Thursday, January 31, 2013

Better Known As

In our house, these two are better known as...
Yes, both of them, and in their own individual and unique ways.
But most of all, these two are better known as...
The Heck Sisters.
And they go together like...
Frick & Frack
Mutt & Jeff
Peanut Butter & Jelly
Chocolate & milk
Mac & Cheese
Bert & Ernie
spaghetti & meatballs
Just 21 months apart,
Abby is the big sister
Marilyn is the little one.
There is just something special about the bond of sisterhood,
from the first moment they met.
 Abby loves when Marilyn...
wakes up in the morning & she gets to say "hello"
makes her laugh
listens to her
gets cozy with her on the couch
runs, jumps, and acts silly with her.
Marilyn loves when Abby...
comes home from preschool on the bus
wants to hold her hand
shares her toys with her
lets her try on her clothes
runs, jumps, and acts silly with her.

As is the case with sisters, of any age but especially ones that are close in age,
its not always easy when...
your sister gets to do things that you aren't quite big enough to do,
your sister always "steals" your stuff,
your sister wants to "help" you with every. last. thing. and you just want to do it yourself,
your sister gets to do something first and not have to be patient and wait her turn like you do,
and your sister gets to help Mommy with {insert anything at all here}.
Having a sister is like having a best friend you can't get rid of.
You know whatever you do,
they'll still be there.
-- Amy Li


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The hand that feeds you

My kids, especially Thomas & Abby, are used to the many deployments & TDYs that Brian has gone in their short lives.  Not that they like it, not that it's easy, but they are used to it as we are a military family.

I was a reminded today of a conversation I had with the kids that happened not so long ago when Brian was gone for about 2 months.

Me: {half joking} What would happen if I packed up and went away for a few weeks?
Thomas: Whaaaat?
Abby: Whaaaat?
Thomas: Who will feed us?  We'll just die, Mom!
Me: Well, good to know I'm needed then.

Ironically though, if the kids were left with Brian and I was gone "working"... they would probably eat much, much better than they do with me.  That's what happens when your Daddy is a gourmet chef.  Their problem is they're just so used to Mommy being here with them.

Monday, January 28, 2013

What I wish someone had told me about Motherhood

No matter what stage of motherhood you are in, you have probably wished at some point that someone had been around to tell you all the things you had to learn the hard way. You've probably read quite a few parenting books, which can be helpful, but no book covers all the bases. What advice do you wish someone had shared with you once you became a mother?
Most of the lessons I have learned have been through trial and error and I certainly wish that someone had told me how to nurse discretely and comfortably when out in public, for example, or what the real story is with vaccinations -- almost like cliff notes for parenting.

None of us have a crystal ball to see what is ahead, yet we all see the value of perspective. It seemed that if I asked a direct question to a group of local mothers, I could get an answer, but mostly it took me making a mistake for someone to share their wisdom with me. Generally, people don't want to impose or have others think they're sticking their nose in their business --and that is certainly a risk when giving unsolicited advice.  I have to admit though, I have a great group of Mommy-friends who I keep in contact with (we all used to teach together in FL) and all it takes is for one of us to ask a question and the real-deal, non-judgemental, best-advice-you're-ever-gonna-get starts flowing.  I'm eternally grateful for those ladies.

As a mother of three, I still don't know it all and I'm still learning things the hard way... oh, and I haven't even made it to the 'tween & teenage years.  Lord, protect me. But from one mom to another, I'm offering this short list of things I had to figure out {mostly} for myself. Adhering to this list won't change your parenting style because when it comes to your family, you know what's best. It will just make your life easier and a bit more manageable.

  1. If you want your spouse to help you more, you must be clear about what you need. Do not wait for your spouse to read you mind or to pitch-hit for the family.
  2. Self-care is an important part of motherhood. Taking time to improve your mental and physical wellness benefits both you and your entire family.
  3. The difficult times in motherhood come in seasons. There is a season for sleepless nights, teething, fevers, and extracurricular activities. Sometimes it's more than one season at once. And while it might seem that what you're dealing with now will last forever, it won't, so hang in there.
  4. Create a supportive family culture that shares the age-appropriate responsibilities. It often seems easier to just do it all in motherhood, but doing so means that your children don't get the benefit of learning how to do things for themselves and, well, you have to do everything.
  5. Ignore moms that compete with you because your best is good enough. Just make sure to do your best.
  6. Let your children know what you like and share your hobbies with them. It is so easy to be the mom and forget to share the person that you are with your family.
  7. Set boundaries with relatives who stress you out. This can be initially awkward, but worth it in the end.
  8. Let your children sleep with you if it allows you to rest {although you want them to be in the habit of sleeping in their own bed}, but kick them out of your bed if it prevents you from sleeping or enjoying quality time with your spouse.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Another Week of Pictures

Doctor?  Is there a doctor in the house?

 Seat Lifts (aka: butt lifts) at gymnastics using "butterfly hands"
Have I mentioned how insanely strong Abby is?
 It seems that my children are WAY excited about our spring break vacation back to Florida - within moments of sharing the news, they had their backpacks packed and counting down the days on their calendars.  It is true that I get daily reminders that we are *this* close to flying home to the beach!
 Speaking of beach, earlier this week I scored this super cheap bottle of sunscreen on clearance at Target for only $1.56.  Bonus?  It doesn't even expire until July 2014. 
Watch out beach... here we come!
 Meanwhile, until Spring Break gets here,
the Hecks will continue to enjoy the winter fun that Alaska has for us!
 This is one of my secrets on how to keep the driveway and sidewalks looking great - use all the little helpers you can get!
 And then always let them play and have fun in the fluffy stuff afterwards!

 Enjoy the weekend!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Debunking the SAHM theories

For those of you who dont' know, Stay-At-Home-Mom = SAHM

It's been an interesting evolution for the stay-at-home-mom. I think many of us can't even fathom the stay at home moms from the 40's and 50's. While I don't pretend to know what happiness level they might have had, I can't help but realize the journey at-home-moms have taken from then. Sure, in the old sitcoms they were all smiles but it was a very different life they had then and their purpose in life seemed to be to please their husbands and keep the children quiet and out of trouble (not that there's anything wrong with that!). It also seems like stay-at-home-moms more recently have to fight a different stereotype. Many are thought of as lazy and unkempt, others are sometimes considered old-fashioned and not in the nice homey way, but in the "those people are kind of weird" way. I've only been a stay at home mom for a year and a half and I can say that there were times early on that I answered the "and what do you do?" with a short, but sometimes-long-winded explanation that I was a teacher, but because of our recent military move, I'm now staying at home with my children reason.  Not that I was ashamed to say that I stay home with my kids, but that I didn't want to be lumped into a group that I didn't belong in. Today's SAHM is a very different breed. I thought I would tackle some of the SAHM theories that still exist today and help throw out all those stereotypes now that I've walked (and am still walking) in those shoes:

  • SAHMs sit around all day.
Beyond the soccer mom label they do so much more. Today's at home mom is often fit with an exercise routine being a very important outlet (mine is at the a$$ crack of dawn). Many of us couldn't function properly without our Starbucks coffee, a good haircut and our fast but functional makeup on. Most are very computer savvy and we Facebook and blog with the best of them. Gone are the days when we sat on the couch wearing sweats and t-shirts watching soap operas all day. Besides finding creative ways to be frugal and cutting coupons like nobody's business, many at home moms also work from home. We drive our kiddos all around town to soccer and basketball practices/games, gymnastics class, speech, and preschool. Come to think of it - I'm rarely home at all. As soon as I get Thomas on the school bus in the morning, the girls and I are in the car and off running errands, going to appointments, bringing Abby to school, or shopping for groceries. It's not until lunch time that we are back home eating and then getting ready for nap/quiet time.  My day usually starts on average at 5am and I force myself to bed between 10-11pm.  If I could order up a few extra hours each day... trust me, I would.  I promise you that I do not sit around all day.
  • SAHMs didn't go to college or have a career.
Most people now know this is no longer the case.  So many SAHMs I have met have gone to college and/or started a career, and have for one reason or another, decided to put their career on hold while they take care of their children.  Take me for example - teaching career put on hold and two Masters Degrees. Enough said. Some people might think that I'm wasting my education as a SAHM.  I think just the opposite - if I'm not going to be teaching young minds in a classroom, then I'm most certainly going to use my education expertise in my own home {FULL TIME} to educate and teach my children while they are still young and before they go off to school themselves.  If anything, my own education has given me the tools to be an even better "at-home-mom" for my kiddos.
  • SAHMs have no pressure or expectations.
Mommy pressure is everywhere - from parenting magazines that have the "make your own baby food" articles, mommy talk about how long to breast feed, which TV shows are the most educational, {wait you let your kid watch TV?!}, how many pinterest projects have you done this week with your child?!, and also get that organic dinner on the table and how to do all the laundry & have a perfect home everyday of the week!  Aughhhhhh The opportunities for maternal guilt are everywhere and they are hard to fight when you stay at home and realize you really don't feel like churning your own butter and color-coding your kids' closets this week.

Needless to say, I have a new found appreciation for what it takes to be a stay-at-home-mom.  And I'm quite certain that being at home with my kiddos is worth every penny and dollar that I'm missing from my teaching paycheck.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Daddy's Boy

March 2008
Seattle, WA
When Thomas was 8 months old, Brian prepared to deploy out {again} to Iraq & Afghanistan.
On a whim and with only a few days notice, Thomas & I flew out to Seattle where Brian had just completed a month of training.  We only spent 36 hours with him, but it was so worth the cross country trip to see Daddy and his boy together one last time before this long deployment.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Spring Break Plans

Airplane tickets... check.
Beach front condo... check.
Sunscreen & flip flops... check.

Along with family & friends there, take a peek at some of the reasons we love it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Old MacDonald: new version

Tonight, Abby put a new twist on an old classic that I read to her and Marilyn:
Old MacDonald had a farm
And on his farm he had a Sheep {... Pig, Cow, Duck, Horse, & Hen} 
With a Baa-Baa here, and a Baa-Baa there,
here a Baa, there a Baa,
everywhere a Baa-Baa.
Old MacDonald had a farm

And then as I go to close the classic of a book, Abby turns to me and exclaims,
Me: Amen?
Abby: {As she giggles} Yep, Amen, Amen, Amen Old MacDonald Man!
Me: Well, ok then... Amen it is Ab!

Monday, January 21, 2013

What I have learned in life: Alaska Edition

  1. Boogers in your nose will actually freeze - usually when it's -10* or colder.
  2. Dry air sucks.  It's awful on your skin... ashy, cracked.  It reeks havoc on your hair... static.  And you are constantly thirsty... camel-like thirst, peeps.
  3. I do not like to run in the extreme cold.  Give me the humid, hot days of Florida please.
  4. Cold is cold.  Whether it's 5 degrees outside or -25 degrees.  What makes the difference is what you are wearing. 
  5. During the winter, it's perfectly acceptable (and normal) to leave your vehicle running (with keys in it, obviously) when you go into the store.  Entire parking lots are often filled with empty cars/trucks just idling and staying warm.  And 99% of the time, there is no theft.
  6. 20+ hours of daylight is amazing and weird at the same time.  Less than 6 hours of daylight is also weird, but you get used to it.  As long as you get out of the house and have a routine (happy lights help also), you can fight off any of the cabin fever and the dark winter depression that so many living up here fall victim to.
  7. I would gladly take moose, bears, and foxes living in my neighborhood over snakes, spiders and alligators ANY day.
  8. Mother Nature sure did work her magic with the Aurora Borealis.  Not much I've seen can compare to the Northern Lights.
  9. If you call "it" a snowmobile, people will immediately look at you like you're an idiot and know for sure that you are new to Alaska.  People, be warned... it is called a snowmachine.  Just say'in.
  10. Most of the people living in Alaska refer to the rest of the United States as the "Lower 48."
  11. A reindeer is just a domesticated caribou.  Who knew?
  12. There is a yearly resident stipend {PFD = Permanent Fund Dividend} for each person living in Alaska that averages $1000.  Hoping this year we finally qualify for it.  Hello, family of five PFD!
  13. I'm truly thankful for snow tires.  I would never think of living {and driving} in the Alaskan winter without them.
  14. Alaska has the lowest taxes in the U.S. and is one of a handful of states without a statewide sales tax.  Yep, you heard me... no sales tax on anything.
  15. Kids want to play in the water, sprinkler, slip-n-slide, or swim in the pool in the summer months - even if its *only* 65 degrees outside.  "Warm" is completely relative to everyone else but kids.  They don't care.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Winter Fun: Tubing & Sledding at Hillberg

 The Hecks ventured up to Hillberg Ski Area today (on base and only 20 minutes from the house) to do some tubing and sledding on the slopes for the first time since living up here in Alaska.
Can you tell this Floridaboy-turned-Snowboy is having a good time?
 The boys heading up for their first run...
 ... which, unfortunately, started with Thomas' misstep and him having to run up about 1/3 of the hill in order to catch Brian who was holding onto his tube.  Brian and I both couldn't help but chuckle as Thomas hustled and then finally jumped onto the safety of his tube.
Hooked up & heading up the hillside...
Here is Thomas' historical first tubing run!
 Unfortunately, we thought Abby would be allowed to go tubing but there was a 42" height requirement. Once we got up on the hill though and saw how it was all set up, we're thinking we are buying her a ticket next time. She loves sledding & although she has to go in her own tube, we would be holding onto her anyways.  We know she will love it!
Luckily, we brought one of the sleds so Brian and I took turns on the tubing hill with Thomas and taking the girls over to the sledding area.  See... smiles from the girls too!  Bottom line was we all had a good time. Who knew tubing would be so much fun!
Here's some sledding from Abby
And as expected, after enjoying the slopes for awhile and then a snack in the chalet, all 3 troopers were fast asleep on the way home!
I would call this a successful adventure today for sure! 
 Next winter fun adventure will most certainly be ski lessons for both Thomas & Abby up here at Hillberg.  With 1-on-1 lessons for the kids starting at age 3, both of them should be able to learn the basics & hopefully hit the slopes this season with Mommy (Daddy would much rather prefer snowboarding)!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Weekend Photo Dump

Snow Bunny
 Even this picture does not do it justice...
 Special visitor this past week - Abby's beloved Ms. Amy (her old speech therapist).
There was a constant smile on her face!
 Love notes sent from Pop-Pop
(which brought me to tears when I read them because I know how much he misses the kids)
Extra special Saturday morning pancakes
Budding artists 
Her favorite part
... and also her favorite part!
And together they make a beautiful mess masterpiece!
 All Tatted Up (with stickers)
Talking to Pop-Pop on speaker phone
 Her new obsession...
Hint: it is something you wear when its hot out and you have a pool or beach nearby.
What its not?  Something you wear in Alaska in the middle of the freak'in winter.
Answer?  Bathing suits
 Pirate and Princess Mosaics keeping #1 and #2 busy for hours.  Seriously, hours.