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Kristen headshot

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.

Shannon headshot

Shannon Enos is a wife, recovering Pinterest addict, and homeschooling mom of two young girls. Her hobbies include analyzing music with her husband, pretending she’s going to finish that crocheting project she started 4 years ago, and making lists of things she has already completed just so she can cross them off. Shannon values truth, education, the arts, open minds, humor, and “Nashville" binges on Hulu. She believes that learning happens everywhere, whether you’re paying attention or not.


Pink Owl

Pancakes and Fire Drills

We have had some crazy happenings in our house over the years, especially in regards to parenting and family-ing with autism spectrum in the house. My husband and I got into a laughing fit while we were reminiscing the other day.  I had been talking to him about trying to come up with a crazy-funny story to write about, and he was, like, “are you kidding?!?”  I wasn't kidding. Sometimes I feel like all the creativity has just evaporated. I tend to idle a little high, anyway, and bend toward the anxiety side of thinking (shocking, I know). So, I answered, “what do you mean?”
“What do you mean, what do I mean,” he says, “you could write a book!”
“Well, we've had crazy… I’m not sure it’s funny.”
He laughed.  “It's all funny!”
Hmmmm… Really? I thought about it for a second- maybe two- and then started laughing.  In hindsight, a lot of it is kind of funny.  The stuff of life, the everyday, the mundane, it can be pretty funny.  I often think about how deep and meaningful things are.  I can easily get caught up in the frustrations, and the pain, but the everyday?  It's just stuff, right?  Sometimes, maybe.  It's hard to find humor in the meltdowns; except that sometimes, the humor is what keeps me sane.  If I'm not laughing about something, I'd probably be crying.  Now, crying, of course, is necessary, and important, and I'm not advising in any way that laughing at someone else’s expense is appropriate. There is a time and place for everything.  But, changing a perspective, in hindsight, anyway, could be good. It could be funny, even.
Not too long ago, I was home alone with the kids and the dog. I mention the dog, because usually the dog would be with Mark at work.  We haven't had the dog very long, and I'm always afraid I'm going to wreck him, as in, mess up his training, because he's a working search and rescue dog.  He's, like, a rock star (to me, anyway).  So, because the husband wasn't home, we were having pancakes for dinner.  I only cook if Mark is home- partly because I've raised the pickiest eaters in the world, so why bother cooking something that only I will eat, and partly because when he's not home, I'm done at, like, four o’clock. I'm ready for bed. Sometimes we even just have cereal on nights that Mark is at work.  I digress, and eating/cooking/food issues are a whole other story altogether.
Pancakes.  The most perfect food in the world is pancakes. Even I don't mess them up.  This is an important part of the story. Pancakes are the only food I never mess up.  
Tommy is always, consistently, very talkative around four o’clock in the afternoon. It's like he gets his second wind, and realizes it's time to communicate.  Plus, I think he sees me cooking, and he knows I can't just walk away from him especially if he's talking about something that doesn't make any sense.  Which is most of the time.  So, I've mixed the pancakes, the stove is on, and Tommy has me cornered.  It's the perfect time to launch into painstaking detail about some obscure capoeira martial art in the time space continuum and fighting the Mongols in ancient China, and, “Mom. Right? Mom. Don't you agree? Mom? Can't you see me doing that? Mom? Maaahhhmmm?”
Me: um-hmm, um-hmm… Flip pancakes… Um-hmmm….
Katie enters the scene.  For whatever reason, Katie and Tommy don't ever seem to understand or acknowledge each other's talking. So, she just starts talking over him, because she is louder and younger and has estrogen, and she talks really, really fast. It's weird. For both of them, it's like they just don't hear each other.
“So, Mom, there's this new Barbie and she, like, dances and does gymnastics and ice skates, and she's at Target and maybe Walmart and she is only fifty dollars and I need my allowance so I can get her,like, tonight, Mom, are you listening, it's really important, tonight, Mom, Tommy, I was talking!! You're interrupting! Mom!?”
Obviously, conversational speaking is not a strong point for either of them. I'm about to address this, so, of course, my over-achieving smoke alarm decides to go off at this exact minute, because why? Because I'm cooking? I'm cooking!  I'm not even burning anything-- it just senses me in the kitchen, so it has to alert the whole house that I'm cooking, and that something is probably going to catch fire, which, by the way, has only happened… less than five times….So, I'm offended by my smoke detector. By the way, my smoke detector has some serious nerve, because, if Mark is ever cooking, I promise, the alarm won't alarm.  It's true.  
Apparently, the dog is offended by the smoke detector, too.  He comes trotting into the kitchen, knocks over Katie, who proceeds to start screaming. Loudly. So, the dog starts barking- not at the smoke detector- but at Katie. Loudly. The smoke alarm is beeping. Loudly. Tommy starts yelling, “Turn it off, turn it off!!” - and he's hitting his face like Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man.  In fact, when Tommy was younger, we would call his tantruming a “Rainman”, or we’d say, “He’s rain-manning.”
And he is doing it how??? You guessed it. Loudly.  
And I’m not allowed to tell the dog to stop barking, because it’s his job to bark...
I'm wondering- Can we get a reality TV show? Where are the cameras? I think we’d make a really good reality TV show. I could cry, for sure, but laughing is sometimes just as effective to reset a situation.  So, I'm laughing, but kind of in a hysterical way.  This, of course, is when Mark decides to call to check in for the day.  We have an unspoken rule that all calls need to be answered.  We are not allowed to ignore each other’s calls. I take a deep breath.
“Hello. We are having a situation. I can't talk.” I am sure it sounded like I was at NORAD announcing ‘DEFCON 1’. He answered very professionally, “copy.” Click. It was that easy.  Without missing a beat, Danielle strides into the kitchen with a magazine, and starts fanning the offending smoke detector. Bless my neuro-typical child. She and I make eye contact, and we are both just shaking our heads.  Within a few minutes, she had Tommy distracted, and I was listening to the virtues of adding yet another Barbie to Katie’s collection.  As soon as the pancakes were on the table, I called the husband to assure him that we were not being attacked, and that the dog was fine, but did not appreciate a screaming little girl.  He even gave me kudos for handling the situation appropriately. Happiness.
This is what I mean about laughing. This is just a snapshot of twenty minutes on one day in the life of our family.  Is it always so crazy? No. Can I always laugh?  Well, no.  Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I'm so silent that everyone asks if I'm ok. But laughter sure makes life feel good.  When we can all look at each other and not take it all so seriously, I think we move forward with positivity; we learn a few lessons, and we thank God for another opportunity to smile in the midst of challenging times... and many of those challenges do make funny stories after all:)
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flu part deux

First of all:  Happy Spring!!!  Yay sunshine, and flowers, and warmth... 
BUT... this flu is continuing to besiege my household with a vengeance.  My children have all gotten it, gone to Patient First, have been prescribed Tamiflu, finished Tamiflu, and are well in to their recovery phase.  The little one is back to her normal, high energy self.  Tommy was the last child (ok, man-child, but still my child) to get it, and seemed to be hit the hardest, but is now completely recovered.  I, however, am still sick!  Not cool!
The husband has done a fantastic job (for real) stepping up to being the main man to get kids where they need to be, and shuttling us to and from the doctor, and pharmacy.  He’s so over the flu, though, and has told me so.  We aren’t allowed to be sick anymore.  The illness has been evicted (except from my lungs- it won’t leave). The past few nights, though, in a spirit of co-operation, I actually made dinner.  The kids need more than just pizza for fuel.  Aside from cooking (two whole meals) and cleaning (we have a Labrador-which equals lots of dog hair. Lots. everywhere.), though, not much is happening, here.
This run of the gunk has made me realize something very important:  we need to have a disaster preparedness kit ready and stocked. I'm not talking about just a regular, food, water, batteries, and flashlight type of kit, though those are important.  I'm talking about how we need a mom is down and can’t function kit.  We need lesson plans, activities, and frozen prepared meals that are ready to go- and ready to throw in the crockpot.  We need lists of medicine that each kid takes and when posted in the cabinet where the meds are.  This family, for sure, has a long list of things that need to be prepared for in case of a disaster… or the flu. I've always been a bit of a girl scout about being prepared for anything, anytime, but,  I never stopped to think about how unprepared we really are for when the person who usually runs everything- day-to-day is down and out!  Next time (hopefully not for a loooonnnggg time), we will be better prepared.
Now, I know that everyone is organized in their own way, BUT, if you are married, and are thinking about making a mom-is-down disaster kit, please try to think in the organizational way of your spouse.  This is huge.  My organization is definitely not Mark’s organization.  I could explain my rationale, but it just won’t make sense to him.  Also, for those of you that homeschool, having a default homeschool plan for the days the kids are actually in charge of their own education because mom-is-down needs to be kid organized and kid sensical. This means details… probably in list format… and not in cursive.  Otherwise, your children will be on Minecraft for 48 hours (or longer)… and this may be ok for you.  It may, indeed, be your default plan.  Minecraft, at least at our house, guarantees there will be no kitchen or bathroom or science disasters, because Minecraft completely consumes the brain. True story.
So, the public service announcement for this week is to make your mom-can’t-mother-today disaster kits.  I like lists, so I will share what I’ve come up with:
1.Medicine charts to include time, dosage, location and child
2.Doctor’s and pharmacy’s phone numbers
3.Two (at least)  frozen crockpot meals ready-to-go on hand in the freezer
4.Homeschool activity books with suggested number of pages from each to be done prior to screen time (at least something educational is accomplished)
5.A new puzzle or game to open on said mom-can’t-work day
6.List of weekly scheduled activities posted in the kitchen
7.Ginger ale, chicken soup, and mac-n-cheese always on hand for emergencies.. and pizza, of course!
I think this is the bare minimum for my family.  Your list might be more extensive, or more basic.  Having three medicated kiddos, two of whom are on the spectrum, made the medicine list top priority.  After a week of pizza, it would have been nice to have a ready-to-go meal ready-to-go.  As I approach day 15 of not feeling like doing anything, a new puzzle or game is just a plain nice thing to be able to offer to my worn out family.  Being prepared definitely has its merits!  So, mamas, make your lists and build your kits! Your family will thank you, and you will be able to rest and recover knowing there is a plan in place for emergency down time.
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Flu Season? Still?



Well, now.  Call me surprised, flabbergasted, or whatever, but I was NOT expecting to be hard down with the flu. In March. In seventy degree weather.  It's a sad state of affairs to think that there would be an increase in flu outbreaks at the end of the season!  Like the weather in Virginia having a mind of its own, I guess the flu does its own thing.  


So, this is how this went down:  On Monday I felt a tickle in the back of my throat. Tuesday morning my lungs hurt and my ears were itchy.  By eleven in the morning I was pretty sure I was getting a bad cold.  By eleven at night I was thinking, “dang- I might have the flu!”  So on Wednesday, I got up and went to Patient First.  I started sneezing on the way there. Sadness.


A big sign on the door said, “ If you are coughing, please wear a mask! If you have travelled outside the United States, please inform us immediately!”




All of last year’s Ebola images started flipping through my mind- along with images of the bubonic plague (we are studying medieval history in homeschool). I'm not dramatic or anything, but wearing a mask felt dramatic.  It didn't help that I was the only one doing so. I sat down in a corner and the people sitting across from me actually got up and moved… The check-in lady wiped down everything--  the pen, the paper, the desk, her hands.  She may have sprayed herself with Lysol as soon as I left her check-in station.


If I've ever been checked for flu before, I am sure I blocked it from my memory.  I do not recall anyone ever trying to extract neurological tissue from a nasal swab up my nasal cavity ever before to me in my life.  Kudos to the tech that took the sample, though, because she was able to deflect my waving arm (I wasn't going to hit her… I just wanted to let her know I was about to become a brain bleed patient if she continued to push that swab up my nose any higher). She did just as thorough of a  job with my throat culture, too. My larynx is bruised.  I can tell because my voice sounds like Darth Vader's.


In a little under twenty minutes I had my diagnosis: good news!  I did not have strep!  I did, however, test positive for the flu.   Apparently, everyone is getting it around here, this week and last week.  They were out of medicine, actually, so I got the pleasure of walking around Target with a mask on, too.  And no make-up.  Fun times. I don't like to be (or look like) a scary person. Thank goodness the Target team know me very well.  They knew I wouldn't be offended when they pincer grasped the script then used alcohol wipes on the keypad. And, I wasn't. I actually suggested they all spray themselves with Lysol. For real.


My husband (my hero) immediately went into mission mode.  He is boldly taking over taxi, kitchen, and kid duty.  He even went to get me gluten free chicken noodle soup!  Love... true love...   just looks like gluten-free chicken noodle soup sometimes.  




So- tea, hot beverages, ginger ale, lemon and honey concoction… Hopefully, these will all help.  I actually have made and used a honey, lemon, chili pepper, garlic and ginger recipe, before, to just make my throat feel better, and it did.  It also opened my sinuses pretty well.  I think I found that recipe on Pinterest.  Vapor rub on my feet, helps, too, and that came from my mom, and probably her mom, etc.  Does anyone else have any sage advice for flu victims? Has anyone used any essential oils with a good effect?  How about herbs or vitamins you swear by?  Let us know!  Sharing advice not only keeps us connected, it helps us take care of one another and our families. Plus, I’d love to make a speedy recovery:) 




... aaaanddd... it's ok.  Parenting might be a little different with someone else in charge, but they are having fun, and everyone will survive. 


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Hibernation options?

Winter, traditionally, is not my season (it still isn’t).  You know, a long time ago I would have never believed that I had an issue with Seasonal Affective Disorder- which means, basically, that without light one becomes depressed, or anxious.  I remember learning about it in nursing school, and I’m pretty sure I laughed at the notion of this affective disorder.  Of course, I was barely 22 and knew everything.  Once I started living on my own, got married, started a family, etc., I diagnosed everybody I knew (and/or lived with) with it;  but not me--  I was not having any problems with darkness or depression.  
Then, about seven years ago, one of my best friends moved to Washington.  State.  Like, 3300 miles away from here.  Then, I was sad.  Then, it was winter.  Then,  I didn’t want to get out of bed, I didn’t want to educate my children, and I didn’t want to exercise, or eat right, or do much of anything.  That was also the year that it snowed thirty inches, and a week later snowed another twenty inches.  It was a long, long winter.  
By the time April rolled around, I was in therapy and taking medicine (and, no judgements, please… we all have different needs and strengths and not-strengths).  When the sun reappeared and the temperature increased, I found myself needing and wanting to be outside.  In. the. Sun.  I needed the warmth, and the sun, and the light, and birds singing. Also, I can’t deny that I, too, now experience a bit of Seasonal Affective Disorder every year.  
So, I’m still in hibernation mode.  Incidentally, I totally see the value in hibernation.  I think if I ever get my Master’s Degree, a worthy thesis for my dissertation could be about the benefits of human hibernation on the psyche of mothers.  I’m just saying.  Anyway, though, imagine my surprise that we had to spend a greater part of one night last week in the basement due to tornado warnings.  I was so surprised, that I went outside when I heard the thunder to discover that in the space of an hour it had gone from a chilly 50 (ish) degrees to a balmy 70 degrees, and black skies.  My youngest is not tornado-friendly, to say the very least.  We had quite a night!  I was not prepared for thunder/tornado anxiety in the month of February.  Flexibility needs to be a job requirement for parenthood.  
There is a silver lining though:  maybe the groundhog is right and we’re going to get an early spring.   The temperature today is cold, though. The sun is out, at least.  Always find that silver lining.
These storms and crazy weather changes and the nature and nurture of living in Northern Virginia got me thinking about how life is always changing, and in motion.  One minute we are herding toddlers through the grocery store, the next we are (just as anxiously) herding teenagers to a basement.  Constantly, we are expanding and contracting in response to the whims of the temperatures of life.   There are times when energy is boundless, and there are seasons when it’s hard to get out of bed.  
Speaking of…  We had to go to the Social Security office yesterday for Tom-Tom.  We had an “interview” “scheduled” at 0945.  I got no less than two automated calls reminding me of my appointment time, and at least one piece of mail.  We arrived to discover that the Social Security office is a lot like the DMV.  It sports a cleaner, but crazier vibe—and I say that with a lot of love, having a man-child that flaps and paces, and has to be reminded that comments about our government, to include the President of the United States, need to stay in his thought bubble.  
We got through this experience relatively rapidly considering we had ticket number A-347, for our “scheduled” interview.  Also, for those of you that may have to apply for benefits for your child or adult child you can relax, because it really was just an interview.  The Social Security interviewer only wanted to see my ID, so I didn’t need to stress about finding all the forms of identification I have for Tommy.   In fact, I was a little alarmed that my identity was questioned, and not my son’s.  I also did not need to bring the binder full of copies of IEPs, doctor’s notes, evaluations, and history forms (that also took an hour to find and collate- I’m not the most organized mother in the world).  It was just an interview.  The questions were simple and about our family.  Tommy answered most of them by himself (yay!).  Now, we just wait.  By the way, everybody was pleasant at the Social Security office, as well.  It really was OK (not the stressful event I conjured it up to be in my mind).  Again, silver linings hide in the every day.
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With spring rapidly approaching, I hope everyone is finding their new year still off to a good start.  Yes, we’ve had a blizzard and a tornado so far in 2016, but light and sun and warmth are coming.  Hang in there, parents, and hang strong!
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snow days

So, we have been having a rough go of it here, lately.  Somebody has something going on all the time.  We have had a hard time re-establishing a post-holiday routine (and diet, and exercise), and we haven’t been successful with school work.  At all.  I’m not even kidding.   We have been very good at going to multiple doctor’s offices (not trying to be dramatic, it’s just our reality for the present), and sleeping in on the days we don’t have morning appointments, further compounding the lack-of-routine issue.   And then it snowed. 
We did do school on those first few snow days, because I knew that we were going to be (stuck at) home, and why not throw in a little Charlemagne and some crusade action  between making snowmen, and building forts.  Also, we did a lot of baking.  Baking equals math and home economics.  Fort building equals PE, too.  I promise we experienced some muscle building- snow is heavy! Here is something I know:  snow stops life in Northern Virginia.  After two hours, the kids get bored- after two days the adults get bored- after two weeks we are all just cold. And done.  And, apparently falling apart.
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I believe in having a life theme song.  Forever, mine has been “Roll With It”.  It’s an eighties song by Stevie Winwood.  I don’t love the tune, especially, but the lyrics are pretty cool.  The idea to just roll with life’s events is good advice.  It’s nice to feel like I could possibly be so laid back, and flexible.  For the record, I’m not.  I can jump to anxiety in a single bound if things aren’t going the way I thought they would, or should!  It’s less than pretty.  I have an arsenal of coping skills, and I’m very stable (honestly), but even the most organized, put together mom has the potential for feeling … well… for feeling stuck.
While I seem to be staying in this holding pattern of doctor and therapist visits during the precious few hours I’m supposed to be home actually doing home school with my kiddos, I’ve had to re-think some educational methods, and goals.  Think books on CD (when I can remember to put them in the car) and math apps.  I thought this was going semi- OK, until last week.   The middle child called me to the carpet in front of one of our doctors about her lack of schooling this year, and why she is behind in math (and why, apparently, I’m mother of the year), and how this contributes to all this anxiety in the home.  Listen, I’ve had years of therapy, and I can’t even tell you how many coping skills I had to employ to get through that appointment without losing my cool.  I was both proud of her ability to state her case, and mortified that we would be getting a call from the superintendent’s office about perhaps returning to public school.  The doctor, who has known us for years (and years, like, almost 16), totally laughed after said child left the room, and said she knew me better than that.  Still, I got the message loud and clear:  Danielle does not like to be out of routine- that makes five out of five in this family that need routine (and if we include the dog it makes six of us).   We are creatures of habit, and when we get away from our habits, we start an anxiety spiral (all of us, collectively, apparently).  
Along the same lines of sharing information about special needs, and autism (my last post was an update on my oldest child), I think we should all be hearing from one another (as parents) that it’s ok to need therapy or help or even medication for the times when we’ve rolled with it for so long that we are rolling off the table and down the street.  Life is hard. We, as humans, are meant to be better together-- it goes back to Bible times that we are meant to be in relationship and supporting one another.  I know that there is a wealth of support groups in this area that can help you deal with any challenge you may be facing.  I also know we are a community with strong resources that exist to help those in need.  Aside from actual (human) contact - type support, there are also tons of online communities that exist to give a voice to all the issues.  These are great, and you can get so much information from online support groups, but actual human face time is so important!  
Here is something else I know:
Share, share, share.  Support each other.  Be brave.  I have some of the best friends (ever), and they are my friends because I unapologetically (OK, so sometimes I do apologize, but I usually don’t have to because that is what my friends tell me) open up about my life and about some of the situations I am dealing with.  Also, I can tell you that when you share some things, those things are often just what the other person needed to hear (or read).
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So… Don’t be scared to reach out.
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The Table at St. George’s

The Table at St. George’s is a market-style food pantry serving the extended local community. Visitors are invited to select their own items from a variety of fresh food, including locally grown produce. The Table’s mission is to encourage healthy eating, build relationships with those in need, and blur the lines between those serving and those being served.