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

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Shane and Claire's Wedding Video



The wedding description is in the previous post. Maria, a daughter of the cake maker, accepted my request to run the camera for me. Claire was happy to just have it run and capture the ceremony, but Maria turned and zoomed when appropriate and separated the video into four parts so that the camera wouldn't do it's own auto-save and lose parts of the video. I just didn't want the song in part 3 to be broken up.

Part 1 highlights Dana's beautiful piano playing skills! But, all you will see are the family and wedding party entering.

In Part 2 Claire's music starts at the 1:00 minute mark and she doesn't come up the aisle until about 1 minute and a half later. The ceremony begins at the 4:00 minute mark.

Part 3 is the entire song (minus the last word) of Chet singing "I Will Be Here" with the lighting of the unity candle, signing of the license, and a surprise to the parents.

Part 4, the final word of the song, the tearful vows, the rings, the kiss.








Monday, August 10, 2015

Shane and Claire's Wedding

Shane is our sixth child to get married. While some think we're "old pros" at this it just never gets easier to see a child married. I think that's because children in a family aren't simply a single mass that slowly decreases with time. They may look like it in photographs or in the minds of those outside the family. But within the family and definitely in the hearts of the parents each child is a special unique person with their own place. And that heart is just as full with one or two children as it is with three or more. The heart doesn't divide the love but increases to be able to hold more. There are certainly a few things that are easier today than in 2007 when Joey was married. We know what to expect and the emotion isn't coupled with doubt and wondering. But the feelings run just as strong now as they did eight years ago.

Shane and Claire were the proverbial "high school sweethearts". I first heard her name when Shane told me there was a girl at school that his friends said looked enough like him that she could be his sister. Her name was Claire Tracy. And he found reasons to mention that name a lot and make casual comments about her periodically. The thing was, Shane never made casual comments. When he talked about anything it was because he was thinking very purposely about that thing. I knew there was more to Claire than just looking like him (which, by the way, I have never seen). And there was. By the end of their sophomore year Shane had only three things on his mind--basketball, schoolwork, and Claire, and not necessarily in that order.

Every groomsman reiterated that "Shane really likes Claire". They didn't plan together to all say that and they didn't just pick it up from one another. They all thought it, meant it, and said it. It bears repeating because Shane really does like Claire! So, it was no surprise to us when they chose to marry and move down the less traveled road of finishing college as a married couple.

Here are some memories from their wedding.

The rehearsal

It's nice to have talented siblings. Dana did a beautiful job playing the piano for the prelude, processionals, special music, and recessional. Chet helped Dana figure out how to shorten Canon in D during the rehearsal and then stretch it during the ceremony when, after playing three pages of music the bride was still not coming up the aisle! He also sang a solo during the wedding.

Keira and Carson, Shane's oldest niece and nephew, were thrilled to be chosen to be the flower girl and ring bearer. They weren't so thrilled with rehearsing.

August 8, 2015, The Wedding Day
A final hug from Dad

The last time walking out our door as a single man. I love the unintentional symbolism of the little boy basketball hoop and a pair of sneakers scattered on the floor with the bright light on the other side of the door.

Waiting for the bride

Scenes from the Wedding









Mr and Mrs Shane White

Beautiful Smiles!


The Tracy Family


Papa and Grandma White with Shane and Claire

Posing with all twelve nieces and nephews (Granddad and Nana White's grandchildren)


My eleven children

My boys

The wedding party

Claire and Shane

The Tracy's hosted a beautiful reception with a delicious dinner and a dance at the local Quality Inn.

My good friend and fellow grandmother (my daughter's mother-in-law) Chris Kleven made this beautiful and delicious wedding cake (vanilla/strawberry, poppyseed/cream cheese, and chocolate/gnoche). If it looks like something is missing that's my fault. Sunday night I was talking to my boys in the dining room and my eye caught a small black box on top of my china hutch. The memories came back rapidly and jagged like a Hitchcock scene with screeching music. I had flash backs of Shane asking, "Can you give this to Mrs. Kleven?", "Where should I put it?", "It's the topper for the wedding cake." If anyone noticed it was missing they never said anything to me about it. It agonizes me a little bit that it was only 2 1/2 miles from the hall and could have been easily retrieved!

Keith dressed Gabe for the wedding and, when he put the coat on, Gabe looked into the mirror and said, "I'm a man." So, two of my men, Gabe and Shane.


Last spring Shane asked me to pick out the music to our mother/son dance. I knew it would have to be a country son for my country loving boy and I wasn't sure where to start looking. Then I thought, "I wonder if I could write a song for him?" So I did. While washing dishes one afternoon a stanza came to my mind and I dried my hands to jot it down on a piece of scrap paper. I stuck it to the refrigerator with a magnet so I didn't lose it and it became the first lines of the fourth verse of Shane's Good-Bye Song. They were, "You wouldn't know it to look at them now/ dancing in the middle of the floor/ that it was just a few years ago/ she couldn't wait to see him walk out her door". I cried as I wrote the song and I cried when I first heard it put to music by my talented son Chet. I've cried again when I've watched this video of the dance, and even Shane cried when he heard it for the first time on the dance floor. It is a testament to the deep emotions that the love and struggles of parenting and growing up bring to our hearts. I'm thankful that the trials were short-lived and that the joy is now so full.



Finally, the end of their day, and maybe even the beginning of the next, and on to the honeymoon and together forever.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Has Gabe changed my life?

Actually, the comment/question that my friend sent to me was this:
Gabe always looks so happy. Has he changed your life? I was just wondering.
It was such a simple statement, such a simple question. But it felt almost impossible to answer. Initially, I thought to myself (more like screamed),
"YES! Absolutely and in every way. In fact, change doesn't even begin to describe the enormity of the impact Gabe has had on my life."
Then I began to feel bad about my reaction, as if it implied negative things about Gabe and my life with him. As if only bad things change my life. So, I considered other things in my life and asked the same question. I realized that my answer to those things would be the same.

Has my life changed since I;
spent a year as an exchange student?
moved into my own apartment?
got married?
had my first child?
To every one of those I would also respond,
"YES! Absolutely and in every way."
Important life events don't just change a life, they redefine it. Things that don't change my life are, by their lack of impact, inconsequential--of no consequence. As for Gabe, as is true with each of my other children, he is not inconsequential. Therefore, my life has most certainly been significantly impacted by him.

So, I consider again,
"How has Gabe changed my life?"
What would probably be more accurate if I'm going to try to fully understand the intent of the question is,
"In what ways has Gabe, with Down syndrome, changed my life as compared to how my life was changed, in general, by my other children?"
And if parents of children with special needs are honest, they will admit that more changes occur in your life as a result of having a child with special needs versus having one without special needs.

I could complete the answer to that question by saying, "Yes, Gabe has changed my life just as each of my children has changed my life." But to do so wouldn't really be giving a complete and honest answer to the whole question.

So, Lynda, here is a real answer to your question. Because you were wondering.

Since the day you asked me that question I have intentionally considered what I would be doing differently if I didn't have Gabe. Here are some things I noticed.

*When I took my teenagers and their friends to the water park I would have brought a book, sat in the coffee shop, and enjoyed a quiet afternoon. Instead, I climbed over 1000 steps and went down outdoor water slides, indoor water slides, slides on tubes, slides on mats, single tubes, doubles tubes, racing tubes, and gratefully floated the lazy river with Gabe.

*When I drove to Bemidji with Lisa and Gabe to visit Shane I would have walked and talked with Lisa and Shane. Instead, I walked and talked with Lisa and Shane AND met every dog on the paths at Lake Itasca, played frisbee, walked around a restaurant finding all of the unique cartoon character cookie jars, and slept on the floor in front of the door to our hotel room so I could prevent Gabe from playing on the elevator at 4:30 am (again).

*When I went to Owen's baseball game I would have sat in the stands and watched Owen play. Instead, I stood and watched him while I played catch with Gabe.

*When the grandchildren came to the house they would have moaned about being bored with the old people. Instead, they couldn't wait to come and play with Gabe.

*When I did the laundry I would have done it alone. Instead, Gabe pulled the things out of the dryer and tried to guess who they belonged to. I would not have laughed so much as I folded clothes.

*When I walked to the car from the rest area toilets I would have walked. Instead, I raced.

*When I came home from my future daughter-in-law's bridal shower I would have put down my things and gone about my business. Instead, I was greeted with a huge hug and, "You're home! Oh, I missed you! I missed you so much!" followed by another hug.

Gabe does look happy a lot. He is happy a lot, but not as much as he looks because I usually post pictures of him smiling. He can make my day and cheer us all up.

But some of the changes are hard. Gabe has had more health problems than my other children. His education requires more teamwork and research. He has been slower to communicate and it can be hard to know when he is being defiant or when he doesn't understand (and there is a lot of both). He is still not consistently toilet trained. He is not always aware of danger and doesn't articulate when he does understand so I struggle with how much freedom to give him.

But, even the hard things have produced some positive results. His health and education trials have opened doors to relationships I never would have made. His slow communication has made me more patient and observant. And the toilet training trials that have brought me to some of my lowest lows have brought me to a deeper, richer knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It's hard to imagine that it took dirty diapers to break me down and more fully open my heart and mind to God, proving that His ways are definitely not my ways!

The fact is, the trials that I have gone through with Gabe have brought about some of the richest and most gratifying changes of all. I have sought God in ways that I never did before. I have dug deeper into His word and striven more diligently to absorb and understand it than I ever have. In many ways, I was too capable and able to handle things and keep things under control. Gabe helped me to be more fallible.

I know that the things that 'pull the rug out from under me' are the ones that leave me lying on my back and looking up to God. Gabe can pull the rug out, and that gift is immeasurable.


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Growing up "White"


A year ago, my then college-freshman son Shane (our seventh child and fifth son), wrote a paper for his English class entitled "Painting my 'White' Mask". What emerged from that assignment was an inside look at what it's like to live surrounded by stereotypes and expectations, what it's like to grow up in a big family in a small town, and what it's like for anyone to grow up, find their own way in life, and become a composite of their upbringing and their own person. I'm incredibly proud of the young man Shane is today and I thank him for sharing this story with me, knowing I would share it with you.


Painting my “White” Mask

There’s not much left to the imagination when you’re the seventh version of the same brand. An iPhone could tell you that. A new charging jack? Cool. Your camera can face forward and backward? Impressive. You’re still an iPhone. Being an iPhone brings along a set of expectations, most of which will accurately describe you. You’ll have an Apple, Inc symbol on your back, a touch screen, and will perform more tasks than the majority of your cell phone peers. There is a different set of expectations that come along with being a Mr. White. You can’t really get upset at people for judging you by the cover of your birth certificate. After all, you have twenty-five cousins and ten siblings, most of whom have acted in a similar fashion. So what are these expectations? Are they presumptions that you don’t mind solidifying, making the stereotype even stronger for those that will follow you, or do you find yourself searching for the white-out to cover up the memory of “your” mistakes? Throughout my years of living in a big-family-small-town world, I have learned that there are a set of “do” and “don’t” expectations, but that you are still able to make a name for yourself, seen by those that will take the time to look at the picture you’ve painted on your own White mask.

As I emerged into the social world after spending fourteen years in a cocoon known as homeschooling, I soon observed that there were at least a few things expected of me. The quick, pleasant glance over the glasses of Mrs. Kotarba as she called out my name revealed her expectation of me being a good, respectful student. Coach Moore, Coach Fortier, and Coach Waksmonski’s inquiries as to whether I’d be “coming out this season?” told me that they were chomping at the bit to have another talented athlete on the roster of each of their respective sports teams. The flirty giggles from immature and superficial freshmen girls, paired with the laughably loud whispers of “that’s TROY’S younger brother!”, showed their anticipation of me growing out of the gangly, awkward body I was trapped in at the time (although Troy, now a model, would be quick to jokingly point out that they got their hopes up too high for me). There were also a few dirty looks thrown my way in the halls, paired with comments behind my back by people that I didn’t even know, about how much better I assumed I was than everybody else. So after a few weeks of high school, I learned that, in a general description, Mr. White (the Shane was unimportant) would be not only a smart and respectful young man, but a cocky, stuck up athlete as well.

As I settled into my freshman routine, I learned that there were also a few things that I would not do. I sat through speeches in the first week of freshman classes warning me about how huge of a problem drugs and alcohol were. I laughed. I hadn’t even heard these “huge problems” mentioned to me, much less been offered them. So I asked the older Mr. Whites if they had noticed these issues during their high school days. To my surprise my teachers were right. There was a problem. The older Mr. Whites had been offered, but had declined. I soon realized that it was not the problem that was going away in our school, but that it was simply becoming common knowledge that Mr. Whites simply don’t do that. They don’t skip class, smoke weed or drink alcohol, so don’t even ask. These undesirable “opportunities”, however, weren’t the only ones I was being left out of. I was pursued by coaches for athletics, but why not band teachers or the drama club? The answers to my questions were becoming redundant: Mr. Whites don’t do that.

So there I was as a freshman with my entire high school story already written for me by others. Looking back on the final edition that I eventually wrote, I’ll be the first to admit many similarities. Mrs. Kotarba’s assumptions turned out to be correct, as I finished with the sixth class rank out of two-hundred and fifty students and multiple “Student of the Month” awards (one even coming from her class). Coach Fortier and Waksmonski went on to be names I said countless times over my four years of high school, as I was a three year starter in both varsity basketball and baseball. By senior year I had been offered alcohol and drugs, but declined every time, continuing the stereotype that younger Mr. Whites are now experiencing. I never did pick up an instrument or participate in the school play, although I wish I had. Lastly, even with my best attempts to avoid the reputation, there are a handful of young adults out there who, if asked about Shane White, will say “asshole!” instantly.

So did I fail at painting over my White mask? Some would say I did. I didn’t rewrite all the rules my siblings had given me to follow, but I liked the majority of the patterns they set. I find nothing wrong with avoiding drugs and alcohol, striving to succeed in academics, athletics, and being respectful while doing it. As for the negative attributes, I learned the hard way that old habits (even family habits) die hard. For those that looked from a distance, confidence was easily mistaken for arrogance. Even my girlfriend has admitted that “stuck up” was her first impression of me. But for those that cared enough to come closer and look for Shane showing through the White, they saw a subtly different Mr. White from the rest. Throughout high school, I am proud to say that I gained many real, close friends who made that choice to look deeper and realize that the decisions I made were my own. When they look at my faintly colored White mask, they call it Shane.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Mid-winter Update for Heidi and Svein Olav

To the Kjeve family--Here is a picture diary for you of the last few months of 2014.

With 11 grandchildren there are often little ones in the house and we have had several of them stay with us for two or three days to give their parents a break. Here is Christoffer reading with Veda and then with her little brother Isaac.



I thought I had a photo inside the house on Thanksgiving day with all of the tables set up and guests seated, but I must not have downloaded it yet. This picture shows a group of the guys (and a few girls) out in the back field playing football. It is one of the favorite Thanksgiving traditions for our children. They would rather miss the turkey than the football game!

Between the holidays we took the trip to Florida. I think everyone agreed it was worth missing school and having to catch up with the homework! I have included just a sample of the photos from the trip.

We drove about 3 hours to see Owen and Bryce play a basketball game and then left from there for our trip. We drove through the night to Louisville, Kentucky. Usually Keith drives until about 1:00 and then I take over. However, with Christoffer sitting in the front seat next to him the two of them talked all night and Keith made it all the way to Louisville. I don't think that's ever happened before! Yeah Chris! I got to sleep!

We toured the Louisville Slugger factory where baseball bats are made.

We drove on to Chattanooga, Tennessee stopping at Mammoth Caves and Kentucky and then going to an underground cave and waterfall called Ruby Falls. This is the falls with colored lights and then Christoffer in front of the falls. (The flash reflected off of the water spray.)



Up above the caves we toured above-ground rock formations and enjoyed the views on Lookout Mountain. The boys enjoyed posing on this balcony. I refused to even step on it!

As often as possible the football and aerobi (like a frisbee) came out and the boys played. This is a park on Lookout Mountain. I don't remember if we were in Tennessee or Georgia, we were right on the border.

I love this picture of Christoffer catching the football.

Here is Bryce catching the aerobi between his legs.

Owen and Christoffer loved battling for the football thrown by Bryce. Owen is taller, but Chris jumps higher!



In Alabama, on our way to Panama City, Florida, we stopped at a cotton field and let everyone examine the plants up close.

Our days in Panama City were a highlight of the trip. We all enjoyed our time on the Gulf, even though the temperatures were a bit cool. At least the local people thought it was cool, these northerners thought it felt great!

More football throwing.

Bryce doing back flips off of a sand dune.


This is Christoffer standing on his head. His feet are on fire!

Gabe loves playing with Chris.

Disneyworld was a disappointment to the teenage boys, exhausting for Gabe, but absolutely wonderful for Lisa. The boys took Gabe back to the house after lunch and Lisa and I stayed and had a great time together.

The brothers!

It was strange to leave the warm weather and come home to Christmas preparations. I didn't realize how much the cold weather and snow make it feel like Christmas weeks before the 25th! We didn't put our tree up until the 22nd. Lisa and Gabe loved helping decorate the Christmas tree, but the guys were happy to play a game together.


Here are a few pictures from Christmas morning.



I took this picture of Christoffer with Lisa at Papa and Grandma's house. We went there with Keith's sister and her family and three of our married children with their families. We all sang Christmas songs and ate cookies in their small house.


We rented this house for four days and stayed in it with all of our children (except Troy) and grandchildren. It was a nice way to be able to all be together. Unfortunately, a lot of us got sick before, during, and after our stay.

Everyone had fun out on the lake.


Ice fishing was a favorite. This is Dana, our middle daughter.

The older ones got their exercise pushing the young ones across the ice on sleds (after they shoveled it)....

...and pulling them around the lake in a wagon (this is Christoffer and Vince).

Inside we relaxed, played games, and ate popcorn by the fireplace.




I'll try to update you a little more frequently. We can't believe that our time with Christoffer is half gone. It's going way too quickly.