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!



Our Christmas break was three weeks long, so anything we did out of the ordinary we made into an adventure.
One day we bundled the boys up,

warmed up the truck, which needs warming up even though it is always plugged in (We drive the school's truck when we need it to run errands to the post office or co op),

and we drove to the dump to get rid of our Christmas trash.

The dump is just up the road from us, and often when it burns we can smell it.  (... not so lovely)
There are humongous ravens that call the dump "home", and I swear when I watch them take off, I can't believe they can get into the skies.  They are plump like well-fed house cats, and watching them lift into the air is amazing.

This little one is always happy to be out of the house.  It's strange to have a picture of him with no glasses.  But when they wear a scarf to help with the cold, it causes their glasses to fog up instantly, which frustrates them to no end. So I tend to leave their glasses at home.

This Christmas, he was wishing for his two front teeth.  
In fact, he's still wishing for them.  

I love getting out of the house because I love a change of scenery.

Tundra as far as the eye can see.

This is the Russian Orthodox church downtown.  I love the steeple.

The sunset is so stunning.  I only wish it wasn't so early! This was probably around 3pm.

I feel so blessed to live in a place where natural beauty abounds.  Where a quick stop at the post office turns into some insane photographs of the wild Yukon River.  


The Happiness Project :: ATTITUDE :: January

For January my Happiness Project goal area is "Attitude".  This has been a great goal to work on the last three weeks, as my dizziness seems to have returned after a short respite.  I think it's related to my eustachian tube dysfunction, but I'm not sure, and nothing seems to be helping.  So getting through each day with a good attitude has been challenging, but necessary.

In her book, Gretchen Rubin says, "It is easier to complain than to laugh, easier to yell than to joke around, easier to be demanding than to be satisfied."  I both love and hate that.  I love how true it is, but I hate how it describes me.  I want to change it.

She suggests we act how we want to feel, find things to be grateful for and have a mental place of refuge since we naturally focus on the negative.  For me this is especially important.  I use my memories of summer as places for my mind to settle when I get weary.  She also encourages laughter, positive reviews of those around us, and reminds us it is easy to be heavy, hard to be light. 


"If you don't like something, change it.
If you can't change it, change your attitude about it."
-Maya Angelou

I cannot always choose how my children behave. I can't always choose the life circumstances I am presented with, but I can choose my attitude in response to those things.  I can choose to be content, despite the miscarriages.  I can choose to be content, despite the fact that we're pinching pennies.  I can choose to be content, despite where we live or anything else life throws our way.

When I find my shoulders tight up near my ears, my jaw clenched and my brow furrowed, I remind myself that my attitude is mine and mine alone.  I breathe, slowly loosen my shoulders and unfurrow my brow.  I release my jaw and put a smile on my face.  I find that happy songs tends to help, so January has been a month of music.

My favorites:
Taylor Swift:: 1989
JJ Heller:: I Dream of You
Dierks Bentley:: Riser
Lady Antebellum:: Own The Night
(+ Bartender, which is now my children's favorite song. Hilarious!)




When I was in Anchorage over New Year's I came up with a Word For The Year.  I had seen many of my favorite bloggers give it a try, and witnessed through the year how their word grew & changed them.  I knew I wanted my word to relate to parenting, which is where I want the majority of my energy to be focused.  When the word "linger" flitted across my mind, I knew it was the one.

I am a recovering perfectionist & overachiever.  Completing things on my to-do list makes me feel good.  I only feel worthwhile when I am "accomplishing" something.  This is often to the detriment of my relationship with my kids.  "Not now" and "In a minute" are uttered by me more than I'd care to admit.  My hope is that with the word "linger" lingering in my mind, I will be reminded to sing one more song at bedtime or read one more book at quiet time.  I hope to remember that even though they are not on my to-do list, those boys are my most important thing.  And spending an extra five or ten minutes with them (coloring, snuggling, playing Uno) is worth it.

"Sometimes it's worth lingering on the journey 
for a while before getting to the destination."
-Adrian Ivashkov


My Modern Day Fairy Tale

In light of my recent heartache, I am afraid I am giving the impression that I'm not eternally grateful for all the good that is around me.  The truth is, I'm living a modern day fairy tale.  Sure, we didn't hear about Cinderella's fertility issues after she married Prince Charming, but I like to think that if we did, Prince Charming would be just like my guy-- holding Cinderella as she cried, assuring her that the sun would rise again.

That's just what good guys do.  They hold us, they love us and they believe in us.  Josh knows there will be moments of weakness, and he's there to catch me when I fall... but he also knows that I'm strong enough to get through whatever life throws my way.

Because of where we live, Josh can't take me on elaborate dates or bring me fresh flowers.  For us, both because of where we live and because of where we are in our marriage journey (10+ years in, with three small children) romance looks different than maybe it used to.

Fact is, romance changes in fifteen years.  When we first started dating junior year in high school, romance was all about the cliches.  Holding hands, going to the movies, exchanging love notes.  Now, it's about making each other's lives easier.  Most romantic things Josh does these days? The dishes, bedtime with the boys, and bringing me avocados from the co op. Seriously, does it get any better than that?  

For Josh, me being romantic is making milk so he doesn't have to (he feeds the boys breakfast every morning, and the three of them circling impatiently while he has to make milk-- we drink powdered up here-- is the worst way to start the day).  Me being romantic is offering to put the kids to bed so he can relax and watch Sports Center.  Me being romantic is him finding fresh jeans to wear in the closet on Monday and a sock drawer full of socks.  

Like the rest of our life, our heartfelt talks are often over the din of children running, eating, fighting.  Proclamations of his love aren't in response to deep questions I've asked over a candle lit dinner, but instead in response to the curiosities of our children.  

"What are you scared of dad?"
"Nothing?!? You can't be scared of nothing. What makes you afraid?"
"Well, if something happened to you or your brothers, that would scare me. Or your mom... If something happened to any of you, I would be scared."

Or while discussing our marriage in comparison to marriages we've seen dissolve.
"Well, I love you way more than I love myself.  
Maybe that's why it works."
Cue crying child entering the room hysterically screaming about the Lego piece his brother just stole.

Nothing happens between us that would be scene-worthy in a movie, but in my heart, as those moments play out, I go into slow motion.  Everything around us blurs, and I think, "This is one of those moments."  I stop.  I breathe.  I take note of what he's saying, and how ridiculously in love we still are after all these years.  He's my best friend.  And I can't imagine it any other way.  Next year we will have been together half of Josh's life.  And the year after that, he'll have lived with me longer than he lived without me.  It's the stuff of fairy tales, I tell you.

"Can we wake up now 
to a life of happiness?
Can we be content?"
-Tyler Knott Gregson

This beautiful haiku by my {absolute} favorite new poet/writer is my current life motto.  Yes, life is hard.  But it's also beautiful.  And I want to find myself content with the life of happiness I have. 

I want to be grateful, everyday, to be living out this modern day fairy tale.


How I Am

Right now I am okay.  I am functioning.  I am doing school with the twins, making dinner, washing clothes and carrying on.  But the heartache is there.  The questioning, the wondering, the wanting to know WHY is constant.  A hum in the background.

Some things break my heart.
For instance, Wyatt's new love for his baby doll.  
The other morning he told me, "I'm going upstairs to rock-a-bye my baby."

And that's just what he did.  Wrapped her up in his very own baby blanket and sang, "Row, row, row your boat" followed by "That farm song" (Old McDonald) with a little help from his mama.

Watching him rock and love on that baby, imagining how he would have been with a new sibling come May or September, was like taking a bullet.  

Thankfully, I followed a lot of really smart blogs when my children were babies, and I was surrounded by a lot of really wise women, and so I know, even if I don't get to experience that with another baby, that I cherished every moment of our three boys' newborn infant-ness.  I was well aware how fast it goes, how precious it is, and to steal a line from Kelle (an all time favorite blogger of mine), I sucked the marrow right out of that time in my life.

Luckily, alongside the heartache, are things that make my heart swell.
With love...
With joy...
With gratitude...

Those big brothers that did get to experience a new baby who became their little brother, they are the best at it.  At being big brothers, at helping out, at teaching.  They watch out for Wyatt, they laugh with him, they hug him, and those are the moments when I think, "We must be doing something right."


 I don't claim to know what the future holds, but for now, plans for another baby are not on the agenda.  Being pregnant in rural Alaska, even if things go well, is not easy. It's not convenient.  And things going bad is even worse.  Miscarrying twice out here is about all I can handle.  I'm not sure God's plan.  I (unfortunately) cannot see His big picture here, but I'm trusting that right now all I'm expected to do is let time pass; feel the feelings as they come (like the other night when I cried myself nearly to sleep and had to flip the pillow over because it was so sopping wet); and love these little guys God did allow to come to this earth.  Beyond that, I'm just praying.  Waiting for our story to unfold.

Something else bringing a smile to my face during this bit of down time?  Care packages, of course.  This one, from Anne (hi Anne!) who taught in one of our villages and is now back in the lower 48, was so incredibly thoughtful.  Snacks for the boys, Valentine goodies, socks, pens & a journal for me, and some chocolate almond treats I'm saving for later this week when my friend Susan is supposed to come visit.

Each day I try to find something to look forward to.  Some days it's as simple as watching Toy Story during quiet time with the boys.  Other days it's spending time blogging or reading.  I'm also exercising and making sleep a priority.  

It's a slow process, but I have faith that with time, I'll feel whole again.


Twins, Twins, Twins

I have twins.

I have dichorionic/diamniotic 
(separate sacks & placentas) 
(split from one egg with exactly the same DNA)
mirror twins
(one is left handed, the other right handed)
Boy twins.
The rarest form of twins there is.

Randomly, my twins are also colorblind.  
Both of them.  But not their younger, singleton brother.

Somehow having twins has made me into a twin expert.  I devour all the information I can get my hands on and hate when I hear or read misinformation regarding twins.  And there's a lot of misinformation out there.

Here's the truth:
Separate sacks & placentas does not automatically mean the pregnancy is fraternal.  If the egg splits soon enough, even identical twins can have their own. (Like mine did.)

Identical twins have identical DNA.  Exactly.the.same.  Their hair, blood & semen are identical. Only their fingerprints differ.

Children born of identical twins are genetically the child of the other twin as well.
And cousins, one born to each twin, are genetic half-siblings.

Mind boggling, right?!?


Twin Book:

My all time favorite Twin Book, for anyone (it's a fascinating read) is One and the Same by Abigail Pogrebin.  The book cites that identical twins are closer than fraternal twins, which I have witnessed myself-- my twins are close emotionally, but they also have no physical boundaries.  They truly act as if they are of one body.  I can see it sometimes when they play with other kids, it's strange for them to acknowledge & respect personal space.  They had their own cribs & beds their whole lives, until last summer when they shared a full size bed.  They adjusted with no issues, and Logan has even expressed that he wishes they still shared.  That way, he says, when he woke up from a bad dream, he'd know Jack was right there. Despite their close physical bond, we did, however, stop bathing the two together when they turned five. Even though personal boundaries don't come naturally to them, I believe it's my job as a mom to instill them.  For the sake of everyone else!

Pogrebin's book also talks about the Twin Festival in Twinsburg, Ohio, which is somewhere I'd love to go someday.  I'm pretty sure my mom wouldn't let me go alone, insisting to come along and see the sights!

Something else I have noticed, beyond their "one body" is the use of the singular "life".  People will ask them, individually, "How old are you?" And whoever they're talking to will answer, "We are six."  Or one of them will be talking about an adventure they had and they will say, "We rode that once," instead of, "I rode that once."  I find myself doing it as well.  


Random Twin Facts:

In 1955 they found that a search dog can find one identical twin if he has smelled the other.

When a panda gives birth to twins, the smaller of the twins is rejected.  The mother is incapable of nursing both, so she leaves the one least likely to survive behind.

In June 2008 (the same month and year my twins were born) 
10 sets of twins were born in Salt lake City.


What I've learned from having twins:

-One on one time is important.  
The twins need to be known for who they are as an individual.

-Knowing your birth order is important!!!!!

-Playing favorites is normal: 
72% of twin parents had favorite & 84% preferred the heavier baby.

-Having a singleton after twins is an amazing blessing.
Wyatt allowed me the luxury of a singleton experience, and I'm so grateful.


Identical Twin Heebie Jeebies:

-Once when Logan hurt his elbow on the door, Jack walked down the stairs, asked what had happened, then rubbed his own elbow and said, "Ow, that hurt."

-When my sister-in-law took the twins individually out for a donut date, each twin ordered the exact same donut & drink, and chose to sit in the exact same spot in the restaurant unknowingly.

-When they lost their first teeth, they lost the same exact tooth within 24 hours.


The last and perhaps most important thing that identical twins have offered the world, is proof of nature versus nurture.  The fact is, nature rules.

Identical twins raised separately are just as alike as those raised together.  

There's no escaping it, 
we live out our DNA.


Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve we always follow the same tradition:
Open new jammies (thanks, mom!), put said jammies on, 
then watch a movie while enjoying some of daddy's homemade pizza.

After that lovely little tradition, we do bedtime as usual.
I love these pictures.  Everyday of our lives, this is what life looks like at 6:30pm.  
It's sacred time, I tell you.


Once those boys were tucked in cozy, prayers said and hugs given,
Josh and I hustled downstairs to prep for Christmas morning.

I stuffed stockings, wrapped gifts & sorted the gifts into piles to make the morning a little easier.

The boys helped me wrap some of the gifts.
Love how Jack wrote "Mome" on this one.
And "Dadddy" on this one.
Meanwhile Josh was working his tail off putting together piece after piece of lego creations for those boys of ours.

Luckily he said he enjoys the process.
And we knew the look on the boys' faces in the morning would be well worth it.