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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.

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We're All a Little Mad Here

More College Misadventures

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True to our (our, being my family) nature, we wait until the last minute to do practically anything. I say this knowing it is not exactly true, but sometimes true, and often true of me. I never would categorize myself as a procrastinator, however, if a spade looks like a spade, well... you know how it goes.

So, Tommy is home  and we are very happy to have him home. It’s great to hear his pounding feet in the morning, doing his laps around the dining room table, usually rocking out to AC/DC, Metallica, or Ratt (which, I don’t remember any Ratt songs, but apparently they aren’t too terrible). He wants to talk all. the. time. about things that I just don’t really get - time travel, the expanded multiverse, life in another dimension- those sorts of things. He also wants to constantly debate really important issues like why Disney bought Star Wars and ruined the canon of said series, and whether or not he can take a Navy SEAL in a fight (umm, no), and the wisdom of returning to a time of swords and jousts and fighting like gentlemen. I’m so tired. I love you so much. Please stop talking. More coffee. Please.

 

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Anyway, Tommy announced last week that he is serious about getting his college degree, and wants to get started right away. As I’m writing this, school starts tomorrow. Last week, we went to the Northern Virginia Community College in Woodbridge, ID in hand, student number in hand, and two number two pencils (which he didn’t need) in hand to take the placement tests required to enroll in classes. We arrived on time and were first in line to take the tests.

“Can I help you?”

“I am here to take the AP test,” Tommy answered.

“Placement tests,” I hissed in his ear.

“OH! Placement tests I mean.”

 

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Of course, I immediately thought that this was going to go downhill, I was pretty sure college wouldn’t be an option this go around. However, the lady managing the check-in desk cracked a smile as Tommy read all his information to her, and basically melted my heart when she assured me that she would, “take it from here, Mom, I’ll make sure he texts you when he is done.”

I love it when a plan comes together. I love it when people can tell you are a foreigner in a foreign land and decide to show you around and help you get on your feet. I love it when people are good to my kids... especially the twenty year old autistic one who is clearly trying, but is just a bit of a square peg in a round hole type of world.

He, very predictably, did not pass math. Like, at all. It's his struggle, and dyscalcula looks like a huge math struggle forever. English went way better, also, very predictably.

So, after testing we went up and met with the admission counselor.

“Tell me, Mr. Schroeder, what are you planning to do... here?”

“Well, I took my AP tests, and I’d like to go to community college and then transfer to William and Mary and get my Masters Degree in anthropology or medieval studies and become a museum archivist.”

“Placement tests... He took his placement tests. He wants to start taking classes... like one class, for now... I’m his mom, by the way.”

She also smiled at us, was lovely to us, helped us, and Tommy will be taking developmental math starting tomorrow. He wanted to get the evil math out of the way first. All math is evil, apparently, and wretched, and horrible. He decided on his own. I’ve got to say that I’m pretty proud.

 

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I’ve also got to say that I’m pretty relieved. All the kids are set and school starts tomorrow. Danielle is taking some classes at Germanna, and Katie and I are conquering the Chronicles of Narnia this year in homeschool. It should be good. I need to get us (my kids, myself) back into a rhythm. So, summer rhythm is coming to a close, and school is back in session!

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Whew! It’s been a long summer for this Mama.

Stay calm... school starts soon... and parent on!!

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What's old is new again

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I am officially old enough to see trends making their second (and some third) time around again. I am usually just totally floored when some of these things show up after I’ve gotten rid of the last remnants of said trend in my closet. I gave away my last pair of leggings from the nineties about the time they started showing up in stores again a few years ago. I’m shocked that LuLaRoe has become such a hot thing! I loved colorful leggings and tunics the first time they were big thing! Now, I’m seeing high waisted jeans in stores... and button-fly jeans... for ladies... I’m not wearing those again.

My oldest daughter was just invited to a nineties party! The craziest outfit gets a prize! It’s just funny to me, because I think that is the decade that is making its return right now. I was in college for most of the nineties, and dating, getting married and having my first child, for the last half of the decade. It was pretty much a blur, and I’m positive my forties are way better than my twenties, but I may have dressed better back then.

 

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Now that I have a twenty year old, I’m struck by how much the more things change, the more they stay the same. My prayers for him to just make a good choice are the same now as they were when he was in preschool. Praying for safety for my teenage driver mirrors my prayers for her when she was two. That little one hasn’t affected any change in my prayer life for her: “help her to listen, help her to control herself, help her to be kind...”

I called my friend, slightly panicked the other day, “Katie has lost her watch! We need you to check your house!” She just laughed because six years ago it was a panicked phone call for Katie’s glasses. These friends are military friends, and have been out of the area for those six years; we’re thrilled they’re back. As she and her family came over for the first time since they were back in town, she marvelled at the bird’s nest behind our front porch light because when they moved we had a nest then, too. “Nothing has changed!”

 


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In a time and space where so much is changing, it’s comforting to rely on older traditions, like praying pretty much the same prayer after all these years. It’s nice to meet up and have cook outs with old friends. Seeing glimpses of my own teenage self in my now teenage kids is just pretty surreal, though. It’s both precious and humbling to see my kids growing into adults. Sometimes, I just shrug and say, “Sorry, you get that from me.” Sometimes, though, I get to say, “OH! They get that from me!”

 

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Good books never go out of style. I’m reading Harry Potter with my youngest and it’s so cool to see her get just as excited as her older siblings did. I love reading classics with the kids, too. Katie and I are tackling The Chronicles of Narnia this year for homeschool. I can’t wait. I think she will find them magical. Even toys that are vintage are cool. I noticed Strawberry Shortcake in the toy aisle at Target, and right next to the hip modern version was the model that I played with a million years ago. I literally squealed with delight while my kids rolled their eyes and pretended they didn’t know who I was. See? Didn’t we all do that with our parents? Nothing really changes too much.

 

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So, as we usher in our new school year time frame (and what about that Lisa Frank stuff? I remember that when I was in elementary school!), remember that even though it seems like everything has changed, you can relax a bit and look at things through the perspective of time. Given enough time, things come back around again. Embrace change, even though it’s hard, and embrace the timelessness of life. Love, laughter, faith, tears, chaos and calm happen over and over and over again.

Keep calm, keep your leggings (and your books), and family on!!!

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Tommy is Home Again!

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My Tom-Tom has returned, once again, from time spent at Woodrow Wilson Workforce. He has been there since January, and was supposed to be there until October. He, however, decided to be a rock star and finish his training program three months ahead of schedule, with good grades and glowing reviews, to boot!!! Who knew?! Uh-mazing!

 

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So, apparently, the training is self-paced. Apparently, also, Tommy does well with computers and data entry. I kind of thought he would do well with that, and he proved me correct. He texted mid-June that he was going to be done in July.

“What do you mean, done?!?” I exclaimed, “is everything OK?”

I was slightly panicked as I tend to think the worst in every situation, and I was worried he was failing, or something. The “something” being I-don’t-even-know-what. I was like, “Face-time me right now!!!” He assured me that everything was fine and that he was just working so well, and ahead of schedule. I still emailed his guidance counselor the next day to verify that the “or something” wasn’t happening. It wasn’t. He really was ahead of schedule and doing great. How about that?!

His training certificate says that he is proficient in handling business and information technology. He did an internship in the media center on campus, too. The evaluations from his teachers, counselors, and coaches say he is ready for job placement.

I can not say enough good things about Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center! The transitions between trainings and life skills groups have been seamless. The communication with Tommy’s case manager from here has been excellent. Next up is our meeting with his case manager to determine what is going to happen after he goes back for his driver training in October. Tommy has expressed interest in maybe taking a few college classes, and getting a job in an area of interest for him. He understands that he can’t be a Jedi, but he hasn’t ruled out a job in forensic archaeology (think Indiana Jones). We shall see.

 

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I’ve got to say that two years ago I was just not able to visualize this point in time. I couldn’t fathom Tommy living on his own, or being able to complete training for a job. Granted, he was in a very structured living and training environment, but he did do it without me nagging, coaching, instructing, and nagging some more. I keep saying that not-mom is sometimes the motivation that certain kids need to have things ‘come together’ for them. Several things (grooming, cleaning, organizing, focusing) have to synthesize in able for kids like Tommy to get a boost in maturity to be able to handle a college or job environment. That, and a lot of prayer. Wilson Workforce has been our answer to prayer.

 

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Of course I’ll be posting more Tommy updates as our situation unfolds. For right now, we are happy to have him home. We are continuing to work on life skills (that grooming thing!). We still are needing to encourage Tommy to reach out to some of his friends. Refereeing TV time and chore rotations has become a daily occurrence (funny how odd numbers stimulate the fighting and sibling rivalry gene), since fifteen minutes after he arrived home a few weeks ago. Sigh. Also, though, it’s been great to see him be able to relate with us, and to be excited about seeing some people. I love having my brood under one roof, too. It does seem like the volume has been turned up at my house, though. I’m not having silent coffee time in the morning anymore. Tommy always has something to convey first thing in the morning. I’ve been reminding him that I’m not so nice until I’ve had that first cup... just keeping things real.

 

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Keep calm, and love having your kids home, because you’ll blink a few times and they’ll be twenty years old. Parent on!

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Girlfriends

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I remember being in middle school (wretched, awful experience) and finding out that the girl I complimented every day was telling people that she thought I was annoying. I was heartbroken. Mama had raised me to say nice things to people, and to have good manners. I complimented this girl’s outfits and hair. She looked awesome, and cute, and perfect, so I told her so. I remember another girl, who was quiet, but in with the “in crowd” softly defending me. In hindsight, I can see how precarious her situation was, defending the annoying girl to one of the a-list girls. At the time, I was just grateful that another girl kind of “got me” and said so. This girl and I ended up moving to the same high school together, in a different state, and we became tight, best friends. She and I still keep in touch.

I have one other girlfriend that I’ve known since childhood, since she and I were ten years old. We are still close, and I think of her often. She is one of my son’s godmothers (he has two). Both of these ladies were in my wedding. They were among the first to find out I was pregnant. And, thank goodness for Facebook, because we are able to live on the fringes of each others’ lives since they are in California, and I’m here in Virginia.

 

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There are several types of friends, aren’t there? I am so grateful for the many people that have been a part of my life. There have been many that arrive right on time, it seems, to be there just for me. Because I’m Christian, I truly believe these friends are purposefully put in my path, and me in their path. Nothing is accidental. I’m always baffled at the details of my relationships that coincide with people that I may have just met, or have known forever.

Sometimes, relationships with other women are just plain difficult. The dynamic becomes toxic. I had a friend that I truly loved and cared for, and I still do, but we had to separate for my health and sanity. It really felt like “breaking up is hard to do.” I felt terrible, because emotionally I was so invested, but I also was becoming so enmeshed in her life, that I was neglecting my own. The relationship just had to change. Some people are just hard to love, and hard to let go.

 

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Couple friends are important to marriage as well. Mark has friends, and I have friends, but there are a few couples that we love together. The soul loving and encouraging relationships that keep us encouraged and keep us encouraging others is so, so important to a marriage and, of course, to the individual. When marriage becomes difficult, you need couples that can come alongside of you to mentor and love you through tight spots. We need to be able to reciprocate that, as well. Marriage is altogether hard enough; friends help us laugh, cry, and mourn the hard stuff of life.

 

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I think every woman should have (at least) one person in her life who is not a superficial girlfriend. I don’t mean superficial as fake, either, I just mean that as a face-value type of friend. I think having women in your life that can encourage you and be honest with you, and you can do for them in return is essential for what I like to call, “doing life.” I have friends in my life that are like accountability partners with me. When times are hard, these ladies can say to me, “what is true about your situation?” When times are great, they are celebrating with me; when things are not so great, they are praying over me, and lifting me up. To be able to cheer one another along in mothering, mentoring, family-raising, and marriage-building is a gift I wish every woman can have. Reciprocity and accountability help me to be better. My hope is that everyone has at least one other woman that they can partner with to live life well.

 

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Motherhood is beautiful and terrifying. Maintaining the health and well-being of a marriage is tough love. Make some friends that will help you, and that you can help in return in this journey of parenthood and family-raising. Love is a long road. It’s nice to have friends along for the ride.

Keep calm, love your friends, and parent on!

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Bucket Lists

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Since the advent of Pinterest, I’ve become something of a bucket-list type of mom. We all lose our minds, every once in awhile, right? I mean to say, Pinterest makes everything “possible” and “do-worthy.” I can make anything and everything and for next to nothing, on a shoestring budget!

Before I get accused of enabling a burgeoning addiction to Pinterest, this post is more of a cautionary tale. I totally can get into bucket-lists, but I’m a little more realistic about what I am and am not capable of than when I first started Pinterest. I’d like to amount it all to maturity, but I think I’ve become just a little more skeptical of how easy it is (or isn’t) to do a project.

Also, discretionary funding of big projects that begin with “I saw this great idea on Pinterest...” has been dubiously limited by the man of the house. 

So, that being said, I have gotten some great ideas on things to do with the kids, and some projects to make, that truly are not expensive from the Pinterest-of-wonder-world. Plus, there are tons of ideas on the "what-to-do-that-doesn't-require-a-plug-or-charger"  list.

All-in-all, there are lots of good things to be said about the fabulousness of Pinterest, plus the ideas are what count, but... proceed with caution! The “make this ice rink for three dollars with materials from the dollar store!” project doesn’t work... not for three dollars, anyway, and not in my backyard --just keeping it real. Also, the glow-in-the-dark spray painted planter pots don’t glow that brightly, unless maybe you use (at least) ten cans of the stuff. I speak from experience. But, I digress.

 

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Bucket lists are great for summer, unless they get too long, in which case you might find that you will be bringing on feelings of anxiety and remorse over NOT getting enough things done. That won't do. The bucket list is meant to be fun! It’s also meant to be helpful, especially for those days where it seems like the TV has been on for 72 hours, the computers have been bogging down the wi-fi for days, and the kiddos look a bit like manic cycle, hollow eyed Voldemorts and still have the nerve to say they are bored, hungry, starving, and desperate.

 

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Our Bucket list, for example has some of what I would call "big ticket" items, like, make a trip to Washington DC for the day, so we can breeze through a few of the Smithsonian Museums and the Library of Congress (we are total book people). It’s amazing that we take such a great amount of resources for granted. DC is fun, there are tons of things to see, learn and do, and you can take the train for about the same amount of money as driving in and parking for the day. It’s a no-brainer. Pack lunch, though, because I am pretty sure the food industry in DC can be classified as racketeering and/or an extortion operation. The Smithsonian is free; the food is not!

 

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Another big ticket item for this year is planning a day trip- possibly an overnight trip to hike a part of the Appalachian Trail. We like to hike, and the AT is practically in our back yard. It’s still up for debate if we are going to do it this summer, though, or wait for it to get a bit cooler.

Spending the day in Old Town Fredericksburg is on the bucket list, just because it is fun to explore the antiques and the books and visit all the little eateries that Fredericksburg has to offer. We always have fun tooling around Princess Anne and Caroline Streets.

 

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Other things that can go on a bucket list are things like scavenger hunts, library days, themed lunch days that can go along with whatever book(s) you and the kids are reading, tea parties, backyard nature treasure hunts, and things that are easy and not too expensive (or free) to do. We’ll have board game day, and movie marathon day, too -- great for epics like Star Wars, Harry Potter, and High School Musical. Relax and enjoy!

 

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Lastly, we pick out a few projects to try from the many wonderful things we’ve pinned from our Pinterest boards. Mine include composting and starting a garden- a real garden- that is edible. I have exactly one tomato (a squirrel robbed me of the other one), several radishes, a tidy little spinach crop, and lemon thyme, which is supposed to keep the bugs away. Danielle is crocheting a quilt. Katie is Minecraft-ing her heart out. Tommy is reading, and finding obscure facts and daydreaming about the multiverse that is his world. My husband, bless him, tolerates and encourages us in our sometimes wacky pursuits. Big bubble making is always fun, and inexpensive, for example, and we all get into it.

So, keep calm, keep your Pinterest in check, make a bucket list, and parent on!

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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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