Sunday, October 28, 2012

One Of Us Has to Be An Adult - It Won't Be Me

India's doodling

Amanda's take on the same clipart

Service started normally enough. I was already pumped up since I was listening to classic rock on the way in. Amanda threw a fit when the Beatles came on but when I changed the station Clapton was just starting, so all was good.  We headed into church knowing it is Youth Sunday, which means the Youth Minister is in charge of all songs and everything up to the sermon. Translation: Contemporary songs!

After several very welcome non-hymns, we had to tolerate an otherwise nice member of our congregation telling us we weren't Christians if we don't vote for whom he says we must. Which led to me ranting on my bulletin and passing it off to Amanda to read.  

Then we were off...

It was mentioned that more cars were needed for Trunk or Treat. I figured since the Subaru would be there (because we were moving the van's decorations to the interior of the van to stay out of the rain and therefore people wouldn't be able to ride in the van without the seats) we could put the Subie to use. I wrote in my bulletin that we could use both cars instead of just the van. Since we already know what the van will look like, I wrote that we needed an idea for the Subie. Amanda and I then wrote ideas back and forth to each other.

We decided the Subie should be decorated as a tech booth (Matthew later pointed out that since it will be raining on Halloween, the Subie will be a "tripod" for the church's camcorder to record the events for playback during the next service - bummer!) 

We continued writing in the bulletin:
Me: Hey! My shirt and socks match!
Amanda wondered out loud about the sound coming from behind us.  

Me - writing on the bulletin: "crickets?" 
Amanda: No! A fan or something like that! 
Me - observing we are sitting in front of the tech booth: There is a fan under the counter and several towers. (Matthew later pointed out that there are 16 fans running in the booth, both inside and out of computers.) 
Amanda: *winking tongue sticker-outer face*   
Me: *smiling tongue sticker-outer face*
Amanda: drew the Vulcan sign and wrote "Live long and prosper".

Even though we were passing notes I was still listening to the sermon and noticed a reference to putting a serpent on a stick and praising him, to which I wrote:
Are we supposed to praise snakes?
Question#2: Didn't he just describe the symbol for the American Medical Association?
Question #3: Does this mean we are supposed to praise the AMA? 
That would explain the idea of being healed from poison.

Amanda: LMAO. 
Me: Then what will you sit on?
Amanda: *winking tongue sticker-outer face* 
Me: *smiling tongue sticker-outer face*
Amanda: *peace sign*
Me: Peace Man

Me - in response to something being said in the sermon about "looking": Brown Bear, Brown Bear what do you see?
Amanda: ?
Me: I see Amanda looking at me
Amanda: I ain't looking (although it looks like she wrote "I ain' Hooking")
Me: You were
Amanda: Ain't
Me: Don't say ain't or your mother will faint.
Amanda: You ain't going to faint. You ain't Mary Warren from "The Crucible".
Me: Are you sure?
Amanda: Yes
Me: You may be wrong.
Amanda: I'm right.
Me: ♫You may be right. I may be crazy. but I just may be the lunatic you're looking for♫
Amanda: *squinting tongue sticker-outer face*
Me: Your face is going to freeze like that.
Amanda: LOL
Me: Lollipop, lollipop. Oh, lolli lollipop.
Amanda: haha
Me: Hahaha, Hohoho. What a sight to see. Under my lollipop, lollipop, lollipop. Lolli lolli lollipop tree.
Amanda: I don't know you, lady.
Me: Then why do you follow me?
Amanda: *squinting tongue sticker-outer face*
Me: See, your face is stuck.
Amanda: *dead eyes toothy-smile face*
Me: Did I just kill you?
Amanda: *rolls eyes*
Me: Don't roll your eyes at me young lady!
Amanda  - writing as we stood for the last song: Wuv you mommy.



Then to Sunday School where the pastor in some far-away land - Oklahoma(?) referred to books of the Bible as "boogers" and proceeded to tell us about how he ran down the road after a pickup truck of rednecks when they cat-called to another pastor's wife. 

An observation that drives me batty each Sunday when I watch the video: that speck on the screen that reflects the light and makes a shiny spot seriously needs to be found and cleaned. I don't care if it requires an extension ladder to get to it.


Conversation from a previous Sunday School:
Andrew: How is the van running?
Me: The wheels turn until I get here.
Andrew: How do the brakes work?
Me: They stop the van
Andrew: Did the brakes work okay?
Me: I didn't run any stop signs
Andrew: *bangs head on pew*


Pastor in far-away land on screen: Have you ever prayed for something stupid?
Andrew: I once prayed to be a shape-shifter
Me: *chokes on coffee*


Andrew has passed out sugar packets during Sunday School. Should I worry? 


Friday, October 19, 2012

Are you ready to have kids? You'll know after this fun test

When I heard about this test I just had to share it. I raised six kids and I can honestly tell you that this test is not only funny but so true.  The good side is that eventually they outgrow the stage described in this test and move on to their teen years.  Having five teens (at one time), I can tell you that stage does end too. I'll get back to you on how many bottles of Tylenol it takes.

Think you're ready for motherhood? Read this hilarious blog and reconsider that

Think you're ready for motherhood? Read this hilarious blog and reconsider that

    Test 1: Preparation
    Women: To prepare for pregnancy
    1. Put on a mu-mu and stick a large beanbag down the front.
    2. Leave it there.
    3. After 9 months remove 5% of the beans.
    Men: To prepare for children
    1. Go to a local pharmacy, tip the contents of your wallet onto the counter and tell the pharmacist to help himself.
    2. Go to the supermarket. Arrange to have your salary paid directly to their head office.
    3. Go home. Pick up the newspaper and read it for the last time.
    Prepare for pregnancy by attaching a beanbag to your front says the blog

    Prepare for pregnancy by attaching a beanbag to your front says the blog

    Test 2: Knowledge
    Find a couple who are already parents and berate them about their methods of discipline, lack of patience, appallingly low tolerance levels and how they have allowed their children to run wild. 
    Suggest ways in which they might improve their child's sleeping habits, toilet training, table manners and overall behaviour.
    Enjoy it. It will be the last time in your life that you will have all the answers.

    Test 3: Nights
    To discover how the nights will feel:
    You can kiss goodbye to precious beauty sleep as soon as you have a child
    You can kiss goodbye to precious beauty sleep as soon as you have a child
    1. Walk around the living room from 5pm to 10pm carrying a wet bag weighing approximately 8-10lbs, with a radio turned to static (or some other obnoxious sound) playing loudly.
    2.  At 10pm, put the bag down, set the alarm for midnight and go to sleep.
    3. Get up at 11pm and walk the bag around the living room until 1am.
    4. Set the alarm for 3am.
    5. As you can't get back to sleep, get up at 2am and make a cup of tea.
    6. Go to bed at 2.45am.
    7. Get up again at 3am when the alarm goes off.
    8. Sing songs in the dark until 4am.
    9. Put the alarm on for 5am. Get up when it goes off.
    10. Make breakfast.
    Keep this up for 5 years. LOOK CHEERFUL.

    Test 4: Dressing Small Children
    1. Buy a live octopus and a string bag.
    2. Attempt to put the octopus into the string bag so that no arms hangout.
    Time Allowed: 5 minutes.

    Test 5: Cars
    1. Forget the BMW. Buy a practical 5-door wagon.
    2. Buy a chocolate ice cream cone and put it in the glove compartment. Leave it there.
    3. Get a coin. Insert it into the CD player.
    4. Take a box of chocolate cookies; mash them into the back seat.
    5. Run a garden rake along both sides of the car.

    Test 6: Going for a walk
    The hilarious blog post details a new parent test for broody mothers
    The hilarious blog post details a new parent test for broody mothers
    a. Wait.
    b. Go out the front door.
    c. Come back in again.
    d. Go out.
    e. Come back in again.
    f. Go out again.
    g. Walk down the front path.
    h. Walk back up it.
    i. Walk down it again.
    j. Walk very slowly down the road for five minutes.
    k. Stop, inspect minutely and ask yourself at least 6 questions about every piece of used chewing gum, dirty tissue and dead insect along the way.
    l. Retrace your steps.
    m. Scream that you have had as much as you can stand until the neighbours come out and stare at you.
    n. Give up and go back into the house.

    Test 7: Conversations with children
    Repeat everything you say at least 5 times.

    Test 8: Grocery Shopping
    1. Go to the local supermarket. Take with you the nearest thing you can find to a pre-school child - a fully grown goat is excellent. If you intend to have more than one child, take more than one goat.
    2. Buy your weekly groceries without letting the goat(s) out of your sight.
    3. Pay for everything the goat eats or destroys.
    Feeding your child isn't as easy as it looks according to the test

    Feeding your child isn't as easy as it looks according to the test

    Test 9: Feeding a 1 year-old
    1. Hollow out a melon
    2. Make a small hole in the side
    3. Suspend the melon from the ceiling and swing it side to side
    4. Now get a bowl of soggy cornflakes and attempt to spoon them into the swaying melon while pretending to be an airplane.
    5. Continue until half the cornflakes are gone.
    6. Tip the rest into your lap, making sure that a lot of it falls on the floor.

    Test 10:TV
    1. Learn the names of every character from the Wiggles, Barney, Teletubbies and Disney.
    2. Watch nothing else on television for at least 5 years.

    Test 11:  Mess
    Can you stand the mess children make? To find out:
    Are you up to the challenge of parenthood asks this hilarious blog post
    Are you up to the challenge of parenthood asks this hilarious blog post
    1. Smear peanut butter onto the sofa and jam onto the curtains
    2. Hide a fish behind the stereo and leave it there all summer.
    3. Stick your fingers in the flowerbeds and then rub them on clean walls. Cover the stains with crayon. How does that look?
    4. Empty every drawer/cupboard/storage box in your house onto the floor and proceed with step 5.
    5. Drag randomly items from one room to another room and leave them there.

    Test 12: Long Trips with Toddlers
    1. Make a recording of someone shouting 'Mommy' repeatedly. Important Notes: No more than a 4 second delay between each Mommy. Include occasional crescendo to the level of a supersonic jet.
    2. Play this tape in your car, everywhere you go for the next 4 years.

    Test 13:Conversations
    1. Start talking to an adult of your choice.
    2. Have someone else continually tug on your shirt hem or shirt sleeve while playing the Mommy tape listed above.

    Test 14: Getting ready for work
    1. Pick a day on which you have an important meeting.
    2. Put on your finest work attire.
    3. Take a cup of milk and put 1 cup of lemon juice in it
    4. Stir
    5. Dump half of it on your nice silk shirt
    6. Saturate a towel with the other half of the mixture
    7. Attempt to clean your shirt with the same saturated towel
    8. Do not change (you have no time).
    9. Go directly to work

    You are now ready to have children. ENJOY!!

    Thursday, October 18, 2012

    Krispy Kreme and Maytags

    First, let me tell you about an important event in my home.  It revolves around a fundraiser at school. In this case it was an item my "daughter" Rachel was selling through FBLA. At least I think it was FBLA.  I'm not sure but who was selling it really isn't important.(editor's note: it was senior class)

    Because - The Krispy Kreme's are here!!!

    Hidden safely in my room. I'm not sure how wise this is.

    I've been playing with new recipes all week so this is the first time I've had a chance to talk about my weekend:

    Regular football season is over.  For high school, anyway.  Now it's time for the play-off's.  My last home game was definitely not on a boring day.

    I didn't feel like making chili for the football game on Friday so I woke early Saturday to get it going. I've made chili every home game this season.  It isn't like we are big chili eaters. It's just that it is so easy and it makes the house smell so good!

    While the chili simmered, I took Jerome to bowling seven miles away. Once he was all settled in, I came back home to pick up the chili and Amanda. When I got home Andrew asked me who I was talking to about his hair.  Apparently, when Jerome dropped his cell out of his pocket at the bowling alley it dialed home and they heard me talking to the school nurse (her family owns the bowling alley) about Amanda's adventures in hair-cutting that resulted in me giving Andrew a brush cut to repair it.

    Then back to the bowling alley until it was time to take Amanda to school for cheer practice, another five miles down the road from the bowling alley. Once I dropped Amanda off, I headed back to the bowling alley until Jerome finished playing his third frame and we both could help get the concession stand ready for the game.

    Then we went to school to help set up the stand. Since there were plenty of teens that showed up to work (they get credit for this), the advisor and I got to relax during the game.  Some of the men, however, were trying to figure out why only my crock pot had power and nothing else. After being on for over 1 1/2 hours, the coffee and hot water pots were still cold (I found this out when I went to wrap my fingers on the coffee pot to warm them after stocking the coolers with soda - or "pop" as they call it here. I thought my fingers would stick to the pot). Even the cheese for the nachos was still thick and cold.  Eventually they did get them going - I wonder if it was simply a reset on the outlet.

    Walking Taco - a gametime staple

    It was wicked cold out so I was nestled between one of the school guidance counselors and another Cheer mom while we cheered our Pirates.  The girls were getting cold in their cheer skirts and hoodies so their hand motions were a bit off but everyone understood since we all were shivering.  The cheerleaders for the other team wore jackets and yoga pants.  I guess this is what happens when the girls want to look good.

    While Jerome was staying warm in the car.  Amanda grabbed me after the cheerleaders half-time dance. She was famished! Jerome came up and wanted to grab a bite to eat too. He and I decided to eat in the car and defrost.  Great idea. Too bad it didn't pan out. It turned out he locked the keys in the car.

    I called Matthew and then Jerome and I headed over to the bar-be-que grill.  It was so warm there!  While we waited for the car to be unlocked, Jerome sat in the advisor's van to stay warm and I stayed by the grill.  Did I mention Jerome was wearing shorts and flip-flips with socks? And there was frost on the ground when we left the house!

    So Matthew and Andrew made it before the end of fourth quarter and after the game was turning around and we were starting to score, so the crowd was wild.  I saw them pull in and led Matthew over to meet the Advisor and her husband, the Music Director.  The husband was from our hometown and his Dad is active in our former church (that Matthew is remotely - meaning via computer - active with to this day), so they had heard about Matthew.

    We waited until the game was over and then I put the guys to work helping shut down the booth before we headed out to the cars sitting almost alone on opposite sides of the parking lot.  It always works that way, doesn't it?  Jerome and I walked over to the car and waited until Matthew pulled up with the van. When I heard the click of the doors unlocking, we jumped in and the race began...

    I don't know what it is but we are always determined to beat each other home.  There is no speeding involved. We like to take the route the other doesn't to try to get home first. Yet, he usually wins.

    Back home.  Will I ever be warm again?

    Matthew fixed the dryer yesterday and he used it to wash his clothes today.

    This is when I realized that some people are just push-overs.

    I used to watch my ex take the cars, or riding lawn mower, in for tune-ups only to bring them back in to the shop weeks later for repairs.  Contractors would do work and things would be broken after they left so they would charge him to repair the damage they had done. There were so many times things like this happened..

    Then there is the washer and dryer.  I wanted a Kenmore. I would have settled for a Whirlpool. But no. The on-again off-again "whatever you want to call her" of my ex managed an appliance store and repair shop so he insisted we buy a Maytag from her.  She told him the models she talked him into buying had all these bells and whistles and would do so much. I looked at them and thought how they looked like a lower model for a higher price.

    When we got them, I had nothing but problems and she kept sending their repair guy over and would charge us even though he never fixed it properly.   When we moved I found a repair guy who fixed the washer and it finally drained properly but the dryer still wouldn't dry until we ran it for a second hour each load.  Recently the seal went. It was scrapping and making all sorts of noises so Matthew ordered the parts and guess what.

    It dries!!!

    For the first time in five years!!

    *Doing the Happy Dance*


    ---until the washer broke down---

    Friday, October 12, 2012

    Happy International Frustrating Scream Day

    Seriously. Could this day be better named?     

    As it is, my dryer decided a few days ago that it wanted to not just make socks disappear but chews up any clothes it can grab hold of. Then it plays tug-of-war with the clothes when we try to take them back.  Matthew ordered the parts while we reverted back to using the clothes line until he fixes it.

    Let's move on to this morning, shall we?

    I wake my kids at 6am for the bus.  I'm no dummy, though, and I always crawl back under the blankets where it's warm.  

    William came into my room this morning and told me his teacher wants the paper signed that she sent home the other day. I told him I signed a bunch of papers but he insisted it was something different.  Unfortunately, he didn't know where the paper went since it wasn't in the notebook I pass back and forth with his teacher.

    Then the kids were beginning to head out for their 6:35 bus pick-up when Andrew told me he was signed up to bring brownies to a party first period (at 8:13!!!).  

    So much for going back to sleep after they left.  

    I got to school at 7:58 and dropped the still-hot brownies off at the front desk.  Yeah!  I made it!  Now I can relax. Okay, do housework, close enough since I find that relaxing.  Working on the computer was interesting since my cordless mouse has a mind of it's own and I was blocked by FB from liking any pages for two days for "abusing the privilege" of liking by clicking "like" on too many pages. 

    While I was pottying the dogs, the Pomeranian sneezed and I was lamenting - in baby talk - about her sneezing while I hooked her out. As I was talking, I looked up and saw the Fed Ex truck in the driveway with the door open and the driver looking at me.  The excitement of the dryer parts arriving ALMOST over-shadowed my embarrassment. 

    I had to pick Amanda up from practice after school.  Normally she would ride the late bus but today's practice was just for the stunt cheerleaders and was to last exactly 24 minutes.  She was insistent I pick her up and that I was to be at school at 3:30.

    It's a 12 mile drive so I made sure I rolled into the bus entrance to the school by 3:28. 

    We train our children well, don't we? Most people going into the school parking lot use an entrance marked on both sides "Do Not Enter" "Buses only".  That only counts if you know buses will be there, after all.

    Back to my day:
    I have always carried a book in my purse since the traffic jams at the I-10/410 interchange in San Antonio kept me in my car for hours. So, I pulled my book out (not the same book as in San Antonio) and started reading it. Every so often I would look around.  I began realizing there were only football players in the field and no cheerleaders were coming out of the building.  

    To the phone: I waited until the bus would be at the house before calling home - no answer.  I called Andrew's cell.  Apparently he hadn't made it to my room (where it's kept during school), so - no answer.  I tried Matthew's cell - no answer there either. Back to trying the landline where, surprise, Matthew answered and told me Amanda was home.

    Back home and Amanda was all happy because she had learned hair cutting in Cosmetology at BOCES this week. Andrew volunteered to be her first guinea pig.  I swear, he looks like Rhianna now!!!

    The Wooly Bear that I found on my front deck when I released the spider had a narrow brown band and really large black ends - which means a long, cold winter.

    And the Greyhound has gas...

    I'd hide under my blankets if I didn't have to make chili for the football game tomorrow and see what I can do to fix Andrew's hair. 

    Wednesday, October 3, 2012

    Waiting To Breathe

    Not only is October Breast Cancer Awareness Month (I hope to get to Erie on Saturday to sign up for the study - you should sign up too) but it also is a month more near and dear to my own heart.  October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  

    This month is very meaningful to me since I made several mistakes in my life that lead me to the trap of domestic violence.  A trap that, to this day, I can't seem to escape. Those that know me, know I have been married three times.  Each marriage involved some form of domestic abuse.  

    My first marriage was to my on-again off-again high school sweetheart. We had met when I was twelve and he was all I ever wanted so I was ready to be part of his life when he decided to settle down.  Unfortunately, that didn't mean faithfulness on his part.  He was the mildest with his "abuse". So much so that I didn't even realize it was happening until his Mom told me. She was a volunteer for the local domestic violence agency and spotted his tactic of minimizing, denying and blaming, or "Gaslighting" as she called it (from the Ingrid Bergman movie of that name).  We were married for seven years until he moved in with his girlfriend and never looked back. He left me to raise our almost four year old son while he helped raise her children from previous relationships as his own. 

    His Mom and sister helped me escape the girlfriend's threats against my son and I moved back to our hometown with the contents of four suitcases, he got everything else.  I had to begin again with no college degree (he always seemed amused by my major switching through two years of college). It was a long drop from wife of an Air Force Captain to struggling to survive. 

    Then to husband number two.  This is when the abuse ran the full gamut of the chart.  My childhood friend fixed me up with her brother-in-law (later to tell me she thought I could fix him).  I planned to date him for a while just to rebuild my self-esteem. I didn't want to be in a long-term relationship so soon. Soon after we began dating, the abuse began. It started with my four year old son. When I would protect him I would be punished. I was told exactly how I would be killed if I left. This continued for years. My son and I were abused, I had bones broken, I gave birth to an extremely early son after a session of abuse. I gave birth to five children in six years as I was being kept barefoot and pregnant, literally. Even though I was giving him babies whenever he wanted, he still had two other children during this time as well as countless affairs. My family and friends disappeared and even turned on me as he lied to them about me. I was forced to give him my child support check, even the money from the sale of my childhood home. All while not being given enough money to keep the bills paid. We lived as paupers despite his good paying job.  I was not someone worth listening to or even deserving of being alive. When he finally let me drive, my cars had tires burst, engines catch fire, and brake lines cut - he was a mechanic.  It took me seven years before I became strong enough to begin planning my escape and another two years to get out. 

    I ran to an older family friend. Someone I had known my entire life. Soon after he let the children and I move into his home, his intentions became clear. I was to be a volunteer doing the office work and many other jobs in the county animal shelter that he had built behind our home while my kids were to help keep the shelter clean. Although we lived together he was in no way tied to me.  I lived there while he continued his womanizing.  As the lies continued from him, I lost my position as president and secretary of the PTOs in school. I was still able to volunteer for Girl Scouts and youth soccer but even Boy Scouts booted me out after 10 years of involvement. People in my own church looked down on me.  I couldn't get a paying job because he was my reference. I was afraid to go into town out of fear of being insulted by strangers. I put my foot down and told the kids that school and extra-curricular activities came first before working in the shelter.  Soon afterward my children's father began calling CPS on me, repeatedly. Then he took me to court for custody of my kids. His attorney was the former attorney of my live-in's ex-wife.  After lasting for months, he decided to settle on the day of the trial.  

    By then I had no one. I was alone in my small rural county with just my kids while living with a man who wanted nothing to do with me except as a worker. Our Board didn't like the look of us living under the same roof so I agreed to marry him so he could keep his job. I had no where else to go. When he lost his job anyway because of his womanizing interfering with his job, he had to sell his house on Humane Society property to the shelter. 

    I decided we would move somewhere that my son with Asperger's Syndrome could get an education. Number three became ill and was hospitalized for months while I worked and ran the household. He blamed me for the loss of his job, for his illness, for making him leave our former county.  He told me he hated me and "wouldn't stop until he saw me childless and alone living on the streets of Erie".  He moved to a retirement home, cut me off financially and we lost contact. 

    I fell in love. 

    Number three wrote my Sweetheart a letter telling him how terrible I am and making demands of me. I didn't respond by his deadline. The day of the deadline CPS and the police began visiting. The children's father went after me again for custody of our teens and tween.  His attorney was the same one as before and my attorney felt he was being paid for by number three.  I learned from CPS why our oldest daughter hadn't spoken to him in seven years.  The police kept coming over to check on the kids. The battle dragged on.  

    Number one resurfaced and began writing letters to my Sweetheart, to the local District Attorney, to the local police. Telling them I was crazy, I shouldn't be allowed to be near the children he never met, yet he still wanted no contact with our now-adult son. He kept writing my Sweetheart telling him to dump me. Spreading more lies. 

    Number three's adult daughter sent me an email telling me to leave her father alone. 

    Number three sued me in Pennsylvania, where you don't get an attorney if you can't afford one. He told the kids' father he wants to have me arrested.

    I was asked why they all would be connected.  I do know that number two was always in contact with the wife of number one during our marriage and that she had also contacted number three over the years.  She is heavily involved with "helping" those who are abused, while number three was our county cruelty investigator who worked alongside the local domestic violence agency (which gave him access to the vulnerable women he preyed upon) until I told them of his physical assault of me.  It looked to many people as if the three of them had an assigned "job" in number three's threat against me.

    None of them want me happy.

    I went to court for trial on Tuesday. After a year and a half of our lives were wasted, number two decided to settle in the custody battle.

    The children have all gotten older since the battle began.  Our oldest is six hours away in college, our son with Asperger's is almost eighteen, our cheerleader is almost seventeen and refuses to speak to her father.  That leaves the youngest boys (fifteen, next month and twelve).  The end settlement was only about them.

    Many years ago, during the first custody battle, I was sitting in the courtroom and noticed the artwork from local students on the wall.  They would hang the winners' artwork there after the pieces were returned from judging at Potsdam University.  While listening to the lawyers argue I looked around. On the wall three feet away from me, at eye level, was this piece of artwork.  It belonged to India - my daughter. She had earned a blue ribbon in crayon. She was in sixth grade.  When I saw it I looked at the judge and he was smiling at me. I had known him for years, I often wondered if he placed it there. Throughout the months that I was in his courtroom I would look at the artwork for strength.

    When the second battle began, I pulled her portfolio out of the back of my closet and hung this piece on my bedroom wall so that I could once again look at it for strength ... it's still there.

    I was told by my attorney to keep my mouth shut on what was going on but now that it's over, I can finally speak out.

    Hopefully those men will leave me alone now.  Hopefully they will let me live my life in peace.
    It's quiet right now.

    I'm waiting for the next shoe to drop. 

    WAKE UP!!!!!!

     It was one of those mornings.  When all you can do is shake your head and laugh.  

    William has Asperger's Syndrome and doesn't like it when things go off schedule. That does not include his mornings. He insists on taking a nightly shower after everyone else has gone to bed, no matter how difficult it is to wake him in the morning. Last night Amanda took her usual hour-long shower at bedtime, which left William with a 10 pm shower time. 

    This morning I woke him three times, at 6 am, 6:15 and finally at 6:20.  Jerome woke him at 6:30 and Amanda did at 6:33 - with a minute until the bus made it down the hill  to the front of our house.  As the bus pulled away, William yanked on his clothes and ran out the door carrying one shoe - the other misplaced.

    Side note:
    I have a policy of NOT giving the kids a ride to school when they refuse to wake. I used to do this and the kids took advantage of it. They stopped waking for the bus and had me drive them in every day.  So, no more rides from Mom. 

    Back to this morning:
    When William realized the bus was long past the bend and he couldn't catch it, he came back inside. That's when I asked him if he had planned to go to school without his shoe. He told me he couldn't find it and didn't have a choice.  He asked for a ride in but I reminded him that ship sailed long ago.  

    As I went back for a catnap before beginning my day, I heard William walking downstairs lamenting "I remember how you used to give us rides to school instead of dealing with this bus nonsense.  I miss those days." 

    Tuesday, October 2, 2012

    Being Strong When You Want To Cry

    It was one of those roller-coaster weeks. When you have children who need you to be strong for them but emotions ran the gamut and there is nothing you can do but pray for it to end soon.  

    Let's go back to last Friday (the week before last).  Jerome had an eye appointment where we knew he would be sized for glasses since his physical a few weeks earlier showed he needed them. We had a great time, just he and I, since I rarely have one-on-one time with my kids.  He was so excited to get glasses! 

    We made it back to school in Clymer a few minutes early for the PARP Family Night (Parents As Reading Partners).  He was too old to attend so Jerome was going to help me run the donut swing for PTSO (Parent-Teacher-Student Organization).  There were kids in K-12 participating at the K-4 event but everyone had fun so no one minded.  We finally headed home around 8:30 after helping clean up the hallway and gymatorium (I like that name and want everyone to use it).

    Jerome got to participate - several times
    (I used to have a hoodie just like that.
    I need to get another one from Johannes)

    Saturday began with taking Amanda to the Cheerleaders breakfast before running home and transferring the chili to the Crockpot for the game.  Only to return to volunteer at the refreshment stand.  I am so glad I was in there since we had a MAJOR downpour during the football game.  While Jerome hid in the stand from the rain, so his blue hair dye didn't run, the game went on despite how soggy the ground became and how drenched the players and the cheerleaders were.  We won.

    It was splash-when-you-walk weather

    Monday I woke up stressed out knowing I had to make a dozen phone calls for the child custody trial I would be having on Tuesday (I'll blog about that later).  I was cleaning and mentally writing notes for the phone calls when the school called and our attendance officer told me Andrew was upset and wanted to come home.  I figured it either had to do with the trial or the weekend he had just spent with his father but when I got to school they asked if I would take Rachel home too and she looked like she had been crying. That was when they told me the School Superintendent was dead.  The kids had been told during an assembly but no one knew what had happened.

    There will never be another Superintendent like him.

    Rachel wanted to come to our house since her mom was working.  They hung out while I went back to cleaning and started making my phone calls.  

    Then the others came home.

    Amanda got online and, as I walked through the room, she was reading a news article.  

    It was murder!  

    In our Amish community where we rarely locked our doors?!  More and more reports came out. He was shot several times. But that means someone hated him and NO ONE hated him.  Everyone who met him liked him.  Why would someone kill him?  As we learned more, we learned he was engaged to, or had dated (depending on the source) a woman who had a jealous ex-husband.  He was killed on Friday, about the time Jerome and I left the school just a little way from his home, and laid in his lawn until they found him on Monday.  His daughter had come over for dinner earlier that evening and he was packing for a Superintendents meeting when he was murdered. 

    When India headed home after her college classes across the state , Rachel called her to tell her Mr. Reed was dead.  I could hear Rachel pleading with India to stop crying before they hung up.  When I learned he was murdered, I called India but Rachel had already told her that terrible news.  I don't think anything can rip out your heart like hearing the total anguish of your child, knowing you can't touch them.  I wanted to hold her and tell her everything would be alright. All I could do was try to comfort her over the phone.

    In the meantime, it was Spirit Week. The class games on Monday were cancelled.  Even if they wanted it to go on, too many students had gone home.  The different activities for the week went on. The Principal felt the kids needed a sense of "normalcy".  Normalcy with the press lurking just outside of school property and standing in front of Mr. Reed's house. Normalcy with police everywhere when we rarely saw police in our edge of the state.  Normalcy when our children didn't know what to do or how to act.   Normalcy while we were all in shock.

    Clymer - Sherman volleyball teams remember Mr. Reed

    The volleyball game where our arch rivals, Sherman Wildcats, stood with our own to say a prayer for Mr. Reed; Black Tie Day changed to Wear Black for Mr. Reed
     Day; The Halloween Costume Day where the students dressed up in costume, all went on with the rest of the Spirit Week celebrations.  The annual Meet You At The Flagpole was moved indoors, while the flag outside was at half-mast, so the press couldn't take pictures of those in mourning.  

    Perfect timing for the Annual
    Meet You At The Flagpole

    There was a prayer vigil at the local Methodist Church where the media tried to catch folks as they walked out.  "Jack" Mr. Reed's recently adopted shelter dog visited the school while under the care of a teacher before Mr. Reed's nephew came for him.  Our 400 student (give or take) K-12 school was turned completely upside down while we marched on.

    Finally, Friday.  The most bi-polar day I have ever gone through.  The day began with the excitement of the pep rally.  Amanda was eager about the new dance the cheerleaders had been practicing.  They did an awesome job from what I saw of the video and the students really got into it.  But that excitement was short-lived when school let out early and many of us made the hour-long trip to the funeral.  It was standing room only and over 300 people attended, so we sat in a side room. 

    As they carried Mr. Reed out and his family followed I stood to the side and watched Amanda while she stood in the front of the crowd.  I watched her face go from curious observation to the reality of the situation finally hitting her.  I can't explain what I saw. I just know her state of denial was coming to an end and she was coming down hard but I was too deep in the crowd to get to her.  When we left the church and Amanda said she wanted to go home, not to the cemetery, we headed across the street to the van. Straight at the media onslaught. 

    They stopped us and asked us to speak but everyone said no. I spoke on behalf of India off-camera and when they asked me to go on-camera I watched Amanda walking up the hill to the van and politely refused.  I hurried up the hill and heard her before I saw her.  Amanda was in Rachel's arms, just wailing. Andrew got to her before me and held his sister until I got there.  Amanda rarely cries - India and I can't remember the last time she cried - so this was heart-breaking.  It took us a while to get out of the side street and we headed home.

    Allegheny State Park, near Salamanca NY

    But we were in the Allegheny Mountains and Amanda loves to take pictures as much as I do (plus she took photography class in school) so  despite the drizzle we stopped in the state park for a little while so she could do what she loves to do and photograph nature before heading home and to the Powder Puff game.

    Powder Puff Football - Amanda is #14

    Back up in spirits. It was the Senior girls against the Junior girls with the football players coaching.  By then we had gotten used to the police presence.  As usual, the Seniors won despite one of last years graduates repeatedly changing the scoreboard to make it look like the Juniors would stand a chance.  The sun came out for the first time in a week  as the girls played.  It was as though Mr. Reed was watching the game. He loved watching the kids having fun.  Afterward I dropped Amanda off at a local church for the cheerleaders' slumber party.  

    Looking over our school football field
    at the first sunlight in almost a week.

    When we got home, we heard the killer had been caught in Virginia.  Everyone breathed a sigh of relief. Now Mr. Reed could rest in peace. 

    Saturday rolled around and Andrew, Jerome and I headed to the Homecoming Game. I was in the refreshment stand again and the boys helped hawk food in the stands. Mr. Reed's family was there to watch the game before going through the things in Mr. Reed's home.  His daughters stayed for the entire game and posed with the boys after our victory over Panama Panthers.  I truly believe Panama threw the game for us.  They are a good team but lost 55 -6 and only scored that touch-down in the last minutes.  They knew we needed this and I thank them.  

    Mr. Reed's daughters posing with our team.

    Our rivals, Sherman had gifted our school and community this sign they had made for us.  Small communities always seem to band together when one is in need. 

    Thank you.

    Back home Amanda had to get ready for the Homecoming Dance.  She and the rest of the cheerleaders were meeting in the football field for pictures before heading over to dinner at The Dutch Village Restaurant.

    Some of the cheerleaders before the
    Homecoming Dinner and Dance.
    (Amanda is second from the right)

    Monday came, and we went to Mr. Reed's Memorial service at school. His family came there to show us their support.  Their support, as though we had the harder loss.  There were tears but more often there was laughter as people remembered this man, who touched so many souls.

    Today we learned the murderer had been in school that Friday and that he was escorted to Mr. Reed's office - but Mr. Reed wasn't there. He was probably somewhere around the school just being silly with the kids he loved.

    Tomorrow is the rescheduled School Open House.  Life goes on...

    Let me tell you about Keith Reed.

    Mr. Reed had only been with Clymer for 11 months.  He was hired from another school district after his recovery from a motorcycle-tractor trailer accident that nearly took his life.  After 6 weeks in a coma, numerous broken bones and almost two years of re-learning everything that comes naturally to us, he returned to work before  applying at Clymer. Hearing the stories of his first meetings with staff and Board of Education members, it is no wonder he got the job. We were shown candid photos of him breaking rules and pulling students down the hallways on the equipment cart. We saw photos of him in suit and tie on our school's big John Deere tractor, because he wanted to learn to drive it. We've heard stories of his finally getting to drive a school bus, albeit in the bus garage parking lot. We've heard of his love of landscaping despite his inability to do a lot because of his accident. That didn't stop him from having a beautiful lawn (with a lot of help from one of the kindergarten teachers with whom he became good friends). We've heard of his love of golf even though he tended to lose balls - once getting a golf cart stuck while trying to locate them and the band director pushing him out. We were told how you knew if he was in his office from the laughter coming from it.  We were told of his love for Jack, and Jack's love for beer. 

    Mr. Reed has left a trail of students who adored him from as far back as the beginning days of his career. The more troubled the teen, the more he embraced them.  Even those who spent time in his office grew to love him.  He was a father-figure to those who's fathers weren't there for them, including India. He was everyone's friend. He handed out candy to the kids. He carried kindergartners to their classes. He always had high-fives and fist bumps for the students.  He loved scaring the kids and I heard that he possibly had frightened every student at some point.  He was always willing to chat with the parents.  He was a genuinely good person.  The 11 months we knew him feels like a lifetime, as though he has always been here. 

    Mr. Reed fake-throwing his keys at Amanda

    Keith Reed had everything. A job he loved with students he cared deeply for. He bought a beautiful home in a community he called "Heaven".  He had not just survived but recovered from a near-fatal accident.  He found a dog to keep him company.  All he needed was someone to love.  He was divorced many years and at 51 decided he wanted someone in his life, so he went to an online dating site to find the special person. What he found was a possessive ex-husband vowing revenge. A revenge that took away the innocence of hundreds of people (myself included) who had never experienced a murder before, let alone of someone close to them. A revenge that changed thousands of lives forever. 

     So many questions are running through my head right now.   Will we ever really get over this?  Had Mr. Reed been in his office, would he have been killed there?  Would those around also have been harmed?  Would he have been able to be saved if he had been shot while others were nearby? If I had taken the route home past his house, would I have seen him or heard something and been able to get him help. Why did he have to die just because he wanted to be loved?  Why did he have to lay out there in the downpour during the football game?  Was God's heart so broken that his tears poured on us? 

    I hope we all learned from Mr. Reed to love unconditionally those children who need us most.  Those who need guidance and compassion, so that they may go on with their lives knowing someone cares.  I hope we can carry on his legacy.