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Kristen headshot


Kristen is a home­maker, home­schooler, and a home­keeper. Her experience includes nineteen years of practice, raising three kids, a husband, and a dog. Writing about her life helps her stay sane. She believes that sharing stories helps others by providing opportunities to share advice (and helpful hints) about homeschooling, and raising kids on the autism spectrum, while supporting marriages and families that are striving to thrive.

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Shannon Enos is a wife, recovering Pinterest addict, and homeschooling mom of two young girls. Her hobbies include analyzing music with her husband, pretending she’s going to finish that crocheting project she started 4 years ago, and making lists of things she has already completed just so she can cross them off. Shannon values truth, education, the arts, open minds, humor, and “Nashville" binges on Hulu. She believes that learning happens everywhere, whether you’re paying attention or not.

 

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Seasons

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Soooo.... How is that schedule thing working out for you?

Ummm, no. It's not. After all of my planning, my glorious attempt at being organized this fall, I have YET to have a normal week. I've either had dental appointments, doctor appointments, plan-for-the-future appointments, or sickness appointments. Every. Week. Since the start of school. True story.

My "bam-you-have-a-routine," has become' "surprise! What-chaos-can-we-throw-your-way-today?"

Indeed. This is what my mentor moms call a "season of life". It sounds much nicer than "everything is going wrong," or "not according to plan," or "this just stinks."

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Can I get a witness? Anyone else?

A season of life refers to the crazy things that happen to you, and you just have to get through it. Sometimes, the season is because you're dealing with something heart-breaking. I know moms dealing with loss, or sickness. Some families are even trying to care for aging parents, and making sacrifices, and some super hard choices. Sometimes, the season is for a really happy event like the birth of a new baby (yes, most usually anticipated, but still chaotic). Moving to a dream house, getting the job you've always wanted, adoption... all happy events, all those things can cause stress, though. Sometimes, it's just a busy time of life.

 

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In the homeschool community, the veterans assure me that it's ok during these seasons, that the kiddos are still learning, they are still going to pass the tests that are due to the state every summer, they are still growing academically, etc. I tend to be a worrier- I can leap to anxiety in a single bound, and jump way ahead to all sorts of conclusions. I have not had such a season (well, until now) when we (the kids and I) have been so off schedule (mind you, it's my schedule). This year, starting during the summer months, has just been wonky. We've had a lot of unanticipated events, and then just a lot of appointments. I don't doubt that the kids are learning, but we aren't following the plan I actually planned for us to follow. It's disconcerting to my OCD-ness. On top of that, we had well-checkups at the pediatrician yesterday, and when asked about school, my sweet, unfiltered, twelve-year-old answered, "it's great! We aren't even schooling, we are un-schooling!"

"Ahem.... She means to say that we aren't very structured this year... Ummmm, and, they are reading and doing math," I stammer out while giving the baby the eyes... You know the look. The one that says, please keep that in your thought bubble. While I'm doing that, the fourteen year old chimes in, "except I'm not good at math. I'm, like, two years behind." The look gets transferred to her while I firmly remind her that she's fourteen doing junior level work in everything else. Why, why, why do I feel the need to validate? -- Maybe because it’s the pediatrician, maybe it’s that I feel like I have to always perform well, maybe it is just that I’m the teacher, and I don’t care for math…

Anyway, I know not everybody in the homeschool community is as structured as I’d like to be, just as I know, that there are several families who make homeschool look like a typical school would look like. I do know that life is not perfectly scripted, and sometimes school happens from the bed, from the couch, from netflix, or from the park. For those of you that are thinking about homeschooling, I want to encourage you to do it!! For those of you that need a little encouragement and are in a season of life (whichever season that may be), just know that statistically, your little ones will do fine on those tests, even if you aren’t hitting the books every single day.

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And for those of you that are just wondering what happened to your perfectly planned schedule, feel free to join me in that journey and we will just remind ourselves that it is just a season.  Put your roots down, dig in, and enjoy. 

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One of Those Weeks...

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So... It has been one of those weeks. You know the kind: if something can go wrong it probably will. All of us have this feeling of impending doom. Anxieties are on high alert ( if autism lives at your house, one of the side effects is anxiety for everyone- yay!). Tommy is sure that SHIELD agents are canvassing the neighborhood, and Katie swears she saw the evidence of an Incredible Hulk footprint at the marketplace. The computer isn't co-operating; it takes an hour and a half for it to decide to work. On top of that, my tablet was frozen for three days. This causes a bit of mayhem when you're trying to homeschool your kids (for me, anyway, it causes stress- all math is done on the computer). I know it's a first-world problem, but it is a big problem for this OCD mom. We are in week four of school, and we are on week two in the curriculum. Can I get a collective sigh? (~s~I~g~h~)

When these weeks occur, I usually want to eat a stockpile of chocolate peanut butter cups. It's true- just being honest. I have endeavored, however, to partake in the diet/exercise phenomenon, so peanut butter cups are not available. I do, however, have copious amounts of leafy green spinach and a handful of radishes in my fridge. I'm not finding anything that really equals the calming effect of the peanut butter cup, though. So, I've just been praying, and deep-breathing, and eating spinach, and exercising. I'm trying to feel relaxed and ok. I'm reassuring Tommy and Katie that SHIELD is not in the neighborhood, nor is the Incredible Hulk, but Danielle undoes that by telling them she is an agent, undercover... Goodness! I need to reign us all back in (life at our house is nothing if not entertaining).

So.... guess what??? Here comes the main point:  I'm OK. It's Saturday, my tablet is sort of working, the computer is powering up, and I didn't feel any guilt about having French toast for breakfast. No doom has occurred for us. Although somewhat dramatic, it was just a hard week. All of us got through it. In the spirit of anything-goes, my friend texted and said she and her husband were on their way over for lunch, and they live in Austin, Texas (surprise! They are in town!). I'm in my leggings, and my Captain America shirt, and I feel mighty, because after they leave, I'm going to work out. I don't much like to work out, but now that I've started doing it, I like the way my body feels while I'm doing it. It's been 27 days, and I've exercised for thirty minutes on every single one of those 27 days.

So, here is my other main point: even when it seems like everything that can go wrong will...there are still steps you can take to make sure some things go right.  Here are my favorites:

You can offer gratitude. Studies show a grateful heart is a happy heart. The emotional world you live in can be falling apart, I know, it's happened to me, but there is something you can be thankful for. My go-to thanks happens to be indoor plumbing. Also, toilet paper. I'm serious. Think about it.

You can go for a walk. Studies also show that we don't get enough sunshine, or outdoor time, for that matter. There is a whole new mental-health issue called something like nature-deficit disorder. Just do it, as the slogan goes. You don't have to dress up or put on makeup. Just go for a walk around the block (and breathe deeply- and face the sun).

 

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You can pray (or meditate, or deep breathe, again). I will always say that- for every situation. Faith is powerful and awesome, and, dare I say, imperative and essential.

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You can lean on a friend. Most friends don't know you may be having a hard day (or week, or month). Don't be afraid to share. I have personally experienced this many times- the 'I had no idea' moments. Things can look really fine when someone is falling apart.

The hard days (weeks, months, seasons) will happen. Your kids will be stressed, your marriage will need attention, you will feel manic and/or depressed. Every one of us, though, can do at least one small thing for ourselves to make a moment better. Sometimes it's service for your kids or family. "I love you" looks a lot like dinner and a cookie, or maybe a vacuumed floor, or folded laundry. A bubble bath may be just enough to calm frazzled nerves- for you or your kids- or your spouse, for that matter. Being grateful for running water, toilet paper, and indoor plumbing can put stress into perspective. Texting (or calling) a friend is invaluable. Even if they can only cheerlead from the side lines, that could be the boost you need to get through the day, or night. Fresh air always can bolster up a mood- "a breath of fresh air" is a good phrase for a good reason.  It's invigorating and calming at the same time.

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So, mamas, dads, parents, care-ers-of-others: keep on keeping on! You are doing awesome work. It may not always look pretty like Pinterest, but it can be so meaningful and pretty with purpose. Love is patient and kind, and is always a verb.

Keep calm and parent on!
 

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Happiness is Fall

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I am one of those crazy people who loves all things pumpkin! I love pumpkin coffee, pumpkin coffee creamer, pumpkin pie, etc.... I LOVE the taste of all things pumpkin. I love, love, love crisp weather, too, but not too crisp. The allergies here (here, being Virginia, apparently the worst place to live if you have allergies- and if you never had allergies, you will have them in this region of the world. Eventually.) are unavoidable, so I can't air out my house the way I'd love to, but we make the best of it- you know, with Zyrtec or something of that nature (I can only air out the house when it is below freezing, or the first few days of early spring, before the first blooms show up- all five of us have wicked allergies). I digress...

 

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Back to this season: pumpkins, apples, harvest time... It is really a fantastic time of year! We are so lucky to live in a place where the leaves change colors so vibrantly. Virginia is great for fall festivals, too. We have totally taken advantage of living here by going to fall festivals, craft fairs, mountain drives, picnics, and pumpkin patch places. We've never been to any of the apple groves, but I understand those to be pretty spectacular, too! So, my point in writing about all of this is to illustrate how awesome it is here, and how many activities there are to take advantage of. And a lot of them are free- which is nice, because if you have kids, you probably have a budget. Like allergies, the high cost of things around the Northern Virginia region is unavoidable.

 

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The other reason for talking about how awesome fall is, and how wonderful this area is, has to do with plain 'ol optimism. As I write this, we're having a super rainy week(does Virginia have a monsoon season I was unaware of?), with the shorter days, it's easy to start feeling a little down. This family, all of us- even the dog- have seasonal affective disorder (unofficially diagnosed). When it is overcast, rainy, cloudy, etc. for any length of time, we start to go in hibernation mode. So, when I noticed that my family was beginning to mope around, I started to look up area activities (on fredparent, of course:)). I'm thinking we are going to stock up on some vitamin D, and update our rain jackets, and go out anyway. I lived in Germany as a kid, and if we waited around for the sun to do things, we would have never done anything (in Stuttgart, anyway, it rained a lot). So, what keeps us inside, now? I know the answer is technology, but I'm really trying to fight that battle right now, and get us up and out, simply because it's healthy. Plus, there really are a lot of cool things and goings-on to take advantage of around here!

 

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So, happy fall! Happy pumpkin-spice everything time! Enjoy where you live, with whom you live, and get out there and just do it. It's fall y'all, and it's a happy time to be in Virginia.
 

 

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loss

th.jpgNobody ever wants to really dwell on it, or talk about it. We shield our children from it to the best of our abilities. We explain it away, and we put it on the "back burner" and we wait.

All of us have experienced loss- every human, actually starts life with a loss: loss of warmth, loss of darkness, loss of our umbilical cord... Really, as much as we try to shield our precious little ones from loss, to have life, there has to be a loss.

And this great mystery of life, of all that we have, of all that we get to experience, endings remain sad. Usually, anyway, endings are hard.

I grew up moving every three years. I think my mom and dad did a pretty good job of helping me and my brother walk through "good-byes", and "see you laters". This was way before the Internet, and long distance calls actually cost a lot of money (yes, we did have TV, and Atari game systems were, and still are, pretty cool-- but way back when...). Today, though, the world is a lot smaller, it seems a lot smaller, anyway, and with FaceTime, and email, it's actually pretty easy to keep in touch in real time. But, back in "ancient times" we wrote letters, and had to wait for a reply. It was hard to leave friends, and sometimes family every three years. These were losses.

These moves and losses were especially hard to deal with when I was a teenager. I'm not sure I realized how difficult it was to experience this type of loss until I was older, no longer a military "brat", and I found myself being the friend saying good-bye to someone else moving away. I was suddenly the one not moving. I felt left behind. I literally had a mental-health-worthy depression in my mid-thirties when my best friend moved to the west coast. We're talking not-wanting-to-get-out-of-bed depression. It was a tough year. I wonder now if that was just a culmination of all the good-byes I've ever said or experienced finally breaking the surface of the carefully calm good-byes over my entire life. Did I really ever deal with good-bye? Maybe I just was always "fine" because I was really just not dealing with the emotion of it all. I don't know. I've been friends with the (now) seven families that have moved in and out of the house across the street. It's a bit of a running joke on our street, that I've been friends with all of them. They've all moved. I've been left behind. I know now to deal with these losses as they happen. Depressions are serious. I'd like to avoid them in the future. Like I said, that was a tough year.

Parents have to deal with all sorts of losses, though, every day. We may not think of them so seriously: the first tooth, the first roll over, the first sleep-through-the-night, the first crawl, walk, etc. They are all losses, natural and sometimes happy, of the various stages of your baby's life. It happens daily. Your little one is getting older, and more independent. Does your family have a pet? You'll be dealing with a loss eventually. Moves, best friends, grandparents and great grandparents... Saying those kind of good byes are especially precious. I recommend you give them special attention, especially if you have an especially sensitive child (I need to follow my own advice, here).

There are all kinds of books to help illustrate and define death and dying- for kids, and for parents. In fact, a lot of the books that are for children are just as good for the adults that are reading them to their children. I cling to my faith, so, I recommend books that deal with death according to your faith; they can be especially helpful.

We experienced a very unusual, and unfortunately sudden death of a family member this summer. We were quite stunned, actually, and while it seems like we are all OK, I think we will be dealing with this loss on many different levels in the weeks to come. My grandmother is 91, and lives with my mom and dad. My uncle, her baby, the youngest, died unexpectedly. She has dementia, most likely Alzheimer's, so it has to be re-explained, re-lived through, almost daily. My mom is exhausted. My grandma is mostly sad. My dad is trying to keep it together. This is a hard, difficult, crazy, weird type of loss. It was not expected (I keep saying that, because he was 58, and not sick). It's unclear exactly what happened. There has not been a lot of closure. Even the memorial service, while lovely, was so quickly put together, and accomplished, that it seems... surreal, maybe. My uncle was struggling with a lot of different issues, some so private that as they come to light we are all feeling somewhat responsible, in a way, for not knowing the pain he was in. Wondering... What if? What if we knew? If only? Could we have helped?

As I write this on the anniversary of 9-11, the over-riding thought I have is this: I didn't tell him I loved him. I didn't share my faith with him. I didn't call to check in with him. I just didn't... And I should have. So... Remember your loved ones. Call them and check in.  Send a note telling them you love them.  Don't wait. Seriously, there is no time like the present to tell someone you care.

This is my sweet, wise, old grandma- with her precious great-grandchildren! 

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Snuck-up-on-me...September?

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Yes, yes... I know time flies when you're having fun. It also flies when you have a crisis, by the way. Time, it seems, is always going by too quickly, in hindsight, especially. So, it's already almost September!? This means I have to get organized to homeschool the two remaining non-graduated kiddos in my household (and probably the graduated one as well, because we have yet to find a good fit for him). Which means that I'd better get my you-know-what (insert your favorite word for backside here) in gear. Like, soon.

So...a little back story: I wanted to title this post 'seven stitches and one unexpected demise'... But my close friends and family insisted that it wasn't a good idea to do that. The thing is, though, that this summer has NOT gone according to plan. We've had a lot of not-planned-for things happen. Life happens, and it is messy and beautiful, and sad, and amazing. I've learned that I enjoy routines, and schedules, though. It may be because I have autism in my family, or it may be the nurse in me, or anxiety... the list goes on... Whatever the reason, routine is my friend. So, once I'm out of it (routine), things tend to just go by, and by, and then it's almost September, for example. So, this why I want to write about the beauty of routine.

I love, love, love homeschooling my kids. I enjoy getting to spend the best part of their day with them. I'm actually very excited that no one at our house is in another (as in alternate, public, private) school setting this year! Four years of public high school was a little bit on the tough side for us. We are not morning people; we are definitely not 0630 AM people. My husband, God bless him, is a morning person, and faithfully gets up every morning very (very) early. He tolerates us non-morning people very well. The rest of us (not me, and not any of the kids) did not inherit a morning gene. We do follow a routine, though, and life is just much better all around when we stick to it.

Repeat after me: routines are beautiful!!

Our day (for example) looks a little like this:

8:00-9:00-- wake up, breakfast, coffee (yes, we all drink it. We love coffee!), get dressed, etc.
9:00-10:00-- morning chores, tidy up (I find I am able to be attentive to school stuff when I'm not worrying about waffle syrup sticking to plates. And floors. We have a Labrador. Floors need to be swept, or I imagine that little dogs are growing out of the fur piling up around the baseboards), devotions, Bible time
10:00-12:00-- history/literature/grammar/writing work
12:00-12:30(ish) lunch, stretch, walk outside, jump up and down...
12:30-1:15 (or so) math. We must accomplish math. It has to be done. Math. I don't like math. My oldest two do not like math.
1:15-2:something- the kids work on science homework (they are in a co-op for that- I also don't like lab science in my house. This year the girls are both doing chemistry- one in middle-school, one in high-school, legit, a scientist is teaching it, and I'm so glad I don't have to).

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The afternoon is usually free for playing, reading, art, running errands, and get-togethers (the newly twelve year old informed me that I could no longer call them play-dates). We tend to eat dinner between five and six. One day a week we go to co-op only, and it is all day, so we don't "do school" on those days, and Wednesdays are music days, so they will look a little different, too. One evening a week is spent at the library, and one is spent at gymnastics. We also will be doing a speech and debate club this year, on Fridays, in the afternoon. Friday tends to be a light day no matter what curriculum we use, so I'm glad that club is on a Friday. Sundays are church days. Bam! We have a routine:)

 

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Although I've never done this before, this year we all (meaning the homeschool folk in the house) have planners, so each day will have a checklist for what needs to be done. I'm looking forward to seeing how it works. I hope it does work, in that I hope that by writing a plan for the week we will be kept honest and realistic about getting the school work accomplished. We are far (far) from perfect (very far), and usually, around the holidays, we fall a bit out of routine with traveling, and family, and special events. And for some reason, February and March are difficult to get through. I suspect it is because of the cold, and being inside so much. Another thing I've learned about everyone in this family is that we are ALL seasonally affectively disorderly (SAD) in the cold, dark months. It's true! We get spring fever, too, but we tend to power through and try to be done with our (school) work around the first week of June. By the end of June I'm usually missing my routine, which is why this year I tried to implement a summer routine. Then summer happened, and seven stitches and an unexpected demise later, I'm scrambling to organize myself for September. It is okay, though. Like I said, life is beautiful, and messy, and sometimes we are in a season of just-getting-through-it!

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Getting into a routine is awesome. Structure is especially good for toddlers and pre-schoolers and kids with any type of anxiety or autism issues. It's also just plain good to know what is expected from everyone (spouses included!) from day to day. We, as parents, know what to expect, and the kids know what to expect. Also, putting on the schedule or calendar anything out of the ordinary (field trips, doctor appointments, party days) gives the young ones time to process a different routine. It really does help avoid a meltdown (it doesn't eliminate them- meltdowns are like ninjas; they can come out of nowhere). Think about it: everything on earth has a routine! Seasons, animals, nature, even existence has a pattern to it. Routines are good. Routines are beautiful. Please feel free to share yours! 

 

P.S.:   More on the subject of loss to come... Loss is one of those subjects that is hard to talk about, and even harder to experience.  It was an uncle, actually, who died unexpectedly. I'll explain the stitches, too, in my next post. Thanks!

(the pretty flower picture is by Lakis Fourouklas)

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Pouches' Community Corner

This month Pouches learned about a very important resource for families who have lost loved ones to sudden tragedy, an organization called LLOST.

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The foundation has helped 44 hospitals in 22 states through their Treasured Memories program. The program sends nurses to bereavement training, and provides or supplements the $55 memory boxes that include clothes, booties, handknot blankets, pictures, foot prints, hand prints, clipped hair and other mementos.

Read more...