Archive for March, 2013

Easter reminds me of the Easter Bunny and the Easter Bunny reminds me of Santa…

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Easter.  Ham.  Easter Eggs.  Jelly Beans.  Marshmallow peeps.  Chocolate Easter Bunnies, (see picture.) AND the EASTER BUNNY!!

(Spoiler Alert:  Do not let anyone under the age of 7? 9? 12? read any further.)

 

I am sure that most of us of a Christian faith believed in the light, magical myths of the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and Santa Claus.  Bah Humbug!

My realization that there was no Santa Claus happened on the day before Easter when I was seven years old.  Friends and I were playing hide and seek in our house, and my hiding space of choice was my mother’s closet.  I opened the door and plopped in…right on top of a cellophane wrapped Easter basket!  I could feel the jelly beans fall out, trickling down my legs, and the weight of my body squishing the basket with a sickening sound.  As the marshmallow peeps were flattened, my childhood fantasies vanished before my eyes!  It was only reasonable to assume if my mom pretended to be the Easter Bunny, then the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus were also non-existent.

This was actually a good realization for me.  For many years I had questioned Santa’s fairness.  If he was omnipresent, then how did he not know what I wanted to Christmas?  Even when I sat on his lap and told him…repeatedly…and wrote letters…repeatedly…he still did not bring me that all important, desperately desired, Barbie Doll for which I had asked. The Santa who came to my house had always disappointed me.  Having parents who were obsessively frugal, Santa would bring me unexciting gifts…a new toothbrush, a t-shirt, hair ribbons, and small bottles of shampoo (which I later learned came from the times my father traveled for work and stayed in hotels.) One year I even got 3 pairs of underwear that were much too big, but, judging from the price tag which Santa had neglected to remove, they were on sale for an unbelievably low price!   As a child, I could never understand why my friends and classmates received wonderful gifts of not only Barbie Dolls, but Barbie houses, Barbie cars and tons of Barbie accessories.  They would receive many, and I longed to own just one… but it was not meant to be.  When playing with my friends, they were always kind enough to share “Midge”, Barbie’s “best friend”.  While I appreciated this, I still felt resentful of their good fortune.

It wasn’t until I realized that Santa Claus did not exist that I understood that my parents had purchased all of those “gifts”.  As my childhood revolved around my dad’s “crazy” obsessions, I suddenly understood the significance of the gifts.  It wasn’t that Santa didn’t love me, or that I was somehow less worthy than my friends, or even because my good behavior wasn’t appreciated, it was because our family life was very different than most other families. And I took some solace in the fact that my dad, on his work trips, was thinking of me when he brought home the shampoos.

The whole concept of “Santa” has been a difficult one with my children. My oldest son, Francis, who is blind, hated the thought of having a stranger he could not see come into his house on Christmas Eve.  It was the one night of the year that I let him lock his bedroom door.

One year, I made the huge mistake of hiding the gift of a Little Mermaid comforter set underneath Dinora’s bed.  When she discovered it, she became hysterical, screaming that Santa had been in her room and he could have hurt her!  (She was going through a particularly rough phase with PTSD where she was seeing apparitions of “Bloody Mary”, so her sensitivities to having Santa in her room were heightened.)   She was only five at the time, and the only way I could calm her down was to admit that Santa did not exist, which caused her to cry even harder at the loss of this icon.

Steven, with his autistic tendencies, never did admit that Santa existed.  He was used to his strict schedule, and gifts from a stranger were not a welcome change.  He would wake  up every Christmas morning, walk by the Christmas tree under which the gifts sat, go down to the kitchen to grab breakfast, and sit in the family room to watch The Animal Planet on television.  It was his familiar routine…he never did acknowledge or look at his gifts. (In fact, to this day I have the SAME bag of gifts.  I bring them out every Christmas Eve, and pack them up every Christmas Day, only to be brought out again the following Christmas.  It is very selfish to say, but I have saved a LOT of money by not buying him gifts!)

Angel, my son with Dissociative Identity Disorder, (multiple personality disorder) had a great time each year developing his very eclectic request for gifts to satisfy his many “parts”, male, female, baby, toddler and his appropriate age.  I am sure that not many other boys asked for a complete manicure set along with baby rattles, Superman and Spiderman toys, and a complete bow and arrow set, (don’t ask…)  The problem that developed was that Angel had finally begun to trust me, a conviction he had previously  not held in his four other foster placements. Everyone else had lied to him and let him down.  But here he was in our family with a family he could finally trust, a family that would not lie to him, a family in which he felt safe.  When he found out that Santa Claus was a lie, he felt devastated, furious, betrayed, conned, tricked and misled.  This lie has left an indelible mark on his life, one which he continues to discuss with a counselor.  Every single time I have gone into a therapy session with him, the fact that I am a liar comes up, and that lie is always about Santa Claus. While it is easy for us to say “just get over it”, for him, it has been impossible.   If only I knew then what I know now, I would have done things very differently.

Marie, I am embarrassed to admit, was a young teenager who STILL believed in Santa Claus.  Learning from my experience with Angel, I have never perpetuated this myth on her, but she came to live with us with this belief.   Because Marie is deaf and developmentally delayed, she had few opportunities to “heard” or learn that Santa is not real. This became very apparent to me last Christmas.  On Christmas Eve I put out the individual bags of gifts from “Santa”, which included one expensive item for each child, (a DVD player, Gameboy, camera and so forth.)   On Christmas morning, Marie woke up before all of us and deftly went through the bags, taking out all of the expensive items and putting them in her bag, leaving the other children with only minor items.  She excitedly showed me the wonderful bag of gifts Santa had brought; HER gifts, along with the valuable gifts from everyone else’s bag.  I was mortified to think she would be so selfish, and I told her so!  I told her that there was no Santa Claus and that I had bought the items and they were not all for her.  She tried in vain to argue with me that Santa left them all to her because she had been good, but both of us knew better…

So, this has been a long winded way of saying I DISLIKE SANTA!!!  While he may be a wonderful myth to many, for me and my children, he has been nothing but trouble. BAH HUMBUG!!!!!

The Easter Bunny?  Hey, SHE’S okay…

 

 

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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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Sanitizer, Angry Birds, Locked Doors and Singing Toilets…What Do These Things Have in Common?

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!

hand sanitizer

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…

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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/

A Miracle on St. Patrick’s Day!

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Okay, so the picture above is unflattering, blurry and goofy.  But do you see the miracle?  My daughter, a TEENAGER, for whom Reactive Attachment Disorder has been a major diagnosis, is willingly KISSING me!!!!! It has to be a miracle!  And my heart is happy and full on this Saint Patrick’s Day…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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/

I Won’t Wear That to Church Anymore

I’m just returning from church.  I go to an inspiring, welcoming church, which I love!  Everyone is friendly, and we make a special effort to include people with disabilities.  We have pew cut-outs throughout the church for people in wheelchairs.  (After all, just because you are in a wheelchair does not mean you want to be relegated to the back row, or, even WORSE, the front row.)  We have a sign language interpreter and large print materials for the church service.  If a person who is totally blind attended, we would no doubt get the materials in Braille.  People with developmental disabilities, as well as people with mental illnesses are welcomed with open arms.  Having the children I do, it has been a God send (literally) for our family.

The congregation members help out during the service in many roles, and today I was helping to serve the Wine.  The people serving communion stand on a step while serving the bread and wine.  Learning from an earlier experience when I fell while trying to get a group together for a photo, I always firmly grip the hand rail while walking down the few steps. (Falling while taking a picture is understandable, but more care needs to be taken with the wine. I am sure it would stain the carpet terribly!) When offering the wine to the congregation members, I frequently have to bend over because I am tall and on a step, and they are often shorter.  Today, after I bent over the first time, I noticed that my shirt parted from my body in the front, and everyone had a clear view down to my belly button. (Well, they COULD have seen my belly button if my big breasts had not gotten in the way.)  I was mortified!  While I do not embarrass easily, once I notice something askew, of course I have to fix it.  So, I did the only thing I could do under the circumstances; I squatted for each person.  Do you know how incredibly hard it is to hold a squat at one particular level and then move that squat up or down depending upon who was next?  If I were athletic, it may have been easy.  But I’m not…    I felt like one of those baby crib toys, all scrunched up (squatting low) and then being pulled straight, (standing tall) and while music plays it slowly moves up to the low squat again.That’s the way I was today; up and down and up and down all to the beat of the choir’s music.

I will never wear that shirt to church again…

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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/

Oh NO! More SNOW!

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Another snowstorm!!!! I completely understand why older people move to southern states when they retire. Winters are COLD!  My fingers get chilled just thinking about it, and the snow keeps piling up!

I do not enjoy the winters as I used to.  I remember pre-children when my husband and I would go skiing.  One day it was 10 degrees below zero. We were all excited it was so cold because that meant that the ski slopes would not be as crowded and we would not have to wait in line for the chairlift.  We bundled up with layer upon layer of warm clothing with not an inch of skin showing lest if freeze and fall off. We skied all day.  At one point, we stopped at the top of the mountain and viewed the surrounding area.  With the sun blazing down on the shiny snow, we saw snowcapped mountains in the distance, little villages, frozen lakes and the ant specks that were cars, and I was overcome with awe for nature.  It’s a good thing this memory is frozen in my mind because these days, you’d never get me on top of a cold, frigid mountain again!

Several years ago, after several major snowstorms, there was an 8 foot pile of snow made by the snowplow. The kids managed to shape it for sledding, and they had great fun sliding down.  At one point, Steven climbed to the top of the pile and all of a sudden he disappeared!  He had fallen deep inside the snow pile! It was like he was buried in an avalanche! Another heart stopping moment for me.  Fortunately, we managed to pull the snow from around the top of the pile until we could pull him out.  He was laughing because it was such an adventure, and he begged to do it again.

Several years ago, my husband received an old snowmobile as a “gift” from a friend.  One day, he was riding it in our large backyard with my son Steven sitting in the front of him.  Raymond decided to Steven drive.  Excitedly, Steven turned the handlebars to give it gas.  The snowmobile took off in a lurch and my husband was thrown from the back of it in an amazing double somersault. (A “10” if he were rated in the Olympics for gymnastics off the back of a snowmobile.)  Steven and the snowmobile zoomed on, headed right for the shed in the backyard.  His life flashed before my eyes and I thought “This is what it feels like to see your child die.”   My heart was in my stomach and I felt like I wanted to vomit and scream at the same time. Fortunately, unbeknownst to me, if you let up on the handlebars, the machine stops. This is exactly what Steven did. Then he turned around and noticed that his father was missing! And he had stopped within a foot of the shed. He did not realize how serious it was, and laughed at my husband, still feet up in the snow. It took a while for my heart to start beating again, and I vowed Steven would never again be allowed to drive a snowmobile.  So, my husband did the only smart thing a father could do…he sold that snowmobile and he bought 2 news ones so we could go snowmobiling as a family!  Ugh! We trekked up to New Hampshire to go for a nice, winter vacation. Because Steven could not drive, and because at this time Angel was also living with us, I was forced to go along as the second driver.  If you have not ridden on a snowmobile, the closest description is as if you are riding motorcycle on skis.  In the ice.  And the cold. And did I mention the ice? Because I had never even ridden a motorcycle, I was very nervous. I started the machine, jerking it as Steven had done when he tried to drive it. Fortunately, Angel had his arms firmly wound around me and he didn’t fall off.  I was so scared and it was so awkward to drive that I could only creep along at 5-10 miles per hour, much to my husband’s dismay. (Dismay is putting it mildly.) To make matters worse, my husband did not choose the nice, empty, safe fields to ride in.  NOOOOOO!  He chose the skinny, trees whipping by your head, narrow snowmobile paths with TRAFFIC COMING IN THE OTHER DIRECTION!  That one day of snowmobiling was the scariest of my life.  Once we began on the trail, there was no turning back!  My hands were shaking, my body was sweating even though it was freezing out, and my imagination had my head being whipped off by a tree branch.  I did enjoy the nice, friendly wave the snowmobilers in the opposite direction were giving us, and each time we passed them, my hand went up to wave back.  (I later learned that the opposing snowmobilers put up the number of fingers for the number in their party.  3 fingers for 3 people, and so forth.  I realized that each time I waved, I was telling them that we had 5 people in our party.  Oh, well, I won’t do that again because I won’t do THAT again…go snowmobiling.  Fortunately, Angel did not enjoy it either, so he and I spent our time shopping at the factory outlets while Raymond and Steven went out on the trails.

At home, there is a pond in our backyard.  Marie loves playing outside in the cold, going ice fishing, building snowmen, and, most of all, playing hockey.  She dresses warmly from head to toe…black snow pants, black jacket, a hat which covers most of her face, several pairs of gloves topped with hockey gloves, and boys hockey skates.  She takes her hockey stick and skates around the lake to the various hockey games trying to get an invitation to play.  From looking at her all bundled up, you cannot tell if she is a girl or a boy.  She is not verbal, so they cannot tell from her voice.  (She points to her ears for them to know she is deaf.)  She would normally use sign language but with hockey gloves this is next to impossible.  They always let her in because she is a good player.  If one group stops playing, she will skate around and find another group.  She reminds me of a female Batman for hockey…slinking into games, her identity unknown…showing up out of the blue when a team needs a player!

Winter is alive and well with my kiddos, who enjoy it as I did when I was a child.  They love the snow and all the activities, but now thatI am older I get chilled easily…(picture granny in the rocking chair with a blanket around her.)  I sit by the picture window, near the fireplace, drinking hot chocolate with mountains of marshmallow and I watch them having fun outside.  As parents, we all know that watching our children be happy and have fun is even more fun than doing it ourselves. I am a happy mommy.  Let it snow!

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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/

“Look Mom, no trees!”

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My son Francis is amazing!  Although legally blind, he has led an incredibly successful life.  I think one of the reasons he has done so well is because he was raised without having a disability. If that sounds odd, you have to define disability as not having the ability to do what one wants in order to lead a full and happy life.  With proper modifications and technology, Francis has never been held back in any area of life.

Of course, we have chosen achievable goals when he was growing up. One of the many topics we tackled was how to fit sports into his life. Of course he could not play baseball or soccer, but he could be on the wrestling team and swim team. (He excelled and won championships in both areas.) The one sport that I worried about  was his skiing.  He learned at an early age to traverse the White Mountains in New Hampshire with a sighted guide skiing in front of him, usually his dad.  This petrified me because I was afraid he was going to ski into a tree and die. The fact that he is still alive and kicking today is proof that he didn’t, but that did not lessen my motherly concerns.

When Francis went to college at Cambridge in England, he had the good fortune to make many friends with whom he could travel all over Europe.  One day, I received a photo via e-mail, accompanied by the comment “Look, mom, no trees!” The photo was one of  Francis in ski gear, standing at the top of a ski run in the Alps.  The sun reflecting off his dark goggles was no match for the shining smile on his face.  There were no trees to ski into because they were above the tree line.  He was safe!  And, most importantly for a mom, he cared enough to send me a picture to SHOW me that he was safe.  The little cockles of my heart warmed at the thought…what a considerate son!

It wasn’t until a few months later that I saw the news of a large avalanche in that same area and three people were presumed dead.  DEAD?  I immediately remembered that beautiful picture of my thoughtful son, and I laughed.  (Yes, I laughed.)  That picture shows that my son does not have a disability because he had the same chance of dying as the skiers buried in the snow.  He is truly successful!

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Links to my book:

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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