Lifestyle, Mom Interviews

Mom Interview #6 ~ Single Mom of 3 Special Needs boys

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Mom Monday’s

Welcome back to Mom Interviews!!!

Each interview will look pretty similar with the exception of a question here or there. I figured we might all want to know generally the same information about each other. The different questions will touch on their own personal mom situation. You’ll hear from stay at home moms, homeschooling moms, working moms, stepmoms… the list goes on and on. You’ll be given a chance to follow them on social media and see a few pictures to put a face with the interviewee. These are real mom’s with real struggles and I’m inspired by each one of them.

This week we are chatting with Erica Zuniga. She and I used to go to church together when our husbands were stationed in NC with the Marine Corps. We don’t really know too much about each other except what gets shared on FB so this interview has been truly eye opening for me. I had no idea she was going through these things and I am so thankful for her willingness to be open with the blog about her struggles. She’s truly a supermom if there ever was one. 

Lets get started on my interview with Erica.

Let me introduce you to Erica and her 3 boys!!

1. Tell the blog about yourself, we’ll get to the mom part later, we want to know YOU!! {Name, where you’re from, what you did before becoming a mom, if you’re married or have a significant other and how long, hobbies, passions, what books/podcasts/music you enjoy, etc}

Well my name is Erica, I am from Long beach, CA. Before becoming a mom, I worked at the YMCA as a teacher until I got married and joined the Marine Wife life. Got divorced about 3 years ago legally, but been separated for 7 years. I don’t have a boyfriend, I just kind of have someone I see every now and then but nothing romantic for now. My hobbies are swimming which is a huge passion of mine. Swimming is my escape from the whole world. When I swim I try to focus on just breathing and remind my self that God is with me.  I swim with an iPod filled with Christian music to help me feel closer to God while I swim. Swimming is my one true passion that I am so happy I can do it once in a while. 

2. When did you become a mom? How many kids do you have? You don’t need to share names but ages would be cool!

At age 23 I had my oldest who is 13 years old and then my middle son who is 10 and my youngest is 8. I have an older son who is 17 but he was placed on adoption/taken away from me when he was only 8 months old but thats a whole other story lol but total I have four boys. 

3. Tell us a little bit about your child(ren) and their special needs. What are the challenges you weren’t expecting?

Well all three boys have Autism just on different levels.

My 13 year old has level 1 autism bipolar, PTSD, Depression, Anxiety, ADHD  

My 10 year old has Level 3 autism, depression, PTSD, Intermittent explosive disorder, Anxiety

My 8 year old has level 3 autism, severe ADHD, borderline intellectual functioning (mental retardation

The worst challenge was when I was told …”everything you know about parenting throw it out the window! You must start new and there is no text book that can help, each kid is different so each kid will be parented differently.” 

That person was completely right, trying to figure out how to parent each child was the most difficult thing to do because I had to re-learn my children and re-learn what their likes and dislikes were, and digging deeper into it. “Why did my child like some clothes and not others? Was a texture thing or was it a color thing that bothers them and why.” Finding out everything to do with food and clothes and baths was a lot to process. 

I had to learn what an IEP was (Individual Education Plan) and how they work and learn my rights as a parent so I (my child) doesn’t get left behind or just skipped down the line and not get the right program for them. Normally you only have around one or two IEPs in a year, I normally have about 10-20 IEPs in a school year for all three kids and thats only on a good year. Last year in sept 2017 only two weeks into the school year and I already had 6 IEPs for one child. It takes a lot of time and I never thought in my life i would be a pro at IEPs and never did I believe this was going to be my full time, all day, 24/7 job for the rest of my life, because this is a lifetime of issues that there is no cure for.

4. What motivates you to keep going on the days you really would rather not?

God, only God is the reason why I keep going. I would be a liar if I said my children, and the only reason I say only God cause I love my children but I am human as well and there are times I don’t like my children. There are times I want to run away and never come back. There are days I cry in the bath tub and God is the only one who lifts me up and gives me the strength to keep going. He gives me enough hope and faith to keep moving forward. So God is the only reason I move forward. He shows me reasons to keep moving and there are just times when I look at my sons faces and their silly smiles and its enough to warm my heart up and i remind myself that no one else will fight for them like I will, so I get up and move forward

5. List a few things you wish people would understand or not judge about your momming situation or lifestyle? Explain.

Wow this one is super hard to answer because I know for a fact I am guilty of doing this to other moms before I was a mother and even after. 

I wish moms would understand that you can’t see autism, there is no such thing as “he looks autistic” and when my son has a meltdown not a tantrum please don’t look at me like “get your kid and parent him better” look.

When my son is being animated in public, which includes dancing for no reason, repeating sounds, overreaction to sounds, please don’t be quick to judge or mock. 

Its painful to see your son painting his own world his own way, in his own color and having people look at him differently or make fun of him behind his or my back. I can hear and see what people do behind my back and I do my very best to ignore it because I don’t want my children to ever be ashamed of being themselves in front of people. 

Also when any of my children are “misbehaving” I have to discipline in a different way than most parents, which a lot of parents wouldn’t understand and are quick to judge my way of disciplining my children. All my boys get ABA Therapy (Applied Behavior Analysis). They show me how to stay on topic and stand my ground with my kid no matter where we are. 

Example: We could be at a restaurant and my 8 year old (who has a mentality of a 3 year old) will want to drink all his soda at once and I will limit his drink intake and he will begin to screech his voice till he gets it back. I will have to just ignore it and keep repeating myself.. “no we are not going to drink anymore until the food comes” over and over till he gets it. This could last an hour to 5 hours depending on the child.

This is why am scared of taking my kids to restaurants and places like Target or even Disneyland. The place for children I am even afraid to take them to because I always have to follow through. I can’t afford to not follow through because I will only set my child back. Yes I even annoy myself and I hate doing it but I must.

6. On that note, if someone were to want to step in and help you in anyway, what would be the most helpful thing to receive? 

Yes it would be awesome! I do have some people who see me struggling and some step in and help me. However around big areas like airports, parks, theme parks, I would love to see people step in and instead of judge me or give me dirty looks or even be confused, just step in and say “do you need help” or “anything I can do?” That would be awesome. Believe me my pride isn’t getting in anymore, at the beginning it did but now I just wish I had 20 arms to do it all

7. Also, how do you find time for yourself? 

I am super lucky to have a village who helps me, but before my village I wouldn’t have any time for myself not even a shower. My kids don’t like not being able to see me close. So my free time was hot baths while the kids took naps, or were already in bed for the night. 

8. Do you work? (I’m not sure how else I could rephrase this question.)

I use to work but I had to quit 3 jobs due to having to leave work so many times for my kids. (they are runners, and they elope a lot)

No I don’t have a “job” but having over 10 IEPs in one year is work, and raising boys with different wants and needs is work, no special needs child is the same as the next one. 

My job is 24/7 I keep them safe because they elope a lot. They even sleep walk and try to leave the house in the middle of the night. So their safety is my job (this is completely understandable)

9. Do you ever have a sitter and if so, how does that work for you? In my head, I imagine lists with each boys name on it and instructions for them specifically tailored to fit their needs. 

I have two baby sitters that I count on, luckily they know the boys really well.  I still have the rules and schedules on the wall for everyone to see because sometimes they forget just like everyone else. The list is long of the rules and the schedule must be followed minute by minute because if you don’t, the boys know and they freak out. If I do ask someone to watch the boys I must give the boys a good amount of time to process that I won’t be home. There are many times I’ve been called home due to the fact the boys aren’t doing well with me being gone and they will have a meltdown so I have to rush home.

10. How/why did you have to have your 1st child adopted? 

I was 17 years old when I got pregnant. The father didn’t want him, so his family (Mormons) took me to their church and then to dinner on my birthday (Christopher was 8 months old) they tricked me into signing my rights away, they told me they would watch Christopher till I get back on my feet (work wise) and they took him away and never let me see him again. I fought for him but the state of California didn’t have a law against the way they tricked me to sign the papers. A lady that worked for the LDS Family Services said she was a social worker and she wasn’t. I only had Christopher for almost 9 months before they took him and I’ve never seen him since then. I get pictures every now and then. He is about to be 18 and I don’t know if he will want to meet me ever. (how awful) 

11. What personal challenges do you face as a mom, not just a mom of special needs boys but as a mom in general?

As a mom I always feel like am failing, always! I feel bad I didn’t see the problem sooner, my best friend Jen Rummel was the only one who had the courage to tell me she thought I should get Jojo checked and my pride was mad and I waited. So now am trying to rush to find answers when sometimes there isn’t much you can do. The worst feeling is knowing your kids hurt or there is something going on and they can’t tell you or spell it out for you. That’s my biggest struggle as a mom is being ok with things not having an answer or just letting things happen without stepping in every time, or allowing someone else like a professional to do your job. The ABA Therapist make the boys cry at times especially, when they are teaching them something new. Example: David hates Disneyland just hates it, the loud noise the bright lights and the unexpected is all around him. So Shereka his ABA Therapist, went with us and she had to do hand over hand with him and made him cry many times to help him get through the fear. That was so painful to watch and not be able to step in and say “no leave him alone” and just take him home but I know deep down inside it was for his benefit. Now he can go to Disneyland without crying and freaking out. He won’t ride the rides yet but he will allow me to take him and take pictures and he does have fun just without the rides. Letting go is my biggest weakness with my boys I just want to protect them from this ugly world but they will have to learn on their own 

12. Tell us how we can keep up with you. Website, FB, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube.

13.This last thing is an idea I got from a podcast I love. Share with us your 3 favorite things right now. This could be anything, a book, a favorite restaurant, your favorite coffee flavor, your favorite song, your PJ’s, TV show, laundry detergent lol… anything at all.

    1. Swimming will always be my favorite 
    1. Coffee keeps me going…. I always need about 6-9 shots in my coffee in the morning 
  1. My favorite PJs are my Harley Quinn onesie lol 

Y’all, wasn’t that amazing? This just goes to show you that you don’t always know what’s going on in someone’s life. I’m so thankful that she was so open with me during this, there were some really tough things in there that I definitely double-checked if she really wanted them shared on here. She gave me the green light but I don’t know that I would’ve been that brave. She’s a superhero for sure. My prayer is that this hits others the way it hit me, with a conviction to start looking to help moms whether you know their circumstances or not. Asking could be half the battle because I know I struggle with just keeping to myself and not butting in but it could be just the pick me up that mom needs. Wouldn’t you want to be a light in someone’s dark moment? I know I would be.  

As always don’t forget to follow me on Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram.

Have an amazing day y’all, see ya next time!!

Ruth 1:16 ~ But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.
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