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

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?"!