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

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?

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.

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!

Friday Focus: Love and Discipline

www.amywilla.com: Busy Mom

These two can keep a mama busy and create some stress! Self-control is so important in parenting with love and respect.

I often get questions from personal friends and from online followers on why (and how) we choose not to punish by spanking. I will be totally honest and say that both my husband and I have failed in this and have laid hurtful hands on the kids in moments of weakness and helpless anger. But mostly, if we feel angry and unable to handle things calmly, we try to take a parent time out util we can deal with the problem and/or behavior with calm and consistency with our house rules.

Modeling and consistency are key.  Discipline is showing a child the way to live. They’re following in our footsteps. So, spanking makes absolutely no sense. It’s telling a child, “I don’t like what you did, and I’m bigger than you, so I can exert my power over you and hit you” it also says “you’re bad!” to the child. So I try not to do it. I don’t want to create more stress in hour house than there already is!

 

Modeling and Consistency

www.amywilla.com: Compassionate Time-Outs

I usually carefully police my OWN behavior in order to make sure that I am showing my babies the kind of person I want them to look up to. I do use time outs, but only when one of the kids really needs a break from the situation at hand – and the time outs are not punishments, they are time to stop and think about the rule that they are disregarding. So, I sit WITH them, we watch the clock, and take deep breaths for one minute (or three minutes, sometimes, for Abbey). Then we recite the rule that the child broke, talk about what happened to lead to the destructive or disrespectful behavior, and think of something we can do differently next time.

Time outs aren’t shame-based when they’re used with compassion. . . and they’re not useless when used with consistency and presence. It helps the child think about what they’re doing and the actions that they’re taking. And lets them know that mommy (or daddy) cares about them. Responding with sensitivity can be so useful in consistently supporting house rules and respectful behavior without shaming.

In Their Shoes

Of course, this example uses breastfeeding as an example for an adult to get “in children’s shoes” . . . the topic is so central in my life as a LLL Leader and student of Public Health. So, here we go: lets get into a situation in which we are upset and someone is trying to change our behavior with words.

Suppose you are a mom (or maybe you are a mom) who tried awfully hard to breastfeed, but ended up weaning from the breast early and using formula. Would you feel empowered to try again if someone said “shame on you for not making it work the first time! You need to be punished for the way you behaved! Babies deserve breastmilk! What’s wrong with you!?” or if someone said instead, “I’m sorry it didn’t work out the first time. That must make you feel sad. I can help you try again. We can talk about this, and next time you try, I know you can succeed!”

I’m pretty sure that in both of the situations above, you would prefer the gentle, supportive, sensitive approach. It’s human to be self-preserving, and being yelled at or shamed is scary. We respond better to positive language and perform tasks (including learning how to calm down when upset) better when positive, supportive language is used.

Obviously, we as adults don’t want to be shamed and ridiculed for our behaviors – It feels awful, even just thinking about it, doesn’t it!? So why would we want to put that same heavy, awful feeling on our little ones?

Do you try to parent with compassion?

What do you think your discipline tactics say to your child?

Mamatography January 2014

www.amywilla.com: January 2014

This New Year has been rainy, cold, and foggy (with a little snow and LOTS of ice) for our new home in Kodiak, AK. We have done some playing outside in the elements, but mostly, we find ways to have fun inside. Playing ball inside and learning how to use the computer have been frequent activities (gentle, Joe!)

www.amywilla.com: Mamatography January 2014
We also all got sick after the New Year. It was an awful stomach bug, but thankfully we are all well now. Abbey and Joe have been having fun playing together, building and playing pretend. And when Abbey is at preschool, Joe likes to relax in her new “princess bed” and hang out with mommy (this last photo is from a mommy-Joe date at the base pizza parlor). He is growing SO FAST. He will be 3 in April. Where does the time go!? www.amywilla.com: Mamatography January 2014

I have also made my first steps into preserving food. Pictured is pressure canned vegetables and chicken broth, hopefully to help make chicken gnocchi soup more easily. We’ll see!

Fit Mama: Figuring out Exercise Again

So, it’s been a while since I could call myself “fit”

Healthy? yes. But fit? Not so much.

Why I love Working Out:

  • I love the endorphin release after exercising – so I mostly work out first thing in the morning.
  • Working out sets up my day in a positive way
  • I have more energy
  • I’m proud of myself for doing something GOOD for me
  • I know I’m setting a good example for my kids – showing them that fitness is fun!

What I’m Working On, Workout Wise:

When we were stationed in Maine/New Hampshire, I had the amazing blessing of a local YMCA with a KidsZone day care area. This particular KidsZone was staffed with ladies that I came to know well, and trusted with the care of my children, and my children loved playing there! So, I had the opportunity to have a full, relaxed workout for at least an hour if not an hour and a half. I would shower, and then pick up the kids and we’d start our day!

Here on Kodiak Island, AK, that is not the case. I have been struggling with the lack of a gym with a day care. Finally, I decided, my environment could not dictate my activity level, because putting myself first with regard to what I need to feel good was something that I needed to do to survive here. I thrive on stability in exercise, whether or not I am trying to lose weight.  Exercise just makes me feel good, and its something that I need to do to be balanced and healthy.

For now, I am working on keeping to my schedule and making sure that I am exercising my body 6 days a week, like I used to. The biggest challenge for me has been exercising with the kids around. They distract me so much. But, I’m working on it!

 

Workout Schedule: Figuring Out Exercise Again

How do you feel about fitness?

 Is it something that you work into your daily routine?

 

How do you balance family and fitness?

 

Fume all about it . . . or not. Researching Anger to Deal with Stress

5085242776_454151d7eb_b*Uuuuuuuuuggggghhhhh*

Do you know the feeling?

There are many times a day in which I feel overwhelmed with a sense of annoyance. Sometimes it escalates to genuine anger, and I’ve been trying to do some meditation, prayer, and research on how to alleviate that feeling, while still acknowledging the reasons that I’m feeling stressed. I used to have real issues with anxiety, so I know that paying attention to my feelings, physical and emotional, and seeking information about how to manage them healthfully, is important in being able to overcome emotional barriers in my life.

In my introspection and research, I’ve found that it is not usually worth it to fume over things. Apparently, I used to fume quite often. . . hoping that “making a scene” would encourage those annoying me to come to my aide and apologize or offer help. I have found through introspection and experience that not only does this not work. . . but it really just makes things worse. When anger is “suppressed, and then converted or redirected,” it can easily end up “turned inward, and can cause hypertension, high blood pressure, or depression” 1

The American Psychological Association explains that the three main approaches of dealing with anger are “expressing, suppressing, and calming” 2. Calming is the most effective and healthiest option, because expressing and suppressing anger can cause emotional, physical, and social health issues if used exclusively, and without self-observation and self-control.

I find that I personally use the first two methods (expression and suppression), and only a small amount of calming. Usually, I do some expressing of my anger, and then I think of something positive to distract myself and remember that “it’s not that bad” and “this too shall pass.” I’ll call a trusted friend, or one of my parents, and talk about what has frustrated me. Sometimes, I’ll talk to whoever is around about it. This tends to be the kids, so I’m not sure if that is good or bad. Maybe I am modeling a positive anger management technique for them. . . as long as I keep my words loving and not too full of candor!

Sometimes, if I have a moment to do so, I pray. I ask God to lift the feelings of anger from my heart and that I can use the energy I would direct toward being angry to accomplish acts of love instead. Sometimes, I put on the Indie Singer/Songwriter station or Christian Rock station on Pandora (if one of the two are not already on). Those genres of music really tend to calm me down.

What I definitely want to avoid is to develop a personality that seems perpetually cynical and hostile. This can happen when someone suppresses anger, without calming down in the moment, and then ends up “constantly putting others down, criticizing everything, and making cynical comments.” 3

So, what helps?

After doing my introspection and research into anger, I have constructed this plan of action to soothe and calm my anger in moments of *uuuuuuugggggggghhhh* . . .

  • Fuming doesn’t help. Expressing my anger in a harmless way, like venting to a trusted friend or praying can be beneficial in helping me calm down initially. But obsessing over the moment or issue that has made me angry creates an environment in which letting go of the negative aspects of anger is impossible. So, I’ve decided that I’m only allowing myself one expression of anger per anger-inducing moment. I won’t allow myself to fume over it.
  • Calming my body by breathing can be very helpful. Physiologically calming ones body by breathing deeply and slowly, picturing air flowing into the gut and out, can really help in calming down anger.
  • Calming mantras and meditation can be effective in treating anger as it happens, and to prevent anger from affecting me. One of my favorites is using water imagery and a water-inspired mantra that was introduced to me by a fellow blogger and natural parent.

AmyWilla.com: Researching Anger to Deal with Stress

What do you find effective in dealing with anger and stress?

Do you find that researching and taking action to understand something helps you to cope?

Tell me in the comments!

 

 

 

  1. American Psychology Association. Controlling Anger-Before it Controls You. http://www.apa.org/topics/anger/control.aspx?item=2#
  2. American Psychology Association. Controlling Anger-Before it Controls You. http://www.apa.org/topics/anger/control.aspx?item=2#
  3. American Psychology Association. Controlling Anger-Before it Controls You. http://www.apa.org/topics/anger/control.aspx?item=2#

Finding Priorities in Changing Environments

Welcome to the January 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: The More Things Stay the Same

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 the continuity and constancy in their lives. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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IMG_5117As a military family, we are not strangers to change.  Orders change, duty stations change, daddy leaves, daddy comes home. Mommy’s happy; mommy’s overwhelmed. Change is just a part of our lives and we have adapted to it as our family grows.

But this Christmas, 6 months after our big PCS move from Kittery, Maine to Kodiak Island, AK, I noticed just how much an environmental change had impacted our family dynamic, and the truth was startling. It would seem insignificant to someone in the lower 48 states, but we are totally limited to the food, activities, and events that occur ON Kodiak Island, AK.

Family Changes

When we watch TV, we see commercials for places, restaurants, and activities that occur all over that State of Alaska (which is BIG, if you’re not familiar). But unlike Alaskans that live on the Mainland of AK who can reach these different places by land, we say to one another, “well, we can’t even drive there” or “wouldn’t Pizza Hut be yummy? Too bad we’re here on the island.”

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You see, the only ways off of Kodiak Island are a 9 hour + ferry ride, or a plane ride to Anchorage. And plane rides aren’t cheap for a family of four. Through our military base, we can take a Space-A flight on one of the Coast Guard planes to Anchorage for a day trip once a year (or more times, if we put our names on the list and wait for availability) – and we do plan on doing that in the Spring. But it’s a huge change from anywhere else in the United States in that I can’t say “I need to run to target” or “Let’s go to the mall and walk around.” This is so different for us and for our Silly Bears, because driving to the mall to walk around and visit the play place on a rainy day was commonplace, and we enjoyed going to Target and Joann’s Crafts and all the restaurants that just aren’t available here. . . the kids would look forward to earning a special eating-out trip, as long as they didn’t accumulate three strikes for unruly behavior during the week. Their favorites: The Grapes and Chocolate Spagetti Store (Olive Garden) and the good ol’ House of Mouse (Chuck-e-Cheese’s). Neither of which is available here on the island (and if anybody on Kodiak is reading this, wouldn’t a Chuck-e-Cheese franchise here make BANK!? Just saying. . . )

Fitness Frustrations

The most impactful issue facing me regarding this change from mainland life to a secluded, limited island life is the issue of fitness. When we were in Maine, I had gotten into a really solid workout routine at the YMCA in the neighboring city to ours (a 20 minute drive at most) and 5-6 days a week, I would take the kids with me to the Y, and they would enjoy an hour and a half playing in the KidsZone child care center while I worked out, got a shower, and enjoyed some peaceful, mood-boosting exercise, un-hurried and unencumbered.  It was good for ALL of us. Kodiak Island has no YMCA, and no gym with childcare that I know of. I tried taking the kids to the “Parent Room” in the gym on base, but honestly, I hated it. I would’t get a good workout because I was constantly stopping to parent my kids. And by the end of however much time the kids allowed me to have, I was more stressed than before I went to go exercise.

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There’re more things that I tried to do in order to get exercise while mommy-ing my little Silly Bears here on Island. But the time that Abbey is at preschool (and Joe is home with me) is the best time for me to have work/college time, and at night, after the kids go to bed, is just not a productive time for me to exercise. I’m tired, and usually, I’m also facing deadlines for college or writing or sewing for my shop, so I use that night time for those tasks as well. Hiking and jogging outdoors is only feasible during a few months out of the year. Playing in the snow is fun exercise, but it seems like we get more icy rain than snow here (at least this Winter so far).

As a result of moving here and not having access to the community amenities (like the YMCA) that I had at our last mainland duty station, I’ve gained at least 5, if not 10 pounds, and most importantly, my mood and energy level has suffered as a result of not getting the exercise that I was accustomed to.

Changing – To Stay the Same

But it really is true – the more things change, the more they stay the same. Even facing a really frustrating situation and suddenly realizing the issues it was causing for me, I was still the determined, multi-faceted, creative thinking person that I’ve always been, and after telling my husband that I needed to have his support in creating a way for me to get exercise (preferably kid-less at least a couple days per week), I set out to make a plan to get it done. We’re a week into 2014, and I have been exercising consistently 5 days a week for the past 2 weeks. It feels SO GOOD. I missed it SO much. I’ll write more later on the ways I have achieved this.

I really don’t care how many pounds I lose, or the fact that exercising will make my clothes fit better again (of course, that will be nice for my self-esteem!). I care that I FEEL GOOD AGAIN. That’s always been a priority of mine, and it will continue to be.

I thrive on stability in exercise. I’ve definitely realized this as a result of our move here and the environmental change that took our normal “fun activities” out of the house off the table along with my beloved YMCA with a child care area.  I pretended for the first few months that island life wasn’t much different from life in the lower 48, but I’m not pretending anymore. It’s different here, and it’s vital to stay consistent in my priorities and adapt them to my environment in order to make sure that I, mommy, am feeling good.

Have you ever gotten out of a good habit as a result of a change in environment? How did you reconcile your needs and your new environment?

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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 January 14 with all the carnival links.)

  • The making of an artist — Some kids take longer than others to come into themselves, so you have to stick with them, as a parent, long after everyone else has given up, writes Douglas at Friendly Encounters.
  • Not Losing Yourself as a First Time Mom — Katie at All Natural Katie continues to stay true to herself after becoming a new mom.
  • Using Continuity to Help Change {Carnival of Natural Parenting} — Meegs from A New Day talks about how she is using continuity in certain areas of her life to help promote change and growth in others.
  • Staying the Same : Security — Life changes all the time with growing children but Mother Goutte realised that there are other ways to ‘stay the same’ and feel secure, maybe a bit too much so!
  • Harmony is What I’m AfterTribal Mama gushes about how constant change is really staying the same and staying the same brings powerful change.
  • A Primal Need For Order and Predictability – And How I Let That Go — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares how she overcame her primal need for order and predictability once her awareness shifted, opening her eyes to the impact this had on her young daughter. Take a short journey with Jennifer and she bares her soul, exposes her weaknesses and celebrates her new outlook and approach to living life, even in the face of total chaos.
  • Breastfeeding Before and After — Breastfeeding has come and gone, but Issa Waters at LoveLiveGrow finds that her relationship with her son is still just the same and just as good.
  • A Real Job — Back in high school That Mama Gretchen had a simple, but worthwhile career aspiration and today she is living her dream … is it what you think?
  • Comfortingsustainablemum never thought she would want things always being the same, but she explains why it is exactly what her family wants and needs.
  • The Other Mums’ and The Great IllusionMarija Smits reflects on the ‘great big magic show of life’ and wonders if it will continue to remain a constant in our lives.
  • Unschooling: Learning doesn’t change when a child turns four — Charlotte at Winegums & Watermelons talks about the pressure of home education when everyone else’s children are starting school.
  • Finding Priorities in Changing Environments — Moving from Maine to a rural Alaskan island for her husband’s military service, Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work found that keeping consistent with her priorities in changing environments can take some work, but is vital to continuous health and happiness.
  • Keeping it “Normal” — Kellie at Our Mindful Life has moved several times in the last two years, while doing her best to keep things stable for her kids.
  • The Evolution Of Our Homeschool Journey — Angela at Earth Mama’s World reflects on her homeschooling journey. Homeschooling is a constant in the life of her family but the way in which they learn has been an evolution.
  • Sneaking in Snuggles: Using Nurturing Touch with Older Children — When Dionna at Code Name: Mama’s son was a toddler and preschooler, he was the most loving, affectionate kiddo ever. But during the course of his 5th year, he drastically reduced how often he showed affection. Dionna shares how she is mindfully nurturing moments of affection with her son.
  • Steady State — Zoie at TouchstoneZ writes a letter to her partner about his constancy through the rough sailing of parenting.
  • A Love You Can Depend On — Over at True Confessions of a Real Mommy, Jennifer has a sweet little poem reminding us where unconditional love really lies, so it can remain a constant for us and our children.
  • Same S#!*, Different Day — Struggling against the medical current can certainly get exhausting, especially as the hunt for answers drags on like it has for Jorje of Momma Jorje.
  • New Year, Still Me — Mommy Bee at Little Green Giraffe writes about how a year of change helped her rediscover something inside herself that had been the same all along.
  • One Little Word for 2014 — Christy at Eco Journey In The Burbs has decided to focus on making things this year, which is what she is loves, as long as she doesn’t kill herself in the process.
  • The Beauty of Using Montessori Principles of Freedom and Consistency — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares the continuity of her teaching, parenting, and grandparenting philosophy using a combination of freedom and consistency.
  • My Husband’s MiniCrunchy Con Mom shares which of her sons looks more like her husband’s baby pictures — and the answer might surprise you!
  • Growth Happens When You Aren’t Looking — Lori at TEACH through Love is treasuring these fleeting moments of her daughter’s early adolescence by embracing the NOW.
  • A New Reality Now – Poem — As Luschka from Diary of a First Child struggles to come to terms with the loss of her mother, she shares a simple poem, at a loss for more words to say.
  • Making a family bedroom — Lauren at Hobo Mama has decided to be intentional about her family’s default cosleeping arrangements and find a way to keep everyone comfortable.
  • New Year, Same Constants — Ana at Panda & Ananaso takes a look at some of the things that will stay the same this year as a myriad of other changes come.
  • I Support You: Breastfeeding and Society — Despite how many strides we’ve taken to promote “breast is best,” Amy at Natural Parents Network talks about how far we still have to go to normalize breastfeeding in our society.

Colds, Christmas, and Christianity: Our December

IMG_4909Wow, this December has been a mad rush of Nutcracker ballet rehearsals, preschool parties and presentations, Christmas shopping, family outings, and all of us trying to overcome the yuck that has poured down upon us from a cold virus Hubs brought home from his specialty Coast Guard school in Virginia earlier in the month.

I mean, really: just call us the ill Willas. At this rate, we’ll still be using 6 boxes of tissues per week and filling humidors with water, salt, and Vicks vapo-pads long after Christmas has passed.

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Oh, yes, Christmas. The most wonderful time of the year. Actually, this year has been pretty low key for us, which is nice, considering Christmas really isn’t about presents or feasts or what Santa’s going to bring. . .

we’re finished with shopping for one another, the kids are appropriately jazzed for Santa’s visit, and in order to keep Christmas about Christ in our household, we have been doing weekly Advent Family Nights, led by a lovely book that my sis-in-law sent us in a care package, and I have included the birth of Jesus in every conversation that we have about Christmas, emphasizing that He is the best gift we could ever get, and I let Abbey tell me why.

IMG_4911Her responses are sometimes adorable

“because I get to color him pink on every picture I want”

“because he is GOD!”

and sometimes miss the mark

“um, because he’s such a cute little baby?”

But amid the fuss of rehearsals, the cloud of sickness, and our seclusion in a small town environment in rural island Alaska, we’re having a pretty great December.

If you and your family are Christian, tell me: How do you keep Christmas about Christ and downplay the commercialism? Do you have specific family traditions for giving, feeding the hungry, or serving others?

My friend and fellow Natural Parents Network author Laura has a wonderful tradition of bringing seasonal joy to families who have babies in the NICU in her town. And this post on The God Article really hits the nail on the head with reminders on avoiding Christmastime excesses that go against what we actually believe as Christ-followers.