Archive for the ‘optimism’ Category

An Active Life with Limited Vision

Francis, who is severely visually impaired enough to be considered legally blind, was skilled enough that he was able to attend a mainstream kindergarten.  He needed some modifications, including large print materials.  He adjusted well to the class, but one week came home and told me that they had a guest speaker come to their classroom.  An exterminator came to the classroom to tell them about termites and such.  He was clearly shaken by the presentation, and for the next several nights he had nightmares, couldn’t sleep, and kept the light on in his room.

He was petrified of termites!  Trying to calm him down, I said “Why are you afraid of teeny tiny termites?”  “TINY???” he cried, ‘They’re HUGE!”  Only people who have driven through Providence, Rhode Island and have seen the 30 foot long, 10 foot tall “Big Blue Bug” as an advertisement for an exterminator which sits proudly right next to Route 95 would understand why he thought termites were huge.  After all, he was too visually impaired to see a real termite, and thought that all termites were that big! No wonder he was so frightened!  We’ve had a good laugh over that story for years!

Another interesting story was how he chose his friends.  With limited vision, he could only make out vague details of the other children.   Yet, he had one good friend named Eddie.  He and Eddie always hung out together.  One day I brought him to school late, and as I looked over the sea of Caucasian, blonde haired little five year olds, I heard Francis say “There’s Eddie” as he happily jumped through the crowd to sit next to the only African American boy in the class.  Real easy to spot!

As Francis got older, he wanted to participate in sports.  He took up wrestling through the Police Athletic League where his vision would not impair his performance.  I, however, had never been to a wrestling match before.  At his first match, he was wrestling with another boy his size and he reached over while the other boy supposedly made an “illegal move”.  Francis’ arm cracked the boy in the nose, and soon there was blood everywhere.  I’m screaming.  The kid with an obviously broken nose is screaming.  And Francis was screaming because he had won the match!  That was his one and only wrestling match. Okay, so blame me for being an overprotective mom, but the sight of blood tends to sour me on a sport.

After that, Francis took up swimming, a sport he excelled at, and one in which he could not get hurt or hurt anyone else.  He remained in this sport for many years, and won several honors for his fast swimming.  It gave him a chance to be a member of team and compete with other people where vision was not an issue.

Francis also became an excellent skier, skiing by following closely in the tracks of a lead skier. He went to winter camps in Colorado run by the Christian Braille Foundation from the age of 14 years old, flying alone across the country to join other skiers with vision impairments.  By the time he was a young adult, he was easily skiing black diamond slopes in Maine and New Hampshire. much to my chagrin.  I was petrified he was going to ski into a tree!  (This was around the time one of the Kennedy’s died by running into a tree.) In his early twenties, while Francis was attending college in Cambridge, England, he made several forays skiing in the Alps.  He sent me a gorgeous picture of him at the top of the mountain, the sunshine on his back, his dark glasses gleaming in the sun with a big smile on his face.  He signed the picture “Look, Ma!  No trees!”  because skiing in the Alps is done above the tree line.  I felt much relieved.  What a great place to ski!  Until I learned from someone that there are not TREES on the Alps, but there are plenty of AVALANCHES!

While in Cambridge, Francis joined a punting team. His team was very successful because he was the lead “punter”.  (I don’t know what it is called…) He would stand at the front of the long, flat boat with a long pole.  Because of the fact he was 6 foot 4 inches, his pole would go deeply into the water and propel the boat forward.  He was also very agile and could do this very fast. His team members would direct him on which way to steer, and they became a champion team!

Despite all of my fears and worries as a parent, Francis has successfully made it to adulthood and continues to try new sports, surfing in Hawaii, wind surfing in California,  and, , jogging in marathons.  He even obtained a license to captain his own sailboat crew.  It just demonstrates that being legally blind does not have to hamper your activities, they just are done in different ways!


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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…

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…

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!

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!

Global Warming?

I completely understand why older people move to southern states when they retire. Winters are COLD!  My fingers get chilled just thinking about it.

I do not enjoy the winters as I used to.  I remember pre-children when my husband and I would go skiing.  One day it was 10 degrees below zero. We were all excited it was so cold because that meant that the ski slopes would not be as crowded and we would not have to wait in line for the chairlift.  We bundled up with layer upon layer of warm clothing and we skied all day.  At one point, we stopped at the top of the mountain and we could see all around the surrounding area.  With the sun blazing down on the shiny snow, we saw snowcapped mountains in the distance, little villages, frozen lakes and the ant specks that were cars, and I was overcome with awe for God and nature.  It’s a good thing this memory is still crisp in my mind because these days, you’d never get me on top of a cold, frigid mountain again!

The children, of course, have always loved winter.  My oldest son, Francis, still skies with his father from time to time, plus he skies with friends in the mountains of California.  Although he is legally blind, he is a ” black diamond slope” skier.  The only problem with that is he needs a “black diamond slope” guide!  My heart was always in my throat when he skied because I was petrified he’d hit a tree.  (This was during the time when Sonny Bono and one the Kennedy boys died after hitting a tree when skiing.)  While away at college in England, he regularly skied in the French Alps.  Knowing how frightened I am, he sent a picture of him at the top of the mountain.  “You’d love this, mom” he wrote, “No trees.”  I pictured him happily skiing down the bare mountain not a tree in sight to run into.  It wasn’t until much later that someone broke my happy bubble by informing me that he could be buried by an AVALANCHE!  Boy, this being a mom is tough!

My husband received an old snowmobile as a “gift” from a friend.  One day, he was riding it in our large backyard with my son Steven sitting in the front of him and he decided to let him drive.  Excitedly, Steven turned the handlebars to give it gas.  The snowmobile took off in a lurch and my husband was thrown from the back of it in an amazing double somersault.  Steven and the snowmobile were headed right for the shed.  His life flashed before my eyes and I thought “This is what it feels like to see your child die.”   Fortunately, unbeknownst to me, if you let up on the handlebars, the machine stops, and this is exactly what Steven did.  He turned around and noticed his father was missing and he let go of the handlebars.  He stopped within a foot of the shed. It took a while for my heart to start beating again. My husband did the only smart thing a father could do…he sold that snowmobile and he bought 2 news ones so we could go snowmobiling as a family!  I had to go along as a driver in order for the whole family to participate. If you have not ridden a snowmobile, I can only describe it as riding a motorcycle on skis.  I had never ridden a motorcycle and I was very nervous. I would creep along at 5-10 miles per hour, much to my husband’s dismay.  To make matters worse, my husband did not choose the nice, empty, safe fields to ride in.  NOOOOOO!  He chose the skinny, trees whipping by your head, narrow snowmobile paths with TRAFFIC COMING IN THE OTHER DIRECTION!  That one day of snowmobiling was the scariest in my life.  There was no turning back and I had to drive.  My hands were shaking, my body was sweating even though it was freezing out, and my imagination had my head being whipped off by a tree branch.  That was the first and last time for me!  My son Angel was riding with me, and he and I decided we liked to go shopping much more than snowmobiling and everyone was happier with this decision.

About 16 years ago, when it became obvious that Steven had some type of Autism and could not tolerate vacations in hotels, we bought a little house in New Hampshire for vacations.  The children always loved playing outside in the snow.  At the end of our driveway was an 8 foot tall pile of snow made by the snowplow which the kids had fun sliding down.  At one point, Steven climbed to the top of the pile and all of a sudden he disappeared!  He had fallen deep into the snow pile! Another heart stopping moment for me.  Fortunately, we managed to pull the snow from around the top of the pile until he could climb out.  He was laughing because it was so much fun and he wanted to do it again.

At home, we live on a lake.  My 13 year old daughter who is deaf loves playing outside in the cold.  She loves to go ice fishing, building snowmen, and, most of all, playing hockey.  She dresses warmly from head to toe…black snow pants, black jacket, a hat which covers most of her face, several pairs of gloves topped with hockey gloves, and boys hockey skates.  She takes her hockey stick and skates around the lake to the various hockey games trying to get an invitation to play.  From looking at her all bundled up, you cannot tell if she is a girl or a boy.  She is not verbal, so they cannot tell from her voice.  (She points to her ears for them to know she is deaf.)  She would normally use sign language but with hockey gloves this is next to impossible.  She is a good player and that is all that matters, and she invariably plays for hours. If one group stops playing, she will skate around and find another group.  She reminds me of a female Batman for hockey…slinking into games, her identity unknown…showing up out of the blue when a team needs a player!

Winter is alive and well with my kiddos, who enjoy it as I did when I was a child, but now I am old and get chilled easily..  If they want me, I’ll be sitting by the fireplace drinking hot chocolate and watching tv, often a show with a discussion about global warming.

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