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

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?









Susie's Birthday

The Lord was willing (See Little Miss Susie Q) and Susie got to celebrate her birthday with the Wisconsin family yesterday. Here are some of her highlights.

Breakfast in PJs, served in her room.

Opening gifts with hugs for all.

She'd been admiring Lisa's big Princess coloring book all week.

Showing off her Hawaiin moves.

Yes, I'm really that much taller!

Susie LOVES to kiss Gabe who's decided it's gone just a little too far.

The Whole Gang

What's a birthday without new PJs for our Social Butterfly?

Landscaping with Lisa

Ever garden with a six-year-old? Here's how it goes.

Me: Put on gardening gloves
Lisa: "Are you putting gloves on?"
Me: Begin to dig a hole for a shrub.
Lisa: "Why are you digging?"
Me: Halfway through digging the hole.
Lisa: "I think that's enough."
Me: Open the bag of compost to mix with the soil.
Lisa: "Why are you doing that?"
Lisa: Sees my unused trowel, "Why do you have a little shovel?"
Time: 3 minutes into my 2 hour project.
Question: What to do about Miss Nonstop Questions?
Solution: Put her to work.

Result: My little gardener stuck with me, for the entire two hours! She dug holes, composted, and planted 12 annuals. Then she watered all of our new plants. We had a great time together and there wasn't one more meaningless question.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Little Miss Susie Q

All summer I've been promising my Aunt Susie a week in the Northwoods with the family and this worked out to be the week. Ellen and I made the drive to her group home in Minneapolis on Saturday, returning with a very excited Susie to be sure! I was determined to make Susie's week fun and memorable, while keeping up with her weight watcher diet, my housework, my family, and yard projects. Um,.....what's that line?....."best made plans of mice and men and mothers in rose colored glasses"?

We got home mid-afternoon on Saturday after stopping at Subway for a low calorie wrap, hold the dressing. Of course, Susie was inquiring about lunch only fifteen minutes after leaving her place, at 10 AM. She has yet to leave the table from one meal before asking what's on the menu for the next. I don't wonder why this little 4'7" eating machine weighs in at 170 pounds! (Note to myself-- establish a menu, count calories, and develop specific instructions for her group home!)

Back to Saturday. First I set up a lawn chair so Susie could sit in the shade and watch me plant a dozen annuals and one of my new perennial shrubs for the sidewalk landscaping project. She got bored, needed my attention elsewhere, and, well, one shrub in the ground nine still to go. Fine, time for a walk. She "excercises" (a very broad interpretation of the word) 30 minutes a day. I thought she might enjoy pushing Gabe in his stroller--she LOVES Gabe. I think I pulled more than she pushed. We walked 1/4 mile in almost 20 minutes. A blistering pace to be sure. Kari did the Buddy Walk with Sue a few years ago, she renamed it the "Buddy Drag".

Back home, supper with meds, shower (with help setting the water temp), hair cut, evening meds, lights out. Whew! Great day, however, Gabe just wasn't happy after his walk, diaper was a mess, and he didn't want to eat. Sure enough, Sunday morning we awoke to Owen complaining of a stomach ache and Gabe looking sick. Of course it was a "fellowship Sunday" with a potluck meal--third one I've missed this year. Ellen promised to look after Susie and ended up diving in to the rescue just as she overheard a well-meaning church member query, "Would you like some more bread? And butter on that, too?" We need a sign, "Do Not Feed the Aunt".

On goes our week, fevers of 100-104, "Cindy, so what are we doing today?", diarrhea, "Cindy, could you help me hook my bra?", vomiting grape juice down my front, "Cindy, you know that special coffee that Dana bought for you? I'd like a cup please.", up with Gabe during the night, "Cindy, could I please have a second cup of coffee? I'm used to it.", two tubs of sour cream and a container of cottage cheese and a bowl of blueberries falling upside down (spilling of course) out of the refrigerator at different times all in ONE DAY, "Do you have any cheese?" "Yes" "Great, 'cause I love cheese and crackers", Shane and Bryce's week for daily football camp, "Cindy, you're out of toilet paper", etc, etc.

In answer to Susie's, "What are we doing today?" I now ask, "What did I tell you?" and she sighs, "I know, Lord willing." She's learning the life of a mom, take no plans for granted! We did get out to the landfill for compost and woodchips (getting a little done on the lawn project front) and swung by the Windmill Ice Cream shop (Owen insisted he was better. At least he didn't throw up until after we got home.) We are making plans, as well, "Lord willing", to celebrate her 54th birthday tomorrow. Dana will man the fort while I take Susie out for lunch and shopping. All I have to do now is bake a cake and whip up a lasagna!

The happy queen on her throne!