Posts tagged ‘foster parent’

Mother’s Day and Delayed Rewards

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Mother’s Day is a wonderful time to appreciate moms, step-moms, birth moms, adoptive moms, wanna be moms and women who love children. Bless you for making a difference in a child’s life! Don’t you get joy from seeing the joy in a laughing child, the shy smile of a child with twinkling eyes, and the serene look on their faces when they are sleeping?  Ahhhhhh……..what sweet little rewards of being with a child…

Most of us know, however, that it is VERY difficult to be a mom and sometimes the REAL rewards are far apart….

When my son Steven was in nursery school, it was a real challenge because of his autistic and ADHD problems. He had been born addicted to cocaine and heroine and his nervous system was “messed up” (my professional diagnosis.) Bringing him was a real challenge as he would kick and scream and cry, yet I did it because he could not hide out safely at home for his entire life with me vacuuming around him. At first, he would  spend most of the time in school hiding out in the “quiet tent”, playing with his plastic reptiles, sometimes soaking in the information from the teacher. Eventually, he sauntered out of his safe space to see what was going on.  He did not join the other children, but he was with them…a huge improvement.  Eventually, nursery school became normalized for him; part of his routine.  He would come home with his little projects; a paper flower, a painted snake, a play dough alligator.  I had learned not to make a “fuss” over these things, but to quietly tell him they were wonderful while his head dropped to his chest, eyes closed.  (He was not a child who could tolerate excitement of any kind.)  He survived two years in that classroom, and I wondered how he would act on “graduation day”, a celebration seemingly out of his tolerance level.  All of the children stood there in their little paper graduation caps, tassels dangling in front of their noses so they had to keep blowing them away.  All of the children except Steven.  The children sang a song, and thanked their moms and generally wowed the crowd with their antics.  All of the children except Steven.  The children walked in a nice, straight line to get their nursery school diplomas; all except Steven.  When all but one diploma had been handed out, the teacher walked over to where Steven was hiding under a chair, butt facing outwards. (If I had been smart, I would have sewed a smiley face on the butt of his pants, but, alas, I had been unrealistically hoping that he would join the other children in the graduation ceremony.)  The teacher bent down with the document and Steven’s  little hand reached out to grab it.  He quickly pulled the diploma out of sight.  Calm and cool under the seat, he had made it! Steven had graduated from nursery school without a tantrum, yelling or screaming.  He graduated in the manner he felt most comfortable, but graduate he did!  What a reward that was for me; I was a proud mother, indeed!

Diagnosed in elementary school with Dissociative Identity Disorder, Angel, has been very carefully placed in specialized classrooms.  Although intelligent and able to do grade level work, he frequently changes “parts”, (his word for his alternate personalities.)  His teachers and teacher aids, bless their souls, understand him well, and manage to educate him, even if it means repeating the same lesson because a different “part” was out that day, or giving his the test over because the “part” that studied for the test is not the “part” that took the test!  He has a baby part which necessitates him to just “veg out” in a large mushroom chair.  On those days, nothing was learned.  His condition has been kept top secret and no unnecessary teachers or others in the school know about it. Fortunately, he has been living a very “normal” life.  I have found one surprising benefit…he has a “Game Show Host” part.  I work with a recreational group of adults with disabilities, and every now and then we play Bingo or Family Feud. Angel, as have all of my children, regularly comes with me.  One day, he asked to be the moderator for Family Feud and his “performance” was beyond hilarious.  Usually a reserved child with groups, all of a sudden he channeled Richard Dawson! He went down the rows of “contestants”, gave each of them a peck on the cheek, and, while holding their hands in his, asked their names and a little about themselves.  The older women, who probably have not had much attention in their lives, giggled and smiled and blushed.  Then, Angel read each question with gusto, and made a “ding” noise when they got it right, and a loud buzzer noise if they got it wrong.  It was sooooooooooo funny because it was so out of character of the Angel that they knew.  This group of adult with disabilities, many of whom live alone on a minimum income with this once a week outing their only time out of their houses, were laughing hysterically that evening. Ever since then, they look forward to Family Feud and “Gameshow Host” Angel! What a reward for me to see Angel’s  give such joy to these wonderful people!

As a graduation present, my daughter, Dinora, and I took a trip back to her birth country in Guatemala.  She had done fundraising to assist with the opening of a soup kitchen in Antigua, and we were there for “opening day”.  We went shopping that morning, taking a little “putt putt” (2 wheeled open air taxi) into the village, giggling all the way as it bounced along. We bought flowers of all bright shapes and sizes, which stuck out of the putt putt on the way back, narrowly bopping passers by on the head. We spread the flowers out in front of  the  alter where a mass was to be said in honor of the opening of the facility. An overflowing crowd of people filled the make-shift pews, and it was a beautiful, emotional mass. Even though it was all in Spanish I seemed to understand every word, and I could certainly feel the emotion in the songs which the Indigenous Guatemalans sang.  After mass, people lined up for the food in their brightly colored clothing. There was my daughter, a young adult, behind the counter, dark hair pulled back into a pony tail, serving food with a beaming smile on her face showing dimples I never knew she had, (or perhaps she had never smiled so brightly.)  She was old enough and cared enough to give back something and help “her people” as she called them. I will never forget the sight of her…sweat on her brow, wiping her hands on her apron, making pleasant conversation in Spanish while smiling that amazing smile…   How could that sight NOT be a reward for a mom after years of raising a difficult teen?

Raising Marie has been the most difficult because of her many serious challenges.  When she came to us, she was street smart at the age of seven.(See post “All She did Was Scream and Say No! No! No!) She had no thought of danger and no social skills.  Although this may sound silly, one of my concerns was the fact that she would litter.  Get a drink; throw the bottle on the ground.  Have a piece of gum; throw the wrapper on the ground. Popsicle; stick thrown in the grass.    Repeatedly, I would have her pick it up and throw it away, explaining that we don’t litter in our family.  Marie could not have cared less…she did not want to be in our family anyway…  It took many months with us before she learned not to litter.  That’s why it shocked me when we were at the mall one day and she casually flicked the paper from her straw onto the ground.  My eyes widened, and just as I was about to ask her to pick it up, she bent down and picked it up, signing to me “I was just teasing you!  I know we don’t litter in this family!”  What a reward it was to hear her say that!  Finally, she felt part of our family!

My most favorite reward I saved for last.  For all of you parents, especially parents with children with disabilities, I will share that there has been no greater reward in my life than seeing my son, Francis, become a successful adult. Despite being legally blind, he has a college degree, is very successful in a job which he loves and through which he is benefitting others, and he recently married a great woman who not only loves him for the wonderful person that he is, but can also drive a car so he won’t have to take public transit to work any more!  There IS no greater reward for a parent; to know that the problems, fun, hard work, love, difficulties and dispersed joys of childhood have come together in a positive way. My son has officially “made it” to adulthood.  Now he can look forward to the rewards he will experience in raising his own children. Then I get the extra rewards of grandchildren!

To all of you mothers and others out there, Happy Mother’s Day!  Beyond the handmade cards, the flowers, the breakfasts and dinners out, and the gifts of the day, so many more rewards await you.  Sometimes you just have to be patient…

I Won’t Wear That to Church Anymore

I’m just returning from church.  I go to an inspiring, welcoming church, which I love!  Everyone is friendly, and we make a special effort to include people with disabilities.  We have pew cut-outs throughout the church for people in wheelchairs.  (After all, just because you are in a wheelchair does not mean you want to be relegated to the back row, or, even WORSE, the front row.)  We have a sign language interpreter and large print materials for the church service.  If a person who is totally blind attended, we would no doubt get the materials in Braille.  People with developmental disabilities, as well as people with mental illnesses are welcomed with open arms.  Having the children I do, it has been a God send (literally) for our family.

The congregation members help out during the service in many roles, and today I was helping to serve the Wine.  The people serving communion stand on a step while serving the bread and wine.  Learning from an earlier experience when I fell while trying to get a group together for a photo, I always firmly grip the hand rail while walking down the few steps. (Falling while taking a picture is understandable, but more care needs to be taken with the wine. I am sure it would stain the carpet terribly!) When offering the wine to the congregation members, I frequently have to bend over because I am tall and on a step, and they are often shorter.  Today, after I bent over the first time, I noticed that my shirt parted from my body in the front, and everyone had a clear view down to my belly button. (Well, they COULD have seen my belly button if my big breasts had not gotten in the way.)  I was mortified!  While I do not embarrass easily, once I notice something askew, of course I have to fix it.  So, I did the only thing I could do under the circumstances; I squatted for each person.  Do you know how incredibly hard it is to hold a squat at one particular level and then move that squat up or down depending upon who was next?  If I were athletic, it may have been easy.  But I’m not…    I felt like one of those baby crib toys, all scrunched up (squatting low) and then being pulled straight, (standing tall) and while music plays it slowly moves up to the low squat again.That’s the way I was today; up and down and up and down all to the beat of the choir’s music.

I will never wear that shirt to church again…

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Link to my book

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-apple-tree/id538572206?mt=11

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

Link to the Readers Digest review of my book:  http://www.rd.com/recommends/what-to-read-after-a-hurricane/

The Dance of the Snake Goddesses

Forgive me for re-posting this from a few years ago, but I thought you might enjoy it as it is a New Year’s Eve story…

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photo from Ophidiophobia – Fear of Snakes (Picture by Dev Khalsa)  honorslounge.com

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!

 

Thanks for reading.  If you want to read more here is the link to my book:The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane

Beyond One’s Own Problems

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I work with a social/educational/recreational group for teens with disabilities.  When first getting this group together at the beginning of the school year, I asked them what they wanted to do as part of our program.  Every single one of them said they wanted to “help other people”.  Here are students with a variety of disabilities and medical needs, and they wanted to help others! They were mature enough to look beyond their own problems to the problems of others.

Various suggestions were tossed about; opening a soup kitchen, visiting with the elderly in nursing homes, working at the local pet shelter, and so forth.  I suggested the easiest thing to do would be something we could do as a group within our program.  They chose making sandwiches for the homeless.

Every other Saturday we meet.  Yesterday we had some social skills activities, some recreation, (does anyone remember the game Simon?), and then they all baked cookies and made sandwiches.  As they were working, they chatted happily, teen music playing in the background.  When one song came on, they all broke out into what I call “dancing like you are riding a horse”.  (I am sure all teens will know what I am talking about, even if parents don’t.)  As soon as the song stopped, they all went back to their sandwich making. It was hilarious!

They worked as a team and made 165 sandwiches and twelve dozen cookies. As they worked, they talked about who might get to eat them, what kind of bad luck may have fallen upon that person and so forth.  They talked with much empathy, and not once during their conversation did they mention their own problems.  They were caring about the problems of others.

After the sandwiches were made, I drove up to Traveler’s Aid, a local spot where the homeless hang out.  The kids got out of the car to bring the sandwiches and cookies in.  They helped each other.  One girl in a wheelchair held a box of sandwiches on her lap while a girl who is blind held onto the wheelchair as her sighted guide.  (Instead of a using a guide dog, she was using a guide wheelchair!)  I stood back as they went into the building and delivered the goods. They were so proud.  The large group of people milling about parted like the Red Sea, and left them easy access to the front desk where they would be dropping the food off.  They walked and wheeled to the front desk which, fortunately, was wheelchair accessible.  The crowd murmured appreciatively, politely, thankfully.  The kids faces beamed as they turned around and came back to the van.  They were no longer disabled, but capable of helping others.  Suddenly, their problems were not as bad as the people who thanked them; people without shelter and food.

 

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

I Have Raised My Children Right in The Most Important Area

I am sure that every parent questions how they have raised their children. I know I have.  I have not been strict enough in making them eat all of their vegetables and clean their rooms, (mainly because I don’t eat all of my vegetables and clean my room.) I know to some people  this is a major parenting faux pas.  However, I have raised my children right in the most important area…caring for others.

I volunteer with a recreational group of adults with and without disabilities.  We have a bowling league, then go out to dinner together, then have an activity at night, such as Bingo, Family Feud, or a visiting musician.  All of my children have come with me to this group,  starting with Francis when he was a baby and the group purchased a portable crib so I could bring him camping with us.  My children have been raised socializing with people with disabilities so that any disability is not knew to them.

Angel, my son with Dissociative Identity Disorder, has been my latest child to attend with me.  One of his “peeps” (as his calls his “parts’) I call the Game Show Host.  Angel is the one who calls the numbers for Bingo, or reads the questions for Family Feud.  He is hilariously similar to a game show host, right down to kissing the female “contestants” during a game of Family Feud. From the minute he starts an activity to the minute he finishes, we are all in stitches laughing.  Silly laughing.  Innocent laughing.  Heart beating fast with cheeks that hurt from laughing laughing. He is terrific, and I am so proud that he has learned to manage his disability in order to make others happy.

The happiest moment of all happened on Christmas Day.  All of our family festivities are on Christmas even, and Christmas Day is always a lazy one for us.  In fact, the children and I usually go to the movies.  Angel asked if it was okay if he invited a friend to the movies, and of course I said yes.  When we got there,  waiting for us expectantly, was Lisa, a 65 year old woman with a disability; the “friend” which he had invited.  She was dressed for Christmas…Christmas sweater, Santa Claus earrings, a Santa Hat and bright red lipstick. She was glowing as she hugged us all.  It seems that she has no family and had sat in her apartment alone for Christmas Eve.  Somehow Angel knew this, prompting his request that she come with us on Christmas Day.

We all laughed at the funny movie, and enjoyed a large popcorn, (mmmmmmm…movie theater fake butter popcorn!)  After the movie, we went out to a Chinese restaurant for dinner. (Duh!  Chinese restaurants are open…)  We had a lively conversation about anything and everything funny, and she beamed the whole time.  When we left her outside at her car to go home, she burst into tears.  She thanked us profusely. She said she was so lonely at Christmas, when everyone else had a family, that she had contemplated suicide because she had no one.  She said this was her best Christmas EVER!  Try as I might not to, tears slid down my cheek also.  Tears of sympathy for her and of pride for my son…a son who is seriously disabled himself, but who was still able to find the ability to care deeply for the feelings of this wonderful, lonely woman.

Yes, I have raised him right…

A Christmas Gift from Above


We adopted Dinora from Guatemala at the age of 6 weeks, and I was so thrilled to have a daughter!!!  She came with a variety of diseases common in s 3
rd World Country, scabies, intestinal parasites and malnutrition.  But we loved her and fed her and she blossomed into an adorable baby with big black eyes and shiny black hair.

At the age of six months, it became apparent that Dinora was deaf.  She had not yet started to babble like other babies her age, but she also did not turn to her name, or looked at the dog when she barked, or seem to notice the footsteps of me coming into her bedroom.  She would be laying there awake when I walked in, (and, believe me, I am not light on my fight.)  When she finally would see me, she would startle.  She had not heard me.  The day I knew it for sure was a day she was sitting next to me on the floor while I was doing the dishes.  I accidentally dropped a huge lobster pot I was cleaning and it made a horrendous clang on the floor.  Dinora happily sat there playing, her back to the pan.  She did not startle.  She did not cry.  She did not hear it.

We then made the rounds of the doctors.  She flunked regular hearing tests, and had a brain stem evoked response test.  Her brain did not respond up to 90 decibels.  The doctor informed me that she was severely hearing impaired and that we would try hearing aids to maximize her hearing, although they would not be strong enough for her to hear normally.  They took the impressions for her ear molds.

That evening, our family went for a pre-Christmas visit to a shrine beautifully decorated with Christmas lights.  I was feeling sorry for myself.  I had a two year old son who was legally blind, and now I had an infant daughter who was deaf.

There was a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes surrounded by prayer water and many large candles.  There was also a large display of crutches and wheelchairs of people who had been healed by her.  I helped my son, Francis, who was 2 1/2 years old, light a candle. Because it was almost Christmas, and the only candles he had seen were on a birthday cake, he merrily sang “Happy Birthday Dear Jesus”.  I remember saying a non-de-script prayer, still upset that Dinora was deaf.  I still thanked God,  but was not quite as enthusiastic as usual.

The next morning, the dog barked and Dinora woke up!  I thought it was a coincidence until I started to walk into her room and she turned to smile at me. She had heard my footsteps!  I started talking to her and she started babbling back.  Only a day earlier she had been fitted with ear molds for hearing aids!  I excitedly called the doctor, who agreed to see her that day.  Her hearing was tested and it was normal!  Neither I nor the doctor could believe it.  He said in his 29 years as an ear doctor he had never seen anything like it.  He told me that it had to be an “Christmas miracle from Above”.  The visit the night before to the shrine came to mind.  A miracle HAD occurred, and I was  embarrassed because I had not thanked God more enthusiastically the night before. He had granted me a miracle even though I did not ask for one.

Dinora is now 28 years old and has had perfect hearing ever since that day! And I have lived life with a peaceful,generous heart because I know, without any doubt, that God is with me.

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It’s No Fun to Play Scrabble Alone

I lead a complicated life, but every evening I take time out for a nice bubble bath and frozen wine cooler.  I used to read the newspaper while in the tub, but lately my patience has been tested and I find it too big and cumbersome to read without it dipping into the water.  So, I have been playing Scrabble on my telephone. I have played Scrabble all of my life, most often with my mom who passed away a few years ago.  We were pretty evenly matched, and playing together gave us quite a bit of quality, stress free time together.  I welcomed the chance to play Scrabble in the tub, equating it to the fun, stress free times when I played with my mom.  Instead, I have found out that it is no fun to play Scrabble against the computer.  It is not that the computer always wins, as I can beat it 50% of the time. It is because it does not play fairly.  When playing with my mom, instead of choosing a small word for a lot of points, (think zip,quit, hex…) we would play a larger word (such as trainer) in order to open up the board more.  There is nothing I hate more than having a board where the words are concentrated in one area so that there are few options for play.  By playing the larger word, more options would be available.  Sure, it would be less points, but the game would be easier and more fun.  Also, my mom and I would purposefully set up an option for the other player to use a double or triple word score.  Again, not a lot of points individually, but more fun for our partner, and therefor more fun for us, who gained pleasure from the happiness of others.  I guess we played Scrabble like we lived our lives…considerately, unselfishly, with an eye towards more fun and enjoyment.  These traits have not been programmed into my Scrabble computer opponent.  It wants to win, and does not care if the words are too close together.  It also chooses to use the double and triple word scores itself, not sharing them with me!  It is not like playing with my mom, and playing it does not relieve my stress.  It is just no fun to play Scrabble alone…

 

 

 

 

 

If you are new to my blog…welcome…please check out my e-book The Apple Tree:  Raising 5 Kids with Disabilities and Remaining Sane.

I Used to Think People Who Celebrated Their 25 Wedding Anniversary were Old…I was wrong!

When I was young, I thought couple who celebrated their 25th wedding anniversaries were old.  I learned when I celebrated mine, that they were really quite  young.  I was astonished I ever thought differently.  How could I EVER have thought that?  I must have needed glasses at the time.

Being married more than 25 years to my “first love” has been a blessing.  He was the cook and I was the waitress at a restaurant I worked in while in college.  Here is some advice for anyone reading who is not yet married:  LOOK FOR SOMEONE WHO LIKES TO COOK.  I have been so fortunate because HE does all of the grocery shopping and cooking.  Really.  I come home almost every day to a delightfully cooked meal, complete with salad, meat, veggies, and an tall iced glass of Diet Coke.  He used to make desserts, too, until we both started to expand our waists…

For Thanksgiving, we have a great family tradition.  I and ten others in my immediate family, (children, their significant others, and a grandchild) go to the movies. Yes, the movies!  We saw “The Life of Pi” because several of my children are fascinated with animals. It was about an Indian boy shipwrecked with some animals from his family zoo. Everyone seemed to enjoy it because it had something for everyone.  Brooding, spiritual, philosophical content along with a cheetah jumping on animals and killing them for food.  The food chain.  Done tastefully with no blood or other sites where one has to turn their head, shut their eyes and go “EWWWWWWW”.  We enjoyed buckets of drenched in fake butter popcorn and ICEEs.  Great day at the movies for us. Great day in the kitchen for my husband, who loves to cook but likes to have a quiet kitchen, something which is rarely available to him.

We came home from the movies and VOILA!  Turkey and trimmings are on the neatly set table with the obligatory child made Turkey centerpiece.  All 12 of us sat down and had an extremely delicious dinner. My husband basked in the glory.  There is nothing better than doing something you love and getting praise for it.

I was proud of my children who “signed” (American Sign Language) for Marie, who is deaf. We signed the simple Thanksgiving prayer,and the conversations began. As a mother, there is no sweeter sight than all of my family members being happy and sharing conversation with Marie, who smiled and laughed and participated.  I think I have raised them right. I remember that every Thanksgiving and I my little heart smiles inside me.

 

 

 

In case readers may not know, my book was reviewed by Readers Digest:

Nov 02, 2012 11:04 AM EDT

What to Read After a Hurricane

by Dawn Raffel

Shortly before Hurricane Sandy came to my town, flooding my house and knocking out the power (which is still out), I had the good fortune to download The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane by Linda Petersen.

Her story begins not with her children but with her own childhood spent traveling the country in the backseat of her parents’ car (her perpetually restless dad had post-traumatic stress disorder from  WWII), often with very little money and few provisions. Where someone else might have seen deprivation and isolation, Petersen viewed her unusual childhood with a sense of wonder and gratitude. After marrying young and giving birth to a son who was legally blind (and who went on to earn a PhD on full scholarship), Petersen and her husband adopted four more special needs children and fostered many others.

Her honesty, wit, and terrific storytelling make this a book you want to read rather than one you feel you should read. So there I was, swiping pages on an iPad in the dark in a blackout… I couldn’t have picked a better book for putting it all in perspective.

http://www.rd.com/recommends/what-to-read-after-a-hurricane/

I Never Thought I’d be Thankful for Having Big Breasts…and I Don’t Mean the Ones on the Turkey!

I waitressed from the age of 15 to 27, and it was a great job to have during college and as I started my career as a social worker.  I learned how to balance eight plates on my arm, and carry another 3 more in my hand.  I could gather up 8 glasses of water and get them to the table without spilling a drop.  I enjoyed the customers and nothing on the job bothered me…if I can handle life with five kids with ridiculously difficult problems, I could handle a burnt meal or two, the Heimlich maneuver, and customers running out without paying their checks.  So, when the time came recently that we needed extra money, I obtained a job as a waitress at a well known local restaurant nearby. Of course, I haven’t done this job in 30 years, and I AM a little older, but I thought I could still do well (and use my Cheshire cat smile to charm the customers into leaving large tips.)  I have worked for a week at this job, and I DO like it, but age has a way of affecting how I do my job.  When I squat down to get something from a bottom shelf, I can’t get up without a helping hand.  I need glasses to read the orders.  At this restaurant, which is more “elegant” than where I worked before, we need to use trays on which to place the plates of food, not line them up our arms, (a technique which served me well so many years ago!)  The problem is, I have arthritis in my hands and elbows and my balance is a little off, so I have difficulty carrying a tray full of meals up on my shoulder using one hand.  I CAN carry the tray on my shoulder if I use 2 hands, but the problem then comes when I have to put it gracefully down.  The other waitresses deftly grab a tray stand with one hand while balancing the meals with the other.  That’s not gonna happen with me.

This is where my appreciation of large breasts comes in.  I had always hated them.  The bra straps hurt.  They poke out unattractively.  If I try to wear a necklace, it sits at an awkward angle.  I am forever collecting crumbs on them. And they have just generally been a pain in the neck to put up with.  Until now.  When waitressing, I have learned how to take the tray off of my shoulders with both hands, and, with one hand under the tray and the top part of the tray balanced solidly under my left breast, I use my other hand to serve the meals.  Mission accomplished!  I wonder how long I’ll be able to do this before the management notices the gravy stains on my apron!

Dead Van Running

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Last week I pulled into a gas station from out of town to, obviously, get gas.  I filled it up, (ie put $20 in as it would have cost $100 to really fill it!)  Because this station had super cheap gas, a line quickly formed behind me. I started the van up and tried to shift into “drive”.  The shifter did not move!  I tried again, and again and again as the line of cars behind me now flowed out onto the street.  IT WOULD NOT SHIFT!  The car was running smoothly, it had plenty of gas, and yet it would not move.  I was highly embarrassed now, as the cars started honking at me.  However, as it my usual good fortune, this particular gas station was associated with an auto repair business.  I ran in and got the mechanic, who took a look at the line of cars, and tried not to smile.  I am sure he thought I was just incompetent, and he cockily climbed into the drivers seat and grabbed hold of the shifter, but it would not budge for him either.  There were only 2 ways to get my van out of the way…have it towed, (which we all know would be another disaster,) or having him climb underneath my running van and by hand shift the gear into drive, crawling out before it started moving.  In other words, a death defying trick.  Being the brave man that he was, he choose the latter option.  As he crawled under the van, he told me that no matter what I do, DO NOT STEP ON THE GAS UNTIL HE TELLS ME TO.  I don’t think I have ever been so scared in my life.  My little old, nervous, shaking foot on that break pedal was the only thing between this man and death!  He shifted it quickly and rolled out, telling me to “Go!  Go!” which I did at a breakneck speed of about 2 miles per hour.  I made a loop around the gas station, coming to stop at an empty parking spot off to the side.  I put my foot on the break…holding down with all my might.  He crawled back under the van and hand shifted it back into park.  My hero!

Come to find out, the shift gears were so old that they were very rusty and would not move.  He took them apart, sanded them and oiled them, thereby fixing the problem.  When it came time to pay, he said, “That will be eight hundred and seventy-two dollars.” But before I could faint, he started laughing and said he was only teasing…it was only forty-two dollars for his labor.  This man risks his life and it costs me less than $50! I was so relieved that not only was my van fixed, but that it was fixed for a very reasonable price.  Such is my luck in life.  Every time something bad happens, it turns out okay.  I truly am lucky!  (And so was that crazy man who climbed under the car while it was still running!)

 

Just a reminder…as I am saving up for more reliable transportation, it would be greatly appreciated if you could consider purchasing my book, The Apple Tree:  Raising 5 Kids with Disabilities and Remaining Sane, which is sold on I-Books, Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  I have since learned that some days it is easier to maintain my sanity than others…

 

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