Archive for the ‘happines’ Category

Yes, I DO have a husband!

I write so often about my adventures with my children that I rarely mention that I have a husband. I love him to pieces, and he is a hard worker and great with the kiddos.  The reason why I don’t write about him…well…he’s kind of boring and not very interesting to write about.

It is very important that we, as the couple that hold the family together, spend quality time with each other.  If we do not put each other first, raising children, especially children with disabilities, would be difficult.  We need bonding, relaxing time together, and we manage to get away for at least a night or two every month,

We went away last weekend to a little cabin we have in the woods of New Hampshire last weekend.  My dad actually purchased this cabin for us when Steven was only a year old.  We knew from his autistic-like behaviors that we were not going to be able to vacation as a family very well at any hotel unless it had padded walls, (which I think I’ve only seen in those motels advertised for sexual adventures!) This cabin is where we have vacationed as a family, swimming in the nearby lake, boating, tubing and water skiing, hiking in the woods, fishing, snowmobiling, making camp fires, and just relaxing as a family.  It has served us well through out the years, and my husband and I  now use it sometime when we get away.  I personally prefer a 5 star hotel, room service and a massage, but that is rarely in our budget…okay the truth is it is NEVER in our budget, so the cabin suffices.

My husband, bless his soul, loves to putter around the place fixing all the little things.  Last weekend he cleaned out the crawl space under the house and found lots of dead mice, who ate our mouse poison and didn’t make it out of the basement in time; we need longer acting mouse poison so they can make it home and die in front of their families.  My husband also found TERMITES.  The house is surrounded by woods with lots of dead trees littering the landscape. WHY would the termites choose our house to eat?  It’s not like it is warm in there because there is no heat.  Why are they drawn to eat the only thing they shouldn’t eat?  I’ve come to the conclusion termites are like children. They won’t eat the huge pile of spaghetti offered to them, but instead want to one by one eat the limited supply of meatballs in the pot. (However,unlike the termites, we won’t kill our children to save the meatballs.)

Without the kiddos with us at the cabin, I was slightly bored!   Of course, my husband and I make a lot of time for loving and such, but that still leaves several hours of the day where he is puttering around and I am bored. I am not a good “relaxer”.  I usually need to be doing something, (thus the reason I have 5 kids in the first place!)  Without cable television, I am forced to…do nothing.  I have no hobbies, and I don’t generally like to read books.  I have been adverse to reading ever since I started reading a Danielle Steel novel in 1982 and never got to finish it because the kids always needed something and I would have to stop mid-chapter.  So, there I was, sitting on the couch, actually feeling a little sorry for myself because I had nothing to do.  Then, VOILA!  I remember that my youngest daughter had downloaded games on my cell phone!  So, there I sat all weekend, playing Scrabble on my phone.  It was great!  I beat myself 53 times!  I was a happy camper!

Angels Among Us

First blogged January, 2010

My mother passed away several months ago and it has taken me this long to write about it.  She was the most wonderful mother in the whole world, (and I am not just saying that because that is what one is expected to say about their deceased mother.)  In addition to being kind and loving, she was also very spiritual.

I remember when I was four years old and we lived in Opalaka, Florida, right behind the Hialeah Race Track.  We had a cement swimming pool in the backyard which my father built, and next to it was a palm tree my mother had planted crooked so it was growing sideways.  I had a green parakeet whose name I certainly don’t remember, and I loved watching Howdy Doody and Captain Kangaroo on our little black and white tv with the rabbit ears antenna.  My brother was born one day in March, and life suddenly changed for our family.  My brother was born with serious disabilities due to Rubella Syndrome, (supposedly my mother had been exposed to someone with German Measles.)  With a cleft palate, he could not nurse or drink from a bottle, so he was fed by a large eye dropper. He could not such on a pacifier and he cried constantly.  He was blind and deaf and was obviously going to be severely developmentally delayed. My joyful childhood was suddenly overshadowed by a sadness of which I had never seen from my mother.  I would witness her throw herself across her bed and sob. A deep sadness enveloped our family. I looked at my little brother, who looked so innocent and little to cause such a fuss.

One day, when the sun was shining brightly and Curtis was asleep, my mother called to me to come sit in the rocking chair with her.  She squeezed me and held onto me tightly, rocking  and crying.  It was a different kind of crying, though.  A happy cry, if I could describe it as such.  From that day on, the gloom lifted from our house and I went back to living my happy childhood with my new baby brother.

Many years later, when I was a young teenager, my mother shared her experience of what happened to her that very day.  The doctors had been encouraging her to put my brother “away”, institutionalize him as was the custom in those days. “Forget about him,” they said, “You can have another child.”  She could not bear to make the thought of doing this.  Then, on that sunny day while rocking in her chair, she told me she was visited by an Angel, a beautiful, bright white Angel.  She told me she could feel the weight of the Angel’s hand on her shoulder, reassuring her that everything was going to be okay.  Although the Angel did not speak, she knew what the message was.  She did not have to worry anymore, her son would be fine, and he was.  He wasn’t fine in that he suddenly became perfectly healthy, but he was fine in that he has led a happy, fulfilling life. Clearly, she had been touched by something spiritual on that day to turn her torrents of tears into smiles of joy over her new baby.

Several years later, while camping high in the mountains, my mother woke up from her sleep and sat up in her sleeping bag.  She was joyous!  She told me she had been to see God, whom she described as a bright and beautiful. She said it felt real, not like a dream at all.  She was confused as to the experience because it seemed as though she was there to help a friend pass over into heaven.  She did not understand because of course her friend was healthy.  It was not until we returned home from vacation that she learned that this friend had died from a brain aneurysm on that very night at that very time.

My mother lived a life of  great happiness and contentment, always seeing the good in people.  Near the end, right before she died, I stayed with her 24 hours a day.  When we knew death was near, the nurses let me lie in bed with her and she passed away in my arms.  I don’t know what I expected when she died.  No…that’s not true…I expected to see some of what she had experienced!  I expected to see her pass into heaven!  I expected there to be some reaction from her body, some knowledge that her lifetime of spirituality would somehow, through osmosis, pass through to me.  But there was nothing.  She just stopped breathing. And there was nothing.

It took me a while to accept her death, and I became angry that there was no sign from God that she was with him.  Realistically I knew this was silly, but I was hugely disappointed.

Christmas time came soon afterwards.  As the parent of 5 children, I had this habit when the children were younger of taking a picture of their sleeping faces on Christmas eve.  As they aged, they hated the existence of these pictures!  (They were usually sucking on a “binky” at the time and girlfriends and boyfriends who saw the pictures in old photo albums would always go “Awwwwwwwwwwww, how CUTE,” the most mortifying thing that could happen to a teenage macho boy!)  This Christmas eve, filled with nostalgia, emptiness and sadness,  I again went into each of their bedrooms and gazed at their sleeping faces.  I was suddenly filled with a great sense of purpose and contentment, much like the type of contentment my mother might have felt when she felt the Angel’s hand upon her shoulder.  These were MY Angels.  These were my children who had endured so much when younger, either with their disabilities or with indescribable child abuse. They have not only survived, but they have THRIVED.  They are happy and loving and successful and they have bright futures as adults.  This is miraculous to me!

A Whole New Meaning to Swimming With the Fishes

I have been fortunate in that my mother loved to travel and she often took me and one of my kiddos “along for the ride.”  One of my favorite spots was Discovery Cove, part of Sea World in Orlando.  Discovery Cove offered a make believe coral reef with lots of beautiful fish swimming around and huge stingrays that would swim close and touch you. It was so amazing, and was as close to real snorkeling that I had ever been. With a life jacket, snorkel and mask on, Marie, (my 13 year old daughter who is profoundly deaf and has PTSD) and I spent the day swimming around, amazed at the many varieties of tropical fish. It was like being in another world.  In one spot, there was a glass wall and you could swim next to sharks.  Up until this point in my life, this was as close to real snorkeling, and SHARKS, that I would get! It was awesome!

Near the end of the day, Marie’s medication began to wear off as we had stayed later than I anticipated.  She began to get anxious, but she didn’t want to leave.   I told her one more swim around the coral reef and then we’d head back to the hotel.  As had been happening all day, a stingray came up and touched Marie on her leg.  In fact, she had been petting them for most of the day, calling them her “friends”.  For some reason, this touch was different than the rest.  She became frightened and had a full blown panic attack.  She started SCREAMING her high pitched scream and she was signing (in American sign language,) “The fish is going to eat me!” (Why the fish would think she were any tastier later in the day than earlier, I don’t understand.) To get away from the stingray, she climbed onto my back.  I tried to calm her down, but it was difficult to do sign language while trying to swim with a child on your back, and she was screaming so loud her eyes were shut and she couldn’t see what I was saying anyway!  By this time, we were halfway around the coral reef and as far from the shore as you could possibly get.  Marie decided she was not safe enough on my back because her toes were still in the water,  so she climbed up on my shoulders to get completely out of the water!  Unfortunately, that meant I’d have to sink UNDER the water for her to stay OUT of it.  I started screaming along with her.  (Albeit alternating choking with water and screaming.) She was truly frightened the fish was going to eat her and I was truly frightened I was going to drowned.

They have several life guards there and our dilemma was not hard to miss, with Marie standing upright and me bobbing in and out of the water choking. Because we were so far out, it took the lifeguards what seemed like an eternity to reach us.  When they got to us, Marie refused to let the lifeguards touch her, screaming and kicking at them.  (Good old Post Traumatic Stress Disorder shows up when you least expect it!)  What three of the lifeguards ended up doing was supporting me in the water while she continued to stand on my shoulders and scream. Of course there was a huge crowd of onlookers on the beach, some taking photos.  (We really were quite a sight!) Once on the beach both Marie and I collapsed into the sand.  The life guards asked if we needed to go to the hospital, but I was still breathing and Marie had stopped screaming and was crying quietly, so that meant we had both survived unscathed.  Well, maybe not totally unscathed, I’ve lost my wanderlust  for snorkeling!

The Deaf Leading the Blind: “But I was just TALKING to her…”

My job is a social worker for children who are blind includes coordinating both a summer and winter program for the children with whom we work.  Last winter we went to an indoor water park during February vacation with about twenty-five children who are blind and “legally blind”.  The children had a wonderful time playing in the water park, on the slides, in the wave runner surfing area, and in the pool, as well as participate in the regular activities that we plan, such as playing bingo and dancing.  Getting together is a huge big deal for these children who are mainstreamed into regular classrooms in their neighborhood public schools where they might not ever see another student with a vision impairment.  I began this program twenty two years ago when my oldest son, who is legally blind, was six years old.

The winter program was a huge success!  Most notably for me, it was the first time my fourteen year old daughter who is profoundly deaf wanted to help out a group of younger girls who are blind.  Each girl had their own staff person who amicably allowed Marie to join their group to help with the little girls. Despite the fact that she normally communicates in American Sign Language, she somehow managed to be very sociable and get along well with everyone. Having normally been obsessed with surfing at the wave runner attraction, and being a somewhat selfish young lady, I had expected she would help for a little while, but spend most of her time surfing. However, I was pleasantly amazed that she did not choose her own activity, but spent all of her time in the water park playing with the little girls, helping them on the slides, holding their hands to guide them around the park, showing them where the food was on their plates, and so forth.  She was having a grand time, and the girls all seemed to adore her.

On the last night of this program. Marie was seated at a booth with two of the girls and their staff.  One of the girls all of a sudden started waving her hands wildly in the air. Prone to seizures, her staff person asked her if she was okay.  She said of COURSE she was okay, she was just TALKING to Marie!!  The laughter started at their table and  soon circled around the room as everyone realized what she had said…she was signing to her, of course!!!!

I Don’t Think Alligators Kiss

Yesterday my husband, in a good mood, came into the kitchen, swooped me backwards, and gave me a passionate kiss.  When we had finished, I noticed my 13 year old adopted daughter standing there, mouth gaping open, eyes wide, with a shocked look on her face.  “What was THAT????’ she asked (in American Sign Language.)  “A kiss,” I told her. “No, no”, she signed, “a kiss is a little peck on the lips” she said as she came over and demonstrated one on the dog.  “That is the way you kiss when you really love someone, your husband” I said.  “WOW!  How did you LEARN that?  Can you show ME!?!?!” she signed.   “You don’t learn it, you just feel it.  It is natural when you love someone,” I explained to her.  “I’m going to wait until I’m 17 to do that,” she signed back, and I said a silent prayer to myself that I should be so lucky for her to wait that long!  I laughed inwardly at her innocence, this worldly child who knew the mechanics of sex more than anyone her age should have to know,  (the reason of which is a discussion better delegated to a more serious blog entry.)  But I doubt she ever saw anyone in love before, and she definitely had never seen anyone kiss passionately, which really surprised me.  The more I thought about it, though, I realized she hadn’t been exposed to it in her young life and the only other way she might know would be from watching television.  Because of her deafness,  she has a low reading level and is not able to understand the captioning enough to get interested in a romantic story or one of the more mature television shows which are all over the television today.  Her favorite tv station is the Animal Planet where great stories are told and no captioning is needed. She knows all about the life cycles of animals, insects and reptiles, including their different mating rituals, but, as preparation for real life, I’m sure she never saw alligators kiss like that!

Love isn’t BLIND it’s DEAF!

My 13 year old daughter announced to me the other day that she is in love!  As a young girl once myself, (many, many years ago, ) I remember the joy of first love, the innocence, the caring how you look, and the giddiness involved.  Marie showed me a picture of him. His name is Jose and he recently moved to their school from Guatemala.  Cute kid. He had already accomplished one thing…motivated Marie to go to school every day.  She also dutifully did her homework, because if she didn’t she would have to sit with the teachers at lunch rather than…Jose!!!!

When I came home from work today, my husband was exceptionally glad to see me and he said he needed help. Marie had come home from school and asked him to pick Jose up and bring him to our house.  They had been “calling each other” all afternoon.  The major problem is, both are profoundly deaf. Jose was calling her on his house phone.  Marie was desperately trying to text him on her cell phone.  A child of technology and a certain standard of living, Marie could not understand why Jose did not have a cell phone.   Jose called time and time again.  Exasperated, Marie asked me to “talk” to him.  As with Marie’s speech, his words were indistinguishable.  I explained to her that I could not understand what he was saying.  Marie came up with the bright idea of calling my other daughter, Dinora, who is also from Guatemala.  “She talk same. Understand him!”  Marie signed.  I laughed and told her she spoke Spanish but would still not be able to understand him.  My husband just shrugged. He had not been able to explain it to her either.

Marie begged for me to just go to his house to pick him up.  She knew where he lived, she insisted.  He lived in “next town”.  The “town” we live next to is the second largest city in our state.  She proudly drew a picture of 2 cross streets and a house on the corner, next to a tree.  The house had the number 123 on it.  “There”, she signed, “Map same Judge Judy.”  She was, of course, referring to the Judge Judy television show where litigants would demonstrate on a map, very similar to the one she drew, regarding how a car accident had happened.  “What name street?” I asked.  She looked at me and signed “123”.  “No, what NAME street?” I signed back. She didn’t know, but said the map was good and it would show us how to get to his house.  My husband and I burst out laughing hysterically, hurting Marie’s feelings. We explained how we would have to go street to street throughout the enormous city looking for all of the houses with “123” on them until we found Jose’s.   She did not appreciate the humor in it.  She asked to me to call his mom, which I tried to do.   However, Jose repeatedly answered the phone, wanting to “talk”  to Marie.  So, there were the 2 of them, both “talking” to each other for over an hour, neither one aware of what the other was saying.  Perhaps that is just as well…

Who Cares What I Look Like…I Saved Money…

Okay, I am officially “crazy”.  I know that is not a politically correct term, but yesterday I did something so obsessive that I realized for the first time in my life that something is seriously wrong with me…I bought make-up that did not match my skin color BECAUSE IT WAS ON SALE!!!!!!

I have always been a “frugal” person, coming from a long line of “frugal” relatives.  (Alright, actually only one, my dad, but he goes way back to my childhood so it is considered a long line to me.) My father was so “frugal” that is retrospect I realize he obviously had obsessive compulsive disorder.  Although we were a middle class family, we NEVER went out to eat.  (Well, there was that ONE TIME we did go out to an ice cream restaurant on their 25th anniversary, but other than that we did not eat at restaurants.)  He did not want to spend money on heat, so we used a wood stove. (We live in NEW ENGLANG!)  He did allow us to have electric blankets, but we could only turn it on to warm the bed, shutting it off when we went to bed.  So, I’d fall asleep all warm and cozy with happy dreams and wake up in the middle of the night dreaming of Antarctica. He also did not want to spend money on hot water, so he devised a type of solar hot water heater by threading water pipes on the roof and then into an unplugged water heater.  If it was a very sunny day, we could have a warm bath at night, but only once a week because he didn’t want to waste water.  We were fortunately to live on a lake so I did a lot of swimming to get clean.

We ate only what was inexpensive and on sale:  lots of rice, pasta, mashed potatoes and canned vegetables.  Not so much fresh vegetables, fruit or meat.  My father was not a vegetarian because of moral concerns, but because of the cost of meat.

For the beginning of school in September, I would be able to choose 2 outfits at the nearest discount store.  I would wear them alternate days during the week…all year! If I happened to grow during the year, (as of course often happened,) they would get a little tight.  Fortunately, my mother planned for this by buying them extra big at the beginning of the school year! She loved buying her and my father’s clothes and shoes at the Salvation Army.  In fact, everyone got a good laugh at my wedding when my mom came up and knelt down for communion and there was $1.99 written in black marker on the bottom of her shoe.  (You’ve GOT to laugh at stuff like that…)

My mother would cut my hair, usually crooked. When I became a teenager,  I tried to let it grown. I put it up in a “bun” like Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, but it was so thin and uncontrollable that I usually ended up looking like Pebbles from the Flintstones!

We did go to the drive-in every Friday, and I was allowed the 25 cents to get popcorn, which was a huge treat for me.  During those days, you had to pay per person for the drive-in.  My father had me scrunch down low in the back seat so they would think I was under 12.  One day, when I was about 15, the person in the admission booth questioned my father about my age.  Because he would never LIE, he told them I was 15 but that he would not pay for me, and what difference did it make if he paid for 2 or 3 because they would still get some money.  The man in the admission booth dug in his heels…and so did my father.  To my huge embarrassment, my father made the long line of cars behind him waiting to pay BACK UP so that he could leave.  That was the last time we went to the drive-in.

Of all of the effects of economic frugality, the biggest one was that I never got a real Barbie doll.  I yearned for a Barbie doll!  I asked for one for birthdays and Christmas, but I always got the cheap plastic imitation Barbie dolls.  When I went to play with friends, they would take pity on me and let me play with their Midge doll, (Barbie’s “friend”,) but it was never the same as playing with my own real live Barbie. I think it is ironic that this is the one memory that has caused permanent harm to my psyche!

In retrospect, except for the doll, I did not know anything different.  I did not feel cheated or poor or economically deprived.  I learned to live with what I had and be happy. From an early age, probably because I had a brother who was severely disabled, I was empathetic with people with disabilities.  Although I did not see many children with physical disabilities in those days, there were many developmentally delayed students in the schools.  I would go out of my way to be friendly and helpful.  I had little tolerance for ignorant people who would fun of these valuable human beings, and I was known for my protective nature. I was fortunate to have had many friends in school.  They were not necessarily the most popular or the most fashionably dressed friends, but they were down to earth, friendly, and they appreciated their friendship with me. I was confident with myself, and I thought nothing of going up to a bully and telling them to stop picking on someone. Just like that, I’d have a new friend!  Sometimes I’d even make friends with the bully! I had a great time in school! My values were vastly different than other teenagers. This difference actually led into what I think is my best quality, the unwavering caring and acceptance of others.  Without this trait, I would not have become a social worker, and I certainly would not have adopted 4 children with disabilities!

Although one would expect I would rebel in the other direction, the one thing that could not help but rub off on me is frugality.  I started working at the age of 14 and paid 1/2 of my pay to my parents as room and board, (of COURSE.)  I finally had some disposable income and you would have thought I would spend it on clothes, haircuts and such.  NO.  I was a compulsive saver.  I saved to buy my own car at the age of 16 and I saved enough to pay for college at the age of 18. I am definitely not as frugal as my father, (who, by the way, died and left my mother with several hundred thousand dollars with which she happily used for the next ten years to travel to exotic locales.)  I do, however, get a big thrill buying things on sale with deep discounts!  I’m the type who would go to JC Penny’s or Macy’s and buy the seasonal items on sale at 80% off with an additional 20% off coupon.  Who can resist shirts for $3 or pants for $5?  I clothe my 5 children in this manner, always buying the year before for clothes they would need the next year.  Once, when a local department store went out of business, they were selling children’s clothing for 50 cents each. Who could turn THAT down?????  I bought 4 RACKS of clothing!  Fortunately, I was in the process of adopting our daughter from Guatemala, so my mother and I stuffed all of the clothing in 8 large suitcases which we took with us to Guatemala.  We each put our own clothes into backpacks which we carried.  The orphanage which had so tenderly cared for my daughter was thrilled to get such an assortment of new clothes.  The director actually cried because she said all they ever got were dirty and ripped hand me downs.

I no longer do the grocery shopping in my house because, like my father, I would only by items which were deeply on sale.  My husband is not a canned vegetable kind of guy.  In fact, I was lucky enough to marry a cook, so he does all of his own shopping, regularly visiting the local farm for fresh produce or the local meat market for fresh meat or fish.  My cupboards and refrigerator are always full of great food and I never have to worry about how much it cost!

Which brings me back to my drugstore sojourn yesterday when, browsing the aisles, I noticed that some of the make-up items were 75% off.  (PLUS I had a $5 off coupon for the store!  What could be better?)  I picked out the marked-down items and proudly brought them to the register.  I was happy!  I was frugal!  I was an idiot!  When I got the items home and tried to use them, I was horrified to learn I had bought powdered make-up such an ugly color that when I put it on I looked like I had pancake make-up on my face. (I’m not talking about pancake make-up they were in the movies, I’m talking about make-up that actually looked like I was wearing pancake flour on my face!)  I tried the blush and it was so red that my cheeks looked like a clown.  The lipstick was brown.  (UGH!)  The mascara was not waterproof, (something I HATE because by night time I being to look like a raccoon.)  And WHY hadn’t I noticed that the nail polish was green???  For the first time in my life I looked at my white powdered, red cheeked, brown lipped self in the mirror and I thought “I am officially crazy!”  Oh, well, its a good thing that I think I am pretty on the INSIDE!

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