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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.

We're All a Little Mad Here

Fear

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Someone very close to me is struggling with anxiety and depression. As I am an anxiety and depression veteran, I am both hopeful and worried for her. She is very young, and has already been in the fight for several years. I know she feels hopeless, so I pray very fervently that this burden be lifted from her.

I find that a lot of folks are still uncomfortable talking about mental health. I think my family is so immersed in it, that it has become part of my vernacular. I can even joke about it sometimes, and I hope that joking might be just what someone needs to hear in order to confront such things in themselves or in their families. I hope that I am approachable and non-judgmental enough for people to approach and talk to me.

 

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I am not a psychiatrist, but I have huge respect for the one our family uses. I know that medicating children (and adults) is a hot topic with a lot of accusatory and inflammatory thoughts and feelings relating to this issue. I would love to share my opinion, and please know it’s an opinion only.

We are a medical knowledge type of family, and growing up with asthma (in the seventies and eighties, mind you), I had/have a lot of experience with medications. Oxygen is kind of necessary, so I took medicine my whole life. Going into nursing also made me not afraid of medicine. Having an autistic child that was constantly speaking only to his imaginary friend in a language I couldn’t understand, and freaking out if the sandwich was cut in rectangles instead of triangles, probably made me feel a bit desperate for a medicine -any medicine- to work, so I could help him with, well, life. And it did work. It worked well. It still does. Having another autistic child that had just as alarming behaviors that were not (absolutely not) managed with Love and Logic or other traditional parenting methods (and believe me, we tried... and cried... and tried) led us to consider medication for her, as well. Again, very successful medication management. Life improved drastically for all of us. We still struggle and have challenges, but we all speak a similar language in our house. Thank you, Dr. Burdett.

 

fear4

 

The notion that we are sick because of what is going on with our bellies (gut health) is most likely spot on. I believe that. I’ve taken measures to correct our diets in our house, and to make sure we are taking supplements and probiotics. In the meantime, though, medicine is still necessary for us. I think the proverbial damage is done. Antibiotics are inevitable, and oxygen and English language are necessary. And attention spans for homeschool work and meltdown avoidance are a (very) nice side effect of medications that truly do what they say they are going to do. I don’t think the “damage” to our guts is irreparable, but I think it is going to take time to fix said damage. Maybe, I believe, it’s going to take a long time.

 

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And here is where I want to encourage you parents who are dealing with tangible fear about medications. Finding a good practitioner that you trust and can develop a relationship with is the most important part of taking a first step toward considering medication management for your children. Sometimes, it just works. And, to the parents who are so anti medication, no matter what, and would never consider that for your children, it is fine. It is ok. Both sides of this challenging playing field deserve respect and grace, because every consideration you are making for your children is beautiful and brave. Just as I need to respect people that are anti medication, anti medication people need to respect me.

Furthermore, sometimes medication is the glue that holds a person together, and that is scary and heart wrenching enough, without having to field judgment from friends and family. Mental health, psychological disorders, disabilities and the like are part of our world, part of my world. You never know what another family may be dealing with. With things like suicide and violence on the rise, parents you encounter may just be desperate for their children to be happy ... for just an afternoon or a moment or something. We all should afford each other a little grace, especially when most of us are just trying to do the best we can do with the knowledge that we have. And that’s where posts like this come in handy; hopefully, someone who needs just this information is reading it this very moment! Parents, we need to share our knowledge.

 

fear1

 

Keep Calm, share and share alike, offer a smile, and parent on.

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Never Quit

This season has flown by (of course. always, now that I’m getting older, everything flies by)! I can’t believe we are officially in the holiday season. I love it, too, it’s my favorite time of the year! As I’m writing this, my middle girl is outside carving her pumpkin with a group of friends, and my youngest is freaking out about not getting enough candy tonight while trick-or-treating. I’m mentally preparing for four fourteen year old girls to spend the night after trick-or-treating, and the sugar meltdowns that I am totally expecting to ensue. We shall see. Nevertheless, sometimes, love looks like sugar and sleepovers. It just works out that way, I guess.

My husband and I decided to fit in a crazy New York City trip this month. It was so last minute that it reminded us of being in our twenties again, pre-children, spontaneous, you know, back when we were fun. The plan was to execute a whirlwind, twenty-four-hour-round-trip-madness, no sleep kind of trip. We took the train up and back, fit in a show (not Broadway, but The Patriot Tour), saw the city, and got home in time for breakfast the next day.

 

NQ1

 

The train, by the way, is awesome. We didn’t have to, like, pay attention and we didn't have to actually drive. We didn’t have to navigate traffic in New York City. We got to doze on the trip up, and (more importantly) the trip back. The train drops you off right in Penn Station, and a few short blocks away is Times Square. As soon as I realized, “oh my goodness, we’re actually doing this,” I totally had to consult the authority on things to do, which of course, is Pinterest.

After making a board of free things to do, I picked out a few things to tie into this particular trip. We were going to have several hours before our show, and many hours after our show... so, of course, the first thing to do was to go to the public library.

“We come all the way to New York, and you want to see the.... Library?”

“Well, yeah,” I answer like this should be obvious. We’ve been married for over twenty years. He knows how I feel about books.

“OhhhhhKaaaaaayyyyy...” He answered with a smile. “Let’s go!”

 

NQ2

 

God knew that I had to be with this man because of many, many reasons; one most important reason is that I have ZERO sense of direction. Like, none. It’s bad. My kids are better at navigation and direction than I am. He directs us to the library, while I am extolling the virtues of books, and the great architecture and history that we will see there. for free.

Our next stop was making sure we knew the location of the Town Hall, and how to get in. No joke, there were several doors and only one of them was going to be open for the show. After verifying the Town Hall scematic, we went to lunch. I picked out Ellen’s Stardust Diner. I had a closet addiction to the show, Glee, and the diner the kids sing in is fashioned after this actual Ellen's Stardust Diner right in Times Square. It was so fun, the food was so good, and the wait staff was very entertaining. It was a bit loud, but my introverted, sensory processing challenged husband even said he enjoyed himself. And that the twenty-five dollar burger was worth it.

 

NQ5

 

After lunch, we still had a few hours to kill. I suggested one of the things on my Pinterest Board that would involve a taxi. Who knew my husband was fundamentally opposed to taxis? I was shocked to discover that taxis were not going to be an option. So, we hung out in Times Square and people watched. Free entertainment, people. Very, very interesting sites in Times Square. It was even still light out.

The Patriot Tour was awesome. Hearing Taya Kyle, David Goggins, Marcus Luttrell, and Chad Fleming speak was both motivating and inspiring. Getting to meet them- actually shake their hands and thank them for their service and sacrifice- was even more amazing. Words can’t even express the feelings.

 

NQ3

 

So, after the show, we had more people watching time, and lots of walking around time. The city, truly, never sleeps. Everything is lit up and busy. We had to hang out at the train station until three in the morning (also, very interesting people watching... very interesting indeed...). That part was hard, because we were really tired, and so not in our twenties anymore. We arrived home in time for breakfast, though, and actually can say we had a whirlwind-twenty-five-hour-date! We survived! I may still be recovering, but honestly, marriage has to be remembered in the course of parenting. Sometimes, love looks like a chance to meet and greet your husband’s heroes, and you’d do just about anything to make that happen with a very happy heart. Love also looks like libraries. Don’t judge.

 

NQ4

 

Keep calm, invest in your marriage, never quit, and parent on!!!

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I Can't Drive... Fifty-Five!

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Far be it from me to point out the obvious, but I will anyway. People in this region are terrible drivers! Not all people, now... don’t go complaining that I’m the rude one... but listen to me when I say that this area has got to be one of the worst for driving. I know for a fact that the commuting times around here are on the top ten list of worst commutes, ever. I also have first account knowledge of some of the antics of drivers who do really stupid things and then get into accidents, and then they say really stupid things. My husband is a firefighter/paramedic, after all. Some of his stories are truly awful, and some are truly funny. People never cease to amaze me.

So, I have a teenage driver. She is (luckily) very responsible and attentive. I worry about her in a way that most would say is psychotic. I’m an anxious person. I can jump to worst-case scenario very, very quickly. So, I do the whole brake mashing and steering from the passenger seat, which doesn’t work in a normal minivan, and she tries not to yell at me, and usually resorts to calling me “MO THerrrrrrrrr!!!” It’s all part of the process, I’m told. But anyway, she is a good driver, and has good driving instincts, and tends to err on the side of caution. Praise God. Literally.

 

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My twenty year old, as most of my readers know, is a different creature. He is on the autism spectrum and has been back and forth to Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center for life skills training, evaluations, and computer skills training. Tommy has really enjoyed being at Wilson Workforce, I suspect mostly because I can’t nag him daily to shower and shave, but that is another story. He is back there currently learning how to... drive. A motor vehicle. On a highway, among other things. He’s in heaven- not the real Heaven-capital H- but situational heaven.

My first text was something to the effect of “met driving teacher shes cool and i got to drive a chevy IMPALA!!!!!!” He writes like a serial killer and avoids punctuation at all costs. He is a huge Supernatural (the TV show) fan. Apparently, Impalas are the best. He isn’t driving the classic one that the Supernatural boys drive, but he doesn’t seem to care. It’s all about the Impala. The next text, the next day, was much the same, just a check-in type of text and no real new information. However, the next day... three days in, mind you, I got a facetime video from him yelling at me that he got up to fifty-five miles per hour.

 

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“Better there than here!” I responded to him, smiling, trying not to throw up, and trying to convey an attitude of calm.

“Whateven does that mean?” He asks, flapping his hands wildly, God bless him.

“Well, you know, there is more space out there.”

“OK!” he shouts at me, “Bye!!!”

OK... Bye... This child, it has just dawned on me, is going to come back to Northern Virginia and expect to drive, because he’s going to get his license. What on earth was I thinking?
This week’s face time was even better.

“Maaahhhmmm!!! I got to go on the highway!!! I drove sixty miles per hour!!!!!”

Awesome.

I have to remember sometimes that I prayed very hard for Tommy to gain independence. My whole entire family has been praying for this, as well. My church home group, my friends, his teachers have all chimed in on the prayer chain that is independence for Tommy. God is faithful. Now, the prayers are for safety and for the masses that drive in Northern Virginia to have patience and good manners. I have to continue to let go and be good with said independence. We are all growing up!

Keep Calm, pray often, research Chevy Impalas, and parent on!!

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Where, Oh, Where?

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Hello? I’ve been looking for fall... the season, that is, not an action or infinitive or any such thing. Winter never really happened, and then summer was kind of only hot, like, D.C. metropolitan hot for only a few weeks. Spring came and went quickly, too, as a matter of fact. AND... what is with the allergies?! They are really kicking my (and my family’s) collective patootie. The weather, my friends, is completely whacked. After a whole week of grey, I have come to the conclusion that even the sun has gone into hiding. Everybody better be taking their Vitamin D, and going outside as much as possible (with a hepa-mask, if your allergies are driving you crazy).

The good and great thing about strange weather, is that it pushes our boundaries. Many mental-health type people will wax poetically on the benefit of stepping outside of your “box.” For example, fall heralds pumpkin spice everything, but not usually temperatures in the nineties with humidity registering at one hundred percent. It’s outside the box to enjoy a hot, steaming, frothy, venti pumpkin spice latte with extra whipped cream while one is sporting shorts and a tank top with sweat dripping down the back. I’m just saying that it can be done, but it’s outside of the box (at least it’s outside of my box).

 

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Stretching the mind, though, is good for the collective us. New possibilities and ideas are only possible if you are willing to stretch. When I was younger, I would have never imagined that I’d be homeschooling and teaching Shakespeare to middle and high school kids at a homeschool co-op. I never even imagined that I would have wanted to be a stay-home mom. When I was nine years old, I remember very much wanting to be an astronaut, but then I discovered that math and I were going to have a tenuous relationship (at best), so I let that go. In high-school I believed maybe I wanted to be a psychologist, but then I took psych and I realized that wasn’t my forte at the time, anyway. I considered a degree in medicine, but I liked sleep too much to even think about med school. I ended up with a nursing degree, and working at the bedside which I both loved, and didn’t love. Then, I became a mom. Everything changed.

 

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A journey from astronaut to motherhood certainly stretched (and continues to stretch) my “box.” It is amazing what one tiny human can accomplish, isn’t it? I wonder (like really wonder) how I got here, and how it came to this. Perhaps I would be a good philosopher with all this thinking and stretching my thoughts and ideas and reading Shakespeare (again), in my forties. I’ll tell you one thing for sure, and that is to never stop stretching! Our collective boxes need to be empty, sometimes, with us outside of them. Sometimes, wondering about the weather and considering multiple conspiracy theories about what happened to the seasons this year is all it takes to exercise that thinking muscle. Other times, contemplating motherhood and the miracle of life can wear one out. And still, there will be times when just trying to keep the kids on task, and the household put together will be all that gets accomplished that day... and these are usually the days that leave you wondering, “what did I even do today and why am I exhausted and how do other people do it better than me?”

-- they aren’t... doing it any better than you ... and they have those moments, too, believe it...--

These moments, the wondering and the searching for answers moments, are when life is being lived, and lives are being shaped, and the work of rising up the next generation is being accomplished.

 

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So... Keep calm, read some Shakespeare (it’s much funnier as an adult), and parent on!

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focus on the good

good3

 

Well, it’s been a few weeks, here, that have been really crazy. I am so against the glorification of busy, yet, here I am. Here we are. My whole family is busy. I don’t mind activities, but having teenagers puts a whole new spin on things.

The oldest, my first autistic child, has been attempting college. He was enrolled in the developmental math modules necessary to pass, so he could register for an actual math class (for credit) needed for an associate’s degree. Tommy has dyscalculia. He can’t do math. It was a great strategy to take math first (he wanted to get it out of the way), and it was mostly online. We (he and I) neglected to think about transportation to and from Northern Virginia for pre and post tests. We also had a “technology hates us” week, which coincided with the disability counselor’s week of being out sick. Needless to say, college did not work out for us (for him) for this season. It was a tough blow, but it’s going to be fine. Tommy is already recovered... of course, he didn’t have to pay for it. It’s expensive to drop out of a college class! Anyway... moving on.

 

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The middle girl also started college classes. She’s a senior this year. Being homeschooled, she has to actually register as a student in community college. She is an academic rock-star, though, and a licensed driver, so we (Danielle and I) have been doing great! Let me tell you, it’s great to have another available driver in the household. Also, it’s been rewarding to guide her in her burgeoning independence. She’s growing, I’m growing, the family is growing. That doesn’t mean we aren’t still crazy busy, and it certainly isn’t easy to “let go,” but is is rewarding.

That little one is just a whirlwind of nerves, feelings, emotions, and sensory fibers! She is a teen; she also is challenged by all the diagnoses! Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder is a bear, and when you start dealing with autism, sensory issues and dyslexia, you start feeling like the tazmanian devil. On steroids. We are totally ON when she is on, up, awake, moving, talking, moving, twirling, leaping, talking, talking, talking... You get the idea. Love, love, love... tired. Exhausted. Love.

 

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The man of the house deployed for the hurricane. He did actual hero work for three weeks, and I don’t say hero lightly. He didn’t get to go on vacation with us, and he wasn’t home to help me make college decisions for Tommy, but he worked his tail off in Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands, totally clearing roads, boarding up windows, clearing out wet carpets, checking on citizens abroad with the Fairfax Taskforce under FEMA. Don’t believe the media hype, here, that is bashing how uninvolved our country is. It’s simply not true. Plus, people are generally good. There is good news, and good things happening. It’s not all bad. It’s mostly good. We, collectively, should focus on the good.

So, all-in-all, hectic, busy lives are crazy, but good, but challenging, but... Hang in there! Right now I seem to be celebrating the days I make it into the shower and get to condition my hair... and I don’t have toddlers! Celebrate the small victories, and breathe through the challenges, pray, praise, meditate, and be intentional about the focus of the good.

 

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Keep calm, focus, and parent on!!!

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Pouches' Community Corner

Adoptive parents in Fredericksburg now have a new partner on their journey to a healthy family. In 2016, Children’s Home Society was awarded a $125,000 grant from the Virginia Department of Social Services to extend their Richmond area post-adoptive services to the Fredericksburg area.

ChildrensHomeSociety

Now CHS is looking to find adoptive families in the area who need support before they hit a crisis point. “It doesn’t matter which agency they adopted from, or when that happened,” said Buckheit. “We want to offer a lifetime of support to adoptive families in the Fredericksburg area, especially those who haven’t been aware of our services in the past.”

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