Meet the Snyders

Handy Helpers Books are available at amazon

Amber

 

Amber Nicole Snyder is the main character in the first Handy Helper book, A Rocky Start. In fact the entire story is told from her point of view.

Amber is a fourth-grader at Bluesky Elementary School. She just turned ten on March 22.  For her birthday, she received art supplies because she likes to draw. She loves hamburgers and hates spinach–or so she thinks.

There are four members of the Snyder family–John and Mary, the parents; Kyle, the big brother; and of course Amber. John and Mary met when they were in college. Both of them were working at a summer camp for kids with disabilities in Pinetop, Arizona. After college, John moved to Phoenix and they were married. Mary loved living in Phoenix, but John hated it. He missed the cool weather and being outdoors. After Kyle was born, the family moved to Flagstaff, but Mary hated the harsh winters. When John had a chance to become the manager of the Discount Mart in Bluesky, he moved his family there. Like the story of the three bears, Bluesky was just right.

Amber was a bald-headed baby and her father said she looked like Uncle Fred. Amber is now a lovely young lady with thick bronze-colored hair and big brown eyes, but her dad continues to call her Fred.

Kyle is the perfect big brother, which in Amber’s opinion is not a good thing. He’s great at everything–school work, baseball, and playing the guitar. Amber struggles because she has attention deficit disorder, or ADHD. Kyle says it stands for “Amber’s dramas happen daily.” From forgetting to take out the garbage to losing her homework, Amber seems to have lots of dramas. Although she has a very loving and supportive family, they can be somewhat overbearing. For example, Kyle checks Amber’s homework even when she doesn’t need him to.

Judging from the Snyder backyard, Amber isn’t the only one with attention problems. All the members of the Snyder family seem to start projects that they don’t finish. But they do spend time on activities that are important. There are game nights on Fridays, football games in the park, and family bike rides. John and Mary are a very loving couple who hold hands as they walk to church and watch romantic movies together.

The Snyders have a  black Lab puppy named Domino. He manages to cause his share of trouble as well. Amber wanted a Lab because she read they can be hyperactive. She thought their new dog would have something in common with her.

There is a strong mother-daughter bond between Mary and Amber. They enjoy being together, cooking, shopping and going on walks. But Mary does hold Amber accountable for her own behavior. There are consequences when she does something wrong. Mary calls it “Paying your dues for your don’ts.” Amber’s relationship with her father is more laid back. He tells her, “You worry too much.” But when Amber’s impulsiveness lands her in trouble, it is her father who helps her find the answer. He is a steady supportive force in her life.

Sometimes I think of the Snyders as my neighbors. I have enjoyed getting to know them. I hope you will too.

 

 

The miracle of the lost diamond

Scan_20140903Jesus told several parables about the extent someone would go to in order to find something of great value. In each case, once the lost item was recovered, the owner called together friends and family to celebrate. I can relate to this in a very real way.

It was 1981 and my husband Craig and I were at the Jaycee National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. We had attended the week-long convention which culminated in a parade through the streets of downtown Cleveland. We would be driving our new Audi in the parade. Since it had a sunroof, it was decided that the Arizona Jaycee president and his wife would sit on the roof of our car with their feet in the opening of the sun roof. This arrangement upset me greatly and I made it obvious that as the president of the Arizona Jaycee Women I thought I should be riding on the top of the car instead of inside.

I continued to pout and otherwise act like a spoiled child as I got into the car to start the parade. As I sat down in the passenger seat, my husband gasped, “Oh my gosh, your ring!” I looked down at my left hand to see a gaping hole where my diamond should have been. Now instead of being upset about my position in the parade, I could think of nothing else but the missing diamond.

To make matters worse, we had left our children with Craig’s grandparents in Kent. While we were visiting there, his grandmother showed me a diamond she had found and told me how important it was to have your set checked regularly. I had shrugged this off as something I didn’t have time for. Now I was faced with returning to Kent and admitting I had lost my diamond. Shame piled upon shame filled my heart and mind.

As the parade came to an end, I vowed to search every inch of downtown Cleveland until I found the diamond. Obviously this was an impossible task as I had no idea when or where I had lost it. Finding a needle in a haystack would have been an easier task. At least the search would be limited to the haystack.

Craig and I returned to the spot on the street where we had lined up for the parade. Both sides of the street were cluttered with trash. I looked at Craig and said, “It’s hopeless. Even if it’s here I’ll never find it.” Just as I was ready to give up, we looked across the street to where I had stood visiting some friends before the parade began. Craig and I noticed a tiny glint in the pavement under some litter. Certain it couldn’t possibly be the diamond, we raced across the street anyway. I’m not sure how much light a half-carat diamond can reflect, but it was enough. I bent down and brushed away the trash. There in the dirt-filled street lay my diamond.

Just as in the parable, I spent the rest of my time in Cleveland telling everyone I saw about my miracle experience. In the Handy Helpers book, A Rocky Start, Amber’s dad tells her that God’s mercy is what we need most when we deserve it the least. Certainly, there was nothing in my behavior that day that warranted any mercy but I received it anyway–proof that God responds to our needs even when we’re too self-absorbed to ask.

 

Which Handy Helper is most like me? –The Boys

Scan_20140901 (2)I’ve made no secret of the fact that I was a tomboy.  I still am as much as I can be  at my age.

It’s kind of obvious from my picture that I was a goofy little kid. That’s my dog Freckles who went everywhere with me.

Of the three boys in The Handy Helpers, I guess I’m most like Spike. He’s a practical joker and so am I. Just ask my students about some of the April Fools gags I played on them. When I was a kid I liked to make prank phone calls. Mostly I called my grandma and asked her things like, “Is your refrigerator running?” Of course my grandma was wise to my tricks and would ask, “Where would it run to?” One time I got a big pan of water. I called a plumber and when someone answered, I yelled “Help!” Then I stuck my face in the water and went blub . . . blub . . blub. Of course my little brother told on me. My mom had me half convinced that we would get a bill from the plumber. Good thing there wasn’t caller ID back then.

Like Spike I was short for my age. But Spike likes to attract attention to himself with his spiked hair and shirts with sayings on them. I was never bold like that. Instead, I tried to blend in and not be noticed.   In that regard, I was more like Logan. But when it comes to being shy, Logan doesn’t even come close. Here’s an example. Growing up in Phoenix, we watched the Lew King Ranger Show. Wayne Newton, who was a child, was a regular on the show. The sponsor of the show was First Federal Savings. To encourage the good habit of saving, children who had savings accounts at First Federal were invited to be on the show. Finally, the opportunity came for me and my little sister. There was a special place for us to sit on the floor and all that was required of us was to stand up and say our names when called on. As the MC went around the group, I became more and more stressed. When it was my turn, I couldn’t move. No amount of cajoling or urging on the part of the MC could get me to open my mouth. I just sat there with my butt glued to the floor. My mother was so embarrassed, I was afraid she was going to pretend I wasn’t hers and leave me there.

When Chris, another character,  was three years old, he lost his dad in a car accident. I was also three when my dad died during surgery. I have been told a lot about my dad, so I feel like I know him even though I don’t really have any memories of him. I’ve been told that I look like him and that he liked to joke around like I do. Like Chris’s mother, my mother always made sure that I had a close relationship with my father’s family. Every summer she would drive me to Prescott so I could spend a week with my father’s sister, Aunt Marylou and Uncle Kenny. I have so many cherished memories of the time I spent with them and my cousins. My father’s oldest brother, my Uncle Ray and Aunt Ruth always made sure that my sister and I felt like we were part of the family. I remember them being at every important event in my life. I know that wasn’t  easy because they had five children of their own. Today I feel fortunate to have my wonderful Morgan cousins as Facebook friends and  stay in contact with them as much as possible.

Which Handy Helper is most like me?

Scan_20140821 (2)When I asked Kirstin which Handy Helper character was her favorite, she immediately answered, “Beth Anne.” Of course that’s what I expected since Beth Anne has Down syndrome like Kirstin and she is somewhat based on Kirstin.

Then Kirstin asked me which character I like best. I thought for a moment and told her I didn’t have a favorite. As she insisted I choose one, I felt like a mother being asked to choose a favorite child from among her children.

I’m sure most parents have had the experience of seeing themselves mirrored in their child’s expression or actions. As I thought about the Handy Helpers I came to realize that there is a little bit of me in each character.

Amber tries very hard to do what her parents want her to do, but she still manages to mess up a lot. As a child, it seemed like I was always in trouble for some stupid thing I did. Because of her attention deficit disorder, Amber has to work harder than her friends to keep up in school.  Until I was in eighth grade, I struggled just to earn average grades. I remember that in fifth grade we had to memorize all the states and the capitals. (There were only 48 back then.) Every week we were tested until we had them 100% correct. I was sure I would be in the fifth grade my whole life because I couldn’t pass that test. I finally passed, but  I was the last student in the class to do it.

Laura loves to cook and I share that passion with her. Also, Laura is a gymnast.  I never trained in gymnastics, but it was part of our P.E. program in school. It was my favorite part and I was pretty good at it. Being a wiry little thing, I think I was well-suited to gymnastics, but my mother never put me in classes. Instead, she gave me accordion lessons as if I didn’t look weird enough already.  Melissa calls Laura “the goody-goody girl,” because she tries to keep her friends from making bad choices. I guess  that was me to a certain extent. My parents entrusted me with the care of my younger brother and sister at an early age. It was my job to keep them out of trouble.

Melissa is probably the least like me. Except for having blond hair and blue eyes, we don’t have much in common. Melissa is tall and attractive. She’s all about fashion. I was just this scrawny kid with untamable hair and crooked teeth. My mom tried to dress me in frilly, girly clothes, but it didn’t really work.  I was still a tomboy underneath. I wore my shoes out so fast that my mom resorted to buying me these clunky brown shoes that looked like boys dress shoes. They really stood out because back then girls had to wear dresses to school. A few years ago, my mother told me she always felt bad about the shoes. I told her that wearing those shoes didn’t really bother me all that much. I think that possibly Melissa is me–the deep down inside me–the me that my mother always thought I should be.

So that’s how I see my self in the girl characters, but what about the boys? You’ll have to wait until next week to find out.

Kirstin two years later

kirstin bookThis month marks the second anniversary of This Little Light of Mine. I thought I would fill you in on what’s happened in Kirstin’s life since that book was published.

Kirstin has continued to work at Costco. This is her sixteenth year there. She is the assistant manager in the food court–a responsibility that she handles with her usual determination. Recently she had to help train a new manager. She was working with both the new and old manager. They were having trouble with something. Kirstin told them “Get with the program, managers!”

As always, Kirstin is constantly being recognized around town. We can’t go anywhere without someone coming up to her and telling her what a good job she does at Costco.  The joy she brings to these people is awe-inspiring. And she does it just by being who she is.

If you read This Little Light of Mine, you know that driving had resurfaced as an issue. Kirstin had a learner’s permit for two years, but was not able to get her license. When she applied for her third learner’s permit, she failed the eye test. I think maybe the person who was giving the test had read my book.

Kirstin continues to live in the mobile home that she now owns free and clear. Her grandmother moved into a nursing home in May. Kirstin plans and prepares her own meals and takes care of her home. As always she is organized and makes good use of her time. She budgets well and pays her own bills. I wish I did as well.

As you may remember, Kirstin is an avid reader. Currently, she is reading Jane Austen’s Emma. Jane Austen is my favorite author, but I think her books are challenging to read because of the language.  Kirstin is really enjoying it. Last year she read The Wizard of Oz–all of it. I bet you didn’t know that there is much more to the Wizard of Oz than what you’ve seen in movies. There are fourteen books in the series by L. Frank Baum. Kirstin read them all. That’s 1768 pages on her Nook. She can tell you more about the Wizard of Oz than you would ever wish to know!

In addition to reading, Kirstin always has a jig-saw puzzle going. She puts together 500-1000 piece puzzles in record time. On her days off she does her singing and dancing to one of her favorite albums–usually Reba McIntyre or Bette Midler. Sometimes she spends the night at my house. We usually play our card game called Pounce. It’s a cutthroat game based on Solitaire. Kirstin beat me four out of the last seven times we played.

You may remember from the book that getting married was Kirstin’s most important plan for the future. It still is. She and David have been together for more than ten years. I think I’ve run out of reasons why she can’t get married. So watch for a wedding announcement in the paper in the not too, too distant future.

This Little Light of Mine is available on Amazon.

What’s next for the Handy Helpers.

At about two o’clock last Saturday, I wrote the final words of the third Handy Helpers book, Red, White and . . . Bloopers! It should be available in early September. I want to share with you some of what you can expect.

It is summer and all Spike wants is to be left alone and to go fishing with his friends. Unfortunately, his parents have other ideas about keeping him busy. But that’s not the worst of it. His sister Jennifer’s new boyfriend Todd seems to be making it his mission to make Spike’s life miserable. When Spike tries to tell his parents about Todd, they say he is overacting. Todd has two older brothers and is used to playing rough. Spike’s parents think that Todd is just treating him like a younger brother. Spike decides he will have to handle Todd on his own.

Spike takes care of the problem in his usual way—with sneaky pranks. But no matter what he does, Todd seems to come out on top. Finally, Spike resorts to a plan of revenge that backfires in the worst possible way. Instead of teaching Todd a lesson, Spike accidently pranks the town mayor. His chances of going fishing are pretty much over as he is ordered to do community service for his crime.

It is during Spike’s community service that he meets some kids who live in the forest. Spike vows to help them as much as he can. But he never expected that to include a daring nighttime rescue.

 

Here’s what else is going on in the lives of The Handy Helpers:

  • Beth Anne gets her cast off and moves into her new house. She turns ten and has a bowling party for her birthday.
  • Melissa tries to adjust to having her dad around all the time now that he’s home for Afghanistan.
  • Laura has a cooking mishap.
  • Chris goes to California to visit his grandparents and returns with something that shocks his friends.
  • Logan’s dad comes home and spends a few days with his family.
  • Amber goes on sort of a date with Logan.
  • Beth Anne trains for Special Olympics swimming, and involves her friends.

 

I really had fun writing this third installment of The Handy Helpers. There are some very colorful seniors for you to meet. I think you will all enjoy reading Red, White, and . . . Bloopers! In my humble opinion, it’s the best book yet.

Raising Kids Who Care

Scan_20140804

I have been a teacher for most of my life, and I consider myself pretty good at it. But when it comes to knowing how to help others, my daughter Kirstin has been my teacher. She knows how to reach out to people in a way that I will never be able to do. She genuinely cares about others and they feel her sincerity. In my book, This Little Light of Mine, a woman with Down syndrome shines brightly in the world, I call her and others like her “angels among us.” If you will permit me to quote myself, “They care for others, even those who are not kind to them, without any expectation of reward. They are patient, gentle, and loving. They hold back nothing but share their feelings openly. They forgive and forget.”

I believe we are all born with a desire to help others. Consider the small child who wants to help his mom in the kitchen, or make the bed or feed the dog. How often does the busy parent dismiss this desire to help and instead hurriedly complete the task on her own? Later, when those same activities are the child’s chores, they become the source of argument because the child no longer wants to do them. I’m not naïve enough to suggest that by allowing our toddlers to help with chores, they will necessarily grow up to happily do them as teenagers, but it is certainly something to think about.

By cultivating in our children the desire to help others, we are developing in  them a lifelong spirit of giving. While they are young, and their lives are less complicated, it is easier to find the time and opportunities to help others. As we become adults with adult responsibilities, it is more of a challenge to do our part as loving, caring citizens of this planet. If helping others is already a natural part of our lives, we are more likely to continue it into adulthood.

The characters in The Handy Helpers books seek out opportunities to help. While their parents encourage them, it is the children themselves who are choosing to serve others. Sometimes children become involved in volunteering through church groups or scouts. These are very good ways to start. Sometimes the entire family volunteers together. How ever it happens, children will always benefit. Rabbi Shumuley Boteach, who hosts a show on Oprah Radio, says, “When we don’t give kids responsibilities, we pay the price. Kids become lazy and complacent and too self-focused. Volunteering and giving back prevents that and helps others.”

Part of my vision in writing The Handy Helpers books is that someday there will be groups like the Handy Helpers in communities all over our country. I don’t know exactly how that will happen, but I pray every day that it will. On the back cover of Seven is a Perfect Number, I quote one of my young readers who says, “I love the great moral values talked about in the book. It inspires me to want to start a Handy Helpers group myself.”

Written by Rosemary Heddens