I want popcorn

Here is a weekend morning, where I normally get up and make the kids pancakes, scrambled eggs, chocolate milks, or whatever the flavor is that morning. We appear to be a normal functioning family. But we are not a normal functioning family.

Bailey wants popcorn for breakfast. She hates pancakes today. Bailey is a nine year old girl, and very tall for her age. She is also very strong. She is on the autism spectrum, which changes the game completely, though there are many family members and/or friends who do not agree with how I parent her (or Reagan, for that matter!). And that is fine, because I am not this perfect mother, nor do I want to be the perfect mother, because that would be too much pressure to live up to. I am flawed, broken, and many times, I make decisions by the seat of my pants, instead of contemplating them in advance.

For me, for my family, and only for my family……my kids need a few minutes to collect their thoughts. They need to stew in their own words, and reflect on their behavior, which takes some time and patience. Threats makes them shy away, makes them defiant, and puts them on the fence, which does not sit well with me. I have my own methods that work for me, and that is all there is to it. And yes, I do get hurt often, but I do have a plan in place, and I am getting help, and that is a big deal for me, to accept external help. I have taken that first step in doing so.

If I cannot calmly explain to Bailey, how it is unacceptable to have popcorn for breakfast, and give her other more nutritious choices that she can pick from, then we have a meltdown. The meltdowns  can just be a few minutes of flying toys, and choice words, but they can also be the extreme, with hitting, throwing, and self harming.

Ross was always the one to grab her arms to make her stop swinging. He was always the one to hold her in place. Now that there is only me as the sole parent (not single parent), I have to ensure she isn’t hurting herself or anyone else, though it isn’t always in the cards to be fast enough, or alert enough, to keep her from hurting me. This is something that I have grown accustomed to, and I recognize that I should not have to. I make mistakes, yes, and many times, I fall victim to those mistakes.

Will I always ensure my children’s safely, above anything else? Most definitely. Will I threaten Bailey with no electronics mid-meltdown? No way, Jose.  After a meltdown, yes!

Mid meltdown threats sent her into a frenzy, where she cannot slow herself down, and her arms and legs are out of control. That is not a good place for any of us, and there is only one way to stop it.

Wherever we are…..we lay down, and I hold her arms and her legs the tightest, safest way possible. I let her break out her strongest screams, and squirm until she is absolutely exhausted. After some time, she finally quiets down, and we are both laying there, emotionally spent, and at times, physically sore. This is very consuming for me, as a parent, and I often struggle with the after effects. Families that do not have an autistic child will never understand, or relate, nor are they in any position to place judgments. Honestly, another family with an autistic child, should not place judgments, either.

Every child is different. Every family is different, and there is not ONE WAY to handle a situation. Every child and every family function differently, and they have to function with the dynamics of their bubble, not against their dynamics and bubble.

I did not let Bailey have her popcorn until she ate some bites of her pancakes and drank her milk, but I enforced this AFTER I laid with her, let some stillness pass, and spoke to her gently about how she was feeling, and that she is not allowed to speak to me in such a manner, that her behavior was not acceptable, and would she like to have another chance? Granted, sometimes this is very time consuming, and as a sole parent, my mind is meanwhile racing……I need to get laundry done, I need to pack their lunches, OMG my cookies, etc….but it is what it is, and it is how Ia choose to parent my daughter. She does not respond to threats or physical confrontation during a meltdown, like some children would, in normal functioning families. She does not respond well at all, unless she is in a calming state of acceptance, and this is only after she is held tight and still.

And there you have it, a look into our household, and a look into my daily battles of having a child with autism, and a child that I have tried may different tactics with, only to strike out, and escalate the situation with the wrong decisions. Like all other parents, I have grown and learned, and adapted my responses accordingly, and though it is not always a good outcome, it is the a solution that works for us.

So if I am not answering your texts, your facebook messages, or most importantly, if I am not answering my phone. There is a viable reason for this, and there are bigger matters that I need to attend to. Please do not assume that I am ignoring you, or that I am discounting what you need from me in that moment of your phone call. I am taking care of my children, and I am all they have now. Forgive me….please, if I cannot take care of your needs right then and there. And that sucks many times, believe me, because I love to make others happy and give them what they need, but this is my life now, and it is just how it is. Please be forgiving with me.

Thank you so much for all of your kindness, words of advice, and most of all, thank you so much for your support. It reminds me that I am not alone, and that something that I am very familiar with these days.

All I have learned

10891716_10204582156087611_1318410360610494901_n (1)

13567417_10208296380980912_941553663128991786_n

15665807_10209874323188481_8120460677846142356_n

15937032_10210007040866340_7768528082936311656_o

16831074_10210345754653973_8666999749115539819_n

16107493_10210042904962920_3621347565681916829_o

16422302_10210212247516378_8355293564305791434_o

I don’t want to post another sad, hopeless blog, but here we are. I send out my apologies for depressing or bringing anyone down, but this is what I am feeling, and I don’t know what to do with it all. It is bottled up to where I am almost suffocating from it. So here it is, all of it, so brave of me, to put it out there, and subject myself to judgement at every turn. But after all that has happened, maybe I don’t care what others think about me as much anymore? Because really…..being happy is all that matters, and I am hoping to reach that peak, as soon as I know that my kids are okay, and essentially happy.

My grandmother’s house is on the market and has had a million offers. I am not at all surprised, because I always recognized the value, from a sentimental standpoint and from a location, location, location standpoint. The offers came in like wildfire, and sent me stumbling backwards, because it all happened so fast, and I never had a chance to say goodbye to my home.

I haven’t had a chance to say goodbye to anyone, or anything, and yet, here I am, pushing and pulling myself from day to night, night to day, not sleeping or letting myself become too aware of all that has taken place.

Ross was a rock for me, always there and essentially, my best friend. One day he was gone, and it has been a downhill spiral of events for my children and I. And life doesn’t stop or slow down for you, so you have to keep shuffling your feet, no matter where your head or heart stay. And children…..how do they process that they will never see their father again? I don’t know how to protect them, and make them feel confident that I am here, when it is apparent, I could die tomorrow! I have learned from this. I am making plans, so that my children aren’t lost in this vicious cycle of LOSS. I will NEVER have them feel this way…..alone, isolated, and with this cold reality in their hearts, that anyone can die at any given moment. No wonder they are holding on so tight. No wonder they stay close at night, and wander looking for me, when I am up, and I can’t sleep. No wonder they panic if I disappear from their sight. Why haven’t I comprehended their loss to the full extent?  Is this the time to be enforcing strict rules? Maybe, but slowly, and not overnight. And I made lots of mistakes, in my own world of grief, and I owned those mistakes, and I am back pedaling, and trying SO hard to undo any of that damage. My kids are really all that matters, now more than ever, and I can’t imagine putting anyone or anything before them.

When Reagan snaps at me, or is moody when I pick him up from school, I remember……today was Donuts with Dad. When Bailey is in full fledged meltdown mode, and starts swinging and punching out of frustration, I may get hurt, but I remember……her dad isn’t coming home to her, or hugging her and tickling her as he walks in. He is just gone, and Bailey thinks everyone she loves will die now. My heart is broken into a million pieces, because my babies feel this tremendous pain. I would do anything in the world to make that go away for them, but I can’t, and I think that is the hardest part of parenting. Not being able to protect your children from pain.

This downhill spiral of events has come fast and furious, and it has been brutal and unforgiving. My husband DIED. He didn’t leave me, or disappear one day, he DIED. This leaves me with a confusing mess of emotions, but mostly fear and sadness for our children. Is it really true, that he has gone to a better place?  Why is that so hard to understand?  Was it so bad here with his family? I can’t imagine he would have wanted to be away from his children. Never.

And then I have to leave home, which was the right decision, given all the circumstances, though it has been a slow and painful crumbling of everything that I have come to know and love. My Grandpa watched birds and squirrels with his binoculars in the back room. He would water the bird baths every morning in his Gilligan hat. My Grandma would sit outside almost every evening, staring into the sunset. That same sunset that I stared into years later, as I found my way back to this home, as an adult. But every night the sunsets were different, and every night, they spoke different words to me. They brought me peace, solitude, and they brought me to tears, happy and sad, but mostly happy, because I was finally home. I can’t believe that I will never see those sunsets again.

Bailey said her first sentence in this home. SIX words, all at once, and without skipping a beat. I wasn’t prepared for it, and I had to catch my breath and process what had happened. Had she just said, “I had cupcakes, they were yummy”, or was I dreaming?  But she did. She TALKED to me, as if it were nothing, but it was EVERYTHING, because all of the days before, she would get off the bus, and I would take her hand, and tell her that I missed her, and did she have a good day? And she would mumble or smile, sometimes grimace, but she would NEVER tell me about her day. But she did that day, right there in the driveway, and she did from that point on, moving forward. It was the most beautiful day ever.

Reagan had his video games and love of sports. He knew all the players names, and their records, and his dad and him would talk about sports non-stop. Playing video games was their thing, and talking trash to each other. I can hear Reagan’s giggle right now, and the way his dad would taunt him, and sometimes even fall asleep during a game, and still make basketball shots! How?? They laughed so hard during these games, that Reagan would wet his pants. I never made any negative comments about how often it was, these video games, because Reagan was so HAPPY. He doesn’t have anyone to play with now, but an online friend that he never sees in person, and though he laughs with this boy, and they enjoy each other’s company, it will never be the same. All in our home. The video games, laughter, barking, and bonds, all working together in a chaotic manner, but a manner that made sense to us. All of that, gone overnight, and now the kids and I are in another home that is unfamiliar, and though they are acclimating, I cannot leave my home, because it is forever tattooed in my soul……where I lived as a child, and then again, as an adult, for seven wonderful years.

And it was all sentimental, sure. My mother and I had laid in the hammock in the back yard, and shared some memories of when we were together, and it was comforting to have her so close, and for her to be so nurturing towards me. It was pleasant and warm, and just RIGHT, like a real mother and daughter. And that was my last memory of her, in my home. She was on life support after that. My grandpa had died at the VA, and I was curled up in bed with him, despite the looks from the nurses, because they wanted to take his body. I had left home with my Bandit, because she was sick, and I had waited too long to put her to rest, because I was being selfish, and couldn’t let her go. I remember Ross kissing her face, as he fought to not cry, and then he turned away as I walked out the door, because he could bear to see her disappear out the door. That dog was the vain of our existence, and yet we loved her to the ends of the earth.

So many memories. I still cannot register, that I will not be back there. I won’t be feeding the deer and their babies, feeding the stray cat, and all of the wildlife critters that made our house their home. I cannot register that I won’t be sitting next to the pool, watching my children splash, and watching my Cowboy huff and puff in a small circle around the pool, barely making it back to the steps, to catch his breath. I cannot believe that I HAVE to register all of this loss, and yet, those hits kept on coming. There was a terrible dog fight, and my Star was injured to the point of being in shock, and I went racing towards the vet, knowing the whole time, that this was it, and I was having to let her go. Had Ross been there, maybe she would still be alive, and no one would have gotten hurt, but there I was, arms and legs all splayed out, keeping each dog off of one another, not even feeling the teeth on my neck or hands, because it didn’t matter, in all of the frenzied turmoil and my frantic yelling at the kids to close their door. And having to leave my Star’s body in a rush back to the kids, and never really grieving for her, my firstborn dog, that comforted me during some of the saddest points in my life, and stayed with me with such an undying loyalty.

I have learned everything there is know about life, what I want, and how I want to live. I want there to be no doubt, that my children feel protected and loved, and at the same time, feel confident to embrace others with kindness, and to be forgiving with themselves, when they have fallen. I have learned that every single day is a blessing, and every moment should be remembered and appreciated. I have learned that loss is crippling, catastrophic, but you have to take the punches, and push through deafening tears, so that you can find strength for your children, and for a completely different life, that honestly, you are terrified of.

Be grateful, appreciative, and don’t take anyone for granted. Pause, and remember…..hold on tight, because life is so damn fast. It can all be over, literally, in the blink of the eye. Thank GOD I have pictures, blogs, and thank GOD I have MEMORIES. Happy memories. That really is all that matters, is fighting to be happy, and fighting to remember.

 

 

All In A Days Work

It still happens, where I wake up in the mornings, and that coldness hits me hard. I am by myself, all of the weight is on me. I am not home, but in a house. I am not whole, but I am broken. This is my life now.

So I do all that I can, and get up, and start fighting the battles, like so many other parents. I have scars from the loss of a mother, a grandparent, a best friend, and a husband, and it is evident that I am struggling to plant my feet into the ground and hold on to everything that comes my way. It hurts me to the core, that I never related to these women, and men, who have stood alone, with their children looking to them, for consistence, meanwhile the parent gives them every ounce of energy they can muster, until finally, the day is over, and the sky has turned black, and instead of resting their weary bodies, they are awake, and so very aware of the silence.

With the weight of the world, HOW do they push through the days with such an insatiable amount of perseverance and strength? All in a day’s work, they say, but being a parent is the hardest job in the world. A parent that battles workplace drama with long, tedious hours, and comes home to vigorous routines, or those parents who are grieving inside, but pulling together the strength for those watchful eyes. And a parent that has to give even more for their children with special needs, when they are already tapped out emotionally and physically. Parents are expected to honor and embrace parenthood with such an allegiance and loyalty, and just because they don’t have a partner, doesn’t give them a free pass.

For the love of your children. Because you have no choice. Because no one else will. Or maybe it has become a part of who you are, to be needed and wanted, and there is no other way to live. Because it is the right thing to do, and NOT being present for your child is not something that has ever crossed your mind.

I never thought that I would be starting over at age 46. I was already trying to catch my breath, and now I am searching desperately for more oxygen, energy, and sanity, but I am a mother, and I am all that they have. They are all that I have. It is the three of us, in this twisted world of loss and confusion, and we are fumbling with our daily tasks with such a frustration, because we lost a big part of who we were in our former life. We lost our groove, direction, and confidence, and never reclaiming it, but having to remold and recreate it, into something different, foreign, and all at the same time, feeling frightened that we will never be reborn, and we will just disappear one day.

I need my second wind. I  have failed miserably with so many aspects of this grieving process. It was too soon for a vacation, but I forced it on my children. I expected my 9 and 10 year olds to grow up overnight, after I had coddled them to the point of dependence, and I was bitter when my days grew brutal and long. I was wrong, and I will never NOT own up to what I have done, only learn from it, and make tweeks and changes, until my new normal is comfortable and stable. Until I have something that resembles a life. Until my children have clarity and acceptance of their new life, and they can feel that laughter and energy deep down, and they can move forward without hesitation.

My mind wants to push past all of this pain, and be done with it, but I have been doing it all wrong. There is no getting past this, only getting through each hit, taking each blow, and then getting back up again. Because that is LIFE, and life has more challenges than gifts, sadly. And it does get harder to treasure those gifts and moments, and hold them tight, until your knuckles are white, but you do it just the same.

So here I am, blogging all of my insides, open and raw to judgement, and subjected to criticism from others who do not relate, or understand my journey, and struggles to become another person altogether. And I don’t need them to understand, just KNOW that I am TRYING. This is my “counseling”, and every other fiber of my being has been given to my children, who have attached their very existence to me, who take support and emotional welfare from me, and reach for me, when they hopelessly miss their dad. It is where I am supposed to be, and where I am meant to be, and everything else has to wait, and that is okay.

It will all get figured out in time, and I am hoping the days will get easier in time, with all the daily rigorous flows of LIFE and all of it’s unexpected ups and downs. It is when I STOP to take it all in, that it overwhelms me, and takes me to that breaking point, so I don’t stop, and I don’t let it in.

Maybe one day I will wake up with peace in my heart. I will feel grounded, and I will look back and KNOW that I have done a stand up job with my children and have no regrets. If my children are confident, kind, and HAPPY, then I will know I have done everything that I can as a parent. If I find my own happiness along the way, and it is constant and reliable, even better, but I am not looking for it.

I hope that others learn from my experiences. Life can be taken away so brutally, with words unspoken, hidden secrets untold, and life not even liven yet. Take a step back and look at what you have. Please.