Archive for the ‘blind’ Category

Just Like a “Call the Midwife” episode

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For some odd reason, I love the show “Call the Midwife”. Every conceivable scenario for “birthing babies” (obscure reference to “Gone with the Wind”) is explored. For this reason, I will be sharing the birth of my brother.

I got swept into the drama of childbirth at the tender age of four, an early memory that was etched into my tender brain. Several months before my mom was supposed to go to the hospital to get her new baby, my dad ushered both of us into the car, handed me a very large bag of Hershey kisses and dropped me off at my grandparents. My grandparents were not your usual huggy kissy type, but the standoffish, can’t stand kids type. So I sat there alone in their oven of their Floridian sun porch, eating Hershey kisses and watching Captain Kangaroo and Howdy Doody on their tiny tv. As the chocolate melted, it was imperative to eat them right away, which, of course, I did! Covered in melted chocolate, I was able to enjoy the taste for quite a while afterwards, licking my fingers and scooping up melted spots from my dress.

When mom came home from the hospital, I jumped up and down in excitement to see my new sibling. Mom was not her cheerful self, but managed to open the blanket to show me my new brother. I had never seen a new baby before, so I thought this one just wasn’t done yet. He certainly was tiny! His baby blue eyes were tenderly open, but in the middle of his face was a gaping hole where his nose and mouth should be. Still had to grow in, I thought in my childlike innocence. He had these huge ears that stuck straight out. He was going to be able to hear everything with those ears! He was a fine looking baby!

In my childhood innocence, and before post-partum depression was a diagnosis, it seemed odd that my mother spent all of her time in bed, crying softly. She picked Curtis up to feed him with an eyedropper, but most of the milk dribbled down the side of his mouth spot. Her tears would continue to fall, and I could tell she was upset because he didn’t seem to want to drink the milk. When she laid him down for his long daily naps, he would make mewing noises like a cat. I thought it was cute until learning later that he was crying.

My childhood was turned upside down. My loving, sweet mom changed. There were no more of her tender kisses and words of encouragement. She didn’t want to play games with me, or go for one of our walks around the block. In her place was a stranger.

I was brave and tried to take care of myself, but my heart ached at the loss of my mom. She spent all of her time in bed, sleeping or quietly crying. She continued to try to feed Curtis, but most of the time the milk spilled out and she would put him down again for a nap, where his mewing was heard constantly. Sometimes, when she was asleep, I would pull a chair next to his cradle and unwrap Curtis, letting his tiny fingers hold onto one of mine. I would sing songs my mom sang to me, and sometimes he would stop mewing. Time would go by with me sitting there, stroking his bald head and telling him the story of The Three Little Pigs and Goldilocks and the Three Bears. I would be pleased with myself if he would go to sleep and not mew. He looked so peaceful and sweet!

A few weeks after Curtis was born I was sitting in the living room eating out of a cereal box and watching “Lamb Chop”. The sound of the rocking chair in my mom’s room indicated she was again fruitlessly trying to calm Curtis as he mewed. Her room suddenly brightened, as though she had turned on a million lamps. Streams of light spewed out the door of her bedroom into the living room. It was curious and strange, but I was just a kid and saw new things every day, it was no big deal. Returning to watching my favorite lamb puppet sing and dance, I was annoyed that the streams of light made it difficult to a see the tv.

From that time on, the sleeping/crying mom was replaced with my real mom. Carrying Curtis out of her room for the first time, she came over and gave me a kiss and told me she loved me. My own heart softened, and tears started to slide down my cheeks in relief. I had been brave and tried to take care of myself, but having someone else care for me was much preferred.

Mom and I went to the hospital so she could learn how to feed Curtis better. They showed her how to thicken the formula so it would not spill out of his mouth spot. She learned to squeeze little amounts in and wait for him to swallow it. Soon, both Curtis and mom got the hang of it, and he was happily gobbling down the formula. His mewing, which we had become accustomed to, stopped. As weeks went by, he gained weight and I was sure he smiled at me. Of course, it was hard to tell because he had such a strange mouth spot, but his eyes twinkled in such a way that I could tell he was smiling. What a lovely new baby brother!

Fact #1: My brother had been born with Rubella Syndrome, and was hearing impaired, legally blind, severely developmentally delayed and had several physical deformities. He was born this way because when my mother was pregnant, she came in contact with someone who had German Measles. Thankfully, a vaccine was invented to prevent this disease, which can harm more than the carrier.

Fact #2 It was years later that my mom explained what happened that day when the bright light filtered out of her room. She had been rocking mewing Curtis, herself crying and uncharacteristically cursing her life and the life of her deformed, newborn son. Unexpectedly, she was engulfed in an unbelievably bright light that emitted the feeling of unconditional love and encouragement. It washed the sadness out of her, and seemed to tell her everything was going to be all right. She knew it to be a Divine Being, and this experience changed her life, and mine, forever.

 

 

To read the life story of Linda’s sweet brother and Divinely amazing mother, along with her own passion for caring for children with disabilities, please purchase her book; The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids with Disabilities and Remaining Sane. It is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

 

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Termites Aren’t so Bad

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My oldest son, Francis, was born “legally blind”. His visual acuity stabilized at 20/400. (In layman’s terms, what a fully sighted person could see 400 feet away, Francis could only see blurrily at 20 feet.) He used his hearing so well that it was easy to forget that he had impaired vision, but every now and then something humorous would happen to remind us!

One Friday night when he was about three years old, he entered the living room as my friend and I quietly sat amongst the pillows on the couch, munching away on buttered popcorn, and watching “Dallas” on television, (our ridiculously favorite TV show at the time.) He toddled toward where we sat and without hesitation climbed onto my friend’s lap.

“Why, HELLO there!” she exclaimed excitedly, since Francis had previously been very shy with her. He looked startled and then began to cry hysterically. He thought that he had crawled onto my lap! He could see well enough to distinguish that there were 2 figures on the couch, but was unable to focus on the differences of our faces. From that moment on, when he entered a room, he would say “Hi, mom!” and I would respond, “Hi, sweetie!” so he could tell from afar which figure I was. At the age of three he had already learned to make accommodations for his vision loss.

He made similar accommodations when he started. He loved going and had many playmates but seemed to develop a deep friendship with a little boy named Eddy, whom I had not yet met because his mom dropped him off at a later time. Francis would come home and tell me that he and Eddy played with blocks or outside in the playground or cleaned the hamster cage together. I was not only excited that he was actually telling me about his day at “school” but relieved that he was able to socialize and make friends.

One morning my lazy body did not want to get out of the comfy bed on time, so he was driven to school much later than usual. I accompanied him into the building and saw the entire class sitting on the floor listening to their teacher read a book. At first glance, the sea of toddlers looked like a blur of Caucasian, light haired children. Francis scanned the room with his limited vision, spotted Eddy, and walked over to sit down next to the only African-American child in the class. Francis was one smart kid…for his best friend he chose the classmate who was easiest to pick out!

Francis had a wonderful, normal nursery school experience, with one notable exception. The school invited an exterminator as a guest speaker who regaled the class about the abundance and peril of termites munching on the wood of houses. Francis came home terrified at the possibility of having them in our basement. I had never seen him so anxiety ridden and he developed problems falling asleep and nightmares. After about a week of this, I finally asked, “WHY are you so afraid of such tiny bugs?” He burst into fearful, explosive tears. “TINY????” he replied. “THEY ARE HUGE!”

Driving through Providence, RI, Francis had previously seen the only termite of his young life, the famous “Big Blue Bug” atop a building on Route 95, which is 928 times the size of a regular termite. No wonder he was so petrified! His understanding was that termites that large roamed throughout his basement and were eating his house! After I stopped laughing, it was explained to him that the Big Blue Bug by the side of the road was a joke and that termites are tiny. Then his dad and I took him downstairs, searched and confirmed that our house was, in fact, termite free. Happy dreams were his again.

 

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If you want to read about Francis’ hugely successful life, including skiing, captaining a sailboat, obtaining a Ph.D. from Cambridge University, and eventual career as a high level manager at a famous Silicon Valley computer company, please purchase my book, The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids with Disabilities and Remaining Sane through Barnes and Noble or Amazon.

“If You Look for the Goodness in Your Children, Good Things Will Happen”

My dear friends and readers,

Please excuse this commercial interruption of your regular reading.

If you enjoy reading my blog, you will LOVE reading my book!


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

(Review by Dawn Raffel from Readers Digest:)
Her story begins not with her children but with her own childhood spent traveling the country in the backseat of her parents’ car (her perpetually restless dad had post-traumatic stress disorder from WWII), often with very little money and few provisions. Where someone else might have seen deprivation and isolation, Petersen viewed her unusual childhood with a sense of wonder and gratitude. After marrying young and giving birth to a son who was legally blind (and who went on to earn a PhD on full scholarship), Petersen and her husband adopted four more special needs children and fostered many others. Each child has their own special story about overcoming tremendous physical and emotional difficulties in order to be able to succeed and enjoy life. Her honesty, wit, and terrific storytelling make this a book you want to read rather than one you feel you should read.

The link to the book:
https://www.createspace.com/5321986?ref=1147694&utm_id=6026

Thanks sooooo much! Happy reading!

A Fluffy, Cold Piece of Cotton

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I had a lovely school vacation adventure by taking 20 kiddos who are blind to New Hampshire. What a lot of work, you say???? The work doesn’t compare to the joy that fills my heart as I watch these young children socialize and help each other, several of whom were away from home for the first time, many of whom had never stayed in a hotel, and several of whom had never swum in an indoor swimming pool, (or swim anywhere at all for that fact.) I want to share some heartwarming moments to possibly warm your own hearts as well during this cold, cold winter.

* A six year old Cambodian girl who had never been away from home before and whose mom had not packed properly for her, was wearing a donated bathing suit so large it had to be tied onto her so as to cover the “important parts”. As she held onto the railing of the pool and took that first step into the water, her serious face started to smile. On the second step, the smile grew larger, and on the third step, even larger still. By the time she was in the pool, she had a grin from ear to ear, and was giggling excitedly. She bounced up and down in the water, hearing it splash all around her, laughing louder still! She giggled throughout her first swim, and that made my heart giggle.

* A fourteen year old girl took the initiative to help a seven year old girl, leading her to the activities, bathroom, dining table and so forth, with both of them using their white canes. In school, this teen is often seen as “helpless” or to be pitied. As she conscientiously stuck by the side of the younger girl, choosing to do the activities the younger girl wanted to do instead of more selfishly choosing teen activities, her demonstration of compassion and leadership made her a great role model, not to be pitied but to be admired. Her pride made my heart proud.

* Three young girls, bundled up and huddled together in a single, large Superman sled, coast down the snowy hill, twisting and twirling, their laughter piercing the air with screeches similar to those made when going on a roller coaster. Their request for “more, more, more” despite the frigid temperatures belies their joy in sledding, something none of them had done before. Their excitement filled my heart with excitement.

* A young boy, used to having his food cut up by his mom, practiced using a knife on his chicken parmesan, sawing the knife back and forth to release each savory piece, then stabbing it with a fork and bringing it to his mouth with a look of satisfaction. The young boy next to him, who is used to eating EVERYTHING with his fingers, (he’s BLIND, you know….he can’t possibly use utensils are his parent’s thoughts,) was taught to use a piece of bread to coax his food onto a fork by the teen sitting next to him. At first, much of the food didn’t reach his mouth, but he kept trying, urged on by his seat mate. By the end of the meal, he had independently filled his tummy, filling my own heart with his feeling of success.

* All of the kiddos were up on the dance floor, bopping and bouncing to songs such as YMCA, The Chicken Dance, Cotton-Eyed Joe, the Hokey Pokey, the Macarena, The Hustle, Stomp and the Cha Cha Slide. Line dances are perfect for them, and they teach each other the steps. No one is left out and everyone has great fun, wildly swinging their arms, kicking their legs, and sashaying their hair. Watching this group of kids dance, almost in unison, with smiles and giggles and laughter, fills my heart with beautiful music.

And one last little moment: it had started to snow, big, fat flakes of snow, some an inch around and as fluffy as cotton balls. One child started the movement by looking up into the sky with his arms wide and his mouth open, catching the flakes on his tongue. With excitement, the other children follow, arms out, mouths open, allowing the fluffy pieces to rest on their tongues and drop down onto their faces. They were amazed!! So THAT was what a snowflake looked like! At home, they usually rush through the snow, heads down, but on this date they were welcoming the experience. They didn’t need to see the snow to enjoy it, they could feel its beauty and how the warmth of their bodies melted the fragile snowflakes into little piles of water. How amazing! How joyful! What an eye opening experience!

Bring the Fattened Calf; The Prodigal Son Returns

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The holiday season joyously reunites my family! Although Francis is not entirely a Prodigal Son, he is the one son who moved out of state to seek his fame and fortune. Having his Ph.D. from Cambridge specializing in Human Computer Interaction, he has found a fruitful niche among the computer conglomerates in Silicon Valley, California. He has purchased a modest half-million dollar home, (very much similar to the small ranch style homes back east, only less yard and much costlier.) He married an amazing woman who can DRIVE and for whom his vision impairment is not an issue. They recently had a one of a kind baby; a baby so pure and white and bald that she resembles an Alien. (Ooooops! I didn’t just say that, did I?) The best thing is, he comes home every Christmas!

Preparing for his arrival takes a lot of work. Being somewhat of an advocate for letting dust live out its life where it lay, I spend the month before his arrival cleaning; the usual spots, of course, but also those spots not generally covered in a regular cleaning; washing and waxing the cabinets, washing all of the walls so they look as clean as the day they were painted, cleaning under the soap dish in the bathtub, pulling out every speck of dust hiding under the radiators, and cleaning “his” bedroom so clean that it could be considered a sanitary room for a person undergoing a bone marrow transplant. I’ve added a rocking chair for baby to feed lovingly and comfortably. The sheets with flowers are washed with “spring” fabric softener, giving them a sensational floral scent, perfect for a multi-sensory feel. (Yes, sniff in the scent. It is a happy, welcome home scent!)

The decor of my home is generally early mishmash, but when Francis comes home, the walls are decorated with a multitude of photos of all of our children, hastily put together from photos from Facebook. (It is something I mean to do all year but never get around to doing.) The Christmas tree and house decorations are pulled from the bowels of the cellar, decorated and placed in traditional places. Same candles in the window as when Francis was a child, same tree, same decorations including the nativity scene that Francis enjoyed rearranging when he was a child. (He loved to put the donkey in the manger and lay the Wise Men down for a nap after their long hike.) All reminiscent of Christmas’ past.

Hubby, who is generally an excellent cook anyway, also prepares for the special visit. He makes seafood casserole, baked stuffed lobster, “stuffies”, prime rib (sorry fattened calf,) lasagna,and baked ham. For Christmas, we have a traditional turkey dinner, with Marie leading us in saying grace in sign language, joined in by all, (except Francis’ new wife who has not yet caught up in communicating with Marie.) The week is a gastric feast like no other, and poundage is added to us all.

For this one week of Francis’ visit, “normal” life is put aside for a week of conversation, a clean house, a joyful present exchange, visits to nearby sights of interest, (the ski area with the tubing hill, the amazing number of Christmas lights on houses that spend thousands of dollar on decorations, the local breweries, the wild, ravaging waves of the ocean, and, of course, Dave and Buster’s.)

Francis and his little family will be leaving tomorrow and life will be back to normal. I will miss him. And I will be waiting for his return next year!

Do any of you have prodigal children who return for the holiday? How is it for you?

A Special Birthday

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I sat in church this morning and watched the annual Christmas Pageant put on by the children in Sunday School. This tradition is always a treasure to see, especially when one of my own children had a starring role, such as Francis’ turn as a Wise Man, a role he “rocked” because he is super tall and regal and he is great at leading the way using a staff, (for his blindness); or Dinora’s role as Mary with her long black hair and wide, innocent eyes; or Angel’s turn as, what else, an angel. Although there was a myriad of rejoicing angels, only his had a wide, bright smile and a comical, rhythmical walk down the aisle. (Yes, Angel will do anything to stand out from the crowd.) As a mom, pride would burst from me and tears would form in my eyes as I watched my children participate in this holiday portrayal of the birth of Christ.
Today was different for me. My children are no longer of age to directly participate in the production this year, and I thought my feelings about it would be different. But they weren’t! I was still tearful as I was caught up in the gentle story of Mary and Joseph in the barn, standing in the stable until Mary collapsed in the hay to give birth to her Son. And the animals who engulfed children, their heads peaking out through costumes of a donkey, goat, and cow, who stood on the stage trying not to trip because the animal bodies were interfering with their vision. Then the shepherds were coming down the aisle, carrying stuffed sheep and being followed by toddlers wearing sheep hats, white fur and white gloves, baaaa baaaaa baaaaing like sheep. The angels coming, wings and halos and white robes, singing, dancing joyfully down the aisle, sashaying and waving the arms as though dancing to the movie “Frozen”. And then the three wise men, not lead by a tall, regal child like Francis, but led by a solemn young boy with glasses, grasping his Frankincense carefully, so as not to drop the treasure. And when they all arrived, they sang “Away in a Manger”. Then, like the Keystone Cops, they arranged themselves in front of the manger, in a timely fashion, each raised a letter to spell out a special song, a non-religious song, a wonderfully inspired song; “Happy birthday, dear Jesus”. They were wide eyed and joyful and full of the love of this new baby, Christ, who on the day of his birth changed the world for all of us.

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It Made Me Love Him More

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My hubby took good care of my brother when he used to come home on weekends, (he lived in a group home during the week.) Curtis was a lively, spirited young man who also happened to be deaf, legally blind, developmentally delayed and schizophrenic. Additionally, his speech was extremely hard to understand due to several unsuccessful cleft palate surgeries. I knew what he was saying because I grew up with him, but to most people, his communication was a variety of grunts and mumbles. My kiddos, who also grew up with him around, loved him unconditionally and always managed to communicate in their own ways. Hubby was much more cautious, as he would feel awful if Curtis tried to tell him something that he couldn’t understand. So, hubby did not socialize with Curtis much. Get him snacks, put on his favorite tv shows, wash his clothes…fine. Have a conversation about his wants and needs…not so fine. I had the impression that hubby never really bonded with him, although he was always polite.

Recently we saved up money to purchase our first flat screen tv for the wall, which saw our old, clunky television cabinet tossed to the curb. On the cabinet sat a withered plant, the result of my own brown thumb and inattention. I told hubby to toss it in the garbage. “NO!” he shouted, unexpectedly. I was so surprised at his reaction because he is normally quite soft spoken. Looking closely at him, I could see that his eyes had filled with tears and one had started to trickle down his cheek. When I asked him why, he managed to croak out “Curtis…”, and then he burst into tears. It had been a plant from Curtis’ funeral! I hadn’t even remembered that, (I was in quite a tizzy at the time.) “We can’t throw it out!” he said as he plucked out some of the dry leaves and brought it to the sink for watering. He fluffed it up as best he could and put it in the middle of the dining room table. The next day the plant had a new, larger vase that would let the roots spread out and grow. I saw this as a demonstration that he had, in fact, actually cared about my brother! It made me love my husband even more!

p>For more stories us, please, read my book. Here is a link:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-apple-tree/id538572206?mt=11

The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane

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