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, December 12, 2012

Blogger frustration

I am officially fed up with this blogger site. I am not working well with the new format. It doesn't like paragraphs and I do. I'm afraid we are approaching irreconsilable differences. Does anyone have a suggestion for a new home for my blog?

Teen Versus Toddler

We are in the middle of a ten-day stint of keeping three of our grandchildren while their parents enjoy some time alone. I hope to post pictures soon, but in the mean time I wanted to share a conversation I heard this morning between Shane, 18, and Carson, 2. Carson: Uncle Shane, what are you doing? Shane: Washing my hair. Carson: Are you washing your hair? Shane: Yes Carson: Uncle Shane, what are you doing? Shane: Eating breakfast. Carson: Are you eating breakfast? Shane: Yes Carson: Uncle Shane, where are you going? Shane: To school. Carson: Are you going to school? Shane: Yes Shane: You know Mom, he's like one of those noisy toys that you want to turn off.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Gabe's School Journey

Gabe had the most wonderful 4-K teacher last year. Putting my boy in school, even for just 2 days a week, was a tough thing for this Mama to do. But, I thought it might be good for Gabe to have some time with a group of children and receive the attention of various specialists that the school district had to offer. I know everything's a little different for Gabe and I didn't want to assume that education for him would be the same as the others./////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// Meeting Mrs. Votis is what made up my mind. She was enthusiastic, caring, energetic, and she loved Gabe! Gabe took to school pretty well. He loved riding the bus, he loved being with all the kids, he adored Mrs. Votis, and I enjoyed a respite from his high octane energy level! He didn't really seem to gain much ground academically, but I don't think that's unusual for a preschool class. He had more practice writing and cutting than what we'd done at home and it was helpful to have to follow rules in a group and not always be the only little guy be told what to do!/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// I wasn't sure what to do when it came to Kindergarten, but when I learned that Mrs. Votis was moving up, too, I signed up for another year. I literally had to "sign up", since the school I had Gabe in was not our assigned school (even though it's half the distance from our home). I chose to have Gabe attend just 3 days a week and he was in his third week when we received a call from the principal. She informed me that Gabe's class had one too many children in it and since we were technically assigned to another school he would have to go. I like to say that, "Gabe got kicked out of Kindergarten."/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// We could have moved to the other school, but I didn't want the added distance (I drove him to school since there was no way I was going to put him on the bus for an hour), and I wasn't sure that being in school was really the best for him. So, he came home. ///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// It was a difficult transition for Gabe and when I finally told him (after several weeks) that school was "all done" he cried. However, when he would ask if he could go to school I would say, "No, but we can do schoolwork." He's now switched over to asking me, "Can we do schoolwork?" When I say yes he claps and exclaims, "I love that!"///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// The bottom line is, this is better for Gabe. He is doing better academically--he's learning to read and is progressing on number concepts and beginning addition. He is better rested and acts happier. School made Gabe tired and grumpy more often. He is just more content. His Mama is now the one who gets tired and grumpy more often!
We very much miss Mrs. Votis (who teared up as she said good-bye to my boy) and I may consider offering to volunteer in her classroom one afternoon a week so that Gabe can have some interaction with his friends. In the meantime, we try to get out to the Y, the library, and the Children's Museum more often; and Gabe's favorite day of the week is homeschool Sports Club day when he gets to spend 4 hours with 75 other homeschooled kids!/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// (My apologies for the lack of paragraphs. I finally got the blog post to work on my computer, but I can't solve the paragraph mystery. I type them in, but they don't show up. I've tried to create the separation with the hash marks.)

Friday, September 28, 2012


Here he is at last, already a month old. These pictures were taken during his first week while Ellen and her family were here. Ellen got to rest, Karissa got to play with Nana and Gabe, and Daniel got to work on a painting job for us. The rest of the family was on a trip out east for college and family visits.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Bedtime--Then and Now

From 1990 to 2012 not much has changed. Joey and Keith reading by night light when it was bed time, Joey's children Carson and Keira positioned under the window during nap time. Thanks, Jamie, for sharing the moment!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Eight is not enough...

...because now there are nine. But I really wanted to post this picture that I was able to take of the 8 just 9 days before Benjamin Thomas Kleven arrived. I believe I may actually get to put up the pictures from our recent family reunion and baby Benjamin in the next day or two. We'll see...

Karissa, Veda, Sadie, Vince with Eva, Keira with Cameron, and Carson
I wish I had a picture of the jumping, clapping, hollering parents behind me who are to be thanked for getting all eight to look in my general direction at one time!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Gabe's "New Math"

Gabe loves to play guessing games when we ride in the car. He typically calls out, "Mama, animal!" and I have to guess what animal he's thinking of.

Tonight he called to me, "Mama, number!" I guessed a few and got it right when I said, "Two".

I heard Gabe say, "I have one and then one more."

I thought I'd take advantage of his interest in "one more" and try some addition with him so I asked him, "What is one more that two?"

He didn't answer so I followed up with, "If you hold up two finger and then hold up one more what do you have?"

He joyfully called out, "--W--!"

(OK, just in case you don't get it, hold up three fingers and you'll see that it looks like the letter W.)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Untimely Injury/Illness

Two weeks ago today Bryce was playing in his Babe Ruth League championship game and in his first at bat in the top of the first inning he suffered a season ending injury to his hip. It was a bit of deja vu as he repeated the same injury that Chet sustained doing the same thing (swinging a bat) at the same age (just after his 15th birthday). Not only did he not get to play and pitch in the championship game but he was out for the Babe Ruth 15-year-old State Tournament that took place the following weekend. It was disappointing, especially since this was his last year of "All Star Tournaments", but he had a great attitude and went on with the wonderful disposition that he's so known for exhibiting.

As I already posted, Owen's All-Star team also made it to the state level. The week before the tournament (that began last Saturday) Owen came down with what appeared to be the flu. He was down and out for 2.5 days and missed 2 days of practice. He had a good day of rest and then on Saturday was the winning pitcher in the their first game.

On Sunday in church, Owen was chilled while everyone else was hot. He felt feverish and tired. By evening he said he felt fine again and today was suited up and ready to play. The temperature was 90 at the 11:00 am game time and, to my relief, Owen started the game on the bench. When he came in during the 4th inning it was obvious that he was not feeling up to par. He played 2nd base and made a play, hit the ball when he was up to bat, and made it on and off the field, but he was not well.

We left the game after a 7-6 loss and headed for the urgent care center. The x-ray confirmed what all the symptoms were pointing to--Owen has pneumonia. He's obeying doctor's orders and is in the hotel resting while the team is cheering at a homerun derby, he's getting lots of fluids, and taking his antibiotics. There's a chance he can get back in the game if he rebounds back quickly enough. But it's not certain.

So, what looked like a repeat of 2001 when Keith and Chet were 15 and 12 and both went to state tournaments has had a very different outcome for Bryce and Owen. Owen was pretty frustrated and disappointed after today's game, but is accepting that there's nothing he can do but rest and pray and so that is exactly what he's doing and leaving the rest in God's hands.

I would not have wished illness or injury on either of my boys, but it has been amazing to see the positive attitudes and dispositions they have both had through their trials.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

It Works! & Medical Mistake

If you check in here with any regularity you'll know that I've posted very little in the past few months. Blogger's new format had a lot (OK, everything) to do with that. I was not able to post from my home computer and when I did access it from another computer I wasn't able to insert paragraphs or other basic features that just made it a very frustrating experience. I was considering moving to a new host when I discovered I could press on button and get my old blog format back. And this one works.

If you're even looking at this post then it means you didn't completely give up on me, so here's a thought to leave you with:

I went in for routine blood work yesterday and the technician (phlebotomist?) greeted me with, "Hello, I'm a new hire here." That was my first tip that something was out of the ordinary. I've never had anyone in the medical field admit to being new.

She then asked me, "Is it all right if I look at your arm and draw some blood?" Second tip that things were not as usual. It would seem obvious that it's "all right" with me to draw blood...since that's why I'm here in the first place.

Thirdly, she kept showing all of her work to another gowned woman for her to OK. Third tip that she was definitely a newbie.

But the final proof that made me questing my own sanity at remaining in the chair was the nametag--"Cathy P, Inventory Clerk".

Memo to the hospital--have the new nametags ready when employees switch jobs!

Final note--she did a fantastic job, perhaps because she was so meticulous. I didn't bruise at all and barely have a mark today. Still, fix the nametag!

Friday, July 13, 2012

All-Star Champions!

Owen's team came back from a 13-0 deficit after one inning to win the game 18-15. Seven players combined to hit nine home runs and two players (including Owen) bounced one over the fence. If they can keep the bats going and settle down on defense they could have a shot for success in the state tournament.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

My Supergirl

I know, 2 posts at once, unprecedented. But I had to share a quote from Lisa that just keeps putting a smile on my face.
Mom, I always dream about being a hero, but I never get the chance.

Summer Ball

Yes, it's been over a month since I put up a post here. I've thought of it but never have sat still long enough to do it. It doesn't help that I can't post from our main computer where all of my photos are stored. Getting on the laptop or heading to the library takes way more effort than I've been willing/able to expend!

I hate to say it's been a "busy" summer because no matter what's going on we're all "busy" with something. It's just that this summer the "busy" has been in the form of putting on mileage. We've had many summers that were filled with ball games. I remember one crazy summer when we had 6 kids playing on 5 different teams. We spent a lot of time at the park but it just meant packing picnics and traveling the 3+ miles back and forth to the park four or five nights a week.

This summer we broke a record even for us. With 6 kids home for the summer and 5 of them involved in a summer sport it was only a matter of time before everything happened on one day. Our day came a few weeks ago when we had 5 kids on 4 teams playing 3 different sports in tournaments in 4 different cities. It's a coincidence that is highly unlikely to ever repeat itself or we'd probably up our sports-age-requirement to 15!

We have an unusual twist to this summer as Shane is playing on the Wisconsin Jets AAU basketball team. It's a limb we have refused to go out on in the past, but saw that Shane (now 6'6") really was serious about wanting to try to pay for a college education with a basketball scholarship and this was the best way to get the exposure to make that happen. The money that we had planned to spend on a two-week family vacation has gone (is going) toward five 3-day traveling basketball tournaments. Two weeks ago his team won the Mr. Basketball Tournament in Sioux Falls, SD and there are 3 more tournaments to go.

Troy is home for the summer and playing some Legion ball but I haven't made it to any of those games. Once you're an adult my obligation to cheer from the bleachers is over. If it's a nice night and you're playing in town and I feel like sitting down by the lake I might be there.

Bryce played for a Babe Ruth team and filled in some on the Legion team. He had an amazing season with a batting average over .800 midway through the season. Last Monday his team was playing in the league championship game when, in the first half of the first inning, he pulled a hip muscle. He had to be carried off the field and watched his team lose the game. He was disappointed to miss the game but even more disappointed to miss the All-Star State Tournament this weekend. If he thought he could help the team on crutches he'd do it.

Owen filled a very significant baseball role this summer. He is the last boy in our family to be playing Little League. We've had a boy in the Little League program every year since 1995 and Keith has coached 15 of those years, coached several All-Star teams, and took Chet's team to the state tournament in 2001. Owen's All-Star team is one win away from heading to the state tournament as well and if they did it would make he and Chet the first brother combo to go to state in over 40 years (if ever). The Hodags have sent teams to state 5 times--1957, 1962, 1966, 1988, and 2001. The 2001 team was the only one to post a win at that level.

Finally, we've had Lisa in the mix this year. She gave fastpitch softball a try last summer but was completely disenchanted by the lack of games. There were none. All season long they met every week for a practice and maybe a scrimmage amongst themselves. She was beyond indignant and decided to give soccer a try. So, after a 16-year break (our older four tried soccer for a season) I am once again a "soccer mom". Lisa enjoyed her team very much and in her final game scored her first legitimate goal. (She was once credited for a goal when the opposing goalie "mis-kicked" the ball and it ricocheted off Lisa and into the net.)

It looks like everything should be wrapped up by the end of this month and my summer projects will get back on the front burner. Posting some pictures here might even be one of them!

Friday, June 8, 2012


In my long list of things to do today I did not include:
"taking apart 3 levels of a brick retaining wall to rescue a kitten"
Lisa and Mopsy are very glad that I was willing to adjust my schedule.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Gabe update

(I don't know how this looks to you, but it isn't showing any paragraph breaks on my screen--I put them in, so I'm sorry if this looks like one big paragraph!) I have tried to post a few different things in the past weeks, but I can't get onto the "post" page on my home computer. I have a few minutes at the library and want to give an update on Gabe. About 8 weeks ago Gabe had surgery to remove his adenoids. He's been struggling with sleep apnea and breathing problems at night and this was the next step in trying to correct the problem. Gabe and I drove down to Madison on Thursday night for, what I presumed was, a Friday morning surgery. The surgical department was supposed to call me on Thursday to give me the time. I gave them my cell number and told them to only call that phone as I would have to leave fairly early in the afternoon to go to a baseball game along the way and then get checked into the Ronald McDonald House. I had a lot of coordinating to do. Shane had the baseball game and was driving to Madison with me, but then had to get down to Milwaukee for a basketball tournament. Troy was to meet us in Madison (with a car we'd let him take to load up end-of-the year college stuff) and get Shane to Milwaukee. I didn't get a surgery call all day (turns out we had 4 messages on the home phone), called the hospital twice, and finally got a call back from the surgeon's night staff telling me we had a 4 pm surgery. No matter what time of day the surgery is scheduled, the patient can't eat any solid foods after midnight. That was going to be tricky. Gabe doesn't do well with hunger. When he hits his hunger wall he loses it. I don't know if hunger affects him differently than most kids or if he just doesn't know how to deal with it. He can go quite awhile without eating but then comes that wall, and often without warning. I was afraid of a day of fasting. I kept Gabe up until almost midnight and got him to eat at least 2 meals worth of food between 10:15 and 11:00. Thankfully, the Ronald McDonald kitchen was well-stocked and I let him eat anything and everything he wanted. Unfortunately, the late night did not produce a late morning and at 7:00 we headed to game room to play. I kept distracting him when he'd ask for food and we made it to 9:30 without a hitch. We then headed to what turned out to be our 'salvation'--the zoo! Gabe was so enamored with the zoo and the animals and the flowers and the merry-go-round and the train that he never once asked for food. I experienced another "Gabe is growing up" moment at the zoo. He was playing in a playground area and I couldn't see him in the treehouse slide. I walked around the back side to get a better look (later figuring out this was when he slipped out the gate back into the zoo). I watched awhile and then asked a girl to climb up into the top and look for him. No Gabe. I figure he'd been missing for about 10 minutes and had no idea how to find him. I headed for the ticket booth of the merry-go-round and was directed to the ride operator to report a lost child. As I walked around the operator station Gabe came running through the gate and almost ran into me. He had gone to the merry-go-round, gotten on (we got all day wrist band passes), and taken a ride! I told him that it was OK to go anywhere he wanted, that this was his day of fun, but I didn't want to lose him and he had to tell me when he wanted to leave. For the rest of the day he never left an animal, exhibit or area without first coming and holding my hand!!! When we got into the car to head to the hospital he fell fast asleep and didn't wake up until I changed him into his gown just before heading into surgery. (The downside of that was that I had to carry him AND all of our bags down the street and to the surgery area.) Surgery went well and Gabe was alert and READY for food by 7:00. The night was rather uneventful (except that Gabe did not want to sleep there so I didn't sleep much either) and we were given preliminary discharge at 7:30 am! We were gone by 9:30 and headed...back to the zoo. As far as Gabe was concerned we'd taken a weekend trip to the zoo with an inconvenient 18 hour stop at the hospital! The first 3 weeks after surgery were terrible. Gabe felt fine and had no recovery issues at all, but the swelling kept him snoring and/or not breathing (and therefore from sleeping) no matter what position he was in. We all had a rough 3 weeks with very little sleep and a lot of trying to figure out how to help him. The swelling decreased enough after 3 weeks that he could sleep well if he was on his stomach or side and for the last week he hasn't gotten up in the middle of the night at all. We were told we won't know the full story on how his breathing is affected until June or July, but there seems to be a definite improvement at this point. I guess this past year has been make-up for him sleeping through the night his entire infancy. Gabe hit another medical milestone this week that has nothing to do with sleep. He made it through a dental teeth cleaning! I never would have guessed that having a child with Downs would have meant having difficulty at the dentist. But, I've read the reports from others and have seen Gabe refuse to open his mouth for the hygenist. The first time Gabe went to the dentist he just sat in the chair, got a ride up and down, and opened his mouth long enough to let them peek in. That was it. Last year we got a step further and Gabe allowed them to put the little mirror in his mouth and count his teeth. I had visions of having to sedate him just for a cleaning. I took him in this week and gave them the routine that we use to brush his teeth--tell him to open and then count to ten while I brush. At 'ten' he gets to stop, swallow, and open his mouth when he's ready to continue. This helps him feel like he has control of what's happening and he knows there is an end. Well, it worked! We got all 21 teeth cleaned. I think we had to count to ten about ten times but he didn't resist or try to get down. There was one incident that cracked up the hygenist so much it took her awhile to regain composure to go on. Gabe was only managing to count to five on the upper teeth (greater sensitivy on the upper palate). That happens, too, when we brush and I just continue with 6, 7, 8... when he's ready. Instead, Deb said, "We'll start over," and again only got to five. Gabe closed his mouth, looked up at her and said, "Six, seven, eight, nine, ten!"

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Kaleb & Stacey

Last Saturday, my nephew Kaleb was married. As is typical in most families, weddings are a chance to see relatives you don't get to see very often. This wedding was no exception. On the White side of the family, four of Kaleb's five aunts/uncles were present as well as 22 of his 32 cousins. This post is for the dozen or so of you who couldn't come as well as the many additional extended family members who would love to have joined us.

The Main Event: The Wedding/Kaleb and Stacey

Stacey, very happily (and quickly!) coming down the aisle with her dad

The wedding party--it was a very dark setting (and I wasn't going to be a distraction with a flash) so the pictures are mediocre to say the least, but at least you have an idea of how it looked

Stacey and Kaleb
The People

Waiting their turn for the photo booth: Brett, Shane, Troy, Owen, Dana, David, and Bryce

Jamie, Grandma, Papa, and Joey with Cameron

Kyle, Keith, and Gabe

Priscilla with Veda and Keesha

Ellen and Bryce

Keesha and Kenny

Keenan and Keith

Aunt Cindy and Marty K

Bryce and Karissa

Katie, Marty, Kelly with Sadie,and Kirk

Jamie and Grandma

Joey with Cameron and Uncle Kenny

Gabe and Chet--I love the family members in the background watching Gabe

Family Portraits

The Towles

The Klevens

The Mathews
If you want to access the photo booth pictures you can go to and type in Code Q85GG. Here's an example of what they look like, the guys in the wedding party:

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Granddaughter Eva Pearl

I got a call at 10:15 last night, "Hello, is this Nana's Child Care Service?" I said, "Yes, it is," and off I went to spend the night with Vince who had no idea it was time to become a big brother. Keith and Coley left the house at about 11:30 and Keith had me make a guess as to what time the delivery would be. I told him, "No later than 3:00." I got a call at about 3:30. Eva Pearl was born at 2:50 (April 27th), weighed 8 pounds and was 20 inches long. Vince was happy to see Nana when he woke up and his first words were, "Nana play cars?" Apparently, early morning play time is not Vince's normal routine, but it's what he does with Nana. We played a little, read some books, got dressed, and went to meet his new sister. He wasn't too sure about what was happening and was not too interested in this new baby. It was a pretty unusual development for our little thinker and he was definitely going to need some time to process everything.
Eva doesn't look at all like her brother. Having two children who look very different is usually surprising to parents. You just expect your kids to look similar. I remember, after having Joey, thinking that our next child would look just like him because that's just what "we made". Vince has his Daddy's eyes and expressions, but he sure looks like Nicole's baby pictures. Eva is already being said to look a lot like her Daddy and some of his siblings. I have to agree.
I loved seeing her gaze so intently at her Mama!
The scratches on her face were inevitable. Can you believe the thumb nail?! I didn't see it, but believe Coley when she said her toe nails are just as long.
My mom, Grandma J, would have loved to meet this little girl, and know her name. She had a very beloved aunt named Eva who loved her like a mother after she lost her own. I think I'll just have to do my best to give this little Eva enough love for both of them.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Tag-team parenting

Part of being an effective parenting team is knowing the limits of your spouse. It was a wise husband yesterday who said to his son,
"Here, let me help you. Your mom has had enough of you today."
I'm so glad that husband is mine!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Grandchildren Update

I have this picture set as the background on my computer and seeing it reminded me that I didn't post our December group photo. They're tired, battling colds, and somewhat confused by all of the parents clapping hands and snapping fingers trying to get them to smile! At least everyone has their eyes opens and nobody's crying.

Here are some of my favorite pictures of six of my seven cuties (photos of Cameron coming up next month)!

Carson--the eyes say it all, mischief, trouble, and plotting for action! You can just tell there is an endless well of energy simmering below the surface of this rambunctious little guy. He runs and throws and jumps and moves on to the next things before you've figured out where he's just been. This is exactly how I remember many little "White boys"!

Keira--she kept patiently sweeping her tongue back and forth trying to eat this ice cream as if she wasn't quite sure if really had it or not. Keira completely stole my heart (as if she hadn't already) in December when she followed me around with hands up saying, "Nana, up?" with quiet persistence and patience. It paid off, we skipped cookie baking in exchange for Keira-holding and book-reading.

Vince--the boys give it away with the eyes. Vince's piercing brown eyes are contemplating, calculating, and just figuring it all out. He just delights me with his huge grin and gleeful "Nana!" whenever he sees me walking up to his house through the window. I swear this guy has some secret intuition and knows when I'm coming.

Karissa--lively, spunky, persistent and joyful. She has the same sing-song-ey, cracking voice that her Mama had as a toddler. I hadn't even remembered Ellen's being like that until I heard Karissa in a cute little video spelling home--"H--O--M--E....home!" Add to that her favorite answer of "Yep" and we just can't help laughing.

Sadie--easy, content, and scheduled. I don't remember "schedule" being part of my vocabulary with my babies before they were 6 months old. But Sadie knows just what she needs and when; and, as long as Mom obliges everything is fine. She likes bolting her meals, going to bed early, and getting rocked by her Daddy.

Veda--bright-eyed, cheerful, and eager to go. Veda likes a frequent change of scenery both with places and people. She wants little to do with a schedule because you never know when something unexpected might happen that you don't want to miss! Veda loves attention, ceiling fans, and her Daddy.

I just love having three of these little ones close by and really, really can't wait to spend some time with the others in the coming weeks!

Friday, March 23, 2012

My National Downs Syndrome Day Experiences

I'm a few days late, but since most of you have never heard of National Downs Syndrome Day I didn't think it mattered. (I guess I'm not really up on it either, it's called World Down Syndrome Day--oops.) The date was March 21, or 3-21, which is a numerical likeness of the scientific name for ds, Trisomy 21. It literally means a triplicate of the 21st chromosome. We normally receive one of each of 23 chromosomes from each parent, giving us 23 pairs, or 46 chromosomes. Someone with a trisomy has an extra chromosome. The most common trisomy is is T-21, or Downs Syndrome. It is the most common because it is the most "survivable". The 21st chromosome is the shortest, containing the least amount of genetic information. Having an extra chromosome inevitably messes up the genetic balance in a system and the more genetic material on that chromosome the greater the damage. Therefore, having a triplicate of any other chromosome results in a much higher incidence of biological disturbances which more often leads to pre-born death in the form of miscarriage or still birth.

I hadn't intended to give a science lesson, but I guess I just did. Perhaps because some of my own children weren't aware of some of these basic facts that have so directly impacted our own family. What I really set out to do was share a few recent stories on the blessings and trials we receive from others as the world relates to Gabe.

First, the trial. Last Saturday we were out playing at the park with our grandson on his birthday. The older boys and Keith were playing on the outdoor basketball court while I watched Gabe, Vince, and Lisa at the playground. A young boy (about 7 or 8) was playing with the kids and asked Lisa if "that boy" (Gabe) was her brother. She told him that he was and the boy nonchalantly claimed, "He goes to my school and I always laugh at him." Lisa was caught off guard and responded with, "What?" The boy, again, very matter-of-factly told her that "all the kids in my class laugh and make fun of him". Lisa was stunned and asked him, "But why would you do that?" His response was, "Because he looks stupid."

I guess I knew this was coming and that Gabe would be the target of teasing at some point. I just didn't quite expect it yet. Lisa was so very sad about it. She couldn't understand why anyone would want to tease or make fun of Gabe. She told me, "I don't get it, Gabe looks just like anyone else." I love how her heart sees.

I'm not upset with the little boy, I don't claim that his parent must have taught him to tease others, I don't think he's part of an evil pact of children out to bully and make life difficult for those who are different than the norm. He's just a typical kid working out the way he sees life in a typical kid fashion. He could have been my kid. Kids have their own ways of figuring out life and coming to conclusions about good/bad, right/wrong, normal/abnormal, acceptable/unacceptable, and even stupid/smart. Some of them do better at it than others. Of course, some of them are influenced by parents or friends, but I'm just not jumping to conclusions about this particular boy.

My response to this situation was to talk to the staff at Gabe's school about the incident. I spoke with his teachers and aides who directed me to the school guidance counselor. I made it clear that I did not want this little boy "punished". Instead, I gave them some ideas on how to help educate students to be more understanding and compassionate towards kids with disabilities--something that, ironically, was next on the school agenda for the guidance counselor. (And, no, I don't believe this was just an ironic coincidence.)

As logical and unfeeling as I tried to be in the whole thing, my heart broke a little bit for my son. Maybe it broke a little more for me and for Lisa because, at this point, Gabe doesn't feel bad about it at all. I just know that at some point he will, and I just hate that for him.

Now, the blessing. Two days ago, on 3-21, I was at another park in town pushing a swing next to a young mom who asked if I was Gabe's mom. When I told her I was she said that her daughter, Ava, was Gabe's reading buddy. I knew that Gabe's class was paired up with first grade reading buddies and that his was a girl named Ava but I didn't know any more. Ava's mom went on to tell a beautiful story.

Ava was actually assigned to 2 students as a reading buddy and she read to both Gabe and her own little brother together. Gabe's class was split into two smaller groups a few months ago and the teacher approached Ava and told her she was going to have to just pick one of the boys for whom to be a reading buddy.

Here is Ava's response as told to me by Ava's mom:
Mrs. V____, I know that I should probably stay with my brother, because he's my brother, and I really don't want to hurt his feelings but I want to stay with Gabe. You see, I have a cousin Luke who has Down syndrome and I know how he needs a little more special attention and patience. So, I know how to be more patient with Gabe than most of the other kids and I really want him to have a reading buddy who will be patient with him.

Ava had her teacher in tears and when the teacher told her mom she had her in tears and I find myself welling up with tears as I pass the story on again.

Little Ava is only 6, but she reminded me that Gabe will not only have ridicule and teasing to look forward to as he grows, but he will have understanding, compassionate, patient people like Ava to soften some of the blows.

God put me in the paths of two very different Gabe experiences to make this National Downs Syndrome Day a very educational, poignant, and memorable one for me.

Monday, March 19, 2012

One last basketball shout-out

The weather is warm, unseasonably warm. The snow is gone, the ice is gone, and spring bulbs are coming up. Appropriately, high school baseball practice starts today, in exactly 2 hours.

But I have one last note to share on the winter basketball season. Shane's team ended up winning the Regional title before falling to Antigo in the sectional semi-finals on that Thursday after his fateful ankle sprain. Shane played in the game but was just not able to play up to his usual potential. It helped a little to see Antigo lose their next game decisively to the team that would breeze through and capture the State Division 2 championship, Onalaska.

Shane received a unanimous all-conference first team selection and is preparing to start practice with a summer team in just 2 weeks. His coach has put together a highlight video from four of his games this year if you want to see the best of his best. This is the last post I'll do on basketball...until next season. I promise.

Shane is number 14. In the beginning he will be in white, then switch to green, and by then you'll get the hang of which one is him.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

It's OK if you can't "do it all"

I can't tell you how many women have said to me, "I don't know how you do it all." I try to tell them, "I don't do it all, I can't do it all." But, they never seem to believe me (unless they marry my one of my sons and finally see for themselves how much I don't do!).

Somehow, having a big family makes women feel that you are doing something super human and accomplishing a lot more than they are.

Here are some facts from my world:
--The housekeeping suffers the most. Even if kids help clean (and they do) they're not very good or very motivated and with a lot on my plate it doesn't always get checked very well. We end up with too much dust, too many spiders, marks on walls, cluttered storage spaces, and very grimy windows. My consolation is knowing that when I do get to really cleaning it won't look any different than it would have if I'd been keeping up with a weekly regime.

--The laundry gets done, but not that well. I seldom spray stains. I tell the children they have to tend to items that need extra care--spray or soak it and add it to the appropriate load. I don't check pockets, that's the job of the wearer. Just this week I washed a leather wallet, a library card, and $3 that were left in a pocket. I don't iron (well, hardly ever), you can still be a nice person even if you're wrinkled. If it's really bad I toss it back in the dryer with the next load and try to catch it as soon as it's done.

--When we had a dozen or more in the house we lived with survival cooking. Meals were typically one-pot things geared toward ease and nutrition. I wasn't too interested in taste-appeal or variety. A side benefit is that everyone's cooking looks really good next to mine. My daughters-in-law haven't had to try to live up to Mom's home cooking!

--My bedroom is the dump spot. After a week of homeschooling, going to four basketball games, driving to piano lessons and appointments, and then having a group of thirty for some weekend event the house is usually in need of more attention than I can give it. Unfinished projects, school books, and any other clutter gets gathered up and dumped in my room where it sometimes remains for an embarrassingly long time.

--Household projects don't just get put on the back burner, they're not even on the stove. I have 2 sets of curtains that need to be hemmed. I put them up anyway, letting them bunch up on the counter above the window. They've been bunching there for 4 years now and I have no immediate plans to get to them. Add to the list painting projects, wall repair, wall and ceiling replacement and the back burners are all full to overflowing.

--Personal grooming can really take a hit. Just today I got through all of our morning routine, meals, schooling, Gabe-time, prepping for a birthday party, and out the door for our afternoon sports club before I realized that I hadn't combed my hair, or even looked in the mirror. I'd also forgotten to eat (now that rarely happens) and a little later in the afternoon I remembered that I hadn't put on deodorant either. You can guess how that realization came to me...

These things don't all get missed all the time. I pick up the pace in one area and another goes slack, then I pay some attention to the slack-off thing and something else lags. It's kind of a general cycle of moderate neglect.

I could do better. I know I'm a slow-paced kind of person. We all have our own internal clock and speedometer and sometimes I think mine is set just slightly above idle. I have to conscientiously tell myself to hurry and move faster if I want to get things done quickly. I'm just naturally too relaxed. The positive side is that I don't get too stressed about anything. The negative is that I probably am left with more things that I could be stressing about!

I like to think that the main reason for my "behind-ness" in these areas is that I'm investing my quality (and quantity) time in my family--husband, children/spouses, and grandchildren, tending to things/people of more significant value. I want my legacy with them to be relational, not temporal. I hope they relish spending an evening playing games with me more than the memory of my neatly hemmed and pressed curtains.

Some of the demands on my time are lessening as our family changes and fewer children are at home. My bedroom and closet are pretty normal looking right now and there's been a bit more variety and creativity showing up in our family mealtime. But by the time I'm actually "doing it all", I'll have an empty house and lots of quiet time to finally get to it least until the grandchildren come to visit!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Long, Long-Overdue Gabe Update





Here's a look at his year and some significant updates.

Gabe's 6th year started with significant sorrow.

Just one day after his last birthday, Joey and Jamie lost their daughter Kaylee Hope.

A month later we spent a week with Carson and Keira so that Joey and Jamie could get away together. Gabe didn't comprehend the reason behind the visit, he was just excited about being Uncle Gabe for a week--with lots of hugs.

Maybe a few too many hugs for Carson

We've been working on writing, or I should say I've been working on getting Gabe to to some writing. He isn't so keen on it, he's definitely a gross motor skills guy, none of this finger coordination stuff. I thought he might enjoy the chalkboard more than pencil and paper. I was right! Sort of.

Waiting to be discharged after a hospital stay in May.
Gabe woke up with wheezing and a croupy cough that I couldn't get under control. Two doctors diagnosed him with asthma but I was sure they were wrong. I know we always need to question our doctors to make sure we get the best care for our children but that is even more true with children with special needs. I had noticed changes in Gabe's breathing, especially when he was sleeping and was pretty sure that the adenoids that we removed years ago were coming back. I consulted with our pediatrician and headed back to Madison to see a pediatric ENT. What has followed is a scope (adenoids blocking 50%) a sleep study (definite apnea), and medication to reduce inflammation (improved breathing but still apnea). I will have a phone consultation next week and our likely response now will be an adenoidectomy.

Summer time at the lake

We took a family roadtrip/vacation up through Canada, to Washington and the Olympic Peninsula, through Idaho and Montana and home. Making the ride fun is part of the planning with little ones in the van.

Canadian Rockies to me...

...a park and a swimming hole to Gabe

Puget Sound ferry

The US's only temperate rain forest is on the Olympic Peninsula

The northwest Pacific coast offers some of the best rock-throwing opportunities for little throwers. Gabe threw non-stop rocks for almost six hours, sometimes windmill style using both hands alternately. We counted how many he was throwing per minute and came up with a very conservative estimate of 11,000 rocks thrown for the day.

Sandpoint, ID--we stayed with Keith's boss from his first college co-op engineering job. Roger is a kind, generous, and remarkable host. He took everyone up for a ride in his plane (except Gabe who was just happy to get to sit in the plane).

Roger has built this little fantasy-land on his property. The deluxe treehouse in the back is outfitted with electricity and a queen-size bed. Our older children took turns sleeping in the tree. Maybe next time I'll be so adventurous.

We loved his signs

Montana and Glacier National Park

We hadn't planned to spend five days in Havre, MT but hitting a buck just before the weekend changed our plans. It didn't bother Gabe a bit!

Gabe always enjoys our week of family camp in August. We're outside all day, he gets to swim, play ball, and be with other kids all week.
Gabe with his cousin Lauren (4)

Not so sure she wants to share the ball

With the end of summer came an overnight trip for Gabe, Lisa, and me to take Troy to college.

We got him moved in and then drove up to LaCrosse to spend the night before the first game of Chet's MTU football season. We made the drive part of the enjoyment of the trip taking the river road and looking for birds, racing a train (parallel to it, under 45 mph), learning about locks and dams, and stopping when we saw a big park.

This one even had a "real" slide--over 5' high made of metal!

LaCrosse has a fantastic Chilren's Museum. We have a family pass to our local CM that let's us into any participating CM in the country. Gabe loved the morning we spent here.

Meeting Clifford was a lifetime highlight for Gabe. When we heard the announcement over the loudspeaker that Clifford was making an appearance on the first floor I couldn't run fast enough to keep up with Gabe down the stairs. There was a large group of children circled around the Big Red Dog but they were all afraid to approach him. Gabe was not only not afraid to approach him, he wasn't afraid to barge through the middle of the pack, yell "Hi Clifford!" and give him a big hug!

It absolutely made Gabe's day and opened the door for the rest of the kids to approach Clifford.

Probably THE biggest change in Gabe's (and my) life--he started school. This was a difficult decision for me to make. I have a system, guided by conviction and habit. I start teaching my children when they're born and they stay home and learn with me until they're at least 14, then we re-evaluate and go on. So, why was I even considering something different? Because Gabe is different, and I wanted to make sure I was making the decision that was best for him. So, we tried it. Just two days a week with the option to pull him at any time. For a few months I kept things going just because I was benefiting from have two days to teach and do home things without Gabe here. But that's not a good reason to send him to school. I was VERY happy with the people who were caring for him, I loved his teacher, his aides, and his bus driver. Even if he wasn't learning I was comfortable knowing he was safe and well cared for. But, in the last months I've seen the benefits to him. He enjoys the environment and does well in the small group settings. He's definitely improving in many learning areas with the people at school supporting the work we do at home. And it's really nice to not be doing all of it on my own. Gabe needs a lot more interaction and one-on-one to thrive academically and that takes time. He also gets bored with just me, so he learns better when there are more people taking turns with the teaching.

Here's a blurry first day picture

Gabe's 4-K school picture. He has a composite of 29 kids from the 2 classes at his school. He can name about half of the kids on his own and the other half with me providing the first letter of their name.

Gabe's greatest thrill was getting to ride the bus! It took about a month to get all of the paperwork in and sorted to get him on the bus (wouldn't you think that could have been handled during the 10 weeks of summer?--I still have public institution complaints). During those weeks he would beg to get on a bus after school. He cried inconsolably the first day that he was denied that privilege.

With fall comes football. This would be our last of seven years driving up to watch the Huskies.

One of the best things about these games have been the times for family camaraderie. After one particularly warm-weather game we found a great spot on Lake Superior for a picnic.

Grandma trying to get a little bit of the sand off, an exercise in futility.

Gabe not only loves hugging his nieces and nephews, but he rather enjoys getting in trouble with them! Gabe loved having Karissa (and Ellen) with us for the weeks while the guys were in India. There was lots of time for trouble!

Crawling into Karissa's crib when she's supposed to be napping!

Karissa's not the only one who got woken up. Carson and Keira got an early Gabe wake-up call. A baby video kept the cranky babies entertained while the moms scrambled to prepare for a long day.

A neighborhood walk with Lisa, Ellen, and Karissa

Two more nieces! Gabe could not love the babies any more than he does. He just delights in them.

Gabe entered into the Christmas celebrations this year. He hung all of his own ornaments and delighted in pointing them all out to Daddy.

He also had a part in the Children's Christmas pageant at church. He played the part of a sheep and did a great job learning his part, sitting where he was supposed to sit, crawling where he was supposed to crawl, and singing the group songs at the end. He did add a few adlib parts to liven things up--sheep ARE supposed to say "baa" right? Gabe didn't understand why that wasn't a significant part of his role, so he added it. Also, if people bring gifts to the baby, and the baby doesn't open them, shouldn't someone else to it for him? Gabe thought he should be that someone.

Finally, Gabe had his three year check up with the cardiologist for a full exam including EKG and echo. Everything from his repair three years ago was holding fast and working just how it should. I was hoping we'd be done and that all things heart related. However, there's just one little thing... It seems like there's always one more thing. Gabe has one slightly leaky valve. It may be nothing, it may need some attention. I'm not worried about it, though. She said we would look at again in ten years. I don't worry about things that are ten days away much less ten years!

Thank you Gabe, for another eventful and wonderful year. You are my love!!