On Giants' Shoulders

Monday, May 15, 2006

My Other Awesome Niece

Those of you who have checked out the links on my blog have doubtless run into the Xanga sites of my nieces Amanda and Laura, along with my daughter Abby's Xanga site. What you may not know is that in addition to Amanda and Laura we have another niece. She has been in the family for only a few years because she was adopted just before she turned 9 and is now 11. Crystal is from China and spent her life from the time she was under a year until she was 8 in an orphanage. She is also blind.

This past week there was an article in the New York Daily News about the equestrian program for disabled children which Crystal participates in. There was a picture of Crystal riding a horse and an interview with Crystal and her mother Susan. If you'd like to read the article go to Amanda's Xanga site and you can see it.

As Amanda points out,however, there are two other people living at their house, Amanda and her younger brother, Peter. They also don't point out that Crystal's first exposure to horses actually came here in Vermont and she rode my daughter Abby's mare, Eclipse, before she began riding in New York. I might mention that my daughter took Therapeutic Riding as part of her college program, so she was thoroughly qualified to put Crystal on her horse.

Crystal is even more incredible than the article lets on. She goes to the store, in the Bronx, by herself (and as Amanda will tell you, she wasn't even allowed to do that at Crystal's age, although she isn't blind). She rides a scooter, she can run full tilt across a basketball court (it does help that the other people on the court know that she's blind). She can find her way around in a new house within 24 hours. She goes up and down the fairly treachorous stairs at our house (no railing and an open drop on one side) without ever falling. Meanwhile, I have fallen nearly the whole length of those stairs once, and missed a two steps and broke my foot another time. My daughter regularly falls up them, but Crystal merely walks up and down without a problem.

When she came to the U.S. she spoke only a little English and knew no Braille. She now reads Little House Books in Braille and is fluent in English. She's learning geography with Braille type charts, doing math problems at nearly grade level, and learning to cook (she can cook eggs, Ramen Noodles, make butter, and probably some other stuff I haven't heard about yet).

She has a phenomenal memory. She can tell you the plot line of the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe with greater detail than I could (despite the number of times I've read it). She loves Adventures in Odyssey and can fill you in on the plot of nearly any episode she's heard.

Meanwhile big sister Amanda composes music, taught herself Chinese (which she now apparently speaks more fluently than Crystal), has won some incredible scholarships, and can play nearly any instrument she puts her hands to. Brother Peter has an incredible singing voice and has performed in an off-Broadway production this year. He also is interested in logic, video games, and medieval weaponery (he and his dad built a trebouchet (I've probably just butchered the spelling of that - but it's a sort of catapult) which is now in our side yard (it was great for flinging frozen pumpkins and cucumbers).

Oh, and by the way, except for Amanda who did Kindergarten and about a month of first grade in a private school, they have all been homeschooled. Amanda is currently heading into her fourth year at Montclair State University in New Jersey.


At 7:01 PM, Blogger shenyuen said...

That was way better than any old new york times article... maybe you should look into journalism. well, peter and I thank you ;)


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