Monday, March 28, 2011

I mean, really, it's just hair!

I am always amazed at what teenagers can come up with.
My 14 year old spends most of his time in trouble.
Often, it's minor offenses at home and school.

But lately, it's been mounting to more and more serious.

The part that is so frustrating to us as parents, however, is that even in the midst of his punishments/consequences, he is clueless to why he's in trouble.

Last week he was suspended for the entire school week. He had mooned the bus driver from a neighboring school, from his bus. The principle was not amused. We were not either. He didn't think it was a big deal at all.

Although it was a prank years ago, it's considered "indecent exposure" now. NOT GOOD. This comes on the tail of other offenses on his school record, typically relating to how poorly his choices are. He usually tries to blame it on someone else, but come on, he is old enough to make his own choices.

So, he's been on house arrest all week, doing hard labor at home. Raking, moving stacks of wood, pulling out bushes. One day he thought he had done all he needed to do for the days chores, and started shooting baskets at 1:00 in the afternoon. OOOPS. NOT . He ended up raking until nearly dark that night when his dad got home.

We thought by giving him this type of work, he would be able to reason that his schooling was important enough to do his best, otherwise this is the type of work he will do for the rest of his life, for lower-than-he-thinks-he's-worth paychecks.

I don't think he's getting it.

He also complained all week about needing a haircut.

He has thick hair, too curly and unmanageable, unless it's short. We gave up taking him to the barber shop because we pay so much for a cut that never suits him. We tried salon's - same thing. He complains. We all agreed he needed a haircut.

What he hated was his dad doing it.

What??? We have been cutting his hair for the majority of time he has lived with us. Over 5 years of haircuts, and all of a sudden, he thinks he's being punished by getting his hair cut.

Really??? Like we have nothing better to do with our time than cut his hair to make him mad?

He complained. He nearly cried. He got sooooo mad.

Come on! It's just HAIR!

The saddest part is that he is more concerned with his hair than his behavior.

I overheard this conversation during the haircut.

Him: "Why can't I get a hair cut that I pay for?"
Dad: "You could. You have enough in savings for one. The bank is not open tonight and you need it cut. What happens in 6 weeks when you need it cut again?"
Him: "You hate me."
Dad: "It's hair. I would rather you were more worried about what you are on the inside instead of the way you look."
Him: "I'm not."
Dad: "I know."

He sees himself as a ladies man. He's a very cocky guy. And he really does not care what people think of him as a person. It's all about the look.

Well, he got his haircut. He's still mad this morning.

Welcome to the land of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. The world where brains don't function like they should, and being a teenager just makes it all the more difficult.

Times like this, I would love to meet his birthmom. I have ALOT against her.

I wish I could say things will get better. Usually I am just holding my breath until the next offense.

Hair or no hair, I love him, but won't tolerate his bad behaviour. It's terribly disturbing to see him self destruct when he has so much potential.

And that, folks, is a typical weekend with this kid.

I am so thankful for my fellow bloggers that have encouraged me along this path. It is tough to go it alone.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Ahhhh, Spring...

It seems like March has gone by so fast in our world! We were complaining about all the snow (ok, I was...) and now at the end of the month we are finally seeing sunshine! If we can get the temps back into the 50's I think I can be happy for a while!

Spring. Ahhhhh, I love it. New growth, warmer temps and the promise of summer coming soon!

Another part of the end of March is our trip out east....New Jersey! Since our kids are going to be stationed in Puerto Rico this summer, this next trip is our last family time heading to the coast. We probably would never have spent time in Jersey had our kids and grandkids not ended up there, so we cherish the memories of the times we have had together. We are already saving up to fly to PR sometime in 2012, but until then, we have 10 days to enjoy time with the kids/grandkids before they move.

We are specifically heading out for an Adoption Awareness/Fundraiser. Scott and Britt, along with their dear friends, Ted and Holly, are hosting this event on April 1st. They have an evening planned of music, Ethiopian coffee, desserts and alot of door prizes plus raffles. The community is coming together to help both families succeed in their Ethiopian adoption plans, and we couldn't be more excited! Being with them during the event is such an awesome opportunity, and being a gramma/pa pa to an Ethiopian angel is so exciting! We are proud of the kids for their loving hearts. They are great parents to our 3 grandsons, and we are thrilled to see them step out in faith to bring this new baby into our lives.

Our second daughter, Jen, is meeting us out there. Our niece, Tona and her family are going with us! 15 coming from Michigan, one from Oregon and the 5 already there, we are packing their house to the max!! 21 people for 10 days!! What a full, exciting time!! We have already decided if it gets too complicated, us girls are going shopping!!

Spring is a time of growth. This is how our family is growing. Stay tuned for more...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Blessing from Uganda

I was so blessed to be able to take several of my children, along with my niece Tona, and her oldest daughter, to listen to a children's choir from Uganda.

What a treat! The children were traveling with the African Renewal Ministries as ambassadors for their hometown villages and the ministry that has impacted each of their young lives. They were ages 9 to 14, and I fell in love the moment I saw their dark faces and beautiful shining eyes!

These children came with sad stories of their lives of poverty, AIDS and hunger. They sang their hearts out and recited beautiful words of the Bible, in testament to the ministry that brought them words of salvation in their darkest days.

Most had lost parents, survived extreme poverty and know what it's like to go to bed on empty tummies, without a loved one to tuck them in and offer them hope for tomorrow.

They were rescued by the words of strangers, offering food, warm beds and a word of hope. They were not alone.

I was so blessed by each of their songs, these talented youngsters that had so much to cry over, but stood before us with wide smiles and a song in their hearts.

They danced, paying tribute to the Americans who provided food. They beat their drums, raising young voices to the sky in praise of their Father God who has met their need for food and shelter. They shouted with enthusiastic voices for the opportunity to thank their supporters, and the hope of gathering more people who could give a portion of their income to send to a far away country, so that their villages would have a hope for their futures, too. We are connected in this big world.

At least 600 children have been privileged to get this type of support that allows them food, schooling and the knowledge that someone a long way from their homes was concerned about them. Concerned enough to do something for someone else.

My Nicole was moved, as I was, to give what she had to give. I have carried their songs and beautiful smiles in the deepest part of my soul this week. I have prayed for them, asking MY Father what HE would have me do to alleviate the suffering of a child I may never meet, in a town I will probably never travel to.

I know the people in Japan are suffering greatly. The devastation is immense. Lives have been lost, ruined. I have prayed and my life has changed in the past year that I have held up the Haitian people before God in prayers, midst their pain in the tragedy of the devastation they suffered last year. I hear the stories of suffering, loss and grief. It moves me deeply, knowing my offerings to be so small, even insignificant in the monumental scheme of world suffering.

But on this night, I also heard the story of hope. Of Love. Of belief in a God who has never failed. A peace in the midst of life's storms.

Henry, one who benefited from the support of people he may never know, is such a man. He speaks softly in his home village in Uganda, but has a big voice for his people while in America. He loves Africa, his home. He is grateful for America, the people who gave what they could give, so he could LIVE.

He told us of a time when he was nearly blind. The glasses provided by a missionary had broken. In his country, losing his eyesight in Africa would be the end of providing for himself, his best option would be as a beggar on the street. He went away to pray, seeking God to restore his vision. God, in all HIS infinite power and grace, restored Henry's sight.

Henry, bringing us into his circle to pray, is thankful for his eyes. He was healed because GOD had a plan. As Henry speaks and prays to our small family group, he is bold and confident in Christ Jesus. God had a plan. Henry is part of that plan.

Henry prays for the child that has captivated our hearts and minds in Liberia.
Henry prays for our family, our health, our concerns.
Henry, as part of God's plan, holds our hands as he intercedes on our behalf.
God is using Henry.

My Meredith was fascinated with Henry's hands. They reminded me of the long, strong hands of my oldest son, Scott. She repeatedly counted his fingers...1,2,3,4,5. He laughed as he held up his other hand, allowing her to count all 10 of his lean fingers again. In the simplicity that Mere is known for, she said, satisfied, "your fingers are just like ours!"

Just like ours. Henry was just like us.

Had Mere' been born in Africa, she would not be the curious 7 year old who is growing and thriving.

Who would Henry be, had he been born on American soil?

I know we will never know those answers, but the thing I DO know for sure, and carry confidently in my heart is this: God spared Mere's life for a reason. HE has a plan for her.

Just like his plan for Henry. A man who walks with God.
A warm, kind and soft spoken man, who is grateful he can see.

And I am grateful that in God's plan, I met Henry. I will probably never see him again this side of heaven.

How many more Henry's are in Africa, praying for something that I could give?

What can I give for Africa?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Let's Talk T.P.

I think I am developing a morbid obsession with toilet paper.

I know, I know. Well-mannered folks do not discuss toilet paper. But I have to get this out of my mind.

We have a lot of butts in our house.
Mike and I have the largest, and then there are the seven smaller ones who live with us. Counting all the people who enter through our revolving front door, (and most all of them need to use the potty) and the occasional party, there are numerous butts to consider. But I have come to believe their sizes are not the issue here.

I just want to go on record and say I believe our family must be the largest consumer
(is that the term for t.p?) in town. We buy the largest pack, after many years of scientific research, of Scot Tissue. It has the most sheets per roll, has the best breakdown ability so our toilets won't clog, and it is perfume free for all the sensitive skin. It's a bargain per roll that I can not pass up!

I can stock up on everything in this house and can whip up a soup or sandwich, plus dessert, with what I keep on hand, for any one who stops by and needs to eat. I never run out of snacks, tooth paste or dental floss. I can find meat in the freezer, and there is at least a half box of cereal some where. But somehow, we are always on the last roll and have had, more than once, someone stranded.

It's usually me.

Now, I am the one who buys the TP in bulk. I feel like I am carrying pure gold as I labor to stash it on the highest shelf, out of reach of the ones who think it makes an excellent crafting material.

I have accused the older kids of stashing it in their rooms for evil TPing events.
I can never find it there.

The littlest of the kids are apt to be the stingiest users, and actually, the majority of the time I have to remind them what it is for.

But today, TODAY, I proceeded to the Throne Room just to find out the last roll, indeed, had been shredded on the floor. The ENTIRE floor. Although Scot Tissue is not known for its cloud-like softness, I believed as I traipsed through the shreds that I must be walking on clouds. No one in my family would have shredded THE LAST ROLL!

Since everyone but Bella and I were home this morning, and we had not had any visitors yet, I suspected immediately it was her.

You know who she thought it was? Carl.

He's our dog. In his cage. Sound asleep.

What would you do?

So, I gathered up a sufficient amount off the floor to finish my business, checked the supply in hiding, realizing I would have to make an emergency visit to the local Walmart, AGAIN, and turned the light out as I left the restroom.

I thought briefly of the money I am saving while I turn off every glowing light, and I tried not to obsess about the money we have just wasted on the choice of usage on that last roll.

However, I also wondered, how many rolls do NORMAL families send to the sewer on a regular basis?

And, would it be entirely weird if I labeled each one, dated the rolls, or some other way
try to account for how much TP our family uses? Kinda like a library system, although not one where they had to return anything. But, you know, a certain number of sheets per person, checked out on a daily mind wanders with the possibilities.

I am thinking the Scot Tissue company should be sending us a great big thank you note any
day now.

Hopefully when it comes in the mail, I will not be stranded!

Spanish Lessons

Ever since hearing that my oldest son and his family had received their orders to transfer to Puerto Rico with the Coast Guard, we have talked about learning Spanish.

It will be needful for them, of course, to be able to communicate with the locals there, but I am so glad it's not me.

I feel like I struggle sometimes just finding the right words in English, although I had always wished I could speak another language. I just feel too old to tackle something that big at this point of my life.

But I do know it is much easier to learn an alternate language the younger you are. Scott and Britt are turning 25 this week, so they could learn fairly easy. Their kids are 1,3 and 5. They will learn it even quicker!

So, as we watch Dora, The Explorer (which is mostly referred to here as Dora, De Esplora) we learn common words in the easiest way possible. We know a lot of our color words, numbers and what to say for open and close.

This week, I couldn't help but chuckle when Bella asked, while watching Dora, what did "Da mucus" mean?

In all my Spanish language wisdom, I was stumped. Da Mucus?

In the background I heard Dora singing to her friends.

"Way to go, Amigos!"

I turned to Bella, and said, "Oh, do you mean Amigos?"

"Yep. Da Mucus."

So, that's how she has learned it, from the expert Dora.
Please, do not be offended if she calls you da mucus.
She is really just saying she wants to be your friend!


Friday, March 4, 2011

Life and Death

My uncle is dying.

I went to lunch with my parents this week. I try to do that as often as I can. This week we discussed death, and all the things no one really wants to talk about.

It was hard.

It is hard to see my dad's last brother slipping away. As he struggles finding the reality, he is living day to day knowing it's getting closer. Of course, we all are getting closer to death each day of living, but once you get that actual "Dr. Said" notice, it must be frustrating living out the last of your minutes in vague understanding of what is happening as your body fails.

I saw my uncle last summer. We have had a long distance relationship with him for years, as he has lived a solitary life (of his choosing) many, many miles from home. My generation has spread out far and wide in this world, but most of my aunts and uncles continue to live close by.

Except this one. We maintained contact via emails, and occasional visits. The last one was when he returned for my grandma's funeral. He was struggling with clear thinking back then, and I began to realize the days were getting shorter. I probably will not see him again before he's gone.

I look forward to the reports I hear of how he's doing. My cousins, his children, are doing good at keeping the rest of us updated on his health. He sounds happy and is being well cared for.

But it's hard to see.
And it's getting harder for my dad.

He lost his first brother almost 16 years ago to a tragic auto accident. It reshaped the lives of our entire family when he passed.

Now, Dad is realizing the memories they have always shared are mostly now in his own mind. When his brother is gone, he remains as the oldest of the siblings, but what he shared with his brothers will be his alone.

It makes him sad. He is grateful for his 4 younger sisters. But he seems to feel like a lone wolf, in charge of a dying pack.

Death is hard.

I look at dad, strong and proud. He is slowing down, his health is poor. He doesn't ask for pity, he just needs someone to talk to. I know his days are not long for this earth, and I know his passing with be difficult for me.

But I also know that I have been loved and cared for over 50 years now, by a loving father, much softer in heart than he appears on the surface. Many of my life values have been shaped and polished by this man. He says he carried me the first five years of my life. I hope to help carry him the last years of his.

Life. Death. It's all we have. I hope I am making the most of mine.
I know my examples have been the family men that I have looked up to.
Heaven will welcome them when it's their time to enter the pearly gates.

And God will bottle our tears. Psalm 56:8