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Each day we go outside to enjoy the crisp, chilly air.  Some days we take Baby Brother.  Some days we take Bruno.  Other days we take sleds.

Still there are days we take nothing but ourselves and a sense of adventure.

The girls have their favorite places to explore and their favorite places to stop.

This spot, not far from the barn where the kittens live, has a few fallen trees close together.  In the girls eyes, this is their personal jungle gym, meant for climbing, swinging, and imaginative play.  These trees have been a ship in shark-infested waters, a house, a raft on an alligator-infested river, and many others.

I am so grateful for a place at home for the girls to use their muscles and practice their balancing skills!

To be perfectly honest, I don’t know much about my Swedish heritage other than the delicious meatballs.  I can’t speak a lick of Swedish, and I am not even sure which town or city my Swedish ancestors come from.  What I do know, though, is that the Swedes, my maternal grandmother included, seriously knew how to tolerate cold weather.

My body temperature, on the other hand, is often regulated by my southern Italian genes.  I was known for layering in 50 degree weather.  I am almost always cold.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking…

Yet you moved to Wisconsin.

That’s correct.  I voluntarily moved to one of the coldest states in the U.S.

I knew that if I let them, the cold, icy winter here could get me down, especially a year when I have a newborn.  It is so easy to sit inside and wallow in pajamas, using a tiny baby as an excuse.

Not that sitting inside in one’s pajamas on snowy days isn’t fun, but 3-4 months of that would drive me insane.  And nobody around here likes a crazy momma.

In order to combat my lazy-pajama-bum-in-the-cold-weather nature, I found myself a saying to get me through this winter and the ones that follow:

Det finns inget dåligt väder, bara dåliga kläder.

That is Swedish for:  “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes.”

And so, in even the coldest of weather I have gone outside, if only for a few minutes, just to get some fresh air.  Bundled in long johns and wool socks, I find that I can tolerate wind chills well below zero.  I’m not sure I tolerated wind chills below 20 back in Virginia, so this is a vast improvement for me.

I also noticed that the cold weather didn’t bother the kids, just so long as they were bundled up, as well.  We bought long underwear and wool socks for the girls, as well, and baby boy got a fleece one-piece suit for when I put him in the carrier outside.  Everyone has warm hats, gloves/mittens, and scarves.  The girls have toasty snow boots.  Because of all these layers and warm accessories, we have enjoyed hours in the snow.

We are living on more acres than we could possibly have explored fully in our four months here, and the girls treat the wooded acreage as their personal playground.  Sometimes we take along a sled and find a nice hill in a clearing.  Other times we build snowmen close to the house.  Still other times we track rabbits and turkeys by their prints in the snow.

I am so glad we have decided to embrace this winter wonderland instead of hide from it.  20160109_105702 20160119_120951 20160119_120545 20160109_105714

Pregnancy can be one of the most exciting times in a woman’s life.  She is anticipating a child, a new life to care for and love.  She is getting a lot of attention; people ask daily how she is feeling, compliment her on her glowing complexion, and she receives gifts for new baby and even for herself.

Let’s not mention the hormones involved in pregnancy.  All the extra progesterone, which does cause some unpleasant symptoms, could also put a lady in a pretty good mood.

After birth, that process in which we all experience the miracle (and pain) of giving life, these things slip away.  People now gush over the baby, rightfully so, and a woman’s complexion doesn’t glow so well on 3 broken up hours of sleep a night.  In addition, the change in hormone levels can really leave a lady feeling low.

This hormonal change, combined with the pressures of taking care of a new life, can lead to post partum depression in some women.  I know this because I suffered from mild to moderate PPD after the birth of my second child.  Being born in November, my second child didn’t go on as many outdoor walks as her sister (born in July) did in her first few months.  I had a 17 month old at home when I brought my second daughter home from the hospital, and it was challenging caring for the two of them.  Piled on to this was my husband’s odd work schedule.  He worked 12 hour days, and he really wasn’t home much to help me transition to caring for two children.  With all of this stress in addition to the sleep deprivation and hormonal fluctuations, I found myself not feeling quite like…myself.

I didn’t always feel sad, but I often felt lonely or isolated.  Without much adult interaction during the day, I found myself getting disappointed with my time with the girls, rather than being blessed by it.  I participated in a MOPS group, which helped some, but I was too shy and somewhat unaware of my mental state to truly reach out for help.  Instead, I continued to wallow in my own state of self-pity and depression.

It wasn’t until my youngest was almost 18 months old that I weaned her from breastfeeding, and she slept through the night.  Finally.

I then, with ample sleep, began to see some relief from my PPD symptoms, a full year and a half after my daughter was born.

I look back at that season of my life with some regret and lots of sadness.  I don’t feel like I enjoyed my second daughter’s infanthood, nor my oldest daughter’s toddlerhood, because of what I was experiencing.  I felt alone and overwhelmed, yet bored and understimulated.  I was home with a toddler and an infant, and I found little satisfaction in my day to day work.  I felt no sense of accomplishment at the end of the day, and I could see no real fruits of my labor.

As I wade through this post partum period with my third newborn, I can be so much more honest with myself about how I am feeling.  Having lived through PPD, I am better able to recognize it’s ugly horns as they rise up.  Better yet, I can understand how to prevent and/or lessen any issues that may arise.  For example, it took me months before I could verbalize to my husband how I was feeling and what he could do to help after I had our second child.  This time around, baby #3 hadn’t been born, and I was already able to ask for some help that I knew I would need (like walking the dog!).

I also find I am more able to enjoy the newborn stage with my third baby because I have seen how quickly they truly grow up.  Our oldest child will be 5 years old this summer, and seeing our son is almost like seeing her as a newborn again.  It is hard for me to believe it has been almost 5 years since I changed her first diaper, gave her her first bath, nursed her in the middle of the night, and kissed her sweet, soft, newborn cheeks.  She is becoming more and more of a young lady as of late, absolutely blossoming in her role as the oldest child.  It has all happened so fast.  Recognizing that makes me want to enjoy our little boy’s infanthood as much as I can.

Finally, and I certainly don’t want to understate this one bit, I have a lot more help now than I did when we had our second child.  Living with my husband’s grandparents certainly has its perks.  Although I try to do my fair share of household duties, I am definitely not doing as much housework as I had been doing when we lived in our own home.  Cooking and kitchen duties are split up, so I am not cooking 3 meals a day, 7 days a week and cleaning up from all of that.  I also have the luxury of asking for help with the girls when I need it, having my husband’s grandmother play with them or read to them when I am busy with the baby or if I want to go for a walk to get some fresh air.  I am spoiled to be able to step away and leave the house with only one child (or none at all) if I need to get something from the store.  I am able to carve pockets of time to care for myself that I was not able to after the birth of our second child.

I still feel the let down of pregnancy hormones, and I still struggle with the stress of learning to care for 3 children now.  I do find, though, that my coping skills have improved, having help has greatly improved my ability to keep my head in the game, so to speak, and taking time to care for myself has allowed me to keep up my spirits.

Now if I could only carve out time for a daily shower we would be back in business.

Being a person with naturally dry skin, I always dread the cold weather that is ushered in with the month of January.  In balmy Virginia, plain coconut oil did the trick after each shower.  Wisconsin winters are a different story, though.  Plain coconut oil doesn’t cut it here.

My alligator-style dry skin (yes, even that which is on my forehead) requires a much more heavy duty moisturizer.

Last week I whipped up a batch of my almost famous body butter.

I melted together:

1/3 cup shea butter

2 cups coconut oil

Then I stirred in 2 tbsp almond oil.

This mixture of hot, melted oils went in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes, until it started to solidify around the edges of the bowl.

Then I put the mixture in the bowl of a standing mixture and whipped it until fluffy.  While the mixture was being whipped I added about 10 drops of lavender for scent.

I use this body butter after each shower, and the girls use it after a bath.  It is a bit strong to use on the little guy yet, so he gets the regular coconut oil treatment anytime we see dry skin on him.

Try this recipe out and let me know how you like it!

 

Watching television in the month of January could make Kate Moss feel fat.

Every other commercial is for a weight loss or exercise program.

In an effort to distance myself from the marketing ploy, I prefer to pick apart commercials and mock them.  I cannot stand the diet industry’s ability to convince people that some (useless) product is going to magically make them thinner, more beautiful, and happier.

I rant about all of this to say that unlike millions of Americans, I do not start my year off by planning to lose a specific number of pounds before summer.

Of course I did have a baby at the end of 2015, and since I am breastfeeding I will probably lose some weight.  I also look forward to running again once my body has recovered.

Instead of focusing on things I want to lose this year, though, I want to turn my gaze on things I want to gain:

1.  A deeper connection in my marriage: by not burying my face in a cell phone when I am with my husband, and by scheduling regular time just the two of us.

2.  A better relationship with my kids: by, again, not burying my face in a cell phone, by “dating” the girls, and by finally working on controlling my yelling and anger impulses.

3.  Strength:  by allowing my body to fully heal after my c-section, then slowly getting back into running.

4.  A sense of accomplishment through earning some income:  by considering some at-home business options, choosing one, and helping my family by bringing in some bacon, so to speak.

5.  Knowledge and enjoyment:  by reading at least 15 minutes a day in an effort to read one book a month.

6.  Order and structure:  by setting aside three days per week to work on preschool with the girls, by being firm about bedtime, and by fitting in the time to do fun family activities each month.

I am a firm believer that we can enrich our lives by simplifying and adding more of ourselves into our experiences.  My focus for the year 2016 is just that:  to simplify and find the time for things that matter more.  Rather than losing pounds I hope to gain richer relationships with my husband and children, a greater sense of accomplishment through running and making some small income, and a set of rhythms that help our family feel at ease.

Doesn’t that sound better than losing a few pounds?

 

Although here in snowy, blustery Wisconsin we have another hour before the New Year is upon us, in my home state of New Jersey they just rang in the New Year.

New Year’s Eve tends to be a pensive holiday for me.  The desire to drink or party on this night has never really gripped me.  Instead, I find myself pondering over the last year.  I catch myself enumerating my mistakes.  I list the joys and sorrows I’ve experienced in the past twelve months.  I consider what things I can do to improve in the year before me.

This year was the first New Year’s Eve that my husband and I haven’t spent together since we were engaged in 2009.  Instead, I had our three beautiful children to celebrate with, as well as his grandparents.  New Year’s with toddlers and a newborn looks different than it would with just adults, but fun can be had by all.  We played some games, then “rang” in the New Year with cowbells just before 8:00 pm on the front porch.

This New Year’s Eve hasn’t looked like any before it, but it was fitting for 2015.  This year hasn’t looked like any before it.  In no other year did I move across the country with my husband and young children.  In no other year did I have to re-learn how to parent living in someone else’s home.  In no other year was I humbled quite as much as I was this year.  I was stripped of a job, my home, my garden, my ability to run long distances; all of these things in some way or another defined me.

I plunge into 2016 anticipating what is ahead.  It is a New Year, after all.  In 2016 I look forward to being obedient to God’s plan for me here, learning to love my husband better, learning to be a calmer, more loving mother, and plugging into the local community.  I will seek out more ways to be selfless in the New Year, in all my relationships.  This next year will be filled with new experiences, new friends, new challenges, and new blessings.

If there is one thing I appreciate about New Year’s Eve is the sense that this is a fresh beginning, and after the year our family has had, I feel I could use a new start.