Archive for the ‘happy parenting’ Category

How Do the Blind See a Tree?

Tree-web

Most people can look up and see a tree.  To a child who is blind or visually impaired, their concept of a tree is the bark they can feel. Their concept of a tree is that it is” rough”.  If they have some vision, they can tell that a tree is brown at its trunk, but “a blob of green” above the trunk.  They could grow up and their whole lives not know what a tree “looks” like.  Expanding such basic knowledge of their world is called expanding the core curriculum. It consists of concepts that are not taught in school, but are still important lessons for that child to learn in order to grow up as an educated adult who is blind.

One topic covered by the nine students, ages six through thirteen, at an April vacation program, was the concept of trees and their differences.  During a nature walk, students found that some trees were so small they could fit their hand around the trunk.  Some trees were so large that it took all nine students holding hands to encircle the trunk. Some trunks were very rough, with deep groves, and some were smooth, with little lines barely traceable by their little fingers.

They learned that evergreen trees stay green all year, and they giggled as they carefully touched the sharp needles. They never knew that trees could be so prickly!  Under the tree, they found the pinecones from which a new tree may grow.

They learned that oak trees, in the spring, have no leaves.  They closely examined the branches of an oak with a few dead leaves still attached, carefully feeling them and making the connection with the leaves they see on the ground in the autumn. Acorns which were still attached to the tree branch were felt with much enthusiasm.  They had collected acorns from the ground underneath the tree, but to actually see it attached seemed to be a surprise. They felt the new buds on the ends of the small branches, buds which would soon bloom into leaves.

Students learned about flowering trees, in full bloom during their springtime visit.  Most students were amazed that a tree could have flowers.  In their minds, trees and flowers were two entirely different things.  But there they were; pink blossoms on the end of a cherry blossom tree branch, gentle, sweet smelling little flowers.

As they were feeling and looking at the trees up close, students were in awe.  So many different types of trees!  And they would not describe a single one of them as “rough” because they were finally able to look beyond the bark.

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(I apologize, it has been a busy summer and this is a repost from 2 years ago.) For more stories about children who are blind, 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

The Dance of the Snake Goddesses

I apologize for repeating this post from 2011, but it is on of my favorites, and a memory that is brought to mind on those few occasions that i have to go to court for my children and I see this particular lawyer there…

A very conservative lawyer friend had a very conservative lawyer wife who had taken up belly dancing.  She and 2 friends were so skilled in this talent that they were chosen to be performers for a large audience for First Night, the annual New Year’s Eve celebration in the city.  For an added “twist” to their act, my lawyer friend asked if his wife could borrow one of my son’s 5 foot long boa constrictors for their dance.  I had plenty of reservations, but I said okay. (It is always good to keep a lawyer friend happy because you never know when you will need a lawyer’s help.)  The ladies came to our house, and practiced with the snake while my son, Steven, who is very familiar with snakes, supervised.  The practice went very well, and the ladies excitedly decided to bill their act as the “The Dance of the Snake Goddesses.”

Well, New Year’s Eve came and I reminded Steven that we had to take the snake to the performance hall for the act.  Steven, who has Asperger’s and an anxiety disorder, was mortified!  There was no way HE was going to go to a large hall where there were a lot of people!  He handed me a pillowcase to put the snake in, and a bottle of alcohol “in case it bit someone”. He promptly took off on his bike peddling away to destinations unknown to me, (but far away from  First Night appearance.)  I started to panic!  These excited dancers were billed as the “The Dance of the Snake Goddesses” and they would have no snake!  Feeling extremely obligated to provide them with a snake, I decided to bring the it myself.  I had not minded the snakes when they were locked in the glass tanks, but somehow I was going to have to get up the nerve to actually take the snake out and put it in the pillowcase.  My hands were shaking as I undid the lock and took the cover off of the tank.   It looked docile enough, just lying there.  I reached in and managed to push it into the pillowcase using a long sleeved pot holder, proud of myself for not having to touch it.  Maybe I’d be okay! I tentatively carried the pillowcase to the living room, but I had miscalculated by not securing the top of it.  The snake’s head popped out, I pushed it back down.  It popped out again, and I pushed it down again.  This time it was stronger and its head came our farther.  When I tried to push it back in, it wiggle away from me and the whole snake came slithering out of the bag, which I promptly dropped.  There, on the floor of our living room, was a slithering 5 foot long snake!  I screamed.  My husband came to see what was going on, and he jumped up on the couch and screamed.  Even though I was shaking and my first instinct was to smash the thing over the head with a broom, I remembered  my commitment to our lawyer friends.  I gathered up my courage and, using the broom gently, I nudged it back into the pillowcase, this time immediately tying the top into a knot.

I was still shaking from this experience as I drove to the city with the wriggling pillowcase on the seat next to me.  I was feeling tremendous relief that I had at least caught it and was on my way to the performance. I even felt a little sorry for it, and turned the heat all the way up in my car so it could be warm.  (It had started to snow outside, which would mean there would be a larger than usual audience for an inside performance as the outside First Night performances would involved standing around in wet snow.  Great!  A bigger audience for what was sure to be a Snake Goddess fiasco!)

When we got near the theater, I put the pillowcase inside my coat to keep it warm. (MY I was brave!)  There was a line around the building waiting to see the performance.  I went to the head of the line, and quietly said to the guard at the door, “I have the snake for the performance.”  In his loudest voice, he parted the crowd by saying “Make way for the snake handler.  Make way for the snake handler!”  I wanted to hide!  As a 55 year old shaking, nervous, dowdy woman, I no more resembled a snake handler than a chipmunk would resemble Santa Clause.

I managed to get back stage with the snake and the belly dancers were very excited.  They carefully took him (her?  I couldn’t tell the difference,) out of the bag and began to practice.  By now I was shaking so badly that my stomach was in knots.  I was holding the bottle of alcohol (“in case it bit someone”.)  I was on the verge of tears, both from relief that I’d delivered the snake in one piece, but also fear that it would bite and there would be blood and screams and lawsuits.

The audience in the large theater was packed, standing room only.  The music for the dancers began.  They dramatically began the act hidden behind veils, with the snake on one woman with the head at one hand, draped across her back, and the tail on the other hand.  They did a dramatic dance, dropping the veils at different intervals for the audience to get a glimpse of the snake.  I could hear  “ooooh”  and “aaaaaah” from the audience.  I was hoping the snake wasn’t going to slither down and into the audience causing mass panic,  emptying the audience out into the street, or, worse yet, go around biting audience members with me following along with my bottle of alcohol. (Then I’d really need a lawyer for the lawsuits!)

Then something strange happened. The dancers dropped their veils, and the snake actually seemed to join in the dance.  Soon its head was wriggling in time to the music, its tail was swaying around, and it seemed to be having a grand old time!  It began to slither in time to the music (a pure coincidence I’m sure,) from one dancer to the next.  It was an amazing sight, the graceful gyrating dancers and the graceful gyrating snake, all moving in time to the music.  Mesmerizing. Amazing.  The act finished to a standing ovation, and darn it if it didn’t seem as though the snake bowed his head in response to the clapping from the audience.

After the show, the dancers gave the snake a few affectionate pats and back into the pillowcase it went.  I tied it in a knot, put it under my coat, and carried it back to the car.  I felt as though I was going to cry, but this time it was tears of relief.  I don’t know how I get myself into these situations, but, again, I’d come through it unscathed, with a little more respect for the reptile in the pillowcase next 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!

Twenty Ways to Get Your Child to Leave a Waterpark…

I took my daughter, Marie, to a water park today.  Water parks are wonderful inventions!!!  All kinds of neat stuff to do in the water.  There is a big wave pool, which is kind of like swimming in the ocean waves except for the sand and the salt.  This is my favorite part of the water park, where she and I float in tubes holding onto the handles of each other’s tube and bobbing up and down in the water.  (I do have to say that lately I have gained so much weight I could probably bob without the tube…)  We went on water slides, in the lazy river, and I even spent some time in the hot tub.  I lay in the hot tub straight out, with the water jet aimed right at the back of my neck.  I lay there floating, eyes closed, enjoying the hot, pulsating water, feeling some of the tension release in that part of my body.  The tension release was short lived, however, as I was soon frightened out of my mind by a lifeguard who jumped into the hot tub to “save” me.  Because I was lying there floating with my eyes clothes, he thought I had passed out or something.   I was very embarrassed because by now a crowd had formed around me.  I do have to say that it might have been worth it to pretend I did need saving as the lifeguard was a very handsome young man.  But I digress…

The title of this is Twenty Ways to Leave a Waterpark which I write after my sympathy in seeing numerous young children dragged crying and screaming out of the park.  One couple near me just announced it was time to go to their young child.  They child said no.  They yelled it was time to go.  He said no.  They said they were going to leave him at the water park and go home without him.  He turned to go back in the pool. They dragged him out kicking and screaming.  After seeing this happen time and time again with all ages of children, I thought I would share my “leaving the water park”  parent wisdom…

First, close your eyes and picture doing something you really like to do  (OOHH!!!!  Wait, don’t close your eyes or you won’t be able to read this…)  Okay, just think about something you really like to do…watch a baseball game, go to a concert, eat chocolate pudding and so forth.  Then imagine that mid game, mid concert, mid bite of chocolate pudding someone in authority comes and takes it away from you and tells you it is time to go. No advance warning.  No waiting until the end of the 9th inning.  Just “it’s time to go!”  Would you go quietly or would you rebel?  Children have the same feelings.  If they are quickly taken away from something they enjoy doing, they most likely will rebel, and rebel loudly!  So, here are my ways to successfully leave a water park with a happy child.

#1  You could plan to leave the water park at closing time, which would be a natural transition for the child.  The slides and pools are closed.  It is time to go home.  This was good at the water park we were at because it closed at 6:00 pm.  It would be trickier for those parks that close at a later time.

#2  Another way to get a child to leave the water park would be: about an hour before it is time to leave, tell the child that you will be leaving in an hour.  Tell him/her again at 1/2 hour, then when only 15 minutes are left, then 10, then 5, then calmly usher the child off to the exit, as expected.  It takes time to do this, but the payoff with a hassle free exit will be worth it.

#3  Another method: if your child is the type who likes to ride on the slides, set a number of slides he/she can do before it is time to leave.  This works better with older children and does not need to be done an hour before departure, (unless the lines are VERY long….)  With my daughter today, I told her she had 5 more slides.  Then, after a few more slides I told her she had 2 more slides.  After those 2 slides, she came and got dressed to leave without complaint.

#4 For those children who need a more visual cue, there is a timer sold at Maxi-Aids called the Time Timer.  You set it at an hour, and the background is red.  The red slowly gets smaller and smaller until the time is up.  My daughter has no problem adhering to this as a reminder of when it is time to leave.  She can visually see how much time is left, and plans accordingly.  No arguments.  When the red is gone, her time is up.

#5  I was being overzealous…I only have the above 4 ways to graciously leave a waterpark.  Plus the fourth, most difficult way.  If any of the above methods do not work, one parent (or 2, depending on how large your child is,) scoops the child up in your arms and carries him/her out to the car.  The ensuing wailing and screaming will of course attract attention.Believe me when I say that other parents WILL understand.  Besides, you are at a water park far from where you live and you’ll never see them again, so what do you care what they think?  You WILL feel badly for your child, but, as a parent, you have to be brave and carry through with this.    You have to think of your child and his/her future, and what they will learn from this experience.  I guarantee, you will only have to do it once…

Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane

Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane BlogMy name is Lindsey Petersen and I am the proud mother of five wonderful, very interesting children. Four also happen to have disabilities, but these have not been overwhelming obstacles.My oldest son, Francis, is legally blind. In this blog  I recount several humorous stories of his upbringing, including his fear of skunks. (He was petrified he would step on a skunk he didn’t see and it would spray him! He HATED tomatoes and the thought of having to take a bath in tomato juice was horrifying to him!) He managed to graduate college and obtained a full scholarship to Cambridge University in England to obtain his Ph.D. He has since become Dr. Scooter, (his nickname from college, named after Scooter from the Muppet Babies). He has obtained his dream job at an unbelievable salary!My 25- year-old daughter, adopted from Guatemala, came to us profoundly deaf, but was “healed.” (Read all about it in my blog!) She obtained her college degree in International Business and also has a job in her field.  She lives nearby with her boyfriend, her 2 year old son, and her percolating baby to be born in July.My 18-year-old son has a long history of autism, obsessive compulsive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and a severe sensory integration disorder. It really doesn’t matter what his disability is diagnosed as, I only know he was born cocaine and heroin addicted to an alcoholic mother, and his nervous system is wired haphazardly! He has managed to utilize his obsessions with reptiles into a volunteer position at a reptile educational facility. He is the one standing in the doorway at the entrance to the facility holding the 6-foot long boa constrictor, or the alligator, or the large lizard. He is not good with people, but great with reptiles! He has also recently become trained as an “alligator wrangler” for their alligator shows. (Really!)My 15-year-old son was severely abused prior to coming to live with us at the age of four. He developed dissociative identity disorder, (multiple personality disorder.) Life with this disorder is every day life for him. He and his “peeps”, (his name for his personalities,) live an interesting, eventful and sometimes very frustrating life, (like when one studies for the social studies test and another one takes it and flunks!)My 13-year-old daughter who is profoundly deaf came to live with us at the age of seven when the police found her wandering the streets carrying her infant brother looking for food. She was supposed to be a short-term placement placed with us because I know sign language. (I’m sure many foster parents have heard this spiel about a short-term placement.) Six years later she is still with us, adopted at the age of ten. Her deafness is not a disability, but her post-traumatic stress from early abuse and her attention deficit hyperactivity disorder have caused serious problems for her.

I am also the loving sister to a brother who is severely developmentally delayed, legally blind and deaf due to rubella syndrome. He also unfortunately developed schizophrenia when he was eighteen years old.

While my children’s lives may not normally be considered amusing situations, I try to look at them in an upbeat, positive, and sometimes humorous manner. I am a happy and optimistic person by nature, and to dwell on their problems would make me sad, a feeling not in my repertoire.

I began writing this blog in August because I was looking for a stress reliever. It is amazing how cathartic it is to vent one’s frustrations in writing! Also, I have had so many unique experiences and adventures that many acquaintances have suggested I write a book. I started writing the blog not so much with the thought of writing a book, but with the thought of putting down these events for posterity, so to speak, and to share my experiences with others. In the process, I’ve reduced my stress level and I have been encouraged by the more 20,000 people who have read the blog. I am sure our adventures and misadventures will continue. (My daughter who is deaf and has sensory issues and cannot stand tags in her clothes has entered junior high school, how is she going to be able to wearing a bra? My son with autism has started to notice girls. Unfortunately for him, girls are usually not very approachable when one is carrying a large snake! My son who has dissociative identity disorder, with the assistance of a specialized psychologist, is searching into the deep recesses of his mind to discover the abuse, which led to his disability.)

Thanks for joining me.  It’s nice to know someone “out there” is listening!

The Baptism from HELL

I don’t mean to be blasphemes, but I am sure that all you parents out there with “difficult” children can understand what kind of hell we live with from time to time.  Most of the time raising children is heavenly, or at least like purgatory. However,sometimes there are those moments when it is just plain hell!

Our son, Steven, was adopted at the age of 3 after living with us since birth.  He was born addicted to heroin and cocaine, to a mom who was an alcoholic and, (GASP) cigarette smoker.  Although we loved his cute little face very much, the rest of him left much to be desired.  He was hypersensitive to sound, touch, smell, noise and any little thing that altered the peace in his little world.  Even as a 6 month old he would bang his head on the highchair if he was “stressed”.  He needed a strictly consistent schedule with no tags in his shirts and no loud noise from the tv.  We altered our life to fit his needs and things were fine, for the most part.

Then came his Baptism day.  First off, it was a change in his schedule, something his 3 year old body did NOT appreciate.  THEN, he had to get dressed up.  I remember thinking he’d never wear a suit and tie, or even a tie for that matter, so I managed to buy a nice pants/sweater outfit.  Unaccustomed to wearing sweaters, his body squirmed in this outfit.  Our church had arranged for a private ceremony, understanding Steven would not be able to be baptized during a regular church service.  We used the little chapel so as to cut down on the anxiety he would feel in the huge church.  His dad carried him to the altar with Steven’s head buried in his chest.  My husband, myself, our older son Francis and daughter Dinora stood by with Pastor Lorraine to begin the baptism.  Steven looked up and saw the baptismal water.  “OOOOOOOH NO!!!!!!”  he screeched.  “You’re not going to put that water on ME!!!!!!”  (He also had a fear of water I’d forgotten to mention…)  He jumped down from my husband’s arms, crawled on the ground, and crawled into the first dark, quiet place he could find…under Pastor Lorraine’s vestments!  There he was, under her vestments which were over her dress…I was MORTIFIED, (thus the “HELL” part!)  She, however, as the parent of three rambunctious kids, thought it was funny.  (God bless her!!)  She felt down for where his head was and she calmly proceeded with the baptism.  (Fortunately, you could see his head clearly outlined in her vestments.)  She did the whole ceremony with him completely covered.  I had a camera to document this momentous occasion, but was at loss of what to take a picture of!  When is it over, his dad gently dragged him out and home we went.  For any other child, a celebration would have been in order, but for Steven, it was home to his usual routine.  Same day as any other day.

PS.  I obviously didn’t learn from this experience as we attempted first communion for him.  At the age of 12, he met with our pastor for one-on-one communion classes as he was unable to participate in the standard classes.   He was then to join the other children on “First Communion Day”.  When the pastor called out his name, he promptly crawled underneath the pew, and curled into a tight little ball, where he stayed for the rest of the service…

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…

Look at All Dem Dere Brown Babies!!!

If you are a parent,  you have probably experienced those situations where your children have embarrassed you by what they say.  I have had many long years of embarrassment, including the following  3 examples:

When Steven was 4 years old, I went with him to a local facility which housed infants and toddlers who were HIV positive to pick up a new foster child.  It was a non-descript looking house which fit in well with the neighborhood.  When we walked in the front door into the large living room, the room was full of beautiful children, all playing with toys, reading a book with a staff member, or toddling over to say hello to us.  Steven, who is quite unused to group situations, took one look at the crowd and said out loud, “Holy Sh_t!  Look at all dem dere brown babies!!!!”  He was right as all of the children were minorities. (This is not to give the impression that minority children would be most at risk for AIDS, it is just that minority children are more difficult to place in foster homes.) The staff all politely laughed at his remark, especially because he did not take into account that he himself was “brown”.  (Which begs the question…if a bi-racial child is raised by Caucasian parents, doesn’t he look in the MIRROR?)

On another occasion, I took Francis to the zoo when he was about 5.  Francis is severely visually impaired and cannot see clearly beyond a few feet, although he can see fuzzy details.  While walking in the zoo, a mom and a dad were strolling along with a child in their stroller.  He was wearing a brown snowsuit, and he had a huge, full head of brown curly hair.  As we passed by them, Francis said “MOM!  MOM!  They’ve stolen one of the animals from the zoo!!!”  The parents looked aghast at his remark, and I remember making some comment about him not seeing well as I ushered Francis quickly away!

The most recent incident happened when Marie was 10.  She is profoundly deaf and normally a very compassionate young lady.  However, we saw a gentleman at the mall who was without legs and an arm.  She stared and pointed excitedly and in her innocence asked me what happened to him.  I gave her my spiel that it is not nice to point and stare because it hurts the person’s feelings.  That God makes all kinds of people and a lot of people have disabilities, just like she is deaf.  I told her the best thing to do was just be friendly, smile, and say hello, not stare.  We were signing all of this in American Sign  frenetically back and forth. We looked up from our signing to smile at the gentleman, only to find him and his friend pointing and staring at US!  We both smiled at him, and then rapidly walked off in the other direction!

The Joys of Parenting (?)


Parenthood can be a lot of work at times, especially with children with disabilities, but I always prefer to see the joyful side of parenthood for the following reasons:

  1. The sight of a sleeping child, no matter what age, melts my heart.  We always take pictures of our children sleeping on Christmas Eve, so I have a collection of how their sweet sleeping faces look as they age.  It never ceases to affect me and I smile at each and every one.
  2. When a child is in a school performance, from pre-school graduation, school plays, award ceremonies, right up to college graduation my pride soars.  Tears always come to my eyes as my well dressed for the occasion child “does his/her thing.”  Each child’s “thing” may be different…Steven, especially in the early years with his sensory integration deficit, would actually hide under the chair, (or the pew in church as was the case when he was supposed to make his first communion.)  Francis would walk slowly looking down due to his visual impairment, and he would be hesitant about who to go to until he got close enough to see them.  Dinora would “strut her stuff”, with us all excited at her accomplishment.  Angel would put on his best “game show host” face and wave to the audience as if the event was entire for him.  Marie would…well, I’ll save that for a later blog because that is a real interesting story!
  3. Each time a child learns a new skill, I am overcome with joy at their accomplishment.  Not just the learning to walk or talk part, but the entire route to independence they take.  My 2 oldest live on their own, have jobs and pay their own bills.  Just the fact that they can pay their own bills causes me to leap in the air with happiness.
  4. Sitting around the table eating dinner together usually, (depending on how the kids are getting along,) fills me with the peace.  I like sitting at the head of the table with my husband at the other end, and the kids in the middle.   Holidays and special occasions are always extra nice when all 5 children are there.
  5. I feel a happiness only a mother could feel every time a child presents me with a gift they have made for me. Steven made me a wonderful 2 foot tall vase shaped like and alligator, (his favorite animal.)  What mother wouldn’t be thrilled to receive an alligator vase?  The color even matches the colors in my kitchen!  Angel’s, who is 15 years old, has a child-like “part” that makes me jewelry.  He presents it to me with great flourish,  It is always gaudy and  made of huge plastic “crystal” beads.  When I wear it, I feel like I am wearing a chandelier, but I wear it with pride, (until I can get in my car alone and take it off on my drive to work.)
  6. Taking the children out for an activity like bowling, horseback riding, or go cart riding allows me to have an excuse and have fun like a kid myself.
  7. The times the children prepare breakfast for me is especially joyful, (even though the eggs are tough, the toast is burnt, and the tea has no sugar.  Plus, the kitchen is a huge mess!) I always look on the bright side, and even if my eggs aren’t sunny side up, I am sunny inside!
  8. The biggest joy I get out of parenthood is the fact that I do not have time to clean the house…taking care of all of the children’s special needs, all of the therapy, counseling, medical, extra-curricular activities does not leave me any time to clean!  We’ve long ago learned to settle for a “picked up house”, not a spotlessly clean house, (or even a “pretty clean” house.)  I feel no guilt at all.  I would much rather be spending time helping my children than washing the kitchen floor.  I will never lay  when I lay on my deathbed I wished I’d kept my house cleaner!  There are so many more important things to do with the kids, so, sorry, don’t expect my house to be real clean!  Ah, the joy of no housework!!!!

Parenting is a lot of fun and can be filled with joy.  I try to always focus on the positives and downplay the negatives.  It is the only way I remain sane!!!!

Different Children/Different Adoption Experience

I was in family court today  and while I waited my turn for my case to be called I sat there on a cold metal bench watching people around me.  In the far corner was a group of family members there to celebrate the adoption of the most adorable blonde haired, blue eyed girl, dressed in a red velvet dress with a white lace top and red bows in her hair.  There were at least 10 family members and a professional photographer.  They were called into the courtroom first, as usually happens with the adoptions.  They came out ten minutes later, the new mother crying, the new father proudly carrying his official new daughter.  The family members were joyously hugging and congratulating them, which was completely incongruous to the rest of the mopey general public, myself included, waiting to be heard in court.  (Not too many people smile or dress elegantly when waiting for court, and the judges and social workers all have their own private room so they don’t have to mingle with the rest of us!)  Anyway, it reminded me of the 4 very different adoption courtroom experiences I’ve had with my children.

The one that comes closest to the scene I’d witnessed was when we adopted Dinora from Guatemala.  Adopted at the age of 12 months, I did dress her is a frilly dress with a bow in her hair.  Our 3 year old son came along dressed in a little vest and tie, and my husband and I proudly carried our children into court for our little one to become an official member of the family.  We did not think to bring other family members around, (just as I did not want any other family members around when I giving birth, I guess!)  We did take a few pictures, and then we all went out to Chuck E Cheese’s for pizza to celebrate.   It was a lovely adoption!  What a great experience!

Our third child, Steven, we had had since birth.  I took him home from the hospital when he was one month old. They had trouble placing him because he had been born heroin and cocaine addicted to an alcoholic birth mother and anyone with any experience with these children know what serious difficulties they can have.  Due to his exposure to drugs and alcohol,  his brain appeared to be wired wrong, (my “formal” diagnosis.) He had excessive sensory integration deficit whereby he would scream if you touched him gently, or if there was a tag on his clothes, or it the tv was too loud, or if the room was too bright, and so forth.  Plus, by the age of 2 he was super active and never slept.  Joy!  Joy!  Nothing, however, could dim our love for him and we wanted to adopted him. (What held it up for several years was a reported birth father, in prison for life for murder, who would not release his custody.  The funny thing was, Steven’s birth mom was Caucasian, light colored hair, blue eyes.  His reported birth father was a red headed, blue eyed Irishman.  Steven was obviously bi-racial with his dark skin and gorgeous curly black hair.  Even though one might entertain the idea that it WAS theoretically  possible that these two people could produce a child with Steven’s characteristics, the fact that the reported birth father was in prison when Steven was conceived should have given a clue that he was grasping at straws to obtain custody. Finally, after a forced court ordered DNA test, it was determined he was not the father and Steven was free for adoption.  Our loving son could become a permanent family member!)   His adoption courtroom experience was very memorable, but all for the wrong reasons.  He was almost 4 and wild, wild, wild.  He was taking Ritalin, which just took the “edge” off.  He still had his sensory issues, and wearing clothes was a real challenge for him.  During the adoption proceedings, I sat Steven on my lap, but he wriggled and cried and tried to get free.  “Let him DOWN”, the judge said sweetly, and who can argue with a judge?  So I let him down.  He proceeded to run around in front of us and strip off his clothes piece by piece.  The judge started talking faster and faster, trying to hurry the adoption process along.  Steven finally was naked and he started to climb up the wood in front of the judge, just as the judge finalized the adoption.  “Good luck,” the judge said to us, “I think you are going to need it!”

The adoption of our son Angel was semi-sweet.  He loved to dress up, so he was wearing a suit and tie.  The court had combined his adoption with the adoption of his five brothers and sisters who were being adopted by their aunt.  The children were removed from their birth mother when Angel was born as he was also born to an alcoholic birth mother who was addicted to heroin and cocaine.  The aunt agreed to adopt his siblings because they already had a family relationship, but Angel was a stranger to them all.  His aunt, only twenty-eight years old herself, had five children of her own.  They lived in the poorest part of town in a small apartment that could not rationally hold eleven people. She did not have a car,so we picked them all up to take them to the courthouse for the adoption.  They were dressed in clean but tattered clothes.  It was obvious that this mother was going to struggle with these children as several of the older, teenage ones were already showing signs of delinquency.  The adoption process went smoothly in court, and we dropped them off at their home with a hope that things would work out.  Then we happily went home to celebrate with Angel.  Another family outing to Chuck E Cheese’s for pizza! (Angel has kept in touch with his siblings, whose adoption has since been rescinded by the adoptive mother.  Two of his brothers are in prison, one in the training school for boys, one sister had died and the other sister has lived with several different foster families.)

Marie’s adoption was our final adoption.  She had come to us as a foster child at the age of seven, having been picked up in the city streets at 4:00 am carrying her infant brother trying to find food for him.  At her tender age, she had been the caretaker of this infant because her birth mother was incompetent and spent her nights out doing drugs of hooking up with guys.  Marie was devastated when she and her brother were separated, and she worried and cried for months that he was going to die because she wasn’t there to take care of him.  At the adoption proceedings, as in Angel’s case, her brother was to be adopted at the same time she was.  By this time he was about four years old.  When she saw him in the courtroom lobby she joyfully ran up to him to pick him up.  He started to cry!  He didn’t know who she was!  His new adoptive mother held him and calmed down, but every time Marie came near him he’d start to cry again.  Marie was devastated and tearful the whole time. The joy of her adoption was overshadowed by her sadness that the infant she had raised did not know who she was.  (She managed to recover somewhat, however.  After the proceedings, they let us go up and take a picture of the judge. In every picture, Marie snuck in “bunny ears” fingers over the judge’s head.  So much for a memorable adoption picture!)

I would have to say that no two adoption courtroom proceedings are exactly alike. The only thing that is alike in all of them is a deep love of the adoptive parents for their new child/children.  For me, in each case, it matched the love I experienced during the birth of my first child.  That is a joyful thing!

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