Friday, January 6, 2012

Titus2Woman: Betty Part 1

From the moment we discovered we had honeymoon horror stories in common, Betty Detweiler and I became fast friends.  She is a wife of one of our church's elders, but she is so much more than that to many of the young women in our community.

For a while, she was a mentor to the MOPS steering team that I was a part of.  We shared plenty of laughs during those full-of-rabbit-trail-meetings, and I think that is one of the best attributes I have learned from Betty - to laugh... no matter your age or station in life.  Since then, Betty and I have worked together on other projects at church and, boy, do we have fun with all the crazy ideas we come up with.

Betty always has a story to tell from raising her children, so I won't keep you waiting... here is Betty!

- My husband’s name is Rod and we have been married 34 years.

- We have three children and 2 granchildren : Kristen who is soon to be 31, is married to Aaron Short, and they have 2 children; Noah who is almost 4, and Lillian who is 1.  We were so blessed when the Lord gave us the gift of those two children.  We are in awe of the sacrifice the birth parents made when they decided to place their babies up for adoption.  

Lillian and Noah adoptions are both open adoptions which at first I questioned.  But I see what a benefit it is for the birth parents to see and know the mommy and daddy they chose to be parents to their babies and  to see how they are being raised knowing Jesus, and their physical needs are well taken care of.  They both come from Christian families, and we have come to love Lillian’s birth mom and family who have a lot of contact with Kristen and Aaron.  We were all together for her dedication and first birthday.  It was such a great weekend celebrating Lillian.  Noah’s birthparents aren’t as involved but keep in contact.  We love them too and words can never express the love and the gratitude we have for them.

Kristen, who as a little girl didn’t play much with dolls, but instead played school and nurse.  She is still playing those roles as she is a nurse practitioner in the hematology area at the U of M.  She deals with blood cancers and enjoys the research and does some presentations.  She and Aaron gave us the best gift of making our trek to see them much shorter, when in the spring they moved to Canton, Michigan from Rochester, MN where she worked 8 years at Mayo’s.

Jason was our little inventor and “take apart and put back together” child. He received his first tool box, with real tools, when he was 4.  When Jason was in 2nd grade I got a call from his teacher with a concern that Jason may be a “little retarded”.   I volunteered a lot at the school and became a “professional” room mother so hearing her say that wasn’t as terrible as it may sound and that word, retarded, was used a lot back then.  He was spelling words backwards and would skip sections when he did his schoolwork papers.  Of course I cried.  I heard once that a mothers self-esteem is wrapped up in her children, and I felt like a failure that day.   
I called my sister, crying, and after talking to her we came to the conclusion he may have a tracking problem just as her daughter, my niece, did.  I greeted him at the door with a pencil, that when I held it before his face and asked him look at it as I brought it to his nose.  Sure enough!  His left eye strayed outwards.  Jason was always persistent and never gave up.  He worked for 1 year on his eye exercises the specialist gave us to strengthen the muscle of his eye . 

The specialist told us he would be a person that would not enjoy reading, would have bad handwriting, would have trouble with spelling and be a hands on, outdoors person.   He was right!  I worried so much about how he would do in school, especially high school.   School did not come as easy for him as it did for his sister and little brother.  He was a determined child and that continues today.  We thank the Lord for spell check and the tutors he used at college.  And as the specialist said he isn’t a reader and doesn’t have the greatest handwriting.   

I didn’t want Jason to have a label put on him when he was small so I never told him what his teacher said until we were walking across the Tri State campus after his graduation where he graduated with honors and an engineering .  I remarked to him that he did good for being a “little retarded.”   He now lives in Warsaw, IN, and designs instruments for joint replacements at Zimmer and even has a few patents.  He just got engaged to Mallory, the Christian wife I had prayed for since he was an infant.  We look forward to her joining our family.  

I hope that what I wrote can be an encouragement for those of you who have a child that struggles in school.   The Lord had put a gifting into each of my children and it has been fun to see that the jobs they have now , correlate with those things they enjoyed when they were preschoolers. It seemed when they found that niche during the school years they flourished in that area.

Brian was our little surprise.  To be honest I have not ever told him that, but will have to if he were to read this.  I haven’t told him that because I didn’t want him to think he wasn’t wanted. I cried when I found out I was pregnant.  But having only 2 children was our plan, not Gods.  Brian was our entertainer and so unlike his brother, but more like his sister.  He also was a perfectionist.  If he would color outside of the lines he would throw the page away and start another.   He was really our only child to bring home homework when he was in kindergarten.  You see Brian, when he was 2, got a hold of this little scissor that I left laying on the quilt I had just started to quilt.  When I came back to quilt I just cried.  There were little slashes from one end of the quilt to the other.  When Brian saw me cry he, of course, joined in.  I couldn’t spank him since it really was my fault for letting them there - but we did ban him from scissor.  In his preschool evaluation they said he needed more practice cutting.  When he got to kindergarten he brought home cutting homework!    

Brian graduated from Trine University 3 years ago with a secondary education degree in history and geography.   While in college he discovered he enjoyed working in the administrative areas so the first 2 years after school he was a consultant for Delta Chi and traveled in the south visiting chapters and helping establish some at universities.  While doing that he met his girlfriend, Kristen, who lives in Florida.  He now lives there and is substitute teaching and working at Outback as a server, since teaching jobs are not plentiful there.  It was only God that could connect Brian with Kristen, a young woman that loves the Lord, and we love as well.

One goal I had when my children were young was to have fun and make memories.  Here are a few of the things we did as a family.

-When Brian’s class at school was counting to 100 and celebrated by making something using 100 things,  for some reason I discovered at that time that our ages, Rod’s and mine, and the three kids, would equal 100 on Dec. 10th, when Jason had his birthday.  We did a celebration of our family’s 100.  We ate 100 M&M’s,  100 Skittles, etc.  We topped off the night by watching 101 Dalmations.   I know it is 101, but was the closest thing I could find for a movie with 100 in the title.  We weren’t 100 long since Kristen celebrated her birthday 5 days later.  I feel very old now that our ages total 189, and if we were to include Aaron and the grandkids it would equal 225!  The years go so fast when you have kids.

-We had  a “can” meal.   We had simple meals whenever Rod was away recruiting for summer staff and once I decided to make it really simple.  While we were at the grocery store I had each child pick out one can of something.  That can of food is what they ate for supper that night.  I didn’t really care if it wasn’t the most nutritious lunch, I had a feeling they would survive!

-I always liked to celebrate unusual days.  In Illinois the children were off for Pulaski Day.  If you were to ask the average citizen on the streets and ask who Pulaski was no one would know.  But since he had been a polish general we, of course, celebrated with polish sausage and sauerkraut.   

St. Patrick's day we would have green mashed potatoes, green jello, etc.   

But April Fool’s was always a favorite.  One year I made a marble cake…..yes, with real marbles, and another stitched underwear together using 1 stitch, so when they went to dress all their underwear came out all connected.   

My very favorite was when I had supper cooking in a crock pot in my bedroom while in the kitchen I was creating a disgusting looking supper for the kids. Because I knew I couldn’t keep a straight face Rod placed it on the table.  It was a layer of canned spinach which I had placed 5 ham hocks on.  To top it off I had drizzled it with chocolate sauce.  Brian, who was our pickiest eater when he was young, started to cry when I said everyone had to eat it.  Eventually the crock pot came out with the real supper.

-When Brian was in 5th grade his small class of 11 had a presidential election of a president that had died.  Brian chose Taft and he had to campaign and give a speech in front of the small school he was at in IL.  He had on a suit and had to step up on a box so he could reach the microphone.  He was always the shortest in the class until high school.   The votes were cast and Brian was elected president.  The next day there was the Inaugural Ball.  Each child could invite 2 people, so Rod and I were invited. Being the mother of the president I knew I must dress appropriately for the event.   So out of one of my dress up bins, which I had a few since kitchen staff loved to dress up for  the campers (Betty was a cook at a camp for many years in Illinois), I found an outfit deemed worthy of such an event.  Needless to say, the other candidate’s mom’s, who were all jean clad, must have thought me strange, but the 5th grade girls loved it! 

Brian and I had the 1st dance, along with vice president Kennedy and his mom, to the theme from “The Titanic”. I had been a room mother since Kristen started kindergarten till Brian was in 5th grade. I loved it, and seeing me dressed in weird outfits was fairly normal for the kids. Rod even joined me as a room parent one year, since no other mother was to be found to help me. Quite the costume he had for the Halloween party for Jason’s class.  The little girl I watched was a bride, Brian was the groom, I was the father of the bride, and of course Rod was the mother of the bride, wiping tears throughout the whole party.

- Since my three children were snoopy at Christmas, I would wrap their gifts and then put them into another bigger box with marbles, macaroni, etc, so when they saw their gifts under the tree and shook them they wouldn’t know what it was.  It’s no wonder I hate wrapping gifts today since I doubled wrapped that year. 

-Some years I would put different names on them, usually Bible names so they wouldn’t know which gift was theirs.  When they opened their gifts, taking turns, they would first have to tell something about the Bible character they had.  I had a key so I could remember which gift belonged to whom.  One year I lost the key and so when we opened a gift we had to give it to the appropriate person if it didn’t belong to that person - we never did that again!   

We continue some form of that today.  Now I tape Outburst cards on the bottom of the gift, and they have to get 5 out of the ten correct to be able to open that gift.  If they don’t succeed they wait till their next turn and try again.  It makes opening of the gifts more fun instead of just tearing into them.   Kristen even carried out the tradition when we had Christmas at her house one year.  We hid the gifts throughout the house and when it was your turn to open, you had to go find it.  Now each gift had a clue with it.  She had taken very close up photos of something that would pertain to where it was hidden.  Each person checked their clue on her computer before going on the hunt.  

-I will never forget the night when there was to be a meteor shower that could only be viewed for 2 nights, between the hours of 2-4  A.M.  I got out of bed and checked to see if it was a good viewing night, since the night before it was foggy.  Seeing that it was clear I woke everyone up, including a couple of Kristen’s friends who joined us for such ventures, and we gathered up sleeping bags, and blankets and headed out into the chilly night in our pajamas with warm outer wear.    We all laid down in a clearing, the Front Meadow, where camp kids played games, across from our house.  The free show, which only the Lord could produce,  began and we would all declare aloud when we saw one.   Afterwards we had hot chocolate and back to bed we all went.

- One Sunday, after I had worked feeding a large group all weekend, I went home tired, wanting to do nothing. Brian, who was about 3rd or 4th grade, called earlier to the lodge to see when I was coming home. Talk about feeling like you have gone to heaven!!!!  Brian, dressed in a suit, greeted me at the door, with a towel draped over his arm, and announced “Your bauth is ready, Madame.”   There in our tiny bathroom we all shared, was the bathtub full of hot water with bubbles.  The light was turned off since he had put lit candles on the ledges of the tub.  He had quiet, soft music playing.  And to top it all off, there was a small plate with strawberries dipped in chocolate.  I have a feeling he had help from his siblings.  That caring and concern they had then is still is part of them today, all three.  Each time we talk they will tell me, and Rod too, that they love us, without us being the initiators.  And of course always hugs.   I really believe that living in such a tiny house, where we couldn’t escape one another, made us a closer family.

My specific goals were to raise our children in a Christian home, and that they would follow and serve the Lord when they became adults with servant hearts.  To be respectful and have good work ethics, which seemed to be lacking in so many kids then,  and as I said before, to have fun and make memories. 

To be continued next Friday...

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