Its not our house without a dog!

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.

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“It’s not our house without a dog”

Abbey and Raven 2009Those were the words my children sang to me a few weeks after we arrived in our most recent home at the Coast Guard base in Kodiak, Alaska. I had previously met their “when will we get another dog?” with a simple “maybe soon- we’ll see.” I told them that getting a new dog and training him or her was a lot of work, and that mommy was kind of enjoying not having to clean so often and that our family was still getting used to being in a new home. . . I explained that our housing unit did not have a fence around the yard, and that we already have a dog (just “on vacation” with the in-laws for our tour in Alaska). . . I tried all of the adult logic that I could, and then with one line they convinced me to take yet another trip to the shelter like Hubs and I had done early on in our marriage and see if there was a helpless canine that struck our fancy that needed a nice place to live.

“Mommy, it’s not our house without a dog.”

It’s true, in the most literal sense, and in an emotional way. We have had a dog in the family (at times 2) since I was 5 months pregnant with Abbey. Raven (our now 8 year old lab) lived with us from before Abbey was born until we moved to Alaska last summer. She is now spending time with her dog-grandparents in Wisconsin – we weren’t sure how a move all the way to Alaska would affect her. The kids have never known a house without a dog. And obviously, having a dog in some way meant something to them. . . so we went to the shelter.

We came home with Mya, a pitt mix with a lovable personality, that had sadly been roughed up by the other dogs in her former home. You could see relatively new scars where she had been scratched and bitten, and she was energetic, to a fault. The poor thing really did need a loving home and some exercise and discipline. So, she became mine.

Our dog Mya

Mya is extremely strong, so I needed a little help training her to walk and obey. A neighbor gave me a pinch training collar and blessed me immensely by showing me how to safely use it to curb Mya’s pulling and teach her that I’m in charge. It was a real necessity in the beginning, but now, after consistent training, she walks and obeys without it for the most part. We got a yard and park training collar for her as well – it shocks if she needs a serious reminder like if she tries to dart out in front of a truck or jump on a child, but mostly, all Mya needs to hear are the positive and negative tones of the collar and she remembers what she ought to and ought not to do. I spend a lot of time training her to obey, and all of our neighbors remark at what a different dog she is now than when we first brought her home from the shelter.

The kids (now 3 and 5 1/2) assist with feeding and watering Mya and they love to pet, love, and play with her. Sometimes, they accompany us on walks, but Mya and I are pretty brisk walkers, so sometimes I walk Mya in laps around the park while the children play. Even though Mya is all muscle, she is very gentle with the children, and I am so happy for it.

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In the past 10 months, Mya has come a long way from the neglected and super-hyper puppy that we adopted into a gentle, silly, and loving canine part of our family. It’s hard to imagine what kind of life our sweet dog would have if we had not decided to give her a second chance in our home. I’ll get on a soap box for a second and say that I agree wholeheartedly with Bob Barker: “please spay and neuter your pets!” because there are SO MANY unloved and unwanted pets in shelters all over the world that wouldn’t have been there if their parents had been spayed and neutered.

10426576_10103742821662281_4687028894505643436_nSome would wonder why I “gave in” to the pleas of the children and got “another dog” to take care of when I could have just stayed dog-less and avoided the cost, stress, cleaning (can you say shedding?), and extra responsibility that comes with being a dog owner. My answer to that question is that it’s not a dog or cat’s fault that they’ve come into the world. It’s not fair for them to be mistreated or to live in a shelter (no matter how humane). Abandoned, neglected, and abused pets don’t deserve to waste away with no one to love and discipline them. If I can help one have a comfortable and useful life, I will. In our married life, Hubs and I have fostered 2 puppies that we found on the street, and fully adopted 2 dogs that bring love, energy, joy and a sense of discipline and responsibility to our home.

So, I guess the kiddos were right when they said in their way-too-grown-up-tone: “But mommy: Our house is not our house without a dog.” Both Mya and Raven have challenged us to give attention, love, and discipline to something other than ourselves – and I think that in a nutshell, that’s a main positive of having a pet.

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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!

Wordless Wednesday

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Wordless Wednesday: Goofy Guy

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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: a Potty Victory and a Lazy Morning

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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.

Crock Pot Lasagna

I love lasagna, but the frozen varieties aren’t quite delicious or nutritious enough for my taste, and I have been trying lately to curb our consumption of processed or ready made foods as much as possible.

But every time I made homemade lasagna in the oven, I found it dry when it was fully cooked. I thought I would have to choose between processed foods or dry lasagna. . . until I found out that I could cook lasagna in the crock pot. It’s genius, I tell you!

I started out by taking a veggie crock pot lasagna, and I substituted some of the veggies for ground meat and increased the overall sauce portion. My recipe works really well, but the lasagna is a little less sturdy than oven-cooked lasagnas. It is super moist, flavorful, and delicious, though, and definitely worth a try! My favorite part is that it is chock full of vegetables, but doesn’t really taste like it – so it truly is a family friendly one pot meal!

amywilla.com: Crock Pot Lasagna

IMG_5288IMG_5283The Recipe

  • 1 zucchini chopped
  • 1 handful spinach leaves, chopped
  • 2 leaves of kale, chopped
  • Mushrooms finely diced (optional)Finely diced garlic (optional)
  • 1 lb ground beef (browned)
  • 8 oz ricotta cheese (I make my own, but store bought works too!)
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes (with juice)
  • 1 egg
  • Basil (to your preference)
  • 4 cups tomato sauce
  • 1/2 package traditional Lasagna noodles (not oven ready)
  • 3/4 lb shredded mozzarella cheese

In a medium sized bowl, mix ricotta cheese, and finely chopped kale and spinach together. Mix in your preferred amount of basil

In a large mixing bowl, mix tomato sauce, chopped tomatoes, and cooked ground beef with the chopped zucchini (and garlic if you choose to add it).

Spray your crock pot with cooking spray, and spread one smooth layer of pasta sauce mixture in the bottom. Lay uncooked lasagna noodles on the sauce mixture, and then layer the ricotta cheese mixture and lastly the mozzarella cheese. Repeat this layering twice, and then repeat the sauce-noodles part of the layering, ending with the remainder of the sauce and the rest of the mozzarella cheese.

Cover, set your crock pot on high for 4 hours, and set it and forget it! In 3-4 hours, you will have a bubbly, delicious italian entree to serve. No worrying about oven temperature, or whether your lasagna will be too dry (or burn, for heavens’ sake!) Just yummy delicious fall apart and melt in your mouth lasagna chock full of a great balance of protein, dairy, carbohydrates, and vegetables.

IMG_5290What an easy and great family meal. It’s truly one of my favorites, and I’m so happy to share it with you!