Today….4 years ago….the first step….

It’s hard to believe the difference in my life today compared to four years ago on this day.  You see four years ago today was the day I finally got the courage to put an end to an immensely unhealthy and abusive relationship.  I was scared….I tried to break it off with him several times before and had always been lured back. Promises were made and broken.

There’s part of that abusive relationship that I’ve never written about.  I’ve rarely spoken of it, only the advocates at the shelter know the whole truth.  Why haven’t I wrote of this before, you ask? Because it still hurts too much.  Not so much what happened in that relationship four years ago but my inability to stop it.  I have guilt about what happened….why couldn’t I put a stop to it.  Why?  How could I let this happen and not take measures to stop it?

Was it the immense cloud of grief that consumed my life because of my husbands death just the year before? Was it the panic of isolation, the sense of not wanting to rock the boat?  The need to feel secure in a relationship….rather than….

Sigh….I’ve never blogged about some of the things that happened.  I suppose part of it is because I feel like a failure for not putting a stop to it.  How much is remembered? Does the hurt still remain?  Do they remember as I do?

Whom am I refering to you wonder??  Who is this vague “they”? I shudder at the memories.  My brain screams “Why didn’t you call the cops?” “Why didn’t you press charges?” “How could you let that happen?”  and the biggest most troublesome one….the one that will haunt me for a long time to come…..

“Why didn’t you stop him from hurting your children!!??”

Yes!  There! I said it!  He hurt my babies.  I did stop him, but not soon enough.  I didn’t press charges.  Why didn’t I call the cops?  Why???  What kind of mother am I that I thought…..what the hell did I think?  I don’t even know.  Looking back a lot of that time is still blurred by the cloud of grief I was in.  I know I felt trapped….I mean I was living in “his” home….I remember always walking on eggshells.  I remember him telling me that he’d had a relationship with the Shelter Advocate as a way to try to control me and keep me from reaching out for help. There was so many lies….so much power and control.

The worst of it was his inability to deal with Cecelia’s disability. You see he just didn’t have the patience let alone any understanding nor empathy for what it was she was going through.  Sure he read about autism….he lorded it over me….how much he read compared to how much I’d read and how dare I not read every book he suggested.

He always knew best.  He thought he could “break” her.  What do I mean by that? If you know anything about autistic children you know that they are always on the move.  It’s hard for them to be still.  Back then Cecelia had such intense sensory processing issues that she was just completely overwhelmed all the time.  He thought if he just restrained her….let her scream….that that would fix her.  That she’d eventually stop. She didn’t….she’d scream and scream and struggle against him.  She’d struggle so hard that she’d burst the blood vessels in her face.  Making her look as though she’d been polka dotted with a purple marker. That was just one of the things he did.  He was so strict, so firm, so controlling.

I don’t know how many times he did this to her.  I shudder at the thought.  He’d only do it mildly around me….except one time….the one time he just wouldn’t stop.  I screamed at him to stop.  I threatened to call the cops.  He let her go.  My poor girl….why didn’t I press charges?  How many other times had he done this to you? You had no words….no way of telling me if he was mistreating you.

Why??? Why!!?? Didn’t I press charges? I can’t answer that question now because I don’t know why I didn’t press charges.  If anyone were to do anything remotely resembling that today I’d not only press charges but probably get physical myself in protecting my child.

There were other incidents….other forms of abuse my children were subjected to.  I had a real wake up call when he went to spank Glenna (who wasn’t even a year old yet) because she was pounding her hands on the highchair….I happened to reach for her hands at the same time he took a swing at her.  He hit me instead of her….sigh….thank goodness for that!  My hand/wrist/arm was throbbing/red/swollen from the strike….he used a book….why is it so easy to see how wrong it is now….but then….then….

I’ve been told by very wise and experienced DV Shelter Advocates that my reaction or lack there of was completely normal. The power and control of domestic violence leads us down many paths that when we are in the relationship we cannot see as we now can….from the outside….hindsight….hindsight is 20/20….sigh….

Not all was lost during those dark days….I survived….but most importantly I learned.  I’ve found myself….I’ve found my courage and most importantly my intense instinct to protect my children has returned….no longer am I lost in grief….no longer do I blindly trust!  In my opinion, there are just some people who should never be around/have children, especially not chidren with special needs. It takes a very very special person to care for and love a child and an even stronger person to care for and love a special needs child.

I will never again so lightly enter a relationship with a man because part of me will always remember the abuse my children and I suffered in Bristol Bay.  Just now…..four years later….am I even starting to entertain the idea.  Sure I know that there’s probably men out there who love and cherish children that are not their own but….sigh….but….it will take a very long time and very special person to prove to me that such a person can be in my life. There will always be questions in my mind….”How much did he hurt her?  What happened when I wasn’t there? Will she ever be able to tell me if he did….does she remember? How cruel was he?”  Questions that will never have answers….questions I can only hope will be forgotten ….erased by many many happy memories since then and to come.

I’ve learned to not be rushed, to put my children first but most importantly that life is a choice!  I choose to NEVER let someone hurt us again like that.  I choose that, god forbid, I find myself in such a circumstance that I will follow through….I will press charges….to the FULLEST extent of the law!  Children cannot defend themselves….it’s our jobs as parents to protect our children….no one elses.  We are their parents…no one ….no matter what happens….can ever change that.

In my job….well for over half my life….I’ve been a mandated reporter.  It’s a necessary evil that should not have to exist for children should be cherished.  I think morally everyone should be mandated reporters.  Is it easy?! Oh heck no!  It tears a bit at my heart every time I’ve had to make a report of harm….but I know in my heart that I must do it.  We have to be the voice for those who don’t have one or cannot use theirs!

I take solace in several things today…..

  1. We’re safe….
  2. We survived….
  3. It could’ve been worse….
  4. I’m strong enough to share this….one of the hardest pieces of my life….
  5. I hope in this sharing I can help others escape the same fate
  6. I am me! I am proud! I know who I am! I know where I come from! I know where I’m going!!
  7. Never again will I give that power to someone else….it is mine and mine alone.
  8. I have a choice….
  9. I have a voice….
  10. Life is awesome!
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Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Happy New Year!

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Amazing!!! The realm of possibilities just shattered……

Let’s take a little trip back in time…..

Nearly 4 years ago we moved to Kenai not only to escape domestic violence but also because my daughter, Cecelia, needed help.  I knew she was on the autism spectrum and at 3 years old she was not talking.  We saw specialists and after months of evaluations and even a court battle we got her the services she needed.

She was diagnosed with Autism, severe receptive and expressive speech disorder and also suffered from sensory processing issues.  The State of Alaska came in and evaluated her.  They determined that she required the same level of care as a 15 month old toddler.

Since then she has received extensive speech therapy not only at school but also at a private therapy in addition to Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy.  Her waiver services provide her with day habilitation services, in-home supports and also respite for me.

We’ve been working very hard not only with all these therapies but also dietary changes and extensive supplement and vitamin research and use.  Even some chelation but it’s hard as a single mom to keep up with a consistent chelation schedule.

Cecelia went from having 16-18 major meltdowns a day….in which I’d have to restrain her to keep her from hurting herself with her head banging or hurting me or her sister.  We discovered that her sensory issues could be addressed with a SPIO suit, noise canceling earmuffs and sunglasses.  Through extensive communication and consistency we got her “team” (teachers, therapists, waiver staff, and I) all on the same page to meet her needs and new goals each year or sometimes sooner as she began quickly completing/meeting the goals we set.

A couple weekends ago was the first major meltdown she’s had in over a year.  We’re actually working on therapy strategies now to help her learn when to STOP talking because she chatters nonstop now.  She chooses frequently to not wear her “eyes and ears” she no longer requires a SPIO suit.  That last meltdown was different….rather than uncontrolled screaming she was screaming sentences and was able to talk herself out of the meltdown in less than 30 minutes.

Four years ago I never would have imagined that any of this was in the realm of possibility. Nor would I have imagined that her music teacher and 2nd grade SPED teacher would ask me if she could not only attend the Holiday Music Concert but also PARTICIPATE in it!!  I was floored.  This wasn’t in what I thought was even a possibility!  I told her SPED teacher to let her keep practicing as if she’d attend but I was uncertain….undecided….was she really asking me this???

Later on I was shopping at the grocery store and ran into her music teacher.  He told me how excited he was that she was going to participate in the concert.  I admited to him that I was still undecided but asked her SPED teacher to keep letting her practice.  He seemed surprised and hoped I’d let her attend.  I went about my shopping and a couple minutes later he came and found me again and told me all that they had been working on.  He told me that he was confident that Cece could participate in the concert….he twisted my arm….I caved.  I was on pins and needles for a week I worried about how she’d do.  I cried because I was so overwhelmed with emotion that they thought she could do this.

I never imagined she would be doing this at 7 years old.  I talked it out with friends, I asked for thoughts and prayers on Facebook, I stewed about it at work, after my students when home I was discussing it with my coworkers (all early childhood educators).

The big night came!  I gave her some extra supplements and some rescue remedy.  I invited friends and family to attend.  We dressed up and headed to the Kenai Central High School.  Her SPED teacher told me she did great rehearsing there earlier that day!  When she saw her teacher she started saying “Goodbye MOM!” She was ready to go.  The teacher asked me to sit back out of the stage lights where Cece wouldn’t be able to see me….see all of us.  Glenna and I took our seats and saved seats for my sister, her husband and children.

I tried to contain my nerves and my tears.  Her teacher sent me a text message from backstage because she was worried that Cecelia was refusing to put her “eyes and ears” on.  I told her to just go with it and let her choose.

The concert started.  First the third graders came out and performed….then the first graders.  I’m holding my breath…now it’s time for the second graders!! Here comes Cecelia….she stands up on the risers like a pro and then…..

They start singing!! (Click here to view one of the many videos I took) (Cecelia is on the top row all the way to the right.)

She did amazing!!  I am so insanely proud of her!  She has been asking to go back and sing more.  She’s just amazingly awesome!!  We’ll never stop working on helping her recover from her challenges.  We’ve come so far and have a long ways to go.  But never give up!  Always keep going!!  Even when her echolalia kicks in and she’s stuck on a phrase or word and repeats it over and over for 16 hours straight…..we carry on…..we push forward….

So many firsts this year!  Life is simply amazing!

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More vacation pics

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What’s up? School, fun, haircut, and our first family VACATION!!

 A picture post in no particular order

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Growing girls, gardening, grins, and going away

So it seems I only remember to blog about every 4-6 months LOL  What can I say….Life is Awesome.  We’re too busy living to find time to blog.  But here’s a picture update of the last 4 months…..Enjoy!

So here’s what we’ve been up to….

 

Planting our container garden….

We started nearly our entire garden from seeds this year!  The only things not from seed were gifts from my work/students.  A couple flowers, and a tomato plant.  OOH and the potatoes…..obviously plus two onions that were sprouting in my pantry so I threw them in some dirt and they’re growing well now.

Planting our container garden

Potatoes!

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Petunias

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beans and peas

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cukes or zukes….no idea which….each in their own mini green house. The tall one is a tomato plant I received as a gift from one of my students at the end of the school year.

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Watching it grow…..

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lettuce

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pansies….my favorite!

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kale!! Who knew it would grow so well??? Yum!!

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look at how big it’s getting!

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having fun playing at playland while sister is at summer school

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going back to work at summer camp, being 2nd/3rd grade teacher and watching my students create a giant fort on a rainy day

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Cecelia becoming enamored with Toy Story and making her own Buzz Lightyear costume

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eating yummy food! Zuppa Toscana!

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Enjoying our monthly or twice monthly girls breakfast out!

Counting down the days until our first family vacation!

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Exercising

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doing chores and helping around the house! Although I have finally….after years of pestering…..taken the advice of friends and hired someone to help clean my house twice a month!! (Why didn’t I do this sooner???!!!)

 

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Not only enjoying fresh kale from our garden but trying some purple potatoes we found at the store! Yum!

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Working hard, staying healthy and getting perfect attendance!! Woo hoo!!

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Cecelia was even able to overcome her sensory issues and joined her schoolmates during the assembly to receive her certificate. (And she doesn’t have her noise canceling earmuffs on nor her sunglasses!! GO Cece!!)

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and again 4th Quarter!! Goooooo Cece….GOOOOOOOOO!!!!

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My headstart class and I made this float plane earlier this year…How cool is that?? Made by 3, 4 and 5 year olds!! They had a blast!

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letting our hair grow AND having pony tails again!!

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And begging Mom to curl it with the curling iron!

 

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I loved Glenna with curls but she abhors them….dunno why….

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say cheese!!

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going to the carnival AND riding the rides!!! Yeah!!


Cece even went by herself!! She’s come so far!
(I had to take deep breathes but she did it!!)

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We sold our adult tricycle and the girls each got their own bicycle…..not sure if we’ll even come close to being able to ride them this year but we’re practicing!

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Glenna is much steadier on the tandem this year!! Last year I couldn’t hardly stay on the sidewalk b/c she wiggled so much. After about a month or so riding around town we were riding to my work. Enroute I’m reminding Glenna to pedal and she said “Momma? What you mean pedal?” LOL all those times she told me she was pedaling for the past weeks and she didn’t even know what it meant! HAHAHAHAHA

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Ceece went under anesthesia in June to have her teeth checked, x-rayed, cleaned, sealed and one cap put on. She has an enamel deficiency and has had to have several of her baby teeth capped. She cannot handle the dentist so this is the 2nd time she’s had to go under anesthesia for dental work in the past 3 years.

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she did great!

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And Glenna was a wonderful supportive little sister. Here we were having breakfast in the hospital cafeteria while Cece was in the OR.

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in the waiting room while Cece was in the OR

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36 minutes…in and out….she was a bit woozy and very snuggly as the anesthesia was wearing off

 

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Then she took it easy that day at home….wasn’t long before she was back to herself.

 So that brings us to now.  Here they are enjoying some girl time with a friend.jj

parade

And today we enjoyed the 4th of July parade.

Life is pretty amazing here in Kenai.  It’s been 10 years since I’ve moved to Alaska and I’m lovin’ it!!  It’s been 3 years since we moved to Kenai.  Now here we are planning our first family vacation to an island where I’ve rented a 3 bedroom house near the beach with a pool where the girls and my brother/sister in law will join us for 8 days in the sun.

We have big goals for the near future including buying a car and buying a home!  Not to mention the goals the girls have too.  Cece will be in 2nd grade this year and has made amazing gains in language, social skills, and just everything!!  We have conversations now and she is starting to answer questions sometimes too!!  Glenna has one more year at headstart b/c she misses the cutoff for kindergarten since her birthday is in November.

I hope all is well with y’all.  I’ll definitely try to get a post of after/during our vacation.  Be well….be strong!  Live life each moment!! <3

Posted in Ann Strongheart, autism, container gardening, family, first school day | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Blogging? Blogging? Blogging? Who’s got time for Blogging?? Not I!

So what have we been up to since my last blog post…..back in July!?  Yeah we’ve been busy.  Blogging has definitely gone to the wayside.  The only reason this blog post happened is b/c I’m home sick from work today with an ugly cold.  So I offer you this picture post!  Here’s hoping it doesn’t take another 7 months before I post again! :-) As you can tell from the pictures below….Our life is amazingly awesome!  So far we’ve come this past three years.  It’s been three years now since I escaped an abusive relationship….ooh how far we’ve come!!  Here….see for yourself…..what we’ve been up to….004

Made Cece a fleece Angry Bird Kuspuk!

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Glenna chose pink with butterflies.

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The Strongheart Girls!  Must have been after work b/c I still have a scrub top on.

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Another Angry Bird kuspuk but this one is cotton.

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Painting

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Look, Mom!  Angry Birds!

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Learning to cook…..mmmm fry bread!

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Me too, Momma!!  I’m a great helper!!

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Hot!  Owie hot, Momma! Be Careful!

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New wintergear!

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A present for Cecelia….9 rolls of masking tape….she’s in heaven!  Loves to tape!

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Me too, Mom! I’m here too!

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Let the taping begin!

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1st grade school picture

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Watch out!! It’s the backwards kuspuk monster!! Eeeek!!

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Look, Momma!  Cece’s dress fits me!!!

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I like my weighted sensory lap pad!

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Writing practice!

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Inside picnic!

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Making rose topped cupcakes!

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Glenna @ halloween @ the headstart it was pirate day!

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Cece making playdough cupcakes

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Glenna’s headstart school picture.

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making what I call my Death By Chocolate Cake.  Chocolate fudge filled chocolate ruffled cake!

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Glenna’s Birthday Cupcakes….pink!!

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I’m FOUR now, Mom!

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Her present.

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Cecelia was the only girl in her SPED class last year.  This year there’s another lil girl and Cece told me “Cece a girl now!! Ponies (Ponytails) please, Momma!!!

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Self portrait

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Making an Angry Bird hat.

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Which she had to wear…..even at breakfast!

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Happy Thanksgiving!

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Graham cracker house building.

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mmm candy!

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Can I eat it now?

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Making salt dough ornaments.

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Push!

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I did it!!

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Now to paint them.

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I’ll do the gingerbread men!

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I’ll do the stars!!

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Decorating the tree.

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I’ll do the top!

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Now for the glitter!

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No, Glenna!  Gently like this!

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Beautiful!  Now they need to dry!

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Cake I made for my coworker/teacher’s birthday.

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Sisterly love!

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Cece’s obsessed with tangrams!

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Learning to cook!  Go Cece!!

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Enjoying our weekly…ish breakfast at a local restuarant!

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Signing Christmas Cards

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Signing Christmas Cards

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Making and giving away Christmas Cookies!

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Fun decorating cookies!

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Stringing popcorn and cranberries.

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This hard mom!

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Christmas!!!

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My present from the girls!  Love it!

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Time to play with our presents!

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I asked Glenna if she could hear her heart going “Thump thump”?  She said “No, my heart says Daddy Daddy Daddy, cause I carry him in my heart, Momma!”  Yeah I cried too!

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Helping make a Death By Chocolate cake for Christmas dinner at my sisters.

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Let me check your blood pressure Uncle Tony!

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Christmas at my sisters.

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Strongheart Nail Salon is now open!

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Learning to color draw and write.

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Sledding with new sleds from Auntie, Uncle and Cousins!

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They love each other so much!

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weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

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Christmas Cookies for school/work/daycare.

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Eating lots of healthy and organic foods now!

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Loves to help cook!

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No thank you, Mom!  Can I have an apple please, no cookie!

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At Glenna’s daycare.

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Good Morning, Mom!!  Are you awake?? Time get up!!!

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Making princess hats.

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Getting a balloon from a stranger….random act of kindness.  The lady said it was her birthday and that she had too many balloons and thought Glenna needed one while we were walking to daycare one afternoon.

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Learning to sew.

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More yummy organic yumminess!

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I have a princess hat now too!!  Forget the Angry Bird one!!  (REALLY!!???)

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Amazing progress!!  Cece couldn’t hold a pencil or write a year ago! Look at her now!!  Look at the detail! Cecelia Skateboarding!

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Cece dancing!  See the music notes so that we know she’s dancing! :-D

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Making fry bread….all organic with coconut oil!  Yum!

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Waiting for her first dentist visit.

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Go Glenna!!!  Perfect check up…no cavities!

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1/2 and 1/2 cupcakes for Valentines Day!

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The 1/2 and 1/2 frosting was too much work so we switched to just vanilla.

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Nothing better than Chocolate Roses for Valentine’s Day!

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Even Glenna is drawing more and more.  Cece on the school bus!

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Growing girls!!  They both asked for an apple after a big brunchy breakfast. They just keep growing and growing!

So there’s a picture summary of what we’ve been up to since July.  :-D  Catch y’all later!

Posted in Ann Strongheart, autism, Christmas, cooking, Domestic Violence, family, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment