Hat Trick

Pennies From Heaven's Couch Cushions

Apologies for not posting anything yesterday. And apologies for that apology, because I bet you didn't even notice and quite possibly your life continued on just fine despite my lack of posting. Regardless, I had an excuse: Terminal Brain Fog.

For example, I spent most of the day writing and rewriting the same 9-word sentence. Over and over again. Nine words and then BLAMMO, headfirst into writer's block and some weird wrastling with the Passive Voice and then some Dangling Modifiers were all, "you wanna go at it? let's go at it. bitch."

And then I spent -- no lie -- 20 solid minutes ransacking my bathroom top to bottom because I could not find my tinted moisturizer.

Here's a hint as to how THAT went:


(Dear Microsoft: MS Paint Goggles. Could totally be your iPod. My gift to you.)

The real problem is that right now, the Biggest Thing going on -- exactly the sort of Big Thing I've come to depend on this blog community to help me ramble through and work out and get advice on -- is also one of those Very Difficult To Write About Things, because my intentions could very easily be misunderstood. Because it's tangentially about money. Stupid, tacky money.

Basically...would you, my fellow special-needs parents or anyone who has ever loved the spit out of a special-needs kid, ever knowingly get in over your head financially to pay for something, if you thought it was the best something for your child?

Noah's OT camp is officially over now. We saw HUGE improvements in these short seven weeks. Huge, noticeable improvements. We also saw just how much work there is left to be done, and the glaring gaps in his IEP. Stuff that the school district is just not concerned about, but of course, we are. So I naturally started inquiring about supplemental services provided by the agency that ran the camp. There were, thankfully, quite a few options. We were close to settling on a Saturday morning group plus maybe some one-on-one OT -- completely disregarding the agency's preschool because it was in the afternoon, which is when we were told Noah would attend the public school.

And then on Thursday we received his official classroom assignment. Surprise! It's in the morning.

By Friday, the last day of camp, we had an observation with the private preschool set up and an application in our hands and a spot tentatively reserved -- the last spot, of course, WHAT ARE THE ODDS -- because the occupational therapists who worked with him this summer told the preschool director that Noah absolutely needed that spot, that it would be the perfect, perfect place for him. Eight kids total, half of which attend district programs in the morning, over half of the graduates from last year are moving back into the mainstream this fall. Speech therapy, occupational therapy, parent support and counseling, customized treatment plans.

By Friday night, Jason and I were absolutely sick with misery, because of the numbers. The school is expensive. I mean, of course it is. It is more than twice what we budgeted for, back when we planned to send Noah to Montessori. (Oh! Funny story! We talked to them awhile back about whether they had many kids who also attended <name of the district's special needs preschool program> and kids with SPD/SID and they were all, "Hmm? We've never heard of any of that stuff!" and we were all, "Okay, thanks, bye!")

(Is that funny? Probably more like rage-inducing. I sometimes get those two mixed up.)

I mean, we're okay. We're really, probably, more than okay.  Especially when you go by the "new okay." The "recession okay." We did get nailed pretty hard this year with medical bills because our insurance company is a jackhole, and taxes because we suck at math, and a ton of house-related crap because being a grown-up is just one big endless sucking jackhole. And just when we feel like we've dug our way out and can treat ourselves to nice things like Macbooks and fancy tinted moisturizers and a hotel room for our anniversary, our dog up and eats fucking fertilizer for lunch.

(Aaaaaand this is why I mentioned "intentions." Because I seriously -- oh my God -- do not want it to sound like I'm hinting around for money. I'm not. And I know it's easy to judge someone's finances from the sidelines [u could afford to stay home with ur baybee if u stopped buying bronzer selfish whoor!]. [VARIATION: how dare u complain don't u no how blessed u are i don't even have cheekbones for bronzer selfish whooooor!] And  now I'm tempted to delete this entry all together. Maybe I still will. Stay tuned, alternative publishing universe!)

(But then I think...well, what if someone out there is looking at a gigantic pile of money RIGHT THIS SECOND and wishing there was a Deserving Child to give it to, like an orphan being raised by a blacksmith, who dreams of college and betterment and Estella Havisham! Or maybe the son of a blogger, who dreams of choo-choo trains and grilled cheese and Olivia the Pig. Who am I to stand in the way of their good deed? What if, in the absence of a Deserving Child, they spend it all on hookers and grape jelly?)

(But THEN I think that the orphan is probably way more Deserving, honestly, and really, if you have a pile of money that you really don't know what to do with it's better to look for reputable charities than random orphans who can end up being totally fucking ungrateful.)

ANYWAY. We just don't know what the right choice is here. We're mostly afraid of making the WRONG choice. So we go over it again and again, and the voicemails from the school are piling up, asking if we've mailed in the application yet. If we use the last bit of money we have in our savings, plus maybe some money back from refinancing our mortgage...if we cut back on all sorts of things (hello! goodbye, Sephora!)...if we put some of it on the credit card...if we apply for financial aid... But of course, we have to commit to the school and pay deposits and half the tuition BEFORE the financial aid decision would be finalized, and then I think about our roof and the sound the garbage disposal keeps making and we need to replace the basement carpet (EDITED TO ADD: These were stupid examples. Stupid! Of course I'm not going to keep him out of the school because fucking carpet. I was trying to illustrate that there would simply be no money left for unexpected emergencies but neglected to list anything resembling an actual, you know, EMERGENCY. Sorry.) I worry we'd be spending all year a mere hair's breadth away from financial disaster. I worry about paying for a whole other year of preschool NEXT year. And then Ezra's school the year after THAT. I worry that our original, cheaper plan would really be enough and I am almost annoyed by this stupid dangling carrot.

But then.


What if? What if we do? What if we don't?



It is indeed a tough decision. My son has autism, and his metabolic treatments and therapies cost a ton. We've made the decision to just go into debt for as much as we need to right now to give him what he needs. I eventually will go back to work once my younger child is in school, and then hopefully we'll be able to pay it all back. For now, though, we feel our son is more important than fancy vacations or a new house or new flooring (since our old gross).
So you have to think about what will be best for your child and your family. But from everything I've read about these developmental disorders, it seems that the earlier kids get help, the better off they'll be in the long run.
Good luck!

Must Be Motherhood

I've been reading you since we were both childless gals working in offices in teh big cities. And I don't think I've ever read so much hope and excitement about Noah's situation in one of your posts until today.
If it's working, and the professionals are telling you that his progress will continue by leaps and bounds at.this.age then DO IT.
I will donate to the Noah is Awesome Fund.


Agree with other posters, please oh please let us help. I read here for free every day.

And for some insight into our situation, we bought our first house and had twins in the same 6 month period. INSANELY STUPID. We maxed our out of pocket maximum in medical expenses two years in a row.

Then Alex's torticollis led to a jacked up head and he needed a helmet. It was $3000. We did not have the money. We got it anyway bc I could not live with the what-ifs. And the universe worked out and we got the helmet for free. LONG story but do what you think is right and the money will come.

Particularly if you add a "donate here" button!


Special Ed program (via county) in morning, private preschool in afternoon. You are too lucky to live in an area that even has private special ed preschool that would meet his needs. You know what intervention does. You know the more intervention he gets, the faster and closer the gap will close. That is priceless, even if you have to pay it off over the course of a few years.


Amy, I've been reading you since Noah was still just Babalah in your belly. Not to be creepy, but I just love that boy (and Ezra too, but that's not the point). You've brought me lots of laughs and tears - unintentionally (and I've commented this before) you helped me during my emergency c-section.

Please put up a button. We would all love to help, and Noah more than deserves it.



Delurking to say something nobody else has so far: just do the math.

It's easy to drive yourself crazy with "omg how are we going to pay for this" so, figure out how you're going to pay for it.

What's the worst-case financial scenario? You take out a loan for the school, then Jason loses his job and someone totals your car? Something else? Put your expected scenario, and worst-case, and a few examples in between down on paper, then work out how you're going to crawl up out of the hole in each case.

It's not a pleasant exercise, but every experience I've had doing it shows that it maybe isn't as bad or as tough as you think. Or if it is, at least you're going into it with eyes wide open.

Good Luck!


I don't even have kids, and I don't know what the right decision is. Personally, I won't judge you or call you a whooooor either way.

If it were me, my question would be... if I DID put my kid in that oh-so-perfect program, and my husband lost his job... what would happen? If the answer is, "We would be homeless," MAYBE that's not the best choice for you guys AT THIS TIME. Because, you know, there actually ARE some needs more important.

If the answer is, "We could borrow against the 401k/ask our parents for help/move into a tiny ass apartment, but we'd muddle through somehow," then maybe the program is worth that risk.

And, like everyone else, not trying to be preachy, just trying to help you think through the possible implications.


Obviously, there is no right answer "because being a grown-up is just one big endless sucking jackhole". heh. But if it were me? I don't think I'd be able to stop myself from sending him to the school.

bethany actually

Nancy's popular! I agree with her too. I agree so much I'll repeat what she said:

No amount of money spent on an appropriate education for your child is ever poorly spent.

The other stuff will take care of itself over time, but for Noah, time is of the essence.

Also, I agree with She Likes Purple. I have some money! I can help you! I've been reading and deriving great enjoyment and annoying my friends and family my reading posts out loud from your blog for FREE all these years. I've watched Noah grow up and have a special place in my heart for him because one of my real-life friends has a son almost exactly the same age with almost exactly the same sensory issues. I'd love to be able to help in any way I can.


I don't know if you ever read all the comments, but in case you're really strapped for money or if you want supplemental therapy, I recommend going to nearby universities and asking around. I'm getting my doctorate in Speech Path and we offer services at a discount, sometimes for free. The quality of therapy is very good, students try their best with each patient, and the therapies are supervised by someone who's already licensed.


I have far from all the answers, and struggle with money on a daily basis...but our theory is that you are never going to regret investing in your kids. If this program helps, if you feel that is where he should be...even if money is tight and this year is tough...then the rest of the stuff can wait. It's better to scrape by for him than to not, and wonder for years if it could have helped even just a little.


Not sure if you were looking for advice with this post, or polling readers, or what. But it can't possibly be that helpful to know that some people think YES, to the school! and others think NO, save your emergency funds! I think what you should really take from these comments is that your readers support helping Noah out. Maybe some people will get mad if you put a Paypal link up, but I'm willing to bet that they will simply not click the button but continue to come back for your most excellent writing. And maybe you'll only get $100 in donations. Well, that might at least get you a new garbage disposal.
I figure I owe you $ anyway, for the daily laugh and sharing of your family's life for all these years. (Although you owe my employer - for the hours spent online during work :)


I feel you on the "recession okay." When Luke and I bought our house last fall, I was bringing in a nice paycheck, hefty quarterly bonuses, and a monthly freelance check that covered my entire mortgage. Now that I've got two kids to feed instead of just one, my freelance gig is going kaput at the end of the month and the bonuses have been more than cut in half. I know I'm lucky to get bonuses at all, so no complaining here, but we are a one-income family who has been hit with a lot financially in the last year, and we have to account for the loss in income. It means more PB&J dinners, fewer out-of-town trips, and not buying clothes for the kids anytime we feel like it. It meant passing on a $60-a-month membership for Kara to Gymboree, even though she would benefit from more interaction with kids her age. Instead, we've started going to church more, so she can play in the nursery while we attend the service. If there's a need, there's a lot of different ways to address it.

I'm not at all implying your situation is anything like mine, and I won't make a suggestion regarding what you should do, because that's not really what you asked for. I know I would be heartsick, too, over making a decision like this. But overall, I agree that the best option will be the one that allows you to sleep at night. If the financial consequences would keep you up because there's just no way you can do it and still have something stashed in the bank in case of an emergency, that is a gut feeling worth listening to. Even if the school would be awesome for him. Before you knew about the opening, you were figuring out a way to get Noah the help he needs, so there will still be options for him outside of this program.

Best of luck in making this decision. Either way, Noah is one lucky little boy.

P.S. I'm so glad Bitts pointed out that you DO work and bring home a paycheck through your freelance jobs and your ads on this Web site. Plus, you're saving money, too, by staying home with the boys and cutting out the costs associated with an office job.


Reading my comment again, I kind of feel like an @sshole talking about "recession okay" in one breath and "quarterly bonuses" in the next. Even if they are small, it's still something extra, and I am extremely grateful for every "something extra" that comes our way. I am not complaining AT ALL. It just is what it is.


We spent a lot out-of-pocket on our son's private OT. Worth every penny. It meant spending more out of our savings than we wanted (acquired from the sale of a house, meant to keep us afloat while I was in school and to pay for another down payment), but we would do it again in a second. When a space opened up in a social skills playgroup (similar situation to what you described--everything else full and this was a good group of kids for him), we whipped out the plastic.

There's no way to know what the outcome would be if your choice were different, but this sort of school sounds really good for Noah. My son is in class with a kid who has a similar profile, but he is much more impacted. The other kid has had services from the school district since he was 3 or 4 (and we are impressed by the quality of those services), but they're just not as robust or individualized than the stuff we started our son in.


No, really. PayPal donate button. Do it, ladyfriend.


I don't know you. I don't have piles of money. I don't think I've ever given advice to a stranger before but, I do, however, have two children that I would give my LIFE for. DO IT. It will be hard. You will have to cut out a lot. But, if you don't, you will always wonder if you should have.


Another one who would totally pay a subscription for this blog, even if it were optional, I read it every day.


I'm with Marynn and Cara- You and Jason will make the best choice.

My husband and I often worry about making the right decision and that was before we even had Magdalen! But, sometimes you just have to step back, take a deep breath and ask yourself "With what I know, what is the best decision for this moment in time?"

Trust your heart. The rest will fall into place.

(That said, I support those who say you need an emergency fund of some sort.)


Gah. I want to have something awesome to say here. The only thing I can really say might come across funky, like you were mentioning about the post coming across in the first place. Because we are in a Bad Way with money at our house. Bad. As in, pregnant and due in 3 weeks, part time money thus about to dry up, unemployment for the spouse about to dry up the same damn week as the due date, which is 10.5 months from when the spouse was originally laid off, and I bet you have an idea what our mortgage balance looks like because of that. I say that not for a pity party, but so that when I say I'm facing "similar" dilemmas about money. - do we pay the $50 while we still have it, to get rid of the dog we don't want? do we go out and buy moving boxes in case we lose the house, so we can start packing things up NOW instead of trying to do it at the last second with a new baby? do we set aside money so that the big girls (stepkids) can come and visit the new baby before Christmas, or would that be a foolish use of money? Nowhere near the same thing, and yet, a similar situation of OMG what is the right choice here? Money SUCKS.

I am not trying to one-up you, but I can say, comparitively, your situation seems from my angle to be a pretty clear answer. It's working - working WELL - and it could make a HUGE difference in Noah's life from here on out, and it looks as if you can PROBABLY scrape it together. As much as it COULD screw things up financially, I would call that kind of risk "worth it."

Still, here are some hugs for you, because I really do know what it's like to wonder whether you're doing the right thing. XOXOXOXO.


I think you bite the bullet and send him to the preschool program. It will be a painful, ugly year for you finances wise and you might spend the year (this) close to a breakdown, but I think you will be happy that Noah is in the school.

And I don't know exactly what qualifies as 'fixed' for what Noah has, but if there is a chance that this could move him several steps closer to beating these problems, then it would be well worth it.

I have been curious as to how the program is going? What are some of the things that he is doing now?


My own opinion:

You do all that you can to help your child.

The information you have right now is that this program would be good for Noah right now.

Lori M

Wishing we had something to give that would help. Praying that a way will be made for Noah to get the education he need to KNOW that you're making the right decision, and asking for help is NEVER wrong!!! Hugs and prayers coming your way!!!


Read your comment after posting my previous one and wanted to modify a bit. I hadn't even thought about the loss-of-nap and all-day-with-no-break aspects. Depending on how Noah is with transitions, it might be hard from him to have two different school experiences in one day.

We saw the big differences for our son with one 50-minute session per week and the occasional week-long special group. More might have yielded better results, but this what was suggested to us so we didn't really think about doing anything else.

If after running the numbers and considering the other issues, you decide to go with your first plan, you will still be doing a whole lot more for him than just the district preschool.

Aunt Becky

This is the sort of situation that makes me wish I wasn't a grown-up anymore.

Miss Britt

Yeahhh, but if you write about how cute your kid is someone will be pissed that you think LOOKS ARE EVERYTHING and WHAT ARE YOU TEACHING THAT OTHER ONE THAT YOU OBVIOUSLY LOVE LESS?

And you know they'll do it in caps lock, too.


A few months ago, I took a 20% pay cut. We. Freaked. Out. We thought my husband would have to work from home because we wouldn't be able to afford day care any more. Or we'd have to sell our house and move into some dump. But... nothing happened. We haven't consciously changed anything, other than cancelling my gym membership. We're still putting the same amount of money in savings. Hell, we still have HBO. If I were to look at it, I'd bet we spend a lot less on restaurants and books.

My point is, both of us are in a lucky place where we were/are unthinkingly spending a lot of money on optional things. Think about it, you have gone from having two jobs and no children, to having one job and two children (plus your writing, of course)! Do you think back on those pre-Noah days with longing for the extra money? Nah, you probably don't even notice it much. I was freaking out for no reason, and you may be, too.

Ugh, I feel preachy. By all means, put up the Paypal button as well. Lots of your readers (including me!) would love to help out. We love your kids!


All of the really serious stuff has been said much more eloquently, but if I were to chime in, I'd say if you can swing it, do it:)

Maybe buy a plane ticket, fly to Italy, buy a lottery ticket for their 2 Million Euro lottery jackpot, and see what happens!


My older son has Asperger's, it's mild, but it's his. I have seen so much red tape on this it is ridiculous. Especially in the People's Republic of California.
But I would give anything, repeat ANYTHING, to see my son be able just to go to the bathroom like other people. Financial ruin can be rebuilt. Childhood only comes once.


I'm 25 and work two jobs and still manage to just barely survive paycheck to paycheck and am about to take out $40,000 in loans to cover graduate school (which added to my undergraduate loans bring me to $80,000). And when I think about that I start to hyperventilate and get a little gaggy. And then I realize that I'm investing in my future and feel loads better. It's the same deal- you're investing in his future happiness.


If I find any piles of money lying around I'll let you know. Until then the best I can send you is a digital hug and hope that you settle on the answer that feels most right for you guys. And that whatever that answer is, it works out awesomely.
Oh, I can also offer free babysitting if you're ever back in Chicago. ;)


Special needs kid here too. No way in heck would I jeopardize financial stability for his schooling. I would find a middle ground. SPD kids are highly emotive (duh, like you don't know) and your stress over the $$ will be obvious. If Saturdays and his normal preschool and IEPs aren't enough, then branch out.


No judgments here. Am offering opinion since asked. I say go for it. But! This is from a 40-something-year-old woman who is still paying back her student loans! But! That advanced degree? Got me a job where I make enough to pay back the student loans. And can occasionally buy tinted moisturizer. Also? The act of getting that degree? Made me very fucking happy. And going into that program will make Noah very fucking happy. And then he will grow up and have a great job and be able to buy his mom tinted moisturizer.


It is great that you have so many supportive readers. I am going to be the voice of reality here....It is time to quit blogging about your problems and do something about it. It is time for Noah to not be made a spectacle of and for you to act treat your son like your child, not a story idea. It is time that you do what 99% of the other people in this situation would do....GET A JOB. I am sorry, I know that I am going to be called a troll etc but it is time that you think about Noah's future and what is best for him, not the dollar amount that you will not be able to spend at Sephora. The other posters on here are somehow starstruck by you and want to be your bestest friend and no one has the balls to give it to you straight. It is time to move on and do what is best for your child, not you!

LD's Mom

In case you needed one more vote, I agree with everyone else. Carpet and Garbage Disposals can wait. Hearing you say, "We saw HUGE improvements in these short seven weeks. Huge, noticeable improvements" is exactly what your fans have all been waiting to hear. Finally:) And the fact that "We also saw just how much work there is left to be done, and the glaring gaps in his IEP" means you have no other choice. Go for it.


Put him in the good school. You have a window of opportunity here for major progress, a window that might not be so clear or wide-open in the future. The public school system is not good at dealing with SN kids: it will be a struggle for the whole 13 years to get the services you need and even then you may not get what you need. My mom fought with the public school system every single year to get the services that my learning disabled brother needed. In the end, she hired a private 1:1 assistant to help him in the classroom and also work with him at home because the public school system did not deliver.

It only costs ~$150 to replace a garbage disposal and you don't need to worry about your roof until it actually leaks (advice from my builder father). The cost of continuing to care for/advocate for a SN kid after the public school system fails him would be much, much greater. Give him the head start he needs, you will never regret it.

Parsing Nonsense

You know, I've spent about a year now a mere hair's breadth from financial disaster and, I gotta tell you, it's not as bad as you might think.

Last year we had two lay-offs in our marriage in less than a month, and then my husband decided to up and get re-educated and now we have one income and more student loans!

However, it works itself out. You cut out everything you don't need, and soon enough you discover you genuinely don't need it. It's kind of enlightening, really.

If you have to take a big leap and spend the money, you guys will figure out how to make it work and realize you can do your best but can't plan for every errant dog meal/disposal/natural disaster that may come your way. Sometimes, dogs just happen.


Also, write Jenny McCarthy and ask her for sponsorship. She has a foundation, perhaps she would like to advertise on your blog to the tune of Noah's tuition.

Alias Mother

I'm going to be even more annoying that the anonymous "hor" people and play amateur psychologist. Yay! It's your lucky day!

Reading this post, and then your follow-up comment hidden waaay down here that raises some points that are FAR more important than the money issue that you wrote extensively about, makes me think that you may be avoiding the really hard decision. The money is hard, but you could definitely work it out. That's a pretty black-and-white issue. But that other stuff, your concern over Noah being in school all day and feeling like you are getting the hard sell and are being pushed into a decision... those are really gray areas. Those are HARD decisions.

You'd like this decision to be about the money. I'd like this decision to be about the money. But I don't think this decision is about the money.

And remember, this is not an either/or situation. He will still get the help he needs. But can he handle the larger dose, or is the smaller dose actually better for this kid in this moment?

Oh, don't look at me. I don't have the answer.


I do not envy you this difficult decision...

You say Noah loved it, and it helped him, and you want that to continue? Then the basement carpet can wait, and Sephora can wait. Noah can't wait.

I would do it!

Sprite's Keeper

Win the lottery. Done.
Obviously, you know where Noah should be. His improvement and your hope says it loud and clear. The money issue is an issue, an obstacle, but money can be made and lost on any number of things. If you need to add the Paypal button, do what you need to do. If someone doesn't feel like donating, they won't press the button. It's as simple as that. Do what's best for Noah. I can put as much emphasis as everyone else on how things will work out in the end, but none of us can alleviate the fear anyone feels at taking a financial step like this. Best of luck, Amy!


Call your parents. Beg for money.


I could never set up a PayPal account because I would feel like everyone would think I was being tacky. So I totally get that you don't want to do that. BUT! I and most other readers would probably be thrilled to be able to help Noah out just a little bit. I won't lie, we are new homeowners and new parents living on a single income, so we're kinda broke. But, hey! A couple bucks here and a couple bucks there from a portion of your readership might go a loooong way. I bet you'd still have to make cutbacks, dip into your savings, things like that, but I think a lot of us would LOVE the chance to help you. I know I sure would.


Never commented here before. Probably never will again. We'll see. Anyway, do it. My kids are now 30 and 19. I do not regret one penny, not one penny, spent on their very, very different educational needs. Tens of thousands of dollars I did not have, single parent etc. but I always managed, I always trusted and I always found a way. I believed "why not my child? Because of money? HELL NO." when I found the program, the tutor, the school, that could make the difference they needed. You will only regret not taking every opportunity and making the effort and sacrifice to give your child what you in your heart know will be life changing and best for him. My legacy to my kids: the best schools FOR THEM and really, really good dental care and orthodontia. Education and great teeth. All they need to make it in the world, and they are doing great.


Yeah, another thing. I come here every day (well, several times a week, at least) and get FREE ENTERTAINMENT. FREE. Like, side-splitting laughter entertainment. Did I mention that it's free? I would happily reimburse you for the years you've added to my life simply by making me laugh until I cry.


If there is any way possible, do it! You will never regret doing it although you may spend the year cursing your finances (and that is very different from regretting paying for the school).

Dawn B

Trust your gut with this one! If you really really really want him to go then do what you can to get him in there. Our daughter is special needs also (and I guess since she's 2 we'll learn more as we go) but are there any programs in the MD/DC area that could help grant money towards the help? I know it's easy for me to throw that out there..but I hope that your family can find a solution. If Noah really thrives with this program then it's money well spent. I wish you guys so much luck!


You need to do what you have to do in order to send Noah to this school. It sucks that these types of programs cost so damn much, hell...they should be free...but being on the other side of a year in a special school with two SPD kids and witnessing the VAST improvements they've made since getting in to such a program...let's just say, I would send you a check, if I knew it would help. :)

Good luck!

Emily Krawczyk

Never, never base a decision on money when the decision involves your childs future. As a mom to a son on the spectrum, I am all too familliar with how expensive this can be. We have gone through most of our savings and retirement but..... the progress we have seen is even more amazing. Make the most of this window of time and do it now and his future will be brighter because of it. Hang in there. It does get easier!


I read so much and never post, but couldn't resist say, yes! I agree with everyone. Do the school! AND put up something that will allow people to donate if they can! Personally, my husband and I are strapped right now with our own childcare expense screw-jobs in NYC and couldn't donate, but I TOTALLY would not think it's weird if you did this - it's very appropriate. At another time in my life, I would happily click and pay. Don't be shy about any of this! We can all relate.


Dear Mel, Amalah is a freelance writer. She doesn't just gallivant about the blogosphere drinking wine and eating cheese. Of COURSE they could be saving money here and there. EVERYONE could. I don't think anyone has contradicted that just for the sake of being Amalah's Best Buddy (how insulting, seriously). But remember, daycare costs money, too. And I'm guessing it's a ridiculous amount of money in the DC area. Take tentative salary, subtract the money she makes for freelancing, subtract the money for daycare costs, and see how much is left.

Amalah, you don't know me from Adam, but after you comment, maybe full-time school for him isn't such a good idea. I don't know a thing about kids like Noah, but isn't overstimulation kind of a big thing? Maybe going to both schools WOULD be counterproductive. Obviously, only you and Jason can make that decision; but if you're leaning toward "no", don't second-guess yourself that you REALLY made that decision because of the money (which is what I'm sure I would do, no matter how smart a decision it really was).


Jobs are for whoors!!!


:: warning :: I have NOT read through the other comments, so take these words with that in mind.

You never get back these years. Things will wait, and you will be suprised at what your family can do without in the materialistic sense. If Noah had a voice to express his desires, what would he wish for?

That said, you are the mom and you will know exactly what to do. Listen to your heart.


In your heart, you've already made the decision. My mother always said that your finances can change; even though you can't afford it now, whos to say that you won't come into a bunch of money. Maybe they'll be a new stimulus package or maybe you'll get an unexpected, super duper amount back from income taxes. You never know. Noah needs the program; enough said. Also, I checked your blog numerous times yesterday and today looking for a new post. I just left the Air Force and I'm now a SAHM (until I have the new baby and find a job). I spend my life looking at blogs, facebook, craigslist and occasionally feeding my kid and changing her diaper. Also, we are kind of (probably not) related because my maiden name is Storch. That makes you so much cooler!

Suzy Q

If money were not part of the equation, what choice would you make for Noah? That's your answer.

Good Luck.


Y'all have got to do what makes y'all comfortable. I can tell you that we pay out the nose for preschool. And it's hard. Not. Easy. But for us, it's been worth it.
Just a few more years until elementary school, right? Right?
Good luck with your decision--I know it's tough.


If this program is a good thing, and you know you'll see results from this good thing, why mess with the Good Thing? think about the things you would need to cut back on. Make a list of them. Think about them again as though you didn't already have them yet you had this money that you could do something with and you had two choices, school or Noah, or the other stuff. You would always choose the stuff for Noah. It's more daunting to think of it as a backward step than a forward step.

Grizzly Kitteh

I live paycheck to paycheck, dollar to dollar and it's really not that bad. If you know in your heart it's what's best for the little guy, then you can live with accruing a little bit of debt and tightening up the budget.

Greg S.

The thing that strikes me is the "fear of the wrong choice". I think you should be concentrating on trying to make the best choice you can, not trying to avoid the wrong one. If you're focused on the wrong, that's all you see. I know it's probably cliche or trite or whatever, but that's how it looks to me.

I'm sorry I can't help you with which decision is best. My wife and I are in similar straits trying to decide if we can afford to start having kids - especially since waiting becomes increasingly chancy due to our ages. All I can tell you is that I know you've done a great job so far for your boys, and I know you'll be able to find the balance between putting money into their education and providing a safe and stable home for the whole family.


Yep, I agree. Go with the school. Forget stuff like basement carpet and the garbage disposal. You can live without those things, but Noah's future? Gotta go with that. I also agree with keeping as much of an emergency fund as you can - but buckle down, and get Noah to that school. You can do it!


Three things came to mind for me:

First that making sure Noah gets the help he needs now is an investment that may actually save you money long term (well, at least until the Ivy League tuition bills arrive). One fantastic year of preschool = 3 years of high school extra help. Even the financial ROI on getting this problem for Noah under control early may totally be worth it.

Second, and I'm not sure if you've considered this, if you really get in financially over your head and it's no longer a question of tinted moisturizer and blueberry yogurt stains but rather of foreclosure or groceries, you CAN pull Noah out of the preschool and put him somewhere else.

Third, surely there's a little more selling out you can do. Bum
Genius must need spokespeople, or something. (Ok, I'm not actually sure about the how-tos of this, but you might know.)

Fourth, I think you are working much harder (and with more success) than it looks like from the outside. So please, disregard those people who are like "Get a real job at Wendy's".


And of course, by three, I meant "I can't count".

anne nahm

I feel like a fool stuffed with buttmunch puree for saying this, but maybe call the Suze Orman show and have her do the numbers? (Ugh, I cringed writing that. But I'll take it because she actually seems pretty smart. Damn. Cringe.)


I posted up on the 2nd page before your update.
After reading it I wanted to add this...
Drew goes to "school" each day...all day. I work and he is there from 7:30 - 5:30. LONG DAY. I hear you on the fear element of him being in class that long, but at this age, it is mostly play and our little one loves it.
It sounds like this school is ot stuff. If it seems like a lot...follow your gut and find something 3 days a week...and skip the morning classes here and there. That might not be as beneficial as the ot for your situation. You're his mom...only you know what is best. Good luck deciding.


As my father-in-law would say, it sounds like you're confusing problem-solving with decision-making. The decision is obvious I think, you want the best possible opportunity for Noah to excel, therefore the private school is the right decision. The problem to be solved is how to fund it. You mentioned financial aid - is this through the school or through a separate entity? Are there other loan options you can explore? Perhaps a non-profit group that might be able to help? Maybe instead of Christmas gifts to/from your family, set up a "Noah's School" fund? In the end, you know what's right for him, and it'll work out.


I'm not a parent, I don't take care of anyone but myself so its obviously a different situation. BUT I attended my mandatory financial aid meeting yesterday and the issue that was brought up time and time again was that money spent on education is the greatest investment that you can make. Money and how you spend it is different for everyone, and you have to consider Ezra, yourself and Jason, but thinking of all your heartbreaking posts about Noah just keeps pushing me towards telling you to go for it. You want him to make strides, he wants to make strides. This program sounds like it has a really good chance of giving him that. If you get creative, I definitely believe you can work it out. You figured out how to make the freelance thing work so you could stay home, I have faith that you can figure out something for this situation.


I say be careful. Yes, our children are worth EVERY DIME, but if there's an alternative to spending all that money, do it.

Disregarding the fact that the recession is in a crap hole, shit happens. This week alone, our van windows broke, so thinking we were good for money, we sent it to the shop to be broken, and bam, a TREE fell on our house and my husband's car while it was gone. Friday, we were fine, Saturday, we're out several thousand dollars in straight-up cash and deductibles to repair the house, car, and still pay for the van windows.

When you have kids, things like new carpet can wait, but when you live on the East Coast during hurricane season, a new roof cannot.

It's true that he's young, and now is the time to get him help, but at the same time, he's young and you're getting him help. If he doesn't mainstream next year, but the year after and it doesn't drain every cent from your accounts, I'd say that extra year was very, very worth it.

Lily Bamboo

Hello! long time lurker first time commenter. Carpet in the basement???? Essential? are you kidding me...what are you doing down there? Over here in Europe we live perfectly well without garbage disposals. You have a trash can right? You will find the money ...I promise, you will find the money because your kid is worth it.


to be fixed that is, NOT broken. Ahem.


I have been fighting with my son's school (public) for over 2 years trying to get help for his Asperger's (with bonus SPD and food phobia). I am now trying to find outside resources because they just don't or won't get it. If I had the opportunity to go back in time and get early diagnosis and treatment at my expense I would do it because I think we would be in a much better place right now. My two cents worth.


My advice is just like everyone else's. Please sign him up.

Also, we have no extra pennies and I would donate if you put up a button.

We are facing our own special needs preschool issue, so I get your angst and indecision. Wish I had a perfect answer to offer, but in lieu of that, please know you're not alone.

Lastly, can you ask anyone in your family to help out? Would the grandparents consider kicking in?


obviously it's none of my business, but I like to think about which I would regret. would I regret spending the money and doing without for a while or would I regret not getting the help that could really change his life. I'd go for it, loans, financial aid, whatever it takes. I bought a lottery ticket for tomorrow night and I'll share if I win.


do it. this is the first thing you've told us about that you've been excited about, that noah has been excited about, and where you see real-life things that are making noah happier and more at ease with himself in the world.

my nephew is on the spectrum and his folks are paying out of pocket for full-day preschool next year as what they were offered is totally not enough. they are also suing the city to try to get the money back. any chance of that for you guys?

my nephew is awesome and seeing him blossom and really enjoy himself is worth whatever money it takes to keep him in his program.

best of luck.


I left a nice research job to stay home just before #3 was born, knowing that hubby would get a raise with his upcoming promotion but not sure of the exact number. Turns out we took a 10% cut in salary compared to us both working. Our plan: We are asking our parents to pitch in for preschool - not a lot, but enough to give us a little wiggle room in the (already over strapped) budget. It was hard to ask, but there was prior precedent: my husband's grandparents had paid for his private high school (and OMG, tuition for college was less per year than his high school!!) If any of the grandparents are in a position to pitch in by all means ask them. If it makes you feel better than ask them for a loan, interest free of course. A single year of extra help could save years of struggle down the road.


Do it. Really, I don't see how it would be something you would ever regret. BUT, I can see a thousand ways how NOT doing it will be something you regret.


We are parents of two college kids and an 12 yr old son adopted from Russia. Adam is bright and very charismatic; however school/learning has always been a struggle for him. We consciously do not track the dollars we have spent on Adam's OT/Speech Therapy, Behavioral Therapy and year round tutoring. With all this support, he is solidly at a 5th grade level - entering 6th grade this fall. I can't even imagine where he/we would be without all of this support. One of my co-workers asked once how we can do it - both money and time. My answer - how can we not give Adam every chance to succeed - no matter how much we have to make do/beg/borrow.

Go with your heart - Noah needs this and you too will find a way to make it happen.


Financial Conundrum. Hate that, nothing worse than lying awake at night worried about money. One thing to consider perhaps you could do the Saturday program with some additional 1:1 OT and see how things progress, possibly adding the full afternoon preschool mid-semester if needed. It's terrible that they can't finalize the financial aid info before you have to fully commit. Good luck.


I'd certainly be happy to contribute, as well! Do it!


I'm impressed with all these comments. I just have to say that. Not a "whooor!" in the bunch.


I know you said the garbage disposal was a bad example..
but if it does die count me in to hook you up! :)
I'll send you one.. i can get them for free..
Promise! :)
There is one worry out of your day...


I vote for the private school . Just as a weird coincidence there's an article about families saving gobs of money in the new Good Housekeeping.


Amy, I never comment but I've been reading you for years and as the mom of a baby recently enrolled in Montgomery County's Infants & Toddlers program, I know where you're coming from.

It's incredibly easy for everyone to advise sending Noah to the expensive school. Of course your children are your top priority, but not sending Noah to this school does NOT mean that you are neglecting his needs or failing him in any way. As you pointed out, there are other things to consider, such as both kids' future financial needs. And the most important thing that both boys need is a mom who isn't stressed, who can give them all of herself everyday without being distracted by financial anxieties. I totally understand why this is such a hard decision for you and I wish that others wouldn't gloss over the very real consequences that financial strain can cause.

Whichever choice you make, Noah is going to be just fine. If you opt out of this special school, you can always change your mind next year. And it won't be too late. I promise you that there won't be a 35 year-old Noah in a few decades who's in some horrible predicament because his parents didn't make this one decision this one year. He's probably going to be President of the United States and we'll all look back at these posts and laugh. Ah, those days!



Do it! Unfortunately public schools are stretched to the max with special needs students and it is too hard for the schools to truly focus on the needs of each individual child. If you can prove that Noah's needs will be better served by this private school will your district bear some of the cost if you are able to prove this? Look at every opportunity for financial assistance. Look at government programs, autism foundations, etc., etc. You might find that if the school cannot meet your financial aid requirements that there are other sources out there. Unfortunately having a child who has "learning differences" requires parents who advocate for them constantly and it is exhausting (I speak from experience!) Working outside of the home? Forget it, you already have a full time job when you are blessed with a child who does not fit the mold of mainstream public schools. Good luck and go with what your heart tells you is the right choice.

Megan@Blueberry Scones

Oooh, I have to second the suggestion of gradually including him in the classes. Can he do afternoon classes this semester, then eventually go to the full day next semester? Or some other sort of easing in? That way, you aren't out quite as much, and you can see if the program is right for Noah before paying for full-time school.


I agree with most everybody here- the school sounds so awesomely awesome. Your posts from the camp were so happy-having Noah happy seemed to help your whole family-and from a teacher's perspective, I think the more help Noah gets now when he's still little, will pay off so much in the long run. Living with some debt isn't so bad.


How will you feel in a year if you do? How will you feel in a year if you don't? That's how I make tough decisions... look down the road.


I only read some of the comments, so maybe someone already said this but...I would *totally* pay anything for a better education. Should the school district be paying for it? Absolutely. (Says the district administrator.) Will the district pay for it? Probably not. (Again...district administrator here.) Is the district program as good as this outside one? Doubtful. (You know what goes here.)

Going into debt now, and getting Noah on a better track, is totally better than having a new roof, new garbage disposal and new basement carpet, but looking at Noah in five years and saying, "Maybe if we had done that program when he was 4....."


Go for it!

Don't know if this helps, but I did just buy Sleep Is for the Weak from Amazon...


Oh, my, the decisions! And the assvice! I agree with lots of previous comments, so my comment may be superfluous, but I'm in the minority who read your comment, and I think you've answered your own question - you feel like you're being rushed into the most expensive option, and you're worried about how Noah will adapt to the all-day schedule. You're his mom, and I truly believe moms DO know best, because that's how we're wired. It sounds like having regular private one-on-one sessions COULD keep up the improvements you've seen this summer, and if the therapist is able to teach/show you additional programs/exercises, etc. to do at home with him, perhaps that will be sufficient. I know, I know, is "sufficient" the best we can do for our kids? When the entire family's wellbeing is on the line, I think so.

Also, does the school have a mid-year enrollment option? I.e., if the one-on-one doesn't seem to be working as well as you hoped, can you enroll him in the school in January?

I initially disagreed with the Paypal button, but then when folks point out that you entertain us for free... but I also listen to NPR without subscribing. NPR gets sponsorships and foundation grants that help offset my not donating - there may be additional financial aid options (including grants that don't have to be repaid) that you could use the next few months to research and apply for, without being rushed (I write grants for a living - the most successful ones take weeks to craft).

Oh, and people who insist on emergency savings drive me nuts. If I could go six months without some emergency happening (see comment to earlier post about $700 vet bill), I'd be able to save for future emergencies. Unfortunately, there always seems to be a CURRENT one.

jessica Karlinski

You gotta go with your gut. If you think it's best for Noah, do it and the money will all work out somehow. I don't consider going into a LITTLE bit of credit card debt for something this important the end of the world. And as for the people who would judge your work/not to work choice or what you spend your money on....tell them to shove it.

Lucy's mom

I am the mother of a 15 year-old son who was diagnosed mildly autistic 11 years ago. We were told he could navigate fine in the mainstream with support from his parents. His therapist saw him in group for about three years and then said he's ok on his own.
Today he's a sweet guy but lacks many basic skills. His art teacher asked the kids to bring a small piece of furniture to school for a project. I found my son attempting to pull the arm off of one of our dining room chairs (get it? a "piece"of furniture).
This is a long way around saying I should have gotten my son more help and I live with that guilt every day. Back then it would have been a less of a financial stretch to afford - now I'm a single mom and have less to work with. And now he needs even more.
I hope you put Noah in the school, I think you will be glad you did down the road.
And I think it makes sense to put up the paypal button - you have provided readers with a great deal of entertainment over the years.


My best advice is to say that, whatever decision you make, be prepared to entertain the bad thoughts that will come--thoughts that you made the wrong decision. This is a really tough call, and chances are you're going to have some icky feelings either way, so I'd just say be prepared for that and don't beat yourself up when the "right" choice still makes you feel uneasy.


I'd put him in the school. You KNOW it's working, and you KNOW he needs it. There was a reason the timing worked, the spot was open, and the teachers suggested it for him.

You already know what you're going to do, though, right?

It's so sucky that money can be a deal breaker for something our kids need - but it seems like Noah needs this.


Ok, I have no idea if you'll actually read my comment (around #200). My nephew had many of the same issues that you write about Noah having. My sister and bro-in-law have these same discussions (cost vs. benefit analysis). At this age, i say yes. Do it for this year and then reevaluate. For my nephew, OT and PT were EXTREMELY helpful. This school knows Noah, he's improved, etc etc.

I don't like the idea of you all not having much to fall back on financially - so I don't think I'd recommend this approach long term. But for 6-months or a year, i say yes.

But I'm just some stranger on the internet so...


Do it. Do it, do it, do it. Money comes and goes; if this is what Noah needs, you will NEVER regret having done it.


I think you are freaking hysterical and I love reading your blog, although I rarely comment.

Just do it. I can't imagine a better investment.


I'd do it. If you don't you're going to feel guilty every time you spend money on anything nice for the next 10 years. And every time he has trouble with anything you'll wonder if the fancy preschool would have helped. But mostly because it sounds like you can afford to do it without digging yourselves into a financial hole so deep you'll never get back out. I mean, you guys have friends and family who aren't going to let you sink. And these people have already helped him a lot, and are recommending this...and you really really want to send him.


Not sure what your question is here. You know it is the right thing, so do it - you'll figure the money out. What's the cost of NOT doing it?

Just Me


I don't have time to read other comments but wanted to throw this out; hopefully I'm not the 700th.

But would it be tax-exemptible (new word) as a medical expense? I deduct around $10000/year in that category, and it does have various things it considers. If it is billed as a therapy it should be deductible and it might be somehow else. It would still require $ up front but you'd get anything over 7% of your adjusted back. (Maybe a different value for families?) I shell out tons for healthcare annually because my psychologist isn't covered, and as someone with bipolar that's kind of a required-to-function deal. I get back a good bit annually. (You have to keep track of every penny you spend for healthcare, co-pays, med costs, etc., but it adds up, esp. when travel to any appt over some distance away is included. (maybe not so big to you as a city person). His camp might even be covered?


I was lucky. When things were brutal and my son needed speech therapy, the state provided it for a very reduced rate (Texas did something right education-wise) that even then I could barely afford.

I do not regret spending one dime of it.

I don't have much, but I'll add my vote to the paypal thing.

The comments to this entry are closed.