Surprising February Awesomeness

You know how normally (in bush Alaska anyway) February drags on and on, somehow feeling more like 40 days than 28, making you wish the calendar skipped straight from January to March?

Well, this year's been different.  February wasn't all fireworks & sparkles, but darn it, it was a good month!  I worked out every single weekday in February.  Four straight weeks of working out, every morning, before my shower, without fail.  Added to the three weeks I did in January (I missed four days from being sick) and I've been working out for nearly two months.  I credit my emotional improvement to these daily workouts.  I have lost ten pounds since November (not a huge number, but pretty awesome considering I haven't changed my eating habits at all) and am feeling much stronger.  But the best part I discovered yesterday-- I had to run upstairs to get pajamas for the boys and when I reached the top I realized I wasn't out of breath. (Yes... sadly climbing the 16 stairs on our staircase used to leave me winded.)  It was the best feeling!

I also find that I am much less likely to nap in the afternoons or feel sleepy during school at the kitchen table with the boys.  This working out certainly has its perks!  

{For those wanting details, here's the lowdown on my workouts.  I bought a Leslie Sansone Walk At Home video that has 5 miles total.  Each mile has a different theme, like "Strength", "Core", and "Cardio".  I do one mile each morning while the boys eat cereal at the kitchen table.  It takes less than 15 minutes to do the entire workout.}


Also in February I rocked at making dinner for my family.  Every Sunday night I would meal plan for the week ahead, and Monday through Thursday I would make a sit-down family dinner for my beloveds.  Friday we do something simple for the boys (nuggets or corn dogs) as we have date night (with pizza!!!) once they are in bed.  Saturday the boys get their pizza for family movie night and Josh & I eat through any leftovers in the fridge.  Sunday Josh tends to make dinner, bless his heart.  So four days a week, I'm on, and this month, I nailed it.

I was thinking about this, about my following through on working out and following through on making dinner, and I realized that I am disciplined. I never really thought of myself as disciplined.  But when I made the connection that feeding my family a healthy meal, where we sit down together, brought me happiness and a sense of contentment every evening, I committed fully to making that happen, every.single.day.  

And when I realized that working out made me feel better (body, mind & soul) and would help me defeat my demons (anxiety & depression), I committed fully to making that happen, every.single.day.  It feels so good to be back in my groove, feeling excited to face the day and ready to tackle any challenge I come upon.

In March I hope to continue these two goals and add to it a little more time spent reading.



Thoughts & Playing Out

We've been housebound for weeks now, so when the opportunity presented itself to go outside, out we went!

It's amazing how even twenty minutes outside can make the day seem better, shorter.  And the kids more manageable.


I've been a bit quiet on here. It's hard for me to sit still and focus when I'm feeling anxious. And I've been quite anxious as of late.  Lots of thoughts.  Thoughts of those babies I lost, thoughts of the babies I'm raising, thoughts of homeschooling, thoughts of next year, and thoughts of the distant future...

For now I have reached acceptance with the miscarriages.  A touch of sadness still, at the loss, and the thought that I won't have a squishy new bundle to tote around this summer... but still, acceptance.  I trust God.  I trust that he wants what's best for me, and for some reason, that doesn't include another baby right now.

For the three I am still here raising, loving & hugging everyday, I am feeling content.  Our days are good.  We have a steady routine, a nice rhythm, and I am calm.  I haven't yelled or lost my temper in ages.  It feels so good to fall asleep each night knowing I have filled their love tanks completely.  We enjoy each other, and that makes me happy.

Homeschooling is going really well.  We're halfway through the year, and I feel good about the progress we've made.  They are reading and doing math confidently.  They have tested well and are excited to learn new things.  They love reading aloud, chapter books especially, together on the couch, or on the rug in the playroom after calendar time.  My heart sings to think of them loving books the way I do.  
Wyatt has improved his ability to self entertain, and most days he sets off for the playroom while we settle in for our lessons at the kitchen table, and we don't hear from him again until school is done.  The only trouble with homeschool is that I don't ever feel like I'm doing enough.  I recently ordered a history book, so I am excited to add that to our days, and I also know the boys would love more science, specifically experiments.  I have to remind myself that I can only do what I can do, and there is time for everything else that is to come.

My thoughts of next year flip violently from excited to scared.  Josh got his contract for the 2015-2016 school year, and we have committed to it.  We will be back in Marshall for a fifth year.  Part of me is excited-- financially it will be really good for us to come back, to pay down our debt as planned, and for Josh to gain even more experience.  But another part of me is scared.  The last two years have been challenging for me personally.  Depression and anxiety have colored my experience out here, and it's tempting to think that if I were somewhere else, I would feel differently.  But I know that's not true.  I have had panic attacks in Vancouver. In Anchorage.  It doesn't matter if I'm in the village or in the city.  My mental health is what it is.  
So I am working to believe that God will see me through, and that the sacrifices I make out here for the rest of this year and for next year, will be worth it.  I can do hard things.  

...And honestly, I think this year would have been really good (mentally) if it hadn't been for the two miscarriages.  That gives me hope for next year.

 Thoughts of the distant future are what keep me going.  I know that someday I will look back on our time in Marshall and miss it.  I will miss having family dinner every single night.  I will miss our religious Friday date nights, our family movie nights, and homeschooling in such a quiet environment.  We are working right now to make a better future for ourselves.  And the work is hard.  Josh works hard at the school, and I work hard here at home.  
I am constantly reminding myself that "The days are long, but the years are short."  In this way I can remember that though the days can be a challenge, the amount of time I have with six year old Logan or three year old Wyatt are limited.

With that in mind, I am working to let little things go, and focus on big picture.  It's more important that I have special one on one time with Jack than the bathroom mirror be clean.  It's more important that Logan understand the math concept, than that lunch start exactly on time.

I hope that as time passes, I continue to feel peace about our family and our plans.  I also hope to back on the blog a bit more consistently.  I miss it.


Made Of Love

There are three things in my life that are solely made of love.

& Wyatt.

Had things gone according to plan, there would have been another little Cunningham, also made of love, joining our crew this spring.  But alas, it was not meant to be.

But on this day when we celebrate love, those three little cherubs are proof that true love exists.  Proof that our love exists.

I love this man so much.  I love the way he knows me, cares for me, and supports me on this journey.  I am so grateful for the love that fills our home.  Love for mommy, love for daddy & love for brothers.

I love that our family is made of love.


End of Break!

Our Christmas break was three weeks long.  

I missed the middle of it, spending a week in Anchorage, but that last week we squeezed in a ton of fun.  They got these blow up balls from my grandma, huge hit!

We took lots of fun baths, complete with shaving cream & play razors.

But mostly we just played.

Slowly we started noticing more daylight.  Very much a happy change.

And last but not least, we had family movie night.  
Boys. Pizza. Nemo. Awesome.

I am so grateful that our last week was fun and that I was home and well enough to enjoy it.



Through the flames

I have had a tough two weeks.  Feeling down and just not myself.  Hence the absence here on the blog.  I've been spending my days getting through, hour by hour, focusing on what I'm doing, not on how I'm feeling.

Last night I got to hear Ariel Tweto (from Flying Wild Alaska) speak about suicide prevention at our school, particularly finding something worth waking up for everyday.  She encouraged us to set goals, find hobbies and reach out.  It was inspirational, and so wonderful to meet her.  It was very timely considering how low I've been feeling.

I am trying to stay busy, but the afternoons, I must admit, drag on forever.  I am left with far too much time on my hands, and my mind goes on autopilot, thinking of awful, worrisome things.  My hope this week is to pick up some hobbies I've set aside.  Scrapbooking, for one, and cross stitching, for another.  I also have a knitting kit, which I have yet to use to teach myself.  To be honest, it's a bit overwhelming, but I think I am going to dive in regardless.  I need the distraction.


Last week I found myself standing over Wyatt as he slept (in the bottom bunk-- he's joined the "big boys" on the bed rotation) and sobbing.  Just wanting to know why.  

Why did I have to lose the first baby?  
Why did I have to lose the second pregnancy?  
Why couldn't I have another?  
Why didn't it work out? 


After my temporary loss of perspective, I remembered what I learned at bible study last week.  As she talked about the bad things that happen in our lives, the opportunities missed and the mistakes made, Beth Moore said, "Those things were meant to happen."  For whatever reason, we can trust that God knows what he's doing.  Even if we don't.

The truth is, Life Ain't Always Beautiful.  But it is a beautiful ride.



Hands Free Mama: Month One

I got Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford with the Amazon book money Josh got me for my birthday.  I started it this month, and plan to read it as it was written, one chapter every month, for the rest of 2015.  It will eventually take the place of my Happiness Project, which will wrap up in March. I am excited to work on being more in the moment with these boys of ours and to be a more intentional mama.

 (Sidenote: in addition to working through Hands Free Mama, I am going to read Boys Should be Boys by Meg Meeker, and will re-read Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids)

I made myself a cheat sheet from the parts of the Hands Free Mama that I underlined this month. 
Here's what it says: 

*"Discomfort before growth" & "Hurt before healing" -- explore my own feelings as they come
*NO PHONE ZONES: School, Mealtime & Bedtime
*Facebook, Pinterest & Instagram: These limit my ability to truly live & love.  Use sparingly.
*"Let them be little": Messes Happen.  Hug, Don't Scold.
*It holds value even if it's not on my to-do list!!!
*Listen, look in their eyes, be present.
*Say YES:
-To Helpers: with dinner, with lunch & with laundry
-To Activities: going outside, playing Play Doh and playing Uno
-To More: MORE hugs, MORE stories, MORE of my time

*** Remember to "linger" ***

I will admit, the no phone zones are hard to stick with.  But I am determined.  It is also hard to remember that social media does not enhance my life.  But with every "yes" I utter to the boys, I get the ultimate satisfaction of seeing their faces light up.  Priceless, I tell you.

My main goal before I start the next chapter, is to be the role model.  To control my own reactions.  I am also spending special time with the boys three times a week, working on connecting.  Once a week, each brother will get two hours of one on one time with me during afternoon quiet time.  So far, they are loving it!

I am working hard to do my best in this moment.  
Letting go of the past, and not worrying for the future.
The boys make all the effort worth it.



My Tuesday

Josh was gone over the weekend.  He was out of town, in Anchorage, at a training with his boss & coworker.  He left early Friday morning and didn't return until dinner time Monday.  We made it through the weekend just fine, but by Monday I was seriously sick.  Just a head cold, but the knock-you-out kind that makes even your fingers feel tired.  Upon waking up I immediately feel like I need a nap.

{Josh brought fruit & veggies & all kinds of other treats back with him}
Thankfully Josh made it home and we were both ready for bed early Monday night.  Even after 8+ hours of sleep, though, I awoke Tuesday still exhausted.

The boys however were awake before the light was green, and hit the ground running.  We didn't do school for second day in a row.  This is the first time ever missing school, and it feels weird to not do it. Like I should have to report to someone.  I keep reminding myself this is the luxury of homeschooling.  We can do it on our own schedule.  And we can easily make up lost time if it becomes necessary.

After Josh left for work, I tried turning on cartoons so I could sleep on the couch, but with three rambunctious boys, that's just not possible.  So around 10 I gave up and jumped in the shower.  Then I did the dishes (always. the dishes. will they not just leave me alone?) and we colored together at the kitchen table until Josh got home for lunch.

After lunch the boys do their reading time and the AR tests for the books.  They are both nearing 50 AR points, so I'm trying to think of a creative prize to reward them for all their hard work.  After reading we have quiet time.  The boys can watch movies or play tablets.  I typically let the twins watch something in my bedroom, and Wyatt stays downstairs with me.  Tuesday it was Veggie Tales for the little one.  Per request I gave him his glass of orange juice with a lid.  Ten minutes later he came to me, orange droplets adorning his chubby cheeks and forehead, and told me he had spilled his orange juice while taking the lid off.  It was all over him, and Josh's easy chair, and our couch pillow and blanket.  sigh.  I was supposed to finally be getting a break.  Instead I had to start a new load of laundry and throw Wyatt in the tub.

Quiet time ended, as it always does, all too soon, and again, I tried to recoup and keep the boys entertained.  We played Uno, then did laundry.  Then we watched an episode of Wild Kratts and followed up by cleaning the playroom.

Monday the little legos got me so much quiet time.  Like over two hours of cooperative play for the twins.  Then today Jack nearly swallowed one.  It was the weirdest thing.  He came to me on the couch and said, "I think I..." and was grabbing at his throat.  "I think I'm swallowing it!" Then he was like, "You need to..." and started pounding on his own back.  I had no idea what was happening, but did what he said.  I pounded on his back and in between gagging he managed to tell me he was in the process of swallowing a Lego.  Somehow he managed to get it back up and spit it onto the rug.

He said he wasn't sure why he put it in his mouth.  I was so upset. And scared.  He was crying and I was shaking.  And poor Logan-- I don't think he breathed the whole time this was going down.  Then at bedtime Logan said, "Well, I think that was a miracle. I think God chose today to keep Jack alive or dead, and he chose to keep him alive. And I think that's a miracle."

It was so precious.

In other news, I spent the end of Christmas break reorganizing our homeschool stuff.  It had gotten a bit out of control.  I am so happy with how it turned out.  This bookshelf in particular brings me joy!  

Here's hoping our Wednesday is a little less eventful, and that soon this sickness turns a corner.  I'd love to not feel like death warmed over!