The Rat Race Matrix

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Every day is a contribution to our life matrix—we have numbers representing our daily assignments as we race through our perpetual patterns over and over and over. From the chime of our morning alarm we jump out of bed, grab a cup of coffee, head to work, come home to watch the news while eating our TV dinners, and take a breather before we drift off to repeat it all the next day. But every day we have numbers that make our pattern special. We can have one number that can make a slight change or a drastic change in our environment, and sometimes we can add one number that leaves our matrix without a solution.

At work this past week we all started our daily Friday routine. Our farm always takes a morning trip to McDonald’s on Fridays and we then break off into two groups. From here each group takes a community trip to either do community service, or take part in a public activity that many of our clients may not otherwise get the opportunity to experience.

This past Friday our group took a community service trip to a local nursing home, where we socialized and handed out cookies to the elderly. As I walked with my sister, Randi, she did her usual ‘Randi mannerisms’. Every person that wore an Ohio State shirt, she had to touch the O and make it known that she was a fan, and every time she saw a man with a beard, she would try to caress it to soothe her obsession.

One person added a new emphasis to our day. As we walked past one room where a man was standing outside his humble abode, Randi energetically yet politely said Hi! I looked back to see the man intently staring down my sister as if he seen a blue flamingo with one leg. (In fact his expression was so comical I literally thought he had forged the pose for our amusement!) As we kept walking, I heard the man yelp– You retards! They’re all the same! and then slam his door. I looked at Randi and giggled so she would continue to think it was a joke. But inside I was thinking about how much I wanted to run back there, take the scalpel he had just thrown into my back, and poke out his eyeballs with it.

 I was disgusted by the comment, but I did not let it affect my daily matrix; in my mind I knew he was wrong. In the societal rat race, she is just like every other person with special needs. But Randi cannot be replicated. Come on, how many people do you know that have the courage to walk up to a complete stranger and snatch their beard!

Before we left, Randi saw the side profile of a man with a beard who was in a wheel chair. Just as she went up to grab the luxuriant whiskers she got a ping to the sequence. The man had no legs. You could tell by her expression, she was thinking, Whoa! And I thought I had it bad! She too, had met her blue flamingo. But my sister, one that society would put at the back of the starting line, showed that she was wiser than anticipated. She continued her fuzz fondling sequence (well until I told her it was rude). Then she blossomed up a little smile and waved goodbye to the man.

The bible says– since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1) We had witnessed a man engulf the hindrance of observing someone who was different, and it slammed the door on an optimistic sequence. But when Randi hit the same pattern, she took the zap to her matrix and fueled up for the race.

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Making Memories

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Today my little brothers celebrated their graduation from high school. Just to test my theory on how big of an impact these dynamos have on the people around them, I asked everyone to explain any memory they had of Eric and Levi. These are the results!

1. 1st let me say congrats to Eric and Levi! I have a memory of Eric… I walked into the men’s room at church and there was Eric holding a DVD of Veggie-Tales. I told Eric that I liked Veggies (which I totally do!) And his reply was “Oh really? You can have them then!” He then threw the DVD in the urinal and flushed it. Only later did I find out it was Levi’s DVD!

2.  I just enjoy being around your brothers…from having them in kids church for a few years, to having them help at Day Camp…watching them around the farm…they’ve made me smile, laugh, and hunt for them, lol!

3.  My sweetest memory is the way they loved on each other during church service. It was precious.

4.  Eric came to me at church said I need to pray for you..that was so very touching to me…God always knows what we need when we need it…what a blessing he is…

5. Congrats guys!!!!! The memory I have of them is when I was at your house and they were making fun of my lack of control when trying to touch a chicken! 

6. Congrats Eric and Levi!!!! They were two of my funniest students ever. Eric was supposed to do mouth exercises for speech but oh man did he hate it. Most of the time he would look at me with a grumpy face and just not really do them! It was so hard to not laugh and just let him get away with it. LOL!

7.  Levi always ratted me out when I was late for church…LOL. Try as I might to sneak in unnoticed, there was always a cheerful, “Hi Chelle!” I also remember how he liked to jam out in my car to “Jesus Freak.” And oh my, Eric. I remember babysitting you 3 for the first time after getting Eric. It’s a good thing that you were helpful with Levi, because Eric gave me a run for my money, that’s for sure.

8. How about Levi putting all the animals in the trunk of my car and then deciding I needed a baby goat too. The said baby goat climbed on top of my car and as you and I are trying to get all the animals out of my car your mom walks by with someone and says to them “oh that’s normal around here!” … Eric and Levi locking me out of the upstairs bathroom while taking a bath during your parent’s Bible study and Eric yelling “no worries Meggie. Eric under control.”…Levi calling Ed and I “Egg and Bacon” for almost two years… Eric calling Gabe repeatedly after locking me out of the house yelling “Help Gabe! Meggie mean!”

9. Congrats guys! U made it! I loved seeing u guys at church, you were always happy and you enjoyed seeing people!

10.  I remember them as tiny little people in our church! My, how they have grown!!! 

11. Congrats to both of them! Miss their hugs…will always remember Power Rangers, singing on the swing and Eric riding up and down the driveway on the scooter with Jess!<3

12.  I think it’s awesome how unique the guys’ senses of humor are! Eric once spent a good chunk of time just ‘sneaking up’ on me to tickle me, just so he could laugh about it. 

13. Congratulations to Eric and Levi! We are proud of both of you! I have a memory of Eric wanting to give me lots of hugs and following me around to make sure he got one more!

14. Congrats to Eric and Levi!!!! One of the many memories I have of them is taking Levi and Eric to Jr. Prom with Ken. During dinner, Eric kept flirting and I asked him “Are you trying to steal Ken’s date?” He replies “Yes,” looks at Ken and then says to him daringly “What are you going to do about it?!?!” lol

15A.  I do remember Eric coming to percussion class at [my college] and being one very cool dude!

15B. He did! I was there! I’m pretty sure his paradiddle was better than mine. I was jealous.

16. Eric and Levi were the best thing in our classroom. It was a great day when greeted by both boys. I will miss them dearly and never forget them. Good Luck! 

17. This story was not written down, but I was reminded of it by someone at their gathering. Eric, Levi and I went to the zoo with some family friends. Eric and one of the friends went to use the bathroom. While in the stall, Eric reached under and grabbed the leg of the man in the stall next to him. He had never met the man in his life!

It was amazing to see how many people came to support these two boys. Some of them I had talked to maybe once or twice, but my brothers had left a legacy for their lifetime!

When meeting someone who has special needs, it is easy to think, “what can I teach them?” But the more and more I spend time with my brothers, God has shown me to look at how much they have taught me! It’s obvious by the responses above that I’m not the only one Eric and Levi have impacted. They live, laugh, love, learn, and leave a legacy– without effort, without complication, just to take each person they meet on a journey through our special world.

The Chronicles of Eric

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If you read back to the blog: “When life gives you lemons, sometimes they squirt you in the eye” you will learn a lot about my little booger brother, Eric. This blog is to show you some of the hilarious moments he has brought to our family.

Scenario one: When Eric was little, he loved to lock his bedroom door and destroy the room he shared with Levi. Obviously the parents didn’t approve of a pig sty and Levi wasn’t too fond of Eric going through all of his things. After this happened several times, my dad had a brilliant idea! He turned the door knob around so the lock was on the outside. I think you can probably see where this is going.

One night mom and dad went out on a little date leaving Eric, Levi and I with a babysitter. We were all in Eric and Levi’s room, playing with toys and having a good time when we realized… Eric was no longer in the room and the door was shut! Yep, locked in. The babysitter hoisted me out the window so I could run in the house and unlock the door. Luckily we all escaped before the house was entirely destroyed!

Scenario two: On a Saturday afternoon we were all spending time outside. Mom was in the garden, Levi and I were running through the sprinkler in our swimsuits, dad was putting new shingles on the roof, and Eric was washing dad’s car. This all went on for a few hours.

When my dad was done with the roof for the day, Eric told him, “the car is all clean and I filled it up.” Dad went over to see a shiny car, and, a shiny driveway? The hose was inserted into the car, with water and gasoline pouring out of the side.

Just when my dad thought he was done for the day, he ended up spending the next four hours under the car tinkering with the fuel cell and whatever other parts pertain to gas. Somewhere in the process a piece broke off (I don’t know what part because I’m way too involved in this blog to study up on my automobile components). Long story short the check engine light is forever gleaming. To fix the issue, my dad stuck one of those cute smiley Walmart stickers over it to remind himself daily of the wonderful Eric.

Scenario three: This is probably my favorite story. One cold February afternoon my dad was watching tv when he saw a lovely stuffed elephant leap down past the downstairs window.  Eric had decided to inspire Levi with another one of his amazing teases.

My dad walked upstairs to find all of the boys’ stuffed animals piled on the roof outside their bedroom window. Though the best punishment would be to fling Eric out after the plush creatures, my dad’s judgment told him sending the deviant onto a snow covered roof in mid-february was definitely not the greatest of ideas. So my father, barefoot, creeped out of the two story window to set foot on the snow laden roof with only a sweatshirt, jeans, and a giant soppy bunny to keep him warm. He threw in a couple animals, then whiipp! Eric slammed the window shut as fast as he could and flipped the locks over. Great. Now knowing Eric had the upper-hand, my dad tried to smooth talk him with genuine fatherly love. “Eric, would you pretty please open the window? It’s sooo cold out here!” ziipp. Eric pulled the curtains shut! Now there were two options. My dad either had to throw his over-the-hill body over the roof to the slushy ground, or knock for dear life! Knock knock knock knock!! Luckily, Levi came to save the day. He opened the window and let my freezing father back into the comfort of our heated home.

Everyday my little brothers bring a new chapter to our quirky family. There are the moments where they toot and say, “oops, I burped out of my butt” or the fact that Eric has pranked called 9-1-1 so many times that the fire station has us on a call back list to make sure there is actually an emergency. But at the end of the day, we can thank God for our events that helped us live, laugh, love, learn, and leave a legacy. In all, it’s just a beautiful chapter of God’s plans while we journey through our special world.

Down Doggy!

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For my next few blogs I am dying to share with you some of my craziest and funniest experiences that I have had with my little brothers.

This blog is about Levi.

When Levi was younger, he had a bit of an issue on making it to the bathroom. (Whoah! Gross, no one wants to hear a story about that! Bare with me here. I promise this blog has nothing to do with fecal matter.) Anyways, my parents were running out of options to help Levi with the potty training issue. The last resort: bribery. On the very top shelf in our bathroom cupboard was a plastic box filled with all sorts of goodies. There was candy, those cheap little toys you get at the dollar store, and Levi’s favorite: animal figurines. Simply, every time Levi did you know what in the correct you know where, he got a toy from the box.

Overtime Levi collected a pretty good portion of little animal toys. Every time he got a new one he would break it in by acting out some crazy story with it. There was Spirit the mustang and Simba the lion of course. Then there was the grand celebration for each creature: an entire chain of animals from one end of the house to the other as if there was a mass exodus originating from Levi’s bedroom.

One Saturday our family was doing our usual afternoon rituals. Mom was multi-tasking the garden and the laundry, dad and Eric had gone to run some errands in town, and Levi of course was playing with his animals. While I was in my room watching tv, I heard Levi call for mom a couple of times but I figured she had already taken care of it. When my favorite show had ended I still heard Levi yelling. Ughh I said, mom must be outside. I better go see what he wants. So I walked downstairs and called his name a few times, to which he responded. There was only one problem. Every room I went to I could hear him responding!

Doing my phenomenal eleven year old detective work, I discovered his voice was resonating from our abnormally large furnace ducts in our old farm house. I checked every room downstairs and finally, in the living room, I found two little legs sticking straight out of the floor. Levi had taken the cover off the vent to make the ultimate setting for his animal narratives. His new little dog figurine decided to take a dive into the great hole of soot so Levi’s natural response was to dive after his companion.

Just in time mom walked in the door. Scrambling to find words, my preteen response was something like, “Levi’s legs out of animal toy…hole in the floor…furnace..ahh!!” My mom followed my frantic pointing finger to the little legs sticking out of the floor, sending her in a dart to pull him out. For a solid ten minutes she held Levi’s legs trying to get him out of the black abyss. I asked if I should call 911.

In a few minutes the ambulance, fire department, and channel two news all appeared at our door step. In walked a deputy who ran in and grabbed Levi by the legs and in about five minutes, out of a dust of black soot we found Levi! His face was literally pitch-black with the exception of the white of his eyes and little tears lines streaming upward from them.

That evening we informed dad of our eventful day sat down for the five-o’clock news, starring the headline: “Little boy gets trapped in a furnace duct when his eleven year old sister calls 911”

Our Quirky Family

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Sunday Morning
“Well I was watching tv and then I had to brush my teeth. Nevertheless, I am not late, I still get pop, and I am not in trouble!” –Levi

Just another morning adventure with the family. The rule is, if you are not in the car by 9am on Sunday to go to church, then you don’t get pop for lunch. Levi got to the car at about 9:04. Mom says, “No pop for Levi!” and above was his response.

A New Job For Dad; Cat’s Out Of The Bag

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Here’s a recap from my two previous blogs. I’m caught in the middle of four brothers. There are two older. Much older. 16 and 19 years older to be exact. Then there are the two younger, both of which have Down’s syndrome, and my entire focal point so far. We are all children to the country church pastor and his wife, and we probably have the most amazing parents in the world.

In 2001, our family stepped into another new realm of the special needs world. Now I don’t exactly know all the pieces here, but I was ten, how much could I know! I can still lay out the ground work though, no worries.

We were moving; leaving the parsonage home that my younger brothers and I had known all our lives, and that meant my dad was leaving his job.  So we packed up and traveled a whopping two roads down to a creaky old farm house with cornfields for neighbors. (It wasn’t too bad though. We all got bigger bedrooms and my brothers and I got to run around and pretend ghosts were chasing us.) The biggest change was my dad’s job though. We were used to him sitting in his in home office, studying God’s word day in and day out. Then Bam!  Say hello to the normal family lifestyle where your dad has an actual 9-5 job in the wonderful world of!…social work.

My dad’s social work was through a foster care agency that helped to place many special needs children in loving families. In addition to foster care, there was respite care. (This is so the foster parents can have a break and the foster kids get a mini vacation with other families) Respite care…Hmm…God said. I provided you with a big house and big rooms. Share it! So we did. And just about every week I got a new brother or sister. Some were awesome! Some not so much.

I can particularly remember one little tyrant. In the middle of the night, he poured an entire bottle of earing solution on my face and he threw my guitar out the two story window. Oh and he also dismantled his entire bed and threw that out too. Yep. And he was only seven years old!

Then there was Randi. She was twelve, pretty tall, non verbal, and she talked in screams and shreaks for whatever she wanted; She had what was called Cri Du Chat syndrome. (This is French for cry of the cat) Randi’s respite situation was like any normal one really. She was special needs, she had her little behavioral quirks, yada yada. This is where the cat jumps out of the bag. While her foster parents were on their little retreat, they decided they wanted to extend it, forever.

After some prayer (and paperwork of course), Randi became more than just my weekly sister, and not without struggle. Like I said, every weekly sibling had their special needs, and their behaviors. When your siblings come and go you just have to put up with their past and hope not to get anything less sterile than earring solution on your face. But now I had a new sister with an extended family membership: exclusively including– a lifetime warranty of discipline, love, and trust.

Somehow in the mix I missed the fine print. I got a sister, I got a roommate, and…I got a target on my back. Here’s a clue. When your new sister isn’t used to having her own siblings, the stakes of capturing attention get a little higher. And so begin the cat fights. Almost daily I lost a few hairs from the grip of her hand and about twice a week I gave up a chunk of skin from her feisty fingernails.

Today Randi still lives with us through adult foster care and I am proud to call her my sister. When it comes to sibling rivalries our family is pretty standard. We fight over the tv or who gets to ride in the front seat, but we still love each other. Whatever God has next in store, well, that cat is still in His bag.