At Crystal Radke’s website, which is also the site of her business, Kreative In Life, she lists her areas of expertise as “motherhood, fashion, travel, movies and education.” Her job? “Doer of ALL the things” as she seeks to live with joy and purpose. She’s an education consultant and speaker, a Disney-lover and brand ambassador, an adoptive mother of four, and a wife to Nick, who she calls “her favorite.”
“Our marriage (outside of our faith) is our first priority. We believe that it’s the foundation of our family and nurturing it is so important,” Radke said. “My husband and I are very ambitious people. We joke that we were born adults. We were married at 21, bought our first house at 22, started to foster at 23.”
Their foster children — Grace, James and Joseph — became their adopted children. A year ago the Radkes adopted a fourth child, Bennett.
Radke has a B.A. in early childhood education and a master’s in educational technology. Before graduating, she worked as an instructional aide at Lorena Primary School and then as a teaching assistant at Waco Montessori School. She has the enthusiasm of a kindergarten teacher, which is the grade she taught for many years.
Wacoan writer Megan Willome visited with Radke by phone to talk about her journey with infertility and adoption, the challenges of working from home, her two new books (with a third on the way) and how she lives neither half-empty nor half-full but overflowing.
WACOAN: Thanks for meeting me on a Parent’s Day Out day. Where does your youngest go?
Radke: He goes twice a week, Monday, Wednesday, to First Baptist [Church of] Hewitt.
WACOAN: Let’s go through your kids’ names and ages.
Radke: Our older three we adopted through foster care. They were all older [when we got them in foster care] — 4, 5, 7. We adopted them three years later, so when they were 7, 8, 10. They all have different learning disabilities, ADD or ADHD. Lorena [ISD] has been really good with them. Our oldest son graduated last year. Our oldest, our only daughter, graduated three years ago.
Grace is 22. James is 20. Joseph is 18, and Bennett, he’ll be 1 year old when this comes out.
WACOAN: Are the first three siblings?
Radke: They are half-siblings.
WACOAN: How did you become foster parents, especially so early in your marriage?
Radke: Honestly, we started doing foster care because we were 23, kind of young and naive. You technically had to be 24, but we owned our first house, we had good jobs. We had to prove our adultness, but then we got approval early.
We became foster parents because of two little girls in our church at that time that we were interested in adopting. Those girls ended up being adopted by our pastors. We got the boys — James and Joseph — but they were so out of control, they didn’t place their sister with them. We didn’t know that when we got them.
The first phone call we got, they said, ‘They’re 3 and 5. They’re being removed from abuse. Is that OK?’ We said ‘Let’s pray about it,’ felt like it was OK, even though the house was set up for girls. We got a phone call two hours later, saying, ‘They’re kind of aggressive.’ We said OK. Then another phone call: ‘Well, they might be obsessed with death, especially the 5-year-old.’ I thought, ‘How extreme can a 5-year-old be?’ I said, ‘Send them our way and stop calling me!’ Unfortunately, they had been exposed to a lot, been through a lot.
I think our age worked to our advantage because we were partly naive. We didn’t have children of our own and could keep up with the extreme behaviors and lack of sleep. It was a lot, a lot.
WACOAN: When did you get your daughter, the oldest?
Radke: We got Grace six months later.
I wasn’t working because at that time you had to have a stay-at-home parent because we were [designated] a therapeutic home. We’d been through a lot of intense therapy. Our youngest was severely developmentally delayed. Six months later they wanted to reunite the sibling group. Grace has a different father, but all three have the same mother. They had grown up together. They were removed from the same home, but because they’d been in foster care before, they wouldn’t put them back in that home [after] they were removed again. I was excited to have a girl in the house.
It was a hard decision because it was a lot to take on, when dealing with traumatized children. We didn’t know enough; we know a lot now.
We prayed a lot, had a good support system through our church. It was a huge journey of three years, and we eventually adopted [all three of] them. We definitely feel like it was God’s plan.
WACOAN: Your website also mentions infertility.
Radke: I was diagnosed with PCOS, polycystic ovary syndrome, a month after we got engaged. The doctors said I would never be able to conceive because I’d never ovulated before.
We got married quickly because we wanted to try and start having a family, hoping our age would be an advantage, but it didn’t work out that way. We started fostering for that reason.
We wanted to pursue some fertility medication, but I decided to leave the [kindergarten] classroom because it was hard to get subs every week or every other week for ultrasounds. My body would ovulate randomly, and when that happened we’d try any time we could. The medications didn’t work, so we decided to pursue private adoption, which is a whole story in itself.
We did conceive naturally about five years ago, twice. The first one didn’t make it to the heartbeat. The second made it to 12 weeks, which was devastating, but put us on the path to Bennett. That was a heart dream [of having a baby] neither of us had given up on.
WACOAN: How did that come about?
Radke: Because I have been writing [online] now for eight years in May, I have this huge community of friends from all over the world. One of my friends who I met seven years ago online, she’s a kindergarten teacher and blogger, and she texted me and said, ‘Can we talk?’ I said, ‘Are you OK?’ because it was out of the blue. She said, ‘I have a friend who’s daughter is going to an agency on Friday. She’s pregnant and choosing not to parent. I told her about you, and she wanted to talk to you.’ I said, ‘We’ve been trying. We’re 16 years in,’ but I was just like, OK. She gave her [friend] my number.[The biological grandmother] called me, and we had this great long conversation about our lives and where we are. I said I believed God still had that plan [of a baby] for us. Then I realized I’m speaking at a conference in Iowa? Indiana? The neighboring state from Nebraska! I was only going to be two hours away from them in Nebraska. I felt like it was a God thing. I offered to drive there, but they said, ‘We’ll come see you.’
I was a nervous wreck. I got off the plane, was at the hotel, the birth mom was there. We talked for a few hours. Two weeks later she texted us on her birthday and said, ‘I’ve made my decision, and I want your wait to be over.’ I checked my phone and started bawling. There were sonogram pics she sent me. I texted them to my husband.
That was the end of January . He was born in April. I was there the entire month of April. I went to Nebraska because they thought he would be early, but she had to be induced. I was waiting for my son’s senior prom, and then I got on a plane.
She’s coming this weekend for [Bennett’s] birthday party. She’s the same age as my daughter. I love her like a daughter. We have a very unique relationship. We’re very thankful for the gift she’s given us with Bennett.
WACOAN: That’s a big gap between your first three kids and Bennett.
Radke: People thought we were crazy. My parents said, ‘Are you sure you want to start over?’ Nick and I are both 38, so we’re not ready to be in that next season of life yet. This was still our hearts’ desire, to have a baby.
With our other children, Joseph was about 4 [when he came to us], and he was more developmentally young. Those early years there was so much time in therapy, in survival mode, that you’re not present to experience normal things.
That was hard for me when my oldest graduated. We’re in a good family rhythm now. We’re as normal as we can be, I guess, and now she’s grown.
It took a lot of time and work to get to that time of overcoming. We had to develop the mindset that we’re not raising children, we’re raising adults. When parenting traumatized children you might go a year without seeing progress, but you have to believe it’s there. Now, 15 years later, we’re in a good place.
Bennett has been so healing for them [our older children]. We make family decisions together. They knew about my miscarriages. They wanted another sibling. For them, when you feel like you’re damaged, you have a different expectation for your life. We try to teach them that your past does not define you. You don’t have to be drawn to brokenness, and you deserve everything. As they’ve become young adults, they wonder, ‘Will I be a good spouse? Will I be a good parent? Can I do these things?’ They don’t want to repeat what’s been done to them.
Bennett has been a breath of fresh air, and they love him fiercely, and he loves them. He started walking before 10 months because he wants to keep up with them. He’s shown them that they have so much love to give and they will be good parents. Life will look different for them because of things they have to overcome, but they can still have a productive and happy life.
WACOAN: Tell me about your work now, outside the classroom, through your consulting and speaking and everything you do through your website.
Radke: I started as an educational blogger. I morphed from Kreative In Kinder to Kreative In Life. I was writing about family, travel. Then, with me making the decision to work my consultant business instead of teaching, it felt like a smart move to rebrand.
WACOAN: How did you start blogging?
Radke: I was in a class for my master’s degree where we had to create a personal blog. I realized I could do this [blog] for my [kindergarten] classroom.
Teaching is what I was called to do. Outside of education, I love to write. I also love graphic design and that creative aspect, although I didn’t go to school for that.[Blogging] did open so many doors for me. It’s how I started presenting workshops. I’ve been doing that for six years now. I keynote speak, and I provide sessions and workshops for kindergarten and primary teachers. I also work with school districts. I will go in and build a day of professional development for their teachers.
My husband was like, ‘You’re talking to people all over the world?’ I started traveling with people I’d never met — to conferences or just for fun. I told him, ‘It’s gonna be great!’
WACOAN: You’re on all the social media platforms too.
Radke: In every social media place there’s a different vibe. Instagram is personal and inspirational. Facebook is more education content. Twitter is more travel. Pinterest and my website are all the things.
But I’m not a Pinterest mom. I am a creative mom, but I’m not a Pinterest mom. We focus more on making memories and not ridiculousness.
I also write and sell curriculum online, through TeachersPayTeachers.com. The store is Kreative In Kinder.
WACOAN: How did you start writing curriculum?
Radke: I started creating things based on what my own students needed, and it took off. I taught in Temple, lived in Lorena, and my doctor was in Waco. I couldn’t get enough subs. My husband said, ‘You should try to work your business from home.’ I said no at first because I love teaching. I love the kids. He said, ‘I think you should pray about it,’ and I did.
He works for Brookshire Brothers in Lorena. At the time he was store director in Salado. He said, ‘If you leave the classroom, and a [Brookshire Brothers] district position comes available, I’ll take it.’ He’s been with the company since we were seniors in high school. That position has only become available twice in 20 years. I prayed and thought this was what I needed to try to do. The day I turned in my letter of resignation, a district position came available, and he was offered the position the next week. Now he’s over 15 grocery stores.
WACOAN: I saw you also lead something called The Whole Teacher.
Radke: It’s [a 12-month online course] based on teacher self-care. I’ve got 40 members right now, and I’ll be reopening it this summer.
That’s been wonderful. I’m in the second month of it. It’s helping teachers create a new mindset in their life. Support is important, and teachers give away all of themselves and leave nothing for themselves. If they take care of themselves first, they come from a place of overflow and not empty.
If you’re a teacher, you walk into a school and people are [complaining] like, ‘Oh my gosh, we have this meeting.’ You can jump on their bandwagon or keep your joy and stay in your lane. That’s how Nick and I live. It’s our choice what we give power over us. That is how we maintain. It’s easier to see in bad times, because in seasons of suffering we have faith: We’re gonna be fine. With that mindset, it’s easier to take the punches that come your way.
WACOAN: Since you’re teaching a class on self-care, how do you practice it?
Radke: I have an amazing husband. We do life really well together. When I get overwhelmed and anxious, I just say so: ‘I need to step away, to breathe.’ He understands that. We support each other.
My husband and I both, we’ve created a life based on what we physically and mentally need. He gets up every morning at 4 [a.m.] and works out because he needs that. I wish I could be like him. If I want to splurge and get a trainer, he’s 100 percent supportive.
WACOAN: What about self-care outside of Nick?
Radke: I usually take a day each month and do all the things that physically make me feel better — get my hair done, get a pedicure. I’ll focus on things like trying to work out or meal-prepping. I’ve recognized the things that make me feel good physically and emotionally, like going to church on Sundays, being part of the praise team. We host a lifegroup on Monday nights. People hate Mondays, but I love them. I make dinner, we hang out, have good fellowship. We’re not supposed to do life alone.
Most people you hear of are half-full or half-empty. I want to be overflowing. I do understand the importance that I need to be full first to serve others well. I’m good at listening to myself.
I did a Facebook Live in my Whole Teacher group last night, and I said, ‘I’ve been in a funk this week.’ I wanted them to know that it’s not rainbows all the time. I’ve just been super hormonal, with Bennett’s first birthday coming up and all the emotions of that time, a year ago.
I really try hard, if I’m upset, to live in that moment, but then tomorrow is a new day, and I’m gonna choose not to stay in that moment. I believe and I teach that every day we get a new serving of joy, and it’s our choice whether or not to give it away.
WACOAN: I saw you’ve published two books as well.
Radke: I’ve always wanted to publish. I want to write children’s books and our adoption story.
Things on my bucket list, they’ve come to me. I wanted to present to places — I just waited, and people came to me. The publishing came to me; I didn’t seek them out.[Zephyros Press] emailed and asked for a conference call. They said, ‘We have these handwriting books [we want to publish], and we think you’d be really great for it.’ The first [‘The Complete Cursive Handwriting Workbook for Kids: Laugh, Learn, and Practice the Alphabet with Silly Jokes’], on cursive, came out in April, and the print one, [‘The Print Handwriting Workbook for Kids: Laugh, Learn, and Practice Print with Jokes and Riddles’], comes out in May.
The third, later this year, will be on handwriting but geared for 3- to 5-year-olds — creating strokes, transitioning to the alphabet, what is appropriate for young children. The third one I’m working on now with my editor. I’m assuming it will be out in six months or so.
It’s in my contract that before I self-publish, I pitch any books I want to write to them first. I do want to write on my own. Our story is kind of amazing, and I’d love to share it. That is on my list, to start writing our family story. I’ve asked my kids’ permission to do so because some of it is not an easy tell. Our family is very faith-based. God has given us this testimony, and it should be shared. It’s got good, bad, amazing. That’s real life.
That’s what sets me apart from other ‘influencers’ because I try hard to share every season of life and not just the best because that doesn’t make people feel good about themselves. That is real life — we all go through seasons of suffering, but we can come out of that stronger and keep our happiness and our joy.
WACOAN: With that in mind, how do you keep balance? Your working life and your family life is complicated.
Radke: How do I do everything? I don’t. I prioritize our life each day and give my efforts to what needs me that day and live within the balance of knowing I can’t do everything. And everything will get done. I don’t put pressure on myself to be perfect. One day I’m a great mom, and the next day I’m just killing it at work.
WACOAN: Where do you find your inspiration?
Radke: Music gives me life. I listen to a lot of worship music, contemporary worship. I sing in our worship band at Journey Lorena. We helped start that church maybe six years ago? Seven? We were on the launch team for that church. It’s nondenominational.
I’m not a prideful person at all. I’m gonna tell whoever can motivate me or hug me if I’m having a hard time. I will reach out for help. I won’t sit and suffer because that gets me nowhere. Sometimes we harbor feelings alone. With my fertility journey and my miscarriages, I shared that on my website even before I shared that with some family members.
I listen to podcasts for business inspiration. I’m inspired to be around my [Crazy Confidence] Mastermind group. I heard about it a year ago. It’s like-minded business people. Nicki Wilson is our coach. She’s in McGregor.
WACOAN: I haven’t heard of Mastermind. Tell me more about the group.
Radke: There are seven of us in a group. Everyone has a different business. We have a Zoom
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We share goals, struggles. I still have a monthly phone call with [Wilson] for goals and dreams. She helps us figure them out. I’m overly ambitious, so she helped me narrow my focus and dive in. That is inspiring for me, businesswise. We set quarterly goals, and she helps us be accountable or finds us the resources we need to grow. There’s an author, a jewelry-maker, a photographer. We all support each other and give feedback.
It’s helped me grow professionally. It’s building a group of women who are faith-based. [Wilson] is good about mindset: ‘Stop believing the lies you tell yourself. You are the only thing holding you back.’
WACOAN: What advice would you have for someone thinking about taking the plunge to work from home?
Radke: I don’t think people recognize everything I do. Just being a mom is a lot of work. A stay-at-home mom is a work-at-home mom.
For me, I have to keep a serious calendar. I plan out my days. Bennett and I have a pajama day once a week, either a Tuesday or a Thursday, where we just play all day, and I give him my undivided attention. When he is at school, I usually use one of those days to cover all things in life and one to cover all things in business.
His teacher will also babysit once a week.
Giving advice to someone looking to take the leap is just to do it. I’m a person who refuses to live in the shoulda, coulda, woulda. You might fail, but what if you don’t? And what if it’s amazing?
Be disciplined to do things. It’s easy to stay in sweatpants and not do anything. I have a set of to-do lists for every single business and for our home. I schedule things out for myself and our family. I’m constantly doing something. I don’t slow down that much, but when I need to I will. I don’t watch a lot of TV, except when I need a mental health day. I’ll sit there and veg out and play with Bennett and watch reality TV that doesn’t take up any brain space.
WACOAN: I know you travel, with your speaking and consulting. How do you handle Bennett then?
Radke: I travel for work, 2 1/2 days at a time. I have an amazing family. My family owns Crystal Clear Pools. My parents, sister, brother-in-law and niece work there. It’s named after me, but teaching was my jam. I joke and tell my sister when she inherits the company to not change it to Lindsay’s Pools. So sometimes Bennett is the mascot. He has his own setup there.
When I’m traveling, he’s always with our family. He’s with a family member at night, Nick at night, depending on the schedule. I don’t worry about him when I’m gone because he’s with his dad or aunt or grandma or sister (Grace helps too). I’m fortunate.
WACOAN: We have to talk about your relationship with Disney.
Radke: I’m a Disney-lover. Our first family anniversary we went. The more I went, the more I loved this place. I could plan anybody’s trip in my sleep. I’ve gone several times.
I do some writing on my website for Disney. I was invited to Disney Social Media Moms Conference 2 1/2 years ago. It was amazing. They invite 100-200 bloggers from all over the world. We got to see things before they were released. Getting to know about things behind the scenes has been a favorite perk of mine for my website. I get media passes every year to go, and I share my experience on social media.
I do some [reviews] for Disney movies. I get offers to see every Disney movie before they’re released, but [the premiers are] in Dallas. I got a babysitter when ‘Christopher Robin’ came out and took the boys to see it.
WACOAN: And you say all this has come through your website?
Radke: My website has opened some cool doors for some unique experiences. I’ve been invited to Beaches in Jamaica for a Beaches Moms [Social Media on the Sand] conference. It was 100 bloggers from around the world. We got to experience a Beaches Sandals resort. I got to spend time in a school there and visit a foundation that provides school supplies in Jamaica.
When I go to education conferences, people stop and want to take pics with me. I’m real awkward because they know everything about me, and I don’t know anything about them. I’m just a mom, but the way I got my kids was a little different. I have a business. [Our family is] just as dysfunctional as everyone else’s in the world, and that’s OK. I always tell people, if you want to feel better about yourself, come read my stuff.
One of the companies I work with, when I see them at conferences, they say, ‘I just love your work, and my favorite post about you is when you talked about how your massage therapist told you that you carry your stress in your butt.’
I do try to give a picture of what our life really is like and whatever that is, I hope that blesses other people or makes them laugh. Either way, I’m fine with it.