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jkpenney

Babywearing Educator, Parent, Advocate

Life Progression

A short while ago I started working full time, outside the home. I am even happier than I imagined I’d be, affirming that this is the best choice for my family, especially my parent-child relationship with the girls. 

The privilege of staying home with E and A for five years is something I will likely look back on and cherish. While in the moment it could be difficult and overwhelming. I adore my children, but actively parenting them 24/7 is exhausting. Some flourish as stay-at-home parents. I am not one of those people. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been a dedicated and good parent. And I will continue to be, just with more outside help and time apart. It is good for all of us, as I am a better parent by delegating their care during the day. 

These first weeks have been an adjustment for all of us. The kids’ emotions are on edge and they are a bit more clingy than usual. But these emotions are counteracted with their love of our caregiver and excited tales of all the things they did with her that day. Finding the right person to fit our family was stressful, yet it has also worked out wonderfully. We couldn’t have found a better person than we did. Fingers crossed she decides she loves the area and doesn’t move away. 

For now our home is filled with joy and uncertainty as the girls work to adjust to our new schedule. As they adjust, I’m going to sit here and soak in all the extra affection, along with the whining. 

A Colorful Day

You should’ve asked

Source: You should’ve asked

Volunteer Appreciation

It is volunteer appreciation week. Volunteering has been a huge part of my life since childhood. Currently I can attribute much of my current self and growth to my volunteer work with my local babywearing group. 

When I first decided to volunteer with the Hampton Roads chapter of Babywearing International, I never imagined I’d be so thoroughly involved with the organization on the local and national level four years later. My work with the organization has given me new friends, introduced me to many new people, and forced me to grow as an individual in various ways. 

A couple of the biggest areas of growth are my communication and leadership abilities and the sense of community it has brought me. I never imagined I’d be the Chapter President of anything, yet somehow it works and I’m actually quite good at my job. Meetings tend to push me out of my comfort zone by requiring I be personable and outgoing. I’m exhausted after the fact, but the switch in personality is second nature by this point and more genuine than forced. 

The biggest benefit has been the community of volunteers I’ve had the pleasure of working with. The nature of the group means this base is ever changing. At the core of each volunteer is a person willing to give their time to grow this organization that has changed their lives as it has changed mine. A huge thanks to all the volunteers of past present and future that are making our babywearing group and inclusive and welcoming space. 

Embracing Autism

April is right around the corner and it is Autism “Awareness” Month, which I prefer to call Autism Acceptance Month. A singular word choice doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it makes a huge difference. Society is quite aware that autism exists. Just because people know that Autism is a thing, does not mean they really get it or accept the presence of autists in society. Acceptance and awareness are two very different things. Acceptance is what we should be promoting this April, not merely awareness. 

E is autistic. Her doctor asked me again during our last health check how I feel about it. After hearing this well meaning but ridiculous question for the hundredth time, I informed her that “it really isn’t a big deal as I am also autistic.” For some reason she was shocked by this tidbit and went on to tell me the importance of not divulging such medical information to just anyone. Clearly she doesn’t understand autism as well as I had hoped. 

Autism is measured on a spectrum. Some traits will be at different ranges of said spectrum than others. Additionally females are greatly underdiagnosed as most diagnostic criteria is tailored to males. I present as rather neurotypical with some quirks. Society doesn’t see me as autistic. I am not a savant, I am not developmentally delayed, I excelled academically, and I am perfectly capable of making eye contact and socializing. I’m very good at making myself look like I fit in, a trait common to autistic females, yet at the same time I never really fit. After my diagnosis, it was a bit of a relief to finally have an explanation as to why meeting social expectations was so taxing. The understanding it brought me has allowed me to relax in social settings and embrace my less sociable habits. Not everyone I encounter accepts this. 

Sure they are aware that autism exists and expect everyone to be like this one autistic they saw in the media or in a movie. They don’t really understand the breadth of the neurodivergence. Nor do they accept autism’s prominence in society. If you don’t fit each check box, then you don’t count as autistic and you should make yourself act like a normal person. We need acceptance of our existence and acceptance of our variances. Acceptance, not awareness. 

Time Change Nonsense 

I’m pretty certain day lights savings time was created purely to inconvenience parents. It throws the household off for a week. In my current sleep deprived state, I can’t image what benefits this time change offers that can outweigh the added stress in every home affected with small children. At least the kids are cute. 

E serving her toy figurines a snack at a tiny toy table.
E serving Peppa and George Pig Lunch
A in a pink tiara and red dress. She has a dark red lip color on and around her lips.
A is a pretty princess
A in Jade's glasses playing with a Christmas bow
A in Jade’s glasses playing with a Christmas bow

Home Remodel

Our house came with a blue eyesore of a bathroom. It wasn’t a big deal until we realized the plaster behind the tiles in the shower was a soggy, crumbling mess. My husband took down all the tiling and installed new shower worthy backer board. And then it sat in that state for ages. Eventually, I decided to quit postponing the repair and hired Jon from Claus Custom Carpentry and Home Improvements to renovate the bathroom. He installed new tiling, replaced trim, and painted the tub and walls. The room is a totally new space that stands up perfectly to use. 

Remodeled bathroom. It is now white with green painted walls.
After
Children playing in a blue bathtub. The tiling is also blue.
Before

Consequences

It’s funny, really, how such seemingly small things can have huge impacts. In fall of 2009 I was a second classman at a federal service academy preparing to spend the next six months working within the maritime industry. Then one day I brok out in a few hives. I never would have imagined that this insignificant, yet new, occurance would completely change my life. 

Those hives disappeared. But then they came back, again and again all over my body. There is no rhyme or reason. Allergists all dismiss the condition out of hand. “They’ll go away on their own” they say. It’s not taken seriously until you’ve lived a miserable existence continually plagued by hot swollen patches for at least six weeks. Once you’ve passed that check point there aren’t actually any solutions to the problem. They’ll tell you it’s probably autoimmune, but autoimmune testing isn’t expansive or precise enough to be sure. It is seven years later and my hives and I have learned to coexist. 

Back on topic, one day I broke out in hives, and the next 3 months were a whirlwind of classes, obligations, time in the campus medical center, and shuffling to appointments with various specialists as the campus clinic tried to figure out what the problem was. Finally an allergist  determined it was chronic idiopathic urticaria and angioedema, meaning I have chronic hives and swelling for no known reason. Great! I had a kind of sort of answer. Now I could continue on with my well planned out life. Or so I thought. 

Evidently that little word at the end, angioedema meant that everything needed to change. The swelling that accompanies my hives could potentially cause too much swelling in my throat, leading to anaphylactic shock (such as with severe allergic reactions). It hasn’t in the seven years I’ve had them. But the potential is there. Because of this possibility, it was deemed unsafe for me to work at sea or to serve in the military. Both of these were requirements for my education. 

And just like that I was thrown off course and sent in a new uncertain direction. These hives can make me miserable and leave me in a general state of discomfort on the regular basis. Yet at the same time I must thank them for everything I’ve now built around me. Without them, I’d never had changed schools, never have had kids so early into adulthood, never had been given the opportunity to stay home with said children, and never have found the communities of friends I so cherish now. 

Thank you, you miserable hives, for all the pain and wonder you’ve brought to my life. Without you retched things I wouldn’t be where I am today. Nor would I be the person you’ve forced me to become. So thank you. Now please bugger off and never come back again. 

For more information: What Is Chronic Idiopathic Urticaria (Hives)?

Taking The Next Step

If you’re my Facebook friend you’ve probably noticed my numerous posts asking questions about resumes and job applications. It’s been five years since I considered a career. Needless to say I’ve needed a refresher on the topic and my resume major updates. My friends and google have been of great assistance on this matter. 

Upon graduation from college in January 2012, I had a job lined up at a large shipyard and was considering graduate school. But then I realized that now wasn’t the time to start a career. I wanted kids and I wanted them while I was younger and before I established a career. I did not want to start a profession to then take a break once children came along. Plenty of women have kids and continue working. Others welcome a time away from employment mid career. I am not one of those people. 

I am wired to need to see things through. I hate starting something I cannot continue with till completion. Be it a sewing project, extracurricular activity, or   life stage. Because of this I chose to start parenthood now. I had finished school and was at a fork in the road, parenthood or career. Most do these simultaneously and even starting to work now I will as well. But I’ve also got one child in school and another ready for preschool. These past 4 years at home raising the tiny humans have helped form them into who they are now. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I figure school aged children can afford for me to not be at home 24/7 as they are not home that entire time themselves. 

All these whirling thoughts have led me to to today. I’ve actually submitted a job application, updated my resume, and currently actively job search. It’s time for the next adventure. 

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