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I am the crazy mom of five boys.  Four of my five boys are on the autism spectrum. Neuro-Diversity rocks!!!  I cook, I clean, I blog, I breathe.  Yup that is about it.  If you want to catch a glimpse of our crazy world you are more than welcome but don't say I didn't warn you.

Friday, May 27, 2011

A Glimpse of Frienship

I have been blessed to know deep loneliness in my life, to know breezy, comfortable friendship, to know hard, painful relationships, to know friendships that are as close as sisters.     The loneliness taught me to really know myself and to be truly grateful for the friendships I formed later.  Comfortable, breezy friendships taught me how to have fun and enjoy the moment.  Those hard, painful relationships taught me how to be steadfast and hold on even in the hardest times.  They also taught me how to let go when letting go is the only thing you can do.  The rare relationships with the bonds of sisterhood have taught me so many, many things the foremost being family runs far deeper than blood. 
Many times in this blog I have mentioned the importance of having a good support system of true friends.  Today I wanted to take a minute to thank those of you who are that for me.  Some of you are my prayer partners, people I can trust to pray for the hard things and keep them confidential.  Some of you are my sisters, we laugh, we cry, we learn together, we teach each other.  Some of you are my warrior friends.  You stand with me in battle and uphold my arms when I no longer have the strength.   Many of you are old friends; sisters of the heart who have stood by me through the years even though I haven’t always been easy to love.   Others of you are new friends.   I love getting to know you and the new ideas you bring to my life.  I am so thankful for each and every one of you.  God has blessed me more than mere words can express by pacing you in my life.
I must be honest and say that the past few weeks have been very difficult on a personal level for me.  There are times when God begins a work that goes deep, uprooting things that we have buried long ago, purposely left behind and forgotten.  It has been one of those seasons for me.  I have had to face the ghost of my past; unforgiveness, anger, bitterness, fear, detachment just to name a few.    Anytime you dig up the long buried it is not a pretty sight.  Time does not beautify the dead.  Decay is not pleasant on any of the senses.  Throughout this journey I have had a friend who has stood by me, never judging me, courageous enough to be honest even when the truth hurt, believing me when others would not, praying and standing strong when I am not.    This is what women of God need to be for each other.  Moments like these show the true bonds of sisterhood.  This is the reason that the enemy attacks friendships between women so ferociously.
The past year I have seen many friendships destroyed, many women hurt deeply by gossip and slander.  It has broken my heart to see women I care about deeply turning on each other, purposely hurting ones that they loved only weeks before.  The very thing that God has created to strengthen us and draw us closer to him has been used by the enemy to tear down and destroy.  Ladies I have experienced the beauty of true, Godly friendship.  It is strengthening and beautiful.  When these bonds are forged it creates a wall of unity that cannot be easily breeched by the enemy.  The strong lend strength to the weak (and we are ALL weak at some point).
Today I am grateful and I am sad.  I am grateful for all of you my friends; each of you is a strength and delight to me in your individual way.  I am sad because so many have not yet discovered the strength of truly Godly friendships.   It is my deepest prayer that each of you has at least one true friend in your life.  I pray healing for those of you who have been wounded by imperfect friendships.  I ask forgiveness of any of you I have unintentionally wounded and I forgive those who have wounded me.  We are all imperfect and in the process of becoming.  I send each of you my gratitude for all you are to me. I pray that I will lend you strength in your weak moments just as you have been strength to me.  All my love-Kristine

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Glimpse of a Crazy Quilt

WOW!!!!!  It has been a crazy week.  So many things have happened that I have had a hard time narrowing down what to blog about.   Being slightly ADD I can’t so we will call this my crazy quilt blog, mini glimpses of the major happenings in Skiffdom this week.

Sunday we had our church picnic and kite flying excursion…..ummm yeah about that,  it appears we Skiffs are not great kite flyers.  I had been really ill the night before from my medicine so I was not in top form at all.  When momma is not in top form the whole family suffers.   Jamie wandered off and was missing a full five minutes.  Talk about scary!!  Jamie has real issues with boundaries and has gotten lost going from one class to another in school (a trip he takes every day at school!)  We found Jamie, who was irritated that we would be worried…sigh.  It’s hard when the boys naturally want to grow and push boundaries but the autism curtails how far they can go.  Paul then melted down and became irate with anything and everything including but not limited to the wind and grass.   I love that we have a church that loves us despite days like Sunday.    
Sam as Walt Disney
Monday Sam was in the third grade living museum.   Every year the third graders at our school are assigned a character in history and have to research them.  They then write a monologue and dress up as said character.   The audience walks down a hallway lined with all the third graders and pushes an imaginary button bringing the character to life.  They recite their monologue to the passerby.  I love this every time one of our boys is in it.  This year Sam was Walt Disney, and a mighty fine Disney he made as well.    We had a few issues in the morning getting ready (Sam was not impressed with my mustache art;-)  but we pulled it together and he was awesome.  He was so nervous that he rocked the entire time he recited the monologue but he did it!!  I love seeing my kids succeed even when it is hard.  Ok I’m going to pause for a proud momma moment…sniff, sniff ;-)
Tuesday is our journey group night.  I have found that it is so easy as a special needs family to become isolated.  It’s very hard to bring our boys to other people houses for several reasons a) we are a large family so I always feel as if we are an invading army b) my kids are much more comfortable in their own environment where they know the rules (even if they don’t always follow them) and expectations c) in the past people have been put off by some of our kids stimming behaviors- it made us a little gun shy.  To avoid the isolation we have people over at our home.  It has worked out great!!!  I love to entertain, my kids (and honestly my husband as well) are more comfortable and thus more willing to engage in social interaction, and people grow to accept our uniqueness more easily when they see it in context.  Our house has now become the party house.  It is not uncommon for us to have 70 people crammed in.  My kids have places to go if it all becomes overwhelming and they actually ask when we are going to have people over if we go several weeks without company!!!!  What a change.  Have I said how much I love this stage of our lives?!?
Tuesday was also my SEPAC meeting (Special Education Parent Advisory Committee).   I have had some serious issues with the educating of my SPED boys here in rural TX.  I am outspoken about this which has earned me several adversaries.    At the SEPAC meeting I was informed of the “new” direction the SPED program here in Anna is taking next year.  I ,being the independent thinker I am, raised some serious concerns about the future of our program.  I did not receive the answers I was hoping to. I see more battles on my horizon.  Next year may get interesting.  Several good things came out of the meeting though.  The group of women that are on this committee are awesome, each completely committed to seeing the best for their own children and the children of our community.  We are establishing a resource library for the members of our community to utilize, have dates booked for SPED parents to come have dinner and hear various expert speakers address the issues we all face as special needs families and we are planning our first Disability Awareness Fair in Oct.  We are going to have all kinds of fun for the whole family and will have information to make the general population of our community more aware and accepting of people with disabilities.  I am totally stoked about all of this, can you tell?!?
Wednesday night we attended our first baseball game as a family!!!  It was so much fun.  Usarian’s company sponsored a family night for their employees.  They had all you can eat baseball food (always a winner with boys;-), free hats and the boys were even able to pick something out at the souvenir shop.    It was so great for the boys to experience a sports event in a low key environment.  We all had a fabulous time.  I thank everyone at Usarian’s work and the ball field for a great experience for us all.
Well that about sums up the major things so far this week.    I need to take a nap just reading about it all and there is still more to come!!!  I hope you have a moment to take a deep breath and reflect upon your week my friend.  Here’s to great second half!- Kristine

Monday, May 9, 2011

Wildflowers

This morning was rough…..alright if I am being perfectly honest this morning was more than rough.  My boys were in rare form today because they stayed up late last night.  We keep a pretty strict bedtime here at Casa Skiff for this very reason.  Every so often we allow them to stay up late knowing that it will mean a difficult morning the next day.  They were all in rare form this morning.   Part of the package with kids is that they will not behave well all of the time.  You correct the behavior and move on.  With autistic kids this is amplified.  Their learning curve is MUCH different.   Their triggers are more obscure at times and always the threshold on their sensory overload is much lower.  What NT kids tolerate barely batting an eyelash can drive an AU kid completely bonkers.   Today was one of those perfect storm mornings: lack of sleep, rush to get out the door, different breakfast foods…..oh yeah it was all the no-no’s all at once.    By the time we got to the school Benny was “sub-sonic” as his teacher calls it.    The more worked up Benny is the higher the octave he speaks in…..he was around the decibel you can break glass at this morning.  He screeched at anyone and everyone who crossed his path.    It’s hard to convince people that he is just saying “Good morning.  I hope your Monday has been as pleasant as mine” in his own Benny way.  Yeah it was rough.
As I was driving home I must admit I was a bit frustrated and blue.  I talk so much about the blessings the spectrum has brought into our lives.  All of that is absolutely true.  But there are days when it is difficult, especially days where more than one of my guys is struggling.  This is real life and I’m not perfect.  There are days that are harder than others.   Suddenly I noticed the TX wildflowers on the side of the road.  Here in N Texas wildflowers are everywhere in the springtime.  It is one of the many things I love about TX.    I noticed the way the colors played against each other; bright oranges, pinks, purples and yellows all mixed together in a glorious display.  God’s brush strokes evident here, today.  I was suddenly very encouraged.  God’s art is not classically perfect.  No it is chaotic and crazy and absolutely breathtaking.  Those wildflowers are so much like my boys, surviving and thriving despite harsh conditions, delicate and beautiful all at the same time.  My boys are God’s brush strokes in my life and I am in awe of their beauty.  So today I received the encouragement I needed on the side of the road.  God is so cool that way.   I hope that you will see God’s brush strokes in your life today as well.-Kristine

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Glimpse of me

This past week I turned 30D (no that is not the size of my personal apparel!! It is my age.  I switched to the letter system several years ago;)  My boys and I were watching tv the evening before my birthday when Sam (son #2) looked at me with excitement.  For those of you who know Sam you understand that this look is always followed by a momentous announcement and he did not disappoint.  “Mom you’re lucky!!!  Most people only get one 30th birthday but you have had at least 4 now!!” I then explained to him that most women stop having number birthdays at one point or another and that the polite thing to do is pretend that you had no idea that they turned the same age the year before.  He looked very confused and before he could question my logic further I announced bed time (saved by the bell!!)
In all seriousness I am excited to be at the point of my life that I am.  I am blessed beyond measure.  I have a wonderful family that I love completely.  I have many friends (the real kind that are there for you no matter what).  I am healthier than I have been in a long time.  The checklist of things I have to be grateful for goes on and on.   Still I can’t help but reminisce a little on these days where times relentless march is magnified.  It seems like but moments ago that I bought my first bike.  She was a beauty!!  It was pink with streamers on the handle bars, a white wicker basket with flowers on the front, and a horn (the kind with the bulb on the end you squeezed).  I earned the money to buy that bike by memorizing Bible verses.  I loved that bike for so many reasons one of them being it represented my first major accomplishment, my first major purchase;)  Flash forward a few moment in time and I remember my first job.  I was 7 or 8 and we lived in West Virginia.  There was an older couple in our “neighborhood” (that is a VERY loose term for where we lived) who spent part of the year in Florida.  The lady hired me to tend her gardens while they were away.  She had beautiful gardens.  I would walk over early in the morning and water some plants and then I would return in the evening and water different plants.  I weeded a little as well.  They had a pond at the back of their property with beautiful lily pads (the kind you see in magazines with flowers on them).  After I was done my work in the early mornings or evenings I would walk around that pond, find my favorite place to sit and just absorb the serenity and beauty of it all.   Nearly 30 years later and I still remember those as some of my favorite moments. 
The time stream is still in front of me.  I hop forward in time a few minutes more and I see myself crabbing on a bridge in Frenchtown.  We had moved to the Eastern shore of Maryland and I am around 10 or 11.  My father, brothers and sisters are with me.   We would hang strings with chicken parts over the side of the bridge.  We each carefully manned our few lines.  I would wait until I felt that tell-tale jerk on the line then sl---o---w—ly, painstakingly pull it up a centimeter at a time.  Then just when I had it near enough to the surface where I could just see the crab I would sweep the net as quick as a flash and get the crab.  Those sundrenched hours, before high tide rolled in, joking and laughing with the family, eating one of Dad’s picnic lunches are some of the best memories of my childhood.    Time is moving faster now before me.  I am 11 and I am sent up to West Virginia to live with my great grandmother while she recovers from hip surgery.  My great grandmother was not a pleasant person most of the time….to be honest quite often she was downright mean spirited.  I was nervous to have to take care of her and her snippy little Pomeranian named Misty (not to speak ill of the dearly departed but that dog was just plain evil).  This was a turning point in my life.  I came to really understand the meaning of leaning on God and really felt his Spirit for myself in a tangible way.  Lying on my bed, crying after getting in trouble for something I had not done I felt God’s spirit comfort me and give me courage to face the next day.  I prayed that God would use the time I had to help me understand my great grandmother.  Slowly our relationship changed and I now look back and am grateful for getting to know her a little before she passed.  She began to share stories of her life and travels with me.  By the end of my stay up there she was spoiling me rotten.  God works in mysterious ways.
Suddenly I am 17 and living in Ocean City Maryland with my friend Amy.  This was my first taste of a having a real friend.  We were summer missionaries at an outreach center.   Every Thursday we made spaghetti dinners for hundreds of people as part of our homeless ministry.  We sang until we had no voice every night.  We rode roller coasters at midnight screaming our heads off.  I put on clown makeup for the first time (that was a DISASTER—LOL).  I was pushed out of my comfort zone in so many ways and experienced so much growth.  I am so grateful for those few months.  They were life changing.  The next few years fly by: College, work, more college, more work.  I moved to NY to go to Bible school.  There I met my wonderful husband and the rest of the story you already know.
This walk down memory lane reminds me of how fast things change, of how much I have to be grateful for, of the things that forged me into who I am today, of where I come from.  Thanks for your patience on this journey.  Happy Mother’s Day friends.-Kristine

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Glimpse of Change

Hello friends.   WOW!!!  What a couple of days.  Will and Kate got married in royal style.  Osama Bin Laden bit the dust American style.    My world changed Skiff style. 
I have spent the past several years of my life in tremendous amounts of pain and without even the most basic levels of energy.  I don’t mean the normal “I get beat after I ran errands all day” lack of energy.  I mean the “I can barely stand long enough to take a shower” lack of energy.  With five active boys, a husband, two cats, and school and church commitments this was a REAL problem.  Just doing the bare minimum took all I had and my life is not the bare minimum kind of life.  But this is not where the story ends folks.  Oh no it gets MUCH better!!  After a long process of being shuffled from specialist to specialist I was finally diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis and placed on medication.  Within three days my life had changed forever.  I now feel like a teenager again.  I not only have the energy to do my daily musts but I have energy to spare.  I find myself dancing while I do dishes (yes that really is dancing, not a serious medical condition), going up and down the stairs many times a day (without intense pain), playing with my boys, and cleaning my houseare no longer  the equivalent to climbing Mt Everest (well maybe the laundry but I’m getting there;-)  Yes it has been an amazing change for my family and I.
Change, however, is not easy for my guys on the spectrum, even good change.  My boys and my husband had become used to “zombie me”.    It has been slightly stressful for them to adjust to this “new” me.  My husband has felt slightly displaced because I now have everything done before he gets home from work.  My boys aren’t sure they like a mom who has the energy to make them clean up their own messes;-)  Seeing me dancing around the kitchen was more than a little disconcerting to a few in my family-yes I admit my dancing is bad but it’s not THAT bad.  It’s not that my guys wish that I felt terrible again.  No they are delighted to see me happy and engaged but there was no preparation time for this change.  Usually before any change in our lives (big or small) I spend a lot of time preparing my spectrum guys, from hubby down to Benny.  If they know about the change ahead of time transitions are much smoother.  The autistic mind processes information very differently.  Normal, everyday things can be very overwhelming, to the point of actual physical pain at times.   In order to compensate and live life as fully as possible my guys need to know things up front, not just the broad strokes like we are going on vacation in July.  They need to know where we are going, what the climate will be like, how much noise to expect, what will we do, will there be a lot of people, where will we stay, what kind of beds will they have, will the hotel have waffles at their breakfast buffet, what will we do if it rains, what will we do if it doesn’t rain, will there be a lot of noise, will there be a lot of people (yes those are repeats and yes it was intentional), etc., etc., etc.  For many kids these are just curiosity type questions but for my guys it is more.  For my guys it’s about feeling safe in their environment, knowing that they will be prepared and that they will be ok.  The autistic mind processes information differently and that can be a huge blessing at times.  My guys have an amazing sense of humor.  They have mind blowing ideas that are completely outside the conventional box.  It’s not that they think outside the box it’s that they are an entirely different box.  Their boxes walls are noise, light, touch, emotions (what are those?), communication, and social expectations. 
Yes change is something that I prepare my guys for whenever I can.  However sometimes life sneaks up on you and there is no time to prepare for the changes.  In times like these I batten down the hatches and we get through it Skiff style.  Then watch out world.  Here we come!!

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