C is for Choice

obstacle

I asked my husband to creat me an image from his website TheSeedProject.net for my, “C is for Choice,” blog, and this is the image he emailed me.  At first, I thought, “Wow I love the words, but a few leaves don’t look like much of an obstacle.”  I asked him why didn’t he choose something more, “Obstacle or Opportunity,”ish like a trail or a mountain.  That’s when I discovered that I was only seeing the leaves, and not where they were coming from.

This was a photo from our trip to the California Redwood Forest last summer.  A Giant Redwood had fallen on it’s side, cut at a straight horizontal angle, and it’s face had been completely charred during a fire.  From this fallen, chopped, and charred tree spring life in the form of these little fern leaves.

Merriam Webster defines, “Choice,” as

the act of choosing : the act of picking or deciding between two or more possibilities

the opportunity or power to choose between two or more possibilities : the opportunity or power to make a decision

a range of things that can be chosen

As a parent, I often feel like my choice is worth more now than ever.  Every single decision I choose not only effects me, it also effects my children.  Whether we realize it or not, those choices big or small might possibly be the defining moments that shape your child or stick with them into adulthood.

It has been almost exactly a year since Marley was diagnosed with Optic Nerve Atrophy.  I wrote all about it in my, “Marley and Me Musical Chairs,” post.  Once upon a time not to long ago, I felt angry, guilt, grief, and fear.  I was so incredibly afraid of the challenges my daughter would face in life.  I was afraid that, like her mommy, she would be bullied by the mean kids in school, afraid that she would be ashamed of who she was, afraid that she would fall through the cracks in the educational system, and worst of all I was afraid that she would blame me for her blindness.

What does being afraid get you?

Nothing.  Fear only brings more fear.

I chose to shift my fear into a fierce passion for a future full of endless opportunities.

Last November, I and a few other parents, organized the Nevada Organization of Parents of Blind Children. My vision for this organization is to reach every single parent of a blind or visually impaired child in Nevada.  As human beings we thrive when we connect with other human beings.  Blindness can be a scary thing.  Blindness can be a life changer.  However, blindness can also be empowering and powerful.

If we as parents choose to fear blindness, than our children will too fear blindness.  Instead of fearing blindness, I choose to embrace it.  When I hold my long white cane, I feel confident.  I feel as if nothing can stop me if I have my can with me.

Marley has even begun to acknowledge her feelings.  The other night while cuddling in bed after we’d read a few pages from her Braille copy of , “Amelia Bedelia,” she whispered that she felt nervous about using her cane, especially if I wasn’t there with her using mine.  This was after a long four day weekend where both my husband and I had been busy in classes and my mother in law was flown in to stay with the kids.  She didn’t want to look different or want to have people look at her.  I told her it was ok to feel nervous, but we needed to figure out a way to turn that nervous feeling  into a powerful feeling.  We talked about all of the fun times we’ve had while using her cane like on our hikes, our camping trips, and decorating it and taking it trick-or-treating on Halloween.  We also talked about the times she tripped and fell because she didn’t have her cane with her.  So instead of feeling nervous about anymore, she chooses to feel happy, safe, and powerful when she has it.

Two days later, a classmate shared the following video on Facebook and I knew it would be the perfect end cap to this blog.  It’s taken me almost a week to finally dedicate a few uninterrupted moments in posting, “C is for Choice.”

Until I write again, let’s all choose to make it a powerful week!

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Have You Called Your Mom Today?

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One of my weekly rituals every Sunday morning is to call my mom.  After I’ve got the kids settled with their breakfasts, I pour my coffee and find a nice comfy place to curl up, pulling my feet underneath my bottom, and I call my mom.

I don’t just call her on Sunday mornings, my mom and I call each other at least a few times a week.  It’s rare for us to go longer than three or four days without talking.  This morning Ifelt expecially pulled to our Sunday morning rituals.

Why this morning?  Well, my week had flown by.  I’d been preoccupied with winter break ending, getting the house back into the school week routine, entertaining the kids with crafts and activities since we’ve instated the no TV on school days rule in our house, and preparing for Marley’s IEP to dispute the ridiculous recommendation that, “she is a visual learner… Braille should be considered when she reaches second or third grade where she will need to read for longer periods, smaller text, and for content and speed…””

So you see how it was easy for me to let the week fly by without calling my mom.  I also completely forgot that she’d told me about a procedure she would be having on Thursday.  While I was running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off on Friday morning getting the kids and myself ready, and waiting for my husband to get off of a 24 hour shift so that we could drop the kids off in time at a friends house before Marley’s IEP, my mom called me.

Hearing her voice on the other end, I stopped in my tracks, sat down, and gave her my full attention.  It was a simple precautionary procedure.  However, given our family history, it was difficult to stop those fearful thoughts from flowing.

Here I am just a few months shy from turning 32.  I think about so many women my age who lost their mothers too soon.  My own aunt, lost her mother, my grandmother, when she was just 22.

Then there are those who’s mother’s are perfectly healthy and even live just a few miles away from them, who choose not to have a relationship with them.

Whatever the reason, whatever the distance whether it may be miles or years between you.  Every mother deserves to have that weekly phone call from their child.  This is the woman who gave everything for you.  This is the woman who sacrificed her body for you.  This is the woman who cried when you cried, kept you warm, nourished you both physically and emotionally, this is the woman who gave you life.

So… if you haven’t done so yet, call your mom today and tell her these two things.  “Thank you,” and, “I love you.”

Oh, and while you’re at it, call your dad too.

 

The Potty Party

It occured to me that I have never posted a blog on potty training as a blind parent.  Now that I’ve gone through it twice, I feel adequate enough to be able to pass on a few things I’ve learned  during this exciting developemental milestone.

1.  They are ready when they are ready.

With Kid #1 I was determined to have her out of diapers before Kid #2 was born, which was just before she was to turn 2.  It almost took an entire year of trying again and again before she was completely potty trained.  Moms, my best piece of advice is don’t give in to the peer pressures of parenting.  Just because the other 2 year olds your child may be playing with are already completely speaking full sentences, riding tricycles, and are both day and night time potty trained doesn’t mean your kid is any bit behind in development.  I took a much more relaxed approach on potty training with Kid #2 letting me show me the signs that was ready to use the potty, and believe me, it was much for stress free and fun.

2.  Go with the Potty Training Bootcamp Method.

Learn all about How to Potty Train Your Kid Boot Camp Style by Alpha Mom.

I used this method with both of my children.  With Kid #1 it was more like a week before she was completely potty trained.  Since it was August in Las Vegas, I kept her completely naked accept for underwear.  She quickly learned she did not like being wet and would cry for fresh ones after an accident.  She seemed to pick up on going npoop much quicker than pee.  This is probably because going poop required a little more concentration.  At just past 2 and a half years old Kid #2 woke up one morning and told me he wanted to use to toilet.  This kid doesn’t even call it the potty.  He says toilet.  In less than three days he was completely potty trained, with pee that is.  He refuses to sit and poop on the toilet.  It’s been a month now and he still refuses to use the toilet.  After tossing out almost all of his underpants from being fed up with washing out poop, I decided we were going to have to resort to Pull Ups.  This way I’m not stuck with a mess, and he can still easily use the toilet on his own.

I can’t say one kid was easier than the other.  It may have been easier with Kid #1 since my son was still taking two long naps a day and barely yet mobile.  We spent much of our time playing outside under the patio, with the water table, and when we were inside we stayed in the main living areas of the house to limit where accidents might happen.  There were a few times when she didn’t tell me about an accident and I found myself slipping in pee on the floor.  However with Kid #2, his older sister loved being on Potty Patrol and helped get him excited about being a big kid like her.  It wasn’t hot yet, so my blind mommy trick this time around to limit clean up was to keep him in thick sweatpants.  I know, you’re probably thinking, “Sweatpants? ” Yes, sweatpants. His underpants and the thick sweat pants material soaked up any of the pee he might have from accidents, meaning no messy clean up on the rugs or floor.  Kid #2 is even worst than his sister when it comes to not wanting to be wet.  He’d cry immediately for dry clothes after an accident.  We just need to get past this pooping problem with this one.

3.  Make it a Potty Party.

If you’re feeling anxious or stress out about the process, than so will your child.  Decide that week that you’ll be doing laundry everyday and going through a ton of towels.  Get a big bag of treats whether you prefer jelly beans, M&M’s, stickers, etc.  We used a poster board where we drew stars, happy faces, and sad faces,  Then we ran to the kitchen where everyone who was home got a mini M&M.  Lastly, we all danced to the front of the house where my Freedom Bell was kept and took turns ringing it shouting, “Woohoo Jacksn went peepee in the potty!”  Make it fun, be silly, sing, dance, and enjoy!

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.

“See With Your Fingers Mom!”

My two squirmy toddlers on our hammock

My two squirmy toddlers on our hammock

I have always wondered whether or not my children, as well as my dog, realize that mommy doesn’t see like everyone else.  Back when I used to take my dog to the dog park, he would tear off every which way if my husband was also there.  However, if it was just he and I, he never ran further than ten feet away from me.

Even now, with two toddlers, I am often asked how I manage to keep track of them at the park or indoor play gyms.  It’s really no effort at all.  My children are really great with checking in with me every few minutes.  I used to put my daughter in squeaky shoes when I took her to the park, but the shoes usually came off as soon as we got there.  I have heard of some moms putting bells in the laces of their kids shoes.  So with my son, I sometime put bells on his overalls, just because he can’t reply when I call him yet.  He’s also a sneaky little boo gar, that loves to get into everything.

Now that the kids are suffering from yet another cold in this endless cold and flu season, I am constantly wiping and sucking snot out of their noses.  This is quite tricky with squirmy toddlers.  Since I can’t see if there is a string of snot running down one of their faces, I just have to keep on top of it.  The tricky part is practically squishing the one year old to keep his hands in place with my belly and arms and doing a fast, yet very careful nose suck.  I keep one hand on the face both to keep his head still and also as a guide for the other hand that does the sucking.  My three year old is much better at understanding that Mommy needs to see with her fingers to make sure everything is clean.

Last night, we sat and watched the Lion King on the couch and I clipped 20 fingernails and 20 toenails.  I always amaze myself when I accomplish this task.  I can’t exactly describe my trick for managing not to cut any fingers or toes.  It just comes with lots and lots of practice and patience.

Tonight I just had to share what Marley said to me at dinner.  We usually keep the TV off during dinner, but tonight, we just turned the sound down and put some music on in the background.  It was the scary part of Coraline, and Marley kept asking me, “Mama what’s happening?”  I kept telling her that I didn’t know.  So after the tenth or so time of her asking, I said, “Marley, remember that Mommy can’t see like you do.  I can’t see what’s happening on the TV.”  So, to add to her adorable quotable Marley quotes, she replies, “See with your fingers Mom!”

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.

The “Touchy” Topic of Poop

I have to tell you that the dialog gets a whole lot more descriptive amongst my blind mommy friends.  I was the first one out of us to have a baby, so I never really had anyone to go to with questions about what non visual techniques other blind parents used.  Back then I wasn’t aware of a blind parent list serve or a blind parents group on Facebook.  I guess you could say I was sort of in the dark on this one.  So once my friends started having babies and the topic of changing diapers came up, it was quite refreshing finding out that I am not the only one who also gets creative.
Diaper Dialog
Q.  How do you change a diaper when you can’t see?
A.  Just like I do everything else, by using non-visual techniques.  I rely on my other senses along with the vision that I do have.  Obviously, I don’t use my sense of taste.  I can hear if the baby is peeing while I’m changing the diaper.  I can smell if there is anything odd about the pee or poop.  I am not afraid to use my sense of touch to make sure that it all got clean.
Q.  Have you ever gotten pee or poop on yourself?
A.  What parent hasn’t gotten pee or poop on themselves?  That simply just comes with the territory of being a parent.  Although, I have to admit that there have been a few times that my husband has informed me that I got poo on the wall, or light switch, or wipe warmer.
Q.  How do you know if your baby has a diaper rash?
A.  Once again it’s that lovely sense of touch that I turn to.  There’s nothing wrong with touching your baby.  It’s a proven fact that skin to skin contact stimulates cognitive and emotional development in babies.  A butt with a diaper rash feels very different from a butt without a diaper rash.  It also doesn’t hurt to use a soothing diaper rash cream even if there isn’t one.
Q.  Often, you need to pay attention to details like consistency and color, especially once you’re baby is eating solids.  How do you tell the difference?
A.  Ladies and gentlemen, I say it again.  I am not afraid to use my sense of touch.  you can usually tell the difference in texture and consistency while wiping.  There have been a few times that I have had to use a wipe to inspect the poop.  As for color, I can tell if it’s light or dark, but wouldn’t be able to describe if it were actually green or orange.  Yesterday, my husband told me that my son’s poop was blue.  Well, he did eat a few blueberries the day before
 Meet Jackson. He is probably the most mild tempered baby in the world.  The only times he cries is if he’s hungry or if his big sister beats up on him.  Now that he is crawling, he is getting into everything and putting all sorts of things into his mouth. Until recently, Jackson has never had a diaper rash.  Since Saturday we have had a new Jackson in our house.  A Jackson that cries all the time and is pooping 7 times a day and is now suffering from his first diaper rash.  Jackson is giving me lots of practice in using my non-visual techniques.  It is because of him that I am sharing with you on the “touchy” topic of poop.

Blind Mom in the Burbs

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I’m often asked by my blind friends , “How does a blind mom do it in the suburbs?”,.  My answer , “I just do it.”  I’m also often told by  people who I meet, “I never would have guessed that you had anything wrong with your eyes.   You’re so confident and well-rounded.”  My usual response, “Are you trying to say that blind people can’t be confident or well-rounded.  I happen to know a good number of blind people who are way more confident and well-rounded than most sighted people. “

So, how do I do it?  I do it with the skills that I obtained when I decided to change my life by spending 9 months at the Louisiana Center for the Blind., also known as the Boot Camp for the Blind.  Since I have some vision I spend 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, under a blindfold (which they call sleep shades).  I learned how to use and travel confidently with a cane.  This included finding random addresses, getting dropped off and having to find my way back to the center, and finishing up with a 5.6 mile scavenger hunt around town.  I learned how to read Braille.  I single-handedly cooked a full 4 coarse meal for 40.  I learned how to use a computer by using a screen reading software, and even mastered Power Point and Excel.  And to top it all off I worked in a full on wood shop and can even show you the jewelry box that I made from scratch.

LCB’s philosophy comes from the National Federation of the Blind which says that, “The real problem with blindness is not the loss of eyesight.  The real problem is the misunderstanding and lack of information that exists.  If a blind person has proper training and opportunity, blindness can be reduced to a physical nuisance.”

Today, I am a stay at home mom with a 2.5 year-old daughter and 6 1/2 month old son.  We are fortunate that my husband has a job that allows him to support us and let me stay home to raise our children.  We live in a small master planned suburb of Las Vegas called Southern Highlands.  We decided to purchase our home here because of the small town feel of the community.  Everything I need is within walking distance.  I run an active mommy meet up group called Southern Highlands Moms, Babies, and Tots.  I cook, clean, change diapers, do loads and loads of laundry, and everything else the typical mom does.  However, we’re separated from the rest of the city by 2 miles of desert, so the fact that I don’t drive makes it a little difficult to get anywhere else.  There is no bus line here.  The pediatrician’s office is about 10 miles away.  The average temp in summer is 112 and the average temp in winter is 40.  Stay tuned, and you’ll learn how a blind mom does it in the burbs.  ImageImage