Friday, June 29, 2012

Power's Out!

One of the worse kinds of stress is financial. It's one thing when you can't have what you want like nice clothes, a nice car, a swimming pool, or a vacation. But it is a whole different ball game when you can't afford necessities like food, housing, electricity, or transportation.

The Maldive Islands are one of a few locations I'd be relaxing at right now, if money were no object.

Since leaving my career last year, we have been under complete financial distress. I tried to compensate with getting a part time job in the evening, but it is no where near what I was previously making. Don't get me wrong I had to stay home because of the need for my family and I do not regret it. But it's so stressful when you can't even afford what you need.

We try to make do with cuts to our budget. Some of the ways we have is using Dave Ramsey's program, cutting coupons, participating in a clothing swap, doing the boy's haircuts, and having no credit cards. But even with this it is almost impossible. Our medical co pays (over $5000 dollars for just Jayson), medications and gas to each appointment has participated in our financial abyss.

I hated the movie "The Abyss" just like I hate financial stress!

I ask others how they are able to do it. One of our big obstacles was that we both were divorced, which we are still recovering from.  We also make too much for assistance, but not enough to make ends meet.  I have great compassion for others who are able to pull through so much stress.  I do appreciate things more since going through these trials.  Small things I appreciate like having a cold soda or air conditioning.  But there has to be a better way of getting by.  Any suggestions?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Don't Hate me because I'm Beautiful

I had a secret. It ruled my life for a couple of years. I wasn't the typical candidate, I was thirty. I thrived on getting sicker. I had an eating disorder. Not everyone knew, but it ruled my life. It started after my third child was born. I was obsessed about getting back into shape. I was running six to eight miles everyday. If I could not run that day I would feel guilty all day and I was a mess. By six months I was where I was before I gave birth. Joe got sick and was hospitalized. I had no time to eat and I loss four pounds in two days. That is when a huge lightbulb went off. I had control of something.

Just a few of the many celebrities that had eating disorders.

It became increasingly worse when I moved to Texas. My ex-husband was a naval officer and he became increasingly aggressive. He snapped one night and assaulted me. I immediately filed for divorce. My life was spinning out of control but I could control one thing... How much I consumed.

I was always an average kid. In high school I was considered "chubby". I was the "bigger" girl in my group of friends.  Boys seemed not to be interested in me and I contributed this to my weight. I never felt good enough.  But at  31 and 5'9 and 119 pounds, I still didn't feel beautiful.  I always denied when I was approached about the weight loss.  I knew I couldn't hide it forever but maybe for a while.  Not eating was my drug.  As long as I could continue not to eat and lose weight, that helped all my anxiety and any thoughts that would creep into my head.
Kate Moss was my hero as a teenager!

I am no longer anorexia.  I am heavier than I would like but I am healthy.  Don't get me wrong, anorexia is always at the back of my mind.  My life is stressful and I would love to have control of something.  I seem to be "okay" to eat normally, maybe it is maturity, or a supportive husband, or maybe I know now I have a bigger battle to tackle right now with Jayson.  I would not say I am cured, I guess I am recovered.  I do think about slipping into that obsession almost daily.  But than I remember how miserable and how time consuming my addiction was.

I started to run again but this time it's for stress relief... And that is all!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Judgement Day

Thanks for the omnioxious commercial that plays in my head over and over.
Peanut Butter Jelly Time:

 Maybe it is because all I watch on TV is usually a child friendly channel or maybe it is because my son jayson eats about 4 peanuts butter sandwiches a day. Jayson only eats about 10 foods. This is an improvement. The list used to only consist of four items. I am in big trouble if I run out of these staples. If I run out of peanut butter than Jayson will have a full meltdown.

Jayson has Sensory Integration Disorder. He is sensitive to food, noise and needs to touch everything.
With the help of occupational therapy and a "sensory diet", we have learned to help regulate Jayson. It works at times but other times it is too late than the meltdown begins.

When we go into a store and something sets him off we leave. But before getting to the door sometimes I get stares, comments, and looks of disgust. Please don't assume that a child is having a tantrum or is just a "brat". What autism has taught me is not to judge so quickly.

I don't just cater to his wants or spoil him. I try to accommodate so he will be able to function and learn. It's something his siblings have even learned.  But why are there people who automatically judge and tell others their opinions. This goes deeper than just parenting.  I have others judge me through the years thinking I am something I am not. I may not explain myself,  but that does not mean your opinions are right.  It may mean that I don't feel comfortable explaining.

A quick graphic on the difference between an Autism Meltdown and Tantrum, click here for a nice video on the topic.

I asked everyone to step back from a situation and do not easily judge.  If you see someone struggling, it maybe nice to ask if they need help.  That help could mean the world.  I had a dear friend, Claudia, who befriended me years ago.  She understood that there were circumstances that had me at the place I was.  She didn't judge me but loved me and supported me.  Unfortunately, my dear friend passed away this year. I regret that I never got to tell her how much I appreciated that. I miss her dearly and I strive to be a better person.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

More Common Than You Think

It was good to hear that authorities are not pressing charges on a Shiner, Texas father who killed his daughter's molester this week.  He heard his five-year-old daughter screaming, to find her behind a shed being sexually assaulted.

He put matters in his own hands, literally, and beat him off her.  He then called 911 and later the perpetrator died.

Then, my stomach turned when I read today that Jerry Sandusky's adopted son was also a victim.  This is 10 victims now that have surfaced.  Sexual abuse is very disturbing and almost unthinkable.  But indeed it happens, much more than one might realize.  

With the recent news and my experience as a rape counselor, I decided to write a blog about sexual abuse.  To realize that it happens in even the smallest of communities, just cruise the sex offender registries that are provided on the the internet. 

Just our local sex offenders.
Find PA's Meagan's Law site here, a national listing can be found at this link.

You may be alarmed that even a neighbor might be on the site. I realized that even my small home town have several dozen perpetrators.  Thanks to Megan's Law, it is one defense that parents and the community have.  I did some research and I have found that:

  •  1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused by the age of 18.                                                                                               Statistics," Sexual Violence. Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape)  

  • The typical child sex offender molests an average of 117 children.                                                                   (National Institute of Mental Health, 1988) 

  • About 95% of victims know their perpetrators.                                                                                  ( CCPCA, 1992)
If you are like me, you probably are sick to your stomach.  But the only thing parents can do is be educated to try to protect our children.  As mention before, I would cruise your local sex offender registry.  Know what lives beside you.  Second, talk, talk, talk to your children.  Tell them what is appropriate touch and what is not.  Make them feel comfortable that they can come and talk to you if something is happening.  Third, know the possible signs of sexual abuse.  Be cognizant of the possible signs of sexual abuse, such as:

Nightmares or sleep problems.
Bed wetting
Difficulty walking or sitting
Demonstrates bizarre, sophisticated, unusual sexual knowledge/behavior
Low performance in school (especially if they were not prior)
Genital or rectal symptoms, such as pain during a bowel movement or urinating.
Withdrawal or depression
unusual aggressiveness or suicidal behavior
Refuses to change in front of others.

Remember we can't always prevent something bad to happen to our children but education is the best defense.  

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Breaking Good

July 15th will start the new season of my favorite TV show AMC's "Breaking Bad".  I am not one who is able to watch much TV, but this show hooked me with the very first episode.  It is a unconventional show that is so unbelievable that I wish sometimes it was reality.  

Aaron Paul is dreamy!

Bryan Cranston (the dad from Malcom in the Middle) is a middle age chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.  He was a very upstanding citizen and lived his life by the book.  His character cracks when he gets the diagnosis and he worries how he will support his family.  He meets up with one of his former students (Aaron Paul : who is great eye candy) and decides to cook meth.  Each season has me on the edge of my seat.  The show transforms a straight and narrow character into a bad ass.

The show intrigued me not only for the education on Meth, but how a person who has no faith really can "break". If you get a chance and have Netflix, start the first season, you won't regret it!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Stressed with Autism

I knew something was wrong at around 18 months. I mention something to the pediatrician at Jayson's well check. She blew off the lack of talking because he had four other siblings and were probably doing the speaking for him. She blew off his meltdowns as starting the terrible twos early. I knew something was not right. You know when you get that feeling in the pit of your stomach that something is not right?

Jayson was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder by his second birthday. I knew it was going to be a tough journey, but never thought it would get even harder 2 1/2 years later. Jayson is almost stuck at the age of two. He has just as many melt downs, still is not potty trained, still can't sleep through the night, and he has a limited schedule and diet. He receives intervention several times a week and I quit my career to stay home. But with that said, he seems still at the same place were we started. You can imagine how discouraged my husband and I are.

Jayson plays minecraft but cant use the potty!

We do not receive respite care . My husband and I seem to be just getting by. We are both physically and emotionally exhausted.  On top of that I have a lot of guilt for the other children because I am stretch so thin and I am not able to attend or give them the attention that I want to.

Two studies that were published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders reported that Mothers with children with autism had comparable stress as a combat solider. Other research indicates that parents of children with autism experience greater stress than parents of children with MR or Downs Syndrome (Holroyd & MacArthur 1976; Donovan 1988).

Okay, now I don't feel as much as a wimp than I thought I was. This research does validate my feelings but it still does not help reduce it. There needs to be more ways to help families like our selves in reducing stress.

My husband and I have been trying to get creative as far as stress relief. I have started to run again, we are eating healthier, I am writing... and I pray. But what else is there besides handing him over to a stranger in respite care (which is not an option)?

Dear Lord please help our family and the much needed rest we need.  I pray for our children that they will find comfort in you.  I pray for Jayson. My heart aches that he is consistently in distress. Lord only you know what we are dealing with and I ask for your grace.  Amen.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Daddy Dearest

Dear Dad:

I wanted to tell you that you have always been special to me since I was a little girl. You were always a strict father and made sure I always did the right thing. I don't have many memories of you playing with me or taking me to the park or helping me with my homework. I know that was the sacrifice you had to make for our family. I know many holidays you were on duty but we still celebrated even know you were tired. Daddy, you made sure I had what I needed and you always provided vacations for our family. You taught me the importance of always doing what was right and never backing down. You now are a wonderful grandfather. I am so proud how nurturing you are with them. I thank you for being the strong, loving father that you are. And I am blessed for the relationship you have with my children. I love you daddy!


Your daughter

Friday, June 15, 2012

Service Dogs for Autism?

While no silver bullet exists in terms of medication, therapy or other resources to cure or treat autism, Service Dogs seem like an intriguing option.

Granted, our Shih Tzu Jake doesn't count as a service dog by any stretch, but there are times when Jayson gets uncontrollably upset and Jake seems to have a calming effect on him. This is a fleeting situation, but you can see and experience in that sliver in time where the primal K-9/child connection seems to almost override the chaos of the moment.  A study published in the Western Journal of Nursing might have proved the effects of interacting with dogs on children with autism spectrum disorders.  What they found was a dog put that child in a better mood and more aware of their surroundings than a stuffed animal and other objects.

Jayson and Jake running out in the street completely unattended

In addition those flickers in time, Jake does put up with Jayson's generally rough and unrelenting hugs and kisses. Jake's basically a saint and, to be honest, Jayson probably should be covered in terrible dog bites if this was a different dog.  It is almost like Jake senses that Jayson is "weaker" and he seems to tolerate a little more from him than anyone else in the family.

So these small examples got me to search the internet for service dogs ...

This service dog was only $24.60, but was unavailable for kids with autism.
Kidding aside, thanks to sadiessavior for the photo.

I found some great sites and it appears there are a number of organizations training dogs for kids with autism.  A great site to start is  There is even a day camp where the autistic child and their service dog can attend together.  Some classrooms are incorporating the service dog during school.  Here's a cool little YouTube video to see what one therapist does with her classroom dog:

Overall, we have at least one friend that knows a bit about service dogs and we may eventually look at  getting one for Jayson ... until then, Jake will have to do :)

Our dog, rudely woken from his slumber in a cat bed.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Walk Into My Parlour

I think my obsession began around the age of four.  I remember my mother had a book of poems and I would get it out daily and made her read me the same poem over and over.  It was Mary Howitt's "The Spider and the Fly".  The poem scared me but at the same time I loved it.  I was so frightful for the fly and I hated the spider.  Spiders have always petrified me.  I feel no remorse when I kill them and I believe I am getting justice for that poor fly.

Mary Howitt's face > creepy spiders
Through out my life it seems that the spider and myself go head to head.  I have many memorable experiences with spiders.  I remember the time I killed the biggest banana spider outside my home when i lived in Virginia beach.  It's web was beautiful but to me a good spider is a dead spider.

This shit is bananas B-A-N-A-N-A-S

I remember the unforgettable RV trip with my sister to the beach.  Outside of the RV there were hundreds of spiders.  and lets just say that my revenge could have been a scene from the Killing Fields.  Then there is the infamous Christmas tree.  That year we chopped down our own Christmas Tree.  It was such a nice tree until I discovered the next day it was infested with spiders.  That year we sung O' Spider Tree.

I research on the fear of spiders or "arachnophobia".  I found out that is the most common phobia. Some experts believe that it was a survival technique for our ancestors.  When looking at the properties of a phobia, I realized that I actually have more of an obession than a phobia.  Usually someone who has an arachnophobia can not kill the spider.  They are usually paralized in fear and some will leave there own homes because they saw a spider.  I do not have a problem killing a spider.

On the contrary I have found that there are people who love spiders, they are known as arachnophiles.  There are forums and blogs just for spider lovers.  But respecting the spider is not something new. In ancient Peru, the Moche people worshiped nature including Spiders.  In  ancient China, the Chinese called spiders "ximu",which means happy insects.  Spiders were believed to bring happiness in the morning and wealth in the evening. And then there is Cambodia, where fried tarantulas are a delicacy!

For more fun, you should search "Skuon"in google images
Spiders will always be on my mind.  I will never like the spider no matter how much scientists try to convince me that they are great for the environment.  And in case you were wondering, I am not going to be having any fried spiders soon either!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

House Rules

I learned many great things on how to be a parent when I was a mental health social worker.  Every book I read on parenting always spoke about the importance of structure. But it was not until I went into the most dysfunctional homes that I realized that children are not born already knowing the rules. How could I be so stupid?

That night after my observation, I went home, jotted down some rules, and called a family meeting.  The look on the kids faces when I explained we where having a meeting.  I really think they thought I was going to tell them I was pregnant again, because they had such horrible, scared looks on their faces.  So did my husband!

We went over the rules, discussed some, argued others and came up with a list.  I reprinted the list and posted them on the frig'.  Now, I am not saying that they were all perfect angels but surprising they did improve.  How could I have missed this before? All institutions have rules, but I did not for my home. How could I have expected my children to behave if they were never told the rules?  Years later, I no longer have the house rules on the frig' but I am certain everyone knows the rules.
Here is a copy of our rules: 

Our House Rules:
1. Treat others like you would like to be treated! 
2. Walking feet in the house!  NO Running!
3. Always ask before taking something (drinks, snacks, toys, tools,etc.)
4. Do not use bad words!
5. No teasing 
6. Always say "please" and "thank you".
7. No jumping on furniture (beds,couch,chair,etc.)
8. Use our inside voice when in the house (no yelling).
9. Respect what God has given us- do not break things, throw things, or misuse things.

So how do you make house rules?  Make a list with 10 or less rules.  The simpler the better.  Make sure that the rules are agreed upon by both  parents.  After you have compiled a list, schedule a meeting and go over the rules with everyone.  Even two years old will listen.  Than post them somewhere that everyone can see them everyday.  We used the Refrigerator since that is where the kids are all the time!!!  Also YOU must abide by the rules.  Practice what you preach sister!

After you make up the rules than you must discuss consequences.  When someone breaks the rules there needs to be a consequence.  This is where things can be tricky.  Don't assume that this is going to work overnight.  But the more consistent you are with the rules and the consequences the more you will have successful and confident children.

I am a total believer in positive reinforcement.  There is much research that to change behavior, positive reinforcement is by far the best way.  At first when implementing the rules you may want to do a reward chart.  For each day the child does not break a rule, give them a sticker. When they are done completing a chart they earn a reward.  A reward does not have to be something you buy.  It could be that they earn a extra half hour to stay up, they get to bake cookies, or they go to the park.

After a few times of getting rewarded your child will know exactly what is expected of them.   The best reward charts that I have used is on this site:  This site has some free charts (which were the ones I used) and some to buy.  Also they have charts for children as young as 3 years old.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

School's Out (for summer)

The last day of school was on June 5th and I already have a few of the honulas whining about being bored.  But needless to say this mom is prepared.  I have compiled a list of 10 ideas to do with the kids this summer that will cost almost no dinero.  The trick is to make the "adventure" sound exciting.  Make sure you pack water and snacks.  Please feel free to take my ideas:

1. Olympics:  In the spirit of the 2012 Olympics we will be having our own summer games on July 4th.  We have already planned the events and medals.    The Olympics are something the whole family can participate in watching. As the games unfold on television this is a great opportunity to teach children geography, sportsmanship, and history.

Ronald Reagan forgot all about Mary Lou Retton ... I bet you didn't!

2. Free movies: Most movie theaters offer free summer showings of older movies.  They usually have limited seating and only select times.  My area offers free movies on Tuesdays and Wednesday (one showing each) at the Leitersburg Cinemas

3. Library: Most Libraries have summer reading programs.  Our local library (Alexander Hamilton Library) has a prize at the end of the summer after completing the program.  They also offer preschool story time on Wednesdays or Thursdays.  Check your local library.

4. State parks:  Almost everyone lives within an hour from a state park.  Our favorite park is Trough Creek, because of its natural beauty, including rainbow falls.  For the state of Pennsylvania the website is:

Taste the Rainbow at Rainbow Falls (Trough Creek State Park)

5. Local museum:  Local museums are probably one of the most overlooked resources in a community.  That's too bad because it is a great way to spend a hot summer day. Locally we have a Industrial Museum  Many of these small museums are free or ask for a small donation.

I can picture Jayson destroying this place now that I think about it ...

6. Hike: Plan a hike for the kids with a picnic and scavenger hunt.  Kids love scavenger hunts and this can occupy them for the majority of the hike.  It is great exercise too!

7. Vacation bible school:  Almost every church offers some type of vacation bible school.  These are great programs that are structured and let little ones socialize.   I had a girlfriend who found a different church that her children could attend every week of the summer.

Copyright © 2011 The Zondervan Corporation.

8. Build & Grow Program:  Most Lowe's Hardware Stores have a prSogram that you can register your kids to participate in a Saturday morning program.  This program is free and they get to learn to work with tools safely.  They get to bring their "project" home.  For more information you can go to

9. Music : Some communities offer free music programs during the summer.  Our local park, Renfrew, offers a jazz concert on the last Sunday of August.  This is an all day event.

10. Minor League Baseball. For a fraction of the price, less travel time and arguably just as much fun, Minor League Baseball is an awesome activity. While we have two major league teams within 1 1/2 hours, and two three hours away, minor league ball just makes a lot more sense for families.

Monday, June 11, 2012

By now you may be wondering what my title, “Herding Honulas” means. 

You know what herding means … you know like this guy:

Now the made-up-word-sounding noun in the second part of my title.

Honula is some sort of English bastardization that originated from conversations with my husband’s relatives from Yugoslavia. He’s defined it, after discussions with next of kin, but Urban Dictionary wouldn’t accept it.

This wonderful definition was rejected -- despite our family's usage of the word and the fact Chris' cousin Jonathan Bechtolt wrote a record called  The Honula Album!

Regardless of the reject -- -- that didn’t stop us from using it every day in our familiaris vocabulorum – like every single day.

So here’s my definition:

Honula (noun) {hawn uh la) – A person who shows no class, unconcerned with appearances, ignorant in their actions, and is usually unintentional. 

We contract it and use it however we want though.

It works as code, if we don’t want people outside the family to know that we’re making observations about their children: Look at those kids, they’re so hon!

So in Herding Honulas – I’ll attempt to rope moments a la honula to make your world a magical place.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Hershey Highway

For about the last six months we have had the luxury of battling jayson's constipation. He has what the medical professionals call a "mega colon". We get to take him to Hershey every other month to get his Hershey Highway checked.

So ... this is the Hershey Highway people always talk about ...

Constipation is a very stressful thing. Jay is on many laxatives and not potty trained. He has had many hospital visits because of being impacted. Needless to say I have been changing diapers for 16 years. I thought I would have a gold medal for my service instead of the thought that I have spent roughly $8,500 dollars on diapers alone.

Unfortunately, I have shit on my mind a lot. So much that I have written a rap for Jay so he can try to go.

I'll post the lyrics too. If anyone has never fooled around with the app Garage Band it's cool. It is really magical too if you have already have a sense for music. I highly recommend it.

Beach whales welcome!

My first husband was in the Navy. The only blessing of that marriage (besides my three beautiful children) was I always lived at the beach. I love sand, salt, and sun. I believe I was half mermaid in my previous life. So you can imagine how I feel about living in Pennsylvania. The worse part with having five children and on a fixed income is there is no dinero for a beach vacay! We have learned to adjust to enjoy some natural beauty of lakes and streams. But this still is not the same. So I need to either recreate or relocate.

So the kids and I decide to make a beach. We go to the local hardware store and pick up several bags of sand. I go to the party store and pick up some Hawaiian themed cups, umbrellas, and other beachy stuff.

I get home, fill the pool up, put down a tarp and fill it with sand. I plop down my beach chairs, put jack johnson on the iPod and turn on a fan. I tell the kids not to disturb me for 15 minutes. I close my eyes. I feel warm sand go through my toes and my hair starts to blow from the breeze of the fan. Jack starts to sing to me. After a few minutes I open my eyes to find the dog pooping in the sand, jayson emptying a bag of sand into the pool and then johnathan stepping in the poop. So much for the beach. I do laugh at the attempt. I guess watching phineas and ferb was not a good idea after all!!!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Allow me to introduce myself ...

Hi, my name is Cristin Baker.  I am a typical mom.   Well not really typical, my life is just wild.  No not the type of wild where I am going to a club or drinking until I passed out, or wondering where my underwear went.  Wild in the way that on a daily basis I have something happen to me that is unexpected, unimaginable, and quite entertaining.  I have many friends tell me that I should write about my “stories”.  I seem to always recover from these daily happenings and my friends are always nail biting by my recoveries.  Recently this had made me really think about starting that journey.  And the more I thought about the journey the more my fingers started to type.  

So before I go any further, Let me introduce myself!
At least my son sticks to coffee ...
hat-tip to

I live in rural Pennsylvania with my husband and five children.  We are a blended family; mine, his, and ours.  I had worked full time in human services but that ended when the demand of the family was blaring in my ear.  So, I work part time on some evenings and the rest of my days are the crazy happenings of my life.  If anyone has ever dared to stay home with children, than you know that it is exhausting and challenging.  You only wish that you could have coffee breaks and bathroom breaks instead of the constant audience when you are on the toilet and having my four-year-old drink half my coffee.

It seems that at least once a day where I want to scream “leave me alone”.  I don’t really mean “leave me alone”, in fact I am very lonely.  I crave adult interaction and at times seem very isolated and it seemed worse after my youngest turned two.  Our youngest child was diagnosed with autism.  Immediately he begun interventions and therapies but by the age of three he still had not improved.  Our life before is a sliver of my imagination.  We do not go out to eat, we do not attend church, we do not have many outings all because of his impairments.  Of course we have tried and keep trying but most of us come home crying.


I am not one for clich├ęs but do you know the saying “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade”?  Well I try to live this motto with our family.  And most of the time it is by using some imagination or participating in a good deed .  So this week’s lemons included Jayson breaking a chair and busting my lip at a doctor’s appointment during a melt down;  running out of gas;  The toilet clogging; and I welcomed shingles.  

And the lemonade that I created today was making pink lemonade cookies with the kids.  Sometimes it just takes a little sweet cookie to make a week really not that bad.

Life hands you lemons, make lemonade cookies ...

So please follow my blog. I will provide you with some of my stories and one or two good ideas!  It was nice chatting; I’m now off with the plunger!!!