Family Friday: Happy Thanksgiving!

We hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  This is my favorite holiday - lots of amazing food and no obligation for presents.  Here on this island, we don't have any family to spend the holiday with but we were blessed to have some great friends come celebrate with us!

I dressed the table with a neutral tablecloth and then used a strip of fabric as table runner, topped with a piece of burlap.  One of our sweet guests brought the beautiful flowers!  Everyone brought some side dishes and we ended up with quite a feast: turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, dinner rolls, sushi, homemade poke, pumpkin cheesecake, and bread pudding.  Everything was delicious.

Johnnie was in charge of cooking the turkey this year and he did an amazing job!  This was actually the first turkey we ever cooked ourselves.  It was a huge bird... 27 pounds of deliciousness!  We put a pretty good dent in it ourselves, sent a few meals to friends, and still have a ton of leftovers.  I hear a turkey pot pie recipe calling our name...

Cameron loved the attention of everyone in the house.  I don't think she has ever laughed that much in one day before!  She went down for an afternoon nap just before we ate - perfect timing :)

Dulce also loved the attention from everyone and loved the turkey dinner we gave her.

Johnnie was deployed last Thanksgiving so this is our first one together as a family!  It was perfect.

We did not go out shopping for the Black Friday sales.  Traffic and crowds are bad every day of the year here so this one day of sales makes that exponentially worse.  On an island of over 1 million people, there are only 5 Walmarts, 2 Targets, 2 Best Buys, 1 Toys R Us, 1 Babies R Us, etc...  you get the picture, there are limited stores and parking spaces here for that many people to all be shopping at once.

There were some fantastic deals to be found for those who got out early enough.  However, a lot of the deals weren't as great as you would think.  Normal retail prices here in Hawaii are 20-30% higher here than in the mainland so even with that great coupon you cut out of the paper, you're still basically getting things for the price you would've normally paid elsewhere.  But we're in Hawaii so that coupon makes it as good as it's going to get.  The majority of things are much cheaper on Amazon so that's where we do a lot of our shopping.

Instead of shopping Friday morning, we slept in and then Cameron played, Johnnie worked on Master's degree homework, and I made a Christmas wreath for the front door.  This is the same grapevine wreath I used for Halloween.  I attach everything with wires so that I can reuse and redecorate it for every season.  Next step... buy a Christmas tree!

"Small cheer and great welcome makes a merry feast."
~William Shakespeare

Family Friday: Nov 22

The weather is cooler now that it's approaching winter.  And by cooler, I mean only 5 degrees cooler but still, that 5 degrees is a noticeable difference here.  I can go jogging with Cameron in the stroller mid-afternoon now without feeling like I'm dying of heatstroke.

This week I tossed a swimsuit and a towel in the stroller before one of our runs and we stopped by the splash park on base while we were out.  This is a great little splash park located on the Hickam side of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam at the end of Kokomalei St (the street between the chapel and the shoppette/gas station).  The water is turned on by pressing large buttons on two orange posts in the splash park.  Cameron had a good time but tired out pretty quickly.  We'll go back again for sure!

Before packing away our Halloween costumes, I realized that Dulce's costume might fit Cameron and it does!  It's a simple apron-style dress.  This gets my creative wheels turning for making some easy dress-up clothes for Cameron someday.  These "half dresses" would be so much easier to put on than a full dress!

When we lived in Georgia, Dulce hunted the squirrels in our backyard with a fierce determination.  They teased her from the tree branches.  You would think, by the way she acted, that the squirrels were making faces and throwing nuts at her.  Here in Hawaii, she kept our yard free of birds for a while but she quickly learned that it was a futile effort and gave up on it.  She is, however, an expert at catching flies in the house!

Dulce's newest obsession that she discovered last week is hunting the lizards in the bushes in front of our house.  There are a lot of creepy crawly things here in Hawaii and there are many types of lizards and geckos.  The bushes are home to a billion a lot of giant snails and lizards... and not the cute kind.

Every afternoon when we go outside to play, Dulce bolts straight for the bushes to hunt.  She gets so focused on finding lizards that she even ignored a huge ham bone that we gave her to chew on.  It's hard to get her away from the bushes to come inside!  Dulce pounces and hops through the bushes like a bunny while she's hunting.  Cameron and the neighborhood kids get a kick out of watching her!

So, does she actually catch any and does she kill them?  Yes, she caught seven lizards so far (that I know of).  No, she does not kill them (at least not on purpose).  When she catches one, she brings it out into the open grass and plays with it.  She puts it down and waits for it to start running so she can repeat the catch and chase again and again.  If it refuses to move, she nudges it with her nose or picks it up and tosses it.  I'll rescue the caught lizards after a minute and put them high on a ledge so they can rest and recover to battle Dulce another day.

Seriously... those eyelashes!  So jealous.

"The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a man's determination."
~Tommy Lasorda 

Family Friday: Nov 15

I got published in a magazine!!!!!!!  I'm just a little excited about that, can you tell?  Last year I submitted Cameron's birth story to Pregnancy & Newborn Magazine and it was chosen for publication on their magazine's website.  Click here to learn about submitting your own birth story!

This past summer, I was personally contacted by the magazine's Editor in Chief via email.  She said that Cameron's story was being considered for publication in their printed magazine and asked for me to send some hi-res files of some photos.  I sent them and she said she would send me a digital copy before it was published.  I never heard anything after that so I only mentioned it to a few people.

I assumed it wasn't published since I didn't hear anything, but last week I picked up a copy of the magazine anyway.  I never even opened it to check, I just set it aside... I am totally kicking myself for that now!  This morning I finally decided to browse through it while drinking my morning coffee and saw the story!  I screamed, I did a happy dance, and then I had Johnnie take some photos so that I could show the world.  This is a pretty incredible feeling :)

This has been a pretty awesome week all around.  Big news is that Johnnie got an award for the work he did during his last deployment!  He says it's no big deal but we are incredibly proud of him for this achievement and for everything else he does at work and at home!

Cameron and I went on the Hawaiian Railway Society train ride with a friend.  Cam loved it and we adults thought it was relaxing fun.  Maybe I'll get a blog post about it up soon.

Cameron decided this week that she likes to wear hats.  It started with wearing her sweatshirt as a hat-cape around the house.  Then she brought her bicycle helmet in and wore that around for a day.

Johnnie's squadron had a Thanksgiving potluck lunch.  Cameron had fun watching everyone while she ate and then she ran around exploring.

Dulce got a new bed for her daytime naps downstairs.  Cameron climbed into the bed as soon as I set it down.  I can't blame her since it was soft and just her size!  Dulce tried to nudge Cameron out of it but couldn't so she snuggled down next to her.  She didn't mind sharing her new bed for while.

Dulce was nice enough let Cameron play in the bed alone for a while after that.  Cameron got comfortable with the TV remote and a pumpkin, and then chatted away on her toy phone.  I love her developing imagination!

Once Cameron lost interest, Dulce climbed into the bed and took a nap.  We moved the new bed to where the old one was and Cameron has left it alone since then.

If you noticed in photos above, I finally decided to embrace the bangs now that they are long enough to do so.  I haven't had bangs for 18 years so I have been resisting.  When Cameron was about 4 months old, fierce postpartum hair loss set in.  I lost hair all over my head and it was most noticeable around my hairline.  My hairline receded almost a ½ inch in the front alone (first photo below)!

The new growth wasn't bad when it first started but the longer it got, the more ridiculous it looked and there wasn't anything I could do with it for a long while.  Once it started getting longer and literally sticking out all over (bottom right), I started plastering it to my head every day with an excessive amount of hairspray (bottom center).  I'm not kidding - I have not used this much hair spray since the early 90's.  My hair has been in a ponytail almost every day while it has been regrowing.  It was the only way to keep it all contained.

This week, I realized the new growth was finally long enough to look like normal bangs.  (Finally, after nine months!)  I had to trim it to even it out (the front was slightly longer than the sides) and cut a few long strands to blend it but these bangs are 99% new growth - that's a lot of new hair!  I actually kind of like the bangs so I think I'll keep them for a little while.

Cameron's hair is getting longer as well but the curls keep it up and out of the way for now :)

"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. "
~Theodore Roosevelt

Happy Veteran's Day

Happy Veteran's Day!  Sending out a heartfelt Thank You to all who have served and those who still serve in the United States military.  The sacrifice and service of you and your families is deeply appreciated today and every day.  

I am especially proud of the veteran I am married to and of all those we know and love who have served with him!

"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the
highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."
~John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Family Friday: 14 Months Old

For this month's photo shoot, we went to a Banyan tree that is near the Officers' Club on Hickam Air Force Base.  As a Banyan tree grows, roots grow down from the branches. When these roots reach the ground, they thicken and become new trunks.  I love how they look like they are melting.

A cement path goes around the base of the original trunk.  Roots have grown down over the paver stones surrounding that trunk and new trunks have been formed which means this tree must be fairly old.  Cameron had a great time exploring the tree!

Not much has changed since the 13 month post.  Cameron now has 8 teeth which she loves to brush, she loves playing with Dulce and walking her on a leash outside, and she is working on her first official word (other than mama, dada, and baba) but I'll wait until she says it a few more times to make sure.  She is such a friendly, loving, and helpful little girl, and we love watching her grow!

Now that Cameron is a toddler, I've been thinking a lot about parenting and closely observing other parents that I see. Parenting style is an incredibly personal thing that everyone has an opinion on. I always had ideas of how I would do things when I became a parent. Lately, I am surprised by how much my opinions and goals have changed now that I actually am a parent. I'm also surprised by how being a parent is making me more aware of who I am as a person.  Knowing that Cameron is always watching and learning makes me want to be a better person.

Many people have told me not to read parenting books.  I can understand that.  Ultimately you have to follow your own heart as a parent.  With all the theories and methods out there, it's easy to get sucked into new ideas that make you question everything you thought you knew.  But books can be helpful and new knowledge can make you a better parent.  It's not a matter of believing everything you hear or read about parenting, it's a matter of finding something that speaks to your heart.

Over the past two years I have read numerous parenting books and poured over websites, blogs, and forums trying to learn as much as I could.  Truth is, I still do that.  I even have a Parenting Inspiration board on Pinterest where I collect ideas.  So far, I have found two parenting books that really spoke to me:  Your Self-Confident Baby (written by RIE founder, Magda Gerber) and Bringing Up Bebe (Pamela Druckerman writes about French parenting in contrast to American).

When reading both of these books, I often said to myself "Hey, that's how I am doing it" or "Wow, that's something I really wish I was doing."  Surprisingly, the two books have some similar ideas which is probably why I like them both.  Of course I don't love every single thing about either of these parenting methods but I do like the majority of it.  I follow the aspects that I agree with and skip the aspects that I don't.

Some of my favorite ideas that resonate in both methods:
* Treat children with trust and respect from birth on, inviting them to participate in their care.
* Provide clear, firm boundaries but allow a lot of freedom within those boundaries.
* Encourage and provide opportunities for them to be independent and autonomous.
* Be available but give them the opportunity to fix/solve/figure out things before you help.

Johnnie and I have similar views on most things in life.  He has been amazing and openly embracing all the new ideas that I've thrown at him.  I know that not everyone who knows us or reads this blog will agree with our parenting style but the beauty of parenting is that everyone is free to do it their own way.  The only one who knows what works for you and your children, is you.

Here is a recent example of how new parenting ideas have changed me:

It was getting dark and was time to go inside.  I said to Cameron, "Let's go back to the house now, okay?"  As soon as I said that, I regretted it.  I'm obviously still working on making new habits of new information.

What was wrong with my question?  I gave Cameron a choice that she didn't have.  There was no "real" choice in my question as we had to go back to the house.  I inadvertently gave her the option of saying no, which she did "say" by continuing to walk away from the house.  At that point, I could've forced her to go back to the house, no doubt causing a tantrum.  Instead, I respected the choice that I allowed her to make for another couple minutes and then I stopped her and rephrased my question to make it better, to give her a real choice.

"We have to go back to the house now.  Would you like to walk or would you like me to carry you?" Her eyes clamped shut and her mouth opened wide in a silent scream.  I repeated the question.  She caught her breath, letting out a loud sob, and then she started walking... toward the house.

I got Cameron to do what I wanted her to do but still let her have some control by allowing her to make a decision.  One of my goals as a mother is for her to feel that I respect her and that her feelings matter to me.  At this age, I can help her feel that by providing her with real choices that we can follow through on.  If you can't follow through on a choice that you let your child make, then they feel that their choice and their feelings don't matter.  Even at only 14 months old, I can tell that Cameron already understands the basics of this.

Careful phrasing of choices works an amazing amount of the time.  Even when it doesn't work ideally, it still works because you don't have to change the choices or give in.  You may be thinking - what if she didn't choose to walk toward the house?  What if she started walking away again?  In that case, I would try once again and if she still refused to cooperate, I would say, "You don't want to walk back to the house so I will carry you."  Then I would carry her, even if she was crying, letting her know that not going back to the house was not one of her choices.  I would also acknowledge her feelings by saying, "You don't want to go back to the house but it's getting dark and it's time to go in."

I didn't have to change anything and I didn't give in to what she wanted - she has two options and if she chooses not to pick one, then I pick one for her.  Surprisingly, the crying she does because she didn't choose is rarely as intense or drawn-out as it is when I force her to do something without a choice.  Giving her choices often throughout the day is really helping her to become cooperative and that makes life with a toddler so much easier!

This parenting thing isn't easy but it's an exciting journey with great rewards.

"Parenting is the easiest thing in the world to have an
opinion about, but the hardest thing in the world to do."
~Matt Walsh