Mindful Inventory – Winter Edition

Haven’t been writing much recently – have I? Well, I have been writing term papers for college classes, but blog articles? Not so much. So, what’s been going on with ME that’s made me so “blog-silent” the past few weeks? To answer that, I’m going to do what I call a “Mindful Inventory” . . .

I like to do these for myself when my head starts spinning with lots of things going on. It helps be remember to be proud of my accomplishments, aware of the joy in my life, and to plan for the time ahead.

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IMG_4768THE MAIN IDEA of the Winter has been: Acclimating to a new place, and especially to a Kodiak Winter (totally different than a New England Winter, apparently!) And as a native Texan, I am missing my warm, sunny weather. Bad. Abbey has followed suit. She talks constantly about Grandma and Grandpa and how she wants to visit them in Texas.

THE BEST THING about the Winter has been: Celebrating Christmas, Valentines Day, and getting ready for Easter as a family. Sledding has been super fun this winter (though we only got a chance to do that twice . . . the rest of the snow was not powdery enough for sledding).

TOP 3 WINTER HIGHLIGHTS:

1. Continuing my online college courses with A’s and B’s (I only have two full-time semesters and one 1/2 time semester left till graduation!)

2. Sledding with the Hubs and kids.  Abbey and Joe are getting so big, and are sledding down the hill all on their own now!

3. Meeting new people and getting to know Kodiak better: This is a very different place for me, having grown up (and always lived in) a moderately large to huge city, and having been born in the South.  This winter was both depressing and uplifting, depending on the day! I’m proud to have gotten through it and I am looking forward to the Summer!

WHAT I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO IN THE SUMMER: The SUNSHINE, picking salmonberries, and doing more outdoor play and hiking. This winter has been so dreary and grey. I cannot wait for some brighter weather!

WHAT I WISH I HAD DONE MORE OF THIS SEASON: Writing for Amywilla.com and Sewing and marketing for Silly Bear Handmade

WHAT I DID JUST THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF: Getting to know new people and taking Abbey and Joe to the indoor pool. Seriously, the indoor pool saved us this winter. I also did very well on my online college courses and talked with my advisor to plan out my last three (yes – only three!) semesters!

WHAT I’M PROUDEST OF THIS SEASON: Being able to balance school and home responsibilities, overcoming obstacles to get back to exercising regularly, and learning some new recipes.

GOALS FOR THE SPRING & SUMMER:  Sew more, and worry less. Write more, and procrastinate less. Enjoy the family, and get Abbey ready for Kindergarten in the fall and Joseph for his first days at preschool! Hubs is planning to teach Abbey to fish and to ride her bike on two-wheels. . . I’m hoping that Joseph will be fully independently pottying (he still wears a pull up at night) by the end of the summer, and I would like to have written more here at Amywilla.com.

Thanks for reading, as always. I blog to share my life and thoughts with YOU so that we can have a dialogue about life.

How has YOUR Winter been?

Are you ready for the SPRING and SUMMER?!

Mindful Inventory Winter

Wordless Wednesday: Indoor Active Play

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Wordless Wednesday: Recent Craftiness

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Milestone Moments: I gave away my cloth diapers!

Joseph has not been wearing diapers for a few weeks now. He still has trouble remembering to go potty when he wakes up in the morning – hence the night time pull-up – but as of two months before his 3rd birthday, he has been wearing big-boy underwear full time during the day, with accidents few and far between.

At a certain point in these past few weeks, I had to decide what to do with my stash of cloth diapers.

Sweet Ride Diaper

Most of them were sewn by me: Mama made, Silly Bear Handmade fleece diapers made up about 90% of the stash. I couldn’t fathom trying to sell them on a swap site, since my WAHM diaper brand is not well known, aaaaand I’m pretty attached to some of them. . . not gonna lie. But I wasn’t sure if or how to give them away. . . because I spent so much of my time (nearly) perfecting the art or sewing cloth diapers, and all the memories of Joseph with his fleecy little bum are still so fresh in my mind.

But they had to go. I wasn’t using them anymore, and someone else could. But who?

Finally, I wandered into the perfect conversation: A friend of mine in the Kodiak community that has a large family (talking, kids from college-age to diapers) was talking about her youngest boy, who is a friend of Joe’s. He is nearly two, but she wants to hold off on doing any potty learning or training with him until they get back from a family vacation to the lower 48 this summer. Smart. However, she said, lately, J. had been pooping in several diapers per day, and she said that she just felt so wasteful throwing out diaper after diaper. I offered my stash of fleece cloth diapers, and she accepted – she asked if she could buy them off of me, but I told her NO.

“Enjoy them, take good care of them, and pay it forward to another family once you are finished with them” I said.

And then I packed them all up, handed them to her at the next play date, and that whole two-year period of Joseph’s life was absolutely over. No more diapers.

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What a milestone moment.

I have a second preschooler now, wearing underwear and the nightly pull-up. Not a baby, not a toddler: a kid. Nearly three. And I gave away my cloth diapers. Wow. Amazing how life just bulldozes forward and we all grow and grow and grow.

I was very pleased to have found a family to gift with my diaper stash. And I hope that they are pleased with their gift. And I am incredibly proud of my big boy Joe that just keeps growing as if there is no stopping.

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What did you do with your cloth diaper stash after your littlest was finished using it?

 

What kind of emotions did you experience as your children learned to potty independently?

Wordless Wednesday: a Potty Victory and a Lazy Morning

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Toddler Table Manners

IMG_1634“I’d never be able to get her to sit still without buckling her!”

“How do you know he won’t fall out?”

“I wish my kid had table manners like that.”

When our son Joseph (now almost 3) was 18 months old, he already had a grip on basic table manners. Yes, he can be a hooligan while eating just like any other child, and of course he had (and still has) his moments of devil-may-care table antics. . . but he was at 18 months able to:

  • sit still, with good posture
  • use a fork and a spoon (and fingers)
  • drink from a cup
  • and wipe his face and hands with a napkin during and when finished eating.
  • And he can tell us when he is “all done.”

We rarely if ever spoon feed him (only sometimes when he is really really tired) and he also knows to clean up messes that he makes. He loves to wipe the table, even if at this point, he doesn’t get it very clean.

He has these skills because we have been enabling him to learn and use them since he began eating solid foods around 6-7 months. We allowed our child to learn these skills by presenting him with the means to discover his own abilities through a Montessori-inspired presentation and nurture of table skills.

We have thoroughly enjoyed and benefitted as a family from the use of a method that allows real baby-led weaning: the choice to choose foods and eat them at will, in a comfortable and empowering physical environment.

If you would like to read more, please visit my full post on Toddler Table Manners: A Montessori-Inspired
Approach on amywilla.com. The full post has information about introducing a napkin and using utensils, too!

Yes, I nursed two children at once!

This is a question that I get frequently from friends and from mothers when I’m leading La Leche League meetings. Many moms and expectant moms are curious about how (and why) I tandem nursed our two silly bears, Abbey (now 5) and Joe (now nearly 3).

Amywilla.com: Yes, I nursed two children at once!

Amywilla.com: Yes, I nursed two children at once!

Here is a post that I wrote a while back to discuss tandem nursing. It may not be a goof fit for everyone, but for us, with some reflection and adaptation, it worked to our advantage and to our children’s great benefit. Abbey weaned naturally at 4 years and 11 months – and Joe, now nearly 3 years old, comes to my breast an average of twice per day (surrounding sleeping times).

Navigating a Tandem Nursing Experience

When I became pregnant with our second child, Joseph, I was elated. Instantly, I thought forward to tandem nursing Abbey (who would be 2.5 years at Joseph’s due date) and our new baby, and I was really looking forward to enjoying the experience of nursing two children and the bond that it would form!

When the actual tandem nursing experience came to pass, elated wasn’t quite the right word for the feelings that surfaced. At times I found myself feeling like a mommy dog, nursing a litter of pups! But it still was wonderful, and it’s been an interesting and beautiful experience, and a stunning example of how our bodies are made to mother and how our mothering is meant to evolve.

 

Tandem Nursing During the Newborn Period

 

One of the first things that Abbey said about her baby brother was “Mommy, you need to give my brother Mamas. He wants mamas to drink!” and she started to undo my nursing tank and gently nudge Joseph’s head toward my breast. Sharing was not an issue for Abbey. She constantly wanted to “share mamas” with Joseph, and was happy to do so. But she wanted to share with Joseph every time that he ate. . . and as a newborn eats upwards of 12 times per day, I had to tell Abbey that sharing with him every time he nursed was just not feasible nor was it a comfortable thing for me.

 

When planning to tandem nurse, I urge you to do some meditating on the newborn stage, and prepare some appropriate limits and explanations for your older child about why a newborn baby nurses so frequently, and how that is different from the pattern of nursing that they use as an older child. For example: You’re not a baby; you’re my big girl: For Abbey, it was vital that I explain to her that she just could not nurse all day long. . . statements like “Babies drink mamas all the time because they’re growing really really fast. You’re a big girl, and big girls drink mamas sometimes AND eat food to grow tall and strong!”

 

Abbey still enjoys eating her snack and then running around the house showing off her strong muscles and long legs. Feeding Abbey a snack while Joseph nursed in mid-morning or mid-afternoon was also helpful. I’d preface her snack with “Wow, won’t Joseph be excited when he is old enough to have this yogurt like you! What a special snack!” and then when she was settled with her snack, I would settle down to nurse Joseph.

Tandem Nursing an Older Baby and a Preschooler

Simply saying “No thank you” and asking Abbey to respect my words when she would ask me for “mamas” started to happen more and more as Joseph grew into a crawling infant and would need to nurse for reasons other than just sustenance.

When he would [and still] “ask[s]” to nurse by rooting at by breast or signing for milk because his gums were sore from teething pains or if he fell and bumped his body while trying to learn a new gross motor skill, I would scoop him up and nurse him. . . and Abbey wanted me to do the same for her.

At this point, I just had to start saying “No thank you” to her requests to nurse. . . evolving my child-led-weaning ideals to save the happiness of the household, and do best by both of my children.

I was feeling touched-out and challenged by Abbey’s intensity and demanding nature regarding my “mamas”. And mommy off balance is not good for a family.

Teaching Bodily Integrity:

I needed to come back to a place of balance and peace, and setting limits with my nursing preschooler allowed me to reinstate balance and peace in our tandem nursing relationship and in our household.

I had planned on letting Abbey naturally wean and not imposing my feelings on her requests at all. But this type of all or nothing approach just didn’t work out for our family, and so I taught Abbey a respect for my bodily integrity right alongside teaching her about her own.

Committing to and explaining bodily integrity: I told Abbey, “This is my body, and these are my “mamas”. I choose to share them with you because I love you, and I know you need to nurse sometimes. But I can’t nurse you all the time, and I feel so unhappy when you throw a fit over nursing. Ask me calmly about nursing, and then mommy can enjoy nursing you!”

If you find yourself feeling touched-out by tandem nursing, I urge you to contemplate the WHO’s recommendation on breastfeeding past infancy, and meditate on what it means for you.

They recommend breastfeeding to 2 years of age and then after that, as long as is mutually beneficial and desired.

I asked myself, “I know that breastfeeding my older child is normal and healthy for both of us. But I am having a hard time. What would make this nursing relationship desirable once more for me? What can I change to make it beneficial for ME?” So that I could provide a peaceful and comforting nursing relationship for Abbey instead of one filled with strain and struggle.

Finding Peace:

What I needed was peace in our nursing sessions. With some work, establishing and enforcing nursing limits for Abbey, we have once more come to a place of peace in our tandem nursing story. Now, Every day when Abbey comes downstairs from her nap, she asks to nurse on the sofa – she offers her brother one breast or the other, and takes the other “mama” for herself. Switching after a couple minutes, holding hands, playfully tickling and tugging at each other, my little toddler and beautiful child tandem nurse at my breast . . . and I am finally, actually elated about tandem nursing, just like I dreamt I would be.

This post was originally published on www.amywilla.com.

Wordless Wednesday: Pre Bedtime

www.amywilla.com: Pre Bed Time Hang out

www.amywilla.com: Pre Bed Time Hang out

I’m a knitter, not a quitter (but seriously, ruining a project is so sad)

I have been working on knitting a ballet sweater for Abbey (5 1/2) to wear at her Friday ballet and tap class at the local dance school. Their class meets in the downstairs room, and it gets very cold down there due to a secondary entryway to the building that is used by another business, and wafts brisk, cold, alaskan winter air into the hall and dance room.

For weeks, Abbey had been complaining about it being cold, but wearing a hoodie or sweatshirt didn’t work out well. So, the question was asked:

Mommy, can you knit me a ballet sweater?

We looked at patterns, picked one out together, and I ordered a nice fingering weight yarn. While I waited for the yarn to arrive, I practiced the pattern to make sure my gauge was good and that I understood the cabling part of the pattern, in order not to make a mistake with the real yarn. And when the real yarn arrived, Abbey and I both squee-ed together at how pretty and soft it was and I set out knitting the sweater for her.

Amywilla.com: I'm a Knitter, not a Quitter

Amywilla.com: I’m a Knitter, not a Quitter

For weeks, I worked on it. Every Friday she would ask if it would be done in time for ballet class, but she continued to wait, while I finished it. And when I finished it, she was so excited! Except, of course, there was something the matter: the sleeves were too tight under the arms. *doh!*

I promised her that I would try to fix it, and I did try, but I failed. Thankfully I had warned her that if I tried to take it apart, it may not work out, and I might not be able to salvage the sweater. I say thankfully I warned her, because of COURSE that is exactly what happened when I tried to take the sleeves apart from the bodice (which fit great!) and fix the size of the cap sleeves.

When I realized that I had ruined the sweater beyond repair, I lost it. Abbey was at school, Joseph was in his room playing, and Hubs had just arrived home from a busy day, and fallen asleep on the sofa. So, thankfully, only Hubs witnessed what I did. I had a major, giant, massive adult fit. I pitched this fit like a pro. I cried. Vehemently. Profusely. I cried like a little girl, and then I screamed like a sailor, and then I bawled like a baby. And then I repeated those things again, with body language added.

Hubs woke up very confused as I flailed about, sobbing and throwing knitting around. I was not very proud of myself at all when it was all over, but I was so distraught over the work and time and beautiful yarn that was lost by my inability to separate the sleeves without unraveling the whole thing beyond salvage. And more, I prayed that I wouldn’t break Abbey’s heart when I told her I had failed and she would have to wait longer for a ballet sweater knitted by mommy.

What I learned

Gauge is SO IMPORTANT in the sleeve area. The slightest tightness in your knitting in sections like the sleeves will make the sleeve too small.

There are different types of sleeves and ways of adding them in knitting. I am currently starting a new attempt at a ballet sweater, with raglan sleeves instead of sewn in cap sleeves. Adding sleeves by knitting raglan can help to ensure that the sleeve openings are large enough and somewhat stretchy.

I’m a knitter, not a quitter. At a certain point in my grief-stricken mommy-fit that I threw when I realized I had ruined the first sweater attempt, I screamed “I will NEVER EVER knit anything EVER again!” Yeah, that’s not true. As soon as I had calmed down, I was googling and messaging knitting friends on Facebook to find out the reason that I had made a mistake and made small sleeve holes, even though I followed the pattern exactly. Hubs was in the middle of reassuring me that it was okay to be upset and a little irrational about my mistake and the loss of Abbey’s sweater- and I was already trying to figure out what had gone wrong and how I could make sure that I could try again with better results.

Behind her strong-willed, intense personality, Abbey is incredibly forgiving and compassionate. Her response to my somber explanation that her sweater had to be thrown out?

“It’s okay mommy. If you want, you can try again, but it’s okay to be sad. You worked really hard on that sweater, and it hurts that its gone”

Amywilla.com: Abbey

Amywilla.com: Abbey

Seriously: what a sweetie. She might be catty at times (okay, a lot of the time.. . . )

but with a compassionate reply like that, I guess I really am doing something right.

Encouraging Healthy Sleep Habits

amywilla.com: Encouraging Healthy Sleep HabitsIt was a cool, fall night, a couple years ago. The curtains were drawn but I’d left the windows cracked, and I was enjoying the soft night air as I sipped some wine and knit in front of the TV. Joseph and Abbey were snugly tucked in for night-night time, and I was relishing in the peace and quiet.

Until I felt that something was amiss.

I couldn’t concentrate on Emily Deschanel and David Borneaz and the Booth/Brennan love affair on the TV. . . I messed up my knitting three times in a row. So I got up to go check the house and see what was bugging my mommy-senses.

When I got up the stairs, I noticed the glow of Abbey’s flower light. Her door was wide open and her bed was empty. I checked the restroom. No Abbey. I checked our bedroom, quietly, so as not to wake Joseph, sleeping by our bedside. Abs wasn’t in there, either. So, where was she? I started to panic just a little and headed back downstairs. I checked the whole house twice over, looking for my preschooler, and started to panic that she had gone outside without me knowing! Then I heard a thump in the dining room and a little voice that scared me out of my skin.

“I’m just hiding mommy” she peeped.

You should have seen me.

I nearly peed myself, I was so startled.

Abbey had been under the dining table the whole time. Quiet as a mouse, she had ninja-sneaked her way out of her room, down the stairs, through the kitchen, and under the dining room table without me even hearing her. And scared me to death both with the thought that she may have gone outside in the middle of the night and with her startling reappearance.

“In your bed, NOW Abbey. You scared me! Bed. NOW.”

And now, the same scene repeats itself with Joe as my new little escape artist.

Bedtime. . . how should we handle it?

Encouraging Healthy Sleeping Habits

(How to deal with sneaky bedtime escape artists)

amywilla.com: Encouraging Healthy Sleep Habits Sleep is a huge target issue with all parents. It’s how we recharge our batteries – and as adults (and especially as parents) we get so little of it that we find sleeping precious. Ironically, our little ones. . . don’t always share that sentiment. From naptime struggles to endless bedtime negotiations. . . from silliness and slyness to serious and scary nightmares and fears, sleep is an issue that affects every parent and child. Sleep is also a necessary and vital component to a child’s overall health and well being. Toddlers need 12-14 hours of sleep per 24-hour period and preschoolers require 11-13 hours to be at their best 1. It’s important to make sure our children get enough sleep and that they develop healthy sleeping habits to serve them in adolescence and adulthood. But how? With ninja-like sneaking, stall tactics, tantrums, fears, etc. . . our little ones can make naptime and bedtime incredibly tricky. Here’s my list of tips to help resolve naptime and bedtime struggles so you and your Silly Bears can rest well.

  1. Compassion and Authenticity. Let’s be real, parents: coping with a child who is sensitive or troublesome at bedtime is incredibly irritating, no matter how truly frightened they are or incredibly hilarious their antics can be. Naptime and Bedtime are important, and we really don’t like it when bedtime snuggles become bedtime struggles. Be compassionate with yourself and allow yourself to be upset about sleep issues. I find that if I allow myself to be frustrated, it’s easier to be calm and solve the issue. Also important to remember is that you are not alone in having sleep time struggles and issues. Being authentic and compassionate with yourself is a great first step to overcoming the issue at hand and encouraging healthy sleep (and stress) habits for your little one.
  2. Clarity. Don’t let the cat get your tongue when your little one escapes bed, but don’t turn into Tolstoy with your response, either. A simple “It’s bedtime. Let’s go back to your bed.” is good enough.
  3. Calm. Nothing ruins parental authority faster than an emotional meltdown, or an adult temper tantrum. If I need a moment to compose myself after several times of putting a sneaky escape artist back to bed, I take one – and I am always glad that I did. Yelling, threatening, or chastising a toddler or child for sneaking out of bed sometimes feels satisfying, but it is far from successful and definitely not a healthy habit. I find that when I stay calm but firm in my voice and word choice, “It’s bedtime” resonates much more with my children.
  4. Consistency. I cannot stress this enough: Children thrive on consistency. Make a plan for yourself, and get your partner in on the plan as well. Make an effort to respond the same way each and every time that a child gets out of bed or protests going to sleep. Ours goes somewhat in this order:
  • Defining Night Night: “It’s night night time. At night, we get comfy in our beds, close our eyes and go to sleep. It’s your job to rest and I’ll see you in the morning!”
  • Do you need something to help you sleep? (our list goes extra kisses, a bedtime water cup, a small snack, and then and only then, extra cuddles)
  • Mommy and daddy love you, but its bedtime – it’s time to sleep now!

We repeat this as much as we need to, as calmly as possible, for as long as it takes to settle our Silly Bears. Usually, it takes no more than one or two go-throughs. Other nights, it can be a marathon.

5. Candor. Be truthful with your children about their need for rest, and be truthful with yourself about how much energy you can give to entertain your child’s bedtime push-back. Try not to compare your bedtimes to other families routines, but being truthful about how you do bedtime with your parenting peers is helpful for everyone, if it comes up.

How do you handle sneaky bedtime escapes, or toddler tenacity when it comes to night time?

 

Do you find that Consistency, Calm, Clarity, and Compassion help YOU and your family to maintain a healthy bed time routine?

Tell me in the comments!