Friday, April 28, 2017

In These Changes | A Collective Reflection on a Journey Not Yet Defined

A Collective Reflection

"I only enjoy change when it's on my terms. "

This was something I said aloud to myself 3 months ago. It was 4:47AM & I was getting ready to head to work. In those moments of solitude in the morning, my  wandering thoughts remind me that I've never been able to truly embrace the silence. 
The words I uttered in the shadows of morning were an acknowledgment of how truly challenging the past few months have been. In the end of September 2016, Justin was laid off from his full-time job. 
It was sudden. Unexpected. But really, who plans to be unemployed? The truth was, we could of prepared better, we could of put more money into savings, we could of handled our debt sooner. But we hadn't & suddenly we were faced with the uncertainty of the unknown.
Alaska's changing economy was in part to blame for Justin's lay-off & over the month's we swore, we fought, we struggled. Ultimately, being almost on the other side of it all, it was just what we needed. 
"I feel like a single parent without any of the benefits."
I carried that mentality around with me for 5 years. August 4th, 2012. Our wedding anniversary. 2017 will be our 5th year of marriage & we have not arrived here easily.
We returned to Alaska 4 days after we tied the knot, a road-trip journey through Canada with the kids was our "honeymoon", & it set the tone for what was to come. 
When we arrived home Justin immediately returned to work & there I was, a mother of wolves who didn't know the first thing about being a mother or someone's wife. Justin was constantly out of town working & bit by bit I had to figure things out, without ease or grace or poise, most decisions were made rapidly, impulsively & in a state of cause & effect. 
I struggled with the balance of doing things on my own when Justin was gone & then allowing him to be a part of our lives when he was home. I am ferociously independent, so when faced with rearing children without their father's daily presence, I just went for it. Then I faced moments of frustration & anger when Justin was home & wouldn't do things MY way. 
"This isn't the life I wanted for myself."
March 2009. I withdrew my enrollment from college & had no actual plans for my future. My entire life was built upon a college degree, so when I changed the plan, I had no realistic approach to what came next. 
After months of working 2-3 jobs, I landed on a dream opportunity to come work in Alaska for a summer. I'd be able to finally visit one of my top 10 destinations & make a commitment to something without actually committing to anything. 
If I'm being honest, I've always been a billion percent impulsive when it comes to relationships. When Justin came into the picture, I went for it. Our relationship bloomed from our desire to just be together. It was our greatest blessing & our biggest challenge. 
Time moved forward. Kids. Our engagement. A blended family. Marriage. 
All of a sudden 2009 became 2014 & I had no idea whose life I was in. Was it mine? Did I choose to be here or did I arrive here by not making any choices at all? 
My life has always been composed of seasons of adventures & waves of reality. I had never had an appropriate place to channel all of my random experiences & skills. Along came our wolf pack. I had never felt more suited for anything in my life. 
My motherhood journey has been filled with seasons of adventures & crashing waves of reality. All of my pre-motherhood experiences, from reading to an audience to knowing how to properly roll a kayak have added up to the sum of loving being someone's mother. 
I had always found the idea of choosing a career with a blind approach to what I actually wanted to be when I grew up to be quite the impossible task. Now, I can state with confidence & an assured sense of self, that Motherhood was my ultimate destiny. 
"We made it."
Nothing reality checks your ass more than 7 months of unemployment. Justin & I both had to face some less than wonderful things about ourselves & our marriage over the past months. While he went without I work, I returned to working. I found a bit more of myself that allowed me to appreciate pure motherhood just a bit more. 
Financially we had to put some plans into place. For not only our futures, but the kids' as well. They are plans in progress, as Justin has just very recently returned to work. Each day he goes, I hold my breath a bit waiting for a phone call that changes our lives again. 
I had lived in a state of expecting him to always be working, he assures me he never felt the same way himself & that we should of been prepared for anything to happen. He's not wrong. In my past I had been called a pessimist more than once, so once I hit 20 I approached everything with forced optimistic enthusiasm. Now, I know a healthy dose of both is necessary to surviving in this world. I suppose some would deem me a realist, I'm still adjusting to the label. 
What comes next? 
I still consider our lives to be in a state of change. As the days tick by I feel more comfortable about settling into this new chapter of life we're in. I've taken some of my own advice & accepted help in any form it's offered. I've had to let many things go & opened my mindset when it comes to letting life just be. 
While I'm excited for the near future, I still hold these last months with heavy significance. I brace myself daily for another change that will send us into a free-fall of chaos, struggle & upset. My anxiety tingles in the background of every move I make. With each passing day I remind myself that no matter what, we will be just fine, we have each other & we choose each other, every single day. 
I made a choice to be someone's mother & I made the choice to be someone's wife.
Frequently, I remind myself of this by revisiting the words that were spoken over us on our wedding day.
"Marriage is a supreme sharing of experience and an adventure in the most intimate of human relationships. Marriage is a journey of combined hopes and personal plans, great expectations and difficult negotiations, a single path taken together."
Often, I read our vows to center my soul.
I, take you to be my husband/wife, my partner in life & my one true love. 
I will cherish our friendship & love you today, tomorrow, & forever. 
I will trust you & honor you.
I will laugh & cry with you. 
I will love you faithfully through the best & the worst, through the difficult & the easy. 
Whatever may come I will always be there.
 As I have given you my hand to hold, so I give you my life to keep.

While I may not be able to rush into the future with blind optimism, I know, that no matter what is placed at our feet, we will be just fine as long as we are together. With Justin I'm given the opportunity to be a better version of myself every single day. I may not be able to control every detail or have change be on my terms, but I can be wise in my approach & guide my reactions to the challenges we will certainly face.
If you've read this far, Thank-You. I had no actual plans for beginning to write on this blog again, but now I'm reminded of why I used to adore the process so very much. There will be more to come, quite soon. Stay tuned.


Thursday, July 28, 2016

Road Tripping with Kids | Our Favorite Podcasts

Turn On These Podcasts | Don't Leave Your Kids On the Side of the Road

Here's the deal, for the last couple of summers I have been driving about 1,000 miles round trip to/from where Justin is located for work. During these drives I have realized that I truly enjoy road trips, especially with our kids. Considering I had severe anxiety about driving up until 4 years ago, I'm quite shocked at how much I look forward to each one of our trips. You're reading a blog written by someone who didn't fully learn to drive until age 23, & almost threw up on not one, but three separate driving instructors. 
Now, I plan ahead & jam out to various Spotify playlists as I drive on our journeys & the only time I feel anxiety in a vehicle for the most part is when someone else is driving. ;) 
Although Spotify playlists are a necessity for the kids & myself to keep the emotional climate in the vehicle below a boiling point, I've found that we need content with a bit more substance to sustain our brains on longer journeys. Podcasts are our current GO-TO! I'm going to share our current favorites that you should listen to on your next road tripping journey.
This is by far all of the kids favorite of the bunch. Eleanor Amplified is a production of WHYY in Philadelphia & episodes are released weekly. Make sure if you turn this one on, you have enough time to listen to a few episodes back to back as each one ends on a true cliffhanger. Eleanor is a world -famous radio reporter who goes the extra mile to always get her story, there are villains, plot twists,  & laughable moments. 
Eleanor is a character with a ton of depth that delivers a lot of teachable moments for your little listeners. From focusing on journalism, different viewpoints & a trip to Congress, she is a powerful character that your kids will probably want to be someday. (It's happened in my house daily since we discovered this podcast this summer.) 
Basically, if you loved Harriet the Spy or Inspector Gadget as a child AND your mother made you listen to NPR every time you were in a vehicle, you will adore & appreciate the wonderful storytelling of Eleanor Amplified. 
When to Listen To? | When you are ready for everyone to come together & listen to something adventurous & exciting! 
If you were looking for classic & fairy tale stories to listen to, this Podcast is perfection. From the Brothers Grimm & Hans Christian Anderson to Beatrix Potter & Lewis Carroll, there are hours of stories to listen to. These stories are perfect for nighttime driving or when you just need all of the mini-road trippers to take a bit of a snooze. The story tellers enthusiastic, soothing voice is perfect for mellowing out the emotional habitat in your vehicle, but I do recommend turning it off before you fall asleep yourself. We've also listened to this particular podcast when settling in for the evening at home or camping when the kids really just need to fall asleep but are restless from traveling.
When to Listen To? | Those times when everyone needs to relax & potentially take a mood-resetting travel nap.
This podcast is tailor made for those with kids who just can't stop asking questions. I know I was quite the curious youngster, but when we are on the road, my kids ask 5,000 questions before we travel 20 miles. I appreciate their curious dispositions, but sometimes, Mama just needs to drive! 
Those are the times where But Why comes into play. The kids are always really engaged in each episode, I believe that is greatly due to the narrator (Jane Lindholm) answering questions fellow kid listens have sent in. I think it adds an element of connection for the kids to know that other kids have questions about lots of things just like they do.
When to Listen to? | When the classic, yet always annoying "Are we there yet?" has been asked 100 times over & you just need a break.
This podcast packs a punch with a fun filled approach to ethical discussions for young listeners. I really appreciate that each episode gives the kids & I something to discuss while we drive. It's often so easy for each of to be doing our own thing once we have settled into our road trip. I drive, Nikoli looks out the window full of adventurous ideas, Lilliana reads & asks me 1,000 questions a minute, & Danielle colors away in her Road Trip Binder or sleeps. When I turn on Short & Curly everyone becomes more alert & we find ourselves having deep discussions & increasing our awareness of different topics. The episode about Dumbledore really created some apposing sides for our family, so fellow Harry Potter obsessed families, you've been warned & proceed with caution if you have extreme feeling about Albus Dumbledore himself.
(This might be one parents want to prescreen before they listen to it with their kids. I turn each episode on without doing so, but if you prefer to screen content, feel free to do so!)
When to Listen to? | When you're ready for everyone to be alert & discussing animals, characters, ethics, technology & pop culture with your kids.
I learn so much from listening to this podcast! The kids ask to listen to Tumble all the time & it causes the kids to think about the world around them from new perspectives. I appreciate the way the narrators & producers Lindsay & Marshall keep topics engaging for young listeners. There is an air of fun to each episode & there are questions, mysteries, & scientific exploration throughout the series. If you're looking for a podcast to teach your kids about science in a way that is approachable & not overwhelming, this is our favorite pick!
When to Listen to? | When you're ready to think, learn & have some fun!
This one is all fun! Various topics are shared in monthly episodes by creators Andrew & Polly. The kids always really connect with this podcast & it is guaranteed to get them giggling. There are true educational moments as well, but overall this one is really lighthearted, kid friendly & perfect for your next road trips or drive to Grandma & Grandpa's house. 
When to Listen to? | When a distraction from being stuck in a vehicle is needed & some laughter is vital. 

Those are our current favorite kid-friendly podcasts. If you're looking to plan to travel with your kids & want a backup to avoid hours of screen time & claims of boredom, these podcast are a great addition to your journey. We listen to each of them overtime we have a drive that is more than a few short minutes & the kids are constantly asking to listen to them at home. I try to encourage them to save listening to them until our next road trip, but sometimes I can't resist hearing the next episode either. Especially when it comes to Eleanor Amplified, Short & Curly & Tumble Science! 

I will be sharing my must have podcasts in a post very soon. Most of them I can only listen to when all three kids are asleep or I have a rare moment alone at home to listen to something that is well above PG. I find them vital to me being able to drive long distances without getting too wore down or exactly what I need to scrub the particularly tough dishes late at night once everyone is nestled in their beds.

Let me know what your favorite kid-friendly podcasts are! Did we miss one that we HAVE to listen to ASAP? Are any of these your favorites? 
Leave us a comment below & let us know. 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Out of the Fog | Part Four | Boating Adventures

Out of the Fog | Part Four | Boating Adventures

We have a boat! Actually, this boat has been a part of our lives for a while now, but in May we were really able to experience quite a few new adventures on our Bayliner. While I cannot give you all of the specifics of the specs of our particular boat, I can share with you some photos & tales of our recent adventures.

The start of each boat trip always begins with launching the boat. On this particular day there were some mechanical issues Justin needed to address so the kids & I had some spare time on the dock. I took a chance on a rather overcast day & let the kids pose away while I snapped some photos. 
 The girls lounging away. 
One of the aspects I adore the most about having a boat is that all of us are able to experience the same adventure together. Although our perspectives might be slightly different, we are all on the same vessel. When we are snowmachining, biking or hiking we are all on individual machines or hiking at different points on a trail. When we are on the boat, we are together in a different way & in the little moments- a plane landing, spotting a loon, or a large wake crashing into the side of the boat, we all share the same moments of wonder.
 Nikoli at the bow. It is by far his favorite spot on our boat. He likes to pretend he is a pirate on the high seas & that he is on an adventure of epic challenges & treasure hunting.
Lilliana has spent a few days learning to drive the boat now. Always under the watchful eye of her Dad of course. I've loved being able to see her approach this new challenge with excitement. Each time she drives the boat I can see her confidence within herself growing. 
 The man behind it all. I will admit that when this boat first came into our lives in the form of a potentially very expensive project, I was quite frustrated. I assumed that the boat was beyond repair when it came to the engine that we were told was a complete goner. Thanks to Justin's extensive knowledge of all things that have motors, engines, metal, screws, & other endless mechanical elements, he had the boat up & running rather quickly. 
Now it is one of my favorite things we have ever purchased. Each time we are in the boat Justin & I share a smirk or two about my initial reaction & attitude when he brought it home. 
 Snacks. There is something special about a packed cooler of snacks on a family outing that just makes my heart happy. We have a pack of yogurt covered pretzel addicts so we rarely venture out without them. The boat is no exception. 
 On Memorial Day weekend we spent time at Justin's parents home & the kids experienced their first paddle boat rides. After a couple trips they were ready to venture out on their own. As each day passes the kids are starting to become more adventurous all on their own. Although I have always wanted to instill a sense of adventure in each of them, I feel a slight pang when they do begin to take off on their own. 
Of course they still very much need me to be present for new experiences. With the boat we also purchased a set up for tubing. Somewhere along the way they have become frightened by the activity & recently I found myself fully clothed, on a tube, being pulled through the water on Finger Lake with each one of them. They still haven't gotten on that tube on their own & claim they will only go if "Mom comes with me." 
Although I know they will be off on adventures of their very own, all too soon, I'm content with being soaking wet, in the middle of a crisp lake, on a hot Alaskan summers day with each of them for as long as they will allow it.
Justin has also been able to wake board with requires me to be driving the boat. There may have been a full fledged panic attack brewing the first time he asked me to drive around a lake. But we've gotten through that now & I genuinely look forward to each day that I get to be the captain of our little vessel. 

I included these adventures with the Out of the Fog series because a few months ago, when I was trapped within my own issues I wouldn't of been capable of enjoying our time together on the boat. Sometimes, with an open minded approach to something new, an experience can give us so much more than we are even capable of realizing. I do not know what my future holds, but if it includes beautiful days with my family, trying new things, & a cooler full of snacks, you can of course count me in. 

Friday, May 13, 2016

Out of the Fog | Part Three | Dear End of School Year

Out of the Fog | Part Three | Dear End of School Year

The time has come. I should be a seasoned professional when it comes to the school year ending by now. I've survived it all before, albeit not with complete success. But we have all made out to the other side to Summer Break with dinners on the porch, practically no bedtime & endless supplies of popsicles. 
Something is different this year. I can't pin point if it is because all three kids will be homeschooled in the fall. Or maybe it's because I've done it all before. Honestly, I think I've just reached the point where I am d-o-n-e. Done.
Dear End of School Year,
To be frank, I was finished with you somewhere between the end of Winter Break & the start of field trip permission slips coming home. I've lost any need to actually check my kids folders for the masses of dead tree slivers that are sent home in excess. There are piles reproducing with one another somewhere in the depths of my office. They will provide my children with endless hours of entertainment for when I just want to be left the fuck alone & I do not care if there is homemade pastel colored paper confetti all over my house. 
I'm not a fan of field trips. Field trips make me wish I was a parent with a full-time job just so I had a legitimate excuse to miss the joy sucking activities of a field trip. Each time I receive notice (when I actually check the folders), that my child is required to bring a completely disposable lunch, I use the minute amount of self control I still have to not throw a temper tantrum. 
I cannot listen to my child's struggle filled attempts to read as many words as possible, fluently, in a one-minute time span anymore. I understand the educational benefits behind this particular brand of homework hell. However, just once, I'd like for my child to come home & be assigned to read quietly, by herself, for as long as possible. There's a challenge I would happily sign off on. 
When did we start celebrating birthdays before a child's actual birthday? Frankly, I don't give a shit about other kids un-birthdays. I don't give a shit about my own kids un-birthday. I'm not sending 35 dairy free cupcakes to school in May, just because my child was born in July. I will spend the next 10 weeks suffering through failed Pinterest birthday decor attempts on my own time. I also, will be explaining to my child that I love her dearly, but no, she is not getting a present or special breakfast on her un-birthday. I know, I'm the worst. 
Nobody wants to go to bed anymore. I've run out of fucks to give for our bedtime routine. Brushing teeth consists of squeezing globs of toothpaste onto a toothbrush & seeing who can get it to stick to all surfaces in the bathroom. My children want to sleep with ALL the lights on for the entire winter, but now, it is apparently impossible to go to bed at 8PM because there is too much LIGHT coming in. 
I am out of expressions to display my fake elation over my children's art projects. Honestly, there should be a screening process before they are allowed to bring home the hideous, glue infested, scribbled, piles from Free Choice this time of year. I lost the ability to feign gratitude for paper & paste about 6 months ago. 
Color coordinated dress up days enrage me. What is so difficult to understand, that, at this time year, we are down to clothes that barely fit & shoes that were missing under someones bed for most of the school year. There is no yellow, everyone in my family has an aversion to red & even the excuse to go to Target isn't getting me through this one. 
I'd like to be able to make some false promise that I will get my school-year shit together by fall, but who are we kidding, that's not going to happen. 

Now I have to go gather up all of the required items for the girls to go to school tomorrow because, apparently, this time of year there is a dragon guarding their backpacks so nothing can possibly be put back where it belongs before bed time. 


*I throughly appreciate everything about our public school the girls have attended. This was just a fun way for me to rant between doing dishes & sorting through all of the stuff the girls brought home this week from school.*

I've recently started vlogging our life each week on my Youtube, Alaska Love 12. Check it out to see us in action on our day to day moments. 
Following the Leaders | Our Weekly Vlog

Monday, April 25, 2016

Out of the Fog | Part Two | New Routines

Living Intentionally with Routines

Over the years our day to day routines have changed & adapted based upon multiple things. Work schedules, the start of public school, moods, seasons & total lack of intentionally living. 
Recently, the total lack of routine has left our family's progression through the day in shambles. Mornings are spent frantic & disorganized. Nighttime, especially bed time is chaotic & stressful. I've realized, when it comes to raising children, these times of the day are apparently very important to everyones survival. 
Now that I am focused on getting our family back on track, it seems appropriate to try to find Morning & Nighttime routines that will equal daily success of each of us. 
Image from Clean & Sensible

Before I started making out what our routines would consist of I knew I needed to determine what success means when it comes to our day. These goals are based on the kids all being homeschooled for the upcoming school year. I will be sharing more on all things homeschool very soon! For now the routines I'm looking to establish are before after our homeschool activities.

-Everyone is ready by 10AM on Mondays, Thursdays & Fridays-
-Everyone is ready to leave the house by 8:30AM on Tuesdays & Wednesdays-
-We each complete 1-2 tidying tasks before 10AM-
-Breakfast is made, eaten & cleaned up before 9AM-
-Everyone has time to ease into their morning without being rushed or frustrated-
-Everyone has a chance for a one-on-one moment with me before homeschool starts-

-Everyone is settled in bed by 8:30-9:00PM-
-We follow a consistent routine each weekday evening & weekends have more freedom-
-Everyone completes 1-2 tidying tasks before 8:00PM-
-We read one bedtime story or chapter from a book-
-The kids each read for 10-20 minutes before sleep time-
-Our bedtime routine is soothing & calming-

Knowing what my goals are for our routines has given me ideas on activities for adding structure to those specific times of the day. Of course I consulted Pinterest for ideas on specific things we could be doing with our time. Some of these ideas I found on Pinterest & will be linked, others are things we have already done that I want to consistently have throughout our routines. 
(Image from Design-Milk)
-Coffee for me, Tea for the kids-
-Playing Music-
-Morning Baskets (Do a quick search on Pinterest for them)-
-Morning Yoga (Stylish Eve)-
(Image from Writing Lunacies)
-Soothing music- (SADA)
-Chore Charts-
-Help, Thanks, Wow (Anne Lamott)-
-Drawing Journal-
-Sleepytime Lotion (Homemade or Earth's Best)-

Since I have taken the time to sort out new ideas for our daily routines I feel more centered as I approach each day. I know that by getting the kids on track with their routines they will be happier & I will be able to spend more time doing things that need to be done. With the chaos of our current lack of routine, there is a lot of time being wasted. There are also a lot of ugly moods being experienced in the morning & at bed time. Over the next few weeks I'm hopeful about seeing positive changes in everyone. 

If you have been going through the motions without being mindful of the routines that your family needs, the routines that YOU need, I encourage you to begin to map out your own routines. It can be small at first, simply write out what your current issues are. Then set some new goals for what your ideal routines would be. Every family is different & every child is different, take the time to organize things that will lead to everyones individual success & the things that will allow all of you to function together. 
Each of my kids are quite different from one another, which means they each require different things from me in the mornings & evenings. By truly organizing & being consistent with our routines I can take the time to allow each of them to receive what they need from me. 
Overall I want each of my children to be mindful little humans & I want to provide them with the time in their day to be able to explore the journey to mindful living with me. I will be writing an update to this post in a few weeks to let you all know how we are doing with our fresh new routines! 

Until then, check out the links throughout this post & leave a comment if you are going through your own journey to better routines.