Monday, November 6, 2017

Pretty sure I was screwing it all up

After the trial-run of  the online school year, summer could not come soon enough. I found that along with trying to do the best thing for Hunter, I lost a piece of myself. I had decided to do the online school because I felt it was the right thing for him at the time.

We had moved from Texas to a small town in Indiana. In the process of selling our house and moving back, he had lost his Great-Grandmother and our sweet dog. Moving meant separating him from the friendships he had acquired while in Texas. Then, we had moved into my parents' house while we built ours, allowing him no privacy.

We moved into our new home in March. Finally, we were able to get him into his own learning space and really give the online schooling a real shot, but we were almost done with the school year. By this time, he was emotionally unreachable. He was still angry about the move; the new house, the loss of his friends in Texas. He hated me. The idea of working with me to accomplish academic success was just a joke. He was living his life to make mine hell. At least that was the case when I could actually get him out of bed.

During this time, I began to question myself, my parenting decisions, my life choices, basically everything I thought I knew seemed up in the air. I had wanted to move back to this small town where I had grown up. I wanted to give my sons the same sense of self and security that I had been given.  I wanted them to grow up knowing that family is always there and your neighbor is truly your friend. I wanted this so much for them, that maybe I had overlooked what was really best for Hunter.

Once again, this parenting thing did not come with a manual...I was pretty sure I was screwing it all up!

Monday, August 21, 2017

The meeting of the golf carts

As I mentioned in my last post, we decided for Hunter to do an online schooling called K12. It had many benefits. He did not have the social difficulties of starting a new school, but he was able to still socialize with the teachers and students online. It seemed like the best of both worlds…for a while.
Then, he became more and more isolated. We began to not be able to get him out of bed. He wanted to stay up all night and sleep all day. He lost all motivation for school and life in general. We tried to get him involved in social events around town, but he was not interested. He did do a recreational youth basketball league that our church hosts, and he enjoyed it, but otherwise he was miserable. After it ended, he sunk deeper and deeper into depression.
I reached out to his counselor at school who was amazing. She even offered to meet face to face with Hunter once a week to just talk. She set up a few social events with local online school kids to help get him out of the house. Those days seemed better for him, but the rest of the days were very difficult. I knew he was unhappy, but I just wasn’t sure how to get him out of his slumber. He wanted to sleep constantly, but when he was awake, he was belligerent. He blamed everyone around him for what he considered a miserable life. He blamed us for moving him from Texas and his friends. He blamed his teachers for his failing grades. He was so unhappy, and I didn’t know where to turn. We were approaching the move into our new home, so it was push time on getting final painting, floors and trim done. We were still living with my parents, and the tension was building. You could cut it with a knife. I was at the end of my rope.
Finally, a mom of another online student gave me the idea that he could possibly attend our local high school for a few hours each day, just to give it a try, but still take online classes each afternoon. This idea intrigued me. We were approaching the end of school, and things were not getting better.
Simplicity is the spice of life around our little town and everyone loves it. In a town with very little to do, the ballfield becomes the social arena. Everyone brings their favorite beverages and cheers their players. What makes this little town even more amazing, was that I was able to pull my golf cart next to the principal of our local high school’s golf cart during one of the little league games. We went to high school together, so I have known him longer than I’d like to admit. We had a little chat about Hunter’s options at school. He asked me to give him a call the next week to get things arranged.
I was nervous to approach the subject with Hunter. He was so unhappy, and the smallest things were triggering him, so approaching the idea of throwing him into a public school again with a group of his peers he did not know was treading on thin ice. Surprisingly, when I mentioned the idea to him, he was optimistic and slightly excited about giving it a try.
The next week, the principal put me in touch with the school counselor. Talking to her seemed like I was talking to my guardian angel. She took me under her wing and helped me figure out our next steps. We met with her and she had a simple, concise list of classed Hunter was eligible to take. He was able to choose some fun classes, so he was pretty excited. We left there in 45 minutes with my newly enrolled junior in high school. He would be taking marketing, PE, history, and a resource class with Teacher’s Aids to help him with his homework. For the first time in a long while I could breathe again, and I could see the relief in Hunter’s eyes. His mood immediately shifted, and everything seemed a little brighter.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The struggle was real

Our new living arrangements were tough on all of us, but they were the hardest on Hunter. The move, itself, was so much change, which has always been a struggle for him. He had no privacy, so he felt confined. He also needed to stem. Stemming helps him to relax and think more clearly, and it was very difficult for him to do in our cramped space. Plus, at 6’6” tall, stemming upstairs made my parent’s 100 year-old house feel like we were having an earthquake, so he didn’t feel like he could do much of it. This caused his stress to build. As the summer began to come to a close, we were all in desperate need for some personal space. We were chomping at the bit to get the house done, but it was moving at a snail’s pace.
By early August, we were leaving the summer fun and getting into the swing of the new school year. This school year brought about lots and lots of change. Grant was starting a new school as a 5th grader. It is a small town, so things tend to be a little “clicky”. Most of these kiddos had been together since pre-school and he was the new kid. It wasn’t always easy. Plus, by 5th grade, hormones are kicking in hot and heavy, so there were tons of emotions being thrown around…girls, jerky kids, tears, anger…it was a mixed bag.

He joined the cross country team, which really seemed to help him feel like he belonged. He’s not a runner and his endurance wasn’t always there, but he stuck with it.  Math in Indiana is taught substantially different. He had always been great at math, and he suddenly found himself struggling. It really took a toll on his self-confidence.
For Hunter, the school changes were immense. When we decided to make the move back home, we knew that school choices were going to be tough. In our small community, there is only one high school. It is small, which is great, but we just weren’t sure the environment would be right for him. He has always been integrated into the classroom, with an aid and a few accommodations. Schoolwork is tough for him because it’s just not his thing.
The social aspect of things were where we were really concerned, though.  He was coming from a small charter school outside of Dallas, where all of the kids were a little eccentric in different ways. I always joked that it would have been The Big Bang Theory characters high school. It was nice because there were kids from all walks of life; with different interests and with all different educational backgrounds. At first, Hunter felt like he really fit in there. He was on the basketball team. He would go out with his friends to someone’s house or the mall. For a while it was great, he felt like one of the gang. Then, one of his friends moved away, and it all started falling apart. He was no longer getting invited to things. He felt excluded and his heart was truly broken. As his mom, I wanted to call up these kids and give them a piece of my mind, but that wouldn’t have made him look any cooler. Before the end of the school year, we had tried to host some events at our house. The guys came, but Hunter still wasn’t invited to their events. By the time we were leaving Texas, he was ready for a new start.
Moving to a small high school where everyone is rather “clicky” made us very nervous. If he didn’t fit into the Big Bang Theorish High School, than it was going to be hard as hell for him to fit into the small town school. I started looking for options and came across an online public school. It would allow him to take his classes from home, using a Skype-like systems. I wouldn’t have to be his teacher, which would never work. He would have his own teachers and counselors and online homeroom. I would just be like a coach to keep him on track. We made the decision to make this change. He was really excited about the prospect. His social anxiety had been so high about starting a new school with tons of kids he did not know, especially after what he had endured from his peers at school in Texas.  This option seemed to ease his burden.
The beginning of the school year was full of change for all of us. We were still living with my parents. My hubby was still trying to work from home off of my parent’s dining room table. Grant was dealing with the pre-teen stuff and being the new kid at school. Hunter was suddenly at home with me every day and trying to adjust to his new online school, and I found myself in the role of educational coach. All of this was taking place while we were just trying desperately to get into our new house without  losing our stuff...the struggle was real...


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

I got by with a little help from my friend, Merlot

The wait for the build was not easy on our family. We were living with the stress of everything building a home entails. We were fortunate to have the entire upstairs of my parents’ house to use as our little domain, but there were no doors, and the boys were sharing a room for the first time in a long time. There was no privacy for any of us. At times, the boys wanted to kill each other, and I so wanted to shut the door every once in a while. I desperately wanted to have some time to myself. My hubby was trying to work from my parents’ house with no peace and quiet. It was tough at times, but we made it work.

We tried out best to adapt to our new living arrangements. We tried to go to a family dinner once a week.  It got us out of the house for a while and allowed my parents to actually have their house back for a few hours. I felt so badly for them. We were taking over their house. They were being so gracious. We tried to give them their space in the evenings, and we tried to stay in our little area. We watched a lot of TV; read a lot of books; and took tons of golf cart rides on our new cart (one of the advantages of our little town.) I also got by with a little help from my friend, Merlot.

It was great to be just down the road from the build, so we could keep an eye on everything and watch the progress as it happened. However, with the long delay due to the rain, we suddenly found ourselves frustrated and overwhelmed looking at the cement pond every-single-day. We decided we needed to get away. We decided to take a little trip to a place called French Lick, Indiana. It is a quaint little town with a ton of history and a hotel with a waterpark.  It wasn’t too far away, so we took a little long-weekend excursion.
The trip was amazingly therapeutic for all of us. It got our mind off of all the crazy and just allowed us to have some family fun. We stayed at the waterpark for a couple of days; went to an elephant retreat (which was an amazing experience); played laser tag; went on a walk through the town; and ended our quick trip with go-kart racing.
It was a great trip, and we had some much needed family bonding. After all, it had been a crazy few months filled with tons of change. It was so nice to have just the four of us again. We talked and laughed and forgot our troubles, even if it was only for a short time.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The cement pond

Things were feeling real with the move. Not only were we moving 14 hours, back to my hometown, a stones-throw from my parents, but the move would entail us living with my parents for the next 6 months (which turned into 9). My husband and I, our two kids, and the 50 pound dog, were moving into my parent’s house. I was 40 and hadn’t lived at this house full-time since I was seventeen. It was going to be interesting.
The lot my parents had offered to us had an old, dilapidated house on it, so my dad took care of getting it torn down, so by the time we arrived back in Indiana, the lot was ready for the house. However, the plans weren’t ready.

Before the move, we had started working with a builder. I knew what we needed in a house, so one day I sat down with some graph paper and got creative. In a matter of a few hours, I had drawn our dream house. It had everything we needed as a family...a game room for the kids; a kitchen large enough to entertain my large, extended family; an office for the hubby; a quiet place for me to write; and doors big enough to fit our wheelchairs down the road (because I’m never moving again).

The most important part of the house plans was a large area over the garage with its own private staircase through the mudroom. It would be stage 2 of the building process, but as all parents of kiddos on the spectrum know, we always have to be one step ahead of the game, so this was our way of planning for the future. Hopefully, all goes well and Hunter starts an independent life of his own and this area becomes a man cave or storage. As him mom, this is what I hope and pray and work tirelessly to make sure happens, but if not, plan B is available.
Once we arrived home, we had to finalize the plans. We thought this would be a quick process, but the few drafts of plans took longer than we anticipated. We moved home the last weekend in May of 2016 and the build finally started the last week in July of 2016. It felt like it took forever! Did I mention we were living with my parents? Things at home actually went fairly smoothly. Everyone was pretty patient with each other, but we were joining two homes…two completely different homes with different schedules and routines and ways of living…and it wasn’t always easy. We were all growing impatient.

The building could not start soon enough, but when it finally happened, it could not have been more exciting, not just for us, but for the entire town. On July 26th, the crawl space was dug. Then, the rain began to fall and continued for almost 2 weeks.

They were able to get the blocks laid on August 2nd. We could have sold tickets to the event. Cars would drive by at a snail’s pace and the golf carts (did I mention they are legal on the streets in our little town) had their own little parade up and down our street daily. It was fun to watch it.
We were all so excited after our day of watching the block layers, that we decided to celebrate. Mom and Dad took us out to Applebees...
I love this picture because it shows the pure exhaustion that was being felt at the time (notice the large circles around my eyes). We were excited, but too tired for it to show.
The excitement only lasted so long, because blocks soon made a beautiful border to hold in the rain. We soon had  a swimming pool as the rain continued to fall. The weather not only delayed us, but it changed the schedule of all of our contractors who were trying to finish other jobs, so the wait continued…


Monday, April 17, 2017

Moving Day

The decision was made. We were moving again. This time from a large city in Texas to a Mayberry-sized town in Indiana. The kids weren’t sure what to think. Texas had been home to them for 4 years. When we moved, they were 6 and 11. This had become home to them.
Grant had only gone to school with his friends in Texas. The idea of moving scared him, but he was very excited about moving closer to family. Hunter was in high school and had met some friends, but those friendships had gone south.  He wasn’t keeping up with his schoolwork and we weren’t sure what the next step was with him, but he wasn’t happy at all about the impending change and leaving his friends.

Needless to say, we had some difficult conversations, but we knew we were making plans for our future and this was where we needed to be, so we worked our butts off organizing closets and the garage, painting, and cleaning the house from top to bottom. In early March of 2016, the house was officially on the market.

Along with the many emotions of moving and leaving friends that I dearly loved, every day was a battle to keep the house clean. I felt like a drill sergeant with the kids and thought I was going to lose it. Two kids and two dogs, does not a clean house make, so it was an uphill battle. It all seems like a blur now, but somehow after 30 showings, the house sold in 5 weeks.

Now came the really fun part…packing all of our crap! I knew we had a lot of stuff, but I thought our move 4 years earlier had rid us of the clutter. It absolutely did not!!!! We spent the next 4 weeks before closing, packing and packing and drinking wine by the gallon. (In the interest of full disclosure, the wine part was just me.)
In early May, amongst the craziness of our lives, I received the call that my Grandmother was very sick. We rushed home, driving through the night to get to her so I could say my final good-bye. It was sad and beautiful at the same time, as I watched my entire large, crazy family spend her final hours with her. We hugged her and kissed her and told her how much we loved her, and then in an instant she was gone. The next several days were very hard. Our hearts were broken because she was truly the matriarch of our family. Life would never be the same without her in it.

After a week in Indiana, we found ourselves back on the road to Texas. It was moving time. We pulled a trailer in front of our house and loaded it every single day. The kids were finishing up school, my hubby was finishing up loose ends at his office in Dallas, and packing was taking every other minute of our time.
Then, on May 11th, my fur baby Starlett Chanel passed away. We knew she was sick and we knew it was coming sooner than later. She had been very sick and could no longer walk. I was changing her diapers and bathing her every day. Sleep was just a distant memory. We were hoping to get her back to Indiana, but instead, she went the way she would have wanted to go, in my husband’s arms. She was only 7, so it was so hard to lose her.

In mid-May, my parents came down with a big trailer to help us move. They helped us pack for a few days.  After a huge moving day of all the heavy furniture, beds and remaining boxes, they left with a full trailer to bring some of our things back to Indiana. The rest would follow later in moving trucks.
We found ourselves in an empty home for the next week, so the kiddos could finish school. The emotions were abundant. We were sad to leave our friends; excited about our new journey; nervous about everything we were about to take on; and exhausted beyond belief.

The next weekend, we pulled out of the driveway of the place we had called home for 4 years. There were tears in all of our eyes and a heaviness in our hearts as we started our new adventure.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Love takes you home

As I mentioned in my previous post, this past year has been a little crazy. In December of 2015, we traveled back home to Indiana from Texas for Christmas break. During our several trips home per year, my hubby and I would try to take advantage of the extra babysitting hands. This time was no different, so we went out for a few date nights. Each time we were out, we found ourselves looking for “For Sale” signs and “Lot for Sale” signs. It became almost a daily activity.
We found ourselves vaguely discussing the possibility of moving home. Then, we found ourselves becoming more and more serious about the scenario. We had not intended to move to Texas, and we had never planned on it being our permanent home, but something was pulling on our heart strings to do it sooner, not later. We missed our family. Parents and grandparents were getting older. Our kids were missing out on quality family time. Plus, our support system was at home, and as all parents of children with special needs know, having extra hands and eyes is so important. The idea became more and more real.
We had not seriously spoken with our family about moving back home. Our parents didn’t know. Our kids didn’t know. We just had serious, late-night couple talks about the possibility and how we could make it happen. When we moved to Texas, we had moved from a town that was relatively close to our family (about 30 minutes). This time, we really wanted to live in the small town where I grew up. It is a quaint little town. Everybody knows everybody else’s business (which can be good and bad).  When I was young, I had the majority of my large Catholic family living within blocks of me. Because of this, I am very close to my aunts and uncles and most of my cousins are more like siblings to me. It is a weird dynamic for some, but for me, it has been amazing! I wanted the same for my kiddos.

Once we arrived back in Texas from Christmas break, the discussions became pretty serious. My hubby had spoken to the powers-at-be at work about working from home in Indiana and traveling back and forth to Dallas and they were onboard. The search for a house became ongoing. I would check the real estate websites daily.

Then, one day in January a beautiful old home caught my eye. It would need a lot of work. Were we willing to take on that large of a project? How would we even know if we didn’t make the 14-hour trip to find out? We discussed it…and discussed it…and talked it over with the kids who were a little surprised, but had overheard some of our discussions. Then, we called our parents to let them know that we were coming home to look at a house. The cat was out of the bag.

We drove through the night on a Friday to get home to look at the house. It was a long drive and we were very tired and a little excited. We met with the realtor and looked at the house. It was as cute as the pictures showed online, but seemed really small. We would have to put a lot of money into expansion, and the foundation was a little concerning. We left the house feeling like the trip home might have been a huge and exhausting waste of time.
We spent hours on Saturday looking at lots because the homes for sale were scarce. People who were born and raised there don’t often move very far away and people who move into the area, don’t like to leave, making the real estate a hot commodity. We found some interesting prospects that we were throwing around. Then, our story made a surprising turn.
After arriving home from looking at lots, my parents graciously offered up a lot they had purchased as an investment. It was just down the road from them (I mean a stones-throw). At first, I thought, “This is ABSOLUTELY not going to happen!” I am a forty-something year-old woman. Do I want to live that close to my parents? Then, I thought about it and the idea grew on me. My kids could walk to my parent’s house. I would be close by to take care of them later. I had grown-up across the street from my Grandparents, and it was such an amazing blessing! The question became, “What is the hubby going to say about this one?” He had lived far away from grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins as a child. This was a whole new ballgame for him. Was this going to scare him? Surprisingly, as I was tossing these thoughts around in my head and contemplating the magnitude of it all he said, “I would be open to that idea. What do you think?” So…this is how our busy year began!