Tag Archives: Family

First in our books

Welcome to the July 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Family Vacation

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared their family-travel tips, challenges, and delights. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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As I sit here typing, I’m recovering from our first ever vacation. We traveled to Canada to visit with my family… We hadn’t been there since the summer of 2007. Seven years people. As a result the trips was less of a wandering and more of a cram-in-as-much-time-with-family-as-possible sort of trip. I was so excited about the trip that I almost lost sight of the fact that I wasn’t the only person on the trip. The day before we left, a friend briefly mentioned that I needed to keep any expectation for rest/relaxation at a bare minimum. Thankfully, that was what I needed to hear to keep myself in line!

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I thought about this post all week and wondered what I would write about. I’m not a big traveler, so vacations are not high on my dream list. And although I feel like I could certainly teach courses in how to plan  and pack for a trip, I don’t feel inspired to do so. I don’t really have dreams of future travels to share with you either. Our week couldn’t have been better… there were snags here and there, of course, but all the planning in the world wouldn’t have changed them.

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Because I am myself, I had lists and plans and neatly organized bags. So as I was loading the car the night before the trip, I patted myself on the back for my ingenuity. As I stood in the garage admiring my work, I suddenly remembered all the trips I took with my family growing up. We had always traveled by car and packed the majority of the food. I realized that all those years of driving around the United States prepared me for my very own trip.

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I knew how to write those lists because I’d sit with my mother and write out what we needed to take for each day. I knew how to estimate our snacks because of so many hours spent trying to make it to the next stop without… stopping. And I knew how to load the back of the car because I was the kid who was always in such a hurry to get going that I’d rush the bags out to my dad. I never realized that all that time I’d spent watching my dad play luggage tetris, I was learning how to do it for myself.

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On our last full day on the beach, I noticed a family paddling by in kayaks. Matt was taking photos, Liam and Sylvi were at my feet digging in the sand and I was (ironically?) reading The Wilder Life. I looked up from these pages that were spelling out my own childhood daydreams to see Kayak Family. I took a photo because seeing the two boys and their parents laughing and working together made me hope for my own future vacations.

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We are home now. I’ve sorted through all the photos, ordered prints, done laundry and settled into our household again. I haven’t had the time yet to sit down and process all that we experienced. Spending late nights with my grandmother, visiting with ALL my Canadian cousins and seeing the glorious sights – all these things were what I had hoped for and more. I wonder if my own parents wished these moments for their children. I wondered if they realized those experiences were shaping my children’s future trips?

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For a crazy moment I started to plan our next trip. It was a moment when I thought to myself “Wow. I am a rockstar at this traveling gig!” I’ve since slept a night and regained my sanity. I don’t want to travel again for a while. Instead, I’m content to soak in the pleasant memories of our trip and know that we can do it. We can travel as a family and live to write it in our books as a wonderful story to tell in the years to come.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Favorite Family Vacation Recipe: Staying at Home — The best family vacation Laurie Hollman at Parental Intelligence could ever recommend requires minimal packing, no hotels, unrushed travel, easy meals to everyone’s taste without a bill, no schedules, everyone’s favorite interests, and three generations playing together.
  • Scared of toilets and other travel stories — Tat at Mum in search is an expert at flying with kids. She shares some of her tips and travel stories.
  • Staycation Retreat for Busy MamasLydia’s Handmade Life gives Budget-friendly, eco-friendly staycation ideas for busy work-at-home moms.
  • How We Leave It All Behind — At Life Breath Present, they don’t take traditional vacations — they go on forest adventures. Here are some tips in planning for an adventure, if you don’t just go spontaneously, as they have before. Plus, many pictures of their latest adventure!
  • Traveling while pregnant: When to go & how to manage — Lauren at Hobo Mama discusses the pros and cons of traveling during the different trimesters of pregnancy, and how to make it as comfortable as possible.
  • Our Week in Rome: Inspiration and Craft Ideas for Parents, Teachers, and Caregivers — If anyone in your family is interested in learning about Ancient Rome, if you enjoy crafts, of if you’re a parent looking for a fun staycation idea, check out Erin Yuki’s post for a Roman-themed week of crafts, food, and fun at And Now, for Something Completely Different.
  • The Real Deal: A behind the scenes look at our “Western Adventure” — Often Facebook and blog posts make vacations look “picture perfect” to outsiders. If you only looked at the pictures, Susan’s recent family vacation was no exception. In this post at Together Walking, she takes readers “behind the scenes” so they can see the normal challenges they faced and how they managed to enjoy their vacation in spite of them.
  • Welcome to the Beach House! — Kellie at Our Mindful Life is in love with her family’s new “beach house”!
  • Road Trip to Niagara Falls — Erica at ChildOrganics writes about her first trip out of the country with just her and the kids.
  • 5 Essential Things to Take on Vacation — Five things Nurtured Mamas should be packing in their suitcase for their next trip, in a guest post at Natural Parents Network.
  • The Many Benefits of Camping with Friends — Do you want to go camping, but the very thought of it seems daunting? Make your life easier – and your kids happier – and go camping with friends! Dionna at Code Name: Mama discusses how much better camping can be when you join forces with others.
  • My Natural First Aid Kit for Camping, Travel, and Everyday Use — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama gives us an insiders looks at her natural first aid kit for camping, travel, and everyday use. These natural remedies have saved her hide and those of others many times! You might be surprised what made her list of must-haves!
  • Traveling Solo and Outnumbered — Alisha at Cinnamon and Sassafras shares lessons learned from a recent trip with two toddlers and no co-parent.
  • Compromise and conviction on the road — Jessica of Crunchy-Chewy Mama shares the reality vs. the dream of travel and dishes on the compromises she makes or won’t make while traveling.
  • Camping Trauma — Jorje of Momma Jorje offers why she loves camping and why she and her family are a little gun shy about it, too.
  • First in our Books — Writing fresh from her first family vacation, Laura from Pug in the Kitchen has realized that helping pack her parents’ station wagon made for a smooth and pleasant trip that was more than she hoped for!

Thunderstorms, snuggles and long nights

After a long day at the Lake (my excuse for not posting for Mighty Mommy Monday), I bathed the kids and sent them to bed. I wanted to rest and collect my scattered brains. But by 10 pm, it was evident that Liam wasn’t going to bed. The lightening was shocking and the sound of the rain and thunder was LOUD.

So as we crawled into my bed, I was reminded of the day we bought our mattress. The sweet Amish man who made the mattresses called it a “thunderstorm bed”… that sold us! I laugh about those thunderstorms even though they make for hard nights for me, thunderstorms mean cosleeping. And that means I get my wish!

When Liam was little, I wanted so desperately to cosleep. And no matter how I arranged things, he just wouldn’t  settle down. Once in his own bed, he’d sleep. Sigh. When Sylvi was born, we popped her in bed with us as well, but it didn’t last as long as I’d hoped. She also loved her space, but would snuggle up on rough nights and early mornings. She still does, actually. She comes in every morning to snuggle and sometimes will fall back asleep curled up against me.

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So last night, Liam and I went to bed and he tossed and turned for a while, but eventually settled down. An hour after, Sylvi woke up scared of the storm and another little person joined our bed. Thanks to our weather system, I spent most of the night with little people clinging to me and waking every so often to check and make sure we were are all ok.

Little by little as we all got out of bed this morning and I stretched the kinks out of my back, I was reminded of how quickly they are growing. Liam will be 5 in a little bit and I noticed the other day that he’s pronouncing his “L” sound correctly these days. As hard as our stormy nights are, the day is coming when he won’t need me to soothe his fears. There are moments, like before the coffee is done, when I look forward to a decent night of sleep. But then, someone goes and pronounces a word correctly after months of a cute little lisp and the reality of how short this time sinks in.

Little Readers

Once again enrolled in our town’s summer reading program, we are starting our 4th year of keeping track of our time spent reading. I started to set the timer on my phone while I read and was shocked at how quickly half an hour passes. I had honestly never really made an effort to keep close tabs on our time, but as of this afternoon, we have logged over 5 hours of time reading aloud this week. It’s fun to watch the list of books grow and the hours logged pass. Today was our second visit for this session and already I’m seeing huge changes in the experience from last year.

First of all, it hasn’t been so chaotic. In the car, we have a pep talk about not talking too loudly or running. We go to one of the smallest branches in our area, so if a kid says something in the children’s department too loudly, you can hear it on the other side of the building in reference. So, we talk and talk every. single. time. we. go. Liam is at the point where he rolls his eyes and says “I know, Mama.”

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Second, I’m working my way through all the sections of the picture books. I’m discovering new authors and we looking beyond our core interests: racecars, sharks and princesses. Today, I grabbed books mostly from the “C” and “D” sections of authors. But this one about President Taft made me laugh so hard I almost cried. The kids just thought it was funny he was naked. I can’t wait to see the other side of the book shelves now!

Third, Liam is obsessed with coloring. This morning as he colored his first reading log, I noticed that instead of  scribbling over the picture, like he has for the last 3 years, he took the time to color the details of the pictures. He used multiple colors and stayed in the lines. It was a fun development in our usual process!

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As we drove home, the conversation turned to how Liam is learning to read. I realized that the days of us curling up together to read from our library haul will eventually end. We are reading chapter books together as a family and I’m loving how much comprehension I see the kids possessing. Liam’s interest in learning to read has sparked a desire in Sylvi to learn all those letters and their sounds. It was exciting to realize that this summer is the beginning of a new adventure for us… who knows… maybe by next year, I’ll have a little reader on my couch!

Puppy Love for our Family

Welcome to the June 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Kids and Animals

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories and wisdom about kids and pets.

Before we got engaged, before we bought our home, and before we were even married, Matt and I were scoping out pet options. Originally we had talked about a basset hound. Ree is always posting these drool-worthy (pun intended, ahem) photos of her beautiful babies and I just think they are so precious! But Matt was put off by the potential stink, the howling and the drool. So we continued our search. I wanted a dachshund as my second choice so we looked at a few rescues and breeders, but weren’t quite ready to commit when we found sweet little Nunzio huddled in a cage at the dog pound. She just had to come home with me.

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During our wait period imposed by the pound’s policies, we discovered Vito’s ad in the newspaper and within 48 hours we had two little puppies in our homes. This was a month after we married and a few weeks before we left for Arkansas to watch my brother graduate from college. A week after we returned my mother died. During the short weeks that we had these dogs, people were constantly telling us that we had shot ourselves in the foot by taking these dogs which would dramatically impead our freedom. The morning Mom passed, I had to send Matt home from the hospital so he could let our squirmy little puppies out to potty, for goodness sake!

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But what people didn’t see was how those dogs cuddled themselves right into the very fabric of our family. I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I don’t know that I would have survived some of those days without them. While grieving my mother, I would lay on the ground while the dogs stayed to offer comfort. When I was depressed after our first two miscarriages, they snuggled up to remind me I would always have them. When I dealt with HG while pregnant with Liam, Vito would lay in the bathroom with me in between vomiting and whimper his concern. When Liam was born, Vito never left my side (much to the midwife’s chagrin). And when my water broke with Sylvi, Vito, who was sleeping out in the living room, woke up at that same instant and ran back to my bedroom to be with me. All those night feedings and ill babies, Nunzio stayed by my side offering her wise eyes up as comfort when I cried from fatigue and frustration. And when our children started to feed themselves, both dogs were even more attached to our children!

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At this point, we’ve had pets in this house, including a brief dalliance with hamsters (which Matt hated), for eight years. After Nunzio’s passing last September, I honestly pondered if we should get another pet to keep Vito company. But he’s getting old, so the odds of the new pet being lonely and us starting the cycle all over again are high. As a matter of fact, I’ve noticed more and more that after his initial greeting when people come over, he flops down for a nap and cannot be bothered to join in… even when food is presented!

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Our children have been welcomed into our home by our pets, they’ve held onto Vito’s sturdy back as they learned to stand and curled up with them to watch movies. Through our dogs, our children have learned how to be gentle, how to be kind and how to be aware of another’s feelings. Liam cared for and protected our dogs long before he had a little sister to do that for. And Sylvi practically smothers them with her love and snuggles.

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People often ask me what we will do when Vito’s time on Earth comes to an end. Honestly, the answer is mostly likely going to be “find a couple of pugs to fill our home”. As snorty and loud and spoiled as this dog is, he is perfect for our family. I’ll never be able to go for a run with a pug, but the pug is perfect for our family. And perfect for our children. We love our pets, and I love watching my children learn responsibility, awareness (hello! poop in the yard!) and kindness by having them here. And besides, if we didn’t have a pug, what else would I call this blog? ;)

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • What Animal Rescue is Teaching My Children
  • Tips on Picking the Perfect Kid-friendly Dog — Lactating Girl at The Adventures of Lactating Girl shares some tips she’s learned on how to find the perfect child-friendly dog for your family.
  • All New Animals Are “Woof” — Baby Boy is still learning animals. Life Breath Present doesn’t yet have any at home, but he still believes that all animals are “woof.” Here’s the proof.
  • Dude, where’s my Horse? — Adora loves horses, but Erin at And Now, for Something Completely Different really doesn’t. However, Adora’s longing wins out; learn about their interactions with horses here.
  • Weighing the Pros and Cons of a Family Pet — When is a family ready for a pet? Donna at Eco-Mothering discusses her worries as well as the benefits of adopting a dog, including how it will affect her seven-year-old daughter.
  • Parenting Challenge–Learning from Animals–running the emotional gammut — Survivor at Surviving Mexico writes about the emotional learning her family has experienced through sharing their lives with animals.
  • Puppy Love for our Family — In case you didn’t catch it from the blog title, Pug in the Kitchen, the family pet is an integral part of Laura’s family and home life!
  • Vegetarianism and Animal Rights: Explaining to Children — Becca at The Earthling’s Handbook is mostly vegetarian…not 100%, and not because of animal rights…yet she has found that the idea of not hurting animals is the aspect of vegetarianism most easily understood by a young child. She explains what her son has learned about not eating meat and how it has affected his social life.
  • Pets & kids: The realities — Lauren at Hobo Mama lays out the benefits and drawbacks of pet ownership when young kids are involved.
  • HOW PETS CONNECT WITH EMOTIONS: KIDS & PETS AFTER 9-11 — Parenting Expert Laurie Hollman at Parental Intelligence discusses the importance of pets in lowering stress after traumatic situations, why children choose certain pets, the loss of a pet, and the role of parents in teaching care-giving to animals in a warm, gentle way.
  • It’s not our house without a dog! — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work describes why giving a loving and disciplined home to at least one shelter dog at a time enriches the life of her family, and has become a vivid memory in the minds of her children.
  • Canine Haikus —Kids, dog, haikus, at

    Dionna (Code Name: Mama).

    Pet-centric poems.

  • Beanie’s BunniesOur Mindful Life‘s Sofi Bean has gotten her first pets!
  • Montessori Care of Pets — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells about her experiences with kids and pets and shares Montessori resources for pet care.
  • How to Nurture Your Child’s Awareness of Spirit Guides — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama hosts a post from her regular contributor Lauren of SpiralElixir.com. Lauren looks at the concept of animals as spirit guides and how deeply children are connected to this realm. She also encourages us to open ourselves up as parents to the reality that children are naturally more connected to the animal world, giving us ideas on how to nurture their relationships with their Spirit Guides.
  • No Puppy! — Meg at the Boho Mama shares her tips for dealing with toddlers and the (very real) fear of animals.
  • Year of the Pets — Jorje of Momma Jorje wasn’t sure she ever wanted pets again, but things have changed a lot this year!
  • 3 Reasons Why Keeping Backyard Chickens is Good for my Toddler — Bianca, The Pierogie Mama, started keeping backyard chickens for the benefit of their eggs, but what she wasn’t prepared for was what they would teach her two year old daughter too.

Retrospect Respect

A few weeks ago at my youngest brother’s soccer game, my father suddenly put me on the spot and asked if I appreciated him and my mother. Another soccer mom, whom I assume was having issues with what I call a ‘tude from one of her teenaged children leaned in to ask WHEN I realized I appreciated them.

Because my father was listening intently, I chose to be a smart alek with my response: “Of course! But I’d never tell them that while I was living at home… it would give them big heads and you know, we can’t have that!” Laughter from parents, everyone moved on in the conversation and I was left to contemplate how I really felt on the matter.

To be completely honest, I really started to appreciate and cultivate a deep respect for the sacrifices my parents made when I was in high school. Circumstances with Mom’s health and the later adoption of the aforementioned soccer-playing brother coupled with the fact that I was desiring the days when I could be a mother really opened my eyes to all they did. This, of course, does not mean that my relationship with my parents was Duggar perfect. Nope. While I appreciated my parents, we still butted heads because we were humans with different opinions.

But the point is that during this time, I saw what parents do for their small children not only by watching my parents care for that sweet little baby, but through my own involvement with him. My mother’s health was at a high point during the time of the adoption, but in the years shortly after things really suffered. I spent a lot of time and energy caring for my brother like a parent would because of the situation I wouldn’t have otherwise been exposed to since my next youngest brother is only 2 and a half years apart from me.

All the time I spent with him, going through the functions of a parent, I bonded with the little guy. I knew what it was like to love a child so much it hurt long before we even thought about starting our own family. I knew what it was like to try to communicate with a child who didn’t understand. I knew exactly how challenging two and three year olds (and let’s face it, 4 year olds, 5 year olds… all the ages!) are. I understood the depth of emotions and how we do anything to help our children.

As I’ve grown as an individual and as a parent, my appreciation for my parents have definitely deepened. I know now what a sacrifice it is to push through a chronic illness. I understand how difficult it to parent children when your husband’s schedule isn’t a normal 9-5. I get why she often snapped at me when I asked questions when she was tired or in pain. I understand my father’s stress over providing for the family on an average income. But I understand this only as I have experienced… not exactly how my parents felt in their own situations.

There are facets of parenting that I knew would be hard going into them and there still things I have yet to discover. If I could answer my dad’s question all over again I’d say something different. I’d say that I appreciated them as a teenager, but I didn’t get it. I’d say that I thought I understood their sacrifices and appreciated their willingness to do so, but until I stood in their shoes I couldn’t really comprehend it. And then, I’d look at that mother and tell her that appreciation doesn’t look the same for every child; and not every child will feel the need to verbalize their feelings or even act like they are appreciative, but it’s there. 

The fab five – stages so far

The Fab Five Stages So Far

Welcome to the May 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Ages and Stages

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have talked about their children’s most rewarding and most challenging developmental periods. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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Natural Parents Network: The Fab Five Stages So Far
I have often heard older, wiser mothers tell me that “each stage will be a new favorite” and while I have loved each moment a little more than the last, there are stages that stand out to me as the ones I never want to forget. Liam will be 5 this summer and Sylvi just turned 3, so I don’t have a huge span to draw from, but these are the stages that when my children are all grown up and having their own, I hope to be able to impart my delight for these moments that may seem so small and fleeting, but are just so precious. I cannot say there is one stage that rises above the rest, but I can narrow the choices down to five favorites.

The hidden weeks

Oh my. For me, these weeks were 13-18/20 of my pregnancies. I could feel the baby fluttering and moving, but no one else could. For those weeks, the baby was allllllll mine. My belly wasn’t big enough that people felt the need to touch or comment, but there was enough that at night, I’d lie on the couch and rub it, delighting in the little “bubbles” of movement after. Once these weeks passed, we knew baby’s gender and name. After that point, the baby was property of the world (ok, I exaggerate, but really…people really seem to feel that way about babies!) and I had to start sharing. So to me, those precious moments when I was the only one in baby’s world, those were a favorite.

Continue reading at Natural Parents Network ››

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon May 13 with all the carnival links.)

  • When Three-Year-Olds Stand Up For Themselves — Parenting Expert Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. at her blog, Parental Intelligence, enjoys the stage when three-year-olds dramatically wow their parents with their strong sense of self.
  • This too shall pass — In the beginning, everything seems so overwhelming. Amanda at My Life in a Nutshell looks at the stages of the first 1.5 years of her daughter’s life and explains how nothing is ever static and everything changes – the good and the bad.
  • Age 5 – Is It Really A Golden Period? — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama looks at the developmental norms for the five-year-old set and muses over if this age really is the ‘golden period.’
  • How much do you explain to your preschooler when crime touches close to home? — When tragedy strikes someone your preschooler knows, Nathalie at Kampuchea Crossings wonders how parents can best help young children cope.
  • Thoughts on ToddlerwearingThat Mama Gretchen‘s babywearing days are over, we’re living it up in the toddlerwearing days now!
  • Parenting Challenges—Almost a man — Survivor at Surviving Mexico talks about leaving childhood behind as her son turns 12.
  • How Child Development Works – Competence Builds Competences — Debbie at Equipped Family shares how each stage of childhood builds on the next. Focus on doing the current stage reasonably well and success will breed success!
  • Making Space — Kellie at Our Mindful Life is adjusting her thinking and making room for her babies to stay near her.
  • The Best Parenting Resources for Parents of Toddlers — Toddlers can be so challenging. Not only are they learning how to exert their independence, but they simply do not have the developmental ability to be calm and logical when they are frustrated. It’s the nature of the beast. I mean … the toddler. Here are Dionna at Code Name: Mama‘s favorite books and articles about parenting a toddler.
  • The Fab Five Stages so Far — Laura from Pug in the Kitchen couldn’t choose just one stage for this carnival and is sharing her top five favorite stages in the young lives of her son and daughter at Natural Parents Network.
  • The best parts of ages 0-6 — Lauren at Hobo Mama gives a breakdown of what to expect and what to cherish in each year.
  • Lessons from Parenting a Three-Year-Old — Ana and Niko at Panda & Ananaso are quickly approaching the end of an era — toddlerhood. She shares some of her thoughts on the last two years and some tips on parenting through a time rife with change.
  • Feeling Needed — Jorje of Momma Jorje ponders which developmental stage is her favorite and why. She bares it for us, seemingly without fear of judgment. You might be surprised by her answer!

Survival!

This is truly a “thank-God-it’s-Friday” sort of post. Except that after this post, I take a deep breath and then dive back in for a few more days. It is what it is, but I tell you that I am not an on-the-go sort of person and when I have a loaded calendar, I stress out. Is it awful that when my little woke up with stuffy noses, coughs and low grade temps this morning I breathed a sigh of relief because no one would want to be around us while I pumped vitamins and fruit? Probably, but I’m honest.

So here’s a quick catch up on the last week:

~ Soccer started! Soooooo exciting! And exhausting. Not so much for me, but for a certain 4 year old who is so wound up by the time drills are over he’s had a terrible time calming down for the actual scrimmages. Two practices this week and both days have ended in a tearful little boy who just can’t quite process all that emotion. I’m hopeful now that he’s back in the swing of things next week will go more smoothly.

~ Liam swam all by himself yesterday! I sat on my bench and cried. I’m SO proud of him! He’s doing great with the floatie, but this was the first time for him to swim from the wall to Miss Brooke and then back to the wall. Proud Mama!

~ I was in Columbus all day Wednesday for the Moms Clean Air Force Mama Summit. Excellent day, scary traffic. Whoo. I need to live in tiny towns for the rest of my life. However, as my BFF pointed out, I did it. I did what terrifies me by driving through a big city during rush hour AND meeting with our elected officials all by myself! Check me out setting examples for my children! ;)

~ I’m working on the final newsletter for my MOPS group for this year. I love MOPS and the community it has created for me, but I’m ready for summer break. I have used the last two summers to read the books that go along with the theme and prepare myself for the written devotionals and newsletters. The theme for 2014-2015? Be you Bravely. I love it. And I think I’m going to treat myself to this tee as a prize for getting my Steering Team responsibilities done for yet another year!

~ I went to Old Navy last night after the kids were in bed. This mama had no shorts. No capris. Nothing for summer. Turns out, the more you run, the smaller you behind gets and it’s just not cool to your britches falling off as your daughter tugs on them to gain your attention.

~ I downloaded the Wudnerlist app to my iPad. There are big, pink, puffy, sparkly hearts in my eyes for this app. And the “swoosh” sound effect when I complete a task. Sigh.

~ It’s raining today and I couldn’t be happier. I ran out right before it started and cut huge bunches of lilacs for my house. Lilac is the sweetest spring smell ever.

~ I need to sew more dresses for Sylvi. I have been informed that pants are “ugly”. Good heavens.

~ Now, it’s a return to my chores and to-do list. Quiet time is over and Liam is anxious to stomp in the puddles. Sylvi is sleeping in her room, snoring away her congestion.

Come back tomorrow for an excellent gluten free apple cake just in time for Mother’s Day!

Mighty Mommy Monday – Do it for the Kids

It’s Mighty Mommy Monday! Abbie of Farmer’s Daughter and I have decided to challenge you on a weekly basis.  Claim the Mighty Mommy title for yourself — every day, not just Mondays. Every week, we’ll host a link up for you to tell us what you’re doing to take care of your health: workouts, menu plans, how to keep your family active, etc. I’ve set a few goals for 2014, but my biggest is to swim a total of 30 freestyle miles this year AND run a half marathon in October! Join us!

 

I’m having a skinny day. You know what I mean? The kind of day where your yoga pants are actually flattering and you have energy and the soreness that has been plaguing you after every run is so minimal you forget that you pounded out 2 miles this morning only needing to stop to walk a few times. That kind of day. It’s the kind of day when I feel like I will never “cheat” on the diet or the exercise plan because I feel so. awesome.

Now, rewind to a few weeks ago when I could barely make it through half a mile and then wasn’t able to walk for two days after. I hated exercise. I was mad about my weight and the apparent inability to lose. I stood in my kitchen whining about how there is absolutely nothing to eat in a gluten free diet. On that day I was *this close* to throwing in the towel and taking the max dose of one of those pills they advertise all the time on tv for making people lose weight.

I don’t like days like that. But the reality is that no matter how great I do on my race times or my weight, I will feel down and defeated. It’s life. What I choose to do with, how I choose to modify my plan or my attitude, that is what determines how my day continues to go. Along the way, there will be struggles and binge eating and crappy nights.

But I’m trying to make this point today that no matter what my attitude is, I still have an audience. No, not you. Not really because you only see what I choose to share. My audience watches the Disney channel and runs up and down the stairs asking for snacks while I debate how many minutes I really want to run for. They see me wigging out in the kitchen because I want to eat something I can’t have. They watch me make decisions and watch my attitude as it ebbs and flows with enthusiasm. So yes, those bad days happen and my yoga pants are not often all that flattering, but there are still eyes watching how I chose to handle it. I read once that the words we speak are the ones that become our children’s inner voice; I want the voice that my children have inside them to be one that acknowledges the struggles and the pain but has a plan the ends with them being their best self no matter how hard it is to get there.

How to be in nature without feeling like you’ve gone wild

I have been loading my babies up and heading into the woods, creek bed or hiking trail for the last 4 years. It was awkward at first what with nursing and diapers and colic, but we did it. In the last few weeks of Sylvi’s pregnancy I took Liam to the nature center and we wandered around happy (him) and huge (me). A month or so later, I loaded my newborn safely into her carrier, strapped her to my chest and we headed back for another hike. Of course, that time I was so awkward and anxious about disaster and it arrived: Liam slipped right into the mucky duck pond and had to be hauled out of the cold, slimy water sobbing. Not our best trip.

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Since then, I’ve started to make sure that instead of just dropping everything and heading to the woods on a whim, I’ve got myself prepared. Ha! Now, we can go out on a hike and I don’t worry about all the things that can (and in our case, frequently do) go wrong. In my kitchen closet lives my old high school back pack loaded with our adventure kit. My back pack was purchased in 1996 and has been to college, grad school, India, Canada, Ecology field work, hospital internships, my first day at the lab, and spent an entire summer on the back of Matt’s bike while he cycled to the office. In my mind, there is no replacement for quality product.

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What’s in the bag? Some of the items might make you laugh, but I’m dead serious about it. Believe me when I tell you that fewer things derail a nice afternoon than wet socks and empty bellies.

  • Backpack
  • Field guide to North American Birds – my kids always want to know what they see and I think it’s about time for me to add a guide to plants and rocks.
  • First aid kit – oh yes. Sylvi managed to bite it today while walking down a brick path at Kingwood Center and cut her knee up even though her pants remained intact. Skillz people, skillZZZZ.
  • Spare socks and underwear – I do not kid.
  • Kids’ journals and colored pencils
  • Weather pod
  • Snacks and water
  • Picnic blanket – I keep this one in the car regardless of where we are going, you never know!
  • Binoculars – My uncle gifted us with a really nice pair for Christmas a few years ago, but I’m not up for dealing with two preschoolers bickering over whose turn it is to hold them, so we have the cute ones from Melissa and Doug just in case.

So when we head out, the time is spent answering dozens of questions and jumping in any available mud puddle. Only once have I made the mistake of not bringing my own boots and I will do ALL I can to not ever let that happen again. 

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Spontaneity is not something I’m gifted with, but boy oh boy I do so much better at it when I have a plan. I know it’s completely ironic, but with a plan for where we are going and snacks that are ready to eat. And band aids. With those things out of the way, I get to answer the questions, experience the feeling of soft moss on my fingers and listen to the creek bed while the new 3 year old is happily munching her snack instead of freaking out.

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We spend a lot of time outside playing and experiencing, but when we do our adventure hikes, I want to make sure we are getting every little bit out of it that the kids want. So if that means I have to haul guidebooks because there’s no wi-fi for miles, then so be it. I mean, gosh, isn’t that what *our* childhood was like? The internet is no replacement for the actual feeling of moss on your finger tips. So we go places that are muddy and mossy and wild. And even though it’s planned and organized and less wild, we get every little bit out of the moment we can.

Mathlete material

With all our free time this week, I wanted to tackle some educational themes so I could get a feel for next fall since we’ve decided to homeschool. I know, gasps!! It’s not like we hadn’t talked about it for years… I believe the first time I brought it up was shortly after I had convinced Matt to go for a homebirth and he was still processing the fact that there would be no hospital staff attending to our needs while our child was still new, so nothing really came of it. We entered Liam in preschool for the year and while we have all loved the experience and he’s grown so much, I just didn’t have peace about sending him on to kinder. Nothing about the school or the teachers or any of those factors, I just realized that we’d be missing out on more of his life and we’d never get that time back. We spent quite a bit of prayer and thought on this and decided homeschool is the best option for our family… right now. And I have to interject that once the decision was made and parental high fives given, I started to sleep through the night again. Ever since, I’ve been so excited about homeschooling I can barely contain myself. :) Bonus: Liam keeps asking when we will only do school at home.

Reading, writing, science and history are easy-peasy lemon squeezy for me. I love these topics and it is so simple for me to slip it in every other moment of our day. But math? Oh man. Liam isn’t as excited about numbers as he is letters so we have to work a little harder on that topic.

Counting is simple enough to work into our daily routine, but we are also working to learn how to add on. Blocks and legos are an excellent way to start up the hands-on learning, but I’m also looking into unifx cubes. My mother had a set when I was growing up and we all loved them.

We started out the week with numbers written out squares of paper and Liam had to place the right number of blocks under it. Initially, Sylvi wanted to join in, but holy wow. Competition was the name of the game in the worst way. We worked through 1-10 and then grouped the blocks together by type within the number.

Up next, we tried this blog post that was filled with ideas for using Legos in learning math. Favorite part? Measuring the creations.

Tomorrow, we plan to use this blog post because I, of course, have addition flash cards. Since I don’t have the unifix cubes, we’ll just use legos.

One of the things we do love to do together is graphing and looking for patterns. Blocks, Legos, matchbox cars… you name it and you’ve got options. AND it’s fun!

For the fall, I’m still up in the air on the math workbooks to use. I really am. For one, I grew up using Saxton math. I love the review aspect of the books afforded in each lesson, but I hate how long that makes the lesson. My mother was never one to deviate from the “plan” so that means if I spent over two hours on math completing alllllllll the problems, then so be it. A friend suggested the Life of Fred books, so those are on my radar now. The only thing I’m really sure of are the Kumon books I’ve used so far and love. And that over the years, I’ve learned to embrace the flexibility of life and make adaptations so that my kids and my family get the opportunity to really flourish because their individual needs are acknowledged and nurtured.