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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

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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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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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.

keepsake box

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.

Read more...