Archive for the ‘Family relationships’ Category

Tough love

We told our oldest son that he had to leave our home.  There were many reasons. Due to respect for his privacy, I will not go into details on the blog.  Please trust me when I say that we gave him many chances and tried many different things that would enable him to stay.  This decision was not easy.  We have the support of our family and friends, his service providers, and others who know us personally. For now, he is living with an extended family member until housing options come available.  He’s safe.

It’s been the toughest time in our family life.

What is the hope in this?  Well, I’ve pondered several lessons that I’ve learned as a parent.  These were things I already knew intellectually; but the time finally came to enforce and give serious consequences.

So, here are the lessons.

1. Being a doormat is not helpful for anyone. It is extremely important that my kids, special needs or not, respect us, our home, and our parental authority. Otherwise, the disrespect of others will carry over into other parts of their lives and they may not get jobs, roommates, or friends.

2. Allowing my kids to use their disabilities as an excuse for rudeness, entitlement, and “passing the buck” for their own lives is more detrimental than the disability itself.  Empowering my kids to live to their full potential and be as responsible for themselves as possible is one of the greatest gifts I can give to them.

3. When my children make stupid crazy decisions with negative consequences, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I’ve been a bad parent.  I can listen to, love, converse with, provide for, and give my kids all the tools in the world and set them up with therapies, job coaches, two rounds of driving school, teach them to cook and do laundry, get behavioral services and lessons in self care, purchase med counters and charts with rewards so they don’t forget to take their meds (a hint as to why our son had to leave), provide healthy food and structure, allow them to collaborate on house rules, have family therapy, etc., but if they don’t follow through and use the tools, that’s on them.   This has been the hardest lesson for me to learn and accept.

4. Tough love is still love.  My friend Maria told me that, and I am so grateful for her comment! Enforcing tough consequences doesn’t mean that we love our son any less.  In fact, I believe enforcing consequences shows that we truly love him enough to help him grow up and become an independent adult, even if he chose the most difficult path.

5.  Just because he is no longer in our home doesn’t mean that he’s not he in the family.  After he left, we did a lot of things “behind the scenes” to help him be successful.  This included keeping all of his service providers informed, and they have made sure that he has options.  We also fixed his bike so that he has some form of transportation.  When we were cleaning out his room we found unopened products– and their receipts–  from his massive shopping spree this summer.  We returned the items and put the money back into his bank account so that he has some funds.  We washed, folded, and packed all of his laundry, toiletries, sheets, etc. so that he has fresh clothes and bedding ready to go. His coffee maker and soda stream machine are safe in a closet.  We also provide transportation for him to his appointments when he needs us and always answer the phone when he calls.  When he’s angry, we don’t hang up on him even when it’s tempting.

These have been the toughest weeks of our family life, and we have been through a lot that I have not written about on this blog.  In fact, many of the tough things are the reasons why I haven’t been writing.

So where’s the lighter side?

Perhaps it is that our home is a lot less stressful.  Or that our son seems to be learning that he can’t escape from himself or his issues.   I think he’s already realizing what he had when he was here, even though he has claimed that we did nothing for him and never helped him– typical teenager stuff, but on steroids.

Son, I’m pretty sure you are reading this.  Please know that we love you and only want the best for you and our family.  See you soon.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a high school graduate!

Walking in line at the graduation ceremony

Walking in line at the graduation ceremony

It has been a long road, but it has been worth it.

Our oldest (my stepson), who is on the autism spectrum, graduated.   He got his actual high school diploma, and is looking toward a bright future!  Hopefully he will be attending school in January, as space becomes available at a special school here in PA called The Hiram G. Andrews Center.  Not only will he be able to get an associates degree, but he will also continue to learn independent living skills at this residential school.  Yes, residential! We are all excited for this!  🙂

But more about that later.  Right now we are basking in the excitement and the glory of his graduating from high school.  I have not told his story on this blog in order to protect his privacy, but it suffices to say that, when I married my husband, my then little 3-year-old stepson was not expected to ever be independent.  There are many reasons for this, but we are so thankful that he overcame all of those obstacles!  Here’s a little of his educational story:


Celebrating at the graduation party!

Celebrating at the graduation party! Not so little any more!

  • Entered school for the first time at age 9, as a third grader (when he came to live with us).  He didn’t know all of his alphabet or his numbers.
  • Caught up to 3rd grade math, after not knowing all of his numbers, by 5th grade.
  • Was in special education most of his school career.  However, as a senior, was in a regular senior English class!
  • Graduated on time, with an 81 GPA!

When my oldest crossed that stage at the graduation ceremony, my younger boy called out, “It’s been tough, but your made it.  Go, big Brother!”  And that sums up how we all feel. He has overcome much.  We, as a family, have overcome much.  And we are looking forward to what God has in store for him.

Congratulations, buddy.

Expectation, crying, and a call from the school

At 7:30 AM,  my son’s learning support teacher called. My son, P,  was very upset and crying.  She was concerned, as this was the second time she had seen him cry in three years.  He said he would feel better if he could talk to me.

The issue: his older brother M did not wear a coat to school.  (Also, another kid reported that M and another student hitting P while on the school bus. So she was going to report my older son and this other kid for bullying on the school bus.  But P. was mainly upset about the coat issue.)


As my husband listened in, I consoled my boy. Here’s a snippet of our conversation.:

Me: Hi, sweetie, what’s wrong? You were crying?

P: Yes.  M. did not wear a coat to school! And Dad told him to.  He needs to listen.

Me: He didn’t wear his coat?  And that upset you? Well, he does that sometimes.  It’s his decision.  It’s weird, but it happens.

P: Yeah.

Me: I’ll have Dad talk to him about it, ok?

P: Ok.

Me: Was M hitting you on the bus, sweetie?

P: Yes.

Me: And who else?

P: “Jake.” (name changed)

Me: We’ll take care of that too.

P: Ok.

Me: Is there anything else? Do you feel better?

P: I feel better now.

Me: Ok, sweetie. You have a good day.  You can start your day over right now, ok?  I love you.

P: I love you too, mom.  Bye.

My husband and I looked at each other and took a deep breath and sighed. My husband said, “Oh, boy.”  I shook my head.  We were  upset by the bullying and that P. didn’t report it himself.  P. was upset by the coat.  So there’s two life lessons that P. needs to learn: letting people make their own decisions and standing up for himself.

I am so grateful that other students were looking out for P.  I’m grateful for an understanding teacher.  I’m most of all grateful for a son who knows that he can call me if he has a problem and for teachable moments.  And this gives me hope.


I’m my son’s classmate?

As I shared in a previous post, my son started going to a new school for his junior year.  He’s studying culinary arts.

One day I got an email asking if I’d consider taking a class with him.  Chef L., the culinary arts instructor, really wants my son to pass his ServSafe certification.  It will open up lots of job opportunities and increased his value as an employee.  Chef L. thought that my son and I could be study buddies, and since I have a food related business it might be an asset to me as well.  Moreover, I wouldn’t have to pay for the course, only the certification exam, and I could use my son’s textbook to study at home.

I agreed.

So far, the results are my own paranoia over germs in my kitchen.  Maybe a good thing here.

  • I’ve found recipes for homemade disinfectants that aren’t bleach based (can’t stand the smell, don’t want bleach spots on my clothes).
  • I made these disinfecting wipes to wipe down everything.  Several times per hour day.
  • I freaked out when my son put his grubby hands in the ice cube bin without washing them first. When I confronted him, he said, “What? They were mostly clean…” and I replied, “Hey!!!  I read the ServSafe book today, mister!!” and he proceeded to begin a competition over who knew more of the text book. Then I said if he would have really read and memorized the text book he would have never stuck his grubby hands in the ice.
  • I dumped out the ice.

We’ll see how this works.  As for now, I am really happy that he will be getting this certification, and I will do all in my power to force encourage him and the family to practice at home.


Summer is here… insanity is near…

My kids’ last day of school was yesterday.  They were home for an hour and already bored.

My oldest still has trouble believing that I don’t become a recreational director once school is out.  He couldn’t believe how bored he was.  He kept moping around, sighing.

The other two were just watching tv.  I’ve already had to tell them a million thousand hundred  several times to pick stuff up, don’t eat in the family room, and stop hitting one another.

Today my middle guy and I put up a canopy.  It’s one of those things that about 10 by 20 feet and is made to keep a car under.  Here’s a link to one. Anyway, we did a great job.  I was proud of his helping.  His TSS helped us a lot.  We were proud of ourselves and gave each other high fives.

His next question to me was, “So, Mom, did I earn electronics?”

He did.  He certainly did.

We ate a picnic lunch under the canopy.  We noticed some fire ants.  My daughter, who wants to be a zoologist when she grows up, told me some interesting ant facts.

It has been a great day.

My son’s point of view: autism doesn’t make him different

My son and I had our first conversation about autism.

“You know you have autism?”

“Mmm hmm.”

“What does that mean?”

He thought for a while.

“I don’t know.  I don’t know what it means.”

I thought about that for a few minutes.  How could he know what that means?  It is just… well… him.  His thinking… his culture… his way of being…

I said, “Well, I think that autism means that you think differently.  Your brain is wired differently than mine.”

Inside I was wrestling… isn’t everyone wired differently?  I think so.  Is it important that he knows he has autism?  Well, yes.  But why?

I asked him, “Do you think your autism makes you different or the same as other kids?”

“I am the same as everybody else.”  Hooray!


“But Miss J.  (his TSS) wants me to be different.”

“How so?”


“Oh, just forget it.  Give her a call and find out.”

Miss J. helps him follow the rules at school.  He probably wants to be like the other kids and not follow the rules.  Maybe.  I don’t know.

I do know that his autism does make him “different.”  I love the old Arby’s slogan, “Different is good.”  It will be interesting to see how he develops in the coming years.

Left behind

My husband called me earlier this week with this news: “I had my most embarrassing parenting moment tonight.”

“Oh?  What was that?” I asked.

“I left our son behind at Pepboys.”

I actually chuckled.  That evening our family piled into my husband’s small car that he uses for work in order to pick up our van at Pepboys.  My husband went in, and our son went along with him but immediately went to the waiting room to play.  My husband got the keys to the van, paid, and left. 

Then he remembered… one of the kids was still at the shop.

As soon he as he remembered, he got a call from Pepboys. 

He headed back to the shop.  When he arrived, our boy was waiting outside, and jumped up and down and clapped when Daddy arrived.

All’s well that ends well!

I asked our son about it later:

“What happened at Pepboys?”

“Dad left me behind!”

“So what did you do?”

“I went and told a worker.  Then the worker got a manager and called Leroy (using Dad’s “official” first name).”

“What did you tell the worker?”

“I said, ‘My whole family left me behind!'”

Oh well, so now the whole family is to blame.  That’s okay.

I was not mad at my husband.  When he told someone at work what had happened, one of his co-workers told him that if would have happened in his family, he would have been served divorce papers the next day. 

My hubby said to me, “I’m so lucky to be married to you!”  Awwwww.

As I said, I wasn’t mad.  Rather, I was proud of our son.  He’s showing signs that he can problem solve and take care of himself. 

That gives me hope!

Surprise party

Recently, my middle guy turned 12.

As I have said in a previous post, he is not the easiest kid to shop for.  His answers to all the questions regarding “What would you like for you birthday?” were “I don’t know.”

He definitely knows what he wants to eat, if not what gifts he wants.When we asked him what he wanted to eat on his birthday, he said he wanted to go to Dairy Queen and have an ice cream cake.

So on the morning of his birthday I was still unsure of what we are getting him for his birthday. (We figured it out… that’s another post.)  When I asked him again what he would like, he says, “I can’t wait until my surprise party!”

“Surprise party?” I ask.

Yes, indeed.  He proceeds to give me instructions on how we are going to do this.

First, everyone but my boy will walk into the DQ.  He will walk in slowly while we hide under the tables…

“Okay, stop right there, honey.  I don’t like to be on the floor of fast food restaurants.  Ewww!”

So, change of plan.

This is how it happened:

We got home from DQ with the ice cream cake.  Then my boy went to his room to wait while we set everything up and called Grandma to come over for the festivities.  When everyone was ready, we lit the candles , dimmed the lights, and called to P. that we were ready.

We waiting in anticipation.  Birthday Boy came down the stairs slowly, saying, “Hey, where is everybody? What’s going on?”

Suddenly, we turned on the lights and yelled, “Surprise!”

Birthday boy exclaimed, “Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you!  Wow, a surprise party!”

We sang.  We ate. We partied.  And we were happy.

This was the first time that my boy asked for something specific. He made his wishes known.  He pretended, too, which always thrills my heart.

My boy is 12.

Man, do I feel old.


My son is not easy to “shop for.”  Last Christmas we requested that he be given gift cards and cash.  As we were driving to the store to do his shopping, I asked him, “What are you going to buy?”


“What else?” I asked.

“Just candy.”

“All $50 on candy?”


“Oh, no, I don’t think so!” I exclaimed.

He ended up buying a couple of toys and a bag of candy.  There is still over $25 on his card.

He is very content.  He doesn’t need the latest and greatest.  He has video games, notebooks and pencils, and yes, his candy.

This, I think, is one of the lighter sides of his having autism.  He doesn’t seem to feel the social pressures of keeping up with anyone, Joneses.  How great to be so content!


My oldest is really wanting to drive.

I’ll never forget the look on his face when he learned that just because someone is the correct chronological age to drive… 16… doesn’t mean that the person will actually get to drive. There are other factors besides age.  His face just fell.  He was so sad.  And I was sad, too… sad that his dream was dashed and sad that I wouldn’t be a reprieve from driving him everywhere and sad that life stinks sometimes.

He’s beginning to understand, however, our point.  My husband made a list of things that needs to be able to do before we’ll even think about letting him learn to drive.  On this list are things such as…

  • No stomping and hitting walls when you don’t get your way.
  • Take shower every day (show some self-care and responsibility)
  • Do your homework
  • Keep your room in order
  • No stealing

I was surprised when, as soon as I got out of bed and went to the kitchen early on a weekday morning, that he told me, “I’ll be driving in two weeks!”


I’m learning to keep my mouth shut and not over react, but this time I said, “Ohhhh I don’t think so.”

“Yes!  I’ve met my goals!”


“Yes.  My room is clean.”

“Was that because you were being responsible or because we had house guests and you had no choice?”

“At least I cleaned it.”

“Excuse me… who vacuumed and finished cleaning it?” I said as I was trying to get my brain going for the day.

“Whatever.  Then I have been doing my homework.”


“And have you noticed any other improvements?”

Okay, first thing in the morning is not the time to ask me this.  So I said, “Not  really.”

“You LIE!” he shouted.

“I’m answering the question.”

“You should have said, ‘No stomping’!  I haven’t stomped for over a week!” He shouted, as he stomped so hard that the pictures started to rattle.

“Well, I guess that good streak is over.”

“It’s your fault I stomped.”

“I see you are taking responsibility for your actions.  Good one.”

See, I’m not the best at 6:30 AM.

“I’ll talk to dad about it… you have no idea what you’re talking about. Just keep your mouth shut.”

“You just do that. Don’t talk to me like that, either.  I’m done talking to you this morning anyway.”

“Why?  What did I do?”


When I think about it after I’m actually awake, we have noticed that he’s doing things more like unloading the dishwasher without being reminded, taking out the trash with out griping, and he was even asked to work when he wasn’t scheduled… I tell myself that he wouldn’t be asked to work if he was being irresponsible there.  Plus, the people at the Food Bank where he volunteers say that he can do the work of two people.

I hope he drives before he is out of high school.