Life. Love. Family. My Perfect Imperfection.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Speaking for him

As anyone who's read this blog or knows my family is aware, our oldest son Ethan has Autism. Asperger's Syndrome, more specifically. They've read about or heard about or seen different things, whether it's a triumph or a tribulation or struggle. I would never wish change on him, but do hope to help him when he's having a hard time. To teach him life skills and coping mechanisms when times get tough, and to learn from him when it comes to so many things, like how he sees the world or what's important or cool to him.

Controversy is a tough thing for me to deal with. I have avoided discussing Autism Speaks for a while, because there has been a lot of controversy surrounding them. I don't have all the facts, but what I do know, well it doesn't make me happy. I was once in the boat of "how to fix", rather than "how to help and how to adapt my own views", when it came to ASD. In that, let me be honest. I don't mean that I wanted to make him not have Autism, but I wanted to "fix" all the difficult things that came with it. Now I see them not as something to fix, or a hurdle to overcome, but something to embrace and use to his advantage. Anxiety can be alleviated to help him see problems for what they truly are. His obsessions can grow into a great outlet, maybe a career someday! (Video games, anyone? or even math and maps could help be an engineer or teacher!) His point of view on the world can be a refreshing change, if you look at it as not wrong because it's not yours, but different, because isn't different what makes the world go 'round?!

When I read that John Elder Robison stepped down from his position at Autism Speaks, I was somewhat surprised. I had read (most) of his book, and hadn't really even known he worked with/for them. I had heard other things over the years. After reading several blog posts about them "not speaking" for the blogger's family, etc. it made me think some.

What I want to say is this: Regardless of whether you agree with that organization, they do NOT speak for my son. Truly, no organization does.

I speak for Ethan. 
Jason speaks for Ethan.
His brothers speak for him.
Grandma Marsha and Grandpa Joe speak for him.
Grandma Linda and Grandpa Gale speak for him.
Aunt Jorie and Uncle Matt. Uncle Jeff. Aunt Madison. Aunt Heather and Uncle Matt. Aunt Linda and Uncle Desi. They all speak for him.
His cousins speak for him.
Great-aunts and great-uncles and great-grandparents speak for him.
Classmates, friends, and teachers speak for him.
Every time they speak up for him, listen to him, advocate for him, talk TO him, befriend him, teach him, learn from him, they speak for him. It's in their actions, just as it is in how they interact with everyone else. They don't treat him differently, "special", they treat him with the same love and care as everyone else. And you know why? Because it's not more difficult nor should anything different be expected!

But most importantly, Ethan speaks for himself! In his actions, his words, his triumphs and his struggles. He is learning to stand up for himself and to BE WHO HE IS MEANT TO BE! The caring, sweet, funny, map-loving mathematician who excels at video games, and is an avid reader.

That is all.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Busy weeks ahead

The next 3 weeks are busy ones for our household.

First up is Jason's 34th birthday!! Its this Friday and I have a small surprise cooked up for him and a special dinner in the plans, too. He doesn't want anything but who am I to resist a little fun? ;)

Then, of course, next Wednesday is Christmas Day. The boys decided they would like to sing at the children's Mass on Christmas Eve so we are going to 4pm Mass and they will sing some songs with the "children's choir" - its really just a group of kids from the k-6 catechism classes that are going to rehearse for a half hour before and then give their all, not truly a children's choir. Since we are going to an earlier Mass, we can get a good night's rest and spend Christmas morning opening our gifts here at home.

On Saturday, we will be spending the day at my parents with one of my sisters and brothers-in-law, 4 of my nephews, 2 of my nieces and my soon-to-be niece-in-law (is that even a word? Lol).y mom has to work all week so it worked out well for everybody.

Either Friday or Sunday will be spent at Jason's parents for our Christmas celebration with his brother and niece, his sister and her boyfriend. His other sister and brother-in-law won't be able to make it as they are traveling to his parents this year. I think its great that they are able to share their holidays, trading off each year. We all get an opportunity to see them each year, just at different times.

Saturday is also a big day foe our little family. Its mine and Jason's 13th wedding anniversary! My mom has requested to keep the boys for an hour or two while we go to dinner or something.

After that its the New Year and everybody is celebrating. My newest favorite day for January isn't until the 3rd though. Our little baby J will officially be TWO! he's grown so much over the last two years and he's so sweet. I can't believe how big he is and how smart he's becoming. He's a little too much like his brothers ;) I swear they scare me sometimes.

I'm looking forward to everything settling down after the beginning of the year before it gets super crazy around here with Jason's 3 classes 4 days a week starting up on the 13th or 14th! This means I will be in charge of getting Alex to cub scouts while dragging the other two with us on 3 Tuesdays a month and 1 Wednesday a month. I think we will be doing either a lot of crackpot meals or super simple meals for the next few months.

Monday, December 16, 2013

What I want for Christmas this year




Sure, my Christmas present wish list could be a long one if I wanted it to be. There are plenty of new books I'd like to read, kitchen gadgets I would love, a fun new video game to play or movie to watch, a photography class to learn some cool new techniques, a "learn to crochet" book. Sure, it could be very long. Couldn't we all make a nice long list of things we want or "need" this year? Every year?

Of course,  there are lots of things that we want or even get, that sit in a cabinet or drawer or collect dust in some corner, unseen and unused for months or years. Just like our children's belongings. We spend money on toys and stuff, and then complain or get irritated when they don't play with them or break them quickly.

Don't get me wrong! I'm not self-less by ANY means, I'd still love some of those things. But what I really want for Christmas this year?

To reach my $200 fundraising goal for The "Dressember for IJM" campaign. It's not a big goal, it might not seem like it would make a big difference, but it's just a small piece of the bigger campaign goal for $100K! In all honesty, I set it low, hoping it would be surpassed and my faith in humanity would grow.

I know that it doesn't seem like a big deal. So what? She's wearing a dress every day in December. Who cares? Yeah, maybe she looks nice, kind of cute, all dressed up (wishful thinking, LOL), but why does she care and how will that help??

Solidarity. With the other 681 participants of Dressember. Standing with and standing up for those who cannot do it for themselves.

Celebration. What?! Sure, just as the creator of this campaign says "Dressember participants wear dresses every day during the month of December to celebrate the freedom of beauty and femininity that they're allowed..." I am free, along with, as far as I know, all of you, my readers and friends and family, to where what I want, eat what I want, live HOW I want and not be abused, hurt, used, etc on a daily basis.

Raise awareness. By wearing a dress everyday, especially as someone who rarely does, it has garnered notice. Even Saturday, the day I didn't post a picture (I actually forgot to snap one), but I did wear a dress. Ask a friend who saw me at the boys' Catechism class who greeted me with a smile and who would give anyone anything they needed, down to the shirt off her back. Ask the mom from school that stopped me to say hello at the store last night and mentioned that she saw me at school earlier in the week all dressed up, and who I shared with the why behind the dresses. Or ask the cashier who asked to see my ID because I was buying a movie that required me to be over 17 (I had to laugh at this, and as I chuckled and she looked at me strangely, I said, I'll be 33 in April. She responded with "well you look young, take it as a compliment." Um, yeah, I can't see me being confused for under 17, lol.) but who did seem to notice I was wearing a dress in the snow and 20 degree weather. Ask the teacher at school last week who told me I looked nice and asked what I had going on and with whom I was able to share a little bit of info, as well as another mom who happened to be at her child's locker next to the classroom who knew a little about human trafficking that has been going on in our state and nearby states.

A reminder to myself. As I've mentioned before, living in Michigan, the winter months are pretty cold. Yesterday we got our first real snow of the season and quite a bit at that. The daily reminder of being a little colder than normal (for me) makes me think of those who suffering.

Why do I care? Why shouldn't I care? I may not seem like someone who does a lot or can do a lot to help others or change things, but deep down I do care.

You see, as you grow from a child to an adult, your perceptions of the world change and so do you. An example or two: Since the time that I was little, my dreams for the future changed many times. From wanting to be a veterinarian to a lawyer to an archaeologist to a teacher, and ending up as none of those thing, but having different jobs as a cashier, working in pizza places and as a manager, and then finally becoming a stay-at-home mom to three amazing boys. Sure I wanted a family, a husband and children, but never really knew if I wanted a career outside the home or if I wanted to stay home. I just kind of let it play out as it would. But my perception has changed. I love being home (most days) and eventually I hope to find my passion outside the home but it's not absolutely necessary. As a teen and young adult, I felt in my heart that abortion was wrong (go with me here without offense, please. I'm sure there are differing opinions on this) but didn't really know much about it. After going through RCIA and joining the Catholic Church, I learned why the Church is pro-life and also about why they condemn birth control. I understood and also basically expanded my own belief. I was able to go out and do my own research on it. My perception, while my opinion has remained the same, has changed because it encompasses more information. I may not always have the courage and faith to speak up and speak out but I'm trying to change that. Basically, what I'm trying to say is, that even though I don't always do something (how many of you are the same way? Not trying to sound snarky, just an honest, thought-provoking question.) or don't know where to start helping, deep down, in my heart, in my soul, I WANT TO DO SOMETHING!

I feel by changing how I approach life and by trying to help others, maybe someone else can benefit. In different ways. Maybe someone else can benefit by just learning something new, or getting out a bad situation, or preventing their child from being tricked into a bad situation, or seeing things in a new light, or by starting something new that helps others. Who knows? It's a waterfall, just like everything in life. How you react to a situation or event determines how it will play out. Your reaction begets reaction, which begets reaction and so forth. If we are kind, maybe the person we are kind to will share that kindness, or have a better day for it. The whole thought process behind "pay it forward", I suppose.

In recent years, human trafficking has gotten more news coverage than ever. My hometown in Ohio is actually one of the top cities in the country for arrests. Read more here, here and here.

IJM doesn't handle cases in the US or other developed countries, because they are dedicated to helping the poor in developing countries whose justice systems aren't as well-functioning. That being said, by helping raise funds and awareness for IJM and international human trafficking, it can also raise awareness about domestic human trafficking, by making people do research!

Some facts listed on International Justice Mission's website:
  • Each year, nearly 2 million children are exploited in the global commercial sex trade. (UNICEF)
  • 27 million men, women and children are held as slaves. (Kevin Bales, Disposable People)
  • 1 in 5 women is a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime. (U. N. Development Fund for Women)

My point is, if we don't care, who will?

So, truthfully, all I want for Christmas this year is to help free someone. A child or a woman or a man from injustice. To give them the freedom that we all deserve, and that you and I take for granted each day.

$200 isn't too much, in the grand scheme of things, but it's a start. I know it's the holiday season, Christmas time and many families are struggling to buy gifts or even put food on their own tables. I respect that. I don't ask that you take from the mouths of your family, but if you can spare even a few dollars, someone out there would be eternally grateful. I have over 232 friends on my personal facebook profile, though I'm sure not all of them read or even see my blog from my posts, as well as over 40 "likes" on the blog's facebook page. If every single person was able to give even just $1 - ONE DOLLAR!! - we would meet and exceed my goal! How grand would that be?

I'd love to share with my boys the love that people have for each other, the good in humanity. We don't always see the good in the people around us. More often than not, we see the idiot driver, or the rude worker or shopper, the annoying child in the restaurant - usually mine ;) - or the overwhelmed parent yelling at their child, or just generally not nice people. If you are my friend, I want you to know, that no matter what, I see the good in you. If you are my "friend" on facebook, there is a reason. Only people I know or care to know are on there. I am pretty choosy about who I add, as I share my family and our life more intensely even on my personal profile, in the way of pictures or complaints, and that's because I believe in each and every one of you, in some small way. That you, YES, YOU!!, are a good person and do care about others. So even though this post took a small diversion, it's all relative. Thank you for being you. Be kind to others. Love the way you want to be loved. And if you are able, consider donating to IJM, through my donation page. I get absolutely nothing out of it, other than the satisfaction of knowing my belief in humanity and kindness is well-founded. And if you aren't able, PLEASE know that I truly understand. I wish everyone the best Christmas if you celebrate it, the most fun winter either way, and a Happy New Year for all. I want nothing but the best for all of you!

Just some food for thought...

Monday, December 9, 2013

What I wore: Dressember #RealMomStyle

Since I'm doing Dressember this month, I've chosen to wear a dress Every.Single.Day. 

No big deal, right? 

Well most people who know me (and as I've shared here) I'm typically a jeans and T-shirt girl. Its the rare occasion that I dress up, especially the last few years as I've been struggling with my weight. The nice thing about doing the month-long commitment is that I'm doing something good and its getting me to take care of myself better. I have actually been caring more about my appearance and am having fun with this. I'm rotating between 7 different dresses and trying to change up how I wear (most) of them, whether it's a different pair of shoes or tights, some jewelry, a skirt over the dress, etc. 

Anyway, today was a pretty good day and we (the 3 boys and I) made it to 10am Mass at our parish. Its been far too long and we are trying to make an effort to change that. All three boys were very well-behaved. Alex got to go to the children's liturgy for ages 3-9 during the readings, Gospel and homily. E stayed with me and followed along nicely in the book. Jack sat on my lap and didn't mind being held. No crying and minimal talking and that was just me ;) In all seriousness though, Jack was quiet and when he did talk it was not horribly disruptive and got a few chuckles, even from Father Chris. He even used Jackson (by name) as an example of how to be, seeing everything in the world with wonder. 

On to what I wore today:

Linking up over at Thrifty and Chic Mom :)

Remember that I'm wearing dresses everyday for #dressember this month to help support a great cause, to raise awareness to end human trafficking and to raise money to support International Justice Mission in it's efforts to rescue victims of slavery and trafficking. Please consider donating, even just $1 can help! Go here to donate to my fundraiser: http://www.ijmfreedommaker.org/account/6874/Crystal-Hamernik#

Friday, December 6, 2013

Thanksgiving weekend

It's taken me almost a week to get around to writing this. Last weekend, over the holiday, was a pretty great weekend.

Dad H playing with A and J
Thursday morning we drove down and spent most the day with Jason's parents, visiting with Dad H, Mom H, his sisters, brother, brother-in-law and sister's boyfriend. The food was pretty amazing. Our new brother-in-law sure can cook! Sis-in-law is a lucky lady ;)
Jorie and Matt gave the boys their Christmas gifts early since they won't be able to make it to Ohio this year. E got a cool Minecraft shirt, Alex got a whittling kit/book, and Jack got a Thomas the Train toy (Tidmouth Shed). He hasn't stopped playing with it all week and can name every vehicle and person that came with it. I swear if I hear "Harold the helicopter" "Thomas" "Topham Hatt" one more time, I may lose it... actually it's really cute how he says it! E can't wait to wear his new shirt to school for casual day - he might have worn it today, I can't remember! And Alex is just waiting till we get some foam or balsa wood for him to practice whittling. He wants to earn the whittling chip for cub scouts.

I thought I took more pictures at the inlaws house, but I can't find them :(

Boys reading a flyer from the hotel lobby
The boys were tired so after we got back to the hotel, we all just went straight to bed. Breakfast was, of course, mediocre, but free. After a morning hanging out together, we went to lunch and then back to his parents. Jackson and I decided to go to the mall to do some shopping and I got some good deals. Each of the boys are getting some new jeans and a matching sweater (for family pictures, most likely), Jason got a new Ohio State t-shirt and a surprise birthday gift he's not getting until his birthday in 14 days. I hope he likes it, but it's a silly gift, too. Jackson got to make a build-a-bear like his older brothers both have - they actually each have two. He decided on the cute little monkey! After stuffing and naming him, I looked at the time and realized it was after 5:30 and Jack would most likely fall asleep on the car ride home, so we ate a quick dinner and walked over to Old Navy really quickly. They had a fantastic 50% off everything sale, so I snagged 3 dresses, 4 pairs of tights and 2 pairs of flats for right around $100!

Sure enough on the way back to Jason's parents, he fell asleep. After a little more visiting, we went back to the hotel, where Jason worked on his homework and I took the boys to the pool for over an hour. They had such a blast just playing and splashing, we had the whole pool to ourselves. Jackson was giggling the whole time.

Saturday was spent watching OSU vs MI and eating wings and pizza at his parents house. After the game, around 6, we decided to go to the Toledo Zoo to see The Lights Before Christmas with Jason's dad, brother and niece. It was very pretty, cold, but pretty. All of the kids but Jack rode the carousel. I'm mad because I left the darn camera in the hotel room!

Heather
My sister, Heather, text-ed me to say they were coming up that night and staying at the same hotel! Jake went to spend the night with his dad, but Heather, Matt and his girls were all there. We went swimming for about 15-20 mins before the pool closed. We went back and hung out in there room across the hall for an hour or two (Ethan and Jason left early, because E was tired) and had pizza - again, LOL - for a very, late dinner/snack.


Dad O (w/ Versan the Monkey), Mom O, and Jack (guy in bg is Matt)


After waking up on Sunday, to find out that my sister was up and eating breakfast before me (!!), we
checked out and went to spend the day with my folks. Again, with lots of good food and visiting. My mom, dad, Heather, my BIL Matt, their 3 kids (Jake, M and A), plus my nephews Chris and Tony were there! It's been a year since we got to see them so that was nice. Of course, another nice surprise happened. My nephew Jeremy showed up! Heather's oldest son! It's been 5 years since we've been able to see him, with schedules and whatnot, so that was very neat! He had to work but got there around 3:30 or so after we had eaten, but he played football with all of his cousins and then had some of the leftover dinner.

Nephew Tony with Jackson

Jason and Jake
E and J
We all stayed and visited until around 6 or so when it was time for us to get on the road. As always, 6:30 Monday morning comes very early, and the boys had school. We missed having my other sis, Linda, her hubby, and their 3 kiddies (K, K and N) there, but Florida is a little too far to drive for a short weekend visit. It stinks they live so far away now, but I know they are doing good. Christmas will be nice, with almost everybody there again.


Jeremy is planning to be off of work and come too, with his FIANCE! I can't wait to meet her, I hear she's very sweet.


This might be my favorite shot of the weekend. I caught Jeremy giving his mom a hug at just the right time :) Love it. --->

I hope everybody had a fantastic holiday weekend, and that this week has been kind to you. I think I'm taking the weekend off from blogging and coming up with some topics for next week. I'm off my game a bit, and I'd like to spend the weekend with just my little family. So if you don't see anything from me, that's why. Of course, I'm sure I'll be posting on Facebook some, either on my personal page or here. Jason's last class for the semester is tonight, and then he's got about a month off, till the middle January when classes start up again. He's signed up for 3 classes, going 4 days a week M-Thurs, so I'm going to soak up some hubby time over the next few weeks. Once he's back in class, I'll either be on here more because of boredom or just to spare my sanity ;) January through May will definitely be interesting... I think I may be looking for a GNO one of these days.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Little Miss Suzie Homemaker and Dressember

 A few months ago, I heard about International Justice Mission and I started following them on Facebook. There's been many stories of human trafficking in recent years, even from around here, and my hometown is said to be one of the biggest areas for it!

When I saw IJM post last week about a campaign called Dressember, I read a little more about it, and thought to myself "Hey, I could do that!"

I have the freedom to wear what I want and do as I please (for the most part). It's cold here in Michigan this month, but that just means layers and tights. Besides, being cold just reminds me a bit more of the WHY behind wearing the dresses. Others have noticed what I'm wearing, and after the compliments, they ask why I'm dressed up. This has opened up conversations with a few people and they were surprised!

I think the biggest reason they want to know why I'm dressed up is because I've always been a jeans and t-shirt girl.

It's funny how that works though. There's been an unexpected side effect of this, even only 3 days in. Having always felt most comfortable in jeans, I'm finding that I feel differently about myself.

The perspective you get when wearing a skirt or a dress can be eye-opening. I feel more comfortable, even in heels, though I prefer my flats. I feel pretty, self-confident, feminine. Others pick up on that. They notice not just what you're wearing, but the attitude.

I'm having a lot of fun deciding on my outfit and accessories each morning. Taking seven dresses and changing the looks up to make a month's worth of clothes is challenging, in a good way! It's taking creativity already!
Hi-low dress (Walmart), sweater (Torrid), silver tights and leopard-print flats (for inside) (Old Navy), boots for outside

Also finding how easy it is to do anything in a dress is entertaining. Baby J and I went grocery shopping yesterday, something I've never done in heels and a dress (not weekly grocery shopping anyway, for over an hour!) and it was interesting, the looks from people. Not bad, just hmm...

Jason laughed at me yesterday when I took out the trash all dressed up, and then today I threw on an apron while I did dishes and laundry to keep my dress clean. If it had been jeans and a t-shirt, I wouldn't have bothered. I wouldn't have cared. I actually feel more pride in my appearance, not in a stuck-up way, but a "hey I deserve to take care of myself and look nice" kind of way, I guess.
Apron from dollar spot at Target! (around Valentine's Day a few years ago)

So not only do I feel like I'm doing something good for somebody else, it's making me feel better about myself, too! :)