Posts tagged ‘Children’

A Cautionary Tale about Halloween Costumes


For some reason, one of my children’s favorite holidays is Halloween. When discussing shared custody of his toddler daughter, my son, Steven, listed Halloween as the most important holiday. Christmas…ah…he can be flexible. Thanksgiving….not all that important. Fourth of July? Just another summer day. (Of course, the fact that with his Asperger’s he is naturally aversive to the larger celebrations does come into play here.)

Steven, being the obsessive reptile expert that he is, always dressed like Steve Irwin, the famous crocodile hunter, for Halloween. Crouching down near the doors of the expectant candy deliverers, he could be heard saying “Aye! Ain’t she a beaut!” while poking at a snake (stuffed), just like his television idol. His plan this year is to again dress like Steve Irwin and to dress his precious daughter up as a crocodile, once again proclaiming, “Aye, Ain’t she a beaut!” at each home. He is excited to be able to share this pleasant childhood memory with HIS child.

Having five children and many foster children, I was always on the look out for Halloween costumes on sale at deep discounts after the holiday. I hit the jackpot at Toys r Us one year when I found an adult sized chicken costume, complete with feathers, sizable full head mask with a plume on top, suitably lifelike feet and feather-like gloves. The price was 90% off. What a find! Excitement welled up in me as I thought about the next Halloween and one of my children wearing the amazing outfit.

As it does every October, Halloween rolled around again, and the costume was perfect for Francis, my oldest son, who was very, very tall at the age of 10. He wanted a silly, popular costume like Spiderman, but I talked him into wearing the chicken costume, a really GOOD costume. He was afraid people would think he was Big Bird, a humiliating costume for a 10 year old. I assured him it looked NOTHING like Big Bird.

Of course, I was completely wrong. At each and every door, the candy presenter would exclaim, “Oh, LOOK! It’s BIG BIRD!” and they would laugh at the amazement of such an elaborate costume. Francis, of course, did not laugh. At each and every door, he would turn around to look and stare at me through the beady little eyes of the chicken mask. His steely stare said it all. He was humiliated and it was my fault!

I learned valuable lessons that day. Just because something is on sale at a deep discount does not mean I have to buy it. And maybe, just maybe, those silly, popular costumes of Spiderman may be what my child wants to wear, which doesn’t make them silly at all!


Please consider purchasing my book: The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids with Disabilities and Remaining Sane on Amazon.

Sucked Up by a Vacuum


Instead of driving his 1999 work van with the worn tires, Hubby was going to take my car for an out of town trip. Knowing that our cleanliness styles are contrary, I decided to surprise him and clean up my car in the fashion he prefers. (Clean, that is.) After going through the super duper car wash with all the bells and whistles, I emptied out every speck of trash, right down to the McDonald receipts and gum wrappers left by my youngest son. Then, in a daring move, I put 3 quarters into the huge vacuum cleaner to vacuum the floors. While pulling on the hose to reach the front seat, somehow the nozzle grabbed onto the front of the dress I was wearing. Surprised, I pulled the hose up to get it off my dress, but all that did was pull my dress up over my head. Frantic, I put the hose down lower, and it then glommed onto my underwear. Pulling on the hose seemed to increase its strength until my underwear was pulled so tight it felt like a wedgie. Quite the tourist attraction, I was standing in the parking of the car wash with the cars driving by on a very busy road. My dress was up and, with my underwear also clinging to the hose, a loud, piercing scream was coming out of my mouth while I frantically turned in circles and jumped up and down trying to free myself. It was just like being sucked up into a giant vacuum. Oh, wait…I WAS being sucked up into a giant vacuum!

Fortunately, those 3 quarters only paid for 2 minutes, and eventually the hose released its powerful grip. Flinging the hose out of my hand like it was electrically charged, I slinked down into the front seat, hiding.

Oh, well, it was MOSTLY clean for Hubby…

I Still Didn’t Get to Swim at the Beach!


For those who have read my book, you would know that my parents were very eccentric, and we traveled for most of my childhood. My most favorite thing to do was to stop at Miami Beach to play in the waves. Once a year. Visiting grandparents. Play in the waves, bobbing up and down with glee. I SO looked forward to this adventure! It wasn’t until I was grown up and driving myself that I learned that the state in which I live ALSO has waves. Go figure! A whole youth squandered on one beach thrill a year when it was only an hour a way from my own home.

Today, I took my kiddos to the beach, bringing my 18 month old granddaughter for the first time. Her chubby little toddler body had to be shoved inside a stretchy bathing-suit-with-a-lifejacket-built-in, in a method I suspect is similar to stuffing a sausage, pieces of it oozing out, only to be gently forced back into the casing. Once safely ensconced in her bathing wear, she made a beeline for the ocean. She may have tiny feet, but they sure run fast! She ran right in, and was shocked when the first wave came, knocking her gently on her little butt. It then became a game of chase the water out, turn around and run from the wave coming in. She kept trying to play in the water, but those darn waves kept coming back! Cold, bubbly, sand moving under her feet, waves. Finally, she got frustrated! She wanted to play in the water without being knocked over! She stood there with steely eyes, glaring at the water, and decided to take control of the situation. Strongly, and with determination, she shook her little finger at the waves and said in her loud toddler voice “STOP!”


they kept coming….

To read about my childhood adventures traveling the country, please purchase my book, The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids with Disabilities and Remaining Sane on Amazon.

Ah…the Joys of Driving!


When I was young, there were a few small amusement parks within a short drive. Ones where the “big” roller coaster had one big dip, nothing much else. And a carousel made in the 14th century, (or so it seemed judging by the music and the outdated horses.) My favorite ride was the “turnpike”. I would get into an impressive, albeit cheap imitation, of a real car. It had a real gas pedal and a real brake and a steering wheel that actually steered the car! (It also DIDN’T have a metal rod in the middle of the road to guide the driving, OR a seat belt!) I would proudly drive up and over the hills and around the bends, expertly stopping at the end without hitting the car in front of me. I had illusions of driving a “real” car when I was older.

And so it was with excitement that I agreed to go with Marie to drive a go cart. The same thing, right? Pretend little car. Gas, brake, steering wheel. Nice road to drive on, great memories!

I naively positioned myself down into the go cart, somewhat difficult to do because being limber is not one of my strong points. It took a while to put on the safety harness, which was invented by the same person who invented the Rubik’s cube. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get mine to fit until the embarrassing moment when the attendant helped make my harness larger to accommodate my…um…”assets”, (liabilities?)

Once properly positioned, I waved the thumbs up sign to my daughter who was in the car behind. I couldn’t turn around to see her, of course, being so strapped into the car not a muscle in my body would turn even a smidgen. But I heard Marie screech, letting me know she agreed it was a thumbs up situation.

Being first was amusing, because it took a while for me to push the gas pedal down hard enough to give the car gas. As everyone else anxiously waited behind me, I took off out of the gate at a crawl! As soon as I was on the “road”, hugging the right lane in fear, everyone else easily passed me.

This was SOOOO not the turnpike ride I remembered from my youth. It was very noisy and bumpy and the centrifugal force when turning corners necessitated me holding onto the steering wheel with all of my strength, (which got increasingly difficult as my hands started to sweat.) Worst of all, despite the restraints, my “assets” bounced up and down uncomfortably. The parents sitting in the viewing stands were silently laughing at me, of course. (It was at that point that I realized the PARENTS were WATCHING, not driving. Hmmmmm.)

Despite being the first one to take off, I was the last to arrive back at the gate. The final embarrassment was people watching as I tried to maneuver myself up and out of the car. An impossible task, until two of the attendants came over and took my hands and pulled me out.

Oh, no, not the turnpike ride of my youth. The whole thing was quite unsettling until I saw the joy on my daughter’s face, (and her laughter that she “beat me”.) She was thrilled that we had done it together. And it was worth every bumpy, humiliating moment.

The Words Every Adoptive Mom Longs to Hear…


Like most other adoptive parents, I adopted children because I, selfishly, wanted children. (My theory was if I had children to care for, I really didn’t have a lot of extra time to clean the house. I would rather care for a child than mop the floor…) An adoptive parent should never think their child who is adopted is beholden to them. The child didn’t choose to be born into their circumstances, and they certainly didn’t ask to be adopted. And I have had more than my share of emotionally unstable children, (aren’t all teenagers unstable anyway?) and never expected them to be happy about my choice to adopt them, (or at least not to express that feeling.)

But I was wrong. I went to Marie’s award ceremony at school today. Most parents didn’t go, it was during the day and I’m sure it was hard for them to get off work. It was hard for me to get off work, too, and I will have to work on the weekend to make up for it, but I went because I wanted to support Marie, who had been doing phenomenally in school. Marie didn’t know I was coming, and she was sooooooooo excited! She ran over, gave me a big, wet, on the lips kiss, and put her head on my shoulder while she hugged me tightly. She was genuinely happy to see me, (and not just because she knew I would take her out for ice cream after the ceremony.) She dragged me to all of her friends, and announced to them in American Sign Language something that made my heart stop and tears come to my eyes. She said, “This is my mom. She wasn’t my real mom when she adopted me when I was 7 years old, and at first I didn’t like her, but she made me feel safe and she gave me food and clothes. Now I love her very much and she is my real mom because now I have a happy life and I know I will have a happy future. And someday I will have babies and make her a grandmother!” I am her mom, indeed!

To read about our traumatic early years together, please purchase my book, The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids with Disabilities and Remaining Sane on Amazon.

Mothers, Help Your Sons Grow Up to be Fathers…


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!

I have repeated this post from last year. His adorable baby is now a year old, and his father’s day skills have continued to flourish!

If you are interested in reading other stories about Francis, please purchase my book on Amazon.

With the Wind Just Flying Through My Hair



Like many of you when driving, my mind races with thoughts of things I have to do, problems to solve, errands to run, crisis to deal with and so forth. Yesterday was different. As I was driving on a back road to get to a client’s home, I found myself following a gentleman, (or gentlewoman as I couldn’t tell; the only clue being the gray hair on the back of his/her head.) Because it was an awesomely beautiful day after a horrendous winter of being snowbound, the top to the MG convertible was down, sunlight shining happily on the occupant. Looking at the car, I recognized it as similar to the one bought with my own money when I was a teenager. My pride and joy that was purchased with my dad, a gentleman who did not generally interact with people, including me. Buying that car bonded us in a way that still brings tears to my eyes. The fact that HE always wanted such a car and possibly was living vicariously through me didn’t dampen my extreme love for him, even when he borrowed it for a joyride himself.

I loved driving my little MG, especially with the top down, and joyful memories flooded back to me while following the car. That was a happy, carefree time in my life. Not that I have regrets about anything I have done since then, including dealing with five difficult children, but remembering being young and without worries induced a sense of euphoria. My current thoughts and worries disappeared, and I became one with that little car. Instead of a stranger driving it, I imagined it was me. My own windows were rolled down so the wind was flying through my hair. My radio was playing songs from the 70s, turned up very loud so it could be heard through the whoosh of the wind. I sang along to the songs, surprised the words came to me so easily. And I was innocently, thoroughly happy without a care in the world.

When the car turned off onto a dirt road, I wanted to scream “No! Stop! Let me follow you!” but of course I didn’t. Instead, the happiness of this memory was etched in my mind. It still gives me a warm glow when I think about it, and I am smiling as I type this.

My thought is; it is easy to get overwhelmed with every day problems and issues. Making time for ourselves may be almost impossible. Look for unexpected joys and happiness, a grandfather walking down the street holding onto a toddler’s hand, the sunlight streaking through the clouds, the flowers bright and blooming, or an old memory that strikes you at unexpected times and makes you smile. Sometimes we have to make our own happiness in unconventional ways, but we all need to have joy in our lives. You just have to look for it.



The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane
Authored by Linda Petersen
The link to the book:

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