Court Again…

It seems that I can’t get even a year in without the interruption of being called to court by the ex-husband. We just finished one go-round that lasted a year and a half, in July of 2018. By August 1st of 2019, he had hired a new attorney (maybe his 10th attorney?), and filed yet again. Little AoA hadn’t started attending supervised visits as we had all expected she would. The dad hadn’t checked on her or supported her for over a year, and she ended up needing time to reconnect more slowly. The irony is, she is on track to start visits the same week we go to court!

Did that encourage the dad to count his losses and drop the motion? No…..

The only winners here are the attorneys.

I have grown to accept that I can’t help the dad in any way. He is not willing to keep his part of our court agreement or communicate in any way that could look remotely like co-parenting. It will have to be a judge who tells him what he needs to do.

I will go to court. I will listen to his attorney make false claim after false claim, because that is all the dad provides. He will claim as before, that he is a great parent, because he and teen son have nice visits for two hours a week at a supervision center. The motion at hand isn’t even about teen son.

The AoA kids want to have a relationship with the dad. They have not been alienated from him. They do realize that the dad has great difficulty parenting, connecting, understanding, and accepting them for who they are. They have asked for supervised visits. Someday, when they are older, they may be ready for unsupervised situations. When they are ready, I will support them.

We have four more years of this for teen son, and seven more years for Little AoA.

~AoA

Life With the Elders – Part 1

Our AoA household is a multi-generational home, with my parents (77 year olds), my youngest kids (11 and 13), and now my adult son (30). We made the decision to enter into this lifestyle, in 2014. At the time, I was at the end of a divorce that lasted 18 months. The kids and I had moved in with my parents after escaping an abusive and unstable situation. We left everything behind. The ex-husband was and is, not supportive of the kids. He wanted (still wants) “ownership” of them. He use to say that he “owned” me because he had “papers” on me. Anyway, my parents were the ones to help me support the kids when we were left without a home or our belongings. I worked as a public school teacher, but it would take time and a final divorce decree to start me back on my feet. During that time, we lived with my parents, and in a 2 bedroom apartment. We all thought that we could save money, and give the kids a better life, if we combined households.

Once the divorce was final, I started looking for a home that would fit all of us. It didn’t take long to find one that I would qualify for on my own. We wanted to make sure that it was something I could manage, should my parents pass away. We also didn’t want to provide any ammunition to the ex-husband, by way of suggesting that I couldn’t raise the kids and provide for them. I might note here, that the ex-husband lives on a 70 acre farm that he inherited (after killing his father-he inherited his portion -another story). He sold off some of the land and was able to have a small house built. When I was married to him, I took over the household bills, and enabled him to pay off the house, and raise cattle. The farm is now worth near a million dollars. No matter, since it is not “earned income”, it does not factor into his support of the kids. That is based on his “disability” check that he gets from the government. It doesn’t make sense to me, but it is the way it is…..

All of this helped us weigh the pros and cons of living a multi-generational lifestyle. The adventure begins! We have had a few ups and downs along the way. There is much to share, as we navigate this journey……

Everyone has a role

Rehabilitation in the home

Driving

School

Outside Help

Trying to do too much

Clutter

Memory Loss

Depression

Traveling

My own grandparents passed away in their 60’s. Neither my parents nor I have had the experience of navigating the geriatric years.

Join me on this adventure!

~AoA

This Did Not Disappoint!

Guess what movie I just saw with the AoA kids?

Star Wars- The Rise of Skywalker!

Star Wars has done it again. I was on the edge of my seat during the whole movie. I laughed, cheered, gasped, and clapped (the kids don’t really like sitting near me- at least there was no singing in this one).

The storyline was creative and very well done. They were able to work Princess Leia into the movie, which was amazing and beautiful. I won’t provide any spoilers, but the ending left me contemplating several theories and predictions.

When the first Star Wars movie was released in 1977, I was 11 years old. I have enjoyed being part of this generation.

~AoA

Outpatient at Home

When it comes to caring for teens who are learning to navigate mental illness, I have found that very little practical advice is available. It is easy to find information about specific diagnoses, but what they really look like in the home, is missing.

In September of 2018, my son spent a week in a mental health center, after having a psychotic break of sorts, during which he fractured my elbow. We started with a visit to his therapist, who helped determine his needs. Next was the local emergency room and being chemically restrained twice. It was heartbreaking to watch. After a night in the emergency room, he was transported by a sheriff, to a mental health hospital three hours away. I had to drive there to visit him, and meet with doctors. The doctors were able to detox him from medication that obviously hadn’t worked, and start him on a medication which they thought would work better. At the end of the stay, there is the question of what to do.

There are facilities to help kids with mental health needs, to have inpatient care. While this may be a workable alternative for some, it can be expensive. The facilities stay full, and for us, the nearest such facility was two hours away.

The other alternative is outpatient care while living at home. We set up weekly appointments with the therapist, and twice a month appointments with a psychiatric practitioner. We opted for homeschooling around this time. The truth is, public schools don’t really work too well with students who have to be out of school once or twice a week for therapy. There were no local therapists who could work with him after his breakdown. His local therapist felt that his needs were beyond her skill set. The therapist we found, was in the next town. We tried to continue with public school, but attendance was a problem, as the school would not accept a letter from his therapist, indicating the weekly therapy and twice a month psychiatric checks. My son was also getting farther and farther behind, with teachers not having time to keep us informed of assignments. It was a year of online textbooks as well, and most of the time, there was some special code or password needed, that my son didn’t have.

It was apparent that teen son was not going to be able to function as a productive member of the family. I was going to have to adjust my expectations and let go of some things in order to support teen son as he worked through therapy and medication adjustments. I don’t know if I did things right or not. I thought about what his days would have been like in a behavioral health facility. He would have three meals a day, some school lessons (which he probably wouldn’t do), and therapy. Well, I had to go to work everyday, so he was home with the grandparents. I taught him how to make his own breakfast and lunch, and set up lessons for him to do. In the evenings, we would do some school work together.

Over a year has passed now. The progress has seemed slow, but steady. I had to shift my own paradigm from one of expecting him to be “typical”, to one of accepting him for who he is. We have had to set goals and find strengths and interests. He does stay in his room most of the time. He joins in family activities if he knows ahead of time that it is coming. He goes to music lessons and therapy. He has friends he talks to about many different things. He has found and explored some areas of interest, and started volunteering at the animal shelter.

I admit, it hurts to think that the dad does not support him where he is. The dad has the idea that teen son is playing games on his phone all day, everyday. This is far from what he is doing. Teen son and I have had some great conversations about technology and how he uses it. His gifted mind takes him down many a rabbit hole. We have open conversations about addiction to technology. It is a reality for many kids in his generation, and something he will face.

~AoA

Christmas Memories Made

Another Christmas has come and gone. More memories were made. Our church had a Christmas Eve service this year, which is only the second year they have done this. Little AoA has become my church buddy, and loves going whenever we can.

We kept our tradition of having a collection of gifts to open on Christmas Eve. This year, there were Nutcracker outfits for Little AoA’s dolls. She had fun dressing them and doing a little photo shoot recreating scenes from The Nutcracker.

My mom and I took gifts to my aunt in a local nursing home. This is the little tree I put up for her. She had lots of sweet little gifts that she had received from visiting churches.

This is my aunt modeling a hat she got from the church visitors. She really loved it.

This is one of my favorite charts, because it is so true! I love socks! I love giving and receiving them to other lovers of socks. Last year I discovered a company called “World’s Softest Socks”. They are a little pricey, but easily become my favorite, “special” socks.

In typical sibling fashion, 13 year old son noticed that Little AoA had more to untapped than he did. She had a lot of smaller things like books, notebooks, and music books. Since October, I had been trying to get teenager to make an Amazon list or tell me what he wanted. He put one thing on his list (which he received), and acted like he was just annoyed with me asking. I had let it go, and figured that he would find some things after Christmas. I spent years trying to make the kids even, and ended up giving teenager things that were never even unpackaged. This is part of who he is. He takes longer than is typical, to process things that are not in his hyper-focused realm. It can be frustrating to deal with, but it is just not worth getting upset about.

Then there are the unpleasant memories that float around in the back of my mind, of the dad walking out on us Christmas Eve 2012. Thoughts then wander to current litigation, which has already cost more than years worth of Christmas holidays and vacations…. what a shame. The frustrating part is, that the whole issue could have been dealt with if the dad would just communicate, rather than go through an attorney (I think this is his 9th or 10th attorney). It should have gone to mediation first, which was not even attempted. It will most likely backfire on him. I can not control what he does or doesn’t do. I know the two kids would have much rather been able to take a trip or gotten gifts from their dad, over being dragged through a field of lies by their dad. I don’t understand why he doesn’t see this, but then, I can’t fix it.

Memories, both good and meh….. new traditions….New Hope…..

How was your Christmas?

~AoA

Moving Through the Season

December 23rd is here…. We have made it through another busy holiday season, and now we near the finish line! We have done a lot of fun and meaningful activities, with a lot of rest and downtime in between, because we all get tired.

The Pink Porch is a local boutique store. Our town is doing a great job trying to promote small, local businesses. We have not had a shopping mall here for over ten years. It is an hour’s drive to the nearest mall. We do have Walmart of course.

Little AoA has moved beyond the days of visiting Santa in the mall, but when we find him ringing a bell to collect donations for our local family center, we have to stop! He was at our Hobby Lobby ringing the bell this year!

Little AoA’s Girl Scout troop was very active this season!

We collected food and coats for our local family center.

We wrapped boxes for a local church that was having a food giveaway in our community.

We went Christmas caroling at a local nursing home.

It’s almost Girl Scout cookie time!

We had some fun playing and crafting with the family.

The guys enjoy playing with virtual reality. I tried playing the “job simulator”. It was fun, but there is more money to be made going to an actual job….

We can’t forget Grandma AoA’s birthday a week before Christmas! This year she got a denim jacket, so she could match Little AoA!

There has been so much activity, yet I walk around with the dark cloud of court looming over my head. Little AoA needed a little more time before starting supervised visits with the dad. I’m not really worried, because I have done everything I was suppose to do. Nevertheless, the financial drain is devastating, and all for something that could have been done through an email or text. The dad seems determined to hurt me and the kids any way he can. All I can do is stand firm in the truth. Little AoA was set to resume visits the first of February. The dad was given this information in writing. He still insists that there is no plan for starting visits. I am really done with his lying….it just hurts the kids in the end.

If I stop to think about it, I get consumed in a wave of anxiety.

I can’t fix the dad….I never could. It amazes me that an attorney would take such a case, but then, it’s all about the money, isn’t it?

~AoA

The Cards

The AoA kids have started contact with the dad, after about a year of no contact, as they healed from past trauma. There have been a couple of holidays/special days during the time of renewed contact, where a small gift would have been appropriate. Little AoA had her 11th birthday in September. In a letter to her before her birthday, the dad asked her what she wanted. Her birthday came, and she got a card. There was no money or gift with it. Now I try very hard to teach the kids about being grateful for everything, but this seemed kind of cruel. Please don’t engage a child in a discussion about what you can get them for their birthday or Christmas, and then only give a card. This is very confusing to children. They begin to question themselves and the giver. As somewhat of an optimist, I tried to help Little AoA be thankful, and find some humor in it. At least it wasn’t a _____!

Part of a divorce agreement is that parents will not speak ill of the other parent in front of the kids. Once the kids are older, they start to realize for themselves, the truth about others. Were the expectations too high? Does my parent value me? Does my parent care about me and want to know about my strengths and interests? Does my parent love and support me for who I am, and not for who they think I should be?

The holiday season has been upon us for a while now. The anticipation started building, the moment Halloween ended. The dad started his rants of threats, trying to get someone to say that the kids needed to be with him for Christmas. Playing on emotions has always been one of his strengths and hobbies. It has worked in the past, and resulted in trauma and heartbreak. It was Christmas Eve, 2012, when he walked out on me and the kids, with no contact or notice until late on Christmas Day. The kids will have that memory etched in their minds, as will I. Prior to that, he very much hated everything about Christmas, EXCEPT for him receiving gifts. He did not participate in any of it, and on more than one occasion, threatened to shoot anyone who brought gifts to our house.

….back to the topic….. after all that manipulation and playing on people’s emotions, he gave each child a Christmas card. No personal notes, no gifts, no money or gift cards….

The kids were confused to say the least. They are understanding more about their dad, as they live in a home of love and support. I think I was covering up for him the whole time we were together, by buying and giving things in both of our names.

When the kids were little, I would help them make or pick out gifts for their dad. Now that they are older, they are simply reciprocating what the dad gives to them. Little AoA is scared to give him even a picture or card, because the last thing she sent him ended up being used to take her, me, and her long time therapist to court! She had closed the letter with ,” I miss you”, and it was misinterpreted and used in court!

Just be kind….especially to kids who are developing the core belief systems that will shape their lives!

~AoA

Volunteering at the Animal Shelter

Today my 13 year old son and I went through training at our local animal shelter, so that we could volunteer to help with the animals. I love animals, but we don’t have any pets at our house right now. Little AoA is afraid of animals. I believe this will be a fun opportunity for me to spend some time with animals without adopting.

Teen son is suppose to be interacting with animals as part of his therapy work. We tried equine therapy, but he wouldn’t participate. Today, he did stand with our training group, and hear the instructions. He wouldn’t really interact with the dog we walked. He did go into the cat room today! He took a picture of a couple cats, and even did a little petting!

This could be the start of something good!

~AoA

Our Animal Shelter

Today I took teen son and adult son to the local animal shelter to inquire about volunteering to help with the cats. We signed up to go to a volunteer orientation next week. Since we were there, we went to the cat area to play with some feline friends. Teen son froze up and wouldn’t go in the room. At first I thought it might be because there were some other people in the room, but once they left, he still remained frozen. He sat on a bench outside the room and listened to his music while adult son and I played with the cats for a while.

This one was full of energy and ready to pounce and play!

This one seemed to want to be near the action, but didn’t want to participate. I held this one for a minute, and I could tell it was not super cuddly.

There were about 8 cats in the open play room. It was really interesting to observe the different personalities of the cats. While we were there, the volunteer animal photographer came in. He said something that just broke my heart. He said that the cats were all in different stages of recovery from trauma. I understand that. It wouldn’t take much for me to turn into a “cat lady”. My houseful of people is about all I can handle right now, but I am looking forward to returning to the animal shelter to interact with my feline friends!

~AoA

Homeschooling…How’s It Going?

The AoA kids have been homeschooling for a full year now. I have probably learned just as much as they have. The journey has been challenging, and for reasons I didn’t anticipate. To start, the AoA kids had become walking bundles of nerves, and really benefitted from some time to breath and discover their interests. They both had gaps in their skill banks. I knew that Little AoA had difficulty with math, but I didn’t know exactly how far behind she was in grammar, vocabulary, and spelling. When I started her homeschooling, I went with grade level curriculum. It became clear that she needed something different. She now works in books at four different grade levels. Her learning plan is completely individualized to meet her where she is and grow from there. She has time to pursue her interests, which at this time, includes memorizing Dolly Parton’s older songs and practicing her banjo.

The life skills she now has time to learn and practice, has moved her from being very immature and dependent, to very strong and independent!

Teenage son has been more challenging to work with. He is intellectually gifted, but has such intense anxiety that he was diagnosed with selective mutism. We started with me giving him some independence in doing his work. He was stuck…frozen, as if he just couldn’t piece anything together. I spent many months working side by side with him. We watched instructional videos, read together, and answered questions together. It felt like it took forever before he took the initiative to try to work independently. He had many gaps in math, which I never knew because he was always in advanced classes making good grades. We had to back up in math and rebuild his confidence.

Teenage son now works independently. He truly likes and prefers to do his own research on topics, rather than from a nice organized curriculum. This is the opposite of Little AoA. He and I set completion goals for the year, and mapped out the total number of lessons or standards that needed to be covered in order to meet state guidelines. He knows how many he needs to do each week in order to meet his goal. I send him the specific topics to research each week, so he is not overwhelmed by the big picture. He typically binges when he works, doing a ton of work at one time. He is much calmer now, and seems to be finding his way…

I admit, I actually felt like a failure when the AoA kids weren’t fitting our public school mold. I fought and fought to make them fit. I have always worked in the special education field, and exhausted every resource available. I was told repeatedly that what my child needed could not be provided because of lack of personnel. Teenage son spent a lot of time in isolation rooms, not for violent actions, but for anxiety and freezing when it was time to do activities that he was not emotionally equipped to do.

It has taken time for me to accept the kids for who they are and who they are becoming, rather than to worry about who they are not. This has completely changed my paradigm. I work with kids who don’t fit the school mold completely, and their families. I have become even more passionate about sharing this message with families.

~AoA