What’s In My Purse?

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As the mother of children, especially children with disabilities, I have been a frequent visitor to emergency rooms. It didn’t take me long to realize that those hours spent W A I T I N G were tedious for my kiddo and myself. In fact, for my kiddos with ADHD, they could be dangerous. With Steven, he would open all of the drawers and fling the contents onto the ground, swing from the air hoses and climb on top of the curtain. He was generally uncontrollable in an environment that he saw as a playground and I saw full of dangers that would land him in an emergency room for a reason other than for that which we had come! I had a knot in my stomach and tears of frustration. The emergency room staff and I finally learned that the only examining room suitable for Steven was one for psychiatric patients…no drawers, no air hoses, no curtains to climb. That solved the problem somewhat…but the long wait was also a major issue. Visits to the emergency room often ran six, seven hours, and sometimes all night! What to do? What to do? What to do?

Alas, out of need emerged my “emergency room purse”:
*Extra copies of medical cards and social security cards; when under duress with a screaming child coming in with the ambulance, rummaging through my wallet for these items always seems problematic and adds to my stress.

* A written medical history for each child; remembering those pesky spelled medication names and listing hospitalizations and diagnosis are always nerve wracking, having them at your fingertips is priceless.

*Quarters and crisp dollar bills for the vending machines.

*Animal and peanut butter crackers along with some juice boxes so I don’t have to spend so MUCH at the vending machines. (Dispensation of food and drink dependent upon reason for visit to emergency room)

*Cell phone charger (hours waiting…games to play…people to call…need I say more?)

*A deck of playing cards, INVALUABLE for killing time, and also for great mother/child bonding.

*Manipulative toys
for kiddos with ADHD…nothing like having that coil to twirl or that Rubik’s Cube to solve.

*Extra diaper/underwear and pants unless the child prefers to go home in a hospital johnny. (My daughter, Marie, actually loves the hospital clothing and has a whole drawer full…starting from small sizes when she was young up to the adult sizes she wears now.)

*Chap stick; the rest of me may look like Frankenstein’s monster, but my lips will be smooth and pretty.

*A large print, best selling book for me to read; when a kiddo is sleeping, (YAY!) the lighting may be dim and my eyes may be teary, but large print has always served me well.

My life has been spent trying to remain sane while raising children who can be difficult. Emergency room visits are always stressful and my mitigating solution is the “going to the hospital” purse.

Not to be confused with my “going to the movies” purse…

“frost heave
n. New England
A section of raised pavement caused by the expansion of freezing water immediately under the road.”

Hubby and I took a quick weekend respite trip to our little cottage in New Hampshire. Being the type of person who rebels against her upbringing, I HATE to ride in a car. (My childhood consisted of regular trips across and around and up and down the country for months at a time.) My solution is to have a nap while Hubby drives, which not only gets me out of the boring tedium of the drive, but also leaves me well rested for the festivities to come. Sprawled out comfortably in the back seat, pillow under my head for comfort, pillow over my head by habit, and a luxuriously fluffy, velour blanket in a the manly color of army green covering every inch of my body, I fell asleep. In the deepest moments of sleep, I was jolted awake when flung into the air. Straight up. Almost hitting the ceiling. Squealing so loud with surprise that I almost peed my pants. But what came next was sheer joy…like the feeling when you reach the top of a roller coaster and you plunge down that deep hill. Weightlessness. The feeling of your stomach coming up into your throat. The quickening of your pulse as you experience the joy of such an adventure. In my case, an unexpected, three second joy! Followed by the hard thump of my body as it hit the seat again. Ah, life is so full of such wonderful surprises if you just know where to look for them!

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To read more about my interesting, amazing 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

snake

I apologize for repeating this post from 2011, but it is one of my favorites, and a memory that is brought to mind on those few occasions that i have to go to court for my children and I see this particular lawyer there…and I always giggle…

A very conservative lawyer friend had a very conservative lawyer wife who had taken up belly dancing.  She and 2 friends were so skilled in this talent that they were chosen to be performers for a large audience for First Night, the annual New Year’s Eve celebration in the city.  For an added “twist” to their act, my lawyer friend asked if his wife could borrow one of my son’s 5 foot long boa constrictors for their dance.  I had plenty of reservations, but I said okay. (It is always good to keep a lawyer friend happy because you never know when you will need a lawyer’s help.)  The ladies came to our house, and practiced with the snake while my son, Steven, who is very familiar with snakes, supervised.  The practice went very well, and the ladies excitedly decided to bill their act as the “The Dance of the Snake Goddesses.”

Well, New Year’s Eve came and I reminded Steven that we had to take the snake to the performance hall for the act.  Steven, who has Asperger’s and an anxiety disorder, was mortified!  There was no way HE was going to go to a large hall where there were a lot of people!  He handed me a pillowcase to put the snake in, and a bottle of alcohol “in case it bit someone”. He promptly took off on his bike peddling away to destinations unknown to me, (but far away from  First Night appearance.)  I started to panic!  These excited dancers were billed as the “The Dance of the Snake Goddesses” and they would have no snake!  Feeling extremely obligated to provide them with a snake, I decided to bring the it myself.  I had not minded the snakes when they were locked in the glass tanks, but somehow I was going to have to get up the nerve to actually take the snake out and put it in the pillowcase.  My hands were shaking as I undid the lock and took the cover off of the tank.   It looked docile enough, just lying there.  I reached in and managed to push it into the pillowcase using a long sleeved pot holder, proud of myself for not having to touch it.  Maybe I’d be okay! I tentatively carried the pillowcase to the living room, but I had miscalculated by not securing the top of it.  The snake’s head popped out, I pushed it back down.  It popped out again, and I pushed it down again.  This time it was stronger and its head came our farther.  When I tried to push it back in, it wiggle away from me and the whole snake came slithering out of the bag, which I promptly dropped.  There, on the floor of our living room, was a slithering 5 foot long snake!  I screamed.  My husband came to see what was going on, and he jumped up on the couch and screamed.  Even though I was shaking and my first instinct was to smash the thing over the head with a broom, I remembered  my commitment to our lawyer friends.  I gathered up my courage and, using the broom gently, I nudged it back into the pillowcase, this time immediately tying the top into a knot.

I was still shaking from this experience as I drove to the city with the wriggling pillowcase on the seat next to me.  I was feeling tremendous relief that I had at least caught it and was on my way to the performance. I even felt a little sorry for it, and turned the heat all the way up in my car so it could be warm.  (It had started to snow outside, which would mean there would be a larger than usual audience for an inside performance as the outside First Night performances would involved standing around in wet snow.  Great!  A bigger audience for what was sure to be a Snake Goddess fiasco!)

When we got near the theater, I put the pillowcase inside my coat to keep it warm. (MY I was brave!)  There was a line around the building waiting to see the performance.  I went to the head of the line, and quietly said to the guard at the door, “I have the snake for the performance.”  In his loudest voice, he parted the crowd by saying “Make way for the snake handler.  Make way for the snake handler!”  I wanted to hide!  As a middle aged, shaking, nervous, dowdy woman, I no more resembled a snake handler than a chipmunk would resemble Santa Clause.

I managed to get back stage with the snake and the belly dancers were very excited.  They carefully took him (her?  I couldn’t tell the difference,) out of the bag and began to practice.  By now I was shaking so badly that my stomach was in knots.  I was holding the bottle of alcohol (“in case it bit someone”.)  I was on the verge of tears, both from relief that I’d delivered the snake in one piece, but also fear that it would bite and there would be blood and screams and lawsuits.

The audience in the large theater was packed, standing room only.  The music for the dancers began.  They dramatically began the act hidden behind veils, with the snake on one woman with the head at one hand, draped across her back, and the tail on the other hand.  They did a dramatic dance, dropping the veils at different intervals for the audience to get a glimpse of the snake.  I could hear  “ooooh”  and “aaaaaah” from the audience.  I was hoping the snake wasn’t going to slither down and into the audience causing mass panic,  emptying the audience out into the street, or, worse yet, go around biting audience members with me following along with my bottle of alcohol. (Then I’d really need a lawyer for the lawsuits!)

Then something strange happened. The dancers dropped their veils, and the snake actually seemed to join in the dance.  Soon its head was wriggling in time to the music, its tail was swaying around, and it seemed to be having a grand old time!  It began to slither in time to the music (a pure coincidence I’m sure,) from one dancer to the next.  It was an amazing sight, the graceful gyrating dancers and the graceful gyrating snake, all moving in time to the music.  Mesmerizing. Amazing.  The act finished to a standing ovation, and darn it if it didn’t seem as though the snake bowed his head in response to the clapping from the audience.

After the show, the dancers gave the snake a few affectionate pats and back into the pillowcase it went.  I tied it in a knot, put it under my coat, and carried it back to the car.  I felt as though I was going to cry, but this time it was tears of relief.  I don’t know how I get myself into these situations, but, again, I’d come through it unscathed, with a little more respect for the reptile in the pillowcase next to me!

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To read more about our life as a 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

valentine-day-clip-art-2
Does everyone remember those years in elementary school when we’d bring valentines from home and put them in a big “mailbox” decorated with paper hearts? I loved the anticipation! The box would sit up near the teacher’s desk, and all day I’d sneak glances at it, waiting for that magic moment when we’d all take a turn “delivering” the valentines to each other. It was a favorite holiday of mine; a happy day about love! My parents did not have a lot of money, and even if they did, I am sure my dad would not have wasted it on such things as store bought Valentine’s Day cards. However, I took delight in designing and decorating valentines for my fellow classmates. Using construction paper and crayons, my pictures were not perfect and my words were misspelled, but I was always pleased with my creations, especially because I would attach a lollypop, (saved up from several trips to the bank over a month long period.) I tried to individualize them, making each one different. Of course, my drawings were coarse and generally they all looked alike, but in my mind (and my memory), they were perfect!
For such anticipation, one would think I thoroughly enjoyed the day, sipping on the plastic glass of fruit punch and eating the heart shaped cookies provided by the teacher. But in elementary school, it always turned out to be a day of huge disappointment. I always received many valentines because I was friendly to everyone, but it wasn’t for me that I was disappointed. It saddened my heart that I would get so many valentines when other, less popular children would get so few, or, shudder, none… Before we would leave school that day, I would have split up my own valentines to share with the students who were not so fortunate, but I knew that this did not mitigate the fact that the other students did not think to send them one personally.
Many years have passed, and I am now a parent, and even a grandparent. When my children were in elementary school, I taught them to care about everyone in their class. For days like Valentine’s Day, they were to consider other children’s feelings and make sure that there was a card for every single student in their rooms, especially the “special ed” students who may have joined their class from time to time, (and, undoubtedly, would be joining the class for the small Valentine’s Day’s festivities.) It was not expensive, a few penny valentines and pieces of candy attached. But it was a priceless lesson. One to care for others no matter what their position is in life, popular or unpopular, with a disability or without, rich or poor, pretty or not too pretty, saint or sinner. (Yes, they had to give a valentine to the kiddo who was always in trouble, talked fresh to the teacher, and pushed them down on the ground once during recess.) That lesson on Valentine’s Day was a life lesson for them, and they have all grown into children who are considerate of others.

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To read more about our life as a 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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Talking with a friend, the stress of completing her taxes was evident. I could not commiserate with her because I LOVE doing my taxes, especially with the newer computerized programs that submit on-line. I’ve always enjoyed working with numbers, and giggle with delight as I see the “refund” number grow in the corner…64 cents, $1.29, $2.15, the number climbs! My friend looked at me like I was crazy when I told her. “Aren’t you afraid of an audit?” she asked incredulously. “Nah,” was my answer, “I was audited by the IRS and it wasn’t so bad!” Or WAS it?????

It was many years ago and I was pregnant with our oldest son, Francis. About 8 and 29/30 months pregnant. I wore my favorite (i.e. only) maternity dress, a pretty baby blue color with a big bow hanging awkwardly over my belly. I had on flat shoes, and I waddled like a duck. The audit was downtown at the Federal Building, an imposing brick building towering over the parking lot next door. I went alone because my husband could not get the time out of work. I wasn’t scared…pregnant and waddling? Who would dare scare me?
The auditor was an older gentleman, someone who looked like he’d “been there, done that” a million times before. He wore a drab, puke green suit and even my most brilliant smile hello did not phase him. How could that be?? He only humphed “have a seat” and I sat in the metal chair, looking at the antiquated, drab office. Of course he was grumpy…look at his surroundings! He needed some large, colorful flowers on the walls, a candy jar with Hershey Kisses, some personal items from DisneyWorld on his desk, and maybe a serenity fountain. He seemed to have an attitude that said “Don’t mess with me,” which I assumed was a requirement for the job. (My apologies to any IRS auditors that might be reading this…I don’t generally like to generalize.) If figures that if you are trying to catch people who are dishonest on their taxes you need to have a stern exterior. Because I did NOT cheat on my taxes, and because I was sooooo pregnant with an infectious smile, I assumed he would warm up as he progressed through my tax return. I was wrong. I sat there as he went through my tax return, item by item. We got through all of the easy parts and moved onto the “long form” for deductions. This was where I excelled. All of the deductions had been itemized with care. One by one we went through them, and one by one I provided the receipt or back-up needed to document the authenticity. No problem, I thought…until he asked the question that struck fear in my heart…he inquired if my husband had taken a vacation that year. Vacation? What did a vacation have to do with anything?? I stammered a yes, and my ever present smile started to wane. “We took a 2 week vacation.” I could almost hear/see him jump up and say “AHA!!!!! I caught you!!!!” It seems that the receipt for the work uniforms for which my husband payed weekly was for 52 weeks. At first confused, it took a minute for this question to sink in. If my husband was on vacation, we could not count the $22 for that week he! Even though he did not have the option NOT to pay for them if he didn’t work, if they were not actually worn for work, we could not take the deduction for those 2 weeks! I finally saw a slight smile escape from the auditor’s lips. He had won! He “caught me”. I was quite the rebel tax cheater! The result was that $44 was added to our income and we therefore owed $14, plus $1.48 for interest!
My step was not quite so bouncy as I waddled out of that office. My ever present smile waned. The good news was I had survived, none the worse for the wear…and every year since then I have deducted the $44 from my husband’s uniform deduction!

Lamb Chop Reincarnated

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Our region of the country received another snowstorm yesterday. To cope with this “storm” (3 inches), everyone in our area rushed to the grocery store to buy their beloved bread and milk. It says something about us that these two items are our staples, as opposed to beer and peanuts, ice cream and wine, or, my favorite, hot buttered popcorn and Diet Coke.
Leaving the house this morning, I searched everywhere for my gloves, which were nowhere to be found. Gloves, like socks, seem to disappear one at a time. Because they are not washed in the washing machine, the dryer cannot be to blame. I did manage to find one glove, one of those tiny gloves that look like it would fit a Barbie doll, but, when stretched and pulled, actually do fit on a grown-up. After much searching, it’s mate seemed to have flown the coop. Desperate because it was 10 degrees outside, I lunged into the sock bucket and pulled out one of my husband’s warm, white, fluffy work socks. Anything would do as a glove at that point, plastic shopping bag, pillow case or underwear. The sock seemed most like the glove. (In the background was Sesame Street, aptly projected the activity “Which of these things looks like the other? Which of these things don’t belong?” which managed to guide my choice.)
Off I went, gloved and socked.
Anyone who knows me knows that I like to sing and bop to music while driving alone in the car. I have to keep this activity private because if I sing when the children are in the car, they bitterly complain I sound like a baby monkey screeching for its mother and look like I am having a seizure with my bopping, (no offense meant to people who actually do have seizures whom I am sure have much more graceful ones.) This morning I was gloriously alone, sun shining on the fresh fallen snow, traffic moving at a standstill, and music flowing from K-Love radio station, which is especially enjoyable on a frantic morning. As I was sitting there in traffic, my right socked hand was waving in time to the music. Nothing out of the ordinary there. Then, almost imperceptibly, the glove folded over and formed a mouth, opening and closing in time to the music. Soon, we were both singing together in wonderful harmony, me and my socked hand. As we sang, memories of my favorite childhood television show, Shari Lewis and her puppet, Lamb Chop, sprung to mind. It was nothing short of a miracle that Lamp Chop chose to be reincarnated as the sock I was wearing! Imagine that! She was missing a couple of eyes, her ears and a nose, and her lips could have used some lipstick, but she was otherwise white and furry and unmistakable. What a joy it was this morning to Lamp Chop join me, singing our little hearts out.

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Parents of children with autism will never tell you that raising their child is easy…it’s not! I joke around, look for the silver lining, take things in stride, and present a smiley face to the world. However, raising my son, Steven, has been, and continues to be, an extremely difficult parenting challenge.

Memories of how hard it has been flooded back to me when my hubby and I went away for a romantic weekend at our little cabin in the woods of New Hampshire. With the sub zero weather whirling around outside, we were sitting on the couch sipping hot chocolate with lots of tiny, melting marshmallows. (Okay, maybe HE had some Kailua in his, but mine really DID just have marshmallows!) As the heat rose up from the small grate on the floor, I was transported back to the time when we first purchased the cabin. Because Steven had such severe sensory issues and taking him to a regular hotel for a regular family vacation would have caused a regular catastrophe, we sought out a calm location to which he could become accustomed. Thus, the family vacation cabin was born! He was only about a year old when we bought it, and he soon adapted well…he continued to wake at 4 in the morning to run around the house (which was carefully modified for safety.) He continued to refuse to eat any textured food, subsisting on cans of Chocolate Ensure. He continued to hide under the bed if any company came to visit, or if it was too windy out, or if the clock ticked too loudly or for a variety of other reasons known only to him. He would curl up in a ball under the kitchen table if there was too much noise, or light, or if he just plain felt like it. However, he also had the little pond behind the house where he could catch frogs, turtles and snakes for hours…HIS idea of a great vacation! In other words, he behaved just like he did at home! Our family vacation home was successful!

We enjoyed, and continue to enjoy, many years of quiet, restful activities on this little house in the woods. The only reminder of a behavior to which we could never accommodate… Steven’s self-abusive “episodes”…is a scar on his forehead. It has faded over the years and resembles a tiny tic-tac-toe board.

Last weekend, sitting on the couch enjoying my hot chocolate, I glanced over at the heating grate and shuddered, remembering the one time he was so out of control that he banged his head on the heating grate before we could restrain him. A hard, deliberate bang on the only dangerous spot in the house. It was a reminder that as hard as we tried to have a “regular” life with Steven, we could not always keep him safe…

That is not to say that this is a complaint. It’s more of an observation. Raising kiddos who are autistic changes a family’s life forever. If you know someone who has an autistic child, give them a pat on the back. They probably haven’t had an easy life…

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To read more about our life as a 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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