Umbrella or Bucket?

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Just an observation: It seems that we have a new generation of “bucket babies”, babies carried around in their infant seats. While this is probably the safest way to transport them from one place to another, it seems like added stress for parents…imagine having to carry your baby AND his/her car seat every where you go! Even though their little ones may weigh only eight pounds, it must feel like carrying 50 pounds around. It ties up one hand, leaving the remaining hand to juggling car keys, diaper bag, purse, cell phone and iced coffee.

“In my day” (just like a grandmother would say,) I used umbrella strollers. They were exceptionally light and freeing, and the little one would hunker down comfy and safe while I pushed him/her around. Everywhere. Especially shopping where I would gleefully use the back of the stroller as my own personal shopping rack. Of course, when the children were infants, I could only hang a few things on the back. When they were toddlers and their weight balanced out my potential purchases, a lot more items would fit! (Thus my expanding shopping budget…)

I no longer carry little ones around, and my children have long outgrown the umbrella stroller, which is fading into extinction. Too bad…

It Made Me Love Him More

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My hubby took good care of my brother when he used to come home on weekends, (he lived in a group home during the week.) Curtis was a lively, spirited young man who also happened to be deaf, legally blind, developmentally delayed and schizophrenic. Additionally, his speech was extremely hard to understand due to several unsuccessful cleft palate surgeries. I knew what he was saying because I grew up with him, but to most people, his communication was a variety of grunts and mumbles. My kiddos, who also grew up with him around, loved him unconditionally and always managed to communicate in their own ways. Hubby was much more cautious, as he would feel awful if Curtis tried to tell him something that he couldn’t understand. So, hubby did not socialize with Curtis much. Get him snacks, put on his favorite tv shows, wash his clothes…fine. Have a conversation about his wants and needs…not so fine. I had the impression that hubby never really bonded with him, although he was always polite.

Recently we saved up money to purchase our first flat screen tv for the wall, which saw our old, clunky television cabinet tossed to the curb. On the cabinet sat a withered plant, the result of my own brown thumb and inattention. I told hubby to toss it in the garbage. “NO!” he shouted, unexpectedly. I was so surprised at his reaction because he is normally quite soft spoken. Looking closely at him, I could see that his eyes had filled with tears and one had started to trickle down his cheek. When I asked him why, he managed to croak out “Curtis…”, and then he burst into tears. It had been a plant from Curtis’ funeral! I hadn’t even remembered that, (I was in quite a tizzy at the time.) “We can’t throw it out!” he said as he plucked out some of the dry leaves and brought it to the sink for watering. He fluffed it up as best he could and put it in the middle of the dining room table. The next day the plant had a new, larger vase that would let the roots spread out and grow. I saw this as a demonstration that he had, in fact, actually cared about my brother! It made me love my husband even more!

p>For more stories us, please, read my book. Here is a link:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-apple-tree/id538572206?mt=11

The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane

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I admit it, my life revolves around food. I start the day with breakfast; eggs, toast and tea. By noon time, my stomach is growling and asking for more to eat, and I unfailingly grant its wish. Because of my own feelings about food, I have extra empathy for those who do not have enough to eat.

Today, our Lutheran Church celebrated “God’s Work, Our Hands”. One of our group projects was a specialty of mine, something I do with my own children on a monthly basis. We made 128 bag lunches for the homeless. Bologna and cheese sandwiches, apple sauce and potato chips. When the production was finished, Marie and I drove to the local agency for the homeless and dropped them off. This is something we have done on a regular basis. Years ago, when we started this tradition, Marie was wary of the people milling about outside the building. Some were dirty, some were minorities, some with disabilities, some with obvious mental illness; scary people to a young girl. But, through the years, Marie has become comfortable dropping off food. Now, she understands. She smiles at them and waves “hi”. She says “thank you” in sign language when they open the door for her. And today she proudly placed the work of her hands and the hands of our congregation on the counter. As she turned around to leave, I am sure that she did as I do; appreciates that our own stomachs never have to go without food. Making lunches is such a small sacrifice for us to make. Minuscule, really, when considering the depth of hunger that abounds. But not minuscule to those few who had lunch today.

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It was 95 degrees today! On the 6th of September! My daughter, Marie, and I spent most of the day at the movies where it was cool and comfy, munching on buttered popcorn and drinking Diet Coke. Coming home at 5:30 to stifling heat, we decided to take a swim in the pond behind our house. I had not been swimming in the lake in years. (My children, now teenagers and young adults, had lost interest in beach activities, onto other teenage endeavors that don’t involve wet bathing suits, towels, and sand between their toes.) As I stepped into the water, it was refreshingly wonderful! With Marie in tow, we each sat in a tube and paddled out to the middle of the lake. The cool water was the perfect solution for the muggy hot weather. We chatted for a while, (in sign language,) and Marie told me of the importance of wearing socks with her sneakers or her feet stink and people don’t want to come near her. She told me she enjoyed woodworking class which she had just begun, and she planned to build a house with what she was learning. We talked about teachers and boys and what her hopes and dreams are for when she “was older.” (She wants to work petting dogs and cats.)
As the conversation wore down, we both relaxed in the water, just floating and enjoying the moment. Marie took my hand in hers, a move she would have never done all those years ago when she came to live with us and would have screamed if I even touched her. I felt we were bonding anew. She shared her dreams, and now she was sharing her love. We floated in silence, watching the seagulls swoop down to get fish, and the geese fighting with them for air space. It seemed they were playing a follow the leader game, flying side by side, and then swooping into the water, geese honks and seagull squawks. We watched as the turtles poked their heads above the water. When she was younger, Marie would have taken off to joyfully capture them. But today she just floated in silence with me. More mature. More content with herself.
The time seemed timeless; we could float there all day, water lapping at our legs. But the setting sun belied the late time of day. Above the trees beautiful colors arched; pinks, oranges, purples. It was peaceful. It was relaxing. It was joyful. As we sat there in the water on our tubes holding hands…

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If you are interested in learning more about my family, here is link to my book:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-apple-tree/id538572206?mt=11

The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane

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This used to be my mom’s favorite saying. She believed it all of her life, but never as much as she did after the birth of my brother, Curtis. When she was pregnant with him, she was unknowingly exposed to German Measles, thus affecting him with Rubella Syndrome.

Curtis was unfortunate to acquire all of the accompanying diagnosis; he had a severe hearing impairment, congenital heart disease, an intellectual disability, an odd head shape (like a smooshed pear,) a cleft lip and palate, autism and was legally blind with crossed eyes that wiggled back and forth. (Additionally, when he was a teen, he developed schizophrenia, but that’s for another story…)

Because I was only 4 when he was born, I thought he was the cutest thing in the world! He was my BROTHER, after all. I delighted in feeding him formula through an eye dropper, trying to quell his kitten like hunger cries. I loved to rock him in the rocking chair, all bundled up and warm. He was a delight to me!

Curtis’s life in our family was as amazing as mine. Loving, adventurous, interesting, and accepting. Anywhere we went, I would explain to quizzical stares that he was born like that and he might look different, but inside he was the same as everyone else. In fact, he had an amazing sense of humor and would laugh at anything! He loved to eat peaches and watch Sesame Street. As I extoled my brother’s virtues, I could see their stares soften with understanding and acceptance.

The “gawking” role was reversed when I was a parent, and this moment is etched into my mind. Francis and I were at the zoo. He must have been about four years old because I remember pushing his sister, Dinora, in a stroller. Nearing a pen of vastly ugly pigs snorting mud, Francis exclaimed, “Look, mom! One of the animals got out of the cage.” I looked over and saw a horrified mother with a toddler in a stroller. A disfigured toddler, with a gaping mouth like Curtis used to have. And the child was snorting bubbles and drool. Taken aback and horrified by what Francis said, I took his hand and we walked over to the stroller. I smiled at the mom and told her what beautiful eyes her child had! I asked her if it would be okay if we touched him, and Francis and I leaned over and gently rubbed the child’s chubby little hands, which opened and closed in excitement. “He really seems to be enjoying the zoo!” I said, as we parted, smiling knowing little smiles at each other.

I then took Francis aside and explained that God makes all types of children, and “God don’t make junk!” His observational comment was an innocent one, (especially because he is legally blind,) but it provided an opportunity for a valuable lesson.

Every mother wants to be proud of her child, and to have others share in her positive feelings. Every child is a joy! Imagine yourself in the mother of a disabled child’s shoes. Have empathy for that mom. Join in her admiration of her child, and maybe you will also internalize the concept that “God don’t make junk!”

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For more stories about Curtis’ childhood and our adventurous family, please, read my book. Here is a link:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-apple-tree/id538572206?mt=11

The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane

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It happened again this morning.  It was pouring rain out.  I have to walk about 4 blocks from the parking garage to where I work.  It had been raining a LOT lately.  I had on boots and my jacket with a hood pulled over my hair to keep it from getting wet.  Several people walking near me kindly offered to share their umbrellas with me.  I politely declined.  You see, I have a real phobia about umbrellas.  Not much in this world scares me, (I have 5 kids after all.)  I was not afraid of sharks after seeing Jaws.  I was not afraid of snakes after seeing Anaconda and Snakes on a Plane. But put an umbrella near me and my knees begin to shake and I go pale. (I hate the video of Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain!)

This fear dates back to my childhood.  I don’t know how or why, but I got the fear that I was going to be poked in the eye with one of those little knobby things on the spokes at the end of the umbrella.  Getting wet in the harshest downpour could not compare to the fear of getting poked in the eye, so I would never use an umbrella.  Of course, as I grew, I have realized that this fear is slightly irrational.

When my son, Francis, was going to Cambridge University in England, he took my mother and me on a guided tour of London.  Being London, it was raining of course.  Francis and my mom had umbrellas, I chose to get wet.  No big deal.  What’s a little water?  Anyway, we were in front of Buckingham Palace and Francis wanted to get a picture of my mom and me.  She and I put our arms around each other and smiled for the picture.  He took the picture JUST as SHE POKED ME IN THE EYE with her UMBRELLA!  It is incredible to have my worst fear captured in a picture.  The good news is, my eye stayed intact in my eye socket and didn’t really get poked out. The bad news is, I still have my fear of umbrellas….

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Most people can look up and see a tree.  To a child who is blind or visually impaired, their concept of a tree is the bark they can feel. Their concept of a tree is that it is” rough”.  If they have some vision, they can tell that a tree is brown at its trunk, but “a blob of green” above the trunk.  They could grow up and their whole lives not know what a tree “looks” like.  Expanding such basic knowledge of their world is called expanding the core curriculum. It consists of concepts that are not taught in school, but are still important lessons for that child to learn in order to grow up as an educated adult who is blind.

One topic covered by the nine students, ages six through thirteen, at an April vacation program, was the concept of trees and their differences.  During a nature walk, students found that some trees were so small they could fit their hand around the trunk.  Some trees were so large that it took all nine students holding hands to encircle the trunk. Some trunks were very rough, with deep groves, and some were smooth, with little lines barely traceable by their little fingers.

They learned that evergreen trees stay green all year, and they giggled as they carefully touched the sharp needles. They never knew that trees could be so prickly!  Under the tree, they found the pinecones from which a new tree may grow.

They learned that oak trees, in the spring, have no leaves.  They closely examined the branches of an oak with a few dead leaves still attached, carefully feeling them and making the connection with the leaves they see on the ground in the autumn. Acorns which were still attached to the tree branch were felt with much enthusiasm.  They had collected acorns from the ground underneath the tree, but to actually see it attached seemed to be a surprise. They felt the new buds on the ends of the small branches, buds which would soon bloom into leaves.

Students learned about flowering trees, in full bloom during their springtime visit.  Most students were amazed that a tree could have flowers.  In their minds, trees and flowers were two entirely different things.  But there they were; pink blossoms on the end of a cherry blossom tree branch, gentle, sweet smelling little flowers.

As they were feeling and looking at the trees up close, students were in awe.  So many different types of trees!  And they would not describe a single one of them as “rough” because they were finally able to look beyond the bark.

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(I apologize, it has been a busy summer and this is a repost from 2 years ago.) For more stories about children who are blind, please, read my book. Here is a link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-apple-tree/id538572206?mt=11 The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane

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