Posted in Everyday Life and Routines, Uncategorized

Ballet, Soccer, and Doughnuts #HartleSaturdayMornings

I wrote this earlier this fall for The Voice of the Nation’s Blind blog.  I wanted to share it here before the season is over.

Fall is in full swing around here and I love it! We’ve also found ourselves entering into a different phase of life where our weekends revolve more around kids’ practices, birthday parties, or home projects and trips to Lowes. Ballet started up again and we also entered the world of soccer. You can’t be a true suburbanite without experiencing at least some time on the soccer field. Our soccer experience is still in its early phase, but we enrolled our son into a Soccer Shots clinic this fall. Having kids in multiple activities at the same time and a fuller schedule has presented some blindness related logistical challenges, but we’re working through them. I thought I’d share some of the ways we live our everyday life which is much like most families, with just a few exceptions.

A Saturday morning staple for us is getting Dunkin Doughnuts. I wouldn’t go quite as far to say it’s an addiction, but maybe close. Have you tried one of their pumpkin spice muffins yet? And as a hot chocolate connoisseur, I’d say they’re certainly on the top of the list. Definitely two simple pleasures on a crisp fall morning. One more side note—we were in Philly a few weeks ago and I don’t know what Jesse was more excited about—touching the Liberty Bell or the fact that we passed six DD’s in a one mile radius from our hotel. But I digress…Anyway, usually early on Saturday mornings, Jesse walks to DD which is a little over a half mile from our house (about a 15 min. walk each way) He also gets enough doughnuts to eat some on Sunday morning as this is supposed to help us get out the door to church faster.

 

My job is to get the rest of us ready for the day—tights, leotard, soccer jersey, and shorts—amidst sibling squabbles, missing shoes, and distractions of the one-year-old dropping the tv remote down the toilet. Around 10 a.m. One of us calls a Lyft or Uber and takes K to ballet. (Usually me.) Whomever goes to ballet takes B, the one-year-old since it’s easier to take two car seats into the school rather than down the hill and across a field to soccer practice. Once the car arrives, it takes about five minutes to install car seats and buckle up kids. When we arrive at ballet (a.k.a. K’s elementary school , K (6) is responsible for carrying her booster seat out of the car while I uninstall B’s car seat and take it, and him inside. Most often, drivers usually offer to help with this whole process, but we’ve kind of got it down to a science now and it’s just easier sometimes to do it ourselves. After ballet, we do the whole process again, sometimes substituting a Lyft with a ride home from a ballet friend.

 

Around 10:40, the other parent (usually Jesse) calls another Lyft/Uber and heads to a different elementary school with J.J. (4). Once there, Jesse carries J.J.’s full backed booster down the hill to the grassy area where Soccer shots takes place. He parks the booster next to a tree near the field and then kicks a soccer ball around with J.J. as the kids arrive and warm up. This is always a bit tricky when you’re not using a beeping ball, but they work it out.   The first time we went to Soccer Shots, I took J.J. and we got dropped off at the other side of the school where other league soccer games were going on. It was a discovery learning experience for me as I trekked around the school with cane, child, and booster until we found the right field way down in the back on the opposite side. Thankfully there were a lot of parents and I could ask directions, but I’m pretty sure I got some curious looks walking around with my cane and a car seat.

 

A couple of weeks ago, my sister was visiting us and we rented a van for the weekend. It was such a luxury! Not only did we not have to install and uninstall car seats, but we were able to run an pick up DD while my daughter was at ballet, swing by and pick up J.J. and Jesse for soccer, drop them off, and head back to pick up K, and then back to soccer for all of us to watch the last twenty minutes of J.J.’s practice. (This was really fun for K and J.J. because it’s logistically difficult and costly with rides for us to go to his practices after ballet.) Afterward, we stayed and played on the playground at the school as a family just enjoying the beautiful fall morning. My sister does not have kids of her own yet, so I teased her about how she just had a crash course in suburban/family life.

 

So there you have a small glimpse into our Saturdays. I know as our children get older and more interested in other activities, these kinds of logistics will become a bit trickier. For example, juggling getting to different places at different times each week for games, weekly practices, lessons, scouts, etc. We will probably find ourselves incorporating more carpooling or using other drivers too. WE want to make sure our kids don’t miss out on opportunities or things they want to do because our blindness might present some challenge. I’m learning that being creative, flexible, and good at problem solving is the key.

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Posted in Activities with Children, Dealing with Challenges, Parenting Essentials

The Perils of Apple Picking


Picture: B sitting in his car seat enjoying the world’s biggest apple. He gnawed on it with only four teeth for nearly an hour. .

I love fall! One of my favorite fall must-do’s is to go apple picking. It’s become a family favorite. Shortly after moving to Maryland (pre-marriage and kids), my friend Betsy and I started making it a yearly thing. Now, it’s like a family tradition and it’s so fun to share with my children. We missed last year too on account of the factthat Betsy was in grad school, so we all were especially excited to go this year.

My two older children are six and four, so this was one of the first times that both of them could help with the picking. I usually do it, with a little verbal guidance from Betsy as to where to feel on the tree for an apple, but this year I welcomed the change from picker to pack mule. Upon our arrival at the farm, I realized I had forgotten my Ergo (baby carrier backpack). This was a very big deal as I would need to carry our one-year-old, new walker around. I’ve been carrying my kids this way when we’ve gone apple picking for years. I was so mad at myself for forgetting this! It’s not like we could go home and get it (we drove over an hour up to an orchard on the other side of the border into Delaware), and it wasn’t like there was a Walmart near-by for us to just zip down to either for a temporary replacement one. So, not wanting to ruin our day, I did the next best thing. I couldn’t realistically carry big bags of apples and my twenty pound son, nor could Betsy and the kids carry them all either, so we took the Sit n’ Stroll with us. Just a note, the Sit n’ Stroll is our car seat/stroller combo. The wheels retract into the base while being used as a car seat. It’s worth its weight in gold and one of my favorite baby products as a blind parent. (See my post on this gem) but it’s not really the most road worthy as it’s mostly designed for airport or mall travel. Definitely not farm land.

After a quick perusal of the craft displays and a visit to the port-a-potty, we headed down the road to catch our tractor wagon down to the orchard. You can imagine the sight of me helping the other two kids onto the wagon, passing one of them my cane to hold, and then climbing up myself while hoisting B strapped into his car seat in front of me. But, we made it and soon we were all excitedly picking some of the biggest apples I’ve ever seen and enjoying a little snack along the way.
After a while, we had three large backs (about 50 lbs.) between Betsy and me, and the kids had enjoyed themselves. Thankfully, the car seat had hung in there only getting stuck occasionally. We decided to load the car seat with the bags of apples and that I would carry B back to the wagon. WE thought this would work easier. And then it happened! One of the wheels got stuck in a rut and we were a bit too forceful in trying to free it when it suddenly snapped at the shaft of the wheel. I could have cried! Not only are these car seat stroller combos expensive and hard to repair, but I rely so much on it since I have to transport car seats so often from car to car and place to place. The other frustrating thing is that the same thing happened to our first Sit n’ Stroll which we practically wore out because we used it so often for our first two children. In that case, however, the wheel must have had a crack or something and already been compromised because it snapped off in the same way one night when I was pulling it up our driveway. I was never able to contact customer service to find out how to repair it as all the website contact info was outdated. I ended up finding a used one on Amazon and just purchasing a second one. The thought of having to go through the same process again, or purchasing another one was so disheartening.

Somehow we made it back to the wagon, though it was rough going. I carried B, one large bag of apples and sheparded the other two kids while Betsy manhandled the stroller with the other two bags of apples trying her best to keep it level so we could at least push it with the three wheels on the uneven ground. I’m sure her arms ached the next day. We finally made it back to the wagon and loaded everyone on. When we got back to the drop off in the parking lot, the kids, apples, and I stayed there waiting while Betsy went and got her car and drove it back to pick us up. Did I mention she’s a really, really great friend? Everyone needs a Betsy in their lives.

Picture: K standing with head and hands out from behind a wooden cut out photo prop of stocks with thought bubble that reads: “I shouldn’t have taken the apple off the trees at Milburns!”

By this point, the kids were cranky and so was I. It was time for a late lunch and to head home.
Upon leaving, we stopped off for lunch at Wendy’s where I tried drowning my sorrows in a chocolate frosty before calling Jesse to share the bad news with him. All in all, not my favorite apple picking adventure, but definitely one that will be remembered. Isn’t it funny how the things that go wrong later are the memories we look back on with a smile and fondness? I can’t wait until this feels that way because right now I’m still a little sad over the whole thing. It’s been a few weeks now and I’ve not yet replaced the stroller, but I’m going to have to as there is no way to send it in for repairs—at least to my knowledge. So, that will be dipping into the “Mary Jo shopping spree fund” (as if I really had one.  It’s also made some of our outings a bit more difficult, but I’m getting arms of steel from carrying the car seat when I’d normally pull it, and saving us a little money on rides on nice weather days since I’m more inclined to walk or take public transit so as to avoid having to juggle multiple car seats. So, I guess there are some small perks to be enjoyed. I’ll end on a positive note though and say that we’re still enjoying some delicious apple treats. Hopefully we’ll have better luck next year.

Posted in Public Attitudes, Misconceptions, and Advocacy

Babies’ Births and Blindness

2016-08-09-19-23-17Well, in the event that you really enjoy reading this blog and have missed posts, I have a really good reason for not posting in a while. WE have been busy with a newborn and in the thick of adjusting to the “new normal” of life with three children, one of whom also started Kindergarten this year–a whole other blog post.  Three months later, I’m finally feeling like I’m starting to come up for air and mastering our “new normal” routine.

We welcomed our third child, Brayden Alexander Hartle on Tuesday, August 9. He weighed in at 9.93 lbs. and was somewhere between 20-23 inches long , beating out his two older sibs by a few ounces–yes, we make really big, but long and skinny babies.  He is quite the little cutie and we’re so happy to have him join our family.

I ended up having a scheduled C-section with him. This was my third C-section. Our first child was brow presenting, instead of crowning, so after about 20 hours of being induced and in labor, her delivery resulted in a C-section. . When our second child came along, he was breech at one point and estimated to be somewhere between nine and ten pounds, so we ruled out a potential “trial of labor after cesarean” due to possible risk for complications because of his size. By the time this little one came around, I pretty much didn’t have any choice but to have another C-section. IN any case, I guess it really doesn’t matter how they get here, just that they do and that they are healthy. We’ve been so blessed each time.

One advantage to knowing when you’re going to deliver is that it allows you to plan a bit better. Since Jesse and I can’t drive, this gives us a little bit of relief to know that the possibility for making a 2 a.m. Uber ride to the hospital is low. I’m sure our friends who are on the emergency call list appreciate it too.

We have delivered all three children at the University Of Maryland Medical Center, in the exact same O.R. even (wish I’d thought to get a picture of myself standing outside the room prior to this last delivery for sentimental purposes. Each experience has been positive. Given that the focus of this blog is on blind parenting issues, I thought I’d take a few minutes to share some related thoughts with respect to our deliveries and our blindness because there is always a little bit of apprehension in the back of our minds about what our experience will be like. Blindness always comes into play in some form or fashion.

Prior to our first child’s birth in 2011, we were pretty nervous about what our experience would be. We’d heard some negative things from blind friends. At that time, there was also a custody case going on in Missouri where a baby had been removed from the custody of her two blind parents shortly after being born, purely on the fact that a hospital social worker expressed some concern about the parents’ abilities. (Just as an added note, at that time here in the state of Maryland, it was also legal for children to be removed from a parents’ custody purely on the basis that the parent was blind with no need for evidence of harm or risk to the child( Since 2011, state legislation has been enacted that prevents this . I wrote a testimonial for a state congressional hearing which you can read here.) Delivering a baby is scary enough without bringing all these other fears into the mix.   So, we tried to be proactive. We spent a bit of time working with our doctor and even spoke to the head nurse of the Labor and delivery unit prior to our daughter’s birth to help dispel some misconceptions and hopefully make our experience a positive one. I am grateful to report that each have been. I think our own ability to advocate for ourselves, our skills training, and demonstration of our abilities have been the prevailing factors in making this so. I also need to give credit to the advocacy of our doctor. We’ve been so blessed to have a great doctor who has followed all three pregnancies and who has become like a part of our family. If you’ll indulge me for a moment, I’d just like to say that finding this doctor has been like an answer to prayers. Bringing a child into the world is such a scary, challenging, exciting, emotional, intimate experience and I’m so grateful that we’ve been able to work with her. She originally started out as just my regular physician about ten years ago, but because she is a family medicine doctor, she’s now become Jesse’s doctor and our pediatrician. She’s also been able to follow all my pregnancies, was present for each birth to support me—even rearranging her schedule just for us–, and she would have delivered each child had I not had C-sections. So we really feel like she knows our family and is our #1 supporter.

Each delivery, we’ve ended up staying in the hospital for an average of about four days (the protocol for a C-section is two or three, but we have stayed longer because our children all had Jaundice . Typically, medical professionals’ views or training when it comes to blindness are more focused on how to correct the problem rather than looking forward to how one would live successfully with it, so this allows us a lot of opportunities to help educate others on the capabilities of blind people. I’ll admit, each time we’ve felt a little bit like we were under a magnifying glass. Despite this, it’s still been a great opportunity for us and felt a bit like a public education mission in that we can demonstrate the capabilities of blind individuals. We’ve been asked a lot of questions about how we do certain things; i.e., how do you get around, how do you change a diaper, how do you keep track of your children, how will you deal with car seats, etc. We’ve been able to share some of our methods and talk about the kind of training available to those with vision loss that helps us with everyday life. We get told that we’re “amazing” or “inspiring” most of the time, which is nice to hear, but truthfully, we just want to help raise public expectations on the abilities of blind people to live normal lives, including having and raising a family.

We did have a bit of an issue this last time with one of our nurses which I want to share. I felt a bit uncomfortable with her because of the way she doubted my abilities by questioning some of my actions. For example, she didn’t want me to pick up the baby from the bassinet because she was afraid I would drop him. Instead, she wanted me to page her to get him. At first, her concern seemed slightly relevant, but I assured her that my husband (who was asleep in the chair next to me) was staying with me and could help with this. She continued to seem uncomfortable with this and I finally realized from her questions that she was concerned about the safety of the baby with both of us being blind, and our ability to locate the baby and the bassinet. I began to feel a bit irritated partly because it was late and I was physically uncomfortable, but mainly because I felt like I had to defend myself to her. I finally had to explain to her that I had enough vision to locate the bassinet and agree to call her if I needed help. I felt annoyed that it took me reassuring her that I had enough vision to see the baby in the bassinet because it felt like throwing my very capable, but practically totally blind husband under the bus. Let me assure you that it’s not too difficult to feel where a large object placed next to your bed is, nor is it hard to locate a crying baby. And if you’re worried about misjudging the placement of the baby back into the bassinet without vision, I can testify that natural instincts will kick in and you won’t release the baby until both of your supporting hands feel a flat surface under the baby…at least in my experience.

We had one or two other little misunderstandings from her and asked our doctor if there was a way to request that she not be assigned as our nurse again. . We’re generally pretty easy going and not confrontational, but she made both Jesse and I feel uncomfortable. Anyway, the story has a happy ending. Towards the end of her shift, she started talking to us and asking us some questions and seemed to begin to change her perception. In fact, the next night she came into our room and told us that she was not assigned to us that evening but wanted to say hi. (We honestly don’t know if this was coincidence or arranged), and she told us that she really appreciated the opportunity to meet us and admired us for what we were doing. It just goes to show you that actions speak louder than words, and that people’s perceptions can be changed.

So, there you have it…a brief glimpse into our birth experiences. We are so grateful for the privilege of being parents. It is honestly the most challenging, sleep-depriving, stressful experience ever, but the most joyous and worth every moment. Thanks for reading.

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Pages from the Hartle Playbook: Catching up this summer

Pages from the Hartle Playbook: Catching up

From time to time, I like to post “Pages from the Hartle Playbook.” These are personal posts which are more about me and my family and our goings-on. These posts are meant to give followers of this blog a little insight into our lives; and also as a way to share some of the situations we encounter as a family with two blind parents.

It seems like this spring and summer have been flying by for us. I’ve neglected my blog a lot lately as result. One exciting piece of news which I haven’t yet shared yet is the expected arrival of our second child, a little boy due in September. WE are very excited, and maybe a little apprehensive about all the new changes to come for us. The pregnancy has been going well—despite a few months at first where I was sure this baby was going to make a vegetarian of me, and joked with my husband that we’d have to move as I couldn’t go up and down the stairs in our house without feeling completely and totally exhausted. We’ve also been struggling with several bouts of sinus colds—at least one of us has been sick with one off and on for about four months now and we just keep passing it around. I’m blaming it on our daughter being exposed to more “bugs” at church nursery and playgroups, and my immune system being a little susceptible from the pregnancy. In any case, it seems like the weeks between the colds have been spent catching up on all the day-to-day business. . But, overall, we are doing great and enjoying the warmer seasons.

The past few months have been full of fun projects for me—planting our first garden(and trying to keep it alive),working on some preschool things with my daughter, and taking on some part-time work contracting with the NFB Jernigan Institute. (I’m helping to manage some conference calls with the nine new states hosting Braille (BELL) summer programs this year.) I’ve also enjoyed going to playgroups with my daughter, attending mom circles and seminars, learning to grill on our new gas grill, and lots of water play on the hot days. I also got a little bit of a crash course in home maintenance a few weeks back when we re-stained our deck (thanks to my dad for being such a big help and basically doing all the work), and learned a bit about plumbing when our kitchen sink leaked and caused a leak through to our basement ceiling (thanks to our neighbor Donna for providing assistance with this repair.) My husband isn’t one of those “fix-it” types when it comes to home repairs, so I tend to wear the tool belt in our house, and rather enjoy this role. By the way, there is a post in the works hopefully about dealing with a plumber who tried to take advantage of my being unfamiliar with the trade and a blind woman. He seriously underestimated my intelligence and lost the bid. J

Our family also just returned from spending two weeks in Orlando, FL. Jesse has been counting down the days and hours for weeks now. WE attended the NFB convention there during the first week, and then headed over to Disney World for the second. I had the opportunity to present to a group of parents of blind children during the National Organization for Parents of Blind Children’s (NOPBC) pre-convention seminar. I especially enjoyed getting to meet a mom of a ten-month-old little boy who is blind. I love seeing parents get involved in providing their children with good skills and philosophy from the start. I truly think the thing I enjoy most about attending the convention is getting to catch up with friends and being able to share our experiences with one another. It’s nice sometimes to commiserate with, learn from, and brainstorm solutions with someone who “gets” what you deal with on a daily basis as a blind person. I also enjoyed getting to catch up with some of the youth with whom I have worked with over the years. They are all growing up so fast and make me feel so old! It’s crazy to realize that some of the youth I worked with as teens have already graduated from college and even grad school in some cases and are these up and coming professionals now.

Disney of course, was the highlight for us. We are big fans of Disney and enjoy going there every year. This was our first year as members of the Disney Vacation Club (yes, we’re just that nerdy) and so we were able to stay at a much nicer resort than usual. Sadly, we were a little disappointed with our room and the resort itself, but we still had a good time. It was fun for us to take our daughter too who is a big fan of Mickey and gang, and of many of the Disney Junior characters. She is still a bit too young for it all, and probably won’t remember most of the trip, but she did have a lot of fun being there and was sad when we said we had to leave. I hope to write a post in the next week or two about some of our experience this year (Some good, some bad) at Disney as we do manage to get a lot of stares, whispers, and questions about being blind. All in all though, it was a much more laid back trip than usual for us given that we had to work around a toddler schedule this time, and being seven months pregnant also brought some limitations . But, we really enjoyed the family time together, taking our daughter to our favorite spots, hitting some of our favorite rides and shows, and of course, eating some of our favorite treats! We also got pics with all of K’s favorite characters. It was so fun watching her be so excited to see them and then getting so star struck when it was actually her turn to meet them. She had two really fun experiences: first, she got to hold Mickey’s hand and lead a little parade at one of the character dining breakfasts we went to. Second, she got a special visit by Captain Hook (one of her faves from “Jake and the Neverland Pirates”) while watching an afternoon parade. He came up to her and gave her a big hug. Wish I would have got a pic of this as it was so adorable and she just beamed!

Well, I could go on for pages more with fun stories from our trip, but I’ll spare you. In any case, that’s the latest from us for now. Hope you enjoyed the little insights.