April is Autism Awareness Month.  From time to time I see a post on Facebook that states “every day is Autism Awareness Day at our house.”  I can relate to that.  Every day IS Autism Awareness Day at our home.  Has been for the past twenty years. Our son was three years old when someone first said “autism” to me.  It wasn’t until he was six that he received his diagnosis.  In part, I believe, because we moved when he was four years old from a rather progressive area to another state without the resources of our previous city.  And, in part, because our son wasn’t that delayed at the time.

Autism has a way of sneaking up on you sometimes.  One day, your child is talking and playing; the next he’s making verbal gibberish and his hearing appears to be selective.  It happened fast.  It was, and still is, baffling, and scary. As our son has grown, the battles have been different with each stage of his development.  Challenges in behavior can appear and disappear without a trace of a clue as to how they got there or where they went.  Sometimes bad behaviors can last years, other times weeks or even just days.  Many times, behaviors that you thought were long gone, reappear just long enough to scare the hell out of you, making you think you’re going back down that rocky road again, only to have them recede back into the shadows as abruptly as they surfaced.

I’m not going to sugar coat things and tell you it’s easy.  It’s not.  Every day can seem like a test of our courage, our strength, our dedication to our son.  But then there are the good days. There is nothing more rewarding than the good days.  Fortunately for us, we have many good days.  We have worked hard for many years.  We have been blessed to have fought and won many battles, to be able to enjoy the fascinating person that our son has always been in spite of the struggles.  A woman I know once told me that I make autism look glamorous.  She meant it as a compliment, but her statement still leaves me dumbfounded.  There is nothing glamorous about autism – not even on the very best day.  I think she was referring to my attitude and how we as a family handle the pressures of daily life with autism.

In actuality, credit belongs to our son. Imagine, if you can, the things that he is bombarded with every day.  His senses make him hyper-aware so he is acutely sensitive to all the sights, sounds, smells and textures of everything around him.  I believe being overwhelmed is physically painful for him, yet he pushes through trips to the grocery store, outings with family and friends, dinners at crowded and noisy restaurants.  There are days when it all proves too much for him, just as we have days when the pressures of life seem too much for us, but he still tries.  He still uses every bit of tolerance he can muster to complete the task, the trip, whatever challenge is in front of him.  That’s more than I can say about many if the neurotypical people I know.  He is amazing!

My son has always been one of my heroes.  He stretches me.  When I simply don’t think I can do any more, when I feel like I cannot possibly rise to the occasion yet another time, I look at him and all he has over come, all while not being able to utter one word of complaint.  From somewhere deep inside, comes the will to try harder, to carry on.  For his example of courage and for his leadership, I am thankful. When times get tough, when my heart hurts and my body aches from trying to keep up with the physical demands of autism, when my mind is fuzzy from lack of sleep and there just aren’t enough hours in the day, because of his example, I press on. We may not win every battle but in the end, our hope is to win the war.

Love truly does conquer all.

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It has been well over a year since my last post on this blog.  It’s been a busy year.  Lot’s of exciting happenings in our lives.  The time has passed quickly.  I have filled my days with many wonderful experiences, friends and family, even grand adventures, yet I have continued to neglect that which constantly calls to me.  My writing.  I aim to remedy this.

There is someone new in my life.  A mentor of sorts if I am to give her a label.  We are in the early stages of our getting to know each other.  She’s asks lots of questions.  Interesting questions that make me think.  Sometimes, most of the time, I can give her an immediate answer.  Other times, I am left to ponder her inquiry for the rest of the day.  This is fascinating to me.  I know myself fairly well and yet she is gently pressing me to know myself better.  I suppose this is a good thing.  That’s what we’re here for  right?  To peel back the onion.  To learn.  To grow.

Today when my mentor and I met, the topic she most wanted to discuss was my writing.  Or rather my lack of writing.  Today she has given me much to think about.  There are some corrections I need to make in my priorities.  I need to make time to share the things I have experienced in my life; the challenges and pains that have been faced.  These posts (and any articles I write on these topics) spring from real people, events and circumstances in my life.  It is healing for me to write it all out.  And, maybe in the process it helps educate people, effecting change, which hopefully helps others through their struggles.

I’m gonna dust myself off and get busy writing!  There’s so much to tell!

Tell your stories

Me:  “Excuse me, WHAT?  My stepdaughter is DATING a registered sex offender?”

Other parent:  “Yes.  And her Mother knows about it too.”

Over the past 12 years I have come to expect all types of ridiculous, drama-laden behavior from my husband’s ex, but this was a bit much.  I mean, she isn’t ever going to win any awards for parenting, but letting her daughter date a registered sex offender?  Even she couldn’t be THAT dumb!

My mistake.  This “mother” is indeed allowing her daughter to date a registered Sex Offender.  A Level 2 Registered Sex Offender.  Guilty of Sexual Solicitation of a Child.  But it’s even worse than that.  This woman is a high school English teacher.  She not only allows her daughter to date this guy, but she allowed him (at least once, although I am told on more than one occasion) to sit in her classroom for an entire class period.  How is this even possible?  Why would a registered sex offender even be allowed on campus?  Worse yet, one of his victims was in that class.  How must it have felt for the young girl?  By law she must attend class, yet there she sits, watching as the teacher and her daughter cut-up and carry on with her perpetrator during class time.

After speaking with a couple of parents directly involved as well as the parents of the above mentioned girl, I called the Superintendent of our school district.  She seemed to very upset to hear what I had to share.  She assured me that there was no way any sex offender should EVER be allowed on school grounds without her personal knowledge and her permission.  She asked me to call the Principal of the High School.  Given my personal history of dealing with school administrators when my daughter was having trouble with this same teacher, I declined.  I explained that my interest was in making sure that she, as the Superintendent, knew of the situation, and could get it investigated and handled appropriately.  I told her that the parents of the student had contacted the school resource officer and the investigator that worked the case.  They intended to pursue resolution from the legal/criminal side.  The Superintendent asked if the parents would call the Principal and I assured her they would.  She said that she would make the Principal aware that the call would be coming.

When one of the parents called the Principal, she was more than a little disappointed by what he had to report.  He advised her that the teacher’s response was admission that the young man had indeed been in her classroom. She stated he was only in her classroom for a few minutes, having stopped by with her daughter.  The teacher went on to say the only reason the student was upset about him being there because she used to “date” him and her daughter is now dating him.  Based on the teacher’s interpretation of the student having previously “dated” the offender it is clear that she doesn’t seem to comprehend the seriousness of the offense.  Then again, given the history of this teacher, perhaps she truly sees all of this as acceptable behavior.

What will be the outcome of all of this?  How can any of this be allowed?  Our School Board recently relieved a coach of his duties due to inappropriate language being used with his girls softball team.  Isn’t knowingly allowing a Registered Sex Offender on campus a more serious offense than that?  And what about having him come in a back entrance, so his presence is unknown to the Resource Officer and administrators?  The fact that this teacher would welcome a registered sex offender into her classroom, especially where she is aware (by her own admission) of the prior relationship between this man and one of her students is nothing less than appalling.  It is unprofessional and unethical, to say the least, and in my opinion, shows an absolute disregard for the safety and welfare of all students on campus.

This is all being watched with great interest by several people in our community.  In part because there are so many facets to the situation.  Didn’t the sex offender commit another crime by even being at the school?  Can’t the teacher be prosecuted for knowingly exposing God knows how many students to a registered sex offender?  What about allowing her minor child to date him?  Isn’t there a liability issue for the school with the student being exposed to her perpetrator? With many students being exposed to him?  And ultimately, is this the kind of behavior we will accept in our schools?  Is this the kind of person we want standing up in front our kids, influencing them every day?  How long is all this going to be allowed to go on?

Today is the day celebrated as Father’s Day.  It’s usually a day of cookouts, family time, gift giving, and laughter.  Handmade cards and pictures from little kids; stories about their childhood from those that are grown. Memories are made, and memories are revisited.

Sadly, not all kids get to experience having a Father in their life.  They watch from the sidelines as friends, cousins, neighbors, celebrate this day.  Equally as sad is that not all Father’s get to experience Father’s Day with their children.  Some by choice, it is true.  But many, because they are denied that right in one form or fashion.

I have been on both sides of the coin not only in my own childhood, but in the childhoods of my children and stepchildren.  My biological father was an alcoholic who had an affair, which caused he and my mother to divorce.  Once divorced and ordered to pay child support, medical expenses and save for my education, he made one support payment ($8O) and promptly left for California where he would not have to pay.  (Remember, this was about 45 years ago so CS enforcement was not what it is today.)  My mother never received another dime from him and I saw this man exactly three times between the ages of 3 and 18.  In sharp contrast is my step-dad, Charlie, who was always there for me.  Charlie loved me and my siblings.  We were his children.  Charlie has been gone from us for over 26 years, but when I think of my “Dad” I think of him.  His wisdom still guides me and I love him as much today as ever.

In the case of my own children, their biological father isn’t any better than mine.  While we were married, my ex-husband was somewhat active in the life of our daughter, but not our son.  Because of his disability, I suppose.  Once we separated, he took the kids on visitation only three times.  Only after my daughter contacted him when she was 17 did he begin somewhat of a relationship with her, but again, never our son.  To this day, as my daughter sits in prison, her biological father does nothing to support her.  He had seen our son three times in 10 years and that was only because I invited him to my son’s birthday parties and dog sat for him once.

Then there is my husband.  He is not only a truly wonderful man, he is a magnificent Father.  A huge part of what attracted me to him was his love for and his devotion to his children.  And eventually, his love for, and support of, my children.  He continues to offer support and guidance to my daughter through her challenges.   He recently adopted my son, autism and all.  He is their Dad in every sense of the word.

My husband wants every minute he can possibly get with all of our children.  Unfortunately, sometimes he is denied that right.  If you’ve read any of my other posts you are well aware of the antics we experience at the whimsy of the ex.  If you’re not familiar with our story let’s just sum it up with these three key phrases:  parental alienation, abusive/personality disordered woman, using  the children as pawns for control and manipulation.  By my way of thinking, if a child is blessed enough to have a father who cares, who wants to be active in their life and provide a solid, positive influence, why would you want to interfere in that?

Today I have thought a lot about my stepdaughter that isn’t my husband’s biological child.  How do you think she feels about Father’s Day?  To our knowledge, she doesn’t know the identity of her biological father.  At 10 years old her mother very effectively stole her father from her.  She was told by her mother the day we had the children’s cheeks swabbed that her daddy wasn’t really her daddy.  She was made to be the outcast by her mother.  Biology didn’t change the way my husband felt about his daughter.  He had loved her and cared for her from the time she was a baby.  Now suddenly he was the bad guy.  And all so the mother could hide her crimes.  This young girl is now graduated from high school and about to be an adult.  She suffers emotional issues and has trouble making and keeping friends.  Her own siblings have long been fearful of her.  She has been in trouble with the law.  Why?  In my opinion because the loving relationship she had with the man she knew as her father was destroyed.  You see, whether as an ex you like it or not, Daddy‘s are very important.

This type of thing is happening to men all the time.  We are making progress in the courts and in the views of society but we still have a long way to go.  Just because a woman is a mother does not automatically make her the better parent.  Just because a parent has physical custody does not give them the right to interfere with the relationship between a child and the other parent.  As a stepparent I feel it is important to support both parents to the children regardless of your feelings.  And believe me, I know that at times the feelings can be very negative.  But children need both parents.  Little girls and boys need a Daddy.  No matter what their age.  And kids need to be allowed to be kids.  They don’t need to have your emotional baggage and insecurities dumped on them.  It’s hard enough just being a kid.

So a big, enthusiastic Happy Father’s Day to all you wonderful men who love and adore your children as my husband does.  Much love to you.  Keep your head up and work towards doing the best you can to make things right.  If we can’t make the changes fast enough to help ourselves, at least we can work towards keeping these things from happening to other families in the future.

Parent Alienation and the Wizard of Oz

Written by Carolan Ross

http://www.squidoo.com/parent-alienation-syndrome-pas

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” – Edmund Burke

I believe this quote with all my heart.  The sad truth is, most people do not want to get involved.  They have their reasons.  Some of them justified.  From experience I can tell you it is exhausting.  It is complicated sometimes.  Messy.  It can be heart-breaking and stressful.  But it hurts us all when good people refuse, or simply become indifferent, to standing up for what is right. 
 
We are surrounded with examples of suffering caused by those who refuse to do what is right.  Children abused and neglected.  The elderly and people with disabilities suffering all types of unimaginable mistreatment.  Animals considered disposable.  Allowed to reproduce without concern for the over population of unwanted pets.  People are hungry.  People are sad.  Many people live in fear.  Pain is everywhere.  Not only for those enduring it, but for those who are trying to help.  Trying to make a difference.
 
The questions I pose are these:  Why are so many people reluctant to get involved?  Why?  Maybe it’s because so many people feel helpless.  Perhaps they feel they do not have the power to change anything.  Perhaps they fear repercussions from getting involved in what society deems as someone else’s business.  But what about the long term effects of turning a blind eye?  Does one really become comfortably numb as the Pink Floyd song says?  And if so, doesn’t that in itself cause another kind of pain? 
 
I believe we can make a difference.  Each of us.  Everyone has the power to effect change in their own way.  Many people have said to me, “You can’t change the world.”  You know, I don’t believe that.  Maybe I cannot change the whole, entire world but I can constantly work on changing myself for the better and helping to change the world of those around me.  In turn, when their world is changed, perhaps they will continue to grow and go out and change the world of those around them.  Isn’t that a beautiful thought?  Much less overwhelming than trying to focus on all that is wrong in the world.  When we see a need, nothing can bless us more than striving for a resolution.  Your contribution doesn’t have to be huge.  The smallest effort can make the biggest difference.  Sometimes, just a smile, a kind word of encouragement, a soft touch, can change someone’s outlook.  We all just want to be loved.  To have our existence validated.
 
Throughout history much of the progress of mankind has been made by those who were not the most powerful but by those who were the most passionate.  It’s not always money or status that effects change.  Great things come from humble hearts willing to simply do the right thing.  Take for instance Clara Barton.  From her passion for providing care to wounded soldiers during the civil war, the American Red Cross was founded.  Or what about Rosa Parks?  She had a strong sense of justice and equality and forever changed the face of the civil rights movement by quietly, yet firmly, refused to leave her seat on that bus.  Look at the men, women and children that come forward and see their physical and sexual abusers prosecuted each year.  They find strength to do what is right and resolve to see a horrible situation through to the end.  Most likely preventing further victimization of others.  These people stood up for what they believed and in varying degrees changed the world. 
 

We can change the world too.  One person, one animal, one smile or kind word at a time.  Help someone learn to read, be a voice for someone who cannot speak, right a wrong in helping someone seek justice.  There is so much that we can help and heal if only we will take the time to do what’s right.  I know it’s not always easy but I believe it’s our duty.

One does evil enough when one does nothing good.  ~German Proverb

It is no secret that I am very much against teachers having sexual relationships with their students.  In fact, I am opposed to anyone in a position of authority or trust with someone being physically involved with them.  This includes doctors with patients, lawyers with clients, counselors with clients, police officers during traffic stops, etc.  In the case of teachers and students I find it particularly offensive.  Maybe in part because I have personally watched the damage this behavior causes everyone even remotely involved.  Not just the victims, and yes, regardless of the gender of the student these kids are victims.  But mostly because these kids are required by law to sit every day in a controlled setting, subject to the personality and opinions of teachers.  They are in essence held as a captive audience.  They are young and impressionable.  Many of them easily manipulated by the people who should be protecting them and helping them grow.

For years now I have written on various blogs and voiced my opinion on various newspapers in response to articles that have covered the abuse of teachers against students.  It is my right as a citizen of the United States of America to voice my opinion.  As a responsible citizen I feel it is my duty to stand up for what is right and what is in the best interest of protecting all children.  And for years, my husband’s ex-wife has been threatening my husband with court action, hiding behind court orders that WE put in place solely for the protection of the children.  Here is a classic example of the threats she has made and the way she harasses my husband:

(This is my comment in response to a local newspaper article related to background checks for teachers.)

catqueen wrote on Mar 27, 2008 8:52 PM:

” I could not agree more on the background check, random drug checks and credit checks, same as any other profession. Add to that list an occassional check of public records. Many times teachers are involved in issues that are hidden in the family courts. Any type of legal activity should have to be reported by the teacher to the administration. After all, if there is nothing to hide, why not? There are some truly great teachers. Then, there are truly sick people who mascarade as teachers. It needs to come to an end and I think the media attention is helping to flush them out. “ 

 Here is the ex-wife’s e-mail to my husband about the above post which she included in her email as her example.

(Addressed to my Husband),

Your wife is at it again.  I’m copying (her attorney’s name here) on this.  You can rest assured that if you do not put an end to her incessent public bull, Judge X  will.  This is the second time I’ve discussed this issue with you, and it will be the last.   

(signed by ex-wife “teacher”)

In addition to the email above that she sent, she called him and requested that he check my computer for any posts about teachers having sex with students that I may be writing.  Sounds like an admission of guilt to me!  Below is a portion of his response to her.

(Addressed to the ex-wife),

The email you sent on Friday has me extremely upset and totally perplexed. I again read the posts on both of the websites you mentioned, (one dealt specifically with teacher/student sex and the other is local news online). You say that (my name here) is attacking you on both.

What I see are posts by concerned citizens expressing their disgust toward teachers who engage in sexual relationships with their students. There are many posts on each site relating much of the same disappointment and disgust that many people share. I see no where on any post the name (ex-wife’s name) mentioned or any reference to you.

(Part of response removed as it names specific names of students with whom she has been involved.)

 I believe that every time you read a newspaper or see a story on TV about another teacher getting arrested because of inappropriate contact with a student, you go to those websites in sheer paranoia that someone is going to spill the beans on you.

Maybe it is time to address these matters before the court. 

(Part of response removed as it deals with specifics of one of the children.)

 As far as (my name here) is concerned, if you have a problem with something you perceive she is doing, take it up with her. I do not control her actions, nor will I snoop on her computer to see what sites she is visiting as you asked me to do. 

 (ex’s name here), if you wish to take this issue before Judge X, my response is Let’s go!

Stop harassing me! DO NOT call me at work again unless it is a medical emergency dealing with our children. DO NOT call me to discuss (boyfriend that dumped her) or any other person you are involved with. That is your business and I do not wish to discuss it with you.

DO NOT call me about anything other than the exchange of information regarding our children.

 DO NOT email me again with threats of lawsuits. Do not email me for any reason other than the exchange of information regarding our children. 

I have documented every post, every article, every comment  I have written right along with the responses or comments at times made by her.  Never has her name been mentioned, yet she takes offense at me expressing my opinion.  “Me thinks thou dost protest too much.” – William Shakespeare

The prayer that I have is for one of truth.  I pray that my husband be seen and acknowledged as the wonderful man that he is.  Let him be seen as the loving and supportive Father that he is and always has been.  My prayer is this:  Let the truth be set free.

A friend of mine recently asked me what I think about the following quote:

“{Individuals with autism, a child with a different ability, etc} are the ultimate square pegs; and the problem with pounding a square peg into a round hole is not that the hammering is hard work. It’s that you’re destroying the peg.” ~Paul Collins~

On so many levels, I absolutely agree that we are indeed destroying the peg by trying to make it fit into the hole. But what upsets me the most about this train of thought is that in our society, anyone who doesn’t follow the “herd mentality” is considered a “square” peg.  If you are an original thinker, if you happen to learn differently, if you have some type of disability, most often this is seen as a problem.  Why?  Why the terrible need to force everyone to be the same?

Throughout history, great achievement and growth has come from those wonderful square pegs that just do not fit into the round holes of society.  Thomas Jefferson was considered “uneducable” by his teachers and kicked out of school.  Helen Keller was deaf, mute and blind.  Albert Einstein was thought to be on the autism spectrum.  Beethoven was deaf and suffered from depression.  Yet consider all the contributions these amazing people made to the world. 

My life is full of square pegs.  In my opinion, how we treat people, the support they get and the extent to which we allow them to spread their wings and fly determines how they interact with society and how society responds to them. 

My son who is severely affected by autism is a constant source of joy for all who know him.  He hasn’t said a word in many years.  Yet, he is probably one of the most effective communicators you will ever meet.   Through his actions, his facial expression and body language, he shares his beautiful, loving spirit. 

My stepson has learning disabilities.  He struggles in school academically in spite of modifications made to his studies.  It’s not that he can’t learn, he simply does not learn the same way as most other kids learn.  He recently took his written drivers exam.  He passed it on the very first try!  NONE of our other children did that.  They all took the test mutiple times.  But my husband took great care to sit with him and go over the material every time he was here at the house with us.  Having the material explained to him in a manner he could understand and retain, made all the difference. 

Just because these guys don’t fit the plain round mold doesn’t mean they aren’t wonderful.  They are incredible young men that I love with all my heart.  They are unique.  They are just square pegs. 

We are not all the same.  I don’t think we are intended to be.  Why do we always focus on the deficit?  Is it to make ourselves feel better about our own short-comings that we don’t want to admit?  Does it make us feel smarter somehow to knock someone else down?  That not only hurts them but it hurts us too.  There is so much to be learned from those who are different from us.  Especially, in my humble opinion, those with special needs. 

I don’t think you can make a square peg fit into a round hole.  You can pound them down, but they will always stand a little taller than the plain round pegs.

“Why are you trying so hard to fit in when you were born to stand out?”  -Quote from movie “What A Girl Wants”

After almost twelve years of watching this woman in action, it shouldn’t still surprise me.  The selfishness.  The greed.  The diminished concern for her own children.  The lies and manipulations.  The way she has mastered the art of playing the victim.  I tell myself it can’t possibly continue, yet it does.  Year after year.

With my husbands most recent increase, he now pays about $900 per month in child support for one child.  This is more than he paid when he and the ex divorced and he was paying support on four children.  To say that the child support system needs an overhaul is a gross understatement.  Many men are unjustly charged with outrageous child support amounts.  Others never experience any type of increase, while still others are never ordered to pay support at all.  Yes, we are in need of a major “re-do” on a national level.  But what’s on my mind is what’s happening right here under my roof.

One of the things that most attracted me to my husband when I first met him was how he loved and cared for his children.  They were all quite young then, the oldest being nine and the youngest having just turned three.  The summer before we married, I watched as this wonderful man worked several odd jobs, including digging ditches for sprinkler systems, to have extra money to buy the kids the things they needed.  At the time, it was primarily clothes and food.  In spite of the fact that he was paying around $850 a month in child support, he was still buying clothes, personal care supplies, school supplies, etc. and helping with daycare costs.

Having been a single mom, responsible for providing for my own children, I realize the importance of both parents contributing to the health, welfare and financial security of their children.  The responsibilities, as well as the joys, of raising your children should be shared.  In my opinion, this is what is most beneficial to the children. (Provided of course, that there aren’t extenuating circumstances.)  The problem that I have with my husband paying $900 a month in child support for his son is that it isn’t going to provide for this young mans needs.

My stepson has shown up wearing shoes with the entire side blown out.  He has come to our home with underwear packed in his bag that were at least two sizes too small, telling us that was all he had.  No socks.  He didn’t have any.  Or worse, wearing women’s socks (those of his mother or sisters) because he didn’t have any.  He has repeatedly worn ill-fitting clothing.  Pants so tight they cannot zip that he explained had to be worn with a long shirt so that teachers and the other kids in school did not notice.  Most recently, he has been wearing jeans that are size 34 waist, bunched up with a belt.  Who’s pants are these anyway?  My stepson wears a size 18 boys.  For Christmas, several things he was given by his mother were from Salvation Army and still had the tags on them.  Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with Salvation Army.  Especially if that’s what your budget dictates.  I take issue with this however because my husband is paying MORE than enough child support to make sure his son is nicely clothed, properly fed and appropriately groomed.

I can hear some of the arguments now…”It’s going toward providing housing, paying utilities, buying food, etc.” Maybe partly, yes, I can agree somewhat.  But what about clothes, shoes, haircuts?  Lunch money, school supplies?  Shouldn’t these items be paid for out of my husbands child support?  Instead of spending money on the kids, let’s take just one small peek at where the money goes…

Since 2000, the ex-wife has had the following vehicles:  Mitsubishi Montero (which was my husbands but the court ordered them to trade vehicles as she had traded her four door Toyota sedan for a Mitsubishi Eclipse not capable of safely hauling all four children), New Honda Accord (which she lost due to bankruptcy), Old Honda Accord, Jeep Grand Cherokee (I had bought one so she had to have one also), Black Honda Pilot (the guy she was seeing at the time had bought a White Honda Pilot), Old White BMW Sedan (the kids told us the passenger door was falling off and couldn’t be used but hey, it was a BMW, right?), Silver BMW SUV, Black BMW Sedan, White Honda Pilot (purchased after my stepdaughter bought a new car), and a Gray Pontiac Solstice (she “needed” a convertible). Seriously?  TEN (10) cars in eleven years???

What about vacations?  This woman takes several trips every year (most WITHOUT the children).  I could list many of them, but I will spare you the sordid details.  She is gainfully employed and has finally remarried.  What she chooses to spend HER money on is frankly not my business.  I just feel the needs of the kids should come first.  Hopefully by now, you are getting my point.  It is not my husbands fault that she is so completely financially inept.  Child support MUST be for the benefit of the child/children.

When my husband visited with his attorney about the increase he asked if there was any way to ask for an accounting of the child support.  Couldn’t he ask that at least 50% of it been spent on items specifically for his son?  Couldn’t she be required to give receipts?  Unfortunately, in our state, the answer is a big, fat NO.  We asked if we couldn’t take the increase and deposit it in a trust for the child’s benefit with the balance going to him once he reached a certain age.  Once again, the answer is NO.

It’s not right.  With the child support increase, we can no longer afford to buy extra clothes, supplies, haircuts, etc. for my stepson.  So we sit by and watch the hard-earned money go up in smoke.  We don’t have much longer to pay.  A little over three years.  For all the other men (and women) who pay child support, I hope we can see change.  I hope they are someday soon given the right to know for certain that their hard-earned dollars are being spent to help their babies.

Autism Awareness

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Twenty-one years ago this past Monday, I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy, baby boy.  He weighed 7 lbs 11 oz.  He was 21 inches long.  I was so excited by his arrival!  His birth had been easy and quick, on this, the day I had chosen for his birth because nine is my favorite number.  I will never forget the first time I saw him.  His perfect little face.  His chubby little body.  I will never forget the smell of him.  Snuggling him close as he nursed.  The very sight of him was, and still is, pure magic to me.

My son is my hero.  You see, my son has autism.  He does not speak.  In fact, he has a great deal of difficulty communicating even his most basic needs and wants.  It can’t be easy being non-verbal in our world.  Simply existing cannot be easy for him.  The constant bombardment of stimulation from all the sights, the sounds, the smells, the touches.  But he does it.  He has somehow learned to cope.

We have made progress but it hasn’t been without having to do battle.  I have watched him endure and overcome so much.  Sensory issues have always troubled him.  There was a time when he couldn’t tolerate being barefoot in the grass.  He couldn’t keep his clothes on because the touch of them against his skin was an irritant.  We kept the house silent for he simply could not bear the noise from the TV or radio.  For many years, I couldn’t get him to leave the house without carrying a small oscillating fan with him to spin; or worse yet, a blender without the lid.  If you haven’t been exposed to autism, you probably think that sounds crazy.  Maybe it is.  But it is what it is, and just like parenting any neurotypical child, you choose your battles wisely.  Some days, everything is a battle.

For years my son, who is very orally defensive, had only a few items he would eat.  Now, I am going to tell you this drove me crazy!  I was in a constant state of horror over the quality (or lack thereof) of the food he was eating.  If it wasn’t round, brown or crunchy, forget it.  And he had some type of internal rule.  Being crunchy was good if you were a potato chip, but not if you were a carrot stick.  Being round was great if you were a chicken nugget, but definitely not if you were a pea.  And brown was great for french fries, but not so good for oatmeal.  I can only imagine how horrible it would be to not even be able to enjoy your food.  We worked long and hard with occupational therapists to build his tolerance.  Today, there’s not many healthy foods he won’t eat.  He loves fruit, raw vegetables, and meats.  We have gotten past the preference for round, and the preference for brown, but he still prefers crunchy.

There are a million different struggles we have had to face.  There will be a million more.  Short of Divine intervention, my son will not be able to live independently without constant care and supervision.  This is something that I have had to learn to accept, while still doing all I can to offer him every opportunity for progress and as much independence as he is able to achieve.  I’m not gonna lie and tell you it’s easy.  Every day of my life I worry about what will happen once I am gone.  Who will watch out for him?  Will there be money to provide for him?    How will I make sure that he is kept safe and surrounded only by love?  There are good days; there are bad days.  There are days when I still hurt from the diagnosis even after all this time.  But I am so thankful to have this child in my life.

No, things aren’t how I thought they would turn out 21 years ago when I held my baby and admired him.  All I can do is work hard while I am here.  I try to soak up every minute I have with this beautiful boy and I thank God for the wonderful blessing that he is to me.  He is such an example of tenacity for me.  He makes me want to be the very best person possible.

 

There is a poem that I have kept on my refrigerator for many years.  It reads:

Kids Who Are Different

Here’s to the kids who are different,

The kids who don’t always get the A’s,

The kids who have ears twice the size of their peers,

And noses that go on for days…

Here’s to the kids they call crazy or dumb,

The kids who don’t fit, with the guts and the grit,

Who dance to a different drum…

Here’s to the kids who are different,

The kids with the mischievous streak,

For when they have grown, as history’s shown,

It’s their difference that makes them unique.