Posts tagged ‘adopted’

How Do the Blind See a Tree?

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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

A Whole New Meaning to “Swimming with the Fishes”

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I have been fortunate in that my mother loved to travel and she often took me and one of my kiddos “along for the ride.”  One of my favorite spots was Discovery Cove, part of Sea World in Orlando.  Discovery Cove offered a make believe coral reef with lots of beautiful fish swimming around and huge stingrays that would swim close and touch you. It was so amazing, and was as close to real snorkeling that I had ever been. With a life jacket, snorkel and mask on, Marie, (my 13 year old daughter who is profoundly deaf and has PTSD) and I spent the day swimming around, amazed at the many varieties of tropical fish. It was like being in another world.  In one spot, there was a glass wall and you could swim next to sharks.  Up until this point in my life, this was as close to real snorkeling, and SHARKS, that I would get! It was awesome!

Near the end of the day, Marie’s medication began to wear off as we had stayed later than I anticipated.  She began to get anxious, but she didn’t want to leave.   I told her one more swim around the coral reef and then we’d head back to the hotel.  As had been happening all day, a stingray came up and touched Marie on her leg.  In fact, she had been petting them for most of the day, calling them her “friends”.  For some reason, this touch was different than the rest.  She became frightened and had a full blown panic attack.  She started SCREAMING her high pitched scream and she was signing (in American sign language,) “The fish is going to eat me!” (Why the fish would think she were any tastier later in the day than earlier, I don’t understand.) To get away from the stingray, she climbed onto my back.  I tried to calm her down, but it was difficult to do sign language while trying to swim with a child on your back, and she was screaming so loud her eyes were shut and she couldn’t see what I was saying anyway!  By this time, we were halfway around the coral reef and as far from the shore as you could possibly get.  Marie decided she was not safe enough on my back because her toes were still in the water,  so she climbed up on my shoulders to get completely out of the water!  Unfortunately, that meant I’d have to sink UNDER the water for her to stay OUT of it.  I started screaming along with her.  (Albeit alternating choking with water and screaming.) She was truly frightened the fish was going to eat her and I was truly frightened I was going to drowned.

They have several life guards there and our dilemma was not hard to miss, with Marie standing upright and me bobbing in and out of the water choking. Because we were so far out, it took the lifeguards what seemed like an eternity to reach us.  When they got to us, Marie refused to let the lifeguards touch her, screaming and kicking at them.  (Good old Post Traumatic Stress Disorder shows up when you least expect it!)  What three of the lifeguards ended up doing was supporting me in the water while she continued to stand on my shoulders and scream. Of course there was a huge crowd of onlookers on the beach, some taking photos.  (We really were quite a sight!) Once on the beach both Marie and I collapsed into the sand.  The life guards asked if we needed to go to the hospital, but I was still breathing and Marie had stopped screaming and was crying quietly, so that meant we had both survived unscathed.  Well, maybe not totally unscathed, I’ve lost my wanderlust  for snorkeling!

 

If you are interested in reading more, I have written an e-book entitled The Apple Tree:  Raising 5 Kids with Disabilities and Remaining Sane  available at I-Books, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

And The Paper Creeped out the Bottom of the Door

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A very large, very tall, very old 15 passenger van with a wheelchair lift with over 138,000 miles on it is my vehicle. Not my ideal choice, but “it is what it is” as all of our money is allocated elsewhere. (All those cute little kiddos with disabilities grow up to be cute little adults with disabilities who, unfortunately, find it impossible to be able to work. Not that that makes them any less wonderful, enjoyable or successful, it just puts a little extra strain on our family budget.)

In the van on Wednesday, I was enjoying a beautiful, crisp autumn day, with a slight wind moving the branches around for the trees to show off their few remaining colorful leaves just waiting to join their friends on the ground. Contentment filled the van as I hummed while I drove. I didn’t quite do the lovely singing I usually do because I was on a mission for work. (While driving to make home visits is not usually included in my job description, on this day I was helping out a colleague.) Because I am awful with directions, “mapquested” directions lay on the floor next to the driver’s seat.
As the van whisked along on the interstate highway, I noticed that the directions had moved towards the door. Keeping one eye on the road and one eye on the directions, I watched with panic as the papers moved closer to the door…down one of the steps…down the next step…and finally on the third step. It happened in the blink of my eye (the one that was watching the papers!) As I was in heavy traffic, it took a while to maneuver to the side of the road to stop, and the papers inched towards the bottom of the door. (The door gasket had long ago aged out and fallen away, leaving a space at least an inch wide at the bottom.) Panic set in as a piece of paper entered the crack and ever so slowly inched out…it was like seeing my life flash before my eyes, quarter inch by quarter inch, as the paper made its way free out of the opening. It was so surreal it reminded me of a cartoon…person chasing paper in the wind and the paper is always one step ahead, teasingly just a little bit out of reach! I would have laughed, but inside I was sick to my stomach. My directions were gone! The client I was going to be meeting would be sitting, forlorn, at her home, waiting patiently for the me that would never be able to find her house.
But WAIT! There was another paper there, clinging to the bottom step. Maybe I could salvage the final steps of the street directions. By this time, the van was safely stopped by the side of the road and I flung myself out of the driver’s seat onto the floor of the van to look down the stairwell. On my knees looking down, almost crying with happiness, I grabbed that one precious piece of paper…it included the final steps to get to the client’s home. I would be able to find her! I would make that visit! I was soooooo happy!

While in the scheme of things, losing mapquested directions would not be the end of the world, in retrospect it symbolizes the constant struggles one has when raising children with disabilities. There are often solutions to their problems, but they are flighty and hard to come by. Sometimes they flip through our fingers through no fault of our own and we are left in a slight panic, (sometimes a huge panic…) Fortunately for me, I have always found that last page to my mapquested directions, just enough to make life work out. Just enough to relieve my panic and restore the happiness in my heart. Such is the ups and downs in life…

I Don’t Think Animals Kiss…

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One day several years ago, many months after Marie came to live with us, my husband, in a good mood, came into the kitchen, swooped me backwards, and gave me a passionate kiss.  When we had finished, I noticed Marie standing there, gaping, eyes wide, with a shocked look on her face.

“What was THAT????’ she asked in American Sign Language.

“A kiss,” I told her.

“No, no”, she signed back, “a kiss is a little peck on the lips” she said as she came over and demonstrated one on the dog. (Heaven knows a teenager would never kiss their MOTHER!)

“There is a different kind of kiss when you really love someone like your husband” I said.

“That is amazing!  How did you LEARN to do that? ” she asked plaintively.

“You don’t learn it, you just feel it.  It is natural when you love someone,” I explained to her.

“Well,” she huffed, “I’m going to wait until I’m 17 to do that,” she said as I said a silent prayer to myself that I should be so lucky for her to wait that long!

I laughed inwardly at her innocence, this worldly child who, because of her child abuse knew the mechanics of sex more than anyone her age.  I doubted she ever saw anyone really “in love” before, and she had never seen anyone kiss passionately, which really surprised me.  The more I thought about it, though, I realized she hadn’t been exposed to it in her young life and the only other way she might know would be from watching television.  Because of her deafness and lack of early education,  she had a low reading level and was not able to understand the captioning on tv, so she did not generally watch comedy or drama series.  Her favorite tv channel was (and still is,)  the Animal Planet where captioning is not really needed to enjoy the shows.  What wonderfully active lives those animals live!  Exotic lives!  Interesting lives!  Dangerous lives!  Sometimes romantic lives; nuzzle noses, lick, bite, cuddle, hug, dance and flap their wings as a means of showing affection.  But a long, romantic, “mushy” kiss? I think not….Marie had to learn that from her parents…

 

 

 

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To read more about our life, 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

Link to the Readers Digest review of my book:  http://www.rd.com/recommends/what-to-read-after-a-hurricane/

I Didn’t Know Cats Like to Swim…

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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

Link to the Readers Digest review of my book:  http://www.rd.com/recommends/what-to-read-after-a-hurricane/

I Get All of My Exercise in the Driver’s Seat of My Van

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My daughter, Marie, is in a residential school, out-of-state.  I drive the hour and a half to see her at least once a week, sometimes twice.  If you have read my book, you know that I HATE to ride.  (I spent my childhood zig zagging across the country.) Driving is no better, and I need to focus or I will fall asleep.

Talking books on tape used to keep my attention for the ride, but taped books are getting harder and harder to find.  Music has become my new listening alternative.  Not just ANY music…noooooooo….only the rock music of my youth; Proud Mary, Sweet Caroline, Born to Run, Papa was a Rolling Stone….   Of course when one hears this music, one’s body can’t help but “dance” to the beat and one’s mouth HAS to sing along, and I am no exception.  The fact that I am in a van somewhat limits my moves, but not altogether.  While driving down the straight highway at 55 miles per hour, (the fastest my 2002 van can manage,)  I can safely swing and wave my arms, (alternately, of course,) bounce, tap and kick my left leg, twist at the waist, and move my shoulders, and do so with great veracity in time to the music.  I have found this new driving routine to be loads of fun helping to both pass the time AND exercise!  Although I am not self-conscious, and the stares from others would not bother me,  I am so busy looking at the road that I don’t see them! Reality comes into play every time a tractor trailer truck drives by because our seats are at the same height.  I am sure that the driver is mortified at the sight of me, as I am no substitute for the sexy young woman for whom he was looking, but what sexy young woman would be driving a huge old old, rusty van like mine anyway?

As the summer approaches,  I will be singing with the windows down because the vans air conditioning met an untimely death last summer.  Most people DO have air conditioning and thankfully (for them) their windows will be closed and the buzz of the air conditioning will drown out any ear shattering notes coming from my van.

If you see me doing my “moves like Mick Jagger” on the highway, I will be too busy driving and exercising to see YOU. However, if you happen to see a somewhat middle aged woman, hair wild and wind blown, climb her way down from the seat of a very old, high van seat, and she has skinny arms, a skinny left leg, tiny waist but a big butt and plump right leg, smile and wave because that would be me….

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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

Link to the Readers Digest review of my book:  http://www.rd.com/recommends/what-to-read-after-a-hurricane/

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Have You Ever Run out of Clean Underwear?

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My husband and I took a little “romantic trip for two” last weekend, so I did not get my usual laundry done. This week, being school vacation, saw me working 60 hours coordinating an educational and recreational program for children with disabilities.  It was an awesome, fun week, and the kiddos were a joy!  However,  by the time I dragged myself into the house in the early evening, I had no energy to do any type of cooking/cleaning/thinking/talking or moving. The only movement I could muster up was my index finger on the TV remote…

Getting dressed this morning, there was not a piece of clean underwear to be found. Not in my underwear drawer, in the dryer, under the bed, on the floor of the bathroom, in the puppies bed, or in the refrigerator. (You never know…)  What was I to do?  It briefly crossed my mind to not wear any, but that idea was quickly tossed aside.  In “my” generation, we just didn’t DO that.  So, I dug up the only pair of underwear left…the unworn g-string bikini bottom to a baby doll negligee I had brought on our romantic weekend. (I always optimistically pack several “outfits”…)  Slipping the bikini on, it was immediately apparent that it were not going to adequately cover all of my “private areas”, but it was either that pair or nothing, and nothing was not an option.  The thought of getting into an accident and having the paramedics see a woman my age wearing a g-string bikini did seem horrifying, so I promised myself I would drive very carefully and walk very slowly all day so as not to get into an accident or trip and fall…

Finding a bra was almost as difficult, but in the back corner of the drawer was  one bra that had eluded trash day.  The straps were so old and loose that it did not properly support my breasts in the manner to which they are accustomed.  Other than going braless, which would surely have traumatized a few people, I put on the saggy resemblance of a bra. To say that my breasts came within inches of my waistline is not an exaggeration.  But it was better than down to my knees…

Finding a shirt was almost as difficult, but way in the back of my closet was a “beautifully” flowered shirt that I used to wear when I was two sizes larger.  For some reason I’d always loved that shirt because it was “comfy”, so on it went.  At least with all of the bold flowers, my sagging breasts were not so apparent.

For pants, I wore the same pair of jeans I had worn earlier in the week.  Jeans seem to be the one item that do not have to be washed every time they are worn.  Of course, when you wear them a little more than you should, they DO get baggy in all the wrong places, which resulted in a bigger rear end than I would normally sport.  Fortunately, the flowered shirt was so large that it completely covered this area anyway.

The biggest challenge, even when I DO the laundry, was finding a pair of matching socks.  I looked ALL OVER….and I was thrilled when I finally found a pair of matching red and white striped socks.  Of course, the stripes were on candy canes, and  big red Santas graced the top band of the socks, but at least they matched!

My Dansko shoes, (the only type I can wear comfortably,) were on the porch where I had taken them off.  Unfortunately, Jody, our new puppy, had decided they made great chew toys, and she had chewed the decorative leather band  around the top of them.  Fortunately, she had chewed them both equally so they at least matched…

I quickly tried to fix my unruly hair, which can usually be coaxed into a semblance of curls and puffiness. Not today.  Today it refused to be tamed.  My hair is longer than usual because there has been no time to get a haircut, so it is super fluffy and frizzy, and standing on end all around my head like a wild lion mane.  Better than that….like Phil Spector…

Looking in the mirror, I assessed my appearance. Hair unruly enough to scare  Frankenstein.  Saggy breasts under a garden explosion of a shirt that was so large my daughter could have fit in it with me. Saggy jeans, which are somewhat of a relief because they do not fit tightly enough to force the bikini bottom to slide up into my butt. Shoes missing the decorative strap, but otherwise presentable.  And white and red striped socks…not too bad if you don’t look at the top of them.  I was “passable” as long as I stood up all day lest people see the Santas on the top of my socks. Then I would look REALLY ridicules….

 

 

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PS. I have recently been honored with a special award from http://lyricsonthelake.wordpress.com/2013/04/29/because-why-not/:

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I would love to come and speak for your group or at your conference.  I would do it for free, but would need the price of travel. For functions in the North East, that would be only gas money.  I do promise to dress properly…

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

Link to the Readers Digest review of my book:  http://www.rd.com/recommends/what-to-read-after-a-hurricane/

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