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Hotel Living: How to Make the Most Out of Small Spaces

It took the kids and I less than a week after fleeing for safety to realize that our time away from home was not going to be short.  

A fun, vacation-like hotel stay was turning into a cruel reality of our new hotel living circumstances.

Emotions were high.

Having absolutely no control over what was going on with Sunshine's placement to a new residential treatment center (RTC), I turned my attention to trying to make this situation as tolerable as possible for my other kids.  

Minimalism has always been a passion of mine. Hotel living with three kids for who knows how long was going to be the ultimate challenge. It was definitely time to figure out how to make the most out of small spaces.

Hotel Life: Making the Most out of Small Spaces

Hotel Living: How to Make the Most Out of Small Spaces

Due to our financial circumstances, and the reality that we had no idea how long we'd be living in a hotel, staying in a suite with a full kitchen just wasn't feasible.  

We had stayed in such places several times before. They were far more expensive, yet appliances never seemed to work well enough to justify the cost. 

Our best experiences in the past came when we used the tiny hotel microwave and mini fridge.  So that's what we did.

Hotel Living: Food Storage & Food Prep

I ordered a tiny set of shelves from Amazon to store our groceries that didn't need to be refrigerated.  

Loving friends, and sometimes strangers who were aware of our situation, sent us a second set of shelves, and all we needed to prepare and eat food.

Hotel Living: Food Storage and Food Prep

I ordered pot holders and a magnet from the Walmart closest to our hotel. We learned very quickly they were necessary as we were microwaving almost all of our meals.

Dinomite, Bulldozer and Princess were pleased with the set up and happy to know that just like at home, there was always food on hand if they were hungry.

The four of us would meal plan together and place an order from one of the local grocery stores to be delivered to our hotel room about once a week. 

We'd order take out twice a week to make up for items we couldn't store in our refrigerator and for a little variety.

Once we had our food and food preparation needs taken care of, next on our list of things to figure out was how to wash and keep belongings clean.

Hotel Living: Kitchen/Bathroom/Laundry Room

I think the biggest advantage to our hotel room was how big the bathroom counter was and the storage space it provided.

Originally it was filled with the coffee maker, towels, washclothes etc. 

We moved towels to hooks behind the door and on the wall.  

The coffee maker was put away (hidden behind the TV) as I don't drink coffee. 

Washclothes were put in the drawer by my bed for safe keeping so I always had one when I needed one.

Then I worked my magic!

Hotel Living: Kitchen/Bathroom/Laundry Room

The countertop from left to right, stored the kids' toiletry bags, mouthwash, handsoap, Germ-X, bleach solution, dishsoap, drying rack, and toaster.  

Dinomite and Bulldozer don't eat bread unless it's toasted. A toaster did not come with our room, so I did purchase one.  It was a minor splurge I could justify as our toaster at home needed to be replaced as well.

The shelf under the left side of the sink was home to my toiletry items and extra toilet paper.

The shelf under the right side of the sink was where we kept prescriptions and first aid supplies. I put all of the bottles on the tray that is usually home to the ice bucket and extra cups. It worked perfectly when I needed to pull out everyone's meds each day.

Under the sink I kept two laundry baskets that I had picked up at a local Target. One was for lights and one was for darks.  In between the baskets, where the sink pipe was, I stored our laundry detergent.

This set up served us well our entire stay of five weeks.  The small laundry basket worked perfectly for transporting laundry to the laundry facitility on the first floor of the hotel multiple times a week.

Hotel Living: Dining Room

It only took a few days to realize that we NEEDED a table in our hotel room.  I spoke with the hotel manager. She was more than willing to have staff bring us up a table from downstairs with two chairs, but the space wouldn't fit more than that.  

With four of us in the room, we needed four chairs.

Hotel Living: Dining Room

This resulted in us obtaining a folding card table and chairs set.  The kindness of strangers and friends surrounded us.  I literally cried the day we received this table in the mail.

To protect the table from the heat of our microwave meals, I purchased four placemats from the local Walmart.  The table was perfect for tucking away when not in use, and could easily be pulled out when all four of us needed it for meals and games.

Hotel Life: Storage and Organization Ideas

It's fairly easy to arrange a hotel room to accommodate one or two people, but when you're sharing one room and there are four people, storage and organization are a lot harder to come by.  

Surprisingly, we made things work.

Each kid received one drawer under the TV to fit all of their clothing in.  I took the shelf on the top of the closet.  Coats were hung on hangers as well as all of our facemasks. Suitcases were stored in the bottom of the closet.

Hotel Life Storage and Organization Ideas

Once we realized we were going to be living in a hotel for a while, we obtained library cards for the local library where the kids could check out as many books as they wanted.

Because we had no shelf space, we stored these books under the desk on the floor.  The sides of the desk were perfect for keeping the books upright and in place.

School books and materials were stored on the bottom shelf of the nightstand in between both beds.

Wet swim clothes were hung on a drying rack next to the boys' bed.

Hotel Life: Book Storage

The second table that came with the hotel room, under the desk was moved to another location in the room.  Under it we stored a bin of toys and other personal belongings for each kid. On top of it we placed a Christmas tree, as it was November when our tree at home usually goes up.

If we had still been living in a hotel come December, we would have hung stockings off of the front of the table. Gifts would have gone on the table next to the tree.

Hotel Life: Finding Personal Space

When four people live in one room for an extended period of time, it can be very hard to find personal space.  Surprisingly the kids did really well with this.

Princess' bubble was the couch. When she wasn't sleeping next to me, she chose to sleep on the couch. During the day, this was her space to play, write, read, do homework or whatever. 

We added throw pillows gifted to us by others and a blanket to provide a more comfortable and safe space for her.

The boys shared a bed. When one needed space from the other, he would move to the desk, table or bed, depending on where I was.

If we found ourselves struggling to be in the same space, we'd run errands, or go participate in an outdoor activity.  This worked wonders. 

We started a collection of annual passes, so we didn't have to hesitate about finances, when we needed to leave our hotel room.

I can't say that I'd want to live in a hotel for another five weeks any time soon, but I can say that the four of us, my three children and I, grew so close during this time together.  For that reason, despite the circumstancs I cherish this experience.

Making the most out of small spaces while living in a hotel went a LONG way to help them feel okay during one of the most traumatic experiences of their lives. 

Now that we've been successful at hotel living, I now know that any time we go on a vacation, we can really make the most of any room, to make it feel more like home.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy the posts below.
A Minimalist Montessori Home Tour: The Kitchen A Minimalist Montessori Home Tour: The Dining Room A Minimalist Montessori Home Tour: The Living Room

Montessori-inspired Crustaceans Activities for Preschoolers with FREE Printable

When Dinomite was young he would go digging for crayfish under the rocks on an island near our home where we would vacation.  He was fascinated by them.

All of the kids have always been fascinated by lobsters, shrimp and crabs.  

There's just something about crustaceans that attracts the attention of young children.

We've created this set of Montessori-inspired Crustaceans Activities for Preschoolers with a free printables for any and all who share the same fascinations!
Montessori-inspired Crustaceans Activities for Preschoolers with FREE Printable

Crustaceans are part of the arthropod family. The arthropod family also includes arachnids and sea spiders, insects and springtails, and myriapods. This makes crustaceans the perfect topic to study during the spring or summer.

Sunshine really enjoyed these activities a couple years ago.  They were perfect for her, as developmentally she was a preschooler at the time.

Montessori-inspired Crustaceans Activities for Preschoolers


Crayfish Do-a-Dot Page using Tweezers and Shells

Crayfish Do-a-Dot Page Using Tweezers and Shells

This was such an enjoyable activity for Sunshine as she LOVES seashells.  The tweezers provided a challenge for her, but because she loved the shells so much, she was willing to do the work.

She would carefully pick up each seashell using the tweezers and place it on one of the circles in the "C."

Source: This printable is from our Montessori-inspired Crustaceans Printable Pack.  

Crustaceans Do-a-Dot Pages

Also included in the printable pack are three other versions of this same activity for kids to enjoy!

Crustaceans Counting Clip Cards

Crustaceans Counting Clip Cards

At the time, Sunshine was working on identifying numbers 11-20. We created these clip cards to help her out.  She loved having answer choices, and crustaceans lined up in rows so they were easy to count.

With each card, she would count crustraceans and then place a glass bead on the correct answer.

Source: This printable is from our Montessori-inspired Crustaceans Printable Pack

Crustaceans Number Writing Cards

Crustaceans Number Writing Cards

Sunshine wasn't the biggest fan of numbers when these activities were presented, but she couldn'g get enough of writing. To draw her to number activities, I created these cards so she could practice writing.  Sure enough she used them!

Sunshine would count crustaceans and then write the number on the laminated cards using a dry erase marker.  At the end of the activity, after she checked her answers, she knew to wipe the cards and make sure they were ready for our co-op friends.

Source: This printable is from our Montessori-inspired Crustaceans Printable Pack

Crab Addition Clip Cards

Crab Addition Clip Cards

Math was not Sunshine's favorite topic as it was extremely difficult for her. But, if I included clip cards with fun counters, she couldn't resist!  The counters helped her so much. Still to this day they are the best way to help her with basic operations as she's not able to memorize facts yet.

These crab counters were so adorable. Sunshine loved them, talking to them as she did her work. She enjoyed the fact that they weren't all the same so she could choose her favorites for each addition card.

When she finished solving a problem, Sunshine would place a glass bead on the answer and move on to the next problem.

Source: This printable is from our Montessori-inspired Crustaceans Printable Pack

Crustaceans Skip Counting by 10s

Crustaceans Skip Counting By 10s Activity

Sunshine always jumped at the chance to use the Montessori math beads, so when she had mastered counting to twenty, we started working on skip counting by tens in preparation for counting to one hundred.

In this activity she would select a card and then lay out how many tens beads were required to make the number.  Sunshine seemed to really enjoy this. It wasn't as overwhelming as the tens board was because she only had to focus on one number, not several.

Source: This printable is from our Montessori-inspired Crustaceans Printable Pack

Life Cycle of a European Green Crab

Life Cycle of a European Green Crab

Sunshine has a thing where she's absolutely grossed out by something, but is completely fascinated and obsessed by it at the same time.  This activity definitely elicited that response from her.  As a result she completed the activity several times.  Lol. 

Using the control, provided underneath the blank life cycle shown, Sunshine placed the pictures in the correct order.  She asked for a magnifying glass so she could study the images even more.  The magnifying glass then became part of the activity.

 Source: This printable is from our Montessori-inspired Crustaceans Printable Pack

Sequencing the Life Cycle of a European Green Crab

Once Sunshine was familiar with the order of the life cycle, I introduced these cards paired with numbers. She could  then show and explain the order, telling a story as she went.  

What I love most about this activity is that the images are true to life images and they really are fascinating!

Crustaceans Sort

Crustaceans Sort

Sunshine loves animals and understanding their differences and similarities. She is drawn to the small details.  While completing this activity she grabbed her magnifying glass again and studied each crustacean, commenting on how she perceived how it looked.

After examining each true to life image thoroughly, she would sort them by type of crustacean.  Sunshine really enjoyed putting the cards in rows and seeing how they looked when the activity is complete.

Source: This printable is from our Montessori-inspired Crustaceans Printable Pack

Crab Pin Poking Activity

Crab Pin Poking Activity

Sunshine really enjoyed pin poking activities. I love that she loved them because they helped her develop muscle strength in her hand and fingers. We added an extra layer of fun by having Sunshine grab her colored pencils and color the crab before she started poking.

Source: This printable is from our Montessori-inspired Crustaceans Printable Pack

There are so many wonderful crustacean themed printables for preschoolers included in the Montessori-inpsired Crustaceans Printable Pack! Be sure to grab your copy today!

And while you're add it, don't forget to grab this new freebie as well!

FREE Montessori-inspired Crustaceans Printables for Preschoolers

FREE Montessori-inspired Crustaceans Printables for Preschoolers

One can never have enough crustacean activities for little ones who enjoy them.  I created this set of FREE crustaceans themed language activities to go long with the Montessori-inspired Crustaceans Printable Pack for all to enjoy as a bonus freebie.

The Montessori-inspired Crustaceans Printables for Preschoolers includes the following:
  • Crustaceans Nomenclature Cards
  • Crustaceans Syllable Counting Clip Cards
  • Crustaceans First Letter Sound Clip Cards
  • Crustaceans Last Letter Sound Clip Cards
  • Crustaceans Writing Strips

This is a subscriber's only freebie. See directions below on how to access your free copy.

Directions on How to Obtain Subscriber Only Freebies

1. Click on the Subscriber's link at the bottom of this post.

2. Subscribe to our free newsletter.

3. Open the thank you message you receive after subscribing. (Be sure to check your spam folder, as sometimes it ends up there.)

4. Click the confirmation link in the thank you message.

5. Once the confirmation is complete, you will receive another message with the Subscriber Only Freebies Link and Password.

6. Click on link and type in password. (The password is cap sensitive.)

7. Find the printable pack you are looking for listed in alphabetical order, click on it, and viola!

We hope you enjoy your free printable.

Note: If you are already a newsletter subscriber, open your most recent newsletter. At the bottom you will find a link to the Subscriber Only Freebies page, along with the password in case you forgot it.

We hope you enjoy all of these crustaceans activiites for preschoolers as much as we do!

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy the posts below.

Montessori Arachnid Activities for PreschoolersMontessori Fish Activities Montessori-inspired Fish and Water Unit
Montessori-inspired Crustaceans Activities for Preschoolers with FREE Printable

What I Wish I'd Known When My Child was Diagnosed with Autism

Today I received a message from a dear friend. Her little girl has just been diagnosed with autism and she’s wondering what to do next.

I receive calls and messages like this a lot and enjoy getting together with these parents.

We’ve gone through the autism diagnoses process FOUR times in our family. First with Dinomite, then Bulldozer, Sunshine and finally my husband.

There are many things I wished I’d known as each of my children were diagnosed as toddlers and preschoolers, that would have made life so much easier, so much happier, and so much simpler.

So today, I share with you what I wish I’d known when my child was diagnosed with autism.

What I Wish I'd Known When My Child was Diagnosed with Autism

10 Things I Wish I'd Known When My Child Was Diagnosed with Autism


Embrace Autism

Autism is not a bad thing.

So many of the amazing traits my husband has, that I’m attracted to, are autistic traits.

He is brilliant. His memory is out of this world. Life is never boring because he’s so passionate about so many different things, always wanting to learn more and more. He is loyal and feels so deeply.

Sure he has weaknesses too, but don’t we all? And as I always tell him when he gets down on himself, his strengths always outweigh his weaknesses.

Autism is not a bad thing.

My autistic children know their superpowers. They know that everyone has something. Sure they struggle with some things like fine and gross motor skills, eye contact, sensory sensitivities, etc., but some people who aren’t autistic struggle with these things too.

There are so many more positives than negatives when it comes to an autism diagnosis, the number one positive being that you have an extraordinary kid and now you can start the journey to understanding your child better.

Embrace the Journey

Autism doesn’t take away a lifetime of experiences. It just extends the journey and allows you to enjoy each phase for a longer period of time.

Yes, milestones and epic adventures may come later than you would expect, but because of that, you’ll be able to enjoy them that much more.

Society is so big on rating one’s personal progression of milestones based on a specific standard of what’s supposedly right and wrong for a certain age.

Truth be told, every child develops differently, whether they’re autistic or not. 

There’s no need to push or rush things. The brain is ready when it’s ready. 

And, if there have been no negative experiences associated with the process to delay it, the brain will astound you.

I always refer back to Bulldozer when talking to people about this. Bulldozer did not develop a hand preference for writing until he was seven years old. 

He could not write successfully on his own until he was eight years old. 

All the occupational therapy in the world couldn’t force this process to happen sooner. In fact we stopped OT. His brain wasn’t ready.

But now…

Bulldozer is my best writer. His penmanship is incredible. That kid can spell better than his big brother. He writes for fun, making lists of all of his favorite movies etc. Don’t even get me started on his reading abilities.

There are many people who judge children by milestones and academic standards, but usually that’s because they struggle with the standards they’ve set for themselves and are deep into the trap of comparing. Don't fall into that trap!

Your child will get there. Enjoy every step of the way!

You’re the Parent and Know What’s Best for YOUR Child

When my children were first diagnosed as autistic, I was advised to take advantage of every service available to me. There was OT, PT, Speech, Special Education Services, and ABA.

“The services are necessary!” professionals said.

“They will help them!”

And so I signed my kids up for EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.

We had therapists, educators, and specialists at my home EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

The kids were miserable.

I was a wreck.

The appointments and therapies came with all of this advice about what to do and what not to do.

Some of it contradicted what was said by other professionals.

Some of it I whole heartedly disagreed with. 

This of course led to that mom guilt over what I felt was right and why it differed from what professionals were recommending.

Eventually, I learned that whether my child is autistic or not, I’m still in charge.

It is okay to say no to four days a week of therapy because it’s too much, and just choose one day a week instead.

It is okay to prefer a sensory based approach used by an OT, rather than a behavioral based approach like ABA.

It is okay if you don’t get along with a professional and request a new one.

It is okay if you disagree with a service, and just say no.

A wise OT once told me that 30 minutes of therapy a day, no matter how many days during the week it’s given, won’t make a bit of difference. It’s what the caregiver decides to do with the child outside those 30 minutes a day that makes the difference.

If you already feel confident in your ability to help your child be the best he can be, while embracing the autism at the same time, don’t be afraid to say no.

If you feel horribly incompetent and anxious, wait until you feel better, or build services slowly until you feel you’re in the right place. Meanwhile just love your child fiercely.

And in regards to your child. Let him be a child. Hours of therapy a day is healthy for no one.

Self-Soothing Tendencies Are Not Bad; Embrace Them!

It can be so easy to disregard an autistic child’s need for order, rituals, and routines. There are times when the hand flapping and stimming can get annoying. 

When you’ve listened to your child talk about dinosaurs for the last four hours and there’s still no end in sight, you can get pretty tired.

But here’s the thing, all of these things cause your child to feel immense joy, happiness, and peace. Rituals and routines bring comfort, as does order.

Flapping or any other form of stimming is a self-soothing tool that helps regulate your child.

Those passions and intense interests are just as important as your own interests and hobbies. 

So long as they are safe, embrace them. If they are not safe, find a similar action or activity that is.

Go with the Sensory Approach First

More than anything else, a child wants to feel safe. Once the basic necessities of a stable home, food, water, clothing, and heat are in place, sensory needs come next.

It is only when your child’s senses are regulated, that he will feel happy and at his best.

What are the senses you ask?

Just think of the five senses you learned in school: hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, and seeing. And then add a few more like balance, the need to move, lifting heavy objects etc.

How does your child respond to sensory input around him? Is he extra sensitive or does he crave different forms of sensory experiences? Autistic children often crave or are extra sensitive to the senses.

If your child is extra sensitive to different sensory experiences, how can you help him? If your child craves different sensory experiences, how can you provide him opportunities to obtain them?

Through providing for these sensory needs, your child will feel calm and safe. He won’t be afraid of the world around him or exhibit challenging behaviors that you can’t seem to stop.

After sensory needs are met, then you can start working on things like emotional regulation and communication.

So many behaviors that you're concerned about disappear when you understand and can help your child stay regulated in regards to their sensory needs.  

Observe Your Child and Follow Their Lead

Though we are not fans of ABA therapy, we are all about analyzing behaviors to truly understand your child. 

In the Montessori world, this is called observation. You sit back and literally watch your child to understand why they do the things they do.

Unlike ABA, once observation is complete, we recommend you follow your child’s lead instead of insisting that he follow yours. This Montessori principle truly embraces the individuality of the child and that he is valued and respected.

When you follow your child’s lead, you are accepting him where he is at and letting him lead the way in learning and growth. You’re affirming your love for him just the way he is.

Through following your child’s lead, a special bond of trust is created. Your child with thrive in ways you never knew possible.

Help Your Child Be as Independent As Possible

As a young mother with two autistic toddlers, the one approach to parenting that I loved more than any other was the Montessori Method. The Montessori Method promotes as much independence as possible for infants, toddlers, preschoolers, etc. As independence is promoted, so many battles, meltdowns, tantrums, and more are eliminated.

How do you promote independence?

We provide the opportunities to be independent in a prepared environment that lets our child participate in anything and everything he can I highly recommend the book: How to Raise An Amazing Child the Montessori Way.

How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way


You would be amazed at how much a toddler can do when you provide the right materials and prepared space to do it.

As a child embraces independence, confidence increases. Confidence brings about the desire to try new challenges. New challenges bring about growth.

Take the word “can’t” out of your vocabulary when it comes to your child. Provide more independent opportunities, and watch your child shine.

Please Note: When you do provide more independence be sure it matches your child's developmental age. This will most likely be lower than your child's chronological age by birthdate.  

If your child is five years old, but developmentally only two years old, focus on activities and tasks that are appropriate for a two year old to ensure safety and success.  

Teach Autism Acceptance rather than Autism Awareness

Being aware that a child is autistic is completely different than accepting the child as autistic.

Awareness means that you acknowledge your child’s neurodiversity, but want to change it, or get rid of it.

Acceptance means that you love your autistic child just they way he is, and do not want to change him.

No one should ever be made to feel that they are not good enough the way they are, especially because of autism.

An autistic brain is not bad or wrong. It does not need to be fixed.

It is different and unique. That’s what makes it so beautiful.

Once you have come to accept autism, promote acceptance in your neurodiverse child. Then work on changing the world from there. It will be hard, but it will most definitely be worth it.

And on a more personal note, please stay away from all things shaped like a puzzle piece, or are that focus on the color blue!  These objects promote awareness, not acceptance.  Wear red instead! 

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

With an autism diagnosis comes all of the testing scores. It is so easy to get wrapped up in what your child can't do and what he NEEDS to learn to be okay. 

The fact of the matter is, so many things on those tests are not going to matter one bit in the long run.

If your child can’t button, zip, or snap his clothing items, he’s going to be okay. There are so many clothing options out there that don’t require those skills for kids and adults alike.

If your child can’t cut a straight line, so what? There are paper cutters that can help him out when he’s older.

Bulldozer is twelve and still doesn’t tie his shoes. I used to worry about this, but the truth is there are so many shoe options out there that don’t require laces. He’s doing just fine!

All of my autistic children have proven time and time again, that when they want to learn something they learn it. 

Dinomite decided at age twelve he wanted to learn to tie his shoes and ride a bike. So he did.  At forteen he's decided he really wants to improve his pencil grasp, so he's doing it.

At age eleven, Bulldozer decided he wanted to learn how to button his church shirt.  So he did!

The worrying is so not worth it. It only stresses everyone out, including the autistic child.

Have Fun!

I seriously don’t know how to parent a child without diverse needs at this point. Truthfully, I worry I would be so bored. Autistic children are so much fun!

I love how passionate they get about things they love. 

Because of my autistic children, I have learned about so many interesting subjects.

It is so much fun to join my autistic children in their worlds. Their worlds are truly magnificent.

Once I understood my autistic children’s sensory needs, the sky was the limit as to what we could do, as I followed their lead.

I think my favorite experiences have included enjoying Bulldozer’s rollercoaster and theme park passions. We were able to have so much fun together at Universal Studios.

Dinomite’s love for history, especially war history, has provided us with so many incredible experiences. We were able to check out an awesome battleship together and go to so many cool museums.

Autism is not bad or wrong. 

It is different, amazing, and absolutely incredible.

I know that the diagnosis can be overwhelming and cause parents to grieve, and that’s okay. 

Life isn’t going to be the way you assumed it would be and you now need to make adjustments.

Grieving that your child has autism is not a sign that you think it's a bad thing. It may just mean that you're struggling with change.

I know what it’s like to have so many services and opinions thrown at you the minute you receive the diagnosis.

Hang in there! Take advantage of the services that help, and don’t feel guilty about the rest. 

Most importantly, take care of yourself, so you can be the best parent for your child. 

Both of you deserve that!

And if you're still feeling lost, check out the book recommendations below! They are my favorite go to resources!

Toddler Discipline for Every Age and Stage


Uniquely Human

Uniquely Human by Barry M. Prizant, PhD

You can do this and you will!  

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy the posts below.
Diagnosis Day The Choice to Medicate Your Special Needs Child Preparing for an appointment with a developmental pediatrician How to Help Your Autistic Child Play Board Games Successfully How to Help My Child Want to Try New Foods The Montessori Floor Bed and Special Needs
What I Wish I'd Known When My Child was Diagnosed with Autism


Fleeing for Safety

I had watched movies and read books where characters were fleeing for safety from the abuse of the family member.  

But I never thought that would be me.

I'd watched movies and read books about mothers comforting their children, explaining the reality of their home away from home, so they could feel comfort in a strange place away from the abuser.

But again, I never thought that would be me.

Yet on October 23rd I found myself in exactly that same position.

How in the world did I get here?

Fleeing for Safety

September

A month prior, the decision had been made that Sunshine needed to return to residential treatment.  Behaviors had not improved in the home setting like we had hoped.  

During the month of September, Sunshine aggressed towards family and property 24 times. (That doesn't count individual punches, hits, kicks, and bites, or how many bricks she threw at me.  This just counts episodes.)

The doctor and intensive in-home therapist made the decision Sunshine had to leave, after we had to call the police to our home yet again due to Sunshine's assaults.  

I remember the phone call with the doctor specifically.

"I'm so sorry.  This is Reactive Attachment Disorder."

We made the necessary calls thinking Sunshine would be in treatment in no time.

Boy, were we wrong.

October

It had been a month since the decision was made to readmit Sunshine, and still there was no movement in regards to where she was going and if funding was approved.

We thought we could wait it out.

We were told the process would take about two weeks.

But what no one accounted for was just how many residential treatment centers (RTCs) would turn Sushine's case down because of it's severity.  

We had hoped Sunshine wouldn't continue to spiral downward.

My husband and I had followed safety protocols to perfection.  Our other three kids stayed safe.  

Sure we were sore and exhausted, but we thought we could handle things.

After all, it was only temporary.

If we just waited a little longer, Sunshine would be accepted to an RTC and all would be okay.

That was the case until Monday, October 19th, when Sunshine became homocidal with a plan to kill her oldest brother and me, her mother.

We had heard the threats on me before. 

They were normal these days. 

But we'd never heard her single out a sibling. Nor had she ever had a detailed plan.

In typical circumstances we would have taken Sunshine straight to the emergency room and had her admitted to a pediatric psychiatric ward.

But these weren't usual circumstances.

Sunshine had already been admitted to the psych ward twice in the past year.  From there she had been sent to an RTC.  

Pediatric psychiatric ward placements are very temporary. They last days, not weeks.  

We needed a plan that would work until she was admitted to another RTC. 

A pediatric psychiatric ward wasn't the answer.

Besides, this was during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Our doctor had said, whatever we did, don't take Sunshine to the ER and have her admitted to a pediatric psychiatric ward.  The process towards admission to an RTC would take weeks longer. 

My husband and I discussed our options with our intensive in-home therapist.  She knew Sunshine and she knew us.

When the therapist said Sunshine wasn't safe or okay to be around her siblings, we listened.

At this time the county was also involved.  We were in the process of obtaining funding for an RTC placement.  A case worker was being assigned to us to help with placement. 

If any of our children were harmed by Sunshine, the responsibility would fall on my husband and I.

So we did the only thing we could do.  

The three kids and I packed our bags and left.  

We were fleeing for safety from a nine year old with Reactive Attachment Disorder.

My son had to pick up and leave his life behind because his little sister wanted to kill him, had a plan to do so, and we couldn't get her the help she needed fast enough.

The mental health system is so broken.

No one should have to go through what we went through, but they do.

The Plan for Sunshine

When my husband and I discussed what to do before I left, he felt that because he wasn't Sunshine's target he could stay at home with her.  

He wanted to stay home rather than take her somewhere else. All safety protocols were already set up at home.  

We didn't want to deal with destruction of property at a hotel.

We definitely didn't want to deal with police scenarios at a hotel.

We needed to avoid ER visits and psych wards.  

None of that would help now. 

If there were issues with police, that's exactly where Sunshine would end up.

We did not need any of us catching COVID-19.

My husband felt most comfortable dealing with whatever Susnhine dealt out at home.

Our intensive in-home therapist was on hand if needed and agreed with the plan.

We alerted all of our neighbors.

My husband made sure to have his cell phone on him at all times.

Where To Go with the Other Kids

When I realized I had to take my other three kids and leave home, my first dilemma was where to take them.

We live in the middle of nowhere.  There is absolutely nothing to do. If my kids were being forced from their home and everything they love, we needed things to do.

My husband and I had no idea how long the four of us would be gone.  We were just starting to receive word that some RTCs had three month wait lists. 

There was no way we could sign a contract for an apartment.  We didn't have funds to pay for it, or to furnish it.

B&B options didn't seem to be in our price range either.

So we went with a place the kids knew and loved.

It was a place we could pay for daily if necessary, as I worked feverishly to earn the money we needed to make all of this happen.

I left home with three kids, my gas tank full, with only $375 in my bank account.

We decided to head to one of our favorite places.

Our family had been there multiple times, always staying in the same hotel.

It was a miracle that this hotel also happened to be the cheapest option we came up with.

The hotel was three hours away, but it truly was a home away from home, where the kids would feel safe.

There were things to do.

We could survive this, and perhaps even make a mini vacation out of it.

Little did we know that we'd be living there for five weeks.

What Is Reactive Attachment Disorder Goodbye Sunshine Our Pediatric Mental Health Crisis

Fleeing for Safety


How to Reduce Fractions Visual (12 Days of FREE Christmas Printables)

Our 12 Days of FREE Christmas Printables continues with a fantastic resource to help children learn how to reduce fractions.

Bulldozer has really struggled to understand fraction concepts.  He already knows all of his basic math facts which has helped in huge ways, but when everything is applied to factions he gets confused.

Creating visuals that help him through each fraction process has been huge!

Over time I'm sure concepts will sink in more. They will make more sense to him. But for now, that extra visual means the world to him as he desperately wants to continue to learn all about fractions.

Today I'm exited to share that visual with you!

12 Days of FREE Christmas Printables: How to Reduce Fractions Visual

We have been using printables from the amazing Fractions: Reduction Printable Pack to teach the kids how to reduce fractions.

This printable pack has been fantastic and provides so many opportunities to practice with small and big numbers.

If you have a child like Bulldozer who is struggling there are more than enough cards to work through until the concept is mastered.

But what the printable pack doesn't include is a step by step guide on how to reduce fractions and check your work on paper, once the child progresses to that level.  

This is what I'm sharing with you today!

How to Reduce Fractions Visual

FREE How to Reduce Fractions Visual

This printable has been a life saver for the kids.  Any time they are hesitating moving forward with the process of reduction, they pull out this visual.

If they forget what to do, they don't have to rely on me to show them. They can use this visual and figure it out themselves.

The visual is broken down into four simple steps to make each reduction problem as easy as possible.

My kids LOVE the last step as they are really big into prime numbers right now.  One of their favorite games is Prime Climb.  Oh how I love when they enjoy working with numbers!

If you would like your own copy of the How to Reduce Fractions Visual, follow the directions below!

Directions on How to Obtain Subscriber Only Freebies

1. Click on the Subscriber's link at the bottom of this post.

2. Subscribe to our free newsletter.

3. Open the thank you message you receive after subscribing. (Be sure to check your spam folder, as sometimes it ends up there.)

4. Click the confirmation link in the thank you message.

5. Once the confirmation is complete, you will receive another message with the Subscriber Only Freebies Link and Password.

6. Click on link and type in password. (The password is cap sensitive.)

7. Find the printable pack you are looking for listed in alphabetical order, click on it, and viola!

We hope you enjoy your free printable.

Note: If you are already a newsletter subscriber, open your most recent newsletter. At the bottom you will find a link to the Subscriber Only Freebies page, along with the password in case you forgot it.



How to Reduce Fractions Visual (12 Days of FREE Christmas Printables)



Why Self-Care is So Dang Hard for Parents Raising Kids with Trauma

 It's Monday. 

I woke up excited, which elated me.  There was no anxiety, which is usually what paralyzes my body on days like today, until I hop out of bed and start moving.   

To feel calm about where I was going, was validation that I am growing and healing.

This morning I was doing something just for me, to take care of me, without anyone else.  

That in itself was an accomplishment.

There are so many reasons why self-care is so dang hard for parents raising kids with trauma.

Why Self-Care is So Dang Hard for Parents Raising Kids with Trauma

There's always a reason not to take care of myself.

When Sunshine was home, life required two adults in the house at all times due to behaviors and safety. This was always my reason for not taking care of myself.  I couldn't leave the house without her.

Today there were complications with my husband's medication.

The doctor's office filled out insurance paperwork wrong for my husband's prescription on Friday.  The prescription was denied on Saturday.

My husband is without the medication that helps him function at his best. He is unable to think as clearly and do all that he usually can.  This comes with much frustation and exhaustion for him.

Normally I wouldn't worry about leaving the kids home with him for such a short time in the morning. 

But, between the withdrawal he's experiencing and all that he's struggling with right now, I just wanted to make things easier for him.

Caring for our three kids alone with all their preteen and teenage hormones paired with their own diagnoses of autism and Reactive Attachment can be a challenge, no matter what time of day it is. 

This is especially true if one kid is upset with another.  Though ages 14, 12, and 11, the kids are emotionally and in some cases developmentally, much younger in age.

I talked to the kids, asking if they wanted to come with me and wait in the van during my appointment playing on their phones and media devices. 

I also gave them the option of staying home, setting up a plan that didn't involve expecting anything from their father, and being on their own while I was gone. 

They chose to stay home, do their morning routines and chores, and then have their media time in the morning instead of later on in the day.  

My husband chose a few tasks he could work on while I was gone, knowing that the kids were expected to fend for themselves unless there was an emergency.

The fact that I would be alone in the car was a HUGE deal, but that came with its own fun.


Anxieties are always present.

It's been raining for days. My first challenge was getting Big Red (our 12 passenger van) out of the worn gravel driveway without getting stuck in the mud.  

I praised Big Red as we successfully did just that.  

It was still raining outside. The roads were wet.  

Ever since my husband and I hydroplaned while on our way to get married years ago, during a horrible rain storm, driving in the rain causes anxiety.  

The anxiety doesn't ever stop me from driving if I have to, but I will avoid driving in it if I can.

I was running a bit late, which is not like me at all.

This morning though, I decided to eat breakfast before my appointment.  I was feeling so relaxed and calm, I thought I'd give it a try.

But like with all anxiety ridden appointments or events, eating beforehand causes stomach and bowel issues, which I had to take care of before I left. 

If I was going to make it to the appointment on time, I had to take the highway.

I hate driving on the highway near our home.  The trucks are HORRIBLE.  Driving Big Red has definitely increased my confidence and minimized fears, (because she is so darn big and I feel safer), but I still avoid the highway when driving locally as often as I can.

My anxiety about being late overpowered my fear of what I may run into on the short stretch of highway I'd need to take to my appointment, and so I did it.

As I successfully drove onto the highway and into my exit lane, again I found myself talking out loud to Big Red, cheering us both on. We did it!

It may seem like something little, but to me, it was a big deal.

I made it to my appointment exactly on time.  I leaned back in my seat and let out a sigh of relief as I parked the van.  I'm here.

Negative thoughts will win if you let them.

Technically nothing horrific would have happened if I was a few minutes late, but I was always taught to be on time and that lesson has stayed with me.  

When I don't show up to an appointment on time, I find myself thinking negative thoughts about myself, which I didn't need any more of this morning.

I had already had negative thoughts while getting dressed. My outfit wasn't appropriate or good enough.  

I counteracted those thoughts with the logical argument that I had been wearing work out clothes all day every day for years because it was the attire necessary to care for Sunshine.  

Since she had left, I did splurge on a pair of jeans for myself, but the button broke, so I had nothing else, other than two dresses that I wear to church.

My outfit was just going to have to do.

The other negative thought was about the fact that I wasn't wearing make up to my appointment.  

I know it's important to look my best. I was taught that wearing makeup was part of this process. 

But to be truthfully honest, wearing makeup isn't a need for me, especially when I know I will most likely cry.  

Wearing makeup is further complicated by the fact that I'm allergic to so many brands, so when I do splurge on it, I want it to last as long as possible. 

It's amazing how much effort goes into actually doing something for myself, especially when it comes to overcoming the anxieties of all that could go wrong while I'm gone, paired with the negative thoughts in my head.

But I made it!

Today, I was starting with a new mental health therapist, a therapist just for me. This was my self-care gift to myself.

Therapy can be a good thing.

I've worked with so many therapists over the years with our girls, related to their Reactive Attachment Disorder and other struggles, but the focus was always the entire family.

This was going to be different.

I'm not going to therapy because I'm a horrible person or feel someone else is a horrible person and I need that validated.

I'm not going to therapy because I need to be fixed or think anyone else needs to be fixed.

I'm not going to therapy because I did something wrong and was sentenced to work on myself.

I'm not going to therapy because I have a severe mental health struggle that warrants continuous therapy over an extended period of time.

And if I was going to therapy for any one of these reasons, that would be okay too!

I AM going to therapy to help me work through the negative thoughts in my head, because I've done all I can do on my own, and want to improve those skills.

I am worth it to work through those things.

I AM going to therapy because all of the trauma I've experienced in my life has changed me. 

I'm not quite sure how to manuver through all of those changes on my own, especially when it comes to triggers and how my body responds to them, especially now that Sunshine is no longer at home.

Trauma is real.

I'm going to therapy because my brain has been trained to survive in continous trauma for so long, it's not sure what to do without that trauma, nor can it trust that it's really over.  

And why should it? It probably isn't over.

For so long, I have lived feeling like I wasn't good enough.  

No matter what I did in most relationships... 

No matter how much effort I put in...

It wasn't enough.

This was magnified by ten, as I couldn't save my sweet Sunshine. 

No matter what I did, no matter how much I fought, and no matter how much abuse I was willing to take to keep everyone else safe, it wasn't enough to make her better.  It wasn't enough to heal her brain.  

And I know I did EVERYTHING I could.  

The one lesson I took home from working with the therapist at her first RTC is that I am a great mom.  Before Sunshine left a year ago, I did not feel that way.

But even now, I fight those negative thoughts in my head regularly, especially when I'm thinking about Sunshine, or anything related to Reactive Attachment Disorder.

I AM going to therapy because I want to work on my anxiety.  

When Sunshine was here, our family lived in constant worry and anxiety about when her next episode might be, what would set it off, and who would be effected by it.  

Every little decision felt like a life or death decision because it was. Someone could get hurt or worse.

And at the very least, there would be a screaming fit that could last hours.  It would take both my husband and I to help her during those behavior seizures when she lost all control.  

Since she's been gone, any little thing triggers anxiety, even more so when it relates to Princess and her Reactive Attachment Disorder.  

I absolutely hate when my body feels so anxious, especially when my brain knows what it's from, why it's there, and how to respond to it.  The whole process is just so exhausting and impairing. It drives me crazy!

Speaking of anxiety...

The anxiety I felt as I traveled to my therapy appointment about little things like rain and the highway didn't end once I arrived.  It only became worse.

I'm high risk for COVID-19 due to asthma and chronic lung damage.  

Walking into a place where there are other people, especially those who decide not to wear a mask correctly freaks me out.  

It is not convenient for me to get sick and die right now.  

Unfortunately, it's also not my turn to be vaccinated.  

I only leave the house when I absolutely need to.  In order to obtain therapy, the intake needed to be done in person.

I found a safe corner of the waiting room, separated from where others were sitting, so I could feel alone and safe.

Triggers are real and come even when you don't want them to.

But that's when it hit me that I was actually at a therapist's office waiting to see a therapist.

For some that may not be a big deal, but to me it's HUGE!

Mental health therapy and I do not have a pleasant history.

Therapy in itself is a big anxiety trigger for me.

There are experiences from my personal past that have contributed to this, but then there's the fact that I've been a parent to four children with diverse needs for a LONG time.

I've been judged by many who are considered professionals in their fields, are well intentioned, but have not lived in the trenches, and therefore don't understand or know how to deal with the actual behaviors we have been faced with.

I've been in those sessions where the therapist focuses on what my girls say, whether true or not, and then told it's my responsibility to change and fix things.

I've been in those emergency crisis situations where police, doctors, and therapists all look at me as if I'm what's wrong with my kid, because no child at that age is capable of what we're reporting, and the kid has decided in the moment to behave perfectly in front of others. 

Or it goes the other way and they do see behaviors and judge that the only reason a child could act that way is if they have a horrible parent.

I've been in those sessions where I already feel like the scum of the earth because I can't seem to do anything right, no matter what I try, because absolutely nothing works.

The therapist then asks me to try harder, or do something different that takes even more effort on my part. That's when I feel like I'm about ready to break inside.  

Sometimes this is because I've already tried what the therapist is recommending and it didn't work. 

Other times it's because I feel like there is nothing left in me to give, because I'm already giving 200% and physically hurting from all I am giving. They just don't know that.

As the therapist asks me to do more the negative thought process in my head, that tells me I'm not good enough, is confirmed. 

This is not because the therapist meant it that way, but because my head is already there and the therapist has no idea how much I'm hurting. 

After all, this is a session about my kids, not me, so I don't take the time to talk about me.  If I tried, Sunshine wouldn't be okay, and then I'd get hurt.  

So, my motto is I'm willing to do whatever I need to in order to help my kid, documenting the process, so next time when asked about this again from another therapist, I can prove that I've already tried.

Initially, therapists have no idea what an over achiever I am.  I strive to do everything right and to put 200% in so that I'll have no regrets.

Therapists have no idea how much I've read and researched to try to help my child and myself. 

Therapists have no idea that I document and chart EVERYTHING to keep all in my family safe. I analyze EVERYTHING looking for patterns and solutions. I leave no rock unturned.

Therapists don't know that I take even the slightest criticism or critique seriously, because that's what I'm used to.  Anything I can do to improve myself, that will help my kid, I'm willing.

As all of these thoughts flooded my head in the waiting room, my body began to tense up and shake. I immediately practiced the breathing exercises my hemotologist had taught me, reminding myself that seeing a therapist was a good thing.

Not all experiences are bad.

And that's what I did until my name was called.

You can do it!

I could feel my mind racing as it does when I'm anxious.  My trauma brain was taking over, which for me feels like ADHD on steroids.  

Thankfully my body was calm.

The therapist was very kind and professional.  She made me feel at ease quite quickly.

I answered her questions and shared experiences during the intake.

But my biggest hurtle and anxiety was wondering what she thought of me.

Had this trauma all these years really messed me up to the point that I'm not okay or broken?

I was raised to believe that there was an "us" and a "them."  It wasn't acceptable to be one of "them." By going to the therapist I was now a "them."

I've worked so hard to overcome all of this trauma and anxiety, but what if it wasn't good enough? 

What if I've done everything all wrong?

What if the therapist did start acting like Dr. Phil?  How was I going to respond?  I really did NOT want to have to work through big triggers during our first meet and greet.

What if the therapist thought I'm nuts and wouldn't contine to work with me? 

I know for a fact there are very tactful and some not so tactful ways to do that.  Sunshine has been turned down by so many specialists for that very reason.

The session went well.  Thank goodness. I knew my anxieties were high because of where I was and what I was doing.  

I knew that I was having a hard time focusing, thanks to ADHD on steroids that always comes when trauma is triggered. The trauma here being that I was sitting in a therapist's office talking to a therapist.

But in the end, I did it!  

I went to my first therapist appointment and survived it.  

Yes, I was emotional and shed a few tears, but that was okay.  

There were most definitely times between wearing two masks, my asthma, and heightened emotions that I may have sounded like I was gasping for air, but again, that was okay too.

I wasn't put down by the therapist. 

I wasn't made to feel that I wasn't good enough.

In fact I think the highlight of the whole appointment was when the therapist showed excitement about working with me.  

It felt as if I had passed this big test. I was good enough to get help at improving myself, not because I needed to, but because I wanted to and that was okay.

The therapist even gave me homework to start reading the book, The Body Keeps the Score. I LOVE this because it means I can take action working on me, and do something, while I wait for our next session.  (Yes, I am a total nerd like that, but it helps my anxiety about therapy, so I consider this a good thing.)

Now that the intake is over, I can meet with the therapist over telehealth, which should hopefully be a much more relaxed situation than dealing with the triggers of the office building.

Take your moment.

The minute I stepped up into the van, used my hand sanitizer, and turned the key in the ignition, my entire body let out all of the emotions and triggers it had been feeling all at once.  To me it felt like my body was expanding and shrinking all at the same time, with just a little shaking.

My eyes welled up with tears and I cried happy tears.

I felt so proud of myself for working through all that I had, to get to and through this appointment.  

I was brave.

I fought the anxieties.

I fought the negative thoughts.

I trusted a stranger, who was a therapist.

I took care of me, and that was a BIG deal.

Prepare for the fallout ahead of time.

Because I knew ahead of time that my husband did not have his medication, our daily schedule was adjusted to accomodate that.

Instead of the late afternoon, my kids played media devices in the morning.  This definitely affected their afternoon learning.  Dinomite even reported that he felt sluggish and in a daze.  

I could have been upset and blamed myself for the kids' struggles during learning.  But instead, I just went with it and we did an art project today instead of diving into more difficult math concepts.

During the days when Sunshine was home, if I did have to leave the house without her, there would be heck to pay. So we adjusted.  We'd prepare her.  

My husband and Sunshine would create a visual schedule of things they would do together while I was gone. They planned their own fun time.  

I would call to check in.  We provided Sunshine with a comfort item to snuggle with if she missed me.  

Sunshine's absolute favorite thing to do was to exchange emojis and gifs using my husband's cell phone with supervision while I was gone.

Even with all that, when I came back, she was still upset.  There were times when she would be mean to me for days, but it wasn't nearly as bad with the preparation.

Why am I sharing?

Now some may be wondering why I'm sharing this glimpse of my day.  

Others may be thinking after reading this, that yeah, I really do need therapy.  And that's okay.

But the reality is, so many of us parents raising kids with trauma are going through extreme situations on a daily basis.  

Over time we don't even realize them as extreme situations anymore, because they're just normal for us.

We put all the energy we have, and then some that we don't have, into helping our kids, and don't take care of ourselves.

This goes on for YEARS.  

But here's the thing.

It is okay to get help for yourself.

Not because you're bad or wrong, but because you deserve to take care of yourself in any and all ways that you may need.

It is okay if taking care of yourself and getting help for yourself is HARD.

It is going to be HARD.  

But, YOU are worth it.  

You ARE okay.

You ARE good enough.

And whatever it may be, whether it's mental health therapy, or finally getting to the dentist after four years (that was me last month), you can do it!

You can expect that there will always be at least one reason not to take care of yourself.

You can expect anxiety.

You can expect negative thoughts.

There will be triggers.

But they will be worth it to get you where you want to go.

Once you've been successful, don't forget to feel all the feels and celebrate!

Self-care is so dang hard for parents raising kids with trauma.

When you successfully do that, you NEED to celebrate.

And then be okay with whatever fallout comes. 

Plan for it ahead of time.  

Adjust expectations.

Because YOU my friend are worth it!

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy the posts below:
What Is Reactive Attachment Disorder To Be a Mother of a Young Child with Reactive Attachment Disorder From the Mother of a Bully What NOT to Do with a RAD Child How to Discipline a Child with Reactive Attachment Disorder Am I Going Crazy?

Why Self-Care is So Dang Hard for Parents Raising Kids with Trauma