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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.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Glimpse of Crabbing for Patience

I spent a large part of my childhood living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.   The Eastern Shore is a beautiful peninsula covered in marshland, on the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.  Watermen fish the abundant waterways and farmers farm the fertile land.  Summer was a time to enjoy the sweet abundance of land and sea on the shore.  We enjoyed feasts of the sweetest sweet corn, the juiciest watermelons and the freshest blue crabs you can imagine.  In fact, some of my favorite memories are crabbing with my family off the bridge in a little town called French Towne.  My dad would check the tide schedule and the night before we would load up the old Town and Country station wagon with nets and long strings that my Dad had wrapped around X shaped lumber.  We would pack a picnic lunch and head out at dawn to catch the tide . There we would spend the day out in the sun, enjoying the salt water breeze and crabbing our hearts out.  I don't know if you have ever crabbed but it takes patience.  You tie bait (usually chicken necks ) to strings and then you tie the free end of the string to the bridge rails. You lower the bait into the water and then you wait and wait until you feel the slightest tug on the string.  Once you feel that tug, you slowly, smoothly pull the string up a mere fraction of an inch at time.  When you finally can see the crab just under the surface of the water you quickly swoop the net down and bring the crab up.  If you have a good day you come home with a bushel basket full of sweet crabs and have a crab feast that night.
Baby me with my mom enjoying the Chesapeake Bay
Today I brought the my boys to the park for a picnic and then swimming at our neighborhood pool.  As I watched them splashing about, playing their childhood water games, I was  reminded of the summers of my youth,  splashing in the ocean, picking strawberries in the field, and crabbing with my family.  Suddenly, I was thinking about the patience that was developed in me on those lazy summer days crabbing .  There were many times, in my impatience, that I would just jerk the string as soon as I felt a tug.  Invariably, the crab would be startled and let go of the bait.  I would then have to start the whole process all over again.  I learned the hard way that patience has its rewards.  Other times, I would be distracted and miss the tug.  I would rush over with the net but the moment had passed and the crab had moved on.
Lately, I have been feeling overwhelmed by the number of things that my boys just don't seem to "get" no matter how many times we remind them.  I am impatient for them to mature in some basic areas.  It occurs to me that raising my boys is somewhat like those crabbing trips of my youth.  It takes great patience, attentiveness and  sometimes the lessons are lost all together and we have to start all over.  However if I'm patient and persistent, I will reap the sweet rewards of the work.  My best bet is to sit back, enjoy the breezes life sends my way and wait for those sweet tugs, those flighty teachable moments, that are so easily lost if I am inattentive or impatient.  
Friends, I hope you are enjoying the beginning blushes of summer as I am.  I pray that you are capturing your teachable moments and enjoying the refreshing breezes life is sending your way.  I know these are where I am going to focus myself this summer.  Thank you for taking time to read.  As always lots of love-Kristine

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Glimpse of Destruction Done Skiff Style

The sun has barely rubbed the sleep from it's eyes, had it's coffee and started its long work day.  Hubby and I are trying to hold onto those precious few extra minutes of sleep that come on Saturday mornings when you have small children.  7 am and we can not put off getting out of bed any longer.   I stumble down the stairs and start brewing that magic elixir of life and alertness.....coffee.  I turn as I'm filling the coffee pot and almost drop it.  I put the pot down and rub my sleepy eyes, surely my eyes are deceiving me.  I blink once, twice and look again.  This is the sight that greeted my still weary eyes.
Jamie is smiling broadly with a pair of scissors in his hands.  "Look Mom, I made the cat windows!!"
He is so proud of his creation.  I'm struggling between the need to cry and the desire to laugh.  I take the scissors and send Jamie upstairs before I loose it.  Then I call hubby downstairs and together we shake our heads and laugh, after a moment of pure frustration.  This is not the first thing Jamie has "creatively" redesigned and it won't be the last.  We call Jamie down and once again explain to him why he cannot destroy the furniture, even when he thinks its for a good cause.  Jamie really doesn't understand what the big fuss is all about.  After all, the cat needed windows in its favorite hiding place.  We take the scissors and throw them away.  New rule in Skiffdom, scissors are disposable tools.  We buy a pair when we need them and then THROW THEM AWAY!!  Just hide them you suggest.  There is no hiding place in our house that Jamie will not discover.  Believe me we have tried!

This incident took place a few years ago but it was a good example because I had photographic evidence;)  Autism and destructiveness often walk hand in hand.  People have judged us quite harshly for what seems to be undisciplined, unsupervised tsunami children running rampant around our home.  The reality is much more complex.  First and foremost, I must be clear here, not all of our children do this type of damage on a regular basis (well Paul does to his clothing but that's another story).  It is almost entirely all done by Jamie.  Secondly, Jamie really cannot control himself.  He does not get it no matter what discipline is imposed.  He honestly does not connect his actions to consequences (good or bad).  Thirdly, he is not unsupervised.  If anything we keep a pretty tight reign on Jamie because of just this kind of thing.  He is nine years old and he is limited to playing only in our back yard and inside our house unless I am right there within touching distance.  However, he is not my only child and he is FAST.....I mean track star fast.    He can outrun anyone in the family by A LOT.  He literally laps his next fastest brother.
Jamie is not intending destruction.  He is a creative soul and has hypo sensory issues.  This means he does not feel sensation the same way that most of us do :pain, heat, cold, just to name a few.  I have example after example where I have had to rescue him from himself.  Whether it is wandering outside in a short sleeved t-shit and jeans BAREFOOT on a 20 degree day ( I caught him in less than a minute and brought him back in.  All the while he was arguing that it wasn't cold at all.)  or not even crying after tripping on a stairs and splitting open his knee requiring stitches.  He kept pulling open the wound after the stitches were in and playing with it.  He is always searching for sensation.  Just this week he tore a phone book to shreds (yes they do still exist), finger painted with spaghetti sauce on my kitchen floor, finger painted the back of my house with mud, and  poured water on bubble wrap upstairs and jumped on it.  My carpet and I were NOT happy.   Jamie is a great imaginative kid,  he just has no concept of what he is doing.  In his mind, he didn't destroy a phone book he was making confetti and throwing a party for his stuffed animals.  The spaghetti sauce was just the perfect medium to express his inner Van Gough and seriously why not paint the back of the house with mud?!?  All of these things gave him the sensory input that he more than craves, he NEEDS.  We are trying to find ways to give him the sensory outlets he needs but his creativity does not like being limited to our simplistic fixes.  Playdough, art supplies, appropriate digging options, and lots of time in the pool or our garden tub (playing in water is a great sensory option for him) just seem to make him crave more "creatively" artistic sensory options.
We have adapted our lives more than most people can even fathom.  We no longer have dressers because Jamie loves to dump out the contents of the drawers  and build with them.  He then tries to climb the towers he builds, best case scenario he breaks the drawers, worst case scenario he breaks himself (both have happened).   Jamie has literally picked apart (with his fingers) 8 mattresses!!  We have finally found a solution to this one, we have bunk beds where the mattresses sit down inside the frame.  He has had the same mattress for going on two years!!!!!
This is not a post to cry woe is me.  Instead this is an attempt to describe what it is to live with an autistic child who is hypo sensitive.  This is our lives, this is the mundane every day for us.  I know there will be many of you who have the perfect parenting solution for this.  Believe me when I say we've tried it.  This has been going on for nine years.  If it has been suggested, written about, lectured about, or even thought about we have tried it.  I truly am not being arrogant, I'm just trying to express one of the many ways autism affects our daily lives.
My Jamie 
I love my Jamie.  I love his creativity.  I love his passion and his sweetness.  I love his love of all things musical.  I wouldn't trade him for anything, not even for a couch without windows. -Kristine

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Glimpse of Hilarious Absurdity

"There is no way you will ever get a BB gun until you can actually aim at the toilet and hit your target!"

"Put your pants on BEFORE you bring out the trash for Pete's sake!"

"Yes, you do have to have BOTH shoes to go into the store.......No they won't let you in with just one.  Why would you leave just ONE of your shoes at church, again?!?"

"Why are there packages of spaghetti noodles IN YOUR BED?.....Scratch that, I don't even want to know the answer to that.  As long as they are sealed just put them back in the pantry ........  Yes, I do mean only the UNopened packages........ because no one wants to eat noodles that you slept on"


These are just a few of the absurd statements that came out of my mouth today.   I was midway through "Turn the potato down, it is getting on my nerves!" when I stopped and considered what exactly what I was saying. I had to finish the sentence through my laughter.   (clarification: I am not going crazy.  One of the kids websites Benny likes has a singing potato and it is VERY irritating!!  You can put the phone down.  There is no need to commit me yet;)  I often share the funny things my kids say, so today I thought you might like to hear the other half of the conversation.  After such a tough day yesterday, it was nice to laugh at myself for a little while.
I hope you got a good laugh too.  Lots of love-Kristine

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Need for Release


When I was 17 years old, I had my first taste of living on my own.  I lived in Ocean City, at a mission, where I was doing missions work for the summer.  My roommate, Amy, and I did everything you can imagine.  We  scrubbed, we cooked, we sang until we had no voice, we were clowns, puppeteers and even counselors.  It was a fabulous summer, one of those sweet moments in life that you capture in the amber of your memory.  You take it out occasionally, hold it up to the light, and really look at it. Then you get a quiet pang around your heart because those sweet moments can't ever be relived.
Because the majority of our ministry happened into the late hours of the night, Amy and I had a tradition of hitting the boardwalk rides right before close.  We would scream away the frustrations of our day on the roller coaster.  Even if we only had a croak of a voice left, it was so therapeutic to just let everything from the day go, in the wildness of the night.  There have been many times over the years, that I have longed for a roller coaster on which to scream away the pain and frustrations of life.
Honestly, this past month I could have used a roller coaster right in my back yard.  So many things have happened, so many daily frustrations are building up, some very deep pains  needing a release.  I want to scream and yell and have no one look at me like I'm crazy......yes I have bedazzled my very own straight jacket, just in case that day should come but I really would prefer a roller coaster ride instead of Bedlam.  
For the sanity of my family, I have spent years learning to hold back my emotions.  I honestly, am not even sure how to let it all out anymore.  My guys on the spectrum need my help to deal with their emotions, they certainly can't handle my feelings and frustrations.  They honestly just can't  process them.  I have friends who love me but I have become so accustomed to being closed off I really have no idea how to just let go in front of them.
So you my readers get to ride the roller coaster of my writing.  It is the best bypass of my brain to my heart. 
So here are the things in my heart.  If they make little sense, please bear with me.

My mind is a jumble of thoughts, that I cannot make sense of
My emotions are a raging sea below mere inches of smooth glass
I chain my heart to my head, I will it to be calm

My life is black and white, my heart longs for color
I want to scream and kick and throw myself down
Instead I sit; tearless, unmoving, untouchable

I strengthen the chains that bind me, I reinforce the glass
I am my own jailer, from me there is no escape
I am slowly willing my heart away.

I'm sorry this isn't my normal, light at the end of the tunnel post but it is what I am feeling tonight.  Tomorrow is another day, hopefully a better one. Lots of love-Kristine





Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Glimpse of Suzanne

Happy Mother's Day to all you, my precious friends.  Today is a heavy Mother's Day for me.  Yesterday my good friend, neighbor and fellow spectrum momma shuffled off this mortal coil and left a hole in so many of our hearts.  She leaves behind a devoted husband and two beautiful children.  On this day where we all honor the mothers in our lives, I wanted to pay a special tribute to a mother who loved her children passionately, who fought desperately for them and whose absence today is felt so very much.
I remember very clearly the day Susie and I first met.  My phone was ringing and I did not recognize the number.  Normally, I just let those calls go straight to voice mail but something told me to answer this all.  I answered and a woman, whom I had never met, told me she had been given my number because her son had recently been diagnosed with gifted Aspergers.  She called a complete stranger and an hour and a half later when we hung up we were good friends. We had so many things in common, so many of the same life challenges.  We had laughed and cried and shared more of our lives in an hour and a half than many people share after years.  My son Paul and her son became fast friends at school and it turned out we were neighbors, living only a block or so from each other.  I will miss her phone calls and unexpected visits.  I will miss seeing her walk around the neighborhood, lost in thought and yet still on a mission.  I will miss her in my life.
Last night I told Paul about Susie's passing.  He and I stayed up late talking about her and the way she affected his life.  We grieved together for our loss and for the much greater loss to her family.  Paul asked me quite sincerely "Mom, when can I go to my friend and be a good friend to him?  When can I tell him I feel sympathy for him?  I can't stop crying, so I know my friend is crying a lot more than me because this is his mom."  At that moment, I saw a glimpse of the man growing inside of my boy. I'm  really proud of him.  
We talked about the unanswerable questions of life:  Why? How can this happen?   We took comfort in the things we do know.  Paul's literal, Aspie mind was very comforted by Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.

1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;s3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;s6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;s7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

He said to me "Mom, I don't understand why now was the time.  I don't think it is fair and I am feeling angry but I know that God said it was time.  Maybe he just really wanted her with him."  I think my 11 year old child said it better than I ever could so I will close with that.  All my love Susie, you are so missed.  All my love Jeff and kids, our hearts break with you and for you.  We are here.  All my love friends, may we never take each other for granted.- Kristine

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me

A year, such a benign thing
12 long months
52 busy weeks
365 flashing by yesterdays

When I was young girl, today I would turn a year older and tomorrow I was reaching for the next year to be over. I had plans to accomplish.  I had dreams to achieve.  I had a life awaiting me, ready to start.  C'mon lets go!! 
When I was a new mom, today I would turn a year older and I would barely notice.  My busy weeks ran into each other.  Each week indistinguishable from the next, an endless parade of laundry,diapers, bottles, Orajel and infants Tylenol.  Will this ever end?
Now in the prime of life, today I turn a year older and fondly miss yesterday.  My days fly by, a flurry of activities and commitments.  Each day marked off the calendar faster than the last.   Can I slow it down for just a little while? 

Happy 30E to me (for new readers, I no longer have number birthdays.  I am now on the letter system;)!!
What a year this has been!!  Thank you so much for tagging along for the ride.  I am so grateful to each of you for being here, supporting me and holding me accountable.   
This past year has been a year of unbelievable growth in so many areas of my life.  Growth has such sweet connotations, spring, new budding leaves, flowers just starting to bloom, the fresh clean smell after a spring rain.....sweet, beautiful growth. However, growth is also painful at times.  It means stretching beyond what is comfortable into the unknown.  It means that something old has to die so that something new has fertile soil in which to grow.  This year has been full of letting go of the old to make room for the new and of the growing pains of life.   Don't get me wrong, I am enjoying the pleasantness of the new growth in my life.  I love it actually but I must acknowledge the path that has led here was at times difficult.  However difficult, I pray that I continue to grow this coming year.  I never want a year to go by where I become complacent and  cease to be willing to change and grow.   I have many mountains left to climb, many dreams I have yet to accomplish.  
This year I will be facing down my oldest turning 12 (the precipice of the dreaded teen years).  I have always said that once my boys became teenagers I would stick them in a barrel and feed them through a hole.  Obviously this is in jest, but the truth remains that I am not naturally gifted with teenagers.  Heck, I didn't even like teenagers when I was a teenager;) All those raging hormones getting in the way of common sense or even common courtesy tends to set my teeth on edge.  I skipped most of the teenage shenanigans back in the day.  So I don't even have those years as a point of reference for me to have some empathy or even sympathy.  This year I think may be my most stretching yet when it comes to parenting.  Please pray that I survive it along with my boys;)
Another challenge in this next year is my health.  I am making it a priority to get myself back into a healthy life style.  My whole body is our of sync right now, sleep cycle, weight, and just over-all health.  I say this as I'm eating a chocolate chip cookie.......yeah I still have lots of work;)
My last area of intentional growth for this coming year is my writing.  With the boys going back to school next fall, I am looking forward to really stretching myself to finish that novel I've started and restarted too many times to count.  
To sum things up I offer this toast (imagine me lifting a glass of something sparkly) "To the year that has passed, I am grateful for all the sweet times, the hard times, the laughter and the tears.  30D was very good to me.  To this coming year, I look forward to the challenges you will throw my way, to the sweet success of accomplishment and even to the bitter tears of failure because it all means that I am continuing to learn and grow.  Here's to 30E!!" Lots of love-Kristine

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