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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

Why Me, Again?

 

So, in this brand new year, why did I have to catch the brand-new flu? I had the flu for most of last March. It hasn’t even been a year!! I’m put out, I tell you, not just out of commission, but out of humor and out of patience for my body that insists on getting sick so often. I am now praying fervently for all the cells, probiotics, vitamins, supplements, etc., to work together in this immune system that makes up me. I know I’m fragile, and all that, but seriously, now I’m offended that my little biome would give in so quickly this winter. Offended, and a little sad. Just sayin’!

So, with another seclusion to my bedroom, and with nothing else to do because, frankly, breathing is taking its toll, I have composed a million little posts to pontificate, extrapolate, and expound upon in my feverish state of being. The first, of which, is why me?

My very wise and good friend who lacks filters said once, “Why not you?”

I haven’t argued this point with her, since she said that to me once years ago. She’s right, of course. Bad things happen to good people, good things happen to bad people, and things just happen with abandon to everyone and anyone. I happen to believe that there is no such thing as an accident and everything has purpose, but she’s right: why not me?

 

 

So, I will pull up the big girl panties and get on with my day. I’ve hydrated, and medicated, and cancelled all appointments for the week. I’ve deferred my house detox. I’ve suspended homeschool for the week, except for reading and Minecraft because, come on, you can read and do Minecraft without me. I’ve issued directives on food and hand sanitizer. It’s a forced rest break. I wish I felt better to enjoy it, but I can’t have everything, right? My hero has even invoked sick leave for the rest of the week, so now even the mom-taxi services are curtailed. Praise!

The hidden benefit of being sick is witnessing how well the family does without me (or the collective you). This goes along with the premise of preparing them for independence, which is kind of a running theme of my writing. The husband does fantastic, first of all. He needs a little guidance, sure, but gone are the days where the house would be trashed and laundry would be overflowing all the living spaces. He’s awesome. The oldest actually did ok, too, which is kind of huge. He’s going to Woodrow Wilson Workforce next week, so I’m happy that although there were no complicated tasks, he was able to stay out of trouble and feed himself. Granted, he ate pizza and leftovers, but still, he ate. I had to remind him about showering, but baby steps are still forward moving steps, so that’s good. The middle, very responsible girl isolated herself in her room, complete with universal precautions, and screamed at me if I ventured out of my room. This is good. She definitely exhibits signs of great self-preservation. I’m pleased. That little one curled up with me and hugged me and asked if I was dying and layon me and went and told the husband that I was dying then came and lay on me some more. Needs improvement, that one.

 

 

While we are all works in progress, and a little bit mad here, we are people of great love. We’re not without our faults, though. We have our selfish moments and our selfless gifts, and I think one of the best things we may have going for us is homeschooling. Homeschooling definitely has some pluses and minuses, but one of the biggest pluses is being able to do life together all the time. This can be a negative, too, I’m not going to lie, but the plus side is that real life is being lived all the time, right? There is nothing as real life as having mom or dad get sick. For sure, the kids needed to be able to prepare food this week, they needed to be flexible with routines and cancellations, and they needed to be empathetic with each other and me. Well, it wasn’t always exactly pretty, but it all happened as it had to. Yes, we need to keep working on the finesse of living life, but I think we have the basics down. This reminds me of this thing I keep reading about -- this phenomenon known as adulting, and I’m hoping that my kids will be prepared to adult when they are done here, because they’ve not just had things magically happen (like chores being done, and dinner being made) and they see first hand the teamwork involved in raising a family and a marriage, for that matter.

The thing is that, once again, despite the odds stacked against us when we are sick or under the weather or whatever, we seem to all rise to the occasion of getting through it. Maybe that speaks to life training, independence goals, homeschooling, love, laughter, tears, tirades, etc., but it definitely speaks to the stuff of raising families, and that is where all of our (the collective our) beautiful and messy work lies.

So, keep calm, stay healthy, take your vitamins, and parent on!

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The Middle Girl Missionary

 

So, I need to post a little tribute to my lovely middle girl. Being in the middle is challenging all on its own, I’ve heard from countless people. Especially after announcing that I was pregnant with Katie, people in my own family commented that I had plagued Danielle with the challenge of being a middle child. I literally remember mourning a little after celebrating my third pregnancy. Hormones, holidays, and pregnancy can be a tricky mixture.

“I've made her a middle child,” I wailed one afternoon. “What have I done?”

However, am over the moon, as they say, to have the privilege of raising three kids. My fleeting moment of insanity surrounding the realization that I had created a middle child passed quickly when my husband was activated from reserve to active duty and deployed to Kuwait.  I had no time to fret! He arrived home with Katie’s imminent arrival, and we settled into being a family of five just fine, and Danielle has risen to the occasion in many, many ways. She is wise beyond her years, if nothing else, but she is also so mature and beautiful in many, many ways.

Earlier this year, Danielle announced her intentions to spend Christmas in India, bringing Christmas to people who don't have it (Christmas, that is).  My husband and I totally supported her, and very honestly assured her that she would have to raise the money for the trip- that we would not be paying for said trip to India. She very calmly answered that she was aware of this: she just needed our permission to officially begin the paperwork and fundraising efforts. She had our blessing, and a little part of me thought she might have to wait a year because it was so expensive and she had less than a year to raise funds. Silly, me. Well, it was clear that she would be meeting her travel goal right on time, because, you know, God. He was making everything happen right on His schedule. Aside from the surprise expense of the visa (who knew permission to enter and exit the country could cost so much?) and some last minute plane tickets to Atlanta, she raised all the money on her own.

Fast forward to today (Although this is posting in January, I wrote it on December eighteenth), as I write this in Atlanta airport, she has just rendezvoused with her team and I won't see her until New Year’s Eve. I'm both excited and wrecked. I am so happy for her, and I feel wistful, and a little sad. Since 2003, there have been five of us on Christmas morning. The reality that this year there will only be four of us is settling in. I am so very proud of Danielle, and I know she will be successful, but it feels a little lonely already.

I think it's funny that for ten months I've been speaking of this moment with excitement and parental pride. Two days ago, I started feeling anxious about the travel aspect. I get travel anxiety really bad! I was fine last night and this morning. The moment we left the hotel for the airport, though, I felt my calm unraveling. I made eye contact with the front desk clerk who checked us in yesterday and she mouthed, “Smile, Mama, it’ll be ok.”

She had to bring me a box of tissues. The guy driving the shuttle bus between the hotel and the airport gates had to endure a blubbering mother (me, by the way). Delta has its own little airport within the Atlanta Airport, and I was flying Southwest, so he dropped the team off first, then took me to my check-in spot. He hugged me goodbye at my terminal, gave me some Kleenex, and told me to stay busy. After ensuring I wasn’t a terrorist, nor was I smuggling bombs, even the TSA agent called me sweetheart and told me to have a nice holiday. People in Atlanta are awesome.

 

I have maintained a confidence regarding the launching of my children into the world. The three of them are all so different with different paths ahead of them, and the only thing they have in common is that they are all mine. And, I'm pretty fierce about that. It was hard to send my special needs son to school in Staunton. On top of the plain ol’ separation aspect, I had to worry about basic things like his remembering to groom, and for him to remember to put his clothes on the right way, and to remember to wear shoes. He was only three hours away, though. Danielle is half way around the world for her first, solo travel trip ever. She is a missionary. I'm going to be a deep breathing expert by New Year’s Eve. (In hindsight, literally, as I’m editing and posting this three weeks later, she was and is fine. I’m so happy, though, to have her back home!)

My point? Hug and love your kiddos! Prepare them to work toward independence. Help them see the world in a favorable light. Tell them you love them as often as you can. Some kids will need a little more physical help, and some will require a little more of your mental energy. The three of mine require three different styles of love, encouragement, and discipline. In that precious moment, though, that you need to let them spread their proverbial wings, the best and hardest thing for you to do is to whisper your love into their ears and open your arms and bravely let them go. Let them go and change the world, and know, Mama, that you are a big part of the impact they will have on others.

 

Stay calm, let go, and parent on!

 

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New Year's Resolutions... AGAIN

                                                                                   

 

So, I am off to starting the year off right!  I’ve got my super cute planner, complete with a calendar sticker set to go with the cute planner, to make the planner cheerful and cute, and one-hundred-and-forty new gel pens. I have a new computer (finally) and I have everything except for one missing file synced to said new computer. I’ve got the wall calendar up to date, and the phone calendar up to date and synced with my husband’s phone calendar and his Microsoft outlook calendar… So, how could I forget to post on my blog last week?! How could I not write? As soon as I have an answer to this, I’ll let you know; in the meantime, thanks for reading and sharing a recycled post last week.

 

                                                                                 

 

But, here is the annual start-the-new-year-off-right post. Enjoy reading, and hopefully smiling, and please don't judge me too harshly… It’s a work in progress- I’m a work in progress.

So, the number one goal is always to get Christmas packed up and stored away. Check, and double check… The Christmas decor is all packed up (and the house feels bigger and a bit empty). I even took some extra time to throw away broken ornaments, broken decor, and light strands that weren’t working. I couldn’t throw the lights away at the beginning of the season, because I was short an extension cord, and the light strands worked perfectly for that. The husband notes to me that this is not an approved use for said light strand, and insisted that it go in the trash.

Next, of course, It’s time to get organized (again) and I’m following a “detox” suggested by a very appealing Pinterest article I came across this year. It seems so easy: just do one thing a day for thirty-one days! Everyone can manage one thing a day. I postulated to my husband that in thirty-one days we would have a clutter-free, organized, detoxed house. Day one was papers. I was like, “OK- not so hard.” You know what, though? I have tons of papers! The husband pointed out that it would take thirty one days to complete the first task. I have medical reports, copies of labwork, genetics files, autism files, homeschooling files… So, I decided that those papers didn’t count because they weren’t just loosely floating around my house. This detox just meant loose papers, right? No problem! Day two was clean out my wallet. Done. Day three was clean out my purse. I think it was on day three I decided this detox thing may have been a little too radical for me. I’m going to go ahead and just stack some files up, and maybe wait another month or so to get to my purse. My purse is a Tardis- I’m not sure I can handle re-organizing that, yet. I don’t even think I could throw away a lot of stuff in my purse, because I may need something that is stored in there when we’re out of the house like gum, bandaids, hair-ties, or rain gear. Plus, all those rewards cards are stored in there, somewhere, too. Moving on...

 

                                                                                 

 

After organization projects were commenced (at least, slowly, but, hey, I did start), I looked at upgrading the ol’ fitness routine… or lack, thereof. I’ve started walking. I’ve inherited a Fitbit. and I just found out that I’m supposed to use the Fitbit to work out within a target heart rate. I’m not sure that exactly applies to me, as I am a health anomaly to everyone who knows me. My resting heart rate is dependent on if I’m standing or sitting, and it’s high. I hit the “standardized” target heart rate in, like, four minutes of being awake. My cardiologist (my very smart, highly reputable cardiologist) was even perplexed by this. He said I’ll probably live to be a hundred years old, and outlive everyone I know. Anyway, fitness is always a new year priority, but not where heart rates are concerned, for me, anyway. I vacuum twice a day and walk up and down the stairs twenty or so times a day, so my fitness is on track, in my opinion. Fitness, check!

 

                                                                            

 

Next on my New Year list is (of course) healthier cooking. Easy, peasy, lemon, squeezy. I totally just switched everything to organic and gluten free for the whole family, so we’re on the right track, here. Except for pizza nights- I couldn’t handle the meltdowns from my oldest and my youngest. Yes, I know it is bad parenting to negotiate with terrorists, but you haven’t lived with my terrorists, so no judgments, please. Our meltdowns are epic on a Star Wars scale, and The Imperial March is constantly blaring in the background of my mind. We only have pizza once a week, so I can’t even sweat the details on that. Danielle and I remain gluten free, even on pizza nights. I’d love to add, “and eat more vegetables,” but I won’t lie. Be healthier this year than last year is our mantra, and we’re doing fine.

Finally, as always, I am trying to find new ways to be kind; maybe I'll even start a kindness revolution in my neighborhood. I have lots of great ideas: I'll write a note, bring up someone’s trash can, pick up the paper at the end of the driveway and put it on their (not my) front porch. Also, I won't be too hard on myself and I hope you will join me in this! Mothering and fathering are hard work. The New Year, and the appeal of a new you, new habits, new things can become overwhelming. Let's all accept that while New Year resolutions are nice, they don’t exist to make us feel badly about where we are and who we are.

Keep calm, parent on!

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gluten free emotional tornado

 

So, my household is in a state of unrest. The holiday season and schedule throws us all into a tizzy, and our over sensitive neurological systems can just not handle being out of routine and out of schedule for any length of time (except for Mark. He’s a rock!).


I wish, just sometimes, that each of us (moms) could have a button that would allow us to feel each others’ anxiety, pain, panic, whatever it is that makes us uncomfortable. I wish I could see just how much someone else’s brain could handle before I proceed to make a judgment about them, or the situation they are in. Is my youngest really that cold, for instance, that we need to immediately go inside and skip raking leaves or a horse riding lesson? Is my son really in pain when he is outside in the sun, or is it a ploy to get out of walking to the pool? Is the middle girl truly panicking, or does she just want to get out of whatever commitment I know she doesn’t want to go to? Is the spouse really so tired… yes, actually. He is really that tired. He works super hard. The kids, though… they make me wonder at times.

 

 


I am guilty of pushing my kids when I think they are just being dramatic. Sometimes they are just being dramatic, but sometimes they are really truly telling me an absolute truth, and asking for help to deal with whatever situation they need to escape. The oldest and the youngest have sensory issues. I know we all do, to some effect, but those two truly just can’t even. Too loud, too bright, too quiet, too scratchy, too soft… it’s exhausting, but it is very real. I found out two years ago that my son can hear colors. For real. I was reading an article about synesthesia out loud marveling at such an occurrence, when he said, “Well, doesn’t everybody?”  No wonder the kid hates being out of the house. He can manage it better now, but the toddler years were very interesting (read: crazy, crazy, crazy). The youngest doesn’t hear colors, she smells them.


Anyway, and bear with me here because this does all tie together: we are once again trying to be gluten free at our house. I am already and have been for three years, because it turns out that I probably should have been diagnosed with Celiac Disease ages ago. Well, inflammation is a very real thing for everyone else in my house, so I’m just not buying the stuff I’d normally buy, and just blanket-stating that we are all gluten free. This was NOT a good idea. It was not a good thing to say out loud, within earshot of any autistic people that may be currently living in my house, in any case. One would think I just announced that we are giving up wi-fi forever. The emotional barometer of my house right now is idling around edgy, or at all-out-panic if it's after four in the afternoon. 

 


So, if I had said button to see if people (the oldest and the youngest, namely) are really emotionally distraught, or if they are just being ornery, would be oh-so-helpful, because, truthfully, it’s really hard to be sympathetic! The lack of enthusiasm about this healthy lifestyle change is making me kind of angry. That being said, I also understand that everyone in my house is sensitive, so I’m in a quandary about how to respond to them. I can’t send people to bed without anything to eat for eternity… the grocery bill would be less, though, I guess… but seriously. With spectrum kids it is really a challenge to weed out behavior from true anxiety. I need that button! It would be good for them, too, to see that I’m not trying to harm anyone, and I have their best intentions at heart. Also, moms get angry too, and sad, and we stress about things being good for our families, and we aren’t trying to torture anyone, etc… 


Goodness! It’s tough stuff to love people so fiercely, isn’t it? We may not be able to see inside their complicated heads, but we need to keep doing our best, even if it means eating healthy and enduring the sun, the cold, or the wind.

Keep calm, love fiercely, and parent on!!!

 

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Ahhh... December

 

 

Ahhhh… December… lovely time of year. People seem to be a little more hopeful, a little more helpful, and a little more happy, except, when they aren’t. The holiday season brings out the best and worst in everyone, sometimes. I’ve seen all the extremes, actually, and I’ve been guilty of being a little bipolar myself, this year. Despite my attempts to avoid any and all negativity, the media mocks me by reporting only the divisive, horrible, two-faced news stories. I’ve decided not to dwell on the negativity, but even for an optimist like myself, it’s hard to be positive all the time. So, I”ve come up with a few ideas to stay annoyingly upbeat- especially during the holiday season. Yes, I said annoying, and yes, definitely positive. I will channel Buddy the Elf, of the movie Elf, for his innocent and joyful view of the holiday season and humanity, and all that entails.


First of all, I put up the decorations early this year (it may or may not have been right after Halloween). I think that it is hard to be hateful when your house is lit up like a Christmas tree. I have lights, and sparkle lights, and tree lights, and glitter everywhere. I love decorating for Christmas, and it lifts my mood to see my tree and the stockings, and all. the. things. of the holidays. So, my suggestion is to put up some decor to inspire and cheer you!

 

Next, do something good for somebody (anybody) every day. We make blessing bags to hand out to people that we pass on the corner of shopping centers. We make cookies for the neighbors that seem lonely, and even the ones who don't seem lonely. We give at our church. We serve at our church, too. A smile, a helping hand with groceries, letting someone go ahead of you in line at the grocery store, writing a note to soldiers overseas (or at one of the recovery hospitals) -- all these things are ways to serve someone other than yourself. Doing for others helps you live longer and it improves your mood. I’m pretty sure science can back up these statements! I can speak from experience that it’s true, though.


You should also make something. Be creative. Creativity is an expression that only you can make out of your own very unique soul. Write a song, make up a dance, write a story, color a picture, make a cake, decorate something… Creativity is truly a lifeline, and truly something, that if lacking, can cause depression and anxiety - and who needs more of those in their lives? The answer is nobody I know. So, create something! Create anything. You were designed to be creative, and unleashing that inner spirit can cause lots of happiness. 

 


Of course, sing some songs and be silly with your kids. Yes, holidays are stressful- both good stress and not-so-good stress. Kids feel it, too. So, play some silly songs and belt them out with your kids. My brother, I remember, was dismayed to learn that Tommy knew all the NSYNC songs at age two, and could even sing them somewhat well. This was before he had real language, mind you, but sometimes, belting out some NSYNC makes for a fun car ride, and singing can liven up those pre-afternoon doldrums. James Taylor is great when someone is sick, and Elmopalooza is fantastic for road trips. Don't worry about ruining your kids' taste in music, I can attest that Tommy is into classic rock, and the girls have a working knowledge of eighties hair bands, love Bon Jovi, and can tolerate most bubblegum-pop-rock music. It’s all good.


Lastly, and this is serious, don’t be afraid to love each other, love neighbors, love strangers, love people who don’t look like you, and love the opposition. There are just too many stories in the news of suicide and depression. As a former nurse, I can tell you that for some people, the holidays are the loneliest time of the year. I am sure I’ve written this before, but in this time and space it is important enough to repeat:  Everybody is going through something. It doesn’t cost anything to be kind, and costs even less to just be polite. So, get out there and enjoy the holiday season as best you can with the gifts you have that are the present.

 


Keep calm, enjoy the holidays, and parent on!

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