`Big Sister, Little Sister' bond with love

Sometimes they do crafts together. Sometimes they watch videos. Sometimes they go shopping.

Sometimes they just hug.

This week, it's dinner together at Shari's Restaurant.

They sit on the same side of the booth and Katie helps Esther read the kid's menu.

"I want that," says Esther, pointing to the picture of the Cheesy Dilla. When the waitress comes, Katie orders for her.

Esther Simmons is Katie Tager's little sister. Actually, the pair are two generations apart in age -- Esther is 13, Katie 48 -- but they found each other through Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Columbia Gorge, a mentoring program administered by The Next Door, Inc. Katie, who has mild mental retardation and lives alone in her own apartment, was looking for a girl she could mentor who also was developmentally disabled.

Katie and Esther met last summer and liked each other.

"We've been together ever since," Katie says. They get together once a week at least -- "sometimes more," she adds.

They wait for their dinner and talk about the Special Olympics; Katie is an old pro at and Esther will compete in the games for the first time next month.

"I'm really fast," Esther says. "I run hard. I get tired but I just keep going." Katie says she mostly has to walk now, because of her knees. But she's won all kinds of medals in past Olympics and will be rooting for Esther to win medals of her own.

They talk about school. Esther goes to Wy'east Middle School and is learning to read. They talk about movies -- neither of them likes scary ones. They talk about shopping -- they both love to shop.

They talk about each other.

"Esther is like a littler sister than the one I've got," Katie says. "I feel more responsible with her. We laugh a lot. Whenever something's funny she tells me about it and we laugh."

Esther breaks into a silly, infectious giggle.

"I like how Katie smiles," she says. "I also like how she talks. I like to give her hugs and she gives me lots of hugs."

Katie: "One other thing about Esther is she's always happy and she cheers me up when I'm having a down day."

Esther: "I like her rings." One is a kitty cat, the other her birthstone, Katie explains, holding out her hands.

Esther's Cheesy Dilla comes, along with a salad for Katie, and they eat and talk.

"Remember when we got plain white t-shirts and we decorated them with markers?" Katie asks.

"We have to do it again, Katie, because mine washed off," Esther says, giving her big sister a sideways glance. They discuss doing it with sweatshirts this time, since it's winter.

Katie and Esther get help for their activities from Katie Folliard, who oversees the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. She's given them a coupon for tonight's dinner, and helps Katie with ideas about activities they can share.

Esther's mom, Ronni Simmons, helps with transportation since Katie doesn't drive. She's happy to do it.

"I love it that Katie is Esther's big sister," Ronni says. "Katie has a real good motivating spirit about her." She often drops Esther off at Katie's apartment, or drives them around where they need to go.

"I like their relationship," Ronni says. "They shop together. They laugh together. It's a great thing."

Speaking of laughing, Katie and Esther are laughing again in their booth at Shari's. They are being silly, just like sisters, cracking each other up about stuffed animals.

They talk about what to do next time.

"One thing we haven't done yet is have a pajama party," Esther says. "I could come over to your house in my pajamas." Giggle.

"And I could be in my pajamas," Katie says. Big sisterly smile.

"We're perfect together," Katie says. "She's my little angel."

The Big Brothers Big Sisters program can be reached at 387-2367.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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