We just call him Ryan

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I love this picture. This is me and my son at Christmas 2010. This Christmas marked the change in his life, in our lives. About a month after this picture we finally found out what was really wrong with him. He has Epilepsy. But at the time we took this picture we didn’t know that yet. We were told my son was genetically defected and diagnosed with every mental disorder. ADHD(attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), ODD (oppositional defiant disorder), GAD (generalized anxiety disorder), PTSD(post traumatic stress disorder), depression, mood disorder and even bipolar disorder. All by the time he was 8 years old. He was on just about every type of psych med with 9 prescriptions. About a month before this Christmas photo was taken I was fed up and finally stood up to the doctors. I educated myself about any and every thing the doctors labeled him with, the medications and the side effects. I obsessed over it. I was fed up with them just throwing on another pill when his side effects got worse. I was fed up of him getting worse instead of better. I was fed up of believing those doctors and giving them all the power to do whatever to my son. If he was bipolar I was ready to accept that but damn it I was fed up with all their damn guesses. 9 prescription pills my son took each day and I was angry at myself for allowing the doctors to let it get to that point. After three attempts at partial hospitalization, we admitted him into the hospital. At eight years old my son was placed into the psychiatric unit in the hospital. He was in the hospital for two weeks and we even celebrated his 9th birthday there.

I look at this picture and realize there was a before and after. Before the diagnoses and after. I think back of all that has happened and there was one night that literally saved us both. 

My son had been released from the hospital and home for the first time in years without any medication. What was scary was we found out he really had Epilepsy but the hospital couldn’t get a pediatric neurologist to see my son. So after my constant badgering and bitching the doctor finally agreed to release him and gave me a list of appointments I needed to make. To get in with a neurologist was a 3 month wait. But I didn’t care, I was so excited to bring him home!! 

He started reading. He just sat in his room reading!! Now that’s just crazy talk…nope it’s true. I remember him telling me before he would look at the pages and it just looked like alphabet soup. But now when he looked at the pages the words came alive because he could read them. I think all those meds really messed with him but they also numbed the pain of our past for him. See three years before this we had moved from our home, the only one my kids knew and started all over leaving the past behind. The past being my son’s father who was abusive in many ways and we finally got away.

Fast forward. Extensive neuro psych testing found the rest of the pieces. No depression. No bipolar. He has Epilepsy, ADHD, non-verbal learning disorder(think high functioning aspergers/autism), and sensory processing disorder. But we just call him Ryan. 

Now Ryan is almost 16. He’s a sophomore in a regular high school with an IEP (individualized education plan). This year will likely be his last year needing the social skills class which will allow him to take an elective class like photography. Next semester he’s signed up for ROTC. He wants to be a police officer and help people. He has a girl friend and loves who he is. He is thoughtful and caring. Funny and still obnoxious. He is a great kid and I am in awe of who he has become. Somehow this amazing kid with a shocking past is beating the odds and this mom couldn’t be prouder.

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Visions of my life

As a little girl and even as a teen, I somehow knew my future. I pictured myself as a single independent woman. Not with a husband who was my best friend or a husband I fought with. I pictured myself with 3 children, two girls and a boy and I even knew I would have my daughters first and my son would be my youngest. I pictured a big white house with a big yard and a couple dogs, small children running in the grass. Since I bought this house 5 years ago I’ve tried to figure out who those small children are. 
Along the way I tried to prove my vision wrong. Falling for a couple guys I told myself it was possible my vision was wrong. Each and every time I was left alone regretting ever thinking they could be the one to prove myself wrong. 

The first one blessed me with my twin girls and the realization that I could only count on myself. He taught me that I was much stronger than I ever could have imagined. I was quickly pushed into single motherhood at just 19 with two beautiful babies on welfare. I was sure I was doing everything wrong but devoted to doing my best. I think back and am amazed at myself. I honestly don’t think I would have fought so hard to become who I am if not for those little sets of eyes that melted my heart. I was sure I could never love anyone or anything as much as those girls. They stole everyone’s hearts and made every kid jealous wishing they could be them. I wanted to make those girls proud and give them a good life full of happiness and love. They gave me purpose.

The next guy took me from myself for a long time but in the end he taught me all about the strength of a mother’s love and forgiving myself. Along came my son, this amazing little boy who I was sure I couldn’t love, but he became the light of our world. Those girls were instantly in love with him and his little hands and tiny toes. He had this beautiful smile and he glowed when he saw me or his sisters. As much as he wanted to love his father, he knew he was not a good man. My son feared his father because of the abuse he witnessed. When that man was done with everything he put us through, it would have been easier for me to down a bottle of pills to escape the reality of what I allowed, and not one person would have blamed me. He put us through a living hell. But those beautiful kids that god blessed me with, I owed it to them to fight. To keep going even when I was sure I couldn’t do it. A mother’s love is the strongest thing in this world. And I had to try my best, even if it wasn’t good enough and even if I fucked up along the way, I could not leave them. And although I still struggle with forgiving myself, I do believe my children forgave me a long time ago.

After that I spent nearly 10 years focused on my kids and myself before dating and getting in another serious relationship. That one taught me how big my heart is and to accept my vision. As much hurt and disappointment I’ve lived through, I still have a great big heart ready to love. I still want to believe in the good in people, even when they don’t have good intentions and my instincts warn me. I want to believe my doubts are wrong. Stupid maybe, but maybe it’s also my big heart and that’s not a bad thing.

In my vision I wasn’t alone and miserable. In fact the sun was shining and I’m laughing. I’m filled with warmth from my life, I felt surrounded by peace and happiness. I knew I lived a comfortable life, not fancy but stable and strong. I knew that I had survived a storm, but I felt the calm of where my life was. I felt love, love for myself and for the journey to get me there. 

Apology to my children


1- I am the one who ignored his red flags. 

2- I am responsible for bringing him in my children’s lives. I took the risk with all our hearts and time by bringing someone in who I should have known was capable of having a negative impact. I was selfish in not considering how it would affect my kids to see me so close to an unhealthy man again. 

3- I pray my children forgive me.

4- I have completely closed the door.

5- I will again show you that strong independent amazing mom who makes you proud to have. Our lives will only continue to get better, be better and fulfilling.

12 things I learned from my mom

Today I woke up to the news of a friend’s mother passing. They were very close and I cannot even imagine the pain that she’s feeling. I can’t help but fear how will I handle that loss. This made me realize that I need to tell my mother how I feel about her.  Not how much she drives me nuts and annoys the hell out of me sometimes. I need to tell her the amazing things that I see in her, the amazing things that she taught me and how grateful I am to have her as my mother.

  1. You’re always there for family, no matter what. 

Growing up my family was very chaotic and dysfunctional but one thing was always for sure, no matter how angry you were at each other when trauma or hardship fell on a family member my mom threw it all aside and was there, even if it was her worst enemy. No matter how crazy my mom’s sisters are, that’s one amazing thing about them. 

  2. Her never-ending ability to be there for me and my kids.

I was 18 years old, alone and single, pregnant with twins. My mother was my Lamaze coach, bought me nearly everything I needed for my babies, and stood next to me during delivery. Five years later I was pregnant with my son, again alone from a failed marriage. My mom’s husband’s uncle had committed suicide, and he was like a father to her husband. The next day I went into labor, my mom came rushing and stayed with me, held my hand and fought the doctors to keep me safe. She helped raise my kids when they were young, giving me the needed breaks for my sanity. She was a cheer leader at their school and sports events. She is the best grammy, devoted and loving. 

  3. Strength.

My mom is the strongest woman I know, both physically and mentally. My mom has lost everything and stood strong and rose from the ashes, dusted herself off and was ready for more. She proved a woman can do anything a man can. She taught me to never depend on a man or anyone else. To be independent and strong. 

   4. No matter how hard it gets, you are mom.

I’m sure my mom had many days she wanted to run away, abandon all the responsibilities of raising kids and live a different stress free life. It’s hard work and too many times you feel unappreciated. You’re always on duty and your life revolves around what the kids need. You want new shoes? Too bad, kids need them first. My mom taught me to sacrafice my wants for my children, that they come first. And you work as hard as you can to give them a safe and good life.

 

 5. Even moms get weak and that is okay.

All the stressors of life gets heavy, even for a super-mom’s shoulders. The load sometimes becomes too much to bare and you fall. You get off track, you get a little selfish and want to put yourself first for a change. This is normal. It’s okay to fall. It’s even okay if you need a little pill every day from your doctor to help deal with the stress, as long as you get back up. You cannot stay down. You must regroup and get back to doing what needs to be done. No if, ands, or butts.

   6. Home-cooked meals are the best.

There is absolutely nothing like a home cooked meal made by my mom. Even as an adult I think my mom’s food is better than mine. It’s the love and memories from all the years she created full course delicious meals on a very limited budget while running on fumes. Everyone sat down to eat and chatted about their day, together. It kept us close.

   7. Have respect for what you have.

My mom came from a poor family. Her father’s parents came to the United States as immigrants from Croatia. Her mother grew up right here in South Omaha on 13th Street. They had 7 daughters in a very small home and it was normal for my grandmother to take in neighbor kids or relatives who were in need. While they didn’t have much money, they appreciated what they had. The small home was well kept and always clean. Growing up my mom was this way as well. We didn’t have much money but anyone on the outside was always impressed with our immaculate yard and home. Laundry & dishes done daily, vacumming and sweeping. No one came to our house messy, ever. 

Once my sister spilled red kool-aid on our new cream colored carpet in the living room. Quickly she tried to clean with bleach to remove the stain before our mom had a chance to see it. Long story short we all had to spend a whole weekend bleaching that carpet to match that stain, with windows open and gasping for air. My mom was raised to respect and take care of what she had, to take pride in yourself, your home and your family.
 

 
   8. The kids are a reflection of the parents. 

As kids, we were always clean and had nice clothes. Me and my sister’s hair was always braided or in pig-tails. We were taught respect and manners. It was obvious my mom worked hard at being a mom like she had with the many stories she shared about her childhood. She took pride in that and made sure to carry on those values with her children.

  

   9. Work hard.

My mom always worked too much. Probably 60 hours a week or more, whether it was with one job or spread out with two or three. She strived to have nice things but knew the value of hard work. My mom was never afraid to get her hands dirty. Whether she cleaned apartments for side money, or took on projects like a rental house deal, she never cut corners and always cleaned everything so it was fit for a king. And she never let the long hours at work affect her home. That woman would run on just a few hours of sleep. She never slept through the night, she would get up to switch the laundry over and fold the finished load through the night.  I’m sure it would have been easier to cut herself some slack, but she never did.

   10. Most importantly she taught me the importance of tradition. 

The Easter Bunny and Easter egg hunts

Santa Claus 

The tooth fairy

Holiday dinners with close family and friends

Family vacations

It was not uncommon for a last minute invite from my mom to one of our holiday dinners. If she found out that someone she knew had no plans for the holiday my mom instantly opened our home so that person would not be alone. My mom would stay up all night baking pies, up at the crack of dawn to start the turkey, everything from scratch, everything amazing. When I hear of other families memories, I think yours could not compare to my mine. When I come across somebody whose family does not celebrate; on one hand (now that I’m the parent hosting these dinners) there’s a bit of me that feels jealous. Like that would be so nice to just sit home and relax on that day off. But if they have small kids, if they have little children, my heart breaks. The loss of those memories those kids are missing out on makes me sad. 

    11. Be silly, be you and laugh

I love my mother’s laugh. It’s contagious. She’s comfortable with who she is and doesn’t worry about what others think. She is who she is and I love that. She taught me to love myself and not give a shit what other people think. 

   12. Sometimes be impulsive

When you have the weight of the world on your shoulders, it’s easy to forget how to have fun. You get stuck focusing on all the responsibilities you have, bills that are due, groceries to buy, appointments to make. You forget to live life. Sometimes you need to buy yourself those shoes, or do something crazy like get a tattoo. Sometimes be spur of the moment. 

   I’m so very grateful for my mother. She taught me so many wonderful things about being a strong person and a wonderful mother. Because of her I have raised great kids who are thoughtful, loving and kind. She taught me to believe in myself, to value who I am and to be proud of what I’ve accomplished. On a rough day at work I can hear her telling me how smart I am and how impressed she is with me. That helps me regroup and get back to being my fierce self. She reminds me to know my worth and never settle. She has become my voice of reason when my frustrations cloud my emotions. I could not be who I am without her.

Mom, thank you for being you. 

Total bad ass

Dude….that’s my mom – http://wp.me/p271pb-3T

Feeling blessed

Today was a typical Sunday. I did laundry, we took a mid-day nap, we made dinner together, we ate together and teased each other, I did the dishes while my daughter ran to get us ice cream. I finished up some chores and we ate ice cream then my daughter shaved our family cat. Towards the end she needed help holding him. She hated to ask me, you see I’m allergic of cats. Quickly she finished then told me to go shower while she cleaned the mess. Once I finished, concerned she asked if I was okay. Normally I am sneezing, eyes burning, crying for benedryl. I don’t know why but that meant so much to me, her concerned if I was okay. 

I adore my kids.They remind me all the time how much I’ve taught them, how much respect they have for me. They make me proud of my life. 

Still growing



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