After Poke died, things were rough. I had to change my work schedule because I could no longer work weekends. I lost hours and income, as well as no longer receiving the child support I had fought so hard to get. Squishy’s job was going downhill fast, and he wasn’t going to get hired on. We were running on empty, financially and emotionally.
In late August, Squishy started a new job, hired on immediately, and he loved it. In fact he is still there to this day! Warehouse work isn’t for everyone, but he is really good at what he does.
By December I was incredibly pregnant, and Little Hippie was born just before Christmas. Squishy and I had some relationship issues around the same time, and made some much needed changes.
Found out at the beginning of summer that Squeaks has a milk allergy. It’s been very eye opening as far as products that contain milk but you wouldn’t think they do. Poor kid had to completely change his diet.
Finally, Squishy and I broke up. It was sudden, but not, because he’s been miserable for awhile. The changes we made helped, but couldn’t make it right. My heart is shattered, but I have no choice.
As of my last post, things were somewhat in limbo. My, how times have changed since then!
In late April 2017, Squishy and I got our own house. Renting, not buying, but at a great price in a nice neighborhood. A week after we moved in, I found out I was pregnant. It was a surprise, but not because we had an oops! We started trying to get pregnant at the beginning of April and apparently we were really, ie immediately, successful. It was awesome.
At the end of May, Squishy’s son came to live with us. We had specifically chosen this house to accommodate 3-4 kids plus ourselves, and it was a good arrangement. My kids went to daycare while I worked, and KS stayed home playing video games and doing whatever preteens do all day. Unfortunately the Brady Bunch dynamic wasn’t happening for us. I had higher expectations for KS than he was used to, as far as tidiness and courtesy. KS hated living with two little kids and having to “answer” to someone who was not his “real parent”. He’d had similar problems with his mom and stepdad, which is why he came to live with us in the first place.
Within a month, KS had been back to visit his mom and decided he wanted to go back and live with her. Squishy and his ex told him he would stay here for the summer and move back before school started. This would be his final move until age 18, as he had already moved back and forth between them three times. Everyone had had enough. In late August he went home to his mom’s.
As you may recall, Poke and I finally divorced in January of 2017. He was ordered to pay child support, and I spent all of February, March, and April fighting with him and his employer. It got to the point where CSEA was going to take both of them to court, and Poke was facing jail time. That was the final threat, and they began complying.
In June, Poke married some girl who lived in South Carolina. She was the ex of an acquaintance, and Poke and I once witnessed her bashing in the windows of our neighbor’s car at 2am. I guess absolutely insane was what he wanted in a wife. Anyway, I was glad that he was someone else’s responsibility now, and I hoped she’d somehow get him on the right path.
In July, JI turned six. As we were sitting at the Chinese buffet, just the two of us, I got a call from Poke’s brother. He informed me that Poke was in the ICU. Squishy came and got JI, and I ran over to the hospital. Poke was in a coma.
He had been drinking for nearly 18 hours with his ex girlfriend. They went to McDonald’s early in the morning, went back to her house, and fell asleep. At some point she noticed that he wasn’t breathing. The EMTs came, and it took 20 minutes to revive him. By the time I got there, he was on life support, completely, with all sources set to the max. He would not recover. Unfortunately Poke’s brother, mother, and I could not make the decision to remove him from life support; because he was married, we had to wait for a complete stranger to come from South Carolina and make the decision.
Poke coded three times during the night, and died just before 7am on the day after JI’s birthday.
I told JI what happened. He wanted to go see his dad, so I took him to the hospital. JI stroked his hair and touched his arm. The wife had arrived after 8am, and was there with her mother. They left us alone with Poke, and we cried. We cried like people in the movies, and I pounded on Poke’s chest. I was so angry for so many reasons. Angry that he’d not taken care of himself, that he’d left me alone with the boys, that he’d made such terrible decisions. Angry over petty things, like no more child support or health insurance for the kids. Angry that he’d broken his mother’s heart.
Over the next week, my angers retreated for rage. His friends were rallying on Facebook, and Poke became a saint. Everyone was “so shocked” by his death. At the service, folks got up and talked about what a “punch to the gut” it was to hear that he’d died. I wanted to punch them all in their faces. Where the fuck were they when Poke was losing his mind, attempting suicide three times in two months, twice in front of JI? Where were they when he tried a fourth time and his mother and brother had to call the cops to physically restrain him due to violent outbursts after drinking two bottles of whiskey, an assortment of other alcohol, and taking different pills he found? Where were all these people who allegedly loved him so much? Nowhere. They knew nothing of the real Poke. It made me sick to hear them prattle on while those of us who dealt with his demons on a daily basis were the ones who hurt the most.
It’s been awhile. A long while. So many things have changed, I don’t even know where to begin. I guess I’ll start with the new year.
January 5th, Poke and I were finally officially legally divorced. I could have thrown a party! It was the most wonderful day I’d had in a long time… until I had to take my van in to have the entire power steering system replaced, which cost me $270. Good thing there’s a Firestone credit card.
January 20th, a day that will live in infamy. I was so depressed all day, scared, worried, and had an overall feeling of doom about me. Politically, things have only gotten worse since then. I really don’t know what those people were thinking putting this monster in the White House, but apparently human rights, education, health care, clean air, clean water, etc etc etc mean absolutely nothing to them. Disgusting. I can only hope that he is impeached and indicted, because if he’s assassinated he’ll be lauded as a hero/martyr to the neo-Nazis that call themselves conservatives.
Next up, my birthday, which is at the beginning of February. I really don’t care about my birthday. This year I turned 3_, which is one step closer to 40. Per usual, my birthday sucked. I used to try and make it a good day, try not to get my hopes up, but every year I’d think “This will be the year that my mother doesn’t make a scene/cause problems/make me feel like shit” or “This will be the year that Poke actually remembers my birthday and gets me a card/gift/says happy birthday”, only to be disappointed in the end. It’s not like I need a lot of presents or anything, but having one day a year that is actually legitimately just for me would be nice. Unfortunately, this year was another bust. My mother was difficult at dinner, which was a huge disappointment even without her shit, and Squishy was so angry by the time we got home that he ended up going back to his place instead of sleeping over. I couldn’t blame him though, if I didn’t have the kids I’d have gone back to his place and gotten drunk as a skunk.
Luckily though, Squishy is an AMAZING boyfriend. We have been together for four months now, and things just keep getting better. He has been the most supportive, helpful, caring, kind, wonderful man I have ever dated. I don’t know what I did to get so lucky for once, but I am not going to question it. We are getting ready to move into our own place here in the next few weeks, which is the next exciting chapter in our life together. I can’t wait!
Both my sons love Squishy, which makes me life a hell of a lot easier. Poke has gone from mediocre father to terrible father, refusing to pay child support, didn’t do anything for Squeaks’ birthday, doesn’t call them or answer JI’s calls, and so forth. If I could cut him out of their life completely, I would in a heartbeat. He’s a shitty person, and I really don’t want them around him. However, it’s not up to me. I don’t say negative stuff about him to the boys, unlike their father who talks shit about me constantly. My goal is to let them find out for themselves what a creep he is, and I will be there to pick up the pieces when they fall. The only reason JI wants to go there is because he knows he can play the tablet the whole time. I don’t think Squeaks really cares one way or the other – he used to yell “Daddy! Daddy!” when Poke came to get them, now he is just silent. He loves Squishy though, and calls him by his name and by Daddy, depending on his mood. Squishy has a son, KJ, who is twelve, so he’s been through all this before, which helps me out.
Also, for once in my life, I have amazing in-laws. Squishy’s mom and dad are the best. The treat me like I am their own child, and we always have a great time together. I usually spend every other weekend at their place, because Squishy lives right across the street. (Yeah, he lives with his 95 yr old grandmother and takes care of her – awesome man, right?!) My 1st husband’s parents/step father were always kinda blah about me, Poke’s mom hated my guts until I birthed her first two grandchildren, now she hates me again, and the parents of my various boyfriends were never really anything. I honestly can’t even remember meeting many, if any, more than once or twice. But because Squishy and I plan to be married sometime in the future, it is so comforting to know that I already have good people who love me. They love the boys and the boys love them as well, so that’s an added bonus!
In mid-February, Squeaks turned two. He is a super crazy boy! I cannot believe how fast he is growing, both physically and mentally. Squeaks knows his colors, he can count to ten, he knows square, triangle, circle, and rectangle, and his vocabulary is off the charts. This kid is constantly talking. It is quite a different experience raising a neuro-typical child after having an autistic child. I remember JI being so chill, so easy, so “adult” and not needing much attention or supervision. Squeaks could not be more opposite! This child gets into everything. My bff, with whom we still reside, is pretty much at her breaking point with the two year old shenanigans. He’s a very busy boy.
My new job is great. It’s a very easy job, but the pay is good for being part time. I’ve even gotten a raise! My supervisor made me the customer service champion, which means I’m in charge of all the ways to make customers happier and make their time in our place easier/quicker. Since I’ve been there, our rating has gone up 2%, and I am really proud of myself. I used to hate dealing with people, but since I don’t have to deal with them more than 30 seconds to 2-3 minutes at once, it makes it a lot easier to be sincerely friendly and helpful. Plus I am working for a company that I had worked for years ago, and I absolutely love this place. Benefits are great, even though I’m not full time I get all kinds of perks, and the only thing I don’t get is health insurance.
Despite having a job, things have gotten beyond tight financially once again. With Poke refusing to pay child support, half my income is gone. I tried to get approved for government child care, but it was denied, so until I can get approved, I can only work 2-4 days a week. It is so rough. I am literally out of things to sell, having gotten rid of 95% of my furniture, baby clothes, and toys before/during the move, so I don’t know how else to make money. I am considering donating plasma, even though I usually vomit from getting blood drawn. It’s worth the risk of puking if it means I’ll have money for gasoline. All my money goes to bills, car gas, non-food groceries, and my roommate. I have absolutely nothing left. This doesn’t matter to my mother though, who constantly asks me for money. Yes, I do owe them some, but my dad makes almost $100K/year and I don’t even make $100/week right now. I told them I’d pay with my tax return, but that’s not good enough for her. She needs to harass me in the meantime. So, for now, I have cut off my parents. Once I send them the money I owe them, with instructions etc. regarding never asking me for money again, I will let them back into my life. But at this point in time I have way too many stressors to let their petty bullshit bring me down.
So I guess that brings me to present day. Tomorrow is the last day of February, a typically shitty month, and I’m glad it is over. Hopefully by the end of March things will have straightened out and I will be in a much better place.
I haven’t felt Christmas-y since 2013. In 2014 I was incredibly pregnant with Squeaks, in 2015 Poke and I had been split up for five months and I was dealing with JI’s behaviour, and this year we don’t have our own home and I don’t have any money to buy new presents for the boys or gifts for anyone else. It sucks. I’m so happy to not be homeless, and I am so happy that I have Squishy in our lives. I got a job and I’m only part time for now, but I am happy to be employed. Overall, things are fine. Nothing is terrible.
I feel terrible though. JI keeps asking why we haven’t decorated, why there is no tree, why we have no lights. He wants to know if he is going to get a lot of boxes on Christmas morning. This is the second year he has been interested in Christmas, and I feel like I am going to fail him. I know that it is not all about the gifts, but when I have practically nothing to give but some old hand-me-down playsets, I feel like a bad mother.
In addition to feeling badly about not having enough things for the boys, I feel bad for just not being in holiday spirit. I have been trying very hard, but things have been rough around here lately, and I just don’t have it in me to be jolly. I am tired and stressed all the time. I have $40 to last me two weeks. I have no idea when my first paycheck will come. I feel like I am hovering over an abyss that could suck me in at any time. It’s so frustrating. This headache hasn’t gone away for almost a month.
But damn, as happy as I am for the things mentioned earlier, it would be really nice to get a break. I’ve been busting my ass for these kids and my family and our lifestyle for so long, and I have absolutely nothing to show for it. JI tells me that he loves Squishy more than me, and he wishes I would go away. Squeaks went from being a great sleeper to some kind of 3rd shift monster. Very little of the furniture and stuff in the house is mine; I’m simply existing in someone else’s world. It hurts.
There’s nothing to do but carry on, so carry on I shall. Keep smiling, keep being cheerful, fake it til I make it. Right?
It’s been a long time since I updated, thanks mostly to my chromebook keyboard suddenly ceasing to work properly. I don’t know what happened, it just stopped working one day. Then a few weeks later, half the keys worked but there was no real pattern to it. So I finally got a wireless USB keyboard and mouse from my dad, and now I can use my chromebook again! YAY!
So anyway, kindergarten started off great. The first day was, in JI’s words, “Absolutely perfect”. I cried for about twenty minutes when he got home. Day two… shit hit the fan. My son JI was sent to the peak aka behaviour room. Day three, okay. Day four, his behaviour was so bad that I had to pick him up early and he was asked to not return. They wrote on the report that he assaulted a teacher. He’s five. He kicked her because she got too close. JI was off for the next week as we tried to find a spot in an ED classroom rather than the general SpEd/Autism room he was in the first week. We got a spot at a different school, and he attended half days at the original school for a week until the transportation was figured out.
He’s been at the new school for a full week, three days, plus Monday and Tuesday. Monday was his first rough day, but he got himself under control. Yesterday after lunch/recess, I guess he started melting down and couldn’t stop. The teacher called me at 2:45pm, and I could hear JI screaming. He said JI was throwing chairs, trying to bite/hit/kick, took off his socks and shoes and threw them, etc. He wouldn’t or couldn’t calm down. It wasn’t until they told him I wouldn’t be coming that he calmed down to get on line for the bus.
The problem is that he doesn’t act like this at home. He doesn’t get violent or aggressive towards me or any other people – and to be clear, he wasn’t at school either, not towards any kids or adults until the adults attempted to get close to him. If he and I have a disagreement, I either remind him of his choices or I tell him the consequences of not doing what he’s told. I’m frustrated because I’m not the special education teacher, I’m not the expert, but they expect me to tell them what to do. I don’t know what to do because he does not do this around me! There was a short period of time when he did, but we suffered through it and moved on. I merely held my ground.
Is JI trying to feel them out? Is there something about school that changes a kid’s personality? Will this eventually pass, or is my high functioning, highly intelligent, super cute, loving autistic child doomed to end up in juvenile detention or some kind of home?! I know it’s the first incident but the way things went at the last school, I’m really nervous. We had a conversation last night and this morning about how he should act when he’s upset or angry, and I hope it sticks.
I had planned to post a few times a week now that summer vacation has started, but then, as always, time got away from me. It’s good though, being busy. I lost three of my clients and gained two, but I only had a week off in between, so everything I planned to do with only three kids had to be altered to involve five kids – two of whom are autistic. I’ll manage though, because I have no other choice. I just keep working and saving my money for the inevitable day when the house gets taken away.
Today I want to talk about parenting an autistic child. As I mentioned in my last post, it amazes me how many levels/severities/etc of autism I’ve encountered. My friend has two autistic kids and they’re different from each other, JI is different from them, and kids I’ve met in therapy/meetings/classes are different from them and each other. For me, that is the most frustrating part of being an autism parent. Yes, our kids all share certain traits, but even those traits aren’t necessarily addressed in the same way from child to child. I think that is one of the reasons why this past school year was so difficult.
I know exactly how to parent JI. We went through our rough patches, horrific patches, sad and frustrating patches. Now I know what I’m doing, how to handle his meltdowns, tantrums, fears, etc. Obviously I can’t predict everything or solve every problem, but I am really REALLY fucking amazing when it comes to parenting my child. It is so upsetting and frustrating when teachers or family members want to do things that I know will cause problems. It is absolutely infuriating when they refuse to follow my suggestions or directions. I understand that the educators’ job is to push JI, to teach him how to behave in certain situations, and that they are the experts at their job. It hurts me when he gets in trouble at school just for being himself, for doing things he can’t yet control, like lashing out physically. They say it’s not true, but I know he was labelled “The Bad Kid” in his class last year. I could tell by the way they talked about him, the way they dealt with him, the punishments and discipline he received.
If JI doesn’t want to do something, there are consequences. I utilize the amazing and wonderful 1-2-3 Magic system, and it works if you are committed to it – not gonna lie, it fails if you fail at keeping strong! You must use the system the right way, every time. With JI, there is no negotiating, there are no “threats”, just warning and then consequence. If he does something absolutely deplorable, such as intentionally injure someone, then he does get a more severe consequence. Unlike school, however, he does have the option to earn his things back. I make sure to recognize when he’s done something great, so that he doesn’t feel like he’s being “bad” all the time. I have to admit though, I have lost my shit on him more than once, because I’m a human being. It gets to be a lot, caring for five or six kids for 10 hours a day, and rarely having a moment alone from children. JI and I had a blow up the other day where I just lost it and yelled “Why does everything have to be a fight with you?!” and proceeded to list all the things he fought with me about that day. Not my best parenting moment by far, but I think it actually made him realize that sometimes it is easier to just go with the flow rather than resist so much. A huge part of his diagnosis was the rigidity, and it is by far our biggest obstacle to typical childhood.
I am hoping that kindergarten will be a new fresh start. JI says he hates school because he hates friends and hates to learn. I reminded him that he is learning every day, by asking questions, watching videos, helping me do things around the house, etc. He said that I
should just teach him at home! Well, homeschooling would be amazing if I didn’t have four or five other kids here to deal with, and if I could actually find a way to get JI to socialize in groups of peers. I guess we’ll just keep praying that the kindergarten plan works out.
Back in September we got the provisional diagnosis of Autism for JI. Since that time he went through more evaluations and observations, and earlier this month we received the official diagnosis of ASD level II + Unspecified impulse control & conduct disorder.
School this year was, to put it mildly, horrible. The year started off great, then got really really bad, then it was okay, and then it was just nothing. We agreed to end his school year early because he was basically just sleeping at school every day, and the thing they needed to do with him, socialization, wasn’t being accomplished at all. He only missed nine days, so I don’t care, and the daily fighting was getting to be too much every morning. He’s not even going to participate in the “graduation” because merely mentioning it sends him into a panic. No thank you. I’m so ready for summer and preparing for a new start at a new school.
Because we have the official diagnosis, it was added to his IEP and now we can get the exact services and therapies we need for him. When he starts kindergarten in the fall, he will spend some of the school day in a resource room and some of the day with the NT kids in the regular classroom. He will receive behavioural and speech therapy regularly, and occupational therapy as needed.
The strangest thing about autism is how it is SO different from one child to another. Sure, there are certain signs and symptoms that are shared by all kids on the spectrum, but even those are not always the same. Just because I can parent my autistic child doesn’t mean that I could parent your autistic child. Maybe it would be easier, maybe it would be harder. There are so many differences!
Personally, I have very few problems with JI, likely because I suspect I am on the spectrum myself (a therapist suggested this years ago, and I definitely fit a lot of the traits) and also because I understand what it is like to be a “weirdo”. All my life my mom told me how weird I am, friends and strangers have called me weird, and I always feel weird. I get why he can’t or won’t do certain things, eat certain things, etc. I know how to talk to him to get him to behave and comprehend what is happening. I’m excited for kindergarten and a new school with all new teachers, if only because I feel that his pre-K had their mind made up about him being the bad kid, the troublemaker. I hope that a whole new environment will mean a good fresh start!