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

Friday, March 11, 2016

My Favorite Sports Story Ever

In light of the negative attention that last week's basketball game received, and in honor of Gabe turning 10-years-old this week, I thought I would relive this great memory from football season 2014.

I am not so naive as to think that this is how athletic competitions should end all the time, that it never matters if you win or lose, and that we just need to make everyone feel good.  But I sure am glad that this select group of people on this one particular day came together to make Gabe's day, and in the process, left smiles on the faces of millions of people around the world.  The video shows Gabe (a then 8-year-old, being guided by his older brother, Owen (who was also on the court during the stall game last week) and then chased down by a great group of opposing players (from Mosinee) who just make this the best high school touchdown ever.

Happy Birthday Gabe!!

(I wish I could get the NFL video with commentator breakdown to show up as a full video, but I can't, so here is the link to their piece:

Or, you can see the original footage here:

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Basketball or "Stall Ball"?

March 5, 2016

To:  Wisconsin State Basketball Coaches and the WIAA
Re:  Basketball or “Stall Ball”?

Dear Coaches and Board Members,

I sat through a painful 36-minute “stall ball” game last night.  Even before the end of the blisteringly boring excuse for a game (and while we led by 4 points) I was drafting this letter in my head.  The nauseated feeling that began in the first five minutes of play never went away.  For me, this isn’t about winning and losing.  For the coaches, apparently, that is all it is about.

As for basketball, I am not new to the game.  I played high school basketball in MN, played on a European women’s team while I was an exchange student, and played one year of division 2 college basketball before transferring to a division 1 school where I knew I could not (and did not care to try to) compete.  I stayed involved in athletics by officiating intramural games; and I married an athlete who played high school football, basketball, and baseball and has officiated at upper levels of competition.  We have eleven children; and, our ninth child and seventh son is a now high school athlete.  I have been watching my kids play baseball, soccer, softball, football, and basketball for twenty-two years.  Besides all of the regular season games, I’ve watched them play in all-star games, AAU games, state east-west games,a MN-WI border battle, state tournaments, college football games, and college basketball games.  I estimate that I have sat through at least 1600 games.

In twenty-two years and 1600+ games I have seen only ONE team end the season with a win.  Only ONE team made it to the final championship game and took home the trophy.  That’s only one in almost 200 teams’ seasons, less than 0.5% success.  Learn a lesson coaches, it isn’t just about winning.  If it is, you are a collective group of ultimate failures. 

I haven’t encouraged my kids to play sports so they can “win”.  I’ve encouraged them to play because they enjoy it and to learn very valuable life lessons.  I believe kids should walk away from an athletic experience knowing more about hard work, cooperation, teamwork, handling pressure, submitting to leadership, letting others down, and knowing how to deal with those who’ve let them down.  I believe they should learn the benefits of dedication, giving it everything they have, improving their work ethic, and doing all they can as a team to do to those things together.  I believe these lessons take them into job situations, marriages, families, and community positions better equipped to be leaders. 

I want my kids to be leaders, but not without integrity.  Leadership without integrity is what most people call “politics”.  What we all despise about “politics” is the blatant maneuvering to position oneself for personal gain and victory.  We link it with a lack of integrity.
That’s what I feel is happening with high school basketball.  We were witness to this kind of basketball three times this season.  Sitting and watching a team hold the ball for 7 straight minutes is not a game.  Watching a team dribble in circles and pass for minutes on end, waiting to draw a foul, is frustratingly pointless for players and fans alike.  But the fact that it’s frustrating for the fans is not a reason to change strategies.  Three real reasons to stop engaging in the “stall ball” stategy are:  1) it violates the integrity of the game,  2) it undermines real sportmanship, and  3) the reason for competing in a team sport in the first place is seriously violated by such behavior.  This kind of basketball is the making of a sports blooper segment, not an athletic event.

Coaches, when it comes to your “stall ball”, even the players hate it.  They want to play.  They joined the team because they like to play.  I hear first hand what is said by our team’s players and by the opposition.  They hate it.  We’ve taught them too well to respect authority and do what you tell them to do.  They do it because you make them do it; but, THEY HATE IT.  Ask them, I’m sure you’ll find that the vast majority don’t mind losing as much as they  mind not playing

As a parent, one of the most frustrating things I’ve had to do is create what seem like obvious rules.  (I’m guessing that the WIAA committees feel the same way.) I wrongly thought that basic, overriding principles of life would be enough to direct my children.   Then they got old enough to bend the rules, push the boundaries, and come to me saying, “But you didn’t say not to…”  And so the need for specific rules and precise language arose.  I would prefer that my kids exercise personal discretion and integrity to do what is right.  As much as possible, I still challenge them to make mature and honest choices without a defined list of rules.  When it comes to basketball we’ve had sons share with us how, in games, they tried to ‘get into players heads’ to mess them up, “accidentally” tap a ball away before inbounding to take time off the clock, or quietly taunt someone to anger them and get them to retaliate and foul.  We have heartily denounced those behaviors.  Whether they’re legal or just something they can get away with doesn’t matter, it’s bad sportsmanship and lacks integrity.

We want this generation to grow up and make society better, not more self-serving.  While “stall ball” is within the rules of Wisconsin high school basketball, everyone who has had to pay $4, maybe drive 1-2 hours (or more) and then sit through what doesn’t even resemble the game that drives the kids to want to play in the first place, knows first hand that the integrity of the game, and high school athletcs, has been violated. 

It’s true, “No one said you can’t do that.” But they should. Shame on all of you.  (After some consideration, I feel that this was in inappropriate comment.  I apologize.)


Cindy White

Added Note:
Please understand, this is not simply about one game, one team, or one coach.  I wrote most of this letter a month ago following another frustrating stall ball game.  I wish we had stalled and lost so that you would know this is not sour grapes!

Here is an excerpt from a comment that may help express the purpose of this letter:
The debate about this is not new, a shot clock was first implemented in professional basketball in 1954 and the NCAA came on board in the mid 1980s. Everyone understands that 36 minutes of stalling is not basketball. The high schools have been reluctant to go to the shot clock because of the costs, training, and management and because it could potentially hurt younger players who need more time to implement the basic fundamentals of the game. 

The National Federation of High School Association, on its website states, "Currently, Massachusetts, Maryland, Rhode Island, Washington, New York, California, North Dakota and South Dakota utilize the shot clock for either boys or girls or both. Since there currently is no allowance for a shot clock under NFHS rules, these states forfeit opportunity for service on the Basketball Rules Committee."

Unless the NFHS changes the rules, I believe its time for Wisconsin to join those eight states and use the shot clock. You can have your 1980s basketball. I"m ready to move forward.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Time Vacuum--The Next Generation

As a follow-up to the Time Vacuum post, I am posting the video of the sons performing in their fathers' footsteps. I think perhaps Chet inherited Uncle Kyle's dance moves. This video was taken in 1998 at Camp Nicolet, having moved from Camp Algonquin where the original version was performed.

From left to right--Jared, Kip, Keith, Marty, Chet, Kaleb, and Joey (sons of Kyle, Kenny, Keith, and Marty)

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Time Vacuum

Shane asked me to send him a clip of a video that we have on VHS. It's TWENTY years old. My four youngest children were not even born when this video was made!

It has been a favorite among all of them. A few of them remember seeing it performed live, the rest of them enjoy seeing the tape every once in awhile. That is how Shane remembers it, on tape. He was only 8 months old when it was made, yet he wanted me to send it to him so that Claire could see it, too.

Finding the clip on the tape was quite a throw-back in time. As I ran through it I saw my older children twenty years younger, I saw the self that is now me two decades past. It was definitely old school. Yet, I was impressed to see how little my husband has changed. With the exception of his hair style he looks just the same! (I feel kind of bad for him that the same is not true for me.)

This clip is a children's song written by Wisconsin artist Ken Lonnquist called Time Vacuum. It is sung by the five White brothers and their brother-in-law, my children's father and uncles. Some years later a group of the cousins of the next generation performed the song for another camp talent show. I'll have to look for that one!

Here they are, stuck in their own time vacuum of sorts.

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.