and drinking Sprite (rejoicing that everything was finally staying down), taking naps, and sitting on the driveway in his bathrobe soaking up the sunshine (and looking like the neighborhood drunk). Today, he got up and headed to church, so we’ll see how it goes.

Quincy, Josiah, Hayden, and I met some friends at 4:00 this morning to watch the meteor shower. We started doing this when the kids were so little that they watched for a couple of minutes and then played flashlight tag with their friends while the adults watched the sky. Now, we lay on blankets and watch and visit and laugh, while they wonder aloud if they’ll do this with their own kids. Joy.

After dropping an exhausted Quincy back at home (after two days of double-shifts and one day of zoo fun), Josiah and Hayden and I headed to Dennys for breakfast. We had a great time, and then Si and I crashed for a bit, while poor Hayden went to work. She will definitely need a nap!

We still have a couple of outings to fit in before school starts, as well as a list of favorite foods that the going-back-to-college kids would like to have one more time before they leave. Let the fun continue!

And I Thought It Would Be A Fun Day…

Yes, I know. Rookie mistake. Or early senility. Or something like that. But I really thought that it would be a fun day. After all, the kids have been excited to buy school supplies and school clothes…surely it would be fun.

It wasn’t. Not at all. I’ve had surgical procedures that were more fun. In no particular order, it was the morning of hell because…

1. The Lists. Like most schools, our school puts out a school supply list for each grade. Our local Walmart, in an effort to accommodate, puts the school supplies front and center starting after the fourth of July. Perfect. Except…not. We shopped for three kids this year…not bad, right? Except.

Feffer needs 6 glue sticks…easy enough…they come in packages of 6. But Fiffer only needs 4. Screw it. Buy a package of 6. Feff needs 4 too, but he needs the large ones…which come in packages of 3. Splurge on two packages or make the teacher resentful on day 1? Six large glue sticks it is.

Feff and Fiffer both need 1 package of Ticonderoga wooden #2 pencils, sharpened. Our Walmart doesn’t carry the pre-sharpened ones, but I don’t want to extend the fun of this trip, so we buy a box of unsharpened and vow to sharpen them when we get home. Feffer needs thirty-six of the same pencils…conveniently sold in boxes of 24. Again…tick off the teacher? 48 pencils for him.

Fiffer needs a 12-inch wooden ruler. Walmart carries plastic rulers, rubber rulers, metal rulers, and one style of plastic/faux wooden ruler. It will have to do.

Other fails…4 expo dry-erase markers with erasers (Walmart doesn’t have the kind with erasers…use one of the tissues from the six boxes we purchased today).  Two boxes of 8 Washable Broad-Tipped Crayola Markers – Classic Colors? Take 10; they’re small. Two highlighters for this class, 1 for this class, a whole rainbow package for this class…I tried to put them each in the right backpack, but I make no promises.

Here’s my thought…I spent about $40 per child on school supplies. How about if next year I (and every other parent) write a $50 check to the teacher, let the kids take empty backpacks to school the first day, and be done with it? Then the teachers can get whatever ziploc bags/highlighters/wet wipes/pencils/ear buds/snacks/glue sticks/dry erase markers/regular markers/folders/erasers/crayons/scissors/notebooks/composition books/bottles of glue they want, and the rest of us won’t have to endure the hunt. Please. Right next to year-around school, this is my top request.

2. The Children. I have the most ungrateful children known to mankind (our fosters, not our kids). I. Swear. They each needed a fresh round of clothes because their summer clothes and shoes are in tatters right now…trust me, it’s been mentioned. Of course, it will be a while before we need any long pants, long sleeves, or jackets. Thankfully, shorts and t-shirts are on clearance, so I picked up 5 cheap outfits each, plus new tennies. Sounds easy, right? Not so much. Fiffer is determined to dress like a hooker, and the boys want anything with an obnoxious character on it…both pet peeves of mine. I won on the boys clothes, but gave in on their shoes (the spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak by then). I won on Fiffer’s shoes and shirts, but her shorts are a little shorter and flimsier than I would prefer. Oh, well. You win some, you lose some.

3. The Forms. Tomorrow is school registration day, so I pulled paperwork together this morning and realized I was missing forms from the eye doctor and the dentist. Yes, I know. But at least Feff has had both appointments. I ran by the dentist, and they printed one off for me with a smile. So imagine my surprise when I ran into the paperwork nazi at the eye doctor’s office. She glared and sighed heavily as she explained to me that the doctor would have to fill out another form. I apologized and expressed my surprise that it wasn’t just in their computer system already. No, she explained, it would have to be filled out again. (By the way, this is not a school physical form or an immunization record. It’s 5 little boxes that have to be checked…since Feff didn’t need a prescription…and then the doctor scribbles his name. Plus…I’m pretty sure they just fill it out with a pen…not blood or anything. If she had given me a blank form, I could’ve done it myself, forged signature and all.) After a little more scolding, she agreed that I could come back later today and pick the blasted thing up. I did, and she had indeed printed it from her computer…two pages on the same side of the paper…facing opposite directions. Her co-worker was as confused as I was at the messy copy, but the doctor’s signature is clear, so I’m sure we’ll be fine…I hope.

So. Lesson learned. Next year (if they’re still with us), the Fs will receive a beautiful character-free backpack loaded with school supplies that they didn’t have to shop for (unless I can convince their teachers to just take $50 instead). Next to their backpacks, the Fs will find bags of character-free, non-hooker clothing that they…wait for it…also didn’t have to shop for. And if things don’t fit? I’ll make another trip. Really. I won’t mind.

The Countdown Begins

It happens every summer. July d-r-a-g-s out, and I wonder if the summer is ever going to end, if the kids are ever going to go back to school, if my limited capacity for less structure will survive until then. I “work” haphazardly on my summer projects (homeschool lesson plans and the Sunday School Christmas program). And then…just like that…it’s August, and I find myself frantically working to get ready while still digging my heels in to enjoy the last days of summer. In 15 days, the littles will return to school. In 16 days, the bigs will go to college. The race is on.

The past few days have been like a little mini-vacation. Tom was here, which always adds a holiday feeling to the house. Quincy and Josiah were both off work, which was delightful. Hayden had friends spend the night Friday night; we’ve gone swimming several times, eaten big, treated ourselves to more ice cream, and ended most evenings with giggling games of Catch Phrase. Good times.

Tom is back home now, and Quincy goes back to work today…but she’s down to two weeks left…and she has a couple of days off this week…which we plan to fill with more “summer bucket list” items. Si and Hay have a canoe trip with the youth group this weekend. The little kids still need school supplies and school clothes (and shopping for them should be fun…right? right?). Lesson plans are about 80% done; the Christmas program is about 10% done..,

Oy. I better get off of here and get busy before the littles get up and start their day. Happy last days of summer!