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

Sunday, October 19, 2014

For Heidi and Svein Olav

When I was an exchange student in England we didn't have the internet to connect us to home, or home to us. Phone calls were very expensive and we only spoke three times during my year abroad. Besides writing letters, one of the ways my parents felt connected was to see my photographs. I used a 35 mm camera and shipped the rolls of film back to the US to be processed. I gave my parents' address as the home address so that the processed photos would be sent to them. They would look forward to getting a package from the film company and often had to guess at what I was doing or who I was with in the photos.

Now that we have internet the distance doesn't seem quite so great. However, having a photograph and seeing your son in his new environment would certainly be comforting to parents who feel further away than the emails and facebook posts suggest.

I have included pictures from a few different activities over the past 2 months. I did not include any from soccer since you've been able to see those online. I am also missing a few since I can't find one of the cameras I used, but I'm sure it will show up eventually!

This is the first view that we had of our students, and they of us, on August 15. As I already told you, Heidi, I got very teary-eyed just seeing Christoffer walk into the gym. He is fifth from the left. The students all lined up and then had to introduce themselves, tell what country they were from, and tell who they were going to be living with and where. It was difficult to just sit there waiting for everyone to speak when we just wanted to run and hug our students!

We were finally able to meet face to face. I know you've seen this photo but I wanted to include it as the first picture of Christoffer with some of his American siblings, Gabe and Owen. Bryce had to work and Keith and Lisa were with other family members on a camping trip.

We made the three hour drive home where Bryce met us and the next morning Gabe, Chris, and I joined the campers for a bike ride. Here he is with Keith getting a bike ready.

With Lisa and Gabe filling water bottles from a pump.

My son-in-law took this photo of us that includes our daughter, Dana, and grandchildren, Sadie and Nigel. The other half of our group (friends, cousins, and an aunt and uncle) had left by this time.

This is the family playing the game Pictionary. It was entertaining to have Chris play a game where he had to draw and guess words in English. We had some very funny situations when there were words mix-ups or when he knew what a drawing meant but didn't know the English word and would act it out. He never was nervous or embarrassed but just had a good time with everyone.

Seniors have special pictures taken their final year of high school. Christoffer has a cd with hundreds of the pictures but here a few of his favorites. Bob Mainhardt(our photographer friend)even took a few of the boys together for us. I actually had to get them out of school to take the pictures because their schedules were so busy with soccer and we had the two weddings (I am still working on getting those pictures!).

Homecoming week was certainly a new experience. Traditionally, "homecoming" was the week, or the Friday night football game, when graduates would come back to see one another at their school. Some do return, but it is used more for festivities and fun events for the current students. During homecoming week there are a number added activities for the students and one of them is "spike volleyball". In this game, the junior and senior boys form two teams and compete against one another. The members of the girls' volleyball team act as their coaches and the girls' coach acts as the official. Parents and students attend the game and cheer on the teams in a very light-hearted and fun atmosphere. There is a lot of joking and laughing. One of the fathers handed his son (a junior whose team was losing) $5 and the boy ran and put it in the official's pocket as a bribe. It was all in fun and was an enjoyable night. Our senior boys won the game.

On Friday afternoon of that week there is a pep rally for the students during the last hour of school. They introduce the sports teams, the band plays, the dance team performs, and the "homecoming court" are introduced by performing a small skit they have planned. "Homecoming court" are the students who were voted by their classmates to contend for the title of Homecoming King and Queen.

The dance team recruited a group of boys to perform part of their dance with them. I wasn't sitting in a good spot to see it very well. I was filming and Lisa was taking pictures, but we're hoping to get a copy of the film that a friend took. You can see Bryce and Chris together in the front row.

Bryce was on homecoming court and he had Chris participate in his skit.

After the pep rally the students and many people from the community go downtown for a parade. I've called it the "world's worst parade", but everyone has a lot of fun. It's over in about 20-25 minutes. Different groups from the school have a "float" (often just a vehicle with a sign that they walk next to), the band marches, the grade school children walk and throw candy to spectators, and the homecoming court ride in the back of trucks with the king and queen being the last vehicle down the street. Gabe LOVES the Hodag!

Here's Owen with the soccer team. Christoffer was walking with the football team and I didn't see him in time to get a picture.

Bryce and Emma, king and queen

Lisa got so much candy that she divided it between herself and the three boys who were in the parade. She spelled their names out with the candy on their beds.

Here's a picture of Christoffer getting ready for a kick-off in the game that night.

The following pictures are from our canoe trip down the Wisconsin River. It wasn't a long trip, just a few hours, but it was a beautiful day to be out. Christoffer caught this fish with his hands before we started down the river!

We saw two trees along that river that were being gnawed by beavers.

The family

We went to our cabin that evening for supper and were joined by Dana and her family (David, Sadie, and Nigel). We should have turned the heat on earlier. It was chilly in there. We just had the cabin built this summer. A wood stove will be installed next week.

I hope you've enjoyed a little window into Christoffer's American life!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Gabe's Football Debut

Gabe has had the joy of being the high school football JV2 team's honorary captain and sideline entertainment for the past month. Tonight, Coach Apfel suited him up in his own jersey, helmet, and pads and let him field a kick-off. The official game had ended, and even though it was the last game of the season and the Hodags finished with a tough loss, the boys all eagerly took the field to give Gabe a chance to run the ball.

The opposing team (Mosinee) wasn't even sure what was going on when they saw the Hodags back on the field. Their coach yelled, "Run the kick off and don't tackle him!" They did just what their coach said to do and when they realized what was going on they really got into the spirit of it, making flying missed-tackles all the way down the field.

Even the Mosinee fans joined in and at the end of the clip one can be heard chiding the players for missing their tackles.

Go Gabe!!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Amazing Talent

As a mom, one of the greatest joys I have is to see my children's talents grow, develop, and blossom. It is astounding to watch a child grow into something that you know was not of your making. I can look at every single one of my children and see something in them that is way beyond me and my capabilities. I marvel at what they can do. When they use those gifts to bless others and bless the Lord it blesses me.

Bryce's "thing" is anything musical or dramatic. Besides a few beginner lessons with his sister, Dana, ten years ago, he has never had any formal piano training. He hears something, over a speaker or in his head, and he sits down and plays it. I can't even comprehend that talent. My 7 years of lessons amounted to, well, a lot of wasted money and nothing that anyone would ever want to hear. Bryce plays from something within. His mind imagines and his fingers produce.

Last Sunday night Bryce performed two original songs for the high school talent show. The duet placed first and the solo (which he laughs about not being based on a personal experience) placed third.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Mr. Comeback

We've all thoroughly enjoyed the stories that Bryce brings home from his hours of dealing with the public as a cashier at our local Menards store. People are funny. Bryce is funny. Put them together with his comedic telling of the tales and it's downright entertaining.

Last week he came home with a story that beat all others, hands-down. Better than breaking up a fight in the check-out line. Better than the woman who sent employees running and searching for 15-minutes so she could save $.06 (yes, as in 6-cents). Better than a customer demanding the head cashier come find cough drops.

Here's the story:

A gentleman came through Bryce's line with his items and when the total rang up the man asked, "Don't I get a discount?"

Bryce, understandably, looked a bit confused and asked, "Um, what kind of discount?"

The man just repeated, "A discount, don't I get a discount?"

Bryce politely queried, "You mean like a senior citizen's discount?"

"Oh, so you think I look old, huh?" the man countered.

Bryce just laughed and said, "Well, not necessarily, but I know that some stores do that so I figured that's what you meant. But we don't have a senior discount."

The man just handed Bryce his driver's license and let him inspect the identification. Bryce took it, looked down, and saw the name John Menard on the ID. John Menard, as in the 74-year-old entrepreneur and billionaire from Eau Claire who founded the Menards chain, which Bryce had learned about in the training video just 3 weeks prior.

Bryce knows how to think on his feet and this was no exception. He glanced up at the man, looked down at the card, and made a show of studying it. Then he looked up again with an expression of a dawning understanding and said, "Oh, I see, so you DO want a senior discount."

I think Mr. Menard's day was made.

Friday, July 4, 2014

The March of Time

So, where does the time go?

It goes from taking vacations with your family to passing on family trips in favor of jobs and basketball.

It goes from running to show Mom a salamander or yelling, "Hey, watch me!" to running out the door with a, "See ya!"

It goes from playing with the brothers in the backyard to road trips with them across the country.

It goes from 'dorky' to 'cool'.

It goes from visiting siblings in college to taking off for your own university experience.

It goes from sitting in the co-pilot's seat to taking off on your own.

It goes from getting your humorous comments put in the family "Funny Book"--
"I feel sorry for this song (last one in the hymnal), no one ever picks it."

"Oh! Dana would love that (passing a horse farm)! She could clean stalls."

"Finally! (his 7th birthday) I'll bet you're excited too. To have a boy since he was zero already 7-years-old!"

"If Hawaii sunk, would they take a star off the flag?

"I was going to sleep with my sunglasses on last night. I wanted to see if I'd have weird dreams when it was really dark."

To writing thoughtful and insightful college papers.

It goes from asking, "Will you go to prom?" to "Will you marry me?"
She said yes (to both), and the March of Time goes on to a whole new tune.

Congratulations Shane and Claire!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Special Needs, Special Love

Several years ago my friend Mary Silverberg got the idea to write a book featuring 10 women living with a child, children, or grandchildren with special needs that could be used to encourage others as they navigate the course of life with a child with special needs. I was asked to be one of the contributors and thoroughly enjoyed the months long project of reliving Gabe's story through words.

Mary wasn't able to find a publisher for the book, but she still wanted to make the stories available to others. She finally decided on using a blog format and highlighting the individual writers one at a time, spacing out the chapters of their part of the book.

I have enjoyed reading through the first two journeys and entering into the different aspects of the trials these women faced. This week, it was Gabe's turn to have his story told. There are 10 parts in all, and they've all been posted to the blog. If you want to read some indepth insights to our first few years with Gabe, as well as be blessed by the stories of the other women I invite you to log into Special Needs, Special Love at