Weekend Update + What Makes Me Happy

Now that Blogtember is over (wasn't that fun?) I have decided I really like blogging daily.  It's actually easier than blogging every three or four days because I don't have to catch up what's been going on during my absence. And, as I have heard it said before, using my writing "muscle" everyday makes it stronger. 

So I came up with a plan to make it happen every month, not just in September.  Yesterday I printed off blank calendars for October, November & December. Then I filled in special days, where I knew I'd be blogging about something in particular (ie Halloween & my Birthday).  After that it was simply a matter of looking at the 39 draft posts (I wish I was exaggerating) that are sitting in a super messy disorganized pile on my blogger dashboard, and figuring out when I wanted to post each piece.

I left some days open for inspiration to hit, and am flexible with the calendar-- it's more of a guideline than a hard & fast blogging itinerary.  If I want to switch days around, or post things sooner than later, I will.  

Along with my blogging calendar I invented a new weekly piece, entitled Weekend Update + What Makes Me Happy.  The point is to jumpstart my week by sharing our weekend + my goals for the week + what's currently putting a smile on my face.  I will post one every Monday.  I hope you are as excited for it as I am.  

My thinking is that Mondays are hard. The weekend is over, there are things that never got done that should have, and you are thrust into your week ever so rudely.  Starting my Monday morning with a weekly plan, some small goals to make me feel productive and a list of small joys is sure to get the week off on the right foot.  If you'd like to join me and do your own version of Weekend Update + What Makes Me Happy on your blog, I'd love to have you!  Feel free to leave a link to yours in the comments.

I have also made a habit of creating monthly goals since we got home (thanks for the brilliant idea, Ashley!), so I will be sharing my October Goals tomorrow, and then each Monday I will update you on how those are going as well.  It will be a good way of keeping myself accountable.


Weekend Update:

Our weekend was really good.  Friday the boys and I went over to the school after naps so they could play in the gym while Josh finished butchering his moose (!!!) and afterwards we had chili & cornbread muffins with Konnie, Martin, Leah, Isaac, Johanna & Dwayne.  It was a really nice, laid back evening, and the boys were so happy to be out of the house.  That night all three of them thanked God in their prayers for the "potluck."

{What was left of the moose after it was butchered}

Corn Bread Muffins

1 cup milk
1/4 cup butter melted
1 large egg
1 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal
1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Beat milk, butter & egg with whisk.  
Stir in remaining ingredients all at once.  
Pour into greased muffins tins.
Bake for 15-17 minutes, until golden brown.
(Recipe courtesy of Betty Crocker's COOKBOOK)


Saturday morning I woke up before the boys and had my quiet time.  I let Josh sleep in.  The boys and I enjoyed the morning-- making four loaves of bread (with our new wheat flour), and doing laundry in between playing legos & trains.

At 10 Josh took the boys to Saturday Social at the school, so this mama got almost three hours to herself!  I watched The Holiday (one of my all time favorite movies!) and journaled and took a nice, long, hot shower.  It's been a month since Josh was able to take the kids & give me a break.  Needless to say, it was lovely.

Because of our Friday night chili, we opted to do date night Saturday. Once we got the boys down, Josh made us a pizza (salami, pepperoni, bacon & olives-- yum!) and we watched Stolen with Nicholas Cage. It was good, fast paced, but not our favorite.

Sunday it was my turn to sleep in, which was much needed. When I woke up I organized all our new groceries in the pantry.  I am so happy to have that project done, and grateful for a fully stocked pantry.

On Saturday I wrote a post about the struggles I have been having currently.  I wanted to clarify that I was not, am not, having a pity party.  Those are just some of the bad that go along with all the good.  I would say that right now I am the happiest I have been, but that doesn't mean every day is perfect or that balancing it all isn't tough.  Raising three human beings is the most challenging, most rewarding thing I have ever done. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

What Makes Me Happy:

Hello morning.
Hello chance to start over.
Hello, my loves. 


The Time Between by Karen White
Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids by Dr. Laura Markham


Yesterday afternoon when I was on the phone with my sister (and had been crying because I was both emotional and missing her) Jack colored a picture of Beauty & The Beast for me, put it in an envelope and put stickers on it. Then he gave it to me and said, "Mom, I am giving you this because sometimes when someone does something nice for you, then you do something nice for them. And you made me cupcakes, so I made you this." Then he hugged me and went along his merry way.


Letters from my grandma
My Summer 2013 Book
Notes + Popcorn wreaths from our beloved Susan


kindness beads

During the summer, in an effort to increase kindness in our children, we introduced Kindness Beads.  The idea is that when the kids: Do random acts of Kindness or Follow directions the first time, they get to put a bead in the Kindness Jar.

They filled the jar the first time while we were still in Washington. We had a pool party to celebrate.  They filled it the second time when we got back to Alaska, and I rewarded them with Imaginext toys that I purchased for that exact purpose over the summer.

I can't say enough good things about this parenting tool.  I daily see the boys practicing kindness now-- getting things for their brothers and helping me out with chores.  Just yesterday I came into the living room and Jack was in there, with his clean laundry basket dumped out on the couch, folding his own laundry!!!  It was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen!



Last night I was reading my friend Tabitha's day-in-the-life post and something clicked for me. The realness of her everyday, the honesty in her admission that along with moments of joy, there are moments of defeat, had me remembering a quote I read earlier this week.

Friendship is born at the moment when one person says to another,
"What? You, too? I thought I was the only one."
-C.S. Lewis

That quote along with Tab's openness combined made me want to share with you the struggles I'm having right now, in the hopes that it will make you feel less alone in yours.

I am struggling to keep the boys in bed until the light turns green at 6:30am.  Yesterday the twins were up at 5am.  Earlier this week, all three were up at 6:10am.  Other days one or the other of the twins will wake up and come downstairs during my quiet time.

I am struggling to minimize my time on Facebook. I don't really have a solution to this problem, and that bothers me even more. I am drawn to it like a moth to a flame. I am considering removing it from my phone, but let's be honest-- I'm home all day, everyday, and my laptop is right here.

I am struggling with missing out on so many things that are coming up.  My best friend from childhood is expecting her first baby, a girl (!), and I am going to miss the baby shower.  My nephews are both having birthdays next month, and we will miss their party.  It's fall, and the pumpkin patches are opening up, and we won't be making those memories with loved ones.  It's hard.  In the past it hasn't been this hard.  I am struggling with that.

I am struggling with letting my kids be loud. I wish the noise level didn't effect me, but it does.  Everyday it's a battle between letting them be kids, and keeping the house at a sound level I'm comfortable with.

I am struggling to find a system that works for trading out the boys' toys.  I have large bins that we switch out of their bedroom closet and into the playroom.  But every time I think about switching them out I get overwhelmed.  It's silly, though, because when they are reunited with their old toys, they are more cooperative & play for extended periods without fighting.

The last thing I am struggling with is getting any projects accomplished that are not part of my everyday.  Doing laundry & dishes & making meals are a part of my daily fabric, so they are (somewhat) easily accomplished. But the big stuff? Like organizing craft & holiday projects for homeschool? Or re-doing the pantry now that we've gotten our Span order? Or starting/finishing the boys' scrapbooks? Yep, all on the back burner as I strive to do homeschool, spend quality time with the kids & continue not yelling. 

It helps me to know that in a week or two, these struggles will likely shift or change into new & different struggles. But in the meantime, I am stuck.  Stuck with loud, sleep deprived children playing with boring toys while I waste hours on Facebook, missing my family, surrounded by unfinished projects.


"I think we all strive to push ourselves to overcome our struggles. 
And when we do, we get to know ourselves better."
-Ann Bancroft


Old Photos

Share a photo of something old. Maybe something that has personal history for you, that was passed down to you, and that has special meaning to you. Tell us about it and why it's special.

Lucky for me, my mom just so happened to send me these old pictures earlier this week.
Perfect timing for today's Blogtember post!

July 1986
This was the first summer we went camping at our spot in Cougar, Washington.
{The same place I camped with my own kids this year.}
See me at the picnic table waving?

My entire lifetime of summer memories include camping.
It's one of my favorite past times.
As a little girl, I was in love with our huge green tent!
First Day of Kindergarten 
(Fall 1988)
I loved being in school, riding the bus, and writing in my daily journal at school.
Not much has changed. I still love school & writing in my journal!

My bedroom from ages 4-8.
My canopy bed.
I loved that thing!

Also, my name is not Shelly.
It's Rochelle.  (See it hung above my headboard?)
Riding my bike without training wheels
October 1987
Along with camping, riding bikes was one of my favorite childhood activities.
We lived on a dead end that was perfect for riding bikes with all the neighbor kids.

Last night my mom sent me more pictures from my childhood.
Of Halloween.
Those will be coming soon!



What Makes You...

Blogtember Instructions:
Go to a coffee shop. 
Order your favorite drink.  
Write about what makes you happy and what makes you sad. 

My reality:

There isn't a coffee shop within 150 miles of here. And that one requires a plane ride. So instead I am writing my blog post in my regular spot, at my computer desk, drinking a cup of hot coffee with powdered CoffeeMate Vanilla Caramel creamer (even though I really prefer liquid) because that's the best I can do.

But just because it's my regular spot to post, doesn't mean it isn't extraordinary.  I mean, I am less than half a mile from the bank of the Yukon River in rural Alaska, pretty much in the middle of nowhere.  So that's something!  Sorry, I digress.

What makes me happy?

New pens
Empty Journals
Unread books

Wyatt asleep in my arms
Jack learning to read
Logan's snuggles in the early morning

Going home for summer
Camping with loved ones
Visiting the beach

Reading a good book
Painting my toenails
Falling asleep holding Josh's hand

What makes me sad?

When a good book ends.
Commercials, movies, TV shows... I'm a crier
Yelling at my kids
Not being able to share my kids' awesomeness with my family

Missing things back home:
Parties, baby showers, birthdays
Missing people back home.
My Grandma. My mom. My sister. My best friend.

And the thing that makes me the most sad?
Knowing that some people will never have their dreams come true like mine did.
I live a charmed life.



A Time (or two) I Screwed Up

Write about a time you screwed up- a mistake you made.

Is he mormon?

I look back and think, "Really? That was my question?" There were so many other important questions to ask. Questions that would have been important, should have been important, to me as I fell in love with him and imagined a future together.

Is he a good guy?
Does he smoke weed?
Is he a partier?
Does he value family?
Is he a hard worker?
Can he love me wholly?

Thankfully God had my back on this one.  He hand picked Josh for me.  So of course, he was a good guy, a hard worker with family values.  He wasn't a partier, never so much as touched a joint, and most importantly, he was able, is able, to love me wholly.

As I look back on my life, I see mostly good decisions.  I see mostly well thought out and executed plans that have gotten me where I am today.  But that, my inability to see past his religion, past my religion, that haunts me.  (To read the whole story, see Part Two of my Life Story.)
Church has been heavy on my heart lately.  Or rather what happened with my church.  And why church sometimes doesn't work.  And today I remembered the most disturbing evening I shared with a friend ten years ago.

We had met at work in 2003 and instantly clicked. We were besties. In the end, our friendship was short lived once we were both let go after the holiday season, but those few brief months together, sitting back to back, placing flower orders, we were overjoyed to have each other.  

We were both in the newlywed part of our marriage and not doing much but enjoying life.  One evening the four of us (she & her husband, and me & mine) went to a Christian event sponsored by her church.  Josh ended up leaving, he didn't feel well and wasn't able to shake it, but I stayed on, flanking my friend on one side, her husband on the other.

After some worship music and a brief message from a highly respected professor at Multnomah Bible College, the floor came open for questions.  My friend, who had suffered a miscarriage because of lymphoma and the following treatment a year earlier, asked the man if God had been punishing her (with the cancer and the loss of her baby) for having pre-marital sex.

"No. No. No," I was silently willing him to say the words I knew were true.  "No, our God is not a vindictive God. No, God would never purposefully hurt you because of sin you have since repented.  No, you are wonderful and He loves you."  

Instead he sat, thinking for an uncomfortable amount of time, then launched into this hell & brimstone talk about how sin dominates our world and all that ugliness comes back on us. Basically, he said to her, "Yes. Yes, God was punishing you for getting carried away with your emotions when you were eighteen by killing your baby and putting your life in jeopardy."

I was stunned. So stunned in fact that I didn't talk about it with my friend.  This powerful, heartless man moved on to other questions and by the time we got in the car to go home, our conversation had drifted on to something else.  

I have since lost contact with this friend.  And I will forever regret not telling her, "No. No way that the God I know, who loves me like I love my babies, would ever, ever purposefully crush your dreams by giving you cancer and taking away your baby.  He would never. Oh, and also, I love you."


I am thankful to be where I am now. Open and accepting of others' beliefs, able to know what I believe is true and not shove it down anyone's throats.  To know that God is love, and if you love someone, God is there.  Just like he was when Josh and I  met. And just like he was there when my friend & her husband suffered like they did.

"Faith is a knowledge within the heart,
beyond the reach of proof."
-Kahlil Gibran


Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids Book Review

I'm a yeller.
God, I hate that. 
I hate typing it, and I hate that it's true.

So I have set about changing it. I started by purchasing this book:
by Dr. Laura Markham

I will admit, I am only 64 pages in, but I am in love with the advice & the parenting philosophy presented.  There has been page after page of amazing, easily implemented advice.  I thought I would share my top ten with you.

1. Slow down
Cut back on how busy you are.  As you slow down, your sense of urgency, rushing the kids and losing your temper will go down.  Take a good look at your day, and implement change where you need to so you aren't hurrying.

2. Quality Time
Spend time each day holding, rocking, singing, reading, hugging, laughing, playing, listening & snuggling.  Even ten minutes can be the difference.

3. Be in the moment
This means getting out of your own head.  Examine your feelings: What outside feelings are influencing your thoughts & emotions?  When you know where the feelings originate, you are better able to deal with them appropriately, and get back to the present.

4. Do something FUN!
In the Cunningham household, we have implemented One Fun Thing, where we do something that excites the boys everyday.  Some days it is really exciting, like going berry picking.  Other days, like today, it's as simple as playing Chutes & Ladders with the twins.

5. Be in control of yourself
As the parent, you have to control your emotions so they can learn to control theirs.  You are their teacher.

How to control yourself:
Shut your mouth - Do not react when you feel yourself getting upset.
Take Five - Give yourself a timeout.
Breathe to ten counts - Wait until you are calm to deal with your child.
{Follow the rest of the advice in this list!}

6. Set them up for success
Arrange your house, your schedule, your day, so that the children can be successful.

7. Set clear expectations
Along with setting them up for success, it's also important to set clear expectations.  Make sure that your expectations are reasonable for their age.  Take time to remind them gently of those expectations.

8. No more discipline
The point is the lesson, not the consequence.  The timeout makes you feel better. It doesn't actually teach the lesson, which is what the child needs.  (This has been the biggest change in our house, but I find it's working!)

9. Choose not to be annoyed
Kids playing loud? But are they getting along? Then let it go.  Sort of a "choose your battles" idea.

10.  Apologize//Learn from your mistakes
It's not a mistake, if you learn from it.  Take the time to apologize to your child and move on.

And above all,
Keep Trying!!!
I have to make the change.
It will be difficult, but it is possible.
One sentence that really struck me was this one. "You want your child to follow your guidance because he loves you and doesn't want to disappoint you, not because you scare him."  Talk about a game changer.  If I'm being honest, I used fear a lot to get my kids to obey. Threats of consequences, spankings & lost privileges flew out of my mouth hourly.  And I followed through, which is good for consistency, but not great for a peaceful home brimming with love.

The book says I should be able to transition from being a yeller to being a non-yeller in about three months.  I am firmly committed to that timeline, in the hopes that by Christmas I won't be resorting to yelling anymore.

I gave myself a Sticker Chart, per the books' instructions, and so far I have two stickers.  That sounds small, but when I made it the whole day without yelling on Saturday, and then Sunday, I was elated. It took such determination and patience, they were hard-won wins!

 One important thing for me to have a successful No Yelling day is to wake up early, before the kids. Something about that quiet time with no one else's demands allows me to start the day feeling centered.  In order to get up before my kids, who are early risers themselves, I have to go to bed on time.  Each day is a struggle to balance getting everything done with getting enough sleep, but it's worth the fight.

I am anxious to finish the book and get more No Yelling days under my belt. I promise to keep you updated, and to write more as I read more.  I'll share my tips & tricks and maybe we can all become more peaceful parents.
"Commit everything you do to the Lord.
Trust Him to help you do it and He will."
-Psalm 37:5

{Review a book, place or product today.}


Life Lately

I am so glad, this dreary Monday morning, that you could come over so we could catch up.  Thanks to my oh-so-thoughtful Illinois farm-living friend Kristina, my kitchen table has a bowl that is used to be full of apples. It's about half full now, because last night I made apple cake with  my mom's recipe.

I will tell you that when I gave myself a taste of the frosting, I teared up because the taste made me physically ache, missing her.  But other than the emotional outburst that it's awesomeness caused, it's pretty much the most delicious thing I've tasted since I got here.

So, let me get you a piece to go with your coffee, and we'll sit down & chat.
 If I seem a little extra chipper this morning, it's because I actually slept last night! I went upstairs for bed at 9:30pm, not bad considering my goal was 9pm. And I was asleep by 10pm.  I set a small goal this week to wake up everyday before the kids.  So my alarm went off at 5:30am.  It was hard to get up. I may have laid there for 15 minutes deciding if I was really going to get up or not... But once I did, I was so glad I did.  That quiet time is priceless.

It lasted about fifteen minutes, and then Jack was up. But he was pretty good, letting me finish up what I was doing without interrupting, which I appreciated.
Our weeks have been really crazy. And by crazy, I mean, Josh has been gone more often than not in the evenings.  Feeling overwhelmed about it last Monday, I decided I needed a game plan to get through each day. So I jotted down the days, picked out meals (dinners & lunches) and decided what I would do during my free time in the evenings once the boys were down.  Having a daily plan, plus knowing what fun thing I'd get to do once I got the boys down, really helped me get through the long days.

We are in full swing with Homeschooling, which also helps us get through because it give our days such great structure.  Working toward my September Goals has kept me going each day, too.

I have started some October goals, which I will share next week.

I took an afternoon this week to hang new pictures in the house.  

I am especially happy with how it looks above my sink.  

Nice to have something happy to look at while I'm doing all these dishes.
Something that's been heavy on my heart this month is my new goal of "No Yelling."  I knew I couldn't tackle this beast on my own. So I did a little research and found this book: 
Peaceful Parenting, Happy Kids by Dr. Laura Markham

I will be doing a post all about the book (which I am not even half way through), but today I want to share that Saturday I went an entire day with no yelling! Hooray for success!
Another biggie in "Life Lately" has been food.  A few weeks ago all the teachers came together to place a Span Alaska grocery order for both dry & frozen/refrigerated goods.  While waiting for our order to come, we ran out of both flour & milk, which are key ingredients in nearly every food we cook.  Finally, after about two weeks, we found flour at the co op, which made me happy beyond belief! (This five pound bag was $7.00!)

And our neighbor came to borrow batteries and "paid" us in shelf milk!  Then Joe (the principal) was in Anchorage and brought us back a big box of powdered milk.  He was our hero!

Then last night, after dinner, the call came in:
Our Span order had come!

We got about 3/4 of our order yesterday. Hopefully the rest will come today or tomorrow.  I can't remember if I shared with you, but our Span order was $2100.00. Ouch!  But man, let me tell you, knowing I have enough food to feed my family, and seeing that freezer full of goods, it's totally worth it!
The temperatures here are dropping.  
This frosty tundra greeted me one morning last week.  

The boys are already having to wear gloves and hats when we go out, and this girl is pulling out the wool socks!  Brr!

Josh took this picture of his phone Thursday.  
It was calling for snow Tuesday.  This was a little bit breaking our hearts.  

Well, we didn't have to wait until Tuesday. Instead it snowed yesterday.  First day of fall and it's snowing in Marshall. That's life in rural Alaska for you!

The last "Life Lately" update is that Wyatt is finally getting his two year molars.  I have been kind of waiting for them to come, and when he was tantruming & crying, completely out of character, on Saturday morning, I knew I should check his gums. Sure enough, I can feel one poking through on the upper right.  He's been more emotional, needy & just plain grouchy.  Knowing the cause makes it easier for me to scoop him up & love on him because I know he's just hurting. Poor guy!
I hope you have a good Monday & a great week, friend.
Thanks for coming by.