Guest Author - Bonnie Sayers
Our family dynamics consists of three people - one parent and two boys on the Autism Spectrum. We do not celebrate Thanksgiving with any traditions, no visitors, no phone calls and no invitations. It is basically another Thursday, with the exception of no mail delivery to look forward to and many stores are closed.
It is basically feast or famine in my household, and has been for many years. We live paycheck to paycheck, no creditcards, no family assistance, no savings, no backup plan to rely on. I was hoping to get my paycheck on Monday and when it did not arrive I had to cancel therapy and social skills appointments for Tuesday afternoon.
I simply did not have the gas needed to make the thirty mile round-trip and could not be certain the mail would arrive prior to our departure time or that a check would even be there.
I was right to assume we would not be able to make it as no check did come on Tuesday. While others are making plans for their Holidays I am stressing out over where to get money to buy soymilk for Matthew and how to make $20 stretch. I did not want to spend ten dollars on baby wipes, but I had no choice and spent the other ten on microwaveable bacon and a bag of french fries. These are the items that Matthew will eat.
On Wednesday I returned water bottles to get $2.35 and used some change to puchase a gallon of skim milk that cost $2.99. I mentioned to another parent I drove to parent training for Floortime that I hated living like this in poverty and that we would be living on eggs and cereal until my check arrived. I had an hour when I returned home from training before having to pick up kids so headed around the corner to a market that allows neighbors to run a tab for items.
I had just been there the day before and got hot dogs, bottled water and six quarts of soymilk for $17.00 and went back for cough medicine since both kids had been coughing the night before and picked up six more quarts of soymilk and some bottled water. The total came to $24 at which time I was informed by the owner that they only allow customers a tab of $20 and I had exceeded that and doubled it.
As I walked home I felt very depressed and anxious wondering what I would do if my check did not come Friday and we had no more soymilk. I considered approaching the manager at the grocery store Friday morning with my kids in tow, just in case.
I could not let depression get the best of me at this point and figured I would go inside and have a few more spoonfuls of chocolate syrup to get that energy I needed to get the kids and my chocolate fix. I heard dogs barking and eagerly walked to my gate in hopes of getting mail. The mail truck was at the top of the street and then the mailman was in sight telling me he had just knocked on my door to tell me my check was here.
At that point relief set in and I wanted to return the items to the store, but went inside and dropped them, grabbed a bottle of cold water from the refrigerator and the videos I bring for Matthew when I pick him up and left for the Bank.
Since my Bankruptcy from 2004 I have been borrowing money from a check cashing service and wanted to quickly go there and pay back the $287.50 that was due from borrowing $250.00 over a week ago to make an insurance payment and get groceries and gas.
It totally slipped my mind that on the 15th of the month 24 Hour Fitness makes two withdrawals from my checking account. I changed my membership which resulted in two payments. This used to be deducted on the 10th of the month but I changed it to the 15th after having to pay overdraft fees for one payment when I was strapped for cash.
The Bank paid the amounts and charged me $22.00 for each one and then charged me $5.00 after the fourth business day, so when I headed to the Bank on Wedesday I was already in the hole $95.22 and then went to the cash checking place to make the $287.50 payment.
I did receive the $40 raise in this check, which I utilized for the interest rate on the $250 since I usually borrowed only $200. I had also filled out a Form W-5 for Advanced Earned Income Credit to get some extra cash in my checks to help with Holiday shopping. The clerk used the postal service as the reason for this not being added, even though I mailed it to him on Nov 5, and the timecard was mailed on Nov 15, which led to my check coming on the 23rd. I went two weeks and two days between checks and barely survived.
I also mailed on Nov 5, the Income Tax Refund for 2002 to get the EIC for that year since I had never filed, so I was hoping for that $430 check to get into my bank soon.
I get the kids from school and after relaxing at home for about thirty minutes we go to the library to return videos, play on computer and then hit the grocery store for food and necessities. Before we head home we do the drive thru at Burger King.
I wanted to try Sizzler for Thanksgiving this year so I could have some turkey or at least get it to go if it did not work out. Matthew was asleep by seven PM and Nicholas before 8 PM. I watched my tape of Young & The Restless and got a little sad at watching the families enjoying dinner with one another, fell asleep on couch for a few hours and then viewed the news and turned in.
At 5:21 AM Matthew woke up, so I went and changed his diaper and got him dressed. He needed his medication in his soymilk so our day was starting while Nicholas slept for another hour. I caught the news for a bit and then cable went out at 6:35 AM.
Matthew was okay with the library videos but was irritated by the noise of the cable not working and wanted me to fix it. Nicholas was working on a Dinosaur book he is illustrating and I decided to make sure my deposit at the bank went through so went online to verify this.
At this point I screamed when I saw that the savings account had $1,000 deposited on Nov 16. I filed two appeals on August 15th with SSI for each child's account. Two months later they fixed the error in Matthew's account and gave us back $160 and stopped taking $85 out of his check. The issue with Nicholas's was more complex.
On Monday Nov 14th Nicholas was home sick and I told him we had to go to SSI so I could report income. We were there a good hour waiting in line. While at the counter I again inquired to the appeal and was informed this was in process. I never got a letter indicating the error was found and the money would be sent into his account showing how they arrived at this figure. I also have no idea if he still has a $2,000 overpayment and if they are still going to take out $69 to cover it.
I was so exasperated at this point that I had money on the 16th and could have transferred it to my checking and avoided the ten dollar extra charge. Here I was sitting at the computer excited to have a grand to spend and four days home with two children during the busiest shopping time of the year. I wanted to spend some money and have fun. Monday Matthew has an appointment at Children's Hospital for a Dental consult so I cannot walk around a mall by myself until Tuesday. At least now I have the money to pay for parking at the Hospital.
It really is feast or famine in my house and feels like a rollercoaster ride wondering how I will feed my kids one day and the next contemplating a larger TV than the small one we have in the living room. I decided we would take out $300 and spend it at Walgreens and Rite Aid since they are close by and open on Thanksgiving.
We did fairly good only spending $72 at Rite Aid and $79 at Walgreens. When we left at 9:30 the cable was still out. Matthew was standing in the middle of the electronic doorway at Walgreens shaking the circular. The people in the checkout line were surprised when I showed up to get Matthew out of the doorway. He usually skips around the store so this was unexpected to see him at the doorway so close to the street.
We picked up a few DVDs, remote car and Aquapet for Nicholas. I got a magazine and new liquid makeup. It was a wonderful feeling to have $25 to put into the gas tank. Before we left the house I thought about the other parent I take to the parent training on Wednesdays and know they too live on SSI and were scrounging to make ends meet.
I called her up and gave her the run down of what took place after I got home and then Thanksgiving morning. I asked her if she could use forty dollars and we drove first to her house to drop it off. I forgot that she lives one block from Matthew's school which made him very anxious in the car. Once we past the school and he saw the parking lot was closed he was okay.
We got home about 11 AM to find the cable was back on. Kids had lunch and I got on the computer after searching around for batteries for the car and remote control unit. We had to take the batteries out of the GameBoy Advance, so our new list already has batteries to buy in bulk.
We left at 3:00 to head for Sizzler after a few diaper changes for Matthew. As I was coming out of the bathroom Nicholas handed the cordless phone to me and I had no clue who was on the other end. Turns out he said I was in the bath - since I came out he did not finish to say room, and answered it to say my mom is in bath. We still have to work on phone etiquette because he handles it like he is afraid of it and has no experience using one. We still are a family that has Dial up and never owned a cellphone. So the person on the phone was that parent we saw earlier asking if I wanted a plate of food. I told her we were attempting to go to Sizzler but thanks for the offer.
Sizzler is across the street from Toys R US, so Matthew was okay in the car thinking we were going there, until we pulled into Sizzler. Nicholas and I have been to Denny's twice when Matthew was in school for pancakes, otherwise since they were 2 and 3 they have never been to a Restaurant, and only Sizzler at those times too.
I packed a DVD and Toys R US circular for Matthew to have while in Sizzler. He grabbed my arm and hit me the whole time I ordered. We got a booth at the back and Matthew took off screaming and shaking the circular. An older couple sitting in the area Matthew was running into kept making comments to Matthew, but he was oblivious to them. Matthew slowed down somewhat to eat his fries, I packed up the pizza Nicholas did not like and the leftover chicken. I ate my turkey, cold mashed potatoes and green beans quickly. Nicholas spent most of his time playing with the salt shaker for his fries and chicken. I keep our shaker in a closet so this was the first time he had one in view and went nuts with it.
The dessert consisted of soft vanilla ice cream, which disappointed me as I wanted cake or something filled with chocolate. I got Nicholas a small cup with syrup and then we left. Some lady in the parking lot make a comment about Matthew being hyper and I informed her he had autism and she nodded like she knew what that meant.
I should have had Matthew in an autism shirt, but it slipped my mind this outing. Nicholas complained most of the time about having a brother with autism and I reminded him that he also does. He then goes on and on about how he can talk and does not do this and that. I told him it was Thanksgiving and I did not want to hear it.
Once home Nicholas wanted to watch Madagascar, Matthew needed his bottle with medication and I wanted chocolate. Matthew irritated Nicholas throughout watching the movie. At about 5:45 I sat down with Matthew in bedroom to skim around the channels and stopped at Paula Zhan on CNN and caught the end of an interview with Joan Lunded. At this point Paula said she was going to come back with another extraordinary mother and for some reason I just knew it would mention autism, and sure enough she said it would.
I grabbed a video I could record another segment to and waited for the segment. Meanwhile Matthew decided he wanted to shake his head and distract me. I thought for certain he would hit his head on the wall, but he did not, although his hair was all over the place and he looked like he was getting dizzy.
The Paula Zhan segment was very good - about a sixteen year old boy who filmed the Movie - Normal people scare me. He is high functioning and shared some great information along with his Mother. They have a websit known as Artists for Autism.
Then the neighbor decided to smoke outside the bedroom window where my air conditioner is located so the room smelled like a smoke stack. Matthew started screaching signalling he is tired and wanting to go to bed. At 7 PM he was asleep.
Friday I would love to go shopping, but it is not feasible to take my kids out into that madness. Nicholas already indicated he wants another neopet and I need a portable CD player so we can listen to somethings in other rooms beside this computer room.
During last week I knew I was ovedrawn and did not want to check my account online and see the amount so I had called on the phone to hear it. Had I gone online I would have had money sooner and been able to transfer it to the checking account.
I was very depressed with the overdraft for the health club, but I decided I could not cancel my membership as it is the only thing I have that does not associate me as the parent to children with autism. My identity is not needed to utilize the equipment and I like going someplace where others are and not being judged by how my children behave or who they are. The gym is the only outlet I have and I feel I would lose momentum if I had to cancel it.
Thankfully it will not happen. After the Sea World trip this past spring break I had told Nicholas we would go back over the Christmas Holiday. I realized a few months ago that would never happen and told him we would do it again on spring break, although it would not fall on his birthday and be three weeks later this coming year.
It just dawned on me that we could go, even though it is best to go with the income tax refund at spring break, we could afford to go now. I will finally be able to replace the printer that was stolen when my house was burglarized in April and can scan photos and make copies instead of having to go elsewhere.
Single parent families have a tough time juggling finances as is evident by our trials and tribulations. Somedays you really do not know what your next meal will be. This was the first Thanksgiving that we really enjoyed and tried to fit in with others in society.