We're back with another episode of Meet Amazing! This week Jen talks with Kristin Micalizzi, super mom to 4 children. They discuss some tough topics as well as the moments to celebrate.
In this Meet Amazing episode, Jen and Kristin cover quite a bit of content. Kristin is very real in this episode about the tough stuff and also the moments to celebrate. She openly talks about not wanting to be on this journey and the struggles she had after learning more about her son's condition.
But, the biggest message we hope you take away is that we need to pat ourselves on the back more. We need to celebrate the triumphs that perhaps no one else will understand. And we certainly need to keep looking for the sweetness.
We hope you enjoy. And, let us know what you think.
To connect with Kristin, you can find her at:
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Jen Lansink: Thank you for joining us for our special kids where we openly and honestly discuss the magic and the mess of raising a child with special needs. We are thrilled to have you here and hope this time provides you with some wonder and wisdom. I'm your host Jennifer Lansing. Let's get started
Welcome back to our Meet amazing series. I am excited to get back to introducing amazing incredibly strong women to you and dads. But we all need to hear stories that inspire us and help us to remember that we are not alone on this journey. You know, everyone's path is filled with different challenges, but we can all support one another on that path. One of the statements Kristin makes in this interview is that she didn't want to be the special needs family. She didn't want to be known for that in her community. And I can relate. I honestly did not want to be on this special needs journey. I actually denied it for almost a year. And yet Life is full of sweet surprises. Do I want Teal to speak one day? Yes. Do I want to hear her speak voice as she comes tromping into our house yelling Mom? Yes, I do. Do I love her any less because she doesn't? No. And will I love her anymore because she does? No. She is perfect in every way in every moment, at this time, and that is the blessing that I think we all should just think the higher powers who are the sweetness of our children. I hope you enjoy this inspiring conversation. We cover quite a bit of content. But the biggest message I took away is that we need to pat ourselves on the back more. We need to celebrate the triumphs that perhaps no one else will understand. And we certainly need to keep looking for the sweetness because it truly is a journey that we maybe didn't choose or wouldn't have chosen. But it is filled with sweet sweet moments. I hope you enjoy and let me know what you think.
I am with Kristin Micalizzi she is a mindset and empowerment coach, podcast host of the Warrior Within us and your ultimate hype girl. As the mother of four children, bless you. A disability advocate, a proud wife, Soul Seeker, connection creator, community builder and teetotaller. She's learned a ton along this journey. Kristin is passionate about bringing out the divine warrior that lives inside all of us, so that we can truly live the rich, joyful, authentic life. That we are so worthy of. She knows that it is completely in reach for you to live a better life than you could ever imagine. Kristen, thank you so much for being a part of our meet amazing series because I gotta tell you, you're amazing.
Kristin Micalizzi: Thank you so much for having me.
JL: Oh, I'm thrilled. So I wanted to start with how I found you. I basically stalked you on Instagram. Because you posted this incredible post and I wanted to share it with everyone because I think it truly epitomizes this journey that we're on and how we choose to look at it. So you took your son, I'm gonna have you introduce your four children if that's okay, but you took your son who is nonverbal and non ambulatory, out on an evening walk. And yet I think there was an accident probably on the way from house to walk destination as many of us can relate to, and you ended up telling this story about climbing into the back seat. So would you just walk us through that and then what ended up happening?
KM: I would love to. My son's name is Anthony. He is 14 He turned 14 On New Year's Day, which just sounds crazy to say like, I don't know as a mom, it just feels like like we're the ones that are with our kids through their the aging process of him growing up and we're still surprised when we say what age our kids aren't right? It floors me.
JL: Oh, me too. I'm literally like she's six and a half. I mean, actually, she's much closer to seven and I still think no, no, she's only six. I don't want her to become seven.
KM: So I actually have four children. My oldest is the only girl so she just turned 16. And then I have Anthony was 14. And then John and Anthony have two little brothers Leo and well. They are eleven and nine and wild and crazy. Keep me on my toes. So on that particular evening that you're referencing, my 16 year old wanted to go to a local beach to watch the sunset with her friend and kind of walk the boardwalk. And I had Anthony with me. And so I said sure I'll drive you no problem and it had been an afternoon full of what I call my unpaid part time job, which is Uber driver. So that's what I sort of do on the side. I don't get paid for that particular activity, but I'm constantly driving kids where they need to go. So you know it had been a while since Anthony was home and he needed to be changed but like, we got to do life, right. So we just I said you know, we're just going to go on a wing and a prayer. And when we arrived to our destination, my daughter and her friends left the car. It took us quite a long time to find that handicapped parking that we needed. We found it and I realized that he did in fact leak out of his briefs and was going to need a complete change. And you know as he gets older and larger, obviously it's become so much more challenging to figure out where to change him. And I know I see a lot of like superhero moms and dads fighting the fight of changing this. Because the reality is, there's just so few places to kind of coordinate these like changes that we have to do. And his situation in terms of needing to be changed is not going to change. So we find ourselves kind of having to be creative about how we change him. When we don't have any other options. So on this particular night, I didn't feel comfortable like moving him from his wheelchair into the backseat, which is a lot of times what we have to do because I didn't have anybody to help me. And he's 75 pounds and like probably almost five feet tall now so I said you know I'm just gonna crawl in the back of the wheelchair van. There's like a bag in the back where his wheelchair sits. I'm just gonna try to change him while he's in his chair. And you know, I rolled up my sleeves I did what had to be done. But I really feel like a lot of what has carried me through some of these more challenging moments is the ability to look at it and really like be my own champion and be my own cheerleader. So I took that opportunity to be like, You are badass. You just accomplish some things that like most people not couldn't do but would have a hard time doing or would choose not to or would choose not to simply go home. And you know, I think in those moments, I recognize that I have an opportunity to either say ‘this totally totally stinks, I don't like that this is my reality. I wish it wasn't this way’. In short, I have my moments of that. But I always consider it an accomplishment when I can look at it a different way and say like, I'm amazing, and I just did that and now my son and I are going to go walk the boardwalk and watch the sunset and it doesn't have to be the reality doesn't have to be this is horrible and terrible. And I'm never leaving the house again. So I thought it was an important enough thing to share. Because I think it's very easy, even though it's a challenge to be in that thought spiral of like this is terrible, but it's easy to go there rather than say can I look at this a different way so that I can feel better? Because ultimately that's the goal for me anyway is like how can I come out of this feeling the best possible way and not having this dictate what my life is going to look like or what my day is going to look like or what the next hour is going to look like.
JL: It's so amazingly true. We have a choice every single moment and I love how you are honest about the fact that the negative spiral does happen. For me, the poor me's happen, the holy did I really choose this journey like when I compare and comparison Oh, goodness gracious, it's just horrible for us Special Needs Moms. But when you look at other families and you think dude, you have it so easy. But you know the one thing that I posted I don't know a couple days ago like how boring would our life be? Like you wouldn't have to be fit. I mean, hello how many moms can like climb into the backseat? Get their 14 year old like, ‘Okay, we're gonna do this. I gotcha. Work with me here. I believe in you. I love you. I believe in me. I love me’. I mean, how boring would our life be now ofcourse I wouldn't mind a little boring every now and then. But it does sometimes that perspective. We we have a choice. And and I think our kids are teaching us that every single moment.
KM: 1,000,000% And I do think sometimes when we get into comparison, that whole game, it's not a real place to live because it's funny. Recently, I thought about how I've always wished like we lived in a neighborhood because we can we live on a main road. I thought like my kids were missing out on like that neighborhood feel, but they've been sort of braving the main street with their bikes in a safe enough way to play with some friends down the street. And there's just been a few things that have happened like the kids like will just show up at my back door and be like we're here to play. Or my kids will spend too long over there because they're not keeping track of the time and I'm like, It's really amazing how the things we think we're missing out on may not actually be things we want. And it's like when we're right in when we face them. We go, oh, maybe I actually need to look around and appreciate the way my life is because sometimes what we think we want isn't necessarily the reality that it would be if we had, right.
JL: Yes, there's so much truth in that. Believe me, I think I thought I wanted a division one athlete you know, I mean, both my husband and I are Division One athletes, and we are extremely active. And yet I also look at how much more Teal is teaching me as a result of not meeting that expectation. We just did her IEP yesterday. And I said to everyone that was there, you know, those IEP meetings are gargantuan, right? If you had any fear of speaking in public, that's a great so like work through in an IEP meeting. But I said, you know, one thing that we have to really appreciate with Teal is that at six and a half years old, she's learning how to walk. Then the amount of strain on her brain just to learn how to walk. Think about 12 month olds, they're not being asked to read and do sight words and spelling and math and count by twos and threes and subtraction and if they're not 12 Those are only focused on eating, pooping and walking and doing some babbling that's it. And so, she's completely opened my eyes to the standards that we hold each other to. And I think what you're saying is perfect is it's so valuable to step back and say what am I learning here that I never would have had an opportunity to learn the amount of compassion that I have from myself and others as a result of having a child with special needs. I mean, can you just comment on that, like, I mean your whole life is different.
KM: Absolutely. Absolutely. And it's not even something that like you can put into words for somebody else like it's, it's something you really have to I think experience to know what a difference it does make. and it's funny because you're bringing me sort of back to like the beginning of my journey as a special needs mom. and I distinctly vividly remember a day. Very early on because we thought, Anthony was born typical so there were no real sign though my pregnancy and delivery was fine, sort of uneventful and it wasnt until he had some feeling issues in the beginning of his life but they sort of attributed that to me. They were like ‘oh your flow is over active’ even though i’de already had a baby and had breastfed. Wherever. And then he wasn't meeting milestones. So he wasn't queueing or making any noises and he wasn't tracking when we would come into the room. And so it was a little bit of a slow process to get to the point where we realized there was something going on, and I got there before anybody else did you know everybody else was like, ‘Oh, um, you know, he's a boy’ or ‘I'm sure he just needs more time’ or my favorite was, ‘he'll be fine’ and to which my response was always He will be fine, but not in the way you're saying like He will be fine because he's loved. He will be fine because I will meet any need he has, but he won't be fine in the way that you're framing it. I remember being at the park with my mom and he was in like the baby carrier and I remember the fear of knowing that this was because at that point, we had been told by a neurologist that that he went primarily undiagnosed for seven years so we didn't know what we were looking at looking at, but we knew we had been told by a neurologist that this was going to be, you know, significant disabilities. And lifelong. And I remember not wanting that. I remember being at the park with my mom and saying like, it I knew it didn't fit. The vision I had had had for what my family would look like.
JL: Youre taking me back like you're totally taking me back. I get it. It's the truth.
KM: And I remember saying to my mom, I don't want to be the family with the kid with special needs. And I thought that that's how people would identify us moving forward. And I remember feeling uncomfortable with that. And now I can honestly say that there are many people especially, I live in a very small community. And there are many people that know us because of Anthony. So they'll see Anthony and they'll say ‘Hey, Anthony’ and I'm like, I don't even know who that is. And I am perfectly honored. And welcome being known as the family that has a child with special needs. And I know that we're also known, like, I know that we all have our unique identities too. That's just a part of who we are. I think the fear was that I was afraid that's all people would see. And I didn't want people to just see that. But if that's how people know me and recognize me, I'm perfectly comfortable, you know, filling that role. And also, I think, then, I was spending so much time worrying about the future. What's he can be like when he's 10 What's he going to be like when he's 14? How am I going to take care of him? And I had to really freeze myself and say, you know how to take care of him right now. That's all you really need to know how to do and you will, when he's 10 know how to take care of him when he's 10. But you don't need to worry about that. Now, yes, obviously, we need to like, have plans in place and we do need to think about the future. But like, we don't need to live there. We don't need to be taking up that space in our brains or on our hearts that we have to worry so much about like well, what's that going to be like we need to be prepared because we don't know. We don't know what it's going to be like until we're there. So I think that's been huge for me.
JL: That's such a good thing to remember is being right here in this moment. Teal and it sounds like Anthony does that for you. You have to be right here in this moment with them. And by the way, I'm known as Teal’s Mom, people do not know my first name. It's hilarious. All the kids at school ‘Oh, hi Teal’s mom’. Adults ‘Hi Teal’s mom”. It's such an honor to be that person actually. Yeah, it really is. So I completely am and I'll get behind that whenever I need to get behind that I'm honored to be her mom glad that she chose me and her dad. But to be in the present moment. I've talked about this a little bit on the on the show. There are times when Teal will look deep into my soul. And literally just telepathically say, be here with me now. And it's profound that I have a little kid teaching me about being present. And what a gift. I mean, hello these children are magical. I talk about the magic in the mess and I adore the fact that you are open about the mess too. It is hard. Every day can be a struggle in a different way. And for each of us no matter what part of our journey we're on the worrying about the future. I love how you said you can worry with your heart and your head kind of paraphrasing that but it's almost like I almost know that my head will get there just like what you said like we'll get there the skills will get there. I'll develop skills, my husband will build skills things will be new things will be developed in 10 years and new programs will be there. But I think for me it's the heart that worries more than my head sometimes.
KM: Absolutely. Absolutely. But I do think just being present to what is is so powerful. And that's like in anybody's life. Like any any I think anybody can relate to that. But I think when we slow down enough to just be with what is it helps to be grounded you know, grounded in whatever it whatever that means. And I find myself there even when we're in what my husband I refer to as crisis mode. So like when something unexpected happens, whether it's a medical emergency, or we've had plenty, but I am constantly trying to find ways to just like center myself, so that might be like, I'm in children's hospital. When I wake up Starbucks is right downstairs. And someone else will make my coffee and I can actually like yes, I don't want to be there. No, I want to be a million other places and I don't want my son to be going through what he's going through. But I can find those tiny slivers of joy in those moments that will help me stay afloat and carry me through that the tough things are just like the quiet like, nobody really needs me here. He needs me on an emotional level, but even his care now is being provided for us when we're in inpatient. And as hard as it is we really can find some good even amongst some really tough stuff.
JL: And I think that's the only way we can survive and then Thrive right I mean, but I think we do first have to survive and sometimes the hot cup of coffee that someone else makes for you or exactly that someone else checking up on him to make sure he's good. Not you having to do it not us sleeping through the night or sleeping in a hospital is not so easy, but
KM: It gets harder as I'm getting older too. I'm like wow, I used to be able to sleep anywhere now and like I need like a massage and whatever. Like I didn't really get that when I was younger. But then I also have perspective of like, when Anthony was little and he would be impatient. I'd have to bring a baby with me. Because I was almost always, you know, breastfeeding, one of the other kids, right and they had to come with me. So I would and I actually marvel at my own self, because I was like I always say now, how did I do that? How did I come here with him and another baby and take care of both of them while being in the hospital and then one or two kids was at home with my husband. It just it really boggles my mind to even think that like we were able to do that but I think I go right back to the to climbing in the backseat of the van like it's actually critical, I think to congratulate ourselves and to give ourselves a pat on the back and say like, you did a really hard thing. And even if nobody else is going to give you credit for it. You can give yourself credit for knowing that you handled that.
JL: So valuable and it's not conceited, it's not prideful. It's not any of that it is beautifully honest and saying I did an amazing thing today. And you know coming home and and sharing it with your husband or putting it on Instagram or Facebook and having nobody even respond it doesn't even require a response from anyone. It's like yes, on the inside. I'm amazing. Well I understand why you are a mindset coach and that you work with people because your outlook on life is amazing. And I know that you impact all sorts of incredible people with what you're doing. Would you tell me a little bit about that and your podcasts so that we can get people to listen to your amazing, amazing work?
KM: Absolutely. So the podcast called The Warrior Within us I drempt for years of starting a podcast and I just love connecting with people. I just feel like that's just so critical to anybody's journey is just finding sort of like minded people or sometimes not, and connecting with them. The name from the podcast actually came from my maiden name is Guerriero which translates into warrior and Italian. So when I was sort of dreaming up this idea of connecting with people, I thought about how everybody really does have a warrior story, and they all look different, but I think that there isn't anybody that hasn't been through something, right. So that's really the premise of the show is that I interview and sometimes I go on my own little rants and have just solo episodes, but I interview people and we talk primarily about their warrior story. I think some people have more than one but I've talked to all kinds of people from all over the world and it's just such a gift to be able to share other people's stories with, you know, a wider audience because I think that there's a lot of power in being able to share your story with other people. And when we hear other people's stories, I think we hear a little bit of our own. Even if we've never been through something like that. I think that there's always something that resonates with us. And so I feel like that's, you know, a gift to both the person that comes and shares their story and to the people that listen to the story. And then I also do coaching, which I'm super passionate about. I spent a lot of years kind of like trying to figure out exactly what I wanted to do in the world. And it's brought me sort of all over the place. So I went into education and thought I wanted to be a teacher and then I had babies so I was home for a lot of years and then I went back to the classroom and what I realized when I was in the classroom is that what I really loved more than anything else was connecting. And I do think there is some of that missing in modern day education that that whole connection piece I think we're so set on sort of matrix and assessments but I think in all of that we really miss that human connection. And that's what I'm super passionate about is just like connecting with people and being a mirror for them to really see what they're capable of in their life. So I work with clients primarily to figure out what's keeping them stuck or what's keeping them from really making the most or being the most of who they want to be and what they want out of life. So that could be starting a new career or starting a new passion project or hobby or it could be just showing up more for ourselves. I think, I mean, especially as moms and caretakers of other human beings, we tend to forget, even when we know we should be taking care of ourselves. We sort of make that last on the priority list. So I'd say a little over three years ago, I decided that it was time to really model what showing up for myself. would look like to impact my family. So I went on a journey of sort of self discovery and and have realized that I want to share this with other people that they are capable of sort of slowing down and questioning the rules and living their life according to what feels most true and most true to them. So that's what I'm doing now.
JL: Well, it sounds like it's an incredible journey. We need to we need to bring you back on and learn more about that like what you actually did to go there because wow. Its funny we started a little late today and I was I remembered to eat breakfast like oh, I have half of my breakfast eaten which is huge. It's 10:50 to my time, and I have half of my breakfast eaten. I know that sounds so silly, but that's a little thing taking care of yourself feeding your body as much as we feed our soul. Or I mean, how much do we feed our brain every day? Like with all the stimulation, are we actually feeding our self, you know that that energy of ourselves and the physical form of ourselves. It's such an important thing.
KM: Absolutely. And we tend to make it so much more complicated. I think sometimes then we need to.
JL: Yes, you mean like making a huge breakfast versus just eating something? Yeah. It doesn't have to be complicated. I know that's a very simple example. But yeah, it doesn't have to be complicated. Yeah, can take care of ourselves even by just breathing more and drinking more water. Absolutely. Just being present like we talked about earlier, being present, feeling it feeling the air on your skin
KM: And it starts there. I think a lot of times people think it has to start with something huge like lose 50 pounds or train for this marathon and it doesn't have to start there. It can start with simply making a promise to yourself. That helps you build that trust back in yourself. Like you said with. I'm going to drink a glass of water every day. And over time, that promise that we make to ourselves in that self trust that we have will snowball into other areas in our life so it doesn't have to be complicated.
JL: I love that. Thank you for being an amazing mama. Thank you sharing your warrior story with us really powerful. There is one closing question that we have. And it's kind of funny because these questions are, it just changed. The new question is ‘Tell me one experience that you've had that shifted your world as a result of a person with special needs’. It's kind of a little redundant, because that's really what we're talking about the whole thing but is there any other story that you want to tell whether it's about your other children? Or about Anthony that was just something that you you really proud of or that you know, shifted your world?
KM: I guess I'll go back to a story back when Anthony was impatient early on in his life, so he had to actually had a spiral fracture in his femur when he was about 18 months old. And I remember the day I had didn't have my other two boys yet and I had my daughter and Anthony and he had a early intervention like every single day. So most of our life was dictated by these appointments that he had. And I remember for whatever reason, I didn't have anything on the calendar for this one particular day and he said, I'm gonna get up. I'm gonna blow dry my hair. I'm gonna put makeup on them and get dressed. And I'm gonna take my two kids, my two toddlers to like, do something fun. And so we went to a play place and I wanted to capture the moment so I put Anthony on this little play structure like dinosaur stationary dinosaur, and I put Gianna behind him and had her hold on to him. So I could take a picture. And in that split second that I took a picture, he kind of twisted and he didn't fall off the dinosaur but like I had to catch him and I put him back in his chair, but he didn't seem right. So he was like, wincing every time I kind of moved him so I was like, ‘Okay, we're gonna leave’ so I put him in his car seat we get home. Fast forward. We ended up in the emergency room and it ended up being transported from a local hospital to Children's Hospital. He has to have like a full body cast put on that he has to wear for I forget how many weeks I remember then. It was I think the day before Thanksgiving, we got discharged from the hospital. And everybody just felt so terrible for us. So people were like, ‘How are you holding up like, you know, you're not beside yourself? I would be beside myself.’ And when we had been coming down the elevator to leave to be discharged from Children's. There was a boy and his mom getting back up on the elevator, and the boy had no hair on his head clearly was there for most likely cancer treatment. And was going back upstairs. And I said, ‘that's why I'm okay because my son has a broken bone and it's going to heal and it's going to be okay. And that mom might never get to take her son home.’ So yeah, it kind of stinks that we're coming home. Actually think it was Thanksgiving. Day, we're being discharged on Thanksgiving Day. But what a blessing that is that we get to go home and that family might never be able to take their child's home. So I think that is one really impactful story that just like has remained with me to just always keep perspective because all of life is unpredictable. And I think we just need to hold out for good, because it's there if you look for it.
JL: Thanks for sharing that. Thanks for brightening up our days.
KM: Yeah, absolutely. And thank you so much for having me. And I'd love to come back.
JL: So any Yeah, we'll do it. We'll do it. We definitely. Well. Thank you so much, Kristen, have a wonderful day.