Monday, May 12, 2014

The Reality of Autism

My son is 3 years old and it's been a little over a year since he was diagnosed with Autism.  It's been a very long year.  When we first received the diagnosis, I still didn't believe he was Autistic.  I thought for sure with the right therapies and hard work, we could work through and overcome all the things he did/didn't do that gave him the diagnosis.  Now a full year later, while we have made some progress, we are no where close to where I expected we would be.  

Expectations.  The most dangerous things you can have as a parent.  From the moment you find out you are pregnant, you begin building expectations.  Your heart is full of love and mind full of hopes and dreams for the future.  You imagine their first steps, their first words.  You imagine play dates and fun outings.  You imagine playing, talking and singing with your child.  You imagine snuggling and cuddling and singing your baby to sleep.

After months of therapies that did nothing, our speech therapists said they I was doing everything right and there was absolutely nothing more they could do...  Somewhere during this time I realized that my son really is Autistic.  He doesn't just have speech and hearing delays.   It's not just coincidence that he has so many of the signs.  At some point, you just have to accept it.  And I did.  But I guess I just didn't really understand at that time what accepting it really meant.  

I continued to think that eventually, with a lot of hard work, he would start talking and that would fix everything.  If we could just get him to start talking, then everything would be fine.  Then we could have a normal life and do normal things.

Normal.  Another expectation.  One that has come crashing down pretty hard on me.  Those were all my expectations and having those expectations, has made my life more difficult.  Because expectations are not reality.

Reality is that we will probably never have a "normal" life.  Maybe in the future, the far away unforeseeable future, things will be more "normal", but that is not something I can expect or count on.  Reality is that, at least for now, I cannot take my children for a walk to get the mail, unless I want to carry my 25lb 16 month old in one arm and my 35lb kicking screaming flailing 3 year old in the other arm the whole 6-8 minute walk back (6-8 minutes seems like nothing, until you are carrying a 3 year old that doesn't want to be carried).  I cannot take my son to church because he panics when we try to leave him in class, worship is too loud and he gets too bored sitting out in the foyer for an hour.  Play dates just don't work.  We cannot go to a restaurant for dinner, or any other meal for that matter.  It's more exhausting than enjoyable to go on family outings because we do not get to spend time together, instead we take turns chasing him around and trying to avoid/dealing with meltdowns.  And my husband and I never get to have date nights...  

Reality is, my 16 month old talks better than my 3 year old.  She listens better, she understands more and she stops when you say stop and will probably be potty trained before he is.

Reality is, he screams.  He screams when he is happy, when he is sad, when he is mad, he screams when he is excited, when he is tired and sometimes for no reason at all.

Reality is that some days I just really, really wish my son would call me Mom and let me hold him and let me sing to him.  

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What you can accomplish in one hour

What is an average day as a Stay At Home Mom?  Well, I'm sure it varies from family to family, as all children are different with different pitches and frequencies in screams and tantrums.  

But what is an average day like in my life?  Well, I can tell you what the last hour of my day was like...  

While sitting at the computer I look up at the shelf and remember I was planning on dusting and organizing it today.  So, I begin dusting and organizing.

I find a clip that came with my heart monitor, which I already have packed up and ready to be shipped back as soon as UPS stops by today.  So I grab that and my FRG folder and go to the kitchen to re-open the package (See, I've already done this once today and had to cut open the prepaid package, put a case in it and tape it back up.  This makes time #2).  While I'm mumbling to myself about how at least I found these items before shipping it back, I turn around and see Isabella grabbed my FRG folder and had all my papers all over the floor.  Le sigh.  I finish the package and pick up my papers, organize them and head back to the living room.

This is when I realize I left my vinegar/lemon juice spray bottle where Tj could get it.  At least vinegar isn't the worst thing he could smell like...  So I chase him down and get the bottle from him and put it up.  I sit down at the computer to take a drink.

That's when I realize it wasn't just himself that he soaked with the vinegar.  Time to go change jeans. 

I get to the bedroom and see the pile of clean laundry on the bed that I need to fold and put away.  Begin folding and putting away laundry.  As I'm putting away laundry, I realize how dusty it is in there and decide that I should probably dust in there after I'm done in the living room.  I go to the closet to put clothes away and see the blanket I've been meaning to mend since The Super Bowl.  I should probably get that done too while I'm thinking about it and pull it out.  

Once the clothes are all put away, I notice the pile of winter clothes on the floor I needed to put away too.  I go to put those away in the closet and find a bag of clothes that were meant for donating.  So, I take those clothes out to the garage and realize that the dryer is done with Isabella's bedding (which I had to wash because he soaked through her diaper last night).  I grab those and go make her bed.  Hopefully she will nap today...

Ok, now to finish dusting the shelf.  *Oh, that's right, here's the Lean to Speak Spanish program I need to install.*  I put the CD in the computer, because somehow that will probably help me remember it later.  I run around putting this n that away and finding other things out of place to put away.  

Then begin dusting bedroom.  I see my laptop and remember I was going to print some coupons.  Log in to laptop.  Step on goat head, pick it up and go throw it away in bathroom.  Realize bathroom garbage is full and needs to be emptied.  Take garbage bag to kitchen, realize kitchen garbage is full.  Take both garbage bags out, oh yeah, it's garbage day.  Bring garbage can back to house.

Finish dusting and continue trying to print coupons on super slow laptop.  Time to mend blanket.  Begin mending blanket, while working on printing coupons.  Tj comes in the room and wants my box of sewing supplies.  I give him a bag of elastic, thinking that will distract him and put my box on the dresser, turn around and continue mending.  Turn around again and realize Tj is grabbing box.  Without thinking say "Tj No!" so Tj begins running, trips and dumps sewing supplies all over floor.  

Begin picking up sewing supplies, give Tj post it notes that happened to be in there so now he's happy.  Carefully find all needles that fell out.  Finish mending blanket (Woo hoo!).  

Cell phone beeps.  It's my husband waiting for an answer to last text, which I am just now seeing.  Look at the clock and realize it's noon.  Which means, it's been one hour since I decided to dust the shelf.  I decide to write this blog post.  *ding dong*  It's UPS and he is delivering my birthday present.  

Maybe today isn't so bad after all.  

Now I am off to clean up some post it notes.  

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Putting a Price On Life

"His wife just died, you can't expect him to carry the burden of doctor's bills and a child".

"If that baby has special needs, do you know how much that would cost?!"

"Keep the baby alive??  And rack up thousands of dollars in doctor's bills?  That child is not worth it."

"Let the baby die, the father doesn't want it anyway"

"It's up to the family if they want the child to live or not, the state shouldn't force them to keep the baby alive!"

That is the world we live in now, one that I am saddened by.  Well, part of the world we live in.  Then there is the other side that does not put a price on life.

"I believe abortion, and particularly late term abortion, is our Holocaust and Kermit Gosnell is our Josheph Mengele. When staff at a women’s clinic can open a freezer and place a red biohazard bag with the lifeless remains of an infant next to a dozen more without alarm, shock or conscience, I believe we are living in dark times"

"National Premature Awareness Day
-1 in 8 babies are born prematurely each year.
-Our girls were born at 33 weeks or 7 weeks early.
-Premature birth is the leading killer among newborns.
-Premature babies cost 10 times more to care for than healthy babies
We are so lucky today to say that we have four healthy, happy, developmentally on track, beautiful girls!"

"IT'S called the Rolls Royce of humidicribs and is capable of saving thousands of premature babies a year.
But with a price tag of $70,000, it is out of the reach of most of our cash-strapped hospitals. So the nurses at the Royal Hospital for Women have taken on the task of raising the cash themselves."

"Born at 23 weeks and weighing just 1lb 7oz, Charlie Allen was the country’s most premature twin at the time of his birth.  He was given a bleak seven per cent chance of survival, but five years on he has defied the odds by growing into a healthy, happy little boy."

"Miracle Babies"

"A Florida family is getting the ultimate Christmas present this holiday season. Their miracle baby is coming home."

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Minimum Wage War - Wake Up America

Minimum Wage is a hot topic nowadays.  People think they are entitled to make a higher amount of money, just because they were hired.  Even though they have not worked for it or put in any effort, they have not earned it, they have not gone to school for it, they think they should get paid top dollar, just for meeting the minimum requirements to work at an entry level position (Usually a HS diploma is not even required).

I moved out of my parent's home when I was 16 and was working part time at Subway.  The year I moved out (2001) I worked about 7 months and my wages were $2,450.  I found a roommate and I survived those early months out on my own.  We went our separate ways the next year, I stayed with a friend for a few weeks until I was able to get an apartment... And at that point, I was able to get one on my own.  It wasn't big, it was a small studio downtown.  But I was 17 and single, so it was all I needed.  In 2002 I made just over $13,000.

I was promoted to Assistant Manager and after turning 18 was promoted to Manager.  In 2003 I made over $24,000.  I made even more the next year.

In 2005, despite the good money I was making, I decided to leave Subway and I chose to try out retail.  I was still young and not sure what I wanted to do.  I took a HUGE pay cut (because I had NO retail experience) and I started out at the bottom, just over minimum wage.  Although I took the huge pay cut (more than 10k a year), I knew that's just how things work, I was changing industries.  I worked my way up to management there, too.

I took a few college classes (paid for them myself) and finally decided what I wanted to do and what industry I wanted to work in.  I took a job as Office Manager of a small towing company.  Because I now had some experience, I started out above minimum wage.  Although I was making enough to live off of just fine, I chose to get a roommate and to work two jobs, so I continued to work my retail job part time.  I worked 6-7 days a week and 60+ hours a week.  I did this because I wanted extra play money.  It wasn't because I "needed" it to survive or because I wasn't making a "living wage".  Had I stayed in Fast Food, I would have been making the money I wanted to be, but since I chose to leave my field of experience and gain experience in a new field, I had to start back out at the bottom and work my way up.

In 2008 I stopped working two jobs and took on a new full time job, making more money and did very well there.  I stopped living with roommates and got a place with the guy I was dating at the time.

I supported myself just fine (and for several of the early years, I supported a "musician" with no income).  I lived on my own or I chose to live with a roommate to make things easier.

Did I want to make more money than I was?  Um, yeah.  Who doesn't?  But did I think I was entitled to it, without working for it?  Without gaining the experience needed to get paid more?  NO.  I worked hard, I took college classes, I DID work two jobs so I could live the at the level of pay I wanted, while I was gaining experience to get the higher paying job.  I didn't have to, but since I wanted more money and didn't have the experience to make it yet, I worked two jobs to get it.  Once I had the experience, I was able to get the higher paying job in the field I wanted.  Sometimes you have to suck it up and not make much money until you have earned it, until you have gained the experience that gets you the higher paying job.  You don't just get to walk into $15/hr with NO experience!  Unless of course, you want to go into trade work (which they WILL train you for too, BTW).  You want to make $15 an hour with no experience, go be a union flagger, not a burger flipper at McDonalds.

In the State of WA the minimum wage for 2013 is $9.19/hr.

Single person, 2 withholdings
Paid bi-weekly (26 times a year)
Working part time, 20 hours a week
$339.48 a paycheck = $8,826.48 a year (Net Pay)

Single person, 2 withholdings
Paid bi-weekly (26 times a year)
Working full time, 40 hours a week
$643.54 a paycheck = $16,732.04 a year (Net Pay)

Married person, 3 withholdings
Paid bi-weekly (26 times a year)
Working full time, 40 hours a week
$678.96 a paycheck = $17,652.96 a year (Net Pay)

Remember, minimum wage jobs are ENTRY level positions and generally require no skill to start (or very little) as they will train you (you don't have to have any experience prior to being hired).  This is where most people get their first job, sometimes while still in high school and living at home with Mom and Dad, with no real bills except car insurance, cell phone and gas.  The point of entry level positions are for you to get your foot in the door, gain experience and advance.  Or quit and go somewhere else.  They are not for making a career out of.  They are stepping stones.

When I was a Manager at Subway, we did Employee Evaluations every 6-12 months.  At that time, most received a raise provided they deserved it (most did, those that didn't either stepped it up, quit or continued to make minimum wage).  It's all about effort.  If one's skills are exactly the same as when they started their entry level position, they have made no improvements or advancements, taken no initiative, shown no desire for advancement, then they have not earned a raise.  I became a Manager at 18 (after working for Subway for almost 2 years) because I worked my butt off and I wanted to advance and earn more money.  Hard work = Higher pay.

Now, let's just assume the workers above are 18 or older and are no longer living with Mom and Dad.

First of all, if you think you can jump out of high school, get a high paying job and live on your own with no experience, you are insane and need to reevaluate the way life works.

What you did in my days was find yourself a roommate.  That's how you live on minimum wage or slightly more.  Don't want to live with a roommate?  Stay with Mom and Dad until you've been working a couple years and have some actual experience deserving of a higher pay.  Don't want to wait?  Do what I did and make Management your goal, work hard and you'll get paid more.  Don't want to manage a fast food restaurant?  Boy, aren't you awful picky.  What was the term... Oh yeah, beggars can't be choosers.

Anyway, let's get back to living off that "horrible" minimum wage.

If you're working part time, well, let's face it.  Stay at home with Mom and Dad or get a roommate, or two most likely.  I'm not even going to address that.

Single person, 2 withholdings
Paid bi-weekly (26 times a year)
Working full time, 40 hours a week
$643.54 a paycheck = $16,732.04 a year (Net Pay)

Obviously rent and cost of living varies a little bit, but I'm going to average things out in my home state of WA.

So, let's just say you take home $1287.08 a month ($643.54 x 2) (if you're paid bi-weekly, then most months that's your budget.  Twice a year you'll get that "third" paycheck in a month.  I loved those months...)

You're single, you're on your own.  A 1 Bedroom Apartment in WA state will cost you $470-$530 (a studio is $380-$460).  You can decide what you want to afford.  After your rent is paid, you have roughly $757 - $907 left to pay for food, utilities, phone, insurance, etc.  Glamorous life?  No.  Doable?  YES.  But again, you just got an entry level job with little or no experience.  Want more?  Work for it.  You'll get a raise.  Work hard and you'll get a promotion.  After a year or two you can go find a job working somewhere else, requiring higher skills, experience and therefore giving you more pay.  Get a roommate and now your rent is only 235-265 a month.  Easy peasy with plenty left over to live on.

If you're married (or equivalent) without kids, then you should have 2 incomes and be making plenty.

Married person, 3 withholdings
Paid bi-weekly (26 times a year)
Working full time, 40 hours a week
$678.96 a paycheck = $17,652.96 a year (Net Pay)

If you're married (or equivalent) with kids...  I'm not going to judge you, but if you had kids before you were financially stable and you're only options are minimum wage jobs, then that's the result of a choice you made and something you just have to deal with.  You can't blame other people for that or demand more money because you have a kid.  Want more, get the skills and experience that will get you more.  In the meantime, that's when you get help from the government and take advantage of their programs for low come families until you're able to work for a few years and gain experience and get a higher paying job (or advance in your current ENTRY LEVEL job where you make min. wage).  Or, both of you will have to work.

Maybe what people really need help with, is not a higher income at an entry level position, but help with budgeting, help with finding the right job for them, learning how to work a job you don't like, while working towards getting the job you do want.

The world I grew up in taught me that you have to EARN things.  YOU have to make things happen.  Only you have power over your life.  The world that I see now, wants to be handed everything without earning it or putting forth effort.  You want to make more money?  Go make it happen!

I do understand that times are tough, there are people who lost their jobs and have been forced to find lower paying jobs that they are over qualified for but they have bills to pay so they do what they have to.  If times are that tough though, do you really think raising minimum wage is going to help?  No way.  More people will lose their jobs, the cost of living will subsequently go up and it's going to be even worse out there.

Message to the younger generation, don't wait until you're in your 20s or 30s to start working towards a career.  8 years ago, when I was 20, I made $30,000 my last year at Subway.  No one just gave that to me and I didn't demand it.  I earned it.  I worked hard and earned every damn penny of it.  I more than doubled my income in two years.  I was management, NOT entry level.  It actually didn't take long at all before I got my first raise from entry level, because I worked for it and took on more responsibility.  Did I want to be making even more?  Uh, yeah.  Did I think I deserved more?  Yep, sure did.  Had I stayed with the company, I would have continued to make more money.

If I would have stayed, right now I'd be at 12 years.  I can promise you, I would either be working for corporate Subway or I would own my own franchise.  But I didn't want to go down that path.  I didn't want to stay in fast food.  But I could have done it, if that's what I wanted.  You can do that too, you just have to want it and put in the time and hard work.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

"Those People"

This time of year, the holidays, always seem to bring attention to the fact that there are many people in need.  Families looking for help so they can give their kids a Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas presents or even just food on the table.

I stumbled across this post the other day by Scary Mommy and it really got me thinking, and remembering.

Read the full post here, it's worth the read.  Here is an excerpt from her post, what my post is based off of:
"There’s a food drive happening at the school where I work. Several bins have been set up throughout the hallways, with cute kid-decorated signs that implore us to SCARE HUNGER and donate non-perishables for the local food shelf.
Like I was doing earlier this week. Walking by, checking out the bins. One of the women who helped organize the drive was in the hallway, and I called out to her “Wow! Look at all this awesomeness!” or something similarly enlightening. She beamed and said, “I know! The parents at this school are amazing.”
As she was saying this, another woman happened by. She smiled at us, like people who see each other several times a day in passing do, and then she said this:
“Too bad they won’t know what to do with most of it.”
It was one of those moments in life, when your ears hear something but your brain can’t quite process it.  I was fairly certain I’d just heard her say what I thought I’d heard her say…but it didn’t really sink in. It floated there, like a film of rainbow-hued oil over a puddle in the street.
I spoke up, while she was still within earshot. “What do you mean?”. I wanted to know. I wanted to verify what she said, make sure I hadn’t misunderstood.
The woman stopped. She turned towards me, one hand holding a couple of manila folders, the other resting lightly on her hip. She was still smiling.
“Those people won’t know what most of that is. I mean, really, quinoa?”
Yep. I’d heard her correctly.
Those people." 
(continue reading here
Like the poster, that comment hits close to home.  Though not from an experience in my adult life, but rather from my childhood.  "Those People".

My Dad has been a carpenter most of my life.  As with most trade jobs, when there's work there's work and when there's not... there's not.  In the early 90's my Dad had steady employment with a local company and was building bridges heading out to Mt. St. Helens.

Then he got hurt.  The scaffolding he was standing on broke and he fell, landing on his feet, crushing one heel and shattering the other.  Needless to say, it was a long recovery and a long time before he was able to go back to work.

There were four of us kids and another one the way.  I don't know how my Mom managed it, but she did.  

Once he was able to go back to work, it seemed to be feast or famine, with a lot of famine for several years.

I remember going with Dad and picking up boxes of food from food banks and churches.  I remember one year when strangers picked our names off a Christmas tree and gave us presents.  I got some clothes, which were actually pretty cool.  

I was young enough that I didn't think much about it.  I didn't know life any other way.  We weren't "Those people", we were just people.  My parents were just people, doing the best they could to provide for us through all life's hurdles that were thrown at them.  Despite not having much money, I had a great childhood (it wasn't until my teen years that I went a little crazy.  But, that's another post, maybe someday).

We all survived the hard times and I learned a lot from it.  It is a part of my childhood and a part of who I am today and I can't imagine being any different.  I feel I learned to appreciate things more, that I learned to live on less and that family, not things or money, is the most important thing in life.

Now that I'm a Mom, I can imagine what my parents must have felt and how hard it must have been for them to ask for help.  I know even now, I would have an extremely hard time asking for help.  I'm thankful we're doing ok financially.  I'm thankful for my husband's job and that it's very secure, for now at least.

I only hope I can pass on to my children the things I learned growing up.  I sometimes feel guilty that my children already have far more than I did as a child.  I worry that they wont learn the things I learned.  I worry they will end up being the people who use the term "those people".  If I had to choose, I would rather be "those people" than be so ignorant that I use that term on others.

But I guess that's part of being a Mom...  Worrying about if you're doing it right.  Worrying about if you'll teach your children everything they need to know.  I just have to remember that my kids will watch me and learn from what I do.  The best way to teach, is not to "teach" at all, but rather to lead by example.  Do what you believe in and believe is right, and your kids will see it.  Then it's up to them what to do with that.

So instead of judging those who have to ask for help, instead of being annoyed by the bell ringers at Walmart, give to those in need.  Throw some change in the bucket.  Take a bag of food to a shelter or a church.  Donate your clothes.  Pick a name off that Christmas tree.  Give to those who need help.  You may be surprised how easy it was to get there and how big of a difference just a little bit can make.

Monday, December 2, 2013


I grew up in a big family.  I am the second oldest of seven children.  I have so many fond memories of growing up in a big family, I always wanted to have a big family too.  I can't imagine growing up any differently.

I was 26 when my son was born, two weeks overdue.  I had a long and difficult pregnancy followed by an emergency c-section.  Twenty-one months later, my daughter was born, just four days overdue, on Christmas Eve.  I had a much easier pregnancy, pretty uneventful compared to the last.  Although we did everything we could to have a VBAC, she was born via c-section due to the umbilical cord being wrapped around her neck (twice).  I was devastated, my dreams of a big family were shattered.  I knew we could probably have one more baby but three c-sections was going to be my max.

My daughter is nearing her first birthday and not too long ago I started to think about baby #3, the last baby I can have.  But then I began thinking about adoption.  Actually, I've always thought about it.  There are so many children already in the world and coming into the world that need a family.  My husband was adopted after being in the foster care system for awhile.  We have casually talked about adoption since before we had kids of our own.  

I was browsing Netflix the other night and came across this documentary about adoption.  Was it a sign?  

STUCK TRAILER from Both Ends Burning Campaign on Vimeo.

(BTW, if you haven't watched this, it is worth watching)

The documentary says the average price of an international adoption is $28,000 and takes up to 3 years.  Wow.  Well, what about domestic adoption?  That has got to be cheaper, right?  After some research, I found out that it is usually $20,000-$40,000 to adopt domestically.  My heart sank and hit the floor.  Twenty to forty thousand dollars to give a child a home and a family?  A child who has been given away, orphaned, abandoned, neglected or unwanted by his or her birth parents?  Twenty to forty thousand dollars.  And who exactly gets all this money?  What are you paying this money for?  Ah, attorneys.  Of course.  Most of the money goes to attorneys.  And 1-3k for a homestudy so they can decide if you're even a fit parent.  Then a few more thousand dollars for filing paperwork, etc.  I just really can't wrap my head around this, around the fact that it costs that much money to adopt a child and give them a home.  They pay you to foster, but they charge you tens of thousands to adopt.  Well, it looks like that option is out the window.

We have two, wonderfully amazing children and I am truly blessed to have them.  We can always try for a third child of our own.

So why has the thought of adopting been weighing on my mind and heart lately?

"In the U.S. 400,540 children are living without permanent families in the foster care system.  115,000 of these children are eligible for adoption, but nearly 40% of these children will wait over three years in foster care before being adopted.

According to the U.S. State Department, U.S. families adopted more than 9,000 children in 2011.
Last year, Americans adopted the highest number of children from China  followed by Ethiopia, Russia, South Korea, and Ukraine.

As of 2011, nearly 60,000 children in foster care in the U.S. are placed in institutions or group homes, not in traditional foster homes.

States spent a mere 1.2-1.3% of available federal funds on parent recruitment and training services even though 22% of children in foster care had adoption as their goal.

Over three years is the average length of time a child waits to be adopted in foster care.  Roughly 55% of these children have had three or more placements.  An earlier study found that 33% of children had changed elementary schools five or more times, losing relationships and falling behind educationally."


Over 400 thousand children in the US alone waiting for homes and in 2011 only 9,000 were adopted... and they were not even all from the US.  With that many children waiting for permanent families, you would think the process would be easier and cheaper.  These children are growing up without families, without being loved and either being institutionalized or turned out into the world on their own.

Well, I guess it's time to do some research about foster care.  Maybe I can find some answers there...