For those who know me, you may be sure that I am referencing a new foster or adoptive child. Not this time! This time, my new daughter is my son, Francis’, new wife. She is wonderful and sweet and recently blew me away with the Mother’s Day Card she sent. Separate from my son’s, she sent a beautifully designed Papyrus’ Mother’s Day Card with 3-D flowers and a lot of sentiment. But the sentiment that was most important was what she wrote inside; “Thank you for being such a great mom and raising such a wonderful son!” Isn’t it thoughtful? I now officially have another “daughter” and she’s all grown up. I didn’t have to do a thing…
Posts tagged ‘foster care’
Mother’s Day is a wonderful time to appreciate moms, step-moms, birth moms, adoptive moms, wanna be moms and women who love children. Bless you for making a difference in a child’s life! Don’t you get joy from seeing the joy in a laughing child, the shy smile of a child with twinkling eyes, and the serene look on their faces when they are sleeping? Ahhhhhh……..what sweet little rewards of being with a child…
Most of us know, however, that it is VERY difficult to be a mom and sometimes the REAL rewards are far apart….
When my son Steven was in nursery school, it was a real challenge because of his autistic and ADHD problems. He had been born addicted to cocaine and heroine and his nervous system was “messed up” (my professional diagnosis.) Bringing him was a real challenge as he would kick and scream and cry, yet I did it because he could not hide out safely at home for his entire life with me vacuuming around him. At first, he would spend most of the time in school hiding out in the “quiet tent”, playing with his plastic reptiles, sometimes soaking in the information from the teacher. Eventually, he sauntered out of his safe space to see what was going on. He did not join the other children, but he was with them…a huge improvement. Eventually, nursery school became normalized for him; part of his routine. He would come home with his little projects; a paper flower, a painted snake, a play dough alligator. I had learned not to make a “fuss” over these things, but to quietly tell him they were wonderful while his head dropped to his chest, eyes closed. (He was not a child who could tolerate excitement of any kind.) He survived two years in that classroom, and I wondered how he would act on “graduation day”, a celebration seemingly out of his tolerance level. All of the children stood there in their little paper graduation caps, tassels dangling in front of their noses so they had to keep blowing them away. All of the children except Steven. The children sang a song, and thanked their moms and generally wowed the crowd with their antics. All of the children except Steven. The children walked in a nice, straight line to get their nursery school diplomas; all except Steven. When all but one diploma had been handed out, the teacher walked over to where Steven was hiding under a chair, butt facing outwards. (If I had been smart, I would have sewed a smiley face on the butt of his pants, but, alas, I had been unrealistically hoping that he would join the other children in the graduation ceremony.) The teacher bent down with the document and Steven’s little hand reached out to grab it. He quickly pulled the diploma out of sight. Calm and cool under the seat, he had made it! Steven had graduated from nursery school without a tantrum, yelling or screaming. He graduated in the manner he felt most comfortable, but graduate he did! What a reward that was for me; I was a proud mother, indeed!
Diagnosed in elementary school with Dissociative Identity Disorder, Angel, has been very carefully placed in specialized classrooms. Although intelligent and able to do grade level work, he frequently changes “parts”, (his word for his alternate personalities.) His teachers and teacher aids, bless their souls, understand him well, and manage to educate him, even if it means repeating the same lesson because a different “part” was out that day, or giving his the test over because the “part” that studied for the test is not the “part” that took the test! He has a baby part which necessitates him to just “veg out” in a large mushroom chair. On those days, nothing was learned. His condition has been kept top secret and no unnecessary teachers or others in the school know about it. Fortunately, he has been living a very “normal” life. I have found one surprising benefit…he has a “Game Show Host” part. I work with a recreational group of adults with disabilities, and every now and then we play Bingo or Family Feud. Angel, as have all of my children, regularly comes with me. One day, he asked to be the moderator for Family Feud and his “performance” was beyond hilarious. Usually a reserved child with groups, all of a sudden he channeled Richard Dawson! He went down the rows of “contestants”, gave each of them a peck on the cheek, and, while holding their hands in his, asked their names and a little about themselves. The older women, who probably have not had much attention in their lives, giggled and smiled and blushed. Then, Angel read each question with gusto, and made a “ding” noise when they got it right, and a loud buzzer noise if they got it wrong. It was sooooooooooo funny because it was so out of character of the Angel that they knew. This group of adult with disabilities, many of whom live alone on a minimum income with this once a week outing their only time out of their houses, were laughing hysterically that evening. Ever since then, they look forward to Family Feud and “Gameshow Host” Angel! What a reward for me to see Angel’s give such joy to these wonderful people!
As a graduation present, my daughter, Dinora, and I took a trip back to her birth country in Guatemala. She had done fundraising to assist with the opening of a soup kitchen in Antigua, and we were there for “opening day”. We went shopping that morning, taking a little “putt putt” (2 wheeled open air taxi) into the village, giggling all the way as it bounced along. We bought flowers of all bright shapes and sizes, which stuck out of the putt putt on the way back, narrowly bopping passers by on the head. We spread the flowers out in front of the alter where a mass was to be said in honor of the opening of the facility. An overflowing crowd of people filled the make-shift pews, and it was a beautiful, emotional mass. Even though it was all in Spanish I seemed to understand every word, and I could certainly feel the emotion in the songs which the Indigenous Guatemalans sang. After mass, people lined up for the food in their brightly colored clothing. There was my daughter, a young adult, behind the counter, dark hair pulled back into a pony tail, serving food with a beaming smile on her face showing dimples I never knew she had, (or perhaps she had never smiled so brightly.) She was old enough and cared enough to give back something and help “her people” as she called them. I will never forget the sight of her…sweat on her brow, wiping her hands on her apron, making pleasant conversation in Spanish while smiling that amazing smile… How could that sight NOT be a reward for a mom after years of raising a difficult teen?
Raising Marie has been the most difficult because of her many serious challenges. When she came to us, she was street smart at the age of seven.(See post “All She did Was Scream and Say No! No! No!) She had no thought of danger and no social skills. Although this may sound silly, one of my concerns was the fact that she would litter. Get a drink; throw the bottle on the ground. Have a piece of gum; throw the wrapper on the ground. Popsicle; stick thrown in the grass. Repeatedly, I would have her pick it up and throw it away, explaining that we don’t litter in our family. Marie could not have cared less…she did not want to be in our family anyway… It took many months with us before she learned not to litter. That’s why it shocked me when we were at the mall one day and she casually flicked the paper from her straw onto the ground. My eyes widened, and just as I was about to ask her to pick it up, she bent down and picked it up, signing to me “I was just teasing you! I know we don’t litter in this family!” What a reward it was to hear her say that! Finally, she felt part of our family!
My most favorite reward I saved for last. For all of you parents, especially parents with children with disabilities, I will share that there has been no greater reward in my life than seeing my son, Francis, become a successful adult. Despite being legally blind, he has a college degree, is very successful in a job which he loves and through which he is benefitting others, and he recently married a great woman who not only loves him for the wonderful person that he is, but can also drive a car so he won’t have to take public transit to work any more! There IS no greater reward for a parent; to know that the problems, fun, hard work, love, difficulties and dispersed joys of childhood have come together in a positive way. My son has officially “made it” to adulthood. Now he can look forward to the rewards he will experience in raising his own children. Then I get the extra rewards of grandchildren!
To all of you mothers and others out there, Happy Mother’s Day! Beyond the handmade cards, the flowers, the breakfasts and dinners out, and the gifts of the day, so many more rewards await you. Sometimes you just have to be patient…
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….
PS. I have recently been honored with a special award from http://lyricsonthelake.wordpress.com/2013/04/29/because-why-not/:
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
Link to the Readers Digest review of my book: http://www.rd.com/recommends/what-to-read-after-a-hurricane/
Before you “yell” at me, let me explain; my husband and I went to a buffet the other night and there was a long line for the regular buffet. I was really hungry, AND I have been on a diet for YEARS, AND it was my birthday, AND did I mention I was very hungry? As he grabbed a plate to wait in the loooooooooooong regular buffet line, I snuck over to the dessert buffet, perchance to find something healthy I could eat in lieu of waiting in the regular buffet line. Lo and behold, I found desserts containing all of the major food groups:
For protein, the custard and pecan pie (eggs and nuts) fit the bill.
The bread pudding counted as a grain.
For fruit, the strawberries with whipped cream and the blueberry cheesecake offered a sufficient amount of fruit, with the whipped cream and cheesecake also fulfilling the dairy requirement.
I had a little more trouble finding two servings of vegetables, but I solved that by choosing two pieces of carrot cake. (A person’s got to do what a person’s got to do…)
I lined all of the pastries expertly up my arm and 3 fanned out in my hand like a diner waitress. (Waitressing is a skill one never loses…) I easily carried my little treasures back to the table, and chowed down. Mmmmmmm……..I hadn’t had desserts in so long it was SUCH a treat! I savored each morsel, smiling on the inside as well as the outside. I had managed to finish them all, had the waiter clear the table, and ordered a cup of tea before my husband came back from the regular buffet. He was fuming at the long wait, and indicated there was a meat slicer who was obviously new. She took F O R E V E R to slice the prime rib and turkey and strategically place each piece daintily on each person’s plate. As he sat down, he looked at me, smiling, drinking my cup of tea. He asked “Aren’t you eating?” To which I replied, “I’m just sitting here enjoying my tea. I think I will join you when you go up for dessert…”
PS. 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.
Link to my book
Link to the Readers Digest review of my book: http://www.rd.com/recommends/what-to-read-after-a-hurricane/
What do these things have in common? They are “tools of the trade” for my daughter, the mother of a delightful two and a half year old!
Things have greatly changed since my children were toddlers. I am fortunate I never had to carry babies around in those heavy seats. I would not have been able to have more than one baby at a time, and I am sure I would carry it with 2 arms wrapped around it lest I drop it. For the child’s own safety due to my clumsiness, I probably would have stayed home all the time! Our car seats stayed in the car and the babies and toddlers went straight into the umbrella stroller when we were out. It was easy. They could see the world, and my hands were free. Using the stroller also had the wonderful advantage in that when clothes shopping, they could be hung on the back of the stroller. I had to be careful on clearance day, though, lest the weight of the clothing supersede the weight of the particular child in the stroller. While I did misjudge several times, the stroller and the child would just fall back onto a nice, soft pile of clothing. I have such empathy for parents lugging the infant in the infant seat. They look sooooooo heavy!
My daughter, Dinora, has child proof locks on her cupboard doors. What a great idea!!! I used to keep the poisonous soaps, sprays and cleaners on top of my refrigerator. They were safe there, at least until Steven began to climb like a monkey! Whoever thought of the lock on the cupboard doors was a genius! Unfortunately, I am not genius level. When I babysit for my grandson, I cannot figure out how to open the darn locks! It appears that you have to use 2 hands to do so and my hands do not cooperate with each other. During my futile attempts, my grandson stands there crying for his macaroni and cheese for supper, and I can’t get in the cupboard to get the box! Those locks are childproof and grandmother proof! He doesn’t really mind, though, as he much prefers the pizza I order instead.
The other amazing “new invention” is a toilet that makes music when you pee in it! (I am, of course, talking about a toddler potty.) What a wonderful motivator for toilet training! It is certainly be healthier than the M&Ms I used to give, and everyone within earshot can hear the delightful music and cheer the performer on! The only downside leads to my next observation about toddlers these days; my daughter will need to get a different potty if her next child is a girl, who wouldn’t dream of peeing in a Superman potty. With parents knowing before hand if they are having a boy or a girl, baby items now seem to be all girly or all masculine, with little in between, unlike in “my days” when babies wore a lot of green or yellow which would suffice for either. I have never seen so many princesses and action heroes in my life! So much for sexism, I guess…
Imagine my surprise when my grandson climbed in my lap carrying an IPad and started to play a game of Angry Birds. At TWO and a HALF years old he was independently using a computer! But ANGRY BIRDS?He was lopping these little birds through the air to their deaths, feathers flying everywhere. And giggling! This must be the training game for all of the fighting and war games that will come when he is older.
A final reminder of how much things have changed happened when Dinora, my grandson and I went out to eat breakfast in a restaurant. While he played with child aps on the IPad, we had a lovely adult conversation with fussy interruptions. (There were times when raising young ones that I would have died just to be able to drink a hot cup of tea without an interruption.) At the completion of this wonderfully enjoyable meal, my grandson, whose speech is somewhat delayed, managed to ask his mom for some “sanitizer”. I almost flew off my chair! SANITIZER? What a word for a 2 year old! He dutifully put out his hands and she dutifully squirted the sanitizer, a beautiful fragrance of lilacs and honey. (Who comes UP with these combinations?)
Things are certainly different these days, with computer aps for toddlers, musical potties, disposable training pants and bibs, sippy cups in all shapes and sizes, locked cupboard doors, and super hero and princess everything (sheets, toys, cups, dishes, silverware, hairbrushes, toothbrushes, shirts, pants, socks, shoes…you get the idea.) With the exception of having to tote an infant around in a car seat instead of in an umbrella stroller, these days of raising children seem like a lot of fun! (Maybe it’s time for me to foster a few more…)
My husband must be a mind reader. I just heard him faint…
Link to my book
Link to the Readers Digest review of my book: http://www.rd.com/recommends/what-to-read-after-a-hurricane/
Forgive me for re-posting this from a few years ago, but I thought you might enjoy it as it is a New Year’s Eve story…
photo from Ophidiophobia – Fear of Snakes (Picture by Dev Khalsa) honorslounge.com
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 55 year old 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!
Thanks for reading. If you want to read more here is the link to my book:The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane
Last week I pulled into a gas station from out of town to, obviously, get gas. I filled it up, (ie put $20 in as it would have cost $100 to really fill it!) Because this station had super cheap gas, a line quickly formed behind me. I started the van up and tried to shift into “drive”. The shifter did not move! I tried again, and again and again as the line of cars behind me now flowed out onto the street. IT WOULD NOT SHIFT! The car was running smoothly, it had plenty of gas, and yet it would not move. I was highly embarrassed now, as the cars started honking at me. However, as it my usual good fortune, this particular gas station was associated with an auto repair business. I ran in and got the mechanic, who took a look at the line of cars, and tried not to smile. I am sure he thought I was just incompetent, and he cockily climbed into the drivers seat and grabbed hold of the shifter, but it would not budge for him either. There were only 2 ways to get my van out of the way…have it towed, (which we all know would be another disaster,) or having him climb underneath my running van and by hand shift the gear into drive, crawling out before it started moving. In other words, a death defying trick. Being the brave man that he was, he choose the latter option. As he crawled under the van, he told me that no matter what I do, DO NOT STEP ON THE GAS UNTIL HE TELLS ME TO. I don’t think I have ever been so scared in my life. My little old, nervous, shaking foot on that break pedal was the only thing between this man and death! He shifted it quickly and rolled out, telling me to “Go! Go!” which I did at a breakneck speed of about 2 miles per hour. I made a loop around the gas station, coming to stop at an empty parking spot off to the side. I put my foot on the break…holding down with all my might. He crawled back under the van and hand shifted it back into park. My hero!
Come to find out, the shift gears were so old that they were very rusty and would not move. He took them apart, sanded them and oiled them, thereby fixing the problem. When it came time to pay, he said, “That will be eight hundred and seventy-two dollars.” But before I could faint, he started laughing and said he was only teasing…it was only forty-two dollars for his labor. This man risks his life and it costs me less than $50! I was so relieved that not only was my van fixed, but that it was fixed for a very reasonable price. Such is my luck in life. Every time something bad happens, it turns out okay. I truly am lucky! (And so was that crazy man who climbed under the car while it was still running!)
Just a reminder…as I am saving up for more reliable transportation, it would be greatly appreciated if you could consider purchasing my book, The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids with Disabilities and Remaining Sane, which is sold on I-Books, Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I have since learned that some days it is easier to maintain my sanity than others…