Grocery Woes

8019650_f520Hang with me here, because I swear I have a point. Off the top of my head, breakfast items I purchased for the house include the following:

  • 2 packages of whole-wheat English muffins
  • 1 pound of turkey bacon
  • 12 yogurts
  • 2 boxes of Pop-Tarts (don’t judge me!)
  • Multiple types of fruit–berries, oranges, clementines, apples, grapes
  • 3—yes, 3–boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios (they had a bundle pack that was discounted)
  • 1 Bag of Bagels–I buy the minis because they are more like a normal serving size, so I am estimating 12 were in the bag.
  • 18 eggs
  • 4 boxes of Nutrigrain-type cereal bars
  • a container of oatmeal
  • 1 box of Grape Nuts

I ate, I think, 2 English muffins, maybe a couple of pieces of fruit. I went to work for 3 nights and got off on the following Monday, and all of it–everything on the above list–was gone. What else didn’t survive the weekend? 3 boxes of granola bars, 2 boxes of low-calorie snacks I bought for myself, 2 boxes of snack crackers, an 18-pack of Jell-O, 2 gallons of chocolate milk, a whole pound of turkey breast. In one weekend. And that is just the quick items.

So it goes like this: I get paid, I determine a grocery budget, and I go to the grocery store. There isn’t a lot to go around anymore because my boss has cut down on our ability to work overtime, so I have to stretch what I do have. I clip coupons, I price match, I shop sales. I usually do pretty well, coming home from the store with the back of our SUV filled with grocery bags. On the last trip right before Christmas break, I spent $350 because I knew the kids would be home all day everyday. It would be more than enough for anyone.

Except for this family.

I never dreamed I would say this, but I cannot afford to feed this family anymore. More specifically, I cannot afford to fee Evan. The kid eats something and immediately goes back for more. All day long, this is how it goes. So my trips to the grocery store are decimated and when I come home from work after a 3-day stretch, there is nothing left and we spend the rest of the week running to and from the store, buying miscellaneous items because there is nothing left in the house. Which is decidedly unfriendly to the environment and to my wallet, as gas is fricken expensive. I have even had to let some bills slide to buy more food because they ran us out and we cannot starve for the rest of the week..

I should add that this does not just happen when I am gone. Last night for dinner, for example, John made chops, veggies, baked potatoes. When he made the potatoes, he made a whole bunch of them because they were smallish. I split one with Zach. John had one. Evan cried and carried on until he ate the rest of them. If we order a pizza, he eats more than all of us combined. One night, I made a pan of baked ziti–lowfat, of course, for John–and we all got a spoonful while Evan ate the rest of the pan.  He’s starving, he says. He cries.

We have tried everything. We’ve explained how obesity runs in our family, as well as hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease. We’ve had discussions about genetics and how John’s dad had to have open-heart in his 40’s and John had all of those blocked arteries this past summer in his 30’s, so Evan is pretty much doomed if he doesn’t amend his eating habits. I can’t make too much of an issue of it because I don’t want to make such an unhealthy connection with food, as this can also lead to problems.

What do I do? And the reason I am asking? Well, after the “polar vortex” that we have had that expanded the kids’ winter break, I am broke. We literally have no money. I have fed this child until our wallets, pockets, bank accounts are completely empty. And there is no food left. I have resources and I can get groceries, but the point is that nobody else will get to eat them. And even when we are diligent, when we watch the food supplies all day, being careful about what Evan consumes, our efforts go to waste when he sneaks into the kitchen after all have gone to bed and hoard entire boxes of stuff into his room. In the morning when he wakes, we have found empty boxes of snack crackers, granola bars, anything that he can easily take and snack on all night.

Do we have to sleep in shifts? Put the food under lock and key? Start buying by the meal instead of stocking the kitchen? And then when he cannot get what he wants, we deal with one of his meltdowns where he turns over furniture, gets violent with his brother, breaks our things intentionally.

I am at my wit’s end. I do not know what to do or how to do it.

And I’m hungry.

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What I’ve Dreaded Writing

Twelve days ago, we all watched the news and learned of the massacre of innocence at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT. I did. I cannot even speak on the level of sorrow, the level of waste. We do not know which of those children would’ve grown up to lead out country, which could have held in their young minds the eventual potential to cure diseases. We’ll never know the future those young lives held because they were ripped from this world. I cannot imagine. Cannot. I looked at John, tears streaking my face, unable to put into words how heartbroken I was at that moment.

And how terribly frightened I am.

And now comes the part where I tell you some things that are not going to make me popular, but in my little space on the web, I can say this. Only here. I hope you will hear me out, that you will try to understand. I cannot speak these words to family, to friends, to coworkers.

When I read Liza Long’s post on her blog, “Anarchist Soccer Mom”, my heart dropped to the floor. Because I was thinking some of those things, but I never could say them. It is a terrible place to be in where you are truly afraid of the potential your child has to do harm. Not just harm to us, his family, but harm to others, to undeserving, innocent people. My child is not violent. He never has been. But I see in him a volatility that leads me to believe that the potential to turn that way is there, somewhere within him, if not managed appropriately. I have felt like this since Evan was very young, and so I have taken steps. No violent games. No violent toys. My husband, the veteran who has some valuable antique firearms, is barred from keeping them in this house. I’m not making a statement about gun control here. I am making a statement about my family. If the potential is there, why taunt it out of latency? People have hushed me when I have said this, citing that there are multiple ways to keep firearms in a home in a manner that a child cannot gain access to them. To those people, I will simply remind them of the time when Evan was really young and too independent (what I now know to be a sign of Aspergers) and we feared for his safety, as he would fail to wake us up before he would try to cook. No matter the solution, he would find a way to outsmart it. And that was to prevent him from wasting groceries or cutting himself on a broken glass. There is no way I will challenge his intellect to come up with a way around safety mechanisms that prevent him from gaining access to something as lethal as a firearm. And not only that, but I see how he gets interested in a topic almost to the point of obsession. So no. No guns. Not for my kid.

But this doesn’t help prepare us for the day when he will be old enough to do things without me, without my consent. Those days will come. So I do all I can. It is a constant uphill battle. I have good insurance. I have access to some of the best pediatric services in the world, and it is still an uphill battle. Look at the years his father and I have been screaming at the top of our lungs in a crowded room before someone finally heard us, before someone finally looked into the idea that what is going on with my kid is not simple hyperactivity, but something more. And after all of those years, when someone finally listened, saw what we saw, look how long we spent on the waiting list to get him help. And we still aren’t there. We’re getting there, but this is such a long process. Why? Why does it have to be? And if it is for us, with our resources, what is it like for the families at the poverty level, the families without insurance, the families in rural areas without access to the services to which we have access?

So then I find out that Adam Lanza, the gunmen, the cold-blooded killer of these innocents, had a possible Autism Spectrum Disorder, and I became flooded with emotions. All of the fears for my own child, given his history and what we are currently dealing with, came to the surface. Became palpable. And I want to label this Lanza kid a monster not fit for human life. But in his descriptions, I see my son, with his big brown eyes and his tousled hair that is always just a little too long. In the descriptions of his family demographics and his upbringing, I see my family, my neighborhood. So I begin researching infamous names: Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold…Monsters, right? Maybe. But maybe these are just more names of kids we have failed. And those failures have multiplied exponentially to where they are manifesting themselves in even more kids we have failed–their victims.

I am in no way advocating violence, but something in our system is broken. We are missing things, huge things, that are creating costs with which we are not prepared to deal. We cannot handle any more loss of children. And while Adam Lanza was of legal age to be considered an adult, if he was truly like my son, I offer you this: my child is, chronologically-speaking, eleven years old. Cognitively, he is an adult. Developmentally, he is about nine years old. Emotionally, he is stuck somewhere between a toddler and a five-year-old. Was Adam Lanza really an adult?

And what of his mother? We can judge her all we want from our safe distance. From here, I can tell you that, if I would never dream of having a firearm in my house, why would she? I want to tell you that. But in my mind, I can tell you that coming to terms that your child is capable of taking such a turn is terrifying to think of. It is not for the weak of mind or heart. It is terrible to admit. Soul-crushing. Because we parents internalize everything. If my child is capable of such an act, what does that say about me as a mother? Am I, too, a monster? What did I do wrong? I have worked much of my adult life to obtain higher degrees to provide my children with more, better, best. I have sent my oldest to private school when the public school system wasn’t working for him. I have pursued treatment when something just wasn’t right. I have read the parenting books, followed the advice of experts. I have tried every discipline technique known, every reward system to motivate him. I have done all I know to do, and I still look for more ideas. But if my child were to do something like this, I would be the monster, and you would be judging me right now.

So while the media, the web, everywhere you turn, is arguing over gun control, over whether teachers should be armed, it is painfully obvious to me that we are missing the big picture. Something is broken, and we have to fix it. We need services to identify this stuff before it happens. We need to create a safe place for parents to turn to truly help their mentally-ill kids. We need to interrupt the downward spiral before a firearm even comes in the equation. We have failed these children. Yes, even Adam Lanza.