Sunday, November 10, 2019

Angels Among Us

I don't believe in coincidences.  Everything happens exactly as God plans.  It can be surprising... it can be awesome... it is just as it should be.

I also consider myself pretty calm and collected under pressure.  Really, I think of it as one of my talents.  My pants could be on fire, but I'm not going to go running in the yard, screaming, spinning in a circle.  I will stop, drop and roll... and then get up and keep making dinner.

A couple days ago, both of these personal beliefs came into play, and were challenged, in a single situation.

I was on my way to work, going with the flow of heavy, commuter traffic, on a two-lane highway, about 20 minutes from home and about halfway to my workplace.  On a straight, flat stretch of road, I stopped for a stoplight, but, when the light turned green and the cars in front of me moved, I could not go.  The car stopped-- dead-- in the middle of a busy highway.

It was already a rough morning.  I was struggling with the "work-life balance" (put in quotation marks because there is no such thing-- challenge me if you want, but I know the truth: it's everything-everything all the time and it's exhausting and nearly impossible to do it all.)  There were a lot of things going on-- in my mind and on the calendar-- and I was feeling overwhelmed.  I was actually on the phone with my husband, having a less-than-lovely conversation about all of this, when the car died.

My car is not fancy, but it is properly maintained and only five years old.  It should run.  I couldn't get it to start again and I out and out PANICKED.  I put on the flashers, put down the window to wave around other cars, and screamed into the Bluetooth speaker: "MY CAR WON'T GO!  WHAT SHOULD I DO?!"  I told Todd where the car was stopped and said I had to disconnect; we agreed he would call roadside assistance for a tow truck and start driving my way.  (He was already at work by that time, some distance across the metro area.)  Cars were zooming by my stopped van on both sides, with drivers honking horns and flipping birds.  I knew I would have to push the car off the highway, but I didn't think I could do it myself... so I figured I should call the police-- just to tell them, maybe to get some more muscle power at my location.  I took a deep breath and blinked back tears and looked up one more time.

There, on the shoulder of the highway, was my friend.  She is a kind and gentle woman I have known for many years, though never well.  We first met when our husbands worked together many years ago; we lived in the same, small town (where my car broke down) and the men commuted to work together.  Later, we were having our first daughters as they were adopting theirs.  Then, we moved to the next town, and Todd got a different job, and we lost touch for a number of years.  I knew of them, and would occasionally run into my friend at a store or a restaurant, but we did not connect again until the couple joined the CrossFit gym where I go.  I neglected to mention that during the not-much-contact years my friend went to seminary and became a pastor.

She yelled out her window, "Can I help you?"  And I said, "YES!"  She was already in workout clothes, and sprinted across the highway.  I told her the car quit and I guessed we would have to push it, and I asked her which direction we should go.  She pointed to the gas station across the next intersection, and told me to stand in the driver's door so I could push and steer.  Then, we just went.  Another man had stopped by that time and was pushing with my friend.  A second man in a construction vehicle followed behind to make sure no one hit us.  We got through the intersection and around the corner and brought the van to rest on the shoulder of the side street.

My friend asked if I was OK... asked if she could take me anywhere, bring me anything, sit with me.  I shook my head and I think she could tell I was about to lose it.  I assured her Todd was on the way and I would have to wait for the tow truck, anyway-- after I called work to let them know I was going to be very late.

I eventually got to work, a couple hours after I was due.  I was thinking all the time how grateful I was for my friend, and how I needed to thank her.  Before I could fire off a text to her, she sent one to me-- making sure I was OK and offering a little prayer that my day was getting better.  The day was a disaster... and it turns out the car had catastrophic engine failure-- a repair that is going to cost thousands of dollars and take a couple weeks to fix.  But the day was better, because of her. 

My day was better-- because of her.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Parenting Lows and Highs for the Weekend

I washed a load of candy wrappers.

I overheard the 10-year-old, while assembling a BLT, say to the bacon, "Gentlemen, gentlemen, come now-- we can all get along!"

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Alone in the Kitchen

I just started up this blog again, and already I've lost the energy to do it!  In all fairness, this month has brought some crazy-busy times for Krinkeland.  I'll expand upon that at some point, when I'm not so unbelievably exhausted.  One small note on that tonight, however...

Todd and I were talking by phone late this afternoon-- he on his way to put in some office time at work, me on my way home.  Todd exclaimed it was very good that I was on my way home, about 45 minutes earlier than anticipated, because the kids would be excited to see me.  I walked in the door at home to find one kid devouring a plate of leftovers (the good child) and the others huddled around the oven anticipating the timer's bell on a frozen pizza.  We ate together and chatted about our days for, well, I'd say two full minutes before the kids started clearing out for more interesting and exciting activities.  By the time my expected return home time arrived, I was alone in the kitchen.  That is where I remain.

They may miss me when I'm gone, but that doesn't mean they want to hang out when I'm home. #momlife #thatsthestoryofmylife

Saturday, October 12, 2019

A Show of Talent and Others

We spent the evening at the high school’s talent show. It’s a fundraiser put on by the music honor society to support the music department. Attending is an annual Krinkeland tradition, at least for the Queen, and the show always has a lot of surprises. What I mean by that, mostly, is there are individuals and acts that typically do not perform at other high school concerts and events. Most are excellent. Some are ridiculous.

My lovelies always seem to land on top of the silly heap. Here are Amanda and Libby performing with the BHS Music All-Stars (a.k.a. their friends):

See what I mean? Grandpa said it reminded him of the “shows” the cousins are always trying to put on in his basement— so insulting, and so true.

Amanda and friend Tori, who will star as Adelaide and Sarah in the upcoming high school musical production of “Guys and Dolls,” also had a preview of the show:

(Yes, they know it needs work... still five weeks till showtime!)

I will always applaud— well, actually, I typically shout “BRAVO!”— any young performer with the courage and grace to appear on stage. It is not easy... but what a sense of accomplishment they must feel when the audience cheers their efforts. This is true even if the efforts are blown on kazoos, or “gazoos” as Madeline insists on saying.

Lest you think the buzz on Lés Mís was spoofy oddity, I wish to present Amanda’s and Tori’s performance from last year’s talent show, never before shared due to the blogging hiatus... also due to the inanity:


Friday, October 11, 2019

Taking Care, the Yearbook Edition

Last spring, I sat across the table from the high school's journalism teacher and yearbook adviser.  He smiled his gentle smile and asked, "So, is Amanda pleased with the final outcome of her student life feature?"  My husband always says my face makes it impossible for anyone to not know exactly what I'm thinking, so I didn't even have to open my mouth before the teacher's jaw dropped.  "You don't know about this?!  She hasn't shared it with you-- at all?!"  I shook my head and assured him my oldest daughter rarely shares anything with me, certainly not her writing.

He went on to explain the theme of the yearbook "Out of the Ordinary" and how the book would showcase individual stories of the lives of students in the high school.  Each writer was tasked with finding a story, approaching the subject, getting permission, conducting the interview, and writing the piece.  Most of the features highlighted students who were: athletes with standout seasons, musicians who played multiple instruments, students who had jobs inside or outside of school, high-achieving academics, trendsetters in fashion or some other area.  Amanda's story was about Ruthie and Matthew.  Ruthie was a transfer student to the high school, after getting pregnant, giving birth to her son, and returning to class as a mother.

The teacher told me how Amanda first faced a bit of push-back about her choice of feature.  She next got opposition from her subject, who did not wish to be interviewed, and only consented after a series of conversations during which a friendship was forged.  Then, there was the ongoing discussion of how to present this story of student life.  Was it possible for a peer to tell the story of a teen mom without glorifying her or condemning her?  This educator became more animated as he shared all of this, eventually pausing and asking why I wasn't saying anything.  I said, "I believe you know a bit of my background as a journalist and writer; however, there's no way you could know that in all the years since I elected to be home raising my family, my primary charitable work has been as a resource for pregnant women, struggling families, and foster care providers.  I mostly listen, and tell women I support them in having babies, and then I do whatever I can to actually support them."  The teacher nodded.

A few weeks later, the yearbook was released.  It is a massive tome, impressive and award-winning by all accounts.  Each book also costs about as much as my first car.  Amanda came home from her school day and gushed, "Today was one of the greatest days of my life!"  This, from a girl who seems to do great things every day of her life.  WOW, I thought, and asked, "Why?  What does that mean?"  Amanda said, "Well, this afternoon, all the students got their yearbooks, and, as a staff member, I was working the table distributing them.  It just so happened that Ruthie got in my line, Mom, so I was able to hand her her own yearbook and show her the story, which is right at the beginning.  Ruthie cried, Mom, and she told me this was the best gift.  She was headed straight home to show her son.  Today is Matthew's first birthday!"

I told Amanda how wonderful that was and I gave her a hug.  I took the yearbook from her and read the story for the first time.  She asked me what I thought and I said, "Good job, kiddo!  Now, I've been thinking of Ruthie and Matthew, and I've been meaning to talk with you..."  My daughter cut me off.  "Mama, I already asked Ruthie if she needs diapers or formula or clothes for the baby.  I told her how close we live to the high school, and I offered that I could babysit or Libby could babysit if she ever needs a break and her parents are busy.  I told her you're home during the day to help, too.  She has a good family, Mama.  Ruthie and Matthew have support.  But I know we will always help, too.  I already told her, Mama."

Yesterday, Amanda's high school yearbook staff attended the Minnesota High School Journalism Convention, where this particular student life copy won the Gold Medallion Award, first place, as judged by the Minnesota High School Press Association.  But the greater rewards had already been given.  Yes, I am a proud parent, just as Ruthie is.  Pride, thankfully, is dwarfed by gratitude.  Let us always honor one another, our struggles and our accomplishments, with our care.  The kids are going to have it engraved on my headstone, I swear (as long as I foot the bill for all those carved letters): We are here to take care of each other.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Your Words

I've said it before, and I'll probably say it again, because there just aren't that many new things to say...  But I clearly know some amazing people, with whom I've had wonderful conversations over the years, and whose words echo through my brain-- advising me, comforting me, warning me.  Today, actually, a bunch of those commonly recalled quotes are coming up at once.  I'm not including any attribution here because I don't know if these are original words (though I suspect they all are) and I don't know if the quotables would feel comfortable being named.

"High school is such a short period of time, but so much happens in that time."

"Pain changes people."

"Oh, I don't believe God doesn't intend for us to suffer.  Actually, suffering may be the whole point."

"Some people should not build houses."

"You know that pitted feeling in your belly?  That nag in your mind?  The ache in your heart?  That's your conscience-- it's telling you absolute right or wrong.  No one can ever ask you to go against your conscience."

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Scary Mommy

As a follow-up to my previous reference to parent-teacher conferences, I jokingly asked the girls when they got home from school today, "So, what was all the talk on conference night?  Did you teachers all say they loved meeting me?"  The two were quiet.  They looked at one another.  There was probably some kicking under the table.  Finally, one answered, "Uh, no, mine didn't say anything."  The other piped up, "Oh, all the teachers talked about you, Mom.  They're scared of you."  I was indignant: "What?!  Scared of me? WHY?! I'm just a mom who's interested in her kids' academics."  But she held firm, "I know you are, Mom, but that's not how you come across.  They said you are so still, sitting across the table.  You watch them intently and don't say anything; you just nod and show the slightest smile."  The other teen pantomimed her sister's description.

Let me be very clear: Teachers, I support you.  I am on your team.  I show up to parent-teacher conferences so you know that.  I know you don't have much to say about my kids, and that's a good thing, and I'm sorry if you feel uncomfortable and put-on-the-spot.  But, if you're intimidated... if you feel scared?  Well, that's probably because of something you did.

Gratitude Gets You Everywhere

In the middle of Hobby Lobby, my phone dinged.  It was a text from a fellow school mommy friend that just said, "Thank you."  I had done nothing and could not imagine for what she could be thanking me.  She soon followed up the text with, "Hmm.  Sorry, I pocket texted you.  But, thank you for being you."  There were also cute emojis.  It was funny, little thing to happen.

At high school parent-teacher conferences last night. I had quite the rounds to make, what with two students there and wanting all their teachers to see my eyeballs and know I'm invested in my kids' educations.  Conferences went well as, by the grace of God, they typically do for Krinkeland.  I sat across the table from teacher after teacher, who ran down their electronic grade books, displayed examples of coursework, and answered questions related to college aspirations.  Those educators who have taught Amanda and Elisabeth remarked to the letter how different the two girls are.  Most of the teachers' comments were chased by some version of, "But I'm sure you already know that."  I do.

One teacher relayed one child's performance and behavior in her class as all-good-high-achieving-hard-working-helpful-toward-classmates.  Yet, as she took a breath for the wind-up, her eyes brimmed with tears.  "You know what?  At the end of every class, your daughter says 'Thank you, Mrs. (Name), for teaching me.'"  I gave a small smile of acknowledgement and understanding, but she kept staring at me.  Finally, I chuckled just a bit and muttered, "Well, good."  The educator said, "No one else says that."

Say, "Thank you" whenever you're thankful for someone, for something they've given, for something they've done.  It shouldn't be unusual or surprising.  We need one another, and we should acknowledge the value of other humans.  No one does this alone.  Gratitude gets you everywhere.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Making Room

We were a bit early to church this evening, as Benjamin was scheduled to serve mass.  He headed to the sacristy as I found a seat on the end of a mostly empty pew.  As I nodded to those around me, said my "hello prayers" to God, and got settled, an elderly threesome wandered up the aisle looking for a place to sit.  They appeared to be an older, married couple along with one of their mothers. 

I moved way into the pew to give them room and invited them in.  The oldest woman kept going, to the pew in front of me, which was mostly full, and where someone had placed a handbag and overcoat in the remaining empty space.  I said, "I think someone is sitting there, but there's room here."  She wasn't having it.  She moved other parishioners down and motioned for the man and woman to join her.  The man leaned in and said, "Those are someone's things.  It looks like someone was already planning to sit there."  She sat.

I picked up the purse and coat and moved them to the end of the pew I was sitting in.  "Don't worry," I told the couple, leaning forward.  "I'm sure these belong to the sacristan who's helping to organize mass.  She won't mind sitting one pew back here."  They smiled and rested.

Meanwhile, the couple behind me was watching the entire scene, entertained.  The woman leaned over and hissed to her husband, "That woman must be a teacher-- she's a problem-solver," and they chuckled.  No, ma'am, I'm just a mommy.  More than that, however, I'm a churchgoer who has seen lack of welcoming lead to lack of attendance.  I'm not the stinking Welcome Wagon; I'm just a human being who recognizes that everyone wants to feel as though they belong.  Now, be nice!

P.S.  It was fine.  The things did belong to the sacristan, who is a friend of mine.  Her husband and daughter showed up before her pre-mass work was done, spotted the handbag and sat down next to it.  Incidentally, she and her husband are teachers.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Fine Dining, the Krinkeland Way

Some people spend days, weeks putting together a spaghetti dinner.  I got about an hour.  Not bragging-- it's just the story of my life.

I should have known before I answered the phone.  Kids always text.  If they call, it's going to be something.  There was a lot of noise in the background and she was kind of breaking up.  "Hi, Mom!  Just a quick... small... favor?"  Oldest Daughter went on to explain she was a choir rehearsal, as she is every Monday after school, but that the musical directors had also called for Monday evening rehearsal.  So, a bunch of the choir kids who are also in the musical would have an hour or less (and no money) to get dinner between the two sessions, and, since our house is close to the school, and since I'm probably making supper anyway, could the friends just come over and eat with us?  It would only be eight or nine additional diners.

The answer to this question is always YES.

Our home has long been a hub for teenagers.  On the plus side, it is close to the schools and we always have a stocked fridge and pantry.  On the minus side, for the past 10 months, the house has been torn apart in this ever-expanding, never-ending, where's-the-progress renovation project.  On the hilarious side, the kids don't seem to care.  The gatherings and drop-ins usually include a mix of familiar characters with some I've never met-- and I can only imagine what must go through their minds.  On the I-don't-know-which-side-this-is, I am generally home.

I said, "That's fine, kiddo.  We're just having spaghetti."  It was true, all true.  I added some more sauce to the pot, picked out the wilty bits from the backup bag of salad, and had Maddy help me assemble trays of garlic bread, and by "garlic bread" I mean leftover hamburger and hot dog buns, halved and topped with butter, garlic and shredded cheese.  Oh, yes, I did!  ANYBODY, wanna show up in my destitute circumstances and eat whatever I happen to scrounge up?  YOU. ARE. WELCOME.

P.S. While dishing up his plate, one kid remarked, "It kind of feels like I'm back in daycare."  Another picked up a bun and asked, "What is this?"

Monday, September 30, 2019

Here to Help

Does it sometimes feel as though everyone has cancer?  No, just me?  I hope it's just me who feels that way... but I think we would be hard-pressed to deny that prevalence of the disease is on the rise and widespread. 

Sometimes I get wrapped up thinking of the WHY behind this: Preservatives in food?  Pesticides in the environment?  Radiation from technological devices?  More developed detection methods?  Not more disease, but rather more talking about it?  Emotional toxicity?  Stress, stress, STRESS?

Most of the time, though, I just try to find more time to pray and to support those in my life who are battling cancer, along with their families.  My friend Staci lost her fight with squamous cell skin cancer in April.  Beloved wife and mother and adored church leader Teri died from ovarian cancer shortly thereafter.  Taylor, whose story I followed on CaringBridge for years, recently died after weathering three different kinds of cancer.

At any given time, my CaringBridge site list contains upwards of three dozen patients.  Most of those have cancer.  This week, we will celebrate my FIL's birthday.  He died at way too young an age of esophageal cancer.  I can think of three friends-- vital presences in the lives of people I love-- who have been diagnosed with cancer in the past few weeks.  It's so much.

I'm not exactly sure where I was going with this.  I will continue to try to update the list of prayer requests.  I also ask you to pray for those who wish to not be listed, and especially for families left behind when someone they love dearly dies of cancer.  If you know someone who is suffering, I urge you to run to them.  I know it's uncomfortable, not fun, HARD... but it's oh-so-important.  We are all in this together.

As I'm typing, I am reminded of a story I never shared (from my non-blogging period.)  A few years ago, I had reason to spend some time at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.  It is a world-class medical facility.  I have had a number of family members and friends receive treatment there, as well as friends and family members who have worked there.  During this visit, we spent considerable time on the Oncology and Hematology floor of the Gonda Building.  It was a scary and sad place.  Our last stop was at the main lab area.  If you've never been there, I'll try to describe it:  Imagine the lab at your local clinic; then, multiply the area by 1,000, the bodies of patients by 200, and the bodies of technicians and nurses by 100.  I don't know... I'm guessing... but it's huge, and it's busy, and-- oh, I forgot-- it's in the basement.

The space is massive and, at least on this day, quite full.  Everywhere I looked, there were people in wheelchairs, with ports hooked up to IVs, with bandages, on oxygen, weeping.  My overwhelming first thought was, There's so much suffering.  It was heartbreaking. 

Then, I looked again.  Beside nearly every one of those patients was a support person, a family member, a friend.  They were holding hands, rubbing backs, steadying arms, sharing magazines, sharing coffee, sharing laughs.  I was overwhelmed with this thought: There's so much love.  It was heart-healing.

We must be with one another in our suffering.  It is how we survive, how we thrive.  All of us.  I am always telling my children, "We are here to help one another."  I saw it no place more strikingly than at Mayo.

Sunday, September 29, 2019


I am sitting in the basement right now, in my makeshift bedroom, relocated by a home renovation run amok and awry. (But that is for a different post-- an entire book, really.)  Overhead, I hear clicking and stepping and stomping.  Amanda and Elisabeth have recently been cast in the high school's musical "Guys and Dolls" and much practice is required.

Amanda, a senior, will play the role of Adelaide; Elisabeth, a sophomore, is one of just four Hot Box Dancers.  In a down moment, Libby may snark, "All I ever do is play backup to Amanda," but I think she knows what a significant part she plays in the production, as well.  She is concerned that she is the one with the least dance training and experience, by far.  Hence, there is stomping and stepping and clicking overhead.

In some circles, it's a debate as old as time.  I don't find it particularly interesting to discuss athletics versus the arts, because I do altruistically believe there is room for all, plenty of places at the table.  I also don't have to engage much, because none of our children has shown too much talent or interest in sports, and they have all gravitated more toward the performing arts.  Showtunes are sung here ALL THE TIME.  Yet, I do feel compelled to mention, for those who are not familiar with the process: This rehearsing for a musical is serious, demanding, time-consuming stuff.  Getting into the show in the first place is an extremely competitive process-- many audition, few are cast.  That brings its own set of confusing emotions and awkward encounters.  Libby said, "Mom, I feel like I can't even talk about the musical, because I'll hurt the feelings of any one of my friends who didn't get in."  Then, there are the two- to three-hour daily rehearsals after school.  Many of the children-- ours included-- also take private voice, dance or acting lessons.  And they practice on their own.  Oh, how they practice on their own!  Cue the tapping on the ceiling!

I have long applauded young performers.  When Todd and I were very involved with Saints On Stage, the musical theater program we helped found at the kids' Catholic primary school, I often remarked, "Even if a child does this just one time, just once-- the courage required to take the stage and perform will carry that youngster into so much future success, with such a feeling of accomplishment."  Mostly, I want my kids to do what they love... but this is especially nice, since their dad and I love seeing them shine.

What's more, this won't be Libby and Amanda's first production of "Guys and Dolls."  Yes, they've seen it numerous times, put on by various troupes in different venues; but, they've also previously acted in "Guys and Dolls."  Saints On Stage chose the junior version for its annual musical production in 2013.  Click here for a highlight reel Todd put together from that show.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

A Collection of Friends

I got distracted today, scrolling through old blog posts, remembering my babies and the way life used to be.  I was reading through a section that was B.M. (Before Madeline) where Amanda was in kindergarten, Elisabeth was in preschool, and Benjamin was a toddler.  I was particularly struck by this entry:  I will remind you that now Amanda is a senior and Libby is a sophomore.  They both have their friends-- many of the same friends-- but their personalities and preferences have not changed.

This is a photo of Libby and Amanda (front row, right) with a group of their friends from the theater department before the homecoming dance.  The girls were each invited to join several groups of friends for photos and dancing, but both chose this place and these people.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Therapist Share

I discovered something wonderful: Godson Tad's new physical therapist is Margaret.  Ben's Margaret!  OK, maybe this shouldn't be a headline in the real, big, bad world, but it sure is in mine.  (Disclaimer: Her legal name is not "Ben's Margaret" but that is always who she will be to our family.)

For the uninitiated among us, Krinkeland's only boy, our 13-year-old son Benjamin, has some unique physical characteristics that are-- and have always been-- "just Ben."  When Ben was an infant and toddler, the way his body moved (or didn't move) was often cause for concern.  While pediatricians and geneticists and neurologists and endocrinologists and cardiologists and gastroenterologists and all their fellows and all their nurses and all their lab techs looked for answers... well, I just tried to make it my mission to make sure Benjamin had all the resources and all the opportunities to be the best Ben he could be.  We still don't have answers (and we've stopped looking) but he definitely is the best Ben.

Benjamin was very late to roll over and much later to sit up.  He never crawled.  He took his first steps at a later age, and was slow to develop related motor skills, such as running, jumping, hopping and climbing stairs.  Because of this, he received early childhood special education services.  Different people came to our home to work with Benjamin on developing these skills.  It was a lot of work, for them and for me and especially for Ben.

Today, Benjamin is the manager of the seventh grade football team.  OK, OK, he says assistant coach-- whatever.  Last weekend, he was invited to celebrate a friend's birthday party at Valleyfair and Ben rode on rollercoasters.  He's in Red Cross Level 5 swim lessons.  Ben went to basketball camp and sleep away church camp this past summer.  BENJAMIN IS AMAZING.

I give some of the credit for this amazingness to Margaret.  Margaret is a physical therapist.  I found this photo of her in a 2008 session with Ben:

Benjamin long ago graduated from Margaret, and Margaret went on to different clients and different positions.  We didn't keep in regular contact.  But the world is so small.

Yesterday, I took Madeline to her piano lesson at my sister's house, and, as my sister handed me Thaddeus, she mentioned he was tired after working with "his new physical therapist Margaret."  I thought the name was a coincidence, but that's all I thought at first.  Then, I saw her name signed at the bottom of an evaluation form!

I am now so, so excited for Tad and for Ellen.  Margaret will be tough and tender and she will help Tad be the best Tad he can be.  I couldn't resist dropping Margaret a line after I connected all the dots.  Her response was so sweet:

"I made the connection when I read the eval and saw the names of Tad's siblings.  I recalled Ben had cousins with those names and what are the odds that there would be two families with those names?  In an email reply I got from Ellen, she had a link to her blog... she blogs!  Also a clue mom could be your sister.  Then I did the visit and met Ellen and she looks just like you!  So with those three things I knew Tad and Ben were cousins.  I just could not say anything because of confidentiality, but that cat is out of the bag now!"

It so happens another of Tad's therapists is a personal friend of mine.  (She never worked with Ben.)  That friend and I were recently volunteering together at an event, and decided to just stand in a corner and talk about how cute Tad is.  We even compared photos on our phones!  I thank God daily in my prayers for Margaret, Ben's Pam, Mrs. A. and all the people who've helped teach, support and love on my boy... and now on my nephew!  It is all so, so good.