My drama queen persona was around even back in the old days when I used to work as a publicist for a large non-profit. However, the big difference was we had IT personnel who descended from the heavens and saved the day while we were having nervous breakdowns because we couldn't send and receive emails. Well obviously now as a stay-at-home mom, I don't have this luxury anymore.
More importantly, I am still so surprised that having a well-equipped home office can become indispensable when it comes to strengthening your ability to advocate for your child. Here is a list of my tools:
- Web Faxing: I used to go to the stationery store three blocks away just to fax a few pages. It cost three dollars for 6 pages. Well, I stopped that nonsense with the help of my brother who helped me get www.maxemail.com where I send faxes via the internet. They also give you fax confirmation sheets and that could be important when you need to show proof you sent your document. I think the image is clearer too when you send via internet fax. No more lines down the middle of your fax. I also don't have to deal with it interfering with my home phone or answering machine. I've heard that it isn't an issue but the thought alone overwhelms me.
- Copy Machine: This was horrible when I didn't have one. I hated having to go to the stationery store or library and copy multiple pages one-by-one. And God forbid if I left something important in the machine and walked out (such a me-thing to do). I would have evaluations, progress reports, and medical documents to send to agencies that were reviewing my children for various reasons. I hated having to copy those pages each time they were requested. But life is better now because my new copy and scanning machine lifted so many burdens. I remember that I once went to a meeting for Spencer's Early Intervention review and had given everyone a written copy of my concerns. They all appreciated it. And I loved saying "yes" when they asked me, "Can I keep this copy?" It was very professional even though it was about my personal family life; a fine line that we cross everyday as moms of special needs children.
- PDF Writer: Ohmigosh. I love my PDF writer. I could scan documents that have my signature and then send them to anyone anywhere via email or fax and it would cost me nothing. I think the people who work with me, such as coordinators and school officials or anyone else that I have to exchange paperwork with, love that I have this. It makes things go so much faster in the sometimes slow-paced and heavily detailed world of social work and special needs education. I remember once, Spencer's service coordinator said, "Hey, you didn't tell you you had fax and a scanner." I had just gotten one and she was happy because that meant she could help Spencer faster.
- The Basic Stuff: You'd be surprised but I didn't buy paper clips until a month ago and I barely knew where my stapler was. But I realized that I needed to have file folders, staplers, and paper clips. It took a while but it did eventually hit me that my children will have special needs for a long time and that means the paperwork will just pile up unless I organize them. I did splurge on some cute colored paper clips to have some fun. This of course backfired on me because Logan felt the need to make a necklace out of them and hid the rest of the unused ones. However, our little Spencer happened to find one and thought it would be cool to put it in his mouth.
- My Outlook and Blackberry: These two tools make up the Grand Central Station of my special needs mom office. I send myself reminders about everything: from library book due dates to even jotting down a note that I talked to a particular person on a certain day and to send a reminder to myself when to follow up. I even remind myself to remind my husband that he has to come home early on a certain night. I can't rely on him to remember on his own. And believe it or not, I even have a recurring message sent to me at 8 am every morning to tell me to breathe and believe in myself. I take that little message very seriously and I actually take a deep breath when I read it. It is usually the first conscientious moment of my day. I really love these two tools. Now, I'm looking into seeing if I could use it to make a food diary so that I could more organized in noting possible reactions to certain foods. With the blackberry, it would be easier to note reactions if I'm not at home or if I had to feed them something outside of our home that might have questionable ingredients.
I was about to call the Geek Squad and spend even more money that we don't have but finally my husband spoke up.
He told me that I am responsible for the problems with my computer and until I figure out how it all works, I will always run into problems, even after the Geek Squad comes to fix it. I knew he was right. So I stayed up for hours talking to the Hewlett Packard online help people. It was frustrating. I had to repeat myself often and in the end they (I had to talk to two people because I got disconnected! Argh!) gave me a half-correct answer. It's okay, I figured out what I am supposed to do and my computer is going to be better than ever soon. I have to stop being so afraid to solve these issues on my own. I tend to define myself by my fears but, I think I've evolved a bit. Before I used to be so afraid to bake but now, I feel more comfortable and can bake GFCF cupcakes, cookies, and breads. Now, I'm onto tackling my fear of computer programs and soon, I may even be able to do my own taxes! Ha! Never!