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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

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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Me Time

 

I have been thinking about this concept of me time for some time. Time is such a funny thing, going by super fast when I least expect it, and dragging so slowly when I just want to get a move on. I can spend a whole afternoon waiting in a doctor’s office, and it feels like midnight by the time I get seen, when it's only really been under an hour. That same amount of time spent with my spouse or a good friend feels like only five minutes have gone by. I'm not alone, right? Then, of course, the demands on my time as a parent seem to be never-ending: conferences, meetings at school, activities, home schooling, check ups, cooking, games, sports, appointments, and it goes on and on and on… So what am I thinking when I suddenly want me time?


My daughter, at the tender age of fifteen, just wrote (Special Needs Siblings: A Kind of Our Own) about how important it is to have time for herself. Alone time. Quiet time. Me time. It resonates with me, because, at the end of the day, some me time could probably be very therapeutic, not just for me, but for  my kids, and for my husband, definitely and for sure! It's common sense, but then I forget about why time alone, for everyone, is a good thing. Imagine how mentally stable one could feel with just an hour of time to themselves? The proverbial experts all spout great philosophy about the benefits of me time.

 

 


During a particularly trying and challenging stage of life in my not-so-distant past, I was consulting a therapist (I was probably on the verge of a mental breakdown, in hindsight, but I digress) and said wise therapist asked what I'd be if I could come back in a different life. I readily answered, “Well, I'd be a large, fat house cat that only eats chicken because I don't particularly care for seafood, and I'd eat and sleep whenever I felt like, and I'd be inside where it's warm and safe, and no one would care that I was fat… Or, I'd be a nun in one of those silent nunneries where I wouldn't have to talk to anyone, and I got to wear robes, and nobody would care if I was fat.” 


Wise therapist looked at me and replied, “Wow. You didn't even need to think about that.”


“Nope! I've got that all figured out, you know, just in case.”


“Well,” said he, “I think you really just want to be alone sometimes.”


Well, I thought, he was absolutely correct. I also wanted to eat and not care that my body was very round (I prefer all things sweet, and nothing green, but I'm trying to even that out). Then, of course, as guilt is the default emotion of my brain, I felt guilty about feeling so selfish, especially about something that could never happen, plus, I really, really love my family, even though we're all a bit mad, here.


Here it is, though… part of my desire for a new, impossible existence was extremely telling, and very, very possible. Alone time. Everyone should definitely schedule alone time for themselves. It's not selfish. In fact, alone time may be very un-selfish if it helps you to be a better parent, spouse, or friend. Ideally, you should probably have alone time every day; if not every day, then maybe every week. Now, you may scoff and cry that it is impossible for you to schedule me time. I think, then, that perhaps it should be a goal to do exactly that. “Challenge accepted!” could be your battle cry. Carve out an hour some where in the course of the one-hundred-sixty-eight hours in the week. Even if you have ten kids, three dogs and one husband, one hour should be a doable goal.

 

 

Everyone will benefit! Me time could be whatever you want it to be. You could spend your hour reading, journaling, walking, doing a puzzle of some sort, or taking a bubble bath. I have a friend, the mother of four boys, and every afternoon she takes a cup of tea up to her bathroom and takes a bubble bath. She is one of the most grounded mothers I know. I tend to walk, personally, and even when I don't want to walk, I feel so good having just done it, and my whole household benefits from a better balanced mama. Those cool coloring books are nice, too, for quiet, contemplative, restorative me time. Me time doesn't make everything perfect, but it does make the brain better able to cope with stress and the demands of raising a family.

 

So, parents, schedule your hour (or more) of me time. Empower an older sibling to be in charge of the littles, or claim your hour during nap (or quiet) time. Maybe you can hire a mother’s helper for an hour, or get the husband to help you achieve your power hour by taking the kids out for a walk, or bike ride, or whatever it is that can allow you an hour to yourself. You can even trade hours with another parent who also needs an hour of me time. And, don't forget to reciprocate for your spouse, also, because he or she will need it, too! 


Keep calm, have a power hour, and parent on!

 

 

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Making Traditions

 

I think it is safe to say we’ve officially entered the holiday season. There has already been Christmas stuff in the stores for about a month now, but you know it's the holiday season when the Starbucks holiday cups are out, and the annual I-can't-believe-the-cups-look-like… rhetoric starts sweeping the social media sites. Holiday music is being piped through store speakers, and toy-land catalogs are arriving by the dozens in the mail every day. So it begins.

 


This, then, is the perfect time to talk about holiday traditions. We are all shaped by traditions of some sort! Some of us have religious traditions, while others have, say, travel traditions. Some houses do over-the-top decorating, while others just hang a wreath on the door and call it a day. Some people flip-flop years with each set of in-laws, while others have family and extended family get togethers that last for a whole week. 

 


When I was a new mom I had very specific ideas of how to spend the holidays based on how I was raised and how I spent the holidays growing up. Well, my husband also had some ideas on how to spend the holidays based on his upbringing. Guess what!? Those ideas did not match up very well because the way my family did Christmas (in our case) was different (very much so) from the way his family did Christmas. And, especially as our little family of just the two of us became a family of five over the years, ideas about traveling and expenses (especially the differences in opinion about traveling and expenses) started to cause strain in our marriage. We've had (over many years) some pretty (um) passionate (ahem!) discussions about gifts, money, traveling, cooking, and, well, you can just name it all when it comes to the holidays at our house. I'd love to tell you we always compromised beautifully and our respective families were always perfectly accepting, but that would make me not only a liar, but also a pretty unbelievable, unrelatable mom, wife, daughter, sister, etc. 


This is real life, after all. Nothing is perfect here. I can offer this sage advice, though: be ok with making your own traditions. Be ok with compromising; in fact offer a compromise with your spouse on the front end. Also, do it sooner rather than later. Communicate and meet each other in the middle when you start to make your own family holiday traditions. I made myself miserable for several holiday seasons because I insisted on my way (or the highway) and doing it this way caused stress across the board for me, my husband, my parents and my kids. Let me tell you something, kids are expert freaking psychoanalysts when they are young and put in a tension-filled situation. They know. They also don't have any filters to not tell everyone about how mommy and daddy said they don't want to ever have to be alive again during Thanksgiving dinner at (insert friend or relative's name here) house, and, by the way, Alaska in the dead of winter is much more appealing than a tropical, warm trip anywhere because mommy and daddy could just be all alone, then. The cashier at Target knows all about how Zoloft makes for a Merry Christmas. True story.

 

 

The world does not come to an end when you step into your new family role and make new family traditions. You and your spouse, along with your new, young (or old and older) family can be firm and state your own plans and make your own way through the holiday seasons. Don't be afraid to speak up and don't be guilted into something you don't want to do, just because one set of in-laws “always does it this way” and insists that the apocalypse will begin if you deviate from that plan. Couples, here is where you need to support each other, especially behind the scenes (you know, the around-the-corner, wink, head-nod, out of earshot, “Dear, I know this is all her doing, why don't you just take charge,” or the, “Honey, I know you really want to do it this way…”). Practice these words now, “Together we have decided to make our own tradition and it will look like this…”


Your family will be better for it. Traditions are the glue that keep us together, sometimes. When things get tough, counting on a holiday tradition can be a comfort to the soul, as long as it is a tradition that truly makes happy memories. I've come a long way in this department, as has Mark, but it hasn't been all easy-as-that… Family raising is not for the faint of heart, mind you. Growing pains hurt and compromise is hard, but living and loving through this life is worth it. Fight the good fight.

Keep calm, make memories and your own traditions, 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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