Avoiding Crisis

2008 in review

with 3 comments

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted on this site…so long, in fact, that the back end of wordpress looks completely different.  I’m so confused.  While I have little time to write these days,I wanted to at least wish anyone who still checks here occasionally or receives a feed of this blog a very happy happy holidays!!!

The following is my annual holiday letter that goes out with my annual holiday cards.  It should catch you up a bit..

Dear Family and Friends,

As most of you already know, after living in South America for the past 5 years, we have returned to the United States and now call Hillsborough, North Carolina home.  Needless to say it has been an interesting and often difficult transition back to life in the States but we are settling in, and while we miss our friends from abroad, we are happy to be closer to our families and friends back in the U.S. 

I wish I had adventurous stories to share about our travels in distant lands, but alas, I do not.  Aside from exploring a bit of North Carolina, which is a beautiful State, we’ve been rather stationary these days.

I wrote at the end of last year’s letter how we were planning to take a trip to Florida and NJ in early 2008.  Well, we did take that trip and even celebrated Abbey’s 5th birthday in Disney World.   But, we also had to add an extra week on to that vacation for non-vacation related matters.  And this is when 2008 got really interesting…

T o make a long story somewhat short, late in 2007, Owen’s preschool teachers in Argentina expressed some concern with his development (the Argentine school year ends in December) and requested that he be evaluated for delays.  This didn’t really come as a surprise to us as we too had our own concerns.  As a result, the State Department set up a week long comprehensive evaluation of Owen at a children’s developmental center in Miami. 

Owen underwent a battery of psycho-educational testing and in the end the doctors mentioned things like Aspergers and autism and sent us home to wait for the final report and diagnosis.

March came and went and I wish I could tell you that something exciting happened, but I don’t remember.  Everything between Owen’s evaluation and the final report is a blur.  Owen didn’t return to the same school but instead attended a small English-only expat run preschool.  He began to talk more, stringing together 3 to 4 words one week and then 5 to 6 the next.  We stopped counting one day after he spontaneously said, “look mommy. there.  a bus. a red bus.”  The first time he asked me for something to eat instead of screaming at me and pushing me towards the cupboard, I cried.   As we focused all our efforts on learning about what he might have and how best to deal with it, his ability to communicate with us, which was key, improved 10 fold.  That made life easier.

Then April arrived and life got turned upside down.  First we learned that aside from all our efforts to stay out overseas for one more assignment, we were more than likely US bound.  Returning back to the States definitely was NOT in our plans.  THEN, we spoke with Owen’s doctor.  She told us, very matter-of-factly that we have a very special child who is at the same time extremely smart but socially and behaviorally challenged with some serious communication deficits.  Owen was officially diagnosed with PDD-NOS, an autism spectrum disorder.   

With this information in hand we, and everyone else with whom we consulted, thought it best that we return to the States where we could get Owen the best treatments and therapies.  Arran was assigned to Diplomatic Security’s Greensboro, North Carolina Field Office. 

With this news, and the understanding that early and intense intervention for a child diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder is critical, we curtailed our assignment by a few months and came home.  By the end of April we were gone.  Our three years in Buenos Aires were magical and leaving was one of the most difficult things that either Arran or I have ever had to do.  We left behind many good friends and a life that we had grown to love for so many reasons.  Oh how we miss it still.

Since April our lives have been consumed with transitions for the family and finding therapists and treatments for Owen, none of which have been easy.  Poor Abbey seems to have gotten the short end of the stick this year. 

Let’s see…what have we been doing since we got back?  We were lucky to have family in the NC area that we were looking at moving to and therefore were able to crash with my brother Michael and sister-in-law Aimee for a few weeks.  It was definitely much nicer then hotel living and we are SO grateful that they opened their home to us. While we were at Mike and Aimee’s we spent a lot of time house hunting.  AND after looking at way too many houses and a few failed bids, we finally found a great place that we now call home. 

Sometime between having our offer accepted on the house and closing we headed out of town for a family road trip to the mountains.   It was fun to go someplace new in our own country for a change.

We thought that after finding a house things would start to fall in place and we would be able to get settled in.  But things didn’t quite work out that way.  The day that we were to receive our storage lot that we had left over 5 years ago we found out that most of the stuff was covered in mold – black mold.  Nothing is ever easy, is it?  But it did give me an excuse to go shopping…so it wasn’t all bad.

Over the summer we got settled best we could into our new house, Abbey spent her days at camp and Owen had a lot of home visits from teachers and therapists that we had found to help him out. 

At the end of August, Abbey starting Kindergarten!!!  And then in September, Owen started preschool.   This year alone, Abbey has taken tennis lessons, participated in a soccer skills course, tried gymnastics for a few months and continues with her dance classes – we’ve added Hip Hop to the repertoire.  Soon she will become part of a new Girl Scout troop that is forming in the area. Owen has been busy with social skills play groups, occupational therapy and speech therapy.   I’ve been busy keeping up with them!

Arran seems to have gotten back into the swing of things and is knee deep investigative work.  He’s also taken a few trips for training and for protection details. 

To be completely honest, transitioning back to the United States has been a lot more difficult for me than I was prepared for.  It didn’t help that at every turn, we hit road blocks with the school system with regards to Owen, and everything seemed to be a struggle.  I found myself obsessing on everyone else to my own detriment.  So I did the only thing I could do to keep my sanity. I went back to work.  I currently work 30 hours a week for two Centers housed at the Sanford Institute for Public Policy at Duke University.  It’s been almost 2 months now and I’m enjoying the work, I’m enjoying having something to do for myself, and enjoying having something that has nothing to do with either my kids or the school district that we are fighting with.  

These days, we keep ourselves very busy between work, family and the kid’s schedules.  As for Owen, he is a completely different child then 9 months ago.   His behaviors are much more manageable, his sensory issues under control and his language skills more developed.  We have been very fortunate for all the support we have received from both family and friends. We truly feel blessed. I used to spend a lot of time and energy being angry and upset at the cards we had been dealt, I asked a lot of why questions – Why me?  Why him?  Why now? – And I cried a lot.

These days, I appreciate the small things in life a lot more and the self pity has been replaced by the amazement of the strength of my husband, the resilience of my daughter and the incredible progress of my son. 

With that, I, along with Arran, Abbey and Owen, wish you all a very happy and healthy holidays and a wonderful new year.

Until next year,



Written by nicolemarie

December 22, 2008 at 1:28 am

Posted in life

3 Responses

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  1. Nicole,

    I am very glad to hear that things are going much better for you guys. Counting the blessings you do have is a great way to keep a positive outlook on life. We miss you all very much. Happy Holidays from the Alexanders.


    December 22, 2008 at 2:54 pm

  2. It’s good to hear that you’ve been well of late, despite all the crazy turns your life has taken. It is so easy to be frustrated and discouraged, but I am impressed and admire you for your ability to keep moving on and to seek out those positive things in life. Stay strong, and enjoy the holidays yourself.


    December 23, 2008 at 8:37 pm

  3. It’s good to read your words again Nicole. I’ve missed them. I find it reassuring that Owen has covered so much ground in a short time and that you are taking care of yourself. I will be helping the UNC system set up threat assessment teams this coming year and with Hillary coming on board will probably start helping DS with protective intelligence training as well. Perhaps I will get to meet you at some point. My daughter graduates from Barnard this year and it often reminds me of how I found your posts. Be well and have a good holiday.


    December 25, 2008 at 2:18 pm

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