Archive for the ‘family’ Category

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.

Did You Ever Have One of THOSE Days?

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Usually mornings are hectic; get up reluctantly, sleepily make a cup of tea, eat quickly, rummage through clothes to find a suitable outfit, and out the door I go. Yesterday was different. As I was rushing past the back door to get out, I stopped suddenly to look out the window at the pond and was mesmerized by the sight. The water was as smooth as glass, with the exception of the migrating ducks; whose criss cross swimming replicated that of precision swimmers. All were swimming in unison, zig zagging through the water leaving wakes behind them, which decorated the pond like a huge abstract painting. In all of my years, it is a wonder I never appreciated this artwork by nature before.

Stepping out into the cool October air, I drew a deep breath, savoring the crispness that filled my lungs. It was so invigorating that I walked to my car with a spring in my step and a smile of contentment on my face. Such days in October are a welcome treat after the long summer heat.

Driving to work on Route 295, my mood was elevated by the surprise of the colorful autumn trees. Although I had obviously seen them before in my rush to get to work, on this day the sight overwhelmed me, especially when driving from the shade into the bright sun, which delightfully shone down and highlighted the beauty of the yellows, oranges and reds. My heart got goose bumps as I continued to drive amidst the vibrant landscape.

Life is usually too rushed and my brain full of mingled thoughts to really appreciate my surroundings. This day was different, an almost spiritual reminder to appreciate the good things in life.

On my way home from work I impulsively stopped at the grocery store to buy some apple cider and cinnamon. Tomorrow I will have a cup of hot cider in the morning as I relax in my chair and soak in the beauty of the pond.

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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!

Little Boy Tadpoles

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Communicating with a daughter who is deaf can be particularly challenging, especially because my signing skills are not at her level I have always said, however, that I have enough signs for her to understand what I am saying.

For instance:
Marie loves camouflage shirts, pants and sweatshirts. One day she asked me why the clothing looked like leaves, and I told her it was made that way so people could hide in trees in the woods to shoot deer or other animals. As expected, her mouth opened wide and the surprise showed in her glinting blue eyes. SHOOT an animal? She would never do that! She thought for a minute and then told me she was going to say the leave shirt is for playing hide and seek in the woods and no one could find her. I tend to think they might be looking for her for a very long time…

Another time I had difficulty explaining things was when we were talking about sex. She wanted to know how women get pregnant. She knows about the mechanics of “sex”, (she was abused for years.) What she couldn’t understand was how the woman got pregnant. So, in my best non-professional way, (and I will skip over the highly graphic part) I told her that the male has tiny tadpoles which he shoots up to meet the females tiny eggs, then the two would get together and a baby would develop. Tiny tadpoles, huh? She looked at me quizzically. Tiny eggs? After a minute or two, she shrugged and accepted my explanation. However, when she was fishing recently in our backyard, she saw some tadpoles. And caught them. To give to a boy who might not have any…

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

A Joyful Heart

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One of my biggest faults is that I am apolitical. I tend to do my one little thing raising my kiddos, and consider that my contribution to the world. Whom I admire most are those who are activists, those who stand up for what they believe in and work diligently to make it happen, even if they have to work year after year after year. And so my hat is off to those who have worked so sincerely to legalize gay marriage. Congratulations! WHAT an accomplishment!

I assume that everyone knows someone who is gay. People who are gay are, and I say this jokingly, “just like us.” I understand that there are some religions who firmly believe that being gay is not appropriate. I admire truly religious people who do what they think is right, even if their position is different than mine. But I feel comfortable with my belief is that God is a loving Father/Mother; would that God not love all of his/her children equally regardless of class, race, gender or sexual orientation? And if one of Jesus’ disciples was gay, would He not have taught him, loved him and treated him no differently than the others?

I do understand Biblical references against people who are gay, but was the Bible not written within the times in which they lived? My opinion is that people who are gay should be given the same consideration as why we justify that slaves are no longer allowed and that women are no longer subservient, even though it is written so in the Bible.

Oh, dear…here I go being political. For this one little time. In celebration of the legal acceptance of all of God’s children. Thank you to those of you who worked so hard to make this happen!

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