Category Archives: mental health

El Salvador: A Beginning

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Let’s just jump right in: My mom never did a traditional baby book for me, but she did keep every single piece of paper from her adoption journey in a binder for me. A few fun facts I learned:

• She started the adoption process in September of 1986. (I wouldn’t have even been born for another 1.5 years!) She sent in her international adoption application November 3, 1986.

• My mom originally wanted to end up adopting 2 kids eventually. It ended up being just me.

March 16, 1987: her home study was forwarded to South America. (I will be born in a year)

April 22, 1987: her home study was approved for the Latin American Program. Based on her preferences, she would probably be best suited for the El Salvador program. She has more paperwork to send in, and then it’ll take a month after that for the approval on that end.

July 1987 she sends all her paperwork to El Salvador after her approval. Including power of attorney to Dr. Jose Manuel Pacas Castro.

•Then, there’s nothing for a year. Paperwork and applications expire.

•Then, there’s a paper dated July 22, 1988. It’s from Dr Pacas to Ana whom is a translator in all of this/adoption specialist of the Latin American Program. It reads, (translation) “Barbara Sophia Moreno is almost 4 months old, whom I previously inform you could be the referral for Ms. Cathy Houseman. The baby is very healthy. She is under the guardianship of the First Minor’s Court and her state of abandonment is being investigated by the authorities. At this time she is in the Hogar del Niño orphanage.

February 4, 1989: A letter from Dr Pacas to Ana reads: “As I previously promised you, enclosed you will find pictures of Barbara Sophia so you can send them to Ms. Houseman. As you can see some of the pictures were taken in September and others during the month of June of 1988. She is such a beautiful baby girl and very healthy she’s been receiving good care since she was born. I hope that by the month of May we have finalized and completed the adoption. I will keep you informed as much as possible regarding this case. I think Ms.  Houseman will be very anxious to knogw more about her daughter.

February 16, 1989: (I’m 11 months old) there is a note in my mom’s handwriting, “Barbara Sophia – sending pictures. Do fingerprints. I-600A (blue form). Reapplying – referral of child already, might be traveling soon. Need updated bank and employment statement.

February 17, 1989: letter from Ana going a bit more in depth of my mom’s notes. Says Dr. Pacas’ assistant Clara has been visiting me, making sure I receive proper care. My mom also reapplies for everything on this date.

March 1, 1989: Mom sent out additional paperwork and copies of letters

March 28, 1989: (I’m 1 year old now!) A letter in my m0m’s handwriting is addressed to Ana, “Ana, Talked with Dr. Pacas Friday and everything is going well. Barbara Sophia is doing well and is very healthy. Travel still anticipated for May. When going to El Salvador, stay in residential area. Dr. Pacas’ assistant (Clara) was in an accident and is in the States for surgery and therapy. Lost finger of right hand. Therapy for arm and leg.

And a letter to Clara, “Clara, I talked with Ana today and she told me about your accident. I am in the process of adopting Barbara Sophia and would like to thank you for everything you have done for her. Ana told me that you were visiting her quite often before your accident. I am quite anxious to see her and to see how big she is. Hope you will be home when it’s my time to travel because I would love to meet you.” AND GUESS WHAT CLARA’S LAST NAME IS!? AVILA!!! Isn’t that fucking crazy!?

April 5, 1989: From Ana: “Greetings! Just a note to let you know that I spoke with Dr. Pacas and he informed that the adoption process could be finalized by the first week of May. …”

April 19, 1989: note in my mom’s writing states, “Leaving on 26th – will be in El Salvador around the 9th of May. Apply for Visa through New Orleans office – need employment letter, bank statement, police letter, passport photos, $10 cashiers check – put rush on letter indicating travel end of the month.

And this is where the ball gets dropped on the American end of things. Nothing comes back in time. According to a note dated April 28, 1989, “fingerprint cards were sent to the FBI on April 6th and takes four weeks to clear. If I hear nothing, contact again to trace.

May 12, 1989: everything finally gets sent out.

June 15, 1989: She receives a Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative (I-600).

July 13 & 20, 1989: Fax transmittals to Ana from my Aunt Karen.

July 14, 1989: to Mr. James Montgomery, District Director, Immigration & Naturalization Service reading, “Dear Mr. Montgomery: Please find enclosed Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Representative for filing in the above captioned file. Please also find enclosed additional copies of a letter dated February 17, 1989, Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition and letter dated June 14, 1989 filed with your office months ago. Why is there a delay in processing this Petition? Please advise by calling my office as listed above.” Signed by Charles Silky, my mom’s boss at the time whom was a lawyer.  Stapled to that letter was a hand written note that stated, “Approved & forwarded to San Salvador 7-14-89” with a stamp dated July 20, 1989.

A Notice of Favorable Determination concerning Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition stating the application has been forwarded to the American Embassy at San Salvador. On it states that it was filed on 3-27-89 and approved on 7-14-89.

July 19, 1989: The Embassy sends my mom her packet she needs in order to travel and for me to be able to come back with her.

August 2, 1989: A copy of an invoice from House of Travel Ltd indicates my mom and Chuck are going to leave Muskegon airport and traveling to Chicago/Midway on August 12. From Chicago they will be flying to Miami. The next day (13th) they will fly from Miami to San Salvador.

August 3, 1989: A fax from Ana indicates that if my mom arrives on Sunday the 13th, she will be able to rest in the hotel and will be able to get me on Monday the 14th.

From there, there’s a few ticket stubs from the flight, and some colones, which was the currency used at that time. There’s also a note in Chuck’s writing, indicating the exchange rate between the dollar and colones. $1 colones = .16 cents! $100 USD is $625 colones!

She gets me on the 14th. They sign all the paperwork officially on the 15th. And I came home on the 16th of August, 1989.

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Avila’s Chicago Adventure – Part 1

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I took Avila to Chicago for her first trip this past weekend. We went from Friday, March 11 through Sunday, March 13th. This trip was about 5 months in the making – if not longer. I purchased a Stephen Amell VIP pass just before Christmas and we gave her the ticket for her 4th birthday. I explained to her how we were going to go meet “Casey Jones, the Green Arrow” as she calls Stephen Amell (since those are the two major roles he plays and Avila noticed as much in the TMNT2 trailer and was beyond excited). She was really excited to meet him, and we had decided she was going to wear a Casey Jones and Green Arrow crossover costume.
Avila: Casey Jones/Green Arrow

Anyway, we also purchased a CityPass to go to the museum, aquarium, and planetarium. Those three places were the most important to visit to her, so I told myself to just let her go at her own pace.

The morning of Friday, March 11th finally rolled around and I woke Avila up at my mom’s, where the kids and I stayed because of Matt working so early in the morning and Avila and I leaving at 7am. We drove the 3+ hours to the city of Chicago and parked at Soldier Field as my Uncle Steve had instructed (he’s from Chesterton, IN which is an hour away and his wife’s brother lives in the city).

Avila and I walked to Shedd Aquarium first and only had to wait about 15 minutes until they opened, since about twenty minutes into the journey I remembered the time zone change. We skipped the line and went right to will call to pick up the CityPass and map. I let Avila lead the way and take as little or much time as she wanted as she peered into each tank.
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From 9am CT until 12pm we were at the aquarium. Avila started whining and wanted a hot dog so we went out and over to the Field Museum of Natural History to view the T-Rex fossils.

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We walked around for a bit, Avila held a T-Rex tooth, she looked over some different antlers, and decided to make our way up to the second floor and visit the Sue Store and made a few purchases. She started whining about half way through the Asian bears exhibit when we went back downstairs so we made our way back down to the bottom level, in which we came from and hit up the Underground Adventure exhibit on our way out. It was pretty interesting and Avila didn’t have any sort of sensory overload meltdowns either, which is always a plus. We went outside and got some hot dogs, chips, and Avila-safe pop and ate our food as we made our way back across the street, through the park, and back through the parking garage at Soldier Field. Avila whined some more that her feet hurt and I put her on my shoulders just after we crossed the street and she was nearly ran over by a Segway Tours guide and her group. I sat her in her car seat and called my mother, to check in with her and texted Matt an update. Avila sat quietly as she watched Max and Ruby on the DVD player in the van and ate her lunch. I charged my phone, finished my food, and contemplated our next moves. I reorganized my purse and our bag of souvenirs as I waited for Avila to see what she wanted to do next. It was around 1pm local time (so 2pm at home) and we talked to Matt as he was picking Iris and Jensen up from Grandma Bea’s house at 1:30pm Ct (2:30pm at home).

I asked Avila if she wanted to go to the hotel now, or if she wanted to go to the planetarium and of course she was game to go to Adler Planetarium. As soon as we got to the park spot after leaving the parking garage, Avila said she couldn’t walk. I hoisted her up on my shoulders as I silently cursed myself for not bringing Jensen’s single red umbrella stroller with us. I lugged Avila’s 50 lb. butt on my shoulders across the street, pass the museum, pass the aquarium, across the street, and down to the end of the road to Adler Planetarium, and up the steps. My extremely out-of-shape self nearly collapsed (perhaps that was my lungs?) as I took her off my shoulders and she happily danced her way inside to exchange our CityPass for admission tickets. We were just in time for the 1:45pm show and we got seats in the front and Avila kept asking when it’d start. About five minutes into the show I had her sit on my lap and she curled up and slept for the remainder of the show. Afterward, we sat there until the staff made me leave, and I woke her up and we went exploring.

Adler was by far our favorite stop and it was definitely worth the trek we made to get there. I would absolutely carry her heavy butt any distance to bring her there again; she absolutely loved it and it was definitely worth it. We looked around in the room with more information on the planets, and even had a to-scale planets hanging up, with more info on the planets. Avila’s favorite planet is Mercury because it’s the hottest, so I made sure to snap a picture and we went to the Children’s Explorer part. Avila spent the next three hours just playing in all the different areas of the kids’ part and I loved watching her run around, press buttons, pretend to be an astronaut, and inform me of facts she’s learned about the planets. She had me read every sign to her, although there were ones I know she read first. Anyway, we played there for awhile and I had to forcibly remove her from the premises because we had at least an hour drive ahead of us now back to the hotel.

I carried her back down the steps, down the street, through the park, through the parking garage, and only let her down once we reached the van. I even made her ride the elevator on my shoulders. She was mad at me and she likes to dart off and doesn’t listen and has no sense of danger so I wasn’t taking any chances. I put her in her seat, gave her a snack and her Ninja Turtles blanket and informed my mom and Matt we were heading to the hotel. I GPSed the address and we made our way out and to the village of Rosemont. There was construction on the highway we had to use, but it was nothing compared to the outpouring of people that were on their way (luckily in the opposite direction) to the Trump rally and I was glad we were getting far away from that mess. Later I’d find out it was shut down and I was still glad we were no where near that mess of traffic, people, and idiocrisy.

We got to Embassy Suites in Rosemont about an hour and a half later, and we got up to our room. I showered and Avila called room service, and ordered herself chicken fingers. I got on the phone and okayed the purchased and ordered myself some chicken quesadillas and was happy we didn’t have to go searching for a bunch of stuff.

I decided we should go pick up our badges and passes for tomorrow’s FanFest early and we made our way out and around to the convention center, via the pedestrian overpass. I wasn’t paying attention too well on my way in so once we got the passes and our bands for the next day, we went to leave. We made a right instead of a left and Avila started complaining her legs hurt. I was starting to get frustrated that I’d have to carry her on my shoulders again, as I wandered in circles, lost and getting late at night. A woman and her younger son was coming back towards me and said, “Nope, wrong way, this doesn’t go back to the parking garage!” I sighed and hoisted Avila on my shoulders. I explained I was headed back to the same place and could I just follow them around at least please? She agreed, and we headed back. We had to go to the same hotel and we finally made it to the parking garage. They went ahead and went down to the ground floor to go back to their room and Avila and I got in our car and rook it to get gas and hopefully pizza.

Well, we got into the Mobil gas station and instead of trying to navigate and make a bunch of left turns in the dark on busy and unfamiliar roads we went through the McDonald’s drive-thru that was next to the gas station, and went back to the hotel. We parked for the night, changed into pajamas, and we called my mom and Matt both, to let them know we were safe in our room for the night. I set my alarm, and made sure all my extra batteries and phone were charging and I crawled into the bed, to snuggle my fast-growing baby, and fell asleep quickly.

 

Go here for Avila’s Chicago Adventure – Part 2: Heroes Vs. Villains FanFest (Day 1)
Go here for Avila’s Chicago Adventure – Part 3: Heroes Vs. Villains FanFest (Day 2)

The real Avila

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Oh, where do I start on this? I’d like this post to kind of give the history of Avila, and something to link back to to “catch you up to speed” on the wonderful being that is my precious first-born.
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I was not looking to have kids, to even settle down, when I found out I was pregnant with Avila. I was partying every day and had been having severe problems with excruciatingly painful periods. The doctor I started seeing put me on the birth control Seasonique, which reduced your time of the month to 4 a year. Well, when I went in to get my first refill after taking the first three months’ worth of doses, they said, “You’re not getting a laporoscopy or a refill because you’re pregnant.” My doctor even tracked the nurse down and was like, No, there’s no way. My first reaction was, Well damn I shouldn’t have stopped and got that pint before this appointment after all. So, you can see how my priorities were at the time.

Anyway, I told Adam, whom was the guy I was seeing at the time. He suggested I get an abortion and that pretty much solidified the fact I didn’t want anything to do with him anymore. Yeah, just tell the adopted girl to have an abortion as a form of birth control. Okay. Not.

Adam, whom was 11 1/2 years my senior, already had three children from two previous marriages already at this point. I tried to be cool and make things work anyway, for everyone, especially the baby’s sake,  but that just wasn’t happening obviously. The breaking point was when he called me selfish, and unfit, because at 6 and 1/2 months pregnant, I was going to absolutely still camp out in line for the Hanson concert that was only 45 minutes from our town. More on my Hanson addiction later, but just note that we basically broke up over a Hanson concert and I’m more than absolutely okay with it.
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Contrary to his belief, neither Avila, nor I died there in the front row or in line. I got pictures with them afterward and they signed my onesie I had bought for the baby.

As I mentioned in another post, I named Avila after a baseball player. He is named Alex Avila, and at the time I was picking her name, he was the Detroit Tigers’ catcher. I wanted something that was feminine, trendy – but not off the wall, and started and ended with an A. I’m a huge name nerd and I wasn’t going to take this lightly. I needed something that went with Adam’s other kids’ names, but could start it’s own “sibling set” later as well if/when I was to have more children. Anyway, my friend Sylvia (more about her later) and I were at Matt’s  (yes, now-my-fiance Matt) apartment, watching the Tigers game. At this point I am just writing down names that start and end with A, even if I knew for certain I’d never ever use them. Anyway, Alex Avila comes up to bat and I kind of perk up a little to the announcers on TV and stop writing. I said, “Hey, Avila starts and ends with A!” Then he hits a home run. That sealed the deal, Avila it would be if the baby ended up being a girl. Which, we never did find out what she was going to be until she was born. The general consensus was that “the baby” was going to be a boy and his name was going to be Benjamin David-Isaac. Which, is hilarious to me now, writing this over four years later of her birth. Nearly 5 years already since these events took place, which was May 12, 2011 when I found out I was pregnant with her in the first place…

Okay, anyway, I was due January 11, 2012. I had an appointment on my due date, and here we were, no baby in sight. I was dilated to a 3 and my on-call doctor was Dr. Deaton. He stripped my membranes at 10:00 am and sent me home to walk. I paced the living room for awhile, while talking on the phone to my friend Kristin in Lansing. I felt like I had a really slow leak and went to the bathroom. I decided to lay down since I wasn’t feeling any sort of contractions, or a big rush of water. I hung up with Kristin, and called my other friend there named Sunny. By this time it was around 1:00 pm and she advised me to instead go to the hospital. I took a shower and got ready, called Sylvia, and called my mom. By 3:30 pm we were at the hospital and the on-call doctor, Dr. Snider, told me I wasn’t leaving without a baby. Finally! We get settled into the room and they put Cervisil in to make me thin and progress further since I was only at a 4 or so at the time. So we watch at Dance Moms marathon on Lifetime while waiting for the 12 hours it needs to do its job. 4 am they start Pitocin to further my contractions but I’m still not feeling them. They screw around forever with that and finally I’m dilated to a 9. Dr. Schlice, my least favorite doctor, was on-call at this point and they had finally broken my water the rest of the way. It’s 12:30-1:00 pm and she moves the baby’s head around the rest of the cervix that hadn’t completely dilated yet, and asks me to attempt a push. Avila’s head damn near came out and I see my baby has a headful of black hair! Doctor tells me I can’t push anymore and at this point I can’t stop. The entire birthing staff come flying in and my slow ass doctors finally let me push again. Avila came out to her knees and the doctor made me stop pushing. I tried to stop, but I couldn’t and gave a half push and she was clear. Sylvia and my mom were there and before I could even ask what the baby was, she yelled, “We were wrong! It’s a girl!”
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I laid back and thought, “Oh Avila, I love you. I have a girl. I have a daughter.” They placed her on my chest and it was the most overwhelming feeling I have ever felt in my entire life. I’m adopted and so my mom’s love for me is this chosen love, and though it’s very emotional and overpowering in it’s own respect, I have this child, my own DNA.
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My own blood relative. The ONLY blood relative I’ll ever know on this Earth ever (at this point). It wasn’t a feeling I could describe. It still isn’t. That instant I became a mother is just, the single most powerful feeling I could possibly feel in my lifetime. Every single time was the most…the three most powerful, emotional, overwhelming, fearful, loving, cheerful, scariest, greatest, unbelievable, vulnerable, most perfect moments I’ll ever be able to experience in my lifetime.
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Avila was a pretty normal baby. Younger baby anyway. Yet, as she got older, and was doing more things, she wasn’t normal at all. And I knew. Matt came into my life romantically at this point and Avila was 7 months old. He met her at 8 months old. At 11 months, the three of us moved into our first home together. And we have lived here ever since. We hope to find some property out in the country more, house we can fix up some and have horses. We’d more towards Matt’s dad so that’s always good. I love his dad, he’s awesome.

Ok, so Avila was somewhat normal, until she hit around 12-18 months and her “quirks” weren’t just quirks anymore. I have a cousin that also has Autism, so it wasn’t an entirely foreign concept to me. I went to my Grandma, whom has done in-home day care her entire life, and I knew would give me her deep-heartedly honest opinion.
“Grandma, I think…I think she’s, special. Like, {my cousin}.”
“You know…yeah. Yeah, I absolutely think it’s worth looking into.”image

And that’s how that went. I went to our doctor and he was extremely skeptical at first, but I had came prepared, and listed every single instance that had gave me suspicion, and part way through he had agreed that I knew her best, and gave us the referral to Community Mental Health (CMH) for a screening. I was thrilled and terrified. I’m a very anxious person anyway, so all those weeks, those days, those hours, those minutes, those seconds were all so agonizingly  depressing for me. I drove myself insane a million times over and I dreaded the day, and yet, I looked forward to it. I was so nervously excited I could puke; I could finally have answers. I could be doing something for her. I could put this depressing anxiety into something good for once.

Then the day came. We went to the CMH building, met with a very eager lady, and she made me feel confident, just by seeing her. I knew this was right, I knew I was doing the right thing as her mother. And so they tested Avila, and she cried, and threw her fits and had her meltdowns. They hit every trigger for her – and of course, thus hitting every one of mine, but we lived. They had me fill out lots of questionnaires, interviewed me many times, and sign so many forms. As we were leaving, I asked the woman what she thought. She informed me she couldn’t say for certain yet, until she scored the tests Avila did, but she felt that she absolutely fell on the Autism Spectrum somewhere. I breathed a sigh of relief and shame at my feelings and fears for Avila going forward and awaited my letter in the mail. A week or so later, and I got the results in the mail. I ran out to the mailbox, and I knew as soon as I saw the thick envelope. I ripped it open and read that Avila was, in fact, on the Autism Spectrum and had been diagnosed with Autism. She was leaning towards a more Asperger Disorder type, but apparently that’s “no longer on the Spectrum.” So I read and researched every single thing I could about the parts Avila scored really low in to learn what I could do to help. I read a lot about removing artificial dyes, flavors, and preservatives from her diet and decided to give it a go. It was really rough at first, but within two weeks I already had a completely different kid.

Autism Testing is the bane of my exsistance

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So here we are on this windy, wintery afternoon, awaiting to go in for Avila’s annual testing.

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I always feel like a horrible parent at these things. That whenever she can’t do a skill or task, I instantly feel guilty because I feel like I should have been working harder, longer, with her on those things.

She has “high-functioning” autism, but really all that means is, she’s “different” and “quirky” enough to be on the Spectrum, to get the services, to make life that much more different and at times, difficult for us; but she’s not severe enough for people to think she’s autistic, or I have autism parents that get mad because “at least she talks,” “at least she can get dressed,” “at least…”

You know, I always knew she was “different.” I had to fight her doctor tooth and nail for a referral to our local mental health facility just for the preliminary screening, just shy of her 2nd birthday. Yet, she was unofficially diagnosed before we even left the mental health center! When the results did come back, she qualified for the most help we could get her from the State.

I researched, and researched, and researched what I could do to help her. I was never afraid of her diagnosis and in my heart of hearts, I always knew. So, instead of resisting and denying, I took action and put my insomnia to good use. I called friends that I had lived with previously, that have a son that is quite severe and what they were doing. I have a cousin who is autistic, and his grandpa and I worked tirelessly one summer to help him. He had changed his diet and so I started combing the internet. I started reading of parents whom had took artifical dyes and preservatives out of their kids’ diets and it was really helping.

By this time it was March of 2014 and I decided to give it a try. What’s the worse that’d happen? No change and I could go back to buying whatever I wanted?

Well, in two weeks I had a totally different kid on my hands. She had finally came out of her “fog” enough that I could start actually getting through to her. And I started working with her every day, all day.

I have never “babied” any of my children, and I feel we have done a good job of trying to be upfront, honest, and bringing everything down to an age appropriate level to include them too. So, we started watching Thomas The Tank Engine because she was getting really into trains. They talked about feelings and that was something Avila just didn’t “get.” So we started talking about the trains’ feelings and our own. And now she is one to tell us her feelings… very, very loudly but she’s at least trying to get her points across.

She started liking superheroes and so we started scripting and acting out The Avengers and the Ironman movies. We dressed up and started trying to slowly expand our pretending and imagination. I had always loved writing and making up stories so I just pushed her into that play. It wasn’t easy. I can script every single Marvel movie there is and some days (and some days still) there is not diverting from the screen play. But sometimes, and these times are my favorite, sometimes she makes up a new storyline for them. Once, after The Battle of New York (as found in the movie, The Avengers), instead of going to get shwarma together, Ironman and Thor went to Pizza Hut and ate pizza and cookies. Another time, Thor took Captain America back to Asgard and had him over for dinner, and Captain America was very kind and happy and thankful Thor invited him to his house.

We work very hard to expand her imagination, and we try very hard to give her nothing but facts because she really loves to learn new information. And she’s an elephant, she doesn’t ever forget. So we try to make sure everything we tell her is completely factual and correct. And if I don’t know, I make sure to tell her that I don’t know, but let’s find out together.

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Anyway, back to this wonderful annual testing. I know she needs it. I know it does nothing but help her. I know that it’s good to find out where she is, and what we need to do to help her. I know this. But I still can’t help but feel like I could be doing better for her.

Why I Need to Start Dating My Fiance Again

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Tonight Matt and I went to Pints & Quarts in Norton Shores for some dinner and discussion. I had asked him the other night to take some time and think about what it is he wants and needs out of our relationship, and the total revamp of our lives we are undertaking. I posed the following questions for him and I both to mull over for awhile:

  • What is it that I wish to achieve to better myself? Do I need something personally? Spiritually? Physically? Mentally? Socially? I knew that besides really struggling with the weight of my world right now, that some of it is from my complete hysterectomy that I had in November. I had everything removed and never started on any sort of hormones, so that was becoming a concern of mine. I had also had some pretty severe bouts of depression as a teen (those good ol’ 15-17 year old range), and plenty of post-partum depression. Avila and Iris are 20 months apart, and Iris and Jensen are 22 months apart. Then, when Jensen was 4 months old I had the hysterectomy. So, yeah, not a lot of time for my body to settle down and adjust to things. 
  • What is it that I wish to achieve as couple in our relationship between just the two of us? My counselor recommended we take the 5 Love Languages quiz and read more about it in the books by Gary Chapman and it’s something we had discovered previously. His concepts make a lot of sense and allow both of us to discover different ways to express our love to each other. My primary Love Language is Quality Time, in which I scored an 11. My lowest Love Language is Physical Touch, in which I scored a 1, whilw he got a 7. Matt’s primary Love Language is also Quality Time, in which he scored a 9. His lowest Love Language is Receiving Gifts, in which he scored a 0.  He scored an 8 in Worder of Affirmation (I a 4). Acts of Service I scored a 9, Matt a 6. Receiving Gifts I scored a 5, Matt a 0. So, it’s pretty obvious we have lots of work to do in order to make sure the other is really getting what they need from each other in this relationship, which was what I wanted to work on for us that we both feel happy and fulfilled.
  • What is it that I wish to achieve as family? As a parent? As a part of a parenting team? Our kids are pretty spoiled. They get basically anything they want or need and we are happy to make it happen for them. There was a time Avila really didn’t express interest in things, so when she started liking trains and super heroes, we made sure we let her know we heard and understood her. It was a really big deal for her to start communicating likes to us, so we all indulged. Not to make Iris feel left out, we made sure she got her fair share of things too. But don’t think that we didn’t also spend the time and money to take our children to different experiences. We love doing activities and going places, and learning new things as a family all the time so this point was really nice to get back onto the same page with, and deciding to focus more on that aspect of “rewards.” We make our kids do chores, just because they live with us and that’s part of being a family and living together, but there’s also things they can do that help us and we will give extra rewards for. Now, this part is going to be a new endeavor on our part, and exactly figuring out the best course of action to complete those desires is going to be something I talk about here. Cross your fingers for us.
  • What is it that I want Matt, or he want me, to know, from the bottom of my heart? Now, this one is sort of tricky for me. Because I always fear he doesn’t actually hear what I’m saying. However, I just wanted him to know that I trust him. That I love him very, very much and I always will. We know this, and it’s something we just get. But I trust him. When I don’t believe in myself, when I’m frustrated with the kids, when I’m just so locked inside my own head that it never seems like it’s going to get better; I trust him with my every being and know he is going to support me in whatever decision I make for myself, and ultimately our children and our family. If I need outpatient therapy and have to drive over an hour away, one way, he will make sure I have enough gas, and that my tires are properly inflated. That I know this, that I trust him fully to not take advantage of that trust, and I hope he trusts me too.

We got some good conversation in, while having an AMAZING meal and drinks, and getting somewhere in our hopes to better ourselves, our relationship, and our family. I’m glad I have Matt by my side, but I have definitely fallen into a rut of trying to be everything for everyone all the time. I forgot what it was to just go out with him, to dress up nice, to go someplace without the kids, eat a good, quality meal (I had the Californian burger, he had the Steakhouse burger, and we split a pretzel basket beforehand. AMAZING!) and have a quality discussion about our relationship, our selves, our kids, and our hopes for our future together. Avila’s behavior therapist suggested we make the time to go out, just the two of us, once a week. That we had to make the time, even if we just sat at park for an hour together; that we make that time to regroup away from the house and kids together.

Now, here’s where I get skeptical because I’m not quite sure how we are going to manage this. I know she didn’t say, go have a lavish meal every time. She isn’t saying take hours and hours to spend lots of money on each other. That we just need to take the time to get away from the chaos, and get to be adults together. I’ll be posting some of our date night ideas (and hopefully links about how they go!) in another post later. I just know, that we are both going to try this dating thing with each other again, and hopefully it starts helping our quality of love and happiness, so that we can raise happier, more loving kids.

The first post is always the deepest…

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OK, first off, if you are reading this, thank you. Well, thank you and I’m kinda sorry, haha. I’m starting this blog at the advice of my counselor to help me deal with, well, life.

I’m 27 years old, but I’ll be turning 28 at the end of March. I live in Muskegon, Michigan and have been here since I was adopted from El Salvador in 1989. I was adopted by a woman whom was single, and remained single my entire life. My mom is one of most selfless, kind, compassionate people I’ve ever met; and I’m proud to be her daughter, and that my children get to call her Grandma.

I am a mother. I have three children – two girls and a boy. My oldest, Avila, turned 4 years old in January and has been diagnosed with Autism. My middle child is a girl named Iris, and she is nearly 2 and half but thinks she’s right up there with Avila. She is neuro-typical and not only wants to do everything her big sister does, she wants to do it better. So that will be an interesting dynamic once Iris surpasses Avila on skills and abilities. Lastly, there is Jensen. He is my 7 month old son and I cannot imagine my life without him. He is seriously the best baby I’ve ever met. He has slept through the night since, literally, the day he was born. But before you start getting too envious, just note that Avila has yet to sleep through the night; she’s always been worse-than-a-newborn in that respect.

Then there is Matt. Matt is the biological father of Iris and Jensen. We have been friends for about 6 or 7 years now, and going on our 4th year in a steady relationship. Technically, we are engaged and though I have every intention on spending the rest of my life with him, right now the official titles and all the pressure from those titles have sent me into a crazy whirlwind.

Which, sort of circles me back to the reason I’m even starting this blog. This blog is going to be about my journey to finding balance between “mother,” “girlfriend/fiancé/wife/significant other,” “daughter,” “friend,” and simply, ME. Working with the various professionals with Avila and her Autism, keeping our household clean and organized, getting better self-help habits so my children don’t go through the hells I did – and still  do – with depression and anxiety. I’ve had a hysterectomy in November 2015 as well, so that’s a whole other can of worms to add into the equation. Plus, in addition to all of that we have the biggest-pain-in-the-ass dog I’ve ever met, a cat that thinks he is a kid, and two horses that we will be working on getting home once we purchase our first home on property.

So, if this seems like something you want to read for ideas, tips, you feel like helping me, or just want to read about someone else’s mess to make you feel better about yourself, then that’s all great by me. I hope I can use this as a way to make connections to all of the people that are dealing with similar issues, and really help each other in remembering we are not in any of our endeavors alone and that someone, somewhere, can help and wants to help. That’s why I’m here. Hope to hear from you all soon.