Thursday, October 16, 2014

Flexible homeschooling

I follow a Facebook page called Simple Homeschool. One of the things that I love about their page is their reoccurring Facebook statuses answering the question, "How has #homeschooling changed your family's life for the better?" Their followers submit their answers and Simple Homeschool features one of the answers. I love reading all the reasons why people love homeschooling. I love reading about how people's lives have changed for the better because they homeschool and feeling encouraged by their answers, especially the answers I relate too.

We recently took a long trip-- a little over 3 weeks away from the house. We spent a week at the beach with my parents then drove from the beach to my parents' house. While at my parents' house, I drove from there to a friend's house and then back to my parents' house. Then I finally made the trek from my parents' house back to our house. We did a lot of outings while visiting all these different places, saw a lot of cool things, and saw a lot of familiar (and dearly missed) friends and family. It was so refreshing to mix things up, have a change of scenery, and spend quality time with people we love.

While away, I frequently was grateful we are homeschooling. There were many moments where I said, "I am so glad we homeschool!" to my friends and family. I loved that trip. I loved that we could spend almost a month traveling in the middle of the school year and that school traveled with us. When I left my parents' house to go visit my friends, I did school over the weekend so we could take the first couple days of the week off. Homeschooling is so flexible. Being a military family (a submariner's wife, nonetheless), flexibility is key. My confidence in our decision to homeschool was most definitely boosted on this trip. I felt that we would have the freedom to travel when my husband gets back on a submarine in the next couple months and that we would also be able to adapt our school schedule to my husband's schedule, guaranteeing we get that family time we need.

After the long trip away, I drove home with the boys on a Sunday. Monday morning I woke up feeling horrible. I completely lost my voice due to a wretched cold. I realized pretty quick that I wouldn't be able to do school without a voice. I decided to take the days off that I was sick. It wasn't until today that my voice came back along with (most of) my energy. Because I was taking it pretty easy this week and putting a lot of things off, we were totally off schedule all day. By early afternoon, it was apparent that school was not going to happen today-- so I didn't make it. I decided that we would finish out the week in our "unschooling" style and resume structured homeschool on Monday when we've had time to get back on schedule after the trip and my cold. How awesome is that? No tears, no fuss, just doing what works best for us. If you have ever forced more than one child out the door in the morning to get somewhere on time when you don't feel well, you will know how amazing it is to avoid all that.

With each passing day of homeschooling, I enjoy it more and more. I enjoy the time we spend learning together. I look forward to doing kindergarten with my oldest and that time of day we have together. I enjoy how excited our preschoolers are to do "school" (they do not have any structured school yet, but they love pulling out notebooks and pretending to do what our oldest is doing). It has been a blessing for our family. I became even more aware of what a blessing it is after this trip.

Why do you love homeschooling?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Cloth diapering a newborn {logistics}

Baby #4 is now 2 and a half months old. We've been cloth diapering him since he was 1 or 2 weeks old and it has been going great! I posted when we had been cloth diapering him for 2 weeks and we've made a few changes to our regime. We are still using covers and prefolds, but we had to change our overnight solution and adjust our prefold fold. We also dealt with our first "diaper rash."

The biggest change has been dealing with overnights. Baby #4 has been an excellent sleeper. I feed him around 9-10 pm and he routinely sleeps until 3-4 am. He has even done a few all nighters, eating at 9-10 pm and going all the way to 5:30-6:30 am. This has been great for me, but not the best for just a cover and prefold! We switched him to a Thirsties Fitted Diaper Size 1 and our same Thirsties Size 1 covers. Again, this worked well for a couple nights until every single morning he was leaking out of the same spot on the front of his diaper, no matter how carefully we adjusted the cover over the fitted diaper. I talked to the gal at our local baby store and she recommended that we switch to a larger size cover, like the one size Flip cover. The Flip cover is larger than our Thirsties Size 1. It has snaps on the front to adjust the size, just like all our other snap covers, and so it easily fit him. It did the trick! Now we have no leaking issues at night.
This is what a Thristies Fitted Size 1 diaper looks like. The entire diaper is absorbent, which is ideal for night. You must put a cover over a fitted diaper.


We use a Flip cover over our Thristies Fitted diaper. Just like with a prefold and cover, you need to make sure that the entire fitted diaper is covered by the cover or it will leak. We have really liked this solution for night. Baby #4 tends to wet more after his first feed in the morning, not during the night or at his night feed, so I usually change his diaper at the 9-10 pm feeding and after his first morning feed at 5:30-6:30 am, even if I feed him in the night at 3-4 am. When I've changed him at the middle of the night feed, his diaper was dry. In the mornings, I put him in a cover and prefold after his first feed and then change him about an hour later because that is when he wets the most.

The one size Flip cover is much larger than the Thirsties size 1 cover. We only have one Flip cover right now. The Thirsties size 1 covers have still worked great for us during the day with the prefolds.

 Daytime {Covers and Prefolds}

We haven't had issues with leakage at all during the day... until the poop blowouts. It started becoming a problem around 8 weeks that he would leak slightly in the leg holes after he pooped. So we adjusted the fold of our diaper and it has worked perfectly for us. I know that people use the Snappies for a traditional cloth diaper fold, but I didn't buy the Snappies and so we modified our fold. Now, with this fold he does not leak out of his cover when he poops. However, he does tend to get his cover dirty when he poops, meaning we change the cover. Everything is contained inside the Thirsties diaper cover, we just need to change the cover.
With prefolds and covers, you usually just change the prefold when you go to change the diaper. With this fold, we only change the prefold when the diaper is just wet; when he poops, we sometimes have to change the prefold and the cover. This fold has been working for us just great and this hasn't been a problem. We use 2-3 covers during the day and we have no leak issues.
We don't do anything crazy or fancy with this fold. All we do is fan the back and bring the prefold to a point in the front, like so.
We then fold the front over so it is more absorbent where he needs it to be.
Bring the prefold up.
We cover the prefold with the Thirsties size 1 cover, which is still working great for us during the day.

Now that baby #4 is 2 and a half months old and 12 lbs 14 oz, we like to make sure we snap the wings down on the side of our cover. It helps keep everything in place.
And then we snap the cover on the front! Finished! :) It really isn't that different than how we started. The fanning in the back has helped with the blowouts though.

Diaper Rash
So baby #4 has not had diaper rash like how you think: open sores, welt looking areas, etc. Because we use organic cotton prefolds, the moisture is not wicked away from his skin. During the day, we change his diaper every 1-3 hours. The night diaper is microfiber and wicks the moisture away (plus he doesn't wet much at night), so we haven't had issues then. It has just been during the day that we've noticed him having some issues. I talked to the gal at our local baby store and she recommended fleece inserts. I wondered how well this would work, but, I'm telling you, it is fleece magic. Whenever we notice his diaper area getting red or rosey, we throw a fleece insert into his diaper to help wick that moisture away from his skin and the next diaper change he is back to normal!
This is what the fleece insert looks like. I fold it in half before putting it on him.

We just lay the fleece insert over his diaper area.
Diaper as usual.
Good to go! For good measure, we usually stick a fleece insert in his overnight diaper just to make sure that the moisture is extra wicked away from his skin at night, though the microfiber really pulls it away.

The first response I hear when people ask me about cloth diapering is: "What about all the laundry?" I said it in my last blog post too, but I haven't had issues with the laundry. Since that post, I have made some adjustments to our laundry routine.
I like to do our diaper laundry first thing in the morning. The fitted diapers are usually dry by the time we need to diaper baby #4 for overnights (if they aren't dry by 7 pm, I do toss them in the dryer on low while we bathe his brothers just to be sure they will be completely dry by 9 pm). I was rinsing the diapers with our diaper sprayer before throwing them in the wet pail. Then I had a conversation with the gal at our local baby store. She said breastmilk poop is water soluble, so she does a rinse cycle in her washer before the wash cycle. Now I throw the soiled diaper in our wet pail after changing baby #4. I empty the wet pail in our washer every morning after the morning feed and put the washer on rinse/soak. After the diapers rinse, I wash them on hot with our cloth diaper detergent.
I can't seem to find a straight answer on cloth diaper detergents. It seems some people think that having to use a special cloth diaper detergent is baloney. Other people think the regular laundry detergent is best, like original Tide or original Gain. I don't know. I make our laundry detergent, but I have found mixed reviews on using Borax on cloth diapers. I'm nervous about ruining all our cloth diapers, so I haven't braved washing them in it yet. For now, I use Babyganics laundry detergent on our cloth diapers. After washing the diapers, I then hang everything to dry. Since it is usually a smaller load (especially for our house), I'll hang everything-- the wipes, diapers, covers, fitted diaper... hang it all. I put this outside in the sun to dry most days. On rainy days or when we are out of the house, I leave it in the laundry room (don't want my covers and wipes to blow away!). The sun has also been great for sun bleaching out the breastmilk poop stains on the covers, prefolds, and wipes.
Do you have any great cloth diapering tips?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Boosting our immune systems through diet

I may be a mom, but I still like to party. And by party, I mean spending my Friday night Googling natural ways to boost your immune system through your diet.

I've posted before about our son's reactive airways. Because he is so young, his reactive airways are constantly changing. There is the hope that he will grow out of having such a hard time. However, due to family history, his pediatricians proceed as if he has an asthma diagnosis.

Each year, we try to wean him off of his daily regulator, Pulmicort. Last year, he was doing great through the first half of the cold and flu season so we started weaning him off of Pulmicort, from twice a day to once a day. Then--bam!-- he caught a cold and he ended up on Orapred twice in a row. He stayed on Pulmicort until May/June, when we had weaned him down again to one dose before stopping all together. He spent most of June, all of July, and all of August off Pulmicort. Then this past week he caught his first cold of the season and we ended up at the pediatrician where she decided against oral steroids, but put him back on Pulmicort twice a day and he spent 3 days on Albuterol every 3-4 hours. He is doing better, but is still needing Albuterol in the morning.

As an asthmatic myself, I know what my triggers are. For our son O, his main trigger is getting sick. And then once he gets sick, his lungs have a hard time recovering, making him susceptible to other colds and dragging colds on for long periods of time. I also notice, like myself, that he tends to start having more issues during the time when the seasons start changing. I haven't noticed him to have any allergies, though he tends to get rashes and dry skin.

One of the big ways to help manage your asthma is avoid your triggers. When I think about O's major trigger-- getting sick-- I'm not quite sure how to avoid it. He is one 3-year old in a family of six. His dad is in the Navy, meaning the sailors don't get sick days and he is often working with people who are under the weather, putting him in contact with lots of germs. On top of that, our boys are all very active and enjoy playing outside, going to the park, and meeting up with friends. How do I keep a 3-year old from getting sick?

When he was a baby and a beginning walker, it was much easier to control what he came into contact with and where. I loved Touchy Tags and hung them everywhere. I had hand sanitizer sitting all over our house and insisted everyone used it all the time. We washed hands like it was our job. Now that he's older, my husband and I wash our hands all the time and we are always washing our boys' hands and instructing them to go wash their hands, but it is harder, different, then when they were babies. I also cannot hang a Touchy Tag around O's neck and stick him in a bubble, as much as I would like to at times.

This is when I started thinking of other ways to help him out. I've posted several times regarding our family diet as well. I cook most of our foods. We really try to avoid processed foods and artificial ingredients. We make the best choices that we can (and can afford; read "Organics vs family budget"). We follow the 80/20 approach when it comes to eating healthy. So I started Googling: how can I boost his immune system through our diet? I came across several blogs that helped me put together our list on how to do this.

The first blog post that really helped direct my focus was MindBodyGreen's post, "6 Ways to Boost Your Child's Immune System." From there I did a little reading on elderberry and decided against that. While on WebMD, I read about "Immunity Boosting Snacks for Kids." And then somehow I ended up on Dr. Sear's website. I read his articles on "8 Foods that Boost Immunity," "Boost Your Child's Immune System," and "4 Habits that Weaken the Immune System." I also looked up "26 Foods High in Zinc for Overall Good Heath" and "Top 7 Vitamin C containing fruits."

I read a whole bunch of other articles on boosting the immune system through your diet, but those are the articles that I printed off and used to compile my list of foods to boost our children's immune systems.

There are a few obvious things that I have not presented our children-- like oysters, watermelon seeds, and beef liver. However, when looking over the list, the biggest change in our diet is going to be adding a fish dinner once a week (read, "Should your kids eat fish? How they can avoid mercury and still get their omega-3" posted by BabyCenter). Since I do most of our shopping at Costco, I like to stock up in bulk, thus buying fresh fish tends to slip off our menu. I'm also going to focus a lot on serving foods high in Vitamin C for their afternoon snack and really try to make the shift from store-bought wheat sandwich bread to homemade whole-wheat bread. The complete plan is to boost all of our immune systems through our diet, hopefully cut down on the amount of colds O catches this year, helping keep his asthma under control. I'd like to cut back on his Albuterol usage and keep him on his current dose of Pulmicort or lower it.

Here is the list that I've put together:

Boosting our children's immune systems
Immunity boosting snacks
1.       Yogurt
2.      Kefir
3.      Walnuts
4.      Fruits and veggies
5.      Lean meats
1.       Spinach
2.      Beef
3.      Shrimp
4.      Kidney beans
5.      Flax seeds
6.      Pumpkin seeds
7.      Oysters
8.      Watermelon seeds
9.      Garlic
10.   Lima beans
11.    Peanuts
12.   Egg yolks
13.   Turkey
14.   Salmon
15.   Lobster
16.   Pork
17.   Dark chocolate
18.   Chickpeas
19.   Beef liver
20.  Brown rice
21.   Peas
22.  Sesame seeds
23.  Lamb
24.  Cashews
25.  Crab
26.  Mushrooms
Omega-3 fatty acids
1.       Salmon
2.      Tuna
3.      Mackerel

Vitamin C fruits
1.       Guava, 1 medium
2.      Papaya, 1 cup
3.      Strawberries, 1 cup
4.      Kiwi, 1 medium
5.      Cantaloupe, 1 cup
6.      Orange, 1 medium
7.      Grapefruit, half
1.       Tuna
2.      Red snapper
3.      Lobster
4.      Shrimp
5.      Whole grains
6.      Vegetables
7.      Brown rice
8.      Egg yolks
9.      Cottage cheese
10.   Chicken (white meat)
11.    Sunflower seeds
12.   Garlic
13.   Brazil nuts
14.   Lamb chops
1.       Vitamin C
2.      Probiotic
3.       Multi-vitamin

What do you do this time of year to keep your children healthy?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

To stand

I recently posted about how difficult things have been at our house with one of the harder 3-year old phases. Then last night my husband rented "Mom's Night Out" on Redbox. (By the way, if you are a parent, you must watch that movie!) This all got me thinking about motherhood...

1. Talk about your problems.

I think so much of the time we don't talk about our problems. There was a scene in the movie where the lead character slowed down and talked to another struggling mom about how hard motherhood is. The struggling mom looked at the main character, "You don't have it all together?" We had spent the majority of the movie watching how this main character was struggling with motherhood and balancing life and happiness and marriage, yet this other struggling mom perceived that the main character had it all together. Not saying that we need to walk around with a sign and tell every Tom, Dick, and Stanley we meet that "I HAVE NO CLUE WHAT I'M DOING" but it is so important to be open and honest with your friends.


2. Because no one has it all together.

I think sometimes we think that there are people out there that "have it all together." I loved in the movie when the mom pulled up to church and saw these other moms standing outside dressed beautifully, hair done, and she mutters, "They must have nannies." The other day we took the boys to Monkey Joe's. We had another long day in the house staring us down and we thought it would be nice to take them somewhere where they could be kids-- run and jump without getting in trouble. Apparently there was a birthday party going on there because a parade of well-dressed children poured out of a party room. I mean, coordinating Janie and Jack type children. I have never seen so much embroidered seersucker in one place. There were mothers hovering outside the bounce houses in jeweled flip flops, silk shirts, and chunky necklaces waiting to fix ginormous bows perched on their little girls' heads. Dads wearing boat shoes, pressed shorts, and collared shirts followed after siblings proclaiming their siblinghood, "Big brother" written in checkered applique next to matching "Little brother." I took a look at our boys and hoped they looked decent....before wondering why I cared how they looked next to these kids. I wondered how these parents had it all together. Did they have it all together? They certainly looked like they had it far more together than our boys. When we leave the house in coordinating, clean outfits it is after a good solid 30-minutes of negotiating and threats.

3. Because we need support.

I cannot tell you how horrible last week was for me. It really did end in tears. I had organized dinner with my girlfriends earlier in the week because I was needing a night out, but by the time the night came I didn't want to go. I was emotionally exhausted. I felt like a drained, failure of a parent that didn't deserve a night out. The thought of making small talk made me cringe. I wanted to go to dinner and have a glass of wine... followed by the rest of the bottle. My husband came home from work and said, "Go. You need it. At the very least, go and listen to the conversation and enjoy a nice meal out." So I went and, guess what? It was amazing. It was so nice to chat with my girlfriends and hear about their problems as well. Listening to them drove home the point I'M NOT THE ONLY ONE. I felt myself relaxing at dinner and really enjoying myself. It really was what I needed to unwind. The next morning I woke up feeling like I could handle the day, the first time in a week or so that I didn't wake up thinking, "What fresh hell is going to happen today?" Talking to others isn't just a way to get support for ourselves, but to offer support to our friends. On the drive home from dinner, my girlfriend told me that she's been struggling with a phase with her little one and she tells herself, "I just have one right now and Kimber has four!" And when I'm balancing all my things at my house, I tell myself, "She has a toddler, is pregnant, and is finishing her degree!" It is so nice to lean on each other and get that support. It is so nice to hear that you aren't alone, that you aren't the only one struggling, and to hear how other people have dealt with similar issues and how they got through it.

4. Get the help you need.

The week before last was rough. Last week was a horrible, no good, very bad week. I cried a lot on Friday. I felt fried and tired and alone. I missed my mom. I missed my far away friends. I missed our old duty station and all our playdates there. I missed my husband who is working a lot. I felt like I had nothing else to give. So I started filling my calendar. I need interaction time with friends. I need quality time with my kids. My husband and I have been reading The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Through that we've discovered my love language is quality time. I really feel that is part of the problem why these days are so draining when they are going through these phases-- I don't feel like I'm getting any quality time with them since each day is so stressful and full of tantrums. On top of that, when my husband gets home we aren't getting much quality time since he's exhausted from work and I'm exhausted from dealing with the 3-year olds' tantrums all day. Filling up my calendar has helped a lot. I am getting face time with other moms who tell me, "Girl, me too! I hear you!" I'm getting the kids out and about so they can stretch their legs somewhere new (or throw a fit somewhere new). When my husband gets home, we all have something to talk about other than tantrums. The kids tell them about the new park we went to and I get to tell him about the overall adventure. It has been important to me to reach out to others and get that support. Another "guess what" moment: when I reached out to my friends and said, "Hey, the kids are going through a really rough phase right now and I really need to meet up with you. Let's put something on the calendar," they have all been responsive! "My kids too. I would love to meet up with you!" We are all in this together.

5. Remember-- it is only a phase.

For me, it really helps to remind myself over and over (and over and over and over) again that it is only a phase... it will pass... this won't go on forever... Because it is true. It won't be like this forever. That doesn't make it easier in the midst of it, but it does help me find the strength to dig my heels in and pray, to not cave when I need to stand strong. It might sound a little dramatic, but the other day in my Love God Greatly devotional, we got on the subject of the full armor of God. I love the verse in Ephesians 6:13, "Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand." How often does this happen in motherhood? You nicely identify the behavior your 3-year old needs to adjust, "We don't put stickers on the table. Stickers go on paper." You redirect the behavior, "How about you put your stickers on this piece of paper instead of the table?" You give the warning, "If you don't put the stickers on the paper, you can't play with them." You give them the last chance, "This is the last time I'm going to tell you that stickers must be put on paper. Next time I'm taking the stickers away." And then you follow through. There is flailing, gnashing of teeth, wailing... and so you follow through with time to rest in their room and pull themselves together. Yet while you are doing that the other 3-year old is busy "writing" with a permanent marker on your handmade kitchen table and your kindergartner is asking over and over again if you can play Uno with him now and the baby is starting to fuss because it is time to eat... and then the dog is bumming at the door to go potty and the pot on the stove starts to boil over. Those are the times that I think of the armor of God and standing firm. When I have done all that I can, all that I know how to do, when I have gone through my Rolodex of good parenting, I stand firm. Ephesians 6:18 tells us, "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests..." Turn to God, mommas. Turn to each other. Put on the armor of God so that when you have done everything, you can stand.

I loved that the movie "Mom's Night Out" concluded with a heart to heart from Trace Adkins where he told her how hard she was on herself. It is true. We are hard on ourselves. What standard are we trying to live up to? Our perception of the seersucker kids at Monkey Joe's? The mom who shows up to church in heels and a clean dress? Or that we think our friends will judge us if we open up to them? As the main character sits with her husband at the end of the movie, she watches her kids and says, "It is hard, but it is worth it." It is so worth it. It is hard. Life doesn't slow down so we can figure out the hard moments with a clear mind.

If you continue reading in Ephesians, Paul says in 6:19-20, "Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should." Have you ever left a church and seen the sign at the end of the parking lot, "You are now entering the mission field?" What a great reminder. This is our job. We often question ourselves, doubt ourselves, cave when we should stand, cry because we don't know what to do... Paul asks for prayers so that he will have the words and that he will fearlessly deliver them. We are witnessing to our children. We are ambassadors of Christ, in chains to the gospel, delivering the Good News day in and day out. It's time to lean on each other, lift each other up, put on the armor of God, and fearlessly parent through Christ.

Friday, September 5, 2014

One of those phases...

I sat down this morning to write a blog post on our family schedule and why routines work well for us. However, as I was typing our toddlers kept interrupting me with issue after issue.




I eventually felt myself getting more and more frustrated, losing my train of thought and writing long, rambling paragraphs that lead nowhere. I saved the blog post and closed the browser.

I tried switching gears. I reached out to a fellow momma and shared my frustrations, got some support; even texting someone can help get some encouragement. I switched activities. Obviously blogging wasn't going to happen; let's color! Let's start school earlier than usual. Let's do something organized together.

I called our kindergartner back inside to do some school. He got out his school supplies. One of our toddlers started whining, unprovoked. Literally standing in the middle of the room making high-pitched whiny, screeching noises over and over again. I gave him a warning. I invited him to sit with us and to color. He persisted. I walked him to his room and told him whining was unacceptable. He started screaming and hitting the door when I closed it. I took a deep breath and prayed, "God, let me love my kids through you. Let me show them your love."

I went back to the table with the other 2 boys, a toddler and our kindergartner. We said the Pledge of Allegiance. We prayed together. I went back to get the toddler in quiet time and asked if he wanted to join us. He declined and said he was sorry for whining and that he wanted to play in the playroom. He started getting dressed in costumes. I resumed school with the other 2 boys. The toddler at the table finished coloring and said he wanted to do costumes; he cleaned up his markers and went to the playroom. Moments later the first toddler came out of the playroom whining, whining, whining. I instructed him to use his words. He was frustrated; his backpack was broken. I informed him it was upside down and that is why everything was falling out. I offered to help him. He backed away whining. He let out the high pitch screeching whine over and over and so I walked him to his room to collect himself. He whined and whined at the door. I prayed. I went back to school with the other 2. I came back awhile later to ask if he wanted to come out of his room and he threw a toy at the door. I tucked him in for a nap and told him he needed to rest. I came back to do the calendar with the other 2 boys. It went well. We did our thing and then the other toddler started whining-- expressionless, unprovoked whining. Why? I didn't know so I asked him to do his calendar job. He stood motionless whining. I gave him a warning. He whined. I escorted him to his room to rest as well.

I stood outside their door and felt the tears well up in my eyes. What am I doing wrong? Why are they constantly whining and fighting?

Yesterday we had a list of errands to run. On the actual errands, they were obedient and well behaved. They stood in line with me at the Post Office. They waited in the returns line at Costco. But as soon as we got in the car it was constant bickering-- constant bickering. Wild slapping in the direction of their brother, screeching at the top of their lungs, "NO!", yelling, whining, throwing, flailing, moaning...

I'm exhausted. This behavior has been going on for over a week. Throw in there some potty training regression and the constant whining and bickering has just about drained me. I put them down to nap and they spend the entire time opening their respective doors bumming, "Can I come out now?" I wake up in the morning to the sounds of the toddlers fussing and fighting and whining and arguing in the hall bathroom. I put them to bed after listening to them fuss and fight and whine and argue

I go through moments where I feel confident and think, "This is a phase. I understand it is a phase. I understand that parenting is hard and that some phases are more enjoyable than other phases. I know their brains are developing. I know they have dealt with big changes from their dad starting prototype and being gone all day. I know we will come out of this okay and to focus on the positives."

And then there are other moments where I cringe at the thought of riding in the car with them and so I don't want to leave the house.

Where I think about how quickly they grow up and how one day they won't be 3-years old anymore, they will be 6-years old and I will wonder where the time went.

Where I hear other moms talk about how the toddler years are their favorite.

Where I'm crying in the laundry room and texting my mom because I just don't know what else to do and I feel so alone.

Where I miss our old duty station because I had friends who were going through the same thing with me, who have kids the same age as mine, who invited us over for playdates and park dates and coffee dates.

Where I just hate spending all day long listening to them fight with each other.

Those moments I feel like a horrible parent.

I don't know why our toddlers are behaving this way. I spend a lot of time praying and asking God to extend some grace their way, to blanket me in his love so that I can show them his love, to strengthen me so that I have the energy and patience to be consistent. I read parenting books (my favorites: Keep Calm and Parent On and When Mothers Pray). I meditate on Philippians, my favorite book of the Bible. I hold on to those sweet moments with them in between the fussing and the fits. Yet I struggle because the absolute truth is that I am not enjoying myself.

Since I do not have a large friend base here, I've been working on keeping myself busy. I've been focusing a lot on things that I do enjoy doing-- kindergarten with our oldest, taking walks with our infant, reading by myself and with the kids, and cooking. Some of the cooking has been fun to do with the children, even the toddlers. Sometimes it goes downhill quickly and for no reason, like yesterday when one of the toddlers was helping me until he just broke down into a whining mess. Other times they get immense satisfaction from making the meal with me and will channel all their energy into the tasks I give them. I try to have them help me one at a time, stealing moments that I can give them my undivided attention and listen to what they have to say. I try to find tasks that play to their strengths so they can build their self-confidence. I've also been trying to keep our calendar full, inviting friends on playdates, meeting up with girlfriends, doing things with my family. Having 4 children, homeschooling, and life as a Navy wife tend to keep our calendar full and so the hours of the day tend to slip by quickly anyways; I make my best effort to organize those hours in a way that works well for our boys.

This is one of those phases that I am just holding on and hoping that it passes quickly. It has been one of those phases that no matter what I try doesn't seem to make a big difference in how our day goes or how the toddlers behave. It has been one of those phases that make me wish I lived closer to my family and to my girlfriends.

How do you deal with these kind of phases?