Wink?

For the most part, Dillon continues to be im.poss.i.ble. I’ve started saying “yes” to stuff that usually gets a solid “no.” There are several reasons for this:

1. I really am trying to maintain/repair my relationship with this stubborn son of mine.

2. Some days, I’m just too tired to fight.

3. Sometimes, the “yes” makes him regret his ridiculous requests.

So…when he asked to sleep in the tent for a couple of nights…and I told him it was going to be pretty chilly…and he looked at me like I was crazy…I said “yes.”

There’s a frost advisory tonight. Is it possible that God is winking at me from heaven?

W-w-what?!

I’m not a collector. I admit it. Amassing a quantity of something is just not something that has ever appealed to me.

So you can imagine my shock this morning. I popped “Thomas: Hero of the Rails” into the DVD player (Feff had picked it out from the library yesterday), and the two of us watched an ad for a building set called “Spin & Fix Thomas.” Feff commented on how cool it was, and I agreed. While he watched his movie, I sat at the computer and clicked on Amazon.com. After all, Feff has a birthday coming up, and this looked like a good idea.

At least it did until I saw the price..$415.40. W-w-what? Not to worry, though, there are three more available…for $449.99, $529.99, and $583.93. Other sites brought similar results. Whoa.

Even if I was a collector, that would just. be. crazy.

I will be picking out a lovely Thomas building set from the local Walmart, thank you very much. Feff will never know the difference.

It Could Be Worse

Wow. Raising juvenile delinquents (as well as the rest of the children) is hard, exhausting, emotional work. Without tempting fate or anything (which I realize is a silly superstition), this week has been one of the top ten (or bottom ten) of worst weeks ever.

First of all, Haley’s had a tough week. After she called Sunday night heartbroken and at her wit’s end, she decided she would come home for a few days. Then her car got broken into…and her money stolen. And, while we were able to help a little bit, we can’t swoop in and make everything all better for her, which has made for sadness both in New York and here at home.

Speaking of here at home, things have gone from already-pretty-darn-hard to barely-possible-with-the-help-of-God around here. Dillon has landed himself in a heap of legal trouble, which I won’t go into here, but which has the potential to change the course of his life. He, however, is not sorry…or humbled…or embarrassed. In fact, he asked me the other day if it had ever dawned on me that maybe if I had ever been any kind of a mother to him, he wouldn’t have made the (ginormous) mistake he did.

Fiffer, too, has upped the ante. Although she’s been under as-constant-as-we-can-make-it surveillance for her wall-decorating-stuff-smashing-food-stealing behavior, she got past us one afternoon this week. Feffer had been home all day with a tummy bug, so she got off the bus and walked the tiny distance to our house alone. Before she came in the house (as we found out the next morning), she grabbed a sharp stick and punctured the family’s bike tires (7 in all…she missed one of Josiah’s because it was stuck in a corner…and she…of course…skipped her own).

It was on our way to Walmart for new bike tubes (I can’t stand to have the little boys heartbroken like that) that Dillon asked (after several other charming statements), “Why are you even foster parenting…”

He let the sentence peter out, but the context gave me the clue I needed. To double-check his intention, I asked, “Since we’re so bad at it?”

He shrugged. “Well, yeah. I mean, really, Mom, don’t you ever wonder why everyone who comes into your house is so angry and has so many problems?”

I wondered aloud if that was actually the case for everyone who comes into my house and if (maybe, just maybe) foster kids have anger and problems because of the things that happened to them prior to coming into my house. He shrugged again and replied that, while that might be part of the problem, he’s pretty sure I make everything worse.

I told him that was enough with the talking and turned up the radio.

And he doesn’t know this, but I have been wondering the exact same thing. Several friends (much more kindly) have suggested that maybe we have more on our plates than we can handle right now. I couldn’t agree more. I just don’t know what to do about it. We’re trying to get Fiffer the help she needs (which may someday include a break from us), but she comes as part of a sibling package, and we don’t want to do anything to further harm her little brothers. Plus, she’s eight years old…and I’m not quite ready to give up on a little girl. If Dillon doesn’t end up in the juvenile detention center (his misguided dream come true), he wants us to put him somewhere (anywhere!) else. He wants us to put him in a children’s home, where kids make remarkable turn-arounds because they finally have a loving home and needed structure…but…wait…don’t we have that here…for “free”?

So the week has held a couple of tear-filled, sleep-deprived nights. And when the caseworker called yesterday and said that they want me to get more training so that I can better manage Fiffer’s issues, it was a blessing…a sign that they are finally hearing us. But, on the other hand, it frustrated me. I don’t want to have any more training. I don’t want to rearrange our lives so that I can sit in class. I also don’t want to learn all the new information we’re bound to learn from the state’s attorney (about Dillon’s case). I’m weary to the bone. Why isn’t there extra training for these children?! Why can’t they go sit in classes all day and learn to knock. it. off?!

But, alas. That’s not how this works. And I’ve always longed for some sort of challenging life-work. Right? Right?!

But I’ve been feeling sorry for myself. I have. I admit it. But then yesterday, I happened to get out of my van as our next door neighbor was walking by (not Jennifer, for those of you who know us). As usual, she didn’t ask about us at all, but just launched into a long monologue about her own woes. It seems that she’s struggling with a very pesky rash on her tushy. She went on and on and on, telling me about it, while I choked back laughter and prayed that Hayden wouldn’t walk outside, which would have completely unhinged me. Mercy.

But I went inside the house with a new attitude. Yes, things are tough right now. But God is seeing us through, and I know He will continue to do so. And…at least my butt doesn’t itch:)

Maybe the 11th Commandment?

I hate eye-rolling. Hate it. I have told the chief eye-rollers around here (Dillon and Fiffer…surprise, surprise) that they better knock it off or I’m going to pluck their eyeballs right out of their heads.

Feff thinks that sounds pretty funny. So, when he’s feeling particularly silly, he’ll tell me, “Kris, I am rolling my eyes at you” and then giggle like a little fiend when I tickle him and “threaten” him. The funniest thing about it is that he can’t really roll his eyes at all. When he claims to be rolling his eyes, he’s really just widening them at me.

Yesterday at lunch, he was on a roll (pun intended). “Kris, I’m rolling my eyes at you. Hayden, I’m rolling my eyes at you”…laughing hysterically as he meaningfully widened his eyes at each of us in turn. We were laughing right along with him as he repeated this performance several times. Then, upping the comic ante (at least in his own mind), he said, “I’m rolling my eyes…at Jesus Christ!”

Oh, dear. That can’t be good:)

What We’re Reading

For those of you (like me), who are always looking for something to read, here’s what the Rensners are reading these days.

Josiah just finished Five Smooth Stones, one of my favorite books in the whole world. It was first suggested to me by one of my college profs as a possible source for a paper I was writing. The book (at the time) was long-since out of print, though, so I couldn’t find a copy to include in my paper, but I later snatched up a worn paperback when I saw it at a used book store. I read and reread that book so often that eventually the thing fell apart and I lost pages of it. Years ago, I spent $50 for a pristine hardback copy. Fifty dollars. For a book. Can you tell how much I like the thing? Anyway, Josiah picked it up a couple weeks ago, up for the challenge (it’s pretty hefty) and hasn’t been able to put it down since. If you’re into an epic-flavored book about race relations in this country, give it a whirl. Now that it’s a “rediscovered classic,” it won’t even cost you $50.

Hayden is in the midst of Flames of Rome, another great book, this one by Paul L. Maier (a big name in Lutheran circles). It’s about first-century Rome and Nero and the early Christian church. It’s a hefty one, too, but so interesting that the pages fly right by.

Dillon is in the midst of Sequoyah and the Cherokee Alphabet. It’s about…well…Sequoyah…and the Cherokee alphabet…pretty self-explanatory. It’s the sad story, too, of the demise of our Native Americans…a good book. The only reason Dillon’s not enjoying it is because Dillon is not enjoying much of anything this week. Ugh.

The little kids each pick a storybook every evening (although Fiffer has missed story time a few times this week because of her crimes). One of the choices last night was Horton Hatches the Egg. Of course, they have seen the movie (drat seeing the movie before hearing the book!), but they liked it anyway. It seemed new to me because it’s been so long since I read it, and it struck me as such a powerful parable of foster-parenting. Believe it or not, I’m pretty sure that idea struck Fiffer too, as Mayzie flies away to leave someone else to care for her child (still in the egg). Fiffer’s eyes flew to mine and her mouth opened, but then she shook her head and wouldn’t talk. Sigh. As we continue to be challenged to the breaking point by this child, “I meant what I said, and I said what I meant…an elephant’s faithful, one hundred per cent” seems like a pretty good mantra.

So…what have you been reading?

Easter Weekend Catching Up

Saturday morning was the traditional, always-fun Easter Egg Hunt at our church. The littles had a day of parental visits, so they weren’t able to join us…bummer.

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Sunday morning was the traditional Sunday School Sunrise Service. After it was over, several people told me, “Kris, I almost cried!” To be honest, I almost cried too…but for different reasons. The bad part about being in charge of such a production is that you see and hear every single mistake. And there were a few this year. But…in the end…the Gospel was proclaimed…the music was beautiful…and the children were awesome. So what if Jesus only fed 2500 (because the rest of the crowd didn’t come to the front like they were supposed to)? Feeding twenty-five hundred is still impressive. Right?

We finished up our morning at church with a potluck breakfast (delicious!) and the festival Easter service. I didn’t keep count of the “Alleluias” (like my friend Gwyn does), but they were joyfully abundant. He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

After lunch (and, yes, we were all hungry again), Josiah and Hayden (our favorite children ever) took the littles to the park and let them play, hunt eggs, and splash in the creek while Jason and I took a much-needed nap. So. Awesome. Then Josiah and I finished up park duty, while Jason and Hayden went to the nursing homes.

That evening, we finally got around to dyeing Easter eggs…

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before Jason and Josiah headed to a friend’s house to watch the Cubs and Cardinals play.

Monday was Feffer’s sixth birthday. He has been needing a new bike for a while now, and since bike-riding is his favorite activity in the whole wide world, the gift selection for this year was an easy one. He was nervous the night before, though, and told me he didn’t want a new bike after all (maybe bracing himself for disappointment?). However, when he awoke Monday morning to find a new bike and a new helmet waiting in the playroom, he was outwardly cool but secretly delighted. We’ve barely been able to get him off of it ever since.

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After a day of riding bikes, we had the first cookout of the season, did a quick token birthday cake, and hustled the exhausted children (I love how playing outside wipes them out) into bed…

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before we watched the NCAA Championship game. If only it could have been someone besides Duke…

Happy times.

Happy Easter

The littles were out of school yesterday, so they accompanied me on my even-bigger-than-normal-because-it’s-Easter grocery shopping trip. They didn’t want to go, but we’re combatting a little center-of-the-universe thinking over here, so we loaded up the van and went.

Whoa. Aside from the fact that everyone from the tri-county area was at Walmart yesterday, the kids were in rare form. Fiffer was trying to be good, but she’s just one of those kids (and I’m pretty sure I was like that too) that’s constantly in the way. Between bumping into her and shooing her out of the way of oncoming shoppers, I was wishing she were small enough to put in a cart. At one point, I smelled a distinct odor and asked Feff, “Are you poopy?” He shook his head, but Fiffer answered, “That wasn’t me. But I need to go to the bathroom. Right. Now.” They were cleaning Bathroom #1, and Bathroom #2 had a line. Oy.

Feffer (although riding in a cart), on the other hand, was in full naughty mode. Eventually (after throwing a package of cherry tomatoes onto the floor, whining incessantly, and touching everything he could get his almost-six-years-old-way-too-old-for-this-nonsense hands on), he lost his afternoon egg-hunting privileges (which did nothing for the incessant whining).

Only little Feff was a pleasure to have along. He happily shouted out numbers all the way through the store…”Kris, that costs twenty-two! Oh, that costs fifteen! We’re in Aisle Five…and Six! Kris, we’re in Five and Six! Oh, Kris, that costs thirty-four!” (he knows his numbers, and he’s not afraid to use them). After we finally (mercifully) checked out, I told the greeter, “Happy Easter,” which Feff took as his cue to be in his own little private parade. “Happy Easter!” he chirped to the checker. Then, as we progressed out of the store (bumping into Fiffer and listening to Feffer whine), he waved and shouted to everyone we passed, “Happy Easter! Happy Easter! Hey, you at Number Seven, Happy Easter! Happy Easter!”

My sentiments exactly. Happy Easter (a day early), everyone!