Around Here: Week 46

Super useful gem for those of us who send out Christmas cards!!

Amazing kid-approved recipe from The Mom 100 Cookbook

Quieting down... on social media this week.  My sweet sister-in-law texted today to check on me- and I had to tell her I'm good, it's just been so busy here! The boys had late start Monday and then early release Tuesday through Friday, plus three dentist appointments and a teething sister means it's been kids, kids, kids! And! On top of that, I started my job. So yeah, it's been a busy week.  Busy in a good way.

Starting... my job as a teacher for VIPkid.  It's a program that teaches English in a one-on-one online setting with students in Beijing.  I wake up at 3:30 or 4:00am to teach (they are 16 hours ahead of us here on the west coast) while my kids are still sleeping.  Waking up that early is brutal, but once I am teaching, I really enjoy it. The kids are so sweet and smart and the company really does most of the work for you.

Considering... how much I want to stay home with my kids.  As we have settled into life with a mortgage (just over a year now) and the expense of four kids plus home ownership (hello new windows! hello weather proofing!) we have discovered that Josh's teacher paycheck doesn't stretch far enough.  I originally thought I could run my Etsy shop and bring in enough money to make up the difference (honestly, even $200 more a month would feel enormous!) but finding time to make cards while still caring for the household, three boys and a toddler was nearly impossible.  Especially on weeks when someone is sick. And now that school has started, it seems that someone is always sick.

So I had a choice to make.  And I remembered a friend of mine (who also has four kids) talking about how great this job was.  It pays ~$20/hr and can be done from the comfort of your own home with nearly zero start up cost (you do need a headset with a mic, and some props are helpful, plus a white board).  This opportunity means I can do my job, and by the time the kids are up, it's done. I can focus on them 100% during their waking hours, as opposed to the Etsy job, which meant spending some of my time with them in the office working.  Needing to find a job that worked around my job as a stay-at-home mom cemented to me how much of a priority it is for me to be home with them.

The night before I started Logan was telling me that he was having bad feelings about being greedy and asking for things at the store. I quickly figured out he was having guilt for my having to work. I assured him that while balancing a job with being a mom was going to be a new challenge, it was one that I was more than willing to take on so that we don't have to worry about money and we can all have that we need.  Such a tender heart in that one.

Hanging... with cousins last weekend when my sister and her husband brought their kids over for a visit.  It was so good to see their sweet baby (love her!) and the boys all had a blast together.  This weekend we'll see her again, as she's offered to take our family pictures for our Christmas cards.  (My favorite holiday tradition!)

Attending.... parent-teacher conferences for our three bigs.  I was so proud to hear that Jack & Logan are well liked by their teachers, respectful & easy to teach.  I am hopeful that they can work on slowing down & staying focused.  (It was seriously bizarre how much it felt like deja vu to sit in one twins' conference after another, hearing the exact same issues both times- being easily distracted and going too fast!)  I was so proud to hear that Wyatt has passed every Readwell unit for first grade and is on third grade spelling.  I am hopeful to help him memorize his math facts & find ways to challenge him despite how advanced he is. Seeing how well Wyatt is doing makes me regret homeschooling the twins as long as I did.  I talked to Josh about those feelings and he assured me we made the best decisions we could at the time.  I felt really strongly about homeschooling in Alaska, and the year we spent in Vancouver we were unsure what the future held, so homeschooling made sense then, too.  It's only in hindsight that I wish I had sent them.  (For my homeschooling friends- my biggest regret is not having the twins memorize simple addition and subtraction problems! They still have to count, on their fingers, to add 9+5 for instance.  Learn from my mistake. Ha!)

Talking... about smoking with the twins.  They're discussing it with the school counselor when she comes in their classrooms and it's lead to some good conversations.  They want to know why people smoke when they know it's bad for them, they want to know why tobacco companies target children, and they want to know how long it takes to quit once you start.  We have talked a lot about how quickly you get addicted and how important it is to not even try it once.  I am proud to say Josh and I never tried cigarettes, drugs, or alcohol (while underage) and that's a nice platform to be on when talking to our kids about making good, safe choices for their bodies.

Nursing... Carly, but seeing that it will soon be coming to an end.  I was going to keep going at least until her second birthday (January 24th), but at this rate, we will be done long before that. She is distracted when I feed her, and even when she's tired, she's pulling off before she falls asleep so she can "talk" to me.  So today at nap time after she quit nursing I sang a song and laid her in her crib awake.  So from this moment forward, I am not going to nurse "on demand" anymore.  I will only be nursing at nap and bedtime.  Then I will slowly eliminate those as well.

Reading... The Handmaid's Tale on my Kindle Paperwhite, and loving it! (The kindle & the book.)  I am so glad to be reading again after a month long break.  I knew October was hard for me, but looking at my reading record, I can really see how much my emotions impact my ability to focus & follow through on reading.  After reading it, I'm hoping to watch The Handmaid's Tale on Hulu.  I hear it's great!  As for reading, when the book is done, I think I'll move on to the Winter Street series from Elin Hilderbrand that I read every holiday season.

Putting... a lot of effort into home life lately.  We're working on eating a little healthier, so I've been making some new recipes.  I also spent a few days last weekend working on reorganizing the office after a generous friend of mine gave me a TON of her old craft stuff. (Thanks Shana!)  I also decorated for Thanksgiving and made plans with my sister for the big day.

I was re-reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp (which I re-read in tiny bits like soothing balm for my soul) and I came across this quote: "This is what makes us persevere through a life: to see Him who is invisible."  To me it says that finding God in the little things (an unprompted hug from my nine year olds, waking up next to my husband each morning, a spectacular sunset) is what can allow me to face hard days with a joyful heart.  It's been a good marble to roll around in my head this week as I traversed half days, a cranky baby with a wonky nap schedule & my new job.

Feeling... so grateful for the ordinary in my days.  The kids reading books in the morning light that streams in the front window; Jack unloading the dishwasher, always helping with the chores; Logan working on his math skills on Xtra math at the computer; loads of laundry waiting to be put away; morning diaper change giggles; making special after-school snacks (melted chocolate chips & giant pretzel sticks dipped in sprinkles for the win!); Play-doh with all four kids; how Carly wants to snuggle brothers whenever they lay on the couch; Carly's toddler walk to and from Wyatt's classroom every morning; waiting in the parking lot with Carly for afternoon pick up... This week those regular magic moments really stood out.

Planning... to see Wonder with the twins tomorrow for my birthday.  We read the book this summer and loved it (I may have cried hysterically and embarrassed them at the end) and I can't wait to see it in the theater.  Also tomorrow we're going to make my birthday cake (I bought candy rocks to decorate it with because I am a geology nerd) and have family movie night where the boys will redeem their "reading pizza" coupons for personal pan pizzas.  It should be a really fun family day and I can't wait!  (Wish me luck.  I also bought 35 actual candles to put on my cake. I'm hoping I can a) blow them all out and b) not set the house on fire. Hah!)



Around Here: Week 45

Taking... Jack to the doctor to see if his nose was broken after he and another kid on his basketball team bashed their heads together at practice Wednesday.  One of his nostrils isn't working, so I wanted to make sure that he was okay.  The doctor says it is likely just swollen and once the swelling goes down, he should be able to breathe normally again.  I'm so glad it's not broken, but he is sure in a lot of pain.  Poor kid!

Enjoying... a visit from my mom last weekend.  It was short lived, but we squeezed in lots of love & hugs.  She helped me sort through the kids' winter gear (I was only missing one thing- boots for Carly- which made me so proud of myself) and she spoiled us with a super fun movie night.

Watching... our first snow fall of the season.  Thankfully, we were ready-- Josh got the snow tires on the van, I had the yard all cleaned up (no stray nerf bullets or toys left out like last year) and Josh had the snow blower up and running.  Josh even pulled together some some winter gear organization that I shared here on the blog.  Josh was talking to his dad (who used to live where we now live) and he helped us set a new "Winter Ready" goal date: October 31st.  Where we live in central Washington can get cold (and have snow) in early November, so to be sure we're ready, he suggests setting Halloween as the cutoff date. I think that will really help us be prepared.

Playing... in the snow with my kids.  I knew this snow wouldn't stick around long, so we geared up (even Carly!) and headed out. We had so much fun!!!

Screwing up... my no yelling goal (& blogging all about it).  If you struggle with yelling, I highly recommend following Ralphie on Instagram.  She breaks good parenting down into super simple actions that anyone can do.  After this most recent "losing it" episode, I have decided to try something really weird. If I yell at my kids, I have to take off my earrings and I don't get to wear any the next day. I don't even know how it came to me, but I wear very little jewelry, and with my new short haircut, I love wearing earrings. I figure this will motivate me to SHUT MY MOUTH when I feel like yelling & swearing. Ha! I'll keep you posted.

Focusing... on what I do well as a mother.  (This is also inspired by Ralphie.)  She says we all have things we see where we don't measure up, but that only brings us down. Instead she wants us to look at what we do well as moms.  Where are our strengths? What are our gifts? 

Starting... on my Christmas shopping, using:
Something you want,
something you need,
something to wear,
& something to read
for my kids.
The "something you want" will be from Santa, the rest from Josh and myself.  I am excited to keep Christmas simple and not extraordinary or out of budget.  I am also working on a fun Christmas gift list (like Oprah's Favorite Things) to share on the blog this month.

Spending... too much time on social media.  I'm not sure what my action plan is to combat this fact, but knowing it's a problem is half the battle, right?!?

Loving... Carly's reunions with Wyatt & the twins everyday after school.  Little heart melter.

Grateful... for many things (see my #30daysofgratitude instagram recap below) but this week I am grateful for  the opportunity to raise readers.  That is one area of parenting where Josh and I are totally on the same page, and something our kids love.  Bedtime stories, silent reading and readaloud chapter books are all part of our nightly bedtime routine, meaning our kids get about 45 minutes of reading everyday (not including school time) and that's something I am really proud of.

Still.... not reading anything myself, though.  So this week I am determined to find a new book for myself to start.  I think it will be The Handmaid's Tale.  Fingers crossed it gets me hooked so I can get back to reading.


Day 4: Wyatt

Day 5: Carly

Day 6: Stay-at-home-motherhood

Day 7: Books

Day 8: Modern appliances

Day 9: Julie

Day 10: Having twins



I Believe In You

Oh man, you guys.  On Monday I lost it. Like, lost it BIG TIME.  Like crazy person yelling & swearing before school all because Logan closed out my tab on the computer and lost something I'd spent Sunday night working on. I was frustrated to be sure, but that's no excuse.  

My children didn't make me lose my temper.  I let myself lose my temper.  My children are not in control of my body, I am in control of my body.  And I know that how I react when I'm angry is teaching them how to react when they're angry. 

And Monday I screwed up. 

And when I could (should) have taken a deep breath, apologized and stopped my tirade, I carried on because yelling felt good in that moment.  That's the truth --when I'm mad, yelling and being mad at whoever made me mad feels good.  Yelling feels justified and makes me feel vindicated.  But about ten seconds later, I feel sick.  Physically and emotionally.  I spent the rest of  Monday trying to move on.

I apologized to the kids before drop off, promising that just because I screwed up & fell off the no-yelling wagon didn't mean I was giving up.  I also texted Josh for support and I prayed for forgiveness for treating my kids like that.  But the only thing that got me through the day was knowing that Tuesday I was going to have a do over, a blank slate, a fresh chance to do better.  Thank God for that, right?

The other thing that got me through is the note Logan wrote to encourage me.
He handed it to me in the hallway just before dinner. 

"I know it is a habit.  
It takes time and it is hard for everyone to break a habit.
I believe in you."

That last line is the one that gets me.  I cannot believe how many times it has popped into my mind over the last three days.  It makes me want to tell all my people how much I believe in them, because those four words have inspired me so much this week.  

So for all you mama's out there trying to be better, 
I believe in you.

Let's not give up in our pursuit of becoming amazing moms.
We can do this.



First Snow: Playing & Organizing

 I want to start this post by saying that I am really proud of myself.  When the kids wanted to go play outside in the snow today (including Carly) I dropped the things on my agenda, and geared up myself to join them.  Carly got to sled for the first time (and loved it!) and walked around, watching her footprints as she went, while her brothers built snow forts and had an epic snowball fight. 
I had assumed with her adventurous spirit she would love the snow, but wasn't sure she'd like the cold.  So I was pleased that she enjoyed it as much as she did.  Josh and I joke that she's our only "Made in Alaska" baby (I found out I was pregnant with her the day I left Alaska for the last time) so it's fitting that she would love this new cold weather experience.  I made memories today, watching Logan push her on the sled for instance, that will stay with me my whole life.  I'm so glad I dropped what I was doing and played with my kids.  It felt really good.

Today was the first snow of the year, and I am so excited to report that I was actually prepared for it!  Last year the snow completely caught me off guard.  The kids had no snow boots that fit, no snow gloves, and everything in the closest was out of order.  This year I was determined to do better. 

We had everything we needed today except a pair of snow boots for Carly, which (thanks to my mom) are on their way to us currently.  Not too shabby!  We had the yard cleaned up, the snow tires on the van, the garage organized and the snowblower running.  We have shovels and sleds and de-icer, and enough coats, hats & boots to keep our kids warm & dry in the winter weather that is to come.  We also have perfect organization in place to help keep track of six sets of boots, coats, hats & gloves.  

Josh had this peg board leftover from his workbench, and he used it to create a drying station in the garage for all the kids' snow gear.  Hooks for snow pants, coats, hats & gloves.  It's brilliant and I'm so grateful he's so handy.  When they come from outside, they can take off their gear and hang it here.  Then, just before I go to bed, when most of it has dripped dry, I bring it all inside so it's warm to put on the following day.  I use an Ikea clothes drying rack to hang everything on in the dining room while we sleep.  

Inside the house, in the hall closet, I did some organizing with the help of an Ikea hat rack and an Ikea shoe rack.  In the black hat rack (seen hanging from the rod) I have a pocket for each member of the family, with their winter hats inside; and near the bottom we have a few slots for regular baseball hats.  It makes looking for & choosing hats so much easier!

And on the closet door, I hung the Ikea shoe holder, which I am using for gloves (and off-season flip flops).  Each member of the family has a spot for their gloves, which (again) makes finding their items so much easier!  Last winter I really had no idea where to put or how to best organize the gear, get it dry every  night, and maintain some semblance of sanity.  After some trial & error, this is what we've come up with, and I feel great about all of it. Here's hoping we spend a lot less time looking for mittens this season!!!