Monday, December 31, 2012

Celebrating the Year

It’s that time again, the time where we all look ahead to the new year in front of us and assess where we want to be and what we hope to accomplish. But it’s also a time where we may criticize ourselves for all the things we aren’t, or feel bad about the goals we set for this year but didn’t accomplish.

Well, I don’t feel like doing that right now. You know what? No, the year wasn’t perfect, and no, I’m not perfect. But some great things happened and I know I’ve made progress in several areas of my life. So instead of jumping right into deciding how to improve my life next year, I’d like to take a look back at what’s gone well this year.

When 2012 began, I had only been a mom of three for less than a month. I was still adjusting to our new normal and trying to figure out how to best meet everyone’s needs while also staying reasonably sane myself. Looking back over the past twelve months, I think I succeeded, for the most part. And that is an accomplishment worth celebrating! There is something really awesome about realizing that our family came through a very challenging time, and we didn’t just survive– we thrived. We struggled, we stretched, we adjusted, we changed. We grew.

I spent several weeks hunkering down and trying to adjust to parenting three kids while my husband worked and went to school. And then I started facing some challenges that felt big and scary, but it was necessary to do something about them. For a long time I’d been worried about my three year old’s speech; his language development was fine but he was so hard to understand. I had tried not to stress out about it for a while, and I told myself that if I was still concerned once he turned three, I’d contact the school and have him evaluated. Well, he was three and I was still worried, so in February (on my birthday!) we went for the speech evaluation. It was quickly apparent that he would need speech, and although it took a few weeks to get everything set up, in April he began going to speech twice a week through the school.

Around the same time, I also decided I needed to seek further help for some issues we were encountering with my oldest. After doing some research on different ways to approach the issue, I made an appointment for him to be evaluated at a pediatric therapy center. The day of his intake appointment arrived and I had to take all three kids. The woman we met with did his intake, gave a preliminary diagnosis of Asperger’s (we would have to come back for further evaluations, of course), then asked me a question that momentarily stunned me: she wanted to know if I would like to schedule an intake appointment for my three year old as well. During our time there, she had noticed not just his speech problems but also that he was abnormally hyperactive and sensory seeking. And all this time I thought he was just a typical three year old– it turns out I was wrong!

So in the spring, both the older boys began evaluations. The oldest was diagnosed with Asperger’s in the summer and he began weekly communication therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy. The three year old was diagnosed with apraxia and was found to have delays in fine motor and gross motor skills, plus he was very sensory-seeking. He also began weekly individual speech therapy (in addition to the group therapy he was getting twice a week at our school), physical therapy, and occupational therapy.

Last week, my oldest graduated from all his therapy! He has made amazing progress. So far he has not needed an IEP at school because his Asperger’s is mild and doesn’t seem to be affecting him very significantly in the classroom. Obviously we will seek out an IEP if he shows signs of needing one, but for now he is doing very well both academically and socially.

My middle child is still going to weekly therapy at the pediatric therapy center, and he is also still going to speech at the school. He will probably continue for quite a while, at least in speech, but he has also been making incredible progress. He is so much easier to understand now! He has also made major improvements in his fine and gross motor skills and he has calmed down considerably (although some days are still rough– but you know, he’s only four, and all four year olds have rough days sometimes). He’s also in preschool two mornings a week and loves it there.

I guess that is what I feel proudest of this year– that I faced the challenges my children were having, got them into therapy, and have seen amazing results. We are in such a different place than we were at the beginning of the year!

But I am also proud of accomplishments that I have made personally. After struggling for a long time with my desire to go back to school versus the pressure I was putting on myself to be a full-time stay-at-home mom, I finally made the decision over the summer to apply for a master’s program in school counseling. Obviously it added a lot to my plate, even though I’m only going part time. But you know what? It’s nowhere near as overwhelming as I feared. I actually am so much happier and more energized now that I’m back in school.

On December 4, 2011 I gave birth to my third baby; on December 4, 2012 I finished my first semester of graduate school (and with A’s in my classes, to boot). I never would have imagined at the beginning of the year that this is where I’d be at the end of it, but I’m so glad I made this decision.
Overall, I feel like I have faced a lot of challenges this year. There were times that I felt like I had been brought so low; it all felt too hard and I didn’t know how I was going to make it through to the other side. I was barely making it. But I feel like I can confidently say that I have made it through. Even though some times were really, really tough, I feel like I have come out a better person. I know I am more patient, more self-confident, and stronger.

And I look forward to even better things in 2013. I believe that even when there are challenges (and of course there will be, because there always are!) my family and I will face them head-on and come out better and stronger.

Happy New Year!

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