The life of a college SAHM

Busy isn't even the right word for it.  I am utterly overloaded and swamped.

I am in a spring semester at the local college.  I've never taken a spring semester before.  I knew that the classes were 8 weeks instead of the traditional 15.  At least I THOUGHT I knew.  I walked into this semester thinking that I was going to have to work hard but I would manage.  I was sooooo wrong.

I am spending literally every waking moment that I am not tending to hungry and needy children (who, by the way are OUT of school, God help me) reading something for class, writing a critical analysis, preparing a technological assignment, and basically losing my mind.

As of this moment, I have a Prospectus that I finally completed that is due tomorrow, a 5-7 page analysis to begin that's due in 2 weeks, a 2-3 page analysis that was just assigned today due next week, an Excel spreadsheet I have to convert to a crapload of charts and graphs, an educational Pinterest board to create, 3 chapters of tech to read AND take a test on by Sunday.  Plus, I have to go over my citation sources and that in itself is over 40 pages of reading.

So that's why I've been gone.  Life happens.

I guess I should have known this was how it was going to be entering college with a family to take care of.  I am seriously glad that I don't have an outside place of employment right now because there is no way I could juggle all three.  Hats off to those of you that do!

A Change is Gonna Come...

The last year has brought about a lot of change in myself and my family.  I have done a lot of reflecting on who we are, who I would like us to be, and what we can do to make us better.  I know this is a long one, but bare with me...

For a long time, I will admit, I had a "pity me" stance regarding autism.  I have suffered from depression many times in my life, and the most debilitating was after I had children.  My first child was born with autism, and I honestly found it REALLY hard to mentally cope with it.  I didn't understand why my child seemed to want to not listen to a word I asked of him.  I felt that I had been dealt a shitty hand when it came to kids.  Honestly.   Everyone around me seemed to be enjoying motherhood and I hated it.  My household soon became filled with yelling, screaming, and chaos on a daily basis.  From everyone, not just the kids.  So there was a lot of times I wanted people to know my kids had special needs just so they would not think that it was ME that was the problem.

Over the years I have faced many mental breakdowns.  I have felt suicidal.  I have wanted to leave and never come back.  I even escaped through an affair, because I felt like I could exit with someone else and not have to deal with what I had at home.  And that last one I have never admitted to anyone except my husband and parents.  I needed a lot of help for myself psychologically.  First there was marriage counseling, then there was personal counseling.  I realized that there was a lot that I was not doing for myself as a person and I was being very selfish in taking out my frustrations, sadness, and inability to cope on my entire family and marriage.

So this year marked a lot of change for us.  I decided to go back to school.  It was something that I had been absolutely TERRIFIED to do.  I was afraid I couldn't do it, that I would not succeed, that I would be a poor student.  I didn't even know what to go to school for in the past.  When I was 18 I had wanted to become an English and Creative Writing teacher.  I definitely didn't want that sort of commitment now.  I didn't want to work and then have to bring work home with me and spend hours doing lesson plan and grading.  Teaching is a tough job!

When Holden had started preschool, I had a lot more time on my hands at home.  I wanted to get more involved at the school so I began to volunteer 6 hours a week inside the classroom.  I made copies, did teacher prep work, and worked with students that needed a bit of catching up.  I was later asked by the principal why I didn't work at the school.  At the time, I did not have the education to work at the school.  I only have a diploma.  But after thinking about it, I decided why not go to school and get paid for what I love to do there?  So I enrolled in a paraprofessional program at my local community college.

For the first time in the entire span of having children, I did something that was completely for me that I could look forward to. Chris noticed a change in me immediately.  It was different than the part time jobs I had worked at to get out of the house.  I was setting a goal to accomplish something for my future.  I was speaking with adults.  I was learning.  I was helping out students in my own classes.  I was beginning to feel human again.

At the same time that I started going to school, Shay started going through a really rough time.  We kept hearing it was puberty.  But it was BAD.  The defiance was up 10-fold.  He refused to listen to us at all.  He started throwing things, ripping books off the shelves, and having huge tantrums.  There came a time where there was a peak in the behavior and I literally wanted to check out and not wake up.  Ever.  I was done.  I was pouring my heart out to his ABA therapist and asking what in the world can I do to get this family back together?

And she really worked with us.  We set up charts.  We remained completely consistent with discipline.  We started to LISTEN TO HIM and actually hear what he wanted to say to us.  We stopped yelling (for the most part).  We realized that he has always felt like an adult, he has never felt like a child, and he doesn't understand why he has to follow adult authority.  It has been a tall hurdle for him to overcome.  His mindset was completely unlike a child's.  He felt like an adult that was always being told what to do by a mean boss.  We actually had to give him some MORE control for him to start behaving and listening to us.  It changed the whole way we parented.  And we started seeing results.  We also found out that he was not sleeping at all.  He was so overtired that he was crabby all day long.  We found some meds for him that really worked and he is sleeping like a baby now.  He is so much calmer.

Another thing that started to change was my faith.  I have pushed my faith to the side for years.  I grew up in a so-called non-denominational church.  It was like family when I was a child but as I grew up I did not agree with a lot of their stances on things.  It felt very judgmental.  It didn't feel loving to me, and it didn't feel truly Christ-like.  For years I stopped going to church because I couldn't find a place where I felt really at home in my faith.  I wanted to do things how Jesus did them, and I didn't feel that I could find that anywhere.  I found a lot of churches that had the right idea and message, but when it came to actually loving and serving people, I found a lot of hypocrisy.  I am big on helping the poor and in need.  But I found that a lot of times that came with a contingency in some churches.

I finally found a church that I feel comfortable in.  I found one that genuinely wants to help and serve others no matter what.  They are loving to people no matter who they are or what they have done.  And I have found so much peace in that.  I used to have panic attacks when attending a new church.  I hated going and it would send me into anxiety.  This church has eliminated that anxiety for me.  I feel at home.

So I think that a lot of change has happened here and we are in a great place.  It's not perfect, nor will it ever be.  But I have always strived to make our home a loving one and before it felt like there was too much stress and chaos for it to feel loving.  I just want what is best for my kids.  I think that we are actually getting there.

Why I Changed the Name of the Blog

When I originally started this blog many years ago, it was called A Boy Named Shay.  I had started up this blog for the sole purpose of informing my family about Shay's new Asperger's diagnosis, and how I, and we as a family, coped with it.  When Shay was diagnosed, I knew nothing about autism and knew no one personally who was affected by it.  The only person I knew was a woman on my online birth board forum, who had encouraged me to have Shay tested.

Without double checking and looking to see when I began writing, I think it was 8 years ago that this blog first came to life.  Eight years!  When I decided to start writing again after my last hiatus, I realized that we were so much more as a family than just focusing on one particular topic.  I didn't want it to be about all the hard stuff that we were struggling with, which is how a lot of times it ended up to be.

I have been on a journey throughout these years of figuring out who I am as a woman, as a mother, and who we are as a family.  We have had a lot of rough spots in the last five years.  My mental condition was questioned by me a lot because there was a lot of stress that I did not know I could handle.

I feel that in recent months, we have found a lot of answers.  We have started a lot of testing and gotten some insight.  Shay had a thorough neuropsychology evaluation and we learned a lot about his learning process and why he is struggling in school yet aces his standardized testing.  Holden is currently awaiting his autism screening.  Cora just learned she has a severe dairy allergy and that was why she was having severe stomach pains that we couldn't get rid of.  We have also taken a new approach to our parenting.  With Shay being in ABA therapy, we are learning methods of handling the good, the bad, and the ugly.  We are starting to do really well as a whole.  Our faith has been restored as well.  We began attending a local church that we FINALLY, after years of searching, feel comfortable being in.

So when I started writing again, I knew that I needed a fresh, clean slate.  Along with that I decided we needed a new name here.  I chose My Three Bears because my three children have a vast variety of skills.  They excel in areas, they are average in others, and they need a lot of work and support in some areas as well.  Kind of like the Three Bears story.  I look forward to talking about everything we do, including the good stuff, the bad stuff, and even the average stuff.  I hope you enjoy our new journey.

The neuropsychology evaluation

We recently had Shay evaluated by a neuropsychology clinic.  Although he is super smart, he has been having a lot of difficulties in school and not performing anywhere near what I view his potential as.  This evaluation was going to tell us what he was struggling with, not just subjects, but learning in general.  It would tell us his strengths, weaknesses, and what exact parts of learning he was having difficulty with.

The evaluation itself was interesting, to say the least.  He went into it easily enough, and did extremely well at first.  However, when the going got tough, Shay got frustrated.  When he got upset, he got loud.  He got mean.  A chair may have been tossed.  Then he took a break.  He walked off his frustrations, got a cup of hot chocolate from the lobby, expressed to us how unfair the test was and how hard it was, and then he calmed down.  When the test administrator came back to collect him, he apologized for his behavior and he went back to finish the test.  Remarkably, there were no other instances of chair throwing or yelling.  Thank God.

Today I went back to the clinic on my own to collect the results.  The results were very insightful and eye opening.  While we knew that his strengths were verbal comprehension and reading (he scored an IQ result of 140 in verbal comprehension and between 9th grade and college level in reading portions), his deficits in math, memory, and processing speed surprised me.  His working memory was below average (this is not the same thing as him remembering everything he reads, like all his science knowledge), and his processing speed was even lower.  Which is why anything that he is timed on, he shows poor performance.  His math scores ranged from 2nd grade to 4th grade.  The physician believes he has a specific learning disorder in math.

His IEP is coming up on Wednesday, and we have some suggestions in the clinic report that will hopefully help Shay in his areas of trouble.  I am also hoping that since he is going into middle school, he will be able to focus a lot more on subjects that he IS interested and does well in.  Specifically reading and science.  I want Shay not only to work on the subjects he has a hard time in, but to actually have something to ENJOY in school.  I feel that for a long time, since they focus so much on specific subjects, he hasn't been able to spread his wings in the areas he is good in.

So, it's a start.  We'll see where we can go from here.

To Bring Us Up To Date...

So, a little background before I jump in and really start writing again.  Just to bring us up to date...

Shay is now 11 and a half years old, in 5th grade.  He plays in the band at school.  He wanted the drums but thank God they don't give 11 yr olds drums so he got the "bell kit," which includes a xylophone looking thing and a drum pad.  It isn't very loud and he is surprisingly good at it!  He'll be heading to middle school next year, which terrifies me.  Next week is our IEP meeting to work out what needs to be in place for a (hopefully) smooth transition.  Wish us luck!

Shay still likes science, loves video games and is obsessed with Minecraft and YouTube.  He has combined these obsessions and now MAKES VIDEOS of himself PLAYING Minecraft.  Joy.  We've discovered some more issues since I last posted.  They have added ADHD, Anxiety, and Tourrette's to his diagnosis list.  Each presents its own challenges and we are working really hard with A LOT of people.

Cora is nine, will be ten in the summer.  She is in fourth grade.  She is in her second year of tumbling gymnastics and has also been riding horses for a while.  She's quite good at both, but a natural on that horse.  She has no fear and rides so beautifully.  She still insists that she is going to work with horses when she is older.  She doesn't want to compete in riding, just wants to love them.

She ha really blossomed into a sweet and caring individual.  She often puts others ahead of her and is very sweet-natured.  She works very hard and is quite competitive.  She really strives for excellence.  Which can also be a bad thing, because sometimes she gets very despondent when she has failed.  She is definitely a perfectionist!

Little Holden.  He has come SOOOO far since I posted last.  Holden is almost 4 and a half!  He finally walked at 2 yrs old, still wears braces on his feet to give support.  We really had to work at the talking, he is what I call a "labeler."  He says the names of a lot of objects (although often has poor pronunciation) but still does not converse with us.  He is going to be evaluated at the Center For Autism to finally figure out if he has that diagnosis.  I have said it all along that he is autistic, but we shall see if he meets criteria.

Holden loves the iPad.  He loves Max & Ruby, Dora, and Diego.  He is obsessed with letters, numbers, shapes and colors.  Loves animals.  He absolutely adores the ducks that live in the sub-division.  He will actually sit down and just watch them as they swim up and down the creek.  Trust me, that is a large feat for Holden to sit and pay attention!

I have gone back to school!  I never thought I would, but I did.  I enrolled in a certificate program at the nearby college to be a parapro.  After volunteering at the kids' school for a while I decided I really liked working with the students and it would be even better if it came with a paycheck.  I went back last fall, and if everything goes according to plan, I will graduate in winter of 2015.

So that's where we are right now.  I look forward to writing again!

Let's Try This Again...

I'm making some changes, and I am getting back into blogging.  I'll be staying right here, at least for now.  I changed the name of the blog to My Three Bears.  I don't want to center my thoughts around Shay, and I feel that is what A Boy Named Shay did.  We will definitely be talking about Shay and his autism (and many more issues we have learned since I last posted) but also Cora and Holden (and HIS issues as well!).  I can't wait to revive the blog!  I also hope you follow us on our journey!