SAL-VA-TION: by grace
E-LEV-EN: children from 1984 to 2006
HOME-SCHOOL-ING: since 1990
DOWN-SYN-DROME: susie and gabe
GRAND-CHILD-REN: since 2010
FAITH-FUL-NESS: my steadfast rock, my biggest supporter, my leader, my friend, my love, my husband

Monday 7 July 2014

Mr. Comeback

We've all thoroughly enjoyed the stories that Bryce brings home from his hours of dealing with the public as a cashier at our local Menards store. People are funny. Bryce is funny. Put them together with his comedic telling of the tales and it's downright entertaining.

Last week he came home with a story that beat all others, hands-down. Better than breaking up a fight in the check-out line. Better than the woman who sent employees running and searching for 15-minutes so she could save $.06 (yes, as in 6-cents). Better than a customer demanding the head cashier come find cough drops.

Here's the story:

A gentleman came through Bryce's line with his items and when the total rang up the man asked, "Don't I get a discount?"

Bryce, understandably, looked a bit confused and asked, "Um, what kind of discount?"

The man just repeated, "A discount, don't I get a discount?"

Bryce politely queried, "You mean like a senior citizen's discount?"

"Oh, so you think I look old, huh?" the man countered.

Bryce just laughed and said, "Well, not necessarily, but I know that some stores do that so I figured that's what you meant. But we don't have a senior discount."

The man just handed Bryce his driver's license and let him inspect the identification. Bryce took it, looked down, and saw the name John Menard on the ID. John Menard, as in the 74-year-old entrepreneur and billionaire from Eau Claire who founded the Menards chain, which Bryce had learned about in the training video just 3 weeks prior.

Bryce knows how to think on his feet and this was no exception. He glanced up at the man, looked down at the card, and made a show of studying it. Then he looked up again with an expression of a dawning understanding and said, "Oh, I see, so you DO want a senior discount."

I think Mr. Menard's day was made.

Friday 4 July 2014

The March of Time

So, where does the time go?

It goes from taking vacations with your family to passing on family trips in favor of jobs and basketball.

It goes from running to show Mom a salamander or yelling, "Hey, watch me!" to running out the door with a, "See ya!"

It goes from playing with the brothers in the backyard to road trips with them across the country.

It goes from 'dorky' to 'cool'.

It goes from visiting siblings in college to taking off for your own university experience.

It goes from sitting in the co-pilot's seat to taking off on your own.

It goes from getting your humorous comments put in the family "Funny Book"--
"I feel sorry for this song (last one in the hymnal), no one ever picks it."

"Oh! Dana would love that (passing a horse farm)! She could clean stalls."

"Finally! (his 7th birthday) I'll bet you're excited too. To have a boy since he was zero already 7-years-old!"

"If Hawaii sunk, would they take a star off the flag?

"I was going to sleep with my sunglasses on last night. I wanted to see if I'd have weird dreams when it was really dark."

To writing thoughtful and insightful college papers.

It goes from asking, "Will you go to prom?" to "Will you marry me?"
She said yes (to both), and the March of Time goes on to a whole new tune.

Congratulations Shane and Claire!

Wednesday 2 July 2014

Special Needs, Special Love

Several years ago my friend Mary Silverberg got the idea to write a book featuring 10 women living with a child, children, or grandchildren with special needs that could be used to encourage others as they navigate the course of life with a child with special needs. I was asked to be one of the contributors and thoroughly enjoyed the months long project of reliving Gabe's story through words.

Mary wasn't able to find a publisher for the book, but she still wanted to make the stories available to others. She finally decided on using a blog format and highlighting the individual writers one at a time, spacing out the chapters of their part of the book.

I have enjoyed reading through the first two journeys and entering into the different aspects of the trials these women faced. This week, it was Gabe's turn to have his story told. There are 10 parts in all, and they've all been posted to the blog. If you want to read some indepth insights to our first few years with Gabe, as well as be blessed by the stories of the other women I invite you to log into Special Needs, Special Love at

Tuesday 1 July 2014

The Saddest Day

For almost six months we had this beautiful girl in our home. Neon was an AFS student from Thailand who needed a new family last February and we got to be that family. She was not only beautiful on the outside with her infectious smile and graceful mannerisms. But her patience, kindness, sense of humor, melodious laugh, and willingness to be a part of our family and lives in every way completely won over our hearts. She was only with us for four days when she asked if she could call me "Mom".

Neon spent time where we were. If I was in the kitchen she was there talking and helping wash and cut vegetables, if I was in the garden she was talking with me and weeding by my side. If someone had a ballgame she was in the stands with us. If we sat down for a movie and popcorn she was curled on the couch, too. Neon never seemed to be pressing her own agenda, but fully living as a member of the family. She found ways to connect with each person, show interest in their lives, and help lift their spirits. She loved Gabe and had more patience with him than just about anyone I've ever seen. Of course, she had her own friends and activities. She kept the details logged on her space on the calendar and would remind me, "Mom, I'm going to Minocqua with friends today," or "Catherine is picking me up tomorrow at 12:00", or "my art club is over at 4:00, can you pick me up?". In her calendar space on June 30 she wrote, "The saddest day".

Neon didn't have an enormous circle of friends, but the small group she had was close and real. The tears shed upon their good-byes were not manufactured. And when we waved at her through the bus windows yesterday neither were mine. Yesterday, she was very sad. But tomorrow she'll be happy again and Thailand will be a little better off as it welcomes home one of it's true jewels.

Saturday 28 June 2014

What Makes a Son a Son

Twenty-eight years ago I was questioning whether or not the baby in my arms was mine. At about 9:00 pm the previous evening I'd given birth to our second son. In my journal I wrote,
Welcome to the White family Baby Keith. In 8 minutes you'll be 1 day old. It's been a good day for both of us--one of rest. Yesterday we worked. About yesterday...I woke up at 3 a.m. feeling contractions that I was pretty sure would lead to delivery. It was a hot night, the low was in the 70s (high during the day--90s) and the bedroom fan didn't keep me from sweating. I tried to rest, walked around some, played solitaire for awhile and called in at 5 a.m. to report my 5-6 minute contractions. Kathy L. was the CNM on call and she said to come on in. I could have waited but I couldn't resist the thought of an air-conditioned hospital!

I went in to wake Keith up--it turned out to be a lot harder than I expected. I shook him a little and he looked at me with a very startled expression. When I asked if he was ready to take me to the hospital he suddenly rolled over on his stomach clutching his back with one hand. I thought he had a cramp or pain and I tried to rub it, but he said it didn't hurt. When I asked what was wrong he just got exasperated and asked, "Can you tell where it's connected?" The more I asked what he was talking about, the more annoyed he got with me. I figured he wasn't fully awake; but, when I told him that he just got madder. Finally, he asked me, "Can you see where the hose is connected?" and I knew he was not truly awake. I told him I was going to turn on the light and get dressed.

That, I did, and when I was ready to go I aroused him again--successfully. He looked at me funny and I asked, "Are you ready to go to the hospital?" He looked at me, jumped to see the time, and said, "Really?!"

Well, we left Marty with Joey and headed out at 5:30 on a beautiful morning. I registered while Keith parked, he forgot my suitcase and had to return and we ended up riding up the elevator with Kathy. ......contactions never got closer than 5 minutes apart or lasted over 1 minute (nice and tolerable).....

I saw him as soon as he was out, and saw for myself that he was a "he". Margaret (new CNM) said, "It looks like your Daddy was right." Keith was sure he'd be a boy..........

Keith left at 11:00 with our baby still nameless. He said I could choose. We needed to sleep on it--our choices were Keith Byron, Jr, Chad Daniel, and Casey Brandon. I decided on Keith, Jr. I always thought I'd waid to see if we had a #4 son, but I didn't want to wait. This, too, was the closest I've ever been to Keith and after our day and everything I wanted this baby to have his name. Keith Byron White, Jr June 27, 1986 8:58 pm 8lbs 15 oz 22 1/4"

What I didn't write down was that 1) I had the name Keith in the back of my head, but not on any list we discussed. Keith Sr expected our baby to be named Chad or Casey. And 2) Baby Keith went to the nursery at 11:00 to get cleaned up and I went to sleep. When they brought him to me to feed him the next morning (which didn't make any difference to him, he wouldn't wake up for anything for 24 hours!)I took one look at him and said, "That's not my baby. My baby was uglier." Well, our bands matched and he was the right size and they convinced me that he just looked better after getting cleaned up. It bothered me for awhile and we joked about it years later when Keith came home from a biology class and announced he'd tested his blood and it was AB+. Back in 1986, they still did a blood test on newborns and I knew he was really A+ like both of his parents. The bottom line is, the class test was faulty and he really is A+ and it's pretty undeniable that he's our son. But, even if he'd turned out to actually have AB+ we agreed that we wouldn't do anything about it. We really felt that he's our son because we love him, more than because we have matching blood types.

You never know what to expect when a baby is born. And when that baby is born healthy you have no cause for alarm or dashed hopes and expectations. Everything seems perfect. Of course, it never is. We lived through some sleepless nights, 6 months of trying to diagnose a dairy intolerance, a broken leg--a broken arm--and a concussion all before age 4 caused by jumping off of things, an irrational fear of worms that morphed into the fear of anything that looked like worms including shoe laces and anything living that wasn't human, and some more typical trials that just come with the territory of parenting. However, we also got to enjoy all the blessings of this boy, including--his contemplative mind, his competitive spark, his acute observation and empathy for someone in need, his uncanny math brilliance, his management skills (personal and work), his self-discipline, his love of fishing (once he got past the worm thing), and now his beautiful wife and adorable children.

These things, the good and the bad and living them together is what makes him our son.

Friday 27 June 2014

Wishful Thinking

Breakfast is light this morning as we're planning a big lunch out. Gabe resigned himself to sitting down with a bowl of cereal, but his prayer was,
Heavenly Father, thank you for the eggs and sausage. Amen

Thursday 6 February 2014

Gabe update

I know I just posted a video of Gabe playing basketball, and it tells a wonderful story about where he's at, but it's been a LONG time since I posted a real update on how our boy is doing.

We are thrilled that Gabe's health has been improving over the past 2 years. He still tends to catch viruses easier than most and is a bit sicker than most, but he's stayed out of the hospital. In fact, we haven't had to visit a doctor for anything other than an annual check-up in the past 2 years. The last virus Gabe caught was in late December when he got a stomach/vomiting bug. He was only sick 5 or 6 times. The last three times (going back several years) that Gabe had the stomach bug he threw up every half hour for at least 12 hours. It was actually a great encouragement to see him kick it so much quicker this time.

Gross motor skills still tend to be his strong suit (check out the video!). He can run, jump, climb, skip, dribble, and hop right along with the other kids his age. In many of these areas he exceeds the expected level of a 7-year-old.

Just today, the leader of our homeschool sports club was telling me how amazed they are at the change in Gabe's communication skills from last year to now. Not only can the coaches understand what he's saying, but the kids can too. Gabe has always loved to talk, he's just been difficult to understand. He has work to do. He struggles with the sounds that are made with the tongue in the back of the mouth--j, ch, and r.

Not only is his functional speech improving, but the content of his communication is advancing. He has always had a hard time communicating about a past event (even if it happened today). He seems to have a hard time absorbing a past-tense question, "What happened? What did you do? Where did you go? Who did you see?", as an understandable concept. Last night at supper I asked him to tell Daddy where he went during the day. After rephrasing it as, "Who did you see?" he blurted out, "I go to the Fosters, play with Alex, watch baby animals."

Gabe's greatest challenge has come in the area of fine motor skills. His fingers lack dexterity and their clumsiness frustrates him. We are working on self-dressing. We've been working on it for three years. We take itty bitty baby steps. We began with me laying the shirt or pants in front of him and then holding his hands and assisting him putting them on. I keep trying to draw back my involvement and today, for the first time, Gabe went to his drawer, found a pair of pants, and put them on with no physical intervention! (Yes, I gave some verbal instructions.) It was the first time his, "I did it all by myself!" was completely true.

Gabe is still homeschooled. He is learning to read. He knows all of his letters and sounds, has an arsenal of about 100 sight words and is able to phonetically sound out all first level words. He can count to 30 and with a little help get to 100. He's working on counting by 2s and 5s and finding a number on a number line. I just never thought about the fact that comprehending that 23 comes after 15 and before 40 might have to be learned and not just 'figured out'. It has been a fun challenge to find the games and methods that help him catch on to things like that. It makes me appreciate how complex our brains really are!

As we all know, who we are involves considerably more than how your muscles work and what you're doing in school. Gabe has a great imagination, sense of comedy, strong perseverance, and is very empathetic. He loves to go places but always wants to get back home. He loves loves loves his nieces and nephews. He's learned to be shy when he feels under pressure in the spotlight and he'll fidget with his glasses. He knows when he wants to be a ham on stage and when he absolutely does not! He knows how to push the buttons of older siblings or caregivers as he tests them to see how much he can get away with.

I used to call Gabe a tornado on legs. He's definitely calmed down and I'm finally not on high alert at all times. I'll still have to watch the doors in the summer, but every season, every year brings constant change and advancement. It's strange to remember that there was a time he wasn't a part of our lives. I almost can't comprehend what that was like. But, I'm enjoying the growing up changes and I'm still enjoying how slowly he takes it. Well, most of it, I will be very happy to see him independently taking care of all his personal needs! Like everything else, it'll come with time.