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

Monday, December 28, 2009

White Christmas

Christmas Eve at the Mathews'--food, talent, singing, games, and fellowship

Christmas day at our house

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

'Tis the Basketball Season

Two days ago I made a "to do" list. There were 13 items on the list. As of last night I only had two things "ta-done". But, this is not just the Christmas season, and birthday season (we have three this month), and the holiday season, and the wedding season. It's also the go-sledding-in-the-new-snow season, and the little-ones-feeling-cooped-up-in-the-house season, and basketball season.

So, on Monday we did all of our daily things and then I got two things checked off my list. Then came Tuesday. The home-crew and I make lunch for the AirPro employees once a month and this was the day. We were out of the house by 11:30. I made the lasagna and cheescakes, Owen made the iced tea, Bryce cut up vegetables, Lisa decorated the cheesecakes with Christmas sprinkles, everyone helped occupy Gabe and load up the van and we even left a clean kitchen behind. I remembered my camera, but didn't think of using it until all that was left was crumbs.

Bryce and Owen had their first basketball game at 1:00 and Owen, after about 8 years of anticipation, was excited beyond belief. I missed the first part of the game while I cleaned up the lunch and arrived to see the boys giving it their all on the court.

I knew most of the mothers on the "opposing team" and the first thing they asked me when I arrived was, "Your boys have played before haven't they?"

I had to admit, they were almost born playing. Contrary to what some may think, though, they are not forced to throw balls at baskets, or anything. They choose it. No one made Gabe head to an empty hoop while the big boys played. He was drawn to it like a magnet.

Lisa was not.

The two teams were made up of homeschoolers in the area and most of them knew each other. The game was friendly and the fans cheered for both teams. The only argument I heard of was one between two players trying to take the blame for knocking the ball out of bounds. "It's your ball, I hit it out." "No, I hit it, it's yours." It was the kind of 'fight' a referee loves to have to break up.

I love to watch people watch Gabe play basketball. No one expects him to make his shots. They inevitably think his first swish was an accident and they praise him for his good luck. Then he swishes another, and another, and the looks of obligatory congratulations and childish encouragement are replaced by a surprised respect. The boy can aim.

The game and subsequent mingling of players for a game of "lightning" ended at 3:00. We headed to the library for a program at 3:15 and Gabe and I squeezed in an hour at home to get supper made. After picking up the library group, dropping off some nephews, and taking Shane to the gym, we got home with ten minutes to eat supper and get to Shane's game.

Shane is one of four freshman who moved up to play on the JV team. I was willing to bribe the coach to move him up so he would have the same schedule as Troy. I kept my oar out of it (a favorite phrase of Matthew's in the "Anne of Green Gables" book I'm reading with Lisa) and prayed. God and the coach (who considered the scheduling nightmare) were merciful.

The JV team won their game so they are now undefeated. I'm a terrible "team parent". I don't remember the scores. I hardly remember who won and lost. I'm there to watch my child and I have to concentrate pretty hard to care much about too many more details.

Over the years we've noticed that teenagers and young adults can learn a lot about life and teamwork and authority through sports. They learn to work together and do what's best for the team. They learn the necessity of following orders and deferring to a higher power. These are things they are also taught and are lived out in our home and reiterated by our pastor. But, somehow, for the boys, the sports teams really drives it home and they "get it".

It has become a useful tool for us in some ways. When we say,
"I need you to get up an hour early and shovel the driveway before you head to school,"
and they say,
"But I need my sleep and I have homework and I have a test and, and, and,"
we can say,
"You don't seem to have any trouble getting up even earlier when your coach schedules an early practice or asks you to come in to lift weights."
When they insist that clean jeans and a tucked in t-shirt qualifies for "dressed up" we remind them of the sports team game day dress code (about which the coaches hear little or no complaining).

Those coaches make our job a little easier by giving us constant examples and analogy material. It's hard to argue with the question, "Who should command more respect and obedience, your parent or your coach?"

Troy's team did not win last night (against the orange team, the black was from last week). The other team had two players who were 6'8" and 7'0". Notice how Troy's head is even with #23 who is further away and crouching.

The team did well to come within 10 and looks forward to challenging them again.

At one point near the end of the game Lisa pouted and said, "This isn't any fun, we're not winning." I see I have another child who will be growing up to learn that the fun is in the playing, not the score. Some people have a much harder time with that and God seems to give them so much more opportunity to practice losing because of it! I had one child (about the age of 11) who began to react so adversely to being told "No" that I vowed I would deny all requests until the reaction was one of sweet acceptance. I stuck to it and the lesson was well-learned. Children need to learn to display the proper behavior even when they don't feel it. Of course, it's best to feel it, but it's amazing how often feeling follows behavior.

So, my day was wonderfully "wasted" yesterday. I arrived home at 9:30, dressed Gabe for bed, read a book with Lisa, down-loaded and edited photos, and put my "to do" list aside for another time. I love this season of life!

Monday, December 14, 2009

'Tis the Season

The house is decorated, the snow is falling, Christmas music is playing, and we're making cookies today!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Milestones for Gabe

I don't believe I ever posted the results of Gabe's visit with the cardiologist in October. Since no news is good news you may have figured out that all is well. Gabe's x-ray and EKG both came back normal. That's a first! He will have an echo done in a year or so and, if everything looks fine on the inside, we'll go to having check ups every three years.

With his heart working properly I've noticed an increase in energy, as well as some added pounds and an inch of growth. I hardly thought it possible, but my tornado-on-legs is more active and more mischievous than ever. And he cut out his afternoon nap. It's supposed to keep me young. The mirror is telling a different story!

Gabe's cognitive development has gone through some growth spurts as well. Besides switching pronouns, which I posted a little bit ago, (I say 'you do it', he responds with 'I do it'), he is getting better at repeating longer thoughts.

He has a "Wee Sign and Sing" video that he loves. His favorite song goes, "I see a rainbow in the sky (repeat several times), all around my home." There are more verses about smelling, hearing, etc. He says and signs, "I see rainbow sky all around home." This morning, for the first time he sang and signed, "I hear bird in tree all around home." He hadn't seen the video for a few days and just started singing it at the table.

Before I put him in his chair for breakfast I put two bibs on the table. I only keep one bib on his chair and was wondering where the second bib came from when I heard Gabe saying something over and over and over. I stopped to listen and heard him saying, "Two bibs, two bibs". We have been counting for months. We count EVERYTHING--the steps we take, the shoes as they go on or off, the plates and forks, the bowls and spoons, the cars that drive by, EVERYTHING. I hold up fingers for Gabe to count and read counting books. He will chatter and play and count as he lines up his cars. I'll hear "1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 11..." He knows something about counting but doesn't grasp the idea of how the number represents an amount. At least, not until today. I'm sure he knew what "two bibs" meant. Another door has opened in his mind.

The last thing that he's started doing is getting our attention to tell us something. Just a few days ago he was tossing an empty egg carton and said, "Mama, watch!" He loves to toss, throw, and break. We have lost two glasses, five Christmas ornaments, and two electric candles this week. How to wean him from loving the sound of shattering glass.....

Just as it took about 50 tries to get a picture of him sitting still and smiling, patience in other areas will eventually pay off and I am confident that our glass-shattering days will be numbered. Until then, we're using plastic and packing away the breakable ornaments!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


As you think of it, I’d like you to consider praying for my Auntie Jannie this week, and for as long as you may feel led.

Auntie Jannie celebrated her 69th birthday last month, less than two months after learning that she has terminal lung cancer. She called me with her tragic news last night from her hospital bed and I could barely discern her whispers.

About six weeks ago my aunt was faced with the decision of letting the cancer take its course (which the doctors predicted would leave her with 3-6 months of life) or take low level treatments of radiation and chemotherapy to stop the progression of the disease (which they thought would give her closer to a year). She was ready to let the disease run its course; but, after consulting with her husband and five children, decided to take the treatments, so long it would not cause her additional suffering.

Nine days ago she had her first chemo treatment. It left her blood counts low and her energy zapped. A few days later she contracted a stomach virus that her body was unable to fight. She ended up in the hospital on Sunday with severe dehydration and an infection in her colon.

Now, to say that my Auntie Jannie is a fighter would be an understatement that would do her an injustice. She has seen more than her fair share of trials. She grew up with an alcoholic father along with other in-family domestic troubles. Thankfully, her father (my grandfather), got help and quit drinking, but not until she was already grown and married.

She married young and had the first of her twelve children when she was 20. Her first daughter was stillborn, and a year later she gave birth to her second daughter, who also bypassed the cradle and went straight to the grave. Only five of her children survived. I can’t imagine what it would be like to go through an entire pregnancy, labor, and delivery and to return home empty-handed. But she did it five times. Two of her babies were miscarried before they made it to term. I never heard her complain. She mourned her loss, but her greatest expression was one of immense joy in the five children she DID have.

Twenty-six years ago, with her children ranging in age from 19 down to 12 she lost her husband, my Uncle Rick. He hadn’t been feeling well and had gone to bed early without his supper. She wanted to take him to the hospital but he refused. He called her in to his room and she went in and sat on the edge of their bed. He took her face in his hands, told her he loved her, and kissed her. Then he dropped his arms and died.

The following years were extremely difficult for her. She had to learn to run the house, pay the bills, balance the budget, and raise her five teenagers by herself. After some years of trial and error everything seemed to settle into place. She remarried, watched four of her children marry, and heartily welcomed her fifteen grandchildren. You can easily imagine the level of empathy she had for her daughter-in-law when she lost one of her first children (one of twins) at birth.

When I learned of Auntie Jannie’s diagnosis in October, I called her. Her outlook was amazing. While she wasn’t a smoker, she had been. She was thankful for the extra years she most likely got by quitting fifteen years ago. She was thankful for her children and her grandchildren and the sixty-nine years she had been given. She knew they were a gift. She told me that every day she is thankful for the gift of another day, because she knows she is never guaranteed another one.

She wasn’t looking forward to the battle with the cancer, she was hoping it wouldn’t be painful, but she was ready to go, and had no regrets.

When I talked to her last night she was weak, and tired, but strong. She was going through yet another trial and instead of curling up in a ball and shutting out the world, she was on the phone calling to tell me the news.

I was thankful I had already heard it a few hours earlier. I don’t know that I could have understood something so weighty through her halting whispers.

For, the day before, while she was in a state of delirium in the hospital, her husband left her bedside, went home, and terminated his life at the end of a rope.

Two of my cousins found him hanging in his garage later that day.

So now, my aunt has another grief to bear as she faces her own death so bravely. I can’t express the enormous weight I feel for her. Yet, I am awed and inspired by her strength.

Please pray that God would be merciful to her, and shower her with his love and goodness and wonderful kindness.

Auntie Jannie, I love you!

Monday, December 7, 2009

"Demolition Zone" or "Child-proof the house and keep the child safe? How about house-proof the child and keep the house safe?"


This is what happened to the corner of a wall in our house today.

One of the boys was trying to catch a ball (that he had thrown) and he slid across the floor after it. He slid further than he expected and made the dent with his lower back. Thankfully, the wall is in worse shape than his back.

But it got me to reminiscing on other tokens of destruction brought upon us by our various progeny over the years. I grabbed my camera and began roaming through the house scouting out evidence left behind by the offspring. Come along and take the tour with me if you like. Joey & Jamie, Keith & Coley, and Ellen & Daniel: This is just a reminder of the fun you have to look forward to!

First stop, the kitchen. The damage to this wall was caused by a broom (handle) in the hands of an older teen who was running from a wasp (whose nest he was trying to knock outside from the oven vent).

I'm sure everyone's familiar with the look of toddler wall-graffiti.

Why keep it to just one room?

Bedrooms--Wallpaper is always risky and after 7 1/2 years this stuff is ready to be replaced. It would have made it five years in perfect condition except for the hamster damage done six months after the paper was put up.

The candle damage was pretty recent (I only let the adults burn candles....maybe I should limit that to 25 and older?).

Not learning from someone's mistake, another adult child took to melting window blinds.

Here's another melted, but now also broken, blind waiting to go out to the trash.

Down to the play room. OK, it's play room, meant for play. So, of course there should be nothing wrong with making a taped baseball strike zone target around an outlet. Never mind that the tape removes the wall panel's veneer and the outlet cover is completely destroyed. Someone was certainly hitting their target.

Paneling doesn't particularly appreciate being used as a bumper board for moving furniture.

Thermostats are not meant to be roughed up either.

I love hearing people comment on how easy life must be for me with all of the helpers. I admit, there is a good deal of potential energy stored in this place. Putting it into productive action takes seasoning, training, and oversite. Calling something "clean" can be somewhat interpretive. Here's the "clean" (it was marked as 'done' on the job chart) playroom. (Yes, it was redone, without being told--the 'cleaner' saw me photograph their handiwork.)

This closet caused the owner to lose all internet time for the week. It wouldn't be quite so bad if the doors were ever shut.

How hard could it be to roller paint a wall that's been trimmed, with an unfinished floor I thought I had this one in the bag. Guess the ceiling was closer than it appeared.

Not everyone will notice each of these things when they visit us. But, it doesn't stop there. The evidence extends outside our home and travels with us everywhere we go. The front grill and license plate situation were the result of combining a teen driver with a deer. The rear door came from the combination of a teen driver, a lead foot, an icy driveway, and a boat trailer.

Friends from out of town once stopped into a fast food place where we were eating to say 'hello'. They were driving through town and spotted the van so they stopped. They knew it was us, they said, because "we saw the license plate with the bungi cord, and if you'd backed in we'd have known it by the big dent in the back door!" There's a benefit...

I didn't photograph the taped "3 point line" that made an arc around the mini basketball hoop. I removed the duct tape, but the glue and whatever sticks to it remain. I couldn't photograph the hole in the ceiling (now repaired) where one of the boys satisfied his curiosity as he thought, "I wonder if I can touch the ceiling with my elbow?" .....he could. And the picture of the large spilled-super-glue-spot-on-the-dining-room-table didn't show up. It's been five years and that glue still holds, the only time I've ever seen super glue do what they claim it should do. I'm just glad nothing was stuck to it.

So, when you come in my house and you see this sign, you'll know I really mean it.

Thank you to Joey, Ellen, Chet, Dana, Shane, Bryce, Owen, Lisa, and Gabe for your contributions to the preceding material (with additional help from Fumiko, Mary, and a cousin).

An Extra Special Thanks to Keith and Troy for NOT contributing to the preceding material!

ADDED: First of all, Joey makes a good point in his comment, some of the evidence of Keith's contribution to the destruction of our personal property is no longer available.

Second, as I made me way to the bathroom to change Gabe this morning this caught my eye, I missed it yesterday.

You probably don't notice any problem with these self-portrait-profiles. Looking at them from the side tells a different story. It was the casualty of another ball-throwing incident.

So, without naming any names, I can only conclude that I have no one left to whom I can give "Extra Special Thanks" anymore. But really, thank you ALL of you, for all of the wonderful, fun, crazy memories that far exceed the cost of any earthly damage done.