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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

Gratitude Attitude

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Thanksgiving is behind us and another Christmas season is upon us. I love, love, love this time of year. I’m all about the cheesy movies, get-togethers with friends, and yummy food and treats galore. Our tree is up and decorated, the stockings are hung, and lights are strung up all across our house.

My youngest is all about the decorating. She wants something fabulous and bright. If you’ve ever seen Christmas Vacation, Clark’s house is her standard to go by. I do not decorate like Clark on the outside, but I do love the attitude he has of making everything just perfect for his family. I can also appreciate how things don’t always turn out “just right,” and how that can feel a bit disappointing.

My middle girl is a little more traditional. She prefers a more classic and clean look, I think. We have a lot in common, she and I. I love the details that go into making our home lovely for the holiday season, and I want our home to be welcoming, as well. Hospitality seems to be a bit of a lost art for the crazy busy lives we (the collective we) all seem to be leading. I’m working on slowing down, but it’s a process, for sure. It’s hard to slow down, though, when it is senior year and the classes, dual credits, and college applications are consuming a good part of your head-space... or both of our head-spaces... or mostly her head-space and my prayer time space...but, I digress.

My oldest boy, well, he likes everything to stay the same. He has to put up his ornaments, in his time, in his place on the tree. He needs the cookies, the special ones that Nina bakes, the it-just-isn’t-Christmas-without-those-mom cookies. Tommy craves the safe, same, traditional things of Christmas. My heart. I get it.

 

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We are all so different, yet so linked by our family bonds. It makes me think about all of our collective differences going into the holiday season and how what defines us from our past, influences how we celebrate seasons of life. For a long time, Christmas was a bit hard on my marriage because it was hard for my husband to feel happy during the holidays. His childhood Christmas memories weren’t happy memories. My parents, though, did a right fine job of making it all very special. So, there was a bit of conflict in those early years of marriage, mainly, I believe, due to a failure to communicate well. My husband and I just had different expectations. It’s better now, and we are older, and more mature, and better able to articulate our expectations. And compromising... there is that, too. Sometimes, love looks exactly like compromising. And sometimes being able to compromise is where the making of your own traditions begin.

All traditions and celebrations aside, the best reflections of the holiday season are those of gratitude and giving. This year has been filled with tragedies, and natural disasters, and negative news stories. I hate it that the news has become so focused on reporting what is wrong... at least it seems that way to me. There are so many good stories and good people doing good things. I know the news station didn’t show up at our church to see the hundreds of shoeboxes being packed up to be delivered to impoverished children around the world. I didn’t see the news reporting on the fantastic work of volunteers rebuilding houses, and restoring power to places affected by the hurricanes this season first on local broadcasts- instead, it was all about how everything is wrong and it’s all our fault that power systems have failed (natural disasters are not man-made), but there are tons of stories, though, about everyday people doing everyday good deeds, all the time.

 

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Giving. Gratitude.

I do believe that the gratitude attitude is important to stay sane in the business of life. Every night, maybe, you can start practicing with your family to say one thing you are thankful for- just one. I guarantee there is at least one thing to be grateful for. Grace, also, is a nice idea to keep in your back pocket during this time of year. Not everyone has a favorable view of the holiday season. It’s ok. Not one of us is exactly like the other. God made us all perfect in His eyes, each of us purposed for something. Being respectful and kind is always the right thing to do. Giving when I can, and being thankful always helps me keep a steady heart during the holidays.

So, Keep calm, be nice, celebrate gratitude attitudes, and parent on!

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Fear

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Someone very close to me is struggling with anxiety and depression. As I am an anxiety and depression veteran, I am both hopeful and worried for her. She is very young, and has already been in the fight for several years. I know she feels hopeless, so I pray very fervently that this burden be lifted from her.

I find that a lot of folks are still uncomfortable talking about mental health. I think my family is so immersed in it, that it has become part of my vernacular. I can even joke about it sometimes, and I hope that joking might be just what someone needs to hear in order to confront such things in themselves or in their families. I hope that I am approachable and non-judgmental enough for people to approach and talk to me.

 

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I am not a psychiatrist, but I have huge respect for the one our family uses. I know that medicating children (and adults) is a hot topic with a lot of accusatory and inflammatory thoughts and feelings relating to this issue. I would love to share my opinion, and please know it’s an opinion only.

We are a medical knowledge type of family, and growing up with asthma (in the seventies and eighties, mind you), I had/have a lot of experience with medications. Oxygen is kind of necessary, so I took medicine my whole life. Going into nursing also made me not afraid of medicine. Having an autistic child that was constantly speaking only to his imaginary friend in a language I couldn’t understand, and freaking out if the sandwich was cut in rectangles instead of triangles, probably made me feel a bit desperate for a medicine -any medicine- to work, so I could help him with, well, life. And it did work. It worked well. It still does. Having another autistic child that had just as alarming behaviors that were not (absolutely not) managed with Love and Logic or other traditional parenting methods (and believe me, we tried... and cried... and tried) led us to consider medication for her, as well. Again, very successful medication management. Life improved drastically for all of us. We still struggle and have challenges, but we all speak a similar language in our house. Thank you, Dr. Burdett.

 

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The notion that we are sick because of what is going on with our bellies (gut health) is most likely spot on. I believe that. I’ve taken measures to correct our diets in our house, and to make sure we are taking supplements and probiotics. In the meantime, though, medicine is still necessary for us. I think the proverbial damage is done. Antibiotics are inevitable, and oxygen and English language are necessary. And attention spans for homeschool work and meltdown avoidance are a (very) nice side effect of medications that truly do what they say they are going to do. I don’t think the “damage” to our guts is irreparable, but I think it is going to take time to fix said damage. Maybe, I believe, it’s going to take a long time.

 

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And here is where I want to encourage you parents who are dealing with tangible fear about medications. Finding a good practitioner that you trust and can develop a relationship with is the most important part of taking a first step toward considering medication management for your children. Sometimes, it just works. And, to the parents who are so anti medication, no matter what, and would never consider that for your children, it is fine. It is ok. Both sides of this challenging playing field deserve respect and grace, because every consideration you are making for your children is beautiful and brave. Just as I need to respect people that are anti medication, anti medication people need to respect me.

Furthermore, sometimes medication is the glue that holds a person together, and that is scary and heart wrenching enough, without having to field judgment from friends and family. Mental health, psychological disorders, disabilities and the like are part of our world, part of my world. You never know what another family may be dealing with. With things like suicide and violence on the rise, parents you encounter may just be desperate for their children to be happy ... for just an afternoon or a moment or something. We all should afford each other a little grace, especially when most of us are just trying to do the best we can do with the knowledge that we have. And that’s where posts like this come in handy; hopefully, someone who needs just this information is reading it this very moment! Parents, we need to share our knowledge.

 

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Keep Calm, share and share alike, offer a smile, and parent on.

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Never Quit

This season has flown by (of course. always, now that I’m getting older, everything flies by)! I can’t believe we are officially in the holiday season. I love it, too, it’s my favorite time of the year! As I’m writing this, my middle girl is outside carving her pumpkin with a group of friends, and my youngest is freaking out about not getting enough candy tonight while trick-or-treating. I’m mentally preparing for four fourteen year old girls to spend the night after trick-or-treating, and the sugar meltdowns that I am totally expecting to ensue. We shall see. Nevertheless, sometimes, love looks like sugar and sleepovers. It just works out that way, I guess.

My husband and I decided to fit in a crazy New York City trip this month. It was so last minute that it reminded us of being in our twenties again, pre-children, spontaneous, you know, back when we were fun. The plan was to execute a whirlwind, twenty-four-hour-round-trip-madness, no sleep kind of trip. We took the train up and back, fit in a show (not Broadway, but The Patriot Tour), saw the city, and got home in time for breakfast the next day.

 

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The train, by the way, is awesome. We didn’t have to, like, pay attention and we didn't have to actually drive. We didn’t have to navigate traffic in New York City. We got to doze on the trip up, and (more importantly) the trip back. The train drops you off right in Penn Station, and a few short blocks away is Times Square. As soon as I realized, “oh my goodness, we’re actually doing this,” I totally had to consult the authority on things to do, which of course, is Pinterest.

After making a board of free things to do, I picked out a few things to tie into this particular trip. We were going to have several hours before our show, and many hours after our show... so, of course, the first thing to do was to go to the public library.

“We come all the way to New York, and you want to see the.... Library?”

“Well, yeah,” I answer like this should be obvious. We’ve been married for over twenty years. He knows how I feel about books.

“OhhhhhKaaaaaayyyyy...” He answered with a smile. “Let’s go!”

 

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God knew that I had to be with this man because of many, many reasons; one most important reason is that I have ZERO sense of direction. Like, none. It’s bad. My kids are better at navigation and direction than I am. He directs us to the library, while I am extolling the virtues of books, and the great architecture and history that we will see there. for free.

Our next stop was making sure we knew the location of the Town Hall, and how to get in. No joke, there were several doors and only one of them was going to be open for the show. After verifying the Town Hall scematic, we went to lunch. I picked out Ellen’s Stardust Diner. I had a closet addiction to the show, Glee, and the diner the kids sing in is fashioned after this actual Ellen's Stardust Diner right in Times Square. It was so fun, the food was so good, and the wait staff was very entertaining. It was a bit loud, but my introverted, sensory processing challenged husband even said he enjoyed himself. And that the twenty-five dollar burger was worth it.

 

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After lunch, we still had a few hours to kill. I suggested one of the things on my Pinterest Board that would involve a taxi. Who knew my husband was fundamentally opposed to taxis? I was shocked to discover that taxis were not going to be an option. So, we hung out in Times Square and people watched. Free entertainment, people. Very, very interesting sites in Times Square. It was even still light out.

The Patriot Tour was awesome. Hearing Taya Kyle, David Goggins, Marcus Luttrell, and Chad Fleming speak was both motivating and inspiring. Getting to meet them- actually shake their hands and thank them for their service and sacrifice- was even more amazing. Words can’t even express the feelings.

 

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So, after the show, we had more people watching time, and lots of walking around time. The city, truly, never sleeps. Everything is lit up and busy. We had to hang out at the train station until three in the morning (also, very interesting people watching... very interesting indeed...). That part was hard, because we were really tired, and so not in our twenties anymore. We arrived home in time for breakfast, though, and actually can say we had a whirlwind-twenty-five-hour-date! We survived! I may still be recovering, but honestly, marriage has to be remembered in the course of parenting. Sometimes, love looks like a chance to meet and greet your husband’s heroes, and you’d do just about anything to make that happen with a very happy heart. Love also looks like libraries. Don’t judge.

 

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Keep calm, invest in your marriage, never quit, and parent on!!!

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I Can't Drive... Fifty-Five!

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Far be it from me to point out the obvious, but I will anyway. People in this region are terrible drivers! Not all people, now... don’t go complaining that I’m the rude one... but listen to me when I say that this area has got to be one of the worst for driving. I know for a fact that the commuting times around here are on the top ten list of worst commutes, ever. I also have first account knowledge of some of the antics of drivers who do really stupid things and then get into accidents, and then they say really stupid things. My husband is a firefighter/paramedic, after all. Some of his stories are truly awful, and some are truly funny. People never cease to amaze me.

So, I have a teenage driver. She is (luckily) very responsible and attentive. I worry about her in a way that most would say is psychotic. I’m an anxious person. I can jump to worst-case scenario very, very quickly. So, I do the whole brake mashing and steering from the passenger seat, which doesn’t work in a normal minivan, and she tries not to yell at me, and usually resorts to calling me “MO THerrrrrrrrr!!!” It’s all part of the process, I’m told. But anyway, she is a good driver, and has good driving instincts, and tends to err on the side of caution. Praise God. Literally.

 

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My twenty year old, as most of my readers know, is a different creature. He is on the autism spectrum and has been back and forth to Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center for life skills training, evaluations, and computer skills training. Tommy has really enjoyed being at Wilson Workforce, I suspect mostly because I can’t nag him daily to shower and shave, but that is another story. He is back there currently learning how to... drive. A motor vehicle. On a highway, among other things. He’s in heaven- not the real Heaven-capital H- but situational heaven.

My first text was something to the effect of “met driving teacher shes cool and i got to drive a chevy IMPALA!!!!!!” He writes like a serial killer and avoids punctuation at all costs. He is a huge Supernatural (the TV show) fan. Apparently, Impalas are the best. He isn’t driving the classic one that the Supernatural boys drive, but he doesn’t seem to care. It’s all about the Impala. The next text, the next day, was much the same, just a check-in type of text and no real new information. However, the next day... three days in, mind you, I got a facetime video from him yelling at me that he got up to fifty-five miles per hour.

 

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“Better there than here!” I responded to him, smiling, trying not to throw up, and trying to convey an attitude of calm.

“Whateven does that mean?” He asks, flapping his hands wildly, God bless him.

“Well, you know, there is more space out there.”

“OK!” he shouts at me, “Bye!!!”

OK... Bye... This child, it has just dawned on me, is going to come back to Northern Virginia and expect to drive, because he’s going to get his license. What on earth was I thinking?
This week’s face time was even better.

“Maaahhhmmm!!! I got to go on the highway!!! I drove sixty miles per hour!!!!!”

Awesome.

I have to remember sometimes that I prayed very hard for Tommy to gain independence. My whole entire family has been praying for this, as well. My church home group, my friends, his teachers have all chimed in on the prayer chain that is independence for Tommy. God is faithful. Now, the prayers are for safety and for the masses that drive in Northern Virginia to have patience and good manners. I have to continue to let go and be good with said independence. We are all growing up!

Keep Calm, pray often, research Chevy Impalas, and parent on!!

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Where, Oh, Where?

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Hello? I’ve been looking for fall... the season, that is, not an action or infinitive or any such thing. Winter never really happened, and then summer was kind of only hot, like, D.C. metropolitan hot for only a few weeks. Spring came and went quickly, too, as a matter of fact. AND... what is with the allergies?! They are really kicking my (and my family’s) collective patootie. The weather, my friends, is completely whacked. After a whole week of grey, I have come to the conclusion that even the sun has gone into hiding. Everybody better be taking their Vitamin D, and going outside as much as possible (with a hepa-mask, if your allergies are driving you crazy).

The good and great thing about strange weather, is that it pushes our boundaries. Many mental-health type people will wax poetically on the benefit of stepping outside of your “box.” For example, fall heralds pumpkin spice everything, but not usually temperatures in the nineties with humidity registering at one hundred percent. It’s outside the box to enjoy a hot, steaming, frothy, venti pumpkin spice latte with extra whipped cream while one is sporting shorts and a tank top with sweat dripping down the back. I’m just saying that it can be done, but it’s outside of the box (at least it’s outside of my box).

 

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Stretching the mind, though, is good for the collective us. New possibilities and ideas are only possible if you are willing to stretch. When I was younger, I would have never imagined that I’d be homeschooling and teaching Shakespeare to middle and high school kids at a homeschool co-op. I never even imagined that I would have wanted to be a stay-home mom. When I was nine years old, I remember very much wanting to be an astronaut, but then I discovered that math and I were going to have a tenuous relationship (at best), so I let that go. In high-school I believed maybe I wanted to be a psychologist, but then I took psych and I realized that wasn’t my forte at the time, anyway. I considered a degree in medicine, but I liked sleep too much to even think about med school. I ended up with a nursing degree, and working at the bedside which I both loved, and didn’t love. Then, I became a mom. Everything changed.

 

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A journey from astronaut to motherhood certainly stretched (and continues to stretch) my “box.” It is amazing what one tiny human can accomplish, isn’t it? I wonder (like really wonder) how I got here, and how it came to this. Perhaps I would be a good philosopher with all this thinking and stretching my thoughts and ideas and reading Shakespeare (again), in my forties. I’ll tell you one thing for sure, and that is to never stop stretching! Our collective boxes need to be empty, sometimes, with us outside of them. Sometimes, wondering about the weather and considering multiple conspiracy theories about what happened to the seasons this year is all it takes to exercise that thinking muscle. Other times, contemplating motherhood and the miracle of life can wear one out. And still, there will be times when just trying to keep the kids on task, and the household put together will be all that gets accomplished that day... and these are usually the days that leave you wondering, “what did I even do today and why am I exhausted and how do other people do it better than me?”

-- they aren’t... doing it any better than you ... and they have those moments, too, believe it...--

These moments, the wondering and the searching for answers moments, are when life is being lived, and lives are being shaped, and the work of rising up the next generation is being accomplished.

 

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So... Keep calm, read some Shakespeare (it’s much funnier as an adult), and parent on!

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