If Only I Had Braille When…

If only I had Braille when…I was a child learning how to read.

If only I had Braille when…my classes took turns reading out loud and I was skipped over because I couldn’t even read the large print books that the schools provided me.

If only I had Braille when…the waiter handed me the menu when I sat down with my friends at a restaurant.

If only I had Braille when…my kids asked me to read the signs on the trails where we were hiking.

If only I had Braille when…my son had a 102 degree fever and I had a brand new box of medicine and didn’t know the correct dosage to give him.

If only I had Braille when…I was reading the directions on the box of blueberry muffin mix.

If only I had Braille when…I wanted to read a nutrition label on a granola bar wrapper.

If only I had Braille when…my kids find a new book and want me to read it to them.

If only I had been offered Braille as a child instead of fighting to learn it as an adult.

If only Braille was as common as print.

If only all blind or visually impaired children were taught Braille so they wouldn’t have to struggle to read as adults.

Braille is something that I am very passionate about.  Tonight as I was reading my children their bedtime stories, I started thinking, “If only I had Braille when…”

Did you know that only 10% of blind or visually impaired children are taught Braille?

Did you know that as a child I struggle to read large print, falling behind in school, and working twice as hard as my peers to keep up?

Did you know that I didn’t fully become literate until the age of 23 when I finally learned Braille?

What if only 10% of sighted children were taught how to read.

I have to admit, I haven’t thought about these things quite as much in the last few years.  However, now that I am teaching my own daughter how to read and write, and now that I am personally transcribing many of the books that are on their bookshelves into Braille so that I can read to them because it is faster than waiting for new Braille/print books.  As a child, I used to wish that I could be either completely sighted or completely blind so that I wouldn’t have to be stuck in the middle, always having to explain my so called disability.

Now all I wish for is for more Braille.

More Braille for blind children learning how to read.

More Braille for blind adults all over the world.

More Braille.  More Braille.  More Braille.

First Day of School, Not Here in Our House Though.

Today was the first day of school for most kids in Las Vegas.  Both parents and kids were full of excitement and maybe just a little bit of anxiety this morning.  Alarm clocks buzzing, lunch bags and backpacks getting double checked so that nothing is forgotten, new shoes laced, tied, and double tied for plenty of playground fun, and we can’t forget about those first day photos getting posted to Instagram, Facebook , Twitter, and texted to grandparents.

But none of that happened here in our house.  The kids and I slept in until 8:30am.  My husband and I enjoyed a big breakfast and coffee out on the patio while the kids ran around in their bathing suits splashing in the rain and the kiddy pool water slide.  Now Jackson is napping, Marley is watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, hubby working in the garage, and I’m cranking out this blog.

Why isn’t Marley starting school today?  Well…here’s what I told my next door neighbor when she asked me this morning.

Marley is still only three, and not turning four until November.  This means she won’t be starting Kindergarten until fall of 2015 because of the age cut off here in Nevada.  As a stay at home mom, I don’t think it is necessary to send her to two years of preschool.  We spend a few hours each day working on preschool activities, and also incorporate learning into everything we do; from trips to the grocery store, gardening in the backyard, or strolls through the park.  I run a neighborhood mommy meet up group so the kids get plenty of socialization.  My husband’s work schedule gives him quite a bit of time home, making it easy for us to go camping, hiking, to museums, visit local orchards and farms, and take countless road trips exposing the kids to hands on learning opportunities like our upcoming trip to the Astronomy Festival at Great Basin National Park.  We are even giving a little bit of thought about homeschooling our kids completely.

I go back and forth on homeschooling.  There are so many pros and cons  to consider.  As a blind parent I will definitely have a few more challenges with home schooling than a sighted parent.  I can’t read handwriting, so I will have a tough time teaching my kids how to write.  I am not very tech savvy, and a lot of the curriculum comes from online sources, including PDF format which aren’t screen reader friendly.  However, homeschooling would mean we would have more control over our children’s education.  Nevada has one of the worst public school systems in the nation.  We can continue to incorporate learning in our frequent family trips.  We won’t need to worry about things like bullying, unhealthy school lunches, transportation, etc.  Like I said, so many pros and cons.

So for the next two years, at least until I need to make a decision about Kindergarten, my kids will be getting their education here at home.  I’ll talk to more parents who have chosen to homeschool and do the research so that we can make the best decision for our family.  For the next two years we won’t need to worry about alarm clocks on Monday morning delegating the start of another week.  I am going to suck up every moment of our family quality time.  Whether those moments may be adorable, annoying, or aggravating, they’ll be gone before I no it.

“Mommy is Fat”

At 107 pounds, I am nowhere near fat.  I just tried on my wedding dress and it is looser on me now than when I wore it over 6 years ago.  I have gone from a size 6 to a size 2 in pants, and from a M to XS in dresses and shirts.

So, why is my daughter calling me fat?

Well…it’s because she heard me use the F word.  After a delicious meal I’d say, “Oh…I feel so fat.”  Or I might say things like, “I’m so fat in this.”

Raising children in a city like Las Vegas, where you are bombarded with billboards of strip clubs, pool parties on the Boulevard, bikini parades, and where most women pay $$$$ so they can look like Holly Madison isn’t like raising children in other cities.  Where body image is everything, and obesity is now a national epidemic, I feel like I need to take extra care of how I portray a beautiful body to my daughter.  Beauty isn’t about having a small waist or big bust.  Beauty is about being healthy.

I haven’t lost all that weight with any crazy diet or work out regime.  We’ve simply taken on a clean and healthy active life style.  I love food as much as the next person.  I’ve even been told that I eat like a man.  Give me a bacon cheese burger and fries, and I’ll clean my plate and wash it down with a beer.  Cutting out processed foods, refined sugars, family walks, and even goofy family dance parties to break a sweat are just an example of what I mean by a clean and healthy active lifestyle.

So, the next time my stomach is about to burst from a delicious meal, I’ll think twice before using the F word.

Thankful November in a Nutshell

I started out this month intending on publishing a blog post each day on something I am thankful for.  As you can see by looking at my recent posts, I only made it to day 9.

Here it is in a nutshell.

I am thankful for my parents who raised me to know the difference between right and wrong.  They gave me a brother, who gave me two beautiful nieces, and a sister who is the most loyal friend I could ask for.  They instilled in us the importance of family. showed us how to work hard, and taught us how to love and have compassion for others.

I am thankful for my husband’s family.  Without them, he wouldn’t be the man that he is today.

I am thankful for modern forms of telecommunication like cell phones, texting, emails, Facebook, and skype to help me stay in touch with my family and friends all over the world.

I am thankful for all the friends that I made throughout the years, both near and far.  You all know exactly who you are.

I am thankful for the opportunity to be a stay at home mom and raise two beautiful children who are so eager to learn, and never fail to bring a smile to my face.

I am thankful for a warm cozy bed, food in my fridge, and clothes on my back.

I am thankful for coffee, wine, and chocolate.  These are my drugs of choice.

I am thankful for fuzzy socks.

I am thankful for friendly neighbors who watch out for me and my children when my hubby is gone.

I am thankful the stucco guys finally started painting today and we are closer to having our backyard done.

I am thankful for the opportunity to blog and share my life with you.

And oh yes, one more thing.  I am thankful for my blindness.  Without it, I wouldn’t be the person that I am today.  Every experience, every challenge, every of struggle to try to fit in and look normal, every missed step or curb, every triumph, every mile I’ve traveled, every person I’ve met, every child I’ve taught, every person I’ve influenced, every accomplishment I’ve made or will make in the future are all because of my blindness.  I used to imagine what my life would be like if I had 20/20 vision, but then I wouldn’t be where I am today.  If somebody told me there was an opportunity for me to get all of my vision back, I honestly don’t know what I would do.  So until there is a 100%, 0 side effects, consequence free way, I’m going to have to pass for now.

30 Days of Thankfulness; Day 8

November 8, 2012

I am thankful for two very happy healthy children.

Just the other night I read an article about sixteen year old Esther Earl, who died of thyroid cancer.  Even though it’s been 2 years since Esther died, her story is still inspiring people and raising money.  I finished that article with an ache in my heart and tears in my eyes.  To be Esther’s parents, or all the other parents with children who develop cancer, is a role I hope to never have to play.

Here are just a few numbers to think about;

I promise to cherish each and every giggle, scraped knee, tear, tantrum, food fight, hug, kiss, snuggle, and each and every, “I love you Mama” with every bit of my heart.

October Reflections

As I looked at myself in the mirror this morning while I was brushing my teeth, it really hit me how much my life has changed.  I was slightly hung over from the margaritas I had at the concert the night before.  I had dark circles around my eyes, thanks to the lack of sleep that accompanies motherhood.  My husband was stretching on the bedroom floor, son babbling in his room down the hall, and daughter snoring in my bed.  I couldn’t help but smile and thank my lucky stars for such a wonderful way to start a day.

My first time in Las Vegas was in October of 2005.  My then boyfriend, now husband of five years, was moving here for work and I decided to keep him company on his drive out.  I was still in college, doing the clubbing, shopping, cramming, and sleeping in until noon on weekends lifestyle.  As he decided to leave Sacramento, I too decided that I was ready for a change.  I had just attended my first NFB of California State Convention and realized that my, “Fake it till you make it,” philosophy was not working as well as I wanted it too.  I decided that I was going to put the rest of college on hold and learn Braille, and did so by becoming a student at the Louisiana Center for the Blind just a few months later.

In October of 2006, I left LCB and my safe bubble of friends who lived just a few doors away with positive blindness philosophy oozing out of my pores, and stepped off the plane into the next three years which would be filled with depression, denial, and distancing.

If you know me at all, then you know that I am a social butterfly.  I thrive with the company of others.  I am always smiling and love to share it with just about anyone.  But, I had know idea what moving to Las Vegas was going to be like.  I didn’t know anyone besides my husband and his twenty year old sister, who had her own social life that I had rather not tag along on.  All of the confidence that I’d gained in Louisiana seemed to disappear after a month or so.  I started to sink more and more into depression the more and more I allowed myself to stay isolated.  This is probably why I volunteered so much time and energy with the NFB.  So much time and energy that it started to take a real strain on my marriage.  I was gone all of the time.  I jumped at any chance to hop on a plane taking me to events all over the country.  I even left for a summer internship in Baltimore right after we got back from our honeymoon.

Then in October of 2009, I was just weeks from having a baby, house hunting, putting together a state convention, and feeling like I was the ball in the pinball machine getting tossed all over the place.  I didn’t realize how much having a baby would change my life, she was the anchor to steady me and keep me grounded,

On October 8, 2011 the last piece of the puzzle was put into place when my son was born.  Yes, exactly one year ago, I was holding my brand new baby boy wishing that time would stand still.

But of course it didn’t, and it is now October 2012.  My son has just turned one and tonight his big sister helped him blow out his candle on a mini cheesecake.  He is now walking, actually running all over the house chasing his sister and our dog, sometimes going so fast he forgets how to slow down or stop and runs into walls.  I have made so many incredible friends whom I love and consider like family.  And we will all be celebrating Jackson’s first birthday this Saturday in the form of a pirate party complete with bounce house and all.

I might not have a killer body, six digit pay check, drive a fancy car, or wear designer clothes, but this is the  life.  I could never possibly ask for anything more.  And I am so thankful for everything and everyone that I have in my life.