Archive for July, 2013

It was Like Playing Leap Frog, but I Didn’t Get to Leap!


I just returned from a four hour trip that should have taken me only two hours.  The day started out wonderfully enough…I drove up to see Marie and take her fishing. Last week she had birthday money and we spent two hours perusing through Dick’s Sporting Goods to get EXACTLY the right fishing pole, strong fishing line, (in case she catches a shark or something similar,) bobbers, lures, hooks and pretend “bait”  (yeh…like worms are really green with black speckles…)  I am pretty naive when it comes to fishing;  we live on a pond with tons of fish, so therefore all bodies of water have fish.  Driving around Marie’s school, we settled on a nice fishing spot that had some large rocks for sitting and many trees for shade.  It turned out we didn’t need shade for long because it became overcast and VERY cloudy, then began to rain.  This didn’t phase Marie, who is known for 4 season, all weather fishing on our pond at home.  Although drenched, she patiently fished, changing bait and lures several times to try to attract the appropriate fish for the area.  Although no fish saw fit to chow down on her line, fun was had by all. She was convinced that the fish could look up through the water at her hulking body and swam in the other direction.  She vowed to next time dress in camouflage gear. (It was only later that I learned that that particular “lake” was actually the drinking water reservoir for the area…no fish…and I was darn lucky all she was using for bait was plastic worms and tin lures!  EWWWWW if it was real worms!))

After dropping Marie back off at school, it started to pour out.  My good ole van isn’t always so good. In fact, it has an electrical short whereby if it gets splashed with water, the engine shuts off.  (It’s one of those things I should have had fixed, but WHO has the TIME?) If the engine has a constant flow of gas, it works okay even if it is wet.  However, if it slows down and there is no gas getting to the engine AND it goes through a puddle, the engine just stops.  Fortunately, I can hear when it happens AND the car keeps rolling on, so I have time to pull over to the side of the road into the breakdown lane.  Being in rush hour traffic AND in a torrential downpour wrecked havoc on the ride home.  When stopped in traffic, I’d put the car in “neutral” to be able to give it gas, shifting to “drive” again once the traffic started to move.  Of course, this did not always work, and often the engine would shut off and I would have to pull over again.  Although the traffic was very slow moving, and as far as I could tell my pulling to the side of the road neither inconvenienced nor blocked anyone, it was amazing the number of cars that would lean on their horns at me.  If I were paranoid, I’d think they were upset…but instead I just smiled and waved. What nice, supportive drivers! Fortunately, the car always started up again, and I’d pull back out into traffic, doing the “neutral”/”drive” dance in hopes that it would keep running. It didn’t.  Time and time again, lengthening the drive home to four hours, I’d pull over to the side of the road, and cars would pass me.  It was like playing leap frog, but I never got a turn to leap…

I think I’ll make time to have the car fixed tomorrow…


To read more about our life, here is a link to my book:

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

Link to the Readers Digest review of my book:


Heat Wave? What Heat Wave?


Like most of the nation, we have been experiencing a heat wave; temperatures in the 90s and 100s for more than a week.  This could have wrecked havoc in the recreational program for children with disabilities I have been coordinating, as the lovely van of previous posts is our mode of transportation.  Said van does not have air conditioning, or, should I say, any little amount of cool air that would have come out of the sickly air conditioner is quickly usurped by vast, oppressive hot air lingering in the air and not felt beyond the driver.

So, I like to play a little game called “Heat Wave?  What Heat Wave”.  Firstly, before I leave work for the evening, I freeze water bags half full.  (At the Dollar Store I purchase cute, brightly colored little bags which one fills with water. With its carabiner hook, they easily attach to a child’s belt loop.) In the morning, using my intuitive powers of observation, I do not park it in a SHADY spot because at the time of the day we will be leaving, that spot will be sunny.  I calculate where the sun will be and which spots WILL be shady, and I park there.  This enables our little group to later enter a van that has not been cooking in the sun.  I pass out the water bags filled to the top, and attach them to each of the kiddos.  (It is easy for them to find if it is attached!)  Then, as the van commences transportation, which, by necessity, includes entering the sunny zone of the freeways,the anti-heat games begin…

* Playing the “Hot Potato” game…(HOT potato…get it?) students pass around this musical icon.  The original goal is the person who is holding the “hot potato” when the music stops is “out” of the game.  In our game, the person who  is holding the “hot potato” when the music stops gets sprayed with water from a spray bottle!  Now, instead of quickly forcing the item onto the next person so as not to be out, the students take their time passing it, hoping to “win” a spray.  (The seat configuration of the van, in a rectangle, facing each other, is very conducive to this particular rendition of the game.)  This not only cools everyone off, but is also a fun game to play, with lots of laughing and joyful sounds!

* Dancing to the beat of the music, played loudly.  For those who know me and my pension for dancing in the van, this is just an extension of this specialty. The children all bounce and bop, clap and cheer along to their favorite music.  (I, of course, as the driver, save my van dancing for in private, instead choosing to pay attention to driving this precious cargo.)  This creative, exercise inducing activity keeps the kiddos happy and entertained.  After a few songs, as the sweat drenches down their little brows, they take a drink of that ice cold water, and ask for more music, and to TURN IT UP LOUDER!

Good ole fashion water gun play.  Yes, I let them use water guns; small ones that don’t shoot a heavy stream of water.  I keep about 20 filled ones on board, so that when one gun is empty, it can be passed down for another one. (Lest you think the water must get all over the van, need I remind you that it is 100 degrees and any water turns into steam…)

The finale of the trip is arriving at our air conditioned destination, be it the pool, the library, the movies or the mall. Just the sight of the destination is enough to make everyone forget the heat, and to file off the van with great expectations of what is to come.  Of course, after I drop them off, I still have to look for a parking spot in the place where there WILL BE no sun…let’s see…how long will we be there?


Link to my book

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

Link to the Readers Digest review of my book:


“It Smells Like Flowers and Sunshine”


Working this summer running an educational/recreational program for kiddos with disabilities, I have been giving my good ole, 12 passenger van with a wheelchair lift a run for its money.  Surprisingly, despite numerous past mechanical difficulties, it has become a war horse for transporting us throughout the state to many wonderful adventures!  Because it is an industrial type van, it supplies the children with a lot of extra bounces, creaking, twists and turns.  (It is good thing they are all snapped down into booster seats and seat belts or by now I would have many little dents in the ceiling from their bouncing heads.)  They laugh and screech and go “weeeeeeeeee” as though they are on a ride at an amusement park. (I dare say, some of the children have never experienced such excitement…)

Over the weeks, I have become somewhat lax in van cleanliness…food wrappers, discarded art projects, broken recreational items (such as water guns and deflated balls,) and, EWWWWWW, old clothing left by the children, litter the floor.  I KNOW it is not proper, but, somehow, I am so busy with the program arrangements, supervising the children and driving them back and forth from their homes that at the end of my 12 hour day, that I am too pooped to do anything but sit in my lounge chair at home and watch Judge Judy.  I did the only thing I could do under the circumstances…purchased a couple of cute, little, purple, sweet smelling air fresheners for the van.

The day after this ingenious addition, the children filed on one by one for a trip to the aquarium.  Many of them commented on the smell, including one little girl who is blind who remarked “Do you have flowers in the van?  It smells beautiful, like flowers and sunshine!”  Thus proving to me that those Febreeze commercials where people are put into smelly, messy enclosures really DO smell only the Febreeze!

Be the Participant, not the Observer

I am not the type of person to stand idly by, but jump into situations with both feet; my solution for happiness is to be the participant, not the observer in life. While vacationing in a tiny town in New Hampshire this week,  this was made abundantly clear amidst fireworks, balloons and extremely festive spirits!  I had the pleasure of watching a small town 4th of July parade.  Unlike more prominent parades in major cites where the crowds line the city streets 4 or 5 deep, standing and straining to get a better view, in THIS town, the crowds WERE the parade! A few people, including myself, sat in camp chairs in the shade, but our numbers paled in comparison to the participants in the parade; community members who obviously enjoyed this tradition throughout their lives in this town.

It goes without saying that everyone was dressed festively in red, white and blue hats, t-shirts, dresses, bathing suits and so forth. Balloons were afloat just as proudly as if they were in the Macy’s Parade.  (Granted, it only took 1 person to hold each balloon, but each person DID hold on tight!)  Whole families participated, and I envisioned life growing up in this town; first participating with the pregnant mom, who is waving the American flag and has her hair sprayed red, white and blue, to riding in the baby carriage adorned with balloons tied tightly and waving in the wind, to being pushed in the trike which has its handles and spokes decorated, to riding the bike wearing an Uncle Sam hat and flashing red, white and blue streamers,, to sashaying on the skateboard, trying to look “cool”, but thrilled to still be part of the family participation, to driving that shiny first teenager car ablaze with slogans and pulling a trail of tin cans, a few years “off” for college and young adult-hood, and then walking in the parade again, with the pregnant wife…  The cycle of life as evidenced by the small town 4th of July parade.

In addition to the participation of families, there were many “floats”.  They may not have been adorned with as many flowers as floats at the Rose Bowl Parade, but each float demonstrated a creativity and enthusiasm, including one where each holiday was depicted by an icon; Santa, Easter Bunny, Witch, New Year’s Baby (yes, dressed in a giant diaper carrying a giant baby bottle,) all waving American flags.  There were floats with farm animals from the 4-H clubs, a float with a large cow being milked, a religious float with sheep and a shepherd, and one float with a giant steer which was quite inviting until I looked closer; it was advertising you could buy your own steer and then have enough meat for a year!  (Fortunately, the steer looked happy and was unaware of the fate to come.)  There were many musicians, including a lone violin player, dressed in a long skirt, (red, white and blue, of course, with a small balloon tied to the end of her violin.)  She was playing and swaying and dancing, seemingly oblivious to the crowd.  The antique cars made their appearance, joined by the town ambulance and fire trucks. Nothing says 4th of July more than the flashing red lights and sirens of these vehicles!  (I had a momentary concern that the vehicles might be needed elsewhere while they were frolicking in the parade, this concern was tempered by the fact that everyone in the town was IN the parade, so they were actually appropriately placed!) Tractors drove by, with their green and yellow overshadowed by festive streamers, and the drivers wearing jeans with red, white and blue suspenders. Elderly people, waving red, white and blue Bingo cards, rode by in decorated golf carts, and a family of show offs rode gracefully by in Segways also appropriately decorated for the parade. (One could immediately tell that THAT family was not “native” to this simple town…)

Lastly, the piece de resistance for me was a lone, very tall, gentleman with a huge Uncle Sam Hat and an appropriate matching suit.  He had a slight smile on his face as he lopped along, not quite marching.  He did not turn to look at the crowd, but proudly walked tall, symbolizing the pride of this wonderfully, American town. He held a very long but thin dog leash.  At the end of the leash was the tiniest dog I had ever seen…a miniature Chihuahua, smaller than the size of his shoe.  It, too, was walking proud, and I swear I saw a smile on its face…

In this town, as in many other towns across American, these folks were not just observers on this holiday, but they were the participants; the main attraction. They ARE America!




To read more about our life, here is a link to my book:

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

Link to the Readers Digest review of my book:

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