Archive for the ‘kids’ Category

Presented By a Cousin of Mine (what a great extended family I have!)

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A Fluffy, Cold Piece of Cotton

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I had a lovely school vacation adventure by taking 20 kiddos who are blind to New Hampshire. What a lot of work, you say???? The work doesn’t compare to the joy that fills my heart as I watch these young children socialize and help each other, several of whom were away from home for the first time, many of whom had never stayed in a hotel, and several of whom had never swum in an indoor swimming pool, (or swim anywhere at all for that fact.) I want to share some heartwarming moments to possibly warm your own hearts as well during this cold, cold winter.

* A six year old Cambodian girl who had never been away from home before and whose mom had not packed properly for her, was wearing a donated bathing suit so large it had to be tied onto her so as to cover the “important parts”. As she held onto the railing of the pool and took that first step into the water, her serious face started to smile. On the second step, the smile grew larger, and on the third step, even larger still. By the time she was in the pool, she had a grin from ear to ear, and was giggling excitedly. She bounced up and down in the water, hearing it splash all around her, laughing louder still! She giggled throughout her first swim, and that made my heart giggle.

* A fourteen year old girl took the initiative to help a seven year old girl, leading her to the activities, bathroom, dining table and so forth, with both of them using their white canes. In school, this teen is often seen as “helpless” or to be pitied. As she conscientiously stuck by the side of the younger girl, choosing to do the activities the younger girl wanted to do instead of more selfishly choosing teen activities, her demonstration of compassion and leadership made her a great role model, not to be pitied but to be admired. Her pride made my heart proud.

* Three young girls, bundled up and huddled together in a single, large Superman sled, coast down the snowy hill, twisting and twirling, their laughter piercing the air with screeches similar to those made when going on a roller coaster. Their request for “more, more, more” despite the frigid temperatures belies their joy in sledding, something none of them had done before. Their excitement filled my heart with excitement.

* A young boy, used to having his food cut up by his mom, practiced using a knife on his chicken parmesan, sawing the knife back and forth to release each savory piece, then stabbing it with a fork and bringing it to his mouth with a look of satisfaction. The young boy next to him, who is used to eating EVERYTHING with his fingers, (he’s BLIND, you know….he can’t possibly use utensils are his parent’s thoughts,) was taught to use a piece of bread to coax his food onto a fork by the teen sitting next to him. At first, much of the food didn’t reach his mouth, but he kept trying, urged on by his seat mate. By the end of the meal, he had independently filled his tummy, filling my own heart with his feeling of success.

* All of the kiddos were up on the dance floor, bopping and bouncing to songs such as YMCA, The Chicken Dance, Cotton-Eyed Joe, the Hokey Pokey, the Macarena, The Hustle, Stomp and the Cha Cha Slide. Line dances are perfect for them, and they teach each other the steps. No one is left out and everyone has great fun, wildly swinging their arms, kicking their legs, and sashaying their hair. Watching this group of kids dance, almost in unison, with smiles and giggles and laughter, fills my heart with beautiful music.

And one last little moment: it had started to snow, big, fat flakes of snow, some an inch around and as fluffy as cotton balls. One child started the movement by looking up into the sky with his arms wide and his mouth open, catching the flakes on his tongue. With excitement, the other children follow, arms out, mouths open, allowing the fluffy pieces to rest on their tongues and drop down onto their faces. They were amazed!! So THAT was what a snowflake looked like! At home, they usually rush through the snow, heads down, but on this date they were welcoming the experience. They didn’t need to see the snow to enjoy it, they could feel its beauty and how the warmth of their bodies melted the fragile snowflakes into little piles of water. How amazing! How joyful! What an eye opening experience!

Quick…Tell Me Where to Turn

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Marie and I attended a baby shower for a cousin today, and had a fabulous time. For an activity, they decorated baby onesies. Marie, who is very artistic with fabric paint, designed six. Each one had a fabulous design and appropriate wording-for HER. My favorite was a picture of the dad. She perfectly captured his beard, big, bright smile and curly hair. His blue eyes actually had a gleam in them, and his cheeks were pink with excitement. On it she wrote: “Happy daddy, baby boy yes”, replicating how the words are signed in ASL. This for a new dad who did not yet know the sex of his child!

Driving the 45 minutes to the restaurant, Marie was in charge of the GPS. She loves it when I give her this “job” because it keeps her active during the drive. Previously when riding in a car, Marie would try to sign to me, but I have to keep my eyes on the road and taking my hands off the wheel is problematic. The problem was solved by making her my navigational guru. She takes her job very seriously. She motions me into the proper travel lanes, and tells me when and where to turn. It is especially tricky when driving in a city as we were today. “In 2 tenths of a mile take a left.” Left here. she points. “In 4 tenths of a mile take a right”. Right there, she motions. We efficiently executed the twists and turns to perfection, and she was very proud of her directional skills when we arrived. Should I ever tell her that the GPS was also talking to me?????

Bring the Fattened Calf; The Prodigal Son Returns

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The holiday season joyously reunites my family! Although Francis is not entirely a Prodigal Son, he is the one son who moved out of state to seek his fame and fortune. Having his Ph.D. from Cambridge specializing in Human Computer Interaction, he has found a fruitful niche among the computer conglomerates in Silicon Valley, California. He has purchased a modest half-million dollar home, (very much similar to the small ranch style homes back east, only less yard and much costlier.) He married an amazing woman who can DRIVE and for whom his vision impairment is not an issue. They recently had a one of a kind baby; a baby so pure and white and bald that she resembles an Alien. (Ooooops! I didn’t just say that, did I?) The best thing is, he comes home every Christmas!

Preparing for his arrival takes a lot of work. Being somewhat of an advocate for letting dust live out its life where it lay, I spend the month before his arrival cleaning; the usual spots, of course, but also those spots not generally covered in a regular cleaning; washing and waxing the cabinets, washing all of the walls so they look as clean as the day they were painted, cleaning under the soap dish in the bathtub, pulling out every speck of dust hiding under the radiators, and cleaning “his” bedroom so clean that it could be considered a sanitary room for a person undergoing a bone marrow transplant. I’ve added a rocking chair for baby to feed lovingly and comfortably. The sheets with flowers are washed with “spring” fabric softener, giving them a sensational floral scent, perfect for a multi-sensory feel. (Yes, sniff in the scent. It is a happy, welcome home scent!)

The decor of my home is generally early mishmash, but when Francis comes home, the walls are decorated with a multitude of photos of all of our children, hastily put together from photos from Facebook. (It is something I mean to do all year but never get around to doing.) The Christmas tree and house decorations are pulled from the bowels of the cellar, decorated and placed in traditional places. Same candles in the window as when Francis was a child, same tree, same decorations including the nativity scene that Francis enjoyed rearranging when he was a child. (He loved to put the donkey in the manger and lay the Wise Men down for a nap after their long hike.) All reminiscent of Christmas’ past.

Hubby, who is generally an excellent cook anyway, also prepares for the special visit. He makes seafood casserole, baked stuffed lobster, “stuffies”, prime rib (sorry fattened calf,) lasagna,and baked ham. For Christmas, we have a traditional turkey dinner, with Marie leading us in saying grace in sign language, joined in by all, (except Francis’ new wife who has not yet caught up in communicating with Marie.) The week is a gastric feast like no other, and poundage is added to us all.

For this one week of Francis’ visit, “normal” life is put aside for a week of conversation, a clean house, a joyful present exchange, visits to nearby sights of interest, (the ski area with the tubing hill, the amazing number of Christmas lights on houses that spend thousands of dollar on decorations, the local breweries, the wild, ravaging waves of the ocean, and, of course, Dave and Buster’s.)

Francis and his little family will be leaving tomorrow and life will be back to normal. I will miss him. And I will be waiting for his return next year!

Do any of you have prodigal children who return for the holiday? How is it for you?

A Special Birthday

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I sat in church this morning and watched the annual Christmas Pageant put on by the children in Sunday School. This tradition is always a treasure to see, especially when one of my own children had a starring role, such as Francis’ turn as a Wise Man, a role he “rocked” because he is super tall and regal and he is great at leading the way using a staff, (for his blindness); or Dinora’s role as Mary with her long black hair and wide, innocent eyes; or Angel’s turn as, what else, an angel. Although there was a myriad of rejoicing angels, only his had a wide, bright smile and a comical, rhythmical walk down the aisle. (Yes, Angel will do anything to stand out from the crowd.) As a mom, pride would burst from me and tears would form in my eyes as I watched my children participate in this holiday portrayal of the birth of Christ.
Today was different for me. My children are no longer of age to directly participate in the production this year, and I thought my feelings about it would be different. But they weren’t! I was still tearful as I was caught up in the gentle story of Mary and Joseph in the barn, standing in the stable until Mary collapsed in the hay to give birth to her Son. And the animals who engulfed children, their heads peaking out through costumes of a donkey, goat, and cow, who stood on the stage trying not to trip because the animal bodies were interfering with their vision. Then the shepherds were coming down the aisle, carrying stuffed sheep and being followed by toddlers wearing sheep hats, white fur and white gloves, baaaa baaaaa baaaaing like sheep. The angels coming, wings and halos and white robes, singing, dancing joyfully down the aisle, sashaying and waving the arms as though dancing to the movie “Frozen”. And then the three wise men, not lead by a tall, regal child like Francis, but led by a solemn young boy with glasses, grasping his Frankincense carefully, so as not to drop the treasure. And when they all arrived, they sang “Away in a Manger”. Then, like the Keystone Cops, they arranged themselves in front of the manger, in a timely fashion, each raised a letter to spell out a special song, a non-religious song, a wonderfully inspired song; “Happy birthday, dear Jesus”. They were wide eyed and joyful and full of the love of this new baby, Christ, who on the day of his birth changed the world for all of us.

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To Be Joyful with So Little

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When Dinora and I visited her birth place, Guatemala, we spent some time with moms who were working picking coffee beans. They toil all day while their children play nearby. Prepared for this visit, Dinora had a backpack full of little toys; small dolls, Matchbox cars, bouncy balls, toy rings, and so forth. (Above is a picture of a little girl clutching a small ring in her hand, so pleased with her gift.) The children were amazingly polite. Each child would gather around Dinora as she gave them each a small toy. Taking it delightfully appreciative into their little hands, they smiled shyly and stepped back to leave room for others to come forward. They didn’t crowd her. They didn’t ask for more, more, more. They reveled in the joy of that tiny toy! Sheer happiness!

It made me realize that more and expensive and better isn’t the right Christmas concept for children as they may not fully appreciate their multitude of blessings. If only they could experience the happiness on Christmas that those children among the coffee bean trees exhibited. Pure joy! What a concept!

As Peaceful as Falling Snow

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My husband and I have the tradition of going to our little cabin in NH at least once a month.  We have had a real challenge raising Marie and Steven lately, so this weekend was especially timely.  Right now I am sitting in a comfy chair, feet up, air warm around me, and a cup of hot chocolate with lots of marshmallows sitting on the table next to me, adding steam to the air.  I am smiling thinking of how this cabin has served us well over the years.

When Steven came to live with us, his obsessive compulsive disorder, extreme hyperactivity and severe sensory integration difficulties were not conducive to family vacations in hotels and such. My father, who adored Steven and saw many of my brother’s mental health traits in him, generously purchased this little vacation home.  He himself had always wanted a house in New Hampshire, and he was proud to be able to give me something that would last a lifetime.  The cabin is full of his carvings, including a sign that says “RELAX!!!”  It might be a reminder to actually relax, except on the sign is a carved eagle with a beak so sharp and long and eyes so wildly life like that it kind of scares me instead.  Fortunately, I have learned to look on this sign with love, a reminder of my dad and his “quirky ways”.

On the wall of the cabin are pictures of the kiddos through the years; Francis water skiing, Dinora standing gloriously in front of Mount Washington, Steven holding up his bucket y.of frogs, one frog in his hand thrust towards the camera looking huge next to his tiny body, Andy wildly waving a sparkler on the Fourth of July and Marie holding up a huge fish she caught ice fishing, almost too heavy for her to hold.  There are other pictures of all of us together, or the kiddos playing in the sand at the beach, cuddling on the deck of the cabin, or hiking in the woods.  The pictures are a nice reminder that we have been parents for a long time, and our children have led full and happy lives with us.

While staying in the cabin is reminiscent, it also serves as a retreat for me and my husband.  It is very quiet here.  No telephone reception. No multitude of cable tv channels.  No internet.  No neighbors. No housework.   No stress.

The weekend is a wonderful interlude to our busy lives, an interlude where we are free to nap all day, laugh at silly things, eat  wonderful concoctions Raymond dreams up, (last night it was shrimp rolled in bacon and topped with cheese,) and spend lots of time loving each other.  While we are loving when at home, we go into overdrive in the secluded cabin. No neighbors can hear our screeching laughs.   No children can walk in on our sexual escapades, and no one cares if I walk around bra-less. We are “free and easy”, and the stress just melts away…

Today, the day we will be packing up to go home, I am sitting here writing this, content watching the snow slowly falling outside; soft, fluffy, amazingly beautiful snow!  Peace surrounds me now.  I am well rested and have laughed and loved my stress away, and I am ready to go home to face whatever challenges may come my way.  Bring it on!

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