My baby made it, guess he isn’t a baby anymore.

Rio baby

19 years ago today was when the best thing that has ever happened to me occurred. River was born a tiny little perfect person. Pink fingers and white hair and blue eyes that everyone said would change when he got older. It took us years to figure each other out. Me the stupid 17 year old kid who definitely didn’t have shit together and the baby that never liked  much. We couldn’t figure out breastfeeding, I couldn’t figure out how to do it all. His tummy seemed to always hurt, we still haven’t figured that part out. He cried and cried and cried, unless I popped in some social distortion and bopped around the apartment. He changed every moment of my life and every fiber of my being.

River has fought tooth and nail for most of his life. From the horrible “colic” he had as a baby, to the inability to connect with other little kids at 3, the getting constantly penalized in kindergarten for questioning the teacher, getting kicked out of first grade, 2nd grade and third grade for elopement and shutting down. Arrested at 8 because of abusive teachers aides who shouldn’t have had a job with children. It just kept going and going and he just got so lost under autisms weight.

Removing him from school and teaching him at home was a break through, though I could never have gotten my son back without the help of the amazing people at The Childrens Guild Easter Seals therapy program in Salem, OR. I hear they had to close their doors due to budget cuts, which breaks my heart. The program of intensive therapy for River, Me and us as a family unit was what saved us. Teaching me how to help him, teaching him how to help him. All the tools we needed were delivered. No, it was not a cure. We know he will always struggle, but the tools they taught him gave him the ability to live in a world that is unaccepting, unforgiving and gosh darn loud.

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I was told once that I should institutionalize my son. That his aggression would make him a danger to everyone around him. That he would never function as an adult, they said he had no chance of finishing school. They were wrong on all counts. River completed his last final of the year today. He is graduating High School on Thursday.

River still battles his autism. He still takes things rather literally and still has tics that appear when he is stressed. He is more sensitive than other kids at times and he can rarely fly off that handle when pushed. But now, he has the tools to confront those stressors. he knows how to slow his breathing and calm his bodies. He knows that home is safe and always will be.

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River volunteers every week at the local food bank and thrift store.  The experience he has gained from working there has helped him grow immensely. He goes in and works like it is a normal job. They understand him and his needs and they support and encourage him. He is corrected firmly and kindly when he struggles. He has learned how to handle the stress of a job, which gets him pretty close to other 19 year olds maybe even past some in my opinion.

Today, my baby boy. The child who saved my life, turns 19. He may not be ready to leave home and take on the world, but he proved all those jerks wrong. And that is pretty dang cool in my opinion.

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So thank you to Easter Seals. Thank you to the amazing teachers at LRA. Thank you to The Action Center. And thank you to every single person who has impacted our lives. We love you and we thank you.

Now if you are in the area and know us, come party at the park with us Saturday. This boy deserves to be celebrated.

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Autism and changes, distractions and Angels

So this week has been kind of insane. Almost 3 weeks now since this whole scary mess kicked off. My emotions are finally starting to settle to a manageable level, or at least a level where I can shove them into a box and ignore them to focus on solutions.

The kids though, they are still having a rough time. The little dude most of all. Emotions are high around the house. We are all handling things differently. None of us very well though. Meltdowns abound. The singular joy of a meltdown is something i think every person should witness at some point. Maybe people would stop being so judging of other peoples parenting skills and just see that sometimes life is hard for kids. Maybe if everyone had to go through a meltdown they would just be nicer to others. Meltdowns are fricken hard. Why are we having so many meltdowns? Because we have no solid ground to stand on. No structure, routine or stability.

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Autism and routine are best friends. There are more meanings to the word routine than how you plan out your workday. The kids need to know what to expect. I can plan out our days and even in summer when no day is really the same, I can plan them. I can warn the kids when things will change. And when things are rough and unexpected, they could always fall back on knowing that no matter what happened they could go home, to their room. They could go home and everything would be as it was. Now they don’t have that. I have to start thinking of packing. I have to start preparing things. The problem is, we still don’t have any place to go and they know that.

River is having a rough time. His way of expressing that is picking on his brother more. He has a lot more attitude and is more withdrawn. He is also getting more emotional. Things are upsetting him easier. I am trying to keep things as calm and normal at home as I can but they still feel it.

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Eph being goofy with the dinobot cutout and apparently Marilyn is being cheeky back there too

Ephraim is just weepy and whiny all the time. He needs constant reassurances. He wants hugs and I love you’s every time he walks into the room. He is more dependent on his lovies and has certain toys he won’t put down. He has a little plastic pokemon that lives in his pocket 24/7 now. He cries at every little upset. It is hard to help him feel better.

You can only offer so much of the promise of structure and routine that they need, when you have no idea what the next week will offer let alone the next month. They both really need that routine and structure.

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Mall playgrounds are still fair game in our family.

So we have been keeping ourselves busy.

Wednesday we went to Eugene and spent the day with Ephraim’s father. We had a picnic, fed ducks, played at the playground, walked the mall and went to see The Lego Movie at the budget theater. That was a really good day. We kept very busy. Ephraim loved being able to visit his dad there were lots of smiles and giggles and hugs.

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Eph with his dad

Thursday started off rocky. Everyone was tired, which added to the emotions. Especially in Ephraim. He had a rough morning. In the afternoon, we went to a BBQ at a friends. That was fantastic for all of us. I got to talk with other adults and some of the conversations were about what is going on and offers of help, while some of the conversations had nothing to do with what is going on and they helped me feel human for a few moments. The kids both got to hang out with other people and had a great time. After the BBQ the boys went to stay the night at the Grandparents house.

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a rousing game of driveway soccer made this little dude happy

Friday, I had to go to the dentist, so the kids were at grandmas most of the day then came home and helped me make dinner and most of the evening was calm but as the evening wore on, the crankiness came out. Little guy actually put himself to bed early because he was tired and upset.

So today started off with a bang. Arguing and crying and questions. River is snapping at Ephraim and Eph is crying because River won’t play with him and the dog wants to eat the kitten and my head is still spinning from yesterdays pain meds and it was just all a jumble of crap that I had to wade through to try and finish writing my term paper for Advanced Anatomy and Physiology.

This was no fun and I thought I was going to lose it. Then, there was a knock on the door. Two packages sitting on the porch, with the kids names on them. Just in time too. The boys got quiet for a second as they tore those boxes open. Ephraim squealed louder then I have heard in a long time, while hopping up and down trying to get his new Stuffed Creeper out of the box. River, in his too cool teenage way, just said woah how cool as he delicately extracted his new dragon from it’s box. Both boys wore smiles as bright as the moon.

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It was hard to get him to stop hopping for a picture

We have angels. One of them sent the boys these gifts, just to give them something to smile about. Thanks M! You are amazing and we adore you.

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Dragons are the way to this kids heart.

Some of these angels are spending time looking into tenant laws and sending me information or searching for rental houses or asking if they can babysit or offering to pack. And some of them are sharing our story. There are Angels making donations and offering aid in places we never knew. There are Angels we have never met who are sending me words of encouragement.

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super happy boy, you can see from the puffiness how many tears he has had today, this guy made it better.

 

All of you, everywhere, have touched my heart. Right now it is so hard to focus on one thing. I am at a point where I am taking it a day at a time and when the days are too hard we go an hour at a time, But I am not giving up. I don’t know if the fundraiser will continue to get attention or if I will find a suitable rental or if we will be living in the camper for a bit, but I know that people support us and want to help and that is more then I have ever really had before.

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My phone was stupid today and his smiles aren’t often caught on camera, but he loves this dragon

So thank you too all of you out there. Thank you for keeping us in your thoughts. Thank you for believing in us and showing us people care. If you want to donate or share our story we would appreciate it. If you just want to send us a pray or happy thought, those are much appreciated too.

Always Love,

Domoni

http://www.gofundme.com/Dreaming-of-home

The Chicken Chick

How a cat changed my sons world.

Animals have shown they are good for people’s health. They can increase exercise, lower blood pressure and just make us happy. They also seem to have a very positive effect on children with autism. There have been studies that show a pet can help an autistic child learn to bond with more than just the animal. we have experienced a similar effect.

We have always had pets. I really can’t remember a time when we didn’t have animals. Most of my life we had them. All sorts from cats to horses. I have always loved animals and daydreamed about one day having a farm full of them. Not that I wanted to be a farmer back then because I hated living rural. I always wanted my farm in the middle of a large city. Silly yes, but  kids think of silly things.

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So my boys have always had pets. They haven’t had the same upbringing as me so their pets have ranged from goldfish to cats and we have usually had a dog. No matter what we do or where we are an animal is usually in the mix.

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So by the time River turned 5 we had random cats around and had found this lovely chow/malamute mix Sydney (best dog ever who we said goodbye to last year 😥 ) and River was always cool with them. He had his own cat but never really paid it much attention. River was more into building things and watching Sonic the Hedgehog or Pokemon related things.

When River was 5, we had a fire in our apartment. Luckily we were out at a friends that night and our dog was with us. See our stove at the time had push button controls on the front edge of it. A cat jumped up on the stove and turned an eye on. The eye got hot and caught the wall on fire and the kitchen was a goner.

A neighbor noticed the smoke coming through a wall vent and called 911. The fire was contained to the kitchen but soot and smoke covered everything in the house and sadly our 3 kitties at that time didn’t survive the smoke. We lost some of our stuff but we were ok, so that is what mattered.

River was mostly unfazed by the whole thing except for his worry about the cats. I was so heartbroken and stressed about what had happened I decided to lie to him. I told him that the cats had gotten out and were scared so they ran off. I told him someone had probably taken them home to be with new families. And he was fine with that until a redcross worker we were talking to said they had seen a story about it in the paper. I wasn’t aware it had been in the paper. He said “so you were the fire in the kitchen that killed 3 cats, right?” At which point River lost it and learned mommy had lied. That was not a great moment but we got through it.

3 years later, River is 8 and I am very pregnant with his little brother. My best friend at the time had a very pregnant cat. River would tell us every day that when she had her kittens he wanted the all black one. This cat was a whitish/gray almost Siamese looking cat. I told him sure if it had an all b lack kitten he could have it. So the day before I have Ephraim, the cat has kittens and sure enough one is completely black, not a touch of white on her.

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Enter Kairi, the sleekest smartest black cat ever. We did not get along most of the time. She could care less about people. She wanted to lounge when and where she chose, and you better get out of the way. She was the Queen. River adored her and oddly, she adored River. She would stay with him pretty much all day. She slept at the foot of his bed. She lounged on the couch with him as he played video games. And it was his job to take care of her completely.

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River never wavered in his care. He cleaned her box. He kept her food and water full. He loved on her all the time. He would be doing school work on the computer and he left hand would be petting the cat sitting on the floor next to his chair. They were an amazing pair.

And she changed him. 8 was the roughest year for River. He was violent and out of control. He could not tolerate the world. Everything had to be routine and safe. We didn’t leave the house much and when we did it had to be scheduled and it had to be a familiar safe place. Honestly, I was scared about bringing a baby into the chaos that was our life.

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When Ephraim and I came home from the hospital, it was a new experience and River tolerated it. He actually took to Ephraim straight off. He doted on him and would help me take care of him. Bringing me diapers and blankets and watching everything I did. Ephraim was sick from birth and River tried to be very helpful. I know sometimes it was hard on him especially when Eph had to have surgery and I was away for a week at the hospital with him.

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We brought Kairi and her brother Riku home when they were ready and that helped River get through things. He suddenly had his own baby to care for. He would sit and play with the kitten on the floor next to me as I nursed and rocked his baby brother. He was so proud of every little thing his kitty did and she connected with him. She calmed his storm.

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Something happened in that year. He was learning to care for his beloved Kairi and helping with his baby brother, and watching how sick Eph was and how much things were changing. He learned to let it go and roll with the punches. He learned that sometimes things have to change and all we can do is let them. He learned to find the storm inside his head and quiet it. The love his cat gave him would make things better. When he would start to fall apart, handing him his best girl put the pieces back together. He truly connected with her in a way he had never connected with anything.

the meltdowns have left Rivers life. He still gets stuck sometimes and needs to step out, but there is no more loss of control. He has battled the storm and come out the other side. There is still a large struggle everyday, but he is winning. We lost Kairi a few months ago. She snuck out the door and we fear a predator got her. River tells himself someone took her into their home and I hope that is true. She is 9 1/2 years old now and has a few good years in her so I hope that it is true. River holds out hope she will come home again and I let him keep his hope. Hope is never a bad thing.

That cat and I never were good friends but I love her more than most any animal I have ever had. She gave me back my son. She was our angel. So I believe that animals can change lives.  Ephraim has a kitty now that brings many  benefits to his life as well. It hasn’t had the same impact, but it has had a large one. We are thankful for all of our animals and how they have changed our lives.

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Now we are sort of starting that farm life. We lie pretty rural. The boys each have a black lab pup, they will be a year old in a month. We have two cats again and 20 chickens. We have plans to add more animals in over time and my kids love it and it has given us a lot of opportunity to grow.

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So give you pet some extra love, and if you don;t have one, consider adopting a new friend. Everything can make an impact from a tiny chicken to a full grown horse. Ferrets and kitties and mice and dogs, all give love and need love in return.

Always love,

Domi

 

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