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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.

Shannon headshot

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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changes

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It's been a little wild this summer in my house! We have been busy doing I-don't-even-know-what.

I know my girls went to camp for a week. It was weird to be home with just Tommy (Mark was working a lot, so he and I were the proverbial 'ships passing in the night'). Tommy and I got down to business (after two days of non-stop chatter) and went to get information about (perhaps) going to Germanna, and maybe volunteering at the library. The Library trip resulted in one filled-out application, and 23 checked out books. Success! The Germanna info session was very well put together. It looks like it won't be a problem for him to take some classes in the fall while we wait for the possibility of some of the state-run transition programs to become available. He is at the top of the waiting list.

I learned, though (at Germanna), that he needed a valid, current, official, photo-ID. All students need to take entry placement tests for English and math. That, in itself, should be interesting, since he doesn’t test well. Also, Tommy doesn't drive (or make beds- too many steps). His high school ID wasn't official, or, technically, current. I have his social security card, a voter card, an insurance card, and a library card, and nothing with a picture on it, apparently. In a brief moment of genius, I remembered we had passports, but, guess what (?) they were, of course, expired. No ID, no test, no college. ~sigh~

Sooooo.... I told Tommy we had to go to the DMV.

"Isn't that the most miserable place on the planet?"

Hmmm.... Those words must have come out of my mouth at some point in the last ten years. So, yes, I told him, it is, so bring a book. A long book. It's always a very long wait.

"Can I get a motorcycle license while we're waiting forever?"

"Umm, no. Not until you can make a bed, and shower head to toe in the right order, my friend; motorcycle driving comes after car driving, which comes after bed making, and showering correctly. And it won't be forever- just a few hours. Maybe."

I'm thinking I said all of that out loud, in a huffy manner, probably with a snap to it. Tommy, though, just takes these type of things in stride because he is a black and white type of kid, and what I said made a little bit of sense to him, in his world.

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Let me tell you: it has been a long time since it has been just Tommy and me, alone. He talks. A lot. He paces. A lot. He flaps. A lot. He has a lot of conversations with himself. A lot. He has a lot of aha moments about the universe and time travel and swordsmen, and baby bats. He dreams about being great. He likes to be the guy who saves the day, then disappears into a time warp or worm hole and only those that really know him would know that he rescued humanity. It's pretty cool stuff, except when it's played continuously on a loop, on repeat, for a week, and the only witness to it all is me (and even then, it's still cool, it's just tiring to hear it all again. and again). By day three (believe me), the DMV was an awesome break to get us out of the house doing something. Anything. The DMV, people. Dad was home on day four, so that helped me. A lot.

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When I write, I am reminded that I have so many blessings where Tommy is concerned. We don't know what is happening next, but we are trying to keep moving forward, and that is pretty cool. It's faith. It's trusting in the unseen, but moving forward despite not being able to see.

On day five, when the girls returned, the volume of the house went back up about 30-45 decibels. The bickering resumed. Three siblings fell right back into their own language, their ongoing rivalries. It got chaotic and loud again, like they hadn't even been gone. The laundry was piled up, like, way up. It was beautiful. And Tommy had two other people to talk to, and interact with. Did I already mention the word beautiful?

It's funny how routines shape us, isn't it? It takes one little change to realize some pretty profound things about yourself, your life, your relationships... like the blessings that abound all around, and the beauty of an unusual child, and the importance of photo IDs. For real, though, relationships matter, and the time you spend building them with your kids is so important. One day, they will be 18, and you'll be struggling with what-do-we-do-next and that communication you've developed will be awesome, and meaningful, and important. It'll be hard and sweet at the same time, and you'll be so glad for it!
 

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Summer studies

image_9.jpgI have the best plans of continuing to homeschool over the summer. These plans consist of very organized days, eager and willing children desiring to do their math, and soft music playing in the background. I think that all of the workbooks for summer bridging activities will be interesting and they will inspire learning and creativity. Doesn't everybody imagine such summer days?

I wonder when I will stop dreaming about such summers, and will just embrace what really happens.

I wonder when I will stop being surprised by my plans not working out the way I want them to. 

This summer, I'm trying a little more of a proactive approach (for my psyche, anyway) that involves only a few days a week of actual work, and less than a few hours of time a day devoted to such work. At least, I think, we aren't just lounging around doing nothing. My children's brains aren't just being lazy, wasting away into nothingness. I think of it like a compromise. A very flexible compromise. 

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After all, there are days that I am lazy, too. It's hard to admit that out loud, but, it's true. There are summer mornings when I just don't feel like being organized, or on time. We don't start lessons, because I don't make it a priority, and the kids don't have it as a priority. Some days are just... well, lazy. Here is the compromise part: It's OK.

It's OK to be in our pajamas all day. It's OK to skip math and go to the pool. It is even OK to wait to start the laundry until tomorrow (or the next day).

So, we are trying to be a little bit disciplined and a little bit flexible. We are having an expectation of math and grammar three days a week. While I don't think this is asking too much, my kids continue to balk at said assignments.

"It's summer"
"The sun is shining"
"It's too cloudy"
"My head hurts"
"My stomach hurts"
"My third toe on my right foot hurts"

You get the idea. They think I was both born yesterday, and was never a kid. Meh.

 

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This is my proposal (read: expectation, read: demands): Three days a week, less than a few hours a day (sometimes less than an hour a day). Work on the (wretched) math and grammar (please!). The oldest daughter still actually has curriculum to finish- as in, she still owes me, like two papers, and has another novel to get through before she can start junior year. She, actually, is very agreeable to my (ahem) proposal. We also have a loose schedule of crafts, library time, science time, and Bible study. In my perfect vision it isn't such a loose study schedule (I guess I'm a little bit of an organization freak- I like schedules like I like geography and timelines- everything in its own time and space). In reality, though, we have these lazy days, and rainy days, and sunny days, and sick days. We also really do have to get the laundry done... everyone has grown, and most of the girl's shorts are a little too short for my liking. They really only have, like, three pairs each.

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July is the fun month, though, where we relax a bit on the schedules. Like I said, it happens every year. It gives me time to get organized for next year, and it allows the breathing room needed to re-evaluate what did and didn't work for us. I'm embarrassed to say that I've just figured out that the way I teach (that, mind you, worked for my other two kids), does not work (at all) for my youngest. So, this July, specifically, this week, will be spent putting together next year's curriculum for her. I'll keep you posted!

Homeschooling is the best thing ever, even when it isn't the best thing ever. I love that I can do it, that my husband wants us to homeschool our girls. It is hard at times, but so worth it to be able to spend the best parts of our days together. Sure, it's nice to get a break, and yes, I have those moments when I wonder what on earth am I thinking, but overall I wouldn't change it. I love the summer time when we all can relax a bit, even though I sometimes struggle with all that relaxing. It is a great gift to be home with the kids. And, for real, I know that they really are learning... even when they are "not".


 

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Independence (or other patriotic) Day!

image_6.jpgI love, love, love July fourth! I love the fireworks, I love picnic food, I love the red-white-and-blue. I love being patriotic! I grew up as a Navy-brat, and moved every three years, but we always celebrated the fourth. In fact, the best three July fourth celebrations I remember were celebrated in Stuttgart, Germany on Patch Barracks. The fireworks were incredible... so incredibly close... that part actually made me nervous. They were close. Did I mention they were close? I actually remember feeling heat and smelling gunpowder. Awesome.

So, what are you all doing? For the first time in a long time (very long time) we are attempting to celebrate with the masses. I wrote a few weeks ago about going to the zoo for fun, and how those plans seem to always go awry. So, we are planning (diligently making plan A, plan B, and plan F). We have food contingencies, bathroom contingencies, rain ops, etc. We have bug spray, bug screen, sun screen, hats, tents... you get the idea. In our pursuit of the celebration of life and liberty, we are are arming ourselves for defense against a meltdown. I'll keep you posted. We will be hopefully partaking in the Heritage Festival, and enjoying the celebration of independence outside! All. Day. No wimpiness will be tolerated... says the husband.

 

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In addition to our IRL participation in the festivities, I also love that there are so many cute things out there, in cyberland, to do, to be festive, to decorate, to cook. I so enjoy looking at the pictures of everything. The trick, of course, is to not get sucked into the perfection of it all. Does this happen to you? It happens to me all the time... the beauty of Pinterest, the perfect recipes, the artistic crafts... Yes, it is all gorgeous, and exciting, but don't set yourself up for failure. Most of the recipes do not end up looking like the pictures of the recipes. Sometimes the crafts don't turn out, either. Just remember, you are being creative and creating a festive atmosphere for your family, and that is where the love is. Your family will appreciate your attempts, and love you for loving them so much to be making red, white, and blue cupcakes, and jello, and hamburgers.

I've also read about communities doing a decorated bicycle parade, and having prizes for those dressing up with a patriotic spirit. This sounds so fun, that one year (some day) I totally plan to organize a neighborhood parade for the kids. I've been saying this for a few years, though, and here we are, another year when I didn't quite make it!  In fact, you may be reading this after the fourth, which is fine, because there will be a celebration next year, too, and I may have that parade thing up and organized by then. Also, there will be Labor Day, Patriot Day, and Memorial Day coming up... you know, soon. All of these holidays celebrate patriotism, too. Red-white-and-blue is always in style!! Time to start planning!

Books, too, are an important part of our repertoire for any and all holidays. We. Love. Books. I picked up three simple picture books about July Fourth at the library yesterday. We will read them together tonight and tomorrow. I don't have baby-babies anymore, but I still like to use picture books, because they read quickly, the pictures are fun and beautiful, and the information is still good. Instead of trudging through a textbook teaching the story of The Declaration of Independence, you can read the same information in a story book with pictures. I have a seriously (like diagnosed, for real, severe level) distracted ADHD child. She can't handle loads of info at once, and certainly doesn't have the attention for a long book. Story books, with pictures, is the way to go. My older, non-distracted child loves the art and simplicity of these books as well. And my oldest, autistic child still appreciates read-aloud time here and there. He says he is too old for it, but I find him usually hanging around, and looking at the pictures, and listening intently. It's sweet.

 

So, whatever holiday celebration y'all are planning this weekend, please enjoy it! And if you're reading after the holiday, then kudos for planning ahead for next year! I hope everyone enjoys their weekend, no matter what! Happy Independence Day! 

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Father's Day!!!

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Let's hear it for the fathers! That phrase reminds me of that song from the 80s, "Let's hear it for the boy... let's give the boy a hand..." In today's media culture, unfortunately, most dads are portrayed in a hopelessly silly, and ignorant way. They aren't super smart, they can't figure things out, and they make a mess out of the every day. Seriously, watch some TV and you'll see it! The men I have the privilege of knowing as fathers are nothing like that (for the most part- we all have our flaws). My husband, and dad, for that matter, can cook, and they do the majority of all the laundry every week. They can fix almost anything, and (this is important) they know when to stop if the said project is beyond their expertise.

We, as a culture, don't celebrate dad enough, I think.

My husband works... a lot. To put it lightly, he is at work as much as he is at home. For our family, he works that hard so I can be home with the kids. His job besides being DAD is to generate the income, and so, I run the day-to-day, the kids, the house, the cars, etc.  We do make a lot of sacrifices, but it is such a blessing for me to not have to work outside the home.   I know that I don't tell him enough how proud I am to be his wife, and I know I could never convey just how much I appreciate him. So, for Father's Day, I love to do a few little things to celebrate all things "DAD".

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The children and I try to do the obvious things, like make him breakfast, and sing to him in the morning (I'm not sure the singing is so loved, but it's the thought that counts). We make cards and usually we plan to eat out, because that is a treat in our house (I am not the best cook...). Other things we like to do are hide notes for him in pockets, shoes, bags, and on mirrors, so that he gets little reminders all day and throughout the week that tell him about how cool we think he is. This year, I think we might take over the yard work, too... just so he doesn't have to do it.

Another thing to consider is what we (the kids and I) might think is a good way to celebrate Dad, is not necessarily what Dad thinks is a good way to celebrate Dad. A trip to the zoo, for instance, in my mind, is a wonderful way to spend the day together. I envision happy, smiling kids, beautiful snapshots of animals, and ice cream cones on the way home. I forget that there will be horrendous traffic getting to the zoo, it will most likely be ninety degrees at the zoo, all the animals will be hiding in the shade, and bees will be attacking us as we try to have our ice cream... Let me just say this: Dad does not want to go to the zoo (I can neither confirm nor deny that this was an actual event one year). So, give Dad the option of celebrating the way he wants to celebrate! We have literally settled on just taking a nap and hanging out -armed with books and dvds- in recent years. He really just wants a quiet afternoon (silver lining: it's free)! That is truly-for-real what my husband wants. So, young mothers and wives, just a little advice: find out what the "perfect day" looks like from his perspective.

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Remember to honor your Dad, too! I worry so much about celebrating my husband, that it's easy to neglect my own father figures in my life. My dad was Navy, so we travelled a lot, and he was gone sometimes for quite a while. My "Papa" was my mom's dad.  He also served in the Navy, and we had the privilege of living close to him while my own dad was "on cruise". As I got older, I learned that he was actually a step-father, technically, but he was the only grandfather on my mom's side that I ever knew. My Dad's dad was a farmer in North Dakota, so we didn't see him very much, but back in the stone age, I remember calling him on the telephone and wishing him a happy father's day.  Both of these men loved me and had awesome stories to tell, and really left an impression on me.  So, don't forget your uncles, brothers, and friends who are all trying to leave and live this legacy of fatherhood. It is a great and noble thing to have a father to honor for a day, and throughout the year. This one day, though, they get to be "king"!

I don't want to neglect to mention that some of you don't have good memories of the father, or father figure in your lives. I hope and pray that your day isn't painful. I know too well, that not every story is a happy one. I'd like to offer hope for the changes that you may be trying to make in your own lives, or in the lives of others, or your children's lives, if this is what you are faced with. You are championed- from me to you!

 

HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!!

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marriage musings

 

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 So, I was thinking about writing on the subject of marriage, and I was trying to come up with a  good, exciting topic, but my  brain is kind of, like, frozen (not the movie- just the state of being). I've  been so focused on how unintentionally busy I am, and how  I can't believe I have a man-child    graduating from high-school, and lacrosse playoffs, and swim season, and the list goes on, and  the  time flies by, and I just become kind of frozen. But, I think, marriage is part of parenting, and it's so  important, and it certainly deserves time and space and priority.

 My husband and I had to deal with a lot of time apart last month, and I think that is part of the reason the month sped by! He was traveling (like, out-of-the-country- travel) and the kids and I were just busy (ugh, that word again!) with the rhythm and routine of the every day. Let me just add that this kind of travel involved no phone contact (not exaggerating), seismic activity (yes, like earthquakes), and ten time zones. Apart. So, we, the children and I, were really on our own.

It's easy to fall into some interesting habits without the accountability of your spouse being present, such as, kids hanging out in the bedroom, in the bed, in the bathroom (privacy?)... It's actually amazing to me how easy it is to fall into these patterns. Three weeks can be a long time, I guess. God bless those families that have to be apart longer for deployments, extended travel, or single/unaccompanied tours of duty, and situations like that! Three weeks may seem like nothing, but it was long for us. Plus, the whole no contact thing just added to the situational stress of being apart. So, I had kids arguing over the front seat of the car, whose turn it was in the bed, and things like who was last downstairs, so who had to go turn off the light... I'm also pretty sure we ate out almost every day (nutrition? what?) and I skewed the budget for the next month because of that.

Needless to say, we were very, very happy to have Daddy back home after three weeks! While it was hard to be apart, and out of touch, and all that, it was actually kind of hard to get back together and back into being married, and parenting on the same page, too. Long, long ago, when I had just two kids, and one on the way, my husband deployed to Kuwait. It was right after 9/11, and he was a reservist who got activated to serve overseas. The children were so young, then, and I don't remember it being so hard to adjust to him being home again. Of course, it could because I went into labor, and we had a new human in the house right after he returned. We were all adjusting to something new. This time, though, with older kids, and everyone having an opinion (and expressing that opinion) getting back into a routine was not quite smooth. We had to have a few discussions about bedrooms and boundaries and what we had been doing for three weeks. We needed to talk about the expectations now that Dad was back in the house.

Part of the transitional bumps (this time) relate to the kids, our boundaries (or the lack thereof- I am so working on this!), and parenting, of course, but the bigger picture relates to marriage, I think.

Our marriage relationship is a barometer for our home. We need to connect and respect that our relationship speaks volumes to our kids. The way my husband and I relate to one another teaches our kids how to relate to one another. Our children are watching us, and they are learning so much about behavior and choices and consequences. When we are angry or frustrated, it almost always means the younger ones are going to be angry and frustrated. Interestingly, though, now that I have teenagers, just because we are happy doesn't necessarily mean they are happy (are all teens moody?).

When my husband and I take the time to make our relationship a priority, it translates to less anxiety in the home. It also teaches our children respect- respect for our marriage, our space, and our time. It is a symbiotic (the big homeschool word for the week) relationship. This means that we are mutually beneficial to each other. The children are learning from us, and certainly we are learning from them (patience, self control, joy… things like that). The kiddos are learning boundaries. When things are being communicated and conveyed appropriately, the kids aren’t so stressed about what to expect. Consistency (my personal struggle) is the key to happiness - for kids and adults.

Another touchpoint is the sharing of control. When your spouse returns from travel or deployment, or whatever has called you apart, it is important to let them back in to the front seat! The returning spouse needs to be afforded the respect to continue to parent and make decisions. In our marriage, we (my husband and I) share the control-freak gene. We are both oldest children and we both like to be in charge. Sharing of control is hard business, but it’s important to our marriage, and our family. It has taken some time, and, yes, some arguments, and some more time, and we are still learning to share the control. It is nice to not have everyone fighting, and control is usually the center of any argument in our home. My oldest likes to have the illusion of control, the middle is usually in control, and the youngest desperately wants control. For them to see either Mark or me give up the control of (insert here) type of issue, they are learning that it is ok to not always be in charge.

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So… enjoy your marriage!  As always, let me repeat that I am not an expert- I took “Marriage and the Family” at age nineteen in college, and I should have paid better attention. I do have some experience, though, and a lot of great role models in my life, and God, of course. To His glory for the success of my marriage, for sure! It is an awesome thing when we can all be together, and all be on the same page, same sheet of music, etc. and have some fun on this business of family and parenting.

 

 

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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.

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