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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

focus on the good

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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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Friday... Friyay?

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It’s Friday afternoon and I’m beat. I’m done. The kids are done. We’re all done. Mark is still deployed, and being a real-life hero. I suppose I’m a bit of a hero, too, running the house and all, but really, I just feel tired. Very un-hero like. Very not the mom of the year type.

Tommy is having a meltdown because it’s Katie’s turn for movie night, and my parents are coming into town and sleeping in his room, so he has to sleep on the other couch, not the one in the TV room. Katie is not going to compromise, because she only gets one movie night a week. Tommy, twenty years old, mind you, gets several. However, the change in sleeping arrangements has set him off. We are in full scale, defcon five meltdown mode. I’ve sent him to the basement, and I’m hearing a lot of noise, but I’m pretty sure he’s just kicking one of the support structure pole things.

 

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I’m having a glass of wine.

I was just asked (like, a few minutes ago, literally, I just got back home) if I wanted my flu shot while I was picking up meds at Target, and I jokingly replied, “Um, no, I think not... we have too much autism in our house.” Now, of course, I’m dealing with said diagnosis. I should have probably just replied, “no,” and not tempted any of the autism/meltdown fates. However, the pharmacy team and I have a good rapport, so I dared to be a little light and joking... Well, it’ll be a while before I joke about that again.

Here is a free public safety announcement from a mom with a little bit of experience: don’t ever (ever, like, never) assume that slight changes are ok. I’ve dealt with too loud, too bright, too soft, too rough, too everything for twenty years. Small changes can derail an otherwise great routine. Stick to the plan, is my advice. Also, once a decision is made, no matter what it is, you need to stick with it. Don’t waver! Inconsistencies are easily preyed upon by kids (all kids, not just the special ones). They will suck that (inconsistency) up and be manipulating little (or big) monsters. I’m just telling it true.

 

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Also, Friday afternoons are the worst. We are all at the end of our (collective) rope. Everyone tends to be worn out, but excited for the weekend, but tired, but happy, and it tends to be the day that is just ripe for meltdowns. It’s like the witching hour on steroids. This week, especially, for example, we have been busting our tails trying to catch up with school (and we homeschool!), and dealing with all. the. work. Single moms are the bomb.com with all they do by themselves, I’m just saying! I’m only single here and there, and not for long periods of time... but those tend to be very exhausting time periods. I had to mow the lawn. My fitbit says I’ve made, like, twenty thousand steps. I better be skinny by tomorrow, at this rate. But, I digress.

Let us just continue to salute one another, parents! We need to support each other when things are good, and when things are not so good. Prayer works! Hang in there. Rely on your helpers. We are all called to this amazing and crazy journey called parenting.

 

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Keep Calm, enjoy your weekend, and parent on!!!

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Lemonade

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I know everyone has heard the phrase, “when life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade!”

I am not always happy, go lucky, easy-breezy-beautiful type of girl. I am more of an OCD type, everything needs to line up properly type of girl. In fact, all of my immediate family members are type A, control-freak, and orderly type of people. There may be disarray, and messes from time to time, but for the most part, order reigns in the house. Every single one of my kids likes to know the plan of the day (hour, minute, week, and year). We have briefings every morning, and before excursions (especially if Tommy or Katie are coming along).

So, last Tuesday, as we were talking about our upcoming vacation (happening on Friday), imagine the sense of foreboding I felt as Mark’s phone rang at ten thirty. At night. No one calls Mark at night. No one really calls anyone, ever, anymore; we get texts. I knew it couldn’t be an emergency in my family, because they would have called me. I knew Irma was still percolating off the coast of the Leeward Islands, and I knew Harvey had just finished pummeling Texas, and I knew Jose was bringing up the rear off the coast of Africa.

 

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We were already going on vacation with a plan B in place to relocate from the coastal house we had rented to a hotel thirty miles inland. We were traveling still, not knowing how the week would work out because vacation insurance only covered mandatory evacuations. I was already preparing to be in a state of flux. That is hard for me. I like firm plans. I like to know what to expect.

So, of course, Mark is being deployed. I love (love,love) that he is part of a team that does actual work in the face of disaster. I support him, and the team, and the mission of search and rescue. I am all in; our family is all in; we are all part of the team, in a sense. Mark has gone on several missions since becoming a part of Virginia Task Force One. It’s super, super cool.

 

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The very selfish part of me reared its ugly head when that phone rang at ten thirty at night. I very much was tempted to tell him no-you-can’t-go, I don’t care what disaster is occurring or where. We have plans, we have friends and family to go see, we are spoken for. No, no, no, no. I was prepared to have a temper-tantrum. Then the Holy Spirit very firmly told me to be still. He had this. Not so happy about being corrected, but I held my tongue.

“I can say no,” Mark whispered to me as he was receiving information in his ear.

“No, you can’t,” I answered, “This is what you train for. You have to go.”

Mark nodded a few times, mumbled some “mmm-hmms,” and replied, “Yes, of course, wherever you need me.”

And that was that.

Fast forward forty-eight hours later as I’m packing myself, two autistic kids, an anxious child, and two search and rescue labs (Mark deployed as a medical specialist on this trip), dog crates, beach gear, suitcases and snacks into one minivan... I was nearing some sort of cosmic breaking point. We are people of structure. We are a family of structure. It was on the very tip of my mind to just cancel, say no, hide under my bed, and forget the whole thing... And then God worked again.

 

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My phone rang with one of my best friends whom I was traveling to see, “Hey girl!!! You know we got this, we got you, don’t think of backing out, I’ll have to come get you, and are you on the road yet?”

 

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Everyone, including my kids, especially my middle one, has risen to the occasion. I’ve been so very blessed this week. My whole family has been lifted and cared for. I feel slightly guilty for feeling so unhinged in light of all the crazy disasters and persecutions that are rampant around the world. I’m just a gal on vacation with my family while my husband is working. That’s all it is. My house is not under water (I have a house and it’s not under water). I have food. I’m at the beach. The beach is not missing, as people in the path of Irma witnessed this week. My husband is safe. I’m safe. It’s truly all good. I may not like things changing, and plans being fluid and flexible, but I have learned to kind of roll with it. “Roll With It” used to be my theme song, like, a million years ago, but having children made me a bit of a control freak. This has been an exercise in faith- stepping out in faith- and rolling with it, literally. So far, we are having a very windy, rather cloudy vacation, but we don’t have to relocate! Friends and family are safe, too. Mark is working with search and rescue (FEMA) in the Caribbean. Tomorrow, the sun is supposed to make an appearance. I can’t complain. For real.

 

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Keep calm, trust your friends and family to rise up, make some lemonade, and parent on!

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Seventeen

I am so not ready to get up any morning. I am never ready to get up, as a matter of fact, because I am not a morning person. One of the many benefits of homeschooling is that we don’t get up early, and we don’t ever start school before nine in the morning. None of us are morning people.

 

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This year, however, I need to be on task. I am officially in the “final four.” The final four years of high school. My youngest is a highschool freshman, which means, hopefully, in four years I will be done with homeschooling. It’s a humbling feeling. It is also a very terrifying feeling.

This fall, my sweet sixteen year old (senior year!) signed up for three college courses. She is thriving so far, and enjoying the added challenge. Two of the classes are online, and one is at a local campus. She actually attends a class ON a campus. The first day, last week, I had a little bit of a moment.

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“Um, it’s the first day and all... do you want me to drive you to the campus?”

Sweet sixteen year old gives me a look that is a cross between disdain, fear, and how-do-I-let-you-down-easy.

“Um, no, mom,” she answers, “I think I can handle it.”

“Of course you can,” I answer, with conviction.

Smiling, wanting to take pictures, wanting to give her space, and realizing all at once that my beautiful, homeschooled, still only sixteen-year old will be attending a class- an actual classroom class- with legal adults. Ugh. Parenting is so not easy. My hair has been falling out for ten years now.

 

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Meanwhile, I’m still ushering Tommy to and from the community college armed with notebooks, passwords, student identification numbers, number two pencils, and a truckload of patience, not to mention some clonazepam... just in case. Meltdowns can come out of nowhere- mine, by the way, not his. This week, our adventures included a pretest. Tommy forgot his picture identification, and had more than one sign in for his math pretest, and, apparently, he was supposed to print a test pass. Luckily, we had an old ID in the glovebox, and the lady at the testing center recognized us from placement testing the previous week. God bless the testing center department at Northern Virginia Community College. Those ladies rock! After three login attempts, multiple email checks, and all of us cross referencing barcodes on lab programs, he was able to take his test.

“So, how’d it go?”

“Fine,” Tommy answered.

“Well, how did you do?” I asked.

“You mean my score?”

Duh. Yes, I mean your score. Your father and I are paying for this experience, that, for heaven's sake, you must pass.

“Yes, Sweetheart, your score.”

“Seventeen.”

Silence. Pause. Flapping.

“What do you mean Seventeen?” I asked with a higher tone of voice. “Seventeen out of twenty? Seventeen percent? What is seventeen?”

“I think... but, I am allowed to go on in the course. Let’s go.”

Oh. My. Goodness. Bless. His. Heart.

Needless to say, I will be following up with disability services on Tuesday.

 

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Katie and I are still happily tackling The Chronicles of Narnia. I’ve had to explain not only some pretty hefty vocabulary words, but also British colloquialisms and a way of talking that occurred one hundred years ago, on a different continent, mind you. The character training, though, so far, is superb!!! Good stuff. C.S. Lewis had it all together.

So, I am slowly becoming a morning(ish) person. I’m trying to stay on task. I’m in the “final four” and happily (albeit a bit nervously) navigating some very new territory.

Keep calm, invest in minoxidil, and parent on!!!

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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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