Category Archives: Katie

Katie’s New Life

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April 3rd, 2011, was a day I’ve been praying for since my beautiful daughter was born, twelve years ago.  That was the day Katie declared to the world that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the Lord and Savior of her life!

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”  -3 John 1:4

 

“… all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”  -Romans 3:23

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for an unrighteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  -Romans 5:6

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”  -John 3:16

“When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’  Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.  And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call.'”  -Acts 2:37-39

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has gone; the new has come!”  -2 Corinthians 5:17

Club Rulez

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Overheard from the backseat as I was driving the kids to school this morning:

Katie:  Hey, Caleb…let’s make up a secret club!  You and I can be the members.

Caleb:  Okay!  (He’s always game for just about anything his sister suggests.  I wonder how long that will last.)

Katie:  First we need to make up some rules for the club.  What rules do you think we should have?

Me (totally eavesdropping and interrupting, but thinking of my own childhood secret club experiences): How about “Don’t be mean”?

Katie:  Yes.  That’s a good one.  What else?

Caleb:  No smoking!  (I stifle a giggle.)

Katie:  Okay…  So we’ve got “no being mean” and “no smoking”.  Can you think of any  more?

*both think in silence for a while*

Katie:  Well, I guess we don’t have to have anoth–

Caleb (triumphantly):  “NO CARVING ON THE WALLS!”

Katie (after pondering for a moment):  How about “No destroying the house in any way”?

Caleb: Yeah.

***

I don’t know if I should be scared that he thought of that rule, or just relieved that it made the cut.

It’s Not That Kind of Help

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Katie had a lot of homework on Tuesday, and she was most sincerely and demonstrably not happy about it.

Since the kids get out of school about forty-five minutes before I leave work, they usually sit in the conference room down the hall from my desk and work on homework until it’s time to pack up and go.  As I tried to cram a few more essential tasks into the few minutes of working time I had left, I could hear Katie’s whining and indignation at having so much homework to do (and on a video game day–the gall of her teacher!) all the way down the hall.  It was getting progressively louder as she increased her volume by increments until she was sure that I could fully appreciate the injustice of her burden.

Caleb, who just can’t bear to see his sister in pain, offered this advice:  “You should pray about it, Katie.”

“That won’t help,” she moaned piteously.

“Yes, it will, Katie!” he said firmly.  In the past few months, Caleb’s burgeoning faith has received a great boost through answered prayers, and he often asks me to pray for him before school or when he’s scared at night.  He persisted in reassuring his sister.  “If you pray, God will help you.”

“Caleb,” she said, with the exaggerated eye roll that only older sisters can properly manage, “I’m supposed to do the work by myself.”

Who I Am (by Katie)

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I had a conference today with Katie’s fifth grade teacher, Marci, who also happens to be a good friend of mine.  We talked for a while about the special joys and challenges of working with Katie, and then Marci gave me a sheaf of Katie’s finished work, including this poetry craft project that they did in class.  I love the array of unique items Katie used in her collage–feathers, a skeletal dinosaur, sequins, puzzle pieces–but my favorite part is the poem itself, which opens a precious window onto Katie’s world:

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However, when it comes to her brother agreeing with her, I don’t think she should hold her breath.

Crowning the New Spelling Queen

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The spelling bee brought together all the private schools in the area.  Grade by grade, the spellers stepped forward to sit in a row of cold metal chairs beneath the glaring gymnasium lights.  Fourth grade started things off, drawing numbers and sitting in order, nervously fidgeting and kicking their feet while each awaited his moment to stand up and twist the letters of the alphabet into one of their numberless permutations.

In the stands, I was tense.  Not for the outcome, which didn’t concern me so much, but for Katie’s feelings.  Part of her struggle with Asperger’s is an occasional inability to cope with strong emotions, and I was afraid of how she would handle the losing part of competition.  Would she be overwhelmed and burst into tears of disappointment?  Or would she bear up with stoic seriousness until the round was over?  Although I had tried my best beforehand to prepare her for the possibility, I held my breath every time she stood to spell.

Round after round, she spelled each word correctly.  On a couple of them, she asked for a sentence or a definition.  The pronouncer told me later that as he watched her mull over each word, he could see the exact moment when the light bulb went on in her head.  She spoke the letters clearly and confidently, emphasizing each one with a jab of her finger, as if she could see the word hovering in the air in front of her.

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Finally, it was down to two.  Both girls did a wonderful job, but in the end, Katie was declared the winner.  A big grin lit her face and she did a silent herky of joy as the announcer congratulated her, then turned to me with an expression of amazed happiness that clearly said, “Can you believe it, Mom?”  The second place winner, who will be the alternate in the next stage of the competition, tapped Katie on the shoulder and, with the beginning of tears welling up in her eyes, graciously said, “You did a good job!”  “So did you!” Katie returned, and a cacophony of congratulations swelled around us.  For the rest of the day, Katie was a mini celebrity at school, delighted recipient of hugs and compliments everywhere she went.

I thought I couldn’t possibly be any prouder of her.

This morning she proved me wrong.

On the day of the spelling bee, the judges had explained the rules of elimination, including the procedure for having two spellers left in the competition.  At the moment Katie won, I had been expecting her to have to spell another word to claim victory.  When they suddenly declared her the winner, the attendant hubbub as I filled out papers and made proud phone calls to friends and family swept that detail to the back of my mind and I didn’t think of it again all day.  This morning, however, I woke up with it nagging at me, and wondered if a mistake had been made.

I dug the rule paper out of Katie’s desk and looked over it again, but it didn’t shed much light.  I paced and fretted, fretted and paced, until Paul urged me to do whatever it took to set my heart at rest.  I couldn’t stand the thought of disappointing Katie and somehow taking this victory away from her, but I knew that it was important to make sure everything had been done fairly, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that it wouldn’t be right to let it go without checking.  So I took the matter to Katie.

I explained to her that I was wondering about whether the administrator had made a mistake on the rules.  I pointed out the rule to her and told her what it would mean if we called the spelling bee officials to investigate.  “They may consider the results of the spelling bee fair and binding, or they may ask us to come back in so that you can replay the last round of the competition again.  If that happens, there is a chance you could lose, sweetie.  What do you think we should do?”

She only paused for a second.  Then she sighed a little and said, “Let’s call them, Mom.”

I thought my heart would burst.

As a parent, you always wonder if the lessons you are trying so hard to impart to your children are sinking in.  Treating others fairly, being honest in small things and large, doing what is right even when it is most difficult or costly–these are the hallmarks of integrity, and to see it blossoming in my child made the joyful celebration of yesterday pale into insignificance.

I pulled her up into my lap and told her that.  Later, we called the spelling bee arbiter and explained our concern.  He cleared up my misunderstanding of the rule and reassured us that Katie’s victory was well-earned and would stand.  He wished her good luck and reminded her to study.  He remembered her, he told me, for the smile that lit up her whole face when she got a word correct.  “Like she has a glow inside,” he said.

Yes, I thought.  Yes, she does.

May it shine on.

Raw and Wriggling

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When I was little I stumbled across a book in our school library called “How to Eat Fried Worms” by Thomas Rockwell. How could I resist a title like that? I took it home and devoured it (metaphorically speaking) in a single afternoon, wincing in delighted disgust at the account of Billy’s bizarre gastronomical odyssey as he ate his way through fifteen worms in fifteen days to meet the terms of a hideous bet.

I hadn’t thought of that book in years, until this weekend.

Katie ate a worm. On purpose. Actually, she ate several, live and wriggling, while I watched with the same revolted fascination I had previously reserved for Billy.

After all, this is the girl who won’t eat a banana if it has even a single speck of brown on the peel, who inspects each and every french fry for irregularities before consuming it, who meticulously picks every last unacceptable green pea out of the stir fry before eating it. Worms? Really?

We were visiting Paul’s Grandpa and Grandma on Saturday, playing in the yard, and I was picking late cherries off of the cherry trees to nosh on while I read my book. They were delicious. I ate a handful before Grandpa appeared to make sure I knew that they were wormy. “Wormy?” I repeated, as the juice dripped down my chin. Grandpa split open a cherry and shoved aside the pit to show me the tiny white worm swimming around in the sticky pulp.

I stopped chewing.

“It’s no big deal,” Grandpa explained, seeing my expression. He flicked the worm away with one practiced fingernail and thumbed the cherry into his mouth. “We don’t spray the trees with pesticides because we don’t want to poison the birds. You just take out the worms and they taste fine.”

I believed him, I really did, but the mental hurdle proved too high for me to overcome. I’d lost my taste for the cherries, probably due to the disturbing knowledge that I’d already eaten six or eight of the little white worms without realizing it.

Katie was listening to all this with undisguised wonder. She popped open a cherry to see the critter for herself.

“Mom, is eating worms bad for you?”

“No.”

“They won’t hurt you?”

“No. They’re just a little extra protein, that’s all.”

And before I knew it, she had picked up one of the crawlies and swallowed it down, a thoughtful look on her face, an astonished one on mine.

“Not bad,” she said.

I gaped.

“Tastes sort of sweet,” she said.

I goggled.

“Is it okay if I eat another one?” she asked.

I nodded weakly.

Frankly, I’m still amazed. And a little repulsed. However, I just realized that The Worm Incident has given me new ammunition in the ongoing battle to get my picky eater to try new foods. After all, once you’ve had worm, what could possibly be left on the yucky list?

The Green Police

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Given the current political climate, I should probably be confessing this in a darkened studio from behind a clown wig and a pair of dark glasses, using one of those electronic voice modulators to disguise my identity. But here it comes, anyway:

Up until very recently, I did not recycle. (*brief pause for collective gasp of amazement*) Nope, not one little bit. Like the thoughtless savage that I am, I tossed newspapers, glass bottles, and plastic bags alike in the bin, caring not that I was bloating the world’s landfills with evidence of my own conspicuous consumption. And the cans–oh, the cans! Do you know how many cans a Diet-Coke-aholic can go through in a week? Well, neither did I, until it happened.

We discovered a member of the Green Police living in our very own home.

I remember it clearly. It was Earth Day. Katie returned from third grade that afternoon full of information about environmental conservation, the white hot fervor of newborn activism burning in her eyes. As an assignment, her teacher had asked the class to find one thing they could personally do to help the environment. I couldn’t run. I couldn’t hide. Suddenly, I was cowering in the glare of the spotlight, answering uncomfortable questions like: “How many bags of garbage does our family make in a week, Mom?” and “Why do we throw everything away instead of recycling it?” and “Isn’t taking care of the earth important?” Suddenly, my oft-repeated excuses for not recycling–that our apartment complex doesn’t provide recycling bins, that we don’t have enough room in our small living space to collect recyclables, that a few cans didn’t make much of a difference anyway–began to sound a little flimsy.

I saw my daughter, standing shining-eyed before me, bursting with youthful optimism, completely convinced that even one person’s actions can have an effect in the world–and it made me remember that I believe that, too.

***

So here I am, a recalcitrant recycler, rinsing out a Diet Coke can (my third today) in preparation for adding it to the stash under the sink. Then, when that bag is full, we will drive it out to the recycling bin in front of the school, where the drop box recycling program brings in welcome extra funds for classroom supplies. I can’t say it’s not a hassle, but it’s not nearly the hassle I expected.

Sometimes I do slip up. The other day, for example, I had gathered up our full-to-overflowing kitchen trash bag and was just tying it closed when Katie appeared and pointed to the aluminum evidence of a couple of my absent-minded infractions. (A pox on those translucent trash bags!) “Mom,” she said in a tone of voice usually reserved for my sole use, “did you forget to recycle those two cans?” Caught. Under Katie’s approving eye, I sheepishly fished them out of the muck and placed them in the proper receptacle.

I admit, I’m still not totally green. I haven’t traded in our dependable Ford for an eco-friendly hybrid vehicle. I use the air-conditioner with wild abandon. And I can’t seem to bring myself to buy 28 reusable canvas bags for our monthly groceries. But, thanks mostly to Katie, I do recycle cans. I’m saving the earth, raising money for education, and getting Al Gore off my back, all at the same time. And I know my kid is proud of me, and of herself, for making that happen, which is the best reward I could ask for.

The faintly virtuous feeling is just a bonus.

It’s a Webkinz World

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Two weeks ago, the Coach House Gifts store at the mall celebrated its highly anticipated Webkinz Extravaganza! Normally, this event would have passed under my radar, but my friend Kathy called me Sunday afternoon to make sure I knew that the ‘Buy One, Get One Free’ selection of Webkinz was running out. You see, up until that weekend, my kids (according to them) were the last two children in America without at least one of these fuzzy, endearing, cyber-savvy critters to call their own. I decided to take advantage of the sale and make two children happy for the price of one. Bargain parenting, I call it.

I dashed out to the mall that afternoon intending to snatch up the first two fuzzballs I encountered and get back in time for a robust round of power napping (What can I say? I’m a party animal!) First mistake. I should have known that, when presented with the manifest cuteness of five thousand different species of Webkinz, it would take me roughly an hour and a half of picking them up and putting them down and rubbing their fur and choosing first this one and then that one and changing my mind over and over and over again to decide which lucky beasties to take home with me. In the end, I picked out an elephant for Katie and a tiger for Caleb. And would you believe it: I actually felt bad leaving the rest of them behind. (Clearly Ganz has implanted some kind of brainwashing microchip in them to make them fly off the shelves so quickly.)

The reception I received at home would have made the conquering Attila green with envy. I was temporarily crowned mother of the year and showered with hugs and kisses for about seven seconds–the exact amount of time they were able to contain their anticipation before scampering off to the computer to formally “adopt” their new pets and embark on their maiden voyage into Webkinz World.

Webkinz World. I have to tell you, internets, it’s surprisingly cool. In Webkinz World, you can build your pet a house, furnish it, and invite friends’ pets over to play in it. You can feed your fuzzy friend delicious foods, dress him in dazzling threads, and take him to the doctor when he’s sick. If your pet is into exercise, you can take him to work out at a Webkinz health club, and if you just want to play, you can meet up with other Webkinz in a game room. The booming Webkinz economy runs on KinzCash, which you earn by picking up odd jobs at the Webkinz Employment Center, by answering educational trivia questions at Quizzy’s Corner, or by playing games in the Webkinz Arcade.

And here comes the confession: I love playing in the Webkinz Arcade. I love Cash Cow and Picnic and Operation Gumball. But my favorite game is called Home Before Dark, a timed brain teaser in which you have to rotate pieces of a maze into place in order to create a path for trapped Webkinz to get back to their houses before the sun goes down. I accidentally played it for two and a half hours the other day when I meant to be doing housework. Oops.

And that’s my other confession. I secretly log onto my kids’ Webkinz accounts to play arcade games while they’re gone. I don’t think they’d like it if they knew, but I can’t help it. I suppose now I have to stop making fun of Kathy for buying herself her own Webkinz.

I think I might start with a Cheeky Monkey…

Nine

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Today I am the mother of a nine year old.

Nine. The last single digit birthday. The last age that sounds right with “and-a-half” tagged onto the end of it. The last year of the whimsical, wonderful pre-pre-teen stage, when magical thinking and a burgeoning awareness of the world live comfortably side by side behind an enigmatic expression.

Katie, my little girl, is nine.

Didn’t she just turn eight, like, yesterday?

I’m trying not to panic here, but tell me this: where does the time go?

***

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Katie, I love you. I love the baby you were and the child you are and the woman you will be.

I love your zest for life, your unquenchable optimism, your childlike faith. I love the cute crooked teeth (those are from me; sorry!) that peek out from behind your ever-present grin. I love the way you face each day with determined good cheer, and the way your infrequent burst of temper dissolves as quickly as it came, like a brief summer squall passing away in the sunlight.

I love your goofy jokes (even the ones that don’t, strictly speaking, make sense) and your easygoing ways and how you get giggles which, once started, can’t be stopped by any force under the sun until they’ve run their full course and tears are streaming down your face. I love your tender heart and your million questions. I love the way you protect your brother, even when the protection is clearly (and loudly) unwanted. I love your joy.

I love your growing independence (but you might have to remind me sometimes). I love your tender heart. I love the way the world looks through your eyes, even while I’m showing it to you through mine. I love our talks, long rambles through the garden in your mind. I love our time together, and all the more because I know it will be short.

I love you, Katie. You are one of God’s best creations.

Happy ninth birthday.

***

(You just came up and started reading over my shoulder. Don’t worry, sweetheart. They’re almost all happy tears.)

And now for something completely Katie:

No Carrot? No Problem!

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Yesterday was a perfect snowman day. It was about 34 degrees. The seven inches of powder which fell earlier this week, covering the icy sediment below and closing schools on Tuesday, had softened up into a beautiful, dewy slush. After dropping Paul at work and Katie at school, Caleb and I indulged in an impromptu snow fight, and every handful of snow became an instant snowball, no packing required. One missile, targeted at my head, missed and hit the side of our apartment building instead. It clung there in an icy clump of mush; I could almost see the word “splat” hanging in the air above it. Like I said, a perfect snowman day.

After we picked Katie up that afternoon, the three of us headed over to North Idaho College. The students hadn’t yet returned to class, and the campus was covered with acres of pristine, undisturbed snow. At least, it was undisturbed before we got there. After spending the whole school day obeying a “no snowball throwing” rule, Katie was eager to paste her brother with a couple of good ones, so the snowball fight continued with Katie in my place. (I declared myself off limits–you know, since I was holding a camera and all.)

Twenty minutes later, once the artillery ground to a halt and the mutual whitewashes petered out, we got down business: our snowman. Conditions were so ideal that the snow nearly rolled itself into balls, and before long we had the traditional three-tiered personage taking shape beneath our hands. But Katie seemed upset. “Wait a minute! How can we make a snowman when we didn’t bring a carrot for the nose?” she asked. I declared it a problem-solving opportunity and set her to finding embellishments for our icy friend while I worked at stabilizing and smoothing the snowman’s structure. She came back with two long sticks for arms, and for the nose, a short, fat twig that substituted very well for a carrot (with the added benefit of being less attractive to Bambi and his relatives, who often come down from the surrounding woods to graze.) Being fresh out of lumps of coal, I had to improvise some eyes and a mouth from the tiny, hard cones I found underneath a nearby fir tree.

Finally, we stood back to admire our handiwork. It was getting dark, but I snapped a few pictures with my pocket camera, praying that I wouldn’t drop it in the snow, since I couldn’t feel my fingertips anymore.

On our way back to the car, I asked the kids what they thought we should name our newly created frozen friend. Katie started to mull it over, but Caleb instantly piped up, “His name is Odie!” And Odie it was.

I know Odie won’t be with us long. The streets are running wet with ice melt today and every so often the silence outside is punctuated by the soft “whump” of piled up snow sliding off of the roof. Nevertheless, he’s already accomplished a lot in his short life. He’s helped to foster the creative spirit in two enthusiastic young minds. He’s brought smiles to the faces of passersby, invoking visions of their own snowmen and snowman days. And he’s contributed another brick to the house of happy childhood memories I hope we are building for Katie and Caleb.

Who needs a carrot?

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