Posts tagged ‘adoption through foster care’

Under the “Dome of Silence”

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I am really dating myself, but my favorite tv show to watch when I was a child was “Get Smart”, a spy spoof where Maxwell Smart comedically played an agent who always “got his man”, even when he didn’t know how he did it! I relate so well to Maxwell Smart and his “methods”, because my life is been pretty much the same!
But their infamous concept, the “Dome of Silence” flittered through my mind recently in an unpleasant way, a way that made me change my thoughts in a major way.
My daughter, Marie, who is deaf, has been hospitalized again. For parents of children with severe psychiatric disorders, y’all know that hospitalizations are a recurrent theme, no matter how well a child seems to be doing. Life with such a child is full of peaks and valleys, and sometimes the valleys need a tune up. As conscientious parents, we probably all play the same game…do we visit every day? Do we bring food and drinks? Games? Puzzles? In other words, do we turn each hospitalization into a reward for being there?
My brother’s schizophrenia emerged when he was just emerging himself into young adulthood at the age of 18. This was a surprise disability on top of his already existing developmental, vision and hearing disabilities. As my parents aged, he eventually lived in a wonderful group home, but HE also needed “tune ups” in a psychiatric hospital, generally after an incident where the aliens told him to walk ten miles to the train station, or throw himself against the wall as punishment for some unknown offense. These hospitalizations were regular, and each and every time my mom would visit every day, bringing with her his favorite desserts, or a milk shake or ice cream sundae. Her heart ached to see him in the hospital so often, so she would sit there for hours with him, holding his hand or rubbing his back. It made her feel better to visit with him, and it made him feel better also. In fact, it made him feel so much better that the frequency of his “tune ups” increased. I learned as a young adult that being in a psychiatric hospital should not be rewarded with food and puzzles, or even with visitation every day.
I have tempered my need to mother my daughter with the need not to make inpatient hospitalizations seem better than the residential school in which she lives. Following my own instincts, which were reinforced by Marie’s social worker and psychiatrist, I have limited my visits. Yesterday, however, I changed my mind.
The hospitals have all been wonderful at providing ASL interpreters for at least 12 hours a day, which facilitates her conversations with nurses, social workers, unit workers and her psychiatrist. Marie does not, however, want to utilize the interpreter in conversations with other children. She tries to fit in with them, but does not understand what they are saying or laughing at. Being somewhat paranoid, (aren’t all teenagers?) she suspects they are laughing at her. She tries to join in, and they may include her for a few minutes, but soon the conversation continues over her head, and the children are once again laughing and joking and not including her. As I was leaving yesterday I witnessed this happening, saw the look of sadness in Marie’s eyes and noticed that she was holding back tears so as not to further embarrass herself in front of the other children. She looked so alone, and in reality she was. The other children were under a “Dome of Silence”. She could see them talking, gesturing and laughing, but could not hear or understand what they were saying. I don’t know why this obscure reference came to mind, but it did, and the visualization of it has changed my way of thinking. I realized that her isolation from others trumps the need not to reward her for being in the hospital. Nothing in the hospital could be a reward for her, as she is not part of the community as she is in her school. If anything, one would think she would be so adverse to being in the hospital that she would do anything in her power not to be hospitalized. Ah, the irony of that nostalgic “Dome of Silence.” I think I will visit for a few hours today and bring her a milkshake. We will sit there and “talk” in ASL and I will hold her hand like my mother did with my brother. She will no longer be sad and isolated, at least not during my visit…

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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/

But She was Just Talking to Her!!

Indoor Water Parks 1

My job includes coordinating both a summer and winter program for children who are blind and visually impaired.  Last winter our lovely little group of about 40 went to an indoor water park during February vacation. If you have never been to an indoor (or outdoor for that matter) water park, you are missing one of life’s most wonderful playgrounds with water slides for all ages and skills. My age may indicate I could manage the “black hole”, but my skill kept me in the kiddie area!  (Ohhhhh!  The KITTIE pool again!!!)   Lounging in the lazy river on a double tube was a great way for staff to keep an eye on their child without letting them float gleefully away amongst the throng of people enjoying the current. A huge water playground centered the park, with slides and little pools and tons of water play, including the huge bucket of water atop the structure.  Every so often, the bucket, filled with water, would tip over and the torrential water would come gushing down, soaking everyone as though…..well….as though a bucket of water was dropped on their heads. Because my daughter, Marie, was also on school vacation and she joined us, I chose this particular water park because it featured a surfing pool.  Marie LOVES to “surf”, and on every other occasion we have come to this facility she has spent the entire day doing so, waiting, nose pressed against the glass, at the door first thing in the morning to come in, and being the last one for the security guard to throw out at closing time.going to this water park.

My big surprise was that Marie wanted to help out a group of younger girls who are blind.  The girls had staff who amicably allowed Marie to join their group. Despite the fact that she normally communicates in American Sign Language, she somehow managed to be very sociable and get along well with everyone. Having such a strong love for “surfing”, my expectation was she would help for a little while, but spend most of her time surfing. Surprise of surprises!!!!  My wonderful daughter did not choose her own activity, but spent all of her time with the little girls, helping them on the slides, doing the “sighted guide technique” to maneuver around the crowded park, showing them where the food was on their plates, (using the clock method,) and so forth.  Marie was having a grand time, and the girls all seemed to adore her.

On the last night of this program. Marie was seated in the booth at the restaurant with two of the girls and their staff.  One of the girls all of a sudden started waving her hands wildly in the air, not just once, but she kept going! Prone to seizures, the medic ran over and asked her if she was okay.  Of COURSE she was okay, she said, she was just TALKING to Marie!!  The laughter started at their table and  soon circled around the room as everyone realized what she had said…she was signing to her, of course!!!!

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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/

“Hard Pieces of Confetti”

I coordinate activities for students who are blind, and I always try to make sure that everything is accessible for them, that is, multi-sensory and in the proper large print or Braille format.  I got a little more than I bargained for last Saturday when we had a Happy New Year Party for them.  Because it was AFTER the new year, I gleefully shopped for party supplies that were 75% off.  (Gee…if I used the same theory and we celebrated Christmas AFTER Christmas, I would have saved a ton of money…but I digress…)

New-Years-Eve-Poppers-for-Kids

Knowing that the children love novel items, I purchased a large supply of “crackers” or “poppers”, such as in the above photo.  During the party I thought they could pop them overhead, and feel the confetti rain down on them.  I was mortified when the first popper was popped. It had little toys in it; a little maze, a little top, a little yoyo, and other items that were waaaaaaayyyyyyy too small for these children to be able to see and play with.  I had purchased a huge quantity of them because they were so reasonably priced, (darn that frugal shopper in me!)  When I looked at the contents, I knew it would be impossible to use them because they were not accessible.

Or WERE they…

Seeing as none of the children had noticed that first popper and its contents, I told them there was a new strategy to our popper game.  They could hold them up over their heads, pop them open, and feel  the “hard pieces of confetti” that would rain down upon them.  Excitedly, they opened the poppers as the little toys bonked them on their heads and fell soundless to the carpeted floor. “I feel it!  I feel the hard confetti!” they giggled and said delightedly, asking for more! More! More!  They had a great time at the New Year Party, and the sound of their laughter still echoes in my mind making me smile.

Thinking about it, I realized that the poppers WERE accessible.  The regular confetti in them was so tiny and light that the children were not really able to feel it as it rained out.  But the “hard pieces of confetti”, now THAT they felt!

 

 

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

Link to my book  The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane

Little Toe Socks inside Insulated Socks

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My daughter, Marie, was chosen for a special snowboarding program for students with psychiatric disabilities.  A team of trainers from a local mountain have donated their time, and the mountain has donated the snowboarding equipment to coordinate a comprehensive, six week snowboarding school.  Marie, who loves the snow, skiing and snowmobiling, was thrilled to be selected.

I was thrilled for her to be chosen, not only because it will be a great program for her, but because for Christmas it also gave me something to buy a child who “has everything”.  My husband and I visited a local winter sports store that had a 75% off sale because of a recent fire, (yay!  I love bargains!))  I delighted in choosing snow pants, little socks with the toes in them, which are then worn under insulated socks, little gloves with fingers in them which are then worn under insulated snow mittens, insulated underwear, (tops and bottoms, of course,) a ski face mask, a warm winter hat with a brim, and, most importantly of all according to my husband, a snowboarding jacket.  He explained that snowboarding jackets are much longer than ski jackets because you spend so much time on your butt!   I was delighted with our purchases, although I later realized that I had forgotten the ski goggles.  We packed them all up in a Christmas bag which Marie opened to great excitement Christmas morning.  To say she was thrilled was an understatement.  She beamed.  She glowed.  She was going to be a snowboarder.  At the end of Christmas day, we packed up all of her presents and brought her back to her residential school.

In order to add a little excitement to her Christmas vacation, I took her for a weekend in Boston.  After I picked her up, we stopped at a Panera Bread for lunch before we boarded the train for Boston.  I was so surprised, (shocked, embarrassed) that she was dressed in ALL of her snowboarding gear, such as in the above photo I took of her.  I told her to take the mask off or she would scare little children away.  She looked around and saw no kiddos running from her screaming, and she told me she was fine.  I was mortified, (which is not an easy feeling for me.)  The only thing I could be thankful for was the fact that I had forgotten to buy those ski goggles, because she would have certainly been wearing them, also.

While in Boston, we had planned to go to the Aquarium, but she asked to go ice skating instead, which made way more sense than the aquarium. (I could envision the fish swimming away from her in terror!)  Unfortunately, no one had given ME snowboarding equipment for Christmas, so I only had on a light winter coat.  My plans for the weekend were to run from metro stop to metro stop doing activities indoor.  I was dressed for fish viewing and shopping, NOT for the cold weather.    But, as most mothers can attest to, I wanted to make my daughter happier, so off we went to the Frog Pond Skating Rink.

Being a little bit unsteady on my own feet, I convinced her to skate by herself and I would wave at her every time she skates by.  That’s LOTS of waving, by the way.  But there was happiness in my heart because every time she came around the corner, she would search for me, smile broadly,and wave.

Marie then demonstrated what Angel had demonstrated on Christmas Day.  She started helping people!  She would look for a child, unsteady on his/her feet, and then she would skate backwards and hold his/her hands.  Around and around the rink she would go, sharing her skating skills to help others learn to skate.  Once the child was steadier on his/her skates, she would go around looking for another person to help.  Then, to my amazement, she went up to offer her assistance to a young man with a severe developmental disability.  His skates were turned inward, ankles almost on the ice.  She helped him stand up, and, with his hands on her shoulders, she skated backwards pulling him.  Because of his disability,it was obvious that he was not going to be able to skate independently with any degree of skill.  So Marie stayed with him for over an hour.  They both laughed and when he was called off the ice to go home, he hugged her and smiled.  He apparently could not talk, but she knew he was saying thank you.  She turned to find me, and with a big smile on her face she waved.  I waved back.

I froze that day…my toes were not covered by little toe socks and insulated socks, my hands were not covered little finger gloves and insulated gloves.  I was not wearing insulated underwear, or snow pants, or a warm hat with a brim, or even a snowboarding coat which would have covered my butt so I would have been warm. However, while my body may have been experiencing hypothermia, my happy heart was keeping me warm.

Lets Agree to Disagree…Mental Illness and Violence

I recently received a response from a blog colleague who’s beliefs are different than mine.  It is normal for people to have different views on things, and everyone’s views are welcome. This is my version of  agreeing to disagree…

Dear 5KWD, I wonder if you would have any insight on the following. After doing a smattering of research I learned that virtually every mass shooter on record was taking antidepressant psychiatric drugs when they “went off”. The news media and many posting here are examining the mental illness angle, but we know that depression, asbergers, etc, does not cause homicidal behavior. However, it seems very plausible to me that these FDA approved psychiatric drugs, which have known side effects, may be inducing this behavior. I think it’s the drugs, not the mental illness. This makes way more sense to me than the idea that sometimes formerly quiet, law-abiding people are randomly “going off” and shooting rooms full of children.  artandlifenotes.wordpress.com

 

I agree that every mass murderer may have been on antidepressants.  It would go along with my theory that they have underlying psychiatric conditions.  All of my adopted children are on psych meds.  My oldest daughter has attention deficit disorder.  Prior to medication, she couldn’t pay attention, she was flunking school, she couldn’t pay attention to read a book, and she developed sever anxiety over her inability to function “normally”.  Once on medication, (which includes an antidepressant,) she brought her grades up to straight A’s, attended college, and has a career in her chosen field.  I understand that some people would say that the side affects of medication would outweigh the benefits, she calls me from time to time to bring her medication to work because she forgot it, and she cannot concentrate to do her job. My middle son, who was born addicted to cocaine, has been diagnosed with a variety of mental illnesses, but I personally like to give him just one:  his brain and wiring is screwed up due to his prenatal exposure to drugs.  As an infant he would flail about and injure himself, he rarely slept, wouldn’t eat, and climbed out of his crib by 9 months old. (He couldn’t walk, but he could climb!) He would run around destroying anything in his path.  Without psych meds, it would have been impossible for him to attend school because he surely would have climbed out the bus window!  My youngest son, who was severely abused in his early childhood, has Dissociative Identity Disorder, (previously called Multiple Personality) a condition in which a child withdraws within himself/herself when abused, sort of “blacks out”, so to speak, but another part of the brain still feels the affects of abuse.  That other part remains in his “psyche”.  Hidden.  Buried. Showing itself from time to time in an angry, violent outburst, often requiring hospitalization. Without psych meds, he would not be able to function as well as he does.  He would be encompassed by deep depression and obsessive thoughts.  My youngest daughter has severe attention deficit disorder, and cannot sit still or pay attention without medication. Similar to my youngest son, she was abused as a child. Her hidden demons come back in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, tearful, angry aggression, often on herself, but sometimes against others.  Without psych meds, she would not be able to function.  She still has PTSD and “episodes”, but they are far less frequent than when she was not on medication and it would be a daily thing.

I understand people have different opinions about psych meds, but in my family, without them, it would have been impossible for my children to live life “normally”. I know that there may be side affects, but the side affects are far less intrusive on their lives than their mental health issues. The doctor always goes over the possible side affects, and not a single child has ever indicated they bother them.

Regarding your concept of not believing the idea that sometimes formerly quiet, law-abiding people are randomly “going off” and shooting rooms full of children, again, I can only point to my own children.  Childhood abuse, even verbal abuse, and non-loving parents, can permanently harm a child’s developing psyche.  Permanently.  Even counseling and medication may not be able to fully quiet the demons hidden in a child’s brain.  My son, who is the sweetest, nicest, most generous boy, often displays his “angry part”, a part so vile and violent that it reminds me of Linda Blair in the Exorcist.  He is unrecognizable and so angry that violence surrounds him…sometimes resulting in a call to 911 for assistance with restraining and hospitalization.  For my daughter with PTSD, her episodes are more invasive.  The slight touch, smell, or thought can cause her to fall back into anger of abuse, and she dissociates and becomes violent.  She is not herself…well, that’s not true because even when she is having flashbacks she is herself, but the self as a young child being abused.  Regarding the randomness of violence, case in point:  she was recently arrested for “assaulting a police officer with a deadly weapon” when he charged towards her to get her to stop flailing about and screaming.  (She ripped a board off the wall and tried to ward him off.) She is living in a restrictive, “locked” facility with staff trained in behavior modification and restraints, but her behavior has horrified and shocked them.  It is not her fault, she cannot control it, but she is very violent.  Other people looking at her would never think such a sweet, friendly child could harbor such demons.

I know many people not exposed to individuals who are mentally ill to the serious degree of my children would find it hard to believe they just “snapped”.  No one never knows if a person who appears to be “normal and quiet” is really “normal and quiet” underneath.  I believe wholeheartedly that one has to have a mental illness, even if undiagnosed, to be a mass murderer. I believe no one in his/her “right” mind could possibly do such a thing!  Of course, this is just my one biased opinion.  I can understand, though, that there are different sides to every story.  Let’s just “agree to disagree”!

The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane by Linda Petersen.

I Looked in the Mirror and I saw a Homeless Person…

My husband and I decided to go to our little cottage in New Hampshire for the weekend to rest up for the upcoming holiday festivities.  I filled the car with all of the Christmas present in order to wrap them in peace and quiet.

On Friday morning, we got up at 5AM so Raymond could spend a few hours working in a town a few hours from where our house is.  Those who know me or who have read my book know that I get carsick easily, so for the ride I generally spread out in the backseat with a few pillows and comfy blankets and snooze.  I was still snoozing when he got out to do his job, and, I’m embarrassed to say, I slept for another three hours!

When I woke up, I was desperately thirsty, and of course had to go to the bathroom.  I slowly sat up and looked out the windows, spotting a McDonald’s nearby.  I was joyous.  A hot cup of tea! A bathroom!  I maneuvered myself out of the backseat, threw on my husband’s old coat, (which looked to be warmer as it was snowing heavily outside,) and started walking toward the gleaming golden arches.  (Okay, that last part was a lie as they do not have golden arches anymore, but I was still half asleep, so I can’t be blamed…)

I have been suffering from an inner ear disorder lately; one which cause my balance to be “off”.  I wobble back and forth, and sometimes stumble and trip unless I have something to hold onto.  As I walked to McDonald’s, of course I was in open space, so my walking resembled someone who was drunk.   Embarrassed by my weaving, I snuck around the back of the restaurant and entered through that back door near the bathroom.  Once safely inside, I looked in the bathroom mirror, and I gasped.  A homeless person stared back at me, and it was ME! (And I mean no offense to the homeless…) One side of my head was flattened, complete with pillow marks on my face and a line of drool from my mouth.  The other side was fluffed straight out like half of a Bozo the Clown.  I wet my hair, and looked in the mirror again.  I looked like a drowned rat!  I also noticed that Raymond’s coat was way too big, had a pocket that was ripped, and had oil stains on it.  I was horrified!  Not so horrified, though, as to sneak out and go back to the car.   NO!  I wanted that caffeine too badly.  So, I wobbled out to the service counter, gathered all of my dignity, and ordered a hot tea.  It was poured and put on the counter, and I gave them my credit card to swipe.  (Isn’t crazy in this day and age that I always use my credit card for everything?)  The card was declined.  There I was, standing there at the counter, looking like a drunk homeless person, staring at the server like a deer in headlights.  What?  My charge is declined? I was mortified.  He was not going to budge.  No money….no tea.  With a huge sigh of relief I looked in my wallet and found that $20 bill hidden in that secret compartment in case of an emergency.  This definitely qualified…

I took my prize and wobbled back to the van, where I settled down again in the back seat, happily drinking my tea.

I Never Thought I’d be Thankful for Having Big Breasts…and I Don’t Mean the Ones on the Turkey!

I waitressed from the age of 15 to 27, and it was a great job to have during college and as I started my career as a social worker.  I learned how to balance eight plates on my arm, and carry another 3 more in my hand.  I could gather up 8 glasses of water and get them to the table without spilling a drop.  I enjoyed the customers and nothing on the job bothered me…if I can handle life with five kids with ridiculously difficult problems, I could handle a burnt meal or two, the Heimlich maneuver, and customers running out without paying their checks.  So, when the time came recently that we needed extra money, I obtained a job as a waitress at a well known local restaurant nearby. Of course, I haven’t done this job in 30 years, and I AM a little older, but I thought I could still do well (and use my Cheshire cat smile to charm the customers into leaving large tips.)  I have worked for a week at this job, and I DO like it, but age has a way of affecting how I do my job.  When I squat down to get something from a bottom shelf, I can’t get up without a helping hand.  I need glasses to read the orders.  At this restaurant, which is more “elegant” than where I worked before, we need to use trays on which to place the plates of food, not line them up our arms, (a technique which served me well so many years ago!)  The problem is, I have arthritis in my hands and elbows and my balance is a little off, so I have difficulty carrying a tray full of meals up on my shoulder using one hand.  I CAN carry the tray on my shoulder if I use 2 hands, but the problem then comes when I have to put it gracefully down.  The other waitresses deftly grab a tray stand with one hand while balancing the meals with the other.  That’s not gonna happen with me.

This is where my appreciation of large breasts comes in.  I had always hated them.  The bra straps hurt.  They poke out unattractively.  If I try to wear a necklace, it sits at an awkward angle.  I am forever collecting crumbs on them. And they have just generally been a pain in the neck to put up with.  Until now.  When waitressing, I have learned how to take the tray off of my shoulders with both hands, and, with one hand under the tray and the top part of the tray balanced solidly under my left breast, I use my other hand to serve the meals.  Mission accomplished!  I wonder how long I’ll be able to do this before the management notices the gravy stains on my apron!

Beatles are NOT Bugs

I attended a banquet last evening where the featured musicians played songs from the 60s and 70s…the Beatles, the Bee Gees, Neil Diamond, and so forth.  Listening to the same Beatles songs that were first heard on the Ed Sullivan Show years ago, I became nostalgic for my childhood.  I led an unusual childhood with parents who were the opposite of materialistic…they rarely spent money on “things”.  Being a teenager those days was much easier than being a teenager in “modern” times.  Teenagers now have so many choices of types of jeans, sneakers, perfume and so forth.  We did not have as many choices when I was younger, and, if we did, my parents would have still bought the no name brand sneakers and jeans at K-Mart.  And who needed to smell good anyway?

For Christmas that year my dad gave me his old record player and a record to play on it.  The record was of the fake famous band the Bugs…dressed and hairstyled after the Beatles.  They played the same songs as the Beatles, albeit a little off key. To my parents, it was the same.  To me it was not.  Having been raised not to care about “things”, it surprised me how let down I felt when I received this record.  I know it was selfish of me when we had so many other things to spend money on, but I was disappointed by the fact that I did not get a  real Beatles record.

Although I have lived my life also not dependent on “things”, I still remember with more than a little resentment that day 40 years go.  Sneakers were just sneakers.  Jeans were just jeans.  But the Bugs were NOT the Beatles!

 

To read more about my unusual childhood, please check out my book The Apple Tree:  Raising 5 Kids with Disabilities and Remaining Sane,   which was reviewed by Readers Digest at   http://www.rd.com/recommends/what-to-read-after-a-hurricane/

Yes, I DO have a husband!

I write so often about my adventures with my children that I rarely mention that I have a husband. I love him to pieces, and he is a hard worker and great with the kiddos.  The reason why I don’t write about him…well…he’s kind of boring and not very interesting to write about.

It is very important that we, as the couple that hold the family together, spend quality time with each other.  If we do not put each other first, raising children, especially children with disabilities, would be difficult.  We need bonding, relaxing time together, and we manage to get away for at least a night or two every month,

We went away last weekend to a little cabin we have in the woods of New Hampshire last weekend.  My dad actually purchased this cabin for us when Steven was only a year old.  We knew from his autistic-like behaviors that we were not going to be able to vacation as a family very well at any hotel unless it had padded walls, (which I think I’ve only seen in those motels advertised for sexual adventures!) This cabin is where we have vacationed as a family, swimming in the nearby lake, boating, tubing and water skiing, hiking in the woods, fishing, snowmobiling, making camp fires, and just relaxing as a family.  It has served us well through out the years, and my husband and I  now use it sometime when we get away.  I personally prefer a 5 star hotel, room service and a massage, but that is rarely in our budget…okay the truth is it is NEVER in our budget, so the cabin suffices.

My husband, bless his soul, loves to putter around the place fixing all the little things.  Last weekend he cleaned out the crawl space under the house and found lots of dead mice, who ate our mouse poison and didn’t make it out of the basement in time; we need longer acting mouse poison so they can make it home and die in front of their families.  My husband also found TERMITES.  The house is surrounded by woods with lots of dead trees littering the landscape. WHY would the termites choose our house to eat?  It’s not like it is warm in there because there is no heat.  Why are they drawn to eat the only thing they shouldn’t eat?  I’ve come to the conclusion termites are like children. They won’t eat the huge pile of spaghetti offered to them, but instead want to one by one eat the limited supply of meatballs in the pot. (However,unlike the termites, we won’t kill our children to save the meatballs.)

Without the kiddos with us at the cabin, I was slightly bored!   Of course, my husband and I make a lot of time for loving and such, but that still leaves several hours of the day where he is puttering around and I am bored. I am not a good “relaxer”.  I usually need to be doing something, (thus the reason I have 5 kids in the first place!)  Without cable television, I am forced to…do nothing.  I have no hobbies, and I don’t generally like to read books.  I have been adverse to reading ever since I started reading a Danielle Steel novel in 1982 and never got to finish it because the kids always needed something and I would have to stop mid-chapter.  So, there I was, sitting on the couch, actually feeling a little sorry for myself because I had nothing to do.  Then, VOILA!  I remember that my youngest daughter had downloaded games on my cell phone!  So, there I sat all weekend, playing Scrabble on my phone.  It was great!  I beat myself 53 times!  I was a happy camper!

A Whole New Meaning to “Swimming with the Fishes”

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.

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