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, December 31, 2008

For Dana

Dana is sad that I have written so little here lately. So, I'll tell a story that she doesn't know I know.

A week and a half ago Dana celebrated her 18th birthday with eight girl friends. We decorated with lights and snowflakes and candles and I planned, cooked, and served a four course mystery dinner. It was all part of my gift to her. She and her friends had a good time, enjoyed the food, and had fun watching each other eat salad, lasagna, and cheesecake, sometimes with but more often without utensils.

Dana, however, doesn't know that she also gave me a gift that night. The girls played a game where someone read a question from pre-printed cards, everyone else wrote their answers to the question, and the reader had to guess which answer went with each person.

I was in the kitchen cleaning up the supper dishes when I heard the reader ask, "If you could pick anyone to go out for dinner with who would it be?" The list of answers read something like this:

My future husband
A special someone
Audrey Hepburn
My husband-to-be
My Mom
Susan Sarandon
My future husband

Can you guess what most of these girls have on their minds!?

Well, the guesses were made, the correct answers revealed, and I learned that my Dana's answer had been, "My Mom"--and she didn't even know I could hear them.

I love you, Dana!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Guyana Blog

Ellen asked me to start a blog for her and Katie (it is called EKG for Ellen, Katie, and Guyana and the heart work that is going on there) so they could keep people up to date on their experiences and work in Guyana. They have very limited computer time and thought this would be a quick way to share their information. I posted the first entry with pictures of their departure from the frozen north almost ten days ago. I look forward to hearing their news from "the sauna", as Ellen has described it. You can read about them at

Answer: I don't think so

Lisa's question for the day:

"Do you think sometime we can go outside at night when it's dark and have a camp fire and kill a pig and put it on two sticks and then turn it and eat it or maybe a chicken or something?"

Do they even bottle that?

Susie, who is visiting for the week--"Did you change your hair color?"

Me--"No, why?"

Susie--"It looks a little greyish."

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

She's Gone

Ellen left for Guyana at 8:05 AM Monday morning.

I'm still sad.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Recognition Weekend......Almost

Husky Football Banquet Friday night:
Recognized for setting a new school record in number of receiving yards in a career,
recognized as the Best Offensive Back in 2008,
recognized for the Scholar Athlete award,
recognized as one of seven seniors to make it through five seasons,
recognized as a captain and team leader,
recognized for doing the best impression of the head coach.

Michigan Tech Graduation Ceremony:
Recognized for completing a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering,
recognized for graduating Summa Cum Laude (3.97),
recognized as......"Kevin" B. White.

Really? Show me the 'v' and 'n' in "Keith".

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Dad's in the News!

You boys with your touchdowns, tackles, homeruns, and good grades aren't the only ones in print. The local paper headed to AirPro to do a story about the business, just days after its six year anniversary.

They didn't just do a story about the business, but they included quotes like, "The purpose of this business is to glorify the Living God." Praise God for such an opportunity to lift up His name publicly!

Click here to read Local Manufacturer Succeeds with Values.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


This week is rather bittersweet as two of our adult children are packing up and moving--one coming, one going.

Keith and Nicole are busy getting moved out, packed up, and on Saturday we'll lend a hand getting them back to town.

Ellen is "packing up her life" (her own words) as she prepares to head for Guyana on Monday. Upon her return she'll be planning her wedding and preparing for a permanent move away from home and to Eau Claire.

It's been sad to see her really preparing to move out.....for good. However, I DID have to draw the line somewhere!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Holiday Pounds

After supper one evening last week Keith invited the children to join him in doing some calisthenics to help offset the seasonal calories.

Lisa must have the whole system figured out because the next night after supper she asked him,

"Daddy, can we do extra size tonight?"

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Thanksgiving with a Surprise Ending

Our Thanksgiving Day was a pretty typical one for us. We had 45 people at the house and also enjoyed sharing this holiday with our sons from Portugal and Thailand. They ate the turkey and potatoes, tried the stuffing, sweet potatoes, and cranberries, and enjoyed their choice of thirteen pies. We all enjoyed the opportunity to be with friends and family and share something that we were each thankful for this year.

Rich, Susie, and Tracy

Jamie and Dana

Pat, Zack, Kevin, Papa, Grandma

Troy and Seth

Brett and Shane

Mark and Kaleb

Rick and Debbie

Marty and Kelly

Kaleb, Jessica, and Light

Mendo, Chet, and Marty

Ellen, Dana, and Katie

Joey and Keith

Another annual tradition is the post-dinner-pre-pie football game. The temperature was slightly below freezing, but that didn't stop anyone from joining in for at least part of the game. It also didn't stop a few of the more insane from donning their shorts!

1 QB, 7 WR, 7 DB

Building a fire

Neil, Sean, Jamie, Amanda

Mendo, still doesn't understand "winter"

Chet never has...

After the sun set and the cold drove the gridiron crew indoors we polished off the pies and got out the games. Some of our guys were delighted to gather around a video game brought over by a cousin.

Troy and Keith


While the boys' bedroom was filled with racing fans another group played Apples to Apples in the great room. Ellen added a twist to the game and laid out four description cards (typically only one is laid).


We had to choose one card from our hand that best fit the description. I was sure I had this one in the bag as I played my "Superman" card. However, Daniel played a hand written card and Ellen declared him the winner.

"We're Engaged"

It took us all a few moments to put two and two together and realize that it equalled.....these two!

A wedding date of August 22, 2009 has been set. However, those plans will be put on the back burner until Ellen returns from a five month missions trip to Guyana that start on the 15th of this month. She asked me if she should do anything for the wedding before she leaves. I told her to reserve the church, prepare for her trip, spend time with her fiance, and leave the rest until May.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Gabe's Heart

A little over a week ago Gabe had his "big" heart check up with pediatric cardiologist Dr. Finta. He was scheduled for an EKG, a consultation with the doctor, and an echocardiogram. He hadn't had an echo since he was just a month old, and this test was supposed to tell us if his atrial septal defect (small hole in the right side of his heart) was closed, or small enough to leave alone, or in need of repair. Here's the story from Gabe's perspective.

When we gotted to the doctor's office we went in a little room where a lady tolded me to pull up my shirt so she could put tape on my belly. I like to pull up my shirt.

But it was tricky of her to tell me to do a fun thing and not tell me what was tape on my belly. It was stickers. And when she put stickers on me I did NOT like that at all. I am learning lots of letters and words and EKG does not spell stickers!

I cried but it only tooked a little bit and I could be done. Then I wented to see the doctor and I wasn't too sure I liked her because maybe she would sticker my belly, too. When she tried to be nice I just looked at her and didn't want to smile a bit.

She wanted to see my belly, too, and because I forgotted about the stickers I let her see it, but she was nice to me.

She wanted to see me tongue too and I can do that easy.

After Mama talked to her we went to see a man. I couldn't believe it but he wanted to see my belly, too! What is it with doctors and bellies?

I had to lay on a table for a million hours and the man looked at my heart with a flashlight that didn't have a light. I got to have jelly on my belly to make his flashlight work and it made lots of pretty pictures on his TV. He gave me a TV, too, but he forgotted the DVD player so I couldn't watch my "apple" (that's what I call my favorite movies). I love to watch "apple" so much I try to get in the TV.

But I couldn't watch it so I had to watch a yucky movie about Rugrats. I only cried a little bit. After a million hours (but Mama said it only was one but I don't think she looked at the clock cause one is a little time and I had to sit there for a big time) we went to see the lady doctor again. She said my hole wasn't too big, only as big as a nickel. I think nickels is huge! She said it has to be fixed. She said maybe I would have to cut my heart open and sew it and sew the "ductus" (I like ducks lots and can say "quack quack" and make the duck sign but this is a bad duck but it would be OK if I only had a duck and not a nickel and the thing that she really has to fix is the nickel). But she said if I''m big enough (I'm 27 pounds and 2 feet 8 inches so I think I'm big) I can have a catheter and put a thing in my leg and put a umbrella in the hole to make it plug. I don't want any ducks or nickels or 'brellas either!

Dr. Finta said that more doctors would have to look at my heart pictures and tell me how they will fix my hole. She told me that I'm a strong boy and I don't have a sick heart and my lungs are happy and that is her best news. She said I can wait to be bigger for my fixes. That is a very good thing to the Gabe so I smiled big at her and went home and put on a party hat to celebrate!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Coming Home

Julie and Rebecca from Georgia, this is written with you in mind, because I know you share Keith with me.

Two weeks ago Michigan Tech played their final football game of the season. It was Keith's last game of his career. The team ended with a win and Keith finished in good standing and left his own mark on the program. But the best news of that day for me came while talking to Keith following the game. It was then that he let me know he had decided not to pursue several job possibilities and would be accepting the position in Rhinelander with AirPro and work with his Dad.

I prepared myself long ago for the reality of my children leaving home and very probably not returning to live nearby. I took to heart the sentiments of Charlotte (of EB White's children's classic "Charlotte's Web") as she tried to helped Wilbur accept the changes in life as loved ones move on. I was happy for Joey as he found work and a home in the city with his wife. But, I didn't realize how much it would mean to me to have a child really come home. Certainly, I was happy when I got that news from Keith, but after I passed the phone to Keith, Sr. and went to put Gabe down for his nap I started to cry. As I held my youngest and rocked him before laying him down I felt the flood of emotion that I didn't even realize I had been holding back.

Julie, you have felt the tugs at your heart and lived through the many changes to which a mother must adapt and accept and embrace and endure so you know how unexplainable is the feeling. Rebecca, I want to encourage you as you have years ahead of heart--swelling--trampling--aching--rejoicing. I hope our travels help you prepare for some of what you will go through on your own path.

May God bless all you mothers.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Developmentally Different

I don't like the term "Developmentally Disabled". It literally means, not able to grow, not able to learn, not able to achieve. However, not liking it does not change the fact that Gabe will always be given various labels condensed to initials to describe who he is--ds, mr, asd, and dd--as in down syndrome, mentally retarded, atrial septal defect, and developmentally disabled.

I've decided to change dd to Developmentally Different. Because he IS able to grow and learn and achieve, but he IS different. He learns differently and his achievements come about in ways that I don't even expect.

For instance, before he began to talk at all I would read books to him about animals and point to the animals and make the animal sounds and ask him where they were and what they said. He never responded to me. He just looked at the pages and turned them. I was certain that nothing was sticking and he just wasn't ready for it.

One day I heard him babbling to himself. I walked up behind him to see him with an open book on his lap, pointing to a cow, and saying, "Moo!".

Just days later we were at the park and a girl walked by us with her dog. Gabe got very excited, started patting his leg (the sign for dog that I'd shown him but he'd never repeated) and saying, "Woof, woof!". He was obviously taking it all in and just needed an appropriate--to him--outlet for the information.

Recently, Gabe has begun toilet training. He is actually on pace and even ahead of many of my other children. He calls the toilet "pot" and says "pot...pot....pot" while he goes. One day he looked at me and started bobbing his head up and down rhythmically and said, "". He calls the stove "hot" and it dawned on him that the two words rhymed and he just enjoyed saying them together. That seems pretty "abled" to me.

So, as long as I can come up with my own definitions for labeling initials I won't mind them so much.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

21...Promise Kept

Ellen turned 21 this week. After the day was done, the presents opened, candles blown out, and the cake eaten she said to me, "The deal's off, you've kept your promise."

Actually, it was a two way promise. About ten years ago we had three or four friends and acquaintances (girls) who were all married in their late teens. Ellen (nicknamed "Steel" by her father because of her steely determination, grit, and sometimes immoveable decidedness--somewhat surprising characteristics in an otherwise sweet spirited, submissive natured girl) had very strong oppositional opinions about the early marriages! She made me promise that I would not let her get married before she was 21. I told her that she couldn't know that at her age. She insisted that she could and made me promise I would hold her to it. I told her that if we went through with the promise that I really would have to hold her to it and she insisted it was what she wanted.

I made the promise. I don't know if I would have kept it at all costs, but she never tested it. She remained determined (Steel) that she wanted to have a measure of adult experience and wisdom before marrying.

So, the deal's off, the promise was kept. She leaves for five months of service with missionaries in Guyana on the 15th of December, an experience I'm sure God will use to encourage, bless, and mature her into a more godly woman, prepared for a life united with the man of His choosing.

Happy Birthday Ellen!!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Give Thanks

I haven't posted for some time. I have posts in my head, but not important enough to stop me from my day. But three stories about Thanksgiving were enough to sit me down on this Monday morning.

Next week's holiday is one of my favorites, if not my most favorite. I love the autumn, I love the browns, tans, and oranges used in decorating, and I love the focus on family gathering. Lord willing we will have our eleven children, two daughters-in-law, two foreign exchange sons, two parents, a sister and brother-in-law, a brother and sister-in-law, twelve nieces and nephews, and a handful of church family and friends join us. At last count we were at 39.

Certainly, we should be thankful all the time. But, historically, God set aside special remembrance days for his people to focus on Him and His deliverance. God understands how important it is for us to compartmentalize and separate ideas and disciplines so that our focus becomes sharper. So, I'm thankful that we have this season to encourage us to give thanks, to God and all of those around us who make our lives richer.

Give Thanks #1

Yesterday I filled in for Ellen and taught the 5-9 year old Sunday School group. Our topic was thankfulness. I like to tell Bible stories like any other story. I want to make it seem real.

I told the children about a horrible disease and described the pain and mutilation it caused. I explained its contagiousness and how, years ago, there was no cure. I told them how the towns people, afraid of catching the disease, banished all of the infected people to the rocks and caves outside the town. I explained how the people had to beg for food near the highways and care for each other. I described their homelessness, and lovelessness, and their separation from their families while they got sicker and eventually died of the disease.

My students were attentive, entering into the pain and suffering of these people. Before I finished the story I stood up and told them we were going to act out the rest of it. For the first time I told them that the disease was called leprosy and they were the lepers. I set them up on the side of the road and then I played various people walking along the highway. While they pleaded for help I scurried past them plugging my nose.

Finally, though, I played Jesus passing by and I reached out and touched each one of them and told them they were healed. They leaped for joy and cheered and hugged one another and I told them they could go back to the town and to their families. In all of the excitement, one boy grabbed my hand, shook it, and said, "Thank you!" I walked on past them and sat down.

They all took their seats and I told them that they had done exactly the same thing that was done in the Bible story. Of all the lepers who were healed, only one thanked Jesus. I was amazed that God gave us such an accurate picture of how the true story played out. I had not told the children what was going to happen and I hadn't clued in the one boy to make it all work out. The children did not miss the significance of what had happened, either.

I gave them all the commission to look for ways to show thanks. I told them to try to notice how many things others do for them and to thank them for it. I heard two 'thank yous' last night and got one this morning from my nine year old. I think it's the first time I've ever heard, "Mom, thank you for emptying the dishwasher."

Give Thanks #2

Some years ago I headed out of the house after supper to attend a homeschooling mothers' meeting, leaving my husband and ten children to carry on the evening activities without me. As is typical here after a busy homeschooling/laundry-washing-drying-folding/cooking/cleaning/taxi-ing/fixing/mothering sort of a day, the kitchen counters were full of dishes waiting to be cleaned.

When I returned to the house at 10:00 PM I walked through the kitchen to round up the children who were enjoying an unusually late bed time without Mom in charge. After getting them settled one of my teenagers asked me, "What did you think of the kitchen?" Having not even looked at any details of the kitchen I knew I was in trouble. I had to admit it, "I didn't even notice the kitchen", and I headed for that room to check it out. Sure enough, it was clean. The counters were clear, everything was clean and wiped down and the dishes had been put away. At this point, of course, I raved about the job well done and gave my thanks.

But, it was too late. My teen was upset and said that if I didn't even notice then it wasn't very important to me and why did he/she bother to even help out if I didn't care and he/she certainly wasn't going to go through the trouble of helping again if I didn't really need or want it, which I obviously did not as evidenced by my lack of instant appreciation.

I really didn't respond at the time. I was tired, too tired to think about it, too tired to even know what to think, and too stunned to react.

If it happened now I'd be prepared. I'd remind the teen that every day they have meals prepared, clothes washed, a bed to sleep in, a roof over their head, a ride to wherever, and if immediate thanks and appreciation are the requirements for service then I would expect them to be gushing forth day by day and hour by hour to keep me stroked and serving.

As the receiver of good things it is good to give thanks, we ought to be quick to thank others. But, as the servant, our service is to God and not for the praise of men.

Give Thanks #3

I woke up this morning to find a beautiful little magnet on my kitchen counter, placed on a card that read, "MOM". I opened the card and found a Thank You note from Light and Mendo (my foreign exchange sons) telling me they've had a wonderful three months in my home.

Such a small thing, making such a big difference in my day.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Football Careers: beginning and ending

A friend from the UP sent me a news article highlighting the final home game of the Huskies season, and of Keith's career. You can click on the link for the full story. Or just read on for the abbreviated version.

The White family certainly had much to cheer about in Saturday's Michigan Tech football game, as both senior receiver Keith and redshirt freshman linebacker Chet hit milestones. With 91 yards, Keith set the all-time career receiving yards record at Michigan Tech, while Chet picked off his first career pass with less than a minute left to seal the Huskies victory.

Although Chet was happy to get his first interception, he was even happier to get his brother a win on Keith's final home game.

"I felt like I let (Keith) down a lot of the day because I missed a couple tackles myself," Chet said. "Before that last series I said I've got to do something to help these guys go off victorious; I'm just glad I could help out."

Keith also downplayed his personal achievement - his 2,288 yards surpasses Brian Janeshek for first on the career list - as he has always been more about victories than records.

"It's an honor anytime you get a record, it means you did something right in your career," Keith said. "Obviously it's the win that's a lot more important to me."

The last game of the season will be played this Saturday at Northwood in Midland, MI at 12 noon. We'll be watching on the internet!


The other night we were having family devotions, each reading a verse in turn. At one point Lisa yelled, "Wait! What was that awesome word?"

We all searched for the "awesome" word in 2 Samuel and Ellen guessed, "Subdued?"

Lisa replied, "That's it! Cool! The Bible says, " 'Sup Dude?"!

Monday, October 27, 2008

It's that Season!

Every year, on the day of the first real snow fall--big flakes falling and coating the ground--we put on Christmas music. Last year that didn't happen until December. Today, October 27, we were all humming along with holiday tunes while we got our morning jobs done. No one complained about the jobs, either.

I love the Christmas spirit. Everyone finds it enjoyable and desireable to be cheerful and kind and they willingly adopt what should always be the "Christian spirit".

Monday, October 20, 2008

Science, sort of

Bryce and Owen are studying animals and today we were learning about insectivores, insect eating animals.

At the end of our lesson I was quizzing them and asked, "A bat is the only mammal that can do what?"

Bryce answered, "Hit a baseball."

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Political Perspectives from Aunt Susie

Following is a conversation that Aunt Susie and I had about the election yesterday.

Susie: Who are you voting for?

Me: First, you tell me who you're voting for.

Susie: I'm voting for Cain!

Me: Why's that.

Susie: Because he's going to raise taxes.

Me: Really, that's what you like about him? Anything else?

Susie: I like where he stands on the issues.

Me: Which issues are those?

Susie: Well, for one, he thinks that all people have the right to vote, black people and white people.

Me: I'm pretty sure Mr. Obama thinks the same thing. (Note: Although if you track his connection with ACORN you might suspect his support of the rights of whites to vote....) So, tell me Susie, what don't you like about Mr. Obama?

Susie: He's going to lower taxes.

Me: So, you like Mr. McCain because he's going to raise taxes and you don't like Mr. Obama because he's going to lower taxes. Why do you want to raise taxes?

Susie: Because then we'll have more money for our group home!

Spoken like a true self-preservationist.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Temper tantrum

I was tired. I'd been away from home for two days. Gabe wouldn't nap away from home. I'd spent six hours walking around the Mall of America amusement parking carrying Gabe. I'd spent more than an hour walking around Cabela's holding Gabe. He weighs twenty-six pounds and it's carry or chase.

I was tired. I'd been stuck in traffic and had been late for Aunt Susie's annual meeting. I'd been in a vehicle for more than eight hours with our youngest half and still had a few more to go. I had given three warnings in 30 minutes to "stop screaming" (even when it's play it's piercing). I was helping Aunt Susie out of the van for a bathroom break and Gabe was trying to escape.

I was tired. I was calling for help. Gabe was diving out the door to me. I was calling again. No one was answering. Susie was waiting. I was repeating myself. I was getting frustrated.

So what did I do? How did I graciously, effectively, and with seasoned maturity handle the situation? I lost it. I lost my cool.... completely. No patience, no tenderness, no longsuffering. I yelled, "Fine, I'll just walk the rest of the way home!" And, right there in the parking lot, for good measure I stamped my foot. Everyone shaped up immediately. I think I just shocked them into it.

Tired or not, I still cannot believe I stamped my foot.

Friday, October 10, 2008

DS Awareness Month--Post #2

Susan Rose

In 1954 there were no prenatal tests, no ultrasound markers, not even the diagnostic term "Down syndrome". Susan Rose's parents, Emery and Lydia, and her four older siblings (ages 14-21) had the same expectations for her that any family had for their newborn child. This was undoubtedly to Susan's advantage. When Susan didn't start to crawl, or walk, or talk quite as early as most babies her siblings started asking, "Do you think something's wrong with her?" Her mother Lydia always said, "She's fine, she's just a little slow."

Doctors eventually diagnosed Susan as "a mongoloid", then later identified her as having "Down syndrome" and through it all told her mother that "the child is most certainly mentally retarded". Lydia scoffed, said the doctors didn't know what they were talking about, and insisted that, "Susan is fine, she's just a little slow."

Susan learned to walk and talk. Lydia put her in school where she learned to read and write, add and subract. Sometime in the mid 1960s the "experts" won and Susan joined the special education classes and was steered into being trained for manual labor. She was never satisfied with the work, and always preferred the company and conversation of the staff to that of her fellow classmates. And Lydia continued to contend that she was "just a little slow".

After the deaths of her parents, Susan went to live in a group home. Today she enjoys sharing her home with three other women, including her best friend Joan. The two are die hard Elvis fans who love to watch old movies together. She spends her days in a senior day program for older disabled adults. She loves to visit museums, attend concerts, and participate in cooking and art classes. She tells me that she is finding out she has natural artistic ability and is working on a painting. Her best friends are still the staff and program directors.

The most difficult chapter in Susan's life came while she grieved the death of her parents. Without her mother to advocate for her being "just a little slow" her depression and grief were misunderstood to be a part of her handicap, as if someone with developmental disabilities also had emotional disabilities and was not expected to deal with a personal loss like anyone else. Susan was put in a day facility for severely handicapped individuals that offered more of an asylum atmosphere than anything. She began to exhibit agressive and defiant behaviors that led to psychiatric evaluations and medications. When she was finally removed from the facility her deviant behavior stopped, completely.

I know Susan better as "Aunt Susie". I am her niece and I am only eight years her junior. I remember early on looking up to her, later associating with her as a peer, and eventually (when I learned that her aging siblings were unable to assist her) becoming a guardian. Susie loves her family above anything and anyone. She knows the month, day, and year of everyone's birthdays and anniversaries (4 siblings, 12 nieces and nephews, plus aunt, uncles, and cousins). She keeps up with the great nieces and nephews working to memorize the new generation of names and dates, and doing a fair job of it.

Susie has defied all expectations. Had she been diagnosed with Down syndrome at birth she would not have been expected to reach adulthood. When she was 26 she had passed her then life expectancy. And at 54 she is at the peak age of life expectancy now for someone with ds. Believe it or not, there are still physicians today who tell parents that their child with Down syndrome will never walk, talk, read, write, or live a meaningful life. Susie has done all of those things.

So, thanks to my Grandma Lydia, when my son Gabe was born with Down syndrome two and half years ago I was able to say with confidence, "He's going to be fine, just a little slow."

Thursday, October 9, 2008

"Big Helpers"

When our small children make an effort to pitch in we put on our talking-to-little-kid-voices and ask, "Are you being a big helper?" The help usually comes by way of emptying drawers, flinging laundry around the room, mixing up shoes, and doing other very nonhelpful sorts of things.

A few days ago I asked two of my teenage boys to move the furniture out of a bedroom so that I could paint.

When you move a dresser to a new location wouldn't you just naturally figure out that it will need to be used? Especially the dresser for a two-and-a-half year old who sometimes requires several clothing changes in a day.

This is what I got from my "big helpers".

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Super Hero

This is Homecoming week at RHS and today is "Favorite Super Hero Day". Here's Dana in costume.

She's going as Chet.

DS Awareness--Post #1

Last Saturday we attended our sons' football game at Grand Valley near Grand Rapids, MI. Gabe had slept through our pregame picnic supper so I'd filled two styrofoam cups with potatoes 'n carrots and pumpkin pie. As I walked through the entrance gate with Gabe in one arm, the cups in other, sweatshirts slung over my arm, and a diaper bag on my shoulder, a woman informed me that,
"No food or beverages are allowed in the stadium."
I pleaded,
"But this is food for the baby. He hasn't had supper and they don't really have appropriate food for him at the concession stand."
She looked up at him, grinned, pointed a few yards away, and replied,
"Well, that's my daughter over there so as far as I'm concerned you can bring in anything he needs."
I turned to see an older teenage girl with Down syndrome taking tickets where another line formed. In we went, with Gabe's supper.

That extra chromosome helps us make connections with people everywhere we go.

October is "Down Syndrome Awareness Month"

I was never aware of this. But that's typical, when we're involved in something we are aware of everything that touches us concerning that thing. Because of Gabe, I am very aware of things that have to do with Down syndrome. I have not made this blog be "about" any one thing. It's meant for my family and friends to keep up with me and mine. It's about Gabe and Lisa, and the boys, and the teens, and homeschooling, and football, and Down syndrome, and whatever else happens along the way.

But this month I want to try to focus a little bit on things that are specifically related to Down syndrome, to share and educate. We'll see what happens.

"They Say"

"They Say" that customer service isn't what it used to be. Really?

I just submitted an online order to Walgreens Photos.
I checked the box for the store I will use for pick up.
I had two choices for pick up times, 11 AM or 2:30 PM, Oct. 1.
I'm in no hurry. I chose the afternoon.
I submitted the order.
A warning appeared in red. "The pick up time you selected is no longer available."
Fine, I thought, I'll pick them up tonight, not a problem.
I read on, "Your order will be available at 10:30 AM, Oct. 1."
That's even earlier than the original morning time I was given.

As my mother-in-law alway says, '"They say" are the biggest liars there ever were.'

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

New "Young Earth" Theory

The debate goes on: Is the earth hundreds of billions of years old or is it thousands of years old? Lisa has her own opinion. Today she made a list of the names and ages of the important people in her world. They were listed in order of importance to her. The first five entries were--


Things for Mom to do with Lisa: 1) Study Bible history, including a time line; 2) Define and work on practicing meekness and humility; and, 3) Spend some quality mother/daughter time to boost my ratings.

No More Tears

Lisa's defense against onions.

I tried it the next night, it works.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Our "Celebrities"

Last Thursday, the Miner's Cup game (Michigan Tech vs. Northern Michigan) was nationally broadcast on CBS Sports (Keith had a 69 yard reception and touchdown that included "a stiff arm sandwich" as the announcer put it, and Chet made a QB sack to add to the excitement for friends watching it on TV). And yesterday our local paper ran a story on Keith and Chet. I've copied the entire story here--including photos (but I had to substitute one of our own photos of Chet in action since I didn't have access to the one used by the paper):

They are alike in so many ways.

They both were gridiron greats at Rhinelander High School. They both have went on to play and start for Michigan Tech. They both are upper-echelon mechanical engineering majors. The list could go on and on.

For the White brothers, Keith and Chet, there is so much in common that it leaves one to wonder if there is anything much different about them at all.

One difference is that Keith is an established star wide receiver for the No. 24 ranked team in Division 2, while Chet is just starting to make a name for himself as an up and coming redshirt freshman safety.

But what else is different about them?

“Of all the things, I’d say their demeanor is quite different,” Cindy White, the boys’ mother said.

She mentioned that their personalities are prototypical of the positions they play on the football field.

“Keith is more calculating, just like a wide receiver might be. He goes about his business quietly and is a methodical, pure-thinker about most things,” she said.

And Chet?

“Chet is just the opposite. He does things on the run and in more of a spur-of-the-moment fashion,” she said. “Very much like a defensive back, he reacts and analyzes things quickly.”


The Huskies are off to a 2-1 (3-1 overall)
record in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic conference (GLIAC). This includes a nationally-televised 47-21 road victory in front of 8,672 fans this past Thursday night against arch-rival Northern Michigan at the Superior Dome in Marquette, Mich.

They possess a very explosive offense, averaging over 38 points per game so far. Keith just happens to be a major cog in the Huskies offensive attack. Through four games, Keith has 26 catches for 449 yards (17.3 average) and a two scores. This includes a 67-yard bomb in the first half against NMU.

Husky head coach Tom Kearly knows a thing or two about offense. He is a former offensive coordinator from Central Michigan, a program that has yielded several NFL players.

“Keith has been a four-year starter here and has deserved every bit of it,” Kearly said. “I think coming into this year he was No. 7 on our all-time receiving list. Before he is done this year, he will easily crack the top five and already may be there.”

In 2007, Keith earned All-GLIAC honorable mention as a wideout. He also tied a school record with nine TD grabs on the season.

Kearly was also quick to mention Keith’s off-field attributes.

“He’s also a fabulous student,” Kearly said. “I’ll say this, there aren’t many athletes as good as Keith that can also be polished in the classroom like he is, too. He’s in that 3.8 to 3.9 GPA range, and, as an engineering student, that is really saying something.”

Throughout Keith’s college days, he has been a tremendous student. Last year, he was selected to ESPN the Magazine’s Academic All-District first-team and has been named to the GLIAC All-Academic team every year since he’s been in college.

In 2006, Keith gained the Omar LaJeunesse Scholastic Achievement Award for having the team’s highest GPA among non-freshmen.


Through four games, Chet has seven solo tackles, eight assists and three sacks. He has gradually gained playing time as the season has went on and is starting to make a name for himself.

“Unfortunately, one of our starting safeties injured his Achilles’ tendon pretty bad,” Chet said. “That enabled me to get more reps in practice with the No. 1 unit and has eventually led to more playing time. I’m just trying
to take advantage of my opportunity and help the team in whatever way that I can.”

While being a redshirt freshman takes much patience, it usually pays off in the long run.

“I knew that I was going to go through the redshirt process before I even got here,” Chet said. “It takes quite a bit of mental strength to be able to go through it. But I know that by the time I’m a senior, that extra year will pay dividends and then some.”

Chet explained the main difference of playing in college compared to his high school days with the Hodags.

“The speed up here is the first thing I noticed. It is just so much faster than at Rhinelander. Even though I was aware of that, the actual experience was an eye-opener.

Kearly likes what he has seen thus far in Chet.

“His learning curve has been tremendous,” he said. “He’s getting more playing time because of the injury and is our main nickel package guy, but it’s not by default –– he’s earned it. Before he’s done, I foresee him being the great player that Keith is now, provided his progress continues at its current rate. I see no reason why it won’t.”

And how is it to have a big brother on the team?

“Well, Keith kind of got me in the door here, but after that it was up to me to prove myself,” Chet said. “Then I had people that kept asking me, ‘Are you better than (Keith)?’

“That novelty wore off after not too long, and I knew I had to create my own identity.”

In most cases, a kid feels lucky to become a college football player. But, if all indications are correct, it appears it works the other way around in that Michigan Tech is lucky to have Keith and Chet White.

So, what is a "nickel package guy" anyway?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Homeschooling Young Children

This post is in response to naturalmomma from xanga who asked me to comment on her blog but I don't have a xanga account so I'm posting this instead. I hope you find this! Jen or Kara, if you know who I'm talking about (or anyone can contact her to get the message through) please direct her this way. I could do more research to make contact, but I'm in time saving mode as I try to juggle homeschooling my 8th grader, 6th grader, 4th grader, and 1st grader; do "special ed" with my 2 1/2 year old; interact with my four high school students; attend the games of my high school and college sons; keep up with Aunt Susie; try to fit in my friends and extended family members; and maintain a growing marital relationship. I need a few short cuts.

Dear Xanga momma,

My first piece of advice to you is to Keep It Simple! Homeschooling--especially in the early years, should be a joy. It should be fun, and easy, and intriguing, and it should NOT be work. I think the biggest mistake I've seen people make over the years is to overstructure themselves. They either rely too heavily on workbooks and guidebooks, or they tie themselves to a method that they feel they must stick to in order to make things work.

The real beauty of homeschooling is being able to do what works for you and for your child/children. My favorite example of a successful homeschooling experience is the story of "The Miracle Worker". Anne Sullivan taught Helen Keller about as successfully as anyone has ever been taught. She started with basic communication and learning about the world around her and progressed as she expressed an interest and had the capabilities.

I start with reading--only when they are ready. I had one child read at the age of three (taught by an older brother) and several who didn't begin learning to read at all until they were over six. I have a friend whose daughter wouldn't read until she was nine, but within a year (after she announced that she wanted to learn to read) she was reading at a high school level. Reading is not a chore. Reading is a delight. Kids need to know and feel that. I introduced reading (I use "How to Read in 100 Easy Lessons" and the Christian Light Academy readers--both heavy on phonics) at around the age of 5 if they showed an interest. We spend about 5 or 10 minutes on the reading if they're interested. If they want to go longer I may let them but always stop when they're not interested. Sometimes they say they want to continue but I can tell they've had it and I offer an alternative activity or just say we need to do more later. If they don't want to do it at all, we don't.

In the meantime, we spend time at the library picking out fiction and non-fiction books as well as nature videos or real life videos at a kid level. At home we read books together, talk about the stories, make up ideas of our own, watch the videos, maybe color pictures or build things from blocks or play outside or, just plain play. Often they're on their own playing nearby and I interact as I can or as they want me.

As they get a grasp on the reading I have them read the familiar words in the books that we read aloud together. I don't like them to get frustrated. If they struggle with a word I just tell them what it is. I may tell them 50 times, but I'd rather have them take 50 tries to get it and not be frustrated than only take 20 times telling them to "sound it out" and be in tears half the time.

Then we add writing, just a few minutes a day unless they really love it and want to write. I had one daughter who learned to read by writing. As her brothers did their writing she wanted to write and I would print a word for her to copy. After a few months of copying simple words she figured out the sounds and patterns on her own and was hungry to learn more. That's when we got the easy reader out. No program, no schedule, no tutorial, just living.

Finally, I get a math work book (I use Bob Jones for grades 1-3) and use it for reading practice--as I have them try to read the instructions--as well as beginning math skills. I also let them go at their own pace with this. I try to have them do one page (both sides) a day but if they want to do more they can or if they just don't want to or are struggling with it we put it away. Some days they love it, some days they're not interested. It's seemed to balance OK in the end. I had one guy who LOVED math and was in the 3rd grade book when he was only six. He could barely write his name, though. That skill just didn't come as early. He's now one of my neatest writers. I love letting them work at their own pace. I had an 8 year old who just got stuck in math and did not get it. We put the book away for 6 months and when we started it up again he was ready and figured it out.

That's about it. Until the age of around 10 (about 4th or 5th grade) this is how we do school. It is very informal, very self paced, and leaves a lot of room for individual interests and time for siblings and appointments and laundry and meals--all of which the children are involved in learning about as well. They learn to sweep and vaccuum the floors, clear and wipe the table, make their beds, pick up their rooms, sort the laundry, put away clean clothes, and help prepare meals. They learn to behave in public, help load and unload a grocery carts, buy a book of stamps, check in at an appointment desk, and ask for directions. We talk about what we do, not because a program tells us to, but because we're just communicating. When we rake leaves we talk about why they fall off the trees. We talk about the names of the seasons, we use the terms deciduous and coniferous. Once we raked up a sluggish garter snake (cold and still), trapped him in an old aquarium and put him in the sun and observed the difference in his behavior an hour later.

I figure that my job is to awaken their interest in the world around them, give them the basic tools they need to discover it, and then do it with them. I'm not too worried about them being "behind" at the age of 5 or 7 or 9. When someone tells me they're behind I usually ask them, "Behind who?". Someone will always be ahead of them.

Most of all, let your young children communicate. We've all suffered through a five year old's retelling of a story or movie and have wanted to hurry them along or tell them we already know it. But, the telling is a valuable step to communicative writing. It is also a very important way for a parent to tell their child that they're interested in them and want to hear about what excites them. Parents complain that their teenagers don't talk to them. Maybe it's because they started to shut them out years earlier.

That's kind of a nutshell version of what we do and how we do it. It's not perfect, I'm not perfect, and the kids aren't perfect, but I guess it's been successful for us 'cause after 19 years we're still going!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Detective Work

If you have a smelly closet and

1) you have tried using a deodorizor, without success; and
2) you have looked for hidden stinky shoes, but there aren't any; and
3) you have tried leaving the closet door open, but it doesn't help

then you might want to investigate the possibility that the culprit (i.e.possessor of the clothes in the closet) is actually hanging up their clothes at the end of the day instead of putting them in the hamper. Upon further inspection, you may find seventeen (that's 17) soiled shirts on hangers that are overpowering your feeble attempts to expel the unpleasant odor.

One load of laundry, one more problem solved.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

First Day of School

I sent four students off for their first day of high school this week, three of them heading to the school for the very first time--my three seniors Dana, Light, and Mendo and my "little" sophomore Troy.

They all came home happy with their schedules (after a little tweaking) and it turns out all four have the same lunch hour and Dana and Mendo even have the exact same schedule! Could that have anything to do with Dana's being punished by Mr. Lintereur for talking too much and having her desk put in the corner? Two years ago when he told me what a quiet, sweet girl she was I told him that he was really only half right. Senioritis has loosened her tongue.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Here's the boys' new completed bedroom. Troy wanted it dark..... Can you believe we found the bedspreads after we finished the painting??!

Foreign Exchange

Our lives have been enriched over the past twelve years by the many AFS students who have come through our home. We have been the liaison for six students, host family for one, temporary home for two, and just enjoyed the company-weekend-visits-come-for-supper-take-a-trip-to-Lake-Superior of another eight or more. We've had students from Russia, China, Finland, Norway, Ghana, Japan, Thailand, Egypt, Costa Rica, Sweden, and Germany.

We're currently experiencing another real life geography lesson with Light from Thailand and Mendo from Portugal. We've learned that "all Thai" have a given name which no one uses and at least one nickname. Light's real name is Attaphon and his other nickname is Jeab. We don't really get it, but we don't have to. That's just the way they do it and "Light" has now become a normal name to us! We've enjoyed listening to Mendo tell us about boarding school and the unusual (even in Portugal) school experience he has had.

The guys have only been here for a week and already they've been tubing, swimming, putt-putt golfing twice, shopping, seen a Baptism in a local lake, dined at Paul Bunyan's Cook Shanty, toured the school, and helped load the vans and trailers for our church family camp. Light has been biking and took an eight hour canoe/fishing trip down the river (we all ate fish for dinner the next day and Mendo--who lives on the ocean--said it was the best he's had--note for Keith and Chet: they caught walleye, northern, and small mouth bass on the Pelican River) and Mendo has joined the high school football team. The Olympics also took on a new meaning with our international viewing audience. Does anyone else know that Thailand took a gold in women's weight lifting?

Light hanging out with Gabe

Mendo with Keith and Papa
Everyone joined in a name game where you hit people with a pillow. Light had his share of time in the middle and wasn't at all intimidated by Papa. He's ready to strike!

Mendo--trying to remember who's who

Friday, August 22, 2008

Kids--telling it like it is

Yep, I was feeling pretty good about myself. Just this morning I saw the scale at the Y hit a new low. Then tonight Bryce, Owen, and Lisa were sitting/playing on some sort of elevated crash pad at the football field when I overheard their conversation.

Lisa: Could this thing fall down and break?

Bryce: Only if someone who's really, really, really, really heavy gets on it.

Lisa: You mean like Mama?

I have to confess, I felt much better after our all-you-can-eat supper at Paul Bunyan's!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

How Words Hurt

This is somewhat in response to my son's blog about a movie boycott. We could go around forever on the effectiveness of the boycott and debate who it hurts or doesn't hurt, but getting the message out that some fairly common terminology and slang is injurious to a very innocent group of people is a good thing. Whatever "free publicity" that movie is receiving from this cannot be offset by some serious costs they have incurred as a result of the public outcry against their trailers and marketing. See here for some details.

I thought it was worth printing this article that was written by John Franklin Stephens, a 26 year old man with Down syndrome. He expresses the personal side of this issue beautifully.

John writes,
"So, what's wrong with "retard"? I can only tell you what it means
to me and people like me when we hear it. It means that the
rest of you are excluding us from your group. We are
something that is not like you and something that none of
you would ever want to be. We are something
outside the "in" group. We are someone that is not your kind.
I want you to know that it hurts to be left out here - alone.
Nothing scares me as much as feeling all alone in a world
that moves so much faster than I do. You don't mean to make me
feel that way. In fact, like I say in some of my speeches,
"I have always depended on the kindness of strangers,"
and it works out OK most of the time. Still, it hurts and scares
me when I am the only person with intellectual disabilities on the
bus and young people start making "retard" jokes or references.
Please put yourself on that bus and fill the bus with people who
are different from you. Imagine that they start making
jokes using a term that describes you. It hurts and it is scary.
Last, I get the joke - the irony - that only dumb and shallow
people are using a term that means dumb and shallow.
The problem is, it is only funny if you think a "retard"
is someone dumb and shallow. I am not those things,
but every time the term is used it tells young people that it is
OK to think of me that way and to keep me on the outside.
That is why using "retard" is a big deal to people like me."

I'm all for people sending Hollywood a message that we don't want the kids in our society being influenced with this kind of material. Next on the listen-up-Hollywood-agenda--modesty, purity, profanity, immorality...... enough, do you get why I don't have much to do with the whole movie industry?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Final Straw

When your 2 year old has been sick with diarrhea for 9 days while your aunt is visiting, and then you get sick with a fever and diarrhea for the next 3 days, and you have emptied 2 bedrooms housing 4 boys and have to paint one and clean both before putting the beds and boys back IN the rooms, and everyone is sleeping on floors and couches, and you have two exchange students coming in the next two days to share the room you are painting, which of the following unexpected difficulties, all occurring on one day, will make you cry?

1) Finding out that the last of your three paint color stripes needs a dark primer or the color won't look right and definitely does not go with the half finished room so you have to buy the primer and apply and dry it.

2) Learning that you actually need 2 coats of primer AND 2 coats of the paint--applied and dried--to make the color work.

3) Having your son walk in to help with the painting, step in the roller tray, spill paint on the carpet, not realize he has paint on his heel, and then walk across the room.

4) Having your 6-year-old daughter walk in the room and say, "I have to go the bathroom but I don't want to because it hurts" and you take her anyway and she screams in pain and there is blood in her urine and you take an hour and a half off from painting to take her to the doctor and she has a fever and says she's been hurting for a few days but didn't want to tell you and you have to treat her for a UTI and continue taking her to the bathroom and hugging her tightly every 20-30 minutes throughout the day.

5) Having your husband pitch in to help with the painting, starting with removing the unremovable door stop on the wall, peeling away the top layer of dry wall so you have to get the spackling out and repair the wall before proceeding with the painting.

6) Pouring the potato-vegetable-broth mixture into the blender for an easy cream of potato soup supper and finding out that someone left the juicer spigot open and the boiling broth is spilling all over the floor and splashing on your feet and legs.

7) After cleaning up the broth, putting the blender on the base for blending, covering the top with a small plate to avoid splatters, but forgetting to put the top piece on the blender, hitting the "on" button and having boiling soup spray all over the counter, the stove, and yourself.

8) Sitting in the living room having devotions with your family when you hear a car's tires screech and a minute later you smell the overpowering, rank, unmistakable smell of skunk and find that it is splattered all over the road right in front of your open living room and bedroom windows and you have a fan in the newly painted room pulling the outside air into and through the house for increased ventilation.

Or finally,
9) Pulling off the tape that marks the paint line separating your last two colors and making it about 55 feet around the entire room and when you get to the very last inch and a half of tape the primer layer sticks and a very large thumbprint sized spot peels off and instead of a border of medium blue and dark blue you have an ocean sized spot of white.

For me, #7 was my meltdown point, the straw that broke the camel's back, when the tears finally came. I felt like Anne Shirley, "Oh Marilla, such a Jonah day."

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Real biking

Thanks to my sister Kari (for the bike--a bike that really deserves a much more accomplished rider than myself), and

thanks to e-bay (for the two-seater Burley bike trailer), and

thanks to the YMCA (for 6 months of spinning--stationary bike--classes)

I actually took Lisa and Gabe for a bike ride this evening!

I was so very prepared. I was in shape. I was riding the world's lightest most effortless bike. I had a trailer that glides like a skate on ice. So why was it so much work?! Lisa's comments along the way really summed it all up.

"Mama, we'd go faster if you would pedal." (She didn't understand how badly I NEEDED to coast.)

"Mama, when I look at your shadow it looks like you're going backwards."

As I down shift--"Oh no, we're going up a hill again, aren't we?"

When I finally had to get off the bike and walk it up the last 30 yards of a hill--"Why are you walking?" Me--Because I'm too tired. Lisa--"What happens if you get too tired of walking?"

The only thing more demoralizing than Lisa's insightful comments was the spedometer-with-an-attitude. It pretty much told me that if I was biking in the Olympics against world class runners I would not even be in contention for a medal. I checked it while moving up the last grueling hill and it read "0.0 mph".

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Olympic Spirit

In the spirit of "Team USA" fever my blog's gone red, white, and blue.

Also in that spirit (and in the spirit of Gabe's nine day bout with diarrhea and then me having the flu for two days while rearranging and painting bedrooms) this blog has been temporarily neglected.

Furthermore, continuing in the global peace and oneness spirit of the Olympics, we will be welcoming two AFS students into our home this weekend, young men from Thailand and Portugal.

In the spirit of compassion please keep these guys in your thoughts as I'm sure they don't know what they're getting into by joining this household!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Dana's Senior Pictures

Even Owen exclaimed the other day, "Wow, Dana's a senior already?"

She just got her senior pictures back and now has to pick favorites! What's yours?