Kiki’s Adventures in Kindergarten

Scan_20141115 (2)Kirstin’s first year in public school was a success in some ways but difficult in other ways. As much as we thought Kirstin was prepared for school, she was still behind the other children, and her progress was less than we had hoped. She did not participate in group activities such as singing or art. On the playground, little boys fed her sand. She wandered away and had to be supervised at all times. In spite of the problems, testing at the end of the school year did reveal progress. When she entered kindergarten, she could recognize six out of eight colors, one out of ten numbers, and could not count at all. By the end of kindergarten, she could identify eight out of eight colors. four out of four shapes, nine out of ten numbers, twenty-two out of twenty-six letters, count to five, and print her name. Her scores put her in the fourteenth percentile, but taking into account where she was when she began, that was amazing progress.

We also found out that Kirstin was learning to stand up for herself. One day I received a phone call from a somewhat frustrated principal, who told me Kirstin had come into his office on her own. She told him that someone on the playground had pulled down her pants. The principal wasn’t sure what to do , because Kirstin, hands on hips, kept insisting, “the pink girl did it.” Unable to identify the “pink girl,” he said there wasn’t much he could do except ask the playground aides to keep an eye out. We were satisfied with that and also relieved to see that Kirstin was learning to handle her own problems.

It is doubtful that the “pink girl” was someone in Kirstin’s class. If that had been the case, Kirstin would have known her name. At the end of the kindergarten year, there was a promotion celebration in her classroom. The teacher talked about each student and his or her special abilities. Kirstin, we found out, was the only student in the class who knew everybody’s name. While her social skills might be lagging, she certainly was paying attention, and she could remember things that were important to her.

Excerpt from This Little Light of Mine, A woman with Down syndrome shines brightly in the world. Available on Amazon.

2014 in review

On July 15, I posted my first blog. Since then, I have posted 24 more. I have enjoyed writing the posts each week and sharing them with my followers. Please check out my archives in case you’ve missed any. I look forward to even bigger and better things in 2015.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 560 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 9 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Handy Helpers–New Year’s Resolutions

Scan_20141229Like many of you, the Handy Helpers have been thinking about their hopes and expectations for 2015. These are their New Year’s  resolutions.

My name is Amber Snyder. I’m in the fifth grade at Bluesky Elementary school. This year I am going to work on finishing what I start. Sometimes I get distracted and I leave a job unfinished. My mom tries to help me get organized, but I don’t always remember everything. If I can get my homework done on time and do my chores without being told, my parents will be very happy and so will I.

Hi, I’m Melissa Peterson. In 2015, I’m going to try to be nicer to my little sister Trisha. She can be such a pain, it’s going to be hard not to yell at her, but I’m going to try. I’m also going to try to be more patient with my dad. He was in the army in Afghanistan. Now he’s home. I don’t like the way he bosses me, but I’m going to try to be a little more understanding. I know he has problems too.

Yo, Spike here! My New Year’s resolution is to stay out of trouble. It’s not easy to be a good kid all the time, but I can try harder. I hate being picked on by my sisters, and sometimes I do mean things to them. Jennifer’s boyfriend Todd told me to hang in there. He said that pretty soon my sisters will go to college and I’ll be an only kid. I can’t wait!

My name is Logan Green. I live with my mom in Bluesky. My dad is an airline pilot. He isn’t home very much. Sometimes it makes me angry to see my mom so sad when he’s gone for a long time.  I’m going to try to be the best son I can be. Maybe then my dad will come home more often.

My name is Beth Anne Riley. I like to be with my friends and help my mom and dad. Mrs. Henry is my friend. I like to help her too. My mom says that I need to listen more. That is what I want to do. It will make my mom happy and my dad.

Happy new year from Laura Thomas. My resolution is to help my mom more. She is very busy with her dance studio and taking care of my little sisters. I like to help with the cooking, but there are other things I can do like laundry and housework. Then my mom will have more time to relax and be in a happy mood.

Hello, my name is Chris Bishop. My New Year’s resolution is to read my Bible more. My brother Eric reads his Bible every day. He wants to be a minister when he grows up. Eric said that everyone should read the Bible because it tells us how to live a Christian life.

Hi, I’m Rosemary Morgan Heddens, the author of The Handy Helpers book series. My New Year’s resolution is to keep writing books that will help my friends solve problems and grow in the way they should go.

Keeping Christ in Christmas

IMG_0796As a Catholic Christian, I enjoy our liturgical calendar. I see it as a path to follow–a guide to help me on my journey. For Catholics, the new year began on the first Sunday of Advent, November 30, and continues for three more Sundays. Advent is a time of preparation. In the scriptures we read, “A voice cries out in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord.” In church we sing, “Oh come, oh come, Emmanuel.” Through reflecting inwardly and reaching out to others with acts of mercy, we prepare our hearts to receive Jesus.

Advent is followed by Christmas. For many people, Christmas is one day–December 25. For Catholics, Christmas is a season. It begins on December 25 and continues through Epiphany–January 4 this year.  Epiphany celebrates the arrival of the magi and reminds us to always seek Jesus and keep him foremost in our hearts and minds as we travel on our journey.  After the Christmas season, we move into what is called ordinary time. That doesn’t mean we sit back and relax until Lent. Strengthened in faith by our weeks of preparation, we move forward, following the teachings of Jesus and applying them to our daily lives.

I have a magnetic sign I hang on my car this time of year. It says, “Keep Christ in Christmas.” More and more these days, the traditional greeting of “Merry Christmas” is being replaced by the more general and ostensibly more politically correct “Happy Holidays.” As Christians we have witnessed our celebration of Christ’s birth being overshadowed by more material and secular activities such as parties and shopping for expensive gifts.  “Keep Christ in Christmas” has become a movement to remind us of the true meaning of the season. Ironically, the expression “Merry Christmas” seems to have taken on new importance as we boldly continue to greet others with those words.

One of my favorite ways to celebrate Christmas is ringing the Salvation Army bell. This past Friday, I finished my third and final session–with temperatures in the twenties, bundled up from head to toe. I watched with glee as bills and coins were pushed through the slot into the red kettle, knowing that it all goes to help those in need in our community. But ringing the bell is about more than just collecting money. What I enjoy most is greeting people as they walk up to the store–receiving and returning their smiles and warm wishes. Sometimes I’m able to share a brief moment in someone’s day and I really love that. It makes me feel a part of something bigger than myself and lets me know that we are in this together. Keeping Christ in Christmas doesn’t seem like such a daunting task as I recognize him in the kindness and generosity of those I meet as I stand there in front of Safeway, ringing that bell.

Christmas Memories

Scan_20141215Back when I was a kid, Christmas wasn’t so much about the shopping. Black Friday was not a term that was used by anyone–maybe merchants, but certainly not the rest of us. No stores were open on Thanksgiving–in fact, no stores were open on Sundays. Still, we managed to get our Christmas shopping done.

As it is today, Christmas was about family. My grandfather’s birthday was Christmas Eve. That meant a huge family gathering with all my cousins. Sometimes it was just those of us who lived in the Phoenix area and we could get together at someone’s home. On special birthdays or when family members were here from out of town, we would hold it at a restaurant meeting room. My grandfather, who was a wonderful, loving man, was the center of attention. He was in a wheelchair and we took turns sitting on his lap as if he were Santa.

I remember being excited about Christmas and anxious to open my presents on Christmas morning. (I was the kid who always peeked at the presents no matter how well my mom thought they were hidden.) But there is not a single Christmas or a single Christmas gift the sticks out in my mind. I do remember the Christmas when my sister Shirley received a life-size doll that walked. It wore three-year-old clothing and was nearly as tall as Shirley.

My brother Ricky was born when I was nine. Being his big sister wasn’t my favorite role. Still, at Christmas time I was able to talk my parents into buying him toys they would never get me, being a girl. Those gifts included Lincoln Logs, Erector sets, and a chemistry set. While they might have been gender-appropriate, they weren’t really age-appropriate. That was okay because I was the one who played with them. I used the Erector set to build a robot. You should have seen the faces of my family members when it came rolling down the hall.

After all  the presents were opened and the wrappings cleaned up, I would eventually get around to looking in my stocking. There was no real hurry because I knew what was in it. There would be an apple and an orange in the bottom. There would be a mixture of nuts–not in neat little packages with the hulls removed. These were nuts that had to be cracked. My favorite were the Brazil nuts, but they were also the hardest to get the meat out of. I remember spending hours trying to pick out the pieces of nut stuck in the corners of the shells, my fingers bleeding from where I had poked them with the pick.  Of course, my stocking also held candy–this was also unwrapped. It was hard candy in the shape of fruits with a soft jelly center and colorful ribbons-shaped candies. Unfortunately, by the time I dug through my stocking, the candy was coated with a thin layer of nutshell dust.

As a child, I always puzzled over the contents of my stocking. There was usually fruit in the refrigerator. So why did my parents put it in my stocking? I never asked–mostly because it would make me seem ungrateful. As an adult, I came to consider that my parents had grown up during the Great Depression. In those days, the contents of my stocking would have been real treasures.

Christmas has changed a lot. Today kids are looking for electronics and other expensive gifts under the tree. But it will always be a magical time filled with wonder, anticipation, and love.

I Write the Stories–Jesus Adds the Message.

IMG_0792 (2)I have put off writing about this subject, partly because it’s personal, but mostly because some readers might think I’m weird–okay weirder than they thought.

When I first envisioned the Handy Helpers books–before I even knew what they would be called–I never considered including a Christian element, at least not to the extent that I eventually did. In A Rocky Start, the Snyders are a Christian family that has dinner together, plays board games on Friday nights and walks to church every Sunday. That could have been enough, but it wasn’t.  I needed a Sunday school lesson, so I looked on the internet for some fourth-grade Sunday school topics.  I randomly selected the story of the prodigal son. After hearing about it in Sunday school, Amber relates the story to her parents and they discuss its meaning. That could have been enough, but it wasn’t.  Near the end of the book, Amber is feeling very guilty about some things she’s done. She tells her dad, “I’m like the son in the Bible who wasted his inheritance. I’ve wasted my chance to help seniors.” Her father uses the story of the prodigal son to show Amber how she has already been forgiven. All she needs to do is forgive herself. He goes on to explain to her about God’s mercy. Had I chosen a different Sunday school lesson, the book might have ended in a similar way. I believe I was directed to choose that Sunday school lesson so that the message of God’s love and mercy could be the primary message of the book.

As I planned the second book, Seven is a Perfect Number, I knew it would include an explanation of why seven is God’s perfect number. But there were lots of surprises in store for me as I wrote that book. One surprise was The Servant Song that Beth Anne and her grandmother sing on the way to Phoenix. We sang that song once in church and I thought it was a very nice song. I wondered if there was some way that I could use it in the book. Every week at mass, I would turn to that song in the hymnal and read the words. More and more I began to feel like it needed to be part of the book. Words from the song appear in the book four times and it is crucial to the story. Beth Anne sings it to Mrs. Henry when she is trying to cheer her up. Later, when Beth Anne is alone in the dark on a hillside, she imagines Mrs. Henry singing it to her. Finally, when Mrs. Henry is sitting with Beth Anne in the hospital, she sings the song and Beth Anne wakes up to hear it.

As I said, we sang The Servant Song once at mass. We did sing it a second time a few months after Seven is a Perfect Number was published. I was feeling  discouraged and disappointed that my books weren’t selling as well as I had hoped. In my morning devotions, I talked to God about it, feeling that maybe this wasn’t what I was being called to do. I asked for a sign, some way that I would know that I should continue with the Handy Helpers project. We were in the middle of mass and I needed to go to the restroom. I decided to go during the offertory. Just as I stood to leave, the choir began to sing–The Servant Song. Immediately, I sat down and joined in the singing. I had my sign.”

Me and My Man by Kirstin Heddens

Scan_20141130David and I found each other at a Halloween dance. I was dressed as Dorothy Gail from Wizard of Oz. David was Captain Riker from Star Trek. He thought I looked really cute and I thought he was so handsome. We have been dating about ten years. I like to call David my man and he calls me his woman.

David and I have lots in common. We were my mom’s students. David was in her first class when she started teaching at Bradshaw Mountain High School. He was fourteen years old and I was only eight. He thought I was just a little girl. But when I grew up, he became my boyfriend.

We have different hobbies. David likes to play his Play Station. I like to sing and dance or read my Nook. We both like country western, oldies, and Disney music. David and I like to have peace and quiet at times. We like to watch TV. David and I collect cds and movies. David is a Diamondbacks  and Luke Bryan fan. Sometimes we listen to music together or go to movies. We like to go to the special needs dances every month. David and I like to kiss.

We are planning to get married. David and I will have our own house–It might be the house I own already or a different house. We will do our housework together. I’m the one who will do the cooking. David will set the table and help with the dishes. I will help David pay bills,  take his pills and handle his money. I’m going to retire from Costco when we get married. David already calls my dad–Dad.  My dad likes that.  We will go for walks and shop for food at Walmart or Albertsons.

I’m writing my own book series called snap singers. It is about kids with special needs who like to sing together and play in a band. Someday I hope my books will be published so everyone can read them.

Written by Rosemary Heddens