Archive for the ‘Children’ Category

Luck? Fate? or Something Else?

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I am a Diet Coke fanatic.  (Before people start telling me that it isn’t healthy for me, I have to admit that it is stress relief to take a long, satisfying sip of an ice cold soda. It might not be healthy, but it has kept me alive and perky!) Being very short on money lately, and exhausted from working a long day, visions of Diet Coke floated in the air. While fishing out a one-dollar bill that desperately clung to life in the bottom of my purse, the van automatically found its way to the convenience store where a humongous drink of Diet Coke awaited me. I put my giant cup under the spigot and filled it to the brim, excited at the prospect of getting such a delight for only 89 cents! Looking up, the large soda sign smacked me in the face; this was not an “all sizes pay same price” kind of store, and a large soda was $1.49! My heart skipped a beat and actual tears of disappointment filled my eyes when I realized I didn’t have enough money to pay. At just that point, the store owner, half my age, struck up a conversation. “That’s a mighty big van out there, must be difficult for you to drive,” he said. “I have five kiddos and it fits our whole family,” I answered with my back to him, still contemplating my payment dilemma. “God bless you!” he said, “The drink is on me!” I turned around and smiled excitedly, thanking him. He could not have understood how much that gesture was such a blessing!

The truth is, our family car situation has been difficult lately.  My Acura ceased to function several weeks ago, and my husband’s work van, 17 years old, also died.  We had to resurrect our old, 12 passenger family van, switching a couple of bald tires off with newer tires from his work van.  Driving the rickety monstrosity was a challenge for me. It wobbled terribly, and I had to grip the steering wheel with 2 hands. I complained to hubby who brushed it off as being “old, what did I expect?” I drove it back and forth to work Monday and Tuesday, still cursing the challenging drive.  Tuesday eve, Steven called me frantically. A friend’s car had broken down near the Providence Place Mall, could I come pick them up? Annoyed about having to drive to Providence after working all day, I climbed into the van to begin the arduous task of maneuvering the eyesore onto the highway.  With the van waving back and forth, I had difficulty keeping it in one lane, but finally reached Steven and pulled to the side of the road near him.  His eyes bugged out as he ran to the back of the van. “Your TIRE is almost off!” he shouted, showing me where one lone lug nut, ready to fall off, had been holding it on. Just as he said that, the lug nut fell to the ground, rolled away and the tire fell sideways onto the ground!  I shrieked in horror and felt like vomiting when I realized what that meant; I had been driving it for 3 days with the tire ready to fall off! (It was Steven and his ADHD that changed the tires…I suspect he got distracted somehow and never finished putting that tire on correctly.) I not only had driven it for 3 days, but I managed to drive it ON THE HIGHWAY at a HIGH RATE OF SPEED to get to Steven. How lucky was I that is didn’t fall off while driving where not only I could have been killed, but I could have killed someone else? I shuddered with realization. It seemed like fate! Or luck? Or something else?

The Diet Coke and loose tire incidents may seem unrelated, but to me, both are an affirmation that luck does not come into play.  I like to think it was Divine intervention, a thought both heartwarming and reassuring.  A thought that always makes me smile…and so far has kept me alive!

 

Loosey Goosey with Einstein Hair

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     My body has not quite agreed with my no stress policy on life as the muscles in the back of my shoulder had started ache.  When I grit my teeth, the pain would shoot from my jaw down to my shoulder blade.) I thought this might be a good time to try a massage, something which I have always wanted but for which there was never an actual need.      

     With a Groupon coupon clutched firmly in my hand, I made my way through the front door of the Chinese spa. Chinese decorations and symbols adorned the walls, a gold and red cat with a wagging paw sat on the counter, and a petite woman in a kimono greeted me in words I could not quite understand.  With the coupon in her hand, I was reassured that she knew what I wanted; a deep tissue massage!

     Led into a small, dimly lit private room, a comfy massage table awaited me. I considered which end of the table to get on; one end had a place I later learned was for my face and the other end had a rolled towel which could loosely be construed as a pillow.  I took off my clothes, careful to leave my underwear on.  (My bra had to come off because fixing the muscle pain on my shoulder would be hindered by the strap.)  I sat in the middle of the bed, legs dangling off the side, sheet wrapped tightly around my body, awaiting the instructions the massage specialist would give me.  Another petite woman, she motioned toward the end of the table without the towel and I started to lay on my back with my head falling backwards.  She giggled a little, then motioned for me to turn over on my stomach.  OH!  So THAT’s how it works!

     It is incomprehensible to me how a woman with such tiny hands could invoke such muscle pain on me.  Every spot she touched hurt, but her delicate fingers kneaded the pain away.  It was both an excruciating and relaxing experience all at once.  When she finished with the bulk of my body, she pulled out my arm to massage.  “Reacts” she kept telling me, (which I proudly interpreted to mean “relax.”) As much as she tried to shake out my hand, my fingers remained stiffened as a board.  She giggled again, and after much coaxing on her part, my fingers finally loosened a little with the ends of them bent down into a claw shape. That was as close to relaxing my hand I was going to get!

     My favorite part was when she massaged my neck and head.  How I loved the feel of her fingers raking through my hair; firmly, therapeutically, amazingly! I knew that the oil she had on her hands would affect my hairstyle, but my mind was beyond rationalization at that point, enjoying the experience. I was disappointed when she stopped and left the room, saying something to me on the way out.  I thought the massage was over, so I stood up, naked, to get my clothes on.  Both of us screamed when she came back into the room!  She covered her mouth with one hand and squeezed her eyes shut, keeping a firm grip on the basket of hot rocks she was holding in her other hand.  “I thought it was over!” I told her as she sweetly said “no, no!” Climbing back on the table, she completed the massage with hot stones, stones so hot they seemed to burn my back through the sheet material and I wondered how she could possibly hold them in her tender, gentle hands. But, OH what a wonderful feeling, loosened muscles and warmth on my back.  It was a joyful experience! It was an experience for which I had waited my whole life!

      When she was finished, she clearly said “Bye bye” and we both giggled, knowing that it actually was time to get up and get dressed.  My limbs were floppy and lose as I awkwardly put my clothes on. I walked out of that room euphorically with a goofy smile on my face, all loosey goosey with my hair sticking out straight looking like Einstein’s.  I was so relaxed I didn’t even care!   

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.

A Cautionary Tale about Halloween Costumes

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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!

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

Sucked Up by a Vacuum

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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…

It Took Us the Long Way

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I have written before about the GPS, and lauded its virtues. I remember in the 80s using street maps and trying to find tiny little streets among a vast array of tiny lines. (Think “finding a needle in a haystack”.) The GPS is an easy and quick way to get to a destination.

It was with this confidence that, during a recent trip to Florida with a good friend, we punched in “Downtown Disney”. The directions started to flow, and we dutifully turned and joined highways as we were on our merry way, chatting and laughing about our families and “old times”. After about 45 minutes, we both became serious and one of us said, “This GPS seems to be taking us the long way. It shouldn’t be taking this long to get to Downtown Disney…” It was at that point we looked closer at the GPS to see the estimated arrival time…35 HOURS! WHAT? It couldn’t possibly be THAT far! We looked a little closer and, lo and behold, it WAS taking us to Downtown Disney…in CALIFORNIA!!! Being good friends, (and not spouses, which would cause the opposite reaction,) this was cause for hysterical laughing til the tears flowed. Then we calmly changed the destination to the one in Florida!

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

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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!”

AND LO AND BEHOLD…

they kept coming….

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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.

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