Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

I Didn’t Know Cats Could Swim Redux

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I am very crabby today…went to the dentist. Dentists conjure up very bad memories of pain. Living with a “crazy” dad who loved to eat candy, cookies and pies, along with limited encouragement for good dental hygiene, I had many cavities as a child. When having the cavities fixed, the dentist did not use Novocain. (Either that or my parents would not pay the additional expense for Novocain because my dad was obsessively cheap.) At any rate, I equate going to the dentist with torture. Even though I am grown now, and the dentist DOES use Novocain, the experience in general is very stressful and causes me much crabbiness. Needing a boost out of my bad mood, I tried to think of something that would make me smile. Thus, I am repeating a post I did more than a year ago. One that made me giggle. One that I will share again with you…

Because my youngest daughter, who is deaf, goes to school out of state, I sometimes rent a hotel room for myself, my oldest daughter and her son, Alley (Alejandro) to visit together.  Last weekend was one such weekend.  I love to see the interaction of the three of them, Dinora signing in ASL to Marie and Alley trying to copy the signs with his small hands.  (He explains that Marie can’t talk because her ears are broken, so she has to use her hands…)  His favorite sign, “swimming”,  is used often because he wants them to spend all of their time together in the hotel pool.  It was during one of their swims, while I was sitting in the lounge chair by the pool, sipping a nice tall plastic cup of Diet Coke, and smiling while the three of them frolicked, that I was overwhelmed with a feeling of joy in my heart. They were beaming with laughter and exuding a happiness that one could not overlook…a deep, profound happiness which doesn’t often come to Marie. Seeing her eyes glint with laughter, tears stung at the back of my eyes, then slowly slipped down my cheeks.  To think that a child who had been so severely abused as she could come through all of that darkness and  despair to ultimately be able to experience such joy made my heart want to explode with love for the three of them.  I could not remember ever having been so content in my life, but my reverie was soon disturbed, but not unpleasantly…

My tears of joy were soon replaced by tears of laughter.  Alley came out of the pool and looked around…  “Where’s the cat pool?” he asked.  “The CAT pool?  There is no cat pool!” I replied.  “Yes! Yes!  In hotels there are sometimes CAT pools!” he argued, frustrated that I could not understand what he was asking. “You know, the pool for the kitties.”     Ah!  The KIDDY POOL!

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To read about Marie’s early childhood, here is a 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

Literally, God Will Provide…

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In my years on earth, miracles have happened that have strengthened my belief in God. Whether it be my daughter, Dinora, gaining hearing after being deaf, or the provision of a wildly disputed passport showing up in our mailbox just in time for her travel to her birth country when she was a teen, I have been blessed. But I’ve never been more surprised about God’s ability to provide until today…

We have to share our cars now that Angel is driving, and today was my turn to take the big family van. Being short on money this week, I fished out a one dollar bill that still clung to life in the bottom of my purse. Victory! When stopping for gas, I could go into the convenience store to get a bi-i-i-i-i-ig drink of Diet Coke to last me the day! Once in the store, I put my la-a-a-a-a-a-a-arge cup under the spigot and filled it to the brim, excited at the prospect of getting such a delight for only 89 cents! Looking up, I suddenly noticed that this was not an all sizes pay same price kind of store, and that a large soda was $1.49! My heart skipped a little bit when I realized I was going to have to go out to the van to dig up some loose change in the carpeting or under the seats to pay for the soda. Just as I was putting the lid on the cup, the store owner struck up a conversation. “That’s a big van for you to drive,” he said. “I have five kiddos and our family all has to fit,” I answered. “Yeh,” he said, “But it must be really difficult to drive that thing.” I just laughed and shrugged. I was just about to tell him that I was going to have to leave my drink on the counter to run out to get more money (hoping to dig up another 3 quarters,) when he said suddenly, unaware of my financial situation, “God bless you! The drink is on me.” I smiled and said an enthusiastic “Thank you!” He could not have understood how much this gesture was seen as a blessing, (especially because when I got back to the car I could only find six pennies, two dimes and a nickel.) God provided a Diet Coke so large that I had enough to drink all day, and I still had a dollar left in my pocket! Maybe no big deal in the scheme of things, but, to me, it was a personal affirmation that God DOES provide!

Similarly, another provision surprised me today. Having recently saved up enough to buy a flat screen television to put on the wall, we have been remodeling our living room. I washed and hemmed some new curtains and shampooed the rug. Without the large, old television cabinet, the room looked much cleaner and brighter EXCEPT for our 25 year old couch that displeasingly hugged the wall, looking like an old walrus, slumpy and bedraggled. (The couch was so old that I could not count the number of stains, or the times the skirt had been super glued back on because one child or another had ripped it off in a PTSD or dissociative fit.) I would buy a few throw pillows to brighten it up, I thought to myself, just as my phone rang. It was a neighbor, one I always wave to but don’t talk to too often. They were getting new furniture, she said, did I want their leather, L shaped couch? It was still in good shape, she explained, and they paid $6,000 for it, but they were looking to redecorate. DID I WANT IT???? DOES POPCORN POP? DO FERRIS WHEELS TURN? Yes, yes YES! Of course I wanted it! What an unexpected surprise! How wonderful is God, who provides even when we don’t ask! That is truly a Being that sees inside our hearts.

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…

“God Don’t Make Junk”

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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

Stay Away From Me With that Umbrella!

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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….

Mothers, Help Your Sons Grow Up to be Fathers…

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My oldest son, Francis, grew up amongst a caravan of foster brothers and sisters. Specializing in newborns and infants who had been affected by prenatal drug exposure and addiction, our family was usually comprised of my husband and myself, Francis, his sister, Dinora, who had been adopted from Guatemala, and one or two foster babies. Despite the fact that Francis is severely visually impaired, he played an active role in child care, frequently holding a little one, feeding a bottle and changing diapers. When going to the mall, he and his sister would proudly push the double stroller. (With the 2 of them, he could be a pusher without having to see where he was going…) Throughout his childhood, sixteen foster babies lived with us, and caring for them was just a fact of life.

Francis is now an adult with a Ph. D. from Cambridge, a well paying dream job, a wonderful wife and a cozy home complete with a grill for grilling steaks and a lawn to mow. And, as of three weeks ago, a newborn baby. My week spent with his little family renewed my faith in the power of what is learned in childhood. Without even knowing it, I had trained Francis how to be a good father! He bundles his little girl up in a baby blanket, like I had bundled up those babies who were going through withdrawal. Newborns like being in a tidy bundle because they arrive with strong startle reflexes and without much control of their arms and legs. By pulling her arms and legs in close and securely wrapping a blanket around her little body, baby India can feel safe and secure. When she is awake and alert, Francis rocks her and sings songs to her, songs that he heard me sing so many years ago: “Itsy Bitsy Spider”, “Hush Little Baby,” and “The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round”. Even though she couldn’t possibly know the songs, the sound of his voice quiets her, and these songs are easy to sing. When he is expertly changing her diaper, he plays “This Little Piggy” with her toes, gently pulling her feet to his mouth to kiss. He exaggerates the “wee wee wee home” by tracing his finger from her toes to her chin, tickling her slightly before kissing her forehead. And while she sits in his arms on the couch, ready for bed, he reads her books with very large print; “Goodnight Moon”, and “Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed”.

On the evening before I left to fly home, he looked over at me and thanked me for giving him the opportunity to practice on all those babies years ago. All of his friends are having babies now, he said, and they are all in a tizzy. Because of the practice HE had, he is a confident parent and not at all nervous with India. I realized that by being a foster parent to infants, I was not only caring for little ones, but also nurturing parenting skills in my oldest sons, skills that will ensure he will be an awesome father!

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For more stories about Francis childhood and our adventure with foster children, 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

Just Call Me Marshmallow Head!

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My oldest son, Francis’s wife just had a baby. Being a thrilled grandparent, of course a trip from the Northeast to California was in order!
Exactly 23 hours and 50 minutes before my flight, I dutifully “checked in” with Southwest in order to get a boarding pass with a “low number”. For those unfamiliar with Southwest Airlines, passengers are boarded according to the letters and numbers on their boarding passes, Letter A, 1-60, Letter B, 1-60 and Letter C-1-60. You can only register 24 hours or less to get a boarding pass, so I try to do it as early as possible in order not to get stuck with a high letter/number. It never ceases to amaze me that calling in at 10 minutes after 24 hours yields me the combination B-10. How could 70 people have checked in before me? Was everyone else sitting at their computers at 5 in the morning just waiting for that magic moment when their prize would be a low number? But I digress…this system is only mentioned because it will pertain to an issue which will occur later in this post.

Anyone who knows me knows that I get motion sickness very easily. (Almost my entire childhood was spent sleeping in the backseat of my parents station wagon as we traipsed across the country.) My plan was to sleep the entire 7 hour flight to California. (Another talent of mine is to be able to sleep anywhere, anytime, a skill that came in handy in college where cat naps were caught on the couches in the student lounge between classes.)

My sleep technique is somewhat unique…I can only sleep if a pillow is wrapped around my head. Yes, a pillow wrapped around my head. Tightly, so as not to let in any light. Using a king sized pillow with some of the feathers removed, one end of the pillow goes under my head, the pillow is wrapped around the front of my head, and the other end of the pillow is secured behind my head. For those unfamiliar with my technique, it looks as though smothering myself is a possibility, but an air hole from my nose down to the bottom of the pillow is created. Sleeping my way to California would be no different. Dragging my pillow onto the plane the next morning, I settle into my window seat waaaayyyyy at the back of the plane. (There is always the possibility that the plane won’t be full and I could have the whole seat to stretch out on to sleep. Alas, not so lucky this time.) Settling in and maneuvering my pillow strategically around my head, I became comfy. Because I put my own comfort first and don’t worry about what others think, any references to the appearance of “Marshmallow Head” would not hurt my feelings. As I sat there, cozy and drifting slightly off to sleep, I could hear the usual commotion of the “onboarding” of the plane. Most of the seats have been filled except for the unpopular middle seats. At this late stage of boarding, three different sets of couples found themselves in the back of the plane trying to get seats together. Their seat numbers were probably in the C-45 range. As they moaned and groaned about being separated, the stewardess ordered single people to change seats. People like myself who had obtained earlier boarding passes were being directed to move into those vacant middle seats! I feigned sleeping; it would have been upsetting to sit in a middle seat in which my pillow manipulation would have been unsuccessful, especially for a flight of more than 7 hours. One kind gentleman who gave up his window seat to sit in the middle seat next to me, instantly regretted his choice. The woman in the aisle seat had obviously had one too many to drink, and she slurred her words as she chatted to him, providing him with a non-stop foray into the dysfunctional family she called her own. As I woke intermittently throughout the flight, and she could always be heard talking about one thing or the other. I was filled with sympathy for my poor seat mate who had no place to escape and no pillow on which to feign sleep.

The flight was otherwise uneventful Of course, I could not know for sure because I slept through most of it…

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For more stories about my childhood, 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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