Sunday, November 1, 2009

I'm Back!

Yep, I realize it's been 5 months since I've updated my blog. Wow! I actually didn't realize it had been that long until I went on here. Just want to let everyone know I'm still alive, and post an update on what's been going on with me (warning - this is a LONG post!).

 The past few months have been really busy (and interesting). I (finally!) started a new job at the beginning of September. A real, permanent full time job with better pay and benefits! I'm working as an administrative assistant for a nonprofit organization that oversees and provides food and services to over 100 hunger centers and hot meal sites in the Cleveland area. It includes one hunger center in my suburb, which had been a great help to my husband and I during our employment struggles of the past year and a half.

So, it's not the best paying job, or the most exciting, but I am making a lot more than at the BOE (no more phone calls from irate voters either, ha, ha!), have a nice boss and coworkers, and a lot more flexibility with my schedule (no more last-minute, mandatory overtime!). It's also in a great location downtown - 5 minute walk to the bus stop (no more taking two busses every day either!), and close to restaurants and shopping (well, what little shopping we have downtown anyway). Mostly I'm just thankful to finally have a permanent job, and to be done with all the stress and frustration of job hunting. I was especially thankful after my first week there, when my boss had me send our rejection letters (!) to all of the applicants (over 50) who I beat out for the job!

On the down side, my husband is still laid off, and hasn't even gotten many interviews. He's been out of work for 7 months now, and is feeling pretty depressed about it. Fortunately Ohio has had a lot of unemployment pay extensions, so when his unemployment ran out in September, he was able to get an extension, and keep receiving benefits.

In other news, my daughter started 6th grade at a new school this fall. She was diagnosed with a math learning disability in 3rd grade, and we've been struggling with her previous Catholic school since then to get her the help she needed. She was being pulled out of class several times a week for tutoring, but was showing no progress in math, and too many of her regular teachers had little patience with her learning problems. Several of them completely disregarded her IEP, which allows her accomodations like extra time on tests. Her 4th grade teacher essentially told me that Bethany was lazy, and that she could do fine in school if she was more motivated. At the same meeting, the school gym teacher expressed her "concern" about Bethany's lack of interest in sports, and her difficulty in learning the rules of basketball. WTF??? I'm not athletic. I've never been athletic, and never will be. I admire people who are athletically talented, but I don't think the world is going to come to an end if a child can't play a sport! I think the emphasis on gym class should be the children getting exercise, and if they participate in class, that should be enough, and from what the gym teacher said, Bethany was participating, even if she didn't enjoy the class.

After 4th grade, things just really went downhill for Bethany. She had a terrible year in 5th grade, failing nearly all of her classes, despite her keeping up with her assignments and homework. Her teachers, unfortunately, did a lousy job keeping my husband and I informed about exactly how badly Bethany was doing in school. She hated going to school, and was getting increasingly anxious and frustrated. I also found out, belatedly, that Bethany had problems with a number of kids harrassing her and making fun of her (which her teacher never mentioned to us), and which she said her teacher did next to nothing to stop.

The school principal waited until several weeks after school ended to inform us that Bethany would have to repeat 5th grade unless we could get her private tutoring 4 days a week, several hours a day, and Bethany could "demonstrate competency in the 5th grade" material. Besides the fact that with my husband being laid off, and my working at the BOE for $10 an hour, that paying $200 or more a week for tutoring would have been impossible, I also felt it would do little to help Bethany, because I've felt for quite a while that she possibly has ADD and anxiety in addition to her learning problems.

After a lot of research and discussion, my husband and I decided to try to put Bethany in a small (110 kids from kindergarten to 8th grade) Catholic school here in the Cleveland area, for kids with learning disabilities, ADD/ADHD, and mild autism, about a 20 minute drive from our house. It's a beautiful school, in a converted mansion that a wealthy Cleveland area family left to the Catholic diocese in the 1950's, to be turned into a school for learning disabled kids. It's on 5 acres of land, all wooded, with a lot of deer and wildlife. The school is only one of two of its kind in the Cleveland area, and draws kids from the entire seven county region. Some of the kids have an hour to a hour and a half commute to school every day. It's also very racially and economically diverse, considerably more so than Bethany's last Catholic school.

The school has an excellent track record for its kids going on to be successful in high school, and go to college, and quite a few of their graduates have gone on to graduate from Ivy League colleges. I even found out that Bethany's LD tutor at her previous school is a graduate of this school as well. I had read about the school in our local newspaper a few years ago,  and it seemed like the right place for Bethany, but I figured we couldn't afford it, and I wanted to keep her in a school in our neighborhood. I contacted the principal of the new school, and she was absolutely wonderful from the time she first emailed me - so kind and understanding and helpful.

We went to visit the school, and I was really sold when I saw their beautiful art therapy room with clay, a pottery wheel, kiln, sewing machine, fabric, all kinds of drawing materials, and, the best part, knitting needles, crochet hooks, loom and yarn! Yarn! I asked the principal about it, and she said some of their autistic students like to knit in class, because it helps calm them down, and helps them pay attention. How awesome is that?! The principal and teachers truly made us feel welcome at the school, and thankfully, they were not only able to admit Bethany, but, even though we got Bethany enrolled late in the summer, enough financial aid to knock the tuition down from $10,500, to $3,500,  the same tuition we would have paid for Bethany at her previous Catholic school. It's still a struggle to pay with my husband being out of work, but I am so grateful Bethany is going there now.

Bethany is in a small class of only 15 kids (only three girls including Bethany!) with two teachers, and they have the ability to pull the kids out into even smaller groups, even to teach kids individually. The kids can take classes at higher or lower grade levels, depending on their needs. Bethany is in 6th grade, but is taking 5th grade math. She's getting weekly art therapy and occupational therapy, because she struggles with handwriting. The 6th, 7th, and 8th graders also have a bi-weekly social skills class. 

Bethany's only been there 3 months, but already it's been like a complete transformation. She wakes up every day eager to go to school. She does her homework without me reminding her, and without complaining. She's making a lot of friends, getting along well with all of the kids, participating in class, and keeping up with all of her assignments. She got her first quarter report card, and got A's and B's in every class. Her improvement in math has been nothing short of amazing. Her teachers are kind and caring, and I can tell they truly enjoy working with special needs kids. Everything about the school is very child centered, and much less strict than her previous Catholic school, yet they still hold the kids to high standards, and believe that all kids can be successful in school, despite their learning problems. I truly regret now that I didn't try to enroll Bethany there a few years ago.

My son Dominic, who started 1st grade this year, is still at Bethany's old Catholic school though. I don't care much for the school anymore, but the public schools in my suburb are for the most part lousy, and nearly all are in a voucher program through the state of Ohio (Ohio EdChoice), so I am able to receive a voucher to pay Dominic's full Catholic school tuition. I feel this is the best option for him right now. My husband and I are hoping eventually to move to another suburb close to Bethany's new school, that has very good public schools, and send Dominic to public school.

Hard for me to believe, but high school is only a few years off for Bethany, so I am already thinking about where I'll send her to high school. I don't know how well she would do in a large public high school, with her special needs, and having only been in small Catholic schools, and I don't want her to feel singled out and stupid being in a special education program within a regular school. It's going to be a tough decision when the time comes.

In addition to being busy with my new job and the kids being back in school, I've been busy with doctor's appointments for Bethany in regards to her school struggles. My husband and I took her to a developmental pediatrician at a local children's hospital here, and she after meeting with us individually, meeting with Bethany, and various testing and questionaires, the pediatrician diagnosed Bethany with an anxiety disorder and ADD. She gave us a referral to a psychologist at the same hospital, who specializes in anxiety in children, and also said she said she'd like to see how Bethany would do with a low dose of Prozac.

I personally would like to try counseling first, and see how Bethany does with that. She's already on several medications for asthma and allergies, and I'm reluctant to put her on something else too. I'm also concerned because there's been a lot of things in the news lately about how one of Bethany's asthma medications, Singulair, which she's been on since she was 5 1/2 or 6, Singulair, can cause psychological side effects in some people. The FDA just recently mandated a warning label for the medication, about side effects including depression, fear, and mood changes. I'm going to talk to the psychologist about whether I should stop giving it to Bethany. It has helped her asthma a great deal, but I won't keep giving it to her if it's at all responsible for her anxiety. My husband and I have an appointment for a parents-only consultation with the psychologist on November 21st. I just want to get Bethany the help she needs now while she's still young, so she won't have to struggle as an adult.

Well, I hope that wasn't too boring! I have been knitting (a lot!) over the past few months. I haven't bought any yarn in ages, and my only decent pair of knitting needles is a pair of size 8, circular bamboo needles (I've come to the conclusion that I hate metal needles, and that I'm not too fond of straight needles either), so the only things I've knitted are stash yarn projects, where I can use size 8 needles. I've been meaning to take pictures, and post on here, but my digital camera has been messing up lately. Hopefully I'll have some pictures to post in the next week or so. Now that I've gotten the hang of knitting, I'm really enjoying it! I still like crocheting, but I'm glad to be able to do both crafts. Maybe one day I'll get around to learning how to sew too!

For anyone who's been patient enough to read through this whole long post, here's a picture of my kids in their Halloween costumes yesterday. Of course, as luck would have it, it was 60-70+ degrees for the past two weeks, windless, and sunny, through Friday, then Saturday ended up barely 50 degrees and cold (yes, I'm a wimp - 50 degrees is cold to me!), overcast, and windy. We took the kids trick or treating with my brother and sister in law, my sister, and the kids' cousins and had a great time. My daughter also had a sleepover with her best friend, her 11 year old cousin Rosie.

My brother and sister in law recently moved to an upper-class suburb, and wow, those folks out there sure were generous with the candy! A lot of people were giving out full-size candy bars, some 2 bars per kid! Sure beats when I was a kid, and was lucky to just get mini candy bars, and of course, there were always some folks who gave out stuff like apples, boxes of raisins, or (usually from the older people), bags of pennies, ha, ha!

So, here's my hippie girl and Harry Potter boy (who refused to wear his Harry Potter costume glasses for the picture) at my sister's house:

Thanks for reading!


Sorka said...

It's VERY good to see you back!!
And good to hear all the exciting things going on! Now!! WE just need to get a job for that guy of yours!! It is tough out there!

Sandytoo said...

Hey, Laura...I was thinking about you the other day and wondered what was going on since you hadnt posted for quite awhile. Glad to hear about Bethany....its a load off a parents mind when a child is happy....I know. :)

My b/f has been working as the manager of an appliance parts store. He had NO experience but he has such good organizational skills that he got the store all set up so that things can be found and orders can be assembled quickly. He used to be a computer programmer and he STILL trolls and Craig's List looking for work. So tell your H to try to keep positive...something will come along. Just glad the bene's were extended.

Glad you are liking YOUR job too.

Enjoy your week!


Crafty Christina said...

Yay, I'm so glad to see you post! Your kids are sooo cute! The hippie outfit is awesome. I always wished I had hippe hair, LOL.

So glad to hear that you found a permanent job and things are looking up. It sounds like Bethany's school is a great match for her. Amazing how a new environment and caring teachers can make all the difference. Hopefully she'll thrive in this school.

Can't wait to see what you've been knitting. I've been a super slacker on my knitting practice.

naida said...

hi you, I hope you and your family had a Merry Christmas :)

congrats on your new job! thats wonderful!

thats awesome that you found a good new school for Bethany. Thats nice that they include knitting as a way to relax the children, it is therapuetic.
good luck with your knitting too, I tried, but it didnt take.

The kids look so cute!

chrischaos said...

congrats for being back!!

- !! Main St Review!!

Tina GivingNSharing said...

Hi - I want to commend you on putting Bethany first instead of keeping her in a school she hated and where the teachers didn't care.

I had the same issues as Bethany in my Private Christian School growing up. Looking back on it (30+ years ago) I wonder if I didn't have some ADD & Bethany's Math Problem - I absolutely hated school and it showed up in my grades. I begged and begged to leave and go to public school and it wasn't until 9th grade they gave me the option to pick a public school I wanted to go to. I went from failing school for 4+ years to all B's & C's and even a few A's & gained new friends that accepted me for who I was. Talk about an esteem booster!

As for tuition - God provided the tuition for Bethany's schooling and He will continue to provide for your families needs. Continue to lean on him and trust that He will continue to provide.

I can't tell you how many times in the last 4 years God has provided me with groceries, GC's I've won online & could use for gas, bills, and products for review that I could use in my home or as gifts for Christmas.

Here's to a wonderful year, new jobs and continued blessings for your family!