10.20.2014

Around The House

There's not a whole lot happening around here.  Just little bits of life here and there.  But my pictures were starting to stack up, so I thought I'd jumble all the little bits together for a post.

Homeschool


Right now we are waist deep, teaching the basics of reading with Saxon Phonics & Spelling.  I love the curriculum, which walks me through everything, step by step.  It makes me feel really confident, and it's working with the boys.  They have passed every assessment thus far.

One thing I am wishing is that we made more time for reading one on one.  Throughout the day, I find time slipping through my fingers, and making more time for working on fluency is one thing that's on my radar.

We have been doing lots of Pinterest-inspired Halloween craft ideas.  I love these spooky haunted houses that we hung in the hallway upstairs.

 I also love how this one turned out.  
Little leaf hands. 
So precious!

The most challenging part of homeschooling is entertaining Wyatt during our intensive teaching time.  He is proving to be the most difficult aspect of homeschooling.  Which is not to say that he's difficult-- he' s not.  It's just that every time he comes to the kitchen table (where we do the majority of our schooling) with a toy he needs help with, or to ask me to go to the bathroom, he provides a perfect distraction to get the other two off track.  

Sometimes I try to keep him at the table with us, playing sand or doing puzzles, but he is equally distracting there, copying everything I say, or singing Crazy Train to drive his brothers batty.  It's tough. 

My Mini Me

Jack is a little Shelly.  He loves to color, talk on the phone and play with his stuffed animal babies.  Last week, I spent some time writing letters to friends, and he sat beside me at my desk, writing letters of his own, guessing how to spell, and including as many stickers as he could fit on the cards & envelopes.  His favorite part is the address labels.  He really is a kid after my own heart!

The Toddler

This little guys loves vehicles, especially fire trucks, police cars & buses.  He insists that he's "not a baby! I'm a big boy!", but still asks to be rocked occasionally.  He can make the saddest hurt face, and the next minute throw the most epic tantrum.  I love the dichotomy of this age, (he'll be three and a half in December) and am certain it's God's grace extended to mothers.

At this age they are equal parts big kid & sweet baby.  I think that mix allows us to cherish the last bits of their babydom while also facing (and often enjoying) their amazing maturity.


Reading

You can barely see it here, but Wyatt is holding my book-- The Night Circus.  I finished it last week, and am now halfway through my October goal of reading four books.


*

Last weekend we watched Divergent, so now I want to read that series as well.  
Hopefully I can get to it.

Right after The Night Circus I started Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn.

The timing of this book was really good.  I have been struggling with enjoying my boys (which is especially frustrating considering my Happiness Project goal this month is to "play") and I know they are receiving the message that I don't find joy in them, which couldn't be further from the truth.

In addition to being semi-annoyed with them constantly, I completely lost it last week when Logan wasn't listening and instead of helping clean, he was doing ninja kicks in the living room and kicked my giant water cup over, spilling it all over the coffee table, ruining a stack of pictures Jack had drawn me as well as this mini-book I had bought to send to my bestie.

I knew it was an accident, but I was so upset about the ruined book & pictures, I couldn't help yelling at him and berating him.  Later, of course, I felt awful and childish for being so angry.

... Like I said, good timing for the parenting unconditionally book!

 Routines

Our afternoons consist of an hour of what we call "Crazy Time" where the boys get to play ball or run or chase or wrestle all they want, followed by snack time at 3pm, and two episodes of Arthur, which is their current favorite in the PBS lineup.

Sometimes before, sometimes after dinner, we do bath time.  We bathe all three boys separately, which can be annoying timewise, but in the end is nice because they get their own space, and also get a little parental one on one time, which is rare in our house.

For a while, Wyatt and the twins were on opposite bathing schedules, so they bathed one day, and he bathed the next.  Every night he would be so sad that he didn't get a bath.  When we put him in he goes, "Ahhhhh, that feels nice." It's so rewarding to have a kid who appreciates the little joys in life, like a warm, bubbly bath.

Missing Home

October, strangely, is the hardest month for me in terms of being away from home (Washington).  I hate missing out on the leaves changing colors, hay rides at the pumpkin patch and trick or treating with my sister and nephews.

It's weird that Halloween is my saddest holiday, and not Christmas or my birthday, but I think we've found ways to make those other days special despite our isolation.  Halloween, on the other hand, is tough.  We don't get to carve pumpkins, attend harvest parties or walk by the waterfront, awed by the stunning oranges.

This year I am focused on what we can do.  We can ask Nanny *my mom* to shop for costumes, sending the perfect outfits for these three excited boys.  We can decorate our house to the nines (courtesy of three years of amazing Halloween care packages from Aunt Julie), with bats & ghosts & spiders to spare.  We can paint the mini pumpkins Grandma Carol sends and decorate with those jack-o-lanterns, even if they don't light up.  And we can attend the Halloween Carnival at the school, ready for a great time, and grateful that at least we have that.

Rural Alaska + Three Boys

This change in weather, it's been snowing lightly off & on for days, has been hard for my morale.  The boys and I are stuck inside together, with temps below thirty and wind that's been a bit wild.  This is how I came up with "Crazy Time" and why I am looking into getting Just Dance for the xbox.  This energy has to find its way out of their bodies one way or another, and I'd rather it be constructively with me in charge than destructively with each other.

We've also been building lots of forts, which equals lots of folding.  It's exhausting, and some days I put the kibosh on forts, but for the most part I try to say yes because it's fun for them, and what else are they going to do?

Memory Books 

Another thing I've pulled out, in addition to blankets for forts & balls for "Crazy Time", are memory books.  These are the epitome of happiness boosters.  The boys love curling up with one, or six, and flipping through the pages, remembering how tiny they were as babies, or how brave they were in the ape caves this summer.

Playtime

Often in the afternoon we have Independent Play Time, where each boy picks a box of toys and goes into seaparate areas of the house to play independently while mama has a break.  Some days they are more successful than others.  This particular day, the twins did a great job playing in my room & their room (respectively) and this one played contentedly in the playroom.

He called to me repeatedly to come see him saying, "Betcha can't see me!" until finally I arrived.  And there he was, sitting in the emptied Lego tote.

He is just so funny.
After I left the room, he promptly tipped over and fell out.  Laughing the whole time.

These two also (at times) entertain me (and themselves) with their play.  This day they were being welders after watching Otto welding a semi truck trailer on Alaska: The Last Frontier.

Little did they know that welding is in their blood.  Josh's dad, Papa Carl, can weld, & their great Uncle Paul repairs welding machines.  And their great grandfather Jay Cunningham? He taught welding at the college in Moses Lake, Washington where their dad was born.

Using the lid to one of their toolboxes and an old rubber band, they macguyvered a welding helmet, to protect their eyes of course, so they could work safely.

I am certain a large part of their inspiration for play comes from watching Yukon Men, Gold Rush and Alaska: The Last Frontier on Discovery.  They will pick any of those three shows over a kids' cartoon every day of the week.  I love it. This is our life. Cold weather & snow, rural living and working hard.  I love how they have embraced it.

Last week they also made a new engine for their "car" (Josh's recliner) using the toolbox they have that allows them to screw bolts on it.  Once they got it in place, Logan started sucking on a pretend line to siphon the coolant out of the motor.  Then Jack brought gas (it was out) and they "got her running."  

Counting Down

We have been counting down the days to Halloween pretty much since we got here, but it started in earnest on the 1st, when we could finally set up our October calendar from Aunt Julie.  Each day has a little magnet, (the boys alternate days, sharing the fun) and it makes the countdown so much fun.

We've also been reading Halloween books, most notably Junie B. First Graders' Boo and I Mean It!  She is so hilarious. The boys and I both enjoy reading her books very much.

{Fall 2014}
{Fall 2011}
We also tried on old costumes (my, how they've grown), and excitedly opened boxes full of new ones.  

I can't wait to take pictures of the three of them in their costumes this year. 

Wyatt's especially cracks me up!

Rural Life

The other night I went to wash my face before bed, only to find that we had no water. Thankfully we have water storage (in the form of totes, drinkable bottled water, and the Brita filter in the fridge) but it freaked me out anyway, and as soon as it came back on I filled three extra pitchers, just in case.


Another truth about life in rural Alaska is that when something like this happens (Saturday Social + Jack + Volleyball = broken glasses) it requires much more than a quick trip to the eye doctor to fix it.  I have to send them off, which will take a week, wait while they repair them and send them back (which will be at least another week) and then *hopefully* Jack will be able to see again.  The amount of time it takes to accomplish some things out here is astonishing. (And irritating!)

But if we're patient, good things will come!  Like groceries!  Oh we were so happy last Wednesday when our giant box of macaroni & cheese showed up.  Easy meals, here we come!

We were even more overjoyed to have cheese!!!  We haven't had cheese in weeks!  (Thank you Samuel!)


 In addition to waiting for things we want or need (like fixed glasses & food for the children) I also have to do a lot of things on my own.  Like giving the kids their haircuts.  I am getting pretty quick, and (I say humbly) pretty good  at giving haircuts. They are never perfect, and I find Wyatt's hair is more forgiving of my inexperience than the twins' straw straight blond, but they look cared for and fresh, and that's all I'm looking for.  I also do Josh's, and (thankfully) he doesn't complain.

The Gear

This year we had to buy new gear for Jack and new boots for Logan.  The twins have always been a size apart, and when it comes to buying gear (snow pants, coats & boots) it's quite convenient.  Logan wears whatever Jack outgrows and then Wyatt has worked his way through the sizes as he has grown.

Regardless of how much I can pass down, originally getting good gear is expensive!  But we have learned the hard way that paying for brand names is worth the price.  We've had snow gloves and boots that weren't waterproof, as well as snow pants (instead of overalls) that lead to wet bodies.  Out here you live and learn quick.

For the kids we do snow pants in the overall variety because if their jackets ride up, their under clothes still stay warm & dry.  We buy Sorel boots for snow, Muck boots for mud and either Lands End, LL Bean or Northface jackets for outerwear.  We don't buy any coats that aren't temperature rated, waterproof and windproof.  Jack's newest jacket is rated for -5 degrees below zero. 

Children's snow gloves are hands down the hardest thing to find.  Mittens are easier, but the boys like their fingers to have dexterity.  It's a challenge.  Now that they're bigger it's easier, but ages 3-5, it's really hard.

The Arctic Entry

Finding all that amazing gear is only one part of the challenge.  The second is storing it in some manner that makes sense and provides ease of use for Josh and I when gearing up our three rambunctious boys.  I have been brainstorming a space in the arctic entry for hats & mittens.   They don't hang on the hooks we have, and I hate having them on the floor.  It's a nightmare.

I'm hoping to find something on Target.com, a shelf or basket that will work, hung right above the hooks.  I better figure something out soon cause the snow is coming down!


Photo Finish

After organizing the arctic entry, I hung new pictures, from the summer, downstairs in all the frames.  The new memories make me so happy.  These are just a few-- (clockwise from the left) The boys at the beach, cousins at Cougar, cousins at t-ball practice, Jack fishing, Wyatt teaching Great Grandpa Jerry how to play Angry Birds on the tablet, and the twins with their Aunt Roxanne.

The Boys Room

 Two weeks ago we finally finished redecorating the boys' room from when we moved furniture back in August.  I am so happy with how it turned out.  I love the boys' picture boards (seen above, beside Wyatt's bed) and they enjoyed picking new memories to hang on them.  

My favorite part of the room is this corner--  I love how it turned out.  I love all the happy yellow, the cozy blanket & fluffy pillow, as well as the "You are my sunshine" art.  ($12 at Walmart this summer!)

The boys' favorite part is having new pictures from recent adventures on their picture boards as well as having their own art work displayed in the room.  I am also in love with their adorable owl humidifier-- a must in Alaska!

A lot of people wonder how it works having all three of them in the same room, but we have found that it works for us.  It streamlines bedtime, allowing us to read stories & tuck them all in at the same time; and it allows us to use the third bedroom (downstairs) as a playroom, which means there are no toys in their room, which is very important to me.  

***

Well I am off to bed.
Those boys are going to wake up raring to go,
and I'd better be prepared.

10.14.2014

Peaceful Parenting

YELLING:

I have been working on not yelling for days!  
I made it five days the first week, 
six days the next week. 
Hopefully I can do 7 days this week.

There are a few sayings that help me with not yelling:
- This is not an emergency.
- Each day is a fresh start.
- A moment of patience in a moment of anger saves you a hundred moments of regret.

TIME:

"The hurry makes us hurt."
It's hard for me to remember to slow down.
It's hard for me to let them linger.
It's hard for me to linger.

But when I see other parents rushing their kids, forcing them to move faster and for no good reason, I am inspired again to try and let them be little and go at their own pace.

"Wherever you are, be all there."
  Being present helps get rid of anxiety.
It allows me to take this parenting challenge one day at a time.
And most of all, really being there is conducive to good parenting.

SELF PARENT:

"You are always responsible for how you act, 
no matter how you feel.  
Remember that."
-unknown

I must self-parent first.  Before I can teach my children to control their emotions, I first must learn to control mine.  It's not an easy task, but one that I must continually work toward.  

"These six kids lean hard into me all day to teach and raise and lead and I fail hard and there are real souls that are at stake and how long do I really have to figure out how to live full of grace, full of joy- before these six beautiful children fly the coop and my mothering days fold up quiet?"
-Ann Voskamp

{One afternoon he just tipped over and fell asleep}

UGLY BEAUTIFUL:

These days with my boys are fleeting.  They feel like forever, when they are truly only the blink of an eye.  I enjoy the challenge of finding the "ugly beautiful" in my life with them.  Hand prints on mirrors,  lego creations on the kitchen table, and matchbox cars found in the oddest of places-- my bed, the silverware drawer, the drying rack.  Those little reminders of these blessings in my life put a smile on my face and make peaceful parenting just a touch easier.

*

And lastly, my new favorite:
"They will fall asleep on you after a long day
and it will be the last time you ever hold your sleeping child.
One day you will carry them on your hip,
then set them down.
And never pick them up that way again."

When I have the presence of mind to remember these beautiful truths, reading one more story is easier.  Helping resolve a conflict between brothers is easier.  And keeping my temper in check is easier.


*

10.13.2014

Up with Teachers

In honor of my husband, I want to give my personal shout out to teachers everywhere.  Teachers take so much crap, so much blame and so much responsibility for many things outside their control.  

Only rarely do I turn on the news and hear something positive being said about these people who spend their days training up the next generation of thinkers, bankers, parents & politicians.  

So I personally want to thank each and every teacher.  Thank you for caring, for listening, for working.  Thank you for every weekend and evening of personal time you spend, grading, preparing, lesson planning.  Thank you for laughing, for hugging and for crying.  Your heart is in it, and we can tell.

"Education is the most powerful weapon for changing the world."
-Nelson Mandela

***

10.12.2014

Playing Out

It would seem our sunny days spent playing out in only our jackets are over.  The snow began yesterday morning and hasn't quit yet.  So glad that we took advantage of all those gorgeous days the last two months and got outside everyday!






10.11.2014

Wyatt These Days

Wyatt is my sweetheart.  He always has been.  But lately I find myself cherishing him even more than usual.  When he hugs me... When he spontaneously says, "Love you, mom"... When he tells me I did good kindness...  He just melts me.  Whatever he feels, I feel times ten.

Three nights ago he had a nightmare.  I awoke with Logan by my bedside telling me Wyatt was in his bed crying and calling for me.  When I went in, Wyatt still seemed half asleep, so I just hugged him and laid with him until he fell asleep.

The next night I was tucking the twins in after stories and Wyatt kept interrupting me, telling me he wanted his Ten Timid Ghosts book in his bed.  When I finally got over to tuck him in, I realized I had misheard him, and he did NOT want the Ten Timid Ghosts book in his bed, near his bed, or even in his room.  He told me to take it downstairs.  I assured him I would and when I asked him why, he said it was because ghosts are scary.  We talked over what's real and what's pretend and he seemed better, although I took the book downstairs anyway, just to be safe.

I decided that night to rock him and as I rocked him, I sang, as I always do, with my eyes closed.  When I opened my eyes at the end of the song and looked down at Wyatt's sweet face, I saw that he had tears in his eyes, and his lip was in the biggest sad-pout I had ever seen.  I asked him if he was going to cry, and he just burst into tears.

After nearly ten minutes of crying hysterically, he finally calmed down enough to talk.  Then we had a chance to discuss his bad dream.  He told me that he dreamed he was at a haunted house and he went down a fire-slide and burned his feet off.  I thought I was going to cry as he told me about it,  clutching at me and sobbing in fear.
I let him get all his emotions out, cradling him close, then I assured him that I was here, and Daddy was here, and his brothers were here, and in addition to all of us, God is here, keeping us safe.  Then I went over, again, what is real and what is pretend.  But, oh, how my heart was breaking for him.  His fear was so real, so visceral.  

Thankfully in the two nights since, he's had no nightmares, no bouts of crying and no mention of scary things (Halloween related or otherwise).  I'm so grateful that I get to be the one who is his soft place to land. That he knows he can share those things with me.

I hope that's always the case.