SAL-VA-TION: by grace

E-LEV-EN: children from 1984 to 2006

HOME-SCHOOL-ING: since 1990

DOWN-SYN-DROME: susie and gabe

GRAND-CHILD-REN: since 2010

FAITH-FUL-NESS: my steadfast rock, my biggest supporter, my leader, my friend, my love, my husband

Friday, October 30, 2009

Something for everyone

We were up in Eagle River today so we spent a few hours at the Children's Museum. I knew Gabe would love it, and he did--water to splash, a grocery cart to drive, a drum to bang, cranberries to sort.

I wasn't sure how his older brothers would do. Ten and twelve-year-olds aren't usually as thrilled with this place as the young ones. They did fine--crutches to balance on, wheelchairs to race, and my favorite: they went to the dress up room, came out dressed as bandits, and held up the cashier in the play store.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Owen: Mom, will you help me with my math? I'm doing really bad.

Mom: Number 15? Is that the one you're having trouble with?

Owen: Yep.

Mom: Umm, this is lesson 67. You're supposed to be doing lesson 47.

Owen: Wow, I'm doing great!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Some of the "Been There Done That" part of family life, what a joy!

We've had a couple of typical (for us) weeks, nothing too out of the ordinary on the family front. We went to some football games and enjoyed having Joey and Jamie and Holden visiting for the weekend. Aunt Susie was here for ten days--coloring with Lisa, watching Shirley Temple movies, going to the park, and visiting a cranberry bog. We've done all of these things before, at different times, maybe with different people but we've done them. And we enjoyed doing them again, although they were the same, they were different because something about it was new.

The same goes for one of our off-the-beaten-track trips we took this week. It wasn't a vacation, and hardly even a trip--you'd probably call it more of an "outing".

Ellen had been wanting to have Lisa visit, so on Monday we left Lisa with her and took Susie back to Minneapolis. We drove over to Hastings, crossed the river, and followed Hwy 35 south along the Mississippi River. This is bird migration season and Keith loves to watch birds.

By 4:30 we had reached one of our all time favorite bird migration viewing spots, Rieck Park in Alma, WI. There is a viewing platform with binoculars and spectacular views of resting waterfowl. We saw ducks and pelicans on this trip. Once we managed to time it right and saw hundreds and hundreds of swans.

The park also has one of our children's favorite play parks, so after exclaiming over the ducks and yelling, "Quack, quack!" at them Gabe was delighted to swing and slide and climb. The boys joined him and even Keith became a kid and bounced the boys around on a four-seater "quad teeter totter on springs". I've been to this park four times and, although time doesn't seem to pass for me, I continue to see the toddlers from one trip turn into the bird watchers on the next.

We headed into Alma to see the lock and dam and climb the stairs through the quaint town to a look out point on the bluff.
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The leaves crunched, the boys sang to Gabe, and we all enjoyed the fall scene and our time on the trail. The view was amazing and the sunset beautiful. Another lesson was given on the workings of the locks and the river system. We talked about barges and the lack of them on this trip. We pondered the reasons and wondered how the economy is affecting the river traffic. But mostly we ran and played and laughed and explored.

After an all-you-can-eat (and they did) supper and a night at a hotel with a pool (making for two very happy and somewhat wrinkled boys) we drove east to the Horicon Marsh. I admit it, on our first trip to the marsh we teased Keith about the "skies black with birds" that he reported from his readings. We hardly saw anything on that trip. But, it's hard to predict nature and you take what you get. This trip delivered! The skies weren't black, but at any given time we could see up to five flocks of geese in V-formation. We saw ducks, turkeys, and sandhill cranes. We saw a cardinal, marsh wrens, and flocks of birds we couldn't identify.
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We visited the nature center and identified the animals we would see on the trail. As we walked the trails and the boardwalk, even our trip to the visitor center didn't prepare us for what we found. It looked like a candy cane shaped sausage, about 5 inches long, with the clear features of a face on one end. We realized it must be the fetus of some animal that had miscarried on the path. The umbilical cord was intact and still bloody. We decided it must be a bear, because nothing else that size would be quite so undeveloped. Then, a quarter mile down the path we found bear droppings. I never thought of bears miscarrying.
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We read the signs and learned the names of native plants and trees. The boys were interested and enjoyed every detail of the trip as much as we did. We saw the birds flying, taking off, and landing. We saw them feeding and listened to their calls. We watched them take off over farm fields during the day and fly back to the marsh at dusk. We listened to the sound of hundreds of cranes "cooing" as they settled in for the night.

We've done all of this before, but it was different, and we enjoyed doing it with our three youngest boys, and they enjoyed doing it. For some it was the first time, I hope it won't be the last.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Small Town

Where else but it a small town would you get this kind of coverage? Troy, Ellen, and Chet, all in one day!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tangent Teaching

I'm often asked, "How do you homeschool?" I'm tempted to say, "You don't want to know." 'Tangent Teaching' would be a good label, I'm always getting off on a tangent! And today that tangent even involved tangents.

Example: We started the day with our morning Bible reading, Genesis chapter 6. Almost an hour later we were talking about the curvature of the earth in relation to geometric equations (I know, not in the typical syllabus for 7th, 5th, or 2nd grade). And we were only on verse 4.

Even I was perplexed as to how we got so far off track, so we retraced our steps. In verse 4 of Genesis 6 it says, "There were giants in the earth in those days,"....and we were off, in this order:

Bryce said, "Did you know they've discovered the skeleton of a nineteen foot man?" (Don't you love giving credit to the all-knowing "they".)

I countered with, "Where did you get that information?"

We talked about reliable sources, primary sources, error in memory, error in communication. We shared stories of misinformation getting spread, we talked about the believability of a source based on how close it is to the information being given. We talked about how deceived we can be as our memories don't always/often recall things the ways the really were.

I gave them an actual example from our family (about 10 years ago or so) where two different library books gave us different elevations for the same mountain. We compared sources to come up with what we determined to be the accurate figure, but was it? How would we know, or could we know? And how do you measure a mountain anyway?

We know you can't use a measuring tape, of course, so I told them about the geometrical equations used to make such measurements. As a "for instance", we talked about the earliest methods used to measure the distance to the sun. Well, how could I do that without first discussing triangles, and equilateral triangles and the relationships between the angles and the lengths of the sides, and the formulas used to calculate the lengths of unknown sides. We made some finger triangles and varied the lengths of the sides without changing the measurements of the angles.

We discussed the measurements taken in Egypt many hundreds of years ago whereby someone calculated the time that the sun shone directly down into a well and then someone else measured the angle from the earth to the sun at that exact same time from a calculated distance away. We talked about how they used the tangent formula for that angle to calculate the distance from the well to the sun.

In our example, the living room light was the sun, a chair was the well, Lisa was the other measuring point, and the 'sun' was at a 56 degree angle.

However, our discussion wasn't complete until we also discussed the inaccuracy of the measurement of the distance between the well and the other point due to the curvature of the earth, so we had to talk about the mathematic equations that scientists would use to figure out the distance the a straight line would make through that curvature.

I stopped short of estimating the size and curvature of the earth. But, we learned that it can be pretty hard to produce accurate information and we have to be careful to understand where that information came from and how it is passed on and communicated.

OK, four verses read, the fallability of man grossly exposed, on to our 'official' history lesson.....speaking of which, as we read of the Dani tribe in New Guinea in the early 1960s and the governmental involvement of the Netherlands isn't it interesting that it also related to our study of New England and the fact that New York City used to be called New Amsterdam because of the Dutch rule, and the Dutch of course were known for their exploration of eastern Asia, and did you know that Indonesia used to be called the Dutch Indies because of this....and on goes the next tangent!

Gabe Update

I've had a number of people ask about Gabe, wanting to know how he's doing post-surgery. Here are some pictures of our man taken during the past month. I think you can see that he's doing great. You might not be able to tell that he's gained three pounds in the past three months! His heart was really working hard and burning up the calories. We see the cardiologist tomorrow and I'll publish his medical update then.

Reading with Dana

With cousin Lauren

Riding Bryce

Self feeding is coming along slowly!

"Wha's up!?"

Monday, October 19, 2009

Relational Weekend

One of the biggest struggles for parents in guiding their family is to create an environment that fosters relationships. There are so many things that can take the place of personal bonding--most typically TV, movies, computers, video games, and sports. We can even do some of those things together with the idea that we're bonding and interacting, but they're often just a poor substitute for real personal interaction.

Friday set the tone for the next three days here. Keith returned from a last minute trip to Texas. It had been a rough three days here without him. I know that we are under the attack of Satan and need to guard against his arrows, but it was one of those weeks where I felt like Satan left me alone, but put a big target on my back and let others take the shots. I was ready to hibernate from humanity and hide away with my family!

Keith brought Aunt Susie back with him and I couldn't have gotten a bigger boost. They are my two biggest fans. All the praise and adoration and encouragement I could want comes from them. Good start to the weekend.

Lisa got a call Friday evening from Mary (our lived-with-us-for-two-years-so-she's-part-of-the-family adopted daughter) inviting her to spend the evening with her (she moved to her own place).
They ate and played and did girl things and Lisa came home SO HAPPY! It's hard to be sandwiched in between five boys at home. (Gotta love Mary's culinary pants!)

On Saturday, the boys all worked with Dad cutting, splitting, and stacking wood, loading and hauling rocks and gravel, and shoveling it into needed areas. It was hard work, but they enjoyed the effort (their words, not mine) and were happy around the supper table.

Susie and I were invited out for coffee with Dana, Coley and Anna Beth (take Susie for coffee and you have a friend for life). I don't really get jealous of the free time the girls have to get together for these outings, but it was really fun to be included with willing boys to watch Gabe for the morning! Later, Susie and I took Goodwill by storm and outfitted her for the winter.

Sunday afternoon Dana joined me in the kitchen (voluntarily) to prepare lunch and we all ate almost an hour after we'd planned because she and I kept getting caught up in conversation.

While we talked, the boys were doing this:
I could here cheering and the sound of a marble rolling, but couldn't have imagined what it was. They were bowling....with marbles.....down an alley lined with blocks. And for pins:
They flattened the bottoms of pieces of candy corn and stood them up. It was tough. After four frames Troy was leading with 17. Shane and Owen were tied with 1.

We sat around the lunch table talking while the uneaten food grew cold, no one in a hurry with no plans for the day. Keith told everyone, "I want you to find a quiet place and spend some time alone this afternoon. You can read, or pray, but spend time with God in quiet." Lisa excused herself and left the room. We were still sitting at the table talking when she returned and whispered to Keith, "I read a verse in the Bible. Can I go color with Aunt Susie now?" Keith decided that was sufficient quiet time for a seven-year-old!
Susie has loved having Lisa's company, and Lisa's loved having a girl to color and talk about princesses with. But, Susie was still delighted to call home and talk with her best friend Joan.

So, it felt like God removed the target for a few days. I was relaxed, and not feeling scrutinized. I was even feeling loved, and enjoyed seeing those around me connecting with each other. But, the final balm came Sunday evening when Keith jr. and Dana sang "I Will Lift My Eyes" at church. This song did two things for me.

First, it comforted me seeing my children sing it. Not because it puffed me up that they were singing, but because it reminded me of the greatest focus I need to have in raising my children--to see them living a life that lifts up Christ. It takes a toll on a mother to hear her family criticized and critiqued. I should be strong, and tough, and focused, and forgiving and, and, and....but sometimes it's hard, and it hurts. Seeing them sing helped comfort me in the knowledge that it's not about me.

Second, the song became a prayer of my heart. I felt a need to lift my eyes to the Maker, to lift them up from the hurts and barbs and from myself. And the realization that God had blessed me with a reprieve from the hurt and had nurtured and cared for my soul, even BEFORE I prayed for the lifting of my eyes to Him was proof again of His amazing care for me. I was awed by His love for my soul and the place of my heart. I didn't need to come to Him first, He came to me, and then drew me to Him.

It was the highest of relationships that was nurtured.
By Bebo Norman

God, my God, I cry out
Your beloved needs You now
God, be near calm my fear and take my doubt
Your kindness is what pulls me up
Your love is all that draws me in

I will lift my eyes to the Maker
of the mountains I can't climb
I will lift my eyes to the Calmer
of the oceans raging wild
I will lift my eyes to the Healer
of the hurt I hold inside
I will lift my eyes, lift my eyes to You

God, my God, let mercy sing
her melody over me
and God, right here all I bring
is all of me
Your kindness is what pulls me up
Your love is all that draws me in

I will lift my eyes to the Maker
of the mountains I can't climb
I will lift my eyes to the Calmer
of the oceans raging wild
I will lift my eyes to the Healer
of the hurt I hold inside
I will lift my eyes, lift my eyes to You

'Cause You are and You were and You will be forever
the Lover I need to save me
'Cause You fashioned the earth and You hold it together, God
so hold me now

I will lift my eyes to the Maker
of the mountains I can't climb
I will lift my eyes to the Calmer
of the oceans raging wild
I will lift my eyes to the Healer
of the hurt I hold inside
I will lift my eyes, lift my eyes to You
I will lift my eyes, lift my eyes to You

God, my God, I cry out
Your beloved needs You now

Friday, October 16, 2009

Candid Camera

Dana informed me that the flash on my camera did not work. I picked up the camera, turned off the dining room light, pointed the camera at my family, and shot. The flash worked. I love the result.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


It seems that a common thread for me in the past few days has been thoughts and expressions pertaining to people from other countries.

Our two exchange sons from last year are often on my mind and I couldn't help but think of Mendo the other day when I was sifting through our winter garb and came upon his familiar orange coat. He just didn't have a use for it in Portugal!

I was in the high school today and Gabriella, the Italian girl for whom I am the student/family liaison, saw me and embraced me like a daughter. I'm so glad to have her in my life.

Then, last night Troy was carrying on a computer conversation with "Tommy" from Nigeria. Tommy came to America in August 2004 to attend engineering school at Michigan Tech. He was as green as green could be and scared to death. He landed in Detroit clueless about where he was or where he was going. With an address in hand he approached a cab driver and asked for a ride. Eleven hours and $720 later he was dropped off at his dorm, which wasn't yet open for students. Because the football players were moved in and practicing he was let into a room in their wing. He had very little money left, no friends, and the cafeteria wasn't even open for business. Keith, jr. and his roommate found Tommy struggling to work the key in the lock of his room and after opening the door for him, they adopted him. The football players fed him and helped orient him for two weeks before the campus opened up. Tommy came home for a couple of weekends with Keith, including Thanksgiving. We traveled to Minneapolis and found a Nigerian restaurant where I learned how to eat yams with my fingers. I still invision a 6 foot tall beanpole with an infectious smile who really didn't understand what he was doing half-way around the world from home.

Tommy eventually made other friends and Keith moved out of the dorms. We saw Tommy at a couple of football games and exchanged a few emails but then we lost touch. At graduation last December as we were leaving the building I heard my name, "Mrs. White!" At first glance I thought it was a Husky lineman, but the smile and the big hug revealed our Tommy--plus about 75 pounds! He's come a long way since his infamous taxi ride, but he hasn't forgotten us and asked about all the little ones, certain they don't remember him, but they do.

Today, I received an email link from my friend Anna. I've never met Anna, but our hearts are knit. They are knit by our common station in life as mothers of growing families, by the extra chromosomes that our youngest sons possess, and by our love for Jesus Christ our deliverer. Anna sent me the link to her daughter Kari's blog. Kari has followed God's call to serve the needy with a missionary team in Rwanda. I have been blessed by reading some of the thoughts Kari's shared on her blog and look forward to hearing how God uses her in the coming weeks. (I have added a link to "Captive Heart" on my blog list.)

I am thankful for these relationships, I'm thankful for the testimonies of missionaries and the books they leave us to help open our eyes and the eyes of our children to the people that God has created all over this earth, with their different skin colors, and customs, and diets; yet, with the same great need for the truth, understanding, and wisdom from our Creator.

I am reading "Torches of Joy" by John Dekker to my younger bunch and I appreciated the Dani (tribe in present-day Papua, Indonesia) rendition of a familiar Bible story--a man had fallen in the forest and was hurt, was helped by a man not of his clan, and taken to his hut to be cared for. I enjoyed reading the story and hearing it dawn on my listeners--"hey, that's the story of the Good Samaritan!"

We are so "clan-ish". Without even trying or realizing it, we even think clan-ishly. Until someone rewords a familiar story and it becomes new. 'Don't shun others because they are not like you, do good and help.'

I know there are wonderful and glorious complex doctines in the Bible. But, I'm thankful for the simple yet profoundly life-changing stories too. I'm thankful for the reminder that God has given me this week--to continue to look beyond my own fence to do good and help.

Monday, October 12, 2009


Although we saw snow on Saturday, we were up in Michigan for Chet's game. It is a tradition here to celebrate the first snowfall with Christmas music. Last year, that didn't happen until the week of Thanksgiving. This is what we woke up to this morning. The camera just didn't catch the huge fluffly flakes falling down.

As you can see, besides the ten bags of apples we plan to process this afternoon, there are a lot more on the tree. They'll have to wait, right now we're listening to "O Come All Ye Faithful" and sipping hot cocoa!

Surprise for Chet

It can be tough to keep secrets in a big family. But we did it. Priscilla drove with her sister (Lydia) and mother (Mary) from Wyoming to Michigan (with a stop in South Dakota, a detour through MN and WI, a drive back south into WI for a wedding shower, and then back up to Tech) to surpise Chet for the weekend and the homecoming game.

We had to give them a proper welcome to the north and this was the scene throughout the game--on October 10! The temps on the ground were above freezing, but the snow poured all aftenoon. (Chet's #43)

It certainly didn't dampen our spirits. Chet secured 32 tickets for friends and family to attend this game, and we all sat together on 50-yard-line seats. Chet had a good game. And the more they announced his name the louder we yelled. Papa, listening on the internet radio at home commented, "Ya'll must've been sitting right under the announcer because we heard loud screaming and yelling every time they announced his name."

When Chet was announced for taking part in the last tackle of the game we all cheered as enthusiastically as ever. Keith, jr., just one year out from watching the defense from the sidelines in uniform, looked back at us in disgust and said, "They just lost the game (although they tackled the guy, he got a first down to seal the loss for the Huskies), learn the game!" We didn't care, our mission was to support Chet no matter what the score.

I would have liked to have gotten some pictures of Chet and Priscilla together, but the snow and cold made it a very difficult afternoon for Lisa and Gabe, hence for me too. When I tried to take a few pictures later the lens was fogged and then I forgot about it! Guess we'll have to wait for wedding pictures.

Here are a few from the mystery dinner/shower we had on Friday night.

Lisa served three courses to all of the guests. I couldn't have done it without her!

Dana and Priscilla

Pat, Suzette, and Wendy

Lauren, Katie, and Nicole

Kelly and Mama

Sunday, October 11, 2009


When life is overflowing and you're going through trials, struggles, or difficulties you'll notice you have two kinds of friends. One will offer advice, telling you what you should or shouldn't be doing. The other will come to your aid, lending a hand to help you through it.

Come to think of it, there's only one kind of friend.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Thinking like Owen

When learning how to carry numbers for subtraction, I used money to change dimes for dollars and pennies for dimes for Dana and Bryce. Anything to do with money was right up their alley. When Joey needed to learn about science it had to apply to geography in order to make sense and seem useful to him.

Today, Owen was trying to figure out how to remember what 'vertical' and 'horizontal' mean. For the third time in two weeks I was trying to explain to him how the horizon is horizontal. I drew a picture of a boat on the ocean, showing the horizon where the sea meets the sky. I wrote the word 'horizon', then I added 'tal'. I wrote the word 'verti' and added 'cal'. I asked him, "Are you looking at the horizon or the verti? Thinking of a picture with a horizon will help you remember horizontal."

Suddenly Owen cried out, "Wait, I know how I can remember it! When you ask someone what their vertical jump is it means how high up they can jump. So I can remember that vertical goes up and down!"

I forgot that Owen's trigger somehow must relate to sports.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Vocab mix-up

I'm trying to correct this one, but Gabe is plain stuck on the wrong exclamatory word. Even so, it still sounds pretty funny to hear him (when he's really excited about something) to very enthusiastically yell out, "YUCK!"

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Big life, Big place, Big news

Since May we have lived a pretty full life here. Chet left for Wyoming; Ellen returned from Guyana; Dana, Mendo, and Light graduated from high school; Gabe went to Milwaukee for a heart catheterization; Chet returned and proposed to Priscilla; we planned Ellen's wedding; Chet was sick for three weeks; Joey and Jamie told us we were going to be grandparents; Troy, Shane, Bryce, and Owen all played baseball on different teams; Light and Mendo returned home; Gabe had open heart surgery; Chet had sinus surgery; Gabe had a secondary surgery for a staff infection and was hospitalized in Milwaukee when--Ellen and Daniel got married; Keith and Nicole told us we were going to be grandparents again; and now we're preparing for Chet's wedding while going about our usual homeschooling, applesauce-making, and football-game-attending. (Hats off to Lisa for not making the "busy list".)

Last week, Keith and I took a business/pleasure trip to Montana while Dana cared for the home and family. It couldn't have been any more appropriate for us to be,
driving across the Continental Divide in the Rocky Mountains,
when Joey called (can you believe I even got reception on the Continental Divide?!?!) to tell us that Keith and Nicole's child will not be our second grandchild, but rather our third....
the ultrasound revealed twins!
Everyone is very excited to say the least. However, our friend Rosalynn's reaction was my favorite. When I called and told her she couldn't stop laughing. Rosalynn has five-year-old twins.