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, March 30, 2011

Winter Farewell

Despite our mid-March 15-inch snow storm last week winter is coming to a close--even up north. Lisa was determined to make a snowman and I was sure the spring snow would be the good, heavy, packing kind. Sadly for her, thankfully for the shovelers, it was not. Undeterred, Lisa piled the snow and made a mounded snowman anyway!

The bright, warm days have sent this snowman back to where all good snowmen go. Poor fellow knows the end is near.

Now we have Troy and Shane in the gym practicing with the baseball team, and the next three signed up for their summer seasons. So, as a farewell to winter I am posting some of my favorite winter photos from the past 2 months.

In early February we headed to Michigan Tech to see the ice scuptures. Here's our tour group, complete with Ariadna of Bolivia getting in on some northern culture.

We enjoy the sculptures as well as the opportunity to see Chet and Priscilla

Maybe if our toilet was this big Gabe would show a little more interest

This year's theme centered around anything to do with books

The Narnia Beaver--my favorite of the day

After taking in the sculptures we drove to a park on Lake Superior so Ariadna could see the largest of our Great Lakes. It proved to be an experience that everyone enjoyed. The lake was frozen in great mounds and drifts, looking as if it had frozen in waves. Just weeks later we read the book Shipwrecked at the Bottom of the World, the story of Earnest Shackleton. He and his crew spent over a year trapped in ice in the Antarctic. We had a better understanding of their conditions because of our trek out onto the Lake Superior ice. It would have been hard to imagine lake ice not being relatively flat had we not been there to see it for ourselves.

Still not too big for a ride on 'Nina'

Who wants to play on a frozen lake when there are swings!?

FINALLY, we didn't just drive by the park! Gabe thinks parks should be a year-round activity. Maybe he's right.

There were spots on the lake that were blown clear of snow. The ice was perfectly smooth and clear. Lisa is getting ready for a push across the clearing.

Gabe finally decided he wanted to get in on some slipping and sliding on the ice

Here is the scene in our driveway following the 15-inch snowfall. Depending on one's perspective they could have said we got "A dusting" or "4 feet".

This was the view when we walked out our back door. Troy is digging away trying to clear an opening big enough for the van to get out. We didn't see a need to completely remove the pile since the temperatures are supposed to reach 50 in a week. You can see the bare spot in the foreground--"blowing and drifting" is amazing.

Lisa found a bare spot between the driveway pile and the walkway where Owen was shoveling. I think everyone wondered why the drifts couldn't have piled up in the yard and not on drive and walkways.

Owen did his best to open a narrow (emphasis on narrow) path to the front door. I'm not sure if it would have been better to have an even 15 inches to shovel down the entire walk, or if the clear, blown sections were a welcome respite after plowing through the 2-3 foot drifts.

You can see the bare ground and sidewalk where the saucer is sitting next to the drift along the house. As I was typing this I heard a thunderous sound out the front door. Sure enough, the snow on the metal roof melted enough to all come crashing down, covering the sidewalk again! The "best" part is when it melts and leaks into my laundry room...

Good-bye Winter, here's to you!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sneak Peek

A few days ago I ran across a new blog that was recently started by my good friend, and author, Mary Silverberg.

I started by reading her blog post dated Saturday, March 26. There was no introduction to the untitled post, it just began with a quote. (I just discovered that there is a title, but it's in the same color as the background so can't be seen--I'll have to tell Mary.)

About half way through the quote I thought, "I think I've read this before". I read another line and it dawned on me that I'd not only read it but I had written it! It wasn't until I was almost to the last line that I even remembered how the quote ended. (Note: I read it on my phone so was not about to see the entire page with my name at the bottom.)

How fun to read my own writing from unbiased eyes, and be so surprised by it.

The quote was taken from the section that I wrote for a book that Mary has put together about raising children with special needs. I am one of ten women who contributed to the book.

You can read it here if you like. (I'll post more information when the book is published.)

Friday, March 25, 2011


Perhaps the best compliment given to a Christian girl by a teenage boy: overheard in a high school hallway.
"She's hot but she doesn't show it."

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Laura Story sings the tale of our hearts when they break, and remind us of the comfort ahead, knowing that this is not our home.

What if your blessings come through raindrops?
What if your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near?
And what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?

Of course, right now this makes me think of the loss of a child--Joey and Jamie, Chet and Priscilla, Marty and Kelly. But maybe it's for you, too.

Thank you resolved2worship for sharing this.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Happy Birthday to Yous

Grammatically incorrect, I know. However, some Northwoodsers actually say "yous" (pronounced so it rhymes with 'loose') when they mean "you--plural". It's the northern version of "y'all", which southerners use to refer to "you--plural", and some for "you--singular", as well. This leads some folks to pluralize "you" by saying "all y'all" (you know who you are!). It's really so easy people, just say "you"!

All of this has absolutely nothing to do with Happy Birthday.

But Happy Birthday it is, to my mom who would have been 72.

Since I can't celebrate with her I'm going to celebrate with you by posting birthday pictures from the celebrations of my two youngest who both had birthdays in the last month.

Lisa turned 9 one month ago. She, like Bryce in his younger days, sees her birthday as a national holiday. I think she's surprised when she heads to the greeting card department in February and doesn't see a card that is pre-printed with "Happy Birthday Lisa"!

Lisa came to me about 7 weeks before her birthday with a list. On that list were the names of close to 20 children, an itinerary, and a menu. I've told her before that if she wants to do something special she has to plan, and plan she did. Her big brown eyes looked at me with expectation and pleading. She knew she was pushing the envelope with this one. Her party was to begin mid-morning and stretch until early evening and she had created 2 columns to list all of the guests.

How could I say no? She planned it all and gave me ample time to prepare. I sat down with her and pared down the list, keeping it to children within 2 years of her age and 10 miles of our home, and limiting the time to 3 hours. She hand-made and delivered all of the invitations.

We ended up with a delightful group of 16 children added to my own 4 (Bryce skipped out on the photo) who are at home on a school day. (I just love how the two on the right end are holding hands, they're brother and sister.)

They did exactly what Lisa wanted to do. They played on the slide--an absolute indoors-on-a-cold-day-lifesaver when there are young children around!

They played hide-and-seek all through the house. They played with a bag of balloons.

They opened gifts and ate cake.

They went outside and played with the kittens, and played in the snow, and played Fox and Geese.

I didn't spend hours thinking up and preparing elaborate birthday games. I didn't have to think of anything, Lisa did it. They did what kids like to do, they played. They had a wonderful time just playing. They were happy and cooperative and well-behaved and loud and giggly and energetic. It couldn't have been any more perfect!

Two weeks later our "baby" Gabe turned 5! This is the last year of holding up one hand to show someone how old he is. It's the first year he hasn't had to work to get the proper number of fingers to cooperate with the effort!

Poor Gabe was getting over a bout with the flu and had a terrible cold on his birthday!
I haven't posted a Gabe's Milestones post in quite awhile. So this is it.
Gabe has learned to pedal a big wheel.
He recognizes all of his numbers and can consistently count objects up to five.
He recognizes about 90% of his letters.
He knows entire songs and can sing several of them all the way through--although he mumbles them terribly.
He uses 4-5 word sentences sometimes but will use as few words as necessary, ie. "want juice".
He can pray before a meal, "God, thank you for food, amen."
He's graduated from knob-type single piece puzzles and just loves jigsaw puzzles. He's getting fairly proficient at a 16 piece block puzzles that makes 6 different pictures. He loves turning the blocks to find the correct picture for the animal we're putting together.
He has an opinion!
He still likes to run but returns when instructed rather than having to always be chased--yeah!!
He likes to push babies over--ugh.
He's learned to operate a sing-a-long microphone and recorder and can record himself and play it back.
He LOVES Elmo.
Finally, my favorite recent exchange with Gabe came a few weeks ago when I'd just mopped the floor. He walked into the room and I asked him, "How does it look?"
He surveyed the room and, nodding, said, "Pretty nice."

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

154 Days

Her life was measured in days, but there is no way to measure the impact she had on those who love her. We said good-bye to Kaylee Hope on Saturday.
Joey has posted about the final days, the emotions, and the memorial service on his blog. (See the right side bar for posts.) He mentioned that he feared for normalcy because that might be a sign that Kaylee Hope has been forgotten. But, her value, and the impact she had on the lives of her family is not dependent on the memory of others. We all move on. We have to move on.

My mom's 72nd birthday is tomorrow. The 9th anniversary of her death is this Sunday. I don't think of her every day any more. My children bring her to mind less often than I do. That doesn't mean she's forgotten.

It is true that people live on in the hearts of others. Not in some tangible, physical, mystic sense of indwelling another's body with their spirit. But our time with them helps to shape those left behind. In a parent/child relationship the effects can be monumental. There are mannerisms, speech patterns, opinions, and even fundamental personality traits that can be directly traced back from child to parent. There are flowing rivers of love and emotion in a parent that are brought out by a child.

The loss of one so loved leaves a very deep impression on the one left. The pain, the trial, the journey, is part of the fertilizer used to nourish our souls and shape our characters. God uses the pain of the trial to nourish and bring forth good.

I can't help but think of our compost pile. We throw in the "trial", the produce peels and skins, the spoiled leftovers, the rotten leaves and yard waste, and in time we have a nutritious mulch that pours life into our plants and help produce strength and beauty. I certainly don't think about bananas, fresh lettuce, and beautiful fall leaves when I see a blooming azalea, but they are there.

If I don't think about the elements that went into compost all of the time I can be certain that my children and neighbors never think of it. That doesn't diminish the impact of the fertilizer.

The same can be true with losing a loved one. God uses the painful experiences to produce strength and beauty in us. There is tremendous value in that, and that value is not measured by the memories of others. The value is in our own memories and the fruit produced by the trial.

I prayed a strange but very honest prayer last fall. I asked God to stop sending trials my way. I reasoned that, while trials produce patience and patience works to bring us to 'perfection', I didn't really want to become more patient. I asked God to consider where I was with my present level of patience and earthly perfection and see if He could just leave things as they were and consider it "good enough".

I really meant that prayer. I really wanted to be done, forever, with trials and learning patience. God said no. So, I humbly submit to His all-knowing wisdom and goodness and accept the trials.

I know we need them, and they're just part of life, but I wouldn't be a normal parent if I didn't wish that I could pass on the learning of my life's trials to my children so that they could grow without going through them.

But I can't. So I'll also trust that God will uphold them and strengthen them just as He has me through my time. And I'll try to use what I've learned to help hold them, in my arms or my my heart, through what they have to go through.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Official Time Out

All things being basketball right now, that is the best way to put it--Official Time Out. That's when the official in basketball calls a time out for his own purposes. It is not charged to either team, but play stops for reasons that need only be justified by the official.

I need one of those. I need to stop and have a time out. I have a number of things I want to blog, pictures to post, projects to start/work on/complete, etc, etc, etc. In the past three weeks I've overseen the celebration of 3 birthdays here, had 2 parties with 20 or more people at each, loved on my grandson for 10 days, planned for and taught a literature class, met with the Community Education Director to help with upcoming plans and discuss how they effect homeschoolers, begun preparation for three seminars to be led at the upcoming homeschool convention, cared for three boys who had the flu (at the same time), and kept up with the everyday lives of our crew. Keith and my 27th anniversary was yesterday--we had a day so full of our regular responsibilities that the best we could do was to get in a game of Trivial Pursuit between 10 and 11 PM (I won--not that I needed to add that, but I did--pink and brown get him every time).

I would like all teams involved to sit on the bench, get a drink, and let me just do my own thing. Can I please have the full time out? That would give me a whole minute!

Thank you.

PS I am not forgetting that just 2 months ago I had a whole week off. I am not complaining or whining. Really. I just want a minute.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Basketball--four more

Troy was not our only basketball player this winter. Everyone played but Gabe and he put in his time on the nerf basketball set at home as well as in the stands cheering on his siblings. His favorite chant was "Air Ball, Air Ball!" and he knew when to use it, even at home.

This basketball season was a step up for Shane who went from being an under-6-foot-2-inch JV player to being an over-6-foot-4-inch Varsity player. Foot/ankle injuries early and late in the season led to him missing about six games. It was certainly a frustration, but he's not the first player to be sidelined with injuries and being part of a team certainly doesn't always mean playing center stage.

Shane's first varsity year was met with a new coach and the boys, as much as they liked their previous coach, enjoyed playing under Coach Lemmens.

White Brother Sandwich.

Bryce and Owen played together on the homeschool co-ed junior high team. It looks like Bryce inherited the 'kangaroo gene'.

Owen really should have been on the 3-5th grade team with Lisa, but he was just too big for that group and would have dominated them...and probably hurt someone. Owen, a fifth grader, was with his older brothers this week and their coach (a fifth grade teacher) asked Owen, "What grade are you in, 8th?"

I enjoyed watching this brother-pair play together this year. Their age gaps prevents them from being teammates very often, but they have always been good buddies and love to be together--an all too rare testimony of brothers.

This was Lisa's first year playing basketball and she was nervous! She has not been glued to the game since her diaper days like some others in our house, but she was very enthusiastic and wanted to learn.

Here is her classic traffic-sign-stance from her first game.

Hair in place--check.

Thanks for the entertainment guys!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Basketball--Senior year--Life lessons

Another Wisconsin White Winter means basketball. This year we had 5 children playing on 3 teams. I have pictures of everyone that I've been waiting to post during the month of March Madness. I'll post the younger four later but want to highlight Troy in his senior season with this post. Not all of the comments are about Troy, but I'm using his pictures.

March Madness: If you'd have asked me 30 years ago what I thought "March Madness" meant I'd have probably made a guess that had something to do with Lewis Carroll or some similar sort of children's literature.

I've been educated and now know that March means basketball tournaments, all month long. Owen just said a month or so ago, "I hope I get sick in March so I can lay on the couch and watch basketball all day." This morning Bryce and Owen both woke up with fevers, and spent all day lying on couches, watching college basketball much of the time. As amazing as it seems that he got his wish, he actually missed his goal by a few weeks. True, college basketball is on all day today, and Owen's enjoyed watching it between naps; but the real deal doesn't start until March 17--St. Patrick's Day--Vince's first birthday, the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. I think that tournament ranks second only to Christmas for event-to-look-forward-to in our house. And I'd never even heard of it.

Although I really do enjoy keeping up with the tournament, filling in my brackets, and listening to the boys laugh at my unlikely predictions I MUCH prefer watching my own children play on whatever team they play. I don't care if they win or lose, I don't really care about the level of talent, and I don't care about (or keep track of) the team record. I just like watching them because they're mine. I try hard to be a team fan, but the fact is, if my kid wasn't there I wouldn't be there either.

I don't find it agonizing to go to game after game watching loss after loss. I'm not disappointed with low scoring totals. I don't really care if my child plays the whole game or less than half the game. My greatest joy comes from watching them work hard, enjoy themselves, improve, and learn the invaluable lessons they learn by being put in intense situations that test their character in high-stress, emotional, public situations.

It is definitely enjoyable to watch my children make three-point shots, steal the ball, block a shot of someone bigger than themselves, sink free throws, or lead the team in rebounds.

But when I think of personal highlights for me there are two things that stand out.

Fisrt of all, I love seeing my children have the opportunity to play together. As much as you try to get them to work together at home, they tend to be against each other in any type of sibling games or competition. If it's one on one, they're opposed. If they make teams the two oldest head the teams and they're opposed. This year, for Troy(44) and Shane (14), they got to be teammates, and I loved it.

(Look close and you'll see that Troy and Shane's faces are the only two that are visible here--Troy, center left under the arms; Shane, center right over the arms.)

The second thing I love is seeing them learn and improve in their ball playing skills and in their behavior and personal fortitude. Seeing Lisa go from literally standing stock still like a traffic guard with arms outstretched in her first game to dribbling the ball and putting up her first shot in her last game was a delight. Her smile beamed for a full minute after she shot the ball, and she didn't even make the shot! Another high moment was seeing Troy foul out of a game (following a couple of very questionable foul calls), then calmly take his place on the bench and cheer his team on.
Clean block followed by a called foul.

There were some behavioral low moments, as well, much lower than finishing a game with substandard stastics. Those moments weren't wasted however. Good can come from being exposed and vulnerable.

I don't think people realize how hard it is to be in the public eye, under scrutiny, during trying times. Every movement, grimace, eye-roll, or shake of the head is watched by a crowd. When the media is there, it's also a matter of public record.

As public as the trials were, and as much as they gave plenty of people reason to make judgments and engage in easy conversations about the lack of character/sportsmanship/integrity they witnessed, they had value.

The value came from talking about the situation after the incident, challenging them on what God's word says about dealing with such a situation, questioning them on ways they could have handled it better, or how they would feel seeing someone else act like they had acted, or hearing someone say what they had said. They had the opportunity to fail publicly and see the result of their 'self' shining through for all to see, including seeing it themselves. They benefited from the backlash they got from family or friends by being put face to face with their shortcomings. We all have shortcomings and flaws, but we aren't all tested (especially publicly) in a way that lets us see what we're made of. It's true that, "The heart is deceitful above all things...who can know it?" We deceive ourselves and don't even know it, often. Failing, or just messing up, helps open our eyes, helps us see the need for change, and helps us look Godward for that change. Being tested and seeing yourself fail pushes you to stand firm the next time.

The joy of rising above the challenge and coming out on top the next time is well worth the failure.
(#45 was 6'9" tall and won the conference Player of the Year award. It was no easy thing getting shots past him.)

Because of all the good that can come from it, I can take the public criticism and deal with the negative comments and opinions. It never feels good to hear bad things said about your child, but my goal is not that they portray perfection so I can look good. My goal is that they would be growing in Christ, and if that comes at the expense of the good opinions of others while God tries them, so be it.

Last Tuesday, all of our teams had their last game. The seasons are finished and schedule-weary parents are ready for a break...until baseball season.